Saturday, December 13, 2014

North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter December

#GiveMas


This week on the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show one of the hosts Jenna Owens talked about how she’s at the point in her life where she doesn’t really want presents. If she wants something, she just goes and buys it herself. But what she does value from her friends is time spent together because in their busy lives that seems to get rarer and rarer.
So this year Jenna is spending quality time with each of her friends while they go do something to give back to the community. They decided on working at a soup kitchen for this first year and even coined the hashtag #GiveMas for anyone else who wants to share what they will be doing this season toward less spending, more giving.
This struck a chord with me because the limited time I get to spend with my sisters, my friends, my critique partners (who have become my sisters and friends), and all of you at NT is time I cherish above any tangible gift.
(Not that I don’t like presents. Who doesn’t?)

I’m beyond excited to see as many of you as can make it to our Holiday party. Some of you I haven’t seen for a long time as circumstances have made it hard to come out through the rest of the year.
But whether you make it or not, my “intangible” gifts to you all, besides the giving of my time, are these:
(This is the part where you pretend I’m the #GiveMas fairy, waving my magical wand over your collective heads.)

To you, er, I mean, y’all, I give:

An abundance of creativity and story ideas.
Continued joy and enthusiasm in the day to day craft of writing.
Confidence that what you are writing is good. Really good. Your work has paid off.
Hidden pockets of extra time to pursue your dreams.
The understanding to measure your success by whatever standard you define it for yourself.
Good writer friends to surround you with encouragement and knowledge from their own experiences.
Along with empathy and wisdom to do the same for others.
And finally, the courage and perseverance to continue the journey on whichever path or paths you decide to take.

Have a most wonderful excellent Holiday Season! It’s been my pleasure and honor to serve you this year!
  

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President 2014

Critique Partner Michelle

CPs Jen and Gina

CP Chrissy



Saturday, November 15, 2014

North Texas Romance Writers of America President’s Letter November

George Washington's cabinet


George Washington didn’t feel he would make a good president. He’d already been a great general, was a favorable figurehead for the infant country, but he personally didn’t feel like he had the qualities for leadership in a political sense. So he made a wise move and surrounded himself with the brilliant men of the time, filling his cabinet with advisors the likes of Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
When I was approached to be the president of our group, I didn’t really feel like I had the qualities for leadership either. I said no at least five times, to little avail. I’m such a pushover, which, hello, isn’t that enough of a clue that I’m no leader?
Since I couldn’t get out of it, I borrowed Washington’s philosophy and made sure our board was made up of people who were not only extremely reliable but knew what they were doing.
And I have never been disappointed.
There hasn’t been one time that I’ve had to nudge or remind people to do their job. Seriously. They just did it. To be honest, being president this year turned out to be fairly easy.  The board and chairs did all the heavy lifting for the conference and contests and our wonderful programs and newsletters.
But the best part I learned about these people, besides their work ethic, is the genuine concern they have for our members. Countless times during our board meetings, one of the board would ask, “Is this the best thing for our members?”  
And each time I’d get a little squeeze in my heart at the genuineness of that question.
These women volunteered their time, their skills, their creativity and their knowledge, sometimes their sanity, and huge chunks of their hearts in the hope that all of us at NT have a great experience and get out of our membership something worthwhile as writers who support each other.
This Thanksgiving, I want the board and all of our volunteers to know how thankful I am for each of you.
The board has done a helluva job and I, for one, am extremely grateful and proud to be in their company. This is me standing up and applauding.
I will miss you all this month. I hope you gathered long and prospered at all your various mini retreats. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and can’t wait to see you all at our Holiday Party!!!
   

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Writers Wanted.

Permission to Forward: 


The 2015 Carolyn is open for entries!!!



Early bird price is $20 through December 14th. Fee goes up to $25 on December 15th.

Last year's prize was a collective ad on RT's Daily Blog page. (The banner ad there at the top.) We are planning on doing the same for next year, schedule and cost permitting.

http://ntrwareaderschoiceaward.blogspot.com/p/enter-carolyn.html


Monday, November 10, 2014

Readers: We Want You

It's that time again that The Carolyn Readers Choice Awards (CRCA) from the North Texas Romance Writers Association is gearing up and we need Readers to judge the newest, hottest, up and coming books.

Judge for the CRCA

So if you like free books, and who doesn't?, are willing to read and then fill out a short questionnaire, go to the Carolyn Readers Choice site and sign up. It's as easy as that. 

Happy Reading!!!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

K Magazine

Okay so it's here...the big K Magazine article I'm featured in. November's issue.

K Magazine November

Since I don't live in Keller anymore I had to go to a bank in Keller that my chiropractor's wife told me had a bunch of copies. So I helped myself to 3 of them thank you very much.

As soon as I got in the car I opened it up and went in search. It's on page  . And wham, got hit in the face with my huge mug. The picture I'm in takes up half the page. It's not a great picture of me either. My smile is tentative or let's face it, just plain weird, and the scarf I was trying to be all fancy with went wonky, but the photo is huge and it's in a magazine and I have a fairly lengthy quote and am the first author up so all that makes up for the cheesiness! Plus my interview came off really well, like I know what I'm talking about!
I love it!

So what if I'm carrying the magazine everywhere I go and shoving it into people's faces?

The Writers Block K Magazine


You can read it at the Star Telegram site.

Plus, I've decided to take a page from the best-selling author Lilliana Hart and make the first books of each of my series free so more readers can find them. Plus I have enough books out now it shouldn't make a radical dent in my income so I'm able to do that for my readers. I'd love to say it was completely strategic on my part that those books went free right at the same time as the article, but truthfully I wasn't thinking about one thing going with the other, but wow, did it work in my favor that they did hit at the same time and the freebies soared.

Highland Sorcerer (a Highland Sorcery novel Book 1) is sitting pretty as the #1 Bestseller on Amazon's Scottish Historical Romance list. Right across from Outlander. Whoop!



#1 Bestseller Scottish Historical Romance


Ah, sighing. Just so happy about this.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Escorts upon Dying

While writing about the possible ghost in my house, I promised I'd write about the death escort I once saw.

I was eight years old. My older sister, Bekie, was ten. And our youngest brother, Brett was two. He was ill with some type of flu symptoms. He'd already been in the hospital recently, but sent home. Honestly, I was too young at the time to know exactly what was going on, but I felt the sense of my parents' worry.

We lived in a 3 bedroom house with the two kids' rooms right next to each other in the front of the house so that the windows of both rooms faced out in the same direction in our front yard. And these windows were large, expanding across the entire wall.  Bekie and I shared a room while the "little kids" all shared the room next to ours.

Anyway, one night I was in the living room doing whatever when Bekie came out of the hallway where our rooms were and whispered my name. Instantly I knew something big was up by her tone and I immediately felt her fear. "Clover, come here. There's something outside our window."

Usually I'd be the argumentative little sister, demanding, "What? Why?" Because that's just what I did before I ever budged. But just looking at her, getting that immediate onslaught of her adrenaline and that pinch to her voice, I was up and following her immediately.

We went into the hallway... following her lead of doing that spy kind of walking, you know, where you stay pressed against the wall and rush across the open doorways. Well, only one open doorway in our case, but we were small so the distance seemed huge. My pulse was on high alert when Bekie barely poked her head around the doorway to see inside our room. Moving around her I also looked in and got the shock of my life. From Bekie's behavior I knew this was something important but there was no way I was expecting anything like that.

Standing directly outside of our bedroom window, was this guy. I say a guy, but he wasn't exactly. It was dark outside and he was invisible. Well, not really invisible, but like a glowy chalk drawing that you could see the night's darkness through. Every detail, every wrinkle, every fold of his clothing, was lined in. He just stood there as still as a statue, directly in front of our room but his body was angled to face our younger brothers and sisters' room. He had a beard, wore flowy layered robes, and had his arms extended toward the little kids' room in that lowered come-give-me-a-hug type of posture.

I screamed and ran for my mom, Bekie screaming and running right alongside me, telling my mom about it. I honestly can't remember how we described him to her, though we were both descriptive little suckers so we probably told her how he glowed and was just standing there and everything. Mom didn't exactly believe us, maybe because we were generally creative. At least she didn't believe us about it being a ghost or however we described him. Or maybe she did, but didn't want to let on to us when we were already scared. She was already stressed out over my brother. She came up with it being the reflection off of a car (we lived on a busy road) or maybe someone just walking across our yard.

But no, we didn't see anything vague. We knew what we saw and it wasn't a flash of light. This guy/ghost/angel/whatever you want to call him was clear and in detail. Forty years later I still see him clearly.

Regardless of what Mom thought, she knew we'd seen something even though she couldn't see him when Bekie and I both were looking right at him. We were so adamant and scared that she grabbed the flashlight and took us outside to ease our fears. Uh, nope, didn't help. I don't know if he was still there while we were outside because I refused to look. I had my face pressed into my mom's hip, holding on to her for dear life while we three shuffle-stepped right over the spot we told our mom the guy was. I'm not sure if Bekie looked either or kept her face buried as well. I'll have to ask her.

My mom never did see him, but when we went inside and sneaked a peek out the window, he hadn't moved a muscle. He never looked at us or anything, just stood there staring at the other window.

At bedtime, we had both run to our beds and pulled the covers over our heads, and then argued about who should close the curtains. Our curtains didn't have a draw string so had to be closed manually. Neither of us wanted to expose ourselves to the ghost's view (not that he ever looked at us) but I wasn't going to do it. So even as she wailed that she was the oldest so the ghost probably wanted her, Bekie walked across the dressers in front of the window, pushing it closed as she hid behind the curtain as she went.

In the morning we woke up to very large men in our house (paramedics), scrambling, and then rushing out the door, leaving the rest of us kids with some neighbors who were also there. I remember looking out the door, seeing an ambulance pull out.

My little brother died on the way to the hospital.

That night the invisible man was gone.

Afterwards my parents wanted to know every detail of the guy, what they said must have been an angel coming to take Brett home. I know it gives them comfort to believe that.

Truthfully it gives me comfort too and I do believe that. I want to believe that. However at the time, it was scary. And the after effects weren't so great either. I wouldn't go into my room alone. If someone was with me (even one of the younger kids--like they could save me--yes I'm rolling my eyes at the logic) I was fine, but if I had to go in by myself I would run in, grab what I needed and high-tail it out of there. If it was clothes, I changed in the hall or bathroom. Isn't that sad for a kid to be afraid to go in her own room? Not really sure when I got over that.

And then later in life when I had a terminally ill child of my own, I used to glance out the window at night, relieved when there wasn't any invisible being waiting there. Isn't that awful? I think it is. No parent should feel compelled to look out the window to rest assured death isn't coming for their child that night. It was dumb. It was illogical. But I still did it. I don't know what I would have done if I'd ever seen anything. Certainly not be afraid like I was as a kid, but I'd probably run out there and confront him and beg him to go away.

Anyway, moot point. Never saw anything, mercifully.

I don't know why both my sister and I saw this guy when my parents couldn't. Because we were young? To bring my parents comfort? To give me comfort later in life? Just an odd circumstance? I have no idea. And although it was frightening, heck, I was frightened before I even saw him because I drew from the fear coming off my sister. Maybe if I'd seen him on my own first, I'd have a different reaction, then again, maybe it would have been the same jolt as how Bekie came upon him.

What was God thinking? A little warning please? Ease two young girls into it. Come on. I mean seriously. The spirit that came to tell my other sister our brother was going to pass away was much much kinder and gentler. That's another post I guess. But even though it was scary and had some negative effects I had to get over, my belief in something after death, in other spirit realms, in ghosts, in that we don't just die, not really, that, I'll never question. I've seen it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More House Trauma

I wasn't going to write about this because I haven't told my youngest boys yet, but they NEVER read my blog or facebook so I'll risk it. 

So the air conditioning went out. Figures, right? But the landlord was real nice about it and sent a guy out who he used on this house before.

The repairman comes out. He kind of looked like Humphrey Bogart in a cap. Nice fellow though a bit quirky. Actually he'd fit in as a Stephen King type of character real well. At the front door, he asked, "Do you want me to come through to the back or I can go around?"

I have Southern hospitality so I ask him to come on in. He says, "I'm not a thief so you don't have to worry."

I wasn't worried. Besides we have rental insurance so we'd get new and better stuff to replace our crap. Steal whatever, I just want my a/c back on.

Anyway, out back he gets to work. He says he doesn't mind me watching him work because he likes people to know he's actually doing something because there are a lot of thieves in his business, but he's not one of them. Okay, good to know. Then he proceeds to tell me how he takes the magnet signs off his truck when he comes in this area because there is another a/c man with the same name that is a crook and he's afraid someone will pull him over and beat him up. Wow. He really is fixated on making sure I know he's honest.

Poor little Bogart. He must have been through the ringer at some point. Anyway, we're just having casual conversation while he's switching out the flux capacitor. Okay, there is no "flux" in the capacitor, I just liked saying that. 

Then out of the blue Bogart says, "You know what happened in this house, right?"

Oh crap. My stomach clenched. "Uh, no." We've been living here less than a week.

"The lady that lived here committed suicide. In the house. Yeah, they say she had problems anyway, but one day she shot herself. Was living here with her twenty-year-old son and his kid. The kid was the one that found her."

Ick, ick, ick. But that explains a lot of things. Like why we got the house so cheap. Why it was left so dirty. Like a twenty-year-old guy is going to clean it up after his mom just killed herself here.

Then little Bogey seemed to get worried. His face scrunched, causing more of those Humphrey Bogart lines that are deep enough they look like they might slide down his face. "I was right by telling you this, right? I don't know if you believe in those types of things. But if it was me, I'd want to know." 

"Yeah, I'd want to know." Do I? Um, maybe I don't. Well, too late now. 

He said he'd been in the house right after doing some work and went looking around for any evidence of...you know, blood splatter, but couldn't find any.

Oh. Right. Um, yeah. Why is this my life? I prayed and fasted for this house. Come on. 

Then he leaves and here I am in the house all by myself a little freaked out. What was that creak? Which room? When I washed the carpets, did I see anything? But then I was tired and took a nap and nothing came out to get me so...guess we are good.

Plus I'm proficient in rationalizing. First, I don't think God would make everything work out so well for us if there would be any residual haunting. If you believe in God, which I do. If you don't, then just chalk this up to me and my way of thinking and move on. Second, I've lived with ghosts before and it was fine. They are just people after all. It's when you live with demons that things go wacky, which my grandmother did. I should totally write a blog post about that. I'll link to it when I do. But since I don't invite evil spirits in or mess with Ouija boards or seances, because that's just asking for trouble, we're good on that point too. Third, anyone who is at the point of taking their own life clearly isn't going to be attached to a rental house. She wanted out so why stick around? If anything, she'd be attached to her son and grandson and follow them away from here. And last, I believe that souls get escorts into the spirit world. I've actually seen that happen. (I post about it here..) And I certainly believe that God is merciful enough to souls troubled to the point of ending their own life to send help upon their passing. 

So no way is the house haunted. 

When I told my husband, he was very kind and pragmatic about it, but that's the kind of guy he is.. He simply said, "Oh that poor house. The poor woman needed a peaceful place to die and we needed the house." 

To be honest I'm more icked out that there has to have been blood residue than I am with a possible ghost. But in my imagination and denial I'm thinking she would have done it on her bed, which is gone. Right? That's what I'm sticking to.  I feel like Charisma on the episode of Angel where she stays in her haunted apartment simply for the lower rate.

So, 500 dollars less a month and now only 23 months to go. We can do this. And my plan: Be good to this house, turn the atmosphere toward good and love and family so that the next people who live here will not have to worry about anything either and the poor landlord will be able to say that the previous occupants didn't have any problems. See, that's me, scattering sunshine all over the place. 

Fun huh? Just what you wanted to know right?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oct NTRWA President's Letter

It’s Fall, the days of cooler weather, and well, for some, a lot of sneezing.
And best yet…Halloween.
I love Halloween. Best pagan celebration tipped on its head and gone commercialized ever. All that spooky goodness and candy galore and let’s face it…plain old fun. It’s when the monster B-movies get overplayed and scary and sometimes hilarious decorations go full-out.
For people like us writers who live in fantasy worlds all the time, Halloween allows the rest of the world to come out and play with us.
So enjoy the month, soak your pumpkin in vinegar so it will last, and let the ghouls out to play!


HaPpY HaLLowEEn! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

House Trauma

We've been renting the same house for 8 years. I like the house, like the neighborhood, like the school district, like the local church community. But we have been "house-poor" for all of these years. We also moved in when when we had five children. The 3 oldest have moved on so now we have this 3500 square foot home that we pretty much walk through to get from one area to another.

So as our lease is coming up at the end of September, enough is enough. I'm so tired of throwing money into a house that isn't even our own. It's time to downsize. The problem is is that our credit isn't where it needs to be. Why? Oh, could it be because all our money goes into rent instead of paying off these few lasting leftover bills from when our family was held hostage by a terminal illness? It's a vicious vicious cycle.

Here's the problem: My junior wants to stay in his high school. Can't blame him. But we're not going to stay in this cycle another two years. Just can't do it. Especially with a missionary out in the field.
But we have been getting a good rate on our house. The same models in the area are going for at least $500 more and all the houses in this area for rent at the price we can manage are 1/3 the size and barely $100 lower in rent. Wahhhhh? Really? That's not even worth it. We're going to be stuck like this forever.

So I prayed and fasted about it. A lot. For many months, worried that we were going to have to move our sons into another school district. And I was very specific because in my experience that works. So I asked for a home within the area beneath a certain price, even realizing that there was no way.

Except, there was. Unbelievable we found a rental that fits all our criteria. The same model a few houses down is renting for $400 more, but it was all painted cute. This one, holy heck, it's a mess. It seriously looks like a flop house. But it's freaking $500 less than what we are in now. That's doable for us. It's a miracle, is what it is. And it's only because the owner doesn't want to do any work into it, or possibly can't afford to, we're getting if for well below the going rate.

So I'm thinking for that much of a break, yeah, I can live with a kitchen countertop that is outdoor slabs cemented on. I can scrub the filthiest bathrooms ever known to mankind. Seriously, I don't know what kind of people lived here or what they were growing. Well since I found weed paper in the drawer I guess I do know what they were growing. And coffee filters on top of the bathroom cupboards. Um, what do you do with coffee filters in the bathroom? I'm thinking it's not for making coffee. My son looked at the tub, grimaced and said, "Can we buy a new bathtub?" It's that gross. I have pictures but hesitate to post them because I don't want a rash of vomiting. They are scrubbed clean now (with The Works toilet cleaner and Mr. Clean scrubbers, and then vinegar and bleach) and since I don't own a hazmet suit, I tossed the clothes I was wearing. Guh. All the while repeating in my head $500 less $500 less $500 less. But dang if I am not buying new toilet seats!

Then the neighbor comes over, sweet guy, and proceeds to tell me about the drug dealer, Roger, that lives on the other side of him who used to break in all the garages and cars, except now that he keeps calling the police and has installed security cameras, and R has been arrested several times, but nothing sticks, at least they no longer steal around here. Don't crap in your own sandbox, that sort of thing I hope. Sigh. This is the house I prayed for? What are we doing?

I seriously envision our family going into a dark cave and licking our wounds while we financially heal for two years. Two years, $500 less a month. We can do this.

But our landlord has allowed me to paint (at our expense of course). I was doing a real good job of it, going from a puse brown to a soft gray from the ladder slipped out from under me and now I have a sprained ankle. Man, it hurts and I have so much to do. The doctor said, "well, keep off of it." Right. I'm moving. I have so much to do.

I am grateful that it wasn't worse. The ladder (and I) didn't smack the floor, but the ends caught on the window sill so that I wrenched on the ladder. I have lovely rung-spaced bruises along my body. Joy.
ladder landing
how the ladder fell
In shock I rolled off when my friend texted seconds later, "hey, how is the painting going? Are you sure you don't need help?"

To which I texted back, "uh, since I'm flat on my back now from falling off the ladder, yeah, maybe I need some help after all." So much for being independent I can do this on my own. Now ladders scare me a little bit.

The next day my friend came over and I had my son skip for the first half of school and we knocked out the paint job in a couple of hours. One good thing about having a smaller house. The ceilings are going to have to stay a yuck yellow. Yes, I said yellow because I can't reach them. So we'll just use it as a way to determine how observant people are whether they notice the one patch of gray on the yellow ceiling or not. Do you think you would notice?






Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interviewed for K Magazine

So I got a call from Judy, the president of the Keller Writers Association critique group, telling me about a reporter from the Star Telegram who is interested in indie-publishing and could I tell her a little bit about it.

Well, sure. I'm not one to pass up an opportunity like that. So I emailed Judy over some information. The following day the reporter gives me a call, asking if we could meet, and that she is interested in doing an article for the new K Magazine, Keller's Premier City Magazine, which is part of The local Keller Citizen, which is part of Star Telegram of the City of Fort Worth. And that the article is about National Novel Writing Month which takes place in November. You know, that crazy month where writers all over the world buckle down and try to complete a 50k novel from start to finish in a month?  Have I ever participated in that?

Why yes, yes  I have. I completed the uncompleteable novel during nanowrimo, Extracted. And I live in Keller.

Perfect. Yay, me! I fit all the criteria she was looking for.

My first BIG SHOT interview. You'd think I'd be nervous. But I wasn't for some odd reason.
Anyway, Sandra Engelland, the reporter came over to my house. She was wearing a bright happy blue outfit with cute ballet flats, has curly blond hair, and a nice smile. Very ease-putting. She also used a small notebook and pen to write everything, which for who-know-why made me all happy. Like it fit some stereotype I had in my head of how reporters should do things. Awesome. And dang, she wrote fast.
Sandra Engelland from The Star Telegram photograph


Her questions were great. I felt totally at ease and confident because we were talking on subjects I love and know what I'm talking about, so the conversation just flowed. I felt intelligent and capable and I loved it. I want to be interviewed more. Bring on the reporters!

Then as she was leaving she mentioned that she'd arrange for one of their photographers to take some pictures of me. Squeal! Okay, I didn't squeal. I'm a professional after all, but maybe just a little squeal inside.

So the following day, me and another author she interviewed named Henry met the photographer at The Book Carriage in Roanoke for about 5 minutes and had our picture taken together. Seriously, that's all it took. 5 minutes. Guy knew what he was doing. Well, I guess since that's his career he would. It was fun. I feel great about it...and slightly important and can't wait to see how it all comes turns out.

My nanowrimo book. One month to finish. A year to edit. That's what I get for speeding through it.


Extracted




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