What is your most valuable book?

I love old books.  There is so much history surrounding them.  Who was the author?  Where was it printed?  Who was the original publisher?  What year was the book printed?  The imagination can run wild as to who the original owners were.  Did they like the book?  Was it actually owned by someone related to the author?  Did it travel across oceans?

There is quite a bit of money to be found in antique books, but there is no price tag high enough for two finds in my collection that literally cost me $2.00

My first book is a pocket book of The Holy Bible.  My husband found this book when cleaning out an old house that was abandoned and the new owners needed work to be done.  He brought it home to me and it has become one of my most treasured possessions.

As you can see from the copyright (MDCCCLVI – 1856),
this book is 156 years old.  (Hmm, wonder what Kindle or Nook will ever survive 156 years or more).  This particular pocket bible was printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, Printers to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty.  It is a rare book, affordable at the time by only the wealthy and it shows in the binding and cover.  Look at the beauty in this book’s leather design and in the gilded page edges.  You’ll never, ever, EVER get that with a Kindle.

But the beauty doesn’t stop there.  Inside I found remarkable insights to the owner:  four-leaf clovers, a clipping from a newspaper, a red feather, and a tiny patch of hair, tied neatly in a string. 

Inside the front and back cover are references to family history.  The owner was born in Londonderry, Ireland and was given the bible by her mother when she departed Liverpool at the age of 16.  She arrived in Ellis Island aboard The Teutonic on April 25 1894.

She married in 1926, settled in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and had 5 children.  Her last baby, a boy, died at the age of 8 weeks.

Kindle and Nook and all you other e-readers…Blah!  This is proof there is more to books than the story the author intended us to read.  Books have history.  They’ve traveled, they hold treasures untold.  e-Readers just turn it all into black and white.  For me, I prefer the color, the imagination.

My next treasure is one I picked up for $2 at a book store in Atlanta, Georgia.  It is The Sketch Book by Washington Irving.

The cover is a bit worn, but folks, it’s suede.  Suede.  What books nowadays have suede for a binding?  Look at the gold floral embossment. Stunning.  And look at the inside?  Look at the artwork!

After doing some research, this book is 164 years old.  It was the second printing, published in 1848, and includes 2 previously unreleased short stories:  “A Sunday in London”, and “London Antiques”.  Other short stories include “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.  In addition, there are several pages that are still connected to each other at the bottom, see?

What I found most humorous in the book is what was written in the Preface to the revised edition.  Authors, you will appreciate this excerpt from a famous author as he takes you on his adventure into publication (have fun with the Victorian English).  In this excerpt he is speaking of a few of his short stories he sent to the United States for publication because he felt that “…much of their contents could be interesting only to American readers”.   The bold, underlined parts are what made me chuckle.  Enjoy. 🙂

“By the time the contents of the first volume had appeared in this occasional manner, they began to find their way across the Atlantic, and to be inserted, with many kind encomiums, in the London Literary Gazette.  It was said, also, that a London bookseller intended to publish them in a collective form.  I determined, therefore, to bring them forward myself, that they might at least have the benefit of my superintendence and revision.  I accordingly took the printed numbers which I had received from the United States, to Mr. John Murray, the eminent publisher, from whom I had already received friendly attentions, and left them with him for examination, informing him that should he be inclined to bring them before the public, I had materials enough on hand for a second volume.  Several days having elapsed without any communications from Mr. Murray, I addressed a note to him, in which I construed his silence into a tacit rejection of my work, and begged that the numbers I had left with him be returned to me.  Two days, Mr. Irving?  Seriously? You’d never survive in today’s publishing world The following was his reply: 

MY DEAR SIR:  I entreat you to believe that I feel truly obliged by your kind intentions towards me, and that I entertain the most unfeigned respect for your most tasteful talents.  My house is completely filled with workpeople at this time, and I have only an office to transact business in; and yesterday I was wholly occupied, or I should have done myself the pleasure of seeing you. 

If it would not suit me to engage in the publication of your present work, it is only because I do not see that scope in the nature of it which would enable me to make those satisfactory accounts between us, without which I really feel no satisfaction in engaging.—but I will do all I can to promote their circulation, and shall be most ready to attend to any future plans of yours.

With much regard, I remain, dear sir,

Your faithful servant,

John Murray

Quite a rejection letter, wouldn’ t you say?  LOL!

He goes on to write about his ventures into publishing, including sending his works to Sir Walter (then Mr.) Scott.  Irving goes on to tell the story of multiple rejections by publishers until he finally decided to publish the first edition of The Sketch Book, “at my own risk”, with a bookseller of unknown fame, “…and without any of the usual arts by which a work is trumpeted into notice.”   Finally, after much to do, Sir Walter Scott convinced John Murray to undertake the publishing of The Sketch Book.  It was printed in Philadelphia by the Henry Altemus Company.  In Mr. Irving’s own words, “…under the kind and cordial auspices of Sir Walter Scott, I began my literary career…”  It helps to have friends in high places, even in 1848.

Is it any wonder why I treasure this 164 year old book?  It is this, this holding of history in my hands that keeps me from moving into the electronic age of Kindles and Nooks.  My heart grieves for the day when there are no more tangible books.  The words may remain, but the hidden history within the bindings will be gone.  It is my intent to all authors, to keep books around for as long as possible.

By the way, the bible has been appraised at close to $300 and The Sketch Book, even in the tattered shape it’s in, almost $100.  To me…they’re priceless.

Do you have any treasured, valuable books in your collection?

Moving on – into the land of queries and synopses

Yesterday I exposed my heart and spoke about my personal bout with low self esteem, and how it can beat a person up no matter how much the person tries to stay positive.  I had so many responses, by e-mail and on my blog, and it warmed my heart to know I’d touched so many people.  Some of you opened up about your own moments of low self-esteem, others tossed out some great advice, but what struck me the most was the love and the compassion that came pouring out of every one who responded.  It hit me last night how truly blessed I am.  My words were read by 136 people yesterday.  That’s a lot for me.  Over half of those 136 responded.  My e-mail had 21 more messages this morning, thanking me for opening up my heart and letting the world see ‘me’.  I even picked up a few new followers who said they would have never heard about me if it hadn’t been for this post.  I guess whoever said ‘write what you know’ knew something about this writing business.

Today I awoke with a whole new outlook.  I’m wrapping up my short story and starting on the dreaded synopsis and query for it.  I’d rather give birth to a fourteen pound baby, but it is something I have to do.   I have 9 paperback books in front of me, all flipped to the back cover.  I’m taking notes on the blurbs, trying to decipher the code that makes the hooks work.  There is a rhythm that I found in each one, a cadence, that reads like a finely choreographed waltz of words.  It is an art, a whole different style of writing.

It’s marketing.  It’s selling the story.  It’s

writing at its best.  No pressure there, right?

I found Charlotte Dillon’s site an amazing source of information on writing queries and synopses, as well as Rachelle Gardner’s.  I’m sure I will be referring to them a lot today and tomorrow as I wrap this piece up.

Are you good at writing synopses and queries?  What’s your secret?

Struggling with self-esteem

Last night I sat on the edge of my bed and broke down in tears.  Up until then I’d been surfing the web, reading the blogs I follow, commenting where I felt I had something to say and applauding them for winning yet another blog award or getting their 1000 follower on Twitter or getting an agent or publisher for their novels.  Truly wonderful and fantastic achievements and I’m so very happy to be a part of it, knowing my writing buddies are moving forward and seeing the fruits of their labors.

So why should this make me cry?

While I was honestly thrilled for them, I was also saddened because it wasn’t me.  Oh, I know this confession sounds horrible and incredibly selfish, but it’s not.  It just hurts somehow, deep in the core of my being.  I’m not sure where it comes from.  Maybe it was because I was told all my life I’m not good enough at anything I did. I was actually told as a child that I had no personality, no one liked talking to me, no guy would ever want me, and the worst – I was completely unlovable, so much so even my own parents didn’t want me and gave me away.  That one hurt.  It still hurts, forty years later.  Even my own kids have told me at one time or another I’ve failed them as a mom.  Don’t tell me words don’t hurt.  They not only hurt, but the cuts they leave behind remain forever.

Over the course of my life, I’ve allowed others to instill their beliefs about me into me, and I believed them.  After all, if so many people said the same thing, then obviously they saw something I didn’t.  Sadly, it’s followed me into my adulthood and it’s a struggle every day to try to find ways to believe in myself, to believe I’m good at what I do.  When I see my fellow bloggers get another award or achieve some fantastic success, I’m not jealous; it’s just a knife in the chest that reiterates to me I’m not as good as them at something I love to do.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very happy for them and I don’t want something because I didn’t deserve it or because someone feels sorry for me.  I want to get rewarded for hard work and perseverance.  Their success, though, and my lack of it reinforces  the negative thoughts:  ‘you have no personality’ and ‘no one wants to talk to you.’  I am so much more a champion for others to succeed than I am for myself because it’s been beat into me that I will never succeed at anything.  And yet, I keep holding on to that dream of being a great author someday.  That someone, somewhere, will pick up my novel and love it so much that they read it over and over and over again until the binding falls apart, the pages are worn…even dog-eared.  Somewhere in time, my novel(s) will be well loved.

So why do I let others’ success draw me down?  I think it’s because their success seems to come natural for them.  They just open their mouths and people listen and click ‘follow’.  I’ve never had that.  Never.  I don’t even know how to obtain that.  I’m the person who takes 2 steps forward and gets pushed 20 steps back and it’s a constant struggle to push ahead.   Yet, I keep trying.

Why do I care about whether I get a blog award or if people follow my blog?  All of us want to feel loved, needed and special.  For someone like me who feels completely and utterly alone in a room full of people, I have to fall back on my passions, my dreams, to keep me focused.  When I don’t get recognized or passed over for my hard work, I begin to doubt myself, again.  I hear those negative words, ‘you’re not good enough, even at the thing you love doing…writing.  I guess I need the ‘atta boys’.  I need people to say “I appreciate you.”  It’s sad.

So, if no one cares about what I say or what I think, then why write this blog?

I write it because I know I am not the only one out here in the blogosphere who suffers from low self-esteem, and if I talk about it and others read it, then maybe they won’t feel so alone.  Maybe I can impart some wisdom, and if I can help one person with this blog, I’ll have achieved a lot.

This morning when I got up, I shot over an e-mail to a friend, expressing my sadness and my doubts as to why I continue this blog or even write.  I then went for a walk to clear my head, gather my wits and give myself my everyday pep talk.  What do I say to myself?

  1. I tell myself I am a great writer.  Others just don’t know it yet because I have nothing yet to show them. But I will.  It’s coming, and it will be fantastic. (I have to tell myself this several times during the day so I don’t give up).
  2. I set new goals.  I get a clear picture in my mind of where I want to be 2 weeks from now, a month from now.  It helps to stay focused.
  3. I decide how I will celebrate meeting my goals.  It could be a movie, a new dress, maybe even chocolate.  Recognizing the achievement of my goals boosts my confidence.
  4. I try to learn from my mistakes and not look at them as colossal failures.  Very difficult for someone who’s been told ever since childhood they’re a failure (“Jen, that A- on your exam should have been an A+.  Why did you mess up?  Why didn’t you study?”)
  5. I will continue listening to others’ opinions, but I must hold true to who I am.  I will not let others take any more of my heart, my spirit or my soul just to make themselves look bigger and better.  There are those who want to see me succeed as much as I want to see them succeed.  Surround myself with these people.
  6. I will give more of my time and encouragement to others.  I already do this, but I must do more because it lends to gaining positive feedback and respect from others, all essential when building a better self-esteem.
  7. Stop comparing myself to others.  I’m me.  And I have a lot to offer.
  8. And last but not least…never, never, never give up on my dreams.  They are all that I have to keep me moving forward.  If I lose my dreams, I lose me.  I don’t want to lose me.

And…now that I’ve managed to make everyone depressed, I will start my corned beef and cabbage and dive back into my short story (which has a rapidly approaching deadline), and my novel, which will get a publishing contract this year, come hell or high water.

What about any of you?  Do you have self-esteem issues?  Do you find you have to give yourself pep talks every day?  I would love to hear about your personal triumphs.  Please share.

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The dreaded half and half

Hi everyone. Guess what I did?  I wrote a half and half.  What’s a half and half?  It’s a story where the first half kicks awesome butt and the second half gets the awesome butt kicked out of it.

I knew this before I sent it out to my beta readers, but sometimes I’m not sure if my doubts are my own insecurities beating me up, or if my story is really bad writing.  This time, it was really bad writing.

And not only one, but two beta readers told me the same thing.  In fact, they both pointed out to me the exact same spot the story fell apart, why it fell apart, and what to do about it.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were sitting side by side comparing notes, that’s how almost identical their comments were.

Well, I suppose if I’m going to make mistakes, they should be glaring ones.

 So what was wrong with it?  The plot.  It fell apart.  There were pot holes – no, make that sink holes – everywhere in the second half.  Both of my betas said the first half was excellent and they offered minor suggestions to make it tighter.  In the second half, my main character acted against his nature.  I threw in danger when there shouldn’t have been any…in the form of Yetis.  One beta compared the scene to Disneyland Adventures Kinect game. (and this is supposed to be an adult fantasy romance? Oh, no no no.  Make note:  the Disneyland Yetis have to go).  There were characters that walked on and off scene with no reason why, scenes that just happened because…?  (Heck , I don’t even know and I’m the author).  Face it.  There are times when the excuse “Because I can” doesn’t work.

Why did all this happen?

Because I was trying to make the story into something it wasn’t.  I was forcing it, trying to get the story to conform to a mold.  I was looking at a deadline and I was trying too hard to interject an element in the story that really can’t be rushed.  The result?  An ooey gooey mess that now has to be written all over again.  Once again, I should have listened to my gut and not my head.

After giving the story a two-day rest, I started it back up again and I’m writing the second half the way I should have written it all along.  I’m writing for me, not for what I think someone else wants or expects.  I figure others will either like it or they won’t.  I can’t please everyone, so I shouldn’t try.  All I can do is write from the heart.  Once I do that, the rest will fall into place.

So what about you?  Have any of you written a half and half?  Please share your literary blunders and how you overcame them.

Lucky Seven Meme

I’ve been tagged again by the amazing Susan Rocan, but there won’t be any number of questions I have to answer this time around.  This is a new kind of game and I saw it a few weeks ago circling around on the blogosphere and I secretly hoped it would come my way because it’s just so much fun!

Here is the scoop:

1.  Go to page 77 of your current manuscript or WIP

2.  Go to line 7.  Copy down the next seven lines, sentences or paragraphs as they are written.  No Cheating!

3.  tag 7 authors and pass on the Lucky Seven Meme

Here goes my excerpt from In the Shadow of the Dragon King:

Charlotte hugged her drawn-up knees. “Hmm, let me see. I’m in a heavy sweater sitting in a forest that’s as warm as Florida in July, surrounded by insects and birds that could carry me away.  My cell phone is in my coat back at your house, not that it would do me any good in this God-forsaken place, and I have welt marks on  my arm from where I’ve pinched myself so many times to convince myself all this is real.  Does that answer your question?”

David smiled and nudged her with his elbow. “Well, at least you aren’t plastered to a wall anymore.” 

And, my seven lucky authors are:

Jennifer Eaton

Julie Reece

Emi Gayle

Cara Olsen

Hannah Bullimore

L.A. Freeland

Kevin Hiatt

Hunger Games Trailers

The Hunger Games red carpet premier is tonight.  I wish I was there.  I have not been this stoked about a movie’s release since The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series‘s.  Sadly, I have to wait with the rest of the world until March 23 to see this awesome story come to life on the big screen.  For those of you who haven’t seen the trailers or have seen them but can’t get enough (like me), here they are.  Enjoy.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Stepping outside the comfort zone

I recently took up a challenge:  write a short story between 5,000 and 10,000 words for an anthology based upon a picture.  Doesn’t sound too hard, right?  Wrong.

After researching this publisher, I discovered that, while they publish mostly urban fantasy, all of their published works have a romance theme running through them.  I don’t write romance.  I stink at writing romance.  Whenever I tried, the words always sounded funny to me, forced.  Clichéd and clunky.  But I really like this publisher and I like the books they put out, and I really want to be published by them.  That put me in a dilemma:  do I continue writing my young adult fantasy pieces and pass, or do I step out of my comfort zone and write an adult fantasy with a romantic element?

I took the leap.  I stepped outside, and let me tell you, I was shaking in my sneakers.

I stared at the picture they gave us thinking ‘what the heck am I going to write about?’  The publisher laid out some rules and regulations and stated what the story could NOT be about, which made the challenge even harder because, if you look at the picture, you wanted to write about what you couldn’t write about.

So, I started with a few sentences.  I didn’t like them.  I started over…and over, and over, and over again.  Then, a week or so ago, a pretty nasty thunderstorm rolled through the area late at night.  Howling wind.  Rain pattering hard on the window.  I lay in bed around 2:30 in the morning listening, and the scene for the short started playing out in my head.  I could see my characters, I could see the plot, the theme, the motivations.  I could even see the romantic element.  But could I write it?

After taking my son to the bus stop at 6:30 am, I sat at the computer and wrote.  The words started to come.  I told myself to write.  Get it all out first and then go back. Don’t stop in the middle and revise.  Just keep going.  I had 7,200 words 10 hours later.  But the draft was just that – a draft.  The romantic element wasn’t there enough.  I needed more.  That took a few days to fix.

I’m still not sure if it or the entire story works. It’s with beta readers right now who have my permission to slaughter it.  I still have time to fix the problems.  I can say this, though:  I was happy enough with it to let it go, and I’m not fretting.  What matters is I took a chance to see if I could do this, to see if I could write outside my comfort zone.  And while the task seemed cold and daunting at first, even dreadful at times, I persevered, I survived, and I learned once again that the fear of trying is worse than the actual doing.

Have you got something you’re dreading to write?  A term paper?  An essay?  A business report?  Sit back, take a deep breath, and trust yourself.  You can do it.  All you have to do is believe.

Paperclip Award

Thanks to the amazing Victoria who got this award from ElvishJesusFreak who  got it from its creator, teenagejesusfreak, I have been given the Paperclip Award.  From TeenageJesusFreak’s blog, “this award shall be presented to wonderful and amazing bloggers who inspire… well, whoever awards it to them.”

 Isn’t it pretty?

The award comes with some questions so, here goes:

1.When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A veterinarian.

2. What is your ultimate favorite place to be?

Anywhere peaceful and tranquil where I can hear birds, and the rush of the ocean or the babbling of a brook.  Mountains or sea, it doesn’t matter.  I love both.  I also need to be with my family, friends and my little four-footed critters to make my world complete.

3. Name one famous person who inspires you. (Just one!!!)

J.K. Rowling (love her rags to riches story), and Gabrielle Giffords.  What an amazing story of heartbreak, perseverance and triumph.  She is a miracle.

4. Tea or Coffee?

I like both.  Coffee (Godiva French Vanilla and Chocolate Truffle = heaven on earth) definitely in the morning, Green tea during the day and Chamomile at night.

5. If you could be any other person for 48 hours, who would you be?

Does it have to be a person?  If I had a choice, I’d really want to be my spoiled-rotten kitty, Oliver, for the day.  He’s got the life.

6. What is your earliest memory?

Going to a polo match in SC at the age of 4.

7. If you could ask anyone in the world, living or dead, anything, who would you ask, and what would you ask them?

Bill Gates.  Will you adopt me please?  🙂

on a serious note:

Elvis Presley:  If you loved Jesus and God so much and you truly believed God was the reason for your talent and success, why in His name did you throw it all away and hand your life over to drugs?  Such a waste.

8. What is the scariest thing you have ever done?

Flying down a hill in a 1976 Ford Maverick doing 110 mph!  I was not the driver and I was so PO’d  after the jerk I was with peeled me from the floorboard!

9. What is your favorite book?

Great Expectations with the Hunger Games series and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix coming in right behind.

10. Briefly explain one of the weirdest dreams you have ever had.

I was on a ferris wheel on the beach and all of a sudden it started going really really fast and the cars flew off into the ocean.  They were the seats that were like cages.  Anyway, the car I was in sank, and then something came up beneath me and pushed me to the surface.  I bobbed there for the longest time, watching the lights of the fair.  I could still hear the music, the people laughing.  No one seemed to care that the ferris wheel seats were gone. That’s when I woke up. Weird.

11. What one song best describes you? (Feel free to post a link to a Youtube vid)

I can’t decide.  It’s a toss up between 2


 (with the ‘one’ I let go being doubt and negativity)

12. Pen or pencil?

Depends on my mood.  Usually pen.

13. Is 13 an unlucky number or not?

I don’t like it.  it’s odd.  🙂

Now to give the award away.  I think I’ll give it to some folks I haven’t awarded to before.

Shiloh’s Secret



L.A. Freeland

Second Campaigner Challenge

Here is my second campaigner challenge from Rach Writes.  The instructions are long, so if you’re interested in the various writing prompts, click here. I tried to use them all except for the poetry stuff.  So, here is my flash fiction entry of an angel/demon thriller.

My logline:

They say Hell has no fury like a woman’s scorn.  They haven’t met Jason.  None of them should have met Angelica and Seth.

Flash Fiction piece in 200 words or less…


Jason sat against the rusted bridge support, his hair and clothes soaked.  Angelica sat across from him, shivering upon the base of a concrete pillar, her leg cut and bleeding.  Jason breathed deep, warding off the change morphing through his veins.  It wasn’t time.  Not yet.  He cast his gaze downward so she wouldn’t see the flames licking at the windows of his mortal prison.  In moments the world would end and she would be his concubine in Hell.

Small voices averted his attention to the beach.  In the shadow of a desolate mansion, four children scoured the trash and sand for morsels.  Jason smiled.  Pathetic fools.  If you only knew your insignificant lives were almost over.

A young boy kicking a ball appeared on the mansion’s veranda.  Grinning, he picked up his ball and peered over the edge, his blue eyes set on Jason.  Shedding his red coat, he snapped open his wings, and hurled the ball downward.

“No!” Jason summoned the serpentine change.

The ball, now a whirling tear of holy water, burst upon Jason’s chest.  The demon screamed in agony, then dissolved in a nebula of light.

Angelica smiled and stretched her wings.  “Nice shot, Seth. Let’s go.”


Please stop by Rachael’s site.  I’m sitting at #68.