Friday, August 31, 2018

Butterflies and Lions (er ... House Cats)

I’ve been neglecting my current work in progress as of late. I’ve been writing the third book in my Goddess of Tornado Alley series. It’s not that I’m not excited about working on it. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. This one is called Honeymoons, Harpies & House Arrest. This is the perfect title. How do I know? Well, because, even though I came up with it almost a year ago, it still makes me laugh when I say it out loud. That's proof enough for me that I got it right.

I’ve been editing like crazy. I’m one of the lucky ones; I have a job that I absolutely love. It fits me in a way no other job could. I’m the only one who clocks in around here, thoughthe home office of Wing Family Editing. That means I’m the janitor, the accountant, the CEO and the sole employee. The work environment is great … I edit in my bare feet and pajamas, my curly hair tousled and balanced on top of my head and held by a rubber band that is stretched to its very limits. My co-workers are awesome, too. There's only one; my furry little assistant who makes sure I get up and stretch every couple of hours. At three months old, Tara, my Golden Retriever puppy, has a small bladder that can only wait so long between bathroom breaks. Honestly, work conditions couldn’t be better. Oftentimes, I have almost more work than I can handlewhich is the best complaint ever for a businesswoman to have, right? Still, I find myself contemplating the process of cloning sometimes. Just kidding. Maybe.

A couple of days ago, I decided to take a thirty-minute break and share a snippet of Harpies with the members of my writing group on Facebook. I wanted to reassure them that I wasn't being neglectful and that I do intend to honor my late fall release date. (Fingers and toes crossed.) I chose this particular scene because I thought it might elicit some anticipation for those readers who are patiently awaiting this next installment of Frank, Archer and the rest of the gang. This is what I posted:

As she watched, the little butterfly moved effortlessly through the glass as if the window was water and the creature decided to swim right through. The event elicited a gasp from Frank’s throat. She blinked several times, then moved closer to the window. The butterfly was unquestionably inside the room now, but the glass was firmly in place without a mark upon its surface. She pressed her hand against it. It was warm and solid against her fingers and palm.
Frank turned and watched the insect as it continued to flutter in the air. She could hear the movement of wings it was so close to her face, and then, in the blink of an eye, the butterfly vanished. In its place stood a young woman, the orange and brown wings now affixed to her shoulder blades and still moving as though they were being touched by a soft breeze.
“Or a goddess …” Frank breathed, not sure if she should be frightened by the new arrival, or if the lovely woman was there to offer more help.
“Kalí méra.”
“Oh,” Frank responded, happy that the words were at least slightly familiar to her. “I know that one. Kalí méra to you, too,” she greeted.
“Eísai akrivós ópos eípate kai o Éros,” butterfly girl said in a soft, pleasing voice.
“Wait,” Frank responded, suddenly frustrated. “You said ‘Eros’. I understood that much. I’m sorry. I’m trying to learn Greek, but it’s been a real challenge.”
Butterfly girl offered a smile, and Frank couldn’t help but wonder how old she was. It was impossible to tell with immortals. This girl, much like Thalia, looked young, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties. Her long hair reminded Frank of glistening brown sugar, and the sunlight coming through the windows fell across her face, lighting up her wide, amber eyes.
“Excuse me,” she told Frank. “I was thinking out loud. You are exactly as Eros described.”
This took Frank by surprise, although, considering the circumstances, she wasn’t exactly sure why. “Archer,” she stumbled, “I mean, Eros told you about me?”
Butterfly girl laughed, and the sound of bells echoed quietly beneath the vaulted ceiling of the large room. “Of course he did. I’m his wife. Eros tells me everything.”

I’ll admit, I was thrilled with the feedback this teaser got … but there was a lot of editing to be done, so I went back to work.

It must have been about ten minutes later when I saw a movement off to my right. I didn’t pay attention to it immediately. I was in the middle of a paragraph, and I’ve taught myself not to get distracted. (I’m about 90% successful on most days. My house is filled with a multitude of distractions. I had to become impervious to them or I'd never get a single thing accomplished.) When I saw it again, I looked up, and was surprised to find … a butterfly with orange and brown wings.

I have a faulty screen on my sliding glass door. It’s not quite big enough to fit the space because it actually belongs on the sliding glass door in the bedroom. It’s summer  It's hot. I don’t have central air. The math is pretty easy to figure out on this one. There is a small space where insects, usually mosquitoes, get in. But never has a butterfly come through that opening … and never one that so closely resembles the butterfly in which I’d just introduced to my readers.

I was surprised. Okay. I was more than surprised. I followed heryes, obviously it was a heraround my kitchen and living room. Every time she landed, I tried to get a photo, but she was not willing to pose. This went on for a couple of minutes, and then she decided to flit down the hall and disappear from sight. When my son, Scott, came out of his room at the end of the hall, I thought they might have met one another, but when I told him about my visitor, he said he hadn’t made her acquaintance.

I was a little excitedand Scott wondered why. I told him about the teaser I’d posted, and then Psyche’s timely and mysterious arrival. Then I mentioned the fact that she’d disappeared before I could get a picture.

That’s when we heard a commotion in the entryway.

Mouse, my nineteen-pound domesticated panther, had also spotted the beautiful Psyche. He's on the chubby side, my feline, but he's an excellent bug hunter. Normally, I cheer him on. I'm all about him catching flies and moths and casting them from my domain. Heck, most of the time I point the pests out to him in hopes that he'll do what he's so good at. This butterfly, though ... she was different.

I climbed over the doggie gatethere are several of them in the house to contain the previously mentioned puppyand made my way down the stairs in a clumsy attempt to save my little visitor. I got to the door, but I was too slow … and for once, Mouse was incredibly fast. 

Psyche made quite a meal for my normally lazy beast. As he choked the poor little butterfly down, I heard Scotty laughing from above me. He'd only come into the kitchen for a snack. He wasn't expecting to get a show, too.

"Look at it this way," he told me after he was able to catch his breath. "Psyche's a goddess, right? Doesn't that mean she's immortal?" Strangely enough, when I shared the story with my good friend Robin, she said the exact same thing. 

So, was this butterfly's arrival just a strange coincidence? Maybe. I'm not convinced, though. When the universe speaks to me, I try really hard to listen. I'm pretty sure Mouse was listening, too, because thirty minutes after he made a meal of my tiny goddess, she returned with a vengeance. Apparently, deities don't digest well. 

Honeymoons, Harpies & House Arrest is completely outlined. I've had the book organized and plotted for months. As a matter of fact, a good portion of it has already been written. There's been a new twist added to the story line, though. Why? Because I'm pretty sure that's the way Psyche wants it.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Off Balance

Something has been weighing me down as of late. It feels like something hard and heavy and it’s sitting on my chest, making it so very hard for me to breathe. Although this weight has been with me for a while, today I feel compelled to face it.

I’m not sure why. It has been hot and dry here as summertime approaches. There has been a shift in the weather today. The skies are overcast, and the temp has fallen. It isn’t hot, but it’s oppressive in a way I can’t explain. It feels as though we’re in for one hell of a storm, but it’s waiting. For what, I don’t know. The change in weather has thoughtlessly gifted me with a dull but persistent headache, and the weight upon my chest is pushing everything I’ve been feeling out into the world. It has become obvious that it is time to come to terms with what’s going on in my head and my heart. It has always been this way for me, for as long as I can remember. There is no other way for me but to write through it.

A significant shift has taken place in my life recently, and it’s messed with my equilibrium more than a little. The details are mine, and I have no intention of sharing them with anyone. The truth is, I’m sad. Maybe I knew that already, but writing those words just brought forth a rush of tears. There it is. It’s made me introspective, this confession.  Saying it out loudwriting the words has made me think about who I am as a person. What I am to myself. Who I am to others.

I am the eternal optimist. The always smiling, often giggling happy girl. One day, my son, who was obviously irritated with me for one reason or another, said, “How is it that the sun is always shining on your curly, blonde head?” My daughter has accused me of smiling too loudly on occasion, and I’ve been told that my “Mary Sunshine” outlook on life is much like the sun itself; sometimes too bright … oftentimes stifling in its heat, and sometimes I can actually see those around me scurry away in search of some much-needed shade. 

Was I always like this? This person who always finds the bright side of things, the one who spends time trying to cheer people up, the one who finds it nearly impossible to say no when asked to do things, the person who pours everything she has into those she loves … I believe that I have always wanted to make people feel happy and loved. I have always tried to be helpful, to give others what I’ve always craved; love, acceptance, comfort, understanding. There have been a handful of people throughout the years with whom I’ve felt a certain connection. It doesn’t happen very often, but these are the people I’ve felt more compelled to be there for; those few who have really touched my heart, those who have become incredibly important and special to me. For those people, I will always do whatever I can. I will always be there for them no matter what happens.  

Optimism, the bubbly part of my personality, the part of me everyone expects was a choice. It was one I made in my early twenties. I don’t remember the exact day, but I remember doing it. There were a lot of things that happened before that time that I didn’t want to deal with anymore; stuff that hurt, like a bruise that wouldn’t heal because I couldn’t stop pushing on the wounded skin. It was a choice I made every single day until it became a part of who I was instead of something I had to work for. That became me. That became the sun that shines on my curly blonde head and what makes my smile so loud.

I am not only that, though. I am so many things.

I am Jennifer, the girl who shared a name with five other little girls in every classroom growing up, painfully shy but over friendly, oftentimes afraid and eager to please, damaged, aching, my mother’s shadow, my father’s burden, and Mimi’s unintentional but lucky fifth daughter.

I am Jenny, insatiable reader, competitive ice skater, punching bag, sullen poet, cute but never beautiful, best friend and confidante. I am emotional, needy, scared and over sensitive with a head full of dreams and eyes filled with stars. I am a lover. I am vulnerable and important. I am strong. I am replaceable.

I am Jen, the accident-prone, giggly, goofy, sentimental, enthusiastically encouraging girl who keeps secrets; both mine and everyone else’s. I am the wild-haired girl who gives endless hugs―and will hold on as long as I can because I need them more than you do. I’m invisible. I’m stronger than I believe, weaker than I want to be, self-reliant, confident, quiet but oh so loud. I am a pain in the ass.

I am J.C., writer and absolute lover of words, friend to many but close to few. I am the girl who keeps promises, suffers from chronic pain, the one who does too much, is too much, but never feels like enough, the one who waters dead plants but smiles and loves without hesitation regardless of the pain it might cause me. I am the best friend you’ll ever have. I’m needy, loyal and kind, frustrating and overwhelming. Funny, happy and sad. I am forgettable.  

It’s hard to say whether this has helped me or not. I never know for sure how it will turn out when the need to write things through hits me. The storm hasn’t broken yet, and my chest still feels heavy. I’m still off balance. I know I’ve done what I needed to do, though. What was in my head, what was in my heart is right here now, in black and white. Undeniable and staring me in the face. Sometimes that is enough. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Launch of Acquainted With Butterflies - and Other Random Musings

On May 1, I released my seventh book.

I've written seven books.

The Key is a story included in Perfectly Unique: The Missing Pieces Anthology, written to support Autism Speaks. Honeymoons, Harpies & House Arrest will be released in late fall of this year.

Sometimes I wonder at the fact that I've done this ... I mean, I have a lot going on during any given day. Up until a year ago, I was a full-time homeschooling mom for two kids, and for the last four years, I've been a freelance editor. I've created and built and maintained my own editing company, carted kids to and from school, run my household and dealt with two major wrist surgeries and the chronic pain I feel now because of them. The fact that I've managed to concentrate long enough on a single project to see it through to publication - let alone seven of them - really is kind of a surprise. The first book did take me almost thirteen years to complete, so there's that, but the other six I wrote and published within six years, so my track record has improved over time. Just goes to show that if something means enough to you, you'll carve out the necessary time it takes to see it through to completion. 

Every project seems different to me, and they are. Just like I read, I write in many genres, and that's a lot of fun. I didn't set out to do that, I just write what comes to me, what fuels me. I have two different series, a stand alone, and now a collection, and they're all unique in their own way. I'm going to include here the letter I wrote at the beginning of Acquainted With Butterflies to explain what kind of book it is and how it came to be.
 Back in 2012, shortly before I published my first novel, I began blogging. I thought it would be a good way for me to advertise my books and to share all the thoughts and feelings I had throughout the writing and publishing process. It was, and I’m glad I started it. My blog was titled J.C. Wing—Author. Short, simple and to the point. I was so overwhelmed at the time by being a newbie in the book world that this was all the extra creativity I could muster.
 About a year later, I changed the name of my blog to J.C. Wing and the Goddess. I didn’t explain the name change, and no one asked. Quite honestly, I didn’t have more than a handful of followers, and if any of them noticed the change, none of them thought to mention it. I was basically using the blog as a brain dump. I wasn’t concerned with traffic, and I continued to post—although sporadically—simply because I enjoyed doing so.
 In July 2016, A.K. Lawrence, a good friend and fellow author, asked me to join her on a thirty-day writing challenge. I’d never posted anything on a daily basis, but it sounded like fun. It was. So much so, in fact, that after that first thirty days was over, we found another challenge to tackle. We even started a Facebook group called Writing Challenge Warriors and had a few other loyal bloggers writing with us. We wrote daily through the end of the year, then weekly as we began 2017. When we decided to take a break, I’d written a total of 143 posts, and J.C. Wing and the Goddess had become much more than just a brain dump for me. (Incidentally, the release of Dead Beat Dates & Deities, the first book in the Goddess of Tornado Alley series cleared up any questions those quiet followers might have had about that name change my blog had undergone years earlier.)
 Many of the prompts for our daily challenges urged me to share incredibly personal stories. Many of those were difficult for me because I chose to let down my guard and write honestly. I’ve included a few of those here in this collection, though most of the articles are works of fiction. I’ve added in a sprinkling of poetry. I don’t write much of that now―unless the limericks I penned for Brides, Beasts & Baklava count―but during my middle school, high school and early adult years, I used this form of expression in abundance. You don’t know how lucky you are that I’ve chosen to be selective about which poems made the final cut. You’re welcome.

 Until I took part in this series of challenges, I hadn’t written many short stories. Within a few months, I had authored quite a few. Those stories are what I wanted to share most in Acquainted with Butterflies. Some of them are funny, some of them hold a bit of mystery, and a few of them are on the romantic side. A Day in Paris is a countdown story, beginning with the number ten and ending at number one, and In the Pursuit of Spring shows just how dramatic and over the top a teenage girl’s imagination can be.  One of the prompts asked us to modernize our favorite fairy tale. I chose The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann. My version, The Nutcracker and the Cheeseball, is much lighter and much funnier than the original. A couple of short stories that came from this six months of daily blog writing are absent because they’ve grown into full length novel ideas. Writing is an adventure, and ideas pop up all the time. My stories tend to linger inside my head, and there are a few of them included in the following pages that may also become much longer pieces in the future.
 I hope you enjoy this collection. I invite you to come and hang out with me and the goddess on my blog. You never know what we might come up with next.
 J.C. Wing

I'll be honest ... I get nervous before I release every single book. Like every author, I work really hard to write my novels and every one of them means a great deal to me. I still remember how I felt before Dead Beat Dates & Deities launched. I have a sense of humor I didn't really show in the books I'd written before. I wasn't sure how readers were going to react to all the sarcasm, sexual innuendo and Greek mythology. Turns out they were just fine with it ... but then I released Brides, Beasts & Baklava and I was nervous for different reasons. Was it as good as the first one? Was it still funny? Did I do my characters justice? It's different with every book, but I always feel nervous and nauseous before each launch. Acquainted With Butterflies really had me stressed out.

The back cover of Acquainted With Butterflies in paperback.

This one is extremely personal. There are a lot of short stories here, some of which will eventually be expanded and turned into their own novels. Come to find out, readers like it when I write spooky stuff just as much as they like the romantic comedy. I love that. And y'all just wait. I've got some real fun headed your way.

Everything in Acquainted With Butterflies was published right here first - except for the poetry. I think maybe one of those poems saw the light of day on this blog, but the rest of them had never been shared before. I bared my soul with this collection ... but it had been bared before. I have a lot of post views - okay, not as many as I'd like, but a fair amount - so I know these stories and essays had already been read. Still, it felt different seeing it all in book form. The reviews for this book have floored me. I'm so glad I jumped into this. I'm so happy I pushed past my fear of publishing this assortment of writing. The reaction to it has made my heart swell. You readers are the absolute best.
"What a raw, vulnerable, and emotional read! I don't think I've ever connected with an author so intimately as with this mix of poetry, short stories and personal essays. It truly showcases her range and writing abilities as she goes from second-chance love, to humor, to criminal thriller. She is exceptionally gifted and conveys things so beautifully. I felt everything while reading this and would love to see her expand a couple of them into novels in the future. I was already a fan of hers, but this has completely blown me away and I highly recommend it." - Pixel3131
"A startling collection of short stories and musings. J.C. Wing left me protesting, wanting more with each story, sometimes celebrating joy and other times feeling empty. "Some Things Just Are" touched me deeply. A lovely read." - Robin N. 
"Acquainted with Butterflies by J. C. Wing is a wonderful collection of short stories, personal essays and poetry. Stories range from suspenseful and spooky to humorous, all very enjoyable. Some hint at a future full-length novel in their future, at least you hope so. You really want to know what happens next. The essays give you a deeply personal glimpse into events in J.C.’s life. The poems are bright, sparkly visions of life. All in all, Butterflies is a quality collection. I look forward to more from J. C. Wing." - Kelly Green
I keep learning the same lesson when it comes to my writing, with starting my own business, with making difficult decisions ... with everything in life, really; if you don't trust yourself enough to jump in, if you don't believe you'll swim instead of sinking straight to the bottom, you've failed before you've really given yourself a chance to succeed. I hope the nervousness never goes away. That's part of my process. I don't ever want launching a new book to lose its excitement. I want that sick to my stomach feeling, over and over and over again. And having said that, it's time to jump back into Honeymoons, Harpies & House Arrest. This one's a hoot, which means I'll have plenty to feel nervous about.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Author Spotlight - Lark Griffing

I recently had the honor of meeting and working with author Lark Griffing. I became her editor through a friend that we share, and the two of us hit it off immediately. She’s a talented novelist with a quick wit and an incredible sense of humor. The Starfish Talisman is a remarkable thriller set in a gorgeous oceanside locale with a colorful and quirky cast of characters. While this is a YA novel, I believe it will appeal to a wide variety of readers of all ages. Reagan, Griffing’s protagonist, is a confident, intelligent, high spirited seventeen-year-old girl who spends an eventful summer away from home. The tale of her adventure is incredibly well written and thoroughly entertaining.

Lark Griffing is an author who likes to bring her sense of adventure to her writing. The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here, a young adult coming of age novel, is Lark’s debut novel. Her most recent publication, The Starfish Talisman, is a young adult, old-fashioned ghost story.

Lark collects hobbies like some people collect friends.  When not writing and teaching, she is hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, camping, and enjoying life to the fullest with her family. She is married to an amazing man, and she has two wonderful boys, a precocious golden doodle, named Maggie, and a psychotic tabby cat named Dickens.

New Release: The Starfish Talisman

The secrets of the forbidden fourth floor… 

Seventeen-year-old feisty Reagan James can’t imagine spending a summer on the coast with an eccentric aunt she’s never met. 

But then, how bad could it be?

The second she steps foot into the massive house on the cliffs, one thing is clear: someone—or something—doesn’t want her there. With every new encounter, Reagan realizes that there’s more at stake than she could have imagined. 

Suddenly, the strange happenings and whispers from the forbidden fourth floor cannot be ignored. Now, it’s up to Reagan to sift through all the lies to save herself from the evil that stalks her. But will the jealous vengeance from the past destroy everything for the future?

Author Interview

Tell us about your new release, The Starfish Talisman.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me about the house on Crittenden Ave. where she grew up.  It was a large house with a beautiful curving staircase.   It had a formal dining room with a very large table.  My mom used to tell me about seeing wolves underneath it.  She would talk about their red glowing eyes.  I never got that vision out of my head.  To this day, my mother swears there were wolves under there.

My grandmother used to take in boarders because the house was so large, and it helped with the expenses.  They were older, single people who rented rooms on the upper floors.  Grandma would cook for them, and they became like part of the family.  Eventually, they all died.  Once, when I was very small, and all the boarders were deceased, I spent the night at Grandma’s.  All of the other rooms were filled with family who were spending the weekend, so I had to stay in Miss Mears’ old bedroom.  I had been told that Miss Mears had died in that very bed.  Needless to say, I had a very bad night!

There were other stories my family told, ghost hands that came out of the stairs, chairs that rocked and items that simply vanished.  These things left major impressions on my young mind.

When I started to write The Starfish Talisman, all of the stories my family told me came flooding back.   I just closed my eyes and let the words flow out my fingers.

One of my favorite things about Starfish is the character of Cora Rose and her cooking ability.  I love to cook and bake.  My mother and grandmother both taught me my way around the kitchen.  I like Cora Rose’s crustiness, and I can hear her in my head when she gets going!

The Starfish Talisman is a YA novel. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I love reading all kinds of genres, but I really enjoy YA.  Currently, I teach high school, and I have taught middle school, too, so I enjoy the stories that speak to my students, my kids.  I’m a sucker for Gary Paulsen’s Hachet stories.  I am an adventurer at heart, so my first novel, The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here, is a coming of age adventure story.  (Note to self:  Write shorter titles). I had a lot of fun writing that.  I camp and backpack, so I drew from my experiences and my fears when I wrote it. 

I am currently working on a women’s fiction series.  Again, I write about what I know, and the things that touch me. 

Do you have any writing rituals? 

I really don’t.   I know people would rather hear that I light a burgundy wine candle, turn around three times, spit in my left palm, cross myself and start to write, but alas, that just isn’t the case. I am one of those super busy, over-extended people, so I write whenever I get the chance.  My favorite place to write is in the front seat of the Ford truck, my husband at the wheel and my youngest in the back seat.  I am typing away as we are on a road trip heading for another adventure.

What do you think most characterizes your writing? 

I think that I write about people finding their space and their place.  Even though my first book is the coming of age adventure, and my second is an old-fashioned ghost story, they both celebrate a person who figures out just who they are and what they believe.  I am all about journeys for my characters and myself.

Who is your favorite character from any of your books? 

I love Reagan from Starfish. Reagan is sure of herself and strong.  She doesn’t take crap from people.  I probably identify more with Amy from The Last Time because she takes off to the mountains to figure out things.  I tend to do that.  I find that once I am out in the woods hiking or camping, the things that seemed like such a big deal just aren’t anymore.

What is your favorite quote or line from one of your books? 

“What is the point of hiding beauty behind glass? Things are much more beautiful when they are in the sunlight and are loved daily. Don’t you think? Besides, it is better to be broken, scarred, and loved than it is to be perfect, whole, unloved and alone.”

What authors inspire you and your writing? 

See, that’s a problem.  I am like a young Labrador Retriever puppy.  I run from one thing to another with my tail wagging and my tongue hanging out, ears flapping in the breeze.  I like this person, and that person, and oh yeah that, but wait, what’s that wonderful smell, that’s really good… So, um. What was the question?

What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process? 

I hate marketing. I want to be left alone to just write.  I love being surprised at the words that come out of my fingers.  I’m a pantster.   I don’t always know what is going to happen until it does.  In Starfish, I was writing along and a new character appeared.  I thought to myself, hmmm, I wonder who this guy is? He turned out to be very important.  I think that’s hilarious.

What’s not hilarious is when the book is done, and I have to do something about it.  I tend to pace around the house getting frustrated because I don’t want to do the other stuff. I want to find out who is going to fly out of these fingers next. 

Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do? 

I found myself on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the night in a terrible storm.  We were anchored out in the Keys, well off-shore.  Long story short, my husband and I had to sleep on deck out in the elements.  The sky opened up with torrential rain, wind, and lightening. What did I do?  I hung on and enjoyed the ride, because it was exhilarating coming out on the other side!

What literary character is most like you? 

Lassie. I am fiercely protective.

Where to find
Lark Griffing online:

Read the first four chapters of The Starfish Talisman for free here!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Perfectly Unique: The Missing Pieces Anthology

At the beginning of the year, I was asked by a fellow author and friend of mine, Terra James, to be a part of an anthology. I’ve been a published author for almost six years. I know other authors who have collaborated on anthologies, but this was something new for me, and when Terra told me it was to raise funds for Autism Speaks, it was a no-brainer. Of course, I was in.

I personally have no experience with autism. This didn’t matter to me. Terra and I have been friends for a few years now. During one of our many conversations, we realized that both of us homeschooled our kids. As we talked more, I learned some of her background and found out that she has two autistic children. Over the course of our friendship, she has shared some of her experiences with me. I have gotten to know her children through Terra, and I’ve learned how important Autism Speaks has been for her family.

When she approached me with this idea, she told me she didn’t necessarily need a story about autism. What she was looking for was something that was uplifting. She wanted the reader to finish each of the stories feeling happy, feeling positive. What she got when the project was finished was eighteen authors with eighteen different storiessome of them about autism, others about different thingsthat made up Perfectly Unique: The Missing Pieces Anthology.

Each individual story has its own cover. Before each story, a short biography of the author and the synopsis of each book is featured. Each one of us had a part in the making of this very special book. We not only wrote stories for it, but a few of us acted as editors and cover designers. Formatting was done, and two videos were put together and put on YouTube. (Please see a full list of contributors at the end of this post.) This was truly a group effort, and the finished product is nothing short of amazing.

I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about The Key, which is the name of the story that I submitted for Perfectly Unique.

When Annalee James was five years old, her parents were killed in a car accident during a terrible blizzard. Helena and Desi, her aunt and uncle, became her guardians and moved their newly made family to the small coastal town in Connecticut for a fresh start. Her aunt and uncle provided a loving, happy home, and her life was a good one. After graduation, Annalee moved back to Chicago to study at Northwestern University. There she met Cade Mitchell, a handsome if not sullen and surly upper classman who was in charge of freshman orientation. The two of them didn’t hit it off, but as the weeks passed, Annalee began to see some of the gold glimmering beneath Cade’s tough boy façade.
 While out running holiday errands during Christmas Break, she is surprised by the onset of a winter storm reminiscent of the one that took her parents. Helena loans her a dark, wool coat. The cologne that lingers in the thick collar brings back memories of a father she hasn’t seen in thirteen years. Buried in a deep pocket, Annalee finds a key that opens a safety deposit box at the local bank. One with both of her parents’ names on it. Annalee begins to suspect that things in life are not coincidental. Perhaps the universe is more powerful than she once believed, and things eventually unfold as they are meant to. Helena and Desi always taught her to trust in herself.
 Can she do that now?
 Can she trust in those she loves?
 Can she turn what she’s learned about her past into something that will give her a bright and happy future? 

Each one of the stories that comprise this collection is different, and each one of our voices is a piece that completes the overall puzzle of Perfectly Unique. It will be sold exclusively through Amazon for $2.99, and 100% of the proceeds will go to Autism Speaks. The pre-order link is up right now. The official release date is April 1, which kicks off National Autism Awareness Month.

Working on this project has been incredibly rewarding for me. I got to work with some talented authors to create a very special book that will help a very important cause. 


An autism anthology with 18 contributing stories that will uplift you, teach you acceptance and awareness, and love.

Finding Vincent - Randy Brown

Jack’s Boots - Roux Cantrell

Dewdrops - Tracy H. Gilmore

Chrysalis - AB Glenn

Charlie’s Angel - C.G. Higgins

The Perfect Piece - Terra James

The Ordinary Girl Gets the Guy - Sharon Johnson

Awkward Annie - J. Grandison

Something in the Way - A.K. Lawrence

Cowboy Pajamas - P. Mattern

If Wishes Were Babies - Teesa Mee

A Unique Chance - Savannah Morgan

The Creepy House on Willow Street - Leah Negron

Call My Name - Robin Rance

The Boy Who Never Was - Jennifer Sivec

In My Own Thoughts - Lea Winkleman

The Key - J.C. Wing

Formatting: Terrie Meerschaert, Indie Editing Services

Editing: Terra James, Savannah Morgan, J.C. Wing (Wing Family Editing)

Cover Art: Terra James, Jamie Grandison, Savannah Morgan, J.C. Wing

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Author Spotlight: Guy L. Pace

Guy L. Pace, born in Great Falls, MT, grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He served in the US Navy, including combat operations in Vietnam in 1972.

He was a Navy journalist, and worked primarily in community newspapers as a reporter, photographer, editor and finally a managing editor. He changed careers in the mid-80's getting into computer support, training, networking and systems, and eventually information security. He retired in 2011 after more than twenty years working in higher education.

He lives with his wife, Connie, in Spokane, where he gets to spend time with children and grandchildren and ride his Harley-Davidson.


To celebrate the upcoming release of Carolina Dawn, book three in the Spirit Missions Series, Guy granted me an interview.

About Carolina Dawn
Can the Community survive?
Amy Grossman must decide about Paul Shannon's proposal. Guilt over Joe Banes' death still eats at her. Then there is Lucy--a competitor for Paul’s affection--to deal with. She also fills her days with gardening, handling power outages, and perimeter guard duty.
A stranger arrives with dire news turning Amy's life new directions. With its very survival on the line, the community must pull together one more time.
She knows God has a plan for her, but surely ending up zombie food couldn't be part of that plan.

You write Christian-based science fiction and action adventure novels. How did you choose this genre?

I think it found me. I’m not sure exactly where the story came from. Most of it, when I started Sudden Mission, came during the planning stages and it became a story I would have wanted to read as a teen.

One reviewer called the books spirit-filled and described some of the conflict as spiritual warfare. This was a new concept for me. I tried to keep things biblically sound without getting too preachy, and I think I succeeded there. I’m no biblical scholar, so I could be wrong.

In a way, I carved my own niche here, and that may or may not be a good thing. Mainstream Christian publishers don’t seem interested in this kind of thing. Check out a corporate Christian book store (LifeWay, for example) and see what they offer for teen fiction. Thomas Nelson, Multnomah, and other Christian publishers are there with Christian-based fairy-tale fantasy and adventure stories, sometimes with animal or cartoon main characters, and they all have the same quest structure. Somebody always has some special power, too. Very few, if any, have a real-world setting with regular teens as main characters who already are believers and don’t require conversion.

My characters are regular people, already believers, but they get themselves and their faith tested. So, in a way I limited my options regarding publishing. When Booktrope’s Vox Dei picked up Sudden Mission, I was floored. I’d been shopping that book around for a while looking for a publisher—even an agent—that would be interested in something different with no luck.

Tell us about your upcoming release Carolina Dawn.

Carolina Dawn ties up a number of loose ends from Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers. But, I changed perspective. I wrote it from the point of view of Amy Grossman rather than Paul Shannon. In this one, Amy gets swept up in fighting for the survival of her community—even the rest of humanity—and she is tested severely on several levels.

This book touches on the events of the first two books, and I try to expose the post-traumatic stress that impacts Amy, as well as how she is dealing with jealousy and loss of a life-long friend.

A couple of new characters are in Carolina Dawn, one is the focus of Amy’s jealousy. The other is the soldier who brings the very bad news to the community. And, then there is—well, I’m not giving that part away here.

I think a theme of Carolina Dawn is the roles of members of a Christian community. No one is perfect, and even the main character has flaws. But a willingness to follow Jesus Christ, commit to a community and make sacrifice for that community bring balance, forgiveness, and builds faith.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Maps. I love maps. All three books are set in places I’ve been through or lived in or around at some point. So, I have some knowledge of the settings. But, you cannot trust memory for details that may be important or that may have changed. So, I use street view maps and other online resources to get a look at a location, then fill out the scene.

Sudden Mission was a road trip, and I used satellite imagery and street view maps extensively to tour through the places the characters experienced.

Nasty Leftovers took place mostly in Washington, D.C. So, online resources for government buildings, with a little poetic license, made up the bulk of the research. I still used the street view maps and resources as I wrote to keep the scenes alive.

Carolina Dawn was much the same, with the exception that I spent a lot of time in and around North Carolina in the 1970’s, and more recently. I know it pretty well and drove down most of the roads mentioned at one time or another.

Nasty Leftovers and Carolina Dawn use military hardware extensively. Since I spent about ten years as an Army Reserve officer after my time in the Navy, much of this information was already in my head, but was dated. I had to research current weapons and equipment to make sure I was including weapons and vehicles appropriately. And, to be honest, I’m pretty good with explosives.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Well, all three books were done in first draft during a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). So, for first drafts, thirty days. There is the month or more ahead of that for preparation, outlining, character development, and research. Nasty Leftovers cooked in my head for about a year, then exploded onto my computer screen when I sat down to write.

Carolina Dawn took longer. It’s a more complex story and needed some hard thought. Not to mention I was trying to write from a female prospective. I had to do some research. So, I read a few YA romance novels to see how others did it.

After the first draft, I let things cool down for a while—a month or two. Then I go back through two or three times. When I think it looks pretty good, I have my wife give it a read. She was a proofreader at a newspaper we worked at a long time ago. After that, I start shopping for an editor and proofreader.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Well, is there really an old abandoned schoolhouse (the goal in Sudden Mission) down Sherman Road outside of Choteau, Montana? I’ve been down that road. I actually visited there this last September and took a few pictures. Not gonna tell ya. You’ll have to go there yourself.

As for the government buildings in Nasty Leftovers, I took some poetic license with some things. Some things not. I’ve been in some of those buildings and some I used floor plans available online to describe what the characters see and do. If you get a chance to take the underground from the Capitol Building to the Senate Office Building, you’ll see I got that pretty solid.

As for Carolina Dawn, there are a couple of surprises. Nothing hidden, really.

I do use some odd “pop culture” references once in a while in all the books. They may be a bit dated, though. I wouldn’t call them secrets.

What is your writing Kryptonite?


There were times, even in Carolina Dawn, when I had doubts about my ability to bring the story to a conclusion. In other works, that particular Kryptonite killed them. I’d get started, think I had a decent plot and story, and convince myself it was no good about half way through.

We get these mind worms from our environment or our social network, and they can be devastating to a writer or any artist. They are one of the most difficult things to overcome. We need to put self-doubt in a lead-lined box and bury it.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury.

Papa’s The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and short stories like, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, were influential and instructive. Asimov’s fiction (especially the Foundation Series and the robot novels), science articles, and biography filled my reading list as I grew up. R. A. H. was one of my favorite authors later, with Starship Troopers, Podkayne of Mars, Double Star, Stranger in a Strange Land, and many short stories. Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes are my favorites.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

As with almost every writer I know, getting started is the most difficult. This is one of the reasons I used NaNoWriMo to write my books. I have a start date and a deadline. As an old journalist, that deadline is the primary motivator for me. I set it, I push myself to meet it. What that does is frees me up to just write. It’s amazing how much that helps the “getting started” part.

What is your favorite childhood book?

When I was about eight, my mother read Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett to me at night. By fourth grade I’d read Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and The Pauper, and a number of others. As I grew older, I read the Horatio Hornblower Series, Seven Years Before the Mast, C. S. Forester. I don’t think I read them all. I loved Robin Hood.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up. Don’t let others discourage you. I didn’t get a lot of support or encouragement for my writing efforts from people close to me when I was young. Still, I pursued my desire to write. It did take a long time to get to this, though. I spent almost 20 years in journalism working in small newspapers. Even when I changed careers in the ‘80s, I continued to write technical documents and user documents for computer and network systems. It was when I retired from my tech career that I was free to finally write something I wanted to write. It might not happen tomorrow. If you don’t give up it will happen.

Was there anything in Carolina Dawn that wound up getting edited out of the final draft?

I can’t think of anything specific. During the writing process, some things were re-written and other ideas just left out. A few names were changed in the first edits. These things all contributed to the final story, so I think they were good. In the first two books, there were chunks of the story that didn’t really propel things along and were edited out. I thank my editor for pushing those changes then, because both books became stronger as a result.

Since Carolina Dawn is the third book, I think I was better prepared and things were well set for the story when I started. I kept it flowing without adding things that didn’t move the story along. The more you write, the more effective you become. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

This is hard to pick. My mentor in the Navy was Senior Chief Raymond P. Lucasey. I knew basic news writing when I transferred to his office in 1973, but he worked with me on being better. He taught me about active voice and not backing into sentences. His criticisms were hard, but always tempered with positive words and ideas. The fact that I still remember his name and rank after more than forty-five years speaks to the impact he had on me.

The toughest criticism was the review of New Kid (published in Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine. Karl Johanson accepted the story in 2014, and it was published in 2015. A reviewer went through the magazine and reviewed everything. New Kid did not get a good review. It was harsh. But, others liked the story and liked the treatment of bullying.

My wife, who was not really a reader, loved my stories and books. Of course, she’s prejudiced but she’s seen my work for thirty or more years.

But the best compliments are from reviewers on Amazon. The five-star reviews for both Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers come from other authors and people I respect. They are great.

Follow Guy L. Pace

About BugBear Books
Guy L. Pace was first signed to a publisher that produced Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers (Vox Dei, an imprint of Booktrope). Unfortunately, the publisher closed its doors, leaving a number of authors in the lurch. This author decided to re-launch Sudden Mission, Nasty Leftovers, and now, Carolina Dawn, under his own imprint, BugBear Books. The concept is to publish just this author’s books but maintain the standards of quality readers came to expect with the first two novels.
BugBear Books presents Christian themes in teen and young adult fiction, mixed with action, adventure, and excitement, using characters reflective of real people dealing with hard realities.

Publishing/Marketing Contact
Guy L. Pace
BugBear Books
2203 E 51st Ln. Spokane, WA 99223