Family is Everything

*NOT* a writing-related post.

Too often in life, we get caught up in the day-to-day. Work has a way of taking over your life, the kids always have somewhere to be, the housework is on a never-ending cycle of required work to do. But it is important to keep your priorities right.

If you have kids, they need some family time with you – not in front of the TV but real, interactive time. Talk over dinner. Go on hikes with them. Have a game night. If they are grown and out of the house, call them.

If you have parents, give them a call. Stop by and talk when you can. Take them to dinner.

Life is fleeting. You never have as much time as think you do. The ‘Things’ in your life are not what matter, it’s the people. If you have an issue with a member of your family, talk it through with them, if possible. Don’t give them the cold shoulder. You wouldn’t want that to be the way things ended, would you? Family is everything.

~J.M. Ames

Writer’s Spotlight Episode 12: Brandy Sharpe

For this inexorably late twelfth episode of Writer’s Spotlight, we have Brandy Sharpe – another member of the Scribes’ Circle and fellow ‘A Haunting of Words’ author whom I have gotten to know well over the past year. Brandy is one tough mommy, a talented writer, and very patient with bloggers who disappear for two weeks without notice. (thank you!).

BS

What names do you write by?
Pen name: B. Sharpe

Give us a short introduction to you.
Originally from a little town near Panama City, I now live in South Carolina with my husband of 12 years and 4 children. 

How long have you been writing, professionally and/or as a hobby?
I fell in love with writing in 3rd grade.  I’m now 33 years old.  However, I only recently got serious about it. 

In what genre(s) do you write?
I try for Horror or Literary Fiction.  I also have interests in Science Fiction.  I guess I really don’t have a specific genre. 

Do you outline your stories ahead of time, or do you let the story grow as you write?I write better when a story is outlined ahead of time. 

Which authors have influenced and inspired you the most?
Alexandra Sokoloff, Carol Goodman, and Kim Edwards.

Do you write in other ways, such as poetry, songwriting, technical articles, etc?
I wrote in a particular Poetry Journal from the time I was 14 until I turned 30.  I still write poetry from time to time, but not like I used to.  I blog from time to time.  I’m looking into writing articles online, but I haven’t found anything particularly lucrative yet. 

How has your life experiences affected your writing?
I try to infuse as much of them as I can into my writing.  When they say, “write what you know,” I think this is what they mean- that for your characters to be relatable to your readers, they must also be relatable to you.  So, the character might be in a situation I haven’t personally experienced, but I may have been in something similar and can use those in my writing. 

What scene that you’ve written has moved you the most, and why?
Honestly, that’s in a piece I don’t push a lot.  It was in Beast Within, for the Muscular Dystrophy anthology.  In the piece I strove to show what it is like to be haunted by a past event.  In the story, there is a scene where the Alice, the main character, stands in an old bathroom in front of a medicine cabinet.  She is inundated with this really terrible memory that seems to come out of nowhere and she comes face to face with the root of her drug addiction and her cutting addiction.  Orphne, Alice’s character foil, is right next to her and is trying to argue her out of these destructive behaviors.  Orphne has been there all along through this battle and it’s been this painful thing for her to watch.  It moved me because I have family members that have fought these battles, so it came from an interesting place. 

Beta Readers – Yes or No? Why?
Yes.  I have found that the right beta reader can help you and your story grow. 

What inspires your story ideas?
Life, in general, inspires my ideas.  For me, there’s a magic in the mundane.  Someone dancing down the street can inspire a story.  It really doesn’t take much. 

Do you belong to any Writing Groups?
Scribes’ Circle, Fiction Writing, etc.

Tell us about all of your works in progress (include your favorite snippets).
His madness was a black sun whose shadowy flames licked away his humanity. He hugged himself tight, terrified, desperate to contain that which obeyed nothing. He trembled, knew the witch approached. Powerless, he felt the black flames destroy the earthen walls of his brain.–Black Butterflies, AHOW, due out June 1st, 2017.

Have you been published?
I have been published, thus far, in two anthologies.  The first is Beast Within for the Muscular Dystrophy Anthology, and the second is Coming Home in Unbound.  The Beast Within is about a girl that visits her childhood home and finds that either she or the house is haunted by a terrible secret.  The second is Coming Home in Unbound, about a Reservist that comes home from a grueling military training exercise and finds out just how glad her husband is that she’s come home. 
https://www.amazon.com/Unbound-Scribes-Circle-ebook/dp/B06XMQCVJB/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1488730099&sr=8-13&keywords=unbound+anthology
https://www.amazon.com/Love-Lust-Scary-Monsters-Dystrophy-ebook/dp/B01MY4OY48/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488730177&sr=8-1&keywords=muscular+dystrophy+anthology
[JMA – Since this interview, Brandy’s story Black Butterfly has been accepted into the ‘A Haunting of Words’ anthology. You can get the ebook NOW, and the paperback June 1st here – http://www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words]

How can readers follow you?
https://www.facebook.com/Bsharpeauthor/

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?
I am also a part of an organization, For the Life of Us that is championing the reality of Mental Illness that so many face. If interested, please follow us at https://www.facebook.com/ForTheLifeOfUs/ 

Thanks, Brandy, for taking the time to share a little piece of you with us, and being patient with my delays!

Intro to ‘Not Yet Dark’

The next story I have in the queue is Not Yet Dark, a story inspired by Bob Dylan’s Master’s of War. It is in the final revisions stage now, then it will be edited and sent out to various publishers. Here is the intro, as it stands now.

When I found my daughter in the still-smoking rubble, her left leg was missing. Nothing but shredded ribbons of bloodied flesh and a shattered stump of bone remained.

Agonized screams pierced the air all around me, but I barely heard them. Dust and smoke stole the air from my lungs, but I hardly noticed. All my attention was on her; nothing else mattered. I lifted her with care, brushed her silky black hair behind an ear, and kissed her forehead.

“You’re fine, it’s going to be okay,” I lied, trying my best to smile.

Blood flowed from her body and into the mud of the now torn-apart street as tears flowed from my face and onto hers. She blinked at them and croaked “Daddy,” before another squadron of death planes roared overhead. I ducked under a broken, leaning wall that had been part of the market just minutes before, sheltering her body with mine. The ground shook as more bombs dropped and continued to level the city. The ringing in my ears drowned out all sound. Black mushrooms of soot sprouted from the devastation and into the heavens.

I looked at the girl in my arms, and saw the rise and fall of her chest had ceased. A check of her pulse confirmed my worst fear. My searing eyes dropped to her new handmade doll that lay abandoned on what remained of the road, smudged with ash and blood. She had turned four, two days prior.

It wasn’t until my breath ran out that I realized I had been screaming her name.

 

~J.M. Ames

Life and News

It has been a very trying past six months for me and my family. We’ve lost many members of our family, friends, and more that I will not go into. I’m normally a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy, but this has been a long string of very hard impacts, and the seeing the profound affect it has had on my family has made it much more difficult. It takes a lot to take me down, and even more for it to keep me there for this length of time. As a result, I’ve been neglectful in my writing, blogging, and just being social in general for quite some time. Time to get caught up.

I have slowly been changing this website to handle multiple books, not just ‘A Journey of Words.’ I’ve also made changes to the J.M. Ames Author Facebook page – setting up a shop within it where you can get direct links to purchase my books. I’m not quite done making said changes, so expect the evolution to continue.

I am in the process of working out a deal with the Orange County Public Library system, to see if they can carry ‘A Journey of Words.’ If this comes to fruition, I will let you know. Goal is to have at least 1 copy in stock in all ~30 libraries in the county (does not include the large Huntington Beach Library, as they are separate).

The ‘A Haunting of Words’ anthology, which features my story Only the Dead Go Free on the cover, is available for preorder now from the publisher. You can do so here. It should be available for purchase within a few weeks, and like ‘A Journey of Words,’ it will be available through me, or the publisher, or all major online book distributors such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This one will also be available as a true audiobook via Audible.

I have another story which has been tentatively accepted into a different anthology. Once we’ve worked out the details and have a signed contract, I will post the specifics.

There are two other stories I am actively sending out to other publishers (Thankful and Waves), and several more partially written. Will get back into writing and finishing them up soon. First up will likely be Endless Skies (inspired by Planet Caravan, by Black Sabbath), and Not Yet Dark (inspired by Masters of War, by Bob Dylan). These are already on their third draft.

Another of these stories is something I have head in my head for about a year or so now, called The River Sticks. My good friend Jess Jerome drew a pretty cool pic for the story. You should check out her site for her amazing work.

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~J.M. Ames

Writer’s Spotlight Episode 11: Lauren Nalls

For this eleventh episode of Writer’s Spotlight, we have Lauren Nalls – another member of the Scribes’ Circle and fellow ‘A Journey of Words’ and ‘A Haunting of Words’ author whom I have gotten to know well over the past year.

LaurenN

What names do you write by?
Lauren Nalls

Give us a short introduction to you.
I’m an author and poet based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I love the history here and the small-town vibe but I really miss California where I was born and raised. I hope to retire to the Napa area someday. There is no more peaceful place on earth than being in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, standing in a creek, with a fishing pole in my hand. My family is my life; I have two great teens and a hard-working husband. I love reading, fishing, science, music, and 70 degree weather.

How long have you been writing, professionally and/or as a hobby?
I was that kid who could often be found under the blankets with a flashlight writing or reading until well after bedtime, so I guess as a hobby, since childhood. I’ve been professionally writing since my first publication in 2014.

In what genre(s) do you write?
I usually end up somewhere around contemporary literary fiction and upmarket, historical, or dark fiction.

Do you outline your stories ahead of time, or do you let the story grow as you write?
I’m a hybrid girl, I start off pantsing, then move to an outline. I find I have trouble outlining a story at the beginning. I need to write, ruminate, digest, and write some more. Once I get about a quarter to a third of the way into a story, I find it essential to outline the rest. For me, it is pointless to begin with an outline because I don’t know where I’m going yet.

Which authors have influenced and inspired you the most?
I love authors with great descriptive qualities who can also convey a much deeper meaning with their work than first meets the eye. A beautiful, well-told story with meaning is what I look for. Some of the most influential authors for me are Margaret Atwood, Anthony Doerr, Judy Blume, Gillian Flynn, Carson McCullers, John Green, Sue Monk Kidd, Annie Proulx… I could go on forever so I’m going to stop here.

Do you write in other ways, such as poetry, songwriting, technical articles, etc?
I love to write poetry but I can’t seem to rhyme, so songwriting is out.

How has your life experiences affected your writing?
I’m an emotionally evocative writer because most of my writing has a nugget of reality in it somewhere.

What scene that you’ve written has moved you the most, and why?
I would say a scene that I wrote from an old photo of me and my dad walking across a field in Yosemite National Park. I don’t remember the day the picture was taken so I was able to create that day for myself and it was beautiful.

Beta Readers – Yes or No? Why?
Beta readers are an absolute yes. There is no better way to tap into your potential market.

What inspires your story ideas?
I’m inspired by beauty and emotion.

Do you belong to any Writing Groups?
I’m very involved in a local critique group and could not be more grateful to have found them, they’ve become my tribe. I also belong to Scribes’ Circle, Riverside Writers, James River Writers, and Virginia Writers Club.

Tell us about all of your works in progress (include your favorite snippets).
I have three novels in progress in various stages of completion. One is set in a traveling 1930’s carnival, one is set in 1980’s Southern California, and one is co-author project I’ve just started. I’m interested to see where that last one leads! I’ve also got various short stories cooking and I’ve recently tried my hand at flash fiction.

Have you been published?
My first publication was a poem called “Burgeon” in Fredericksburg Literary Review Spring 2014 Volume 2, Issue 1, page 49. This is a poem about legacy.
https://issuu.com/amybayne/docs/flr_the_anthology_fba7376995aa7c
My second publication was in 2016, a short story called “Loose Ends” in Scout Media’s A Journey of Words. This story is about a daughter getting to know her own father while saying goodbye.
https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Nalls/e/B01LDW0L52

How can readers follow you?
www.LaurenNalls.com
@Scribbleglitch on Twitter
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLaurenNalls/

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?
Yes. I absolutely stand for equality.

Thanks, Lauren, for taking the time to share a little piece of you with us!