Why Writing Book 2 is Harder than Writing Book 1

I don’t know if you know this, but I wrote a really kick ass book and published it in 2015. It took me about four years to finish it, which really is not accurate because I had two kids under five when I started. One of which was still attached to my breast, so my writing took a backseat to dirty diapers and sippy cups. I squeezed in a few words during nap time and Dora the Explorer distractions, but I wrote. I wrote every day, and I wrote with vigor.

I had to tell the story. The main character, Paige, took over my life, and her voice wouldn’t quiet. She talked to me all day, in my sleep, in the shower, at the gym, so when I sat down to write her story, the words flowed. Though it contained a bit of darkness, I developed a sweet love story, and Paige’s sense of humor weaved its way through the plot. Writing Dear Stephanie (shameless plug) was fun.

Actually, writing Dear Stephanie was life. The characters were my oxygen. The story was the blood that pumped through my veins.

My current WIP centers around the very light and fluffy topic of Human Trafficking. I know. But hey, my first book was about depression and suicide, so bygones. As all good writers do, I spend a lot of my time researching. Imagine reading articles about Human Trafficking. Now imagine reading those articles every day. It’s a disgusting industry, and although I am perfectly capable of going into the dark corners of my mind to write this book, those places are hard to visit sometimes, and I find myself literally (cliche warning) letting out the breath I didn’t know I was holding almost every time I write a chapter.

But that’s not the problem.

What is the problem? You’re probably (maybe not) asking yourself. I’m glad you (didn’t) ask.

Aside from the typical and normal self doubt that the vast majority of artists experience, there’s this other very nagging problem constantly putting pressure on me.

People are going to read this.

You see, when I wrote Dear Stephanie, I had no audience. I didn’t even know if I would publish it. I virtually wrote that novel as practice, to see if I could see it through to the end. When I actually typed “The End,” I was shocked. I probably, over the course of my life, started a dozen novels. But I only finished one. And I only finished it because only a handful of people knew about it. So nobody was going to read it. My family had no idea I spent most of my free time writing. My friends also didn’t know. Writing was my secret, a world where I could be free and write words that offend, words that slice and rip the flesh, words that bury themselves in your soul.

But the words were good, and with a lot of encouragement from my small group of friends who knew about them, I decided to publish. I kept it a secret going to such extremes that I created a special list of people on Facebook so that when I shared anything about the book, I could hide it from this core group of people (that consisted of all of my family and a large number of friends).

But now, everybody knows I write, and people *gasp* continue to buy my book and consistently ask me when my next book will be released, and I have readers. I have fans. And they/you expect another good read. They/you deserve it. And I desperately want to give that to them/you.

Aye there’s the rub.

That’s a lot of pressure.

Can I compete with the first book? Will my next book tank? Am I a one-book-wonder? Do I have it in me to put in the work that is required to publish another book? (In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot of work.)

Yes.

I will quiet the voices that tell me I can’t. I will squelch the negative noise, and I will write. I will write free, and I will publish this book.

I hope you will read it.

Girls Teaser

Girls Trafficked – coming eventually 

 

 

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Dear Amazon: In Defense of My Review

Dear Amazon,

I appreciate your giving me a platform to sell my books easily. I appreciate your giving me a place where I can “one-click” all of my favorite authors’ titles. You’ve added hours of enjoyment to my life by providing me a convenient place to spend my hard earned cash on fictional stories, makeup and costumes for my children.  I value easy access to Kindle books, the paperback, and don’t even get me started on Amazon Prime. I support you, probably more than my pocketbook would prefer.

Having said that, this doesn’t seem to be a reciprocal relationship. In one month, I’ve spent  almost $200 on products, which doesn’t include the amount of money I’ve spent on audible books, kindle books, and paperbacks. That’s one month from one customer. I am loyal to you, Amazon. I heart you.

But I’m mad at you right now because I don’t think you care for me in the same way. You see, I’m a struggling independent author who published a kick ass book on Amazon (exclusively, I might add) who continues to sell copies every day; yet, you’re making it difficult for me to sell more. (Which, by the way, the more I sell, the more you make. We are in this together.)

Here’s why. As an avid reader, I’ve always been a little star struck by authors. Since becoming an author myself, I’ve puffed out my chest and sent “friend requests” to some of my favorites. A handful have *gasp* accepted those requests. To which, I performed a shocked happy dance each time. Let me explain though, we aren’t friends. We don’t know each other. Most of the time, we have never even had a conversation.

On some occasions, I’ve been included in social media groups where some of my fellow authors are also members. We discuss writing, books, marketing, and many times Amazon. We buy each other’s books when the books look interesting. Let me repeat: we buy each other’s books. From Amazon. From these purchases, you profit as an organization.

Writers, in general and as a whole, are supportive of each other. If you were to look at my kindle purchases, the majority of the books you will find are from authors who I follow on social media. I read their books. If I like them, I recommend them to my friends. I am a respected reader and am a go-to person for book recommendations. People know that I read; therefore, they value my opinion. Trust me, Amazon, you have profited from my opinion.

So here’s my question: Why are you deleting my reviews? Okay, you haven’t actually deleted any of mine yet; however, you have gone through my fellow writers’ reviews and removed some from them. People who have purchased  (from which you’ve profited) and read a book and written an honest review are having their reviews removed because they “have some connection to the writer.” Listen, Amazon, it’s 2016. Taye Diggs follows me on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I have his phone number. (If you want my phone number, Taye, just PM me, K?) I am “friends” with Author Kim Holden. She has no idea who I am, but she’s a gracious author and accepts her *fans’* requests. That’s why we are fans. Because we bought books from you. We took the time to read the reviews, we hit “one-click,” and we dove deep into their words.

It seems you’re willing to take our money but not our opinions, and that is upsetting.

What you’re doing is putting a stick in the very spokes that keeps you alive. You are the biggest bookseller for a reason. You’re respected and valued by readers and authors alike. Our reviews are selling books on your site. Please, I encourage you to think about this before you remove the next review.

Sincerely,

Mandi Castle, Author, Reader, and Over-spender on Amazon.

Reviews

Look, you asked for it.

 

 

Of Foodgasms and Muff-Fro’s

Sometimes in life, we stumble upon a pot of gold, shiny and sparkly. Sometimes it’s a rainbow itself, fresh and clean, an abundant kaleidoscope of color. Well, I found that perfection in the lovely, snarky, witty, yoda-obsessed nerd Nikki Mathis Thompson, and I want to jump up and down and do cartwheels because today I get the opportunity to introduce her to you. Continue reading

My Milkshake Brings All the Boys To My Blog

I know the drill.  The writer’s mind starts whirling, spinning around a plot of vicious characters, or piecing words into a brilliant, moving, sometimes even hilarious blog post.  We sit at our computers, typing vigorously, creating magic word porn for the world to see, while often sipping coffee (or wine), eating whatever is closest to our quickly moving hands, and piling wrappers on wrappers a top our already messy desks.

It’s one of those things.  Once we start, we cannot be interrupted, unless that Ding Dong is calling from our pantry, or maybe that bag of sour cream and onion chips…nah…those get the keys greasy.  My biggest vice while writing is hot tamales.  I always keep a movie theater box in my underwear drawer, and before heading to the computer, I grab a handful.  The problem is, hot tamales aren’t good fuel for my brain.  In fact, they do just the opposite.

“So what then?” asks the writer.

I have a solution, and it just so happens to be delicious and nutritious, a super easy recipe.  Don’t click the X yet.  Trust me…this is good.  Disclaimer:  I am NOT a cook.  Notice I didn’t even use “good cook” because I cannot cook.  I was banned from bringing anything that requires heat to Thanksgiving this year. I give you today’s lunch…

My omelette.  Shuddap, it tasted good.

My omelette. Shuddap, it tasted good.

And Tyler Florence's...or the husband's.  WTF?

And Tyler Florence’s…or the husband’s. WTF?

 

So here’s a treat that anyone, even this uncook can make.  Let’s just call it a milkshake cuz smoothie sounds way too *good for us*.

Things you’ll need…

  • Frozen blueberries, strawberries, or really any fruit that you like (I always get blueberries)
  • Bananas (I like to use the bananas that have started to spot and soften.  I chop them up and put them in the freezer for these…milkshakes)
Perfectly freckled

Perfectly freckled

  • baby spinach/fresh kale (or both)
  • FAGE plain 0% yogurt
  • Sweetener (I use Stevia, huz likes honey in his)
  • Milk (can use soy, almond, rice, coconut or good ole cow’s milk.  I use 0% organic milk)
  • A blender

All of these things can be found at your local grocery store…or even Wal-Mart if you’re brave (husband saw a huge rat in the gardening section yesterday at Wal-Mart while shopping for fertilizer, so we’re pretty much boycotting)

  • Add about a cup of milk (adding the liquid first helps to blend the solid ingredients more quickly).
  • Then add about 1 1/2 cups of blueberries (I never actually measure this stuff)
  • Add one banana (the riper, the better)
  • Add about a cup of the yogurt
  • Grab a handful of the spinach or kale or both, and throw that in the blender (or leave this out all together, but it’s a great way to get some greens without having to taste them)
  • Add your sweetener (if my bananas are really ripe, I go without sweetener)
It should look like this

It should look like this

  • Blend to desired consistency. (bartender trick: blend until the liquid makes a tornado with a visible hole in the middle.)
"There's no place like home."

“There’s no place like home.”

  • Pour it into your favorite glass, throw in a straw, and enjoy while you type
Bendy straws make it more fun

Bendy straws make it more fun

Here’s what you’re doing for your body. First, you replace a sugary snack with something that tastes sweet but will actually fuel your writer’s brain.  You’re offering yourself potassium, which will help you think more quickly while keeping your fingers from cramping.  Your ingesting antioxidants which not only help to slow the signs of aging (who doesn’t want that?) but also aid in cognitive functioning, and are just in general really good for the body.  In addition, if you add the spinach or kale, or better yet both, you’re providing your brain with iron which helps to replenish memory and aids in oxidative metabolism.  You’re getting fiber, which not only helps with your metabolism which is necessary because…sitting at a computer all day, but also fiber boosts your brain health in general.  Finally, you’re getting 23 grams of protein alone in the one cup of the Greek yogurt.  Your brain is made up of these things called neurotransmitters.  They communicate with each other to make you feel the way you feel.  They are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of… Protein.  Also, think about it…when you have a good quality meal high in protein and low in carbohydrates, you’re fueled for that writing session, but when you down that Double cheeseburger and fries, you have to pick your head off of your keyboard.

So there you have it, a milkshake that might just hold you until dinner.

Side Note:  sometimes I skip lunch when I’m writing, and this is a great meal replacement so that I don’t crash before dinner.

Side Note #2:  My kids drink these every day, so they’re getting all this good stuff, too, all the while thinking they’re drinking a milkshake.  Score one for mom.

 

Beyond My Mind’s Eye

In the 11th grade, I found my English teacher fascinating and brilliant.  She not only taught, she inspired, she motivated, she encouraged, and she believed.  One day, she called me up to her desk.  I was certain I was in trouble.  She had just separated my best friend and me, so instead of passing notes the traditional way, we were forced to write notes big enough to read from across the room, particularly hilarious notes that day, if I recall, which resulted in unsquelchable laughter.  (That’s a word.)  When I arrived at her desk, she handed me a short story I wrote inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and said, “You have the gift of writing.  I hope you’ll use it.” Continue reading

The Wasted Minstrel

When I very humbly requested Lizzi of Considerings to guest post for me, and she immediately said, “Yes,” I jumped up and down, clapping my hands.  I may have even performed a cartwheel.  Excitement?  No.  Elation.

Lizzi has a way with words, to completely understate her talent.  As my eyes travel through her stories, her fingers reach out from my screen and wrap themselves around my heart, yanking it, tugging it, and turning it to putty in her palm.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me think.  She more often than not makes me cry, and I never cry.  She is brilliant.  A Writer.  A wordsmith, and she’s here today with  Part Deux to Shadows and Stardust.  Make sure and click the link to read Part One, a beautiful story inspired by yours truly.  To be called a muse by one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever laid my eyes on,  both humbled me and made my heart grow at least three sizes.  So, please welcome my dear friend, Lizzi,  whose words will sink into your soul.  Then get ready to want more.  She’s good like that.

********************************

The town’s main street was thronged with people, huddled like penguins inside their winter coats; braced against the cold but determined in their quest to purchase. They were bedecked in bags, like peculiar woolly bumblebees, each surrounded by an ethereal cloud of their own steam – breath puffing words into visible clouds as they hurried past.

I was honeybagged myself, straining against the weight of New Things. The once-straight handles twisted and turned, cutting the circulation off in my fingers and combining with the chill air to freeze them into reddened claws – travesties of the hands that once were.

I navigated my way out of the main streams of people, cutting across others, ducking behind groups of chattering teenagers, taking big steps and little ones, my feet mindfully stepping the complex dance of Saturday At The Shops – avoiding dreamy couples, Stormtrooper mothers and cantankerous old women wielding their roll-along shopping trollies like tartan-coated weapons.

Seeking shelter in an eddy by a side-route off the main street, I found space to pause, down bags and rub some life back into my twisted hands. Leaning back against the building, I watched the crowds as they flowed past, marveling at their individuality and simultaneous mass-anonymity, wondering what their stories might be.

Hands warmer, I turned to gather up my bags once more when an alcove doorway caught my eye – fifty yards back from the river of humanity, it wasn’t so much the door which caught my attention as it was the small movement of a fabric-coated lump stuffed into the bottom of it – someone was there.

Like I’d been run through with a trident of guilt, compassion and the urge to DO something, a great pain welled up in me and I stood, transfixed, before moving towards the bundled person. I could see a pair of battered, tough boots poking out from under one end of what turned out to be a filthy camping blanket. A fluffy hat at the top end gave no clue as to what sort of person lay beneath.

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

I crouched down and hoped that none of the expensive-shop shopping bags were on display as I reached out and gently patted the crusted edge of the blanket “Hey – are you alright? Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah”, came back an obstinate, female voice “You can fuck the hell off.”

The blanket shook and the hat bobbled upwards as the owner’s face came into view in a fury of movement “Who even asked you to…”

Her voice trailed off, and the retort I had been about to utter froze on my lips and disappeared as though dropped off a cliff.

Our eyes locked, and the thrall of horror at seeing a homeless person trying to survive the inclement weather turned to raging, devastating pain as I realised that this homeless person was known to me. I recoiled, my hand flying to my mouth in dismay and her name bursting out with the same lack of control as the time I’d first spoken to her:

“Bravo!”- it had exploded, unbidden from my lips as the echoes of her last crescendo faded and the bar seemed to shimmer in delighted silence in recognition that a masterpiece had just been played within its walls. She had sworn at me then, too, and our eyes had met, sparkling with delight at the soul-thrilling music she’d been able to coax from the old piano. We’d talked and worked together, and later she had played again.

I had returned to that bar many times to hear her play – turning up near closing time as she volunteered to stay behind again and wipe the place down once the drunks and revelers had all been kicked out. We spent several glorious months in this way – her playing and me clearing the glasses and sweeping the floors, our souls dancing with the notes as she gave them life with her magical, talented hands.

Suddenly, one day, she was gone. No explanation. Just gone. It had been five years, and I still missed our evenings of splendour; never since had I experienced such exquisite playing as that which she had wrought for me…

“Anitra?!”

Her blonde hair, now freed from its cover in her thrashing, was lank and dull. Her skin was grey and marked with sores and scars, as though the moon had been stretched over her sharp cheekbones. Her eyes were still a gorgeous, clear hazel, though they looked like deep wells of pain, waiting to pour out in anger and shame at the slightest provocation.

The moment lengthened, eyes still holding, hundreds of unspoken, frantic conversations passing between us as my throat choked-up, and the weight of emotion made it hard to breathe.

Finally, sotto voce, I whispered, her name imbued with the hurt of every lost evening and all the unheard notes, mantled with grief at finding her this way: “Oh, Anitra…”

We crumbled together, oblivious to the slowly-gathering audience in the shadows. I pulled her stinking, bird-light frame into my arms and held tight, even as she clung to me, mumbling into my shoulder that it was so, SO good to see a friendly face.

We clambered to our feet and hugged properly then, smiles and tears mingling, when suddenly I felt her stiffen, and heard her intake of breath as she pulled back, her face a mask of revulsion.

A gravelly male voice from across the road struck at us through the air “Ohhhh Annie – look what you’ve pulled in. Good girl! She looks like a rich one. Make sure you give that posh bitch your best licking – she’s gotta be worth a few quid. Don’t take less than £50, will you? I’ll be back for mine later.”

Transformed once more into a hard-faced street-walker, Anitra’s chin jutted and her eyes blazed as she snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me around to face the man, whose oiled hair and dark, greedy eyes raked over us both. The two louts who stood behind him were nudging one another and grinning, one making lewd gestures at us, poking his lapping tongue between the V of his fingers, and rubbing together the fingertips of the other hand in the universal sign for money.

“Oh Dominic”, she trilled, her voice light and dripping with false honey “sweetheart, I’m going up in the world, and with that, my prices. If you want this” – she grabbed her crotch and tilted her hips towards him aggressively – “you gotta pay me more. As of now.”

The oily man’s face registered a sneer of disgust as he turned, motioning for his cat-calling henchmen to follow him. By my side, the bravado gone, Anitra sagged against me and then pulled away roughly, her face burning red, unwilling to meet my gaze.

Hair curtained again around her, reminding me of our first meeting, her voice was equal parts ashamed and horrified as she blundered through an incoherent string of apologies, ending with a declaration to make herself scarce and never bother me again, and that she was sorry for everything, and for running away without telling me, and that life had been so harsh to her, and that she couldn’t, she just couldn’t…

I cut across her, mid-sentence “Can we just go for coffee or something? Somewhere warm? I’m freezing. And confused. So my treat, okay, but please let’s not stay here any more.”

She glanced at me then, and the wells of her eyes had been covered over – shuttered with a closed look she wore like armour.

“No. I don’t think so.”

Her voice shimmered down from frantic to automaton. Her joints tightened and the corners of her eyes looked pinched. She stared into the mid-distance for a moment before stooping to gather up her blankets from the floor, rolling them into a grimy ball, which she stuffed into a giant, tattered backpack.

“It’s been good to see you again, babe. Sorry I turned out like this. I wish things were different. In another world, we’d go for coffee and everything would be made better and the music might come back into my life. But seeing you was like a symphony, and it’s just reminded me how much I miss it. So no, we can’t go.”

She twisted away from me, striding towards the end of the street, pausing as I cried her name out, anguished this time, and ran to her, emptying my purse of all its paper money and stuffing it into her hand, arguing that she didn’t need to leave; promising her things could be better, if only she’d let me help her – please, please let me help her…

She stuffed the notes into her pocket, but didn’t turn. And without further word or look, strode off, rapidly disappearing into the still-teeming currents of the main street.

As fresh tears fell, tracking warm runnels down my freezing face, I vowed to myself on that desolate street that I would find a way to somehow bring the music back to her.

 

warning fiction

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I’m a deep thinker, truth-teller and seeker of Good Things. I’m also silly, irreverent and try to write as beautifully as possible. My thoughts are prolific and can be found at my blog, Considerings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsideringsTwitter: https://twitter.com/LRConsidererGoogle+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LizziR/postsPintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/LizziConsiderer/

Our Great Big World

She woke early that day to make sure she packed everything.  A weekend away with the husband was just what she needed after an exasperating week alone with the kids having to taxi them to school, sports, practices, and lessons.  She couldn’t wait for her mother-in-law to arrive so that she could start her peaceful journey.  She loaded up her eReader with several of the top Indie books of the week and sat on the couch patiently waiting.

As soon as she heard the doorbell, she gathered her bags and sunglasses.  She kissed her son and her daughter, gave her mother-in-law an aggressive thankful hug and was on her way.    She drove to the airport with the sunroof open enjoying the warm spring air and the sunshine spraying in from the cloudless sky singing along with Bruno Mars about Young Wild Girls.

She made it through security seamlessly, heading straight for the bar near her departing gate.  She ordered a Bombay Sapphire and tonic and sipped it quietly anticipating seeing her husband after a week of his absence.  He was in California for a meeting at his corporate office and suggested she meet up with him for the weekend so that they could have a little much needed together time.  His work travelling had picked up speed the first quarter of the year, which resulted in their spending a lot of time apart.

She finished her drink, paid her tab, and headed to the gate just before the plane began boarding.  She boarded the plane along with the other people in the First Class group.  Having a traveling husband had its benefits, one being automatic upgrades.  She settled into her seat and sipped champagne, hoping that the seat next to hers would remain empty and buried her nose in her book, ignoring the crowds as each passenger made his way to his assigned seat.   Out of the corner of her eye, a passenger stopped on her row and started struggling with the overhead bin.  Her eyes traveled up, taking stock of her potential flight mate, clearly a man, youngish in Levi’s and a hooded sweatshirt.  She couldn’t see his face but noticed that he  had his ear buds in and would probably be unlikely to try to make the obligatory small talk fellow passengers always tend to make with one another.  She took a deep breath and turned her attention back to her book when she felt rather than saw him sit down in the seat next to hers.

“First class is the only way to travel.”   He said as he typed something on his phone.  Her ears perked at the familiar voice.

“Hey,” she said and turned her attention to him.

He studied her face for a minute as a wide smile took over his.  “What are you doing here?”  He asked.

“What are you doing here?” She matched his tone.

They both jumped from their seats and gave each other a quick hello hug and laughed at the coincidence that brought them not only to the same flight but to neighboring seats.  The flight attendant asked them to sit back down as the plane began preparing for takeoff.

They spent the entire flight talking, laughing, drinking the complimentary drinks, and getting to know each other in person after a year of being online buddies.  She asked him what he was listening to, which prompted a very lengthy game of “guess this tune.”  When one guessed an incorrect answer, they both had to drink.  They kept the flight attendants busy for the three hour flight, which seemed to go by in just 20 minutes.

When the plane finally landed, they departed at the gate, exchanged hugs and promised to actually get together again some time.  Just as he was walking away, she called out, “See.  It’s not such a big world after all.”

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Warning:  This story is FICTION