It's on a street corner in the little town of Palmer Lake, Colorado. I had never seen it before, although I'm sure we've driven that way a number of times. But on one of our trips to Denver using the quiet and scenic Highway 105 instead of the overcrowded I-25, I spotted it.
Sure, it doesn't mean much to you. But I was in the midst of writing a story, and one of the main characters names is Aurelia. I chose it because it was unusual. Beautiful. Who knew it belonged to a street in a tiny mountain town?
This kind of thing happens to me frequently. It has since I started writing. I often ask myself, "Did you use that name because you had been seeing it?" Usually the answer is no. I see it after the fact.
Another instance occurred when we went to get pizza at one of our favorite local spots. Splashed across their front windows is the name Jameson, who just happens to be Aurelia's counterpart. Granted, the place is a bar and they are advertising the whiskey by that name...but still it was neat to see. And I named him that long before I noticed the windows.
I may be reading more into it than is really there, but I always take it as a sign from God that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I find delight and pleasure in seeing my characters names on signs. I suppose it's just meant to be.
This past year, my girls and I saw The Greatest Showman in the theater ten times. Not a normal occurrence. That's a lot of money to shell out for a movie, but I wanted to let Hollywood know that there are those of us who appreciate a family-friendly movie such as that. I'm very familiar with PT Barnum and all the "bad" things he did, but on the surface, this movie is beautiful and worth taking in.
I listened to the soundtrack this morning with my girls as I took them to school. I'm the type that likes to roll my windows down and blast the music. Share it with the world. Usually it's Styx, but today I was in the GS mood. The song Come Alive came up. The lyrics that struck me were:
"Go and light your light, Let it burn so bright."
While I would love to "go and light my light," I'm feeling a little stuck. I have a good job. I live in a decent house. I have amazing kids. Financially, we're always behind. (I know...maybe if we hadn't gone to see that movie TEN times, right? Trust me, that's not the issue...) And because of that as well as some other factors, I'm blocked in by walls that don't allow me to "light my light". The roof of these confines is inches above my head and sucking all the oxygen from the room. So there is no light. Only darkness.
I try to find flickers. I live in a completely different universe, writing books very few people read. I perform musical theatre with a small troupe of talented people. But I have to wonder if my light is extinguished. If I'm trying to revive a flame that has gone out.
Long ago, I read a Danielle Steel novel. I don't even remember the title, but I remember a passage.
"We all lead boring, ordinary, mundane existences, and now and then a bird of paradise comes along, and we all get scared. It scares us because we're not like that, Our feathers aren't brilliantly hued in red and green, we're brown and gray, and seeing that bird of paradise makes us feel ugly, or as through in some way we've failed. Some of us love to watch that bird, and we dream that one day we might be birds of paradise too...others of us have to shoot at the bird...or at least frighten it away."
That passage meant a lot to me as a young, single just-out-of-college girl who dreamed of having a boyfriend. I was doing some amazing, bird-of-paradise type things, but I was ridiculously lonely and needed to make myself feel better in some way. I still have some of those red and green feathers, but they are neatly tucked away under my brown and gray. Just like hiding in the dark. So I can't be seen or noticed.
More lyrics caught my ear from the song The Other Side.
"But you would finally live a little
The freedom to dream. Doesn't that sound delightful? I think I've lost that. I sure wish I had a PT Barnum who believed in what I have to offer. Someone who could give me the platform to shine with all that is in me.
Now, I'm not writing this to make you feel sorry for me. I write for my own therapy. To process things I need to work through. And it's been a while since I've blogged, so I thought this might make a good topic to re-launch. I want to get unstuck. And I'll figure out a way. I always do. This is the start, right?
Well, here it is...Book #7! I am proud to introduce the first book in the Time Spinners series, a middle grade (young readers) time travel story. I wrote it for my son a while back, and it was time to bring it to light.
While hiding from the school bully, thirteen-year-old Sam Miller finds a time-bending watch and is caught up in a battle for history between the Time Spinners and the evil Revisionist.
When Sam touches the watch face, he’s transported to 2025 Scotland, where he meets Decker, Ben, and Andi—the Time Spinners. Their mission is to stop the Revisionist who steals historical artifacts and scatters them across time, thereby changing the future. Once an object has been out of linear time for twelve hours, history changes. The Revisionist’s most recent heist involves a portal generator from Ben’s time of 2025. He intends to deliver the generator to Hannibal in 218 BC, helping the ancient general win the Second Punic War and bring down Rome. In joining the Time Spinners, Sam winds up in a race against time and a quest to save the universe.
You can get ebook or paperback editions. Or both! Click here for ebook, and here for a printed copy. Thanks for supporting an author!!
A couple years ago, I started watching the show Freaks and Geeks on Netflix. I'm a child of the seventies. I love my BeeGees and Barry Manilow and a slew of others from that era. Freaks and Geeks fed and fueled that love. The pilot episode featured a song I had heard probably a million times, but never really paid much attention to...Come Sail Away. I liked it on the show, so I gave it a listen. Pretty good. So I bought their greatest hits CD at Walmart.
How had I never really paid attention to this band?!
Since then, that's all that's been in my CD player in my car. (Yes, I still have one of those.) And I got to see them in concert over the summer, along with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder (from the Eagles). I purchased tickets for the nosebleed section, but won two through a web-based contest. My son and I got to sit twenty rows from the stage. What an experience!!
The songs have opened up a whole new world for me and started telling me a story that I knew I had to share. So for a little over a year and a half, I've been developing and working on a new series I've titled Star Sailors. My main character, Jameson Kendrick, transforms from a terrible member of the Renegade gang to the owner and operator of a fleet of space passenger liners. There's a lot more to it than that, but that's the gist. It's basically Star Trek meets The Love Boat. (You may laugh, but it's awesome.) The first one, of course, will be dedicated to the source of inspiration...my beloved Styx.
I celebrated a birthday several days ago. As we were coming home from the festivities, I had a rather exciting notification on Facebook. I had asked a question on Styx's fan page, and Lawrence Gowan, keyboardist extraordinaire, replied by video. What an extraordinary present! The video is below. Definitely worth watching...even just for Gowan's amazing playing.
Rock on, y'all.
My youngest child is obsessed with McDonald's. She's tried to convince me that she loves the food, but my mama sense knows better. She really just wants the toy. Every time our family goes out to eat, she refuses to enjoy the restaurant food along with us. She wants McD's. And I cave because I don't want to fight the battle. At least she's eating, right?
Yeah, I know. Ba da ba bad mom.
Today, though, was a special treat. I was going to my big girl's school to have lunch with her. (Although I had the wrong schedule, so my timing was off...but that's another story.) Her choice? Of course. McDonald's. I couldn't bring myself to eat there, so I packed a salad before heading off to the drive-thru.
Now...my child's obsession means many trips through the drive-thru lanes. I've become familiar with some of the regular workers. One of them is a sweet German lady who is missing some teeth. She always has a smile and a quippy little saying for me. We love her.
The smile wasn't there today. Instead, when she saw me, her shoulders slumped and her face fell. She looked sad and tired. She told me her husband is ill, that he has a pacemaker and he's not well. She said she's scared for him and for herself.
I promised to pray. I even took hold of her hand before driving off...kind of a hand hug. The best one can do in a crowded drive-thru. I don't know her, but in that moment, I felt so close.
As I headed to my girl's school, I prayed for this couple. Then the ugly human side of me bubbled to the surface. I started thinking about the people who approach me to tell me their problems. Me. Just one of the millions of people on this earth who may look like she has it all together, but I really, really don't. In fact, I'm a total mess. Why would anyone want to come to me? And then God spoke these words into my heart:
"They're not coming to you. They're coming because they see Jesus in you."
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not claiming any greatness. But He reminded me that His love reaches through me (and you) to others. Through a shy smile. Through a kind word. Through a gentle hug. 1 John 4:19 tells us, "We love because he first loved us."
That thought blew me away. That God might be able to use this craziness named Ashley to give others peace just by allowing them to unload their troubles. And all I have to do is listen and love (even though my heart may want to fix). All I have to do is be open and willing. And in doing so, I'm sharing God with others who truly need Him.
I hope you'll join me in praying for this sweet lady and her beloved husband. And I hope you'll be encouraged the next time someone comes to you with their problems. They aren't coming to you...they're coming because they see Jesus in you.
Be the light, people.
Wow! Five years ago today, Asylum was released for the very first time. I can't believe it! So much has happened since then...and here, I am, six books later. Isn't that crazy?
I'll never forget that moment in July of 2012, when I read my name as the grand prize winner of the WestBow Press/Munce writers' contest. Someone actually considered my story worthwhile! What a feeling!
It's been quite the ride to get from that point to where I am now. I've also been given a strong dose of reality. From dealing with a vanity press (who traditionally published my book, but still tried to suck me into their "package deals". Um...no.) to contracting with a super unprofessional small press (that is thankfully now defunct, saving other writers from heartache) to venturing into self-publishing... I wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, except a twenty book contract with a major house and corresponding movie deals. But that's where the dose of reality comes in.
While I have a handful of dedicated and loyal fans, I've learned that I really write for my own enjoyment. I love exploring the worlds in my head. I love learning the ins and outs of the characters that live there. And the stories...while I may not have a movie deal, I can see them all in my head on the big screen. It's just my job to translate that to paper (or the computer as the case may be).
I'm proud of Asylum and its five years. I released an updated version under my own imprint a couple years ago. If you haven't read it, I recommend it! It's a face-paced medical sci-fi thriller. Grab it from Amazon today by clicking here.
A while back, my Twitter feed was trending #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. I had to jump on that one! We hear things all the time that drive us crazy, but truly...only other writers understand.
1. "You know, I've been thinking about writing a book..."
ANSWER: Great. Awesome. Do it.
2. "It can't be that hard."
ANSWER: (after much laughter) Wait.
3. "So, I've written a book/story/memoir/fill-in-the-blank. Would you mind looking at it for me?"
ANSWER: You're my friend, so I'll try to be kind, but my time is very limited as it is. While I would love to read your stuff and give you knowledgeable feedback, unless you pay me, I just can't.
4. "You're a writer. Wow. You're like a millionaire, right?."
ANSWER: (again, much laughter)
5. "I have a friend who wrote a book in five days. She got an agent like that *snap*, and a publisher picked it up right away."
ANSWER: Go away before I kick you.
6. "Where do you get all those ideas?"
ANSWER: Honestly, I don't know. Characters pop into my head, and they won't leave me alone until I write their story.
7. "How do you find the time to write with all the other stuff you have to do?"
ANSWER: It's my passion. I find the time.
8. "Can I have a free copy of your book?"
ANSWER: While I'm honored you want to read my work, this helps pay my bills. It's my intellectual property, blood, sweat, tears, and all the other cliches you want to throw in there. If you give me a free doctor's appointment, legal representation, dance lesson, etc...perhaps we'll talk.
9. "It must be exciting to see your books on the shelves at Barnes & Noble."
ANSWER: It must be! I don't know. I self-publish and B&N won't touch self-published books.
10. "When does the movie come out?"
There's a lot that goes into writing a book. Time, thought, heart, and so much more. If you want to support an author, buy their book. Write a review. Encourage them. We are artists, and we need the love. We appreciate our fans because without you, our work is meaningless. You breathe life into who we are. So keep reading!
Last night, I took my nine-year-old daughter to see a local production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. We saw the live-action movie a couple weeks ago, which I enjoyed, but I was a little disappointed that they didn't include more songs from the stage show. So when this opportunity arose to see it on stage, I knew we'd have to go.
I'm not going to critique the production. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it immensely. Yes, there were some things I'd do differently, but overall, it was lovely. The best part was watching the delight on my little girl's face and hearing her giggling at the appropriate moments. It made me realize (again) why I enjoy creating stage magic, whether through performance or backstage.
There was an element, though, that raised a bit of concern, but it allowed me to teach my little girl a valuable lesson. Both Gaston and the Beast manhandled Belle. And at one point, Gaston stole a rather drawn-out kiss from her. I'm not usually one to look for those type of things, but Belle is one of the more liberated Disney characters, and it kind of stood out to me.
I used these examples to tell my little girl that no man (or woman for that matter) should ever treat her in that manner. That is abuse, and it's not to be tolerated. Whether it's pulling or shoving or slapping or even getting in her face to yell, that's not okay. I told her her to walk away and tell someone. And to never, ever feel like it was her fault, because the abuser is the one with the problem. And oh, how I hope to God that she never has to face a situation like that.
We also talked about stolen kisses. I've had more than one taken from me. And that's not okay, either. The man God has intended for her will ask her permission before he kisses her. He will respect her and treat her kindly. Lovingly. Otherwise, he'll have to face me. And Mama Bear will not play nice.
I'm not sure why this struck me as it did, but I felt it was super important to share these thoughts with my precious girl. I'm grateful for a beautiful night with her where we could enjoy a magical performance and a late dinner...and meaningful conversation. A perfect night in my book.
Last night, I took my kids to see a show in a theater I hadn't been in for a very long time. As we sat there, the memories came back. It was such a neat parenting moment.
When I was about the age of my youngest child, my mom took me to see a ballet production of Cinderella there. I don't remember much other than pretty costumes and dancers holding numbers forming the clock, but that's enough for me.
Then, the summer before my seventh grade year, I auditioned to be in a production of The Wizard of Oz put on by the Missoula Children's Theatre. It was like a day camp where we rehearsed for a full week, then put on the show. I wasn't cast. Devastating! My younger brother got to play a winged monkey. (They called them Winkies...Oz fans will know how wrong that was!) Somehow, I was given the opportunity to work backstage. My assignment was pulling the curtain. This began my love affair with stage crew work!
In high school, we had to participate in a mentorship program. I connected with some people at the performing arts center and became a sort of intern with the lighting crew. I went up in a cherry picker (wouldn't do that today...too afraid of heights!) and helped focus lights. I learned all about fresnels, lekos, and parcans (this was WAY before Intellibeams and other technology came into play). It was a fun way to learn.
And finally, I was cast in a show there. Just after I graduated high school, I played Lucinda (one of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters) in Into the Woods. I even was paid for my performance. My first professional acting gig! It was fabulous!
I'm sure I've been in that theater since then, but I don't remember. It was so neat to go back last night and enjoy a show there with my children. And to whisper the stories...the memories. And as I pass on the torch--my love of theatre--to them, I can envision a future when they will do the same with their children. The circle of life. It moves us all.
(Extra points if you can name the musical that title is from and/or composer who wrote it!)
If you're in Colorado Springs, you simply MUST come see this show...
It's a wonderful family production based on the first few stories in the Biblical book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark. The cast is amazingly talented! The overall design will whisk you away to a time long ago. The beautiful songs and moments between the characters will tug on your heartstrings.
I'm playing Noah's wife (Mama). She is spunky and fun, while also helping Noah make wise decisions. Her favorite animal is the anteater! Who knew, right?
Come see the show! We'd love to entertain you! And be sure to say hi afterward!
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3