#AmWriting, #BookTeaser, #NewRelease, #OutOfTheDesert, #ToadtheDreamer

Announcing a New Book

June 11, 2019

My next novel is nearly done and I’m raring to get this puppy into your hands. I have an offer and an ask.

Here’s the offer:  If you want to be a beta reader, please raise your hand. Send me an email at betsy_ashton2005@yahoo.com. I’ll send you a copy of the manuscript in PDF format. All you’ll need to read it is a copy of Adobe Acrobat, which is free.

Read the book. 

Give me honest feedback. Loved it. Hated it. Fell asleep on page 3. Did the stories hold your attention? Did you find the characters credible/likeable/entertaining?

Here’s the ask: When I release the book, I’m going to put the ebook up for free for a weekend. I’ll send you an email asking you to go to Amazon and “buy” it. Even if you don’t read ebooks, please “buy” it.  And then I’ll ask you to wait a couple of days and post a review.

Why? Because Amazon tracks who buys books on its site. I’m trying to get some early reviews so that I can enter a series of contest later this year. Yeah, I’m trying to stack the deck in my favor.

I hope you can help me. Oh, one more thing. No serial killers in this one.

TO REMIND YOU OF THE STORY

Once upon a time a little boy named Toad the Dreamer lived in the Mojave Desert. He dreamed first of being a spaceman. Then, he dreamed about growing up and going to college. Next, he dreamed about having a big family. He dreamed his mother’s dream for him becoming a writer. 

One day, when Todd, the grown-up version of Toad, was closing in on his 50th birthday, he wondered what happened to the little boy who wanted to be a spaceman. Or a writer. Todd’s story, and those of his favorite cousin and best friend, bring him to this turning point.

Will he go back to the desert he left behind and find Toad the Dreamer? Or will he continue as he has, living a good life but not being satisfied with what he’s doing? Will he reconnect with his best friend?

#ICYMI, #Memories, Uncategorized

#ICYMI Convergence of Dates

May 13, 2019

This past week has been a convergence of important dates for nearly 40 years.

First, there was my mother’s birthday on May 9. She would have been 97. Every year I would buy two gifts, one for birthday, one for Mother’s Day. I’d buy two cards, different wrapping paper, and different favorite foods. I made sure to celebrate each special day with the importance it deserved. Even when Mom’s birthday fell on Mother’s Day, she had separate cards and gifts, although I sneaked through with only one meal out. She didn’t mind.

Then, thirty-nine years ago on May 11, my best friend, Terry Naylor, became my husband. I couldn’t have been happier when we started our lives together. I can’t be happier that the ride continues, although now without the motorcycle. We hung it up last year. We exchange cards and go out for a special dinner, usually a week after our anniversary to avoid the Mother’s Day crush.

A similar convergence happens again at Christmas. Terry’s birthday is December 19. I make sure his birthday presents are wrapped in birthday paper and NOT placed under the tree. They sit aside in their own place of honor. Christmas presents go under the tree, decorated in red, green, and gold papers, ribbons (if the cat doesn’t play with them first), and a card tucked into the branches of the tree.

Why go to such trouble? It’s a sign of love. It’s a sign of respect.

Why do we tell friends of different faiths good wishes on their holy days? My Jewish friends deserve recognition for their High Holy Days, for Passover. I’ve enjoyed many a Seder dinner with them. My Muslim friends deserve recognition for Ramadan and for Eid, when Ramadan ends and with it the daily fasts. I fast for one day each year to understand what Ramadan means. It’s difficult, but it’s helped me understand Islam better. I’ve celebrated the equinoxes and solstices with my older religion friends.

Why? May I repeat, it’s a sign of love. It’s a show of respect. Care to join me?

#AmWriting, #Memories, #ToadtheDreamer, Uncategorized

Meditations On a Boot

April 16, 2019

Sometimes, life encourages you to rest a bit, slow down a bit, and put your booted foot up on the sofa. That’s me right now. Resting a bit. Slowing down a bit. And putting the boot up a bit.

No, the ankle isn’t broken, just rather spectacularly sprained. I slipped going down to my basement and bent the right ankle backwards. I pretty sure I hadn’t broken it as soon as I was able to assess any damage. Did it hurt? Of course. Did I cry? Nope. Did I try to stand? Of course, again.

So, why am I meditating on a boot? Having to keep a foot elevated is a perfect time to meditate on anything. For me, I chose to assess why I’m so clumsy. I am. No doubt about it. But why? I mean, I hold onto railings when I go up and down stairs. I watch where I put my feet when I’m out taking my daily two-mile walk. I watch for stones, twigs, and anything else that could jump up and grab me. I even avoid wads of gum on sidewalks. You never know when one of those gooey wads will reach up and grab an ankle. So embarrassing to fall because a giant Double-Bubble wad tripped me.

I’m also glad my father wasn’t around when I was born. He and Mom argued about what to name me. He wanted me named after his mother. Mom wanted to name me after her favorite sister. Thanks, Mom. Grace would have opened too many doors for name-calling.

Not being able to rush about gives me time to ponder what is really important. For me, it’s my husband, my best friend, who runs up and down stairs with hot coffee. It’s my kitty, Smokin’ Mocha Java, who enjoys tummy naps when I’m reading or running dialogue in my head. And it’s my writing, my only creative outlet.

I have a new novel due out later this year. I was going to push to get it out in June. Not now. Instead, I’m working on making the story the best I can. I have a series of beta readers lined up to read the advanced reader copy. I have an almost-final cover. Two more tweaks and I’ll share it. It took a long time to get the image right, but I think we have it now.

Oh, yes. You all weighed in on the “desert” book. You offered so many terrific alternatives to Toad the Dreamer and Out of the Desert. When I tallied all the votes, Out of the Desert won. The more I work with it, the better I like it. After all, it’s clear in the series of stories that you can take the main characters out of the desert…

I’m also working on another book, which I planned to have out in the fall. Not gonna happen. I knew it before I sprained my ankle. I could push to get the book out, but I’d rather it be ready and right than ready and right now. You know what I mean. We’ve all read books rushed into print. It’s not that much fun for the reader. So, I’ll put a bit more work into the manuscript. I’ll be asking for suggestions on book titles…

Until I’m more mobile, I may send additional posts. I refuse to be bored. I will try to share what I think you’d like to read. I hope you agree.

And now, the ankle is throbbing and needs to be elevated. Bye for now.

#AmWriting, #Memories

Broken Hearted

April 2, 2019

No, I haven’t experienced a personal loss, disaster, or break up. I’m broken hearted about the number of people who have been killed while at worship.

This isn’t meant to be a political screed, but a personal reflection on what is happening.

Are you old enough to remember places of worship being unlocked throughout the week, all night? No matter what time, you could always find a place of worship open somewhere in a city. Sometimes a priest or minister staffed them. Sometimes they were empty except for the worshippers who tucked in for a bit of quiet contemplation of something greater than themselves.


I’m old enough to remember. In three of the largest cities in the world, I always felt I could find church or temple open to welcome me.

No longer. Too many churches can’t trust people to enter without desecrating the sanctuary. Churches have been robbed. Their treasures have been stolen. Their sanctuaries trashed, furniture broken, hate-speech spray-painted on walls.

And now, the worst descrecration of all: the slaughter of people practicing their faith. Whether it’s a gunman entering a Jewish synagogue, an African-American church, mosques in multiple countries, the end result is a descrecation of ourselves, of our collective souls. Maybe it’s bombs falling into a mosque in a conflict zone, killing helpless women and children. Maybe it was a bomb detonated at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 and killing four young girls. It doesn’t matter. It’s all hatred.

While we can’t turn back the clock and erase the damage done to our souls, we can look deep inside and see the good in so many of us. We can look beyond the color of someone’s skin and see the dreams and desires within. We can learn from people of different religions. We can accept differences and similarities. We can see people for who they are.

My heart breaks at every death. Some murderers think what they do is righteous. They publish manifestos bragging about why they’ll do something. They want us to remember their names, laud their dedication, understand they are fighting a righteous fight against the government, society, people of different faiths. You get the idea.

I refuse to remember their names. I will remember the horror they inflicted on so many families, so many friends. And my heart will break just a little more the next time it happens.

#AmWriting, #BookTeaser

Never Throw Anything Away

March 18, 2019

Our mothers told us to clean our room, put stuff we weren’t using away, and throw/give away stuff we no longer use.

The same thing holds true with authors. Everything we see, every fragment of conversation we overhear is material. Sometimes it finds its way whole into a bit of prose or a poem. Sometimes it influences a scene. Sometimes it just plain old doesn’t fit and retreats into the parking lot where it waits for the right place to reemerge.

My novel, Out of the Desert, is saturated with just such bits. A few years ago, I published a story about a woman who had named her breasts before she had a double mastectomy. It was light-hearted, if ever that topic can be light-hearted. I needed a powerful scene between two estranged sisters. How to get them back together after a twenty-year separation. Recycling the long short story into a five page scene did the trick.

I wondered how I would end the novel. It had to have a positive ending. It had to answer one of the key questions asked near the end by the main character. I searched the parking lot for ideas. What did my eye fall upon except a small character sketch I called “The Greeter.”

Several years ago, my husband and I made the trip between northern Virginia and Smith Mountain Lake about twice a month. When we drove in daylight, we were overjoyed to see a man standing in a cross-over, waving to the passing cars, and grinning widely. We nicknamed him the greeter. As time passed, the greeter grew older and was in the cross-over less often, until one day he wasn’t there any longer.

My husband and I made up stories about his life. We wondered if he was a retired veteran. That idea fit with what we wanted him to be. We wove tales around his life. We made up names, a backstory, and an ending. I jotted these down in a file called “The Greeter.” When it came time to write the last story, I gave my main character a greeter who’d waved at him when he was a teen. I gave the main character an interest in the man, a curiosity to learn about the man’s backstory. I gave the main character permission to write about this humble in glorious prose.

I gave myself permission to recycle the greeter’s story in the final passage of the novel. Due out later this year, I hope you remember the path the greeter traveled to appear in the final movement of Out of the Desert.

#AmWriting, #FiveSenses, #Memories, #ToadtheDreamer

Evoking Memories

March 4, 2019

What evokes the most memories for you? Is it the sound of a bird, a person’s voice? Is it the taste of a favorite food, or a not-favorite food? Is it the sight of someone’s hair, a color you wore on a special day? The feel of a favorite book, worn from overreading, that just feels right in your hand?

For me, it’s smell, that most powerful of senses. At Roanoke Regional Writers Conference 2019 at the end of July, three writers offered new ways of looking at the six senses, including the one we keep inside, our sixth sense. I drove home thinking about all the smells of my youth which define special moments.

Marcel Proust may have set the bar for a stream-of-consciousness memory invoked by dipping a small cake into a cup of tea. The resulting reverie is one of the more famous moments in literature. My memories are closer to home.

Home defined two great memories, one of my grandmother, the other of my mother. My grandmother smelled of Evening in Paris cologne. It was her favorite and she wore a drop for special occasions. She also smelled on Ivory soap and bleach, because she was responsible for doing the wash and hanging it out on the line to dry.

Mother smelled of Chanel No. 5, chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven, and, my favorite, chocolate-covered cherries. My mother was hooked on chocolate-covered cherries, the kind you bought in a box at the pharmacy, the kind with milk chocolate outer shells and mareschino cherries and a vanilla filling. God, they were awful. God, we loved them. Mom bought a box at Valentine’s Day every year. Confession: I have a box ready to open next week…

The other smell combines both scent, sight, and texture. It’s my memory. It’s one I’m writing about in my latest novel, Toad the Dreamer. It is sand. All sands are not alike. My two favorites are those of my main character, Todd, aka Toad. One is the scent of desert sands. Dry. Clean. Sun-baked. Filled with tiny pebbles, bits of lava, thorns. Shades of brown. tan, flat green.

Todd’s, and my, other favorite sand is beach sand. Todd has a house near the ocean. Here, the scent is of damp, early morning fog. The scent of red tide and dead fish. White, clean stretches with bits of shell. Sun-baked, salty. Smooth between the toes. A place to lie and nap in the sun.

Both of these memories shape the adult Todd, as the desert shaped the child Toad. It’s fun to write about places and events I lived. I hope I do honor to my memories.

#BookTeaser, #EyesWithoutAFace, Uncategorized

EYES WITHOUT A FACE Teaser

February 22, 2019

I find it hard to believe that not everyone has read EYES WITHOUT A FACE, my novel about a female serial killer. She tells the story in her own voice and in her own unique style. In hope of teasing more of you into reading my novel, here’s the first complete chapter. I hope you like it enough to pick up a copy.

No matter what anyone says, I wasn’t born a serial killer. I don’t carry a sociopath gene, a psychopath gene, or even a serial killer gene. No such thing.

You can argue about nurture versus nature. Go ahead. Have at it. Look at the studies about psychopaths. Check me against the list of traits. I didn’t wet my bed, kill small animals, or set fires. My younger brother did those things, but he didn’t kill people―as far as I know. I wasn’t sexually promiscuous. My sister was. She began screwing every boy and some of the men in town as soon as she got breasts.

My father was verbally and physically abusive like half the men in town. So overpowering was the old man’s dominance that my mother retreated into a dark place where no spark emerged. Valium and vodka numbed her into submission.

None of this turned me into a killer. I came to this life through free will.

Back in college, I was never in touch with the lifestyles of my sorority sisters, who were into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I knew from the very beginning that would never be satisfying. I needed something more, something different. Once I killed someone, however, I found my true calling in life.

In a way, fate led me to kill people that didn’t deserve to live. Other than one time, I never, ever killed anyone without a damned good reason. Even that time, I felt justified because I was learning my craft, honing my skills, if you will. I came to killing gradually, but once I started, I continued for more than three decades.

I’m not very comfortable writing about my life. I spent the first half of it building walls, packing my emotions into boxes, and pre- tending to be something I wasn’t. Now, beginning my sixth decade, I unpacked those same boxes onto these pages, all the while still pretending to be someone I’m not. By no means have I provided an accounting all of my kills. Representative ones, memorable ones, but not the entire list. Yet, as I record my story in black and white, I see it’s not a dark coming-of-age tale full of who-gives-a-shit trivia.

My life and what I did with it matters.

If you’re reading this, I’m either in a facility where I can’t pursue my craft and kill anyone else, or I’m dead. You may never understand why I became a killer. At times, I don’t either.

Remember, we are not all what we seem.

I have violated your trust. Telling you what I did hurt you. I’m sorry for lying. One thing I know for certain. You can’t tell anyone about what I did. Ever.

Well, that’s the first chapter. If you like it, you can find the book for sale on Amazon.

Thanks for reading. See you soon for a different blog post.

Uncategorized

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

February 8, 2019

Hi, all,

I know I went silent for a few weeks. Nothing wrong here at all. More like needing to clear my head and focus on two new books. And now I find myself looking for some advice.

I’m closing in on final edits for the book I’ve been calling “Out of the Desert.” I’m not sure if that’s the best title.

So, what do you think? I have four titles below that people have recommended. Do you like any of them? Please email me at betsy_ashton2005@yahoo.com with your ideas. You can add your own suggestions.

  1. Out of the Desert
  2. Grains of Sand
  3. Sands of Time
  4. Toad the Dreamer
  5. Other

This is a novel in stories about Toad, his brother Cricket, his best friend Polly, and his cousin Phyl.

Once upon a time a little boy named Toad the Dreamer lived in the Mojave Desert. He dreamed first of being a spaceman. Then, he dreamed about growing up and going to college. Next, he dreamed about having a big family. He dreamed his mother’s dream for him becoming a writer. 

One day, when Todd, the grown-up version of Toad, was closing in on his 50th birthday, he wondered what happened to the little boy who wanted to be a spaceman. Or a writer. Todd’s story, and those of his favorite cousin and best friend, bring him to this turning point.

Will he go back to the desert he left behind and find Toad the Dreamer? Or will he continue as he has, living a good life but not being satisfied with what he’s doing? Will he reconnect with his best friend?

Featured, Lifestyle, Writing, Writing Life, Writing Style

‘Twas the Night Before Deadline

December 17, 2018

I run this poem every year in honor of all my writer peeps out there.

 

with apologies to CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

‘Twas the night before deadline, when all through the house

Not a writer was stirring, not even his mouse;

The laptop was set up on the table with care,

In hopes that the words soon would appear.

 

The images were nestled all snug in his head;

While visions of page proofs filled him with dread;

And good guy in mischief, and bad guy with a rap,

How to keep the right words, and edit the crap.

 

When out on the street there arose such a ruckus,

He sprang up in anger at loss of his focus.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

Drew back the curtains and peered through the glass.

Red lights swirled on ceiling and wall,

Shattered concentration caused him to bawl.

When what to his curious eyes did appear,

Images of pages, blank and austere.

 

He wielded a pen so sure and so quick,

He knew in a moment his edits were nixed.

More rapid than eagles his cross-outs they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Bracket! now, Period! now Colon and Slashes!

On, Comma! on, Hyphen! on Quote Mark and Em-Dashes!

To the top of the page! to the top of the wall!

Now erase away! erase away! erase away all!”

 

Ideas that normally flowed freely and fast,

Now met so many obstacles they left him aghast;

So on the pages his cursor stood still,

Hours to deadline and no words to kill.

 

And then, in a twinkling, he heard in the hall

A shuffling gait of his wife’s slow footfall.

As he drew back his head, and was turning to see,

Into the study she carried fresh coffee.

 

She was dressed all in flannel, from her head to her foot,

And her clothes were all rumpled, no makeup to suit;

A cup she set on the table with care,

Steam rising and swirling, to drink it a dare.

 

Her eyes—how they twinkled! her dimples, how merry!

Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a berry!

Her droll little mouth was pursed up like a bow,

And the hair on her head was as white as the snow.

 

He wished she’d call his editor to plead

All he wanted was more time to re-read.

His editor he knew would laugh and deny,

He was behind in his contract, he could but sigh.

 

That editor so mean, so nasty and bold,

“Not another second,” his memory so cold,

With a nod of his head and a stroke of his pen,

He showed him the way out of the mess he was in.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to the work,

Delete key melt down, words appearing from murk,

Finally laying fingers on keyboard with a touch so slight,

He typed and typed well into the night.

 

He sprang from his chair, the manuscript to send

The deadline met, the last words “The End.”

His editor sent a note full of delight,

“Happy deadlines to all, and to all a good write!”

Featured, Lifestyle, Writing

Eating with a Stranger

December 3, 2018

Have you ever eaten with a stranger? Not just someone you don’t know well, but someone you’ve never seen before? If you had that opportunity, what would you talk about?

Would you exchange light pleasantries, keeping to the weather, “how about those Mets?” Or would you take a chance on a deeper conversation and possibly learn something unexpected?

I’d want to learn about the person sitting opposite me. Where are you from? Tulsa, really? I’ve never been to Tulsa. What did you like about living there? Do you miss it? What brought you here?  I’d keep the conversation going by asking more specific questions, stopping only when I think I’m getting too personal.

Do you have kids? Grandkids? Do you have any pictures? Pay attention to those this stranger chooses to share. If they are on her cell, you can scroll through several. If he pulls a couple from his wallet, ask their ages. If they are older, what are they doing? You can learn an awful lot by how a proud parent or grandparent talks about family.

Steer away from those really touchy subjects. I never ask a person’s politics, religion, even their ethnicity, if I think it’s undetermined. If, on the other hand, this stranger wears a symbol of a specific religion, and you want to learn more about it, why not ask, “will you tell me about your religion?” You might learn something that will change your mind.

What I find uncomfortable is meeting strangers and have them force their ideas on me. As strangers, you don’t know if I have a son who is gay, have lost a child to cancer/drugs/texting while driving. You don’t know my political beliefs. Please don’t tell me all about your biases on these subjects. You don’t know me. And you won’t because I’ll exit the conversation as quickly as possible.

But, if you want to share in a manner where we can exchange ideas, even if they are on the opposite end of the spectrum, then I’ll engage until we talk ourselves dry.

‘Tis the season to reach out. Take a few minutes to meet a stranger. Listen, learn. You’ll be a better person for doing so.

 

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