Browsing Category

Uncategorized

#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.

#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?

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Honoring Our Mothers

May 8, 2017

I was going to write a lengthy post about writers and our inquisitive minds. And then I broke my right wrist. I am profoundly right-handed, so one-fingered typing causes great fatigue. I looked at the calendar and realized  the annual confluence of three important dates has arrived.

May 9 is my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone for many years, but I still celebrate her birthday. She’ll always be with me in my heart.

Of course, May 14 is Mother’s Day. Before you ask, I never shorted Mom with one gift for both days.  Her presents were wrapped in different paper. One gift had to be See’s dark chocolate truffles. Her favorite. The other was usually several books, because Mom liked to read.

Early the following week, Terry and I celebrate our anniversary.

It’s a time of joy. It’s a time of celebration. I hope you have your own celebrations coming next week. I raise a toast to mothers everywhere.

Featured, Politics, Uncategorized

Thoughts Define Us

June 27, 2016

All that we are is the result of what we have thought–Buddha

I wish that more people would think before they speak or act. Whether it’s political discourse (my fingers want to type “discord”) where we listen to people calling each other names or it’s an overheard conversation waiting in line at the grocery store (where two men gossip about a neighbor down on his luck — “all his fault. He should have…”), we are a collection of what we think.

Does anyone really think that politicians believe what they say? Or are we hearing the thought de jour designed to sway our thinking for the few minutes we listen? We hear that no politician tells the truth but only the truth as he or she sees it. We hear that politicians live for the moment when giving speeches, playing to the crowd, and bowing to applause. We wonder if people can be so duped to believe voting for a referendum won’t have serious consequences.

Take the referendum thing for a second. Back in the ’70s, Californians voted on Proposition 13 to freeze or severely limit the percentage property taxes could be raised. That proposition is still on the books, which means it cuts into badly needed revenues the state could use to rebuild its infrastructure. What the voters didn’t realize was there was no “sunset” clause where the proposition would end if the legislature didn’t take action. And now, bridges, highways, schools, and other things used by the populace can’t be improved or repaired.

Just last week, the United Kingdom voted on a referendum on leaving or staying in the European Community, the EU. From the number of Google searches the day after the historic vote, a whole passel of citizens didn’t know what that meant. They searched for all sorts of issues surrounding Brexit, with many saying they didn’t know what leaving would really mean. Really? I’m shocked that people believed the bellicose rhetoric of the leave side. Jon Stewart may have said it best when he turned the vote into a Jane Austen moment. To paraphrase, the Brits voted either for Sense and Sensibility or for Pride and Prejudice. Only time will tell what the unforeseen consequences will be.

In the US, we have elections coming in November. The summer promised to be long and hot, full of accusations, hopes for an indictment before one convention, mud-slinging, outright lies, and declining voter morale. I for one have campaign fatigue. Living in a so-called swing state exposes me and mine to a barrage of commercials, a barrage which doesn’t look like it will ease until after the election. Like the residents of the UK, many US citizens appear to be falling for one set of lies or the other. Too bad they don’t or won’t educate themselves on what is really at stake and vote accordingly.

I rather fancy the Australian way of voting for top leadership. If I remember correctly, all Australians must vote. That’s right, must. Voting becomes an obligation not a privilege. Aussies also have something on the ballot the US and UK don’t: the choice of voting for “none of the above.” Would that we had such a choice this time around.

Okay, political rant subsiding. It’s not over, but it’s back under control. Have a terrific summer. Try not to listen to too many campaign commercials. They are certain to turn your stomachs and ruin your day.

Peace out.

Book Promotion, Brand management, Featured, Marketing, Uncategorized, Writing Life

Bookselling

May 23, 2016

Many readers of this blog are also writers. And like my fellow writers, friends recommend books on how I can be a better writer, how I can write [fill in genre here], how to publish and how to sell books. You can imagine my skepticism when a respected friend recommended How To Sell A Crapload of Books. Yeah, I thought. I know how to sell a crapload of books. Write a book and give it a title of How To Sell A Crapload of Books.

To be polite, I accepted the book. I expected to scan the table of contents, skim a couple of chapters and thank my friend for his thoughtfulness. Instead I found a well-written book that, while not offering many new revelations on book selling/promotion/author branding, made cogent arguments for building an author brand, leveraging connections you didn’t know you had and creating an executable promotional plan.

Vandehey and Aryal use humor to lay down some principles: “the PR you can afford is probably useless.” Rather than name everything a debut writer can’t possibly do, they offer things that worked for other writers whose careers is where ours are. If you write mysteries, consider a book launch that is a scavenger hunt, especially if you can launch your book where the action takes place. Leverage where you live, because more people know you where you live than across the country in huge cities. They advise not getting your heart set about book reviews by the New York Times in favor of concentrating on wooing your local newspapers. The louder the local buzz, the more likely you can extend outward in concentric circles to broaden your audience.

Because so much of life takes place online today, Vandehey and Aryal demand a writer learn how to use social media. That means more than a Facebook page where you do nothing except flog your books. Hint: This doesn’t work and pisses off potential book buyers. Learn what each platform can do for you. Twitter is great for reaching more potential buyers than most other outlets. Facebook is great for building your brand. Know the difference. Don’t waste time on social media networks or social media applications if your readership doesn’t hang out there. I know most of my readers have no clue what Instagram or Snapchat do. I don’t hang out there, but I know I’ll engage in great conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn. Yes, even LinkedIn.

The authors share ten secrets for building an author platform. Rather like a 12-step program. the secrets walk a writer through suggestions they have tested and know work.

Regardless of whether you read this book, or one of the countless other books in print about book selling/promotion/author branding, first decide what your goals for writing and publishing your book really are. If you are a “friends and family” writer (i.e., most of your sales will be to friends and family and not to strangers), set you expectations accordingly. That decision will drive how much effort you want to put into building an author platform. If you want to rise beyond the friends and family level, determine how much time and effort you can devote to building that platform. Once the decision is in the bag, begin executing it. Consistently. Daily. Diligently.

What have your learned about bookselling that you can share with other writers?

###

 Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please follow me on my website, on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.
Featured, Uncategorized

Close Captioned

April 4, 2016

CCI don’t know about you, but sometimes I need close captioning in my life. Or for my mouth. I try to watch what I say. I really do, but “occasionally” I suffer from blurt mouth. You know the feeling. That moment when what you meant to say gets garbled by what you actually said.

To protect myself, I perfected a series of ways I could go through life “close captioned for the cynically impaired.” In essence, I learned how to fake it.

Take those innocuous words that protect you from stepping all over your tongue or other people’s toes. Words like “really?” (CC: Are you out of your freakin’ mind?) or “Indeed” (CC: I do believe that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard). Lest I overlook our fine Southern friends, a well placed “Bless her heart” speaks volumes.

Back in college, where I spent 13 formative years, I learned how to take notes in lecture halls while sound asleep. I perfected the skills of writing notes, back in the days of cursive, keeping my eyes open and sleeping behind both activities.

This came in handy in the corporate world when we were forced to sit through tedious meetings. Whoever gave upper management the idea that two hours of PowerPoint slides was a great way to excite the workers into doing something was delusional. I usually sat with three or four other female managers, none of whom dared look at each other for fear of falling out of our chairs and rolling on the floor in deranged laughter.

I remember one meeting where the VP droned on so long that I kept nodding off. Revert to previously acquired skills. My colleague was studiously writing down what I thought was everything the bloody idiot was saying. She’d look up, brow slightly creased in concentration, and then write something in her notebook. I glanced over and bit my lip to keep from falling out of my chair and rolling on the floor in deranged laughter. She was listing every Beatles song title she could remember.

We all learn to cope in our own ways. Sometimes it’s listing song titles; sometimes it’s napping with eyes wide open; and sometimes it’s thinking up snarky things to put in whatever work I’m currently writing.

If you hear me utter, “really,” or “indeed” or “bless her heart,” you have an instant translation guide right here.

Do you go through life closed captioned for the cynically impaired?

And why the kitty in the header, you ask? Because more posts get read when they feature a kitty. So there. Bless my heart.

Featured, Uncategorized

When the Going Gets Tough,

March 28, 2016

the tough go shopping. At least that’s the old cliche. Retail therapy doesn’t work. I’m much less of a shopper today than I was ten years ago, so I have to do something else when the going gets tough.

This week, the going got real tough. Bad things happened to a young man I think of as my son.  Bad things also happened to his father as a result of the bad things that happened to his son. I won’t go into details. What happened is personal, but I want to share my reaction to it.

It all began on Wednesday, when I received a brief video of the young man, followed by a call from his father. We talked for a while until his father had a plan. I rang off so they could execute said plan.

I couldn’t function for two days. I tried to work, but I couldn’t concentrate. I meditated in short stints, because I wasn’t able to clear my head enough to find some peace. Finally, after accepting the reality of what was going on in my two friends’ lives, I took the only “next step” available. I cleaned my house.

And I cleaned, and cleaned and cleaned. My husband and I dug into tasks we had been putting off. Small things, really, but each one left behind a positive result. I didn’t fall into a Martha Stewart moment and redecorate my house from top to bottom. I didn’t even take my baskets out to the deck to power-wash them as she would. I washed and scrubbed and dusted and polished until the only scents in the house were Pledge, Mr. Clean and Comet.

My husband took over the bathrooms. His scents were Lysol, Scrubbing Bubbles and Windex. And his bathrooms sparkled. No one cleans a bathroom like a veteran. He learned how to scrub toilets in the Air Force. Thank you, U.S.Government.

And now we are done with spring cleaning from 2014!

By the time we were finished, my heart was at ease and I had accepted that the results of my friends’ problems might not end as I wish..

This morning I finished the laundry. More scents: Tide and bleach. Again, I could see positive results from doing the laundry. Empty laundry hamper, fresh sheets and towels, shirts drying on a rack in the laundry room. I only wish the fitted sheet hadn’t attacked me.

What do you do when the going gets tough?

Uncategorized

Serenity

March 21, 2016

Serenity can be so difficult to find in the hustle and bustle world we live in. Everywhere we turn are screens beckoning us to take a look at something. I have too many screens in my house:  three televisions, two cell phones, three computer monitors, one tablet, even digital clocks that remind me every second of the current time.

Sometimes I need to get away. In my previous post I wrote about the 5-minute spring break and how poetry serves me well when I need solitude. I also turn to photos of very peaceful places. Over my desk I have a print of Mabry’s Mill, an old grist mill up on the Blue Ridge parkway. It’s many shades of green foliage, weathered brown building and water spilling over the wheel whisper, “come sit a while, relax and listen to the birds.”

The picture at the top comes to me from a dear friend in India. It’s Buddha with the sun behind the statue. Whether in India, Thailand or Japan, the image of a sitting Buddha brings me such solace, such a sense of peace of mind. This one is particularly poignant because the sun is behind it.

026 (1)Serenity can be as close as my yard. Earlier this year, we had a wonderful rain, which washed the remaining leaves of my dwarf Japanese maple a bright red.

While I love world travel, I find I need to find serenity closer to home.

Where do you find serenity? Do you need to travel to find it, or do you look closer to your feet to find something wondrous?

Featured, Uncategorized, Writing a Series, Writing Inspiration, Writing Life, Writing Style

How I Found Mad Max

March 14, 2016

Perhaps the title should be “How Mad Max Found Me.” I’m often asked by book clubs how I come up with my ideas. That’s both an easy and difficult question, because inspiration can come from a shopping list dropped at Kroger’s or a single child’s clean sock lost in a gutter in Blowing Rock, NC. But Mad Max has a distinct path to her literary birth.

Originally,  Unintended Consequences was about a husband and wife who undergo horrible changes when the wife is hit by a car and suffers an traumatic brain injury. It completely changes her personality. Written from both his and her points of view, I though I was so clever in depicting the wife’s descent into drug addiction and psychosis, and the man’s as he became more and more troubled by his wife’s behavior. Yawn.

I struggled through multiple (try at least 10) revisions, but I was never satisfied with the way the story shaped up. I fought to keep the twin perspectives, even though they weren’t working. And then one morning about 3am, I woke to a voice shouting in my head: “This is MY story, damnit. Tell it my way.” Well, yes ma’am.

Max had a way of grabbing my attention. At the beginning, she was a minor character. As soon as I took her “advice” and began writing from her point of view, the story sprang to life. She gave me latitude to let her be snarky when necessary, soft and tender when necessary, vulnerable at times. No spoiler alert necessary for the next sentence, because it’s revealed on the back cover. When her daughter is murdered, she comes into her own, buries her grief to be a strong grandparent and help solve the crime.

Max took hold of me. By the time I began Uncharted Territory, or as I call it, Max 2, I knew her inside and out. She still hasn’t revealed her complete personality. She reveals only what is necessary for the current narrative.

I live with her every day. Beginning a new Mad Max book is like inviting a good friend in for coffee. She blows my mind by what she is willing to do to protect her family. I wish I were like her, but only a little bit of Betsy is in Mad Max. I think a lot of Mad Max has made her way into me.

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com