Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

Is 2012 really almost over? It seems to have passed by so quickly, but when I look back on the past twelve months I realize that so much has happened.

So...

January

Back in 2010 I came up with an idea for a ghost story but didn't know where to go with it. After many agonizing rewrites I finally set it aside. In the first week of January I was reading Dante's Inferno when suddenly I was hit by a blast of inspiration so powerful that it burned inside of me like a raging fire that could not be quenched unless I wrote everything down as quickly as possible. (I guess that's what infernos do to people.) Thus, Rage's Echo was born. Or at least begun, because writing a novel takes time.

February

I finished writing the first draft of Rage's Echo. I cried writing the ending. I don't think I've ever been so emotionally drained in my life.

March

I turned 23. Go ahead, say it: I'm younger than a spring chicken and am probably still in diapers. For dinner on my birthday we ate at Quaker Steak. I spent the morning of my birthday purchasing these:



April

Hmm, April... What an interesting month. We had a medical scare in the family that doesn't need to be discussed here, but everything seems to have turned out okay. Toward the end of the month I signed copies of The Land Beyond the Portal during Bingo at my old grade school.

May

On May 25 my grandfather passed away at the age of 91. One of the most profound moments of my life was seeing his great-grandchildren gathered around the casket in silence, some of them standing on their tippy toes to see him better. It's one of those things that's hard for me to put into words. It was like the new generation bidding the oldest generation farewell, or the passing on of some unseen baton. Does that even make sense?

June

I spent a lot of time visiting my grandmother that month. Grandpa was her second husband (her first husband, my biological grandfather, had passed away 38 years before) and I felt bad that she had gone through so much loss in her life.

For entertainment, we would all watch my cousin's ten new chickens run around in their pen because they were so funny. That is, we watched them until racoons got into the coop one night and slaughtered every single one of them. Who knew that racoons could be so mean?

July

Did anything even happen in July? I think it was hot...

August

The husband and I escaped to the Smoky Mountains for six days. The weather was great and we didn't want to come home.





September

Jungle Jim's opened a new location in Eastgate, which is only a few miles from our house. They sell a huge variety of exotic and international food, as well as regular groceries (but who would go there for normal food?). For example:


October

Books by the Banks Book Festival was on October 20. It was my first year, and I had a blast! I got stuck on a discussion panel and flubbed my way through a few questions, and I ate a rather awkward lunch sitting next to former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and foodie Anne Byrn. (I had absolutely nothing to add to the table talk so I kept my head down and ate in silence.) I did get to meet Gillian Flynn, though, so that was pretty darn cool.

Oh yeah, and Rage's Echo was scheduled for publication. Woohoo!





November

On November 5 I made a two-hour trek across the wilds of northern Kentucky to see Ted Dekker at his book tour stop in Louisville. I love being an obsessed fangirl.




I'm not sure what those two orbs are doing floating in front of me. I thought I left all the ghosts at home.

December

I survived the Apocalypse. Did you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just DO it!

At book signings I've often had people comment, "You're so young! How were you able to get a book published?"

I respond by telling them that nobody is going to ask someone how old they are when they submit a manuscript for publication. I've even read that it is wrong to mention one's age in a query letter, so I've never done that. There is no need for it. If the writing is good, it will stand on its own, whether the author is 15, 30, or 99 years old. Because age is just a number, right?

But for me it's more than that. My grandfather passed away from a heart attack when he was 35 years old, and his son--my uncle--passed away after a short battle with brain cancer when he was only 27. I am 23. I know that tomorrow is not promised. The clock is ticking and will not continue forever. We can't keep putting off things because if we do, they may never happen.

I write now because I know that if I put it off, I may never have the chance to do it later on. People have told me that they know people who want to be writers "someday," to which I respond, "There is no 'someday.' You're either a writer or you're not."

Just DO it. Don't wait until you're thirty, don't wait until the mortgage is paid off, don't wait until the kids are grown and you're retired. You want to pen the next great novel? Get cracking. Git-r-dun. Start right. And start right now.

 
Because you won't be young and goofy-looking forever, either.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What are You Thankful For?

Well, it's that time of year again. Thanksgiving is just two days away, but all month long I've noticed people posting things that they are thankful for each day. It makes us stop and think. We often see terrible things on the news and it seems like there is little good left in the world. Is there anything left for which we can be thankful? Of course there is!

And so...

I am thankful for a loving and supportive family who has stayed by my side even when things have gotten rough.

I am thankful for the freedom to worship however I choose.

I am thankful that I don't have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from.

I am thankful that I have a job and a roof over my head.

I am thankful for the abilities with which I have been blessed.

I am thankful for the Terrible Times, for they taught me more than I ever learned in a classroom.

I am thankful for the opportunities that have enabled me to flourish.

I am thankful for the people who gave me those opportunities.

I am thankful for all who have helped me.

I am thankful for those who have brightened my day.

I am thankful for those who have come before me, forging a path that I can follow.

I am thankful for being alive.

I am thankful for being here.

I am thankful for burritos. (Couldn't forget those!)

I am thankful.

So now the question is, What are YOU thankful for?


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What to do with Books

What to do with Books

by J. S. Bailey 


So it's your day off, and you've been sitting at the table daydreaming all morning, and before you know it, you fall asleep.

Suddenly you hear a noise like that of riffling papers. You open your eyes...

...only to see...




...a book.







Not an .epub. Not a .mobi. Not even a .pdf. A real, made-of-paper book. And you realize that it has brought its friends.





This perplexes you, because you forgot that made-of-paper books exist. You can't even remember the last time you saw one. So why did these books arrive unannounced? What do they want from you? Perhaps they were lonely and wanted some company. Which is nice, except for the fact that you have no idea what to do with them. Are they okay to eat? you wonder. No, that might give your tongue a paper cut, and that might hurt.

So you start to think. 




You look at the books again.


Yes, they are still there--not a figment of your imagination like you initially thought. You wonder if they belong in a museum, but would that put them to any good use? Probably not. So you begin to look around the house and find ways in which they might come in handy.

Wobbly chair leg? Problem solved!


They can make stylish mouse pads...


...a coaster for your favorite drink...


...a hardcore game of Domino Rally...


...a comfy ottoman for your tired feet...


...and even a scale model of Stonehenge.


But in the end, you decide that reading them is the most fun of all. Because what else are books really for?




Happy reading!

This blog skit has been brought to you by Citizens for Made-of-Paper Books.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lament of a Writer

A thousand souls are trapped inside my head yearning to break free; to be seen and heard by those who want to read their stories. Like the woman who sits alone by the pool, reading her life away and hoping that someday things will change. And the woman who sings soulful tunes that bring tears to the audience's eyes, and she seems happy, but the moment she leaves she is overwhelmed with despair knowing that she will be returning home to an empty apartment and a cold bed.

Then there's the frightened child who endures the abuse of the Monster. Who is this monster, and what does he do to the child? What will happen to the child? How will he grow into the person he is meant to become? And the bereft young man mourning the loss of his family. He is chosen by God for a purpose, but what will he do then? And the weary traveler dying of thirst who can find no water even though it lies just out of reach. And the elderly woman who tries to flee from a ghost of the past. Their stories are fragments. Nothing more.

All of them are scratching at the inside of my skull in an attempt to escape. Even though they are there together, they exist alone. They cannot see each other because they each have their own story. But what IS their story? It is not the story of a power-hungry scientist, an archaeologist seeking answers in the soil, or a paranormal investigator trying to help a lost soul find redemption. What, then? Father, show me the stories that you wish for me to tell! Show me, so I can finally set them free!



Monday, October 8, 2012

A Moment in the Life

Monday, October 8, 4:54 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Autumn has surely arrived in the land, and I huddle on the floor of the living room with a little space heater blowing its feeble warmth into the air. A clock is ticking off to my right. Marking away the seconds like the beating of a heart. Tick...tick...tick...

I sit with my laptop perched upon my legs, thinking. What shall I do? How can I share my stories with the world? I complete my daily ritual of checking Amazon sales ranks, website page views, and Goodreads ratings. Status: unchanged. I have stories. How can I share them? The room is getting warmer, finally. The novels of the Great Ones stare down at me from their shelves. Dekker, Koontz, Dante, Bible, and too many others to count. The picture of my late uncle watches me, too. "Don't give up," he says. "I'm so proud of you and I know you can do it." He never saw my stories. They have only come to me in recent years.

A crucifix gazes down at me from beside my uncle. Christ in death, head bowed to one side as if he is only sleeping. I want to be with him. I want to follow him in every word and deed, but it is so hard, so hard. To his right is a box of beautiful cards they all sent me in the mail during the Bad Time. It is an irony, how the pain of that day could inspire me to write so beautifully. Pain is a teacher; a cruel one; yet without it we are weak. Without it we have no appreciation of happiness and joy.

I sit here, back leaning against the couch, and think about how different life would have been. I feel sad, even though years have come and gone. This day has no need for tears, though they hover furtively at the edge of my vision threatening to spill forth. I won't let them. Not today. There is too much to be thankful for; my life and health among them.

Monday, October 8, 5:11 pm Eastern Daylight Time. I think I will turn off one of the space heaters. And I will pray.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sneak Peek of Rage's Echo

I thought I would be mean this morning and entice you all with the first chapter of my unpublished supernatural suspense novel, Rage's Echo. Why? Because it's fun!

Rage's Echo

by J. S. Bailey

Copyright 2012





A sound awakened him from a restless slumber.

He stared at the ceiling for a moment. Of course, the sound had been the figment of some fading dream. It was foolish to worry. Even if he hadn’t imagined the sound, it was probably nothing more than a vehicle driving by outside or the house settling on its foundation. Children became frightened by these things, not him. The years of lying awake at night and calling for his mother to come save him from the monsters in the dark had long since passed away.

He closed his eyes with the hopes of drifting back to that world where the troubles of the daytime melted into oblivion, but suddenly a floorboard in the room creaked underfoot.

He lifted his head and peered out into the room. At first he could see nothing, but when his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw them.

Five—no, six—silhouettes stood in a semicircle around the foot of his bed. The moonlight filtering through the drapes made them blacker than the surrounding shadows.

Before he could respond to the intrusion, he felt a sharp twinge on the upper part of his left arm. He yelped in surprise and rolled onto his side, only to see that a seventh silhouette stood inches from the edge of his bed. Two pinpricks of reflected light floated in the air. Eyes.

His pulse quickened. “What do you want from me?” he croaked, even though he already knew the answer.

It was so quiet that he swore he heard blood rushing through his veins as anxiety pushed his heart to the limit. Sweat began to run down his forehead. Why wouldn’t they just answer him? Perhaps this was some new kind of psychological warfare: standing in the dark and waiting in silence until their victim went mad. It might prove effective.

He tried to sit up and reason with them, but his body felt as though it had turned to rubber. Was he drugged?

The thing next to him jerked its head to the side. Three of the other silhouettes broke away from their group. One joined the first silhouette on the left. The remaining two came up to the right. He was surrounded. No way to escape, unless a guardian angel tucked him under its wings and carried him away to safety.

Everything was still.

But he could hear them breathing.

He didn’t dare close his eyes. God, grant me the serenity…

Four sets of arms grabbed him suddenly and flipped him over onto his stomach. His own arms were wrenched behind him and his wrists were crossed and held in place by unseen fingers. He could hear duct tape being torn off a roll. He writhed around to break free from their grasp. It was no use. His hands were bound behind him.

One of the silhouettes at the foot of the bed let out a choked sob.

Cloth was placed over his head (a sack?), and the phantoms wrapped more tape around his ankles and lifted him from the bed. He was limp as a rag doll. Whatever they had drugged him with was working quite well.

The phantoms made no effort to ease his discomfort. They jostled him around as if he were a bag of refuse they were hauling away to a bin. His head banged against the wall as they carried him down the stairs. He cried out to deaf ears.

He heard a squeak. Felt a gust of air. They were taking him outside. Now, crickets. Chirping in the yard. An engine idled close by. A car door opened and he was shoved onto a sticky leather seat. A radio was playing some Led Zeppelin song: “Dazed and Confused.” The irony.

The phantoms climbed in with him. The one on his right smelled like Old Spice.

Doors slammed closed. Seatbelts clicked. Someone killed the radio.

The car lurched as it moved away from the curb.

Tears stung his eyes. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a dream. A nightmare. His own imagination torturing him while he slept.

But one could not imagine the terror that crippled him, or the coarse fabric that scratched against his face with each of his movements, or the throbbing in his head where he’d hit it on the wall.

He knew these feelings were real.

He also knew that he would not end this night alive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deep Thoughts from a Mountaintop

Last week my husband and I took a much-needed vacation and spent six days in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which sits partly in Tennessee and partly in North Carolina. On the day we arrived, we went to the top of the 32-story "Space Needle" in Gatlinburg to have a look around.

Here is one picture I took from the top:


The large mountain in the background is Mount LeConte. From this view, it just looks like a dull hulk of a hill, though it is over 6,500 feet tall. Nothing interesting about it, right? But the next day, the two of us went on an impromptu hike up the face of LeConte. It took us over seven hours to complete the ten-mile round-trip walk.

Here are the pictures I took on LeConte:








Neat, huh?

You may be wondering what the point of all this is. Well, when we were done with the very, very strenuous hike, my mind went all philosophical on me and I started thinking about how we so often judge people from afar based on first impressions, kind of like I did with the mountain--because from a distance, it didn't look like anything was there but a bunch of trees. Only when we got up close to the mountain did I see the beauty that had previously been hidden from my sight.

So the next time you see somebody and think, "They look like ____, so they must be ____" without bothering to get to know them first, stop yourself. Do you really know what this person is like? Maybe you should find out by getting to know them better. It won't hurt to try!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wanted: Clones. Or More Hours in the Day.

I realize I've been slacking here on Blogger, so I feel it's time to regurgitate some thoughts regarding writing and the necessary promotion thereof.

Quite some time ago I learned there are only twenty-four hours in a day. I devote nine of those precious hours to sleep (Excessive? Nah.), six to my part-time job, one driving to and from said job, and one to cooking/eating. That leaves me seven hours to spend time with loved ones, work out, write, pray, read, write some more, and market the things I have written. (I think that housework falls in there somewhere, but we'll forget that for the time being because I always do.)

Now let's look at the latter point. Marketing. Readers have to know that we authors exist or nobody will read the stories we have spent months or years laboring over. This is why I spend so much time on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Blogger: to form relationships and network with other authors, bloggers, and readers to slowly grow a devoted readership. It's hard. Especially when it cuts into the time I should be doing something else, namely writing and developing my craft. Not to mention that nasty housework I've we've conveniently forgotten about.

One solution to my lack of time would be to duplicate myself in the form of clones, who may or may not turn evil and conquer the world pretending to be me. Or I could cut back on sleep, which would probably be a bad idea because I would become VERY cranky and start acting like my theoretical evil clones.

So, authors, here is my question: How do YOU balance out God, family, work, writing, and marketing? Share your tips in a comment below!

The white armor is optional.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Silver Lining

When I first learned that the bookstore chain Borders would be closing its doors for good, I was bereft. Gone would be the days when I would slip over to the Eastgate Borders after school and browse its many shelves for new stories to fill my head and rescue me from the monotony of everyday life. (The closest Barnes and Noble was and is too far away for me to visit with regularity.)

My husband and I made countless visits to Borders during its final weeks in order to take advantage of the massive discounts. We bought what may have amounted to dozens of books--I say "may have" because I never counted them. It was a lot. A WHOLE lot. I ran into a problem, however. I cleaned out the Dean Koontz shelf and didn't know what else to buy, so I drifted over to the Christian Fiction section to see what, if anything, they had to offer.

This was possibly one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Up to that point, I had always been hesitant to try out new authors because I was afraid I wouldn't like them. Heck, I never would have even read any Koontz if my sister-in-law hadn't bought me two of his books for my birthday one year. But since Borders had marked everything down so much, I didn't feel like I was taking much of a risk when I purchased Never Let You Go by Erin Healy and Showdown by Ted Dekker. They sounded interesting. What could it hurt?

As it turned out, it didn't hurt a thing, because I happened to discover two of my newest favorite authors. (Hi, Erin!) And, through them, I discovered many other accomplished authors of Christian fiction whose work I have come to love, namely Tosca Lee, Frank Peretti, Eric Wilson, and Robert Liparulo. I also discovered a whole community of like-minded bloggers and book reviewers who not only have informed me about other amazing stories to read, but about writing/storytelling tips and facts about the publishing industry as a whole. I have learned so much from them in the past year, and I know that through them, I will continue to learn and grow as a writer.

Sometimes I wonder: If Borders had not gone out of business, would any of this have happened? I don't know. Yeah, I'm still sad that Borders is gone and that so many people lost their jobs, but I'm very grateful that the chain's demise indirectly led me to some amazing people who have helped me out in more ways than I can count.

One of the themes of my novel The Land Beyond the Portal is that good can come out of any negative situation. It's true. Maybe you've recently lost your job. Maybe a loved one has passed away. Maybe a significant other has left you. Or maybe nothing in your life seems like it is going the right way. You may feel like your whole world is ending. But stay strong, and keep your chin up. It might be God's way of closing one door so that another one may open for you. So when you find it, step through that door. And embrace whatever you find on the other side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Meet the Author: Michael C. Humphrey


Good afternoon, fellow lovers of the written word! Are you surviving the heat wave? No? Well come inside where it's cool and meet author Michael C. Humphrey, who I am pleased to feature here today as he talks about writing his recently released novel All Living, which marks the beginning of the Seedvision Saga--a series in which Humphrey places a speculative twist on Biblical history by telling the story of Kole, Adam and Eve's firstborn son, who is still alive. (What? you may be thinking. Who is this Kole, and why is he so old?) You'll have to read All Living to find out.

Now here's Michael, in his own words.


First of all, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? When did you first start writing?

Hi J.S. My name is Michael Humphrey. I currently live in Indiana and for the most part grew up here. I have lived in several different states including California, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. I was born in North Carolina and have also lived in Panama while my dad was in the Green Berets. I can’t remember when I began writing, I just always have. I do remember around 6th grade, age 12, writing a poem for a school competition, which I won, and got to eat lunch with the Mayor. I think that event solidified for me the notion that writing was pretty cool and encouraged me to set that as an aspiration for myself. So I have been a “writer” now for over 30 years, but it’s only been the past couple of years that I can claim the title of author. Check that one off the ol’ bucket list.

Have any specific authors or books been an inspiration to you? If so, which ones?

I spent a good portion of my early reading years immersed in the fantasy genre. Tolkien (of course), Brooks, Eddings, Weis and Hickman. I then branched into sci-fi and read lots of Asimov, Anthony, Bradbury, etc., as well as more contemporary authors. Mystery, history, horror, dystopian, the classics…I enjoy them all. I try to read a book a week, at least, but with 5 kids, two jobs, and an inherent desire to “veg”…it’s tough sometimes. Some of my favorites are and have been: Sarum, The Frontiersman, Replay, Battlefield Earth, The Stand. Quite an eclectic selection.

What inspired you to write All Living?

I have a degree in Theology and the Bible is one of those books that you can continuously go back to and find things that you’ve “never seen before.” It was during a study of Genesis that an idea occurred to me that became the seed of the story. I mulled it over, let it germinate, discussed it with several other authors, and finally began to tinker with it. The scriptures provide a reader with a brief synopsis of events, a sketch, a skeleton. It is up to the individual to flesh out the details, to draw comparisons, form conclusions, and challenge opinions, by comparing scripture with scripture and other outside sources. “…Here a little, there a little…” There are so many ambiguities to be found in the biblical details if you only “surface read,” and too many Christians become dogmatic about their own speculations. I wanted to challenge that by saying, “here is a work that is CLEARLY fiction…now go prove or disprove it for yourselves. And while you’re doing that, have fun.” It’s entertainment that will hopefully lead readers to pursue an enlightened self-education process.

The ending of All Living indicates that a sequel is in the works. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I suppose it could be called a sequel, but I see it more as a continuation. My publisher gave me a word limit, 115,000 words, so as I approached that point, I had to find a way to “wrap it up.” Originally I had envisioned a trilogy, but now I sense each book as representing one day of “present” time and 1000 years of “past” time, thus the biblically significant number of seven volumes. The next book, SPARK OF LIFE, will deal primarily with the mad genius of Tubal-Cain, the love affair between Kole and Keziah, and figuring out exactly how they make it through the flood (of Noah). Kole’s family was obviously NOT ON THE ARK.

What kind of research did you conduct when writing your novel? How long did it take?

There are several sections of the book that I had no idea how to write. I knew what I wanted to say, but had no idea how to approach the subjects plausibly. Things like historical anachronisms, genealogies and timelines simply required study to establish proper frameworks. “Fringe” concepts such as alternative energies, music therapy, auras, harmonic frequencies and vibrations, etc. were fun to research but definitely demanded more time to carefully position with the narrative. Then there was the technology that I knew needed to be incorporated into the distant past. One of the most enjoyable was the scenes about flight. I joined a website, hanggliding.org, and began posting questions in the forum. Things like, “If you lived in the distant past, prehistoric or antediluvian, what materials would you use to build your own hang glider?” The responses were overwhelming and awesome. I got so many good ideas from those folks and can’t thank them enough.  

Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

When I write, I write at night. My best times to write are between midnight and 3am. However, it makes it tough to get up in the morning and make it to work when I stay up that late. I function pretty well on 4 hours of sleep, but it’s still hard to “give a rip” that the alarm is going off. I have never had the luxury of an entire “typical day spent writing.” I’m mostly a dabbler, tinkerer. I go over and over each paragraph, tweaking it and re-tweaking it. For me, it’s not just about conveying a message, but doing so in a way that is beautiful and poetic. I am as concerned about meter and flow as I am about context and content. I rarely ever want to use the same word twice on one page. It happens, but I’m seldom happy about it. =)

What do you do when you aren't writing?

Between working a job at Purdue University, operating a window washing business, serving on the local library Board of Trustees and projects around the house that I can barely keep up with…I try to visit family, play with the kids, date my wife, and serve God. (not necessarily in that order)

What are three things that your readers would be surprised to know about you?

I published a book but didn’t get rich from it. (I know…surprises me too.)
I never liked avocado growing up…but now I love it!
I’d rather be stuffed up than have a runny nose.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you hope to have with you?

Well, a genie lamp would be my first choice but probably not what you meant…
Obviously food and water, but I hope that’s a given. I’d love to have my wife with me too…I mean, it’s a desert island after all. ;)
How about a knife, a lighter, and a SAT phone.

What are you reading right now? 

I always seem to have several books in the queue. Last night, I finished NUMBERS by Rachel Ward. Today I’m starting STARTERS by Lissa Price. I do love YA dystopian!

And last of all, where can readers find you and your novel on the Web?

Hopefully the first place they will go is my website http://michaelhumphrey.tateauthor.com.
Lots of good stuff posted on Facebook, including book signings and speaking engagements, at http://www.facebook.com/novelmethod
Twitter is @novelmethod
Links to Tate Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble on my website.



The first born son of Adam and Eve...is still alive.

He has one week to reveal his secrets to his best friend, Lester, before he moves to the Middle East for one final divine task. But with a ruthless secret society of shadowy evil, known as the Lightmen, closing in, time is in desperately short supply.

In order to survive he is going to need Lester's help. But first, Lester needs a history lesson. With God's permission, Al finally tells his life as it is and once was.

As Al recounts his story to his only confidant, Lester not only learns the secrets of his mysterious best friend, but the story behind the world's beginning—and in the process, he may even find faith for himself.


Friday, June 29, 2012

"Conception Came Out"--The Story of Me, The Story of Many


My husband and I had been married only a month when I took the pregnancy test. I can still remember my heart pounding with anticipation as I waited for the second pink line to appear in the little window on the test strip. Various thoughts went through my head. No, no, I can’t be pregnant, I don’t feel pregnant, how could I really be pregnant? Nah, I’m probably not pregnant. Just a fluke in my menstrual cycle; that’s all this is.

A feeling of awe came over me when the second pink line materialized next to the first. I think my eyes probably bulged out of my head in astonishment. Somewhere inside of me a tiny being was growing—someone who was part Mommy, part Daddy, but 100% unique.

It is an intriguing feeling when one is both overjoyed and flat-out terrified. I couldn’t wait to meet this new member of the family, but at the same time anxiety surged through my veins. How would we be able to afford this newcomer? How could we pay for a babysitter while we both were working? How? How? How?

Fortunately, my husband and I have both been blessed with supportive families. During the next month or so, they acquired for us a plethora of baby gear at various yard sales; and my in-laws even gave us my husband’s old crib. One of my cousins bought me a week-by-week pregnancy book. I enjoyed following our baby’s progress. Look, this week our baby is the size of a kidney bean. Ooh, arms and legs are forming! Aw, now Baby’s the size of a plum!

As the weeks progressed, we selected possible names for Baby—Katerina if it was a girl, and Ambrose if it was a boy. The due date was March 24, 2011; four days before my twenty-second birthday. I’d joke around, saying that I hoped Baby wouldn’t decide to be late and end up sharing a birthday with me.

It didn’t.

At the end of my first trimester, I began spotting. I called my doctor in a panic, and he said that I was probably going to miscarry. I prayed so much that the spotting meant something else, that Baby would be okay. I went to the doctor’s office with my mother the next day and my doctor listened for the heartbeat but could hear nothing. They sent me over to the hospital for an ultrasound. My husband met us there. The three of us went into the ultrasound room together; grim as we awaited the inevitable news.

The ultrasound technician put some goo on my stomach and ran the probe over it again and again to pinpoint the baby’s location. My heart began to sink as I watched the screen. There was no baby! Then the technician switched tactics and used a vaginal probe on me. That’s when my heart plummeted.

I knew our baby was dead as soon as I saw it on the screen. As I said before, I had been following Baby’s progress in the book my cousin gave me, and at 13 weeks it should have had arms and legs and resembled a human being in some way or another. The motionless child on the screen looked like a curled-up shrimp with a human head. In other words, Katerina/Ambrose had died five weeks before at only eight weeks gestation.

It all felt like a sick joke as I recalled the past month of choosing names and filling the baby’s room with all the paraphernalia befitting an infant. My body was a traitor, having lied to me about the well-being of our child for so long. Why did it wait that long to let me know our baby was gone? I don’t know, and never will.

It took me five more days to miscarry. I awoke on the morning of September 25, 2010 in severe pain and spent the next five hours sitting on the toilet as blood and tissue came out of me in agonizing contractions. I thought I was going to die, I was bleeding so much. And there seemed to be no end in sight.

I finally caved and decided to go to the hospital. We got to the emergency room at around noon. As it turned out, the reason that the contractions weren’t ceasing was because the baby and amniotic sac were both fully intact and lodged in my cervix. The ER doctor assigned to me had to puncture the sac to get it all out.

“The conception came out,” he announced when he had finished.

Not “baby.” Not “embryo.” Not even “product of conception.” What was I saying about a sick joke?

It was all I could do not to kick him in the face. And oh, how I wanted to hurt him! He had just reduced our only child to utter worthlessness, which to him, it probably was. This was all in a day’s work for him, I suppose. For me, it was the soul-crushing end of my dreams.

“You can at least call it what it is,” I snapped back. (I was not feeling very Christian that day.)

“But that’s what we call it,” said the nurse assisting him.

They had stuck our baby in a tiny jar. “I want to see it,” I said.

The nurse plucked the jar off the counter and held it in front of my face for about two seconds. I couldn’t even see inside of it because there was a label stuck to the side, and I never was able to develop X-ray vision, to my chagrin.

We were told that they would take the remains to a part of the hospital called “Pathology” for examination. The word conjures thoughts of infectious disease and quarantines. They never did tell us why our baby was sent there, or what the results of their examination revealed. We asked that the remains be returned to us for burial and a death certificate issued. We had already received permission to bury our child above my grandfather’s grave, and we assumed that the hospital would grant our wishes, especially since it was a religious institution.

Little did I know that the sick joke would continue full-force. After twelve days of waiting for “Pathology” to call me and tell me to come get our baby, I called the hospital to see what was going on. The woman I was eventually connected with informed me that the hospital does not permit parents to have their child’s remains returned to them if the child was under a certain number of weeks gestation. Yes, you read that correctly. DOES NOT PERMIT. Instead, the remains are sent to a funeral home (one that I had never heard of), cremated, and sprinkled Lord-knows-where.

Needless to say, we never got a death certificate, either. The woman told me that we would receive an invitation to a memorial service for all the miscarried babies. Other bereft parents would be there, too. But we never got an invitation. So much for that.

The sick joke lives on to this day. My menstrual cycle has become so irregular that I have thought I was pregnant again on other occasions, only to go through another round of soul-crushing depression when my period returns. We have tried and tried to conceive again, to no avail. “But you’re still young,” people have said to me. “You have plenty of years ahead of you to have another baby.” Yes, I may be young now, but I will not be young forever, and neither will my husband.

I’m not sure why I’ve written this. Maybe it’s to get the closure I never received, or to fix the brokenness that never healed. Or maybe it’s just to share my story, which is not just mine, but the story of many. I know God has a plan in all of this. I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. I can only pray that my heart will mend and I can find forgiveness for those who robbed us of our baby. I can only pray that someday there will be a little one who looks like us running around calling us Mommy and Daddy. I can only pray.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Night of the Living Adverb

The night has fallen swiftly over the land, and thunder rumbles menacingly in the distance, rattling the windows in their panes. You curl up languidly on the sofa in front of the hearth with a book, where the fire crackles merrily as it slowly warms the room. A new bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon sits silently on the small table beside you, waiting to be poured seductively into a glass by your hunky manservant Tank, who mysteriously has not yet returned from taking out the trash. 


Suddenly a noise--a scream!--outside makes you sit up startledly. The voice belongs to Tank! Your heart pounds racingly in your chest as you rise from the sofa and creep carefully to the window. You peer warily through the rain-streaked panes, when you see them.


Rising eerily from the ground for as far as you can see are adverbs. Moaning creepily and clumsily shaking the dirt from their decaying corpses, they slowly make their way toward the house.


You are rooted to the spot. Tank would save you, but tragically other adverbs have already nabbed him. You can see some of them dining ravenously on his flailing body. His torn, white muscle shirt hangs loosely from his torso. You shut your eyes, not being able to bring yourself to look at the brutally awful treatment the adverbs are inflicting on him. You weep bitterly.


Suddenly another noise meets your ears. This time it is a soft scratching sound, directly behind you. You whirl around hurriedly in fright and nearly faint when you see that even more terribly evil adverbs have somehow made it inside the house and into the very room where you now cower in frighteningly petrifying terror.


The adverbs close in around you. Not an ounce of heavenly mercy shines in their dead eyes.


You realize there is no escape.


Or is there?


Stephen King once said that the road to hell is paved with adverbs. Over time, I have come to agree with him. Adverbs, while not bad in themselves, tend to clutter up sentences that would fare much better without them.

My early writing, just like everyone else's, was loaded with adverbs. It still is to some extent. I've been working to overcome that along with many other flaws in my prose.

I was having a conversation about adverb elimination with a friend the other day. I was talking about how the sentence itself should convey its intended meaning without having to tack on unnecessary adverbs. Here are some examples of how those nasty adverbs can be annihilated.

"We need to talk," she said coldly.

versus

She folded her arms and gave me a hard stare. "We need to talk."

In other words, if you show how a character is acting, you do not need to say what her voice sounded like. Her mood should be made clear by her stance.

Bob crept quietly up the stairs.

versus

Bob crept up the stairs.

It isn't necessary to say that Bob was being quiet, because creeping is quiet in itself. I have never heard anyone creeping loudly, and besides, in that case, they wouldn't be creeping anymore, would they?

And to take an example from the opening vignette:

The night has fallen swiftly over the land, and thunder rumbles menacingly in the distance, rattling the windows in their panes.

versus

Night has fallen over the land. A menacing roll of thunder sounds in the distance, rattling the windows in their panes.


And one final example, which I have stolen from Seize the Night by Dean Koontz, which I am currently reading. The character Chris Snow says,

I was breathing shallowly through my mouth, not solely because this method was comparatively quiet.

Now I love Dean and his books and all, but if I were to rewrite this sentence, this is what I would say:

I took shallow breaths through my mouth, not just because this method was quiet in comparison.

The second sentence looks much better, don't you think? ;)

In conclusion, I hope that these few examples have given you some idea as to how you can save yourself from those vicious, undead adverbs that have invaded your living room and/or prose.

If not, here's a dude with a flamethrower. I've heard they work great in situations like these.


Bailey out.

Monday, May 28, 2012

You Might Be a Writer If...

You might be a writer if...

1. You read obituaries and phone books to look for interesting character names.

2. While sitting in church, you daydream about interesting/creative ways to murder people.

3. You think of various ways to rewrite your favorite novels. ("No, Dean, you shouldn't have worded it like that, you should have worded it like THAT for greater impact!!! Gah!!!")

4. You are afflicted with book-review-related nightmares.

5. Random, out of context ideas and phrases come to you and you have to immediately jot them down in the unlikely event that you will use them in the future. ("The noses that pick together, stick together!" etc.)

6. You unconsciously give your serial killers your own personality. You wonder what it might mean.

7. You forget that your characters are not real people. This makes you sad, because you really want to hang out with them.

8. When no one else is around, you take your favorite book off the shelf, pull it close to you, and whisper, "My precioussssssss..." while stroking its cover with one hand.

9. You write because if you don't, you will turn blue in the face and fall convulsing to the floor. This is why writer's block is so painful.

10. Everyone you meet is a potential character.

11. You reread a gruesome murder scene you wrote a week ago and wonder if there is something seriously wrong with you.

12. You can't bring yourself to read any of your previous novels because you think they are all crap and you wonder how it is possible that your fans love them.

13. You develop calluses in weird places.

14. You're only 23 years old but you're already developing arthritis/carpal tunnel syndrome from spending so much time at the keyboard.

15. Your basic food groups are Wine, Coffee, Chips, and Mexican.

16. You drive by a furniture outlet advertising a sale for "SOFA'S" and you want to take an Uzi to the place.

17. You bawl your eyes out when you finish the rough draft of a manuscript.

18. You learn a new word and can't wait to use it in your novel.

19. You remember the number of books you've sold at individual book signings a year ago but you can't remember what you ate for lunch the day before.

20. You thought the Apocalypse had begun when you learned that Snooki is a bestselling author, and you're not.

Add your own!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Genesis of a Scene

This past Sunday morning I went for a bike ride on a local bike trail with my father and sister. Though the day was hot, the feeling of the wind whipping around me was soothing. We rode through miles of forest, occasionally passing through small towns full of quaint houses that looked too nice to be real. In all, the scenery was beautiful.

Halfway through our journey, we passed a high-end apartment complex tucked into the woods on our right. It even had a tennis court. "Nice place," I thought. Then, BAM. Out of nowhere, a vivid scene filled my mind:

There is a woman lying in a lounge chair on a wooden deck by a swimming pool. She is in her late fifties, slender, wears her wavy hair short and dyes it a shade of auburn to match the way it was in her youth. She is wearing sunglasses and a black, one-piece bathing suit and reads a paperback romance. Her skin is dark and like leather from so many long days lying in the sun. She is alone.

Around her rise the four-story buildings of the condominium complex she calls home this time of year. The sun beats down from a cloudless sky. The smell of chlorine fills the air. The woman can hear children laughing and playing in the distance, but she cannot see them. She never had any children. She doesn't understand why they are laughing.


Somehow, the sound of their voices fills her with regret. She has never worked in her life, not even for one day, because she has never needed to. Her husband is an executive at a large firm, and in fact he is away at a conference right now. He has provided her with everything she has ever desired--country club memberships, long stays at exotic resorts, dinners at upscale restaurants, jewelry.


She hears the laughter of the unseen children and wonders what it is all for. She thinks about leaving her husband. Something is missing from her life, and as much as she tries she cannot pinpoint what it is. Maybe leaving him will make things better; help her find her purpose. But how can leaving give her the sense of fulfillment she longs for? Her husband is the only person in her life, even if infrequently. If she leaves him--oh, and the idea is so tempting!--she will be left with nothing but the memory of a lifetime filled with empty pleasures. Nothing more.


The lonely woman sighs and turns the page of the novel she is reading. The sun beats down from a cloudless sky, and the sound of children laughing carries on the wind.


So yeah, this all came to me because I drove my aching, sweating self past an apartment complex on a bike I borrowed from my mother. Sometimes being a writer is just weird.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The 500 Fan Challenge

By a show of hands, who likes winning free stuff? You do? And you? Wow, that makes...everybody! Now I'll let you in on a little secret--I like winning things, too. Which is why I'm giving away free stuff to lovely people like you who have taken the time to "like" my Facebook page and support me in this harebrained endeavor called Being An Author.

"What kind of free stuff are you giving away?" you may ask.

THIS stuff.


That's right. One lucky winner will received a printed, hand-bound copy of my Christian speculative fiction story Vapors, a paperback copy of my suspense novel The Land Beyond the Portal, and three bookmarks, though not necessarily the ones shown in the picture.

Now let me tell you about that copy of Vapors. See this?


I hand-stitched that bad boy. I am not a sewing person, so my stitches tend to be a tad crooked. It took me a few nerve-racking hours to attach the blasted thing to the printout of the story and the cover got a little dinged-up in the act, but overall I think it looks okay. It was made with love, and I pray that it will be loved in turn by one of you.

Which brings us to...

The 500 Fan Challenge Contest Rules 


In order to win, you must complete these simple steps:

1. "Like" the page www.facebook.com/jsbaileywrites

2. Share the page with your tribe of fellow bookworms. (You know who I mean.) Encourage them to join, and when they do, make sure they post who sent them in a comment on the page timeline. Otherwise, I will have no clue who got them to add the page.

3. Tell these new fans to share the page with THEIR bookworm tribes so they have the chance to win, too. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as often as you'd like.

When 500 people have "liked" the page, I will determine who sent the most new fans and give that diligent soul the aforementioned Free Stuff.

Any questions?

Contest starts...NOW.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Continuing Saga of Jenn Versus Deer

So I've had this problem of deer coming into my yard and utilizing my plants as a sort of outdoor buffet line. Everything I plant gets eaten. Strawberries? Entire plants gone without a trace. Pine trees? They add those on the side as a garnish. Lately they've taken an interest in one of my apple trees, which is maybe six feet tall at the most. Last month the tree bore many beautiful white blooms which soon either fell off or ended up in some Bambi's stomach. Many leaves replaced the blooms, and one by one, they vanished. At first I thought that insects had done the leaves in, but closer inspection revealed that the entire ends of the branches had been snipped off by a deer's bicuspids. My eyes immediately turned a menacing shade of red, and in a singsong voice I bellowed, "I WILL HAVE VEN-GEAAAAAAAANCE!" Okay, maybe that last bit didn't happen, but you get the idea.

I thought about various ways in which I might get my revenge. I could have taken a mounted deer head and stabbed it onto a stake next to the tree to demonstrate what would happen if others of its kind sought to have a snack. I could have sat in silence behind the house with a 12-gauge shotgun waiting for the intruders to approach. I could have done many things, yet I did none of them, and that is where I made my mistake.

This morning I arose from bed and went into the kitchen, where I opened the blinds over the sink to gaze out upon the glorious new day. My eyes widened when they laid their gaze upon my precious apple tree. Something had snapped its central branch in half, and it dangled lifelessly like a useless limb, hanging on only by a bit of bark. A smaller branch also met the same fate--dangling. Useless. As I consumed my waffles, I brooded. What could I do? The tree would likely die because almost all of its leaves were gone. And I could not, would not, let that happen.

I went outside after the completion of my breakfast and inspected the tree. Yes, I decided, it could be saved. I returned to the house and found a roll of duct tape, which is my repair agent of choice. I cut off small pieces of the tape and secured the severed limbs back into place with the hope that they could grow back together.

Next I brought a shaker of chili powder outside and sprinkled it all over the remaining leaves and in a circle on the ground surrounding the tree. I also found the remnants of a bottle of deer repellant (it consists of garlic and putrefied egg whites) in the garage and sprayed what was left on and around the tree as well.

Now all I can do is sit and wait. With the way my luck goes, chili powder is probably a deer aphrodisiac and I've just made the worst mistake of my life.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy...

I know, I haven't posted much on here this month. I've been polishing up the manuscript for Rage's Echo, which is more of an epic undertaking than writing the rough draft. I haven't even been reading as often, either, which stinks because there are LOADS of books I want to read and I just don't always have the time to do it.

Anyway, I self published my Christian speculative fiction short story "Vapors" earlier this month, and it is now available only in the Amazon Kindle store. I designed a nifty cover for it:


You like? What I did was tear apart an empty frozen chimichanga box and dumped potting soil on it on my kitchen floor (because I didn't want to put dirt on the floor itself for obvious reasons), and I put one of my favorite necklaces on top to illustrate a scene from the story. Two photo editing programs later, and voila! I finished the cover.

Soon I will be querying agents regarding my work-in-process Rage's Echo. I will keep you updated, of course. :) Thanks for reading!


(Click the link below to see Vapors in the Kindle Store!)
http://www.amazon.com/Vapors-ebook/dp/B007R4A3OA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334629139&sr=8-1

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Sinner's Lament"

Sinner's Lament

By J. S. Bailey

Copyright 2012


I want to talk but no one's here
There's no one close and no one near
And though I walk and breathe I'm dead
From unseen wounds in heart and head.

My soul is gone, and with it, love
The One who cares dwells up above
Or all around, I cannot see
But God, no one will talk to me.

I'm freaking out, I'm losing touch
It's getting all to be too much
To breathe is torture, life is pain
Life's gonna make me go insane.

I'm sinking, slipping, swallowed up
Why would you make me drink this cup
Of poison! Poison! Cyanide!
Nowhere to run, no place to hide!

They're at my heels, they're coming fast
The monsters make me see the past
Of what was good, of what has been
Of what's now gone due to my sin.

I lay down in the grave I dug
I yearn for touch, for kiss, for hug
Yet none of these will I find here
There's no one close and no one near.

Abandoned! Yes, that ugly word
That's what I said and what you heard
My flesh is dying like my soul
As I expire in this hole.

My vision darkens as I die
The sunlight's fading from the sky
The distant tolling of a bell
Announces my descent to hell.

They say that you once died for me
Reach out your hand and you will see
I beg you, weeping, on my knees
Sweet Jesus, Savior, save me please.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Genesis of Story

"How do you come up with ideas for your stories?"

I'm sure that most, if not all, writers will hear this question in their lifetimes. It is a good question. How do we come up with all those nifty little ideas that eventually turn into short stories or novels or poems?

Every single bit of information that we receive through our senses is, in essence, an idea. A sad song on the radio. A delicious morsel savored at a fancy restaurant downtown. A bit of gossip uttered in a whisper as you walk past an open doorway. The joy of birth, the grief of loss. Every person is bombarded with ideas as soon as he or she awakens, and they will never be in short supply.

An author's job is to extract certain ideas from the constant barrage and combine them into something new. For example, one morning I was skimming through a book about the early Church fathers and martyrs, and I got to wondering what it would be like to meet them in person and see what they had to say about their faith and the time period they had lived in. A few hours later I left to go to my classes over at Northern Kentucky University. I always liked to take the scenic route through the rolling hills of southern Clermont County as opposed to taking the interstate because driving on a winding road through forests and then along the Ohio River seemed so peaceful compared to the alternative. Driving along that route put my mind at ease, and what do minds at ease do? Come up with stories, of course!

The story hit me at some point as I traveled along Locust Corner Road. I knew I wanted to write a short story set in the post-apocalyptic future where humans and other living things could be resurrected through the use of technology so archaeologists could learn more about the past. I jotted down notes about the story when I got home. The story, which I named "Vapors," took me about eight days to write. (I'm currently trying to get it published--I'll keep you posted about that.)

Even non-writers come up with their own stories. Ever heard of dreams? I hope so. Dreams are like stories in that they result from oodles of ideas that combine in our heads and play out in new ways. Some authors even use ideas from their dreams and turn them into stories. Cool, huh? Ideas begetting ideas. The possibilities really are endless.

In conclusion, I suppose it can be said that ideas are the primordial ooze that eventually spawns fully-fleshed characters and the stories they tell. If you want to become a writer, let those ideas simmer. Let them grow. Turn them into something that will entertain or touch or scare.

But most of all, write.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"One Small Jar"

 (Author's note: I wrote this nearly a year ago. Sometimes putting memories into words helps ease the pain, though it is doubtful that the pain will ever truly be gone until I breathe my last.)


One Small Jar

By J. S. Bailey

"Conception came out," he says
(conception? no, no, you're wrong)
then puts it in a jar and leaves.
A jar so small
and lifeless like the tomb it is.
i want to see i want to see my baby
(Why would you want to?)
"Sure," she says
then picks the jar off the counter
like it's nothing
And shows me.
But I cannot see
There's a label in the way
i cannot see!
And just as quickly the jar is gone.
Taken away
Forever.

I never saw her
(Or was it him? I cannot know.)

Oh, Crystal, that gem of my heart,
Where have they taken you?
The flesh may perish
But when a warm breeze rustles the treetops
And the sun peeks its rays through the clouds
I know you are there.


Written March 29, 2011



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Tale of a Pseudo-Pseudonym

There are many reasons that an author may choose to use a pseudonym for his or her writing. Maybe he writes both action-packed Westerns and steamy romance novels and doesn't want to baffle his fans by using the same author name for each genre. Maybe an author's given name is Hcnsiuygewr Ykjbd and wishes to use a more easily pronounceable moniker on his books. Maybe his given name is identical to that of an already-published author or a celebrity. Or maybe he just hates his name. The possibilities are practically endless.

I use a "pseudonym" for another reason altogether. My full name is Jennifer Anne Bailey. Nothing too unusual about that, right? Exactly. Now, I don't mind being named Jennifer. Nobody is ever going to hear my name, wrinkle their nose in disgust, and say, "Why in the blue blazes did her parents name her that?" Jennifers tend to be quite successful in life, if one is to look at Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Hudson, and Jennifer Love Hewitt for examples. We Jennifers are determined to succeed in our areas of expertise. We might even be unstoppable.

The problem is, Jennifers are everywhere. My godmother and namesake is (duh) named Jennifer. At least four of my cousins are named Jennifer. My sister-in-law is named Jennifer. One of my friends is named Jennifer. Three of my husband's cousins married Jennifers. One of my old English teachers is Jennifer. My friend's sister is named Jennifer. One of my mom's cousins married a Jennifer, too. Counting me, that is a whopping 14 Jennifers. Crazy, huh?

Not only are there quadrillions of Jennifers claiming the Earth as their own; there are also nearly as many Jennifer Baileys. Okay, maybe there are only about 4,000 Jennifer Baileys in the United States, but that's still waaaaay too many for my taste. What if another Jennifer Bailey became a published author, too? What would I do? Send her scathing emails urging her to change her name? I'm too professional to resort to such tactics. Besides, it's mean.

I could, however, use my initials instead. C. S. Lewis did it. J. K. Rowling did it. G. K. Chesterton did it, too. So why can't I?

Because J. A. Bailey sounds weird. Go ahead, say it aloud. Jay-ay-baylee. Jay-ay-bay. Blech. Nope. Won't do it. Plus, my initials spell "jab." Don't blame my parents; they aren't the ones who told me to marry a guy whose last name starts with B.

The solution? My maiden name is Schmid. S is a nice letter, and J. S. Bailey has a nice ring to it. It rolls off the tongue. Jayessbaylee. Beautiful. People have begun referring to me as "Jayess." My husband alternates between calling me "Jennifer Schmid-Bailey" as if I were a British dame and "Johann Sebastian" in homage to my homeboy J. S. Bach. I've even periodically forgotten that my middle name is Anne.

In conclusion, I have to say that I truly enjoy being called J. S. Bailey. It's not too common but not too unusual either, and I finally feel that I have my own identity as an author, which is just pretty darn cool.

Bailey out.