Who is Indie Ashley? A story of Independence…#FreeThought

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I just updated my about page. I think this better sums up “who” I am and what my mission for my blog is so I wanted to post it as well… 😀

“Independent Author…Independent Thinker….Independent Believer….Independent Parent…and a celebrator of Independence in general!”

When I was a child, I told stories to my imaginary friends. As I grew, my plots thickened and my imaginary friends faded into characters. This is how I became upon a writer. It wasn’t until I gave birth to my children, gave up working and moved from east coast to the south (and back again a few times), that it occurred to me that I could be more than a writer…that I could be an author…a published author. So, I wrote a novel and set out trying to figure out how to get published.

Buried in webpages for literary agents and publishers; my head swirling around how I was going to write a synopsis and query letter, I wondered how long I would have to wait or if my dream of becoming a published author would ever come true. By the time I came across information about self-publishing, my head was aching and I was beginning to feel a familiar ache of anxiety about the whole “author” business.

I’m not good with strict institutions or following rules when it comes to my art. I’m not good with allowing someone else to monitor my thoughts…I’m not good with waiting or rejection. I’m not good with allowing someone else to set my prices and take out their “share” from my work.

So, I became an Independent author. Shortly after, I became single again. Ending my marriage, which had become more overbearing and full of discourse, than a marriage should be, gave me another taste of independence that I had been craving.

The one thing I have always been sure of about myself is my independence. I am an independent thinker. I never subscribed to the “popular” schools of thought prevalent in the small town where I grew up. I have always stepped back, rationalized and made up my own mind about things. This is how I came to travel an “independent” faith path (Druidry). This is how I have learned all that I know about philosophy, psychology, sociology; ect without a college degree…because I’m an independent studier.

So, the title “Indie Ashley” sums all this up. While this blog is mostly about my journey (and that of others) into the world of independent publishing, it is more easily classified as a celebration of independence in general. I want this to be a divergence for all the other “indies” out there…a place where independent thought, belief, and art can be expressed.

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Author Spotlight—AC Willis

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Indie Author, AC Willis.

Indie Author, AC Willis.

Before I kick off my Friday Feature; “Indie Spotlight”, I am doing a test post. For this, I’m spotlighting myself. This will work as an example for what the spotlights will look like. This is what the main spotlight post will look like.

Author Bio:

AC Willis is a new Independent Author. She released her first novel, “Darkness Within” in December of 2013. She is also a mother of four. AC has been writing since she was a little girl and although she has tried to do many other things in her life, she always comes back to writing. Her debut novel, “Darkness Within” will be on sale on Amazon for .99 cents beginning February 2, 2014. This is the first page in an unwritten story for AC and she has many more projects in the works that will be ready for release by the end of the year. Among them is the second story in the “Darkness Within” series, titled “Light Without”. I sat down to talk with AC about “Darkness Within” and learned the motivation behind the novel and what will come next for this young, but promising author.

 

Tell us a little about “Darkness Within”:

Well, it’s a young adult fiction. The main character, Awen Murdock, is…extraordinary. She sees the divine in the natural world, has magickal abilities and travels to the shadow realm. She keeps all her secrets bottled up and so she is a character that is fragmented and disconnected from the world and people around her. Darkness Within is the story of her “awakening”. Throughout this novel, she is trying to learn to define herself and struggles to find a place in her world.

What is her world like?

It’s essentially our world…and our time. Awen uses social media. She goes to high school and dates, just like any normal teenage girl in our day and time. So, there’s a sense of normalcy about it. However, within this normal world, there is also a magickal one. The main thing that sets Awen apart from the people around her is that she peers beyond the normal world and sees the magickal aspects of it. She also travels to the shadow ream which exists on a different plane and holds a completely different set of rules. Existing in both places at once is hard for her and eventually, events that take place in the Shadow World begin to effect her “reality”.

Okay, so tell us a little bit about how the novel came about.

That’s kind of a multi-layered answer. I’ll try to keep it simple. The general idea behind the novel came about in 2012 when I entered a short story titled “The Darkness Within Me” into Muskogee Public Library’s short story contest. After I won, it set on my hard drive for a year. My husband and I talked about turning it into a graphic novel but nothing ever came of that. So, when I entered Nanowrimo, I thought it would be a great opportunity to expand upon the short story and so “Darkness Within” was born. Actually, it was almost a completely different story altogether.

Really? How so?

I started writing it from a completely different point of view. My favorite character in the entire story is Cailleach. I can’t say too much about him without giving away some of the novel’s best secrets but I began writing the story from his point of view. Somewhere in the middle, I decided that there were parts of the story that needed to be told from Awen’s point of view, since it is her story. So, I put her in a situation where she sees part of her own life through his point of view and I reworked the beginning. It’s funny how something like that can change the entire story.

Cailleach is a weird name.

Yeah, there’s a lot of that in “Darkness Within”. Cailleach literally means “owl” but The Callieach is a Druid goddess of winter and death. She’s the “hag of winter” but at the end of winter, she drinks from the Well of Youth and transforms into a young maiden. My Cailleach is a male character but his personality and story is pulled a lot from the aspects of the Druid goddess. I like to play with mythologies and beliefs, particularly of the Celtic people, and use them in my work. In fact, most of the names in the story come from Celtic lore.

Are the names the only thing that comes from Celtic lore?

No. The timeline of the novel comes from the Wheel of the Year. “Darkness Within” takes place between August and December during the Dark parts of the year. The novel also mentions the Tree of Life and the Tuatha De Dannan which both come from Celtic lore. Also, the struggle between light and dark is synonymous with most faith paths.

That’s interesting. Why the love of Celtic society?

I study Druidry, myself. It’s hard for something so personal not to become part of your work. Also, my ancestry is Irish. Murdock is my grandmother’s maiden name. But I do it in a manner that is not really overt. You don’t need to be Druid or Celtic to understand it. You don’t even have to be religious or spiritual. It’s a great story…it just so happens that I blended these aspects into the fabric of it…because I’m awesome like that.

So, what happens next for Awen and for yourself?

“Darkness Within” leaves a few loose ends untied so I’m working now to tie them up and finish the story with the second novel in the series, “Light Without”. Let’s just say that Awen has a few more obstacles to face before she can arrive at the moment that is her destiny. I will release “Light Without” sometime this year but I already have a few other projects in the works. Probably the next project I will release is actually a book of short stories.

Buy Darkness Within now…or wait until February 2 and grab it for .99 cents, HERE.

Connect With AC Willis:

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Horra…Horra…and I Just Realize I Like Killing People!

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My next release will not be a young adult fiction, like Darkness Within. I haven’t established myself as an young adult author yet, so I think that’s okay. In fact, my next release will be something completely different than Darkness Within. It will be more dark and sinister…and a lot of people will die.

You see, I really like killing people. Not in real life, of course. In real life, I am a tree hugging, book loving, pacifist. I wish I could say that my blood lust was “left field” and in no way indicative of my own mind but I can’t. It is something I have been aware of since my childhood; it is something about myself that I love. There is a piece of my brain; a small section in the back corner that loves the gore and terror of the horror genre. When I first began writing, horror is the only thing I would write. I love haunted houses, scary movies, and (of course) horror literature.

I could tell myself that it has nothing due to a genetic predisposition toward fear and the paranormal but I would be lying. I will save the entirety of that story for a rainy day…it’s not something I need to get into just yet. Let me just say that I’m not the only person in my lineage who’s teeth are set on edge at the thought of a paranormal story or event.

In fact, the warping of my brain probably came about because of this. Growing up, everyone around me read. My mom read, my dad read, my grandmother read (and wrote)…I grew up in a house full of books.  I learned to read at age 4 and gobbled up every children’s book that I could get my hands on. By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was bored with children’s books of all shapes and sizes (including middle grade and young adult fiction). I wanted to read the big books. I wanted to read the books that the adults around me were reading.

My dad read primarily western…I had to be really desperate to read his books (although I did love listening to them on tape on long trips). My mom and grandmother, on the other hand, both read two genre of books: romance and horror. I was forbidden to read both (at first). I tried reading romance novels but they scared they scared me to death. The thought of being so immersed, physically, in another person that good judgement and morals went out the window was terrifying to me. Was I going to end up like this? Would I become silly and giddy like these stupid girls? I would shudder at the thought of it. (Spoiler alert: I did…*sigh*)

After the possibility of romance novels was out the window, I began sneaking and reading my mom’s horror novels. I had been watching horror movies since I was an infant so I didn’t know what the big deal about these books was, anyway. I quickly learned that the written word can be much more terrifying than a movie. Stephen King was my first, and my favorite. I read Pet Semetary, Carrie, and Delores Clairborne early on. Then I moved onto Dean Koontz and VC Andrews (most notably).

That was the beginning of the end for me. It was as if something in my brain that had been kicking and screaming had been set free. For a long time, I read only horror and I wrote only horror. It wasn’t until I was much older and developed a similar connection with classical literature and poetry that I began to branch out with my writing.

Now that you know why my mind is so warped, you’re probably curious what it is that I’m writing?

It is tentatively titled “Under the Full Moon”. It’s loosely based on the Celtic Tree Calendar. If you’re not familiar with it, I will explain it shortly. Each month has one full moon (except in the case of a blue moon). The Celtic people developed a calendar based on these moons and gave each month’s moon a list of attributes and properties which turned into myth and legend. It was a way of personifying the moon and building a deeper connection with the lunar cycle.

Yes, I know, I write about the moon a lot. That’s because duality fascinates me.

It is only loosely based on the calendar because the uses and attributes of the Celtic Moon Calendar are positive and uplifting. It started out with the purpose of being an inspirational piece…that was before the caged animal in my mind let out a deep roar and set itself free. It may be a mistake to do it like this but my beast needs feeding (I haven’t written horror in a very long time). After all, every moon has a darkside, right?

How else is it different than Darkness Within? 

It’s a collection of short stories. I love short stories. I remember buying short story collections when I was little and reading them under the covers, when I was supposed to be going to sleep. I would promise myself that I would only read 2 of the stories and then I would go to sleep…it never happened like that. Instead, I would shift into a ravenous dog. I would devour every story in the collection I could before my eyes blurred and I drifted to sleep.

Now, I’m no Ray Bradbury but I’ve written a fair amount of short stories. In fact, Darkness Within is based on a short story that was the winner of the 2012 Muskogee Public Library’s Summer Reading Program Short Story Contest. Short stories are my comfort zone; they are my home.

I love the pacing of short stories. Writing a novel is a push and pull. There are moments of action strung together with points of thought and reflection. It’s like building a house. First, the novelist builds a foundation and then works on the interior of it; running wire and stringing lights. The  novelist pulls the reader along on a journey and that’s a beautiful but acquired skill.

The short story, on the other hand, is more like demolishing a house. A good short story will hit the reader like a bulldozer and drag them along the highway at 60 mph. I’m very excited about this project and I will keep you updated on the release schedule, once it’s ready for release.

Darkness Within—on sale soon! #EbookSale #Kindle

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Mark your calendars—Darkness Within is going on sale soon!

On February 2, 2014 at 10:00 am (CST), Darkness Within ebook through Amazon will go on sale for only .99 cents (76% off)! It will remain at this price until 6:oo pm (CST) on February 3, 2014!

Then, it will go up to $1.99 and remain on sale until February 5, 2014 at 2:00 am (CST).

Finally, it will remain on sale at $2.99 until 10:00 am (CST) on February 6, 2014.

What is this blog about, anyway? #zerotohero

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In Darkness Within, one my main character’s first inner conflicts revolves around the words “Define Yourself”. For her, it isn’t the definition that’s a problem, it’s the admission of that definition that scares her (and for good reason). I thought it was a fitting conflict for her, not only because of the context of the story, but also because it’s something we all struggle with.

But, this post is not about Awen Murdock and her struggle between the physical world and the otherworld, it’s about me. It’s about this blog and the kind of things I write. For anyone who knows me or is already following my blog, you will appreciate how difficult this task is for me. I tend to be kind of “all over the place” and don’t do well with pinning myself to one subject or task.

So, you might be looking at my blog and asking yourself the question: What is this blog about? It’s about me, the blogger, of course and because I am a complex being with complex desires and motivations, there will be a great deal of variety to the content on this blog. I will try to pin it to the core subjects (while giving you some background information about myself).

Authorship

Obviously, I’m a writer. I never went to school for it; never formally studied journalism but I’m pretty good at it. It’s the biggest piece of “who I am”. It’s what I’ve always done. However, I am just making the leap from  notebook/journal writing and the occasional story contest to author.

I put this one closest to the top because it’s what I write about (most of the time). From time to time, I might talk about the projects I’m working on or a project I’ve already published. I might give a shout out to a fellow indie author whose work I really liked and I might even do reviews of other indie works from time to time.

Mostly, I will be blogging about writing in general: my frustrations and triumphs; my processes (or lack of real process); what I think about writing strategies (what has and hasn’t worked for me). I will probably write a lot about book marketing and promotion because it is has been the bain of my existence…If I find something that does work or something that fails miserably, I will let my readers know. If I feel like yelling and screaming (maybe cussing a little) at the gods of book promotion, I will write about it.

I guess you can say that I’m a “baby author” or an “author in training”. I wouldn’t call my blogging on this subject expert advice but it does hold weight because it’s a chronicle of the experiences I am having with writing and self-publishing (who knows, maybe traditional publishing in the future). I hope that other authors (both established and aspiring) gain something from reading my musings on the subject.

Furthermore, the very definition of why I have started blogging recently is because I love the indie author community. I want, above all else, to create an environment where authors (indie and traditional), bloggers, poets, journalists, ect. (let’s just sum it up as writers, in all shapes and sizes) can come together in open discourse and two way dialogue.

 

However: Be Warned…I will also digress: a lot. The two most common sources of my digression will be:

Spirituality

I was born in the foothills of West Virginia and I love my home, even though I’m far from it. I’m not a “country girl” in the social context that one would think but I do love the  natural world. I grew up climbing trees and rolling in grass all day long and I find myself at home when I’m connecting with nature. Because of this, and my metaphysical views, I have found a home in the study of Druidry.

From time to time, I will blog about it, too. Not because I want to come across preachy or spread the word about “my religion” but because it’s a part of who I am. I actually don’t believe that one religion (or philosophy, or any train of thought) is “better” than another. I’m saying this to make sure it is known that, although I will be writing about it a lot, it’s not the focus of my blog and I wouldn’t want to build a readership of ONLY Druid or Pagan readers.

Parenting

My children are my world. I try not to blog about them too much, because there are a lot of parenting blogs out there and I am (by far) an expert on the subject matter. Also, I want to give them a bit of privacy. They are too young (ages 4, 3 and 3) to have a say about what content I post about them so I try to keep embarrassing stories about them to a minimum. This blog would probably be a lot more interesting if I included every anecdote that they give me on a daily basis (they’re the funniest kids in the world) but I don’t think it would be fair.

However, being a mother of twins (actually, “Irish triplets”—my son is only 11 months older than my twins) does allow me some insight into the psychological or social aspects of twins, or raising children in general. I will write about that. Because it’s valuable and because it interests me (for instance, it’s exciting to look at the nature vs. nurture debate based on the raising of twins).

Maybe psychology, sociology, and philosophy should be a subset of my blog but I’m not going to do that because I will only write about these subjects on a whim and I do it quite subtly. I don’t see the need for spouting jargon because I’m an observer rather than an expert. I might write about my observations of society or a certain philosophical debate but I’m not going to bog my writing down with technical jargon and such. So, you don’t have worry about being bored to death by these rants. 😀

I think I’ve done a pretty good job at defining myself with this post but I must post a disclaimer. I have proven, in the past, to be pretty undefinable. One day, you might visit my blog and see a random post about the plausibility of lollipop rain (my husband and I actually have had this conversation). In the name of being a good blogger, I will try to write mostly about authorship but I know that I tend to write a lot about spirituality and parenting as well. I just want you to be warned that left field topics may occur on my blog most of the time.

ADD and the Writing Process…#HappyNewYear

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Sometimes I wish my mind was a steady stream, rather than a blazing fire…

…yet I burst into flames, because I like the burn.

Sometimes I wish I could wrangle my thoughts and quiet my mind…

…but I feel at home within the chaos and clutter.

Sometimes I wish that I could see things lightly; feel things lightly…

…instead, I write to lighten the load. 

I am a seer, 

I am a feeler, 

I am a visionary and

I am a dreamer. 

I am a writer; 

And a damn good one at that. 

Words ease the pain and isolation, 

Of my frantic brain. 

My attempt at poetry. I used to fashion myself a poet but it was a ruse. I put it on and wore it around for a while, like a petticoat that didn’t quite fit. I’m not a poet…the verses are too short and my writing tends to be lengthy. My thoughts are too disconnected; too scrambled for the subtle flow of poetry. No, I’m not a poet at all; I’m an empath.

Sometimes, I still write poetry but most of it is not good. I do it because the emotions rise within me and clog my brain. I do it because poetry is power and writing is better than exploding. Actually, a lot of my work spawns from half-written poems. I find it helps to expel the emotion before writing. Then, the logical parts of my brain can take over and I can communicate in clarity.

This particular poem has come about because I’ve been frustrated lately. This is how it happened: I published a book. The release of that book was exciting. Excitement for me, always leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to frustration. Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s just me. My emotions are a strong and pointed cascade which have ruled me for most of my life…so I have to learn to control them.

My mind is strong but scattered. I am an extremely adept learner and inherently curious. Knowledge is a drug for me and I yearn for it, when things around me become quiet. However, thoughts do not flow through my mind in an endless stream. The world comes at me in flashes; random and incomplete flashes. Writing, for me, is more like quilting.

I think this is why “The Writing Process” does not work for me. By the time I set down to put something on paper, it is usually already written in my head but it is scattered and stored along with little pieces of emotion. My job, as a writer, becomes retrieving each piece and sewing them together; so that they flow logically.

Sometimes, my writing doesn’t flow…sometimes it’s not logical…that’s just one of the prices I pay for having a mind like this. It is a great mind but it’s wild. I’m sure if I wasn’t so good at dodging teachers, principals and counselors, they would have diagnosed me with ADD…but my mom wouldn’t let them.

She’s too smart. She understands that brains don’t come in a “one size fits” all format and she has always seen the beauty of my mind. I’m glad for this everyday because it never gave them the chance to break me….

I hate when I do this…when I use terms like “them”. I hate feeling like “the system” is against me; like it wants me to conform and curses me when I don’t. It’s not the system’s fault…I think that it tries hard to “fix” people like me but medication and heavy scolding only leave the creative mind broken and tattered.

I see the fire within my children. I’m just waiting for the day; after the phone calls home for their “behavior” pile up and the teachers have deemed them ‘uncontrolable’ that the school system will try to tell me that there is something wrong with them. They will try to convince me that their outbursts in class are disruptive and that their thoughts are too big. They will try to get me to make them conform…but I wont.

Because they are beautiful. They are strange and wild and full of life. For a long time, they will probably not ‘fit in’ but then they will realize that fitting in is overrated and then their souls will soar. At least I can teach them; help them direct their minds and control their emotions. I can help them flourish but I will never tell them that there is something wrong with them. I will never tell them that the way their brain works is “wrong”…

…There, I go, I’ve trailed off again…

The purpose for me writing this was to talk about the ADD mind and the writing process. Because it is both a New Year and a New Moon, it is to lay aside my anxieties about marketing and sales and focus my mind on writing. It is to dig beneath the clutter and find the strand which will unravel my newest novel.

It is also to say that writing, in all forms, is as unique as the mind. We don’t all think the same way and so we don’t all write the same way. The differences between us are not meant to set us apart but to bind us together as a whole; to make us stronger. This is true for the writing community and this is true for society, as well.

Self-Publishing options—Darkness Within

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I’m about to begin KDP Select so the book is only available on the following websites, now:

  • Amazon
  • Ebook: 3.99
  • Paperback: 15.33
  • Lulu
  • Hardcover: 17.99

How many projects do you work on at a time?

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With Darkness Within released, I move forward to the next book in the series, Light Without. However, I feel like I have opened some sort of creative floodgate and ideas for new projects just keep flooding out of my brain. I have at least 5 books in my immediate thoughts and when I set down to write Light Without, these other projects jump in my face for attention.

So, I was wondering how many projects I should work on at a time. I know I can write one book while outlining another but could I write 2 books while outlining 3 more? I’m sure this is a personal preference but I thought it would be a good idea to get an idea from other indie authors on the matter. How many projects do you work on at a time?

#MerryChristmas…Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards ALL men!

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Not much to say tonight, except Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time with your family and if you get time, check out my new book on Amazon. I will leave you with this because it is what is weighing on my mind: “Life is like a good book. We read into it what we want to and we all read the same words differently.” 

With Love, Always,

AC Willis