#Nanowrimo, @HRBlock, and #Life…OH MY!!!!

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It’s that time of the year, again…

As the wheel of the year turns and the Cailleach rises to bring winter storms, there is a great awakening of creative spirit. Nanowrimo falls on the first day of the Celtic New Year…the perfect time for resolutions and new beginnings.

I have looked forward to this day, since December 1, 2013, when last year’s Nano was over. I tried Camp Nanowrimo but it wasn’t quite the same and so I resigned to wait…and wait I did.

Now, it’s here and while I’m as nervously excited as I thought I would be, I’m also starting that I might be a little bit crazy for going at it this year.

Last year, I won Nanowrimo…

…but since then, I’ve kind of been a lazy author. I suppose lazy isn’t the best word…I’ve been increasingly busy with other things…

Sometimes life just rises up and steals away the time and creative energy of an author. I suppose that’s the greatest battle that we fight. We live in this world between worlds and sometimes one of them (the “real world” or “the alternate”) reaches out and consumes us.

Last year, I was busy; mostly with my kids (now ages 5, 4 and 4)…But also with the daily ins and outs of life, being a housewife and the pending holidays. This year, I’m swamped. My kids have grown a bit and started Preschool and I’m on the edge of a Divorce (I’m filing December 1).

I had this image of all the time I would spend writing, once my kids started Preschool but the reality of it is that I spend the majority of my newly “free” time with appointments and volunteering; conferences with the teacher and projects, homework, and fundraising…It’s a new kind of busy…one I had not anticipated.

Oh, and I had an adult Tonsillectomy a week ago…I wont get into the details about how horrible an adult tonsillectomy can be (or the obstructive sleep Apnea I’ve dealt with over the past year due to constant tonsillitis) but if you’ve had one as an adult or you google “adult tonsillectomy”, you will understand how this affects every aspect of my life.

…and all the ways in which my life has changed since last  year, I am sure that it will still get in the way as I attempt this year’s Nano…

…And Then There’s Work….

It’s hard for a single mom to find a job that (1) pays well and (2) works around a “schedule” (because who can afford daycare, these days?) and (3) is actually satisfying work….That is to say that the Single mom, although brilliant, talented and creative, has no formal training or qualifications to prove specialization.

…and that’s when I came across HR Block’s Tax Course….

I’ve done my own taxes (and that of a few closest to me) for about 5 years now…I’ve researched business taxes, self employment taxes, and the Affordable Care Act out of either necessity or curiosity…and I’m extremely organized and proficient with computers and forms….so I took a chance and enrolled.

I have done done exceedingly well in the course…better than I had imagined…and I have learned A LOT…but this Tax Course is a beast! On the first day, I received two (very large) books of reading materials, tax tables, exercises, case studies and forms. I have learned, section by section, everything I will need to know to be a GOOD tax professional and I have prepared every kind of tax return covered in the class, by hand and I have come to know each tax form line by line.

I have transformed, from someone who knew a little something about taxes to someone who has an intimate relationship with taxes…but I still have a ways to go. With a little over a month left in the course, there is still a lot to learn. I also have independent research and continuing learning, after the class (once I officially become a HR Block employee).

Probably my favorite thing about doing taxes is that the laws are always changing…this gives me the ability to constantly be in the state I’m most comfortable….the state of learning and growing. HR Block is the perfect company because, out of all the Tax Preparation companies out there, they value continuing education and growth more than any of the other companies out there.

So to sum it up….

I’ve got a lot going on….and Nanowrimo 2014 is smack dab in the middle of it all! So, here’s to moving forward…Here’s to making time….Here’s to writing your heart out!

I look forward to the journey, snares and all, as we battle toward the goal of 50,000 words, together!

Cailleach the Diviner Character Sketch…Blog Hop For Writers

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Character Sketch of my Hero

Cailleach isn’t the MC of Darkness Within but he is very central to the story (he’s also my favorite character). He is Awen’s spirit guide and protector and his back story intertwines with her story in ways not yet revealed so I thought he would be the perfect subject for this week’s Blog Hop for Writer’s post. The exercise is to do a character sketch of my hero so, here it goes! When you’re done, hop on over to Ruth L. Snyder’s blog and check out her character sketch.

Appearance

Cailleach (Cai) is a formless being. In fact, he’s an extension of the divine and so there are times when he appears in the story as nothing more than a shadow in the corner of a room or (as Awen describes), the whisper of the wind. We see him, most often, in the Shadow Realm where he takes the form of a dark owl with silver tufts of fur and bright, purple eyes. Awen compares his physical appearance to the glow of the moon and describes him as appearing to be of both darkness and light.

Origin

I cannot tell you who I am, for I have been known by many names. I cannot tell you an age because human years cannot equate to my antiquity. I can say that, within the scope of human understanding, I have always existed. In one form or another, I have walked the shores of the human realm for ages. I have lived and died by the sides of man. I have felt human love and hate; hopelessness and triumph; joy and sorrow. I understand what it means to be human. I even empathize with them but I am not human. –Cailleach

Cailleach has existed from the beginning of earthly time. He was created to act as an agent of fate for the divine. He exists as a being who was created to fold into the fabric of human experience without actually being human. He travels throughout the ages, weaving in and out of human lives and helping guide them toward their individual destinies. All this is so that the overall balance of the world is maintained and humans continue to progress.

Back Story

Through his role as a diviner, Cailleach came to stand in awe of humanity as he watched them evolve. His attachment to humanity eventually became a weakness for him and throughout a turn of events, he became responsible for the beginning of the Dark Ages. He had broken every law of his kind and so he was exiled to the Shadow Realm where he found light in the darkness and became the protector of wanderers in the forest. His isolation and tenacity made him the perfect candidate to be Awen’s protector. His past is both a strength and a weakness for him. Protecting Awen will be his redemption with is a great motivator but as she grows, he becomes very attached to her and he finds himself feeling like history is repeating itself.

***I’m super sad because this post was supposed to be scheduled for Monday but due to technical issues, it didn’t post when it was supposed to. Better late than never, right? I hope it still counts.

Darkness Within—Last Day—$2.99 #Kindle

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Today is the last chance you will have to catch my debut novel, Darkness Within, at a discounted price! Until 10:00pm tomorrow, it will be on sale for $2.99! Catch it while you can! Click on the picture above, link below or search Amazon.com for “ac willis darkness within” to take advantage of this deal!

 

.99 Ebook Sale–Darkness Within—#GroundhogsDay #Kindle

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Celebrate Groundhog’s day by grabbing my Ebook–Darkness Within for only .99 (76%) off for one day only!

Then, it will be 1.99 for 2 days and 2.99 for 1 day!

Get it while it’s cheap!

Goodreads Community and Review Copies…

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I’ve been meaning to make a “links” page for this blog for a week, now. Somehow, the train in my head wont really allow me the cognitive thought to get it done. So, for now, I’m going to settle for giving a shout out to one of the links that I know I will be featuring on the page.

I love communities which bring readers and authors together. I love it because it gives readers a chance to discover new and exciting titles while getting the author’s work into the hands of people who matter most. So far, the best community I’ve found for this is the goodreads group: Making Connections. Actually, it’s two groups (see compliment group: Making Connections: YA Edition).

At first glance, it seems to be a virtual book swap. Authors can opt into giving away x amount of free ebooks in exchange for review and readers can meander through the different genres, pick a new title which best suits them, contact the author and provide feedback. That, in and of itself, is a very valuable exchange. For the new author, it’s a chance to receive feedback on the book and for the reader, it’s a way to uncover the best and the brightest books on the fringe.

The group also functions as a book club. Every month, nominations are taken and a handful of books are chosen. Then, a poll is sent out and one book is chosen for collective reading and discussion. All in all, it’s a really great group and the only place I’ve felt propelled to offer review copies of my debut novel, Darkness Within. If you want a review copy of my book, or want to discover a myriad of other gems (from any genre imaginable), or want to post your own book for review, check out the group (Links in the reading above or direct link to my book below).

If you’re reading this and saying to yourself: “I would like a review copy of Darkness Within but I don’t want to join the group.”, just jet me an email at acwilliswriting@gmail.com and I may just fulfill your request.

If you’re reading this and saying to yourself: “I would really like my book reviewed but I don’t want to join the group.”; again, send me an email at acwilliswriting@gmail.com. I’m now accepting reviews for interesting novels on my blog.

Free Review Copy of My Book: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1661033-495—darkness-within-by-a-c-willis

Goodreads book giveaway!

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Today is the day that the Darkness Within Book Giveaway opens up!!! It is for one physical; signed copy of my debut novel. I will ship the book to the winner after the contest ends on February 2, 2014. Follow the link below to enter. You may have to create a goodreads account to enter (if you don’t have one already)

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/77463-darkness-within

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:

Twitter

Google+

Facebook

Goodreads

New Feature Coming Soon! #IndieAuthor #Spotlight

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I will be doing an Indie Spotlight on my blog. I will showcase a different Indie Author, Musician or Artist weekly. I will begin by doing a post on myself, to give interested “Indies” an idea of what it is going to be like. If you are an artist and you are interested in being featured, email me at ashleywillis5@gmail.com. Everyone else; be on the lookout for my Friday Feature; Indie Spotlight…coming soon!

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.