Friday, November 25, 2011

Blog Chain: Accomplishment

Michelle H. started us off this time with this question:

This is the month for creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

Writing about this just a month before my ten-year high school anniversary feels like homework, like I'm preparing to meet all those old high school people Romy and Michele-style. Not that I believe my high school reunion will be anything like that, but just the popular culture perception of ten-year reunions had me thinking about Michelle's question before she asked it.

What have I accomplished since high school graduation?

Some people have mile-markers to point to along their journey: getting an agent, being published, becoming VP of editing, or getting a degree. I have done none of these things. My life looks nothing like what I thought it would ten years ago.

If I let the lack of mile-markers in my life bring me down, it'd be showing a lack of gratitude for what I do have, and since this is the day after Thanksgiving, I just can't do that. So rather than talk about my accomplishments (which are really very vague things like 1) growing up after college and 2) writing a lot of first drafts), I want to stress the things in my life I can't call accomplishments that I'm proud of anyway - the things in my life I'm grateful for:

1) My husband. I pictured marriage through kind of a fun house glass when I was single, and I never knew exactly how it would play out because I couldn't even imagine what kind of person I'd marry. Some mysteries only time can solve. As it turns out, I married a sweet, sensitive guy who hates doing the dishes as much as I do, but is much more steady in his day-to-day operations than I can ever hope to be. He balances me out so well, and without him, I would not accomplish anything.

2) My children. I have two small boys who drive me and my husband crazy sometimes, and other times make us share knowing, proud smiles. Children are a joy, each one with a personality from birth. Raising my sons to the ripe old ages of (almost) 5 and 2 years old does not feel like an accomplishment. It definitely isn't something to brag about at a class reunion. :) But Bill reminds me that the work I do in teaching them is a sort of accomplishment. I'm grateful for these two little guys who have taught me more about life, myself, and them than I ever knew I was missing.

3) Church. I don't have a job, but I do have what's called a calling in my church. I'm the secretary in an organization for teen girls between the ages of 12 and 18. I help to plan weekly weeknight activities for them and also follow their personal progress as they work toward the equivalent of an Eagle Scout award. This isn't the sort of thing I'd put on my very sparse current resume, and I'm not calling these girls an accomplishment, either. But it's one of the things that fulfills me, to watch my girls interact with one another in kindness and consideration, and grow into the women they will be someday. They are remarkable young women, and I'm thankful for my role in "working" (read: playing) with them.

4) Operation Awesome:  If you don't know what this is, then click the link now. I'll wait. When I get back to writing queries (once I get at least one manuscript in that kind of shape), I might put a little brag line by my bio that says I am a co-founder of Operation Awesome and creator of the Mystery Agent contest. But this isn't an accomplishment, either. This is pure luck. I'm so lucky to have met each one of my critique partners. I'm lucky one of them had the idea of putting together a group blog. I'm lucky several of them are amazing bloggers who know how to network and promote the fun stuff we do there (author interviews, guest posts, agent contests, book giveaways, writing tips, and Lindsay's famous GIF metaphors). I'm lucky the first agent I contacted for the Mystery Agent contest wanted anything to do with our baby blog as we were launching. I'm lucky I've only had one bad experience with a snooty agent, and that almost all of the agents I've contacted have been incredibly sweet, pay-it-forward, author-loving types. My must-query-this-agent list has grown exponentially since working with Operation Awesome on the M.A. contests.

So you can see, I'm not exactly an accomplished person. I didn't finish college (yet), didn't get a big, important job, didn't get my first book published at 21 (I'm 28 now), and didn't do all the lofty altruistic things I planned in high school (working with orphans in Africa). I still hope to reach some of my dream goals.

But for now I am content not to focus on accomplishments that are out of reach, and to focus instead on Thanksgiving. After all, I have an awful lot to be thankful for.

You're done! I'm the last link on this chain. Be sure to check out Cole's post from Wednesday if you haven't. You can go backwards through the chain. I won't tell anyone. :)

Happy Turkey weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: STRING BRIDGE by Jessica Bell

String Bridge: Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits 
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This is one of the deepest books I've read in a long time. Most of my usual reading list consists of middle-grade and young adult fantasy and whimsy with a touch of the dark. It can be pretty deep in a symbolic way. But not like this book.

This book made me feel.

Perhaps because I'm a mother trying to live out her dream (writing for me, not music), I especially related to Melody's plight. But I think there are many ways in which Melody represents all of us struggling with finding fulfillment, purpose, and ultimately love and belonging.

I really loved this bit:
"I sit in silence sipping my wine, looking into the brownish sky, imagining the stars I'd see if I were sitting on my parents' verandah on the island. Somewhere up there is us, a happy us, in some parallel universe, living the way we're supposed to be. I truly believe that the earth is our practice ground - the place where we are to test things out, to make mistakes, to discover what we believe in, what we are passionate about. Death is when we move on and go up there - to the real world; to start again, to rectify our mistakes and live a happy and fulfilling existence. There is no hell. Earth is hell. This is where we are allowed to sin. Up there, is where we no longer want to."
The descriptions are beautiful and symbolic, very well crafted. Jessica Bell makes Greece come alive.

I really love the way Melody questions everything and doesn't let herself hold onto comforting yet dysfunction-enabling conceptions of her own life. She analyzes it, admits her own faults, and keeps trying to be the person she wants to be.

When tragedy strikes, as the blurb hints, Melody is so human. I cried nonstop. And yet, there's life and joy again after tragedy.

On a personal note, I appreciated the author's sensitivity to the very difficult decisions a mother has to make to balance work, family, romance, and dreams. The subject was never treated rashly. Like I said before, this is a deep book, one I think many adults will swallow whole and feel full. I know I did.

Watch the book trailer. This song is in the book, along with a bunch of other great songs that read like heart-wrenching poetry.

Ready to read the book?

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

You can also...

Connect with Jessica:

String Bridge:







Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's the Holiday Blog Hop!!

Hosted by Megan Dolan-from This Post Will Self Destruct 
and Jenny Morris from Jenny's Imaginary World

Goal: Write a 250-word story about your favorite holiday. 

I picked Christmas because a) it's the best holiday ever and b) it's so filled with mythology, nobody will mind the addition of one more mythological Christmas creature.

Christmas Star

The strange thing about this Christmas morning isn't my bare feet in the snow.

It's the extra moon lingering in a pale gray sky.

The tiny crescent shape hangs below the actual moon, like a child's crib mobile. I even think I see it dangle a bit in the wind. But that can't be. There's no wind in space. My feet go numb as I stare. I should start moving again, finish my trek from the woodpile before breakfast. But I can't.

The crescent shape turns, its shape changing. Where the second moon once hung, a blob-shaped figure with a pointed head floats, staring back. The alien thing has noticed me noticing it. I stand still, reminded of my run-in with a bobcat last winter. On instinct, I let out a low, guttural growl.

The shape grows, zooms downward. I drop my firewood just as its translucent silver body halts five feet away. This is no bobcat. Its five points tremble: arms, legs, and a head where its face grins, dimpled like a baby.

It whistles. Logs fly through the air, zip through the open front door of my house. I watch in wonder, my feet burning in the snow.

I look back. The chubby star is gone from my porch, from the sky. The sun claws its way over the frozen mountains, and the moon fades away.

I look to the empty spot where my alien friend once floated. A smile breaks my chapped lips.

"Farewell, Christmas Star." 

Check out other 250-word stories about holidays, and get into the spirit:

1.E.R. King2.Untroubled Kingdom
3.Annalise Green4.Abby Fowers
5.Angie Cothran6.Jolene Perry
7.Jennifer Young8.Readin, Writing, and Lovin' It!
9.An Author's Ramblings10.The Ubiquitous Perspective
11.Deana Barnhart12.A Book, A Girl, A Journey
13.Katrina Lantz -Author

Monday, November 14, 2011

Author Interview: Jessica Bell, author of STRING BRIDGE

Interview with Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge

String Bridge: Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits 
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And now for our super deep interview!

Katrina: Your book trailer made me cry. Tell me the story of the book trailer for String Bridge. Was it solely your creation, and when was the song written?

Jessica: Well the trailer was solely my creation but the music for it wasn’t. I fell in love with one of my mother’s songs, which I thought a perfect fit for the character arc of my MC (Melody). I tweaked some of the lyrics to fit with the story, rerecorded it with my voice, added an instrument (bass) and shortened the song so that it wasn’t too long for the trailer. Having said that though, the rest of the songs in the soundtrack I’m releasing with the book, are written and performed by me. Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s a video of the original song before fixing it for the trailer:

Katrina: Is there a parallel to the height of your musical career and the height of Melody's? What do you see as the primary difference between your respective journeys?

Jessica: Despite being a musician myself, that is not where my passion lies. I want to write. I’m fulfilled when I write. I will do anything to write. Sometimes I even forget to eat. I don’t feel the same intensity with music. I do go through phases, though, where I become obsessed and all I want to do is sing and play guitar, but this never lasts more than a few days at a time. Also, when I write music, I just feel emptier and emptier rather than fulfilled. It invokes a really strong melancholy within me, and I think I’ve subconsciously pushed music to the sidelines because of that.

Katrina: I love the musical poetry in your title, String Bridge, and the line in the book trailer about the fraying bridge to our dreams. It's such a human truth, the choice between individual dreams and family life. Did you come to any epiphanies of your own while writing String Bridge?

Jessica: What a fantastic question. Yes, I certainly did. But not in the way that one would think. I don’t have kids. But I love and adore kids. I especially love the expression of pure self-satisfaction when they learn something new and it connects to something they can relate to. I can’t imagine never having the chance to bring a child into this world. But ever since discovering that I wanted to write, and doing so consistently, I haven’t thought about children so often. So my epiphany isn’t really an epiphany, it’s a question to myself. Do I really want to bring a child into the world if I can’t see myself sacrificing time for it? I haven’t answered that question yet. I know women think they can have it all. And I’m sure we can to some degree if we really put their mind to it. But there are only a certain amount of hours in a day and there’s always going to be something that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I’m not sure I’m willing to struggle with that. Not yet anyway. Let’s hope my biological clock keeps ticking until I can finally take the plunge.

Katrina: What's been your favorite thing about working with Lucky Press to bring String Bridge to your fans? And do you have any advice for other debut authors?

Jessica: Most definitely the friendship that has developed between Janice, the publisher, and I. She has been one of the most supportive people in this whole journey. She has boosted my confidence in ways I can’t even describe. I could not have asked for a better person to bring my debut to life. My advice for debut authors: Learn the rules until you can recite them by heart. Then learn how to break them without people noticing. And ultimately, trust your instincts. I learned that one the hard way. I spent five years trying to write like other people were telling me to write until Janice came along. She encouraged me to be true to myself. Being true to myself is what got me published.

Thank you so much for the interview, Jessica, and congratulations on a great debut!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

Connect with Jessica:

String Bridge:







Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is
purchase the
book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and
then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the beautiful, heart-wrenching book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel … String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” ~ Karen Jones
Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

I'm promoting Jessica Bell because she is a great writer and I've seen her time and again at the forefront of charitable efforts in the writing community. Her kindness to others is inspiring, and has been part of my desire to "pay it forward" in the online community. In this case, I'm paying it back. ;) 

Stay tuned next week for my interview with the author!! The week after that, I'll post my review of String Bridge. Happy reading! And Happy Nano!