Sunday, August 30, 2015

Some One to Catch You

Picture this: A young girl, short blonde hair, white puffy jacket, wrapped up tight against the cold, pink pants tucked into white sneakers. An older man holding on to her hand, gray hair and red jacket, slowing his longer strides to match her small steps. An amused smile on his face as he listens to her chatter on. They walk slowly, but the girl is abuzz with excitement, pulling against his hand to reach their destination.

Up ahead is the neighborhood park and within, a mountain lies. A rocky challenge, with treacherous toeholds and tricky finger supports, only to be braved by the most courageous. As soon as the little girl sees it, she is off at a run, the man following her at a much more leisurely pace.

He watches as the little girl struggles up the rock. Although it comes no higher than his waist, to the little girl, it towers above her. There are times of doubt, where she pauses and reconsiders. How can I reach the rocky top? Finally, after what feels like hours of laborious toil, she reaches the top. Victorious, she stands surveying the world around her. This is mine, she thinks, secure in her place in the world. All I have seen, I have conquered. And then …

Without the slightest hesitation, she races out to the edge and hurls herself into the waiting abyss. There is no fear, no concern. Because her grandpa is there to catch her. Again and again, without fail. The air flies by, the swoop of excitement. And then his arms wrap around her and gently deposit her back to earth. He will stand there and catch her for as long as she wants. And when she is tired, he will take her hand and walk her back home. Once again listening to her excited, perhaps slightly exhausted, chatter with the same calm patience.

Of course, I was that little girl. I dedicated my first book to my grandpa. Honestly, I’m not sure the book would have existed without him. He is there, in Alistair, the gray haired man who watches over the young protagonist. Another piece of him is in Maggie, the brave soul battling against cancer, but whose spirit always remained strong.

My grandpa never got to see my book, to hold it in his hands. I never got to hear what he thought about it, tell him how my quest to make something of my dreams was all because of him. He lost his fight to cancer September 2011. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss him, and I still find myself feeling like I’m forgetting to call him and catch him up on my day.

The world lost a great man on that day. And I lost one of my greatest supporters. A common joke- whenever I was feeling down about something, he always offered to call someone and tell them how important I was. “Don’t they know WHO you are?” See? Always there to catch me when I jumped off that rock.

It took me awhile to jump off any rocks after he was gone. When my grief finally started to fade, I realized that even though he wasn’t physically with me, his constant support and encouragement were still there. He believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could do whatever I set my mind on.

The world can be a very scary place. Scary when you have to take those risky jumps with only yourself to rely on. But hopefully, if you are very lucky, you will have someone to help you when you are in need. To love and protect you until you have the strength to race out on your own and jump into that waiting air.

I will forever miss my grandpa. His absence will always be an empty spot in my life, and there are so many things I wish he had been here for. The first draft of my book, that first hard copy, the first review. Because of him, I was strong enough to write down my words. To believe that I had a story in me that was worth telling.

I will always be thankful for his protective arms guiding me safely back to earth. He helped forge a woman who can land on her feet. It can be terrifying, and I’ll probably get some bruises. But, while I can’t see him, I know he’s still here. Cheering for me from the sidelines.

So thank you, Grandpa. For your love. For your support. These words are for you, and the words before and after. Now I have to go conquer some rocks. I hope I make you proud. 

Forever the best of friends.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Peeling back the layers

Ace and I had similar reactions to the idea of writing a blog about us rather than our writing. *shudders*
I’m happy to talk about my books and characters ’til the cows come home (not that I live on a farm or anything, it’s an old British idiom). But the idea of talking about me??? Ewwww. I’m not in the slightest bit interesting. I reckon it’s a general writerly malaise – we let our characters live the glamorous, exciting lives we don’t.
I remembered a trick I used to get my creative writing classes to do as an icebreaker – to sum themselves up in one word. I’d lead by example and introduce myself: “My name's Jacky and I’m a Writer.” But what am I if you take away the writer part (at least 80%) of me? The thing that sprang to mind was dancer.

Music is such a phenomenally important part of me that I literally cannot function without it. (my hubby reckons I use literally way too often. Well, of course I do, I’m a writer. Duh!!!) Ok, I can function, but not well. Music brings the joy into my life and the minute I get up, the radio goes on – Planet Rock, of course. Wouldn’t you just die without a fix of Journey, Queen, Styx and my latest fave, Whitesnake? David Coverdale sings a story in every song, just like Steve Perry. But I digress. I can’t play an instrument (apart from the descant recorder we all learnt at school) and when I sing, people offer me money to stop! So my expression of music is through my body, which is reasonably gifted in responding to rhythms and interpreting the storytelling through dance.
My finest hour was when someone’s husband was dancing with me to Dirty Dancing's "Time of my Life" and he lifted me up the way Johnny lifted Baby. Ok, so I was a lot younger and slimmer, back then. And before you get your panties in a knot, his wife and I were both on the PTA and it was at a school fund-raising disco.
So, as you can imagine, many of my stories involve music and dancing – in the Middle Grade series I’m looking to start releasing next year, all the book titles are song titles, as are many of my chapter titles. I’m doing it again aren’t I? Can’t get away from my stories no matter what.

Back to the onion that is me. Peel away the writer and dancer layers and the next two tie equally: Creator and Adventurer. I’m gonna have to go with creator, simply because when I’m not writing, I like to feed the huge fire energy in me (Mars conjunct Sun) by making things. Usually from wood, stones and other naturally occurring materials, these objects bring the power and beauty of nature into the house. However, I have been known to draw, sew and manufacture all manner of artefacts (even make dowsing rods for my family/friends), many of which have been sold by a number of my spiritual friends who sell these kind of goods in their shops. The willow tree in my garden has massive healing energy and she bestows a heck of a lot of wood every year which ends up raising the vibrations in people’s homes all over the country. The huge benefit of spending 80% of your time creating things is that it gives you huge rafts of energy to deal with the 20% of your life that has to be mundane, doing things because someone else thinks you ought to.

With Sag rising and Jupiter in Sagittarius (only 1ยบ from ascendant) I had no choice but to become an adventurer. And guess what? Being a writer has given me so many opportunities to travel and explore this marvellous land of Great Britain with its plethora of magical, mystical places, teeming with history and a million tales to tell. And then there’s Europe, with enchanting French castles, fascinating Greek ruins and vibrant Spanish cities. Every one of these is waiting its turn to appear in a story. And I haven’t even scratched the surface with the characters I meet and snatches of conversation I overhear.
As Ro says: so many stories, so little time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Crossfire - Friday's #musthave book.

Sorry, but I just have to swank a bit.
Our Ace (that's Andrea Domanski to you), just ran a phenominal promo for her very first book Crossfire, which resulted in it being @ #1 in 3 US charts and a UK chart, and, get this - #2 overall, Free in Kindle Store.
Which meant an average of 35 people were downloading her book every minute - that's like one every couple of seconds - for around 13 hours on Friday.
Awesome Ace.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August deals from wWw

Ooops - bit late with this one.

August 11-12 Hannah Sullivan's awesome Thunder: The Shadows are Stirring is FREE!
A rift between the layers of the world. A talking horse. Evil Sliders. What's a girl to do when she's the only one who can save it all?

August 14-15 Andrea Domanski's New Adult Fantasy Crossfire (Omega #1) is FREE!
Once a normal teenage girl, now an Amazon warrior. Add in a bunch of kick-ass preternaturals and one maniacal demi-god and what have you got? The worst birthday ever!

August 15/16 Jacky Gray's re-release of Yong Adult Fantasy REAGAN (in a new cover), for FREE!!.
Reagan must decode the mysteries of white horses, crop circles and ley lines to save his people. No pressure, then.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Running With It

So, I’m a runner.

It all started innocently, back at the beginning of junior high when I was twelve. Like many kids, I walked to school on my own. Unlike most, I lived so far away, it took nearly an hour to get from my front door to the school campus. Riding a bike would have been quicker, but I hadn’t touched one of those contraptions in two years—ever since an accident had left me with fear, fake front teeth, and perma-scars. At first, I spent my morning walks zoning out—until I realized it probably wasn’t the safest thing to have no recollection of crossing any of the main roads. I began to time myself, trying to walk particular stretches faster than before, making it a game while staying connected to my surroundings.

By the end of the school year, I could be placed anywhere along my route and be able to tell you exactly how long it would take to get to that one house with the dog, or the next cross walk, or the edge of the school grounds. In some cases, I could even give you an exact step count. And these were the days when backpacks were actually used for lugging around textbooks. It was a good workout, five days a week. I felt strong and confident.

Then came eighth grade with a new-to-the-school track program. I joined … and pretty much sucked. Running was hard. And not too much like walking. I loved it anyway. That’s when I suspected I was one of THOSE people. 

In high school, it only got worse.  Like most, the school offered track and cross-country. I’d always imagined myself as a sprinter, flying down that 100-yard stretch with wings on my feet and wind through my hair. Plus, practices were shorter and you didn’t have to run as much if you didn’t do long distance. I was smart, I thought. I was in control. I could handle a little bit of this running stuff. But there was a problem: I still pretty much sucked. I wasn’t fast enough within those short spaces. And I had a craving for more. 

Next year saw me as a part of the cross-country team and as a mid-distancer for the track team. Ahh, the 800 and the mile. For those two, I’d do anything. I even relearned how to ride my bike; we had moved too far away for me to walk to school anymore, and I couldn’t miss out on my 7 AM running class. I may have been an average runner, but I was addicted. In my junior year, I finally hit that runner’s wall. And broke through. If you run, you know what I’m talking about; if you don’t, well … it’s kind of like you’ve run until your lungs have fallen out somewhere behind you and you think you can’t move another step, and then someone hands you fresh lungs and a whole bunch of chocolate cake laced with caffeine. And you just take off. It’s a feeling like no other. That year I earned my “Most Improved Runner” award.  I was hooked for life.

As an adult, I have run through sun, sleet, rain, and snow.  I’ve run with children strapped to my back and to my chest, with a double-stroller filled to capacity, and with my tummy occupied. All at the same time. I’ve run races, run streets, run tracks where twelve laps equal a mile. And I’ve run into walls, fallen on newly chipped-sealed roads, bit dirt on trails, stumbled over my own feet, and hobbled home bloody. I’ve crossed finish lines, won medals, used inhalers. I’ve made goals and broken personal records. 

Now, it’s a family issue. My ten-year-old is going to be faster than I am. Any day now. And my five-year-old can almost beat him. My only hope is to get them with the distance thing. They like to sprint. I know better. 

I can’t even pretend I could give it up any time I wanted to. Because I don’t want to. And if there’s a ten-step program for the condition, I hope it’s up a hill and has some laps involved.