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  • The Weight of Chains
    The Weight of Chains
Saturday
Feb222014

The Words I've Heard Over and Over Again

Last night I went to dinner over at a friend’s house. A strange, impromptu, wonderful dinner with a mishmash menu, wine, and laughs. After we ate, the kids watched Ponyo and we sat around the kitchen table, drinking wine and talking.

I’ve been friends with this woman for nearly 5 years, and during that time I have always been working on my novel, The Weight of Chains. I was beginning to feel like one of those people. You know the ones. “Oh, yeah, I’m a writer. I write. I’m working on a novel.” But instead of ever finishing anything, you’re stuck in this perpetual writing, rewriting, rearranging, never ending loop. As a writer, it’s a frustrating cycle. You want your novel/short story/play/whatever to be the best it can be. You don’t want to let anyone see it if there are any flaws, if it isn’t just right, but eventually it becomes the whole can’t see the forest for the trees scenario. And after some point your friends, family, and acquaintances start rolling their eyes anytime you mention writing. “Yeah, you’re working on a novel. I’ve only heard about it for like forever, and have never seen one shred of evidence, so okay, whatever.”

Sigh.

So, after :Lesley mumbles indistinctly: years and the help of three brave souls who trekked through the error riddled, timeline mixed up second draft and left me numerous notes about everything that was wrong with my novel, I’ve scrapped together a third draft. A draft I’m proud of and that is more or less done. I’ve reached a point where I have to send it out there, get some feedback, tighten up what needs to be tightened, polish every sentence, and call it done.

The woman who I was having dinner with last night is one of the people who I sent it out to. She’s been listening to me talk about this book for our entire friendship, all the moaning and groaning, self-doubt, and jubilation. She wanted to see what it was that has taken so much of my time and focus, and so I sent it to her, not knowing if she would finish it, or if she did, whether she would like it or not.

The Weight of Chains is an alternative histroy horror novel. It’s graphic and violent and not for the faint of heart. I know this. I also know that the majority of my friends are not horror fans. At least not in the way I am. They want to support me. They want to encourage my writing and see me succeed, but they don’t understand why I write about the things I do.

Last night, as I walked into my friend’s house with a bottle of wine in one hand and a box of Girl Scout cookies in the other, she looked at me and said, “I’m almost done with your book. The writing is very good. You are so talented. Maybe one day you’ll write something that isn’t so….” She looked embarrassed. “Maybe you’ll write something with a happy ending.”

And there it is. I’ve heard versions of this sentiment for as long as I can remember. I’ve been told that eventually I’ll grow out of horror, or I’ll learn to write a nice story. I’ve been asked why I’m so morbid, why I have to kill all my characters, what in the hell would make me think of something so gross, and if it’s scary inside my head.

People look at me and they see a nice stay-at-home mom. Sure, they notice the zombie t-shirts and the stacks of horror novels. They grow accustomed to the off-handed references to obscure horror movies and my glee at the idea of planning a trip to the true crime museum with the Girl Scouts so I can see Ted Bundy’s car. Kids love me, I’m a Girl Scout leader, and can plan the most epic tea party complete with the amazing Princess Alethea! I must be nice, just a bit strange, and then they read something that I’ve written and their image of me tilts. The woman who invites a dozen kids over to paint, and has her troop make a quilt for Project Linus doesn’t mesh with the violence, death, and decay she writes about. I don’t fit the mold of what they think I should be, and so they start feverently wishing that I would write something happy.

Maybe one day I will. Maybe I’ll write something that is more acceptable, more palatable. Something that my friends and family will not only say is well written, but that they’ll say they loved. So far that story hasn’t come to me. The characters that talk to me are dark. Bad things happen to them. Those are the stories that live in my head and they’re the ones I write. I’ve come to accept that a lot of people in my life will never want to read my stories. I’m okay with that. I just hope that they can be okay with me being both a stay-at-home Super Mom and a horror writer who kills her characters in the most bloody, violent ways possible.

Monday
Jul082013

Book Recommendation: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

I’m not sure where I picked up this collection of short stories. Somehow it appeared on my Kindle and I started reading it one day while I was walking on the treadmill. Carole Lanham was an author that I was unfamiliar with and since I didn’t remember buying it for my Kindle, I’m assuming that I picked it up either free or for $.99, and with that in mind, I didn’t have high hopes when I started it.

My thought process went something like “Oh, a quick read. Something light and fun, but not truly worth spending a lot of concentration on.” Hence why I was reading it on the treadmill, where the words bounce with every step and I have a hard time focusing.

Man, was I wrong. The stories in The Whisper Jar are dark and whimsical. Twisted love stories that are as sweet as they are demented, different from what I’ve read before. I loved them all.

For $2.99 on the Kindle, pick up a copy. It’s definitely worth it!

Wednesday
Jul032013

Coming soon! 

I know I haven’t updated this in…well, basically forever. What can I say? I’ve been busy. But even though I haven’t been here, tip-tapping my thoughts across the keyboard, I haven’t forgotten about it either.

I miss blogging.

A lot.

Writing that seems strange to me, because when it comes down to it, what has kept me from blogging here on my own site is, in part, the fact that I’ve been spending so much time working on other blogs. I’m the blog editor for Apex Publications. Lately that’s meant a major overhaul of our blogger schedule, but it also entails making sure everyone stays on schedule, finding awesome guest bloggers, and making sure that everyone’s posts go up in a timely, typo-free manner. Besides that, I’ve been helping out Alethea Kontis by formatting and prepping her Month of Artist & Author interviews. All of this is tons of fun, but it’s time away from my own blog and I’d like to fix that. At least somewhat.

I have no illusion that I’m suddenly going to become super blogger, posting every single day poignant, mind-blowing posts. I just want to do better.

But what is better?

I could pop on every day and give you a quick insight into the craziness that is my thought process, just ramble a bit about whatever comes to mind. That might be a little scary, though. I’m not sure I really want you to see how self-conscious and anxious I can be. So I’ll keep that to myself, thank you very much.

I’ve considered hosting blog tours, giving other authors the chance to trumpet their success (or hopeful success) on my platform. I might do that from time to time, for authors I know and adore, but I think I’d rather keep lesleyconner.com for Lesley Conner. So what is a busy mommy/writer/editor/wannabe blogger to do?

After having a few friends ask for book recommendations on Facebook, I’ve decided to write up short book recommendations here. I’m going to add handy-dandy heading and everything, giving the posts their own super special place here on my website. How fancy am I?

Now you’ll notice I said book recommendations, not reviews. I don’t write book reviews. I don’t have the patience for it. I’m too biased. I don’t want to spend my time inspecting every facets of a book. I just want to recommend what I like, write a few sentences explaining why, and move on to read more books.

(If you’re looking for quality books reviews, I can point you in the right direction. I mean, I talk to book reviews nearly every day in my job with Apex. Check out Bookshelf Bombshells, The Troubled Scribe, Allways Unmended, and Books, Bones, & Buffy for a start. All great reviewers and top notch people on top of that.)

So that’s my thought. My grand plan to kick my butt in gear and get myself posting here more often. It may not be inspirational, Earth-shattering stuff, but if you’re looking for a good read, I can offer up my recommendations.

Tuesday
Feb122013

An Interview on Dark Cargo

I was interviewed by Elizabeth Campbell for Dark Cargo about what I do for Apex Publications

Being interviewed is weird, at least to me. Since starting my job with Apex I’ve been asked a handful of times about doing interviews, but until now I’ve always politely declined. I mean, I’m not that interesting. I’m your typical soccer/dance/Girl Scout mom, with an overabundance of books and healthy obsession with zombies.

Totally normal.

Boring.

But Elizabeth and I have had several conversations. She knows exactly how uninteresting I can be and she still seems to think people will want to know what I do.

If Elizabeth is right and you want to know all about managing the social media and marketing for a small press publisher, you can read the interview here.

Wednesday
Feb062013

Jeff Strand is Pablo Picasso

My dad and I are both big fans of Jeff Strand. His blend of humor, horror and gore is fantastic.

So much fun!

So when Jeff ordered Girl Scout cookies from my daughter, I immediately called my dad.  I had to tell someone and I knew he’d be just as psyched as me. His first reaction was disbelief. He wanted to know how it’d all happened, why it happened, how many boxes, what types. You know, all the nitty gritty details. So I went through the entire Twitter conversation between Jeff and myself, which really didn’t take very long because 5 tweets at 140 characters or less makes for a fast explanation.

Me: 2 and ½ hours of selling Girl Scout cookies door to door and my kid is still 30 boxes away from her goal.

Jeff: Send her to Florida.

Me: I won’t send her, but I’ll mail you cookies if you want to buy some.

Jeff: I want tagalongs, thin mints, and samoas. (I actually don’t remember what he ordered and I’ve turned the paper in, but you get the idea.)

Me: Seriously?

Jeff: Yep.

Done deal. One of my favorite authors had a conversation with me and my kid is three boxes closer to her selling goal.

Feeling the joy afterglow of gushing to someone about something you’re really excited about, I hung up the phone, happy and content.

A minute later my dad called back.

Dad: How is he paying for the cookies?

Me: A check? (I wasn’t questioning Jeff’s method of payment. I was questioning why my dad was asking.)

Dad: How many boxes did he buy?

Me: Three. (Picture me standing in my kitchen, very confused as to where this conversation is going.)

Dad: And how much will they cost?

Me: $12.00. (I’m beginning to think my dad called back with ability to only speak in questions.)

Dad: Keep the check. I’ll pay for his cookies.

Me: What? (This conversation isn’t getting any clearer.)

Dad: Keep the check. He’ll sign it. You can have his signature. I’ll pay for his cookies.

Me: Dad, I can’t do that. That would screw up his checking account. Plus, I have his signature. In the books he wrote. Remember, we went to the signing together.

Dad: It won’t screw up his checking account. Just tell him what you’re doing. I’ll pay for the cookies.

Yeah, that wouldn’t be creepy at all. (Hi, Jeff. Remember that check you sent me with your home address on it? I’m going to hang on to that. I’ll just hang it over my bed and stalk you from afar … or near. I mean, I do have your address now. Don’t worry about the paying for the cookies, though. My dad is paying for them. He likes to encourage my stalking. Just add that money back into your account. *wink, wink*)

No. I’m not having that conversation.

About a week and a half later I was visiting my parents and my dad asked me if I’d decided to keep Jeff’s check.

Me: No. I’m not going to screw up his checking account.

Dad: It wouldn’t. And then you’d have his autograph.

Me: *blink, blink* (I can’t help but adore how my dad is completely disregarding the fact that he and I went to a Jeff Strand signing together. I had a whole pile of books signed and personalized while we were there.)

Dad: Pablo Picasso used to like to go out to dinner with large groups of his friends, a dozen people or more. At the end of the meal, he would always pick up the bill and pay with a check. He’d try to work it out so that he could pay the restaurant manager. More often than not the manager would look at the check, see Picasso’s signature, and would cover the bill themself so they could keep the check and his autograph. It didn’t bother Picasso.

My dad has a degree in art. His father was an art professor at WVU. Listening to stories about one artist or another is something I grew up with, which is why it took me a minute to realize that my dad was comparing Jeff Strand to Pablo Picasso.

My dad is awesome!

**Disclaimer – All the conversations in this post did happen, but they aren’t exact quotes. I didn’t realize while I was having them that I’d want to blog about the whole experience, so I’ve just written them out to the best of my memory. I’m sure you get the point.

**Jeff Strand, if by some strange twist of fate you’re reading this, I’ve already cashed your check. No creepy stalking from this girl… though I do still have your address since I have to know where to mail your cookies.