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SSS: May 6 #sixsunday

5 May

Welcome, everyone!  Another glorious Sunday is upon us and I’m honored that you felt compelled to check out my six.  Today I’m providing you with six more sentences from my WIP entitled Semester of ThursdaysThis tidbit is from the first Thursday night that Meredith Westbrook, the narrator, accompanies Lena Whyte. I hope you enjoy!

I no longer noticed the way people looked at us when Lena and I entered a room.  Now I use the term “us” simply because I was present.  What I really meant was Lena then me.  To the vast majority of Thursday-nighters, I was just “the one with the gorgeous blonde.”

Everyone in the bar obviously wondered what I had done to be allowed to stand next to perfection incarnate.  Of course, if they knew the saint I was for enduring Lena’s antics for the duration of our friendship, they would agree that I deserved the coveted position at her right hand.

Interested in participating in Six Sentence Sunday?  Check out the official Six Sunday website, sign up, and post your sentences next week!

Here are a few of my favorites from 5/6: Karla Doyle (Yet Another Scrabble Six); Layna Pimentel (a Historical Six); Donna Cummings (a Highwayman Six); Ruthie Knox (a Grin-Inducing Six); Stephanie Dray (a Nile Six); Lee Ann Ward (a First Six); Jacey Faye (a #210 Six)

Six Sentence Sunday: Renaming Facebook #sixsunday

21 Apr

Today’s six continues last week’s conversation between best friends, Meredith Westbrook and Lena Whyte from my WIP, Semester of Thursdays.

 “They should re-name Facebook.” 

Lena’s statement interrupted my inner monologue.  “What would you suggest: I’m-getting-married-and-you’re-not-book?”

“That’s too long and it doesn’t cover all those people who are popping out kids or buying mansions on the lakeshore.”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, reluctantly intrigued by the wicked grin playing on Lena’s lips.

“How about rub-it-in-your-face-book?”

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Interested in participating in Six Sentence Sunday?  Just sign up & post six sentences from a WIP or published work!  It’s that simple!

Here are some of my favorite Sixers from 4/22: Tracie Banister (a Chick Six); Skye Warren (a Vivid Six); Sandra Bunino (a Longing Six); Alix Cameron (a Sensual Six); Karyn Good (a Suspenseful Six); Karla Doyle (a Scrabble Six).

Faux Friday and Chapter 17

5 Apr

Happy Fri— wait a second…  It isn’t Friday, is it?  Well, happy faux-Friday!  In light of the upcoming holiday (and my 9.5-hour journey back to WV), I’m posting the next chapter of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall early.  Believe me, Chapter 17 is a DOOZY!

On a completely un-related side note, I’d like to wish my good friend Linz a happy birthday.  She was the muse for my fourth book, Flight Risk.

Have a great Thursday, a GOOD Friday and an amazing, safe, Easter weekend.

-Jenny

Not sure what all the fuss is about?  Click HERE to start reading The Mirrors at Barnard Hall from the beginning.

Hate reading online?  Click to download the .pdf version of  Chapter 17
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Chapter 17: Foul Play

My world was spinning out of control as I closed the bedroom door.  Nick had been called to dinner, and I wasn’t pathetic enough to sit and wait for him.  Leaving my room was one of the hardest things I had done in my entire life.  Being deemed pathetic was almost worth not missing a second of Nick.

I turned from the hall and collided with Rosa as she rounded the corner.  An apology nearly escaped, but the look on her face stopped the flow of words mid-sentence.  She looked like she was going to be sick all over the gleaming wooden floor. 

“Rosa, what’s wrong?  Are you feeling alright?”

“I’m so sorry, Miss Callista.”

“Sorry for what?”

With tears in her eyes she said, “There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who is it?” I did not know anyone in the community and it was a bit late for sincere condolences on the loss of my mother.  My mind raced, considering other possibilities.  Whoever it was, they had upset my housekeeper and for that I was angry.

“The police.”

The police?  They were the last people I had expected to show up at my doorstep.  I straightened and walked stiffly to the parlor.  Two young cops stood from their places on the settee and greeted me with tight nods.  Their somber expressions made my stomach drop but neither said a word to me. 

“Miss Callista, these are Officers John Patterson and James Brown.”

The younger of the two, John, wouldn’t look directly at me.  His partner James had a few more wrinkles around his eyes and deep laugh lines around his mouth.  He would have been handsome if he had been smiling.  James’ eyes connected with my own; his grave gaze knotted my insides.

“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” I said, attempting to infuse at least a hint of welcome in my voice.  I gestured for them to retake their seats and I did the same, choosing to sit on the edge of the chaise. 

The stiffness of their starched uniforms made the pair look more imposing as their spines remained rigid in the feminine atmosphere.  James glanced at his partner for support before responding.  “We are here regarding new information in the case of your parents’ deaths.”  His voice was soft, kind.

“You mean the death of my mother and stepfather?” I corrected automatically.

James nodded.  “You see, Miss Franklyn, we have reason to believe the accident that claimed their lives was no accident at all—that there was foul play involved.”

His words forced all air from my lungs.  I gasped for oxygen but could find none in the vacuum surrounding me.  It had been one thing to think my mother had been killed in an accident; such incidents were unavoidable.  It was an entirely different scenario to find out she had been stolen from this world prematurely by someone else’s hand.

Someone lightly touched my shoulder, and my breathing relaxed.  I looked up and saw James standing there awkwardly.  He blushed, pulled his hand back hesitantly, and returned to his seat.

“What do you mean?” I whispered, wishing I did not already know the crime he was implying.

“The brakes in their BMW, they were cut.”

“So you think they were…” The term wouldn’t come across my lips even as it churned inside my mind.

John spoke up.  “Murdered, Miss Franklyn.” 

Murder was intentional.

Murder.  Murder.  Murder.  The word formed a blood-thickened mantra inside my mind.  I had led a quiet, unobtrusive existence back in New York.  Since I had come back to Barnard Hall my entire world had been warped into some sick, twisted reality where family members have their brakes cut, people were burned alive, and friends were shoved off roofs.  Now there were three murder investigations currently underway, all involving former residents of Barnard Hall.

James reprimanded the younger man’s bluntness with a harsh look.  John immediately found the pattern on the plush carpet intriguing.

“We are investigating the crime as if it were intentional as all of the evidence currently points in that direction.  Do you know of anyone who would consider your mother and stepfather enemies?” James asked carefully.

This was the very question I had been dancing around asking Nick.  Now I was the one being interrogated.

“I can honestly say that I don’t know of anyone but I also haven’t been in contact with my mother or her husband for almost ten years.”

“I understand.  If you think of anything that may help us, please let us know.”

“You may want to ask Rosa your questions.  She had lived with Jim and my mother ever since they moved to England.  She may know better if there has been anything suspicious in the last few months.”

“We appreciate your cooperation.”

 “Is that all, gentlemen?”  There was no point in making my voice sound alive.

The pair exchanged glances before nodding in unison.  They had probably been expecting a fit of hysterics; my cold reaction gave them pause.  But the officers had nothing more to say to me, and I could think of nothing more to tell them.

“I would appreciate it if you would keep me up to date on the progress of your investigation.”

The policemen stood and marched out of the room.  Rosa whispered to the men in the foyer as I studied the worn window frame, noticing for the first time that the white paint was chipping at the edges. 

My mother had sat in this same chair, staring endlessly out the window with the same blank expression I now felt on my face.  I needed to get away, to distract myself.  If I escaped to my room I was liable to see Nick.  There was no telling what would happen if I saw him in my current state.

Instead of returning upstairs, I grabbed my coat and ran past the trio, out of the house.  Before I realized it, I was back in the town cemetery beside myself to my mother’s grave.  The flowers were gone and the dirt was muddied from all the rain.  Surprisingly, tiny blades of grass were already sprouting, pushing through the dead ground around them. 

I fell to my knees and broke down.

“I’m so sorry, mother.”  The words became a chant as I repeated the apology to the emptiness.  For what I was apologizing I wasn’t entirely sure.  Sylvia Franklyn Burns had not loved me, but she had not deserved to have her life stolen from her.  No one ever deserved such a fate.  I had been too preoccupied with attempting to solve a murder from one hundred and ten years ago to see that my own mother had suffered the same fate in the present.

Maybe Beth had been right.  Perhaps there was a curse at Barnard Hall.  A curse was really nothing more than the presence of evil consistently affecting our lives.  There was an unfathomable evil in existence here; my mother and the Daltons had all succumbed to it.  I wept useless tears until I ran dry.  The sensitive skin beneath my eyes ached, rubbed raw by my woolen sleeves.

As hard as it was to accept, there was nothing I could do for my mother.  There was no magical mirror that would allow me to go back and fix what had gone wrong in 2012.  However, there was a mirror linking me to 1902.  I could still find out what had happened to the Daltons.  My mother had the law enforcement authorities and modern forensics on her side.  The Daltons had no one—besides me, which still amounted to zero.  I had to find out what had happened to them.

But what good would the knowledge be if it too was useless?

I made my way to Tilly’s grave and sat down beside her. 

“She was murdered,” I said to the cold stone marking my best friend’s final resting place.  “Just like you.”  The words came out in a whisper.  It felt as though someone else was speaking and I was eavesdropping on the morbid conversation.

“I promise… No, I swear I will find out what happened to you—to all of you.”

I stood and tried to wipe the mud and grass stains from the knees of my jeans.  The motion only set the stains further into the worn material.  As I turned to go, my eyes glinted off the tall tombstone next to Tilly’s.   My throat closed, and I could no longer bring air into my body.  It felt like someone had clawed my lungs from my chest cavity and left the gaping wound to fester.  There, forever beside my best friend, was her brother.  Nicholas Dalton II had died at the age of twenty three. 

I had known when and how he had died, but seeing the proof literally set in stone made the truth more unbearable.  And I could not do anything to stop it.  Even if I found out who had killed them, even if I told Nick about the tragic end he would soon face, I would never be able to change the outcome.  For too long now I had considered the mirror a second chance.  But there were no second chances in death.  Death marked the end, the final page.

I fell back to the ground, disregarding the wetness that seeped into my clothes and the deadness that seeped into my soul.  All my tears were gone so I wailed tearlessly.  Racking sobs convulsed my body until the will to move, to go on living, was replaced with a desire for the numbness of darkness.

I was mutilated inside; my heart fell out of my chest and stopped beating on his grave.  Callista Renée Franklyn died on July 28, 2012.

Despite my Herculean efforts, I had grown dependent on Nick—on the hallucination. Maybe he really was there, maybe he wasn’t.  Either way, I was sure my irrevocable emotional ties to the man made the occurrence unhealthier.  And, in less than a month, I wouldn’t be able to see him ever again. Withdraw wasn’t a strong enough description for the pain I would endure at his death.  The finality of it all was overwhelming.

In that moment I understood my mother’s depression.  Nick and I had not shared what Sylvia and Robert had, yet the loss would be equally as devastating to my sanity.  I still couldn’t agree with my mother’s decision to desert me emotionally, but at least now I could comprehend. 

I abandoned my heart in the cemetery and my ghost floated back to Barnard Hall.   My body trudged up the steps to the second floor and headed straight for the shower.  The muddy clothes I had ruined remained where they fell, and I washed the dirt off my skin.  I scrubbed harder, wanting to feel something, but it was no use.  My skin was raw when I finally dropped the sponge.  I put on my nightclothes and collapsed onto the bed. 

Someone opened the door, but I knew there was no one in my room with me.  The sockets of my eyes ached from the tears I refused to shed in his presence.

“You shouldn’t be here,” I whispered to the deceased man in the room.  He should be in the cemetery where I didn’t want him to belong—a cold, dead, rotted corpse.  Instead he was standing in front of me, a healthy, beautiful young man with a devastating smile, wicked sense of humor, and a mischievous light in his onyx eyes.

Nick must have picked up on the lifelessness in my tone.  “I can leave if you want me to…” he said hesitantly.

“No!  I mean you should not be here at all!”  I shouted.  My tears were unleashed and they poured down my cheeks, falling relentlessly into a puddle on my nightgown.

“Calm down, Callista.”

“Calm down?  You expect me to calm down?” I laughed humorlessly.  “Do you know what happened today?”

He shook his head, his eyes wide as he took in my frantic display.  Reigning in the wildness that now overwhelmed me was a lost cause.  He needed to see the toll this day had taken and how infinitely I would be ruined when the ending came.

“I was told my mother was murdered.  She was murdered Nick.”

“Callista, I’m…”

I held up my hand to stop him.  “She was murdered, and I can’t do anything to change it.  I had to come to terms with being utterly useless.”

“Useless?  Callista…”

I silenced him for a second time.  He nodded, wordlessly urging me to proceed.  The emptiness grew bitter when I realized I was about to do the unthinkable.  The one secret I still held was going to pass through my lips.  It was a selfish, ghastly choice; I was going to tell Nick his future. 

“Then, in the midst of everything, I saw your grave.  Nick, your heart stopped beating August 24, 1902.”

“1902?  That’s this year.”

“I know.”

 “That’s… next month,” he whispered.  His eyes searched my face but could not find the answers they sought.  I was too numb to offer any reassurance that would serve as comfort to the doomed man.

Defeated, I quietly mouthed my assent.  “I know.”

“How?” he pleaded.  His voice cracked, and his eyes bore into mine with a raw intensity that I had never before witnessed.

Abruptly, I regretted my decision.  How could I have been so foolish, so weak?  “Nick, I can’t… I’m so sorry.”

How?” he repeated, pounding his fist on the arm of his chair.

“A fire.  You were in a burning…  The carriage house…”  The words I spoke were not making any sense but I could not stop long enough to filter the information.  My thoughts and premonitions and facts had melted together into a solid mass of mystery.  And now I was sharing the burden of that mystery with the innocent victim.

“How long have you known?”

Although I was reluctant to answer, Nick deserved to know what a deplorable human being I was.  “Since I came back to Barnard Hall.  Since the beginning…”

“You’ve known for that long and yet you’ve never spoken of it?”

“How could I?”

“Did it not occur to you that this was, perhaps, a detail I would be mildly interested in hearing?”

“No.”  No one wanted to hear his own death sentence.

“Why now?”

“Because it is real now.  The event and the consequences, all indisputable.”  I wanted to leave, to run away from everything.  But I knew I wouldn’t.  I wanted to comfort him but I couldn’t.  So I sat there, once again inadequate.

Nick’s reaction was the last thing I had expected. 

He chuckled.

“How can you laugh?”  My voice shook with emotion.  I had been distraught from holding this information inside for weeks, allowing the knowledge to gnaw away at what little sanity I had left, and Nick was laughing.  Tilly’s brother was crazier than I was.

“Callista, I swear I will not run into any burning buildings.  I will even take special care to avoid all fires on that particular date in August if you’d like.  The hearths at Barnard Hall will remain cold and unlit on the twenty-fourth.”

His attempt at humor did not assuage my fears.  He needed to understand that I wasn’t making some errant prediction; these events were set in history.  This had happened.  It would happen again.

“But you still will…”  I was sure of it.

“Despite the lies Tilly has told you, I assure you I am moderately intelligent and have, on occasion, made informed decisions concerning my own safety.  And I don’t have a death wish. Since I’ve met you I have never felt more like living.”

To save him, even if the task was impossible, I told him everything.  “Your parents will be inside with you.”

Nick straightened and clenched his teeth together.  I watched in fascination as his jaw flexed and released.  A purple vein swelled in his forehead and beads of sweat began pooling along his dark hairline.

“Stop it.”

“What?” 

Stop. It,” he repeated with more force, his tone gruff with barely-contained fury.  “Find out exactly what happened and stop it.”

“Nick, I can’t stop it.”

“Callista…”

“Nick, for months I’ve been trying but I’ve gotten nowhere.  Time is running out and… and I can’t do it.”  Admitting defeat was the only reality left.

“I’m not asking you to stop it on your own.”

“What do you mean?”

We can.  I swear I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen but I need you to help me.”

The time-altering thought had crossed my mind more than a thousand times since I had read the article.  But, even if we could stop the fire, Nick Dalton had to die somehow.  I could not go around helping him cheat death forever, could I?  What if the death he avoided was followed by an end more horrifying?  Could I allow this beautiful man to die in August?  Could I stand by and do nothing?  The date on his grave would serve as an eternal reminder that I had taken no course of action, that I had been useless.

I could not live with that.

His voice cut through my internal questions like a shock of life to my dead heart.  His words came softer now, more thoughtful.  “Perhaps it only happened the first time because you weren’t there.  Maybe you are here to stop it from happening again.”  Nick shuddered as his own words sank in.

How could he literally stare his own impending death in the eye and remain so calm?

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, trying to wrap my head around the sheer impossibility.  Could I be the difference, the solution?

“Does anything make sense anymore?  We shouldn’t be having this conversation but we are.  I shouldn’t want to be with you, but I do.  We shouldn’t be able change time but…” 

“We can,” I whispered, unconvinced but desperately hopeful.

Nick touched the mirror lightly, running his hand down the even glass.  His forehead was wrinkled with a mixture of worry and concentration then it went as smooth as the mirror between us.  The expression on his face became unreadable. 

If I had to guess, I would have said Nicholas Dalton II was resigned.

Be a Convincing Fake

4 Apr

“Write about what you know.”

I’ve heard this statement countless times from other authors and writing gurus.  At a glance, it sounds like a reasonable concept; if you don’t know what you’re writing about then your readers are going to pick up on it.

However, if writers took the statement literally then fiction wouldn’t exist. 

Do I have first-hand experience with time-travel, enchanted mirrors or debonair gentlemen from the 19th century?  I’d love to say yes, but I think we all know that’s not the case (not yet at least.—one can always hope).  However, there is a vital step in the writing process that allows the aforementioned concepts to feel like they were actual experiences: Research

I’ve read countless books and articles on the time period in which the Dalton family lives, I’ve visited England, I’ve studied photographs and diagrams of houses similar to Barnard Hall, a residence that only has an address in my mind and on the pages of my novel. 

If the setting of your novel takes place somewhere you’ve never been, go there… or, at the very least, dig through enough material to convince the residents that you’ve visited.  Get to know your characters better than members of your family; if someone were to ask you how each individual would act in a given situation, you need to know the answer. 

The more invested you are in the world you’ve created the happier you’ll be with the end result.

Research: Your story—and your readers—will thank you for it.

In conclusion, I’d like to propose an addendum to the original quote: “Write what you know—or what you can convincingly fake.”

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Exciting news!  The next chapter of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall will be available TOMORROW!!!  Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one. To get caught up on the story, click HERE

Writing & Waiting: A One-letter Difference

2 Apr

Last week I read a quote from Gloria Steinem: “I don’t like to write.  I like to have written.”

For me, truer words have not been spoken.  In addition to The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, I’m blessed to have three other manuscripts already written, waiting for a few revisions/additions before being handed to my editor. 

The problem is that I have been at the editing stage for such a long time that coming up with a fresh story—beyond chapter three—feels like a foreign concept.  This weekend I buckled down and pushed through a few more chapters in a fifth book.

Once again, I realized how incredibly tedious it is to actually write a novel.

For those of you who are beginning your own writing/publishing journeys, you need to be aware of the following:

-Just about every book requires some amount of research (“The devil is in the details”). 
– If outlining is part of your process, the degree of tedium correlates to the amount of detail you put into said organizational tool.  The more detail, the easier to write the copy—but this requires a larger investment “upfront.”
-If you’re old-school and use pen and paper to handwrite your manuscript, you’re going to be typing the first draft for what seems like YEARS.
-When you’re “finished” writing, prepare to spend an exorbitant amount of time chopping out and/or adding to what you’ve slaved over for months/weeks/years/decades in order to reach that “ideal” word count.
-Writing takes self-motivation and sacrifice (which ultimately leads to an increase in antisocial behavior).
-Every single step in the process takes time: writing the manuscript, letting the manuscript marinate, editing the story, writing the perfect query letter, querying agents, waiting for agents to reject your query, waiting for agents to accept your query and request additional chapters, waiting for rejections from additional chapters, waiting for a letter of acceptance, waiting on your editor, waiting on the cover art, waiting on the interior layout, waiting on the nerve to send the final copy to the printing press…

Is it a coincidence that there is only a one-letter difference between wRiting and wAiting?

My journey started a little over three years ago.  The Mirrors at Barnard Hall was my second manuscript.  It took six months of writing, one year of marinating, another three months of editing, a year of querying agents and a whole lot of waiting to get to this point.   However, when I finally hold that print copy in my hand, I know the journey will be worth repeating.

Happy waiting writing!

-Jenny

Manuscript Graveyard

14 Mar

Today I’ve decided to focus on a topic that aspiring writers will come across on just about every blog and website dedicated to the art form.  I firmly believe the reason this subject has been beaten into the ground is because it is important. 

For those of you who have been following my blog from its inception (or those simply compelled to read my first post), you know that when I began writing, I kept my pastime a secret from everyone.  In hindsight, my initial lack of confidence was a blessing. 

Because I was ashamed, I hid my first book from those around me.  For some reason I still felt compelled to write a second… and a third.  While working on the more recent manuscripts, I sent out query letters for the first.  Multiple rejection letters, solid feedback from literary agents and temporarily giving up has unknowingly granted me the luxury of patience. 

The result?  I have been left with a far superior product than I had original envisioned. 

When I made the monumental decision to go the self-publishing route, I realized that I hadn’t looked at my manuscript in nearly two years.  This absence has afforded me fresh eyes, vital for the critical revisions required before shipping my story to a professional editor.

My unprofessional advice to you?  Like a good steak, let your project marinate for as long as possible. 

We are all thirsty for that first drink of publishing success.  But if you rush it, you’re going to end up submitting a sub-par product.  Incessant rejections are going to take longer to overcome than initially postponing a submittal—not to mention the fact that you only have one shot to pitch your book to each agent.

Patience could mean the difference between getting published or having the words you’ve slaved over end up in a graveyard of forgotten, unread manuscripts.

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If you haven’t already, head on over to my Kickstarter page and see what you can do to help me self-publish my first novel! 

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennyhickman/the-mirrors-at-barnard-hall-an-epic-love-story

An Honest Compliment

8 Mar

“You are beautiful.”

That sounds like the kind of compliment every woman alive would willingly accept, right?

Wrong.

There are two aspects that differentiate the aforementioned statement from a compliment and a strand of pretty words.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the sincerity behind said phrase.  Words are just words; ultimately, they hold no meaning without honesty to support them. 

The second aspect that serves to validate whether or not the sentence will be taken as a compliment is the speaker.

“You are beautiful,” being uttered by a man whose blatant interest and unwelcome advances have only served to annoy the object of his affection will hold little weight with her.  However, if the same exact sentence was spoken by the man she’s pined for since she moved to town, then I can guarantee those three words will resonate with her for the rest of her life.

Compliments are all about context, which is why the email I received last Friday, amidst impending tornadoes and severe storms, will forever live inside of me.

During lunch, I heard from my editor for the first time since I had sent him my manuscript.  To say that his email was encouraging would be an understatement.  My editor wrote the following words:

 I have finished reading your book, but did not attach it yet. I’m going to give it another brief read next week, and here’s why: I really, truly enjoyed your book. And I just am afraid that I may have been too involved in the story at times to have caught everything that I should have.”

Wow.  Nearly a week later, those sentences continue to register shock in my brain.  Of course there were numerous revisions given as well, some of them fairly extensive; however, that compliment was offered by someone who is in the industry and who is paid to be brutally honest.  Those two factors are eclipsed by the fact that my editor is a man, and not at all considered as part of my target audience. 

Humans thrive on honest words of encouragement and willingly accept praise when the context and speaker are right.  Sometimes the biggest compliment a person can receive is the support of those around her.

4:00 pm today marks one week into my 30-day Kickstarter program.  Time is flying past but my confidence is growing with each pledge.  Once again, I would like to thank all of you who continually support my journey and who have enjoyed getting lost in a world I created.

-Jenny

There’s still plenty of time to make a pledge to help get my book in print!  Click on the link below:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennyhickman/the-mirrors-at-barnard-hall-an-epic-love-story

REMEMBER: The next chapter of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall comes out tomorrow!  Click HERE to start from the beginning.

25.5 Hours with the Author

5 Mar

Today I wanted to give each of you a little peek inside of my life.  In an effort to keep from boring you too badly, I decided to choose a day when something actually happened…

Thursday, March 1, 2012

3:30 pm- I received final approval on my Kickstarter campaign.
3:35 pm- The naysayers that had taken up residence in my brain told me I was insane for thinking people would be willing to invest in my dream.
4:00 pm- Instead of starting my Kickstarter campaign on Friday as originally planned, I pressed “LAUNCH” in an effort to silence the nagging inner monologue that continued to harp on and on about how humiliating it would be if this endeavor didn’t pan out.
4:05 pm- Freak-out commenced.
4:10 pm- Facebook updated with Kickstarter information.
4:15 pm- I received my first pledge.
4:16-5:59 pm- I checked my phone continually for “Backer” updates from Kickstarter.
6:00 pm- My phone died.
6:15 pm- Met the roommate downtown for dinner.
7:00 pm- Tried to turn on my phone to check for updates… but to no avail.
7:30 pm- Urged my roommate onstage at Tootsie’s on Broadway to perform with a friend’s band (www.anthonyorio.com).
9:00 pm- Arrived back to the apartment in Hendersonville.
9:01 pm- Logged onto Facebook/Kickstarter to receive any updates.
9:05 pm- Charged my phone.
10:00 pm- Posted Chapter 11 of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, along with information regarding my Kickstarter campaign.
11:00 pm- One stress-headache and two pain killers later, I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Friday, March 2, 2012

12:30 am- Someone pounded on the front door.
12:30:30 am- Panic ensued.
12:31 am- Realized that if the person at the door wanted to rob us, they were either the most polite criminal, the dumbest criminal, or not a criminal at all.
12:34 am- The Hendersonville Cop beating down my door informed me that my car had been hit while minding its own business in the parking lot.  (And by “hit,” he meant that the entire front end had been detached).
12:45 am- Surveyed the damage, realized there was nothing I could do at such an ungodly hour, and returned to my apartment.
1:00 am- Checked Kickstarter for an update.
6:00- 7:00 am- Alarm rang.  Pressed snooze an indeterminable number of times.  Eventually woke up, showered, and prepared for work.
7:05 am- Roommate drove me to the office.
7:30 am- 13-mile commute completed.
7:40- 10:00 am- Worked
10:01 am- My father called to tell me the weather map indicated that Nashville was in the “bull’s eye” of a string of severe storms and potential tornadoes. 
10:05 am- Called insurance company.
11:40 am- Went with one of my co-workers to hang signs promoting my Kickstarter campaign.
12:30 pm- Decided that, if I was going to die in a tornado, I should probably enjoy my lunch.  So I ordered a decadent golden brownie dessert topped with a healthy scoop of ice cream.
12:50 pm- Received an encouraging, baffling email from my editor (which i will discuss in more detail at a later date)
1:00 pm- Received a text from my roommate asking me how in the world my Kickstarter campaign was at $1,200 in less than twenty-four hours (A fact I am still trying to get my head around)
1:15 pm-2:30 pm- Received continuous Kickstarter updates from my co-workers, as though they were stats of the big game instead of a fundraiser.
2:40 pm- Hitched a ride home with a co-worker in an effort to avoid traveling during the increasingly treacherous weather.
3:15 pm- Realized that if a tornado did strike, I had been safer in my office than in my third-story apartment.
3:16-5:00 pm- Watched the progress of the storms on the news and checked Kickstarter whilst mulling over where the “safe place” was that everyone on TV kept talking about.
5:01 pm- Fell asleep on the couch.

I’d like to extend a HUGE “Thank you” to everyone who has backed my Kickstarter campaign.  We still have a way to go, but I’m confident that we will make it. 

Paperback Reality (and Chapter 11)

1 Mar

What a glorious Thursday night, loyal readers!  Yes, yes, I know my post is early… But I just couldn’t help myself.  Before I give you the next installment of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall (which is a doozy), I have a HUGE, MONUMENTAL, MASSIVE, ENORMOUS (etc.) announcement to make–one that simply could not wait until Friday morning!

Today marks the first day of my Kickstarter Campaign.

What is a Kickstarter Campaign, you ask?  Well, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing fundraising vehicle that allows artists the opportunity to raise capital to help complete various projects.

My campaign will help make what you read every week, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, into paperback reality.

The most exciting part is that YOU have the opportunity to get involved!

You can contribute as little as $1.00 to help me reach my goal in thirty days or less.  Every donation will go toward offsetting the costs of self-publishing my novel.  Your generosity won’t go unrewarded!  I’ve come up with a sweet list of rewards that become increasingly more awesome with each tier of giving.

Don’t have the spare cash?  You can still help!  The .pdf version of my promotional flyer is available for you to print and hang up in the library, coffee shop, bar, grocery store… Well, you get the picture.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE .pdf VERSION OF MY PROMOTIONAL POSTER: KS POSTER

You can also utilize your own Facebook page by announcing to all of your Friends that they have the opportunity to invest in a pretty awesome project.  Simply copy and paste the link to my Kickstarter Campaign and start promoting!

All of your help, in every form, helps move this thing forward!  Words cannot express how much I appreciate your faithful readership and continued support.

-Jenny
(I’d like to extend a special “Thank You” to Billy, Cary, Amie and Drew for their help with my Kickstarter page/video/script/general prodding.  You guys ROCK!)

Click on the link to checkout my Kickstarter page and learn more about how to donate.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennyhickman/the-mirrors-at-barnard-hall-an-epic-love-story

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t want to read this online?  Click to download and print the .pdf version of Chapter 11

CHAPTER 11: Proof

“Miss!  Miss!”

There was a frantic knocking, but it was not coming from the direction of the door.  I was left disoriented as I opened my eyes.  And I was screaming.  Tears fell as I mourned both the real and imaginary fate of my best friend.  Rare British sunlight burned away the nightmare and reality set in.

“Miss, are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”  If I was honest I would have admitted I was just the opposite of fine.  My best friend was dead, I was going insane, and I was embarrassed at having been caught crying by a figment of my own imagination/the forgetful ghost suffering from denial.  I pinched my cheeks to revive some color, careful to keep my back to the mirror as I rolled out of bed.  Facing anyone—real or imaginary—wasn’t safe in my current state of mind.

“It sounded as though someone had been attacking you,” he said quietly, his voice laced with concern.

“Just a nightmare.”  One I had barely survived a thousand times.

The man cleared his throat.  “You know, it would be easier for me to have a conversation with you if you were decent.”

Instead of arguing that a conversation with a hallucination—or ghost—would be irrelevant, I threw on my robe, made a show of cinching the belt, and returned to the bed.

“I apologize.  I thought that since I did not exist, my outfit would not bother you.”

“And since I’m dead my opinion should not bother you.”

“Touché.”

At some point during the night, my unwanted guest had pulled a chair in front of the mirror.  He was sitting sideways, his legs draped casually over one of the chair’s arms.  Judging by the dark smudges beneath his eyes, the man had not slept very well.  He was still wearing his white shirt but it was unbuttoned at the top and wrinkled from wear.  His dark eyes crinkled as he smiled.

The look made my stomach drop then flutter back to its rightful place.  Something about the man seemed so familiar.

“You know, it would be easier for me to believe you exist if you tell me your name.  People who are real tend to have names.”

“Do they?”

“Yes.  At least those of my acquaintance do.  I would like the pleasure of knowing the name of the woman who apparently resides in my bedroom.  It is only proper, after all.”

I was too tired to think of a reason not to, so I decided to play along.  “Callista Franklyn.”

He sat up rigidly and grew somber.  “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

“Ca-llis-ta Frank-lyn,” I repeated, emphasizing each syllable for his benefit.  I waited for his smart remark about my name but none came.

The color drained from his face.

“What’s wrong?”  I asked, immediately alarmed.  He looked like he was going to be sick.  Could imaginary people—or ghosts—get sick?  His face had gone white as a sheet, which would be appropriate if he was, in fact, a spirit.

“You don’t exist,” he whispered.

“This conversation is getting repetitive.  Last night we agreed neither of us existed, remember?”

“Of course I remember,” he snapped.  “It is just that I have not heard that name in ten years.”

“What name?”

Your name.”

“What do you mean?”  Maybe I was not awake yet.  My brain was too muddled to make sense of what was happening.  He had heard my name ten years ago?  Surely I would have remembered meeting such a beautiful man before last night.

“Callista Franklyn was the name of my sister’s imaginary friend when she was younger,” he explained.

Something in my memory clicked.  The man in front of me was older than he was in the photo from the newspaper archive, but he had to be the same person.

“Nicki?”

“What did you just call me?”  His voice came out in a harsh whisper.  He ran his fingers nervously through his hair and searched the room for an explanation that he wouldn’t find.

I laughed at the insanity that had become my life and ignored the faintly hysterical edge to the sound.  “You’re Nicki, Tilly’s big brother.”

Of course he was.

“No one has called me Nicki since I was in the schoolroom.  Who put you up to this?”  He smacked his palms against the glass and scraped at the barrier.  After a few minutes of careful study, his focus returned to me.

“No one put me up to it.”

“How could you know?”

“Tilly told me all about you.”  I stared at Nicholas Dalton II through new eyes.  He was gorgeous and not the least bit scary—for a ghost.

“Impossible.”

“You’ve said that already.”  I shifted and brushed away the hair that had escaped my ponytail.  I really could use a mirror to check my reflection—one that worked.  Even though Nicki was long dead he made me uncomfortably self-conscious.

Nicki’s eyes popped and he stared inappropriately at my chest.  My face went red, and I gripped shut the lapels of my robe.  Ghosts couldn’t be interested in living humans that way… could they?

“Where did you get that?”

My eyes followed his, noticing belatedly that he had been glaring at my necklace—Tilly’s necklace.

“Ask your sister.”  If he had not believed me before, he would when he spoke to his sister.  The thought of seeing Tilly again, of knowing she was alright—as alright as a one-hundred-year-old ghost could possibly be—sent a thrill down my back.

His voice was sad when he answered.  “I can’t.”

My mind raced with barely concealed panic.  Were the dead not able to communicate with one another?  That did not make sense.  Nicki would not have known my name if that were the case.  There had to be some other unreasonable explanation.

“What’s the date?”  I asked in a rush.  Tilly had died on the twenty-fourth of August.

Wait.  They both had died on the twenty-fourth of August.

He looked at me as though I had gone nuts; I had to be crazy to even consider the theory building in my head, an impossible theory.

“The seventh of July.”

He had gotten the date right; it was July seventh.

“What year is it?”  I pressed, a frantic edge to my voice.

He tilted his head as he carefully assessed my tone.  “That’s an odd question.  What year do you think it is?”

“I asked you first.”

“And?”

“And that means you answer first.”  Tilly had said her brother was stubborn.

“This is an inane argument.”

“Year?” I persisted, crossing my arms to give myself a look of authority.

“You are quite contrary for a hallucination,” he said irritably.

“You know, that’s funny.  I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

“What else were you thinking about me?”  He offered a seductive smile.  I had to shake my head to loosen the spell he had cast.

“What year is it, Nicholas?”  The passion beneath my question surprised me.

He made a face, and I stifled a giggle.  “Nick, please.  My father is called Nicholas.”

He was stalling so I gave him what he wanted.  “Fine, Nick.”

“In unison,” he offered as a compromise.  I nodded in agreement.  “One, two…”

“1902.”  “2012.”

“I beg your pardon? What was it you just said?  I don’t believe I heard you correctly.”  Nick leaned closer, awaiting my response.

“It’s 2012,” I repeated, reveling in the significance of the date he’d provided.

“No, the year.”

“That is the year.”  Tilly had also said her brother was obtuse—more than once.  So far she had been accurate in her descriptions.  Now, if only I could tell the way he smelled…

“Impossible.”  He bent forward and dropped his head to his hands.

“And you think it’s more plausible for me to believe you when you say it’s over one hundred years in the past?”  And yet that was exactly what I was thinking.  I don’t know how it was possible, but I was not conversing with the ghost of Nicholas Dalton II, I was talking to the Nicholas Dalton II.  And he didn’t have an answer.

A million questions were ready to spew from my lips, but one in particular was niggling in the back of my mind.  “Why can’t you ask Tilly about me?”  She had not died until 1912; it had been Nicholas and the rest of her family who had died in 1902.

My stomach dropped and a fresh wave of panic set in with the budding realization: in a little over a month, the man in front of me would die… again.

Nick responded blankly as his eyes searched my face for answers I didn’t possess. “Tilly married Lord Westbrook in May.  She’s currently in London with her husband, Timothy.”

“Tilly… married?”  The question came out in a whisper.  Although I had read that fact in the newspaper, it was different hearing it from her brother.  At least Tilly was alive… sort of.

“Yes.”

“Do they live in London?”  Was she happy?  Would I ever get to see her again?  It was hard to remain calm and silent as I waited for his response.

Nick closed his eyes and rubbed his temples like he was soothing an aching head.  “Yes.”

“Do you think…”  His eyes snapped to meet mine, and I forgot what I was about to ask.

“Do I think what?”  He grinned, understanding the effect he’d had on me.

“What I meant was… does Tilly visit often?”  The forced nonchalance in my voice didn’t fool him.

“Not since the wedding.  But I suspect the brat will be home to plague us at some point in the near future—especially in light of recent… discoveries.”  Tilly’s brother and I sat in a tense limbo before Nick broke the silence.  “So, we’ve moved past the ghost theory.”

“It wasn’t really a theory per se,” I said, uncomfortable.  What grown adults believed in ghosts anyway?  A time portal was a much more reasonable concept.

“If not a theory, then what was it?”

“A contingency plan, a fall-back in case I couldn’t come up with something more logical.”

More logical?”

“Yes.”

“No more ghosts?”

“No more ghosts,” I agreed enthusiastically.

“And now you believe you are from the future?” Nick asked, the skepticism plain in his tone.

“No.”

“No?”

I smiled.  “I know I’m from the future.”  The strength in my voice surprised me.  How was it possible to be this confident in ridiculousness?

“Prove it.”

His demand startled me.  “What?”

“I said, prove it.”

“What is it with you and proof?”

He ignored my question.  “Prove it is the year you say it is, Callista Franklyn.  Show me that you are in the future, or a ghost, or not here at all.  You choose.  I’m inclined to believe the latter.”

How did he expect me to do that?  “How do you expect me to do that?”

You are the one from the future,” he dripped sarcastically, resuming his casual stance from earlier.  His lean frame unfolded gracefully across the rigid chair.  “You tell me.”

Of all the presumptuous requests…  Did he think we had invented time machines or something?  Because he seemed determined in his quest for proof, I searched my mind for a way to validate my theory.  “Fine.  Let’s conduct an experiment.”

“Excellent.  What do you have in mind?”

“You can bury something where no one will find it for one hundred years, and I’ll uncover it.”  He looked doubtful as he considered my idea.  “Or you could just hand it to me,” I suggested, remembering Tilly and her cookies.  My friend had made time travel look so simple, effortless.

That statement dazed him more than the first.  When I processed what I had said I was just as shocked.  My comment had sounded rather blasé for a science-fictional concept.

“Does that work?” he whispered.

“How do you think I got this?”  I pulled my necklace for emphasis.  As I unhooked the clasp, the man in the mirror reached for the dainty chain.  His hand hit the glass decisively and he cursed.

How had Tilly done it?

After his fit, Nick looked smug.

I rolled my eyes, unfazed.  “Okay, let’s try my first idea.”  Nick gave me an assessing gaze but did not budge.  “Just go bury something!”

Like an obedient dog, he got up and started for the door.

“Wait!  Make sure it’s nothing you need back.  From what I can tell, time only goes one way.”  The concept made twisted sense.  It would be impossible for me to bury something and have Nick find it because my actions were occurring after he existed—or whatever it was he was doing at present.

“Wait!”  I called, stopping Nick a second time.  “What are you burying?”

He smiled crookedly and walked out the door without answering.  The moment he left the room, I blinked then faced my own reflection in the mirror.  The image from 1902 didn’t turn foggy or milky, it just snapped out.  One moment I was staring at Nick’s beautiful features, the next I was looking at my own haggard face.  And I looked horrible.

I hopped out of bed and raced to the bathroom.  A little primping was always in order when the most handsome man I had ever seen—a dead man from one hundred and ten years in the past—showed up in my room unexpectedly.

After my emergency makeover, I sat back on the bed and stared hard at my reflection, willing Nick to come back.  Twenty minutes and one pounding migraine later I gave up hope and passed out, defeated.

Someone cleared his throat, and I shot out of bed.  There was a rude snicker but it was quickly stifled behind a more mannerly cough.  Sharing a room with this man, assuming he was going to stick around, was going to be a league beyond awkward.  That hotel was sounding better and better.

“Where is it?” I asked, my voice husky with sleep.

Nick smiled, and I could not breathe.  The way his heavily shadowed face pulled to reveal his dimples was positively sinful. “It’s under the third step from the top of the maid’s staircase.”

I closed my eyes as my brain sluggishly registered the statement.  He cleared his throat for a second time, and I snapped back to what had become my reality.

“What is it I’m looking for?”

His smile broadened as he shook his head.  “You tell me, Callista Franklyn.”

I raced out of the room and down the back hallway to the unused staircase.  With such a small staff, the area was mostly forgotten.  In another house the route would be expectedly dusty and filled with cobwebs, but I knew Rosa had kept it spotless.

Sure enough, the third step creaked when I stepped on it.  I pulled the board and, after a bit of wiggling, freed the panel.  There were cobwebs beneath, and I cringed.  Voices were coming from down in the kitchen; there wasn’t much time to complete my mission if I was to remain undetected.  It would be too hard to think of a logical explanation for why I was pulling apart the staircase.  Telling someone I had been searching for buried treasure would only incur more questions and rumors about my sanity.

Careful to avoid the twisted nails, I closed my eyes, reached in, and pulled out a bundle meticulously wrapped in a piece of faded brown cloth.  The small package was neatly bound together with a leather strap.

I quickly replaced the wood and raced to my room. While unpacking the treasure, I paused in the hallway where no one could see me.  The book was bound in leather and looked like some sort of ledger.  The lined pages were empty but, scrolled inside the front cover, was a name and, more importantly, a date.

Nick Dalton
July 7, 1902

I burst through the door and held up the buried treasure like it was a trophy.  In a way it was; it was proof that both Nick and I co-existed one hundred and ten years apart.

Nick stood up from his chair and ran both his hands through his dark hair.  His fingers shook as he pressed his palm against the mirror.  The swirls of his fingerprints smudged the glass; he wiped at the blight marring the clear barrier between our times.

“Impossible,” Nick whispered.

I smiled smugly and squeezed the volume in my hand, proof that the impossible was possible.  “Do you believe me now?”

I wasn’t sure if I was asking Nick or myself.

 

Did you enjoy this chapter?  Would you like to see this novel off-screen and in print?  Remember to check out my Kickstarter campaign at:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennyhickman/the-mirrors-at-barnard-hall-an-epic-love-story?ref=live

Define Success

27 Feb

Last Thursday, my roommate performed two original songs at her first open mic night on a Nashville stage.  Before she owned the room, the night’s MC took a moment to promote a new website that lists open mic and singer-songwriter events around Nashville.  The site includes venues, calendars and FAQ’s, serving as a resource for aspiring and existing artists. 

Apparently, one of the most frequently asked questions is about who has performed on-stage at that particular venue and made it. The man challenged all artists present to email him and let him know their definition of, “making it.” 

In today’s post, I’m posing the same question to you:

How do you define success?

Do you even know?  If not, I suggest you invest some time in defining the word for yourself.  Otherwise, how do you gauge whether or not you are successful?

For me, success means people are reading my work.  I’ve grown enough as an artist to realize that not everyone is going to like what I’ve written.  However, I want to expose an audience to my stories so that they have the opportunity to formulate an opinion. 

So, technically I’m already a success (That is, unless my mom has created dozens of fake email addresses to “follow” my blog and has pressed “refresh” hundreds of times on each of the pages to make it seem as though my readership is increasing). 

Now what?  Do I just stop and bask in the feelings of accomplishment?  Or should the definition of success be considered a working document, forever changing and adapting to new goals? 

I’m going to go with the latter.

So, today I leave you with my definition as of February 27, 2012:

When something I’ve written is in print and on sale to the general public, then I will be a success.

-Jenny

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