When Everything You Thought You Knew Changes

Photo by Jon Moore on Unsplash

I didn’t plan for this

Hello World,

The last six months have been the most intense and difficult of my entire life. Yes, more difficult than when my three-month-old baby had to have skull reconstruction surgery. Yes, more difficult than when I had to have a spinal procedure the day after my youngest was born and I couldn’t see him because he was in the NICU. More difficult than learning that my husband’s porn addiction had resurfaced one year into our marriage. You get the idea.

What happened?

I guess I’ll go in chronological order for the sake of simplicity. I never finished ‘March Madness’ which was me attempting to write three books in the month of March. I almost finished the first draft of one, ‘Gaze at the Stars,’ a Sci-fi Rom-com based on my favorite movie ever. But then terrible things dominoed all over me and I had to stop. Everything. I stopped writing. I stopped reading (Gasp! I know… you know how much of a reader I am. It’s in my blood). The first step in my life falling completely apart was learning that we would not get our Residence Permits to remain in Greece… and that it was for literally no reason because we followed all of the requirements to… a… tee. So we started praying and trying to figure out what the next step was. As in, where were we going to move our very established family. Then, two weeks after we figured out that answer, Travis’s father—Allen Edward Spencer—got into a random and survivable skiing accident. Several days later, on March 6th, he died from a complications no one could have helped.

Photo by David Becker on Unsplash

I have never gone through such grief. I literally collapsed onto the floor and began sobbing uncontrollably. The problem was I was already at work, and the other woman who was there had never seen me so uncomposed and it scared her. My dad, or FIL if you want to be technical, was my biggest cheerleader. He didn’t understand my writing, but he helped however he could. He also told me—every single time he talked to me—that I am an amazing mother and wife and he loved me. On the many days I feel like a failure, I can still hear his voice encouraging me to keep going and keep trying.


So that was the inciting incident in my life. Lots of complicated and messing things came after that. We packed up our entire life in Greece in two days an left on flight with a promise our things would be shipped to the US. Then came probate. Probate is still happening. If there is any practical advice I can give you for the loved ones that will deal with your departure from this phase of life it is this: keep $10,000 in a bank account JUST for burial and service expenses (if you are ok with cremation… add $10,000 to $20,000 more if you want a plot and casket) and pay the $2,000 it costs to create a living trust. Because death is literally the worst, and dealing with probate on top of all the feels and details death brings in addition to dealing with governmental crap and lawyers doesn’t help. (Christine, I love you. You are the best probate lawyer ever. But you know what I mean.) Then we bought a house. Yes, that was insane. I never thought we would be able to buy a house, but the perfect place came on the market for under $100,000 and we totally went for it.

I’m grieving Greece and my FIL at the same time. It’s a lot. At some point I thought, forget it, I’m never writing again. I had a total identity crisis. I felt like a worthless lump. I had to go back and re-read my own book on godly confidence! I’m not even kidding.

But Rox Said

And on our cross-country journey from California to Pennsylvania (my new state of residence btw) we stopped to see our wonder friends in Kentucky and my friend Rox said, “When are you going to write about all this? I know you deal with things by writing about them.” I said I didn’t know and some vague comment about how I don’t feel like writing anymore and she just looked at me and said, “Well, whenever you write it, I want to read it.” That sentence keeps echoing in my mind. After a lot of prayer and just waiting on God to tell me what the next step in my life is (besides being a wife, mom, and lady that ministers to other ladies) I realize that I have to keep writing. I have so many stories left in my heart that are important to tell—not because I’m an awesome author—but because God wants me to tell them.

That To Which I Hold On

I’ve realized that my prayers have changed dramatically through all of this. I don’t pray for people to stay safe anymore. I just pray for God’s will, and if that means safe, if that means alive, then yes. That. But I’ve come to realize that whatever happens, literally whatever, that God has a plan. The best thing for me to do is lean on Him, knowing things will only progress to the point at which He wants them to progress. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still randomly weep in public (which is getting less annoying and embarrassing), but it means that after I’m done crying I remember that I’m still here because God wants me here. I don’t know what the plan is, but I can make it through because when I’m weak—and I’m so, so very weak—He is strong.

The Future

To everyone that wrote to me and/or reviewed ‘Plunge Into Darkness’, you are the best. I love you! Even if you didn’t like it, I appreciated every word of feedback. With that in mind, it is my pleasure (and my horror) to announce that I will be working on the second book of the series this November for NaNoWriMo. The working title is ‘The Knotted Woman,’ and it is going to be a bumpy ride. It is also part of my plan to get my hot co-writer/husband to finish going through ‘The Introvert Time Traveler’ so we can start writing ‘Were in Time,’ which I know is going to be amazing. He is obviously going through a lot, so if you remember, please pray for him. Before we met, his father was his best friend and losing him has been harder than hard.

For everyone that still reads these things, thank you. You are awesome.

Happy reading,

Kristin N. Spencer

Compassion Expert, Reader Extraordinare, Writer

Plunge Into Darkness – Launch Day!

Today is launch day. Normally on these days I’m so excited I can barely stand it, but today I don’t know how to feel. I want you to come on this adventure with me, and I thought the best way to explain why was to tell you in video form. From my heart to yours…

Get your copy, now on Amazon.

Synopsis:

Two girls.
A village with a dark secret.
Their only hope is a mythical figure Ever Morena has only read about in her father’s lone book.
Ten years ago Ever’s best friend disappeared without a trace. Though the loss of her friend only came close to killing her then, the truth of what happened might finish the job now—just when her future as the village healer is looking bright.
Ever must risk everything she loves in order to plunge into darkness on an impossible journey in the middle of the Concealed Forest.
Never before has redemption been so costly.

‘Plunge Into Darkness’ Cover Reveal!

I am so excited to share this with you! I was blessed to work with the talented Paraskevi Kourmpeti, who created the illustration of Ever for the cover. Her amazing illustration inspired this wrap around cover–a style that I hope to use for all the covers in this series.

I can’t wait for you to read this book. If you are interested in receiving an Advanced Reading Copy, there is still time. Email me at Kristin.n.spencer[at]gmail[dot]com ! And stay tuned for a video blog later in the week to explain why I wrote this book and to enter for a chance to win a free copy!

Happy reading!

Kristin

Why Consent is More Romantic than Assumption

Our walk home from school is always full of interesting tidbits from each of my daughters. Today my oldest—currently in fifth grade—informed me that the boys in her class were collecting spit in their mouths to show all the girls in their class. To gross them out. Because that’s the kind of thing fifth grade boys do. But my concerned mommy switch flipped when I thought I heard my daughter say “They were kissing all the girls.”

WHAT?!?

“What? That’s sexual harassment! They can’t do that!” Yes, I was already preparing a rant in my head for the school principal.

“Showing us their spit is sexual harassment?” Confused daughter tilts her head sideways as she speaks.

“Oh, I thought you said kissing…”

“I said spitting… Why would kissing us be sexual harassment?”

“Because they can’t just kiss you when you don’t want them to. They don’t have your consent. If someone ever tries to kiss you when you don’t want them to you yell “No” and run away. Find an adult.”

“What if we WANT them to kiss us?” Chimes in my younger 8-year-old daughter… Blessed handful doesn’t begin to describe her.

“Well, I hope you won’t kiss anyone anytime soon, even if you want to.”

Older daughter redirects the conversation. “But it’s not like you ask someone before you kiss them. Daddy didn’t ask you before he kissed you for the first time, did he?”

“Well… yes, he did… he said, ‘Is it ok if I kiss you?’”

“What?” Her expression told me all I needed to know about how wrong we’ve gone. All of us.

Photo by Christiana Rivers on Unsplash

Communication is not a Romance Killer

Young girls don’t think consent is romantic. But why? To my daughter, her daddy asking me if it was ok if he kissed me is so much less dreamy than if he had just sensed that I wanted him to and done it. But asking is more romantic, isn’t it? It means he cared whether I wanted to or not. It means he considered my boundaries, mood, and deepest desires. Listen, I love Rom-Coms as much as the next gal, but there’s something we’ve gotten wrong. Communication is not a romance killer. Because of a steady diet of random lovey mush dispersed in girl horse movies and shows (my oldest daughter has the classic ‘girl loves horse’ thing going on) my daughter has been trained by Hollywood (or more likely, Canada) that men should assume to know if a girl wants to be kissed and act on those instincts. Though I applaud the #MeToo movement and anything that makes survivors feel more supported and able to stand against their predators, more needs to be done. We need to address this stigma in media including but not limited to little girl horse movies, other movies, books, comics, and the small screen. We need to show our characters communicating even when silence might seem more exciting.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

But Why?

The Writer part of my brain wants to know why we would rather show the silent anticipation of a kiss instead of something else. I’m not sure of the answer, but my hypothesis is that we’ve seen it that way—over and over until it’s been pre-programmed into our brains—and so that’s the way we write it. Would we ever write a scene like my first kiss with my adorable and considerate husband? Probably not. But why? I can guarantee you that there was no lack of whimsy in that moment. I still remember exactly where we were, what time it was, and how his lips felt and tasted. So here is a challenge to all my writer peeps out there… purposefully write relationship scenes that take consent into consideration.

After a few minutes of pause my younger daughter weaved the conversation back toward her question.

“Why shouldn’t I want someone to kiss me?”

“Because when you kiss someone, there are feelings involved.” Mommy is speaking from experience.

“Why did someone invent ‘spin-the-bottle’?” The older one is now interested in this vein of thinking.

“Because some people think kissing is just fun. They don’t understand that when you make those emotional attachments to people you are giving away little pieces for your emotional heart. You never get them back.”

“OH! It’s like that song!” Younger daughter says.

“What song?” I can’t possibly think of any song that talks about this topic.

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away…”

Pan to the three of us singing loudly all the way home and our neighbors with puzzled expressions as we approach our building.

Good luck getting that song out of your head.

-Kristin

P.S. This is my 50th post! Yay!

How Reading a Horrible Book Encouraged Me To Write

Indie authors will often do something called a review exchange. It means you both exchange your manuscripts and review them for each other. A lot of times this turns into a great experience that ends with a new writer friend. Other times though, it can be disastrous. The latest exchange I joined has been more of the latter, but that’s ok. Why though? I’ve gotten a two star review on a book that otherwise has great reviews. Also, I’ve had to read through a horrible book. I don’t mean that the content was poor, but that the writing was less than mediocre. I kept making myself read further, and everything in me that loves reading and writing revolted. No, stop reading this. You’re wasting part of your favorite reading month of the year on this book. Read something—anything else—because life is too short.

Photo by Markus Clemens on Unsplash

The Worst Part

You know what offended me the most? Is that the book could have been good. It was about an interesting topic. The story had some problems, but they also could have been fixed with just a bit more effort. The whole thing was what my reading and writing friends call ‘lazy writing’… it’s the sort of thing that happens when the writer doesn’t put any effort into their writing. Using the same word three times in one sentence because you couldn’t be bothered to use a thesaurus? Lazy. Jumping from present to past tense as if there isn’t a difference because using the correct tense sucks brain power? Lazy. Using a cliche every other paragraph? Lazy! Writing is an art. It takes a lot of effort and constant education to increase one’s skill. It isn’t easy. If you want to do something easy, don’t write. As my favorite writing quote says

“Easy reading is terribly hard writing.” -Richard Brinsley Sheridan

No thanks, I’m ok being rubbish at my job.

But don’t be discouraged. I am also a stubborn believer that anyone that wants to can learn to be a writer. Because of that, I emailed the author and asked if she would like me walk her through why I would give her book one star if I did review it. Her response: “I would appreciate if you didn’t review it.” No, “Sure, I would love to hear your constructive criticism!” It makes me sad.

A few years ago I would have made a list of examples of why her writing was so difficult to get through (including the use of cliches, many grammatical errors, and lack of creativity when choosing words)… but now I ask first because usually I received a reply like, “Thanks for your email, but my readers don’t seem to mind the things you pointed out, so I’m just going to keep writing like I write now.” Why would you be ok being bad at something you supposedly love? I don’t get it. Sure, it takes time to learn how to be a better writer, but isn’t the time investment worth it? Because money. These authors don’t care if their books are good or not because their books still sell, and contribute to the idea that self-published books can’t be held to the same standards of other books… forget literature.

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Over the summer a writerly friend read two of my books. The first one I ever wrote, and the most recent (book number five). She said, “You can definitely see a difference in the quality of writing between the two.” THAT! That is what I want. Thank you, friend. That was the best compliment to me you could have paid.

After reading that horrible book I’m encouraged. Now I know what I don’t want to do, and I realize more than ever how much I care about the written word. I want to get better and write amazing books. Maybe I won’t be able to convince anyone they should read my books anytime soon. But either I’m going to do it right, or I won’t do it at all. Let me close with this quote:

“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” -Samuel Johnson

Happy reading,

Kristin

A Note To The Weary NaNo Participant

I remember before I went through the organized insanity that was my first National Novel Writing Month (now you know why we abbreviate) I thought I wouldn’t finish all 50,000 words. In retrospect I realize how stupid that was because I’m very goal oriented, and I would have rather died than not finished. I have a very supportive husband that made sure when I needed to write, “Just 2,000 more words today…” that my children didn’t starve or my undone laundry pile reach Matterhorn like heights.

Don’t Quit Before You Start

If you’re expecting a pep talk along the lines of, “I have three kids, a full time job, and I still did it. What’s your excuse?” you are obviously new to my blog. Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Also, I’m not mean like that. What I will say is that you shouldn’t be afraid to start because you think you won’t finish. So, so many people ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo every year. But you know what? They have more words than when they started. That’s the whole point, to add more words to the words you already have. Maybe you have zero. Even one sentence should be considered a victory.

Go-on Girl. Do Your Thing. (Or Boy)

I mean, we all know that the first few pages are the hardest to write. “But I have to fit the very soul of my work into the first few lines or the reader will get bored and return my book!” I’m not opposed to a stunning opening line, ok? But give we readers some credit. Tell me a story from your heart. Find a good editor so that I don’t get lost in a swamp of mistakes (post-NaNo), avoid having the protagonist say the same three things over and again as inner dialogue (a current peeve of mine), and I promise I will make it all the way through your book.

You can do this!

Whether this is the first time you’ve ever written something or you are a weathered, tenured author challenging yourself to do something for the first time, welcome. Insanity will ensue. Yes. But the crazy people are all in this with you. Let’s make more words, worlds, and characters that will get stuck in someone else’s brain forever. Shall we?

Whether you are a planner, pantser, plantser, or don’t know what any of those are, what plan do you have to help you beat discouragement into a bloody stump this November? Comment below. If you don’t have a plan, may I invite you to participate in my #nanopropel2017 challenge? Check it out. It’s easy and helpful. I promise.

Without further ado… let the battle for your right to write begin!

Almost naively optimistic,

Kristin

#nanopropel2017 – A Personal Mission to Inspire

I’m annoying.

Anyone that has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) knows that moments of discouragement will come. It’s like an evil troll magically appears on your shoulder whispering, “Wow… that’s what you wrote… ok. It’s your literary career’s funeral. Excuse me while I go barf up a rainbow on your kitchen floor.” You never know when that annoying troll is going to show. For some it’s during the first week. For others, it emerges the last day chanting, “Lo-ser, lo-ser!” Some NaNos the little annoyance surfaces every single day. But this year I have a plan.

I’m not personally that inspirational as a writer. My books haven’t been selling very well and I’m still only three years into my career. So… I’m turning to the big guns, the experts in our field for inspiration this NaNoWriMo. I have selected inspirational NaNo-spirited quotes from “The Little Black Book of Writers’ Wisdom,” from the big guns. Joseph Conrad (I have such a crush on his style), Ralph Waldo Emerson, E. B. White… etc. So check out the hashtag on Instagram for this NaNo-themed Insta-challenge. In addition to all your wonderful posts, I’ll keep the quotes coming daily.

My history with Insta-challenges is sketchy. I’ve never finished one. So this challenge isn’t your typical “Post this thing every day” type of challenge. You can post these items in whatever order you want, and there are only 10 challenges for the whole month! See… I’m setting both of us up for victory. I hope you join the #nanopropel2107 challenge. If it doesn’t propel you to victory, at least it will propel your Instagram account to a new level of awesomeness.

I hope I didn’t spend all my saved up NaNo juices on writing this post. Oh well, that’s what the inspiration quotes are for, right?

Yours lovingly,

Kristin the Troll Slayer

Worldbuilding and Anticipation – NaNoWriMo 2017

We are T-Minus 12 days from the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2017 and this year my NaNo prep has been super intense. Why? I am a making a multiverse!

That’s right, my very own space themed wonderland complete with different beings, cultures, religion-run time travel, and unrequited love (I consider myself an expert on the latter). At first the task seemed daunting. “I’ll just work on it a little each day,” was my mantra as I attempted not to feel overwhelmed about being responsible for creating different solar systems, universes, and complex characters who needed both physiology and personality. I can confidently say I am finished with the backbone of the story. The 3D characters are mapped out. I still need to create a stunning cast of 2D characters to make my 3D beings shine even brighter… (or not shine… even darker? This parenthetical statement turned confusing) but I will not fret a thing. A steady viewing diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, The Orville (an amazing Sci-Fi in its own right… you MUST watch it) and a year of reading old and new Sci-Fi/Fantasy has me anticipating all the aliens I can create.

Worldbuilding What Exactly?

So… what exactly is the Space Fantasy baby I’m birthing into the world this November? It’s called ‘The Introvert Time Traveler’ and follows the life of Ezeit Traginus, an amphibious humanoid from the planet Krigrag in the Septum Majoris system who is chosen to be this century’s Traveler by the panfamous Tigd. (Did you notice the made up word? Yeah, that’s going to happen a lot in this book)

The problem is, Ez, as his friends (wait, does he have any?) call him is super introverted and also insecure. When his selfish ambition causes two unsteady worlds to go to war, again, he must discover a way to fix what he has done… without manipulating the rules of the Aanving, the Tigd book of laws and ordinances, or his ship’s companion Vitality, Jotie.

I’m so excited about this project. I can’t wait… as in, I want to write it now! But I still need to figure out a few things (like what is the fan convention called where Ez attends to meet fellow fans of his beloved graphic novel series turned Exo-net video sensation).

My kids are not cooperating with me writing this post… sigh. Sorry if it makes little sense. I don’t write well with screaming/yelling/insanely loud talking in the background (contrary to popular belief).

What projects are you looking forward to this fall?

Happy reading (writing, sewing, whatever),

Kristin

Kerfuffle the Tour

Today marks the beginning of the official Kerfuffle Blog Tour through the lovely and amazing Celebrate Lit Group. Here is a rundown of the the awesome bloggers that have read and will be reviewing Kerfuffle, the 3rd book in the Desires & Decisions Series. I’m mostly excited to read their reviews, but there is also the twinge of nerves that this cartoon perfectly illustrates:

But since I can’t stall forever… here is the list.

Kerfuffle the Tour

August 15: Bukwurmzzz

August 16: Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

August 17: Ashley’s Bookshelf

August 18: Blogging With Carol

August 19: Just the Write Escape

August 20: Carpe Diem

August 21: A Reader’s Brain

August 22: Remembrancy

August 23: Margaret Kazmierczak

August 24: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations

August 25: Baker Kella

August 26:  Avid Reader Book Reviews

August 27: The Power of Words (Spotlight)

August 28: JosephineAnneWrites

I would love for you to participate by visiting each blog each day and reading what these wonderful readers (some of which are also writers) have to say. And hey, you can also enter a competition to receive the Desires & Decisions Series in their full paperback glory for free along with a free tee from my Threadless Artist Shop. Cool, right?

As always, happy reading!

-Kristin