Susan Craig Romance

Every story is a journey…

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Book Launch!!! (splash!)

Excitement, trepidation, and the nervous willies accompany every book launch. In six days I’ll have my first book launch–a relaunch– in some time. Mostly, I am curious. How will it go?

When I began writing as an Indie writer (a writer who self-publishes via Kindle Direct Publishing or some other online venue), I simply wrote my book and pushed the publish button. I tossed my baby out into the digital world and hoped for the best.

Amazingly, things went well. (That’s more rare then you’d think.) And it lasted for a few months. Then my sales numbers dropped off a cliff. I’ve learned that the drop-off-a-cliff phenomenon is NOT uncommon. It occurs when authors have no clue how to market a book.

That was me. Clueless. And then busy with job changes and family moves and a dozen other things that put my publishing venture on the back burner. For years.

About a year ago I got serious about my writing work. Again. I decided to relaunch my original trilogy while working on two new novels. I learned about marketing. I soaked up all the advice out there (a LOT) on launching a book. I followed the suggestions I could afford… contacting reviewers, sending out Advance Reader copies and so forth. (Buying book ads was NOT in my budget!)

Now, finally, in only six days I get to see if my efforts will pay off. So, yes…excitement, trepidation, and lots of nervous willies!

The book that will launch on Amazon August 30th is Something Blue. It is the story of a woman stuck running the family company–a position for which she was groomed her whole life, but that feels to her like an itchy too-tight sweater. The executive role she is so good at playing does not fit her true personality at all. So, she feels like a fraud (in addition to wanting to scratch).

She agrees to sell her company to a hot, sexy entrepreneur (Of COURSE he’s hot and sexy…it’s a romance!!) but doesn’t trust him to run the company without her supervision. You can guess that they fall in love, but HOW it happens, and the pitfalls in their way…ah! Therein lies the story!!

If you haven’t read it already, you should check it out.

So think of me on August 30th, as I sit here holding my breath, waiting to see if my baby book can swim.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours an awesome autumn,
Until next time…
Susan Craig

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Decision Dilemmas

Sometimes we have to start walking
to find out where we are headed.

Eat the big one first.  As a rule for life, this had served my two and a half year old son well so far, but now he was stumped.  In each chubby hand he held a perfect vanilla wafer.  Looking at the mirror-image cookies, his mental motor stalled.  What to do?  He prepared to bite the right hand cookie, but then the other caught his eye. He brought his left hand up, then moved it away to take another look.  Finally he set both cookies down and frowned.

I recognized the frustration.  How does one decide between two good choices?  Or two bad ones?  The time I’ve spent frozen into immobility by the need to choose must surely measure in years by now.  Lacking the ability to see far enough down either path for comfort, I fear to move ahead. How to break the stalemate?

Some years ago, I had to choose between two jobs.  One was in science, the field I’d trained to enter only five years before.  It was prestigious, in Boston.  It meant working with a great team, people I knew and respected.  The other was in my home town.  It was in teaching, a field in which I had ten years experience.  Although not a lucrative position, it offered important intangible rewards—a chance to touch lives.  How would I ever decide?

I asked the advice of friends.  I made lists of the pros and cons for each position.  I went to Boston and visited the laboratory there.  I talked to teachers at the school in town. Logic seemed to favor moving East, but the scales were closely balanced.  I just wasn’t sure.

After weeks of deliberation, I decided it was time to choose. There would be no more fooling around, even if it meant flipping a coin.  I would decide tonight.  My teenage son left to spend the night with his friend David.  Alone, I deliberated, pondered, prayed.  Finally I decided to move East.  Opportunities for the future seemed better there.  Not elated, but at peace, I got ready for bed.  Then the phone rang.  It was David’s parents.  Could my son go to Giddings, Texas with them?  They’d have him back in three or four days.

No problem!  I hung up anticipating a few quiet days.  I had no worries, no concerns.  But move to Boston?  No way! What had I been thinking?  Thirteen year olds needed friends, and I needed those friends to have parents that I’d known for years and could trust absolutely.  Suddenly my choice was clear.

I failed to value my home town ties accurately until I had decided to give them up.  I didn’t recognize the disadvantages of moving away until I had embraced the advantages it would bring.  Sometimes, you just don’t see clearly until you make a choice.

I should have remembered.  That was how my son had solved the cookie dilemma.  He chose one and took a bite.  Then he put it down, reassessed the situation, and ate the big one first.

What decision dilemmas do you face?
How do you make up your mind?

Until next time…
–Susan.

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Father’s Day Thunderstorm

Spring is over and Summer has arrived. 

The crepe myrtle have begun to bloom—and for some reason the white ones are in full bloom, while the pink varieties are still working up to it. I have to wonder why. But I’m feeling too lazy to actually bother finding out…this year.

Most days I have to water my tomato plants, but not yesterday. Yesterday we had a Father’s Day thunderstorm with winds up to 45 mph, that dumped a lot of branches and debris over the bulkhead and well up onto the lawn—ten feet from the edge of the lake at furthest point.

So once the lawn dries out, there will be plastic trash to pick up (again!) before we return the natural debris back to the lake from whence it came.

This storm gave fair warning before it  reached us. The wind picked up, making the waves on the lake high, but not yet bulkhead-breaching. There was no lightning yet to be seen.

My ten-year-old grandson Chase got tired of fishing and decided it would be fun to put the boat tube in the water and ride the waves. He convinced his father to allow this, patiently explaining that his dad could tie the tube securely to the boat dock and that he (Chase) would wear his life jacket and hold “very tightly” to the handles of the tube and not even go into the water. As I mentioned, the waves were not horribly high at this point. So the two of them, Chase and his dad, hauled the tube down to the dock. Pretty soon we were treated to the sight of Chase’s head bobbing into view with every high wave, then dropping back below the bulkhead as the wave receded. It must have felt like a pretty wild roller coaster ride. After a while, older brother Carson decided he wanted in on the fun, and they both rode the waves.

All this time, the wind was increasing in strength as the storm blew closer.  Many of the waves now crested the bulkhead, but just enough to splash a bit of water over.

My son and I went down to bring in some chairs I’d left lying (flat and folded) on the dock, before the wind took a notion to toss them into the lake. It was then that the first flashes of lightning appeared on the horizon. So it was out of the water and back to the house for the boys. I am sure they would have, if allowed, stayed out until they washed up on the lawn like life-jacketed debris, so Dad’s intervention was timely.

They weren’t happy to be brought in yesterday. But someday they will realize how blessed they are to have been out there at all… to have a dad who understands their need for adventure and allows them to test their courage and grow their self-reliance (more than a skittish grandma might allow) while still setting the limits that keep them safe. 

Happy Father’s Day, son. You are an amazing dad.

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Why write?

I’ve been thinking about my work as a writer.

Why do I write? Why fiction? Why do I continue?

Why I write is an easy question to answer. I have “always” written. Ever since grade school diaries I have put pen to paper in order to commemorate events. That hasn’t changed. I think better when I write. I process emotions better when I write. I live better when I write.
Now mind you, little of that writing is fiction. Rather, it is a normal extension of my consciousness.

So why fiction? It was a challenge. I’ve written scientific journal articles, term papers, dissertations, and some long ago poetry. But not since grade school when my friends and I all wrote Nancy Drew mysteries, or tried to, had I written fiction. My scientific training indicated that novelty was good for the brain. And my day to day work was becoming routine in many ways. So I decided to try something new. Could I write a story? Could I separate myself from the day to day enough to actually create fiction?
It turned out that I could.

Why do I continue? Well, it’s fun. Not all of it, certainly. There are days when my work is indeed, work. Many of those, in fact. But the satisfaction of crafting a story that a reader will enjoy is deep, and lasting, and brings joy. So I continue despite the “negatives” of marketing and list tending and story planning (which is not natural to me). The joy inherent in a finished book is worth the effort.

I believe we all lean towards doing the things that bring us joy and satisfaction. And I believe that what, exactly, those things are varies from person to person. What are your “things”? And why?

Please share in the comments.

Until next time,
–Susan.

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Of Dawn and Solitude

view from fishing dock

Early every spring morning, barring Sundays, I wander down to our boathouse and throw my cast-net into the water near the bulkhead. Early on in the season, I most often get nothing or catch two or three shad—the small fish that anchor the catfish and bass food chain.

I keep two shad, bait my two catfish rods and sit around watching the sunrise over the lake.  It is a peaceful occupation, seldom interrupted by the need to deal with any fish but the bait. After an hour or so of solitude, I retrieve my lines, discard the remains of the shad, and having fed the lake turtles once again, head back up to the house to start the day’s work.

Then the weather changes. Seemingly overnight the damp, cloudy, cold weather turns soft and warm. As dawn blushes the sky, I cast my net and retrieve it full of glittering silvery shad. Now I keep more than just two—sometimes as many as six—and return the others to the lake. I get my lines in the water and wait… but not for long. Hungry, healthy blue catfish strike with regularity, and I am happily engaged, reeling them in, removing hooks, taking photos of the cats on the dock planks (an easy way to estimate size at six inches per plank), and then gently releasing them back into the lake. Generally I will stay out about an hour and a half, catching around four eighteen inch fish and running out of bait before I come in.

Some days bring surprises. Two days ago, I cast out my net and in addition to shad caught a beautiful, healthy carp. Some fishermen don’t like carp, but they are a prized game fish in Europe, and make good eating, with firm white flesh and a very mild taste. (You do need to know how to fillet these or you will find them bony.) When you hook one on light tackle, you are in for a fun fight.  Netting one is not so much fun. 

Carp and shad caught in cast net

In the first place, a twelve to fifteen pound carp adds considerable load to an already weighted cast-net. (Yes, I’m a wimp.) I braced myself, grunted a bit, and hauled net and fish onto the dock. Then I took a quick picture, knowing I would not want to delay returning the fish to the water once the net was removed.

It took some time to gently disentangle the carp from my cast-net. Sadly many of the shad netted with him expired during the procedure. Feeling sorry I could not have been quicker, I released all the survivors then took only a moment to admire the carp. He was a beauty, with scales as big as a large man’s thumbnail, each with a subtle rainbow of iridescence in the sunlight.  I returned him gently to the water and he swam off. Already satisfied with the day’s catch, I didn’t even put my lines in the water. Instead I sat and watched the sunrise uninterrupted, then, full of gratitude and contentment, left the dock to begin my work.

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Inspirational Quotations: Five, plus one

Image of pink wild rose opening in springtime.

Spring is a time of inspiration. As the seasons change and nature renews, we find ourselves wanting to change for the better as well.

Here are five quotes that inspire my changes. I don’t know where they came from—a few I may have made up myself—but they capture common wisdom in words that I enjoy.  I hope you enjoy them too!

Our choices, not our circumstances, dictate our future

Sometimes we feel SAFER with old problems
than with NEW SOLUTIONS

You will not be judged by what you start,
only by what you finish

When our dreams are too small, we dishonor God

Let your heart be filled,
every season of your life,
with the joy of Spring

And the plus one by Archibald McLeish:

To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now they are truly brothers.

Image of earth surrounded by blackness of space.

Do you have favorite words that inspire you? Share in the comments, or if you’re on email, simply hit reply to share your favorites.

Until next time…
–Susan.

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Awesome Spring Break

The first week of March, granddaughter Sara and four friends stayed with us. They came down from Nebraska for their Spring Break, and the plan was to enjoy warmer temperatures, sunshine, jet skis and hiking. Sadly, the week was cold (by South Texas standards), gray, and rainy. But the intrepid five still managed to go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, take the jet skis out one day, and go hiking another. They assured us that the temperatures were warm relative to what Nebraska was having and that it was a treat not to have snow on the ground. We had a roaring fire outdoors one night, and learned to make Mexican S’mores–which have no connection to Mexico except that they use flour tortillas. The five did makeovers on one another, played games, and generally just chilled out. They said they had a good time, and we certainly enjoyed having them here.

Naturally the next week was full of lovely warm, sunny days. Isn’t that some version of Murphy’s Law?

Here are the directions for my new favorite campfire treat…

Mexican S’mores
Take a nice, soft flour tortilla and spread it with peanut butter. Sprinkle on mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. Roll it like a burrito and wrap in foil. Throw these in the embers of your fire for about five minutes, turning once if you can. Then pull them out and let them cool a while.
Unwrap and enjoy.

When these are perfect, the peanut butter causes the flour tortilla to get crispy. And we all know about marshmallow and chocolate goodness.

I love that they can be made indoors, ahead to time, if you have younger children. With the college students, we made them beside the fire, which is also pretty simple. And we made traditional S’mores as well… just because you gotta.

What’s your favorite campfire treat? Hit reply on your email, or share in the comments section below.

Have a wonderful Spring, and enjoy the “lamb” part of the month.
Until next time…
–Susan.

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Winter Writing Festival…completed!

The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood (a group of Golden Heart finalists) sponsors a Winter Writing Festival every year. This was my first year to participate. It is amazing how online chatting and encouragement can increase productivity. I prepared my trilogy for relaunch, revising all three books–one was extensively rewritten, and now I am waiting on things outside my control (like the new cover art) so I can do the actual relaunch. I also completed the first draft of my current work in progress, about a female scientist and a professor of 16th century poetry.

Long story short, I succeeded in meeting my goals for the entire 7 weeks of the festival–which means I was one of the winners!

This is the badge for winning in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival, 2019

What a great group of fellow authors!!

Now back to everyday life. Spring is coming!!
Until next time,
–Susan.

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Texas Master Naturalists: Twenty Years of Service

Naturalized Iris in Harris County, TX.

For the last twenty years, Texas Master Naturalists have been dedicated to the preservation and management of natural resources in Texas. This program, sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, trains volunteers who provide education, outreach programs and service in aid of the natural environment and native inhabitants of their local regions. The basic training program for Master Naturalist certification is 40 hours and usually includes both classroom instruction and field trips.

I was excited to learn of a local chapter of the Master Naturalists meeting in my area. It is one of forty-two chapters in the state, with more forming all the time. The local chapters provide a wonderful opportunity for learning and service within one’s local region. If you are interested in our natural world, and live in Texas, this is a wonderful group to join.

Many other states have Master Naturalist programs as well. Nebraska, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, California, and Indiana each have a program, and most states have some kind of similar volunteer organization, perhaps under a different name. If your interests lie in that direction, I encourage you to get involved!

There is an excellent introductory video on the TMN site, click here to find it. Then let me know what you think. Did you like the video? Do you know of a similar group in your area? Spring is coming! It’s time to plan to get outdoors again!!

Until next time,
–Susan.

Bluebonnets in field, Harris County, TX

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Stuffed Animal Decor

Pink wooden box with vertical rope "bars" used for storing stuffed animals.
Stuffed Animal Zoo–Great idea!!

I have fond, and not-so-fond, memories of when my kids were in the stuffed animal stage. (As you may know, this stage can be really long, sometimes lasting until they move out of your home and into their own place!) But today I am thinking about storage decor and the childhood stuffed animal stage.

When I was a kid myself, and when I was the mom of toddlers, a child had one or two favorite stuffed animals and those lived on their bed. Not so anymore! Now children often have a whole menagerie of fuzzy critters to love and care for–which means parents get to herd, move along, and wrangle a dozen or (usually) more fuzzies on a daily basis.

The photo above from Pinterest shows one of my favorite solutions to this, just because it is so darned cute! I’ve also seen, and used, colorful laundry baskets, outgrown travel-style play pens, and smaller, lighter shopping baskets. I have seen these last mounted on the wall. Looks adorable, but my children would have pulled them down and left a hole in the wall in the process…maybe it works if your child is very young, or much more gentle than mine ever were.

Creative storage is always a challenge, and always fun. Kudos to whomever thought this one up!
Got a clever storage idea you use? Share with the rest of us in Comments!

Until next time
–Susan.