Hibernating

I’ve been looking forward to January/February for some time now. I knew if I made it through November and December then I would get some much needed re-fuel time. 2016 has been a busy year for me. I’ve performed in tons of improv shows, acted in a short play, my novel “Welcome to Sortilege Falls” was released and I wrote two more books and a play plus several short stories and Our Beloved Dictator. On top of that, the hubby and I go out a lot and try to see theater, do trivia, go to odd movie nights and generally be social.

But, as I found last year, it’s nice to take a break. During the coldest months of winter, I plan to slow down social time, take a break from performing, and read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies, and generally recharge my brain.

I also want to stretch myself a little. I plan to start learning German (again – I’m easily distracted) and try my hand at drawing (again). I want to engage my brain in ways that I don’t usually. Besides delving into fiction, I will also be consuming a lot of documentaries and non-fiction books. I might even try playing games–I am one of the few people I know who hates games. Don’t ask, I can’t account for my general curmudgeoness.

What I found last year is that if I take some time away from improv where I’m constantly trying to generate material and staying in the moment, and allow myself some much needed couch time with new worlds, then I tend to be a better writer. I read all year round but I don’t have the time to binge-read and momma has a lot of books to work through.

So, if you have a favorite movie, book, TV show, documentary or game that you’d like to recommend, please do! I’ll be posting a bit more regularly here, mostly about the books I’m reading.

Hopefully, it’s going to be a wonderful winter!

Portland!

The hubby and I spent most of last week in the amazing state of Oregon. We called Portland home base but we definitely explored several of the natural splendors in the surrounding area.

 

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One view of the gorgeous Columbia River

The trip was meant to mostly help us relax and focus. I lived in Seattle for two years and knew I definitely loved the Pacific Northwest. We were hoping that Portland would be entertaining, beautiful and allow for a bit of downtime as well.

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The view from Mount Hood

We were not disappointed. The two photos above were from the same road trip. We drove along the Columbia River and then swooped around and ended up at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. The views were stunning. My camera phone pics are a poor representation but I hate carrying an actual camera around with me. Stunning views greeted us everywhere we turned. I felt so charmed and alive on this trip.

Our second road trip took us to the coast. I have NEVER seen cliffs like this in real life. On TV, sure. The magnitude of the drop was astounding. The three pics above are three different views from capes along the coast. The only bad part about this road trip was that we took it the day before we left and I was battling a cold. Ugh. Who likes to sneeze into the wind? Not this girl.

But what about the city itself, you may be wondering? Portland is fabulous. There’s a vibrant and active downtown with cool neighborhoods spiraling off every which way. Each neighborhood has its own main street with funky little shops and tons of coffee houses and bookstores. If you’re a reader, Portland is a good place to visit/live. I told myself I wouldn’t buy any books, and of course I bought three. Still, for me, that was showing great restraint. Have you seen Powells Books? It’s a city block long. You try not buying anything there. 🙂

Art abounds throughout the city. Whether it’s murals, sculptures, or cool little things like this:

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This is the tiny museum that was just chilling in a little neighborhood.

You’re bound to be visually delighted as you walk/ride/bike throughout the city.

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Portland’s street art is on point!

One thing I love about both Seattle and Portland is that each city contains a vast amount of nature. Parks are everywhere in both cities! Portland has several major parks but Washington Park is just minutes outside of downtown. Here, you can hike, look at the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, or visit the zoo.

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Just me and my new elephant friend. He’s the hard-to-get-to-know type.
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View of the city from Mount Tabor Park – so much nature within city limits!

There’s also the food. Here’s one thing I can tell you. I live in Raleigh and we are a people who love our food and drink. I was not disappointed in Portland. Just look at these crazy portion sizes:

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I mean, really? You could die eating this way. But die happy. 🙂

Oh, and about those books I bought. Here they are:img_3621

Okay interwebs, where are you planning to visit next?

 

Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of Our Beloved Dictator. 🙂

Experimenting

As most of you know, I’ve been publishing a serial on my blog: Our Beloved Dictator. I’ve been asked a few questions about the project, both online and in real life. The one that surprised me most was: “Why wouldn’t you charge for this?”

The question came from a writer in my critique group. He’s a fan of the series and doesn’t understand why I don’t get the story published or self-publish and charge for downloads.

I hadn’t really thought to publish OBD in any other manner than online. I’m writing it because I love to experiment with story and form. I want to tell a story in a series of short blasts that offers a peek into the private lives of an entire town. OBD is non-traditional in the sense that it’s not quite linear. We delve into side-stories that do not affect the main narrative. The stories can stand alone but they also inform us of the strange world that George (the main character) has entered.

I believe OBD has value, even if I don’t charge for it. I love the story. I like to think of it as David Lynch meets Terry Pratchett. I share it here, on Goodreads, Inkitt and Wattpad. My hope is that OBD will find a broad readership.

The value in OBD isn’t the money it could make for me. The value is in the writing. I’m trying to push my imagination and comfort levels. I’m bending genres and breaking rules. Even if OBD only gets read by a handful of people, I’m going to walk away from it a better writer.

The story is also fun for me to write. I LOVE Phyllis the one-lipped cop and Down-On-Your-Luck-Dan who has a great attitude but just can’t get ahead. Independence Long and Leonard make me happy. And there’s so much more coming down the pike. Greenville’s my kind of place, and I want to share it.

So, I will continue to publish it for free. I’m considering it a decree from the Dictator himself. 🙂

Out to Betas

Such good news! I’ve finished the latest (and hopefully last major draft) of the second book in the Grape Merriweather series!!! There were tons of surprises along the way, both for me as the author and for you as the reader. Grape and Brad are going to go through a heck of a lot of changes and not all of them are fun. Who am I fooling, none of them are “fun”. This is me after all. The danger in book two increases as does the tension. Aaaaand, Grape has a love interest.

Okay, I haven’t sent the book to my publisher yet, so I can’t really give away any juicy secrets. 🙂 But you’ll be surprised. I promise.

What about you interwebs? What’s new in your world?

 

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Every girl has to have her heroes and it looks like Shirley Jackson is going to be one of mine very soon. No one can replace Virginia Woolf or the utterly dark and stylistically daring Muriel Spark (read the Driver’s Seat. DO IT). But Shirley is certainly trying.

Like most high school students, I read The Lottery. I liked it, of course, but I wasn’t blown away. I think that was partially because I already had a healthy distrust of crowds and communities so the story didn’t really surprise me. I then forgot about Miss Jackson (not Janet, she played heavily in my middle and high school years).

Then, several years ago, Neil Gaiman wrote an article or a blog post, I forget which, about Shirley Jackson. I had just started my obsession with Muriel Spark and while the two are very different, they do have similarities. I decided to check her out starting with The Haunting on Hill House which I loved and used for inspiration for a flash fiction story.

A few weeks ago, I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I usually don’t pay attention to covers or at least I try not to let them influence me but let’s take a moment and appreciate the haunting beauty of this cover:

book-castle

Thankfully, the story is just as good. The blurb:

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

But, this blurb really doesn’t do the book justice. Merricat is such an incredibly interesting character. She buries objects and hangs books as talismans against evil. At eighteen, she still has a fort in the woods. She plays games while shopping in the village to keep the hostility of the villagers at bay. She dreams of murdering them all, but she is rather quaint about the whole thing. Her sister, Constance, accepts all of Merricat’s eccentricities and she sees the world in kind of an easy-breezy-let-it-be type of way that is both attractive and repulsive. Poor Uncle Julian is rather poorly both mentally and physically and he obsesses daily about the murders. The relationship between the three is just fantastic and if the book had only been about that, I would’ve been blown away. But then there’s Charles and the villagers. Oh the villagers. I really don’t want to spoil the story but what the villagers do and how they react to their own behavior is frightening and intriguing and seems pretty true to life. But how Merricat and Constance react–I think essays could be written about that.

The style of the novel is so interesting. At any moment, you feel like it could devolve (or perhaps evolve) into a ghost story or a dealing with the paranormal, but it never does. The problems are all earth-bound but the continuous playing with otherworldliness is intoxicating and allows you to sink in and out of the novel like a ghost floating from room to room, engaged and aloof at once.

If you haven’t read this book, please do. If you do, please email me and tell me how you liked it or didn’t like it. I love talking about books. 🙂

And, just a reminder, the next chapter of Our Beloved Dictator has been posted! Happy Reading!

 

Also, for this week only, you can download Tough Girl for free on your Kindle!

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IRL Writer

This weekend was a whirlwind. I drove 4.5 hours to Northern Virginia to do two readings for Welcome to Sortilege Falls. The first was in a charming bookstore in Arlington called One More Page Books. Although I had to outrun a tow truck to keep my car from being towed, it was an amazing experience. The staff was fantastic and incredibly accommodating. We had 25 people show up! The reading itself went well and the audience questions were great. I had a lovely time and got to give away some sweet swag!

libby heily book reading

The second reading was a more intimate affair. My aunts got together and threw a party to celebrate the release of my book. We gathered at my Aunt Jan’s house and talked about books and life. I did a reading and again, the questions were fantastic. This time, there was also food, beer and wine.

Libby Heily Aunt House

Overall, I had a lovely time. Besides the book readings and visiting with old friends and, hopefully, new fans, I was also able to enjoy a few bike rides, go swimming, and take several very nice walks.  I drove back on Sunday and was so tired that all I wanted to do was sleep. I have no idea how Stephen King and Neil Gaiman make it through big tours. But I’m willing to find out. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out Episode 2 of Our Beloved Dictator!

The Trivial and the Vast

Let me get a little bit of business out of the way. Please take a moment to check out my latest project – Our Beloved Dictator. This is a serialized story completely free to read and available on this site. And I’M INCREDIBLY EXCITED ABOUT IT!  The blurb: “George is pulled over for speeding on I-95 in Virginia. Instead of a ticket, he is sentenced to 6 months of mandatory citizenship in Greenville-a small town run by a dictator. The government isn’t the only surprise George finds. Greenville is the place where reality meets abnormality.”

Now, on to today’s topic.

For those of you who don’t already know, I am a huge fan of Virginia Woolf. Her use of language alone is brilliant but her experimentation, her fearlessness with form–it’s just mind-blowing. I love artists that take risks and Virginia Woolf was unafraid (I know you saw what I did there.)

I’ve read Mrs. Dalloway three times and have thoroughly enjoyed it every time and yet, I cannot really tell you much about it. There’s a dream-like quality to her work that makes me forget it as soon as I’m done reading. I have a very similar experience with David Lynch films and Daniel Clausen novels. The end result is an immensely enjoyable experience that I get to have over and over again because I don’t really remember it in the first place. And I get to fall in love with the language every time.

I was reminded of my love of Miss Woolf again on Saturday when the hubby and I went to the CAM. It’s Raleigh’s little contemporary art museum (hence the name). Each exhibit is unique and ranges from traditional mediums to live performances.  I always find something to take away that’s useful to either Libby the person or Libby the writer. I was surprised to find that the exhibit about the Horse and Buggy Press fed me on both levels. There were so many little books that intrigued me including a sketch book used by someone in 2002 and a photography book exclusively featuring pictures of birdhouses. I was mesmerized. Thankfully for me, the exhibit just opened so I’ll be able to go back again and again.

For Libby the writer, there was this:

Woolf

UGH!!!! Come on. That’s just beautiful. I’ve read A Room of One’s Own and I truly don’t remember this passage. It’s so inspiring. I love to write about the trivial and the vast, both at once if at all possible. I love to write genre fiction and contemporary fiction. Delving into the world of YA is so much fun and exploring the depths of the human experience is challenging and rewarding. I know Miss Woolfe is speaking to all female writers here but when I read this, my heart skipped a beat. I just felt so encouraged and free and I hope that’s how it makes you feel as well.

So go! Conquer the trivial and the vast! Delve deep into the world and use your experiences to create! Create! CREATE!!!!

And don’t forget to check out part one of my new serial Our Beloved Dictator! I believe that’s what Virginia Woolf would want.

Launching a Serial

I hope your Fourth of July was a fun-filled sparkly adventure. For those of you not in the States, I hope you had a lovely weekend.

But today is July 5th and the long holiday weekend is over. I had planned to make this announcement last week and to start this project on the first Monday of July. That was before I realized that the first Monday of July was Independence Day. The best laid plans…

So the second Monday of the month will just have to do!

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a serialized story for over two years now. On my old blog, I wrote flash fiction for a while and released a new story every Friday. There was something cathartic about the experience. Every week I pushed myself to explore a new idea and I tried to tackle new writing styles as often as possible. I had only been writing fiction for a few years so some of the stories, and all of the grammar, were rough. I’ve missed Flash Fiction Friday but I’ve been hesitant to bring it back. I have so many other responsibilities that I wasn’t sure if I could come up with a brand new idea every week. But I do feel confident that I can explore the same idea of every week. 🙂

A little history:

A few years ago, I got a speeding ticket while driving to Virginia for a family occasion. I went 82 miles an hour on I-95 which, in VA, is reckless driving. I got passed several times and I had no idea the officer even meant me when she put on her lights. I was shocked when she pulled me over (82 on I-95 is actually a pretty tame speed). I couldn’t argue, technically I was wrong. But it turns out that there are several counties in VA that pull over out-of-state drivers and give them tickets because typically, out-of-state drivers just pay the fine. I did not, but that’s another story involving a court date and lawyers. This experience did lead to the idea of “Our Beloved Dictator.”

Dictator Cover
Images found on openclipart.com

I am excited to announce that starting on July 11 and running roughly 26 weeks, I will be posting my serialized story, “Our Beloved Dictator” on this site. I’ll create a special section for it, 2 actually. One  section will house the latest post and another will feature the series in order as it develops.

I want to be as honest as possible: I only have 6 posts fully written and edited. Six weeks is going to fly by and I fully expect to write some of the later segments the night before I post them. Not because I’m lazy, but because like most people in this world, I have a lot of competing interests for my time. But I really really really like this story. It will be told in roughly one thousand word chunks.

If you’re feeling saucy, check back next Monday for the first installment.

Release Day!!!

After years of writing, months of editing and behind-the-scenes promotional work, Welcome to Sortilege Falls is unleashed upon the world!  Wow, that sounded really dramatic.  It’s a book, not a movie monster.  But still.  The book I worked so hard on is available for all to read!!!!

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Let’s Party!!!!!

I’ve been waiting for this day since I signed my contract last September.  And it’s finally here. Woo hoo!!!

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Book Cover Design by Caroline Andrus

Currently, WTSF is only offered as an ebook but the paperback version will be available in one to two weeks.  Here are the ebook purchase links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

And the best part?  I now have time to write again!  I’m busy working on book two in the series.  So if you like this one…more is on the way!

And sorry for all the exclamation points.  But can you blame me for being happy?  🙂

I posted a character interview last Friday with Blake from Endless by Misha Gerrick.  It’s not my normal post day but please drop by and check it out here.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Announcements and Book Blitz

Guys! It’s been such a cool few weeks. Lots going on. My publisher gave me a release date for “Welcome to Sortilege Falls”!!!  My baby will be out on May 31st!  Pre-sale begins on May 24th, so be sure to mark your calendars. 🙂 Click here to read an excerpt.

Also, my play, currently titled “Burt and Abbie”, is being workshopped by the Cary Playwrights Forum! I’ve already had a terrific notes session with playwright Ian Finley and my play will be receiving three staged readings with time between for rewrites. I cannot tell you how excited I am. It’s hard to sit still, that’s for sure.

And now, for the Book Blitz!

Welcome Medeia Sharif back to the blog! Her book releases May 9. Yay Medeia!!! You can purchase a copy by clicking here.

But perhaps you are the discerning type who likes more information before purchasing a novel.  Fair enough. Perhaps a blurb?

Sixth grade isn’t easy for Jesenya Moradi, especially since her father’s recent remarriage and tension with her new stepsister, Kammy. After an incident at school that nearly destroyed Kammy’s life, Jess has been desperate to get on Kammy’s good side. But a fateful trip to an allegedly haunted bathroom changes both girls’ lives forever.

The rumors about the bathroom are true, and now Jess is convinced a demon’s possessing Kammy. Eerie things happen whenever she’s around – flying objects, flickering lights, not to mention the fact that something, or someone, is making people into its puppets.

Worse, the demon seems fixated on making Jess confess her part in ruining Kammy’s reputation. Sticking to her Muslim faith, Jess enlists the help of an imam to exorcise the demon from Kammy. But can they get rid of the demon before it destroys her new family?

 

I see you’re growing interested. Will a pretty picture push you over the edge?

The Haunted Step-Sister

 

If you need just that one more nudge, here is a picture of the author:

msharif author pic

 

What kind of monster can say no to this smiling face?  In case you need the link to buy, here it is one more time: Click HERE

See you soon interwebs. Happy Reading!