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 #smileaday Breakthroughs. 
 
lightbulbOne of my favorite things about teaching is being there when someone has a breakthrough, when you can see the light bulb go off over their head, just like in a cartoon, and feel like you helped to power that light bulb. 
 
I teach for a local community college from time to time. This semester's class is called "Finish Your Novel" and is part cheerleading, part feedback, and part advice about building a writing life that lets you finish things. 
 
Today, I shared a plantser (half pantser, half plotter) outlining/structuring technique I've been using and the response was heartening. Looks like I'm not the only person this approach might help. One student announced that she was super excited to get back to writing now and try this out!
 
It's good to feel like you helped someone move forward. Super good. I still feel all glowy. 
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 #samanthascenes #saturdayscenes I've been playing around with a short story this week. It's not titled yet, but I'm hoping it will turn out to be a good fit for an anthology +Dave Higgins is putting together (details here: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/submission-calls/call-for-submissions-fears-of-a-clown/) Here's a taste of what I've written so far: 
_________________________________________
 
“CREEPY CLOWN HAUNTS LOCAL PLAYGROUND.” The headline screamed across the page in 20 point gothic font. Maggie snorted. _This hogwash was news? Honestly!_ Across the breakfast table, her husband looked up from his phone. “What?”
 
Maggie turned her newspaper so he could view the lurid headline. “A little over the top, don’t you think?” 
 
Her husband reached for the paper and she let him take it, picking up her coffee and taking a sip. It was still a little too hot and burned her upper lip. She touched the sore place with her fingertip. Not too bad. It probably wouldn’t even redden that much. George always did make the coffee superheated. She joked it was because his heart was just that cold. This is what it took to defrost him. 
 
He was back on his phone now, apparently in an active chat. She sighed, wondering why she bothered to get out of bed to have breakfast with him anymore. It wasn’t like they talked. They might as well be two strangers on the bus. Maybe it would be better when he retired too here in a couple more years. Maybe it would be worse. Time would tell. 
 
Suddenly, George stood. “I’m going to have to go,” he said, shoving his arms through his suit-jacket sleeves. He knocked his phone onto the floor. 
 
Maggie glanced at the clock as she moved to pick it up for him. It was still only 6:30. “So early?”
 
George took a gulp from his still steaming mug, unfazed by the tongue-searing heat. “Things are already on fire over there.” 
 
Maggie held out the phone, startled to see a group chat labeled “Gleemen.” The last message said, “EMERGENCY. Here. Now.” _What was the man up to?_ 
 
 George pocketed the device, leaned over and gave her kiss on the cheek, lips still warm from the coffee. “Lunch today?”
 
Maggie nodded, pulling her bathrobe tight around her. 
 
As soon as George was out of the house, Maggie went to the bedroom and pulled on her retirement uniform of yoga pants and a voluminous blouse, ran a comb through her gray and brown mop of hair, and grabbed her purse. _What in the world were Gleemen?_ 
 
Crackpot theories went through her head. She’d heard stories about women her age finding out they’d been living a lie all these years, that their husbands have secret lives they’ve known nothing about. Mistresses. Gay lovers. Shady business ventures. Dark hobbies. She had to know what George was doing. It was the surest way to shut down her hyperactive imagination.
 
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
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 #smileaday Just heard from my new publisher (Falstaff Books) that we've got a narrator and are moving forward on audiobooks for my Menopausal Superhero books. Given that over half of my own reading is done in audiobook format these days, I'm so very very very excited about this!
audiobook image
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 #samanthascenes #saturdayscenes In celebration of my re-release of the Menopausal Superheroes series last Thursday, here's a favorite bit from book 1: Going Through the Change.
_______________________________________________
Helen tossed off the covers. She couldn’t sleep. It had only been a few hours since Cindy had dropped her off, after yet another all night session testing the limits of her abilities, tipsy on wine and drunk on power. She had stumbled to the bedroom, thrown away her burnt-up clothes, and flopped into bed. She fell into sleep like a diver into a pool.

She hadn’t expected to resurface again so soon. She checked the bedside clock. Four-thirty a.m. Too late to be called night and too early to be called morning. But her eyelids were up, and she shook with a restless energy. She knew this feeling. It was excitement.

The round of experiments with Cindy last night had shown her what she could do. And she wanted to do more. It had been a long time since her limits had been stretched, since the world had seemed new and exciting. God, what a rush! It was like being in love.

She sat on the edge of the bed for a moment and then padded to the closet and pulled on a long T-shirt. It had been her husband’s and proved more durable than he had. She wondered if it were possible to buy fireproof clothing.

Moving quietly through the apartment, she made her way to the kitchen and to the patio doors at the back. She stepped through into the patch of grass that had sufficed as a yard for Mary’s barbecue party a week or so ago.

Helen looked around. The windows of the two apartments above Mary’s overlooked the yard, but they were dark. The back of the yard was bordered by some kind of industrial strength hedges, probably to protect the homeowners behind from having to see the seedy, little apartment dwellers smoking their cigarettes and drinking their beer.

Helen willed a ball of fire into her hand and made it roll. She tossed it from one hand to the other, rolling it across her arms and laughing. She balanced it on one finger like Wilt Chamberlain and made it spin, first one direction and then another. She made a second and a third ball and tried to juggle them. Whenever she dropped one in the grass, she stomped out the small fire with her bare foot and made a replacement.

When she tired of fire juggling, she decided to try other shapes. She made a sort of spear, a long thin flame. She bent it around itself until it was a ring. She spun it in the air and then around one wrist, like it was a hula-hoop. She thought about spinning it around her waist, but knew the shirt would never survive it. She didn’t want to end up naked in her daughter’s backyard.

God, this was fun. She hadn’t had this kind of fun in years. She lined up a couple of beer cans and soda bottles in various parts of the yard and, making her finger into a gun, shot them with small blasts of fire, leaving smoking piles of melted tin can and broken glass.

She was trying to decide what to do next, when she froze, stopped by a small squeak. The sliding door squeaked in its track. Helen turned, just in time to see her wide-eyed daughter poking her head out the small opening she had made. Her voice sounded almost childlike, like she was afraid. “Mom?”
________________________
Thanks for reading! You can learn more about me and my writing at http://samanthabryant.com or follow My Saturday Scenes collection here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/Y5kMoB There's also a collection for ALL the Saturday Scenes by ALL the participating authors here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/4XjIWE

new covers
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 #smileaday Book birthdays.

I had triplets today. Three brain children.

Three of my book babies were sent out into the world to seek their fortunes. Hmmm . . .may have to work on that metaphor. Makes me sound too much like the mother in the three little pigs, and I'm hoping to avoid the wolves.

It really is such a lovely feeling though, getting your work out there into the world. So grateful for all the help I've had getting this far.

It's time to celebrate so the youngest and I made cupcakes. :-)

new books
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 #smileaday Second chances and fresh starts.

Today, I sent out an author newsletter announcing the re-release of my novels through a new publisher. I also changed all my pictures and banners on all the different social media platforms I play on so as to stop using the picture of me holding that first book with its old cover and the old covers.

It felt really good. Like fresh coat of paint or complete makeover good. That new beginning feeling like I get when a new semester begins and I get new students and the possibilities are all still on the horizon. Such buoying optimism!

Despite the signed contract in my hand (or really, on my hard drive), the thing that made this rebirth moment for my novels feel real was getting my new covers and knowing my release date (February 7). So, one more time (then I promise I'll stop sharing my new covers . . .for today at least): Meet the Menopausal Superheroes for the first time all over again.
new book covers
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 #smileaday Fresh starts (new covers!)
 
If you've been following my publishing story, then you already know that I asked for and was granted the rights to my Menopausal Superhero novels from my previous publisher AND that I've signed with a new publisher: Falstaff Books. 
 
Today was a big day in that I got to see the latest iterations of my new covers. A cover can make or break a book's chances for sales, so this is no small thing. And I'm really really lucky in that this publisher is willing to listen to my opinions and give me a strong say in the final product. 
 
I did really like my old covers. They were vibrant, eye-catching, and simple (in a good way). They were, however, a little off-tone for the content, perhaps leading readers to expect a mostly comedic book instead of superheroic women's fiction with comedic moments. So, this move to a new publisher was the perfect time for a re-brand. 
 
We're not quite ready to show them yet, so I'm just going to give a sneak peek here, the bit of each cover that shows the title. I can't wait to unveil these babies to the world! 
new covers
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 #smileaday A big writing day. 
 
It's been a while since I spent an entire day at home, able to put a good amount of focus on my writing life. Today, I submitted three short stories, finished another short story, prepared my submission for my critique group and sent it out, made arrangements to attend a convention this summer as an author guest, responded to one of the two mentoring programs I'm participating in, formatted and scheduled the guest post I'm hosting on Wednesday, and responded to a host of emails that have been dangling for a couple of weeks. 
 
It feels good to feel like I'm on top of things again instead of buried under them. 


buried under the to do list

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#smileaday Making space!


I've been slowly transforming the smallest bedroom in our house into a writing room for myself. It's slow going. Money and time are two things I'm always short on. For a couple of months, there's been this big pile of displaced things taking up half the room: college girl's belongings that didn't got with her but are still wanted, furniture and shelving that I haven't figured out if I still have a need and use for yet, toys and belongings left from when this was the tween's room, etc.


We moved everything that wasn't temperature sensitive into the half-way finished attic today and voila!  The room feels room-sized now! Tomorrow, I'm hoping to start removing the wallpaper. Maybe I can get some new paint on my walls before the end of February!

my writing room to be
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#smileaday Teaching adults.

Today I taught the first session of a semester long course I'm offering at Central Carolina Community College: Finish Your Novel. It's been a year or so since I last taught for CCCC, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is to work with a room of adults who chose to be there. A very different teaching experience than my day-to-day in middle school Spanish. Refreshing.

This group is especially engaging and I'm looking forward to our next meeting already!

spectrum explorer to architect
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 #smileaday A little peace and quiet. 
 
I've been grumpy most of today. Maybe because I'm underslept or undercaffeinated (though Sweetman did bring me a coffee treat). Maybe because I was in a very noisy social environment till past my bedtime last night. Maybe because it was the last day of the semester and the kids were relentless. 
 
I don't like being grumpy. The best way to get rid of it is to take a woods walk, but it was rainy and dark by the time life would have allowed that. So instead, as soon as my girl was through her homework, I took myself away to my office (still in process, but mine!), picked up my laptop, and wrote for a while. 
 
Longer than I thought, apparently, because somewhere in there, Sweetman came home and finished making dinner, letting me know it was almost eight o'clock. So good to have family that understands that sometimes I just have to be by myself for a while. 
 
Several hundred words, two cups of tea, and a bowl of beans and rice later, I'm a new woman, nearly ready to be social again. 


silence quote

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 #smileaday Convention friends. 
 
convention friendsWhen I first started going to conventions as part of my author life, I didn't know anybody and it was terrifying. I did it anyway because I'm stubborn like that, but I was not having fun. It raised every introvert anxiety I had. 
 
Today, I finished a three day convention. I presented on seven panels, gave a reading, and spent many hours at my sales table talking with potential readers and other writers. I met new people
 
It was still difficult, but you know what? 
 
This is fun for me now. 
 
Because now, four years later, going to a convention (at least one in the Southern con circuit, near where I live) means I'm going to see my writing and convention friends, that I'll catch up on their lives and their creations, that I'll get hugged and teased by some of the best people in the world.
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 #smileaday Selling books. 
 
It's a good feeling anytime someone buys one of my books. Someone was interested enough by my work to part with some monies. That's quite a vote of confidence! 
 
But today's big sale was especially especially nice. A woman bought TWO full sets of my Menopausal Superhero series: one for herself and one for her friend. And not does it mean that she bought SIX books, but she also sought me out in particular because she remembered me from a con last summer when she had tried to buy my book, but I had run out of book one. That almost made me feel famous!


menopausal superhero books covers

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On some of my other social media platforms, I share a piece of what I've written each week on #saturdayscenes which is a hashtag some other writer friends use, too. And #samanthascenes because I want my own hashtag :-)

This week was a low fiction week as I had a lot of writing business to handle to prepare for Illogicon, a local sci-fi and fantasy convention. But I did add a couple of hundred words to my current short story. 

This one is called "Bad Luck House" and fits in to a series of stories I've been writing, which I call "The ShadowHill Stories." They are all weird/supernatural tales that take place in a suburban neighborhood much like the one I live in. This one is about a house that can't seem to keep a tenant. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote on it this week: 

Over the next few days, Janet found herself driving by the little house even when it wasn’t on her way anywhere. No one had called yet asking for a showing, and the house was viewing ready, so there wasn’t any reason to go by, but still, once a day or so, she could be found driving slowly around the cul-de-sac, pausing in front of the house, then driving wistfully away. 
 
She was sitting in her car in front of the house, eating her sandwich and looking up at the small decorative windows near the eaves when someone rapped on her car window. Startled, she set her sandwich back in its wrapper and wiped her hands and face before rolling down the window. 
 
A short, dark-haired woman wearing a hand-knitted hat even though it wasn’t cold outside smiled at her. “Hey-ya.”
 
“Hello yourself.” 
 
“You looking at the house? I’ve seen you here a few times in the past few days.” 
 
Janet smiled. “I’m Janet, the realtor.”
 
The woman’s face fell. “Oh. So, you’re not interested? I thought you were maybe a new buyer. It would be really nice to get a good neighbor settled in there. Someone who can stay for a few years.” 
 
“It does have quite a history, doesn’t it?”
 
The woman looked at the house. A gentle breeze shook the crepe myrtle in the yard, sending a shower of purple petals glistening through the air. Both women sighed. 
 
Janet grabbed her keys. “You want to go inside? I’ve got a couple of things to check on and I’d be happy to show you around.”
 
The woman grinned broadly, as she stepped back to let Janet exit the car. “I’d like that! I haven’t been inside in years. I’m Emily, by the way.” 
 
“Janet. Come on.” 
 
The two women walked up the bricked pathway that led off the driveway to the small porch and Janet let them both in. A beam of late morning sunlight glowed on the wall, leaving a flower like pattern of shadow. Janet breathed deeply. Something about this house just made her feel relaxed. She turned to her companion, whose head was on a swivel as she turned around in the room seeming to try to take in all of it at once. “So, you’re one of the neighbors?”
 
Emily nodded, biting her lip. “I’m across the street. The blue siding with the big porch.” 
 
“That’s a nice house, too.”
 
“It suits us.” 
 
Janet let a silence fall between them. She was feeling rebuffed by Emily’s short answers, after she’d seemed so friendly out on the road. Janet wondered if she’d somehow offended her. Then Emily grabbed her arm. “Can you feel it?”
 
“Feel what?”
 
“It’s like a humming, an electricity. I felt it as soon as we walked in.” Emily spoke quickly, in a tense whisper. “It makes my teeth hurt.”
 
Janet didn’t feel anything at all. She shrugged. “Do you want to look around the upstairs?”
 
Emily wrapped her arms around herself, shivering even though the house was perfectly comfortable and warm, but she nodded her agreement. 


suburban cottage
 
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 #smileaday Convention Time! I'm at Illogicon this weekend, selling my books and presenting on panels and networking with writing friends. In short, I'm having a ball, and it's a business expense. 

illogicon table picture

2019 plans

Jan. 1st, 2019 02:39 pm
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 I like lists and projects. It's something hardwired in me. There's a satisfaction in it that I don't really find anywhere else. Maybe it's a desire for gold stars on a chart. Maybe it's how I impose order on a chaotic universe. I'm not sure I care why. It's just something I like. 

For the past couple of years, I've taken on a #52weekproject and a #365dayproject. In 2017, I tried a new recipe every week and posted and responded to a poem every day. In 2018, I wrote about #dailylight every day: something good about each set of 24 hours. I also try to read a book a week (though that one doesn't quite work out on that timing: I always read more than 52 books, but they don't always neatly finish in a seven day span). I have a five year long chain of writing at least 250 words a day (which shows how well this habit building, commitment to myself thing works for me.

I know that some people hate this sort of thing, but I look at it as a commitment to myself, a promise that I will do these small things that bring me pleasure and make my days better. 

52 week projectFor this year, I'm going to play a game a week for my 52 Week Project.

My family and I are big into boardgames, card games, videogames, roleplaying games, etc.

We have too many. I won't have to buy a new game to find 52 different ones to play over the course of the year. 

I'm hoping this will get some of the ones that haven't made it off the shelves onto my table and into our hearts and minds.

I know it breaks my husband heart when a game sits unplayed. 

I'm also looking for the "us together having fun" part of that.

Our children are at branching out ages, and it's hard to find something we all love, but we always come together over the gaming table.

So, in a way, this is my promise to have more family time. 


Last year's #dailylight 365 day project proved really important to my mental health. It was a hard year. You guys know, you were there, too.

365Definitely hard on creative, sensitive sorts like me. So many of my friends suffered mental and emotional anguish and found it hard to move forward on their creative endeavors, when it felt like the world was burning down around us and our basic assumptions about the goodness of humanity were proven false and ridiculous. 

So, my #365project this year will be in a similar vein: #smileaday . I'm planning to write about one thing that made me smile each day. 

You know, the whole "even in darkness there is light" thing. Choose your wizard. Gandalf, Dumbledore. 

It helps me to remember to take a moment and notice it. 

Are any of the rest of you project people like this? What are you taking on in the new year? 
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 I woke annoyed this morning, mostly annoyed that I wasn't able to sleep longer. After all, I'm a schoolteacher on winter break with two teenaged kids. There's no reason I have to start early. Even the dog will usually sleep until at least eight a.m., given the option. 

But nope, 7:30 and I'm awake. 

But a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a finished chapter written in a room lit only by soft morning sunlight later…I'm good. That was lovely. 

quote about morning
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 My pup and my hippo footstool
This is O'Neill. In the picture, he's watching me write, and sharing my hippo footstool. He's a great writing coach. He lets me tell him stories and listens very patiently, even when the stories don't quite make sense yet. He's a big-picture sort of guy that way.

When I've been sitting here too long, he lets me know it's time to go for a walk or get a snack. If I seem agitated, he'll put a paw on my knee or nudge a nose under my elbow to remind that it's okay. I've always got him. 

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Samantha J Bryant

February 2019

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