Posted in Fiction, Life stuff

Why, Stella

I tried to convey some of this in my live video while revealing my new cover for 34 Seconds, but there were technical issues because me and technology…well, that’s all, just me and technology.

I’ve been asked several times why 34 Seconds has a new cover, and why I keep saying I’m relaunching my brand. Those of you who know me or have followed me for the past several years may know I have undergone some of the big life changes in recent years.

I released 34 Seconds, my debut novel, in 2015. It was the start of a new school year and the second year I spent more time researching different schools and districts, including those out of my home state of Colorado, than writing.

After yet another year of incessant teasing and bullying, including being pushed down stairs and into tables and lockers by kids we knew, I pushed for a move for my daughter. I’d always said she won’t see the age of sixteen unless she has wings to fly and be her own person. The high school she was slated to join had lost several kids to suicide. It took the entire school year and into the summer to make the move, but in mid-2016, my family and I moved to Arizona. I could get into how much happier I am, but that doesn’t matter. I could even get into how well my daughter is doing though I am convinced she has pain I may never understand, but that, too, doesn’t matter to the story of 34 Seconds.

Before the school year was too far underway, I discovered something about myself and about what I needed in my world. For the first time in years, I had a support team. Not just a friend or two who listened and advised or nodded heads in an understanding of parental difficulties, but a real team. People who surrounded me, lifted me up, loved me, told me day in and day out that I am worthy. I had been bullied almost as much as my daughter had been. By teachers, by schools, by the people I thought loved me most. I had been told over and over I am wrong, not worthy, and useless. It didn’t take long for me to grasp the good in my world, hold my breath and fall off a cliff into a realm I knew little about.

My family fell apart.

My world spun out of control.

I stared at divorce papers through tears wondering if I’d ever believe the things I’d heard in my new world.

In the two years since the move the Arizona and the six months before, my debut novel didn’t get any love. I couldn’t publish my other work. I couldn’t promote my one novel. So, it sat. Unloved. Unattended.  Unwanted.

A burden.

Like me.

There’s a funny thing about life’s challenges. If we push ourselves, if we build a team around us to hold us up when we are weak, if we allow ourselves to feel every horrible emotion settled into our stomachs, we can come out not just alive and surviving, but better than before.

I can’t say I’m there yet.

But I believe Stella is worth it. I believe my work is worth it. And I believe I am worthy.

And those things are a big change from where I was two years ago.

So, when the time came to allow myself to publish again, I ran 34 Seconds through more edits, more Beta readers, and found a fabulous designer to make a new cover.

And it’s here. Like me. Much the same, but new again. Renewed. Worthy of being out in the world. It’s not the writing I do today. If I were to rewrite this whole book today, I’d probably change quite a bit. Nikki would be stronger. Maybe Will would respect her and not just think he did. Maybe Chris would be the partner a strong Nikki deserves.

But I didn’t change much. This book is already a few years old now. But it’s a story that is so close to my heart, I had to make it worth getting back out into the world.

I will be publishing more again. Just Jules should be ready for beta readers soon. My artist is waiting on cover ideas, so he can get to work. And if you’ve followed me for the past few years, you may know Finding Her and What May Come will follow in the next year to two. I’m also working on a middle school adventure, and I’m excited to bring Zane into my writing world. I haven’t decided what I will do with the LGBT stories I have, but I will share when they are ready.

If you take anything from this, know you are worthy. And stop letting people tell you otherwise.

You know, I’d truly appreciate sharing with your friends and grabbing your copy, so I’m tossing some links in below so you can easily find 34 Seconds. Grab a bottle of wine and some tissues while you’re shopping.

Amazon Print and Kindle

 

Also here if you are a B&N shopper

Barnes and Noble 34 Seconds

 

Stay real and spread love like glitter,

~ Stella

Posted in Life stuff

Never Underestimate Your Power

My favorite high school teacher passed away on Friday, July 13th. If you knew him, you’d likely think he chose this date for his own demise, even if only because we’d say it was so.

I have some of his writing I’d like to share at some point, but I can’t just yet. I cannot yet read it out loud without crying.

But I wrote this in his honor.

In memory of Hugh Scanlan:

In the blink of an eye, it passes. Life. Like the mist on the lake water, it glides over moving with grace and speed until light fills its spaces and darkness lifts. As we go about our day-to-day chores, as we laugh and cry, time passes without regard to our thoughts, our stresses, our worries, or the moments we’d like to revisit.

The sun set on us all at one time, and though I’d like to think my sun is at high noon, we never know just when gravity might cause it to fall straight from the sky crushing us with the weight of overwhelming loss.

My sun is setting. So is yours. I’ve buried the suns of loved ones for years without a question as to how I would carry on. Because we just do. We carry one day in and day out. We move forward, we move past, we move ahead sometimes tripping over our own lives, our weaknesses dropping us to the ground in moments we haven’t the strength to carry, and we get back up wondering how we survived, checking our sun in the sky for the slightest movement. But that’s the thing. Its movement is so slight we don’t notice it. Like watching a baby grow, we don’t see its occurrence, only acknowledge it has occurred.

I started my journey with Scanlan in my life when I was fourteen years old. In ninth grade, he challenged me and opened my eyes more than any other teacher had before. Sure, there were others before him who let the light in, introduced me to something inspiring. But Hugh Scanlan was it for me. He was…just a school teacher some would say…just a guy who knew movie trivia and who could rent the movie to you if you guessed the title from a quote…just someone pushing pencils and dropping tests to watch us squirm…he was an inspiration, mentor, father, husband, friend, coach, comedian, and so much more under the guise of a simple high school teacher.

After my ninth-grade year, I had Scanlan again for Oral Language Lab, then my junior year English studies and Senior year English was in his classroom too. I did the one-act play under him and went on to college to study theatre because, in all those years in his presence, I developed not only a love for the stage but also an appreciation for the work it takes to get a piece on the stage. When we studied Shakespeare, he allowed me to read Stephen King, because he and I had discussed William’s words so much after school and in his free periods, he trusted I knew the material. When everyone in the film section of our lab had to report on My Fair Lady, he let me work from Pygmalion because he knew I like the stage version better. But more than that, he knew I get more out of the play than the movie.

You see, as much as I’d love to think I was special and stood out to Mr. Scanlan, he did this for anyone who let him know they’d follow him to the moon if he only asked. He had this special power so many teachers have that often goes unnoticed until we wake up one day and realize the impact this power had on our lives. He could see deep into every student. He knew our personalities; he knew what motivated each one of us, and he knew how to keep us in a position where we were constantly growing – all without us knowing. My story is just one of many lives he touched.

I graduated in 1991. For the first few years, still living in the county, I’d pop in after school and sit and talk with him. In 2012, I came back to Virginia to say goodbye to my father. I knew I may never go back again, so I stopped at the high school to say goodbye to my favorite teacher too. I didn’t get to see him that moment I tried. It was late September, early in the day, and the office ladies didn’t give a hoot who I was and why it was so important for me to say goodbye to him before I left. But they caved and told me when he had a free period. I waited. I got in my car, drive to Gloucester thinking of all the evenings I’d drive down there to visit him at the video store and all the things he taught me standing there talking about movies. All the movies I’ve seen in my lifetime because he said to give it a watch. When it was time to head back to Saluda, my heart raced. I cried. I knew I had to share something big with the man I’d given credit to for so many years without him knowing. And I wasn’t sure if he’d even care or remember me. But he did. And we talked. He told me he was retiring after that year. We shared to sorrow from the past year and some laughs from years past. Finally, I told him I had to come to see him because I’d buried my father and wanted him to know all the things we never to someone until they are gone. He was my inspiration. He was my mentor. He is the reason my life has taken the path it had taken. When I felt (or feel) less than confident about something, I remembered him and his words. I remembered how he knew me. And how he always had the right thing to say to put me in a role where I’d thrive or get me back on track. I was already in my late thirties, and I was writing my first book. I looked into his striking blue eyes, and said, “Thank you. You are the reason I am a writer today. I did other things in fun industries outside of theatre before becoming a mom and staying home to focus on children. But when it was time to focus on me, when it was time to ask myself if I could do anything I wanted to do, if I had the freedom to be me, who would that be, I thought of you, and said I will do what Scanlan believed I could do.”

I released my first novel in 2015. I only had his school email address. And he’d retired. I knew 2012 would be the last time I spoke to him. But, it’s funny…life…I said all the things I wanted to say to him. I gave him the credit he deserved, the credit I’d give him for so many years when speaking of my life to anyone but him. I told him he is the reason I believe in myself. And today, almost thirty years since graduating all of his classes, he is still my reason.

His spirit lives in everything I write – even if he would have torn it apart and challenged me to rewrite it.

~Stella