Flying with the Falcon

Featured Indie Authors: Literary Fiction

It’s book list time! If you’re a reader, this is the place to find interesting work by indie authors. Let’s get cracking on some indies writing literary fiction. This is a tough genre to write, and I am choosing to begin the first featured author post with literary fiction because it’s a big space to occupy as an author. When you can write LitFic, you can write anything. Before we get into the titles, let me first say I am featuring these authors to showcase their work as writers, not as a reflection of personalities or lifestyles. I don’t know any of these authors personally, but I want to open the doors to the value indie authors bring to the world of publishing through serious conviction to writing. The featured books here are not necessarily new releases, but are chosen for the quality of writing they offer.

Additionally, indie authors are still battling to convince readers that we are valid against the mammoth publishing houses and their equally massive distribution services. But I have said elsewhere–and will probably say it again–indie authors maintain rights to their own work, and there’s a beautiful side to the crafting of creative writing which levels the playing field. When indie authors let loose because they can, we readers get to reap the rewards of unleashing the creative spirit in every writer. With that, please peruse the titles below, and enjoy the worlds spun into the stories. If you like what you see, go ahead and click the book link, which will lead you straight to Amazon to purchase.

*Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

I want to begin with a special literary fiction which has become a sort of movement. The book Spilled Milk by K.L. Randis is being used as a text in classrooms to teach students about child abuse, and the author offers speaking engagements around this topic. Spilled Milk has been re-released in an updated version, and has earned serious acclaim. Such a beautiful tribute to overcoming childhood trauma deserves a top spot on any list of good reads. For those interested, here is the jacket info:

Brooke Nolan is a battered child who makes an anonymous phone call about the escalating brutality in her home.

When social services jeopardize her safety condemning her to keep her father’s secret, it’s a glass of spilled milk at the dinner table that forces her to speak about the cruelty she’s been hiding. In her pursuit for safety and justice Brooke battles a broken system that pushes to keep her father in the home.

When jury members and a love interest congregate to inspire her to fight, she risks losing the support of family and comes to the realization that some people simply do not want to be saved.

 

Next on the list is Five Fathoms Beneath written by J.R. Alcyone, an award-winning novel focused on mental illness and finding hope in the face of titanic struggles. In many societies, mental illness is still a topic to be avoided lest we face a lack of acceptance for circumstances out of our control. This literary work brings light to the issues of handling personal crisis, thoughts about suicide, and fear of losing people we love. Again, check out the jacket info for more details:

If Ambrose Serafeim’s life is not quite perfect, then it’s very good–he lives in picturesque Western Australia, he has a lovely fiancée, and he is well on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a physician. Brose owes no small part of his station in life to his famous father, Alec, a gentle and idealistic pediatric heart surgeon who lives by a simple moral code–do good and be good. Brose believes in his father and that code the way he believes in absolutes like oxygen or gravity. But when Alec shatters Brose’s perfect world by acting in a way Brose can neither forgive nor understand, Brose is left foundering amidst an existential crisis and clinical depression, unsure not only who he is, but who his father was.
That is until a catastrophic injury in a running race changes everything.

The road from that catastrophic injury leads Brose to the same heart-stopping precipice on which Alec once stood. Facing the possible end of his marriage and having seemingly lost his career, will Brose repeat his father’s terrible mistake, or will Brose blaze a new path forward, one where he finally realizes his potential to help others?

A twist on Loren Eiseley’s famous essay, “The Star Thrower,” Five Fathoms Beneath blends a realistic medical backdrop with a dash of magical realism to tell the heartbreaking yet ultimately life-affirming tale of a man’s quest to find his life’s meaning.

Five Fathoms Beneath is a realistic story about suicide, an important public health issue. The novel may contain scenes and descriptions which are upsetting to some readers. 

Up next is a coming-of-age story from an award-winning author: The Other Girl by LB Gschwandtner. According to reviews, this reads like a thriller. What seems most striking about this story is the fact that it features a young female attending a Quaker school, the type of story you may not find in the stacks of books released by traditional presses. This unique look into life at an alternative school will likely entertain and educate readers. For more information, read the jacket info:

During her first week at coed Quaker prep Foxhall School, sassy Susannah Greenwood, one of two girls who’ve entered as sophomores, gets pulled into the cool girls’ clique. While the school is instructing her in the moral and ethical tenets of the Quaker faith, the cool girls allow her to enter their world beyond the rule book—but in trying to find a balance between idealistic faith and the reality of a competitive system, Susannah runs afoul of the school’s most authoritarian dean and befriends the only other new sophomore, a brainy, socially inept outcast. Then her new friend runs away after being shamed by the dean, and Susannah finds herself caught between the two forces of loyalty and authority: Should she cooperate with the unforgiving, and now vulnerable, dean, who, with her job on the line, is pleading for information from her about her runaway friend? Or should she keep the secret she’s sworn to protect?

 

Continuing in the vein of the experimental and courageous, this next book features a main character facing gender identity in Roads Not Taken by Emily Gallo. A striking aspect of this novel is the focus on love and the fact that it is not defined by gender or sexuality. In an age where people are becoming more awakened to gender fluidity and questioning cultural norms, stories like Roads Not Taken are becoming ever more meaningful to readers seeking a compass for acceptance about their own identities. For your interest, here is the jacket info:

Sometimes you need to let go of the wheel and see what happens.
A coming-of-age story with a twist: When Malcolm thinks he has found the woman of his dreams, he is forced into reevaluating his beliefs and preconceptions while exploring the meaning of love without gender.

 

I’m going to end this list with a memoir titled Justice for the Lemon Trees by Jessica Lucci. This is another award-winning read by an indie author sharing her own story of childhood and domestic abuse, yet another opportunity for readers to learn and grow from sharing the author’s story. The experiences of women in the world today are finally coming into the public sphere and bringing out into the open the severity of how abusive relationships affect women and children around the world. Read the jacket info below:

Exhilarating waves of emotion pound on the shores of pages pebbled with tragic child abuse, brash bullying, and calamitous schooling. Ms. Lucci’s memoir follows a fierce young girl from suburbia to an engulfing ocean of adult bleakness. Through her eyes, and in her own words, we bear witness to her agonizing submission and defeat in domestic violence, and lift our hearts with hers as she rises up above savage shame. Agonizingly, she falls into despair and uncertain madness as she loses everything, all over again. Through her life story, we can trace the path of pain to follow where things went wrong, and how they can be repaired for the hope of future happiness, for all survivors and their families.

I hope this list opens hearts to the creative and industrious spirit of indie authors, particularly those tackling literary fiction. As an indie author myself, I am a staunch advocate for the hard work it takes to run a writing business in order to be discovered by the audience who wants to read independently-published writing. Next time you cruise over to the “Top 100” list on your Kindle or consider your next book to be delivered, take a chance on an indie author. Certainly there is a wide range of expertise out there, but that’s true of traditionally published books, too. Readers, enjoy the ride in these stories, and expect more book lists to come. I plan to publish a book list at least once a month, always featuring indie authors.

If you enjoyed this list, feel free to comment below! I love hearing from readers. 🙂

*Full transparency, in case you missed my note at the top of this post, I use Amazon affiliate links, which means I may get paid for clicks on links to products. 

Introduction to Logophile

Hello, writers. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Elaine Snyder, and I’m a writer. Let me start by sharing a little about myself. I’ve been writing since I was in high school, and reading the dictionary since I was in elementary school. Reading, in fact, was my first love affair with words, but I when I started writing bad poetry in high school, I got the writing bug and never recovered. In case you remember my old blog, Flying with the Falcon, I want you to know this isn’t my first rodeo as a blogger. I’ve had many blogs in the past, but Flying with the Falcon was probably my most interesting. Ending the Falcon blog was hard for me, since I actually grew to look forward to the writing, and felt a connection to those lovely people who came to read my writing once in a while. So here I am again, back to blogging because I can’t seem to stop myself. This time, I want to serve writers, my tribe of wacky nerds who love words enough to do strange things like decorate with books, name their pets after famous characters like Gandalf, or who always win at Scrabble. This blog is a gift for you, because I love my fellow writers and want them to have a place to visit and coalesce with other writers. We are often a lonely tribe, but we belong to each other.

Each week I plan to write a blog post about writing, whether it’s writing skills I can share, tips on getting into a writing habit, or hints about indie publishing. As I get things going, I hope I can invite a few bloggers to share some of their wisdom here as guests, because I don’t know everything there is to know about writing. I know, shocking. But I want this to become a nice place for writers to come chat in the comments, share on social media, or find some good material to inspire you. Whether you’re in a great place as an experienced writer, or you’re a knock-kneed beginner, I hope to serve you all. I have found after more than 30 years of practicing the writing craft that I still learn new things every day, and I still believe I will be practicing until the day I die. Along with writing tips, I will occasionally share indie books, both as reviews and in groups to showcase them. For those of us who are dedicated readers (as I believe many writers are), I would like it to be a spot to come find some new reading, while you also help support indie authors.

Just for the record, I want to plug indie authorship for a moment. I’m pleased to see a gradual shift happening in relationship to self-publishing, because this choice to publish oneself has often been seen as a vanity, rather than a serious pursuit to a writing career. My personal story with indie publishing boils down to wanting to maintain control over my hard work and creative energy, rather than turning over most of the profits and all of the rights to a publishing house. When you throw away your creative control to a group of strangers who may not have your best interests at heart, your stories may never have a fighting chance to be discovered by an audience. There are lots of reasons to go indie, freedom probably being a major reason, but despite that freedom, it’s a hard road. All the finances fall into the writer’s lap, along with all the marketing, emailing, social media, jacket copy, cover art…it’s a long list of jobs for one person. There are probably indie authors who have help, or who can pay people to do these jobs, but most indie authors I know are doing this work on their own. For this reason, I hope readers will learn to give indie authors a better chance at being read, especially if you can maybe look past the slightly imperfect cover art, the book summary that’s a little awkward, or the bumbling on social media. We’re busy folks wearing too many hats, but most of us are dedicated to our craft. Try a sample of the writing for free on your Kindle, even if the jacket copy has mistakes. You might be pleasantly surprised. Of course, there are lots of authors who aren’t serious and didn’t go the extra mile to make their work its best. I’ve read plenty of terrible indie books. It’s still worth the time to read a sample to give an author a chance.

To kick off this new blog, I want to share with you one of the most meaningful statements about writing I’ve ever heard:

“In Judaism there is an old tradition that when a young boy first begins to study, the very first time, after he reads his first word in the Torah, he is given a taste of honey or a sweet. This is so he will always associate learning with sweetness. It should be the same with writing. Right from the beginning, know it is good and pleasant. Don’t battle with it. Make it your friend.”

This quote is from Natalie Goldberg, in her book titled Writing Down the Bones. It’s one of my favorite writing books, because it reads like a conversation between author and reader, and because her main intention seems to be to deliver a sense of love through her words. At least, that’s how it feels to me. I’ve read this book over and over, like reading a love letter that still brings tears to your eyes after years of wearing it thin in your hands, the words nearly etched on your tongue. I wrote a blog post not long ago about Natalie Goldberg turning me down for an interview, a story you can read if you’re interested. Even so, I still love her writing advice. It’s gentle and kind, and it’s what I hope other writers will be when it comes to their practice. Be gentle and kind to yourself, writers. The world is heavy enough without adding more weight to your life. Allow writing to be a delight, because it can be.

When you come to this little internet cafe, bring yourself a cup of coffee or tea (even a little wine…or whiskey, if that seems necessary), and make this a sweet moment to take in some ideas, be curious, hear from wise writers about the craft, and maybe feel a little lighter about going back to your story, article, or poem. Bring that sweetness with you as you write, a taste of chocolate, a handful of berries, or a spoonful of honey. Savor it as you travel far, far away in your mind, listening to voices having discussions in places you created. As your eyes stare at the ceiling, relish the idea that you are the spindle for the words you wind into stories, and your stories are meant to be shared with anyone who is looking for them. And they are looking. If those stories are ever to be found, you must be brave enough to unlock them from your fists. Magic happens when the time is right. Suddenly your words will explode into life and your tribe will appear, those happy souls who have been waiting to hear from you.

And so it begins. Logophiles, I am so excited to serve you. I know this is going to be fun, fulfilling, and I hope you enjoy the material I look forward to offering. Soon I am  planning to share a few indie books in a post to introduce a few authors, so stop by if you’re looking for a new literary fiction read. Those will be the books I plan to showcase this week. When that post is published, I’ll offer a sign-up for an email list if any of you would like to receive this blog in your mailbox, and I will make certain to place it on every post so you can sign up anytime you like. For now, I hope interested authors will feel free to share my post anywhere you like. It will be fun to connect online and help each other grow and learn. Until then, happy writing! Remember, make it sweet. Savor the creative time, because it’s yours.

 

*For indie authors in need of help during their writing and editing process to self-publish, I am here for you. Please check my freelancing page to learn about how I assist indie authors.

How My Hero Natalie Goldberg Turned Me Down…But It Worked Out for the Best

Quite a few years ago, after much self-inflicted drama over the future of my writing career, I followed the advice of a well-known writer who instructed in his book that if you want to start gaining momentum on a self-made career, you need to attach your unknown name to a famous one. This was actually good advice, but I didn’t act on it in an authentic way, so it blew up in my face. In short, I contacted the PR rep for an author I adore, Natalie Goldberg, whose writing advice has been the voice of reason in my head since my college years…and nervously speed-talked my way to disaster.

It may have been a fantastic brain child idea to call up Natalie Goldberg out of the blue and ask if she would be willing to interview with me for a new workshop series I developed around her freewriting techniques, but I didn’t prepare myself. Instead of meticulously planning what to say, I called on a whim, actually reached a human being, and then proceeded to fumble through a very unprofessional request to attach myself to her fame. Just thinking about it makes me wince. I don’t blame her at all for saying no.

Even though I was deflated by the response I got, I wasn’t surprised. My intention was good, but I didn’t plan or think it through at all. I deserved the stiff arm she gave me, but I didn’t let it stop me from continuing forward. With almost maniacal resolve, I threw myself into my writing work, determined more than ever to get myself published, to teach other writers, and to gain a following, even if I had to do it the hard way.

Fast forward five years into the future, and here I sit at my computer, writing this missive to you. I didn’t need Natalie Goldberg to boost my dedication to writing. What I needed to was to kick myself in the pants and get moving on my own. Sometimes what we think is a good idea turns out to be a wrong turn, even if we don’t know it at the time. After many years of wrong turns, I get a lot less worked up about the little hitches in my plans, and instead try to keep perspective on what’s really important. Am I still writing? Am I still publishing? Are my big goals still working, and am I sticking to them? Do the people who need me find me?

Some people are fortunate to find themselves at a young age. I think I found my calling at a young age, but I didn’t allow myself to believe it yet. It took me decades to accept who I am meant to be. I hope that doesn’t happen to you, but even if it does, it’s okay. Finding yourself happens when you’re ready, and not before then. Trust me when I say, if you try to attach yourself to someone else’s coat tails and it fails, it will work out somehow.

At this point in my writing career, I still don’t think I’ve completely come into my time yet, but I’m ready to help other writers, regardless of my own success or failure. In at least one way, I have succeeded: I have published three books with a fourth on the way. That’s a big win. Though I have a lot more to give, I have the rest of my life to keep giving, and I plan to use every day as an opportunity. What is your plan? Do you have one? Are you shooting in the dark? Please, learn from my lessons and make your life easier.

Whatever your journey has been to date, if you need help writing your book, organizing your content, editing your writing, or figuring out how to publish through Amazon, I can help you with that. I can coach you, edit your manuscript, or we can do writing workshops via Skype. Can I get Natalie Goldberg on the phone? Nope, but I can still offer up all the knowledge I have gained from following her expert advice, and it’s been working for me for almost 30 years. If you want me to help you make your writing its best, I can do that. I trained as a teacher, and love helping other writers embrace their voices.

This work does require dedication, getting organized, and being serious. If you’re in the phase of being unsure if you’re even a writer, you may not be ready for me yet. If you’re deep in the process of writing a novel, but feel all tangled up, I’m your girl. Get your tall boots on and prepare to wade into the murky waters with me. I’ll help you keep the gators at bay. Use my contact page to send me an email, and I will get back to you in about 24 hours. We’ll decide if we’re right for each other, and if we are, we’ll get cracking.

How I Dedicated Myself to My Craft

When I was a beginner of the writing craft, I was in high school. I wrote for the sheer pleasure of it, absorbed with the practice because it called to me, and because I had plenty of time. In those days, we didn’t have such big mountains of homework, nor did we have to attend so many meetings after school for the high volume of activities expected of students today. Back then, we didn’t have smart phones or social media, but we did have computer games and too many cable channels. Either way, I loved writing so much I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went so I could write whenever an idea struck.

Even into my college years I had the time to dedicate to writing because it called to me on a cellular level. I couldn’t ignore the words rolling around in my head. They poured out of me at all hours of the day and night, sometimes even waking me up from a dream, demanding to be forged on the page. This practice went on for over a decade, sprinkled with writing workshops, books on improving my technique, and talking with other writers. Then I decided to give up.

In my heart, what I wanted more than anything was to dedicate myself to writing. I wanted to be a published author. When I said this to people in my life—the people who supposedly cared for me—some of them told me my dream was impossible, and that I’d better get a “real job.” Time and time again I was told that writing wasn’t ever going to amount to a real income, and at some point I allowed those fear-based ideas to leech into my head. When my children were young, I gave up writing for many years, believing that it would never lead to anything.

During those years, I was horribly unhappy.

Quite a few people I know have heard me tell the story of how I gave up writing in a foolhardy attempt to “grow up” and get a “real job.” Like so many other writers who did this, I failed at everything I tried to do. Every job I took only left me empty or frustrated. Meanwhile, words leaked out of me onto register tapes, napkins, and even the margins of magazines. I wrote in all the spare spaces of whatever paper I held. Eventually, I took the hint that my heart was trying to give me for years. I started writing again.

Once I embraced my craft and dove into it again fully, I felt alive again. I got a poem published in a small arts journal, to this day one of the biggest honors of my writing life. All of the writers published in that journal were far more well-established than I was, and I was floored to be included with them. After that, I got a pair of articles published in a magazine, and then I wrote a whole novel. It wasn’t very good, but I did it. But then the rug got yanked out from under me, just when the wind began to fill my sails.

In an effort to make more money, I went back to school to get my teaching degree. It took every last drop of energy and time in my day outside of working and taking care of my kids. I slept very little in those three years, and trying to work as a teacher made me happy only when I could work with my students on writing. Otherwise, I struggled with the other aspects of the job. Being trapped in bureaucracy is not for me, but I was trying to do the right thing, or so I thought.

Eventually, teaching in schools stopped working at all. It’s like the universe was banging me over the head with a two-by-four, telling me to listen to the clear message I was getting: YOU ARE A WRITER. Still, I didn’t know how to make a living as a writer. I had spent most of my adult years teaching. In this mess of my life, I wasn’t really sure what to do, so after years of stress and suffering, I finally embraced my writing desire once again. I followed my heart and got myself into a writing habit of producing 500 words per day. It changed everything.

With so much dedication to writing daily, I improved my work drastically over the course of a year and managed to write more than one whole novel in that time, along with a few short stories. I finished more in a year than I had in the last five. It was glorious, and I felt so much better. Still, I was listening to those dubious voices in my head, the voices of people who wanted to help, but steered me wrong. They were telling me I couldn’t publish, that my writing was only for me. Thank goodness I realized it was hogwash.

At some point, I got out of my head and chose to honor my truth. I quit trying to please everyone else, including publishers, and decided to publish myself. With a little ingenuity, I found a friend to help me edit a book I wrote, created art for the cover, and put that work out there…but not before I tried it under a pen name first. I published a different novel to test the landscape, and got decent feedback from friends, then took it down. After that, I just kept going.

Now I am ready to publish my fourth book with several more in the wings, and have the goal to publish ten books in five years. I’m right on target. As I continue to publish, I figured out how to build a website, start a bunch of social media and email campaigns, and am working on freeing myself from a day job so I can focus entirely on my writing. It’s happening. I’m honoring my dream.

Clearly, my story doesn’t end here, but I hope anyone reading will learn from my lessons. Don’t fall into the same traps I did. Listen to the inner voice that tells you to write. Honor who you really are. Make the time for writing and make it a daily habit. Trust that whatever you are meant to do will unfold for you if you give it time and put in the effort. You may be tested along the way, you may have to fight a dragon or two, but the dragons are only in your head; only your truth is reality.

If this story speaks to you and you need a little help getting up the mountain of mixed messaging, I am right here, ready to take your hand. It would be my honor to help you if you’re feeling ready to dedicate yourself to your craft, to make writing a serious goal, and to honor your own worth as a writer. I excel at helping writers to write in their true voices, to help bring out their strengths, and to work from the foundation of who you really are. It’s part of my own work in the world to help other writers shine.

No matter what anyone else says about who you are, take it with a grain of salt. Listen to your own inner voice, the true depth of who you are. Stop listening to fear as it needles you toward work that sucks your soul and steals your creativity. Listen instead to the part of you that giggles at the thought of accomplishing a dream, a goal, or a wish. Desire isn’t a dirty word, it’s a driving force in creating the life you are meant to live. If you’re ready to step into the light, contact me for help. I’m ready to hear from you.

Once Upon a Time, I Was a Terrible Writer

Once upon a time, I was a young writer filled with doubt. For years in high school, I wrote terrible poetry with my friends, pages and pages of it. I filled notebooks with my miserable poems, and occasionally wrote short stories that were also terrible. But I kept writing because it called to me. From the very beginning when I was 15, writing felt like home. Nothing else filled me up the way writing did. I kept writing because I felt driven to do it, and because it made me feel alive.

At first, I didn’t like showing my writing to anyone other than my most trusted friends. I felt like my work lacked skill, but what I really lacked was confidence. Even when my writing was good and my English teachers and writing teachers praised my work, I didn’t believe them. Instead of hearing the praise, I was busy comparing myself to famous authors, people who I wanted to emulate.

I remember spending hours and hours in libraries, reading beautiful poetry from authors like e.e. cummings, Maya Angelou, Leonard Cohen, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Many hours were spent sitting in the aisles of libraries in my teens and early 20s, copying poems and phrases into my notebooks, imitating the masters I so wished I could be. My writing got better from the practice, and I eventually developed my own voice.

Even though I got brave enough to read my poetry in public venues, I inwardly felt like a faker. My lack of confidence in myself did not reflect the truth of my hard work, and I wasted more than a decade hiding behind fear, keeping my writing hidden because I didn’t believe it was good enough. This same lack of confidence made me believe I could never write a novel, even though I had ideas floating in my head. It seemed like too big a project, and it overwhelmed me.

Finally, an idea for a novel grabbed me by the ears and forced itself through my hand, pouring onto the pages of a notebook. I eventually typed it all into my computer, and then printed it. A few people read it for me, and gave me feedback. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t a bestseller either, but it was my first novel. I had written a whole book, and for the first time in my life I actually felt like a real writer. That was the turning point of my writing career, but it took me many, many years to get to the point that I published.

Once that first novel was done, I began working steadily on other stories. My head exploded with ideas, so many I could barely keep up with them all. Suddenly the flood gates opened, and my brain whizzed. Story after story wanted to be birthed, and I kept writing, but I was also raising children and working while trying to hold a broken marriage together. My priorities were a mess, and I wasn’t dedicated to consistent writing.

Eventually I straightened out my personal life, but an old friend from high school inspired me on Facebook one day when he shared a post about finishing his year of dedicated writing every day. For a whole year he had written 1,000 words a day. It got me thinking. He was going to start a new year of writing, so I told him I would join him in writing 500 words a day for the next year. That was another turning point for my writing career.

In that year, I discovered the beauty of consistency and honoring my craft. Every day I wrote, regardless of how good or bad, regardless of whether or not I felt inspired. Sometimes I found myself writing at midnight because I hadn’t made time earlier in the day, but I did it. I honored my choice to write daily, and I kept my promise, posting to Facebook every day after I completed my task. People began responding to my posts, encouraging me, and I completed project after project, story after story. My work got better at a faster rate than ever, and I was getting responses to my queries to publish.

Whilst on the wave of my new-found confidence, I began to research what I needed to do to get published. It became clear to me, however, that even if I was published by a massive publishing house, I was likely to be on my own for marketing my work. Without a huge following of readers, my books would probably never get published, or they might be published and pulled quickly from print. What really disturbed me was the fact that the publishing houses would own the rights to my writing, not me. I decided to take ownership of my process, and went indie.

This decision changed my life. I sought out other authors who had gone indie and had successful careers. I hired an editor to help me polish my writing. I figured out how to build a website, and I started a blog. A smattering of people paid attention, and I got wonderful feedback. None of it was really done well, but I did it. It took me a long time to realize all my messaging was wrong, and I was all over the place with what I was producing. We all have to start somewhere.

Now I have three books published, with a fourth on the way. I have a goal to publish 10 books in five years, and I am on track to complete it with flying colors. My computer is loaded with stories, files and files of novels and ideas, and I still write regularly no matter what else is happening in my life. As I grow in my authorship, I keep practicing and improving—that’s what all writers do, even the best sellers.

No matter where you are in your writing career, I want you to know that I see you out there, working hard, feeling afraid, holding back. I hope you read this and realize it’s okay to be afraid, but please don’t let it stop you from sharing your work with the world. Your work is important, and your voice deserves to be heard. If you want help, I am here. I became a teacher a long time ago because I love helping other writers make their writing shine, and I got very good at it because it’s important to me.

If you are uncertain about stepping into the limelight, if you’re scared to hit the “publish” button, I know your pain. It can be paralyzing to let others read your writing because it’s such a personal piece of yourself, but I learned how to get past that and accept what comes. If you need help with your confidence, or you need an editor who works with your strengths, I’m here. Ignore those other writers who don’t want your competition. There’s enough room in the world for every writer driven to share their work, and your writing deserves its time.

It took me 30 years to accept my purpose. Please don’t wait that long. Contact me if you need the outstretched hand. If you’ve dedicated hours, written daily, researched madly, and know you have what it takes to be a published author, I see you. If you need an honest editor or coach who truly has the training to make your work its best while cheering you onward, send me an email. I would love to help. Even though writing can be lonely, you’re not alone. We can do this together if you’re ready.

 

 

All Good Things Come to an End

*Photo taken at Sequoia National Park, where I really began chewing on the idea of writing a travel lifestyle blog in the summer of 2017. This picture was taken while a marmot chewed on the inside of the tree as I stood in the opening. 🙂

My lovelies, the time has come. After posting religiously every week since November 16, 2017, I have come to the realization that I must take a break from writing Flying with the Falcon. This may come as a surprise to those who follow me, as I haven’t even hinted in my blog about my growing frustration with finding subjects to write about every week, but the frustration has been there for a while. Now that the travel has halted for so long, my ideas wane, and I feel I am not serving my audience the way I could or should. I have so enjoyed writing this blog, and truly looked forward to sharing my thoughts with my readers every week. My heart has been here in every post, so grateful to have this platform, and so happy to offer my humble travel experiences with you. It’s been such an honor to serve as a gentle encourager of getting out into the world, to fall in love with nature, to hold this beautiful planet in our hearts, and to honor it with our care. I have shared my ideals on politics, taking a stand for justice, and taking care of humanity. As you probably know, I believe love and compassion are the only answer to make our future work better than our present. See it, believe it, live it. We can make it a reality. All the writing I shared, along with my conviction to living tiny, will all live on the internet on my new website, still available for anyone who wants to read them. For now, I will stop adding new content. I will miss it, but it’s time.

I plan to travel again, but I don’t know when that will happen yet. Things are up in the air with our jobs holding us down with time, and we need to focus on funding our dreams. We need a home, and rebuilding the Aluminum Falcon seems like a distant hope with no place to park it in New Hampshire, no place close enough to make it convenient for working on it regularly. Our Olean home needs to be finished so we can put it on the market. My writing business is in need of my attention to make it grow. So many things to juggle in order to move forward, and something had to give. I plan to hike this summer, and maybe I’ll write about it and share. If I travel, I will certainly write about it when I can. For now, though, I feel I am doing my audience a disservice by rummaging in the past for interesting material until new travel experiences come along in my present. It’s just not good enough. In the meantime, I still plan to write. I am working on ideas for a blog about writing, and still need to decide what I want to write about, and how often I want to publish. In this moment, I think I need a short break from the schedule to just live with my thoughts, find my new direction, and spend some time with my inner compass.

This week I read a little news, which I haven’t done for a while (because it’s been so horrid and hopeless, and I don’t want to feel that way). It’s awful, but also wonderful. Christchurch is grief-stricken with the massacre of over 50 people who wanted only to worship together in peace. Children all over the world participated in over 2,000 strikes, walking out of school on Friday, March 15th, to protest the lack of attention being given to climate change. They may just save us all. Meanwhile, the president of the United States falsely proclaims that white nationalism (aka: white supremacy) isn’t a problem, that the shooting in New Zealand is no big deal, and our southern border is still an emergency. He’s trying to crowdfund his wall now. I am mystified by the ability for anyone to ignore science, research, and real data. It’s astonishing, but it’s a problem humanity has had for millennia. We aren’t new to ignoring truth, we just share it more readily on social media now. For what it’s worth, I still feel hopeful for the future. I believe most people are generally good, and when faced with tough decisions, they will do the right thing most of the time. We all make mistakes, we all do terrible things sometimes, and we all are imperfect, but we all mostly want the world to be better, for people to be happy.

As I move onto a new platform for my website and do my best to keep improving content for my readers, I am excited to say that I have fallen in love with podcasting. If you think I’m leaving you because this blog is taking a break, think again. I will still be here in one form or another, whether writing, podcasting, sharing photos on Instagram, or making videos. My work is just shifting to another way to share, so come find me if you are compelled, or share with a friend. I always welcome sharing, and am so very grateful to all the wonderful readers who have come here weekly to read. There are a few of you I see here all the time, and I love you for your support. You are the reason I stayed as long as I have, trying to keep the flame lit for the Falcon. Who knows what the future will bring? Perhaps something much better, bigger, more valuable. Whatever it is, my mind needs time to dig it up from my subconscious so I can share it in the best way for you to enjoy it. I want it to be amazing. You deserve my best.

My friends, I want to leave you with a request that we all take good care of each other and our world. There are so many ways to make an impact, and even the smallest effort can change lives. Remember to hold doors for your elders, bring your own bags to the grocery store, look up at the stars at night, hug people you love every day, put down your phone more often, visit libraries and museums, plant a garden, go dancing, and above all, remember people usually have good intentions. Not all people are well-meaning, but most are. Trust that humanity has a good heart, and you will see the evidence everywhere you go. Enjoy this beautiful planet as much as you can while you’re here, because you never know what day will be your last. Live your life to its fullest every day, and regret won’t stand a chance. Be good to each other. I’m so sad right now, as I write this last paragraph to you. This connection has meant so much to me, and has truly become an important part of my writing life; I am going to miss it dearly. Can you feel me here? Can you feel all the love I am pouring into my words? It’s heavenly, this depth, this connection, this slender tether that ties us together each week. More than anything, I wish I could see you all out there to hug you goodbye until we meet again, but the words will have to be enough. May your hearts be full. May you love unconditionally. May you live with joy and abundance, and know that while you have shared my experiences with me, you have been cherished.

With all my love,

Elaine

 

 

My First Backpacking Trip: How Not to Begin

*Photo taken in the woods somewhere in the US. Memory fails as to exact location. 🙂

Many years ago, before Michael and I were married, he talked me into taking my first backpacking trip on the Susquehannock Trail System in Pennsylvania. Prior to this trip, my only experience was with car camping, the kind of camping you do when you drive to a camp site at a campground and pitch your tent, then enjoy the comforts of hot water and flushing toilets in the bathrooms provided. Of course, there are campgrounds which do not provide these comforts, but I didn’t go to those campgrounds. Up to this point, my idea of what backpacking meant was not at all what I expected. I had this kooky notion that backpacking meant the same thing as bushwhacking…like going out into the wilderness with a compass and a machete and hoping you don’t get lost. Little did I know how organized a backpacking trip actually is, and how painful if one is unprepared. So, when Michael talked me into going, and explained at least enough to help me realize how ridiculous my ignorant notions were, I was willing to try it. Let me just say right here that he was very surprised I was ever willing to go again.

 

Okay, cue the cheesy harp music to indicate a trip backward in time…is it playing in your head? Michael has driven us into the wilderness of Pennsylvania in summer, smack in the middle of the state, where all things green grow with an overzealous intent to take over the world as rapidly as possible. He pulls into a grassy area where a pavilion stands near a small stone building—the single pit toilet for what I learn is a small campground. The only source of water is a pump located near the pavilion, the kind you have to ratchet by hand. So, on our first night camping, we’re already roughing it, as far as I’m concerned. Since I don’t really roll with surprises, I already wasn’t very excited about what was to come, but I went with it begrudgingly. Michael got us situated with the tent and camp mats, and then we cooked a meal and went to sleep. Well, Michael slept. I laid awake all night with rocks poking into my back. The next morning we got ourselves up and onto the trail, me wearing a new backpack we purchased at Golite (a great store that went out of business, but the founder started another one, thankfully), packed with what Michael thought I would need for an overnight in the backcountry. I really don’t remember now what kind of hiker I was for that trip, but I have a feeling I was cranky. Have I mentioned I hate surprises? I really do, and poor Michael did his best to get me prepped.

 

Off we went on the trail, just a short stint on a portion of the Susquehannock from Cherry Springs area, starting from Patterson campground. We tramped into the woods, Michael leading the way. Immediately I began to attract the munching bugs. In those first few hours, I tried several strategies to keep them away, from swatting at them to trying to ignore them (yes, I was wearing bug spray), until I finally wrapped my head and ears with my bandana. That worked better than anything else to keep bugs out of my ears, and I do it to this day. I think I have it on my head in the photo I took atop Mount Haystack, if you care to go check out that story. Once I got the bug situation under control, I began to have trouble with blisters. Holy cow, did those hurt. Michael cut some moleskin for me to put on them, but that didn’t stay put with all the sweating. My poor feet were oozing and miserable. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Next came the absolute death knell for that trip: unbearable pain in my hip. I suffer from sciatica, and at the time I wasn’t as strong as I am now. It was so awful I could barely walk. Michael tried to help me loosen the muscles, but nothing worked. Agony is the only word for how bad it hurt, and we were miles out into the woods by the time this happened.

 

I think Michael finally took pity on me and called it a day as soon as he found a spot to camp. That night we slept in a nice spot by a stream, where we had easy access to plenty of water for cooking, and I was actually amazed by the way backcountry cooking worked. Watching him get out the cook kit, light up his little soda can stove, and heat water from his drinking bladder opened my eyes to a whole new world of camping. Brushing my teeth using the water bladder was probably the most interesting part of the night, but I was also impressed with how he washed up the dishes, and then we even heated water for washing ourselves after dinner. He had never done such a thing in the wilderness before, since he was used to camping without washing himself other than maybe splashing his face with water. I turned my nose up at this practice. Why be gross, even in the backcountry, if you have clean water and a little soap? I brought along a tiny container of castile soap we used for all the washing, including ourselves, and because it has tea tree oil in it, the bugs hated the smell. A double win. Michael was delighted to wash with the warm water after the long day of hiking, so the evening was quite nice, until I tried to sleep.

 

Once again, I laid awake all night, unable to sleep well on the camp mats he brought, and without any cushion for my head. After all that hard work, I needed a good night’s sleep, but couldn’t get it. When morning came, I could barely function. I think that’s when we decided it was best to turn around and go back, but I can’t remember. It’s fuzzy now, because I think we originally expected to spend two nights in the woods, but my hip pain, lack of sleep, and blisters were just too much. I wasn’t prepared for the rigors of the trail while carrying so much weight. What’s worse is that Michael had packed my bag for me because I had no idea what I needed, and for some reason packed too many clothes. I had other stuff in there I didn’t need, either, and my pack probably weighed close to 40 pounds. Way too heavy, especially for a first trip. Back to the car we hiked, stopping constantly to rest because of all the pain I was dealing with, on top of being hungry. So hungry! Michael packed what he thought would be plenty of food, but I was starving. Eventually we got back to the car, sweaty, stinky, and struggling, but we made it out in one piece. Fortunately we didn’t see any timber rattlers on the trail, a lucky thing, nor did we have any trouble with other animals on that trip. Very lucky, or I might not have wanted to try it ever again. With all the difficulty I had, I’m surprised I wanted to go back. To this day, though, the actual worst part of all of it for me wasn’t the pain or the hunger or the lack of sleep, it was the lack of reward in the woods. For the whole hike, we never saw a view, a waterfall, an interesting rock feature, nothing exciting to enjoy other than trees and ferns. It was that lack of seeing anything interesting that made me feel motivated to go elsewhere to hike so I could get the reward of beauty.

 

After the trip, Michael fully expected me to say I would never want to hike again. How fortunate that I don’t run from a challenge. Instead, I told him I wanted to try again, but this time on my terms: 1) We will have coffee in the morning, 2) Better comfort for sleeping was a must, 3) I needed to carry less weight. I also told him I wanted to know where we were going and how far so I could plan how much food to bring. No more going hungry. It took me a long time to tweak my backpacking rituals and gear to finally get things the way I like on a trip, but it was all worth the hardship. Nothing feels as good as getting out into the wilderness, where the air is fresh and full of oxygen, the world curls around you while you walk the miles listening to wind or water or birds, and the accomplished wonder of surviving on what you can carry on your back. In a modern world full of so much ease, it’s a good feeling to pare back all those amenities and see how easy it is to live with so little. In the wilderness, there is no news, no phone ringing, no business meeting, or traffic blaring. There’s just you and your feet plodding along, and the enchantment of what is to come ahead. What might be over that ridge? Will the stars be bright tonight? If I get to the top of the mountain, what will I be able to see? When I get to the waterfall, will there be a rainbow? Will I get to see any animals today? It’s just you and the trail.

 

As a quick aside, the Susquehannock has some very fun features of the trail if you ever get the chance to try it. The whole trail system runs in a loop of about 85 miles, and I don’t know if it’s the conservators or just hikers with a lot of energy, but there are often fun rock tables and chairs created for campsites near the trail. It’s amazing to come upon these creations, as they are often made of fairly heavy stones which must have been found in the woods and hauled to the sites. Sometimes you get a lovely and surprisingly comfortable chair, often a table or two for cooking or eating, and there’s typically plenty of water nearby the camp. If you haven’t been to Pennsylvania to hike, I recommend it. The wilderness is gorgeous, and the night skies are lit up with plentiful stars. Cherry Springs is known for its dark skies, in case you want to try to plan a backpacking trip in tandem with a night of stargazing. There are often astronomy events in the summer, but you have to book them in advance if you want a spot. Look up Cherry Springs State Park if you are interested—it’s a very popular program if you like celestial events. After you hike, you can drive into Coudersport, PA for food at Olga’s café downtown.

 

To plan a backpacking trip on the trail, the Susquehannock has a website with a map and hiking info, which you can find at www.stc-hike.org. Get out there for a trip to enjoy the backcountry this summer. If you can’t get to Pennsylvania, find a trail system near you. And for those beginner hikers who need help with backpacking prep, I have a course you can take if you’re interested. Right now it’s available for a donation, but the price will be increasing soon when I upgrade to video content and offer takeaway sheets to plan a trip. You can wait for that if you’re more interested in video, or take me up on the donation-only course you have to read and do your own homework sheets. Either way, the info is there if you’re interested. Here is the link to the course as is. Later I’ll come back to this post and put up a link to the new course for those who want it. Happy hiking, readers. Get out there and see something beautiful!