Personal Truths

I don’t often post about personal things.  However, today I am making an exception.

There are things that I consider to be my personal truths.  Other people may have these in common with me, or they may not, but they are things that are true for me and I both acknowledge and accept these things.  In fact, I find my life flows smoother when I work with my personal truths instead of against them.

For example: I have the attention span of a gnat.  Plan accordingly.

I am ridiculously easy to distract.  Add to this my next personal truth: I am a procrastinator.  I know in my head, down to the last 30 minutes, how much time I need to do something and I will wait until I have met my time threshold before starting any task.  I do this without fail.  I do this regardless of task.  I do this regardless of whether I intend to start right away or not.  These are dangerous truths to combine.  However, because I am self-aware, I can work with these truths and still be a reasonably productive individual.  This brings me to today’s personal truth and the reason for posting.

Staying alone in my house exponentially reduces the likelihood I will kill someone.

Ok, to be completely honest, I would most likely never actually kill someone but I will be thinking about it very, very hard.  This is the beauty of being a writer.  I can go home and kill all the stupid people in deliciously brutal ways without wearing an orange jumpsuit.  Because the bulk of humanity pisses me off with alarming regularity, I find it best to avoid the bulk of humanity by staying at home and trying to avoid the Paws of Doom (Smeagol, as it happens, is aptly named and will probably be the subject of a future post).

Now, from time to time the Universe takes it upon itself to remind us of these truths.  As much as I enjoy avoiding the masses, I also enjoy eating and having things like toilet paper which means I must venture out of my home and go to work.  Anyone who is a friend on Facebook will tell you how much <sarcasm> I love my job </sarcasm>.  Still, my loathing of people is dwarfed by my love of cheese and pie (and sometimes those things combined if it’s cheesecake) so I endure.

Today the Universe decided I needed a friendly reminder.

I got to campus early and decided to take advantage of my free time by grabbing some food.  I handle stupid better when I’m full (working with my personal truths, not against them).  I went to the cafe in the building where I work and was told that they don’t serve lunch until 11 am.  It was 9:30, so there’s that.  They were serving breakfast and would I like something from the breakfast menu?  This is actually a little more polite than the way it was put to me.  Now, my main problem with breakfast menus, in general, is that I am allergic to eggs.  I can (but shouldn’t) eat things with eggs in them (hives, you know, and some places you just can’t scratch with any semblance of dignity), but I cannot eat whole eggs unless I’m wanting to impersonate Linda Blair from The Exorcist.  Death would be kinder than a plate full of scrambled eggs.  I told the woman working behind the counter, “I’m allergic to eggs, so I’ll just wait until you serve lunch.”

“Well, the eggs are separate, so you don’t have to eat them.”

Since I don’t make it a habit of paying for things that will make me violently ill if I eat them, I passed.  Of course, I also told her this.  There may have been snark involved.  I’m just being honest.  Annoyed, I arrived at my computer lab 30 minutes before my shift and was prepared to play some Bingo until I needed to clock in (Don’t judge me!).  Instead, the girl working the shift before me needed to leave so I happily clocked in early (hooray for TP!) and began my shift.

At the strike of 11, I finished up some last minute tasks, grabbed my purse, and made the quick jaunt upstairs to partake of the cafe’s lunch menu.  Clearly, the universe thought I wasn’t paying attention.  What should have been a 5-10 trip ended up taking 20 minutes.  The woman running the register didn’t know how to run the register, so every transaction took awhile.  Now, the cafe is set up similar to the restaurant Chipotle, where you choose your ingredients, they plop it in a to-go container, and you’re all set.

Woman: Do you want corn?
Me: No.
Woman: <spoons corn all over my entree>
Me: Or I guess corn would be fine.
Woman: Sour cream and guacamole?
Me: Sour Cream.
Woman: <plops sour cream and guacamole on my entree>
Me: <look that most likely would resemble the look I would give if she plopped a scoop of baby poop on my plate>
Woman: Oh, you didn’t want guacamole?
Me: No, no I didn’t, but it’s fine.  (Totally wasn’t fine, but I didn’t have time to stand there and dick around over guacamole)
Woman: I can scrape it off if you want.
Me: No, it’s fine.
Woman: Ok, I won’t charge you for it.
Cashier: Do you want a drink?
Me: No.
Cashier: Do you want a drink?
Me: No.
Cashier to Woman: Does she want a drink?
Woman: No, she doesn’t want a drink.

I get it, Universe.  Message received.  Please stop now.  The stupid is making me itchy.  Or it could possibly be my earlier proximity to scrambled eggs.

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Author Corner–Perrin Pring

E: Hello, Perrin, and welcome to Erindipity!  Thanks for stopping by.  Yes, that is a corpse petting a kitten.  No, you shouldn’t be alarmed.

P: It seems to me that cats, while having a reputation for being fickle, clearly aren’t. If you give them love, they’ll love you back, in their own way. They don’t discriminate based on if you have a pulse or not. This should give us hope in case some sort of dead reanimation apocalypse comes to pass. At least our furry friends won’t run away screaming.

E: You recently debuted your novel, An Appointment at the Edge of Forever, with Glastonbury Publishing.  What can you tell us about it?

P: An Appointment at the Edge of Forever is the story of an unlikely group of people faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. A plague threatens the universe. Evil gods, the Afortiori, are systematically enslaving all beings with Free Will. Ryo can stop them, but she doesn’t know it. She doesn’t even know who she is. Filion knows Ryo’s secret but in order to protect her, he has to first find her. He enlists the help of Captain Eri and her band of rag-tag smugglers. Together, they will search the wastes of space for Ryo. The question is, will Filion and his crew find Ryo before the Afortiori do?

Beyond the plot summary though, An Appointment at the Edge of Forever, is a quick read. You don’t have to be into ‘hard’ science fiction to understand it. You don’t know a thing about astrophysics? That’s okay. You don’t want to even read the words ‘time dilation’? Once again, that’s okay. The story isn’t driven by theoretical physics. It’s driven by a set of un unusual people who are forced to work together. Picture four of your most opposite friends stuck together in a confined space (like a space ship) and then being tasked with saving the universe. You might not want to be there while they do it, but reading the book afterwards could be fun. At the same time, An Appointment at the Edge of Forever will appeal to those who like science fiction/fantasy. It takes place in SPACE! There are phazers, alien planets, aliens, epic battles, and mind controlling gods. You want to leave your cubical for a while? I’ve got the perfect vehicle.

Appointment Cover 12-13

E: This is Book One in a trilogy.  What can we expect from future books?

P: Well, I’m actually taking a break from editing the third book to answer these questions, so I’ll start by saying this, the trilogy has been completed. Book two and three are in various stages of edits. It all comes together in the end, and I’m pretty happy with it.

As for specifics… In book two, the readers are going to get to know a lot more about Captain Eri, including what happened to her wings. Ryo is going to do something that she shouldn’t be able to do, and Red, as usual, is going to screw some stuff up. I’m going to introduce some new characters, many of whom will make an appearance in book three. Also, some love interests are developing, but don’t get too wrapped around that because no one is going to have all that much free time – the crew of the Dark Horse is on a schedule.

I’m not going to say too much about book three, other than there is a pretty epic battle scene. Perhaps if we do another interview for book two I’ll have more to reveal.

E: So far, the trilogy is getting rave reviews on Amazon.  Has anyone mentioned something that was surprising to you or that was particularly helpful to you as a writer?

P: One thing that has been really surprising is the wide range of people who are enjoying my book. I’ve been told by multiple people (most of whom I had no idea bought my book) that while they don’t usually like science fiction, they really liked my book. This is big to me for two reasons. One, it means people are buying my book, and two, it means I’m attracting people who aren’t ‘science fiction’ fans, per se. I also find it interesting the number of people who have read my book on their phones. That is a huge compliment to me, seeing as it takes a lot of dedication to read anything on a phone, let alone a novel.

E: On your website, you list your top books of the year, with The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time #12) by Robert Jordan as your honorable mention.  I’ll have you know I’m up to Book 11.  Yeah, I’m showing off a bit.  Who are some other fantasy/sci-fi authors you read?

P:  Well first, congrats on making it to Book 11. You should show off. You’re going to be pleased with book 12, for sure. The battle scenes are awesome. So, authors I read… Obviously, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (I’m going to read some of his other stuff after reading the last three Wheel of Time books). I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. In the past few years I’ve read Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Lois Lowry, Robert Heinlein, Ernest Cline, Joe Haldeman, Christopher Moore, Hugh Howey, Sherri S. Tepper, Michael Crichton, Kurt Vonnegut, Orson Scott Card, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, Hilary Jordan, J.K Rowling, Philip K. Dick, S.M. Sterling, Kazuo Ishiguro, Richard K. Morgan, Stephen King, Paolo Bacigalupi, David Brin, David Mitchell, Gail Carriger, J.R.R. Tolkien, Max Brooks, Michael Chabon, and Peter Benchley, and others.

I can’t say I liked all of the above author’s books, but reading a wide variety of stuff, particularly stuff that doesn’t always appeal to me, makes me a better writer. I learn what I like, what I don’t like, and how I want my books to sound.

E: When did you decide to take the plunge into writing and was there ever a time you thought about giving it up to do something else?

P: Well, I’ve been writing long pieces since high school. My first long work was a narrative about my travels with the junior and senior US national wildwater kayaking teams. I spent my senior and junior years of high school traveling around the country and the world to compete in whitewater kayaking, and I wrote a memoir, I guess you could call it, of one of those summers. It still gets passed around by my old coach, but I haven’t seen it in years. I’d be afraid to look at it. I’d want to edit it!

I wrote another long non-fiction piece while in college, also about one of my summers on the river. After I graduated, the economy tanked (August 2008 – welcome to the real world, college grads), and I found myself working at a rafting store in Montana. Well, August turned into winter, and there I was selling boats to no one while I watched the snow fall. I was trying really hard to be a real adult and get a ‘real’ job, but  the only job I really wanted was that of a writer. I tried to come to my senses and stop writing, but I couldn’t. I spent all day doing nothing at my job other than thinking of stories. Finally, I realized that no matter what I was doing, be it trading stocks on Wall Street (right!) or re-arranging the neoprene gloves for the fifth time in a day, I was going to have to write.

Once I accepted the fact that I couldn’t stop writing, I just had to budget my time. I became a seasonal worker, first for the US Forest Service, then for the National Park Service. I would take the winters off and use most of my time to write my own stuff. I had other jobs for a while (promotional blog writer, substitute teacher, kayaking coach, intermittent government worker) but after Appointment at the Edge of Forever got picked up, I quit working part time in the winter. Now I work in the summers and write in the winters.

There have been a lot of moments when I wanted to quit (thank you Hobbs and Sam and Kendall and Mom and Dad for your constant support). Writing, like most art, is hard because every rejection can feel like a personal attack. I started a folder in my email for my REJECTIONS (as the folder is titled). What’s interesting is that for every ten queries I’d send, I’d only receive a handful of form letter rejections. It’s a weird world where getting an email that says ‘Dear Author’ is better than getting no response at all. It can be a demoralizing process, but my determination seems to have paid off.

I used to read articles by other published writers all the time that would say, Keep at it! J And they would piss me off because I was so frustrated. I guess one thing I’d like to say to people who are going through the cycle of rejection, is that if you are actually writing, and querying, and e-publishing, and editing, you’re so much more dedicated than most. When I graduated college, everyone wanted to be a writer. I had tons of friends who would describe themselves as writers. What I saw though was, as people entered the ‘real’ world, most of those who said they were writers didn’t actually make time to write. They just wanted to be a writer, ‘in the future’. If you write, you’re a writer. If you edit, you’re really a writer. Keep that in mind. There are those who say they are writers, and then there are those who are writers. You don’t one day wake up and become a writer when you’re an adult. You wake up and write, and therefore are a writer, every day. There is no ‘becoming a writer in the future’. There is ‘becoming a better writer in the future’ but that’s only because of the effort you’re putting in now. So good job to all you writers out there, whether or not your work has been publicly validated.

E: What was the last book that you read that surprised you?  It can be good surprised or bad surprised, or maybe even a bit of both.

P: Well, I’ll give you two books. This past December I read The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey and, as I mentioned, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. What surprised me about The Devil’s Teeth (a non-fiction book about a Great White Shark research team based on the Farallones, a set of rocky islands within the San Francisco city limits) was how much I loved the first part of the book, and how much the second part of the book was like watching a drunk cause a car wreck. From a completely intellectual stand point, it is impressive how distinct the two halves are. I won’t spoil it for you, but you can read my review of The Devil’s Teeth on Goodreads, if you’re interested.

So, that was a bad surprise. A good surprise was the next book I read. I actually listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I was only doing it because it was a book club pick. I’d read Neverwhere and the first of Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I was just not that into Gaiman. I found Neverwhere hard to follow and the Sandman series really dark. The Ocean at the End of the Lane though, kept me thoroughly entertained, and while there were some really dark bits, I listened to the entire book in a single sitting. Perhaps it helped that the audio version is read by Gaiman himself.

E: You bake pie.  This pretty much makes you my favorite person on the planet.  Will you bake me a pie?  I’ll even share it with you.*

*There’s no way in hell that I’m sharing it with you.

P: Ha! I would make you a pie, but it won’t ship well. You’ll have to come to me, then I’ll do it. The secret’s in the crust. It’s hand made. Send me an email, we’ll talk…

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You can find Perrin on her blog, on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and on Instagram.

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Harboring Disease and The Passing of a Friend

Today’s post is dedicated to Robert Hodges.  At 2pm yesterday afternoon, Bob died after a long respiratory illness.  Honestly, I’d almost have to be a doctor to be able to explain what he was dealing with.

He was my friend.

For two years, I had the pleasure of seeing his posts and comments on Facebook.  For two years, he showed me what it was to be a man of honor and character.  For that, I am forever in his debt.

What I am most grateful for, however, is that he knew how much I admired, respected, and loved him.  I had those opportunities to tell him what his friendship meant to me and I took them.  Always take them.  Always.

This is a poem I wrote for another friend of mine who lost a loved one.  I’m sure he won’t mind if I share it here.  It was inspired by a Serbian Proverb.

Be humble, dear
Look around you
Feel the vastness
See the life primeval
Rising from the forest floors
And know you share its story
Child made of Earth

Be noble, dear
Look around you
Feel eternity
See the moon, the comets
Racing through the sky
And know you share its story
Child made of Stars

Bob wasn’t a religious man, nor am I.  Well, religious or a man.  This quote also helped to inspire the above poem, because we are all children made of stars.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.”
― Carl SaganCosmos

As he was dying from respiratory issues, I was getting sick with them.  I find a little humor in that.  I won’t lie about it.  I’ve been pretty whiny all day.  It’s been a bad week and it keeps getting worse, but you know what?  I’m still here and what I’m facing isn’t nearly what Bob faced.  I will get through it, but how I get through it is entirely up to me.  So, I’ve decided no more whining.  Bob wasn’t a whiner and I’m not going to be either.  I’m going to channel my inner Marine (Semper Fi!) and do what I need to do.

Goodbye, dear friend.  Thank you for your service, your friendship, and your example.  You have made this world better for having lived in it.

When Charlie Met Smeagol

Last week, I got a kitten from Craigslist.  The woman who found him couldn’t keep him because her son had allergies, and since I have been wanting a cat for some time now, I offered to take him in.  I dubbed him, Smeagol.

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Please go to sleep so I can eat your soul. Please?

I live alone most of the time, and when I’m home, I’m in my bedroom.  This translates into Smeagol having a very large portion of my apartment all to himself.  And by large, I mean my entire dining room (which, to be fair, isn’t exactly massive) and the bulk of my living room.

All your base are belongs to me.

All your base are belongs to me.

As you can imagine, Charlie was not pleased at this development.  When I brought Smeagol into the house for the first time, Charlie thought I had brought him a snack.  I had to smack him with a rolled up newspaper and tell him no.  He stopped trying to eat the kitty, but he refused to turn his back on him, either.  Charlie might be dumb, but he’s not stupid.

The next trial came by way of the litter box.  I’m not entirely sure if Smeagol was too little and inexperienced to grasp the concept of pooping inside the litter box instead of, oh say…my corners, or if he knew perfectly good and well what that box was for and, instead, preferred not to.  I should have named him Bartleby.  Charlie, however, took to the idea and ran with it.  I walked in to find him squatting over the litter box.  I will never be able to unsee that.  He got mad when I told him litter boxes were for cats, not corpses, but he hasn’t squatted over it since.  Smeagol still has his moments, but he’s using the box more frequently so I can be ok with that.

The biggest problem, by far, was the morning Smeagol discovered that Charlie’s dangly bits made good cat toys.  No, you perverts, I don’t mean those dangly bits.  Charlie doesn’t always hold together the best, so when things start to come undone, they just sort of hang there.  It’s kind of gross.  Not nearly as gross as Smeagol pulling one of those bits off and eating it.  Even Charlie turned greener at that.

Thus far, things are going well.  Smeagol is passed out in my lap and Charlie’s in the dining room playing with the Teavana bag.  This will be an interesting year.

Dapper Smeagol

I mustache you a question. Do I make this hat look good? I do, don’t I?

Author Corner–Christine Haggerty

E: Happy New Year, Christine!  Hope the holidays were good to you.  There’s some leftover turkey if you want it.  I think it’s a bit…well, suspect, but Charlie insists it’s perfectly fine.

C: I’m sure Charlie knows his turkey. Thanks..wait, this tastes a little like cat. Where’s Smeagol?

No kittens were harmed in the posting of this interview. Charlie’s lucky.

E: Your debut novel is called The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions.  What can you tell us about it?

C: Acquisitions opens in a world devastated by a bio-engineered plague. It’s been about half a century since the plague first hit, and after a second attack, the world is more intent on surviving than recovering. The main character, Cam, is being shipped to a new version of Rome to be sold as a slave. He has lost his family and tries to recreate some of those relationships with the friends that he makes. There’s some humor and some romance, but overall it’s about a kid learning how to grieve and figuring out what his value system is.

Plague Legacy Acquisitions Book Cover

E: The title sounds like this will be part of a series.  Are there more books coming and what can you tell us about it?

C: The second book of the series, Assets, will be released Fall 2014. The overall series arc involves repeating some of the history from the Roman Empire, the Black Plague, and the Crusades. The second book is set in Salvation, the new civilization set in Italy that is based on the arena, and there is more fighting and survival involved. My main character, Cam, is loyal to a fault, but he sort of loses himself in the adrenaline rush of being a gladiator.

E: The book is a dystopian novel.  What is it about dystopia that gets the creative juices flowing?

C: I think that deep down inside, humans are watching themselves destroy our world and we all theorize what it will be like to survive once the world goes down. We’d like to think that we’d be one of those to make it in the end. I think that the fascination with dystopian is related to our fear of the future.

E: What was your publishing journey like?  Were there things that surprised you about the process?

C: My publishing journey was long in one respect and short in another. I originally had a life goal to be published by the time I turned 25, but by that age I had two kids and a teaching career and it took me ten years to come back around to writing as my main goal. I started with short fiction pieces because I didn’t have the time to write novels, and I was surprised when I won first place in a short story contest out of over 700 entries with “Standard Issue.” I didn’t even know I had entered a contest when I registered with an author site.

After that, of course, I worked on rearranging my world so that I could write. My husband and I moved, and I instantly made connections with professionals and within months all of the pieces fell into place and I have a book with my name on it. I feel very fortunate to have a relationship with Fox Hollow Publications and expect to be with them for my career.

E: There is conventional wisdom that says a writer should read everything, even if she hates it.  What genres of books make you wish you were getting a root canal instead?

C: Anything technical makes me feel like I’m eating cotton balls. I’m so glad I’m done going to college and dealing with textbooks. IKEA instructions fall in to this category.

E: Do you use any writing software, spreadsheet setups, etc. when you write or do you just dive right into Word?

C: So far I’ve gotten way with just working in Word. I do some loose outlining and backstory writing. I am getting to a point with my world building for Assets that software like Scrivener would be helpful, but I think I’ll get by with what I’ve got. I use 3×5 cards to write down quick reference character descriptions and I also draw what I can. I’m working on the House tattoos for the gladiator houses in Salvation with my limited drawing skills.

E: What one piece of advice would you give to a writer that’s just starting out?

C: Practice. It’s all just practice.

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You can find Christine on her website, on Wattpad, on Amazon, and on Goodreads.

Guest Post–Jamie Raintree

Happy New Year, and welcome back!  Hope you all had a safe and festive holiday season.  I got Charlie a kitten for Christmas, so this may or may not end well.  The kitten’s name is Smeagol…mostly because he’s small, he’s grey, and I’m reasonably certain he’s plotting to kill me once I go to sleep.  While I was taking a much needed break, I came across a blog post by Jamie Raintree where she explained a set of spreadsheets she created to track writing progress.  I was intrigued, so I sent her an email and asked her for the spreadsheets.  I have to tell you, they’re kinda cool.  She graciously agreed to guest post for the blog, so I’ll let her get to it.

***

Dream with Purpose
As you start the new year and think about your goals, it can be easy to make sweeping and unenthusiastic generalizations about what you’d like to accomplish. Lose weight, work harder, make more money, write a novel. Maybe. We’ll see. It’s an entire year, after all. How could you possibly know what life will throw your way months from now, or weeks, or even tomorrow? The answer? You don’t. No one ever knows, and yet we dream anyway. Because that’s what makes life worth living. It’s what gives life meaning. It’s why we bother to make resolutions each year at all.

 So, no, you can’t know the direction life will lead you and you can’t stress over the things you have no control over, but you do have your own two hands, your mind, and your imagination. So as you dream big dreams and strive toward your goals, here are a few ways to do it on purpose.

1. Make it the first thing you think about in the morning. When my alarm clock goes off in the morning, the message on my iPad says, “Time to do what you love!” The song is I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas, which has special meaning to me. Write a message on your bathroom mirror. Read your favorite inspirational blog or listen to an motivational YouTube video. Make each and every day count because it’s the little things that add up to the big things.

2. And the last thing you think about at night. As I lay in bed I go over my schedule for the next day and think about how to make my next scene come together so I have something to start with in the morning. Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you. Put your mind to it at night and let your subconscious do the work. Fill your literal dreams with ideas that will fuel your metaphorical ones.

3. Set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Risky, Timely. Don’t try to plan for your whole year. It will feel unrealistic and frustrating. Instead, set a big goal or two for the year, and then break it up into several SMART goals that push your boundaries but are still within reach. Keep breaking them into smaller chunks until they become something you can get excited about, until you believe, “I can do this.”

4. Track your progress. I’m motivated by getting things done. The more I see the little dial leaning closer and closer to success, the more pumped I am to push myself harder. A few years ago I created a Writing Progress Spreadsheet to log my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly word count achievements for that exact reason and I have been updating it and sharing it with writers ever since (which is how I had the pleasure to meet Erin!). You can get a copy on my website but however you do it, keep track so that on the days you lose hope, you can look back and see how far you’ve already come. If you’ve made it this far, you can make it all the way.

5. Take time to appreciate your achievements. I have a bad habit of checking one thing off my list and moving right onto the next. But just like tracking progress, it’s important to relish in what you’re doing right. Celebrate in whatever way makes you feel like a rockstar. Just like with children and pets, you want to do more of what rewards you. Reward yourself in a way that makes you want to do it again. And again.

So if you’re struggling with setting your goals for the new year, have decided not to do them at all, or fear you won’t make it past January without falling off the wagon, remember that this isn’t just about a new year, this is about your life. Wake up each morning and live it with purpose.

Link to Writing Progress Spreadsheet: http://jamieraintree.com/2011-writing-progress-spreadsheet

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Jamie Raintree writes Romantic Women’s Fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She has completed her first novel and is seeking publication. In the meantime, she posts original fiction online, as well as motivational messages for all the other dreamers out there. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters.  You can reach her on her website.