A Fall

I was born on the first day of Fall. It should have served as an omen, coming to existence on a day that symbolizes the most fundamental change – life to death. The leaves turn colors because they cease to live. They fall, in every sense of the word, and are swept away by a shifting wind.

I woke up this morning, realized I’d forgotten to take my medicine when the alarm went off six hours earlier, looked around at the boxes full of moving junk, the suitcases I still hadn’t been able to unpack, the dishes, the living laundry pile (his name is Hugo and he’s started sending my husband ransom notes demanding Thorlo socks), the knick-knacks stacked one on top of the other on every flat surface in the house, the trash needing to be taken out, the carpet needing vacuuming – nay, shampooing – the car needing washing, and the eight books needing to be written, taunting and daunting from where they stared at me from my still-open computer screen…. And I realized I needed a change.

I’m tired of working so hard.

It’s been a lovely week – MRI’s, numb legs, speeding tickets, rude cops, husband overseas, daughter who has fought me ever step of the way, looming deadlines I feel I’ve no hope in hell of meeting. This day that should by all rights be a joyful, celebratory day, started with tears and a sense of hopelessness and all-too-familiarity.

So now I take a slow, deep, shaky breath and I let it out with a decision.

I am going to throw at least half of this shit away.

I’m cleaning out my closet, I’m sweeping off the flat surfaces, I’m selling my car. I am making a chore chart that my daughter will stick to or I swear to Odin, I will send her to boarding school. I am going to kiss goodbye to all of the things I thought I needed and hopefully say hello to the one I actually do need: Time.

Nothing like a birthday to remind you of how little you have.

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Along the Labyrinth

Today was a special day for my family. So, we put everything aside – work, cleaning, everything – and hopped into the car and headed Up Country.
There is a place in Maui called The Labyrinth of the Sacred Garden, and though I have no idea what the actual address is, I know that you can find it somewhere along the right-hand side on the Road to Hana.
You pull into a tiny parking lot, shut the car down, and step out to find yourself in another world. The first thing you notice is the temperature. It’s much cooler here than it is along the coast. The second thing you notice is the breeze. There is an energy to it that does not exist anywhere else on Earth. It’s like the fingers of some long forgotten god, lovingly caressing you down to the soul, and it feels absolutely unbelievable.
The third thing you notice is the labyrinths. They are everywhere. Walk into the official “gift shop,” and you can run your finger along a worn labyrinth carved into a single large piece of smooth stone. Move a little further into the property, beyond the wares for sale, and you come to a Buddhist meditation area, several koi pots and ponds, Zen gardens in all sizes of containers, and finally a man-made labyrinth formed of small white stones. You can stop here and walk this one if you’d like.
Or you can go outside again.
Out the back door you’re drawn; something about the base of the mountain summons, the green of the forest, that unbelievable breeze.
At last, you come to the first of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. This is the real labyrinth, carefully constructed, intricately perfect. You begin to walk its length, always looking down, always aware of your steps – one foot after another. Others may be traveling it with you, but they are separate from you, locked into their own channels of this confoundingly comforting design. Time drifts. Sound moves away. You realize so many things, little by little, one after another.
You realize that the labyrinth is a reproduction of life. Sometimes, you seem to be going the wrong way. You pass people who are going in the opposite direction. They walk right by you. It feels odd, disorienting. But you continue; one foot in front of the other, and all the while, unbeknownst to you, you’re drawing ever closer to your goal.
Once in a while, because of the labyrinth’s tight twists and turns, you find yourself moving alongside someone, in step, parallel. But in reality, you’re in different lines of the maze, and in different stages of life. Soon, one of you turns away.
Perhaps most confusing of all is what I realized myself as I drew to the center of the labyrinth and gazed down at the final remaining three feet of puzzle. I had but to take a few steps and I would be at my goal.
But I didn’t want to be there yet. I found myself whispering aloud, “It really is the journey.” And just like that, the center no longer mattered. I looked up – at the world that waited beyond the labyrinth – and noticed the second of the two real gems of the Sacred Garden. A wooden swing rested empty beside a picturesque ravine. The breeze, that wonderful, beautiful breeze, touched the swing there.
Without looking back at the center of the maze, I stepped past the invisible walls represented by the painted stones. I walked across the labyrinth. I walked through it. And I stepped out into the world to make my way to that swing, sit down, and gaze out across a river bed that I hadn’t been able to see clearly until now.
Now I could see that this dry creek bed had been touched by countless people. Towers of pebbles and smooth stone had been erected everywhere, large, small, some almost impossibly balanced, and some clearly created by children. People, at peace, had left their artistic, peaceful mark upon the world.
The breeze kissed me. I smiled – and breathed.

I really like the Sacred Garden. I will definitely be going back there.

Oh! The final lesson the labyrinth taught me was one my eight-year-old daughter helped me to learn as she raced through the channels of the maze to shoot into its center in record time: If you’ve got the zest for life that a child has, you reach enlightenment a hell of a lot faster than everyone else. ☺

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Release Update

Hi everyone! As many of you know, I’ve been thrown a bit off track, so a few things I would have taken care of a while back have been put on hold. That includes updating my website so that it reflects proper release dates.
Since I can’t get to the real updates just yet, I thought I would make a quick note here to get everyone up to speed.
As it stands right now, my release schedule includes only TWO certain dates: October 1st, 2012 for Secretly Sam, the second book in the October Trilogy, and January, 2013 for Death’s Angel, the third full-length novel in the Lost Angels series.
All other sequels and/or stand-alones either possess a tentative release date or have not yet been assigned a release date at all. As soon as I have dates for these books, I will let everyone know through my Facebook pages and Twitter, as well as through my Newsletter.
Thank you! 🙂
xoxo

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It’s Called “Indie” for a Reason

This is my personal blog, so I figure that if I can’t share personal opinion here, I probably can’t do so anywhere (which may actually be the case! LOL)

Anyone who has been at this business for some time knows that indie publishing is a brutal career path. It’s one so full of inside competition, the promotion, marketing and brain racking truly never cease. Because we are in the public eye, we must for the most part keep our opinions to ourselves, and though our readers lift us back up again (thank goodness), there are times when we feel so trampled upon by the world, we resemble door mats and wonder whether we’ll ever be able to get the dirt off or see the bruises fade.

There are a plethora of support groups online for indie authors, which strengthens my argument that it is such a difficult job. Are there as many support groups for engineers or professors as there are for self-pub writers?

These support groups, in their very existence, hint at how tempting it is for writers to become friends with fellow indie authors because the empathy level is so high. We are sensitive creatures, which is one of the reasons we can write as we do. As sensitive individuals, we feel an inordinate amount of emotion, and this emotion in turn leads to said empathy. So we reach out.

And yet the very nature of an indie author dictates that she/he possesses a will so strong and a desire so intense, the competitiveness that is the natural byproduct of this strength of character will almost inevitably rear its head and take a chunk out of perceived author friendships.

I’ve seen this happen So. Many. Times.

On the broad scale, it turns support groups into platforms for indie authors to sell their wares. Posts go up by the handful about free book offers or requests for votes and higher rankings.

On an individual and more personal scale, it causes authors who thought they were close to one another turn on each other. The slightest slip, and a line is crossed. An idea is unwittingly stolen. A secret shared between authors becomes someone’s new promotional plan. A story reviewed by an author friend is a story torn apart by inappropriate editing, or worse – plagiarism. And the friendship dissolves and the authors part to try again somewhere else.

Over and over again. Support groups become sales pages. Friendships become competitions.

I’m not a pessimist, I promise. And it’s not that real and deep companionship is impossible between indie authors, especially if they write completely different genres (this helps immensely). It’s that because of who we are, there will almost always be that seed lying in wait inside of us, ready to be sprinkled by the watering can of jealousy and doubt. It’s simply in our natures.

This is why I was so incredibly disappointed by the outcome when I was recently asked to join another indie author group. It was going to be a small group, more exclusive, and hence perhaps different from the marketing, promoting, and sales-related sites that litter the online world these days. I had hope. I thought, “Can we actually be ourselves this time? Can we share how difficult and sometimes lonely this is? Will we finally have a place where we can speak our minds and relax and maybe talk about things like family life?”

But within twelve hours of its inception, the posts on this new group turned to “What is working promotion-wise, and what isn’t?” and “Let’s have a reader/review pool on this site so we can edit each others’ work!” and “I’m too busy trying to sell to just come to a site to talk.”

And so once more, I go my own author’s way.
And I thank my lucky stars that my closest friends prefer to read words rather than write them.

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Please.

Dear Readers: Please, please, please consider the impact that file sharing has on authors like me. We don’t charge very much for our work. Half the price of a cup of coffee. Two packs of gum. That’s it! And I charge this as entry fee into a completely different, wonderful world.
When you use sites that allow you to share your books with others or them to share theirs with you, you bypass one of the most vital aspects of the author-reader relationship. You neglect to support the author. When this happens enough, the author can no longer write. Why would she? What she’s doing isn’t working and it’s time to search other avenues.
It’s discouraging, this length that people will go to in order to get free books. We don’t fight this hard to steal tangible things. We don’t try so hard to take anything but intellectual property – which is unfortunate for people who make their living by thinking and being creative.
We don’t have shoe sharing sites and jacket sharing sites and purse sharing sites, and even if we did, borrowing a shoe or jacket is so much different than borrowing a book. Lending a shoe or jacket could see it ruined very quickly. When you borrow a book, it’s the same book it’s always been no matter how many people have read it.
You absorb it, you use it – it is consumed by you. You own it in your mind, and you got something for free. And while I definitely understand what it’s like to be poor and to want something for free, I have to tell you that I draw the line at stealing money from other people’s pockets and food from other people’s mouths.
Please think twice. Please think about what this does to people like me. PLEASE don’t support piracy sites. 🙁
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Update – For My Readers

I have always contended that I have the best readers in the world. You’re there for me – through thick and thin – and hence, I felt it fair and just that you be updated on my progress as you continue to support me in all the ways that you do.
Few things make you feel quite so lost as your doctor calling you at 3am with unsavory medical news. 🙁 This happened to me last night, though I was already up due to a disconcerting combination of numbness and agony.
I must now see a specialist on another island and might simply be forced to go home in order to get the (painful and frightening) treatments I need so that I don’t end up paralyzed in one leg.
It is the latest in a string of bumps in my road of late. So much has left me feeling confused, uncertain, and frustrated, in all of the avenues of my life from my physical health to my career.
I admit that this angst hasn’t eased any; I did have my crying fit last night.
But rest assured that when the going gets rough, the authors get writing. It has always been and will always remain our escape. So as I pull myself once again out of this world and into another, know that I will soon be dragging you all right along with me.
With love and heartfelt thanks,
always and forever,
– Heather

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Stepping Away

Being in the public eye is an ongoing educational experience. One of the very first things you learn, and perhaps one of the hardest things to learn, is that when you are in the public eye, you are not expected to have any realistic human emotional responses, a religious preference or ideal, or personal problems or opinions of any kind. If your willpower is strong enough and your desire to succeed is stronger, then this is normally something you can live with.

However, no matter how strong and silent we have learned to be, there comes a breaking point for everyone. Charlie Sheen is a good example of proof to this fact. But it doesn’t take something so extreme to spell out: “I’m tired of this. Forgive me, but I have to step out for a bit.” Sometimes it’s something as small as an extended absence from online communication. Or a hiatus from publishing books. Or maybe you just don’t answer the phone.

Recently, I was video interviewed by USA Today. In that interview, I stated that there’s very little I keep from my readers. But the truth is there may be more than I let on – for reasons you can find in paragraph one of this blog post. I try to keep things to myself. Honesty tends to turn people off, and of course I don’t want that. But honesty has an intrinsic value in that it’s honest, in and of itself.

So, here is a little honesty from me, your PNR indie author, Heather Killough-Walden: I’ve reached a breaking point. Both physically and spiritually, to tell the truth. I have a broken hand, a broken back with a spondylolisthesis that terrifies me, hypothyroidism that frustrates the crap out of me, tumors and cysts that hurt like hell, and a host of other medical and personal issues that you can find mirrored in Annabelle Drake and Logan Wright and Evelynne D’Angelo and Patrick Sinclaire’s queen. To name a few. I don’t understand why the indie publishing world does what it does, why some things sell and others don’t, why my work can sometimes be located and why it also sometimes can’t, and I’m tired of feeling baffled and hair-pulling-out confused. I’m going on two and a half years of this… or is it three?

So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to step out now. I love my readers, am more grateful to them than I can adequately state, and the last thing I wish to do is upset them, alienate them, or accidentally offend them so badly that they un-friend me and never read my work again. Which isn’t hard to do, believe me.

For that reason, I will be taking a break from Facebook, Twitter, and all online communication for the remainder of the month of July – perhaps longer. In my absence, I SINCERELY HOPE THAT MY READERS WILL ANSWER EACH OTHER’S QUESTIONS, BE THERE FOR ONE ANOTHER, AND CONTINUE IN ALL OF THEIR WONDERFUL, SUPPORTIVE WAYS.

When I come back, I promise to be renewed, refreshed, and bearing gifts.
Otherwise, I won’t come back.
Xoxoxo
– Heather Killough-Walden

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Vampire, Vampire – Coming Friday, July 13th

Excerpt….

Between them, Christopher was the first to make the change. It seemed to happen overnight. One day, they were in a field picking the lavender Darianna loved so much, and he was admiring the way the sunlight reflected in her hair… the next day, he was noticing the pulse in the side of her throat. His teeth were longer. They were sharper. And every time she threw her head back to laugh, they ached.
When she ran from him, as she’d done in play since they were children, every nerve in his body screamed to life, every muscle bunched, and his vision changed. The beast within him awoke, rearing its head.
Darianna Grace was every bit as breathtaking to him as she had always been, but Christopher was no longer the little boy that she’d grown to trust and love. There was suddenly a darkness to him that frightened him… for her sake.
It didn’t get any easier.
With the physical changes on Christopher’s outside came changing desires on the inside. The women of the realm readily lined up to satisfy this newly dawning need within him, eager for a few moments in the prince’s bed. But though their flesh gave way easily enough beneath the push and prick of his very sharp teeth, their blood only temporarily slaked the hunger that woke him up every morning – and kept him up every night.
It was Anna that filled his thoughts, burned through his veins, and sang a siren song in his monster’s mind. He found himself withdrawing from her company, never quite trusting the man he was becoming around the girl she’d always been. And from afar, he watched her go through her own changes.
One early morning, in the painful hours before dawn, Christopher stood at the side of his father’s death bed and, with straight back and breaking heart, he bid his old man farewell. Then, after shifting issues of state had kept him castle-bound all day despite his internal grief, Christopher retired to his wing of the castle, made his way to the very same windows he gazed through now, and let his rather fevered forehead rest against the cool glass.
His father was dead. Christopher Thorn was king now.
A clinking of stone against the smooth plane of window drew his attention. The vast night beckoned beyond the pane, and Christopher’s eyesight readily adjusted. His kind had excellent night vision.
Five stories down, wrapped in a velvet and hooded cloak of varying shades of purple, Darianna Grace gazed up at him and then beckoned with a single whispered word: “Come.”
He read her lips and heard her summons in the core of him. At once, every fiber of his being answered the call. Christopher’s gaze shifted into red, he turned from the window and sped through the castle like a wind-borne fury.
His long black coat billowed about his booted legs as servants scuttled to get out of the lord’s way. Lamps flickered at his passing; a shadowed breeze seemed to accompany him, forcing candle flames to genuflect, almost going out. A hushed whisper went up, an unspoken curiosity. He appeared the devil, with demons chasing his heels, as he stormed his way through the castle’s front doors and made his way impatiently into the night beyond.
– Vampire, Vampire by Heather Killough-Walden

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Idiocrindependence

On this day, which marks a victory in independence, I would like to say this: I think it’s very interesting that in the movie, “Idiocracy,” as purportedly unintelligent as these future people were, they nonetheless chose the single most intelligent person in the country and made him president. We, on the other hand, are relegated every four years to choosing between two people who are valued, not for their intelligence (whether it is there or not), but for the amount of money they possess for campaigning and their willingness or unwillingness to infringe on this or that particular group of human rights. I make no statement here to the left or right, but instead to the stepping back and viewing of the bigger picture of liberty, which has become paint layered to the point of indecipherableness.

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Vampire, Vampire – coming Friday, July 13th

Excerpt….

Between them, Christopher was the first to make the change. It seemed to happen overnight. One day, they were in a field picking the lavender Darianna loved so much, and he was admiring the way the sunlight reflected in her hair… the next day, he was noticing the pulse in the side of her throat. His teeth were longer. They were sharper. And every time she threw her head back to laugh, they ached.
When she ran from him, as she’d done in play since they were children, every nerve in his body screamed to life, every muscle bunched, and his vision changed. The beast within him awoke, rearing its head.
Darianna Grace was every bit as breathtaking to him as she had always been, but Christopher was no longer the little boy that she’d grown to trust and love. There was suddenly a darkness to him that frightened him… for her sake.
It didn’t get any easier.
With the physical changes on Christopher’s outside came changing desires on the inside. The women of the realm readily lined up to satisfy this newly dawning need within him, eager for a few moments in the prince’s bed. But though their flesh gave way easily enough beneath the push and prick of his very sharp teeth, their blood only temporarily slaked the hunger that woke him up every morning – and kept him up every night.
It was Anna that filled his thoughts, burned through his veins, and sang a siren song in his monster’s mind. He found himself withdrawing from her company, never quite trusting the man he was becoming around the girl she’d always been. And from afar, he watched her go through her own changes.
One early morning, in the painful hours before dawn, Christopher stood at the side of his father’s death bed and, with straight back and breaking heart, he bid his old man farewell. Then, after shifting issues of state had kept him castle-bound all day despite his internal grief, Christopher retired to his wing of the castle, made his way to the very same windows he gazed through now, and let his rather fevered forehead rest against the cool glass.
His father was dead. Christopher Thorn was king now.
A clinking of stone against the smooth plane of window drew his attention. The vast night beckoned beyond the pane, and Christopher’s eyesight readily adjusted. His kind had excellent night vision.
Five stories down, wrapped in a velvet and hooded cloak of varying shades of purple, Darianna Grace gazed up at him and then beckoned with a single whispered word: “Come.”
He read her lips and heard her summons in the core of him. At once, every fiber of his being answered the call. Christopher’s gaze shifted into red, he turned from the window and sped through the castle like a wind-borne fury.
His long black coat billowed about his booted legs as servants scuttled to get out of the lord’s way. Lamps flickered at his passing; a shadowed breeze seemed to accompany him, forcing candle flames to genuflect, almost going out. A hushed whisper went up, an unspoken curiosity. He appeared the devil, with demons chasing his heels, as he stormed his way through the castle’s front doors and made his way impatiently into the night beyond.
– Vampire, Vampire by Heather Killough-Walden

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