How Many Acts Can One Person Have?

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Sister of Suspense author Marsha West sharing her multi-act life and her latest release, Act of Trust.

Here’s Marsha!

marshawest1Apparently quite a few. Since I write about Second Chances, I especially appreciate being here at Joanne’s blog about Second Acts. Inspiring stories are told here!

If college was Act 1 where I studied theatre, speech, and English preparing to be an English teacher, then Act 2 was the three years I taught before getting married.

Following marriage, Mommyhood began Act 3. When you’re a mom, whether you work outside the home or not, life is structured by where your kids are in school and their activities. These were the years of serving on PTA boards, attending gymnastics meets, dance recitals, football games, traveling to cheerleading competitions, and musical performances. They continued into the girls’ college years.

Act 3, Scene 1 is when I ran and got defeated, ran again and was elected for two 4-year terms to the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education. That was 12 years of my life from when I was 40 to 52. Including the four years before I first ran when I’d observed school board meetings as a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I attended school board meetings twice a month for 16 years.

Ultimately, that Act closed. I reluctantly did not to run for reelection after the second term for financial reasons. Our kids were approaching college age and instead of spending my hours volunteering, (School Board members in Texas aren’t paid) I needed to go back to teaching. (I have people tell me they wish I still sat on the board—nice for my ego—but then I’d have missed so many other experiences.)

Act 4. I was fortunate to get a job teaching theatre in a neighboring school district, setting up a drama program where there had only been a music program. For the next 4 years I immersed myself in that life, teaching & producing one-act plays, musicals, and the UIL One-Act competition. It was wonderful to see the growth of my students from their freshman year through their senior year. Several went on to work in theatre and teaching.

My Acts get a bit blurry now. I was still on the school board and teaching theatre when I began to work on a mid-management degree leading toward becoming a school administrator. I’d seen a poster in the lounge about the program and thought, “hmmm.”

Act 5 began when I got a job with the FWISD as an elementary assistant principal. I spent three wonderful years working with an awesome principal. We were in a good school of about 500 students (mixed ethnically and economically) with an active PTA—even an active Dad’s Club. I learned a ton. I made mistakes, but that’s how we learn.

Act 6 began when I was “promoted” and became principal of Riverside Applied Learning Center, a great little special interest elementary school. I won’t take time to explain what an awesome opportunity it is for kids to be in this kind of school. Here’s a link to school’s website for a brief explanation of what Applied Learning is. http://www.fwisd.org/pages/FWISD/Departments_Programs/Departments__A-K_/Choices/Elementary_School_Programs___S/Riverside_Applied_Learning_Cen

Act 6 Scene 2 After five years at Riverside, I was assigned to a much larger school, almost 800 students. A school that ran through principals about every 2 years. It was a school in transition from being an almost all white middle class to being predominantly African American with a smattering of Hispanics with a high percentage of low-income kids and families. What had been working wasn’t working any longer. It was stressful for everyone. The pressure to perform well on all the tests was enormous.

I worked longer and longer hours, and it became clear to me that my health was suffering. No one should work 14-hour days plus 8 and 6 hour days every Saturday and Sunday, and that’s what I was doing my last year in that school. After two years there, I retired the end of June in 2007.

Act 7 I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d already begun this act—The Writer.

My mother had some health problems and to deal with the stress I went back to reading romance novels. Something I hadn’t done in over twenty years. My goodness those books had changed! Sex was no longer behind the closed door. The suspense was off the charts, too.

I had an idea for a book, which at 145 K words, was a tad long. LOL Besides which I knew nothing about the craft of writing genre fiction. I just told the story. When contest judges said I had a good story, but needed to take classes on POV and GMC, I didn’t know what they meant. :) But I took their suggestions to heart and took classes, attended conferences, wrote, submitted, got rejected, wrote, sent to contests, got dreadful scores, took more classes, wrote, submitted, finalled in some contests, but got rejected. Continued to write. By the time I’d written my fourth book I was looking for small e-presses, and had decided if none of them wanted it, I’d self-publish.

Well, I got two offers and went with a small Canadian e-press. They published my first two books VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. I learned about the publication business from them and now have self-published two books part of The Second Chances Series: SECOND ACT and ACT OF TRUST with plans for two more in the series.

Vermont Escape 200x300 (2)Truth Be Told 200x300(2)Second Act 200x300(2)

(Not a separate act, but an extension of Act 3 is grandparenthood, a lovely time for sure.)

FullSizeRender(2)Act 7, Scene 1 My husband and I are in the process of downsizing from our large house to a smaller one, but this cottage is on a lake 15 minutes from our daughters and grandkids. The views are inspiring and blood pressure lowering. We never anticipated this, but are incredibly grateful. (Lake Picture)

I’m not sure I planned a second or third act, much less a third or fourth. I just followed my husband’s advice: “Go through the open door.” When an opportunity presents itself, take it. When I decided to run for school board that first time, it was because the incumbent had decided not to run. I’d been talking about it for a couple of years, and it was put up or shut up time. I saw the sign on the teacher’s lounge bulletin board about the mid-management program and that propelled me in a new direction and through another door. I didn’t set out to have a career as an author. I just wrote that first book.

My personal motto is: “Keep on Keeping on.” If you want something, don’t give up, no matter how hard it is. There were so many times I nearly gave up on my writing, but I hung in there, and now I’m the proud author of 4 published books. I’m grateful to all the authors who helped me on this journey.

I discovered this next quote at the time I was leaving the school board. “In life, what sometimes appears to be an ending is really a new beginning.” After all these year, I still keep a copy of this one on my desk. The way I see it as long as you’re alive, you have new Acts ahead of you. Be a life-long learner and go through that open door.

Blurb for ACT OF TRUST, Book 2 The Second Chances Series

Act of Trust 200x300 (2)A widow since 9/11 and a mother of grown daughter, Kate Thompson wants to keep her and her daughter safe, but the inheritance of land in Maine pushes her out of her comfort zone in Texas and into the arms of a Maine lawyer.

Maine lawyer and environmentalist, Jim Donovan wants to protect Aunt Liddy’s land and keep it from falling into the hands of the developers, but first he has to convince Kate Thompson she should hold on to the family land when she doesn’t even want to go look at it. However, he’s unprepared for the attraction each feels for the other, but denies exists.

Will they be able to settle the land deal before anyone else is killed or they break each other’s hearts?

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | Apple iTunes

Where to find Marsha…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Newsletter Sign-up

Joanne here!

Marsha, I’m in awe of your accomplishments and wish you well with all your literary endeavors.


Inspiration Between the Lines

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Linda Bradley to my blog. Today, Linda shares her favorite quotations and her debut novel, Maggie’s Way.

Here’s Linda!

lindabradleyphoto

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.
Henry David Thoreau

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.
Vincent Van Gogh
Me: I dream of words and I write them.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.
Stephen King

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
Stephen King

Some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you
Proverb
Me: Dear Bear, Pride is righteous. Let’s not let it destroy the journey.

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.
Omar Bradley

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Jane Austen

To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.
Jane Austen

Harry: I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.
Erica Barry: The truth doesn’t have versions, okay?
Something’s Gotta Give (Jack Nicholson/Dianne Keaton)
Me: I’m with Erica on this.

Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.
Meryl Streep

maggiesway

Blurb

Middle-aged, Maggie Abernathy just wants to recuperate from cancer during the solitude of summer vacation after a tiresome year of teaching second grade. Maggie’s plans are foiled when precocious seven-year-old, Chloe McIntyre moves in next door with her dad, John. Maggie’s life changes in a way she could never imagine when the pesky new neighbors steal her heart. With Maggie’s grown son away, her ex-husband in the shadows, her meddling mother’s unannounced visits, and Chloe McIntyre on her heels, somehow Maggie’s empty house becomes home again.

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Bio

Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments that make readers connect with her characters. Maggie’s Way is her debut novel, in her Montana Bound Series. She is currently working on Maggie’s Fork in the Road and Maggie’s Montana.

Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.

Linda has two grown sons, lives with her husband, and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Interview with Romance Debuts

Leave a comment – you could win an e-book of Maggie’s Way.


#WeCanICan on #WorldCancerDay

sharinghands2Today is World Cancer Day, a global event designed to raise awareness and education about a disease that continues to affect a growing segment of the population. Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide each year, out of which, 4 million die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years).

While it may be too late to organize a major campaign, we can still get involved and support the fight against cancer.


Continue reading on the Sisters of Suspense blog.


Spotlight on Scarred Protector

scarredPROTECTOR_505x825 (3)

Blurb

Angels and demons are not what you think. They are aliens, and the Midworlders are their representatives on Earth. An Angelic Midworlder called Heath goes to the aid of Evie who is about to be attacked by Demonics. He soon discovers she can see the angels and demons around her and is in grave danger. He is captivated by Evie who has physical and mental scars like him. They are tortured souls who are deeply connected by his past. There is an evil lurking inside Evie that could kill them both.

Excerpt

Heath’s wings erupted instantly from his back as he swooped down from the car park roof and caught Evie in his arms before she hit the ground. A fall from that height would have killed her and he refused to lose another person. It had been hundreds of years since he had lost someone before and it wasn’t happening now. Not on his watch and in his area.

Lightening cracked through the sky and his whole body tingled as if he was absorbing the energy as he grabbed her. For a moment he wasn’t sure if the energy was coming from her and not from around them as they hovered unmoving. It didn’t matter for now. Charles would be out of action and paralyzed from the waist down, but it wouldn’t last for long. He needed to get Evie over to Pergor and get her a guardian before any more demonic Midworlders showed up. Fighting one he could cope with, but fighting a group of them would incapacitate him for too long.

Something else was up as well as his messages were not getting through to his enclave. Help wouldn’t be coming anytime soon. The last thing he said to his people was he had received a message from an Angelic about to pass over, and that she had found a human in distress. If he had known the distress was that the human didn’t have a guardian he would have brought a whole crew with him to protect her.

There were a lot of questions he needed to ask this female. That wasn’t going to happen in hurry as she had passed out. He wasn’t sure if it was from the fact she had been caught by a man with wings or the burst of energy. As he peered at her he could swear he could see little sparks of energy all around her. It made her glow like a light bulb. His own body still tingled from the burst. He could recover from being hit by lightning but he wasn’t sure how a human would cope.

Of course she might have passed out because most humans don’t have this sort of thing happening to them. He had picked up from her mind she had just lost her father. To be coping with such grief and the attack from Charles made him admire this woman’s tenacity. She had brought a smile to his face when he had seen her boot connect with Charles’s groin.

He stopped ascending into the sky and hovered and allowed himself a moment of reflection as he gazed down at her face. What was going on here? She cradled against his chest and he had to admit he liked the sensation. He didn’t touch people unless he had to and had forgotten what it felt like to have a human pressed against you. It brought out protectiveness in him.

Her reached up and touched her cheek with his fingertips. The glow was gone from around her body, but the tingle still remained. She felt warm, too warm, as if she was running a fever. He moved his hand away surprised at himself. He never let his emotions show and yet he felt drawn to this strange woman with the wet and bedraggled fuzzy hair. It must have been the jolt of lightening affecting him. She looked so vulnerable and yet he had seen her be tough against Charles. She hadn’t known what she was taking on but she had fought well. He didn’t know her but he liked her feistiness. It was irrelevant. He needed to stop these pointless contemplations and concentrate on saving her.

The other people in Pergor who he would ask questions of were never keen to give answers, but answers were what he needed. He had seen what the people from his Homeworld were like this past year. His friend, Ridge, in America had found his life partner, but had struggled to get any information from Pergor, their outpost between Earth and home used to be a place of solace but these days distrust was the word he would use to describe it. When Ridge had gone to Pergor with Nicole, no responses had been forthcoming and they had even attacked her or had been willing for her to die. In that instance her Angelic guardian had been removed by Sayell, a demonic Midworlder. How the hell did Evie end up without a guardian at all? It didn’t make sense. How long had she been like it? He had to assume Charles had been as surprised as him or he would have brought his own back up as well. More questions.

Thunder roared around him as he opened his mind to form the conduit to Pergor. The lightning and thunder became faint as the sky grew dark and starless around them. He would not let anyone hurt her. He would die protecting her if he had to. After all dying would be a relief from this existence of coping with the failure of the past.

“What the fuck is happening?” Evie yelled.

Heath peered down and even in the darkness he could see she was wide eyed as she struggled to get away and pushed against his chest. There was no tranquil female in his arms now. Where she thought she was going was beyond him as they were high above the ground. To be honest he couldn’t blame her for freaking out. He had to consider what to say next. At this close range he could try and convince her to hand over her thoughts to him, but he already had a feeling she would not be willing to do that after everything she had seen so far.

“We’re leaving Earth, to go somewhere to get you a guardian angel,” he said, as he flapped his wings as the stars started to disappear around them. He hovered in the space between worlds not yet able to make the contact with Pergor. He could feel the pain start to build in his temple knowing the connection was trying to form.

She thumped his chest as she wriggled and yelled. “If a guardian angel is what I’ve seen on people for years, I don’t want one. Half of them are dark creatures waiting to kill whatever they see and the other half look like self-serving pixies after what they can get, so get stuffed and take me home. I just want to be left alone.”

What she said just added more questions to the list. “Evie. There’s nowhere for you to go. You can’t stay here between the worlds, and I won’t let you go back or you will be found again by Charles and his associates. I offer the only alternative.” She huffed but stopped wriggling. He changed his mind and considered she was more annoyed than scared. “I want to reassure you I’m not associated with those dark guardians.”

“You sure? You look pretty dark to me. If I have to choose I’ll go with a pixie angel like dad had. Will it keep that creep Charles away from me?”

“I will certainly try to get you an Angelic guardian, and no, Charles won’t be able to touch you then. You have to trust me while I take you to a place not of this world. I know it is a lot to ask after what has happened, but you should give your mind over to me.”

“You can take me wherever you want as I don’t seem to have much choice. Go for it, but I’m not giving my mind over to anyone. Trust me you wouldn’t want to be in there anyway. You lot think you’re dark and yet you don’t know anything.” Evie mumbled, as she shook her head as if to rid herself of a buzzing bee. “If you knew my life you wouldn’t even be suggesting going anywhere near my mind.”

She grabbed on tight around his neck and his whole body tingled in the same way it had when they had been in the middle of the lightening. He needed to concentrate on making the connection with Pergor, but instead he found he was thinking more about how Evie smelt as she held her face close to his. She had the aroma of lemon and vanilla and he closed his eyes as he drew her cent in as she pressed close to his chest. It had been a long time since he had felt anything more than the general need to protect. He wanted to make things right for this human as he sent his thoughts out to the post on Pergor. He could feel himself harden which often happened when their wings came out; the difference was he felt it was the closeness of this woman affecting him. He never let such basic instincts take over and yet again wondered what was happening with this female.

buynow

Bio

maggiemundyMaggie Mundy lives in Adelaide, Australia and is a member of Romance Writers of Australia, and the local chapter SARA (South Australian Romance Authors). She recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in Drama, English and Creative Writing at Flinders University. She had a short story published in the RWA Topaz Anthology Little Gems in 2010 called Sea and Vines. She has four books out with Rogue Phoenix Press. Two erotic novellas called Blood Scent and Blood Oath and paranormal romances called World Change and World Apart. She also has a supernatural thriller with Soul Mate Publishing called Hidden Mortality and paranormal romances called Unknown Protector and Scarred Protector.

She has also performed for many years in corporate entertainment for which she wrote her own sketches, which probably explains why her head is so full of characters. She loves writing speculative fiction and romance but thinks falling in love can be scary, especially in her stories where creatures of the night really exist.

Where to find Maggie

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Soul Mate Publishing


A Different Kind of Groundhog Day Message

26852382_sEach year, I join in the fun and anticipation surrounding Groundhog Day, hoping Wiarton Willie (Ontario’s groundhog) will predict an early spring. A feeling that is shared by millions of Canadians and Americans who are also focusing on their respective groundhogs, among them Punxsutawney Phil, Shubenacadie Sam, Balzac Billy and Buckeye Chuck.

Last year, I came across a thought-provoking post about Groundhog Day on Editor Bob’s newsletter.


Here is Editor Bob’s evergreen post…

In NYC, we crave the luminous skies and warm weather which are still months away. I am recovering from the cabin fever. All is frozen outside but certainly not my heart.

As a curious explorer in school, I used to enjoy weather forecasting by observing the activity of a groundhog at Staten Island Zoo where on February 2, the groundhog comes out of the burrow all day and the ceremony is open for all.

As it looks at its own shadow it indicates the continuation of cold dry winters while if there is an umbrella of clouds, it stays outside predicting the arrival of spring. The behavior of this intelligent rodent helps in predicting the waning of winter or the onset of spring. I find this phenomenon fascinating.

Last evening as I was sitting with Fred, my retired, reformist friend, at the pub, he enlightened me with his perspective of the Groundhog Day which was rather unique and interesting. It gave me a new insight.

Fred said, “You know Bob this day reminds me of my lonely days, I emerged from my coldness only to find my own shadow which was as solitary as my pride, my seasons never changed till I transcended my attitude and eventually, I made great friends who enveloped me in love and warmth. More I open myself to camaraderie, the springtime of my life continues.”

The only prerequisite for long-lasting happiness is to stop walking in your own shadow. We are the weather prophets of our life. So pause and reflect, are you warm or cold today?


That Hippy Bag

breast cancerI hadn’t planned on spending Day 1 of Life after Breast Cancer Diagnosis in a mall, but my friend Karen insisted. “Once those chemo appointments start, you’ll have no time to shop. Get everything now, and you won’t be scrambling later.”

As we walked through the mall, I mentally planned my shopping list: nightgowns, pajamas, a new robe, comfy day clothes. I was surprised when Karen pointed to my black, leather purse. “You’ll need a larger bag for when you start your treatments. Something more durable that’ll hold its shape.”

I started to argue and then stopped. After all, she was the seasoned warrior who had already traveled this path.

Continue reading on Vicki Batman’s blog.