The Road to Self-Publication

I’m happy to welcome author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Erin shares insights from her self-publication journey and her latest release, September’s Song.

Here’s Ryan!

“September’s Song” is actually my second self-published book, but the reasons behind each one, and the processes along the way, are vastly different.

In July 2017 I took my WordPress blog series and created a book and offered it to the public. It was a non-fictional account taken almost directly from the blog journal that chronicled the first two years with my adopted collie, Ty. The reason was simply to share the story of our successes and failures to a wide audience and offer encouragement to other pet owners struggling with a severely traumatized pet.

I used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for that project because it was free, (which fit my budget), it was easy and almost mistake proof, and the system walked me through each step. For simple projects like blog to book, cook books, memoirs, etc.… I would recommend KDP. I used my own photo I took for the cover, so I had no outward expenses. Each sale is pure profit, which in turn a percentage is donated back to the rescue where I adopted Ty from.

Now, this past year I was feeling gusty and decided to take one of the manuscripts I’d been shopping around and self-publish it myself. I felt up to the challenge. First I selected a script that was well received by beta readers and agents, but turned down because it was hard to niche. Then the work really began.

# 1—Timing. I selected October 5th as my targeted release date. I needed something tangible I could strive for. I picked then because it happens to be my birthday and it seemed like a good present to reward myself with. Starting about April or May I started collecting downloads and printed them out from various sources on marketing, promo timelines, self-publishing checklists, and more. I thought I’d have about 6 or 7 months to put this altogether. I’d done Ty’s Journey with KDP in about a month, so this should be plenty of time to build up excitement. Reality… I have barely read any of those downloads. The 6-7 months of timing sounded good in theory but lacked in practicality. In May I left my full time security job to work full time in pet care and devote more time to my writing endeavors. I was completely unprepared for the pet care to require more time over the summer than my 45-55 hour a week security job had! Plus I took on a couple of computer-driven side jobs that dipped into my time. So I ended up feeling like a stumbled through the six months of preparation to release this book. But here is what I did:

# 2—I hired an editor to take the beta-read manuscript and give it a good final editing. I found a gentleman through contacts who used to edit for the Chicago Times as a journalist. It was costly and slow-going, but he made some great points I might not have noticed. Simple stuff really, but things that helped with sentence flow and syntax items. The drawback was he didn’t particularly care for the subject matter. Being a magazine journalist, he wasn’t well-read in fiction. Though he came highly recommended, and our initial phone call was over two hours long, in the end he wasn’t the right editor for this book. Lesson learned.

# 3—While the editor had the manuscript, I worked on a cover. I bought a limited trial through Shutterstock and bought some photos for the background and front image. It was fairly inexpensive and I also used my ten-photo trial to nab some pictures I think I might be able to use later. Then I bought a program called Book Creative to take those photos and background to make a front and back cover. It was a fairly easy process, and not terribly expensive. Edits were by far the biggest expense I’ve put into “September’s Song”.

# 4—Fine tuning the blurb, keywords, tagline, etc… I sent a sample out of a blurb and tagline to a Facebook group and asked for suggestions. A few good points came up and I tweaked the blurb. That process was free and well worth the two or three weeks I waited for everyone to respond. A publishing house I belong to has a list of keywords. I combed the list, looking for everything that described this story. Time consuming but worth it to find words I’d have never thought of.

# 5—Research. I didn’t want to return to Kindle KDP for this book, so I searched around at various platforms that allow writers to self-publish. This was massively time-consuming and required copious notes. Actually I didn’t wait until step # 4 to do this, I started even before the editor, but I made my final choice about now. I went with Lulu.com. There are pros and cons with every platform, and I read reviews of authors who went with each one, why they were happy or not. I looked at costs to create, return on investment, avenues where the books would be available and in what formats. There is just an endless amount of information to wade through when looking for a self-publishing option. I reached the conclusion there is no perfect self-publishing avenue and each one is a trial and error. We can only research and make the best education decision we can.

# 6—Final revisions. Once I had the edited manuscript back from the editor, I had to go through with my fine toothed comb and make corrections that I agreed with, do a couple more read-throughs, (and still found two tiny errors everyone had missed).

# 7—Formatting. Oh how I hate formatting. Once I had a clean copy, free of errors and exactly how I wanted it, now I had to format the document to Lulu’s specifications. Line by line, page by page, (330+ pages) it was tedious work. But it will make for a nicer looking book. So I sucked it up and formatted the script. I added a dedication page at this time too. Something else important I’d been chipping away at.

# 8—Creating/ pricing. Finally, I sat down at Lulu.com and walked through the process of creating the book. First, the ebook. It was completely free and really only took around 3 hours or so to do. I selected a free ISBN, had to convert my word doc to a pdf, which became an epub when it was finished. I uploaded my cover. I set my price and marketing selections and Wham… one book ready to go. So far it’s only available on Lulu.com and iBooks, but it should be available on all the regular channels soon. That was easy. Next…the paperback. There were a few more choices to make, mostly in design. Again, a lot of decisions and uploading. It helps to have a clear vision in your head before you reach this stage. Again I took another ISBN because each format needs its own number. I’m guessing this is a Lulu thing since it never applied to my other releases with the same ISBN across multiple formats. But they’re free, so whatever. Downside is I had to order a print proof (at my cost of $7.60) to be certain the book is exactly like I want it before it goes to Amazon/ B& N/etc.… It’s currently up at Lulu now in paperback, but I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive. So that will be a slower process. Live and learn.

# 9—Releasing. Now that they are both created and released and available at least somewhere, I wish I had started the previous step a little sooner. Not that it matters really. Now it’s just waiting to see when Amazon, B& N and the others accept it or if I’ll have to make modifications to be accepted. It sounds like the eBook is a done deal and just needs time to Que. The paperback first has to arrive, I need to read it and be sure it’s 100 percent okay-dokey. Then it still takes time to go through that Que. If it had to be out by a certain time, this could be a problem, fortunately it’s just my impatience shining through.

# 10–Etc. Cetera promo! Since I never got around to reading those stacks of downloads, I just handled promo the best I could on my time schedule and budget. First, I purchased a blog tour, then the company shut down. Bummer. Next I started lining up visits on every blog I could think of. I get so many emails and Facebook postings and such—like I’m sure everyone does. And every one that offered any kind of promotion I grabbed it. Most are free or low cost. I sent out queries and racked up a nice list of people willing to highlight me. Some were at a fee or giveaway too. But I’d been pinching my budget dollars all year in anticipation of throwing it all on this release. I also am a huge fan of Canva and use it for so much of my promotional graphics. So I designed a “Coming soon” graphic and pinned it on top of all my social media sites. Then I made it a point to post something, anything regularly so people would see my name on their feed, and see the pinned graphic to get to the new post. Tricky?? Naw, just finally understanding how that stuff works. Basically my promo plan has been to throw a big net over any source of promo that I can afford and see where it leads. Probably not the best plan ever, and I’d hoped to have something more solid before now, but with my crazy work schedule, it’s the best I can do. Maybe by next year things will settle down personally, and it will still be a new enough release I can focus on other avenues.

Someday I hope to do another self-release. There is a non-fiction manuscript, about 50,000 words that I’d like to see out there. So what would I do differently? Give myself a full year instead of 6-7 months. I’d read those stacks of downloads first. I’d use a different editor and maybe another self-publishing platform too. Mostly it’s just to compare platforms. Beyond that, I wouldn’t really change much. The biggest thing is it’s amazing how much time it takes to self-publish. Ty’s book was easy to fit into my schedule in a few weeks, last year, so I was fooled into thinking this year would be just as easy. I definitely needed more time to plan the promo before creating.

One final thought, something important to think about when self-pubbing… belonging to a traditional house comes not only with a team of experts to do much of these things, but the support of other authors to network with, celebrate with, commiserate with and bounce ideas off of. Going solo not only drops all the responsibility into the selfer’s shoulders, it also removes the author network.


Blurb

Ivey London who lost her military husband, tried to move on with their son, her Alzheimer’s mother, and a boss attracted to her. She finds him alive and amnesiac five years later. Armed with inexpiable abilities, he is pursued by a forceful group determined to reclaim him. Ivey is just as determined to keep her late husband. Together, they uncover what happened to him, who is after him, and search for how to reclaim what they once were–husband and wife.

Excerpt

“No, that’s okay. I can do this by myself.” She spun around, blinking. Picking up the paring knife again, she began peeling. She gasped as his arms gently encircled her waist and his breath fanned her bare neck. His lips nuzzled her ear and she closed her eyes. His hand took the knife from her fingers and she leaned into his touch.

“Keegan,” his name came out in a throaty rumble as her eyes slid closed.

“I don’t know what we used to do, Ivey, but I can tell you miss it bad. I’m willing to try and be your husband again, if you’ll help me.”

Hot tears stung her eyes. She swallowed hard. “So many times you said I was unforgettable. I…I guess–.”

The comment died unfinished, and his fingers reached down and caressed her back. Electric jolts shivered along her spine.

“Don’t push me away, Ivey. Let me be in each part of your life.”

Her breath hitched. This should be easy. Just tell him how they used to cook, what his favorite foods were, what they shared, how they made wonderful love. And miraculously all his memories will reappear. Except it hadn’t worked yet.

From the distant reaches of her mind, Ivey heard the phone ringing. Before she could pull herself away from the counter, it stopped. Assuming Jory answered it, the whole episode passed from her mind. Right now, Keegan took all her focus.

His fingertips trailed lazily up and down her back, igniting tiny fires in their wake.

“Keegan….I….” Words failed her. Heart beating frantically like a wild bird locked in a cage, her mind surrendered.

He gently turned her around, cupping her chin and tilting her up. Drawing a husky breath, he lowered his lips to hers, winding his fingers in the tangle of her hair. Her arms moved to encircle his waist, slipping under his shirt to feel the raised scars and corded muscles. A guttural moan escaped her.

Finally, having lost all concept of time, she pulled apart. Noble, he would not go further with a woman he did not remember making love to. She might respect his intention and restraint, but the unmet need was also killing her. Pulling in a shaky breath, she ended the kiss, stepping away and picking up the paring knife again.

She ran her tongue over her lips, more to steady herself, and rested one hand on the counter for balance. “I can work on this if you want to go see what Jory and Mom are doing.”

Keegan stiffened, hesitated and studied her. For a chilling moment, she hoped he ignored her request and lifted her bodily to carry her away to the bedroom. Then a darkness entered his eyes, a sadness that cut into her chest.

“Yes. Of course.” Spinning, he exited, leaving her alone with the ghosts of what had been.

Damn, damn, damn.

Buy Links

Lulu | iTunes | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bio

Ryan Jo Summers writes romances that blur the lines of subgenres. She mixes contemporary with time travel, Christian, suspense, sweet, and paranormal like blending a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Her non-fiction works have appeared in numerous trade journals and magazines including ‘WNC Woman Magazine’, ‘Critter Magazine’, ‘Journey Devotions’, and ‘Vet Tech Journal’. She is a regular contributing author for the ‘Asheville Pet Gazette’.

Her hobbies include baking, crafts, gardening, enjoying nature, and chess/mah-jongg/word-find puzzles. She pet sits/dog walks when she’s not busy writing and she fosters homeless pets for area animal rescues.

She lives in a century-old cottage in North Carolina with her own menagerie of rescued pets and way too many houseplants. “September’s Song” is her second self-published work, the first one being the chronicles of the first two years with her adopted PTSD rescue collie.

Media Links

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google | Amazon | BookBub


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10 Career Choices I Almost Pursued

I’m happy to welcome back Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan reflects upon past career aspirations and shares her latest release, Beside Still Waters.

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#1—Veterinarian. This was always number one on my list, from the time I was old enough to understand what a veterinarian was. I never took our pets to visit one, so I must have watched one on television or read about them in books, but however I learned about them, I wanted to become one from this hallowed profession. The colleges were even selected as I grew older and held tight my dream. Notebooks filled with reference materials I gleaned over the years. Interestingly, I did not meet my first veterinary doctor until I was eighteen and went to work at their clinic as a technician. Best career ever.

#2—Coast Guard Boatswains Mate. You know those movies in which the boaters find themselves in stormy waters and great trouble? The boats pitch wildly as the waters rise and toss it about. And at the last moment the Coast Guard rushes to the rescue. That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the one at the bow of the rescue boat, during the biting rains, racing across the choppy seas, to reach the stranded boater. To this day I can’t watch a boating movie without wondering why I didn’t pursue this.

#3—Marine Biologist. This was a close runner up behind being in the Coast Guard. Still on the water for a good deal of time, and still related to the animals I cared so deeply about. Anchored with a great deal of science, which I always enjoyed, I will always think this would have been a good career choice.

#4—Architect. I don’t recall what started this notion. Perhaps it was during a brief study in school of famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and others. This career choice was more of a passing infatuation that never grew beyond a few dreamy sketches of my perfect house. I might still have that notebook stashed around somewhere.

#5—Archeologist. This was another science fueled career decision, and it seemed initially to be exciting. I’m not sure where the beginning premise originated but once I learned archeologists usually work in dry, dusty, and hot environments, I quickly bailed. No thanks, I’m a water lover, not a desert dweller. My sophomore novel, “Shimmers of Stardust”, features an archeologist who winds up in very hot water over an unexpected ‘find’—an outlaw from the past.

#6—Librarian. This was a no brainer. I grew up hanging out in libraries, both school and public. I knew the Dewey Decimal system by heart before I could drive a car. And in high school I took an elective called Librarian Aide. It was a wonderful year. I learned so much about public interaction, professional expectations, librarian equipment like microfiche and projectors, and the books I read that year. Oh my! In the end, I left and never returned to working in a library. My den, however, resembles a library with its wrap-around book shelves laden with, what else, books! And a few other things like ceramic statues, CD’s, and a model ship.

#7—Nurse. Now, this is a career I still tinker with. Technically, a veterinary technician (a career I enjoyed for over eight years) is an animal nurse. And I did go ahead and earn my certificate as a Physical Therapy Aide, and have never used it. I love all things having to do with nursing, from phlebotomy, to radiology, to rehabilitation, to surgery. Doubtlessly I would find something I liked in the nursing field.

#8—Caterer. I am not sure where this came from, as I never knew a caterer or hired one. It was more of a sudden awareness somehow of a career and a fleeting fancy that it would be a cool job. I like baking and cooking, so it seemed like a natural connection. The notion passed before I could do any research to see what was required. Interestingly, I used catering as a career for my heroine in an upcoming release, “Coffeecake Chaos”, and I routinely pet-sit for a pair of caterers now.

#9—Teacher. This one was suggested, repetitively, to me by numerous people as I grew up. It was suggested by many that I go into teaching. (Honestly, I don’t really know why) So when the elective of teacher aide came up in Jr high school, I signed up for a year. I also took office aide as well. I was in eighth grade and sent to first grade to assist with 24 charming six-year-olds. It was an educational year, I learned a lot, and look fondly back on the time. And it cured me of any desire to be a teacher. I am tinkering with having this be the career of the heroine in one of my early-planning-stage stories.

#10—Writer. This was up there neck and neck with Veterinarian. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since I could read and write. It took some years to realize people actually made a living doing this, but I wanted to write. I needed to write. Whether I made a living or not, I had to be writing something, and searching for someone who wanted to read it. It wasn’t so much a career, I felt, but a calling. Perhaps over time I will write stories to incorporate the other careers I ended up not pursuing.

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Blurb

Top Journalist and corporate climber, McKayla Buchanan, is sent to a remote California mountain camp for inner-city, at-risk teens. Accustomed to political corruption and high-society drama assignments, she is suddenly a fish out of water. At Camp In As Much, she meets eight hostile and distrustful teens, assorted volunteers and rescued horses—and Clay.

Clay Michaels is the man who founded Camp In As Much and made it the success it is now. His hope for the highly recommended journalist is to come and write a feature to send seeds out to form other camps like his nationwide. He never considered the reporter would turn out to be a lovely woman, or for him to have such an attraction to her.

Between McKayla’s worldly experience and Clay’s strong faith, they form a partnership to help with the endless challenges of the kids. While McKayla’s assignment is supposed to be temporary, it isn’t long before she and Clay are each wishing it could last longer. A serious situation will force McKayla to decide if she can give up her worldly ways and place her faith in the same higher source that earthy and godly Clay does.

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Bio

ryanjosummersRyan Jo Summers writes romance across the genres. Her books contain love stories blended with any combination of mystery, paranormal, time travel, shape shifting, Christian and humor elements. She comes from a family of wordsmiths. Her dad is a songwriter and his aunt wrote poetry. Ryan Jo dabbles in poetry, short stories and non-fiction articles. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and baking, reading, spending time with friends, growing plants, playing chess, mah jongg, and wiggly word find puzzles and exploring the great outdoors. She lives in the heart of Appalachia in Western North Carolina in a charming old cottage with a menagerie of rescue pets.

Where to find Ryan Jo Summers…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Top 10 Advantages of Living in a Houseboat

I’m thrilled to welcome back Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan Jo discusses the advantages of living in a houseboat and shares her latest release, Upon the Tide.

Here’s Ryan Jo!

ryanjosummers1I have long had a fascination of living in a houseboat, upon the tide. I liked television shows that featured some character living such the dream. However, in feeding my fantasy, I’ve learned a couple key differences between true houseboats and floating homes, which the names are sometimes used interchangeably.

The houseboat, which can be a cabin cruiser, trawler like the one used in the story “Upon the Tide” or a yacht, must meet certain requirements. It has to be capable of leaving the dock under its own power and fulfill the US Coast Guard standard call for having seaworthy hulls, engines, navigational equipment and more. It also needs to have floatation, fuel, electronic and ventilation systems.
Floating homes, by contrast, are not considered a water vessel but a structure built on a floating apparatus–like a raft. It is not necessarily capable of independent movement.

Now, since I would much prefer the actual houseboat, like a cabin cruiser or trawler, here are the top ten advantages of living in one:

Mobility: Usually one rents the slip where the boat is docked. There is no need to pack and unpack if you want to change docks and move to a new neighborhood.

Lifestyle: Arguably one of the foremost reasons people move to the water. No lawn or yard work. Few things beat the serenity and romanticism of feeling the motion of the water and hearing the soothing sound. Sunrises and sunsets are something else to behold.

Investment: Because the supply of houseboats is somewhat limited, compared to land housing, the prices tend to stay high. It is a good return on your investment if you wish to sell later down the line. So a houseboat is a good financial decision if you have the initial funds.

Property: Speaking of funds and finances, boats are not considered real property like a house, so there are no property taxes to pay. There is, however, personal property taxes just like a car.

View: As mentioned before, the sunsets and sunrises are beyond description. And to be able to enjoy them day after day, always different, would be cheaper than all the blood pressure medication people are taking. In addition, you have a constant view of the water that can never be blocked by someone building a house or structure in front of you.

Soothing: In the same realm as health benefits, imagine being rocked to sleep each night by the natural motion of the water. Picture the gentle slap of waves lapping the hull. Imagine the salt tinged smell of sea air. Sunshine, fresh air, and who could ask for more?

Simple life: Space is a precious commodity so by nature you have to put everything in a space. By default, you have less clutter. Keeping personal possessions becomes less important over having a streamlined living space.

Wildlife: Dolphins, whales, otters, manatees, turtles, tropical birds, tropical fish and more can all be your everyday visitors depending on where your boat is installed and where you take your sailing outings to. As a side note, snorkeling and viewing coral reefs could be as simple as stepping off your deck.

Green: It’s natural to become more environmentally conscious living on a boat. You use less resources like water, fuel, paper and electricity and depend on different, greener and natural, cleaning agents. This is better for the planet.

Commute: No traffic to hassle with. Most people either work from the boat or walk/ bike to work or shopping. Therefore, there is usually not a commute to deal with.

Upon The Tide Final (2)

Hook

Tossed together by happenstance, fleeing for their lives and falling in love under the Caribbean sun as paradise turns deadly.

Blurb

New York Fashion designer, Piper Kincaid, just wanted a pleasant visit with her cousin down in Florida. That was before she and handsome beach bum, Kade Wyatt, become the targets of a gang of robbers and killers.

Kade simply wanted some fish for his pet seagull. Now he and the lovely exec from out of town are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse. He’s busy concentrating on Piper when he should be focusing on keeping them alive.

Fleeing for their lives aboard Kade’s houseboat, ‘The Hightide’, they experience risk, surprises, mystery and romance during the Great Caribbean Boat Chase. However, the biggest surprises are waiting for them back at port.

Excerpt

“Dolphins are pretty nice animals. I like having them around. Sailors say they are a sign of good luck.”

“We certainly need some now. Maybe they’re a sign things will get better.”

Kade pondered that. Right now, it didn’t seem things were all that bad. In fact, it was almost out of a storybook. The water softly slapping the sides of the boat, the gentle rocking motion, the full moon slowly rising above, the twinkling of the stars, a salty breeze stirring around them. They were all conspiring to create a romantic scene good enough for a movie. Where the hero takes the girl into his arms and kisses her.

Kade peeked over at Piper, noticing the blush in her cheeks, the hooded way she was watching him and wondered if the same thoughts were also going through her mind. Was it possible?

First the dolphins, then the moonlight skipping along the water, the stars shining, the water playing tricks. They were a lethal mixture for one’s heart. At least his. He felt like he was falling overboard.

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Inspiration

Years ago I loved the tv show ‘Riptide’ with Perry King and Joe Penny. Later it was Don Johnson in Miami Vice. What drew me to the weekly series was mostly the boats. In both cases one of the main star’s characters lived on houseboats. I thought that was the most incredible way to live. I don’t recall much about the plots of the shows but I remember those boats. Then country music artist Dierks Bentley arrived on the music scene, and he lived on a houseboat. Why did these guys have all the luck?

Thinking it so unfair, I created a character, Kade Wyatt, and had him living on a houseboat called ‘The Hightide’. I fell in love with that trawler and went aboard as frequently as possible in my dreams.

Now, since I work security for a fashion retailer, I am exposed to fashion and clothing to the point of almost being force fed it. However, that does have it advantages. I created a heroine who lived and breathed fashion and clothing as much as my work environment did and plunked her into Kade’s world. A fish out of water? In the Caribbean.

Interestingly, work became helpful for dressing fashion conscious Piper. I was working on a beach dance scene and took a break to go to work for the afternoon. Walking into the back area, I spotted some dresses hanging up, staged to be stored. Literally, I stopped. Immediately I envisioned Piper wearing one of those dresses at the beach and what it would do to poor Kade. I wrote that scene that night when I got home and the beach party is still one of my favorites.

Bio

Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina author who specializes in writing romances with a twist. Love stories blended with inspirational, paranormal, suspense or time travel–or several at once. She also writes non-fiction for regional periodicals. Ryan’s dad is a songwriter and his aunt wrote poetry so she claims she came by her writing skill honestly. Apparently it’s in the genes.

Her hobbies include bird-watching, houseplants (50 ish and growing), poetry and yard work. She loves to gather with friends, hike in the forest with her dog, paint ceramics and canvas and work on wiggly word find puzzles. She lives in a 1920 cottage with a menagerie of pets. Living in the mountains, she dreams of the shore and frequently uses the water as scenes for her stories.

Where to find Ryan Jo…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Amazon


10 Observations and Things We Need

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan shares ten observations and her latest release, Chasing the Painted Skies.

Here’s Ryan!

ryanjosummers1. The river always flows down, never back up. Leaves fall down, never back up. Perhaps we should flow and fall downward, never back from whence we came.

2. Time moves forward, never back. Seconds hours, months and years never go in reverse. Perhaps we ought to live forward, never looking back but follow our path, the schedule, the cycle.

3. We need time to step out and fall, stand tall, get it all right and get it all wrong. Move out, move up and move along.

4. We need time to change our preference and change our priorities. Try and fail, try again and succeed. Know when to fight and when to concede. Make mistakes and learn from them.

5. We need time to learn when hang on and when to let go. To discover moments to savor and develop memories to treasure.

6. We need time to walk in the dark, find the light, both grow dim and shine bright. To experiment, create, dream big, Experience, grow, hope and wish. Taste disappointment and grow from it. Weep, cry, laugh, choose, love and lose.

7. We need time to learn humility, stand proud, show others and see for ourselves. Be a victim of circumstance and change those circumstances. Time to mature, grow, feel. Discover, hurt and heal.

8. We need time to find the heart hidden within, decide when to follow that heart. Hear that still small voice inside and learn to trust that voice.

9. We need time to change our goals, clothes and choices. Desires, directions and dreams. Tastes, attitudes and opinions. Styles, plans and habits.

10. We need time to reach a point where we care less about what the world thinks and says and more about what we need for ourselves.

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Chasing the Painted Skies: Inspired by a lakeside photo, shrouded in swirling mist, it comes. Part mystery, part treasure hunt, part alternative paranormal, a dash of ghost story and all romance.

Blurb

Raven Koynes is a woman in hiding. Years ago she escaped to remote Gull Island Light Station, nestled far away in Lake Superior. She has carved out a life of peace and solitude for herself. Until famed nature photographer Sebastian Knight arrives—in the height of a nor’easter storm—to document the beauty of Gull Island. Unsavory treasure hunters also blow in with the storm, determined to find missing cargo from a sunken ship. And they think Raven knows where it’s stashed. A power outage is a final threat, pushing Raven to the limit.

Help arrives in the form of a stray German Shepherd Dog, who takes an immediate protective interest in Raven. He becomes her constant shadow and listening ear as she sorts out her growing—and conflicting—feelings for Sebastian.

Meanwhile, Sebastian came to the island looking for treasure as well, in the form of photographs, While he isn’t so sure about a sunken boat and missing cargo, he only needs one look at Raven Koynes to know he’s found his own valuable treasure. One he hopes he can hang on to once she learns about his mysterious secret.

Now that Madeline the resident ghost has found out, it’s probably just a matter of time until Raven does too. And with the storm and power outage, no one is going anywhere any time soon.

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Bio

Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina writer who shares her mountain cottage with several rescue pets. She has been infatuated with the written word since early childhood, writing her first book at age ten. She comes from a long line of wordsmiths, in the form of poets and songwriters. She has had numerous articles and essays and one poem published over the years, many of them dealing with animals and nature. Her debut romance novel was published in 2012, followed by two more in 2014 and those will be followed by two more in late 2015/ early 2016. Her hobbies include painting, doodling cartoons, taking her new dog exploring in the regional national forests, visiting with friends, reading, working wiggly wordfind puzzles and playing Mah Jongg.

Where to find Ryan…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


10 Favorite Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Animal Care

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan shares lessons learned from the unforgettable pets in her life.

Here’s Ryan Jo!

ryanjosummersYears ago I was director of a non-profit dog rescue group. Aside from that, I was also active in other animal welfare activities. I also owned a boarding kennel/ pet supply/ training center for a decade sandwiched between working as a veterinary technician. Consequently, many of the animals I have had or known were the largest teachers in my life. Here are ten of my favorites.

Expectations: Becky came to our rescue as a ten month old stray. She was a pretty blue merle Australian Shepherd and something mix. And she had no manners, lessons or skills. She was a mess. Teaching her the basics in obedience was challenging and truthfully, while she was friendly, I did not hold much for her future expectations. She was a wild child, prone to impetuous overreactions.

About ten months after she came to us, a young couple adopted her. One day out of the blue, they called, wanting to share what she had done. Breath held, I waited, expecting the worse.

Seems their toddler son had been in the front yard and tried to bolt into the road. Mom wasn’t fast enough to catch him, but Becky was. Agile on her feet, Becky skillfully blocked the toddler’s advances with her body until Mom could catch him.

Becky- rescue

As great as that was, it got better. About a year later Mom was in the house with a new baby and Dad was out with the young son and Becky. A friend stopped by and the men got to talking. Becky’s frenzied barking erupted like a volcano. Dad followed the barking to the horse pasture, where the son stood, surrounded by horses and Becky stood at his side, barking furiously at the horses. So twice Becky saved the young son and showed me she knew how to rise above other’s expectations.

Will- Rescue II (2)Strength of Character: Will was a collie/ German shepherd left tied to the door of a local animal shelter. He was about a year old. The shelter turned him over to us. He had no obvious problems that I could find. In fact, the more time I spent with Will, the more I fell in love with his character. He was steady under pressure and showed great promise of intelligence, loyalty and patience. I contacted Leader Dog in Rochester, asking for him to be evaluated. He scored great so the decision was made to turn Will over to them for further training.

Several months later we received word Will had graduated and was paired with a human as an official Seeing Eye Dog for the Blind. Will showed me to quietly let one’s character and integrity shine through, without a need for words.

Courage: Spencer was a handsome three-month-old tri-color collie pup when he came to us. His breeder wanted to have him destroyed because he didn’t see well. Once we had him vet checked, he was diagnosed as having no eyeballs. Apparently, he’d been born without eyes forming. We also considered euthanizing him, but he didn’t have any apparent issues with his blindness. Once he cautiously explored a new area, he was unstoppable.

Spencer loved to run and play with the other dogs, his courage knew no boundaries and he truly had the heart of a lion. Within a few months, he was adopted by a couple who had previously adopted two sighthounds from other groups—a Greyhound and a borzoi. The blind pup took no time to learn the perimeters of his new home and yard and quickly settled in with his sighted family.

CalRescueTime: Cal was a homely old soul, about six or seven years old, when he came to us from a neighboring county. He was as sweet and gentle as he was ugly. And he was always horribly car sick. He lived with us for three years, until the age of about nine or ten. While we tried to make him comfortable, he still lived in a shelter environment. He was always passed up by the younger, prettier dogs. Our poor ugly duckling, always staying behind when they found new families.

Finally, I suggested it might be more humane for old Cal to be put to sleep. He could have a dignified end instead of languishing in a shelter his final years. One of the volunteers petitioned for more time for him. I granted her thirty days. It’d been three years, what was another month?

The twenty-nine day rolled around and still no interest in our ugly duckling. Day thirty was already set aside for an out of town adoption event. We were taking a litter of adorable puppies. The volunteer begged to take Cal. It seemed almost cruel to take him, with carsickness, to compete against cute puppies.

A family came by our booth, bypassing the playful pups and honed in on homely Cal. Before we could even finish explaining his long history, they wanted him. Turns out they liked the underdogs. The parents had adopted seventeen human kids, all from underprivileged countries and kept a small pet population. They had groomed goats and ponies, deformed cats and now a sweet old dog named Cal. The placement was such a great one, when we had an ugly duckling puppy later, called Dopey, the family wanted him as well. Dopey kept Cal company until he peacefully passed away at the age of thirteen.

Larkin- rescue (2)Regrets: Not all of my favorite memories are happy ones, but the lessons still linger. We took in a tri-color collie/ something mix stray and called him Larkin. He was unique in both appearance and personality. He was short haired, but not a smooth collie, his ears resembled a bat, his tail was bobbed and his eyes were large, round and red. He had an intense personality, never fully relaxed, never fully trusting, not aggressive but not completely friendly either. A true yin-yang. Due to his red eyes and keyed up demeanor, he tended to scare a lot of people. When he worked for me, he was obedient, yet always wired.

About a year into his stay, I realized Larkin would never make a good pet. Unable to trust him around others, I made the sad choice to have him put down. Many years later, Larkin remains one of my greatest regrets in life. I feel I personally failed him.

Now I see opportunities he might have excelled at. If only we’d have had knowledge or connections, he might have had a better ending. Each time I see a military or police dog at work, I can’t help but wonder if Larkin might have found a good fit in there.

Determination: So much can be written about Kip. A stray mahogany collie we took in as a favor for an overbooked group. I learned volumes about separation anxiety, which was his only real fault. Three times he was adopted out and three times he was returned. He could escape from anywhere and non-compliance was the resounding reason of return. The only time he was content and compliant was when he was at my side. However, the rule was Rescues Don’t Stay. So Kip fell into a slot of not being my dog, but never far from me and mingling in whatever my dogs were doing.

For many years he and I were inseparable. He went from about six when we took him in to about thirteen. His body and mind wore down. Finally I made the painful decision to let him go. Though by rules he was never my dog, he accompanied me south when I divorced and moved. And his quiet determination and eyes on his goal earned him a spot forever in my heart. I will always miss Kip, the big, bad, brown dog who knew unquestionably what he wanted.

Fun: Sometimes caring for animals can be fun as well as rewarding. I did some rehabilitation work for orphaned wildlife. My first squirrel I named Chico. He was so tiny he needed to be bottle fed every three hours and kept on a heated pad. Chico grew and learned to climb—quickly. He went from blind, hairless and helpless to flying from shoulder to shoulder almost overnight.

Chico was great fun as he scampered along my arm, my desk or the furniture. All too soon it was time to move Chico to the outdoors and real trees. He made a few trips up the trees, always returning back to my waiting arm. One day he did not return. For a few days I’d spot a squirrel watching me from atop a limb. Chico was back where he belonged, among his own kind.

Opportunities: While volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center I encountered a domestic rabbit that had been captured in a cemetery. Having always liked bunnies, I took him home and he quickly bonded with the rescue collie, Kip, helping to ease his separation anxiety. When I moved south, Jade and Kip both moved with me. When I got involved in another animal rescue group, it was learned that “I do rabbits”. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I inherited three more. Two were rehomed and one I held on to, naming Delainey. About three later I rehomed him with a sweet little girl who always wanted a bunny.

Jade and Kip (2)

Because of the knowledge I gained from having rabbits, I was able to publish three different articles correcting misconceptions people have about rabbit care. Due to a random opportunity, I also regularly post Easter Bunny warnings, doing my part to slow down the harm done to rabbits each spring.

Trust & Faith: Back in my vet tech days, a client brought a sick kitten in from a feral colony she was caretaker of. The kitten was so wild and fearful, it was difficult to handle her, despite her illness. Over time we bonded and when she was cured, I asked the caretaker if I could adopt her. Kryshnah and I have been together ten years now and her total trust in me still leaves me speechless sometimes. However, for the first four years, no one but me ever saw her when they visited.

ryanjosummerscatsTwo years a smoke tortishell cat showed up at my door one cold November day. She was fearful and hungry. For many long weeks I fed her and tried patiently to let me pet her. Five weeks later I still had not achieved a single ear scratch, but I knew I was making headway because she brought me her month old kitten.

As wild as the winter wind, and no bigger than a dust-bunny, little Avery Faith was determined not to be touched. Gradually mom and daughter’s visits grew more then just a nightly trip. Two years later they live inside and are sweet and loving as any normal cat. Aspen sleeps with me at night, purring contentedly. While visitors still don’t see them yet, I know in time, and with patience, they will trust visitors as much as they trust me.

ryanjosummersdogHope: My last dog died in 2013 at age eighteen. It was nine months before I was ready to replace her. On March 21st, I adopted Ty, a handsome blue merle collie. Ty had spent many years in a terrible hoarding situation. When we first met, he wouldn’t even look at me or let me touch him. I knew what kind of care he would require and I questioned whether I still had that inside me anymore. I had survived a life threatening illness not two years prior and have been battling chronic health conditions, so could I do a service to Ty’s needs?

Hoping so, I finalized the adoption. Now, three months together, his progress has been marked by baby steps, occasional milestones and inevitable backward slips. But we are getting to know—and trust—each other. Our rescue group supporters follow our travels, hoping we succeed.

Bio

Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina writer who shares her mountain cottage with several rescue pets. She has been infatuated with the written word since early childhood, writing her first book at age ten. She comes from a long line of wordsmiths, in the form of poets and songwriters. She has had numerous articles and essays and one poem published over the years, many of them dealing with animals and nature. Her debut romance novel was published in 2012, followed by two more in 2014 and those will be followed by two more in late 2015/ early 2016. Her hobbies include painting, doodling cartoons, taking her new dog exploring in the regional national forests, visiting with friends, reading, working wiggly wordfind puzzles and playing Mah Jongg.

Blurb

whencloudsgather‘When Clouds Gather’ is Ryan’s third novel, a suspenseful romance.

Set in tranquil Driftwood Shores, Darby Adams has the perfect life running her bed and breakfast business and caring for her son, Matt and a pack of unwanted animals. Then a guest is found murdered in one of her guestrooms. Suddenly she is the number one suspect.

The surviving family wants to ensure Darby is fully prosecuted so they hire new-in-town Private Investigator Sam Golden to get the evidence that will send her to prison for good. Sam starts his assignment in the guise of a much needed friend for Darby while searching for the evidence to put her away. When strange and scary events begin happening, Sam has to rethink his opinions.

Darby and Sam battle constant dangers, growing closer. Until the day arrives that Sam has to confess his original motives, driving them apart. When a sinister new threat rises, Darby has to decide if she can trust Sam one more time, or risk losing everything.

Where to find Ryan Jo…

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