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It was almost ten years ago.

A whole decade. It sometimes seems much, much longer, and other times not that long at all.

I felt compelled to write books.

I seriously didn’t want to. I knew how much time it would take, how hard it would be and how much I had to learn. I sat down and evaluated my reasons for writing. At the time, I was a new stay-at-home mom, and I was really struggling with that new role. Since I was sixteen, I had gone to school full time and worked, usually waiting tables, and after I graduated college, I worked two sometimes three jobs while my husband was in graduate school. And then all of a sudden I was home with a baby, without a pressing schedule for the first time in a my life.

I felt my brain atrophy into the back skull of my school from lack of use, and I hit a wall of depression. It was a dark and difficult time. I made a choice and I made a lot of changes. I started working out, limited T.V., and…

I started to write.

I wrote my first book and then my second, before I decided to got to graduate school to get my MFA in writing. But with that decision, I made myself some promises. One of those promises was if I ever made even a dollar from my writing, I would donate 10% to charity, outside the charity my husband and I already donate on our income.

I know there are a million charities out there, and I want some suggestions on where you think that 10% should go. I’m leaning towards Operation Underground Railroad, but I intend on switching the charity every six months or year. Comment below with any charities that deserve my (meager) contributions. I would love to hear of any charities.

Good luck and happy reading and writing!

Hugs!

Erica

I want to be extraordinary on my own terms.

 

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Hello all my darlings!

I am super excited to announce that the second book in my Prism Series, Cobalt Blue was released this week! What I really want to show you is how BEAUTIFUL my artwork is! It was done by the lovely Merilliza Chan at www.merilliza.com. Isn’t it lovely? It’s not very often that people get to see the artwork without the addition of the typography. In the case of this book, it has to be altered so the view can read the text, but here it is in all its unaltered glory.

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If you want to snag a copy of the book, you can catch it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a fun screen shot- Here are both my books next to each other on a best-seller list. Stay in touch!

 

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I am doing a giveaway of Alizarin Crimson on Goodreads! Stop by and enter!

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Alizarin Crimson by Erica Millard

Alizarin Crimson

by Erica Millard

Giveaway ends December 18, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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My book is finally out.

Finally.

I wrote this book several years ago, and intended to publish it soon after I finished it. But then I was diagnosed with cancer, so it hibernated in the cave of files in my computer until I was once again well enough to release this book into the world!

So here it is!

Alizarin Crimson

Van Gogh’s madness has found her.

While attending a prestigious summer art school in New York City, seventeen-year-old Aya’s red paint attacks her skin, tattoos her, and enables her to manipulate the color red. The red takes over Aya’s passionate emotions, making her volatile. Color stole Van Gogh’s sanity, now it’s come for hers if she can’t gain control.

Aya is thrown into the dangerous world of Aolians, people like her who can manipulate the world and people around them. Dune, a glass-wielding Aolian, threatens to kill Aya if she doesn’t lead her to the Aveum, an ancient and dangerous artifact that Dune thinks Van Gogh hid. The Aveum could save Aya’s sanity, or, if Dune finds it, could destroy humans and Aolians alike. On top of all that, she’s crushing hard on a thoroughly human boy who can’t know her secret.

Aya must choose between retaining her sanity, or saving the world from Dune.

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Isn’t the art BEAUTIFUL???? I commissioned it, again, three years ago from a fantastic artist named Merilliza Chan. You can check out her work at https://www.merilliza.com/. I’m sure she was frustrated that she did this awesome painting, but then couldn’t show anyone for THREE YEARS!

The thing that has most struck me with this book release is how supportive everyone has been! Seriously, people have come out of the woodwork to tell me how excited they are and proud. It has been a wonderful and overwhelming experience.

Check out the book and tell me how you like it!

If you can imagine, the book has been up for two days and it has already hit some bestseller lists!

Hugs!

Erica

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Canyon

This blog post has been floating around my mind for a few years and with all the sexual assault reported in the news lately, I decided it was time.

Why is sexual assault such a big deal?

I was walking in downtown Denver by myself at eleven o’clock at night. It was freezing out and under the arm of my knee-length pea coat I held a book. In my pocket, I clenched a can a pepper spray, just in case. I walked three blocks to the free 16th Street Mall bus and then another three blocks to where my car was parked. When I got in and locked the door, I let out a sigh of relief.

My husband had bought me a ticket to the concert of my favorite singer/songwriter for Christmas last year. I was over the moon to go. Prior to the concert, there had was considerable discussion on where I should park and how I should get back to my car because I was going alone. I could park at my husband’s office for free and walk or take an Uber, or park at the venue for $20.

I was mad that this was something I had to worry about so much! My husband never has to worry about if he would get assaulted walking back to his car. I didn’t want to spend $20 on an Uber or parking when I could just as easily walk. But then I kept thinking if something happened to me, the $20 would be nothing. If something happened to me, would people ask maliciously what a mom of two kids was doing out alone in downtown Denver late at night? If something happened to me, would people say it was my fault for not taking the necessary precautions? I decided I didn’t want to live in fear, and I parked and walked. The concert was amazing, everything I thought it would be. I sobbed through the first two songs because they were just so beautiful.

I walked back to my car, pepper spray in hand, every nerve alert for anything out of the ordinary, anyone following me, anyone’s gaze on me for longer than it should, any car driving slowly by.

This is what it is to be a woman.

I married my wonderful husband when I was very young. We had not been married long when I come up with the idea that we should wrestle. I thought it might be fun. I am not a small woman and my husband isn’t a big man, but he usually weighs about 20-40 pounds more than me, depending. I had seen all the movies where the 110-pound woman kicks 20 men’s butts, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I didn’t even stop to consider how strong my husband really was, compared to me. The men in my life had always treated me with the utmost respect, so I had never had to come up against a man physically, even if it was playful.

It didn’t take me long to realize it was not fun.

My husband pinned me without even trying. No matter how I struggled, he could always dominate me physically. (He never hurt me by the way, and this exercise didn’t last long, because….)

I got angry, very angry. Imagine my husbands surprise when his wife suggests they wrestle, only to have her turn into a furious banshee a few short minutes later.

That was the first time I realized how physically strong men really are.

Several years later I was now a writer and as an experiment I again asked my husband to wrestle. He did so with great trepidation, remembering the furious banshee from years previous. I assured him I was better prepared to handle defeat this time. If you can image, the exact same thing happened. My husband could pin me without even trying, no matter how I tried.

I was once at a self-defense class led by local law enforcement. The man leading the class was ginormous. He was a least a foot taller than me at I’m guessing 6 foot 6 and had to be at least 250 pounds and probably more. He had guards over his hands, and he was telling me to punch him, harder and harder. This experience was supposed to be empowering, but as I hit the bright read guards, all I could think of was how pathetic my effort was. If this man wanted to hurt me, there would be little I could do about it. Just the muscle in his body weighed more than I did.

So why is sexual assault such a big deal?

It’s because we have so little physical control. Yes, there are women out there that would be a match for most men, but most women aren’t one of them. I’m not one of them. I would love to be Wonder Woman, but I’m not. I would guess if it came down the average man and the average woman, the man would physically win every time.

Historically, even though women were not physically matched, perpetrators seldom received any consequences. Women have been brushed aside and discredited for so long that we can’t walk the mile back to our car alone without wondering if something horrible will happen to us, and worse, wondering if people will say it is our fault if it does. Our choices have been disregarded for too long.

We are sick of being brushed aside. Sick of being afraid. We are sick of being attacked because we have less muscle mass. Yes, we might not have the stronger muscles, but we are binding together and those who seek to dominate us will be surprised how strong we are.

We will not be ignored.

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Today, I attended a cycling class for the first time in two years. I have to mention, a few years ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was working out an hour a day plus mountain biking a few times a week.

That was until I found out that I had over 70 tumors and had to start cancer treatment. I’ve been on the life-saving but horrible treatment ever since. I haven’t physically been able to workout while on the medicine, and I’m just now starting to feel better, although I don’t remember what it feels like to feel good. Throughout treatments, I always walked every day. I am currently feeling so much better; I decided to start working out again.

At first, I added a step class, once a week. And then a second step class. Today, I decided to add a cycle class. Cycle is hard, ya’ll. It was hard for me when I was super fit. Today, I couldn’t even keep up with the “resting” speed of the lady leading the class. Fifteen minutes into the class, I wanted to quit. My brain, without my consent, said it.

“Fit Erica would be so disappointed in you.”

I almost flinched.

No.

Stop.

I recognized it instantly, negative self-talk. That phrase from my brain was so flippant, so off-hand and real, I could have believed it. I could have let it drag me down. But then I started thinking about what I’d  actually said to myself. I was saying that if Erica from two years ago could see me, knowing that I had had two years of debilitating cancer treatment, she would still be disappointed in me? The idea is ridiculous. If Erica from two years ago knew what we were going to go through, she would be so proud of me. She would cry and wrap her arms around me. She would tell me that all that mattered was that I was still alive.

So why? Why do we talk to ourselves like this? Why do we think so lowly of ourselves when we all do difficult things? Why is it okay for me to say phrases like this to myself when I would never say them to anyone else? Negative self-talk is dangerous and counterproductive and always destroys. I usually steer clear of negative self-talk, but in that moment of disappointment and exhaustion, it crept in. But I recognized it and stopped it before it could hurt me.

The first step to dispelling negative self-talk is to recognize it! Call it out for what it is! Take a step back and realize that negative self-talk is counter productive and does so much more harm than good. It is the combined voice of all those people in your life that said you couldn’t do it, couldn’t be what you wanted to be. Walk away from those voices. Acknowledge and focus on the amazing things that you have done, and replace that negative self-talk with the things that you have accomplished.

We are all better off without it.

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Writing is hard. Finding the right words, emotions, and pacing is hard. Writing interesting blog posts about how to be a better writer is hard. So writers stay up at night, trying to find the perfect combination of words. Then they release their work into the world, but then they perhaps don’t get as poignant a response as they’re hoping.

Bummer.

Books are different than the information we find on the internet. A book has a visual cover, but then the next 300+ pages are just words.  A reader sits down, hopefully becomes engrossed, and creates the images in their head.

The Internet is different.

There is so much vying for attention: movies, gifs, photographs, illustrations, and ads. The online world is saturated. Sometimes lovely words on the Internet are not enough to catch attention.

What’s a writer to do?

I strongly believe that including an image in tweets and blog posts, even if the image doesn’t exactly reflect what is going on in the post, is better than just words by themselves. Many writers are intimidated by the idea of having to include images with their writing.

Don’t be.

As fellow creative, writers want to use images in an ethical way, but paying for stock images every time they post on their blog is not generally doable.

But GOOD NEWS! There are many (legal, ethical) ways for writers to include images with their work, without using the Google image search.

Here are a few places to find free images.

  1. Do it yourself. Take pictures. Many smart phones have better cameras than the expensive digital cameras of ten years ago. Take pictures everywhere you go: fall colors, neat hand-painted signs, the cracks in the sidewalk. Then keep them in a catalog for when you want to use them. An example? I was out ice-skating on a frozen lake with my family and snapped a picture of the fissures through the surface three years ago. Fast forward to last week. I am promoting a hockey book for work and I created this graphic using that image from ice-skating long ago. I could have paid for a hockey stock image, but I instead used one from my catalog. Also, get familiar with Instagram. They have fabulous filters that help make any picture look professional.

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  1. Use those pictures to create graphics with images and words. Find images online that you like, and figure out how to make your own with your camera and computer. Download a cool free font from http://www.fontsquirrel.com (Links to an external site.) and put quotes on top of your photographs (the edgy font from the above image was downloaded from font squirrel). Learn the basics of Photoshop elements or some other cheap photo-manipulating software.
  1. Use free sources of photography. This website lists several places to get free, beautiful images. https://bootstrapbay.com/blog/free-stock-photos/ (Links to an external site.) . Some photography sites require the users to leave an attribution for the artist that took the picture. An attribution is easy to do in a blog setting with a small caption under the photo that says, “image provided by_____.” Some sites don’t require any attribution, but you should definitely double check before using an image.
  1. Another great option is buying a vector pack of images. Sites like https://thehungryjpeg.com/graphics/illustrations/ (Links to an external site.) have vector packs of multiple images at a cheap price and no attribution is required. You can find a pack that is related to your book, and create promos using those images.

Covers sell books. Images and graphics help draw readers to your words. Don’t be intimidated by learning something new or a new software. Look at images around the net, and find images you can emanate in promoting your writing, but don’t steal other people’s creative work. Take the initiative, and it will help your writer’s platform in the long run.

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RKOMreleaseddar

Leap Books is releasing Right Kind of Mistake, the new adult contemporary romance today! I conducted an interview to get an inside look with the book’s author, Rebecca Thomas.

  1. Q- How did you come up with the idea for Right Kind of Mistake?

Rebecca- Anyone who has been hurt in a relationship has probably thought of ways to retaliate or hurt the person who hurt them. That is the idea I wanted to explore in Right Kind of Mistake.

  1. Q- We have to know! What are your connections with hockey?

Rebecca-I reluctantly started playing women’s hockey when my co-workers wouldn’t leave me alone about it. They begged me to play on their team with them. I signed up for no other reason except to get them to quit bothering me. I had figure skated all my life, but I’d never donned a pair of hockey skates, gear, or held a hockey stick until that very first game. Well, the rest is history. I was completely “hooked.” I knew nothing about hockey, I didn’t know any of the rules, I had no idea what “off-sides” meant, and couldn’t understand why the ref kept blowing the whistle at me. I instantly became a hockey lover. I played for 8 years before my children became so involved in hockey that I just couldn’t keep up with it anymore. Now I just write about it!

  1. Q- Who was your favorite character to write?

Rebecca- I love all my characters! I can’t choose a favorite.

  1. Q- There are some pretty intense, sexy scenes between Cam and Haylie. Were those hard to write or did it come naturally?

Rebecca- Sexy scenes are not easy for me to write. I definitely had help from my editor! I’m completely jealous of writers who say writing sex scenes is the easy part. Mostly, I try to focus on the physical attraction between the two characters, then the passion and emotion naturally follows.

  1. Q- Did you do anything specific to develop Cam and Haylie’s characters?

Rebecca- Anyone who has suffered from a broken heart can relate to Haylie. I’m certainly one of those people, so it was easy for me to tap into her. Cam developed in my mind in two distinct ways. One was the idea of wanting what you can’t have, and another was the idea of a good guy getting the girl. It seems like there are so many “bad boy” stories out there, but what about the nice guy? I really wanted the good guy to win.

  1. Q- What was your favorite part of writing Haylie’s story?

Rebecca- My favorite part was going through Haylie’s emotions with her. I loved her slowly coming to the realization that she didn’t make a mistake and she deserves better than what she got. She deserves a happy ending with a nice guy.

  1. Q- What can readers expect from book two?

You will see more of Tyler, Haylie’s ex-boyfriend, in book two.

  1. Q- Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Right Kind of Mistake?

Rebecca- There is something so special and memorable about early adulthood. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to writing about that time in life when mistakes feel so monumental. In the end, not all mistakes turn out bad, and maybe some mistakes are meant to happen.

Right Kind of Mistake – Heartbroken and afraid of commitment, Haylie, is only looking for a few hours of pure bliss.  But hockey hero Cam wants more than a hook-up. His goal? Ice-melting romance.

Available now at online retailers!

http://amzn.com/B014CB27J4

 

 

 

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We drove WAY. TOO. MUCH. This summer. I estimate I spent at least 50 hours in the car on long road trips with my two kids (ages 8 and 4). But just because we were in the car, doesn’t mean I wanted them sitting in front of a screen the whole time. I’ve found audio-books are the perfect solution. Of the 50 hours we spent in the car, I think my boys only played on I-PAD for about three. Which I think is fantastic.

Where do you get audio-books? You can purchase audio-books through a myriad of retailers (B&N, Amazon, Audible, Itunes) but you can often find audio-books for free from the library. They have actual CD’s that you can checkout, but many libraries subscribe to the Overdrive (https://www.overdrive.com/) website where you can check out audio-books and download them to your device for free.  You just have to log on with your library card number. Even if you are getting your audio-books for free, be sure to leave a review on Amazon/Audible/Goodreads to show the authors that you appreciate their work, and to help get the word out about books you love!

So what did we listen to?

Percy Jackson Series- The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Narrated by Jesse Bernstein

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

After a life of mysterious things going wrong, Percy Jackson discovers that not only are the Greek gods still real, he is a half-blood, meaning he is half god half human. Riordan creates the perfect blend of mythology in a contemporary landscape. Bernstein’s narration is fantastic.

What did my 8 year-old son think? He LOVED Percy Jackson. Every time we got in the car, he would beg to listen to more. Yesterday, he came home from school fanatically-excited to show me that he checked out the next Percy Jackson book from his school library.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Narrated by Jim Dale

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

We all know how wonderful Harry Potter is, but have you heard it on audio-book with narrator Jim Dale? It is amazing! Seriously. I want him for the narrator of my life. We had this audio-book on CD, and the only disappointment was I couldn’t download the next one on Audible.

Other books I’ve had success with when listening in the car with my kids are-

Encyclopedia Brown 

Winnie the Pooh

Nate the Great

Magic Treehouse

The True Meaning of Smek Day

 

Are there any books your kids love to read or that you’ve had success with on audio-book? Leave a comment below.

 

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Mine Headframes

Mine Headframes

Butte, America- The Richest Hill On Earth

The sun is just settling down on the horizon, throwing most of streets into the soft shadows of dusk. The streets are eerie quiet, except for the occasional bar or pub whose music spills out their open doors in snatches as I walk by. I love it here, and would love to spend weeks finding its hidden secrets.

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Butte HotelHotel FinleyI’ve had this strange fascination with Butte ever since I first visited three years ago. It was fall then, and fires from dry winter and a hot summer had filled the air with an ashy smoke which spread over Butte in a looming layer that seemed like it belonged in this town of boarded windows and peeling paint. That day I drove to the top of the hill where Uptown stood in the shadows of skeletal mine headframes, the above-ground remains of the underground mines first built in the late 1890’s, and a constant reminder of the town’s history.

And that history is what fascinates me about Butte. It is a mining boomtown in the extreme. Not one of these ghost towns were it goes up overnight, and then disappears even quicker when the resource runs out. This boomtown spanned decades and even generations, with underground mines providing life, a livelihood and community, as well as death.

Today is different; Butte feels different. Spring has turned the surrounding tan or pale yellow hills to a vibrant greeWelcome to Butten. The sky is the blue that only appears next to puffy white clouds mixed with gray and rain. A rainbow appears down the valley from me, not the usual thin strip, but a wall of translucent color. Every twist and turn in this place brings a building or and image I want to capture forever with my camera. I catch glimpses not of how this place is now, but of what it used to be.

Buttes’ decline started in the 50’s, when the underground mines were closed. The open pit mine opened, and was much less labor intensive. Workers lost their livelihoods. The open pit still stretches into the distance, double tHeadframehe size of the town, a mountain turned to rubble, with its inside treasures sent like tiny veins into our homes and throughout the world, now thrumming with the steady pulse of electricity. It is almost surreal in its size, grandeur, and destruction. It closed in the 80’s, but will have permanently changed the landscape

The architecture here is stunning, but ghostly. The population of Butte peaked in 1920 at 100,000. Now, barely 34,000 residents live here. In Uptown, most of the commercial buildings are empty. What glass remains is filmed with years of grime and neglect. I long to see it bustling with the windows surrounded with flowers instead of ply-wood. These buildings were built to last. In the late 1870’s a fire decimated Uptown Butte, and the city council passed a law that all Uptown buildings must be constructed of brick or stone. So here they still stand, the hollow echoes of lives that feel more distant than they actually are.

Yet, the city still feels alive in a way that doesn’t come from humans, like it was meant for more than being relegated to a boomtown. No one stopped to wonder, when Butte was full of life, “What happens when the money runs out.”

Perhaps they didn’t want to know.

Guitar

butte-3479butte-3485butte-3496butte-3470butte-3494butte-3498butte-3475Dance Hall

 

 

 

 

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