January 10, 2018

Christmas Harvest - A Worm With A View

We moved to central Oregon in the year 2000. We've been going out into the National Forest to cut our own Christmas tree since we moved here. We've only missed (maybe) two years. It's a fun, family experience. We get the tree cutting permit, complete with a guide to the types of trees we will find in the forest. The kids always liked to run around identifying the trees. Now they like brandishing the saw.

Some years there's more snow in the forest than other years. I had back surgery in July of 2001, and wouldn't you know it, that was a year with more snow fall. Even by December of that year, my back hadn't healed enough for me to be able to trudge through knee deep snow. But, of course, we didn't find that out until we'd already trekked out, found and cut down the tree, and were heading back to the car. Yeah...my poor, poor husband. I was literally worried that I was not going to be able to make it back to the car on my own...but we also had our four young kids with us; ages 8, 7, 3 and 2. Those of you familiar with both knee deep snow and toddlers will know - they don't mix. That poor husband of mine had to put one toddler on his shoulders and piggy back the other, plus he'd trussed the tree up with a rope, tied it around his waist, and dragged it behind him. I'm pretty sure the 7 year old was carrying the saw. Not my best parenting moment, but we all made it back to the car, tree in tow, and with all of our fingers and toes.

There have been years we had to put the tree into the tree stand and set it atop a pile of drop clothes for a day or two while it literally thawed out. You don't want your tree dripping on the lights, after all.

The forest service gives us clear guidelines about the tree we can harvest. The one thing I remember each year is the tree can't be taller than twelve feet. We have a vaulted ceiling in our living room, so the generous height constraint isn't an issue. As a matter of fact, we tease my husband that twelve feet gets taller each year. As we stood in the forest this December, my husband pointed and asked, "How about that one?"

My son and I both responded, "You mean the twenty foot tall one?"

We were barely able to restrict him to twelve feet, yet we managed. As we drove home with our freshly cut tree hanging over both the front and back of the car, I joked that at least we didn't have a root ball on our tree, referring to the Griswald family Christmas tree from the movie, Christmas Vacation. But we ended up with another beautiful tree just how I like them, with plenty of space between the branches to show off all of our unique ornaments. See? Beautiful. Ginormous, but lovely.

However, even after 17 years, we are still running into unusual situations. This year was indeed a first. We got the tree home. It wasn't frozen solid, so we could decorate it right away. We kept it watered. Everything was great.

Then the cats started to sit under it and stare at it...for an hour at a time. Just stare up at the trunk. I stalked around, peering at the trunk to see if I could spot what captured their attention, but nope. Nothing. Until about two weeks after we brought it home. When the cats started to stand on their back feet to reach toward something on the trunk. Even then it took me awhile to figure it out.

Caterpillars. Fricking caterpillars. We found two that night and a couple more over the next couple of weeks. But how many DIDN'T we find? I tried to cross reference what kind of caterpillar it was so that I'll know what to expect to fly around my house in spring! But the closest cross reference is a Fritillary butterfly, though its caterpillar appears to have furry spines and my caterpillars had knobby spines. So...who knows.

At least it wasn't a squirrel.

Do you have any tree harvesting stories to share? I'd love to know I'm not alone in this!

January 3, 2018

2018 - A Year For Change

Welcome to 2018 - A new year. A new writer me.

Every year I re-invent my writing self, based on how the year before played out. Last year was a rebirth for me and my career. Throughout 2017 I concentrated on my LA Dragoni persona by rebranding Ghost Touch, (self) publishing Guardian’s Touch and then releasing Again, For Love (Torrid Press). I carefully followed marketing plans I learned from successful marketers. I worked hard to build my platform so that my release would hit fans on several fronts. The rebranding of Ghost Touch and pre-release of Guardian’s Touch gave positive results and I felt encouraged.

Yet, in the end it all came to absolutely nothing. Sales of both GT’s stalled after the release of Guardian’s Touch and Again, For Love (my favorite book so far) went absolutely nowhere. I’ve been publishing for over seven years, so I know building a following doesn’t happen overnight. But over those seven years I’ve also worked dang hard to stay current with my marketing techniques in order to keep my work in front of readers and I’ve learned a few things.

1      It’s fricking hard to keep up with the changes in marketing.
2      It can be expensive.
3      It is more and more difficult to get your work in front of readers because of the sheer volume of books being published.
4      If a book doesn’t take off at first, it isn’t likely to later.
5      I’m tired.

On the Kai Strand side of things, I struggled over what to work on next. I had a YA contemporary out on submission that was being considered by a publisher. I sent a YA mythology to my crit buddies that I want to self-publish. I asked my talented son to make a cover for a contemporary middle grade that I got my rights back on a while ago. The first cover he did was adorable, but not in the right format and we don’t have the correct tools to convert it. My crit buddies are just too busy with life to work on my mythology and I don’t have back-up critters that I know well and am comfortable with. And I finally got a rejection from that publisher.

So, all in all it was a really discouraging year. This industry has changed so much in the twelve years I’ve been writing. It went from authors having few choices, to having lots of choices, to having too many choices that just create white noise for readers. Please remember, this post is about my career. I just can’t get traction with my writing. I have some wonderful, loyal readers, who I am so, so thankful for, but beyond that I can’t seem to resonate.

And because I’ve worked so very hard over the years and it has only gotten more difficult instead of easier (there are other factors that I’m not detailing here, which add to the overall struggle) I’ve made a big decision for 2018. I will continue to write, because that’s what I do. And I will continue to publish – because I truly value my loyal readers and I really do love sharing my stories with the world. But I will do it on my own. At my own pace. No frills. No whistles. No bells. I’ll announce new books when they are available through my newsletters and on my Facebook pages/Twitter, but that will be it. If you truly want to know when I have a new book out, I suggest you make sure you’ve subscribed to my newsletter or follow me on Amazon (or both, if you need two emails to make sure you see things.)

Kai Strand contact info: Mailing List| Facebook| TwitterAmazon|

LA Dragoni contact info: Newsletter| Facebook| Twitter |Amazon

It is super uncomfortable for me to say this out loud. There are so many reasons why I hate to put this in writing, on my blog, for all to see. But I really want to make sure my readers know.

I plan to re-release Save the Lemmings this month. My son made a new cover. See how ADORABLE it is! I’m just waiting for the full wrap for the print version. I’ve spruced up the book a bit, too.

I will also be publishing my YA contemporary soon. It’s a fricking great book, dang it. I don’t understand why it wasn’t picked up. I just have to come up with a cover and that isn’t as easy as I want it to be. Dang I wish I could do it all! Or more accurately, I wish I had the money to just make it happen the way I want. Ha ha.

Beyond that, I don’t have specific plans. I want to publish the 3rd Touched by Afterlife book, just don’t know when. The original February date was sidelined when sales tanked for that pseudonym. Can’t pay for a cover if I’m not making money.

The YA mythology is another mystery to me. Do I take the time/chance to work with critique partners I don’t know? Do I go it alone? I really wanted input on this one and I’m kind of frozen without it. I’m about halfway through writing the second book in the series and wanted the first book more solidified before I continued.

Can you see how writing is a bit like playing Tetris? You have all of these moving pieces that are different sizes and shapes and somehow you have to figure out how to fit them together before it all implodes. Okay, imploding might have been a bit dramatic. Though, it does feel that way sometimes.

I see many people stating their ‘word for the year.’ I can’t come up with one. By removing my self-induced deadlines and chucking the marketing aspect of writing, I’m simplifying my life. But that doesn’t really incorporate all I’m going through. Because this (for a lack of a better word) failure in my career has spurned me to focus on my life. Spend more time with friends, improve the quality of my family time. I want to volunteer more too, just don’t know where or how. So, my word could also be engage. Is there a single word that portrays both simplify and engage?

I’m actually excited about it. Though I always wanted my books to be my main source of income, now that I’ve decided that I’m done struggling to make that happen, I’m excited about the possibilities of what I can do with my reclaimed time and brain power. Maybe my house will be cleaner. Maybe I’ll lose some weight. Maybe I’ll become President, though I won’t be tweeting much anymore, so…

The possibilities are wide open for me again. AND I’ll still be writing and publishing. That’s pretty cool! But, if you’re one of those few who care about my books, you’ll have to work a little harder to know about them. Sorry about that.  

Cheers to a simpler yet more rich writing life in 2018. Let’s see what it leads me to next year.

December 11, 2017

My Final #InkRipples - 2018 Goal

Live simply 
Love thoroughly 
Model integrity 
Embrace reality 
Celebrate creativity 
Encourage unity 
Accept diversity 
Reject bigotry 
Display decency 
Exemplify ardency 
Demonstrate vivacity 
Epitomize humanity 
Appreciate advocacy 

We've had a fun run with #InkRipples. Especially this year as others added their ripples in the inkwell. I especially want to thank Katie Carroll and Mary Waibel for the years of fun and inspiration. But that first goal on my list...yeah, it means I'm bowing out. I'm going to change the focus of my blog and my writing career in 2018 and I'm going to live more simply. This blog will be more about my life and how it plays out around me. For the first time since I started blogging (a million years ago) you'll get to know the man behind the curtain and what makes her tick. At least a little. I have a platform – albeit, a tiny one – and I intend to use it to share some of my thoughts and beliefs of the world, with the world. I hope you'll stick around and I hope I inspire you to share your thoughts too. Because I would love nothing better than to visit with you on a regular basis. That's what blogs are for - communication.

See you in the New Year! 

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here. 

November 22, 2017

Again, For Love by LA Dragoni #TimeTravel #Romance for Grown-Ups

Would you sacrifice everything for love? My new release for the adults among us, is available TODAY! Yay.

A life must be lost. Who will make the ultimate sacrifice? 

Lawson lives a simple life: a job at a brewery, and his basketball and hockey leagues. Even his eccentric lifelong friend and roommate—who is intent on discovering time travel—doesn’t complicate things. Then Jory appears. Lawson feels an immediate attraction to her, yet their attempts at dating end with him thinking it just isn’t meant to be. But Jory refuses to give up. 

When one date ends tragically, Lawson turns to his best friend and the experimental time travel program he’s invented. But, no matter what he does, each time the reset ends with a loss. 

It’s clear…a life must be lost, and Lawson is prepared to give his for Jory. But he isn’t the only one playing with time. 

Will he spare Jory by forfeiting his own life? Or will someone else make the ultimate sacrifice?

Buy now:


Chapter 1
“So you’re going for the stalker approach, I see.”
Lawson sighed and shifted his gaze to the table. Der- rick was a jerk, but he was also right.
“She just moved here from Washington.”
Despite himself, Lawson raised an eyebrow and prompted for more information from his boss. Their boss. “State or DC?”
“State. Some small town east of the Cascades. I don’t remember the name.” Derrick took a big bite of his ham- burger and only half chewed it before continuing. “She at- tended Central Washington University, but didn’t graduate. She was going for a B.S. in Craft Brewing. That’s the main reason she got the job. She’s qualified. The fact that she’s smoking hot is just a bonus.”
Lawson cringed. “Pretty sure admitting that you find her attractive is verging on illegal, dude.”
Derrick shrugged. “Probably. Hell, not finding you at- tractive could probably get me in trouble these days.”
Lawson snorted. His gaze wandered to Jory one more time. He’d barely said three words to her in the few days she’d worked at the brewery. Her beauty intimidated him, making him stammer like a pubescent teen. He seemed to be the only one having that problem. She sat at a table with three guys from bottling and a girl from the office. The guys looked like total vultures, with beady eyes and hunching postures as if ready to pounce. But Jory appeared oblivious. She laughed at their stories and seemed to share her own.
Why the hell was he sitting with Derrick instead of at that table? He should have sat down with them when he came into the break room. It would’ve been natural. Instead, he slumped his big, bulky body into the corner like the stalker Derrick accused him of being. The light that glinted off her auburn waves when she tossed her head back to laugh made his fingers itch. The long line of her neck taunt- ed him: I know you want to taste me.
Curling his hands into fists, he tipped his head forward so that his chin length hair made a curtain between them and focused on his plate of food, deciding to finish his lunch fast and get the hell back to work.
Derrick took a healthy swig of his beer and slammed the pint down on the table with determination. “I’m gonna ask her out.”
Lawson’s throat went dry, and he almost choked. He forced his bite of food down before replying. “You can’t, dude. You’re her boss. You can’t date her.”
“We just won’t tell anyone.”“You just told me.”“Are you gonna run to the big wigs and tell them?” “Well, no. But...” He wanted to come up with a compelling argument against Derrick asking Jory out. Derrick was good looking and made more money, and he had some weird charm that girls seemed to fall for all the time. If the risk of losing his job wasn’t threat enough, Lawson was screwed. “Dude, I’d hate to see you go.”
Derrick laughed. “I guess it would be pretty stupid of me to put my job in jeopardy. It’s a sweet gig.”
Lawson nodded, hopeful.
“Maybe I’ll fire her.”
Buy now:

About the author:

***Straight to the heart***

LA Dragoni isn’t too particular about who falls in love or where they fall in love. She simply considers it her job to capture the story about their love. Whether it’s paranormal, mythical, or time travel, LA will be there to divine their story for you. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and children, but haunts ghost towns and cemeteries up and down the west, in search of the next adventure to sift through her storytelling brain. Learn more about LA and her work at ladragoni.com