The Cemetery Guardian.

I’m very excited to be able to offer my readers something a little different this year. As you may know, I recently wrote a horror novella entitled The Cemetery Guardian. It will be published in time for Halloween with Corbeau Media, along with some wonderful stories by some of my favorite writers.

What is a cemetery guardian? Folklore tells us it is the spirit of the first person ever interred in a cemetery. Every graveyard is said to have one of these watchful spirits and its main function is to protect all souls, living or dead, who enter its domain.

For the most part, there is little written about cemetery guardians but I’ve always been intrigued by this legend. They appear to be benign spirits who would never hurt a soul. Caretakers, one might say.

When I decided to use this story as the basis of my novella, I wondered what might happen if a cemetery guardian wasn’t quite as benevolent as previously depicted.

I dug deeper. There are accounts which present a more sinister twist to this legend. In fact, there are some who believe these “guardians” were killed in order to fulfill this function. I can see it now. The town of such-and-such has just opened a new cemetery. They need a cemetery guardian in order to keep it safe.

So they go out and find one. After all, no one would answer that job advertisement.

“Cemetery in need of guardian. Hours: infinite. Pay: none. Room and board: provided. Oh, but you need to be dead.”

I wanted to give my cemetery guardian a history, a name. I can’t think of any who have been given a backstory before. Very soon, you will meet him and I hope the encounter is unforgettable.

The next time you visit a graveyard, do spare these souls a passing thought. And if you feel like you’re being watched, it’s because you are.

(All photos taken by me at Highgate Cemetery, London.)

Be kind to yourself. Turn off the noise. #UpbeatAuthors.

Today’s theme at #UpbeatAuthors is “favorite way to be kind to yourself.” If you read my blog, you’ll know this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. There comes a time when there’s really no choice. We have to take a stand with our own health, be it mental, physical and emotional. In fact, I would argue they are all intertwined.

For me, protecting my emotional wellbeing is very much connected to “turning off the noise.” What does this mean? It can mean different things for different people.

If you are an author, it might mean you surround yourself with positive people, ones who can be honest without being nasty. It might mean you don’t search out all your reviews on Goodreads. Trust me on this one. I read my reviews when someone in my fan group has told me they posted one but I don’t scroll for them anymore. Even if you’re the most popular author in business, you will have readers who despise your work and who aren’t afraid to say so. No matter how thick your skin is, reading those words will have an impact.

If you have a different job, it might mean removing yourself from gossip and negative conversations. It might mean you take your breaks outside in the fresh air. I’ve had corporate jobs before and I know full well how toxic the cubicle world can be. It helped me to remove myself from my pod regularly.

So many factors can add to the voices inside our heads. I know I always have a mental “to do list.” When the list grows longer instead of shorter, I feel stress. Yes, we’re all adults. We need to get things done. However, I would argue we can probably all manage our time better and spend less time fretting about things we can’t change.

Most of all, we have to find our peace where we can. If that means we go for walks in the park, so be it. If you long to spend the weekend in your garden, smelling the flowers, make time for it. If you’ve been putting off reading that book, take a few minutes and read.

Life will continue. Work will still be there when you get back. No one will blame you for taking a beat. Just be still, close your eyes and breathe.

Now stop reading this blog and go do something that makes you happy.

Onward and upward. #UpbeatAuthors.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I recently had to take a break from social media and all the “noise” out there. It wasn’t long. A few noise-free days did the trick. And you know what? I didn’t miss being tied to my phone. I logged in here and there, of course, but cut down on the endless scrolling. I can honestly say I feel better now, refreshed.

Reducing one’s time on social media doesn’t cure every ill. I do recognize this but it’s amazing how removing one little thing from my list of things to do cleared my head.

From now on, I’ll be concentrating my energies on the positive, on making little changes to my life and my writing and my approach. It starts today.

Following the lead of #UpbeatAuthors, today I’ll be talking about one simple way to improve our health. Now, I’m not a doctor but I think most of us know what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. We all know when we’re “cheating” with our health.

If I could make one change for myself, it would be the following: MOVE.

I spend so much time at the computer or at my work desktop. When I get home, I sit. I know I don’t move enough. In fact, I think I’ve blogged about that too. It doesn’t have to be a game of football (to be frank, I never quite figured out how that game works anyway and I’m just not interested in sports.) For me, the key has always been getting up off my bum.

Personally, I love to walk and hike. Not only does it move my limbs, it clears my head. I could use a lot of that right now. With so much going on at home and at work, “head clearing” is just as important to my personal health as moving.

So won’t you move with me today? It doesn’t have to be far, it doesn’t have to be long but it should take you in a new direction. Let’s stretch. Let’s breathe. Let’s get going.

Onward and upward.

Taking a break from social media. #amwriting

I’ve been fighting with my manuscript, probably longer and harder than I have with any other manuscript. It’s to the point now where I’m starting to question a lot. Is the story working? Does it still speak to me? Will it sell?

Ah. The old “will it sell” question. I’ve been pondering that one a great deal.

I’m currently in one of those “my writing career is shit” moods. I’ve tried so hard to stay positive, and usually I am, but even I can’t keep it up forever. I’ve received so much encouragement from my readers (my real readers, you know, those angelic creatures who have actually bought,  read and often reviewed my books.) They are my strength.

And yet I remain in this slump.

I figured after writing a few books, it would become easier, not harder. However, each time I begin a new story, I second-guess myself at every turn. Why? Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned more as each book has been crafted. I can critique myself better. I recognize mistakes as they occur.

They seem to occur a lot right now. I’m distracted by everything. I’m happier washing dishes than writing right now.

One thing is certain. I have to finish this book, even if it’s the last one I ever write. I know that sounds extreme and I have no plans to stop writing but it’s tempting sometimes to wonder what it would be like if “Rosanna Leo” just stopped.  The romance industry boasts so many authors and books. Would mine be missed at all?

Okay, okay, I know I sound ridiculous but we writers are insecure people. Indulge me a little. It’s been a lean few years.

I hope you’ll pardon me for sounding like a Debbie Downer. It feels as if there have been so many hurdles lately and my legs are sore from trying to leap over them.  They haven’t all been writing hurdles either. Life has been stressful in many ways. I’ve tried to throw myself into my day job with renewed force recently as well and even that has been a disappointment. Something has to give. I’m finding it very hard to “spark joy.” Hell, I’d settle for sparking a couple of plot bunnies. (That’s not true. I’d probably torch those bunnies out of rage.)

I’m constantly questioning my writing and publishing choices lately. I know I made them with the best possible information at the time, but times change. The industry has changed. I worry I’m not keeping up. People tell me I’m not keeping up, that I should do this or that. That’s all fine and dandy but not everyone changes paths so easily. For some of us, it’s a monumental decision.

I used to log onto social media with glee because it was a chance to connect with my readers. However, considering the state of the world right now, even social media brings little joy and I don’t think I’m the only one feeling it. I’m tired of being disappointed by the news (I can’t even bring myself to watch it anymore) and I’m tired of putting out positive energy only to see it lost in a sea of negativity. And no matter how much I try to be a force of light online, it doesn’t seem to translate to book sales or reviews. I feel as if I’ve become everyone’s “favorite author they’ve never read.”

So I tell myself I need to take a break from social media and then I immediately debate the soundness of that decision. After all, if I take a step back, I risk being forgotten altogether. Who will remember my writing if I don’t keep my name “out there?”

I suppose there’s really only one way to find out. My peace of mind has been too rattled. There are so many distractions and not all of them good ones. I think I need to get back to basics and lock myself in a room with this damn book. Every day, the end seems further away.

Venting over. I hope, when I return to social media in full force, that I am once again the bright and shiny being some of you know and love. I want to be that person but until I can recapture a sense of fulfillment and pride in what I do, I need to take some time away. So I’ll be over here, busy with my matches, trying to spark joy. By all means, drop me a line. You’d make my day. I wish you only greatness and happiness and I know you wish the same for me.

Thank you for reading.

Photo via VisualHunt.com