Hi there! Some of you may know me from before joining Book Besties, but for those of you who don’t, let me introduce myself. My name is Amanda and my debut novel Ditch Flowers was released in September, 2015, by Penner Publishing. I have since self-published six short story e-books. I love writing Women’s Fiction and various forms of fantasy. My short story collection will be released in spring of 2017 and I’ve been busy building up the stories for that book for a while now.
I’m thrilled to be a part of Book Besties and excited to share more about our collection of second chance stories. I only have about 2,000 words written in my story so far, but I’m having fun getting to know the characters and figure out the plot. At this point I can tell you it’s a bittersweet love story about two lovers who are separated by death and meet again—in the afterlife. It’s (tentatively) called Joy & Sorrow and the main characters are Imogen and Grady. It takes place, in parts, in a rustic cabin in the woods where they’ve begun to build a life together, until Grady’s physical existence is cut short in a tragic accident. I don’t want to give away any more, but I hope I’ve given you enough of an idea of what my story will be about.
When I’m not reading or writing my own stories, I work part-time at my local library. My family and I live in a cozy home in the country and I generally write when everyone is asleep (and the house is quiet!) but I never seem to get enough time (who does??). My favorite time to write, though, is in mid-morning, with a candle, some music in the background, and a big old coffee within arm’s reach. I usually work on several projects at a time and I’m mostly a pantser, but I usually have a paragraph to start brainstorming my ideas. I’m seeking traditional publication for a completed witch novel, and am revising a middle-grade fairytale retelling right now. At the same time, like I said before, I’m getting ready to publish a short story collection on my own. Whew!
As for already published work, Ditch Flowers is a novel about a woman suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss, who begins working at a daycare and meets a little boy who looks suspiciously like her beloved husband. She has to discover if it’s a case of infidelity or just her imagination. It took me a long time to write, and a long time to get published, and I’m pleased to share it became an Amazon bestseller in four categories this summer! Besides novels, I really enjoy reading and writing short stories, sometimes extremely short! Just this week I released my sixth short story of the year, called Sonja Uncaged. It’s available on Amazon, Smashwords, and soon to be Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. Here’s more about that:
A short story about a lonely young woman riddled with panic attacks and agoraphobia. Sonja’s only friends are her fat cat Louie, and her new bird Phinny. Despite her crush on her mailman Ben, she is unable to form relationships because of her crippling anxiety. And then one day, everything changes. Sonja wakes up inside her canary’s cage. She and her bird have switched bodies. Sonja is now a human in a bird’s body, unable to speak, barely able to fly. Phinny is mute as a human, even more terrified to leave the apartment than Sonja was, and fascinated and yet still terrified of fat Louie the cat. But before long, the story shifts even odder, and Ben the mailman and Louie find themselves in their own conundrum. Can a cat and a bird fall in love? Can a woman stuck inside a bird’s body learn to love her life in a cage of her own making, or will she force herself to leave it and truly fly beyond what she thought ever possible? Sonja Uncaged is a story of longing, of fear, and the kind of love that makes us spread our wings, and fly
And read an excerpt:
The bird was a gift. Kind of.
I’d had dogs as pets before, and six years ago acquired a large, gray cat from the animal shelter, but birds were new territory for me.
“You’ll love having a bird,” my neighbor Constance told me. She was a singer—a beautiful singer with tawny skin and lips she painted merlot, which made her teeth flash whiter than white when she smiled. She wore printed dresses and tall heels, and had gotten a gig in a Broadway show. It was her big break, and she was moving closer to the city. She couldn’t bring the little bird with her. When she’d asked if I’d like her, for free, all supplies included, I’d said yes without hesitating. It was very unlike me. Hesitation was my middle name. And if Hesitation was my middle name, FEAR was my first. Capital letters. FEAR Hesitation Morris.
“I’m sad to be leaving her,” Constance said with a sincere frown. “But I know you’ll give her a good home. You’ll love her, Sonja. Sing with her. That’s what I do.”
“Mm.” Nodding in a non-committal way, I tried not to look as though I were second-guessing this all.
I was no singer, and as far as loving a bird went, I had my doubts, though I suspected I’d like her well enough. However, I couldn’t find fault with more company. Besides, I’d always liked birds in nature, and this was a sweet-faced little canary who trilled in her cage. It wasn’t a bad gift…or, um, donation. Scooting a stack of books and squat, green plant to the side, I set the bird’s cage in the middle of the antique pedestal table in my living room. It looked perfectly at home there, amidst the vintage, old-lady chic décor I’d mostly inherited with the apartment.
“Wait,” I said, as Constance left quickly, possibly afraid I’d change my mind and the spontaneous decision to accept the bird. “What’s her name? Does she…have one?”
“Of course.” She laughed. “Her name is Phinny.”
When the door closed, the bird stopped singing, slanted her head to one side, and assessed me.
“Well, hello, Phinny,” I said, awkwardly. And then I laughed. Why was I nervous about a bird? “Nice to meet you. I’m Sonja.”
And she opened her beak and sang again.
* * * *
Sometimes, I called her Phin, and she cocked her head and hopped as if she approved of the plucky nickname. When I opened the door of the cage and let her fly free, she stayed high, near the moldings of my old apartment’s ceiling, afraid to get too close to Louie. He, I watched with caution, lest he somehow manage to catch her, despite being a rather hefty cat with a sagging belly, and, I suspected, less-than-stellar hunting skills.
In time, we fell into a rhythm.
For a long time, it was just the three of us. The girl, the cat, the bird.
* * * *
I quickly grew accustomed to having a bird, and Louie loved to watch Phinny from his perch on the back of my armchair, or from the windowsill. She eyed him warily, and flapped away in fright if he got too close. If he heaved his sturdy self up onto the table where I’d placed her cage, I’d give him a healthy squirt of water from a spray bottle I kept nearby. Not only did I become protective of my little bird, but I looked to her for comfort. When I was sad, or bored, I liked to fold myself up in the armchair next to her table and peer into her cage, watching how she moved and how she watched me in return. Sometimes, she would sing and I’d mimic the tune, although it was just to show her I was listening, not so much to prove my skills at birdsong. Occasionally, when I took my place in the chair with a book or sketchpad, Louie sat on my lap, and I stroked his short, thick fur while he kneaded my chest. But whenever Phinny sang, even Louie stopped to listen, and the whole apartment became quiet. The outside, bustling city stilled, and everything seemed to make sense. The fear in my heart subsided, and I was able to breathe deeply.
I did so love to hear her sing.
* * * *
Thanks for reading a little bit about me and my stories! Stay tuned for another introduction to our third Book Bestie soon.