Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm Late! April A to Z Theme Reveal

It doesn't happen to me very often. I'm that annoying person who is always a half-hour early to every thing. I HATE to be Late!

So here's the truth. I wasn't planning on participating in the challenge this year. I'm trying to organize my life around my writing and I'm discovering there just are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. And then, this morning happened.

All of a sudden the thought was in my head. Circling around all the other thoughts of what's on today's agenda and the new book I'm writing, there it was. Louder than the rest. Flashing. In neon colors.

You have to do the blog challenge. Here's your theme.

Before you start advising me to see a neurologist, or have a cat scan let me assure you, these flashing neon words in my mind are a common occurance. I really don't want to freak out the entirity of the medical profession, so let's just keep that between us, okay?

I'll admit. I yelled a profanity or two. I have a friend staying with me. She heard me from the other room and asked, "What's wrong?!" 

"I'm doing the A to Z challenge."

"What's that?"

Well, let me tell you, when I explained what the challenge is, I could see in her expression that she couldn't fathom at all why the profanities were spewing. I guess she thought I broke a toe or something.

Anyway, I sat down to construct my topic list and it only took about 30 minutes to populate the whole alphabet. So, yep, I'm gonna do it, and talked two friends into doing it too. I bet by now, you are on the edge of your seat and growing tired of the banter. You want to know what the theme is this year, don't you?

Last year, I let characters from my Suspense series, Providence in Ecuador write the blog. But this year I am writing a new series. A fantasy series about witches. No, not broomstick riding, Grimoire toting witches. Real witches. So this year's A to Z challenge theme is A Goddess Glossary.

Come back in April to hear more about our main character Phoebe, a burdgeoning author, who discovers things about herself, she never would have imagined. Truth is mightily stranger than fiction. I might slip a few nuggets in from the new series called Paisley Cove.

See you next week!

 Loving life in Cuenca!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

End of a Year, End of an Era, and a New Year is born

I haven't written in awhile and I have plenty of excuses. I'm not someone who usually says, "Oh this has been a terrible year and I hope the new year is better." I realize every year has good and bad. The end of 2016 was probably my worst ever year ending. But too many good things happened to me and for me earlier in the year for me to feel much like "Out with the old! In with the new!" Although I've always loved a new year, because I love beginnings. For me, New Years are the mile markers of life.

For my faithful friends and followers, here's a glimpse into my very personal life, more personal than I've ever written in a blog, just so you know what's going on with me.

Mom and I at Carnival in Cuenca.

In November, my mom and I made a trip back to the old country. To meet a new family member, my neice, and see as much of the family as we could squeeze into 10 days. It was slightly bittersweet, as my mom said goodbye to everyone. She told them all, "This is my last trip back, if you want to see me, you'll have to come to Ecuador." She loved her new home. Something no one, not even my mom expected to happen.
And then, just 15 hours after we returned home, drinking coffee and talking about the future, my mother suffered a massive fatal heart attack. It was shocking and devastating. She was 72 years old, diabetic and had heart issues, but she was SO full of life, it was hard for everyone to wrap their heads around her being gone. It still is. My mom was my biggest fan. She talked the ears off of two poor ladies on the plane about me, my books, and Ecuador. It was kind of embarrassing at the time and I wish I had told her how much I appreciated her for that. I hope she knew because I didn't get the chance.

Mischevious Mom at a New Year's celebration- I believe this is 2014 in Cuenca.

Two weeks later we held a fabulous New Orleans Jazz style memorial service for her at her favorite restaurant in town with a live Jazz Trio. We danced. We sang. There were enough flowers to cause allergy attacks for miles. Almost everyone at the service had something to say, about her love of life, her grace, her sense of humor, her love of family but above all else, her beautiful smile. And then, we ate and we drank. My great friends here wove a hammock of support and a shawl of loving arms around me for the weeks following her death. I knew I had more friends here than I've had since probably my college days and maybe more. But I never dreamed or imagined what they could do when needed, and how comforting that would be. Or in how many ways they would find to cradle me.

But then when my son returned home from traveling to her memorial service in the States, he found one of his dogs was critically ill and we also lost our beloved KitKat to cancer. I still can't write any more about that.

And then my besties Sandra and Wayne- who had been with me daily since my return from the States, who made sure I ate- even if it was pie for lunch, and helped me get through the daily chores that seemed like mountains, suffered their own crisis. Wayne had a massive heart attack. After 5 days in ICU and then triple bypass surgery, he made it home in time to ring in the new year. I thank them for allowing me to include their personal story to help account for a couple of weeks in my life.

See Wayne's New Year Video- really you don't want miss this!

So the end of the year for me was exhausting and sad and terrifying, heartwarming and joyful. And I'm looking forward to 2017.

I'm still finding my new normal and getting my legs back underneath me, but here are my goals for 2017 and what you can hope to see from me.

I just can't work all the time. Because I have this network of beautiful people who are my rocks, and my shawl of love. I need to have coffee with them, walk along the river, and share a piece of cake or two along the way. And you know sometimes they have challenges and catastrophes too and I'll of course, be there for them.

But I am also beginning to help writers. Think of me as a personal assistant for writers, taking care of the annoying and/or overwhelming parts of the business so they can continue to write more and faster.

And I haven't stopped writing. Well, okay, honestly I haven't written much the last two months, but here is what's on the horizon from Scarlett Braden (not necessarily in this order):

Book 4 of The Providence In Ecuador series: Find out what happens when the Ecuador Roses discover a wanted expat in their midst.

7 Degrees of Wisdom: I'm participating in this project, the brainchild of writer Joss Burnel, and am very excited to be included. More about that later.

The Frangapani Venture - A crime series of shorts for when there's nothing on tv.

And a new fantasy series, Paisley Cove- for women who wish they could wiggle their noses and the vacuuming commence and believe in the concept that there is still life to live, friends to make and knowledge to gain at any age.

Please stick around to see what other adventures are looming around the next mountain. And thank you all for your love and support.

Abrazos y Besos
(Hugs and kisses),
 Loving life in Cuenca!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Promises and Unintended Consequences

When I began the Friends in Foreign Places project I had hopes and dreams. It was exciting and I hoped that the project would help settle the anxiety I had of wanting so desperately to DO something to help the people in my new home.

And as the stories came pouring in, the anxiety subsided, and a quiet joy, that I was doing something replaced it. As I read the fabulous stories, some of them poured from the deep recesses of the writer's hearts, my excitement grew. And I made a promise, to do everything I could to make it a best seller. And we promised that all the proceeds would go to help the families on the coast at the Proyecto Saman camp.

Well, when we began our sales a little over a week ago, everyone was on board. Motivations, hopes, and dreams were at a high. But I never dreamed we would hit #1 in two of our categories before the launch party was even over. And I thank you all. All the writers, who wrote such great stories, our proofreaders, artist, cover designer and publisher. Everyone helping with the social media blast, sharing posts and building excitement. Telling their friends and families about the book. To Cuenca High Life and Gringo Tree publications for telling our story. It was pretty emotional. But something else unexpected happened. An Unintended Consequence of magnitude proportions. Even bigger than that 7.8 magnitude earthquake that totally decimated so much of our northern coastal cities.

Sarah Hanenbauer told us more about the families living in the Proyecto Saman camp. You see, this area is one of the most poverty ridden areas of the country. Houses and buildings were substandard construction and it's why they were reduced to dust when the earth shook so violently. She told us, many of the families living in the tent village say they've never lived so good. This earthquake happened where there is no FEMA, no State Farm Insurance, no unemployment, no food stamps. There is literally no help, except donations. And education is a real luxury few can afford. Therefore the illiteracy rate is high.

So, when our friends volunteering at Proyecto Saman, told the families that the extranjeros (foreigners) from high up in the mountains were writing a book to help raise money for the community, the residents wanted something else. They want to learn to read, and they want to learn English.  Because they want to read the book we wrote for them. And at the new learning center at the camp, they are doing just that.

Folks, this has been an emotional time, and I'm not too proud to say I've shed quite a number of tears. But a week later, every time I think about teenagers and adults learning to read, to read our book, the faucet turns on again.

SO, to the people at Proyecto Saman...we will make you another promise. You learn to read. And thanks to Sandra Materi, Karla Sanchez Arismendi, Fannie Villegas, and Sebastian Torres Vallejo, and bilingual volunteers in Cuenca, the book will be translated into Spanish in the coming months. To the families of Proyecto Saman, with love, from your friends in the Andes.

Are you crying with me yet? Well, there is one more unintended consequence. When the Ministry of Immigration heard about our book, they asked one of our Cuencano writers what it was all about. When he told them, they wanted to know when it would be available in Spanish. Because they want to read it. All of them. They want to know about our experiences in their country and as expats. So that maybe they can make the process of living here better and easier for us.

All you need is Ecuador and all Ecuador needs is love!

Thanks again to everyone involved! I can't say it enough. Now, I'm focused on finished Terror on the Bluff, book 3 in the Providence in Ecuador series. #Amwriting

To purchase the book in ebook format Click Here
To purchase the paperback in the US Canada or Europe: Click here
To learn more about Proyecto Saman or donate directly: Proyecto Saman
To join the crowd-funding campaign to buy a bus for the kids to get to school and the adults to work in the city: Big Red is Dead

Abrazos (hugs) from Ecuador,

Loving life in Cuenca!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Christmas came early!

I've mentioned it, but maybe you haven't heard.  I had this idea of my author friends here in Cuenca putting together an Anthology. A collection of stories about friendships- especially as expats. And we did, but some of our writing friends outside Cuenca asked to join us. And the project got bigger and bigger. In fact, everything from proofreading to cover art and design and all the stories within were donated. Zero Latitude Books in Cuenca is the publisher. Garry Kaulitz is the cover artist. 37 Authors, 45 stories and it's available NOW!

All the royalties will go directly to Proyecto Saman, a project housing 50 families devasted and left homeless by the April 16th earthquake, providing jobs for those families, and rebuilding permanent homes in Canoa. It's been five months since the quake, and a new normal is taking hold at the Proyecto Saman camp. Look at the resilience of these people, working hard every day to get their lives back.

The anthology is a collection of nonfiction true stories accompanied by fiction...suspense, mystery, romance, even sci-fi. It includes a little bit for everyone. There are even a few stories with dogs, a horse, and a mule. If you are considering or even ever thought about the expat lifestyle it's a great introduction to all the ways friends play a part in our lives.  Have an expat friend? What a lovely gift- send an ebook anywhere in the world.

And today is the day!! September 25th. My 2nd anniversary in Cuenca. My birthday. And Christmas for the families in Canoa. At least it will be if you click on the link below, and jump over to Amazon and purchase our Anthology. Only $5.99 for the Ebook, if you are in the US, Canada or Europe you can get the print book for $19.99. And ALL the proceeds help rebuild Ecuador.

Maybe our book will be a best-seller. And then it's Christmas for the 37 authors too! And a bigger Christmas for Proyecto Saman and the families in Canoa.  Will you help us make Christmas happen?

 Please Click Here to buy your copy!

Merry Christmas in September!  We thank you!!

We're having a big party today in Cuenca to celebrate the launch of the book. All our authors and friends will be sharing pictures over social media. Look for #FriendsInForeignPlaces and #EcuadorEarthquakeRelief- and I'll write another blog next week to tell you all about it and share some photos. Have a beautiful day, wherever in the world you are and know that we thank you for your support!

Scarlett Loving life in Cuenca!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Did you ever blow up a marshmallow in a microwave? My life in 2016.

I know, it's been a while since I blogged and filled you in on my life and other writerly things. So let's catch up, shall we?

By now you all know I live in Ecuador. And Ecuador suffered a devastating Earthquake in April. And I'm consumed with helping the people on the coast to recover.

What I haven't mentioned is I have health issues which prevent me from going to the coast. So I am filled with pride for my friends that left their comfy, fun life in Cuenca and headed to the coast and are actually DOING something. And I am left behind. But I'm certainly not alone. Oh No!

So I told you about gathering supplies and sending truckloads of stuff to the coast. And I've told you about my friend Sara Coppler, and Proyecto Saman, the rebuilding project. I posted about the t-shirts my friend Sebastian and I were selling to help raise money. And now I get to tell you about the biggest project yet. But first...exploding marshmallows.

Did you ever think you had a really good idea and it turns out it just wasn't? For any number of reasons it wouldn't work, or couldn't work, or didn't get the expect results? We've all had those, right?  For me, I have a huge trunkful of those not so great, great ideas. But then sometimes, you hit it out of the park. Like putting a marshmallow in the microwave. Right before your very eyes it grows and grows and grows, your eyes widen and bulge and you quickly open the microwave door just before it explodes into tiny sticky particles of nuclearized sugar. (Yes, I do like making up my own words, thank you.)

The last year and a half of my life have been ahhmazing. (Yes, another made up word. I'm confident you can follow along.) One night as I tried to go to sleep I was reflecting on all the things my life is, the people, the places, the experiences. I'm suffering from insomnia. Not like in years past when I worried and couldn't sleep. This is like a small child on Christmas Eve or even Christmas night. Or how I imagine an athlete feels trying to go to sleep on the night they qualified for the Olympics, or won the gold. It's just too good to go to sleep. Most days anyway. So I had this idea. I have all these writerly friends here. Cuenca is overflowing with literary riches. Why don't we write stories about our friendships and sell them as an anthology and donate the money to the coast? Sounds like a great idea, eh? (as my Canadian friends say). I facebooked a friend in the US who participated in a couple of anthologies, a publisher friend in Ireland who works with multi-author sets on a regular basis and a publisher friend here in Ecuador with extensive anthology experience and asked about the pitfalls, the problems, etc. I set out to put together a program that I thought would circumvent all the problems they told me about.

I jokingly would say, if we end up with three volumes, we'll do three volumes! I never dreamed it would happen. (The reason we do multiple volumes is because Amazon will only allow us to list ten authors. So for everyone to get their deserved credit we have to do multiple volumes.) Especially when right out of the gate folks wanted me to change the topic or the title or whatever. All things I had set to circumvent those pitfalls mentioned above. I became my most stubborn self and said nope this is the project. Write or don't if you don't want. And then weird things started happening. I started getting messages from people in other places asking if they could contribute. And then messages from people I didn't even know. Friends of friends and so on. Marshmallow. Growing.

So we ended up with people writing not only from Ecuador, but from France, and Thailand, and the U.S. and Canada.  And on August the 1st I grabbed that handle on the microwave door and opened it before the great marshmallow of an idea exploded. And now I can't wait for you to read what these amazing people have written. All for Ecuador. I get teary every time I think about it. There are so many stories within the stories. Maybe along the way, I'll share them, because I know this blog is getting beyond our attention spans.

With days like this, there is no shortage of inspiration for artist, photographers, musicians and writers. This is the view from my kitchen window this morning.

The books Friends in Foreign Places: An Expat Anthology (Volumes 1-5 and the Complete Works) will release on September 25th, and we hope you will buy a copy. You can follow our progress to launch on my facebook page. Garry Kaulitz just donated the cover art and the covers are being designed. We're having a huge book launch party in Cuenca, we'll take pictures and maybe some videos to share with those of you who can't be here. If you are in Cuenca and would like to attend, message me for details!  But in the meantime, if you want to read about my friend Sara and what she's doing on the coast, check it out Sara's story here or the Proyecto Saman project with our friends Sara Coppler, Sarah Hanenbauer and Geof, you can read here.

Have a great day and I wish for you all that you realize the world is your playground and there is nothing more important than the people in your life. Believe it or not, your best friend may be waiting to meet you on the other side of a vast ocean. Uncover your blessings and cherish them.

How about just one shout out with all the writers who contributed?
Paul Anlee, Karla Arismendi, Madelaine Barry, Carol Boe, Jane Brunton, Brian Buckner, Edie Buckner, Joss Burnel, Susan Burnett, Lennie Charnoff, Dragonfly, Miriam Drake, Suzy Stewart    Dubot, George Forges, Susan Hart, J. Michael Herron, Egyirba High, John Keeble, Lynne Klippel, Billy Kring, Tom Larson, Thomas Longwell, Sandra Materi, Sharon McIntosh, Donna McNicol, Sloan Moorland, Quincy Noelle, Georgina Nunez, Kristen Sawyer, Barbara Snow, Nancy Thornton, Sebastian Vallejo, Garry Vatcher, Fanny Villegas, Rebecca Weldon, Buddy Winston
Thank you for helping my little idea turn into a great idea and for caring about this place I call home.

Scarlett, Loving life in Cuenca!