Power Outage 2018

So I didn’t get a chance to put up a blog post yesterday because we lost our power in the nor’easter. It didn’t start out too badly, and I hoped we would escape the worst of it.

It started coming down heavy after noon.

My husband came home from work around 3:30. He started cooking a pizza a little after 4. Power went out 3 minutes after he put it in the oven. (He left it in the hot oven for a couple of hours and eventually deemed it cooked enough and ate it!)

The heavy snow took its toll on the trees, including ours. We are lucky the branch landed behind my husband’s car, leaving only one small scratch on a brake light.

We played some games by lantern light, read a little while, then crawled into bed a bit early. After my daughter fell asleep (after insisting she could NEVER fall asleep without her fan running for white noise), I poured hot water in the fish tank to bring the water temp back up to normal. Then I went to bed.

Around 2:30 AM something started beeping, and I was the only one who woke up, so I traipsed around the cold house with a flashlight until I found the culprit–the CO/natural gas alarm in the washroom, whose battery was running out. Replaced the battery and climbed back into bed.

3 AM the power came back on! Got up again, went downstairs to turn off the lights that were on and plug in my phone to charge. Went to my daughter’s room to turn on her salt lamp and her fan. Happy to see the heater in the fish tank was running. Dug my daughter’s head out from under the blankets so she could breathe. Went back to bed.

It was a long, chilly night. I am grateful to the power crews that got things back online so quickly. The kids will go back to school tomorrow, and things can get back to normal.

And that’s why I don’t have some pithy writing-related post ready for today!

Holiday Book Con 2016

This past weekend I wrapped up my 2016 book event schedule. My last event was a Holiday Book Con in Ocean Grove, NJ. For a first time event, I thought it went well.

The Jersey Shore Arts Center, a magnificent old building with tons of character, housed the Holiday Book Con. Our hosts, the Jersey Shore Writers, set up chairs, tables, a gift wrapping station, and a dessert table in the holiday be-decked hall.


About 20 authors attended the event. I knew a few, such as Marie C. Collins, Laura J. Kaighn, and J.R. Bale, but most I had never met before. We spent some time going to the podium and giving a short pitch of our work, then we broke for food. After that, the Open Mic commenced. I took the reindeer by the horns and signed up to do my very first public Open Mic!


I managed not to have a panic attack, which I consider a Christmas miracle. To my surprise, I even enjoyed my reading! Sharing my work aloud with a crowd was fun. Who knew?

While the Holiday Book Con did not draw the public crowd the hosts had hoped for, this was their first year. I thought the day worthwhile—listening to the readings, hearing the stories of how other authors got where they are, trading information, and simply being festive together with other creative minds. As a result, I will do it again next year if they hold it.

So now to take a break from the running around, lugging boxes, getting up too early, and listening to my friendly GPS as I drive.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all my friends! Wishing you peace and goodness in this holiday season—and all year round.

Table setup at the Holiday Book Con




November: Full Speed Ahead

NJASL November conferenceIt’s hard for me to believe that we are already more than halfway through November. For all that October seemed to take forever to get through, November has flown—and the last few weeks are going to move at high speed for me.

This week I have back-to-back book gigs. The first is the New Jersey Association of School Librarians fall conference on Friday. I have a fondness for the NJASL conference—my very first book event when my book got published last year! I look forward to meeting many awesome librarians and chatting with them about books in Authors’ Alley.

The next day, Saturday, I travel to Elkins Park in Pennsylvania for a multi-author children’s book event. I have never been to Open Book bookstore before, but with 20+ authors expected, with readings and a panel, it sounds exciting. My first ever panel—eek! Hopefully I will not trip over my own tongue. Come on down and join the fun!

Then we have Thanksgiving, which is always a whirlwind in and of itself. Traveling, family visits, stuffing ourselves until we need to wear sweatpants…By the time everything is over, I need a vacation to recover from the holiday!

I will not get said vacation, though, because on November 30th I will again venture into Pennsylvania—this time at my high school alma mater as part of an Author’s Panel. Five of us (all female, all alumnae) will talk to the girls about how we got where we are and what it’s like being a female author today. I don’t know who the other authors are or what they write, but I am eager to find out.

Oh, and I am trying to get materials together to start querying one of my novels.

So that’s my November in a nutshell. How’s yours shaping up?

NJASL signing in November 2015




A Successful, Grateful Book Launch for The Witch of Zal

After weeks of preparation and hours of angst, my book launch for The Witch of Zal passed in a flurry of pride, amazement, and celebration.

Author Kerry Gans signing books at the Doylestown Bookshop

Like almost everything on the publishing journey, the book launch was a team effort. The people at the Doylestown Bookshop effortlessly took care of getting my books logged in, setting up extra tables for food and the TV monitor, and even came up trumps with plates and napkins (which I forgot). Everything about the setup looked great. (Thanks Rachel, Krisy, and Daniel!)

Crystal ball, bookmarks, and business cards at the book launch for The Witch of Zal

Even the food came from many hands. My mother made chocolate chip cookies, my friend J. Thomas Ross made dog-shaped cookies, and I bought rainbow-iced cupcakes (which I was told by several people were very good) from my local Shoprite.

Rainbow cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and dog-shaped cookies at the book launch for The Witch of Zal

I hauled the books and my essential items with me to Pennsylvania early in the day (I had other errands to attend to), and my husband arrived at the Bookshop with the perishables—cupcakes, water, and flower arrangement. The lovely rainbow flowers were done by Christine Keefer of Vintage Oceans, and she captured my vision of color and magic perfectly.

Beautiful rainbow flowers by Vintage Oceans at Kerry Gans' book launch

I sold my first book before I had even set up shop. I had one book up on a bookstand while I unloaded the swag, and a woman walked past and said, “That looks like the yellow brick road.” I replied, “It is.” And a sale was made to a fan of all things Oz.

After that, my friends and family poured into the shop and I was soon swamped with hugs and congratulations. My 6-year-old daughter must have thought her mommy was famous!

Kerry Gans thanking all those who have supported herI kicked off my presentation with a speech thanking everyone who had helped me get to this place in my career—and the list was quite long. Getting published is a marathon of will, not just because the craft is so difficult, but because we live in a world that often does not value what writers do. We are so often told not to waste our time or some other version of “you shouldn’t bother.” I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who always told me “You can.” and I wanted to be sure to let them know how grateful I am that they are my tribe.

My book trailer played without a hitch, which was a minor miracle in itself. In fact, I played it several times throughout the night, as the crowd changed over, and the technology that had been giving me headaches for weeks performed like a champ. This reinforces the value of testing out the equipment beforehand. When I had tested it a few weeks prior, I was not happy with the result. This made me make two minor changes the day of the book launch, and those changes seem to have made all the difference. Always test the technology if you can!

22 - Kerry reading (with Katie), 3-19I did a reading from The Witch of Zal. I read chapter 8 because I felt it would speak to my audience of mostly adult readers and writers. I still have not decided if I will read the same chapter to an audience with more children in it. I may want something with a little more humor and fun. But the audience at the book launch enjoyed the chapter, which made me happy.

Then I signed books, chatted with people, and basically celebrated! For all the nerves I’d had leading up to the day, the launch flew by and surrounded me with people who have cared about me and supported me throughout my life. I had everyone from my parents, to people who knew me in high school, to my writing friends, to my husband and daughter all at my side. I think the warmest memory for me was having my daughter literally at my side while I gave my speech and read my excerpt. She stood there beaming, smelling the flowers, and occasionally hugging my leg. While that was certainly not the way I had rehearsed my speeches, sharing my launch with her was a special kind of sweet. After all, The Witch of Zal is dedicated to her!

Author Kerry Gans with fan Donna Galanti

Kerry with friend & author Donna Galanti

Author Kerry Gans and young fan Jimmy

Kerry and fan Jimmy

Author Kerry Gans signs a book for Ann Stolinski of Gemini Wordsmiths

Kerry and Ann Stolinsky








As I packed up, a woman and her two daughters came by (thank you, Nancy Keim Comley, for sending them back as you were leaving), and I made my last sale of the night.

In a blink of an eye, this long-dreamed of moment had passed, but it is one I will cherish for a lifetime.

I am so grateful for everyone who came out and who sent good wishes from afar. Getting to this point in publishing is hard, and you have all made it a little easier—and a lot more fun. Thank you so much.




Are Landscapes You Love Coded in Your DNA?

Human beings vary in the environments they love. Sure, we are adaptable to live wherever we choose, but everyone has that one type of environment that makes their heart swell—a landscape that feels like home even if you’ve never been there before.

People vary widely in the environments that speak to them. My mom loves the mountains. My dad loves the beach. Others love lakes, while some prefer deserts. Forests or jungles.

Me, I love water. The ocean more than lakes, although I won’t say no to a beautiful lake view. Something about the scent in the air, the murmur of the waves, the breeze, just makes all my muscles relax and my cares slip away. Wild, stormy weather at the ocean is exhilarating!


There is no reason I should react this way—no episode in my past that would explain my affinity for the seaside environment. Sure, we spent a lot of summer vacations at the shore, but we spent vacations in the mountains, too. The eight months I spent living on Chincoteague Island were a little slice of heaven for me—the sea breeze always in my hair, and water only a few minutes in any direction.


I have a theory that our ancestry influences the type of natural environments we prefer. I know it probably sounds crazy, but with the new findings that your ancestors’ experiences can impact the way your DNA expresses itself today (epigenetics), maybe the idea that your ancestor’s countryside is embedded in our very cells is not so far-fetched after all.

Many of my ancestors are from the British Isles—Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland. Could explain the love of water and the ocean landscapes. And whenever I see photos from Scotland or Ireland, I could swear I have been there, even though I never have. Looking at those photos makes me say, “Ahh.”

Most of my ancestors came from the wild, stormy North Sea area. The photos of Durness and the surrounding area are the ones that speak to me the most—the landscapes that resonate in my DNA.

View out the backyard of the house

Have you ever responded strongly to a photo or landscape for no reason? Have you ever felt completely at home in a place you had never been?

Writing Community as Lifeguards

DSCN1653Watching my daughter at her swim class today, I realized how learning to swim and learning to write are similar. When learning to swim, support is important. The same holds true for learning to write.

Kids first jumping into the water need flotation devices, which range from life jackets to noodles. My favorite—which my daughter used in her swim class—is the “bubbles.” This is a belt with up to 4 buoyant squares on it. The belt doesn’t restrict motion and it is adjustable—as you gain proficiency you drop to 3 bubbles, then 2, then 1, then none.

Writers first jumping into writing are no different. We need help to stay afloat. Our flotation devices are workshops, classes, conferences, mentors, and craft books. As we get better, we need fewer of these, although with writing the learning never stops—thus our career-long need for beta-readers, critique groups, and editors.

English: Lifeguards in the tower Nederlands: L...

Lifeguards in the tower  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another vital element when learning to swim is lifeguards. Lifeguards see when you’re in trouble and rescue you. They can see what you’re doing wrong and save you from ever getting in trouble in the first place.

Writing communities are both flotation devices and lifeguards. When we run aground on hazards like writer’s block, deadline desperation, marketing overload, or mid-novel burnout, other writers are there to tell us we are not alone. They’ve been through the fire, too, and often have tips to share.

And when you are finally published and out there in the wide world, this network of writer-lifeguards has your back. They’ll help guide you through the marketing morass, show up at your book events, and spread the word on social media. Writer friends will comfort us during the bad and celebrate with us during the good.

Writing can be lonely—but it doesn’t have to be. Find yourself a good, supportive writing community, either in person or online. Your family undoubtedly loves you a lot, but there are certain things only another writer truly understand. If you say sadly, “Saggy middle” to your family, they will poke your belly and give you diet tips. If you say “Saggy middle” to your writer friends, they will tear at their own hair and shout, “I KNOW!”

The journey is certainly easier and more pleasant if we surround ourselves with people who are willing to support each other, give generously of time and advice, and fill this whole adventure with laughter. Find people who lift you up, not tear you down. I’ve been lucky—and I hope you are, too.

Conferee lounge at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. (Photo by J. Thomas Ross)

Conferee lounge at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.
(Photo by J. Thomas Ross)

Can you suggest places writers can find supportive writer communities—online or in person? Do you have stories about how being a part of a community has helped your career?

The Runaway Brain

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

I don’t know about most people, but my brain has a tendency to run away with me—and not in a good way. My anxiety disorder is fueled by my brain’s insistence on making mountains out of molehills and borrowing trouble. No matter what the circumstance, my brain screams past the most logical and likely outcomes and jumps up and down screaming, “This is gonna end in DISASTER.”

For example, say I send out some queries. I hope some agent will like my book. So far, so good. Then let’s pretend an agent asks for a partial or full (hey, it will happen someday!). I am overjoyed an agent liked the idea enough to want to read the manuscript. Happy dance!

But then my runaway brain lets loose. What if they actually want to rep me? What if another agent would be better? How will I know? Will I make the right choice? And if they rep me, they might actually SELL the book (hey, it will happen someday)! Then I’ll be in a whole new world, and new worlds are scary, and oh good grief it’s a huge CHANGE!!!

Change is hard for those of us with anxiety disorders. And since change is inevitable, life with an anxiety order can be pretty crappy sometimes.

So there I am with my runaway brain telling me that my entire life is crashing over a cliff—all because an agent requested a manuscript. So even good news can lead to a bad ending—in my misfiring brain, anyway. So what do I do about it?

Sometimes I can derail the runaway brain. If I can feel it happening, I can stop the downward spiral by literally talking myself out of it (sometimes out loud, if needed). I can divert it into a more positive outcome.

If I missed the warning signs and my brain has accelerated all the way to the Big Crunch that is OBVIOUSLY going to occur if I go down this path, I can contemplate the fears one by one and again talk myself down from the ledge.

But most times, I say to my brain, “Very nice. Save it for the next book. The reality of what happens will never be what you think.”

Because usually it isn’t. Life is unpredictable (much to my brain’s chagrin), but it is rarely as bad as I fear. And it rarely takes the path I envisioned in the first place.

The biggest weapon I wield against my anxiety, though, is experience. I know the worst I can imagine is unlikely to come true.

I also know that if the worst happens, I am strong enough to face it.

What about you? Do you get hijacked by fears you know are unrealistic but paralyzing just the same? How do you overcome your fears?

GoosesQuill FB

How To Tap the Darkness Within

We were discussing in our Advanced Novel Workshop with Jonathan Maberry about digging deep and putting your pain on the page. Jonathan talked about how he has found his writing highly cathartic. Tiffany Schmidt talked about the difficulty of writing emotional scenes and then finding a way to leave the pain in the book and not let it color your real life. As Jonathan said, leave the tears on the page.

Except in a very few instances, I have not shed tears while I write. I have not felt emotionally drained like so many writers talk about in their blogs. Apparently, I have not tapped into my deeper levels of pain, anger, darkness, and, yes, joy, love, and healing and laid them bare in my writing.

This could explain why beta readers feel my characters are not quite “real” or that they don’t “connect” with them on a deep level. It’s always a struggle before I get the characters in shape.

Why can’t I access these deeper places? There could be a few reasons. One, I don’t HAVE deeper places. Two, I lack the empathy to connect to other people. Three, I’m afraid to go into the darkness.

As for number one, I’m sure I have deeper places. I know I feel things deeply at times, and seemingly benign things like commercials can unexpectedly bring a welter of feelings in me. Examining number two shows that I am close to my family and while my close friends are not many in number, the friendships run deep. So maybe I’m just afraid to go into the darkness?

It is true that I don’t like letting strong emotions loose. I find it very, very hard to put emotional genies back in the bottle. I have an anxiety disorder, so once emotion wells up, it often spirals out of control. It can impact my life for days—not a good thing when you have a toddler to take care of. As a survival technique, I have gotten very good at surpressing the anxiety, but perhaps that comes at the cost of cutting myself off from connecting to the world as wholly as I might like. Which then might mean I can’t connect my characters to the reader the way I should.

I don’t doubt there’s some subconscious fear there. But the other side of the coin is that I don’t really know HOW to access those stronger emotions. Not consistently and effectively. If my character is sad and I’m not, how do I call that up? Or anger? Or fear? And I don’t know how to turn them off when I’m done. Maybe I can call on one of my actor friends to help me with that.

So what do you think? Do you need to be so emotionally invested in your book that you cry (or want to) at times while writing it? Should it drain you emotionally?

And do you have tips on how to access those emotions—and then leave them behind when you’re done?

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