The Christmas Snail

“…after seeing a couple folks shock the eggnog out of me this past book launch… I’m here to tell ya, leave a little space. Go surprise someone with a Christmas snail of your own and then after, get real quiet and listen as ‘heaven and nature sings.'”

In my front yard right now there sits an inflatable Christmas snail. It is my favorite decoration ever. I mean Ever. Why? Because it is completely unexpected. It’s sorta weird. Off a little. It reminds me that life can surprise, bring a smile to my face when I’m least expecting it.

As I think over this past year of releasing my sci-fi romance, Stealing Ares, the highs and lows of it all, what I’m most grateful for is the unexpected. There were a couple of people who quickly and gladly gave my book a nice review that I would have never expected. In fact, to be honest, in some secret little chamber of my heart, I just plain thought they didn’t care for me or my writing. That’s okay, we don’t all have to like each other’s writing, or company for that matter. We’re all different. But how about that unexpected joy when you get surprised, blindsided, if you will, by a moment of kindness and unexpected grace?

If I may quote from a Christmas song—and stay with me here when I tell you that this sentiment is far more ecumenical then it might initially seem—“Let every heart prepare him room.” Well, yes, in “Joy to the World,” the author is speaking of Christ but, in a broader sense, I’d argue every heart can prepare a space within itself to allow for surprise. To leave room for a kindness we wouldn’t normally extend to someone because we don’t believe there’s a chance in Santa’s sack that same person would do it for us. But after seeing a couple folks shock the eggnog out of me this past book launch…I’m here to tell ya, leave a little space. Go surprise someone with a Christmas snail of your own and then after, get real quiet and listen as “heaven and nature sings.”

A miracle is really just the very, very unexpected. I remember these little miracles and hold them dear. In fact, on my calendar system, there’s a space to leave myself a note. I want to remember the place, the day, that person surprised me. I left myself such a note the day it happened. Why? Because I want to know that I can be wrong. Dead wrong. Gloriously wrong! That person didn’t dislike me. It was one of a thousand other things: hostile resting face, they think I don’t like them, I’m misreading them, etc.

This year I wish you your very own Christmas snail, whatever that may be!

Of Gratitude and Other Important…well, there is nothing more important

Since Stealing Ares has launched, I’ve done a couple of events with my husband, George Weinstein, who also has a new book out (Return to Hardscrabble Road): one at a brewery where we threw a party complete with cakes that had edible book covers atop them and one a bit more sedate at the Milton Public Library in Milton, Georgia. There’s always this moment where I look out at the people in attendance, and I’m struck by a moment of absolute gratitude. These folks could have been anywhere else, doing a hundred other things, but they chose to be there with us. It’s humbling, it’s transformative, it’s gratitude.

Gratitude has enough and sees the beauty in what it already has. Gratitude experiences joy without grasping at the temporary high of fleeting happiness. Before I ever ask for more along my writing journey, may I always remember this moment in time. May I always remember the absolute magic of gratitude. May you have a thousand of your own magic moments, the ones only gratitude can bring.

When Harlow Hanson sneaks aboard the HMS Ares to plunder it in order to help her people, the ship springs to life and begins speaking to her. The prince discovers the woman stealing from him is the key he’s been searching for. Link to order Stealing Ares.

Kim Conrey is the author of the sci-fi romance Stealing Ares and also writes about living with OCD. In addition, she serves as VP of Operations for the Atlanta Writers Club. You can also find her on the Wild Women Who Write Podcast where she and the other Wild Women interview authors and industry professionals with a primary goal of supporting women writers. Her essays have been published in The Bitter SouthernerAtlanta ParentAwakened Voices Literary Magazine and others.

Sobbing in a Steak House on Publication Day

“If they didn’t want me crying in the middle of their restaurant, then they shouldn’t have been playing that song.”


On release day of Stealing Ares, I found myself at a Longhorn Steakhouse sobbing, but look, it’s not my fault. If there’s any song in the world that reminds me of my father, it’s Ronnie Milsap’s “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World.” (This post is best read while listening to that song, and while you’re at it, go ahead and grab some tissues; things are about to get bumpy). If they didn’t want me crying in the middle of their restaurant, then they shouldn’t have been playing that song.

My dad passed away in 1994. I always knew he wouldn’t be with us long. When I was 7 years old, I dreamed I saw him at the top of a hill, sitting in his favorite chair. When I reached the top, I noticed he was eerily still. I climbed into his lap and looked at his head to find it bleeding profusely. He was dead, and I awoke crying. When he came home from work that day, I ran from him when he walked in the door. I couldn’t look at him. It was a week before I could be around him without crying. It felt as if he were already gone. Years later, he fell from a great height while working, landed on his head, and died as the dream had warned me. Being warned didn’t make it hurt any less. For better or worse, there’s always been a connection between the message of appreciation in that Milsap song and the time with my dad that was cut short. On this happiest of days, Pub Day, I am connected still, and despite the tears, I’m not really that sad. It’s good to feel.

 Like many people who’ve lost a loved one, after a few years you still miss them terribly but you’re not crying every day. The sorrow becomes replaced by good memories, happy memories, and you only occasionally have a breakdown: maybe on a birthday or Christmas, or in a steak house when your book gets published. So maybe, I just missed him because it was nice to have someone who had always been so proud of everything I did. When he was proud of me, he was proud to the point of absolute embarrassment. I hated it when I was younger. Now, well, I treasure those memories and could give my younger self a good smack for being so silly and embarrassed all the time.

I spend a lot of time around writers. I’m on the board of the Atlanta Writers Club and a member of a critique group. I’m part of a podcast with several other writers, and we get used to going to book signings. So, when our own book gets published, it can feel like old hat to those around us. Maybe somewhere inside, I just missed having someone like my dad around for something like this.

Or perhaps the explanation is a little more of what some might say is “woo woo.” Maybe he was nearby because he is still proud of me, and maybe sensing his presence just plain made me miss him.

Five days later, I’m at a barbecue joint delightfully named “Bigguns” with my 10-year-old daughter on the outskirts of Ellijay, Georgia. I’m hiding my face behind a wonderful piece of cornbread and hoping to cover the fact that, yep, I’m crying again as I wonder if my dad experienced the same sense of peace, presence, and joy as he sat with me having lunch or talking and thinking about how beautiful his daughter’s smile is.

Now, I don’t want him to get the wrong idea and think that because I’m in tears that means I want his spirit to take an astral hike. No, not at all. We get so damn busy that we get out of touch with our feelings, and that’s not good. I don’t think we were meant to go through life that way as writers and certainly not as human beings. So, Dad, if you’re around, pull up an otherworldly chair and stay awhile, because, honestly, it’s good to feel, to remember, and to remember you especially.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, even if it means I’m crying in the middle of a steakhouse.

Writing in Truth: Staying in the Race Well Past the Pain

“…we are writers. We earned the title. We stay in the race even though it hurts, and damn it, it hurts. Sometimes, a helluva lot. Can we just acknowledge that? Of course we can. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. It makes us real. It makes us writers.”

When people tell me they don’t like to run, I often ask how far they ran. They usually respond two or three miles, to which I respond, “Oh, you just didn’t run far enough.” Stay with me here. I promise this analogy circles back around to writing.

They just look at me like I’ve lost it. After all, if they didn’t like running two miles, why would they like five? But there’s an interesting phenomenon that takes place while running. After a few miles, I stop thinking about wanting to stop. I stop thinking about the pain, the gasping, and perseverance becomes a habit. So goes the writing journey.

When I wrote my first book, I believed that was THE ONE I would succeed with. No, not at all. I succeeded with the fifth book I wrote. For you Office fans, think Michael Scott Paper Company as he names his fifth business. I can still revise and shop those earlier books, of course, but the point is, I kept going, kept writing. Perseverance is a habit. During that time, I went to hear many authors speak. The themes and genres they spoke about were different, but one thing they often danced around was just how painful it was to experience rejection. Some of them had gotten lucky on the first meeting or query with an agent or editor, while others had queried for years but usually wouldn’t talk about how painful this experience was. They would simply offer the platitude, “You’ve gotta develop a tough skin.” Trust me, there’s no need for self-flagellation, the journey itself will take care of that.

I suppose many of these authors feel that being honest about how bad this rejection hurt (and for self-pub authors, I imagine negative reviews can have the same effect) would cause writers to wallow in these feelings to the point where they would become paralyzed. However, I think the opposite can be true. Feelings of isolation can cause a person to give up, and perhaps quicker. Just knowing there are other authors out there who understand what I am going through can make all the difference in the world. So, if no one has told you lately, allow me to be the one: it’s okay to feel the hurt now and then. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing. It hurts when your work gets rejected, when someone doesn’t get it, when yet another year goes by and there is nothing to show for your efforts but an inbox full of rejection letters. In fact, I’d argue this pain is a good sign. This means you care very much. There’s beauty in this, and we authors know the value of feeling. It’s the difference between a flat character and a character who makes a reader want to turn pages well into the night. Experience the sorrow. Hell, let it soak into your being; let the tears run down your face as you have a cathartic cry.

And while I’m on my soapbox, let me address the idea of authors getting up and telling a room full of writers they cannot yet call themselves writers. Here’s the thing: have you experienced any of the above? If you answered yes, you’re a writer. Period. Honey, you’ve suffered for it. Call it like you see it. I’ve got your back!

It means everything. It means nothing. We reach a point where we may need to let a project go, but we grieve it and start another one. Why? Because we are writers. We earned the title. We stay in the race even though it hurts, and damn it, it hurts. Sometimes, a helluva lot.

Can we just acknowledge that? Of course we can. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. It makes us real.

It makes us writers.

With a Little Help from My Friends

“So, when I open that box of books in a couple of weeks, it isn’t just my victory; there are others who deserve a big thank you. ‘I get by with a little help from my friends…’ And find a new way to strand a few thousand colonists now and then.”

My first box of books for Stealing Ares is on the way as I write this, and among the people I want to thank, and Lord knows there are many, my podcasting friends, The Wild Women Who Write, are at the top of my list. To get even more specific, Kathy Nichols—who conceived of the Wild Women podcast—is responsible for me dusting off Stealing Ares when I had placed it firmly in the recesses of a drawer.

One evening when we were recording Episode 3: Characters Take Over, a podcast where we opted to just talk among ourselves, I was reminded of the old SNL Coffee Talk episodes when Mike Myers, as a suburbanite woman with a Long Island accent would say, “I’ll give you a topic: Dogs, daughters, no big whoop. Talk amongst yourselves.” Kathy, not a Long Islander but a Tennessean, told us about this great exercise for writers where they’re given a topic and must answer questions as their characters. At the time, I was concentrating on writing an OCD memoir, along with my daughter, Sloane, but because the Wild Women were supposed to be answering these questions as a fictional character from our writing, I decided to answer them as Harlow Hanson from Stealing Ares. As the podcast progressed and we got further into our characters’ heads, I realized something important: I missed Harlow.

So exactly why did I put Stealing Ares, and by extension, my kickass heroine, Harlow, in a drawer in the first place? Well, I had written it more than three years before COVID began, and because I had always been fascinated by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, I wrote a pandemic into Stealing Ares, where it created problems for the Mars colony that still needed help from Earth. However, when I was querying agents during the pandemic, they began posting on their websites “no pandemic stories.” Because, you guessed it, they were getting inundated with them. It didn’t matter that I had written this story almost four years prior. Discouraged, I knew I would have to go through the entire manuscript and rewrite. But hey, writers are a resilient bunch. I’ve written six books. Why in the world would switching out one disaster for another knock me for a loop? Well, it shouldn’t, I decided. And there you have it. The manuscript came out of the drawer.

That’s when the caldera blew! I replaced the virus with an eruption. There’s a caldera underneath Yellowstone National Park that could go up at any time, and ash would circle the Earth for generations and cripple the world. This would create hardships for those Martian colonists as easily as a pandemic would.

But the point is this: we need each other. As solitary as we writers can sometimes be, hunched over our computers, the glow of our monitors illuminating our bloodshot eyes, we need the fellowship of other writers. We need the encouragement, the ideas, the networking. Most of all, we need the support—and occasionally the kick in the pants—we can only get by showing up for each other. Maybe we even need each other to remind us that the manuscript we’ve placed in a drawer is still very dear to us.

So, when I open that box of books in a couple of weeks, it isn’t just my victory; there are others who deserve a big thank you. “I get by with a little help from my friends…”

And find a new way to strand a few thousand colonists now and then.

woman in black coat standing near body of water
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Fried Shrimp and Dreams of Freedom

Featured Post

“‘I just want to be at the beach eating fried shrimp,’ I tell my husband…. I’m guessing what I have going on is a pacing issue. Like any good story, life requires pacing, too.”

I’m at the kitchen table clunking my spoon into a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal and waiting on the coffee to clear the fog from my brain as I verbally work on defragmenting the cache of debris built up in my head over months of editing for my sci-fi romance, Stealing Ares, which releases in September, writing the second book in the series, writing a blog for a memoir that is under consideration with a different publisher, and taking care of my duties as VP of Operations with the Atlanta Writers Club. Add to that list: promoting my writing through social media and reading advance reader copies and doing promotion for the podcast I collaborate on with some amazing writer friends, and I feel, well…fried, spent, wrung out. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that I have two children. One is old enough to take care of herself, but the other is still young.

tempura on ceramic plate
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“I just want to be at the beach eating fried shrimp,” I tell my husband.

“I get it. That sounds good.”

We’ll be going to the beach soon, and I won’t be taking any work with me, unless the latest podcast gets edited while I’m at the beach, in which case I’ll feel like I need to get the clip done for social media while I’m there. Oh, and I’ll also need to check email in case the publisher gets back about the manuscript. Well, you know, I don’t plan on doing any work.

faceless woman using laptop while sitting on bed
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“Take a break. Don’t do anything,” one might say. But can you truly rest if there’s something you really want to get done? I’m choosing this. No one is making me do any of it. I’m happy about the success that I have, and I didn’t get it by ignoring emails and blowing off deadlines.

“Then don’t complain,” one might reply.

That’s a legitimate argument, but keep in mind the same person will also tell you to be sure and talk to someone if you’re feeling stressed out. We all have scripts we like to regurgitate for certain occasions when honesty might serve better. Something like, “Hey, I get it. By the time we figure out what we really want out of life, and we aren’t afraid to go after it, we realize our time isn’t unlimited and we need to get to it while we still can.” That’s where I’m at. How about you?

I’m guessing what I have going on is a pacing issue. Like any good story, life requires pacing, too.

I think what I need is more breaks for fried shrimp now and then. Perhaps freedom has to do with letting the story breathe. You know, those moments where the pace slows, and the characters have a cup of tea or talk while looking at blouses in a department store. Whatever it is, they breathe.

Here’s to a life well-paced.

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“…after seeing a couple folks shock the eggnog out of me this past book launch… I’m here to tell ya, leave a little space. Go surprise someone with a Christmas snail of your own and then after, get real quiet and listen as ‘heaven and nature sings.’” In my front yard right now there sits…

Of Gratitude and Other Important…well, there is nothing more important

Since Stealing Ares has launched, I’ve done a couple of events with my husband, George Weinstein, who also has a new book out (Return to Hardscrabble Road): one at a brewery where we threw a party complete with cakes that had edible book covers atop them and one a bit more sedate at the Milton Public Library…

Sobbing in a Steak House on Publication Day

“If they didn’t want me crying in the middle of their restaurant, then they shouldn’t have been playing that song.” On release day of Stealing Ares, I found myself at a Longhorn Steakhouse sobbing, but look, it’s not my fault. If there’s any song in the world that reminds me of my father, it’s Ronnie…

Writing in Truth: Staying in the Race Well Past the Pain

“…we are writers. We earned the title. We stay in the race even though it hurts, and damn it, it hurts. Sometimes, a helluva lot. Can we just acknowledge that? Of course we can. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. It makes us real. It makes us writers.” When people tell me…

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