Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great article about the book from the Franklin County Times

Spruce Pine woman fulfills writing dream

When Spruce Pine resident Leeann Smith was asked by an Army recruiter in the 10th grade what she wanted to do when she was older, the only thing she could think of being was a writer.
The now adult Smith has worked in the healthcare profession for many years – a world driven by facts, figures and truths, which is a far cry from the creative realm of storytelling.
But even though she still works in healthcare, Smith has finally lived up to her 10th-grade ambitions and become a writer.
Cat’s Eye Marble, Smith’s first book-length story, hit shelves a little more than a week ago, and she said she’s still having trouble believing the whole process is real.
“I keep wanting to pinch myself and see if I’m dreaming,” Smith said. “I still can’t believe I have a book that has been published and that people I don’t even know are reading it.”
Smith said she first fell in love with writing at the same time she fell in love with reading, which was pretty much instantaneous from the time she read her fist book.
“Being able to take someone into another world is just a wonderful talent and something I just love,” she said.
“I wrote when I was younger and on into high school when I worked for the Journal Record covering football games.
“I was probably my editor’s worst nightmare because I wanted to use lots of adjectives and dress the story up, and all they really wanted was a cut-and-dry replay of events and the scores.
“That creative element was just there and it was hard not to let it loose, even on a football story.”
Smith’s creativity was still a large part of her life, but it wasn’t something she acted on professionally, and soon she had pushed the idea of writing to the back of her minds.
“I wasn’t thinking about writing very much, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about writing a book,” she said. “As simple as it sounds, it really just happened. It wasn’t a conscious decision.”
The storyline for Smith’s book focuses on a girl named Dani who was the victim of child abuse and a very hard life. The story chronicles Dani’s life and the measures she has to take to make it through each day and the ability of a child to use his or her own mind to escape such harsh realities at such a tender age.
Smith said she classifies the book as “reality-based fiction” because even though the characters, their names and the places are fabricated, the story is based loosely on the real-life story of a person Smith met.
“A few years ago, a person I was talking to opened up to me about the abuse they had experienced as a child and it was just unfathomable,” Smith said. “It broke my heart.
“I saw her as a survivor and admired her for how far she had come, and her story just stuck with me.”
As a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions from hearing what circumstances this person had to overcome, Smith said she just began writing.
“I wrote a lot of things down and pretty soon a storyline began to evolve,” she said. “I played around with the story for about two years and it wasn’t really going anywhere so I just pushed it out of my mind.”
Smith said she didn’t give the story much more thought until this spring when a seemingly mundane activity brought it right back to the forefront of her mind.
“This spring I decided to plant a garden in my yard, and as I was tilling up the ground, something caught my eye,” she said.
“What I had dug up ended up being a clear and orange cat’s eye marble that reminded me of the marble I had when I was a child.
“I started thinking about how I used to play with those marbles and how I would imagine they were crystal balls that could take me to far off places and let me see all kinds of fun things.”
That was when it hit her.
“All of a sudden I realized that children who are the victim’s of abuse, like the person who inspired this story, have to employ those same kinds of tactics just to survive – to use their own minds to escape reality out of necessity rather than just for fun.
“At that moment, it just all fell into place. I put my tiller down and went inside, dirty, muddy clothes and all, and wrote the first two chapters of the book.”
Once the story locked into place, Smith said the words flowed easily and she had finished the book in a matter of months.
She then began navigating the self-publishing process with the help of her editor, Cassie McCown, and soon had the book signed on to be published by Friesen Press.
“I knew I wanted to have the book published because I wanted people to take two things away from this story,” she said.
“One, I wanted those who are the survivors of child abuse to know they’re not alone. So many of them feel so lost and as if they are all alone in their struggles and I want to be a voice for them. I want them to know there are people who care about their story.
“Two, I want to help people who have never experienced child abuse or personally know someone who has to be able to understand this on a more personal level. I want them to be able to walk right alongside Dani on her journey and feel what she feels.”
Smith said the reason she feels so strongly about this is because it is a subject that is usually swept under the rug.
“You hear the statistics but then you just go on with your life, not really considering that those numbers are actually people.
“Child abuse is an epidemic in our country, and even right here in our county. It goes on more often than people realize, mostly because people don’t want to talk about it or report it or get involved. But it needs to be discussed, and if my book impacts even one person, I’ve met my goal.”
To celebrate the release of the book, Smith will hold a book signing at the Russellville Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
Copies of the book will be available as well as snacks and a special gift for those who attend.
“This has been such an amazing process and I’ve already gotten such great feedback,” Smith said. “The book reached my publisher’s best seller list already, and I’ve had people tell me how emotional the book was for them, which is great to hear because that means I conveyed my message.
“I grew up in Hackleburg and now live in Spruce Pine so this isn’t something a small-town girl like me expects, but I’m enjoying every minute of this process.”
In addition to the book signing, copies of Cat’s Eye Marble can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, at www.friesenpress.com, and on Amazon.com in hardback, paperback and Kindle formats.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My first book signing :)
It was great to see everyone today at the Russellville Public Library!  I feel so honored everyone took time to come out and celebrate the launch of Cat's Eye Marble with me!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Where the title of the book came from....

Several people have asked me where on earth the title for Cat’s Eye Marble came from so I wanted to share this with everyone.  And, yes, it is a true story, some things I just couldn’t make up into fiction if I wanted to. (lol)  The story line for the book had been running through my head for a couple of years but I just could not seem to get it to come together.  Then in the Spring of this year, while in between jobs, I decided to plant a garden.  As a kid I always swore I would NEVER plant a garden.  I hated working in the garden because it was hot, dirty, and there would a million bugs everywhere you turn.  Okay, confession, the dirty part really didn’t bother me since I was a tomboy but the bugs completely freaked me out.  But as most Southerns find upon reaching adulthood, no matter how bad you try to fight it, we all seem to have something engrained in our DNA that drives us to plant something, anything, at the first hint of warm weather.  Hmmm….now there is a good basis for a scientific study.  Sorry, getting off track a bit.

So in early April I got out my tiny tiller and began breaking up part of my yard.  For those who know me personally, you know, I do absolutely nothing small scale.  This endeavor was no different.  Now, just as a side note to those wanting to turn part of your yard into a vegetable garden, especially an enormous one, grass and weeds do not take kindly to being uprooted and will force you to till, and till, and till, you get the picture.  About the tenth time of breaking the dirt up I was exhausted but quite proud of myself.  Not wanting to risk one single stray weed surviving, I gave it one last run through and I am glad I did because that was when I found my treasure!

It was midday; the sun was directly overhead, when I caught a glimmer of light reflecting off something in the dirt.  I initially thought it was a piece of glass. When I picked it up I found it was a dirt caked marble; a cat’s eye marble, clear with orange swirls in it.  I found myself mesmerized by it.  It triggered a childhood memory I had forgot so many years ago.  I could remember sitting in my room as a kid playing with a pint jar of marbles for hours.  The image was so vivid it was as though I had gone back in time to 30 years ago.  When I was a little girl I would pretend the cat’s eye marbles I had were crystal balls that could tell my future and that each marble held a different picture of my future in it.  I can’t tell you how long I stood in my would-be garden that day staring at that long forgot marble I had unearthed but I can tell you, the storyline for the book came to me instantly.  I slipped the dirty marble into the right pocket of my grungy work pants, went inside, and wrote the first two chapters of the book.  (Yes, I left the tiller sitting where it was.  Luckily, I did remember to at least turn it off.)
I decided to tell this story because of something that happened to me earlier this afternoon that amused me.  We, as adults, are often amazed at the imaginations children can have or how they can become attached to certain things like they are good luck charms.  But children aren’t the only ones that carry that ability of magical thinking.  We as adults do, also.  How many of you have good luck charms or do things that you believe will bring you luck?  Oh, come on now, go ahead and admit it.  I have carried the marble I found that day in the garden in my pocket every day since.  It has become my good luck charm.  Only this afternoon did I realize how much I thought of it that way when it went missing!  Yes, I wigged out. (Blushing a bit to admit this.)  I was frantically trying to find it.  Luckily I found that it had rolled off my desk and was hidden in a dark corner underneath.  I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I slipped it back into my pocket. 

The moral of this story?  Being childlike is not the same thing as being childish.  Find something from your childhood that made you smile, and fall in love with it all over again!  Happy reading everyone!

Leeann Smith

Friday, November 30, 2012

First Chapter available to read....

Chapter 1
The Getaway
Six o’clock on a Saturday morning, while most of the South enjoyed
the warm spring day with the morning paper and a cup of coffee on the
patio, Dani found herself staring at the departure board at the Huntsville
International Airport, deciding the rest of her life. The sooner she left this
state the better. If she could just escape, maybe she had a sliver of a chance
at a normal future. Normal. She couldn’t help but think, What exactly
is normal? While trying to determine the best destination, she caught
glimpses of other travelers. Did they live “normal” lives?
Nearby, a thirty-something mother of three struggled to keep her
brood wrangled. Was that what normal looked like? Dani stared at the
scene for a moment as the lady smiled at her toddlers while trying to
entertain them. She looked exhausted. Yet, she was calm and patient. Dani
wondered if that was how the lady really was when no one was looking,
or if she was a good mother all the time. Maybe normal was the elderly
gentleman looking sad as he sat in the hard, gray chairs, staring at the ring
finger of his left hand. There was a visible white line where a wedding
band obviously once resided. The crumbled look upon his face made Dani
wonder if his wife had recently passed away or if maybe, even at such an
advanced age, the couple had chosen divorce.
As the April sun dawned through the enormous glass windows, Dani
also took notice of airport security both near and far. Since 9/11 airports
had gone to extremes with security checks and surveillance. At least that
was what the nightly news said often and the newspapers screamed every
other day. Personally, Dani wouldn’t know. She’d never stepped foot in an
airport before today. This was not the first time she’d felt the desire to run,
but it was the first time she felt she actually had a chance to get away.
As she pondered the least suspicious destination, it felt as if the security
guards had zeroed in on her. Did they know how she spent the past
twenty-four hours? Was it possible her crimes were discovered so quickly?
She tried to reassure herself that she was being paranoid. The reality
was, she tended to draw attention most places she went in the conservative
At twenty-two, she was a tiny whisper of a woman. Her small frame
barely reached more than five feet. As old folks like to say, she barely
weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. Her stature gave her an appearance
of being soft and vulnerable. The remainder of her appearance was in
direct contrast. Her once pale-blond, shoulder-length hair was now a stark
black. Her makeup was ashen, even in comparison to her complexion,
accented with black eye shadow, thick eyeliner, and heavy mascara. Her
lips were colored a deep burgundy. Baggy, black cargo pants and hoodie
hid not only her tiny frame, but the scars that lined her torso as well. Many
casually regarded her as a child rebelling in a gothic way. In truth, her
appearance from the clothing, to the makeup, to the multiple piercings in
her ears, lips, nose, and eyebrow had nothing to do with following some
ridiculous teenage trend. Her attire was an attempt to shield her from
the world. She tried to appear as unapproachable as humanly possible.
She didn’t want contact with other people. She’d had more than enough
“contact” with people to last a lifetime. The drastic change in her appearance
was why Maria and Everett hadn’t recognized her last night when she
appeared on their doorstep.
She was fighting her mind’s torturous journey down the path to her
past when the lady at the ticket counter startled her back to the present.
“Ma’am? Did you hear me?” asked the lady with slightly graying hair.
She was desperately trying to retreat back into the ‘80s with her big, Auqa
Net hair.
“Miss, are you all right?” she asked again. Her nametag read Marge.
Dani just stared at Marge momentarily before saying she wanted to buy
a ticket. She noticed Marge looking at the nearest security guard and then
back at her. She knew she better get her shit together, and quick, or the
only trip she would be taking would be to death row at Tutwiler Women’s
Prison in Wetumpka.
As the burly black security guard started walking in her direction, Dani
murmured, “I need to buy a ticket.”
“Where to?” asked the big-haired lady.
Good question, thought Dani. She knew she needed to leave the state
as soon as possible, so that left her with a choice of Washington, D.C., or
Denver, Colorado. While Dani was quickly going over the pros and cons of
each, the security guard came to stand beside her.
“Is there a problem, miss?” Dani looked up at the giant of a man.
Tears began to flood her crystal-blue eyes. She became painfully aware
that destiny, once again, was going to manage to drag her back down into
the depths of her own personal hell. And for her, no matter how hard she
fought, there seemed no way to escape its clutches.