A Writer's Journey · My Stories and Poems

Dreams, Predators, and Story: Thoughts on my Upcoming Book

In September I dreamt I watched my own birth. I held my newborn self and listened to her terrified cries.

Pregnancy and newborn dreams often signify the start of something new for me, but in this I couldn’t tell what it was. Maybe this time, I told a friend, my brain was wrong.

In October, I dreamed I went back to college with my mom for some paperwork. Every time we split up, a man cornered me. He acted concerned for my well being, but I was terrified and frozen. The weird/not so weird at all part? He looked just like the cultist/kidnapper from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s funny, but also not. 

I knew he had done something to me in the past, but I couldn’t remember what that was. He always vanished before my mom came back and I lost the words to talk about him then.

Finally I’d had enough. I broke free of the building, seized a megaphone from a student protest, and exposed this man and his deeds in front of everyone. 

In November I began the first draft of The Secret Heart of Maeve MacGowan. The second draft, I finished around the end of February. In March as I began reading Women Who Run With Wolves, looking closely at the archetypes and the woman’s psyche is reminding me that the past few months have been pulling me towards this work and my novel in several ways.

“If a woman does not look into these issues of her own deadness and murder, she remains obedient to the dictates of the predator.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph. D., Women Who Run With Wolves

The first idea for my book is no longer a clear memory, but the choice to follow my own emotional resonance is. Without fully knowing how, I was taking years of the ‘predator’-both external environments I lived in and the internal voices that hounded me–and pulling them out of myself through writing. The urgency and clarity this gave me is unprecedented in my writing experience.

“When the predator’s psychic energy is rendered, it is formable into some other purpose. We are creators then; the raw substance reduced down becomes then the substance of our own creation.”

Pinkola Estés, Ph. D.

For me, this story is taking the predator’s energy and turning it into art. I couldn’t hear the words I shouted into that megaphone in my dream. Instead, I wrote them in this book. The Secret Heart of Maeve MacGowan is the new thing my subconscious knew was coming. My newborn cries were the cries of a story desperate to be brought into the world.

Like my dream-self, I’m shedding irrevocable light on the nature of predators, and by threading fantasy over and through my own emotional journey, I weave my way to experiences shared by many women. I wrote not just about the harm I and these women endure for having to twist and contort ourselves into shapes society finds acceptable (non-threatening), but about what can happen when we realize we no longer need endure that.

We can stand up and take our real shapes.

For anyone who loves archetypes and symbolism, or has lived with great shame, or simply loves to see girls and woman claiming their own bad-assery, this book will be for you. I can’t wait to share more of The Secret Heart of Maeve MacGowan with you.

A Writer's Journey

One foot in reality, one in…where?


Dear Friends,

I’ve got one foot in reality and one toenail in my made-up worlds…and it’s rather confusing.

It isn’t just the homeschooling, although that is difficult. It isn’t just the feeling that every day is a little bit like groundhog day but it’s hot. 

The really hard part is just feeling…stuck. I know my children are missing ‘real’ school and their friends. I don’t love homeschooling, not by a long shot, but I’m content to keep my children a little safer and maybe in a small way contribute to the safety of families who don’t have the option of homeschooling.

But I’m really stuck on a few things with this story, and kind of stuck creatively. When that happens this stuck-ness sort of bleeds into most aspects of my life. Thankfully, like 2020, It won’t last. Eventually I will wiggle my way out of this mess, grab the disconnected pieces, and shout, “Aha! That’s it!” and stitch them back together in a more cohesive and beautifully resonant story. 

But sometimes I look at my current main characters and think, “you poor babies. You think fighting a deadly curse is hard? Try homeschooling in a pandemic.” And then I have a little pity party because I wish I could jump into my story and get lost in the huge castle and that my biggest problems were its quirks and magic “issues” (that’s what I’ll call them for now). And then someone asks me for a snack for the 4,478th time and I realize that I had a deeply rooted need to create a certain magical item that cooks an entire dinner instantly. (Not a microwave. And not hotdogs. Actual, nice food.)

I think of the themes of the story, how they feel so close to me and too big for me to write about at the same time. How this book is stretching me in terrifying ways, pulling me out of myself and calling me home a little bit too.

I guess it’s finding the ways that writing doesn’t just help me escape reality for a little bit, but maybe help me process, enjoy, mourn, or protest parts of it. Yes, life is hard right now. It will be for a while. And I don’t really know what the other side will look like either.

In the meantime I’m still trying to be a little creative every day until this story shows me a clear path again. I hope, if it’s what you need, that you can too.

Yours in the Journey,


P.S. This is an excerpt from my monthly newsletter. Next month will include lots of fun things, including some amazing people I’ve ‘met’ through Instagram, more book deals, and an excerpt from one of my WIPs. If that sounds like your jam, you can sign up here.

Books and Stories

September Book Deals

Hi friends, this month I have two children’s books and a slew of cheap fantasy ebooks for you (free if you have Kindle Unlimited). These deals will end September 30th or sooner, so don’t wait too long! Remember, even when you download a free story or book (such as a reader magnet), you are supporting indie authors. Thanks so much!

Across the Universe and Back Again
Molly Waits Her Turn
Lulu Tiger Goes to the Grocery Store
A Writer's Journey

Summer Musings

This blog used to see a lot more posts. In recent months, writing books has taken priority over this space, and I haven’t felt the pull to blog in a long time. I can only do so much on social media, which is fine with me (although you probably wouldn’t want to ask me for marketing or platform advice, if you’re looking to make it big).

But in the month since publishing my book, naturally, I’ve had a little less energy and focus for writing. I say naturally because after all the editing, formatting, initial promoting, etc that goes into indie publication (or self-publishing—maybe not so much of an anathema as it used to be), my creative well was pretty low. And again, it’s totally fine and normal. I just went through the author’s equivalent to giving birth and let me tell you, just like every mom feels more like herself at a different rate, the same is true for this whole process of birthing a book for an author.

Insert whatever metaphor for writing/publishing you like, but now that the big push is over and I’m slowly trying my hand at promoting the thing, I find a have a little mental space for writing smaller pieces again. I miss rambly little slice of life posts. In between feeding people, cleaning up, getting our house ready to paint, and an upcoming brief vacation to mountains and cooler temps, writing still creeps through the cracks. I am slowly working on a sequel for A Land of Light and Shadow. No idea if that will come next, because I’ve also been working on a book that is currently with a few kind friends willing to read the tangled mess it still is and offer feedback. I have also been working on an idea for what I hope will be a short novel and several short stories.

This seems to be the ebb and flow of creativity for me: alternate between small projects until one of them demands to have my full attention. Reach the end of a draft. Go back to alternating between small spurts of other projects. Jump into another marathon project. Repeat.

This month, I have taken two additional measures to help refill my creative well. I’m taking a break from social media until my intuition tells me it’s time to go back. It’s only been a week. Will it be the whole month? Another week? I don’t know. But it’s been necessary not just for creativity in writing but in my relationships as well. There’s a lot of information and noise out there. Sometimes being able to pull away is a privilege, but it can also be a way to reconnect with what is foremost in life. It’s ok to go small in order to refocus. It’s even necessary.

I’ve also been reading a lot. This year I challenged myself to read 5 nonfiction books. Since I’ve already read 4,  I’m upping the ante to 8 books. And, I’m enjoying lots of good fiction. Cheers to library pick up!


Just some lovely greenery from July so far. It’s so hot, but we have pleasant evenings here and there.

A Writer's Journey · My Stories and Poems


Hello Friends!

As many of you know, I published my book at the end of May. I added a widget for it on my website, but since that doesn’t show up on mobile devices (and kind of deserves its own post, anyway), here is the ‘official’ blog announcement:

That’s right, A Land of Light and Shadow is now out in the world. (Cue confetti and happy tears)

From the back cover:

An expedition goes terribly wrong. Tremors shake the land. Something forgotten sleeps in the ravine…and one girl awakens ancient and hidden powers.

The recent loss of vision in her right eye only motivates Ardin to work harder. After all, the Princess of Sedonia has a lot to live up to, and she loves her country and her parents, dispensing justice alongside them in the castle’s imposing throne room. When someone delivers an unusual statue to the castle, Ardin discovers the forgotten world of magic and her own ability to wield it. But magic is tied to the one place forbidden to all Sedonians: the treacherous ravine. Now she must uncover what really happened in her country’s secret past without compromising her public responsibilities. Can she share the burden of her newly discovered powers, or will they alienate her from those she loves—or worse, endanger them? And can she save Sedonia from a power-hungry magician before he destroys everything she loves?

A middle grade fantasy novel with elements of mystery, friendship, and the search for wholeness, A Land of Light and Shadow by Stephanie Ascough is the story of a girl and her fight to protect everything she loves.

Available on Amazon in paperback and ebook. Coming soon to Smashwords.

I’m so proud of this book. It’s not perfect, but it’s a labor of love, and that’s enough. I truly hope you read it, enjoy it, and are moved by it.

Thanks again to Dawn Davidson for the gorgeous cover art, and to Brooke Bohinc for her tireless editing.

A Writer's Journey · My Stories and Poems · Our World

Lessons from Gatlin

Dear Friends,

I don’t have any profound offerings of wisdom, just gratitude that you’re here. If you’ve been along for a while or are just joining me, then thank you. And as weird as it is to be publishing a book right now, I am excited to say that A Land of Light and Shadow is almost ready to hit the (virtual) shelves!

Last month I shared a few lessons I learned from Ardin. As promised, it’s Gatlin’s turn. He’s certainly more easy-going than his cousin. But Gatlin has more depth to him than some people might guess when they first meet him, and here’s what he’s shown me:

~You can always find a different angle.

~Never give up on the people you care about. 

~Don’t forget to have fun!

Fun can seem frivolous, especially during times of crisis. But I think the gift of playfulness reminds us that we are moving, dynamic beings, both bodies and spirits. Playfulness can help us experience wholeness and healing. I’m grateful for all the people like Gatlin who have demonstrated or reminded me of this.

I hope you can move in meaningful, healing ways. 

With you in the journey,


From top left:
Princess Ardin of Sedonia, her parents Queen Maris and King Orien, and her cousin, Prince Gatlin of Alvar.
A Writer's Journey · My Stories and Poems · Our World

Things my MC Reminds Me of: Ardin from A Land of Light and Shadow

This post is reaching you amid a global pandemic—not words I ever thought I’d write. Chances are, life is very different for you too. Jobs, health, and the economy are just a few things severely affected by the virus. So much remains uncertain.

We all experience change, but a change of this magnitude is unprecedented for generations. Writing is one of my favorite coping mechanisms. As I’ve mentioned on Instagram, I’m a mom suddenly homeschooling my children, and there’s a fine line between coping and escaping. Sometimes I don’t toe the line, I jump over it like my life depends on it. But reviewing edits for A Land of Light and Shadow has given my characters the chance to remind me of many gems that have helped me in this strange, mundane, often anxiety-ridden time. I’d like to share them with you.

Ardin, too, experiences great turmoil in her story. She’s wrestling with big changes that she didn’t ask for, changes that demand a lot from her, and she’s not always sure she can deliver. There are her inner fears and doubts as well as outer pressure to fill the role of Princess of Sedonia. But through the story, she learns, grows, and even flourishes.

Through encountering mystery and old secrets long forgotten, she learns not to fear what she doesn’t know, but instead, to embrace it.

Through the actions of others and her own reflecting, she learns that she can allow trusted friends into her journey.

And through everything, she learns there is so much more to her than she ever imagined.

May Ardin’s journey inspire yours, friend.


P.S. This is an excerpt from my newsletter. If you’d like to sign up for it, you may do so here.


A Writer's Journey · Our World

Ordinary Enchanted Escalators

Could there be anything more magical than an escalator leading to books?
(Image courtesy of WordPress)

Do you ever notice the escalators?

I’ve found a new podcast (more on that below) that takes a close look at the Harry Potter books. Yes, it’s every bit as fun as it sounds. One thing the hosts do every episode is examine one random line from the story. The line from the last episode I listened to was this one: 

“Up another escalator, out into Paddington station; Harry only realized where they were when Hagrid tapped him on the shoulder.” *

There were so many excellent things the hosts pulled from this one line, but I kept going back to that escalator. We don’t often think of escalators as a transport from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Well, maybe we did as kids. As adults, it’s easy for us to become focused on the mundane things before us. But how often do we notice the escalators?

At this point in Harry’s story, he’s just seen amazing things in Diagon Alley with Hagrid, who is probably his first real friend, and now he’s back in a familiar station. He’s probably ridden escalators before. But maybe he’d never thought of an escalator taking him to someplace new.

Sometimes for me, my escalator looks like reaching the end of a rough draft and discovering a hidden theme. The theme was there all along, waiting for me to notice it, and even though it means more rewriting, it’ll be worth it. Sometimes my escalator is the dirt road by my house. Instead of Hagrid tapping me on the shoulder asking if I’d like a bite to eat, there is a three-year-old calling me to look at the 50th stone he’s found, his little voice full of excitement and urgency. The question is, will I pay attention?

How about you? What are your escalators? If you’d like, leave a comment and tell me about them. I’d love to hear from you, as always.

*Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, chapter 5, if you’re interested.

Books and Stories · The World We Live In

Currently Reading

I only finished reareading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last month. I’m still reading Beads and Strands, which I’m finding very rich and stirring spiritually. Below is a quote that really stood out to me. 

“Ideologies that capture people’s being and lead them to believe that ideas are more important than people, become idols, and where an idol reigns there is no room for God and therefore no room for that shalom, that wholeness of life that occurs and recurs in contemporary African theology as a prayer and a hope.”

~ Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa.

May we see where we hold ideas above people and change, and may we speak out when we see systems that use ideologies to keep people trapped.

Speaking of reading, since it is Black History Month, I wanted to share links to two of my favorite short stories from the anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora edited by Sheree R. Thomas. The first story is The Comet by W.E.B Du Bois, about a black man and a white woman who survive a natural disaster. The second is Chicago 1927 by Jewelle Gomez, a story of a remarkable woman with special powers. I highly recommend Thomas’s anthology too; it includes essays on race and speculative fiction as well as a variety of stories. Read and enjoy!

The Comet by W.E.B. Du Bois. This is an e-book of his entire book Darkwater with links to each individual short story.

Chicago 1927 by Jewelle Gomez. This is an excerpt from Gomez’s short story. It’s so amazing, I hope you can find and read the rest of it.

P.S. I shared more about Beads and Strands on Instagram, too.