This is Why I Think I’m Done with Online Dating


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Cristian Newman

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Cristian Newman

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with an intelligent, tall, handsome man my age… Online… eHarmony.com to be exact.

Over the past few years years, several people – including, more recently, my therapist – have recommended dating sites as a way to meet a potential “life partner,” since I’ve not had much luck with that in real life to date. Don’t get me wrong, I know A LOT of men who fit the bill – both in my religious/spiritual circle and co-workers. But (apparently) no mutual attractions…unless these guys are REALLY shy…and if they’re my age and shy, well… I’m not the woman for them.

So a few months ago I renewed my lax eHarmony membership and also joined match.com. (Two such sites should be sufficient, right?) I had a few “bites” and interactions on both sites, but nothing really blipped on my radar until this particular guy.

We went through a few rounds of the getting to know you questionnaires on the site and I was becoming cautiously optimistic. His answers in the latest round were quite nice and complimentary of my profile & photos…he’s attracted to me, yada, yada, yada… (Maybe I should’ve allowed my cynical side to the forefront at that point?) So when I responded with my answers to his questions, I naturally expected that we would venture into the next level of communication. Later that day, I received a notification that he’d read my responses. So I was awaiting his reply.

After a couple hours, I checked my messages and discovered that “he’s moved on.” The man obviously didn’t like something I said or the way I said it…would’ve been nice to know what it was…I’m not ashamed to admit that I took it personally (because, well, it WAS personal). I had already become emotionally invested in this guy I met online and knew next to nothing about. And then eHarmony proceeds to tell me something to the effect of: but that’s okay, because you’re closer to finding the one. (Way to be sympathetic, eHarmony.)

Online DatingReally? Just because HE isn’t “the one,” doesn’t mean any of the other guys you’ve “matched” me with will be “the one” either. Frankly, the idea of meeting someone online instead of in real life and trying to build a relationship with no real-world-in-person connection – or worse, when a guy says “Hi, I like your pics. Want to get together this weekend?” (Umm…NO! Where’s the foreplay?!) – makes me feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff over a bottomless pit with no safety line. (Dramatic, yes… Have you met me?) It’s enough to know that finding “the one” means putting a large portion of my happiness in human, fallible hands. (I have trust issues…just in case you didn’t figure that out already…) Sure, I have lots of online male friends – on Facebook, for example – whom I’ve never met in real life, but the potential is always there to do so someday. Meanwhile, we’re getting to know each other without the pressure of time. I’ve known people for whom the online introduction and relationship building has worked and is still working. But I have a feeling that, as much as the idea appeals to me (after all, it’s simply a modern, cyber version of mail order brides and grooms), I may not be one of those people for whom it works.

I’m not sure how I’ll meet “the one,” or if I ever will…or if there’s even “the one” out there for me. Any number of things may have happened to him…or he may not exist other than in my imagination…I may have to travel half-way around the world to meet him (which would be fine with me, actually)…he may be married to someone else (very depressing possibility). God knows I’d like to meet “the one,” partly (okay, mostly) because quite often being a single woman of a certain age (42, if you must know) with a healthy sex drive SUCKS EGGS. (Have you ever tried to suck an egg? Especially a raw one? Very messy and unsatisfying.) But somehow I feel that if he’s out there, I’m destined to meet him in real life rather than via a network of wires and Ethernet. Or at least, if I meet him online initially, I think it’ll be through a mutual acquaintance or some such.

I think I’m done with online dating. I prefer the “organic” method: letting events play out naturally, without forcing them. Maybe I’ll meet “the one” during a stroll in a park or down a sidewalk or in a bookstore. Until then, I’ll do my best to leave it in God’s hands (a big deal for me, because faith and patience aren’t two of my best traits…but since my first foray into marriage ended in disaster, I’m determined not to make the same mistake again)…which, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts, is really the best place to leave my future husband.🙂

Have you ever tried online dating? If yes, did it work for you? If no, why not? Please leave comments below.

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Filed under Anxiety, Life, Musings, Online Dating, Relationships, Romance, Sarcasm, Writing

Guest Post: Write Whatever the Hell You Want by Lindsay Fischer


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Green Chameleon

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Green Chameleon

Right this second I’m lying on my love seat. It’s 85 degrees beyond my walls, with land-locked, staggering humidity. Frankly, I’ve never had any desire to be in a sauna. I’ve never rushed to one at the gym, never enjoyed the times I’ve been convinced to go in and sit in my own sweat, and I don’t anticipate this ever changing, which is why I’m inside right now, a blanket tossed over my legs while my bulldog, Frank, snores away the afternoon.

I’ve been writing more lately but that’s not saying much. More is a subjective term I’m tossing out to make it appear I’ve been useful. Just last month I barely let my fingers dance, my creativity abbreviated by life’s circumstances. Now, I’m pushing, resisting the urge to say I’m waiting for inspiration or some other garbage excuse for why I’m not doing what actually fills up my soul.

Last night I wrote a blog about what it meant to be real. It was my third attempt at a blog I was asked to write in early May. In truth, the first two sucked. They were both disingenuous attempts to appease a new audience, something I fight like hell not to do with my words, but when a new person wants my words on their page – well – I sometimes forget that my biggest strength as a writer is my voice.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we should be doing. Are my metaphors up to snuff? Have I sufficiently combined both long and short sentences to avoid monotony? Are my darlings dead?

So easy, in fact, it’s really difficult to keep your voice intact when you’re trying to write the next great American anything. I mean, honestly, why do we have to believe our writing is worthy of such praise anyway? Can’t we just let it be what it is and reach who it’s supposed to?

When I started writing my first (and only, right now) memoir, I convinced myself I needed to prove I could write a damn-good book to my former colleagues, my former students, my haters. Instead of writing in a stylistically complimentary way, I did what I thought I *should* do, and it took me 6 months to remove my head from my ass.

And I doubt I ever really “proved my prose.”Lindsay - Self Sabotage

That’s when I realized something:

My talent isn’t in using elevated language or literary devices. It’s in speaking to my audience as if they are sitting on this couch with me, fuming at the thought of having their bangs plastered to their foreheads the second they step outside, certain their upper lips will sweat instantly, too. They hear which words are emphasized because I’m serving up stories like a sermon. They trust me because I’m honest, and that, my friends, needs no fluffing.

My truth, my realness, and my unapologetic stance on just being me is what sells me, not only as a writer, but I’m fairly certain it’s what brings amazing people into my life, too.

Instead of sitting still and telling myself I can’t get good enough words out, I’m talking about it, writing this post like it’s exactly what’s meant to come from me today. No other words matter, no other projects take precedence.

We all deserve to find our strengths as writers and play to them. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow through writing more, but if your fear of being inadequate freezes up production then it’s time to go back to your roots and remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place.

For me? It was catharsis: a chance to purge emotion and connect with others who understand.

Self-sabotage is the old friend we haven’t let go of because they’ve been around too long. You might know it doesn’t serve you but you can’t cut ties because you’re bonded. Trust me on this, that shit is toxic and turns you away from the things you love most.

Divorce it.

Dig deep.

Write whatever the hell you want.

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Lindsay Fischer HeadshotAfter surviving domestic violence (and three years of trauma therapy), Lindsay Fischer saw an opportunity to use her voice against abuse, blogging as Sarafina Bianco since 2009. She revealed her identity in 2015 when her memoir, The House on Sunset, was released, and she now speaks on behalf of trauma survivors on national stages.

Website: http://www.survivorswillbheard.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/linsfischer

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/survivorswillbeheard

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Filed under Blogging, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Literature, Published, Writing

Guest Post: From Size 0 to Size Mom. And Proud of it. By C. Streetlights


I won’t ever be size 0 again, and that’s probably okay. Maybe.

I will be turning 40 at the end of this year and I am slowly accepting the changes in my body that age does to a woman. It’s the age when our bodies turn against us and we come a sort of featured special on the Nature Channel entitled: “When Host Systems Attack.”

I was once one of the girls who other girls longed to be – the type who could eat an entire order of chili cheese fries from Volcano Burger and still want a chocolate shake, not even caring because she knew it would all burn off by dinner time. The horrible trade-off (in my teen-aged mind) was that I was all angles and knees with no boobs. Well, no boobs compared to some others. At that age, or even younger, it was the tale of what we didn’t have compared to what someone else did.

I took my weight for granted during those years. For that matter, I took the entire concept of a healthy lifestyle for granted. Exercise? Hell no; that means sweating. And effort. And probably planning. Eating healthily? Why would I eat fruit and vegetables when God created cheese and the burgers to put it on?

Once I was married, though, my body gave me hints of what was to come. It was like The Christmas Carol but completely different because I’m not Scrooge and this isn’t England. I never gained “The Freshman 15” in college but I definitely gained it as a newlywed thanks to cheap, starchy eating based on our budget and a little special something called the birth control pill. In my young 20-something mind, I thought this was close to the end of the world, bringing my weight from 100 pounds to 115. (I know, I know, don’t yell at me.) But while I was still weighing in at a healthy and normal weight, it still meant no longer fitting in my clothes and that always screws with your head.

exercise-machinesSeveral life events struck me all at once which only added more weight on my body: a busy teaching schedule, a full-time master’s degree, a new baby, and most importantly, my laziness. Sure, I could’ve done something about my weight during any one of these life events, but honestly I just wanted to drink my Dr. Peppers and eat chocolate cream pie. Who wouldn’t? It was bad enough that I had to walk all the way up and down a hill to my car just to get to and from my apartment; why add exercise to that mix? It was a small hill, but still.

However, deep down I knew it was time to drop the weight. My baby entered kindergarten so I couldn’t genuinely call it baby weight anymore. We bought a treadmill with the new house so I mostly enjoyed that. Soon I was running and when I didn’t have to get off of it in order to use the bathroom (all mothers understand this), I could run at pretty good clip.

I can’t run outside. I have sensitive ears. Long story.

When I met my goal weight, the only people excited for me were my family and doctor because the reality is everyone else is a member of a club called the We Hate Success Club. You discover who holds a membership card pretty quickly once you succeed in something you’ve worked hard at and these other people are dicks about it. Soon after, the club president cornered me in her office and accused me of going through a midlife crisis. Because you know, a woman in her early-30s who loses weight is obviously going through some sort of transcendental crisis. The vice president just plainly accused me of having an eating disorder while in the faculty room. Because you know, this is always The Best Tactic to use when exhibiting concern for someone who has an eating disorder.

Actually, it isn’t. Don’t do that. Ever.

In truth, I learned pretty quickly that when it comes to weight your goat is roasted if you gain weight and your goat is roasted if you lose it. No matter what, nobody will be happy with how you look so you might as well be happy for yourself. Overall health should always be the key factor, not the hope that others will be super thrilled for you. Because the dicks from The We Hate Success Club will be at your door, and they won’t bring you a plate of cookies. They only bring sour grapes.

Now that I’ve had my second child – almost 5 years ago – you can bet that I am back at the starting line again. Except this time, I’ve got my age and a bad hip against me. Again, my clothes don’t fit and I face the timeless battle women everywhere face in dressing rooms all over the world: Do I suck it up and go up a size, or do I just go get a Cinnabun and call it a day?

The one activity I did enjoy – running – is no longer an option to me and so now I have no choice but to just sit on my ass all day writing blogs like these and eat the chocolate chips I have hidden in my bedside table. Right? Right.

I won’t ever be a Size 0 anymore. I’m mostly okay with that because for hell’s sake, why are we even producing clothes at that size anyway? But I’m also mostly okay that at my age it just takes more work to get this body to look how I want it to look. I have to fight for every damn pound I lose and be more creative in how I fool myself into exercise. But that’s all okay too because while I won’t ever be a Size 0 anymore, I will always be a Size Mom and my kids need me to be healthy for them.

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CeeStreelightsAfter writing and illustrating her first bestseller in second grade, “The Lovely Unicorn”, C. Streetlights took twenty years to decide if she wanted to continue writing. In the time known as growing up she became a teacher, a wife, and mother. Retired from teaching, C. Streetlights now lives with her family in the mountains along with their dog that eats Kleenex. Her new memoir, Tea and Madness is now available.

You can follow C. Streetlights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Guest Post, Life, Mental Health, Motherhood, Sarcasm, Writing

Guest Post: The Creative Struggle of (Not) Writing with an ADHD Brain by Melissa Flickinger


  1. A thousand ideas are formed when I am nowhere near a computer. In my mind, I can form complete blog posts, plan out entire story plots in vivid detail, and create poetry. Of course, this all happens when I am doing things like washing the dishes or folding laundry. By the time I get to the computer to write my thoughts down, the words stop flowing.

2. Staring at the blank screen becomes frustrating, so I attempt to force myself to write something – ANYTHING – down.

3. I begin to re-evaluate my decision to become a writer. Why continue to torture myself with day dreams of ever finishing that novel (which has been my New Year’s Resolution for the past three years, BTW). I can’t even write a blog post – I have forgotten how to form complete sentences and I am too distracted to form a solid topic. I should be cleaning, cooking, exercising, listening to music… ya know, anything but writing.

4. I quit. I turn off the computer and walk away before I throw it across the room. Time to go out for a walk and clear my mind.

5. Out for a walk, three miles away from home: I just had a great idea for a blog post!

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13288266_1715753882007533_1321014121_oMelissa Flickinger is a book marketing manager and author assistant. She co-hosts #BookMarketingChat, lead by author and social media expert Rachel Thompson, each Wednesday 6pm PST/9pm EST on Twitter.

Melissa studies Creative Writing and Human Relations and is a lover of all things pumpkin. She enjoys long walks along the Mississippi River and black coffee. She lives with her family in Southeastern Iowa.

Blog: M.L. Flickinger
Facebook: Facebook
Twitter: Twitter

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Guest Post: Who Cares if the Wrong Person Went to Prison? by @bobmueller


Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

Someone else was released from prison last week after serving time for a crime they didn’t commit. This one served 19 years. The one last month served 23. Or was it 20? And the average time behind bars is 14 years. The stories come so often these days that we’re in danger of becoming numb to them, because they all sound the same. A black man (and statistically it’s more likely to be a black male), wrongfully convicted of a violent crime, released due to DNA evidence that negated an eyewitness identification, or a false confession, or faulty evidence.

The National Registry of Exonerations, a statistics project of the University of Michigan Law School, reports 1,777 exonerations nationwide as of April 27, 2016. Black men make up just over 46% of those exonerations. 116 of them were on death row. That means the State came close to killing the wrong man.

But so what? Why do I care?

Why should you care?

Because the State could kill the wrong person.

And if the wrong person is in prison, then the “right” person is still out there committing crimes.

Wrongful convictions in general are a bad thing, but at least they can release the wrong person, throw some money at them (in some states), and let them at least try to move on with their life.

But it’s hard to do that for a dead person.

Far too many states don’t do anything for a wrongfully convicted person when they get released from prison. Some of these people have been imprisoned for more than half of their lives. Many have no clue what the internet is or does. They may have never held a cellphone. They don’t get any chance to catch up on modern life. One former inmate in North Carolina received 10 minutes’ warning that he was being released.

In 24 states, they won’t get any compensation for the loss of their lives. They get nothing to try and pay them back for the missed birthdays, graduations, weddings, and funerals. Others require them to file a court claim to recover any money. That’s hard to do when you’re broke. Oklahoma caps its compensation at $175,000 no matter how long someone was incarcerated. Louisiana, home to one of the most overworked and poorly supported public defender systems in the country, caps its compensation at $150,000. Alabama requires the state legislature to authorize the compensation, but they at least provide a reasonable amount of minimum $50,000 per year.

Adding insult to injury, up until December 2015, that compensation that you had to fight for was taxed federally. Thanks, Obama.

What all this means is that the State first spent a bunch of money to put someone in prison. But then the State has to give that person a bunch of money because oops, we goofed. Sorry about that.

You know where that money comes from though. It’s not “The State.”

It’s you.

That compensation – if it’s paid – comes from you, and me, and everyone else who pays their taxes, expecting the State to get it right when they send someone to prison. Imagine what the city of Tulsa could have done with the $8 million they recently paid out on a wrongful conviction case.

In the meantime, while you’ve been stuck in prison, trying not to get beaten, raped, shaken down by the guards or the gangs, or just struggling to survive, the real bad guy has been out there, still committing crimes.

The Innocence Project points out that in the 337 exonerations they’ve accomplished, the real perpetrator has been found in 140 cases, or just over 41% of the cases. Their research indicates at least 130 violent crimes could have been prevented had the actual offender been properly identified the first time. I think it would be interesting for one of those victims to sue the agency that convicted the wrong person, thus allowing them to be victimized. Maybe I should talk to John Grisham about that one.

130 violent crimes. Robberies. Rapes. Murders. All preventable.

130 other victims.

130 other people.

And that’s just based on the 337 exonerations achieved by the Innocence Project. Imagine how many could have been prevented if the 1,777 national exonerations had all gotten it right the first time.

So why should you care if the State puts the wrong person in prison?

Because the real bad guy could still be out there, hurting people.

Maybe someone you love.

Maybe you.

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RBM Full Headshot 480x600Bob Mueller is a teller of stories. They sound like thrillers in his head. He puts himself in someone else’s shoes, teases out their feelings, blends that with bits and pieces of history and life experience, and crafts a story that might have been inspired by a song or a news story. But it’s about emotions in the end. Published under Booktrope’s Gravity Imprint, Bob is a member of International Thriller Writers, Tulsa NightWriters and Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, a father of eight, and a pastor’s husband. His novel The Sad Girl is available now from Amazon. You can also find him at http://www.bobmuellerwriter.com, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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Filed under Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Politics, Writing

Impatience and Equanimity


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Lia Leslie

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Lia Leslie

 

A shroud of silence

       envelops me

            as I watch the scene, the images

                 materialize.

            beneath your knowing hand

The vibrant shades on your canvas

                           haunt me.

 

I feel the sharp stroke of your sable brush

            as you connect the jagged edges

                      of our banter.

Your graceful hand moves

            slowly, leisurely

                      across my being.

Gaps

            linger in the pattern

                 of us.

 

Impatient

               I speak sharply;

               annoyed by your

                              equanimity.

You smile gently;

               slow is good,

                    you reply.

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Filed under Life, Musings, Poetry, Writing

Guest Post: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps You Thrive by Rachel Thompson


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.

It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.

Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).

I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.

That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.

It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!

Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.

I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.

My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!

The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).

I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.

**********************************************

Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelThompson
Facebook Broken Pieces Fan Page:https://www.facebook.com/BrokenPiecesByRachelThompson
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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Depression, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Mental Health, Published, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: Birthing a Book by Beth Schulman


Birthing a Book Image

Writing and publishing my memoir was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was heart-wrenching, messy and full of stress. It was also cathartic and rewarding beyond measure. Life-changing.  A lot like becoming a mother. In fact the experience was so similar to getting pregnant and giving birth, I could create a Venn Diagram to illustrate my point (this will only make sense to fellow elementary school teachers). Instead, I’ve crafted a list.

  1. IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT APPEARS:You spend a decade of your life trying desperately not to get pregnant. When you’re finally ready to become a mother, you think it’ll be a piece of cake. Just stop taking birth control and poof, you’ll become pregnant. Well, anyone who’s struggled with fertility issues knows this isn’t true. I kept a private journal for over 10 years, recording the scenes from my childhood.  When I finally felt ready to weave those scenes into a book, I assumed it wouldn’t take that long. It took three years of committed writing time to produce something of substance.
  2. FALSE LABOR:You go to the doctor when you’re 8 1/2  months pregnant, feeling sure the baby will be delivered within the hour.  After being examined you learn you are only one centimeter dilated and the doctor sends you home.  You feel depressed and defeated. When I submitted my manuscript to my editor for the first time, I felt like I’d nailed it. I anxiously awaited his response. When he came back to me, the news wasn’t good.  I had to do a complete rewrite. 
  3. REGRET: After being told the baby isn’t ready, you go home and cry. Your feet are swollen and your belly resembles a rock hard, oversized watermelon. You are tired and cranky. You begin to question your decision to become a mother. You suddenly feel completely ill-equipped for the job. But it’s too late. When I reread my memoir and started to make the many changes my editor suggested, I felt overwhelmed. The more I looked at the words on the page, the more I questioned why I’d taken this on. Who was I to think I could pull this off? I wasn’t a writer.  I was a kindergarten teacher. But I was too far in to back out.
  4. RELIEF: Your water breaks and now you’re sure this is really going to happen. You drive to the hospital feeling both elated and terrified.  When my editor reread my revised manuscript, he sent me a text saying I’d done the hard work and it was time to send it off to the proofreader. It wouldn’t be long now. My book would indeed be “delivered.” 
  5. LABOR AND DELIVERY: You experience pain at a level you never knew existed. Then you get the epidural and it’s not so bad. The next step was sending it off to the layout and design team. I agonized over letting it go, worried about whether it was “ready” for publication, but with the release, came great relief. 
  6. PURE JOY: You hold that tiny miracle in your arms and you are overcome with joy. You feel a sense of pride and accomplishment you’ve never felt before.  You want everyone to meet your beautiful baby!  This is exactly how I’ll felt when I held my book, The Gold Mailbox, in my hands for the first time. I couldn’t wait for readers to meet “my baby!”

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Beth Schulman author photoMs. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer.  She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years.  Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997.  Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book.

 

The Gold Mailbox cover2

“This dazzling and moving memoir is a roller coaster of loss and transition, held together by the reminder that love and family run deeper than we ever imagine. Written in gorgeous prose, this ultimately uplifting tale will have you savoring every page.”

Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

 

Visit Beth’s website: http://bethschulman.com

Facebook: Beth Schulman Author

Twitter: @bschulmanauthor and @authorbethschul.

 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literature, Survivors, Thankful, Writing

Ode to a Dear Friend Who Lives in a Bottle


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Carli Jean

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Carli Jean

 

You became my best friend

Though I didn’t know you for long

A mutual acquaintance introduced us,

          thought we’d work well together.

You comforted me through my illness

          made it more endurable.

I spent as much time with you as I could

          while careful to avoid accusations of “forgetting old friends.”

 

And then one day without warning you were

          GONE!

I was bewildered and hurt; was it something I had done, something I said?

I went to all your old haunts

          You weren’t there; left no forwarding address.

Asked those I thought would know where to find you; they didn’t.

I was desperate; the illness

          was unbearable without you

So I turned to other assistance

          Anything to stop the pain; but it wasn’t the same

For months, I felt lost without you

          Nowhere I looked, could I find you

 

Then yesterday, I revisited one of your old spots

and looked for you, on a whim.

          There you were!

Your beloved features beaming at me.

I laughed and cried and greeted you with a grin

 

At last! We’re together again

My dear, beloved,

          Excedrin Migraine!

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Filed under Anxiety, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Poetry, Random, Thankful, Writing

This is Why Your Books Aren’t Selling: 4 Ways to Improve Now by @BadRedheadMedia


 Your Books Aren’t Selling

“My sales are awful, and I’ve done everything. I give up.” 

I heard this from three authors this week, and it’s not an uncommon sentiment right now. As an imprint director, book manager and book marketing consultant, my first questions are always:

  • What do you mean by everything?
  • How do you define “awful?”
  • What do you mean by ‘giving up?’

Let’s deconstruct four ways to improve on that!

1) What Is ‘Everything’ RE: Book Marketing?

Your definition of ‘everything’ and my definition are probably quite different. When I asked one of these authors what he’d done, he said he’d:

  • placed a few Facebook ads,
  • sent out a bunch of tweets during his free days,
  • placed a FreeBooksy promo (cost: $45). That’s about it.

To me, that’s barely scraping the bare minimum of ‘hardly anything,’ but in his mind, that’s more than he’d ever done! When I asked him what he had achieved in his marketing plan, he replied: what marketing plan?

I asked this author some of these questions, to which he answered, “no.” How about you:

  • Are you consistently on social media building relationships with readers, sharing great content, blogging and commenting on other bloggers’ sites?
  • Do you know what your keywords and branding are? 
  • Have you optimized all your social bios? Are your graphics high quality, hi-res, and consistent?
  • Growing your followings through targeted keywords? Not spamming links, but interacting and networking? 
  • Have you bought your domain, and optimized your website for SEO and SMO? Do you know your Alexa Ranking and Website grade?
  • Are you advertising?
  • Are you approaching book bloggers (politely) for reviews?
  • Participating in weekly Twitter chats and blog memes like #MondayBlogs and #LinkYourLife?
  • Do you belong to Facebook Groups where you can share ideas and partner up with other writers to promote each other? 
  • Do you regularly visit the Help Sections of all the social media channels to learn how to use them correctly? 

If the answer is no to any or all, you have work to do. You’re not doing everything, and you know it.

Again, not uncommon. Here’s the thing: art is work, to paraphrase Patti Smith. You’ve taken what, six months to two years to write your book, pouring your heart into this work. You’ve (hopefully) worked with a professional editor, graphic designer, formatter, and proofreader, and now that your book is live, you expect to sit back and watch the sales roll on in.

Wait, what?

2) Marketing Your Books is Not An Option

Why? Where does this outrageous expectation come from? I just do not get it. Writers are not dumb. Why do they think marketing is an option?

In what job in the world do you do zero work and make money?

A few tweets and an ad here and there does not create a consistent author platform, which is what this author needs — what every authors needs. This is how we meet readers, bloggers, and other influencers. This is how they find us, where the all-important word-of-mouth storm begins to swirl.

I suggested he rethink his author platform completely, create a robust marketing plan which he then implement, and lose the expectation that writing books is all about, and only about, selling books. One book will very, very rarely create an entire career for an author — and even those who do achieve those heights (Donna Tartt, The Secret History, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation) still go on to write more books, eventually.

I’ve worked with many authors who feel their job is only to write, and expect to do zero marketing; they feel that once they sign with a traditional or hybrid publisher, the publisher will do all their marketing for them. Big Fat Lie. The reason I have a business is because I have many traditionally published clients who are signed by those big publishers and guess what? They hire me to help them market and do their social media because their publisher does so very little marketing, if any, for them.

Do the work.

Photo source: Unsplash.com

Photo source: Unsplash.com

3) Define ‘Awful’ and Now Improve

One author sells twenty books every day and is upset because she used to sell fifty. One is distraught because she’s only selling five per day and she used to sell ten. Another has sold ten in six months. Your definition of awful is going to be different than anyone else’s, and depending on Amazon’s latest policy or algorithm change, awful can mean different things to different people.

It’s always good to keep an eye on your daily sales, but we can also become obsessed with it. My advice, take it or leave it from one who knows (I have five books out myself), is to check your sales once weekly — no more than that. This is enough to give you an idea of what’s happening during that period of time, analyze any trends, and adjust your marketing efforts. (If you are in the midst of a promotion however, feel free to check them more often, of course.)

4) Should You Ever ‘Give Up?’

  1. There is no ‘Sell By’ date on books anymore, really…especially eBooks. If you look at my third book, Broken Pieces, released in 2013, it’s currently in the #1 spot on Amazon’s paid Women’s Poetry list — and it’s been sitting pretty there since November for a few reasons you can read about here.

If you choose to give up, that’s ultimately your choice. I hear from authors all the damn time who give me every excuse as to why readers aren’t reading them, but when I ask them the questions in that list above, the answers are always ‘no, I haven’t done any of that, but…’

Oh, okay.

I can tell you this: as the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, the books that sell the most are where the authors are doing everything on that list above — they interact with readers, build their platform, generously share others’ posts and content, blog consistently, and have a clear, strong message. Take a look here at H.M. Jones, Lindsay Fischer and Lisa Douthit — their books are fabulous, all have built strong advocacy platforms (for postpartum depression, domestic abuse survivors and wellness, respectively), and they do the work. If you’d like to learn more about all the amazing Gravity authors, please visit our website!

Writing and marketing ourselves, our brand, goes hand in hand — it’s not one or the other. Writing more books will help gain you visibility, of course. The most successful authors are prolific, having at least five to ten books out — so keep at it. We are authors first. You don’t need a degree in marketing to market, just as you don’t need an MFA to write. You simply need to improve upon what you’re already doing.

It’s really not as difficult as some folks make it: step up, be smart, do the work.

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Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington PostThe San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, IndieReader.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Award-winning bestsellers Broken Places, and Broken Pieces, Mancode: ExposedA Walk In The Snark (published by Booktrope)

Media consultant, Huffington Post Books blogger, creator #MondayBlogs #SexAbuseChat and #GravityChat on Twitter. 
 
Director, Gravity Imprint (stories of trauma and recovery), Booktrope 
Social Media Director, Authorbytes
Twitter – @RachelintheOC and @BadRedheadMedia 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Marketing, Writing

Are We Being Good Parents or Merely Enablers?


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Liane Metzler

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Liane Metzler

Recently, I’ve seen a few articles related to parenting – mature decisions that some parents have allowed their immature children (for purposes of this post, “child/ren” refers to those humans who are under the age of 15 – I chose 15, because that’s my son’s age) to make – that disturb me as a parent. So I decided to write a post about it, and I have a feeling this is going to be controversial, but SOMEONE has to ask the hard questions and point out the obvious: Are we doing our jobs as parents or are we being enablers? Read on to see what I mean.

  • If your 6-year-old son or daughter wanted to jump off of a bridge into swiftly rushing rapids, would you let them?
  • If your 13-year-old angel baby girl wanted to get pregnant and have a baby of her own, would you let her?
  • If your 9-year-old son who loves sharks wanted to swim within them in the ocean – without a protective cage – would you let him?
  • If you child decided to eat and drink out of the cat’s bowls, pee and defecate in the cat’s bin, sleep on the cat’s bed and walk around on four limbs without any clothes on, meow and hiss instead of using her words – because she believes herself to be a cat – would you allow her to do this?

If you answered no to any of these questions (and I hope you did), then what would be your answer if I asked you this question:

If your 7-year-old daughter decides that she’s a boy, wants all things boy and nothing to do with girl stuff, or if your 9-year-old son decides he’s a girl and wants nothing to do with boy stuff – up to and including an eventual sex change – would you allow them to make those choices?

These are a few of the articles in question: HERE and HERE.

MaturityIf your answer is yes, then I ask you, why? (Let me add a disclaimer right here: I’m not into hate-mongering – neither the parent(s) nor the child. That’s not what this is about. This is about being a parent and deciding when your child is mature enough to make life-altering decisions.) Why would you allow him or her to make such a life-changing, psyche-altering decision if you wouldn’t allow them to do any of the other life-changing, psyche-altering choices I listed above? What child is mature enough, knowledgeable enough, developed enough to understand the consequences for these actions? If they are mature enough to make these decisions – and live with the resulting consequences (because, make no mistake, there WILL be consequences) – then WHY do they need parents at all?

My son would like to skip school and do nothing but play video games or Minecraft on a daily. But because I value education (and because the law requires it) I make him go to school. Yes, I allow him to game some part of most days (after school & homework & any chores I choose to make him do that day), because I believe it’s beneficial for him to learn technology and strategy and have fun. But I don’t allow him to make this decision on his own. He’s not mature enough to make the right decision. How do I know what’s the RIGHT vs the WRONG decision? I don’t. Not for sure. I have to fall back on my own maturity and knowledge – and prayer…lots and lots of prayer – and experience and insight into the world around us to make the decisions that will help my son become a well-rounded, successful, mature man. And that’s often a daunting task.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Sarah Graybeal

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Sarah Graybeal

I understand that parenting isn’t an exact science. My son is 15, and I’m STILL learning what decisions to allow him to make on his own and which decisions he needs made for him…for his own good. Yes, children are people, they are individuals, they are born with free will just like the rest of us. But human children ARE NOT born with the species memory and imprint with which animal young are born.

I think this comes down to ethics and morals. One ethics and moralities question posed to a class I attended years ago was this: There’s a hungry rat and a newborn human baby in an

alley. Which – if either – would you choose to defend? That this is an ethics and moralities question says a lot about our society. And it doesn’t say anything good. There should be no question, no hesitation. My answer will ALWAYS be, the baby. Rats can defend and fend for themselves from an early age. Human children on the other hand, are not born with the knowledge and skills needed to defend or fend for themselves. That’s why they’re given parents. We are their primary teachers. We teach them manners, social interactions, ethics, morals, how to set goals and achieve them, how to shower and dress, how to be kind, but wary of strangers….we are the guardians of their innocence, the protectors of their joy and the comfort for their sorrows. Ours is such a large and daunting privilege and responsibility.

There is so much in the world that is harmful for our children. So many people who want to hurt them and lie to them. Please, let’s protect their innocence, their purity, for as long as we possibly can. They’ll lose it soon enough.

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Filed under Family, Life, Musings, Stuff, Writing

More Practical Tips from a Grammar Goddess


In the past I’ve referred to myself as “Grammar Nazi” and “Grammar Police,” but I much prefer a recent moniker given to me by one of my talented authors: “guru goddess of editing and formatting,” which I’ve shortened to Grammar Goddess. This title implies benevolence and forgiveness, so it suits me quite well. (Stop laughing.)  And it flows off the tongue better than the other terms. Now I just need to create a logo.😉

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue my “Mind You’re Grammar” series. Part I is HERE and Part II (Deux) is HERE. And HERE is a related post about why you shouldn’t be the only editor of your own work. If you haven’t read them already, go ahead and do so. I’ll wait for you to catch up.

*************************************************

By Amador Loureiro

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Amador Loureiro

 

All finished? Ready for the next lesson? Here we go then.

  • “They both” and “We both.” When there are two people in a scene and both are doing the same thing, there’s no need to say “they both” or “we both.” There are only two people. The “both” is implied by “they/we.” Like so: “We decided to go to the movies.” Instead of: “We both decided to go to the movies.” You can USE “both” in this case, but it’s redundant, and if I’m your editor, I’m going to edit out that word. Just so you know.
  • “With his hands raised in the air…” Yes…of course…”raised” implies they’re in the air. If he’s going to hold his hands straight in front of him, you would say “With his hands held in front of him, palms facing me…” or some such. Or if his hands were hanging down by his sides, you would say, “His hands were relaxed, his arms hanging at his sides.” See the difference?
  • Awe vs Awww. I see this SO often, my fingers literally itch to edit…even Facebook posts, which is where I see it most often. Since the “e” is silent in any case, I understand how it can be confusing. That’s why I’m talking about it.🙂 Awe is an expression of reverence. Aw (followed by how ever many ws you want to add (Awwwww) is used to express disgust or disbelief, sentiment or approval.
  • Flea vs flee. I know they sound the same and there’s only one letter difference, so it can be tricky, but a “Flee Market” is so much different than a “Flea Market.” The latter is where you purchase new and gently used goods that other people want to get rid of. The former is a market that I imagine only law enforcement would be interested in attending. (I don’t know why it’s referred to as a “flea” market, since, as far as I know, no one has ever tried to sell actual fleas at a market before.)affect
  • Affect vs Effect. Sneaky words. Only one letter different, but it can make or break the meaning of a sentence. Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun. Like so: “Together, we can affect the world.” And: “The law goes into effect at midnight.” And because the English language just CAN’T be that simple to understand, there are exceptions for both words. Affect can be a noun: “The suspect displayed no affect when confronted with his victims’ accusations.” And effect, when used with an object, can be a verb (this is usually political terminology): “We will effect those changes next week.”

Got all that? Are there any words and/or phrases you have difficulty with in your writing? Feel free to ask questions or leave comments.🙂

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Filed under Editor, Literary, Literature, Proofreader, Writing

My Love Affair with Books: Friends that Never Fail


I’m feeling a bit nostalgic this week, so I thought I would share with you a post I wrote (but never posted) for my old blog back in May 2008. It’s a piece that’s helped to label me “introverted.” I’ve winced quite a bit while rereading this post; it’s clear to me how far I’ve come both in my writing and in my social interactions…and apparently some of my writing has been quite…pompous (a defense mechanism, perhaps), in the past… But I think it’s good to remember from whence we came. So, without any further adieu, and with nothing but minor edits for clarity and grammar made to the original post, here is the almost-8-years-younger Wendy.

* * * * * * * * * *

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Ermin Celikovic

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Ermin Celikovic

 

Once again I am reminded that books are the best friends one can have and perhaps the only tangible thing in which to place one’s trust.

If a book disappoints you, you can throw it away, give it away or sell it, and never have to think about it again, except for the odd moment when you see another book by the same author and wonder if this one will be as disappointing as that other one you had the misfortune to read.

Books can take you places you’ve never been before. They can introduce you to new and exciting people. They can increase your knowledge. They can entertain you for hours or days. If you happen to find several authors whose books form part of a series that you enjoy, then you are indeed most fortunate. You can look forward to the next book in the series, and every once in a while you can re-read the entire series and engage in mindless, effortless entertainment yet again.

Books are my escape, my outlet, my sanity. One of these days I may even write one myself. God knows I have several worlds cluttering up my imagination. A few of them have even started to take shape on paper. They haven’t yet started clamoring for attention, but when they do, I will be ready to tell their tales.

HEMINGWAY-Quotefancy-4056-3840x2160Yes, books are more dependable than people. Books will not scar your soul. They will not betray you to the point that you become more and more cynical with each book. They may move you to tears, but do not usually leave you searching at vulnerable moments for the odd darkly private corner to shed tears of anguish, betrayal and pain.

Books do not tell you, “I don’t want to lose you.” And the silent follow-up, “But neither do I want to talk to you more than once a month, or when I feel the need to let you know that I am still alive and kicking.”

Books do not tell you, “I’m feeling pressured,” and “I’m not saying never, but not right now.” Books do not tell you, “I can’t handle a long-distance relationship.” Books do not hand you the world one day and 3 weeks later, without warning, pull the foundation out from under your feet.

ode to booksBooks offer an unconditional relationship. They do not care if they must come to you. They do not care if you must communicate through Cyberspace. Books do not cringe, think you are needy, desperate or putting undue pressure on them if you need to spend a little more time with them today than you did yesterday.

Books do not tell you that they want a relationship on their terms, but not yours; that they get to set the rules and you get to accept them or risk loss of the relationship. Books will accept you on your terms. Yes, they might “talk back” every once in a while (i.e., do not live up to your expectations or cost more than you are willing to pay – high maintenance), but eventually, they will come around. They are willing to compromise, and won’t make promises they don’t keep.

No one ever says, “Books!” with the same exasperation reserved for a woman who is particularly difficult – i.e. who wants exclusivity in her relationship, who wants a guy to realize that yes, it’s long-distance right now, but it won’t last forever, who wants her guy to tell her that SHE’S WORTH WAITING FOR!!

Yes, books are my best friends. They may not speak to me in the conventional sense, but when my world is falling apart, they help me shore up the walls I allowed to be breached and they, slowly, help restore some semblance of sanity…

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Filed under books, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Reading, Stuff, Thankful, Writing

Is it Depressing to be Single on Valentine’s Day?


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Daria Sukhorukova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Daria Sukhorukova

Being single on Valentine’s Day probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal…or it shouldn’t be. But when you are a romantic at heart and your birthday is on the day popularly known as “Sweetheart’s Day,” it’s rather depressing when you’re single.

As soon as Christmas is over, up go the Valentine’s Day decorations and related merchandise in the stores. So I get to look at it for 2 months. I like the wide selection of chocolates, and even like reading the cards…until I find one I’d love to give to someone…if I wasn’t single…

But you know what’s even MORE depressing? Having a significant other and being unhappy with said significant other. I’ve been in this situation more than once. This year, unless a miracle happens within the week, I will once again be alone.

I decided to look up the lyrics of “Alone Again, Naturally” (by Gilbert O’Sullivan, 1970s, if you’re interested) and consider it for my current theme song. I’ve enjoyed its melancholy sound for years on the radio, but never took the time to learn all the words…except for “alone again, naturally.” However, while parts of it are pretty spot on (depression) sometimes, ISingle-hood2 nixed the idea.

So I’ve determined that this year I won’t be depressed by my single-hood. Because the day is all about ME – and I’m still ME even when it’s JUST me and I’m not part of a duo. I am the only person I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life, so I better enjoy it, eh?😉

I’ve heard friends say lately that they’re “anti V-Day” (not to be confused with either the WWII or The Vagina Monologues references). This makes me sad, because I like to believe that everyone is as romantic as me: Darcy and Elizabeth; Eve and Roarke; Katniss and Peeta; Frodo and Sam (eh, maybe not that one); Jane and Rochester. You get my drift. And as someone who was BORN ON “V-Day,” it would be kind of difficult for me to adopt that stance, unless I chose to stop acknowledging/celebrating my birthday. Since I’m not of the Jehovah’s Witness persuasion (no offense to any who are), that’s not going to happen.

God had a reason for allowing me to be born 2 weeks after my due date (so you don’t have to strain yourself, I’ll help you – I was due on January 31st). Probably so people would remember me.😉 I love myself too much and am too proud of my progress to stop celebrating myself on the day of my birth. So even though my number of “single on V-Day” years outweigh my “in a relationship on V-Day” years (and probably will continue to do so for the foreseeable future), I’ll continue to be hardcore “pro V-Day” till the day I expire. And this year, I think I’m going to be quite vocal about it, because, hey, it’s my BIRTHDAY. It’s all about ME.🙂

And if you want to be a dear and help me celebrate myself on my birthday, I accept gifties (yes, that is a word).🙂

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Filed under Depression, Event, Life, Musings, Writing

Review: Born Survivors by Wendy Holden


Born SurvivorsI don’t remember how or where I first learned about BORN SURVIVORS, but I knew I had to read it. Though I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, the Holocaust is something that draws me. Perhaps because of my Jewish heritage, perhaps because I have Jewish great-uncles who fought in WWII, perhaps it’s because I’ve been to Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory in Krakow, Poland, and toured the Holocaust memorial now housed on that site, and more recently toured the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Florida. Perhaps it’s simply because – despite my cynicism – I’m a compassionate human being, who, like so many others, is horrifically fascinated by the evil things humans can do to one another out of fear and ignorance. Perhaps it’s to learn the lessons of the past and do what I can to be sure they’re not repeated in my own lifetime.

Whatever the reason, I was happy to see several ARCs being offered in a Goodreads Giveaway, and gratified to read the email a few weeks later notifying me that I was one of the winners. The moment the ARC arrived in my mailbox, I devoured it. It took me only 3 days to read this book. And it touched me deeply.

The grace and compassion with which Wendy Holden tells the individual stories of these three young, expectant mothers, strangers to one another, interweaving them when they – unknowingly – come to be held in the same camp – is heart-wrenching and emotional. From their lives prior to the war, through the early days of their marriages, to discovering their pregnancies at almost the same time they’re taken from their respective Ghettos to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, and forced to suffer the terrifying scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele – each praying he won’t discover her pregnancy – then being sent to the same German slave-labor camp where they struggle to conceal their condition while being almost worked to death and half-starved. Their hellish journey culminating in a 17-day train ride with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.

Reading about the endurance of these women, all who lived with the hope they would see their beloved husbands again, and give birth to the longed-for children who nestled secretly in their wombs – one marvels anew at the strength of the human will, and the courage and kindness of strangers, which helped save these women and their children.

Sixty-five years after their rescue along with their mothers, the three children – Mark, Hana, and Eva – born from the debris of their mothers’ broken bodies and shattered lives, met at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the American liberation. In BORN SURVIVORS, Wendy Holden brings these three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the end of the war. Forever will Rachel, Priska and Anka be memorialized within the pages of this book.

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Filed under Book Review, History, Life, Literature, Survivors, Writing

Why Would You Want to Leave Your Publisher?


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Alejandro Escamilla

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Alejandro Escamilla

Trigger Warning: If you’re an author and you’ve separated from your publisher (whomever that may be) for reasons that don’t include them bilking you out of your royalties or author copies or deliberately derailing your career as an author (or, because like me, you wanted to see your book IN PRINT), I’m asking the hard (er…nosy) question: WHY?

(The “trigger warning” is there in case this is still a sore subject with you, so you won’t send me anthrax through the mail or some such in revenge for my “confrontational” post.)

 

Something has been stuck in my craw for several months and I’d like to get it out.

I signed with my publisher, Booktrope, more than 2 years ago. I find myself still happy here. But in those 2 years, other authors – some of whom I consider friends – have decided to leave Booktrope and self-publish. To the best of my knowledge (because this is what some of them gave as their reason), most – if not all – left because of disagreements with their team and/or the management, or because they weren’t selling as many books as they felt they SHOULD be selling. I’ve had both of these issues (not disagreement with management, but with members of my team) at Booktrope, but for me, it’s about the bigger picture: I’m here 1) because I want to see my book(s) in print, 2) to network with readers and other publishing peeps, worldwide 3) learn as much about the publishing world as I can, 4) make enough money to help pay for the gas needed to continue visiting bookstores.

I know something about publishing and self-publishing. I was involved with “desktop” publishing for several years, interned with a publisher for my MA and when I was ready to reveal my book baby to the world, researched self-publishing, while submitting to more than a dozen agents, all of whom rejected my queries, though some offered great advice. While I became good over the years at handling rejection (thanks to years of live theatre auditions, most of which roles went to other auditionees…auditioners?…I digress…), it still isn’t my favorite experience. Especially since I’ve read some of the drivel that’s out there (represented by some of those same agents) and wonder how in the world agents think those authors’ stuff is better than mine! Yes, those books sell, but ONLY because agents’ and publishers’ paychecks (*cough* advances *cough*) are at risk. If those authors had to do their OWN marketing, how popular do you think their books would be compared with our books? And some of OUR books are on International Bestsellers or #1 lists!

Please buy my book!My book’s first home was Northampton House Press, a small press started by my mentors. It was ebook only and I had to provide the cover design, something I knew nothing about.

Sure, I can throw images together into a collage, but I’m not a designer. And I knew how I DIDN’T want the cover to look. I was fortunate to find a newbie designer through deviantart.com and we agreed on a fee that was well within my budget. But my book would never see print because I couldn’t afford to pay for print copies and my sales weren’t exceptional enough for NHP to take a chance on print pub. I had to do ALL my own marketing. (WHERE TO START?!) And despite an undergrad background in mass communication (which includes advertising/marketing and working on a university newspaper), I suck at selling myself. Too much anxiety. And I couldn’t afford a publicist. Ironically enough, I have NO problem promoting or selling other authors’ books. Just my own. Go figure.

My contract with NHP allowed me to seek print publication elsewhere, and Booktrope’s hybrid publishing model was my book’s savior. Best of all, I got a cover designer, and book/project manager and my book IN PRINT AT NO UPFRONT COST to me!! I didn’t care that there was no advance with the contract. I’m not in this business to get rich, but because of my love for the written word and a desire to share that love and my words with others. (It’s an ego thing, you see. *shrugs*) I much preferred – and still prefer – the promise of higher royalties weighed against an advance that my book(s) may never earn out. THAT would be a MORE anxiety-ridden scenario for me.

So, I got a beautiful professionally designed cover AND a marketer who knows what she’s doing. SUCH a load off my back! I CAN market myself, but I need guidance and assistance. For all of my smarts, I don’t know everything (*gasp!* I know, right?!) and sometimes suffer from information overload. Tell me to search out ways to market my book(s) and I may miss something or my brain short-circuit because of SO MANY opportunities. HOW DO YOU KNOW which is/are the right one(s)?! I can afford only so much trial and error. Give me an outline of strategies, THAT I can follow, and breathe a sigh of relief. Speaking of which, Gravity Imprint‘s Melissa Flickinger (Book/Project Manager) & Rachel Thompson (Fearless Leader & Marketing Guru) are always quick to inform we in the Gravity realm of marketing opportunities.🙂 (A little plug here for Rachel’s Marketing Challenge!)

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Negative Space

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Negative Space

So, knowing the cost of all this stuff, WHY, in the name of all that’s holy, do people WANT to self-pub??!! Do they dislike Booktrope THAT much?? Yes, as a self-published author you have almost limitless freedom, but Booktrope’s hybrid model in which you get to PICK your own book/project manager, editor, proofreader and cover designer (unless you’re part of an imprint like Gravity, then you have a shortlist to choose from – but it’s an awesome shortlist!), and you don’t have to worry about their fees BECAUSE THEY GET PAID IN ROYALTIES. Please tell me, where are you going to find a better deal than this? Yes, I offer freelance editing, and several current and former Booktropians have hired me on the side. I have NO problem with this, as it’s extra – ADVANCE!! – mulah in my pocket. But again I ask you, WHY?

As an author, I’m on my 2nd editor, my 2nd BM/PM, and have been through 3 cover designers (at least one who quit without so much as a by-your-leave). And I knew NOTHING going in, other than this awesome publisher was – somehow – going to help me realize my dream of seeing my manuscript in print. I learned as I went and gladly share my knowledge with other newbie authors. When I’ve had an issue with someone – either on my own team or as an editor/proofreader on another author’s team – we’ve either worked it out, or I’ve left the team once the project was finished (I’ve only done this once in 2 years). NOTHING has happened to induce such anxiety and depression that I would choose to leave Booktrope entirely. The management has always been helpful and supportive of/for/to me.

And you know what? I don’t plan to leave Booktrope. Ever. You guys are stuck with me. I’m going to be like white (er…or brown) on rice. Like feathers on birds, and armpit hair…maybe not that one…well, you get the picture. This company is THE BOMB! and has been awesome (I think I use that word too much…) to and for me. My editor resume is growing, my Twitter feed has exploded, my blog and review portfolios are gaining momentum, I’ve made great friends and contacts, I’m part of a kickin’ imprint (Gravity) which I absolutely love and support wholeheartedly, and my royalties are growing.

The grass is plenty green on this side of the fence. So somebody please tell me: WHY would you want to leave?!

…I hope we’re still friends…Have a cookie…

 

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Filed under Blogging, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Literary, Musings, Published, Thankful, Writing

New Year Challenges (Goals for an Improved, Better Me)


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Carli Jean

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Carli Jean

New Year’s Resolutions are a tradition I usually avoid. I’ve tried making them before, but often lose the willpower about mid-February (my birthday month…I wonder if there’s a correlation…) to keep up momentum. However, THIS New Year, I’m determined to continue some of the successes I experienced last year and improve upon my willpower in 2016. After all, the biggest hindrance (and sometimes the ONLY hindrance) to reaching my goals, is ME.

Someone I greatly admire and trust (my pastor) recently said it this way, “One day at a time. We don’t need a successful life, we need a successful DAY. We don’t live year by year, or month by month, or even week by week. We live day by day.”

Mind. BLOWN.

For all of my smarts, I never thought of it quite like that before. It’s rather refreshing and stress-relieving to think of my life – another year in the life of – in 1-day chunks, in which everything is new all over again, instead of as a 365-bunch and we’re cycling downhill from day one.

So, here is my list of “resolutions” for 2016, to be worked on one day at a time:

  1. Be a more consistent parent. People are always telling me I’m a good mother. Sometimes I believe them. But I know that I’ve been lacking in true consistency with my son – a regular, fun, “mother & son” day/time; consequences for negative behavior; teaching him how to be responsible; how to be kind and thoughtful; how to clean (but that’s not really a mystery – I HATE cleaning. Except for laundry. I don’t mind doing the laundry); how to be a man…I may not REALLY know how to be a man, but I DO know what a WOMAN looks for in a friend, husband and father. That’s my gift to all the other women currently in his life and those in his future. You’re welcome.
  2. Become a better writer. I’m not sure if it’s ironic, but the more I edit other authors’ works, the more conscientious I become of my own writing, and I think it’s making me a better writer. My editor should be able to tell me for sure when I finally send him my second novel.😉One day at a time2
  3. Be more empathetic. I see myself as a pretty tolerant person, but not as compassionate as I could be. There’s a difference, I think, because while I’m TOLERANT of cultures, ideas, lifestyles and beliefs different from mine, I don’t always have EMPATHY for them. Immigrants, for example, who aren’t native English speakers. I’m fine with them keeping their own languages and cultures, but PLEASE, PEOPLE, learn ENGLISH. The USA is an ENGLISH-speaking country. Try to assimilate. If I move to YOUR non-English-speaking native country, I’m going to work to learn YOUR language, not expect you to adapt to mine. See what I mean? Not very empathetic…
  4. Replace my vehicle. I’m tired of having things go wrong with my vehicle. Every time I have a slight financial cushion, something ELSE needs to be fixed or replaced.😦 Now I just have to do more research whether it’ll be more cost-effective to lease or purchase and how much of a monthly payment my budget can handle. *gulp*
  5. Save more of my income. I like having a cushion of cash in the bank. But I’m a free-spirit when it comes to money. Somehow, I need to bridge the gap between my – as my mother calls it – “champagne taste on a beer budget.” (Vehicle repairs notwithstanding.)
  6. Nurture my Faith. As much as I need my medication and my therapist, I need my Faith more. The three together (with my Faith taking the biggest chunk of the pie) help balance the days of depression and anxiety with sanity. I think I’ve found a balance I can live with, and need to maintain and strengthen it.

    Texas, May 2000 (age 26). Right about the time I got pregnant. I was about a size 14 and soooo slender.

    Texas, May 2000 (age 26). Right about the time I got pregnant. I was a size 14 and sooo slender.

  7. Lose 20 pounds. That’s about 1-2 pounds a month, give or take. I’ve done it before & feel better physically, mentally, emotionally when I’m a bit…less…of me than there is currently. I’m overweight. I know I don’t look it ’cause I’m almost 6ft tall, but trust me, I am. I never had much weight angst in my teens and 20s. Not until I became preggers and my doctor told me to PUT ON weight, did I begin the Dance with the Scale. I put on 60+ pounds. And then more poundage AFTER I had my son. I’m curvy and big-boned (go ahead and laugh, but it’s true), so I’ll never be smaller than say, a size 12. A size 10 would be pushing the anorexia look. I love food too much to be anorexic, and hate puking too much to be bulimic (I know neither of those illnesses are that simple, but those are the side effects/symptoms that make the greatest impression on me). This year, instead of stressing myself out with a drastic goal (such as losing 60 lbs), I’ve decided to start off with something I can handle – 20 lbs. For the whole year. This I can do, because I’ve done it before. I just have to have the willpower to do it and maintain it. I’d love to magically wake tomorrow looking like and weighing what I did in 2000 before my pregnancy, but I’ll settle for dropping 20 lbs.🙂

    Copenhagen, Denmark, September 2014 (age 40). Not so slender anymore.

    Copenhagen, Denmark, September 2014 (age 40). Not so slender anymore.😦

  8. Be a better friend. I think I’m a pretty decent friend, but COULD take more time to spend and talk with friends who are on the fringes and outside of my inner circle, which, admittedly, is quite small. Quality is most important, but you can never have too many friends. At least, I don’t THINK you can…I’ll let you know…
  9. Travel to Europe. Again. I inherited the nomadic spirit of my Jewish ancestors (I realize this was thrust upon them in many cases, but still…), which was fostered by my father when I was a kid. We – my parents, younger brother and I (before the “accident” joined our family in 1985😉 ) – spent several summers crisscrossing the US in my dad’s little Datsun. Visiting family, historical sites and antique shops. Good times.🙂 I love to travel, seek out adventures in new and interesting places, soak up the cultures and languages of lands other than my own. And Europe – all of it – is my favorite. Even the places I’ve not yet visited. I need to work for National Geographic as a photojournalist. Or just become independently wealthy and visit book fairs worldwide, all year long.
  10. Attend at least 3 Author Events. I’ve registered to attend 2 this year as an Author, and a 3rd as Assistant to another author. Looking forward to the networking, rubbing shoulders with other readers, making contacts. Selling copies of my book(s) would be a bonus.🙂
  11. Increase my author/writer/person brand. Write more blog posts for my own site and as a guest on other sites, virtually host more book tours, submit my writing to various publications and contests. This is on-going. I’ve gained momentum this past year, working with my awesome Gravity peeps, and Rachel Thompson, our director and social media queen. Now if I can just find a way to keep up.😉
  12. Buy more books. Support my author friends. I’ve been doing this a bit over the past year. Hope to increase my collection this year. My bookcases groan in pleasure under the weight of these written treasures.🙂 Hopefully my budget won’t groan in pain with the strain. *pours over the bank account*

So these are the things at the top of my “resolutions” list for 2016. What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Bucketlist, Depression, Family, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Random, Stuff, Writing

Being Thankful Isn’t Just for the Holiday Season


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Chelsea Francis

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Chelsea Francis

We’re now fully involved in the holiday season. Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago, and Hanukkah recently past. So I thought it would be a good time to list the things for which I’m thankful.

All too often we talk about what’s wrong with the world, because, let’s face it, most of us believe we have ideas to make the world a better place. And so many of those ideas are REALLY good ones. And sometimes, we even have the opportunity to implement those ideas and the world DOES become just a little better.

And you know what? That’s one of the things for which I’m thankful – the great ideas that make our world a better place in which to live. Things like feeding the poor. Whether it be domestic food banks that operate on a consistent basis, or charitable foundations that raise money to feed our fellows in third-world countries. All are equally worthy of our gratitude and support. You never know when you’ll be one of those people in need of such a service.

I’m thankful for The Salvation Army bell-ringers who appear during this time of year dressed as Santa and his Elves, urging us to be more charitable than usual during the “season of giving.” Without The Salvation Army and those bell-ringers who give of their time to raise money for the destitute, there would probably be MORE people in need during this time of year.

I’m thankful for my job. Working for the government – at any level – can be a chancy thing. Politics and all that. But despite the often prickly politics one must be wary of and learn to navigate with care and agility, I enjoy the challenges and benefits of civil service. The government is the best employer I’ve ever had, bar none. It’s much more secure than the private sector, and turnover is less of an issue. For instance, I’ve been working for this particular government agency for more than a decade. Longer than any other previous employer. We’ve had our differences of opinion and I’ve butted heads with a few people, but overall, I’m very thankful to be working at my agency.

The Garfinkles: Hayden (my kiddo), Heather (SIL), Bill (dad) holding Haleigh (niece), Pam (mom); Kevin ("baby" brother), Asher (nephew), Steven (oldest younger brother), Me.

The Garfinkles, 2015: Hayden (my kiddo), Heather (SIL), Bill (dad) holding Haleigh (niece), Pam (mom); Kevin (“baby” brother), Asher (nephew), Steven (oldest younger brother), Me.

My family has been one of my biggest blessings. I’m so fortunate to have supportive, loving parents, and brothers with whom I (usually) get along. Then there’s my lovely, vertically-challenged, hyper-energetic sister-in-law (who often makes me tired just looking at her) – my baby brother’s wife – and their 2 children. My nephew and niece are stinking adorable and I love to spoil them.

My son is a blessing…when he’s not being a brat. He’ll be 15 next month (!!!!). He’s in that awkward stage between childhood and manhood, without the steady, loving guidance of a father. I try to be both mother and father, but am aware that I often fall short. He lives with ADHD and Asperger’s and his mother suffers anxiety and depression and para-menopause, both with strong-willed personalities, so we tend to butt heads a lot. What a pair we are! I pray we survive his teenage years and my para-menopause-ism with our sanity (relatively) intact. And you know what? Based on the moments of brilliance and maturity he sometimes displays, my kiddo is going to be awesome some day.🙂

Almost 10 years ago, I went under the knife – for my eyes. Lasik ROCKS! I’m thankful that my resulting 20/15 vision still holds up. Lasik surgery is guaranteed for 10 years; 2 months away from my 10th anniversary of this procedure, my eyes are still going strong. Hopefully they’ll continue that way for another 10 years. (Fingers and toes crossed!) Don’t know if I’ll be able to afford this surgery again any time soon…even with the help of insurance. Of course, reading glasses would probably look kinda sexy on me right about now.😉

This is Gravity.

I’m so blessed to be an integral member of Gravity Imprint, and Booktrope as a whole. I joined Booktrope as an author in 2013, and have never regretted that decision. Since 2014, when I began taking on proofing and editing projects at Booktrope, I’ve honed my editing skills even more and met some fabulous people who I’m honored to call friends. Almost a year ago now, I was offered the opportunity to be an editor/proofreader for the new Gravity Imprint. I accepted, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. We’re a close-knit, supportive group, directed by the inimitable Rachel Thompson. (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence.)😉

As much as I have to be thankful for during the holiday season – when there’s actually a little bit of breathing room to stop and count one’s blessings – these are gifts that truly do keep on giving all year long.

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Filed under ADHD, Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Editor, Family, Gravity Imprint, Life, Proofreader, Thankful, Writing

If I Ever Decide to Run for President…


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Anthony Delanois

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Anthony Delanois

They (and no, I don’t have any idea who “they” are) say that if you think you can do a job better, apply for it… so maybe someday I’ll have enough chutzpah to run for president. And if, by some miracle I won – because, let’s face it, it would take the biggest miracle God ever pulled off – here are some of my policies (see, I’m warning you now so you can give me some feedback).

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Congress would get a 35 percent pay cut. And just like in college, there would be an attendance policy. Miss too many sessions and votes, you’re off the island. Plenty of other people want their turn to get paid to sleep during long meetings and craft 100-page-long bills that no one takes the time to read all the way through anyway.

If we suffered a repeat of the Twin Towers, there would be no dickering around, trying to figure out whose jurisdiction it is or which federal branch will be in charge. The military would take over and we would strike hard and fast. Hash out jurisdiction when the crisis is over and the dust clears.

Prostitution would be legalized. Prostitutes would be licensed (so maybe we could call them Licensed Companions) and required to have yearly exams and health certificates. Let’s face it, if prostitution wasn’t illegal, nobody would really care if the Secret Service solicited on their days off work. Why do we care anyway? It really is a victimless “crime.” I get that some women (and men; let’s not be sexist) might have issues with their spouses paying someone else for sex, but that’s not society’s problem. It’s a domestic (as in, between spouses) issue.

Military, teachers and civil service personnel would receive 15 percent pay increase across the board. The funds would come out of the federal government’s coffers. Remember, Congress just took a 35 percent pay cut. We can afford the raises.

We’d offer Mid-East oil barons $35 a barrel for oil. Take it or leave it. We have oil in the U.S. Massive amounts. We’ll drill and refine our own – safely so as to not kill or injure fish, fowl, man or beast. Cheaper gas for all and more jobs for the unemployed skilled laborers. The caribou and other animals in the Alaskan wilderness can warm themselves and make their homes near the oil pipes.

No socialized healthcare. Receiving the same compensation from insurance/federal government no matter how good or bad your services, takes away the motivation for health providers to “one-up” their competitors. The stigma surrounding Mental Health would be brought front and center. Mental Health education and support would be paramount. I know a lot of great people who live with and work to eradicate Mental Health stigma. I would ask for their assistance.

I’m not a fan of same sex relationships, but it’s not illegal, I’m not the morality police, and the USA isn’t governed by religious rulers (and that’s probably a good thing – look at the Islamic nations, for instance). I don’t think it should even BE a government issue. Why does the government get to dictate who can marry and who can’t, as long as both parties are consenting adults?

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Glen Noble

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Glen Noble

We’d have twice yearly, week-long writing retreats and various seminars at The White House! And author events in the library!

There would be a complete overhaul of the Department of Education. It would get a lot more funding. And every public school gets new, state-of-the-art computers and as many ESE specialists as are needed for students (and staff) who live with Mental Health issues.

Apartments in The White House would be auctioned off for mini-vacations to raise money for various charities and non-profits.

************************************

Even though I think these are some great policies, I don’t think my chances of getting elected are very high. I’d likely be tarred and feathered for some of these almost as soon as I announced I was running. And then there’s my finances. I’m probably one of the brokest (if that’s not a word, it is now) lower middle-class single mothers in America, and I’m not enough of a “wheeler dealer” to be able to negotiate that kind of support. I’d need a wily financial guru. I have an uncle who’s pretty good at that. And maybe I could start a “Wendy for US President” gofundme.com account. With a 10-year project goal attached.

So what do you think? Should I go for it, or just scribble that line off my bucket list?

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Filed under Bucketlist, Life, Musings, Politics, Sarcasm

Cover Reveal: RISE, Book One of The War Witch Saga by Cain S. Latrani


I’m thrilled to help with the Cover Reveal for RISE, Book One of The War Witch Saga by Cain S. Latrani, coming from Booktrope in time for Christmas! I’ve already read it, as I’m the editor, but I’ll be one of the first to get my print copy and read it again.🙂

If, like me, you enjoy epic fantasies, you MUST read this book! It has something for everyone – sword-fights, magic, romance, heroes and heroines, villains, characters who may or may not be villains, mystery and humor. And the cover puts the perfect finishing touch on this book.

Wait for it….

 

 

 

War-Witch-front-cover-final

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?!

* * * * * *

About RISE:

In the war between Heaven and Hell, mortals are the weapons. Granted Divine Power, the Blessed are agents of the Gods, seeking out the Demon Seed and showing them no mercy in an endless war for the fate of creation.

For one such Blessed, Ramora, the mute warrior priestess of the God of War, to save the Middle World means hunting down the Dark Blessed who took everything from her. A fierce, strong, and clever Cleric, backed by a lost art of magic, she foolishly believes herself ready for the battles to come.
By her side, Chara, a young farm girl with an unusually agile mind, and a fate that may yet destroy her as she is groomed by Heaven itself to be a weapon like none other. Her illusions of herself, and the nature of the world, will be stripped away as she faces absolute evil with nothing but her desire to stand firm.
Together, they will challenge Hell, and the most fearsome foe the world has ever seen.

* * * * * *

About the Author:

Cain S. Latrani is the totally made-up name of a middle-aged dude who spends all his free time playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching anime, and herding cats. Sometimes, he makes things up and writes them down in an effort to be a serious adult, a role he has proven to be ill-suited for. He’s much better at being a Fighter. They get swords. Nobody will give him a sword in real life, which makes real life kinda suck.

You can stalk…er…catch up with Cain at any of his online haunts:
Twitter
Facebook
Blog

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Filed under Booktrope, Cover Reveal, Fantasy, Literature, Writing

Are You a Survivor, or Determined to Remain a Victim?


Source: Unsplash.com/Alexandra Seinet

Source: Unsplash.com/Alexandra Seinet

I have a metaphor to share with you that explains how I feel about the differences between being a survivor (whether it be sexual abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, etc) and remaining a victim. This metaphor materialized in my imagination fully formed and was so inspiring to me, I had to share it. I’m sure it’s not a unique vision, but it was an “aha” moment for me.

* * * * *

A potter labored many painstaking hours over the vase. Crafting it just so. Rounding the corners so no sharp edges remained. Glazing and firing it so the the shape and color would hold fast and its inner beauty would be displayed outwardly. The finished vessel was given as a gift and helped fill a room with warmth and color.

One day, in anger, this vessel was broken and left to lie on the floor in pieces. The vessel believed its beauty and usefulness to be forever at an end. Eventually, it was swept up with the other debris that remained from that horrible event and discarded. The vessel wasn’t sure how long it lay there, in the trash heap, trying in vain to put itself back together, hoping it could still find some purpose. But though the vessel had spent hours admiring the beautiful curves and hues its maker had bestowed upon it, it didn’t have the knowledge or the skill to repair itself. And so it fell into despair again.

Image Source: Unsplash.com/Alex Jones

Image Source: Unsplash.com/Alex Jones

And one day, the potter happened upon that broken vessel. He recognized his work and mourned the damage to his creation, but he knew he could make it useful again. He smoothed off the jagged edges that were a result of its brokenness. Oh, how the vessel hated to endure more pain! It begged the potter to spare it. But the potter, in his wisdom, knew the vessel could not be fixed without remembering the pain, without having the rough edges smoothed away so the broken pieces could be brought back together and repaired. So the bowl could once again be useful and help other broken vessels. The scars of brokenness and repair would always be there, but they would fade over time and would soon be but a memory to the bowl, replaced by happier memories of service. And eventually, after much painstaking work, the vessel, scarred but wiser and full of gratitude for another chance, was renewed and beautiful once more.

* * * * *

When we’re broken, we cannot fix ourselves. No matter how much we know – or think we know. No matter that we may know ourselves better than anyone else. We’re not equipped to handle our own healing. We MUST seek help from the professionals – whether that means medication or therapy or spiritual or holistic. Or a combination of treatments. Even professionals seek help in their illnesses, their brokenness. Survivors seek to reassemble our fragmented lives so we can be strong – if not completely whole – again.

Victims are caught in a loop of their missing pieces. And sometimes, of their own stubbornness. They retreat within and refuse all offers of help. They see the outward healing of fellow broken vessels, the scars that remain, and think they can heal and replace their own pieces just as well; don’t need the assistance of a “potter.” But they don’t see the inside of that healing vessel. They don’t see past the survivor vessel’s scars to understand that the scarred vessel, the survivor vessel, has learned from its brokenness. It has learned to give, to help others, to have compassion, to support and encourage other broken vessels on their road to healing.

So. Are you a survivor, or are you determined to remain a victim?

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Filed under Life, Mental Health, Musings

Fall Favorites Giveaway Hop


Fall Favorites Giveaway Hop 500x292

Thank you for joining us on the Fall Favorites Giveaway Hop!

Don’t forget to hop on over to the Booktrope/Runaway Goodness Prefunk Sale and grab your FREE eBook copy of my Jewish medieval fantasy, Serpent on a Cross, and more than 200 other great titles in various genres, now through November 14th!

For my stop on this Hop, I’m giving away a $15 Amazon eGift Card to one randomly selected lucky winner, and a print copy of Serpent on a Cross to another! To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link below and away you go!🙂 Then come back and visit all the other pages in the Hop. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1. ~Book Liaison 16. Benjamin Levi Seims
2. Danielle Ione 17. ~Sandi Brackeen
3. ~Author Ryanne Anthony 18. ~Stephanie Phillips
4. ~K. Williams 19. ~Misha Elliott
5. ~Allison Whitmore 20. Wendy C Garfinkle
6. ~Stephanie Kepke 21. ~PageCurl Publishing and Promotion (INT)
7. A.M. Willard 22. ~Jennifer Sivec
8. Meara Platt 23. ~Susan Arden
9. S.K. Wills 24. Author Holly Hood
10. ~Amanda Mariel 25. #Minxes Love Books
11. Lisa Douthit 26. Author Kristyn Eudes
12. Lady Amber’s Reviews 27. ~Patti Fiala
13. ~Lynne Barron 28. ~C.S. Kendall
14. ~Tina Donahue 29. ~MAD Hoydenish
15. E.C. Moore

 

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Filed under Blog Hop, Booktrope, Event, Literature, Serpent on a Cross, Writing

This is the Reason Editing Your Own Work is a Bad Idea


Source: Unsplash.com/AlejandroEscamilla

Source: Unsplash.com/AlejandroEscamilla

I’d like to share writing no-nos (aka Turtle Editor Wendy’s writing pet peeves) I’ve “collected” during my years of editing and proofreading. I’ll be gentle (I hope) and no names will be mentioned. This isn’t intended to be a “roasting” session, rather, a humorous, helpful post about some things to avoid when polishing your work before sending it off to your Editor. It’s easy to miss some things after writing your new Shiny and reading it a bazillion times (even we editors make mistakes *gasp*) , but if you do any of the things I mention here, trust me, you’ll be more aware of them next time.🙂

Let’s dive right in, shall we?😉

  1. Twelve Noon & Twelve Midnight. Really? So Noon & Midnight need to be specifically at “twelve?” They can’t be “One Noon” and “Three Midnight?” If they’re always the same – twelve o’clock p.m. for Noon & twelve o’clock a.m. for Midnight, then WHY in the name of all things holy do we need to specify that they are at “twelve?” Please break yourselves of this habit. Twelve p.m. is noon and twelve a.m. is midnight. Period. End of story. If your readers don’t know that, then they may need to go back to elementary school to learn the basics.
  2. “She nodded her head.” Well, what else are you going to nod, your finger? I suppose that’s possible, but why? When you NOD, it’s a given that the item being nodded is your head. You don’t need to say “her head.” You don’t usually “nod” your finger or your hand; you wave a finger, wave a hand. Nodding is usually reserved for your head. Contrarily, “He shook his head no.” In this case, you’ll need to add “his head” because if you write it as “He shook no,” it makes no sense. Many things can be shaken – heads, feet, hands, etc., so you need to specify WHAT was shaken/shook.
  3. “Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” Please don’t tell the reader every move your character makes. Unless they have a disability or infirmity that keepIf you don't like my edits...s them from walking upright, we know they stepped inside the room, shut the door with their hand (as opposed to their foot, maybe?), turned into the room away from the door, walked across the room to the window and opened the curtain to let in the light. We just don’t need all of that; it’s over-sharing (like telling us about the tinkling of urine in the pot as your heroine emptied her bladder…okay, maybe THAT’S more in the vein of TMI, but surely you get my point), and boring. It doesn’t further the action and frustrates the heck out of your editor. Simply tell us that “She entered the room, closed the door behind her and walked to the window, drew back the curtains to let in the sunlight.” See how much cleaner and succinct that is? And your editor won’t scream at you in her head…or leave lots of red marks all over your manuscript.
  4. Stood, not “stood up.” Now this is a personal choice. It seems obvious to me that if a person stands/stood, then they’re standing “up.” But they could also be standing down. This is most common in military or paramilitary (law enforcement) settings. “I said stand down, soldier!” Rarely would someone not affiliated with either military or paramilitary tell someone to “stand down.” Therefore, whenever you write, “She stood up and walked across the room,” the “up” isn’t really necessary. “She stood and walked across the room” is sufficient. Now what I mean by this being a “personal choice.” I’ve edited manuscripts in which the author wrote “stood up” and I’ve left it in. For me, it’s about how the sentence flows around “stood up.” If it seems awkward and “stood” trips easier off the tongue (yes, I often edit aloud), then I’ll edit out “up.” But if it doesn’t mess with the flow of the action, then I’ll often leave it alone.🙂
  5. Wake me (up) before you go. Another personal choice. Sometimes you need to tell us your character “woke up” and other times, “she awoke” or “please wake him.” Similar to “stood” and “stood up,” whether or not I give the writer a slash of the red pen (metaphorically speaking, because often my edits appear in blue or purple…) depends on how “wake him up” flows with the action taking place within the context of the phrase. If your character is yelling in someone’s ear, “Wake up!” then yes, we want to keep the “up.” If your character “wakes each morning with the sunrise” then “up” is just unnecessary window dressing and red-pen worthy.🙂

Now go forth, intrepid writers, better armed with tips to help you polish your work, make your editors proud and your manuscripts even more awesome!🙂

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Review: Fortitude by Apryl Pooley


TRIGGER WARNING: This memoir contains rape experiences in much detail, various types of abuse and addiction.

FORTITUDE is Apryl Pooley’s honest and sobering account of living with PTSD and the shame of rape. A “good Christian girl,” Apryl had planned to save herself for marriage. She was raped the first time at age 17, waking up in a strange bed in a fraternity house, paralyzed from the neck down, with no recollection of the previous 16 hours. Having taken the abstinence pledge promoted by the sex program at her school, which hadn’t prepared her – or any of her peers – for the reality of rape, how to respect sexual boundaries and how to say “no” to sex, Apryl took the shame – and fault – upon her own youthful shoulders.

Shattered by this traumatic loss of innocence, and the ensuing ostracization by her peers at school and church, Apryl fought to survive and understand what had happened to her, outwardly portraying the life of a successful college student, while experiencing recurrences of the paralysis, struggling through eating disorders, drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide attempts that dominated her life for the greater part of the decade following her first assault, exacerbated when she was raped a second time just two and a half years later.

With candor and aided by ten years of unedited blog and journal entries, Apryl details her labyrinthine journey to her discovery as a neuroscience doctoral student that PTSD is more than a military issue, leading to her own PTSD diagnosis after nearly a decade of living with the disorder.

By turns funny, heart-wrenching, angry and contemplative, Fortitude is one woman’s frank discussion of rape, PTSD, healing, love and new-found purpose. Highly recommended.

5 of 5 Stars.

 

________________________

 

Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir

Anchored by ten years of unedited blog and journal entries, Fortitude illustrates a real-time account of an outwardly successful college student living with secrets of rape, childhood molestation, a closeted lesbian identity, PTSD, alcoholism, addiction, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. In her first year as a neuroscience doctoral student, Apryl learned of PTSD as more than a military issue, which led to her own PTSD diagnosis after nearly a decade of living with the disorder. She devoted the remainder of her life’s research to understanding the effects of trauma on the brain but learned that healing from trauma was so much more than a scientific experiment. Fortitude describes Apryl’s unrelenting attempts to hide her shame by escaping her mind and body, only to find that what she needed was to openly share her story and travel deep within herself to find the healing answers that were there all along.

“It’s easy to compare Pooley’s book to some of the great addiction-themed memoirs like “Smashed,” “The Basketball Diaries” or “Drinking: A Love Story,” but [Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir] stands alone for its forthrightness and the author’s scientific bent. Her story deserves everyone’s full attention, and it definitely deserved a book.” –Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse literary journalist and editor of Mitten Lit blog about Michigan authors.

Genre: Memoir
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing
ASIN: B0160IPNGQ
ISBN-13: 978-1-51370-445-6
Available on Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback versions http://amzn.com/B0160IPNGQ
Available on BarnesandNoble.com in Nook and paperback versions http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fortitude-apryl-pooley

 

Apryl E. Pooley was raised in Charleston, Illinois–a small, rural college town where she stayed to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the biological sciences department at Eastern Illinois University. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Michigan State University Neuroscience Program where she researches the effects of traumatic stress on the brain. A scientist by training, a writer by practice, and an artist by nature, all of Apryl’s work is inspired by the drive to make sense of the world around her and to help others do the same. Apryl’s first publication outside the scientific literature was a short story called Dichroma in author/editor Troy Blackford’s “Robbed of Sleep” series (2014). Her second trade book, released on February 17, 2015, was the culmination of a three-year writing project that became her memoir, “Shadow Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through PTSD and Womanhood.” All profits from this memoir are being donated to local organizations that help survivors of sexual assault/abuse. Apryl lives in Lansing, Michigan with Mandy and Lady, her wife and dog, respectively.

Author Site: http://www.aprylpooley.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AprylPooley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aprylpooleyauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10905430.Apryl_E_Pooley?from_search=true&search_version=service

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/aprylpooley

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Apryl-E.-Pooley/e/B00TPCNBCS/

Blog: https://eggheadagenda.wordpress.com/

 

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Irony: Being Forced to Pay for the “Legal” Use of Your Name


Photo from Unsplash.com Credit: Joshua Earle

Photo from Unsplash.com Credit: Joshua Earle

A new irritant has breached my horizons. Well, not new, exactly, but it’s rearing its ugly head more and more recently.

It’s the battle to use my birth name rather than my married name. Please note that I’ve been divorced for more than nine (9) years now, and have been using “Wendy Garfinkle” or “Wendy C. Garfinkle” exclusively for about the past six (6) years. Following my divorce, I continued to use my hyphenated married name “Garfinkle-Brown” – yes, plain, unimaginative, over-used “Brown” – for my son’s sake, for school and whatnot. But he’s 14 now. And I never use “Brown” anymore…except for at my day-job…under protest.

Here’s the problem: when I divorced my ex-husband, I didn’t realize that a woman must decide then and there whether she will continue to use her married name or revert back to her maiden name (I know, with my love of thorough research, I should’ve known this). Otherwise, said woman faces the situation I’ve been staring at for the past half-dozen years – paying the court – not to mention attorney’s and filing fees – several hundred dollars to get a judge’s signature on a “legal” document giving the petitioner “permission” to drop her married name and use her maiden name henceforth.

I have a problem with this. There’s no better way to get my back up than to tell me I “can’t” or “have to” or am “not allowed” to do something. When I married, I simply hyphenated and added “Brown,” becoming “Wendy Garfinkle-Brown.” All I’m trying to do is drop “Brown,” much like dropping the remaining baggage (not my son, he’s not baggage, he’s a blessing…usually…) from my ill-fated marriage. But I have to have judicial permission to do so? The SSA and DHSMV have already reissued my SS card & Driver’s License (never changed my name on my Passport).

The current hold-out is my wonderful employer. Human Resources (and Legal) wants a “legal” document from the court – SS, DL and U.S. Passport aren’t enough for them (apparently, by not demanding the same document as my employer, the federal government has “overlooked” the requirements for reissuing these documents in my maiden name).

I switched financial institutions years ago because my previous bank wouldn’t comply with my request. But I kinda need my job. And yes, I’ve even considered remarrying for the sole purpose of getting rid of the “Brown.” But that brings its own can of worms…

So now I’m doing something I said I’d never do: giving into to the demand for that over-priced piece of paper. I consulted an attorney earlier this week on what’s required…IN ADDITION to the “petition”:

  • my fingerprints…because working for a government agency isn’t proof enough that I am who I say I am;
  • what year my bankruptcy was discharged (I guess this kinda makes sense);
  • every address where I’ve ever lived…EVER…cause I must have all that written down somewhere…

Lumberjack(s) CroppedJust in case you’re wondering what I consider to be “over-priced,” the filing fee and court costs come to $401. That’s four hundred one dollars. For a PIECE OF PAPER signed by a judge. And I doubt the paper is recycled, so apparently I’m also paying the lumberjack(s) who’ll be cutting down a tree to print out my Name Change petition…and probably paying for the pen with which the judge will sign said piece of paper…I wonder if the ink will be 24 carat gold…

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about paying the attorney, because my legal plan that will cover her fees. (I knew that $7.00 I’ve paid 26 times a year for the past 10+ years would come in handy some day.)

What brought all this to a head was when earlier this week someone at work referred to me as “Brown.” Everyone in my office knows me as “Garfinkle” or “Garfinkle-Brown.” My email signature is “Garfinkle” and my email address is “GarfinkleBrown.” I got pissy (I don’t like to get pissy at work – it makes me appear unprofessional.)

So. I’ve had enough. I’ll buy the over-priced piece of “legal” paper. But I won’t go quietly…

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Cover Reveal! Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir by Apryl Pooley


Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir

by Apryl Pooley

Release Date: October 16, 2015

Publisher: Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing

 

 

Anchored by ten years of unedited blog and journal entries, Fortitude illustrates a real-time account of an outwardly successful college student living with secrets of rape, childhood molestation, a closeted lesbian identity, PTSD, alcoholism, addiction, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. In her first year as a neuroscience doctoral student, Apryl learned of PTSD as more than a military issue, which led to her own PTSD diagnosis after nearly a decade of living with the disorder. She devoted the remainder of her life’s research to understanding the effects of trauma on the brain but learned that healing from trauma was so much more than a scientific experiment. Fortitude describes Apryl’s unrelenting attempts to hide her shame by escaping her mind and body, only to find that what she needed was to openly share her story and travel deep within herself to find the healing answers that were there all along.

 

“It’s easy to compare Pooley’s book to some of the great addiction-themed memoirs like “Smashed,” “The Basketball Diaries” or “Drinking: A Love Story,” but [Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir] stands alone for its forthrightness and the author’s scientific bent. Her story deserves everyone’s full attention, and it definitely deserved a book.”

–Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse literary journalist and editor of Mitten Lit blog about Michigan authors.

 

About the Author:

Apryl E. Pooley was raised in Charleston, Illinois–a small, rural college town where she stayed to earn bachelors and masters degrees from the biological sciences department at Eastern Illinois University. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Michigan State University Neuroscience Program where she researches the effects of traumatic stress on the brain. A scientist by training, a writer by practice, and an artist by nature, all of Apryl’s work is inspired by the drive to make sense of the world around her and to help others do the same.

Apryl’s first publication outside the scientific literature was a short story called Dichroma in author/editor Troy Blackford’s “Robbed of Sleep” series (2014). Her second trade book, released on February 17, 2015, was the culmination of a three-year writing project that became her memoir, “Shadow Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through PTSD and Womanhood.” All profits from this memoir are being donated to local organizations that help survivors of sexual assault/abuse. Apryl lives in Lansing, Michigan with Mandy and Lady, her wife and dog, respectively.

 

Social Media Links:

Author Site: http://www.aprylpooley.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AprylPooley
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aprylpooleyauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10905430.Apryl_E_Pooley
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/aprylpooley

 

 

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Render Unto Caesar…


DISCLAIMER: If you support Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses, you may not want to read this post. It might anger you.

***

If you make the choice to enter the political arena, you should understand a couple things up front:

  1. If elected, you hold a POLITICAL position that IS NOT subject to your personal or religious beliefs;
  2. That POLITICAL position may eventually require you to perform a duty with which you disagree.

If you’re an ELECTED official, you have the responsibility to stand for and represent your constituents, regardless of your personal feelings and religious convictions. I’ll go so far as to recommend that if you’re unable to tolerate and respect views – and carry out the laws – that oppose your own, you might want to avoid entering the political arena entirely.

In light of this, I believe Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis made the wrong choice. She’s an ELECTED (aka, POLITICAL) official. So deciding that her religious convictions won’t allow her to fulfill her job as a POLITICIAN (essentially), is poppy-cock. One could make the argument that when she ran for election as county clerk in 2014, (and during the 24 years she served as a deputy under her mother, the previous county clerk – apparently nepotism is legal in Kentucky government offices) same-sex marriage wasn’t legal nationwide, and there was no way she could’ve envisioned it would become law during her tenure as clerk. If that’s the case, perhaps she shouldn’t have run for political office… especially in light of her religious beliefs. Aspiring politicians need to be able to see the forest as well as the trees – they need to be able to think analytically, explore the “what ifs” of the future of politics.

And as she’s made this a religious debate, she’s actually defying scripture (available HERE, in whatever version you prefer): Luke 20:20-25 (ESV): “So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not?’ But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, ‘Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ He said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’

In other words: Kim Davis is a POLITICIAN, in “Caesar’s” (aka, the US) government. Unless marriage licenses have changed since I was married in 2000, the state and issuing county are listed at the very top of the license. The clerk’s name is listed at the bottom, as the GOVERNMENT representative. It has NO reflection on the clerk himself/herself. The clerk is just a sexless name on a piece of paper. Ms. Davis is only responsible for signing and delivering the legally-obtained license. And I don’t believe that’s in violation of God’s law. Even Jesus taught that we are to give Caesar (Government) his/its due. And “Caesar” (the U.S. Supreme Court, in this case) has decided to interpret the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to mean that “the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples” just as it is to opposite-sex couples. THAT is “Caesar’s due.”

If Kim Davis was pastor of a church, THEN she could refuse (hopefully in a respectful manner) to provide “Holy Matrimony” to same-sex couples with her religious convictions as foundation for her refusal. Refusing to hand over a legally-applied-for marriage license to same-sex couples, in accordance with her JOB, her position as a POLITICIAN, simply because it’s contrary to her religious convictions, is extremism and attention-seeking.

If I was a county clerk, I like to think I’d be obedient enough to “Caesar” (and to God) to perform my duties as dictated by my employer (government). And if I disagree with them strongly enough, there 3 options available, as there are to Ms. Davis:

  1. Comply with the law, respectfully voicing my objection, understanding that God will not hold me accountable for obeying a lawful order;
  2. Recuse myself (as ELECTED officials have done in other jurisdictions), allowing my deputies or another department to handle the marriage licenses;
  3. Resign.

Simple solutions without all of the drama. Why is there so much drama? Why must it be one extreme or the other? Why can’t we accept and tolerate each others’ opinions and convictions without making every issue a battleground? And that includes allowing people to make their own (legal) decisions and mistakes, without giving into the desire to cause controversy and cast stones. Pick your battles, people; we are – NONE OF US – without sin.

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Filed under Life, Musings, Politics, Writing

Depression: From the Inside Out


I usually consider myself a fairly up-beat person. If nothing else, my ability to find humor in the oddest places helps to keep me sane. Unfortunately, depression has ever-increasingly consumed my life lately. I’m not sure if it’s because, at 41, I’m closer to menopause – and all the symptoms (including increased depression) which accompany that milestone – or if it can be attributed to something else entirely. Perhaps it’s because I’m focusing – for the first time in my life – on speaking openly about and learning the affects childhood sexual abuse has on my mental and physical health, while at the same time struggling to raise (and understand) an adolescent boy who lives with ADHD and Asperger’s? I don’t know. Suffice to say, if I must suffer with depression, I want to be able to survive with my sanity intact. So, for me, that means talking – and writing – about it. From the inside. I don’t know how depression looks from the inside to anyone else, but I’d like to tell you what my depression looks like to me…

Depression-1 Cropped

red runs through my brain. nerve endings are sensitive. everything becomes its own little Broadway drama. i shut down because if i don’t everyone will be caught up in the hurricane that consumes my mind. i don’t talk much. ocd feeds my depression. i suffer mostly with the obsessive part of ocd. if i tell you i’m “stalking” you & grin or wink, i’m mostly joking. but there’s a very real part of me that does obsess, does wish to stalk. to get as close as i can to you (that’s why they call it “obsessive”). but that’s illegal and people would have me committed, so i keep a lid on it. my compulsions aren’t usually anything useful, like cleaning the house. no, i’m compelled to count the letters and numbers on billboards, license plates and various other signage. boring and very, very useless.

when my obsession(s) is/are, for whatever reason, unavailable to me…either because i’m attempting to appear normal & sane, or because they’re just unreachable for a time, then my depression deepens. i know, insane, right? the irony is, i don’t know if these are symptoms of my survival of child sexual abuse or if they’d have been part of my personality either way. my abuser took my innocence and trauma rerouted the synapses in my brain before my personality could be truly known (although, my grandmother reportedly told my mother when i was just a few days old that i would be trouble. sooo…). i don’t really know who i am, who i’m supposed to be. some attempts at discovery (writing and editing) have met with surprising success. other attempts (marriage) have met with crushing failure.

Photo from Unsplash.com Credit: Wyman H.

Photo from Unsplash.com Credit: Wyman H.

purple streaks bruise the darkness of my mind. The white-chalk Cliffs of Dover and long drops appear suddenly and i weave violently to avoid falling. sometimes i fall. if i’m lucky, a ledge catches me. if it doesn’t, i fall into the deep, narrow pit of depression. the sides of the pit are almost completely vertical. where did the hand and toeholds go? sometimes it takes a while to emerge. all the while functioning, attempting to be normal for the sake of those around me so they don’t wonder and ask what’s wrong. because i’m so close to tears at this point and cannot explain what’s wrong with me. because i’m not even sure myself. except that the demons have come out to play, to taunt me with what i don’t have with what i cannot have with what i am not with what i never will be. pushing them back behind the door at the bottom of the pit again and securing the padlock that hangs on rusty hinges takes all the energy i don’t have. i’m exhausted. and i cannot replace the lock, the rusty hinges. i don’t know how or where to find replacements.

my therapist sees the anger and the desperation and the depression and the despair and the darkness that lurk within. i try not to let others see. what will people think? i don’t know if this is para-menopause or if it’s just Wendy. is this depression and ocd or symptoms of something more? the one constant in my depression is music. not books, not people. music-mostly instrumental or few lyrics. this session of depression’s playlist (if you care to know) has been full of enigma’s a posteriori & love sensuality devotion, draconian’s a rose for the apocalypse & turning season within, really slow motion’s iron poetry, chopin’s nocturnes, imagine dragons’ radioactive (from night visions) and two steps from hell’s invincible (don’t really like their name, but love their music). i don’t know how long this bout of depression will last. it started about a week ago. the last one was on and off for the whole month of June (as in, 2 months ago). it pretty much has to work itself out of my system, i guess.

i become an automaton. i ask no questions. i don’t want to know. i don’t really care at this point. i struggle to care. i can’t people. i don’t adult very well either. i do my work and avoid people as much as possible. my focus is inward. i’m selfish. even my son suffers lack of my attention during this time. fortunately he’s mostly independent so i don’t have to worry about being arrested for child neglect. i just can’t people. too much drama. too many eyes. too many breaths. too many hands and fingers and feet and toes. too many smells. too many voices. too much noise. just. too. much. i’m a mass of nerve endings. i hunch inward around them. trying to protect them. because if you brush up against the wrong one, i might implode. i’ll fall apart. maybe not in front of you because that just makes people uncomfortable. but in private i fall apart. i try to keep the implosions to a minimum because they make the depression worse. there’s a lot of self-deprecation and self-flagellation and self-recrimination going on inside.

Depression-3 Croppedsometimes i want people to ask questions. just so i know they care. but they usually don’t know the right questions to ask. and i don’t know how to tell them which questions are the right ones. if i knew, don’t you think i’d answer them so i could go back to being me? sometimes i just want to be held. ask me what i want. what will pull me from this depression? what will work this time? i don’t know. i can think of a dozen things over which i obsess at various times, but will any one or more of them pull me from depression this time? i don’t know. i just want oblivion. want to slink into the cave of my room, cocoon myself in my bed and be one with oblivion. at least temporary oblivion. until this passes.

maybe tomorrow the sun will shine again.

 

(The depression finally began to dissipate after about a week. I’m beginning to feel like my usual self again. But I know it will return. If only it would adhere to a set schedule, I could be prepared…)

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Mind You’re Grammar – Part Deux (II)


Okay, my lovelies, it’s time for another “episode” of Mind You’re Your Grammar, from your indulgent “Grammar Nazi”!🙂

An apostrophe does not plurality – or possessive – make. I addressed this briefly in Mind You’re Grammar, but it needs more emphasis, I think.

In MOST instances, an aIf you don't like my edits...postrophe indicates possession or contraction: Wendy’s opinion (possession); They’ve almost arrived (contraction of “they” and “have”).

I’ve (there it is again – an apostrophe indicating contraction) seen quite a lot of instances where people throw in a random apostrophe when differentiating between singular and plural…especially notice this in my day job.

Example: “Two W/M’s were seen leaving the scene of the crime.” The use of an apostrophe in this case tells me that “two white male’s were seen…” and that makes NO sense whatsoever. There is no possession or contraction in that sentence. It’s the reporter’s way of trying (and failing) to indicate plurality. It should be written: “Two W/Ms were seen…” so when it’s written out long-hand, the phrase will read correctly: “Two white males were seen…”

I understand the mistake – I’ve made it myself, many, many moons ago (Yes, shocking, I know.😉 ) – we’re uncomfortable with placing an “s” at the end of a word or acronym or number, without sticking an apostrophe between it and the “s”. This is why many people write: “In the 1990’s” (indicates POSSESSION) instead of “In the 1990s” (indicates PLURALIZATION). As if we expect “1990” to be more insulted by pluralization than possession.Overuse of THAT3 Cropped

Another biggie THAT many authors – NOT just newbies – make, is overuse of the word “that.” Sometimes it fits. Other times, it’s just too much; unnecessary window dressing. And if you’re referring to PEOPLE, please, please, use WHO or WHOM, not THAT. Here are some examples:

“I’m so happy THAT so many newbies make so many mistakes.” (Rachel Thompson used this example in #GravityChat on August 19th when asking my opinion on the use of “that”.) This sentence DOES NOT need “that” – in this case, it’s too much window dressing. It reads better as: “I’m so happy so many newbies make so many mistakes.” (Erm…we could have a case of overused “so” in that sentence.😉 )

And when referring to people: “They’re the friends that I had dinner with last night.” PEOPLE are “who” or “whom” not “that!” This sentence should read: “They’re the friends with WHOM I had dinner last night.” OR “They’re the friends WHO I had dinner with last night.” Either of these re-phrased sentences is acceptable.🙂

Here are some additional common mistakes (yes, I’ve made them to too) to be aware of when your you’re crafting your current or next WIP, blog post, etc.

  • We’re – conjunction of “we are”; WE’RE going to be late if we don’t leave now.
  • Were – past tense of “are”; WERE you at the party last night?
  • Where – a place; WHERE do you want to meet for lunch?
  • Then – a point in time; If that’s when you will arrive, THEN that’s when I’ll see you.
  • Than – a method of comparison; I’d rather have the salmon THAN the cod.Grammar Police
  • Two – the number 2 spelled out; I’ll take TWO of those, please.
  • To – indicates motion; We’re going TO the pier.
  • Too – also or excessively; That is TOO much information.

Once again, my lovely misspellers, go forth, even BETTER armed for the writing battles ahead! Your you’re welcome!🙂

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Dragon’s Future by Kandi J. Wyatt


DragonsFutureReleaseBanner

Welcome to the release event for Dragon’s Future by Kandi Wyatt! This is the book 1 of the middle grade fantasy series and it’s now available for sale!

About the Book:

Dragon's Future Cover

Every child of Woolpren dreams of becoming one, but only a few are chosen. Now, ten-year-old twin brother and sister, Ruskya and Duskya, have been selected to join an elite group of riders: dragon riders. Full of awe and excitement, the twins leave their mother, and their home, to train for their new lives.

Fifteen years later, dragons are becoming extinct and riders are rare. One day, Ruskya is at the general store in town when a man announces that he is recruiting new dragon riders. Ruskya goes undercover, and discovers that there is another colony of riders with their own agenda—a quest to find a mysterious plant that could restore the dragon population, or destroy it. When a battle erupts between the two colonies, it’s up to Ruskya and his friends to fight for their dragons’ future, and their lives.

Follow Ruskya’s quest as he finds courage and friendship in this exciting middle grade fantasy series by new author Kandi J Wyatt.


About the Author:

Kandi Wyatt Author Picture

Kandi J Wyatt is a wife, mother of five, teacher, artist, and author. In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy stories and Christmas programs, and drawing with graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. Kandi also enjoys photography, thanks to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey as both his model and apprentice, and she occasionally serves as his assistant when he needs a “light stand with feet.” To learn more, visit kandijwyatt.wordpress.com.

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GIVEAWAY:

One (1) paperback copy of Dragon’s Future (US only)

Ends Aug. 25th

Prizing provided by the publisher, hosts are not responsible in any way.

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

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Filed under Blog Tour, Booktrope, Event, Fantasy, Published

The Anticipation of Waiting


My friend (er…at least I THINK we’re friends…we talk, so…) and fellow writer, Matthew Eaton posted this week on his blog something that got me thinking (shocking, I know): In his post titled Embrace Uncertainty and Find Peace in Silence Matt talked about the personal growth that can result from being uncertain and uncomfortable, and how to find comfort in uncertainty and the silence sometimes required by patiently WAITING for a response from people or from life. Reading this, I squirmed and hunched my shoulders in DISCOMFORT.

But, interest peeked, I read the entire post. It was very insightful. Humans are not the most patient of creatures. (Funny enough, I don’t think Matt once mentioned the word “patience” – and yes, I did reread his post, just to be sure. But that’s what kept jumping out at me: PATIENCE.) Perhaps you, Dear Reader, ARE a patient person. (Kudos to you!) Patience IS NOT one of my more admirable qualities. I realize this about myself, and when I’m impatient about something, I TRY to play it cool…distracting myself with another activity to pass the time…like sleeping…and often, I’m still unsuccessful…but the learning continues…

Most of our lives involve waiting. In the midst of sharing with Matt my thoughts on his post, I had an epiphany: If we could do EVERYTHING in our own time, at our own will, then perhaps those things we most want out of life – or ourselves – wouldn’t be so important to us upon the procuring. Almost as if the waiting, the anticipation of being able to finally have what we want, makes it all the more valuable and appreciated.

Anticipation

Anticipation

Okay, maybe you, Dear Reader, had this epiphany at a young age. But I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer (*cough* hard-headed *cough*), so this “epiphany” hasn’t ever presented itself to me in such a positive, obvious manner before. It’s always been more like, “What?! I have to wait?? BUT WHY??!!” Just ask my mother what my favorite phrase was from a young age.

Go on ask her. I’ll wait right here.

*Checks watch, hums and taps fingernails on the desk*

Never mind. I can’t wait that long. I’ll tell you myself. It was: “But I WANT it!” Even a very young Wendy hated to wait. When we’re impatient, we make mistakes…often, those mistakes are life-altering. And this brings up an unpleasant memory: 4-year-old me, tempted with chocolate by a 12-year-old boy who touched her in places and in ways he had no business violating and penetrating. Afterward telling her not to tell anyone. Which of course she did. And I wonder, was that the greed and impatience of a little girl for a sweet? Or merely an innocent lured by an older “friend,” someone she trusted and who knew better, someone who should’ve protected her? I don’t blame myself anymore. But sometimes…

This impatience led me to: 1) date a lovely boy who was emotionally abusive (lovely to look at, not such a lovely personality when he didn’t get his way); 2) a failed marriage (because I married a different physically lovely man who wasn’t good for me – not abusive, just neglectful and apathetic; abusive in its own way) and single-parenthood; not realizing my dream of being published IN PRINT until last year…though that one may have been more a matter of procrastination and low self-confidence than impatience. Just to name a few examples.

So fast-forward several decades (that makes me sound older than I usually feel!) to now. At 41, I’m still as impatient as ever. My guardian angelBut I like to think I channel it, control it better than I did in my youth and 20s. For one thing, I’m finally beginning to reach some of the goals I set for myself way back when. In addition to being a published writer/author, I’m also being paid to READ!!! How awesome is THAT!!🙂 It’s an honor to put to good use those years of education and experience editing and proofreading fellow authors’ manuscripts in preparation for publication. (I can now cross that off my bucket list.) And I have a good, bill-paying, day job as a Crime Analyst in county government. (Another tick off the ole bucket list.)

My years as a single parent (impatiently waiting for him to GROW UP ALREADY!…JK…no really, grow up, son!!) are starting to pay off: my kiddo is a tall, handsome, brilliant (smart-mouthed, frustrating, opinionated…umm, er…*ahem*) affectionate, 14-year-old young man, on the cusp of manhood. And high school (*groan*). And though parenthood never ends, he’s becoming more independent (like fixing his own food…sometimes! YAY!) and capable of great things. Everything I could’ve wanted for him…the ADHD and Asperger’s mix is just one aspect of his charming personality.

So. What do I wait for now? I’m glad you asked. Now I wait (and work toward) financial independence (and all that comes with it), student loan debt forgiveness (meanwhile, paying them down), an intimate, adventurous relationship with a lovely man (read: SEX!…if it’s in the cards), the time and means to travel the world attending Book Fairs, haunting bookstores, meeting IRL (for you non-techies, that means “In Real Life”) friends I’ve made through the vehicle of social media, and my publisher, Booktrope.

And while I wait, I’m determined to put my time to good use. Growing in experience and proficiency as an analyst, continuing to (voraciously) read, edit, proofread, write, build my brand, save money, and cultivate friendships. Oh, and, work to not be so impatient.😉

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Guest Post – You Write Funny by Eric Turowski


Today I’m pleased to host fellow Booktrope author, Eric Turowski, writer of horror, suspense, and thrillers. His newest release, Inhuman Interest is available NOW.

Welcome, Eric!

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While I tend to put a lot of humor in my books, especially the latest one, Inhuman Interest, I’m not what most people would consider a funny person. Spontaneously funny people, I think, are to be admired. In my case, I don’t have a quick wit, or a snappy personality or even remember jokes that well.

In addition to not being naturally funny, my personal sense of humor is somewhat skewed. It takes a lot to make me laugh, generally. Yet the stupidest thing can set me off. Like those Can-Am motor trikes–Spyders. Especially the green one, the one that doesn’t look so much like a “spyder” as a three-wheeled frog. Why do I find them hysterical? I don’t know. When I start to snicker at one, my fiancée rolls her eyes.

So when I write humor, I stick to the stuff I know is pretty much funny to everyone. Even if you don’t admit it to yourself. These are, broadly characterized, falling down, very old people swearing, snarky one-liners and fart jokes.

Why is it funny when people fall down? A better term for this might be slapstick, but I’m no real student of comedy. Maybe I’m sick, but if this is true, it’s genetic. I got it from my mother. Think about it, though—would we have twenty-five seasons of America’s Funniest Home Videos if we didn’t enjoy seeing people spin wildly out of control, crash into stuff and fall down? Maybe it’s sort of an instinctive sense of relief that it isn’t us doing the falling.

When very old people swear, especially little old ladies, it’s funny. This is probably because in our minds, we think of oldsters as kind, giving grandparent figures. That sweet little old lady, that kindly little old man, and the like. Upon letting loose, with the vocabulary of a sailor, the juxtaposition of sweet and foul is somehow irresistibly funny. This is why Betty White’s star is on the rise all the time, I figure.

Snarky one-liners, in my writing, are situational and character-driven. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, they just pop out in the dialogue. More frequently, they have to be crafted, re-written, reconsidered and slept on. They are a necessary part of the action, breaking up the horror or suspense to keep the story moving quickly forward. On occasion, these one-liners also act in place of a few paragraphs of exposition. Once again, the use makes the story surge forward.

And fart jokes. George Carlin was right when he said farts are funny. They are funny in their own right, natural comedy mines that go off unexpectedly. When you have something that humorous to begin with, a little description goes a long way. I often use musical terms to describe the sound, like glissando, fortissimo and embouchure. Using sophisticated, classy two-dollar words to capture the essence of flatulence cracks me up. I literally sit at the computer and laugh. At that point, I figure it’s funny. Either that or I need therapy.

I don’t include black humor in the list of fool proof funny stuff. Black humor isn’t really meant to be laugh-out-loud funny as much as it is to break tension. Lennie (the late, great Jerry Orbach) on Law & Order always delivered the best dark humor lines as a close to the opening scene. Ironic, wry, amusing, yes, but as viewers we also understand that nobody is really laughing at murder. Sure, this kind of dark humor usually comes in the form of a zingy one-liner, but given the overall dark tone of the books, I keep this in reserve, using it as a characterization tool rather than a go-to funny.

You can see what I mean by checking out Inhuman Interest (Story By Tess Cooper #1). Hopefully, you’ll get a few belly laughs during the suspense. Either that, or recommend a good psychologist.

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Eric Turowski headshot cropped

Newspaper founder, bookstore owner, artist, musician, and man-about-town Eric Turowski writes lots of mixed-genre books when he’s not too busy playing laser tag with Tiger the Cat and his fiancée Mimi deep in the Central Valley of California.

You can learn more about Eric at www.ericturowski.com.

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Becoming a Writer… #WilkesCW10


Someone once said to write what you know. Here’s what I know: without Wilkes University’s Creative Writing Program, I would still be a writer, but definitely not the caliber of writer – and editor – that I am today.

I already had 3 degrees under my belt, had been a writer for university newspapers and a copy editor for a daily newspaper when I decided to hone these skills towards a view to realizing my dream of being published. I also wanted to go back to school, since I’d finished and graduated with my last degree in May 2006. Enough leisure time had passed; I was ready to continue being a professional student.

Wilkes U 10th Anniversary Logo

I spent a week or so in early December 2008 researching Creative Writing programs. None of the universities in South Florida offered such a program. I wasn’t in the position to move across the country just to attend school – which I’d done in 1996, but this time I had a rug-rat in tow – so a low-residency program was my next choice. I applied to three, one of which was Wilkes University. They were the first to respond. Within 24 hours, Dr. Mike Lennon left a message on my voice mail accepting me into the program, requesting that I call back so they could get me registered for the next Residency. Which was less than 3 weeks away.

So there I was, New Year’s Day 2009, stars in my eyes, headed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Wilkes-Barre, (wherever THAT was) Pennsylvania. I knew nothing about what to expect, other than I wanted to immerse myself in the written word. When Jim Warner picked me up from Scranton airport on that snowy New Year’s Day, he was amazed to realize that I hadn’t received a packet (which meant I knew next to NOTHING about the program – hadn’t even really planned for the colder weather, having only a leather jacket as my “winter” coat). I had come roughly 1200 miles on a leap of faith.

And that leap of faith was well-rewarded. Though my luggage was several hours behind me, having apparently decided to stay at my Detroit layover and take in the sights while I continued on to my final destination. My luggage was finally delivered to me at around midnight that night. This became a regular occurrence. If memory serves me correctly, only once in the 6 or so times I made that trip did my luggage arrive in Scranton on the same flight as me.

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Ginger “Gingersnap” Marcinkowski

That first night of my first Residency, I met several fellow students, one of whom was in my cohort and whom I still consider a good friend. Ginger Marcinkowski, this vibrant, funny lady who has the energy, style and looks of a woman 15 years her junior. The others I met that night were ahead of us in the program, but quite willing to share their knowledge and experiences. By our first Cohort class meeting the next morning, I knew more about what to expect from the program. And I couldn’t wait to start. Many more of the friendships I made within the program continue today.

Lauren, Adrienne, Ally & Amazon

Left to Right: Lauren Catron, Adrienne Pender, Ally Bishop, Me

I earned my MA in Creative Writing, Fiction, in 2011 and MFA in 2012. My MA thesis was SERPENT ON A CROSS, a full-length novel, which was later released by Northampton House Press as an ebook, and then republished in print and ebook by Booktrope. Since I drew on my Jewish heritage to create my protagonist, Dennah, and her world, I decided to further explore that element in the MFA. So my MFA paper was a thesis in craft titled Compliant and Defiant: How Fiction authors use the craft elements of image, character and setting to successfully or unsuccessfully portray female Jewish protagonists.

Banquet - Wendy, Dave Poyer & Lenore Hart

David Poyer, Lenore Hart (Poyer), Me

My mentors from Fiction Foundation to completion of the MFA were Lenore Hart and David Poyer, husband and wife novelists. I still consider them to be my writing mentors. With their assistance, my writing (and editing skills) were honed to publishable quality. It was with their publishing company, Northampton House Press, that SERPENT ON A CROSS first found a home. I continue building on the foundation of knowledge learned from them and throughout my years as a poet, editor, proofreader and student of the English language.

Along with my fellow alumni and current students, I celebrate Wilkes University’s Creative Writing Program’s 10th Anniversary, and wish the program many more successful years as a leader in the writing and publishing world. soac_front_cover_08.11.2014

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Saving London by Taylor Dawn


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This week my friend and fellow authoress, Taylor Dawn has been celebrating the release of her new book, SAVING LONDON with a book blitz! Today begins the 2-day Multi-Genre Saving London Launch Party on Facebook – When Taylor has a party, she HAS A PAR-TAY!! I will be one of the hosts – closing out the 2-day affair from 8:00-9:00PM (EST) tomorrow!🙂

During this Book Blitz, until June 18th, you can enter HERE to win a paperback copy of SAVING LONDON – USA only, please. I will be holding a giveaway for 1 ebook copy of SAVING LONDON. THIS giveaway is open internationally, also until June 18th. To enter, please leave a comment on this post, telling me 2 things on your bucket list. A winner will be chosen at random.🙂

This is an AWESOME book – I promise! And I should know, because I’m the editor! So if you find any grammatical errors, blame the proofreader.😉

Saving London Cover

Isn’t this a beautiful cover?! I absolutely love it! The designer, Scott Deyett, knocked it out of the park! He has his own design business, InHouse Graphics if you’re interested in seeing more of his work.

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Saving London by Taylor Dawn
Published by: Booktrope Publishing
Publication date: June 9th 2015
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis:

The List. That Signified Finality.
The Journey. That Would Span The Globe.
The Sacrifice. That Would Decide The Outcome.
The Choice. That Could Unleash Evil On Earth.
The End Is Only The Beginning…

“You have terminal cancer.”

London Patterson, a seemingly healthy young woman, had her entire life ahead of her. That was until four little words brought everything to a screeching halt. As the shock and grief begin to fade, London decides to map out her last year and embark on an epic journey to complete a bucket list. She wants to do the things she’s been afraid to do in her life, step out of her self-contained box, and see the world. What she didn’t expect was for a mysterious stranger named Adam to breeze into her life like a breath of fresh air.

Adam offers to help London complete her list on one condition…that she sees it through to the end. Agreeing on those terms, the two set out on an adventure of a lifetime. But London soon realizes that Adam isn’t quite…human. Along their journey odd occurrences happen that cause London to question who or what Adam is and why he’s helping her.

Follow London as she checks off her bucket list in this inspiring new Urban Fantasy novel from Taylor Dawn.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24894496-saving-london?ac=1

Purchase:

Taylor Dawn Author PicC.D. Taylor/Taylor Dawn began writing as an item to check off her bucket list. She resides in the southernmost part of Illinois, right on the mighty Mississippi River. She enjoys the quiet country life with her husband, son and the many farm animals that make up the rest of the family. She decided that farm life was just a little too mundane, so she started writing erotica and fantasy to liven things up. So far so good.

C.D./Taylor entered cosmetology school right out of High School and practiced the art of hair styling for 12 years. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found sitting around a table making people laugh. She has always wanted to be a standup comic. She loves pulling practical jokes, dresses up in a costume every Halloween and believes that dancing is the key to a happy life (even if you aren’t a good dancer). She believes that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously, we’ll never get out alive anyway. More than anything, she’s a kid at heart, she doesn’t believe in bedtimes, eating everything on her plate, or having ice cream only for dessert. Her favorite quote is by Dr. Seuss…”Why fit in, when you were born to stand out.”

Author Links:

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Happy Release Day to Dana Britt and SHADES OF BLUE!


Today I celebrate with my friend & fellow Author Dana Britt the release of her debut novel, SHADES OF BLUE! I’m honored to have been the editor, and HIGHLY recommend this beautiful story of loss, recovery and unexpected love!

SHADES OF BLUE

is available NOW!

 

“I can promise you one thing will stay the same—me.”

She wants to get lost in her memories.

He wants her to find her way home.

Shades of Blue Cover

About Shades of Blue

Heart-broken and reeling with grief, Charlie flees to a far-flung tropical island in search of a safe haven where she can let her treasured memories consume her. Hiding away from the world, she battles nightmares and fresh tragedy while trying to make sense of her new reality.

Living his island dream, firefighter-turned-fisherman Gabe Montgomery is determined to be Charlie’s port in her storm of pain and loss. Blindsided by life-changing revelations from his own past followed by the possibility of a terrifying personal loss, Gabe realizes that sometimes letting go is as much a part of love as holding on.

When Charlie and Gabe acknowledge their powerful connection and cling to one another for comfort and hope, both face a frightening dilemma: surrender to the past, or face the challenge and promise of a future together.

Will the memories and mistakes of the past consume them or can Charlie and Gabe hold fast to each other and the hope that will bring them to a promising future together?

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Character Interview: Gabe Montgomery

  1. What was your childhood like? Wildly idyllic. I grew up on the New England shore– Mom, Dad, Sister, Friends. A kid’s dream.
  2. Do you have any hobbies? I like to call my life my hobby, I love what I do. That being said, these days I’m building toys for the FDNY toy drive. It’s a lot of fun, even with all the minute details & all.
  3. If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart? Before I met Charlie or after? *laughs* Before, probably less than ten items since I eat most of my meals at The Painted Parrot—things like shaving cream, toilet paper & a woodworking magazine. After? Things like scented candles, pink tissues, chocolate milk…who knows what else?
  4. What is your favorite scent? Why? Hmmm, I’ve never thought about it, but I’d have to say the smell of the sea–for obvious reasons—followed closely by orange blossoms, because Charlie always smells like orange blossoms. *smiles*
  5. What is your favorite beverage? I’m a bar owner, there’s probably a rule against having a favorite. *raises lemonade glass* However, lemonade is always handy around here.
  6. Are you lucky? Oh, hell, yeah. *gestures around him at the bar, the sea*
  7. What is your most closely guarded secret? *raises eyebrow* Wouldn’t be a secret if I told you, would it?
  8. Do you keep your promises? Sure, I try to.
  9. What in your past would you like to forget? *shifts in his seat & looks around then sighs* Ya know… *pauses* Let’s just move on.
  10. Was there ever a defining moment of your life? Two big, big moments—the ones where I met those two people. *points*

You’ll have to read Shades of Blue by Dana Tanaro Britt to find out which two people Gabe was pointing to just then!🙂

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Author Bio

Once upon a time, a sassy Kentucky girl fell in love with a handsome Hoosier boy. What followed is a still-unfolding story filled with laughter, starry nights, children…and pizza–yes, pizza.

When Dana Britt isn’t writing stories of hope, home and happily ever after, she can be found porch-sitting with sweet tea and a book in hand. Dana carries three things everywhere she goes: cherry chap-stick, a camera, and her phone. Her idea of a perfect day is a road trip that includes sunshine, pizza, taking pictures and spending time with her own Hero and two young adult children. Dana often shares bits about it all online at DanaBritt.com–she’d love for you to stop by!

Author links:

 Book Links:

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A FREEBIE for you!

BURNOUT is a short prequel to SHADES OF BLUE.

Burnout Cover

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Mental Health Awareness – Learning Understanding and Compassion


My first blog post for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly.

ORGANIC COFFEE, HAPHAZARDLY

May was Mental Health Awareness Month.

Though my son and I have struggled with mental health issues for years, I’ve become much more knowledgeable – and compassionate – over the past year.

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Pass/Survive Middle School – CHECK!!


CelebratingI’m celebrating the end of another school year. This one was particularly difficult. If memory serves me correctly, this was the first year – ever – that my son had “Fs” on his report card. BUT – WE SURVIVED!! And my son told us (his grandparents & I) this past Tuesday evening that he PASSED 8th GRADE!! By the skin of his teeth. (What does that even mean – “skin of your teeth” – our teeth don’t have skin, so…Why…?) I confirmed this Wednesday with one of the 8th Grade secretaries.

I give honor where honor is due – to God and His angels, my mother and myself, the school staff who came in contact with my son and prodded him.  Not only for helping my very unwilling child to succeed in his last year of Middle School, but for helping me hold onto the last shreds of my sanity whilst refraining from committing great bodily harm to my oppositional-defiant-disordered offspring. And I guess my kiddo himself deserves SOME of the recognition…

We have a very loving relationship.

We have a very loving relationship.

Hopefully, over the summer, I’ll find more sanity somewhere and be able to store up (er…hoard) reserves. Because now we come to the next phase: HIGH SCHOOL. (I should check in the mirror for new gray hairs, because I’m sure they’re there…in my hair…not in the mirror, mirrors don’t have gray hair.)

Yes, folks, I am now the parent of a newly-minted, incoming High School Freshman…that phrase gives me hives for some reason… My mother asked me Wednesday morning – when I dropped my son off at her house for his LAST DAY of Middle School (I decided we all deserved to skip the last day of school, which was really only a half-day anyway) – how it feels to be the parent of a High School Freshman (I guess she’s forgotten, since it’s been about 16 years since one of hers was a HS Freshman). This prompted a short monologue of the things I would do differently if I’d “known then what I know now.”

I wouldn’t have skipped having children. (…I DID consider that for a moment…but the experience “helped” to make me the wonderful, sarcastic person I am today…) Instead, I would’ve tried to understand more about mental health issues 15 years ago, when I was married to my son’s male parent, since his issues are what woke me to the problem in the first place. (By then I’d learned to “cope” with my own “emotional issues” and they weren’t as much of an “issue” as my ex-husband’s GAD and paranoia became.) I think I would’ve also moved back to Florida a year or two earlier, so my son and parents would’ve had the benefit of each others’ presence sooner – we didn’t move back to South Florida until my son was 3. But, until we discover time travel, that’s the stuff of fantasies.

High School - HivesAnyhow. We resorted to bribery the last two weeks – well, my mother did – to be sure he didn’t “get sick” and need to come home early (my boyo “suffers” from frequent headaches, stomach aches, and what have you…some of this CAN be attributed to his Asperger’s/ADHD, etc, but once a week or more is quite out of control. Every day he stayed in school the ENTIRE DAY, he earned $5 towards an iTunes gift card, and on the day he had to get his own breakfast & off to school WITH NO PROMPTING, he earned $15 (I threw in an extra $5 that day). I’m not ashamed to admit it. Bribing your kids to finish the school year WORKS! I only wish we’d done this for the entire school year! On the other hand…he managed to earn $50 in two weeks. Mom & I would’ve been more broke than we are now if we’d done this all school year!

So, on Hayden’s last day of school – Wednesday – my mother called me at about 2:30 that afternoon, asking if he’d called me from school. I said he hadn’t and so she told me she was on her way to pick him up, because apparently in Reading he picked up a soda bottle that one of his friends had been drinking from, and finished the contents. The teacher saw and told him that she’d put cleaning solution inside the bottle. Hayden immediately hurled several times, attempting to get all the “poison” out of his system. He then called his grandmother from the school’s phone & asked her to pick him up because he was concerned for his safety. (Okay, yes, I rolled my eyes, too). My mother asked me to call the school and check up on the incident, to see if we need to take him to the ER or some such. I spoke with one of the secretaries who said she hadn’t seen Hayden in the nurse’s office (Clue #1), that she would call the teacher, because now she wants to know what’s going on.

Hayden - Middle SchoolThe teacher’s side: she saw Hayden drink from the soda bottle and asked why he would do that, saying that he doesn’t know what’s inside of it, could be cleaning solution or poison or something.

I reminded the secretary that this is HAYDEN we’re speaking of, assuring her that he didn’t hear the “could be” part of the teacher’s statement…only the “cleaning solution or poison.” We both laughed in relief and I told her his grandmother would be there soon to pick him up. Called back my mother and told her the story. I added, “I guess it wouldn’t be Hayden if we’d finished Middle School without any drama.”

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Me vs Public School System


I dislike making blanket statements about people, places, things or entities, but I think public education should come with a disclaimer: Public school isn’t for atypical (i.e. – anyone with mental health challenges, behavioral challenges, physical challenges) students.

I used to love school. Sure, I had trouble with mornings – still do – but I loved school. Loved it so much that after graduating high school, I continued my education for 20 years and 5 degrees. Yes, by now rather I’m over-educated. But I love learning!

Stay strong!Now, though, I’m pretty fed up with school. Or rather, I’m fed up with middle school. Hoping high school improves my feelings, because as of right now, if it wasn’t against the law to pull a 14-year-old child completely out of the education system, I’d do it. He can learn at home by reading stacks of books, playing Minecraft, mowing lawns, and going on educational field trips to places like Walt Disney World. I’m pretty sure his stress levels would be much lower; I know mine would be cut in half, at least.

Let me start out by dying that I have great respect for teachers in general. But. Several of them at my son’s school seem to have gone above & beyond to make this year a challenging one. I spent the first half of this school year (8th grade) trying to get his teachers to contact me whenever he had homework, remind him to take photos of the assignments on the board, and/or remind him to write them in his agenda. Yes, I know he’s 13/14, and perhaps in your opinion by now he should be a responsible little pre-adult, never needing to be reminded about homework assignments, but frankly, I’m a 41-year-old adult and my Book Manager has to constantly remind me to send her posts for author interviews. Why do you expect a young teenage boy to remember everything he dislikes about school? Why is it so difficult and beneath you to take the time to remind him and take 5 minutes out of your busy schedule to call me – or text – to let me know details about his homework?Pay attention

I get it: we’re trying to teach our children to be responsible. But responsible for what? Their grades? Because it seems that’s ALL the public school system in America is concerned with. Do you teach my child how to interact in a positive way with his peers? No. Do you teach my child alternate acceptable behaviors when he gets in trouble? No. Mostly, my child receives your attention when he’s done something wrong. You give him a consequence and expect ME to correct his behavior. I can only do so much. I’m not with him in a school setting, so I have to take your word for what goes on there. And I’m a pretty skeptical person. I usually need EVIDENCE. I work in law enforcement and have that training, so evidence is very important to me. But don’t think that I take my son’s word for law, either. I’m skeptical of him also sometimes; especially when a certain behavior is repeated. Over and over and over.

So. The second half of 8th grade, suddenly everyone bombards me with assignments that he needs assistance with so he can pass middle school and continue his education. Why did it take you so long to listen to me? I know my child well enough to know that while he’s highly intelligent, he doesn’t function like a typical student in a traditional school setting. Why is he there, then? Two reasons: I needed him to be evaluated by the school board so I could get a McKay Scholarship for him to go to private school, and so I could (hopefully) find a way to finance private education for high school. I’ve accomplished the first of these and am still working on the second.

So, if he fails middle school, that’s on all of you. And that saying “Hell hath no fury…”? Yeah, that’ll be me. And I’ll send him right back to you next year and demand that he have the same teachers he had this year so y’all can try to get it right next time.

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I Still Remember…


Trigger Warning: Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse

 

Stronger Than You Think2 cropped graphicI still remember my first sexual encounter. I was 4 years old. I remember every detail, as if I was a spectator, rather than the child. I don’t remember the physical sensations, but I do remember every word spoken, every scene enacted. Since it’s with me more than 35 years later, with more clarity than any other moment in my life, this must be the definition of trauma.

In reading fellow Booktrope author Rachel Thompson‘s memoirs about surviving her own childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma – Broken Pieces and its sequel Broken Places – for the first time a couple of months ago, many of her essays and poems struck a cord within me as a fellow survivor of CSA. My experience was different than Rachel’s, but some of the demographics are the same; my abuser was also someone I knew, though he was a child himself (8 years older than I) and the abuse occurred only once. Probably because my parents, and his, put the fear of God into him. But it didn’t stop him, only kept him away from ME. I know of at least one other girl, a good friend of mine, who he sexually abused, perhaps more than once; we didn’t discuss it much, even when we grew up. My abuse was also in the late 70s, at a time when such occurrences weren’t talked about.

Unlike Rachel, I never strove for perfection (I was always awkward. Still am, a bit, come to think of it.) or became a straight-A student (Geometry was my high school nemesis). I did, however – as I can see from the distance of 25 years – suffer from depression as a teenager, which probably contributed to me becoming an introvert (I still have to give myself pep talks  sometimes in order to interact with people in a crowd), who writes sometimes dark and depressing poetry. This was recently confirmed by my therapist, who also confirmed that my sexual “acting out” as a child was a direct result of that one incident, experimenting with both boys and girls, well into my teenage years. I’m not sure why it stopped then. Perhaps because at that point I realized I could get pregnant and knew I wasn’t ready for that.

I never forgot my experience. Not Innocence cropped graphicTo this day, I can remember every minutiae, as if holding a magnifying glass on the scene, every word that was spoken down to the image that goes with it. It’s almost as if it was another little girl, another blonde, green-eyed, 4-year-old pixie of a girl experiencing that and me watching and cringing, helpless to do anything to stop it. Then again, watching that same little girl seeking out that same experience with other children.

Later, when I was about 10 years old, I had a crush on this same boy who abused me, with whom I went to church and school (K-12) for years. Until he married and moved away. I saw myself as sick, that I would crush on someone who would victimize a child – only I didn’t think of it in those terms until I reached adulthood. All I knew was that I was ashamed to have tender feelings toward him, and didn’t understand the why of any of it. I’ve always wondered, but never asked: did she, the woman he married, know what he’d done? They’re divorced now, have been for many years. And when out of the blue, my parents received a Christmas card from him and his new wife “Wendy,” that’s the first time I remember having a “trigger” – it really scared me…as nothing had prior to that in a long time… Was he trying to say something? Send a message? Why did he marry a woman with MY name?

Was this why I became introverted? (How to make friends when you’re carrying around this huge secret.) Why books became my best friends? (Books cannot hurt or betray you.) Why as a teenager I would stare for hours at the ceiling above me? Why for years I couldn’t sleep in the dark or without my stuffed animals? Why I would shut myself inside my bedroom and throw my Birthday Girl figurines – I had all of them at one time; none of them survived – against my bedroom walls until they shattered into tiny pieces? Why the calm descended after each of those girls shattered? (Throwing things and hearing them break against a wall is very soothing. Cleaning up after yourself, not so much.) Were they ceramic substitutes for my own body? I had too much survival instinct, or else too much fear of hell to attempt suicide (though one summer spent with my cousins on our grandparents’ farm in Texas, I carried a thick rope, and when I was alone, would twist it tightly round my neck) – raised in a conservative Christian household, I learned from a very young age that suicide is a sin…and there’s no repenting THAT sin.

cropped-cropped-cropped-Stigma-Fighters-V1Though I’ve never really been secretive about this, I’ve not made it a regular part of my conversations, either. Since becoming friends with so many other writers – collectively known as Stigma Fighters – who, like me, live daily with some form of mental health issue, and who have become such inspirations to me through their bravery and selflessness in sharing their stories and their encouragement, I knew I needed to be brave enough to share some of the darkness within my own soul, in hopes of lending my support – and the occasional hug – to others like us.

 

(Stigma Fighters logo used by permission. The lines of poetry in the graphics are my own.)

 

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Mind You’re Grammar


Did I grab you’re your attention?Correcting Your Grammar Cropped

I’m willing to bet that my fellow “Grammar Nazis” honed in on that title like lasers, virtual red pens at the ready to poke holes in my post. Well, GNs can relax. The rest of you, though, this post is for you. Yes, those of you who read that title and didn’t see anything wrong with it. You know who you are.😉 This post is dedicated to you lovely, misguided people.

Grammar - NutsI could spend days on this topic, but will take pity on you and address only my greatest grammar peeves as an editor, proofreader and writer. So, just a few words to help fellow writers with they’re their grammar. These are things I see constantly as an editor. While your less than perfect grammar helps editors like myself keep our “arm” in, it wouldn’t offend me if you’re your grammar improves as a result of this post.🙂 Here we go!

  • Your – indicates possession; Is this YOUR notebook?
  • You’re – conjunction of “you are”; YOU’RE looking lovely today, Mother.
  • There – indicates location; We will be THERE in an hour.
  • Their – indicates possession; This is THEIR table.    
  • They’re – conjunction of “they are”; THEY’RE going to be disappointed that you couldn’t come to dinner.

Of course, people make mistakes. Especially we authors when we’re trying to put words on paper (or computer) so we can finish our current Work In Progress and go on to the next one. I get that. I make the same mistakes sometimes. Perhaps part of the difference stems from being a teacher (most teacher of my acquaintance are very good grammarians), or being OCD (that’s me!), and wanting EVERYTHING to be perfect before you let ANYONE read it. One of the things my father taught me as a young teen (he wasn‘t an English teacher, but could’ve been), was that if I was going to write a paper (and there were A LOT of them in my future…still are, as a matter of fact), Their, There, They'reit needed to be well-written and grammatically correct. As he put it, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right THE FIRST TIME.” And then he would check each and every one of my essays for correct grammar and punctuation. He was my very own “Grammar Nazi.” He trained me well. Your You’re welcome.

A few more grammar violations I constantly see are:

  • Past – previous, earlier, having gone before; It’s PAST time for negotiating.
  • Passed – an act of passing, to endure or undergo; He PASSED the test with flying colors.
  • Its – indicates possession; The cat wants ITS food.
  • It’s – conjunction of it is; That shirt doesn’t fit me. IT’S too small.

Something I’ve noticed in editing is, Grammar Policeeven the almighty SPELL-CHECK gets this last one – its & it’s – wrong sometimes. (Oh, say its it’s not so!) It wants me to use it’s for possession so badly that I’ve begun to think whoever wrote the code for spell-check didn’t mind they’re their grammar.

And so I’ve come to the end of my top editor/proofreader peeves in grammar. Now, my lovely misspellers and grammar misusers, mind you’re your grammar, and go forth, better armed for the writing battles ahead! And once again, your you’re welcome.🙂

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my creed…(trigger warning: sarcasm)


I'm delightfultreat others the way you want to be treated; this is the best rule to live by (i.e.: the golden rule). even if you’re an athiest, or an agnostic, or any other type of -est, -ic, or -ist.

don’t say you will do something and then back out without warning or explanation.

if you’re wrong, if you make a mistake, apologize and do your best to make it right.

those we love the most often bear the brunt of our fears, guilt and frustration, whether or not they are actually to blame; be mature enough to ask their forgiveness when you take it out on them.

grow up and take responsibility for your actions.

as a good friend constantly reminds me: you ARE NOT Atlas; so stop trying to carry the world on your shoulders. it will end up crushing you.

if you have child(ren), hug them everyday and tell them you love and are proud of them. if your job or school demands you be away from them for any length of time (i.e.: overnight), call them. our children are our greatest responsibilities… and our greatest achievements. they represent immortality and the best part of life.

you’re never too big or too old for Mama to take you down. she brought you into this world, and she can darn sure take you out. at any time. always respect Mama.

yes, we mothers DO have eyes in the backs of our heads, and no, we will not show them to you.

if you fight with your sibling(s), be sure to make up quickly. they’re some of the best friends you’ll ever have, and if they’re not, maybe you should sit down together and talk about what each of you is doing wrong. fix it. these misunderstandings are wounds that can fester if not lanced right away.

please remember that i’m an individual; if one of my brothers does something stupid or one of my parents offend you, please remember i’m NOT them; don’t blame me. i make enough of my own stupid mistakes and offend enough people; i don’t need to take someone else’s credit. the only two people i’ll accept blame – and praise for – are myself and my son. otherwise, go to the source.

i’m an open book. i’ve been told this before. along with that other cliche, that i wear my heart on my sleeve. if you don’t like to read and you like guessing games rather than the refreshing change of someone who prefers to tell it like they see it, then feel free to leave.

AttentionALWAYS keep open lines of communication with your significant other – or the one you want to BE your significant other. if you want the relationship to last, to work, YOU must work – both of you. and you can’t keep secrets from each other (unless it’s what you’re getting him or her for their birthday, Christmas, or other special days), or go to bed angry.

no cheating. ever. unless writing a book and that’s the character. then it’s okay. sometimes.

i have trust issues. i’m working on them. but if i trust you, don’t lie to me. i’ll do my best to hold myself to the same standard. if i lie to you or you think i have, please tell me so i can make it right if the fault lies with me.

if you need help, ASK FOR IT. but by the same token, don’t expect someone else to solve your problem(s) for you. it’s still your problem; we’ll help if we can, but don’t get lazy.

i don’t want your drama. i have enough of my own. (especially when my characters start taking control of their stories.)  i’m always willing to listen and offer comfort, advice, compassion, a shoulder to cry on/lean on, or assistance, whenever possible, but please remember to take your drama home with you. don’t dump it on me; i’m not your personal landfill. i’m raising a child who lives with ADHD & Asperger’s, and additionally, have my own problems with OCD, adult ADHD, anxiety and depression. i’ll try to extend the same courtesy to you.

i’m willing to listen to your side of the matter, as long as you’ll then listen to mine. (yes, i’ll let you go first.) we may not either succeed in changing the other’s opinion, but we can be satisfied by free, open dialogue. you may not like or agree with everything i have to say, and vise versa. but let’s talk anyway. different points of view are part of what makes life interesting. ignorance begets war. if you don’t believe me, then you need to brush up on your world – or American – history.

Healthy brainyes, i’m sarcastic, and often blunt, with a wacky sense of humor, and likely to stay that way; i’m a writer. it comes with the territory. if you can’t handle that, then maybe our friendship isn’t as strong as i thought it was.

i don’t like to play games. (except when my characters dictate that i do so.) i’m pretty up front with how i feel about people, situations, and life in general; i expect the same courtesy in return. (yes, i said this before, worded differently. somethings are worthy of repetition.)

i take great strides to avoid lying to myself or anyone else (omitting or evading with my son doesn’t count as lying); i expect the same courtesy in return. (also worthy of repetition).

i’m harder to offend than you might think; you disagreeing with me is rarely something worth being offended over. and if i do get offended, i’ll get over it. it’s called maturity.

i’m not stupid. sometimes my learning curve is way out in left field, but eventually i’ll get the picture. though sometimes not until i get smacked in the face with it.

Pretend to be normali’m an open-minded moderate conservative, and quite proud of it. the “open-minded” part means (among other things) that i’m happy to listen to your side of the story, and might even agree with you. the “moderate” part means i’m probably not as “right-wing” as you think i am. the “conservative” part means (among other things) that i don’t like to hear God’s name (or titles) cursed. why are you blaming Him for your problems? ever heard of a little thing called “free will?” everybody has it, and unfortunately, sometimes my free will infringes on your free will, so on and so forth. don’t blame the devil(s) either; free will still applies. if you make bad decisions, it’s your own fault; if you make good decisions, you can pat yourself on the back. good and bad happen to us all.

why do people always say “God****?” why not “Satan****?” or (insert parent’s name here)**** or (insert ex-spouse’s name here)****? etcetera, etcetera. i’m sure if you try it, those expressions will “flow off the tongue” just as easily as God’s name, who probably ALSO wonders why you’re cursing Him.

if i offend you, don’t expect me to know it if you don’t tell me. contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, i DON’T have esp (except for where my son is concerned). i may not apologize for offending you (especially if it wasn’t deliberate), but at least i’ll know the borders of your thin skin before our next interaction.

if you have a problem with me, i’d appreciate it if you tell ME rather than the grapevine. nobody likes a tattle tale.

yes, i’m assertive (aka, pushy). it’s all part of my charm.

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99 Cent Book Blast


Over 175 ebooks from over 150 authors–including USA Today Bestsellers–are on sale for 99 cents.

This promo will last only April 10th, 11th, and 12th.

Find paranormal, fantasy, romance, and much more.

Don’t forget to tell your friends so they can one-click too!

Visit the 99 Cent Book Blast.

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Review of Tangle of Thornes by Lorel Clayton


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00043]Lorel Clayton will be on tour April 6-13 with the novel Tangle of Thornes

When Eva’s brother is murdered in a city of rude elves and matriarchal dwarves where humans have no rights, she is forced to investigate the crime herself. What she discovers brings her up against a powerful slave-trading cartel, dark gods, and—worst of all—her twin sister. Both her family and the elven authorities want her hushed. She has no money and no magic of her own with which to combat them, but she does have an illegally-freed slave, a senile nanny, and an ex-almost-boyfriend on her side. Even when she nearly loses her job and almost loses her head in a sword fight on the same night, she isn’t deterred. It’s when the nanny goes missing that she really starts to worry.


Femme fatale turns hard-boiled investigator in this first Eva Thorne novel. Set in a fantasy world where magic and machines can’t stand against the God of Death, humans are on the run from the god’s invasion. Highcrowne is the only refuge, but that means living in the Outskirts of an ancient city ruled by Avian mages, indifferent dwarves, and elves who’d prefer to see humans as their slaves. It’s worst for Eva’s people, Solhans, because they were the ones who summoned the Dead God into the world. No one wants her kind in Highcrowne and there are plenty who would be happy to see her brother dead. There are too many motives and not enough time to unravel them, because other people are dying … and Eva is fast running out of vacation time.

Please visit CLP Blog Tours for all the tour stops!

 

MY REVIEW

Her brother Viktor is the only one of her family Eva wishes to claim, so when he’s murdered and mutilated, she doggedly pursues every clue available, even when they take her to places she’d really rather not visit. She first hires a dwarf detective, but when he shows up dead, Eva decides to do the investigating herself, reluctantly accepting the help of her brother’s best friend Duane (aka “The Boss” aka “Adder”), whom she detests.

As a human and hated Solhan, she’s at the bottom of a food chain that includes Elves and Dwarves, to name a few of the races in her world. And since she refuses to learn how to use – let alone utilize – her natural magic because she believes it to be evil, Eva must rely on humans like Duane, and her few Dwarfish allies to assist with her investigation. When the answers to her questions about her brother’s murder are revealed, both Eva and the reader are stunned.

The world building is quite intricate and fascinating. Lorel Clayton draw on various fantasy tropes (Elves and Dwarves) and create a few of their own (i.e., the Dead God). A few things, such as dirigibles, which seem to have little value except to give the world a steam-punkish feel, were a bit distracting from the story as a whole. At first I had a difficult time getting into the story, but as I continued reading, I became drawn into the tale of a woman seeking vengeance for her murdered brother, while at the same time fighting her personal demons, which include her own Solhan nature.

As a reader, I think she fights too hard against the darker side of her nature, that she should come to some sort of accord with who she is, but perhaps that will happen as the series continues. Eva’s a bit of a damsel in distress who fights against being such, and for that I can admire her. Eva wasn’t a very sympathetic character for me, especially since she makes such a point of despising her roots but doesn’t hesitate to use them for her own ends when such use becomes expedient; I did, however, enjoy the book as a whole. There’s something here for almost everyone – fantasy, adventure, action, and a bit of romance. I’m interested to see where Eva’s further adventures take her.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

 

 

LOREL claytonAuthor Bio

Lorel and Clayton were both born and raised in the Western United States and were teen sweethearts, brought together by a fierce love of books and hormones, of course. They traveled to Australia in 1997 and never left, finding the sunshine and beaches of “Oz” too irresistible. Lorel has a PhD in Pathology and once upon a time did cancer research before turning to marketing. Clayton has a Master’s Degree in Visual Art and prefers Expressionist painting in acrylics but has recently tackled digital painting, mostly because there’s a hyperactive three-year-old boy running around the house (their gorgeous son, in case you were wondering if that’s normal). Despite having been married for twenty-five years, they are still madly in love and still writing! As writing partners, they meld logic and creativity, as well as genres. Fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, horror, steampunk, thriller, romance, and the classics—they read them all, and if they can mix them they will.
Connect with Lorel Clayton
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Counting Blessings (& getting sidetracked)


Today is a day of Thanksgiving. No, we haven’t suddenly fast-forwarded to November. I just feel like celebrating all the ways in which I’m blessed. Perhaps my thanksgiving-fest will inspire others to do the same and give me even more reasons to be thankful.

Thankful that school is almost over Stay strong! (only 9 weeks to go!!!) – think I’m beginning to dislike (public) school almost as much as my 8th Grader (his school, or the school district, is at least partially to blame as it’s taken half the school year of beating my head against the brick wall of teachers to get that brick wall to start MOVING!)…we’re going to try private school next year…if I can afford it…maybe I’ll try GoFundMe.com – Help Me Send My ADHD/Asperger Teenager to Private School Where They’ll Hopefully Focus on Social & Behavioral Skills as Much as Academia…it could work…..;

Thankful to be a part (hopefully an integral part) of an awesome team of people who put their hearts and minds daily into making Booktrope a contender in the publishing world. I’m so grateful for all the editing and proofreading (since I’m a Grammar Nazi at heart😉 ) projects that have (almost literally) come knocking at my door (well, virtual door, anyway). I’ve met and become friends with so many kindred spirits of the written word, and am honored to be numbered among them;

Through Booktrope, Brain on ADHD I’ve come to know and work with many of the talented, beautiful people who are part of Stigma Fighters. In the short time I’ve worked (and continue to work) with them, I’ve learned so much about my son’s and my own mental health issues and that we’re not alone. There are people out there rooting for us, and I’m rooting for them #StigmaFightersUnite;

I’m so thankful for my family – especially my parents – who supports me, through thick and thin, even when they disagree with my choices, who are present as much as they can be in mine and my son’s lives. I love them so much and can never hope to thank them enough for all they’ve done, and continue to do, for us;

I’m thankful for a strong, supportive church family who continually prays for my son and me, who show their love in so many big and little ways, and thankful that God hasn’t given up on me (or my kiddo), that He’s still workin’ on us;

I’m thankful for both my bestie ADHD serenity prayer who knows wayyyy too much about me, but loves and hangs with me anyway, and my therapist, who provides a comfy couch and a safe place for me to vent, cry, and share the dark side of me.  My bestie GETS both me and my kiddo (she has a bit of ADHD herself😉 ), and I can always depend upon her when I need a laugh. And even though my therapist (she’s also my son’s therapist) gets paid to talk and listen to both me and my kiddo, her personality and manner are such that visits with her are more like spending time with a long-time, sympathetic friend.

And last but not least, I’m thankful for my (sometimes wacky) sense of humor. Oh, yes, there is many a time my ability to see the humor in most situations (and find or create memes for them) helps me stay sane. I love to laugh and to make other people laugh. If I can make someone almost pee with laughter (or giggle or chuckle – I’m not picky), then my day is made and the anxiety and depression that constantly sit on the back burner of my psyche, waiting for the perfect moment to make themselves felt, are once again put in their place…on the back burner.

These are all things I’m thankful for today, this week, this month, this year – there are many other things for which I’m thankful, but don’t have anymore attention to spare to writing this post, especially after all the revisions I made because I needed to add JUST. ONE. MORE. THING. (!!!) Yes, there are things that I feel are missing in my life, but at this moment, I choose to dwell on the blessings. Count your blessings and….squirrel!!🙂

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Guest Post – Author February Grace


touruponatime

I’m pleased to host the very talented February Grace on my blog today, for the tour of her new book,

Upon a Time.

First, about the book:

 

hi-res-cover-UPON-A-TIME-Greg-Simanson-MEDIUM-SIZE
Genre: Fantasy / Fairytale / Romance
A blacksmith’s apprentice who would be a knight. The heir to the throne, at death’s door. One woman who would save them both, if she could…

Charlotte was number sixty-four in the second group of young, hopeful maidens intended to meet the Prince at a grand ball in his honor. That introduction was not to be. She returned home to her tiny village—and her visions of a future limited by it—without any warning of the drastic turn her life was about to take. Soon she would be fighting against the odds to help keep a gravely wounded stranger alive; and waging war with her own heart, as he stirred feelings in her she’d never known.

When the stranger’s royal identity is revealed, Charlotte is faced with an entirely different battle: one to keep her family, village, and the injured Prince in her care all safe from a madman set on taking the throne by any means necessary.

 

Now, please welcome February Grace!🙂

 

The Story Behind The Story

When I sat down and started writing UPON A TIME last year, I had no idea it would turn out just as it did, but I am so happy that it did.

I wanted, at first, just to put a spin on the traditional Cinderella story. Something different, swapping out the centuries-old heroine for another girl who would take the spotlight, without ever setting out, at first, to do it.

Then, the characters made themselves known to me, and I had the thought that the ‘retelling’ could be so much more than just that if I listened to them closely and wrote what was in my heart.

We live in a world that is so judgmental of people based upon their bodies: their outward appearance, and their physical strength and abilities. We glorify athletes and actors and models and worship them as the epitome of all that is desirable. We are taught from a young age that beauty equates to good in a person. Think about it; how often do you see a truly beautiful, truly evil villain? Usually if they are beautiful, in the end they are redeemable; and so not truly evil at all.

On the other side of the coin, those who are less than perfectly beautiful in these stories are often cast aside or worse, cast as weak and to be pitied, despised, or abused.

In this life there is so much more to people than just their outsides, and there is, or should be in my view, more to ‘fairy tales’ than just magic.

So I set about writing a story and when I was done I had something that was different: a Cinderella tale without a hint of supernatural magic (and this from a writer who previously wrote two novels all about the lives of modern fairy godparents!)

The “magic” in UPON A TIME exists in the hearts of its heroes, in the way that they selflessly come together to save a man’s life, not knowing at first the importance he had to all of theirs. The magic is there again when you see how that man takes to the new challenges that he must face, and rises above them.

I hope that this story will shine a new light on the people we imagine to be heroes, in stories and in everyday life.

If UPON A TIME makes just one person feel less self-conscious about their physical challenges or their appearance, then it will have been worth writing and going through the process of getting it out into the world. If it makes one person think about how they view others, it is worth it.

The true measure of a man—or woman—lies within their heart, not in the condition of their exterior shell; and the truest love and noblest souls can dwell within bodies that come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of physical ability.

 

February Grace - picFebruary Grace is a writer, poet, and artist from Southeastern Michigan. She has created characters with clockwork hearts, told the romantic tale of modern fairy godparents, and has now put her own spin on a classic tale in UPON A TIME, her fourth novel published by Booktrope. She sings on key, plays by ear, and is more than mildly obsessed with colors, music, and meteor showers.

Links

Website: http://februarywriter.blogspot.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24902564-upon-a-time?from_search=true

Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Upon-Time-February-Grace/dp/1620156938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425320017&sr=8-1&keywords=upon+a+time+february

Amazon (eBook): http://www.amazon.com/Upon-Time-February-Grace-ebook/dp/B00TD6IF86/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1425320017

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/upon-a-time-february-grace/1121187296?ean=9781620156933

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Living with ADHD, Anxiety & Depression


Hayden at 6 years old.

Hayden at 6 years old.

My now 14-year-old son was diagnosed with (high-functioning) ADHD at the tender age of 6. Soon after, he was given a back-up diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) – yes, that’s an honest-to-God psychological diagnosis. He also has Aspergers symptoms (though not the diagnosis) such as lack of a verbal filter, literal interpretation, delayed social and emotional reciprocity. I made the tough decision when he was 7 to put him on medication. What followed was 6 years of anxiety-ridden trial & error medicating in an attempt to control the symptoms of his mental, behavioral and social issues, and frequent insomnia. Under the care of several different psychiatrists (and one neurologist), we tried combinations of drugs such as Vyvanse, Focalin XR, Concerta, Strattera, Tryleptal (don’t remember why this one – it made him psychotic & we quickly took him off it), Respiridone, and Clonidine.

Even with the RX, there would be meltdowns at school and home – trouble focusing, staying still, sometimes violent outbursts against others or himself (biting himself, sometimes to the point of drawing blood). The school district tested him again and the decision was made to put him on a 504 Accommodation Plan. Up until 5th grade his grades were mostly As & Bs. Then pre-adolescence set in and I moved him from his K-5 school (where he’d been since Kindergarten) to a K-8 charter school. To make a very long story short, 6 weeks into 6th grade, they couldn’t handle his meltdowns and the principal told me I’d have to withdraw him if he had another one. I later found out she didn’t have that authority, since charter schools are still public, but we (i.e. my mother) home schooled him for the rest of the year, anyway. For 7th and 8th grades, I put him back in regular public school. Halfway through 7th grade (early 2014), I made the decision to take him off ADHD RX. And we discovered there’s NO marked difference between Hayden ON RX and Hayden OFF RX. Now we stick with thrice-monthly therapy, melatonin for the insomnia, once or twice monthly therapy for me, and continue to work on behavioral and social improvements.

Hayden in November 2014.

Hayden in November 2014.

At the tail-end of last school year, the district finally gave in to my demands for updated testing, and upgraded him to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), based on his behavioral/social challenges. Now we’re nearing the end of the 3rd quarter of 8th grade and my current worry is whether he’ll pass or fail. Since 6th grade, his grades have been mostly Cs (which would be fine, if I knew that’s all he’s capable of), and he’s failing math and science, previously two of his better subjects. I won’t go into all the parent-teacher conferences, ESE meetings, and numerous calls to the school reminding them to send home missed assignments so we can complete them in a more (relatively) laid-back environment and pull his grades up so he can go onto high school with the rest of his peers. I’m looking into private schools, and pray if that turns out to be the best thing for him, a miracle will happen to help me afford the tuition, most of which average about half my annual (gross) income.

There ARE signs of maturity: fewer meltdowns and violent outbursts. Now it’s mouthiness – a typical teenage/adolescent issue, obsession with having the last word in any disagreement

(also a teenage issue?), frequent anxiety (usually school-related), migraines and stomach pains (which might have to do with food preservatives and his love of junk food – healthier eating is a continual work in progress), and more frequent Aspergers symptoms. All this leading to frequent (verbal) confrontations with fellow students, teachers, and administrative staff at school, which in turn lead to “referrals” (detentions and/or suspensions). He spends at least a few hours each school day in the ESE Support office, which usually helps him de-stress, finish classroom assignments, and stay out of MORE trouble.

November 2013-1

A mother & son moment of humor & horseplay.

I often feel ill-equipped as a single parent to support and sympathize with my boyo. I find myself resenting his father for leaving us (that’s a whole other story, but suffice to say, it’s probably better he’s rarely in Hayden’s life, since his idea of “parenting” is being a friend rather than parent), since I’m frequently forced to lean upon my mother for support and assistance, when she should be enjoying being a grandparent and all that goes with it, instead of having to serve as back-up caregiver and disciplinarian. I myself struggle with anxiety and depression, adult ADHD and OCD (what a pair we are!). I’ve been on a low-dose anti-depression/anxiety RX for several years. Having gone without it a time or three, I’m thankful for it, as I like the slightly medicated Wendy better than the non-medicated Wendy. I used to believe – many, many moons ago, before I left home to expand my educational and social horizons – that the Christian foundation (prayer, spiritual support system, etc) upon which I was raised, is ALL you need, and can cure ALL ills. And maybe it can, or maybe it’s enough for some. For the rest of us, while we ARE more stable with and depend upon that foundation, we’ve discovered that we often need professional assistance in addition to the spiritual. And humor – definitely need my wacky sense of humor.😉

 

Some of my own mental health issues probably stem more from a single act of molestation as a young child (which I’ve rarely spoken about publicly) rather than “inherited” from my child. Ironically, it’s my own therapy and learning more about fellow writers’ experiences with trauma and mental health issues that have led me to understand more about my own and my son’s mental health challenges, and strategies to cope and live with said issues. And for that, I’m very grateful.

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Filed under ADHD, Anxiety, Blogging, Depression, Family, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Twilight Zone Tuesday


I think I entered The Twilight Zone when I woke up this morning. It’s been a day of VERY unusual occurrences. Here’s my evidence:

 

  • None of my usual programs worked this morning when I first logged into my work computer. I had to shut it down twice before it would work. Guess it needed virtual caffeine…
  • Publisher’s Clearinghouse (or is it “Clearing House?” … whatev’s) called me mid-morning (on my cell phone, from a local number) to tell me that I’m one of 5 finalists for the $2 million cash prize! (Yay, me!!) And that I’d be getting FREE $500 to spend at ANY of my local stores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc. – how about Barnes & Noble!!), AND I get 6 magazines OF MY CHOICE!! The ONLY thing they need from me, is S&H. When I started to ask why I have to PAY for something FREE, the guy hung up on me. (Was it something I said???)
  • About an hour later (is this a conspiracy??) I get a call from ANOTHER local number (cell phone again, male caller) asking to speak with “Hayden, please.” Well, Hayden is my son, but he has his own phone number, so….what??? The conversation went something like this:
    • Me: This is his mother. Why do you need to speak with him?
    • Caller: Oh. How old is he?
    • Me: (!!!!! Why is an unknown male calling me asking for my son’s age????) He’s a minor.
    • Caller: Well I need to know his age, so I can cancel this loan.
    • Me: What loan???
    • Caller: He applied for a loan using this phone number…
    • Me: He’s a minor. You can cancel the loan.
    • Caller: So how old is he? 16?
    • Me: Why does his age matter? I already told you he’s a MINOR; he’s UNDER 18. WHICH age under 18 shouldn’t matter.
    • Caller: But what’s his age?
    • Me: His AGE doesn’t matter, he’s UNDER 18. Cancel the loan.
    • Caller: But…
    • Me: Seriously? *CLICK*

See what I mean?😮:/

 

I think the next call I get to my cell phone from an unknown local number will start with me answering: “Hello. You should know I work in Law Enforcement, I have a brain, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

 

 

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The Staple’s Hostage; Or, My Alternator, the Electric Welder


A staple held my car hostage early this week.

Yes, you read that right: a staple. The kind you put into the top left corner of a sheaf of papers to keep them together.

This little, unassuming staple packed a big punch. A punch big enough to shut down my vehicle.

Sunday morning, when I started my Honda CRV so my son and I could leave for church, I heard an unexpected sound: a hesitant engine when I turned the key in the ignition. My heart sank. I heard it again when starting the vehicle to drive home from church. Monday morning, when I attempted to leave for work, it wouldn’t start at all.

My battery has a 3-year warranty and was purchased less than a year and a half ago. I still have the receipt (Yay me!) so if it was the battery, it wouldn’t cost anything to replace. The battery is self-contained & sealed (meaning, it doesn’t need water periodically). I checked the necessary fluids (oil, power steering, etc.) and all were fine. I’m now out of ideas. I called my brother who was on his way home from his shift as a Palm Beach County Firefighter/Paramedic, to let him know I would need him to take a look under my Honda’s hood to see if he could figure out the problem. His best guestimate: either the battery or alternator needed to be replaced. Perfect. He jumped my battery and I drove to my parents’ house, where I left my poor, dying vehicle and borrowed my father’s SUV, my parents being out of town at the time and not needing a vehicle.

When I returned to my parents’ house Monday evening after work, my parents had arrived home from vacation, and my father removed the battery from my Honda so we could have it tested at the local Auto Zone. Diagnosis: battery is alive and well. So it was the alternator, which gave me visions of dollar signs dancing OUT of my checking account. Come to find out, alternators themselves aren’t expensive to replace; it’s the installation fees that’ll get you.

Tuesday afternoon, my father had my Honda towed to our mechanic – he attempted to drive it, but I guess I forgot to warn him about my impassive alarm system that keeps the vehicle from being started if you don’t unlock it with the remote. (Umm…Oops.) Wednesday afternoon, when I called my dad to find out the prognosis and cost, he said: “You lucked out, and there’s NO CHARGE.” (Whew! Praise Jesus!!)

The strange story: At some point in the week leading up to Sunday morning (the first time my Honda complained), a staple lying on the road launched itself up into the undercarriage of my SUV, attaching itself to my alternator, right on the spot where it communicates with/contacts my battery. The alternator then acted as an electric welder due to the heat it generates (14.2 volts & 20 or 30 amps), causing the staple to almost completely fuse to my alternator, and disrupting the alternator’s “communication” with my battery, forcing my battery to power my vehicle ALONE, until it ran out of charge. Once the mechanic removed that pesky tiny staple, my Honda ran like a charm.

This little scenario will probably have a cameo in one of my books someday, so be on the lookout.🙂

Now, if that’s not the STRANGEST story you’ve heard all week, I’d like to hear yours.

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Building a Writer’s Resume


Just in case you were wondering, building a writer’s resume is easier said than done. Yes, I know, being a writer, I should be able to find more imaginative words than those of a cliche. Maybe another time.

So, building a writer’s resume. If you’re like me, up till now, you’ve only been “published” in obscure poetry anthologies nobody’s ever heard of that have never graced any bookstore shelves, or in an over-priced college textbook that may or may not be in circulation today, five years after publication. Why then submit to these publications that would seem to do very little to further my writer’s resume? Well, if they did nothing else, they helped me get into a respectable creative writing degree program, and they taught me to do my homework before submitting my hard earned money and expressions of creative flair.

In my three years at Wilkes University, I’ve learned that two of the easiest – and probably quickest ways – to build a writer’s resume is to blog and to review.

I started a blog a few years ago, but didn’t keep up with it…and I have trouble keeping up with this one. Life happens, you know? And sometimes pure laziness sets in. Other times, I’m whiny and choose not to subject you all to that. (Quite nice of me, no?) Anywho…from now on, whenever I run out of stuff to talk about, think I’m going to post about the joys and trials of writing and research…rather than not post at all. That’s part of what this blog is all about, after all.

I’ve been reading books for as long as I’ve known how to read, but the reviews have been few and far between. Not anymore. Goodreads.com is a great resource for book reviews. You can create a library of books read, currently reading and plan to read, leaving comments/reviews as you complete each one.

I’ve listed several hundred books on Goodreads, but haven’t kept up with the reviews. And there’s no time like the present to correct that mistake. Especially since recently I was politely refused when I requested a couple of books to review from one publisher…because I don’t have an established review resume. Ack. That was a bit embarrassing.

Now that I’ve officially launched the Grenade Magazine site and have begun accepting submissions, I’ll be able to add “publisher” to my writing credentials! I’m so excited about this endeavor! The magazine will be a bi-monthly, online publication, with an anticipated yearly anthology. This is the culmination of my MFA capstone in Creative Writing at Wilkes. If you haven’t checked out the site yet, head on over and take a look. And if you’re a member of the military, former member, or family of a service member, please feel free to submit something (guidelines available at the site)!

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Images of Wilkes-Barre


My first Residency at Wilkes University in January 2009, was pretty intense. Classes all day and homework assignments every night, to be turned in the next morning. One of our assignments was to walk around the town of Wilkes-Barre, consider the blight and beauty of the town, then write about it. The genre that would express our vision – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama or screenplay – was assigned based on small groups – 4 or 5 students to a group. For this exercise, my group had to write a poem. This is the poem I composed while walking the beautiful and blighted streets of Wilkes-Barre.

In my travels
I walk the streets
of a quaint old mining town
that has seen better years.

Architecture at once blighted and beautiful;
buildings formerly stately and proud
give silent witness to attention once paid;
lives once lived, now forsaken.

History lives on, rich and present;
ghosts of a time maybe long forgotten
bright colors weathered and worn.
Walking down the streets, you imagine and sense.

A six-sided star – embedded high in the window
of a house of faith existing
in the midst of the bleakness and gloom –
seems to speak of hope for redemption.

Though barren and worn, some pride remains;
though tired efforts to restore fall short,
still, deserted gables stare with hopeful eyes
peering down at us, following our passage.

Silent voices screaming in my ears,
“Wait! Come and stay with me.
Gaze out of my windowpane and
keep company with me.”

“My inhabitants are all gone away
I’ve been abandoned for far too long.
Dust coats my casements
my covers are tatters and rags.”

The pleading voices fade as we swiftly pass
more pressing matters fill our thoughts;
no time to waste
on ancient and deserted lives.

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When Your First Kiss Causes a Full-Blown Panic Attack


By Ryan Moreno

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Ryan Moreno

Do first kisses usually cause panic attacks?

I don’t mean a heart-racing-weak-in-the-knees anticipation kind of feeling, either. I mean a full-blown, honest-to-God panic attack.

Thought I didn’t realize it at the time, mine did. The muscle memory is still with me. My heart is hammering my chest just from the memory. I remember the physical sensations, the thoughts that ran through my head and the emotional upheaval as clearly as if it’d happened only yesterday:

Sweat beaded my lip and brow, and ran its cool fingers down my spine. I was so flushed, my body was burning up. I hyperventilated and my heart beat so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest (due to a heart condition, when I’m having a panic attack, I can look down and literally SEE my heart pounding). It felt like I was on a roller coast (I LOVE roller coasters, but I didn’t love this one – it felt more like drowning), and the contents of my stomach were threatening imminent reappearance. This was my first kiss panic attack. I was 15.

It took him hours to wear me down. Maybe days. That part is kind of hazy. He was also 15, but either much more experienced or simply more confident than I. He was persistent and wore me down. That I was quite attracted to him might’ve helped to tip the scales in his favor. Even while we were kissing – French, of course😉 – my heart ran a marathon. That fight or flight syndrome. I didn’t know what to do, how to handle the sensations running through me. I let him take the lead and he devoured me.

Kissing came easier after that. Until a few weeks later when I became uncomfortable with him slidding his hand up my skirt and attempting to fondle my breasts. He called me a prude. I’d never been called that before and had to find a dictionary. When I told my mother he’d called me a prude, she said I should be proud of that. At 15, I was just as uncomfortable with the idea of being a prude as I was with his hands on the covered parts of my body.

I don’t know if he really was looking to “score” or just wanted to fool around a little. After establishing my “prudishness,” he quickly lost interest. And I became a subtle stalker. I didn’t have the confidence to confront him, so I prank-called his house multiple times, wrote a lot of bad poetry, broke a few of my figurines, and cried. It wasn’t the first time – nor would it be the last – I cried over a male who didn’t deserve my tears.

I hated to say no to him…when I was younger I had that “want to please everyone” personality. I hated confrontation. It made me sick to my stomach. But at the same time, I was willful and stubborn. Great tug-o-war combo. I still sometimes struggle with wanting to make everyone else happy. But I’m less afraid of confrontation.

Something inside wouldn’t let me say yes to him…So I was a prude. Until I was 19. A guy I’d known for several years (my brother’s best friend, in fact), who was a couple years younger than me, said the right words, at the right time, and wooed me in just the right way…I let him in where another male hadn’t been since my CSA 15 years before (I talk about that HERE.) Eventually, this younger guy became abusive and the end of our relationship was a disaster and emotionally traumatic for me…but that’s another story for another time…

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