I have been quite disappointed in myself, after making the commitment to do the A To Z challenge, that I was unable to keep up with it this week. It is particularly disappointing because I’ve already blogged about my tendency not to complete things and to be hard on myself when I do not succeed at things.

However, all of Monday had gone by in a blur, and at the end of everything, I was upset because the day disappeared and I hadn’t blogged. Then it was Tuesday, usually the busiest day of the week in my world, and I still had not blogged.

E is also for Easter, which was Sunday and a relaxing day. Easter happened to be overflowing with TV shows I wanted to see, and I also tried my hand at another “E” thing, eating. *laughs* In particular, I made soup in the Crock-Pot, which turned out better than I expected—specifically considering I don’t really know how to cook, but I use recipes as guidelines rather than instruction manuals. I think I ate about 8 bowls of soup over a three day period, before I decided I was souped out (note to self: cut recipes in half. Also, rice is bigger after it’s cooked for a while.) After successfully making the soup, I watched the Smurf movie, which was pretty smurfing cute!! 😛 I don’t really love animated movies; I only usually see them if they are something fantastic, and “cute” isn’t usually my cup of tea. But the movie was entertaining, surprisingly witty, and had a great cast.

E is also for Energy, and I had been in better spirits and having more of it. So, as happens every time I’m feeling positive, I decided to try to cut back on my beta-blocker. Although doctors like to deny it because they are so widely prescribed, many reputable studies and also personal observations have shown me that beta-blockers severely slow down your energy level, cause weight gain, bloating, and in some people, diabetes. However, for people like me who have a high pulse and an irregular heartbeat, it is one of the only effective treatments and significantly lowers your risk for heart attack or stroke. Since my mother started having both in her 50’s, both my brother and I were put on beta-blockers at the first sign of “something’s wrong”. During my trip to the ER after the episode recounted in “B Is For Beach”, the doctors found I had PAT: Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. My heart rate will randomly speed up, trigger heart palpitations and panic attacks. It is not entirely uncommon and not life-threatening, but an episode will keep you in bed or send you to the ER– and the beta blocker put an end to them almost completely. However, the side effects are terrible, even after 4 years.

Worse yet, my doctor denies things like the beta-blocker being responsible for weight gain and fluid retention (even though it has happened to almost everyone I know who takes them. Recently, a friend was put on them, and his doctor immediately put him on a low-carb diet before the pills even took effect.), and also does not understand why I cannot seem to cut back the dosage of this medication. I have tried multiple times, but after doing extensive research on the internet, learned that “rebound symptoms” were common. Cut back on your medication, symptoms of whatever made you take it to begin with return. I’ve never gotten past 4 days of even a small reduction, and my doctor gave me the OK to cut my dose in half. When my blood pressure started to read 92/58, I got scared, and decided it was time to try again.

Today is day 4, and the side effects have been terrible. I feel sad and just want to lie in bed all day, and the smallest thing going wrong makes me want to bury myself in a hole and never come out. My hands shake, and one night, felt so dry and swollen I couldn’t move them. I had a heart palpitation, my BP is up (it’s actually normal, which to me feels like I am riding a rollercoaster), and I generally feel scared. Still, I’ve done everything I can to stick to taking that little piece of pill away every day. It made me feel comforted to know at the same time, another friend has been struggling to cut back on his terrible smoking habit, and his symptoms and struggles aren’t much different. I try to remind myself that if I keep focused on the goal and don’t panic, I can do this thing that will help in the long run. But it is hard on my mind, my body, and my emotions.

I almost quite trying on Monday evening, when E was for Emergency. I had a text from my brother saying my dad was in hospital again. One of the things that scares me about my own health is how unhealthy my own parents are, in their mid-60’s. My dad has stage IV prostate cancer that’s spread to the bones, and is currently doing chemotherapy and injections to shrink the tumours. He also suffers from Lymphedema, is over 500 pounds, and has been confined to a bed and wheelchair for about 6 years. One of the side effects is an inability to get enough oxygen into his body, and although he has a machine to help with this, he doesn’t use it. So, when trying to get into his wheelchair, he fell, and the doctors discovered his carbon dioxide level was at 95%. He is currently in a medically induced coma while they get his body balanced. It is perhaps the third time this has happened. Yet, my dad refuses to go to a nursing home where trained professionals can give him 24/7 care. It is a very tough situation, and it upsets me that my own health issues keep me from being able to travel to see my family.

I try not to beat myself up for forgetting to blog in the midst of all this, and my body struggling with itself to even do simple tasks—but it does feel a lot like “F”, which is failure.

At this point in my life, I need a win. I need something to go right. I need to do something I didn’t screw up along the way. I need to fight for every day to be a good one, even if my quality of life isn’t what it used to be and may never be the same again. It’s too easy to give up hope and not find anything to smile about when you wake up in the morning, when everyone should be smiling just because they woke up in the morning. There is so much in life I don’t have the means, ability, or knowledge to control, making sure that there are little successes where I can find them is important to me–even if it just means writing on this blog every day.

I may only be able to live a “C” kind of life these days, but it’s way better than an “F” kind of life.

You may have noticed there haven’t been too many articles promoting my writing, interviews, and other creative projects. Sadly, I think the illness that’s kept me inside has robbed me of a good deal of inspiration. There are so many blank pages staring back at me. 🙁

Fortunately, I think I went and broke the cycle by doing a guest blog spot on the lovely Mysti Parker’s blog, where she hosted a writing challenge that featured different authors and bloggers doing personal essays on every letter, A-Z. I’ve been fortunate to cross Mysti’s path a few times, as she is not only an accomplished author I met via Goodreads, but a mentor over at Writer’s Village University. I even won a little contest on her blog last year, writing on a flash fiction prompt. She has a wonderful community of friends and writers out there, and I highly recommend checking her out. 🙂

My letter was “Y”, and I chose to write an essay on youth, and growing older. It is an odd subject for someone my age to tackle, I know. Such reflections are usually done by writers in their 50’s and 60’s. I thought it might be interesting to approach the idea of lost youth from the perspective of someone who is suddenly what the world would consider “an adult”, and doesn’t always feel equipped to handle such a responsibility.

I’d love if you’d read the essay here!

Please show us both some love with likes, comments, sharing, and all that jazz….:)

And, as a bonus, I’m sharing a poem I wrote almost as a joke a few months ago. It’s “Ode To The Trolls”, and designed to teach children (or people of any age) to deal with bullying and being made to feel “less than”. It is both real and satirical (you know, rather like Stephen Colbert), so it’s best read to a Dr. Seuss sing-song rhythm, either aloud or in your head. Enjoy! 😉


“Ode To The Trolls”

“There’s a problem today
That makes everyone mad
Angry and quiet,
Disgusted and sad.
You’ll notice one day
People don’t often agree
And being disrespectful to others
Is something you’ll see.
I don’t recommend it,
You shouldn’t really try it,
But you don’t have to listen
And you don’t have to keep quiet.
You may be a child, an adult
Or a teen
But at some point and some time
You’ll meet someone who’s mean.
She may think she’s funny,
He may be aggressive
But bullies are awful
Really, truly offensive.
On the playground, at work,
Or an Internet troll,
Bullies don’t fit
One particular role.
When one makes the decision
To come after you
You’ll wonder what you did wrong
And what you should do.
The truth is it’s nothing,
You’re perfectly fine
(Though we all do embarrassing things
From time to time.)
And though it may hurt you,
This moment will pass.
Just handle yourself with grace
And with class.
When it comes to people,
It’s easy to see
There is really and truly
Not a right way to be.
When people are angry
And cause a commotion
It’s them and not you
That create this emotion.
People aren’t always good
And they aren’t always bad,
But in the heart of a bully
You’ll often see someone sad.
There isn’t one way to be
That is never a crime;
We’re all going to get picked on
From time to time.
Maybe you’re really smart
Super-nice, extra-pretty
Or always willing to help
Others out in a hurry.
Maybe you have special talents
Are the head of your class,
Have lots of friends,
Or can kick a ball down the grass.
Maybe you’re that one person
That others can find
When they’re sad or they’re scared
Because you’re humble and kind.
Maybe you don’t even know who you are,
What is real, what is true,
But lurking inside
Is something special, creative, and new.
And when people can see it
They become really jealous,
Trying to erase all the great,
Wonderful things people tell us.
Maybe you’re black, and
Maybe you’re white;
Maybe you’re Muslim
Or Israelite.
Maybe you’ve made mistakes
Or you’ve spoken too loud,
Or you’ve done something silly
In front of a crowd.
You might feel too short,
Or you might feel too tall;
Or you might feel like no one
Ever sees you at all.
Maybe your hair is curly
Or red like a fire,
Or you’re bad at sports
But great in the choir.
You might be a guy
Who knows how to dance;
You might be a tomboy
Who always wears pants.
Maybe you’re Asian
And still bad at math,
Or you live with two moms,
Or you live with two dads.
Whoever you are, there’s a stereotype
Of who you should be
And what you should like.
But girls can play football
And boys can like pink.
You must learn to ignore
Those who speak and don’t think.
People may gossip or call you names
Bullies play mischievous,
Devious games.
It’s not your fault,
It’s not your decision.
You don’t deserve all the
Scorn and derision.
You may think it’s you
That you’re stupid, or weird
When the truth is we all have
Our doubts and our fears.
There isn’t one person,
No matter how strong
Who doesn’t look in the mirror
And find something wrong.
When people are bullies,
When people are mean,
They don’t like themselves
And so, make a scene.
People are perfect
In all shapes and all sizes
From all races and countries
Friends are remarkable prizes.
They make your life better,
They make it seem fair
That you are who you are,
That you are here and not there.
But no matter how special you are
Helpful, modest or nice,
Someone will say something mean
Without thinking twice.
Words can hurt deeply,
But whatever they say
Nobody else has the power
To ruin your day.
Whatever happens, and
Whatever you do
You must never, not ever
Once stop being you.
Maybe you’re skinny,
And maybe you’re fat;
Maybe you like dogs
Better than cats.
Being yourself is
To live unrepentant
And having opinions
Is what makes you authentic.
But whatever you say,
And whatever is real
Leads people to judge
The way that you feel.
They’ll tell you you’re wrong
That you should keep quiet
And you may be utterly
Tempted to try it.
When you are yourself,
You’re much criticised;
Supported and loved,
But also despised.
I’ve lived and I’ve learned,
And this much is true:
“Just be yourself”
Isn’t easy to do.
Deep down you must know
There’s no reason for shame,
But you will hear judgment
And you will hear blame.
Whoever you are
And whatever you do,
Somebody, somewhere,
Doesn’t like you.
So, why should you care?
Really, what does it matter?
There will always be people
Who will make your heart shatter.
You take a deep breath,
You count to ten-
Then you put the pieces together
All over again.
Kindness and love
Are still everywhere
But the courage to share them
With others is rare.
People today, they
All want to fit in,
As if being different
Is the world’s biggest sin.
Different is pretty,
Expressive, unique;
It may make someone’s heart
Skip a beat.
People may tell you
Your thinking is wrong,
But they are narrow-minded and scared
Because you are strong.
You don’t have to tell me,
I really do understand
Fitting in with the world
Should be part of the plan.
Going along with the crowd
Makes you feel protected,
Accepted and liked
Instead of rejected.
But those who are different
Help the world change;
Some of the best people ever
Were remarkably strange!
You might be an actor, inventor,
Or poet
You might fight injustice
Love others, and show it.
You might make new music,
Find a cure for disease,
Travel the world,
Rescue kittens from trees.
You might be a pilot,
The first girl aboard submarines,
Or help save the world
By keeping it green.
Or, maybe, one day,
You’ll be a mom or a dad
And deep in your heart
You’ll be awfully glad
That although people hurt you
Or mocked you with glee
You had the courage to say
“I am me!”
Because what makes you so different
Is what makes this all true:
There’s nobody better
Than irreplaceable you. “

~ February 28th, 2014

Today, the United States government has entered a state of partial shut-down, and I anticipate that things will be at a standstill for some time before they begin to look up. I’m not intending to write about this very current issue, even though it is relevant to all of us. However, I did post a statement on my Facebook page explaining why I’d be keeping oddly silent through a period of controversy, something that is not like me at all. It reads as follows:

“I don’t comment on political things much. It isn’t because I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have very strong opinions. But I also have the irritating ability to see both sides of a situation and discuss a problem from that perspective, which seems to annoy both “sides” of any issue. I look for ways for people to compromise and work together whenever possible, and those who see things in black and white tend to get angry with me, because I rarely do. So, I will spend tomorrow avoiding all commentary on the current political issues or partisan “blaming” conversations. I will say, though, if there were more people like me on our Congress, we wouldn’t have an “us vs. them” mentality that eliminates the idea of compromise for the greater good, in favour of behaving like children playing a game where winning is the only thing that matters. That is all I have to say about that.”

So, yes. Although I do not work for the government, it feels a bit like it should be a holiday today. I mean, why I am I meant to sit around being productive today? Instead, I thought I’d head over here and say hello to you guys. I haven’t done as well with keeping up on my blogging projects as I should, and I’m appreciative of the regular readers who drop by to look for new stories, even when there are not any.

For those who missed it, my latest project has been an involvement with Nerdy Minds, an online magazine for all things geek-culture related. They were initially delighted to have me as a contributor, because they really didn’t have someone on staff who wasn’t your “typical geek” writing about the culture from somewhat of an outside perspective. My very first post,
The Myth Of The Geek Girl
, stirred up a good deal of controversy and debate on Facebook and amongst the geek community at large. In fact, the response (both of a positive and negative nature) was so immediate and inspired so many strong opinions, I was asked to write a follow-up piece.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: writing for an audience that is not yours and expressing opinions on the internet is a bit like wandering into a minefield. When you write on your own blog, you have a bit of a security net. When you write a book, you have a finished work or a character or something to hide behind. When you write an opinion piece based upon your own life and share it with the world, there is no hiding. People judge. The commentary can get personal. You need to be a thick-skinned person to put yourself and your opinions out there in an authentic, vulnerable fashion and not be affected by the backlash. I, admittedly, am sensitive to the point of being overly sensitive. I take things personally when they are not meant that way. You might imagine how I react to the things that are most certainly meant that way.

Yet, throughout my life and my writing career, I’ve had the following pointed out: “You know how to make friends. You know how to get people to like you. If you just employ those strategies and hold back on sharing so much of yourself, you’ll find it easier to ingratiate yourself with any group of people. You’re a charming person; does it matter so much to be authentic and to have your voice heard?”

The answer is yes, of course it does. I addressed this issue in a snarky piece about
Surviving The Social Scene In 2013
at the beginning of the year. If you are an artist in any way shape and form, you understand that none of the aforementioned suggestions apply to you. They simply cannot co-exist with your identity as an artist without one suffering greatly. As an artist, it isn’t your job to make people like you. It isn’t even your job to pay attention to what your readers say, what your critics say, what your friends and family say. It isn’t your job to explain yourself and become a more beloved person. The job of an artist is to get people to examine how they think, how they feel, and how that is reflective (or not) of society. The job of an artist is to evoke a response and initiate dialogue. If acceptance is always the ultimate goal, one must embrace conformity much more than I am willing to do. I like acceptance. I like to be liked. However, the comments that meant the most to me were hearing from women who’d encountered all sorts of experiences that made them uncomfortable, and thanked me for sharing mine. The comments that meant the most to me were from people who wanted to reference my pieces in their own work and discussions on the topic, the people who validated me as an artist with something to say, not as a likeable girl.

Perhaps I don’t need to be liked enough that I believe the only important thing I have to say is on the topic of “Why Yellow Is Out In 2014″. Yet, the truth is, I do care, and when people make personal comments or actively dislike me, I cry. It doesn’t matter if I do not know or will never meet that person. Judgement hurts. However, it doesn’t hurt enough to make me believe toning down my personality, expressing myself a little less strongly, or working to keep the peace and making certain everyone will like me is worth it. I dislike conflict, but I cannot mold myself to the expectations of others to avoid conflict and live a life where I am more “accepted” by all. I cannot refuse to stand out because it makes others uncomfortable.

A good friend told me yesterday that he was quite concerned about me, because he always sees me as a bright shining light in the middle of a world that isn’t equipped for such a thing. He is afraid that the people around me who are not as open and adventurous as I can be, the people both in my personal and professional life who’d like to see me knocked down a peg or two, the pressure to live in a society whose mantra seems to be “conformity and pleasing others is the ticket to success”, and the difficult situations in my life one might characterise as “The Challenging Process Of Growing Up” are all things that will ultimately dim that light. It was the right thing to say, because my reply was along the lines of, “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be too strong or too special, but I’m a fighter. You never have to worry. I will cry and feel bruised and battered, but I’ll always get back up. I have to. ”

I do not consider myself “provocative” or “ballsy” or even “confident”, but I thank those who give me credit for being such a strong type of person. I don’t think there is anything particularly special about me. I write about things that are relevant to me, and things I believe others might read and think, “I can relate to that.” I say the things I think people should be saying, even if not everyone wishes to hear them. And, however much it hurts, I can’t change that desire for authentic self-expression simply because someone doesn’t like me or judges me. After living my life online for 13 years, I’m quite familiar with what it’s like to be a polarising personality. I’m also quite familiar with how important it becomes when someone tells you that you’ve left a positive influence in that person’s life, simply by being yourself. If you have that gift, and most of us do, why should fear keep you from sharing it?

In fact, the experience has rekindled my passion for blogging, and reminded me to pay more attention to my own. In October, I will be bringing back the ever-popular “Literary Libations” segment, and will be creating a group on Goodreads to bring together authors, bloggers, and others who realise that building a brand, marketing a book, or getting traffic to a blog isn’t something that can be accomplished in a bubble.

I’ll also be attending the annual SIEGE Conference this Thursday through Sunday, where I’ll be helping to handle registration and bringing my own unique version of sunshine and rainbows (i.e., snark, vodka, and glitter) to a really diverse and fun crowd of people.

And did I mention it’s October? That, of course, means Halloween—more events, more costumes, and more zany adventures when possible. If you’re not yet my Facebook friend, I urge you to come on over and join me and my unique crew of peeps, and share in the adventures.

See you all soon!:)

Being the kind of person who rather believes in the energy of the physical and metaphysical world, and is intrigued by chakras, crystals, phases of the moon, Tarot cards, the Oracle, and the power of the intuition, I tend to pay attention to “signs”. The Guy I Am Currently Dating laughs sometimes, and says “Everything can’t be a sign”–but, really, maybe a lot of things that typically go unnoticed by most people are signs. For instance, my personal symbol is the butterfly, and there are many occasions when I’ve found myself in either an extremely negative or extremely disorienting situation and asked “How in the world did I end up here?”. During those times, I would spot a picture of a butterfly, sometimes at the weirdest of places. I always see it as a sign that my life path has dictated I was supposed to end up there, even if the experience was an unpleasant one. It is part of the journey, marked with a butterfly.

Today is the day of the Harvest Moon, which means that Autumn is on its way. This morning, when I walked my dog, I saw a black cat with amber eyes scurry past my feet. I immediately thought, “I don’t know what that means, but it’s a sign.” I hope it is some sort of good omen, rather than a sign of trouble or chaos. I don’t really need more of the latter!

This summer has gone by in kind of a whirlwind, and it has been one of those rollercoasters that leaves you feeling a bit emotionally drained when all is said and done. I haven’t been the best about remembering to take time out to share all the stories and feelings that have passed through my world with you. Honestly, I haven’t been the best about writing or being creative. Perhaps we all go through those phases, where we feel irrelevant, and as if there’s nothing to say or do or create that hasn’t already been done before–and by someone with a much greater level of talent. While those phases are common among creative souls, I know, they’re also paralyzing. You remain kind of stuck in an unproductive slump, convinced that no matter what you do, it matters very little because you suck.

I am looking forward to the arrival of Autumn, honestly. It’s here early in Atlanta, and I am looking forward to being able to turn off the AC and open the screen door. I’m looking forward to burning apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin candles. I’m looking forward to multi-coloured leaves and changing up my wardrobe (I’m tired of seeing my same summer staples), and having time to myself. This summer flew by because there was always so much going on, and then it always happens that from the beginning of September through mid-October, the number of projects and special occasions and social events is through the roof.

During the summer, I get bored and restless easily. My travel schedule exhausted people, just reading about it. The sheer number of experiences, and emotional highs and lows, which I’m able to pack into a three-month period is nothing short of impressive. However, fall is calming. Perhaps it’s because I moved to Atlanta in September, and I have so many wonderful memories of those first few months I was here. Perhaps it’s because I don’t really like cold weather, but I don’t like being constantly overheated either, and Atlanta has a very small window each Spring and Fall. Each year, from mid-October to December, I don’t feel bored with not going out all the time, and I don’t feel badly about taking time out for myself. I just like the very temporary sense of peace and appreciating life’s smaller moments. I like having the time to write on my blog, read books, watch my favourite shows, wear fuzzy slippers, and not have this overwhelming feeling that life is this mad dash you need to rush to keep up with.

Of course, it’s also a time to focus on earning money for the holidays, so it’s not all stress-free. :( But, all in all, Autumn is quite welcome by the time it comes around. It doesn’t hurt that Halloween is my favourite holiday. :)

It’s not coincidental, I think, that November is National Novel Writing Month. While I’ve never participated, I think I’m not the only one for whom Autumn is a welcome respite, a time to slow down, a time to access all that pent-up, overlooked creativity, a time to reflect on everything that happened during your crazy summer. It always feels like the right time for self-expression and doing what you love, before the holidays come around and everything gets a little hectic again. :)

I haven’t, honestly, worked on many new projects this summer. However, I know you guys have been wondering what I’ve been up to, since I haven’t promoted any projects in a while! I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be contributing to Nerdy Minds, a magazine for the geek-oriented! Even if that doesn’t include you, I’ll be writing about things like dating, relationships, social interaction, and societal issues, so you’ll still want to follow me. My article isn’t up yet, but you can check out my introductory interview at NerdyMinds. Also, please show your love by “Liking” the project on FB, “Liking” the article, leaving a comment for me, and sharing the site with others. Start-up endeavours are always tough to get off the ground, as many of you know all too well! :)

I will be bringing back “Literary Libations”, interviewing up-and-coming indie authors each Sunday, in mid-October. I also have a book in the works, a compilation of short stories on the theme of connection in an increasingly disconnected world.

I’ve missed you all, and hope to spend more time with you as the leaves change….

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much for the past 6 weeks or so. Perhaps you didn’t notice, and I give myself more credit for having consistently interested readers than I deserve. *laughs* In any case, I haven’t been around the blogosphere too much. I’m not sure why, other than I have been feeling overwhelmed with actual day-to-day life. While my usual compulsion is to share all these things, it just hasn’t been that way. Frankly, I haven’t felt much like writing at all. My bank account looks sad and desolate, my paper journals haven’t been touched by ink in weeks, and while I did manage to start a short story for my upcoming collection (short story currently 20 pages and counting), it’s looking like my goal of having another published work out by December isn’t a realistic one.

I wonder if we all go through these crises of being, where we wonder if we have anything worth saying or creating, or if we are in fact people that anyone else cares about at all. I’ve been struggling with feeling irrelevant. Perhaps I haven’t been inspired to write because I’ve given up the idea that there’s an audience that cares, or that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said before, and in much more compelling and eloquent ways. I’ve been struggling with feelings that in my everyday life, I am not only irrelevant but inadequate, and it’s turned me from a vivacious extrovert to someone who has become resigned to being a wallflower. I have not been as social as usual, preferring the company of my closest friends to parties, and feeling as if organizing things to do has become an obligation rather than things I can look forward to each week. I feel I am not interesting enough, not intelligent enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not likeable enough, and not skilled enough in social situations to keep being the me I have always been. I do not know where this self-doubt comes from, but I have been paralyzed by it in many ways. I have this feeling that those in the world I love do not love me in return, and if they do, they should not, because I am too damaged and inadequate that anyone should spend time, emotion, or anything else on me.

Thus, I have been largely quiet on the blog, because people read blogs for interesting and inspiring stories—or at the very least, to be amused. I’m terribly un-amusing lately.

I will catch everyone up in longer posts on individual subjects, but here are some of the things that have happened to me during the past two months.:

* I’m sure I haven’t been gone thatlong, but I spent half of July reviving Alayna’s East Coast Tour. I was able to spend a week at the beach, visit my family, and see some of my favourite people who don’t live near me in Philadelphia, NYC, D.C., and Raleigh-Durham.

* Shortly after returning to Atlanta from visiting my family, I got news my mother was in hospital. She had yet another stroke and possible cardiac event, and for almost two weeks, did not know simple things like what year it was, who anyone was, and was unable to speak coherently without effort or get around without a wheelchair. Fortunately, she recovered, and was moved to a rehab facility. After she completes rehab, my mother will be moved to a permanent nursing facility. I cried after I left my family home, not only because of how they were living, but because I felt I’d never be back. I am an intuitive person, and it was a loss that hit hard, even before my mother ended up in hospital.

* All sorts of family drama ensued regarding power of attorney over my mother’s medical and financial decisions, her personal wishes, who pays the bills for her treatment, my 92-year-old grandfather’s will, etc. It is sad that when something happens to someone, the response from others seems to be “How does this affect me? How do I benefit?” I do not want to be involved in any of the family drama, and for all intents and purposes, I am happy that I was “written out of everyone’s will” many years ago. In my mind, it was the price of freedom and being able to live life on my own terms without being accountable to the idea of how others would have liked me to live. (yeah, how’s that working out for me? :P ) Yet, it makes me sad to hear how selfish and petty people are, people who are my blood relatives.

* Once all the family drama settled down, it was time to concentrate on costumes, house cleaning, event planning, etc. for DragonCon. I am very thankful that a good friend of mine was able to stay at my place and look after Trixie (my 13-year-old Lab/Beagle mix.), and that The Guy I Am Currently Dating took care of a lot of the trip planning. It was fun, but exhausting. It did push me past my physical limits right now, and was a reminder to be more careful about doing what’s best for my health and well-being, rather than being concerned about being a disappointment or liability to others.

* September is the month of events, as I have something going on every weekend until mid-October. Then, a short break, and it’s time for Halloween!

* As always, I’ve been addicted to my summer TV shows, and have watched a lot of Big Brother. It is the 15th season (the 13th year), which makes me feel quite old, because it was Season 1 when I was an alternate for the show. It’s funny to remember how young I was then, and what I would have been like to watch on reality TV at the age of 20. I thought I was the most interesting person in the world back then, and for many years following. Now, I feel inadequate in almost every way possible. It’s interesting how things change.

Sadly, my favourite contestant will likely be given the boot from the show tonight (marking the first time that my favourite hasn’t ended up winning in a few years.), and my original favourite contestant will likely be following her shortly. Just like in life, the smartest or most determined people don’t always win.

* Other shows I’ve been into include Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and “Dance Moms”, MTV’s “Catfish” (I still have a huge crush on Nev Schulman, and find it amusing that his older brother went to school with me, something I didn’t know until sending out a friend request on FB! What a small world it is!) and “The Challenge”, and a few others I watch sporadically. I’ve been reading, although not as much as I usually do. I finished Phillipa Gregory’s “The White Princess”, and am currently working my way through the letters of Simone de Beauvoir, after reading a biography of Sartre and de Beauvoir given to me by a friend. (although polyamory and open relationships have been around as long as time itself, it seems these two were the first to really define it as a lifestyle that worked—well, most of the time– they needed some work in the honesty department, it seems. *laughs*)

The Guy I Am Currently Dating got me into two shows we watch together: “Wilfred” on FX, which ranges from crude to absurd to philosophical, and “Ray Donovan”, which is the kind of drama I like quite a bit. If you get Showtime, I highly recommend it.

I haven’t yet seen “The Great Gatsby”, but I’d like to, as soon as I have some free time. I know it isn’t fabulous, but I do love the 20′s and Leonardo DiCaprio. *laughs*

* Oh, and yes, I finally did get money refunded from the hotel fiasco in Manhattan. It only took a month, and you can count on the fact that there will be a blog about that coming up shortly. ;)

For those who also follow me on Facebook, I’ve definitely been around, even while kind of ignoring my blog. I’ll have to try to be a little more inspired in the future. ;)

On Thursday night, I experimented with sleeping half-naked on the floor of my apartment. It was kind of like camping at Burning Man, but without a tent, and completely sober. It was, for the record, far less fun.

This sounds like a classic Alayna-type story of “Something that should not have happened”, but it was definitely not my fault.

As always, life has been a little crazy lately, and so today’s “Literary Libations” is not getting itself posted today. It will be postponed until Monday, when I’m a bit more awake and stuff. I think I exhausted myself a little, between some fun social events, deadlines, and what was likely the most uncomfortable night in recent history. Not sleeping is OK for a little while, but at some point, the gas tank most definitely hits “E”, for exhausted.

Thursday night seemed like an ordinary, low-key night. I had a bunch of articles with a deadline of Friday afternoon, and needed to get everything out of the way before my events on Friday night. I had also been set to participate in the “All Authors Blog Blitz”, basically a day where independent and self-published authors each posted a guest post on one person’s blog, and hosted another author on their own blog the same day. Obviously, that didn’t work out for me, but more about that later. I will be posting about the Blog Blitz, and featuring my guest author on Monday’s blog.

I managed to get my guest blog written at somewhat of the last minute, and made my way through about half of my assignments, when tornado warnings began to come through. Tornado warnings and strong thunderstorms are common here; nothing at all like the storms I’m used to in the Northeast. I actually *love* thunderstorms, as long as I can watch them from the inside or under a covered porch. I think they’re romantic and beautiful and never fail to remind me of some of the better moments of my life. (Ironically, I will always remember watching rainstorms from a daybed in New Orleans, and feeling wistful and sad and happy all at once. I thought it was really the kind of city I wanted to call home, even though it was small and Southern. I didn’t, of course, but New Orleans had some problems with water that were not at all romantic, so it’s interesting that I think of that city and remember how beautiful the rain is. Most people will always remember the devastation in following years.)

Tornadoes are a different thing entirely. We get a lot of warnings regarding them, but I don’t take them too seriously. I once threw an event in the middle of a tornado, thinking nothing was going to happen. Meanwhile, across town, the tornado hit Downtown Atlanta. I’d like to think my penchant for not taking things too seriously helped keep people safe. *laughs* On Thursday, I saw the alerts on TV, heard thunder, and assumed there was a storm.

Then, of course, the power went out. Fortunately, it was still somewhat daylight, but I became alarmed when the thunder started to shake the floor of my apartment. Ornaments fell off my Christmas tree. I went to hide in the little area of space that serves as a “closet” in my Zen room. Of course, I could still see the storm from my window, and my phone made the horrible emergency alert noise that always makes me feel really anxious. It said, “Emergency alert—danger imminent. Take cover now.”

That did not make me feel better, as the giant tree in front of my window started to shake, loud thunder seemed to be in the apartment, and the blackest storm cloud I’d ever seen was staring me in the face. Even on my beta-blockers, there was definitely an adrenaline problem, because I was alone in a closet and went from “Oh, storm, la la la…” to “Holy crap, we’re all going to die!”. My dog hates storms, so she’s really not a calming presence when a tornado comes through.

The storm ended, nobody was hurt, but the power was out. It was, of course, hot. It was 92 degrees that day, like it has been every day, and humid, and not a fan or AC unit to be had. At 8 PM, they said the power would be on by 9:15.

By 12 AM, I was starving (realising I had no food other than candy that didn’t require cooking), and walking around lighting up the apartment with my Kindle. By 1 AM, I was annoyed that The Guy I Am Currently Dating didn’t come to rescue me, because I’d used up my phone battery with the sporadic messages I was allowed to send (cell networks were also down) and calls to the power outage hotline. At some point, they didn’t give an ETA and my phone went dead.

By 1:30, The Guy I Am Currently Dating scared the hell out of me, because I’m sitting in a pitch black apartment and hear someone rattling with the knob at the door. I immediately think of every horror movie I’ve ever seen, but fortunately, he showed up with McDonald’s, which I ate in about 7 minutes. (If you know me personally, you know it takes me forever to eat food, so this is an important indication.) He also brought a flashlight, which was good, because the phone died and the Kindle was down to 15%. (I did read a book during the power outage, which was kind of nice. If it had not been hot and dreadfully uncomfortable, I would have appreciated the alone, non-electronic time.)

By 3 AM, I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t. The porch door was open, because it was 10 degrees cooler outside than inside. Walking the dog was particularly weird, because the lights were out EVERYWHERE. It was rather like a post-apocalyptic scene in a movie, and I felt like I needed a bow and arrow or something in order to channel my inner Katniss. The Guy I Am Currently Dating later told me that 200,000 people lost power, and there was not a light in the entire area.

I tried to sleep in every room, on every piece of furniture. I think I successfully got about 4 non-consecutive, uncomfortable hours. It really sucked. I am not a fan of summer power outages, for the record.

The next day, it only got hotter, with the apartment reaching 82 by 1 PM…and no power. The Guy I Am Currently Dating showed up again, drove me to McDonald’s, and tried to find a place to charge my phone. The parking lot was full of people who looked like they hadn’t showered, brushed their hair, eaten, slept, and were aware it was 90 degrees out. It was a cranky day. Finally, by 5 PM, a little girl shouted “The power is on!”, and you could hear a huge cheer throughout the apartment complex. I was lucky, as I had enough time to shower and get ready to go out, but I was exhausted.

Not everyone was so fortunate. On Saturday night, we saw a news headline that said “Parts of Atlanta Still Without Power”, so it could have been worse. I don’t know if I’d have survived another day.

(Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this, a thunderstorm is running through the area….)

While I still had access to my phone, I got the news that winners had been chosen in the short story contest over on Mysti Parker’s blog, and my little story I wrote at 4 AM one night won first place. YAY!! I’m totally honoured that my story, appropriately entitled “All That Glitters”, was something that stood out and captured attention. If you haven’t read the story or visited Mysti’s site yet, I totally recommend it.

In an example of synchronicity, Mysti is one of the mentors for the online writing class I’ve been doing at Writers’ Village University. I am not in her class, but it was one of her posts that pointed me to the community. Since she’s my friend on there, and my screen name is “PrincessAlayna”, I figured she knew it was the same person.

She laughed when she found that out, because she didn’t put the names together. (there aren’t that many Alayna-s floating around, and I have a photo posted, so that makes it even funnier.) An even greater example of synchronicity is that I received copies of books written by people I’ve actually met through the class, which I only started two weeks ago. Even cyberspace can be a small world.

Writing isn’t always something that gives you much validation. You publish a book, and as someone posted recently, “Oh, I sold a book this year, which is one more than last year. Things are looking up.” is not an uncommon scenario. For all the promoting people do, nobody is actually BUYING books, which makes it seem like a gigantic exercise in ego-reinforcement. I am not sure whether anything I write is good or not, ever. I am also not sure it matters, because everyone with a computer is an author these days, and what I’d really like is a paycheck. The things you receive paychecks for are often written in a drone-like fashion, without your name attached, and feedback is rare and almost always focused on punctuation. (Apparently, I suck at adverbial clauses and the use of commas.)

So, small things like someone you’ve never met liking your story actually count a little in the “You don’t totally suck” department. :) Are all the little bits of positive feedback enough to convince me I’m talented enough to actually be a successful writer…and does it matter if people don’t really read? I don’t know. But it’s cool to be appreciated now and again.

It’s the little things, like ice, Chicken McNuggets, and winning short story contests that make a hot June day without power a little bit better.

For the record, electricity is my new favourite thing.

As you may have noticed, the blog has been a little quiet, and I slacked off and skipped last Sunday’s “Literary Libations”. In addition to the health issues, June has turned out to be quite the busy month for me, and I wish I had the same level of energy I once had, before I got sick. And old. OK, mostly old. The oldness is certainly to blame.

I’ll start off with talking about my favourite subject: me…and where other people are talking about me! :P Long ago, I did an author interview I figured the interviewer simply wasn’t interested in. As it so happens, she simply published many of them at the same time. While it was one of my first interviews and therefore not one of my best, and the interviewer spelled my name incorrectly, I enjoyed reading it because the questions were a bit different from the usual. If you’re interested, you can catch me talking about me here. You know you want to.

Every so often, you have an interesting weekend. This one was definitely an interesting one for me, one that started on Friday when I planned an event at an upscale restaurant that literally just opened a few weeks ago. I’d sent a friend of mine to scout it out, and she’d told me the menu was limited, but the decor was really nice. I later found out the dinner menu was more extensive, they had excellent martinis, and the place really is beautiful. I fully expect to see it on “Real Housewives Of Atlanta” sometime in the near future.

The staff was extremely friendly, and we had occasion to meet both the manager and the owner. I found out that the owner was my kind of guy, an exuberant Italian man from New Jersey, and he seems to treat his customers and his employees like family. The food was good, but overpriced. For instance, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I ordered a bruschetta appetizer and decided to split an entree, so we could have dessert. I ended up going for the teriyaki chicken breast with pineapple salsa, because it seemed at least somewhat healthy.

To my surprise, the chicken arrived….and, well, that was it. No veggies, no potatoes, not even garnish on the plate. I absolutely realise why America is fat and unhealthy. 20 dollars either gets you one chicken breast without accompaniment, or enough food to feed 6 people at KFC.

The oddest thing was the drinks. We saw they had a special offering $5 martinis, which turned out to be only available upstairs in the lounge area. Downstairs, the same drink with Absolut vodka was $10-$12. Upstairs, the $5 martinis were made with Grey Goose, and significantly better. Of course, they were only for the ladies and only served until 11, facts not widely advertised until you received your bill.

Nevertheless, the club area was a fun bar, although a bit loud and with some flashing lights. There were couches, tables, a large dance floor, and once the crowd around the bar dissipated, it was a nice place to hang out. A friend of mine decided to leave early, and because she lived nearby, The Guy I Am Currently Dating drove her home. I went to pull up a chair and sit next to another friend of mine, one with whom I wished to exchange gossip and, you know, typical girl chat.

We talked for a bit, and that’s when things got weird. I somehow found myself rejected by an 80 year-old guy.

OK, maybe he wasn’t 80, but he was old. And boring. And, although I’m a modest person (sometimes), I definitely have to say I’m quite out of his league unless he happens to have invented the first dot matrix printer or something, and is one of Atlanta’s eligible millionaires.

When the seat on the other side of my friend opened up, he got up and moved to sit next to her, informing me “It was time to upgrade”. Really? I mean, WTF, dude? Is that not the rudest thing someone you don’t know could say?

The funniest part is that he seemed oblivious to the fact that we knew one another. He immediately “upgraded”, bought her a drink, and completely interrupted our conversation. From time to time, she would attempt to resume it. We took pictures together. The bartender brought us champagne, compliments of the owner (at my suggestion. :P ), and still, at one point he suggested we should get to know one another because we both played musical instruments. I don’t know how oblivious someone who has been on this planet for so long could be.

He then basically stalked her for the rest of the night, made her feel uncomfortable, and when she left, he grabbed his coat and made a quick exit as if hoping to catch her. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, whose job it is to oversee all damsels who may find themselves in distress (seriously, he often has a car full of women.), ran after her to make sure the guy didn’t have an opportunity to catch up with her. I later told the bouncer, who was cute and talkative in that Southern country way, that the feminist side of me was angry that girls should be made to feel so uncomfortable they choose to leave rather than cause a scene. On the other hand, I’d have had no problem making that guy feeling uncomfortable enough that he’d have left the building first, but my friend is far nicer than I happen to be.

Regardless of the fact that it was a creepy old stalker delivering it, I am still irritated by the comment. By the time you’re 80, you should know how to treat classy women. In my mind, that includes me. My friend is also a beautiful, intelligent, and classy woman…but it isn’t that often that people walk away from me, informing me they’re planning to upgrade. :P

I also had an unexpected and short visit from a good friend who was passing through my part of town, and took some time to catch up with me. This friend does not like to be mentioned on the blog, so I’m violating one of my rules here. However, we don’t get to see one another as often as I’d like, so it’s worth noting in a vague and positive way. :P

I think everyone has a larger group of friends and acquaintances in the world, but a very small and select number that can be described as “favourite people”. This friend most definitely falls into the latter category. There are some people in the world who, once you break down a certain number of barriers, reveal themselves to be among the most caring and uplifting people you know. I count this friend in that category, and we somehow have formed a very natural and authentic connection over the years. It is a unique dynamic and not always uncomplicated. There are few people with whom you can honestly share a full range of often-uncensored emotion and experience, and still like one other, and laugh at the absurdity of it all even when life is this complex and uncertain thing. Of course, this friend and I will likely never live in the same city, which makes actually getting to see one another a more valuable thing. (Sadly, this is true of many of my closest friends. I do have a few “favourite people” in Atlanta, and they play a huge role in keeping me in Atlanta. Atlanta is not one of my “favourite people”.)

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe it just means people like me more when they don’t live anywhere near me. :O (insert abject disillusionment here.)

Finally, I’m not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I felt like I needed a new and challenging project for the summer, especially since my physical being is still less than cooperative and I always seem to be too broke or too busy to travel. So, when I saw an introductory course being offered at Writers’ Village University for fiction writers, at a mere $10 fee, I decided to sign up.

I really had no idea what to expect, but the community seems very diverse and very supportive. There are some extremely skilled writers, and there are people like me, who have never taken an online workshop before. The “getting to know you” phase of things seemed to be successful, as people had a very positive response to “meeting” me (which is always a self-esteem boost, if you’re me.).

However, I feel like I might be a little out of my depth in this writing community. At the very least, it’s a humbling experience that points out, “Hey, my writing isn’t quite as appealing as I though. Maybe there’s a reason my collection was rejected.” Hopefully, I can learn from being surrounded by better and more imaginative writers.

The class hasn’t officially started yet, but they kicked things off with an optional writing prompt. The prompt for my room was to write a story about nature using words like “stapler”, “billboard”, “car”,”phone”, and “hard drive”. I sent what I concocted to The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and he said he liked it, but I suppose he’ll probably always say that. My reply to him was:


The comments left by the mentors leave me with the vague impression that they didn’t quite get it. Maybe they just didn’t like it that much, but I think more of the first. I notice that I don’t tell stories in a way that is as straightforward as some of the other people in my group, and I rely more on description and you needing to insert yourself into the situation.

Uh-oh. I think I might be creating the literary equivalent of Darren Aronofsky films when I write short stories. Oscar committee gives a thumbs up. People are like “WTF just happened?”.

Remember all those people who got mad when they thought the cable went out during the final episode of “The Sopranos”, but it was really the ending? Yeah. I’d have been responsible for something like that. *laughs*

I did get some positive feedback from other members of the class, but I’m looking forward to the challenges that come from writing with a very diverse and gifted group of people.

One of the cool things is that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not a writer, but a very imaginative and talented person, decided to take the class with me. We’re in separate classrooms, but it’s fun to have someone with whom to share the journey. I don’t often share my work with people, so frankly, I’m never sure if anything I come up with is good or not. I always rather assume it’s not, but have not yet stumbled on to that secret of success that says, “Hey, your writing is now good! Isn’t that awesome?”

Regardless, I now have something interesting to do over the summer when I’m not out socializing or home watching Big Brother. Let’s face it, those things occupy 70% of my waking hours during the summer, because I still have not mentally accepted that I am an adult and need to work even if it’s July. In my mind, I’m on summer break! As it turns out, that’s not a thing in life when you’re old. :(

Now, if only I could get my body stabilized from the medication-change fiasco, I might be a pretty happy camper. Or, at least, a pretty content one. :)

They always say “Better late than never”, but in this case, it’s totally true! Yesterday’s “Literary Libations” did not appear in time due to my complete lack of motivation to be anything but a giant lump on my bed (I still blame the whole drug/health thing.), and the fact that sometimes even *thinking* too much tends to tire me out these days.

However, I feel so badly for not giving this author much-deserved timely attention! Lost Reunions by Shuhin Ali looks like a fascinating read, and I’ve definitely added it to my list.

So, sit back, grab a snack, and even though it’s Monday, take a few moments and get into that Sunday frame of mind.



Shuhin_Ali_Lost_Reunions
1) Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you reside now, and what is your latest project?

I grew up in a small city in the north west of England. My parents are Bangladeshi so I grew up with a mixture of both British and Bengali culture, which was great. I graduated with a degree in Accounting from the University of Liverpool and later qualified as a chartered accountant. I currently spend my time living between Cheshire and London. I’m always looking to learn about different cultures and can speak English, Bengali and conversational Spanish. When I’m not writing I spend my time trying to improve my Spanish, keeping fit through running ten kilometer and half marathon races, trying to stay on my feet in Muay Thai training and watching movies, reading books and listening to music.

2) If you don’t mind, share a little bit about your latest book? What is it about your writing that gives it a unique voice and appeals to readers?

My latest novel,
Lost Reunions
, is a contemporary tale of friendship, self-discovery and redemption. It explores the nature of staying true to your dreams and ambitions in the midst of the pressures and temptations of modern society. It charts the story of two friends, an investment banker and a doctor, who face very different challenges in staying true to themselves and the promises they’ve made. It’s set between the UK and Bangladesh and I’ve tried to transport the reader to those settings to give it a real world feel.

I think my writing appeals to readers because I try to write in a way that gives the reader the impression that the story could actually be taking place in the world around them, I try to do this by keeping the story contemporary and the characters’ emotions real. I like to think my readers finish the story feeling like they really know the characters.

3) When it comes to the creative process, what inspires you? Tell us a little bit about how your latest book came into being.

I’ve always been quite a fan of books, movies and music finding that they are great avenues for storytelling; it was this love for story telling which inspired me to begin writing. I try to take inspiration from the world around me. My book came into being through the different mix of cultures I grew up around and my desire to tell a story that shows it’s never too late to reach out for your dreams.

4)
Did you decide to go with a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publish your latest work? What do you consider the benefits and the drawbacks of the particular route you’ve chosen?

I decided to self-publish my novel. The same as most aspiring writers, I was sending the usual letters and three chapters of my manuscript out to agents and publishers only to receive rejection letters, and at times no reply at all. I was fully aware that the publishing houses would only publish a finite number of books and so competition was fierce for their attention, but I had faith and confidence in my writing and the novel I had written. After meeting a few authors who had self-published their novels successfully this gave me the impetus to embark on the self-publishing journey, it was either that or let my manuscript languish on my laptop forever. I am happy to say that I believe I made the right choice.

The benefits of the self-publish are that you maintain control of the publishing process and get to run with your own ideas. Additionally, you also get to keep a higher portion of the royalties from book sales. Also because you are closer to the process of inception to sale of the end product I feel it allows you engage with your readers more often as you have to be more hands on with the whole process.

The main challenge of self-publishing is going from being a writer to a project manager and learning about all the different facets of the publishing process. I gave myself a couple of months to research what a publisher does and learn about the different elements of the process as best I as I could. I worked with an editor to edit the final draft of my novel, I also worked with my cover designer to pull together a book cover that would best represent the essence of my novel. I had to establish the most efficient distribution channels and decided to go with Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace, and also used Smashwords to distribute to all of the e-readers. The hardest part for me was the time, it can be very time consuming especially as I already had a day job, much of the time I would work through to one o’clock in the morning. This went on for about a month, but it certainly felt good when I had the finished product.

5) Where, when, and how did you get your start in the writing world? Is this your first publication?

This is my first publication. Writing is a hobby for me, I had an idea for a novel and within five months I’d written my first draft. After a few editions of my manuscript I thought I would take a chance and put it out in the world. Luckily readers have enjoyed my novel, so far.

6) Your book deals with some serious subjects. In addition to being a work of fiction, it serves to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by those living in cultures unfamiliar to most Americans. Have you gotten positive feedback on that front, and do you think your work helps people to get out of the mindset of concentrating on “first world problems”?

Yes. So far the feedback has been positive. Some of the issues in the novel are new to some readers and they’ve enjoyed being exposed to issues being faced in our world today, and some have been inspired to look into some issues further and have got involved with charities to combat social and economic problems faced in the developing world.

7) Are there times when you experience “writer’s block”, and what do you find is the best way to get past that?

I’ve been lucky enough not have experienced writers block. I’m quite a keen runner and find that gives me the opportunity to gather up plots and narrative in my mind, ready for when I sit down at my laptop.

8) Other than yourself, of course, who is your favourite author? What’s the last book you read that really spoke to you in some way, and why?

My favourite author is Zadie Smith. I think her narrative is wonderful and her characters are always full of life and you very much get feeling that you could meet them out there in the world someday. Her debut novel White Teeth is one of my favourites.

The last book that really spoke to me was
One Day
by David Nicholls. The characters in the novel were so well developed that you finished the novel feeling like you had become close friends with them. I also thought the settings in the novel were great as the author used real life events throughout the novel which meant you could relate to the story and made you feel a part of it. It was one of those novels which I really didn’t want to come to an end.

9) Is writing a full-time career for you, or something you do in your free time? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a writer?

As I have a day job, writing is something I do in my spare time. At times it can be difficult to find enough time to write meaningfully but perseverance is key. What I ultimately hope to achieve as a writer is to tell stories that readers will find engrossing and enjoyable, and to write the kind of stories I would like to read myself.

10)
If there were one thing you’d like to improve about your life or your writing at this point in time, what would it be?

Something I’d like to improve about my writing would be to explore other mediums of writing such as screenplays. With screenplays lacking the narrative of a novel I think improving my dialogue would be my best way to successfully write a screenplay.

11) Do you enjoy other types of media and artistic creation, such as television, magazines, movies, music, fashion, social media, etc.? What are some of your favourite things?

I enjoying watching movies and listening to music. There’s so much variety in movies and music that there’s always something to keep me interested. However I have rarely found a movie adapted from a novel that has beat the book.

12) What’s your Zodiac sign?

I’m a Pisces.

13) One of the interesting things about you is that you’re not only well-educated, but well-traveled. What is your favourite place in the world, and why? Where haven’t you visited yet that you’d love to explore?

One of my favourite places in the world is Pulau Tioman in Malaysia. They’re two islands off the east coast of Malaysia with white sand and clear water. I spent some time there whilst backpacking around Asia. It truly was a wonderful place. Somewhere I’d love to explore is Madagascar because of the unique landscape and wildlife there, I doubt there’s anywhere else like it.

14)
Of course, we both want readers to rush right out and grab a copy of your latest book! Please tell us where we can find it. Additionally, if you have a blog, website, Facebook, or Twitter, please let us know so we’re able to follow you.


Lost Reunions
is available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon. The ebook is also available on iBooks and Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and most major ebook retailers.

You can also learn more about
Lost Reunions
on the Facebook page, my website and Twitter. Links below:

*Facebook

*Twitter

*Website

Thanks so much to Shuhin for being a fascinating and wonderful guest this week. I’d also like to thank Shuhin for being so patient with the delays! I was set to get this interview up last week, when health issues kept me from completing the project. Even this week, with me not being at 100%, it is a day late…but hopefully not a dollar short!

To make up for the weekend I went missing in action, we’ll have an extra “Literary Libations” this week, with another fascinating guest author on Wednesday! Get your Kindles ready. :)

In my humble opinion, Jezebel doesn’t tend to publish very many insightful things. Personally, I’m not a fan. If something has pissed me off and I’m writing about it on my blog, there’s a 70% chance someone from Jezebel inspired me to do that.

I’m not just saying that because I used to date someone who was affiliated with this magazine (back when people read magazines), or because of the number of articles I come across designed to make me either hate myself, want to undergo radical plastic surgery, make me hate the world, or make me consider joining a convent or living a spinster-ish Jane Austen existence. I don’t need Jezebel to tell me why I’m not married, why he won’t commit, why I might be bad in bed, or why 30 is the new 60. I don’t need to know how society judges me, according to a specific subset of society getting paid to write about judging others. I don’t really have many kind, ladylike words for Jezebel. However, every once in awhile, there will be a surprisingly rational, pro-female writer who shows up and makes me think I must have landed on the wrong page.

In fact, in all my years of rants inspired by articles I’ve read on Jezebel, this may be the smartest thing I’ve heard from one of their writers yet.:

“If you’re a woman with an internet presence, you need skin as thick as a redwood trunk to deal with the barrage of insults and threats that you’ll unquestionably receive from misogynist trolls who want you to stop writing about topics that men also like to write about, or stop writing about feminism, or just stop writing, period. This has always been the case, but it’s not getting better for most women I know. In fact, it seems to be getting worse.”

Sadly, I have to agree. I don’t know if the internet is a nice place, but since I apparently am old enough to be a part of “social media before social media had a name”, I remember when the internet was not a nice place. During my time on the internet, I’ve experienced meeting someone online, falling in love, moving to a new city, having everything fall apart, and somehow still getting back on the Internet. I’ve dated people who were pretty influential in making the internet what it is today, even though I didn’t know something huge was happening at the time, and neither did anyone else. I’ve had stalkers. More than one. I’ve had marriage proposals. I’ve had death threats. I’ve gotten mail and phone calls from people who shouldn’t know how to find me, and you can’t take a restraining order out on an avatar. I’ve done online dating through Match.com and OKCupid, which gave me a LOT of stories and a few really close friends I don’t remember not being a part of my life…who in turn gave me other close friends I can’t imagine not being a part of my life. I’ve been broken up with because of my blog, had angry wives contact me because their husbands were chatting with me through my blog, had parents of people I was dating hate me because of my blog, had my “friends only” blog printed and shared with those who were definitely not my friends—twice, had people send mail to those I was dating to tell them what a horrible human being I am, had people write nasty comments and reveal personal information on the pages of everyone I knew in my social group, eventually took down my blog after my personal life caused great upheaval and others saw the internet as a tool to see how far they could push before I wanted to kill myself or someone else, and then got really angry at myself for allowing other people to send me into hiding. I still have people who cite the “constant social media presence” as a reason for wondering if they could ever date me, and people who read my blog and FB just to mock me. I’ve still experienced losing friends over differences in communication in the online world. The difference is that I care less than I used to, which is still way more than the average person is likely to care. The internet, for me, has been a wild ride I never would have anticipated being this huge part of most of my adult life, one that led me to fantastic adventures and tragic mistakes. However, has the internet ever been “nice”? Well, no. Not to me.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve disabled comments on my blog. It’s been that way for a good number of years now. People who want to respond to me are free to e-mail me or contact me on FB, Twitter, whatever. Many successful bloggers, most of them female, have made similar choices.

Why? Because, frankly, this is my space. You wouldn’t walk into my home to criticise me or tell me you didn’t like me or to wish I’d die. You wouldn’t leave inappropriate notes you should never write lying on the coffee table. Leaving those comments on my blog is the equivalent of just that. So, basically, you don’t get the key to my house, and I think that’s totally valid.

It’s OK if you don’t like me, really. There are a lot of people in the Universe I don’t consider the best company. But, unless we’re friends, do I really need to know about it? (On the other hand, if you do like me, I appreciate being told that so we might *become* friends.)

I’m not sure that this just applies to women, however. There are some male bloggers who are very unafraid to put themselves out there, and they receive a lot of haters. You might even be the CEO of a company, and someone with a grudge starts the story that you’re getting fired because you’re an alcoholic, and the next thing you know, it’s on a legitimate news source. You might be freaking Bill Gates, and every single word you publish is fodder for an internet troll or rant.

Is it harder for female bloggers, essayists, and journalists? Certainly. You’re kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You’re either an uptight bitch, or a slut. You’re either a traitor for agreeing with the boys, or whatever horribly demeaning word you want to use in place of “feminist” for speaking out against how unfair certain things are. It doesn’t matter if you’re not terribly controversial or political. If your words aren’t a problem, the focus will be on your looks or your personal life. (One female blogger I know has a board dedicated to people talking shit about her personal life, people who have never even spoken to her.)

The thing is, it’s always been hard. I’m not surprised when something comes along that makes me cry, because I’ve never seen the part where having an internet presence didn’t mean being constantly judged, which often means crying at what other people write about you. I’m not a thick-skinned girl. I’m intensely sensitive, and the comments have always hurt, the same way they do in real life. But it is certainly something you need to deal with in order to be anyone with an internet presence these days, especially a female someone.

On a more personal note, today ended up being a very good day, despite all my expectations to the contrary. In fact, I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I had so much anxiety regarding going to the doctor today. When I did fall asleep, I had a series of bad dreams I don’t really remember, and kept waiting for my alarm to go off. I was very anxious about having to go to the doctor. Since getting sick in 2011, trips to the doctor have often meant something very unpleasant was going to happen, and the result is that I now have extreme anxiety even when going in for my yearly check-up.

However, the results were good. My BP was 102/73, pulse 62. My beta-blockers are now officially giving me low blood pressure, which is the green light for starting to reduce my dosage. Also, the knee injury is likely just a strain. High-impact cardio and jogging is a no-go for me, which I’m fine with, because it’s not as if I enjoy those activities. I can now try to lose 10% of my body weight (what I need to be at a healthy weight, even if it’s not the number I’d LIKE the scale to say)over the next 6 months if I eat at least 1,000 calories a day and increase my healthy food choices. (less sugar and white carbs and crappy fast food.) And I didn’t need blood work, at least today. I definitely feel that health-related things are heading in a positive direction, even if personal life-related things have been all over the place this year. Of course, I know there’s still a long road ahead, but I suppose it’s OK to feel optimistic, if only for a day.

Today, I also noted that my entry for Mysti Parker’s flash fiction contest was posted. It’s entitled “All That Glitters”, which is amusing if you know me personally. (I glitter about as much as a Twilight vampire, and it gets left behind everywhere.)

Honestly, I wasn’t going to share it with the entire world, because I stayed up very late one night writing it. I sent it off, read it over, and immediately concluded that it sucked. In my mind, it was a perfect testament to my ability to create interesting and psychologically damaged characters who impact one another in some way, only to realise that three-quarters of the way into my allotted word count—nothing has happened.

I am Seinfeld, without the humour. :P

Anyway, I submitted the story knowing it wasn’t terribly good, and figured I just wouldn’t mention it to anyone. Then my ego won out, as it always does, and said, “Hey, look, something I made! I am awesome! Go like the awesome thing I did!”

(The ego does not always have the best grasp on reality. I hate to hear what the super-ego might have to say, and that’s why she’s not allowed to talk, ever. :P )

Fortunately for the ego, some people did like it, and left comments and sent me e-mail about the story. One of my friends wrote to ask, “Is the girl in the story you?” and “Is the main character a real person?”

I have answers to those questions, but they’re complicated, and for a different blog—one that only those who enjoyed the story, or my personal anecdotes, would appreciate. So, simply put, “Yes and no”, to both questions.

Finally, tonight was the finale of “The Big C”. I don’t remember the last time I cried so much, but I do know I feel blessed to have a number of people in my life I love as much as I do; even when I forget, even when they forget, even when I care more than someone might care about me in return. It means everything to know those people are there, out there at various places in the world. :)

I’ve decided to start a regular feature here on Jaded Elegance where each Sunday, I’ll provide book reviews of things I’ve read lately, post an author interview with another writer, or have a literary guest blogger lend a new voice to this page for the day. This idea came out of hanging out on some of the message boards on Goodreads, which is a fabulous community for those who love books, but even more so for those who write them. Earlier in the month, a fellow author did an interview with me regarding the publication of Ophelia’s Wayward Muse, and I was inspired by finding a community of creative spirits who are supportive rather than competitive.

My first interview is with a lovely woman by the name of Kerry Louise Connelly, and her latest work is called Observation City. I chose her as my first author to feature on here because I think she and I have very similar styles, in terms of not only how we write but the subjects that inspire us to write. Therefore, if you like reading what I put up here on a regular basis, or you enjoy my creative prose, you’re the type of person who should immediately order your copy of Observation City.



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Let’s learn a bit more about the author, shall we?

1) Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where do you reside now, and what is your latest project?


I’m an English born Australian author, currently still living in Australia – but who knows, may have plans to re locate in the future. My current title ‘Observation City’ is out now and has just been picked up by some other terrific online book retailers so it is easily findable, it’s a fun and easy read that encompasses 21 pieces about human behaviour and relatable life situations, written with humour. My latest project is a non-fiction story, ‘Shaken’: A story of emotional abuse and depression, which will be due out in the coming months.

2) If you don’t mind, share a little bit about your latest book? What is it about your writing that makes it stand out from the pack?


‘Observation City’ is a fun, relatable book which was originally aimed at women but I have found a lot of men are enjoying it also which is wonderful. It is told with raw, often sarcastic, understandable humour that I hope readers will enjoy.


‘Shaken’ is a different piece all together. It is a story of emotional abuse and depression, that is not only inspired by my own experiences with the topic, but is interspersed with informative material that may help those who are also involved in a confusing emotionally abusive situation and/or are dealing with a form of depression.

By talking to my reader and being honest and raw, I hope that is what will stand me ‘out from the pack’, I also encourage readers to contact me with any messages that I aim to always respond to.

3) When it comes to the creative process, what inspires you? Tell us a little bit about how your latest book came into being.


‘Observation City’ was written over a 2 year period and inspired by my own experiences that of friends and of strangers who seem to talk a little too load about their lives in public!

‘Shaken’ has been inspired through my own experiences with emotional abuse and depression and my learning to understand and work through the experience and illness.

4) Did you decide to go with a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publish your latest work? What do you consider the benefits and the drawbacks of the particular route you’ve chosen?

I decided to take full creative control and publish myself. Writing has never been about seeking world-wide fame for me or making a ton of money – as any author or artist will know, if you are seeking only money through your craft- you are in the wrong craft!

I love having the creative control to tell my story the way I want and to reach out to readers through my very own words, instead of being censored or edited by large publishing companies. It also gives me the freedom of choice to work in the cover design process. It really is a well-rounded artistic experience. The drawback is self-marketing, it is a whole other industry in itself, however a very good learning experience.

5) Where, when, and how did you get your start in the writing world? Is this your first publication?

I’ve always loved writing, ever since a child. My favourite school subjects were English and art/ drama/music etc., and I would constantly be writing. I have worked as a casual journalist and in radio broadcasting – where I would of course formulate articles and also in the radio industry I was able to interview upcoming talent and write a 12 piece film review series which broadcast to 180 community stations Australia wide.

‘Observation City’ is my first published book title.

6) What is the part of the process that comes the most naturally to you?


Automatic writing, I just write from an idea to the page.

7) What do you consider to be the most challenging part of the creative process?


Structure. Learning how to formulate your ideas and words into a well maintained creative structure that the audience can follow and enjoy.

8) Other than yourself, of course, who is your favourite author? What’s the last book you read that really spoke to you in some way, and why?


Books themselves inspire me rather than a specific author, however I have to say author Alice Sebold’s work on ‘The Lovely Bones’ is truly mesmerising and captivating. She has such an original way of combining violent tragedy with beauty that you don’t see very often.

The last book that blew me away was ‘The Flock’ by Joan Frances Casey and Lyn Wilson. It quickly became a book I have been raving about to anyone who will listen (ha-ha). It’s an autobiography of a multiple personality. Written in the first person as the core persona AND 19 multiples. Currently I am reading ‘The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holms” ,by Dawn Schiller. You can see I love true stories.

9)
Is writing a full-time career for you, or something you do in your free time? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a writer?

A bit of both, I work dual roles as an education assistant which I love dearly and worked very hard to break into, and of course working as an author is something that also fulfils me. I think and hope I can do both, however, still put a lot of focus into my writing career.

10) If there were one thing you’d like to improve about your life or your writing at this point in time, what would it be?

I’d like to be given the chance one day soon to relocate to an environment where I can network with other authors and creative types, and have my work widely read.

Thanks to Kerry for her willingness to grace the pages here at Jaded Elegance today. I have her Observation City on my to-read list, and I hope you’ll do so, too. While there are some really wonderful books published through traditional publishing houses that are getting a ton of press, there is exceptional work coming out of the indie scene, as well. Please do show your support!

If you’re interested in getting to know more about Kerry and her work (I have, and I must say she’s a charming, down-to-earth person who’s the type I’d certainly meet for a coffee and chat any day!), please take the time to check out her author page, follow her on Facebook, or join her lively fan base on Goodreads.



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Observation City is easily available at a number of retailers. Books can be bought through CreateSpace, Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository (based in the UK, but offers free worldwide shipping), and of course, Barnes & Noble

A great “thank you” again to author Kerry Louise Connelly, whose positive and authentic perspective is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. I certainly hope to hear more from her in the future, and perhaps have her back here for a guest post down the line.

Of course, if you’re a book lover who’d like to hear my thoughts on other works or occasionally follow the progress of my own creative endeavours, please join and friend me on my own Goodreads author page.

If you do read Observation City, don’t be afraid to let either Kerry or myself know what you thought of the experience. :) I’m certain she’d love the feedback!

See you next Sunday, fellow book lovers and creative spirits!

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