Friday Five

I’d like to kick off this week’s Friday Five Grats with a MAJOR thank you to the extremely talented Jodi Britten.  Jodi is a talented artist who just “gets me”.  For instance, I can reach out to her with a really vague request like “Hey there, can you redesign the banner on my website?” and with practically no direction, very limited revisions and a whole lot of fun in the process, I’ve got a new banner.  So Jodi, thank you!  This week’s first grat goes to you for the incredible work you do, how easy it is to work with you and for your abilities as Mind Reader Extraordinaire!

This week I’m also grateful for a dear friend who sent me an entirely new boho wardrobe.  No kidding.  I opened the box and there were at least 6 dresses, a romper, more than half a dozen new tops and a red purse.  Seriously, I’m on my way to a whole new look.  She knows who she is.  I love you, friend.

My third grat is a repeat, but truthfully, I realize that we’re fortunate to have a different and wondrous sunset set against the most beautiful of backdrops every single day.  Here are two of my favorites from this week:

My fourth grat, and I realize I’m going to be a bit vague about this, is that I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve been presented with lately.  At work, it’s some projects that are a bit of a stretch.  At home, it’s really spending the time to work on myself and get M-E in order. Every time I swear I’m about to break, I find a way and I can really only do that because I know…

#5…

I have the kind of friends and family that will not let me fail.

Posted in blog Tagged with: , , , ,

Homesick

There is a certain amount of humility that comes along with moving almost 2,000 miles away from the part of the country you’ve lived most of your life. Packing up what you think are the essentials and driving cross-country, perhaps with a psychotic cat that utterly refuses to sit in the comfy zone you created for her and instead opting to urinate all over those essentials out of spite.  Or spending four days behind the wheel, where your only sense of time is how often you’ve heard Stevie Nicks belt out “Rhiannon” or how frequently you had to fill the tank.

But then you get to wherever this new place is and if you thought you were overwhelmed before, what with all of the logistics of a move this big, just wait.  Now you aren’t sure where the basic necessities are like the grocery store or how to actually commute to your new job without using your GPS (and you certainly don’t know any alternate routes if you get stuck in traffic).  You want to see and do everything but you’ve now got to unpack and get settled.

So, you do.  Because you’re now of the age where it’s expected that you be a “responsible adult”.  You get your affairs in order because you’re not getting any younger.  And you get a lot of time to just sit and think.  You’re not really as extroverted as you used to be, so making new friends doesn’t exactly come naturally anymore.

And to top it off, you moved your slightly overweight ass to a part of the country that is, year over year, the place where the fittest athletes come to train.  You haven’t ridden a bike since that warm afternoon summer day down the Shore, pressing the pedals with your sandals and hoping you won’t fall out of your bikini top.  You haven’t run a 5K since that one time along Shore Road, passing under the Verrazano Bridge.  And let’s not even discuss your experience with tennis.

This is just…where you are now.  Life hasn’t stopped for anyone.  The parties and get-togethers still happen, except you’re not there.  You hear about them on brief phone calls and you see the pictures on Facebook. You realize that living 5,000 feet above sea level now means that even when you attempt to make your traditional comfort food(s), they simply don’t taste the same.

It’s not awful, by any stretch of the imagination, however, because the trade off is being surrounded by the most inspirational views you’ve ever seen.  Except now you’re full of ideas and don’t know where to begin.  It’s a lonely place – being a writer who can’t seem to write.

Posted in blog, cooking, travel, writing

Return of The Friday Five (Grats)

Some of you have been keeping better track of how long it’s been since I’ve written anything of substance.  I know you have because I haven’t been ignoring the Facebook and text messages asking me when my next novel will be out. They just make me feel some kind of way that I haven’t been perfectly able to express yet.  In case you’re wondering, I’m approaching the 3-year milestone of writer’s block.  There’s been chaos and cross-country moves but the reality is I just haven’t felt inspired for quite some time.

After almost three years of listening to my lamentations on this subject, a friend suggested that I bring back my weekly Friday Five Grats (a weekly Facebook post I used to make listing out the things for which I was grateful) but that I use the blog to expand on them and perhaps get the creative juices flowing again.  So, we’ll see.  It’s Friday.  Let’s give it a shot.

  1. New Acquaintances/Future Friends/The Oldies & Goodies – By mid-morning Monday, I was calling for a do over on the week. It started off like a full diaper and just…got…worse.  The point is, I couldn’t have gotten through it without everyone who helped me out.  D always has the best recommendations.  A is a great sounding board.  J connected me with someone to save me a ton of time. E reminds me of home; I hear the sounds of Brooklyn muffled in the background of every conversation and it makes me smile.
  2. Sunshine – Before we packed it up and moved across the country to Colorado a month and a half ago (Gah, it feels so much longer than that!), I read that Colorado has over 300 days of sunshine but the first few weeks must’ve been  their requisite days of clouds and rain.  Since that broke, my Vitamin D levels have soared.
  3. My Career – I took a big risk with this move, but the truth is, I get multiple calls, texts and emails from former coworkers who  remind me how grateful I am to have made the choice to leave that environment when I did.   If anything, it’s a reminder that things can always get worse and to trust my gut.
  4. House Guests – We’re having our first visitors arriving from back East and I am so grateful because I – for one- have felt a bit homesick lately as I’ve missed family gatherings, birthdays and the crises of my closest compadres.
  5. My new hometown – This place is just so…alien to me and I still love 99.99% of it.  But with that said, I continue to find inspiration with the panoramic views and endless opportunities to be surrounded by beauty. Tube to Work Day, Brewhop Trolleys, Art Walks and food trucks galore.  Colorado, you’re deliciously and fabulously strange.

Rocky Mountain Sunset, 2017

Posted in gratitude, writing Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Redefining Importance

14415762_m

Photo Credit: www.thenonconformingprofessional.com

Despite an abrupt push into adulthood – and let me be clear from the beginning that this was of my own volition, my parents didn’t give me any ultimatums at 16 – I’ve reached far beyond what anyone’s expectations of me were.  And I say that knowing that all parents expect great things of their children and have wild hopes and dreams for them.  The fact is that I’ve always been stubborn and I’ve always believed that I could do things better “my way”.

“My way” meant packing a book bag with the bare necessities and boarding a Greyhound bus to go 975 miles away and strike it out on my own.

“My way” meant dropping out of high school in my senior year.

“My way” meant, let’s face it, a lot of poor decisions along the way.

But eventually I figured out that I had no safety net and that if I wanted something, I was going to have to make it happen on my own.

After years of barely scraping by, I packed up and moved over 1,100 miles away to start a new life.  I got my first “real job” as a typist.  Yeah, I’m old enough to remember when that was a thing.  It was the most money I’d ever made – even when I was working two full-time jobs and going to school.  I happened to land this job working for a boutique investment firm that managed the portfolios of very wealthy clients.  It was a world about which I knew nothing.  I worked in a department full of competitive and polished women but I would find myself counting change to pay for my monthly subway pass and learned how to sew so I could stretch my wardrobe.  At the time, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have their lives and probably never would, I just knew I wanted to acquire The Things.

The things that showed the world that I was a success.  I had so much to prove.  And so much to learn.

Eventually I went to college and started acquiring degrees.  I remember every time I’d sign up for a class thinking that this was going to change my life.  When I had the next piece of paper, my life would be completely different.  I’d be able to get any job and have All The Things!

Silly, stupid girl that I was.  Earning two college degrees didn’t do very much for me.  By the time I’d paid my way through school – sans student loans – I’d already built up enough experience supporting the C-Suite in a much larger financial company that I had the kind of experience I could take with me anywhere.  So, I decided it was time to evaluate my values.  I took a job working for an organization that supported the United Nations.  Now I’m where I should be, I told myself.  I’m making good money and I’m working in an environment that aligns with my values.  But I never stopped acquiring The Things.

I decided that a whole new life was in order.  So, I packed up my one bedroom apartment that overlooked The Narrows separating Brooklyn from Staten Island and moved to Boston.  I had no job prospects.  I knew less than five people in the entire state.  I had managed to save about $3,000 before the move, but hadn’t factored in that if I didn’t get a job right inside city limits, I was probably going to need a car.  I’d never bought a car before.  But there I was, signing on the dotted line and driving away so I could commute 30 miles a day.

Over time, the jobs and the apartments got better.  They were bigger.  They were nicer.  And they had a lot of room to fill with The Things.  Eventually a string of apartments became my owning a home.  Now I could really do whatever I wanted.  I could paint and fill the basement and attic with All The Things.  So, I did.  And I’ll never forget how sad I was when most of The Things were sitting outside by the curb a year later when I’d sold the house and was preparing to move into a rented condo a few blocks away.

I was working as a consultant and making more money than I knew what to do with.  So, I recorded an album. And I spent my weekends traveling to upstate New York and around New England.  I blew money left and right because….just because.

Then we moved into my dream apartment.  The building had been converted to lofts from an old shoe factory.  There’s tons of exposed brick and the ceilings are wooden beams. It was the place I’d kept in my mind’s eye all these years as I moved from a studio that I hardly ever slept in all the way to that gorgeous apartment overlooking The Narrows.  This was the place.

And then we started filling this place with a bunch of stuff as well.  We found ourselves buying and bringing things home that we didn’t – at the time of acquisition – have any idea what we were going to do with.  We bought it…because.  Because it was cute.  Because it was functional.  Because we thought it defined us.

When my niece moved out, I jumped at the chance to use the now-extra bedroom as a guest room.  Except that I completely took over that room with all of my things.  Where trying to share a closet had become a nightmare where I couldn’t find anything because it was so cramped, I now had an entire room I could take over.  And I did!

But over the last few months, I’ve started to realize that the constant pursuit of acquiring things has never provided me with any lasting happiness.  Once the excitement of New Widget wears off, I have to buy something else to feel that way again.  I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my internal dialogue and to the voice that’s been needling me to make some changes again. Somewhere, deep in my consciousness, I’ve remembered that the times in my life that have brought me the greatest joys weren’t when I was shopping for new things, but when I was traveling and spending time with the people who are important to me.

Laughing around a campfire.

Relaxing on a beach.

Cooking and sharing a meal with family and friends.

Getting on a plane and absorbing a new culture.

Playing board games.

Meandering just to take pictures.

Curling up in a comfortable spot with a great book.

I credit this awakening, if you will, to The Tiny House Movement. I started to notice that despite having about 1,200 square feet of living space, we were only consistently using about 400 of it.  The rest is just there to house all of The Things. I started voraciously watching every documentary I could, reading everything I could get my hands on and a few months ago, we went to a tiny house festival so we could see them for ourselves.  And that’s when I knew what we had to do.  We had to downsize.

Unlike my previous Major Life Changes, I am doing a lot of planning this time around.  Our lease was coming due when we went to the festival and we knew we wouldn’t have time to find a new place, cull The Things to something more reasonable and actually move before it was due, so we decided to give ourselves one more year to go through this process.  Before making an investment in a tiny house of our own, we decided that we would move to a smaller apartment for at least a year and make sure we could really do this.

And so, this is just the beginning of our journey.  We have about 10.5 months before we’re going to move to a smaller space.  But in the interest of not driving myself crazy or getting too overwhelmed, I started actually culling things this weekend.

My first goal is to get all of my clothes and shoes to fit into half of one closet.  This is no small feat given that I estimate that I own over 40 pairs of shoes. Last night, I managed to get two big bags ready for donation and cleared out a quarter of the closet I’m currently using. This may not seem like much progress, but it’s a start.  Some of the parameters I’ve given myself when it comes to the clothes and shoes are:

  • If I haven’t worn it in the last 2 seasons, I don’t need it (i.e. maybe I didn’t wear something this summer, but if I didn’t wear it last summer either, it’s time to go)
  • If I have to modify it in any way for it to be wearable (i.e. it’s in the pile of clothes to be repaired because we have an aggressive spin cycle on the washer), it’s time to go.  The exception to this are shoes that I want to keep that simply need to be taken to the cobbler – this is an annual tradition for me as I have my boots re-heeled at the end of each summer to be ready for autumn weather
  • If I have more than one item that looks almost exactly like something else, I only get to keep the one item I’m most attached to (so, for instance, if I have three black lace-back tunics, I can keep one – and no, this isn’t a hypothetical, I really do have a number of lace-back tunics for some reason)

All clothing items that are still in usable condition will be donated to Beverly Bootstraps’ Thrift Store.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the folks at Beverly Bootstraps and I believe in their mission as well as in helping our local community.

So, welcome to this journey. I hope you’ll follow along and share your insights as well.

Posted in blog, charity, community Tagged with: ,

90 Days

change

Wow, there’s been crickets here lately, huh?

I promise you that the silence has been neither intentional nor without good reason.  I’ve spent the last few months getting adjusted to a new job, staring at two manuscripts in progress without making much progress at all actually, developing my social justice warrior skills, practicing my vocals, helping my elderly grandparents and…building my health and wellness business with Advocare.

I’m sure most of you reading this have been seeing my (incessant) posts about weight loss and health in the last few months and I wish I could tell you I’m sorry but I’m not…not in the least.  I AM FIRED UP!  In the last few months, I’ve grown my discount by 10%, started to build and grow my team and learned as much as I could to help my teams lose weight, get healthier and start to build businesses of their own.  I’m not going to rehash my personal weight loss story because it’s well-documented both here on the blog, in my musings and on my Facebook page.

But I will say that I’ve pushed myself further than I thought I could go and it feels wonderful!  The validation I feel every time someone trusts me enough to reach out for my help and the absolute JOY I feel when I see them exceed the goals they’ve set for themselves makes it all worth it.

We’re entering a cycle now to really grow this business over the next 90 days.  It’s completely intentional.  There is a solid plan in place.  See that image above?  I’m not leaving anything to Chance because it takes force to create Change.  And let’s face it, nothing worth anything, just lands in our laps.  We have to scratch and claw and fight for every bit of progress in all areas of our lives, so why would this be any different?

My first team of 6 lost a total of 78 pounds in 24 days.  I may have coached those girls to these incredible results but they did all the heavy lifting.  And you know, as those pounds and inches came off, I want to tell you what I saw:

  • More positive posts on Facebook
  • More positive tweets
  • Genuine smiles in posted photos
  • Confidence
  • Early morning messages because of their increased energy
  • Text messages with photos and filled with excitement about shopping for smaller clothes

It’s not about a number on a scale.  Knowing you’re doing something good for your body and actually having it respond back with kindness is something that I didn’t know I could do.  After not losing all the weight I needed with gastric bypass surgery.  After stalling for almost two years and watching the scale go in the opposite direction I wanted it to.  After trying Crossfit in the hopes it would transform my body.  After all of that, I realized that I didn’t have to have so many gaps in my nutrition, that I didn’t have to starve myself or exercise on endless loops on the treadmill and that yes, Change requires Sacrifice, but for me, it was totally worth it.

I’m coaching my next team starting April 2nd and there’s still time to join us.  I’m looking to grow from a team of 6 to a team of 10.  And I’m looking to coach you all to your maximum results.

I’ll tell you what I tell my team:  It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency.  Regardless of what program you’re following, you owe it to yourself, your family and your loved ones to be the best version of you that you can possibly be.

 

Posted in Advocare, blog, business, diet, weight loss, weight loss surgery, WLS, women Tagged with: , , , ,

All Those Yesterdays

aa

By the time you find yourself reading this, I will have hit a fairly significant milestone.

Exactly one year ago, I took a deep sigh and looked upon the empty bottle with mixed emotions.  I felt fear.  Longing.  Sadness.  Disgust.  And those are just the ones that stood out.  I’m sure there were a host of more nuanced ones floating around there, but they merged into one enormous sensation that I essentially labeled “Resentment.”

In the beginning, I held onto a lot of resentment and anger at needing to get sober.  I tried to make excuses for myself.  Maybe my expectations to engage in harm reduction measures were just too much too soon and that’s why I’d failed. Maybe it wasn’t entirely my fault.  I mean, I am predisposed to it and having had gastric bypass several years earlier made me much more sensitive to it.  But all of this belies personal responsibility.  I mean, no one held my nose and forced a half bottle of vodka down my gullet every single night.  And if it wasn’t vodka, it’d be 10+ shots of tequila in rapid succession.

“Watch this,” I’d say excitedly and with a sense of pride, as I would swallow a shot and would literally – within minutes – be so drunk that I’d be slurring my speech and stumbling.  I became my own party game.

The consequences – and there were plenty of negative ones – made no impact on my ability to reduce my drinking.  It was as if no matter what the horrific circumstances were, I refused to acknowledge that my drinking played a part in it.  Blacking out in public, being thrown out of establishments, assaults…if anything, I was stuck in a cycle where no matter the consequences, I believed that my drinking was not the cause but rather that I drank to deal with it all.

The last year has certainly been challenging and I would be lying if I said I never had a desire to drink.  I’ve been to social events where alcohol is prevalent.  I’ve been to bars.  I’ve been to several weddings.  I’ve gotten through holidays where alcohol is the main focus (our wild July 4th party comes to mind). I published a novel.  I’ve struggled through the birthdays and anniversaries of the deaths of some of those closest to me – both of my parents and two of my uncles, just to name a few.  I’ve been through wakes and funerals and the deaths of at least two other people in the last twelve months.  I’ve changed jobs twice.  I’ve faced care-taking responsibilities for my elderly grandparents.

Not that I need them to confirm this, but online tests routinely tell me that in the last twelve months, I’ve been incredibly stressed.  Like, to the point that I’m at a much greater risk of experiencing a serious illness or accident because of it.  But still, I’ve plugged away on this road. And like the picture above, those exit ramps are always forefront in my mind.  Every time I choose not to pick up a drink, I am choosing to stay on the path of the New Me.  But the Old Me is still there in the rear-view mirror and there are times when I can feel her pulling me off that left exit ramp.

It is in those moments that I have to remember how far I’ve come and how despite things not being perfect (because they never are), this New Me is pretty damn awesome.

I am more present with my family and friends. I am making healthier choices.  I look better.  More days than not, I feel better. My “Quit Drinking” app tells me that I’ve not consumed almost 2,500 drinks.  That I’ve saved almost 25,000 calories over the course of this year.  That’s at least 7 pounds I didn’t gain. I find myself having to make less apologies.

But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses, either.  When you’re used to numbing yourself to the point that you simply don’t have to deal with the normal emotions of life, it’s overwhelming to be forced to actually feel them. But more than that, to handle them appropriately.  I still have a lot of learning and growing to do and I wish I could promise not only myself, but all of you, that I will always do that sober.  But I can’t.  It would be an empty promise.

Instead, I will promise this: I promise to keep trying.

And I will remember this, a scene from my favorite movie of all time, Vanilla Sky:

 

Posted in blog, sobriety

Reviewing Other Authors

I had created a fairly lofty goal for myself this year:  Read one book a week.  Some folks are probably calling me an underachiever while others are asking themselves why the hell I’d even attempt it.  See, in the “real world”, I’m a full-time consultant with a heavy travel schedule.  But I’m also an author in my own right, a vocalist in the band Love Songs for Arsonists, the guardian of a teenager wrapping up her senior year of high school as well as all of the other hats I wear: girlfriend, sister, friend, cousin, granddaughter, etc.

Right after I took this job back in May, I realized I was falling behind on my To Be Reviewed (TBR) List.  But this happens, right?  There are the things we do for the love and others we do for the money and usually when those two things don’t perfectly mesh, we give up the thing we love so we can keep paying our bills.  And so, I set aside my Kindle for a while and wrapped up any last-minute beta-reads that were due to people and sorta threw in the towel. But why?

Honestly, I was at a point of total frustration.  As an indie author published through a small, independent press, I have the utmost respect for others in my position and self-published authors.  As a general rule, I prefer to read indie authors because there are a lot of gems out there.  With the market growing by leaps and bounds and my own press junkets bringing more people to my blog and social media profiles, I was starting to get inundated with requests.  And I said “yes” to almost everything because I wanted to help out other authors.

For a while, I was forcing myself to get through books no matter the flaws or the fact that I just wasn’t interested in the content.  And then I realized that I was doing both myself and the authors I was reviewing a disservice.  I was not able to stay objective when all I wanted was for the book to end and while I don’t make a habit of posting anything less than a 3-star review, all of the follow-up and frankly, arguments with other authors about their work was becoming overwhelming.

So, I took a break and when I came back to it, I decided that I would no longer feel bad about DNF’ing a book.  If I wasn’t enjoying it, I would just move on because…

books

But also, when I did an analysis of the books I had on my list this year, I realized that I was averaging a 19% DNF rate.  Yeah, almost 20% of the books on my list just weren’t things I was interested in and frankly, I’d rather spend time reading things I enjoy.

I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned this year:

1. Goals are great, but don’t be afraid to modify them along the way.

Circumstances change.  I can’t possibly read 52 books this year and while I spent some time feeling like a failure, I started to put it into perspective.  I’m already well above what the average American reads in a year, so…I adjusted.

2. Not every book is 5-star worthy.

There’s a lot of drama and fear in the indie market.  Stories of retaliation for bad reviews are not just the things we talk about in hushed whispers but are shared widely within our circles.  So, my rule is still not to post anything below a 3-star review, however, it doesn’t mean that everything is automatically 5 stars just because I finished it.

In fact, in my analysis, I realized that I gave 42% of the books I’ve read this year 5-stars; 23% were 4-stars and a whopping 35% were 3 or less (including those I DNF’d).

3. Reviews are about opinions, not facts.

I used to think that my job as a reviewer was to give a detailed overview of the story’s arc and pick apart the editor’s (if one was used) ability to do their job.  Nope!  My job as a reviewer is to let other readers know what I liked and/or didn’t like about the book.  I now try to not discuss editing unless there was a distracting and noticeable lack of it.

4. Remember the Golden Rule.

Writing a high-quality book takes time.  Like, a lot of time.  Sure, you can sit at your keyboard and pound out a $0.99 string of words and call it a novel, but that doesn’t mean that it is.  So, be kind.  Be fair. And remember that when your work is out there and some of those mediocre or downright mean reviews come through (because they will), the best thing you can do is to simply not respond.  If there’s anything in there that you can accept once you’ve licked your wounds and healed your hurting ego, then revise and republish.  If there’s not – whether there wasn’t any constructive criticism or if you are simply in denial – then let it roll off your back.  But whatever you do…

5. Do not engage.

Don’t argue with your readers.  Don’t defend yourself when people call you a terrible writer. Keep writing anyway.  Learn how to self-edit if you can’t afford a professional one.  Even a self-edit is better than none.  Learn the business.  Keep growing as an artist.  But don’t get bogged down in other people’s negativity and certainly do not respond to it.

Now with all of that said, if you’d like me to review your book (knowing what you’re going to get from it), comment and let me know where I can find it.  Right now, my TBR list is super short and I’m always looking for things to add to it…even if I don’t get up to 52 books this year.

My current TBR list (in no particular order):

untakenjesuskings

Posted in indie authors, indie publishers, rants, writing Tagged with: , ,

Blog Tour – SM Spencer

I want to preface this entire post with the fact that from the very first line of SM Spencer’s Absent Shadows Trilogy, I was hooked.  I mean, I devoured the entire three-book series in a matter of as many days.  And then like a total fangirl, I sought her out to tell her just how much I loved it.  So imagine the absolute thrill I have in getting the opportunity to host her on her latest blog tour.  I hope that you’ll settle in, get comfy, pick up her books and then read on!

Destiny by S. M. Spencer

What is the story about?

The Absent Shadows trilogy is the story of a young woman who wants to make a difference with her life, but isn’t sure how to go about it. When she takes a trip to Australia to spend her summer vacation with her aunt, she discovers a supernatural world that she’d never imagined existed. Her belief systems and courage are tested, but in the end it is her love and devotion that get her through.

The book is set in and around some of the oldest parts of Melbourne, being the Flagstaff Gardens and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market. Most of what is now the carpark for the market was originally the site of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. The cemetery was relocated when the market expanded; however most of the bodies (some say as many as 9,000) were not exhumed, and remain there today.

The story brings together my love of the paranormal, my desire to remain open-minded to explanations of how the world we live in really works, and my deep belief in the good that resides in most people (even though we all know there are some vampires who, quite simply, cannot be trusted!)

What kind of person is the main character, Lili McIntyre?

Lili is a bit shy, and still rather naïve when it comes to the ways of the world, but she has a burning desire to achieve something good with her life. She is most definitely not a ‘super human’ or a ‘larger than life’ character. She is just your average girl, who finds herself caught up in a world that is anything BUT average.

How does Lili cope with the differences between California and Australia?

In many ways, life in Melbourne is very much like life in California—but cars are driven on the opposite side of the road, people use different words to describe things, and her aunt is the only person she knows when she first arrives. Building a new network of friends takes time, and it is her budding friendship with Claire that helps Lili adapt relatively quickly to her new environment.

Tell us a little about Lili’s friend, Claire.

Claire is perfection on the outside, and a little bit of a daredevil on the inside. She is the high school cheerleader, the prom queen and the girl that always had a boyfriend while the rest of us watched in envy. She’s polished when she needs to be, but a brazen flirt when she thinks she can get away with it. And even though she and Lili are quite different types of people, Claire likes Lili right from the start, and takes her under her wing.

Enlighten us about the setting of the story, primarily the Queen Victoria Markets and Flagstaff Gardens.

The Queen Victoria market is largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. At this market you can find every type of food: fresh produce, deli foods, fast food, meat, fish and the list goes on. You can also find anything you’d typically find at a “flea market” or other outdoor market, including both new and old items.

The Flagstaff Gardens is the oldest, and one of the most used, parks in Melbourne. It is 18 acres of beautiful meandering paths through elms, figs and eucalypts. But it is also the site of the first burials of the new colony, back in 1835, which is why it was originally called “Burial Hill”.

Being such an old area, and one that is the subject of many ghost stories and sightings, it seemed the perfect location for a story about supernatural characters. And the markets themselves were the perfect spot for two of the key characters to work. Sam and Tom work in one of the fresh produce stalls at the market, and this is where Lili first sees Sam.

What inspired you to write this paranormal love story?

I was working around the corner from the Queen Victoria Markets, up near the Flagstaff Gardens. Walking around at lunchtime, I started sensing that this was the perfect setting for ghosts and vampires—and the story just developed from there. Of course, the late night ghost tours I’d done in the area, where I’d learned the history of the cemetery under the market’s carpark and about ghost sightings all throughout the area, really helped. And like many, I was caught up in the resurgence in popularity of vampires.

Could you please share an excerpt?

Sometimes, when something bad happens, time seems to slow to a crawl.

Like that time I was running to visit my friend who lived down the street. I was only about ten at the time, but it seemed like it was yesterday. I remember exactly how it felt as I ran down that street toward her house. And how, when I was only part way there, I stepped on an acorn and my foot rolled out from under me. As I fell, the pavement got closer and closer to my face—in horrible slow-motion. I hit the ground with my hands stretched out in front of me, scraping the skin off both palms. They barely bled but man they hurt like crazy.

Yes, I could replay that memory like a slow-motion movie in my head even now—years later.

But this … well, this wasn’t like that.

What happened next was like a series of still photos. Tom flew out of the bedroom in a blur, but stopped just long enough for the image of his face to be burnt into my mind. His eyes were no longer soft brown, but were instead a glowing red, and his normally tanned complexion was now pallid grey. But what really stood out was the blood that ran down from the corner of his mouth.

Then I heard Sam’s voice—loud and harsh. ‘Go!’

Tom was gone and I heard the door slam.

I closed my eyes for no more than a long blink—it couldn’t have been more than a second—but when I opened them, Sam was in the bedroom, bending over Claire. Was he doing something to her neck? She was so still.

I ran to the doorway but stopped short of going in. I couldn’t draw a breath to scream or talk. I just stood there, frozen.

Where can readers buy your trilogy?

Only on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=series_rw_dp_labf?_encoding=UTF8&field-collection=Absent%20Shadows%20Trilogy&url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text

http://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Absent-Shadows-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00O6WL9IA

They can also follow me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/SMSpencer.writer  for advice about upcoming promotions as well as updates on the books I’m currently working on.

 

About the Author:

Sandy

S M Spencer was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

As a young teenager she was introduced to the world of romantic suspense through the works of authors such as Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart. These books stirred in her a passion that would last a lifetime: to become a writer.

Feeling the need to experience life before embarking on a writing career, Ms Spencer completed a business degree. Her career eventually landed her in Melbourne, Australia, where she has lived ever since.

SM Spencer now writes from her home in a semi-rural part of Australia, where she lives with her husband, horses, cats and dogs.

 

 

 

www.facebook.com/SMSpencer.writer

www.amazon.com/S-M-Spencer/e/B00PGE0G9U

http://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Absent-Shadows-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00O6WL9IA

Posted in blog, indie authors, indie publishers, writing

Legend of the Walking Dead by Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

Two months ago, I succeeded in getting my publishing house to not only lower the cost of the Kindle edition of my book: Legend of the Walking Dead: Igbo Mythologies, but this was possible because I had to re-do the line edit, the copy edit,  the proof, and the format all over again. In other words, I had to redo the whole book all over again. What you are seeing in this new edition, is a completely new book. This is why I decided to re-introduce it again to you. You can also see that there is a big improvement on the cover. Here is your new, fully re-mastered, and price friendly:

Legend of the Walking Dead: Igbo Mythologies

Joy's Book Cover

Excerpt from Part 1:

Osondu wandered off by himself, his friends said. They’d gone to the banks of Ezu to play and fish, and one minute he was there and the next minute he was gone. They called him and searched the bushes to no avail.

“Ezu has taken him,” one of them said, and they ran home to inform his mother.

Gloria, Osondu’s mother, an art teacher in the local elementary schoo,l had just returned from school and was preparing dinner when she got the message about her son.

“I’m finished,” cried Gloria when she heard the news, then she sent for the women of The Gathering. These women received many calls from people who needed prayers or help for one thing or another. This time, the call was from one of their own.

While she waited, Gloria paced, wrung her hands and fought back tears, her dinner preparations forgotten. “I will see him again. We will get him back,” she muttered repeatedly until some semblance of calm returned.

That evening, the twelve members of The Gathering walked along the narrow paved road, built by early missionaries, to the clearing in the park near Ezu’s bank where Osondu’s friends had last seen him. Gloria, slightly built, fair complexioned and of medium height, came with them, still in her loose lounging home dress. Tree logs, placed like bridges over the deep gullies, bordered the lake side of the road, and high stone walls and German mango trees lined the other side. The children who came to pick mangoes had all gone home with their mango-filled baskets by the time the women walked by. A few travelers passed going in the other direction: a family on foot, a man on a bicycle, and one lone car they had to make way for.

Keen to get started, Gloria led the party into the park. She walked across the lush green grass and stared at the lake nestled in a huge crater and surrounded by thick forest. The women trooped in behind her and formed a circle around her. She made her request, for Ezu to release her son. She asked the women to join her in pleading with Ezu to release her son. At this, all the women raised their voices, as one, in shouting out Gloria’s request. Some clapped their hands, some hit the ball of one hand onto the other, some stamped their feet on the ground, and each wailed out their cries as the spirit led them.

Though deep blue and calm on the surface, dark, murky water filled the depths below. Ezu was notorious for swallowing things—even humans. People had dived into Ezu and never returned. No one knew how many people had tried to retrieve something from Ezu and, in the process, disappeared. No one swam in Ezu.

The seemingly placid lake had no outlets so did not flow, but at night the water rumbled and spat waves high onto the banks. Anyone near ran the risk of being taken by the waves and pulled into the depths of the lake. Gloria took a step back. Some thought the lake a gateway to another dimension.

She turned her back on the monster and joined the women to pray and make supplications for the return of Osondu. She stepped into the last space in the circle of women and, with great passion, added her voice to the others. The women of The Gathering had answered Gloria’s call in a hurry and had come in whatever they wore. Some wore long skirts and blouses. Some had short wavy wigs or long plaited ones, and some wore traditional long skirts and tops. They all came running, and gathered in a circle, around Gloria, holding hands as they prayed, oblivious to their surroundings. Each woman shouted their prayer of authority over and against the evil forces in Ezu.

About the Author

Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

Author Photo

 

For over 30 years, 1960 to early 1990s, Joy Ifeoma Nroli Nwosu Lo–Bamijoko stood like a colossus in the art music industry of the nation. She remained an enigma in her performance, singing, broadcasting and even the small word of Opera. Till today, Joy remains a folk singer of no mean repute. At independence in 1960, she was a common face of good art. At the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture (FESTAC, 1977), Joy was a celebrity in all the singing programs where she doubled as the Assistant Director of Music Programs. She is a singer, an operatic soprano, pianist, ethnomusicologist, broadcaster, choral conductor, critic, song writer, recording artiste and a music teacher.

At age 20, while she was barely an adolescent, Joy carved a niche for herself in art music singing. For the residents or natives of Enugu in the old Eastern Region of Nigeria, her name was a household. Nroli, as she was fondly called, daughter of a Faith Tabernacle Church Pastor, whose mother was an alto, was a common fixture in the musical activities of Enugu Choral Society then. She had been representing her school in singing as a pupil. During her student days at Holy Rosary College, the young Nroli shone like a million stars in the then Eastern Nigeria Festival of the arts and won the first prize consecutively for seven years. Her status as primus inter pares remained unchallenged until her departure to Italy in 1962. Such was the rear talent of this nightingale.

Her musical exploits back in the Eastern Region and the value she added to the programs of Enugu Choral Society must have informed the decision of Holy Rosary Sister to offer her scholarship to study music at the Royal College of Music, Dublin. That marked the beginning of the journey of this young lady to unequalled stardom in the N i g e r i a n music scene. While in Italy, Joy studied at the Conservatori Di Musica Santa Cecilia in Rome, Luigi Perugini in Florenece and Giacchino Perugini in Pesaro, all in Italy. The Eight years she was in these colleges and Italy exposed her to various aspects of music  performance and production.

This research was the work of  Professor Godwin Sadoh.

Buy the Kindle version at Amazon:

Legend of the Walking Dead: Igbo Mythologies

Buy the B&N e-Pub version at:-

 Legend of the Walking Dead:Igbo Mythologies

Link to my Author’s Website

YouTube Link the Book’s Trailer

My Blog Address

Links to my FB Pages

Link to my “Who Is Who On The Shelf”

My Interview on YouTube (Italian Book)

Amazon.Com Link to Mirror of Our Lives……

Barnes & Noble Link to Mirror of Our Lives

Twitter Handle: @Jinlobify

This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com.

Posted in blog, writing

Blog Tour – Jan Hawke

For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that there is a special place in my heart for Africa.  When I was working on my undergraduate degree, everyone asked me what the heck I’d even do with it.  “Communication and Culture” translated into a lot of courses around writing, marketing and sociology.  I chose to focus on microfinance in Kenya for my senior thesis and went on to help support charities in Kibera, one of Kenya’s largest slums.  So when I had the opportunity to help support Jan Hawke on her blog tour, promoting Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey, I jumped at the chance.  So without further ado, I turn it over to Jan to tell you more about her debut novel.

dian

 

Zyanda is fictitious but, if it was real it still wouldn’t be Rwanda because there are differences, albeit very slight. The genocide isn’t one of those differences and the bare stats are the same of course. There was a genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and nearly a million people, Tutsi, Twa (the central African pygmy tribe) and Hutu liberals or ‘collaborators’ were slaughtered in just over 3 months, between April and mid-July, often hacked to death with makeshift garden tools, while the rest of the world, including the UN, stood by and let it happen.
Since the genocide, Rwanda appears to have made a seemingly miraculous recovery in that they have recognised the root causes of their tragedy and, for central Africa, is now a stable democracy that is building on ties with East Africa and Anglophone countries, and has been having some commercial success with tea and coffee exports, and in eco-tourism as one of the few remaining peaceful and viable habitats for mountain gorillas (Dian Fossey’s work there is, of course, well known – ironically less so was her vehement opposition to Rwanda’s embryonic tourism industry).

So what are the differences between the fact and my fictional tribes and country? It’s mostly superficial in that ‘noble warrior’ pastoralists, the Nilotic Tutsi (Watusi to older readers – yes, the ones the dance was named for), become the Matu, the underdog reactionaries bent on revenge for old grudges dating back to colonial times when the hated ‘elite’ Bantu farmers, the Hutu, become the Lutse. The reversed dynamic is of course the same, with Hutu/Lutse rewarded with a higher place in the imperial hierarchy – of which I’m not specific in having it be Belgian, merely Francophone. So, simple role reversal that still ‘works’ within the story because, as Verity and David both know, there was very little difference between the blurred racial origins in these modern times.

Ironically the key to the rehabilitation of the ‘ordinary’ mass-murderers reflects what happened in real life Rwanda and actually started much sooner than in The Acts of Apostles chapter, which sees Matu David released to the township where most of his war crimes were perpetrated, only to meet with passive-aggressive local justice from the community leaders such as Verity Beleshona.
The reason for the release of so many prisoners like David, leaving only the ring-leaders, generals and psychopaths to be permanently incarcerated or executed, was down to logistics – there were too many of them and too little left of the non-combatant society to carry on with even the simplest tasks of daily life. Of those survivors at liberty, too many bore terrible scars, with physical maiming from loss of limbs, or appendages, or from psychological wounds, or the Russian roulette of sexual diseases or genital trauma. Crops rotted and babies died unborn, or never conceived, because women were left barren as a result of rape and torture, and so the consequences of genocide went on long after it had finished and may never go completely while the generations that survived it live on.

I set Mgakera, the community, in Zyanda because of that, just over the border from Tanzania and fictional Umbeke. Mgakera is not wholly unique because there are projects in central Africa that offer a similar kind of rehabilitation, usually to women, to help them recover as far as they can and to give them new skills so that they can hopefully live independently, or at least live out their shortened years in safety and with some dignity.

The Mgakera Enclave itself, spanning a natural riverine territory between Zyanda and Tanzania, is not something I researched as such – it just seemed to present itself as something that might happen in an ideal world through the remit of organisations like UNESCO, ACTED (the unanticipated federation of aid agencies model for my fictitious CAMEO) and the Red Cross or Crescent. The self-sustaining commercial aspect was then almost inevitable, with a combination of coffee farming and dairy industry, with a lien on introducing lucrative eco-tourism around the African lakes, made it all take on a life of its own.

Whether you prefer Zyanda’s route to the Rwandan one, perhaps this quote, from Dian Fossey herself, best sums up the philosophy of how a nation can possibly recover from the ultimate descent into barbarism.

“When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”

 

Excerpt from The Acts of the Apostles

I couldn’t remember any of it, up until when she’d run past me. The rest I can never forget. What she shouted at Mbrame. How she stopped him beating Verity and kept going at him, letting him know exactly what she thought of him. What she thought of all of us. A little Bantu lady shouting at the big strong warriors who were going to kill the defenceless and the weak. Telling us we were evil and would pay for what we were doing. She must have been frightened most of the time that day and yet she did what none of us could have done in a million years. She took Mbrame down. It got her killed, but she did it anyway.

My grandfather said she shamed us all with the truth. He said she gave us a reason to stop, so she saved us as well as Verity and the other women. Verity says it was the same for her. I don’t truly see why she blames herself so much for what happened to her and her family, but then her burden isn’t so obvious as mine. She says she may not have killed anyone, but she didn’t do enough to prevent it happening. Not as much as she could have done. But then how could she have known what sort of madness would come upon us all. It makes sense to her anyway. And it helped her make sense of it for me as well. In the end. We can never truly be friends, but at least she doesn’t hate me anymore and she says that is the greatest gift that Sister Teresa gave us both. Grace to carry on living and to make a difference, free of hatred. Forgiveness is another matter, because neither of us can forgive ourselves.

Which brings me full circle, sitting outside my room, thirteen years later, watching the Quelea swarm across the dawn, drinking dagga tea. The dreams are back because something new is happening. Life goes on. Christian tells me that there’s a new Doctor coming who’ll be spending time at the Umbatu clinic here in Umbeke, helping him with the inoculations and the women’s clinic. She’s an English lady. The one who was going to marry Tom Harrison. Christian says she’s going to be working at the Teresa Olatunde Community Hospital too, but she’s done a lot of work with tropical disease inoculation with the British Army and so CAMEO wanted her to cover both catchments. He’s very excited about working with her and thinks it would be a good idea for me to meet her. I’m not so sure. I didn’t kill Tom Harrison, but I don’t know if I can face the woman who lost him that day. In a place he would never have gone to if it hadn’t been for the sake of a friend. I don’t know how she can bear to come here to tell the truth. I know I wouldn’t be brave enough to do that.

You see, there’s no end to it. No running away, because all I have is the truth and the only honour left is in not letting myself forget what I did. Not for a minute. Except I do of course. I would go mad otherwise. So when I’m working I don’t think about what I was. I do the job, because that way I’m wiping away some of the guilt. Repaying the amnesty like Verity says. I don’t know what’s worse now. To have ripped away the lives of the dead, or destroyed the future of the living. The dead walk with me still and will never leave me. The living – well, they may not know the truth, but they don’t have to, because I do. And the truth is that I have no life of my own now. I don’t deserve to have a life at all.

without

Author Bio:
I live near Launceston in Cornwall, UK with Toby and Benji the Springer Spaniels – it’s a tie between us all as to who’s maddest, but as I outrank them in being weird anyway it’s not open to debate really.
I’m physically lazy with things that don’t hold much interest for me (so that’s mostly housework and, increasingly, cooking…), but I love where we live, mainly because I chose it for being so quiet and off the beaten track, very close to the moors and quite near to the sea.

I also love books, both to write and to read, the latter of which can be very eclectic (I enjoy Julian Barnes, Kate Atkinson, Jeanette Winterson and will happily admit to Jilly Cooper too) but in the main I’m heavily into SF&F, particularly Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Julian May, although I can pass on Zombie Apocalypses fairly easily…

…how I’ve chosen to write about Africa for my first novel may be something of a surprise to my friends, but if you read it you may find that all of the above information manifests in there somehow!

Future projects include a futuristic fantasy series, loosely grounded in Celtic myth – The Shadow Chronica (http://havenlands.blogspot.co.uk/), which is kind of stalled at present, but I’ll be dusting it off as summer gets in full flood with the first novel hopefully available at the tail end of 2016.

webcov

Book Blurb:
Milele Safari – An Eternal Journey …twines around a single day, in an unremarkable border village that snuffs out the lives of four people and shatters many others, only to draw the survivors back to a different time and, perhaps, a hope of atonement and peace. Step out on the journey and discover an Africa that could have been, is and might one day come to be.

 

Book links
Amazon (print & eBook) – http://www.amazon.com/dp/0992747201/http://www.amazon.com/dp/0992747201/
Barnes & Noble (print only) – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/milele-safari-an-eternal-journey-janette-mary-hawke/1117529970?ean=9780992747206http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/milele-safari-an-eternal-journey-janette-mary-hawke/1117529970?ean=9780992747206
Milele Safari blog http://milelesafari.blogspot.co.uk/p/taster-1.htmlhttp://milelesafari.blogspot.co.uk/p/taster-1.html
Book Trailerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkJsS5vtJjg

Social Media links
Twitter – @JanHawke
Facebook Author page –
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jan-Hawke/386239624841750https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jan-Hawke/386239624841750
LinkedIn –
https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=254177051&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profilehttps://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=254177051&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Author blog – Jan Hawke INKorporated
http://janhawke.me/http://janhawke.me/

 

4WillsPublishing Link:
AUTHOR EVENT – http://4wills-hawke.chatovod.com/

 

This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com.

Posted in blog, indie authors, writing