He’s Well! + Book Love x5 + Podcast: Incredible India by Niks

Blog headline over book covers and photo of Khashayar and da-AL.

Incredible India by Niks Happiness Between Tails

#India #Travel #Architecture #Food #Holidays What comes to mind when you think of India? Niks, who is a teacher, a blogger, and a photographer based out of Jaipur, Rajasthan, fills us in on some of India’s prettiest and most interesting places to visit. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Incredible India by Niks My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Niks’ site About the novel I'm writing. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Niks riding a camel. Earth City Park, Science City at Ahmedabad. Mount Abu hill station. Amber Fort, Jaipur. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Incredible India by Niks.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Thanks, everyone, for your kind thoughts for my husband’s speedy recovery. For anyone who missed last week’s post, Khashayar had Covid. (By the way, today we celebrate 23 loving years together as best friends in every way!)

Fortunately, six days later, he tested negative and no one else in our home came down with it. His experience was along the lines of an awful cold. For the last bit, each day he’s coughing less and has more energy, definitely on the mend. We thank our lucky stars that this incident turned out to be far milder than when we both got Covid, right before the vaccines came out. That time, whereas he needed several days of intravenous treatments, I didn’t feel as bad initially. However, now a year and a half later, it’s only a few months that I’ve completely regained my senses of smell and taste.

As for my writing, I’m working on a podcast version that’ll be a sort of enticement for people to get the book, which still needs artwork and formatting. Plus, I’m going to do one last push to see if I can catch the eye of a good literary agent.

Oh, trite yet true as it is, how time flies! Simultaneously, time taking care of someone in quarantine moves like molasses, the wishing they’ll recover and the waiting on them hoping that one can hasten things with enough goodies and pampering.

Along the way, I’ve finished several books. In no particular order, they’re all along the lines of how interconnected we are, how essential it is to find what serves us best, and how we hurt ourselves as much as each other when we regard the world as “them vs. us.”

Cover of “Loner: A Novel,” by Teddy Wayne.

“Loner: A Novel,” by Teddy Wayne, is clever first-person fiction about love turned horrific. Witty and profound, it’s an alternately funny and excruciating maze of suspense. If we don’t love ourselves, and if we’re a young man raised on boatloads of toxic masculinity, we’re bound for hellish concepts of heterosexual love. The outlook isn’t any brighter for a young woman brought up to battle toxic femininity amid patriarchy.

Cover of “Loving Day: A Novel,” by Mat Johnson.

“Loving Day: A Novel,” by Mat Johnson, also takes a hard look at how we view ourselves and the world. What is race? Whatever your answer, think again. And again and again. Can it really be measured by where one’s ancestors were born and the color of their complexions — and should it? By not labeling oneself, are we naïve, or worse, sellouts?

Mat takes on a kaleidoscopic discussion of race, illustrated via a fictional account of a man whose skin is as light as his caucasian father’s, yet he resonates best with his dark-skinned African-American mother. That is, until he meets his teen-aged daughter after her white Jewish mom passes away. When the young woman tells him that, as far as she’s concerned, she’s white, he sets out to school her otherwise. Of course, this backfires. The point is, you need to read this book because it describes more succinctly and entertainingly than I can in this short blog post the conundrum of labeling. Some want to label themselves and others, some believe that by not acknowledging labels we’re splintering the power needed to combat injustice, others don’t want labels at all…

Cover of “Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream,” by Tiffanie Drayton.

“Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream,” by Tiffanie Drayton, is her autobiography. She’s dark-skinned, born in Trinidad, moves to New Jersey just before she starts elementary school. Her family then moves to Texas, next to Florida, and later she lives in New York. The longer she’s in the U.S., the more unwelcome she sees that people of color are. Taking us on her journey of self-discovery and realization, she ultimately finds she’s better off back in Trinidad. So are her children and her mother, where they all live now. Apologies to what can only amount to an oversimplification of the insights she shares as she steps us through just how insidious prejudice is, how profoundly it can harm the spirit.

Cover of “Bright Spots & Landmines,” by Adam Brown.

Lastly, is “Bright Spots & Landmines,” by Adam Brown, his journey and insights on diabetes. Four months ago, I mentioned I was diagnosed as prediabetic.

“Don’t worry, you won’t develop full-blown diabetes for at least another ten years,” my doctor tried to assure me.

But I do worry. I’m skinny, exercise most days, and eat mostly vegetarian and hardly any processed food. My father ate better than I did and exercised more, yet he got it. His mom was middle-of-the-road, and she too got it. That’s why “just lose weight and eat more veggies” isn’t enough information for me.

The initial thunderbolt over, I’m still worrying. Doing my best to learn and experiment, I came across Adam’s outstanding book. He’s had type 1 diabetes since he was 12, in 2002 — which were the truly dark days of diabetes. We’ve got far to go with how diabetes is handled, from developing convenient ways to monitor ourselves and learn our bodies, to the basics of insurance companies not being truly stingy with prescribing blood glucose testers and the supplies that go with them.

Okay, chances are that your insulin resistance is perfectly healthy (pardon me while I envy you) — so why am I telling you about his book? Because he and it are amazing! And this comes through in all of his discussions, whether he’s speaking in very personal terms or sharing what he’s learned, always he models how to look at oneself soberly and become a problem solver. He’s a lover of life who demands an un-Polyana pledge to care for oneself, be it physically or emotionally — so that we can be our best for our loved ones and everyone around us, as well as ourselves — win/win and win! In a nutshell, he shows us how to obliterate what doesn’t work for us, Landmines, and amplify what does work for us, Bright Spots. Now that’s the kind of thinking everyone can use.

Cover of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

I lied — here’s another book — I’m just about finished reading, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. A scientific botanist, she’s also a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation who views plants as important as humans. Her clear-eyed take on how tied we are to Mother Nature is poetically luminous. Earth needs us and we need Earth. We’re abundant in ways we don’t appreciate. If we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.

What books make you think about things at a deeper level and how are you feeling?

Poetry? + J.M. Wristen’s + Podcast: Audiobook DIY by Chris Hall

Photo of Jose Mayo Wristen standing with a hat on and taking a selfie. Title of blog post is superimposed.
Even poets like Joseph May Wristen take selfies.

Dance Fun + How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Dance #Audiobooks #Writing #Writing #Books Do you listen to audiobooks? A past guest, author/blogger Chris is from England and now resides in South Africa. For this show, she describes what went into producing her new audiobook. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Link to author Chris Hall. Links to this video and this one of my husband and me dancing. A sample of Hall's audiobook. When Chris was a past guest. Audioshelf, the South African company that published Chris’ audiobook. Authors Republic, that offers audiobook publishing and distribution worldwide. Chris’ book at Audible and Chirp and Amazon. Info about my novels-in-progress. Headliner, which I used to produce a full-length video version of a another show. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Chris Hall and her audiobook. My husband and me dancing. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of “Dance Fun + How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

What’s poetry mean to you? You can find definitions, but to be honest, I’m the “I know it when I see it, and only then I think maybe I know it,” sort. Could that be part of why my novels are taking so long (tell me about it)?

For some, the poetry has to rhyme. Others want the words perform some sort of rhyming math, along the lines of 5-7-5 triplets that haikus do. There are plenty of poetry lovers who elect to break all the rules. It’s been said that one needs to know rules first, but lots of writers consider the learning part too much of a bother. If you want, here’s writer/scholar Brian Geiger’s advice on publishing poetry at WordPress, and author Josephine Corcoran’s on formatting it for WordPress.

Ahhh… to each their own…

In today’s case, the “own” belongs to Joseph Mayo Wristen. Born in Toppenish, Washington, he’s mostly lived in the U.S. North West. From ages 17 to 26, he traveled all over Europe and North America, working odd jobs and meeting interesting people. He’s attended college and film school, sold encyclopedias and children’s books, and currently works in the solar energy.

It took a while for him to share his poetry, but since his youngest daughter told him he should, he’s published a bunch!

His Facebook page includes videos of him reading aloud. Here’s one of his that Nopoet JaArtist uploaded to their Youtube site.

Remember, Emily Dickinson showed us, “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers”…

a bird’s song heard in a dream by joseph mayo wristen

12 crows sitting across the street

scattered wings of origin

perched from the tree tops

to the hanging branches below

someone is here visiting us

misunderstandings found in

history’s unknown truths

feelings that come over you when

you know you’re not alone

drop of rain touching trenched

soil secret in magic’s reconciliation

an eye summoning autumn’s flower

our souls last tear — love

calling out for collectivism

in this world of fame there are

many forces that stand against

man’s idol tides of destruction

voices heard in the silence of the

wind, modernization scattered

across time’s voided scheme

players in twilight’s hour

calling out to you, asking you

to take a moment to listen to

nature’s wish, rhythms found

in her breath violent yet caring

in a succession of union

lights appearing one at a time

here and there throughout

bear wolf earth’s seeded wilderness

all along the way life’s song

giving us a chance

for solitude in love’s redemption

there can be no blame in

our yesterday or in our search

for the way of tomorrow

here lies the

warble answer to

the diseased

rumors and innuendoes of our heritage

you know there is nothing to finding

peace if we will only allow ourselves to believe

in the vision found in god’s dream

a bird heard in the night

singing

to us his song of forgiveness

What does poetry mean to you?

Pandemic Anxiety by da-AL + Panic Attack Rescue by Caz

As the Covid epidemic drags on and on and on, for what seems like forever, the challenge of keeping socially distanced is easier for some of us. For me, working on my novels (about the books I’m working on H-E-R-E), teaches me the importance of being okay with keeping my own company. Of course, I’m beyond fortunate that my friends and family are doing well physically, emotionally, and financially. That includes my dear dog, K-D. She breaks up the surrealism of these weird times by staying close while I do ZOOM yoga and pilates.

Make no mistake, Covid is horrendous in every way. Who among us hasn’t been freaked out by it? My husband and I got sick with it just before the vaccines came out. We were lucky to survive, fortunate to have gotten medical attention. That said, I’m still dealing with Covid-related health problems.

Video exercise helps me, especially with my friend by my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took COVID for me to succumb to the very thing I was too snooty to try.
Zoom exercise helps me, especially with my furry girl at my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took Covid for me to succumb to the very thing that before, I was too snooty to try.

Whatever might stress you out, whether it’s Covid or otherwise, meet Caz, a London blogger with kindness so immense that she blogs her experiences into healing wisdom. She worked in mental health, and you can reach her at her site, Mental Health 360 dot U K, no spaces. These are her best tips for keeping our heads when anxiety threatens to do us in…

How to manage panic attacks by Caz

As someone who’s experienced severe panic attacks, I understand just how frightening and debilitating they are. I never want to experience another one and if this is you too, let’s look at how to prevent them. First tho’, in order to overcome panic attacks, you’ll need to understand what they are.

What is a panic attack or panic disorder?

We’ve all had feelings of anxiety — it’s our body’s natural response to stress, and it’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. For example, you may feel anxious about a job interview. During times like this, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal, but some people find it harder to control their anxieties. The most severe form of anxiety can trigger panic attacks.

We have panic attacks and panic disorder; one episode is a panic attack, which might occur following the death of someone close or another stressful situation. Panic disorder is when you experience regular and subsequent attacks. It’s a common yet very misunderstood illness and lots of people with this disorder won’t ever seek help due to fear and stigma.

The attacks can occur often and at any time, seemingly for no apparent reason. It feels like a sudden, unexpected rush of intense fear and anxiety along with a flood of frightening thoughts and physical sensations — so, panic attacks are not merely psychological.

What you should know about panic disorder

  • Many of the symptoms of panic attack are similar to some physical illnesses i.e. heart attack or over-active thyroid.
  • It’s a chronic condition and can lead to changes in behaviour like avoiding situations or events.
  • People dread the onset of another attack, and the fear of having one is just as debilitating as the attacks themselves.
  • Panic disorder knows no boundaries as it affects people of all socio-economic groups and races. It’s more common in women than men. It can also affect children and the elderly.
  • Although the exact causes are unclear, panic disorders can run in families.
  • While many attacks are triggered by stressful life events, they can also occur ‘out of the blue’.
  • Be aware — anti-malaria medication, cold and flu medications, appetite suppressants and even too much caffeine can trigger panic attacks in some people.

If you experience panic attacks, you might then begin to avoid events or situations because you’re afraid of another attack. However, avoidance can create a cycle of living in “fear of the fear”, which adds to your sense of panic. This can cause you to have more panic attacks, leading to diagnosis of panic disorder

What are the symptoms of Panic?

If we encounter a situation that threatens our safety, we’ll experience a series of reactions known as the ‘fight or flight’ response — triggered by the release of chemicals that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to flee to safety.

During a panic attack, we’ll experience similar symptoms, even when there’s no real threat involved. A panic attack might happen in response to situations that others find harmless. Symptoms include physical and physiological symptoms, such as these ten:

  1. Racing heartbeat, palpitations
  2. Dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea
  3. Difficulty breathing, like you can’t get enough air
  4. Dry mouth and unable to swallow — if you do need fluids, just take smalls sips to avoid choking
  5. Shaking, trembling
  6. Sweating and hot flushes or sudden chills
  7. Sudden need to go to the toilet, the body needs to lighten to fight or flee
  8. Numbness or tingling sensations, initially in your fingers and toes
  9. Your face, feet and hands might go white (as with the tingling, this is the blood leaving your extremities to rush to where it’s needed most i.e. heart and muscles)
  10. Chest pains — you might think you’re having a heart attack — one way to tell is — if your fingers and toes are tingling, you’re more likely to be having a panic attack. However, if you’re afraid always dial 999, or whatever your country’s emergency phone number is, to check

You might experience negative thoughts…

  • “I’m so embarrassed, everyone can see me panicking.”
  • “I feel like I’m dying” or “I’m dying”, or “I’m having a heart attack.”
  • “I can’t cope with this!”

…and feelings of…

  • You’re going mad or crazy.
  • Being out of physical or emotional control.
  • Unreality/detachment from yourself or your surroundings.
  • Heightened sound and visual awareness, and hypervigilance (for flight or flee you need to hear and see clearly and be vigilant).

A panic attack generally lasts between four and twenty minutes, although it often feels a lot longer. However, they have been known to last an hour. I had them one after another, and all night for around three months and it felt like torture.

What to do if you’re having a panic attack

  1. Breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, exhaling firstly through your mouth — slowly for a count of 8-10 seconds, then in through your nose slowly and so on.
  2. Recognise that this is a panic attack and tell yourself that it will pass, because it will.
  3. Try to get to a quiet space and sit down if necessary and continue with the breathing.
  4. If you’re at work or outside, ask for help, I know this might feel a little embarrassing, but do ask if you need to.
  5. Count backwards slowly from 100 or…
  6. …look around for 5 things that you can see and name them out loud i.e. “I can see a truck,” etc. You can go onto things you can hear, smell, taste, or touch in the same way — until the panic subsides. This technique will help you stay in the present and grounded by using your five senses.
  7. Use muscle relaxation techniques — try slumping your shoulders, letting them drop down from your ears, give your jaw a little wiggle then let it relax, uncross your legs, unclench your fists and lay the palms of your hands lightly on your thighs (remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time).
  8. Put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale then breathe it in slowly.
  9. Dial 999 if the symptoms continue or get worse.

What to do if someone else is having a panic attack

  • Ask the person if they’ve had a panic attack before, and what they think might help them or has helped them in the past.
  • Encourage them (or tell them quite firmly if they’re confused and unable to follow directions) to breathe (as above). Do this with them if necessary, as often they think they can’t breathe and won’t be able to do this alone.
  • Follow the above steps and call 999 if necessary.

Self-help to combat panic attacks

  1. Listen (regularly) to free mental wellbeing audio guides online.
  2. Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps.
  3. Learn other skills like visualisation to help you relax and practice them often.
  4. Notice when your body is tense i.e. when your shoulders are up round your ears or your fists are clenched and let them relax. When your body is constantly tensed up, it’s effectively telling your brain you’re on alert, tensed and ready to fight or flee.
  5. Ask your close friends or family members to support you by gently pointing out when you’re all hunched up and tense. Even better, perhaps they’ll give you a light head massage, or lightly rub your arms and hands in a soothing way.
  6. Practice the breathing exercises often so that you’ll be able to use them easily when needed.
  7. Try mixing lavender oil with other aromatherapy oils like geranium to produce your own stress reliever.

I can’t stress enough the need to practice the coping techniques. You know you wouldn’t be able to drive say on a motorway after having just one lesson. It takes practice!

Treatment for Panic attacks

Treatment aims to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and ease your symptoms.

  • Psychological (talking) therapies and medicine are the main treatments for panic disorder
  • Depending on your symptoms, you may need either of these treatments, or a combination of both

When to get help

  • If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help. Or talk to someone close.
  • See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder. Regardless of how long you’ve had the symptoms, if panic attacks are interfering with your life, work, or relationships you should seek professional help.
  • Although panic disorder is a medical condition in its own right, there can sometimes be a physical reason for your symptoms — and treating it can bring the anxious feelings to an end. See your GP to rule out any other causes and don’t self-diagnose.

Over to you

The above lists are not exhaustive, and you may have other tips for readers, which you can leave in the comment section below. Please feel free to make any other comments and ask any questions.

Have you or anyone you know experienced anxiety or panic? What helped you or them?

6 Greatest Novels by Ian Craine

Is a great novel the one you had the most fun reading? One that transported you to a whole new situation, a new land, a new time? Or did that story unlock new insights? How about one that allowed you to feel understood and less alone? What about the books of childhood, which stripped away all the anguish of being small and vulnerable? Is your favorite one that’s compelled you to read it more than once?

The desire to read

I was born ready, jumping out of my diapers with eagerness to comprehend how written language worked.

My reading list from the start

All printed words that came my way. Food wrappers, cereal boxes, and street signs were intermingled with picture books.

School days

Fourth-grade outings with my best friend were bike rides to the library. There I would tick off readings from the Newberry Medal list (the highest esteemed American children’s books). Kids’ magazines with fiction, grown-up mags that featured stories, books lying about the house, I was starved for reading no matter how much I learned. That included Playboy Magazines, The Godfather, Marquis de Sade. That last one fascinated eleven-year-old me not for the sex (it went over my head), but for how sadomasochism mirrored the day-to-day I saw. Later in high school, Shakespeare taught me how stories can tap numerous levels beyond surface and deep.

Lately

My idea of “best” has more to do with whatever I’ve recently read that left an impression. Since embarking upon novel-writing, much of my fiction is via audiobooks. Minutes spent sitting is time I could be writing. The books I select are for enjoyment as well as for learning. Since the books I’m writing, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” are epistolary (correspondence or diary), I’m apt to download books of that style. That includes the historically latent “Frankenstein” and “Dracula,” the contemporary “Queenie,” the fizzy “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and “The Roxy Letters.” Non-epistolary includes anything by authors like Anne Patchett, and Anne Tyler, who’s endings are complex. Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent protagonist encourages us to never regret losing our virginity. Now I’m dizzy with memories of beautiful reads, too many to note here but irresistible to type: “Little,” “A Tale for the Time Being,” “Kindred”… I can’t wait to read Kathleen Rooney’s latest (she was so very kind to be a Happiness Between Tails guest here).

Ian Craine, writer Ian Craine, writer

With that, dear readers, let’s meet Ian Craine — he often blogs on his wife’s site (Roberta Franklin is a writer of romantic fiction). He’s a Brit currently living in London who hopes to move to Wales and has worked as a lawyer, a book indexer, and a writer. He enjoys history, books, writing, walking, travel, horse racing, cinema, and music.

About writing, he notes, “…to write, one first of all, has to be able to read. Our life experiences, as Borges once said, include both the things we have done and the books we have read. Reading needs to be a balance between fiction and non-fiction, both from the reader’s and the writer’s point of view.”

Ian has written screenplays in various genres, novellas, stage plays, articles, short stories, flash and poetry. As for novels, he says, “…I confess I have always signally failed there. Somehow I just cannot write that many words. Perhaps I just haven’t got enough to say. But I admire anybody who can from Miguel Cervantes to my own wife.”

A lover of good novels, here are the ones he regards as the best six…

Six Great Novels: Ian Craine’s picks (in chronological order)

Painting of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa by Honore DaumierDon Quixote and Sancho Pansa by Honore Daumier
  1. Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes: This is where the novel began, this is the template. It may never have been bettered since. It’s wonderfully layered, whose story are we hearing? This is a world that contains all worlds- those of dream, of memory and of imagination, of bawdy and elegy, the fantastical and the prosaic. This satire of romance now bears its own warm romantic glow. It has inspired many of the world’s greatest writers — Diderot, Mark Twain, Borges, Graham Greene, Nabokov, Carlos Fuentes — as it was inspired by Homer’s majestic Odyssey.
  2. The Black Arrow” by Robert Louis Stevenson: Stevenson was a man for all seasons from the early spring of childhood with tales like Treasure Island to winter’s disillusionment of old age in South Seas Island novellas such as Ebb Tide. My choice is in the earlier category, a stirring tale of derring-do from “The Wars of the Roses.” I am sure it was as fun to write as it is to read.
  3. The Alexandrian Quartet” by Laurence Durrell: These are four linked tales, the first three told contemporaneously but from different points of view; the fourth is subsequent to the earlier events. To me, nobody has combined a sense of place with a sense of the human condition as perfectly as Durrell. Alexandria is described on every page as the essential witness to all the characters do — their affairs, relationships, journeys, and desires. Beautiful descriptive writing effortlessly merges with a keen post-Freudian feel for humanity. It’s an object lesson too, in the primacy of the novel in describing human behaviour. This is rich beyond anything Freud himself ever wrote.
  4. Downriver” by Iain Sinclair: As Durrell wrote of a city, so Sinclair wrote of a river. The river is the Thames. The starting point is Thatcher’s London, the “revival” of the dockland with bijou apartments for bracered brokers, and it takes place largely downriver of the City, where such folk “earned” their commissions. The book, told in ten chapters, brings us an incredibly rich mix of deeply eccentric characters and allusions to episodes in London’s history over the centuries. Sinclair was a walker (till age put paid to his excursions) with a sharp eye for the topography and architecture of London, and the effects of crushing change on those left behind by the sudden hysteria orchestrated by “The Widow.”
  5. “The Blind Man’s Garden” by Nadeem Aslam: It’s 2001 and 9/11 has come and gone. But this is not about its effect on the West. This is what happened afterwards in Afghanistan. A beautifully evoked Pakistani family, each with their problems and preoccupations, are torn apart when the son decides to go to Afghanistan as a medic. An adopted “cousin” goes along for the ride. But they are too naive (perhaps a modern version of our old friends, the Quixote and Sancho Panza) and those they think are helping are out for their own cut- they are sold to the Taliban. Now they have to tread with care amidst their new “owners” while the other enemy, the Americans, fill their skies with terror and destruction. But like all serious novels about conflict, this is about trying to find common ground, mutual respect and reconciliation amid the chaos. Only “Sancho” survives because only he would have been equipped to survive. And this tremendous book, beautifully written, a tale of redemption amid horror, is his Odyssey. New ways of telling old tales.
  6. “The Professor and the Bird” by Roberta Franklin: This is a beautiful story, again with a strong sense of place, and like The Quartet set in the Mediterranean by a writer deeply conversant with the rhythms of life of Greeks and Turks and the Levant generally. She tells a lovely tale of May and November. A sparky young Irish girl on a motorbike meets an ageing Greek archaeologist. They would appear to have little in common at first, but a love of history, the sort buried deep beneath the sands and sea of the Med, begins to bring them together. She is friendly and open, he kind but academic and diffident. Their burgeoning relationship is told with warmth and humour, and the supporting crew on the dig all have their own stories to tell.

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney

Note: here’s the audio/podcast version of the blog post below.

85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is out for a stroll — of over 10-miles! New York City!! New Year’s Eve, 1984!!! Alone!!!! In the middle of the night!!!!!

Wondering and worrying how the best-seller historical fiction novel would end was plenty to keep me turning the pages of “Lillian Boxwood Takes a Walk.” All the more enticing is that author Kathleen Rooney modeled Boxwood after the country’s real-life highest-paid advertising woman of the 1930s, Margaret Fishback.

Here, with Rooney’s permission for Happiness Between Tails to re-publish her article from this site, she describes the inspiration behind her book…

Kathleen Rooney, poet, professor, and author of “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.”

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Kathleen Rooney

Back in May of 2007, thanks to a tip from my best-friend-from-high-school Angela Ossar, I got to be the first scholar ever to work with the newly acquired papers of the poet and advertising copywriter Margaret Fishback at Duke University’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History in Durham, North Carolina. I didn’t know it at the time, but Fishback would end up being the model on which I based the protagonist, Lillian Boxfish, of my second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, which would end up coming out just slightly less than 10 years after my visit to Fishback’s archive.

Through an internship she held as part of her Library Science degree program, Angela got to be one of the first archivists to process and organize the Fishback materials. As she did so, she quickly realized that Fishback — a proto-feminist who was, at one point, the highest-paid advertising copywoman in the world, as well as a successful and well-published author of light verse — was a figure after my own heart. I love re-examining and rediscovering unjustly obscure figures, so getting a travel-to-collections grant from the university to check out the Fishback material was pretty much a dream come true.

While I was there, I connected with Fishback — her joy in her job and the identity and satisfaction she clearly found from her employment, as well as how she balanced creative pursuits and family demands with monetary ones — immediately. But it took me a long time to figure out what to do with my newfound encyclopedic knowledge of her life and times. In that spirit of not-quite-procrastination, here’s one of the poems from her 1932 collection I Feel Better Now, called “Getting Down to Work”:

Now, almost exactly a decade after I first worked with her archive, my novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk — based loosely on what I learned at Duke back in 2007 — is coming out from St. Martin’s Press. I hope that it will call more attention to this overlooked person and her role in shaping advertising as we know it. As the divisional copywriter at Macy’s, where she first worked in 1926, she revolutionized the house style and the style of advertising generally by adding humor to her ads. The humor of the ads is present in the poetry as well, even as it tends to take a slightly more world-weary and melancholy bent, like in this poem “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow,” also from I Feel Better Now:

Fishback’s books, as one can probably see by the fact that these are photographs of photocopies, are sadly long out of print and almost impossible to get a hold of.

But some of my most treasured acquisitions from my research that are now part of my own archive here at home include bound Xerox copies of every single one of her poetry collections, as well as her etiquette guide and guide to motherhood.

Her etiquette guide came out in 1938 and is called Safe Conduct: How to Behave and Why

And her guide to motherhood came out in 1945 and is called Look Who’s a Mother!

Both of these books, as well as each of her collections of witty verse, including her final one, Poems Made Up to Take Out, dating from 1963 —

— are delightful examples of Fishback’s voice.

Without the spirit and intelligence I found while doing my research in the papers of Margaret Fishback, I would never have been able to create Lillian. These photocopies — along with everything else I discovered in the Fishback archive roughly one decade ago — make me so happy to have gotten the chance to unearth her exceptional life and work thanks to Angela.

About Kathleen Rooney: she is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches in the English Department at DePaul University, and her most recent books include the national best-seller, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte (Spork Press, 2018). Her World War I novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is forthcoming from Penguin in August of 2020, and her criticism appears in The New York Times Magazine, The Poetry Foundation website, The Chicago TribuneThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay. Follow her at @KathleenMRooney
Do walk in your city for fun?…

Caregiving for Men by Dan Zeorlin

News alert! Men can be caregivers too.

Since Kansas blogger Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg) became one, he’s shared what he’s learned by writing, “Care Giver’s Manual for Men.” It is absolutely free, neither emails nor strings attached, as a downloadable pdf file. He’s also looking to start a support group.

He first wrote for Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for six of his insights into caregiving…

Caregiver/blogger, Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg), has an absolutely free manual for you!

Observations of a Life Well-Worn: Reflections from a Caregiver, by Dan Zeorlin

  1. Choices: I love to see young, recently-married couples at church with crying babies. Where else would one expect to find such enthusiastic subjects and empathic, experienced audiences? A beautiful encounter is in becoming a Caregiver for someone that you love – and to grow more fully human in sharing life: joys, struggles, strengths, and acceptance. Great opportunity to meet and know God through awesome presence! Of course, it is assumed that a new parent of the crying baby loves her/him. And through the gradual series of choices, we become seasoned Caregivers. 
  2. Disappointment and Farewell to Regret: Show some resolve – grow backbone where it is needed. Do the research to find out what you want and then go for it! If drawbacks are identified in every proposal, then deliver them in a positive manner. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by creating impossible expectations. In other words, allow yourself space to dream big.
  3. What am I waiting for? Get over it! When will it be over? When will my life be through? I don’t know about you, but I need to request a review As Soon As Possible! This doesn’t mean I want fewer days to breathe, eat, sleep, and etc. but merely that I do not wish to spend my life preoccupied with “me” when there is so much more worth living for. Worse off than some…Better off than most – I do not deserve a charmed life. But isn’t this what I have every time I escape into my comfort zone? I need to be taking chances and reach new levels of shared experience. After all, sharing is caring.
  4. Enabling vs. getting a leg up: How do we become better Caregivers? The opportunities to help run rampant; the desire to leave everything neat and tidy is innate; the willingness to clean while becoming exposed to filth, getting dirty, and experiencing heartache can be devastating. Each of us has certain norms and standards, but none of these are absolute. What’s more, the object of desire often moves, and it changes. So instead of keeping the focus on trying to reach a target’s bulls-eye, sometimes the goal becomes quite unimagined and may take on slight variations or be radically different. Approach unforeseen consequences and not-prepared-for conclusions with confidence.
  5. The point is… When you sign up to love unconditionally (i.e., become a Caregiver), you do not control the rules. Pray for strength to say “Yes” each time something is asked of you; have the courage to say “No” whenever it is in the best interests of life. Try to recognize and respect those times when there is no answer other than to “hang in there.” We can be certain that love is served through Caregiving.
  6. What can I do to help? Look for ideas (try reading this: Caregivers Manual for Men) and get on board.

More about Dan Zeorlin: He is a blogger, a supporter, a follower, and a learner. He believes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we must build a better mousetrap. His desire for sharing methods to enable persistence in giving care is simply a calling to do the right thing.

Do you know any men who are caregivers?…  

Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries by Mike Befeler

Anytime, especially n-o-w, is an excellent time to start something! In 2001, when Mike Befeler was 56, he set out to become a novelist. Since then, he’s authored 17!!!! books, including mysteries, a thriller, and a biography of a World War II veteran!

In this post for Happiness Between Tails, Mike discussed geezer-lit. Here he explains the ones he’s written that interlace the paranormal…

Photo of Mike Befeler
Geezer-lit author Mike Befeler

“Writing Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries” by Mike Befeler

Most of my published books are geezer-lit mysteries, featuring older characters. A number of years ago, my agent suggested I consider writing a paranormal mystery. I read several and decided I would give it a shot. The result was The V V Agency, a paranormal private investigator mystery that introduced a new type of shape-shifter called a transvictus.

Then I decided to blend a paranormal mystery with older characters, and The Back Wing was born…

A normal person ends up in the back wing of a retirement home with aging witches, vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters. And don’t believe the myth that vampires don’t age. They get older, move into retirement homes, lose their teeth, and gum people on the throat.

Needless to say, I enjoy writing humor with quirky characters. The sequel, The Front Wing, will be published this month.

 I love stories where older characters aren’t merely life-savants who are sentenced to die by the end of the tale. What do you think about how older characters are usually treated in fiction?

The Kelpies of Scotland by da-AL

Usually, I start out telling of a vacation sequentially — we arrived here, then there, and so on…

Amazing from any angle: The Kelpies of Falkirk, Scotland, by sculptor Andy Scott.

But for our spring trip to the United Kingdom, I’m beginning with the most unexpectedly jaw-dropping.

The delight of The Kelpies!! Driving between Glasgow to Edinburgh, they loom from the highway.

We were lucky for a spectacular sky of turquoise and popcorn clouds.

But any backdrop would be mysterious and magnificent with a foreground of these colossal creatures.

Label them horse heads if you will. In person, they’re far more.

The closer we got to them, the more magical they were. It didn’t matter what side we viewed them from.

From any angle, they bordered nature and the supernatural. Here’s more on The Kelpies and their sculptor Andy Scott, and an explanation of what kelpies are.

Here we are among The Kelpies!

Here’s about our visit to jam-packed London and the British Museum Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, bubbly fun at Bath, and Avebury, and Stokesay Castle, and Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater.

Has a sculpture ever spellbound you with its marvelousness?

Guest Blog Post: How to use atmosphere by Joseph Carrabis

Writing is dear to my soon-to-be self-published heart! As a skill as well as a talent, writing benefits from frequent regular practice and ongoing education. Author Joseph Carrabis shares his thoughts about the craft…

Joseph Carrabis, author.

“How to Use Atmosphere in Your Writing” by Joseph Carrabis

Writers are told to use atmosphere in their stories. What is atmosphere?

Writing texts define atmosphere as …the presenting of physical details so as to create an emotional reaction in the reader. Emotional reaction is what allows the reader to identify and empathize with characters in the story.

Consider the line “Eric stopped as Julia entered a copse of ancient, dark boled trees” from a horror story I’m working on.

The details relevant to Atmosphere are “stopped” and “a copse of ancient, dark boled trees.” The word “stopped” tells us Eric doesn’t want to do something and what he doesn’t want to do is follow Julia into “a copse of ancient, dark boled trees.”

I hope readers experience some tension, some foreboding, and at the same time want to read more to learn 1) why Eric stops and 2) what happens to Julia in the copse.

Creating reader emotional reaction is important because you want the reader involved, engaged. The line Eric stopped as Julia entered a copse of ancient, dark boled trees should make the reader sympathize more with Eric than Julia because Eric is showing caution while Julia is entering that copse of ancient, dark boled trees and people (in their heart of hearts) tend to favor caution.

That sense of confinement, foreboding, discomfort, ill-at-easeness comes from the words copse (a dense growth of trees), ancient (anything ancient’s going to either be very, very good or very, very bad), dark (it’s going to be bad), and boled (even if you don’t know what the word means it just sounds like something that’ll hurt you) to create a malevolent atmosphere.

A longer version of this piece is available at Atmosphere is….

About me: I’m boring and dull. Hopefully, my fiction isn’t. Learn more about me here and get my fiction here.

Does atmosphere enhance your writing?

Happy Spring and Persian New Year + Video by da-AL

Photo of Nowrooz spread by Katzenfee50 from Pixabay
Image by Katzenfee50 from Pixabay

Spring and the start of any new year are laden with happy promise — those of releasing past griefs and embracing potential good times ahead.

I wish you, dear reader, all the best for this new season that for many countries also marks the start of a new calendar year.

Here’s a speech I did for Toastmasters…

Persian New Year (aka Nowrooz, which is spelled a variety of ways due to varying alphabets) is not (n-o-t) a religious holiday. Moreover, other countries also (a-l-s-o) celebrate it, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Albania.

Did you know that Japan celebrates a version of Nowruz?

Have you got plans for Spring?…