Self-Publishing Tips by Aithal + My Abortion Story Podcast

Blog post title and covers of some of the novels by Aithal.
Some of the novels by Aithal.

My Abortion Story by da-AL Happiness Between Tails

#ReproductiveFreedom #Abortion #HumanRights #Women #ProChoice How much control over your body do you want to give to lawmakers? Roe v Wade is the 1973 landmark United States Supreme Court decision that ensures all women have the right to obtain legal and safe abortions. Tragically, it’s on the verge of becoming history. 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic 1:05 My Abortion by da-AL 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. About my own novels in progress. Wiki page on Roe v Wade Margaret Atwood, author and her iconic novel and TV series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Guest blogger Infidel753 Wiki page on feminist Gloria Steinem About the infamous 40-year Tuskegee Study Planned Parenthood site Wiki page on Planned Parenthood & Nixon Wiki page on abortion in Poland — 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 My Abortion Story.

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.

The right to safe legal abortions and to wield guns — given how the first is crumbling and the second is more out of control than ever — a fellow Meetup writer mused, “Guns will be used freely to hunt down anyone remotely associated with abortion. Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and TV series).”

My heart is heavy with all that’s happening. Today’s post is brief, though it took a long time to write. Meantime, I’ve been researching whether it’s a good idea to add a podcast version of my novel, Flamenco & the Sitting Cat, to PRX’s roster (they act as intermediaries for producers and public radio stations). This week’s podcast is My Abortion Story, which you can also read as a blog post.

Tangled Locks Journal (thanks, blogger par excellence KE Garland, for the heads up) seeks personal abortion stories. The literary site featured mine. Their latest post offers an up-to-date overview.

Keep current on how to obtain safe abortions and avoid legal repercussions at Infidel753’s site. Readers of Happiness Between Tails know him from when he wrote about helping women at Planned Parenthood and being vegan. Among the many links on his Sunday round ups, he includes safety nets for abortion.

This week’s guest, Aithal, was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He immigrated to New York in 1989 and now lives with his wife and two kids in Orange County, California. He’s self-published a shelf-worth of far-ranging novels, his stories often interleaved with analogies to these increasingly frightening times.

In his own words, he explains, “I’ve written six books so far. The first book is on India. It’s called India Was One and the next four are part of a science fiction series, called The Galaxy Series. They are: Beyond The Milky Way (#1), Return To Earth (#2), Divided States of America (#3) and 2120 (#4). My last book (released very recently) is called The Man From Afghanistan. I dub it as an international adventure as the story starts at Newport Beach in Orange County and ends in Rajasthan, India. All my books are available on Amazon in Kindle as well as paperback format.”

They feature gorgeous artwork by Darshini. Check out her website and her Instagram page.

To compliment them, Aithal produced a video for the artwork of India Was One. His Beyond the Milky Way illustrations move one way to music, and then another way. He’s also been interviewed by David Pakman.

Here are his self-publishing insights…

DIY Publishing by Aithal

Being an indie can be hard. Very hard. Take it from me; I’m one. Here are some of my experiences that I want to share:

Back when I wrote my first book, I was new to the game. Now that I have put a few years doing this, I can say that I know a bit more. In no way do I consider myself an authority, but I’m sure lots of you have experienced something similar, if not the same. I’m merely sharing this so that the newbies don’t have to go through my horrible experiences.

As all indies know, there is a very limited budget to spend. So, the best, and the most economical, way to do things are free. Fortunately, almost all the tools available are free (or inexpensive). If you are serious about getting your work seen by many, and by many I mean many strangers and not friends and family members, here are a few “musts.”

  1. Website: You have to have a website showcasing your work. There are many free website builders available in the market. They will help you get started for free.
  2. Facebook: Creating a Facebook Page for your book is an excellent way to spread the word, and it’s very easy to setup one. After setting up the page, you can invite your friends to like the page (and hope & pray that they invite their friends and so on)
  3. Twitter: Create a Twitter account to tell the world about your work and then use free services like Hootsuite to automate your tweets.

These three are the minimum “musts.” And the good news is that they all are free. You don’t have to spend a dime on creating these. There are other few you should think of having. However, they can be secondary, depending on the type of book you are writing. All of them are free.

  • YouTube: There are excellent resources to produce a book trailer. Search “free book trailer,” and you’ll find many free to use. 
  • Pinterest: Even if your book doesn’t have any artwork, you should create an account here and upload your work.

Apart from these free resources, there are many free resources available that you could (and should) take advantage of.

Have you considered writing a book?

Poetry? + J.M. Wristen’s + Pod36: Audiobook How 2 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. 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?

What day is it? + Timo’s Poem + Pod29: Fondant Peonies by R. Cheadle

Photo of Khashayar and da-AL with their Persian New Year decorations.

What day is it? Those sprouts among the Persian New Year decorations got left (as is traditional) at the park to regenerate in their own way, but first K-D-doggie had a fun time tossing them about, a fun substitute for the squirrels and rabbits she was forbidden to chase.

Do It Yourself Fondant Peonies by Robbie Cheadle Happiness Between Tails

#Dessert #Authors # Food # Books #Birthdays When her family needs to stay home more than usual, Robbie Cheadle, a South African author of a huge range of books and videos, takes care to keep things cheerful. That includes whipping up special desserts, like these fondant peonies. How does your eating change when you need to stay home more? 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Robbie Cheadle teaches us how to make fondant peonies 2:00 My question for you 6:00 HBT outro Links for this episode: Author Robbie Cheadle's homepage Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Robbie Cheadle Pictures for each step to constructing these lovely edible blossoms. — 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 the post below this blog post of “DIY Fondant Peonies by Robbie Cheadle.”

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.

Persian New Year, always on the first day of Spring, is celebrated in Iran and many other countries. For some it’s secular, for others it isn’t, but for anyone who does, it’s a major holiday. The same goes for Sizdeh Bedar, also known as Nature day, which thirteen days later marks the end of the celebration.

People wish my husband and me all kinds of things around now. It would have been easy to laugh this year when we were wished a happy Purim and a happy Ramadan. However, it’s sweet that anyone wishes us goodwill and that they know something non-United-States-originated is happening about now.

Sorry, I didn’t snap any pictures of us, my husband and extended family, celebrating Sizdeh Bedar last weekend. We were all too shivery. Under chilly (at least for us thin-skinned Angelinos) gray skies, we had fun despite our shoulders hunched to our ears and our hands buried deep into our pockets. We ate quickly before picnic foods cooled from tepid to cold, like the fresh bread I baked that morning, and Khashayar’s thick noodle stew with beans (better known as Aash Reshteh) that he’d wrapped to keep warm like a baby.

K-D-doggie was desperate to check out the many squirrels and bunnies at the park where we gathered. Nonetheless, she was a very very good doggie because so long as she got some affection, she didn’t bark, run, or whine.

If a thirteen day can potentially ward off evil spirits, then it’s okay that it was a grim one. Several days later, we’ve got a heatwave, up from the 60s to the 90s. Rain or shine, one can’t predict what’ll happen in April, the month of my birthday, of April Fools, of tax returns needing to be submitted —and we’ve got my brother-in-law coming. No one knows how it’ll wind up for him, how challenging it might be for him to acclimate, yet we hope for the best and are excited to see him.

I wish the planet well, that our leaders will commit to more than grandstanding and worse. Leaders who don’t mind the oblivion that can result from working for peace. Harmony provides far less spectacular headlines than warring and experimenting with iffy new currencies.

Today’s guest, Timo Schmitz, blogs from Germany. He describes himself as a language fanatic, philosopher, journalist, poet, and book author. Visit his site for more about him and more of his thoughtful poems like this one…

Photo of Timo Schmitz.

Dark Ink by Timo Schmitz

Dark ink, dark as the coming night,

Flows down this piece, with no delight,

Scratches the paper and forming a river,

While my emotions start to shiver.

 

So many mem’ries I wanted to put inside,

How much I fought for us, how you left me aside,

That I can’t forget you, even after time has passed,

And that your shade on my heart still lasts.

 

When the summer sun on the photo vanishes,

And the first snow of the winter comes,

Knowing your life goes on, as if you never knew me,

While without you, I don’t really feel free.

 

My breath, my deep breath,

When my heart felt like it stopped,

When I saw in deep in your eyes,

Eating up this black death.

 

I give you my kingdom in dreams,

Yet dreams they must stay,

Not to worry, not to hurry,

Because now you are far away.

 

Black ink dries up, becoming one with the paper,

We are separated both, now and maybe later,

Won’t drown in your seductive ocean’s wave,

Not melting down a grove, each one staying in one’s cave.

 

Can’t we free ourselves?

You know I adore you,

I am not me anymore!!!

But again, I want to be myself.

 

How is your year faring?

Happy Nowrooz + D. Williams’ Memoir Tips + Pod25: Caz’s Can vs. Can’t

Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!
Coach Diane, author, blogger, speaker, and more!

Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t, by Caz Happiness Between Tails

#Chronic illness #Pain #Strength #Courage #Health Faced with challenge, it’s easy to get bogged down by what we can’t do. Caz encourages us to focus on what we can do. A blogger from England, outwardly she appears physically strong, yet inwardly she deals with chronic pain. That’s why the name of her blog is InvisiblyMe. Are you or anyone you know challenged by invisible pain? 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction About today’s topic and guest 1:00 “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t,” by Caz2:00 My question for you 5:00 HBT outro Links for this episode: The original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. InvisiblyMe.com Photos available at the HBT post for this show: A photo of gorgeous sassy Caz! — 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 episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t, by Caz.”

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. Here’s the full LinkTree list of 50+ places.

Happy Spring and Persian New Year!

Spring has sprung early here in Los Angeles. Blossoms perfumed the air, sun warms and brightens the days, and it’s official that despite some recent rain, we’re in a drought.

Spring also means that it’s Nowrooz. My husband being from Iran, we celebrate not just January 1st, but Persian New Year. Here’s a post and another post and a video I did about Persian New Year. Once the celebration of this year’s gets in full swing, I’ll upload some photos for you to see.

Between readying for the two-and-a-half week celebration (cleaning, shopping, and decorating), as well as for when my brother-in-law moves in soon, I’ve had scant time for novel-writing. Fortunately, I attended a couple of Shut Up and Write/Meetup sessions. They’re virtual opportunities for writers of all ilks to rally each other while offering camaraderie and accountability.

An author I’ve had the pleasure to meet thanks to this Meetup is Diane Williams. Working out of California, she writes, coaches, trains, and encourages audiences great and small to achieve their best and happiest. She’s published a memoir, “The Invisible Child,” along with a collection of 17 inspiring stories called, “Angels in Action.” Get to know her better and see her books at her blog as well as her Amazon pageher Amazon page.

Using herself as an example, here she shows us how everyone deserves joy and our wellbeing helps others…

Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!
Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!

How to Write a Memoir in Twenty Years by Diane Williams

The writing process I used to write my memoir, The Invisible Child, took me twenty years to complete. I didn’t have a desire to write a book about my life. However, my life took a dramatic change; it plummeted. My once vibrant healthy body was invaded by the disease called rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor prescribed drugs and a wheelchair for treatment. The effects of this disease on my body left me helpless, jobless, and husbandless. The most devastating of all, I had to parent our young daughters, ages seven and eleven, alone — on my back.

Through it all, I developed a fearless desire to live life with relentless faith.  Folks began to ask how I keep going while living in an immobile body. I repeated the story so many times, folks suggested I write my story, and thus it began.

I devoted three hours per day to just brainstorming and freewriting every thought that entered my mind. Some days I wrote two or three pages and other days a few paragraphs. Next, I drafted an outline by grouping topics, scenes, timelines. That whole process took a couple of years including my much-needed breaks.

Immediately after my break, I increased my daily writing from three hours to five, and I began to write chapters. I brought my work to the community critic group to be critiqued. They were graciously forthcoming with feedback on my theme, voice, character development, plot, scenes, timelines, and libel laws. Thus, I began to rewrite.

While writing, I began to feel stronger, energized — a cathartic victory. This gave me momentum and much needed motivation to push forward. I found a professional editor, and she complimented my message and emailed me a thick file with suggestions for style, edits, a guide for the timeline, and content such as how to raise conflict and when to reach the climax. I increased my writing time to nearly seven hours per day.

As I wrote the story, I began to thank Charles Babbage, considered by some to be the “father of the computer.” I am most appreciative of the copy and paste device. I had a quick thought about how long it would have taken me with the white, correction tape. 

After twenty years of writing my story, my memoir, The Invisible Child is born. And now, I am on to my next project, Unbelievably True Caregiver Stories, to be launched November 1, 2023 on National Caregivers Day.

I love to bring value to people and remind them that they matter because I want to live in a world with happy successful people; this is my main reason for sharing so much of my personal scars and victories.

I have lived a life of complete health, and life was good, then an uninvited disease entered my body, it felt like a truck ran into my home and wrecked everything and everyone. As we all know, when one family member suffers it changes the dynamics of the entire family. I truly hope this story inspires readers to care for their health and well-being to live a healthy, independent, and vibrant life, we deserve.

When does Spring spring where you live?

Co-Authors: J.L. Harland + 4 Bloomers + Pod24: Peterson’s Pub’g Inspo

Blog title over photo of “J. L. Harland,” the writing duo Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett.
“J. L. Harland” is writing duo Janet Laugharne (left) and Jacqueline Harrett (right).

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #Guinea Pigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. Here she talks about how her pets help her to relieve stress. What's your best stress reliever? 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Self-Publishing and Thera – Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 4:00 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — 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 episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson.”

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. Here’s the full LinkTree list of 50+ places.

Fearful of getting old? Wonder what it would be like to collaborate on a novel (working on my novels can be lonely)? Read on to meet four late-bloomers who reinvented themselves, some better categorized as “re-bloomers” with several life success! Numbers 3 and 4 describe in their own words what it’s like to be co-authors…

In the interest of learning to blog at any age, have you read WordPress’s ebook/pdf, “The Ultimate Traffic Guide”? A few chapters in, there are already some broken and rather old “additional info” links, and I’m unsure it’s worth a full $17. However, it’s got me updating posts to total no more than 15 categories plus tags each to ensure (fingers crossed) they show up on searches at the WordPress Reader. Given how important WP says they are and how our success as bloggers can only help WP, wouldn’t it be great if there were category/tag counters on editing pages and the post list pages? An alert when we go over would be all the better!

Between updating categories and tags, I clicked over to try another (here’s the first one I tried) super easy near-immediate gratification Jenny Can Cook no-knead bread recipe, this one for whole wheat. After 10 minutes of measuring and mixing, a 3-hour rise, a 40-minute bake, and an hour to cool and slice — yum!!!!…

Whole Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook's no-knead recipe.  bread ala Jenny Can Cook recipe.
Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook’s no-knead recipe.

Now meet late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Grandma Moses…

Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell.
Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell, 31 Oct 1885 – 27 Dec 1975 – https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.81.8, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110147052

American folk artist of worldwide fame, Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses, September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961) grew up humbly; farming as a child, at twelve leaving home to work, and later giving birth to ten children, only five of who lived past infancy. She’d always loved creating beauty out of nothing, but it wasn’t until she turned 78 that arthritis forced her to take up painting. When one hand tired, she’d switch to the other.

U.S. postage stamp with art by Grandma Moses.
This U.S. postage stamp is only one of Grandma Moses’s many honors. By Bureau of Engraving and Printing – U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National Postal Museum; Image enlarged and rendered for tone, clarity by Gwillhickers, Public Domain.

As practical as she was prolific, she told journalism giant William R. Murrow that painters should be self-taught, otherwise, “You’ll paint as the teacher paints.” When he asked her if it was hard to part with her work, she answered, “Oh, no. I’d rather see the money.”

Late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Colonel Sanders…

Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Heard of a little fast-food chain called Kentucky Fried Chicken? Harlan David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) started it when he was 65. Prior to that, he worked as everything from a streetcar conductor and an army wagoner, to a blacksmith’s helper and a fireman. After he sold KFC for boo-coo bucks, he badmouthed the new owners for cutting so many corners they ruined the food.

In 1962, Sanders taught Tennessee Ernie Ford and Minnie Pearl how to cook their own KFC chicken…

Today’s Guests: Late bloomers/re-bloomers #3 and #4…

J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who “turned new pages” after retirement; Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett. Check out each of the aforementioned three links, because they also write independently. Residents of Cardiff, South Wales, UK, they met as colleagues and ended up friends for thirty years.

Jan, originally from North Wales, speaks Welsh and worked as a professor of languages in education. She writes poetry and short fiction.

Jacqui says, “Writing together has been an unexpected joy as we share much laughter in the process. Plus, it’s an excuse to meet and eat cake!”

She grew up in Northern Ireland, was a teacher and an academic before she became a multi-genre author. Her writing includes an award-winning non-fiction book for teachers and recently published crime novel, The Nesting Place.

Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland
Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland

The Joy of Co-authoring by J. L. Harland (Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett)

We are J. L. Harland: two writers with one voice and co-authors of What Lies Between Them, published by Dixi Books. The name is a combination of Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett, both former academics and flourishing in retirement.

Many people see retirement as the end of a meaningful life, especially if they have left a job which has occupied every waking moment. Retirement should be seen as an opportunity to do all those things you dreamt of doing when you were a youngster, before the need to earn a living became a reality.

As academics our working lives were busy, demanding, intellectually stimulating and often stressful so when we retired, around 2014, we threw ourselves into exploring the opportunities our new freedom afforded. Academic life consists of many different aspects and requires people skills as well as writing ability. We both published academic papers, chapters in books, modules for degrees and helped students to edit their work and expand their knowledge. It was inevitable that we should both want to do something more creative. We discussed the art of creative writing and which areas we felt we had weaknesses, set targets and then edited each other’s work. Tentative beginnings. We also took classes in creative writing. 

The first class we attended was across the city, so the journey entailed two buses to get to the venue. We met in the city centre and had a coffee and a chat before heading to class. It was during one of these chats that writing together was mooted. And so, our journey began.

What shall we write about? Where shall we set it? Who are the characters? Those were our questions and starting point. Every week when we met, we talked and planned. Our recent experiences of Higher Education gave us the setting, a fictional university in a familiar city, Cardiff, South Wales.

We each had a notebook and spent hours working out the characters first. Physical, personality, backstory, friends, relatives and what dilemma our main character had to face to ensure conflict. It was so much fun, and Elin Fiorelli was created. It should be noted that we both believe so much in this fictional character that we think we’ve seen her. Elin Fiorelli is a Welsh/Italian academic, a career woman whose life starts to unravel when she returns from a research trip abroad to find her former lover is now her boss. Can she keep the secret from her past while dealing with present day problems? You need to read it to find out.

Once we had a vague plot – we knew where it started and ended, the story arc, but the middle was more muddled – we started writing. Taking a chapter each, in turn, we wrote four chapters at a time. It was very exciting as, to keep the storyline intact, we each waited for a chapter before continuing to write. Opening the computer to find that your writing partner has completed the next stage in the story was stimulating and motivating. We are both guilty of going ‘off piste’ and creating scenes and minor characters not in the planning but that adds to the thrill of the writing process.

Cover of "What Lies Between Them," by J. L. Harland.

The story was in a very rough almost first draft when it was longlisted for a debut novel prize. That gave us encouragement and hope that it would be published. We sought editorial advice from a couple of sources, tweaked, adjusted and polished the manuscript before sending it into the world. It has been edited so many times and our writing voice so blended even we do not know who wrote which bits. 

As any writer is aware, rejection is part of the journey. Our previous experiences as academics had made rejection something to be expected so it didn’t deter us. Every so often, we’d send the novel out while continuing to write other things. 

During lockdown, when we couldn’t met in person, we Facetimed and managed, after the initial panic, to write a novella, a novelette and several pieces of short fiction. We kept a record of where What Lies Between Them had been submitted and put it on the back burner while we carried on creating. A second novel was nearing completion when we found our publisher. A couple of publishers had previously shown an interest but not the right fit, for various reasons.

For both of us having a novel published is a dream we held as teenagers. Now it’s a dream realised. The fun and laughter, as well as tears of frustration, we have shared on this journey has been a joy and we have many ideas and plans for future co-authoring projects.

Although many of the skills we learnt in our working lives have been of benefit on this journey we are still learning. Some of the learning curves have been vertical and we are busy marketing in the local area, doing talks and signings at all sorts of venues. For writers who have no public speaking experience this aspect, the need to be seen and engage with people, must be agonising. For both of us it almost feels like a return to work. 

We also pursue our individual writing and are happy to support each other in these endeavours. As well as long form writing, Janet enjoys writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, with work published in national magazines, literary journals and online. Jacqui’s debut crime novel, The Nesting Place, was published by Diamond Books UK in 2021 and she’s busy working on the next in the series.

Retirement? What’s that? We’ve found a new career in retirement, and we are relishing all the opportunities offered to carry on living purposeful and enjoyable lives.

How many times do you hope to bloom?

Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock + Pod 22: Henna Artist’s Alka Joshi 

Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock.
Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock.

My Wedding Henna + The Henna Artist's Bighearted Alka Joshi on Saris Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #India #Pro-Choice #WomensRights #DressCodes “The Henna Artist,” by Alka Joshi is as big-hearted as the novelist! Here Alka discusses how today’s professional women of India handle dress codes. Are dress codes unbiased where you work? Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alka Joshi discusses the wearing of saris in India My question for you and episode outro HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode. Alka Joshi's website and Youtube channel. About the books I'm writing. Chris Miller, the super-talented photographer and her Instagram. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Book cover of “The Henna Artist,” by Alka Joshi. Screenshot of Alka lauding “Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Photos of me, da-AL, with henna tattoos for my wedding. Screenshot of Alka from her youtube channel. Alka’s photos from Ansal University, just outside of New Delhi: Gurgaon's news bulletin board, students, architecture staff. Alka’s photo of an architect wearing a sari. — 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 episode is the audio version of this blog post of “My Wedding Henna + The Henna Artist’s Bighearted Alka Joshi on Saris.”

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 H-E-R-E.

Note: Once you finish reading and listening here, be sure to check out Suzanne’s site for her fun post about this post.

Language… and labeling… and gender… and pronouns… Authors can be extra picky about language, as I am with the novels I’m working on.

Any serious writer knows there’s more to communication than vocabulary and grammar. Language is about how people think.

Civil rights movements in the United States really took flight in the 60s and 70s — and labels played a major role in creating positive change. When Gloria Steinem named her feminist magazine “Ms.,” many family dinners became hot debates over whether women should use Ms. instead of Miss and Mrs.

Then came arguments over switching “mailman” to “postal carrier,” and “stewardess” to “flight attendant.” The next slog was weeding out racial slurs. To this day, there are people who enunciate the phrase “political correctness“ as if they’re cussing.

For most good ideas, the masses regard those first to propose them as nuts and worse. Eventually, a grudging acceptance sets in. Finally, it’s like the entire world acquires amnesia, and believes they were born thinking that way.

Make no mistake, I am no angel. In my case, I have to slap my forehead at how difficult (long ago, for whatever it’s worth) it was for me to transition from something as basic as calling a friend Jim instead of Jimmy when he turned eighteen!

People spend entire careers studying the way people from all parts of the world communicate. Some countries designate genders to everything from rocks to the sky.

When my husband speaks English, he occasionally confuses genders because in Iran, where he was born, Farsi doesn’t employ words for it. Which gets me meandering into recommending Rick Steves’ book, “Travel as a Political Act,” where he explains how we all need to travel more so we can get our ostrich heads out of the sand. Part of why it can be harder to learn a language when we’re older is if we insist that there is only one “best” way for things like language to operate.

From as far back as when I was a kid, I questioned not pronouns, but gender roles. Back then, people sought to inspire me with their ideas about how wonderful it was that only women could bear children and be truly nurturing, but not anything else. From what “little me” saw and heard, “womanhood” amounted to life as a vessel and a slave. No, thank you.

Later, when I co-produced documentaries like this and this one, everyone assumed my male business partner was the boss. Except, that is, when we videotaped at a school for developmentally disabled adults. Wait, tell me again, who are we labeling “disabled”?

Thank you, everyone who works toward changing oppression. That includes anyone who wants to challenge how we think of pronouns. I wrote a bit about that H-E-R-E

Now Canadian author/blogger (mydangblog) Suzanne Craig-Whytock (she/her) is here to discuss pronouns from the standpoint of someone who is smart and funny, as well as who earned an Honours B.A. in English Language and Literature, and who worked as an English teacher for almost 25 years. See the books and stories she’s published.

She’s been a guest at Happiness Between Tails H-E-R-E too…

Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock.
Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock.

Let’s Talk About Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

Words are letters strung together to make sounds and are used to identify something. Seems very straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s always astonishing to me how upset people get about certain words, especially the ones in the English language that are literally the shortest words we have. Yes, I’m talking about pronouns. So what exactly is a pronoun? Grammatically speaking, a pronoun is a word that replaces a noun—for example: I, he, she, we, they, and it. There are plenty of others depending on the case, like possessive pronouns such as mine, yours, his, hers, and theirs…you get the idea. But why all the consternation about pronouns? I mean, there are some people who get outraged if you tell them your pronouns, or lose their minds if a person chooses to go by “they” instead of the binary “he” or “she”. And if someone decides to change their pronouns, all hell might break loose. (Notice that I used the plural determiner “their” for the singular “someone” in the previous sentence and that’s just fine; in fact, the use of the singular “they” can be found in the English Language as early as the year 1375.)

But why do some folks get so up-in-arms about how other people choose their own pronouns? It’s personally baffling to me. I have a degree in English Language and Literature and I taught high school English for almost twenty-five years, but I never got my knickers in a knot about pronouns—if you tell me you’re “he”, that’s what I call you. If it’s “she”, fine by me. “They”? Absolutely not an issue. Unfortunately, not everyone is as accepting, and maybe that’s just borne out of a lack of understanding.  So as someone with a certain expertise in English grammar, I’m happy to answer your questions about pronouns.

1) “Why are pronouns so important to some people? I never even think about mine.”

Exactly. You don’t have to think about yours, because you’ve never questioned or struggled with your own identity. But other people’s lives aren’t as simple, and the pronouns they ultimately choose, whether it’s he, she, or they, help them validate themselves to the world. 

2) “But boys are he and girls are she, and that’s all there is to it. If a person doesn’t use “he” or “she”, how will we all know what sex the person is?” 

First, what difference does it make to you? Why are you so worried about other people’s genitals? Because that’s how sex is assigned at birth, by someone doing a visual check and making an announcement about it. Second, birth-assigned sex is not binary. Sure, there’s male and female, but there’s also intersex. And if you’re that fixated on knowing someone’s sexual identity based on binary pronouns, it’s a good job you don’t speak Finnish or Chinese, because neither of those languages (and quite a few others) have gendered pronouns. 

3) “But people shouldn’t be able to just change their pronouns, should they?”

Of course, they should. And if you’re having trouble with the concept, consider this example: You find a caterpillar in your backyard. “Hey, little caterpillar,” you say, and that’s what you call it all summer. But when the caterpillar emerges from its cocoon and it’s transformed into a butterfly, do you still call it a caterpillar? Of course not. It’s the same with people. If a person has made a transition from one gender to another, why wouldn’t they change their pronouns to match their new identity and why wouldn’t you respect that? And if they decide that they’re somewhere in between the two genders, they can use the non-binary “they”. It’s fine—even the Oxford English Dictionary says so. 

4) “Non-binary?! But there are only two genders and you can’t switch the one you were born with!”

Sorry, wrong. Gender is a very fluid spectrum and there are many places along it. Also, gender is a social construct. Most of our ideas about gender and gender expression are based on current social behaviours and attitudes, and those are also fluid. For example, in the 1700s, men wore wigs, ruffles, face powder, and high heels. It was considered appropriate for their gender. In the Victorian period, if a woman wore pants, it was scandalous, but I’m currently sitting here typing this while wearing jeans and no one even bats an eye. And the whole idea that only girls can wear pink? That’s an eccentric, late 20th century fad. Colours are part of another spectrum, one of light that our eyes perceive, and they have no gender; in fact, it was perfectly normal for men to wear pink right up until the 1940s. Everything changes over time, and the way we use language in terms of gender is no different.

5) “But language never changes! The English we speak now is the English people have always spoken, right?”

If you really believe that, then I have only one thing to say: 

Nū scylun hergan     hefaenrīcaes Uard,
metudæs maecti     end his mōdgidanc…

Oh, you don’t understand what I said? But it’s English—in fact, it’s from one of the earliest known English poems, called Caedmon’s Hymn. Wait, let me try again:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…

Still having trouble? But that’s from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century. In English. See, the English that you speak now has changed a lot. Did you also know that there used to be more than one word for “you”? If you were speaking to or about one person you knew quite well, you referred to them as “thou” or “thee” depending on the grammatical case. If you were speaking or referring to a group of people or someone you weren’t as familiar with, you used “you”. But around the end of the 1600s, using two different ways to refer to someone started to fall out of favour, and by the 1800s, no one used “thou”, “thee” and all its other derivatives anymore. And I’m sure there was a small faction of people back then who were just as incensed: “How will we ever be able to distinguish between a single person we know and a crowd of people we don’t?! It’s outrageous!” Well, we all got over it. And now there’s only one word for “you”, which simplifies things. 

And speaking of simple, here’s the simple truth. If you’re bothered by someone putting pronouns in their bio, or you refuse to accept it when someone you know has requested that you refer to them as “he” instead of “she”, or “they” instead of “he”, or you get irrationally upset that someone you don’t even know has transitioned from one gender to another, the problem is thou, not them.

What’s your pronoun?

Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins + Pod 23: Gruen’s Ageless Passion

María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba
María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba

Passion at Any Age by Lee Gale Gruen Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Acting Do you worry that you're too old to accomplish something you 're passionate about? Lee Gale Gruen started acting, publishing books, and blogging after she retired from a career as a probation officer. 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “Passion at Any Age,” by Lee Gale Gruen My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Lee Gale Gruen's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s prior guest blog post at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s books are available at Amazon. Martha Graham, modern dance pioneer, bio at Wikipedia Epictetus, ancient Greek philosopher, bio at Wikipedia Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Lee Gale Gruen. Covers of Lee Gale Gruen’s two books: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years: Find Joy, Excitement, and Purpose After You Retire,” and “Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class” — 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 episode is the audio version of  “Passion at Any Age: Writer/Actress Lee Gale Gruen” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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 H-E-R-E.

You know how it goes when you’re doing research, maybe for something you’re writing? Google one thing, and end up in a totally different place. In my case, since my novel-in-progress is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” it started with looking up the Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Coming across his 1700’s portrait of a prior Duchess of Alba sent me clicking.

Goya’s image, called “The Black Duchess,” portrays a young woman in mostly frilly black portrays a young woman in a mostly frilly black outfit that’s punctuated with a red sash, as well as a gold blouse, shoes, and accessories…

"The Black Duchess" by Francisco de Goya.
“The Black Duchess” by Francisco de Goya

More clicking led to a modern-day Duchess of Alba. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the eighteenth Duchess of Alba, remains the most titled of aristocrats. Much was made of her socialite “joie de vivre” (here’s a video of her dancing flamenco at her last wedding) and how she married three times. Husbands two and three were “commoners” — gasp! — and the last one was twenty-five years her junior. When her kids fussed about her love interests, she told them that as divorcees, they ought to mind their own business….

Black and white photo, probably from the 1960s or so, of the Duchess dancing with a guitarist.
Ever a flamenco aficionada: María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba.

It’s no business of mine what others think of their looks, and if they care, I encourage people to do whatever allows them to love themselves more. The reason I’ve brought this present-time duchess to your attention is because I’d love for you to fill me in on anything you might know about her. Her in-your-face boldness is something I’d give anything to pull off. More to her credit, she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously and she had a great sense of humor. At that flamenco wedding, she handed out whimsical party favors that were little sculptures of her face, broad-lips, deep-set eyes, and whirl-wind hairstyle.

Seeing photographs from late in her life, though, compels me to wonder why men don’t change their appearances as frequently and dramatically as women do? Sure, one need look no further than our orange-haired embarrassment of a former U.S. president, but men still lag far behind women when it comes to the extensive remodeling that induces a double-take.

Maybe it has to do with how girls and women are culturally and commercially targeted nonstop about how they appear. There’s a cruel power play that never ends, no matter how old we get. It’s as insignificant as when a yoga classmate gives me lip for favoring a little make-up and heels, and as weighty as when an influential woman is marked as a crackpot because she doesn’t look Wall Street enough.

Today’s guest shows us how ugliness and cuteness can blend together, certainly when it comes to elfins!

Birgit hales from Germany and blogs from Denmark. At her Stella, oh, Stella site, there’s always something uplifting, educational, beautiful, and fun, including videos of her and her gentleman making music…

Before I turn you over to Birgit, here’s my first try at a new bread recipe that I mixed and baked in under two hours, thanks to Jenny Jones! Khashayar confirmed (since my long-term post-Covid probs limit my senses of taste and smell) that…

Love can mean pain… but this time it’s the French definition!

Photo of loaf of bread I baked.
Dinner was home-baked bread with fresh mild herbs, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, and fancy cheeses.

A True Elfin Story by Birgit

That’s it, I cannot do anything else for now. I will have to continue in spring.

The beginning is done: the fireplace, the ladder, the tiled path, the area for gatherings … the rest will have to wait. A pile of firewood is also ready …

What I am talking about is, of course, the elfin dwelling place in the birch tree stump. I have marked the places for the entrance door and the windows, but it is getting too cold to accomplish artistic wood carvings.

Photo of blogger Birgit.
Blogger/author Birgit in one of her gardens, where she lived near the German border.

The following winter is comparatively mild, but grey, rainy, stormy, in short: not cosy at all! The spring bulbs are slowly coming our with their first green.

At the beginning of May, my husband enters the kitchen and says enthusiastically that the door, which I have carved into the birch stump looks incredibly real, the windows as well. I rush into the garden right away. It is true! Where I have marked the door last winter, is now an intricate carving looking like Yggdrasil, the world tree from the Nordic cosmology. Further up I can see two windows. They do not look real, no, they are real, with frames and panes and everything. This is not my handiwork! I have not hollowed the tree stump and put in windows and a door. I believe my husband is playing a joke on me. 

I take him to task, but he denies all knowledge of the matter. Very well then, I will let him have his fun!

The same night, around one o’clock in the morning, I take a last stroll in the garden, as I often do. There isn’t any wind for a change. I detect a light at the south end of the house. Has my husband lit the candles? 

On the birch stump I discover a little figure, swathed in bright light. It is dressed in green cloth from top to toe. Furthermore, one can clearly see four wings on its back. Am I going crazy? Is my imagination running wild? No, my husband must be playing a practical joke. Somehow he is projecting pictures. I go back into the house to tell him that he cannot fool me. I discover that he is already in bed and asleep. What am I to think?

I look out of the southern window. The little figure is still standing out there and is looking directly into my eyes. I go outside again and head towards the birch stump. The elfin, and such a one it is, is not moving an inch. 

This first night we only look at each other in silence. I do not remember, how long, but very long. During the following nights we start talking. The elfin understands me and speaks our language. Incredible! What did I expect?

Four elfins have moved into the tree stump, two couples. From my preparations they could see that they would be welcome here. They have embellished everything a lot. The door was too low, the gathering place too small, but then I did not know how tall an elfin was, did I?

It is wonderful to have the small creatures living in the garden. I could watch them for hours. But one day a devil is possessing me. I want to prove to other people that the elfins exist, that they are not purely spawn of my imagination. 

So I take my husband’s camera and secretly take some photos. Only one of them is really sharp. But … what is that? Those are not the creatures that I photographed! The figures on the photo look like brown Goldsmiths; still dressed in green, but looking more like insects and with ugly, wrinkly faces. One says that a camera does not lie. I don’t know what to believe. 

The next evening I confront the elfins with the photo that I have printed out. They are startled, and then sad, letting their shoulders sag. Slowly their appearance changes, until they resemble the creatures on the photo. But then they begin to whisper among each other, and I notice that their sadness turns into rage. They all look at me with very angry eyes. Can the small ones seriously harm me? I ask myself. 

“You know what?” I say. “I will burn the photo. Nobody will ever know anything about this.” I take a match and burn the photo on the spot. The faces are looking friendlier already. They come to me and tell me that the elfin faces I have seen so far are only projections, because they have only experienced rejection with their real appearance. People had thought that they were big insects and had tried to kill them. As they are magical creatures, they had thought up the deception with the projection. They had given themselves the cutest possible appearance, so that they would be generally accepted. “Although it does not really matter so much anymore. Hardly anybody can see us nowadays, not even the children”, I am told. I am glad that peace is restored and the elfins don’t bear a grudge. All four of them have already changed into their cute version again. I wish them good night and go back into the house.

Before I go to bed, I want to delete the electronic original of the photo. My finger hovers a long moment above the delete key. This photo is my only proof of what elfins really look like. But does it really matter? What do those, who do not believe in elfins, care whether they are cute or not? I press the key; the photo is deleted. I will take the secret with me into my grave.

Photo of Birgit's elfish abode under a tree in her garden, replete with small rocks to mark a path, and doll-sized pots, pans, and chairs.
You never know what you’ll find in Birgit’s garden — or at her blog!

Epilog…

Twenty years have gone by now. The elfins are very comfortable in our garden. The furry animals stay away from them. Their only irritation is the clumsy pheasant that upsets everything and often tears the pile of firewood apart. I wonder what he expects to find there?

They do not care so much anymore about their projected image. I don’t care. I have grown fond of them; they are my friends, no matter what they look like. My husband also started seeing them after a while. Sometimes they make themselves invisible and pull his beard to tease him. From one second to the other the “cute little creatures” become an “irritating gang of mosquitos”. When we are alone, to provoke me, he sometimes calls them my “tame goldsmiths”. But it is all in good humour; everybody respects each other.

When the elfins have children, they urge them quite soon to find their own dwelling, so that the birch stump is not over-populated. They are six now; one more couple has moved in. 

From under the roots of the birch stump they have dug a secret tunnel. Not even I was told where it surfaces. I do understand them!

How do you define beauty?

Fear and You + Balenciaga by roijoyeux + Pod21: Caz’s Panic Rescue

Photo of Balenciaga's “Envelope dress”, 1967, with this blog post's title over it.
Balenciaga’s “Envelope dress”, 1967.

Pandemic Anxiety by da-AL + Panic Attack Rescue by Caz Happiness Between Tails

#Covid #PanicAttack #Panic #Anxiety #MentalHealth #Relaxation #Health Have you or anyone you know experienced anxiety or panic? What helped you or them? Caz, a London blogger who worked in mental health, gives her best tips for keeping our heads during these Covid times when anxiety can do us in… Do you or anyone you know suffer from anxiety and panic attacks? Caz, a London blogger who worked in mental health, gives her best tips for keeping our heads during these Covid times when anxiety can do us in… 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. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “How to manage panic attacks,” by Caz. Windup, links, a question for you. HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode is H-E-R-E Find Caz' site H-E-R-E — 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 episode is the audio version of “Pandemic Anxiety by da-AL + Panic Attack Rescue by Cas” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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 H-E-R-E.

Marianne Williamson, activist/author of, "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES." Photo by Supearnesh - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Marianne Williamson, activist/author of, “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES.” Photo by Supearnesh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The following famous quote — which author/activist Marianne Williamson is proud of however zillion times it’s attributed to Nelson Mandela (H-E-R-E’s a post I wrote about him) — reminds me of how sneaky my fear of success can be.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

As a kid, I worried that setting myself apart would invite criticism, jealousy, and ostracism. Girls, I was told, must be cute and sweet so they’d be attractive to boys. Women, so it went, were destined to be wives and mothers, no more, no less.

Fears continue to gnaw at me. Now they’re sophisticated, requiring constant vigilance to upend them. Art begs an audience. When art is personal, it’s difficult to not give a damn what others might think, not to mention how wicked my own self-doubt (like when it comes to working on my novels-in-progress) can be. An hour after I was awarded an Emmy, a stranger asked me how the honor felt. My reply was blather. He reminded me that I had indeed won it…

Williamson is correct to point that that being our best benefits everyone. When I’m upset about my goals, I remind myself of her wise words.

Now for a blogger who does what he can to make sure none of us hold ourselves back…

Photo of blogger roijoyeux, his face hidden as he looks down at something he's writing.
Blogger roijoyeux.

roijoyeux, which according to Google Translate, means “King Joyful,” runs a blog by the same name. Growing up in South-Western France as a gay teenager, hearing schoolmates call other gay schoolmates “pédé” (“fag”) was a terrible thing. As a result, it was not easy to be proud of himself.

To help himself and others to be happier with themselves, ten years ago he created a blog that’s an encyclopedia of LGBT+ celebrities. To date, he’s written over 500 well-researched biographies!

He explains, “… many people are not aware that most gay men look and behave like straight men, my blog is useful for them and for my peers who have not yet realized that there is no reason to be ashamed. I know most people are not gay, but it feels great to know that so many great people are gay / lesbian. Learning and writing about their lives is one of my favorite hobbies.”

roijoyeux adds that over the decade he’s been posting, his site, “evolved very quickly in the blog you know today, showing to people that gays are not all drag queens, effeminates or perverts, since many great artists, stellar athletes and other admirable celebrities, are gay.”

Generous even at Happiness Between Tails, roijyeux quotes his role model…  “If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements…” gayinfluence.blogspot.com Terry from Virginia, who describes himself as “A diehard sapiosexual with an ever-curious mind,” started that impressive site in 2011.

Here, with the help of Wikipedia and Gay Influence, he introduces us to one of his many heroes…

Balenciaga, right, with the love of his life, Vladzio Jaworowski d’Attainville.
Balenciaga, right, with the love of his life, Vladzio Jaworowski d’Attainville.

“Cristóbal Balenciaga, the King of the great couturiers, was… gay,” by roijoyeux

Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre, born January 21, 1895 in Getaria (Spanish Basque Country) and died March 23, 1972 in Xàbia (Spain) was a Spanish fashion designer and milliner.

Actress Audrey Hepburn wearing Balenciaga, and two standard poodles.
Actress Audrey Hepburn wearing Balenciaga, and a couple of furry friends!

He is one of the greatest couturiers, unanimously recognized by his peers and nicknamed “the master” or even “the couturier of couturiers.”

If Balenciaga began well before the Second World War, it was during the 1950s that he completely transformed the female silhouette, making it evolve to finally reach its peak in the early 1960s. Among his loyal customers were the Queens of Spain and Belgium, Princess Grace of Monaco and the Duchess of Windsor as well as Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis.

Photo of United States First Lady Jackie Kennedy wearing a Balenciaga gown 1961.
First United States Lady Jackie Kennedy wearing a Balenciaga gown 1961.

The fact that Jackie Kennedy bought Balenciaga’s overpriced dresses upset her husband President John F. Kennedy because he feared the American public would think his spending was too lavish. In the 1950s and 1960s, Dior dressed the rich, and Balenciaga, the very rich. It was said at that time that a woman “went up” from Dior to Balenciaga.

Below are the most interesting details about Balenciaga’s life…

Youth

Balenciaga, who left school to work for a local tailor at the age of 13, opened his first store in San Sebastian (Spain) at 19. At the age of 24, he already had his own fashion house, a house of which he then opened branches in Madrid and Barcelona, where more than 350 employees worked.

The Spanish royal family wore his creations, but the Spanish Civil War forced him to close his stores in 1931 and go into exile first in London and then in 1936 in Paris, where he opened a fashion house on Avenue George V in 1937. The success of his Parisian house was immediate. Customers even risked their lives by going to Paris in the middle of the Second World War to admire Balenciaga’s creations.

Homosexuality

In Paris, Balenciaga openly lived his homosexuality. It was in 1936 in the French capital that he met the love of his life, Wladzio Zawrorowski d’Attainville, a Franco-Polish aristocrat who was then working as a hatter. It was Wladzio who helped Balenciaga find the funds to open his Parisian couture house. Then he became his partner.

Unlike Balenciaga, who had the elegance and class of an aristocrat but was the son of a simple fisherman and a seamstress, Wladzio was a true aristocrat, whose intelligence and wisdom impressed Balenciaga. The two men moved into the same apartment together, where Balenciaga’s mother also lived.

Photo of Balenciaga, right, with design house co-founder Nicolas Bizcarrondo, and Vladzio Jaworowski d’Attainville and a kitten.
Balenciaga, right, with design house co-founder Nicolas Bizcarrondo, and Vladzio Jaworowski d’Attainville… and a kitten!

One of their employees, Elisa Erquiaga, explained in an interview: “Wladzio was extremely handsome and well-educated and we all knew [they were a couple], but no one ever talked about it in the house.”

The Franco-Polish man was the only person who managed to calm the anxieties of the Master, his lack of self-confidence and his obsessive search for perfection on, for example, a shoulder, a fabric, or how to elegantly hide the wide hips of [writer] Colette, one of his famous clients.

When Wladzio died in 1948, Balenciaga was so devastated that he considered closing his business for a time. He never recovered from the death of the love of his life and although he had homosexual affairs after Wladzio’s death, he never sought to find new love and became very secretive and almost withdrew from the world.

It was in 1968 that the couturier finally retired (at age 73).

Photo of Dovima, a fascinating pioneer supermodel, in Balenciaga, with Sacha the dog, photo by stellar photog Richard Avedon, 1955.
Dovima, a fascinating pioneer supermodel, in Balenciaga, with Sacha, photo by stellar photog Richard Avedon, 1955.

Death and posterity

When Balenciaga died in 1972, Women’s Wear Daily magazine wrote “The King is Dead”. He died very rich, owner of several houses and apartments in Paris, at La Reynerie near Orléans, as well as in Madrid, Barcelona and Iguelda, in his native Basque country.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, the greatest gay couturiers of the 20th century are Balenciaga and Dior, followed by Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier and in Italy Giorgio Armani and Giani Versace.

Balenciaga’s work influenced many couturiers, such as Oscar de la Renta, André Courrèges who worked in his studio, Emanuel Ungaro and Hubert de Givenchy whom he helped. The Balenciaga brand, which nowadays belongs to the French holding company Kering, is currently under the management of Demna Gvasalia, after the departure of Alexander Wang in 2015, who succeeded Nicolas Ghesquière in December 2012.

Are there ways you hold yourself back?

Project Do Better: A call for helping hands

Here’s a reminder for anyone who wants to help Shira help us all do better to make the world a better place for everyone. She was first a guest at Happiness Between Tails H-E-R-E.

Inspiring Critical Thinking and Community via Books, Lessons, and Story

    Project Do Better works  to create a society where every child is safe, and that is more fully inclusive for all of us. 

       Feedback: comment here, please, on this current 5th draft.

     Project Do Better presents a vision of a world in which we all work toward a full safety net, and a better tomorrow, for all of us. 

   I have a request to make:

   I believe that planning ahead is a good idea, so:

 

  We need, still,  a better central portal set up for the project (any volunteers to do that, please?).  This temporary page works for now, I guess, maybe?

Oh, and a logo, please, although a friend of a friend may be working on this, not verified yet.

   The sections, of my nonfiction WiP Do Better, every Wondering Wednesday,  seek  to build…

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Critter Vids + B. Christopher’s Vet Trip + Pod20: A. Renaud’s Inspo

Photo of Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a chinchilla.
Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a friend.

Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Publishing #Creativity #Covid-19 #Animals Staying home, as well as animals, inspire fantasy romance author Alice Renaud, a Londoner. Here she also details how she published her award-winning books! How's your creativity going? Share your thoughts, and questions. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alice Renaud discusses what inspires her writing My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Fantasy romance author Alice Renaud's website that tells about her and her books. Original blog post for this episode. About “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," my novel. Posts regarding my bout with COVID are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Photos at the HBT blog post for this show: Portrait of Alice Renaud. Alice’s photo of an amazing red butterfly. Tabitha, Alice’s aunt’s tabby, staring at the neighbour’s feline. Cover of Alice’s “Mermaids Marry in Green; a Sea of Love Novel.” — 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 “Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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 H-E-R-E.

It started with witnessing utter joy between an orangutan and a hound dog. Youtube videos are pleasant distractions when one is slogging through writing a novel, no? (A bit about the ones I’m working on H-E-R-E.) As you can guess, my fave videos involve dogs, preferably ones that look like mine. Dogs absolute experts at befriending anything and everything…

When I mentioned the video to a friend, she replied, “Me too! I love looking at interspecies romances.”

Is that what they’re called? Now short breaks turned into hour-long procrastinations… add in baby goats and owls and… and so it goes with YouTube… That’s why I’m sharing just one more with you — so as not to impose on your busy day, it’s got five not-so-romantic romances rolled into ten minutes…

Cute, weird, adorable, scary… what a diverse world of creatures we inhabit! Here to show us in real-life terms about the benefits of human-animal relations is Brendan Christoper, a blogger (links to his work h-e-r-e) out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Besides writing, he’s a hands-on educator who introduces his wild menagerie to people of all ages at events, parties, and classes. Read on for how even his pets aren’t thrilled with veterinarian visits…

Photo of Forest, a black and white cat resting on a cat scratching tree, by Bren from Wild4animals.
Forest by Bren from Wild4animals.

I’m Taking My Pet to See the Vet (Wish me luck!) by Brendan Christopher

Forest, my cat, is suspicious, so he slinks behind the sofa. Then, spying from a safe distance, he spots me fumbling with a pet carrier. There’s no turning back now.

As I creep towards Forest, I pretend to act casually. But, in one swift move, I scoop him up, place him into the box and attempt to shut the lid.

Somehow, he always manages to leave at least one paw on the outside. When I push that one in, another pops out like a jack-in-the-box. Eventually, we’re ready, and that’s when the drama begins.

To be fair, Forest is usually compliant when going to the vets — well, except for a couple of issues. One involves the journey.

He hates the motion of travel and lets out the most pathetic meow he can muster. This noise sounds like a baby in distress and is designed to wreck my emotions.

Now I’m racked with guilt as I drive. But mercifully, the journey’s short, so I’m spared any lasting trauma.

On arrival, he’s usually calmed down. However, as we cross the car park, the howling starts again because he doesn’t like the instability.

Logo for Brendan Christoper's animal education work, Wild 4 Animals, an acronym for Welfare, Intrigue, Learning, and Dignity.
Brendan Christoper’s animal education logo.

There’s just another man with a cat in the waiting area and me. I sit opposite, but the two cat boxes happen to face each other. So, naturally, we humans start complimenting each other’s pets.     

Meanwhile, our cats hold a growling contest for no apparent reason. They clearly hate each other even though they’ve just met. I think to myself, ‘it’s a good job they’re on neutral ground and not meeting in a back alley’. (Or perhaps they have – who knows with cats?)

Anyway, as Forest prowls around like a big caged cat, we’re summoned. I place the box on the vet’s table and carefully unleash my feline.

Instantly, Forest makes himself look massive by fluffing up his fur and thickening his tail. However, he fails to intimidate the vet — on the contrary, she finds him cute.

All goes well until its temperature time. At this point, the vet dares to hold his bushy tail whilst inserting a thermometer. Thankfully, Forest is a gentle soul, so he tends not to bite.

Once the ordeal’s over, the vet declares him a ‘good boy’, and I beam like a proud parent.

On the way out, he looks at me as if to say, ‘And I thought I could trust you. Typical human.’

Finally arriving home, I open the carrier, and Forest shoots out. He sniffs the box, glares at me and flicks his tail in disgust — that means I’ve been snubbed. However, as soon as I stroke him (and open a packet of food), he’s back to his loving, purring self.

Well, almost… he gives me that look as if to say, ‘you’re forgiven this time, but NEVER trap me in that cat snare again!’

The only problem is I’m taking Forest for another check-up in six months. Even though I know it’s for his own good, I doubt he appreciates my efforts.

Do you have a favorite animal?