My Bridal Henna + The Henna Artist Alka Joshi w Podcast/Audio Ver.

Photo of Alka Joshi, author of "The Henna Artist."

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. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT 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. Photos of me, da-AL, with henna tattoos for my wedding. 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. — 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 Alka Joshi’s guest blog post below.

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 apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

“When’s the last time you read something unapologetically pro-choice — and that’s as empowering as it is romantic? Me, never — until Joshi’s follow-up novel! Joshi’s enchanting story is set in 1950s India, a woman’s narrative about the choices she’s been doled and how much she makes with them. Moreover, the performer of the book’s audio version, Sneha Mathan, is marvelous!” ~ My review of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi for Amazon and Goodreads.

I absolutely adore books (after all, I’m writing two)! Whenever I finish reading an exceptional novel, I review it on Goodreads and Amazon. Sure, not all stories resonate with me. As a tender-hearted author, I know too well the blood, sweat, and tears that even a crappy book demands, so I let other people review those. Afterward, I email the novelist to thank them for making my life more thoughtful and maybe even fun. Ditto for any audiobook performer involved. Some thank me back, and on the days my stars are aligned, they agree to contribute to Happiness Between Tails.

Anyone who doesn’t read The Henna Artist is missing out. Clearly it’s written by a generous spirit. Just glance through Alka’s website and Youtube channel, where she lauds other authors to the extent that she poses with their books, including Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic as she says how grateful she is for it. Btw, I love that book too!

Allow me to digress a moment: Henna, oh, henna, you magical green powder! You enhance my hair, and you make lovely temporary tattoos!…

Photo of da-AL's henna-tattooed hands.
The day before I got married, I went to Los Angeles’ Little India for these gorgeous henna tattoos.

 The day before I got married, I drove to Los Angeles’ Little India for these gorgeous henna tattoos.

They’re far more forgiving than the permanent ink ones, and brides aren’t allowed to do housework until they’ve worn off…

Photo of my henna tattooed hands and feet.
I needed just the right sandals to show off my enhanced tootsies!

 

Dusting off my photos to show you these provided an excuse to reconnect with Chris Miller, the super-talented photographer (check out her Instagram too) who was beyond kind to gift them to my sweetie and me. Back when she shot them, we both worked for the Beach Reporter, a Manhattan Beach community weekly. I reported on Hermosa Beach while she worked as a private event photog and as the publication’s photojournalist.

Wedding party photo of Khashayar and da-AL.
It seems like yesterday when you’re having fun…

 

Back to our esteemed guest: Alka was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. At the age of nine, she moved to the United States. Eventually she graduated from Stanford University and worked in advertising, public relations, and owned a marketing consultancy. Moreover, she has a Creative Writing MFA from Cal Arts San Francisco. The Henna Artist is her first book. In less than a year, it’s a huge success! The sequel, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, is set for July, plus the third book in the trilogy will come out in 2022. Above and beyond that, she’s an executive producer for the novel’s upcoming Miramax TV series! What follows are her thoughts on women in India. Note that when she speaks of how women, in this case architects, are often undermined, India is not the only country that restricts us. Unfortunately, I’ve met women architects in the United States who encounter discrimination here too…

The Sari vs. Modern India by Alka Joshi

In January 2019, the Architecture faculty at Ansal University in Gurgaon, just outside New Delhi, received an email from the registrar to attend a convocation.

Architecture faculty at Ansal University in Gurgaon's news bulletin board.

It requested formal dress: “trouser, coat and tie for men” and “saris for women.”

Students wear western clothes.

This sparked a lively, funny, albeit very polite, conversation on WhatsApp among the female faculty, who normally wear trousers, Western blouses/tops, or salwar kameez (long tunics with legging-like bottoms) most days.

“I may not wear a sari…I don’t even own one!” “I do not even know how to wear a sari.” “[I’m] not against saris. But at 7:30 in the morning, especially when I’m not used to it is definitely a challenge.” “Can’t tie one at 7am and drive…and get through the day!” “No sari. Impossible to wear and report at 7:30 in the morning.” “Why a sari at all?” “If the women must wear a sari, wouldn’t a *dhoti be more in sync for the men?”

*(Now mostly worn by village men, a dhoti is a white cloth from five to seven yards in length, wrapped loosely around the legs and tied in a knot at the waist. While dhotis have gone out of fashion, saris are still a mainstay of female couture for weddings, special occasions and family gatherings.)

This Adjunct Prof of Architecture chose to leave her sari (if she has one) at home.

“We are all sensible enough to know what to wear. Most of us might even have worn saris to the event without being asked. But when you tell us exactly what to wear, we are going to have something to say,” laughs Monisha Sharma, associate professor. “Our Dean, who is female, told us to just look as smart as we do every day, so that’s what we’ll do.”

Associate Professor Monisha Sharma prefers a salwar kameez over a sari when she’s teaching.

In addition to teaching in the Architecture school, these women are working architects. At construction sites they are often greeted with curious expressions: Can women really be architects? Are these women here to tell us what to do? One professor told me that she had organized a site visit to a factory for her students. When they got to the site, the founder only responded to the junior male faculty who had accompanied her, choosing not to acknowledge her at all.  Similarly, a female architect who was managing a project for her father’s structural engineering firm was not being consulted by the construction team until her father ordered them to talk only to her. She was, after all, the project manager and the only one who could answer their questions.

Architecture Professor in India.

To someone like me, who’s been raised in the West since the age of nine, it’s surprising that the women’s reaction is not anger (that would have been my response, along with bewilderment and confusion).  Instead, the Indian women laugh it off. “We have already made our mark in our profession,” they say. “We don’t need to hit them over the head with it.” At the convocation, the female faculty wore Western trouser suits. Not a sari in sight. There’s more than one way to make a statement.

Have you tried a henna tattoo?

Hidden Life of Vanished by Mark Bierman w Podcast Audio Version

Close up of "Vanished," cover, an action/thriller by Mark Bierman.

The Hidden Life of, “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #HumanTrafficking #Haiti #Writing #Canada Ever feel like your attempt to help the world is insignificant? When Mark Bierman, an author/blogger from Ontario, began to write an action/thriller, he found his subject ran deeper and broader than human trafficking. Within the horror, he discovered a message of hope. Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s original dream for it? Your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences are welcome here. Record 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: HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman 3:18 My question for you 7:25 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: The blog post for this episode includes photos and links to more info. Blogger/author Mark Bierman’s site includes his contact and book info. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love. — 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 Mark Bierman’s guest blog post below.

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 apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Who knows what inspires someone to write a novel? Even authors don’t always until much later. My own literary-novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” seemed merely an experiment, a dive into fiction. Only as it progressed did I see it’s really a love letter to all who believe they’re too old, young, broken, lost, too whatever for love…

So when it comes to producing a novel, there’s deciding to write, then comes writing, and then it’s published. At that point, the author releases their words into the world for book lovers to make of them what they will. Every reader brings themself into the act of sitting with a story.

Here blogger/author Mark Bierman (click here for his site, where you can find his book and contact him) reveals what he’s learned about the writing process and readers. Born and raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada, he merges country life with his adult experiences as a correctional officer and a story teller. You can find more of his guest posts for Happiness Between Tails here and here.

Vanished by Mark Bierman cover.

The Hidden Life of “Vanished,” a novel by Mark Bierman

A few weeks ago, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

Here’s a quick synopsis

Driven to despair by a shared loss, Americans John Webster and Tyler Montgomery try to self-medicate by embarking on a mission of goodwill to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The reconstruction of an orphanage transforms into a nightmarish hunt after a young girl is kidnapped.

Unequipped, culturally illiterate, and alone, the pair are forced into alliances with shifty characters, as they delve deeper into the treacherous underbelly of the human trafficking world. Can they survive long enough to keep their promise to the child’s mother?

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery, is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire to promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it? At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty-plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium security prisons.

Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.
Novelist/blogger Mark Bierman.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary, which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I also want to emphasize that Hollywood and the news are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve led normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues. Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.        

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell you, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers. Look around, you’ll find them everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read… you get the picture, then you are a helper.

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

Here’s info at my site about how one woman works to help victims of human trafficking.

Do you believe a book can evolve beyond the author’s dream for it?

Vote + Books + Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock + Podcast Audio Version

Titles with book covers and photo of author Suzanne Craig-Whytock.
Photo of author Suzanne Craig-Whytock.

Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Pronouns #Gender #Individuality #Writing #Grammar What’s your pronoun? Canadian author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock, who uses she and her, discusses 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 worked as an English teacher for almost 25 years. 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 at http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock 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. Canadian author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock and her books. Another guest post she did for Happiness Between Tails. Rick Steves’ book, “Travel as a Political Act.” This link and this one to documentaries I’ve produced. Another post where I wrote a bit about pronouns. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock. — 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 the blog post below.

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 apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Have you voted yet? If not, mark your calendar and tell your like-minded friends…

A great book to get you into the groove is How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. He also published How to Raise an Antiracist, discussed in an earlier post. Here’s my review of it for amazon and goodreads:

“Highly educated and wonderfully humble, Kendi details his own early prejudices and steps us through the United States’ history of racism. Bigotry harms everyone and anyone can be a bigot. Antiracism, fortunately, is the antidote that everyone can learn.”

Cover of How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

Another informative read is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. This is my review of it on amazon and goodreads:

Race is about skin. Class is about external things one might be able to hide. Caste goes down to the bones. Bigotry in the United States — our inequities on all levels — boils down to caste. It’s why some people who’re victimized will trod upon others. Wilkerson explains all this and the context of our shameful history of slavery and discrimination. Did you know that we got so good at teaching people to stomach slavery that Hitler sought to learn from us?”

Cover of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.

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

Adopting new behaviors can be a challenge. It’s fine to express frustration, but remember that how we express ourselves matters. The worst thing we can do is add fuel to the raging fire of bigotry.

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 here too…

Let’s Talk About Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

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

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 book inspires you to do better? (And what do you think of this new blog theme I switched to since my old one became obsolete?)

Vote + amazon music + Podcast: Hope for the Future by David Hunt

Heading over a picture of a VOTE button.

Hope for the Future by David Hunt Happiness Between Tails

#AIDS #Health #History #CDC #LGBTQ+ What do know about when AIDS was first diagnosed in the early 1980s? David Hunt, a radio journalist at the time, shares his experiences. 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 at http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Hope for the Future by David Hunt 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. David Hunt’s website Check out the Happiness Between Tails blog post for this show to see a still from the video that David and I produced. — 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. Today’s show features the podcast/audio version of Hope for the Future by David Hunt. The text version comprises the second half of today’s blog post.

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.

Voting day is right around the corner. Readers and writers, please don’t throw away your voice. Fortunately, there’s still time to make it easy on yourself. Vote by mail! I just did.

Rev up your keyboards and pens and lips — tell every single politically like-minded connection you have to vote and to do it immediately before they find themselves too busy or too absent-minded!

Most of my decisions were easy. 1) Naturally, I’m pro-choice, and 2), whenever possible, I support candidates least likely to give an inch to our ex-ogre, errm I mean former president.

Besides voting, this week I’ve been progressing with learning about podcasting. Since my show’s start a little over a year ago, it’s been on amazon music (and a bunch of other places, as listed at the top of this post). Have you ever reached out to someone or somewhere and, when they took 10+ months to reply, you could’nt remember why you did? In this case, amazon music has a free bonus for podcasters, though I’m murky about particulars…

No matter. Since this show is for me to practice and learn, I did as they asked. Here’s the advert they requested, highlighting that Happiness Between Tails podcast streams on amazon music…

Upon receipt, they quickly (wow!) emailed back that it looked good (double wow!), and asked which of their music genres to aire the commercial on. Umm… I asked them if they have analytics on which attract dear blog-sphere folks like you. But, now hoping they won’t take another ten months to get back to me.

What genre of music do you listen to? Do you ever listen on amazon music?

Dunno how many free times this ad will air, when, and so forth. Will keep you posted if I learn more.

Now that we’ve all voted (yes?), today’s guest blog post is by David Hunt. He also contributed here too. Basically, we met as infants, working at a car rental at LAX. Since then, together we’ve traversed many winding roads.

Voting in mind (and again, tell your friends to be like you and me and get out their black pens to vote now), wouldn’t it be great if our votes resulted in supporting great workers like those at the fore of HIV/AIDS?

Hope for the Future by David Hunt

Thirty-five years ago this month the CDC warned about a troubling outbreak of Pneumocystis pneumonia in five otherwise healthy young, gay men in California. Later that summer, when I reported on the outbreak for radio station KPFK, the number of cases had grown to 41, including 6 in California and 20 in New York. And, in addition to the rare form of pneumonia, gay men were starting to come down with a rare form of cancer and other opportunistic infections. By the end of the year, this new disease, later called AIDS, would claim 121 lives.

Clinical immunologist Joseph Church at Children’s Hospital L.A. with a young HIV-positive patient in 1992. From “Hope for the Future,” produced by David Hunt and Daal Praderas.
Clinical immunologist Joseph Church at Children’s Hospital L.A. with a young HIV-positive patient in 1992. From “Hope for the Future,” produced by David Hunt and Daal Praderas.

I don’t suppose anyone who covered the early years of the AIDS epidemic came away untouched. I’ll never forget Robert Bland’s soft brown eyes and calm determination to serve as “an AIDS guinea pig,” even as he acknowledged that a cure would surely come long after his own death. Or the button imprinted with the defiant message “I Will Survive” that San Francisco AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell proudly wore right up until his death in 1984. Or the scathing criticism gay journalist Randy Shilts leveled at bathhouse owners who refused to provide their customers with condoms or educational materials. Courage, defiance and anger; like the stages of grief, these came to symbolize for me the stages of AIDS activism. To be honest, fear was there, too, just below the surface.

Expanding Epidemic

By the time I began working as a video producer in 1985 the AIDS epidemic had expanded beyond the gay community, and now affected people of color, teens, women and even infants and children. An educational video I co-produced for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 1992-93 told the stories of three families struggling to deal with AIDS. it featured a 12-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl (pictured above) and a baby boy. The message of the video, targeted to the parents and caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS, was not to give up hope, that new drug therapies were being tested and would soon be available. We titled the video “Hope for the Future.”

I don’t know if any of the children on the video survived long enough to benefit from the new drug cocktails that eventually made AIDS a largely manageable disease. I heard that the baby died shortly after we finished production. One thing you learn in an epidemic is to ration the amount of grief you have to handle at a given time. While I’d love to see those kids grown up and healthy, I’m not ready to face the other possibility.

If anybody’s still counting, AIDS has claimed more than 35 million lives worldwide since 1981.

David Hunt’s blog
More about the initial outbreak... and more.
Pediatric AIDS then and now.

Have you voted? And what genre of music do you listen to? Is it on amazon music?

W. Kamau Bell + Aithal Books + Farm Vids + Podcast: Grow w Miss Bekah

Writing/Cleaning + Miss Bekah’s Growth/Change Happiness Between Tails

#SelfImprovement #Books #Fiction #Pets #Blogging Are there things in your life you’re working hard to change? Miss Bekah runs two blogs to help readers find their best selves and to follow a healthy vegan lifestyle. 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 Writing/Cleaning + Miss Bekah's Growth/Change 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. Rebekah of MissBekah Productions Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Miss Bekah A photo by Miss Bekah. Book covers of books I reviewed. A photo of my dear doggie. — 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 audio show is Writing/Cleaning + Miss Bekah’s Growth/Change, which you can also read the blog post for.

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.

Ever feel like you’re swimming through molasses? Last week, I had a headachy cold that kept me up nights and too tired to write more than a little. Recording my audiobook had to wait until my voice wasn’t scratchy, drippy, and stuffy.

It was my first cold since the pandemic. How weird to think, “at least it wasn’t Covid again.” This week has been a trial to get back into the groove.

Fortunately Khashayar and I were well just barely in time to perform at our friend’s annual dance bash, the one where we all put on shows for each other. Neither of us had much energy to rehearse while we were sick, but we did our best with a couple of Argentine Tangos.

When one is laid out, thank goodness for audiobooks and TV!

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian is his endearing and thoroughly personal account of what it’s like to strive to do good work and to be a good person. (btw, “blerd” = black nerd) He doesn’t pretend he’s never misstepped. Instead, he admits his mistakes, and then demonstrates how we can all change — if we want to. The gold is in keeping humble and open-hearted enough to learn from each other while courageously speaking against injustice. A few months ago, he also published Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book, which includes stickers, coloring pages, and more!

Cover of The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell

On stuck-in-bed days, thank goodness for TV, too. And the Los Angeles Public Library for The Biggest Little Farm. Hope does exist! The documentary shows how regenerative farming is the answer. Rather than poison and kill, regenerative farmers turn challenges into nature’s gifts. Got a parcel of land so burned out that a sledgehammer can barely dent it? Enter diversity. The more kinds of plants and animals, the better. Gorgeously filmed, it illustrates how, over only seven years, a ruined parcel of land transformed into paradise. This trailer shows it better than words…

There’s a Biggest Little Farm: The Return out, though I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it. Co-farmer/co-producer John Chester also produced these ultra charming shorts about the farm, starting with Meet Chris…

And Poodle Roo…

And The Guardians…

This week’s guest, Aithal, has been a Happiness Between Tails guest here and here before. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children, and self-published a multi-genre slew of books. His latest is on pre-order, Confessions of an Indian Immigrant: Dawn of IT Opportunities in the Land of Promise.

Know anything about blog tours? Please share in the comments. In the meantime, I’m calling this post the first leg of his blog tour.

Cover of Confessions of an Indian Immigrant: Dawn of IT Opportunities in the Land of Promise by Aithal

Excerpt from Confessions of an Indian Immigrant: Dawn of IT Opportunities in the Land of Promise, written by Aithal and illustrated by Darshini

Suddenly, I hear a man shout. Startled, I looked behind. Ours was the last row, but behind us was a narrow passageway connecting the two aisles. I see a turbaned man with a thick beard. He was wearing a white robe. He had covered his ears with his palms. He was doing his namaz (Muslim prayers). Many passengers, too, were startled by the commotion, while others were unfazed. They were used to seeing this on a plane. Kuwait Airways belonging to a Muslim country was extremely accommodating to a Muslim’s needs.

Remember, this was pre-9/11. I’m sure these Middle-eastern airlines have since modified their rules to be more sensitive to others’ needs.

<Begin pre-9/11>

9/11 has changed airline travel. Once, before 9/11, I was flying back to Mumbai via Lufthansa. I requested the air hostess to allow me to witness the plane landing from the cockpit. To my pleasant surprise, I was ushered to the cockpit, where the pilot asked me to sit behind him and wear headphones so that I could hear the conversation between the plane and the air traffic control. It was a mesmerizing experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 

The 9/11 terrorists robbed this from many (like me) who just wanted to experience a plane landing.

</End pre-9/11>

After the four-hour flight to Kuwait, we had a layover, where we changed planes and braced ourselves for the fourteen-hour haul to New York.

<Begin confession>

Since it was my first plane ride, fourteen hours didn’t sound that bad. However, when I look back, I shudder whenever I think about it. However, it’s two hours shorter than the sixteen-hour nonstop flight I take now from Los Angeles to Dubai.

</End confession>

Finally, the activities picked up as we neared our destination. Eventually, I heard the familiar noise of the motors as the tires lowered themselves from the plane’s belly. I felt the bottom of my stomach drop as the plane lowered. After a few judders and shakes, I lurched as the tires touched the runway. The engines reversed to recede the speed. I gulped hard. My ears popped to adjust the altitude.

I was in the US of A.

Aithal’s description of his book

In the always-connected, always-online digital age and social media world, we tend to forget how life was before the ubiquity of laptops, tablets, mobile devices, smartwatches, and so on. The terms such as outsourcing, offshoring, nearshoring, and many more did not exist. The Indian IT industry was in its infancy.

Aithal takes us on an exciting walk down memory lane as he weaves his narration to pen his experiences migrating from Mumbai to New York—a culture shock. As the title suggests, the story combines his experiences in settling down in America and the dawn of IT opportunities. Both, adjusting to the social life in the US—where he faces the challenges of day-to-day life–and the professional life.

Peppered with humorous anecdotes in his early years of settling down in the US, the story makes an easy read with revealing details that many second-generation Indian-Americans are unaware of.

My Journey by Aithal

I came to New York, USA, from Mumbai, India, in 1989. I’m sure every Indian (or any immigrant from other countries) has a story to tell. And their children—born here—roll their eyes, thinking, “here we go again. Yet another snooze-fest.” However, I always think of it as an 80-20 rule…80% goes in from one ear and out of the other. However, they absorb 20% of our stories. I, too, am a culprit of repeating my experiences several times (after I crossed fifty, I hope I’m forgiven.) “Dad, I’ve heard this a million times,” our daughter would say as she would look at our son and roll her eyes. They would quickly exchange a ‘here-we-go-again’ look. However, I know that they would absorb at least 20%. 

Things were way different back then. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was a 5-year-old. Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin were at the ripe age of sixteen. I came to this country when there was no email (technically, it existed but was not widely used. It was mostly used in the universities), no social media, and no smartphones (the current generation has no clue what Thomas Guide is or what a TripTik is.) Pagers were just getting pervasive, and folks were getting used to them. There were phone booths on every street corner. Manhattan’s 42nd Street was infested with peep shows. Mugging was rampant. The famous assault now known to us as Central Park 5 had occurred just a few days before I arrived in this country and had not completed its ‘news cycle’ and was still making its rounds in the media. It was a culture shock, coming from a country devoid of gun culture to one that loved guns.

I decided to pen my experiences in the form of a memoir. I’ve titled it Confessions of an Indian Immigrant: Dawn of IT Opportunities in Land of Promise.

** Aithal’s updates after posting this: 1) Why am I advising you to check out this link here? Because Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law is Narayana Murthy. The same guy who I write about in my book. 2) Here’s a great review of my book. **

Read or watched anything interesting lately?

Books: Ageless + a Dirty One + K. Rooney Review + Podcast on Hers

Blog title over pictures of the books discussed in blog post.

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Fiction #Women Do walk for fun? In author Kathleen Rooney’s novel, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to stroll alone, in the middle of the night, over 10-miles across New York City! 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 The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney 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. Follow Kathleen: @KathleenMRooney All of Kathleen’s related links. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author Kathleen Rooney. Margaret Fishback’s actual papers. — 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. Poet/Historical Novelist Kathleen Rooney visits us again with a guest blog post that follows below. Via the podcast, you can also listen to how she came to publish Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, wherein an 85-year-old woman embarks upon a midnight stroll across New York City.

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.

Longevity is on my mind as I continue recording the book I’ve yet to publish. Writing takes time and so does getting it to the public. Perhaps you’re like me, who from the time I was very young, never felt like days were long enough?

Here I present to you Fauja Singh, a.k.a. the Sikh Superman. You can read all about him in Turbaned Tornado: The oldest Marathon Runner Fauja Singh, by Khushwant Singh.

Cover of Turbaned Tornado: The Oldest Marathon Runner Fauja Singh, by Khushwant Singh.

Up until he was five-years-old, he could barely walk. Later, in his early 80s, personal tragedies sank him into deep depression. At 85 he took up running. At 89 he started competing and soon ran New York City Marathon. A lifelong vegetarian, he’s even a spokesperson for PETA. Born on April 1, 1911, he continues lacing his sneakers each day.

Early on, when he encountered racist hecklers, his mission really kicked in: he’d showing the world just how amazing people like him are!

His story inspired Simran Jeet Singh, who grew up in Texas, to publish a book for kids, Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon. Runner’s World Magazine offers background on both the Singhs and the book.

Cover of Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon, by Simran Jeet Singh.

You’ll remember today’s guest, author Kathleen Rooney, from when she contributed to Happiness Between Tails here and here. Besides her historical novels, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (which features a lively octogenarian) and Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, she’s a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, that publishes literary work in hybrid genres. In addition, she’s a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a band of poets who haul typewriters wherever readers gather. Then they fill orders for custom poems. Her latest collection Where Are the Snows, winner of the XJ Kennedy Prize, has just been released by Texas Review Press and her next novel, From Dust to Stardust, will be published by Lake Union Press in Fall of 2023.

Here she describes the which and why of one of her fave books, a marvelously dirty one! I just read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and was pretty impressed, for its time and now! What’s the last dirty book you read? (Note: Kathleen’s review first appeared in The Star Tribune.)

Cover of A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs, by Joyce Elbert.

Kathleen Rooney’s book review: A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs, by Joyce Elbert

NONFICTION: The unjustly neglected Joyce Elbert reminiscences about being a woman novelist in a man’s world. 

A contemporary of Jacqueline Susann, credited by Cosmopolitan magazine with writing “the first really great dirty book,” Joyce Elbert made a splash in 1969 with her novel “The Crazy Ladies,” a slinky, metropolitan, woman-centric romp that sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

Yet by the time of her death from Lou Gehrig’s disease in Florida in 2009, this brash and brilliant Bronx-born author had long since sunk beneath the waves of obscurity, no longer able to garner interest in what she called her “zany, sexy, campy creations.”

Luckily for contemporary readers, the eight previously unpublished autobiographical essays gathered here in “A Tale of Five Cities and Other Memoirs” brings Elbert’s wit and earthy sophistication back to the surface.

Published by Tough Poets Press, a one-man operation dedicated to “new and rediscovered unconventional and neglected literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction,” and committed, as Publishers Weekly has put it, to “resuscitating forgotten classics,” this collection reintroduces 21st-century audiences to an underappreciated, funny and feminist talent.

With candor, toughness and an indefatigable sense of humor, Elbert regales the reader with details of her bohemian life among the likes of Mark Rothko and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as her romantic (mis)adventures with men who range from the maddeningly casual and unsupportive, to her alcoholic con-man ex-husband, to an outright physical abuser.

Yet the book is never more about them than it is about her quest to become and remain an author, an ambition so deep that after being battered by the aforementioned partner, she notes, “My only consolation was that someday I would be able to use this sordid experience in a book. Yes, even in times of despair the novelist’s brain is forever churning.”

Elbert also chronicles her own later-in-life descent into alcoholism and struggle for sobriety, concluding that, “Like many mind-altering drugs, alcohol had shown me where I needed to go, but alcohol couldn’t get me there.”

The title essay — or really five separate-but-linked essays — globe-trots from Acapulco to Paris to Campello to London to Martha’s Vineyard, but New York and its bygone midcentury milieu remain the most indelible in Elbert’s memory. The book opens with “Movies: 1934,” about attending screenings at “our local movie palace, The Allerton … a ten-minute walk from where we lived in a remote section of the Northeast Bronx” with her mother, of whom she writes, “Nothing in her life had emotionally prepared her for marriage or motherhood and yet there she was, trapped, with no hope in sight.”

Elbert manages, often with daffy panache, to evade those traps. In the confident and unapologetic yet self-aware vein of her fellow writer of glamour and excess Eve Babitz, Elbert documents her own desires and drives against a vivid backdrop of long-gone social settings.

At the end of her life, Elbert left behind at least seven unpublished novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. If the essays in “A Tale of Five Cities” are any indication of their quality, one can only hope that those will be resuscitated soon.

What’s the last dirty book you read?

Nude Talk + Book n Vid Inspo + Abortion + Podcast: K. Rooney’s Mojo

Headline over photo of audio booth in my closet.
Recording an audio book at home rocks! And it’s hot…

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Fiction #Women Do walk for fun? In author Kathleen Rooney’s novel, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to stroll alone, in the middle of the night, over 10-miles across New York City! 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 The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney 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. Follow Kathleen: @KathleenMRooney All of Kathleen’s related links. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author Kathleen Rooney. Margaret Fishback’s actual papers. — 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 Kathleen Rooney’s post here, “The Margaret Fishback Papers.” (The novel stars an 85-year-old woman walking across NYC in the middle of the night — in book-tastic 1984, no less!)

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.

Releasing my novel is taking longer than I’d like (understatement). At this stage, I’m recording an audiobook version of the first section, which is truly fun!

The audio booth I fashioned within our petite guest-bedroom walk-in closet is soundproofed with a mishmash of bedding held together with clothespins. Photos of me using it must wait for cooler temps. Without air conditioning, I recorded in my birthday suit, standing on a towel to sop up dripping sweat.

Once voicing and editing of the first chapter are done, the audio will become a promotion tool. The book version (yay! yay! yay! is finished!) needs a cover image and formatting. I’ll try again for a great traditional agent before I self-publish.

All this makes me stress that I’ll never finish — which is why I take great pleasure in discovering people who accomplished great things later in life, whether they’re real life or fiction.

Art goddess Beatrice Wood learned pottery throwing after age 40, then she really hit her stride many years later. A friend of hers was so touched by her that she photographed her for a book of her wisdom as she turned 100 in 1993! By the way, Wood penned her autobiography at 95. My review of the book below for Amazon and Goodreads: “Spectacular & Inspiring — absolutely wonderful in every way!”…

Cover of book: Playing Chess With Heart: Beatrice Wood at 100 Hardcover – February 1, 1994 by Beatrice Wood  (Author), Marlene Wallace (Photographer)

Here’s just one of many wonderful and timely quotes from within its pages, this one about abortion…

“Let us face it, it is not a question of whether the law is right or wrong where abortion is concerned. Any woman desperate enough will go to an abortionist regardless of whether there is a law against it. To speak of saving a fetus is to ignore the dangers facing a woman having an illegal abortion — which could mean the loss of two lives.” from the book, “Beatrice Wood at 100.”

Regarding wisdom gained through experience, I urge you to check out and share blogger Equinoxio21’s (who’s guested here before) post at his site, where he discusses abortion

Continuing on the subject of treating each other decently, I recently much enjoyed Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist.” My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “Complete candor about a subject that’s scary to talk about. Kendi writes with needed honesty about how difficult raising an antiracist child is, but how essential it is.” …

 

Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist."

Back to “never stop reaching” inspo — here’s the trailer to “Poms,” a lighthearted yet profound movie. Starring Diane Keaton alongside an equally fabulous cast, it’s about a group of retired girlfriends who dare to dream, as well as to live…

Men must dream too! Art Carney well earned the Oscars he won starring alongside an orange stripey cat in the uber-inspiring and entertaining “Harry and Tonto.”

Today’s guest blog post is by Aithal, who’s guested here before. He’s published six books, the first book set in India. His latest is a USA-to-India thriller. Here’s his advice for novelists…

So You Think You Can Write by Aithal

So you want to be an author, huh? Join the queue. Millions of dreamers want to be one, and they are very talented writers with a repertoire of fancy and obscure words that are seldom used. Their grammar is perfect, and their statement construction is flawless. So it should be a no-brainer for them to write great books everyone wants to read. Right? Wrong.

Many elements make up a good book. The most critical aspect (at least in my opinion) is that the story should come from the heart. When I started to write my first book in January of 2010, it took me less than a week to pour my initial thoughts down. However, to expand on the idea, to read over and over again for typos, tighten the storyline, etc. — took me about fifteen months. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a journey down memory lane that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you decide to write a book, don’t hurry. I know you must think, “it’s easy for you to say.” But believe me, it’s worth it. I, too, was very impatient in the beginning as I was very eager to have my “masterpiece” out.

My thinking was straightforward. To make people read my book and let them decide if it was worth their time. Unlike seeing a movie (where one spends only 2–3 hours of their time), reading a book is at least a week of their time. So it better be worth it. Spend time upfront, and you’ll reap the rewards. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be in a hurry to reach your destination.

Kirkus Reviews aren’t free, but are highly effective. I recently got my last book reviewed on Kirkus Reviews. They are well-respected in the publishing industry. Your book will get more eyeballs where they matter…like bookstores, publishers, agents, librarians, etc.

What bolsters your confidence when your goals seem beyond reach?… 

Tips 4 Young Women by L. Sealey + Podcast: J.L. Harland + Rebloom

Blog post title over photo of author Lindsay Sealey.
Author Lindsay Sealey.

Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland + 4 Rebloomers Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #CoAuthoring #Books #Publishing Have you ever co-authored a book? And how many times do you hope to bloom? J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who "turned new pages" after retirement. 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 Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland 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. J. L. Harland Photos available at the HBT post for this show: J. L. Harland All of today’s other re-bloomers. The delicious bread I baked. — 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 Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland + 4 Rebloomers.

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.

The author of today’s guest blog post came to me through a publicist’s email inquiry. Normally I click those into my spam folder, sometimes lob them to the government’s official email (phishing-report at us-cert dot gov — moreover, I forward text spam to 772-6 along with their phone numbers copied and pasted). In a weird way, though, these types of solicitation validate me as an author!

This once I decided to see what sort of guest blog post they’d send me. Mind you, no $$ exchanged hands.

“What the heck am I doing” rumbled through my mind as I interacted with the publicist, who kept her client out of the picture. There was a flurry of emails from the publicist, her ticking off a checklist of who among her staff would contact me, send appropriately sized images (see my guest blog posting guidelines), etc. She ignored my inquiries about the PR process, even my invite for her to submit a guest blog post of her own about it.

It felt odd to not interact at least a little with the author. Nonetheless, to the author’s and the publicist’s credit, here’s her article, which the publicist assured me wasn’t ghostwritten.

I can read your mind! Ohmmmm… You want to know why I published it, no?

Whelp, because like me, many of you are writers, lots of us searching how to a) get our books finished, b) get them out there, and c) sell zillions of them.

As a reader and/or blogger and/or book writer, how do you feel about blog posts funneled through publicists?

What follows is advice I need as much as the author’s intended young women. Maybe you, too? As she advises, break down our projects, build on that, etc. Sounds great to me!

Recently, I started writing in a productivity journal. There are many to choose from. Before you poo-poo positive thinking and affirmations, as cynical moi could do in a heartbeat, I’ve blogged before about how the queen of science-fiction writing, Octavia Butler, relied on them heavily.

Fear and Dread come naturally (such are the brain-grooves that result from a gaslit upbringing) and can easily paralyze me unless I’m vigilant. Hard even for me to believe, cancer helped me with them, as I’ve written about before.

In essence, this journal begins with instructions and inspiration. Then it invites participants to spend a few minutes each morning and night to answer a handful of questions.

A British author whose name I can’t remember anymore, once commented on the radio of how charming Americans, we with our childlike insistence that all it takes is confidence to achieve anything. Brits, she said, know better.

What do you think of that? For me, there’s got to be muscle involved, a lot more than mere intention. Granted, mucho luck too. Summer comes late in Los Angeles, so I’ll blame the current brain-stunting muggy heat for getting me off-topic. Among my non-virtual frieds — I mean friends, I’m the .001% who eschews air-conditioning. We all do what we can (I hope), so count not partaking of a/c as my kiss to Mother Earth.

Back to today’s guest. Speaker, educator, and consultant Lindsay Sealey, MA Ed, is based out of Vancouver, Canada. Check out her website for info on her writings on how girls, boys, and parents can become their best selves. Most recently, she’s pursuing mind-body lifestyle research, like in this video at her Youtube channel.

Cover of Made for More, by Lindsay Sealey.

5 Ways to Help Young Women Overcome Super Girl Syndrome by Lindsay Sealey, MA Ed

Do you know what I see when I look at the young women I coach? Talent. Skill. Intelligence. Care. Passion. Hard work. Motivation. Ambition. They want to be good, feel good, do good, and make a difference in the world.

Yet, they often do not see any of these attributes in themselves. What do they see? They see how they aren’t keeping up; they fear they are missing out; they feel they are not doing enough; they believe they are not good enough. So, they either try harder, pushing beyond their own boundaries, striving for a little more “perfect”, and punishing themselves with harsh criticism. Or they do nothing, resigning to the idea that if they can’t be exceptional, why bother trying. They play the comparison game, and they lose every single time. 

I call this super girl syndrome and it’s holding our young women back from inherent true greatness and power. Super girl syndrome is a way of being, often learned from strong and pervasive societal messages for growing girls to be “everything” and to “do it all”. Yes, the intention behind girl power is fantastic. We want our girls to feel they can dream big and design a full and fulfilling life without limits or limitations. It’s true this generation of young women – Gen Z – have more choices and can take more chances than any previous generation. They may have no glass ceilings and they know the sky’s the limit. The problem is that as the world tells them “You can do anything”, they interpret this as “I have to do everything”. “Everything” is a tremendous amount of pressure!

It’s no wonder girls’ mental health concerns are on the rise. They are more stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed than ever. They can feel exhausted, deflated, discouraged, and sometimes even defeated. They can choose to give in and give up. 

As I work with girls, I’ve learned to explain to them that while they can do everything and I encourage them to be both multi-passionate and multi-talented, they don’t need to do it all in a day, but they do need to do something every day. In fact, I teach them how to remove the pressure from their shoulders, take off their super woman cape, and make an action plan to support their growth, taking one step at a time.

Here are 5 ways to help any young woman overcome super girl tendencies to design her days and become her boldest brightest self: 

  1. Let go of the ideal of perfection. We all know “there is no such thing as perfect”. Instead of pushing for an unrealistic ideal that doesn’t even exist, encourage her to embrace progress instead. If perfect is striving for more and more with the accompanying self-cruelty, without any self-compassion or recognition of effort, progress offers her the upside of goals and achievements with the built-in beauty of acceptance and appreciation of where she’s at and where’s she going! Help her focus on the daily wins that come with progress.
  2. Embrace “perfectly imperfect”. Imperfect could be the new perfect. Why? Imperfect is real. Accepting flaws, flops, and failures not only removes pressure to prove or be perfect but adds the authenticity she may be longing for. Imperfect means she makes mistakes, and she is confident enough to learn and grow. She makes errors because she’s human, not broken. She makes mistakes because she’s learning, not incompetent. She falls because she’s trying. If we can help girls see that imperfect benefits them more than any self-imposed high standard, I’m convinced, they’ll be able to flourish and fly. 
  3. Turn from procrastination toward action. Procrastination often comes from the fear of not being enough. So, flip the script. Enough can be rewritten as one step is enough. And little by little, small steps become great changes. She doesn’t have to do it all in a day. She can do one thing a day. Whatever big task or idea is on her mind or on her plate, help her do just one thing towards her goal. This could be one question, one action, one organized area, one page to read, one favour to ask, one YouTube video to watch or one podcast to listen to or book to peruse. If she likes the idea of just one, challenge her with just one hour of effort. She chooses when in her day and what she wants to focus her energy on. And for one focused and intentional hour she rolls up her sleeves and she works. The power of just one – step or hour – is a game changer as she creates her own momentum and often gains the energy she needs to keep going. 
  4. Stop comparing. Social media encourages us to compare our progress with others. Girls often feel they aren’t doing enough, they aren’t keeping up, and they are falling behind. Why? Because they are constantly seeing perfected and polished pictures of what other people are doing without the benefit of seeing the struggles and striving. They conclude everyone is doing more than them, better than them, and must feel happier than they do. Comparisons can help girls gauge where they stand in terms of their growth. Comparisons can also be sources of inspiration. Yet, girls need to trade in constant comparisons to others or even to themselves by choosing to measure their growth to their goals – only. Encourage these questions for self-reflection to steer her away from comparing herself to peers. How am I doing? What’s next for me? What am I most proud of? What changes do I want to keep working on and what changes do I want to add? What am I most looking forward to doing or becoming?
  5. Celebrate progress. Do you know what most young women are terrible at? Taking compliments, giving themselves credit, and celebrating. They often feel taking time to give themselves recognition for their perseverance, determination, and success is conceited, undeserved, and unnecessary. Of course, this is not true. Without time to embrace all they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished, how do they truly know their self-worth and how can feel good about the connection between hard work and outcome? Simple. They can’t. Celebrating doesn’t have to be big – she can high five herself or take 5 minutes to bullet her wins for the week in her journal. Celebrating doesn’t have to be public – like throwing herself a big party. She may opt for lunch with a friend or a date with herself. Celebrating does have to happen. When girls can take time to notice and validate who they are and what they’ve done, they no longer need the stamp of approval from others. 

I see so much goodness and so much potential in young and growing women. I know we need to help then see this in themselves. And one of the ways to get started is by helping them remove the pressure of being super girls to become their most true and powerful selves!

Does over-doing ever bog you down?

My Honey has Covid Again + Podcast: Do Better by S.D.Jones

Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist.
Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist.

Do Better by Shira Destinie Jones Happiness Between Tails

#Activism #Writing #Women #SelfEsteem Ever wish you could make the world better a better place for anyone and everyone? Educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones blogs, at least for now, from San Diego and is doing just that. 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 Do Better by Shira Destinie Jones 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. Shira Destinie Jones Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Shira Destinie Jones — 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 Shira Destinie Jones’ guest blog post below.

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.

A few days ago, my husband came down with Covid. That’s the reason my intro here is short and why I haven’t worked much on my novels. We don’t know how he got it — we’ve got all our shots and he’s been masking. We both had it January 2021, right before the vaccines came out. So far, that time was far worse. My mother is visiting out-of-state family, so he’s quarantining in her apartment. He’s headachy, fatigued, and coughing. Fortunately, today his fever is a little lower than it was yesterday…

What follows is the revisit of a guest blog post from educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones. She blogs, at least for now, from San Diego. “Do Better” is the organization she founded to stop child abuse and help those who care for kids.

Volunteers Needed: Shira needs feedback on the book she’s writing about how Do Better works, as well as the project itself. Find out more at h-e-r-e.

A budding historical fiction novelist, she’s published, “Stayed on Freedom’s Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, D.C.” The following actually happened to her…

“Standing in The Gap” by Shira Destinie Jones

There it was again. I knew that sound.

“Oy, they’re having a fight down there!”

That was what Mona thought. I knew better. That was an old sound, from a lifetime ago. One I thought I’d finally escaped. I should have known better.

I looked out the window, counting five men holding smart phones up toward the screams. Then my feet moved of their own accord. It was only from hearing a muffled shout as the door slammed behind me that I knew I’d left the flat. The rain had just ended, and the pavement was still wet. My feet pulled me to the source of that sound. Not the shouting, not the screaming, but the one I remembered so deeply that it still hid under the table with my inner child. The sound of a head hitting a wall.

There it was again, but this time, I could see them. Both of them. The woman’s head sounded like a watermelon when she slammed against the wall, sliding down those slimy bricks to finish crumpled on the filthy paving stones. Her eyes were open wide, looking stunned and frightened, as a giant advanced on her from the ten or fifteen feet from where he’d launched her. My stomach churned as the pain of that impact coursed through my own body, as if I had been the one tossed like a sack of rice into that wall.

Looking at the giant, I wanted to flee, abandon this woman to her fate. But my feet had a will of their own, carrying me right into the one spot where I didn’t want to be: about 5 steps between each of them.

I realized that I’d carried an old umbrella with me out the door. At least those Kung Fu lessons had had one result: they kept me from rushing in where angels feared to tread entirely unarmed. Then again, my next thought was that this flimsy brolly was more like a liability against that big drunk guy. I took a second of comfort in hoping that as a foreign PhD student, at least the NHS would cover my hospital stay if I didn’t manage to duck fast enough.

“Move!”

I flinched as the sound wave from the giant’s lips struck me. It felt just like the impact of furniture breaking against the wall that night. When the giant stepped closer to me, my feet moved me back the same step, but my body refused to budge. That brolly, I now realized, was balanced in my left hand behind me, just like a short staff. My stomach had turned into a solid ball, no longer churning. As I saw him look at me, the giant’s eyes suddenly grew wider. If he hits me, it is going to hurt. But then why did he seem to be afraid of me?

“Move!”

“No.”

Who said that? Oh, wait, that was my voice. So why did the giant look confused?

“Thank you.”

I risked a glance backward. That sobbing voice had come from behind me, as the woman I was foolishly blocking wept, her tears mingling with the rain on the wall as she’d stared up at me.

Focusing on the giant as I’d learned to do in so many sparring classes, I drew a deep breath, preparing. But the giant stood frozen himself, staring at me with some odd drunken mixture of contempt and fear. Both were clearly written in his face, as well as the frustration of being denied another chance to strike the woman on the ground behind me. What was he waiting for?

“You prick.”

He was treating me like a man? He really must be drunk. Then I realized that I’d dropped into an automatic fighting stance. He wasn’t that drunk, then.

“Ok, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”

As those words tore themselves from my throat, I began to tremble so violently that I thought I’d begin crying like the woman at my back. The giant looked so confused that I could practically see the gears turning in his drink-addled mind. Then, a tall woman stepped between us, her back to me, placing a hand flat upon the center of the giant’s chest. I found myself letting out the breath I’d not known I was holding, and heard movement behind me.

I turned to see the two young bar girls helping the woman, finally, up off of the pavement, and taking her inside the pub. As I looked back at the giant, he had backed away, the tall woman’s arm guiding him to the curb.

I stood straight, now in tears myself from the relief, and from the shock. I was still four years old, still hiding under the table, while furniture still shattered, as my mother screamed in the other room. But this time, I had not stayed hidden under the table.

This time, I had come out to help.

Lost in these thoughts, I turned down the bar girl’s offer of a drink. As Mona came over, saying something I couldn’t hear, I wondered where she had been during all of this. Recalling her nights of coming home drunk, I realized that she had been standing there, 20 feet away, the entire time. Now I could see her in my mind’s eye, standing off to the side, just watching. As the five men and two bar girls had stood by and just watched.

All standing idly by while… And all but the young bar girls were bigger than me.

When have you surprised yourself by your bravery? When did others disappoint you with their cowardice?

DIY Amends + A. Bailey’s Book Sites + Podcast: L. Akiyama Published

Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.
Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.

How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Publishing #Learning #Crafts Have you published a book? Lance Akiyama got a big publishing house to put out four of his. 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 I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama 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. Lance Akiyama Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Lance Akiyama. Cover of one of his books, “Duct Tape Engineer.” — 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

Apologies in advance to you, dear reader, if this post’s intro is choppy with the rawness of my jangled nerves. The writing that follows (by the way, here’s about my novels-in-progress) won’t involve names or pertinent exposing facts — it’s just me trying to eek some good out of something upsetting. Scant hours ago, right after I’d taken a shower, someone apologized for a terrible thing they did to me a long ago. Now I could use another shower.

How to give an apology in 3 easy steps:

  1. Don’t phone your victim… er hem person… to do it unless there’s plenty of time to converse.  Don’t ask if they’ve got time to talk and if they only have ten minutes, just sob and blow through it. Not if you’re sincere about wanting to help the other person rather than merely unburden yourself.
  2. Stay humble and on-topic. Don’t tell them how terrible you feel for all the bad turns you assume resulted in their life from the bad thing you did. Neither inflate your importance, nor imply the person is living a messed up life — that’s not apologizing, it’s condescending.
  3. Remember you’re apologizing to help (or should be) the person you wronged. Don’t bother if your mind is on simply assuaging your own guilt.

7 more steps can show you mean it:

  1. Heed #1 above by listening to their response with an open heart and mind.
  2. Get to the point without the person having to dig for what you are referring to.
  3. You can ask them if there’s something they’d like from you.
  4. Better yet, say you wish you’d never done it and you’ll never (I hope) do it again to them or anyone else.
  5. Don’t get angry back if they get angry.
  6. Don’t later contradict your apology in any way, shape, or form.

I get that apologies are difficult and messy. Of course, I accepted this one and am grateful for it. Still, now I feel bad for feeling bad…

How have apologies made you feel?…

Today’s guest is award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey. Since childhood, she yearned for the writing life. Years of writing later, she entered a manuscript contest. No, she didn’t win the actual competition. However, she won by having a novel she later self-published! A poetry book followed, and so did short stories, anthologies, journals, more contests, and a romance trilogy. Today she’s published by one of the 5th best publishing houses in Houston, and a press in Greece!

Researching Location for Contemporary Fiction Books by Andrya Bailey

When I started writing a romance trilogy, I knew that, since one character was Greek, the couple would eventually end up in Greece. I hadn’t been to Greece yet, even though it was a place I’d always dreamed of.

Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.
Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.

I knew I’d have to resort to internet research to describe the locations for the contemporary tale.

The primary location of the first book was Houston, TX, where I live.

San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.
San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.

As the book progressed, I recognized that being onsite gave me an advantage on how to describe the places. Instead of doing research on the internet, visiting a place you’re writing about brings forth senses you otherwise wouldn’t notice. For example: smells, sounds, sights and the total atmosphere which you can’t fully capture if you’re just looking at pictures. It also brings forth the emotions you feel and can instill in your characters. Thus, more “show” rather than “tell” in your story.

The primary location of the second book was Athens. When I took a trip to Greece, I had already finished the manuscript but it wasn’t published yet. It was a great opportunity to test the research I did online. I wanted to see if what I described was up to par with the actual places.

The research had been great. But seeing the places in person – it’s a cliché here – “it was priceless”. Did I change anything after the trip? Yes. Once I experienced firsthand the colors, sounds, tastes, the culture and personalities, it was easier to edit the story to reflect those senses. Not only that, but some details that may not be observable while researching online. For example, in one chapter, our Greek hero takes his beloved to a specific restaurant. She’s presented with a menu in Greek and, not being able to read Greek, she asks him to order whatever he thinks she’d like. When I went to that same restaurant, though, I noticed the menu was both in English and Greek. This is the case for most of the restaurants in big cities, such as Athens. So, I changed the narrative to reflect that. Since the choices on the menu overwhelmed her, she asked her hero to choose whatever he thought she’d like. The outcome was the same, but the detail was important enough to ensure she could read the menu in English. It all came to accuracy.

Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.
Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.

Here’s an excerpt of when the heroine arrives at the airport in Athens, according to my experience (from Olympian Heartbreak):

“As we stepped out of the airport terminal into the passenger pickup area to wait for our transportation to the hotel, smog and fumes from the hectic Athens’ traffic assaulted me. A hot, humid breeze carried along the sounds of car horns, police whistles, sirens, blasting radios, and tumultuous voices speaking a language I didn’t understand. Compact cars in the convoluted traffic and harried pedestrians smoking and talking on their cells completed this assault on my senses. Not what I had expected Athens to be like. It was overwhelming in an exotic way. I inhaled and took in the myriad of colors, sounds, and smells as a welcome change which would only enrich my life. And I hoped to have my god waiting for me at the other side of this archaeologically modern rainbow.”

I was fortunate to travel before the book publication. According to my travel experience, I edited the location details to make them more accurate. And I’m thankful we can resort to online research and books to find out more about the subject we’re writing about when traveling is not possible. 

There’s another valuable and important resource to ensure accuracy while describing places we haven’t been to or can’t travel to. You can ask a person from the country for their feedback when in doubt about the cultural and local traditions. Finding a reliable local source can be of utmost importance to understand how their behavior can be exhibited in certain settings. I looked for local Greek teachers and historians to proofread the manuscripts. It ensured an accurate portrayal not only of their country and culture but also of their people. As a result, a Greek publisher accepted the trilogy for publication. Their editors were very pleased with the way I represented their country and culture in the story.

Although it can be costly and time-consuming, onsite and in person research can greatly enhance your perception of the place you’re writing about, and you’ll also have wonderful memories of a great vacation (and an excuse to travel more!).

Do you have a fave locale for fiction? And how have apologies made you feel?…