Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Guest Blog Post: Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries by Mike Befeler

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

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

Photo of Mike Befeler
Geezer-lit author Mike Befeler

“Writing Paranormal Geezer-Lit Mysteries” by Mike Befeler

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Blog Post: A true elfin story by Stella, oh, Stella

Visiting Birgit’s blog feels like a vacation, a respite from my crowded urban Los Angeles. If you’ve followed my site for a while, you first met Birgit at Happiness Between Tails here.

Evidence that tiny folk live in Birgit’s garden.

On her own site, sometimes she takes us with her when she travels. A native of Germany, she often invites us into her home in Denmark. If she’s cooking something delicious and healthy, she makes sure we’re there. When she and her husband make music, she lets us see them perform on a video. We’re invited to peer over her shoulder as she coaxes her flower garden to thrive in heat and frost. On some days, we bicycle beside her and her husband to glory in rolling green hills and rustic scenery populated with charming farm animals. Rain or shine, we can join her in strolls along beaches and marinas.

Do little folk live in your garden? In this short story, she describes some unique guests on the other side of her computer…

Stella, oh, Stella

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

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

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

————

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

At the beginning of May, my husbands enters the kitchen and says enthousiastically that the door, which I have carved into the birch stump looks incredibly real, the windows as well. I rush into the garden…

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Guest Blog Post: 12 easy tips for editing your book by David Jarrett

Good writing takes more than merely a great idea. It takes time to edit and re-edit, yet it can vault mediocre writing into stellar writing. Here UK author and blogger David Jarrett shares how he simplifies the process…

Sean Yeager Adventures - awesome books for ages 8 to 14

www.seanyeager.com

Hi there, after months of editing and updating here are some tried and tested tips for how to edit your draft book. I found this needed multiple passes, constructive feedback and dispassionate discipline. I also needed to re-learn key parts of grammar to understand what ‘good’ looks like.

1. Get the structure right first with feedback from others, check for consistency.

By this I mean – the plot, characterisation, events, scenes, order of events, plausibility of events, story arc for each character, etc.

Consistency of proper nouns, places, character names, etc. is also a key check. Word spellchecker can assist by highlighting those variants which are yet to be accepted into your dictionary. A Find and Replace can bring things back under control.

2. Screen your own writing for overuse of words and phrases.

I recommend running Wordcounter and the Hemmingway app on chapters of your work and noting the…

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Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Guest Blog Post: No Single Word Have Spoken I This Day by Ana Daksina

Cropped black and white photo of man with a bird in his mouth by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography
This is by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography

Listening requires attention and openness. Poet Ana Daksina reminds us how silence allows us to hear the beating of our own hearts…

** DEAR READERS, PLEASE NOTE ** I pay WordPress not to display advertising on my site. In the case of guest bloggers, if you click forward to their websites, be aware that I am neither directly associated with them, nor the ads there. ** ALSO ** When you see ‘amazing’ offers on the internet, rest assured that they are scams. For instance, of late I’ve encountered a quite slick one that purports that one has randomly won money from Google. Don’t allow yourself to be enticed into revealing information to strangers.

Timeless Classics

*****

Today I spoken have no single word
Nor have one spoken by another heard

Today I listened to a sighing breeze
Wistfully stroke the branches of the trees

Perhaps for the first time I fully heard
The language in the singing of a bird

Mid lovely silence, oh, so quietly
My Muses whispered many dreams to me

Today no single word hath passed my lips
Came seven poems from my fingertips

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Guest Blog Post: Tips for Sleuthing the Past by Margaret Lossi

Who'll your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com
Who will your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

Writers and readers alike, for times we’d like to look into our histories, author Margaret Lossi offers tips for how to get started. My two novels are works-in-progresses! Lossi says that when it comes to looking up one’s family background, be prepared for surprises…

M.A. Lossl

The Family Tree

Warning: family history can lead to emotional discoveries.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you begin at the end! That is, you begin with you.

Check your birth certificate, verify your parents. It may seem like a given, but just sometimes people find they are adopted, or their mum is really their grandma. It pays to check.

Check your parents birth certificates, to verify your grandparents. Then work your way back through the generations, verifying birth certificates.

These first steps build the strong foundation of your family tree, so worth doing well.

It is not a case of how far back you can go, but the quality of your data

You may wish to answer a family question. I knew my parents were second cousins, so wanted to find out about this link. Set yourself a goal to work towards. Whatever your motivation, make sure you verify each…

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