Self-Publishing Tips by Aithal + My Abortion Story Podcast

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

My Abortion Story by da-AL Happiness Between Tails

#ReproductiveFreedom #Abortion #HumanRights #Women #ProChoice How much control over your body do you want to give to lawmakers? Roe v Wade is the 1973 landmark United States Supreme Court decision that ensures all women have the right to obtain legal and safe abortions. Tragically, it’s on the verge of becoming history. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic 1:05 My Abortion by da-AL My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Wiki page on Roe v Wade Margaret Atwood, author and her iconic novel and TV series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Guest blogger Infidel753 Wiki page on feminist Gloria Steinem About the infamous 40-year Tuskegee Study Planned Parenthood site Wiki page on Planned Parenthood & Nixon Wiki page on abortion in Poland — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of My Abortion Story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are his self-publishing insights…

DIY Publishing by Aithal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you considered writing a book?

Lust! + Pod37: More Eats from Less by Angela Bell

Today's title and cover of nove, "Vladimir," by Julia May Jonas.

More Eats from Less by Angela Bell Happiness Between Tails

#Cooking #Food #Conservation #Health What are your tips for getting more out of less? Blogger Angela Bell's offers us some great ones! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 More Eats from Less by Angela Bell 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. Angela Bell’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Angela and some pictures of how she conserves food. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of “More Eats from Less by Angela Bell.”

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

Sensuality! Passion! Fun! As writers (here’s about the novel I’m writing) and readers, only good can come of finding what sets us afire. Figuring out how to unlock the shackles of cultural conditioning can be tricky, though. Learning about groundbreaking artists and their work can helps.

For instance, take how Emma Thompson has done it again — she’s the English actress who forever reaches further and further. By this, I’m not merely referring to the storyline of “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” In it, a 50ish recently widowed woman decides that, once and for all, she’s going to have good sex. She hires a twenty-something male prostitute.

What’s beyond incredible is the fact that we’ve never before seen this story on-screen — and why not? Why are post-menopausal woman who desire sex seen as aberrant, laughable, and even despicable?

Check out the film’s equally ground-breaking humanizing of a male sex worker who, moreover, isn’t repulsed by older women.

“Vladimir,” by Julia May Jonas, (which I recently finished in audiobook format and to which Rebecca Lowman lent a superb narration) offers a reckoning of sexuality. That of everyone, including love and relationships, both public and private. Aren’t the title and cover great, especially as it’s a literary novel, not the saucy romance genre implied?

The protagonist is a college prof in her 50s who has an open marriage with her college prof husband. We enter the story when he’s accused of overstepping his authority because he used to have trysts with students. Even though the rendezvous were with consenting women in their twenties and older, and they occurred before the college had instituted regulations against it, he’s about to lose his job. So there’s that.

And then there’s how the wife is judged because she neither sides against him nor divorces him. Not that anyone knows it, she’s had extra-marital relationships with men of all ages. Then there’s how their adult lesbian daughter judges the parents. There are also the students, the faculty… And in walks beefy Vladimir, who throws the protag into lust overdrive.

My review for Amazon and Goodreads (by the way, do you use Goodreads or anything like it?):

Julia May Jonas takes risk after risk with this novel and beckons us to — ooh lala — dare I say it? — think!

What do you think about how older women are portrayed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhh… to each their own…

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

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

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

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

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

12 crows sitting across the street

scattered wings of origin

perched from the tree tops

to the hanging branches below

someone is here visiting us

misunderstandings found in

history’s unknown truths

feelings that come over you when

you know you’re not alone

drop of rain touching trenched

soil secret in magic’s reconciliation

an eye summoning autumn’s flower

our souls last tear — love

calling out for collectivism

in this world of fame there are

many forces that stand against

man’s idol tides of destruction

voices heard in the silence of the

wind, modernization scattered

across time’s voided scheme

players in twilight’s hour

calling out to you, asking you

to take a moment to listen to

nature’s wish, rhythms found

in her breath violent yet caring

in a succession of union

lights appearing one at a time

here and there throughout

bear wolf earth’s seeded wilderness

all along the way life’s song

giving us a chance

for solitude in love’s redemption

there can be no blame in

our yesterday or in our search

for the way of tomorrow

here lies the

warble answer to

the diseased

rumors and innuendoes of our heritage

you know there is nothing to finding

peace if we will only allow ourselves to believe

in the vision found in god’s dream

a bird heard in the night

singing

to us his song of forgiveness

What does poetry mean to you?

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

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

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

#Chronic illness #Pain #Strength #Courage #Health Faced with challenge, it’s easy to get bogged down by what we can’t do. Caz encourages us to focus on what we can do. A blogger from England, outwardly she appears physically strong, yet inwardly she deals with chronic pain. That’s why the name of her blog is InvisiblyMe. Are you or anyone you know challenged by invisible pain? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction About today’s topic and guest 1:00 “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t,” by Caz2:00 My question for you 5:00 HBT outro Links for this episode: The original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. InvisiblyMe.com Photos available at the HBT post for this show: A photo of gorgeous sassy Caz! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t, by Caz.”

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

Happy Spring and Persian New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Memoir in Twenty Years by Diane Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does Spring spring where you live?

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

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

Passion at Any Age by Lee Gale Gruen Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Acting Do you worry that you're too old to accomplish something you 're passionate about? Lee Gale Gruen started acting, publishing books, and blogging after she retired from a career as a probation officer. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “Passion at Any Age,” by Lee Gale Gruen My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Lee Gale Gruen's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s prior guest blog post at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s books are available at Amazon. Martha Graham, modern dance pioneer, bio at Wikipedia Epictetus, ancient Greek philosopher, bio at Wikipedia Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Lee Gale Gruen. Covers of Lee Gale Gruen’s two books: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years: Find Joy, Excitement, and Purpose After You Retire,” and “Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of  “Passion at Any Age: Writer/Actress Lee Gale Gruen” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A True Elfin Story by Birgit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilog…

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

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

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

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

How do you define beauty?

Project Do Better: A call for helping hands

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

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

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

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

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

   I have a request to make:

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

 

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

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

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

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Writing/Cleaning + Miss Bekah’s Growth/Change + Pod19: Covid + Books

Blogger/writer Rebekah of MissBekah Productions.
Blogger/writer Rebekah of MissBekah Productions.

Book Reviews + Writing + COVID-19: I’m Better Happiness Between Tails

#Books #Reading #Writing #COVID-19 #Authors #Reviews Getting sick with COVID-19, the quarantines, and my scaled down lifestyle that resulted have lent me more time to read and write book reviews. In this episode, I critique: 1. Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata. 2. Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano. 3. The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron. 4. The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt. What are you reading or writing lately? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic 1:05 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. Sayaka Murata says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister's announcement. Here's his statement from 2007. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Covers for each of the books I review here. — 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 “COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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

This week, I’ve been doing some writing, but not as much as I’d like — for quite a happy reason! My husband and I are getting ready for an extended visit from my brother-in-law.

First, though, regarding the podcast at the start of this post, over the time that’s gone by since I originally published the blog version of it

  1. Covid: Somehow it can damage the brain, and in my case, how it connects to my senses. I have yet to fully taste and smell things properly. For instance, citrus fruit doesn’t taste like anything and it doesn’t smell “citrusy.” The smell of onions cooking is now horrendous, yet fortunately they’re ok to eat. It’s quite upsetting. If I think about it too much, I want to jump out of my skin, but I wanted you to know in case anyone around you thinks Covid is no big deal.

    Photo of K-D doggie still in bed.
    K-D-doggie decided to snuggle in bed a bit longer this morning. Nonetheless, she asked to say hi and to remind you to take extra care. These wintery days can physically and emotionally challenge us (and pets) worse than the rest of the year.
  2. Books: Last night I finished another fascinating one. Though officially a kids’ book, one of my fave authors, Ann Patchett (who also owns a bookstore), categorizes it more accurately as sui generis, meaning one of a kind/uncategorizable.

My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Imatoulline: “Is this for kids? I don’t have any, so I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s a great book for sensitive thoughtful adults. The kind who know that truly opening one’s heart is to risk getting hurt, yet there’s no better way to live. Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations are as gorgeous and deep as Kate DiCamillo’s writing. Note for those who need to know before reading: this book includes violence.”

Front cover of the book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Imatoulline.

Back to why I haven’t written a lot. In addition to the good news above, as of the last post to you, I was sure I was ever so close to finished writing my first novel. I have to remind myself that actually I am, though further than I wish. Every time I send the final handful of chapters in for review, they still need something more… more depth, more smoothness, more, more, more. Argh!!! Not taking criticism personally and buoying myself that I can indeed improve on what I’ve written is not easy.

Better to discuss the cheery part of not writing — making room and cleaning up the house for my husband’s brother is a great excuse to organize our stuff better and to get rid of things we haven’t used in ages. Whatever we didn’t donate to Salvation Army, I listed for sale on Ebay and Craigslist. That involved sorting, cleaning, photographing, measuring, researching similar items, writing copy, and so on.

Did you know Ebay lets you advertise things for pick up only? Moreover, Craiglist lets you run ads in other languages, so I posted listings in Spanish as well as in English. Now we wait to see if anyone wants to buy them…

Working hard on things can get rather grim. As a result, these past couple of mornings we’ve started our days laughing as we eat breakfast! Technically, we’re doing “Laughter Yoga.” Watching others laugh, it’s impossible to not at least smile. The founder is a medical doctor who treks the world teaching the serious need for laughter. Amid his numerous Youtube examples, this is especially rib-tickling…

And now for today’s guest. Miss Bekah runs two blogs from her home in the United States, The Thoughts that Bind and Eight Years In, to help readers find their best selves and to follow a healthy vegan lifestyle. She also has videos on Youtube of her music

Photo of duck footprints on a snowy clearing, a picnic table in the background
Photo by Rebekah of MissBekah Productions: She uses photography to express sentiments. This one represents how, when one goes different directions in life, the dividends show up later.

Personal Growth and Change by Rebekah of MissBekah Productions

For ages, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of personal growth and change. And I think a lot of us can relate. Whether it’s that we want to finally get in shape, nix a bad habit, overcome an addiction, face our fears or just become a better person in general, we’re tasked with unraveling this question: how do we spearhead our own personal change? 

Now, I have chased bits and pieces of this idea for years. Whether I was engrossed in a self help book or going to therapy many times a week trying to cope and combat the symptoms of an unrested mind, it’s always been (at least) on the back burner. How do I change? How do I create a better life for myself and a better self for my life? And while I got results here and there for specific things, I don’t think I grew to understand the process until quite recently. I did, however, find myself gathering lessons from every turn of the road in order to synthesize this realization. 

Act before you’re ready

Although I wanted to improve myself for many years before, I think my first real success at doing so was my foray into addiction recovery, which also coincided with me getting therapy for the first time. 

In recovery, I learned that sometimes, you just have to do the things that you’re scared of. Even if you’re not ready. Because as I often say, you probably already know what you need to do in order to live the life you’ve always wanted. In many cases, it’s just a matter of putting it into action. 

Only you can do this

And as I was recovering and taking actions I was uncomfortable with at the time in order to start being healthy again, I realized just how alone I was in the responsibility of recovery. I had some incredibly supportive people on my treatment team. Talented individuals with bright ideas and big hearts who all wanted me to succeed. But ultimately, it didn’t matter what they thought or how much help they could give me. It had to be me who took it. 

And this whole idea of acting before you’re ready really plays into that, I think. Because if someone gives you a task you’re not ready for, all they can really do is present it to you. They can’t force you to do it, and if they manipulate you into doing it, you grow to resent and mistrust them. So all in all, it really has to be you pushing this engine of growth and change. 

Sometimes you need a rest

After the bulk of my recovery, I went into a sort of hibernation mode of sorts. I was uninterested in doing any extra sorts of action to improve myself. And as much as I think that state can be a downer, the more I look back on it, the more I conclude that it is what I needed at the time. 

Once you’ve had a big shift in who you are and how you manage your life, you need to be able to sit back and relax, even if it’s just for a little while. You need to rest to repair your resolve. Something that hardly anyone talks about is that even when you see the positive results of your efforts, you still need to sit back and relax for a brief period. You can’t always just keep chugging on momentum and adrenaline—that’s not sustainable. 

But I think another reason it’s good to take a period of rest after a big change is because it’s good to acclimate yourself to your new life and way of being. As creatures of habit, these things affect us more than we realize. Not only that, but if you want this change to be sustainable, then you need to learn how to live your life within the confines of it, whatever that may entail. 

Learn to guide your thoughts

Following this period of rest, I was wary of this action-oriented approach, for many reasons. For one, I realized that all of the actions that I had taken unconsciously out of my distress lead me down a very destructive path to begin with. And there were many thoughts and feelings and patterns to detangle behind the more obvious-presenting self-destructive habits. 

I wanted to understand where these things had come from. So I dove into self-reflection. This was a skill I had been introduced to through therapy, and was learning to replace for my usual rumination. I knew that I couldn’t control the life circumstances that I was given. But I could learn to control my brain, and how I used it. That’s all any of us can do when it comes to altering our mood and mindset. 

And so I set out to do just that—I learned about my brain, my patterns, my limiting beliefs. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share that knowledge of well-being with other people that might be able to benefit. And so I started a website called the Thoughts that Bind.

Don’t get wrapped up in perfection 

I think some point after starting the Thoughts that Bind, I had this sort of mistaken idea that at some point I would be fully happy and healed and have no more to learn or put on the site. And yet I was also concerned about, well, not being there yet. 

But after honing my mindset and perspective for years now, I’m starting to realize that there’s no end in sight. There will always be some new way I can learn and grow, something that I can work on to improve. 

It’s possible that the old me who was just starting out on the website would be a little upset to realize that, but for me, that’s a good thing! Never being able to get it done means I never have to be concerned about not completing my own self-actualization. I never have to think “wow I’m behind, I’m not fully healed and a master of my thought, word and deed.” I’ll never be completely there. It’s okay. 

It also means that as long as I live, there’s never a reason to be sitting in stagnation. There will always be something new to explore and blossom into, no matter how healed, grown or “expert” I become. I can use my knowledge, wisdom and skills to move to a forward that will always be there in front of me. That’s exciting!

Use your new perspective

I think I stayed that way, mindset oriented, for a long time. I suppose I figured my action-oriented days were done, since I was recovered now, after all. But something was brewing inside me. 

I think I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind that you need to take action, sooner or later. I had seen how much it had changed me back in my therapy and recovery days, and the more I looked, the more I saw it in the world. 

And so, I dipped my toe back into action and I realized that more than anything, it was the next natural step for me and my personal journey. I started taking my thoughts and realizations one step further and pushed myself. I thought, “this is a good idea. Now, how can I put this into action?” And I began slowly but surely, improving myself once again. I even started another website, Eight Years In, all about the actions we can take to live a more ethical life that leaves a good impact on the world around us. 

Most of all, I realized that any new perspective, when it’s a good one, is made better and more concrete when it’s followed by actions to back it up. I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily a full-on hypocrite before this realization. But I definitely didn’t push myself to consistently follow through. It was more like when I remembered, when I felt like it. And when I added that recommitment to action, based on reflection, things really started moving in my life. 

The balance

It was right around the time of recommitting myself to inspired action that I realized how much of a balance it all is. When it comes to self-improvement, I think there are two camps. The inside-out camp (thoughts oriented) or the outside-in camp (which is action oriented). I thought over the years, mistakenly, that I ought to pick one to agree with and reside in but now I realize that I really can’t and don’t want to. 

The recipe to personal development has two ingredients, mental and external. You need the right mindset to guide you in the direction you want to go, but you can’t expect that mindset to take care of it all for you. You need action and commitment to adhere you to the now reality and keep you progressing instead of pontificating. 

In the beginning, sometimes the best thing to do is look at what little information you have and just start. You’ll learn along the way what works and what doesn’t, especially if you prioritize the mental and emotional aspects of personal change and growth. 

You need action. And you need to change your mental patterns. These two things feed off of each other in a wonderfully symbiotic way. And when you’ve got them in balance, you’re golden. 

Do what works for you

And I think the last thing we all need to know about personal development is that it’s just that—personal. What worked for me isn’t going to work for you. And that’s okay! What’s important is getting to know yourself. Once you know yourself and what works for you, start applying those principles instead of what some random person on the internet (or wherever else you’re getting your information) has to say. Because ultimately, only you can know who you are, and what you want to be. 

Other people’s ideas are great to use as a jumping off point for you and your life. Hey, you might even use their ways of doing things. But that’s if it works for you. You are an intricate and unique individual, and nobody can perfectly tailor their advice to you and your situation, even if they know you (which many don’t). Learn to respect and embrace your uniqueness, by getting to know yourself and then using that knowledge to strategize your forward movement. 

I believe in you. I know you can grow and change. And I’m so excited to see who you become in a week, month, or year’s time. You can do this!

Got something great started?

I’m on Sherry Mitchell’s Podcast + Questions, Notes, Tips

Onward I march, two steps forward and one step back, wearing my new hat of “podcaster.” This week I accomplished a little more on my novels (h-e-r-e) than last week, but I’m still wishing for a time when I’m not so green at podcasting and I can get back to my books. Read further down for the latest on what I’ve learned about this new audio angle I’ll use later with my fiction storytelling.

"Reach the Unreachable" podcaster Sherry Mitchell, founder/owner of Glorified Fitness Incorporated (GFI).
“Reach the Unreachable” podcaster Sherry Mitchell, founder/owner of Glorified Fitness Incorporated (GFI).

Very fun news is that podcaster Sherry Mitchell invited me to be a guest on her show, “Reach the Unreachable”! The show is on her site, so for this week, I decided to promote hers rather than release a new show at my podcast.

Sherry Mitchell is the founder and owner of Glorified Fitness Incorporated (GFI) (visit her site h-e-r-e). After working in IT for more than 30 years, she retired to fulfill the vision she received from God six (6) years prior. GFI is a Fitness and Learning Center located in North Columbus, OH where holistic fitness for the body, mind, and spirit enables clients and staff members to Reach the Unreachable in their fitness goals.

Note: The interview lives on Sherry’s site, so for this week, I decided to promote her show rather than release a new episode at my podcast. Notice any sound glitches? See the “Guesting” and “Sound” bullets further down.

Click a platform below to hear Sherry and me:

Questions, Notes, & Tips (for blogging, turning blogs into podcasts, and more)

  • Guesting: As a guest on Sherry’s show, I was so nervous that it took me several moments longer than I anticipated to collect myself and I was late. If I ever am a guest again on a show, it would help if not only was I on time — but if I was early. That way we could chat and get comfortable, as well as test how my end of the phone connection sounds.
  • Sound: My nice earbuds broke, so I bought some really cheap ones. Hmmm… I’m wondering if earbuds make a difference in terms of sound recording quality…
  • Facebook groups: Have you used those and have you found them helpful for promoting your blogging (or anything else)?
  • Apple: They have a page where podcasters can ask to be considered by them for promoting. Now that I filled it out, I’m wondering if I also need to create a whole website presence at their site, beyond what automatically loads there about my show via anchor…
  • Equipment: Someone asked me whether what I use is expensive. Fortunately not at all, if you consider that I already had a closet to double as a sound booth, an ancient iPhone 5s to record my voice on via the free version of Voice Record app, a 2017 iPad for a teleprompter and to light the inside of my closet, a 2015 iMac, iMovie to edit and use their free sound effects and music breaks, the free editing app and music within AnchorFM. What I bought recently was a Blue Yeti mic (around $100), a cheap set of gizmos to help it along, including foam stuff, cords, and a tripod to hold it up.
  • Monetizing Part 3 (parts one and 2 are in t-h-i-s post): Yay! I reached the minimum “unique listeners” Anchor requires for them to send me ads to earn money from — but where are they?!
  • Junk mail: now as a podcaster, I get even more than ever. One says I’m extra popular in Japan, but I don’t know what they mean by that and I have my doubts that it would be worth forking over cash to find out.
  • AI: A friend hates Anchor’s automated voice… so if she listened with her sound off so it’ll get me higher ratings, would that be naughty?…
  • Overcast: I first wrote of my frustration with them h-e-r-e and now have given up on ever seeing my show there — dunno how to even log in, no matter what I do…
  • Wonderful Book on Podcasting: Here’s the review I did for it on Amazon and Goodreads: “Profit From Your Podcast: Proven Strategies to Turn Listeners into a Livelihood,” by Dave Jackson, founder and host, School of Podcasting. Having recently started my own podcast show, I know from experience that this book offers far more than any of the other ones I’ve read. Outstanding tips, not just the handful of worn-out ones you get everywhere else. Jackson offers practical, real-life advice, from his own experiences and those of other seasoned podcasters. He goes miles beyond “how to get your first 1k listeners,” to discuss how to branch way, way out. There are chapters on how to give seminars, retreats, juggle real life with work, set financial goals rather than just listenership ones, and lots more. Down-to-earth inspiring, neither outrageous nor overwhelming.
  • Novel writers: Just finished a great novel with a writer for a protagonist by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout. “My Name is Lucy Barton” gives us writers wonderful encouragement to “be ruthless” and not to worry about protecting others with our work.

What platform do you listen to music and podcasts on?

Adulting and Videos + Why Darlene Foster Writes For Children

What was the day you became an adult? “Young Adult” (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.
Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.

Along the way, we also visited a young cousin from Spain who that very week relocated to attend college in Santa Barbara, a stunning affluent beach town.

These images are from that drive…

Khashayar walking into a super cold Big Sur stream.
Khashayar was steely enough to brave a super cold Big Sur stream.

Seeing these teens on the precipice of adulthood got me thinking of when I was their age and how I set out on my own.

Dear reader, what was that transition like for you?

The way I was raised, girls absolutely must not aspire to anything beyond the role of ultra meek wife, and mother. That was my father’s indoctrination, and my mom supported it, although she was also the family’s breadwinner.

By age seventeen, I resided in at least fourteen different apartments and attended about ten schools. That year, my parents and I lived in Miami, Florida.

Video Note: Piedras Blancas is the beach of choice for many elephant seals. Average males grow to 16 feet and 5,000 pounds, so babies risk getting smothered by them. Learn more about them here.

My sole plan was to make it out with my sanity intact and to never return, even if it meant resorting to prostitution. I set to earning good grades and a high school diploma. To save money, I worked at the local mall’s pet store and earring kiosk. My parents didn’t charge me for rent and food, and I saved my earnings, carefully spending only for needed doctor and dentist visits, and clothing.

My father greatly admired Pablo Picasso, a fellow Spaniard. Everything I’ve read about the famed artist paints him as a complete horror of a family man, so much so that even his grandkids still fume about him. My dad was fond of paraphrasing one of Picasso’s milder sentiments, which was that offspring should be given the boot the moment they reach eighteen, and they should never get financial help or guidance.

Video Note: The entire length of Pacific Coast Highway is phenomenal.

It was generous that my parents waited the extra couple of months between my birthday and graduation to move to Spain.

I want to kid myself and believe that’s when I left home. A little before they departed, my mother asked if I’d like to join them. The relief in her posture when I shook my head no was enough to deduce this was one move where an insubordinate wasn’t welcome. That’s when I realized it was me who was being abandoned.

My father’s farewell was more honest than hers. He shook my hand and said, “Look us up if you’re ever in Spain.”

They saved me feeling guilty and ambivalent. A whole new life was plenty enough to contend with.

Video Note: Morro Bay is famed for Morro Rock. The historical site was formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs of long-extinct volcanoes. While we visited, Otters were doing log-rolls and lounging tummy-up in the water, but they were too far off to snap a good photo.

The necessity for compassion is a running theme in my blog posts. Often I urge people to keep in mind our interdependency extends far beyond our families of origin. 

Lucky for me, a friend took me in. Her parents had completed a mean divorce and she lived with her dad. He spent his days smoking and drinking and lamenting his loss of work because of his drinking. He’d been a long-time executive at a major airline and now he was passing time until he could draw his pension. As un-promising as that may sound, he was kind and patient in a way I hadn’t experienced a man to be. He and his spirited daughter provided a good family to me. They gave me confidence and taught me the basics of adulthood.

K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she loved getting her chest rubbed.
K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she was in nirvana when Khashayar gave her an overdue chest rub.

As for young people, author/blogger Darlene Foster has written eight books for them (and everyone else) in ten years! She writes full-time from Spain, and also writes and does some editing for other writers. She says, “I also travel whenever I get the chance and consider it part of my research. It’s a good life.”

When I asked her to let us know how she went about getting published, she emailed back:

“It took me three years to write my first book and five years to find a publisher. I sent out query letters to many publishers around the world, received many polite rejection letters and eventually found a publisher in my own neighbourhood. Go figure! Central Avenue Publishing is an independent traditional publisher and I am very happy with the professionalism and dedication of my publisher. The lesson here is, never give up!”

Learn more about Darlene, her books, where to get them, and all her social media links, at her blog.

Photo of author Darlene Foster.
Photo of author Darlene Foster.

Why I Write For Children by Darlene Foster

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is sitting on a large rock in the middle of a prairie field making up stories in my head. I had a wonderful childhood, although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. I found it lonely, as I like being around people, and often wished I lived in a big, busy city. But it gave me plenty of time to daydream and create characters and adventures that later fuelled my desire to write. In grade three, I had a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to write down my stories. She also taught us about other countries in such a fun, interesting way that made me want to travel the world and meet interesting people. I owe her a lot and have since found her and thanked her for making a difference in my life. When I was twelve, one of my stories was published in the local newspaper. I decided then that I wanted to be a published writer one day.

Why did I choose to write children’s adventure books? I love writing for children, they are like sponges and eager to learn. They enjoy adventures and characters who can get themselves out of a tight spot. I can better express the excitement of travelling to new places when I write from the point of view of a child. 

Interestingly, many adults read my books and enjoy them as well. Kids’ books aren’t just for kids!

The stories in the Amanda Travels series are inspired by my real-life travel experiences.

When I visit an interesting place, I get a strong desire to share my experience with the rest of the world. The best way for me to do this is to write about it. I am always thinking of how I can work a setting or situation into a story. I take notes and many pictures during my travels and think about what would interest a young person. 

I have travelled to all the places Amanda has been. However, I do not have all the adventures Amanda has. She has more fun, excitement and scary experiences in her travels than I do. For instance, I took a riverboat cruise down the Danube with my best friend and our husbands a few years ago, on a boat called, The Sounds of Music. It was a trip of a lifetime, with stops in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I knew immediately it would be the perfect setting for an Amanda and Leah adventure. Including music in the story was a no-brainer. This is how Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music was conceived. 

On another occasion, I travelled to Taos, New Mexico with my aunt, who is also one of my best friends. We had such an amazing time. Besides being steeped in history, the place has a very paranormal feel about it. We even visited a haunted hotel in Cimarron. Everywhere we went, I kept saying, “Amanda would love it here.” When I returned home, I immediately started making notes which eventually became, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind.

I love to read and so does Amanda. Books are important to both of us. When a vintage novel goes missing, Amanda feels compelled to find it. I love visiting the many used bookstores in England so I wanted to include one in the novel. I found a quintessential bookstore on the Isle of Wight which was perfect for the story, including a resident Main Coon cat. Rupert, the cat, plays an important role in Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.

My latest book in the series, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady was a result of a trip I took with my hubby a couple of years ago. I loved the history and culture of Malta and felt it would be an ideal setting for an Amanda Travels book. I tossed in some endangered birds, a missing artefact and a friend in danger. Amanda would do anything to help her friend. One reviewer said, “I love the author’s ability to bring the settings alive, from the Blue Grotto to a beautiful cathedral in Valletta, all while keeping the suspense high.”

Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.
Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.

It took me three years to write the first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. It was a steep learning curve as I had so much to learn. I am still learning, but I can write a book in a year now. Keeping things fresh in a series is a challenge. I keep up with today´s young people, hang out with them and listen to their conversations. I introduce new characters in every book to keep it interesting. The character of Caleb, a classmate and good friend of Amanda’s was introduced in the New Mexico book. He was so well received he appears again in Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady.

Publishing eight books in ten years is a huge accomplishment for me. I have also won prizes for my short stories and have had stories published in several anthologies. A milestone for me was visiting my former school in rural Alberta and reading from my books to the current students. Seeing my books available online, and on shelves at bookstores and libraries is the most incredible feeling. Having readers tell me they enjoy the stories and hope I write more is like a dream come true. 

If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!

Amanda is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. It is so much easier for kids to travel these days, but I didn’t travel on an airplane until I was in my mid-twenties. I would have so loved to see the world as a child. I am doing it now through my writing!  

That’s why I love writing for kids. (And grown-up kids)

What was the day you became an adult?

20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston

Reading… writing… listening! Hey, if “seeing is believing,” why doesn’t the same go for tasting and feeling and smelling — and hearing too?

When’s the last time you tuned into your fave radio show? Same as radio shows, podcasts are story readings, performances, interviews, and monologues. Radio shows are often repackaged into podcasts that allow you to dictate when to tune in.

When my first novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is edited (and then its sequel, “Tango & the Sitting Cat”), I’ll podcast them to create a buzz for when it’s published. Here’s an experimental podcast episode I produced borrowing a friend’s short story. A video version of it is on Youtube as well.

Creatives who want to control their work and keep 100% of their profits must become their own promoters. Podcasts are one way to get the word out. First, though, people need to know you have a podcast.

Here to give us 20 ways to do that is London-based Fiona Livingston. She blogs about marketing and podcasting on Medium, and produces The Culture Bar, an  arts and culture-related podcast…

Blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston is a content and digital marketing specialist.

“20 Podcast Promotion Tips,” by Fiona Livingston

You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating and recording your podcast series on a subject you are knowledgeable about. Now you need to get your podcast in front of audiences who are as passionate about the subject as you are.

But how do you get your podcast in front of listeners when there are 850,000 active podcasts out there in the world? 

This article covers the best, easiest, and most effective podcast promotion ideas to help you build your audience and market your podcast.

Fiona's illustration of "eau de marketing" trends makes me smile.
Fiona’s illustration of “eau de marketing” trends makes me smile.

First, let’s make sure you have some key podcast staples under your belt before you start promoting your podcast:

  1. Podcast cover artwork. My top advice for creating cover artwork is to be clear. Once uploaded onto your podcast distributor, the size of your artwork will reduce a lot, so you want something bold, simple, and eye-catching. You can create your artwork by using templates on Canva, or if you have a mac you can use Keynote which is a very powerful design tool. Here are some great cover artwork examples to inspire you.
  2. Episode titles. The way you title your episodes has a big impact on your total download numbers. My main tips for you are to NOT use a naming system such as ‘Episode 4’ or ‘XYZ Podcast: Episode 4’. You need to let your audiences know at a glance what the topic is so, your title should be as descriptive as possible.
  3. Record 3-5 podcasts before your launch/start of your next season. This will ensure you have a regular schedule of events planned out and also gives you time to record future episodes. Make sure you have a launch schedule in place. For example, in the first week, you can release 2 or 3 podcasts to keep audiences hooked.
  4. Create a dedicated podcast website. This can either be a section on an existing website or you can create a podcast website for free using providers such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. These sites give you a valuable presence on search engines and act as a home for your podcast so audiences can find out more about you. This also gives you further opportunities to supplement your podcast with more content to show your expertise and passion. 

Ok so now you have a great podcast recorded, fantastic eye-catching cover artwork, and launched a dedicated website. Let’s start promoting your series with these top tips (this list focusses on free marketing actions):

Fiona produces an arts and culture podcast.
Fiona produces an arts and culture podcast.

  1. Add your podcast to a distribution platform. Upload your podcast MP3 file to distribution sites such as Podbean (free and priced programmes) and Anchor (free) and they will automatically send your podcast episodes to a variety of podcast sites such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Alexa. Apple podcasts capture 32% of podcast listeners and downloads so your podcast must appear here.
  2. Meta-tag your podcast. On your chosen distributor and website, make sure you complete the meta-tagging options. This is the place to add keywords relating to your podcast, so it shows up in search results and makes you discoverable.
  3. Create a promotional trailer. This helps audiences understand what your podcast series is about, and you can embed this on your website and social media channels. Find tips on how to make a trailer here.
  4. Add show notes and include hyperlinks for each podcast episode. It is good practice to give a short summary and overview of what is included in your podcast episode. This is also a great place to add links to your guest/s or any resources that you mention in the episode.
  5. Leverage guest audiences. Make it easy for guests to share your podcast by creating audio snippets, quote cards, or prewritten tweets for them so they can easily use these on their social media channels.
  6. Create podcast artwork for each episode. Using your main cover artwork template, adapt it to show the title of each episode, and change the imagery to give each episode an identity and theme.
  7. Create a dedicated podcast social media channel. Set up a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram profile to promote your podcast.
  8. Create quote cards in Canva or Pablo. Select attention-grabbing quotes from each episode. This gives listeners great insight into what’s to come.
  9. Share rich media. Create extra content such as soundbites, audiograms (using tools such as GetAudiogram), behind-the-scenes photos, or teaser video clips to build excitement about your episode. Also, Twitter has an embed feature using Soundcloud so you can play the audio directly from a Twitter stream.
  10. Tease the episode 24 hours ahead of time e.g. 3x on Twitter and 2x to Facebook/Instagram. Talk about behind-the-scenes content in Instagram Stories.
  11. Create an audio-video to share on YouTube. If you use a provider such as Podbean they will automatically create a video for you and send it to your YouTube page. YouTube is a huge search engine for content and should be included in marketing your podcast. Or you can create a video using a tool such as Screenflow (free trial period) and use free video clip assets from Pexels.
  12. Audio transcription. To ensure your podcast is accessible and aid SEO discovery, you can create an audio transcription and add it to your podcast website. You can use audio transcription tools such as Otter.ai (free for up to 40 minutes, otherwise it’s $9.99 per month) to help you do this.
  13. Include your podcast in your e-newsletter. You can easily create your own e-newsletter using email service provider such as Mailchimp, Flodesk or Campaign Monitor to manage your subscribers and send them notifications about your latest podcast. Mailchimp and Flodesk have free basic tiers, and Campaign Monitor starts at $9/month. 
  1. Publish podcast-themed blog content on your website. A useful way to keep your website content fresh and to also include extra in-depth content on your podcast theme.
  2. Be a guest on other people’s podcasts. A great way for you to showcase your knowledge and build awareness of your podcast.

Photo of blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston.
Photo of blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston.

Here is a list of other important Podcatcher sites your podcast should feature on to generate greater visibility:

  1. Overcast
  2. Stitcher
  3. Podcast Addict
  4. Podcast subreddit
  5. PodcastLand
  6. TuneIn
  7. Bello Collective
  8. Deezer (great for French/EU audiences)
  9. Podcast Listen notes

Got a podcast or want to start one?