I will not mention your name because I know how you value your privacy, but I’m sure you will know this you by my words. I have seen you struggle; struggle with pain, struggle with family, and struggle with things too deep to share. I know you worry about making an impact in your children’s lives, and worry about making the best life for them. I’m here to tell you I have faith in you. I have faith in all the things you do and I know your children will grow up to be amazing human beings simply because of who you are.
You have impacted my life deeply and in more ways than I think you know. I’ve never been the popular person or the person to have very many friends. I spent a great deal of my life trying hard to fit in and not understanding why it never worked. The single biggest gift you gave me was acceptance. You never seemed to think I was weird, or if you did you accepted that as part of me. I needed that in my life so badly. There’s no way you could know just how much.
I remember when I first met you. I was a little too old to be at that summer camp but I was afraid to move on and the family friends that ran the camp humored me. You were there as a young counselor and something in your soul just shined. You made me feel like a person by doing nothing other than being yourself and treating me as you treated everyone around you. The world hadn’t given me much at that point. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! She’s cool!’
I didn’t see you again for a few years; maybe once or twice at Green Lake, but our circles of friends went different directions. Now as young adults we joined a group of other young adults to train for a year of service. My adventure never happened. Yours had already started and stopped and started again. I had gone through some terrible things that year and felt less than human. I really wasn’t ready to move on and deal, but I pretended to anyway. I remember sitting by myself, trying to cope with this new reality that I wasn’t ready to accept. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to deal with other people after such an event. I won’t say what it was because that is information the world does not need. You came to me wondering why I was melting down into a puddle of goo. I confided because it had to come out somewhere. You told me you had been through the same thing and understood. No one had understood to that point. No one got it. I don’t remember what it is you said to me, but that was the time I really started to heal. I went home from that training program a different person. I never did do my year of service, but I think I needed to go to that training if only for the healing.
I have not always led a good life. I’ve made many mistakes and many bad choices, but that is the human condition. In essence I was young, dumb, and out of control, like many people my age. Another few years had passed. I moved to a different state, never knowing exactly where you lived. I started a life on my own but still too young and naïve to stay out of trouble. I had connected with a group of singers and made some dear friends. One of which would become your husband. I remember one of the leaders of our group on the phone with him when he was getting ready to ask you and I heard the name. I remember asking for a last name because somehow I knew. I was told it was no one I knew. But it was you! I was shocked and happy. Again you walked into my life on the fringes.
Around this time I got pregnant with my first child. As someone trying to be active in our faith community, this wasn’t necessarily a fun time for me. I felt I had disappointed everyone, my family, my faith community, my friends. I was so scared and felt again so alone. We were at an event for the choir just weeks before your wedding. Again I was a puddle of goo, and again you were the one to ask what was wrong. I told you I was pregnant, and you exclaimed, “Congratulations! That’s Amazing! You’re creating a life!” You were the first person to be happy about this impending life. You have no idea how much that meant to me. I think I cried at some point. Joy. Life is joy. To be alive is joy! We get so wrapped up in how we THINK we should live our lives and we forget that. You reminded me.
We lived closer for a time. In the same city at least until you left for more adventures. I remember my birthday the next year; you and your husband brought me roses. Such a small thing. Honestly in my entire life no one had ever brought me roses. Not a boyfriend, not even my child’s father. I was so touched I actually dried them. I’ve dried almost all the flowers ever given me. I think I might have one of those roses tucked away someplace still.
My trials and tribulations were far from over. I had to conquer much darker times. I had to leave my home for a time with an infant son. I lived with mutual friends for a month, and though I don’t speak with them often at this point as our lives go different directions, I will always be grateful to them. But this story is about you. You were even on the fringes of my life there. You visited these friends often and I saw your smiling face many times. I discovered our mutual love of a certain Mediterranean restaurant that was nearby. I returned to my home and another few years went by.
After some of the worst events in my life and being homeless for a time, pregnant with my second child I got a new apartment in an entirely different corner of the city. I found myself next door to these same friends I had lived with and a few streets from you. It was almost surreal. Our lives went different directions and we didn’t see much of each other, but after everything it was an interesting coincidence.
Our lives changed greatly. Your adventures took you around the world, through love and loss. You had a family of your own while mine grew up. Several years passed and I found you online of all places. Again you are back in my life, on the fringes, but always there, and this time when your adventures take you near and far I can still see this journey you are on.
I’ve watched some amazing bravery and truth. Without even knowing it you validate all the things I experience. We have different but no less all encompassing pain disorders. We both struggle with the same ideals to teach our children, many of the same fears, and many of the joys. Your words have affected me as deeply as always. The honesty about the things most of us try to hide and your willingness to fight for the causes you believe in.
I know not what all your struggles are, but I know you will conquer them. After all these years I know that much to be true. After all these years, I still think, ‘Wow! She is cool!’ And my dear friend, even though we have never been as close as family and our lives continue to take us in different directions, you are still dear to me and my life would never be the same without you in it. I cannot take away your pain or hold you while you cry, but know I will always be here for you. You have but to ask.
As always, I'm working on the next thing. Warped Souls is a story about a woman who has to share her body with a demon due to an unfortunate Ouija Board accident in her youth. April rules in the day, and Sangria rules at night. Sangria sates her blood lust in a bastardized form of vigilantism and eventually kills someone that the world will notice. A high political official, who is not only known to humans but has been slated to become the vessel of The Source, the creator of Demonkind as he tries to gain a foothold in the physical world. For the first time April and Sangria have to work together to get out of this mess instead of just fighting for control.
Enjoy the excerpt!
I woke covered in blood. Again. I was bone weary of this, but it was my fault. You know what they say about making your own bed. Apparently, mine was a stinking blood bath. I rolled out of bed still dressed in my leather skirt and red corset. The corset I never really cared for, but the leather skirt I loved. It was one of the few things we could agree on. I was going to be pissed if she ruined it.
Walking across my little efficiency apartment I was shocked at the pain between my legs. Again nothing new, but it was enough to make me stumble a little. What did she do, fuck a metal pole? I wouldn’t put it past her. Damn, I felt ripped all the way through. I contemplated going to that free clinic downtown the prostitutes liked while I fumbled with the coffee pot. At least there they wouldn’t ask how it happened.
“What did you do last night?” I asked my voice hoarse from morning drowsiness.
‘Had fun,’ came the laughing answer in my head.
Sangria had fun. What that really meant was Sangria did something that was going to make my life a living hell. I knew I should stay awake when she had my body, but I just didn’t want to remember what she did most nights.
‘I can show you if you like,’ she taunted.
“No thank you. I really don’t want to know.” I stumbled into the bathroom and startled at my reflection. It wasn’t the blood that was streaked from my mouth all the way down my chest with a sticky pool between my breasts; that I had gotten used to. It was my face. No matter how many times I looked into the mirror it wasn’t my face looking back at me anymore, it was always Sangria, my demon half.
I wasn’t born with a demon half. We were stuck together when a Ouija board exploded. I had been stupid enough to try and channel the other side as a teenager. Now we shared the same face, the same body, even the same mind sometimes, but I didn’t see me anymore. It was her smile—her eyes that looked back at me—even when I was in control. Trust me neither of us liked it, but it was survival for us both.
I undressed and stood naked cleaning the worst of the blood and filth off and the memories came back unbidden like they always did no matter how hard I tried to push them away. I closed my eyes unable to look at myself and saw the man in the business suit.
Sangria stalked him, watched him for days. I knew it was only a matter of time before she went for him. When she watched him kill the child prostitute his fate was sealed. She hunted him and his lackeys. She followed them through the city and corned them in a bar. I watched disgusted while she offered her body to them and let them share her right there in the bar, both of them at once. One man’s hands so tight in her hair at the base of her skull the chain of a necklace broke. No wonder I hurt. She led them away with the promise of more. I almost threw up when she knelt down to give some head. Then she pulled out the dagger lightning quick and stabbed the one man in the heart and bit off the other’s dick. Blood flowed freely as he fought but she was on him in a second viciously carving out his heart…with my hands. My hands tearing at chunks of flesh, my mouth that spit his member back out at him and my body that left him to die in pools of blood.
I came back to myself screaming. The only thing keeping me from scratching my face off was Sangria taking control of my arms. We both agreed to no self-mutilation of any kind, but I just couldn’t take it. How many people would she have to kill before I finally gave up? How many ways would she defile my body? How long would I have to live this torture?
‘Now, now,’ she chided. ‘You want to stay pretty for lover boy.’
“I don’t have a lover boy,” I snapped, but she was right. I didn’t want to scare Pat more than I had to. He was always on the edge of interfering. I really should have moved on by now, but it was home. It was the closest thing I had anyway. No one there cared if I was crazy, and Pat was the world’s best boss even if I didn’t technically get paid.
I was diagnosed schizophrenic but considered functional. Who would believe the truth anyway? See I wasn’t crazy enough to be put away, but I was too crazy to work so I got money from the government. Living wage my ass. It was barely enough to survive, but survive I did, until I got fed up enough to turn myself in for Sangria’s crimes or we got caught. That was a ticking time bomb that I wasn’t sure she knew about.
“I swear to God, Sangria,” I said starting the shower. “If you got us pregnant I will kill myself and send you back to the source.”
‘Ooooh,’ she mocked, but I knew that was the one thing she was afraid of. She would lose all her precious free will and probably be tortured. Torture for an immortal being could last a very long time. I laughed at myself darkly. I didn’t really have it in me to leave her to that fate or I would have done it long ago, but in the constant battle for control we fought she didn’t need to know that. I still thanked whatever it was that did this to us that she couldn’t read my mind. I would be lost forever if that happened.
I let the hot water burn my skin rinsing away the stink of sins too horrible to contemplate. I scrubbed as hard as she would let me thinking dimly if I could just peel away the layers of my body I wouldn’t really be the same person that went to sleep and let a demon loose on the city.
This is something I struggle with. Whether or not to review another author's work. Like any book worm I always have a book for pleasure on top of whatever I'm editing or formatting for JEA and my own projects. I just can't get enough of the written word. However, this brings up some ethical debates.
Reviews and ratings are an author's life blood. We live and die by them. Think about it. When you are on amazon or a library site looking for something to read, you first look at the star ratings. You organize your list so the highest ratings show up first. Then you find a cover the jumps out at you and click on it. Next you look at how many reviews the book got and how many were 5 star and so on. Then you finally read the description. It is essential that your book keep good reviews and lots of them. No one spends 20 minutes deciding on a book (well I do, but I'm a strange author type person).
As a new author I need to generate contacts with other people in the industry to get more exposure. I want everyone to read my books and review them and recommend them to other readers or folks in the industry, but then everyone wants me to do the same thing. That sounds simple and fair, but it's really not. This whole system can easily lead you into media and career hot spots you want to avoid.
Let me throw you some what if's. What if I read your book and love it? I leave a good review and you're happy so now you read mine, but you hate it, however you don't want to upset me so you fudge over the true critique the work needed. Well now you put a stamp of approval on a piece of drek. You have a bad reputation and now I do by association.
Okay so that one is a little far fetched. Try this one on for size. What if I read your book and hate it? If I put in a good review I've just associated myself with terrible work and whenever anyone reads it because of my recommendation their opinion of me goes down. If I give you the review you deserve you get mad at me and might either bash me publicly or leave me a bad review and hurt my career. So what do I do now? There is very little recourse. I can complain about bully reviews, but you can do the same to me. Who decides which review was fair and which wasn't?
One response to this is to only review books you genuinely like and hope for the best. Well now you've opened another can of worms. Sites like Goodreads tell the public how many reviews you've done and what the average star rating was for those. So if my star rating on reviews is high people think I'm a pay for review kind of person, no one trusts what I have to say. If my star rating is low, I'm mean and persnickety and just out to hurt people. Neither is true of course, but that is the perception.
It feels like because I'm an author my reviews would never be taken seriously. At the moment I've set my amazon to anonymous to avoid some of these pitfalls, but that doesn't help me generate more reviews or ingratiate myself to the industry. I've tried to look for creative solutions to this mess, but every way I go it seems another stumbling block.
I have joined the 21st century, folks. Didn't see that one commin' did ya? In any case you can now follow me on Twitter @SusanS_Writer.
It's been no secret I have been reluctant to join the mass market of social media. I never saw myself as someone who had a whole lot interesting or important to share. I have brief flashes of soap box material tangents or causes that mean something to me, but never a large amount on any one topic. I hate being spammed. I hate reading tweets like, "In the line at the store," especially from authors and musicians I follow. Because these things bother me so much, it never occurred to me that someone out there might genuinely want to know what I do with my day or the types of things I find important or funny.
Trying to market the things I do and my books has forced me into a borderline spammers market because everything is a numbers game. If only 10% of the people who read my posts buy a book...well then 10% of 200 people is more than 10% of 50. Exposure is everything. I always feel uncomfortable spamming but force myself to do it for the greater good. I think being forced into a corner doing something I take issue with has made me stay away from other uncomfortable corners out of spite for my situation.
Well I finally decided to put my big girl panties on, and deal with it. I won't be posting about long lines at the market or the quintessential search for my keys, but you may find excerpts and teasers from up coming books, art, jokes, and maybe a cause or two. Social media is what you make it. It is only vapid if you make it so.
Get your copies of Under A Twisted Moon, fresh on the market! Get em while they're hot!
Amelie hid what she was her whole life, always running from the monster inside, afraid one day it would come out unbidden and destroy everything she knew. She found herself trapped in a life with no escape, sleeping with the enemy and avoiding anything that brought her joy,
Until the day the monster broke free.
Amelie was thrust into a world of new dangers and challenges only to find where she truly belonged. Now if she could only do something about the enemy in her bed...
Recently I saw an article that broke my heart a little. It was a tiny little thing with very limited information. ABC News reported additional violations on the freedoms of Baha’is in Iran. It wasn't so much the information in the article that hurt, it was the memory of how long this has been going on, the knowledge of how bad it really is, and anger at how little recognition this gets.
I was raised Baha’i, and though I choose to walk a different path, this issue remains near and dear to my heart. The Baha’i Faith is a standalone world religion, complete with its own sacred texts and manifestation of God to found it, that comes out of what used to be Ancient Persia and is now Iran and Iraq. Founded in 1844, the primary belief systems for the faith are the three onenesses. #1: There is only one God and we all worship him by different names and in different ways. #2: All religions are good and come from God, they just teach us different social teachings to cope with the challenges of the time they were founded and remind us of the overlying truths. #3: Man is absolute one family. We are all interrelated and symbiotic of each other regardless of race, nation, age, or gender.
This is all very straight forward. It is a peaceful faith that abhors violence of all kinds. I told one of my friends the other night that Baha’is are non-violent on a Ghandi scale. In fact, Ghandi is a figure that is much respected among Baha’is though he followed another faith himself. The leaders in Iran disagree. They see Baha’is as a wayward and dangerous sect of Islam, much the same way early Catholics saw Protestants as dangerous. What has ensued has been a one sided war from the Iranian government.
Let me be 100% clear here. This has nothing to do with the Muslim Faith. I know many Muslims who are friends of The Baha’i Faith. This is specifically the Iranian government. Please do not turn this into a tirade against Muslims. It is not.
In Iran Baha’is are:
*Denied higher education.
*Denied business ownership
*Not allowed to practice their faith in public OR private
*Labeled as deviant and misleading
*Subject to raids on home and property
*Often unable to leave the country
*Often unable to see family from other countries because they are denied entrance into the country
*Frequently arrested for practicing their faith
*Sometimes submitted to torture and death when arrested for practicing their faith
This is one concentration camp short of the holocaust. The Ayatollah’s recent move to tell ALL Iranians to avoid any dealings with Baha’is effectively shuns an entire population. I see history repeating itself and sometimes I worry if Iranian Baha’is will be forced to wear nine pointed stars on their clothing next.
What has me the most angry here is that this is not news. This has been going on since the faith was founded in 1844, and HAS NOT STOPPED. Many faiths have terrible beginnings in bloodshed as the predominant faith grapples for a strong hold from this new idea. Eventually the tides and times turn and things settle and we begin to LIVE with this new idea rather than fighting against it. That has not happened yet for the Baha’is in Iran.
I grew up with this. I am not of Middle Eastern descent. My parents were born and raised in America and so were their parents. My parents found The Faith in their adulthood and converted. And even so, I remember Persian refugees my entire childhood. I remember Sussan (pronounced Su San with soft S’s), a refugee who lived with us for a time. My older sisters had stories of going to the airport with family and friends to pick up refugees and listening to them comment on the girls wearing shorts. This is not some exception. We lived in rural Wisconsin, had a community of barley nine adults in the county. The Iranian issue was, and still is, so large that it hit every community in the world. Most Baha’is of my generation and the generation before have similar memories.
I used to do school reports on a girl named Mona Mahmudnizhad (yes I know Wikipedia is dubious but I’ve personally checked it and the limited info it supplies is correct). This young lady was 16 when she was arrested. She was teaching children who were not allowed to attend regular school because they were from Baha’i families. Because she was Baha’i as well she was arrested for “misleading children”. They raided her home and that of eight other women. They were arrested, tortured and hung. The story of Mona always stuck with me because of her strength. She was asked three times under torture to recant her belief in the Baha’i Faith. She refused. There are reports of her having dreams in which a long passed leader of the faith, Abdul’baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah the prophet founder of the faith, came to her and asked what she wanted. According to others who were able to speak to her before her death, she reportedly asked for perseverance, not freedom or life. When asked what she wanted before her death she said only that she wanted the children to be dancing so they wouldn’t be sad at the moment of her death. There are unconfirmed reports of her kissing the rope that would hang her and placing it around her own neck. She was my childhood hero and still is today.
Mona is also a prime example of the abuses indicative in Iran in present day! Maybe a little less than ten years ago I sat with a room full of Baha’is at our regular worship meeting and listened to a friend, who was a refugee himself, talk about his brother’s death in Iran.
Nothing has stopped. In fact it’s getting worse, and there continues to be very little media attention. The other night I was talking to a friend. He knows me almost as well as my own husband, and while I post information whenever I find it, this was still news to him. He had heard of The Faith. He knew I was once a Baha’i, but he had no clue as to how bad things really are. I realized I have been remiss in doing my part to get the word out. Maybe I am just so used to things being this way it doesn’t occur to me others don’t know. I showed him the most recent link from ABC News and he says it sounded like it was time for everyone to get out. I almost laughed, but instead smiled sadly and proceeded to explain, this is nothing new. The time to get out safely never existed. Iran has never been safe, and these abuses have continued since the founding of the faith.
I’m not much of a media butterfly. I’m more of a shrinking violet and continually fight my own shyness in all things media. However, this time…this time I am asking, pleading, almost begging for this information to be shared. No group of people, regardless of your personal views of their beliefs, should suffer in silence. No group of people should be persecuted or treated as less than human. This has nothing to do with faith or belief systems. It has everything to do with humanity.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.