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.
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.
Well I'm learning I may have a gluten sensitivity. This was a bit of a shocker to me. I knew what celiac disease was, and I definitely don't have that. Until now, that was my exposure to gluten allergies. I do have Fibromyalgia and have been living with the disorder for 6 years now. I would say over 75% of the FM symptoms I experience are also symptoms of gluten sensitivity, and a few other symptoms not related to FM. I kind of had a moment of, "You mean to tell me I've been sick this whole time and I could do something about it?"
Living with FM is daunting. You are in pain everyday and no matter how serious it is the doctors don't have enough information to treat you. You can't take any drugs that help because you might be addicted. They won't monitor you because they can find nothing wrong. I recently had a test done where they stuck needles with electrodes in me and shocked me beyond pain limit to measure my response. Not fun. At the end of it the doctor told me he could find nothing wrong with me. I was in tears. I've learned how to cope and stay within my limits, but it is still hard. There is literally nothing doctors can do to treat or relieve the symptoms of FM. It's disheartening. At this point I'll grasp at straws.
Gluten sensitivity is the straw I'm reaching for now. I honestly can't tell you if this will do any good for me or not, but I'm willing to try. Starting after my daughter's birthday in a few days (Why? Because I want cake. That's why!) I will be going on an exclusion diet. No gluten for 60 days, and we'll see what my body does. It might be a miracle. It might be a disaster, or it might be meh. The point is, for the first time in a few years I'm willing to try to live without this syndrome hanging over me.
That's a brave thought. Sometimes when you get used to having a chronic disorder you sort of accept the world as it is. Living without FM for me would mean, more energy, less pain, the ability to do things outside of my home. Life in the sun. Nice thought eh? Well it also means people expect more of me, less excuses, and the inability to bow out gracefully when you hurt. Which means I have to be good about saying 'No' sometimes. With luck I won't hurt anymore, but still there's a security blanket there. Pain free is the unknown and a little scary.
I think my friends give me the courage to throw away the safety blanket. I have some truly amazing coworkers who inspire the best out of me and help me cope with my own brand of drama. I don't think I'd have the courage to do this without them.
Now you've read this whole thing and are probably sitting there thinking, "What is gluten, already!" Sorry. It's a blog and I tend to digress a lot. Gluten is the binding protein found primarily in wheat, oats, barely and malt. For people who are sensitive it throws them into an auto-immune overdrive and generally makes them fell crappy. An exclusion diet means nothing with flour, wheat, oats (unless specifically gluten free, there are some believe it or not), barley, or malt. This means no malt powder in my malts at ice cream shops, no gravy thickened with flour, no soy sauce (many have wheat added), no bread or baked good obviously, no pasta (unless rice pasta), watch the cereals and read the labels on everything. Gluten hides everywhere. This is not an issue of bad foods being given for public consumption. I want you to think about cooking dinner in your house. How often do you add a little flour to thicken something without thinking? How many recipes call for pasta or bread products? What about making a sandwich for lunch or pancakes for breakfast? How about pie? Nope, can't have that, the crust is made with flour. Flour is a staple of our country. It goes in almost everything.
This will be hard, but having known someone who lived with celiac disease I know it's possible. It will just look different for awhile. Wish me luck and many good gluten free recipes.
Warning this has nothing to do with writing.
This is an old pet peeve of mine and probably not the last time you will hear about it. Every so often I kind of have enough of the media and the skewed images it forces on us. I get easily up in arms and pull out the soap box.
So here it is. News flash!
I'm a big woman. That's right I'm fat. By today's standards I'm probably downright obese. How many of you right now are thinking, "Whoopie freaking doo! A fat chic on the rampage. What else is new?" Maybe this isn't some major revelation but it still needs being said. Here's another news flash:
Big women are just as beautiful and desirable as skinny women.
Let me repeat that. Big women are just as beautiful and desirable as skinny women. That's right, I said it,and I stand by it. Here's another shocker:
I'm a big woman in the United States and I DON'T have body image issues. While I could stand to lose a few pounds for health, I still feel beautiful, feminine, confident, and desirable. I may not be every man or woman's cup of tea, but you'd be surprised at the offers I get, even being married, and not just from the freaks. Some of these men and women are GORGEOUS! And just to put this in perspective when I say confident, I don't mean in a put on a girdle and fake it till you make it kind of way. I'm talking, I once had to take a life drawing class online. This is the nude model class. Guess what happens when you have to do that online? You draw yourself. I had the guts to take a mirror and draw myself nude, in all my round glory, and I wasn't afraid of the reaction. In fact I got nothing but good comments.
It shocks me a little sometimes when people expect me to be depressed or want to hide myself because I'm big. I look at them and wonder what planet they live on. The average size woman in the USA is about an 18. The average size woman in the world is a 14. While there may be some countries that worry more about obesity in general, the fact remains, fat people live there too. Big and small people live everywhere.
I wasn't always confident. In my youth I struggled a lot with body image. The messages all around me were telling me I was ugly because I was fat. My mother mad major issues with obesity so the messages I got from my family were the same. "Don't be like your mother." They said this out of love and as an adult I can respect that, but as a kid...yeah it messed me up a little. Messed my mom up too. I was the freak. The outcast. I really was depressed because I was starved for peer attention but didn't understand what I had done to send them all away. And through this my heart kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me. But the evidence was to the contrary right?
Here is a truth I learned in adulthood, after having children, bad relationships, and a lot of time down and out.
1. It takes all kinds. There is every size shape and color imaginable on this planet and all of them are beautiful. If you take the time to see it and not be afraid of going against what the media says you're supposed to like, you'll see it for yourself. Get rid of the size 0 model image in your head. Drop the idea that women need to have DD breasts or men need to have washboard stomachs and really *look* at the person next to you. There's beauty there.
2. Your body has a natural place it likes to be. If we stop dieting and take the time to eat right--I'm not saying go ultra mega vegan, but maybe cut out fast food when you can and make better choices when you cant, and eat fruit and vegetables--and stay active--again you don't need to run a triathlon, but go play with your kids, do things you love, take a walk--your body will naturally find where it likes to be and go there. For some of us it really will be a size 8, for others it might be a 28. I know people in my life who are legitimately 300lbs and perfectly healthy. No heart trouble, no diabetes, no joint complaints. And I know 100lbs people are very sickly.
3. The media will only show the minority, not the ideal. There are very few people who can fit Abercrombie clothes. They show us that because it's exotic. Those models aren't always healthy, or happy. They do not love their bodies unconditionally or even their souls and minds.
4. There is more to life than beauty. Yes I am beautiful in my way, but I'm also smart, kind, creative, and funny. I love these things about me. I'm not perfect. I have flaws like everyone else, but when I started to love myself for these other qualities instead of judging myself by someone else's standard of beauty I began to love the whole package and that's when others started to notice me. It wasn't my size or shape that attracted other people it was the confidence shining out from underneath that attracted them. If you hide yourself and sulk you can look like a million bucks and no one will pay you any mind. If you walk tall and smile and let your soul shine, then you can be fugly and you'll attract everyone around you.
Here's a good example of all my points. I am a huge fan of Les Toil. He does BBW pin up girls. Look at this woman. She has to be over 300 lbs easily. Look at how lovely she is? How alluring? How sensual? How confident? How many women of all shapes want to be her right now?
Size means diddly. Living your life and loving yourself unconditionally is much more important and will do wonders for every part of your life.
Just to be very clear. Unconditionally means you love yourself regardless of what others think of you. Not judging yourself by other people's standards. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes. Wanting good things for yourself. Taking chances to make those things happen. Standing up for what you believe in. Loving ALL your good qualities. Knowing that even when life throws you for a loop you are worth the work it takes to see the other side.
That is my wish, ladies and gentlemen. That each of you can learn to love yourself unconditionally and stop the media blind side telling who and what we should be. They're not in your mind, your heart, or your soul. Who the hell are they to judge you anyway?
Okay so are you all sick of hearing about it yet? Too bad! I'm just so excited, you're going to hear about it again. What the facebook group knows and the few who occasionally stop by the website know, but the GoodReads folks don't know yet, is that I am officially moving out of the indie market and into the mainstream. Frankly I'm still a little shocked, but a publisher actually wants my work...current and future work too if you can believe that. I've signed with J. Ellington Ashton Press. It's a little operation that's just beginning but these folks know good work. I feel like they want to take a chance on me, so I'm going to take a chance on them. I think this is going to be great. Sometimes you just know in your gut it's gonna be good.
I'll be honest. I went straight to self publish and skipped all the usual agonizing steps trying to land a contract. Fear effects us all. Kind of funny that most of my heroines teach themselves to rise above their own fear in impossible situations. I never thought I was that good. I knew I was better than some that get published but more like high school essay good, nothing that would hold up to critical analysis in the mainstream. I put my books out on the self pub market more as an experiment than anything else. Then the weirdest thing happened. People liked it. Strangers. People I have no connection to what so ever were reading my words and liking it. Amazing.
I'm a bit of a chicken really. I don't think I would have submitted my work to JEA at all if it weren't for a friend insisting I talk to one of his friends. He wouldn't even tell me why I should talk to her or how he knew her, just that I needed to talk to this woman. One day he asked me if he should go get 'Catt'. I said I had no idea and laughed it off. Next thing I know I'm having a conversation with the CEO of this little publishing company. I never felt more like a writer in my life than at that moment. I'm asking intelligent questions and words like 'distribution' and 'royalties' are rolling off my tongue. Two months prior I'm not even sure I could have told you what a good or bad distribution was. That convo made me say, 'Why not?'.
Just to be clear I didn't get any special treatment. These people don't publish crap no matter how much they may like you personally. I had to go through the same submission process as everyone else. I had to sit for a few weeks wondering if I was good enough.
This was rougher on me than it normally would have been. Towards the end of my wait my husband ended up in the hospital. He does have heart problems to begin with but this visit was hard. They shipped him 2hrs away from me. I *shame faced* do not have a licence so I couldn't get to him. There were complications. The kids were acting out from the stress... Life was kicking my ass all over the place. There are no words for how stressed I was. I'm still feeling the after effects. I almost *almost!* went to my friend and said, 'Look if it's good news I really need some now, if it's not please wait until this is over.' I stopped myself but only barely. Then the night my husband finally came home, very late in the evening, the contract was waiting in my e-mail. I'm of the opinion they were watching my facebook and waiting to see what happened before sending it, which I greatly appreciate. Made for a very good ending to a long day.
Now I'm just so excited. My dreams are coming true. All the things I've worked so hard for are paying off. Life while you're writing your first manuscript is lonely. Everyone sort of brushes it off as a pipe dream until someone in the industry recognizes it. They might accept that you love to write, but you have no credibility. Being signed is huge! There are 100's of amazing writers in the self pub market that never get noticed, never make a dime. I suppose a lot them are like me and afraid to submit anything and others are getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the larger companies. Give an indie writer a chance. You might find a jewel in the rough.
You may have noticed, even when I don't, but there are pieces of me everywhere. I suppose that's the nature of life and the exchange of ideas that leads to language and communication. The very act of conveying a thought and seeing that thought filter through another soul leaves a piece of your energy on that person. Every thought and idea leaves its imprint not only on you but on everything around you. We leave pieces of ourselves with every step.
Where was I going with this? I did have a more mundane point. It's Beltane so my mind is on the ethereal. I've noticed that pieces of me end up all over my writing. One heroine is a singer. I've sung all my life, with bands, with choirs, with symphonies.... One is an artist. Another plays cello. I played cello as a kid, but broke my bowing arm and lost interest when I fell behind. One heroine is a pagan through and through, but another is a teacher raised in a bible thumping church. One of my favorites is demon possessed and diagnosed schizophrenic. A little known fact is my mother is schizophrenic. All them are real in that they are scared and often clueless of how to handle the huge revelations that come upon them. And all of them have attributes about them I wish I had.
Each of these characters is a piece of me. I didn't do that on purpose. I do spend a lot of time thinking about what would I do if these things happened to me. What kind of raw emotions translate through different personalities. While I have always loved fantasy and sci-fi, I've never been impressed with the fantastic.
If a bomb goes off, you're going to feel it. Even the most battle hardened hero or heroine in the world is going to feel that. The noise that leaves your skin tingling like miniature shock-waves the vibration of the earth, the bright lights even in day...the utter sense of wrongness a bomb creates. Ask any veteran. The fear never goes away, you just learn to ignore it. Most of our military heroes will tell you they were scared shitless and aren't sure how they did it. If a bomb goes off the hero/heroine is not going to just watch calmly and walk easily though the heat and flames into the sunset. They're going to have a ton of emotions and fears and random thoughts, and mostly "Oh shit!". Bill Cosby once said, "First you say it, then you do it." Very true I've found. I try very hard to make sure those bits are included. The scene is only half of it. I guess it's no wonder that my characters are all parts of me. They would have to be for me to understand them.
What does this mean of me? I'm not sure I could tell you. If you combined all my heroines you *might* have a small idea of who I am, but that picture will be skewed with who I want to be and who I don't want to be all mixed up. It wouldn't be a clear picture, but I'm not sure I could separate these characters from the true picture of me either. It's all a piece of modern art, evoking emotion without a clear reason why.
Don't worry I'm still working on polishing 'Morning Song'. I haven't put that one aside entirely, but I've done as much editing as I can do for the moment and I wanted to give my readers a break between books, so it is percolating for a month or two and then I'll go back into editing. In the meantime....
I have about 20 books in various stages of development on my hard drive. I picked one I have been thinking about and pulled it out. I'm not 100% it's going to be my next project, but it probably will. Besides a friend who helped me with research wants me to publish this one (mostly because I promised I'd dedicate it to him lol). I don't have a name for it yet. It will be something about life and death. Very simply it's a semi-dark novel in which death falls in love with life. It's probably going to be another stand alone. I can't see how I can turn this into a series, but you never know. I do have one that will be a series, probably a long one, but I have a touch of writer's block where it's concerned so I have to play with other projects for awhile.
Here is a short sample of it. For now we will call this one Lychee and Corin after the main characters.
Death walked through the alley casually, in no hurry. His prey would be waiting for him. It always was. Sometimes in his more philosophical moments he believed that prey was born to be prey and while they would put on a chase, in the end they knew their place. Eventually whether he rushed or not, it would be waiting for him, ready for the final fight. Some prey would fight, wanting to end their lives in some twisted idea of honor—he respected that—but mostly they were tired. Sure, there was fear in their eyes, but they still resigned to it, like it had all been fate.
Corin was a big man, strong and broad. He was taller and wider than most humans, though humans had gotten taller in recent years. He had been built for speed, strength and agility. He was aware the appeal this had for women. On the rare occasion the mood struck him, he held no qualms about using this to get what he wanted. He was a predator. In those moments his quarry had simply shifted and the method of satisfaction changed. He would binge until the mood passed and then he went back to his prey.
His boots kicked away the random trash that followed humanity and crunched on the filthy, cracked cement. His long grey hair was tied tightly back from an eternally young face in a queue. His long grey coat trailed behind him as he moved effortlessly around a corner looking like some movie version of the honorable assassin. The irony was not lost on him. Sometimes it helped to dress the way humanity thought he should, sometimes it didn’t. The boots and the coat were useful though. He may hold on to them after culture changed its expectations again.
He turned another corner following a trail only he could perceive down the dark expanse; something as elusive as the change before the change in the wind signaling a storm. Some places in the city were vast networks of alleys and sewer systems. A shadow city all its own hidden from the light in the perpetual warm of the southern United States. He knew these streets as well as he knew the streets that stayed in the sun and the endless electric lights of night. He walked the roads of man since before they were glorified foot paths. He’d seen societies rise and societies fall. This society would fall too, as surely as the Romans had, and those that came before them.
There was a sound to the side of him. It was small and harsh, like silent keening when all the horrors of life had taken your voice. He slowed down enough to open his senses beyond his prey. Something shifted in the pile of trash and refuse that somehow missed the empty dumpster. He turned slowly, tracking the sound. Everything went still. That was more an indication of someone hiding than anything else. An animal wouldn’t have stilled.
He could smell the fear in the air. It was deeper and sharper than what his prey normally felt. Blood mixed with it. Something was wrong. He took a step to the pile and suddenly everything exploded. Boxes, trash, papers, rotted food all went up in a whirlwind clattering harmlessly about him, all the while a scream cutting the still night air like a jagged knife.
It was over as fast as it started. There was nothing else to be thrown. He saw a part of a leg and an arm trying to hide under what was left of the pile. The box on top was quivering slightly as if the person was shivering with cold. He reached down and pulled off the box...
...And the rest you'll all just have to wait for. :-)
Still I do welcome comments and critiques. Especially at this stage.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.