Fear of Flying-Melody Lee — September 18, 2018

Fear of Flying-Melody Lee

Fear of Flying

couple.jpg

I flew to Philly to meet his parents,

to be with him, to see the city and watch him smile.

I met him in the airport wearing my new dress

and black knee high boots. It was my winter break…

and it was seriously winter in Philly.

Snow every day.

Floridians aren’t accustomed to snow

and no Christmas tree left a weird chill in my bones

and an ache for home.

We ate bagels in the morning and had sex

in the afternoons, when his father was at work. Unlucky

for us, his step mom was always lurking somewhere

in their two-story house.

I missed how he played guitar for me back home, typically

something by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles or Paul Simon.

We took the subway to NYC, my first time for both.

I fell in love…with the lights, the fast pace,

the energy, NYC and Jewish delis.

He took me to Vassar, where he graduated with a degree

in Philosophy. I met his friends, got drunk, puked.

We skied in the Poconos, my first time on skis. I sucked.

Ice did not agree with my feet. My balance wasn’t right,

on the ice or with him. His father was stern. He didn’t like me.

His step mom heard us banging and my non-Jewish

moaning didn’t win her approval. Awkward. I didn’t like her,

but I adored his mom. She gave me “Fear of Flying,” by Erica Jong,

and that has stayed with me all these many years later.

 

© Melody Lee / September 2018

My Publishing Story-Nicholas Gagnier — September 10, 2018

My Publishing Story-Nicholas Gagnier

blank paper (1)

I wrote my first novel in 2008, at 23 years old. It was called Harbour City Story and, despite being light years short of publication worthy, it would lay the groundwork for the years to come.

After the death of my friend Michelle in that same year, it would take 3 years to write what would become my first published novel, released summer 2018. After it was finished in 2011, parenthood pulled me away from novels for six years. It sat in a drawer, unedited.

In 2012, I began posting poetry on a WordPress blog. That blog, Retkon Poet, would grow to over 8,000 followers in a 3 year period. In 2015 I shuttered RKP to begin what would become Free Verse Revolution. During those five years, I released several poetry books. At War with Water, my first, was the first foray into the world of self-publishing through LuLu Publishing. As expected, no one bought it. This had to less to do with the book itself than my ignorance of how to market it.

In 2013, I assembled several writer friends I had made through WordPress to release Ground Zero, a commemorative book to Michelle. It was my biggest success thus far, garnering local media attention, decent sales and (finally!) slight validation I was on the right path. For the next three years, I opted to publish several digital chapbooks that released through my blog as free reads; THE KILLING WAGE (2014); LITTLE CITY (2015); GENERATION WHY (2016) and MEN IN PAPER COATS (2017). Through cultivating my site and several writing relationships, I put together a follow up to Ground Zero at the summit of my forthcoming mental health journey. Bringing together 22 amazing people (many of them part of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective), SWEAR TO ME included many of the people I now count among my closest friends.

In 2017, I began writing FOUNDING FATHERS, which would become my first full-length published novel. At the same time, I pulled out my novel from ten years earlier and edited it into a novella called LEONARD THE LIAR. The combination of these projects convinced me I would need a vehicle to drive these stories to market, using all the knowledge I had gained self-publishing poetry.

In 2018, I shuttered the Free Verse Revolution blog to start FVR Publishing with my friend Kristiana Reed. In summer, we joined forces with indie author Kindra M. Austin. Kristi took the reins of a six year old entity and will relaunch the original Free Verse Revolution blog where writers can contribute in a celebration of poetry. Kindra’s imprint One for Sorrow became our fiction-publishing arm and O4S and FVR merged under a new parent company, Blank Paper Press. Leonard released in July and Founding Fathers will be here in November. On the poetry side, FVR will release Georgia Park’s QUIT YOUR JOB AND BECOME A POET (OUT OF SPITE!) 2ND ED. on October 2.

Indie Blu(e) Welcomes Nicole Lyons — September 7, 2018

Indie Blu(e) Welcomes Nicole Lyons

Nicole Lyons is a tornado harnessed into the body of a writer, social activist, voice for the downtrodden, and a powerful poet whose words reveal truth like a scalpel through silk. A Consulting Editor and long-time member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, her writing is featured in Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective.

Lyons’ essays, articles, and poetry can be found in The Mighty, The OCH Literary Society, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sidereal Catalyst, and OTV Magazine. She was inducted into The Mental Health Writer’s Guild in 2015 for her work on The Lithium Chronicles, Psych Central, The Mighty, and the International Bipolar Foundation.  Lyons volunteers as a speaker and event coordinator with a Canadian non-profit that focuses on suicide awareness and prevention in children and teens.

The best-selling author of HUSH (no longer in print) and I am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl (Sudden Denouement Publishing) lives a good life in beautiful British Columbia with her daughters and husband.  From her sunny porch, Lyons is enjoying a glass of wine, and working on her much anticipated fourth collection of poetry.


PUBLISHED WORK

(AVAILABLE ON AMAZON)

d4d1b6535a5c758efbe928360d8dbefd

‘I Am A World Of Uncertainties Disguised As A Girl’ written by author and poet Nicole Lyons, is a breathtaking collection of poems that blurs the lines between love and madness. A sorceress of words, Nicole Lyons takes the reader to the edge of the abyss of creativity, sanity, and love, and asks the question, ‘can one survive both a broken heart and a broken mind?’

©Nicole Lyons/Cover Art by Mitch Green


High quality image from Mitch 300 DPI

In Blossom and Bone, Nicole Lyons’ third collection of poetry, she is unafraid to bare her soul. With never a wasted word, Lyons’ work has a hypnotic immediacy that leaves the reader breathless, as if she were in the room with them, saying; “I am standing here screaming / I live, I live, I love.” Blossom and Bone is “A beautifully crafted work of art that will punch you in the face with its gritty realism before soothing your wounds with elegant prose, thought provoking lines, and sublime imagery.” – Samuel Decker Thompson

©Nicole Lyons/Cover Art by Mitch Green

My Publishing Story: Ashley Jane — September 3, 2018

My Publishing Story: Ashley Jane

Publishing.jpg

I first started thinking about publishing my poetry around a year ago. There had been people asking if I would for awhile, but I always made an excuse. “I don’t have the time.” “I didn’t go to school for that.” “I’m not good enough to publish. This is just a hobby.” But, along the way, I’ve met some amazing and supportive folks who encouraged me to stop seeing my writing as just something to pass the time. So, I decided I would go for it.

The first step was going back through all my words. I read stuff that I’ve written over the years, stuff dating back to high school, and it wasn’t all pretty. In fact, some of it was really bad! Others left me drained, because all those emotions I felt when writing the piece would come rushing back. It was a daunting task. I spent a few months wading through every poem, every story, every little quote and jotted note. I sorted everything into categories. I suppose my obsessive need to organize things came in handy there. I had already decided what I wanted for the title, so I began collecting things for that. I spent another few months re-typing everything into a word document, re-visiting and revising older poems, and writing new ones. I knew I would be self-publishing, so I created an account on CreateSpace. Due to social media, I’d met Christina Strigas and Alfa Holden, two awesome poets. They’d advised me to publish through Ingram Sparks too, if I ever wanted bookstores to be able to sell my book. I got lucky meeting them, because so many writers don’t realize the downside of using only CreateSpace.

After setting my titles up on both sites, I started piecing the book together. I did all of the setup myself, as I couldn’t really afford the extra money it would take to pay someone else. Luckily, I have amazing friends who helped me edit and proofread (thanks Alfa and Matt!). The art was trickier. I’m in no way artistically inclined. I had originally asked an old friend to do it, but that fell through and my timeline for publishing got pushed back. I think that was an important lesson for me. For future books, I’ll get the art nailed down a lot earlier in the process. I did find a wonderful artist though, and she created exactly what I wanted for the cover. With the interior art, I decided to do that myself. I searched various databases for vector graphics and art that was both free and fit with my aesthetic. I personally selected fonts to match my social media. I was pretty picky about making it look a certain way, but I think when you’re self-publishing, you have to be picky. Amazon will not accept a lot of things. The art has to be a certain dpi. The margins and art have to be formatted a certain way. It’s much harder than it seems. So, I take pride in having done it all myself. Some people will also hire cover designers to create their cover or build it. CreateSpace allows you to use their templates or upload your own cover. I chose to build my own and upload it. I was not easy, and it was definitely time consuming. It took awhile, but I was thrilled with the final result.

After several lengthy conversations where I picked Alfa’s brain, I was finally ready to hit publish. I was fortunate to have her to answer questions, because it’s a pretty confusing set up. You’ve got pricing decisions and material decisions and distribution options. And, it’s not instantaneous. In my head, I thought I’d submit the stuff, and they would be, “ok, great, you’re done.” But, no. They take awhile to inspect it, then they spit out issues that you’ve gotta go back and fix. When you finally hit publish, it doesn’t immediately show up on Amazon either. I think that’s the one bit of advice I’d remind others – with CreateSpace, it takes time for your book to show up. With IngramSparks, it can take even longer. So, be prepared for that. Don’t tell people it’ll be out on day X unless you hit publish before that. Otherwise, it may not be there.

In the end, I’m proud of the result. It makes me happy to search my name and see my book pop up. It’s cool hearing people say that they relate to my words, or that they love the look and feel of the book. Nothing can beat that feeling.

Ashley Jane
Author of Love, Lies and Lullabies

Twitter: @Breathwords
Instagram: @Breath_words_
Vero: @breathwords
Tumblr: @breathwords
Facebook: @breathwords
Website: breathwords.com

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Sarah Doughty’s Just Breathe — August 7, 2018

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Sarah Doughty’s Just Breathe

One of the hardest things to do when reviewing a book is to read other reviews. I typically don’t because it can be intimidating or distracting. However, I was curious to know what others had thought of this series of books and interestingly more has been written about Sarah’s Earthen Witch Novels series than most books I have read. The sheer passion and length of the reviews as well as the quality and insightfulness point to something we should appreciate about this genre of fiction, much like fan-fiction it produces an incredibly loyal response from its readers.

I confess to not knowing what ‘urban fiction’ was, though I had heard of paranormal fiction of course, and romantic witch/vampire fiction and many of my favorite children’s books featured witches. Sometimes a genre is so misleading; it can dumb-down the value and importance of work or limit the potential readership. In the past, I would have passed by urban fiction or paranormal fiction as limiting genres, and that would have been my loss. Fortunately owing to the TV show True Blood I was somewhat familiar with romantic vampire fiction and had read all of Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Mystery Series as well as her Midnight Texas series. She is known to write mostly in the Southern Gothic genre not unlike Anne Rice.

Prior to that, I had read some similar genres, though not too many, as they were not my favorite genre and tended to stick together indistinguishably. Among them, I had obviously read Anne Rice’s vampire series, been hooked on Poppy Z. Brite’s fantastic mostly stand-alone books set in New Orleans and hadn’t thought much of the much-hyped Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series but I wasn’t familiar with how many books in these genres existed, let alone that many were written by females. It is worth noting a comparison to other women is more accurate than comparing with male writers, not because women cannot be compared with men, but the very flavor and nuance of writing is so radically different that it’s necessary sometimes to compare like with like.

Initially, it seemed I couldn’t review Sarah’s book because I wasn’t well versed in the subject matter, but that’s the great thing about someone who actually can write, they ensure any reader can access their work without needing to be immersed in the entire lore of the subject. This is true with Just Breathe, and unlike the very overwhelming genre-laden books of contemporaries like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Laurell K. Hamilton, both of whom I had read but not completed their series, I felt Just Breathe didn’t force the reader to pay homage to the subject and could have been any genre, in that the quality of the writing and the character development is what you remember in a good book far more than whether it has witches and vampires or not.

Perhaps it’s snobby to say this, but I have found some books that pay too much homage to their genre become nothing more than the genre. They cannot stand up by themselves, the quality of the writing and the plot development suffers because of the attention given to the subject and the fantasy part of the novel. Whilst it’s necessary to pay due heed to subject-matter, it should not dominate the quality of writing and character development, and I compare this to movies that focus too heavily on special effects without a sound plot and solid memorable characters. Bottom line, if you don’t care about the characters, it doesn’t matter how much you like the world you won’t want to keep reading.

Sarah accomplishes this initial goal almost presciently, and even if I did not know how much she lives to write, I could tell this by the sheer weight she gives her words and the attention to detail and harmony her writing conveys. Furthermore, I read somewhere that Sarah sees her writing poetry as a moment, whereas her writing fiction as a lifetime, and when I read this, it made total sense to me because I’ve read Sarah’s poetry for years and it is a moment, a strong powerful smack in the gut moment, but definitely a moment, whereas when I read her fiction, I can see the entire universe is being considered and she is methodical, paced and thorough in her plotting and building of characters.

I say all of this prior to actually giving my impression of the book Just Breathe, because I’m aware this is not a stand-alone but part of a series and a world that Sarah Doughty has created. Many times reading authors I find myself trying hard to find positive things to say about their work because I am a little impatient with fiction and I have high expectations and demand a lot of the author. I can say without hesitation that Just Breathe delivered for me. I was surprised. When I found out the genre my heart sank and I worried that I wouldn’t find enough to say about the book that was positive (and contrary to popular practice, I’m not interested in tearing a book to shreds, I don’t think it helps the authors grow!).

I was wrong, Sarah knows her art, and she drew me into her world almost immediately. I hate reading online and had the book been shorter I would have printed it out but it did not bother me at all to read it on my computer (although for future reference, I’m always going to be a paper fan, that’s the luddite in me). That alone says a lot, because if you’re not comfortable with the medium your attention can wander and it takes a very captivating story to prevent that. I read the book in 2 days, which is slightly faster than my average, and again, indicates that the author knows how to keep a reader spellbound to her creation.

As I said before, I’m very familiar with Sarah’s poetry and have always appreciated her blunt and honest way of telling it like it is, that’s why it was a surprise to find out she is equally conversant and gifted with longer art forms, and has the alacrity of writing where she can describe in great detail, an entire scene such as her many battle scenes and intimacy scenes, and really conjure for the reader, the very substance of that moment, over many pages. I believe another reviewer commented on how one of her lovemaking scenes went over many pages, in another author this may have come across as pornographic, or over-kill, which again points to Sarah’s honed art as a writer, knowing what is enough and how to control the ebb and flow of her writing exactly.

It goes without saying if I appreciated this book it was in large part due to my liking the main character of Aisling, who whether she has autobiographic features of Sarah or not, is in her own right, a really well fleshed out character. Personally, I appreciate female authors who are unafraid to take their work further and have a political perspective and awareness to the role of women in any universe, including the fantasy ones. Too often male authors resort to dated and two-dimensional female characters, hence why female authors in the fantasy genre as a whole (once, almost entirely dominated by male authors) have shifted this balance and consequently, more women read the genre.

Sarah accomplishes this in Aisling and also her handling of Connor and the other characters. Aisling having been abused at the hands of her stepfather has the scars and trauma that accompany such an experience but in her own right, she possesses the enduring strength one requires to really cherish a heroine.

I don’t need my heroines to be squeaky clean and perfect, that’s too often the case and it really smacks of insincerity and hollow characterization. Humans are imperfect, it’s often that we love most about a person, not how accomplished they are. Too often the characters are expected to be indomitable and unrealistically untouched by trauma, and I don’t think when they’re that far removed you can really bond with them. I was able to relate to Aisling despite the supernatural element that can sometimes allow a reader to enter the fantasy but not relate directly to it. Through her suffering and her survival, I found a woman I wanted to succeed and it involves you at a deeper level than many fantasy novels that are preoccupied by the lore and fantastical part, in the end you need to care about the people in the story as much as the story itself.

Not too long ago I read a forgettable novel on a plane that was written by a woman and featured witches, warlocks, vampires and other supernatural folk. Sadly I couldn’t tell you today the authors name or the title. This is commonplace when a genre is saturated by very similar authors and characters; they merge together and rarely stand out. What I can appreciate in Sarah’s writing is that the quality of her writing stands out irrespective of how many other women may be writing on some of these themes. You aren’t going to forget who she is any more than some of the more recognizable and acclaimed authors who have broken through the morass and made themselves known.

That takes a higher standard of writing than is often found in fantasy genres. Those who do elevate the form are the ones whose names we recall. Personally, I always admired that ability even more so than originality, because many times we strive to be original but it is not enough to be original, we must be likable. Sometimes familiarity can be more likable than something we’ve never read before. In the fantasy genre, I’d take something well written and perceptive over something never heard of before. It can be tempting to keep creating out of the box to be the ‘first’ but you have to combine this with solid memorable writing skills. Without that, you’re just a good idea without legs.

Sarah has that strength in her writing, this isn’t just a hobby for her, you can tell she takes her writing very seriously and spends a lot of time ensuring she gets it right. The continuum of the storyline as well as the developing arc of the characters is a necessary component of any series, as all of us can attest when we have watched TV shows whose characters become more contradictory and confused as the season progresses. To achieve this you need usually to create your world and the people in it and omnipotently draw the trajectory of their lives before committing words to paper. Too often with fantasy authors, the temptation is to ‘write!’ and then go back and ensure it makes sense, but oftentimes you can tell when this is the way an author has chosen to construct their work and it ends up full of implausibility or holes that are too apparent to the reader.

The other reviews of Just Breathe and the Earthen Witch Novels have looked in detail at Aisling and her world, and used many quotes to convey to the reader reasons they may like to read this series. As that has been done, I have chosen to look at the genre and try to give you an idea of where Sarah Doughty’s work lies in that genre, and why her work is worth taking a serious look at. If you were say, to be confronted with all the novels with similar lore, you’d have a lot and how would you know which to choose? A blurb isn’t always enough, and short of a famed review or TV serialization, you may miss some of the best novelists out there. It is up to reviewer to explain why you should read this book more than what the book is about, that often spoils the purpose. I can tell you that aside the reasons given above, if you are a fan of realistic fantasy and by that I don’t mean the obvious oxymoron that implies, but an idea of making fantasy writing as believable as possible within that fantasy, then you will really appreciate Sarah’s novels.

Too many times I have not been able to convince myself enough to believe in the world created by fantasy writers, and whilst the very idea of creating a fantasy, means you should not require realism, it is our nature to need to believe in any creation, however fantastical and that can only be achieved by an adequate attention to making those characters realistic to us. It doesn’t matter if a character is a witch or a vampire and whether those things exist in our world or do not, it matters that we believe as we read that they are real. That way we become invested in them.

Another reviewer of Sarah’s work did a spectacular job of contrasting and comparing her writing and work to a feminist theme and theory. I appreciated this very much and her points were well taken, because oftentimes women as much as men, create female characters that are subjugate to men, sexually or morally or emotionally as well as physically. It must be tempting for some authors to believe in our inaccurate social stereotypes of what a woman is, than really question what she is capable of. Sarah doesn’t make this mistake. Her female characters are not unrealistically tough at all, but they are not pushovers, they survive, they grow, they deepen. And she doesn’t shy away from describing brutality and inequality and unfairness nor does she justify it in the name of action and excitement.

As a woman I respect that because fantasy writing was historically guilty of some really bad stereotypes and likewise with the sex scenes, the inequality of the genders was often apparent, and it took a really strong writer to break out of those stereotypes.  I did not get a sense of any such stereotyping in Just Breathe but rather, the fresh air of an unbiased mind. In that, I compare Sarah’s work to one of my favorite authors, Poppy Z. Brite who was long hailed as an uncompromising author unafraid of touching on difficult subjects or unconventional characters. This is another reason you are unlikely to forget Sarah’s work or jumble it in with all the other fantasy writers out there, she takes good care to be memorable in her careful attention to detail and her unwillingness to follow pastiche and typical character arcs.

This is one reason I never appreciated Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, whilst on the surface, the female characters had spunk, they were ultimately so wrapped up in their man that they gave some of their power away. I am not decrying love, but it needs to be balanced against a woman’s need to stand on her own and not compromise her core. I was happy that Sarah’s book didn’t let me down and was equally able to convey love and attachment without it becoming a dominating theme that ruined the potential of the female lead. In other words, romantic fiction of any ilk does not have to rely as heavily on old-hat notions of male-female and the female does not always have to be the one who throws the baby out with the bathwater. This is especially true here, where the lead female character has an abuse history, it is necessary for her to resolve this without relying solely upon another man to achieve this resolution, otherwise she’s just swapping abuse for safety without really growing in her own right. Fortunately, Aisling is the kind of woman that women can relate to and she isn’t afraid to stand up for what she feels is right, even as she was one so subjugate and becomes horrified to find out the legacy of abuse within her own family circle. For this reason, Just Breathe is a deeply redemptive book and that alone makes it worthy of reading.

On a metaphorical level, one can compare Sarah Doughty’s writing and thoughts to another beloved female author, Angela Carter. Carter enthralled me when I first read her in my late teens, she has the feminist backbone and the fantastical mind of a true artist and her work transports you to amazing feats of imagination as well as harking back to our race memories of fear and darkness. The childhood nightmare of the evil step-father is often sadly, a reality, the unspoken trail of abuse, cutting through generations, again, really happens. And where once we wove these realities into fantasy to hide the truth of them, now we can create say, a witch-hunter and a murderer both, and also see the real-life equivalent t in that treatment of Aisling’s step-father.

I liken Sarah’s work to Carter’s in that juxtaposition of what scares us and what empowers us. She is both able to shock us and make us tremble as she is to suggest ideas of strength and conquering those fears. In that she takes the metaphorical road that is the very essence of fantasy and perhaps why so many of us are drawn to it and weaves a story of fantastical proportions that we also can find ourselves in. Ultimately what I love about fantasy is we can go one step further in fantasy than we can in real life. And without giving away the storyline, I can say, the awfulness of the real world is held to account in the fantasy. And with this I leave you with one recommendation, pick Sarah Doughty’s work out of the genre and let it Just Breathe.


Daquin’s own life, traveling from her native France, via England, Canada and finally the US, has brought a myriad of experiences that others have often been able to tap into via her writing. A collection of lives really, and with this, she tries to weave greater meaning through poetry and touch those who experience similar questions, doubts, and hopes. Surely this is what writing attempts in its very human form?

Daquin’s themes include feminism in its complex, everyday form, and the experience of being a woman, a gay woman, a bi-racial woman, a bi-cultural woman and finally, a Jewish woman of Egyptian extraction (Mizrahi) and how this sits with the world’s current revolt between the dominant faiths.

You can read more of her writing at The Feathered Sleep.