Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Michael Dellert #Interviewed By Mistral Dawn

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Michael E. Dellert is joining us today! :-)  Michael, please tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.

Michael:  I grew up in a small town in Northwest NJ that I fondly refer to as “The Land that Time Forgot.” The forests seemed practically primeval back then, and still do today. Of course there’s been some development between now and then, but even so, there are still many parts of town where you can’t get a cell-phone signal. Very rural, very beautiful, and very little to do, so my imagination was my best friend as a kid.
I’ve been a writer for a long time. I think I started seriously considering writing as a career when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and truly fell in love with it when I was about 15 or 16 when I met a teacher that really encouraged me. So that’s, gads, 30 years now.
Of course, a boy’s gotta make a living. I’ve worked in and around publishing most of my adult life. I’m also an avid student, I love to learn. Best writing advice I ever got: “Eavesdrop shamelessly. As a writer, there’s nothing that’s not your business.” I really took that heart.
I’m glad you asked how many I’ve written and not how many I’ve published. I’ve written several “practice novels” that will never see the light of day, if there’s any justice. More recently, I just completed a novel in November 2014 that I think has a good chance in the market, as well as a number of novellas, one of which is coming out in October 2015.

Me:  How exciting!! Congratulations on making your first foray into the world of the published author. ;-)  What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Michael:  My latest “book” is a novella called Hedge King in Winter. It’s a fantasy action-adventure yarn that was inspired by a lot of the “child of destiny” story lines you often find in fantasy literature. But the twist comes out of the old time travel quandary: what happens if you go back in time and kill your own parents?
Instead of telling the “child of destiny” story, I wanted to explore the lives of those around the child of destiny: the parents, the kings, the priests and philosophers. The ones whose responsibility it would be to raise the “child of destiny” into the hero that everyone expects him to be. How much do these people know about their own role in that destiny? What kind of inspiration will they be for that hero? And of course, can they survive long enough to even raise that “child of destiny” to be a hero at all?

Me:  That reminds me of the song Mary, Did You Know? ;-)  Sounds interesting! What are you working on now?

Michael:  Currently, I have two short novels on the calendar for the coming year. I’m experimenting with mixing/matching genres and different points of view, so while they’re both fantasy novels, one is a romance, while the other is a political thriller. They’re all set within the same world and timeline as my other recent works, so they hang together as a series, exploring that “child of destiny” theme I mentioned earlier.

Me:  Wow! Very ambitious!! Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, so that sounds fascinating to me. ;-)  What authors, or books, have influenced you?

Michael:  Far too many to list here. I think everything one reads has some influence (for good or ill) on a writer. But to mention a few:
I grew up as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy literature. Tolkien, of course, but also Terry Brooks (the Shannara series), Stephen R. Donaldson (the Thomas Covenant series), Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton (Witch World), Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein.
Probably the most significant was CJ Cherryh, whose Morgaine Saga blended fantasy writing into a sci-fi universe. Her “intimate internal” point of view and the subtlety of her world-building really captured my attention as a young reader and writer.
A few years ago, I came across an anthology of the original Conan short stories by Robert E. Howard, which was a delight to read. And I was a particular fan of the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid. And Evangeline Walton’s retelling of the Mabinogion stories from the Welsh Arthurian tradition are beautiful.
As a student of literature, I was particularly captivated by the Modernists: Virginia Woolf (my thesis subject), James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and so on. If my early influences determined the direction of my interests in writing, my later reading set the bar for craftsmanship and style.

Me:  Wow! That's quite a list, and I have to agree with you that all of those authors are worth reading and have made significant contributions to the world of literature.  If you haven't already, you also might want to check out the Childe Cycle (or Dorsai) series by Gordon R. Dickson, especially if you're interested in exploring the political ramifications of your characters' actions. ;-) What are you reading now?

Michael:  Glenn Cook’s second collection of Black Company novels, The Tales of the South. Some of his fantasy is a bit too flighty for my tastes (flying whales and such), but I like the idea of the amoral mercenaries and grunts in the trenches, fighting sometimes for good and sometimes for evil, but always for each other. It has a very “earthy” quality, a moral ambiguity that rings true. Yet in spite of the sometimes amoral nature of the characters (or perhaps because of it), Cook finds a way to make them sympathetic, almost in spite of themselves. The first collection in the series was particularly inspirational in my current work.

Me:  Of course, how could such human people be anything but sympathetic?  I love characters who are as flawed as real people. ;-)  For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Michael:  In the vein of the Morgaine Saga and the Black Company, the world I’ve created has its share of magic and the fantastic/supernatural. It’s a medieval-style action/adventure yarn, very low-fantasy, almost historical. There’s more in common, I think, with Conan and Tarzan than with Frodo and Gandalf. It’s a land of chaotic, petty kingdoms and fierce dynastic rivalries. The struggle to maintain one’s own individuality and autonomy against external centralizing forces is a central theme throughout. And there’s an undercurrent of something sinister moving through the darkness.
My work also carries with it a lot of my more modern concerns: the increasing infiltration of the surveillance state into our lives, the consolidation of power in the hands of a few, the moral integrity of those who hold power, and the supreme value we in the West place on trade and commerce, often at the expense of the social good.

Me:  Ha! Sounds like you've been watching CNN. ;-)  What is your favorite part of being an author?

Michael:  Well, it’s sort of a flippant answer, but my favorite part is that I get to play with my imaginary friends all day. To imagine and create characters and settings, to listen to what they tell me they want and then throw one damned thing after another in their path, it all offers a wonderful sense of play that’s often missing from the usual day-work one can get. Unless you’re playing Whack-A-Mole, it’s hard to have fun in a cubicle farm.

Me:  I don't think that's a flippant answer at all.  I thing most fiction authors would agree with you. :-)  Do you have a day job as well?

Michael:  I do. I’ve worked in and around the publishing industry for nearly twenty years, most recently as a freelance editor and consultant. I was even doing internships in publishing as far back as high school. Aside from writing, it was the only other thing I ever really wanted to do. Come hell or high water, I was born to make books.

Me:  Wonderful!! It sounds like your love of the written word is deep-seated, and all of that experience with different aspects of publishing can only help you as an author. :-) What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Michael:  I think the hardest part is that western (particularly American) culture vastly undervalues writers. Sure, there are success stories like Harry Potter and Fifty Shades, but for each of those, there are thousands of talented writers who can’t make a living doing what they do best. Even those who do find work as writers aren’t writing their own original and creative material. They’re copywriting or grant-writing, or what have you. I read a study once that says that folks in the creative industry (and that includes actors, singers, musicians, etc.) only average about $17,000 a year from their work. And that average factors in professionals at the top of their game, like JK Rowling, George Clooney, et. al. Factor those big name, big money stars out of the equation and the average drops precipitously. So that leaves most writers (myself included) struggling to make time in their lives for writing when they’re otherwise making ends meet and trying to be (somewhat) normal people as well.
The easiest part about being a writer is the writing. And by that, I mean first-drafts. Editing is a bitch, but writing like no one is reading, that’s the easy part. If I sit still for more than ten minutes, I’m usually off in another world in my mind anyway, so I just have to write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

Me:  I think you've summed up the writer's dilemma very well. It's hard to get people to pay attention to your work, even when it deserves attention.  But writing is such a blast we'll keep doing it anyway, right? ;-) What genre do you place your book in?

Michael:  Sword-and-Sandal Fantasy with a strong dash of Sorcery. Ultimately, my work will level-up to Epic Fantasy, as the characters and plots mature through the series I have planned. But for the works currently on the calendar, the characters and plots are more humble. If the characters can save their kingdom against terrible odds and live to tell the tale, it’s a good day.

Me:  Good vs. Evil!! I love it, you can never go wrong with the classics. ;-)  Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Michael:  Of course, I’m grateful to all my readers, it’s important that they know that. Without readers, a writer is just another lunatic crying out in the wilderness, so it’s heartening to know that they’re out there, sending me their feedback, sharing with their friends, and being all around awesome people.
To those readers who are also writers, particularly “aspiring” writers, I would add: Don’t give up. Don’t ever stop. You have to have an almost Terminator-like level of tenacity to become successful in this business. If you’ve ever said “One day I’m going to write a book,” I’m here to tell you: “One day” is the day before “Someday” and the day after “Never.” To paraphrase Yoda, there is do or do not, there is no “aspire.”

Me:  Amen to all of that!! :-)  And so our wonderful readers can find your work, are there any links you'd like me to post?

Michael:  My novella, Hedge King in Winter, will be publishing serially on Wattpad from October 4 to December 31, with a new episode posting every week. Readers can follow along at https://www.wattpad.com/user/mdellert1172.
In my copious spare time, I publish a blog of writing tips, tricks, and advice at MDellert-Dot-Com: Adventures in Indie Publishing. Each week, I post a brief study of some element of storytelling: character development, setting, plot structure, etc., as a resource for other writers. I also do shout-outs to other bloggers/writers of my acquaintance, and interviews with writers and small press publishers.
For those on the mailing list, there are daily writing prompts and a monthly newsletter, as well as opportunities to get free content. For example, fans on the mailing list will receive episodes of Hedge King in Winter ahead of publication, as well as a free ebook edition of the collected episodes once the series is complete.
I also re-post a lot of content on Facebook (fb.me/mdellert.editor) and Twitter (@MDellertDotCom), including publishing industry trends and stories, promotions from other indie writers, and general brick-a-brack. Lots of nerdbait there for anyone who likes literature, reading, publishing, and writing.

Awesome!! Sounds like there are lots of rewards for those who follow you. :-)  Thank you for stopping by today, Michael.  And thank you to the rest of you who joined us!! :-)  Don't forget to stay tuned for the latest interviews, rants, and other musings I may come up with. :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A #Little Goes A #Long #Way ;-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I just thought I'd take the opportunity today to let you all know I've set up a Patreon account.  What is a Patreon account, you ask?  Good question!  I didn't know until recently, either. ;-)  Patreon is a crowdfunding platform, sort of like Kickstarter.  But instead of being geared towards funding one, specific project, it's meant to fund ongoing work.  In this case, my blog and writing.

Now don't get upset, my blog will remain free.  Nothing's changing.  Contributing to Patreon is completely voluntary.  No matter what, I will continue blogging as much as possible and I'll keep writing stories and getting them out to you as fast as I can.  You'll still get to hear my thoughts on random topics, and I'll still post sneak peeks of my work. I'll also continue to introduce you to the work of other authors so you can find new favorite reads. :-)  All the Patreon campaign is meant to do is make it possible for me to focus on writing more.  After all, there are only so many hours in every day.  The fewer I have to spend earning money to live on, the more I'll be able to devote to creating new content and stories.  :-)

Also, I plan to have some nifty thank you prizes for people who help me out in this way.  At the moment, those prizes are limited to free Kindle copies of my stories, but if I can get enough cash together I'll create some cool "prize bundles" that I'll be able to start sharing.  I'll also figure out a way to share exclusive content with donors.  Perhaps some short stories that will only be available to those who contribute or extra advance looks at what I'm working on at the time.  I'm certainly open to suggestions as to what kinds of prizes you'd like to see. ;-)

How does Patreon work, exactly?  Well, you specify how much you'd like to give, as little or as much as you'd like, and then provide your payment information (which I never see, it's kept private).  There are a couple of suggested donation levels to qualify for prizes, but you can change the amount just by typing in a different number.  And that's pretty much it.  If you qualify for a prize, I'll contact you to arrange to send it to you.  

Anyway, that's all for now.  If you'd like to donate, great!  Thank you very much, I really appreciate it!  The link will be down below.  Feel free to check it out, even if you're just curious.  If not, that's okay.  Thanks for taking the time to read this, and don't miss the extra little peek at Captivated By The Winter King at the bottom of this post.  Glad you all could join me today, and don't forget to stay tuned for the next edition of Mistral Dawn's Musings!!! :-)

Excerpt From Captivated By The Winter King (coming soon!):
He smiled, "Yes, but most Fae do not walk around advertising their power. They keep their auras suppressed, so that any enemies they may have won't know exactly how strong they are."

She thought about it, "That's reasonable. Is that what you're doing now?"

Nodding, he said, "Yes."  He gave her teasing smirk and asked, "Would you like to feel my power?"

Shivering, she grinned back at him, "Yes, but not here and not tonight."

"Oh? And what is it you'd like to do tonight?" he flirted. The smile she gave him in return scorched him.

"Let me show you," she invited.

Monday, September 28, 2015

#MondayMotivation!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I just thought I'd give you a little something to perk up your Monday! ;-)  Enjoy...

Excerpt From Captivated By The Winter King (coming soon):
When his Anamchara remained still and compliant, Ankou smiled. "You have done well today, Kate, and I will reward you. But you are not to cum until I give you permission."

"Yes, Master," she answered.

Smiling, he leaned forward and allowed her to feel his breath against her slit. When she shivered, he moved away and kissed the back of her left knee. Her moan of frustration brought an answering throb from his cock, and he stood up and stepped back to remove his clothing.

Kate felt the loss of her mate's heat against her legs and she wondered what he was doing, but she forced herself to continue facing forward.

Dropping back to his knees, Ankou placed a gentle kiss on the inside of her right thigh. Alternating between her legs, he kissed and licked at random intervals between her knees and the apex of her thighs. When she squirmed, he slapped the already red skin of her ass.

The sharp impact of Ankou's hand against her already tender flesh made Kate moan. As he smoothed his fingers over the abused area, a delightful tingle spread from where the blow had landed to her dripping pussy. She bit her lips, forcing herself to remain quiet and not beg him to put his lips where she needed them.

When he saw the tension leave his lover's body as she surrendered herself to his will, the Winter king smiled. He rewarded her for her submission by dragging his tongue in one long, hard stroke from the front of her body all the way back over the bud of her anus. As she shuddered in pleasure, he nipped and licked at her pussy lips and then between them. Teasing her clitoris with his tongue, he slipped two fingers inside her and found her g-spot. Massaging both, he decided to test how well she could control her own body.

Gasping at the feel of her mate stimulating her pleasure spots, Kate tried to focus on obeying his command not to cum without permission. The effort required, following the draining effect of her recent epiphany, sent her spiraling back towards the floating detachment she had discovered. Not wanting to miss the feel of her Anamchara's body against hers, she fought to remain in control.

Knowing his mate was close to the end of her endurance, Ankou called out, "You may cum now, Kate."

The words themselves were just noise to Kate, but the meaning penetrated her overwrought consciousness and she allowed the last of her restraint to fall away. As waves of pleasure rode her body, she distantly felt her lover move behind her. The stretch of her vaginal walls as he sheathed himself in her sex sent another wave of ecstasy crashing over her, changing her orgasm from a peak of rapture and release to an ongoing flood of euphoria. She screamed as she lost the fight to keep mind and body together and lost track of everything when a brilliant glow of bliss overwhelmed her senses, leaving her stunned.

As his lover bucked and thrashed against him, Ankou fought to control her hands to keep her from hurting herself by clawing at the wood of the stump. He pumped himself in and out of her in steady strokes to help fuel her lingering climax, and the feel of the muscles in her pussy milking his cock was almost more than he could take. When she began to calm, he finally allowed himself the release his body was begging for and the roar of his pleasure echoed through the forest around them.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

#Gratitude & #Updates

Hey Everyone!!

Some really awesome people have been very kind to me lately, and I just wanted to share what they've said with you. :-)

The wonderful and talented Julie Nicholls featured me on her hot new website, so check it out!! :-)

Jessica Wren was kind enough to read and review Taken By The Huntsman!  See what she said!

Cassandra Molinar from EP Book Nerd was also kind enough to read and review Taken By The Huntsman!!  Here's what she thought!

I wanted to let you all know that Intrigue In The Summer Court will soon only be available from Amazon.  I'll be enrolling it in Kindle Unlimited and so, per Amazon's terms, will have to withdraw it from all other retailers.  However, this will not affect any copies you may have purchased before I make this change, so if you prefer to get it from a retailer other than Amazon, go ahead and get your copy now! :-)  I'll be making this change on the first of October, so you have until then. :-)

Thank you all for stopping by today!  I hope you'll take the time to check out the blogs of the people who have been kind enough to feature me and my stories and show them some love.  Otherwise, I'll see you all at the next installment of Mistral Dawn's Musings!! :-)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#Author4Author #EndOfSummer #Blast #Party!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Just a quick note to let you know about an awesome Facebook party going on today!! :-)  A bunch of really great authors have gotten together to host this shindig, and there will be all kinds of fun games and cool prizes!!!  I'll be taking over at 1:30pm EDT, but the whole affair will last from 10am EDT to 11:30pm EDT, so drop by anytime!! :-)  Hope to see you there!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

And The #Title Goes To... ;-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Thank you all so much for helping me choose a title for my work in progress!!! :-)  And without further ado, the title will be....

Captivated By The Winter King

So now I can send everything off to the lovely and talented Erin Dameron-Hill, and soon I will have a cover to reveal to you all!!!! :-)

...stay tuned! ;-)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A #Question For The #Ages ;-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

So, the poll to choose the title for my WIP is officially concluded and I will be announcing the winning title tomorrow.  In the meantime, here's another sneak peek for you.  When you finish reading it, ask yourself if you've ever wondered the same thing. ;-)

Excerpt from WIP:
With a plan in place, the two of them headed to the door. Before they could head off on their respective errands, Megaera emerged from the bedroom batting a small object across the floor. When she looked up from her make-shift toy and saw them getting ready to leave, she picked up the object in her mouth and carried over to Ankou, spitting it out on his boot. "Mmmmruumm. Raaoowup!" she said.

Stooping down, the king picked the cat's offering up off his foot. Looking at it, he realized it was a scrap of black fabric. He sniffed it and recognized a scent. Turning to Tairise, his eyebrows raised, he asked, "Do you have any idea why Duibhne would have been in here?"

"No." Ta held out his hand for the shredded cloth. When Ankou handed it over, ta sniffed it as well. "But you're right, it is hers." Ta looked at the cat and reached down to pet her. "I wish you could tell us what you know."

Winding in between the two Faes' legs, Megaera purred and basked in the attention.

"Do you think Kate would have asked Duibhne to accompany her to the Duergar village?" asked the king.

Tairise shook tas head. "I don't think so. That female has been trying to ingratiate herself with the queen for weeks, but your mate saw right through her. I can't think of a reason Kate would decide to trust that trouble-maker all of the sudden."

"That was the impression I was under as well," mused Ankou. "But I'm at a loss to explain this," he held up the rag.

"I think, when we speak with the guards and servants, we will also need to ask them if they know where Duibhne is."

Nodding, the king added, "Her, or her brother."

When Megaera realized the people were leaving, she gave them a disgruntled chirrup and sauntered back towards the bedroom. Before she left the room, she looked back over her shoulder and met Ankou's eyes.

The king looked at the cat whose eyes bored into his own. He knew there was more going on than he was seeing, and for some reason he was almost certain the animal was trying to tell him what it was. But for all their mutual desire to communicate, Megaera's secrets remained concealed. He frowned, disappointed. Why did felines always have to be so mysterious?

Hmmm...I'd like to know the answer to that too!!  Oh well.  Take care and be safe everyone!! Until tomorrow!! :-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is That The #Right #Answer? ;-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I've mentioned this before in a few interviews, but I'll say it again in case any of you don't know: I'm dyslexic.  I did not learn to read until the age of eight, not even "See Spot run", and even now when I'm tired I'll confuse letters and switch things around both in writing and in speaking.  It's a language processing difficulty, and it will be with me all of my life.  Of course, I didn't come with a label attached to my forehead explaining that I'm dyslexic, so much of my early experiences with school were...interesting.

Kindergarten went pretty well.  I didn't learn my letters to my teacher's satisfaction, but I did really well with numbers and she figured I wouldn't have much trouble catching up with my reading.  After all, I certainly paid attention during story time!  I remember looking forward to first grade.  Kindergarten had been a blast, and I thought it would be more of the same but I'd get to stay the whole day!  Boy was I wrong.  It didn't take long for my teacher to decide I was mentally handicapped, and she was kind enough to inform the entire class about her opinions regarding my intellectual capabilities whenever the opportunity presented itself.

"Stupid," "idiot", and "retard" were labels she thoughtfully supplied for the convenience of the other classroom bullies.  After a while, she also became convinced that I was deaf since, no matter what she did, she couldn't seem to catch my attention.  Imagine that.  She was so certain I had suffered hearing loss that she persuaded my mother to take me to my doctor to have my ears tested.  My doctor informed my mother that I did not have a hearing problem, only a listening problem.

My second grade teacher tried, she really did.  She was kind and patient and never called me names.  It was obvious to her that I had some sort of learning disability, but she hadn't been given the tools or the training to identify what the problem was specifically or know how to help me overcome it.  At one point she wrote letters on masking tape and put the tape on my thumbs to help me remember which direction the loops and swirls should go.  Surprisingly, this tactic actually did help and my spelling scores improved for a while.

Unfortunately, my first grade teacher happened to notice the tape when I forgot to take it off during recess and reported it to the principal.  She had been trying to force the school to have me "evaluated" for over a year, and this gave her the perfect opportunity.  After all, she didn't want to share building space with a "retard."

What's "evaluated", you ask?  Good question, my parents didn't know either.  Being "evaluated" meant being pulled out of class for hours at a time day after day for weeks while various well-meaning, but utterly clueless, adults asked me lots of questions that I had no interest in answering.  Now, of course, I understand that they were trying to determine what my IQ is and whether or not I needed to be placed in a "special" school.  But at the time all I saw were a bunch of grownups who took me away from the one teacher who was on my side so that they could badger me to death with their questions.  Predictably, I didn't cooperate all that well.

The end result was that my intellectual capabilities were "undetermined".  My classroom scores weren't much help, as they were all over the map.  In reading and spelling they were dismal, but I performed brilliantly in math, science, and social studies.  So the decision the "experts" finally arrived at was to wait and see.

I probably would have been "evaluated" again in third grade, but my family moved and I ended up in a different school system.  Fortunately for me, the school I went to for third grade was one of the foremost leaders in the country when it came to diagnosing and correcting learning disabilities.  Unfortunately, I had pretty much lost any interest in being poked at by adults.

That was also the year when The New York Times ran a letter to the editor in which the late Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel laureate in physics, was quoted as having credited his success to the fact that his mother always asked him if he had asked a good question in school.  The letter was written as a critique of politicians who act without first considering all the angles of a situation.  But that's not what my mother saw when she read it.  To her, it was a suggestion of how to motivate the child she had been told was "stubborn" to "pay better attention in class."

So began a new campaign of badgering.  As I'm sure you've already figured out, it didn't work.  Instead of prompting me to focus, it resulted in me withdrawing even further.  Between my mother and my teachers constantly goading me to open up, I came close to becoming mute.  They meant well, of course, but the answers they were using weren't the right ones for me at that time.  A fact that became clear to me after a few more weeks.

I'm not certain exactly what month it was, but it was before the holiday season and late enough in the year for us to have been in school for a while, so I'm guessing it was in late October or early November.  I do remember it had gotten cold outside.  My teacher was frustrated with me because I wouldn't respond to any of the techniques she had been taught to use to encourage children to take an interest in learning.  Don't misunderstand, she wasn't a bad person, not at all.  She wanted to help me.   She was almost desperate to find a way to reach me.  It was just her bad luck that I had already decided that school was a waste of time with nothing valuable to offer.

Finally, after spending a whole morning trying to get me to sound out vowels with her, she broke and swore.  Yes, an elementary school teacher said a bad word in front of a student!  Ooooo...for shame!  It was actually the first word I'd listened to in hours.  Realizing that she'd finally gotten my attention for all the wrong reasons, she needed to distract me.  How do you distract an eight year old?  You get them moving, of course!

This was a "special" class, and this teacher had been assigned to work with just me for several hours a day, so there were no other students to consider.  Yes, I do realize, now, how incredible that was and how I should have been grateful to be that lucky, but I didn't get that when I was eight.  She took me out into the hallway and we walked up and down the corridors for a while when she just stopped and looked at me.

She asked me how to get to the library.  I'd been in school for several weeks, but it was still a new school and I hadn't had the opportunity to go to the library yet.  I had no idea where it was.  I shrugged my shoulders, but she wouldn't let it go.  She told me that if I didn't know how to get from one place to another, I would be lost and asked me if I liked being lost.  I had the typical little-kid fear of getting lost, so I said no.  For some reason I still don't understand, I then uttered a few words that hadn't been dragged out of me.  I figured she had boxed herself into a corner, because what could vowels have to do with not being lost?

I asked her that and she smiled as if she had finally made a breakthrough.  Which she had, I just didn't realize it yet.  She said that if I could read I wouldn't be lost.  Pointing to a sign on the wall, she explained that it gave directions to the library, and I would know that if I could read.  I thought about that and realized there were signs all over the place.  How many things would I know if I was able to read those signs?  For the first time in my, admittedly brief, educational career someone had given me a reason to care about what they were trying to teach me other than "it would make the grownups happy."  It was a light-bulb moment.

So what was the point of this story?  Well, it wasn't to illustrate the inequalities and inconsistencies to be found in different school systems in the United States, though they certainly exist.  It also wasn't to highlight the fact that shaming and bullying people isn't a terribly effective method to motivate them to behave in the way that you'd like.  Though that is also true.  No, the reason I shared this with you today was to talk about answers.

Over three years, multiple teachers, my parents, doctors, and child psychologists, there were a lot of answers floating around.  Many of these well-educated, intelligent people asked very good questions, questions that were both relevant and well-researched.  They then came up with thorough, well-reasoned, and logical answers to those questions.  The answers they had were correct, with all kinds of data to back them up.  Almost all of the people I had been dealing with were both smart and caring, with only my best interests at heart.  Yes, I was really lucky so many people were so invested in seeing that I got the help I needed, there's a lot of kids who don't have that.

But for all of their really good answers, none of them were the right answer.  The right answer, for me, at that time, was very simple.  A concrete, easy to understand benefit to a given course of action.  Why should I want to know how to read?  Because if I knew how to read I wouldn't become lost as easily.  Is that silly?  Maybe.  After all, we're talking about the reasoning of an eight-year-old here.  But does that matter?

Everyone has things that are meaningful to them that might seem ridiculous to other people.  But if you want to connect with that person, do other people's opinions matter?  Not really.  Have you ever had someone in your life that you wished you could help, but you just hadn't been able to find a way to communicate with them?  For some reason it seemed like you were on different channels?  Did you consider trying to approach the situation from their perspective?

What about for yourself?  Has there ever been a time when it seemed like everyone was urging you towards a certain course of action, but you just couldn't see the benefit?  Maybe it's time to start giving yourself answers.  Maybe the answers you give yourself will only convince you that there is no benefit.  I don't know, you're the only one who can decide that.  But one thing I do know: the right answer, at the right time, delivered in the right way, can open up whole new galaxies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#Interview With Victoria Saccenti!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Victoria Saccenti is joining us here today!  Victoria, will you tell us about yourself and how many books you have written?

Victoria:  Hi Mistral, thank you for the opportunity to appear on your blog. I was born in Cuba, but after the big Revolution my family left the island in search of a more stable home. The US opened its welcoming arms and we have never looked back. Reading has been a lifetime passion that translated to letters and personal stories written in my diary. However, I picked up the writing bug for real four years ago, after I collaborated with an author friend, to publish a comprehensive guide for Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings, the first book of The Lymond Chronicles.

Me:  Cool!  What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Victoria:  Destiny’s Plan is my debut full-length novel. It’s the first of a planned three book series. The inspiration for the book sounds a little schizophrenic. As I was driving home from work, Matthew, the central character, flashed in my mind with his story. I tried to ignore him, but he wouldn’t relent, and here we are today.

Me:  Ha!  I think most authors can relate to that. ;-)  What are you working on now?

Victoria:  I am working on book two of The Destiny’s Series. I hope to have it ready by spring of 2016.

Me:  Terrific!  What authors, or books have influenced you?

Victoria:  I have a pretty eclectic list. The works of Salvador de Madariaga, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel García Marquez have been a huge influence. In English, Dorothy Dunnett is way up there in the list, followed by Anya Seton, M.M. Kaye, Ann Rice, and James Clavell.

Me:  Fun list! :-)  What are you reading now?

Victoria:  Currently, I’m reading El Escudo de Granada by Mario Villén Lucena.

Me:  Great!  For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Victoria:  I’d say, expect an emotional tour de force. Destiny’s Plan is about personal and emotional growth, but most of all it’s a story of true love struggling against the hand of Fate.

Me:  Sounds like a fun read. :-)  What is your favorite part of being an author?

Victoria:  I love living with the characters, that’s my favorite part of writing. I’m not a full pantser or plotter, I’m somewhere in between. So I get to enjoy the surprises and unexpected detours the characters present.

Me:  Yeah, I don't fall completely into either category either.  It can make writing a fun ride! :-)  Do you have a day job as well?

Victoria:  I retired two years ago from a flying career. Now I can dedicate my full attention to my characters and my dear husband, of course.
Me:  Wonderful!! :-)  What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Victoria:  IMO, the hardest part of being a writer is the marketing, particularly if you’re an indie writer, juggling promotion and writing can be difficult – that’s an understatement.

Me:  I think most indie authors would agree with you there. ;-)  What genre do you place your book in?

Victoria:  The book straddles two genres. It’s a romance first. Since it takes place in the 60’s it’s also considered historical fiction.

Me:  Awesome!  Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Victoria:  Destiny’s Plan will remain on its current price a bit longer. I hope the readers give it a try. Please, if you like the book, leave a review. Writers live on reviews. Most of all, kindly support the Indie Writers, the field has excellent self-published authors, present company included.

Me:  Awww...Thank you!!  And so very true about the reviews!!  So these fine folks can find your book, are there any links you'd like me to post?

Victoria:  Yes, thank you Mistral.
Check out my awesome book trailer. YouTube: https://youtu.be/0-ky8VA6nrE
Facebook: http://ow.ly/Sosyi
Webpage: http://www.victoriasaccentiwrites.com
Google+: http://ow.ly/Sot9m
Amazon: http://ow.ly/Qn9xj
Smashwords: http://ow.ly/QPPrA
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/QPPcF
Kobo: http://ow.ly/QPP4A
iBook, Apple: http://ow.ly/QPPmJ

Me:  Perfect!  Thank you so much for dropping by today, Victoria, and thank you everyone else too!!  Please stay tuned for the next installment of Mistral Dawn's Musings!! :-)

Monday, September 21, 2015

#RRBC #Book & #Blog #Party #Stop!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

The Rave Reviews Book Club has gotten together and organized a blog tour that's continuing through the entire month of September.  And guess what?  Yours truly is being featured today!!! :-)  Every blog on this tour is sponsoring a daily prize giveaway.  Here's what I'm offering as prizes today:

Grand Prize:  1 $5 Starbucks eGiftcard: Winner: C. S. Boyack

3 Runners Up:  1 copy of 1 of my stories (winners' choices) for 3 people:  Winners:  Gwen Plano, Renae Lucas-Hall, Peter Wendt

# Of Winners For This Stop: 4

If you'd like to enter to win one of these prizes, you must comment below.  The tour organizers will let me know who the winners are tomorrow, and I'll contact you to send you your loot! :-)  You don't have to be a member of RRBC to be eligible to win (though you might want to think about joining ;-) ), so feel free to comment no matter what! :-)

I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about my books.  I've published two novels and one novella all in the same fantasy, romance series.  The series is mainly set in the realm of Fairie, and each novel focuses on a different couple.  The novella, Intrigue In The Summer Court, is a sort of bridge story, and brings some old friends together.  It's number 2.5 in the series.  The first book in the series, Taken By The Huntsman, focuses on the Erlking, the leader of the Wild Hunt, and his human soulmate Cassie.  The second book, Bound By The Summer Prince, focuses on the Prince of the Summer Court of Fairie and his human soulmate Roni.  I'm currently working on the third novel in the series, which is as yet untitled, and it focuses on the King of the Winter Court of Fairie and his human soulmate Kate.  You can read the first chapter of the story here: WIP First Chapter.  Once the book is published, I'll compile the posts on a page like I have for Taken By The Huntsman here Blog Page For Taken By The Huntsman, Bound By The Summer Prince here Blog Page For Bound By The Summer Prince, and Intrigue In The Summer Court here Blog Page For Intrigue In The Summer Court.  If you'd like to know when my third book becomes available, please click on the yellow "Follow" button on my Amazon Author Page here:  Mistral Dawn's Amazon Author Page.  To read more about each story individually, look below! :-)

Discarded and ignored by those around her for most of her life, Cassie is a lonely human woman struggling to find her place in the world and meaning in her life. Cadeyrn is the Erlking, the leader of the Wild Hunt, a hundreds of thousands of years old Fae who has always known his purpose. He has spent his entire long existence tracking the criminals of Fairie and punishing them for their crimes.
While hunting for the murderer of a child who has escaped to Earth Cadeyrn comes across Cassie and realizes that she is the one that the great mother goddess has designated as his soul mate. He kidnaps her and takes her to his fortress in Fairie to protect her from his many enemies. He knows she will be angry and that he'll have to work to earn her trust, but he finds his task to be even more challenging than he had thought it would be due to Cassie's difficulty in opening her heart.
Will Cadeyrn be able to convince Cassie that the bond between them is real and earn her love?

*This Book Is Free Through Kindle Unlimited

The Summer Court is in an uproar. The king has just been executed for unpardonable crimes, and the queen is prostrate with grief over his loss. This leaves the Summer kingdom bereft of true leadership; a problem which is compounded by the fact that the laws of Fairie require balance to be maintained by having a male and a female ruler for both Season Courts at all times. Uaine, the Summer prince, is the only one who can put things right, but he is without a mate. Knowing that he must take a bride quickly, for the sake of his people, even though he is struggling with his own feelings of pain and anger over his father's treachery, he goes for a walk in a forest near the palace to try to clear his head and determine how best to choose a female to rule beside him.
While walking Uaine discovers a human female running loose in Fairie, which is against the most basic tenets of Fae law. Furious at one more problem he must deal with, he takes her prisoner and locks her in the dungeon; only to discover later that she is his soul-mate. The magical bond between them means they are meant to be together forever, but humans can't feel the magic of Fairie. Will Uaine be able to win her heart and convince her that she can trust him to keep her safe from all the dangers of Fairie...including himself?
Roni is a human con woman and petty thief. Having run afoul of the local crime syndicate in the city where she is staying, she finds herself running for her life. Trouble is no stranger to her, but when she falls through a hole in a wall and finds herself in a world with carnivorous trees and rocks that eat people she realizes she may have found more of it than she can deal with. Rescued/arrested by the prince of the Summer Court, it doesn't take long for her to formulate a plan to use him to get herself home. Unfortunately for her, she soon finds that her heart, which she had thought long ago turned to stone, has begun to feel the love she has been playing at. Will she be able to overcome a lifetime of caution and allow herself to follow her heart? Can a criminal love a cop?

*This Book Is Free Through Kindle Unlimited

Jillian knows something bad is going to happen! She has been a loyal adviser to the throne and friend of the queen, Briallen, for thousands of years, and now Roni and Uaine's wedding and coronation are to take place in just a couple days. The Summer Court will have a new king and queen, who, it is hoped, can repair the damage and heal the schism the late king created.
But Jillian can't shake the feeling that trouble is brewing. Many of the Summer nobles aren't happy about the changes that are taking place in the Summer Court, and many of the other Fae just aren't too sure about having a human on the throne...even if she has been blessed by the goddess. When Angelica, the leader of the Pixies, comes to her with news of a plot to murder the prince and princess, Jillian's suspicions are confirmed. Will the two of them be able to unravel this conspiracy in time to save the royal couple? Or will prejudice prevail, and the hope for peace in Fairie be lost forever?

***Please note, all of these stories contain adult material that make them unsuitable for those under the age of 18.  

Thank you so much everyone for stopping by!!! If you are interested, I'm currently running a poll to help me choose the title for my third novel.  You'll find it on the side and towards the top of this page.  I'd love it if you would all weigh in and let me know what you think. :-)  Also, don't forget to comment below so you can be entered to win a prize, and please take a moment to check out the other blogs on the tour!! :-)  You can find them here: RRBC Blog Tour Blog List.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

An #Interview With Adri Sinclair! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Adri Sinclair is joining us today to talk about her new release novel!!  Adri, please tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.  :-)

Adri:  Hi, I am Adri Sinclair – I’ve written 5 completed books as part of the Second Breath Chronicles.  The first three books are part of an Omnibus – Hidden Carmina, Carmina Released, Revealing Carmina; these three books are being re-branded and re-edited under the Booktrope banner.  The other two books are stand alone: Say My Name [book 4] & Fight or Flight [Book 5].  They are all PNR with a hint of darkness.  I am a mother to an artist and a wife to a computer geek – which means things can get a bit electric and eclectic in our house.

Me:  Ha! Sounds like fun!! :-)  What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Adri:  Fight or Flight – I write my own version of vampires. Ash & Agri’s story is a little darker than all the others, only because of the fight scenes – blood is spilled.  What inspired it… That is difficult to answer … I guess my fascination with the entire genre, I kept thinking: What if the MC does not want to be a vampire? Or what if the MC is a crap vampire? I guess the ‘What If’ theories became an obsession, which became a book.

Me:  I love "what ifs"! :-)  What are you working on now?

Adri:  Nephilim’s Garden. Not vampires this time, as clearly indicated, but… another twist on the mythology of the environment.

Me:  Mythology is great for inspirations! :-)  What authors, or books have influenced you?

Adri:  I really don’t know how to answer this – I think of my upbringing and the books I read then… And I guess I just went the complete opposite to that. I grew up on Romance books by Afrikaans Authors – always sweet, always generous and always with a feel good HEA. I kept some of it though… But Romance means something different to each person, so… 

Me:  Very true!  What are you reading now?

Adri:  I actually picked up The Unseen University. By the Late Sir Pratchett again. I usually do not read any book more than once [unless I am gobbling it down and skipping pages, then I have to go back hehe] I guess I became extremely nostalgic of late, and realized we won’t be getting anything new by this genius person. I own every, single, book [+ audio of them all!] this man wrote.

Me:  It's fun visiting old friends. ;-)  For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Adri:  Anything but the normal? Yes, I write vampires; but I hope to have established a different approach to the entire business of vampires – which includes various other mythological creatures heavily founded in Sumerian myths and legends.

Me:  Interesting!! :-)  What is your favorite part of being an author?

Adri:  There’s a lot about being an Author I absolutely love – but I will admit to loving the writing itself. I enjoy living in my own head, in my own world. I am comfortable and they know me there! Hehe.

Me:  Ha!  Yes, it's nice to be surrounded by the familiar. ;-)  Do you have a day job as well?

Adri:  I do – though many wouldn’t call it that. I live a pretty tight regime and work from home as a freelance contractor for Marketing & Advertising.

Me:  Cool!!  What would you say are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Adri: The hardest part is having to step away from it all to become a functioning human being in the real world.  The easiest part is writing it all down and then rolling around in the words mentally, to make them stick to me.

Me:  Yes, I hate it when I'm pulled away from writing because it's time to adult. :-/  What genre do you place your book in?

Adri:  Paranormal Dark Romance – Though it can pass for Dark Fantasy too, as I cross the boundaries. I suppose innately, Romance will cover them all. 

Me:  Some of my favorites!! :-)  Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Adri:  Mostly, just… Thank you. I think the biggest accomplishment in this process, is to have someone willing and able to take the time to read what I put down. It is humbling and scary at the same time. Mostly, it is just a need to hug each person and whisper a heartfelt ‘Thank you’.

Me:  I completely agree!! We love you, readers!! :-)  And so these fabulous people can find your work, are there any links you'd like me to post?

Adri:  Yes please, I’m always happy and willing to connect.

Amazon Author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Adri-Sinclair/e/B00LX10X5C/
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adri-Sinclair-Romance/1411356515822689
Google+ : https://plus.google.com/u/0/103460349313081091225/posts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/My_MindGrind
Personal Website: http://www.adrisinclair.com
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hbunnies/

Me:  Awesome!! Thank you so much for stopping by today, Adri.  Everyone else, thank you too!! And don't forget to pick up your copy of Adri's latest, Fight or Flight!!  It's free for a short time on Amazon.  I know I've already got my copy!! ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#Dark #Dreams #Halloween #Giveaway! $175 #Grand #Prize!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Guess what?!?  I'm participating in an awesome Rafflecopter giveaway!! :-)  There are lots of amazing authors who are part of this giveaway, and you can find them through social media at the links provided in the Rafflecopter below! :-)  Each author is offering individual prizes, and there's also a $175 Paypal grand prize!!!!  So there are lots of chances to win, and you might just win big!!! :-)  The prizes I'm offering are Kindle copies of one of my stories (winners' choices) for three people!! Check out all the other cool loot being offered by the other authors by clicking through all of the pictures in the Rafflecopter, and then start liking and following for chances to win! :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 18, 2015

#IndieBooksBeSeen #Monthly #Indie #BookReviews! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

It's the 18th again, so here are my monthly indie book reviews! :-)

Glory by Devin O'Branagan:

Glory Templeton is a pretty normal seventeen year old girl, who just wants to have fun and figure out what she's going to do with her life. Unfortunately for her, she's coming of age just at a time when a lethal pandemic is sweeping the world. Her mother happens to be one of the scientists who is working on finding a cure for the plague, so imagine her surprise when her mother tells her that her blood holds the only hope of saving humanity!
I read this book in one sitting, because I just couldn't bear not knowing what was going to happen. Glory is an interesting story that straddles the sci-fi/paranormal/urban fantasy line. Ms. O'Branagan did an amazing job of capturing the uncertainty and optimism that often go hand in hand with the age group this book centers on. Her characters seem like real people, with flaws, doubts, and fears just like anyone else. I really enjoyed this story, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. :-)

Southern Shifters: Werelock by Mina Carter:

Hale Roark is a warlock, at least that's what he thinks he is. Renae Brogan is a lion shape-shifter who is running from an abuse ex. Hale has been hired to track her down and bring her back, but he doesn't know the whole story. He's an expert bounty hunter, but he never thought he'd be facing down dragons for this woman!
Werelock is a fun, sexy read with a lot of humor thrown in. It is a short story, but there's a lot of information packed into those few pages, so hang on for a wide ride! I really enjoyed this story, and I'm looking forward to Ms. Carter's next hot offering! ;-)

Ares by KA Finn:

Tessa is a slightly naive officer on a Foundation ship. Gryffin is a cyborg and the leader of a fleet of mercenary ships, the Nomad. The Nomad are committed to defending the independence of the colonies in their sector...the same colonies the Foundation is bent on conquering. Not the most promising start for a romance, is it? Add to that the fact that the Foundation isn't the benevolent government Tessa believes they are, and certain shadow elements are bent on capturing Gryffin for their own purposes, and you have a recipe for non-stop action!
This is the first novel in what is obviously a series, and it does have a cliffhanger ending. But if you like sci-fi romance with tortured cyborg heroes, then this is the book for you. Five stars, and I can't wait for the next book! :-)

Latitudes & Catitudes: Prequel to The Sea Purrtector Files by Jeanne Fogurth

Xander de Hunter is a cat with a dream. That dream is to one day become a Purrtector. He wins a kickboxing match and is soon after approached with a request to help find the beautiful Cha-Cha who was supposed to have given the winner their medal. She's missing and this might just be his chance to shine!
As a life-long servant to the feline kind, I loved this story. It's very short, but adorable and purrfect as a bedtime story for the young animal-lovers in your life. :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

#Thursday #Motivation!! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Here's a little snippet to keep you motivated this Thursday! ;-)

Excerpt From Untitled Work In Progress:
"Kate?" he whispered in her ear.  "Are you with me?"
"Mmmm?" she moaned.  When he reached up and pinched her nipple, she gasped and writhed against him.  "Yes, master," she breathed
"Good.  I'm going to ask you to trust me now.  Can you do that?"
Blinking, she turned her head and looked into his eyes.  "Yes, master, I can do that."
He gave her a wicked grin and waved his hand, snuffing out all of the candles in the room.

Is the suspense killing you? ;-)  Coming Soon! :-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#NewRelease #Fight Or #Flight By Adri Sinclair! #FREE For A #Limited #Time!! :-)

Adri:  Hi!  Adri Sinclair here.  Thank you Mistral for taking me under your wing with this one, and allowing me to present my latest novel to your friends, fans and family. I am really immensely honoured. 

Me:  Aww!! *blushing*  It's great to have you, Adri.  Please tell us all about your awesome new release! :-)

Adri:  Fight or Flight is the story of Gabriella - who pretty much became a vampire against her will...
The story is rather dark, dealing quickly with her changes.
Gabriella, however, learns of a culture among vampires... One very few people know about; along with the myriad of skills they possess.
More over, she meets Ash. Her 'combat trainer' - who pretty much stabs her with a sword on their first meeting. It sets the tone for their building 'relationship' - and Ash declares himself The Devil. More than once, and backs it up with a series of behaviours to solidify the claim.
Add into this sparking dynamic a camp vampire, one addicted to smoking, a club owner and trio of mean, spiteful, devious Coven Ladies... and you have yourself a Paranormal, Dark, Romance with a twist of jeallousy, spite and a steep learning curve.

This book will only be available on Amazon for as long as the promotion last, after which it will be removed. I hope you will get your copy and let me know what you think. 
Me:  I've already got my copy!! :-)

Adri:  Thank you all for taking the time, and thanks again, Mistral, for allowing me a moment in your spotlight!

Me:  *looks around for spotlight* ;-)  Well, if it's here, you're more than welcome to a moment in it, Adri.  Thank you so much for joining us!! :-)  Everyone else, please take a moment to check out this new story, it looks awesome!! And don't forget to stay tuned for the next installment of Mistral Dawn's Musings! :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#Help Me Pick A #Title For My Third #Novel! :-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

As many of you may know, I'm working on getting the third novel in the series I started with Taken By The Huntsman out to you soon.  To do that, I need a title so that I can get everything together for my most wonderful and talented cover artist. :-)  The first book in the series, as I said, is titled Taken By The Huntsman and the second book is titled Bound By The Summer Prince.  I'd like to keep with that theme and call the third book "Something" By The Winter King, and I'd like all of your help in deciding what that "something" is!

Over on the side and at the top of this page, you'll see a poll where you can select one or more of the options I'm considering.  If you think a word that is not listed will work better, feel free to leave it in the comments.  If I like it, I'll add it to the poll. ;-)  Thank you all so much for your help with this!! :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Do You #Hate That?

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Ever since last week's anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon I've been thinking about something and I'd like to share it.  You see, over and over I keep coming back to the question: what could prompt anyone to do something like that?  The answer is both simple and complicated: hate.  People with hate in their hearts were motivated to attack what they hated and many people died as a result.  Isn't it astonishing how such a travesty and horror can be explained in a single sentence?  You know something even more amazing?  The same sentence can be used to explain every atrocity in human history.  Frightening.

As some of you may be aware, there is a "rule" in writing that says authors should avoid using adverbs if at all possible.  When I first heard that rule it disturbed me.  I mean, how Orwellian is that?  Deleting words from your vocabulary.  What's next?  The Thought Police and Big Brother?  But after I mulled it over, I realized the rule isn't meant to limit an author's word choice; on the contrary, it's meant to broaden it.  Adverbs can often be used as a crutch, a shortcut to communicate something without having to bother finding the right word to describe it.  A person may have "thought something over slowly", but maybe what they really did was "ponder", "consider", "chew on it", "evaluate", "contemplate", "weigh", "mull", "muse", "meditate", "reflect", "debate", "ruminate", or "deliberate".  You see the difference?  Eliminating the adverb didn't limit me, it forced me to be more specific and conscientious about which word I chose.

I believe, even though it is not an adverb, the same rule can be applied to the word "hate".  Think about it, how often do we use that word even though it's not really what we mean?  After all, hate is a powerful thing.  To hate something is to go beyond a feeling of loathing or disgust.  Hating includes elements of fear and rage that are often born of pain.  Hate is a poisonous feeling, as dangerous to those who harbor it as it is to those who are its target.  And yet how often do you hear someone say they "hate" a television show, clothing item, or type of food?  Are any of those things important enough to hate?  Probably not.

Some might argue that's a good thing.  That using hate to describe trivialities dilutes its effect and steals some of its power.  Looking around at the state of the world, I'd have to disagree.  People may fail to be precise in their descriptions of their feelings, but that doesn't stop them from feeling them.  In fact, I believe it may do the opposite.  It seems to me that an inability to communicate what one is feeling would lead to frustration, which would compound the problem.

So what's the solution?  Honestly?  I don't know.  Obviously, altering word choice won't heal all of the world's ills.  But the way I look at it, it also won't hurt and it might help.  I've written before about how the words we choose shape our perceptions (June 8, 2015 Positivity Post and June 21, 2015 Positivity Post), so how about we use that to try to reduce, or even eliminate, the "hate" in our lives?

When the word "hate" comes to your mind, evaluate the situation and and try to determine if "hate" is really what you're feeling.  Maybe you tell people you "hate" brussels sprouts.  Do you actually "hate" brussels sprouts?  Are brussels sprouts important enough to your life that they can truly inspire that level of feeling in you?  Do you fear they will attack you in the night?  Have you lost a family member to brussels sprouts?  Or is it more that you don't care for their taste, scent, and/or texture?  Disliking a certain aspect of something and hating that thing are two very different emotions.  Even if you associate a tragedy with an object, such as if someone you loved died of an allergic reaction to brussels sprouts, do you really hold the object itself responsible?  It might make you sad to think of or see brussels sprouts, but in reality doesn't it take a voluntary action for hate to be justified?

Of course, it might be more complicated than that.  Maybe it's an abstract concept that you "hate".  Do you "hate" prejudice?  It's certainly something worthy of hate.  After all, how much pain and suffering and injustice have been caused by prejudice?  It's an ugly, terrible thing that hurts everyone it touches.  And yet, when you think of prejudice what image forms in your mind?  Do you picture the abstract, prejudice?  Or is it a person or group of people you think of?  See, that's where the danger lies.  Most human beings, myself included, don't abstract well.  We need a concrete focus for our hate, and that means that we start blending generalities with specifics in our minds in ways that don't exist in reality.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that an individual human being, or even multiple individual human beings, aren't capable of committing some crime that might justifiably inspire true hatred towards them.  But something you need to remember, a group of people is still a group of individuals.  No matter how you lump people together in your mind, there is no overarching, monolithic "them."  That's something that just doesn't exist.  Every person in that group is an individual.

Think about it.  Let's say the group of people you're talking about are brown-haired people.  And let's pick just one attribute about that group, the very attribute that defines those people as a group: the color of their hair.  But even with that narrow focus, we still can't pick a word that will accurately describe every person in that group.  After all, brown hair comes in thousands of different shades.  Where do you draw the line?  What if someone you designate as a brown-haired person, someone else would argue has black hair?  Another person in the group might consider themselves to be a dark blonde.  And that doesn't even consider people who had brown hair in their youth, but whose hair has turned white or gray with age.  Are they still brown-haired people?  What about people who dye their hair other colors?

Look at all of the questions and complications!  You know the really scary thing?  We haven't even considered anything else about these people, just the one, small aspect of them.  All we've talked about here is the color of their hair, the one characteristic that we defined the group by, and we can't even find a universally applicable descriptor for it.  What makes this even more dangerous is that people tend to extrapolate from one point of perceived commonality to ascribing all manner of shared traits to the group.  Traits that may exist in some individual members of the group, but not all of them, and which also exist in many individuals who aren't included in the group.  You know what this is?  Prejudice.  You see why "hating" an abstract is a problem?

Okay, what about hating people who have included themselves in a group by their actions, such as terrorists?  First of all, I can't say that I personally know any terrorists, but I have to kind of doubt that many of the people who have been labeled such by others consider themselves to be terrorists.  Everyone has a reason for what they do, whether it be a good reason or a bad reason, a well-considered reason or an impulsive reason, the reason still exists.  Even if the person is unable to understand their own reason, it's still there.  That's why we have psychological professionals, they help us figure these things out.

So once again we're left with an abstract: terrorists.  Can you name any of them?  Other than Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden, who are dead, I can't.  And I don't see much point in wasting the energy required for hate on dead people.  They can't hurt anyone anymore.  Maybe you're better informed than me and you can name other specific terrorists.  Can you point to specific acts of terror they have personally been involved in?  Have you spoken to them?  Do you understand what experiences in their lives led them to do what they have done?  Has something they have done affected you or someone you know in a personal way?  How close is your connection to them?

Once again don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that it's never justified to hate a specific person or specific people who have committed some heinous act where innocent people were killed.  All I'm saying is, know who you're hating and why.  If you can't do that much, maybe it isn't really hate you're feeling.

So what is my point here?  My point is that I'd like to ask everyone to be more mindful of the words they use and more analytical of their own feelings.  If you start thinking that you hate someone or something, ask yourself if hate is really the right word.  Is it truly hate that you feel?  Or is it anger or fear?  If it's anger or fear, what is the source of those feelings?  I mean, you hear phrases like "road-rage" all the time, but I have to kind of doubt that being cut off in traffic is actually enough to inspire a person to homicide.  There has to be some other, bigger, underlying factor there.

When you feel something strongly, figure out what you're actually feeling.  Give it a name and then analyze it to make sure the name you chose actually fits.  Then, when you're certain of the identity of the feeling, ask yourself where it came from.  I'm not suggesting that the reason for every emotion will be rational.  I'm terrified of spiders, even though I'm much larger than any spider and fully capable of ending the existence of any spider I come across.  It's not a rational feeling, but it does have a source: evolutionary history.  I understand the source and its connection to me, and I also comprehend that my feeling is not at all logical.  But is still exists.  There are many feelings like that, but it's important for you to be able to recognize them for what they are or you might start thinking they are hate when they aren't.  After all, are spiders really capable of the kind of reasoned, voluntary action that would justify hatred?  Even this confirmed arachnophobe has to admit, probably not.

What's the benefit of this?  Well, for one thing I think you'll probably be happier and less stressed out.  Once you think your feelings through, you may be able to determine a way to mitigate or eliminate their cause.  Even if you can't, understanding what is happening often has a calming effect on people.  Human beings generally don't like to feel they are being manipulated by forces beyond their control.  Accurate identification and increased understanding are ways of bringing some order to chaos and so exerting some control.  Even if only in our minds.  Another thing you might discover is that by better understanding your own emotions, you might also improve your ability to recognize them in others.  That type of empathy often breeds compassion, and a greater willingness to consider other points of view.  For anyone interested in reducing hate and the violence it breeds, can a greater appreciation of our shared humanity ever be a bad thing?  Think about it. ;-)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let It #Burn

Hey Everyone!! :-)

My friend, Kate, has joined us again today and she's got some things to say about life, advice, and friendship.  I really think she hit the nail on the head here, but take a read and see what you think. ;-)

When I first walked into the group home I'd spend nearly two years at, I had no idea what I was doing. I'd had barely any contact with the population that experienced cognitive delays, nor aside from babysitting, had I done much specific caretaking.
I sat down on the sofa to talk to the staff and one of the residents plopped down beside me. The staff immediately said "Be careful, he hits" and then when I went to move away "NO DON'T MOVE! He'll take that as rejection and get mad!" So I froze. And that resident sat next to me the entire time nodding his head, laughing and showing me his toys.
When I left that day and went home my husband asked me how it went and I said "I.. Don't know." I guess we were all equally confused during those first few days. I met the other resident the next day and endured a few days of dire warnings by the staff about how horribly wrong things would go if I did anything other than exactly what they did and then I was left to handle the shifts myself.
It went horribly. It was easily one of the worst days of my life. I did everything the staff had told me to do and it turned out precisely the opposite of how they assured me it would. I was standing outside on the porch after one of them had tried to strangle me with my own necklace (my bad for wearing one, I would never do that these days) and something snapped.
I thought "You know what? My whole life I have been helping people, caring for animals, teaching children and watching my parents do the same. This simply cannot be that hard! They're just people and I'm going to treat them the way I would anyone else I was taking care of!"
So I got up, walked in and went to the bedroom of the one who tried to strangle me and said "I'm sorry. Let me help you pick up your toys, Sir." I went to the other resident and said "You know, if you want an orange, have one. Hell, have six. It's an Orange and it's your house."
We had dinner that night, everyone awkwardly eyeing each other distrustfully and those two eventually became two of my favorite people in the world. That job was a marvelous success in that way. For all three of us.
It occurred to me in later days that these two had been mistreated, institutionalized, beaten, chained to walls, mocked, shamed and stigmatized. What they were asking, although they didn't have the words, was "My life has been hell. I need to know if I can trust you when you care for me. I need to know, will you stand in the fire with me?" And the only appropriate answer was "Yes. Let it burn."
There is one person who can know what you know, that's you. There is one person who can understand what you experience and that's you. There is one person who knows which road you need to walk and that's you. You will consistently run into people who try to assure you that they know you and your life situation better than you do. Don't listen, they don't. They don't live in your skin.
Take advice, consider others experience and then follow your own instincts in situations. Do what you know is right for you because you're the only one qualified to know what that is. As for friends, always make sure you keep the ones who would say "Let it burn" and consign all the others to a distant “I'll get to you if I have the time” place in your head.