Saturday, December 7, 2013

You Ruined Christmas!

SS and I recently made the mistake of telling our family that we would not be putting up a Christmas tree this year. Before you gasp in horror, let me just say that we're not opposed to Christmas trees or anything. When the Keeper and kiddos lived with us, we had trees all over the place. And we enjoyed putting them up. But this year, we made the decision not to do so because we now spend the holidays elsewhere. We have a cat and very curious dogs, so we don't put gifts under the tree anyway. And neither SS nor I feel particularly motivated to spend hours decorating a tree that we won't use, don't have time to fuss with, and will then have to spend the next month guarding from the dogs and cat.

But when we made the statement that we were opting out of a Christmas tree this year, you would have thought we announced the end of the world. Everyone had something to say, and most of the comments sent our way were less than supportive.

We were labeled Grinches.
We were ruining the spirit of the holiday.
We needed a tree to celebrate.

And so on and so forth until I wanted to flip everyone the bird.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is our house, right?

I mean, unless I've just been living in a fantasy world, I'm pretty sure the house is full of our things. I'm also pretty sure we moved those things into said house on our own. We pay the bills. We do the cleaning, maintenance, repairs and all that fun stuff. And I'm also pretty sure we live here alone.
 
So, I don't feel bad for not putting up a tree. I do, however, feel more than a little irritated that so many thought it necessary to try to guilt us into doing so. I mean, people who have never stepped foot inside our house suddenly decided they had a say as to how we decorated or celebrated the holidays!

What the heck?

Has the world lost its dang mind?

Has a Christmas tree really become such an important factor that the holiday season will be ruined if we don't have a tree that, more than likely, these people would never see anyway? Is a tree really that big of a deal?

It is?

Oh, well then. Forgive me for thinking the holiday season was about something far more important than the presence of a fake tree. All these years, I've thought it was about family and love. I thought the season was about faith, whatever your faith might be, and celebrating the amazing gifts we've been given. I thought it was about creating new memories and cherishing those we've already made. I thought it was a time for hope and happiness and a celebration of the generous spirit of giving. A time of rebirth, rejuvenation, and compassion.

Gosh, how wrong I've been all these years! 

To think I wasted all these years spreading love and cheer and good will to friends, family, and those less fortunate during the holiday season. Had I known that all I needed to do was put up a tree, my life would have been so much fuller.

Oh, wait. No! I really don't think it would have been.

I actually think my life, and that of my husband, has been pretty dang great even though we don't usually spend hours putting up lights or a ton of decorations this time of year. I think we've made some fantastic memories by instead spending that time doing things for others… like shopping for a less fortunate child, adopting an elderly person, sending cards to soldiers, cooking for the homeless, volunteering to work so others could enjoy a day with their families, snuggling up to watch silly movies together, spending time with friends and family, or searching out the perfect gifts to put a smile on the faces of the special kids in our lives.

And I think this year will be just as fabulous, even if we don't put up that tree. Because a tree just isn't that damn important in the grand scheme of things. Really, it isn't.

The world will continue to spin.

The Universe isn't going to implode if it happens to peek into our home and see a treeless living room.

God, whichever God one might believe in, isn't going to decide we're crappy humans because we didn't bow to a tradition of some else's choosing.

Santa isn't going to turn his sleigh around and race off to the North Pole in tears because there wasn't a tree.

In short… nothing bad will happen if we don't have a tree! So stop being jerks, folks. Your holiday won't be ruined by our lack of a tree. And neither will ours. I promise.

xoxo,
Ayden

 *And before anyone flames me for saying holidays more often than Christmas in this post, I'd just like to remind everyone that this season does, indeed, contain multiple holidays from many different cultures, all of which I hope you and your family enjoy equally. :)

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Teaser Tuesday 4: Ravished - The Teplo Files

Happy, #GivingTuesday!

I hope you are all recovering from a fabulous Cyber Monday. I know I am! You guys are completely awesome and sent FADE and FALL soaring through the ranks on Amazon yesterday. It did my little heart good. Thank you!

I would give you a teaser from FLAME to celebrate, but, well, I haven't made much headway with it yet. I've been wrapped up in getting Ravished revised to my liking so I can send it off into the world. Soon, hopefully. :)

I hope you'll accept another teaser from this story instead.


"God, I am so stupid."

"Lillian, you aren't stupid." Tristan pushed away from the door, his arms crossed over his chest to keep himself from reaching out for her. "If you don't want to do this, you can still say no. I meant what I said in Jason's office. I'll make sure you won't be in danger if you stay here."

"That's not the point, Tristan." She shot him another frustrated look.

"Then what is the point?" he asked, his own discontent with the situation growing by leaps and bounds when faced with her anger. "Why did you agree to this? Christ, you're just a ballerina, beautiful. This isn't your life."

"And that bothers you, doesn't it? That I'm just a ballerina," she snapped, rolling her eyes.

"It doesn't bother me nearly enough," he retorted. "Christ, I'm trying to keep you safe. You don't know what you're getting into here, and you just fucking agreed to it anyway. And I'm not nearly stron-" He snapped his mouth closed, growling soundlessly.

"What is your problem?" she demanded. "Why are you such an ass? What did I ever do to you, Tristan?" She opened her mouth again, but he cut her off this time, incapable of stopping himself. He didn't really want to anyway. He was tired of dancing around the truth.

"I don't want you hurt. Jesus, Lillian, is that so goddamned difficult to grasp?" He raked a hand through his hair, tugging the strands. "I. Don't. Want. You. Hurt. And not because I can't keep my damn hands to myself when I'm around you either."

Lillian's eyes widened, whatever she was going to say lost as she looked at him. Really looked at him. Her shocked gaze rolled over him like a wave, sending heat and desire crashing down all over again. He curled his hands into fists against the creases of his arms in a last ditch effort to keep himself from snatching her up and kissing her.

"It's not your choice to make," she said.

"No?" He arched a brow at her. "None of this would be an issue if it weren't for me."

"Well, at least you admit that much." She huffed, and then sighed. "I barely know you, and I'm already sick of arguing with you."

"Then don't," he suggested, liking the sound of that plan a whole hell of a lot. "Just… don't."

She stared at him for a long, silent minute. A parade of emotion crossed her face, flickering too quickly for him to separate one from the next. "Tell me you don't want me to do this, Tristan," she finally said, holding his gaze. "Tell me you want me to tell Jason I changed my mind, and I will."

"Would you?" He swallowed hard. "You'd walk away right now if I asked?"

"Yeah, I would."

"Why?"

Why did what he wanted matter so much to her?


See you soon, lvelies!
 
xoxo,
Ayden
 
PS: If you haven't entered the Goodreads Giveaway for FALL yet, it ends tomorrow! You can enter via the widget on the sidebar!

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Monday, December 2, 2013

Massive #CyberMonday Sale and a Toy Drive

Hi lovelies,

I don't have a myth or monster for you today, mostly because I'm still wallowing in the sadness that was Paul Walker's passing (*sobs*) and last night's The Walking Dead ('eff you, Governor. Eff. You!), but I do have something sure to turn frowns upside down all over the kingdom.

To celebrate Cyber Monday, Curiosity Quills is having a MASSIVE $.99 sale!


You can read the best in science-fiction, horror, mystery, fantasy and paranormal fiction by authors like Jamie Ayres, Aidan James, A.W. Exley, James Wymore, Katie Hamstead, and of course, me for only 99 cents!

FADE and FALL are both representing in the Top 50 in the Mythology category right now. Woot woot! I'd love to see them squeak by into the Top 20. You can help a crazy author out by grabbing a copy of FADE here or FALL here before the sale ends tomorrow.

I mean, they are less than a buck each. :)

Already read 'em? Gift a copy to a friend or five. I promise to love you forever if you do. :)

And please don't forget to check out the other amazing CQ titles up for grabs! You can see the entire list here.

On a shopping related note, my little nephew, Aloshua, is collecting toys and gift cards for Arkansas Children's Hospital's annual Festival of Stars Christmas toy drive. One of his sweet little friends, Maddie, is doing the same for Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Both of these amazing kids know what it's like to spend time at the hospital, and how far a new toy can go in brightening the day of kids just like them. You can help these pint size heroes make a difference by donating to their cause.

You can donate any amount via PayPal or egift card to teamlosh@gmail.com and let these amazing little kids do the shopping for you, or you can send an unopened, unwrapped toy to Aloshua, P.O. BOX 982, Bald Knob, Arkansas, 72010. All physical items sent will be delivered to Arkansas Children's Hospital on December 13, 2013. If you make a cash or egift card donation, you are more than welcome to specify which hospital you would like to have the donation benefit. Donations not specified will be split 50/50 between the two receiving hospitals. :)

You can also shop at Daydream Doll Boutique for the little girls in your life to help out with Losh and Maddie's mission. Each time you use the promo code JJPARTY, you get 10% off, and Losh and Maddie get credit to help them fill gift baskets.

How's that for turning frowns upside down?

Happy Cyber Monday, y'all!

xoxo,
Ayden

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Holidays!


I cannot even begin to express how thankful my family and I are for the many blessings bestowed upon us this year. Despite the serious health scares thrown at our grandmother, brother-in-law, and my husband, all three are still here to celebrate one of my favorite holidays.

I hope your family has been as blessed as mine this year. We're a little stronger, a little braver, a little humbled, and definitely full of gratitude this holiday season. And we have so many of you to thank for helping us weather the storm. You guys have been amazing on so many levels. So thank YOU for being some of the best damn friends, readers, and fellow authors a girl could ask for. :) I am more grateful to each of you this holiday season than you know.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, a blessed Hanukkah, and a fantastic holiday season, lovelies. May the days ahead be full of love and laughter for you and yours! You more than deserve it.
 

All my love,
Ayden
 


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesday 3: Ravished (Teplo Files) #romance

Happy Tuesday, lovelies!

I hope the work week is flying by for you and holiday cheer is speeding your way. I'm so excited for Thanksgiving. We're hosting a low key dinner at my house this year, and I cannot wait! It's been six years since I last tackled Thanksgiving dinner on my own. I'm looking forward to doing so again. :)

I hope you enjoy this little teaser from Ravished. I've spent so much time rewriting and revising this story. I'm really excited for the day I finally feel like it's finished and I can send it off into the world. Hopefully in time for PitchMAS! Eek!

Anyway, enjoy, lovelies.
 

Lillian closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to marshal her thoughts as Tristan poked through cabinets in search of bowls. And then she drew another and another, his scent lingering in the air around her.

The man intoxicated her.

When he wasn't trying to seduce her into a puddle on the floor, he was charming, funny. Talking to him was easy, effortless… playful even. She liked him. Honest to God liked him.

That truth didn't bother her nearly as much as it had a day ago.

"Do you even own bowls?" Tristan asked, pulling her out of her thoughts and plunking her right back down into tingling reality.

"What?" She opened her eyes, quickly turning to the stove when her stomach fluttered at the sight of him raking a hand through his messy hair, irritation stamped across his face.

"Bowls. Do you own them?" he snapped.

He huffed when she didn't answer right away.

"Yes, I own bowls," Lillian said, rolling her eyes. She hadn't trapped him against the stove and worked sexual voodoo over his body. His bad mood was his own fault. "You're just looking in the wrong spot. They're by the sink. And who doesn't own bowls anyway?"

"How should I know?" he muttered. A cabinet creaked open. "Fucking finally."

Lillian bit her lip to hide a smile and flipped the burner off before turning to face him. "Do you always have a problem with organization or does it only piss you off when you're sexually frustrated?"

"I'm highly organized," he retorted, lifting two bowls from the cabinet and setting them down on the countertop.

"And sexually frustrated," she said, watching him resume his search. "Spoons are in the second drawer."

Tristan scowled, jerking the door open to retrieve the spoons. "I'm not the only one sexually frustrated, beautiful. Besides, you know how to solve that dilemma for both of us."

"Ha!" Lillian laughed, her skin tingling all over again at the raised eyebrow and suggestive smirk he shot in her direction. "So not going there, Tristan."

He shrugged. "You will sooner or later. You know it. I know it. Might as well accept it."

"Mm."
 
Lillian grabbed a ladle from the drawer closest to the stove before holding out her hand for the bowls. Tristan handed them over, and surprisingly, didn't try to touch her in the process. She jumped anyway.

He smirked again, lifting that damned brow as if to say See? I told you so.

Lillian filled their bowls while he rummaged in the fridge, refusing to respond to that cocky grin. Gorgeous bastard.

Happy holidays, lovelies!
 
xoxo,
Ayden

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lovies4Littles: An Extraordinary Cause for Extraordinary Kids +Interview

Hello, lovelies,

For many, November is a time of celebration and family. That is nowhere as true as it is for parents of ill children. Family, friends, and strong support networks are one of the biggest blessings in the lives of those with chronic or terminally ill children. With November being Prematurity Awareness Month in addition to Thanksgiving, I wanted to spotlight another organization doing amazing things for children: Lovies4Littles.

I was introduced to this organization recently and have fallen in love. They handmake and donate beautiful blankets and stuffed animals for chronic and terminally ill children all over the nation. Check out the interview with Danielle Silva, founder of Lovies4Littles below, and then hop over to their page to see some of the amazing work they and the phenomenal kids they support!




Danielle is a 36 year old single mom of seven kids residing in Northern California. She is ex-Navy, ex-Army National Guard and now a disabled veteran. Her second child was born in 1999 with a craniofacial disorder called Saethre-Chotzen Syndrome. Weeks after her 2nd child's birth, she became a single parent.

In 2002, she met Thomas, and together they combined their family, her two children, his three, and added five. Ten kids total, each with their own varying disorders. Down Syndrome, Autism, PDD-NOS, ODD, Peri-ventricular Leukomylasia, Anxiety, Preemies and Micro-preemie.

Her youngest child, Solange, was born in 2008 at 23 weeks weighing 25 ounces. In 2011, Danielle became a single parent again.

Lovies4littles was started as a way to give back. With help from a friend, Lovies4Littles was born. The initial aim of the organization was to provide blankets to NICU babies, and quickly grew to encompass any child with a chronic or terminal illness.

Starting in February, 2013 with a page on Facebook, L4L has since grown to nearly 10,000 fans. L4L has provided blankets and shirts for nearly 600 kids worldwide, including providing Lovies for NICU babies at Sutter Hospital, Davis Hospital, and Mercy San Juan in Sacramento, CA.

Please help me welcome Danielle Silva, creator of Lovies4Littles, to tell us more about herself and the organization.


Q: What is Lovies4Littles?

A: L4L personalizes blankets for chronically or terminally ill children all over the world. We also make them for anyone, with the proceeds helping to fund donated blankets and consumables/costs of machines, etc.

Q: What prompted you to start Lovies4Littles? How did the cause grow?

A: I helped a friend make blankets for the NICU where her child was born. I bought a machine and started making them for people I knew. I made a FB page and it took off from there.

Q: How many people are involved in making the blankets? Is it just you or do you have other volunteers?

A: The blankets are all designed and embroidered by me. All my kids help in some way or another whether it be helping pick patterns, colors, blankets, etc.
 
Q: How many blankets does L4L typically donate each year?

A: So far we have helped several "Pages" on Facebook with fundraisers for treatments and expenses. We have also donated over 300 blankets. We find sponsors for those who want a blanket but cannot afford one.  The sponsor pays the blanket and embroidery costs and the shipping. Then the child chooses what they want.

Q: How can others get involved?

A: We are always looking for people to help with sponsoring a child. We currently have a waiting list of children. A sponsorship is $30 and pays for the blanket, Embroidery of child's choice and shipping. Only about $1-2 per blanket is left and it goes into the machine upkeep and payments.

Q: What's your favorite part of Lovies4Littles?

A: My favorite part is coming on the page or opening a message to see a pic of a child with their lovie. The genuine happiness and smiles you see on their face when you look past the medical issues they face. It is a moment of pure joy in something many take for granted. A moment where their illness doesn't matter. At least for a few minutes

Q: As a mom of preemies, I imagine you identify strongly with the kids you support. Do you ever get to meet any of the kids you make blankets for? What is that like for you?
 
A: I have met a few kids and my heart melts for them. Even if I have not met them in person, I meet them through their stories and photos, and my heart breaks each time I have to announce a passing of one of our kids. What helps me through that is knowing L4L provided comfort for them in a time of need and now the parents have something special of their child's to hold and keep with them.

Q: In addition to blankets, what else does Lovies4Littles create?

A: We make stuffed animals and do t-shirts and direct-to-garment printing. We can make hats, totes, and much, much more. We also work with Bloodline Boards, which is a local longboard company, by printing their boards and helping with special prints that has proceeds going to help fight sex trafficking of young girls.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who want to get more involved with a cause like this or with volunteerism in general?

A: Go to your local hospital, ask the NICU or PICU what they need. Sometimes just donations of books or Dollar Tree toys can make a child's day better. They cannot experience the joys of a dollar toy while out with mom or a candy bar for being good in the store. They cannot even go to the store.  Donate old game systems for the kids on the floor to use… kids DVDs, anything helps. You can also volunteer.  When I am looking for a sponsor I put a child up on the page. I ask people to check out their page and learn about the child. Then tell them if they feel it in their heart to help the child, then to message me.  Some of these sponsorships have turned into great friendships. No parent should feel alone in their battles.

Q: What's your favorite book? Your favorite author?
 
A: I would have to say the Twilight series. Mostly because after that, I got into Twitter and roleplay and I have met some of the most amazing people through the Twilight Fandom.

Q: If you could do one thing in your life, what would it be?

A: To provide a Lovie (blanket or animal) for every child that asked.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
 
A: Think of new designs to make and spend time with my kids.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My children. Seeing my daughter's strength through multiple brain/cranial surgeries. Watching more than one of my children fight for every breath we normally take for granted. Watching them succeed over adversity over and over again.

Q: What's the single most empowering piece of advice you've ever been given?

A: To always believe I can do anything that I put my mind to. And that sometimes the right thing is not always the easiest thing but in the end, you are put in someone's life for a reason, make good use of that opportunity

You can learn more about Lovies4Littles at http://www.Lovies4littles.com, or by emailing them at: lovies4littles@live.com. Please don't forget to Like their page for opportunities to help sponsor some of the very special children L4L spends their time supporting. You can also order a blanket for your kiddos from Lovies4Littles. Each purchase helps fund blankets donated to chronic or terminally ill children.

 

xoxo,
Ayden

 

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nothing But Blood, Sweat, and Tears #adversity #advice


In my daily life, I function in a social work capacity for the state. More specifically, my job entails working with nursing homes, assisted living facilities, ICF/IID (intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities), and various federal, state, and local resource programs to help transition adults with physical and mental disabilities out of nursing homes and back into the community when appropriate.

Every day for the next fifteen to twenty years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65. The healthcare field knew this was coming, but unfortunately, we didn't necessarily plan for it as well as we should have. This lack of foresight has created a situation in which resource programs simply can't sustain as they are now. There aren't enough nursing homes in the nation to care for these individuals and the funding needed to pay for their care simply doesn't exist.

So, I get called in to assess individuals to determine if they are capable of returning to the community and/or if they even want to return to the community. From there, my job entails locating the resources they need to assist in this transition. I deal with everything from home health to housing to transportation and so on and so forth. It's intensive, time consuming, and equal parts rewarding and frustrating.

I love my job. I meet so many interesting people. I get to play an active role in improving the quality of life for these individuals.

State and federal insurance programs can services 3 people in the community for every 1 person in a nursing home. This means that for every one person not in a nursing home, we can help get services to 3 in the community. From a government perspective, that's a huge deal, especially when 10,000 new people every day are reaching retirement age! On a more individual level, that's an even bigger deal. Very few people actually want to go into the nursing home. If they had a way to stay at home without feeling like a burden on the family, most would choose that option.

That's where I come in. I help locate and acquire everything an individual might need to make that option a viable possibility whether it's home health, special equipment, affordable housing, or something else altogether.

Many of the individuals I see are young. Some are five and ten years younger than I am. At twenty-nine, I cannot even imagine living in a nursing home for years at a time! Others are only a handful of years older than me, and have been in the nursing home, sometimes for ten, fifteen years. Can you imagine being forty years old, and having lived most of your adult life in a facility with people four, five, and six times your age?

I certainly can't!

That makes my job incredibly rewarding. But the rules and regulations quickly change as the government rushes to implement guidelines that better serve the needs of individuals… many of whom the healthcare field didn't necessarily realize they'd be dealing with in such great numbers even five or ten years ago.

As a writer, I'm a problem solver. No matter how complex a particular novel may be, I know I can fix it. There's a method to the madness. I go in with a plan. I know that when X happens, I'm going to do Y to resolve the situation. I know that Point A will lead to Point B which will lead to Point C and so on and so forth until my characters come out the other side victorious. They may be battered and bruised, but by God, they'll make it out the other side because I'm a writer, and that's what I do. I make it happen.

So it's always a little frustrating to me when I can't do that in my other job simply because the programs needed don't exist yet, or are overtaxed because not enough of those programs exist. There's this constant battle between wanting to help, and being unable to do so.

It drives me nuts. How can I help someone when what they need isn't available? How can I do my job effectively when what they want me to do simply isn't necessarily possible?

I've been particularly stressed about this the last few weeks as the new healthcare laws are implemented and a greater number people are reaching out for assistance that just hasn't kept up with the demand. Stressed to the point where I had to sit down and really assess if this is what I want to do with my life moving forward.

Not because I don't love my job, but because I don't deal gracefully with obstacles. I don't want to pick my way across the battlefield on tip-toes, praying I don't step on a landmine. I want to plow through it in a tank, music cranked up, and war paint on. I want rules that I give me wriggle room to work without being so vaguely defined that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Or rules that are so constantly in flux, what I'm doing today will change completely tomorrow and I have to go back and start all over again.

I want to solve problems the way I've been taught to do it: by making things happen, rules be damned. But social work of this nature doesn't necessarily work that way. It's more rigid than that. It's more subtle than that. It's more than that.

Which has made me realize that the struggle I've been dealing with isn't necessarily out there, but rather in here. The problem isn't my job: it's how I view my job. It's me and how I relate, the type of person I am. I've been conditioned to do things a certain way, and I've been so focused on the fact that the way I've been taught doesn't work here, that I've missed the fact that I've been given an opportunity to learn a new way.

So maybe the real source of my stress isn't my job, but rather the fact that I've been fighting the wrong battles, looking at things through the wrong set of glasses. My vision has been too narrow. Instead of embracing the challenge, I've been hung up on why I don't like the challenge.

And what good does that do?

Sure the ever changing rules irritate the ever living shit out of me. But, people don't grow in a stagnant situation anymore than the characters I write grow when they aren't challenged. We have internal and external conflicts the same as our characters. We have to change the way we see things, the same as they do. Sometimes, the road to enlightenment is bumpy and frustrating as hell. Sometimes, we question if we're on the right path.

Sometimes, those questions prove that we are. We're right where we need to be, learning the lessons we need to learn today to meet the challenges we'll face tomorrow.

Oddly enough, despite not being able to see that bigger picture in my daily life, that is more or less the same thing I told my former editor when it came to FALL. She wasn't sold on the direction I'd taken the story. But for these characters, for Ari and Dace, they were right where they needed to be, learning the lessons today that would get them where they need to be later on in the journey. This is the part of their story that had to be told now, so I can tell the part of their story I want to tell later.

We can't skip ahead because skipping ahead would be easier. We can't back down just because we don't like the challenge or situation in front of us. Sometimes, we have to take a deep breath, and deal with what's right in front of us so we can get to that next step. We have to suck it up and redo the work, over and over again if need be, because that's what's going to get us where we want to be.

It may be years before the healthcare field is in a place where my job becomes easier. It may never happen. But right now, today, I have the ability to help us get closer to that point by meeting the challenges as they're thrown at me, by improving the quality of life for Americans one individual at a time. Maybe the services they need aren't there today. Maybe the rules we're bound by don't work today. But leaving the field mid-battle won't get us any closer than it would get Ari and Dace closer to winning their particular war. Sticking it out, fighting through the frustration, and demonstrating the need for change to those who can make those changes is what will get us there.

And that's what I should be focused on. Demonstrating the necessity for more help, for a defined set of rules, for broad reform and change. Maybe, just maybe, apply new rules today, tomorrow, and the next day will give those in charge the data they need to realize that what they want just isn't possible unless they revamp the system from the ground up. Maybe the endless frustrations will be the catalyst that builds a system that is viable and can adequately meet the needs of the rapidly increasing population its meant to serve, the same way that making my characters deal with a specific situation now gives them the tools they need to deal with a different situation later.

And that's what it's all about isn't it? Growth. It isn't going to be fun or simple or any of those things I want it to be, because we don't grow that way. We don't breeze through life, never being challenged, and miraculously become a stronger, braver, better, more capable person. We fight to get there, every step of the way. It's the same for anyone doing a thing worth doing. Because success, triumph and victory are built on blood, sweat, and tears for us just as much for the characters we write.

I'm not even going to lie and say this particular epiphany means the stress is going to melt away. In all likelihood, come Monday morning when I log on to another email from my boss with another rule change… I'll curse and grumble under my breath. I don't know. But I do know I'm more prepared to open that email today than I was a week ago. And that, I think, is a victory in and of itself.

 
xoxo,
Ayden

 

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Monday, November 18, 2013

Myth or Monster Monday: The Origin of Beauty and the Beast #mythology

There was a discussion on my Facebook feed earlier today regarding Beauty and Beast and how no one ever really mentions that, in the Disney version of the story, the Prince was cursed as an eleven-year-old boy. This entire discussion made me think about the origins of the Beauty and the Beast story, so I thought it fitting to share that story with you.

Meet the original Beauty and the Beast: Eros (aka Cupid) and Psyche.

Yep. Eros and Psyche's story was one of the earliest versions of the beauty and the beast tale, complete with curses, trickery, and an eventual happy ending. Granted, the beast was really an invisible God, Beauty was the one suffering the curse, and the story only ended happily because Zeus got involved, but little details tend to change along the way. Sort of like how Eros became a creepy little immortal kid at some point in history. But that's a complaint for another time.

Here's how the story goes…



Artist Unknown.
Psyche was the youngest daughter of a king, and as she grew, so did her beauty. The goddess Aphrodite (aka Venus) felt threatened by this mortal beauty, as her followers spoke so highly of Psyche, so she devised a plan to humiliate Psyche. Aphrodite sent her son, Eros, to prick Psyche with an arrow, and planned to present her an ugly beast when she woke so that she'd fall in love with this hideous creature and become the laughingstock of the kingdom.

But Eros accidentally pricked himself with the arrow, and instantly fell madly in love with Psyche, thus foiling his mother's plan.

Aphrodite was furious and sent a plague to the land, telling the people their misery would ease only if they sacrificed Psyche. In despair, her father took her into the mountains and tied her to a tree for some beast to eat. But Eros whisked Psyche away to his palace with the wind. He made himself invisible and wed Psyche, but only after making her promise never to attempt to see his face.

Psyche agreed to this condition, and for a time she and Eros were happy. But Psyche eventually invited her sisters to visit her new home. When she confessed to never having seen her husband's face, they convinced her to peek at him, telling her he was a monster who would kill her. Of course, their motive wasn't anything as pure as saving her life... They were simply jealous of the beautiful things Eros bestowed upon his beloved Psyche.

Armed with a knife and candle, that very night, Psyche crept into Eros's bedchamber. She lifted the candle to better see him, and when the light touched his face, she was stunned by his beauty. So stunned, in fact, she dripped candle wax onto him. The pain woke him. Realizing Psyche broke her promise, he left her to roam.

She did so for a long time before finally going to Aphrodite to beg her forgiveness. Aphrodite, not quite over her jealous rage, promised Psyche her aid if Psyche could complete four tasks. Of course, Aphrodite came up with increasingly difficult tasks. They were: sorting a massive pile of seeds, retrieving the Golden Fleece, filling a flask from the River Styx, and returning from the Underworld with Persephone's beauty cream.

Ants helped Psyche sort the seeds. A reed helped her retrieve the Fleece. An eagle helped her fill the flask.

But the fourth task was a trap.

Aphrodite knew Psyche would not be able to resist trying some of the beauty cream herself, so she cursed the box. When Psyche opened it, she fell into a deep sleep.

Eros wept over Psyche's prone body, distraught, for he still loved her deeply. He returned to Olympus and convinced Zeus to intervene. Zeus agreed to do so, and had Mercury bring Psyche to Olympus where he made her a Goddess. When Aphrodite learned Psyche was pregnant with Eros's child, she reluctantly forgave Psyche. And Psyche and Eros lived happily-ever-after.
 
* * *
 
 
And there you have the original Beauty and the Beast story. Granted, there are similar stories in other cultures that also played a role in the creation of the typical Beauty and the Beast story, but this is my favorite by far. :)
 
xoxo,
Ayden


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

Saturday, November 16, 2013

World in Crisis. 760,000 Dead. #borntoosoon #worldprematurityday

This post is long, but I ask that you continue reading to the end. I promise I'm not asking you to buy or donate anything. Just read.  

Nine years ago, my family tumbled headfirst into prematurity. My little sister, known around here as the Keeper of Cheerios, went into labor with her first son when she was only twenty-nine weeks pregnant. That's a full 11 weeks (nearly 3 months) before he should have made his debut into the world. Kaia was born weighing a little over 3 pounds, and spent a miraculous 3 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before he was strong enough to leave the hospital.


A few months later, the Keeper got pregnant again. The doctors assured her there was little chance of a repeat premature birth... but they were wrong. At five months, she started bleeding. She looked nine months pregnant with twins. At twenty-seven weeks, she went into labor. Aloshua was born twelve hours later, also a little over three pounds. Unlike his brother, Losh didn't breeze through being a preemie. We spent over three months in the NICU with Losh while he struggled daily. At a year old, he'd undergone numerous surgeries, weighed 12 pounds, required a ventilator 24/7, was tube fed, needed a catheter every 3 hours to help him pee, couldn't hold his head up, sit up, get up on his hands or knees or do any of those little things that all parents celebrate. For eight years, Losh has struggled with the simplest of tasks and setback after setback.


When Losh was three, his mom had a surprise pregnancy. This time, a little sister for the boys. Most parents-to-be celebrate the weeks by counting down how many more they have to go. Not the Keeper. Each week, she took stock of what her baby's survival rate would be if she went into labor. At twenty-three weeks, the Keeper knew her baby had a 17% chance of survival if born. At twenty-four weeks, there was a 25% chance of survival. At twenty-five weeks, with only a 50% survival rate, she went into labor. She remained in the hospital for over a week, scared to moved too much for fear doing so would make things worse. After a week and a half, the doctors had no choice but to do an emergency c-section to deliver the Little Princess (aka Abby), who hadd gone into distress in a dry womb. Abby was born on the last day of March at 1 pound... She was the size of a cellphone. Her daddy could fit her into the palm of his hand. Like Losh, she spent months in NICU, struggling through setbacks.

At nine, eight, and five years later... all three of these amazing little kids continue to struggle because of their early births.
 
Kaia, the eldest, has Tourettes Syndrome... some days his physical tics are so bad, he's unable to complete therapy for a learning disability common in children born prematurely. He has impulse control problems, and is hyperactive. He's small for his age, and he has speech and occupational therapy three days a week. He's able to do math that, at twenty-nine, I still can't do. He knows how to beat every video game you put in front of him. He loves making instructional YouTube videos and doing parkour. Like me, he's scared of everything. He's also the most compassionate and big-hearted nine year old you'll ever meet. His brother and sister drive him crazy, but he takes his role as their protector seriously. No one touches Losh during cold or flu season without a pointed reminder from Kaia that they need to wash their hands first. He's wickedly funny, and will make you cry laughing at some of the off the wall comments he blurts.


Losh, the middle, is wheelchair bound, has a trach, a feeding tube, has undergone twenty-three surgeries, and was on a ventilator until he was seven years old. We've almost lost him numerous times. He has a lifetime of surgery still ahead of him. He's incredibly smart, but he's developmentally delayed. He can't read or do basic math. He may never potty train. He can't walk. He didn't learn to talk until he was five... or tell his mom that he loved her until he was six. At eight years old, he weighs only 38 pounds. He gets four to five thousand calories a day... that's two to three times what the average adult requires. He spent nearly three entire years in the hospital, often spending weeks and months at a time unable to go home. When he did come home, his room was an intensive care unit, complete with an around the clock nursing staff. He has his own restaurant at home... He charges a fortune for invisible food served on paper plates his Papa gets suckered into buying for him on a weekly basis. He loves doing things for other people. He fundraises for the hospital, collects PopTabs for the Ronald McDonald House, and holds lemonade stands for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation every year. His smile touches hearts, and his laugh absolutely melts them. There is nothing this little boy can't figure out... including how to win friends as soon as he rolls into a room. He's always happy. He loves doing crafts. His best friend is Ronald McDonald (who Losh lovingly calls Arnold). Ronald takes that relationship quite seriously and always makes a point to hang out with Losh whenever he's in town.

Abby, the youngest, has terrible vision and a speech impediment. Unless you spend significant amounts of time around her, you probably won't understand half of what she says. Her vocabulary is extensive... frightfully so... but the ability to spit those words out coherently just isn't there. Her hands, feet, arms, and legs are riddled with scars from her time in the NICU. We don't yet know the extent of what challenges she will face as she continues to grow. She struggles with impulse control. She's painfully shy, but will sing her heart out. She adores going on shopping trips with her daddy, hanging out with my husband, or having Princess Days with me. She's a total diva. Ever since she was a baby, she'd also made some of the most hysterical facial expressions you will ever see. She learned to roll her eyes before she learned to sit up. She refuses to believe that Losh is her big brother because he's smaller than she is. He is also her best friend, and they've always fought like crazy. Their first day home together, they had a hair pulling fest that took two adults to end. But just try to get on to one of them with the other in the room. They'll both cry, or try to beat you up.

These are the miracle children who have forever changed the way my family views pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. They aren't just fighters, they are survivors. And no one knows why they were forced to endure so much trauma months before they should have ever been born.


There are millions of children just like them. This year, over thirteen million children will be born prematurely, and in most instances, no one will ever know why it happened. Thirteen million children will suffer lifelong challenges like Losh's serious medical complications, and Kaia's learning disabilities for reasons the world hasn't quite figured out. Over 500,000 of those births will occur in the United States.

Globally, one million preemies will not survive their first year.

Take a moment to think about that. 

ONE MILLION babies will never grow up, just because they were born too soon.

One million families will never get to see the people their babies could become. They'll never get to see expressions like Abby's, smiles like Losh's, or compassion like Kaia's. One million families will bury a newborn this year.

The enormity of that is overwhelming. Too overwhelming to comprehend.

Today, World Prematurity Day, is about honoring those children. And about celebrating the millions like Kaia, Losh, and Abby that survived. It's about taking five minutes out of your day to truly think about the impact of prematurity and pass it on.

And that impact is daunting.
  • 1 in 10 babies born prematurely are at risk for a life-long disability such as lung disease. Other health challenges faced by premature infants include: low birth weight, underdeveloped organs, breathing issues.
  • Premature infants are also at greater risk for life threatening infections, respiratory distress syndrome, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and developmental delays and disabilities.
  • In the United States, care of an average preterm infant is $49,000 for the first year. In relation, the cost of care for a full term infant is only $4,551. For full term infants with health complications, the average cost of care for the first year is $10,273. In 2003, the United States alone spent over $10 billion for prematurity associated health costs.
  • For a premature infant with health complications such as lung disease, the average lifetime cost of health care is over $1 million.
And those are only some of the consequences of prematurity.
 
But prematurity isn't hopeless. Over seventy-five percent of the preemies who die each year could be saved.
 
Think about that for a minute, too. 760,000 babies die needlessly each year.

You don't have to buy anything, sell anything, donate to anything, or even sign up for anything to help stop that. All you have to do is make a pledge to yourself to learn more about prematurity and the preemies in your life (and trust me, there are preemies in your life... just ask on Facebook or Twitter which of your friends or family members have or were a preemie. You'll be surprised.) and pass on what you learn to others. Educate yourself about the devastating consequences of preterm birth, and pass on what you learn to others.
 
 
 
And at some point, when the opportunity arises, take one more small step by getting involved. Whether that's by walking for the March of Dimes in the March for Babies, urging your Congressmen to pass legislation aimed at protecting infant health, sending spare toiletries to a Ronald McDonald House, donuts to a NICU waiting room, putting local NICU families on your prayer list at church, tossing a few coins into a donation box, sending Christmas cards to a NICU in your area, or something else entirely.... make a promise to yourself to get involved by doing something to help solve the problem and ease the burden of families the world over.

The opportunities for you to make a difference are limitless, and I promise you that you will never once regret the time you spend offering comfort to a family in an unimaginable crisis. Whatever you decide to do will have a lasting impact, and might just be the push needed to end this crisis once and for all.

760,000 babies.

Just think about it.

To learn more about Prematurity and World Prematurity Day, please visit the March of Dimes and #worldprematurityday on Twitter.
 

All my love,
Ayden
 

FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million. Ten percent of sales of FALL are donated to the Spina Bifida Association through April, 2014.

 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book Signing Report and Gallery

Hello, lovelies!

I've officially survived my first signing, and I have to say it was a blast! My mom, sister, and the kiddos came up on Friday night to help me prepare. And by prepare, I mean my sister and I spent all evening Friday trying to figure out how the hell to get my hair to hold a curl.

Our attempts were a resounding failure despite the combined advice of our Facebook lovelies, so we quite for the night and got everything together for Saturday.

Saturday morning, while sis ran to McDonald's to get breakfast, I attempted to curl my hair again. Instead, I burned my forehead. And I don't mean a little burn. I mean I have a massive red mark/blister on my dang forehead. Noooooo!

Not a good way to start Book Signing Saturday!

But whatever. We all knew I'd manage to do something to make myself look all crazy. It's what I do. Sis and I promptly gave up on curling my hair, and wrangled the family to get them ready so we could run a couple errands before we headed to Starbucks.

When we got there, they had the conference table reserved for us. I have to stop here to say that the staff at Starbucks was wonderful. They were very helpful, and they plied me with so much hot chocolate, I thought I'd float away before the afternoon ended!

We spent the remainder of the afternoon chatting, signing folks up to win one of the two FALL swagbags (aka swagbaskets see below), signing all the things, and having a merry old time. My sweet nephew, Aloshua, informed us prior to leaving that he was going to be my assistant for the day. He kept his word and sat right beside me, handing me various things to sign, drink, and otherwise being the coolest, sweetest little boy on the planet.

We had a great time, and are looking forward to the next signing. :)

Thanks so much for everyone who dropped by!

If you did not get to attend and would like me to autograph a copy of FADE or FALL for you, please email me, and we can set that up. I also have bookmarks and pretty cover photos I can sign and send on to you.

Check out some of the photos from the day below.



Our table

My assistant


His mommy. AKA: My other asssitant.


Some of my visitors

Swag bags!
 

My unassisting assitants

First autograph of the day!

Book signing!

:)

:)

:)

Falling for FALL

 

xoxo,
Ayden
 
FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million