Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Persistence by John Steiner

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

P is for Persistence
By John Steiner

Amid the wide range of hilarity of Monty Python’s The Holy Grail there’s a scene where a father– not his mother, as the son appears to mix up, tells the son that he built a castle in the swamp… and then it sank. He built a second castle that also sank into the swamp. He built a third, which burned down, fell over and THEN sank into the swamp. But he built a fourth castle and it stayed up.
Most of my life has been about taking hits physically and emotionally. As a kid, I was never accepted by my peers in school or too many in the neighborhood. Worse, at home I had a brother four years older than me who was abusive. I don’t mean Wally smacking the Beav’ around abusive, I mean Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq abusive. The only things missing were attack dogs, waterboarding and human pyramids. When I
was eight my older brother had already become a full blown alcoholic, and two years later a drug addict, so that’s the context of my developing a high threshold to pain.
Eight years old however, was the first major psychological breakthrough I experienced. It was the last time I contemplated suicide. The thought that people wanted me to go away convinced me that the best way to get under their skin to was to stick it out.
In the summer I turned thirteen I awoke in the middle of the night, summarized the life I had to that point and raised my arms out and said aloud, “I’ll never be normal again. So be it!”
The hits still kept comin’ but they weren’t anything I couldn’t handle. Watching my father struggle while the phone company he worked for systematically slit the throat of the unions was hard on us all, but my father demonstrated persistence as he stuck to that job for nearly thirty years. Coping with my mother’s schizophrenia and five kids, one with a learning disability, didn’t stop my father from doing his best to provide. I don’t blame him for my brother’s behavior, because he intervened whenever he suspected something was wrong. Just that the pattern of abuse includes wielding power over the victim, keeping them from revealing the torment.
Home or school, there was no refuge other than inside my own head. That’s a large part of why I write today. Whole worlds swirled in my mind at an age before I took an interest in girls. From ninth grade to graduating high school, I had a crush on one girl in particular. Yet, I never got the girl in the end. Not until high school did I find a circle of friends who likewise didn’t fit the accepted social groups, and we were better for that.
Other kids had parents able to pay for college. I found work for the time until I had enough to pay my own way without grants or loans. At first, I tried my hand at the U.S. Army. However, problems with my feet and combat boots led to a medical discharge before I had put enough time in for the college fund. I graduated basic training, despite road march restrictions, because persistence kept me from quitting a march I wasn’t meant to be on.
My first steady job after the army was in retail, where managers noticed my persistence. The store director said he’d never seen anyone work as hard for as long as I. An assistance manager had never seen another employee carry pallets in hand after stocking shelves, let alone carry two or four back in one trip. I
abandoned box cutters, to rip off shrink wrap and tape off shipping boxes with my bare hands. When they needed a pallet full of sodas moved with a pallet jack from the back of the building to the front I was the one they called on. A one hundred sixty pound piece of self-assemble furniture needing brought down from the top shelf on eighteen foot high monster racking, I ascended the side of the shelves, hauled it out one-handed and came back down.
It was in my last week at that job I learned that I had the secret nickname of Jungle Boy.
As a biology major in college, I wrote a paper on animal intelligence. My instructor said I couldn’t just use the term animal intelligence, but instead needed to quantify that. The results were seventeen pages long, involved eleven resources and an A for a subject he didn’t think could be done. That instructor’s recommendation letter was the key for my being hired by the same college as a tutor. My boss at the time pointed out the statement that the instructor had written, “If he doesn’t have an answer he keeps at it until he finds one.”
That first boss I had as a college tutor brags to this day about having hired me, and calls it the best decision he’s ever made. Twelve years later I still tutor college students and my persistence has passed on to many of them in turn. People who start came into school hating math left realizing that any challenge can be overcome. I don’t earn a lot of money there, in fact coupled with writing I still don’t quite make ends meet at all times.
In my life today, there is no such thing as calling in sick. The college doesn’t believe in paid sick leave for part time employees. They don’t do vacation time for people at my tier. No benefits, no insurance. The last two years have been a compounding of tragedies, but I’m not beaten down or broken-hearted. That is not an option, because tomorrow is still going to be waiting.
Making it to the next day is a persistent theme in the Firefly series and Serenity movie. I’ve come to identify with Malcolm Reynolds [Nathan Fillion] the most. Here’s a guy who get hit in the ribs without warning, and before he’s even caught his breath there’s another shot to the jaw. But always, even if he doesn’t know why, Mal always stands back up. Each job may well be the last. No guarantees or promises of success. He and his crew are, in his own words, “on the raggedy edge.”
Death doesn’t scare me, but just as importantly I’m not afraid to live. I can’t know how long this rollercoaster of life will last, but I am determined to ride it out to the end.

“Every man dies, not every man truly lives.” –William Ross Wallace

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Ode to the Haters by Mysti Parker

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

O is for Ode to the Haters
Mysti Parker

One thing is inevitable when you work in an industry that’s as public as writing:  you will come across haters. With our work being accessible worldwide via the web, it’s really not a question of if, but when.

My when came last year.

Now, I’m not talking about people who don’t like my work. That’s gonna happen no matter who you are or what you write. I’ve always known that and have always accepted it. Readers have their own personal tastes and opinions, and they have every right to express them. The haters I’m talking about are those who are nothing more than cyber bullies, whose agendas are to harass, intimidate, and hurt others. Coming across these extremely hateful and bitter people luckily didn’t come as a surprise to me, because unluckily, I’d already witnessed their run-ins with other writer friends. When I supported one of those friends publicly online, that’s when they turned their attention to me.

They accomplished their goals for a while. It bothered me that people who had never met me could seemingly hate me for no good reason. I tried to wrap my mind around it, tried to rationalize why people would behave in such ugly ways. Impossible. Every which way I looked at it led to one conclusion—they simply enjoy hating people.

Back in the days before I got help for my depression, these things probably would have had me bedridden. I may have even quit writing if it had happened back then. Now that I’m able to see things with a clearer head, I can better ignore and avoid the haters. But I’ve also come to a really interesting conclusion.

Depression and hatred of others are like two sides of a coin.

Follow me here. Depression, left unchecked, can sink its claws into you and pull you into a pit of such despair, that you can’t climb your way out. You can’t see the light up top. You become completely lost in self-doubt and yes, self-hatred. See where I’m going?

Hatred of others takes those same ugly feelings (whatever the source) and turns them outward instead of inward. It’s just as illogical as depression’s self-hatred, but no less hurtful. It can fully consume the hater just like depression, until that person is so fully invested in the negativity, they cannot stop without intervention. Of course we can see this very clearly in wars, gang violence, domestic violence, and all the horrid physical hurts people inflict on each other. And we can see it in bullying.

Why though, did I title this “An Ode to the Haters”? Because, now that I’m healthier and out of Depression’s claws and out of its deep, dark pit, I can clearly see the wide horizon of life in front of me. When the haters hate, I’m not trapped. I can turn away and choose to be happy. I can focus on the tremendous blessings in my life instead of the negativity. When I do that, all the useless hate seems so small in comparison to my God, my home, my husband, my three beautiful babies, and all the terrific and supportive friends I’ve met since I started this writing journey.

Without the haters, I wouldn’t have had to make that choice, and that choice is actually very empowering. I don’t have to climb back into my pit. I don’t have to lash out and be just as hurtful as they are. I can love, and I can help. I can be the good person that I know I am and that God intended me to be. So, I thank you haters for the test. I may not always pass it with flying colors (I am only human after all), but I can pass it. And that feels good.

Really good.

Mysti Parker is wife to her high school sweetheart (17 years this May), mom of three ravenous kids, an event specialist (fancy term for demo lady), author of the Tallenmere fantasy romance series, and is a certified chocoholic. She is also the proud owner of Unwritten. You can find her books on her Amazon page:

Follow her on Twitter: @MystiParker

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Neurological Condition by Agnes Ong

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

N is for Neurological Condition 
Agnes Ong

The medical experts could not put a name to my condition.  Various diagnoses including cerebral palsy, dystonia and even Parkinson’s were used to describe the symptoms that I have but none of them was a perfect fit. The doctors could only conclude that my spastic facial and neck movements and my slightly slurred speech were a form of neurological disorder. Drug prescriptions to control these movements were suggested but this could cause side effects on a long term basis. Brain surgery was brought up and quickly dismissed as it was too risky since the doctors did not really know what was wrong with me. Then one doctor advised to do nothing since I could function normally as a human being. That was the best advice I had. I was 17 years old then.
                Despite my neurological defects, I had a very normal and happy childhood thanks to my parents who did a great job in sheltering me from the harsh reality. One could tell that I was different from the other kids at an early age. I still remember a group photo of my kindergarten class which I stood out prominently. In that photo, my neck was slanted at a 45 degree angle unlike the other students who were looking straight ahead. But one could tell from my Cheshire-cat like smile that I was really happy. I was probably too young to know any different then.
                There were many happy memories during my preteen years. I did not do well in sports but so did many other students and this helped me blend in at school. Moreover, I did well in my studies with the encouragement of my teachers and parents. This became the foundation of my confidence. Most importantly, my teachers and friends accepted me for who I was, spasms, tics and all. My parents had also drummed into me that I was no different from any other person and I could be whatever I wanted to be.
The teenage years were a little trickier as I became conscious of my body, appearance and impression I make on other people. I was more aware of the stares from strangers or the discomfort of new people whom I met. Hence, I did not mix around much and kept to my circle of close friends. Again, the kindness and support of my friends and family kept me going. Without them, I would not have done so well academically. It was then that I realised God had given me a good brain and coupled with hard work, I could actually make something of myself.
It was also during my teen years when my parents made many attempts to consult specialists for a remedy to my condition. Looking back, I now understood my parents’ concern as they knew that I would be judged by my physical appearance more than anything else when I leave home to further my studies. After several inconclusive consultations, we decided that it would be wise to not pursue any treatment as the risk of the unknown was too great.
                Leaving home to pursue a university degree was a life-changing experience. Having to fend for myself and be thrown into a world where I was no longer sheltered and exposed to people from all walks of life and mind-sets was an eye-opener. While many students and lecturers were prudent enough not to ask too many questions about my condition, some reacted quite differently. I discovered that most people I met were initially a little uncomfortable with me. I learned to read people’s body language. Many were unsure how to react to me at the first meeting but they eventually got used to me.
However, one incident was particularly painful when this lecturer had asked me to reread a text in class because of my slurred speech. She even questioned why I could not read clearly. I felt humiliated to say the least. But I guess I had the last laugh when I graduated with a first class honours.

                Unfortunately, I rarely came up on top when it comes to making good first impressions. In a society where people are often judged by their appearance, I was on the losing end. A close friend once revealed to me that some people even thought that I was retarded when they first met me.
As I graduated and started looking for a job, I was always fighting a losing battle to make a good first impression. I could see the reservation in the eyes of some interviewers. Their wariness and assumption that a person with a neurological condition would never be able to perform a job well irked me. The worst case was to have an interviewer tell me bluntly that the school did not want to hire me because I would scare the children.
                Thankfully, there were many saints and angels which came my way. These people believed in me despite my appearance and gave me a chance to prove my worth. For them I am grateful, they gave me the confidence to move on and they bring out the best in me.
                With marriage came pregnancy. The birth of my child brought on a new perspective to my life. However, I was deeply saddened when I could not be the perfect mother as my neurological condition had worsened after delivery. I was bedridden for almost six months. The recovery process was long and arduous but I was and still am truly thankful for my family who continuously supported me through this trying period of my life.
                My recovery took years and I never regained my full mobility. My nerves became hypersensitive and my spasms were more visible than before. I learned to cope and gradually went back to work. Life was as normal as it could be again. Then one day, my 9-year-old son told me that his friends and teachers at school were asking why his mother was different. I was stunned. As much as I had to deal with other people’s perception of me, I did not expect this burden to fall on my son’s shoulders.
On second thought, I found this to be the perfect opportunity to educate him on dealing with people like me. I carefully explained to him why I was the way I was and how he could explain this to his friends or teachers. The questions stopped after that. But most of all, I am thankful that my son is understanding and hope that he will grow up to be a caring person who would always treat people like me kindly.
Through the years, I have found one thing which helped me cope with the ups and downs of my life – writing. Since I have a slightly slurred speech from a young age, I was not much of an orator. Hence, as a form of self-expression, I turned to writing. During my school days, I wrote stories and poems as a hobby. But I stopped writing as I got caught up with life when I started working.
Still, I gravitated towards jobs that would hone my writing skills. I had dabbled in copywriting, subediting and writing web content. It was not until I worked as a children’s storybook editor that my passion for writing was reignited. Recently, I took a leap of faith and decided to become a freelance writer and editor. I hope to produce works to educate the future generation that appearance is not everything.

                As I move on in life, I will have good days and bad days like everyone else. But I believe that God has made me who I am today so that I can learn life’s lessons. If I were perfect, I imagined that I would be a proud person and hurt people by criticising those who are less perfect. My condition is a constant reminder for me to be slow to judge and quick to forgive and to be the best I can.

Agnes Ong is a freelance web content writer, editor and novelist in the making, as well as an occasional blogger at Angie Creative Ink. Coping with an unknown nerve condition all her life has presented many challenges and it is through writing that she finds solace, escape and revelation. She hopes that her work will console, excite, delight and inspire. Her short stories have been published in Love in Penang - A Fixi Novo Anthology and Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction. Find her blog at and Facebook page at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Interview with Nancy Pennick, author of Stealing Time

I'm so pleased to be hosting Nancy Pennick on her blog tour for the third book in her Waiting for Dusk series. Today, she sat down and answered a few questions, including my infamous random question!

 Stealing Time 
 Waiting For Dusk #3

by Nancy Pennick

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Ice & Fire

Formats Available In: Kindle, Nook and Print

Release Date: 24th February 2014

   Drew from the past…
   Kate from the present…
   Two worlds collided.

As senior year comes to a close, a promise of new beginnings is on the horizon. Kate longs to head to Arizona and college until her former friend, Tyson, does the unimaginable forcing her to stay in Ohio. Her family has to pull together to keep their secrets safe. Anna wishes to return to the canyon in 1927 once more and Kate’s determined to make that a reality. Summer’s filled with wonderful memories and little warning of things to come. Kate’s world grows darker and she must be the one to conquer the demons and save the world that is most precious to her.

Interview with Nancy Pennick

Where are you from and what do you do when you’re not writing?
I live in Mentor, a suburb of Cleveland, OH. I grew up in Northeast Ohio. It’s always been my home. I recently retired from teaching elementary school after thirty years. My plans were to travel, garden and enjoy the little things in life. It’s been a great gift to have time at home.

How did you come up with the idea for this book/series?
Visiting National Parks became a recent passion. My husband and I had just returned from the Grand Canyon. A PBS series about National Parks was going to air and we decided to watch. My mind drifted to another place. I began thinking about the recent park visit, the history I just watched and how fun it might be to have a young girl move between the past and present. I had no intention of writing a novel. So it literally happened overnight.

Tell us about the writing process—what were your favorite and least favorite moments?
Favorite moments are the actually writing of the story, seeing it come to life. Since I keep it all in head, it’s a relief to get it on paper. I love developing the characters and how they suddenly take over; changing the path I planned for them.

Least favorite? Trying not to use the same words or descriptions over and over. I have a hard time describing clothes and places. What I see in my head isn’t what ends up on paper the first time.

What’s your favorite cure for writer’s block?
Walk away for awhile, make a cup of tea, read a book. Sometimes I reread the draft from the beginning and it recharges the thought process.

Can you pleas e share an excerpt?
Kate twirled in front of the mirror. The ice blue chiffon strapless dress billowed around her as she spun. She stepped closer, inspecting her make-up and tucking a loose strand of hair back in place. Her light brown hair, streaked with blonde highlights from the sun, hung in curls down her back.
“Senior prom,” she said aloud to the empty room. “Who thought my date would be someone I met in 1927?”
There had been no tears in weeks. She knew she shouldn’t have kept things to herself, but she wanted the family to think she was okay after what happened at the canyon. At times she had trouble shaking the feeling she didn’t exist. No one would remember a Kate Roberts lived on this earth...because she hadn’t. She told no one about the episodes, deep dark depressions that swept over her. Her heart would pound, and her stomach clenched into a tight ball making it impossible to eat. Dreams sent her back to that time and place more than once. Drew’s cabin at the Grand Canyon. 1927. The last day of the year. The dreaded clock ticking in her head. She’d dream she was in a room, and no one could see her. She’d call out to people. They’d look right through her, as if she didn’t exist. She’d wake, crying and have to convince herself she was safe at home with Drew and her family.

What’s your next/current writing project?
I’ve had some people tell me they want to know more about background of certain characters and even how the time travel book came to be. Since I planned for the series to be a trilogy, mentally I was done. After much thought (and a good idea),I decided to try to write a prequel novella. It would be historical fiction based on the lives of two of the characters from 1927.

Here’s a totally random question for you: Imagine these three celebrities: George Clooney, Patrick Stewart, Rob Lowe. Providing you weren’t married, and it was actually possible, which of them would you…1)Have a fling with? 2) Marry? 3) Smack in the face with a shovel?

Oh my gosh, so hard to choose! I always thought Rob Lowe was handsome and since George isn’t the marrying type, I’d have to go with marrying Rob and George to have the fling with. That leaves poor Patrick Stewart getting the shovel in the face. I don’t really have anything against him. He made a great Star Trek captain. Sorry, Patrick!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Nancy!

About Nancy Pennick:

After a great career in teaching, Nancy found a second calling as a writer. Ohio is her home but she loves to travel the U.S. Her debut young adult novel, Waiting for Dusk, was a surprise to her as much as it was to her family. Watching a PBS series on National Parks, her mind wandered to another place and that is where the characters of Katie and Andrew were born. Call of the Canyon and Stealing Time continue their story. The Swedish influences found in the books came from her mother whose parents emigrated from Sweden.

Nancy currently resides in Mentor, Ohio with her husband and their college-age son.

Brought to you by:

The Tour Schedule looks like this:

7th April - Author's Choice - Unwritten - 
7th April - Guest Post - Girl Of 1000 Wonders - 

8th April - Review - Deal Sharing Aunt - 

9th April - Spotlight - My Reading Loft - 

11th April - Author's Choice - Osier Publishing - 
11th April - Guest Post - M.M. Shelley - 

14th April - Guest Post - Kristal McKerrington - 

15th April - Interview - Unwritten - 

16th April - Spotlight - Unwritten - 

17th April - Review - Hope To Read - 

18th April - Author's Choice - Plain Talk Book Marketing - 
18th April - Guest Post - Book Junkie - 

21st April - Author's Choice - Lynn Reynolds - 
21st April - Guest Post - Books Are Cool - http:/// 

22nd April - Review - Hope To Read - 

23rd April - Spotlight - You Gotta Read YA -  

24th April - Interview - Girl Of 1000 Wonders - 
24th April - Review - Lynn Reynolds - 

25th April - Author's Choice - Girl Of 1000 Wonders - 
25th April - Guest Post - Read Around Sue - 

M is for Meningitis by Dan Wright

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

M is for Meningitis
Dan Wright

You know something guys, this is something that not a lot of people know about me but – I’m lucky to be here.

I’m not saying that purely because I’m a lucky person. I’m not the most popular, the richest or even the best writer (it’s true I know). I do consider myself a lucky person in the fact that I’ve had a pretty good life, but that’s not why I’m lucky to be here.

The reason I say I’m lucky to be here – is that I could have been dead at three months old had things gone differently.

I remember one time when my parents were over and we were having a general conversation, and they mentioned something about one of their friends being diagnosed with Meningitis – a potentially crippling and even fatal disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. They then mentioned to me how I was affected by this when I was young – and explained to me about that awful moment.

At three months old, they couldn’t stop me crying and they didn’t know why. They phoned our local doctor, who apparently told them that he didn’t think we were the type of parents to panic – but this worried him and told us to go straight to the hospital. We did and they did some tests on me to find that I had Meningitis.

Now there are two types of Meningitis from what I understand it. Viral and Bacterial. The viral version is not nearly as bad... but the Bacterial version was serious and can cause damage. Early diagnostics from the doctors made them believe that it was the Bacterial type and they were at least 99% sure. I can only imagine the horror that my parents must have gone through when they heard this – even as my mum explained this to me, I could see the tears forming in her eyes.

Apparently, from what I read about the disease, Bacterial is not actually that uncommon for newborns to get. I do not want to go into great details about what this disease can do as I do not want to upset anyone reading this – but suffice to say I have seen some newborn affected by Bacterial Meningitis and it made me so sad, knowing that this could have been me. How could I have got this? The doctors say it could have come from anywhere, even just by pushing the pram up the street.

The hospital doctors said they would start the treatment as if it was Bacterial whilst doing a lumbar puncture to test which sort it was. Mum was not allowed to go into the room with me – seeing as having a needle pushed into my spine to draw out some fluid to test it. After hours of testing, the tests came back negative. I had the viral type. And whilst I was still very sick, it was not nearly as bad.

However, this would later go onto effect me later in life. At primary school, I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome... a mild form of autism. This I think is the reason why I have such a low opinion of myself as I was always made to feel stupid just because I needed special assistance with everything.  I remember that there was a woman that looked after me, Mrs Turner her name was – she was wonderful. I would always go to her house to read stories, act them out to show I understood it, and I even wrote some stories myself (I think this is where I got into writing at first). Later in life, I think I have overcome my autism – though occasionally things can come back that flare it up. Whether I just get pissed off because I can’t do something simple, I get angry for no reason, or I just want to cry – there are times when I do feel down and depressed.

But then I remember, at least you’re here to complain about those things.

It could have gone wrong.

What if I HAD been infected with the Bacterial type? What would have happened? Would I have been dead, or maybe a brainless vegetable. Just by reading some of the things that Meningitis can do to you makes me think “That could have been me!” I count my blessings every day. And yet the doctors were so sure that it was the Bacterial type – they were so sure.

Call it divine intervention – or just dumb luck – but it could have gone a lot worse. Sometimes I think to myself “What have I really done with my life?” And yeah, I do occasionally get depressed and wonder what I’m doing on this Earth. And sometimes I have moaned that I never get any breaks.

But that’s not true. I did get a break.

It was called life.

And with the help of my friends and family, I’m still here today. I fought to overcome my problems and now I think I am stronger for it.

And that is why I consider myself a lucky to be here.

Thank you for letting have the moment to share.


Dan lives Canterbury, Kent, UK. A huge fan of both Fantasy and Manga, he has a style that combines both within his writing, which lets him tell stories that are both dramatic and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. He picked up a love of Fantasy stories after reading The Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and numerous Roald Dahl novels.

Dan also runs his own website, blog and a wiki page dedicated to the world of Draconica and also reviews books. He has also written a short comic book strip called Queller, which was published in an anthology for the comic Lighting Strike Presents... He is currently in the process of writing a script for a video game and has also been a judge for a book competition at his local school. When not writing, he plays guitar in a band called Rage of Silence. He likes all kinds of music – but has a taste for metal!

Authors who have inspired Dan are Douglas Adams, J.R.R Tolkien, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, H.P Lovecraft, George R.R Martin and Hiromu Arakawa.

Contact Dan via the following links:

TWITTER: @PandragonDan and @Draconicaseries

Also check out the TV Tropes pages of both Legacy of the Dragonkin and Trapped on Draconica by Brian Wilkerson!


Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Love Stories

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the
 worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

No one took K and I didn't have time to write up anything for it, and my L spot is a no-show, so I'm posting this article about 5 real life love stories that I found. I think you'll be inspired by their touching accounts. Enjoy!

Abigail and Dwayne Shoppa (pictured here)

Austin, Texas
Ages 29 and 33
Married nine months

Abigail: I never met men through my job (I’m a real estate investor). So instead I had the bad habit of reigniting old relationships, seeing if I could make them work the second time around. In May 2010, my three sisters, with whom I’m very close, and my brother-in-law Chris urged me to try someone new. When I demurred, they insisted on buying me a date at a local bachelor auction for charity. At first, I protested, but eventually I gave in. And once I looked through the online profiles of the men up for grabs, I admitted that a civil engineer named Dwayne looked pretty dreamy. 

CLICK HERE to read the rest on>

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Journey by S. Hampton Sr.

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

J is for Journey
S. Hampton Sr. 

When was the last time you took a good look at yourself in a mirror and asked, “Who are you?”
            When was the last time you did that? And when you asked such a question, what did you see in the mirror?
            Life is a journey regardless of whether you accomplish your goals or realize long-held dreams. Perhaps accomplishment or realization are only side benefits to the journey—perhaps it is the journey itself that matters the most. The journey that, at certain points in time, bring you to a realization of self. At points in your journey, you are a different person physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The journey includes uncharted paths that you tread by yourself, perhaps in the company of family, relatives, and friends, or perhaps in the company of a loved one with whom you have started your own family.
            Let me explain.
            When I look in the mirror I see someone who, by the media standards of today, is physically ugly and growing older. Believe me, I am no Val Kilmer or Johnny Depp or Christopher Walken. Ah, the fact that they are Anglos and I am a Native American, probably helps explain that.
            I am approaching 60 years of age.
            Since the age of 15 I have wanted to be a fiction writer. I finally became a writer in 1992, though I did not begin being published on a regular basis until 2002.
            I wanted to earn a living from my writing and, later, my photography. Nope. I have not accomplished that yet. But I do find satisfaction in telling stories and having them accepted for publication.
            I joined the Army because I did not see a real future for myself in the Oklahoma town I was living in. That led me to meeting my wife, which led to my own family of a daughter and two sons. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last (the divorce was lengthy, bitter, and spun me into financial ruin, in addition to leaving me with a healthy contempt for lawyers and the courts). But our children, in turn, created their own families and as a result I have over a dozen grandchildren who I love very much (the first was born in 2000, not long before my 46th birthday). And, I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up.
            That too, was a surprise, because I did not really want to see age 50 and beyond. Both of my grandparents, who raised me, suffered from Alzheimer’s, or dementia, the more popular term may be. I saw my grandmother succumb to it first. That was frightening to a teenager whose family was coming unglued due to the disease and economic straits. The last time I saw my grandmother she looked like a survivor from Auschwitz. That filled me with a fear of nursing homes and growing old—thus, the desire not to see 50 years and above.
            My grandfather, once a small business owner, was reduced to sweeping the sidewalk in front of a hotel in the mornings for a donut and coffee. The owner treated him like shit. Alzheimer’s came for him a few years later.
            As for how I came to be raised by my grandparents—let us just say my family history was not the best. I refused to speak to my mother for almost 30 years. We reconciled 10 years before she died.
            How did the reconciliation come about? It was because of a woman.
            Not to get ahead of the story, but a little detour as it were—between the end of the divorce and the reconciliation with my mother, well, do you know what it is like to try and make $50.00 last between paychecks for food for you and your children? Have you had your power turned off in the middle of winter? Had your car repossessed? Or be faced with a choice of letting your sons walk to school in the middle of winter wearing only shirts, or writing checks for winter clothing, all the while knowing your account was overdrawn to begin with?
            When you have a history like I have, it is very easy to live with hate and anger directed at the world and everyone in it. The hate and anger does nothing except reduce the heart and soul to smoldering ash. And the hate and anger does not enable you to live—you only survive from day to day. Even when married, there is a part of you that no one, not your wife or children, ever touch. Allowing that part to be touched raises the specter of being hurt…again.
            A good example is that the mother of a Mormon family who watched my two sons while I worked (I “won” the custody battle, but that too took a toll on my children and ex-wife) once touched my shoulder. I did not notice, but she stared at me and said, “You aren’t used to being touched, are you? You stiffened up when I touched your shoulder.”
            On reflection, she was right. I was not used to being touched.
            The only time that the very hidden part of me was glimpsed was when a woman unexpectedly entered my life. That too ended badly. Within two years she was gone.
            Her legacy, if you will, was to open a door that I kept shut (hell, I even had feelings for a young woman a few years before, and I walked away from her because the feelings were scary). I was offered a glimpse of a different world, a world I knew of, and a world that I felt undeserving of. But it was such a wonderful glimpse, though she decided to end the engagement after a year. That open doorway led to some seriously honest introspection—especially realizing what a life time, yes, I said a life time, of hate and anger does to you inside. The realization led to many changes, some of which I still work on today.
            It is a warm Thursday evening in April, in Sin City.
            For a little over two years I have lived in a small apartment complex run by a national non-profit agency for the VA, for homeless veterans. Technically, that is what I am. Homeless veteran. When I arrived here I was broke and without a job. I had my weekend drill with the Army National Guard, but that is not enough to sustain anyone.

            But, a journey consists of changes, sometimes unexpected, sometimes the result of planning and luck. Two months ago I was able to purchase a 1998 Honda Civic DX, the first time I have owned my own car in, oh, maybe 10-12 years.
            Tomorrow I move out of here into a weekly, a cross between a motel and an apartment, while I look for a real apartment. Once I find a real apartment, I will move there.
            At the end of this spring semester, I will graduate from college with an Associates in Photography (I was trained by the Army, then spent over a decade working for the Federal government as a photographer, but I never had a degree).
            Well, I turn 60 this summer and my military retirement pay begins. It is still hard to imagine that after wearing a uniform for almost 30 years that I will receive a monthly check the rest of my life. I had not really planned on it, but when I joined the Army National Guard back in 2004, when I was 50 years old, I did not really have a goal of finishing my military career (which began in 1974-1985, then continued with the Army Reserve 1985-1995) and retiring.
            So, goals and long-held dreams?
            Maybe I will never photograph, draw, and paint at the Maya ruins or Crusader castles.
            Maybe I will never have another photography Muse who understands what I am trying to accomplish and patiently and enthusiastically works with me toward that end.
            Maybe I will never visit the Himalayas.
            Maybe I will never become scuba qualified, study underwater photography in California, and study for a degree in archaeology in Flagstaff, with the hope of someday photographing underwater archaeology.
            Maybe I will never become the painter I would like to be, or will never know what it is like to chisel and hammer away at marble until something recognizable emerges.
            Maybe, maybe, maybe…
            And, I sometimes wonder—am I meant to complete my journey alone, or will there be someone special beside me these remaining years…
            But, I will still photograph and tell stories until the day I die.
            So maybe my journey, whenever it ends, does not provide for accomplishing goals and long-held dreams. But I know who I am, I know I have been through some shit, and I am still here.

            And you know what? As long as my grandchildren smile at me and give me a hug once in a while, then life is okay.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second-career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.

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