Rose Garden


I’ve always loved the outdoors and being outside, whether I’m relaxing at a park, sitting on the porch listening to the birds and watching it rain, taking pictures or (years ago) sitting in my wheelchair at the end of a row in my grandparents’ garden, watching my grandpa and grandmother pick squash, beans, peas, tomatoes or okra. One thing I really wish I was able to do is help my grandparents when I was younger, in their garden planting or picking vegetables. It really made me sad that just because I am physically disabled and in a wheelchair I wasn’t able to help my grandparents do something they loved.

About a year or so ago I met a wonderful woman named Susan on Twitter and she and I got to talking and she has written a beautiful post that is sure to inspire anyone who faces physical challenges, no matter what they are. After reading this post I hope one day my garden will grow as beautiful as my grandparents’ did years ago.

IMG_0645My mother had osteoarthritis. As she became less able to work in the garden we became attached at the hip when it was time to prune the roses. She would keep me company while I worked in the rose garden and work in the yard. She taught me the art of pruning. I miss her every time I prune the roses. This is how it all began. When I was a girl my mother loved to be in the yard and wanted me to help her. I wanted no part of it. I hated weeding. I didn’t understand why she liked it. It wasn’t until I had my own yard, and inherited her rose garden that everything was different, as is often the case, isn’t it? For me, rose growing and gardening is a passion, not a hobby or a past time.

Lots of things are very important to me — a love of gardening, kids and having fun while spending time with both. Inheriting my childhood home and my mother’s rose garden in Northern Illinois, I needed to learn quickly how to take care of the garden. There was a beautiful rose garden in Libertyville, Illinois, and the Libertyville Men’s Garden Club took care of it so I thought that would be a good place to ask how to take care of roses. That was the beginning of a lifelong passion I now have for growing, taking care of and showing roses.

Rose growing has for many years been the passion and hobby of royalty from the ancient Chinese to the most splendid gardens of royalty throughout the world. Rose gardens grace the lands of the rich and famous to landed gentry throughout the globe. All are drawn together by the common bond of the most mystical and romantic of flowers, the rose. Although perceived as difficult to grow and maintain, roses are both hearty and forgiving to the best-meaning novice.

What happened next when I went to the Libertyville Men’s Garden Club and asked for their assistance is memorable. Len Arthur, who was a tenured member of the club and called himself an octogenarian rosarian, painstakingly began to cultivate a future rosarian from raw talent, me. With speech and movement, labored and slow as a nocturnal sloth, Mr. Arthur spoke and I listened, passing the craft onto the next generation. Mr. Arthur encouraged me to begin showing roses in local rose shows in a society that was largely male dominated at the time by doctors and scientists. One of my high points was having the garden featured on the Northern Illinois Rose Growers Garden Tour and a particularly talented rose sage commenting, “You have achieved perfect rose culture.” Sweeping many shows with blue ribbons as a novice, I was encouraged by Len and other senior members of the society to enter a national show in which I won a trophy for best Climbing Rose, Tempo.

GagaGarden1The story of Tempo is an amazing story that needs to be told. My son, Michael, worked at an auto dealership for the summer in Northern Illinois. Knowing my love of roses, and of course walking along the sidewalk past the rose garden everyday, one beautiful Saturday morning Michael called and insisted that I come over to the car dealership and test drive a Pontiac Tempo. Anyone that went for a test drive would receive a complimentary Jackson & Perkins Tempo climbing rose bush. Touched by Michael’s observance of my passion I went for the test drive and came home with the rose bush in hand. That bush, planted and fertilized by organics of eggshells and coffee grounds, grew to be a most spectacular specimen. That year the Northern Illinois Rose Society hosted the American Rose Society’s (ARS) National Convention, and I entered Tempo in the Best Climber category. The rest is history. Tempo was selected “Best Climber” in show. 

Did You Know . . . the wonderful inspiring fragrance of rose has a scientific basis? The unmistakable fragrance is the plant’s precious essential oil evaporating from its petals. About 60,000 roses yield one ounce of 100 percent pure rose essential oil, making it one of the most costly aromatherapy oils. No wonder rose oil was a gift of royalty. The garden is a gathering place. Gardens everywhere are made accessible for handicapped people. People such as my mother with osteoarthritis and Mr. Arthur, who was 88 years old, made and continue to make a tremendous contribution to the gardening community. Last year on Blog Talk Radio #RoseChat we interviewed Jack Walter, of Kimbrew Walter Roses, Grand Saline, Texas who is 89 years old and the recipient of the American Rose Society Gold Honor Medal. In spite of physical challenges gardening has something to offer all people and enriches us spiritually.

My Grandfather’s Gift


I’d like to thank Jason for inviting me back to his wonderful blog. I enjoyed myself so much the first time he interviewed me July 2012. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Since then, I’ve released more books, and I would like to tell you a bit about my latest collection called Hot Flash.

The title is a play on words. It’s “hot” because of the erotic nature of some of the stories, and it’s “flash” because the stories are flash fiction.

Flash fiction is a short form of storytelling defined by the number of words – anywhere between 100 to 2,000 words. It’s easy for me to write, as I tend to see life happening in short bursts. I don’t do plot outlines, and this format allows me to cut a slice from life and create a story with it. If that appeals to you, you’ll find twenty-two stories and poems in Hot Flash.

I sent Jason a copy of my book as a gesture of thanks for having me on his blog. He’s read the book and told me how much he enjoyed the last story called “My Grandfather’s Gift.” This is one of only two non-erotic tales I also included in the collection, and I was truly touched by what Jason had to say about the story.

He said, “I think it has a great message of hope and love, something we all could use more of especially in today’s world.”

I don’t disagree, and it’s a story close to my heart because I wrote it in loving memory of my grandfather. As a matter of fact, the entire book is dedicated to him, and he passed away many years ago when I was twelve.

You may think it odd that I should dedicate a book which consists mostly of erotic stories to my grandfather, and that I would include his story with it. The truth is, my grandfather taught me many lessons as I was growing up that stick with me to this day.

One important lesson was: Be fearless.

That sounds simple now, but as a young girl, I was excruciatingly shy – almost afraid of my own shadow sometimes. My parents were immigrants to Canada and were quite fearful of being in a new country. They sheltered me in my early years and didn’t even enroll me in school until I was almost seven. By then, I’d missed kindergarten and several months of grade one. I walked into a classroom for the first time not knowing one word of English. I was petrified…but somehow I caught up to the rest of the class and made up for lost time. I know I could only have accomplished that with my grandfather’s encouragement to remain fearless and tenacious.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 11.53.25 AMA second important lesson he taught me was: Be yourself.

Like most children, I wanted to fit in. I didn’t like being different. Growing up Asian in a pre-dominantly French area of the city was sometimes difficult. Multi-culturalism did not exist when I was a child as it does today. My grandfather taught me that being different was not a bad thing, that I should embrace my differences—not hide them. To this day, this simple lesson reverberates in all areas of my life. Whatever I do has to be true to who I am.

I know my grandfather would’ve been very proud of me today. He was an individual thinker, and he taught me to be the same. I wish I could’ve signed a copy of my book and handed it to him.

His story, along with the others in Hot Flash reflect the many sides of me as a writer, and I hope you enjoy them all.

Thanks again Jason for being such a generous host, and I appreciate you’ve allowed me to share something personal with your readers.

 Eden

About The Author

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write erotic literature. Incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture, and a deep curiosity for what turns people on, her brand of writing is sensual, sexual, and literary. If you only want sex, please look elsewhere.

Connect with her via her website | blog | Twitter | Facebook

All of Eden’s books can be purchased via Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Germany | France | Japan | Italy | Spain

Thankful Blogger


I just want to take a minute to say how thankful I am for all my family, friends and co-workers. You’ll never know how much I have grown as a man and an employee, thanks to your guidance, support, advice, friendship and love.

IMG_6128I know dealing with a disability isn’t easy but every day, I get up and thank God for standing by my side and for His grace, love and mercy, and for surrounding me with a wonderful support system of people who don’t care what gets thrown at them. They’ll get back up and walk through hell to help me do whatever I need, especially my dad. I know his back and legs hurt him, from standing on concrete for the past 40-plus years, first at a printing company, then building and decaling railroad cars, and now as a self-employed furniture and cabinet maker.

I just hope everbody who’s impacted my life, no matter who you are or how we met, knows how much I appreciate and love every one of you. You’re my rock and I’ll never fall as long as you’re standing beside me.

I could go on and on, but supper’s almost ready and football season starts in T-minus six and a half months!!!!!

That is all.

Unconditional Love


I may have posted this story on the blog before, but it has such a powerful message I wanted to share it again. I also wanted to thank all of my co-workers, friends and family for supporting me and loving me unconditionally, despite everything we’ve been through. I’m a better man because of the love and strength you’ve instilled in me, and I just pray I can make you all proud of me.

IMG_1986A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco. “Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.”

“Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”

“There’s something you should know,” the son continued. “He was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”

“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”

“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”

At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.

Woman-Missing-SoldierThe parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.

Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!!

— Author Unknown

Author’s Roundtable: Jasmine Bath


How long have you been writing?

Since I first understood the concept of picking up a pencil or pen and using it to put thoughts together in coherent sentences. It’s something I’ve always done, it’s part of who I am.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Not so much something that I ‘wanted’ to do, it’s something that I ‘have’ to do. Kind of like breathing.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

One of the chapters of No One’s Daughter was published as a standalone piece in ‘The Healing Woman’ years ago. I’ve written several pieces, under a different name, for what used to be ‘The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation,’ which is now the JDRF, and I’ve written guest commentaries for dozens of newspapers nationwide. One of my proudest achievements was being able to put together an information packet for law enforcement in our area to help them distinguish a DUI from hypoglycemia to prevent people with medical emergencies from being confused with someone who is under the influence and wasting time in getting them medical attention.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

So far there is only one book, but there are several more in the works. I write about what I know, that’s the only thing I feel comfortable writing about. No One’s Daughter started out as an attempt for me to write down specific incidents in my childhood in order to fully understand them, to paint a picture with words of the ghosts that tormented me so I could look them in the eye and deal with them on an adult level.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

Everyone I know, everyone I meet is a potential character.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Yes, the book is a series of personal experiences that combined along a timeline that made the book. 

Excerpt from No One’s Daughter 

Earl was Mom’s latest boyfriend. I usually don’t keep up with them since they never stay around long but Mom says she had known him since high school, one of the many boys that had been in love with her and never got over her. How or why he found her after all these years is a mystery to me. He has a wife and a son in another state but now he’s living with Mom, Julie and me. There’s a lot I don’t understand but at eleven I’ve learned to keep my questions to myself.

Earl seems too friendly at first, too fast to try and stuff dollar bills in my hand, I feel like he’s trying to pay me to like him but I don’t. I hate him. It doesn’t take long to find out that the feeling is mutual and his being nice and friendly to me is just an act that he put on until he got comfortable enough to make himself the boss of all of us. Julie doesn’t care one way or another but the hate between Earl and myself is intense.

He takes over everything and before long he’s ordering everyone around including Mom and always complaining about something. Usually he’s yelling at me or about me. Mom never yells back at him even though he’s never happy with anything she does. Instead of standing up to him she spends most of her time trying to make him happy so he doesn’t leave like all the other boyfriends did.

NO ONE'S DAUGHTER - 600 X 900I guess that’s why she told me to tell Earl that my last name is the same as Julie’s, to pretend like her dad is my dad too if Earl were to ask. I don’t look anything like Julie so Earl must suspect something and that’s why he tricks me by asking me if I’m big enough to write my name in cursive on a piece of paper. As soon as I finish writing my first and last name in cursive swoops he begins cussing, at first at me and then at Mom and then they both begin yelling at me. I don’t understand why they’re yelling at me, it was Mom that told the lie in the first place.

Earl seems to hate me more and more each day, he even yells at me just for looking at him. He complains to Mom that I look through him, not at him and he doesn’t like it. Before long his yelling and screaming turns to hitting and punching. Not just slaps across the face but big fists coming at me, most times for no reason at all and with no warning. It doesn’t take long before the beatings are an everyday thing.

I try hard to do all the things that Earl tells me to do because I know what will happen if I don’t. One of my jobs is to do the dishes and I do them all the time but sometimes someone will put something in the sink after I’m done and Earl will hit me for not washing it too. Earl also has a rule that I’m not allowed to talk on the phone and if the phone rings and I pick it up without being told to, Earl doesn’t care who is on the other end, he’ll grab the heavy receiver out of my hand and start slamming it into my head. Mom doesn’t seem to be upset by anything Earl does to me and just laughs when things like that happen.

“It’s just his way of playing. Don’t be such a crybaby,” she scolds me when I complain to her about Earl. She always has an excuse for everything he does and after a while I don’t even bother to tell her when he’s hurt me. I know she won’t do anything to stop him and her excuses for him hurt worse than his fists.

Now that Earl is living with us Mom works even harder to keep herself looking nice. She goes to the beauty shop twice a week and is always coming home with new clothes for herself and Earl. There’s never anything new for Julie and me.

Still, Earl makes Mom happy and when he’s not yelling at her she’s always smiling and laughing, something she doesn’t usually do. Maybe because she’s finally happy for once that she decides to do something nice for me, something else that she doesn’t usually do.

“I saw some of the prettiest fabric on a clearance rack today. Makes me want to sit down and make something. Do you want me to make something for you?” she asks after coming home from shopping. Earl isn’t home yet and I suspect that she wouldn’t have asked if he had been home.

“Do they have any brown fabric? Brown is my favorite color.”

“I think I do remember seeing some brown denim material that I can make you a pair of jeans from, if they still have it when I get back there,” she says offhandedly.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t forget and brings the material home a few days later and begins to cut out the jeans by using one of the two ragged pair that I own as a pattern. I’m so anxious to have a decent pair of jeans that I pester her and ask everyday if they’re finished. I’ve got one pair of jeans that I’ve had to wear everyday for the last week and even though I get teased at school, I have nothing else to wear until the brown jeans are done. Every single night I put them in the bathtub and scrub them with a bar of soap. After I wash them in the tub I wring them out the best that I can but they’re never all the way dry by the next morning and full of wrinkles.

“If you don’t stop aggravating me about it I won’t finish them at all. I’ll finish them when I get time!” she yells at me whenever I ask.

I know they’ll be my favorite when they’re finally done because brown is my special favorite color. Brown is a warm, snuggly, safe color that I can feel myself sink into, away from Mom and all the different men in her life. When her boyfriend’s hands search my body and touch me in secret places I think of brown and imagine myself hiding deep within it where no one can reach me. The color brown is my safe place.

“Here, they’re done. Now you can stop nagging me,” Mom says as she tosses the jeans at me a week later.

Julie’s down the street at a neighbor’s house when Mom and Earl decide that they’re going to the grocery store for beer and I beg to go with them so I can wear my new brown jeans. They’re the first new thing that I’ve had in a long time and I can’t wait to go to the store and hope that I’ll see some kids from school and they can see that I’ve got something new to wear.

We get in the car, Mom and Earl up front and with me, of course, sitting in the back seat. As Earl drives he keeps glancing back at me through the rearview mirror with an amused smirk on his face.

‘You really think you’re something in those new pants, don’t you?” he asks, trying to taunt me but I say nothing, I know better.

“I think you look cheap, kind of like a…slut.”

I turn my head and look out the window to avoid his eyes in the mirror. He makes fun of me the entire way to the store while Mom giggles at his comments.

“Now Earl, be nice! She doesn’t understand that you’re just kidding. You know that she has no sense of humor,” Mom says as she laughs along with him.

I’m relieved when we finally pull up to the parking lot of the grocery store. I plan on lagging behind them, hoping that if I stay out of sight that they might leave me alone. Earl puts the car in park and then suddenly reaches down to the floor of the front seat picking something up. When he lifts back up I can see that he’s holding a piece of chalk in his hand, a piece that I had dropped a few days before.

Without warning, he reaches over the seat, halfway back into the backseat where I am. He grabs my hair pulling my head down flat against the back seat while he grabs my legs, pulling them up at first and then forcing me to lie across the back seat. Holding me down he takes the chalk and begins to write all over my new brown jeans. He writes words like, ‘bitch,’ ‘slut,’ ‘cow’ and other filthy words all over my new brown jeans. Flipping me over, he writes ‘fuck me’ across the groin of my pants.

I can hear my mother’s giggles over the sounds of my own sobs.

“Don’t be such a baby,” she scolds me, “can’t you take a joke?”

“Get out of the car and don’t you dare dust the chalk off those pants! Do you understand me?” Earl growls as he pulls me up from the seat by my hair and pulls my face up to his.

Crying silently, I nod my head. He’s out of control and I know not to cross him. Getting out of the car I look at Mom and plead with my eyes for her to do something. She smiles and turns her head as she gets out of the car and grabs Earl’s hand.

As we walk away from the car and towards the store Earl pushes me in front of him and Mom and I can hear them whispering and giggling as we enter the store. When I hesitate, not wanting to go any further into the crowd of shoppers, Earl shoves his knuckles into my back and pushes me on.

They laugh and snicker like a couple of kids behind me as I walk with my head down not wanting anyone to see my face. My hair is a mess from Earl pulling on it and my face is streaked with tears. When I finally look up I can see people reading the words that Earl has written on my jeans. Two ladies look at me and I can hear them gasp before they turn away. Most people turn their heads as if I don’t exist but no one does anything. No one pulls me away from Earl and Mom. No one asks, “What’s going on here?”

We walk slowly through the entire store. Earl and Mom stay behind me, their laughter follows my every step. I want to run away, to run into the arms of a caring stranger who will take me out of the store and put an end to my humiliation.

I die a little more with each step until finally Earl and Mom decide they’re ready to go through the check out lane. The cashier smiles a confused smile as she takes a second look at me standing in line with my new brown jeans. She takes money from Earl and hands him a receipt and tells him, “Have a nice day!” in a cheery voice as we walk towards the exit.

I ride home with my head up against the window, staring but not seeing anything. Mom lectures me all the way home about what a poor sport I am and how I need to learn how to take a joke. Earl just drives, laughing to himself every now and then.

Later, after everyone has gone to bed I take my new brown jeans into the bathroom. I take Earl’s razor from the medicine cabinet and remove the blade. I take the blade in one hand while I hold my jeans in the other and slash them until they’re nothing but shreds, matching how I feel on the inside. Brown is no longer my favorite color, it now reminds me too much of Mom in that what was supposed to be my safe place, has betrayed me. There are no safe places to hide anymore.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Be yourself, be unique. Don’t try to imitate the writing voice of someone else, find your own voice and exercise it to help it mature and gain confidence.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Every writer needs their work edited. It’s all but impossible to pour your heart and soul into your work and still be able to be objective enough to properly edit it. It’s similar to a singer having a voice instructor. Have you ever heard someone sing when they have headphones on and you literally cringe at the sound only to look at the person singing and realize they have no idea how horrible it is? That they think they actually sound good? Sometimes we write with a different type of headset on, never realizing how our own writing voice actually sounds to others. A good editor can fine tune a writer’s voice and make it more palatable to readers.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

The hardest thing for me to overcome is my own personality. I am, by nature, a private person and publishing forces me to be ‘out there’ which is out of my comfort zone. Because of my childhood, when having attention focused on me resulted in some very unpleasant experiences, my survival instincts insist that I stay in the background where it’s safe. Publishing my book has awakened me to some of the issues that I still need to confront.

How did you find time to write your books?

Before my children became adults, I became a time bandit and would try to steal every extra second or minute from each day and attempt to write. Now that my children are adults, some with children of their own, I’m learning to pace myself between spending time with the  grandkids and writing so I can have the best of both worlds.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

It depends. If someone is not a writer, then writing can be a stressful ordeal. For the person who is a writer by nature, writing has more potent positive effects than any drug, legal or illegal, that’s out there.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

I can’t say that writing No One’s Daughter was a particularly relaxing time for me, but it was definitely therapeutic in the long run.

Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?

Writing the book was a literal soul cleansing experience. I was able to take the demons that haunted me and put them on a piece of paper where I could look at them more objectively. Similar to turning on the light to chase the boogeyman out of a child’s bedroom, it helped me to see things in the light versus them haunting the dark corners of my mind.

Has writing made you a better person?

Writing has allowed me to see that I’m not at all what I was raised to think that I am, so yes, it has made me a better person.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

YES! I love to read! My house recently was so full of books of every genre that my children were threatening to do an intervention. I read anything and everything, I don’t think I have a ‘favorite’ genre but will admit to a fondness for biographies.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are a writer’s emotional paycheck. They are of the utmost importance.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Yes. I had a dear friend verbally tear me to shreds after reading my book. The emotional sting of her words left me stunned and extremely hurt. Then, after unleashing her attack she calmed down and made a telling statement and told me that something in my book had hit close to home regarding her own relationship with one of her children. Her attack then made sense in a twisted sort of way. Even though her verbal review hurt and was what I felt unfair and uncalled for, it gave me insight as to what might be behind some extremely cruel reviews I’ve read on other writer’s books, that sometimes the things we write may hit a sensitive nerve with some readers. And sometimes, the person doing the review may have just had a bad day. As hard as it is, we can either not read our own reviews, as I’ve heard some writers do, read them and be honest with ourselves as to any possible merit, or chalk it up to someone having the need to simply lash out for whatever reason and try not to take it personally.

New School Prayer


Since the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer are not allowed in most public schools anymore because the word “God” is mentioned, a kid in Arizona wrote the following:

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd

If Scripture now the class recites
It violates the Bill of Rights
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now

Our hair can be purple, orange or green
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene
The law is specific, the law is precise
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice

mom-praying1For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all
In silence alone we must meditate
God’s name is prohibited by the state

We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks
They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible
To quote the Good Book makes me liable

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen
And the ‘unwed daddy’ our Senior King
It’s ‘inappropriate’ to teach right from wrong
We’re taught that such ‘judgments’ do not belong

We can get our condoms and birth controls
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed
No word of God must reach this crowd

It’s scary here I must confess
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess
So, Lord, this silent plea I make
Should I be shot; my soul please take

Amen

Author’s Roundtable: Taylor Evan Fulks


Did you survive physical abuse when you were younger?
 
Yes I did. Abuse is abuse no matter the adjective you use. Most of my abuse was of the sexual nature; however, confinement, bondage and punishment were in the mix as well. My abuser (a stepfather) was stimulated and satisfied only when he overpowered or frightened me.
 
Tell me a little bit about your story.
 
My prologue is actually the beginning of the end of my story. This is a novel based on a true story…my story. At a time when my personal life was falling apart, I went on an out-of-town business trip to clear my head and get some sense of what I wanted to do to change my circumstances. While entering my hotel room, I was attacked, bound to the bed, and beaten and tortured to the point of near death, by a man connected to my past. Lying there, I began to drift into a dreamlike state, an other-worldly state, as though my life were flashing before my eyes in Technicolor and surround sound. My story travels back in time, to the beginning of me…to the beginning of my being and the dark abyss that was my existence.
 
My abuse began at the age of three (almost four) soon after my mother divorced my abusive father and married her high school sweetheart. For years, the abuse slowly, methodically escalated in fervor, frequency and severity. I was sequestered from the outside world, outside influences such as television and radio, and forbidden to have friends. “It” began with looking and touching, then fondling, then my education in the art of pleasuring my captor. As time went on, the abuse became darker and more violent, ultimately resulting in rape and/or sodomy on a nightly basis.

The rest of the story entails the fallout from such abuse; how I dealt with the guilt, shame and secrecy, how I dealt with men, and ultimately the discourse and rage I felt for my mother. I really can’t go into more of the story without giving away spoilers. Suffice it to say, my novel is a dark and graphic account of the life of an abused child and her journey to finally find normal…whatever that is.
 
How do you think you situation made you a better person? Has it made you look at life any differently? In what ways?
 
I don’t necessarily know that I’m a better person for what I have been through. If I had to choose whether to go through it again or not…well obviously, not. But, my life is what it is because of what I endured as a child. I waited a long time, late in my life, to truly begin to look at my past, and try to deal with the rage and shame, anger and secrecy. That is an ongoing process for me. The damage inflicted by an abuser is forever. You can deal…you can cope…but the damage is always with you.

As far as how I look at life, I’m thankful for everyday. I’ve been re-evaluating my past for about two years now, and I’ve come to some conclusions about what’s really important. I see all people as having value, something to offer the world. I wasn’t afforded that courtesy as a poor child from the trailer park. I see the innocence of children as a gift to be protected at all costs…God knows, I had no protection as a child. And finally, I have found acceptance, not from others so much, but from myself. My past happened to me. I didn’t deserve it, nor did I cause it. That has been a huge obstacle for me to overcome. I am what I am. My past is my past. I don’t live there anymore. The rest of my life will be the best of my life.
 
How long have you been writing?
 
I started writing in March of 2011 as a means of staving off the “empty-nest syndrome.” I wanted to write Mystery/Romance, but my muse was filled with images of an auburn-haired, green-eyed little girl that had been tortured and abused, then forsaken by her protector…her mother. That little girl…was me.
 
Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
 
Not really. I am an avid reader. I have probably read 700 books since 2007. I’m also an animated story-teller by nature. I can hold a crowd in stitches with my sometimes gutter vernacular and gesticulations. As I said, I wanted to do something for myself after my girls left the nest. While listening to an audio-book, I thought, “I can do this! I can write as well as this chick can!” Well, it’s a lot harder than it seems. I’m still not sure how well I did with my debut novel, but my reviews on Amazon say it’s not too shabby.
 
What books/stories have you written? Published?
 
I’ve written one novel at present, My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal. I self-published through Createspace (an Amazon Company). You can get the print or Kindle edition on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com
 
Is your book based on personal experiences?

Yes. Although my novel is written as fiction, it is based on a true story…my story. My characters are real people (the names have been changed of course) and the events (99 percent of them) actually happened.
 
Is there any advice that you’ve been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Research what you are getting in to. Blog! Follow author blogs and really explore the world of publishing/self-publishing. The writing is the easy part. It’s what comes after the manuscript is done that is the hard part. Most of all, believe in yourself. I ventured into this without the intent of publishing. This was more of a journal for me in the beginning. I allowed some of my co-workers to read my work, which resulted in them pushing me to finish the story and publish as a novel. Well, OK then, I’ll do that. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. It’s hard, overwhelming, time consuming work, not to mention expensive.
 
Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

It’s the most important aspect of the whole process. When you are consumed by your work, knowing your story, your characters inside and out, you lose perspective. You don’t see the little variances in flow, the redundant phrases, getting off track, story lags because after all, this is your story. I am indebted to a wonderful editor at Createspace. He not only did a copy edit (spelling and grammar) but also a content edit (story flow, sentence structure, and overall writing edit). He made me look and sound a lot better than I am…truly. After my professional edit, I read other books and noticed mistakes that in the past would have slipped by me. It’s a crucial part of the process toward making your work as professional as possible.
 
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Actually there are two things that come to mind. First, my subject matter. No one wants to publish a taboo subject, and let’s face it, child sexual abuse isn’t exactly dinner conversation. I found five publishing houses accepting open submissions. I was thrilled, then I read the rules for submission. Mid-way down the page, my subject matter was in the “not allowed” categories. I was shutdown before I ever got started. No one was going to give me or my book a chance.
 
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Second, is my ignorance of technology. I’m a CRNFA, certified RN first assistant in open heart surgery. I can take a vein out of a person’s leg through a half-inch incision using a scope, but I had now clue about downloads and uploads, HTML or websites, how to copy and paste, or what a link was. Everything I have done so far, I’ve done on my own…well, there’s also my best friend Mr. Google. I’m most proud of what I have taught my daughters. They were well aware of my computer illiteracy while watching me get doors slammed in my face, lose documents, sit at the computer crying or cussing for hours. Yet, they also saw me succeed. They watched me take a dream and make it a goal…a goal that I reached Dec. 17, 2012, when I launched my debut novel to the world via Amazon. What a great lesson in perseverance to teach your children! According to my reviews, I didn’t do too bad a job!
 
How did you find time to write your book?

I work six days on, then I have six days off. I’ve let a lot of stuff go in order to write my novel. My children and my husband have taken up a lot of the slack as I poured my heart out with pen and paper. I believe most authors start out writing what they know, I know I did. Often, I found the words just pouring out of me, five or six chapters in a weekend. It was a heady feeling, as well as material for some really vivid nightmares.
 
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I believe we all do things like writing, for our own reasons. I started merely for something to do to keep from being bored and lonely. Funny though, it’s such a solitary pastime. I find myself lost in my own thoughts and dreams…not always a good place for me to be. Actually, I think the benefit is being able to express your thoughts in their purest state…no interruptions, no censored ideas, no boundaries at all (at least until the editing starts). I’m getting ready to start my next novel, and I almost fear the solitude. Not out of loneliness, but afraid that my exorcism with my last book didn’t work. We’ll see…
 
Several of my guests have often said that writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

I can honestly say that writing doesn’t relax me. I relive (at least with this novel) every aspect of the scenes, becoming the characters and finding ways to make the words reach out and grab you. I hope that changes as I begin to write my new novel, that I can let myself go and just enjoy the experience. I’ve spent the last two years of my life consumed with My Prison Without Bars…it’s time to let go and just be free.
 
Has writing made you a better person?

I would have to say yes, but not just the writing. This whole journey has brought out the best in me. I thought that sharing my dark and dirty secret would mean I would have to live in seclusion for the rest of my life…from shame and guilt. I thought I would have to hang my head and avert my eyes when going to the store or a function at the high school. That hasn’t been the case at all. I have been embraced by my community, friends and strangers alike. Some hug me and cry, while others tell me they are going to buy my book…they’ve heard how good it is and want to read it.
 
I look at people differently as well as myself. Other people weren’t the problem…I was. I have lived my life in a vacuous rage, pissed at the hand I was dealt, pissed at myself for the choices and decisions I made, and pissed at my mother. Odd, one would think I would be pissed at my abuser…I am, but he’s sick and twisted. There’s nothing to be done for him. He will rot in hell with the rest of the pedophiles. But most of my anger is toward my mother…the woman who should have loved me enough to protect me and take me away from that monster, but didn’t. Having two daughters of my own, it’s harder to wrap my mind around that now. Hopefully, I’ve become a better mother for it.
 
Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genre and why?

Ahh…an easy question to answer…YES! I’ve read close to 700 books since 2007, either in print or on audio. I’m a voracious reader. I started reading in middle school. In high school someone would buy a trashing romance novel, and we would all take turns reading it…you were given 24 hours to complete the book! I stopped reading for pleasure in nursing school; when you have fifty-nine pages of med-surg to read for a test in the morning and you’re just finishing up your second job for the day, pleasure reading is an oxymoron. I started reading again when Harry Potter came out. I’d heard rumors of bad things, and my children wanted to see the movies and read the books. Better check it out. A friend introduced me to audio-books at the time and I was hooked. I read probably four or five books a week.
 
As for favorite genre, I love LOVE. I love romance with a good story line and a bit of mystery or suspense mixed in. Why? Because I haven’t had a whole lot of that in my life, so my imagination and my fantasies are brimming to the surface. My favorite love story of all time is Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, but I also love to read anything by Sandra Brown, Karen Rose or Marie Force. The story is the draw, the romance is the icing on the cake….teehee!
 
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are a book’s life blood. Tell me something. When you go to look for a good book, what is the first thing you do? Look at the reviews, right? If a book has several reviews and all above three stars, you peruse the synopsis right? Then you may look inside, read a few paragraphs and ultimately give the book a chance…hopefully. This is what a writer is living for…just a chance for their books to be read…for someone to say, “Hey, this is good!” Even well-known authors need reviews to sell their new releases. As a reader, you hold all the power to make or break the success of a book. So next time you buy a book, take the time to show a little love for your favorite or new author. The tables are turned…your words become the gift.
 
Have you ever received a bad review? If so, how did it make you feel?

Here is my purchased ($548) Kirkus review. I was crushed, but my friends say it’s not a bad review. You be the judge…
 
My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal
Fulks, Taylor Evan
CreateSpace (434 pp.)
$9.65 paperback, $4.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1477646557; Nov. 24, 2012

Book review

The disturbing account of real-life physical and sexual child abuse and its long-lasting effects. Escaping into a world of fiction often provides a welcome diversion: the forces of good triumphing over evil and an ending that pleasantly satisfies. This book will not leave you with that feeling. The brutal account includes graphic descriptions of child abuse, both sexual and physical, and is not for the faint of heart. Instead of supernatural or larger-than-life “bad guys,” the demons who haunt the story of Fulks’ childhood are all too real. To her credit, Fulks weaves a compelling narrative with commanding prose and unforgivingly detailed descriptions of truly horrifying experiences. As she moves past her childhood, she intensely describes how her experiences colored even the ordinary aspects of her life, from dating to marriage and even having children. Although there are a few bright spots in her story, the overall tone is indisputably bleak; readers won’t come away believing in the power of positivity. But for being so concerned with issues as serious as those raised here, the narrative maintains a refreshing outlook: Without sugarcoating the problems, Fulks trusts the reader enough to lay everything out on the table, no matter how gruesome or shocking.

The horrors described are truly harrowing, but if readers can make it through, they’ll likely come away changed and perhaps with a sharper perspective on the terrible long-term effects of child abuse. The reality might just be too real. A detailed, deftly told narrative that will shock even the stoutest readers.
 
I received this on Christmas Eve 2012. I was devastated. Not because it was so bad in my eyes, but because I had paid so much for a prestigious reviewer (according to industry insiders) to basically tell me what I already knew…it’s a dark and disturbing book. As far as review content, I disagree with the notion that it’s “bleak; reader’s won’t come away believing in the power of positivity.” I don’t know what they think they read, or what world they live in, but I survived damn it! That alone is a positive, not to mention I’m educated, hard working, and I don’t abuse my children. The fact that I didn’t write about rainbows, buttercups and unicorns laced with “happily ever-after” doesn’t mean it’s bleak. As for “the reality might be too real,” I am amazed that in our society we can read a three-book series about BDSM that’s all the rage (and good for her…I mean that sincerely) or read about zombies committing carnage, or read of serial killers and the details of their sick proclivities…that’s good fiction. But when I fictionalize my own experiences using details no more graphic than they do…my fiction is too real. I guess I should be proud of that. My book in all its smallness can “shock even the stoutest readers.” Well if you’re a stout reader you can find my book on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

Fulks1133About Taylor Evan Fulks

Taylor Evan Fulks is the author of My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal. Become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, check out her blog and watch this heart-breaking but inspiring book trailer.
 
Jason, I want to thank you for interviewing me. I truly appreciate the opportunity. I have been turned down by other bloggers, I’m sure because of the subject matter. Thank you for being the bold one in the crowd. You are top-shelf in my book.