Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Shout Out to Inspiration

Virginia Woolf, novelist.

(photo: Virginia Woolf’s workspace, buzzfeed.com)

I have gathered some important people around me without even knowing I was doing it.

Any motivational speaker will tell you that to get closer to realizing your dreams you should never be the smartest person in the room. Although it was not always intentional, I see now that I have a strong circle of successful and inspiring people in an international ring around me. Most of them are women and for that I am very grateful.

They feed my creativity, my entrepreneurial spirit, my pursuit of academia when  the duties of having children and keeping the logistics of life going seem to take up all of my time.

There is an environmentalist in Switzerland who loves my children like her own and serves as a constant source of encouragement and affirmation that I am going to achieve my dreams.

There is a world traveler hiding in Boston suburbs commiserating with me over hours of sleep lost at the hands of our infant children. We day-dream about businesses we will start. We pontificate about the preferable cultural details of Spain and North Africa.

Today there is a great reason to celebrate one of my major inspirations. Heather Demetrios is living a writer’s dream – writing and publishing in a wave of energy and creativity. She put all of her intention into her career as a writer for many years and now it is all paying off as she rises to the top of her chosen genre, Young Adult fiction.

Since I was a very little girl  too young to read and write on my own I wanted to be a writer. I have written and I have hesitated to write. When I met Heather four years ago, she was on the brink of this great success she is now enjoying. I am inspired by her because I saw what she did. She sat down and wrote. And she learned everything that one should learn in order to market themselves as a writer, seek publication and flourish. All while writing without rest. It is a formula that anyone can follow: Find what you are moved to do – whatever it is that you cannot live without doing and then do it. Keep doing it over and over again. And something will come of it. Whether it is a private, secret success or a public one, something will happen and chances are it will be pretty good!

Learning this lesson from Heather and others is part of what has led me to this blog -again – after a year of neglecting it. I didn’t write for a year because I didn’t know what I should write – what I was supposed to write. And I still do not know today, but I do know that I must write. Not sure I mind what happens next…

"Secret to Writing a Bestseller: You write..." - Jonathan Gunson #quotes #writing *

(photo: bestsellerlabs.com)

Heather Demetrios, your successes feel like success of my own. I don’t know why or whether that sounds selfish. But when I see all that you are doing and I overwhelmed with pride and I feel the fires stoking in me to press on.

Please read this article about Heather’s current place on a list of 13 Female YA authors That Owned 2014. Just go ahead and see who else is on this list and tell me you’re not inspired!

Here is her second book published, which is also the first of a trilogy! I especially like it because it has the classic details of an old. Arabian genie story, yet it is saturated with heather’s unique style! (photo taken from yaseriesinsiders.com)

We’re so excited to have Heather Demetrios with us today celebrating her new release EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. Thanks for the interview, Heather! YA Series Insiders: Who is your favorite character to write and why?  Heather Demetrios: Not gonna lie, my favorite character to write is Malek, Nalia’s master. I’ve known from the beginning that he has a dark past and while we get hints of that in Exquisite, it really comes out in Book 2 (Blood Passage, which comes out next October). There’s something so incredibly satisfying about slipping into a voice and skin so unlike your own. Malek is unbelievably cruel, but it’s his vulnerabilities that get you off balance. Nalia’s confusion about him is a direct reflection of my own: you’re so evil—why am I drawn to you? This isn’t a love triangle situation, though. At most, Nalia has symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. We learn some secrets about Malek as to why there is this seemingly inexplicable connection between them. But even as Nalia is repelled by him we, the readers, can’t help but see those things Nalia isn’t privy to. YASI: If you were going to write a spin-off about one of your characters, who would it be and why? HD:  I’d love to write a spin-off about Leilan, Nalia’s BFF, who is a free jinni living in Los Angeles. There are a few different kinds of jinn: those who are on the dark caravan (the slave trade), those who are expatriates (they’ve run away), and political prisoners who’ve been banished to Earth by the ruling caste of jinn. We learn a little bit about how Leilan escaped Arjinna, but I’d love to explore what it was like for her to make that decision to run away from home and go to an entirely different plane of existence, brave the dangers of crossing through the portal between Arjinna (the jinn realm) and Earth, and how she navigated living in the human realm all on her own. I also suspect cute boys and girls are involved. Leilan’s an artist and she sells her work on the Venice Beach boardwalk. I’m curious about how her art helped heal her after some of the stuff that went down in Arjinna. YASI: Who or what was the inspiration for the villain in your book? HD: Exquisite has two major villains (though there are more than two very unsavory characters). One of them is a ghoul—a cannibalistic jinni—that basically uses Earth as a buffet on his search for Nalia, whom he’s been hired to kill. I did a lot of research about jinn—there is a wealth of folklore out there—and ghouls are often mentioned. My inspiration came from the book Legends of the Fire Spirits, which is a non-fiction book about jinn lore. I took certain common traits of ghouls and added a little, shall we say, flair. What you get is Haran. If he doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. I had so much fun working on his sections, which are about 3 or 4 pages each and scattered throughout the book. Each section takes place in a different country (I’ve been to all the countries featured in the book). I had no idea I would enjoy writing horror, but it was great fun! YASI: What motivates you to write even when you don’t feel up to it? HD: Fear. Honestly, I make myself sit down and write even when I don’t want to because I’m terrified of having a totally dried up creative well, of somehow losing touch with that part of me that writes. There’s also fear of disappointing myself, fear of not meeting a deadline, and fear of not being able to crack the code of my work-in-progress. My favorite quote about making art is tacked onto a board right above my laptop—it’s by Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” YASI: What book have you read that somehow changed your life and how? HD: I actually wrote a blog post all about this called “Coming out of the YA Closet” because one of the reasons I write YA is because of Twilight. This is a pretty unpopular thing to admit, but I’m trying to be more open about it. Haters gonna hate, right? Say what you will about it, that book made me want to write for teens. It was the first time I’d been so hooked on a book that I literally lost weight because I didn’t want to take the time to eat—I just had to keep reading. I’d never read a romance before, not that kind, anyway. I loved Harry Potter, but that was pretty much the only fantasy I’d ever picked up too, other than The Hobbit. Imagine my surprise when Edward Cullen walked into that cafeteria. Since then, I’ve become very educated in the YA genre and have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m not a book snob, but I know what’s what when it comes to craft. Obviously Twilight has its problems, but I will be forever grateful to the culture that dropped that book in my lap and made me want to create book crack for my future readers someday. YASI: What is the core thing in your book? The one thing you would never in a million years have given up no matter how much money someone paid you? HD: The thing I wouldn’t have given up in The Dark Caravan Cycle is its connection to slavery and, more specifically, trafficking. There are a lot of other huge issues that come into play with the novels, but I think the thing that sets this apart from other fantasies is the jinn folklore connection to slavery. We always see jinn enslaved to human masters who make them do their bidding. It was important for me to really highlight this unique aspect of their character. They are magical creatures with enormous potential, yet they are constantly being stifled by people who have zero magical power. I quickly realized that this idea of transporting jinn in lamps and bottles means that they’re being trafficked in some way. I wouldn’t have wanted to give up the idea of the dark caravan, which is a euphemism for the jinn slave trade. This was never going to be a cute book about wishes. YASI: Did anything happen in your series that surprised you, that you didn’t plan? HD: I would say that the biggest surprise so far has been the changes I’m making in regards to Book 3. In Book 2 (Blood Passage), there are definitely things that came out that I hadn’t expected, but I always knew Book 2 would have surprises for me and for the reader because it was the one that terrified me. I am SO PROUD of Book 2. I really keep the reader on their toes, if I do say so myself. A LOT of unexpected things happen and I was just as surprised as the reader is going to be. Now I’m working on Book 3 (Freedom’s Slave) and I realized that my original ideas for it just aren’t satisfying after all the cool places Book 2 took me. I want to surprise my readers and find unique ways to honor these incredibly cool jinn legends my story is born from. So I’m really going back to the drawing board and figuring out how to use some of the new characters that come in the story in Book 2 and reconsidering my plans. It’s exciting and terribly scary, all at the same time. YASI: If you could pull one thing from your series world to have in real life, what would it be? HD: I created this magical energy force called “chiaan” – it’s how my jinn draw magic from the elements around them, but it’s also the energy they have inside themselves. Each energy force is individualized within each jinni. Just like fingerprints, no two are the same. So their particular magic is related to a feeling you get about them that is also somehow related to the element they draw magic from (so earth jinn—“Djan”—might have a calm, resolute, strong kind of feeling to their magic). I discovered it when writing the sexy dance scene between Nalia and Raif—I love how it can be unbearably sexy, this exchange of energy even when nothing sexy is necessarily going on (okay, but that dance puts Dirty Dancing to shame). It’s extraordinarily intimate—kinda like touching someone’s soul. I love this idea, that you can share this really intense connection with another person that is transmitted through a simple touch. You can get the true measure of a person this way. Chiaan will out, so to speak. That’s why my jinn very rarely touch one another. To touch someone’s bare skin without their permission would be the height of rudeness. About the Book  Forced to obey her master.  Compelled to help her enemy.  Determined to free herself.  Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.  Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?  Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light. Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads

Tell me who inspires you!

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Categories: Developing a Practice, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Innervisions

Today’s thoughts were all images: Here are a few of them:

All meeting needs of some kind. Uncharted territory, green and refreshing, organized and eye catching.

A fab Amsterdam apartment of Brechtje Troost. Inside out.

Places I have already been but who call us back. The desert and the oasis.

Qasr al Sarab Abu Dhabi- I could see myself vacationing here and looking out at this for daysMake sure you make time to ride the camels.

Dreaming of a new apartment, how we will decorate it and organize it to make it feel creative and clean and comforting.

Bow Bridge, Central Park. New York City I've been, but would love to go again!!

Have you been here?
you would never guess what lay behind that door!

What did you daydream about today?

photos found on the following websites:

1. augustana.edu

2. myscandinavianhome.blogspot.co.uk

3. jetsetter.com

4. elites.bizzboard.com

5. apartmenttherapy.com

6. apartmenttherapy.com

7. flickr.com

8. assilah-holidays.com

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Next Move

An ancient photo but it looks about right. Complete with the strange guy peekng over our heads in the background!

An ancient photo but it looks about right. Complete with the strange guy peekng over our heads in the background!

We’re moving! That is what we keep telling everyone.  Moving is what we do. In the past, it seemed that our desire to move in and out of countries and cultures has often been stronger than our need for a home. With two children now, the need for some kind of is gaining priority but the urge to move on at least just one… ok, maybe two more times is a light that never goes out. So we are going. To Morocco. No, New York City..or Abu Dhabi, UAE… or New York City. Wait, what about Spain!? This is part of what happens to people who have few mental, and cultural barriers that would keep most people in the place they are familiar with. We have experienced feeling familiar almost everywhere and equally unfamiliar or foreign in the countries we were born and grew up in.

Some people around us are on the edges of their seats. Many more are rallying around us, encouraging us to make this choice or that choice. Lately we are wondering if the choice is even ours. We have to find jobs  or at least one job first. We have to know that there will be childcare and schools that are good for our kids. With so many moves and experiences under our belts at this time, we have the added dimension (pressure) of trying to make sure we learn from the past.

Fifteen years ago I moved around the world by throwing a dart at a map. Today it’s much more complex. That complexity is completely throwing me for a loop this time! It can be so challenging on certain days that I get trapped in a circle of questioning and comparing pros and cons. Every morning I wake and say “What will happen?”

That’s where it all lies here on this darkening winter Tuesday afternoon. Where will we go next? Will we go at all? Does it matter where we go? If we go?

Have any of you moved abroad with small children? Had you lived abroad before? how did you choose where to go? Tell me your stories!

Categories: Morocco, Nomadism, UAE, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

To Do List

My writing is significantly rusty. Getting all of this down is like riding a bike for the very first time – wobbling over all the place. But one must ride right through that. Consistency is a word at the forefront of my mind these days. I think productive, intentional consistency in a personal practice can be very challenging.  As I embark on refashioning the shape of my family life after 4.5 years in the USA, I notice there are many angles from which I am being called to practice being consistent. I’ll make a list:

1. Weave some purpose into the day. Though I am not technically working a full-time job right now, I must consistently create and follow a schedule for as many days a week as possible. This can help me avoid feeling stuck. I do not currently have the kind of job that schedules my day for me. So I am realizing how necessary it is to rise in the morning with a purpose – even if it has to be a sort of faking it kind of purpose on some days just to keep the ball rolling.

2. Read something. Right now I am reading a sort of spiritual historical novel depicting the meeting and relationship of Shems Tabrizi and Jalaluddin Rumi. (A thoughtful and perfectly timed gift from Yassine. Hi Yassine!) When I say reading, I mean that I hold the book in my hand once or twice a day and every few days, I actually read some words out of it – a page to three pages at a time. But hey it keeps me going in the sea of child centered tasks and activities I engage in everyday at my house.

3. Be consistent with Aslam. Even for a four-year old, his personality is intense. He is sometimes so annoying and just when I want to run away from him I remember that I can actually influence him significantly. With this guy, you must be on at all times. He doesn’t let up so neither can you. Learning lessons all day long.

4. Write everything down. It worked when I was 7 and 14 and 21 and 28 and 32. Until recently I had been writing everything down. Now seems like a good time to get back to that.

5. Eat well. Because it feels crappy not to and it will be helpful to be in tip-top shape throughout this lengthy and energetic transition that is life itself.

I realize I could generate a much longer list of things I need to be consistent with. However, the full edition of such a list would surely be overwhelming and probably cause some apathy so these five things are currently at the top of this list.

Though there are moments when the effort it takes to be consistent feels like too much to bother with. However,  in a life like this one – teetering on the edge of great change and guiding two small others through their continuous personal evolution as well, developing that consistency is going to keep me grounded and possibly even be the way to my own self realization.

What is on your to do list? Where do you challenge yourself to be consistent?

Categories: Developing a Practice | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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