Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Author Interview - Triana Willard

Today I have Triana Willard. Triana and I went to high school together and, even though we live half way around the world from one another, we have chosen to pursue the same career! I am excited to talk with her today, and to let you guys get to know her a little better.

Triana's book Autumn Magic is now available on Amazon and her website

First Triana, let me say thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It's a first for both of us. Your first author interview and my first time interviewing!

Yes, like all firsts it's a bit daunting - glad it's a friend interviewing though, that makes it easier!

Let me start off by saying I really enjoyed Autumn Magic. What made you decide to write a book about ancient Japan and magicians?

I have always been an avid reader of juvenile/YA fantasy so naturally that is what I wanted to write about.  I love how fantasy allows us to immerse ourselves in a new world where anything is possible.  As a writer I appreciate the freedom that fantasy allows to create and shape the space our characters live in.  So magicians, witches - those are essential characters for me.  As for the Japanese element, I studied ancient Japanese literature at university and was really impressed with how different that society was.  In a way, reading those stories was like reading fantasy and I've been eager ever since to find a story that could be set in a fantastic ancient Japan that never was.  

I especially like the way that you challenged Wren by putting who she longs to be at odds with what her parents expect her to be. What was your inspiration for her character?

Strangely enough I was reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my boys and I was struck by how straightforward yet incredibly beautiful the writing style is.  I've read those books over and over my whole life but for the first time I really began to appreciate the relationship between Almanzo and Laura, their love for horses and their pioneering spirits.  I think Wren and Sparrowhawk started from there and the whole story would have taken a different tack except that I came across a book of Slovakian fairytales in a second hand bookshop.  That is where the Russian elements of the story come in - like the transformation of certain characters.  That is a common theme in Russian fairytales.

I think Wren is also drawn from my own experiences and the experiences of my friends as teenagers.  At that time in our lives we are all coming to terms with finding our own destiny.  Do we accept and take on the roles our parents expect of us, do we follow in the footsteps of our older siblings, or do we reach out and grow and decide for ourselves?  Wren has to make that journey, physically and emotionally, and for me - all magic aside - that is what the book is about.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Absolutely.  As soon as I could write I was creating stories and putting them to paper.  It's been a long journey to publication, but I’m really excited to finally be doing what I've always dreamed of.

Do you have a designated writing place? 

Yes, I have an old second-hand leather chair that sits in the corner of my bedroom and I do the majority of my writing there.  I still begin every story the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil, and the chair has nice wide arms that are good for resting my writing notebook on.

Is there anything that you would like your readers to know about you?

I think that the most important thing might be that I am a dedicated writer.  Autumn Magic is my first book, but I'm committed to writing more.  I'm finishing up a prequel to Autumn Magic that will be available July 2013, and I have at least three other stories rattling round in my head impatiently waiting their turn to be written.  I'm passionate about what I do, and I want to keep the trust of my readers by always producing my best work to share with them.

Also, the eBook edition of Autumn Magic will be free to download from Amazon this Friday and Saturday - the 29th & 30th March.

Thank you Triana for agreeing to be my first! 
Go and pick up a copy or Triana's book, you won't regret it!

J.E. Shannon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Medical Mystery

Though I am only thirty-two, I've had my share of medical issues. Probably one of the oddest ones I had started when I was twenty-five.

One day I noticed that I was having some pain in my ankle/calf area. I've always been pretty active to so I just chalked it up to some sort of injury (believe me, I am an expert at injuring myself) and kept going. Six weeks later, it was still persisting. I iced, heated, and took it easy for a while. It kept bothering me, even gave out when I was coming down some stairs. Now I was annoyed.

 I went to my doc who suggested that I might have achilles tendonitis or possible a stress fracture. I joked that if anyone could fracture a bone and not know how they did it, it was me. He laughed and recommended I see an orthopedic specialist. The Ortho doc X-Rayed my leg and cleared me of having a fracture. He agreed that I probably had tendonitis and suggested the same regimen I was already on. Frustrated, I sighed and left the office.

Two days later the swelling began. Just a little at first, right around my ankle and heel. I shrugged it off, but by the end of the week it looked like someone has shoved a softball under my skin at the ankle bone. Needless to say, I was a bit worried. Off to the doc I went a second time. I believe the doctors first words when he saw my leg was, "Oh crap."

Up until then I was pretty calm, but seeing his shocked face freaked me out a little. Like I always do when I'm worried or stressed out I made a joke. "You see doc, when I swallowed that baseball I never thought it would end up in my foot."

He blinked at me but grinned. But through that grin, I could by the way his eyebrows knitted together that he was worried and thinking hard. According to him it could be a lot of things, from a blood clot to a deep vein problem, to a vascular issue. None of these things sounded like a good time. But there were two that were especially frightening.

One was the possibility of having to undergo a "vein stripping".  The procedure is exactly what it sounds like. They cut you from groin to ankle, pull the veins out, work on them and then reattach them.   The procedure is long, the recovery is excruciating. It sounded medieval to me, so much that I was waiting for them to laugh like it was some sort of weird doctor humor. It wasn't.

The second was that I had a heart malfunction. There really isn't a need to explain why that would freak me out.

The next few weeks I was moved from office to office as they searched for an answer. I  underwent a slew of tests and even more needle pokes than I care to remember.

The worst was the nerve conduction test. If you are unfamiliar with this test let me explain. The good docs take a special tool that looks suspiciously like a taser. They then proceed to shock you with it, gradually increasing the intensity of the electric charge. Near the end of the test your leg contracts on it's own. It's is definitely not pleasant. However, during the last round, I couldn't help but let out a bark of laughter. Both docs in the room stopped the test immediately. One of them asked me if I was all right.

As my poor leg lie there twitching uncontrollably, I said, "I just wondered if I looked like my dog does when she's sleeping and chasing a rabbit." The lady running the test lost it. When the test was over she patted my head and called me a good girl. I asked if I got a cookie. She just shook her head and told me to expect the results in a couple weeks.

When the swelling started to move up my leg things got pretty wild. At one point my left leg was an inch and a half larger than my right. That was when they shipped me to the vascular specialist.
I remember sitting in the room when he came in. He stopped looked at the door then back at me, then at his clip board.

"Mrs. Shannon?" he asked tentatively.
"Oh. I was expecting someone older."
"Oh, I get that all the time. I'm really 80, I just aged really well. Yoga, ya know?"

This doc didn't think I was funny. (Hey you can't win them all right?) He was the one to review all of the test, labs, charts, moon graphs, tides, and whatever else he had in that thick file on me. (You would think my birthdate would have been in there somewhere), and inform me that I had lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a problem with your adrenal system. In my case, he explained, that  fluid would move down my leg with no issue, but have problems moving back up like it was supposed too. I asked what we could do and his answer shocked me.

"Nothing. You'll have this for the rest of your life. You can't get rid of it, but I'll give you some pointers on how to control it."

That was probably the worst thing I could have heard. I've been light about it so far, but let me tell you, there was some days I was in real pain. Pain that would sometimes make me throw up. Pain that would make it very difficult to walk. Pain that put me on the sidelines of life when I really wanted to be in the thick of it.

I just stared at him as he rattled off a list of things I could do. I'm sure he was speaking English but honestly at that time all I heard was Charlie Brown's teacher. Wah-wah-wahawahwah.
I came home and told my husband what I could remember, and that the doc had issued a lovely stocking (think of an 80 year ladies knee high) that came up to my knee to relieve the pressure in my leg.

A couple of days later I was sitting at work when I got very, very hot. My face and ears were on fire. Turns out that the damn stocking pushed up all of the fluid into my knee and thigh. That slowed down the circulation in my leg. That cause my brain to receive a message that I was not receiving enough blood flow, and THAT caused all the blood vessels in my face to go full throttle.

Of course I didn't know that at the time and unfortunately neither did my co-workers. I guess I looked pretty bad (one lady thought I was having a stroke) because they all wigged. And not a little. We are talking flapping hands and screeching voices, wigged out. My boss prepared to call 911 and I stopped him. I convinced him to let me have my husband come take me to the docs office. My boss reluctantly agreed.

My husband made it to my work so quickly I swear he must have learned to teleport. As he Indy Car raced me to the docs office he kept making me talk to make sure I wasn't having a stroke. Once we got to the  office, they put me in to see him right away. After he calmly explained what happened he suggested was that I leave the stocking off. Fine with me. I can rock a lot of looks, but the "Estelle Getty" just wasn't doing it for me.

After all the specialist I saw, my primary doc came up with the real solution. He gave me a steroid shot through the knee (ouch) and put me on water pills. That relieved the pressure in my leg within a few days. It also increased my bathroom time tenfold, but I was fully prepared to march to the bathroom a hundred times a day if it was going to help. I made a betting pool at work. The people in the office would guess how many times in a day I would have to go to the bathroom. The winner got a specially made treat or a candy bar. It actually got pretty competitive, which always made me laugh.

 My husband, in the meantime, was studying to be a chiro and was researching everything he could on adrenal systems and lymphedema. The main thing I needed to do was watch my salt intake (which was, admittedly,horrid at the time) and make some other dietary changes. He also learned some specific acupuncture to help with the pain.

Such a simple solution to all the drama. Once I started watching my diet the swelling eventually disappeared and the pain was gone. After months of agony, it was finally at an end.

One thing the vascular doc got right was that it is a life long issue. I still have episodes, but they don't last long and aren't nearly as painful.

Most importantly, I learned something about myself. If I could laugh through something, it wasn't nearly as bad as when I went in afraid. So, now I try to make that my motto.

You can get through anything, if you just laugh through it. You may even get a cookie.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Strong people don't get that way by leading cushy lives. 

They are the people who are knocked down, tramped on, and sometimes forgotten. But even though they are broken, bleeding, and exhausted they get back on their feet and keep pushing forward. They fight losing battles, they forge swollen rivers and they never give up. 

Thank you to all of those strong people who give others faith and strength. Who remind us that sometimes all we need is to keep moving forward.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tagging Thyme Meme: 11 Weird Questions I Answered

Louise D Gornal ( tagged me in this funny Q & A. Thought I would give it a whirl. I'm tagging others too...answer or don't...even if you aren't tagged. It's just for fun!

1. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten in public?

In public? It sounds like I have a secret weird eating life in private...which I don't. Really, I don't. Hmmm...probably squid. I know a lot of people eat it so it's not that weird, but for a picky eater like me it's huge.

2. If you had to go on an adventure, with elves, dwarves, or hobbits, who would you take and why?

Dwarves. I'd like to feel tall for once.

3. You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next?

Run or put on a puppet show. Depends on the creepiness of said taxidermist...and how much I've had to drink.

4. If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

I'm screwed on this question. I don't know what a biscotti is nor do I drink coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Did I mention I'm a bit of a picky eater?

5. In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today (comedian)

Jon Stewart. I love watching him do interviews, he's so quick on his feet, and his sense of sarcasm and mine are very similar. 

6. If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be?

Be kind to each other. There's so much ugliness out there and what's the point of it? People talk about a better world, but I wonder how many people really realize that it's within our grasp if we are just kind to one another. 

7. What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever?

I have a small child. Right now my most romantic setting would be in my own bed...sleeping.

8. If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why?

I would like to say something like, Tom Hanks or Morgan Freeman, you know one of those all around nice guys that probably have something great and funny to say...but instead I'm going to be totally shallow and say Milo Ventimiglia. He's been my celebrity crush forever. 

9. What is the worst song you have ever heard?

Oh. So. Many. Bad. Songs. I sincerely can not narrow it down. There is one that I kind of like and hate all at the same time. Hard to Love by Lee Brice. The beat is great and the singing is great but the lyrics piss me off. It's all about this guy who is grateful for this woman loving him even though he's big jack...nut an he knows he's a jack...nut. Here's an idea. Stop being a jacknut!!!
10. If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

I really like Breckenridge Colorado when we went to visit. Seemed like that one would be a good place to live. I also miss back home with all my family in Springfield, MO. 

11. Who- in your opinion- was the greatest person to ever live?
Probably Jesus Christ. I'm not a super religious person, but I can't think of anyone else that can live up to that. 

Now for the Tagging

Fiona McLaren
T. Sue Versteeg
Triana Willard
JLuis Licea
Stacey Trombley
Alexandra Hayman
Andrea Hannah
Kelly Harvey