Monday, September 30, 2013

Starting a New Chapter

Every writer understands the thrill of starting a new chapter, especially in a novel that’s been a huge labor of love, a struggle, something that’s required a lot of inflection, research, and pain. With the start of a new section, it’s like there’s been this small reprieve.  You’ve got the sense of completing some task, obstacle, quest, event or emotional scene, and now it’s time to move on to the next part of the saga, able to put that part behind you.  What we don’t often realize in our jubilation - starting a new chapter isn’t the same as writing a whole new book; it’s an extension of the same story.  There are still threads to be tied, characters that need to be developed and plots that need to unfold.  No matter how much we’d like to jump out of the same story and start over fresh, we have to see it to the end – just like our own lives.
I’d love to be able to jump out of my story and start a whole new one; reinvent myself and plop right into a new adventure, but I can’t.  My story has its own history, its own plot line and its own character development. The only difference, I’m not the author; I’m one of the characters.  I don’t have the power to change my story, rewrite my earlier chapters, scrap the whole manuscript and start over from scratch.  Part of me doubts I even have the power to finish the story as I’d like, because I have no control over the plot or the actions of the other characters.  The only thing I truly have any control over is how my character responds to the things around her.
Just so you know - I’m pretty damned angry at the author for writing this particular tragedy.  Why couldn’t I have been in a comedy or a fluffy romance?  No, I have to be in an epic thriller; a dark fantasy; a nightmare.  All I have to say is there better be an awesome ending.  Come on, one character can only take so much tragedy in their life.  There has to be balance.  I’m not even sure if I’m the hero or villain.  I think most of us are the heroes in our own stories, but my character isn’t feeling very heroic lately.  Where’s my great love story, when do I get to save the day instead of always being in need of rescue?  When do I reach the climax and get to start seeing everything come together and find my happily-ever-after?  Will my story end up with a tragic ending?  What will I have learned at the end of my journey?  Will anyone shed a tear for me when my story is finally over?  Or will my story be one of those that have the reader scratching their heads and saying, “What a waste!”
I don’t want that kind of ending, and I surely don’t want to be in a tragedy any longer, or to save the day; I just simply want to smile.  I want to love and be loved in return.  I want to have a purpose and give purpose to someone else’s life.  I want to be someone’s bright spot.  So, this morning, I’m pleading with the Author of my particular story, as they go to write this new chapter - please show a little mercy and change my story to a happy adventure. Tone down the drama, create a wonderful, beautiful setting, and plot a miracle or two.  Oh, and if I might just make a tiny suggestion - Henry Cavill would make a wonderful leading man.  But, if his story and mine can’t mesh, at least send someone that will flame an unquenchable fire, be someone I can look up to, who inspires me, pushes and makes me a better person just being in my life.  But they’ve got to want, love and desire me.  I refuse to settle or accept someone who won’t fully love me back with their whole heart, being and passion. I deserve to be someone’s leading lady – not only their best friend, side kick or confidant.  I deserve the knight in shining armor who will go through hell, move heaven and earth, and fight the largest dragon with ME, even though I can save myself.  I don’t need rescued. I just need someone willing to fight beside me so I don’t have to fight alone. 
What does your story say about you?  What kind of novel is your life?  How would you like your story to change?  Think on these things.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, September 27, 2013

Banned Books, Nerds & Other Random Stuff

I’ve heard from a little bird that this is the official Banned Books Week.  I’ve just got one question before I jump in and talk about my favorite banned book.  Who the heck comes up with these official holidays?  Isn’t it really just someone one who had this clever idea, sent it out into the universe under a great network, spread across the continents,  and now taken as truth, when perhaps there’s not a shred of it anywhere at all?  Another question pops up from that one.  Why can’t I do the same thing, or have the same fire start, with the announcement or marketing of my books? 
So, it’s Banned Book Week?  Well, the only book I’ve ever heard rumored as banned - I would have never read had it not been so controversial.  I’m talking about the Harry Potter series.  When the firestorm ran through the churches and I saw mothers get up and cry in front of congregations in gratitude their children hadn’t fell ‘under the spell’ of the bewitching books… well, I just had to read them and witness this power for myself.  I’d like to say I was able to stand against the temptation and resist the evil that was corrupting our children, but I fell hard for the Harry Potter universe, becoming one of its willing and faithful victims. 
My next piece of randomness this morning revolves around nerds.  I’m sorry, but I have the biggest weakness for highly intelligent men, whose minds know things I can only touch the surface.  I’ve learned in my age of wisdom, that men who are passionate about learning are often passionate about everything else in their lives, especially when it comes to women.  What I find ridiculous, is women who prefer brutes without brains or pretty pecks without promise.  A brilliant mind is the best aphrodisiac I’ve ever experienced. 
Perhaps I’m the nerd.  I think I’m a very beautiful woman, but I’ve never been impressed with a man who was attracted to my body only, especially one who doesn’t listen to a word I say.  I absolutely melt when I know I’ve been listened to, I’ve been understood, and a man shares intimately his thoughts, dreams, emotions and quirky ideas.  Sure, a passionate kiss is great and I’d love experience lots of them. If I had to choose to never kiss again, yet have someone push the boundaries of my understanding and take me on great adventures of intellectual existentialism, well, I’d choose the latter and find myself in love, hooked, and completely undone under their brilliant verbose. A sweet pair of eyes wouldn’t hurt either.
And for the last piece of randomness this morning: Be passionate about everything.  I’m learning passion if very painful.  It’s the biggest risk I take every day, most often seeming to backfire, because for it to be true passion, my heart has to be completely invested.  But, I’ve lived too many years dead inside.  Yes, I feel a lot of pain, but at least I feel something.  Those few moments of joy, appreciation, passion, excitement, thrill, enlightenment and love are worth any pain or disappointment I have to endure.  Without passion I would miss all the good things in life – love, friendship, family. 
Some days I think I can’t possibly cry any more, and want to curl into a ball and hide from the world – licking my wounds.  But something will happen, a wave of joy, a smile, a kind word, an intimate expression of affection by someone I love and admire, and those tears go away and make life worth living.
Be the reason to dry someone’s tears today.  Be passionate.  Be a nerd.  Read a banned book.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spinning Straw into Gold

You’d think a woman of forty-two would be too old to believe in fairy tales, have a rational and practical mind, and live a life with her feet firmly planted on the ground, but I realize this morning … I’m not, I don’t, and I won’t apologize.  It might sound crazy and even a bit absurd, but I find it a miracle I still believe in happily-ever-after, miracles, and the ability to receive the impossible. I may be disturbed, but if you know me and the nightmare that’s been the story of my life; perhaps that’s the greatest miracle of all …the simple fact I haven’t given up. 
I’m shocked I’m not in some institution somewhere, addicted to some narcotic or an insatiable alcoholic, a liar, or a thief. I have every reason, but no excuses.  I’m stubborn, perhaps naive, because I keep getting up.  I’m battered and bruised, tattered and torn, damaged and discarded, but I still dare to reach for the impossible. 
It reminds me of a song by Five for Fighting called Superman, “I’m not crazy …or anything.  I can’t stand to fly; I’m not that naïve …men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees …I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, looking for special things inside of me …I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, I’m only a man looking for a dream. It’s not easy to be me.”    
The world tells me I can’t spin straw into gold, not without making a deal with the Rumpelstiltskins of the world that will compromise my values; that I can’t slay dragons because I’m not born to the right title or privilege; that Prince Charming isn’t for girls like me, that happily-ever-after doesn’t exist.  But I choose to close my ears to the world’s pessimism-steeped in realism. 
In darkness, I choose to believe in light. In pain, I choose to believe in happiness. In loneliness, I choose to believe in love.  In rejection, I choose to believe in acceptance.  In fear, I choose to believe in peace.  In failure, I choose to believe in success. In defeat, I choose to believe in miracles.  In death, I choose to believe in life.  Tell me there is no way, I’ll find a way.  Tell me there is no hope, and I will continue to hope.  Tell me I’m not able, and I won’t stop until I’ve become a master.  Tell me you don’t love me, and I’ll love myself.
For a little while I listened to the world, I let my way of seeing dim, to put on glasses of reality and lick my wounds.  I’m not stupid.  I know what’s real and what’s not.  I don’t live separated from reality, but I’ve allowed reality to take away the best part of me – my ability to see things (love, hope, a better future) that are not yet - as though they were,  and then have the strength to step forward to make them happen.  I don’t want to live in a world that dictates to me how things are… or how they will be.  THAT kind of world would have killed me a long time ago.  I am where I am, because I refuse to accept those things.  YES, I’ve seen the ugliness of this world.  I know its face - intimately.  I’ve seen way too much of it.  Those images, those memories, and the scars are plain and evident and I don’t deny them. Every time I see a scar, a burn mark, a stretch mark, or feel the pain from a past injury, or look around at my present circumstances and know what I’ve walked away from, I’m reminded vividly of each one. I couldn’t forget them if I tried.  But I deny their power to define me. 
So, today – whether you agree, disagree or think or I’ve lost my mind – I believe in happily-ever-after, in magic, in spinning straw into gold, and that I was meant to ride with clouds between my knees.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

PostNet Fiction. Where is it? — I Want it; I Wanna Eat it.

Check out this AWESOME article from Christian Fennell in the Prague Review discussing the state of literary fiction today. His article features a mini-interview with Vabella Publishing and North Star Literary Agency author, Jeff Suwak.

" That’s how hungry I am for it, it is — so help me out. And there is, is there not, a direct line of literary thought from Melville to Faulkner to McCarthy? Consider this: “His moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.” – Faulkner.

   And they did, they dragged us, pushed and kicked us into this age of the ‘net’, and what? Where are we now? And who is there among us, and where are they, and what is the current state of literary fiction today?

   Genre fiction thrives, advances, populated by established writers and emerging writers in the near millions. Literally. Literary fiction? Maybe not so much. And why — what the hell is going on and how did literary fiction become so marginalized? Where the fuck is the next McCarthy, Morrison or Márquez? Or are they out there, and I’m just not seeing it? And if so — great. Wonderful. I like it and like I said, let me know. Reach out and point the way — email or tweet me, fb me or whatever me (or the mag.)… I just wanna know.

   I want names. "

To read the rest of the article, please visit the Prague Review by clicking on the picture above or the link below:

A Rose ...For All Us Weirdoes

In honor of William Faulkner’s birthday today, I thought I’d revisit one of my favorite short stories of his called “A Rose for Emily”.  But before I delve into the nuances of Southern culture and societal expectation, the above quote by Faulkner reminds me of a review I read lately called “Philippe Petit: Cheating the Impossible”.  The review focused on the story of a woman on her hands and knees cleaning the floor of an airport.  The part of the review that reminded me of the above Faulkner quote and really touched me was this: 
This woman was crawling on her hands and knees across the airport, picking up every bit of detritus, from cigarette butts to strands of lint, and then placing each handful into a trash receptacle. Petit watched her work at her task undisturbed for three straight hours.
The lesson he garnered from the experience as that no task was impossible. If we focus with absolute conviction upon the next minuscule task ahead of us, we will achieve any larger goal composed of those smaller objectives.
In that way, a woman can clean up an entire airport by hand; likewise, a man can fly across the ocean, break into a skyscraper, and walk a tightrope between them.
I put the book down thinking about the things I have left to do to achieve my own impossible dreams. Following his advice, I let the larger obstacle fade away, and focused all of my attention and intention instead upon the next tiny task at hand, understanding that in achieving that tiny task I am moving steadily forward towards my larger mission.” ~Jeff Suwak –   
      I sometimes need to remind myself of this lesson, to keep my focus on the smaller goals before me, so I can achieve the larger dream down the road.  Being in this business requires a lot of patience and persistence, a good measure of hope, and bucket full of sheer dumb luck. 
      In A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, I can’t help but grieve for poor Emily Grierson.  Not because she may have been a mentally disturbed woman, but because I can see the pressures that may have drove her to that state.  Faulkner does a great job capturing the heartbeat of the time-worn Southern culture, one still prevalent in the Deep South today.
      I suppose I relate a lot to Emily Grierson in many ways.  Growing up, I had an overbearing father that made it impossible to have a healthy, normal dating life as a teenager – the time where you learn boundaries, explore emotional connections, experience first loves, first heartbreaks, and all the other nuances that having young relationships teach us. 
      Here in Georgia, family traditions and roots run deep.  Though I come from a large family, I’ve always felt abandoned and orphaned, without roots, a wild flower, and tumbleweed.  Yet, I live in a culture steeped in tradition, a sense of family and strong faith.  No matter how much I fall in line, dress the part, and repeat the mantras, I don’t fit.  I never have, and they’ll never accept me, because I’m a free spirit, I question everything, and I could care less what my grandma, or my great-grandma said, because I never had a grandma or a great-grandma love and teach me anything.  Even if I had, I would probably question their wisdom, because that’s who I am.
       I have been married for two decades into a family with very deep roots in this area, yet after all that time, though they know my name, know where I live, I doubt they barely notice I’m gone, other than being the example of gossip and failure – as the town and two cousins from Alabama was so interested in helping poor Emily Grierson with her ‘sad’ predicament (being an unmarried woman approaching 30 and in the company of a scandalous man).
      Don’t even get me started with the whole Baptists thinking they have to save you, even if you don’t need to be saved, but perhaps from the judgment and tyranny of religious dogma.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m in no way opposed to a personal, intimate relationship with God, but being here in the South and seeing how religion is pretty much a requirement to participate in society, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Too many profess a faith they don’t practice in deed.  They practice with words and masks inside their four walls, and anything odd, strange and peculiar outside the acceptable boxes… well, are left to scrutiny, much like Emily and the need to for the Baptist approval or disapproval of her relationship with a Northern carpetbagger. As a ‘monument’ to this particular southern town, there were a lot of outrageous expectations placed on Miss Emily, which ultimately forced her into a life of solitude and to murder her lover.  While Southern society accepts more casual decisions in civic behavior, there is still a strong traditional value system that makes odd characters like Emily and me feel like outsiders. Like Emily, I was born and raised in this culture, yet often shut myself away from the expectations and disappointments in being who I am.
       So, do not wait and throw a rose on my casket with false accolades of love and acceptance.  Love me as I am and throw a rose for all of us weirdoes in celebration of our uniqueness. 
       Till next time,
       ~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Soul-Searching on a Tuesday Morning

You know, I really wish I had everything figured out, I knew the answers to all my problems, the direct path to fulfill my dreams, the key to finding and keeping love, and which door truly leads to peace and happiness.  Come on now, I can hear many of those automatic responses popping into your head as you read this blog post, because you do the same thing.   But, every day I’m learning more and more I don’t even know the questions, much less the answers.  I convince myself, almost on a daily basis, of what is the right thing for me to do.  But at the end of each day, I feel like I’m keeping a journal of all the wrong things to avoid, having experienced them first hand. So, here I am once again soul-searching on a Tuesday morning. Once again, I’m totally lost.
Knowing I can’t trust my emotions and decision-making process, I turn to a few varied sources; people I trust and admire and books that stretch my understanding and test my faith.  I’ve chosen four inspirations this morning.  Let’s just hope I can make some kind of sense out of all this turmoil.  I’m so tired of being lost and afraid.  I’m exhausted, frustrated, and just spent.  Please let me find an answer, or at least something to hold onto with a tendril of assurance.
I’m a woman of faith.  You can’t tell it by most of the decisions I’ve made in my life recently, not if you’re looking on the outside.  But it’s by my faith, and through my love and relationship with my God that I first learned to love myself.  In loving me, I’ve made some bold moves to find me.  Unless you’re on the same journey as me, my actions seem detriment to most faiths.  Everyone has an idea of what a faithful servant looks like, but I’m finding most people don’t look past an image, behind a mask, beneath the flesh, and right into the heart.  We lie to ourselves, expecting our blind obedience to bring a life of prosperity and easiness, yet that’s never been the promise.  I find myself constantly saying, “I’ll be happy when…”  NO!  I must be happy right in the middle of my chaos.  If I let hardship, fear, loneliness or anxiety steal my joy, take away my faith, I’ve already lost.  If I can’t smile, even as these tears streak down my face and I shake with fear, then what’s the point? 
Ecclesiastes 12:1 – “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’; while the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain…”  We’re not taught in Sunday school such days lay ahead for us, not for the faithful and the obedient.  No, for us awaits rainbows and sunshine.  I have come to know these dark times intimately, I’ve known them most of my life, yet I still hope and believe.  Keep in mind, I did tell you at the beginning of this post I don't know the answers.
My next source of soul-searching comes from a book that was given to me on my birthday by a dear friend called, “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck.  I’ve been studying the chapter titled The Disconnected Self.  Ms. Beck explains there are two halves to each of us (our essential self and our social self), and having balance of these two halves is detriment to us discovering our own North Star, our true purpose in life, our life design, our fulfilling existence.  I immediately recognized my own imbalance, well really I’ve been aware of it long before being given this book, but Ms. Beck helps me identify just how and why I’m unbalanced. I’m a results-driven person. 
My value has always been wrapped up in my performance and productivity.  It’s been rewarded and punished, given and taken based on my achievements and accomplishments.  I could always answer… “I’m loved, appreciated and wanted because …”, and then fill in the blank.  Not loved, appreciated and wanted just as I am; strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures, etc.  There’s always an excuse why - “I’m just not attracted, it’s just not the right time, if things were different, if I wasn’t, if you weren’t …”  My father used to tell me, “There’s something about you that brings out the best and worst in me.  I hate how you make me feel.  If you do this to everyone else, no one will ever love you all the way, because you make them see themselves for who they are, and nobody likes who they really are.”  His words have always haunted me, made me feel responsible for being a disappointment to everyone, always setting impossible standards no one can fulfill, not even myself. 
“Today, the Melvins (results-driven) of the world are being downsized out of the very careers for which they sacrificed their essential selves.” ~Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star.  I remember the years of busting tables, wiping asses, living paycheck to paycheck, and climbing the ladder with doing whatever it took to succeed - late nights, overtime, two jobs, and endless sacrifices for family and friends, fighting for the days when all the struggle would pay off - …after the degree …after the first paycheck …after the next raise …after the mortgage is paid off …after the kids are grown.  Guess, what? After never came.  I sacrificed so many moments in pursuit of achievements I thought I had to have to be loved, wanted, needed and desired.  Here I am now with nothing and alone, all those things I sacrificed for, all those people I tried to please… where are they? The true treasure I lost was me.  I chose me, and all those things (money, career, prestige, success, relationships) disappeared.  I have to start over, but this time will be different.  This time is for me.
My last two inspirations come from two very special men who have come into my life this past year.  The admiration and respect I have for them is so abundant it’s overwhelming really.  Because the things I truly admire about them aren't anything tangible, but in how they show the world to me through their words, their writing, their friendships, and their gifts.  It’s like our souls connected on a higher plane.  Well, their souls connected.  I still feel sometimes like an observer, not really worthy to be in their company.
I read an article this morning titled “Bruce Lee’s Grave” by Jeff Suwak.  The story is about a man who wanted to visit the grave site of his hero, Bruce Lee, and give him a quick prayer of thanks for being an inspiration in his life.  Instead of finding what he expected, his journey through a graveyard brought him face to face with a fundamental truth about himself and the reason for his visit.  The way this writer sees the world blows me away on many levels.  He’s not without flawed views, as the rest of us, but he’s one of the most honest I’ve ever met.  It’s such a breath of fresh air to see that in this day and age.  With the advances in our technology and communication devices, we as a people learn to hide behind more clever and permanent masks.  We used to only wear temporary ones when forced to be in public.  Now that the world has been brought into our homes and every aspect of our lives, we wear continual masks that become so comfortable we forget about them.  Here’s a writer who refuses to wear a mask.
The other inspiration comes from a brilliant man, Christian Fennell, who questions the system, fights against the social norms and dares to dance outside the lines of conformity.  I admire him on so many levels.  He’s a devoted and loving husband and father to his family and a mighty warrior in the literary world for his passion. He refuses to be put in a box.  He has a set of short stories that he collects under the heading “On My Way to Sunday”.  I asked him this morning what that byline meant to him and he answered, “I love Sundays.  They will always be associated with fishing and hanging out with family, big dinners, etc.  I write every morning, but Sunday, ‘cause I’m fishing.  So it means I write all those damned stories On My Way to Sunday.”  It seems Mr. Fennell has learned to balance his essential and social self.  He has not forgotten the world is in chaos, but has apparently found his peace in the middle of it.  He doesn’t wear the masks of conformity, but keeps an eye on what’s truly important.  I have no doubt he will one day make it to his ultimate Sunday.  Through these four inspirations, I hope I can do the same.
  Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cheating the Impossible - Article by Jeff Suwak

One of the most inspiring articles I've read lately is by Jeff Suwak, author of Beyond the Tempest Gate, as he talks about meeting what would be seen as impossible tasks.

He takes examples from the author and tight rope artist - Phillip Petit - who walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers in New York City in the 1970's. 

Here’s a snippet of his article: 

"The lesson he garnered from the experience as that no task was impossible. If we focus with absolute conviction upon the next minuscule task ahead of us, we will achieve any larger goal composed of those smaller objectives."

Another interesting tidbit I found in the article is the recommendation to listen to certain music before reaching certain chapters.  When I'm writing my novels, I listen to certain mix of songs as inspiration for my characters or event, because it creates a certain feel and atmosphere I'm hoping to capture in that particular story. 

"Before each chapter, Petit recommends a song to listen as a backdrop to the story. I took the suggestion for one section and listened to Sting’s “Let Your Soul be Your Pilot” while reading about the essential virtues of patience and virtue in achieving anything worthwhile in life. The trick worked. The song combined with the text turned the experience into one of artful introspection an intellectual exploration. It’s a worthwhile idea that I’ve never seen done in a book before, and just one example of the many experiments he makes within the brief text."

Click on the picture above to read the full article. While there, leave a comment.  I'm sure Jeff Suwak would love to hear if this article also inspired you.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Finding Hidden Treasures

I remember a time when writing stirred such an excitement, often keeping me up all through the night as beautiful words swirled in my imagination and then shot out the tips of my fingertips onto the page.  It’s such an erotic moment, euphoric even.  I’m not saying I still don’t have those moments, but I can confess I’ve let the business of writing and marketing take too much dominance in my life that it’s squeezing most of those moments into the land of the neglected.
Not only has my own creativity suffered by being too business-minded, but so has my enjoyment of reading the beautifully written words of others.  As someone who devoured a minimum of fifty novels a year, so far this year I can count five.  My focus is so much on business, survival and meeting basic needs, I just can’t get lost in a good, long novel, not even ones I’ve waited months and even years to be released. 
I can’t express how much I appreciate my writer friends who dabble in flash fiction and short stories, because those have sustained me this year, or else I’d have been lost.  I’ve really come to love and appreciate flash fiction and short story writers like Christian Fennell, Jeff Suwak, Kelly Shackelford, Sarafina Gravagno, Frank Wall, B.R. Asher, Lucien Knight and a few others on Scribophile.  Their stories have fed, nurtured, inspired and sustained me as I work hard to clean up this train wreck of a life. Some of them don’t know how much their words have helped me. I crave them.  I need them.  I look forward to their next blog posts, short stories, and their next flash of humor, romance, satire or tragedy. 
My writer friends have also inspired and pushed me.  My best friend, Jenna Sands, has inspired me more than she’ll ever know.  Those members of my local writer’s group who refuse to let me quit or give up (Denise, Maggie, Kathy, Lorien and Dawn) will always have a place in my heart.
I used to be a novel snob, only reading full length (often epic–sized) novels and never giving short stories a furtive glance.  I’ve grown such a fondness for them now and am sure I will always keep them a beautiful part of my life as I once again focus on my next novel.  I’ve also grown an appreciation for the novella.  I really hope it comes back in fashion and more writers dare to publish them.
What hidden treasure have you stumbled upon lately?
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Outgoing Introvert

I’m gearing up for my big event today at the University of West Georgia Book Fest ‘13.  For those who know me, know this outgoing splash of color who does really, really well interacting with people. I’m a great public speaker and often the life of the party. What most people don't know is that I nearly throw up right before I paste that smile on my face and get into social mode. 
I'm quite an introvert and spend a lot of time on my own, and even have to fight with myself sometimes to leave my own door.  I know it’s just a fear, one I've had all my life, and one that as soon as I take the first step I can control and overcome.  But taking that first step, picking up the phone, opening the door, walking out of the room is sometimes one of the hardest things I do all day.  My friends often think I don’t love them or care because I don’t call them, text them, or message them first, or I don’t answer immediately when they do.  What they don’t realize is that often I desperately need them, but I won’t reach out because of these fears.
I can almost guarantee when I get home tonight, I will pass out from exhaustion, because facing those kinds of fears and being "ON" takes a lot of energy. It’s a constant battle. 
I'm sure many of you right now have open jaws, unable to believe this crazy thing about me, having seen me in action, heard me speak, and watched me perform.  If you only knew how scared I am, and how much I'd rather just crawl beneath the covers on my bed and hide until the whole event was over, you’d be surprised I do anything. Don't worry, I won’t hide.  I’ve been fighting against this fear all night and all morning.  I'm about to gather my materials, pack them into my car, take a deep breath, and put on my cape (in this case a nice, big hat).
It's time to fly, and it doesn’t matter I'm deathly afraid of heights.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Author Appearance - T.L. Gray

I will be there signing copies of my pubilshed books.  I'd love to see you if you can make it.

UWG to Host Inaugural Bookfest for Local Authors

The University of West Georgia Bookstore is hosting more than 20 local and regional authors for the inaugural “UWG Bookfest” book festival on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. This catered event is free and open to the public.
The University of West Georgia Bookstore is hosting more than 20 local and regional authors for the inaugural “UWG Bookfest” book festival on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
“The UWG Bookstore wanted to provide a venue to local authors, as well as faculty, staff and alumni with publications, to celebrate their accomplishments,” says Mark Rhodes, manager of the UWG Bookstore. “It is also our desire to raise public awareness about the great artistic and literary community in Carrollton and surrounding areas. We hope this special event will be a highlight for them.”

Guests will enjoy free food, readings from authors, book signings and music provided by WOLF radio. Guests will also receive a 5 percent discount on all UWG Bookstore merchandise excluding books featured during bookfest.

The impressive list of authors represents all genres and includes several who are now living in the Carrollton area, are alumni of UWG or are current UWG professors. With everything from historical romance and the paranormal to poetry, operas and more, the bookfest offers something for everyone.

The UWG Bookstore is located at the corner of West Georgia Drive and University Drive and is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, please visit or call (678) 839-6523.
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Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Ebookwyrm's Review: Beyond the Tempest Gate by Jeff Suwak

Check out this review by Andy EBookWyrm Angel of Beyond the Tempest Gate by North Star author Jeff Suwak.

Ebookwyrm's review blog (and general thoughts and ramblings): Beyond the Tempest Gate by Jeff Suwak - a review: This novella, telling the tale of The Holy Knight Gabriel and his quest to go beyond the elemental Tempest Gate to dispose of the demon Ele...  Click on the link to read the full review.

I'm Supergirl!

Sometimes I have dreams. I picture myself flying above the clouds, high in the sky. Conquering the world with my magic piano, never being scared, but then I realize.  I'm Supergirl, and I'm here to save the world, but I wanna know, who's gonna save me? I'm Supergirl, and I'm here to save the world, but I wanna know, why I feel so alone?

Seems like a dream, but there's one thing missing. Nobody's here with me
to share in all that I've been given. I need someone that's strong enough for me.  I'm Supergirl, and I'm here to save the world, but I wanna know, who's gonna save me? I'm Supergirl, and I'm here to save the world, but I wanna know, why I feel so alone?

I need someone. I won't stop till I find the one who will start belonging in my life.

Sometimes I have days where it seems I fly around putting out fires, preventing disasters, diffusing volatile situations, deflecting bullets, safely pulling jumpers off ledges in the dire pursuit and protection of my dream, to then slide my glasses back on and fill the rest of my day with the normal expectations of being a woman, a mother and a friend.  I often keep those great ‘saves’ to myself.  The empty pillow beside me doesn’t care about my achievements or can comfort my weary soul for the saves I failed to make.

My friend’s do a great job showering me with words of accolades, love and appreciation, but their words can’t compare with the security of a pair of strong arms, the admiration from a set of beautiful eyes, and the satisfaction of a genuine smile.   

What good is all the success and achievement in this world without having someone to share it? I’m not talking about just having a physical presence.  I’ve had that – and was still alone.  I’m talking about the sharing of two souls, a couple who truly understands each other, knows their strengths and weaknesses, forgives their failures and celebrates their saves. 

I am Supergirl and it’s time for me fly.  Up, up and away I ride.  This time I don’t dash to help a stranger… but to save myself.  

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, September 16, 2013

Revelation's Light

Healing is a long process and from my experience a very painful one, sometimes I believe even more painful from the things for which I’m healing.  I won’t rehash my woes this morning, because I truly feel I’ve reached another level of enlightenment and stage of reconstruction. By revelations’ light, I’m transforming from the ghostly image of who I’ve been into who I’m meant to be.
 According to my expert online research (we all know how trustworthy internet information can be) there are currently seven stages of grief: Shock and Denial; Pain and Guilt; Anger and Bargaining; Depression, Reflection and Loneliness; Upward Turn; Reconstruction and working through; and Acceptance and Hope.  I personally feel there are seventy times seven, and they’re all sitting on a merry-go-round, and until we truly find the peace we need, we just keep circling the same hurts over and over. 
I know this may be hard to believe, but on most days and at any given moment, my friends will often find me smiling, laughing, joking, encouraging someone else, pushing,  giving of myself and anything I can and have to help.  I’m a giver.  I’m compassionate.  But, I’m also a reflective person; I examine myself often.  With that examination come a lot of facing truths, dealing with pain, and gritting teeth while I endure the healing.  Healing isn’t easy; at least not for me. 
Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me this video featuring three of today’s wackiest comedians giving advice on living and overcoming depression.  At first I thought it was funny.  I’m beginning to recognize I use laughter as a defense mechanism at the first sign of pain or discomfort, even without knowing I’m in such a state.  There were a few key phrases that jumped out at me while I watched this video, but throughout the day, at different times, and then in the night while I’m waiting on my mind to drift to sleep, I kept hearing parts of that video play over and over in my head.  I tried distraction of every kind, including playing What’s the Phrase with a few friends, but nothing stopped the anger in me that finally bubbled to the surface and then finally spilled out.  My poor friend, Jenna, graciously allowed me to use her as a sounding board without judging or getting angry at me.  Girlfriends are really important. 
I had thought I’d been through this stage of grief already, but I guess I’ve only scratched the surface, because I’m angry.  I’m not just a little angry; I’m steaming, volcano-erupting-mad-as-hell angry.  I should not be where I am! I’ve worked too hard for too damned long to be here.  I’ve spent my whole life putting other people first and the first time I trust someone else to put me first, they don’t – they let me down; they let me fall, and then walked away to leave me to pick myself up.  I’m so fucking mad.  I gave everything and when I needed someone to believe in me, to sacrifice FOR me, they couldn’t or refused.  I don’t even think most of the pain comes from them not being who I needed them to be, but more from the fact they didn’t deem me worthy of the effort or trouble. 
My anger is so strong it’s colored everything to the point it’s paralyzed me.  Being let down when it’s expected is different than when you finally let go and place your dreams into someone else’s hands.  Then it’s not disappointment; it’s betrayal.  There hasn’t been a task or obstacle I’ve ever had trouble overcoming or defeating in my life, and there have been some major issues, until now.  Literally for the past couple of years I’ve been blinded in rage.  I’m in so much pain I became numb; in shock.  Then when I start to feel it, I blame myself because I should have known better than to trust someone else with the very thing that meant the world to me.  Abuse my body, I’ll bounce back.  Break my heart, it will heal.  But trample on my dreams….
It took me witnessing someone else react in fear concerning their dream for me to realize and recognize what’s been holding me back; why I’ve been paralyzed and not doing simple things I know I should; things that are essentially self-destructive.  I haven’t dealt with the pain yet, because it’s the worse devastation I’ve ever experienced.  I can never express how grateful I am to the friends that have come into my life this past year.  Each one of them has been essential in healing a different part of me.  I know they love me, care for me and only want to help.  All they’ve seen so far is this paralyzed, scared, angry little girl.  But, I’m healing, I’m dealing with my anger, and soon they will get to meet the strong, powerful woman I’ve always been. 
I hope my friends will love her as much as they’ve loved me.  She’s different.  She’s confident, unstoppable, doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, isn’t scared of anything and doesn’t see defeat.  Right now, I’m still very angry. I’m literally shaking as I write this.  I feel trapped, held down against my will and forced into a life I didn’t choose or deserve.  Now that I recognize the source of my paralysis, I have the power to remove it and take a step forward.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Place at the Table

Table in the Desert

Here is a beautiful story written by an author friend of mine, Jeff Suwak, who just released his first book.   I'm a dreamer, and I'm always interested in hearing about other people's dreams, mostly to see if theirs are as crazy as mine.  It seems I'm in good company.

For those of you who are Cormac McCarthy, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Philip K. Dick or Hunter S. Thompson fans, you will really enjoy this.

Please visit and subscribe to this author's page, and leave Jeff a comment.  You might just find yourself with a "Place at the Table".

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Don't Stop Me Now

There are so many people in this world who try to get in my way and stop me from being happy, seeking my goals, or fulfilling my dreams.  I don’t understand why and I don’t think they do it with purposeful intent.  However, it never fails.  Just when things seem to move forward, someone always steps in my path.  Well, I’m getting pretty good at shoving those things or people to the side that try to stop me, and I don’t have a single regret.
I want to achieve a lot of things in this life and I don’t apologize for wanting so much.  I think humility in this instance is stupid.  I have practically nothing right now, having to start my life over from the ground up, but I’m not materialistic.  However, when it comes to my dreams, I dream big and I want to accomplish GREAT things, and I’m not ashamed of that. 
It doesn’t work to tell me to be happy with my lot in life, because I’ll never settle for what life hands me.  I’ll only be happy with those things that I grab, seek and find.  I don’t want to be given anything other than the opportunity for me to achieve, obtain and overcome.  I like the race.  I like the fight.  I like the challenge.  THAT is where the living is done. 
So, take it from somebody who barely has anything, and who doesn’t even know where she’s going to be tomorrow.  I feel the beat.  The music is moving my feet, so you better get the hell out of my way because you’re not going to stop me now… I’m having a good time. You can either join in or step aside.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Planting Seeds

I can remember the first time as a child when I planted my first flower.  I was so excited. I went to the gardening center to pick out the perfect plant I wanted to grow.  With money I had earned, I bought the pot, the dirt, the feed, and read the instructions carefully to make sure I did everything just right.  I asked the clerk at the plant store what the words I didn’t understand meant, to make sure I did the proper thing.  It felt odd holding that tiny seed in my hand, knowing it was a viable object, something so insignificant, yet with the right elements, would grow into something beautiful - as long as I followed the instructions.  For a six year old, that was a lot of responsibility. 
When I got home, I circled the outside of my house several times to make sure my flower would have the best spot.  According to the planting instructions it needed to have access to full sunlight.  All day long I’d watch the sun to find out which side of the house stayed brightest the longest.  I realize now that the care I took in preparation for my plant was how I treated all things in my life.  Being the oldest sibling of five brothers with handicapped (blind father and mother with MS) parents, I had been a caregiver and nurturer my whole life. I’m not saying I never had selfish moments, but I lived with a mind frame fraught with preparation, dedication and determination.  I had no other choice. 
I found my perfect sun spot, poked my finger into the moistened and fertilized soil and carefully placed my seed inside and covered it up, making sure I didn’t pat it down and make the soil too compact for it to grow.  That moment was significant, so much so that I still remember it thirty-six years later. I felt good, important and creative in that moment as I stared down at the blackened soil.  But that moment quickly faded.  I thought the hard part was over, when it really had only just begun. 
The next few weeks turned into a cycle of waiting, worrying, pondering and fretting.  I’d worry if the sun was too hot, if the water was too little or too much, if insects would come and kill it before it had a chance to grow, what was it doing under the surface, did I forget anything, and what was taking it so long? None of that torment and torture did anything to speed up the growth of my flower, nor did it slow it down.  The only person it hurt or effected was me.
Needless to say, my plant eventually broke through the surface and bloom into a beautiful flower.  I can’t remember if it ever bloomed a second time or if I discarded and neglected it and it died, because that would be more in keeping to the way I treat plants today, but I’ll never forget that first time.
I still react the same way to other seeds I plant in my life – filled with questioning worry – but I’ve also learned to build hope at the same time.  Having seen the ‘fruit’ of my labors on too many occasions, there is always a remnant of hope that helps to ease the worry for the seeds I’m now waiting to grow in my life.  I still fret over if that seed is being properly nourished and guarded, but I’ve accepted waiting for it to bloom in its right time and right season.  While the waiting part is hard, in the end it’s worth it.
Have you planted a seed in your life?  If so, have a little patience and hope.  It is my hope your fruit/flower will be as beautiful and sweet as you expect it to be, and even more.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

West Georgia Living Magazine - Beyond the Tempest Gate by Jeff Suwak

Passion Vs. Indifference

“Some men are too dull to feel what might happen. Others torture themselves with maybes and populate their dreams with horrors more terrible than their worst enemy could inflict upon them.” 
Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns

This is one of the reasons why I’m a Mark Lawrence fan.  There are baubles of wisdom such as this all through the Broken Empire series.  While I zip through his books on a first read to discover what happens plot-wise and character-wise, I then slow down, take my time and meditate on many of the passages, such as the one listed above, and really sit back in awe at his wisdom.

This phrase has been rolling around in my brain for a few days because I find myself once again at another crossroad, with another huge decision to make, and teeter back and forth concerning my choices.

I’m guilty of doing everything described above.  At times, not because I’m dull, but perhaps because I’m numb, I can’t even form the words in my mind or heart of what might happen, so I feel and think nothing, pushing all thoughts away.  Then other times, many times really, I lose sleep worried over all the possibilities of what could be successful, and terrified by all the fears of what could be disastrous.   Welcome to humanity.

However, if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the latter, because I’d rather feel fear and uncertainty than nothing at all.  Indifference, in my opinion, is the worse state to exist.  Anger, hate, fear, hope, love and anticipation are all varying degrees of passion.  I’d rather be passionate, even if it’s passionately wrong, than be passion-less, indifferent, or dull.  I might as well be dead.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray