Monthly Archives: April 2014
April: Autism Awareness Month!
April is Autism Awareness Month. Since in my own life, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some kids and adults with Autism, I’ve created some pretty amazing memories. These guys are truly a treasure. And their intelligence always blows me away.
There are different levels of autism. Some are mild, and some may be severe cases. I can promise you this much, these guys have always been able to bring a smile to my face. They have a heart of gold, and they just need their own way of dealing with things.
Maybe you’ve been as lucky as me and have encountered somebody with autism. Maybe it’s your family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. If you haven’t, I would recommend you volunteer at places that serve kids or adults with autism. I promise you, not only will you learn from them, but they will make your heart smile.
In Chaysing Dreams, Tess, the main character volunteers periodically at a place called The Angels, which serves kids with Autism. Here’s a little excerpt from the book when Tess is only sixteen and enters the facility.
I sign into the volunteer sign-in book at the front desk. “Good to see you again, Tess. Welcome back,” says Tina, who works at the front desk.
“Thanks, Tina! I’m looking forward to hanging out with my buddies,” I say, smiling back at her. I begin heading back toward the residential sites.
“Tess!” I hear Tony yelling as I enter one of the sites. Tony comes running to me with a big smile. He’s eighteen and has autism. He doesn’t make eye contact, clasps his hands together, and starts rocking.
“Hi Tony, I miss you so much!” I gently pat his back, and he gives me a shy smile.
“What are we going to do today? Did you drive? Where’s your car? What kind of car do you drive? You look really pretty today. I like your hair.” Tony shoots off rapid-fire questions.
“Whoa, slow down, Tony!” I say, laughing. “No, I didn’t drive, but I’ll be getting my license soon! I’m sixteen today!” I’m excited to share my special day.
“Tess, it’s your birthday today?” Jennifer, the nurse, asks me. I nod, smiling at her.
Amy comes running to me. “It’s Tess’s birthday, it’s Tess’s birthday. I want cake!” Amy starts yelling and spinning. Amy is fourteen, and she is adorable. She gets over stimulated easily though, so I have to be careful not to stress her out.
I look around and notice that there are six more of the residents surrounding me. They are all very excited. I decide to distract them. “Ok, guys, how about some games first? Who wants to play some basketball?”
It works like magic. All of the residents are now focused on the game. We set up the indoor basketball net and play HORSE. It’s so fun to laugh and run around with them.
After playing with them for half an hour, I decide to visit the residents in the other rooms. So, I take Amy with me for a walk. I figure she probably needs to escape for a bit, and she can visit her friends in the other rooms as well. After notifying Jennifer, Amy and I head out.
The facility is fairly large, so it is a pretty good walk to visit all of the ten rooms. As we’re walking down the hall, suddenly, Amy starts running away from me.
“Amy, wait for me! Don’t go anywhere!” I yell. I’m fearful that I won’t know where she might end up if she keeps running. She leaves me no choice but to run after her. I remember her history of hitting other residents when fueled by too much excitement, and I cringe. “Amy, stop!” I yell.
She disappears into the multipurpose room. I run in after her, determined to use my stern voice on her. I don’t even get the opportunity. As I stumble in, I hear music. I see Amy standing there, mesmerized, and slowly swaying in the corner to the sound of the music. I also notice there are at least thirty other kids in there, some sitting, and some standing. All of the kids are quiet and looking very peaceful. I can’t believe it. Usually, when too many of the kids get together in a room, they become excited or agitated, and it’s harder to control them due to their disability. To my surprise, nobody is making a sound. All I hear is the music.
As I scan the room, I find the source. He’s sitting on a folding chair in the middle of the multipurpose room. He’s playing his acoustic guitar, and I hear him singing.
Interview with Tess Sanoby (Character Interview)
Interview with Tessnia Sanoby
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Sure! My name is Tessnia Sanoby. Most people just call me Tess. I am an only child, but I have two best friends. Both of my parents are physicians, and one day I hope to be a physician as well. I am eighteen years old, and I’m currently a freshman at Stanford University. I also have a very cool dog, named Gem.
- Can you tell us about your two best friends? Jack and Kylie are awesome! We’ve been best friends since kindergarten. We’ve helped each other through all of our growing pains. I actually ended up going to prom with Jack. It was amazing how he asked me. He played a huge boom box outside my window in the middle of the night. It was funny because he copied that scene from one of my favorite movies, “Say Anything.” And you guessed it! The song he was playing? “In Your Eyes.” I know it’s a very old movie, but I’m really an old soul.
- What is your relationship like with your parents? I love my parents. Dad’s a big time neurologist and Mom’s a geneticist. We are very close. I don’t know what I would do without them.
- Do you have any special guys in your life? Guys are just a pain sometimes. I mean who has time for that drama? I just want to focus on my goals and not let anybody distract me.
- Oh come on, you’ve never had any crushes on anybody? Ok, I’ll admit that I was drawn to this guy a few years ago. I actually met him on my sixteenth birthday. His name was Joe. He was very mysterious. We totally clicked, and before he left, he tried to warn me about something. I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but he disappeared just that quickly. I never saw him again.
- How about now? Do you have anybody in your life now? Anybody you’re particularly close to? Well, Chris and I are getting close. He is my trainer for track at my university. It’s hard to read him because he’s aloof most of the time. But I won’t deny it—he’s hot.
- What are some of your fears? I don’t normally like to talk about my weaknesses, but I do have these horrible nightmares. They’re always about a girl being chased through the woods. It’s always dark and scary. I can feel the girl’s fears. But right before she’s caught, I wake up. These nightmares freak me out. Recently, I’ve also been having black fog surround me. It’s very unexpected but when this happens, I start having panic attacks. I haven’t told anybody of these episodes. They’re too terrifying. I definitely don’t want my parents to worry about it.
- Have there been any challenges in your life? To be honest, so far, my world has been very sheltered. My childhood was perfect. I always excelled in school and sports. But maybe it’s not good that everything has been so great. I mean, if your world is always so perfect, what happens if things become not so perfect?
- Tell us about your dog. Oh, Gem is amazing! I got her as a Christmas gift from my parents. She is so smart. Sometimes, I think she understands everything I’m saying to her. I know it sounds crazy.
- What makes you happy? I’m generally a happy person. But I enjoy hanging out with my friends, Jack and Kylie. I love going for runs with my dog. I love it when Chris comes to watch my track meets to support me.
- It seems as though you’re taken with this Chris guy? What? No, not at all. He actually gets under my skin.
- Really? You’ve brought his name up in this interview quite a bit. I have? Ok, if I’m going to be absolutely honest here. I’ll admit that I find him awfully sexy. But, I’ll never let him know that.
- Sounds like you have a love/hate relationship going on here? The man drives me insane. There’s no relationship here. Let’s not talk about Chris anymore.
- Ok, fair enough. How would you describe yourself? Hmm, let’s see. I think I’m more like a tomboy. I definitely prefer jeans and t-shirt over dresses and skirts. I consider myself a strong female. Let me put it this way- I don’t back down from any challenge.
- What are you really passionate about? Oh that’s easy. I love my friends and family. I’d die protecting them.
Thank you so much for being with us, Tess. Thanks for having me.
My review: Fallen Men by Brian O’Hare
I recently finished a book called Fallen Men by Brian O’Hare. I strongly recommend this story. Here’s who I visualized as the “dream cast” for two of the characters.
Fallen Men: Absolutely Brilliant
To be perfectly honest, I would not have picked this book up to read. It’s simply not the type of story I read. I don’t enjoy reading stories with deep religion base to them. But, I decided to keep an open mind as I began reading Fallen Men.
And boy, was I in for a treat! I absolutely loved this story. The author is a fantastic writer and really takes the readers into the characters’ lives—into their minds. I could feel the pain, the depression, the confusion, the guilt. As wrong as everything was, I couldn’t help but hold my breath for the main character, wanting the best for him.
You see, the author does an amazing job showing all different sides of various situations. As a reader, I could empathize with the different characters and their mistakes.
I’m thankful that I decided to read this story. I love controversial issues, and I love thought-provoking topics even more. The world is not all black and white- there’s many shades of gray. And this book definitely was able to portray this.
Honestly, I got so intrigued by the characters, I almost wish there was a sequel… something more. Perhaps a reunion between Ray and Maria ten years later would be an awesome story. 😉
Author Spotlight: Serenity Valle
Serenity began writing short stories when she was 7 years old. She illustrated these stories as well, even though now she admits she can’t draw. Her parents would buy her extra school notebooks to write her stories in and her favourite place to write was under the carport during a rainstorm. She would sit at the picnic table and write for hours during summer storms. While still in high school, Serenity had nearly finished writing a full length novel. Unfortunately, the notebook fell out of her backpack during her Junior year (she believes on the bus) and was never found. Devastated, she turned from writing and threw herself into drama. For many years she participated in school musicals and community theater. She even had a very small (uncredited) part in the 2001 Tim Burton film “Planet of the Apes”. She did get to meet Burton though and said he was “eccentric but very nice”. She also did some modeling in the past few years and continues to pursue that venue as well.
During this time she began writing again for an online RPG game based on the show “La Femme Nikita” (one of her favourite shows of all time). Slowly, she began to have ideas for her own stories again but always found that the middle of the story was missing. She wrote the beginning and left it until her block was defeated. In 2013, Serenity started writing again full force.
Serenity is the wife of an author. She is mum to 3 boys, currently aged 21, 17 and 2. Serenity graduated from Cerro Coso Community College in 2002 with two Associates Degrees in Social Sciences and Humanities, then went on to graduate in 2005 from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelors in Psychology and a minor in Latin American/Latino Studies. She is a proud Banana Slug and a proud sister of Sigma Pi Alpha Sorority. In the little free time she has between family and writing, she enjoys gardening, reading, crafting things, henna art, and watching such shows as “Burn Notice”, “Covert Affairs”, “Warehouse 13″, “Law & Order SVU”, “Touch”, “Kitchen Nightmares” and others.
1. Briefly tell us about the book(s) you have published. Happily! My first book is “The Fantastical Life of Serenity: A collection of short stories about what could be… but not quite is”. It is a contemporary fiction collection, novel length, with five short stories revolving around a young woman named Serenity. The stories all tie in together, but I don’t want to give too much away. I’ve gotten great reviews on it, so I do recommend it to everyone who likes a fun read! My second book is “The Fantastical Life of Serenity: Epilogue”. This one is a companion novella to the first book and is a contemporary romance. Wonder what happened to Serenity after the events of the first book? THIS book tells all! Epilogue also has been highly rated by reviewers. My upcoming book is one I am super excited about! Acquittal is a paranormal mystery/crime novel, the first in a series of five. Krizi and Kenzie are college students who get thrust into the middle of a missing persons investigation. During this time, they meet a spirit with another mystery for them! There is mystery, culture, crushes, fun, action, scary parts and best of all funny catch phrases! Ok, maybe not *best* of all, but I do so love a good catch phrase (and puns… I love puns!)
2. What motivated you to write your book(s)? I’ve been writing since I was a young girl, however, I’d only ever had one poem published in an anthology prior to the first Fantastical book. My husband is also an author and it was his writing of his book that motivated me to rework some short stories I had started on a few years ago. The first Fantastical book came from those and then all of a sudden I just couldn’t stop typing!
3. What do you think your book(s) offer to your readers? Fun, escape, among other things. guess it depends on which book is being read. My first and second books were similar to one another, but the third is a completely different genre, so it offers different things.
4. Who is your favorite character from your book (s)? Why? Uh… blank stare. I truly don’t think I can answer that. I like many of them. Most of my main characters are based on people that I care about, so it is hard to pick!
5. Do you prefer pen/paper or the computer when you write? I use the computer, though I keep paper on me at all times in case I get an idea to write down. When I started writing, we didn’t have computers in every home, so I used to write everything on paper. Frankly, I type faster than I write so typing works for me.
6. What do you do to get yourself to focus when you’re writing a scene? (music, location, etc) No music! I love to sing and if I play music while I write, I will start singing. I’ve caught myself typing lyrics in the middle of a scene, so I’ve had to stop listening to music. I will listen to a song prior to writing if it fits a scene, to give me ideas on where to go with it, but turn it off before I start writing. I must have coffee by my side and that’s pretty much it. I have a toddler, so focusing isn’t necessarily something I can do for long periods of time anyway.
7. Do you prefer reality or fantasy? I like a balance of both. I use real world events in my books, even if they are supernatural or fantasy.
8. Who are your favorite authors? Maggie Shayne, Annette Blair, Anne Rice, M. Jet.
9. Out of all of the books you’ve read, which books have “stuck” with you? The Outsiders, The Witching Hour, I don’t know… I’ve read so many books in my life, there are some I still think about but don’t even remember the titles!
10. What type of advice would you give other indie authors? Network! Get to know people. Word of mouth is our best PR, so put yourself out there and GO!
11. Have you had any regrets regarding this writing/publishing/marketing process? Is there anything you would do different? No. While I might consider going with a publisher, if contacted, I would have to think about it. I love having complete control over my books.
12. Since you started this journey in writing, what are some positives and some negatives you’ve encountered? I’ll start with the negatives. It is hard to get your name out there. Hours must be spent to get people aware of you. It’s rough to do it all yourself and is great when one has friends to help. Everything else I see as a positive.
13. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I like to watch movies with my toddler, garden, sing, act, hang out with my teen and do henna art.
14. Tell us your most memorable or proudest moment. Having my kids, marrying my soulmate, and my first 5 star review!
15. Tell us something interesting about you that your readers may not know. I am part Calo, which is a branch of the Romani people. Many people call Romani “Gypsies”.
16. Finally, if you could say something to your readers, what would it be? Without you, I get nowhere. I appreciate each and every one of you! Read my books, tell your friends, I’ll never forget it! ❤
Links to buy!
Autographed paperback: http://serenityvalleauthor.wordpress.com/autographed-copies/
Thank you for being our guest today, Serenity. We wish you all the best.