Walk With Me

grayscale photography of brown and black bench

Photo by Paweł L. on Pexels.com

Why should I care that you sit huddled in a chair?

Chains around my heart and vision blocked by my own despair

My needs, my wants, my ego haunts and leaves me unable to care


I’ll leave this world, my pain unfurled, cast upon those who dare to ask

For I, too, cannot hold the weight that binds you to that chair

I will not turn to others for comfort nor the answer hidden in the bottom of this flask

I’ll not bare my soul to any sort, for the judgment that waits with promise of rot

Rather, I’ll expel such grievance as I see fit, upon the likes of you for a bit

For at least that alone is within my control…or so I’d like to believe

I’ll not let the pain take me down, not like you huddled in that chair

Consumed and shaken, world rocked and soon to be taken


You’ll not be judged by the world around you

You’ll not speak, for what good will it do?

Though they try, not a soul will understand the veil over your heart, mind and spirit

There you sit, locked in an invisible prison of darkness—the reason left for all to guess

“It will do no good,” you cry, “to tell of such horrible pain. For how can anyone care whose heart is chained?”


My wrath unleashed upon the world is how I know of the burden you feel

For the bind around my heart tightens with each expression of words

How to break the bonds that hold me prisoner, too, like you huddled in that chair?

Iron can be cut but not the invisible shroud that builds each link and covers me in darkness

We are one in the same. You, a mirror image of my very soul beneath the chains


“Rise up. Rise up,” I say. “And walk with me far away.”

We can leave the room of the invisible shroud and hope for vision that is more clear

To tender silence of the early morning sunrise and its burst of colors bright

To the clear blue radiance and whispers of storms aside

And later, into the peaceful realm of evening shadows at dusk, as they invite the stars to guide our way

Though that veil may follow you still, each inhale of breath and look to the sky will help to see beyond the illusion of black and gray

For in that walk your vision is clear and my heart with its chains will no longer fear


–Dana Alexander





Personal To Me, Shared By Many

Before reading the following post, please note this information contains subject matter that may cause a deep emotional response. It is provided as an informational look into the findings, as well as assistance to those who have endured childhood trauma or who know of someone who may be in need of assistance. It will be the only post like it on my page, because while I support causes that work avidly against any form of abuse and neglect of children, I also support the joy of writing and reading that comes from the growth and experience of moving forward. That said, there are resources provided at the end of the post for those seeking such assistance.

It’s obviously a very personal decision to share a story regarding trauma. It puts anyone who chooses to at the mercy of their audience for immediate judgment and the risk of losing relationships. It also makes some people uncomfortable to hear such stories because not everyone can empathize or understands how to sympathise with someone who has experienced childhood trauma. It’s like a different world, an island of isolation, to the ears of someone who doesn’t understand the effects of abuse. But it’s worth hearing the stories of others, because it’s exactly those experiences that connect us as human beings, and the more we know, the better people we can be to one another.  After all, we are human before we are what we label ourselves as; Mom, Dad, Engineer, Mechanic, Advisor, Doctor…you get the point.  The purpose of posting this message is to express that a positive and beautiful life is possible after surviving such experiences, often in cases of multiple ‘assailants’.

I’ve been told twice in my life, “You should be dead in a ditch, or strung out on drugs wasting away.” My reply: “Well, that serves no purpose. I can forgive them, I just don’t want to feel their pain anymore.” For me, the issue of trauma resolved years ago, but scars remain that come to the forefront at times in my life and urge me to address them, so that I can continue the life I want for myself, a positive and healthy life that my family and I deserve, and most importantly to absolutely not be mired in the atrocities carried and inflicted by others, even if they turn out to be our own parents.

Let’s be clear, most parents are loving, caring and interested in their children’s lives and welfare. Yes, as parents no one is perfect no matter the front you see. And, in fact, we all get busy and find that we don’t always have enough time for our kids or always say exactly the right thing when we’re supposed to. But that isn’t what this post is about; the imperfections of being a parent. This subject is about parents who ignore their children, leave them for days even as young children, don’t show any interest in them, have no care to hear their concerns, or attend to their basic emotional needs. Or, what is sometimes referred to as willful neglect. It’s also about different types of abuse; emotional/psychological, physical and sexual and its effects. Some of the data won’t surprise you, but some of it very well might. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the attached study (PDF). You may agree or disagree with certain points. That’s just fine. If you decide to delve a bit, please do so with an open mind, leaving judgment at the door.  For those who’ve suffered from such victimization, please stop reading at any point where you begin to feel uncomfortable. Remember, the aim of this post is to inform, to create a bridge from unknowing to better understanding in the effort for heightened awareness. That’s all. And if none of it appeals to you, that’s okay, too.

Where to get help (courtesy of the American Psychological Association):

Several organizations can provide information and advice about child abuse and neglect:





Egyptian Afterlife, Not Death

This fun post from Notes from the Urn Diva covers an Egyptian concept known as “westing” applied in book four of the Three Keys series. I hope you enjoy.

Credit: http://urnsbyartists.com/no-death-in-ancient-egypt/

  • Silly Wabbit, I’m Just Westing

    How can a culture so focused on life after death, have no actual word for death in their language? Such is the case with the ancient Egyptians. The concept of death as we know it did not exist. When one left one’s body, the spirit transitioned to the afterlife traveling west with the setting sun to the underworld. In fact, they never spoke of death, but rather of “westing”, reflecting the paths of our sun and stars” Here’s a short clip featuring Egyptian Archeologist, Abd’el Hakim Awyan on the ancient Egyptians : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoAxs1i9Jyw#action=share


    Egyptians believed that humans possessed ‘Ka‘ or life-force, and  ‘Ba‘ that remained with the body after death. The fact that death was inconceivable to the Egyptians speaks volumes. Westerners tend to see things as an either or situations; life and death, black and white; on or off. For the Egyptians, the transition must have been almost seamless; simply the beginning of a fantastic journey. The absence of the word ‘Death’ leads me to believe that their spiritual life was just as real and integrated in the physical. Imagine what it would be like to live with no distinction between life and death. What would it be like to live your life looking forward to your most fabulous adventure?

    Westing; A Seamless Transition.

    I love the concept of Westing. My mother died just a few years ago. For Mom, the concept of death was nothing like Westing, it was instead the inevitable ‘Dirt Nap’ as she called it that haunted her. For Mom, it was the end of the line for her, lights out, but the Dirt Nap made no sense to me.

    This was frequently a point of debate for my mother and me; her question was “So, how do you know God exists?” I would counter by asking if she really could imagine we had no spirit. This was usually where the conversation ended. Mom wanted concrete answers. She always prided herself in being an agnostic. I respected that. She questioned things, and I question her.

    Regardless, I’m going with Westing and dumping the Dirt Nap idea. I think the Egyptians were on to something there. I love to travel and I’m preparing myself for a  journey of transformation beyond all my wildest adventures here on earth. While the concept of death provides a reference point for our conduct and endeavors, the idea of a magnificent journey is far more intriguing for me. So, for the time being, don’t worry, Mom. Silly Wabbit, I’m just Westing!

    Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 11.53.14 AM




April Is National Autism Awareness Month – Kieran’s Story Sheds Light On An Often Misunderstood Condition

With my son recently being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, after years of seeing doctors, it was a relief to finally get a diagnosis, specifically Asperger’s. Kieran’s story below sheds real insight into this condition, that often is misunderstood because the difficulties these sensitve, intelligent kids experience are not so visible on the “outside”. Thanks to Kieran, Ambry Genetics and author Tiffany Au for providing the interview.  http://blog.ambrygen.com/post/176/what-is-life-like-for-someone-with-autism-part-1-of-2

What is Life Like for Someone with Autism? (Part 1 of 2)

  • Tiffany Au
  • April 6th, 2017
58e4116779609.pngEditor’s Note:

To help support National Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing our interview with Kieran Best, a 14-year-old young man with an autism spectrum disorder.  Kieran graciously shared insights into what his day-to-day life is like and offered words of wisdom to others who may be in his situation. Check back in two weeks to read our interview with Christina DeRochemont, Kieran’s mother, who also spoke with us. She’ll tell us about what life was like early on with Kieran, and how they received his diagnosis.


Ambry: Why are you excited to share your story?

Kieran: I have never done one of these before, so that’s neat. It’s nice to be a voice for people like me. I want to share who I am to show people at the end of the day – I am a regular teen with a good heart, I just experience difficulties in certain areas.


A: Where did you grow up?

K: I was born in Burnsville, Minnesota. I came to California when I was three and then moved back to Minnesota for six months. I came back to Los Angeles when I was 11, and here I am.


A: What’s something exciting in your life right now?

K: I am going to Japan with my classmates. This will be my first time going abroad.  We are going for 10 days and will be leaving towards the end of June. I am also going to Catalina [Island] for three days. I know it’s a lot of travel and being in the outside world… are you proud of me?


A: I am envious of your adventures! Outside of travel, what are some of the things you enjoy?

K: I enjoy video games, mostly the older varieties. I collect them. Now, I am into all sorts of media and analyzing them. For example, video games are a work of art. I play them for fun, but I like to learn the history of the game and understand the complexity of its makeup. I like to read. However, I will only read classics; I have not picked up a book that isn’t famous. By famous, I mean that everyone knows the author. For instance, I am reading Around the World in 80 days, The Picture of Dory and the entire Sherlock Holmes series. I watch movies and television. Just like my books and video games, I love older forms of media.


A: It’s wonderful that you are able to appreciate so many forms of media and have such a curiosity in complex messages. What are some areas of your life that you like to keep simple?

K: I keep my foods pretty minimal and simple. I am not a vegetarian; I just don’t like meat. I don’t like the texture. I am sensitive to texture when it comes to food. Vegetables are hard for me to eat, as well. I am not the proudest of my diet, but I am getting better. A year or so ago, I noticed I am more willing to try new things. I mean, I am going to Japan so I need to force myself or I may starve. Oh, one last thing: My favorite dessert is macaroons – vanilla. I only like vanilla because it’s well on its own and it plays well with others.


A: Sounds like something a chef would say, would you ever consider being a chef? If not, what do you want to be when you grow up?

K: No! I would never be a chef. I am not even proud of the three things I eat. I see myself in the gaming industry, but I’m not sure what I would be doing. I truly enjoy video games. I wanted to be an artist, but I realized I can’t draw. It is probably because I have shaky hands. I found out I’m half-decent at writing. I started my blog, www.tehyoshiking.com, and figured out that it is fun to make. I know I needed to do something with my life, so I started the blog. I don’t know if I really want to do this for the rest of my life, but it’s fun for now.


A: Now that we know a little bit about your background and interests, would you like to share about what it is like to be a young man with autism?

K: There is a stereotype for everything and everyone now. People think that having autism will harm your quality of life. When they hear “autism,” they think people like me are overly excited, act differently, have a hard time focusing, and lack social skills. In my eyes, it is nothing like that; it’s just a mild annoyance. I take medication, mainly during the week, so I don’t act strange. Other than that, I feel pretty normal. When I am on my medication, I have a harder time adjusting, but can focus better. When I am off it, I can’t focus, but can do more things at once.


A: How does this affect your life at school?

K: I do have some social issues when I am on my medication, but like I said, I can focus a lot more and do my school work. When I don’t take my medication, I am more social. Also, when I’m not on my medication, I am more confident, or at least feel it. There are more people like me at my private school, and it makes me feel more comfortable because we have similar interests and speak similar terms, if that makes sense.


A: How does this affect your life in relationships with your friends? How about family?

K: It doesn’t change much in my eyes. I suppose starting relationships with friends is a little more difficult. I am an emotional person, but it is not easy for me to talk about my emotions. I don’t like sharing them with other people because I don’t want to cause emotional distress for other people. I don’t like making people feel sad.


A: You are quite empathic! What other areas in your life do you feel most confident?

K: I am most confident in academics, knowledge of historical events, and video game knowledge.


A: What areas in your life do you wish to improve?

K: I always feel like people are judging me. I assume that everyone judges, but I know they don’t. I think that it’s a personal thing. I want to feel less judgement.


A: Do you have any advice for others who live with autism?

K: Sure! Stay in school, don’t do drugs, and drink your milk. Try and think positive in life-that is really how you end up on top. Try and be more social because I promise there are people that are like you, even if it doesn’t seem like there are. Try and reach out to other people who have similar interests. I started a video game club in middle school and had to turn people away because it got too big!  Most importantly, never try to be someone you are not.

The Cast and Crew of ‘Outlander’ Reveal Their Favorite Filming Locations

From my favorite book series by Diana Gabaldon to the t.v. version of “Outlander” that makes me want more from these talented actors…Take a peek at a few of these gorgeous on-site filming locations provided by the Travel + Leisure site.  http://www.travelandleisure.com/culture-design/tv-movies/outlander-cast-and-crew-favorite-locations?iid=sr-link1#intro

Kindle Scout: Yay or Nay?

Get the straight scoop on the program from author Victoria Strauss below, and decide if this is the best route to publishing for you.

Kindle Scout: The Pros and Cons of Amazon’s New Crowdsourced Publishing Program

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Yesterday, Amazon’s brand-new crowdsourced publishing program, Kindle Scout, opened for voting by the public.The concept is pretty simple:

Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

Authors can submit their full manuscripts of 50,000 words or more (including cover art, various metadata items, and an author photo), about 5,000 words of which are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day “campaign”. Readers can then browse books and nominate their favorites. If a manuscript they’ve voted for gets published, they receive a free ebook.

Things authors should note:

  • Amazon provides no editing, copy editing, proofreading, or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it.
  • Submissions are exclusive for 45 days from the date you submit your manuscript. No shopping your ms. elsewhere during that time.
  • Submitted manuscripts must meet content and eligiblity guidelines. Currently, only Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy are eligible.
  • Crowdsourcing? Not so much. Authors are encouraged to mobilize their networks for voting (which kind of undermines the notion that manuscripts will rise to the top on merit–a perennial problem of crowdsourced ventures, along with the potential for gaming the system). Mere vote numbers, however, don’t determine what gets published. Per the FAQ, “Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”
  • If you’re attracted by the promise of “featured Amazon marketing”, here’s what it actually consists of: “Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.” Key word here: “eligible.” In other words, no promises.
  • If you’re not selected for publication, you must request removal of your work from the Kindle Scout site. Otherwise, your campaign page will remain online.
  • By submitting, you agree in advance to the terms of the Kindle Press publishing agreement. These terms are not negotiable. So before you submit, be sure you’re comfortable with them. (If Amazon chooses not to publish your ms., you’re automatically released).

So, what about that publishing agreement?

Overall, it’s decent. The grant of rights (for ebook and audio editions only–though see below) renews every five years, but you can request reversion at the end of any five-year term if you’ve earned less than $25,000 in royalties during the term, or at any time after your two-year publication anniversary if you’ve earned less than $500 in the previous 12 months. Royalties are 50% of net for ebooks and 25% of net for audiobooks, paid within 60 days of the end of the month. And of course, there’s the $1,500 advance.

Things authors should note:

  • The grant of rights is a bit more sweeping than it appears:
    • The grant of rights includes translation rights. If these are exercised by Amazon, your royalty drops to 20% of net. (On the plus side, if Amazon has not exercised or licensed these rights within two years, you can request that they be reverted.)
    • Amazon can license to third parties any of the rights you’ve granted. You get 75% of net proceeds for foreign-language books licensed to third parties, and 50% of net proceeds for any other format.
    • The grant of rights allows Amazon not just to publish and/or license ebooks and audiobooks, but to “create condensed, adapted, abridged, interactive and enhanced editions of your Work, and include your Work in anthology or omnibus editions.”
  • For “subscription or other blended fee programs” (for instance, Kindle Unlimited), net revenue “will be determined in accordance with the standard revenue allocation methods for that program.” So be sure you’re aware of what those are.
  • Amazon “may” register copyright for you, but is not required to do so.
  • As always, Amazon maintains complete discretion and control, and can make decisions and changes without telling you. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.” (my emphasis) These are not sentences you’ll find in a typical publishing contract.

So should authors rush to submit their unpublished novels?

On the plus side, there’s the advance (money up front is nice), the possibility of subrights sales, the promotional boost that published books will receive from the selection process–at least while the program is new–and whatever promotions Amazon may (not necessarily will–see above) undertake for individual books. Amazon’s on-site promotions (as distinct from its email promotions, which can be spammy; you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten an Amazon email promotion for your own book) are incredibly powerful, and can have a huge impact on sales numbers–though that effect doesn’t necessarily last past the promotion itself. It’s possible, also, that gaining a toehold in Amazon’s publishing ecosystem could eventually open the door to one of Amazon Publishing’s traditional imprints–for some authors, at least.

On the other hand, Kindle Scout seems to occupy an uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, embracing characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither. As with a traditional publisher, you must agree to an exclusive contract that takes control of certain of your rights–but you don’t get the editing, proofing, artwork, or any of the other financial investments that a traditional publisher would provide. As with self-publishing, your book is published exactly as you submit it, with no developmental input or support–but you don’t have control of pricing and you receive a smaller percentage of sales proceeds than you would with KDP.

For Amazon, Kindle Scout is super-low risk publishing with the potential for substantial yield–not just from books that prove popular but from the influx of new users to its website. For authors, it’s the usual dilemma: does what you may gain outweigh what you don’t get, and what you must give up?

As always, don’t rush in. Read and understand the Kindle Scout publishing agreement, and be sure you’re comfortable with the other conditions to which you’re agreeing by submitting your manuscript. Be realistic in your expectations–not just of the possibility of publication, but of what might result if you’re selected.

And please–don’t spam your entire social network with requests for votes.

UPDATE, 10/30/14: Amazon’s right to ebooks and audiobooks is exclusive, but I’ve been asked whether the Kindle Scout publishing agreement would allow authors to self-publish in print. The answer would appear to be “yes”. Here’s the relevant language (my emphasis): “All rights not expressly granted to us in this Agreement (including the right to publish print editions) are reserved for your sole use and disposition.”

Also, here’s author Benjamin Sobieck’s first impressions of his Kindle Scout campaign. He makes some interesting observations.

UPDATE, 12/3/14: Just four weeks after Kindle Scout officially launched, the first books have been selected for publication. That seems incredibly fast. I wish Amazon were more transparent about stats, so we could know how many books were submitted to the program and how many readers participated.

UPDATE 1/20/15: It’s been confirmed to me that at least some Kindle Scout winners do receive editorial suggestions and cover assistance.

UPDATE 7/16/15: Still more on editing: according to author Victoria Pinder, whose book was chosen for the program, “The Kindle Scout winners all talk to each other, and we’ve all received edits. Some people received some heavy developmental editing. Truthfully, I didn’t….The team still found quite a few things I needed to do to polish and clean in the manuscript so I still had editing. I can also say more than one set of eyes read my manuscript from the Kindle Scout team. The editor comments were done on different dates with different names.”

Are we All Right or Alright?

A Merriam-Webster post

All Right or Alright?

Which is Correct, and When?

All right, everyone: listen up.

If you were listening when your English teacher said that, you probably learned that all right is the only way to write the word that is also sometimes spelled alright. Pete Townshend preferred the tighter version when he wrote the lyrics to The Who’s famous song, The Kids are Alright, and James Joyce thought alright was better (in one instance out of 38) for Ulysses too.

Pete and James weren’t trying to impress your English teacher, obviously.

If you are, you’ll do as most writers do and stick to all right. It is by far the more common styling in published, edited text. But alright does have its defenders, and instances of alright abound in informal writing.

And what’s not to like, really? It’s an efficient little version, and it looks right at home with a bunch of other common words — already, although, altogether, almost, always. What’s up with the lack of English-teacher love for alright?

It’s all about history: English spelling was fluid for a very long time, and the words all right, already, although, and the others had various forms over several hundred years — with spaces, hyphens, alternate vowels, one l, two l’s — until the 18th century when they settled into the spellings that we recognize today. Only all right developed a variant modern spelling after that settling. Alright dates — in literature anyway — to Mark Twain circa 1865. Which makes it a bit of an upstart. And lexical upstarts don’t tend to win popularity contests.

Some people assert that there’s a difference in meaning, that “The answers were all right” means that all the answers were correct, and that “The answers were alright” means that the answers were adequate or satisfactory. If you like that distinction you can use it, but the fact is that “The answers were all right” can mean either that the answers were all correct or that they were satisfactory. All right can — and does — do everything that alright does, and it has the added bonus of making your English teacher happy.

Which leads us to this concluding recommendation: use alright if you like it and don’t care that it’s not the favored form. There’s nothing essentially wrong with it. Use all right if you need people to know that you know what’s all right — at least according to your English teacher (and a lot of other folks).