Friday, April 25, 2014

The Miracle I Don't Want

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a thousand Ewoks jamming out to a jazz cover of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby!"

So this week I turned 25. That's right, I am the ripe old age of 25 and despite paying for and earning a four-year university degree, having managed multiple non-profit programs and being a published author, it seems that I am lacking the true requirement to be a successful human being: I don't have kids.

Please don't take the following as a condemnation of any woman who wants to have kids; motherhood is a noble and daring vocation. However, it is not for me.

Don't get me wrong, I like kids when I can hand them back to their parents the second they start to make a sound/ooze/smell. As a long term enterprise, however, child rearing is not something I'm really interested in.

Your first clue that I should not be having kids, by the way, is that I just referred to them as a "long term enterprise."

I am not going into all of the reasons I don't want to have kids here, because that could be it's own book to be perfectly honest.

It is incredible to me, though, how many things people are willing to say in judgement when I honestly say that I do not wish to procreate.

Today's post is the things that people need to stop saying to women who don't want children. All of these things have been said to me on more than one occasion, and I've had other friends who have corroborated that these statements happen as well. So please just stop.

"But you're a woman, don't you have a natural/biological desire to have kids?"

My Reaction to that Question
Alrighty, not only is that sexist, but utterly illogical. The human body is capable of a great many things that come as part of the packaged deal that we don't necessarily want to experience.  My body is naturally capable of developing kidney stones, hypothyroidism and blood clots, that doesn't mean that I have a "natural" desire to have these conditions manifest.

Believe it or not, not every person on the planet with a uterus wants to have kids.

 "Oh, well, you'll change your mind."

Funny, that's what people said to me 20 years ago when I was happily coloring in my dinosaur coloring book. Strange thing is, my mind has yet to change (and I am still coloring in my dinosaur coloring book).

That's Right, You're Jealous of My Tye-Dye Dinosaur
"What do you do all day?"

Oh, you know, mostly this:

Yep, I spend all day engaged in shenanigans and useless activities that basically make me a breathing, sushi consuming, water-filled waste of space.

Or I could be working my forty-plus-hours a week job, volunteering my time in my community, writing books, helping my elderly neighbor get her groceries into her apartment...

"Who will take care of you when you get older?"

This Cat Has No Kittens
Hopefully a really hot in-home nurse at my beachfront condo, who will think it's super precocious when I click the "Life Alert" button every five minutes.

After all I'm not spending the $241,080 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it costs to raise a child until the age of eighteen, so why not? (Then again, I am a social worker...)

"But Babies Are So Precious!"

Yes, I will concede, babies are adorable.

However, the parents of small children are not. I have yet to run into the parent of a newborn who didn't look something like the picture to the right.

I have a friend who didn't realize that she had a Cheeto stuck in her hair for three days because her baby was teething. Thanks, but I think I'd prefer to avoid a period in my life where I have all the functioning capacity of a zombie due to something small and cute.

"Kids Give Your Life Meaning!"

Even the Octopus is Sick of that One
Nope, I think you're mistaking me with you. Kids might give your life meaning, but not mine.

Also, if kids are the only thing that can give your life meaning on this planet, might I point out that life is going to be rather unpleasant for you when your kids grow up and you become an empty-nester.

It is possible to lead a rich and fulfilling life without having children, I promise.

"But, you have nothing to talk about with people who are parents."

Sorry, I don't feel like pushing the equivalent of a nine pound breathing watermelon out of my body just so I can have a conversation piece.

"Your biological clock is ticking!"

This would be sooooo much more meaningful if I actually wanted kids. Since I don't, that's kind of an empty threat. It's kind of like telling me that if I don't jump into the shark tank, I won't ever get to experience being eaten by sharks!

I don't want kids, so whatever reproductive abilities I lose with age really don't concern me much. If I could sum it up:

"You're just being selfish."

Really? I am acknowledging that I do not have the desire or motivation to have children instead of begrudgingly bringing them into the world, which is already overpopulated and plagued with a million and one ills, due to some ancient entrenched societal expectation. Yep, I'm "being selfish."

To any other women out there who don't have or don't want kids, what are you sick of hearing people say?

As always you can find my childless self on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads!

Friday, April 18, 2014

We Have a (Sorta) Winner!!!

Alright folks. I know you're mostly here to find out who won the Terrible Writing Contest for the signed copy of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus", so I won't dillydally. I think that should be counted as my good deed for the day.

Thank you to everyone who entered! It was a tough decision. Every entry was truly awful in totally rad ways.

After much deliberation I winnowed down my choices to D.L. Mackenzie's whopper of a sentence:

"A grey pall of boredom--not the ordinary boredom one might experience while listening to another of Uncle Chet's long-winded tales of his glory days in the San Jose Police motor pool maintenance crew, but a rather more sudden and intense lack of stimulation, like a kind of waking narcolepsy--failed to fall over the room (as might have been anticipated under the circumstances), for Jolly Jim Fitch had arrived quite unexpectedly (after having maintained emphatically for days--as he often did--that he would not do so), bearing liquor and ribald anecdotes, a welcome departure from the proceedings thus far, but one which would ultimately prove as disappointingly dull as the surface of a piece of unfinished furniture left in the driveway of an abandoned tenement for a couple of months during a rainy spell even wetter than the rainy spells to which we were now so accustomed since the atomic bomb blast which had leveled our city, altering the weather, not to mention apparently touching off the zombie apocalypse Uncle Chet had so often warned us about."

Congratulations D.L. on devising a sentence/paragraph that makes sense in an almost nonsensical way!

I did also want to also share a couple of Honorable(?) Mentions.

Brian Patrick McKinley:

"The night was moist."

Patrick Casey:

 "Hail!" shouted Nathan Hale over the wail of pale hail that hailed down around him, nailing him in the cranium."

Again, thank you to everyone who entered my little contest! If you didn't win this time around, don't worry, another contest will happen soon, I promise.

If you wish to follow my movements more closely without the use of binoculars, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn), or Goodreads!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Some Delightful Banter

Hello Ladies, Gentlemen and any fish that have a clear view of a computer screen from their bowl. I hope everyone's week was splendid.

Mine was... interesting? There are only so many times in one's life that one gets mistaken for a patron saint. I think it's even rarer to be mistaken for Saint Sebastian (pictured to the right) when one is both alive and female.

Apparently being on mass amounts of meth, and who knows what else, can influence a person to believe that a female standing just over five feet tall could in fact be the patron saint of archers. Who knew?

Also, can I point out the ironic sense of humor the Catholic Church must have had in naming the unfortunate fellow to the right the patron saint of archers? I'm not sure that if I were an archer I would necessarily feel very protected just looking at the paintings of Saint Sebastian.

A quick reminder: The contest to win a signed copy of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" ends this Sunday. All you have to do to enter is write the most terrible opening line to a story that you can think of and post it either on the contest post my Facebook page or in the comments section on the post you will get if you follow this link: Enter

Today on Normally Surreal we are joined by author Chris Westlake who wrote, "Just a Bit of Banter, Like..."

What do you do when your well-established life falls apart? In "Just a Bit of Banter, Like..." author Chris Westlake explores this question with his main character Nick. Nick has a pretty awesome life, a pretty girlfriend, a good job a group of friends, but over the course of a couple of days he finds his situation almost completely reversed.

As Westlake unfolds the story of a young man returning to his native Wales and family, readers are immersed in the story as Nick tries to discover himself, while solving several little mysteries along the way. The author does an good job inserting the reader into the head of the main character as Nick tries to pull his life back together.

Funny, sad, interesting and introspective, readers will certainly find something to love in "Just a Bit of Banter, Like..."

Here to talk about his work himself is author Chris Westlake!

1. How would you describe "Just a Bit of Banter, Like..." to curious minds?

Hi Allison, thanks for inviting me here!
"Just a Bit of Banter, Like..." tells the story if Nick, a twenty-something from Wales who is living the high-life in the city. The readers probably won't like him too much at first. The guy is all image - you know the type - good job, plenty of cash and a trophy girlfriend on his arm. Right from the very first chapter, though, he is on a downward spiral. He catches his girlfriend in an uncompromising position with his best mate, he loses his job after unintentionally sending him an email telling him to shove things were 'the sun don't shine' and before we know it, he is catching the London Paddington to Bridgend with his tail between his legs.

This is where the reader - hopefully - starts to realise that Nick isn't such a bad guy after all. Scrape away at the artificial coating and a sensitive guy just trying to make sense of the world is hidden underneath.

There are a number of overlapping storylines all competing for attention - what secrets is best friend Den hiding? Why have Mum and Nan not spoken to each other for as long as Nick can remember? And where has school friend Sam disappeared to?
The general tone is light-hearted and there are plenty of laughs, but the book does explore a number of more serious issues - the impact of family feud, missing people and dementia.

2. What inspired you to write this book?

Well, I felt the time was right to write a full length novel. I'd spent a few years concentrating on writing short stories and I had won some competitions. It had always been my intention to move on a novel.

Why this book in particular, though? Well, as it was my first book, I wanted to be realistic. I didn't want to write War and Peace. I wanted to get the basics right - involving characters, a good storyline; a book that was enjoyable and entertaining. And I think "Just a Bit of Banter, Like..." achieves that goal pretty well.

3. Your characters seem very real, how much of this book was based off of actual events or people you know?

I'd say the characters are a mix of personality traits from hundreds of different people I've met in my life. But the traits are put in a blender and the people who come out are very different.

4. How much of this book is autobiographical?

Well, in a backwards kind of way, quite a bit. Just like Nick, I moved from rural Wales to London when I was in my early twenties and I guess I was pretty superficial, too. It definitely felt like I was doing well, leaving home and moving to the big city. I've never moved back to Wales, though. I know live in Birmingham, another big city, but a city that is still dwarfed by London. My nan and gramps had dementia, and so that storyline has a personal element. 

On the other hand, I've never had a missing friend, my mum and nan have always been close and my own dad has always been one of my heroes.

5. If you had to choose one of your characters to compete in a three-legged race with, who would you choose and why?

Oh my days, that is an interesting question!

Probably Nick's mother. She has amazing determination; she would do absolutely everything possible to get to the line first. If she is able to stop talking for a minute, of course. Three-legged races are more about co-ordination and team-work than physical ability, and she is a practical, rational thinking woman. We would have it in the bag!

6. If you wanted readers to walk away with one giant takeaway lesson from your book, what would that lesson be?

These questions are getting harder, Allison? :) I think that is quite tough because I made a conscious effort not to send a message. The story is more an observation of life rather than an interpretation of it. I'd quite like readers to reach all different conclusions from reading the book. It is all about prompting them to think for themselves. But then, sub-consciously, I have probably not been completely objective! I suspect some readers may think I'd like them to reconsider what is important in life, that friends and family are much more important than material things. But honestly - hand on heart - that wasn't my intention.

Their Flag Has a Dragon... Points for Wales
7. You are a Welsh author. For those on this side of the pond, what would you most want Americans to know about the Welsh culture?

Welsh culture is very close-knit and unashamedly patriotic. I think this is partly because of the size of the country. We are surrounded by our larger neighbour, England, in every direction. We absolutely love beating England at rugby, which to be fair, happens a fair bit nowadays. Traditionally a focal point of Welsh life has been the pub. There are two main cities in Wales - Cardiff (the capital) and Swansea. A considerable part of the country is rural, with small communities. I think generally we like the rest of the world to know that there is more to the UK than London and no, Wales is not in England! But from my experience, Americans already have more knowledge about Wales than other countries do.

8. How did you get started in writing and what other works have you written?

I always knew that I would write, it was a matter of time. I wrote stories as a kid but then school, University and work all got in the way. And then I decided it was definitely time to pull my finger out. In 2010 I enrolled on an online writers course. My tutor said that I was a very good writer and that was a massive boost. I wrote some letters to magazines and some got published and I earned some extra pocket-money. I started writing short stories and got some published and I won some competitions.

My stories have been published in Fight or Flight, The Heatwave of 76, The Road Home, which can be found at Stringybark Stories. For readers who are not feint-hearted, Sex in Sin City can be found in the xcite anthology Dark Pleasures.

9. Where can interested readers find your book?

To be honest the best place is my website, (yes, I know, very original). It has  details of everything that I have had published and links to where they can be bought. Oh, and feel free to check out the blog!

10. If you had to choose between defending yourself, using only a butter knife, against a fully-grown angry gorilla or be forced to listen to operas played in reverse for 24 hours, which would you choose?

Oh, that's usually the first question I get asked! Joke.
It has to be the opera option. The gorilla option is a lose-lose. Either I end up hurting a gorilla, which I wouldn't want, or I get my butt handed to by a gorilla, which I wouldn't want, either. And my money is on the gorilla. With the opera, it is just 24 hours of pain and then I can get on with life. Unless of course the music keeps playing in my head....

If you want to know more about Chris Westlake check out his website or his Twitter!

As always, you can find me lurking on Twitter (@AllisonHawn), Facebook and Goodreads!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Discovering a Lost World

Hello all, I hope your weeks have been more splendid than the thought of a thousand koalas synchronized swimming to the tune of Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare."

I just wanted to add a quick reminder that the terrible writing contest to win a free signed copy of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" will be going on until Sunday, April 13th!

I've already gotten some pretty awesomely awful entries. All you have to do is write the most terrible first line or two that you can come up with to a story and post your entry either on my Facebook Page or in the comments section on this page: Enter the Contest Here!

So come on, show me how horrendously you can write!

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing author Andy Peloquin about his first novel "In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent!"

Andy Peloquin's "In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent" is certainly a fast-paced adventure. The story never seems to pause as the reader is thrown head-first into a great mixture of political intrigue and action.

The subject matter of Atlantis is interesting on its own, and the envisioning of the fabled land by Peloquin is fascinating. Peloquin also does an excellent job creating characters that actually read like real people that readers can really get behind. Mixing excellent dialogue with suiting inner-struggle, readers will find themselves gripped by the story.

A great plot, splendid characters and a fantastical ancient civilization to boot. An excellent first work by Andy Peloquin!

Let's find out what's going on in the depths of Andy Peloquin's mind.
1. What made you want to start writing?
It was actually thanks to an English/science professor of mine when I was still in elementary school. He was so passionate about all things science and literature that I couldn't help but find joy in it as well. He had me writing poetry by the age of 11, and I wrote my first short story by age 12. It was total garbage, but I guess it set the stage for what has been a good decade and a half of writing. I'm now a professional freelance writer, a graphic novelist (coming soon!), and now an author.

2. Why did you choose Atlantis as the setting for your book?
The mystery of it. For me, the idea of a world no one knows about is hugely intriguing. I could do pretty much anything I wanted with the story, and it worked simply because there is no written records of Atlantean civilization. Sword and sorcery (Conan-style) is one of my favorite  genres, and this seemed like the perfect setting for a book.
3. How on earth did you come up with your character's names?

To be honest, the names sort of popped into my head. I knew I wanted a Historian and an Empress, and the rest kind of just fell into place. I use name generators, but rarely stick with the names that are generated. I use the generated names to give me ideas for the names ultimately used.
4. Who is your favorite character from the book and why?
I'd have to say Daltos the Creator is my favorite. I wrote him while high on two large mugs of espresso, and I had so much fun creating him!
5. If you could choose a character from your book to play a game of one-on-one basketball with who would you choose?
I'd say Traga, as he's very short, but I know he'd cheat. Probably Deucalion, the main character.
6. What was the most difficult part of the writing process?

The editing. It's always hard to see your work sliced up by an editor, but thankfully there weren't too many edits to make. It just took more time to do, and it was far more real WORK than the writing. For me, writing is a release of tension, and a great way to relax.

7. I kind of had a soundtrack playing in my head while reading your book. Was there any particular music you were listening to when you wrote it?
I have a playlist on YouTube called Comic Book Songs, which I used when writing comic book scripts or my novel. It's a lot of dubstep, techno, and some oddly unique songs like Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and Sail by AWOLNation.
8. If you had to choose between having to face off in a fencing match with Patrick Swayze or learn how to Cha-Cha with Richard Simmons which would you choose?

Fencing match! I've always wanted to study fencing and swordplay, and taking martial arts lessons over the last year has piqued my interest even more!

Thank you Andy for being willing to answer whatever popped into my tiny little mind to ask you!

If you are interested in reading Andy's book you can find it on Amazon and you can find out more about the author on his website

As always, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn), or Goodreads!