Category Archives: Heart Awareness

My Special Valentine

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This is a blog post that was hosted recently on Best Selling Reads.

It was early morning. The sun hadn’t crested the horizon yet, and as we drove by the darkened homes I could imagine the people inside snuggled up in their beds, still catching those last minutes of sleep before getting up and starting their day. We were nearly alone on the highways while we drove east. The cold fingers of winter tried to pry their way into our van. Although I sat untouched from its reach, a bitter pain grew in my chest.

A flock of Canadian geese flew overhead. I’ve never understood why they choose Colorado over a warmer climate, but there they were, soaring through the bleak skies together as a large extended family on a winter holiday. The lopsided formation broke the silence with their honking as we glided over the black river of pavement, leading us to the hospital.

I turned around to look at her, my little angel, wide eyed in the back seat, too nervous to be tired or to watch the passing wildlife. When we arrived in the bright atrium of the hospital it had only begun to waken. Friendly faces, simple noises and smells distorted and numbed me. Time slowed.

Like a koala, she clung to me, her mommy. I was here to protect her, yet I was delivering her into the arms of pain. How could it make sense to her? Did she understand that we were only trying to help her?

Her voice was locked away, safe inside – the only thing that was in her control. When the time came and her eyes drooped into a soft and pleasant sleep, the nurses took her from me.

“We’ll take care of her. You’ll see her soon.”

The wait would have been unbearable if I had been awake, but I slept. I could not imagine a world without her in it. I refused to. So instead, I slept.

At her bedside, I knew I was where I needed to be. A motherly magnet, I snapped to her side, climbed under the covers and remained there, even as her poor body drooped and those terrible beeps rose, like a swarm of insects coming to frighten me away. Instead, a flurry of nurses clamored around us. Each held fluids and blood, ready to pump my sleeping princess with life so her delicate veins wouldn’t collapse.

This is one of the most painful memories I have. I’m sure you have your own – we all have them. This may not seem like a fitting story on Valentine’s Day, but it does have a happy ending.

My daughter was born with congenital heart defects like so many others, and has had two open-heart surgeries. When others focus on chocolates, red roses and sonnets, I am reminded of how lucky I am. My daughter is a healthy little girl and you would never guess the struggles she’s been through.

Heroes are born every day. I’m not talking about superheroes clad in spandex and masks. I’m speaking of the everyday heroes that walk the Earth like Clark Kent – in disguise. In fact, you probably know one, they’re not as uncommon as you may think.

I happen to have a very special hero of my own – my daughter. The scars that mark her chest will always be a reminder of what she’s been through. Even though her heart is unique and a little battered, it does not affect her ability to love or be loved.

So, this February and Valentine’s Day, rest well knowing you are surrounded by heroes, heroes who have battled and won. Who carry scars on their hearts, and keep going because they can.

 

***

Following her daughter’s second surgery, Natasha Brown wrote Fledgling, The Shapeshifter Chronicles (Book 1). She was inspired to write a story centered on a girl struggling with a heart condition. The novel was a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Contest.

Interview with Author Amy Manneman

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I am late posting this, but  here is an interview I gave my friend, and author, Amy Manneman (The Deadly series).

Where are you originally from?

I am from a small town in Northern California named Nevada City. Tall evergreens, rolling mountains and fresh air, it’s my favorite place to visit. I used to walk down the road from my house and go blackberry picking for blackberry ice cream in the summer. Mmmmm.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

Other writers are my inspiration. There is nothing more magical than being transported into another person’s life. I love experiencing another time and circumstance. It still amazes me how joy, fear or passion, are easily transferred from prose. I have always enjoyed writing, but my inspiration has come from authors and writers who force me to forget the laundry, making dinner or doing my work just to read one more chapter. I strive to do that for my own readers.

 

How did you decide on your book’s genre?

I absolutely love reading fantasy & romance. In the last ten years or so, the young adult genre has created a huge following. I love reading all of the above, so it was natural for me to combine them, when creating my new series.

 

What is/are your favorite genre(s)?

Growing up, I was never without a book. I am an only child, so they were the perfect companion. I’ve gone through different phases, as a young child my parents read The Hobbit to me in bed. Some of my favorite book related memories are begging my mom and dad to keep reading. Then as a teen I discovered classic romance novels by Austen, Bronte and Fitzgerald. When I moved out of my childhood home, I couldn’t put down fantasy and sci-fi novels. Now it has progressed into young adult and middle grade fantasy. I can’t turn down a good urban fantasy that has great character development, action and romance.

 

Are you currently reading anything?

Because I am a busy mother, writer and web/design contractor, I haven’t had the opportunity to start a book for myself recently, but I am in the middle of reading one of the Sister’s Grimm books to my kids. It’s a fun, and imaginative middle grade book, which entices imaginative minds.

 

Who or what is the driving force that keeps you going?

The excitement for my story keeps me moving. I love my characters and their world, so my passion for them is what keeps me writing.

 

How do you balance your personal life with your writing career?

I wish I could say I was a full time writer, but I’m not. The reality is, I’m a busy mother, vice-president of the PTA, a web developer and designer. These elements keep me very occupied, but I try to carve out time in my days to write. While I write this interview, I am waiting for some muffins to finish in the oven for my daughter, who is home sick. It is a tricky balance, but I do my best.

 

Tell us about your book.

Fledgling is the first book in a series called, The Shapeshifter Chronicles. It is a young adult urban fantasy or I suppose it can be classified as a paranormal romance as well.

 

Set apart from other eighteen year olds, Ana Hughes knows she is different. A life threatening heart condition smothers her future and she yearns to feel normal. Her hopes are pinned on a fresh start in a remote town far from her native Colorado. Among the locker filled hallways in Clark Bend High, Ana keeps to the shadows, not wanting to draw attention to her violet tinged lips and wilted silhouette. And she almost succeeds, until she meets Chance Morgan.

Struggling to keep up appearances, she soon suspects Chance is hiding something as well. His animal-like senses, miraculous healing ability and peculiar reaction to her Thunderbird necklace compels Ana to question if there’s more to the stories about his Navajo ancestry. Without any other explanation, she fears he is playing tricks on her. But the truth may prove too much for Ana’s delicate heart…

 

How do you create your characters?

My own daughter inspired this books lead protagonist, Ana. My daughter was born with heart defects and my characters were created with that theme in mind. I think readers relate better to people who are imperfect. Creating a multi-faceted character is important when you want the reader to care about who is on the page. It is a fun challenge that I enjoy.

 

Do you have any upcoming events or book promotions?

I recently added a lost chapter to my website- www.theshapeshifterchronicles.com for readers who have downloaded my book from Amazon. There is a special code at the back of the book, which unlocks the chapter, The Prom.

 

Where can people find you and your work on the web?

I currently have it listed on Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/Fledgling-The-Shapeshifter-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B006XM426C/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1329929624&sr=8-3

 

Interview with Author Aaron M Ritchey

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I had the pleasure of talking with Aaron M Ritchey, author of The Never Prayer, a couple weeks back. My thanks go out to him and his generosity -

I Talk Heart of Darkness and Fledgling Shapeshifters With YA Author Natasha Brown

Writers can pop up literally anywhere. In your shower, late at night. Hotel rooms in bad parts of town. Kathmandu, Nepal. We are an elusive breed, shadowy, here one minute, gone the next. So was I surprised to find that a writer was haunting the halls of the Montessori school where my children go? Not in a horribly-scarred-phantom-of-the-opera type of way. Natasha Brown was just a parent, but so much more. I wasn’t surprised that Natasha had written a book, but I was impressed by her really good Amazon ranking. And the fact she finaled in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold contest. And that she had gone rogue, e-pubbed, and was doing well.

A little about her book, Fledgling (The Shapeshifter Chronicles):

Set apart from other eighteen-year-olds, Ana Hughes knows she is different. A life-threatening heart condition smothers her future and she yearns to feel normal. Her hopes are pinned on a fresh start in a remote town far from her native Colorado. Among the locker-filled hallways in Clark Bend High, Ana keeps to the shadows, not wanting to draw attention to her violet-tinged lips and wilted silhouette. And she almost succeeds, until she meets Chance Morgan.
Struggling to keep up appearances, she soon suspects Chance is hiding something as well. His animal-like senses, miraculous healing ability and peculiar reaction to her Thunderbird necklace compel Ana to question if there’s more to the stories about his Navajo ancestry. Without any other explanation, she fears he is playing tricks on her. But the truth may prove too much for Ana’s delicate heart…

We talked, and this is a little of what we talked about.

AARON: Okay, Natasha, at what point in your life did you want to write a novel? Where were you, what were you drinking, and were olives involved?

Natasha: It was the perfect storm – inspiration, courage and my family left me alone for a whole glorious weekend. I do love olives, but alas, they weren’t involved.

AARON: When we talked, you said you were inspired by J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. What about them inspired you? Haircuts? Choice of shoes? Mormonism? Britishism?

Natasha: They inspired me because they, like me, were mothers with an idea. An idea that they wrote down and had the tenacity to persist with. I thought if they could do it, then I would try as well.

AARON: Let me talk about myself for a minute, because, well, I am so very fascinating. I’m a big fan of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which inspired the movie Apocalypse Now. Kurtz, in the jungle, going mad, worshiped by the natives. He went rogue, just like you. What made you throw off the shackles of traditional publishing to set yourself up in your jungle paradise on Amazon?

Natasha: Let me smear some war paint on my face first before I answer…
Like you mentioned earlier I finaled in the RMFW contest, which was fantastic. It gave me the confidence to start querying agents. I had a few nibbles, but ultimately it led to a dead-end. And then life happened. When you are busy with kids and work, those other things fall away, and that is what happened to FLEDGLING. Until an acquaintance found out I had a finished novel collecting dust. He had self-published and found great success. I decided, what with the state of the evolving book world, I would go ahead and give it a try myself. I am a web developer and designer so I designed my own cover. I set the hook and waited for a nibble.

AARON: Kurtz summarized his experience in the jungle with four words, well, two words repeated twice: the horror, the horror. What two words, repeated twice, summarize your experience as an independent publisher?

Natasha: Two words is all? Yeesh. Take courage, take courage.

AARON: Why do you think your Amazon ranking is so good? My ranking is like three million and fluctuates as low as eight billion, but you, you have a ranking, a steady ranking, in the thousands, which is awesome. Did I just use way too many commas? Maybe. I’m a little nervous asking this question. I’m pausing a lot.

Natasha: I stole some fairy dust and sprinkled my computer with it. Does wonders, although whenever I click my mouse, it giggles. No, seriously. I am lucky. There are SO many elements that contribute to a book doing well. Past the obvious, that the book has to be somewhat interesting and in a genre that sells, there is a lot to marketing a book. A good cover and book blurb are very important – they are the first impression. You need to be present in social media like, facebook, twitter and your own author blog. I am part of a great author group named the World Literary Café (WLC- www.worldliterarycafe.com) which provides many resources to indie and traditional authors. I couldn’t have made it this far without my new group of friends.

AARON: One of your inspirations for Fledgling was your daughter’s heart condition. What kind of heart condition does she have, and how does that play into the novel?

Natasha: The heart issues are a huge issue in the story and everything revolves around it, much like in real life. My daughter was born with multiple heart defects. She had transposition of the great arteries, hypoplastic-left heart syndrome, and a large ventricular septal defect. That might sound like a lot of gibberish to most people, but all of those conditions caused enough trouble for my daughter to have two open-heart surgeries. Heart defects make up about a third of all children born with birth defects. My daughter is not alone. The personality and specific circumstances of my daughter are not the same as the lead character in my book, but they do share many of the same experiences. I wanted to create a female lead who could be a heroine for my daughter to look up to. For anyone who was born with heart defects.

AARON: We talked about how hard the writer’s journey is. What themes in Fledgling could inspire a struggling writer to keep on keeping on?

Natasha: A writer’s journey can be tortured to be sure, but it is so much broader than that. Being a teenager has its challenges as well, and I think they are much the same. Will they like me? Will I fit in? Stand out? I’m not good enough.

Self-doubt and insecurities plague everyone. Especially writers. FLEDGLING, I hope, will leave the reader uplifted and hopeful. My own story, and even my daughter’s story, I hope, will inspire as well. You CAN do it if you persevere.

AARON: Natasha, if you had to exchange your writer’s life for another artistic passion, what would you choose? For example, if I had to give up writing for some other type of creative art, I wouldn’t choose rockstar or famous Parisian painter, I’d choose quilting. Dudes who quilt are dead sexy. What about you?

Natasha: Dead sexy to be sure…I think you even have another book idea in there.
My father is a fine art photographer (and in another life, a graphic artist) and my mother does poetry. Artistry is in my blood. I have dabbled with quilting, stained glass, painting, photography, jewelry making and graphic design. I’m not sure what else I could try, but I’m only happy when I am creating something. I wouldn’t mind hanging in Italy, the country where I got engaged, and just ‘go with the flow’.

AARON: Thanks Natasha!

Natasha: And thank you, Aaron!

Website for the book
Natasha on twitter
Fledgling on Amazon

If you could save the love of your life by giving your own in return, would you do it?

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It was eight years ago almost to the day, that I was in my prenatal appointment getting an ultrasound of my unborn child when everything changed in an instant. My son was playing innocently in the corner of the doctor’s office while I lay with my large belly exposed. I remember the moment when the technician set the ultrasound wand down and left the room to get the doctor.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked when the doctor sat down and began reviewing still frame images of the small child within me. The flutter of the heart appeared like a trapped butterfly on the screen.

Then my worst fears were realized.

“Yes.” With that one answer, our lives changed.

My daughter, like so many other children was born with heart defects. She is what I consider to be- lucky. She came home without oxygen or any complicated equipment after two-days in the hospital following her birth. But she has had two open-heart surgeries.

The first was at a year old. When I first saw her swollen, puffy face in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and the various tubes sticking out of her abdomen, all I wanted to do was hold her. She would reach out to me, wanting to be with her mommy, and it would take the efforts of many nurses to move her to my lap. The only comfort I felt was knowing she was near me. One by one, the tubes were removed and we went home to raise a precocious toddler.

Her second surgery was at four-years-old. She was no longer a baby who did not know what was happening, she was frightened and wanted me near her as much as possible. A couple hours out of surgery, while I lay beside her in the recovery bed, her blood pressure dropped and her veins collapsed. Helpless and paralyzed lying beside my sweet little girl, I watched six nurses stand around us, pushing blood and fluids into her body. If asked, I would have given everything, even myself to save her.

Helplessness is lonely. It is like being shipwrecked on an island, far from home. I clung to the thought that everything would be fine; she wouldn’t die, she couldn’t. I never allowed myself to go to the point of despair, I needed to be strong for my children and family and mostly, for myself.

I can look back at those days in the hospital and it’s almost like replaying a movie. I can recall different moments, both happy and sad. Like when we had to practically empty a bottle of detangler to brush out her ratty hair, the day she wouldn’t speak at all (not even to me) and laying beside her each night in her hospital bed, holding her close.

How did everything turn out? Fantastic. After a bumpy recovery she moved forward without looking back. You may be surprised to learn she was on her bike the day she got home from the hospital. As I hear the sounds of her playing with her friend now, I am thankful for the gift of her life. I am telling you my own story as a reminder to appreciate the ones you love and to share a story fitting for Heart Awareness Month and the month of love.

It was my own experiences that inspired me to write a novel about a girl with a heart condition who finds herself in a desperate point in her treatment. Ana is a young woman without hope of a future or of finding love. She is eager for a fresh start from pitying eyes. At the point of helplessness, she meets a mysterious young man, whose notice she is unable to escape. Soon, she suspects she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. But will her heart be able to handle the truth?

To read an excerpt of Fledgling, The Shapeshifter Chronicles, you can find it in the Amazon Kindle store- http://www.amazon.com/Fledgling-The-Shapeshifter-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B006XM426C/ref=sr_1_68?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1327174914&sr=1-68

During the month of love, I send you my warm wishes. Hold your sweethearts, family & friends close, because it is every moment of now that it counts.

Gratitude,

Natasha Brown

Follow me @writersd3sk