Who doesn’t remember Dear Abby? Maybe I’m old AF but I sure do. These days, in the indie writing community and because of my therapy background, I spend a lot of time dolling out solicited advice in private messages and even in group and public forums. The rumor is, I like helping people achieve their dreams, improve their self-esteems, and become the best possible version of themselves. Who knew?
So here’s the plan: I’m going to start taking emails at firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Abby style from readers and/or authors looking for advice. I will answer on a rolling basis in this blog and in my facebook reader group – Crazy Inklings. You may be able to catch me live there (and eventually on YouTube) taking questions too if you join!
Shoot me any type of question you want. My training is in family and systemic therapy so my best work is in the area of relationship dynamics. With that said, I am not answering questions in the capacity of a therapist – simply as someone with training in the field. This is for fun only! If you feel like you need the help of a licensed psychologist/therapist, make that appointment! I cannot provide “real” therapy in that capacity but can certainly offer advice as a friend. We could all use more of those. So let’s have some fun with this – have at it! Check back to see what other's are asking - you never know if their situations will apply to you too!
Note: All questions will be anonymous. Feel free to change your name and/or not give one at all.
I’m intentionally writing this post before the USA Today listing comes out. Why? Because in reality, big picture, it doesn’t matter either way. Letters and labels are never what define a person or an artist. I honestly believe that. No matter what happens, I will continue to write and chase my crazy dreams. I know no other way.
More than fifty books, a million words, three years in indie publishing and a lifetime of dreaming later, here we are. Thank you to all who have supported my writing, believed in my crazy vision, followed me through successes and failures and been there along the way. You keep the pen returning to the page. Thank you, too, to those who have doubted me, criticized me and made me trust my gut more. You make me stronger and more determined.
Without all of you, the ride would be lonely and, well, boring. The laughs, shared interests, stories and friendships we’ve shared are what make this a community. A special thanks goes to Rita Delude, Kimberly Lee, Samantha Talarico, BeBe Harlow, Erin Wolf, Lisa Seleska and Bert Hostetler – members of my original ‘tribe’ who have weathered the worst storms with me and kept me dry. Thank you to Ditter Kellen, who became my sanity in our shared mission to chase those letters, NYT Bestselling Author Rebecca Hamilton for the opportunity, and USA Today Bestselling Author Heather Adkins and Lexi Foss for putting up with me. Thank you to my set mates, who put up with a hell of a lost and crazy set leader and still haven’t blocked me. I wouldn’t blame you…
A list run is no joke. I went into the experience naive but came out more confident and better prepared to tackle an ever-evolving industry. I am tired but invigorated. I have big plans and bigger changes in store and am excited to regroup and make several announcements in the upcoming weeks about the direction of my own works as well as Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC.
The list goes up Wednesday afternoon and I know you’re rooting for us. I saw it in the buys, the pimps, the shares, the private messages, the emails and even the pep talks along the way. Our numbers are very hopeful and solid and I anticipate great things. That is because of you. I appreciate each of you who pulled for us and will always be here to return the favor. Thank you!
Are you team angel or demon? I know where I stand!
My New Year's Resolution is to make USA Today with this book!
Check it out here! http://mybook.to/WingsWicked
#newyear #newreleases ##bookstagram #book #read
It's been a long time since I've been this excited about completing a WIP. There's a new circus in town and it's not like any circus you've ever seen! Check out the main characters who entertain the crowds at Lusus Naturae Circus - where the show never ends and magic is a verb! Coming in 2019!
Meet the Freaks:
Rosa and Shirley Hawkings
The show’s double conjoined anomalies who’ve shared everything, including a wishbone-shaped spine since birth, Rosa and Shirley Hawkings, know how to put on a show.
Rosa has a huge—or very tiny, depending on how literal you are—secret. It’s a secret that will flip all they have planned acrobat-upside-down and twist the very future of Lusus Naturae Circus. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Ladies and gents, boys and girls, meet The Twins! Nicknamed Left and Right, they are sure to delight! Marvelous indeed. But more normal, too, than one might think. You see, the Hawkings sisters have pretty ordinary dreams.
Both hope to marry and have children one day – setting up separate households and spending time with each husband and family three days a week. They plan on leaving Sundays for themselves. They’ve only talked about this their entire lives and Shirley is a marvelous planner. What could possibly go wrong?
After years of both discussion and compromise on their adjoined plan, they’ve finally got a clear picture of their individual futures with families of their own. The only problem is, well, they haven’t quite locked down their men. Fear not! They’re working on it. The show’s tattooed man for Right and pint-sized ringmaster for Left. Sounds simple, right? Have you forgotten Rosa’s secret?
Worry less! Every great performance has its juggling act and the sisters are used to odd predicaments. You see, the twins are double pygopagus twins. They are connected at the base of their spines as well as by a vain patch between their necks. They share common circulatory and nervous systems but are otherwise independent. What more should you know? Our resident Giant reports that they weigh 190 pounds together with Rosa carrying the bulk of it. This, for sure, is an ongoing source of contention between them. Rosa is tired of being considered the fat, ugly twin. Shirley is sick of comparisons to a doll. Aww, the problems of being unsymmetrical. And, folks? That’s not all!
They are just short of five feet tall and have their own vital parts, including sex organs. Imagine that! Most days, both sisters wish they had been born parasitic twins with one twin dormant. It’s a complicated matter of fact.
At the same time, they are glad they have each other in times of both crisis and achievement. Doctors, specialists and surgeons alike have all agree – they can never be separated. They are, indeed, peculiar but very naturally born freaks. It’s the way our Puppet Master intended it to be. And so the show goes on.
Rosa has eyes for Slash Jones while Shirley is in love with Church Schow. Neither is entirely secure in their relationships and how the two rivals will ultimately get along. This brings us back to the secret:
On top of the fetus she carries in her unshared womb, Rosa has another. Yes. Allow me to confirm. One of the twins is pregnant. There’s more. Rosa was born with the supernatural power of the ability to read minds and see futures. The only person she’s sure knows is our very own Madame Lusus who shares the very same powers of her own.
Please know: Rosa can’t always bring this on at will. It just happens. But when it does? She’s never wrong. She refuses to share this gift with her sister for reasons mostly unknown. The bigger twin prays she won’t pass this ability on to her child and needs to find a way to get Lusus onboard with her latest premonitions.
You see, there are two very new and illusive performers in the show. With big decisions ahead for Lusus, her ability to focus on Rosa’s warnings is imperative to the future of the show. What happens between them matters more than ever before with the impending arrival of Rosa’s baby. Will the jealousy our barren Lusus must tackle be enough to get in the way of what could ultimately bring the tents down?
And then, ladies and gents, we have our newest circus dad! A reluctant ‘normal’ born freak, tattooed man and shock artist Slash Jones is the product of a family with a rich circus legacy. His mother was a little person and his father had a growth so big in the shape of a horn coming from his abdomen that it’s now on permanent display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Be careful what you might believe. Slash is not ashamed of his chosen status as a freak. Instead, he is certain ascertaining the title “is goals, man” and was raised to believe that being born a ‘natural freak’ is the equivalent of being one of God’s chosen people. For this reason, he is obsessed with the most curious performers in the show. While he’d be entirely up for Left and Right’s plan to make a part-time husband out of him, constant battles with Shirley’s crush and Left herself make that hard.
Of course, Rosa’s pregnancy won’t make the delicate balance in co-parenting with conjoined twins any easier. But Slash isn’t one to turn down a challenge. He’s a man who prides himself on being able to swallow fire without the use of charcoal. He won’t allow their complicated predicament or Shirley either to keep him from his child. For now, he’ll let Rosa figure that out. His goal, at the moment, is mastering the swallower’s pole.
In the meantime, tattooing and extreme scarification including mimicking his father’s horn out of an old, dulled tent stake, are the closest he can get to being a rarity himself. He often feels inadequate because he wasn’t a natural-born mutant. Insanely jealous of Church Schow, the show’s ring master and the man Rosa’s twin is in love with, the animosity is mutual.
But the show goes on and Slash Jones know: it’s the twisted relationships in the circus that keep things interesting. While he’s a simple man who can usually quickly make sense of things, the one person he can’t quite figure out is his mentor and the freakiest of all – Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown. There’s just something about him, folks. And it when it’s revealed, Slash’s entire plan as a family man may just bottom out.
Step right up! Watch the show’s most daring charmer curl around the most poisonous snake this side of the equator! Meet the show’s gender-fluid snake charmer with the dual human ability to twist realities. Finley Sutton charms humans as easily as snakes. Both manipulative and cunning, those who truly know Finley—no one we know—understand he/she cannot be trusted for he/she has no interest in truth. At least, that’s the rumor.
Finley Sutton has personal agendas that no one at Lusus Naturae knows. Yet, the illusions he/she spins are imperative to the show’s future. This person is very powerful. Hell, the charmer’s got Dog Boy ready at any moment to kill just for spectacle of it all.
Lusus Naturae Circus’s most loved known sociopath, Sutton is a cunning liar but also knows how to get the truth out of people. Sutton is the show’s biggest uncertainty and is motivated not by what will be in the greater good but only for self.
With a dark past and odd connection to the Hawkings sisters, it’s only a matter of time before Finley intentionally and precisely allows the show’s darkest secret out. Until then, there are motivations and obsessions to derail. There are tales to spin and relationships to change. Like boa constrictors round the gut of a charmer’s waist, Finley Sutton will stop at nothing to ensure that karma is arranged.
It’s an act you can’t afford to miss and at $19.99, where’s the complaint? I’m telling you, folks, this is an act to see!
What carnival would be complete without a human seal? A natural freak, Whispers Spinler-Goorick suffers from a condition known as phocomelia. She has no arms to speak of and is otherwise known as Seal Girl. It’s marvelous, indeed. The tiny stubs that would have been her arms grow out from her shoulders and look more like hands; each with three fingers. Yes. You heard that right: a grand total of six. People often compare her to a pinniped. A natural-born freak, she is one of the oddity tent’s greatest commodities and the candy apple of her Giant father’s eye. She is well-liked by most all the other freaks and the surrogate daughter of the show’s fat lady, Truly.
But the show’s not over. We’ve only just begun. If you look at the base of your rows, we are selling popcorn. Just $5 will get you some! What we have to offer you here is better than any reality show. Ladies! Listen up. Whispers is in love with Church Schow. She despises the Hawkings sisters—specifically Shirley—for this reason. The two are known for fights Rosa is left to break up or ignore. And when you’re bettin’ on half of a conjoined twin or a human seal, where do you lay your cards? Before you lay down your chips, you should know more:
Whispers has no current biological family to speak of. As a child, she was locked in the attic of her well-to-do biological family’s massive home. Her birth mother, a devout follower of extreme religious beliefs, believed her daughter’s deformities were punishment for a one-time affair with a man who called himself a profit. Of this fact, Whispers’ biological mother’s husband, was entirely unaware. But fret not, ladies and gents. It’s not like it mattered. For this reason and her spectacular deformities, Whispers was dropped off at the circus and left with Truly at ten years old.
It was a blessing the kind you read about only in the curiosities tents. Down six trailers and straight to your left. Since joining the show a decade ago, she’s never looked back and wouldn’t want to be found. For us, the circus is home. Don’t believe me? Ask her yourself for a $10 VIP pass. She will tell you that even if her birth mother changed her mind, Whispers would never go back. Not even if she had her heart torn in two by Church and a twig of a twin called Left.
It doesn’t end there. Not even close. What show would be whole without a little person clown? Fully grown, Church Schow stands forty-three inches and weighs less than seventy pounds. He is considered the modern-day Tom Thumb. Church does his best to avoid drama but it always seems to find him especially when it comes to Left and Right. Like I told you before, Left—Shirley Hawking—is in love with him. He isn’t quite sure the feelings are mutual and would rather not deal with it at all if it means competing with shock artist Slash Jones.
Church works as the show’s ringmaster and dresses as a clown. He can’t figure out why Dog Boy is so jealous of him. Slash? Well, that’s easy. He’s always wanted to be a natural born freak and is in love with Right. But Dog Boy? He’s the best kind of freak there is – he can hide his mutation and pull it out only on demand. Church would rather have a tail than be a little person. He could hide a tail.
Most days, Church does the best he can to avoid spectacle. He’s rarely successful. At night, after the lights go down, he likes to spend time with Left but more as a friend than anything. At least, this is what he tells himself. He can’t imagine a life trying to deal with Right’s snoring. Still, there’s something about Shirley.
Neither of them get enough sleep because of late nights sneaking whisky. And lately, he’s been grouchy because time alone with Shirl has been rare with Slash constantly around for Rose. That’s not all. It’s even worse with Whispers—a girl Left believes far too young for him—chasing him. At the end of the day, he’s starting to wish he’d never agreed to be part of the show at all. He’s beginning to rethink everything. But what would the show be without its favored clown?
It’s not done, folks! Beyond the sights lie the sounds. Hear that? It’s the voice of an angel. The show’s token fat lady (who sings) Truly ‘Dimps’ Abbot-Goorick is known to consume 10,000 calories a day with the current weight of 683, a bust line of 72 inches, upper arms of 44 inches, and the best singing voice anyone’s ever heard. She is well-liked by the rest of the freaks and known as the show’s mother figure to a heck of a lot more anomalies than just our Seal Girl, Whispers.
When not stuffing pies down, Dimps is often found breaking up scuffles between younger performers and serves as the troupe’s confidant. She is adopted mother to Seal Girl and regrets not having children of her own. Still, she’s made peace with decisions of the past and always does her best to look forward toward the best interests of the show.
Married to giant Logan, Truly is not afraid to stand up to over-sized him or anyone else. Because of her close relationship with Lusus—the show’s top dog—she is well respected among the freaks but looked down upon by nutrition-conscious townies from one fairground to the next. She’s over it.
Lately, she just doesn’t have the same desire for eating. It’s a problem – given that the show’s finances are struggling and her entire act depends on the size of both her appetite and diameter. She tells herself this may not be a problem for long, not with Lusus’ attention on rebranding the whole of the show. And certainly not with other key act waistlines growing on their own…
Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown
Business plans and measurements aside, and even after the fat lady sings, the midway wheezes on! There are shock artists here to delight. You, too, can be awed and amazed as they risk their very lives to send you away with memories of a lifetime!
Born with a cleft palate so severe it looks like his face was split by an ax, Bailey ‘Ax’ Brown is constantly drooling and not just over swallowing swords. He’s taken advantage of his deformity and has turned his situation into natural lubricant repurposed to amuse.
He swallows swords like no one can. As not only a natural born ‘freak,’ but a shock performer, he swigs flames too. To help his body cope with things like the nails he pounds through his nose, he uses saline spray – a trick only a circus like ours would be transparent enough to tell you! Ax also ingests charcoal tablets to deal with the effects of swallowed glass and ash in his system. His life goal is to win on the reality television show “Fear Factor” and—believe me, ladies and gents—he stands a hell of a chance. Now, if he can only get over his fear of snakes…
These days, Ax can’t get his mind off another goal: kissing a man who stands six feet tall, is covered in ink and has a modified horn sewn into his abdomen. Ax’s mentee and intended future lifelong mate, this artificial freak is constantly following him around. Ax doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he would love to get closer to Slash Jones.
He only has one complaint. Or maybe it’s two or three? You, ladies and gents, decide for yourselves what number that might be. Here’s what Ax thinks: If only Slash would stop being so envious of him and chasing after the twins. But love is never that simple. For years, there’s been tension between the pair. Ax believes it boils down to Slash being jealous of his own natural mutations. But it’s not like he asked to be born like this. Determined to win Slash’s love, Ax continually promises Slash he’ll help him become one of the best shock artists the show’s ever seen. It’s a promise he fully intends to keep. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. And it still leaves them with the problem of Shirley.
It’s hard being a rarity. That’s what Slash doesn’t understand. Most days, Bailey believes he has no true friends and often complains he feels very alone. This might not be a problem at all, if it wasn’t for Finley – a guy with an agenda all his own who has set out to help Ax land his tattooed crush. There are times, folks, when keeping track of it all is exhausting. That’s when the tales come in. Here, they are both the kind that you spin and the other you’d find on a dog.
Which brings me here, my friends. Children of all ages: meet our newest freak. It is said Dog Boy is the most elusive and terrifying of them all.
Xavier Michael Gleason was born with a four-inch hairless and furless tail. Others tease him about this and call it his ‘fairy tale.’ He hates it. He’s tired of being teased. It’s been happening since he was a kid living with a wanna-be witch and beast.
Dog Boy has secrets that are lesser known than his contempt for bullies. Can you keep a secret please? What happens at Lusus Naturae must stay here and here alone. Dog Boy’s is a secret to keep to ensure the show goes on.
Severely abused as a child, Xavier came to show to run away from a former life as a Halloween haunted hayride performer where he killed multiple people playing the master of karma.
Now, and new to Lusus Nature Circus, he’s trying to play it straight and regrets the life he led that brought him to become rabid in every sense of the word.
But with a canine half breed comes loyalty. Xavier is closely aligned with Finley – enough to kill for him/her. And the show’s freaks are the first family Dog Boy has ever really known. Because of this and with his violent past, Xavier is also considered the protector of the freaks yet most don’t really know why. In their confusion, though, they aren’t alone.
Dog Boy has no idea that Rosa can see his past, present and future and that, even under the veil of dark tents, secrets are mostly impossible to keep. It is, perhaps, the circus show’s most epic curiosity of them all.
Speaking of things curious: Logan Goorick, stands about eight feet, 6 ½ inches tall. He weighs 425 pounds and wears size 24 shoes. He was not employable in the outside world because he didn’t fit well into tiny shops and offices. Besides, constant questions of why he didn’t play basketball quickly got old. Logan came to the show at thirty years old.
These days, and only for now, he runs the travelling oddities tents and works during his off time as the show’s top freak finder. He has a problem with townies—that’s you, folks—and anyone considered ‘normal’. He doesn’t trust them. At the same time, he wishes to be one of them. It would be nice to blend in to a crowd. His one exception to this is the average-born freaks in the circus who work as shock performers. Those, he respects and those alone.
Logan is gentle and soft-spoken most of the time but has quite the temper behind closed doors. He is newly married to Truly – the show’s singing fat lady and has come to adore their adopted daughter Whispers.
Lately, his frustrations come with rumors that Lusus—the show’s boss lady—has plans to take the curiosities tents down. She believes they are bad publicity. But in an era fixated on what is or isn’t ‘PC,’ the old-fashioned giant still believes there’s fortune to be made off the show’s legacy of selling the most extreme and unusual curiosities. He’s determined to convince her. After all, it’s the freaks that sell the show. And boy, he would know…
Ladies and gents – the one you’re been waiting for! With no further ado, the star of our show! Let’s get a round of applause for our very own Lusus!
Lusus Naturae-Voss is an enchanted fortune teller with the ability to read thoughts and fates on demand. She is also the show’s top boss and namesake. Alas, it didn’t start out that way.
Ironically, she was born entirely normal; an unfortunate thing the way she sees it. Lately, she feels like she spends more of her time than anything doing a lot of babysitting. She’s tired of it and tries to leave most of that up to her best friend, Truly. Generally, and like with many things, she’s unsuccessful.
Lusus is married to Frankie Voss, otherwise known as Lizard Man. She desperately hopes to get pregnant but her abilities tell her a baby freak isn’t exactly in the cards. She’s determined to ignore her instincts and shove lady luck in her direction. For now, she’ll have to settle on babying the show.
Lusus, like Slash Jones and Skeleton Man, comes from a long line of natural-born freaks. Other than being born with supernatural abilities and the gift of mind reading, she appears entirely normal. Still, she can relate to the physically deformed and has always aligned with their struggles.
Even with her limited freakishness, at times, she believes her gifts to be more of a curse than anything. For this reason, she has learned to turn it off and rarely gives readings. These days, she has no interest in talking to Rosa – the only other at the show to share her abilities. Something tells her there’s something Rosa would want her to know.
When she and Truly aren’t in cahoots about how to better manage the show, they talk recipes, books, fertility and even weather patterns – anything to feel normal. Sometimes, extraordinary circus life gets old.
Still, the circus is what Lusus knows. For this reason, she has grown her hair out so long she can step on it. She believes cutting it would curse the show and—like The Tattooed Man—enjoys playing with matters of self-expression. Besides, she’s read that femininity equates to better fertility.
Like Truly and Slash Jones, Lusus sees natural born freaks as wonders and wants to do something about the circus arts’ legacy of using them poorly. She’s determined to make Lusus Naturae Circus a forever home to the otherwise abandoned. There is nothing she won’t do, including risk the show, to make it a safer place for her someday-child and the others who are coming of age in the show. The problem is, when she turns on her abilities, she identifies the illusion to it all.
First things first. With the circus in another financial crunch, Lusus is determined to shut the curiosities tents down and replace them with exhibits more freak-friendly. It will not be another House of Flesh – she’s sure about that. But Giant and the rest of the show continue to resist. It’s a business decision that will put her at odds with the very freaks she’s trying to protect. Because at the circus? The spectacle of even the littlest of details never runs old.
Step closer to our exhibition tents where men so thin will show you their bones! While the boss is juggling matters of business, Skeleton Man is ignoring them as a living anatomy chart. He’ll show you his ribs for a mere fifty cents. Got a dollar? A full-on leg bone.
You see, folks, Nolan Ranson can’t put on weight no matter how hard he tries. Six feet tall and 110 pounds, Skeleton Man has given up on marathon eating sessions and tips from Truly. He is who he is, he supposes. With his health starting to fail, he can’t help but worry.
He also suffers from a skin condition that makes his hair fall out. He’s tired of distressing about it. After all, the circus is his home. For now, he vows to try to play content. His act involves riding around on miniature ponies. He is in love with Finley Sutton but temporarily has no idea how mentally ill the show’s resident snake charmer really is. For this reason, brutally honest Skeleton Man in great danger. An animal lover, it may take making friends with a man who is half-dog to save himself.
You thought that was all? No, no! We have every kind of freak in this show. Lizard Man is the scariest-looing of all. Frankie Voss suffers from a skin condition that makes his skin scaly like a reptile. He’d kill to have skin like Skeleton Man’s. He figures, at least, bald, there are no scales.
Newly married to Lusus, the show’s owner and boss, Frankie is well-regarded but not on his own merit. He is often referred to as ‘Mr. Lusus.’ He resents the fact that even though he was born a natural freak, he hasn’t yet carved out a practiced shock act of his own.
He often hangs out with Ax, Slash and the other shock artists to learn new tricks but hasn’t come up with anything of substance quite yet. He’s tired of the never-ending drama and often wonders if he made a mistake in marrying Lusus.
Lizard Man’s not sure circus life in a travelling show is a place for a kid at all. He’s made sure not to pass on what could only be a retched legacy to an impossible-now baby freak. The only problem is, his wife—and the boss lady in charge—doesn’t know.
Worse yet? There are other issues at hand. Lusus plans to replace the freak tents with something more ‘politically correct.’ Secretly, Frankie is in agreement with the others. Ditching the freak tents would be the death of the carnival. Yet, he’s torn. If she followed through, it might give them all a chance to start over.
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Follow my journey through the crazy world of indie publishing, writing and growing a business. Here, you'll find news on releases i am excited about, support for other authors through blog tours and blitzes because #Sharingiscaring and more!
Erin Lee, who also writes as EL George, is a USA Today Bestselling multi genre author unafraid to chase the madness. Author of more than 100 titles and creator of Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC, she'll try anything once and never turns down a dare.