RaeBeth is the author of YA novel Silenced, the first in the Silenced series.
The book chronicles the teenage life of Amber Brown, outwardly a normal moody teenager struggling with acclimating to a new town in West Virginia, and trying to balance school, parental relationships, making new friends, and her new boyfriend Landon. To complicate matters, Amber discovers early in the book that the person she has known her whole life as her father, the very supportive Dave, is not her biological father, and that her mother and Dave have lied to her whole life. One of Amber's few solaces becomes the time she spends alone in her bathroom cutting, the releasing of blood and the self-inflicted wounds substituted for the lack of emotional connection she is able to make with others.

The excerpt below is from early in the novel, after Amber finds out that Dave is not her real father.

I stop talking and head out of her office. I trudge to my room crying. The pain's flowing generously right through my body. It's attacking my delicate heart trat tries so hard to be strong. That's where it fails. It hurts and once again the darkness is getting the best of me. I settle myself down, and notice I'm not in my room. I'm in the bathroom. It's hard to manage the pain. I swiftfly pull down my flannel, red checkered night pants and sit on the toilet. I turn to get the blade and see I already grabbed it from its cubby hole.

I drag the blade across my upper thigh. Blood rushes out and fills my hand. The warmth of it feels good, along with the sting, which is normal. All of a sudden everything goes blurry and I get lightheaded. I hurry up and recline myself on the toilet, the best that I can. This never happened to me before.

Sarah was a pro. She cut longer than I did. She taught me that the thigh has thicker skin, therefore you have to apply more pressure. I never tried, until now. Did I do it wrong? Did I hit a vein? I hope not. I bring myself back from nearly passing out by grabbing a cold washcloth . Three minutes pass before I check to see if I can stand up.

Q: Tell me about your novel “Silenced.” When did you originally start the story? How did it evolve? What was the original kernel or acorn that became the story?

I first started Silenced as a high school writing assignment and it was considered a short story. It evolved when my younger sister, Audra read it and suggested I added onto it. She’s not much of a reader, so when she told me this, I knew my story had to be special. The original idea came from my own experiences that I added on to as I did more research and interviewed more people for it. The main character is basically based off of several different people and her experiences within the book are actual events that has happened in real life to some of those people.

Q: Give me a brief bio of your life:

I started out writing poetry for myself as a way to express my feelings. Then I found the love of writing during my English class in high school. From there I put poetry to the side and began writing books. When I’m not focused on spending time with my family, I’m writing or blogging. I have a blog where I help promote other authors and their work. I’m a mother to one beautiful six year old little girl and I have another on the way. I’m married to the man of my dreams who supports every aspect of my writing. 

Q: What would you say are your strengths as a writer?

I’m very organized. When I have something that needs done I get it done promptly. I don’t like to have it hanging around waiting to be completed. I’m the type of writer that will not hesitate to help another out. I think as a writer we (writers) should stick together. Especially self published.

Q: What are you working on now?

I’m in the process of finishing up the second part to Silenced which I’ve titled, “Silenced: The Overtaking.” I’m also working on a paranormal series which I am not going to talk much about seeing how it’s a long way from being published.

Q: What publications has your work appeared in?

At this time I have a poem I wrote that will be published into a book where several authors have come together to create it. I’ve had some of my poetry published on poetry.com.

Q: Who are your primary influences, or inspirations, as a writer?

My primary influence as a writer is life. There are so many things out there that can be wrote about and it’s hard to pick one to start with.

Q: How has your upbringing influenced your work, if at all?

As I was growing up, my mother pushed the books and reading more than television or games. We didn’t have cable, a computer, or gaming system. She felt (and still feels) that all of these, at times, tend to over take some people. There’s so much more to life then electronics. I believe if my mother didn’t do this, then I may not have found my love for books or writing. So a HUGE thanks goes out to her to helping me find one of my true loves within life.

Q: What inspires you the most (e.g. music, landscape/nature, written word, life, etc.)?

Inspiration comes from many things but as I said above... life is my primary influence. I do tend to get inspiration from other books or articles.

Q: What are you reading right now?

At this time I’m reading three different books when I have the time.

Bread of Fools , by Duncan McGonall

Burning Bridges , by Nadège Richards

The Hope Habit: How to confidently expect God's goodness in your life  by Terry Law, Jim Gilbert

Q: What authors, when you read them, make you think, “I’m giving up writing because I will never be as good as them?”

I don’t believe there was an author to actually make me think this. There’s been a few to make me think that I want to be like them with my own writing. Thus giving me more drive to write better and get my work out there. I’d rather not name them because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m taking favoritism.

Q: Why do you write?

Here’s my own quote that I life by and that answers this question. “I don’t write to impress. I write to express!!”

Q: If you weren’t writing, what else would you be doing?

I’d be preparing blog posts for interviews, tours, or reviews for other authors on my blog. I’d be helping to share the work of other authors where I can. When I’m not doing that I’m cleaning my house or reading.

Q: Name your top five favorite books and/or top five favorite authors?

Oh this one is a hard one because there are so many great books/authors out there. Therefore, I can’t answer this one.

Q: What is your non-writing claim to fame?

This I am also unsure of because I’m not famous... therefore I don’t know.

And now we get into the non-writerly questions of the interview:

Q: What is your favorite beverage?

I love water but I also enjoy my coffee.

Q: What is your favorite curse word?

I don’t curse.

Q: Favorite food.

Cereal, Cocoa Wheat’s, and Pizza... I can’t choose just one here.

Q: What is your most vivid memory?

There’s so many. But the two that I won’t ever forget is the day I got married and the birth of my daughter.

Q: What is your favorite sound?

I love hearing rain and thunder.

Q: What is your least favorite sound?

Any high pitched noises. They agitate me. 

Q: If heaven exists, what do you think God will say upon meeting you at the pearly gates? What would you want him to say?

For me... I believe heaven most certainly exists. I think God will be greeting me with open arms and say “Job well done.” I try to be the best Christian I can. As it’s known... there’s no perfect Christian but one can try to be.  I would say, “Finally... I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.”

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Now I am become love, the other destroyer of worlds.

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Motel Room

Bernard's on the bed, head down, hand shielding his eyes. "Just wait til tomorrow."
On the far side, facing away, she puts her shirt back on.

Recently I showed a friend a story, with the caveat that it was not like most of my stories. This one was sentimental in nature. (Most of my stories tend to be slightly melancholic or darker in tone.) This led to a conversation about sentimentality and how I try to keep mine buried under a veil of detachment, irony, and absurdity. She contested that (much like Dr. Cox in Scrubs) to anyone paying attention, it wasn't buried all that deep down.

I am also an obsessive list maker. I have been known to make lists of lists, and my to-do lists are often so onerous as to be overwhelming.

Which, by way of a long introduction, brings me to the point of this post: my favorite Christmas songs. I don't really like Christmas songs. They are full of ersatz and cliched sentimentality, jarring melodies, and bad musical arrangements. And most are filled with such saccharine imagery that it renders the complex and wonderful humanity of everyone useless and non-existent. However, there are some I like, and they tend to be understated, subtle, sentimental, and try to acknowledge the simple goal of the season: to find and spread joy and hope in whatever peaceful way we can, and to enjoy and make the best of that which we have already.

This is not a definitive list: what's listed at number one is not necessarily my favorite song. And it will change over time.

First, the others:
Sister Winter - Sufjan Stevens; 12 Days of Christmas - John Denver and the Muppets; Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley; Father Christmas - The Kinks; Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby and David Bowie (and Will Ferrell's and John C. Reilly's spoof); Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis - Neko Case cover version (Tom Waits' original is found here); Christmas Time Is Here - Charlie Brown Christmas; Hark, the Herald Angels Sing - Charlie Brown Christmas

Now, the top 5 (er, 6):

5a. Just Like Christmas - Low

From Low's EP Christmas, this song, in its simple lyrics, shows how we have mistaken the physical aspects of the season (snow, cold winter) for the idea of Christmas. When Christmas isn't about the snow or anything weather related. it's about wonder and joy and recapturing a sense of childhood and youth:

On our way from Stockholm,
It started to snow,
And you said it was like Christmas,
But you were wrong,
It wasn't like Christmas at all.

By the time we got to Oslo,
The snow was gone,
And we got lost,
The beds were small,
But we felt so young.

It was just like Christmas...

Also, the melody is catchy and the ever-present sleigh bells accompany the tune but don't overwhelm it. Besides, Mimi Parker's voice is so pure and captivating, she could sing the telephone book and make it sound poignant.

5a. 25th December - Everything But The Girl

I'm a sucker for songs about missed romantic opportunity; it speaks to the introvert and hopeful romantic inside of me. But this song is more than that. It's also about the possibility of reconciliation and the undying embers of hope. The narrator is home for Christmas and he is surrounded by his family and their traditions. And while there, he realizes he could have had the connection with the someone in his life he wanted so many years before. Since it's the season of restored hope, he convinces himself that perhaps there still is a chance, that this opportunity hasn't passed him by:

And all of a sudden I´m struck with an urge to unlock a door
With a key that´s too big for my hands
And I drop it, and it falls at your feet.

Come on, come on, it´s there at your feet.
And I never, no I never ever realized.
And I never, no I never ever realized.

That we aren't given any closure (did he? did she? do they?) speaks to the universal humanity of the song. Sometimes situations don't have a happy ending, but sometimes they do. And isn't renewed hope and joy what Christmas is supposedly about anyway?

4. 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night - Simon and Garfunkel

I love artists who try to speak truth to power, who get us to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. When it is done with a whisper and not with a scream. it is so much more powerful.  Simon and Garfunkel, in 1966, took the meditative, sacred tune of Silent Night (itself historically significant as it was sung simultaneously by English, French, and German soldiers on the front lines in WWI to commemorate the Christmas truce) and seamlessly spliced together snippets of newscasts from the time. The overdubbing subversively showed that, despite the season, avarice, greed, war, and the quest for power were still being practiced and pursued by politicians and that general chaos was still rampant among the citizenry. It may not be the spoon-fed confections we want at Christmas, but it does show us that in order to be better people, this is what we need not do. And it also shows, in the wake of our own national tragedies and needlessly never-ending wars, that in 45 years not much has changed.

3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Aimee Mann
Many have covered this song and some claim that other versions are better. But for me, this version stands out. I may be admittedly biased as Aimee Mann is one of my favorite artists. But people with amazing voices tend to let their voice be the focus. With this version, the lyrics and the message of the song are at the forefront:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow

It's one of the few examples where generalities work to acknowledge the universality and ambiguity of each person.  It acknowledges that we all have troubles, however we define them. But it also conveys better than anything else the purpose of the season (and life itself): get together with those you love and who love you and for this brief period, try to live in the now.
Mann's vocals are always a combination of vulnerability and strength, reassuring us that all will be okay. Christmas songs, and music, don't get much better than this.

2. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues (with Kristy MacColl)
Nothing says Christmas spirit quite like a drunken, dysfunctional relationship. Ah... the holidays. Any song that starts out with the lines "It was Christmas Eve, babe/In the drunk tank" is not your standard Bing Crosby suburban Connecticut fare. Shane MacGowan shows us the underside of the season: those with dependency and substance abuse issues, those spending the night in jail, those in verbally abusive relationships, yet it's still filled with hope. It's a testament to MacGowan's talent as a lyricist (and the inherent jauntiness of Irish musical accompaniment: accordion, tin whistle, mandolin, banjo). It's a Christmas gift wrapped in a tattered, faded bow that's been soaked for forty days in a bottle of Bushmills. Yet, it's still a gift ("it's the thought that counts"): we can see what it once was and what it could be again with a little love, a little luck, and a little accordion accompaniment.

1. Cantique Noel (O Holy Night) - Luciano Pavarotti (from the 1978 Christmas Concert in Montreal's Notre Dame Cathedral)
My father loved classical music. I have inherited this love of classical music, perhaps as a result of this album. Every Christmas Eve in the hour or so between dinner preparations being completed and the arrival of guests, my father would go downstairs to his office and put this Pavarotti album on the record player. (Yes, record player. I'm dating myself.) He'd turn the volume as high as it would go. The fact that Pavarotti sings it in its original French just appeals that much more to my sentimental, francophone heart. Thank you, dad.
What are your favorite Christmas/holiday songs?

As always, thank you.

And Merry Christmas!
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New Year's Resolutions.

I don't like them. I don't make them. Sometimes I tell a (bad/obvious) joke that years ago I made a New Year's resolution to not make any resolutions, and I failed. I do make goals, what I want to achieve on both a measurable and a subjective level. Last year I made a handful of goals. I achieved almost all of them, at least the objective ones.

But there is always room for self-improvement. Every year around this time, people across the country... nay, people around the world, will begin to make critical self-assessments, lists of what they believe they can improve, how they want to look, how the new year is going to be different for them, how everything is finally going to change, with a capital C. They'll include things like "lose 15 pounds", "start reading more", "call my parents more often", "exercise more often and maybe run a 5K or a marathon."

I'm calling bullshit.
Everyone making New Year's Resolutions now and waiting until the New Year to start them is going to fail.

I'm not trying to be negative. I'm just trying to slap you all across your self-defeating faces (via this little read blog). If you wait until the New Year to start the things you want to change about yourself now, you're going to fail. And here's why: you don't really mean it. You're going through the motions. If you really wanted to change these things about yourself, you wouldn't wait a few weeks. You'd start now.

It's a simple dictum: if you want to do something, if you want something to change, do it now! By putting it all off until a specified date, you aren't fully engaging in your goals or yourself. You're setting yourself up for failure. For example: "I know I really want to know what all the constellations are and I know it's mid-November and I have a high-speed internet access and I live in the countryside where the city lights don't ruin the night sky and that I'm sitting here watching youtube videos of people getting hit in the nuts or walking into poles, but I think that should be my New Year's Resolution. To learn the constellations." This person (and I've been this person before) is stupid. They could easily achieve this: go online to see which stars are prominent in their hemisphere at that time of year, then go outside to see if they can spot them. Are they going to do this? No, or they would have done so already.

We make resolutions so we can have other people hold us accountable, because we're afraid of holding ourselves accountable. We think that our friends are going to reinforce our lack of will and discipline. They aren't. That doesn't make our friends bad people or that they aren't emotionally invested or excited in seeing you reach your goals. It means that they have their own shit going on and will always (and rightfully so, I may add) take care of their stuff first.

I have created new goals, some measurable, some not. Some are below.

- Qualify for the Boston marathon.
- Get two more long stories (over 3000 words) published.
- Read Virginia Woolf (I've always meant to) and Gravity's Rainbow. (I didn't say understand Gravity's Rainbow; just to read it.)
- Be more honest and direct with people.
- Stop making lists.

What are some of your goals?

As always, thank you.

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I have committed to nothing. Therefore I have committed to something. The first sentence is now moot, and this story will eat itself.

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I sentence you to life: birth, death, wailing-on-the-ground grief, skipping-through-a-field-holding-hands love, repetition.

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Carly Simon's Ex

You're so insecure; you probably think this story is about you.

Well, you would be right.

"So what's the Tequila Kitty project about?"

Enough people have asked me this question lately* so, since today is the official launch of the project, I figured an introduction was in order.

(*Actually very few people have asked me this question, but I wanted an excuse to write about and shamelessly promote the project. Pretending that people have asked me about it would give me an excuse and make this post sound much more conversational in tone. Anyway, I digress...)

The Tequila Kitty Project is an 'exquisite corpse*-type project involving 14 writers. The main character will be the cat in the above photograph.

(*I explain below what Exquisite Corpse is. I mention this technique as it allows me to be slightly pedantic**, and perhaps attract greater readership to this blog since I'm trying to sound all smart and literary and stuff. But I'm digressing again...)

(** Didn't you just say you wanted to make this entry more conversational in tone? Now you're saying it's going to be academic so you can introduce the 'Exquisite Corpse' technique and, by extension, show off how much you've read? Make up your mind!)

The Exquisite Corpse was a technique introduced by the Surrealists in the 1920's by founder Andre Breton. One artist would start a drawing or a story and send it to the next artist/writer, who would add the next part, without being allowed to see what was written before it, or only being allowed to see the last page or paragraph, or, if it were a drawing, the last section. (Examples of surrealist Exquisite Corpse drawings can be seen here.)

(Okay, the pedantry/digressing* is over. This now returns to the little-read blog it has always been.)

(* "You just used the word 'pedantry'!"
"Actually, I thought he said, 'peasantry'."
"Peasantry?! That's class warfare. **)

(** Sorry, dear readers. I keep digressing. Welcome to the Tristram Shandy of blog posts. Back to the explanation of The Tequila Kitty Project...)

Each of the 14 writers, myself included, will compose one chapter. We will only be able to see the previous chapter written. Each writer will have one week to complete their chapter and send to the next person on the list, but they will have full autonomy to create whatever they want, so long as it involves the cat above.

Also, over time, an interview/bio sketch will be posted with each participant of The Tequila Kitty Project in order to introduce each talented writer to a greater audience. *

(* "What if the project doesn't generate as much interest as you think it's going to? What if you don't follow through on your intent to post an interview of each participant?" **)

(**Hey, interior monologue! I'm not going to let you bait me into a hypothetical argument that will prevent me from finishing this blog post. It's not going to happen this time... Oh, damn. It just did. Anyway... Back to the subject.)

As the project progresses, I will be making more public updates to keep people interested, without exposing any of the work-in-progress. It
is scheduled to be completed in mid-February with dissemination of the final product yet to be determined. Some ideas have been proposed and, perhaps, we'll even pull in external/audience suggestions, make it a fully interactive project.

Stay tuned for more news on the Adventures of Tequila Kitty.

As always, thank you.