Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, Guest Post

Guest Blog Post by Author/Poet Elizabeth Hazen

I am honored to share with you a fantastic guest blog post from author and poet Elizabeth Hazen, as part of the wonderful blog tour for “Girls Like Us”.

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For Christmas, which seems like three lifetimes ago, my parents gave my husband a book of interesting words from around the world*. An engineer who has a soft spot for spoonerisms, puns, and wordplay in every form, he found instant delight in this book. Did you know that Germans have a word for the weight we gain from stress-eating? Kummerspeck. Or that the Scots have a word for that awkward pause when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’re introducing? Tartle. Among my favorites are the whimsical Swedish smultronställe, a place of wild strawberries; the romantic Italian dormiveglia, the space between sleeping and waking; and the essential Japanese tsundoku, that pile of unread books on my bedside table that grows with each passing month. 

Needless to say, I took that book of words from my husband, adding one more to my stack.

Getting through my tsundoku – or at least managing it – is one of my goals for this summer. I am a teacher, and the summer brings with it the beautiful freedom of longer days and fewer responsibilities, but the lack of structure –ironically, frustratingly, and inevitably – invites bad habits and a gradual decline into despair over the time I fear I am wasting. As a result, I know I need to impose some kind of schedule – a routine that will keep me on track. Part of that routine, I have decided, will include reading more poetry. 

One of the lessons I most love to teach to my seventh-grade students involves defining poetry. We examine a range of definitions – the top of our heads being blown off, the best words in the best order, language at its most distilled and most powerful. We can debate the specifics, note our preferences, but that words are the poet’s medium is indisputable. Imperfect, delicious, malleable, living, breathing words. It is my love of words that I always return to during the darkest moments, and boy are these days dark. 

In a review of my recent collection, Girls Like Us, Nandini Bhattacharya defines the poem as “ineffable interrogator, ethicist and chronicler of human history.” Indeed, I certainly have found more accuracy and truth in poems than in the newspaper, more solace in poems than in meditation or exercise, more freedom in poems than in the endless walks I take to escape the confines of quarantine. As when I was in the thick of adolescent depression, poems come to rescue me, to remind me that the legacy of human sadness and loss and pain is infinite, but so is our legacy of resilience and power and change. 

Perhaps poems allow us to do what the Dutch call uitwaaien: “to take a break and walk away from the demands of life to clear one’s head.” Or maybe life demands poems, and it is precisely in these moments of trauma and fear and violence that we must dive in head-first. Whatever they do, I am grateful for them. Here are several recent collections by women that I highly recommend. Each, in its own way, has given me what the Icelandic call radljóst: enough light to find my way.

Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne, Peepal Tree, 2014

Thrust by Heather Derr-Smith, Persea Books, 2017

American Samizdat by Jehanne Dubrow, Diode Editions, 2019

The Miracles by Amy Lemmon, C&R Press, 2018

Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Knopf, 2016

Code by Charlotte Pence, Black Lawrence Press, 2020

How to Exterminate the Black Woman by Monica Prince, [Pank Books], 2019

American Lyric Trilogy by Claudia Rankine, Graywolf, 2004, 2014, 2020

The State She’s In by Lesley Wheeler, Tinderbox Editions, 2020

*The book of words I refer to is Other Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Yak with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50162841-girls-like-us

Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2U4wdtg

Alan Squire Publishing (also available is a SoundCloud Audio reading from her first collection): https://alansquirepublishing.com/book-authors/elizabeth-hazen/

Schedule for Blog Tour:

May 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)

May 15: Allie Reads (Review)

May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)

May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)

May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)

June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)

June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)

June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)

June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)

June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)

June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)

June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)

June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

July 9: The Book Connection (Review)

July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)

July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)

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Posted in Interviews

Interview with Author/Poet Lamar Neal

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is me making tv shows with all of my toys. I would have legit tv shows with commercials and everything. I guess my first formal introduction to writing was me at 12/13. I can’t remember what exactly motivated me to put pen to paper but I do remember it being a coping mechanism. I wrote down my thoughts and how I was feeling and I would tear it up. It became my way of letting go.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

My mental health. I like to think that this is my therapy session. I just sat down and vented to myself about everything that bothered me. This book is very autobiographical. I wanted to tell my story in hopes that it can inspire other individuals to tell their truth.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Don’t be afraid to be imperfect, it’s natural. I would hope that we as individuals and a society understands that everything in life is a process. We have to work to keep growing. With that said, we have to have moments of introspection to address something that needs fixing. We have to be able to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “you were wrong.” That type of self-awareness is lacking in the world-well I think it is. To get personal for a moment, therapy is like a curse word in my family. We can look past everything like adultery, drugs, alcohol, abuse, but therapy is where everyone draws the line. I hope that people can read this book and feel empowered to speak their truth-ugly or not. We cannot process as people or a society without that happening

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Music. I love music but I don’t have the talent to create my own. Songs aren’t anything but poetry over beats, In my opinion. I took the musical aspect out of it and just wrote. I love just how raw and honest you can be in a poem. You don’t have to worry about anything but saying how you feel. I love writing narratives like novels and short stories but at times it’s confining. With a poem, I’m just free.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

James Joyce. I would ask him what was that old man doing in “An Encounter.” I know he was doing something gross but I want him to tell me specifically. In that short story, he never explains what he’s doing, and the kids just reacted. So I just need to know. Besides James Joyce, I would love to sit with Gil Scott Heron. He’s not an author but he’s amazing. I don’t even want to ask him a question, I just want to hear him talk.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Instagram. Most definitely. I’d probably say 100% of my fan base came from Instagram.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Write. And never stop writing. It doesn’t have to be everyday but keep writing. And forget all these rules. Write what you feel, write what you think. I remember when I first started writing poetry, I was trying too hard to follow all these rules and textbook examples of what poetry should look and sound like. Then I realized that there are no rules in art. You just express yourself and I guarantee you there would be dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of individuals who feel the same way.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I like to tell myself I’ll retire but I have a soul of creator so I’m always going to be writing in some way or another. My last two books were collections of poetry but I think I want to go back to my other love, writing novels. So before I’m 30, I might try to publish another novel.

About the Author

Author/Poet Lamar Neal

Outreach specialist by day at a community college. Writer and creative by night. Trying to balance a creative mind in the professional world without succumbing to the doubts every self published writer has. Hopeful that the world will be able to see my writing, not so I can be rich and famous but so I can have my voice heard and connect with others. 

Instagram– @theghostcharades

Twitter-@Ghostcharades

Facebook– /lamarKeonNeal

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Posted in reviews

We All Need Therapy by Lamar Neal Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Trigger Warning: This book of poetry deals with themes and elements of abuse, self-harm and suicide. If these themes are triggering to you, be advised and prepared.

An emotional story of one man’s journey of defining himself and struggling with the world he was born into takes center stage in poet and author Lamar Neal’s poetry book, We All Need Therapy. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

This is a collection of poetry of how a boy, who started whole, encountered the world, which caused some painful cracks to appear in his vessel. He soon learned that when we do not hide your imperfections, a cracked vessel is the one, which lets the light shine through.

The Review

I was taken aback by the beauty and tragedy and pure emotion of this poetry book. The poems spoke to me in a way that touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye. You can feel the poet’s pain and heartbreak in each line, such as this passage from the poem Morning/Mourning:

“Living in the ruins of dreams
I was never supposed to have. Tomorrow we might lose everything Before our hearts can prepare.”

The author does an amazing job weaving themes and issues that plague our world to this day. Challenging the toxic masculinity that haunts young boys who dare to live outside of societal norms, fighting back against racial injustice and dealing with themes of love, loss and the pain of not fitting into the mold set out by our elders/peers, this book brings the causes of both inner turmoil and societal upheaval in our world currently into the spotlight like no other book of poetry out there right now. It also does a great job of addressing mental health overall, challenging this need to label anyone with a mental health condition as “crazy” when they are far from it. It was refreshing to see a poet and author expose their mental health struggles to the world in such an open and honest way, and showcase the need to fight against the stigma of mental health overall.

The Verdict

This is a must read book of poems. Due out on January 25th, 2019, these poems will touch on the struggle to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to fit you into a mold you don’t feel comfortable in. Full of heart, pure emotion and a message of hope and struggle that will help highlight the very healthy need for everyone to get therapy and face that inner turmoil head on. If you love beautiful poetry and raw emotional story telling, then pre-order your copy of We All Need Therapy by Lamar Neal today.

Rating: 10/10

https://www.amazon.com/All-Need-Therapy-Lamar-Neal-ebook/dp/B07JQYYKCL/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&ref_=dbs_s_def_awm_dirs_l_2&storeType=ebooks

Instagram– @theghostcharades

Twitter-@Ghostcharades

Facebook– /lamarKeonNeal

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Find the perfect gift for everyone on your list with the Barnes & Noble Gift Guide.

Posted in reviews

The Sugar Mill by Bhav Mangat and Harp Seehra Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair, honest review. All opinions are my own.

A beautiful collection of poetry comes to life in authors Bhav Mangat and Harp Seehra’s The Sugar Mill. Here’s the synopsis:

“The Sugar Mill” is a doodle filled collection of poetry and prose that explores experiences with distress, love, and cultural taboos. With a strong emphasis on self-discovery and growth, the book proves to be a true celebration of the self and all forms of intimacy. The journey is divided into 4 chapters, each following a different stage of sugar refinement: Cane, Crushing, Cleansing, and Crystallizing.

This story focuses on a central story of a young boy from a very broken home. It tells his story of surviving hardships in his childhood, only to meet a fellow classmate and fall in love. It tells the story of their love, and helps show him the love that never resided in his own life back when he was a kid. It’s a story of childhood lost, love found and making your own family. The writing is beautiful and well done, bringing a light to serious themes and topics like the way women are treated around the world and the insecurities that mistreatment can bring. It also highlights a refreshing amount of love and joy that can be found in the best relationships, as with the poem “I Must Be Scenic”, which depicts the way two people in love view those they love in context with the rest of the world.

Overall this was a wonderfully written poetry book that deserves to be read. Full of hardships, struggles, romance and true love, this is one of those rare books that redefines the genre. With wonderfully innocent doodles that bring a unique form of imagery to life within the poems themselves, this is a wonderful example of how poetry in the modern age looks, and how we should all be absorbing it. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of The Sugar Mill by Bhav Mangat and Harp Seehra today!

Rating: 10/10

 

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Posted in book launch, book news, Book Promotion, Book Related Blog Posts, Personal Blog Posts

Book Release: Blood and Romance by Anthony Avina

Hi there guys. Seven years ago I released a short book of poetry called Blood and Romance. Today I updated the book to better reflect my writing, gave it a cool new cover and finally gave the book a paperback version. Now the book is available in Kindle and Paperback formats. If you enjoy good horror and romance themed poetry, then pick up this cool book for only $4 on Amazon, and best of all it’s available for Prime members (free shipping)! I hope you guys enjoy it and in the comments below if you read the book tell me your favorite poem.

Buy the Book!

Posted in book news, Book Promotion

Valentine’s Day Book Giveaway!

I wanted to let you guys know that two of my books will be free starting today and ending on the 17th! The first is Blood and Romance and the second is At First Glance.

At First Glance: A Frightening Romance Novel https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008X0NK56/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_umVGAbMERH74E

Blood and Romance: A Book of Poetry and Horror https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042P5DP6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_4mVGAbAWZFY7K

Posted in reviews

Pseudo Man by Abdul Sami Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author and poet Abdul Sami shines a light on the dark truth on the realities of life in today’s world in his book of poetry, Pseudo Man. Here’s the synopsis:

The Pseudoman continues to raze the foundations laid down by our ancestors. His greed and self-contempt are corrupting the true essence of humanity. War, pain, loss and futile quarrels have become our absolute fate. Will we ever wake up? Or will we all volunteer to be a casualty of this self-constructed catastrophe?

Although dark, the poems are beautifully written. A vivid use of imagery brings a harsh light onto the horrors of war, crimes against nature and crimes against humanity. The horrors mankind inflicts upon itself and the inability for man to learn from the past of our ancestors leads poet Abdul Sami to create a unique and creative collection of poetry. Although a fast read, the impact is great as the reader delves into the narrative of the poems themselves and starts to ask themselves what their impact on the world is, and forces us to ask how we can change it.

Overall it’s a great collection. Eloquently written and giving a new perspective on the way we view the world, author and poet Abdul Sami has created a fantastic new book that both educates and inspires us all to aspire to be better than those who came before us, and to work towards a better tomorrow to get out of a dark and hellish today. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of Pseudo Man today!

Rating: 10/10

 

Posted in Interviews

Interview with Poet Robin Williams

1) Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I got into writing a month or two after I had planned to end my life, but I started to really write after I lost a friend to suicide. It was my way of coping.
2) What inspired you to write Forest Floor?
Forest Floor was first inspired by my Wildlife class. It was intended to be written for bonus points, but I instead found it complicated to write about nature in my style. So, I went along and just added poetry while keeping the title.
3) What themes do you hope or think are important for readers to take away from your poetry?
I hope readers take away the message that everything will be okay. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even a week from now, but it will be. I’m a survivor and I still struggle, and it’s okay to struggle.
4) What drew you into poetry in particular as a writing genre?
I used to write stories but found myself adding so much description that it took away the liking of my readers. When I came across poetry, I instantly knew that was what I wanted to write. I never believed I was good at writing stories, but poetry was the one thing I found my hope in, and I stuck with it.
5) If you could sit and talk with any writer or poet, who would it be and what would you ask them?
One of my favorite poets is Shelby Mcleroy, aka @slm_poems on Instagram. I would sit down with her and just ask her, How? How did she survive and how does she write so bloody well?
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I believe Instagram has really helped build my readership. It’s much easier to reach people and to find people who really love my work. 
7) What advice would you give to any aspiring writers or authors out there?
I always say write from your heart. Put the raw emotions down onto paper and just let it all flow. If you do that, you have already become one of the best writers ever. 
8) What’s next for you? Any writing projects in the works?
 I have planned to reach out to a publisher after I graduate and to have them publish my longer, completed work Dear Nobody. As of right now, though, I am writing another collection called Salt and Sugar. 
Links:
• Instagram.com/tears.of.porcelain
Posted in reviews

Forest Floor by Robin Williams Review

I received a free copy of this book for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Trigger warning: This book deals with themes of mental illness, self-harm, suicide, political events, death and more.

A beautifully written book of poetry dives into dark, tragic and real themes in our society in poet and author Robin Williams book, Forest Floor. Here’s the synopsis:

Forest Floor takes you on a walk through a mind that has been shadowed by depression, fear, self-harm, and other mental illnesses in the form of poetry.

Taking the tragedy and hardship of life and the experiences the author has had, this book is written beautifully. The themes are hard to deal with and can be uncomfortable, but I think the writer does a great job of not glorifying the themes or making fun of them, but instead bringing a much needed light to them and opening up discussions that need to be had. The imagery is haunting as you explore the heartbreaking life this author is illustrating.

Overall I loved this book of poetry. Although difficult to discuss, these topics do need to be discussed in an honest, kind and open environment. The book itself was thought-provoking and although short, it was evenly paced throughout. It makes you as a reader think and as the author poses, if even one person can be helped by reading these poems and knowing they are not alone, then it will have been worth it. If you or someone you know is struggling with these themes in their lives, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Whether it’s to family, friends or professionals, reach out and get help. It’s never too late and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

If you haven’t yet be sure to also get your copies of Forest Floor by Robin Williams today!

Rating: 10/10

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