Finding A New Normal

Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness

Author Suzan L. Jackson self-published a nonfiction book in February 2020. She describes it as a combination of memoir and self-help. Here’s a synopsis:

Whether you are in the early days of living with chronic illness or have been at it for years (or decades), there are always challenges in living a life framed by limitations and restrictions, where isolation is a common issue. This guide provides inspiration, advice on emotional coping, and guidance on living your best life with chronic illness from someone who’s been there. Though it seems impossible at first, your life will eventually settle into a new normal, and while that life may be different than the one you had planned, it can still be a vibrant, fulfilling life based on strong relationships, a healthy emotional state, and finding joy in every day. The emphasis in this book is on LIVING your life, not just enduring it.

You may also purchase this book through her book sale website or find more information on her personal website. Suzan maintains two blogs: Book blog and Live with MECFS blog.

Suzan has two Facebook pages at bookbybook and Learning to Live with ME/CFS. Send Suzan a Book Tweet or Live with MECFS Tweet. To see what she’s currently reading vist her Goodreads Author Suzan L. Jackson page.

Suzan’s Interview

What is your (1) most favorite thing to do OR (2) least favorite thing to do?

My favorite thing to do is to spend time outdoors with family or friends. Although my physical stamina is quite limited due to chronic illness, I still enjoy short hikes, kayaking, camping, or just being outdoors. When the pandemic started, we switched from meeting friends in a restaurant to hosting friends in our driveway with a campfire in our portable firepit (which helps with social distancing, too). Nature and the outdoors make me happy and help to rejuvenate me, and strong relationships with friends and family sustain me.

Enjoy the outdoors!

You can travel back in time. Will you go back (1) 10 years OR (2) 25 years?

First, I LOVE the idea of time travel. My favorite kinds of novels are those that play with time: time travel, time shifting, parallel universes, etc. I find the “what if …” questions endlessly fascinating! While I am quite content in my life now, it would be wonderful to go back 25 years to before I got sick (19 years ago now), just to experience again what it is like to be able to do anything I want, without restrictions or limitations. I would take long hikes, go backpacking, walk museums for hours, and revel in intense exercise! Also, that would allow me to relive my sons’ childhoods, which would be a blast. I love them as adults, but I do sometimes miss those little kid hugs, playing games together, and reading them books at bedtime.

So understandable!

Are you a person who (1) makes and follows New Year resolutions OR (2) never bothers with resolutions?

I don’t make Resolutions, per se, because they are often BIG changes that are likely to fail. However, I love the fresh start of a new year, and the chance to revisit my goals and think about what I want to do in the coming year. I have 6 Lifetime Goals that rarely change, and for each of those, I set specific Objectives and Targets each year–small things I can do each day to move me closer to my goals. I find these baby steps in the right direction far more effective than resolutions. In fact, the last section of my book is all about improving your life with this sort of process. Even those who are limited by chronic illness (or other challenges) can still make tiny changes to move them toward the life they want to live.

One small step at a time!

What provides more inspiration to you: (1) art OR (2) nature?

Nature! I love spending time outdoors, and I find nature peaceful, calming, and refreshing. Even on my worst illness days, just lying in a chair out on our deck or screened porch–watching the clouds, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze–can rejuvenate me and inspire me. Getting away from the bustle and constant stream of inputs of the modern world and tuning into nature resets my brain.

Very introspective!

(1) Can you name just one favorite novel OR (2) you love too many to just pick one?

I LOVE to read, and I LOVE books! I am an avid reader and have had a book blog for 14 years, where I share reviews of books (and TV and movies, too) with other book lovers. I belong to two book groups and love to discuss books. So, I always have a list of favorite books (I just made my choices for Best Books Read in 2020, for instance) that often changes. However, my favorite book hasn’t changed in many years. It’s one that most people haven’t heard of, REPLAY by Ken Grimwood, a novel about a man in his 40’s who suddenly wakes up back in the body of his 18-year-old self. He gets stuck in an ever-narrowing loop, reliving parts of his life over and over, making different choices each time. It is fascinating and engrossing, heartwarming and heartbreaking. As I mentioned earlier, I love these kinds of novels that play with time mainly because they are so thought-provoking, leading to questions of “What would I do?” Other favorite novels that play with time in my Top 10 of All Time include The Time Traveler’s Wife (gut-wrenching yet joyful) by Audrey Niffenegger and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

A true bibliophile!

Thanks for being interviewed, Suzan!

Finding A New Normal book cover
Finding A New Normal

Maygest’s Tale

Author C.E. Cannery self-published a high fantasy novel in March 2020. Here’s a synopsis:

Maygest, an old thief, who has been conning people for the last decade, finds his way of life extinguished when the tyrannical Lords of Osskrip join forces and destroy all the fugitive enclaves, the only places people are allowed to be people. With no place to go and fearing that death may be near, Maygest sets off in search of a mythical harp that is said will bring peace to the land in a last-ditch effort to redeem himself before he dies. The problem is, the harp only seems to exist in his mind.

You can find out more about this epic fantasy novelist on her blog or at Goodreads Author C.E. Cannery.

C.E.’s Interview

Science has advanced, and we can now colonize other planets. Do you (1) sign up to be a colonist OR (2) remain on Earth?

I would like to be the person who answers (1), but I know I’m a (2). Earth, meaning not just the dirt below my feet, but also the sights and sounds and cultures, is just too ingrained into me. If I had to stay in a lifeless, air-conditioned box on another planet for the rest of my life, I would go insane.

Great reason to stay home!

You prefer (1) to eat a home-cooked meal with family and friends OR (2) to eat in a big-name restaurant?

I know my answer to this is rather bad, but definitely (2). No one in my family can cook. My mum grew up with TV diners. My dad makes bad stir-fry. (And don’t worry, they already know I think this!) My grandma grew up eating tumbleweeds (or that’s what I’ve been told) in the Great Depression, and she can’t cook either. My other grandma, I’ve been told, could cook Thai food, but I never met her before. So definitely, we’d all be much happier going to a fancy restaurant, together.

Nothing wrong with eating out!

What is your (1) most favorite thing to do OR (2) least favorite thing to do?

(Going with (1) on this question.) Definitely my favorite activity has to be hiking. When I am alone in the forest, breathing the fresh air, hearing the birds, feeling the green–that’s when I feel most alive. Hiking has always been almost a spiritual thing for me like descending back into the womb of our ancestors and hearing that eternal silence of being. (And yes, I know that sounds crazy, but, okay, I just really, really like hiking!)

Lovely description!

Your significant other or child asked you to do something you don’t like to do. Do you (1) grin and bear it OR (2) mumble to yourself while doing the task?

I am a grumbler (2). I moan and complain about everything. People who know me, know this, and don’t really take it too badly, since I just complain all the time for pretty much no reason. However, since I am such an introvert, people who don’t know me, think I am stoic, which is pretty much the opposite of what I am. As for why, I think I actually used to be stoic as a kid, but now I get angry pretty quickly, but also calm down just as quick, so it’s more a matter of me speaking my mind a little too often.

Very introspective!

What is your favorite (1) song OR (2) book?

Catch 22. I love this book. It’s so chaotic and topsy-turvy and mad that I can’t look away. It just feels important (and dire). But most importantly, it is the pentacle of sarcasm! I can’t say how much the sarcasm (and darkness) of this book has inspired me in my own writings. And also the combination of humor with darkness–I just love when a book can marry such disparate elements together in a way that doesn’t clash at all!

Interesting insight!

Thanks for being interviewed, C.E.!

Maygest's Tale book cover
Maygest’s Tale


Conversations with My Dogs

Photography author David Leswick said, “My book is a bit of a mix of genres. It is a mix of photographic coffee table book and series of short humorous stories phrased as conversations … It is a book for all ages.” Here’s a synopsis:

A photographic journey through having three fun and lovely dogs in our family. The journey starts with Eva the Brittany who is later joined by Bruno the Golden Retriever and Agnes the genetically diverse rescue dog. The photos and personalities of each dog are revealed via the imagined conversations (i.e. Dogversations) with or between the dogs. The conversations are lighthearted with clean humour and often filled with misunderstandings and puns and center on how the dogs understand and fit into life with their human family. The humor has been likened to the Smothers brothers and Bill Watterson (the creator and writer of Calvin and Hobbs).

David has created a website for his book at Dogversationsbook. You can send an Instagram message to @theDogWearsPantlers, ask him questions on Goodreads Author David Leswick, or read book reviews of his photographic novel.

David’s Interview

You see an amusing incident while grocery shopping. Do you (1) record what happens in some form OR (2) do nothing?

I will record it. I will use cell phone camera if it’s an oddity involving a sign or item that needs to be seen to be appreciated. But if it’s something that involves an interaction or person, I’ll just make a mental note of it instead of invading privacy by pulling out the camera. I will then tell the story to my wife or friends when appropriate. I don’t post about these things on social media as I try to be thoughtful about what I share online and always endeavor to respect the privacy of others.

Respecting another’s privacy is a wonderful trait!

Are you a person who (1) makes and follows New Year resolutions OR (2) never bothers with resolutions?

I often think about making New Year resolutions, but rarely make them formal. The reason that I don’t want to make them at New Years is because we should be able to make changes any time of the year, not just on January 1st. That being said the best resolution that I have made recently (I think it was a mid January one) was to not let data get stale. I’ve tried to apply this at work, at home, and with my photography. For my photography it includes timely sorting, editing, sharing and posting. I don’t always achieve this goal, but when I do it feels great.

Such an admirable goal!

Which is more important: (1) a reduction in global warming OR (2) reduction of communicable diseases?

This has nothing to do with my book and my response is neither clever nor witty, but I feel that I have to answer it as it is a very important and topical issue. I strongly believe that we need to reduce global warming. The science is overwhelming on the topic and our future will be bleak if we do not address it. There are also solutions out there that we must prioritize and adopt for the good of all creatures on earth.

Understandable reasoning!

You’re shopping for a present for a child. Do you buy a stuffed (1) purple elephant or (2) lime green with red spots dog?

The lime green with red spots dog. Elephants are great, but when it comes down to most decisions where a dog is an option – I always go with the dog. That might explain why we have three of them.

LOL of course the dog for you!

What is your (1) favorite book quote OR (2) favorite movie quote?

My favorite movie quote is from Thor in Avengers: Infinity War. When he declares that he needs to go to Nidavellir, Drax challenges him saying “That’s a made up word”. Thor’s response “All words are made up” is just perfect because these five words are at the same time unexpected, accurate, succinct, true and hilarious. Plus the title of my book is a made up word so I think of the quote often.

Interesting explanation of your favorite!

Thanks for being interviewed, David!

Dogversations book cover

April’s Heart

Author Shilah Ferr has published a coming-of-age romance novel. Here’s a synopsis:

Autumn 1977. Thirteen year old cheerleader April Schweiter falls hard for Mitch Hudgins, putting an end to childhood and changing her life forever. April embarks on a coming of age journey full of angst and unanswered questions. And her dysfunctional family is only one of the problems in her way.

Classmate and wrestler Mitch Hudgins can’t get enough of April either. She stirs in him surprising passion that is new, unfamiliar and needs to be explored.

But they say goodbye when they attend schools in different towns, far away from each other. Surely staying together wouldn’t have a chance of working out. But they were crazy for each other! Would breaking up have a chance of working out?

“You guys are the nicest friends anyone could have!” April choked down a sob. She was still emotional at the realization of the future of her romance with the guy who took her virginity, the guy who once told her he loved her, the guy she fought for, the guy with whom she was really very happy with. She was heartbroken but didn’t know it yet.

This romance novel is the story of young love, hot and heavy, with all the drama of high school in the eighties. The ebook contains almost 40 Spotify music links on all the songs in the story, taking you there.

“What are we going to do Mitch?” April whispered.

“I don’t know April, I just don’t see how…” This time it was April who kissed him. She didn’t want him to say what he was going to say. Mitch didn’t want to say it anyway. They wanted things to stay the way they were, but that was impossible.

Find out what happens to the star crossed lovers with the on again, off again romance riddled with breakups.

You can read reviews of her coming-of-age romance novel on her April’s Heart website. You can follow her on Facebook at AprillovesMitch or on her Shilah Ferr page, send her a Tweet, or ask her questions on Goodreads Author Shilah Ferr.

Shilah’s Interview

You prefer (1) to eat a home-cooked meal with family and friends OR (2) to eat in a big-name restaurant?

I completely prefer to have a home cooked meal with family and friends, in fact, cooked by me! I am an avid and fairly accomplished self-taught cook, and I’ve been cooking for years. I even made baby food for my children back in the day and did not buy baby food! I also have done some catering, just because it’s so much fun! We live in Virginia Beach, and when friends or family come to visit I love to entertain in our sunny backyard with a home cooked meal!

A self-made chef among many other accomplishments!

Your significant other or child asked you to do something you don’t like to do. Do you (1) grin and bear it OR (2) mumble to yourself while doing the task?

I am very accommodating. I feel compelled to help. Sometimes when asked, and sometimes without being asked. Everyone needs help attaining their goals, or achieving the greater good. I hold the line if asked to lie or cheat, that is a tough sell for me. There’s got to be a better way. When the going gets tough (I’ve got stories!) I feel protective of the feelings of those in need and prefer to not complain. My dad says I am good at being neutral, and not taking sides.

Neutrality it is!

Do you write (1) when the mood takes your OR (2) at a set time?

I write, and do most other tasks, when the mood or moment strikes me. April’s Heart flowed out of me once all the pieces of the basic plot came together. I wrote every moment I could, feeling so inspired, and enjoyed every minute of it. I was “living” in my little 80’s world there for a while, I was engrossed. When I do not feel like doing something, (like cleaning the house) I try not to fret about it because I have learned time and time again that eventually the mood will hit me and the task will get done!

Definitely working to Glen Miller’s song!

You prefer to watch (1) a sunrise OR (2) a sunset?

As I’ve stated, I live in a beach community. Although I’ve witnessed WAY more sunsets than sunrises, sunrises are truly special. Maybe part of the reason is that you’ve got to be awfully lucky to catch one! Once when temporarily living a block from the beach for a few months, my husband made a point of waking us up a couple times to get our butts up to the sand to watch that first sliver of sun show itself at the horizon. In April’s Heart, April and Mitch spend one special night on the beach and revel not only in the sunrise, but the “Golden Hour”, as it’s called, that occurs once the sun is up. Also something to behold!

Beautiful description!

What is your favorite (1) song OR (2) book?

Some of your readers may know that April’s Heart has almost 40 (37 to be exact) 30 second Spotify music links embedded on all the songs in the ebook edition. Those songs have become (if they weren’t already) very important to me. I think I’d have to say “Strange Magic” by ELO has to take the top prize. So haunting, so angsty, it embodies the raw emotion I love, and tried to emulate for April and Mitch in the story.

Interesting explanation!

What provides more inspiration to you: (1) art OR (2) nature?

I am more inspired by nature than anything. I rely on it. I notice lines and colors, and trust they will work when compiling my own designs. For example, when renovating our home after the washing machine (located upstairs) malfunctioned and flooded the whole house, one simple sea shell became the color pallet. White, beige, and shades of blue have helped us create a beautiful living space! My husband still has the shell somewhere.

Wow! Sounds lovely.

Thanks for being interviewed, Shilah!

April's Heart book cover
April’s Heart