About My Career As Novelist, FEMA Reservist and Grandmother

A lovely interview with writer Effrosyni Moschoudi for her website.

Today I’m pleased to present to you L. Donsky-Levine, another fabulous author from my writer’s group, eNovel Authors at Work.

I understand that The Bad Girl is your literary debut?

Yes. Like many other folks who’ve dreamed about writing that great novel, life required me elsewhere. So, I guess I’m what some might call a late bloomer. It’s taken me a lifetime to get here, but thrilled that I finally made it.

Well, we are too. And, I see, based upon the reviews, that the subject matter is pretty intense. Can I ask what was your inspiration for it?

I can’t say that this exploration into humanity’s darker side where all those social issues we don’t like to talk about roam free, evolved out of any sort of inspiration. As a victim of sexual molestation, as a little girl, as a woman grappling with the shame, the stigma, and the anger I felt toward people and their reality blinders, I knew one day I would write about it, I just didn’t know when. And the strange thing was, I was in the middle of writing a completely different book when the idea of it came back with such full force, and I knew this had to come before all else.

So now that you’ve accomplished that, what’s new, project-wise, on the horizon for L. Donsky-Levine?

I’m actually working on two projects. The first is the book I’d started before THE BAD GIRL. It’s a tale of somewhat more epical proportion that fuses together all those magical things I personally look for when I want to get lost in between the pages of a truly wonderful book: time travel, history, adventure, sex and romance. Oh yeah, gotta have the love factor in there because whatever the problem, whatever the question, the answer will always be the same. Love. Without that . . . what else is there?

So true.

And the second project I’m working on is actually a book club tour. Or should I say “a personal challenge” which I’ve titled: The Bad Girl Book Club Tour. Reading Across America. Fifty States. Fifty Weeks. I’m hoping, as the title indicates, to travel to every state within a year’s time. Now aside from a smattering of states here and there, the majority of my trip will obviously be done, virtually. Which is cool because I belonged to a virtual book club where we all met online and it was such incredible fun. So if there’s anyone out there who belongs to a club in the US or has a friend or relative that they know belongs to one, and they don’t mind doing a little arm-twisting, well then . . . I’d love to hear from you!

Sounds like you definitely have your hands full. But happily. Which leads me to wonder with all that you’re doing, is there anything in particular you like to do to get the creative juice flowing?

There are two definites that never fail me when I sometimes find myself staring at a blank screen. Reading a great book and baking something super delicious. The book (especially if it’s a good one) gets those mental electrodes pumping while the fussing about the kitchen relaxes me. I’ve been baking for a long time. My mother was/is a super baker, so naturally like most little girls we want to emulate our mothers. I was probably around five when I made my first batch of cookies. Chocolate chip. Nothing ever tasted so good as those cookies, warm and gooey right out of the oven with a tall glass of cold milk. Oh yes, yum!

Now that you’ve got my mouth watering, Lauren, I understand you have quite a diverse background. So if you could choose another profession, what would it be?

It’s true. Over the years, I’ve worn a plethora of professional hats. I’ve been a chef, an insurance agent, an executive assistant, a clothing designer, a restaurant general manager, a sales rep, a concierge, a freelance writer, a nanny, a driver, and probably a whole heck of a lot more things I just can’t remember at the moment. But the one profession that I never did achieve and dreamed about from the time I was a little girl, was being an archaeologist. But since I was not the best of students and I’d discovered archaeologists earned very little, I chucked that idea real quick. However, the dream never left me. And so now, even though I’ll never be able to put on my Indiana Jones hat (not in public anyway), I have the next best thing that will make all that possible for me: a pen.

I understand that in addition to now writing full-time, you’re also a hands-on grandmother; you paint and you’re a FEMA Reservist, too. That sounds like a lot.

Yes, now that you say it that way, it does. But it somehow works. And given the fact I’m the world’s greatest juggler, doesn’t hurt any. I love spending time with my granddaughter; she’s the love of my life. Painting, for me, is like breathing. And as far as my work with FEMA, I can think of no other honor than being of service to my country men and women when they need a helping hand the most.

What would you say you enjoy the most as an indie author that you imagine you wouldn’t if you were traditionally published? And if you had a choice would you still go indie?

As many of us know all too well, being an indie author requires a lot of hard, hard work. That and a never-ending capacity to wear so many different hats when all we really want to do is just write and leave all that other business to someone else. We’re writers and that’s our first priority. But ultimately we’re in the catbird seat. We get to control our own destiny, and I love that. And somehow, I can’t help but imagine going traditional would change things. Would bite into my freedom to work at my own pace, to write perhaps what I want, how I want, when I want. And if you’re asking me, knowing that, given a choice, would I still go indie? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps if the contract offered a whole heap of zeros in there . . . I just might!

Speaking of authors. Do you have any favorites you’d like to share? And if so, what do you love about them?

Oh gee, there are so many that I love and admire. But if I had to narrow down the field I’d have to say: Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon and Tess Gerritsen. Anne Rice was/is an original. She brought us tales of sophisticated and sexy vampires long before anyone else. And talk about a powerful sex scene, wow, this lady has that down pat.

Same for Diana Gabaldon. I love the way she drew me into the Outlander series. Slam, bam, thank you ma’am! Everything about each book, is unique. And so well written that when I wasn’t reading about the characters, I was thinking about them.

Tess Gerritsen though is in a different arena. The mystery/thriller genre that requires a deft hand and sharp mind to keep the plot reeling and the pages turning. She has all those qualities and more. She’s one of those writers I read everything she puts out. I love her writing. It’s clean and cracker-jack crisp. Something I continuously aspire to.

What would you consider the biggest life lesson you’ve learned the hard way?

That nothing lasts forever. Life happens in a blink. One minute we can have it all, or what seems like the happiest of situations, and then without even realizing it, it’s gone. I’ve experienced what many people experience. The loss of a great job, the loss of a marriage, the loss of someone dear. And for me that was my sister. I can’t say that my every waking thought has been filled with regret: things I wished I’d said to her, things I wished I’d done differently. But they’re there. Like a needling reminder to call my children and tell them I love them, or to hug my parents . . . while I still can.

I appreciate you sharing that with us, Lauren. And if I might ask you one last question … how would you like to be remembered?

Oh, that’s easy! I want to be remembered as that sassy New York girl who loved black and white cookies, and finally made good. And for those folks out there who don’t know what black and white cookies are . . . like the state tree or state flower, it’s New York’s state cookie.

 

 

 

Delightful Author Effrosyni Moschoudi is all about her homeland, Greece. One of my favorite places in the world. To learn about her novels, click on the cover below.

Goddess

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Victims. Heroes. And A Mother’s Greatest Anguish.

As a first-time mother with my son, I suffered through the normal nervous Nellie routine. But by the time I had my second child, a girl, I’d eased into the daily grind of two opposing forces of nature, like a pro. All the baby books and constant calls to my mother became a thing of the past, and something I only reverted to on the rarest of occasions when I found myself at a loss for common sense. The single greatest gift I trusted to guide me in my journey of life.

I was blessed with two healthy children. Two little people who sought from me everything to make their worlds whole. I watched them grow. I cried when they cried. I beamed as they became the human beings I had always hoped they would. What more could a mother possibly ask for? To see her sons and daughters add a positive measure to society, to forge ahead brightly with passion and hope in their eyes.

Yup, all the good stuff.

That’s what we, as mothers and fathers, imagine for our children. What we bring to the parenting table. But it would be foolish to believe that’s all we bring. We can’t envision ourselves as poor role models, people with flaws that resemble all that’s wrong with our society. The bigotry. The racism. The cynicism. The apathy. Of course not! How ridiculous! But the truth is, we are all those things too. Well, some of them, anyway. In one shape form or another, one degree or another, because hey, guess what … we’re human. Beings as God intended us. And fallible.

Which leads me to believe that it is because we’re imperfect, our lives take on greater meaning. It gives us something to aspire to, something to make amends for. It is the one thing that forces us to look inwardly and ask the hard question: Who are we really?

For me, nothing screams louder to this point than the Stanford sexual assault case. Serving to remind us of a great many things:

  • That heroes do exist. That when injustice crosses their path, there are still those out there that will rise to the occasion. No matter the cost. And to those two men who charged in and stopped Brock Turner from doing further damage, I salute you.
  • What does not kill us, makes us stronger. Though the victim remains anonymous, we will forever identify with her faceless, indelible spirit.
  • How blind justice really is. Thanks Judge Aaron Persky for bringing that one home to us.
  • How ignorant and unconscionable a father can be. Loved Dan Turner’s statement regarding his son’s six-month jail sentence: “A steep price to pay for twenty minutes of actions out of his twenty plus years of life.” So Dan … let me ask you. When exactly would these “actions” constitute a crime? Twenty-five minutes?
  • A mother’s love has no boundaries. As I read Carleen Turner’s plea for her son asking the judge to spare him ANY jail time, further stating: “He won’t survive it. His dreams have been shattered. No medical school, no becoming an Orthopedic surgeon,” I had to pause right there. Because if I dare put myself in her shoes, I can easily be Carleen Turner. I can easily understand how she feels. I can easily see in one unbelievable, horrific moment all those dreams she had for her child, shatter into a million pieces right before her eyes. But as I continue to ponder the situation and not hear one mention of the real victim in this story, I pull away. I look at their daughter standing on the sideline wondering would her parents still be singing that tune if she was the one victimized. I look at my daughter. I look at myself and all those like me and say “that’s it!” Because I know exactly what it means to have my voice snuffed out by those twenty minutes of action.

I wish to God I didn’t. But I do, and it is because of that experience, I have hammered into my son growing up how important it is to respect women and into my daughter, love of self.

Would I have been a different mother if this didn’t happen to me? I don’t know. But I can honestly say that if my son was Brock Turner, my heart would be broken too, imagining what horrible things awaited him. Yes, I would cry for him. Yes, I would fear that his life from this moment on, was in jeopardy. But I also know I would want him to accept responsibility for what he did. Without that simple act, there is no atonement. And everything else is pure bullshit.

I believe that as our children grow into adulthood, they are responsible for their own actions. But before that day, it all starts with us.

Look, I want to see justice done here. An eye for an eye—if that’s what the going rate is these days. But I also have to ask myself will that make things right? Will that give the victim back her sense of self? No, that damage is done. And nothing on God’s green earth can alter that fact. But, taking my cue from the victim’s graceful letter: “We both have a choice. We can let this destroy us. I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on. I accept the pain. You accept the punishment, and we move on.”

Wow.

In a few days, a few weeks, because we have the attention span of ants, this story will become yesterday news. But for the Turner family and the victim and her family, the pain will remain front and center. Becoming the trajectory from which they pivot and jump until enough time, enough love, and enough forgiveness lightens the load.

It is my fervent hope that this story and all those like it, don’t die. Instead let it be the beginning of an ongoing conversation with our sons, our daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, husbands, lovers and friends. The spark of real change on the road going forward.

Because if not, then what the hell was it all for?

Over the past weekend I had the honor of speaking at two book clubs in New Jersey. Two groups of wonderful women where I immediately felt the sense of sisterhood and where something very unexpected, something spiritually moving transpired out of the discussion of my book. Up until this point, I was aware that The Bad Girl had an impact upon some women who were victims of sexual violence, but I didn’t realize to what extent. I cannot fully articulate the emotion that welled inside me when several women came forward with their stories, other than to say it made me recognize in a more personal, deeper way, the true power of words—my words—and how phenomenal they can be when used for good.

Every year, millions of women and girls worldwide suffer violence, be it domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, dowry-related killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict-related situations, or other manifestations of abuse.*

In the United States, every 6.2 minutes there is a reported rape.**

On that note, I will end with one final thought: the world can be a cruel place. But it can also be a beautiful place if we just rise as heroes and do our part.

 

 

 

*Resources for Speakers on Global Issues

**National Center for Victims of Crime

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Book Club Tour Challenge Progress Report. Week Two. And Going Nuts.

In a word. Oy. I can’t believe it’s two weeks in, and I’m already pulling my hair out. I knew this thing wouldn’t be easy. I knew as a virtual unknown with little following in the literary world, that I had my work cut out for me. And I might not succeed at all in meeting my goal, getting all fifty states on board and visited within a year’s time. But I also knew I had the state of New Jersey in my back pocket right from the get-go, so I refused to let anything faze me. I approached this like I approach any other challenge I set for myself. With wide-eyed optimism and dummy donuts for breakfast.

donut girl

The idea for the video to get the ball rolling, came out of the blue. Like one of those lightbulb moments. And I loved it from the start. It was a project unto itself where I spent hours upon hours of time and putting on make-up that I wouldn’t normally bother with, while trying to have this mumbo jumbo two-minute script memorized so I wouldn’t keep looking off to the side every other second at my cheat sheet, like an bleepin’ idiot. But once I finally had it down pat, once I felt that it was as good as it was going to get, I released it. Again I was under no great illusion here that this would be my ticket to ride. That after a reasonable amount of time and people spreading the gospel that this cute little old lady author was available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs . . . that the other forty-nine other states that I did not have in my back pocket, would come banging down my door. Let alone knock.

Yes, I had a lot of shares, a lot of buzz and plenty of views over these past two weeks. But that’s it. And with time ticking (remember this challenge has a shelf life of 50 weeks), I immediately turned to Plan B: Meetup.com. In case you’re not yet familiar, this is the go-to website for anyone, anywhere looking for every conceivable type of social club or activity. A group to go hiking with, people to have drinks with, go to the movies with. Seriously, it’s great! When I moved to California not knowing a soul, it was a perfect way for me to meet new friends. And I did.

And now I believed it would also be a perfect way for me to go from state to state, introducing myself and my little book to as many clubs as I could find; all without ever leaving the house or changing my jammies.

In my mind, it couldn’t be any easier. Having so many opportunities right there at my fingertips, in such a centralized spot. It reminded me of the good ole days when I sold insurance for a living. Wow. Talk about pounding the pavement. Jesus. Un-believable. I would drive around for hours looking for business parks and literally go from door-to-door, in the hot Florida sun, all decked out in my professional skin: suit and heels. Just praying to God that someone would eventually feel sorry for me and buy something.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here a bit. I think the point I was trying to make is that I was so hungry to be successful, that I was willing to do anything. To put up with anything to get the job done. And despite the passage of time, I’m still that tenacious girl, and this job for me would be no different.

So I stuck to the plan. I created what I believed to be the perfect email. (I’m the writer, remember?) And day by day, in those spare clips of moments between editing my next book and helping take care of my granddaughter, I began to work my way through the website. Starting off though with the state of Florida for the simple reason that’s where I live. And as luck would have it, I found over ten clubs within a twenty-mile radius of my house. Wow. Another bonus, I remember thinking as I sent off the emails, as I waited and waited for a single reply. One day, three days past without hearing a word from any of the organizers. And when the fifth day came and went I began to get a little panicky. Thinking oh boy, something’s definitely wrong here. Maybe the emails didn’t go through. Maybe they got deleted somehow. And just as I was about to repeat the entire process all over again, because what else could I do, I finally received a response. A response I had not expected.

“Our club is meant for serious readers ONLY. Do not bother us again!”

Wow. If that didn’t burst my bubble, the next email that came a day later, sure as hell did.

“It is our club policy not to allow authors to attend our meetings. It’s too disruptive. I’m sorry.”

Too disruptive? Is she f**cking kidding me?

Needless to say, as much as I wanted to argue with the wall, I had no time or choice but to plow on. This was after all still my Plan B. A plan I still felt confident would work, complete with good odds, forty-eight other states to try, and a fresh batch of dummy donuts waiting for me on the table.

So on I went. Back to the computer. Doing an Internet search for the biggest cities in Alabama before proceeding once again over to the Meetup.com site. There I managed to locate one club in Birmingham, one in Mobile, and nothing, I mean nothing in Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Dothan. This didn’t make me at all happy. But I shot off my whopping two emails anyway and repeated the process for Alaska and Arizona.

As you can imagine, Alaska isn’t exactly the book club capital of the world either, but Arizona certainly made up for the first two states, and in spades. Yielding over fifteen clubs. I was thrilled. And after I shot off all those emails, after I noted each club into the excel spreadsheet I’d created to keep track of all my doings, I began to feel as if the door was finally opening up, and things were heading in the right direction.

Yes, that was me yesterday afternoon at around 3:30 pm. All hopped up on those dummy donuts and giddy throughout the day and into the night. Right up until 8:00 pm when things went seriously south faster than Superman and a speeding bullet after I received an email from Meetup.com advising me that I could no longer use their site. My account was now shut down, locked out, and in other words sista, here’s the boot, screw you and go figure out another damn plan. Because this one . . . ain’t gonna fly.

I felt like crap. I could not believe this was the attitude and the perception I was now forced to face. How did I go from a million opportunities to zero in a blink? From easy peasy to what the hell do I do now to find all these clubs? I wanted to scream. Because honestly, nothing else seemed suitable for the occasion. Yes, perhaps I was having one of those melt-down, kick in the ass moments reminding me that nothing from nothing in this life ever comes easy. Especially those things worth having. Only I couldn’t concentrate on that. I couldn’t because I was still blinded and too caught up in my own small world of frustration to allow this wonderful message of resiliency to wrap itself around me.

But . . . that was yesterday. And today, well, like they say: it’s a whole new day. Another opportunity. Another chance to shine and make this thing happen. The only problem for me right now is, I seem to be coming up a little short on my next course of action. Plan C.

Any suggestions? I’m all ears.

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Flickr themanwho66

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