Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Held Together: A True Story of Love's Victory by Jenny Q

A riveting true story about the power of love and the strength of community.

Synopsis - 

In January of 2014, Joshua Tree’s beloved village herbalist, Jenny Q. suddenly became seriously ill and rapidly descended into a coma with slender chance of survival. The shock of this news initiated an overwhelming outpouring of love, wit, service, practical magic and sharing of spiritual wisdom between those in her intimate desert community. Indeed it seemed that the entire group became one in their desperate effort and race against the clock to save her life.

While the words of others in the community tell the story in this book, it is Jenny’s own insightful writings that provide a fascinating window into a range of rare experiences. She gives us a unique glimpse into the mysterious worlds encountered while in a coma, the absolute alteration of losing one’s legs, the subtle venom of PTSD, the nightmare of withdrawal from prescription opiates, and the maddening frustration of having to re-learn basic skills previously taken for granted such as the ability to walk.

Review - 

This book is in some ways hard to review because it truly unique in terms of how it is written and there are many, many layers of the human experience it explores.

The main story line is both simple and frightening - Jenny Q goes in for a minor surgery and by the next day is fighting for her life. A serious infection has taken hold that only has a 5% survival rate. Her journey through this abyss is told through short personal remembrance notes, songs and poetry written by herself, her friends, her family, her community and her partner. The price to survive? Loss of many pieces of her body including both her legs and the fingers on one hand. In the end she had around 50 surgeries to deal with the ravages of the infection.

Because of the way Jenny Q's story is told, we see the most serious days in the hospital through the eyes of others.  How it affects them, what they see, the fear and how they come together in support.  With limited access, many focus on standing beside her spiritually, holding her close and offering her spirit a tether.  We see the power of coming together as a community.

We are also introduced throughout the narrative to Jenny's journey to this moment - her life as a Dead Head, her marriage, the birth of her child and divorce, opening her Grateful Desert shop, her relationship with her ethnic family (both the strengths and the challenges) and the joy of finding her life partner. After she returns home we walk with her through the struggles to accept the changes to her body - will her partner still find her beautiful with the disfigurements -  and the limits she has to learn to work around.  It was also an eye-opener for her to experience how others reacted to her "disabilities."

A wonderful and inspiring read that explores so much more than just illness and recovery.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble BookBaby Author Website Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author - 

Fab Author Interview HERE!

Jenny Q was born in Southern California to Palestinian immigrants. Her love of herbs began in her teens while on the road following the Grateful Dead. After exploring many heart homes, she set her roots in Joshua Tree, California, where she opened Grateful Desert, the local apothecary. Joyously sharing her life with her tight-knit desert community, Jenny lives with her beloveds~ Yazzy, her daughter and Myshkin, her wife.

Connect with Jenny: Website 

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Interview with Jenny Q, Author of Held Together: A True Story of Love's Victory

This is a very unusual book in terms of how the story is told - in some ways a collaborative book. Please share the journey of how this came together - the idea to tell your story this way, how you decided whose words would be included, did they write their notes during your illness or are these reflections written afterwards from memory, etc.

Indeed, this is a strange way to write a book! The idea was formed as much by necessity as it was a creative/artistic vision.

Many people asked me to write my story soon after I came home from the hospital, but I was still very sick and couldn’t imagine tackling a project so big. Also, there was much about my journey that I didn’t know, because even after I emerged from the coma, I was living in a dream-like state for many months.

I also liked the idea of moving the book like a novel, fast-paced and with tension. So I ripped apart all the submissions and wove them into my own writings. I wanted to keep everyone’s voice intact, so while I edited each piece, I kept the personalities of each writer.

I sent out a call for submission about six months after my original hospital stay, so at the beginning of 2015. Most people wrote from memory, but some were written at the time that I was away.

Your passages are written entirely in lower case without any capitals while others follow a more traditional format. Why did you choose to express your thoughts this way?

The initial reason I did this was that I was in some sort of weird phase when that was how I was writing everything! I grew out of that :) but decided to keep my pieces that way to distinguish my voice from others. Also, many of my pieces are stream of consciousness, so I thought this quirky way was appropriate.

While you were in a coma, you were surrounded by a community reaching out in support in many many ways, both physical and spiritual. Did their presence slip through the layers at any time, or did you become aware of this amazing outpouring only after you awakened? 

I have bits of memory from when I was in the coma. I saw a woman that I knew from around town that I barely knew. Later, I found that that she is a spiritual woman and told me she had been meditating with me. There are a few stories like this. I saw many other people that I know intimately. 

Review HERE!
What was it like as you read through all the loving and positive words written by other expressing how important you were in their life? Was there anything you learned that surprised you? 

That’s a great question that no one has asked me yet! It was very strange to read through everyone’s writings. It filled me with joy and love, but was very hard as well. I cried a lot as I read through each submission. I am very humbled.

It was particularly hard imagining publishing a book with so many positive words about myself. It made me feel so vain! But I kept trying to take some space from the ‘Jenny character’ so that I could convey the journey.

As far as being surprised goes, I think I felt more secure in the fact that when you love your community deeply, it is felt and reciprocated.

But I was surprised in other ways. Each submission that came in told a part of my own life, pieced back together parts of my life that I didn’t know or couldn’t remember. It was incredibly healing in this way.

I believe every step we take, every experience we have, teaches and guides us. How has walking through this experience - the physical, the spiritual and the family/community - touched your life? What have you learned or what has been affected in your outlook/journey?

Oh, in so many ways!

First, I never want to take my body and my health for granted! I used to run five days a week, and though I savored my strength and ability, I would sometimes whine while tying my laces in the early morning light.

Second, I was always one that believed in gratitude- my shop is called Grateful Desert! I thought I had that nailed. No matter how hard life had been at any moment, if I focused on what I was grateful for, things would always seem lighter. But going through this experience gave me such a deeper experience of gratitude. I know how hard life can be and how lucky I am with the amount of ability I have left.

Lastly, I was given a gift as I traveled through the stars while in a coma. Ah, it is so magnificent, the truth and depth of who we are. Nothing is as perfect as when we simply are. The knowledge I hold onto is that nothing needs to be as stressful or dire as what we make it, especially the pressure we put on ourselves to be good or productive. When we go, we are all the same, we are indeed one. I came back with the surety that we can relax, be good and productive because it feels good; that no one is keeping tabs, there are no celestial elevators. I came back more joyous than ever knowing that this life is a gift, and afterwards, it is even more brilliant.

What would you most like readers to take away from reading Held Together?

This book is multi-dimensional. There are many stories.

The most obvious - there is an able-bodied person, an average woman just like most, who becomes disabled and physically transformed. I want people to be able to relate to people that look like Other. We are all alike more than many people think. It would also be wonderful for people to understand how hard it is to move around this life with physical and other disabilities.

Also, it can be quite lonely to be disabled. There is so much shame associated with it! I wanted to reach out to other people who feel different and let them know they are not alone. People tend to stare at my prostheses, and I want to let them, so that the next time they see an amputee, it won’t be as shocking. I tend to wear short dresses for that reason.

This is also a story about community, and how love can save a life.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

No End of Bad by Ginny Fite

A DC conspiracy novel of grand proportions...
Synopsis -

Washington, DC, housewife Margaret Turnbull's world literally blows up after her husband, FBI agent Clay Turnbull, is falsely arrested and killed by agents working for an international drug cartel.
Unbeknownst to Margaret, her enemy's tentacles reach all the way to the White House and control senior personnel. Their powerful enterprise in jeopardy, the assassins will stop at nothing to cover their tracks. With cutting-edge surveillance--CIA, FBI, and NSA technology--there is nowhere to hide, no one to trust. No one is safe--anywhere.
I think this book touches a collective nerve when it comes to the power of secret government agencies.  What happens if some of the agents have become corrupt and one of us stands in their way.  That's just what happens in No End of Bad.

At the start of the book, loyal FBI Agent Clay Turnbull is having a quiet lunch in the park when he is stormed by agents, arrested, accused of treason and then quietly killed in a way that looks like a heart attack before he can talk with anyone.  We discover he has been quietly looking into a strange pattern of activity and following the trail of crumbs.  Is this the reason he is taken out?

His wife and daughter's lives are thrown into turmoil as their idyllic life disappears.  They never are allowed to talk to him before he is killed and are surrounded by those who believe their husband/father is a traitor - he must be guilty if it's in the news.  When they are pulled out of their home minutes before it blows up, the excitement ramps up to a new level.  We follow the wife and daughter's daring escapes as they stay one step ahead of the assassins following them, while those in the government who know something is amiss struggle to not only keep the duo safe, but discover the mystery Turnball was uncovering and bring those responsible for his death to justice.

No End of Bad is a great escape. Well written, with a great story line and exciting pace, it's sure to draw in and keep you reading late into the wee hours. 
Review of No Good Deed Left Undone HERE
Meet the Author - 
Dec. 2016 Behind The Scenes Interview HERE!

Ginny Fite is the author of the dark mystery/thrillers Cromwell's Folly, No Good Deed Left Undone, and Lying, Cheating, and Occasionally Murder, as well as a funny self-help book on aging, I Should Be Dead by Now, a collection of short stories, What Goes Around, and three books of poetry. She resides in Harpers Ferry, WV.  
Connect with Ginny: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook