Featured Author – Amber Lea Easton

AmberinSantaMonicaAmber Lea Easton joins me today to talk about what drives her. What, Amber? Yes, of course you also get to talk about your book. 🙂

But first I’d like to thank you for taking the time to hop over and answering my questions. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Coffee, or tea? Cookie or chocolate, or a chocolate cookie?

Tea, please. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. Oh, and I definitely want the chocolate cookie.

I know you’ve been through a lot, can you tell me if you ever thought of giving up?

Yes, I’ve had very dark times where I wondered why I even bothered trying anymore. Despair is very real and hard to navigate. After my husband’s suicide, we experienced a lot of fallout from family and friends. It’s true that you find out the characters of people during a crisis. There were days when I felt like giving up–but I am all the family that my kids have. I’m IT. Knowing that always pulled me back from the edge and made me keep trying.

Do you think you could have done anything to prevent it from happening?

No, I don’t go there anymore. I dealt with a lot of guilt after Sean’s death, have played out all the scenarios, and honestly don’t think I could have stopped his plan. And that’s what it was–a plan. After the fact, I found notes he’d stashed away that spoke of his great love for the kids and me…and also his struggle with addiction and sorrow. Those notes have been extremely painful to find, usually because they fall out of a book or a drawer when I least expect it, but they’ve also given me insight that I didn’t have at the time. He kept a lot of his sadness hidden from me–from everyone–and thought through all of the details of his death. Because of things he said to me during our final family vacation together, I think he had second thoughts about his plan, but he was also methodically filling me up with stories about how much he cared about our family. I think in his own way–in his dark place–he thought he was doing us all “a favor” by killing himself. That makes me cry right now as I write those words because I’d give anything to have him alive today–and would have fought so hard for him if he’d given me the chance–but I do believe that is what he thought.

Amber, hearing that from you makes me cry too. I admire you for being able to find a way to cope with it.

Can you honestly say you are at peace now? And how do you manage to keep smiling?

Yes, I am at peace now, but it took me years to get here. As for smiling, I love life and don’t take anything or anyone for granted. I find great joy in nature and my work. I have my moments when I’m sad, when something reminds me of this great love I had that is no longer, or when something fabulous happens and I wish Sean were here to share it with me. However, I’ve accepted that that will always be the case, which is where the peace comes in. When my kids get married or when I have grandchildren, I’m sure Sean will drift across my mind and I’ll have a moment of sadness for what he’s missed. I do smile a lot and I love laughing. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t die, that my life wasn’t over. Once I realized that and gave myself permission to be happy again, the smiles came more frequently.

And on a lighter note, if you were a dog would you chase cats or ducks?

I’d chase cats because they are very clever and would put up more of a challenge.

Which I think says a lot about the kind of person you are. I challenge the readers to tell us what kind of person they are. Take on the challenge, or go for the easier thing?

But what you are really here for is to talk about your book of course.

First, what is the title of the book you would like the readers to know about?

Well, since we’ve been discussing Sean’s suicide, I’ll talk about my memoir ‘Free Fall’. I wrote this book because we did experience a lot of judgment and fallout after Sean’s death. We felt very alone. As a young widow, there weren’t many resources to help me with my particular journey. Books about widows were targeted to the elderly (at the time that’s what I found) and people assumed I simply knew how to “deal with it”. I never want another person to ever feel that alone while they navigate grief. ‘Free Fall’ is to shed some light on a dark subject and hopefully create understanding.

FreeFallFinalCoverAMAZON 

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

No. I felt as if I’ve been in free fall ever since the moment I found him hanging dead.

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

It’s a memoir so I’m not sure–I suppose it could be easily made into fiction by changing up a few things, but I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t believe it then. Ha! This is one of those real life stories that seems stranger than fiction–but is all too real for too many people.

Sometimes telling the real thing is better than any fiction could ever get, from a reader’s point of view. I can imagine from where you stand, you’d rather seen it had been fiction.

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

I didn’t celebrate anything about this book. It was incredibly painful to write, in fact I cried throughout every revision. I had to essentially relive the experience in order to write it accurately. When it was finally published, I felt a great sense of relief that I’d done what I set out to do. I don’t plan on writing another nonfiction book–it’s back to fun fiction for me! 

Right with that out of the way and to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.

What don’t you like about writing.

The pay. LOL

Hahahaha, you could say that. But I’ve heard you just signed a contract with a publisher, so that might change in teh near future. 🙂 Let’s hope it does, because you deserve it.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I do what everyone does–twitter, Facebook, blogs, blog hops, ads here and there, radio appearances. I honestly don’t worry about it much. I keep writing more books. I think word of mouth amongst readers carries the most weight at the end of the day so I keep producing work that I hope they like.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Rum and coke seem to be my characters’ favorite drink in every book I write, which is probably because it’s one of mine! I do it unconsciously, but did catch it in my work in progress and am trying to switch it up a bit. I should be getting an endorsement fee from the rum industry!

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

image found on The Sweetery.com

image found on The Sweetery.com

Sorry. I’m not a great chef these days. I like grilled chicken with slices of green chiles on top covered by melted pepperjack cheese–either wrapped in flatbread or on a sandwich. I add a fresh tomato and some lettuce. Yum. It’s simple and I love Southwestern American food. I have that at least once a week.

Amber! You tell me you have no recipe and then give me a thing I am going to have for lunch today! Sounds delish!

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Again, I’m going to disappoint you. I write every day, even on vacation. I feel like I’m letting you down. I guess I’d have to be dead not to write every day—or in a coma. Or, God forbid, had my hands amputated in a horrible accident and needed to learn to type with hooks! That would probably take awhile to learn and I can’t see myself talking aloud into a recorder or something like that. Wow, that would be a nightmare! I honestly write something every day, even if it’s short and simple. Now I’m going to have nightmares about hook hands, though.

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

Because I lost my mind long ago and am trying to find it through my Muse. 🙂

Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

When I was 22, my friend Michelle and I were in Paris drinking too much wine. I’m sure we probably drank other things, too, but we were definitely drinking wine at the end of the night. We were with a bunch of guys from Long Island, NY, and some Puerto Ricans. This was part of my roaming through Europe tour I did after college to avoid getting a real job, much to my parents’ chagrin. I admit that we were being a bit wild (uh-hem), but I’m not exactly sure what happened on the street outside the bar. I know one of the New York guys asked me put a half-full bottle of wine in my purse while we were on the street, saying we shouldn’t be carrying it in the open like that. So I did. (It was corked.) One minute we’re waiting for a taxi to take us back to our hotel, the next some woman is screaming at us and the only word we understood was “police”. What?! We laughed it off and kept waiting for the taxi, but then we heard sirens! Sure enough, the crazy screaming French woman had called the police on us. I swear to God to this day I have no idea what we did to commit a crime. So we did what any drunk 22 year old American would do–ran like hell. Michelle and I took off with the Puerto Rican men racing through the streets of Paris, laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Just when we thought we escaped, more police came. Sirens sounded everywhere!What did we do? We don’t know, but running sounded like the best option. By now we’re all incredibly lost. We found ourselves in a residential area in the middle of the night. We started discussing our predicament when another French woman starts yelling at us from an open window–I assume she told us to be quiet. So we took off running again. The Puerto Rican guys found a taxi for us, but then they got into an argument with the cab driver. They’re screaming in Spanish, the driver was screaming in French. Michelle and I decided to part ways from the men at this point, and leapt out of the taxi. We had no idea where we were…but we had a half-full bottle of wine in my purse. 🙂 So we wandered around, drank wine out of the bottle, sang some songs, lost in Paris. We were still laughing in between sips when we finally found our cheap hotel where others from our group were hanging out on the steps wondering where we’d been all night. We never told them–mainly because we weren’t certain if we were officially wanted by the police or not! We outran the Paris police, ditched the Puerto Ricans, and finished off a fine bottle of wine. Ah, those were the days… 🙂 True story. We left for Amsterdam later that day and I haven’t been back to France since.

Maybe the police weren’t after us, but we were drunk and young enough to believe it. 

All of my misadventures in Europe as a recent college graduate (which took place over 20 years ago) will serve as the basis for a new adult romance series I’m doing with Entangled Publishing. There will be five books so far based in the following cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and the Greek Islands. These will be fiction, but will make me smile with certain secrets as I write them!

Thank you Amber for taking the time to be with me and answering all these questions. Congratulations on the series and I’m looking forward to seeing them come to live. Please remember me when it’s time to promote them. 🙂

For now I’ll leave the readers with links to where they can find you online, and ask them if they would think they’d ever be brave enough to write about such a life changing experience as you did.

Amber can be found online at Facebook, Twitter as @MtnMoxieGirl, and on her website.

Featured Author – Scott Stevens (Finally!)

scott It took me a while, but finally I’m able to present Scott Stevens to you. He’s a remarkable person with a message more than worth hearing.

I’ll let him speak in a moment, but first I need to offer the man a cuppa.

Are you comfortable? Great, because I’m about to grill you over a slow fire to get all the answers to my questions. 🙂

Hi Scott,

I’m glad you’re finally doing this interview with me, because I’ve been waiting for a chance to pose these questions to you. Can you tell us a bit how you got to where you are now? i.e. what was the path life put you on?

Thanks for hosting me, Lucy. I’ll start by saying I have zero resentments and no longing to get a ‘do-over’ on any of life thus far – not even the really great stuff. Truth is, it mostly has been truly great. I have had success in two high-profile careers, two great kids and many new colleagues whom I gladly count among my friends. The path was twisty and almost killed me a couple of times.

(I scoot forward on my chair already wanting to prod him to put that cup down and go on. For criscake, tell me more!)

I had a modest degree of success as an executive when my gene pool and some poor decisions took over my life. In 2004, I was a daily beer drinker. And I knew I was alcoholic. Alcoholism doesn’t care if you have all your bills paid, a great home, an honest career, happy and healthy children or anything else. It’s a disease. And I had it.

I tried to stop on my own and realized what most people with the disease realize after trying to do it my way: You can’t. I had the shakes and got violently ill. Alcohol withdrawal. It’s the only chemical that can kill you with too much and also can kill you when you take it away. Instead of getting help though, ‘my way’ was to become a maintenance drinker so I would not suffer withdrawal. Brilliantly, I switched to whiskey. It was easier to conceal on planes and in my briefcase, and I didn’t have to get up overnight as frequently.

Fast forward two years. I was drinking two liters of whiskey a day every day just to stave off withdrawal. No mixer. No ice. Most of the time I didn’t even bother with a glass. It is hard work being a functioning alcoholic with all the secret drinking and constantly treading a thin line between withdrawal and being too flammable to function.

In 2006, my second wife served me divorce papers after six months…my drinking drove off my first wife and mother of my children a year earlier. I was hospitalized with a blood alcohol concentration over .60. (.08 is a legal limit for driving in the US. .40 is what killed singer Amy Winehouse. I walked out of the hospital against medical advice when my BAC was barely below .50 and drank more that night.) Weeks later I nearly died a second time: Alcohol is a sedative and my blood pressure dropped to 49/17 when my tolerance suddenly vanished.

I was arrested four times in six weeks for drinking and driving. I went to rehab. I went to jail. I relapsed despite all the physical, legal and family consequences and went back to jail.

Today, yes, I am still alcoholic. It’s like luggage: You keep it forever. But the disease is in remission. I do not drink. Somehow, I escaped without any physical damage. My kids still love me. And I have a chance to share through my reporting and through my two books the information I wish I had when I realized I was alcoholic.

Have you ever wanted to run away from it all?

It is the dream of every alcoholic. I moved to Arizona, seeking a geographical solution to a medical problem. Didn’t work. And I missed my children 1,400 miles away.

While there, I could have easily run from my legal troubles, too. Had I been drinking, I might have let bad judgment convince me, too. But, as a father, you teach your children about consequences. I broke the law, and it was imperative that I man-up and lead them with example.

What give you the most satisfaction in life?

The material life was fun, but not satisfying. Today I treasure my sobriety and the relationships I have are healthier and less toxic. That is very satisfying.

Professionally, I find so much reward when a reader says, “Yeah, you get it, Scott. And you helped me, you helped my family.” Writing is fun for me, still, despite a sometimes ugly, always serious, topic. To have a responsible message hit home and help a family in recovery, one reader at a time, is an honor and privilege in which I also find satisfaction.

I think you do great, Scott and think it’s very brave to put yourself out there like that, just to be able to help others.

Is there anything you regret? I mean, do you think you could have done differently, but would you then be where, and who, you are now?

Not really. I made bad decisions. I drove when I had no business driving. I did that. Glad I didn’t physically injure anyone.

I think it is easy to regret my relapses and giving up sobriety when I had it. But I do not. That gives them a life of their own. I won’t forget them, but I don’t regret them. I also look back to 2004 and how couldn’t I? Had I just gotten help then instead of pushing away from everyone, including but not limited to Alcoholics Anonymous…hmmmm. It would have been easier for those around me for certain. I would have lost a valuable message I carry today though.

Thanks for your honesty in answering these very personal questions. Now for the writing related ones.

First, what is the title of the book you would like to talk about?

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety. It came out earlier this year.

covercloudAMAZON US | UK | CA | iTUNESB&N | BOOKSAMILLION

BOOK DEPOSITORY | KOBO | XLIBRIS

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

As you and many other successful colleagues know in fiction, a title and cover are VERY important. In non-fiction, I think that eludes some authors. They will bludgeon you with words on the cover. I have a life-and-death topic for the families with the disease, but I think novelists get it right with title and cover, so I went for fewer words and powerful imagery.

That said, my title is longer than I prefer, but I wanted to make sure it was clear that this is an alcoholism and recovery book. Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud captures what many feel about sobriety: That sobriety is the silver lining to alcoholism. My book about relapse is acknowledging that the silver lining isn’t so shiny every day.

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

One key decision point in also publishing my second book independently is that I would not have to conform to a publisher but could instead conform to what’s working for people in recovery. I get a little dark – well a LOT dark – in telling my story. I might have to be forced to choose between my research and my story in order to conform to a publisher’s view of the market and pick between being a self-help title and a memoir. I’m happy I have been able to blend the science and my story in a way that’s been meaningful to readers.

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

I’m not cracking open a pint of Jack Daniel’s to celebrate, but I have been known to have a cigar or two.

I wrote the entire book longhand. Then edited it longhand. So I was very careful with the words and construction because crossing out words really sucks and looks sloppy. When I sat down and entered the keystrokes, some parts were still being edited in my head. When I got the chapter just right, from the segue at the start, through the marrow of the chapter, to the segue at the close, I put it down, smile like all get out and walk away.

That’s all I could do. Smile. There are months of research behind each chapter. A lot of reading some mind-numbing science reports went into the technical parts of the book. If they read easily, months of work were done.

I share some of the ugliest chapters of my life in here, too. I don’t think anyone gets a thrill out of revealing their darkness. But I could smile about those, too, if I felt those chapters just might bolster someone’s recovery.

You do make the book sound more appealing with every thing you tell me about how it came to be, and I’m not even an addict of any kind or in recovery! Sorry, but I just had to say that.

Right with that out of the way and to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now. What don’t you like about writing?

I am a young(ish) man who is so prehistoric I still compose longhand. I don’t write at the computer. I write on a notepad. My hands cramp up. My penmanship on a good day is hardly legible to others. On my writing days, my penmanship is illegible to me.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I am still trying to figure that out. I advertise where it makes sense on Facebook and Google. Margins being what they are on books, that leaves a really soft advertising budget. I think my reporting and blogging do more of the work for both books, because people can see the passion and expertise I bring to the subject matter nearly daily.

It is certainly how you caught my eye!

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Coffee. I prefer skim iced mocha, no whip, but I’ll drink the crappy AA coffee like it is live-giving. Otherwise, homemade Chex mix is a favorite.

chexI know you can buy it already bagged, but I make a custom batch at home for the kids. Extra cheesy, extra cashews, not as many wheat Chex. My personal batch has Tobasco, peanuts, extra garlic rye chips and not as many pretzels.

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

I can bake and cook very well, but my fave is a really simple Italian beef in a slow cooker. You need just five ingredients plus good hoagie buns and provolone and a day to let it cook.italian-beef-stew-l

3lb beef roast, any cut

14 oz can low sodium beef broth

Two packets Good Seasons Italian dressing mix (reg. Or zesty, I get the zesty one.)

Jar of pepperoncini peppers, remove stems but do not drain

Jar of giardiniera, drain out the oil and rinse (hot or mild, I prefer the mild)

Put it all in a slow cooker on low, 8-12 hours.

Sounds delicious! I think I’m going to try that one, thanks, Scott. 🙂

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

I couldn’t pull it off. I’d go crazy.

Hahaha, okay, but why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

I like what I do with the writing. Best thing is I am not trapped indoors, not tied to just books, not tied to just reporting, not tied to just non-fiction. It is rewarding and very flexible. I write on the patio or the train. And it beats drinking.

Right you are! Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

Boy, I could take this question a lot of places. I think I may need a witness protection program first though.

You could write a book about it and call it fiction! 🙂 Scott, it was great having you, thank you for your candour. Leaves me with giving the readers a short excerpt to sample the book and then tell them where it can be bought and where you can be found online.

“One of the differences between this disease and most other chronic ones that is so difficult to communicate is that with Alcoholism, when you are the sickest and most acute, you don’t feel sick because you’re getting alcohol. When you arrest the disease by treating it, that’s when you feel sick: In remission. First from withdrawal symptoms, naturally, but more so from cortisol and the Symptoms of Sobriety. With cancer, for example, you don’t feel sickest when you’ve stopped the spread and gotten that disease into remission. You feel sickest when the cancer is most acute. Lyme disease or even the flu is the same way. An Alcoholic can feel the sick from the Symptoms well into remission, even eight to ten years after stopping the drinking, according to 1985 research from Clinton DeSoto, William O’Donnell, Linda Alfred and Charles Lopes (“Symptomology in Alcoholics at Various Stages of Abstinence” in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 9 1985).

That seems crazy: Other diseases don’t behave this way in remission.

And you are not crazy. You just need some adjustments. A diabetic, by comparison, would address the condition, not just symptoms, with small lifestyle adjustments. A severe diabetic would require more extensive life changes as well as professional help. He’d have an expert evaluate the meaning of his diabetic symptoms, wouldn’t he? Here’s another medical comparison. If migraine sufferers had the luxury of such clear warning signs as the Symptoms of Sobriety before the onset of a migraine, they’d take heed. Why should the Symptoms of Sobriety be evaluated any less thoroughly than the symptoms of diabetes or heeded less than the warning signs preceding a migraine? Neither diabetes nor migraines are as lethal as snapping Alcoholism out of remission.

The Symptoms aren’t some tabloid fad or syndrome-of-the-week; they are real. You feel like crap. It’s not imaginary. Not everyone will suffer from them though. For me, the third Symptom—the clarity—was my most pronounced and created the most havoc. I was so accustomed to thinking quickly on my feet. I believed the sharpness of the training as a journalist never dulled. At times though, even well after I stopped my two-liters-a-day drinking ordeal, I could not focus for more than 20 minutes at a time, couldn’t remember things I didn’t write down and had to re-read stuff to get the point. The cortisol was doing what the alcohol couldn’t: Singeing my brain, messing with my sharpness and my mental function. (Of course drinking that much blunted my judgment but at least I could make bad decisions more quickly.) I know this as a Symptom now. And now the Symptom is my own primary warning sign that there is something wrong and I need to address it and fix one or more of the sources listed at the end of the chapter, not just the Symptom itself.”

–from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pgs. 27-28

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety is available in English in e-book, softcover and hardcover at:

AMAZON US | UK | CA | iTUNES | B&N | BOOKSAMILLION

BOOK DEPOSITORY | KOBO | XLIBRIS

And should any reader want to follow, or find Scott Stevens, he’s online at the following places:
His site, blogFacebook, on twitter he is known as @AlcoholAuthor, on Pinterest, and Goodreads as an author and the book.
Again, thank you Scott and if you ever have news, don’t hesitate to contact me to help you spread the word.
Oh, by the by, you might want to talk to my friend Amy Oathout, she has a similar story to yours and uses it to help people too.
Do you have an addiction? And what do you do to beat it?