Cover Reveal & Other Ramblin’s

The cover reveal for Crown of Storms hit social media a little over a week ago, and if I was on top of my game, I would’ve posted it to my blog. But… life happens, and sometimes, we’re stuck choosing what we need to focus our energy on. Obviously, my blog did not make the cut. And hasn’t for a while.

Here’s the cover:

Crown of Storms will be released on every platform on 11.2.2022. The date was chosen as a nod to my deceased Grams. She passed away in the month of November several years ago, and her birthday fell on the second of a month, so this was a way for me to capture the beginning of her life, and the end of her life.

Because this one woman was pivotal in the trajectory of my life. She believed in me even when I didn’t. And I’ve held onto this story about a woman fighting to find her place in the world for several years. I tweaked it here and there, adding layers as I brought the main character to life and told the story in a way that did her justice. In a way that maybe, just maybe, would touch someone’s life.

As I went through this journey, I questioned myself. My abilities. My dreams. My worth. But then, one day, I realized I was leaving it to others to decide that for me. So I paused, I reflected, and I took a different direction.

Sometimes, as young people, we kinda know what we want, but… not really. As we move through life, those goals and aspirations solidify as we continue to learn who we are instead of who the world wants us to be.

You don’t have to be anyone but you.

Read that last sentence again.

You are enough. Know it. Believe it. Live it. Life is too short to live a life according to someone else’s rules. Do what makes you happy and shine your light. Always.

Tiff

Death’s Near

Death whispers.

Its voice wraps around my heart and squeezes. Soon, another loved one will pass, and a piece of my heart will leave with them. Because no one left behind loses someone and goes unscathed.

Death stays with them.

Forever.

As time slips away, wrinkles form, hair grays, joints creak. And with every wrinkle, with every gray hair, with every squeaky joint, I am reminded of how precious time is. Because as I get older, my loved ones get older—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles. And hiding in the shadows, Death is waiting and watching.

Sometimes I can feel Death closing in, and the fear is debilitating.

A world without my mom… without my dad… is unimaginable. Even though I know one day, Death will come, and I will be without both. So I cherish today. I cherish every moment. And when the time comes for them to leave this world, I will not have any regrets. Because although I have failed many times throughout my life at many things, I have never failed to tell them I love them. That I appreciate them. That I am thankful for them. Because without them, I would not be the woman I am today.

A woman who is relentless in pursuing her dreams, no matter how unattainable they may seem. And most of all, a woman who loves her children and always puts her family first.

Death’s near, but so is life. So is love. And that’s what I hold on to. Today. Tomorrow. Always.

Al Cinder & Princess Charm WIP

Rays of the morning sun filter through mangled blinds, and Al turns onto his side, blocking the annoying sunlight with his arm. A breeze taps him on his backside, and he grumbles as he sits up. His blanket was a size meant for an infant, not a young man on the verge of adulthood, but complaining to his stepfather or his bull-like half-brothers was pointless. Even though they lived off of the money from his mother’s death, they did not share it with him, nor did they use it on the house.

A rat pushes hole-riddled slippers towards the foot of the bed. As Al tries to get up, the mattress sinks further in the middle until his eyes are level with his toes. Pink beady eyes peer over the wooden rail followed by another. Pinky and The Brain had been with him for years. Most of the time, they were helpful creatures. Today…not so much.

Al reaches for the rail, smiles when his fingers fold over it. “Aha!” But his victory is short-lived as he tries to pull himself up, and the mattress sinks until his hind end is on the floor. “Really?” he grumbles. 

Pinky and The Brain squeak at one another, then dart off. 

“Where are you going?” Al fights with the mattress, but he can’t quite get in a position that will allow him to pull himself out. 

A few minutes later, just as Al’s grumbling under his breath, a short, balding man waddles into the room. Not far behind is Pinky and The Brain. The cigar almost falls out of the man’s mouth as he chortles. 

“What’ ave ya gotcha yourself into, Al?” He wiggles his caterpillar-like eyebrows. “You’ve been tossin’ in the sheets with a lady?” He grabs Al’s hand. “It’s about time if you ask me.”

“No one’s asking you, Leo,” says Al as his feet finally hit the floor. 

Leo tucks his thumbs underneath his suspenders, stretches them out. “Maybe they should.” His eyes scan the room, stopping on Al’s slippers. He picks one up, waves it in the air. “Is this the best they’ll do?” Al doesn’t say anything as he snatches it out of Leo’s hand and slips it on. His big toe peeks out, and Leo’s rugged face turns crimson. “Those no-good, sons of a pig. Your mama would be appalled! I bet she’s a-rollin’ in her grave, God rest her soul. After everything she did to make sure you were taken care of, and this,” he grabs the small, hole-ridden blanket off the bed, “is how they honor her memory?”

“It’s fine, I—”

Leo’s brown eyes turn black as he rolls the blanket into a haphazard ball and slams it onto the bed. The bed shimmies and groans, then the headboard caves in as the rails smack the ground. “That’s it,” Leo says, “I’m callin’ the Godfather. And you, my friend, are going to the ball.”

Fear’s icy fingertips crawl down Al’s spine as he sputters. “B-b-but you c-can’t do that! Riccardo will have my head, and probably yours, too.”

Leo shrugs, unconcerned. “It’s a masquerade. They’ll never even know it’s you. Trust me, Signorino.”

Before Al can protest any further, Leo leaves the room, whistling a merry tune as if he wasn’t angry just moments ago.

 

Later that morning, Al urges Murray forward with a light click of his tongue. The mule brays as it tosses its head in annoyance. The red-clay field was hard as a rock, the rusty cast-iron plow didn’t slice easily through it, and when it did, the soil stuck to the moldboard, which Al then had to cleanout. It was a long, slow process, and the sun shows no mercy as it heats up the back of his neck. The straw hat he’s wearing is useless. There are more holes than a strainer. But he doesn’t complain. Not like Murray. Instead, he methodically tills the ground until the sun begins to lower on the horizon. And with it, so does his stomach. There are still several rows remaining. Rows he’ll never finish before dark.

As he takes a drink from his canteen, he almost jumps out of his skin as a voice breaks the silence.

“What’re ye doin’, Carrot Top?”

To Be Continued…

I decided to start sharing short stories as I wrote them. They’re nowhere near to being perfect. But I wanted to start writing down fairytale retellings where the princess doesn’t need to be saved by a prince. And no, Al is not going to be saved by Princess Charm. Just wait for me to finish the story. I promise, it’ll be worth it.

~Tiffany~

Haunted

The chipped asphalt stretches for miles. Miles I’ve walked hundreds of times. Ghosts of my children stand in front of the old grocery store—five-years-old, seven-years-old, ten-years-old—and a pang of sadness wraps around my heart, squeezes. Toddlers turn into children, children turn into teenagers, teenagers turn into young men.

And I can feel them slipping away.

So I cling to the memories. Memories of little, chubby hands wrapping around mine. Of giggles serenading the sunlight. Of wet kisses smacking against my cheeks.

I closed my eyes one day, a mom to two small boys.

I opened them the next, a mom to two young men.

Time slipped away. And no matter how much I want to reach back, to hold onto them being babies, I can’t. Life happened. My babies grew up. And now I stare at empty seats, and I wonder where the time went.

Their heads now tower over me, their hands envelop mine. Men. My boys are young men. And they will take many paths in their lives. Some will even be the wrong paths, but they will learn something valuable from each. And I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms held open wide to welcome them back home. To hold them when they fail, and I’ll whisper words of encouragement. And when they succeed, I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms open wide to welcome them back home. To hug them and congratulate them.

As long as I’m alive, I will be the sunlight in their darkest moments. And I will be their biggest cheerleader in their greatest moments.

Because one day, I will be nothing more than a ghost. Nothing more than a memory. And I hope that what I do here on this Earth carries them through the rest of their lives. For there’s been no greater accomplishment in my life than my children.

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Pitch Wars & Team Velvet Steel

Oh, how I love Pitch Wars. But mostly because of the awesome Discord group I gained from tossing my manuscript into the mentoring program. Team Velvet Steel is a group that is a riot. From obsessing over Rhys in the ACOTAR series to Cardan in TCP to mulling over dark characters, they keep things entertaining. And amid all the stabby-stab characters, they create spreadsheets and praise each other’s work.

In the query trenches, it is essential to find a group, or groups, of people who understand the emotional turmoil of putting a manuscript into the world. It isn’t easy. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It doesn’t happen overnight. And waiting…it’s torture.

Every member in Team Velvet Steel pitched their manuscript to Pitch Wars between the 26th to 30th of September. Their pitch consisted of a query letter, a synopsis, and the first chapter of their manuscript. Over the next several weeks, mentors can request more pages and ask questions. And then, it’s radio silent.

Having a group to commiserate with, celebrate with, and hold on to hope with helps fight the mental battle. It is a rollercoaster of emotions. So why not ride it with a group instead of riding solo? I promise it is much more entertaining.

There are a little over two weeks left until the chosen mentees are announced. And even if I’m not picked, I will celebrate those who were—especially those from Team Velvet Steel. They will take the world by storm…one word at a time. And I’m here for it.

 

Writing Group Shenanigans

If you are a fellow writer, you have combed through Twitter and other sites searching for quality critique partners. Don’t get me wrong, having family who will read your manuscript is freakin’ fantastic, but writers speak a different language that only other writers understand.

Case and point #1: If I asked my dad how my pacing was, he would say it sucks. He’d think I was asking about my jogging pace, which is atrocious at best.

Case and point #2: If I asked my sister about the MC in my manuscript, she would blink a few times and ask what the f*** I was talking about. Not kidding. That’s a friendly version of her typical sentence structure.

Anyway, you get the point.

A few months ago, I signed up to join a writing group thanks to the wonderful Bianca Marais’s Tweet.

Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.

Y’all, I found a group of phenomenal ladies.

They catch stuff that leaves me blinking in a stupor at my computer screen. And we all bring something different to the table. I like to think of us as dynamic dynamite. Even if it is kinda cheesy.

Crystal has a smokin’ hot character, Slate, who we all drool over. Not to mention her strong, caring cliff diving protagonist, Luren. Her story has a really cool concept with steamy scenes. Keep cold water nearby. You’ll thank me later.

Defne has a genius character, Roya, who has been stepped on and plotted against from an early age. The political intrigue and tension between characters are killer. In addition, her story has a unique concept that gets my brain cranking.

Then there’s Joy. Joy has impressive descriptions (I’m not jealous, not at all). Her character, Fen, is cool, calm, and just might knock someone off. Assassin much? Yes, please.

On top of their amazing stories and fresh concepts, Defne pops into Slack with memes she created. And I died. On the spot.

For your viewing pleasure:

Defne shared her meme-making secret with us, and y’all, she created a meme monster. Me. I’m the meme monster. I’ve been memeing all day long.

And to add a little more sugar to the topping, Joy throws this at us:

Luren – Joy’s Amazing Drawing

Whaaaaat?! Girl has serious art game. If I could steal that ability from her, I would do it in a hot second. Instead, I resort to buying artwork I can hang on my walls and drool over.

And then…Joy turned into a meme monster and created these:

If you haven’t joined a writing group, I highly recommend checking into it. It can be scary because you’re putting your heart and soul out there for others to critique, but you will become a stronger writer. You will learn from your group members, and you will chase the same dream…together. They will understand you in a way no one else does.

So take the scary leap, find your writing people, and see the magic unfold.

~Tiff~

Love Fights Through It

Not a single picture hangs on the eggshell walls. A faded couch and recliner fill the cubicle-sized room. Legos are scattered across the vinyl floor.

Living paycheck to paycheck. Fighting for their family. Fighting for their dreams. Fighting together.

An official letter sends one a thousand miles away. The other is left carrying their hopes, their future. Phone calls, emails, and letters fill the void. Together, they fight. Together, they hold on.

Land, oceans, and sand separate them. One fighting for his country, the other fighting to bring their son into the world. One fighting for freedom, the other fighting emotions as their newborn son fights to breathe.

Machines beep. Machines breathe for their son. Machines keep him alive. Weeks feel like years. But phone calls keep them from falling apart, from giving in. Together, they fight.

Six months pass. A father meets his son. Holds him. Holds his wife.

The eggshell walls are still bare, but it doesn’t matter.

Love fights through the rain, through the storms, through the battles of life. And they’ll continue to fight. Together.

Carrying You With Me—Always❤️

Grams,

It feels like you’ve been gone for decades instead of a few years. There are so many times I want to pick up a phone to call you. To rant and rave. To gush about my plans, my hopes, my dreams. Instead, I take a walk and speak to the sky. The vehicles that whiz by probably assume I’m softly singing to myself. But I’m not. This is where I talk to you.

Sometimes, Grams, I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff, teetering as I stretch out my fingers a little further—reaching for my dreams. And if I just stretch a bit further, I can grasp them and hold them close to my heart. But if I go too far, I will fall into the rocky valley below.

So I learn to balance. I learn to breathe. And, most of all, I learn to believe. Believe in myself. Believe in what my life’s purpose is. Believe in the woman you envisioned I’d be. Because you knew it would take strength and endurance to chase a dream. And I kept that two-sentence email from almost a decade ago to read when I needed to pick myself up off the ground after being defeated. I needed it as I brushed my knees off and dug back in. You gave that to me.

 

As I go into the Pitch Wars site and upload my submission, you will be right there with me. Just as you have been for every single word I’ve typed since you left this world for a better one. But no matter what happens, Grams, I won’t give up. Ever.

Love,

Your Tiffy

 

🍷Alcoholism’s Collateral Damage❤️‍🩹

One bottle after the next is knocked back. Roaring laughter, wide smiles, glazed eyes. Amber liquid sloshes onto the stained carpet, blending in with urine, vomit, and feces. Feet shuffle toward the kitchen. The room tilts, a shoulder slams into the wall. Fingers claw for something. Anything. But there’s nothing. 

Nothing but darkness as everything else fades away.

The next afternoon, the scrawny man with white stubble on his chin lays splayed out on the dirt-stained floor. Someone knocks on the door. No answer. Someone knocks again. Bottles rattle as they skitter across the floor. 

The door cracks open. 

A naked father, covered in nothing but his bodily fluids, shades his red-rimmed eyes with his hand. A son, with his wife and small children walking up behind him, blocks their view.

A planned barbeque destroyed. Family bonds strained. Disappointment clouds the once bright day.  

A decade passes. A decade filled with driving a father to and from work since he can’t drive himself thanks to a DUI. A decade filled with trying to cook for a father who’d only show up drunk. A decade filled with a father asking for money. A decade filled with a father trying to light up a cigarette in his daughter’s car with his grandchild in the backseat. A decade filled with reaching out, with trying to save him, with offering help. But no one can save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.

Time goes on. A grandfather can’t spell his grandson’s name. A grandfather who doesn’t know what his granddaughter likes or dislikes. The grandchildren don’t know him, either. They call him by his given name, because he’s nothing more than a stranger.

A father who calls his grown children – not to see how they’re doing. Not to tell them he loves them. Simply because he needs something.

Alcoholism isn’t victimless. Its dark web entangles its victim as it promises nothing more than a good time. Alcoholism is a jealous mistress who doesn’t like to share. She doesn’t just destroy the poor soul who lives and breathes for the next sip of her nectar. She destroys families.

It’s easy to judge from the outside. To judge the kids for not calling their parent. To judge the kids for not visiting their parent. But when you fight to save a parent who doesn’t want to be saved, there’s collateral damage. Good, kind hearts are hurt over and over again to the point they become numb.

This is what comes with alcoholism. It’s ugly, cold, hurtful. The family members caught in the path deserve compassion and kindness, not judgement and hate.

This is reality.

Ms. Write Life

🏘 Small Town, Big Dreams 🎇

Living your truth isn’t easy. It’s an internal battle, a fight to be who you are, regardless of what others think. As a young person, it’s daunting to come out as what others perceive as different, as a pariah, and voicing your dreams that are bigger than the town you live in can lead to ridicule, taunting, and words whispered that you’ll never make it.

But as you get older, as you become wiser, you realize that you can live your truth and be loved for who you are. You can chase your dreams, even when others say it’s impossible. And anyone who doesn’t support your truth, your dreams, is nothing more than a tiny speedbump on the road of life and not worth fretting over.

Blake Henry is living his truth and chasing his dreams, and his road to National Showman has been paved with obstacles, but through hard work, determination, and perseverance, he is inching closer to walking across that stage.

This is his story. This is his truth.

How was it growing up in a small community, where your dreams are bigger than the small town you come from?

Growing up here in a small town was actually great in ways. I feel it taught me to love and trust people and not take things for granted. But it was also challenging to be who I truly was living in a small country town. I had seen people before me that came out that we’re treated so badly just because they were gay and it caused them to leave town. When I finally came out it was because I wanted to live my truth and be who I actually was and not live a fake life. I was always the same person but I felt like I was lying to myself and everyone else.

When I came out I was 17 years old my friends had taken me to a club called The Connection in Louisville I obviously had to sneak in cause I was too young. That is when I first saw the art of Drag. I saw queens such as Terri Vanessa Coleman, Hurricane Summers, Syimone, and Vanessa Demornay. There were also male entertainers Landy Saavedra and Mykul Jay Valentine. I used to say someday I want to do that but never thought I actually would.

As far as dreams, I always wanted to do something bigger. I knew there was more in life for me besides growing up here in Greensburg and living a traditional life. I knew that simply wasn’t for me. I had many dreams. The first thing I wanted was to be a parent. In 2014, I moved from Greensburg to Indianapolis to improve my career as a restaurant manager because I wanted to bring in enough income to eventually start a family. Things didn’t go as planned but it did happen in 2016 after I moved to Louisville. 2016 was a big year for me – I started performing and soon as I got my feet wet performing, I found out Zaidyn was coming along. Other dreams I had were to make a difference not only in the LGBTQIA+ community but my local community. Back when I first came out as gay, the gay clubs and bars were about making people feel welcomed and like family but now it’s just not the same. I strive to use the platform I have to make people feel like they have someone. It’s not easy being a part of our community. Many of us lose our blood family because they don’t agree with our lives. Many people of the LGBTQIA+ community commit suicide because of how they are treated for being who they are or because they don’t feel comfortable coming out or because they think bad about themselves because sometimes that’s what society puts in our heads. If I can make a few people feel better about themselves, I might encounter someone and it saves their life.

What has it taken to get to Nationals?


As far as Nationals it’s taken A LOT to get to this point. When I started performing I didn’t think I would get into pageants and I did. Pageants are very expensive and after winning two pageants – Mr. Bar Complex and Mr. Lexington Pride – I finally decided I wanted to do a National pageant. The National Showman pageant stuck out to me because it’s about costumes, rhinestones, furs, jewelry, etc. and that’s a lot of the things my stage persona presents. I’ve been preparing for this pageant for about 2 years it’s been very time-consuming and of course, not one thing has gone how I planned. It’s been very stressful but pageants teach performers discipline, endurance, and professionalism.

What does winning the title mean for you?

Winning this title means a lot to me. It will give me a platform in my community. I want to bridge the gap between the “gay” and “straight” community. I want people to see us for who we are as individuals not just our sexuality. Winning this title will help me grow further as a performer and travel and become the face of business for the system. Reigning as a National titleholder is a big responsibility. You have to be approachable and social, but also helpful and have skills to grow a business because that’s what pageantry is.

What’s it like being a single parent while chasing your dreams?

Being a single parent while chasing my dreams is very hard. Anyone that is a single parent has it hard. It’s a challenge. I have to juggle my time and be able to switch between tasks like crazy. Having a 4-year-old that’s very demanding while preparing for shows or pageants is tough. When you are performing people see you on stage for 5-8 minutes or so at a time. What they don’t see is how it took 2 weeks to rhinestone the costume you are wearing, or how long it took to pick the perfect costume for the number you are doing, or even how long it took you to present the performance you want to give for the number exactly how you want it received. I have to be able to do all those things plus take care of my child. I find myself constantly having a project to work on in my free time so when he is occupied doing something I can take a few moments to work on something. Or I just stay up most of the night if I’m pushing a time limit. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.

You can support Blake and his dream of becoming the next National Showman by sending donations to him through:

CashApp: $RomanYoung2005

Venmo: @RomanYoung2005

PayPal: bhenry05@hotmail.com

 

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