It is Finished!

💥COVER REVEAL!! 💥 The Emerald of Viridian by Claire Norsworthy. Official release date is Monday, June 7th.

After three-and-a-half long years, my book is finally being released to the world!

If you like YA urban fantasy like The Mortal Instruments series or The Folk of the Air series, give mine a try!

Five dying islands.

Each doomed to destruction.

One hope to save them.

Katie Edwards only wants one thing—the popular and gorgeous Jake Bronson. But when she is coldly rejected after asking him to the dance, she goes to bed that night knowing she no longer wants to remain the same.The next morning, she wakes hearing waves lap at the shore. Katie Edwards is not in her bed. She is lying on her belly in the warm, white sands of a tropical beach. A beach very, very far from Earth.

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER!

www.amazon.com/Emerald-Viridian-Claire-Norsworthy/dp/1943504377

www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-emerald-of-viridian-claire-norsworthy/1139485583

This image shows NGC 121, a globular cluster in the constellation of Tucana (The Toucan).

I’m Coming Out of the Closet to Say I’m Gay Okay

Several weeks ago, I received news that knocked the wind out of me.

Now that I’ve gotten click bait out of the way, let me back up and start over. Please don’t leave! What I have to say will likely annoy or even anger you—all of you—and for good reason; but, nevertheless, I think it’s an important, thoughtful stance I’ve taken up.

First—let me give you some background on myself. I grew up in a conservative, Christian home. Right was white. Wrong was black.

In college, I inadvertently (such a long story, it’s another blog post in itself) attended an independent, fundamental Baptist college. I sank my life savings in the college, with no way to escape its crushing grip but to graduate four years later, unsure whether I was brainwashed or stripped of any religion left in me.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. Still a believer. Still preserving core beliefs in various capacities.

Now to begin my story. It was over a month ago that I had a very vivid dream. It was a college friend who, years ago, I’d had a falling out with for no good reason. Since that fallout, it seemed he’d dropped off the face of the planet. With no other method of connecting with him than sending a good old fashioned text message, I did.

In my dream, this man had a wife and new baby. In reality, I knew nothing other than he had gotten married several years back. When I texted, he simply told me he’d recently gotten divorced and little else.

I owe my obsessive personality a big thank-you for brewing over his texts for the next three weeks. Shrouded in mystery, his texts claimed he’d feel comfortable talking to me over the phone about it within the week. Weeks passed. I obsessed more.

Finally, he called.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I’m gay.”

The words felt like a five-hundred-pound weight shoved upon my shoulders… along with an inexplicable Aha! It all makes sense now! Followed by a, Wait, so why were you chasing after girls all those years ago? Followed by a What the actual eff? You lied to me. You lied to us all… for years.

Which sent me into a tailspin of thoughts. The next morning, I actually had to call my husband at work (something I rarely do as he does not like to be disturbed while working) and unloaded. “Why did he lie to us?! I mean… he was my best friend. Why did he get married? Why would he do that?!” I may or may not have been yelling. I can’t quite remember.

Only my husband’s steady, calm answer speaking softly into me kept me grounded. “Claire, what was he supposed to do? He did all the things that his family would have wanted. He did all the things that a Christian church would have wanted.” And in my heart, I wondered that if he had not made those choices, would I have condemned him? Would I have pointed an accusing finger his direction and claimed, “You have not done all that you can to fight this?”

You see, I’m not just part of the church, I am the church, so my response matters. And so does the church’s. Ah. The church. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

For those of you not affiliated with the church, you can skip the next two paragraphs (unless you’re curious. Shoot. I’d be curious).

So, growing up in a white, straight, privileged, evangelical home, there were many things about myself I took for granted. My heterosexuality is one of them. The Christian’s knee-jerk response to homosexuality is a simple, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Okay, fair enough. But what about nuance? What about trying to understand a person’s story? What about not trying to change a person’s sexuality?

I write this with humility, knowing that I’m like a newborn baby with my understanding of the topic. I know I’m not fit to even write about it or give advice, so I want to emphasize that this is not advice. This is me sharing my own conclusions. I’ve only read two memoirs by gay authors, both on opposing sides of the spectrum, but they shared this common theme—You can’t change your sexuality. Seriously. This is something that Christians should probably understand. The response that my friend hates is, “You’re gay? Oh, that’s cool. Now read this book so you can change.” He’s well-aware of what the Bible says about same-sex attraction. He’s spent thirty plus years immersed in biblical culture and idealism. Thirty-plus years trying to change his sexuality. Thirty-something years battling self-loathing and struggling with his own self-worth.

But now he understands something: God sees his worth—all of it. Every part of him. This is not my cup. This is not your cup. This is the SSA (same-sex attracted) person’s cup. And who am I to have an opinion?

Now, to make everyone who reads this angry. Here I go, jumping off my little suicidal bridge. This part is to those of you who support or are homosexual. Some of you think you are free of any sort of agenda. But lately, I will pick up a YA fantasy and find half the characters homosexual, as if same-sex attraction is not only common, but that teens ought to be gay when they are not. Take, for instance, Cassandra Clare’s book Chain of Gold. When you first open up the book, you’ll find a lovely colored picture of eight people (excluding the two hanging portraits). These eight people are our main characters. Of these eight people, five are heterosexual. The ones that are homosexual or bisexual all have partners with large roles in the book. This might not seem strange, but remember two vital things. First, this is straightforward YA, not LGBTQ. Second, this book takes place in the Victorian Era, a setting in which it was punishable by imprisonment to be homosexual. Instead of marketing nearly half the characters as gay, the author could have chosen one well-developed character and talked about their struggles.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn also takes this tack. Five of the major or minor characters are homosexual. Now here’s the truth. Only three percent of the population identifies as homosexual. That means if you have a hundred characters in your story, only three of them will be gay. One hundred is ambitious. From my reading, I’d say ten major characters and twenty minor characters sounds about right in a YA novel. Which means that in reality, there would be about ONE. One lone LGBT character. Much more than that, and you’re trying to force something on me.

The best LGBT character I’ve ever read in a YA novel was in Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely. In it, the main character finds out her brother is both gay and has a boyfriend. We meet the boyfriend who quickly gets wrapped up in the story. He is a black doctor—kind, smart, an anchor of wisdom. I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader who fell in love with him. His character is deep and well-developed. Readers from opposite ends of the spectrum saw that he could be both human and gay.

In conclusion, here’s what it feels like from the perspective of someone who is trying to remain true to their religious and moral values. They feel like some homosexual supporters are browbeating people to embrace, support, and affirm homosexual choices. But this coercion propels some fundamental Christians even further into their corner of hatred. What we should advocate is not affirmation of the act, but an awareness that all people should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs, skin color, education, sexual affiliation, or socio-economic status. Treat others as you want to be treated: If you want to enlighten a person, first build relationship, then educate.

I have a variety of friends with whom I do not see eye-to-eye on many matters. None of them have ever forced me to agree on vaccinations, presidential elections, or recycling. (Okay, not gonna lie. Some have, but it is really annoying, and I don’t want to be friends with those people. Do you want to be friends with people who tell you you’re going to hell if you vaccinate your child?)

So why should people be forced to affirm gay sex?

Here’s the conclusion of the whole matter… for me.

A couple years ago, I was sitting in my mother-in-law’s back yard visiting with longtime family friends who are a lesbian couple. We visited, ate together, spoke Spanish together, and had a really good time catching up. After we’d left, I was sitting in the car, my mind once again forcing itself to make some sort of stance on the gay debate. And suddenly, I’m pretty sure I had a Holy Spirit moment, because I felt a load lifted from my shoulders and an internal voice whisper something to me: You don’t have to.

I don’t have to decide. I’m taking a neutral approach. I will let God be the ultimate judge. Not me. And let me tell you— It’s very freeing.

Remember what I said above? Christians/non-Christians: This is not your cup. Be a friend. Be normal. I don’t treat my heterosexual friends with privilege or reproach. I treat them like they are human. Like my friends who spoke Spanish with me on the lawn that sunny summer day. Or my now-best friend from afar. He’s still the same to me. Just as precious. And just the same. Except he dates guys, not girls.

And that’s okay. I’m gay okay.

Image by Jae Bano

In a Teacher’s Shoes

    I’m standing in front of my small audience of seven live, in-the-flesh students. My other eight students are hidden behind a camera and sitting on a desk next to me. I ask a simple question: “What does ‘tener’ mean?” Three students in front of me hazard a guess. “To be?” “To have?” “It’s something I can’t remember.” The rest of their faces are painted in thoughtfulness. I turn to my laptop, waiting for a response of any kind from the black screen of death. I hear nothing but crickets. I turn back to my flesh students. “Okay, and how do we conjugate ‘tener’?”

    As one, my students belt out, “Yo tengo, tu tienes, usted…”

    “Great!” I turn to my black screen of death. All students are muted. I stand up at the board and conjugate the word. “Online people? Can you see this?”

    Crickets.

    I work at a private a school, and because of this, our school was afforded the opportunity to teach for two live hours each day. Which means half (ish) of the high school student body peels themselves out of bed early, makes themselves presentable, and drives to school to sit in class for a whopping two hours before heading back home to finish their classes online. Those who don’t join me in school are online.

    My students’ desks are six feet apart; masks cover half their faces. And while I know masks are useful, they are murder on my brain. Earlier this year, I stared out at my students and blinked. “Is her name Grace or is that Sarah?” Shoot. My body pinged with panic. I should KNOW this. Normally, I have my students’ names down pat by the third day. It’s the third month, and I’m still shaky. Then I remind myself. Oh. It’s because I can’t see their faces online. They are simply a name. And when I can see some faces at school, half of it is covered by a cloth. Fortunately for me, I teach part time—I have less than thirty students. For those that have hundreds, I can’t even imagine.

I get one precious in-person class per week. The rest is online. Let me tell you how the online classes go:

Me: (Super excited for the day) “Hey everyone! How’s it going!?”

Spanish 2: Just the sound of air.

Me: “Hey guys! How are you!?”

Spanish 2: One person chirps “Good.”

Me: (Fifteen minutes later after we’ve wasted a bunch of time doing a connection exercise just so students can socialize) Okay, so we’ve got like thirty minutes to do an hour’s worth of stuff. Sigh of the long suffering. “So open your book to page 54, and let’s conjugate these irregular stem-changing ‘I’ verbs.”

Spanish 2: Crickets.

Me: “So could you turn on your cameras and turn yourself off mute so I can hear you?”

Spanish 2: No response. Thirty seconds later, one mute-mic blinks off.

Me: “Thanks, John, now can EVERYONE turn off mute and turn on your camera?!”

Spanish 2: One camera blinks on. It’s pointed at the ceiling.

Me: “Thanks for the image of your ceiling fan.”

Spanish 2: Another video blinks on. This time, it’s a lovely yellow wall I get to see.

Me: Thrumming my fingers, waiting.

Spanish 2: A minute later, another camera goes on. This time I get to see a face.

Me: Leaning forward, amazed to see my student’s precious face. (Don’t worry, readers, I only got to see it for about two minutes before he snapped his camera back off. But, hey, two minutes is better than a sharp stick in the eye!)

Finally, when all hope is lost of getting 100% participation, I give up and begin conjugating my verbs. The Zoom call is laggy. I hear one voice stridently conjugating the verbs exactly one word after me. I have to mute my speakers just so I can hear myself think.

When we are done, I check the time. We’ve got fifteen minutes left of class to achieve thirty minutes of content.

Me: “Well, I guess we’re out of time. Sorry I’ve gone so long and didn’t give you more time to do the video and homework. Again. For the zillionth time. Okay, now go watch your lesson video and do the homework! Adios!”

Spanish 2: A few “bye’s.” Everyone blinks from my screen and scurries to do something that is NOT Spanish.

    I’ve left the fate of Spanish in their young, frail hands. It takes extra hours to create all of their lesson videos- easily accessible online. They have video lessons, live reviews, teacher-access, homework, a physical textbook and online textbook. They have an online platform to keep them organized, remind them of upcoming assignments. They have everything at their disposal to be successful except for a live body to keep them accountable. And this- this is the one thing they need.

    Every time I scroll through the homework, a number 3 appears next to it. It means three people have turned it in. The same three people. Those are the ones that get their work in. The rest of them… I sigh. Each one represents copious emails. Zoom meetings. Unpaid private tutoring. Gray hairs. Wrinkles. An early grave.

Image by Sharon McCutcheon

    Time warp back to our classroom with Spanish one. I have half the class in front of me, half the class online beside me. We are doing a simple exercise. We’re practicing “feeling” words. I call on the fleshy girl in front of me. “Jamie, what the word for happy.”

Jamie: “Contento!”

Me: “Great! Samantha- sad”

Samantha: “Triste”

Me: “Charles- angry”

Charles: Thinks for a second “Enojo?”

Me: “Close. Enojado.”  All these questions have been answered in a matter of mere seconds. I Pause. “Hey, let’s ask our online people. Billy (*online person), what is the word for ‘sick.’”

Billy: Nothing. There’s no camera on. He’s muted.

Me: “Billy? What’s the word for ‘sick’?”

Billy: Still nothing. We wait. And wait… and wait some more.

Me: “Okay, Billy must not be there. How about you, David?”

We wait for David in the same fashion that we waited for Billy.

Me: “David? David?… Okay, Cindy? What’s the word for ‘sick’?” I can practically hear Cindy scrambling from her dazed stupor wherever she is in cyber land. Several seconds pass.

Cindy: “What was the question?”

Me: Pulling out my hair. “What is the word for ‘sick’ in Spanish!” I’m trying to ask it as a question, not a statement that comes out with the force of a nail gun.

Cindy: “Uh. I don’t know.”

Me: Desperate. I turn back to my students. The live ones. The flesh ones. My voice does sound desperate, riddled with despair. “Can any of you tell me what ‘sick’ is?

Spanish 1: Blasting at me in unison “Enfermo!”

    And that, ladies and gentleman, describes my life as a distance-learning teacher. If 2020 taught me one thing, it’s that anything can be done. But flipping a high school classroom to distance learning cannot be done well.

New Year’s Resolutions: Ask Yourself- Am I a Jerk?

Last Saturday, I took my boys to one of their last soccer sessions. The younger two play from 10:00-10:40. The oldest plays from 11:00-11:45. Remember that now.

    On these days, I pull my car in backward, pop open the back hatch, and sit in the freezing cold while I watch my boys play. In the twenty minutes between sessions, I close the back, start up the car, and warm up four sets of numb little fingers and toes.

    It was during this twenty-minute interval last week that I encountered a Jerk.

    As I sat in the driver’s seat warming my own numb fingers, something out the window caught my attention. A woman was gesticulating frantically, pointing to the back of the car. Panic set in, and my mind began racing: Had I run a child over? Was something trapped under my car!? My heart was thundering, adrenaline propelling me to turn off my car and roll down my window in terror. What was under my car!?

    “Turn off your car!” the woman roared. Her face twisted in rage and disgust, her finger pointing accusatively from me to my tailpipe. “The exhaust!” After her display, she rolled her eyes as if I were a complete moron.

    I don’t remember what I said. I’m not even sure what my expression showed, but all I know is that I was stunned. I felt my face turn red, first from fright that somebody was hurt, then to anger at the way the woman had approached this situation. I stared out my rearview mirror and saw one lone boy in the field, far from my fumes. The woman proceeded to get out a chair and set it right next to the back of my car.

    My finger dangled over the ignition, fighting the urge to turn my car back on. The clock read 10:57. Only three more minutes before my son would start playing, and that was normally when I would have turned off my car anyway.

    My thoughts and emotions were a battlefield inside my mind. “Turn it on,” the devil on my shoulder whispered.

    “Just leave it off. What’s the point in creating a war that everyone will lose?” the angel said. Reluctantly, I listened to the angel.

    Afterward, I replayed a million ways that scenario could have unfolded without anyone being condescending and rude.

    I tried to put myself in the woman’s shoes. Hmm… I would like to set my chair here, but the exhaust from this car will make it impossible. I wonder if this person will be turning off their car soon. Heck. How about I just ask now. Proceed to walk over to driver side window and nicely wave or knock on window. “Hey, so sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind turning off your car because I’d like to set my chair where the exhaust is blowing out, but it makes it hard to breathe.”

    “Oh! Of course! No problem.” I proceed to turn off car and think of what a nice person I am and how nicely the person asked. Both parties are left feeling… Nice.

     Instead, I have a pit in my stomach and an urge to fight. I think about humanity and why we suck so bad.

    Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s the recent Election. Or maybe it’s the way Portland has been allowing protestors to destroy my once-beautiful city, but lately I can’t stop myself from lobbing people into two varying groups: Jerks and Nice People.

    So I will now get to the moral of this post. How often do you ask examine your own behavior? When you are in a situation where you disagree with the other person, how do you react? This, more than anything else, is a test of your character.

    In the past, I’ve failed this test miserably. But the older I get, the more aware I become of my own behavior and the human I desire to be. Now my New Year’s resolution is to not focus just on outward fitness or appearance, but on inward beauty of character.

I wish all humans behaved decently, using their anger and conviction in a productive and purposeful way. I wish that instead of yelling at people for warming their fingers, we could treat each person with respect and dignity. I wish that when we took issues with people, we could remember their humanity.

    I believe that all humans are entitled to a voice, but if you want to be heard, use it kindly.

Sometimes Happiness is Hard to Find

    Many of my years were spent somewhere between the edge of unhappiness and a dark abyss. Those dark moments began in the eighth grade and ended at the age of twenty-five. In fact, I remember the day they ended. It was a very strange moment of realization. It was my 25th birthday, and I had just gone to dinner with my sister. I remember it being a sad occasion, wondering what I had accomplished in my short lifetime that had made any difference to me or the world. I don’t remember what she said that night, but I do remember the moments afterward, alone in my car and climbing up the West Hills of Portland, Oregon. And in that moment, I think I discovered Joy’s Treasure Map.

    Last night, my three-year-old waddled into my room at 9:30. For us, 9:30 may as well be midnight. Our house was completely dark, every light turned off, and every soul asleep except my toddler and me. The conversation began this way. “Mommy.” It came out as a raspy whisper. The kind that makes a parent roll their eyes and need to scream “What now!?!” (Insert pulling out hair, watering eyes, and the need to begin raving, “Why can’t you just GO TO BED!”) His little voice followed up the word by saying, “I can’t find my bunny.” Of course he can’t find his bunny because it’s in his bed where I tucked him in an hour ago, hoping upon hope that he’d actually fall asleep. (And we all laugh recklessly at this point. At least I do.) Of course, bunny is probably wadded up in tangled sheets that have been dragged off the bed for the one millionth time and are now lying on the floor (Which is exactly where I found Bunny at 12:30 later that night).

Actual photo of Bunny

    I’m not going to lie and say that I immediately saw this moment as an opportunity. Oh no. The truth is that I actually pretended to be asleep. But then he was right next to my face, peering at me with blinking eyes and calling my bluff. And that’s when I saw the opportunity. Sometimes I feel like a Venus Fly Trap. The boy gets too close, and I snap.

    “Come on, baby.” I patted the bedside, he crawled in, and I snapped him in my arms. He immediately began wiggling and talking loudly. I had to hush him a hundred times so he wouldn’t wake up my sleeping husband. Finally, I offered back tickles, and thirty minutes of coaxing him to sleep later, the magical moment happened. My baby fell asleep, his body tucked against mine, his arms hugging mine like a teddy bear, and I found heaven.

    Snuggles are hard to come by with my boys. Actually, they are darn near impossible. I’m a feeler. One of my love languages is touch, and so my boys aren’t surprised when I pour it on them. And whenever the Venus Fly Trap snaps, they usually do everything in their power to buck out of it.

    Last night I lay in bed long after I usually go to sleep so that I could drink in my toddler’s snuggles. And once again, I was reminded of Joy and all the places I find it. If you are like me and have struggled with depression, then this list is a reminder to you too.

    Joy begins early in the morning when it’s still dark and quiet outside and the whole house is asleep. I creep downstairs, open the fridge, and make myself a cup of Joy that usually takes the form of a Tazo chai latte. Then I open up my laptop and find my latest project (Either Emerald of Viridian or its sequel, or the Cardboard Box Brothers), and I immerse myself in a world of adventure, wonder, and excitement. For those that have found writing to become work: Remember the Joy you experienced when you first began your journey. If you are writing fiction, I think Joy might be easier to find because of the creativity and excitement that world-building brings. Even bringing fictional characters to life and having them live your dreams brings me so much Joy, that it sometimes creates bubbles of excitement throughout my day.

    Joy is found on hot summer days sitting outside beneath an oak tree and watching its leaves swish in the wind. It’s seeing my boys climb trees, wield sticks, and run-bare foot through green grass (Although I will say it’s not when they bring said dirty feet into my house and all over the white carpet.)

    Joy is in making chicken tortilla soup and watching your family gobble it down, knowing you haven’t just nourished their bellies, but also their souls.

    Joy is in apple picking, jigsaw puzzles, play dates, sword fights, Lego creations, matchbox car races, and watching your kids eat grapes that they’ve stuffed in their cheeks until they bulge like chipmunks.

    It’s in studying the faces of your sleeping children. It’s in watching them play and grow.

    It’s in opening the door to your home and allowing neighbors to run freely in and out. It’s in having friends over and going to their houses. And it’s in welcoming family at any time, rain or shine, day or night.

    Joy is in watching the pouring rain slide down your window panes and thanking God for a warm home. It’s in taking these moments and using them to make a hot cocoa and curl up around a blazing fire with a good book.

    Joy is in baking something wonderful on cold, gray days. It’s also in going outside on these days puddle jumping or looking at the lights on in the neighborhood homes, thankful for a community that cares.

    It’s in Seasons: watching the leaves fall, picking your favorite pumpkin, spicy lattes, cinnamon bread, Christmas trees, Valentine’s cards, Easter baskets, and glittering fireworks.

    It’s in watching snow fall from the sky.

    Joy is in praying with your kids each night and asking God to guide them to become young men and women after His heart.

    Joy is in the book I pick up at night, my soul thankful for the creativity of so many men and women who dared to dream big and who fought for that dream until it was finished.

    If you look hard enough for it, you’ll find Joy’s Treasure Map too. And you’ll be surprised at what it shows. Because it will show you the place you dwell, and if not, it will show you the possibility of your dream. All you have to do is open your eyes and find it.

It’s okay to be sad someimes. But it’s more fun to be happy.

This fortnight’s survey has been provided by special guest author Claire Norsworthy

Check out my poll on http://www.barbarasbooknalysis.com!

Barbara’s Booknalysis

Claire Norsworthy was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She began writing three years ago after having three boys in three-and-a-half years and was forced to turn to fiction for escape. Fueled by coffee and manic energy, she typed nearly one million words equaling roughly five full length novels.

In her first book, the story follows sixteen-year-old Katie Edwards after she is rejected by the boy of her dreams and wakes up in an alien world called Viridian. She has to navigate her role in saving the strange new world while also transforming herself on Earth. The first book in the series will be published in the spring of 2021.

Claire also caters to her children’s appetite for fiction and has started a children’s series about three brothers who discover a cardboard box that holds a life-altering secret. The first book of *The* *Cardboard Box Brothers* is also slated to…

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Inside the Mind of a Writer

  A few hours ago, I was running on my treadmill listening to the words of Fiona Apple: “Oh darlin it’s so sweet you think you know how crazy, how crazy I am.”

    I’ve always loved that song for one reason: I can identify with her inner mania. In fact, sometimes I think I thrive on it.

    I’ve often considered the broad spectrum of artistry: the thoughtful painter, the animated actor, the bold dancer, the boisterous musician, and the quiet writer. From the outside, many writers are shy, soft spoken, introverted. But the outward is a poor reflection of the intensity inside.

    If you’d asked me three years ago what my artistic passion was, I would have answered by laughing. Now, I know that it’s writing and always has been, despite my lack of creativity up until three years ago. Ever since the fifth grade, I inconsistently kept journals, pouring out my inner turmoil in a cathartic release of feelings that no other outlet gave me.

Photo by Banter Snaps

    In my early twenties, I meticulously detailed every aspect of my depression, isolation, and desperation. I dove into the nitty gritty of my love affairs and examined the existential meaning of life. I was crazy, and I knew it. I embraced it. There were secrets in my journals that only one other human being knows about. And I’ll tell you how he found out.

    My romance with my husband was a whirlwind. We dated for four months before we were engaged. When it happened, I’d already bought my wedding dress and I think even the invites were sent out. I can only guess it was close to the wedding because I’d already started moving all my things to his house. Namely, my books and old journals.

   One day I walked into his quiet house and began searching for the man I knew was inside. I climbed the stairs, looking into each room until I came to the last one. There he was, reclined on the floor, one of my journals in his hand. It was everything I could do not to launch myself through the air and rip it away.

    When he looked up at me, his eyes were a little blank and glassy. Oh dear God. He’s never going to marry me now.

    “I read most of them,” he said. His voice was pretty monotone. Maybe I interpreted it as dead.

    I just swallowed, waiting for my death sentence.

    “And?” I finally asked.

    “I still want to marry you.” His face broke into a smile. “Even though I know just how much of a freak you are, I still want to marry you.” I let out a huge sigh and gave him a hug.

    My husband knows me better than any human alive, and he still loves me, despite my madness.

    Years ago when I used to journal, I would chronicle the events of my life in an attempt to make sense of them. Now I take the chaos, embrace it, and throw it straight into my stories. Writing is a deep exploration of the human mind, drawing out its strongest emotions. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that most humans feel inner mania too. It’s the very reason we love to pick up a work of fiction and vicariously feel a character’s intensity caged inside of us that we have no means to express. I love the drama. I love fear, desperation, anger, even violence if I’m forced to admit it. I love the bad things not just because it’s part of our human nature, but because I love playing god and forcing good to be birthed from the bad. I also love love. (No, that’s not a typo.) I love forgiveness, acceptance, goodness, and redemption. And I love that I can create it with my keyboard.

Photo by Greg Razoky

   People hear story after story of musicians gone off the deep end with drugs, alcohol, and sex. Their art is so outward, so interactive and mutually experiential. The emotion I feel when I write is all internal and completely isolated. Often times, I’ll hit the trail with my ipod and go on a mental bender for thirty minutes while I jog. Nobody passing by has a clue of the scenes that flood my head during these times.

    When I’m writing, there have been countless occasions that my hands shake, my armpits sweat, and a feeling of euphoria steals over me. When I’m done, by head feels like it’s underwater, and I go through the motions of the day like a machine, fighting the wrung-out feelings from what I’ve just created. Let me tell ya, it’s intense.

Photo by Alice Alinari

    Writing isn’t work to me. If you were to ask my husband, he’d tell you it’s an obsession. He’s not wrong. I get cranky if I miss a day. I feel off. If you think reading a good book is fulfilling, try writing one. Imagine anyplace you want to go, and then the power of creating it. The power of creating people and places and bending them to your will. Maybe writers are just narcissistic control freaks. Or maybe it’s just me.

    In any case, as for those of you who scrutinize the writer… “It’s so sweet you think you know how crazy, how crazy I am.”

Why Food Intolerances Are Actually a Blessing

    In my twenties I used to brag, “I’ll eat anything. I can eat anything.” Everywhere I turned, it felt like someone was intolerant to gluten or nuts or dairy. The list went on and on, but when I went over to people’s houses for dinner, I proudly boasted that I was an easy-to-deal-with individual and would eat anything prepared for me.

    For the first two months after my first child was born, he had terrible cholic. He’d have a messy diaper all the time and would never stop hollering, especially at night. Then, suddenly, he was better. I shrugged my shoulders and went on with life until the cholic and the messy diapers flared up again. I had no idea what was going on, but I’ll never forget standing in the kitchen with my husband’s gaze piercing mine. “Stop eating whatever it is you’re eating.”

    Huh?

    I wracked my brain, going through a checklist of foods I’d been eating (I was nursing at the time.). Oh yes. I’d recently gone through phases of milk and Greek yogurt… that coincided perfectly with my baby’s cholic. But was that really a thing? Dairy was supposed to soothe the tummy, not upset it. So I ran it through the ole’ Google machine, and, sure enough, found dairy to be the culprit. Life was awesome for both me and my baby once I cut it out. While it was difficult to live dairy free, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Image by Ola Ciszewska

    Six months after my second son was born, at exactly 11:00 every morning, I began doubling over in debilitating stomach pain that lasted for several hours. It took two excruciating weeks to figure out that the culprit was eggs- something I had been eating literally every day of my life for the past ten years.

    By this point, I was scratching my head, wondering what was going on with my body. I still made jokes that I wasn’t like those “other” people. Those special people who loved the gluten-free trend.

    And then four months later, I once again had immobilizing stomach pain along with the feeling that my body was sick and shutting down. This time, it took me about two days to target gluten. From that point, my relationship with wheat was like a rollercoaster. I didn’t really believe that I couldn’t eat it (I was in denial), so during my third pregnancy, I convinced myself that food intolerances went away during pregnancies. Turns out I was dead wrong.

Image by Taylor Kiser

    As the months rolled by, I realized more and more that I couldn’t have any of it. Not even a bite. And something that year changed for me. For the first time in decades, I no longer battled winter colds.

    Let me pause and give you a little history about myself. Colds were my “thang.” I had them mastered- nasal decongestants in combination with neti pots, NyQuil, and immune-boosting powders dragged me along in life. The colds would start in October and wouldn’t leave me alone until April. They were one after the other, often ending in sinus infections. I actually dubbed myself, “The Queen of Colds.”

    Now I was gluten-free, and as fall faded into winter, then winter to spring, and I kept perfectly healthy, I realized I’d cracked the code. Could it be that for years gluten was toxic to my body? I think the answer to that is a resounding “Yes.”

Image by Isabella and Louisa Fischer

    It was then that I asked myself this question: “If so many people are developing allergies and intolerances, then what does that say about our food?”

    Now I’m not going to stand on a soap box and tell you to only eat organic. But what I will tell you is that I firmly believe something’s wrong with the way much of our food is processed.

   So I made a point to begin eating more natural and whole foods. I began reading books about the Earth and how to be a good steward not just in the way we take care of the world, but how we live in it. (Gardening Eden by Michael Abbate). I also read a life-changing book called Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman. In it, he explains how an excellent immunity can be achieved by eating a plethora of greens and by cutting out animal-based foods such as meats and dairy. He even has diets that have helped people be cured from lupus.

    That food had the power to heal was an eye-opening revelation, and I made a point to incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal that I made. Last winter was the first winter in my memory where all three of my children barely got a cold. Of course we had the occasional puke, but it began and ended in a matter of hours.

    Through my food intolerances, I learned that food is more than just something to taste. It’s life. It’s what we’re made of, and it can be the difference between a healthy home and one full of ailments.

Image by Brooke Lark

    (Reader, please understand that I know every home is varied, and even homes with a high consumption of fruits and veggies still gets sick. Everyone’s body works differently, but ours reacts dramatically to a healthier diet.)

    My point is this. Food allergies brought on enlightenment. I used to eat whatever I saw that looked good, regardless if it was good for me. Now I know better. I LOVE being gluten free, and I’d never go back. I have better health and better energy than I did before being gluten-free, and, more importantly, I’m constantly aware of the nourishment that goes into my family.

    If you’ve been blessed with intolerances, hopefully you’ve come to this powerful conclusion as well.

Photo by Dan Gold

A SCOBY for You, Kombucha for Everyone (And my own master recipe)

    My story begins one day while I was nursing a hangover (I know, world. I’m admitting it right now. Scandalous, I’m sure. But yes I, Claire Norsworthy, suffered a few hangovers in my twenties.) At the time, I was working at a charming little café nestled between shops, apartments, and maple trees in NW Portland, and as I buttered bagels and poured shots of espresso, I was inwardly groaning. No amount of ibuprofen was easing my pounding head.

    And that’s when my amazing co-worker turned to me and said, “Have you tried kombucha?”

    “Have I tried what!?” I asked. I’d never even heard the word.

    A few blocks away was a natural grocer, and minutes later, my co-worker bounded back with two G.T.’s Kombuchas. One was regular flavor, and that was the one he handed me. I took one sip and thought I might throw up after all. I made a face, and he said, “Do you want mine?” His was some fruity flavor.

    Yes, please. Anything but this.

    He kindly traded, and I was able to get half of it down.

    And then, like magic, my headache faded away. My energy came back. I felt… normal.

    “What’s in this stuff?” I asked him.

    “It’s a de-toxifier. Also, after a hangover, your body craves alcohol. The tiny bit in the kombucha as a result from natural fermentation satisfies that need.”

    I marveled at this.

    When I got my next hangover (No judging people. The twenties were rough on me.), I remembered kombucha. It had the same effect.

    And so I shared the knowledge of this wonderous tonic to anyone who would listen. And instead of buying booze, we’d by bottles of booch. (I still vividly remember the one that exploded all over my car.)

    When I met my husband, I introduced him to this magical drink, and he immediately fell in love. When my husband takes an interest in something, it’s never just cursory. He researched the drink, finding out that you can easily make your own. He contacted a friend, and she brought over a SCOBY.

    “I had no idea kombucha was made using internal organs,” I said when I saw it.

    Turns out, it wasn’t somebody’s pancreas. A SCOBY is a “Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria.” And will I bore you with the science behind it? No, I will not. First, because I’m not a scientist and secondly because it’s fascinating to learn about it for yourself. Just do a quick Google search of Kombucha’s many health benefits and why it works. It’s amazing!

    After the friend brought over this horrifying living mass, my husband set to work setting up a brewing station. His kombucha turned out a lot like vinegar. Like really sour and repellent vinegar. We’d all take a sip and smile and pretend we liked it, but inside, we were groaning. And then we’d go out and buy a GT, and life would be better.

    After about a year or more of making batch after batch of really gross vinegar, he threw in the towel. We inwardly rejoiced.

    Then, a couple years later, I unwrapped a special book on Christmas morning. “I thought we might give kombucha another try,” my husband said as I held The Big Book of Kombucha in my hand.

    I thought that would be cool. But first I vowed that I would read that book from cover to cover before starting.

     When I finished, we began our second round of booch brewing, and that’s when everything changed. Instead of spending $4 per bottle of booch, I was now spending mere pennies for something that tasted the same, if not better than what I’d found in the store.

    So why is kombucha so special? Several reasons. Kombucha contains probiotics which contributes to gut health. Have you ever had an upset stomach, and your whole attitude changes? You feel irritable, maybe depressed. If you’ve suffered chronic stomach problems, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s because your gut is connected to your brain. The Kombucha book calls your gut your “Second brain.” Kombucha helps cleanse your gut, improves liver function, digestion, bowel function, blood pressure, kidney function, and more.

    Most people enjoy a sweet drink during their day, and those that don’t are usually trying to battle that impulse. Kombucha is lightly sweetened and also carbonated, fulfilling the need of a soda pop. Moreover, it actually helps reduce your sugar cravings altogether.

    So maybe it’s time to try it. Maybe it’s time to make it! What would be the first step? Call a friend and get a SCOBY. If you don’t have a friend with a SCOBY, search social media. You’ll find someone in no time (And if you’re one of my friends on social media, then you’ll definitely find one in no time!). If not, you can buy a SCOBY online.

    Next, brew a batch. But how? What I have done is taken a book’s worth of knowledge and boiled it down to two pages of instructions and recipes.

    Remember, kombucha is an acquired taste, but my five-year-old loves it already. In fact, he loves it so much that he even eats the fermented fruit from the bottle. Now that’s dedication.

    So, find your SCOBY, and let’s get this party started!

Claire’s Basic Kombucha Batch Brew Method:

(Makes 1 gallon)

What you will need:

1.5 gallon ceramic or glass brew container. (It does not need a spigot.)

1 cup organic cane sugar

5 bags of organic black or green tea (I prefer black.)

10 kombucha bottles (You can reuse ones you’ve bought from the store.)

1 Scoby with 1-2 cups starter fluid

  • Place Scoby and starter fluid in a clean, sterile kombucha brew container. (I sterilize mine with a mild soap that is NOT antibacterial, then finish by rinsing it with vinegar (Do NOT use raw vinegar as this can cause vinegar eels!).
  • Set brew vessel aside and get out a pot to boil water.
  • Make sure all pots/utensils/hands everything is clean and sterile.
  • Bring to boil 4 cups of filtered water in clean pot on stove (I use 4.5 cups because of evaporation).
  • Once boiling, turn down to low (or off) and add 5 bags of organic black or green tea.
  • Let tea steep for 10 minutes.
  • Remove tea bags, and add 1 cup organic cane sugar.
  • Stir in sugar to dissolve completely.
  • Turn off heat and remove pot from stove.
  • Add 4 to 6 more cups cold, filtered water to pot (until water is cool enough to add to glass kombucha brewing container).
  • Add remaining 8-10 cups cold water to glass or ceramic kombucha brew container.
  • Add warm tea brew to the brew container where your Scoby is. (Putting in sink helps with the spills. Sweet tea is very sticky.) Make sure that your water is not too hot as it will scald the scoby.
  • Stir completely. It’s okay if SCOBY sinks to bottom of container or rises.
  • Cover brew vessel with breathable cloth (a bandana or old t-shirt will work. Do NOT use cheese cloth). Secure cloth with rubber band. Put kombucha brew in a warm, dark place that is well-ventilated (not in a cupboard).
  • Let sit for around 9-10 days at a temperature between 77-80 degrees Fahrenheit (It’s best to buy a warming band if you live in cooler climates). Taste test every day between day 7-14. When the kombucha is slightly too sweet but still has that boochy taste, it’s time to flavor and bottle. If not flavoring, you can bottle anyway and let sit out for several more days so that kombucha can carbonate.

To bottle:

  • Create whatever fruit/spice/herb concoction you can think of. (I use frozen fruit that I’ve either picked over the summer or from the store.)
  • Finely chop all ingredients.
  • Place individual ingredients in each bottle. (I fill about 1/6 or less of my bottle. Some people do more. It’s a personal preference how sweet you want it to turn out.)
  • STIR the kombucha brew with a clean, sterile wooden spoon (Avoid putting metal near the Scoby if you can) to mix the bacteria and yeast proportionately.
  • Add kombucha brew to bottles. (I use a ladle to scoop out brew and then use a funnel to pour it in the bottle).
  • When finished, screw bottle caps on tightly.
  • Let sit out for another 3-4 days for secondary fermentation.
  • Once it tastes perfect, move to refrigerator to slow fermentation process.
  • When pouring your kombucha, use a tea strainer to strain out yeast strands, fruit, and globs of scoby that may have formed.
  • Enjoy your delicious kombucha!

Flavor Ideas:

  • Strawberry ginger (I buy fresh ginger, thinly slice it, and freeze it for future use.)
  • Blueberry ginger
  • Raspberry, lemon, ginger
  • Peach, mint leaves
  • Blackberry ginger
  • Cherry, strawberry, ginger
  • Peach, mango, ginger
  • Strawberry, mint, ginger
  • Strawberry, basil
  • Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry

Writing Inspiration- Where does it come from and how do you get it?

Before becoming a writer, if faced with a life or death situation where only creativity would save me, I’d be a goner. I marveled at the author creativity in books I read. And then one day, I had an idea. And the idea grew into a scene, and the scene into a chapter, and the chapter into a book. Ideas flowed like a waterfall around me, and for the first time in my life, I tapped into Creativity.

    After nearly three years of non-stop writing, I think I’ve got it dialed in. I will list the seven places where I find my writing inspiration.

    7. Jogging

    I head out on the road (or the treadmill in my garage), crank up the ole’ itunes, and, if my kids don’t interrupt me, I let the music surround me and immerse myself into a scene. Often the music is my muse, not necessarily the jogging (although pushing yourself while listening to music is a magical concoction). Most action scenes were born from exercise.

    6. My Kids

    Kids have a way of opening my brain to strange and fantastical ideas. My are kids are so goofy, but so inventive and creative. They role model what real creativity looks like.

    5. Dreams

Image by Diana Spatariu

    If you can remember them after you wake up, these can be propane for your writing fire. I can think of at least four places in my novels where the idea came straight from a dream.

    4. My Bathroom

Actual picture of my bathroom

    Particularly, my shower. Apparently the monotony of shampooing has its merits.

    3. Other Books

    There’s a seed of plot design that can easily be manipulated to fit your work.

    2. Pain and Grief

Photo by Karim Manjra

    This was a big one for me. At the time I first began writing Emerald of Viridian, I was undergoing some serious grief (something I plan to blog about one day. But dang. That’s going to be tough.) Every time I felt anger, bitterness, or crushing depression, I would literally sit down, flip open my laptop, and write the offender right into the pages of my story. I actually have a real-life character in my books who embodies all the things that hurt me in real life. And writing about it really helped me heal. (I swear, singers actually like getting into relationships and then breaking up just because it adds fuel to their creativity.)

    1. Real-life Experiences

    The world around you is a cluster of millions of little untold stories. Have you ever been doing some mundane task and let your mind wander about something completely unrelated to what you’re doing? Like what if you had so much laundry, that it filled your bedroom and you were drowning in it? Or what if you could wave a magic wand and make your laundry go away? What if you figured out you could snap, and all your laundry would magically fold itself? What if snapping made your clothes disappear? What if you snapped, and you could make anything disappear? Then you had to go to the pit of hell to retrieve it. Would you do it for your laundry? Probably not. But what if you snapped at your kid, and then they landed in a pit of hell, and crap, now you’re stuck going to the pit of hell to get your kid that you really love, and you didn’t mean to snap at him. And there’s a moral in that. Don’t snap at your kids… Or maybe don’t fold so much laundry.

    Anyway, there’s other take-aways from real-life too. At the time of writing this blog, Oregon is inundated with wildfires. All the smoke from the fires have drifted into our valley and settled, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it. Yesterday I saw someone post that we have the “worst air-quality in the world.” The weather channel labeled our air quality as “hazardous.” I’m not even allowing my kids to open the doors because smoke billows in. My husband came home from work (He works at Intel.) and smelled like campfire… from being IN the building. If there’s not a story there, then call me Buster. (Don’t actually call me Buster, okay?)

    If you’ve got creativity, tap into it. The world wants a piece. I know I do. 😊