Author Archives: Shannon Esposito

My Unrest Story

I just watched this documentary UNREST by Jennifer Brea, about her life after she was struck down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s a powerful film and I hope it succeeds in getting the medical community to take this illness, which affects millions of people, seriously.

I am one of the people affected, though I rarely talk about it. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want this illness to define my life. But that’s not the only reason. I don’t talk about it because a lot of people don’t believe it’s a real illness, even people in the medical community. Everyone gets tired, right? And I get it. Unless you are going through it or watching a loved one go through it, it’s hard to imagine the kind of debilitating fatigue where breathing is all you can do, for weeks, months or even years, depending on how severe your case is.

But what I’ve realized watching this movie is staying silent is the worst thing I can do. The push to get this illness taken seriously, and get the research funded to find a cure, needs every voice it can get. So, I am speaking up.

I was lucky enough to be diagnosed early, though not by an understanding rheumatologist (His only advice was to keep exercising). When I look back before the moment I got sick, I can see a pattern where I started to get run down. I had two serious medical traumas in the span of a few years. As I recovered from those, I noticed I never really got back to feeling good. The fatigue was there, just not debilitating yet, so I kept pushing myself, working out, trying to eat better. Until one morning I woke up feeling like I had the flu with severe pain and fatigue. And I never recovered.

That was four years ago. I said I was lucky to be diagnosed early  and that’s because I was able to research enough to learn that pushing myself at all physically could be catastrophic and put me in the “severe” category that most people don’t recover from. Because my main complaint was the pain (my hands and legs burned like they were on fire, my joints ached) my diagnosis was fibromyalgia, though the fatigue is more debilitating for me. Fibro, CFS, ME… these labels are slapped on the cluster of hundreds of symptoms that come with this illness. It is a multi-faceted illness involving the nervous system and the immune system. The digestive, endocrine, cardiovascular and muscular systems are also affected.

The first six months were the hardest for me. There was a lot of spending time in the bathtub and pool because being in water brought the pain down to bearable levels. There was also a lot of grieving for the life I had lost. I have twin boys who were eight at the time. I could no longer ride bikes, go to the beach, throw a baseball, even reading to them would wipe me out for days. I also had two dogs that I could no longer take for walks. I had friends that couldn’t understand how sick I was. My world shrunk to immediate family. To my bed. My couch.

I did see many different types of specialists, but no one had answers. I spent most of that first year with severe brain fog, but when I could concentrate I would research or watch videos of how other people recovered. It took a year of this to find the little things which helped me slowly begin to improve. With a combination of things like: LDN (a drug that boosts the immune system), restorative yoga & meditation (to heal my nervous system), cutting out sugar (to help the inflammation in my body), seeing a restorative medical practitioner (who helped straighten out all the systems that had crashed along with vitamin deficiencies) and learning how to pace (using less energy daily than your cells are producing)  I managed to get to the point where I could do some important things again like write and cook. You could look at me and not see a sick person, as long as I wasn’t doing anything physically taxing, because then I would be in a wheelchair.

In October of this year I was feeling pretty good. I still had exercise intolerance so I still couldn’t do things like walk the dogs or ride bikes, but I could spend fifteen minutes doing light yoga or doing some movement in the pool. I could finally make it through the grocery store without crashing, though I would have leg pain afterwards. I felt like I had a handle on this thing. And then I had another medical emergency. For the third time in four years, a main artery burst in my sinuses and it took two emergency surgeries, a stay in the ICU and a blood transfusion to save my life.

It’s been almost three months and I am still recovering. The crushing fatigue is back. I am frustrated but I know that I have to keep my stress levels down and just go back to the beginning, not using more energy than my body is creating.

Guys, this illness robs people of there lives. There’s this cycle of feeling a little better, getting some hope and then overdoing it and crashing for days or weeks. And by overdoing it, sometimes it’s just reading too long or taking too many trips to the bathroom.

So, if you know someone who has been diagnosed with fibro or CFS/ME please believe them. Support them. Spend time with them, even if you just sit with them. Watch this movie! It’s an isolating illness. It’s scary and its hard to stay hopeful.

Because hope is our life preserver, I’m going to share a few online resources that have helped me:

Fed Up with Fatigue (Donna sends weekly links to your inbox for news/info on Fibro/CFS)

CFS Unravelled (Dan Neuffer was a sufferer who has recovered & now dedicates his time helping others. Tons of great recovery stories on here)

The Optimum Health Clinic (Started by Alex Howard, who himself recovered & wanted to help others. They have tons of great information videos & recovery stories on YouTube. I have an appointment to talk to them at the end of the month.)

Thank you for reading my story and if you’re one of the invisible people suffering through this, hang in there. I see you and I do believe recovery is possible.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Spring with Strawberry Nice-cream!

To celebrate the arrival of Spring, I’ve joined some other fabulous authors for a Spring Bling Blog Hop! And since it’s strawberry season here in Florida, what better way to celebrate the end to dark, cold winter days then with an easy, healthy, strawberry frozen dessert?!

If you’re not familiar with “nice-cream” it’s basically ice cream made with a frozen banana base instead of dairy.

So the first and most important step here is to cut up three ripe bananas into small chunks and freeze them. Be sure to lay the bag flat in the freezer so you don’t get one big lump of bananas.Then wash and freeze the strawberries.

You will need a Vitamix, Ninja or other high-powered blender. (These frozen banana pieces are tougher than they look.) Once frozen, throw them in the blender. Then add the frozen strawberries, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 TSP of coconut or almond milk & blend until smooth!

This makes four servings. You can serve immediately (will be very soft) or freeze again for harder consistency.

There’s no end to the types of nice-cream you can make! You can add cocoa, mint, chocolate-chips, peanut butter, etc. Experimenting is part of the fun.

So, have you tried making your own nice-cream? Any tips or success stories, please share!

Also, don’t forget to visit the other Blog Hop participants for some more fun ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring:

Allyson Charles: https://www.allysoncharles.com/blog

Conniue di Marco http://www.conniedimarco.com/blog/

Gillian Baker: http://gilianbaker.com/blog/

K.B. Owen:  http://kbowenmysteries.com/blog

Layla Reyne:  https://laylareyne.tumblr.com

Kirsten Weiss: https://kirstenweiss.com/blog

Mona Karel:  https://mona-karel.com/blog/

Misterio Press: http://misteriopress.com/

Victoria De La O: http://www.victoriadelao.com/

 

Where I Come From: a poem

There’s a poem called Where I’m From by Kentucky writer George Ella Lyon which is used as a popular writing prompt. You should try it (even if you don’t consider yourself a writer). It’s fascinating which moments and memories pop up. Here’s mine…

http://www.ForestWander.com

http://www.ForestWander.com

Where I Come From

My roots are thick with coal dust
from a small mining town.
Thorn-pricked fingers stained purple from
dew-covered-dawn blackberry hunts.
I come from Pierogis, Goulash, garden delights
plucked by grandfather’s hands.

Snow-bound winters in unforgiving
Pennsylvania country
where my best friend’s sister disappeared
off our back-country road, murdered by
a serial killer.
I learned to tip-toe early.

I come from long, winding, car-sick trips
to grandma’s house. Real maple candy and
Dairy Queen after softball.
Rustling fall leaves, intoxicating sweetness,
covered bridges and deer hunting season.

I come from
fireflies-in-a-jar childhood magic, hours
in the woods, stomping through
cold-water creeks lifting rocks
for the reward of glistening jewel-eyed
salamanders. Wild-nature child.

I come from a deep love of books and solitude.
I come from don’t-tell-me-what-to-do and
God-my-heart-is-breaking and

I come from my mother, soft-shelled
heart, artist. And my father: I was
chipped off the block of his perfectionism.

I come from the year we moved south
and I fell in love with the ocean and
impossibly blue wide-open Florida sky.

Folding up my wings and
closing the book, it no longer matters
where I come from because
I am home.

Pet Psychic Book 4 Release Day!

Today is the official release day of FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Book 4)!!!

To celebrate, we’re talking pet photography tips over at misterio press. Come say hi!

Summary:

A picture perfect wedding in paradise…what could possibly go wrong?

Pet boutique owner and reluctant pet psychic, Darwin Winters, is looking forward to watching her best friend and business partner, Sylvia, say “I do” to the man of her dreams. But when their wedding photographer turns up dead on the big day—and Sylvia’s superstitious mother believes his heart attack is a sign their marriage will be cursed—Sylvia’s dream wedding quickly becomes a nightmare.

Darwin only has a week to help her detective boyfriend prove the photographer’s death was not from natural causes before Sylvia’s family jets back home to Portugal, and the wedding is off for good.

As more than a few suspects come into focus—including Peter’s model clients, a rival photographer and the director of an animal shelter being investigated for fraud—time is running out. With just one clue from the photographer’s orphaned Yorkie pup to go on, can Darwin help save Sylvia’s wedding and capture a killer? Or will both justice and Sylvia’s wedding cake go unserved?

Get your copy here!  AMAZON       BARNES & NOBLE        iBOOKS  

Hurricane-Inspired Short Fiction

By Raghav veturi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Raghav veturi (http://creativecommons.org/licenses]

                         THE MOORING

A tropical storm swirls out at sea. A boat tugs against its mooring, the vinyl rope stretching and relaxing as the waves rise, the water churns.

She watches this out of the rain-splattered window too close to the rising waters, which are beginning to splash over the concrete seawall.

The old center console fishing boat has never been used for fishing. It was a checkmark, ownership its sole purpose. The salesman’s words long ago echo in her ears now. This elegant machine is built tough for rough off shore waters. But the fish lockers remain clean of fish scales. The 350 horsepower engines have never chased down a single marlin or red drum fish, elegantly or otherwise. Potential wasted.

THE OTHER WOMAN. She can’t quite make out the blue lettering stenciled on the hull, but that’s what it says. Her husband’s idea. Better than Masterbaiter. Bow Movement. Fish N Chicks.  Men being clever always involve a bodily function or a woman.

Her spine is getting stiff, her eyes dry. But she cannot tear herself away from the window. Not even to board it up. Minutes turn into hours turn into hope. The ringing phone is a mosquito. She bats away the sound. It’s too late now anyways. She’s seen photos of boats after a storm surge. Boats turned on their sides, half submerged, no longer elegant. THE OTHER WOMAN is taking on water.  She can see her sloshing and splashing as the swells rise and fall. Panic crawls up her throat. But something else is happening, too. The rope is coming undone.

Will she sink or will she break free? This is all that matters now.

If she sinks, she will be reborn. Like those lost treasure ships, she could rest in the silt; become the whole world to a marine microorganism community; bath in silky green saltwater all her days; grow emerald coral and forest green algae. In Feng Shui green is the color of tranquility but also of renewal. Green would suit her new life.

If she comes undone, unmoored, that would be a new life, too. One of adventure instead of peace. Swept out to sea without a way to steer, without a way to control direction or speed. Madness, really. Alone. Uncharted. That did sound exhilarating. Her spine protested as she straightened it. Her twelve-year-old blind-in-one-eye tabby wound itself around her swollen calves, stretched out on her arthritic feet, anchored her to the floor with affection.

Time has become background noise, like the ringing phone. The storm is what they call “bearing down” now. Wind gusts rattle the window. She is squinting through sheets of rain and fogged glass at THE OTHER WOMAN. The sky is layers and layers of blue-black-charcoal-grey-black fury. The sea has erased the distance between them. She is not afraid.

Either way the storm will be her savoir.

 

 

Let’s Learn Something From This Whole Trump Mess

 

The new book I’m working on, tentatively titled “Constellations of Alice” is heavier than the cozy mysteries I’ve been writing. But Alice has been bugging me for a few years to tell her story, so here I am.

 One of the themes in this book is sex trafficking. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this (and sexual assault in general) and I can tell you, the statistics are shocking.  

One in 5 women and one in 71 men will be raped in their lifetime.

This has to change.

And it can. I believe it can. But it has to start with changing the mind-set of our society.

This whole Donald Trump thing has blown up an important issue and started a dialog about sexual assault. The silver lining in a very vile, dark cloud.

His lewd comments about women and about being able to kiss them or grab their private parts whenever he wants amounts to sexual assault. The fascinating and disturbing thing to me was watching the fall-out as both men and women defended his talk as “locker room banter.” Including a GOP Senator who doesn’t think grabbing a woman’s genitals is sexual assault.

So what? All guys talk about women like this. Just words, right?

Well, NO. Wrong. Words are nothing more than an outward expression of a person’s mind-set.

This mind-set is dangerous. He thinks this way so he speaks this way so he acts this way. And he’s had more than one woman accuse him of sexual assault or rape.

Including a thirteen year old girl.

His ex-wife. (Who, under oath, accused him of violently raping her. His chief counsel’s defense was, “One can’t rape one’s own spouse.” Just. Wow.)

A business acquaintance.

I’ll stop there because this is actually not about one man. The problem is bigger than that.  

This is about the culture we live in. A culture where abusive masculine power has taken root and allowed men like this to terrorize women.

How do we fix this? Well, I can tell you the answer is not just laying down and accepting it. Nor is it women covering our faces or our bodies or staying indoors or being escorted by a male guardian everywhere we go. 

The answer is men changing the way they think about women. Period. (And I know there are good men out there who don’t talk or think this way, but since 98% of sexual assault perpetrators are male, this has to be addressed as a male problem.)

It’s been encouraging to see the men who are standing up against this kind of abusive speech and behavior. But it’s time for the others, the “boys” who are being “boys” to grow up and become men. To drop your sense of entitlement. To see women as more than body parts there for your entertainment.

It’s  also time for women to stand up and stop tolerating this mindset as “normal” male behavior. It may very well be the norm right now, but when men know better they can do better. So please stop defending “locker room talk” as innocent and harmless.

It’s neither.

 

Snowbirds: a poem

 

Snowbirds:
Please don’t take offense to
our ‘welcome-now-go-home’
attitude.

We understand your flight from
black ice, snow shovels and frozen
gray skies.
It’s endearing the way you
come to us in a wave
of exhales;
Your cares abandoned
in your coat pocket
back home,
Alongside crumpled Kleenex and
sticky throat lozenges.

Our service industries bow down to
your appetites, open wallets and ability
to morph into an audience:
Filling seats, buying tickets, renting
squares, shares and time.

We do try.
When you pour in, filling the space
between the crusts of clouds and sand
like too much pie filling.

We do try…
Politely maneuvering around
your grocery carts clogging
the aisle at Publix. Counting
backwards or counting
our breath as
we sit
in the parking lots that used to be
our highways;
Buying mangoes at midnight because
there’s no room
to park
in our parking lots.

Detouring us to accommodate you.

We do try.
Because we also like turning
strangers into friends,
Seeing our home fresh through
your eyes;

We do watch you–
Now that the thousands of
Ibis are gone.
(The ponds are gone, also.)

As you watch the sun
sink below the horizon;
smelling of sunscreen and
the Pinot Grigio in your
plastic cups.

A shared awe.
In these moments we
don’t have to try.

But also know that when
you go, when you flee
the humidity, leaving us to our
hurricane shutters and
evacuation routes,
We will exhale and stretch
into the quiet
space
you leave behind.

We will lay–empty as discarded,
pillaged clam shells—
(Our patience shucked)

Under the baking
August sun. We will float
in the salty ocean bowl–
warm as bathwater–and
recharge while smiling
languidly at the
stories
you’ve left behind.

To The Men Running the U.S. Government

So, this should probably be a slam poem and maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to record it as such. For now, I’m sharing it as the written word. After learning about the House panel voting to make women sign up for the draft, my rage and fear needed somewhere soft to land, to untangle itself. That place for me is here:

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Sorrow

Vincent Van Gogh Public Domain PD-old-100

To the men running the U.S. government, the ones on the House panel who’ve voted to force our daughters to sign up for the draft…here’s the thing: Yes, I’ve known women who’ve been raped. I’ve known women who’ve locked themselves in a bathroom on a date and slept there to keep from being raped. I’ve even personally known a woman who was abducted by a serial killer, raped and strangled with her own underwear.  I know a woman who clutches her mace and her anxiety as she walks to work, as she pumps gas, as she maneuvers any parking lot with trepidation because she’s been accosted by more than one man over the years who just wants to chat or wants five dollars for gas or possibly wants to stab her and tuck her into his trunk because she watches the news and this is a possibility. She’s learned to duck the bullets of hey baby and you fine girl and you too good to talk to me?  I know this woman because she is all of us. The woman living with a flight or fight system on high alert. A twitching ear. A body poised to run. The mothers who send their daughters off to college with pink mace and pleas to text us when she gets home safely; the young girls who are beginning to understand the leers, the danger the entitlement lurking behind them…women are already veterans of a silent war at home, one that has us on edge behind our polite smiles, one that you in your place of patriarchal safety will never understand.  So, yes, by all means…send them to the front lines of a different kind of war you created for the purpose of power and money and greed and invisible lines where they don’t even have the protection of a “civilized society” or of murder being an actual crime. Send them to be captured by the enemy and raped and put their fellow male soldiers in danger because they will lose their shit and most likely their own lives trying to save them because that’s what the good ones do. Bring home your warped idea of equality in a body bag and lay it next to all the other dead things you refused to understand.

(“Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” -Margaret Atwood)

 

 

 

Terrorism: The World Is On Fire

Dear readers,

I try to keep this blog light and only talk about things that pertain to my cozy mysteries. But I am a writer, which means words are the way I work things out for my own sanity. Today–in the aftermath of yet another act of terrorism and senseless loss of lives–I feel the need to write about this, to make some sense of it, because my heart is heavy and the world is on fire:

How do we fight terrorism?

match flame

First, I feel like we have to acknowledge this particular pathology is a part of us all and stop thinking it’s “us” against “them”.  It’s not.  We are all vulnerable to becoming “them” because the problem is inherent to human nature. What is this problem, this disease…this fire that’s spreading and consuming our peace, our humanity and our future? It’s this:

A willingness to embrace a particular idea or ideology at all costs. To let an idea, a religion,  a deep emotional/psychological wound or even fear separate us from one another while we stand with unyielding conviction on that idea, condemning those around us who don’t embrace it. This common human condition is  what terrorists are suffering from, they’re just acting on it with extreme violence. It’s the underlying ideology of separation and condemnation which spreads fear and hatred and must be stopped.

Sure, once this violent ideology is embraced, a  terrorist, with no value for life, is born and they become the threat…because how do you fight someone who doesn’t want to live? How do you fight the already dead?

I know it would be ideal to bring them back to life. To lead them back to the land of the living by rooting out whatever weaponized belief system they hold from their clenched fists and closed minds. I also know that’s probably not possible. And it’s tragic… It’s tragic that so many of our fellow human beings are choking on the ashes of their charred humanity.  If I could make a wish for them–and for us–it would be that they could once again taste the sweet innocence of childhood; jump start their dead hearts with an act of charity instead of violence; hear a kind word; fall in love instead of commit rape; see the ray of sun through the black clouds instead of the storm behind it… heal from whatever festering wound their starved hearts are suffering from.

If only…

I have no answers. I don’t think anyone does. But I know that feeding their hatred with returned violence is not the answer. But neither is silence. We must all speak up, come together and leave our own ideology at the door.

Because the only thing I do know for sure is there cannot be peace until we learn to accept each other’s beliefs and ideas without trying to change them with violence, control and containment. In other words…letting ideas and beliefs start wars.

We have to care for each other, love each other. If we don’t, we are them. We are dead already.

 

Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

It’s finally time to reveal the secret project I’ve been working on for Severn House and TAAA DAAAAA!!! Here is the cover:

Isn’t it soooo cute?! I have to tell you, I was a bit worried when they said they weren’t going with the traditional illustrated cover (at least it’s traditional here in the US for cozies) but I really love the cover they came up with. It sets the perfect atmosphere for the story. And what is the story? So glad you asked. Here’s the blurb:

Introducing ‘doggie-yoga’ instructor Elle Pressley, in the first Paws & Pose Mystery – featuring canine cuties, Florida sunshine, a sexy Irish PI . . . and murder.

Doga instructor Elle Pressley just wants to teach her classes at Moon Key’s Pampered Pup Spa & Resort in peace and save money to move out of her crazy mother’s house. But when her deceased childhood dog, Angel, shows up, she knows she’s about to be in danger. Sure enough, one of her clients winds up dead, and Elle is pulled head first into the investigation. For the prime suspect is Dr. Ira Craft . . . the husband of Elle’s best friend, Hope.

Elle is determined to clear Ira’s name, for Hope’s sake, and she enlists the help of Irish private investigator Devon Burke. But someone is determined to stop Elle from uncovering the truth. And now that Devon’s involved, it’s not just Elle’s life that’s in danger: her heart is too . . .

What do ya think? Sound like a story you want to cozy up to? (See what I did there :-))

Well, if so here’s the details:

It will be available in the US & as an e-book on December 1st. PREORDER
UK folks can order it on Aug 31st or PREORDER


Now the fun part… the super cute doga beach-tote giveaway!

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY you just need to leave a comment below with the email address you’d like to use to receive my newsletter. (I only send them when there’s a new release or contest)

Also, if you want me to put your name in the hat twice, you can like my Facebook page here as a bonus. (Mention that you did this in your comment)

That’s it!

I’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, August 18th. The winner will be notified by email and also be announced on my Facebook Page.

Go forth and enter & good luck!

Are you on Pinterest? Want a peek at my inspiration for this book? Just go HERE