This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!

Introducing Danika Stone

 

Today I’m bringing you a guest post from a friend of mine who just published her first novel.  Well, I think it’s her first novel.  She’s a fantastic writer and this novel comes complete with love, art, mysticism, and anything else you could ask for in a book.  I asked her to write her own post on WHY she chose now to publish a book.  I hope you enjoy this post and her novel as much as I did.  She’s even allowing you to get her first book FREE until 12:00 PM PST today so check it out!

Lynn

I should NOT be doing this post.

No, really.  I shouldn’t!

Why?  Well, for one, I’m not funny.  Seriously now.  I’ve met Lynn, and that woman can make you laugh until you cry.  She’s quick and smart, and calls it like it is.  I’m coming in here on the half-assed notion that I can tell a good story.  That, my friends, I know I can do.

And that’s what today’s post is about.

To begin, let’s go back in time.

Nope… even further than that.  About a hundred years ago, (it certainly feels that way), when I was a lot younger than I am now,  I was a bright-eyed university student with this great idea for a novel.  You see, as awesome as the Art world is, there’s a whole lot of manipulation involved in it. At the time, I was sharing a studio space with a friend, and I used to talk about the frustration of ‘playing the game.’  My friend nodded, and we painted while I ranted and railed.  As the year passed, I furiously plotted out a story that wrapped this notion in a burning-up-the-pages, boy-meets-girl story with a dash of destiny and prophetic dreams.

Sounds like a crazy mix?  Yeah… and it was good too.

Along the way, I had my own boy-meets-girl story.  (Note to readers:  If you actually want to write well, get out and LIVE well.)  The relationship was all-caps EPIC, and bits and pieces of this story lit fire to the slower parts of the plot, pushing the story from smouldering to all-out explosive.  Romance spread like wildfire, chapter to chapter, unravelling a story of lost opportunities, and close calls, while my boyfriend, D and I started our own lives.  We got married at the end of university, and all our other artist friends came to our wedding, and it seemed like this was just about the time that things could take off with writing.

And then… LIFE.

Now, I’m not really sure what everyone else does to support themselves, but the truth is, being an artist isn’t the best paying job.  In fact, it’s as crappy as hell.  As an artist, you are almost guaranteed to have to do something else to survive as well.  For D, this was architecture.  For me, it meant teaching, and I jumped into the process.  During that first year of marriage and real life, I prepped and marked, and in my ever-dwindling time, I wrote.  The story I’d been so passionate about only months earlier slowed until the words were only a trickle, rather than a torrent.  We moved to another town, and I got a new job, and my writing time slowed even more.  Another year passed, and another, and still I lingered.

Eventually there came a day when I saved the story, and I closed the document, and it simply didn’t occur to me to open it again.  Now, I don’t remember this moment, but I know it must have happened.  Dreams die a day at a time, you see.  Problem is, you don’t see it when it happens.  So the novel was closed, unfinished, and I forgot about it.

Let’s jump ahead about a decade and a half.  (This is time-jumping, something I utterly despise in novels, but which I totally need to do at this moment, or else I’ll have to take over Lynn’s blog forever.)

By this point, the sexy boyfriend and I were now a decidedly attractive thirty-something couple.  (Don’t argue with me – I’m telling this story so I know it’s TRUE.)  We had three awesome boys, and two successful careers, and a mortgage, and car payments, and parents who drove us crazy.  For the most part, I was really happy.  And if I wasn’t, I was too busy to really notice.  But as our last child got old enough that he didn’t need my constant attention, I found myself fighting with the urge for something more.

I enrolled in a graduate program, and I met a whole bunch of cool and amazing people, and I liked school, but it still wasn’t there.  I had friends and fandoms, and plenty of interests, but there was still something missing in all of it.  I pushed myself to do better.  I worked harder.  I challenged myself to write a thesis, and in my spare time, I wrote a bit, playing a little with the concepts from the novel, but not really devoting the time to make it happen.  Everything was fine, as long as I didn’t slow down enough to think about what I really was passionate about.

And then one day, things changed.

In 2011, I had almost finished my graduate degree.  On this particular day I had a thesis meeting, but it did not go as I expected.  I won’t lie: it was completely gruelling.  I feel jittery and uneasy even writing about it now.  Everyone was arguing and yelling.  One prof was bandying around the idea of me STARTING OVER!  *insert sounds of my brain exploding*  At the time, I got so freaked out that my entire body started to react.  I left the meeting, and staggered back to my mentor’s office, shaky and sick.  I could barely think.  I couldn’t even talk.

My heartbeat was all over the place; vision blurry, ears ringing.

I don’t actually remember exactly what happened for the next hour or so, but on that day I suddenly realized that something was seriously, fucking WRONG with me.  I mean, your heart doesn’t just lose its rhythm and refuse to beat properly.  Terrified, I made an appointment with my doctor.  He checked me out and sent me to a cardiologist.  The cardiologist poked and prodded me, and wired me up to machines.  I had my heart traced, and monitored, and the structure of it checked with an echocardiogram, and then…

BOOM.  (This is the climax of the story: where – as I tell my students – fate turns for or against the protagonist.)

I was diagnosed with a heart condition.

Not going to lie.  The first thing I did was go out into my car and cried like a baby.  For now, the cardiologist explained, he’d take a ‘watch and wait’ approach, but if things got worse, then I had to prepare myself for the eventuality of surgery.  The ‘fix’ for this particular condition – mitral valve prolapse – is to crack open your chest, cut into your heart and replace the fault valve with a pig’s valve.  Now, D, to his credit, was awesome about this news.  He even made “isn’t bacon bad for your heart?” jokes, and got me laughing once the initial shock had passed.  (See?  HE should do Lynn’s blog.  Not me.)  Suddenly I was in a position where everything I expected for my life was in jeopardy.  I couldn’t just keep on keeping on anymore.  I couldn’t just push harder, and get myself through. I couldn’t force this to go away.

Something had to change, and that change had to be me.

When something like this happens, you have a couple choices.  Sit around and cry.  (I did that for a while.)  Pretend it’s not happening.  (Not really an option when you have three kids relying on you to be there as they grow up.)  Or you can just accept it and move forward.  It’s hard as hell, but sometimes those hard times are the best thing that can happen.  This is eventually where I ended up.

The cardiologist told me to reduce my stress, so I started cutting back on all the extras I did: those things that ate up my time and took away from the things I really wanted to do.  You know what they are, because YOU do them too.  We all do!  Women – moms in particular – are  terrible for getting guilted into a life of supporting everyone else.  This diagnosis was my wake-up call to put all of that on hold, and be a little selfish for once.

I started thinking about what drove me, what got me excited about life, and what made me really, truly happy.  My husband and I already had a standing tradition of one date a week, and we upped the quota.  Best decision ever!  I went to have a girls’ weekend with friends in Atlanta and hung out with Lynn, who is even funnier in person.  I started taking walks in the morning and drinking wine in the evening.  I went mountain climbing and horse-back riding and camped out in a teepee.  I spent more time reading and playing with my kids.  I slowed my thesis down to a trickle, and went on a vacation with my family instead.

I started writing for myself again.

This novel is the result of that change.  Intaglio has been a labour of love since the very first draft, eighteen years ago.  The story has changed and flexed as I wrote and rewrote, but the heart of it has always remained the same: You make the life that you have now.

It just took me two decades to learn that.

When I look at the characters now, I see bits and pieces of the life I’ve lived and knowledge I’ve gained since that long-ago studio where my friends and I painted and talked, and D came by to whisk me away on romantic adventures.  Would it have been the same book if I’d written it when I was twenty?  Probably not.   And I’m okay with that.  Sometimes, you see, the journey is more important than the destination.

And that is the most important realization of all.

NOTE:  Until midnight tonight (November 13th) PST, you can get the Kindle version of Intaglio: The Snake and the Coins for FREE!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009Z5ULFA

Biography:

Danika Stone is a writer of contemporary fiction with a focus on strong female narratives.  She has spent many years as an educator, artist, grad student and mother of three, and her involvement in the Arts and New Media, has spanned a decade and a half.  Passionate about Fine Arts, Danika has maintained her ties to the Arts community, merging the fields of writing, technology and artwork through technology-inspired art projects.  Her favourite reader and collaborator is her husband of fifteen years, D, who met Danika in a university Art class.  He is the inspiration for Cole Thomas.

Danika’s series, Intaglio, is available for purchase, both in paperback and digitally from Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=danika+stone) Resources for Intaglio, and previews for her next books, Tathagata and Ctrl Z, can be found on www.danikastone.com  and you can chat with Danika at @danika_stone on twitter.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jester Queen
    November 13, 2012

    It’s amazing what it can take to make us live for ourselves. I’m SO GLAD you finished your novel!!

    • Danika Stone
      November 13, 2012

      Thank you for this comment! It’s strange how often in the past I felt like I COULDN’T take time for myself. Now that I am, I can’t imagine going back. As difficult as the journey has been, I’m so glad to be here. :)

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