Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog!
Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of the other, but she has not let this stop her from pursuing her athletic endeavors. Smith does not only swim but has been involved in bocce, track and field, basketball, and flag football. She has won gold medals and traveled the world.
However, Ashton’s journey has not been without trial.
According to the rules of the Special Olympics, they ban their athletes from making income. This left Ashton struggling to find a way to support herself even as she was competing. While headed to the World Games in Dubai, Smith struggled financially and fell into homelessness.
“I think it becomes unfair and harsh when members are prevented from earning a livelihood off of their own efforts. I think it’s unfair that a team member should have to be reduced to begging for money on the side of the road, which I had to do while being an athlete in the organization. I was required to raise money for the organization, yet when I started a GoFundMe, I was told to take it down. I was asked to stop asking the public for money.”
Without a home, Smith bounced around from place to place and depended on friends for help. When her grandmother died, she lost her only form of support.
“It was very hard, very difficult, and very tough because you didn’t know where your next meal would come from or certain things you wouldn’t know.”
Today, Ashton is committed to sharing her story to raise awareness about the unfair treatment she received as a disabled person.
“I find it odd that television networks aired my story about being homeless and nearly destitute, yet I couldn’t benefit from the content. They used it to make money, yet I was never given a dime. I’ve never gotten paid by ESPN or the organization but they used my story to make millions.”
Ashton’s grandmother and sister helped her financially. However, both have passed on, making getting around as a visually impaired person even more challenging.
Smith’s fight continues as she seeks to spread the word about her newfound purpose of being a voice for the voiceless. She achieves this through public speaking and her motivational memoir, which delves deep into her story and journey.
“I have decided to speak up and be an advocate for the disadvantaged.”
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Monique Johnson.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
I am Monique R Johnson, Los Angeles, CA born and raised, but moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 2019.
Nice. Cali to Texas is a big transition. What inspired the move?
I considered Texas several years prior. A couple of people I grew up with made the move over 15 years ago. It was when I started dating a guy I worked with who, later took a job in Texas, that I reconsidered.
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
My perfect writing and reading room would look like a university library.
Nicee! I’m loving it already.
I’d have a writing desk with the perfect desk lamp for late-night writing. I’d have a bookcase with books from various genres: motivation, Christian spiritual, financial, self-help, poetry, and a few children’s books for my grands. I would have a leather recliner and a tall, full bird of paradise plant in the corner near the window.
What is the most annoying habit that you have?
Correcting grammar. It gets on everyone’s nerves.
So YOU the grammar police!
If you could do anything else, what job do you think you’d be really good at?
Lawyer. I love to make my point.
Lol. Any siblings Monique?
Three biological brothers, one step-brother, and three step-sisters.
If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
Mansion, with an east and west wing, two kitchens, game room, media room, living room, enclosed patio, herb and vegetable garden on one side of the back yard, a dog run in the other, and an in-ground swimming pool in the center. The house would have a balcony with an amazing view. The bathroom would have a walk-in shower, with a waterfall feature and a sitting area.
Let’s get into writing a bit. What genre do you write in and why?
Mixed Genre of non-fiction with a dramatic approach and a sprinkle of poetry to end each chapter. I love writing this way because it makes it more engaging and easier to explain how people can get unstuck.
Why is writing important to you?
I write for my family and generations to come so that they will know how I made it through the toughest times in my life. I want readers of my work, be it my poetry, my magazine articles, or my novel, to know that an everyday person like themselves can get through whatever they are dealing with if they decide to believe that they can.
When did you publish your first book?
My first Anthology was published December 2021. My first memoir was published June 30, 2022. It was exciting and challenging for me. I learned that publishing is not the hard part, it’s the promotion and marketing that’s hard for me.
I get it. So what takes up too much of your time?
Figuring out systems for my business and now my book journey.
In your book, you talked a lot about how your faith got you through a lot of the pain. Do you consider yourself a religious person?
I am not religious in that I do not believe in all of the rules and traditions that mark religions. I do follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Christ was a spiritual teacher and healer, but the world was not ready to receive such a reality. Religion nailed him to the cross.
If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be?
To make everyone love each other with a Godly love.
What does a Godly love look like?
A Godly love looks like a man and woman who puts God first, demonstrates unconditional love, sacrifices for one another, and goes to God in prayer over situations the couple cannot handle in their own strength.
What are your thoughts on race?
We should embrace our differences, and not be opinionated on who is the better of the races. The conflict is in the ignorance of one or the other and the fear.
What do you think of police brutality in the black community?
I am mixed on it. I am a mother of black sons and they express to me that they know how to do the psychological game with the police so, thank God, they’ve not been a victim of it. They have been stopped, even arrested, but never mishandled. How can we do better? I think all of our people who have been victimized, profiled, or targeted by law enforcement should learn to use psychology, or better yet wisdom instead of responding with emotions. That is not helping during intense situations.
How would one use the study of the mind to avoid police brutality? Can you give some examples of how getting overly emotional could worsen already intense situations?
For example, if an officer is approaching a black man on a routine traffic stop, or suspicious activity, the black man should not react in a defensive, or in any way that can be taken as uncooperative, or threatening. Instead, he should be compliant, ask what the stop is for, ask if he is being put under arrest, and get the officers names. A calm, unemotional state of mind will put the officer a little more at ease, thus de-escalating the situation.
You KNOW I got more questions, chile. But, let’s move on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again.
What is your best advice for reducing stress?
Get enough word in you to have something to meditate on when you are getting overwhelmed. Walk, bike ride, or spend time doing dedicated workouts. Eat healthy.
In your own words, what is humility?
Maintaining a grateful attitude, not thinking you deserve all the accolades, but are willing to share the spotlight. Gracious in your acceptance of gifts, complements, and is not easily offended.
What is love?
God. It is receiving others right where they are without judgement. Accepting the good and the bad. Tolerance. Caring about your fellow human. Forgiving.
Thank you, Monique, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!
Monique Johnson is a native Californian who relocated to Texas in pursuit of new opportunities just before the world-wide pandemic and social unrest. She is the former founder and president of a nonprofit after school program she created to help keep teens off of the streets. She brought awareness to the Prison Industrial Complex and how it’s growth was planned based on statistics pulled from the minority population. These stats have been improperly used to build more prisons, thus keeping this population incarcerated. She mentored youth to keep them from making bad choices that could land them in the unforgiving criminal justice system.
Johnson motivates single mothers, women in general, as well as young men to push through the hard parts of life. She is an experienced trainer, speaker, project manager, and has a gift of leadership as displayed in her professional career and community. Her books and her upcoming workshops are geared toward her goal to help women and men in their business, personal and spiritual development.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to D.L. Heather.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
Hi, my name is Debra, and I was born in Canada, but I live in Detroit now.
Oh, cool. Detroit in the house.Are you employed outside of writing?
No, writing is my life. Before writing books, I was a contributor and columnist for various magazine outlets.
Awesome! What was your childhood dream?
To walk into a bookstore and see my books on the shelves. As a child, all I wanted was to write. I was never without a pen and a notebook.
That’s so cool because I have a similar story. Always had me a notebook or journal.
Let’s talk about writing. Tell us about publishing your first book. What was that like?
My first book, Metamorphosis, was published in 2018. Indescribable – it’s not a word we writers like to admit to. Surely, there is an adjective or simile for every eventuality, and yet here I am using it to describe the feeling of holding my book for the first time. The writing process is a long journey of transformation, from a single idea to months of writing, innumerable coffees, countless revisions. And now it’s a physical thing I can hold in my hands. Like I said – indescribable.
I love how you described that process!
Debra, what takes up too much of your time?
I find building my brand on social media platforms the biggest time-consumer. I’d rather be writing, haha.
For sure. What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
My favorite TV show is Sons of Anarchy. Movie, hmm, that’s a tough one, I have many but I would say Training Day is up there at the top of the list.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult thing about being a writer is the fact that everyone in your life thinks whatever you’re writing is about them (sometimes they’re right but not always). That’s the truth–and as the artist, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Be prepared–before you’ve even finished the story, even, you can see it in their eyes that they are full of wonder. It’s about them, isn’t it. Yes! It is! It has to be! There’s no way it’s not!
The most exciting thing about being a writer to me is it doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, poem, or a journal entry, writing helps let the demons out. We have to deal with complex emotions and a good way to understand them (in a healthy way) is to have a creative outlet—like, writing, music, or art. Writing is great because you can literally put down on paper how you feel. It’s cathartic at the time, and in my experience, later on when you read it. It’s a reminder of how you felt and what you thought at a point in time and how you dealt with it.
What genre do you write in, why?
Poetry and nonfiction. I’ve used my writing not just for my personal creative gain but in the hopes that maybe I could write something someday that would help people get through tough times. Maybe I could write something that would make a difference in another person’s life.
I knew you were a poet by how you answered that one question!
In your own words, what is love?
To me, love is just a word and one I don’t use that freely. Because love is scary, it’s basically giving someone a map of all your flaws and imperfections and putting faith in them to not abuse that power. And that can be so beautiful, but it can also be brutal! Love can make you do the hardest thing a human could ever do, be vulnerable.
That is a very interesting way of putting it.
Why is writing important to you?
Writing keeps me whole. Writing keeps me sane. I’m not that great at expressing myself in person. Still, when I write, I feel like I can get all of my ideas down without interruption, without influence from someone’s body language, without fear of what someone will think of me if I stumble over my words while I’m forming a thought (which happens more than I would like to admit). Writing has always been my outlet. My writing is so closely linked to my personal experiences, regardless of what it is that I’m writing. It’s a way for me to process things and understand myself. It’s a way for me to escape the restrictions of my own life (such as grief, heartbreak, and childhood trauma). It allows me to feel free again.
Thank you, Debra, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!
D.L. Heather is the pen name for poet, writer, and former music journalist Debra Heather. She has a B.A. in English and is the author of the inspirational poetry collections Life Interrupted and Metamorphosis.
Writing came into her life in her teens through therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Her writing is motivated by her experiences with childhood trauma, love, loss, healing, heartbreak, and self-discovery.
She prefers to let her work speak for itself, a private person by nature, in the way poetry allows her to. She hopes to inspire others and reinforce the fact that you are not alone.
When she isn’t writing in her studio, she enjoys traveling, reading, movies and gardening. Her book, Petals of Healing, will be available in December 2021.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Natasha Thomas.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Natasha and I’m from Daytona Beach, Florida. I’ve been living in the metro Atlanta area for the past 11 years.
Cool beans.Are you employed outside of writing?
I am! I have worked as a psychiatrist for eleven years. I treat depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and psychotic disorders. But my specialty areas are posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and peripartum mood and anxiety disorders. Those are disturbances in mood that happen during pregnancy or in the postpartum period.
Over the course of doing this work, I’ve learned the postpartum period is much longer than the six weeks women are usually taught to consider postpartum. I walk with women through their entire pregnancies and at least the first year of their baby’s life to make sure they adjust well and their mental health is supported.
I start treating people at age 15 and have patients in their eighties!
Wow! You are doing such important work.
Now, I just finished binge-watching this (I’m late to the party), so you know I gotta ask, with you being in Atlanta and in the medical space…
…are you a fan of Married to Medicine, and have you met any of the women from the show?
So funny you asked about Married to Medicine! I’ve never met any of the ladies. But being a psychiatrist, I have met and share patients with Dr. Lunceford (Quad’s husband). He works at a local inpatient facility. So at times when patients aren’t doing well and have to be hospitalized, they’ve been under his care. During those times, he typically reaches out to me so we can collaborate on their outpatient treatment after their hospital discharge.
In addition, Dr. Damon Kimes (Dr. Heavenly’s husband) is an absolute joy to share patients with. He is extremely compassionate to the mental health needs of his patients that also have issues with pain management. Having the opportunity to collaborate with local docs is one of my favorite things about building a medical network here!
That is so cool! See, I knew I was watching that show for a reason, lol. And Chile, they fight like real sisters, and the shade!
Any siblings Natasha?
I technically am an only child. I have a very close cousin and very close friend. They have been my “sister” and “brother” since I was two years old. They were both raised as only children, too. So, though I grew up without siblings at my home, I have never really felt alone.
That’s precious. Speaking of growing up, what was your childhood dream?
When I was six years old, I developed a strong interest in biology. And this came from reading the children’s encyclopedia series my parents ordered for me. The last book was a guide for parents to understand their children’s health. It was the most interesting part of the entire series to me. But interestingly, I decided in fourth grade that I would attend Yale Law School. I have no idea where that aspiration came from. That lasted a few years, but science just continued to interest me so much that I began to consider medicine around age twelve if memory serves me correctly. By the time I was getting ready to attend college, I started feeling the pull to write. My mother and father encouraged both – but medicine first!
I was a very daydreamy and quirky child. So, from that angle, I had dreamt of doing everything from finding Smurfs in the tree in my backyard to oddly wanting to become a maternity model in the JC Penney’s catalog. That’s the most bizarre realization I’ve ever had about my childhood dreams! Oh goodness.
Lol. That’s what we want to hear! We want you to dig deep. What’s your favorite color?
Green. Kelly green to be exact!
Nice! Favorite food?
I am a true seafood lover. Fish, shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab – I mean, I could just go on and on. My favorite meal, altogether, would be white rice, with fish and collard greens. Interestingly, I was told that was the exact favorite meal of my grandfather, who passed away before I had the chance to meet him.
I love that about genetics. How we could inherit a trait from family outside of our mothers and fathers.
You mentioned the pull to write, so let’s go there. What genre do you write and why?
I write psychological suspense. I guess, with what I do for a living, it’s not all that mysterious why I have chosen that genre. I’m fascinated by the human mind. Absolutely. What happens to the psyche through one’s life story is incredible, and nothing intrigues me as much. Whether I’m reading, writing, or watching movies or TV, suspense and thrillers with a psychological component are always my favorites. I think we learn a lot about ourselves that we may not want to express when we consume thrillers and suspense. They give us an opportunity to look at our moral compasses and question what, if any, absolute truths we hold.
I love the education your are giving us right now. Do you blog? Does blogging help with writing?
I actually feel like it’s the reverse for me; writing helps me blog. I started a mental health blog called Hope Grove in 2018. It was inspired by the cool work I get to do with my patients, and many of the questions they ask me. I figured if they had these questions, others would as well. That’s especially true for those who, for whatever reason, do not have access to mental health care. And even though the questions drive my blog postings, sometimes I would feel it required a real push to finish a topic.
I have found that writing a post has flowed much easier since I’ve been working on my novel. I think that’s because I’ve been working with a different part of my brain, my imagination, and that tends to mobilize me in general. I also am an intermediate level Haitian Kreyol speaker. I have found my use of the language drastically improved since I’ve been writing my novel. It makes sense but I wasn’t expecting that to happen!
Why is writing important to you?
Oh, that’s a big question. Writing is my outlet. But it is also the way that I take all my life’s experiences and distill them down into bite-sized pieces that I can process and understand. Just like everyone else, I have pain, regrets, doubt, successes, joy – so many emotions to turn over and over in my head. Writing helps me do that in a healthy way. And to turn some of my life lessons into a story that benefits myself and my readers is a gift. The writing of others is also massively important to me. Through the work of greats like Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Edwidge Danticat, and Nikki Giovanni, I started to see writing as a window and a healer. Can you imagine a world without it? I’d certainly rather not!
I love it.
In your own words, what is love?
Love is honesty – honesty that allows you to see yourself and grow into your highest potential.
Thank you, Natasha, for spending this time with us.We enjoyed you!
Natasha Jeneen Thomas is a Florida-born psychiatrist and psychological suspense writer. She has spent the past eleven years in private psychiatric practice exploring the individual and collective story and the power of perception. Witnessing life from the vantage point of the human psyche’s inner workings, Natasha sees the state of the world as a reflection of the stories we tell ourselves – and allow ourselves to believe.
Natasha earned a Bachelor of Science from Spelman College, studied medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and completed residency training in psychiatry at the University of Maryland and Sheppard & Enoch Pratt hospitals. In 2010, she moved to Metro Atlanta to work as an outpatient psychiatrist and has the continued honor of providing clinical care as owner & CEO of Hope Grove Psychiatry, PC. When she is not doctoring or writing, she enjoys her family, home, or corner of the couch.
Therese Hughes-Baldwin arrives in Boca Raton with hopes of joining the most prestigious dance company in South Florida. But instead of finding ballet success, she suffers an embarrassing heartbreak and takes a boring barista job. She also inadvertently gains the attention of the woman who stalks her on every train ride she takes.
When Therese’s favorite café customer, Dr. Dara Clemens, offers an escape to her beachside mansion, Therese can hardly say “yes” quickly enough. With her suitcase in hand and best friend Phoebe by her side, she heads to the Clemens’ oceanfront getaway. The home is gorgeous. The beach is, too. So is the stranger Therese gives her number to at the bar.
But there are voices in the vents. And there are people who stare. And Therese faces a sinking feeling that something is hauntingly off about Phoebe’s behavior. As Therese questions the motivations of those around her, she opens the door to a reality she never thought she’d find.
Are you an author? Looking for more exposure? Learn more about my Introduce Yourself Feature HERE.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Amanda Boyd.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Amanda Boyd, and I am a lover of erotic literature. I’m a passionate reader of this genre as well as an Indie author and blogger. I spent my childhood in California and then had the opportunity to spend my 20’s in Europe. This was an awesome experience and taught me a lot about different cultures and the way we as a society can live our lives. However, as the United States was and will ever be my home country, I came back some years ago, and I’m now living with my family again in California. So I would say I’m an American Girl with a global background.
What state or country do you never want to go back to?
I was once on holiday in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt after an exam session during my time at the University. So I was young, single and a little short of money and therefore went to a rather cheap hotel. The whole week was pure stress: as soon as I left my hotel room, people started to either pitch some cheap stuff to me or tried to flirt with me in a really cheap way. I felt really uncomfortable the whole week and after about two days, I didn’t leave my room anymore.
So my association with Egypt is unfortunately really bad. But I want to be clear here: I really think that there are awesome places and people also in Egypt. I know people who love to go there and always had a great time. Maybe I had just bad luck or that some aspects of the culture there does not fit to my personal values
I would love to visit Egypt one day. Amanda, does blogging help you to write?
Blogging does really help me writing my own stories. The section of my blog where I write about my favorite books helps me as those authors are clearly role models for me. On the other hand, I also do interviews with other authors. These interviews range from debut authors like Kuristien Elizabeth to already established and successful authors like H.L. Swan. The interviews provide inspiration in the sense that I can exchange with other authors and share thoughts about their sources of inspiration, their challenges as authors, and how they stay motivated.
Let’s talk about writing. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first short story in September 2020. It was a huge relief and experience. The journey to publishing my first story was long and challenging. I wrote stories for years for myself and really close friends, but to overcome self-doubts that people won’t like your work or maybe ignore it was a long process. To be honest, it takes courage to publish your work! If you fail, you also fail publicly, so I have great respect for every author who accepts all the challenges in order to become a published author!
The story is about a young woman named Veronica, who is the daughter of a business founder and owner. The men around her are nothing but oversized boys, without serious thoughts yet toward their futures. Their pick-up lines and cheesy attempts at romance do nothing for her, so singlehood is a constant in her world. That is until she is touring her father’s company and meets Mark Grier. Her father’s successful, gorgeous right hand is older than her, but there is something obvious between them from the first handshake.
Why is writing important to you?
First of all, writing is a passion. I just love to do it. That’s why I wrote a lot before starting to publish. Writing fiction always gives you the opportunity to create something. You can shape your own world, develop characters and when you’re really into the writing process, you can more or less just let these characters act in scenarios you design for them. This process is most fascinating for me.
Secondly, sometimes when writing you enter into a writing flow. In this state, a story just evolves in front of you. It’s a state in which you are fully focused on your story and nothing else can disturb you. It’s kind of a meditative condition.
Meditative condition. I’ve never heard of it said that way before. Good stuff.
Can you tell us more about the genre you write?
I write steamy and erotic romance. I’m a sensual as well as sensitive person, so human interaction and attraction always fascinated me and still does. At least, in my opinion, there is no better feeling than those moments in your love life, when you lose control and just let your love and attraction for your partner flow. I’m not a sex addict, but these moments are pure freedom as you don’t care about any norms or rules and just let your emotions carry you. To put it short, love stories and the sensual parts of a love story between two people fascinate me.
What takes up too much of your time?
I think if I’m honest, it’s procrastination. I think we all suffer from this phenomenon. However, I tried to implement some routines which help me overcome internal barriers. But to be honest with you they don’t always work as efficiently as I wish.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stay true and pursue your goals, but do it in a clever way. This means focusing on the most important things, trying to do them as good as you can, and listening to the advice of people who already solved similar challenges in their lives. And believe me, almost every problem one can have in life has been solved before. So it is crucial to try to connect to the right people, people who motivate you and do not tear you down.
Life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
I don’t want to compare my « sort of stress » to those other people in the world have to handle. If one lives in a nice house or flat and has everything in one’s hand for daily life, you can be happy. Especially if you then have a bunch of lovely family members and really good friends too.
What if someone has a nice home/flat and friends and everything at their fingertips, but they still aren’t happy? What advice would you give this person for finding that sense of fulfillment?
I would go with Monthy Python😊: “Always look on the bright side!” Sometimes we as human beings forget to look at the really good things in life and tend to just focus on the problems. I would suggest that they go on a walk and think about all the good things that have happened to them. And think about the hardships they had to overcome in order to achieve what they now have. So every time I have a hard time or a lot to do, I try to see these things. I have everything I truly need in my life! Everything else is just the icing on the cake.
I love that answer, an attitude of gratitude.
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Oh, you mean besides buying some lottery tickets😊?
You right, Hahaha
I think I would do the same as I do today. There is a saying in Europe, “the route is the goal.” I can only be proud of an achievement if I had to overcome some challenges and hardships. Of course, if I knew I could not fail, it would make it easier to gain confidence in a challenging moment. But isn’t it a great feeling when you achieve something, and you know how much work and dedication it has cost you?
This is true.
These are the moments when you can be really proud of yourself. So I think I wouldn’t want to miss that. And furthermore, I think that everybody should fail from time to time to stay humble and empathetic. And humble and empathetic people are, in almost every case, valuable members of our society. But hey, that does not mean that I like failing. Of course, I would really love if my stories finally become a success!
Speaking of which, what does success mean to you?
I always have great respect for people who can live off their passion. I give you an example: a friend of mine is a baker and confectioner. And he is it from the bottom of his heart! When he talks about a new cake or dessert creation, he tells you a story about it in a way that you feel the love and passion he has for his profession. So he does not go to «work» in the morning; he does what he loves. Isn’t that pure freedom and true success?
Achieving freedom in what you are, for me, is a good definition of success. How much does freedom mean to me? I would say a lot. However, I already enjoy the pursuit of my goals as it is. In my view, it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to focus your energy on your personal goals.
Thank you, Amanda, for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Amanda Boyd was born in 1986 and raised in Mountain View, California. She spent her 20’s in Europe and then came back in 2013 to the United States to build her family. She now lives on the West Coast with her partner and two lovely dogs.
Amanda writes erotic short stories and describes herself as a passionate lover of erotic literature who understands the importance of high-quality romance books.
“The days of hiding away our romance novels under the couch cushions or feeling embarrassed to admit that we enjoy sex that goes along with steamy romance are over.”
– Amanda Boyd
That is why Amanda started her classy Erotic Romance Blog www.filthybooks.com as a place for readers to learn more about erotica.
In addition to getting access to Amanda’s latest work, Filthybooks provides access to all kinds of information about the steamy romance genre. You can find lists and reviews of the latest online and print erotic literature, and no subject matter is off the table. So if you are in the mood of embracing your naughty side, you can find some exciting reading ideas from Amanda.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Andi Brooks.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Andi Brooks. I am originally from England, but I have lived in Tokyo for the last 15 years.
Nice! What would your perfect writing room look like?
That’s an interesting question as I was thinking about that only last week. I would love to have a desk in the bay window of a Victorian house overlooking the sea. A rugged, stormy coastline would suit me very well. I love to walk along the beach alone in winter and search the black waves for inspiration.
Yess. That sounds soo relaxing. Let’s talk about when you published your first book? What was that like?
My first book was a collaboration with the American writer Frank Dello Stritto. “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” was originally published in 2000 and reprinted as an updated and expanded second edition in 2015. A biography of the famous Hollywood actor forever associated with Count Dracula’s role on stage and in the 1931 film, the book was the culmination of a decade of research. It was very exciting to see it in print and gratifying to have it universally praised by critics and readers.
Before working on the book, I wrote articles on vintage horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films for magazines in the UK and America. After the book was published, I put together a Bela Lugosi blog (https://beladraculalugosi.com/) to share the research material and wrote a silly poetry book, but I mainly devoted myself to writing music and promoting live shows in Tokyo.
Apart from one article on the love affair between Bela Lugosi and Clara Bow, which won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in 2017, I wasn’t really involved in writing much until I threw myself into Ghostly Tales of Japan.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult aspect of being a writer for me is trying to overcome a lack of faith in my ability. I generally know when an idea is good, but I can’t overcome my doubts about my skill as a writer. If I hadn’t been firm with myself, I would still be revising the stories in my latest book, but there has to come a time when you have to say that enough is enough and put your pen aside. As it was, the stories in Ghostly Tales of Japan went through endless rewrites. I agonized over every choice of word and punctuation. It is good to strive for perfection, but you have to realize that there is really no such thing. Being always dissatisfied is a good motivator always to try harder.
The best thing about being a writer is hearing back from readers who have enjoyed reading your work. It makes all of the pain that goes into writing worthwhile.
We do tend to judge ourselves harshly but hearing feedback from readers makes it worthwhile for sure. Andi, who is your favorite writer?
It depends on my mood, but H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft were firm favourites for many years. The scale of their imaginations is astounding.
Wait, wait, wait. I gotta ask you about the TV show real quick. Lovecraft Country, did you watch? Like or Nah?
I’ve never heard of it!
Living in Japan, you can miss an awful lot unless you watch Netflix and the like, which I don’t. I always tend to hear about things long after the fact.
Lovecraft is great for radio adaptations, but tends not to do so well on the screen. I did love the Reanimator films, but I haven’t seen many over good adaptations. I did a quick search online for Lovecraft Country and watched a clip. I can’t really tell if it’s for me or not, but you have sparked my interest, so I will give it a go.
And give it a go you should!
I also love the ghost stories written by M. R. James. I don’t think he has ever been better. At the moment, however, I am completely immersed in the writing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all-time favourite novels. I have reread it so many times. Although I said that there is no such thing as perfection, this book is as close as it comes. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s skill was breathtaking. It is such a tragedy that he died so early. The world has been denied the many wonderful books he could have written, but what he left behind is something to be very grateful for. I have literally just put down The Angel’s Game, the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven, to pop through my letterbox.
I love it. What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Perhaps Oh! The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss. I read it to my son many times when he was small. The truth in that wonderful book will always be relevant. It made me reflect on the ups and downs of my life. Things certainly haven’t always gone to plan, but the disappointments resulted in me taking a different path, which led to where I am today, which is not a bad place to be.
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was at school, a career advisor told me that I should forget dreaming of being a writer, an artist, or a musician and get a job in a factory because it was regular work. I have ignored the advice of his like ever since.
I don’t blame you! Like, whaatt.
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Music has been a big part of my life since my teens. I can’t imagine a day without music. I’ve been in many bands, either playing bass, guitar or singing. About three years ago, I put the guitars aside and decided to start making electronic music. It was something that had been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I regret not trying earlier because it has given me total musical freedom, but better late than never! You can find my electronic musical misadventures on my Bandcamp page (https://airstripone1.bandcamp.com/).
I love it. Musical Therapy is a real thing for sure. We love music on the PBS Blog. In fact, today’s Throwback Thursday! What kind of music do you like?
I listen to a very wide range of music. I like to have something to suit whatever mood I am in. My first music love was the 1970s British band T. Rex. They inspired me to try my hand at making my own music. David Bowie was also a big influence in the 1970s. Then along came punk rock, which was the perfect soundtrack for my teens. Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-ray Spex, and, of course, The Sex Pistols had a deep impact on me.
Towards the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, I loved British electronic music. Along the way, I’ve listened to everything from folk to jazz. I must give a special mention to Christmas music. I love Christmas and its music, both traditional and popular. I think I have around two hundred CDs of Christmas music!
Sheesh, Andi. Lol
Today, I have listened to underground Japanese electronic music, Nina Simone, the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, some solo albums by Mick Karn, and David Sylvian of the band Japan. I have an insatiable appetite for music, and I am addicted to buying CDs and records. I try to find something new to listen to almost every day.
What songs have you completely memorized?
My memory is absolutely dreadful! There are some song which I have been listening to for over forty years, and I still don’t know all the lyrics. It’s bizarre! The only song, apart from ones which I have written – and I’m not sure that I can remember them, which I think I know all of the lyrics of is, like many people, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It’s not a song I usually listen to, but somehow it has wormed its way into my brain. If you only know the words to one song, it’s not a bad choice. I remember lines from movies more but often forget the plots. I love movies as much as music. One day I would like to make my own.
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
I’m not sure that I would like to live in any of the movies I watch, being a lifelong horror fan.
Even the non-horror films I like tend to have elements of darkness that I wouldn’t want to experience. If I’m forced to choose, perhaps it would be Lost Horizon – the Frank Capra original, not the musical remake. I don’t think I would hesitate to accept the offer of escaping the madness of this world to spend my days in the utopia of Shangri-La.
If you could, would you visit the past?
I would love to. There are so many great periods I would like to visit, but wherever I decided to go, I think I would stop off in 1979 first to give a few words of advice to my teenage self. I’m not sure that he would listen, but there are two facts of life that I wish he had known!
Thank you, Andi, for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Andi Brooks is a writer of English and Irish descent based in Tokyo. He began writing on vintage horror and science fiction films for American and UK magazines in 1991. With Frank J. Dello Stritto, he co-wrote “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” (Cult Movies Press 2000), a critically acclaimed biography of the Hollywood legend forever associated with the role of Dracula. In 2017, he received the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for ‘Dracula and the It Girl,’ an article which recounted the short-lived love affair between Bela Lugosi and silent screen star Clara Bow. In 2020, he published “Ghostly Tales of Japan,” a collection of thirty original ghostly stories set in various Japanese history periods. He is currently writing a second volume of ghostly Japanese stories and a guide to the terrifying sites of Tokyo.
Thanks a lot for the opportunity to introduce myself, and I hope I do your space proud. So here goes.
When I was a child, I asked one thing of God. I asked that I never live a boring life. I just know the minute I made that prayer that God leaned back, smiled, and said: “Okay, buckle up Mr. Adventure!”I guess you really need to be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. My name is William Ablan (not my real name, of course). I write under a pen name for one reason. About seventy-five percent of what I write about happened, and doing so under a pen name gives me the chance to put some distance between me and it. More on that later.
Okay Mr. Adventure, what was your childhood dream?
I was raised a cowboy, and I can do all the cowboy stuff to include riding, roping, branding, and so on. I’m the son of a rancher but realized at an early age that wasn’t the life I wanted. My eyes were fixed on the stars, and I wanted to ride a rocket into space (still might someday). I took my degree in the second most useless thing in the world and then couldn’t find a job.
Aww. That sucks. What then?
Two months later they called, and I spent the next twenty years being a police officer. As I said, I wanted adventure, and I got it. I worked not only the streets but undercover narcotics, plainclothes investigations, protected VIPs, been an Undersheriff and a Chief of Police. I can’t say I regretted my time working in Law Enforcement. During that time I’ve been assaulted several times, stabbed twice, and shot at a few times. It opened my eyes to the dark side of the human race.
It also showed me that there’s good in everyone. Sometimes, you have to dig to find it, but it’s there. Sometimes the last person on Earth you’d think would be at your side are the ones trying desperately to save the life of a stranger, or going into a dangerous situation and doing something heroic. Or something as simple as being vulnerable to try to talk to someone. The good is there, and when people let it out, it’s dazzling.
With, you being a former law enforcement officer, I have to ask. What do you think of police brutality in the black community? How would you solve this problem?
Any brutality isn’t good. I think I’m ill-equipped to answer that question. The towns and counties I was a police officer in had no black community. That said, it still happened, maybe not to blacks, but certainly other races. I knew Hispanic cops that got themselves in a bind being racist against whites, and the reverse is also true. But I also knew Hispanic cops who brutalized their own and the same concerning whites. The first time I was around a lot of blacks was when I was in the military. I never had any problems and count a huge number of blacks among my best friends.
What’s the answer? I wish I knew. Part of me says better training and better screening of potential police officers. I suspect the truth is simply being a better human being. I only know one way to get that, and that involves God.
William, what are your thoughts on race in general?
The genealogy stuff factors in with my views on race. I don’t get it. From what I’ve been able to learn, my ancestors got ran out of almost every decent country around, got here, and ran into more of my ancestors who did their best to scalp them. Somehow they managed to get along long enough to produce me. I’ve got blood connections to almost every people who have ever walked the Earth with the possible exceptions of China, Japan, and India (and it wouldn’t surprise me too much to find out it’s folded in there someplace).
Now an admission I wish I didn’t have to make. My parents were rather racist, especially against whites (and here I am, half white) I found their views disgusting. They openly expressed hate, and I thought that’s not logical. By their thinking, I’m having to hate part of me. I guess I’ve extended that thinking to all people since I have a pretty good idea of what became me.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Why did you start writing?
I started writing because I’m into genealogy. I always heard stories about some of my ancestors, and with very few exceptions, none of them left more than the barest records of what they’d done and who they were. In some cases, the stories I heard weren’t true.
I can understand that for sure…
An example is my great, great grandfather. The story I heard was he was in the Confederate army, had been captured, and spent the war in the Union POW camp in Allentown. Now, granted, the POW system back then was a mess, but if you spent four years someplace, you would think your name would turn up. I could never find anything from the Confederate Army reference him either. Then one day, I got an unexpected break. Turns out he was never in the Confederacy, but in the Union Army. And he was an officer to boot. Where did the other story come from? Near as I can figure that since he was from North Carolina, they made it up so he wouldn’t get beat up! Later, he and his family came out west with the Mormon’s, and he was a General in their militia. I’d love to have known his stories and heard what he had to say.
What a story.
So, that’s why I started writing. I’ve not only been in places where history was being made but in some cases, helped shape it. I didn’t want my great, great grandchildren trying to figure out who I was. I’d leave a record for them.
But writing it down involved taking a step away from myself. Some of the events were still pretty raw and I had to report the best I could. I invented a character and inflicted my adventures on him. And a really funny thing began to happen. I discovered writing was healing.
I take it you are religious William…
Yes. I’m a Christian. Now why I’m a Christian involves what I could know I’m capable of being. In the Bible, we read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee stood in the temple telling God how cool he was, and that he did this and that. Basically, he was telling God that God was lucky to have him on his side. The Tax Collector didn’t do that. The Bible tells us he stood there, admitting again and again that he a sinner. The Bible tells us it was the Tax collector who went away justified before God because he was being honest with God.
Well, I was the Pharisee. As a Police Officer, I saw it my duty to protect the world, and while I never abused anyone, took bribes, or such, I was viewing myself as the perfect person. It’s easy to do. What I didn’t realize is there was a monster in me.
One day, I ran into it. We were in Saudi Arabia, a few short days from invading Iraq. We had a Platoon Sgt who was horrible at best, incompetent at worse. He thought you pushed combat troops the same way you push recruits (you don’t, in case you’re wondering). He went down with us saying he wanted to get the purple heart. By day two, we were all willing to help him.
So, we’re breaking down and getting ready to move up to the border when he comes up and starts screaming at me about something. To this day I can’t tell you what he said. All I know what something in me said, “Screw him!” as he turned and started walking away, I suddenly felt a hand on top of mine. A friend of mine was whispering in my ear, “Will, he’s not worth it.” My pistol was halfway out of its holster. My friend had stopped me from doing something incredibly stupid. Had he not been there, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
You got some stories in you William!
I got a glimpse of the monster in us, and it terrified me. I realized I was no better than some of the people I’d sent to prison for murder. It was a very humbling encounter. That night, I prayed, maybe for the first time in ages. I asked God that if he got me out of this intact, and my mind sane, I’d serve him. And I thanked him for putting someone in my life for stopping me from killing that man.
It was six months before I started trying to keep that promise. Today, I can’t imagine ever having been the guy who almost killed a man.
Enough heavy stuff.
Okay. Let’s switch it up a bit. Tell us more about you, what foods do you like? Music? That stuff.
I’m a huge fan of hamburgers.
Lol! Yes to hamburgers!
While I love County-Western music, and Rock, I spend most of my time listening to Classical music, especially when I’m writing. I’m into some of the newer stuff that has a classical sound to it (think the soundtrack to Tron by Daft Punk).
Umm.. no idea who that is but carry on.
And if there was a single artist I could shadow, it would be the country artist Charles Russell. I’d enjoyed spending an afternoon with him riding across the open plains. He wrote about and painted the land he loved. I guess it’s his passion I’d want to tap into.
What genre do you write in?
I write what can best be called Police Adventure. I published my first book last year. It’s called the Cross and the Badge, and to a large degree is about learning to live with the pains of the past. My next book is a direct sequel called “Dead Friends.” I’m aiming for a release date of 1 Sep.
Congratulations on the new release! I don’t think we discussed what you are doing now.
My wife and I live in a not so little town anymore called Greeley, Colorado. Some of my fondest memories is time spent with her. Like when we’d be coming back late at night from a gig she’d played (she played in a Country-Western band), stop under a star-filled sky, and talk until dawn.
I’ve children and grandchildren and could acquire great grandchildren here real soon. I’ve threatened my grand kids with death if they do that to me anytime soon. I’m too young to be a Great Grandfather.
And I like to introduce myself as a Writer who moonlights as a Systems Administrator. I’ve been working in Information Technology for over twenty years now. People consider me an expert (definition of an Expert – Someone who knows nothing about everything…)
…in Virtualization, Information Security, and Disaster Recovery. I must know something about it. I also teach it.
If you had a superpower that could chance the world, what would it be?
It’s odd that one of your questions would be about having a superpower and using it to change the world. I think I discovered I had a superpower while I was a police officer. It was the ability to change lives, often times for the good. Granted, there are people I sent to prison. I thank God we have prisons to put some of those people in (some of them were a lot dangerous or crazy or whatever. Suffice it to say, they killed people and enjoyed it). But often times I was able to intervene in things and get people the help they needed to get them off the path that led to those places. I guess if the superpower had a name it would be called “caring.” I found myself being a mentor, a counselor, and an encourager. As I see it, I’d been placed in a unique position, and I’d be a fool not to try to help people out.
While I hung up my guns over twenty years ago, I still find myself helping people. As part of my church, I find myself working closely with veterans, gang members, and people life has beat up. And I suppose in some crazy way, that answers one of your questions about what love is. I know there’s the love I have for my wife, children, and grandchildren, but this is the kind of love Jesus has I suppose. The kind of love that tells someone that they’re important and not something to be feared or cast aside. I always remember that one of the miracles he performed was with a leper. A leper was someone who should never be touched. Before Jesus healed him, he touched him. He acknowledged that person as important. To me, that was a true miracle.
So, you don’t need to be able to fly, or have knives come out of your wrist to change the world. Sometimes you just need to stand up and try.
Thank you William for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
William R. Ablan is a graduate of Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado where he majored in Astronomy and Physics. Because of the tough job market, he spent the next twenty years in Law Enforcement where he’s worked as a Police Officer and Deputy Sheriff. He’s also held several important positions to include Undersheriff, Chief of Police, and Regional Emergency Manager for the San Luis Valley. He’s also an eight-year U.S. Army combat veteran where he served as a Military Policeman where he worked undercover narcotics and investigations. He’s been decorated several times for heroism and performance in both Law Enforcement and the Military.
He’s currently the author of “The Cross and the Badge.” His second book, “Dead Friends” will be released September 1, 2019. It’s what he calls, Autobiographical fiction in that the majority of the cases happened, but he’s taken some literary license with the facts to turn them into a work of fiction.
Will hung up his guns in the 90s, and has work in the Information Technology field since. He’s considered an expert in Network Security, Cloud Technologies, and Virtualization.
He resides in Greeley, Colorado with his wife Julie and works with veterans through his local church. He has children and grandchildren, and currently lives in dread of possibly becoming a great grandfather.