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FST: Our Family’s Own Operation Smile

February 10, 2014

Happy to be able to feed herself!
Photo taken not long after sister’s surgery.

My sister was born with a cleft lip. When I think of her as a baby I always picture her with the cleft lip, and even though I knew at the time that it was a deformity, a part of me thought that it was super cute. Maybe I was just being subconsciously defensive, because I knew people stared at her for it. I don’t know. However, the reality was that it wasn’t something she could just indefinitely live with. It was really hard to feed her. I can remember mom getting frustrated and upset, even crying sometimes. I remember my sister being fussy every time she had to eat. It was a battle: Mom vs Food.

“I’m going to feed the baby,” she’d say to me. That was code for ‘keep your brother occupied so that I can focus’ or ‘get ready to distract her so I can hold the food in’.

The reason it wasn’t fixed right away isn’t that important, but it’s the usual reason – no money and no health insurance. She was born in a birthing home, not in a hospital and they didn’t have the resources to just whisk her away and fix things. Weeks turned into months, and pretty soon my sister was well past the age that most Western babies are when they have this kind of serious deformity fixed.

This turned out to be a sort of blessing. There was a very well-respected Shriner’s hospital in our area that happened to specialize in cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgery. One of the doctor’s had pioneered a new type of surgery, but he needed older babies to teach other doctors how to do it. He couldn’t use infants for this type of teaching surgery and my sister was the perfect age. They offered to do her surgery for free so that he could teach it.

I have only a vague memory of the actual surgery. I remember dad came to the hospital with us, which made it a Big Deal, because he took off work and that just didn’t happen. I remember he was really nervous, and that made me nervous because dad’s don’t get nervous. And then it was done and we could go in and see her. She was miserable. Miserable, sad baby sister. She wanted to go home, but we had to leave her at the end of the day and she cried and cried and cried. 

The next week or so became a ritual. It was different from our usual daily routine, so I was pretty excited by it all. My mom would haul a toddler and an almost five-year old with all their gear, packed lunches, and clean clothes for the baby onto a public bus, through one of the worst neighborhoods in downtown Portland. When we got to the hospital mom would talk to doctors and check on our sister, while we played with the other kids in the hospital.

Since we’d be there pretty much all day, my brother and I made a friend. She was a little younger than me and I understand now that she had a bone cancer of some kind. She was bald, but I was too young to really understand what that meant. My mom kept telling me that she was very sick, but at first she didn’t seem sick. Some days she couldn’t play, though. Then one of the last days that we went to visit the hospital, my brother and I couldn’t find her. I asked the nurse where she was, and the nurse made a very sad face and said she wasn’t there. I thought that was weird because that meant she had gotten better. Why was the nurse sad? Mom sat down next to my brother and me and explained that she had gone to heaven.

It was my first experience with death. For most kids their first experience is with someone old, like a grandparent. For my brother and I, it was a girl our age. My brother has an intense fear of hospital’s, to the point that they make him physically ill. I feel confident this is the reason why and frankly, it’s a miracle I don’t share this fear. Maybe being a year older saved me from that. However, all of a sudden, it wasn’t fun to visit the hospital anymore and I wanted my baby sister out of there and home with us immediately. I wasn’t quite sure that the same thing wasn’t going to happen to her. My mom assured us that wasn’t the case, but I worried she was lying to us to make us feel better. When Sister finally came home, I was intensely relieved to have her back with us. 

After she got home, Sister could eat well, mom was happier, and there was a lot less guilt. As we got older, anytime we saw a Shriner, whether it was on a tricycle in a parade or anywhere else, our mother would point at them and say “They saved your sister.” Even now, when a parade is on I look for the Shriner’s in their silly hats and mentally thank them.

It should come as no surprise that my sister is a big fan of Operation Smile. Without a free surgery to fix her cleft lip, who knows how long she would have had to live with it. She feels pretty passionately about helping other children have the same opportunity that she had.  She’s currently raising money to help eight babies have the life-saving surgery. I’m only too happy to help her with that.

I believe this is the first time in nine years of blogging that I’ve asked for donations, but it’s a really personal cause for my family. I would really appreciate it if anyone took the time to help her reach her new goal. She’s really not asking for much.

Donate here

Click to Donate

Washington DC

January 9, 2014

Just some photos I took on a weekend with my sister.

Master Bedroom Makeover

December 8, 2013

I entered a contest at Curbed during their Rental Week to win $2500 in a free makeover. I wasn’t even a finalist, but I had so much fun doing it that it doesn’t matter at all. I thought I’d share with you what I put together. In fact, I love it so much that I’m scrapping my old Master bedroom Mood Board and using this for inspiration.

Before:

After:

And here’s a breakdown of the various items.

 photo MoodBoard_zps78e257de.jpg The bed I’m going to build myself. (Confession: I’m actually almost done.) The curtains came from Pottery Barn, but I found a very close substitution at Target for a lot less money. The fan is from Acero, and I love it. It’s not cheap, but I couldn’t find anything I liked that was less. The table lamps came from Restoration Hardware – another expensive store, but I know you can find look-a-likes all over the place. I just love the little details on this. Lighting is obviously very important to me, so it’s something I might splurge on. The rug, pillows, and images above the night stands came from Overstock. Overstock is such a great place to shop for home goods, but I’ll probably use my own images in reality. Finally, the built-ins are actually an Ikea hack that consists of two Pax wardrobes. Inside I’d place drawers as well as shelves and built the bench for extra storage. Trim it out with moulding from Home Depot and it would look completely built-in. I could easily remove them when we decide to move. I absolutely love it and I’m definitely going to work hard to recreate it in real life.

Finally, here’s a great pinnable image for those who like that kind of thing:

Fear Itself – A Guest Post by Skyla Dawn Cameron

November 1, 2013

Finally, the day has arrived. When Melissa, the tour organizer, first sent this to me on behalf of Skyla, I cried when I read it. I find this post deeply moving and personal. I’m so proud to host it here.

One of my favorite things about Skyla, as a writer, is that she is generous about talking about the writing process – what works for her, what helps her write more and better, etc. I think this post proves this. Without further ado:

Exhumed (Demons of Oblivion #4) was my last published novel and it was one that stayed with me for a long time afterward. That’s not particularly common with me: I usually write something and then let it go, especially after publication. But not this book.

I distinctly remember writing the opening scene (that takes place outside the main narrative) huddled over my PC keyboard. Shaking. Stomach churning. Crying. I had a few beers to loosen up, some liquid courage.

The one thing I didn’t do was flinch.

If I could impart any lesson to writers—aspiring and published—it’s this: you must go after the things you’re scared of.

The stories that make you uncomfortable. The decisions you don’t want you character to make. The horrible things you wouldn’t want to face. Every deep, dark fear you have, every insecurity, every weakness: this is what must be woven onto the page.

It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s utterly terrifying.

But I strongly believe the only way to write books that will leave a mark on readers—that have the POTENTIAL to stay with people—is to first cut yourself. Deep. To face the monsters under you bed, the things you want to turn away from.

This doesn’t mean it’ll stay with every reader, and it doesn’t mean every reader will like it. It doesn’t even mean the work will emotionally resonate with everyone. Also? It doesn’t mean, “Here, let me show you all of my issues in a thinly veiled autobiography.”

But it does mean that when you get that feeling while writing—a tightening in your chest, something uncomfortable wiggling through you, and the urge to step away from the keyboard—you must follow that fear and keep writing. Chase it. Confront it.

One of my most polarizing characters is also one of the most reader-beloved, the vampire Zara Lain from Bloodlines and Exhumed.

Bloodlines was first written in 2004 and Zara came from me realizing I was uncomfortable writing sex scenes and avoided them at all costs—along came a heroine who was the sluttiest slut that ever slutted, and instead of ignoring her, I dove in to let her objectify men and hit on people and slut around. People who know me insist that they hear me in her voice, which I understand, but she is one of the farthest characters from me personally—much of Zara makes me very uncomfortable. But guess what? A lot of readers connected with her. I never would’ve become a better writer without her.

Skyla’s Standard Fangirl Example For Everything: Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer—when you ask fans what their favourite episodes are, high on the list you’ll find Hush and The Body. Hush came from Whedon deciding to NOT rely on dialogue because everyone said it was his strength; The Body, in addition to being a decidedly unflinching look at death, has a stark reality to it due in part to there being no music because, once again, someone suggested he just relied on music cues for emotion.

So then we have Exhumed. The book is about 99K words, and 75% of it is my tears.

I don’t know that anyone reacted to it the way I did—and only the people who know me very, very well would even start to guess what scared me in that book and why. And it’s okay if some readers don’t like it or don’t ‘get’ it.

But I know the only way they COULD connect with the book is by me facing everything dark, and ugly, and painful that came up, everything that had me trembling bone-deep just contemplating writing it. That place just past uncomfortable, where real terror is—that is your direction when navigating the writing of a novel. As long as you follow that compass point and stare wide-eyed, without flinching, once you reach your destination, you’ll have a chance of finding power.

Yes, there are some readers who want safe. And that’s valid, but they’re not my readers. Mine want ugliness and fear and brutality. And as long as I’m giving them that as honestly as I can, I’m doing my job.

Be sure to pick up Bloodlines for free on Amazon, if you haven’t already. Today’s the last day, kids!

Updated: What’s Better Than a Book?

October 28, 2013

A free book, of course. As part of The Great  Blog Book Tour of 2013, Cameron is offering the first book in her Demon’s of Oblivion Series free October 28th – Nov. 1st, on Amazon for all Kindle users. That’s right – starting today. The book:

Bloodlines

If you’re in her way, it sucks to be you.

After three hundred years of unlife, narcissistic vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she’s now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough: kill the aging leader of the O’Connor coven and his only heir, and she’ll have another ten million in the bank.

But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever “simple.”

When a massive assault decimates the continent’s population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she’ll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who’s also a fan of hers, a recently widowed—and frequently brooding—warlock, and her best friend’s mom, Zara’s grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day.

If only people would stop ruining all her outfits…

Details: Exclusive to Kindle until January 2014 http://www.amazon.com/Bloodlines-Demons-of-Oblivion-ebook/dp/B00FI83ZV0/

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-4-2

Includes bonus short story “Thrall”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

Warning: contains heavy doses of snark, a sexually confident heroine who likes killing people and has no secret heart of gold, lots of explosions, and very naughty language.

 Also, some terrible stuff happens to expensive formal wear. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.

Some things in life are free, it turns out. And it’s this book. You literally have nothing to lose (except hours spent enjoying a wild, fun story, but that kind of proves my whole point).

 

Update: If you want to know where the other locations of the book tour are, here is the schedule: http://www.skyladawncameron.com/blog/tourschedule 

Ghost Town

October 24, 2013

An old deserted mining town perched on a mountainside.

What This Book Tour is Touring

October 22, 2013

Wondering what the Skyla Dawn Cameron’s Blog Book Tour is for? It’s for an amazing urban fantasy series called Demons of Oblivion.  My favorite character is definitely the saber tooth tiger. Random: Did you know that the scientific name for a saber-tooth tiger is a smilodon? And it’s pronounced “smile-a-don”? I can’t be the only one who finds that absurd, considering it’s a vicious beast.

Who’s smiling, scientists??! Who?!

Demons of Oblivion Series

By Skyla Dawn Cameron

A diverse cast of characters come together in classic urban fantasy about monsters, the people who hunt them, and the occasional apocalypse. Snarky humor, magic with bite, nonstop action, a dose of romance, and at its core: broken people finding family in one another.

 

Also, there’s a saber-tooth cat named Sir Rodney Ballsgalore. Because reasons.

Main Series:

See Below

Side Stories & Novellas:

A Vampire Walked Into a Bar (Tales from Alchemy Red)

Home: A Zara Lain Story (Free at My World…in words & pages)Whiskey Sour

Damaged: A Zara Lain Novella

9 Crimes: A Nate O’Connor Novella

Trick or Death (Tales from Alchemy Red)

Kami of Christmas Past: A Peri Takata Novella (Coming Soon)

Howl: A Juliette Aubrey Novella (Coming Soon)

I’ve got another post with more info, but I’m going to note here, as well, that Bloodlines will be available for free on Amazon from October 28th – Nov 1st. Pick it up here: Bloodlines by Skyla Dawn Cameron

Bloodlines


If you’re in her way, it sucks to be you.

After three hundred years of unlife, narcissistic vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she’s now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough: kill the aging leader of the O’Connor coven and his only heir, and she’ll have another ten million in the bank.

But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever “simple.”

When a massive assault decimates the continent’s population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she’ll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who’s also a fan of hers, a recently widowed—and frequently brooding—warlock, and her best friend’s mom, Zara’s grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day.

If only people would stop ruining all her outfits…

Hunter 

Predators beware.

Sometimes natural predators need to be kept in check, and for that, there’s Ryann David. Orphaned as an infant and raised by an exiled branch of the church to become a warrior for God, she and her fellow members of Venatores Daemonum have trained all their lives with only one purpose: destroy all demons in the mortal realm.

But when Ryann and her team are sent to hunt down a vampire who has killed one of their own, a new world of danger, betrayal, and conspiracy greets her. Allied with an irreverent psychic detective and the very monsters she was raised to kill, Ryann will risk everything—her life, her faith, and her heart—in pursuit of the truth as the black and white existence she knew turns a murky shade of gray.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-5-9

Includes bonus short story “Malice”, narrated by Zara Lain.

Warning: This book contains a demon-hunting nun. No, really. And she doesn’t swear. At all. This might be quite traumatizing to you after reading Bloodlines. Reader discretion is advised.

Lineage

Family reunions suck.

What’s a woman to do when her dad’s the antichrist, her grandma’s the devil, the end of the world is at her doorstep, and she’s out to avenge the murders of her husband and kids?

Kill everything in her way.

Quarter-demon Peri Takata exists with but one goal in mind: annihilate everyone responsible for the death of her family. Then—her need for vengeance quelled—she plans to take her own life.

Her mission brings her to vampire Zara Lain, the only known survivor of the event that destroyed Peri’s family five years ago. Hunting down a secret society of those who don’t want to be found has its challenges, however, especially when forces are working to keep the antichrist’s daughter very much alive. The apocalypse is closing in and Peri may be playing a role in it whether she wants to or not.

And when a heart long-thought dead begins to beat again with love for another, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-6-6

Includes bonus short story “Sunrise”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

Warning: You’re still here? After the narcissistic assassin in Bloodlines and the demon-hunting nun in Hunter? Well, now you get a sociopathic, quarter-demon mercenary. There’s lots more violence and naughty language in this one. You’re welcome.

Exhumed

Some people just won’t stay buried…

Zara Lain, narcissistic vampire and assassin, cleaned up after a crazy warlock tried to build a vampire army, made some cash when the North American covens were left in shambles, got away when framed for the murder of a Demon Hunter, and dealt with some idiots who tried to jumpstart Armageddon. None of that could prepare her, however, for the moment when her lover of the undead persuasion awakens…

And promptly tries to kill her.

She’s raised a handful of orphaned baby vampires during the past six years and she knows the score: if they don’t get sane again, they have to be staked. And even if she can fix her would-be boyfriend, he’s not the only formerly deceased one in town who wants to kill her. Old enemies are back to put a cramp in her love life, ruin a good pair of heels, and just maybe end the world.

An apocalypse is nigh…and it gets a lot worse than having nothing to wear to the occasion.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-7-3

Warning: This book may cause you emotional turmoil and feelings of great pain. I’d apologize but it would be a lie; I feed on your tears. Keep ‘em coming.

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