Category Archives: Uncategorized

Introducing Team Orange: Jennifer Gracen

Author Name:   Jennifer Gracen

Title of Short Story: “Killing The Fantasy”

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:  Two forty-somethings meet through Twitter. First they’re friends, then more… or, it could be, if Wyatt would just let Catherine see him.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  I’ve spent a lot of time online, and I’m a romance writer. The idea had been brewing for some time, and then the OKA came about… bingo. It’s kind of a love letter to Twitter.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  Karen DeLabar is my best friend. Nuff said.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:   I had such a hard time deciding whether to be a singer or a writer, that I only applied to 2 colleges (Berklee College of Music and Emerson College), figuring I’d let fate decide. All I knew was I wanted to go to Boston. The music college accepted me first, so I went there. And wrote every day in my dorm room.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Karen’s hair. Because it makes people smile. It’s inspired many conversations. It’s legendary. It’s fabulous!

Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.

Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? Haha, how would I use Karen’s hair to save the world?? (She will shake her head and laugh when she sees this.) Um… she had to cut her hair a few months ago, cut it really short. I guess I’d have taken the snippets, mixed them with magic pixie dust, and scattered them over the world to bring happiness, peace, and laughter.

Who inspires you? Why?  Other writers, because they are my brethren, and they make me want to be a better writer. My children, because they are the most important thing in my life, and they make me want to be a better person.

Story Excerpt:

The more their online friendship intensified, the more Catherine’s curiosity about what Wyatt looked like increased. She had pictures of herself on her Twitter account. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t on Facebook, Flickr, or Google Plus. It almost seemed as if, in a way, he didn’t exist. A huge part of his reticence was fed by his concern that his employees and clients should not see him in an unprofessional light. Catherine knew this, and understood. Yet between liking him as a friend and being attracted to his incendiary sexy talk, the need to know what he looked like burned to the point of distraction.

She tried to cajole him into sending her a picture, teased him mercilessly, asked to the point of almost pleading. He wouldn’t budge.

You don’t need to see what I look like, he would tell her.

It’s not about need, she would type back. It’s about want. I’m just curious. Curiosity is natural in this situation. We’ve talked almost every day for months now.

Curiosity killed the cat, he wrote. But before she could respond, he added, Oh God… your name is Cat. I didn’t mean that how it must have sounded! I was KIDDING. I’m an idiot!

Catherine let out a chuckle as she typed, I know you didn’t. It’s an old saying. No worries. You don’t scare me, sweets.

Well you scare me, lady, he wrote. Smart as a whip, strong single mom, & drop dead gorgeous. Talking to you is gonna get me in trouble. He immediately followed up with his own creative hashtags: #thebestkindoftrouble#viletemptress

By May — admitting to herself, but not to him, that she was quite smitten — they began talking on the phone, late into the night. Hearing his voice added a thrilling new dimension to their relationship. Still, she persisted with her one nagging desire.

One night, Wyatt sighed and said, “Fine, okay… I have light brown hair that’s going gray around the ears, light green eyes that are probably my only attractive feature, I wear glasses, and I’m six feet tall. Not fat, not thin. Not anything remarkable. Completely and boringly average.”

“What’s wrong with average? Hey, I don’t care if you don’t look like George Clooney.”

“Clooney? Ha! Catherine, I don’t even look like his gardener’s sickly cousin.”

She dissolved into laughter.

“Come ooooon,” she wheedled again the next week. “Please?”

“Maybe I’m horribly ugly. Have you thought of that? Like, pathetically so.”

“I don’t care,” she said in a firm tone. “Have you thought of that?”

“You say that now.”

“I say it because it’s the truth.” She sighed. “Wyatt. Do you think I’m that shallow, that I really care what you look like? That it would alter how I feel about you?”

“No,” he stammered. “Of course not. I don’t think you’re shallow at all. But I just don’t… I don’t understand why this is so important. Why do you need to see my picture?”

“I just want to put a face to the words onscreen, to the voice on the phone.” She grunted with exasperation. “I just want… a connection. Why don’t you get that?”

“I do get that,” he conceded quietly. “But I just… maybe I don’t want to… kill the fantasy.”

About Jennifer Gracen:

jgraJennifer Gracen wears several hats: contemporary romance writer, copy editor, social media addict, friend, wife, and (most important hat) mother of two young boys. If it wasn’t for the advent of Twitter, Jennifer would have never met her Favorite Redhead, Karen DeLabar, for which she will be forever grateful.

Introducing Team Orange: Jonathan Gould

Introducing another fantastic author part of our upcoming anthology for “Orange Karen”. He’s all the way from “down under”. Take it away, Jonathan!
Author Name: Jonathan Gould
Title of Short Story: Relief
In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:
A man arrives at work desperate for a drink. He doesn’t end up with a drink, but he does get relief of a kind.
How did you come up with the concept for the story?
When I thought orange, the first thing that came to mind was orange juice. This then raised the question of how to make a good story out of orange juice. I’m not sure if I managed to come up with a decent answer or not, but I had fun trying.
What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?
When I first became involved with social media, and particularly Twitter, I had no idea what I was doing and no contacts. One of my first discoveries was a bunch of people on Twitter using the hashtag #pubwrite to talk about writing and drinking and generally having a fun time. This turned out to be a really welcoming group who seemed happy to include me when I started to join in, and Karen was one of those generous people. When I heard she was unwell, I was happy to try to contribute to any supportive efforts.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:
I actually don’t drink much orange juice. I much prefer apple and blackcurrant.
What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?
I believe that orange is a mixture of yellow and red – which gets my thinking of the cheese and tomato on a pizza. And pizza is the top three items on my list of all-time favourite things.
If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?
Good question. If the world was being invaded by evil aliens, I would invent a pizza gun that would shoot giant sticky pizzas. Once the aliens had fallen to the force of my projectile pizzas and been sent away, we could all have one giant pizza banquet. Perfect.
Who inspires you? Why?
Can’t think of any individuals. Anyone who devotes their time to other people, rather than themselves.
About Jonathan:
Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market.He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
jgould, jonathan gould

Introducing Team Orange: February Grace

February Grace is as lovely as her name. She is kind, giving, and an amazing writer. I can’t wait to share her story with you all. After her interview you will find an excerpt to whet your appetite. Enjoy!

Author Name: February Grace

Title of Short Story: Henley’s Scars

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:

The journey of one woman and her beloved childhood best friend as they travel together through life, love and loss.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?

We were allowed to submit two stories, and this one was the one that actually just popped into my head first; a clear mental image of Henley. However the second idea was so vivid that I wrote it first and sent it in. Something about Henley though— even his name— stuck with me from the moment I imagined him and I finally sat down and wrote the story beginning to end without stopping.  Wouldn’t you know that he’d be the one that would stay with other people, too!

I could see him in my mind so clearly even though he doesn’t exist as he’s described; he was inspired by the little toys my Grandmother used to sew for my younger cousins (she tended to make me dresses, not toys, because I had a favorite bear already. Though she did a vast amount of repair work on my favorite blanket…)

I was also inspired by experiences I’ve had in my own life that have left visible, physical scars. It just all seemed to fit together, and fit the anthology. So I held my breath, hit the ‘send’ button, and submitted it.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?

From the moment I heard about Karen’s illness, which occurred not long after I’d first ‘met’ her on Twitter through the wonderful Jennifer Gracen, I wished that I could do even the smallest thing to help, somehow. When this opportunity presented itself there was just no question: I was going to try to submit. So many of us just want to help however we could, we are grateful for this way to try. I just wanted, so badly, to write something worthy of the cause, of Karen.  I tried my best. This story is a huge piece of my heart.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

That I’m an incurably hopeful —not hopeless— romantic.

john-cusack-boombox1

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

Sky’s the limit? That’s good, because I would have to say it’s the sun.

When I was losing my eyesight and they were telling me they didn’t think any of it could be saved, every night I would stop what I was doing and watch the sun set. Often I’d end up with tears running down my face because I didn’t know if that would be the last sunset I’d ever see. I never take for granted its warmth, the beautiful colors it casts to light the sky night and morning, or its ability to bring the new day. Yeah. The sun is cool.

Sun through the trees on a crisp fall day

Sun through the trees on a crisp fall day

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

I wish I could find a way to make sunlight expedite the growth of love in the world. Turn the altering heat of its rays upon hate and greed and war until there was none left. If I could, I’d find a way to use the light to conquer all the darkness in our lonely world.  If only.

Who inspires you? Why?

Quiet courage, anywhere and in anyone I see it, inspires me on a daily basis.

There are people who have been through some really terrible things, health-wise, in their past or childhood, whatever the situation may be, but you would never know it. They don’t let it stop them. Somehow they keep going, make a better life for themselves and their families, even if they have to live with the memories every day in the form of mental and/or physical scars. No matter how hard they have to fight to do it, they just do it.

Soldiers coming home with stories they will never tell; people who have survived, against all odds, like Karen did. Those are the people who inspire me when I’m struggling, myself. Those are the real heroes in this life. I admire them all.

Excerpt:

Many times over the years, my friends tried to talk me out of carrying Henley around with me, or, when I got older, from displaying him on my bed. He was to be replaced, they said, first by dolls, then by electronics, and finally by a boy’s gifts — gaudy bears with rough synthetic coats and lifeless plastic eyes, won for me at carnival games and school Spring Flings.

I’d always end up giving such trophies away to younger siblings and their friends, feeling that to keep them would somehow be disloyal to my best friend, my one and only bright orange Henley, with his precious, artful scars.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Henley came with me on my honeymoon. Instead of making fun of me, the man I married understood that Henley was a member of the family and treated him as such. Henley has been photographed with landmarks and monuments alike, each picture lovingly arranged and appropriately captioned in his own special scrapbook.

Every trip he’d come back a little more worn, a little more frail. I never dreamed of attempting to repair him myself, though, no matter how old I got. That was a job that only one pair of skilled and loving hands could do.

So I would pack him up carefully and take him to see Grandma, and she would strain to see with aging eyes where the old stitches left off and begin to stitch in new thread, to give an old friend life again.

“We all have our scars, don’t we little guy?” she would say so gently, as she tucked in a little fresh stuffing to add to the old, sewed over the hole or weak spot, and always finished by giving him a little kiss on top of the head.

Every time she handed that bear back to me, I would feel the same love that I’d felt for him, and for her, when I was four.

Never did I imagine this day would come.

About February Grace:

February Grace is a published artist, writer, and poet. Her work has appeared in The Rusty Nail, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Poetry Pact Volume One, 2011. She released her debut novel, GODSPEED, in 2012.

Introducing Team Orange: Patty Blount

It’s time to meet another one of our amazingly talented authors on “Team Orange”! Read on to meet Patty Blount. I approve of her world-saving ideas…do you?

Author Name:  Patty Blount

Title of Short Story: Murder is a Job Best Left to Professionals

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: A former NASCAR champion deals with his professional jealousy over his much younger rival.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  When the request for “Orange” stories came out, I immediately thought of Home Depot. A few years ago, we’d tried to paint our kitchen a Tuscan orange color but what we got was the Home Depot trademark color. I knew I had to write a story set in or around Home Depot, which became “RenovateIT” in the story and the NASCAR sponsorship made that easy to do.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? The fabulous Jennifer Gracen is my RWA local chapter mate and through her, I learned all about Karen’s ordeal. Even though I’ve never met Karen IRL, I felt a connection to her through Jen and wanted to help make things a little easier for this amazing survivor.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:  I suffer terribly from self-doubt. Every success I’ve achieved is because I didn’t listen to my inner nag.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Have you ever heard of the chocolate orange? You whack it and then unwrap it and the chocolate is shaped like orange wedges. I am the world’s biggest chocolate addict. The chocolate orange is a big indulgence. I’ve had it maybe three times in my life, but it remains one of my favorites.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  *laughs* Save the world, one piece of chocolate at a time? I know the effect chocolate has on me. Calming. Soothing. I wonder if we could achieve world peace if we gave everybody on earth a piece of chocolate at the same time?

Who inspires you? Why? Maybe I’m old and jaded but I don’t try to emulate celebrities and sports stars anymore. Instead, I look at real people for inspiration. People like the school teachers who stood in front of a madman’s gun to protect their students. People like the passengers on the fourth flight that never hit its intended target on September 11th, 2001. And people like Karen, who could curl up in a ball and cry about what happened to them, but instead, fight and keep fighting.

Story Excerpt:

“Yo. Harlan Hot Shoe Anderson. I’m a ‘uge fan. ‘uge! The name’s Tony.” The man sticks his cigarette between his lips and holds his hands three feet apart to prove it.

I nod politely and he whips out a cell phone, slings his arm around my other shoulder, and clicks a photo without even askin’ first.

“Hey, yo, Bobby! Check it out, it’s freakin’ Hot Shoe himself. Don’t piss him off now, don’t want him throwin’ a helmet at ya!” the man called Tony shouts into the crowd.

“Come on, Tony, back off. Let the man breathe.” A smaller guy I’m guessin’ to be Bobby steps out of the crowd, slaps a hand on Tony’s chest, pushes him back a foot. I nod my thanks.

“Yo. We came here to see Beau Givens. Is he comin’ or what?” Another ornery voice shouts.

Before I can reply, Dwayne shifts and adjusts his NASCAR cap. “Well, ol’ Beau — he’s around here someplace. Here now, how ‘bout a nice T-shirt?” He reaches into the show car, pulls out a box. “Here, Harlan. Start tossin’ shirts to the crowd.”

“He’s here? Oh, shit!” The man callin’ himself Tony lights up like a swarm of lightnin’ bugs and turns to me. “You ain’t scared, are you, Hot Shoe? Heard you two mixed it up last week after the Nationwide race.”

“No, sir.” I shake my head. “Beau just needs to be reminded to act like he’s got some raisin’ up to be done still, and I reminded him is all.”

Big Tony blinks down at me like I’d spoken in tongues. That’s when Dwayne’s assistant come runnin’ out of the store, eyes buggin’ and pale as a ghost.

Dwayne takes her elbow, leads her away from the crowd. I follow. “What is it, sugar?”

“He’s dead, Dwayne,” she whispers in a shaky tone. “Oh, Lord, he’s dead. They found him in the restroom at the back of the store.”

About the Author

Patty spends hePatty Blount_085_Fr days writing facts and her nights writing contemporary romantic fiction. A coworker once said if Patty were a super-villain, she’d be called The Quibbler. Her costume would be covered in exclamation points. Fueled by a serious chocolate obsession, a love of bad science-fiction movies, and a weird attraction to exclamation points, Patty looks for ways to mix business with pleasure, mining her day job for ideas to use in her fiction.

Introducing Team Orange: J.L. Gentry

Many people have made the Orange Karen Anthology possible and we are grateful for each and every one of them. In the upcoming weeks we will be featuring the amazing people that are part of “Team Orange”. You’ll get a chance to meet the authors who have contributed stories, the editors, our cover designer who donated his time (and you’ll get to see the cover!), and those helping to format the books. It’s a big job and I’m so thankful to have an amazing team to help bring the dream of having an anthology where proceeds go to Karen DeLabar to fruition.

To start, let me introduce one of our authors, J.L. Gentry. After the interview below, read on for a “sneak peek” of his story to whet your appetite.

Enjoy!

Christina

Author Name: JL Gentry

Title of Short Story: Little Wing

In 25 words or less tell us what this story is about:  It is a fantasy of a young, winged woman and her winged guardian facing terrible obstacles to reach their final destination where the truth of their existence is revealed.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  My inspiration was the Jimi Henrdix song of the same title.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  I have been an e-friend of Karen’s for a long time. We share a love of writing and running as well as a birthday.  To top it off, she lives a few miles from where I grew up. How could we not be friends?

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio I’ve never watched any of the Twilight movies or read the books, so I don’t know what that glitter thing is all about.

What is your favorite “orange” item? Why?   Carrots. They are good in any form, add great taste to other dishes and don’t have a lot of attitude.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  It would be as an orange sonic screwdriver (tip o’ the hat to Doctor Who)

Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver combined with the power of “Orange” would be able to save the world!

Who inspires you? Why?  Music, my friends and family. Inspiration is all around me and I become more aware of it every day.

Excerpt:

The jolt of the air was devastating. Each attempt to reconcile her flying failed. She gasped as the pain of her injury seared through her body. The air around her was almost too violent to breathe. She coughed, trying to fill her lungs while falling through the stormy air toward land she could not see. A rocky peak appeared out of nowhere. She tilted her body, racked in pain, to avoid collision. Barely clearing the obstacle, she righted herself, lowering her flight to view a barren surface full of sharp rocks and dark sandy soil. The surface below the storm was like none she had ever seen or imagined. She had known only the fertile glades and hills of her homeland. This space, outside of the lochs that bounded her land, felt of desperation. It was a desolate place. A place they were only allowed to pass over on their final journey. So taken by the ragged, sharp vision, she lost perspective; the surface seemed to reach up and grab her, pulling her into its grip. She stumbled, lurching forward, wings clutched for protection, but still her limbs were bruised against the rocky surface. The wind roared around her and the blowing rain masked her tears of desperation and pain. Failure consumed her as she pulled herself into a ball and felt the irritation from the many cuts and scrapes administered to her by the unforgiving rocky surface.

      It was done. Her first and only mission. Her one goal in life, smashed against so many rocks on a desolate coast. The pity absorbed her as she shivered; the pain in her knees a suitable punishment for her inability to meet her obligation. With one deep breath, she envisioned her demise on the rocky shore. Her soul would abandon her long before she perished for lack of food or water. She had been raised to thrive in the bondage. Without that, she would fade away like the mist being devoured by morning sun.

JL Gentry portrait

J.L. Gentry is the author of SYN:FIN, the first in the Jim Harrison Chronicles. His alter ego is an IT professional with over thirty years of technical and managerial experience. When he is not working, writing, or harassing his family, he can be found running the roads and trails of wherever he happens to be that day. Enjoy life and run free.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Dispelling the Myths

As most of you may be aware, the reason we are putting together an anthology for our friend Karen DeLabar is because last summer she almost died from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Her story, in her words, is a harrowing and courageous tale that, when you read it, you think could only be a nightmare. But it happened. And it happened to our dear friend. It almost took her life. Almost.

Orange Karen: Our Miraculous Warrior

Karen DeLabar starting the long road to recovery from her battle with TSS.

Many people, including myself, think of tampons when they hear about Toxic Shock Syndrome. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was an “epidemic” of Toxic Shock Syndrome among menstruating women who used superabsorbent tampons. One brand in particular contained a chemical in the make-up of the tampons that prevented the filtering of the bacteria that caused TSS, thus increasing the risk. Since then, tampon manufacturers have adjusted the composition of their tampons and risk of TSS has reduced greatly.

Superabsorbent tampons in the late 70’s and early 80’s were the cause in an epidemic of TSS in North America.

Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and the information presented in this blog is not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool. If you have further questions about your health as it relates to TSS, please consult a medical professional.

So what is TSS?

Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is rare and life-threatening caused by strains of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or streptococcus (strep) bacteria that produce toxins (poisons). Initial symptoms of TSS can be similar to the flu: high fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, and disorientation. Those with TSS might also experience low blood pressure, shock, dehydration, sore throat, muscle pain, peeling skin, kidney failure, and a rash that looks similar to a sunburn. Toxic Shock Syndrome can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated right away.

staph

This staph bacteria might look cute, but it can turn deadly once it starts to release toxins in the body.

The most important thing we want to share is this: TSS doesn’t just occur in women who wear tampons. TSS can also occur in men and children. If the staph and strep bacteria enter the bloodstream through a cut or infection, then they may be at risk for TSS. Karen did not get TSS from tampons. Karen and her medical team are not sure how she contracted TSS, but are very sure in that she did not get it from tampon use.

What is the cure for TSS?

The first and most important thing is that TSS must be identified early enough so that rigorous treatment can begin. In most cases the goal of treatment is to keep the body functioning and to assist the body in getting rid of the infection. This is not one of those “get your prescription for antibiotics and go home, drink plenty of fluids and you’ll be back to work next week” type of infections. If you have TSS you will be hospitalized, most likely in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Treatments may include IV antibiotics, kidney dialysis, fluid through an IV to stay hydrated, a feeding tube to give the body the nutrients it needs. In Karen’s case, she was put in a medically induced coma in order to help her live. She was hooked up to every machine possible to help her major organs to function as the antibiotics went to work to rid her of the infection.

How can I prevent TSS?

Most resources on TSS prevention include proper tampon hygiene – limiting the use of highly absorbent tampons. Since TSS can also be contracted through cuts and open wounds (including post-surgical), it would be very important to make sure wounds are clean and are cared for properly so to prevent any type of infection.

Now What?

Hopefully this post has dispelled some myths about TSS. Here’s what the medical community now know about TSS:

  • People still get TSS and it’s not always contracted through the use of tampons.
  • Open cuts and wounds can also cultivate staph and strep bacteria that can cause toxins to build up in the body.
  • It can occur in men, women and children.
  • While Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare, it is serious and life-threatening.

Resources

MayoClinic

Toxic Shock Syndrome Information Service

PubMed Health

Health Canada’s views on TSS

Sunset through the clouds

Karen was extremely lucky to have survived. Those that know her, or know of her, know it wasn’t just luck – it was a miracle. That and her “kick TSS’s ass” mentality. She’s a fighter and we’re all behind her crouched in our best ninja-fighting stance. One of the ways we’re helping Karen fight is through the creation of an anthology of short stories. We have 39 amazing authors lined up with stories guaranteed to entertain. Perhaps I’m biased, but I’d have to say that this is one of the most eclectic short story anthologies I have ever read. There’s suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, humor…you will laugh, cry, swoon, and cheer! I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but you’re going to have to wait until April 2013!

Stay tuned as we will be featuring the Orange Karen Anthology authors on this blog so you’ll get to know them and will get a taste of their work!

– Christina

Something for Everyone: Announcing The Orange Karen Anthology All-Star Roster

Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to craft a short story to submit to the Orange Karen Anthology. We had a tower of stories to read!

We have a great line-up of talented authors with entertaining, funny, touching and out-of-this-world stories to be included in the Orange Karen Anthology. Readers will find something for everyone in this anthology: romance, fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, and humor, just to name a few. At the present time, our editors are hard at work tweaking and polishing, and then we will be formatting the book for e-book and paperback to be released April 2013!

But I bet you’re all sitting on the edge of your seats wanting to get to know our authors. Are you ready? Here’s the list!

Alex Kimmell
Andrew F. Butters
Anna Meade
Anne Baker
Benjamin Cain
Cara Michaels
Christina Esdon
Christopher Cantley
D. Savannah George
E. Wells-Walker
Elizabeth Ann West
Emmett Spain
February Grace
Francis Stetnocis
Gareth S. Young
Glenn Skinner
J. Whitworth Hazzard
Janelle Jensen
Jeff Tsuruoka
Jennifer Gracen
Jerry Gentry
Jesse James Freeman
John Moore Walker
Jonathan Gould
Joseph Schmidt
Julie Glover
K.D. McCrite
Mark Ethridge
Maureen Hovermale
Patty Blount
R.B. Wood
Shay Fabbro
Sheilagh Lee
Stephanie Fuller
Steve Umstead
Steven Luna
Taylor Lunsford
Tim Queeney
Valerie Haight

Congratulations to all of our authors!

We will keep everyone posted about the developments as we go, so stay tuned!

A Final Word: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown

It’s the day after the official deadline for submissions for the Orange Karen anthology. First off I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories. We’ve had an overwhelming response and can’t wait to finish reading through all the short stories. We will be contacting you individually via e-mail in the next couple of weeks to let you know if your stories will be included in the anthology. Hang tight! We have a lot of reading to do!!

Thank you also to everyone to read and shared the posts. We have had great activity on this blog the website the past two weeks and that’s all because of you!Finally a thank you to everyone who posted such wonderful, funny, tender and heartfelt posts on the blog, you are all amazing.

To wrap things up, I’ve called in Glenn Skinner. He and the resident fairy in his head have some final words. Take it away, Glenn and fairy!

* * * * *

A Final Word

Purchase the Orange Karen Anthology, or the fairy in my head will haunt you in your dreams!…

There, that about covers it. What else is there left to say. For the past 15 days, this blog has been hosted by the finest, most talented, assortment of writers and friends I have ever known. Through their words we have learned everything there is to know about our orange top warrior Karen DeLabar, and her struggles and triumphs. We have felt the passion, and compassion, that this group revealed from deep within their heart and souls. They have inspired us, made us laugh and made us cry. They are the humble group we label as #teamorange. I don’t think there is anything I can add that hasn’t been already been said.

Tragedy hits everyone differently, but for every Yin there is a Yang. Tragedy while it sometimes brings out the worst in people, it often brings out their best. Back in June this was the case for a tight knit group of writers who banded together in prayer and support for a friend in need. So strong was their support, that it went viral across the net. In a desire to help their friend in need, they did everything that was within their power. Whether that everything was filling Karen’s room in intensive care with cards of support, or sending a “Doggy Howser” flower bouquet, complete with balloons, chocolates, and a single orange bow to symbolize our solidarity and support. A stranger sent pizza, so Eric wouldn’t starve while sitting by her side. Another sent a new pair of shoes to brighten Karen’s day, knowing it could be months before she could wear them. When Karen was released, their support continued, whether it was simply moral support, visits, or meals, they never let up. It was no surprise when #teamorange learned of the mounting medical bills, this group would do nothing less than rally for their beloved orange warrior.  As such, the Orange Karen Anthology was born (OK, the anthology has a cooler name than that, but the fairy insists I keep it simple).  We live in tough times. Every day we struggle to keep our heads above water. If you’re a group of talented writers (and a hack like me) what do you do to help? You write. You write from deep within holding nothing back. You reach out across the net and you ask others to join your cause.  You rally your cause from every street corner.

The deadline for submissions has past; many talented people took the time to help a friend in need. Many of whom, have never met Karen, but were moved by the compassion put forth by her friends. What remains now is to wait while the submissions are reviewed, the stories selected, and the anthology brought to completion. All that will remain then will be to purchase a copy and spread the word. There are so many people in need in this world today, and so many good causes. Why should I spend what little I have on this particular cause, you might ask?  My answer to you is quite simple; you should do it for you. The stories in this anthology will reach deep into your soul. They will make you laugh, make you cry, and inspire you. The proceeds that will help Karen, will pale in comparison to what the anthology will give you back. Feel the power that is orange.

P.S. (Don’t make me send the fairy after you)

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Glenn Skinner is a fantasy writer and amateur astronomer who has spent a few nights too many with his head in the clouds. With his trusty muse the fairy by his side, he spends many an evening spinning tales of imagination, bringing color to the grey. His current work in progress is a fantasy series called “The Keya Quests”.

Learn more about him at:

http://glennskinner.com

Or his work:
www.keyaquests.com

Karen DeLabar: This is Simply My Story – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown (Day 15)

By now, Karen DeLabar should need no introduction. She’s the “Orange Karen” we’ve been writing about on this blog for the past two weeks. She’s the reason we’re doing this anthology. She is our friend, our inspiration and our warrior. Today marks the deadline for accepting submissions to the Orange Karen Anthology. Some of you know Karen, some of you don’t. But none of you (save a few) know the whole story about Karen’s sudden, and deathly illness, and how she came out alive, swinging fists after a long battle.

She still struggles with typing, and often writes by hand before dictating it to her computer. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to reflect on the past six months and try to put into words what happened. But she did it. This kid’s got moxie, folks. Oodles of it.

It is my absolute honor to share with you Karen’s story, written by the one, the only, the true Orange Warrior, Karen DeLabar.

Note: Karen has put up some pictures on her website which further depict her battle with Toxic Shock Syndrome and her recovery. While some of the pictures may be graphic, they show the marvels of modern medicine and they show the resilient spirit of our dear friend.

* * * * *

This is simply my story.

It started like any other Saturday. Eric was rushing around trying to get the kids ready and I was being lazy not wanting to get out of bed. Until, that is, I realized what was happening this Saturday. That evening was our oldest daughter’s very first dance recital. I was beyond excited. If you know me you know I love theater, the arts, entertaining. The thought of my daughter following in my footsteps just makes me want to push her out of the spotlight and take her place. Just kidding. 😉

As the day went on I started to feel tired, run down. I brushed it off thinking it was just the normal mom feeling of having to do everything in a short amount of time. I remember swaying back and forth as I tried to perfect her braid and scolding myself for doing a half-assed job.

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

When we got to the recital I started to shake with cold sweats. Taking shallow breaths and hoping not to pass out in the wings, I watched my little ballerina hit every move. After her second dance I couldn’t stand any more and opted to go home to bed. After tossing and turning that night and the following day with a high fever, Eric took me to the ER Sunday night. The night nurses took my blood, found nothing out of the ordinary, gave me fluids and sent me on my way, diagnosing it as a viral infection.

Under this advisement I went home and spent all of Monday in bed as severe pain ravaged my body, especially in my neck, shoulder, and abdomen. By Tuesday morning I was vomiting and too weak to even stand. Eric and I actually discussed not going to the hospital because of cost but I soon felt too sick to care and insisted we go. We later learned that had I not gone to the ER that Tuesday morning I would have died Tuesday night.

The total time from onset to fatality, four days.

I spent all day in the ER and after test after test with no answer as to what my ailment was I was admitted into the ICU that night. The last thing I remember was turning to the doctor, pointing to Eric and telling her to make sure he ate something. Another doctor looked down at me and said, “Lie back, we need to intubate you.”

When Eric left that night I was just intubated, when he walked into the room the next morning I was hooked up to 13 different machines. My body went into shock and they couldn’t figure out why. Just overnight I lost blood flow to my hands and feet; the toxins then pooled where there was decreased blood causing an intense rash which then turned to blisters which popped open and left open wounds. Disgusting, angry, limb losing wounds.

I lost my left thumb almost immediately. The infection was causing my body to throw out random clots. I was also placed on four machines that are designed to pull your blood to your core. The machines saved my heart, and my life, but they doomed my hands and feet. My family watched as my extremities turned black knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it.

At one point I had 19 extra liters of fluid in my body. Think of a 2 liter bottle of soda. That’s a lot of soda.

The doctors were stumped, they had no idea what was causing my sickness. I was dubbed the sickest person in the hospital by the Dean of Medicine. I’m still waiting for my plaque.

My heart was only pumping at 25 to 30% and there was concern that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the severe attack of the infection. However, thanks to the sheer determination of the many doctors and nurses on my case, a day and a half after they started antibiotics I started to turn around.  At this point I was placed on hypnotics which allowed me to respond to the doctors but I would have no recollection of the events.

I woke up 10 days later to my husband and brother looking down on me with big goofy grins on their faces. Two days later we had a cause. A culture finally came back with toxic shock antibodies. My infection had a name, and it was Toxic Shock due to strep. Yep, your everyday strep got into my blood and there you have it. It’s cause is still unknown. It was NOT caused by tampons, or the mud run I had just raced in, or anything like that. Somehow strep got into my blood and tried it’s damnedest to kill me.

We were told that 8 out of 10 don’t survive what I went through. My doctors attribute my survival to three main reasons:

1. My age. I went through all of this, which includes mastering the bedpan, just a few short weeks of my 30th birthday.

2. My strength. Before my illness I was working out five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I would have loved to have been awake when the doctor told my mom, who used to criticize my workout schedule, that my physical strength was one of the reasons I survived.

3. I’m stubborn. My body basically refused to quit. They had me on enough narcotics and medicine to down a 300 pound man for a week, and yet I was struggling with nurses to remove my own tube, even tried to punch one who went to stop me. I struggled to let them know that I was still inside, that I was still fighting.

During that week and a half in the ICU I was placed on a dialysis machine, had several blood transfusions and more than one central line put in to administer medicines. The last one I had went straight into my neck and into a main vein; it was put into place right before I woke up. I kinda miss that one. They’d put in pain meds and before they were down pushing it all in, I would be out. Until the one nurse left the syringe in my neck and I didn’t realize it.

“Karen…” Eric asked me ever so cautiously, “is that a syringe hanging out of the side of your neck?”

I brought my hand up and lightly touched around what they called the IJ (inter-jugular) pick.

“Why, yes, yes it is.” And I went back to reading.

He spent the rest of the afternoon calling me “Frankenwife”.

After a month in the hospital and physical rehab facility I was released to go home on July 4th; a day that is now my own little Independence Day.  I thought I was in the home stretch, but my recovery was only beginning.

When the podiatrist first saw me he said the worst case scenario was double amputation up to my knees. No one should ever have to hear those words. I never felt so helpless in my life. I just kept thinking about my two little girls at home; how I could never dance or run with them again. He recommended a hyperbaric chamber to help circulation in my feet to aid in the healing. For 55 days I spent two hours breathing pure oxygen at twice the atmospheric pressure. I laid in that gigantic glass tube, completely closed off from the rest of the world watching “Frasier” reruns on Lifetime. It could have been worse.

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The hyperbaric chamber (L); Karen gets ready for one of many hyperbaric chamber treatments (R)

My afternoons were spent at various doctors, cardiologists, hand therapists, and surgeons.

With every appointment I continued to defy the odds. They told me that it would take at least six months for my heart to recover. By the end of July it was already back to normal. When August rolled around it looked like my feet were going to be saved, minus a pinkie toe.

My thumb was still the only question mark.

The first hand surgeon wanted to amputate it, sew my new stub of a thumb to my groin and grow a new thumb from there. Yeah. Let me just walk around with my hand down my pants for six weeks. I’m sure no one would notice.

But thanks to a second opinion I am now working with a brilliant micro surgeon out of the University of Penn. I am currently undergoing a series of surgeries to reconstruct my thumb using tissue from my arm.

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“Look ma, a new thumb!”

I don’t remember anything from those 10 days in which I fought for my life. A part of me wants to but looking at the sadness in my family’s eyes when they recall that time I’m guessing it’s for the better that I don’t. What I do remember is waking up to two whole walls of the ICU room covered in get well cards. Nurses and doctors would randomly come in, hug me, kiss my forehead and thank God I pulled through.  My social media sites, Twitter feed, Facebook wall, were filled with seemingly endless posts of prayers, well wishes and notes of people wanting to help.

I have never been so overwhelmed in all of my life.

I’ve learned a lot this past year, patience, humility but most of all what friendship and love really means. I’ve learned to be thankful for the smallest things and I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the silver lining in darker moments.

I learned to laugh at myself.

Everyone who looks at my hands and my troubled gait say they’re so sorry that this happened to me. But please, don’t feel sorry for me; never feel sorry for me.

I’m alive, and I’m in control of my recovery.

But I am sorry. I am sorry for my parents. They had to watch their only daughter’s hands and feet turn black before their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it. I’m sorry for my husband who called up his parents to tell them to come say goodbye to me and how he had to figure out what to say to two little girls about their mommy who went to the hospital and didn’t come back.

But I’m most sorry for my two little girls who knew nothing of what was going on and just wanted their mommy to hold them. That’s who you should be sorry for, for my loved ones who had to watch me fight this and could do nothing to help.

However, that is all in the past. So instead of feeling sorry, I try to remember to celebrate. I’m here for birthday parties, holidays, smelling honeysuckle waft through the air on a cool June night. And yes, I’m even excited to be here to potty train our soon to be three year old.

Life is truly a blessed and beautiful thing. I have many reminders by way of scars, pain, and overall way of life that reminds what I went through to ensure that I have a life to live. Whenever pettiness and pride creeps in to ruin my day I just have to look down to my hands or feet to remember how precious life is and what really matters.

I urge you to stop and take some time to yourself and be thankful for all that you have because within four days it could all be gone.

I want to quickly give thanks to everyone who has worked on this site, submitted posts, submitted stories for the anthology, and is currently working on putting everything together. Another big hug and thanks to all my friends and family who have rallied behind us during this trying time. To my doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacies, and hospital staff, thank you for your dedication to help others. And last, but not least, my husband, Eric. Yours was the last face I saw before I went out and the first one I saw when I woke up. I want to keep it that way. 

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A DeLabar Family Christmas 2012

Laughter is the Best Medicine – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown: Day 14

We’ve had about two weeks worth of stories, testimonials and tributes to our dear friend Karen DeLabar. But we’re not done yet. There are two more sleeps until the submission deadline to have your short stories considered for the Orange Karen Anthology. As we near Day 15, we hear from a long-time friend of Karen’s, Susi Nonnemacher. She speaks of Karen’s resilience and her ability to see the glass half-full and live life through laughing. Enjoy, friends.

* * * * *

When my brother was a sophomore in high school, he was the head Winkie in our high school’s production of “the Wizard of Oz”. This was perfect for my brother, who is great a doing the straight-faced, monotone, creepy voice the role required without cracking so much as a smile.

I was 22 at the time, moved home from Florida in the midst of the preparations for the show. I remember picking my brother up from rehearsal one day when he told me that his goal was to make one of the characters playing opposite him laugh on stage during a performance. He went on to tell me that this young woman was awesome, a natural actor who could just roll with the punches, no matter what happened–until he came on stage.

Toward the end of the show, after Dorothy throws the water on the witch, my brother’s character had the line, “She’s dead. You killed her.” There was something about the way he said it that made this young actress burst out laughing. The more she laughed, the more serious his tone became–it became a game to him.

Fast forward several years, and I was out with some friends from my community theatre. Karen is sitting across from me, and asks how my brother is doing. I didn’t realize they knew each other (my brother is a couple of years younger than her), so she proceeded to tell me about how he made her laugh on stage every time they rehearsed that scene.

I love this story not only because Karen and my brother are two of my favorite people, but also because it focuses on Karen’s awesome laugh. When she laughs her whole face lights up. She doesn’t hold back, and you can always tell it is genuine. As my husband put it, her laugh is contagious–it makes you want to join in, even if you didn’t hear the joke. (For those who haven’t had a chance to see this first-hand, check out this video from her blog, posted last Christmas).

When I think of Karen, I think of someone who is happy, someone who embraces life, and someone who loves to laugh. I had a lot of pictures to choose from for this post, and I can honestly say that she is laughing in the majority of them. 🙂

I am lucky to only live a mile and a half from Karen. We went to the same high school, and did our first play together in 1996, when I was a high school senior and she was in eighth grade. I had the privilege of calling her my friend prior to us jumping into the writing world, and am thrilled to continue that friendship in the years since.

Living so close meant that I was able to go to the hospital the day after she came out of ICU. I have to admit, I was nervous walking into the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew her body had been through hell, and I was prepared for the worst.

As I was walking toward her room, I heard her laugh dancing through the halls as I was still several rooms away. I stopped, right there in the hall, and cried. The friend who had come with me looked at me and asked what was wrong. My response? “She’s going to be OK.”

Until that point, I knew she was doing better. I had heard the stories of her fighting off nurses while in a coma; I knew she wasn’t giving up any time soon. But, there was something about hearing her laugh that just made it all click… she was going to get through this. That’s not to say that it has been easy, or that it has been all laughter. It certainly hasn’t ,as anyone who knows her has seen. But, in spite of everything that happened, just days after waking from ten days in a coma, she was laughing.

KandS - Laughing by the Water

In the months since, I have seen Karen struggle at times, but her spirit was never totally broken. Within minutes of a pain attack, she was back to cracking jokes and joining in on the laughter. She is an amazing friend who, in spite of all that has gone on, is always there for others, ready to give a hug or draw out a smile.

I am so excited that Karen and I will both be returning to the stage this year in “Annie,” along with some awesome friends. I continue to be amazed at her recovery, and her excitement at jumping headfirst into her life. As I look to the coming year, I look forward to Karen and I sharing many more girls’ nights, long rehearsals with entertaining friends, support and encouragement as we keep working toward our writing goals, and, most of all, a whole lot of laughter.

Twitter 11012011Susi M. Nonnemacher is devoted wife who finds time to write between community theater and church choir rehearsals, minor league baseball games, baking batches of cookies, trying out new Pinterest-inspired crafts, and juggling more loads of laundry than any two people should be able to produce. You can find more about her at http://smnonnemacher.com or follow @smnonnemacher on Twitter.