The Poet Speaks

For those of you that don’t know me on Twitter, my user name on there (and indeed, on most platforms that require a user name) is The Poet Pyronius. I have been using the internet handle Pyronius in one form or another since I was 14, and even gave the name to a character in my first novel. The poet part has been less true of late, since most of my spare time is spent either writing non-fiction or focusing on my novel. Still, there was a bygone era when I would read poetry at the local pub to a score of bawdy bogans, and I’d like to share some of that poetry with you now. Though perhaps not my most provocative, it’s still my favourite. It’s called ‘Mantra‘ –


Om was the sound of creation’s first blast,

Om was the first of Omega, the last,

Um is the sound that lives in between,

Reminiscent, in doubt, of forgotten Om’s mean,

Giving pause to expansion always heard, never seen.

Err was the tainting of Om’s noble grace,

A mistake often uttered in lieu of Om’s face,

As existence expanded, adaptation demanded,

That Ah and Oh need not be reprimanded,

To arrive at the end Om in steady formed pace.

But the truth of the Om is that which we crave,

As Om is a sound, and sound is a wave,

A wave which can shake matter’s sea to the core,

While a matter of energy divides divine shore,

No one man can drive Om, it will take many more.


Mantra‘ is now available to purchase in tote bag and t-shirt form from the eyE[before]Store page.

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I’ve also added a couple more t-shirt designs available for purchase, including a Tim-Burton-inspired ‘Nightmare Before Diwali’ Om design;

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As well as a t-shirt print of one of one the favourites from my art gallery, ‘Ariel‘.

ariel-tshirt-imageLarger images can be viewed through the store.

Om Namah Shivaya.

No, YOU’RE a Big Baby

Is it weird that I cry a little when I watch kids movies?

Honestly, most other TV shows or movies that I wreck-it-ralphwatch don’t evoke a physiological response from me. Still, I sat down to watch ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ the other day and I unerringly choked up at the climax. The worse part is that there aren’t really any sad bits in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’. It’s just that something about tragedy popping the bubble of childlike-nostalgia makes me want to weep like a widowed seamstress.

Actually, there is one other thing that makes me cry the same way kids movies do – super hero movies. I know, I know, it sounds stupid, and I am certain it’s pulling the same emotional triggers as the aforementioned genre. Still, I watch the introduction to ‘Watchmen‘, where it shows the rise and fall of the superheroes background synched to ‘The Times Are A Changing’ by Bob Dylan, and I want to sob. ‘Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog’ is another one that gets me going, though in all fairness you’d have to be a heartless monster to not get emotional over that masterpiece. #JossWhedonIsMyMasterNow

I will say that I think I am a strong believer in nurturing your inner-child. I believe that, psychologically speaking, all of us contain the raw elements of broader social trends. I believe we all have inner-children, inner-parents, inner-masculine, and inner-feminine qualities, though for some of us certain traits are naturally more inclined than others.

It is important to give all of these traits a chance to be made conscious, so that they don’t lash out through our subconscious in unexpected ways. Truthfully, I’m all too happy to watch cartoons and sob a little so that my inner-5-year old doesn’t feel neglected. Thanks to the slew of awesome movies Pixar has been cranking out, that’s fine by me.

Now, since you’ve all been so very good and listened to me so patiently, here’s your treat – the intro to ‘Watchmen‘ feat. the musical stylings of Bob Dylan. A word of warning though; it is a little graphic. Just be thankful I didn’t post the first 5 minutes of ‘Up‘.

Sniff.

Also, who likes the new header? 🙂

Let me know if you see a radio shack.

Let’s Make It Official (also, Free Stuff)

Okay, a few exciting changes at eyE[before]E today. In the interest of further legitimising my endeavours as a professional blogger, I’ve splashed out for a domain! That’s right kids, no more wasting precious seconds typing eyebeforee.wordpress.com into your browsers; now it’s www.eyebeforee.com all the way!

The second exciting change is that, after many hours of design, I have created…

The eyE[before]Tee!

vetruvian-eye-shirt-ad-blackThat’s right, the tasteful ‘Vetruvian Eye‘ design that hangs from eyE[before]E’s masthead is now available for purchase in clothing form from the newly added eyE[before]Store and from Skreened.com. It is available in black, white and natural in a variety of styles; fitted tee, v-neck, tank top, long sleeve, baseball tee, hoodie, tote bag, and even as a child’s onesie. Adults and kids sizes are available and pricing begins at $18.99, though varies depending on the style. Better yet, Skreened.com has a promotion running where you get 20% off long sleeved clothing if you enter the coupon code ‘SLEEVES‘ at the checkout! Sale ends on the 29th of March though, so you’d better get in there quick. 🙂

Keep your eyes peeled for more up and coming shirt designs and prints from eyE[before]E, and I hope to have a some shirt giveaways coming up in the near future also! In the meantime though, the talented Tom Landaluce is giving away 5 paperback copies of his book ‘The Tragic Death of Corporate Man‘. Simply follow this link to his homepage and retweet his post to enter the draw! It’s almost stupid not to do it. 🙂

Snootchie bootchies.

A Logical Conversion

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For anyone who missed my ‘How Many Parsecs in a Samadhi?’ post a few weeks back, let it be known that I enjoy blending the disciplines of science and spirituality. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am dubious as to whether science and spirituality will ever truly find a satisfying common ground, though my hope springs eternal. Today I want to talk about something in a similar vein.

I want to take a look at the role of logic within modern spirituality.

For most people, the suggestion of reconciling spirituality with logic is a strange one. These two abstract ideas are generally perceived to be opposing concepts; spirituality being largely concerned with the illogical constant of ‘faith’, while for many people it is ‘illogical’ to believe in something one cannot prove through quantification. Personally, I do not hold my understanding of either logic or spirituality in alignment with conventional paradigms.

Let us first consider the true nature of logic. It is generally agreed that logic is defined as the application of reason. For example, if I climb the apple tree I can more easily pick an apple, and therefore it is logical to do it.

Let us then consider whether or not it is truly illogical to believe in the metaphysical. It is my understanding that engendering a positive mental outlook has demonstrated beneficial effects on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. Furthermore, it is illogical to presume something does not exist simply because it hasn’t been proven. Therefore, if believing that something exists beyond the physical regardless of scientific verification gives an individual an increasingly positive mental outlook, is it not logical to do so?

In the interest of being fair, let’s look at the other side of the coin. What are the disadvantages, from a logical perspective, in believing in the metaphysical? It has been suggested that spiritualists have historically proven to be innately illogical, particularly those stemming from religious sects. Obviously though, if we choose to believe in the metaphysical to satiate the perceived logic of doing so it is unlikely to compromise our ability to perceive logic, so that is a moot point. One might suggest that believing in the metaphysical gives a person cause for bias and that it is logical to remain impartial, particularly when impartiality is so important to the scientific model of analysis. However, I dispute this. Not believing in something and being impartial are two different characteristics. Deciding to not believe in the metaphysical does not make a person any more impartial than one who does believe in the metaphysical, for the simple reason that bias is the act of becoming attached to a concept. Whether you choose to believe in the metaphysical or not, it is equally possible to become attached to the abstract constant that you have invested yourself in and equally possible to lose impartiality. Therefore, I believe this to be a moot point also.

As far as I can tell, there is one key flaw we must accept when we choose to believe in something that hasn’t been scientifically proven and may never be; we might be wrong. The greatest loss to those that choose a spiritually-inclined outlook is that, in all honesty, our beliefs could potentially be disproven someday by some guy in a labcoat that works adjacent to the CERN supercollider.

I guess my question is – would that really be the worst thing in the world?

It can be easy to become attached to ideas and concepts in the information age. I believe that the most sensible outlook is to hope for the best and plan for the worst, as the saying goes.

And that is why it is logical to be spiritual.

On a side note, eyE[before]E just mounted 1,000 hits after only a month and half!

You can’t take the sky from me. 😉

(Image credit to Quirky)

eyE[before]Gabriella

gabbyGabriella Salmon; writer, facilitator, teacher and space-holder for radical, loving change. Gabriella is many things to many people, but most recently she is about to become a published author with the impending release of her first book, ‘100 Days of Morning‘; an experiential tale about the transformative power of writing. Though Gabriella is busy bopping about the east coast of Australia, having adventures and promoting the imminent release of her magnum opus (for which she is currently running a Pozible campaign), she has kindly afforded me the opportunity to catch up with her to talk about writing, spirituality, and her exciting odyssey into the world of independant publishing.

What first made you want to become a writer?

“I’ve always been a writer. I’ve written for myself, journaling since I was seven. I’ve written for the world since about the same age in the schoolroom utopia that is ‘English Class’. Beyond the classroom, I’ve written for the world in poetry and short play writing competitions, the occasional magazine article, international love letters, and sales and marketing campaigns. All of these things however, were written before I started owning this title of ‘Writer’.

“On the 19th of July 2012, I got an unexpected phone call telling me my dad had died. All I wanted to do was write about it, so I did, every single day for 100 days. It was a process that changed everything. I emerged from (it) finally willing and able to claim (the title) – ‘Gabriella Salmon – Writer.’ Ahhh, still feels good to write it!”

You describe yourself as a ‘space-holder for radical, loving change’. Care to elaborate on what this means for you?

“Why, yes, I’d love to! Let’s work backwards and start at ‘radical, loving change’. This sweet trinity of words points to the fact that I’m not into pussyfooting around. I’m not into merely coming up with fancier and more impressive ways to (write) about stuff. I’m into examining the very foundations of our stories, and then consciously, lovingly choosing to rewrite them. I know for a fact that we can use the conscious, literal act of rewriting our stories as the catalyst for some of the biggest changes in our lives.

“The term ‘space-holder’ means that my focus is less on ‘teaching’ or ‘coaching’ and more (about) providing (a) safe, open space for people to be draw their own answers and understandings. We all have deep, raw, honest stories in us that are longing to be told and to be seen. We just get a bit caught up in believing that our stories aren’t valid. I know all of our stories are valid, and it’s my job to hold a space open for each and every story-teller, (so that they can) learn to trust that for themselves.”

As a motivational author, how big an aspect does your spirituality play in your writing?

“I don’t actually see myself as a ‘motivational’ author. To me, motivation is all about pushing or pulling, and being defined by the world. I prefer the term ‘inspirational’ (author). Inspiration speaks to me of expanding my awareness (and) of my connection with ‘The All’.

“I write the stories of me. I keep my writing as personal as I can (and) thusly, this is the place I write my stories from. Part of my understanding of life is that I am a spiritual being having a human experience, not a human being having a spiritual one. This is an (important) piece in my life and (so) my spirituality colours every single word I write.

You’ve just finished writing your first book. Coming out the other side of it, what are your thoughts/feelings about your accomplishments? Any important lessons learnt? Anything you’d do differently?

“From a practical point of view, I would start writing earlier in the day! Being a bit of a chronic night owl, I was constantly (writing) really late at night. I was often writing about the intricacies of a really emotional journey, (something) pretty damn hard to do when you’re physically exhausted. There were times when I was so damn tired that I was having micro naps in-between sentences. Looking back over it, I’m actually a little surprised that it all came out so coherently.

“I feel like writing this book was something I had to do. I had to learn how to give my creative processes priority in my life. I had to practice the act of writing consistently and publicly enough so that I could finally own this ‘Writer’ title. It’s an important title to me; it’s synonymous with finally saying ‘yes’ to my deepest creative longings. I feel like my next books will quickly supersede this first one, from a literary point of view. But, like a first lover, it will always be a defining work of mine.”

What are your plans for the future? Any projects on the horizon?

“World domination. Oh, wait, no… Keep writing. Keep writing. Be the space-holder for other people to start (and keep) writing. I actually finished writing my second book, ‘A Sacred Summer’, on the 10th of March. It tells the story of my epic road trip 3,000kms north to visit the lands of my childhood. These are lands I hadn’t visited in the 14 years since my mum died in early 1999. It tells of my adventure of being perched on a mountaintop for weeks, sans transport and with only limited in-person contact, while I declared myself on ‘creative retreat’.

“Sometime (soon), I’ll start my 3rd book – ‘Everyday Love’. This book will be another 100 day living book, committed to exploring a conscious, everyday meditation on love and how that plays out in my everyday life. It also just might be a little bit of a romance.”

If you had to kill a man with a book, which book would you use and what would you say to him as you did so?

Hmmm… Books don’t kill people, people do.

“I can’t answer that! Books are for liberating people, not killing them!

“(She lets ‘War and Peace’ fall from her hands) You’ll have to take me instead! Ahhh, tis a noble death!”

Gabriella’s website and blog can be found here – GabriellaSalmon.com

And Gabriella’s book, ‘100 Days of Morning, will be released on May 4th, though pre-orders are available by supporting her Pozible campaign – 100 Days of Morning

Bitter Buttered Toast Regretter

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How many times have you made yourself a piece of toast, only to have it slip off the plate and land butter-side-down on the floor amidst the dirt and dust and dead particulate skin matter? We’ve all been there, except for the toast-abhorrent.

Beware, toast haters and enemies of yeast, your time is at an end. But for the rest of us, here’s a fun science fact for the day –

It is not a coincidence that your toast lands face down when it drops.

In 1995, a U.K. researcher named Robert Matthews conducted a ground breaking study which revealed that, based on the average height of a kitchen counter or table, there is a greater than 50% chance that your toast will land upside-down when it escapes your clumsy buttered-fingers.

Interestingly, it’s not because of the weight of the spread on the top side, as one might expect. When the toast tips over the edge of the plate or surface, it logically begins to turn over. But because the distance is quite short, it inevitably doesn’t have the time or space to complete a full rotation, and thusly stands a substantial chance of flopping squarely on its face.

So, there you have it.

Tell your friends it’s not that they’re unlucky, it’s just that their meaty digits are too inarticulate to hold on to a square of baked wheat. The rest is causal physics.

On a side note, today’s enlightening blog post has been sponsored by Photographers.com.au, a website showcasing some of the best photographers throughout Australia. Check them out, there are some fantastic artist galleries on there (http://www.photographers.com.au/). 🙂

P.S., I love you.

(Image credit to CouYons)

eyE[before]Alexandria

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It was an honour and a privilege to get to interview fellow author Alexandria Constantinova Szeman this week. Alexandria is the critically acclaimed author of 11 books, and possesses Ph.D.’s in both Creative Writing and World Literature. Her first novel, ‘The Kommandant’s Mistress’, was chosen as one of The New York Times Book Review’s ‘Top 100 Books of the Year’, and her second novel, ‘Only With the Heart’ is on the recommended reading lists of Alzheimer’s Associations nationwide.

Aside from her immense talents as an author, poet, and professor, Dr. Szeman has also published a number of creative writing theory books to aid would-be writers. She is one of the few people who have seen both the independent and mainstream sides of the publishing world, and I count myself very lucky to get the chance to interview her. No indie author should miss this candid interview with the charming, knowledgeable Alexandria Szeman.

What first made you want to become a poet/author?

“When T.S. Eliot died, there was a photo of him in the newspaper, along with the opening lines of ‘The Wasteland’. When I asked who he was, my mother looked at the paper and said, “some poet”. I was too young to read the opening lines myself, but asked my mother to read it aloud. Surprisingly, she obliged. As I stood there in the living room, gazing up at the tiny window near the ceiling, through which sunlight was pouring, Eliot’s words sounded like music to me, and I thought to myself, “Some day, I’m going to write words that sound like music, like he did.

You began as poet and then moved on to fiction, did you find this transition difficult?

“I found it incredibly difficult to move from poetry to fiction because it seemed overwhelming, yet I also found it the most artistically satisfying and challenging thing I’ve ever done. My years of perfecting poetry transferred over to my novels because I made sure that every single word in the novels was important, just as I did in my poems. I also worked hard on maintaining ‘urgency’, (which is anything that keeps the reader reading, i.e., plot, character development, voice), developing well-developed characters, and natural sounding dialogue. I had already mastered voice and imagery from my poetry days, and some of my poems had dialogue, characters, and plot, but no poem was as complex or sophisticated as a novel, so it was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my writing career.

“When I (have) hit a place where the writing does not seem to be working, I take a break from that piece and work on something else. The artist in me tells me when it’s time to return to the first piece, and I almost always know how to fix the things that were not previously working. That leads me to believe that there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’; that ‘writer’s block is simply… when the artist inside you is maturing to another level, or when the artist inside is simply exhausted and needs to recharge itself. I’ve found that by taking planned vacations, listening to my artistic intuition, and working on other things when something in any particular novel is not going well has eliminated ‘writer’s block’.

“When I wrote my first novel, ‘The Kommandant’s Mistress, I was so hesitant about the style, having never read anything else written like that, and (was) so nervous about the characters’ voices that I read no other literature the entire time I was writing it: I only read the necessary non-fiction research materials again. I was afraid I would be influenced by other novels and lose my vision of the novel. After that, I learned that I could work on more than one novel at the same time: it seems that my brain assigns a different area to each novel, so that the characters, voices, and writing styles do not interfere with each other.”

What are some common mistakes for new writers to avoid?

1) Thinking they already know everything about writing.

2) Not reading enough of the classics.

3) Not being a discerning, critical reader, i.e., not seeing what the writer of the book is doing as an artist and learning from it – learning what to avoid as well as what to try in his own work.

4) Trying to catch a ‘bestselling trend’, like vampires, or BDSM, or anything else that seems to be ‘hot’ at the moment. By the time their own book is finished, the trend will be gone: that is the nature of trends.

5) Not knowing about ‘urgency’, and so, writing a book that puts the readers to sleep.

6) Thinking they’re going to get rich and famous from the very first book, or even from the first few: even Stephen King and Anne Rice wrote under different names, in different genres, etc. for years before they became bestsellers. ‘The Hunger Games was out for at least 3 years before it became more than a cult favorite and hit the bestseller lists.

7) Writing the same book over and over instead of trying to stretch themselves artistically. Look at Sue Grafton and her ‘Alphabet Murder’ Series; she’s been writing it over 20 years and she still hasn’t finished the alphabet; that’s because the mysteries which she writes have gone out of fashion as readers have become more discerning and literate, and thrillers/suspense have become better sellers than mysteries.

8) Underestimating the intelligence of their readers: writers should always assume that their audience is intelligent but uninformed about their particular book’s topic.

9) Taking rejection personally.

10) Not paying their artistic dues.

11) Giving up.”

How important is research in the field of fiction? What sort of background study would you commit to when writing historical fiction, or otherwise?

“Some writers never do research, preferring instead to make everything up. Some do intensive research. I love research, especially when it’s for one of my novels, so I don’t mind it at all. I spend 7 years researching the Holocaust for my first novel, including reading every book I could get hold of, watching films & documentaries, interviewing survivors of concentration camps, and going to the collections of Military Museums to see/feel/examine the captured SS-Officer uniforms and weapons.

“I also have experts in the field read the draft of my novel when I think it’s finished: I pay them to do it; they’re professionals, after all. For my second novel, ‘Only with the Heart’, about a woman accused of helping her Alzheimer’s-stricken terminally ill mother-in-law commit suicide and (being) put on trial for murder, I had the following types of beta-readers (though they weren’t called that in those days – they were just called ‘readers’); attorneys, detectives, police officers, crime scene investigators, Alzheimer’s caregivers, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. I wanted to ensure that all the factual material was correct so that I could explore the moral issues around the facts.

“The second novel took me five years to research and write, then two years to continue researching and revise, then another year to update medically and legally when I re-issued the 12th Anniversary issue because so many things had changed in the legal field, if not in the medical treatment of Alzheimer’s (there are more drugs, to be sure, but they are no more effective than they were when the novel was first published, despite drug companies’ claims). However, more states have had to actually implement laws indicating whether assisted suicide is murder or manslaughter, and have made distinctions among getting the medicines for someone to commit suicide, giving the medicines to the person yourself, and just leaving the medicines in a place where you know the terminally ill person could reach them: all those distinctions have then been codified into different types of crimes, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies of various degrees.

“So, research is very important for my work, but I love doing it.”

In the same vein, how heavily do you borrow from your own experiences in your writing?

“A great deal, but not in a way that I’m writing (a) memoir. For example, I was raped by my biological father when I was three-years-old, for a couple of years; then raped for almost 13 years by my step-father, who adopted me when I was 15. So the rape scenes in ‘The Kommandant’s Mistress, though not based literally on what happened to me, did not necessitate any outside research on my part since I had been raped, by several family members/family friends, many times over the years.

“Similarly, I lived with a boyfriend who developed Alzheimer’s (without knowing what was wrong with him) and ended up being a full-time caregiver for someone with increasing dementia for almost six years. I used that experience to help myself heal (just as I had with the first book) to help others heal, and, most importantly, to deal with (the) moral questions and issues that arose from said experiences, like rape, survival, memory, identity, etc.”

What is your favorite experience as a writer?

 “Going from the blank page to the first draft. It’s also the most difficult (experience as a writer), but it occupies every single atom of my artistic/psychic energy, and I love it.”

As someone who moved from mainstream publishing to independent publishing, what are your thoughts on the book market’s increasing paradigm shift? Do think it is a positive change, and what sort of consequences have you perceived as a result?

“I was in traditional publishing for almost 40 years, published by prestigious literary & University journals, big NY literary houses, awarded prizes, received critical acclaim, had my first novel optioned by Patrick Stewart, got to meet Patrick and spend time with him, had editors and agents fighting over my books, blah blah blah

“All that equals is maybe some people know my name or some of my books. No amount of critical acclaim, prestigious prizes, or previously traditionally published books equal money. Even having a book optioned for film does not equal money since authors do not get paid till principal photography starts or unless someone buys the option to make it outright (meanwhile, whoever options the book gets 7 years to try to put together a package, no one else can even touch the book once it’s optioned, and even if the film gets completely funded, something could happen that prevents its being made – so the author gets no money).

“In a traditional NY publishing house contract, it states that the publisher has the right to change the title, the plot, the characters; the publisher alone decides on the cover, advertising budget (don’t hold your breath), and publicity (you’re turning blue). Meanwhile, you are ultimately responsible, as the author, for every ounce of work in the book itself, including reading/correcting every single version of the book as it passes through the labyrinth of NY Houses; copyediting, production editing, house-style editing, design editing, etc. It is not fun. Especially if you get a bad copy-editor, like one who doesn’t know your topic or doesn’t know current grammar rules and changes what you wrote so that it is grammatically incorrect, and sometimes they want to argue with you about how to spell words. An author published by a NY or other traditional house gives up all control over their product in order to have someone else design the book, the cover, change titles, plot, characters, etc. Traditionally published authors, unless they are already bestsellers, do all the promotion and publicity themselves anyway.

“Indie authors, on the other hand, have to do the only thing that NY does for them; design the book cover, and make sure it has a marketable title. Many indie authors are not good at this, and it shows in their covers and titles, as well as in their books.

“Because of my background, I know the business well, and I have chosen to republish all my Out-of-Print (OP) books as e-books myself. Also, unless at least $1M crosses my palm, I will indie-publish my new novel (end of 2013-2014). But then, I have 11 books, and all the experience of already marketing and promoting my books. The new social media affords indie and self-published authors with the opportunities to directly connect with their readers, something previously only afforded to authors when they were at bookstore readings, which no longer exist in most places, and certainly not for new or fledgling authors.

“I realize that many writers still want to be published by a NY House, but they have absolutely no idea what that means. They think it means getting rich, famous, and becoming a celebrity author. It does not. It means losing all control of your work and giving money to your agent and the taxman for that ‘privilege. My advice? Learn your craft and tell a fabulous story that your readers will not want to put down. Write well – style still matters. Market yourself just as NY would. Put out a quality product, both in content and design. Behave professionally and like an entrepreneur, because that’s what you’ll be. If your book does well enough, NY will indeed court you. (However) the only thing you will get from them is an advance, out of which you’ll have to pay your agent and the taxman, and you’ll lose all control.”

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing?

“Write the kind of book that you would love to read over and over and over, getting something different out of it each time. If you do that, you will find an audience, somewhere, some time, though it may not be as big as you think (or) hope. In short, write the type of book you love to read. It will not guarantee you financial or critical success, but it will satisfy you artistically.”

Alexandria’s website can be found here – Alexandria Constantinova Szeman

Her blog can be found here – The Alexandria Papers

And her Amazon,  page from which you can purchase ‘The Kommandant’s Mistress’, and a number of her other novels, is here – Alexandria Szeman – Amazon Author Page

I also highly recommend chatting with Alexandria on Twitter. Not only is she a relentless font of literary information, but she is always an absolute peach to talk to – @Alexandria_SZ