Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rosa's First Christmas

The windows creak and click as ice spindles its way across the panes in feathery patterns. The fire’s burning so hot I’m worried it may bulge and pop like a cartoon bomb. I turn to Joseph, his cheeks rosy, his hair tucked into a woolen hat, “You look ridiculous.” I say, swiping the hat off his head and throwing it at him. He grins at me and grabs at my waist, hooking his finger in my belt loop and dragging me to him. I fight, but not very hard. He pulls me into his lap and kisses my neck. It tickles and I strain away from him, casting my eyes over the pile of fabric at his feet. Deep reds and forest greens.
“What is this stuff?” I say picking it up like it’s a smelly, wet towel from the bathroom floor.
“Addy gave it to me.” Joseph says with a shrug. “She wanted me to hang it somewhere near the fireplace. There’s one for each of us.”
I swing Orry’s boot shaped decoration in front of my eyes, noticing the exacting needlework that spells out his full name in gold stitching. I frown. “What’s it for?”
“It for this Christ…mass thing they keep talking about.” He says the words like they’re foreign-tasting on his tongue.
“Oh yeah,” I say rolling my eyes. Addy had mentioned something to me earlier in the week. Clasping her hands together like she was plotting something, her scratchy voice piercing the higher octaves in excitement. She’d said, “Just let me handle it.” She’d rattled my arm, her loose skin flapping like runaway curtains in the wind, her sharp fingernails scratching my skin, “Come to my house on Christmas Eve.”
“When’s that?” I’d asked.
She’d shaken her head in pity, her grey hair flaking over her head like wisps of a broken spider web, “Oh girl. So much to learn.”
“So are we going?” Joseph asks as he very un-carefully knocks some nails into the wall, just splitting the plasterboard and making a mess of white powder and paint chips.
I rush to him as Orry starts crying. “Oh my God! You go get Orry. And give that to me before you hurt yourself.” I snatch the hammer and smile at him. His eyes glint and he gives me that ‘only girl in the world’ look. Then he stomps into the bedroom to grab the squawking baby.
I carefully hang the stockings on the wall behind the scorching fireplace. Its grill smiles at me all orange and laughing smoke. I trace my fingers lightly over the golden lettering. Our names together, side by the side like this gives me a strange, warm and vulnerable feeling I’m not sure I like.
Joseph’s arm links in mine and pulls me back from the stool I’m standing on. “Looks good!” He says his eyes skimming the giant hole he’s made in my wall.
“Next time find the stud before you go randomly hammering stuff into the wall,” I snap. He gives me a confused look like he has no idea what a stud is and pulls me out the door with Orry in the crook of his big arm.

We walk down the street, linked like a golden chain, the cold wind pushing on us and trying to break us apart. But we melt the snow with our glowing footsteps. We are on our way to celebrate our first Christ...mass. And even if I don’t understand it, the lights, the sapling decorated with paper-chains and popcorn. I am willing to take up anything. I’m going to garner these new traditions, pick them up like lost treasures I’ve found trodden into the dirt and gather them in my skinny arms. Because anything that’s different, anything that celebrates rather than punishes has got a shine to it in my eyes.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Strength of a Survivor

*Just a quick warning that this post discusses assault

This post is a personal one. One that's very close to my heart. 

A phonecall at midnight is rarely a good thing. And the ambulance and police car that followed, further proved it. That night I learned that those bad things I'd seen on the news, that I'd shaken my head in dismay about but quickly forgot because they weren't happening to me, were no longer someone else's reality. I was living it. It made me never, ever take my safety for granted, to live fully, wholly and to take action and help people when I could. Most importantly the thing that's ingrained in my mind forever is sometimes, a defining moment is the moment you decide you won't let something horrible define you.

The Wall covers a few different issues but one of the most confronting is violence towards women. And if you've read the book you can probably tell that it comes from a personal place. I'm not going to go into details, needless to say, someone I love very much was assaulted years ago. But when I dig up the memories, I don't have to search very hard. They're still right up the front of my mind. I can still feel it like I'm going through it all over again. Writing about it helped. Talking about it helped.

In the media there's a lot of cover on how to prevent assault, what women can do make sure it doesn't happen to them and graphic details about certain attacks. I do believe that we need to look at prevention but The responsibility cannot be on the woman to not dress a certain way, not go to certain places, not drink too much. Where's the education programs to teach young males to respect women, to understand what 'no' really means and the consequences of ignoring that demand? The consequences must be severe.

What I also want and need to see is a focus on the women who've already been there. What are we doing for them? I'm loathe to call them victims. Maybe suvivors would be a better word because they are super strong, they got through it the best way they could and in my mind that makes them amazing. 

In The Wall, the character makes the choice to fight back against her attacker. She makes this decision mostly because someone she loves' life is being threatened. Her choice was right for her in that moment. But it's not a choice every woman can make.

In my dedication I talk about the strength to endure. Sometimes fighting back is the answer but not always, sometimes fighting back might mean being killed. In my own personal experience I'm convinced that's what would have happened and I thank God my loved one had the strength to endure and to survive. 

There is a great deal of blame and self-doubt that goes along with making that choice. It's the classic 'what if' situation where the survivor wonders what she could have done differently to stop the assault from happening. And I'm sure the same goes for those that fought back too. Women blame themselves. I wish I could say to all of them: Whatever happened, it's not your fault, whatever you did to survive was the right choice because you're still here. Support needs to be offered, the choices need to be viewed as empowered. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013


31st January 2014!!!!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A day in the life, well a morning at least...

I don’t have an alarm clock. Don’t need one. My day starts at a grossly inappropriate hour. Usually between five and six am. My alarm blares, grunts and coughs and is aged between three and eight years old. It then shakes me because I am returning the grunts with the action of placing a pillow over my head.

“Mummy, Monster Three has no pants on.” I reluctantly drag myself out of bed, part the curtains and sigh at the fact that it’s still dark. My body pulls my brain into the freezing cold and towards the chaos.
Padding down the hall I’m not sure I want to get to the end. There’s light and noise and a three-year-old running around with no clothes on even though it’s only six degrees outside. But I let the warm glow coax me towards the kitchen.

Warm milk. Breakfast. Coffee, lots of coffee. Monster Three requests one breakfast, takes a spoonful and decides she hates yoghurt and muesli, has always hated yoghurt and muesli and how could I have possibly served her such a thing! I laugh and say how would you know what it tastes like when most of it is either on you face or in your hair. I get a death stare for my comment.

Three breakfasts later, maybe she has eaten enough. I don’t know. It’s too late now. The clock has somehow magically worked its way through a whole hour without me noticing. I need to fit Monster Two’s hearing aid, take it out because it’s tangled in her hair, do her hair and then pop it back in again. I end up in hysterics when she asks me if I can hear her ear better now? 'Sure, sure I can', I say.

Now I have to begin the search for three matching pairs of shoes and try to battle my way to the door and into the car. Somehow through this Monster One has disappeared. I search the house. He’s not there. I run outside to see a dinosaur backpack, attached to an eight year old, swaying back and forth high up in the oak tree in the front of our house. I wake the entire neighbourhood yelling at Monster One to get out of the tree while the horn is being bleeped by the other two monsters who are at least in the car.

Finally we’re all in. Seatbelts clicked, Iphone attached. Music on. The cars sloughs to action and my brain switches to book mode. Monster One has asked me the same question five times to which I have answered yes, no, what? Without registering what he asked me. I can’t hear him because I’m in Russia, watching my characters, picturing their faces when they react to situations, concocting dialogue and feeling the snap of branches against their arms as they trek through the low lying trees. I quickly mentally catalogue my ideas and Tell Monster One that No he can’t teach his school friend how to drive my car. Why? Because neither of you can reach the pedals. Probably the wrong answer.

We pull up to school, Monster One and Monster Two file out, their red hair bouncing over the top of their over burdened school bags. I pull out my notebook and frantically scribble down my ideas while Monster Three screams that she’s hungry. (Well she only ate three breakfasts!)

Pics of home 1

Pics of home 2
Koala in my frontyard!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I guess it can stike twice - The story of my daughter's battle

This is the second part of my childrens' story. 

My daughter was born with a shock of red hair just like her brother. But unlike my son, she was small, strong and full of attitude. Seems strange to pin that on a newborn baby but man she could caterwaul. She was a good feeder, a relatively good sleeper and pretty much did all the things a baby should do, all with a pack-a-punch kind of view on life. 

When she hit four weeks my husband and I started watching her for signs that she'd inherited my sons disorder (See here for details) And she was a bit chucky but nothing like the magnificent pyro technics our first had managed to perform. We sighed in relief and shoved our worries aside. She wasn't going to get sick like our son. We weren't going to have to go through that again. No one's that unlucky, right? What I've now realised is luck has nothing to do with it. Our lives were just one of many, turning in circles, jumping over obstacles and hoping for the best. 

She was the perfect little eight month old. Chubby, a red, rock star hairstyle, the cheekiest grin on the planet. But somewhere around that time, we started to notice things weren't quite right. We had just returned from a trip to Sydney to visit friends and had decided to have dinner with my parents in their newly finished beachhouse. My son was staying with the other grandparents and fish and chips sounded too good to pass up. 

Sitting on the fresh leather couch my mum put her hand to my daughter's forehead and said, "She's awfully warm. Has she been out in the sun today? She looks burnt." 
I looked down at the sleeping baby in my arms, her face a rough shade of beetroot, and shook my head, "No." Eyeing her suspicously, her tiny legs wrapped in rainbow striped tights, "Maybe she has a fever..." I remember thinking, it's probably teething, ear ache, something normal, something I understand and can handle. 

We took her home and she went straight to sleep. But she woke in the night, screaming her head off. Our tin shed of a home was vibrating from the noise. The problems was, the things we usually did to settle her, like holding her and patting her to sleep seemed to make her scream more. And this wasn't just crying. This was screaming bloody murder in pain. 

"It's weird," my husband said, "she seems to scream more when I hold her in my left arm than in my right..." 
I nodded, my eyes drooping from severe sleep deprivation. "Yes, that is weird." I said mechanically as I squeezed the syringe of panadol through her rosebud lips. It made no difference. 

That was the first night of screaming. There were only two. Because that was all I could take. It was all I had in me. What do you do when your child screams all night and smiles all day? I started to worry that it was because I'd painted her room bright orange and somehow it had made her angry. She'd had the fever a few nights ago but now there was no fever just the screaming. I was confused and beside myself from tiredness. 

On the third day, after another night of screaming, we played on the lawn, me sitting in a patch of sunlight hoping the vitamin D would wake me up a little. Her big brother blew bubbles and ran around popping them in delight. She watched him with that cheeky grin, sitting in my crossed legs on a blanket. We started to play the game we always played, where I supported her as she pushed her legs up from the ground to standing. I held her up, expecting the joyful spring of two feet pushing up. One leg pushed to standing, the other one dangled like she was afriad to put it down. Before my son, I would have thought, 'oh that's odd' and not thought much of it, but even though my tired brain was having trouble focusing on anything, that leg just dangling there was flashing in my mind like a massive warning light. 

Something was wrong. 

I scooped up my son, strapped them both into their carseats and drove like a hyped up zombie to the doctors surgery. I showed the doctor what my daughter was doing, she scratched her chin and said that we best get it checked out at the hospital because it could be a viral hip problem. She said it wasn't too serious. Relieved, I followed her advice, calling my husband to tell him to meet me there. 

Having studied pathology was a blessing and a burden. Because when I heard the words "CRP through the roof" I knew exactly what they meant. My husband knew it wasn't good but he didn't understand that it meant my daughter was fighting off a serious infection. When they called in their orthopedic surgeon, we both knew that as soon as he opened his mouth our world was going to change. He uttered the words, "septic." And my focus became fuzzy. Noises pressed in and around me and I gripped my husbands arm. He heard it but he didbn't know how bad that was. And I didn't tell him. How do you tell your husband that for the second time, one of his babies might die, or that she could lose her leg? The worst thing was looking down at her reddened face and knowing just how much pain she must have been in. The thought, 'not again', floated in and out, because there was no point in dwelling, in saying 'why me?' this was happening right now and we needed to help her. 

Surgery was the only option. They would syringe the septic fluid from her leg and treat her with antibiotics. They would hope and pray they got it all. The clapped up the side of her metal cot and wheeled her away and I thought, 'I can't believe I'm doing this again. I don't want to say goodbye to my baby." 

We were in a ward three days after the surgery. She seemed to be doing well. 'She was lucky' they said, the sepsis was very well-contained in her ankle joint and they thought they had got it all. We nicknamed her Club Arm. She was attached to an IV all the time, which is not what an eight month old wants and she tried to pull it out several times. So they attached a splint and several metres of bandage to keep it in. 

I lived in the hospital while she was being treated, but one morning I chanced sneaking out to the cafeteria to get some breakfast. The phone rang shrilly or maybe that's just how it felt. It was a number I didn't recognise. The calm, monotone person on the other end told me that my daughter had Meningococcal disease. I left my half-eaten food on the grey plastic table and raced back to the ward. Where was she? The space where my daughters bed should be was empty. 

Not even panic covered how I felt. Everyone had heard of the disease. It killed babies. It showed up as an angry, purple rash and if you didn't die you usually lost your limbs. It was a nightmare. 

They'd taken her to quarrantine, we would all be in isolation until her treatment was over. I was shown to her room down a series of identical corridors until we reached a place where all the door were thick glass and cheery yellow signs were plastered on the fronts reading, 'face masks required' and 'please wash hands upon leaving.' She was sitting up in her metal cot, holding onto a bar with one hand and bashing the others with her club arm. She smiled when she saw me, two pearly teeth in a gappy grin. I picked her up, sat in the nursing chair with her and cried and cried until I was gasping and hicuping from it. The nurse watched me over her facemask. It was all too much, the face masks, the gloves and gowns. I glared back at her through red-rimmed eyes, "Get the doctor in here to explain to me what's going on." She turned and left the room. 

When the door opened again, it was the orthopedic surgeon. He had the flimsy white mask on as well. He laughed and said that he looked like a duck. I felt the air release a little, the pressure and worry starting to ease. He said she was going to live. We were lucky that we brought her in so early and lucky that the disease was so unusually contained within her ankle. Her immune system had some work to do but with antibiotics for the next three months she should make a full recovery. 

'Full recovery', 'live', 'lucky' these were good words. I clutched at them and held on to them tightly to show my husband and my family. 

We did have to take antibiotics that made us cry red tears and pee bright orange. And we had to do in-depth interviews with the CDC to track where she may have caught it from. Somewhere in Sydney, it seemed. We were even on the news. But eventually we got to take her home. 

My daughter is now six years old and she still has that fiery attitude, maybe because of how much she's been through or maybe she's always been that way and it's why she survived in the first place. I suspect the latter. She has had some setbacks, mostly because her immune system was so shot after her illness that she continually got sick. She has asthma. She also has a hearing impairment, and a funky purple hearing aid which she loves. But she's good, she's awesome, she's the toughest kid I know. 

I can't be sorry for what happened, I can't say 'why me?' and lament my bad luck because she's alive, she's amazing. And the rest, well, it makes a good story and I'll never forget it. I can only be thankful for how it turned out and my heart breaks for all those parents out there who weren't as fortunate as I was.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How writing without an outline is gonna get me in trouble...

When I wrote The Woodlands I really had no idea I was writing a book until I was 40 pages in and was batting my kids away with a rolled up newpaper so I could continue my obsessive typing.

It started with a simple idea and grew forwards, backwards, upwards and downwards from there.

You see, I write in the most confusing and manic fashion imaginable. Because I have absolutely no idea where it's leading. Usually I might have some vague endpoint in mind but that usually changes as the story evolves. After eight weeks, The Woodlands emerged a mess of 39 chapters that had no order. I literally printed each one out and lined them up, rearranged them and eventually it started to make sense.

When I wrote The Wall I thought I should write an outline. That lasted about five pages before it was thrown out the window and the story started meandering down it's own path. Sometimes I swear, I have a hard time keeping up with where it goes! For me, an outline is pointless because when I write it's almost akin to reading an exciting book, I'm pretty curious to know where it's all going to end up and that keeps me going. I have written outlines but have always abandoned them because it's boring for me when I already know what's going to happen. You wouldn't flip to the last page of a book and read the ending would you? But that's just me, and it probably says more about my lack of attention than anything else.

But now I'm in trouble. As with the others, book three of The Woodlands Series is taking on it's own life. It's pulsing and building it's way to something. Only I don't know what. Not yet anyway. But now that the first two books are out there, people have questions they want answered, characters they want to see develop. I'm hoping Rosa evolves and maybe my hope for my characters somehow translates into action. I'm sure at least, that Orry will grow and not turn into a monkey or sprout horns, but whether they all live, still like each other at the end of this and where on earth they'll end up...I just don't know.

All I can say is: I wish I knew what was going to happen to everyone but at the same time I don't. For me, it's part of the fun of writing.

Monday, October 14, 2013


A poem about bullying by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

People say these things.
Do they know?
Sometimes it’s like a slap in the face
But mostly it feels like
A barb

Something sharp and burrowing
A word that keeps hurting
It knows you
You wrap around it and can’t
Let go

Shaking it free takes painful practice
Even then it still leaves shreds
Foreign material
Inside you, sleeping like
Slow poison

The cure
Open yourself up, expose the wound
Pull out the barb and
Show its blood and sharpness
Hold it in your palm.

They’ll tell you
It’s tiny. It can’t hurt you
And you’ll know they’re right
You’ll know it’s smaller now
Because you shared it.

Don't forget to enter our giveaway! 

Don't forget that we have a huge month long contest going on at our blog. Make sure you enter and please share with your friends, blogs, pages and followers. You can enter the giveaway by clicking the picture below.

More From Lauren Nicolle Taylor:

THE WALL by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
(Young Adult Mature- Dystopian Romance)
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Book 2 in The Woodlands Series

Joseph, wake up, wake up, wake up.

She says it over and over. It’s her plea, her prayer, her mantra. But life doesn’t stop while he’s sleeping. Rosa’s been thrown into a new world, with new rules, and a philosophy that sounds too good to be true. She’s also sure they didn’t rescue her out of the goodness of their hearts.

The Survivors must want something from them… but what?

The Wall finds Rosa eagerly entering a new life, yet struggling to keep the demons and ghosts of the past from dragging her backwards.

She’s left so many people behind and isn’t sure how to start over.

There’s freedom in the Survivors’ world, more than she’d ever dreamed of, but there’s also secrets. The darkest of which pulls Rosa headfirst into a trauma, forcing her to reevaluate her past and pushing her to make a choice that may destroy the tenuous, sewn-together family she’s built on the outside.

Will Rosa make the right choice… or will she lose everything she has fought so hard for?

Are you excited about The Wall? Check out the first book in The Woodlands Series Today! 

(Young Adult Mature- Dystopian Romance)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing

Rosa never thought she’d make it to sixteen...

When being unique puts you in danger and speaking your mind can be punishable by death, you might find yourself fighting to survive. Rosa lives in The Woodlands, one of eight enclosed cities where the lone survivors of a devastating war have been gathered. In these circular cities everyone must abide by the law or face harsh punishment. Rosa's inability to conform and obey the rules brands her a leper and no one wants to be within two feet of her, until she meets Joseph. He's blonde, fair skinned, blue eyed and the laid back, ever-grinning, complete opposite of Rosa.  She's never met anyone quite like him, and she knows that spells danger.

But differences weren't always a bad thing. People used to think being unique was one of the most treasured of traits to have. That was before the bitter race war decimated most of the planet, leaving the Russian wilderness as the only scrap of land habitable for survivors. Now, the Superiors, who ruthlessly control the concrete cities with an iron fist, are obsessed with creating a 'raceless' race. They are convinced this is the only way to avoid another war. Any anomalies must be destroyed.

The Superiors are unstoppable and can do anything they want, after all, they are considered super heroes by the general public. But not everyone see's them this way. When they continue to abuse their power by collecting young girls for use in their secret, high-tech breeding program, they have no idea that one of those girls has somehow managed to make friends even she didn't know she had. And one man will stop at nothing to save her.

About Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Lauren Nicolle Taylor is a 33-year-old mother living in the tiny, lush town of Bridgewater on the other side of the world in Australia. She married her high school sweetheart and has three very boisterous and individual children. She earned a Bachelors degree in Health Sciences with Honours in Obstetrics and Gynecology and majored in Psychology while minoring in Contemporary Australian Writing.

After a disastrous attempt to build her dream house that left her family homeless, She found herself inexplicably drawn to the computer. She started writing, not really knowing where it may lead but ended up, eight weeks later, with the rough draft of The Woodlands.

In 2013, Lauren Nicolle Taylor accepted a publishing contract with Clean Teen Publishing. Her first published novel, The Woodlands, was released on August 30, 2013. Currently, Lauren has finished her manuscript for the second book in the series titled: The Wall, as well as partially completed the third book in the series which at this time is unnamed.

Where to find Lauren: Blog / Facebook / Twitter