Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hello, Stranger!

I have recently started up a new blog. Please swing by and follow me there!

I figured I would stop by over here and share the first post.

Hi, my name is AJ Rhodes

helloAllow me to introduce myself.  I'm a barely domesticated mom of two, holding down a full-time job, and a life that is a bit disjointed at the moment. I'm an addict of self-help books and am full of great ideas on how to improve other people's lives, but struggle with my own.

Now, I haven't always been a total mess. At various times in my life, I have had my shit together: checkbook balanced, dedicated exercise routine, time for friends and passions, a rockstar at work, a healthy eater, clean house, well-adjusted kids - all of it. I wrote blogs and books. I showed up to writing conferences. I practiced capoeria. I was the queen of How Does She Do It.

Then, about two years ago, my husband and I split up. We split up the belongings, the bills, the time with the kids -- everything. Damn near 50/50. It was the right decision, but often times, right doesn't mean easy. It is a unique experience to go from doing half the stuff 100% of the time to doing 100% of the stuff 100% of the time. There were things that I had to learn, and things I am STILL learning. Despite not being properly prepared to deal with it, things would pop  up and scream, "Um, well you have to deal with it--- so suck it up!"

It was like learning how to juggle all over again. I quickly realized that I had to put a few things down and just start with the basics. Kids, Work, and Home - those were the three things I needed to focus on. I had to put down writing, capoeira, exercise breaks, time with friends, etc. I was in survival mode.

Once I had my arms wrapped around that a bit more, then I needed to work on healing. I did this is a very private space. Alone.

I am now ready to move to the next chapter. To create a life that I love. One that includes the things that are important to me. I would love for you to join me. Maybe it will help you get to that next level, too. My goal is to share my struggles, my accomplishments, my writing, and my soul in the hopes of touching others who struggle with similar issues. In future posts, I plan to share books, music, articles, recipes, life hacks, inspiration, humorous stories, and most importantly, my truth.

Welcome to  A LIFE CREATED...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sometimes You Need Anthems

Straight to the music...

My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark by Fall Out Boy

Battle Flag (Lo Fidelity Allstars remix) by Pigeonhed

Explicit lyric warning...



This Girl is On Fire (Inferno version) by Alicia Keys w/ Nicki Minaj

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Level Up Blogfest

Level Up Blogfest

Thank you to Mithrel Wisdom and Geek Banter for hosting the Level Up Blogfest. This is a great idea for blogfest. I didn't know what I wanted to write at first, but I knew I wanted to play.

I decided to take a look at what the phrase means to a writer, and I found a fun analogy. Hope you enjoy.


When you first start writing, you are not sure how to play the game. You've picked up the controller (the pen) and know that something is pulling you towards it. You want to explore it, see how you do. You press forward and as you come to obstacles, you have to learn how to leap. Oh, you get snagged by that first one, but you stand up, dust off, and try again.

As you navigate through the game, you gain experience. You get points for writing daily, points for editing, points for reading. Those things that once seemed so hard before, now are just tiny obstacles. It starts to become more difficult. Now you aren't just going through simple motions, you are attacking missions-- first draft, query letter, second draft, synopsis, third draft, agent, forth draft, publisher, fifth draft, readers. Each level a new mission.

Somewhere along the way, you realize that you can't beat it alone. You begin to search for other people on the same journey. A band of souls trying to survive each of those levels--just like you. You have to go into the vast web and find them, building a team. Next mission, blogging. 
Once again, experience becomes a virtue. You start with just trying to first find that one reader, and soon you are excited about your next milestone. The first 10, the first 50, the first 100! You keep playing, gaining more knowledge, more skills, better gear. Tricking out your blog with gadgets and banners. Proud of all your accomplishments. All those points are adding up, and your momentum feels unstoppable after you step into your first blogfest, which feels like a room full of treasure. 

You were unstoppable, but something shifts. You hit sluggish parts of the writing. You feel you have been stuck on one part for far too long. You consider giving up the game. Walking away from all of your work, away from all of your hours of dedication, away from what you once couldn't imagine being away from.

Should you put down the pen?

No. You don't. You keep trying. You may fall down into the same pit, over and over again. But you keep pressing, "play again." You push and push and you break through. You level up.
Image from

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just One Reason I Buy Art

 I am a firm believer in Karma. It's one thing, spiritually, that I have held on to no matter which book I was reading. It's a nice way for me to gut check throughout the day. Always asking, should I or shouldn't I? How would I feel if the situation were reversed? Empathy.

Photo property of LiciaJo Fotos
For that reason, I buy art. I try my best. I pick up random paintings that I need on my journey, I subscribe to music channels, I purchase books, my internet-based TV is legal, I am a member of NPR, and I pay for the songs that I listen to more than 7 times (with intent). I try my best.

I can't really call myself an artist. I've sold one photograph in my non-existant career as a creative individual. Everything I do is handed over to those who will appreciate it or not. I free balloons into the air, hoping one will catch a bit of wind and be carried further than my view. I love it. I do it, because I love it. When I bring a smile to a friend, when I make a new one, or when a stranger across the pond takes the time to say, "Cool!"--  my day is made.

But, I understand the desire to one day be dedicated to art. To live and breathe words, music, and images that expand the knowledge or view of a collective culture.To maybe even collect and connect cultures. A shared appreciation. To be able to call myself an artist in some form or another. This is why when given the chance, I buy art.

There are ways out there to listen, watch, and enjoy music and other art forms for free, and using these methods to explore and navigate through the vast amounts of material out there is needed. But knowing the difference between exploring versus taking advantage is key. Once I've decided I need that piece of art, I make the transition and money exchanges hands.

Music, specifically. I am enjoying writing about music. I am exploring songs out there in the never-ending internet jukebox. Each song that I've written about, I've made sure to download. During karma gut checks that is what I feel is right. And if I am recommending music to others, I should own what I say others should try. I also hope that others will appreciate songs and add it to their collection, while also helping add to the growth of the artist that created it.

I am not going to tell others to buy what I suggest, but I will mention my thought process in hopes of a gentle nudge towards a shared viewpoint. Many of you out there that read my blog also create. You also want to grow into an artist appreciated by a collective culture. You also want to be appreciated for your efforts. Do you buy other people's art?  When you do, do you feel more connected to the person that created it?What is your philosophy on buying art?

Monday, February 18, 2013

MM: Fun, People in the Basement, and the Apocolypse

I have a nice little mix of music to deliver to you this Monday. My iPhone has been playing out three songs this past week. All male artists, all unique -- one unreleased single, an Irish indie rock song, and a song about the Apocolypse that is getting a bit of radio play.

All Alone by Fun.

Fun. had a great night at the Grammys this year, nominated for six and winning two major awards. They walked away with gold gramophones for the Best New Artist and Song of the Year (We Are Young). (source)  The three songs that have been released have gained them much traction: We Are Young, Some Nights and Carry On.

If all three songs being played off the album are downloadable, my question was--should I buy the whole album? That is up to you. But in my exploration, I found that only one more song off the album was worth the $1.29 price tag. Like all of their music, it is a unique song, great lyrics, and unusual musical qualities. The music box instrumentals match the story the song tells.  It has quickly become my favorite song on their album.

Undercover Martyn by Two Door Cinema Club

 Two Door Cinema Club is an Irish indie rock band that formed in 2007. They toured the US this past year and are starting to gain a bit of forward momentum. The song, Undercover Martyn, was released in the United States in 2010, but never really touched the charts. It topped out in the UK at 79 and in Ireland at 49. The US did appreciate another song off the album titled What You Know (peaked on the Billboard Alternative Charts at 22) -- though I feel we missed the mark. (source)

Undercover Martyn was the third song the band wrote together. According to an interview with Baeble Music, the song is a made up story describing a guy who is scared to do something, but he knows he has to, and it pays off in the end. a metaphor for the starting of their band. I love the layers in the song, the story, and the catchy lyrical loops. It was a 'one listen, must download' experience for me.

Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

I love me some Imagine Dragons. They can do no wrong by me, and this song is no exception. It started radio play is some cities as early as April of 2012, but was just recently released for download on February 6th of this year. It is already getting much love. So far it has hit #2 on the Billboard Alternative charts, #8 on the Rock charts, and #33 on the Hot 100 charts. (source)

The song is musically complex and lyrically simple, though still deep and profound. The most common interpretation of the song is accepting change and the beauty there is to behold. They talk of surviving the apocalypse, dusting off, and welcoming the new age.

So, feedback.  What do you think of this week's musical choices?  What about you? What songs did you download this week? What have you had on repeat on your iPod?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Freestyle Friday: Things that make me go la, la, la

I love this quote that has been circulating around Facebook. For me, I normally collaborate and listen. But, what will also trigger me to start singing Ice, Ice Baby is when someone says, "Turn off the headlights."

I am notorious for breaking into song on a regular basis. A simple few words can invoke a performance. Here are just a few that had me singing this past week. (Click on the phrase to start the song from the exact location. I embeded the videos as well, if the link doesn't work for you.)

Don’t worry - I think this one gets many of us

This is a story - NPR gets me every time. 

Why you gotta be startin’ somethin' - Ok confession, I only use this expression because of this song. I have small children; this is said a lot.

I can’t stand it - I can't quite remember why this came up, but I'm sure it was one of those nails/chalkboard moments.

Kill the headlights - I was parked outside of the University where my husband works, and was waiting on him to walk out. I said, "I should kill the headlights" --and then of course the song follows. 

This happens to me all the time. What phrases make you break into song?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Indie-kissing Blogfest & Vampire Bite Blog Hop

For Valentine's Day, I was torn between two great blog hops. So, I decided to do both. 

 The first is the Indie-kissing blogfest hosted by the Indelibles.   The excerpt I chose is from my newest WIP, The Wish. This scene is all about the kiss, so I will not bother you with any backstory. Hope you enjoy.

           In Nate’s eyes, Amanda sees her future. He is like a pair of blue jeans in a world full of suits, a comfortableness that she hasn’t felt before. It has been years since she has been ignited with passion.
            The night wind dances in her hair. The moon glistens off the pavement. Her mind runs through every reason why she shouldn’t be with him, but his chocolate eyes are melting her resolve. His luscious, pink lips look like a perfect landing pad if she would allow herself to fall.
             He eases towards her, as if he heard her thoughts.
             She slides her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down, making sure that her mouth is awake. Her body is tingling, a deep burn.
             “I shouldn’t,” he exhales with a trail of breath that tickles her cheek.
             “We really shouldn’t,” she whispers back.
             He pauses.
             She leans in closer.
             He closes his eyes, and then the gap between them.
             His lips are as soft as she’d imagined. The kiss starts gentle, slow, as if he is afraid he will break her. Her face is a porcelain egg that he cradles between his hands. He pulls back, looks into her eyes, and then leans into her once more. The kiss catches fire. 

The next blog hop is very different. So, maybe you should get a drink of water and cleanse your palet before continuing to read. Precious Monsters is hosting a Vampire Bite blog hop. Given that my first novel, Iron Thirst, is all about vampires -- it was a given that I would participate. The excerpt is actually the prologue. Adam Bristow sets the scene...


The night has just begun when I spot Gabriel locking his sights on his first victim. His trance-inducing stare caught her the moment she stepped into the bar. If he has his way, the curvaceous blonde will be in his bed in under an hour, and shortly after her blood will be staining his lips. 

Thursday night at DragonCon is when most of the guests check into their hotels and start the weekend with a drink in hand. For me, the first night of Con is when I begin my patrol while the out-of-towners descend upon our city. I’m not worried about the geeks, the costumed fans, or the party animals. My concern is very specific--those who are removing their disguises. Vampires get this weekend to be themselves, but there are rules, and this bloodsucker is dangerously close to breaking the first one--aggravating me.

His fangs are protruding, turned on by the blue-eyed soon-to-be donor. She doesn’t blink as she gravitates towards him. What irks me is that she’s an unwilling snack. There will be plenty of those, but I ain’t going to stand by and watch. She may be walking to him on her own two feet, but the brain in her head belongs to him.

What a lovely time to buy my dear old pal a drink.

“Hello, Gabriel.” I step between them, breaking their eye contact and the hold he has over her. The bastard snarls at me. “Run along, love,” I tell the blonde over my shoulder. 

She blinks a few times, lets out a heavy sigh, then scurries along to look for her friends. 

When I glance back, Gabriel has painted a smile on his face. “Bristow, if you continue to chase off my dinner then I will be forced to believe you are volunteering.” He leans in close. “Although, you’re not my taste. Your blood is much too bitter.”

No one likes a clever vampire. I pull the unlit pipe from my lips, and raise an eyebrow at him. “You’re not threatening me now, are ya?”

His smile vanishes. “I was not harming anyone, nor am I breaking any of your precious rules.” 

“That’s debatable, and I’m not really up to the debate. So, just behave yourself and you’ll live, well--exist, to see your two hundredth birthday.”

“Ahh, you flatter me, but I am not nearly that old.” His eyes flicker to a spot over my shoulder.

“Why, I recall my two hundredth birthday. So long ago,” I hear from behind me. The smooth Egyptian voice climbs up my spine like a spider. “I was a proud fighter alongside Sultan Al-Kamil the night we sustained Cairo. Those Christian boys looked just as surprised then as you do now.”

My fingers instinctively dance towards the butt of the gun holstered under my jacket, but Zamir’s hand is on my wrist before I can blink. “And Adam, what are you? A whole thirty-five? And heart still beating? Such a shame. We could help with that risky little problem.”

I jerk my hand free from his grasp. “I’ll keep my ticker tocking, thank you.”

I’m a rather smart bloke. I wouldn’t still be alive if I wasn’t. So allowing a thousand-year-old vamp to sneak up on me is just piss poor form. I turn to see the dark-skinned vampire, fangs extended, staring back at me. I haven’t seen Zamir in nearly ten years, and if I’m being honest, I ain’t thrilled at seeing him now. I take a step back so they are both in my sight. A vampire in periphery is an open invitation to empty veins.

“What brings you to Atlanta?” I ask Zamir, rubbing my palm over the prickly stubble that is my hair.  
You a Stargate fan, or is Buffy more your style?”

 “Ah, my dearest Bristow, you do not seem happy to see me. No matter. Many of my progeny look expectantly upon this weekend, and I find myself wondering what all the chatter is about. Thought I would come and see for myself.”

Rubbish, I’m sure. “I’m on my early rounds making sure everyone keeps it copasetic. We want all the humans’ hearts beating and the secret safe. We got rules in this area. So, keep it peaceful.”

As I turn to walk away, Zamir says, “Adam, we are aware of your so-called rules, but I have my own laws that govern my actions and the actions of my people that take precedence over the lawyer’s little treaty. Maybe you should run along and check the more recent additions to our world.”

I hate the way his words crawl over my skin. I glance at Gabriel’s smug face, grinning as if he’s getting away with something. I didn’t work so hard on my reputation to allow a measly hundred-fifty-year-old vamp to get the better of me. I’d love nothing more than to knock him arse over elbow, but starting a fight on the first night over something as silly as pride would not be my best bet. Not without back up. Currently, the rest of my team is patrolling the other three hotels.

If the humans knew what was swarming DragonCon, they might have just stayed home behind locked doors. Not that a flimsy door would keep the monsters out.

For more excerpts from Iron Thirst, please click here