Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Favorite Part of ASC - by Lilly Derway

Lilly watched the whole convention through her lens!
Deborah Harkness and Jennifer Ikeda in a 'huddle'!
Today's guest post is from Lilly Derway - the awesome photographer from AllSoulsCon!  When we asked her to do a piece from her perspective, we didn't expect this story, but we are honored to share it with her permission.  Thank you, Lilly!

My Favorite Part of AllSoulsCon
By Lilly Derway

When I wasn't going crazy trying to capture every photograph I could, I got the chance to sit and listen to Deb & Jen (Harkness & Ikeda).  They talked about their favorite characters in the trilogy. I listened to a few things they said about the characters they loved.  I then thought about the characters that I loved.

My first favorite is in A Discovery of Witches and it’s Diana. She went out of her way to be different — to not be the same as her family.  She wanted to be a scholar, a professor, an educator.... anything BUT a witch.  She went as far as not using her gifts or her powers.  She even felt bad if she did use it and and kept track of how many times she slipped.  She wanted to be herself, NOT a witch. A witch who followed the footsteps of all of the family members before her. I always figured it was the loss of her parents that might have played a part in it. They used their power, but yet they still died.  I think Diana, having lost presence her mother and father, allowed me connect with her character.

I had a loss.  My father left my mother before I was born.  My mother had to work herself to the core to raise our family.  In turn, I, along with my sister and brother (twins) were a "latch-key” kids.  It was a very nontraditional family at the time.  In those days, being a single mom, and divorced was a HUGE red flag.  I was always set aside and told, "you look & act just like your father."  I always thought of it as a bad thing.  Growing up was tough for me, but I somehow knew the separation was good for our family.  I could see the scars my father left on my mother.  They were always brushed aside, and called "accidents."  My father was abusive — physically and mentally.

It was because of my father that my brother turned out to be a special-needs child.  He beat up my mother when she was in labor with the twins.  The neighbors called the police.  I’m at a point now where I’m able to joke and say “he is the normal one in the family,” — he is!  Mentally, he will always range from 4-9 years old, but that doesn’t matter to me.  He loves superheroes!  He is bilingual in Spanish and English.  He is always happy, and he is my joy and happiness.  I didn’t get the real story until I was 13 years old.  But as a child, I always felt the loss of someone I never knew.  Even though he biologically is my father, he was never part of our family.  I will never know the exact reasons he left, but he abandoned all of us.  As I grew older, I figured it was a good thing he was gone.

When I read the book(s)—specifically about Diana, I bonded with her.  She got to know her parents a little bit, but didn’t get the fullness of them being in her life growing up.  That was her rebellion.  Not being a witch or using her power.  I know that we later find out she was spellbound, but she didn’t know all the facts or the truth as to why they were gone.  She discovered some of it on her own.  She sought out, and found the pictures of her parents showing how they were killed and left.   That was hard for her.

After she met Matthew, she came out of the “witch closet" in a way.  Her power was emerging and she didn’t know why.  She felt more confused.  She was always and independent woman, then Matthew came along and she felt a bond and attraction with him.  She then grew into who she really was — a witch.  She became my hero!  In a weird way, I felt her pain, suffering, and confusion.
Every reader of these books come from different places, upbringings, families, areas, and situations. Everyone takes different things from the book/series.  Everyone connects with them in different ways — this was mine.  I figured, I am who I am.  Why should all the stories and hardships from the past become a constant chip on my shoulder?  So I made a choice! I went to school for medical, photography & art.  I became a medical assistant and then went on to learn more about photography and art than ever before. I do photography, paint and draw as my creative release.  I worked at the Hoag Cancer Center in Newport Beach for 7 years.  I had a hard time dealing with the loss of so many patients. When you administer chemotherapy treatment to help people fight their cancer, you grow attached to them. When it became a hardship to get to work on Mondays (the signing of death certificates), that’s when my husband and I started a cleaning company. I did it because a lot of my patients/friends needed cleaning, and understanding of their circumstances.

I later started my photography sessions and painted as a release. I did several murals and did photography for a lot of my patients/friends. They wanted photographs of the before and after. One session when they were in treatment, and one when they fully recovered after the new hair grew in. We all go through struggles in life, and the documentation in photography gave them the ability to show friends and family the journey.

When Shadow of Night and The Book of Life were released,  I found a second favorite character in Jack.  It was during this time that I had to fight for my life while he fought for his.

I was in a coma for almost for 3 1/2 weeks and almost died. The doctors gave me a 4% chance of living. I then came out of my 'mind cloud' after I had been in the hospital ICU for five months. When I woke up, and I had no clue why I was in the hospital.  I saw myself in a mirror — I was missing 1/3 of my skull.  The team of doctors assigned to me came in and they were all so happy!  I was out of my 'mind rebellion and escape.'  They said it was something in our minds that help us to cope with the barrier of being in pain or fighting for life. They said some people regain the memories, I still have not. I still don’t remember the accident or what happened. It’s incredible to me that I wouldn’t remember any of it.

This is why my fight correlated with Jack's. He had to fight to be a kid, a teen, then an adult. He almost died of a sickness, then was saved by Father H and turned into a vampire. He then had to fight a new fight (the Blood Rage).  It was hard for him to put his head in the right place, and not act out in the rage that was inside of his blood. He fought like a warrior against it!  He had his ups and downs but never wanted to be in the blood rage.  Matthew was his guidance.  Matthew was able to fight the blood rage, but still struggled with it.  But Jack had it worse.  Jack made the decision to take charge of his life with the knowledge that he was a "big brother" to Rebecca and Philip, and a "son" to Diana and Matthew.  This knowledge helped him fight it.

The Book of Life is not just about the book being made by all pieces of the three united (vampires, witches & daemons).  It’s about the union between the three types of creatures, without segregation. In the past it was revealed that the three did have relationships in life, were united in love, and it eventually resulted in children.   It emphasizes a mix.  A mix that should occur, and not be shunned.  It was all hidden until Diana got to be on the counsel.  With The Book of Life being literally within her, it opened up new life, and new beginnings for all of them.

I also relate to this series because of me being Spanish & Mexican and my husband being French & Italian.  It was a big NO in my family!  But I stepped right into it, marrying my high school sweetheart.  That was 27 years ago!  Now it's different and more accepted.  Deb Harkness made such a BEAUTIFUL and CREATIVE trilogy of books. They opened our hearts and our minds!

Deb and the story were big factors in my recovery.  I was only out of the hospital for a week, but I still managed to go on a drive to La Jolla to meet her.  My husband drove — and scolded me the whole way, but I HAD TO MEET HER!  A friend got me and my husband front row seats!  Deb knew I had difficulty reading because of my double vision after the accident.  She then surprised me and gave me the audiobooks!  I was finally able to finish The Book of Life by listening while I  followed along in the physical book.  When we met, she gave me the BIGGEST HUG!  I was in tears when she gave me the gift.  Those books also helped me have a great recovery after my skull was put back together.  Those books nursed me back to be the fighter that I am!  They reminded me not to dwell on all the negative, but to embrace the positive!   Now I have my eyesight back through the help of a neuro-ophthalmologist.  I have to wear glasses now, but who cares?!  I CAN READ!  The stories that Deb wrote were the the life-line I needed to encourage me to keep going, and make me stronger.  I will always love her.  She became my friend, and a person to look up to.

I hope I didn’t bore or scare you with my story!  But the moment of listening to Deb and Jen talk about their favorite characters was one of my favorite memories of the convention!  I made my way back into photography with all different kinds of sessions, but this convention was one of my biggest days out, because I had more fun than anything!

Here are some pictures of my bumpy road & journey, and the recovery back to my life. 

The signing at La Jolla (Book of Life release)
At AllSoulsCon - September 12th, 2015

XOXO Lilly

We love you back!

See the photos Lilly took at AllSoulsCon here: AllSoulsCon Photos

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