Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with Dawn Carroll, author of The Banana Bunch

Banana Bunch 2
Title: The Banana Bunch
Author: Dawn Carroll
Publisher: Amolibros
Pages: 120
Genre: Children's Book
Format: Ebook/Paperback
 Purchase at AMAZON

 The monkeys have a human friend called Sheila. Sheila is in hospital – and she hates the hospital food. The monkeys decide that something simply has to be done… When their first attempt at delivering bananas to Sheila is thwarted the monkeys decide to form The Banana Bunch, a secret society dedicated to the delivery of delicious, health-giving bananas to Sheila and all the other unwell people at the hospital. Banana delivery proves, however, a little trickier than they had expected…

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
The answer is less one of pride, but more one of amazement. Like all junior doctors of my generation I spent my first years, after qualification, working outrageously long hours, with minimal sleep.  When I look back I realize that there is a ten year period for which I have almost no memories. Everything just merged into a long blur of exhaustion.
It is a wonder that any of us managed to stay on our feet, let alone function and make important decisions for our patients. The power of the human body is awe-inspiring. Somehow we made it through, and most of us (definitely me) emerged still loving our chosen career.  I’m seriously proud of all of us.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
Books have always been an important part of my life. My parents are avid readers, who taught me to read before I attended school. As a child hours spent tucked up with a book were one of my biggest treats.
My family also, very early in my life, taught me how easily unkind, incorrect, or thoughtless words can cause distress to others.  I learned that it is not okay to get a cheap laugh, if this is done by creating unhappiness for another. I don’t think it is possible to totally avoid causing unintended offence (there are so many different cultural norms and rules in this lovely world) but I am always alert to at least trying to write in a way that has a powerful effect (in my case I’m usually hoping to make readers smile), while remaining decent and kind.
The Banana Bunch monkeys are the perfect vehicle for this approach. They are good-natured, always cheerful, goofy and gorgeous. I love that the personalities of the Banana Bunch monkeys make it possible for me to write in a way that makes others smile, while (hopefully!) causing zero offence.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always loved to write. At school we were often set the task of writing a story using imagination alone. While some of my fellow students groaned, I loved it!  
The other influence is travel.  When I travel something will go subtly wrong (I’ll be in one country, my luggage will be in another / cruise ships develop engine problems / if I set off to see the Northern Lights a 5 day blizzard will start … ) When I discovered that letters written about these experiences were making those at home howl with laughter I just kept on writing.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Honestly, No. I’ve just always enjoyed writing from the moment I could first use use a pencil.
When did you first know you could be a writer? 
Even now I don’t truly feel like a writer. In my head “proper” writers create serious books.  My writing is light-hearted and I’ve always felt that it was just something fun that I did to amuse myself and close friends. The same friends have, though, spent years telling me that I should publish my letters from abroad, but I’ve always laughed off the idea. It has come as the greatest surprise that a series of short stories, written for a friend who was unwell, has sold so well that we have already been able to donate over £7000 to two children’s charities.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Humour, definitely
What inspired you to write your first book?
Our friend Sheila was unwell, stuck in a hospital bed – and she absolutely loathed the hospital food.  It also helped that Sheila shared her home with 3 furry, soft toy monkeys.
 On the day that I heard about Sheila’s passionate dislike of the hospital food a lightbulb went on in my head. A few hours later, I had taken a photo of Sheila’s monkeys, with bunches of delicious fresh bananas. The photo became the cover of a handmade greetings card, inside which was the first short story of what would, in time, become  The Banana Bunch book.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
So many things and people. As soon as others became aware of the general Banana Bunch concept (in the stories Sheila’s monkeys are determined to help by delivering some delicious bananas to her, to save her from the hospital food – but somehow, something always goes slightly wrong with their plans) I started to receive offers of clothing and props for the photos, and everyone had an idea or two for future stories.  In the end I had so much material and photos that I simply spread them across the dining table, scanned them before going to sleep, and would wake each morning with the next instalment of the Banana Bunch adventure ready to be written.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Publication! Thank heavens for the wonderful folks who work in the publishing industry and who understand all the things that have to come together to create a successful, and properly professional, book.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
I learned that there is still a place for innocent, gentle humour in the world of literature.  I’ve also learned that all of the hard work that that goes alongside publishing and selling a book is 100% worthwhile. For publicity we take some of the original toy monkeys out and about to create photos for the Facebook and Twitter stories.  It is tough on the shoulders (the monkeys have been eating a few too many bananas, and they are very heavy!) but every time we meet strangers who crack up laughing, it is all worth it.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I have to admit that the idea is tempting. Working alongside The Banana Bunch’s illustrator we already have the text and illustrations for a children’s story about a friendly frog and a lonely lizard.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
Yes. I hope to achieve writing which is (and we do test the text on a lot of readers of all ages before agreeing the final text) upbeat, happy, and capable of raising a smile. When writing imaginative essays at school we were giving a set subject – sometimes happy, sometimes dark. It was good experience to be obliged to write across a whole range of styles and emotions, but I soon learned that my natural style is light.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
That I thoroughly enjoy the process. 
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Tenacity. When others say that something can’t done I first check whether it is wise and reasonable to make it happen – and if it is, then I set to work and don’t stop until whatever it is has been achieved.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Laziness. I put heart and soul into tasks most of the time, but in-between times am guilty of slumping into an armchair to do precisely nothing for hours at a time. I can’t even pretend to be doing any useful thinking at these times. At these moments the old Spike Milligan quote comes to mind “Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits!” It seems such a waste on a lovely, sunny, day.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
The original quotation was written in Spanish by George Santayana 1863-1952 - philosopher , poet and novelist. There are numerous translations.
The most accurate translation is possibly “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
The version that I first heard was:“Those who do not learn from history well be forced to re-live it”.
As a passionate student of history the quotation made instant sense. I despair of world leaders who again and again lead their peoples into situations that wiser minds (with history as a guide) may have been able to avoid.  
I also passionately believe that it is vital that we should all know about the dreadful events of human history. Without this knowledge how can future generations avoid making the same mistakes again?

This might seem a strange favourite quotation, given that I have emphasized the importance of the light-hearted and humourous in my own writing. I think, perhaps, that I have spent so much time reading and listening to important, but challenging, historical archive material that I need to break out into a brighter world when I put my own pen to paper.
Dawn Carroll was born in London, to a family who loved to read – and who also moved house with great regularity. One of the first tasks on arrival at each new home would be to find the nearest lending library, with the result that Dawn grew up with a great love of books. Encouraged by family and teachers, Dawn also started to write short stories. In adulthood, Dawn’s busy life as a hospital doctor left little time for leisure writing. Indeed, The Banana Bunch stories would probably never have been written had Dawn not, one fateful day, discovered that falling from even a very small tightrope can have devastating consequences… but that’s another story! Unable to return to her chosen profession, things seemed very black for a while. And then The Banana Bunch monkeys bounced into Dawn’s world…. Since then the monkeys (and Dawn) have been having a great time – telling the stories of their adventures in print and online, and also travelling far and wide to source new story ideas and to meet new friends. Find out more about Dawn and the Banana Bunch at

The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams: Interview with Daphne Michaels

Daphne Michaels is an author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist whose institute has helped hundreds of women and men transform their lives through the "gifts" every human being is born with. Daphne began her own journey of transformation at a young age, pursued it fearlessly, and later studied formally in the fields of social science, human services and integral psychology. The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams launches both Daphne Michaels Books and The Gifted series, whose goal it is to share with the widest audience possible the principles that guide the Daphne Michaels Institute. Daphne's earlier book, Light of Our Times, featured her conversations with such international figures in the fields of spirituality and personal development as Ram Dass, Julia Cameron, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and Thomas Moore.

Visit her website at

About the Book:

In The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist Daphne Michaels celebrates the nine gifts that are our birthright, guiding
readers in how to recognize and use them to transform their lives.  In her author's preface, Michaels reveals how her own journey of life transformation began when she was young and realized that human existence wore two conflicting faces--one of love and joy, and one of fear and despair. She decided then to commit her life to reconciling these two visions because she knew that, irreconcilable though they seemed, together these two faces held the secret to living a life of endless possibility and authentic happiness. Her personal journey and formal education in social science, human services and integral psychology led to the founding of the Daphne Michaels Institute, which has helped hundreds of men and women design the lives of their dreams.

In The Gifted Michaels shows us that the first three “gifts” we must recognize and embrace within us if we are to re-design our lives are Awareness, Potential and Stillness. These three allow us to identify and use the remaining six with a life-changing power:  Disharmony, Harmony, Ease, Clarity, Freedom and Engagement.  Each of these six relies on the “essential three” for its own power to change our lives, and each has its own gifts--its “children.” By approaching the nine gifts with real-world metaphors, Michaels answers in easily understood ways what for many readers have been lingering questions about personal transformation—such as how it works, what kind of commitment it takes, and why, if we’re committed, real transformation becomes inevitable—and addresses obstacles that readers may have encountered in the past in trying to reach in life a happiness every human deserves.

While the human universe’s face of love is celebrated in The Gifted, so is the face of fear that haunted a young girl decades ago. As Michaels shows us in her book, even Disharmony—the “quagmire” of life born of the human ego’s fear, defenses, delusions and despair—is a gift, too, and one as important as the others if we know how to see it clearly and use it. Once we understand Disharmony, we are ready to understand the real purpose of Harmony in our lives. Disharmony does not need to rule us.  It is ours to use as we design the lives of our dreams. 

The final gift in The Gifted, Michaels tells us, is the gift of Engagement. Engagement—with the universe and with ourselves—allows us to use all of the other gifts with more power and joy than we ever imagined possible.

That mountaintop decision never left me. It drove my life’s work and over the years led me to understand that there are gifts – nine of them, in fact – that we are all born with but rarely experience in their full glory and potential. These gifts – which make each and every one of us “The Gifted” of this book’s title – are the keys to living lives of endless possibilities and, in turn, achieving an authentic happiness that cannot be lost. They are, in other words, the keys to achieving the life of our dreams.

Thank you for this interview!  Id like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when youre not writing?

Thank you for asking. I have a very busy life. My time is shared between my writing,  institute, private practice and thirteen year old son. I like to manage my time really well. Every moment counts.

When did you start writing?

While I have been writing since I was an adolescent, I began to write professionally about fifteen years ago.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

There is a huge difference between being a writer and a being a published author. Writing is an art and skill and publishing is a business. These are two completely different mindsets and it was a pivotal point for me to discover how to do both in a way that would both express and honor my message.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

That is a really tough question, especially since where we write affects what we write. It would have to be a place that inspires my muse.  Fiji comes to mind at the moment.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Sleep! Im getting ready to launch The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams at the International Book Expo - America in New York next week and I must admit that Ive been burning the candle at both ends to get ready!

Where would you like to set a story that you havent done yet?

Interestingly, even though I write non-fiction, this question still applies in a certain way. The storyfor non-fiction writers is often the reality within reach that we are pointing to and encouraging our readers to discover — such as a trip in a travel magazine or an interesting piece of history. As a personal development writer, I am interested in setting the “story” in my readers lives. My theme is to show readers how truly gifted we all are and how by using our gifts we can transform our lives.

Back to your present book, The Gifted: How to Live the Life of  Your Dreams, how did you publish it?

I chose to launch the Daphne Michaels Books imprint. It is great to be launching my imprint in an era where POD publishing and ebook publishing helps one reach an even larger audience and its nice, too, that this is the first year Book Expo America has invited self-published authors to exhibit and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and other venues are featuring the best self-published books. Being part of this new era in publishing allows opportunities to help shape it. This means teaming in new ways with new people and being free to see our projects all the way from conception to publication and beyond.

 In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Only through the lands of potential and possibility!

Why was writing The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams so important to you?

I have worked with men and women of all backgrounds and personalities for over twenty-five years, guiding them to live the lives of their dreams. In addition to having a long-term psychotherapy practice, my institute offers transformational programs for people interested in living lives of endless possibility.

My own journey, which led me to eventually write this book, started when I was an angst-ridden adolescent. I smile today, because it was such a dramatic time in my life with classic teenage experiences. And even this was classic Im sure, although I am still shaken today when I think of the first time I really saw the world beyond my limited scope of experience. I was devastated by what I experienced as a gut-wrenching discovery of two worlds existing side by side: the world of love and the world of despair. It was the world of despair - the fear and misery that I witnessed robbing people of the beauty in life — that propelled my journey to understand and help eradicate unnecessary suffering.

My personal journey took years and led to all sorts of experiences for which I am grateful today. Writing personal development books is a natural next step in my journey to take my message to as broad of an audience as possible.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best ideas come from a connection that I feel with the universe. Many writers and poets speak of this. There is a sense of otherness in my writing. A sense that a am the messenger, but the message is much bigger than me.

Any final words?

Those of us who feel called to share a message - a how to, inspiration, biography, humor, or guidance, or to tell a story - have an important role in life. Celebrate it! Make developing and sharing your message a priority because it truly is a gift to your readers!

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Precious Than Rubies by Randy Coates Book Feature

More Precious Than Rubies
Title: More Precious Than Rubies
Author: Randy Coates
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 174
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Ebook
 Purchase at AMAZON

 Paul Brager is twelve when his father tells the story of Iduna and her apples. Mr. Brager always tells stories before bed to entertain Paul’s little brother, Adrian—a ritual that has become even more important since their mother died. Iduna was a goddess who grew apples that made the gods younger and stronger, but one day she disappeared, along with her apples. Paul doesn’t think much of the myth; he has other things on his mind. Paul and his best friend, Chad Tremblay, are excited to start the school year as seventh graders at Dorian Heights Public School. Even when they hear about the new principal, Mr. Theisen, they aren’t worried about ending up in his office. When Paul finally meets the principal, however, he finds him to be strange, mysterious, and extremely fond of apples. That’s when things start going wrong. Theisen develops an uncomfortable interest in Paul, claiming he once knew Paul’s father. It becomes apparent to Paul and Chad that Theisen is after something, maybe some kind of treasure—and it involves the Brager family. Paul believes his family must be protected and that Theisen must be stopped. Still, he can’t get the story of Iduna’s apples out of his head; there seems to be an odd connection to the tale his father told. He and Chad want to know the answers, but learning them may put their lives in danger.
Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years by Reverend Carol Hale



Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years
Title: Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years
Genre: Religion/Spirituality
Author: Rev. Carol A Hale
Publisher: AuthorHouse
EBook: 112 pages
Release Date: April 29, 2011

 The spirit guides our life. It opens our life as a child and always stays with us. After each prayer our spirit will speak to your mind about God's decision and we will hear about he best task for life. The spirit and prayers always gives us comfort relaxations to the mind. When the body has been or is in a accident, is sick, having surgery, financial problems, and life events. My life has had several perfect body safety and healings i was six or seven months old. The spirit with God guided my jobs and acceptance of my birth as a lesbian.  



10 Things You Didn't Know About C.H. MacLean

To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.” C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. 

“Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

His latest book is the YA fantasy, Two Empty Thrones.

For More Information

10 Things You Didn't Know About C.H. MacLean

  1. If I'm going to be pushed off a cliff, I'd rather jump 
I find there are plenty of times when life seems to push you off a cliff. Sometimes, despite all my planning and work, the train tracks end suddenly, the suspension bridge snaps as I'm half-way across, my plane engines explode, etc.  I know people who can't help screaming and dearly hold to their right to lament
life's injustices. Nothing wrong with that. If you catch me off-guard, I might yelp too. But then my brain flips, and it suddenly makes sense to jump. I mean, at least it's my choice, right?

  1. But that doesn't mean I'm a push over
Now, that is not to say that if a person tries it, I just jump every time. I know a bit of kung-fu, and look at him closely. (Yes, honestly, it's almost always a “he”.) I'll judge whether I can or should flip him over my shoulder or take him with me. Sometimes he's the one that needs to jump, and sometimes it's nice to have a partner on the way down. Or just a cushion at the bottom.

  1. If I'm going to jump off a cliff, I like to smile when I do
 If it's my choice, why shouldn't I enjoy the experience?  I can almost always find something fun about it. If nothing else, baring my teeth lets me breathe but filters out the bugs.

  1. I like to make my wings on the way down.
 People tell me this is a personality trait, but it just makes sense. The only accuracy most people have to predict the future is based on luck. Someone smart once said, Planning is priceless, plans are worthless. And you are never so motivated to make good wings the first time as when you really need them.

  1. I'll never go skydiving again
I jumped in tandem, which let me do the jumping out of a plane. I did so smiling, of course. But then the guy on my back started spinning us. Had I known he was going to do that, I would have told him I get motion sick quite easily and ate a pungent lunch.

I actually might do it again, as the floating down was pretty close to flying.

  1. Often tired, rarely sleepy
For those of you who know the difference between tired and sleepy, I'll bet you can guess why. If you don't know the difference, let me know.

  1. Not all my teeth are my own
Baseballs and rocks are not the same. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

  1. I'm never wrong for long
I love to find out I am wrong. I know you know the feeling when you find out you have been wrong. It's a terrible feeling. At least for me, I hate it with the intensity of being spun around while sharp things poke me in the kidneys at 250 miles per hour.

But then, I just change. I admit I was wrong (and am right about that), and agree with the correction (right again). So, in the end, I get to be right twice.

  1. Being right isn't winning
However, I don't see being right as all that great. I want to be on the side of truth, of course, I just don't see how it's about me. When I'm right and can prove it, that's just plain using my eyeballs. Otherwise, I just have an unprovable opinion, which isn't being right. If someone else can't see the facts, it doesn't make me better, it's just kind of sad for them. If I have an opinion, it's not better or more true than the next person's to anyone but me.

  1.  You know more about me than you think you do
Some psychiatrists say that the characters in your dreams are all you. Yes, they say you are both the one running away and the monster chasing you. I think it is similar in writing. I don't really see it, but I'll bet someone close to me can point out how I am a bit like every character in my books, even the worst of the lot. I just hope I have some of the best of their traits, and it will all even out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Chapter Reveal: Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter

Title: Meet Me in Barcelona
Author: Mary Carter
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

Purchase at AMAZON

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer's current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn't just Grace's foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she's kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter's intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

First Chapter:

Grace Sawyer had never believed in magic, or miracles for that matter, but that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t pray for a little bit of both. She’d been praying a lot lately. She stepped into her mother’s hospice room and crinkled her nose as the scent of SpaghettiOs and Lysol washed over her. She glanced at her mom’s bedside table. Sure enough, sitting too close to the edge was a chipped brown bowl overflowing with SpaghettiOs, paired with an industrial-sized bottle of Lysol. Grace hesitated. Processed food in a can and industrial-sized cleaners were just the kind of things that could trigger an emotional avalanche inside her. This wasn’t what life should come to in the end. It wasn’t right. If replacing those bits with yellow roses and a nice roast dinner would have changed a single thing about this horrific situation, Grace would have done it lightning quick. This was her mother. The woman who had taken care of everybody else her entire life. Who had opened her heart to homeless, damaged children. She deserved more. But strangely, Lysol and SpaghettiOs were two items Jody Sawyer had insisted on lately. Grace had to fight her instincts, her primal desire to make everything nice, and instead keep each visit as pleasant as possible. She smiled even though neither of her parents had noticed her yet.
Her mother was wide-awake, eyes glued to the television in the corner where a soap opera blared. Before she had moved into this facility, Jody had never watched a soap opera in her life. She wouldn’t have been caught dead eating SpaghettiOs either. The Lysol, on the other hand, was familiar. Grace’s mother had spent her entire life within an arm’s reach of it. Most likely the product of having a revolving door of foster children. Where were they now? Not a single kid from the past had come to visit Grace’s mother. After all she’d done for them. It made Grace rage inside, but her mother hadn’t complained about it once.
Her father, Jim, sat next to the bed on his favorite recliner from home. Jim had put up quite a fuss to get them to allow it in the room, and he was extremely proud of the accomplishment. “I put up my dukes!” he’d say with a grin. Then he’d pump his fists in the air. He’d been practically living here since the doctor had given them the latest grim diagnosis. Grace couldn’t help but think it was probably a welcome relief for her father’s patients. Her father was a psychotherapist, and although he was insightful, Grace had always thought he was a tad too prying. Then again, maybe that was the whole point of going to a shrink. Baring your deepest, darkest secrets. It was Grace’s idea of a worst nightmare. “Hi, Dad,” Grace walked over and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. He looked almost as thin as her mother. He lowered his newspaper and took off his reading glasses. “Well, hello there, Graceful.”
“How is she?”
“In and out.”
Grace nodded and slowly approached her mother’s bed. “Mom?”
Her mother’s eyes didn’t leave the television set. “Oh, hello,” Jody Sawyer said. “Are you the cleaning lady?”
“Like I said,” her father said. “In and out.”
“It’s me, Mom. I’m your daughter, Grace.”
“My daughter doesn’t clean,” Jody said.
“She’s got that right, “ Jim said.
Grace burst out laughing, then quickly tried to squelch it with a cough. Jody Sawyer pointed to the television and shook her head. She wanted them to be quiet. Grace looked at her father.
“Why don’t you wait for a commercial?” he said. He patted the folding chair next to him. Grace sat. “How was your day, sweetheart?”
Grace reached into her bag and removed two McDonald’s bags. She handed one to her father. He grasped the bag in one hand and squeezed her hand with the other like she’d brought him champagne and caviar. “Actually pretty wild,” she said. “I have news.”
“Do you mind?” her father said.
“Go right ahead.”
He unwrapped his Big Mac and took a bite. “Mm-mmm,” he said. He looked blissful. Grace wanted to bury her face in her sleeve and sob. SpaghettiOs and soap operas, and Mickey D’s? Didn’t they know they deserved better? They were from such a humble generation. Not like the entitled kids of today. Her parents were simple and good people. Let them enjoy what they enjoy. No use forcing kale or tofu burgers on her father now. Grace forced another smile, then reached into the second bag and handed him a napkin.
He winked at her and dabbed his mouth. Then his eyes went to her ring finger. “Did the boy finally pop the question?”
Grace laughed and stretched out her hand in front of her as if examining it for the first time. She hardly ever wore rings or bracelets; they got in the way of playing the guitar. Maybe now she would start. She would wear silver rings with semi-precious gems, like amber, and big chunky bracelets. Maybe even grow her nails and paint them pink. Was that a good enough trade for giving up on her dream? Grace slipped her hands under her legs as if she could shut out making any decisions by sitting on them. “Not yet. But you’re never going to believe this--”
The soap opera went to commercial. A jingle for car insurance came on. “Gracie Ann!” her mother said. She smiled and opened her arms as if Grace had just walked into the room.
“Hi, Mom.” Grace got up and hugged her mother. She felt so frail and tiny in Grace’s arms. Grace could probably pick her up and carry her around the room without breaking a sweat. Not fair, God! Not fair. “You didn’t eat your lunch,” Grace said, glancing at the SpaghettiOs.
“She insisted on them,” her father said.
“I ate ten Os,” her mother said. “I couldn’t possibly eat more than ten Os. I have to watch my figure.”
“If you stuck her in the middle of a cornfield, crows would land on her,” her father said with his mouth full of burger.
“You’re not far behind, Dad,” Grace said.
“Just how we wanted to spend our golden years. Hanging out in a farmer’s field like a couple of straw men,” her father mused in between bites.
Anything would be better than this place, Grace thought. She wished she could bring her parents to a beautiful field at the height of autumn. Give them trees with leaves on fire, and hay that shone like gold underneath an afternoon sun. Give them the smell of apples and the embrace of a warm wind.
“You look beautiful, Grace,” her mother said. Jody Sawyer reached up with a trembling hand and touched the pearls around Grace’s neck. “Is it your birthday?”
“In a few weeks, Mom.”
“Happy birthday, darling.”
“Thank you.”
“How old are you now? Thirteen?”
“I’m turning thirty,” Grace said. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m all better now, Gracie. I can go home now.” Jody Sawyer looked at her husband Jim, as if expecting him to start packing up the room.
“I don’t think today, Mom,” Grace said. Or ever. As much as she tried to shut it out, Grace could hear the doctor’s voice in her head in a constant loop. Maybe a month, six months at the most, we can’t say for sure. All we can do now is make her comfortable.
Make her comfortable? Was there any comfort in knowing you had six months, maybe one?
“Gracie said she has some news,” Jim said.
Her mother clasped her hands under her chin. “I love news,” she said. “And fries,” she called to her husband.
Grace nodded at her father. He picked up the second bag, then passed it up to Jody. It was odd. If Grace gave her the fries before she asked for them, her mother wouldn’t touch them. If Grace waited until Jody voiced a desire for them, Jody ate every single one. Just one of the little mysteries of dementia. What a double whammy. The doctors weren’t sure if fighting off the cancer had brought on the problems with her memory, or if she would’ve been hit with it anyway. There were just no two ways about it; life could be extremely cruel. “Give us the news,” her father said. “Hurry before her show comes back. We’re not allowed to talk during Days of Our Lives.”
“Jake won an all-expense-paid trip to Barcelona,” Grace said.
“Well, I’ll be,” Jim said. “How’d he do that?”
“The veterinarian group had some sort of a raffle,” Grace said. “But Jake didn’t even enter.”
“He won a raffle he didn’t even enter?”
“Dan went to one of the conferences without Jake and entered for him.” Dan was Jake’s partner at the animal hospital. He and Jake were like brothers.
“That was mighty nice of him.”
“But we feel guilty. Dan could have taken the trip himself.”
“I’m sure he filled out an entry for himself as well as Jake.”
“And Jake won. Seems fair to me.”
“But we would be leaving Dan to run the clinic all by himself, and he’d even have to watch Stella.” Stella was the best English bulldog a couple could ever ask for. If she could, Grace would take Stella to Spain. Stella was a hit wherever they went due to her prowess on a skateboard.
“Well, isn’t that special.” Jim slapped his knee. “Jody did you hear that? Gracie and Jake won a trip to Spain.”
He had entirely missed the point that they felt guilty that Dan would be getting the short end of the stick. It made her wonder how often he misunderstood his patients.
“That’s wonderful, dear,” Jody said. Her eyes traveled back to the television.
“I’m not going,” Grace said.
“What do you mean?” her father said.
“There’s a catch.” There always was.
“You have to pay for your hotel?”
“No, it’s all paid for.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The dates are set in stone. We’d have to go at the end of next week.”
“It’s a ten-day trip. I don’t want to leave Mom for that long.”
“Nonsense,” her father said. “You have to go.”
“I’d be gone for my birthday.”
The soap opera was back. Jody snatched up the remote and aimed it at the television like she was holding it up at gunpoint.
Grace’s father patted her knee. “We’ll celebrate with you when you get back, kiddo. Take it from me, kiddo—life’s too short not to take free trips.” Jody glared at Jim and pressed on the volume until it was almost deafening. A few seconds later, there was a series of soft knocks on the wall behind her bed.
“Sorry, Mrs. Maple,” her father called out. “You have to turn it down, dear.”
“That old bitch,” her mother said. In all Grace’s years growing up, with all the strange boys tearing through the house, and fighting, and even through the whole Carrie Ann ordeal, Grace had never heard her mother curse, let alone direct it at somebody. Jody turned the volume down a smidge and pointed at the television. “He’s the one I like,” she exclaimed. There was a tall man, visible only in silhouette behind a flimsy shower curtain. “They think he’s Flo’s long-lost brother, but actually he’s just escaped from prison where he was convicted of murdering his second wife. Or is it his third? I can’t remember. Second or third wife, take your pick. It’ll come to me. Darn tootin’ he’s totally innocent, but I know that Flo. She’s going to be sniffing around his tight buns like a hound dog short of a bone. Second. Definitely second wife.”
Grace and her father looked at the television. The naked man stepped out of the shower, surrounded by steam. All you could see were his six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Grace supposed they wanted you to imagine something else bulging. This was definitely soft-core porn for women. Tan, and slick, and ripped, and glistening, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to pick up a towel. He walked up to the bathroom mirror, reached up, and wiped away the condensation. Soon, his gorgeous face came into view. Grace had to stifle a laugh as he began to touch his cheekbones like a blind man trying to see what he looked like. “Isn’t it awful?” Jody said. “Pretending to be someone else? When all he wants to do is search for his wife’s real killer.”
Grace raised an eyebrow at her father. He looked down at his stomach, and in doing so dripped a thick glob of ketchup onto his fraying cardigan. “Didn’t even look like that when we got married,” Jim said.
“I think he must have had plastic surgery after his prison break,” Jody continued. “That’s why he doesn’t recognize himself!”
Jim Sawyer watched his wife with a smile and a shake of the head. “You wouldn’t leave her for ten days,” Grace said to her father.
“They sure did a pretty good job on him though, don’t you think?” Jody said. Based on where her mother was looking you’d think he’d had plastic surgery on his crotch.
“If Jake wants some old man tripping along with him, just say the word and I’ll pack my bags,” Jim said.
Jody glanced at Jim. He winked at her. She smiled back. Then she turned a smile on Grace. It was actually the first genuine smile Grace had seen out of her mother in a week. “You have to go, Carrie Ann.”
Carrie Ann. The words felt like two gunshots to the chest. Just hearing that name come out of her mother’s mouth made Grace’s heart start tripping. She almost shot out of her chair. “I’m Grace,” she said. “Gracie Ann.” Her voice cracked. “Dad?” she said.
“She’s confused, honey. The past and the present, it’s just one big, ugly glob.” Pinpricks of shame began forming at the base of Grace’s spine.
“I’m not confused,” Jody said. “Carrie Ann came to visit me.”
“My God,” Grace said. This time she did shoot out of her chair. Carrie Ann was the only girl foster child the Sawyers had ever taken in. At first she had been like a sister to Grace.
“Who is she married to now?” Jody said. “I can’t remember.”
“Pay no attention to her, Gracie,” Jim said.
“Why can’t I remember?” Jody pressed on her temples with her index fingers, as if she could squeeze the memory out of her head.
Grace took a step toward her mother. “When did she come and visit you, Mom?”
“Grace, I told you she didn’t,” Jim said. “Don’t egg your mother on.”
“I’m not egging her on, Dad, but if Carrie Ann was here, I want to know about it.”
Her father whacked his newspaper on the side of his chair. “I told you she wasn’t! And I should know. I’ve been sitting right here!”
“She’s still such a pretty girl,” Jody said. “She asked about you, Grace. She asked me all sorts of questions about you.”
Jim got up and threw up his arms. “She’s out of her mind!” He began to pace.
“Dad,” Grace said. “Hush.” Her mother suddenly became very still, which meant she was listening. Grace took her father by his arm and led him back to his chair.
“I’m sorry. She won’t remember me saying it.”
“That’s not the point.”
“I can’t help it. Carrie Ann this; Carrie Ann that. I thought we’d put that nuisance behind us for once and for all. Is this what it comes to? Reliving your worst nightmare?”
“I’ve never heard you speak so harshly about Carrie Ann,” Grace said. Her mom was the one who used to say the worst things about Carrie Ann. She said Carrie Ann was evil. She said Carrie Ann was a curse that would follow all of them to their graves. Once she had even said there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stain. And each insult had cut into Grace like her mother was saying it about her. Her sister. Of sorts. Her own Dickens-like drama. Carrie Ann was the best thing that had ever happened to Grace, and she was the worst. She’d been out of their lives for nearly fifteen years. And Grace had spent every one of them trying, and failing, to put the past behind her. She turned to her father.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“That Mom’s been talking about her.”
“Because I don’t want to dredge up all that nonsense. It’s her damn medication. I keep telling the doctor it’s making her worse, and he won’t listen to me.” Her father slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “These people think just because we’re old that we’re stupid. She wouldn’t be so forgetful if she cut down on some of those pills. How do I know that? Because she’s my wife. Because I’ve been married to this woman for forty-four years. You know what he said to me?”
“That snot-nosed doctor, that’s who!”
“What did he say?”
“Put me in my place. In front of my wife. ‘You’re a psychotherapist, correct? Not a psychiatrist? You don’t prescribe medication?’ That’s what the snot-nosed so-called doctor actually said to me. Can you believe that? Some twenty-year-old who just started wiping his own ass. I’m telling you she’s on too many pills! Makes her soupy. He won’t listen to me!”
“It’s okay, Dad. Calm down. It’s okay.”
“I can’t bear hearing her talk about Carrie Ann. Your mother’s the one who told us never to mention Carrie Ann’s name again.”
Forbid us. Forbid us to ever mention her name again. “I know, Dad. I’ll talk to the doctor. Calm down.”
“I always wanted to go to Spain,” Jody said. She turned off the television and patted the side of the bed. So she’d heard and understood the conversation. God, the brain was a mysterious thing.
Grace went over and sat down. “You never told me that.”
“I would hardly share that with a stranger.”
I’m your daughter! She wanted to shout. But her mother couldn’t help it.
“Just keep talking,” her father said. “At least she’s not dredging up ghosts, or drooling over naked stud muffins.”
And now Grace couldn’t believe her father had just said “naked stud muffins.” Maybe getting away for a bit wasn’t such a bad idea. Grace turned back to her mother. “Why did you always want to go to Spain?”
“My mother went to Spain. All by herself. When she was in her seventies.”
“I know,” Grace said. It had been just after Grace’s grandfather had died. Her grandparents were supposed to take the trip together. Everyone thought Annette Jennings would cancel the trip. Instead, she buried her husband and packed her bags. Little Annette who had never been outside of her home state. Grace had had many conversations with her grandmother about that trip. She was proud of her too.
“It was really something,” Jim said. “Because in those days seventy wasn’t the new fifty or whatever the kids say today. Seventy was seventy.”
“Tell me about it,” Grace said.
Jody Sawyer straightened up, and her eyes seemed to take in more light. “Well, it’s not like it is now. Women didn’t travel alone back then. Wasn’t that brave? My mother sent me a postcard from Madrid of a beautiful tango dancer in a red dress. The dress was made of actual material—beautiful red silk right on the postcard. I’ll never forget it. She’d only written one sentence on the back. ‘Robert would’ve loved the landing.’ My father was very picking with landings and always impressed when the pilot pulled off a smooth one. Anyway. As soon as I got that postcard I knew my mother was going to be all right. ‘Robert would have loved the landing.’ After she died I spent hours just touching that silky red dress with the tips of my fingers and imagining my mother dancing in the streets of Spain.”
Jody Sawyer looked up and swayed her upper body slightly as if watching her faraway self dance. Then she looked down at her hands, twisting the bed sheet. “Look how ugly and wrinkled I am now.”
“You’re not ugly and wrinkled, Mom. You’re beautiful.”
“I wish I had that postcard now.” Her mother looked up into space. “I lost it.”
Grace hesitated. Did she, or didn’t she? Grace opened the bedside drawer and took out the postcard. Her mother was right. The dress was silky. Grace handed it to her mother and watched her eyes light up. Next her mother gently outlined the edge of the dancer’s dress with the trembling tip of her right index finger. Her fingernail was misshapen, the peach paint flaking. Grace would have to see if they could bring in a manicurist.
Jody looked at Grace, her eyes clear and bright. “Gracie Ann you have to go. Film everything. I’m dying to see Barcelona through you.” Grace must have looked stricken, for her mother laughed and then put her hand over her heart. “Sorry, no pun intended.” Like antennas being manipulated for a clearer signal, sometimes her mother tuned in perfectly. Jody Sawyer laughed again, and Grace couldn’t help but laugh with her.
“Make me feel like I’m there,” Jody said, closing her eyes. “Help me shut out this hospice. Let me see beautiful Barcelona.” She took Grace’s hand and held it. “Do it for me. I’ll feel like I’m with you. Bring a camera. And your guitar,” she added. “You never know.” When Grace still didn’t answer, her mother opened her eyes, and lifted Grace’s chin up with her hand like she used to do when Grace was a child. “Be brave, Gracie Ann. Just like my mother.”
“Like my mother too,” Grace whispered back.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

20 Questions with Tara Edin, author of 'Moonflower: A Memoir of Healing'

Tara is an incest, rape and sexual assault survivor, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a Reiki master, and an author.
As a rape and sexual assault survivor, who struggled for many years, yet came out on the bright side, one of Tara’s goals is to help fellow survivors feel less alone, less crazy, and more inspired.
Tara spent much of her life feeling “wrong” and being quiet due to some very tough circumstances that shook her to the core. After a spiritual awakening on one of her darkest nights, Tara began to embrace her own power to transform past trials into dreams come true.
Writing her story has helped Tara retrieve her voice and find additional creative outlets. Publishing her book has simply made her story available to those who may benefit from it.
These days, Tara puts most of her energy into raising her two children, enhancing her creative life, and living her best life ever. But because she is a Survivor, Tara will always walk a healing path—healing for herself and for others.
For More Information
About the Book:

Blooming was her Birthright. Darkness the Unexpected Catalyst.

Tara is an incest, rape and sexual abuse survivor, who suffered from PTSD for many years
but was misdiagnosed with mental illnesses instead. This took her down a near-fatal path ultimately ending in an accident, which nearly claimed her life at age 29. Most only know the abridged version of the story, yet the real story holds many truths and miracles that must be shared. With a second lease on life, Tara faces the sexual abuse and betrayal from her younger years with support from a compassionate zen therapist. Tara begins to recreate her life with a new spirituality that feeds her soul and encompasses her painful past, giving life to the love that has always been her birthright. With lucid prose and powerful poetry, Tara details her soul’s transformation from darkness to light, offering her readers the gifts of honesty, empathy, and empowerment.

Moonflower is Part Memoir, Part Self-Help & Part Spiritual Odyssey.
Rape, incest and sexual assault are unspoken controversial topics that still fester behind closed doors in the 21st century as survivors are still being told to “Get over it,” or worse, “It didn’t even happen.” It takes years to heal from such life-altering, traumatic experiences, and many survivors are doing this work alone. There is a great need for testimonies from those who have emerged from their ordeals stronger.
This revealing story uncovers the aftermath of abuse that often leads to unstable relationships, repeated abuse, and mental or physical disease. Although Moonflower covers difficult topics such as emotional and sexual abuse, the author sifts through these experiences to offer her readers the gifts and lessons that can be drawn from such setbacks.

There is no cookie-cutter journey to healing, but there is great power in sharing our stories. Moonflower exhibits the power of the self and spirit in the healing process. It stretches beyond what may be considered a “normal” path and braves a non-traditional spiritual road to wellness, inspiring others to broaden their perspectives of the healing experience. Readers will be inspired by Tara’s fiery spirit and deep reflective soul, cheering her on as she finds her way back to herself.

For More Information

  • Moonflower: A Memoir of Healing is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

1. Are you a morning writer or a night writer?
I’m definitely a night writer and have done my best work after 10:00pm.

2. Do you outline or are you a pantster?
I am more of a pantster and go with whatever comes to me. One thought can spark an entire chapter. When a random sentence pops into my head, I ride that wave as long as I can, sometimes just writing impressions and feelings or images. Then I go back and organize the material. For example, I wrote much of my book over several years, stuffing my writing in folders or recording it in journals and on my computer, so it was simply a matter of outlining what I already had. Once I knew the title Moonflower, I outlined the five parts (Reflection, The Descent, Grounded, Growing, and Blooming) and added the chapters to fit each part.

3. Which comes first – plot or character?
The “what” and the “who” are so inextricably connected. It’s kind of a conundrum to me, but I tend to favor character, since the characters’ decisions and feelings truly carry the plot.

4. Noise or quiet when working on your manuscript?
If it’s daytime, I usually have some sort of noise in the background (music, the TV downstairs, my children playing). At night, it’s just the tapping of my keyboard, the ticking clock on the wall, and sometimes some yoga/relaxation music.

5. Favorite TV show?
The Real Housewives of OC is my weekly TV fix.

6. Favorite type of music?
I like all kinds of music. Some of my favorite artists are Jewel, Tori Amos, Cold Play, Christina Aguilera, Imagine Dragons, Paul Cardall, Sting, and Sarah Mclaughlin.

7. Favorite craft besides writing?
I love designing jewelry with crystals, pearls, gemstones and even ribbon. I also get very into designing cupcakes/cakes for my kids’ holiday and birthday parties.

8. Do you play a musical instrument?
I sing in my car.

9. Single or married?
I’ve been happily married for five years.

10. Children or no?
I have two children ages 5 and 2. They’ve given my life new meaning and have made me a better person. I’m more patient, more time efficient, and more driven.

11. Pets?
At the moment, we have a blue beta fish. Once my little one is out of diapers, we can look into adding a furry friend to the family.

12. Favorite place to write?
I write in my office. It’s where my computer is. My desk is surrounded by some of my favorite things: my children’s drawings, family photos, my pens, my lily and citrus aromatherapy candle and my favorite angel picture.

13. Favorite restaurant?
Roy’s is one of my favorite restaurants. My husband and I have celebrated many happy occasions there. My hubby says I go there for the chocolate soufflĂ©. He is mostly right, but they have excellent tapas and seafood, too.

14. Do you work outside the home?

Yes, I teach English at a local public school. 

15. What was the name of the last movie you saw?
In the theater, it was Divergent. At home, lately it’s been Frozen.

16. Favorite outdoor activity?
I love hiking near the beach. Being by the ocean always re-energizes me. 

17. Pet peeve?
When people are superficial.

18. Your goal in life?
I have many life goals, but one that stands out is to raise my children into happy, loving, independent adults. 

19. Your most exciting moment?
Becoming a mother was most exciting time in my life (both times).

20. The love of your life?
My family is the love of my life.