Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

The Unshakeable Road To Love BookTour

I’m pleased to be part of author Brenda Shoshanna’s “The Unshakeable Road To Love” Book Tour. Brenda is a long term zen practitioner as well as an author, and she integrates teachings of both East and West in all her work, including her latest book “The Unshakeable Road To Love” where she explores the differences between real and counterfeit love. Before I interview Brenda, here’s a quick summary of her book…

BOOK SUMMARY

The Unshakeable Road to Love (Value Centered Relationships) is based upon Eternal Principles from all world scriptures, including Zen. These tried and true Eternal Principles, the Pillars of Love, show how to build foundations for relationships where happiness and well-being are inevitable. And where pain and conflict can dissolve on the spot. 

A radically different approach to love and psychology, the book offers a completely new perspective on fulfillment and what is truly needed to thrive. For example, one of the Pillars of Love upon which the book is based is:

To Be Happy, You Do Not Have To Be Loved, You Have to Learn What It Means to Be Loving.  

The book explores the difference between Real and Counterfeit Love. We discover how all suffering in relationships is due to being caught in the trap of Counterfeit Love. And how easy it is to break free from bondage and leave that trap behind.

This is a book of practice, filled with Turning Points, Pillars of Love, Interventions, and many enjoyable exercises so the reader can practice these principles in all their relationships and in their everyday lives.

Written by a psychologist, Interfaith Counselor, and long-term Zen practitioner, the book combines the practices and principles of both East and West, helping us to discover and celebrate the best in ourselves and others.

Publisher: Brenda Shoshanna (October 2022)

ISBN-10: 1094378046

ISBN-13: 978-1094378046

Print length: 208 pag

MY INTERVIEW

A warm welcome to the blog Brenda …

Hello! I am Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.d. author of The Unshakeable Road to Love (Value Centered Relationships. A psychologist, author, playwright, speaker, long term Zen practitioner, and Interfaith Counselor.  Overall, my work has focused on integrating the teachings and practices of East and West and showing how to make them real in our everyday life. I’ve offered talks, workshops, and meditation sessions for many years. My workshops are focused on both personal and spiritual development, and living an authentic life. My favorite teachers are my children and  grandchildren. They constantly remind me to be playful, expect the unexpected and join them in all their different journeys, with an open mind. I’ve just started a blog called Turn The Page, where I hope to integrate what I have discovered in the many different streams of life.

Your book, “The Unshakeable Road To Love”, is truly inspirational – an integration of both East and West teaching. What made you decide to write your book in the first place?

I have been working with these principles for many years, have always been fascinated by the power of relationships and love in our lives. The idea to write the book came during Covid.  I was inspired to write thebook as, along with Covid, the epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and isolation was at its peak. I had come by then to realize that isolation, loneliness and anxiety could be easily dissolved through the experience of Real love. And often upset and conflict dissolved on the spot.

You are a long term Zen practitioner and you have a weekly podcast called “Zen Wisdom For Everyday Life” … but when did you first realize this empowerment that practicing Zen can make a difference in love and life in general? 

I actually started reading about Zen practice when I was fifteen years old, was give a small book on Zen by a teacher in school and could never put the book down. I read it again and again. About fifteen years later I actually met my Zen Master here in NY. After the first night at the zendo (place where Zen is practiced, place for Zen meditation), I could not stay away. It called to me immediately. Then, sitting by sitting, month by month, year by year, the power and strength of practice became more and more evident in my life. It became my life. In fact there is no difference between true practice and one’s life. They interfuse one another.

Your book is jammed pack with hints, projects and situations to help on that road to love. Were there any aspects of writing “The Unshakeable Road To Love” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It surprised and fascinated me, to realize again and again, how all encompassing and powerful the practice of love is, how important it was to keep mindful of it, and to keep practicing it myself. 

You have authored over 20 books, including self help titles, books on Zen, mindfulness and meditation- very impressive 😊 However, are you a reader too?  What genre of books do you read to relax?  

Believe it or not, I still love to relax with books on Zen, and also on the practice of releasing, love, and truths from all scriptures.

You are also the Playwright in residence at The Jewish Repertory Theater and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, both in New York.  When writing your plays,  do you use the same preparation as you would writing your books?  Would you (or have you) written a play based on the advice given in “The Unshakeable Road To Love”? 

I “was” playwright in residence at both of those theaters. I still write plays and actually, just received honorable mention from Tennesse Williams/New Orleans Literary Contest, for a play called “Searching For The Ox,” on Zen! The Master is the hero, it takes place at the zendo, and in Central Park among the homeless. 

When writing plays I approach them the same way I would fiction. I just allow the characters to arrive and to reveal themselves. I let things happen, unfold as they do. I don’t usually plot things out, but enter into a dialogue with my characters. And yes, yes, I use the tools I talk about in The Unshakeable Road to Love.

I welcome every character, grant them the right to be who they are and allow them to speak their truths. No rejecting them or trying to control them. In a sense it is a divine encounter I mention in the book. A true meeting.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

I wanted to be an actress for many years. That morphed into being a playwright. Then I wanted to be a philosophy professor and also have a large family.

Is “The Unshakeable Road To Love”  available to purchase worldwide?

The Unshakeable Road to Love is available on amazon.com, bn.com, and other online platforms. Not sure about worldwide?

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What are you working on now?

Just finished an Inspirational Memoir, called A Flash of Lightning. Working on finding the right agent and publisher for this work.

I’d love for you all to subscribe to my blog. There’s a place there to interact, and share your thoughts and feelings – The Forum. The blog will offer all kinds of articles on personal and spiritual growth, opportunities for dialogue, and a new upcoming podcast.

Also working on making the five and half years of my podcast Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, into a series of books and also offering many articles based upon it on my new blog – TURN THE PAGE  (www.turnthepage.live)

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love colorful, simple, lively outfits, dresses, slacks and beautiful, printed top

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I like Coldwater Creek, Orvis, Bloomingdales.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I love long, knit dresses as the weather gets cooler, slacks and beautiful sweaters.

Boots or Shoes?

I like boots outdoors and shoes inside. Shoes are usually easier to get around in, and to get into at home.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

I am on Facebook: Facebook.com/brenda.shoshanna

 Instagram  Zenlife7

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/sunflower777

 Linkedin.com   Dr Brenda Shoshanna

BLOGhttp://www.turnthepage.live

BOOK TOUR DATES

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Brenda Shoshanna. My thanks to Brenda for the review copy of “The Unshakeable Road To Love “.

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Journey Of The Twin Flame

I first interviewed author Richard Barnard nearly a decade ago ( see post HERE) in August 2014. His new deeply spiritual novel, “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame “ was an idea hinted at during my first interview with Richard , an idea he was toying with for a new book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality. And lo and behold, this book has now been published and I am so pleased to welcome Richard back on the blog to tell us more about his new book.

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BOOK SUMMARY

An alien from the future dies and the soul reincarnates, reborn back 10,000 years ago to a small African village beginning human life as what would become earth’s secretly hidden genuine Messiah and angels. The soul reincarnates a further five consecutive lives to the same village psychic soul tribe and throughout each incarnation visually multi-shares futuristic astral travel experiences with them. This practice enables them to see the future horrific atrocities of Africa and the Black race. 

The fifth incarnation the Messiah soul is born male named Koolah and in view of what’s ahead it’s decided this unique soul tribe perform a powerful ritual.  The spell insures they recognise each other and come together during each incarnation to carry out their joint humanitarian sole purpose, ultimately current day spiritually assisting Mother Africa to receive her reparation compensation for mass crimes inflicted by other sections of humanity. 

Welcome back Richard. It has been almost a decade ago since I last interviewed you in August 2014, when you hinted about an idea for a book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality and here we are with your latest deeply spiritual novel “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame”.   What inspired you to write a novel of this nature?

Thank you, it’s great to be back for this interview Linda and goodness ten years, that’s flown. Yes, I hinted the reincarnation vibe in my ‘Danny’s Boys’ novel and it got so many curious positive reactions from readers. The inspiration for ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret, Journey Of The Twin Flame’ came whilst serving a 23-year jail term I received for being the principle organiser behind a massive cocaine shipment.  I felt getting caught and the harsh sentence a curse at the beginning but later realised it was part of a huge blessing.  Prior to that I’d lived an unhealthy life style: late night restaurant meals, endlessly smoking cigarettes day and night, constant partying, consuming and using excessive amounts of alcohol and cocaine, and to an increasing degree, smoking crack. The prison sentence saved my life and gave me a new lease of life, revealing who I am and what I’m born to do in this life.  It was during that prison sentence I gave up cigarettes, became a fitness fanatic and realised the universe, God had taken me to jail to get cleaned up, awakened and show me my calling and soul purpose of this life.  My life purpose is to use my writing talent helping Mother Africa receive her reparations and human equality.  The Arab & Transatlantic Slave Trade still has an effect on the Black race today.  Invaded, sadistically enslaved and forced into the slave master’s religious beliefs. Made to forget nature’s spirituality we’d practiced from the beginning of creation.  For sixteen hundred years forbidden to read or be educated in the religious slavers systems up until just over a hundred years ago.  This is one of the reasons the Black race is behind in society.  It hasn’t helped the colonist still has Africa divided and they’re bleeding the wealth not giving the starving people of the land anything. Western media in the west making us hate and kill one another and even hate our own appearance.  We’re demanding compensation in line with British and US law courts, a figure of £25 Trillion.  Reparation for 500 years of everything under the umbrella of European slavery, murder, rape, forced to work for lifetimes, forcing us away from Gods spirituality, compensated for the wealth obtained from stolen land, the list is endless.  Compensated for stopping one Black Africa developing into the wealthiest nation today.  The colonists are to leave all business interest in Africa and with our compensation and natural recourses we will build ourselves, carry on where we were before the intrusion. Further inspirations came from finding that I’m both spiritually and biologically part of the Jamaican Maroon tribe.  The inspirational magic runs ever deeper; three to four years ago the universe revealed my Twin Flame connection and what I’m here to do on earth.  I’m now in contact with my ancestors receiving spiritual downloads, novel material and amazing ideas for when Africa receives her reparations as are other Twin Flames helping the Native Indians, Aborigines and so forth.  I always felt odd as a child, my deep thinking about spirituality and the way my views on life never fitted with others.  Even Black children’s views for instance the Caribbean born Blacks teasing the Africans for the way the spoke and also the African’s reaction by saying, “we’re not diluted” Up until recently I’ve kept my spirituality secret from the people that don’t get it. But so many of us are waking up, thank God.  Yes Linda, if all that’s not an inspiration to write this novel, what is?

When was you first aware of your ancestral spirits and your purpose in life?

My first deeply spiritual encounter happened at around the age of twelve.  A young Romany gypsy lady Rosella assisted my first spiritual past life regression. Our joint regression reading reawakened our minds; conscious in ancient Africa to find in that life we hadn’t been forced into any man invented religious beliefs, instead deeply spiritual humans and part of a unique soul tribe. During the reading I knew after that life we’d continuously reincarnate meeting the same souls born into different bodies.  Throughout my life growing up I’ve always known this and had guidance from these souls, my deeply spiritual ancestors I’d met again during my childhood past life regression. To answer the question, looking back now that childhood regression reading was when I was firstly aware of my ancestral soul tribe and life purpose for this incarnation.  Since then after experiencing much spiritual phenomenon I’m now thinking the first and only time I met the Romany gypsy Rosella she may have appeared as a so-called phantom of if you like a ghost. 

I loved the intertwining of the characters (souls) – so are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Linda, coincidently I met another elderly psychic medium and she told me I’m a writer in many past and future lives and often use the entwining method.  The style is part of my own unique style;a characteristic of the soul. The story features Rosella, it had to. Although she’s someone I’ve met just the once; Rosella and my first past life regression has impacted my life so much that I’ve entwined the experience, her name and character into the story.  Among others Rosella actually inspired part of the story.  Incidentally I’ve been reminded there’s no such a thing as a coincidence or a coincidental meeting or coincidental anything in the entire universe.  The character Koolah the Messiah was at first the hardest, but at the same time easiest to portray.   The reason for this is my mother forced us into Sunday school as children where the preacher indoctrinated a to be feared White God and Jesus into the minds of everyone in the church; many of whom were Black children; myself included so therefore at first I found it difficult to create a Black Messiah.

Were there any aspects of writing this novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

Yes, the surprising part was how my ancestors with the material contacted me.  I also based one of the characters, Yanson Bailey off some circumstances that surrounded my young life. Yanson Bailey was hard to write because a lot of his struggles are based on my unique childhood.  The uniqueness comes from being the middle Black child growing up in a household with four lighter skinned mix-race siblings in the nineteen sixties and seventies. I had to go back in time and finally face my own childhood emotional struggles, which has in a way been an amazing therapy.  Which reminds me when I was a young man around fourteen and the lighter skinned people were more favoured, my White soul mate girlfriend was totally aware of my circumstances and she labelled me the ugly duckling.  At first, I felt why would she say such a thing but remembering the kids’ story book tale I knew she was one of many Angels put on my path, another member of my soul tribe. 

Hypothetically speaking, if “ Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey of the Twin Flame” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters? 

When I began creating the novel, on the advice ofthe actor and friend Ray Winstone I visualised it as a TV series to be aimed at Netflix, Tyler Perry or one of the other huge TV producers. Back then I could only see Idris Elba playing Daniel Cottle and Ray Winstone playing the older Charlie Baker.  I’m in contact with Ray and Idris and it would be a dream to bring those guys together in a major production.   As it stands now ten years on Idris could still play the maturing Daniel Cottle in later seasons and Ray the dual role of Charlie Baker and the eighteenth Century Jim Morgan who reincarnates physically exactly identical to modern day Charlie Baker. There’s a sorrowful scene showing the elder legendary pirate captain Jim Morgan having previously been arrested on the island of Jamaica now in his London prison cell waiting to be taken to the Newgate Prison gallows. There’s only one actress I’ve ever visualised playing the dainty mix-race, quarter Black Haitian witch, Claudette and that is no other than Jan Anderson.  This particular acting talent would do it justice, exploding on screen with her natural psychic personality.  I love nothing more than rags to riches success stories and there’s so much talent around the world waiting to be discovered.  Linda, wouldn’t it be nice to find gems introducing unknown, upcoming British, American performers; giving underprivileged Haitian, Jamaican, African and Romanian acting talent this unique opportunity in what would be a massive online TV production.  My parents country of birth Jamaica produces so much talent in all areas of life and I’d also love to see a Jamaican descent male actor play the flamboyant sixties – seventies pretty boy gangster Nathaniel “Cutty” Robinson.  

I loved the fact that I knew the locations featured in the book from East London, where I also grew up, through to Jamaica, Ibiza and West Africa where I have visited; it somehow immersed me fully into the book. So, if you could visit any location in the world for inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

The follow up to ‘Religion’s Hidden Secret’ ‘The Truth’ is again set in Jamaica, Ibiza, Romania, Africa and additional countries.  I’ll be away from the UK touring, spending time in those locations when creating the later drafts of the novel to get a feel for the environment and spiritually. To also connect with my ancestral souls in those locations for inspirational purposes.

Looking through your face book social media platform I’ve noticed you’re associated with many famous celebrities, Idris, other fantastic novelists; Conservative Party politician Jonathan Aitkin among them, actors, footballers, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Kieran Richardson, Olympic Gold medallist Greg Rutherford, major producers like Nick Love and many more. Richard, you know some fascinating people!

Many others say exactly that.  The universe has presented each and every person and spirit to me in this life, including you Linda for friendship and this interview.  I was introduced to Idris and after reading some early drafts of this novel he said I was a great writer, which I took as a huge compliment because he gets screenplays thrown at him regularly by seasoned professional, renowned Hollywood writers. I spoke to him quite regularly whilst he was filming a season of Luther and people around him explained I had an effect on him because he never usually spoke to anyone whilst filming. Ray Winstone’s another one, we constantly spoke when he was on set in South Africa, these guys just find my journey and soul purpose of interest.  You mentioned Nick Love; he showed up at my book launch event in Notting Hill on the 25th August just last month and I’ve always known in him I’ve found a soul mate; always on hand to help with advice. 


Past or present if you could sit and have a conversation with anyone, singling out one who would it be?

 That’s easy, my Twin Flame; other half of me of course.  Linda, imagine meeting the other half of you, other half of your soul in this lifetime. Ok, other than my Twin Flame another person who is alive today : the greatest that has ever graced the sport of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr.  I’m a huge boxing fan and firstly,  I have to say Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali is the greatest and I feel that Floyd would totally agree because not only what he did for boxing and other sports but influence he will always have on the entire planet. His stance on a Black man fighting in the Vietnam war and by the way I can’t remember word for word but this was his explanation for not going to Vietnam :“You want me to travel thousands of miles to kill a man that’s never enslaved , hated or racial abused me, has no problem with my colour or African heritage.  I’m to kill him for America where I’m just a nigger.  If I’m not shot dead or tortured to death in Vietnam; when I return to America I’m still a nigger, my wife and children not allowed in white schools, restaurants, segregated toilets and parts of buses. Legalised KKK terrorist doing what they wish.   Going to Vietnam would make me a coward in the eyes of my race and wife and I wouldn’t feel I deserve to share our bed.  Am I afraid of going to jail for a few years?  As a Black man in America I am already in jail.  So a few years in one of its jails is nothing. My ancestors went through lifetimes of horrific slavery, men  women and children so that I could be here today and protest for freedom and equality” . Most famous man in the world, if he’s not the greatest, who is?  Brazil are the greatest soccer nation in the world because they’ve won the most FIFA world cups.  Floyd is the greatest boxer because he has the best boxing record. Yes, for many reasons, I’d love to sit with Floyd, it would be a honour to be in his company, speak to him about his career and invite him to invest in our African project and also the TV series based on this novel.

Whose work is your favourite?

 Firstly film.  In my top thirty there’s many Black movies, Samuel L Jackson, in ‘Time To Kill’ Spike Lee’s ‘Malcolm X’, Denzil Washington in ‘Glory’ growing up as a bit of a lad I love all the gangster movies, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino but it shocks people to say my favourite movie of all time has to be the Steven Spielberg masterpiece ‘Empire Of The Sun’ – it fascinates people when I say this because there is no Black characters but what got me was I aspire to be a great author such as the one who wrote the story J G Ballard and I watched the film during a difficult time in this life where I was on a deep survival mode.  The novel is based on the writer James’s life story where as a spoilt; well to do child in Japan in a split second his life was turned upside down and he had to survive.  I actually watched the movie before reading the novel and the novel was great but when reading back this novel Religion’s Dark Hidden Secret’ it sends shivers through me.  I read back parts of it thinking where did all this come from?  Then realise it was put into my mind by me ancestral soul tribe.  To answer the question the material my ancestors gave me is my favourite.  Also when this is made into a movie followed by an on-line series ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret’ will push ‘Empire Of The Sun’ into my second place.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Whilst serving time and after release I’ve read some fantastic novels, Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ JG Ballard’s ‘Empire Of The Sun’ and other all time greats although I’m not actually a book worm as such, I’m usually too engrossed into creating my own material. I don’t mind a kindle or actual book.  Just to add, I spoke to an old flame a few years back and she reminded me I once explained the kindle idea to her way before it was invented.  That must be the psychic power within me. 

Is “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret  – Journey Of The Twin Flame” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes Linda! The hardback, paperback and kindle can be purchased on Amazon and later the audio copy will follow.  We’re in the process of promoting it all around the world, beginning in the Caribbean and moving to the US. This story is designed to help eradicate racism bring equality to humanity and end world hunger.  Among the many points it makes, our bodies die and we as souls reincarnate.  As a woman of any nation conceives birth we souls begin life, Black White or any nation in any era.  I’ve known for a long time that there is no such a thing as individual races.  We were all Black at some stage but some nations have evolved to appear differently to deal with climates. There is only one race and that’s the human race. By the way Linda, I strongly feel you personally have lived some enjoyable Black lives and you’ve actually felt a familiarity when holidaying in Black homelands. The story goes deeper explaining Black Africa is the cradle of civilisation; the entire human race began Black.  When you look at those two points alone it just shows how pointless, vile and sickening racism really is. 

Ok Richard, the goal? You speak of your soul purpose, bringing prosperity to Africa and so forth. How do you plan to do this?

When this novel is a success,  I’ll have a voice.  I’ll begin by bringing together everyone with influence and empathy for to the long horrific destruction of the Motherland and today still oppressing the Black race. Invite them to join me in a project that continuously comes to me by way of beautiful dreams. The Rapper Akon, Roger Federer, Sadio Mané, Idris, Tyler Perry, Floyd Mayweather, Nick Love, Oprah and hundreds of others are to be invited to invest in this project where the west will teach African indigenous people to be self sufficient.  Anybody will be able to by shares in this fruitful and at the same time meaningful investment.  We’re to approach an underdeveloped country government to talk about investing in a Black financed and Black built West coast African town to rival Dubai.  Education, tourism, export businesses, airstrip and an international airport, training and employing local labour, wouldn’t that be amazing? We won’t stop there, put another tourist attraction town further down the coastline and train track right around the coast adding hotels building the tourism industry. Tourist trips to the slave forts, etc showing the world Black and White, even Arab tourists where they came from; slaves and slave masters.  Linda, this is where it goes deep.  The human body I have at present will eventually die but I’ll reincarnate in around two hundred years to witness all the colonists that are still today bleeding Africa dry, they’ll be gone, all greedy sell-out, corrupt Black politicians, gone.   Instead Mother Africa smiling again, a booming Black African economy. No man invented religion, instead nature’s spirituality, one leader, one country, one currency. You ever listened to the John Lennon track, Imagine? For me among the simplest and most positive lyric ever written. It’s my responsibility to help make this happen.  With the help of spirit we’ll be unstoppable.

Personal now and on a much lighter note – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Sounds strange but even when going out partying, I like to dress casual in jeans, tee shirts, jumpers, especially makes like Hugo Boss, Replay. I’ve begun doing radio and televised events, which will lead to national TV talks surrounding this project and I suppose now I’ll have to treat myself to a new swanky suit or two.  Maybe Armani, Hugo Boss or another cool brand.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All the shops I’ve just mentioned, Linda.  I’m also forever ordering a Nike training shoe from JD Sports.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

With a little luck many swanky suits, which would tell me I’m headed the right direction with this amazing project.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m a boots type of guy, Linda. The reason being I find nothing more annoying than when the backs of your jeans or trousers keep getting caught inside the heel part of the shoe.  With boots you’ve no need to worry about this.

Links:

Thanks for the chat, Richard. I found your novel riveting and I really enjoyed the entwining journeys of souls connecting and reconnecting across time. Many thanks for the copy of the book to experience the journey myself .

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the fire eater photo – by Linda Hobden) have been published with the full permission of Richard Barnard.

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Hope Always Rises Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of author Kathie Giorgio’s “Hope Always Rises” Book Tour. Author Kathie Giorgio’s novel is on an emotional subject that few people tackle – suicide. “Hope Always Rises” is rich with empathy, with a sprinkling of humour and tons of imagination. I found the book very intriguing – although the subject matter is a very emotional one, Kathie’s imagination made me giggle in parts and thoughtful in others. I just couldn’t wait to interview Kathie …. but first here’s a book summary and an excerpt…..

BOOK SUMMARY

In Heaven, there is a gated community for those who end their lives by choice. This is a complete surprise to Hope, who ends her life one morning on the banks of the Fox River in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Hope has always dealt with deep sadness. From childhood on, she visited therapists, doctors, alternative medicine practitioners, Reiki artists, etc., to no avail. In Heaven, God reassures her that he knows what caused the sadness, but he won’t reveal it yet.

All community residents are required to attend weekly group therapy. Hope’s first group is led by Virginia Woolf. Several of the book’s chapters tell the stories of other members of this group.

Filled with many moments of striking humor, uplifting realizations, and difficult challenges, Hope finds her way in Heaven. She meets many people like herself, who help her restore her forgotten artistic talent and passion, and God himself, who is amazingly human in the most inhuman of ways. Hope finds understanding and forgiveness, and most importantly, friends.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1685132421

ISBN-13: 978-1685132422

ASIN: B0BV36PQKL

Print length: 342 pages

AN EXERPT

I never knew God slept. I certainly never expected him to wear pyjamas or have rumpled hair. But if he looked like the God I always imagined, the God with long white hair and a beard and a moustache and a serious, serious face, I never would have been able to rest my head on his shoulder, like I was able to do now.

I was very glad he wore blue flannel pyjamas.

“You knew you couldn’t expect them to be happy, right, Hope? You knew that,” he said, and wrapped his arm around me. “It was part of your choice to end your life.”

I turned my face into his chest and wept.

It had been my choice. I didn’t expect them to be happy.

But I never thought I would witness their sadness.

For the first time, I regretted Heaven. I wished for the black void that I thought death might be, that day that I swallowed each pill with a gulp of wine.

“It’ll be okay, Hope,” God said. Not a booming voice from a burning bush or a dark cloud. A soft voice that soothed me as I cried.

THE INTERVIEW

Hello. I’m the writer Kathie Giorgio, the instructor Kathie Giorgio, the business owner Kathie Giorgio, the wife and mom Kathie Giorgio…and a few other roles too. But the writer is who I am at my purest form. I knew I was a writer by the time I was eleven years old. All the others came afterwards. 

Who or what inspired you to write “Hope Always Rises”? 

As a creative, and someone who teaches creatives, I’ve known many people who have chosen to end their own lives. The incidence of suicide among creatives is higher than that of the average person on the street. For me, the decision to write this book came when I overheard a conversation between two women who were talking about a “friend” who’d recently chosen to end her life. They talked about how selfish she was, how awful, a monster, what a terrible thing to leave her husband and family behind. I was in a coffee shop, and before I left, I turned to them and said, “Did it ever occur to you to think about what kind of pain your friend must have been in to make this decision? To make it seem viable and the only way out?” And then I left. 

I went home and began to write this book.

It is always difficult tackling non conventional/emotional topics in novels but I think with “Hope Always Rises” you have tackled the topic with empathy, a dose of reality, a touch of humour and, as for the gated communities of Heaven – imagination!  In fact, the Heaven imagination is quite comforting, and makes the thought of death less “scary” (when it comes to the fear of the unknown). I’m not sure whether I can forget the vision I had when I read about God in his pyjamas! The characters in your novel are quite a believable  bunch – the main character Hope, her mentor Faith, her friend Joy, the coffee barista Joe, Virginia Woolf …. to name a few.    I had a fondness  for Hope but I also liked Joy!  She made me giggle. Did you base a lot of your characters on people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

My characters always come purely from me; I don’t base them on anyone I know. I am probably the most fond of Hope. She tried so hard in life, and she hasn’t given up in death. Her desire to know and understand is so strong. 

I think I probably enjoyed writing the character of God the most. There were a couple of times when I made myself gasp, such as when God admitted that he has made mistakes. But in my head, a human-like God would be the most empathetic of all beings. Nonjudgmental, totally filled with unconditional love, and someone you can talk to about all things. I have no idea if God is real, but if he is, I hope he’s like mine.

I would say, though, that while God was the most enjoyable to write, the most poignant moment for me was Sarah, who was the main character in Chapter 16: The Fat Girl Takes The Long Way. That story originally appeared, in slightly different form, in my collection, Enlarged Hearts. All of the stories in that collection are set in a large women’s clothing boutique in a mall, and all the main characters are only known as the Fat Girl; no one has a name. But in this book, I was able to give her a name. Sarah. She so earned it. Because in Heaven, you just aren’t part of a group. You are yourself. 

The most difficult character? Probably Buddy, from Chapter 20: All Better?. His actions cost his little boy his young life. Trying to force myself into that head was so, so hard.

Your vision of Heaven –  I liked the idea of the numerous coffee shops and poodling around in golf carts!  What aspect of your Heaven appealed to you the most? 

Being able to eat and drink anything I want, and it won’t cause me any harm! Butter rum muffins for everyone! And the best coffee ever.

If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why? 

London. I have a very strong desire to see Big Ben. He was recently re-opened (yes, I refer to the big clock as a “he”) and now you can even go up inside of him, all 300+ steps. I would love to write a book about something that happened on the long trip up and the long trip down. There’s just something about that clock that is timeless.

For Pinning Later

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Absolutely I’m a bookworm. I don’t think you can be a writer without being an avid reader. I prefer literary fiction. I love Anne Tyler, Ellen Gilchrist, John Irving, and so, so many. And it must be a real book. No e-book, please. When I travel, I always make sure I have a washing machine available, so I can fill my suitcase with books and not clothes. 

Is “Hope Always Rises” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is.

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?

I was writing before I knew I was writing. I told stories before I could hold a pencil. Eventually, I traced pictures out of my storybooks and rewrote the story the way I felt they should be written. And in the fifth grade, I read a story in front of my class, and from the back of the room, my teacher, Mrs. Fatticci, said, “Ohmygod, Kathie. You’re a writer!” And I knew that I was.

Apart from being an author of 7 novels, 2 story collections and an essay collection;  you have also written 4 poetry collections.  Do you have a particular preference ?

For what I prefer to write? Definitely fiction, though I love all forms. But if I was told I could only write in one genre for the rest of my life, I would choose the short story. Even my novels contain short stories. I just can’t help myself.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes wouldn’t you normally be found wearing?

During the fall and winter, you’ll find me typically in leggings and warm sweaters and boots, either ankle boots, or boots to the knee. During spring and summer, I’m in leggings or capris with polo-type shirts if I’m teaching, or t-shirts if I’m not. Oh, and sneakers. I have a pair of Skechers that are very subtly a rainbow. I keep buying one more pair so I’ll have it when the older pair wears out. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Love ThredUp online, and I love scrounging at Goodwill and St. Vinnie’s. I also hit the sales at Lane Bryant and Torrid.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I was shopping this last weekend for something to wear at the launch for Hope Always Rises on April 27th. Thus far, I have 4 outfits, with two more on the side. And I’m still not happy. So I’d like something that looks classy, not frilly, intelligent…and makes me looks like I fit in a size 10. 

Boots or Shoes?

I would change shoes to sneakers, and then I’d ask if I could have both boots and sneakers. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

www.kathiegiorgio.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kathie.giorgio.5/

Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/kathiegiorgioauthor/

Instagram: @kathiegio1

Twitter: @KathieGiorgio

BOOK TOUR DATES

My thanks to Kathie Giorgio for a copy of “Hope Always Rises” for review purposes. All photos have been published with kind permission of Kathie Giorgio.

Linda x

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The Algorithm Will See You Now Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of “The Algorithm Will See You Now” book tour, supporting author J.L. Lycette. This month has seen me reading a few “Artificial Intelligence “ books – a genre I haven’t really explored before – and this clever artificial intelligence medical thriller was a wonderful debut for me. Even more impressive is that “The Algorithm Will See You Now” is the debut novel for author J.L. Lycette too. I loved the twists and turns of the narrative, the characters and the fact that the situation in the novel was scarily plausible. Want to know more? Here’s a quick book summary , followed by my interview with the delightful author herself …

BOOK SUMMARY

The most dangerous lies are the ones that use the truth to sell themselves.

Medical treatment determined by artificial intelligence could do more than make Hope Kestrel’s career. It could revolutionize healthcare.

What the Seattle surgeon doesn’t know is the AI has a hidden fatal flaw, and the people covering it up will stop at nothing to dominate the world’s healthcare — and its profits. Soon, Hope is made the scapegoat for a patient’s death, and only Jacie Stone, a gifted intern with a knack for computer science, is willing to help search for the truth.

But her patient’s death is only the tip of the conspiracy’s iceberg. The Director, Marah Maddox, is plotting a use for the AI far outside the ethical bounds of her physician’s oath. A staggering plan capable of reducing human lives to their DNA code, redefining the concepts of sickness and health, and delivering the power of life and death decisions into the hands of those behind the AI.

Even if the algorithm accidentally discards some who are treatable in order to make that happen…

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1685131492

ISBN-13: 9781685131494

ASIN: B0BLD16W7T

Print Length: 303 Pages

THE INTERVIEW

Hello! I’m Jennifer. I’m a mid-career physician who discovered my writing muse on my path back from physician burnout in my forties. I’m now a novelist and award-winning essayist, along with being a rural physician, wife, and mom (to three humans and two of the canine persuasion). My first novel, The Algorithm Will See You Now (Black Rose Writing Press), is a near-future medical thriller, out now in paperback and ebook. My second novel (The Committee Will Kill You Now) will be out later this year, in November 2023 (also Black Rose Writing Press).

What inspired you to write “The Algorithm Will See You Now”? 

In my day job, I’m a hematologist/oncologist (a specialist in blood and cancer medicine). During the 2010s, there was a lot of talk about IBM’s Watson (a machine-learning AI) having a role in helping oncologists sort data and test results for our patients to help us define treatment. But in the mid-2010s, that all fizzled out without much fanfare.

Meanwhile, the amount of data we’re obtaining on our patients is ever-increasing, along with options for cancer therapies. If AI could help with the data sorting, sure, who wouldn’t want that?

It was about six years ago that I first had the idea for the novel when I read about some of the mistakes AI tools were making (like the misclassification of photos on Google), revealing the datasets (essentially: the Internet) that had been used to train the AI had led to racist and sexist outputs. I thought, this is a big deal because what if we did one day achieve the goal of an advanced medical AI, but it turned out to be ultimately flawed at a very deep level. Mix that with the increasing corporatization of healthcare in the U.S., and my premise was born. I suppose very much a classic trope of the science fiction thriller, which is the question of ultimately what fault lies in the technology versus what responsibility lies with humanity.

I enjoyed the range of believable characters  –  I obviously liked Hope, but my favourite was actually Marah Maddox, such a strong character & her relationship with Noah kept me guessing. Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?

I had a friend reading the book recently tell me she saw a lot of me in Hope, and I responded that perhaps that’s partially true, but the great thing about writing fiction is that we can create characters who make very different choices than we would in the same situation. In fact, I think that’s the fun of writing fiction!

In my first draft, I tried to make Hope the exact opposite of me because I actually kind of feared people thinking that the character was me. The result was that she was unrealistic and too “cardboard.” I realized that to write believable characters, one has to allow some of themselves, and if people think she’s me, well, they can think whatever they want, but I know she’s not. But some of my early experiences in medicine and how they influenced me, yes, those are some of the things I channeled to make her character more authentic.

The other characters are all fictional and grew as I wrote the story. Marah Maddox was actually both the hardest to write and the character I enjoyed writing the most. At first, she suffered from the same problems as my early Hope character, that she was too “cardboard cutout.” In the years of writing the book, I learned that the antagonist (or villain, if you will) must be equally as strong of a character to make the book successful. As has been said by others much smarter than me about writing, the villain thinks they’re the hero of the story. I had to dig deep and think about what experiences in a medical career might produce someone like Marah Maddox, with her beliefs and motivations.

I love that you also brought up Marah and Noah because, in the course of writing the book and digging into their backstory (much of which never shows up on the page in The Algorithm Will See You Now), I realized they needed to be the stars of my next book.

So I wrote a prequel featuring Marah and Noah in their younger years during their residencies. It essentially tells the “villain origin story” of Marah Maddox, wrapped up in a historical thriller about the inhumanity of physician training in the 1990s interwoven with the true-life history of the medical rationing of the first kidney dialysis in 1960s Seattle. Readers will get to see what exactly happened in the relationship between these two in the past…

‘The Algorithm Will See You Now” is your debut novel – congratulations on such a well written, riveting story! Were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Thank you so much! This will sound like hubris, but I had no idea how hard it was to write a book. I joke that if I had known, I would have never started. It surprised me how much I loved the process, even though it’s been (for me) a years-long process. I also discovered that I love story structure. Like, I can really geek out about it. I guess it’s because, for me, it’s the science of writing. It reminds me of music theory. How you can create and play music without consciously knowing anything about music theory, but once you learn that music actually has a, what you might say, essentially mathematical structure to it, you can take your music to another level. That’s what story structure is like for me.

If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why? 

Oh gosh, this is such a hard question. I haven’t done much in the way of international travel and would love to spend time anywhere outside the U.S., but if I had to pick right now, I think I’d say New Zealand. Any country whose people elected a leader like Jacinda Ardern is somewhere I’d like to visit.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Yes, I’m the biggest bookworm and have been since childhood. I read across genres but am especially partial to SFF when reading for fun. My recent favorite author is Naomi Alderman. I don’t know how I missed The Power when it came out a few years ago in book form, but I watched the first three episodes of the new series on Amazon Prime and immediately bought the book and binge-read it in less than a day. I’m now re-reading it again. The concept, and her writing, are both equally brilliant. I’m now the biggest stan of The Power and could go on and on, but I’ll stop myself.

I usually read in ebook form on my iPhone. When I went to medical school in my twenties, I had to stop reading books for some years because I was too busy. Then, when I was in my early thirties, and my kids were babies, none of them were good sleepers. I would be up late holding and rocking them and discovered I could read on my iPhone in the dark while doing this. Game-changer.

I was that kid with the flashlight under their blanket to stay up reading books when I was little (in the dark ages of the pre-screens era, lol), and now I’m the adult who stays up too late reading on their phone.

Is “The Algorithm Will See You Now ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. It’s available in ebook on Kindle and paperback on Amazon, and also paperback from your favorite online Indie bookstore vendors.

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?

I will be honest. I never dreamed of being an author when I was young. I was an avid reader, as I described above, and kind of had this notion that authors were magical people who existed in a different realm from the rest of us. I had set my sights on medicine from about twelve, and my twenties and thirties were devoted to my medical career. It was only after I burned out in my medical career that I discovered writing. It was quite a surprise to me to find out I had a creative side. I realize now I had suppressed that part of myself from a young age, as I didn’t think someone could do both, and I had only focused on nurturing the part of me that excelled in math and science. On a happy note, discovering my creative side also helped me recover from burnout.

When you are not writing, what do you do to relax? 

Oh gosh, relax, what’s that? I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. But in all seriousness, writing to me is my relaxation. It’s my creative outlet and helps keep balance in my life. But when I’m stuck on writing or need a break, I also crochet. And spending time with my family, even if it’s just hanging out watching a movie, that’s relaxing for me.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

My favorite shoes are ankle boots. I have them in a lot of different colors, especially black.

Boots or Shoes? 

Definitely ankle boots. They go with everything and are comfortable being on my feet at work.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Social media links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JL_Lycette

https://mindly.social/@JL_Lycette (Mastodon)

https://www.facebook.com/Author.JL.Lycette

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-lycette/

https://spoutible.com/JL_Lycette

website: https://jenniferlycette.com

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you Jennifer for an insightful interview – fabulous book, I really enjoyed it and thank you for introducing your book to me and got me reading a new genre by sending me your book to review ! I look forward to reading the prequel. It has been a privilege to be part of your book tour – thank you for inviting me 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of J L Lycette.

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Hope And Fortune Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the Hope And Fortune Book Tour with children’s author, Marissa Bañez.

BOOK SUMMARY

Hope and Fortune is a modern-day fairytale, featuring multicultural, multiracial (e.g., Filipina, African-American, Latina, Asian, Muslim, etc.), multigenerational, and multigender (including a boy) fairies of different shapes and sizes who help a sad little child who has lost her way to find her path.  Each fairy represents an ideal – Hope, Innocence and Wonder, Truth and Virtue, Generosity and Kindness, Strength and Courage, Respect and Dignity, Confidence, Imagination, Happiness, Beauty, Wisdom and Intelligence, and Love and Friendship. Although the protagonist is a little girl, the life advice given by the fairies is non-gender-specific and could resonate with anyone facing a difficult situation at any point in her/his/their life.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1685131174

ISBN-12: 978-1685131174

Print copy pages: 46 pages

Purchase a copy of Hope and Fortune on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

MY INTERVIEW WITH MARISSA BAÑEZ

Hi! My name is Marissa Bañez (pronounced Mar-ee-sa Ban-yez). I came from the Philippines in 1969.  I graduated from Princeton University and am a litigator with one of the largest law firms in the world, licensed to practice in New York, California, and New Jersey.  At almost 65 and after 40 years of being a lawyer, I’m embarking on a new life venture in my “Third Act” as a children’s illustrated book author with my first book, Hope and Fortune published on February 2, 2023.  My second book, entitled “Hues and Harmony (How the Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors)”, is scheduled to be published on July 20, 2023.

“Hope and Fortune”  is your first published book for children.  Who or what inspired you to start writing children’s stories?

My husband was 49 and I was 40 when we got married.  As we were both no-longer-young, I did not expect to have a child.  Yet, one night during our honeymoon, I had a wonderful, extremely vivid dream.  I still remember every detail to this day.  In the dream, I found myself in a beautiful, very colorful floral garden, feeling peaceful and happy.  Suddenly, singing, laughing, and dancing angels and cherubim surrounded and enveloped me into their midst.  Then, a dark-haired cherub kissed me on the lips.  I immediately woke up and, still very much feeling the cherub’s kiss on my lips, told my husband that we were going to have a baby.  Nine months later, my daughter Angelica was born.  

I wrote a book about that.  Whenever I read the story to my friends, everyone always got a bit teary-eyed in a good way . . . which led me to think that I might actually be able to write stories that positively affects people.

So, as my daughter grew up to be a little girl, I decided to write other original children’s stories for her and her friends and created puppet shows out of the stories.  I made stage scenery and puppet characters using foam board, painted bedsheets, paper bags, popsicle sticks, and just about any available useable household item.  The kids, their parents, and I always had great fun and, at the end of the day, what else should matter when you’re a kid? 

Did you base the fairy tale characters on yourself and people you’ve met in your life?  Which fairy did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which fairy was the hardest to portray?

Basis for the characters:

• The protagonist, Esperanza, is based on my daughter (who is the muse for all my stories).  In fact, my daughter’s middle name is Esperanza.

• The Fortune Fairy of Hope is my late Filipina mother.  The illustration is based on her actual picture from when she was young.  The fairy also represents the Philippines.  Apart from her physical coloring of slightly darker skin and black hair, the top of her outfit was drawn to evoke the terno, with the distinctive bell sleeves of the Philippine national dress.  Her skirt is meant to look like the typical red-and-black Igorot/Ifugao cloths worn by the indigenous peoples in and near Baguio City, where we lived in the Philippines.  Like Ifugao women, the Fortune Fairy of Hope wears multiple brass bangles, called giniling.

• The Fortune Fairy of Wisdom and Intelligence is a tongue-in-cheek reference to me as a Princeton graduate.  

Favorite fairy:

I love all the Fortune Fairies equally.  There isn’t one that I liked writing about more than the others because each one is different, special, and unique.  That applies equally to the illustrations. There isn’t a particular fairy illustration that I liked illustrating more than any other.  Because children’s illustrated books are usually limited to 1000-1500 words, I expressly curated my illustrations to supplement the text of Hope and Fortune and create a multi-layered story with deeper significance.  In writing and illustrating Hope and Fortune, I learned that numbers, colors, and animals represent or symbolize certain ideals and principles that dovetail nicely with what I wanted to say in the book.  I then incorporated a lot of that symbolism into each illustration to make the story as multifaceted as possible.  Of course, a reader doesn’t have to know (or even care about) all about the symbolism to enjoy the story or the illustrations; they’re there for others who may want a more meaningful experience with the book.

Hardest fairy to portray:

The fairy that was hardest to portray was the Fortune Fairy of Beauty.  I struggled for some time with how to represent the ideal of beauty with physical characteristics because beauty means different things to different people, cultures, genders, and races.  The concept of beauty defies a universal representation.  Then, I remembered a wonderful episode of Star Trek, about a race of aliens that were evolving from their corporeal states into beings of pure energy.  That made me think of energy as our spiritual essence or life-force.  To me, a beautiful spirit will always win over a gorgeous face with an ugly personality.  Thus, the Fortune Fairy of Beauty as a heart radiating positive and bright energy was born.  As she says: “Beauty is not what you see with your eyes but with your heart.”

 Where did your story idea spring from – your legal background or family background or somewhere else?

​For my daughter’s 7th birthday, I wanted to put on a show for her and her friends at her party.  She wanted a story about cowgirls, fairies, and her little stuffed horse.  She and I brainstormed a bit, and I came up with a story entitled, The Lost Foal.  This was the party invitation:

In The Lost Foal, the stuffed horse was the one that got lost in the forest and encountered “cowgirl fairies” played by my daughter and her guests, each of whom wore fairy wings and pink cowboy hats and gave the horse life advice to get it back on the right track.

​Fast forward 16 years later to the pandemic and lockdown in 2020.  I felt bad for my daughter, her peers and those younger, all of whom faced unprecedented uncertainties in life.  I then took The Lost Foal, modernized it with a diverse cast of characters, and created a message that I hope will resonate not only with the very young but also with those less so who may feel rudderless and lost (in however way you want to define and contextualize those terms) at some point in their lives.

Who wove their love of stories spell on you?

My formative years (until age 11) were spent in the Philippines.  We were poor.  I didn’t have the experience of having someone read stories to me at night.  My parents’ primary concern was the feeding and clothing of my nine siblings and me and ensuring that we received formal education.  The reading or telling of stories before bed was an unaffordable luxury. Plus, other than the books we used for study at the local public elementary school, we had no storybooks at home.  To the extent that we were fortunate enough to get anything to read for pleasure, they were in the form of comic books passed down and well-thumb through by my aunts and 8 older siblings.  Even after we came to the U.S., I don’t remember that I had any books just for pleasure reading at home that I would call mine.  If I was exposed to such books, they were from the school or maybe the library, although I don’t recall that we went to the library very much at all. 

Are you a bookworm?  What is your favorite genre and/or authors?  Kindle or actual books?

A very good friend from way back to the 3rd grade likes to tell the story when we once had an assignment in elementary school to create a “bookworm”, consisting of round pieces of paper onto each of which we had to write the title of book we’d read and then stapled them onto each other to create a worm. At the end of assignment period, I had a much longer worm than anyone else in the class.  (Again, I don’t specifically recall where I was able to get those books from except from the school or the library.)  So, yes, even back in my youth I was a bookwormand I continue to be one to this day. My current favorite genre is historical fiction, preferably with hitherto unsung female protagonists, such as those written by Paula McClain, Marie Benedict, and the duo, Audrey Blake.  However, I read all kinds of books – from frivolous “beach reads” to legal thrillers to non-fiction tomes – and don’t like to be pigeonholed.  I like to think that barring anything that requires a deep knowledge of things like super-technical scientific or mathematical equations, I could be persuaded to read any type of novel or story. As between Kindle and actual books, it bears noting that space is a consideration when living in New York City.  So, although I’m not adverse to physical books, necessity requires that I read only electronic versions these days.

 Is Hope and Fortune available to purchase worldwide?

​My publisher, Black Rose Writing, can ship Hope and Fortune pretty much anywhere in the world if ordered through its website:https://www.blackrosewriting.com/childrensmg/hopeandfortune?rq=Hope%20and%20Fortune

It is also available through the following online sites:

• Amazon

• Barnes & Noble 

• Barong Warehouse

• Thriftbooks

• Books a million

• Alibris

• Sandman Books

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author, or did you have other career aspirations?

If you define “career aspiration” as a fervent hope to be in a particular field for a particular reason, the honest answer is that I held no such ambition when I was young.  To be even more honest, good things came my way and I simply took advantage of them, which fortunately led me to a pretty good path in life.  I’ve been very lucky indeed.

Growing up in the rural part of the mountain provide of the Philippines and then in the poor section of downtown Los Angeles prior to college, the main goal was survival by being able to put one foot in front of the other from one day to the next.  Sure, the idea that one should grow up to do something to make money to eat was a given but dreaming about or visualizing something as lofty as a “career” or “profession” seemed far-fetched. To be an author was not even on my radar at any time.  That was just something so beyond what I perceived to be within the realm of possibilities – too fantastical and too idealistic – as to be nonexistent.

As for my legal career, I remember one of my sisters and I were watching a Miss Universe pageant sometime in the early 1970s and the contestant from Japan (if I remember correctly) said that she was or wanted to be a lawyer.  An Asian woman at that time said she was going to be a lawyer?  Mind blown! I recall my sister saying then that she too was going to be a lawyer.  Lo and behold, not only did she become a lawyer, she went on to become an administrative judge for the State of California.  I simply followed in her footsteps and went into law as well, mostly because I hadn’t considered anything else.  Perhaps more accurately, I didn’t know any better to consider anything else.  Medicine (either as a doctor or a nurse) was out of the question as I’m very bad at math and science.  But, it had worked out better than okay for the last 40 years as I moved from one good position to a better one along the way so I’m not complaining.

Only after being a lawyer for 40 years did I consider being a published illustrated children’s book author.  That opportunity came to me out of left field as well.  By happenstance, I learned a former colleague with whom I worked in the 1980s had published a novel.  Through the power of the internet, I contacted him to say congratulations.  During our message exchanges, I expressed my glimmer of a dream to published one of the children’s stories I wrote for my daughter several years ago.  Without knowing anything about my stories, he introduced me to his publisher.  I took a fateful leap by re-working and modernizing The Lost Foal and then took advantage of the introduction by immediately submitting it for consideration.

When not writing/telling stories, what hobbies/passions do you indulge in?

I’m a bit of a dilettante.  Among my hobbies/passions are traveling, reading, watching Korean dramas and Star Trek shows (not to the exclusion of other shows but those two types are my favorites), designing/sewing clothes, playing a little guitar (especially with my musically talented siblings – the Von Trapp family had nothing on us!), going out with friends to the theater, museums, restaurants, and the like, and just vegetating on the couch or in front of the computer.  In short, anything but housework. 

What outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Ah – fashion!  Now, you’re talking my true language so buckle up!!!

To me, fashion is a form of storytelling.  It is putting on different personas to fit the occasion, place, or other circumstance.  Depending on the circumstances, clothing can make you feel confident, powerful, beautiful, sexy, fun, slovenly, depressed, comfortable, etc.  Clothing is a very powerful tool in telling the world about yourself or how you want the world to perceive you.  So, for me, there is no such thing as what I’d “normally be found wearing.”  When I go to court or a business meeting, I carefully consider how I present myself.  As a small Asian woman representing big corporations, I need to be taken seriously and heard in a predominantly male and/or White environment where people actively compete to be heard the loudest and the longest.  So, I tend to wear clothing that telegraphs competence, confidence, and a certain sense of gravitas like a suit (either a skirt-and-jacket or pantsuit) or a prim but nice dress … and likely with some “kick-ass” shoes (no hose).  If it’s a more informal business setting, I’ll still dress appropriately but more casually, like slacks or skirts with tops or dresses in less somber colors or maybe even prints … and likely with some “kick-ass” shoes (no hose). I break out the fancy/shiny/glittery stuff when I go to a gala, ballet, philharmonic, opera, or a fancy theater for a live performance.  I have them so why not?  If I’m going to an event that others went to a lot of trouble putting together, I’d like to honor and respect that by dressing up.  And the atmosphere at any event becomes so much more festive when people take the time to look a little spiffier. For going out with friends?  I have some great casual outfits that need to be worn instead of just hanging forlornly in my closet.  I tend to have a more enjoyable time when I dress up in something fun and stylish.  It also tells my friends that they and our time together are special. 


I put my idea that clothes tell a story into practice as it relates directly to Hope and Fortune during a book reading last December.  I wanted to wear something evocative of the fanciful fairies in the book, preferably the Fortune Fairy of Hope to pay homage to my mom and to my country of origin.  As luck would have it, I found though online shopping a green bolero with the traditional Filipino bell-shaped sleeves with white floral embroidery – not unlike the top of the Fortune Fairy of Hope’s outfit!  (My initial thought was to wear a light green dress with it but it was a very cold day, so I switched to black pants, top and booties instead, highlighting the bolero.)  Many moms and kids complimented the outfit.  When some asked about it, I was able to launch into what the bolero represents and how it relates to the Fortune Fairy of Hope –which, of course, is exactly the type of curiosity that I want the book to generate.

​I also think carefully about what outfits to bring on vacation, dictated by where I’m going, what I’ll be doing there, who I’m likely to see and, of course, luggage space.  When I travel, I don’t like to just go to a beach.  I like to do, see, and experience many different things from the adventurous to the cultural (but always fun), so I try to make sure to have the right clothes for everything.

At home with just my family? I tend to be a slob dresser and even jeans feel dressed up.  Depending on the weather, I’m in sweats or shorts and a T-shirt that I likely got for free at some fundraiser or giveaway because I like being comfortable at home and . . . well, who cares?

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

​I do not shop according to the offerings of a certain shop or online site. I’m also not label- or designer-conscious because I have seen many designer outfits that wouldn’t look good on me.

Instead, I tend to visualize the design and color of an outfit or footwear I want.  I then try to find it in a physical shop or online, without any particular loyalty to any vendor, designer or label.  Sometimes, I get lucky. If not, c’est la vie, but maybe in my search, I see something else that I didn’t know beforehand I desperately needed. . .

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Right now, I have no desire for anything (and I certainly have no need for more clothes). If you’d asked me this about a month ago, I would’ve said I wanted something brocade or embroidered with intricate gold designs.  Why?  Because lately I’ve been watching Korean historical dramas in which the characters – females and males – wear beautiful and elaborate costumes inlaid with gold or silver designs.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to walk around wearing those hanboks (actually, I kind of do), if only because it would be impractical.  ​So, I searched around for something more modern but still reminiscent of those fabulous costumes.  I came upon a ¾-sleeve brocade topper (i.e., a long jacket that hits a couple of inches above the knee) with an upturned collar in a black background and different shades of gold paisley/curlicue design. Bonus – it has pockets!  Quite by accident, I also saw a pair of deep black pants with a gold embroidered paisley-type design on the outside part of the lower leg of the pants.  I’m shortening them to about an inch above my ankle bone to balance out the long jacket in a chic way.  Paired with some killer stilettos or fun mules and it’s a fabulous “dinner party-ready” look.

​When time permits or inspiration hits, I also like making my own clothes from scratch or re-purposing old or barely worn clothes to fit my current “clothes wishes.”  For example, a few weekends ago, I was looking through my closet and came upon a forgotten pair of cropped jeans that I’ve had for years but hardly ever worn.  I then rummaged through my sewing box and found some fancy ribbon trim and iridescent oblong Czech glass buttons.  Spent a couple of hours with a needle and thread . . . voilá – a new and cute pair of jeans!  They even go well with my new black-and-gold topper, giving a more casual spin to my wish for a modern take on the beautiful costumes on the Korean historical dramas I’ve been watching .Tip:  I like to remove and save beautiful buttons, lace, patches, ribbons and other decorative trims from old or outgrown clothes to sew on to other clothing for a personalized style.   

For Pinning Later

Boots or shoes?

​I have several pairs of both shoes and boots of different styles and colors, so my choice is dictated not so much by an inherent preference of one over the other (which I don’t have) but rather by what goes better with whatever outfit I decide to wear for the day.  That said, I’m a little obsessed with mules with kitten or cute/interesting heels right now.

 Links you’d like to share – e.g., website/facebook, etc.

Personal website:  https://www.marissabanez.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/marissa.banez.7

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/marissa-banez/

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thanks to Marissa for inviting me onto her book tour. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marissa Bañez.

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Spotlight On The Lumberjills

I recently received a copy of a new wartime saga called “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” by Joanna Foat to review. It is a well written, enjoyable novel about a group of girls from different backgrounds who joined the Women’s Timber Corps. What impressed me more is that this book is Joanna’s first work of fiction – and what a fabulous non stop page turning debut – but Joanna has written a non fiction book about The Lumberjills, has spoken to more than 60 former Lumberjills and has spent 10 years researching her subject. That’s amazing! So, I’m really pleased to welcome Joanna onto the blog….Hi Joanna!

Hi, my name is Joanna Foat. I am an author, speaker, environmental communications consultant and love adventures in the great outdoors.

The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” is your debut novel – a historical novel based on the Women’s Timber Corps, a mostly forgotten division of the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. What inspired you to write a novel? 

I remember the day I first heard about the Lumberjills when I was working for the Forestry Commission. I was sitting at my desk in a wooden hut at Alice Holt Forest looking out the window at the birds and passing deer, while researching stories about women in forestry. When the woman at the other end of the phone said there were thousands of women working in the forests felling trees with an axe and saw during wartime and they were called Lumberjills, a shiver ran through me. 

I thought, how come I’d never heard of them? I have to find out more about these women. I knew that only a few, if any, could still be alive. At that moment, I realisedI had to meet these women. Once I had tracked them down and heard their extraordinary stories, I just knew I wanted to write a book about them. I felt it was such an important story to tell about strong women. And if I didn’t, it would be forgotten forever. 

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written a non-fiction book about the Lumberjills also)? 

First, I absolutely loved doing all the research, travelling the country to meet those inspiring Lumberjills, visiting museums and trawling through archives. Discovering these wonderful pieces of history was just like a hugely rewarding treasure hunt. 

There was a big difference between writing the non-fiction and a novel. Non-fiction is like a collage of newspaper cuttings, old photos, letters and words from interviews. You find the best stories and curate them to create a big picture. 

Whereas fiction is like a broiling witches cauldron swirling with emotion, people and places. You have to make the fire first and then start adding all the ingredients, keep stirring, tasting, smelling and simmering for a long time and hope the magic spell works. It feels like a much more dynamic process and so I found writing a novel much harder.

I was terrified of writing dialogue to begin with. But that was because I hadn’t done enough character development. After spending a lot of time of getting to know my characters, I could tune into them quickly and now I can hear their voices speaking to me as I write.

I love the different characters in the story – feisty bohemian Keeva, the cockney East Ender Rosie and wealthy Beatrice were my personal favourites… do you have a favourite character? Which characters or storyline were the hardest to portray?

I had a lot of fun writing Beatrice, putting words into her mouth that made me wince or squeal with laughter. You can have a lot of fun making your characters misbehave. I want to have more mischief in my next novel.

I found Keeva the hardest to portray because she was such a moody teenager and I couldn’t get a lot back from her. She frustrated me. I even asked her once what she might do in a particular situation and she gave me a withering look and shouted at me, stop trying to put me in a box. She is so fiercely independent. I suppose I had my answer in one way. But I still felt none the wiser. I understand her more now.

Hypothetically speaking, if “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Keeva, Rosie and Beatrice? 

If ever there was a great comparable to what The Lumberjills film would be like. It is A League of Their Own. I love the great mix of female characters, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. Real women. Grubby, muddy and misbehaved. There’s plenty of unknown actresses out there who need a break – this could be for them. The Lumberjills acted out by rising stars. I love that idea.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

No. I didn’t really have aspirations as a child because I was so shy. Maybe I would have been a dancer. But I certainly wouldn’t have said that I wanted to sit still and write. Although I did write my first book age 10, which was 33 pages long and about a hard done by pigeon. I thought if I could get people to care about a pigeon, that would be really cool. I loved writing it but my older sister said it was rubbish.

Movement and sport are forms of self-expression and give me a sense of freedom and confidence. I discovered I wanted to write about that. I want to write how the Lumberjills muscles ached, what it felt like to cycle 20 miles before work and how strong they had to be felling trees all day long in the forest. My Dad bought me an axe for Christmas one year. So, I am sure, if I’d been alive in the 1940s, I would have jumped at the chance of joining the Women’s Timber Corps.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I wouldn’t call myself a bookworm, more of bookbird. I fly from book to book and sometimes don’t finish them. I love physical books with beautiful covers. A kindle doesn’t do it for me. I love the beauty of the myths and legends in Madeleine Miller and how nature thrums through every word in Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdad Sings.

Is “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, The Lumberjills is available worldwide and selling well in UK, US, Canada, Australia, and France.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I used to find myself on a muddy walk or doing the gardening in a heeled pair of boots and dress. So now I prefer wearing jeans, a green top and Converse. In fact,most of my clothes are Lumberjill green.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have been brought up on charity shops and loved hand me downs from my friends and family. I have a fascination with Anthropologie. But I’m more likely to buy from Depop.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A pair of beautiful leather hiking boots and some running leggings. I am tempted to buy myself some dungarees too, Lumberjills style. Oh, and can I add in a vintage axe accessory here too? ;0)

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Shoes seem too small and flimsy and most of mine are high heels. As a teenager I wore Doc Martins and some German Army boots I bought from an old Army Supplies store. I still have the latter over 30 years later. 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

www.thelumberjills.uk

fb. @thelumberjills.uk

insta and twitter @jofoat

It was brilliant to chat to you Joanna! I love trees too and I spent a happy childhood climbing up trees and making dens in the patch of Epping Forest close to my home in East London. I live in a rural village now surrounded by woods. I loved your novel – it was just pure escapism . Thank you Ben for the review copy of Joanna’s novel.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joanna Foat. (Pinterest photo by Linda Hobden).

Linda x

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Rebirth Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the Rebirth book tour! Rebirth, by author Kate Brenton, is an interesting book full of inspiring stories from people who dared to follow their dreams and born from the original Rebirth podcast.

BOOK SUMMARY

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.

Publisher: Inspirebytes Omni Media

ISBN-10: 1953445261

ISBN-13: 978-1953445261

ASIN: B0B3V3JQT7

Print length: 278 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Kate and welcome onto the blog….

Hello, I’m Kate. I am (now) an author, a teacher, a mama and holistic mentor.

What inspired the launch of the “Rebirth” – the  podcast and book?

The podcast started as a postpartum creativity project. I quickly fell in love with talking to amazing women about how they leaned in to their intuition at a difficult time and succeeded on their own terms. The podcast was tagged, “women saving lives by living their own.” During this time, not-so-coincidentally a colleague reached out to tell me she was starting a publishing company and wanted to sign me as a writer. I signed a contract and six months into deep writers block (which I mentioned to no one), I had my publisher on the podcast. She called the next day suggesting the podcast be the basis for the book and everything fell into place. 


Your book follows the inspirational journeys of people who were not afraid to follow a dream. Is there any famous person, alive or dead, you would love to interview for your podcast/book, if you had had the chance?  

Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer. I know it might not be what you expected, but I am not much into celebrities, but I am enamored with dogs. I remember ten years ago watching him dog train on TV and seeing that he was really reading energy and teaching people how to manage their energy through changing their behavior for their dog. I was so inspired by him, perhaps because of a cross-point of interests—consciousness and dogs. I later came across an interview with him, where he said a quote that has served me. I hadn’t followed him personally, so I didn’t know he had fallen on hard times (divorce and his show collapsed a bit, which led him to consider some difficult solutions). Anyway he said: It’s easy when you are succeeding, you really learn through your failures. I think talking with him would be fascinating.

What or who inspired you to become a writer and holistic mentor? 

I was born in love with books. I always had a book with me,  and I was scribbling since my first Peanuts journal, with Lucy on the front cover, with a lock. So writing has been an innate gift I have held and developed personally and professionally.  I also taught English for over 15 years in public and private sectors. 

My holistic mentorship came to be when I was living in Hawaii and apprenticed with an Hawaiian elder, Kumu Alva James Andrews. Through him, I learned holistic healing work,  and that the essence of all change is seeded in one’s mindset. So I work with clients and groups sharing the legacy of his wisdom to empower and uplift. 

“Rebirth” also has infused in it your personal experiences – did you find recollecting your experiences harder or easier to write down than to express them “on air” on a podcast?

So much harder. In fact, it wasn’t until the first draft of the manuscript was written that my publisher and beta readers all said I was missing from the book. It was much easier for me to put the spotlight on the strength of others. It wasn’t until I was structurally pushed to insert myself into the book, that I sat and a good deal of unraveling of story and perspective arose. I was surprised personally, and yet, that is what writing does. It asks us to broaden and alchemize our perspective. Thanks for asking; this was definitely my growth edge of the book.

Making courageous changes to one’s life path is not easy to do – what do you feel prevents a lot of people from being brave and making that leap?  

Believing in themselves. It sounds cliche, but if we are taught to identify and trust our inner voice it would not be so hard. But in this world we easily fall out of ourselves and into others—because we need community, or I really don’t have that all worked out, why do we all fall out of alignment—but what I DO know is that when we come back into alignment with ourselves (and our soul or Spirit will call us back, again and again, from whispers to yells) it gets easier to hear what is calling us forward. Now, that doesn’t make it easy to do all the time, but I think having a purpose grants us courage and clarity. Often we don’t know or believe we are worthy of what is calling, so it is hard to listen and leap. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your holistic work and the changes you made to follow your new path?

This is a much longer story which I will tell one day, but I’ll give you the highlights. I was (happily) an English teacher in Pennsylvania when I went to Hawaii the first time on a friend’s retreat half as an attendee, and half to help. So I saw a lot.  I was astounded. I had never seen life lived the way I did in Maui. Four months later, I arranged to be in Kauai for the whole summer. I taught and summered that way for two more years, until the pull to move got really strong. I quit my job and moved to Kauai. I thought I had work lined up (accepted an offer), a whole calamity of things dissolved, and after 9 months of living there, I surrendered and thought to move and get my teaching job back. I had given it my best, and nothing worked. I gave myself 3 months to do whatever I wanted to close this chapter. Within a month of that decision I was called into a training for Hawaiian lomilomi massage and began my apprenticeship with my Kumu (teacher) Alva Andrews, and I was offered a part time position at the community college. My whole life changed. I lived there for seven years, teaching and being taught. I left Hawaii when my teacher passed, to travel and teach for one year, intending to go back…but life had other plans. I have stayed connected and supportive of my Hawaiian o’hana (family) and those that I still work with. I continue sharing my holistic mentorship and healing work, while also working with mission-led authors to get their work out in the world in a cohort called Sit & Write. It is all the same really. I work with people’s stories.

For Pinning Later

Growing up, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Books, being outside and dogs. That was the younger years. Then I almost caved to being a business major in college, but my mother, bless her, told me only go study what I loved, and   I picked English  as my major, then later my masters in education. At my core, my whole life, throughout numerous industries, I am a teacher. I didn’t have a career aspiration, but I have always had the intention of being curious, and wanting to unpack what the world is doing.

Is your book, Rebirth, available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It is! Let me know how you enjoy it. 

Are you a bookworm?  If so, do you prefer “actual” books or kindle?  What genre(s) do you enjoy reading?

Absolute bookworm. Obsessed with actual books and bookstores. I normally have 1 – 3 going at a time. In my stack right now is: The Alphabet versus the Goddess, by Leonard Shlain;  Prayers of Honoring, by Pixie LIghthorse, and Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. I like to have a well written fiction and a philosophical text going at the same time.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Winter me is jeans and wool cowl necks with brown leather boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Madwell.com for clothes, thriftbooks.com for books and I love everything ever made here: https://www.aromabliss.com

Boots or Shoes?

I love this question. My first choice is alway Chaco flip flops. If I could wear flip flops all year long I would, I love to be as close to the Earth as possible.  But oddly enough, I go from flip flops to boots. I love good boots and have all kinds of styles.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc 

www.katebrenton.com

https://katebrenton.substack.com/p/making-versus-having

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebirth-real-life-stories-of-letting-go-and-letting/id1451833998?i=1000589257607

https://www.instagram.com/katembrenton/?hl=en

Twitter: @katebrenton

BOOK TOUR DATES

Lovely to chat with you Kate and I enjoyed reading the variety of stories featured in your book -all are definitely inspiring. I’m glad I share your love of bookstores!!! Thank you so much for the copy of Rebirth for reviewing purposes too.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Kate Brenton

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Chasing Tarzan Book Tour

Aaah Tarzan …. can you remember the strong handsome man who ruled the jungle and swung on vines? The one who made you feel safe – in your mind at any rate – in the wild and hostile environment of the jungle, fighting poachers and ferocious animals alike? I loved watching the Tarzan films as a young girl … like my blog guest, Catherine Forster, whose memoir “Chasing Tarzan” describes how the role of imagination and her fantasy Tarzan helped her to cope with the trials and tribulations growing up.

CHASING TARZAN – BOOK SUMMARY

In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.

As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.

Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to chat about Chasing Tarzan. I’m Catherine. I am an artist and filmmaker as well as a writer. I have three grown children and recently celebrated my twenty-seventh marriage anniversary. As the oldest daughter and second child of eight children, I was second-mom by the age of six. I have lived in several countries and many different towns in the United States. Today, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we are building a house on the South Sound––my biggest art installation yet!.

Chasing Tarzan” began life as a series of drawings and evolved into the written word;  what made you decide to write down your story? 

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather, an unfolding process. Initially, I created a picture journal with captions. I am dyslexic, not severely, but enough that words were not my friend. The idea of writing a book seemed pure folly, but words came to me, invading my thoughts and drawings. As my daughter was also the target of bullies, I elected to write private passages for her. These early writings became a series of short stories; the beginnings of a book.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly bullying can escalate, and about the role the imagination can play. What was it about Tarzan that helped you through your toughest moments? 

I had a crush on Tarzan. He was so handsome, so brave, so kind to Jane and the animals. Growing up, I never wanted to be the princess. So boring. Hanging on a vine, flying through the trees, riding a top and elephant, now that’s exciting. When the bullying started and no one intervened, I looked to Tarzan; he would help me when no one else would. Immersed in the jungle with Tarzan’s strong arms around me, I could handle anything.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected? 

I could fill a deep well with all the surprises. It took seven drafts to produce the book. The first four revisions were all about story; what exactly did I want to say, and how deep did I need to go (deeper than I ever thought possible). The last drafts were all about honing my writing, making the story cogent and accessible to readers.

Like many people, I’d buried much of my childhood, locked it in a box deep in my head. Unlocking that box was not easy. It was punishing to expose my powerlessness and my shame, especially considering how hard I’d fought to hide the impact of my tormentor’s cruelty. But the book would have been vapid had I not been unflinchingly honest. 

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through.  I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort you during the bullying episodes,  I was angry at your bullies, I sympathised when you realised you were carrying out your frustrations on your younger siblings, I was annoyed at your parents for not realising what was going wrong, I was elated when you secured a place on the exchange programme to New Zealand … phew!  Did you find writing your story and sketching therapeutic? 

It was restorative and at times, meditative, but always a struggle. When stuck, the story evading me, I turned to nature. I’d go for a walk in the woods, or kayak. Alone, with the hum of nature enfolding, was when some of the most troubling memories surfaced. It was safe––not unlike the jungle with Tarzan, but real––and I let go. A heightened awareness of nature and my surroundings has been one of the biggest benefits of writing the book.

One thing I did feel was how strange it must have been for you to go from your own family where you had a lot of responsibility heaped onto you and travelled to New Zealand where the “kiwi” family functioned in a different way.  How difficult was it to adjust to living in a different country with a different family dynamic? Coming back home, what habits from New Zealand did you retain?

I still have residue of the accent. I have a keen ear for accents and they don’t wear off easily. I have traveled extensively, including living for ten years in London. As a result, I occasionally utilize words and phrases not normally used in the US, or pronounce common words differently. My children find this quite humorous. And it all started in New Zealand.

New Zealand was shock to me. I was completely disoriented. Now I was the popular girl, but didn’t know how to be one and feared being exposed as a fake. My host parents were so different––and in my eyes, too prying. Why did they keep asking me questions, want to know what I was thinking, feeling, doing? No one had enquired about my day before, had asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” It was terrifying and aggravating. I had to learn how to have a conversation about me. I also had to learn how to be a different kind of sibling. In my real home, teasing was our way of showing affection; in NZ it was deemed abuse. In time, I would learn how to be present, how to enjoy simple things like sitting around a fire in the evening, everyone with a book in hand. 

What advice would you give to a young girl  in a similar position?

That is a good question. I wish I had a magic solution to eradicate bullying, but I don’t. Despite anti-bullying programs, bullying has only increased. What progress is made on the playground is quashed online, where everyone can now be the target. 

Studies show that if a bullied child knows they are not deserving of abuse, they are less likely to suffer the long-term effects of bullying (substance abuse, depression, poor relationships, suicide). I hope the book provides evidence to those suffering, that they do not deserve this treatment. They are survivors, victims of cruelty that has nothing to do with them. I believed my tormentors: there had to be something wrong with me (fat, ugly, stupid) or otherwise I would not have been targeted. I hope Chasing Tarzan demonstrates that the bullying is an untruth, devised to hurt. They do not warrant attention.

I advise young girls to seek comfort in positive voices; a teacher, a parent, a friend, a kind stranger. We tend to clench on the negative, the cruel words and events, repeating them over and over in our heads. Hold on to the positive comments––not likes on social media––but real words and moments. Seek out allies and be one, too. Know that there are actions you can take, other than self-medication, or becoming a bully too. It is tough, it is horrendous, it is exhausting, but you have power too. The power you possess will surprise you, just as it did me.

Since your foray to New Zealand, you have travelled quite extensively across 6 continents – Any favourite destinations?  What’s top of your bucket list?

Italy. I love the food, the countryside, the people, the language. I lived in Milano for six months. It wasn’t always easy. My language skills weren’t great, communicating at work and on the street was a challenge. I was lonely at first, but Italy embraced me. Peru is also up there as a favorite. A four-day unrelenting struggle up the Machu Picchu Trail taught me I possessed a resilience I never knew I had. Plus, the Andes Mountains are breathtaking. On the top of my bucket list: Bhutan

 Is “Chasing Tarzan” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. So far, I’ve received enthusiastic responses from readers in Iceland, Croatia, England, and New Zealand.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Ha! Right now, I am wearing boot-cut jeans and a navy sweater with stars embroidered on it. When I go outside, I’ll exchange my slippers for black suede boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t buy clothes, textiles, or shoes online. I like to touch and feel what I’m wearing. Same goes for items like furniture, though I will browse in person and then buy online. Currently, my husband and I are building a house, so house items are big on my mind. Favorite online shop at the moment: ETSY

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

New pair of running shoes. Jeans, if I can find a pair that doesn’t have those ridiculously high cut waistlines. So uncomfortable, yet I wore them ages ago. 

Boots or Shoes?

Sandals and comfy flats in summer, boots in winter––one for hiking, and one for ambling around town. In terms of boots or shoes around town: boots! They just seem more put together. With boots, a casual outfit magically becomes fashionable.  

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Website: https://catforster.com/

Website Tarzan page: https://catforster.com/chasing-tarzan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.forster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catforster/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DizzCatk

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you for chatting to me Catherine – I loved reading your book and thank you for allowing me to be part of your book tour!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Forster.

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Breaking Free

The words of the iconic Queen song – “I want to break free !” – must be the mantra of people around the world who suffer from chronic fatigue, long covid, anxiety, agoraphobia and other similar conditions. Orthodox medical approach to treating chronic fatigue CFS (which used to be called ME) has tended to be regarded as ”something you just need to learn to live with“. But, my guest this week, Jan Rothney, is on a mission to demonstrate that recovery is certainly possible and not to resign yourself to thinking nothing can be done. And Jan should know – she has lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years but went on a journey of learning and discovery, and has managed to achieve recovery status. She has just published her book, ”Breaking Free” to help fellow sufferers get on the road back to recovery. Let’s welcome Jan onto the blog …. Hi Jan!

Hello! I am Jan Rothney, author of the book “Breaking Free: A Guide to Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Long Covid” and creator of the online training programme “Reset to Thrive”, which complements the book and is a great visual aid to recovery, as well as showing people how to live life more healthily, whether or not they had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Long Covid fatigue symptoms. My background was working as a behaviour therapist, lecturing in health and social care and, after recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome myself and losing my job, I ran a clinic for recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome and related illnesses.

What made you decide to launch your book, “Breaking Free”?

I decided to launch the book because I was retiring from working as a practitioner and wanted to pass on all my information and expertise; being able to offer my expertise in an modestly-priced book meant recovery could be affordable for anyone. Also, during the pandemic I realised that so many symptoms of Long Covid are similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome. I believe my approach could also help those suffering from Long Covid too. Indeed, it is estimated that 25% of Long Covid patients will be diagnosed with CFS. 

Reading your book “Breaking Free”, I thought to myself that the guide to recovery after Long Covid and Chronic Fatigue could also be applied to a certain extent to deal with anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia too. What are your top tips to help sufferers get back on the road to recovery?

All the tools in the book are useful for other conditions but my own experience is that people with mental health issues also need support from a practitioner or therapist. However, the book is really useful for people who feel they are burning out – are “Tired All the Time”, struggling to keep going – and for those with fibromyalgia. 

My top tips would be to know it is a recoverable condition, to learn how to override the primitive survival system, to focus on where the body is working rather than when it isn’t, to relearn how to approach triggers or events that you used to take for granted (neutral events) and which now feel hard or threatening, and to massively celebrate successes, no matter how small. Crucially, the malfunctioning system needs to know you are safe, not by avoiding life but by approaching everything the right way and making the environment safe. Then it will rebalance itself and revert to the healthy functioning system, that lets your body heal, repair and thrive again.

After suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years, and being faced with the orthodox medical approach “to learn to live with the condition” – how and when did you realise that full recovery was indeed possible?

When I first had CFS I recovered on my own. I always assumed I would recover because I realised that my protective system had taken over to shut down my body. Fortunately I knew how to change that because of my background working with clients to rebalance this system. My GP was instrumental in my recovery because he always told me I would recover, no matter how many times I crashed and ended up back in bed for days or weeks. His faith gave me a lifeline when I was at my lowest points. 

This is why I was so shocked when I relapsed a few years later, and was referred to the new specialist CFS clinic, wherethe official line is “there is no cure or treatment, and you have to learn to manage the condition”. In fact, they wouldn’t put me forward for group support until I said, “I accept I will never recover”. 

In the book I explain how professionals’ beliefs about the condition and practise, have powerful influence on outcome and recovery, so I wrote the book as much for professionals as sufferers. Thankfully, I found a complementary practitioner who reminded me I can recover and got me back on track. Heading for a further relapse a few years later, I realised I had to change how I do life, in order to stop relapses forever and to stay healthy. Part Two of the book is about how to be completely healthy and symptom free. I do not manage the condition – I got rid of it many years ago. 

As you now run a CFS clinic and are a health & social care lecturer, what is it about your job that you enjoy most or which gives you the most satisfaction? What is the downside?

I absolutely loved my job as a practitioner, and previously as a lecturer because it is so rewarding to see people recover and achieve. The downside was that I didn’t have enough time to spend with my family and to care for my grandchildren, so I retired.  The book has been wonderful, as I get lovely comments from people on how much it has helped them. One email today said “your new book is absolutely brilliant; I’ve been reading at every opportunity and is going to be a massive help on its own – it is going to be my bible to recovery for a long time! Thank you.”

Is ME & CFS the same condition?

Yes. The term M.E (which stands for myalgicencephalomyelitis), was replaced by the term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) so, yes, they are the same condition but there is a lot of controversy in the M.E world about the new terminology and they still refer to it as M.E. However,myalgic encephalomyelitis literally means muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, typically due to acute viral infection, but there is no evidence of this so I use the term CFS and clarify that fatigue is not tiredness but the body shutting down.

Growing up, did you always want a “people related” or “health based” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I have known since I was 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to work with people and have been really lucky to do the two things I love best, teaching and being a practitioner for health and social care.

What are the common problems/symptoms that new patients ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Typical symptoms clients with chronic fatigue syndrome have are: flu like symptoms, unrefreshing sleep, aching muscles, sore throat, swollen glands, complete exhaustion, post exertion malaise, brain fog, difficulty with speech and social interaction, pumping heart, temperature fluctuations and hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light, taste or smell. Similar symptoms are exhibited with Long Covid as the body’s defence responses to an infection don’t turn off and people get stuck in the “sickness loop”. Clients with fibromyalgia typically have pain in specific joints and tender spots. People with Burnout or Tired All the Time often have complete exhaustion but not necessarily the sickness defence responses; however, they will often have signs that the body is struggling, such as IBS, skin rashes, susceptibility to infections, or sensitivity to foods and chemicals such as household products or make up. I teach clients how to break the survival system dominance and, instead, switch to the reset to thrive mode.

Is your book, “Breaking Free” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, the book is available worldwide from:

• The publisher, Arkbound: https://arkbound.com/product/breaking-free-by-jan-rothney/ – and they are offering a 20% discount for the next 6 months if you order through their website. To claim your 20% discount, use the code: BreakingFree2022.

• The Book Depository:https://www.bookdepository.com/Breaking-Free-Jan-Rothney/9781912092154

• Other internet booksellers, including Waterstones

• Bookshops – you can order the book at any good high street bookshop

• and as an ebook from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Chronic-Fatigue-Covid-Symptoms-ebook/dp/B09ZT6PJC9 ( please leave a review if downloading the ebook!).

Personal now – What outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I normally wear jeans, tops and cardigans or jumpers. When I run a clinic, I usually wear a smart dress. You can most often find me in walking boots or stilettos!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I am trying to be more environmentally conscious and buy ethically sourced materials, so I buy cashmere or linen and cotton clothes from www.purecollection.com, and tops from baukjen.com and www.bambooclothing.co.uk.  My latest jeans are Salsa Secret, although I need to check their fairtrade and environment rating.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Next on my list is sandals and a couple of thin strap linen tops from Pure Collection for summer.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. I love my walking boots as they fit like a glove and are great for walking the South West Coast Path or the beach with my dog. I also love Dubarry ankle boots and wear them all the time, unless it is summer. 

Links you would like to share:

Websites: www.resettothrive.co.uk and janrothney.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Breaking-Free-102627489024150

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reset_to_thrive_/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FreefromCfs

Thank you Jan for chatting to us today and I’m sure you’ve inspired many sufferers to strive for recovery. Thanks also for the copy of your book for reviewing purposes – I found it most interesting – good advice and workable goals.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jan Rothney.

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Living The Dream

Have you ever been on holiday overseas in some idyllic place and just wondered what it would be like to live there on a permanent basis? Have you casually looked in an estate agents window or looked online for properties overseas? I know I have when I visited Madeira a few years back and since then, every time I’ve visited the island, I do get the ”urge”. I enjoy watching the TV programme ”Down Under” – when people from the UK get the chance to experience Australia or New Zealand for a week – they check out the housing market, job market, the food bills, the downtime opportunities, schooling (if necessary), opinions from ex pats and lastly they watch, usually weepy, a video from loved ones and friends giving their opinions on the ”move”. The couple then make up their minds whether they still want to move or not. The follow up programme a year or so later discovers whether they took the plunge or not! So, it was with great interest to receive ”Living The Dream” to review – this book really is the true life, warts-n-all accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to live the dream including an eye opening account on how it feels to be a foreigner in England. This book is really essential reading for those aspiring to live abroad as well as for current expats. My guest this week is Carrie Frais, a British Broadcast journalist & PR consultant who has been living in Barcelona since 2006. She edited Living The Dream as well as contributed her story. Hi Carrie and welcome 😊

Hi! I am a British born TV and Radio journalist living in Cabrils, a pretty village about 20 minutes north of Barcelona. I am the founder of MumAbroad.com, an online resource for international families living in or relocating to Europe, FiG, a communications and creative agency and 4Voices, a platform to encourage public speaking among teenagers. I also host the podcasts ‘The Soundtrack to My Life’, ‘Notes OnLeadership’ and ‘Turo Talks’. I am married to Tom and have two teenage children Poppy & Bertie, Reggie the dog and cats Maggie and Wally.

Who or what inspired the compilation “Living TheDream” collection of true life accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to “Live The Dream”?

#LivingTheDream was written during the pandemic, when time stopped and some of us (like me) suffered from existential angst. I realised that I hadn’t come to terms with losing both my parents a few years earlier as I had been so caught up with work and family. I also hadn’t come to terms with the loss of my childhood home and what that meant to my sense of belonging and identity. I wanted to share these thoughts and emotions with others as well as the challenges of living abroad with (in my case) losing a parent very suddenly and losing another parent after a long, drawn-out illness. I started talking to other women living abroad about these issues and I soon realised that many of them had undergone their own challenges as expats – from issues with alcohol to rootlessness. It was then that I came up with the idea of creating an anthology depicting different stories from different women but all with the underlying issues of loneliness, loss and identity. 

Being an expat has always had its misconceptions – unfortunately a lot of people do think expats are always living the high life – alcohol, parties, sunshine, beaches … Your book highlighted the diversity of expat experiences of nine women in their 40s, 50s & 60s… and great tips from those expats as well as analysis and advice from psychologist Leigh Matthews (also an expat). After moving to Barcelona in 2006, what did you realise was your biggest misconception about life in Spain compared with the UK?

Prior to 2006, my (then boyfriend, now husband) and I had divided our time between London and Barcelona for work. When I fell pregnant in 2006 we made the decision that we would move permanently to Barcelona, but we were well aware of the challenges that lay ahead. Both of us had to give up our careers (I was working at the BBC and ITN as a presenter and my husband was working in sports marketing). We had to re-invent ourselves. That was a huge challenge, but not a misconception as such as we had come across others who had been through that process and we were well aware of the difficulties. I think for me, the biggest misconception was around motherhood. I imagined a Mediterranean country full of services offering help with the many challenges of being a new mother. As time went by, I realised that new mothers in Catalonia and the rest of Spain would normally pass the childcare onto their own mothers and fathers and there were very few public or private centres that could offer new mothers like me, with no extended family nearby, a helping hand. It was then that I came up with the idea of MumAbroad – with the idea of creating a resource that would help other mothers and working women in a European country that was not their own. 

Were there any aspects of moving to Spain that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

I’d already lived in Madrid during University and in Barcelona post University so that really was the underlying reason I wanted to move back to Spain in the first place – for its vibrancy, its outdoor lifestyle, its entrepreneurial spirit (in Barcelona at least) and its generally relaxed mode, especially towards work. The British used to laugh at the Spanish for their ‘mañana’ attitude. It’s not really like that – they just have a fantastic balance between work and leisure here, which I think if the British analysed further, they might be a little envious of. 

You are a founding member of “Bremain in Spain”, which campaigns to protect the rights of British Citizens living in Spain & Europe.  How has BREXIT influenced or changed expat life in Europe?  

It’s definitely made me feel less British and more European. When I first moved to Barcelona I felt that being British was almost a badge of honour. People respected the British, its strongeconomy and its progressive attitudes. Brexit was a huge shock to the Spanish. They could not understand why the British would not want other Europeans to come to live and work in the UK. I felt embarrassed by the result of the referendum. It didn`t reflect my values and I felt we all got tarnished by the same brush. Luckily I was able to get Irish citizenship and I now have an Irish (EU) passport as well as my British one!

Let’s be positive – what is your favourite thing about living in Barcelona?  

Having the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, exquisite architecture and incredible gastronomy all within touching distance. 

One question I really want to know is, as you are already living in a tourist destination, when planning a holiday do you go back to the country of your birth, do you explore another area in your new “adopted” country; or do you book a holiday in a country or place vastly different from where you live?

I used to go regularly back to the UK when my parents were around and then Covid hit and this year was the first year in three years I went back for an extended length of time. We went to Cornwall and it was fabulous! Normally we go on a tour between family and friends houses in and around London but this year we decided to give ourselves a break and indulge in a typical British family holiday. We were there during the heatwave (or one of them!) which was a little surreal on a British holiday but it was hugely enjoyable. If we are not going to the UK or somewhere in the north of Spain we usually head to Languedoc in France we have a cute little townhouse. 

Is “#LivingTheDream” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is – it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones as well as other well-known online stores.

You founded a fabulous website in 2008 called MumAbroad.com What inspired you to start this website?  In your opinion, what has been the most valuable resource the website has provided for expats and expats to be in Europe?

As I mentioned earlier, MumAbroad was initially started for selfish reasons – to help me with my journey navigating motherhood in a foreign country and then the site began to grow organically and we extended it to France, Italy and Germany. Initially the website was more a resource for new parents living abroad but as my own children and my business partner’s children have grown up, so has the website in that we now focus more on education, educational specialisms, child and adult therapy, relocation and on women and business. We aim to give a platform to mothers who want to get back into the workplace or have set up their own business after having taken time out of work when having a young family.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I made a promise to myself a year or so ago that I would only buy vintage, second hand or locally made clothes draw the line at underwear and sports gear though!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love the ‘Vide Greniers’ markets across the border in France which often have fabulous vintage clothes, there’s a local fashion market nearby called ‘Emocions’ which is held twice a year showcasing local designers and I love my nearest vintage shop ‘Carousel’ located in a vibrant coastal town called Vilassar de Mar. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

To find a couple of every day well fitted vintage jeans. I run a coworking space nearby and whereas before I could get away with just having a decent top for zoom calls, I now need to think about the whole outfit! 

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots. I love the clunkiness and comfiness of boots.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

For pinning later

Websites: www.carriefrais.co.uk

www.mumabroad.com and www.FiGBcn.com

https://www.4-voices.com  and www.mixcloud.com/carrie-frais

Facebook: @carrie.frais        Twitter: @carriechantall1

Instagram: @carrie_frais      LinkedIn: carrie-frais

#Living The Dream: Expat Life Stripped Bare 

edited by Carrie Frais is published by Springtime Books (paperback, RRP £10) and available through bookshops & internet booksellers.

Thank you Carrie for the chat, thank you for the chance to review “Living The Dream” – it was definitely an interesting read and highly recommended.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Carrie Frais apart from the Pinterest and header picture which are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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