All Posts Tagged With: "relationships"

HERE, HOME, HOPE by Kaira Rouda

A Conversation with Kaira Rouda

Here-Home-Hope

HERE, HOME, HOPE

Though I have not (yet) met Kaira face-to-face, we’ve spent much time online and on the telephone sharing ideas and thoughts on her nonfiction book, REAL YOU INCORPORATED, and encouraging women to find our gifts and talents and share with the world…Now, I feel fortunate to be able to offer a space for Kaira to talk about her first novel, HERE, HOME, HOPE. It has been a dream for Kaira to get her novels published and I’m so excited that the opportunity has come to fruition and this new chapter has begun for her. Kaira is a gifted writer with an unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit, and simply a beautiful individual, inside and out. HERE, HOME, HOPE is an evident expression of her essence and is an inspiring, and entertaining, read. I recommend it, and Kaira, highly and wish her all and ONLY the Best.

Carrie:  What inspired you to write HERE, HOME, HOPE?
Kaira:
The inspiration for HERE, HOME, HOPE wasn’t one particular instance, it’s more of a continuation of the stories found in all of my novels. This is the first to be published, but hopefully, one of many. My novels have the same underlying theme: Women who have seemingly perfect lives, and what happens behind closed doors or when they are pushed to the breaking point. HERE, HOME, HOPE was influenced by the economy, specifically the complete and utter collapse of the housing market and its ramifications even throughout up-scale suburban communities, like the fictitious Grandville of the book.

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Kaira:
My story ideas run around in my mind for quite some time before I start writing. Often, I have several different stories pulsing through and that gets to be confusing. But it’s fun.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot of HERE, HOME, HOPE without giving too much away.
Kaira:
Kelly Mills Johnson is restless. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors’ seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a
successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly’s own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife make-over plan. From page one, Kelly’s witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan—she places Post-it notes all over her house and car—will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will need to keep the tissue box handy, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career. Kaira-Rouda-headshot

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from HERE, HOME, HOPE?
Kaira:
If the grass looks greener ~ water your own.

Carrie:  What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
Kaira:
I really like the scenes with Melanie and Kelly – I hope they’re realistic. My house is filled with teenagers right now and it was really important for me to get their interactions right. My
daughter, who is Mel’s age in the book, read the manuscript to make sure I got her right.

Carrie:  What was the most difficult scene to write? Why?
Kaira:
I guess the toughest scenes for me to write are when my characters are suffering. So probably Kathryn leaving, Melanie’s low points, Kelly being attacked, Charlotte in pain.

Carrie:  Which character in HERE, HOME, HOPE, do you identify with the most in your book? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in the book? If so, while you were writing or only afterwards upon review?
Kaira:
I think there is a piece of me in all of my female characters. Sometimes, it’s more obvious to my friends and family than other times. I really like Kelly. She snorts when she laughs – and I
do that!

Carrie:  What are you reading right now?
Kaira:
I am a voracious readers, so if I answer that question today, I’ll be reading something different tomorrow. I’ve been a huge fan of Susan Isaacs for as long as I can remember, and I like to
think of my books, my themes, as heavily influenced by her. If you looked around my office right now, you’d see a world of books.

Carrie: What authors, books, or ideas have influenced your writing?
Kaira:
My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby mesmerized me from the first time I read it.

Carrie:  What is your go-to book–that one you’ve read more than once, possibly over-and-over?
Kaira:
A Gift from the Sea.

Carrie:  Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?
Kaira:
My husband and four kids are the most important part of my “real life.” Empowering women is another passion, or cause, in addition to writing.

Carrie:  Tell us something surprising about you and/or something very few people know about you.
Kaira:
My desk chair is an exercise ball.

Carrie:  What has been one of your biggest struggles and/or successes (professional/personal) and what have you learned from it?
Kaira:
Well, I don’t even know where to start with this. I’ve had a 25 year career in business, working for myself and others, so the struggles have been plenty. I write about many of those in my
nonfiction book, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. On the personal side, I have been truly blessed.

Carrie:  Have you ever had a nickname? Tell us about it.
Kaira:
Spaz. Yep, it’s true, that was my high school nickname. I would say that it’s true, I’m enthusiastic. I’ve always believed a smile confuses an approaching frown.

Carrie:  Who is your biggest fan?
Kaira:
My husband.

Carrie:  What was the best advice you’ve ever received—do you follow it?
Kaira:
Write down your feelings. And yes, I do.

Carrie:  What is your favorite literary turn-of-phrase / quote / word picture?
Kaira:
It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

Carrie:  What’s next for you ~ Anything else you’d like to offer?
Kaira:
If you like HERE, HOME, HOPE you’ll love IN THE MIRROR, coming next Spring.

Carrie:  How do readers get in touch with you?
Kaira:
Find me on Facebook at “Kaira Rouda Books;” on twitter: @KairaRouda; and on my website
www.KairaRouda.com where you’ll find additional information about the book, an excerpt and book club reading guide.

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THE OTHER LIFE, Ellen Meister

Other Life

A Conversation With
ELLEN MEISTER
Author of
THE OTHER LIFE

Carrie:  After The Smart One and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, THE OTHER LIFE is a real departure for you.  What inspired it?

Ellen: I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of escape. I guess that’s part of the job description for a fiction writer. I was thinking about that one day after my husband left for work and the children left for school. There I was, all by myself, waiting impatiently for my computer to boot up so I could lose myself in the world I had created, when I began to wonder what might happen if a wife and mother could use those magical hours alone to escape in a more literal sense. At once, I had the image of a portal right smack in the middle of the most domestic setting…an opening that would let the woman cross over to the life she would have had if she had chosen a very different path. The more I thought about this idea, the more excited I got. As details about my main character and her two lives emerged, a story began to form. But it wasn’t until it occurred to me that my protagonist’s mother was dead in one life and alive in the other that I knew I had a book.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE is about returning to the road not taken and exploring the life unlived.  Have you ever longed to see what happened on the other road?

Ellen: Haven’t we all? I think that’s human nature, especially in times of extreme stress. We play the “if only” game, imagining what might have been. What if I hadn’t gotten married? What if we hadn’t bought this house? What if we never had a child? What if I had been there to prevent that accident/suicide/awful mistake? Of course, it’s easy to condemn this line of thinking as counterproductive, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism. There’s only so much grief and anxiety our minds can hold before we need a mental vacation.

Carrie:  In this story Nan makes the ultimate sacrifice for a child, in this case her daughter, Quinn, and her grandchildren.  Do you think that kind of love is instinctual or learned?

Ellen: I think we’re hardwired to make sacrifices for our children. It’s the basest human instinct, and it gets switched on like a spotlight when we have our first child. I guess scientists can explain the chemistry of it, but from a personal perspective, falling in love with my first child was the most dramatically transformative moment of my life. I was flooded with something that seemed to alter my DNA, restructuring every cell. I was no longer just Ellen, I was Max’s mom, and I knew from that moment on every decision I made in life would be informed by that simple fact.

Carrie:  With Nan and Quinn, you brilliantly capture the mother-daughter relationship and the bond that hovers between boundless love and bruising tension.  Did you draw from personal experience?

Ellen: Thanks for that compliment! I can honestly say that my own even-tempered mother is nothing like Nan, but I’ve always been fascinated by the wrenching emotional turmoil of family relationships. I’m not sure there’s anything more interesting—or more human—than the ways in which we are tested by love.

Carrie:  As her daughter straddles parallel universes, Nan wonders whether having an escape route will help Quinn manage life’s difficulties with more grace, or instead taunt her with a decision no one should ever have to make.  Is it a blessing or a curse…or something else? Ellen Meister

Ellen: I love this question, because I think it gets to the heart of the book, and I hope readers will explore this issue themselves. What if their life included a portal to what might have been? Would they welcome the possibility to cross from one life to another? Or do they think they would be tortured by the endlessness of the choices they could make?Ellen Meister

Carrie:  In musing about her mother, Quinn observes: “Sometimes we don’t just simply grow and change.  Sometimes life is so harsh and so dark, a part of us gets excised completely, leaving us permanently altered.” It happened to Nan, but what is it about Quinn that keeps her from the same fate?

Ellen: Quinn lives very much outside of herself. She’s introspective, sure, but she’s a giver and feels like her place in the world (or, in her case, worlds) is to take care of others. She’s so acutely aware of being needed that it’s very nearly impossible for her to make the kind of choice her mother did in her darkest hour. To Quinn, suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE probes the choices we make in life.  Do you think there’s a way to avoid the second-guessing that often accompanies them?

Ellen: No, and I don’t think we should. That constant reexamination of our motives and choices is how we learn and grow. It’s like what Socrates said about the unexamined life.

Carrie:  Grief comes in many forms in this novel.  Are there lessons here for those stuck in grief?

Ellen: Grief is such a bear and so very personal. So I don’t know if there are any lessons here, but perhaps some comfort in taking the journey with someone finding her way through it.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE has been called “the thinking woman’s beach read” (NY Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson), making it perfect for a book club selection.  What feedback do you get from book clubs?

Ellen: From my experience, book clubs enjoy novels with fresh writing, complex characters and enough emotional resonance to leave readers with questions that feel very personal. Naturally, I hope THE OTHER LIFE is all those things … and I’m thrilled that the early feedback I’m getting from beta readers suggests that it is!

Carrie:  What genres (or authors) do you like to read?  Why?

Ellen: I don’t limit myself to any particular genre, but I’m definitely drawn to character-driven stories that take a hard look at human relationships. So a survey of my book shelf would probably reveal more literary and women’s fiction than anything else.

Carrie:  Modern women yearn for balance between work and family.  As a writer and mother of three, do you have any advice for them?

Ellen: For me, it’s a matter of priorities that boils down to a simple equation:  Family = first; Work = second; Housework = dead last.

Click HERE to listen to Ellen’s NPR interview

  • To enter to win a free copy of THE OTHER LIFE:
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Six Simple Truths to Fat Release, Nealon Hightower

A Candid Conversation with Nealon Hightower

SIX SIMPLE TRUTHS TO FAT RELEASE;
How I Let Go of More than 100 Pounds the Easy Way

Six Simple Truths

Carrie:  What inspired you to write Six Simple Truths to Fat Release?
Nealon:
Well, Inspired is definitely the right word. After years of fighting with my weight, winning sometimes only to end up losing even bigger, I came to a place of quiet desperation and I finally surrendered to the battle and let my heart guide me to find a permanent solution to my lifelong problem. I vowed to teach the gift to others if I could find the path.  I did and I am.

Carrie:  What are you reading right now?
Nealon:
I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Marianne Williamson’s new book,  A Course in Weight Loss. I feel as though she is going to hit on a lot of very relevant information, though I am still a little disappointed that she is still referring to the term “Weight Loss”.

Carrie:  What’s wrong with weight loss, didn’t you lose over 100lbs?
Nealon:
This is the major differentiation between my book and most others out there. I very strongly feel, no…I know that weight loss is not the most effective approach. You lose your keys, your job, your home, your dog but you

SEA ESCAPE, Lynne Griffin

SEA ESCAPE

Carrie’s Conversation with Lynne Griffin, Author of SEA ESCAPE

Carrie:  Without giving too much away, give us an idea about what SEA ESCAPE is about.

Lynne: SEA ESCAPE is a story inspired by my parents love letters; it’s about the ties that bind mothers and daughters. Laura Martinez is wedged in the middle place, grappling with her busy life as a nurse, wife, and devoted mom to Henry and Claire, when her estranged mother, Helen, suffers a devastating stroke. In a desperate attempt to lure her mother into choosing life, Laura goes to Sea Escape, the pristine beach home that Helen took refuge in when her carefully crafted life unraveled years ago, after the death of her beloved husband. Believing the beauty and sway of her father’s words have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother–a woman who once spoke the language of fabric; of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage–but who can’t or won’t speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.

Carrie:  What inspired you to write SEA ESCAPE?

Lynne: After my own mother passed away in 2000, I found love letters written to her by my father.  As I read,  I went so far as to imagine excerpts of my father’s beautiful writing shining within a novel I might someday write.  In those musings, SEA ESCAPE was born. The letters were then and are now a treasure. The love captured within, pure and sincere.  Yet to my storyteller’s heart, reading them then, I couldn’t help but think–not enough conflict, no secrets, no dramatic reveal. Certainly I didn’t want those things to come by way of my parents, but  right then I started imagining a different story belong to a different daughter. That story is SEA ESCAPE.

Carrie:  Is there an underlying theme of SEA ESCAPE?

Lynne: I’ve been a family life expert for more than twenty years, and there’s so much about my work counseling parents, observing children, and teaching educators about families that I use in writing fiction.  My desire to capture family life in authentic ways feeds the themes of all my novels.  There’s no shortage of seeds from my work that I use to inform my writing. Anton Chekhov called them little particulars. Right there in my everyday life are organic details that give genuineness to the stories I create. I’ve had my own grief work to do over the years; I lost my father when I was fifteen and my mother when I was forty.  As a professional who’s taught classes and counseled parents and children about healthy grieving, I’ve always been struck by the choices people make related to the loss of a loved one—the healthy and unhealthy ways grief work gets done.  So I write about the choices people make when faced with unbelievable pain. What really holds a marriage together when it’s tested. I examine the impact of loss on all kinds of relationships—mother, brother, sister, daughter, friend.  If they start off strong—or don’t—what happens? Why do some people thrive after a loss, finding true purpose, while others don’t come out of it stronger?

Carrie:  Which character do you identify with the most in SEA ESCAPE? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in SEA ESCAPE? If so, while you were writing or only afterwards upon review?

Lynne: I truly care about all my characters—in all their shades of humanity—yet the one I love the most is Helen.  Like my own mother did, Helen struggles with what’s called prolonged grief disorder, a specific kind of depression brought on by loss.  For some, grief refuses to follow the typical trajectory toward healing.  In my years as a grief counselor, I’ve met countless people who simply can not move through the grieving process.   I empathize with Helen, stuck in the past, gripped by the pain of loss.  I have enormous compassion for her because of what my mother experienced after the death of my father.  For this reason, SEA ESCAPE is a deeply personal and emotional novel for me.  Helen is a character I will be forever connected to.

Carrie:  What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing fiction?

Lynne: Close the door on the marketplace while you write. Writing to trends–trying to guess what readers want–isn’t for me. I feel an obligation to write for the story, to let the characters tell me about their lives. I believe if my story and characters are authentic, the novel will find its audience.

Carrie:  Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?Lynne griffin

Lynne: I live in a seaside town much like Anaskaket depicted in SEA ESCAPE.  I’m married to the most supportive husband a woman could have, and we have two college age children; a daughter studying vocal performance and music education, and a son studying jazz piano and music sound recording.  My family provides me  my greatest joy in life—and there’s a lot of music in my life too.  My husband and children support, encourage, and ground me in unbelievable ways. I am very blessed.  If I’m not spending time with them, or writing, I’m reading. The to-be-read piles of books in my home are an embarrassment of riches.

Carrie:  What authors, books, or ideas have influenced your writing?

Lynne: Everything I read influences my work.  If a novel isn’t working for me, I try to analyze from a craft perspective, why that’s the case. And if I love it, the same applies.  I want to know how and why it sings. There are so many novels on my keeper shelf, books I dip in to, to be inspired. Wally Lamb’s, The Hour I First Believed; Margot Livesey’s, Eva Moves the Furniture; Nicole Krauss’s, The History of Love.  I love everything by Ann Patchett, Sue Miller, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Novels I’ve recently read and adored include Day for Night by Frederick Reiken, and Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Just a Bit More About Lynne Griffin:

Lynne Griffin writes about family life. She is the author of, Sea Escape-A novel (Simon & Schuster, July 2010) Life Without Summer-A novel (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), and the nonfiction parenting title, Negotiation Generation (Penguin, 2007). Lynne teaches family studies at the graduate level and writing at Grub Street Writers in Boston.  She appears regularly on Boston’s Fox Morning News talking about family life issues.  Lynne writes for the blog, Family Life Stories.

**Click HERE to visit Lynne’s website

SEA ESCAPE Excerpt ~ Chapter 1

Letters are windows casting light, illuminating the ties between two people. I could’ve sneaked a peek inside my parents’ romance by reading his letters to her, but I respected my mother’s love of curtains. At forty-five, the details of their marriage remained a mystery to me; I had no desire to confirm what I already knew. Even dead, she loved him more than me. My mother spent her days drenched in memories of safe arms and sweet music, reading his precious words, faded ink on yellowed stationery. I looked for ghosts around corners, certain I was running out of time to find a way to be enough for her. An inability to live in the present was one thing we had in common.

“Are you okay in there, Mother?” Well aware she startled at loud noises, I knocked lightly on the door nearest the driveway. No answer. By the fourth rap, I couldn’t stop myself, I was pounding.

The first pinprick of worry jabbed me as I wondered if this was the day I’d find my mother dead in her double bed, cold, even though she was covered by her wedding quilt of interlocking green and pink floral circles. Juggling two grocery bags and reminding the kids to stop at the end of the boardwalk leading to Anaskaket Beach, I jiggled the lock, but she’d bolted and double-bolted the place as if Sea Escape sat on a main street in the city instead of on waterfront acreage south of Boston.

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SOMETIMES MINE, Martha Moody

Sometimes mineCarrie’s Conversation with Martha Moody

Carrie:  What inspired you to write SOMETIMES MINE?
Martha:
The germ of the story came from a book group discussion about my first novel, BEST FRIENDS.  Some women in the group were very distressed that the narrator, Clare, has an affair with her ex-husband.  There are a lot of bad things done by characters in that novel, and I was impressed at the particular anger Clare’s actions evoked.  I’m a physician, and I knew that two of my female patients were involved for years with married men.  I didn’t see these patients as evil, but as sad and isolated.  I thought, “Hmm, it would be a challenge to write about a mistress from her point of view.”

I also wanted to write about work.  Genie, the narrator of Sometimes Mine, is a cardiologist and her lover, Mick, is a college basketball coach.  Each of them is excellent at what they do, and each is defined and to some extent hidden by their role.  Their mutual appreciation of their distinctive work and talents helps bond them.  I’ve always liked this quote from the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer:  “With his work, as with a glove, a man feels the universe.”

The third impetus for the novel was a story my social work mother told me when I was a teenager, in the early 70’s.  One of her clients was a “maiden lady” who had lived all her life with another woman.  When the client’s friend got ill and then died, the client was treated by her friend’s family not as a spouse or grieving widow, but as a simple housemate.  This really magnified her loss.  That story haunted me for years as an example of the power of society’s norms.  In the book, when Mick moves into the realm of the sick, Genie has no defined role.

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you–Does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Martha:
I’m a slow perker.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot of SOMETIMES MINE without giving too much away.
Martha:
SOMETIMES MINE is the story of a long-term affair of a divorced female cardiologist, Genie Toledo, and a married college basketball coach, Mick Crabbe. It tells what happens when Mick gets seriously ill and Genie is forced to confront both Mick’s family and her own illusions.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from SOMETIMES MINE?
Martha:
SOMETIMES MINE is a love triangle between three very imperfect people.  You’d expect things to turn out badly, but in an odd way each person becomes heroic.  I’d like to think of the novel as a plea for accepting the complexity of people’s feelings and lives, and the surprising connections through which a person can gain strength.

Carrie:  What is your favorite scene in SOMETIMES MINE? Why?

Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever

Excerpt from Jennifer Weiner’s BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, Chapter 2 (from Simon and Schuster website)

Looking back, the knock on the door should have scared me. It should at least have come as a surprise. My house — the same one I grew up in — is set at the farthest curve of a culde- sac in Pleasant Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb of fourteen thousand souls with quiet streets, neatly kept lawns, and well-regarded public schools. There are rarely pedestrians or passersby on Crescent Drive. Most weeks, the only signs of life after ten p.m. are the flash of headlights on my bedroom wall on the nights that my next-door neighbor Mrs. Bass has her Shakespeare Society meeting. I live alone, and I’m generally asleep by ten-thirty. But even so. When I heard the knock, my heartbeat didn’t quicken; my palms did not sweat. At some level underneath conscious thought, a place down in my cells where, the scientists tell us, memories reside, I’d been waiting years for that knock, waiting for the feel of my feet moving across the floor and my hand on the cool brass knob.

I pulled open the door and felt my eyes get big and my breath catch in my chest. There was my old best friend, Valerie Adler, whom I hadn’t spoken to since I was seventeen and hadn’t seen in person since high school ended, standing underneath the porch light; Valerie with her heart-shaped face and Cupid’s-bow lips and lashes heavy and dark as moth’s wings. She stood with her hands clasped at her waist, as if in prayer. There was something dark staining the sleeve of her belted trench coat.

For a minute, we stood in the cold, in the cone of light, staring at each other, and the thought that rose to my mind had the warmth of sunshine and the sweet density of honey. My friend, I thought as I looked at Val. My friend has come back to me.

EASY ON THE EYES, Jane Porter

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EASY

Easy on the Eyes (from Jane’s Website)
At 38, Tiana Tomlinson has made it. America adores her as one of the anchors of America Tonight, a top-rated nightly entertainment and news program. But even with the trappings that come with her elite lifestyle, she feels empty. Tiana desperately misses her late husband Keith, who died several years before. And in a business that thrives on youth, Tiana is getting the message that her age is starting to show and certain measures must be taken if she wants to remain in the spotlight. It doesn’t help that at every turn she has to deal with her adversary—the devilishly handsome, plastic surgeon to the stars, Michael O’Sullivan. But a trip away from the Hollywood madness has consequences that could affect the rest of her life.

About Jane (from Jane’s Website)
Born in Visalia, California, I’m a small town girl at heart. I love central California’s golden foothills, oak trees, and the miles of farmland. In my mind, there’s nothing sweeter in the world than the heady fragrance of orange blossoms on a sultry summer night. As a little girl I spent hours on my bed, staring out the window, dreaming of far off places, fearless knights, and happy-ever-after endings. In my imagination I was never the geeky bookworm with the thick coke-bottle glasses, but a princess, a magical fairy, a Joan-of-Arc crusader. My parents fed my imagination by taking our family to Europe for a year when I was thirteen. The year away changed me (I wasn’t a geek for once!) and overseas I discovered a huge and wonderful world with different cultures and customs. I loved everything about Europe, but felt especially passionate about Italy and those gorgeous Italian men (no wonder my very first Presents hero was Italian). I confess, after that incredible year in Europe, the travel bug bit, and bit hard. I spent much of my high school and college years abroad, studying in South Africa, Japan and Ireland. South Africa remains a country of my heart, the people, the land and politics complex and heart-wrenching. After my years of traveling and studying I had to settle down and earn a living. With my Bachelors degree from UCLA in American Studies, a program that combines American literature and American history, I’ve worked in sales and marketing, as well as a director of a non-profit foundation. Later I earned my Masters in Writing from the University of San Francisco and taught jr. high and high school English. I now live in rugged Seattle, Washington with my two young sons. I never mind a rainy day, either, because that’s when I sit at my desk and write stories about far-away places, fascinating people, and most importantly of all, love. I like a story with a happy ending. We all do.

The Shack, William P. Young (Bonus: Jeff Shephard Band’s Song, Traffic Lights)

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  • Deadline – February 15th, 2009 (midnight EST)
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“I truly believe we are as sick as the secrets we keep,” shares Paul.

“It’s all about relationship, not religion”

ShackDescription (Amazon):
Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

Some of Paul’s “future tripping” blog post ~ a term now part of my common vernacular among friends:
A couple of years ago, I decided to stop ‘future tripping’.  ‘Future Tripping’ is ‘taking thought for tomorrow’, it is creating imaginations of what is going to happen and then actually take a mental and emotional trip to live there for a bit.  It is ‘what am I going to do if _________ (fill in the blank), what am I going to say if __________, what would our family go through if _____________.  I confess to you that I have experienced many un-realities and their attendant emotions this way.  Paul

I have repeatedly suffered huge financial losses, ended up living under one of the city bridges, been abandoned by my family, suffered the loss of each of my children, had my closest friends turn out to be villains, embarrassed myself in public, was put on the spot and said something stupid, been to my own funeral (more than once), unsuccessfully tried to stop something horrible from happening, failed repeatedly to live up to somebody’s expectations, been horribly maimed in every kind of imaginable accident known to man, lost all my teeth, lost every job I ever had, came down with every disease possible, regularly looked like an idiot, got my lights punched out for no reason, explained my driving to a police officer, lost my friends, went to school and found out I wasn’t wearing anything, got mugged, imagined the situation that I currently was in was permanent…that nothing could ever or would ever change…

…you get the idea.  I have written volumes of imaginations in my own head, things that have no substance, no reality, and are empty, vain imaginations.  But I treat them as if they are real.  I feel all kinds of terrifying and horrible emotions, and scramble to control my life so that these imaginations won’t actually come to pass.  THESE IMAGINATIONS ARE NOT REAL!!!!  But I had spent most of my life in or around them.  GOD DOES NOT DWELL IN ANYTHING THAT IS NOT REAL!!!  In these imaginations, Papa is conspicuously absent.  Why?  Because Papa has no interest in living inside something that isn’t even real to begin with.  So in my ‘vain’ empty imaginations, I am the only ‘god’ there is.  I have to fix things, make sure things turn out right, try to get a handle on people and events…and frankly, I do a very poor job of it…this playing god thing.  So, my life tended to be gripped by fear and I worked hard to get some ‘control’ to prevent these imaginations that I feared.  I had a habit of treating something that had no reality or substance as if it were truly real.

A couple years ago I stopped this insanity.  And here is what I discovered.  JOY has a name (for more…visit Paul’s wonderful blog website).

Jeff Shephard Band ~ Visit the website and hear Traffic Lights and the rest of the band’s repetoire for Free ~ add it to your Myspace profile.

Links:


The Pirate’s Daughter, Margaret Cezair-Thompson

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“Back in America, little was known of my life in Jamaica,” wrote Errol Flynn

I had the privilege of meeting and cruising with the Manic Mommies back in November. One of the lovely mommies, Kim Erskine, organized an on-ship book club and we all met up in the library one afternoon to chat about The Pirate’s Daughter. It was the perfect backdrop to talk about a book set in the tropics. The conversation was thought-provoking and as with most book clubs, impressions were introduced that weren’t previously considered. Some of the questions our group had about the book went unanswered, so it was wonderful to pose them directly to the woman who penned the words. I contacted The Pirate’s Daughter author, Margaret Cezair-Thompson and asked her to speak with me about her book.

Listen in as Margaret speaks so eloquently about her book and the Caribbean island nation she adores so much. She is a gifted storyteller and simply a delightful person.

PirateThen, join the conversation & be entered to win a FREE copy of The Pirate’s Daughter by:

  • Leaving a comment below and/or

  • Calling 206-309-7318 and sharing your impressions of the book or this interview–something I can play on-air

  • Deadline February 15th, 2009, EST

  • No P.O. Boxes Please

  • U.S. & Canada residents only

Unbridled Books Description:

In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler shored up on the coast of Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940’s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger teenaged girls. Based on those years, The Pirate’s Daughter is the story of Ida, a local girl who has an affair with Flynn that produces a daughter, May, who meets her father but once. Margaret

Spanning two generations of women whose destinies become inextricably linked with the matinee idol’s, this lively novel tells the provocative history of a vanished era, of uncommon kinships, compelling attachments, betrayal and atonement in a paradisal, tropical setting. As adept with Jamaican vernacular as she is at revealing the internal machinations of a fading and bloated matinee idol, Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves a saga of a mother and daughter finding their way in a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of independence. 

A wonderful book review excerpt from BookingMama:
THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER by Margaret Cezair-Thompson has been on my radar for over a year now so I was very excited when one of my book club members selected it for our December meeting. News about this book just kept popping up everywhere, and all of the buzz was so good. I think it was only a matter of time before I picked it up.

I first heard about this novel when Unbridled Books released it last fall. The book’s description sounded very interesting to me. Then, it started receiving some big-time praise including including the #1 October 2007 Book Sense Pick as well as 2008 Essence Magazine Literary Award for Fiction. In August, the trade paperback version of THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER was released by Random House with a bright, gorgeous cover. And just a few months ago, Celestial Seasonings’ Adventure at Every Turn selected it as one of their book club picks. I am just so glad that someone finally selected it for us to discuss.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I began reading THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER, but I have to say that the book was a little different than I thought it would be. While I knew that the story was about a young Jamaican girl, Ida, who falls in love with Errol Flynn, I didn’t know that the book also included a lot of historical information about Jamaica. Having known absolutely nothing about Jamaica and their struggle for independence in the 1970s, I thought it was very interesting. The author did a tremendous job of incorporating the history with the characters in this novel.

I had always known that Errol Flynn was a unique figure to say the least, but I had no idea how much trouble this man could cause. I found him to be extremely distasteful — he seemed to prefer under-age girls and lots of alcohol; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of him and his actions — these scenes were excellent. He must have been such a charismatic figure because men and women alike wanted to be in his presence (although to me he just seemed disgusting.) I found it so sad that Ida fell in love with him (or the idea of him) and ended up sacrificing her entire life because of her feelings. For More . . . 

Margaret’s Suggested Reading:

  • Mister Pipp, by Lloyd Jones “I love and highly recommend,” says Margaret

Margaret’s favorite author (when forced to pick ONLY one!):

Links:

The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum, Micheal Lane

Micheal has been so very gracious to offer FIVE copies of his wonderful book, The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum for our giveaway contest.

 To Enter to WIN:

  • Simply Leave a Comment Below

  • Deadline January 30th, 2009 midnight, EST

  • US and Canada addresses only, please

  • As always, you must be subscribed to my e-newsletter to be informed of winning names

The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum ~ An old New Orleans jazz musician and a secret that will harmonize your life, The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum blends memoirs and inspirational writing with a spicy mix of New Orleans jazz, cuisine, and history. It is a story about relationships, self-discovery, finding balance, setting priorities, and finding the courage to change.

Perfect for Starting a New Year!

Yawdy Rum

YAWDY’S WISDOM (excerpt) ~ The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum shares concepts from easy-to-understand music theory and common-sense thinking to illustrate seven basic principles that can teach anyone, in any situation, how to harness the power of paying attention.

I.    LARGO ~ Slow down so you can pay attention.
II.   D.C. AL FINE ~ Go back to the beginning. Play it through in your mind. THINK.
III.  DYNAMICS & TEMPO ~ Pay attention to your senses.
IV.  THE SCORE ~  Write out a description of a successful outcome.
V.   REPEAT ~ Repeat goal centered actions and behaviors.
VI.  REST ~  Take time to rest.
VII. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF ~ and don’t hesitate to ask the Band-leader for help.

Carrie’s Conversation with Micheal Lane:

Carrie: Why did you write The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum?
Micheal:
 I’ve had a goal for many years to write and speak professionally. And I simply came to a point in my life where I realized if I was going to achieve that goal, I needed to take action. For years I’ve been a great fan of authors like Og Mandino, Richard Bach, and Mitch Albom. I think simple, motivational stories move us at a deep level; staying with us and providing critical guidance. I decided to write a story in that same fashion. 

Carrie: What is The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum about?
Micheal:
  The Wisdom of Yawdy Rum is about traditional New Orleans jazz, corporate politics, and hurricanes — both real and emotional. A senior marketing executive meets Yawdy Rum, an old New Orleans jazzman who turns out to be a sage. The story focuses on their friendship and the wisdom Yawdy has acquired through his life as a musician, and on the danger facing New Orleans from the threat of a gulf hurricane. The story offers insights into the life of a successful executive wrestling with the demands of corporate politics, an exhausting travel schedule, and the challenge of balancing work with the needs of a family trying to raise an autistic child.Lane

Carrie: Where did you find your inspiration?
Micheal:
 In Feb. 2005, I was walking back to my hotel in New Orleans after a late-night business meeting. I stopped under the awning of Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo shop on Saint Peter Street in the French Quarter. Historic Preservation Hall stood directly across the street from me. I could hear the beat of the traditional New Orleans jazz radiating from the building. Standing there, staring through the drizzle at the weathered old facade, I suddenly felt the presence of an old jazzman. His energy, his grace, and his wisdom were almost palpable and I instantly felt a connection between my personal situation and the lessons that I could potentially learn from someone who had the kind of life experience as this imaginary jazzman. Out of this, I created the fictional character Yawdy Rum to convey a message of wisdom and hope in the face of change. 

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    Carrie created Words-to-Mouth—a blog & companion Internet talk show introducing new book releases and their authors to a community interested in excellent writing that may not  necessarily top the New York Times Bestseller List—Yet! To learn more about Carrie, click here