postheadericon Book Spotlight: Rise by D.U. Okonkwo



Author: D.U. Okonkwo

Publisher: A Few Words Press

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Pages: 292

ISBN:   978-0993161711 (Paperback) /  978-0993161704 (eBook)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: eBook (.mobi / Kindle), ePub, PDF

Buy The Book:




The extraordinary story of how a facially-scarred and reclusive sculptress breaks free upon discovering the true source of self-esteem.

Riana “Ria” Ofor is a gifted sculptress whose beautiful creations could draw crowds. But due to the childhood accident that left her facially-scarred, she avoids selling her work publicly, instead scraping a living through online sales. But when a home repossession notice arrives, both her love for sculpting, a well as her home, suddenly come under threat.

Now she is forced to step out of her comfort zone and enter the very public world of gallery showings. When she does land a gallery contract however, she finds herself the target of a rival artist after the very same contract. And with malicious lies, he intends make her regret taking what should have been his. Now, for the first time, Ria must look to find a truth that conquers all lies.
Book Excerpt:


Ria appreciated the beauty of the headless female sculpture standing before her. A sculpture without its head has its own particular beauty. Strong sculpted legs, intricately crafted torso and powerful shoulders; the beauty of creation.

She squatted in front of the sculpture and ran a slender hand over its flanks. The modeling clay she had chosen had done its job; its durability ensuring the legs of the sculpture came out strong and smooth, the hips gently curved. Six weeks into the making, this piece would be larger than any piece she had previously sculpted, and certainly more challenging.

Here in her art studio which spanned the basement of her small house in London’s Bermondsey, clay statues of ancient kings and queens graced the long wooden shelves resting against the studio’s ivory walls. A small sink sat at the far end against the wall beside her large white storage cupboard, and two years ago she had bought a two-seater sofa and tucked it in the far left corner. Her small stereo, which she only put on when sketching, rested on a table beside it.

Time to begin its head, she decided, and her firm full lips curved into a smile of anticipation. Creating the head was her favorite part. If the legs, shoulders and torso possessed their own particular beauty, then how she created the sculpture’s eyes, slanted its mouth, and molded the chin brought out not just beauty, but the sculpture’s personality.

Ria got to her feet. A slim young woman with close cropped tightly curled black hair; she had a delicate oval face with a beautiful dark chocolate complexion that the faded pink burn scars that ran from the apples of her cheekbones to her collarbone couldn’t mar.

She reached for her apron and tied it around the long-sleeved white t-shirt and soft faded blue jeans she’d pulled on that morning. Sculpting was arduous and messy work, but for her, one of the perks of being a full-time sculptress was that she went to work in her most comfortable clothes.

She moved to where the armature waited atop the worktable. Shaped like an egg, an armature’s rigid metal framework ensured effective structuring of a sculpture’s head.

Collecting an armful of old newspapers from the white storage cupboard in the corner she rolled them into balls then began to fill the armature with them. Once thoroughly packed she secured it in place with a small plastic bag. Next the clay. She took a moment to relish the solid yet light weight in her hand. Then, detail by detail, piece by piece, she began adding more and more clay to the stuffed plastic bag, melding and smoothing it against the bag’s slippery surface. She hummed as she worked; following the measurements she had set out when the idea had first flown into her mind. Her deft and skilful fingers, armed with her trusted sculpting chisel, manipulated the clay.

The sharp slap of the letterbox upstairs stopped her. She stretched her arms high over her head, working out the stiffness in her shoulders caused from bending over the armature. After cleaning her hands she left the studio, heading up the pink carpeted stairs to the ground floor.

She plucked the white envelope lying on the doormat. June sunlight shone through the glass panel in the front door, and the click of women’s heels sounded on the pavement outside as they made their way to work. Once the morning rush was over and it was quiet outside she’d go for her daily morning walk and think over the next steps to completing the sculpture.

Breaking the seal of the envelope, she pulled out the letter.

Dear Ms. Ofor,

Account No: 17032007-55GM    Property: 55 Garden Mews

Please be informed that payment due on the above-referenced account

has not been met.

We have made several unsuccessful attempts to contact you.

Our records show that your account is in arrears of £11,509.

Please make arrangements to clear the outstanding amount within 28 days or the

case will be escalated to our solicitors, whereupon they may be forced to take legal

action, resulting in the repossession of the property.

If you have since made arrangements to clear the aforementioned amount, please

ignore this letter.

Ria’s stomach dropped somewhere below ground level, and the noose of the repossession notice, the one she had tried to loosen over the last six months, only tightened further around her neck, almost choking her.

She had failed.

The knowledge brought a bitter and sour taste to her mouth, salty tears to her cheeks. She had tried everything to sell her art; special offers, first buyer discounts. Everything except what you really should, she acknowledged silently, and squeezed her eyes shut. The scars have faded, she reminded herself. They’re not as disfiguring as they once were. No one will stare if you go out; no one will point or grimace. 

Face damp with tears she’d been unable to keep at bay, she looked around desperately. Her heart pounded. How would she sculpt? Where would she sculpt?

She groped her way back down to the studio, went to the storage cupboard, and then pulled out the lowest drawer. The pile of threatening letters she had received over the last nine months stared up at her like hungry wolves. A shudder raked through her.

She needed to be strong and think, she told herself. Wiping her eyes she moved to the teak filing cabinet beside the storage cupboard and placed the letter atop it, then on a deep breath then opened the bottom drawer. Art magazines and industry journals were stacked neatly inside. Please, she begged silently as she rifled through the drawer. Please still be here.

Her trembling fingers hit a cool glossy cover. Sculpting Magazine – last month’s issue. She held it to her chest for a moment, closed her eyes and attempted to steady her racing heart. Then, opening it, she flipped through page after page until she found what she was looking for: the monthly snapshot of an art agent. This issue profiled Meg Fuller, president of a boutique art agency called The Art Room. As an art agent, Meg Fuller placed artists with art galleries throughout London.

Only in Ria’s most private moments did she allow herself to imagine what it would be like to be a commercially successful artist. Then she thought of people’s stares, comments, the rejection, and she shrank into herself.

Now she looked up at the portrait of her deceased Uncle Jonas that took pride of place on the wall. After she had graduated from Rayners Art Academy six years ago he had helped arrange the financing on the flat. Located in Island Gardens, the Docklands area of East London, she had loved the small compact house on first sight.

“You helped me buy this place,” she whispered to his smiling face, still holding the art magazine. “You encouraged my love of art. You started me on this journey.”

He had introduced her to art at age ten. A successful surgeon, he had children of his own, and had therefore spent a lot of time with her and her older brother Dominic One afternoon, he had taken her and her and her brother Dominic to visit the Canbury art gallery in central London. Stepping into that gallery had been like stepping into a warm, enveloping cloud. Light poured in from the huge wall-to-wall windows, paintings graced the white walls, and eclectic sculptures stood atop tall pedestals. Uncle Jonas spoke with the other gallery visitors about the displays, all of them speaking in awed whispers and hushed tones as they studied the different artwork. Dom had been bored though. Ria smiled at the memory of him impatiently hopping from one foot to the other; desperate to leave and see the car exhibition that Uncle Jonas had promised him they’d visit afterwards.

She had not been bored, but enthralled. Uncle Jonas had asked a member of the gallery staff to answer her questions and for the next half an hour she had learned about the process of bronze sculpting. After that day she had focused more attention on her art class at school and throughout college. Her father had been dismissive of it from the start. His blunt ‘Most artists can’t afford to feed themselves,’ had only added strain to their already fractured relationship.

And now, standing in her studio years later, her father’s words now kept going around her mind. But he was wrong, she decided. And she could prove him wrong. She looked across the room at her sculpture, then at the many other smaller pieces resting on the studio shelves on the walls. “I can fix this.” Her eyes narrowed on the sculpture again. “I have to.” With her free hand she pulled her phone from her handbag beside the worktable and looked down at the art agency’s number again, and then dialed it.

A young woman answered on the second ring. “Good morning, The Art Room; Layla speaking.”

“Hello.” Be confident, Ria ordered herself, and sought to make her usual low calm voice strident. “Can I speak to Meg Fuller please?”

“Who can I say is calling?”

Ria drew a fortifying breath. “Ria Ofor.”

“Just a second.”

A moment later a different female voice spoke. “Ria Ofor?”

This was it. Throat tight with both fear and anxiety, Ria swallowed and then answered. “Yes.”

“This is Meg Fuller. I recognize your name, Ria.” The agent’s warm and enthusiastic voice eased Ria’s nerves a little. “I’ve seen several of your pieces on The Platform website but have never been able to find contact details for you. Are you calling for possible representation?”

“Yes I–” Ria had to blink back the image of the bank letter that threatened to shadow her vision. “Yes.” She cleared her throat and aimed to speak more firmly in an effort to exude confidence. “I’ve been working on a new piece for several weeks. I think it may be of commercial interest.” “I see. You have an up-to-date portfolio?”

“I do yes.”

“Good. Why don’t we set a date for you to come and meet me tomorrow afternoon? We’re in Covent Garden.”

Alarm speared through Ria. “M-meet? You mean…face-to-face?”

“That’s right.”

Ria’s hand grew clammy on the phone. “Can we…can we perhaps negotiate something over the phone…I mean instead of meeting? Maybe…maybe I can email you photos of some of my pieces?”  Please say yes.

“I’m afraid not. I always meet any new potential client face-to-face.”

Ria squeezed her eyes shut briefly.  How could she reveal her reasons for not wanting to meet face-to-face? She lifted her hand to her face, but caught herself at the last second and clenched her hands into fists.

Over eleven thousand pounds needed to be paid. She had to do what was necessary. She hoped that for once the chips fell in her favor. She drew a deep breath. “I’ll be there, Meg.”


Covent Garden was the heart of London’s tourist district. Its cobbled streets attested to it being one of the oldest places in the city, and its bustling market, lively street performers and boutique designer shops drew both tourists and Londoners alike. It had been years since she had been here, Ria mused as she exited its tube station. A row of rickshaws lined the pavement just outside. Some riders bargained with enchanted tourists over hire rates while others sat back to take a rest between rides. Taking a right outside of the station Ria headed towards the main square. This place still possessed so much energy and vibrancy, she admitted. She wouldn’t admit she had missed both.

“My balloon!”  a young boy suddenly squealed. A royal blue balloon flew over Ria’s head. “Mum, catch it quick.”

Startled into glancing up, Ria saw the bright blue balloon in question. She jumped up, catching its long, red string in her grasp. She held it out to the little boy.

“Thank the kind young lady, Jimmy,” his mother prompted.

Brushing his ginger fringe aside, Jimmy stared up at Ria, his large brown eyes wide. “What are those things on your face?” he asked instead.

Ria froze.

“Jimmy!” Grasping his free arm, Jimmy’s mother sent Ria a beseeching look of apology as she took the balloon from her. “Come on, Jimmy.”

Ria stood rooted in place, her body completely immobile like one of her own sculptures. Only when someone accidently bump into her did she realize she had been standing there for some time. Jimmy and his mother had long gone.

Heart pounding, she ran the back of her hand down her right cheek, over the rough texture of unforgiving burn scars. Letting her hand drop, she forced her fingers to relax. All thoughts of her impending meeting with Meg wiped clear from her mind, she spun on her heel and headed towards the tube station, thinking only of home.             



Meg Fuller ran impatient fingers through shoulder-length black hair. She rose from her desk and walked out into the main reception area of The Art Room, her emerald eyes narrowing.

At the reception desk her summer intern, Layla Banes, glanced up. “Still nothing?”

“Not a dickey bird, and I’ve already left a message.” Annoyed, Meg grimaced. “I’ll try her one more time.” Then she had cut her losses. Ria Ofor looked to be a special talent, Meg had seen that for herself while browsing The Platform website several months ago. But she liked artists who knew the importance of communication.

“I’d better head off or I’ll be late for the dentist.” Layla grimaced. “Wish me luck.”

“Always. See you in a couple of days.” Returning to her office, Meg picked up her phone and dialed Ria’s number for the second time. Six rings came and went before Ria answered.


“Ria, this is Meg Fuller from The Art Room.”

On the other end of the phone Meg heard Ria’s shocked gasp. “Meg…hi.”

“Where are you?”

A pause before Ria whispered back. “At home.”

Meg waited a beat. Well, don’t rush to apologize for standing me up will you? she thought with annoyance. “We were scheduled to meet today at twelve-thirty.”

A sniffle came through the line. “Meg. Oh. I – I’m so sorry for – I couldn’t make it.”

Meg’s brows drew together. Ria sounded like she had been crying. “Are you okay?”

Another sniffle. “Yes I – yes of course. I’m fine.”

Sure you are, Meg thought with concern, and hesitated before asking, “Do you still want to meet?”



About The Author





D.U. Okonkwo


Born and raised in London, D. U. Okonkwo writes commercial literary fiction. She graduated from the University of Salford with a BSc in Business with Spanish which included an ERASMUS exchange living in Salamanca, Spain. RISE is her first novel.

To learn more about D. U. Okonkwo, visit her website at:  She is also on Twitter @duosays, and keeps a blog at
Connect with D.U.:

Author Website: 

Author Blog:




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postheadericon Book Blast: One Last Hurrah by Mark and Brenda Smith

One Last Hurrah

Title: One Last Hurrah … Making Peace and a Difference
Author: Mark & Brenda Smith

Publisher: MicroPress Books

Publication Date: September 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0578150604

Genre: Inspirational / Christian / Self-Help
One Last Hurrah” allows the reader to experience a story of inspiration, inject their own experiences, unlike other books, so that the reader documents their own life story.

This is, not only, a book about a former professional wrestler overcoming loss, but his journey in finding purpose and peace. The book, “One Last Hurrah” , documents medical miracles, overcoming abuse and experiences with drug addiction. Mark and Brenda , both, come from broken homes and have found their calling in life working with youth/children for over 15 years.

Having come from divorce, Mark and Brenda had to decide if they were going to break the family cycles of abuse. They dedicated themselves to helping abused and abandoned children. They have been foster parents for several years and open their home to students who have no where to go. For them to understand their purpose, they had to go through a lot of trials. Mark has suffered mini strokes and multiple concussions from a career in professional wrestling. He had to make peace with the father that instilled a childhood of fear. Brenda witnessed Mark and his brother burying their father with shovels and the nightmares Mark would endure. Later, Mark and several of his friends would develop equipment and would be taken to Capitol Hill. He found himself working with military leaders from all over the world. When Mark wanted to give up on living, doors opened!
Book Excerpt: 

Chapter One: The Lowest Point in My Life

I walked into our apartment and called out her name. There was no answer. I began the search; I found her in our bed, face down. I knelt on the bed and gently turned her over on her back. I called her name again, and this time she began what I couldn’t decipher was laughing or crying. Whatever it was, it scared the living heck out of me.

Had I driven her over the edge? I accept total responsibility for whatever was happening to her. I know that I was no good for anyone. She would not respond to me; so I went to the other room and sat on the couch and cried. What have I done to her? Whatever was going on with her, I know I was the cause of it.

As I sat there and cried, she came walking into the room and calmly said, “We’re finished.” I looked up at her, staring blankly at this woman whom I loved (but apparently not in the way she needed to be loved). I felt like a loser, not something that a professional wrestler ever wanted to feel. I slowly got up and walked to the door. I looked back at her, lowered my head, and walked out the door.

I went for a drive to try to absorb what she had just said. Her words kept ringing in my head. “We are finished.” I can’t say that I don’t understand. I do. Our world was ridden with booze, drugs, verbal and mental abuse. I couldn’t think straight.

Purchase Book at: 



Mark & Brenda Smith

God has rebuilt Mark’s life with his wife, Brenda, of 22 years. Having never thought he was worthy of being a father, Mark and Brenda have been blessed with three wonderful kids. Mark was diagnosed to lose his ability to walk by age 18. He not only beat the odds, but was invited to Spring Training with several Major League clubs and ended up traveling the U.S. working for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.

Brenda has been a Children’s Minister for almost 15 years and also loves to lead Women’s Bible studies. She has also been a worship leader for Women’s Ministry Events. She enjoys singing Contemporary and Southern Gospel music.

Mark, Brenda and their children make their home in Fayetteville, TN

Visit Mark & Brenda online at 


Contact Mark & Brenda at:






Contest Giveaway

Pump Up Your Book and Authors Mark & Brenda Smith are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins November 28 and ends on January 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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One Last Hurrah
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postheadericon First Chapter Reveal: ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch & Win $25 iTunes Gift Card!

Author: Tamara Branch
Publisher: Heart Project Publishing
Pages: 98
Genre: YA/Self-Esteem
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Writer, artist and speaker, Tamara Branch serves up 40 bite-sized chapters on how to build unshakable self-confidence, honor your life, and shine bright in the world, in ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more. Packed with sage advice, life-changing insights and affirmations to help you soar, ITGIRL4LIFE offers ideas, tools and principles that you can reference and build upon, supporting you in becoming your best. Get ready to fall in love with your own wisdom, beauty and strength.

First Chapter:


Y OU ARE MAGNIFICENT. You are important. You matter.

You are special. You are a powerful presence on this Earth.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are good. You are a person of value. You have been blessed with wisdom, intelligence, grace, beauty, strength, peace, joy, love and creativity. You have talents and gifts beyond what you can imagine. You possess within you everything you need to thrive. You live in an abundant universe.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish. You are complete as you are. Start with that and keep building.

Power Statement


“Your treasure is within.”

Power Statement



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postheadericon Interview with Douglas Gardham, author of The Actor

Title: The Actor

Author: Douglas Gardham

Publisher: iUniverse

Pages: 352

Genre: Fiction

Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

It is 1991 when Ethan Jones finally wins the role of his dreams in an upcoming, big screen movie. With the envelope holding the script clutched in his hand, he arrives at his California apartment where he can hardly wait to tell his girlfriend the exciting news. But when he finds the door unexpectedly ajar, he has no idea that in just a few seconds, the life he has fought so hard to obtain will be shattered.

Eight years earlier, Ethan is attending university in Ottawa, Canada. One evening after seriously contemplating suicide, he finds his way into a club where he meets Mila Monahan, a beautiful acting student who saves him from himself. After he watches Mila rehearse a university play, Ethan catches the acting bug and decides to pursue his own creative passions, causing a collision with his more secure ideals. But when Mila suddenly disappears, Ethan vows he will never stop chasing the dream she inspired in him, believing in a world entirely different from the one he is living in.

The Actor is a gripping tale of a young man’s unforgettable journey of self-discovery in overcoming the trauma of a personal tragedy. It is a story of love, hardship, persistence and overwhelming joy where The Actor learns he can portray anything he can imagine.


What was the hardest part about writing your book?

Understanding what the story was really about. I wrote it as one pursuing something they loved to do but wanted it to be more. Editing the original manuscript of 800 pages down to a more manageable 400 pages.

Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, can you share it?

“Good try, but you’re not getting off that easily,” Mila added. “What about your drama class in high school? You didn’t continue ’cause someone said you were good in science, right? … The sciences always win. It’s like the arts don’t matter in the real world, and it’s the only thing that’s real.”

What do you hope readers will take away after reading the book?

That life is a journey no matter where you’re at in your current circumstances. Being well and mentally healthy is more important that almost anything else in life.

Who or what is the inspiration for the book?

The inspiration for the novel came from seeing the Titanic movie when it first came out. I became fascinated by what someone would go through—the ups and downs—of getting up from what they were doing and chasing a dream.

Have you had a mentor? If so, can you talk about them a little?

I can’t say I really have a mentor outside of my mother and father. My father demonstrated work ethic and commitment and to do what you say your going to do. My mother showed us the importance of family and self and you can do pretty much whatever you set your mind to.

I have heard it said in order to be a good writer, you have to be a reader as well? Do you find this to be true? And if you are a reader, do you have a favorite genre and/or author?

I don’t know whether reading determines whether you’re a good writer or not, but I don’t know how I could be a writer without reading. One leads to the other. (Good is subjective and determined by the reader.) First, I don’t know how I would know about writing without having read. Second, for me at least, learning to write happens in many ways through reading. Could one play and create music without listening to music? I suppose you could but I’d wonder how you’d even know what it is. I don’t think the converse is true that everyone who reads is a writer. I love reading that’s both entertaining and thought provoking. My reading is wide ranging. Thrillers, horror, fantasy. I do read non-fiction, mostly history. I’m fascinated by creativity and science and marrying the two together. Stephen King is one of my favorites who inspired me to write and I’ve read since high school. I love the classics—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Melville. There’s so much.

Douglas Gardham is a writer who loves music, movies, and books. He lives near Toronto, Canada, with his wife and dog. This is his first published novel.
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postheadericon First Chapter Reveal: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace by Andra Watkins

Not Without My Father 3Title: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace
Author: Andra Watkins
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

For More Information

  • Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

The journey is a long slog with an unpredictable number of mileposts.

One can make the trip alone, but why not share it?

As I traversed familiar mile markers and pulled up in front of my father’s house, I could predict where I’d find him.

In his recliner, his belly a shelf for a vat of popcorn. At eighty, he whiled away days feeding his face and shouting at the television. Whenever his throne was vacant, I eschewed all temptation to occupy it.

Because I imagined how many times he farted into the velvet upholstery. Sometimes while naked.

I could hear the television when I stepped from the car. “Why am I doing this again?” I whispered as I slipped through the back door.

“Andra!” There he was, sprawled in his recliner. A jagged scar played peek-a-boo through his open pajama top. “What’re you doing here?”

I opened my mouth and clamped it shut. Once I uttered my request, I couldn’t take it back.

I needed a wingman while I walked the 444-mile Natchez Trace from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. I planned to launch my debut novel and become the first living person to walk the10,000-year-old road as our ancestors did. Nobody could convince me that an unathletic woman and her mid-life paunch were incapable of walking more than a half-marathon every day for a month.

Even though my aversion to exercise was as spectacular as my father’s. I wanted my walk to redeem my novel’s hero, American explorer Meriwether Lewis, one-half of the Lewis and Clark duo. He died of two gunshot wounds on the Natchez Trace, seventy miles south of Nashville.

He was only thirty-five.

Was it suicide? Or murder? His death is one of America’s great unsolved mysteries.

To walk a forgotten highway for five weeks, I needed a wingman who could shuttle me to my first daily milepost and pick me up fifteen miles later. Someone who wasn’t busy. Someone available. Maybe this person even craved an adventure.

I scrolled through a list of prospects. My husband Michael couldn’t be absent from work for five weeks, especially since his job paid for my predilection to write. My friends all had children. Husbands. Gainful employment. I discarded people for an hour, my list a scribbled mess that highlighted one harrowing name.


My father wasn’t doing anything. He was available to go on a five-week jaunt through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

His stomach pooled over his thighs and his triple-chin jiggled as he leaned into his response. “Go on a five-week trip? Just you and me? I don’t want to do that, Andra.”

“Why not?” I shouted even louder to penetrate his VA-issued, circa-1980 hearing aids.

“Well.” He chewed a handful of popcorn. “Because…….I got furniture to refinish.”

“It’ll be here when you get back.”

Dad dug his fingernails into the arms of his chair. “I cain’t be away from my Sunday school class for that long.”

“God won’t care if you miss church to spend time with your only daughter, Dad.”

“Well, uh…….I……..Linda might need me here.”

Mom preened into the room with his bowl of ice cream. I never understood why she didn’t just hand him the carton. She placed the spoon between his fingers and smiled. “I don’t need you here, Roy.” Her flawless makeup matched her leotard. “I’m going to the gym. Be home in four hours.”

She flounced out the door, leaving me with my jiggly arms and red hair I forgot to brush.

I sighed and turned back to Dad. “Why don’t you want to do this, Dad? I mean, you haven’t been anywhere since your appendix ruptured two years ago. You’re just sitting here in this recliner, waiting to die.”

Dad picked at his ice cream and avoided my gaze. “Spending five weeks with you don’t sound like much fun, Andra.”

Dad and I shouted down my teens, harangued through my twenties and seethed away my thirties. For most of my life, our every interaction disintegrated into hurtful words and pregnant silences. Yet, I was willing to cast our history aside and endure his company for more than a month, while he rejected me?

Wrong answer, Old Man.

I gnawed my tongue to regroup. Dad was my last hope to take readers into my book’s world. To help my scribblings make me somebody. In a universe of words with little meaning and even less point, I believed I created something valuable, a story that could make a difference, a tale that would leave readers fundamentally altered and pining for the next installment.

All writers are convinced whatever they write qualifies, be it dreck or brilliance. Our words are sperm and egg on the page. Merge them together, and one can hold a physical chunk of the writer. It’s a shame a book can’t arrive covered in blood and filth from the birth canal, screaming and howling to breathe.

But to get anyone to care about a story, the writer must make it about the reader.

My breathing even, I flashed my most fetching smile.

“All right, Dad. Look at it this way. We’ll be riding near hundreds of tiny towns with lots of strangers who’ve never heard your stories. Think of all the junk shops and dive diners where you can enchant people. Don’t they deserve to meet you before you’re gone?”

Dad’s eyes took on a dreamy tinge. His yarns were Southern gothic legends, tales he rolled out for every stranger he encountered. I imagined myself spending the entire trip with a view of his broad back, regaling everyone but me. He must’ve conjured the same scene. “I’ll do it, Andra. If the Lord lets me live ’til March, I’ll go with you.”

Dad would be my wingman on the Natchez Trace. Visions of literary stardom floated in front of my faraway eyes. Because my secret dream was The New York Times headline:

- Debut Novelist Walks Her Way to Blockbuster Best Seller! -

I basked in the mirage of that proclamation, in the glory of staggering to my Nashville finish line with crowds of people. News crews. Fans waving my book and clamoring for an autograph.

My swelling imagination burst when Dad heaved himself from the chair, scratched his crotch and farted. “Yeah, Andra. This is gonna be real fun.”

What had I done? Besides self-scratching and legendary gas, his sleep apnea machine didn’t stifle his explosive snoring.

And the bathroom. I would have to share a bathroom with my father, whose hulking belly obscured all ability to aim. A sodden fact that seeped into my legs when I locked myself in Dad’s bathroom and plopped down on the toilet.

I didn’t want to spend five weeks with my father.

As I winced through a sink bath, I studied my face in the mirror. The beginnings of forehead wrinkles and crows feet. A hint of Dad’s bulldog jowl. I stuck my tongue out at my green-eyed self. “Welcome to Hell, you idiot.”

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postheadericon Book Blast: The Angels without Wings Series by Chris Smith


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AWOW Series - Scepter of Faith - Book 1
Title:  Angels without Wings: Scepter of Faith
Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 1
Author: Chris Smith
Genre: YA Christian Fantasy
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
ISBN: 978-1622956319
For God, we fight; all angels have heard the command. Troy Decker has heard it from his parents countless times. All he wants in life is a chance to prove himself and be granted his scepter – the first gift angels receive from God in their war against Lucifer. Standing in his way is fallen angel Kyle Downey, who used to be best friends with Troy’s parents but is now on a quest to destroy all that is good in the world.
Will Troy ever earn the scepter that God has prepared for him? And what happened between Kyle and Troy’s parents? As the War for Sins rises to heights not seen in generations, Troy must find the strength to hold his faith when demons target his friends and family. In this war, there is only one winner. Will the world fall to demons or be saved by angels?
Book Excerpt: 
Chapter 1, Page 1:
Not for the first time in his life, Troy Decker woke from a dream of howling demons. He paused for a moment and reflected on the scene, wishing for what had to be the thousandth time that the dream had been real. He’d prayed for the chance to go on a demon hunt with his dad so many times he’d lost count. He closed his eyes and saw the black claws slashing toward him and heard the fangs snapping at his legs. He could almost feel a sword in his hands, ready to strike the monsters down.
Hunting demons was what he’d been born to do. Most of his prayers to God included a begging request for the chance to stand before the beasts of hell and send them screaming back to the darkness. But as it was, he rubbed sleep from his eyes on the morning of May the 1st knowing he wouldn’t have the opportunity anytime soon. He’d heard so many stories from his parents about the adventures they’d had with his Grandpa John almost twenty years before, but for Troy, only his normal, dreary life lay before him, as usual.
From the look of the sun streaming through the blinds of his bedroom window, it was going to be a glorious day—or should have been, except that it happened to be Troy’s fourteenth birthday. He rolled onto his side and brought his empty hands in front of his face. Only the disappointing emptiness of his skinny fingers and creased palms was present. He closed his hands with one more wish (added to the tally of millions of prayers) that a sword or some other cool weapon was there instead. The lowest of sighs brushed from his lips before he could stop its escape.
“Good morning Troy,” his mom called as she swung open his bedroom door. “Happy Birthday! Fourteen years old… you’ll be driving before you know it.” Her smile welcomed him into the new day better than any ray of sunshine could ever hope to do. “I’m pretty sure you grew an inch last night,” she continued when Troy rolled out of bed to throw on his Nike t-shirt.
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AWOW Series - The Path To Sacrifice - Book 2
Title:  Angels without Wings: The Path to Sacrifice
Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 2
Author: Chris Smith
Genre: YA Christian Fantasy
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: August 4, 2013
ISBN: 978-1491022399
For Troy Decker, the world of angels has always been a familiar mystery. Robes, halos, and wings have filled his dreams since he was old enough to crawl. But it wasn’t until the last year that he truly felt like he was one of God’s chosen angels.
He’d thought only a miracle would allow him to receive his scepter. And he was one hundred percent correct. When God granted Troy his scepter, he never dreamed it would be for saving ones of his closest friends. But with many things in his angel life, Troy had to sit back and trust in his faith. Not only in God, but in himself and his family and friends.
Unfortunately, peace rarely finds Troy. With his first gift from God in hand, he must concentrate on the second gift; the robes of an angel – granted for an act of sacrifice. Hindering his progress is a former friend of his parents, Kyle Downey. Kyle is the leader of a group of fallen angels and his sinister plans for Troy bring howling demons and monsters stampeding into the War for Sins.
Can Troy follow the path God has set in front of him? How will he know what to sacrifice to receive the precious gift? And why, more than anything else in the world, does Kyle Downey want Troy to fall?
Book Excerpt:
Chapter 1, page 1:
For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was on a demon hunt with his dad. Not that it looked to be particularly exciting or dangerous, but it was better than mowing the yard or picking up his room. All they were doing at the moment was staring at an abandoned warehouse near a neighborhood of small, shabby houses on the southwest side of Oklahoma City.
Troy had been shook awake on the fine spring morning to his dad hovering over his bed with a look of confused determination on his almost always calm face. The normal, perfectly straight part, on the right side, split his brown hair. Barely a sparkle of the yet risen sun filtered through the blinds of Troy’s bedroom.
“Get ready,” his dad had whispered. “You’re coming with me today. Don’t wake up your mom. Bring your dagger. You may need it.”
“It’s Saturday,” Troy had responded as he swiped sleep residue from his eyes and stifled a yawn while he pulled the small sheath, which held a dagger sharp enough to slice paper without trying, from under his pillow. “Where are we going?”
“Have a job to do,” his dad had given as a cryptic response.
So Troy had rolled out of bed, wolfed down an energy bar, offered by his dad, and shot out the door. Not until they were five minutes down the road did he find out where they were headed.
“Nylla?” Troy scrunched his face. “How big of an infestation is it?”
“Big enough to warrant our attention,” his dad had answered never taking his piercing eyes off the road. “We’ve been noticing some activity in the area for the past month. Demon numbers have been increasing all over the place.”
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AWOW Series - Love's Sweet Sword - Book 3
Title:  Angels without Wings: Love’s Sweet Sword
Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 3
Author: Chris Smith
Genre: YA Christian Fantasy
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: February 21, 2014
ISBN: 978-1494324575
A ghostly smile haunts Troy Decker’s dreams. A smile of love and sacrifice. A smile that brings heart wrenching waves of guilt. For God, we fight. Troy has long heard the ancient command to God’s angels. His parents have whispered it in his ears with each step. But the last five months have taken a toll on his faith. The War for Sins has raged from one bloody battle to another at the hands of fallen angel, Kyle Downey. Angels have been killed and hordes of demons torn from the depths of hell.
With the help of his friends, Troy struggles to fight the nightmares of the past. Lurking behind a wall of agonizing blame, his dad stresses the importance of the gifts granted to angels by God. Troy has his scepter and robes, but an act of love stands in the way of his sword – the third gift. His eyes often land on his friend, Angela. On her blonde hair and pink angel marks. On the way her smile leaves him breathless with delight. Each heartbeat brings a vision of drawing her slowly into his arms and softly kissing her lips.
Can Troy put the past behind him? What will he need to prove to God in order to be granted his sword? Or will Kyle Downey ravage the world and bring an end to the War for Sins?
Book Excerpt:
Chapter 1, Page 1:
For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was on a demon hunt alone. He’d walked and jogged over four hours to find the street where he was standing. Dark houses lined the neighborhood with only a few overhead lights sparking any hope in the gloom. Troy pressed with the Spirit and approached his target with a determined grin on his narrow face.
It was the eve of his sixteenth birthday, but the normal time of celebration for most teenagers was only another shadowy day to Troy. The last five months had been the worst of his life. Demons filled his dreams whether he was awake or asleep. Howling and cursing, the monsters ate tiny chunks of his soul with each passing minute. Troy shook his head as the memory of the lion-like beast threatened to creep into his thoughts and send a quiver of pain shooting through his chest.
Quickly, he reached into the pocket of his Nike athletic shorts and withdrew the picture he always had stored somewhere close.
On it was a chubby, white haired baby with a giant toothless grin. Holding the laughing boy was the prettiest woman in the history of the planet.
Dirty blonde hair hung past her shoulders and fell perfectly across her thin back. A pointy chin was nuzzling the baby’s cheek, but everything paled in comparison to the smile.
The love of the Lord thrived in the lifting of her mouth.
Troy swallowed an unbidden sob as he peered at his mom. She’d been dead now for over five months. Killed by the poison of a sinna demon’s barb. And it was his fault. Every time he looked at his dad, that fact screamed into his face with thundering certainty.
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AWOW Series - Hunting Halos - Book 4
Title:  Angels without Wings: Hunting Halos
Series: The Angels without Wings Series – Book 4
Author: Chris Smith
Genre: YA Christian Fantasy
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: October 2, 2014
ISBN: 978-1500750237
The past lingers on Troy Decker’s every thought. Losses have piled into the shadows at his heels. The War for Sins has taken a devastating toll on his life. And now, Lucifer has his eyes set on Troy’s very soul. With his chief fallen angel, Kyle Downey, spreading violence and discord around the globe, Lucifer has set plans in motion to end the War and bring a reign of terror upon the Earth.
For Troy, that means he must rush to receive his final two gifts from God. Gifts that will make him a fully-fledged angel and give him the power to resist Lucifer and all his demons. The granting of his fourth gift – a halo – looms as he struggles to stay one step ahead of Kyle and his Dark Hearts. A simple act of redemption stands in Troy’s way for this blessed sign of an angel. In a race against time, Troy must find the correct path to follow, not only in the eyes of his loved ones, but also for himself… or risk losing everything he knows and loves.
Book Excerpt:
Chapter 1, Page 1:
For the first time in his life, Troy Decker was hunting a human. Or a man who appeared to be human, at least. He’d been dogging the man’s trail on and off for two weeks. Watching and waiting while reading all the news on the mid-term Senate race in northern California.
Mrs. Chelsie Elliott was the front running Democrat in the Senate race, but her aide and assistant was Troy’s true target. The man was tall and thick. Broad shoulders stretched the expensive three piece suit flashing in the California sunlight. A blood red tie tucked crisply behind the shiny buttons. Neatly cropped hair was parted on the left. Soft grey eyes smiled warmly wherever he happened to look. But a menace resided under the glitzy exterior.
“We can’t do this alone,” Mrs. Elliott chanted into a microphone behind a wooden podium. “Each of us has a responsibility to turn this country in the right direction. And I’m here to make sure we steer this great ship back on the correct path.”
Troy shook his head as a gust of hot wind brushed across his face. He was mixed with a crowd of eager voters, but without trying he picked out several staged crew members of the candidate who had been placed to start the cheers and rousing ovations at the right spots of her speech.
For twenty minutes, Mrs. Elliott blared from one wrong doing of her opponent to the next – never actually discussing any plans to truly help her future constituents’ lives. Troy lingered at the edges of the crowd after she finished and kept his eyes on the man who was constantly scribbling notes to hand to the soon-to-be State Senator.
As Troy walked to the rented car, a half a block down the street of the small town he’d driven to that morning, his scepter glowed to life in a peaceful hum against his chest. The foot and a half long golden rod had been gifted to him by the very hand of God nearly three years ago. The memory made a smile lift instantly.
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Chris Smith
Chris Smith ignited his love of stories on his sixteenth birthday when his parents gave him a leather bound copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Every year since, he has picked up the book and fallen into the world of hobbits, wizards, warriors, and orcs. To him, it’s a birthday present that will continue to be given each and every year for the rest of his life.
He began writing at the age of nineteen as a way to purge his mind of cascading plots and reveal the untold stories of characters who follow him around in his day-to-day life. To date, he has written fifteen novels falling mostly into the young adult, fantasy genre; but he has delved into suspense, crime drama, and post-apocalyptic categories as well.
Currently, Chris is in the middle of writing the Angels without Wings series. The books are young adult fantasy with Christian themes of faith, sacrifice, love, redemption, and forgiveness. Being the father of three young boys is the most important aspect of his life. Worlds of fun and adventure revolve constantly under the roof of their home in Mustang, Oklahoma.
Contact Chris at:
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Contest Giveaway

Pump Up Your Book and Author Chris Smith are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins December 3 and ends on January 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on February 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


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Not Without My Father Release Day Blitz banner

We’re happy to be hosting Andra Watkins and her NOT WITHOUT MY FATHER Release Day Blitz today!

About the Book:

Not Without My Father 2

Title: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace

Author: Andra Watkins
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

About the Author:

Andra Watkins 4

Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Her latest book is the memoir, Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace.

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We’re happy to be hosting Christopher Zoukis and his COLLEGE FOR CONVICTS Book Blast today!

About the Book:

College for Convicts

Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

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Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out.  Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

About the Author:

 Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a 28-year-old writer who is incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active advocate for prison education and prisoners’ rights in this nation’s prison systems, a noted legal commentator and practitioner, and a prolific writer of books, articles, and legal treatise.

Criminal Justice Books

Mr. Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland and Company, 2014), United Blood Nation: The Story of the East Coast Bloods (Headpress, 2015), the Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2014), and Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012).

Legal Articles

In addition to his books, Mr. Zoukis is also a contributing writer at Huffington Post, Blog Critics, and Prison Legal News, and is a New York Journal of Books authorized book reviewer.  His book reviews, articles, and essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine, AND Society, along with content being syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, Yahoo News, and the FedCURE News Network.

Writing Awards

In 2011, Mr. Zoukis’ creative work won PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for his screenplay “Healing Bin Laden” (Drama-Second Place) and his short story “Jesusland” (Fiction-Honorable Mention).  And in 2014, Mr. Zoukis’ Directory of Federal Prisons e-book won the prestigious Independent Book Publishers Association’s Silver Benjamin Franklin Digital Book Award.

Websites and Legal Writing Commitments

In addition to his award winning writing, Mr. Zoukis is the founder of,, and a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter.  He is a contributing writer at Prison Legal News and the Huffington Post, along with being a former staff writer at the State and Federal Criminal Law Review, The Update: Federal Criminal and Immigration Law, and the Texas Criminal Law Review.

Legal Projects

Currently, Mr. Zoukis is engaged in a number of larger legal and non-legal projects.  On the legal side, he is currently suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons over their refusal to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), lack of adequate dental care for federal inmates, and is assisting several inmates seeking treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) that is in line with prevailing community standards of care and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Professional Standards.  Mr. Zoukis is currently assisting two transgender federal inmates in suits against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (along with counseling and handling administrative remedies for half a dozen others), and is litigating on behalf of both prisoners in the Virginia State Supreme Court in an effort to effectuate name changes.

Writing and advocating for prison education and prisoners’ rights isn’t all that Mr. Zoukis has been doing behind bars.  He has taught a popular course to over 100 fellow prisoners entitled “Writing and Publishing”, and regularly advises fellow inmates and prison consulting groups about matters surrounding Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy and the federal regulations governing it.

Mr. Zoukis has become successful in the administrative and regulatory prison litigation realm and is now a sought after consultant on a number of matters (both in-prison and out-of-prison).  Following his release from custody in 2018, he plans to go into the prison consulting and litigation field.

Non-Legal Projects

On the non-legal side, Mr. Zoukis’ literary team — which is headed by Rachel Sentes of Gal Friday Publicity, Greg Aunapu of the Salkind Literary Agency, and Dr. Randall Radic of Middle Street Publishing — are currently pitching several of Mr. Zoukis’ novels and nonfiction works to publishers in the United States and Canada.  Two such titles are Mr. Zoukis’ Facing Federal Incarceration book, and his debut science-fiction novel Hamish.

Legal Credentials and Associations

Mr. Zoukis holds numerous legal credentials as to paralegal studies and certification.  These include the following credentials from the Blackstone Career Institute:

  • Diploma in Paralegal Studies (with distinction)
  • Advanced Certificate in Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Advanced Certificate in Civil Litigation
  • Advanced Certificate in Business & Corporate Law

He is also a graduate of the Long Ridge Writers Group and graduated from Global University’s Certified Minister Certificate Program.  Mr. Zoukis is currently enrolled at Adams State University, where he is nearing the completion of an additional Paralegal Certificate, and his Bachelors of Arts in Sociology (with an emphasis in criminology) degree.

Mr. Zoukis maintains strong ties with the prison, prison education, legal, and writing communities through his memberships with related organizations, several of which include:

  • American Bar Association, including:
  •      ABA Criminal Justice Section
  •      ABA Section on Litigation
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Correctional Association
  • Correctional Education Association
  • National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
  • National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • National Legal Aid & Defender Association, including:
  •      NLA Appellate Defender Section
  • National Writers Association
  • National Writers Union
  • PEN American Center
  • Pennsylvania Prison Society
  • Society of Professional Journalists

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postheadericon Release Day Blitz! ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch

ITGIRL4LIFE Release Day Blitz banner

We welcome Tamara Branch as she celebrates the release day of her YA/Self-Esteem book, ITGIRL4LIFE!


Author: Tamara Branch
Publisher: Heart Project Publishing
Pages: 98
Genre: YA/Self-Esteem
Format: Paperback/Kindle


ITGIRL4LIFE is available at Amazon.

Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Book Summary:

Writer, artist and speaker, Tamara Branch serves up 40 bite-sized chapters on how to build unshakable self-confidence, honor your life, and shine bright in the world, in ITGIRL4LIFE: How to bring out your special something and so much more. Packed with sage advice, life-changing insights and affirmations to help you soar, ITGIRL4LIFE offers ideas, tools and principles that you can reference and build upon, supporting you in becoming your best. Get ready to fall in love with your own wisdom, beauty and strength.


YOU have IT. IT is the GREATNESS you were born with. IT is that unique special something that is all yours. Nothing and nobody can take IT away from you. IT is not something that you have one day and lose the next. IT is not fleeting. IT is not temporary. IT does not depend on the judgment or approval of others. IT is here to stay. Your job is to tap into IT. Your ITGIRL4LIFE adventure starts NOW. It’s about loving yourself, being authentic, taking charge and making a difference. You will need a great attitude, an open mind, the desire to grow and expand, the courage to create the life you want and the willingness to be your best self.

Are you ready? Your special something and so much more is right this way.

About the Author:

“I believe in the power, beauty, strength and amazing potential of girls. I believe girls deserve to feel extraordinary. I believe that when girls shine their light, they are unstoppable!” - ITGIRL4LIFE by Tamara Branch

Tamara Branch is from New York, born and raised in the Bronx. She is thrilled to share her first book release, ITGIRL4LIFE, kicking off the ITGIRL4LIFE self-esteem movement to empower girls to stand up, stand out and shine bright in the world.

Tamara has worked as a professional model and actor for almost two decades. She strutted down the runway for designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Christian Dior, acted in a few independent films, co-hosted PBS New York’s education series, “What’s up in Technology” and appeared T.V. commercials and print ads for Levi’s, Old Navy, Hershey’s, Colgate, Kellogg’s Special K, Revlon, Hanes, Nike and many others. A Penn State alumnus and lifelong student of personal development, Tamara is deeply passionate about uplifting the human spirit.

After graduating from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, studying under Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and some of the top health and wellness experts in the world, she was inspired to raise the bar on her own ‘self care’ and support others in living more vibrantly. She is an abstract artist and teaches a dynamic dance class, where she gets to fuse her varied background, having trained in everything from jazz, ballet and modern to Afro-Caribbean and Salsa.

Tamara was recently asked to become a Female Visionary Author guest blogger for The Brave Heart Women Global Community. She’s a SAG/AFTRA member since 1998, a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is represented by Abrams Artists Agency.

Tamara currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband of seven years and offers ITGIRL4LIFE workshops to assist girls on their self empowerment journey.

Her latest book is the YA/self-esteem book, ITGIRL4LIFE.

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postheadericon First Chapter Reveal: Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships 10 Shift Keys

Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships 2Title: Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships: 10 Shift Keys – What Your Angels Have Been Trying to Tell You for Centuries
Author: Eve Picquette
Publisher: Enchanted Eve, Inc.
Pages: 78
Genre: Self Help/Inspiration
Format: Paperback

Purchase at AMAZON

How many times have you read or seen something that made you want to change your life and relationships – but you didn’t know how? Introduced by two angels, Hope and Impatience, Open Your Heart for Happy Relationships – What Your Angels Have Been Trying to Tell You for Centuries… answers the “how” question. Eve Picquette shows readers how to:

  • Open their hearts to love
  • Shift their lives, using 10 keys—how-to-do-it ideas created with the help of angels of inspiration—to change in real and satisfying ways.

In this lighthearted, uplifting, and beautifully illustrated gift book, each chapter opens with images of the author’s angels and quotes she believes were angel-inspired sometime in history. Readers may also download companion MP3 Mini Meditations available on They are “Dared to Shift” their thoughts and behaviors and these shifts will improve lives and relationships: • Shift 1: Always Connect to Love • Shift 2: Just Stop It, Really • Shift 3: It’s All About You • Shift 4: It’s Not About You • Shift 5: Give Up on the Past • Shift 6: Expect the Best Future • Shift 7: Appreciate Everything Now • Shift 8: Re-Choose Your Relationships • Shift 9: Handle Conflict with Grace • Shift 10: Love So it Can be Felt.

If you are ready to try these simple shifts, the results will amaze you. Every encouraging and comforting word in this beautifully illustrated self-help book will lead you to the path of peace, happiness, and fulfillment. A treasure to own, it would also serve as a thoughtful, caring, and loving gift.

First Chapter:

You probably would like some magic stardust to change your life and your relationships. You may have been trying to be loving, light hearted and to live a happy life, but it has been less than a success. Perhaps you read something and decide to change. But you don’t know exactly how and quickly fall back into the same patterns, just as I did. This book will give you practical shifts you can make in your life. I will be showing you what the angels had been trying to show me for years: how to shift to love, open my heart, and have happier relationships. If you make these shifts, you will become more relaxed, have more fun, and draw in the very best from your relationships. You will have the magic stardust.

There are only two reasons to make these shifts:

  • You will feel lighter and happier.
  • You will attract people, places and events, which are also lighter and happier.

When you are feeling lighter and happier and have attracted the same, you will find that your relationships have evolved, as well. They will be fixed in amazing ways. The easiest way to explain this is to think about each of your relationships as a teeter-totter. You are on one end and your partner, child, boss, or friend is on the other end. When you shift to lighten your heart, it is like lightening the weight on your end of the teeter-totter. The person on the other end must change, as well. But you cannot control what choices the other person will make. Sometimes the other person may change in ways that are happy and pleasing and keep things in balance. Sometimes the other person will refuse to play and will move away from the relationship. If so, it will be OK. Because you are shifting your life to happiness and love—another partner, friend, or job will show up to take their place. They will have lighter hearts and be in balance with the changes you are making to lighten your heart and enjoy your life.

It would be nice to just ask your angels to sprinkle some stardust on all the difficult people in your life—swish! But, unfortunately, all those people have free choice, so you can only hope to influence them in a positive way. The very best way to influence the difficult people in your life is to connect to love, yourself. Whenever you are not feeling light and happy, just stop whatever you are doing or thinking and connect to love and ask for an open heart. When you do this, it will be like magic stardust for you—your vibration will raise, you will feel better, and this transformation will influence everyone around you in a positive way. The first Shift Key is learning that there is always magic stardust for you. You can always connect to love at any time, in any circumstance.

When I was learning this—I had it all backward. I wanted to get more love from others. But I did not have my own connection to love. I thought if I could change everyone else, I would be happy. As it turns out, I could not get anyone to change even one little bit. I had read many of the self-help books published in the last twenty-five years and become an authority on why I was sabotaging myself, and why my childhood or other experiences might be causing my pain. Everything I learned was helpful, but most of what I learned just made me want to change other people and circumstances beyond my control.

I also thought that working on my own education and accomplishments would make me more lovable and happy. I consistently chose with my head, then second-guessed my choices. I was accepted into medical school, and then chose not to attend. Later I became an attorney, not because I really wanted to be an attorney, but to make up for my “mistake” in not going to medical school. I was mostly concerned with how others would view me. My accomplishments were not from my heart. I am glad for all I accomplished as nothing we learn is ever wasted. But I was mostly operating out of worry and fear, not love.

I later found that I was making two major errors and even though the results were poor – I didn’t know what else to do.

  • First – I was trying my best to be and do what I thought everyone wanted me to be and do.
  • When that didn’t seem to be working out, I often made a second mistake. I waited and hoped that others would change to be who I wanted them to be.

I was trying so hard to do it right and be good enough – I wasn’t really being myself. Then, instead of moving on when a relationship, job or situation did not meet my needs – I waited and waited – hoping that others would somehow change (despite strong evidence to the contrary!).

I wanted to stop wishing and hoping that others would change, so that I could be happy. I asked my angels to show me an answer: How could I love and respect myself and have harmonious and happy relationships, at the same time? This book contains the answers I found. The secret was to connect to love and then shift in the only areas where I had some control – my own thoughts, feelings and actions. When my own heart was right, then everyone and everything around me sorted out with the law of attraction. When I connected to love and my inner world (my heart) was right – so was my outer world.

Our angels have been trying to tell us this down through the ages. However, in the last few years, science is confirming the importance of connecting to love and its impact on our world. Joe Dispenza in his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, notes research indicating that we are each part of a vast, invisible field of energy, which contains all possible realities and actually responds to our thoughts and our feelings. We can use our minds and emotions to create our reality. The neuroscientist, Dr. Newberg, in his book, How God Changes Your Brain, explains how just thinking of the word God and contemplative practices enhance the neural functioning of the brain in ways that improve physical and emotional health, no matter the religion or belief – as long as it is based on peace, love and compassion. The Institute of HeartMath research shows that positive thoughts actually add energy to our system and negative thoughts dissipate our energy. Our heart energy extends out three feet and more, influencing whatever is around us, as well as connecting to those we love around the world.

Opening our hearts and feeling love, appreciation and compassion have a powerful beneficial effect on how we relate to life. I learned from Dr. David Hawkins’s book, Power versus Force, that we all vibrate on an energy scale that ranges from low vibrations of despair, loneliness, and sadness up to the higher vibrations of hope, peace, happiness, and joy. Further, whatever level we are at determines what we attract—like attracts like.

  • High vibrations —Happiness, Peace, and Joy
  • On the way up —Hope, Expectation, and Contentment
  • Low vibrations —Despair, Guilt, and Shame

Our emotions are based on how we interpret events and what we are thinking about. Our energy or vibration level is determined by the emotions we feel. Our vibration then determines what we attract and the outcome of our interactions with others and our world. So why don’t we all just move up to joy? Usually because most of us grew up learning unhappy behaviors from our parents, who also wanted to live happy lives, but didn’t know how. Unless we connect to love – it is difficult to

break these unhappy patterns.

So no wonder I was not getting what I wanted! My attitude, emotions, and vibration were often fearful and worried or critical and negative. When I was critical and negative, that was the type of experience I was going to attract. I realized why the Law of Attraction wasn’t working for me. I began to think of my thoughts as a flock of ducks flying through the sky. I could say some nice affirmations about what I wanted – that gave me three or four ducks going in the right direction. However, I had habitual thoughts and feelings of doubt, fear and unworthiness. Those twenty ducks were circling or going the wrong way, so chaos reigned. The universe responded not to my affirmations, but to my primary energy and vibration of fear and doubt. Law of attraction sounded good, if I could just stay in peace and joy – and attract that! But I didn’t know how to shut off the anxious, negative perspective. I found that the easiest way was to simply ask for help and ask to be filled with the energy of unconditional love.

I had signed up to go to an Angel Conference presented by Doreen Virtue, but was hesitant to go. The universe knew I sincerely wanted help—when I ask I always get assistance. I usually recognize the angel’s hand only in retrospect. But this time, I actually heard a voice in my heart say, “Atlanta, Atlanta.” Since the conference was in Atlanta, that helped me find the courage to go. At that time Doreen had recorded a beautiful short meditation. I found the best way to get out of my negative thoughts was by listening to this. All I needed was a few minutes of quiet time. I felt the peace the first time I tried it. Later, if I found my thoughts drifting into negativity, I just paused a moment and asked for help again. I opened my heart to the energy of love and gratitude. I began connecting to light and love this way about fifteen years ago, and it has made a profound difference in my life.

No matter what you are facing, connecting with the source of love and light in the universe (the power running the universe) will help. You may wonder how this will improve your relationships, but when you connect to the power of love, you can see yourself and others with a love that creates miracles. There is a power that spins the world and holds the stars and planets in place. That same power is available to you at all times. You may call it Source, you may call it God; you can think of it as delivered by angels of unconditional love or the power that created the galaxies. It truly does not matter. It is light and love flowing to all of us, no matter what our belief or religion. The power is love, and it does not discriminate. You do not have to believe in it; all you have to do is hold out your hands. It keeps you alive, and you cannot turn it off. You can only temporarily cut off part of the flow—the part that would make you fully alive, vibrant, happy, and at peace.

So your first shift key is to quiet your mind and open your heart. I want to emphasize—I am not recommending some formal meditation practice; often, just five minutes will move you up the emotional scale from fear to hope. The secret is not long meditation, but repeated requests throughout the day and a change in your emotions and vibration. You will receive help and see your situation with the eyes of love. If you ask, you will receive that magic stardust,

When you walk in nature, listen to uplifting music; close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, your heart responds. When you ask for help from Source or the angels of unconditional love, or when you repeat a comforting phrase, you are slowing down enough to notice and connect to the light and power of the universe. If you ask to be filled with the energy of unconditional love, you will feel your vibration rise, and you will feel better. If you are fearful or upset, you will become calmer. If you’re angry or frustrated, you will move up to hope and see answers more clearly. It will help you with the rest of the Shift Keys. It will raise your energy and vibration and make it more likely that you will attract what you want and reach your dreams. But even more important, it will connect you to love. You will see that everything, no matter how it appears, is really working out for you—right now.

You may be thinking that if that worked, it would be a miracle. It is.


You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too.


If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.

—Alan Cohen

So many mornings I have chosen email over meditation…. I override the call to feel myself—the call to pray, or meditate, or be fully awake. Prayer comes in all forms and each one spoken brings grace to the day. —Danielle LaPorte

Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside. —Margaret Walker

You don’t have to go looking for love when it’s where you come from. —Erhard

You are today where your thoughts brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. —James L. Allen

Everything that exists, … is vibration in motion—and all of it is managed by the powerful Law of Attraction. —Abraham-Hicks

And my favorite:

If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.  —Ani Pema Chodron


Shift and connect to the energy of love and gratitude every single day. Put five to ten minutes on your calendar today. I cannot urge you more strongly—try it for a week and prove me wrong! I am not talking about long meditation – I believe that most of us are here to live our lives, rather than sit in contemplation. But we need to pause long enough to stop the negative thoughts and emotions, which are cutting off our supply of loving energy. We need to ask to be filled, here and now, with the energy of life, light and the power of love. We need to take the time to be lifted with the energy of love, to raise our vibration and open our hearts.

  • If you feel you have no time, just take a few minutes in the car in a parking lot. I have done some of my best connection in the car, or waiting for an appointment in a place where I could close my eyes and relax. If I am in a really stressful situation, I excuse myself for just five minutes (even if I have to retreat to the restroom). I breathe deeply and ask for calm and clarity or whatever I need. I ask to be filled with light and to see the situation with love. This has helped me respond and make decisions in a clear and positive way.
  • Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply; ask for help and repeat a soothing phrase. I like the phrase All is well. If you have time, you can use a short meditation or soothing music without words.
  • Ignore any negative thoughts or your to-do list—repeat your request to be flooded with love and light and continue relaxing, breathing slowly.
  • Once you feel some peace and love, if you want, you can also ask for specific help. You can ask for clarity on a problem at work; the ability to see your partner or children with more loving eyes; or the ability to see your own goals clearly, without worrying about everyone else. Then let it go, and continue the day.
  • Do not ask for predictions on the future, because both you and others have free choice. You can choose again at any time, and change your future. The angels do not predict the future, but angel messengers of unconditional love or the love and light of the universe can help you recognize what makes you light and happy and help you move toward the best next step for you. So ask to clearly know what choice will bring you and others the most love and happiness now.
  • Note – This is asking for help in living your life. This is not about channeling, predicting the future, or connecting with anything other than the light of love or Source. The Source of unconditional love and light only wants you to choose and will help you follow your choices – Source, angels or the light of unconditional love never dictates your path, you have free choice. But connecting to love will lighten any path you choose, increasing your freedom and joy.
  • Only accept loving thoughts that lighten your heart. If a thought makes you feel heavy or burdened, it is a lie. Ignore it and expect positive inspiration later. Ask to be raised above critical vibration. See all negative thoughts fade away with the stardust of love. Ask to connect to the loving truth of unconditional love and that loving truth will make you feel light and free.
  • Note: Sometimes you will know that you must do something, like apologize, that you don’t want to do – but thinking of completing that task will lighten your heart with relief and you will feel that it is right and true. Sometimes what is best for you won’t make everyone else happy, but it will make your heart lighter.
  • You will receive help. You may get an immediate thought or idea when you ask and open your heart to unconditional love—or, at a later time, you will hear a song or snippet of conversation, speak with someone, or find a book or magazine article that seems meant to open your eyes to new possibilities or gives you a new insight. But remember – if it is the true direction for you – it will make you feel lighter and happier – not burdened, guilty or fearful. Your inner knowing is from light and love – learn to trust it.



Purpose and Peace

When I first moved to Arizona, I had a job I enjoyed and was living the life I thought I wanted, but life still felt like a daily struggle. I decided to make the drive to work a sort of prayer for help and an appreciation of my blessings. I repeated soothing phrases, over and over, asking my angels and the source of unconditional love and light to lift my energy and give me the grace to enjoy the day and bring good to all I met. By the time I got to work, I was feeling a sense of purpose and a light heart, ready to face the day. I had connected with love and begun to understand that the connection to love, not any external events, was what made me happy.


I wanted to find an interesting program for my daughter when she was going through some difficult experiences. I asked for help, and within a few days I got it. On a flight for a conference, I was seated right next to a woman who was part of an organization that did wonderful weekend programs for teenagers. She was able to tell me all about the program. I took my daughter to this weekend program in Seattle the next week. It was a life-changing event and helped her to come to terms with some of the unhappy things in her life, such as the recent death of her great-grandfather. I knew I had connected to love and had received a wonderful answer.

Deep Happiness

You are so loved, and you will find that when you connect to love, you can feel happiness and peace, no matter what is happening around you. This will help you see your relationships with eyes of love and respond to your partner, family, and friends from a stronger, happier, heart-centered place. You will begin to expect blessings and miracles. You will see the difference in how you relate to everyone when first you open your heart and connect to love.


Childre, D. (1999) The HeartMath Solution, NY HarperCollins

Dispenza, J. (2013) Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, Hay House

Dyer, W. (2012) I Am: Wishes Fulfilled (CD)

Newberg, A., Waldman, M. (2010 ) How God Changes Your Brain, Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, NY, Random House

Schmidt, J. (2003) Still, Still, Still MP3

Tabell, R. (2012) The Lord’s Prayer MP3

Picquette, E. (2012) “Connecting to Love,” track on Mini Meditation—Shift Keys MP3

Virtue, D. (2004) Chakra Clearing (book and CD)

For an easy click on book list of all the reference books – go to

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postheadericon A Dangerous Marriage by William W. Blunt Book Feature

Title: A Dangerous Marriage

Author: William Blunt

Publisher: iUniverse

Pages: 332

Genre: Fiction

Format: Ebook/Paperback

Purchase at AMAZON

In A Dangerous Marriage, Julia Davenport’s social life has drifted into a backwater. Then she meets Peter Medea at a business reception in New York City. She is drawn by his aura of power and erotic magnetism and is lured into a hasty marriage. By indulging her compelling emotional and physical needs she finds immediate gratification, but at a devastating cost. Her romantic adventure turns out to be fraught with conflict and betrayal. And she becomes unwittingly involved in her husband’s shady business transactions, forcing her into unwanted intimacy with the sinister man who masterminds these schemes. She finds support in friendships with a victim of his fraudulent machinations, and others. She is nurtured and encouraged by a man who emerges from her past. But Julia alone must overcome the threats to her self-esteem, happiness, and well-being, which are the destructive consequences of her earlier surrender to passion.

Readers say this about A Dangerous Marriage –
Wow, what a page turner! Compelling and sexy, with the added intrigue of the nasty part of the financial world. Great story. —Constance Fulenwider

A Dangerous Marriage is extremely well written. The characterization is great – the reader comes to know the characters really well. I didn’t want it to end. —Natalie Lee

I loved A Dangerous Marriage. I really was glued to the plot and felt totally involved with the characters. It is written with great sensitivity and the story line moves along compellingly. This is a terrific novel! —Judy Bross

In A Dangerous Marriage, twenty-six-year-old Julia Davenport’s social life has drifted into a backwater. Then she meets Peter Medea at a business reception in New York City that she’s attending as a favor for a friend.

She is drawn by Peter Medea’s aura of power, apparent financial success, and erotic magnetism and is lured into a hasty marriage. By indulging her compelling emotional and physical needs she finds immediate gratification, but at a devastating cost. Her romantic adventure turns out to be fraught with conflict and betrayal. And she becomes unwittingly involved in her husband’s shady business transactions, forcing her into unwanted intimacy with Marco “Denny” DiNiro, the sinister man who masterminds these schemes. She finds support in friendships with a victim of DiNiro’s fraudulent machinations, and others. She is nurtured and encouraged by Danny Johnson, who has emerged from her past. But it is Julia alone who must overcome the threats to her self-esteem, happiness, and well-being, which are the destructive consequences of her earlier surrender to passion.






William W. Blunt graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. He interrupted his corporate legal practice in New York City to serve in Washington, D.C., as Assistant Secretary of Commerce. Today he lives with his wife, Balirm in Irving, Texas. This is his first novel.


William is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 8 and ends on December 19.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 22.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


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postheadericon Make a Stand by Agnew Smith Book Feature

Make a Stand
 Make a Stand

Author: Agnew Smith

Publisher: iUniverse

Pages: 260

Genre: Fiction

Format: Ebook/Paperback

Purchase at AMAZON

Terry Freeman is a disgruntled computer salesman and talented musician and songwriter who, along with his best friend, Damon King, is attempting to fulfill his musical dreams through their popular band, Infinite Noise.  It appears the sky is the limit for Infinite Noise until tragedy strikes, derailing Terry’s and his band members’ dreams of fame and success.

Nearly two years later, Terry tries to put the tragedy behind him and rekindle the magic that propelled the band into one of the most well-known and hottest bands in Atlanta and the surrounding area.

When Infinite Noise receives an offer to sign with a major record label, Terry thinks things are finally going his way until he discovers that success in the music industry sometimes comes with a very high price.  He is confronted with an agonizing decision that will affect not only his music career, but also his life.



Agnew is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 8 and ends on December 19.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 22.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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postheadericon 20 Questions with ‘Miracle Man’ William R. Leibowitz

William LeibowitzWilliam R. Leibowitz has been practicing entertainment/media law in New York City for a number of years. He has represented numerous renowned recording artists, songwriters, producers and many of the leading record companies, talent managers, merchandisers and other notable entertainment businesses. At one point, he was the Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel for the Sanctuary Group of Companies, a U.K. public company that was the largest ‘indie’ music company in the world (prior to its acquisition by the Universal Music Group).

William has a Bachelor of Science degree from New YorkUniversity (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a law degree from ColumbiaUniversity. He lives in the village of Quogue, New York with his wife, Alexandria, and dog, George.

William wrote Miracle Man because of its humanistic and spiritual messages and because he feels that in our current times – when meritless celebrity has eclipsed accomplishment and the only heroes are those based on comic books, the world needs a real hero –and that, of course, is Robert James Austin, the protagonist in Miracle Man. Miracle Man won Best Thriller in the National Pacific Book Awards.

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About the Book:

Miracle Man 7


The victim of an unspeakable crime, an infant rises to become a new type of superhero.

Unlike any that have come before him, he is not a fanciful creation of animators, he is real.

So begins the saga of Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in human history. But where did his extraordinary intelligence come from?

As agents of corporate greed vie with rabid anti-Western radicals to destroy him, an obsessive government leader launches a bizarre covert mission to exploit his intellect. Yet Austin’s greatest fear is not of this world.

Aided by two exceptional women, one of whom will become his unlikely lover, Austin struggles against abandonment and betrayal. But the forces that oppose him are more powerful than even he can understand.

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1.Q: Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

A: The best times for me are late afternoon into the night.

2. Q: Do you outline or are you a pantster?

A: I outline first, but often as the writing progresses there is a great deal of divergence from the outline.

3. Q: Which comes first – plot or character?

A: Plot.

4. Q: Noise or quiet when working on your manuscript?

A: Quiet works best for me.

5. Q: Favorite TV show?

A: “House of Cards”

6. Q: Favorite type of music?

A: Classic jazz, 70s/80s rock, classical.

7. Q: Favorite craft besides writing?

A: Gardening

8. Q: Do you play a musical instrument?

A: Yes—piano and guitar.

9. Q: Single or married?

A: Married.

10. Q: Children or no?

A: 3 children.

11. Q: Pets?

A: Yes a squeaky poodle named George.

12. Q: Favorite place to write?

A: In my home office.

13. Q: Favorite restaurant?

A: Toscana on the cruise ship Riviera.

14. Q: Do you work outside the home?

A: Yes in my office in Manhattan.

15. Q: What was the name of the last movie you saw?

A:   “Transcendence”

16. Q: Favorite outdoor activity?

A: Feeding my koi.

17. Q: Pet peeve?

A: Moronic politicians

18. Q: Your goal in life?

A:   To live forever and enjoy it

19. Q: Your most exciting moment?

A:   When I first met my wife

20. Q; The love of your life?

     A: My family

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postheadericon A Conversation with Jeff Gunhus, author of Night Terror

Jeff GunhusJeff Gunhus is the author of both adult thrillers and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. As a father of five, he and his wife lead an active lifestyle simply trying to keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.

His latest book is the thriller/horror novel, Night Terror.

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Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jeff! Can you tell us where you are from?

I live in Annapolis, Maryland, but I’m lived all over the US and the world including Greece, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.

Q: How did you come up with your title?

This is the sequel to my horror novel, Night Chill. While the first book was scary, I felt like I ratcheted things up a bit in this Night Terror 2one so I thought Night Terror was appropriate.

Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?

My talented brother Eric works with me on all my covers. We discuss the book and the image we think would be interesting then we both got out into the world looking for it. This one needed to echo the feel of book 1 and yet stand on its own. I think it does that really well.

Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?

My father gave me the best compliment in that he woke up yelling in the middle of the night from a dream induced by my book. Well, my mom told me since he was a little embarrassed. Over 600 reviewers on Amazon liked book 1 enough leave a positive comment, so it can’t be too bad.

Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?

Book 1 was filled with a father’s protective instincts for his family. Book 2 shows a father realizing he needs to let his child grow up as she is a force on her own. It also dives into the idea that the means are important and that harming others cannot be justified regardless of the ends sought.

Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?

I enjoyed a scene where two characters are in one character’s imagination together. It was fun because there were no rules to follow.

Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?

I really enjoyed the characters in book 1 and the great response to the book made me eager to revisit that world.

Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?

I eat ice cream every night before bed. I’m talking a lot of ice cream. I pay for it by having to work out more but I LOVE it.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’d like to return to Cyprus where I lived from ages 6-10. I’d be interested to see what memories it stirred up.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?

Morning – out of necessity. I write from 5-730AM each day because I have five kids!

Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?

Both of my sons are great storytellers.

Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?

Absolutely – I loved to read and dream about the worlds that were described in such detail.

Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?

To be a better writer. One of my favorite saying is “knowing is the enemy of learning.” I hope to never feel as if I “know” how to write because then I’ll stop improving.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?

Thank you for having me. Please consider supporting Toys for Tots Literacy Program this holiday season!

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postheadericon Where Are Your Diamonds by Keith Craft, author of Your Divine Fingerprint – Win $100 Gift Card!

Title: Your Divine Fingerprint: The Force That Makes You Unstoppable

Author: Keith Craft

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 277

Genre: Christian Life/Motivational

Format: Paperback/Kindle

Discover the key to all your future success and achievement, and learn that what makes you different, makes you great.

According to science, 99 percent of our DNA sequence is the same as other humans. Pastor Keith Craft believes that the 1 percent difference in each of us is a type of glory that God has given us.

Within the pages of his motivational and inspirational self-help book, Your Divine Fingerprint: The Force That Makes You Unstoppable, are the tools to help you discover a unique fingerprint that you have been given. These tools will help you deploy your unique difference that your family needs, your marriage needs, your job needs, your faith needs—that the world needs. And when you embrace and live in that uniqueness, you celebrate the glory of God.

For More Information


Where Are Your Diamonds?

All of us have preconceptions about other people. We preconceive about people based on how we see ourselves.

We often times, don’t see things as THEY are, we see them how WE are.

When you look at a lemon what color is it? Yellow. Now put glasses on that have blue lenses, what color is the lemon? Green?

Wrong! The Lemon is still yellow. The only thing that changed was the way you saw the lemon.

Our limited knowledge that is so often based on our preconceptions can be the thing that leads us to a misconception that makes us miss out on our next level of success!

There is a now very famous story told by Russell Conwell known as “Acres of Diamonds.”

Ali Hafed, a farmer, owned a vast piece of property and heard about other farmers just like him who had made millions discovering diamond mines. This excited Ali so much that he almost instantaneously sold all of his property and went off in search of the next great diamond mine.

He spent the rest of his life searching the world for the valuable gems that brought such high prices all over the world. After years of searching endlessly, he ran out of money and was left with nothing. He eventually gave in and jumped to his death from the coast of Barcelona, Spain.

The man who bought his farm noticed a large, beautiful stone in a stream that ran through the property. It was the first of many diamonds that were discovered on Ali Hafed’s farm. This farm became known as the Kollur Diamond Mine. It is one of the most magnificent diamond mines in recorded history. In fact, some of the crown jewels of England, Russia, India, Iran, France, Australia, Germany and even the Hope Diamond were all mined in the Kollur Mine.

I believe that Ali Hafed did not have the ability to see the diamonds that were under his feet because he had a preconception that they were elsewhere.

What are your acres of diamonds that are right under your feet that you are missing because you are searching elsewhere? Your next level of success could depend on what you are standing on right now! Not not the next thing! If you can have the right perception about right now, you will be able to avoid the misconceptions that so often come with the “next thing.”

Keith Craft is the founder and lead pastor of Elevate Life Church in Frisco, Texas. He speaks in the world’s largest business/success seminars and has shared the stage with former world leaders such as Bill Clinton, George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Margaret Thatcher. For the past twenty years he has spoken alongside Super Bowl–winning coaches such as Mike Ditka, Don Shula, Mike Shanahan, and Tony Dungy; MVP quarterbacks such as Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Peyton Manning; and entertainers such as Jerry Lewis, Bill Cosby, and Goldie Hawn. As a leadership coach and strategist, Craft is also the founder of, an online quote service. You can visit Keith Craft’s website at

For More Information


Keith Craft is giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Payment!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins December 1 and ends on December 31, 2014.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, January 5.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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postheadericon Interview with Ed Grizzle, author of It’s Your Decision

Title: It’s Your Decision

Author: Ed Grizzle

Publisher: iUniverse

Pages: 128

Genre: Family Relationships/Parenting

Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

Children are gifts from God, but parenting those children can often be a difficult task. In It’s Your Decision, author Ed Grizzle shows how parenting can be successful when it’s carried out according to God’s plan.

Using his life’s experiences as a guide, Grizzle explores the importance of making the right decisions in life—from choosing the right lifestyle and the right mate and to raising children according to what God has planned for you.

It’s Your Decision discusses

• planning for children;

• knowing what children need;

• being aware of the important years in a child’s life;

• understanding that children will test parents;

• valuing the role of grandparents;

• dealing with abused children;

• communicating openly and honestly;

• clarifying family roles.

Grizzle presents a guide to strengthening lives and making your family life more enjoyable. He shows how this is possible when you accept Jesus Christ into your life; he will show you the way in the difficult times.



What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I love people and want to help as many as I can.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

I get upset to early or over something that isn’t really that important.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

Truthfully, I would have to say after I got my first book done and I had a lot of people tell me they loved the book.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

My wife Mary. 4 weeks prior to her passing, she sat me down at the dining room table and we talked and I made her a promise that I would write the book that we talked about for awhile.

How did you come up with the title of the book?

I truly, from experience, believed that parenting is one of the most important jobs around and needed to be done as God wanted. The ‘It’s Your Decision’ came from the fact that all adults need to make their own decisions on their life’s and make decisions for their children.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I would say, believing that I was actually writing it.

Ed Grizzle started a ministry called It’s Your Decision that helps addicts, prostitutes, and others who face difficult circumstances. He and his late wife, Mary, raised two children. Grizzle currently lives in Illinois
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postheadericon Interview with Madeline Wynn, author of Daughter of the Fallen & Giveaway!

Madeline WynnMadeline Wynn holds a master’s degree in procrastination. When she’s not writing, she can be found ghost hunting, gardening and parading around her home state of Connecticut with her husband, dog and two kids.

Her latest book is the YA paranormal, Daughter of the Fallen.

For More Information

About the Book:

Daughter of the Fallen 2Most sixteen-year olds aren’t worried about the fate of their immortal souls. May Krieg should be.

Typically, honor student May’s biggest problems have revolved around her super-hot arch-rival, Jack. But when a school project takes them ghost-hunting in a local cemetery, she discovers that an ominous force roams in the darkness around her.

And it follows her home.

It claws its way into her life, burning messages into her wall and imprinting them onto her body. Even worse, she can’t tell if it’s trying to possess her… or protect her.

May’s thoughts soon become actions, causing the target of her anger severe physical pain and giving her a rush the likes of which she has never experienced. She quickly realizes that she needs to find a way to reign in this power before she kills someone. May hates the pleasure it gives her, hates herself for hurting others, but she can’t stop.

As her entire world shatters around her, she is forced to ask what her soul is worth– and who would she risk losing her soul to save?

(For readers who enjoy: teen paranormal romance, teen horror, teen romance, nephilim, demons, YA, YA horror, YA paranormal, YA romance, ghost stories)

For More Information

Thanks for joining us today, Madeline.  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into the YA paranormal genre?

Madeline: I’ve always loved a good ghost story, so when I moved to New England I decided that I’d go ahead and take a ghost hunting class. I was obsessed with all of those shows on TV, so I figured it would be fun. As it turned out, it scared the hell out of me. Not so much the whole, dead Aunt Mary hanging out on the staircase part, but the demons in the attic part.

By the last week of class, sleep and I were no longer on speaking terms. So I decided to go ahead and try and write a novel about all of my worst fears and the book was born.

Is writing what you’ve wanted to do all your life? 

Madeline: Yes and no. I originally wanted to grow up and be the ruler of a small country, but that hasn’t really worked out.

I’ve been writing all of my life, so it’s become a part of me more than a profession, per se.

I would love to know more about your character, May Krieg.  Would you like to tell us about her?

Madeline: She’s a teen who feels a bit like an outsider. She lives in a wealthy suburb and she’s the girl who has to shop at second-hand stores and doesn’t have the money to drop on weekly manicures and things, but she’s quirky and always the first to volunteer to work at a soup kitchen or make lunch for the homeless.

She’s also a bit naïve and can be a bit too quick about drawing up assumptions about people. That being said, even though she’s not in with the popular kids, she’s extremely devoted to the friends that she does have and would walk through fire for the people she cares about.

Who is Jack?

Madeline: He’s the “it” boy. He’s got the money and the looks and the charm to rule the world.

But on the inside he’s broken. His mother has passed away and his dad is never around, and throws money at him in the hopes that it will replace any actual parenting that he should be doing. He’s left to his own devices all the time, so he has become very self-sufficient but also a bit cold on the outside. He’s slow to warm up to people because on the inside he’s worried that they’ll just abandon him the way his parents have.

What are you working on now?

Madeline: The sequel to DAUGHTER OF THE FALLEN. The book ends on a hook so I have to make sure readers aren’t left in the dark for too long!

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and readers?

Madeline: Thank you so much for reading! I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to reach out!


Madeline Wynn is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
  • This giveaway begins November 3 and ends January 31.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, February 2.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!



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postheadericon Book Spotlight: Reflections by Jena Baxter

Reflections Banner

We are happy to host author Jena Baxter and feature her YA / Historical Fantasy novel, Reflections!

About The Book




Author: Jena Baxter

Publisher: Independent Self Publishing / Jenabaxterbooks

Publication Date: October 31, 2013

Pages: 320

ISBN: 978-0991167715

Genre: YA / Historical Fantasy

Format: Paperback, eBook (.mobi / Kindle), PDF


When Juliette has a domestic servant beaten for pursuing a young man above her station, she finds herself cursed by a witch to live in a world behind her own mirror. She is unable to leave except on the first night of a full moon.

Juliette is forced to seek what food and shelter the new world provides with the help of a unicorn, a man who is half bear, and a centaur. Together they struggle to survive against lions, wolves, and the challenges of watching their friends live and die through the back of the mirror, as their own world, family and friends moves on without them.

Reflections begins in Regency era London, and ends in Clover Springs, California, an all but abandoned Gold Rush town.

A tale of love, friendship, and facing unavoidable challenges.


Purchase The Book:


Barnes & Noble





Book Excerpt

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” –Charles Dickens


Chapter 1


London, England. 1807


Juliette shut the front door behind her, and slowly climbed down the stairs of her home, cringing at every creek of the steps.  She walked down the paved road, back straight and chin up, until the house was out of view.  She looked around, pulled off her bonnet, and ran all the way to the beach.

Stopping to catch her breath, she scanned the riverbank until she spotted Emily, gazing into the clouds above the Thames.  It was a gray and dreary day, but a fisherman stood in the water trying to entice the fish, and a few people were scattered along the shoreline.  Sea birds flew back and forth, seeking a tasty morsel.  Juliette joined Emily, and sat in the scrub.

“It took you a long time to get here,” Emily said, smiling.

“Sorry, it’s my birthday and mother is hosting a party tonight.  I had to sneak out of the house, but no one saw me. Then I ran all the way here.”

Emily shrugged.  “Doesn’t matter.”  She held out her arm, and opened her hand.  “I made this for you.”

Juliette took the hair pin with a tattered yellow ribbon tied in a bow attached to it.

Emily’s cheeks colored.  “Sorry it’s not new.”

Juliette hugged her.  “It’s wonderful. Thank you.  I have to go back now, before they notice me gone,” she said, pushing the pin carefully into her hair.

“Okay, I’ll go with you. How old are you today?”

Juliette smiled.  “I’m six years old,” she said, as they made their way back to the road.  “How old are you?”

“Seven, since last month.”  She ran dirty hands down her tattered and stained black dress.

“Look!”  Juliette stopped, and pointed toward the water.

Emily followed the direction of her finger.  “Oh!  What a beautiful chestnut horse.”

Juliette shook her head, ringlets blowing in the wind.  “No, it’s not a horse.  It’s a unicorn sighting for my birthday.”  She continued walking toward the road.

“But unicorns aren’t real,” Emily said, looking back at the animal.

“How do you know they aren’t real?  That horse has a black horn.  Trust me, that’s a unicorn.”

They stepped onto the dirt road.

“I’ll race you there!”  Juliette yelled.

Laughing, they ran until they found Mrs. Barrows waiting at the front door of Juliette’s home.  Juliette went silent and ran to her mother.  Emily stopped in the road.

“Where have you been?  Look at your hair, it’s a mess … and what is that ugly thing sticking out of it?”

Mrs. Barrows swiped the pin off Juliette’s head.  She winced as strands of her hair fell with the ribbon to the ground.

Juliette followed her mother’s eyes as she glared at Emily, standing on the road.

“What have I told you about spending your time with people like that, Juliette?  That girl has no business talking to you, and you have no business playing with our domestic help.”

“But she’s not our domestic help, Mother.”

“The girl is as good as employed by this household with her aunt Zylphia, working here.”

“I don’t want to see you with her again.  Do you understand me?  What if someone saw you?”  Mrs. Barrows shrieked.  “You embarrass the entire family associating with people like that, Juliette.  Get in the house!”

Juliette jumped when the door slammed shut behind her.


Juliette picked up a glass of punch and sat with the children attending the party.  She watched her mother laugh and sip tea with her guests.  The children chattered beside her, she ignored them.  Her mother had made it clear that the only reason she hadn’t received a strapping was so she could sit down at the party.  Juliette struggled with the sting of tears, holding them back, but just barely.

Margaret sashayed over, and stood with her hands on her hips.  She always has something to say about everything.  Juliette frowned, waiting.  All of the children stared at her.

“I heard you were playing with a servant girl today.  Robert Beale said he saw you running and laughing on the road like it was the most normal thing in the world.  You’re liable to get a disease spending your time with something like that.”

“It’s not your business, Margaret.  I’ll spend time with whomever I want.”

“Suit yourself, but I don’t want any part of that, or you.”  Margaret lifted her chin and joined the other children.

Juliette turned to see her mother, who had been just out of view.  Her knuckles white as the dish she held.

“Go to your room, Juliette.”

Tears spilled down Juliette’s cheeks.  She tried to think of something to say, but couldn’t.  She ran to her room.

Minutes later the razor-strap slammed into her bare buttocks.  The humiliation of knowing the party heard her screams was part of her punishment.  When the governess finished, she had been instructed to return Juliette to the party where she remained until the last guest departed.

Her mother turned to her.  “Get to your room.  I don’t want to see your face again tonight.”

Juliette obeyed moving much slower than before.  Her bottom and the back of her legs stung with welts.  She crawled onto the bed, and wept into her pillow.


Ten Years Later

Juliette grunted, eyebrows narrowed as Emily tightened the laces on her corset, pulling her breasts straight and high.  She slipped the heavily embroidered bodice on each arm, then smoothed the fabric with her hands.  When she was finished, she bowed her head, and backed out of the room.

Juliette moved right and left, twisting at the waist to admire herself in the mirror. She was wearing her favorite dress, white embroidered muslin, with a gathered bust, tiers of ruffles at the bottom, and long sleeves with small puffy shoulders.

“I’ll be ready to go in five minutes, Emily,” Juliette called, from her bedroom door.  “Be sure to get a basket from the kitchen.”

That girl always has her head in the clouds.  Let’s see, all I need now is she fumbled through a small grey hatbox on the bureau … a head dress.  Juliette turned back to the mirror, pushing the comb through her hair to hold the head dress in place.  When her ensemble was finished she smiled.  Perfect.  She looked good, but the sun was streaming through her bedroom window and the layers of the shift and petticoat were already making her hot.

Rushing down the stairs, underskirts rustling with every movement, the wooden planks creaked with every step.  She called for Emily, and found her at the bottom, putting on her plain white bonnet.  The picnic basket sat on the floor beside her scuffed black shoes.  Juliette’s mother stood at a table near the hearth, brown ringlet curls hanging perfectly down her back, her deceptively warm brown eyes belying the severity of her anger.  She threw some coins into a small purse.  Ignoring Emily, Juliette went straight to her mother, and held out her hand.  Mrs. Barrows dropped the beaded, pink and yellow purse into it.

“It is absolutely absurd,” Mrs. Barrows said louder than she needed to.  “That I should have to send my own daughter to buy what is needed because of dishonest servants.  My husband pays a generous wage.  You have no reason to steal from us or anyone else.  All of your salaries will be fined a farthing.  Not just this time, but every time I send Juliette to the market.”

She turned back to Juliette.  “Don’t be late, darling.  The dressmaker needs to take some measurements for a new dress,” Mrs. Barrows said, fingering some of the new materials she had purchased, sitting on the back of a pink and white sofa.

Juliette grinned as her mother kissed her cheeks.

“Don’t worry, Mother.  I won’t be long.”

Juliette walked out the door with Emily trailing behind her.


Juliette closed her eyes at the bright morning sunshine.  She crinkled her nose and opened them again at the smell of fresh baked bread.  There were vendors with carts selling household goods and colorful linens, and a cobbler had a table set up along the street.  A woman with chubby cheeks and braided corn silk hair, sold flowers of every color, and across the road a young boy knelt, breeches tight, as he shined the shoes of a man in a brown suit and hat.  A black carriage drove through the village square, horse hooves clip clopping on grey and brown cobblestones.

Emily cried out and crashed into Juliette.  Juliette pushed her away, then slapped her without a thought.  A thin young man with dark hair, brown eyes, and the longest eyelashes Juliette had ever seen jumped in front of Emily.  Emily’s hand rested on the angry red mark forming on her right cheek, and she was weeping.  Juliette smoothed her skirt mumbling under her breath.  I am going to kill her when we get home.  The stupid little sheep.

“Please excuse us, Jonathan, this fool of a girl–“

Jonathan’s hands waved back and forth.  “No, Miss Barrows.  Please, I am sorry.  The fault was my own, not the servant girl’s.”

Juliette smiled.  “This one is inept and bumbling at times.”

Jonathan reached into his bag and pulled out a muslin pouch.  He held the contents in front of Juliette.  “Turkish Delight.  Would you like one?  A small offering to make up for the trouble I caused.”

Juliette’s smile lit up her face.  “Yes, thank you.”  She chose a red square powdered with sugar from the pouch.

Jonathan held the bag out to Emily.  Juliette’s eyes flashed.  What is he doing?  Why is he even speaking to her?  She’s a servant!  Emily shook her head back and forth, then looked away.  Jonathan held them closer.

“Please, I insist.”

With a trembling hand, Emily took one, but before she could eat the sweet, Juliette pointed to the basket.

“We need to go.  I have an appointment this afternoon.”  The courtesy was a show for Jonathan’s sake.  She would take care of Emily at home.  “If you’ll excuse us Jonathan, we really must be on our way.  Thank you for the sweetmeats.”

Juliette purchased the potatoes and carrots Cook required, the dirty-faced farmer extended his thanks, and she turned to see Jonathan smiling at Emily.  The girl looked away, but not before her cheeks colored.  Juliette had had enough.  She grabbed Emily’s arm.

“Good day, Jonathan.”

Juliette had never been so embarrassed in her life.   A servant girl! And one that was stumbling all over the place.  What was he thinking?  No!  What was she thinking?

Juliette stormed up wooden steps and through the door without waiting for Emily to open it. “Mother!”

Emily wept openly.

“Emily was flirting with Mrs. Walsh’s son.  She even received a gift from him.”

Mrs. Barrow’s porcelain face darkened, and her fingers clutched the folds of her dress as Juliette recounted the story.  Moments later, Juliette’s mother grabbed Emily’s arm and pulled her to the Governess’ room.  A heavyset woman in a plain black dress and long white apron, her brown hair tucked beneath her bonnet, sat at an old oak desk looking grim.  The room was modest, with only a narrow bed, and a plain wooden bureau against the opposite wall.  The only color was a handmade quilt the woman had made for herself, and a full-length blue dress hanging in a tiny closet.

Agnes stood when Mrs. Barrows entered the room, and stared at Emily, blue eyes icy cold.  The Governess opened a drawer, and pulled out the razor strap used for disciplining the household.

Emily’s sobs grew louder, her eyes wide.  She grimaced, shaking her head frantically.

“No,” Emily whined, looking at the thick leather with three long flexible straps. “No, please.”  Her sobs grew louder still as the Governess dragged her out the door to a wooden shed.

Juliette’s mother smiled as Emily began to scream incoherently.  Standing by the new material, they heard the whack of leather meeting the flesh of Emily’s bare backside.

Juliette fingered the soft new pink and yellow fabrics, frowning.  I’m not fond of yellow.  Mother knows that.

“Emily will be indisposed for a while, Mother. Could you send Bessie up, please? I really need to freshen up before we leave.”

“Of course, dear.”

Juliette bustled up the stairs, hands clutching her skirt, listening to Emily scream.  That’s too bad.  She won’t be flirting or accepting treats from boys above her station anymore.  But she shivered inwardly.  Juliette knew well what it meant to be on the receiving end of that strap.  She had been beaten for spending time with Emily when they were girls.  Juliette was younger then, and hadn’t understood how important it was not to entertain people below her station.  She knew better now.  Emily wouldn’t be able to sit for a week.  Perhaps then she would learn her lesson and not entertain people above her station.

Juliette entered her room, letting the door shut behind her, and took off her head dress.

Bessie entered the bedroom, picked up the brush and pulled it through Juliette’s curls.  Her hands trembled and she winced at every thwack of the strap on, Emily’s, bared flesh.  At one point she wiped a tear from her eye.  Juliette smiled, and ignored her.


Zylphia dusted a lampshade trimmed with burgundy roses.  She had already gone over the end tables and swept the floors.  She tucked runaway strands of brown hair under her already loose bun, and saw something smeared on the wall.  Emily walked in, concealing her face, and staring at the floor.

Zylphia motioned with her hands as she spoke.  “Emily, go get me a cleaning cloth for the wall.  Bessie will get one for you.  They’re in the kitchen.”

Emily nodded her acknowledgement to the floor, stiffly leaving the room.  Zylphia stared after her.  What is wrong with her today?  Emily had always been a shy girl.  She was quiet, but that was expected of a domestic servant.  You did what you were told, bowed and backed out of the room as quiet as you could, hoping that no one would hear you.  These things had never been a problem for her niece.  That was why Zylphia had brought her here.  She got along with everyone, was quiet, kept her own counsel, and took her work seriously.

Emily returned with the cloth.  Zylphia watched her shuffle across the room.

“Why are you walking like that?  Come here.”

Emily’s speed picked up.  She whined and winced, until she slowed down.  She gave Zylphia the towel.

“What is wrong with you?  Look at me when I talk to you, girl!”

Emily looked up.  Zylphia saw chocolate brown eyes, similar to her own, except they were red, sad, and swollen.  Her brown hair was a tangled mess.  She took Emily’s hand.

“Come with me.”

Emily obeyed, but wept all the way to, Zylphia’s, bedroom.  Zylphia removed Emily’s white apron, and black uniform dress.  Zylphia gasped, fire red welts blistered, and covered Emily’s buttocks and the back of her legs.

“Who did this to you?”

Emily told Zylphia about the boy at the marketplace, the candy, and Juliette’s anger.  “I tried to say no, but he insisted.”  Tears fell down already swollen cheeks.  “I t-tried to s-s-say no.  I didn’ know what t-to do.”

Heat flushed through Zylphia.  She pulled a jar of ointment from under her mattress, and slathered it over Emily’s welts.  The response was immediate.  Zylphia couldn’t take away the welts, that would have been too obvious, but the swelling went down, and the redness faded.  Emily shuddered, then sighed with relief.

“It’s over now.”  And I’m going to make certain it won’t happen again.  “Go back to work.  It’s alright.”

“What are you going to do?  Please don’t curse her Aunt Zylphia.  We were friends once.  She even gave me a doll when we were small.”

“Juliette isn’t the person you used to know, child.  She’s grown to be callous, and cruel.  Trust me to know what to do.  She needs to pay for what she’s done.  You need to help in the kitchen.  Now go.”

Emily looked skeptical, but did what she was told.


“Why can’t I take Bessie?”  Juliette demanded.  “I don’t want that insolent girl anywhere near me.”

“I’m sure you don’t, darling, but Bessie has chores to do for your father.  The only other servant I can send with you right now is Zylphia.”

“I don’t want Zylphia.”  Juliette stomped her foot.  “She’s not normal.”  That one hardly knows her station, and the way she looks at me is frightening sometimes. I don’t trust her.  “Mother!”

“That’s enough, Juliette.  Take both if you choose, but Bessie cannot go.”

“Emily!  Zylphia!  Get down here.  Now!”

Moments later, Emily and Zylphia entered the room.


  About The Author

 Jena Baxter


Born in Ojai, and raised in the San Fernando Valley, California, Jena always loved to read, and dreamed of writing a novel. Having the ability, but lacking the confidence to do so, she enrolled in the UCLA Writer’s Extension, and soon her first novel was in process.

Jena writes YA, historical fantasy, and paranormal romance. She is also a screenwriter, and reads for a screenwriting contest annually. She spends her free time with her husband, amazon parrot, and toy maltese. You can visit her website at


Connect with Jena:

Author Website:






Book Trailer Link:


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postheadericon Interview with Mary-Lou Stephens, author of ‘How To Stay Married’

Mary-Lou StephensMary-Lou Stephens studied acting and played in bands before she got a proper job -in radio. She writes whenever she’s not behind the microphone or heading off to a meditation retreat.

Mary-Lou has garnered rave reviews for her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation, the true story of how she changed her life, saved her job and found a husband, all with the help of meditation. She lives in Australia with that very same husband, their dog and a hive of killer native bees.

How To Stay Married is the sequel to Sex, Drugs and Meditation and is the truth behind the happy ending.

Mary-Lou is a blogger for The Huffington Post, a columnist for Holistic Bliss and a regular at writing festivals and events.

Visit Mary-Lou’s website at



About the Book

How to Stay Married 2

Title: How to Stay Married
Author: Mary-Lou Stephens
Publisher: NelsonBay
Pages: 203
Genre: Self-Help/Relationships/Love and Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Do you dream of finding the right person to spend your life with? Are you in a strong relationship already and want to keep it that way? Or perhaps your marriage is a little tarnished and you hope to make it shine again?

You’ve come to the right place. While How to Stay Married isn’t your regular ‘how-to’ book, it is about creating the kind of relationship you want.

This is the story of a marriage; a journey from fear, resentment and financial devastation, to a place of love, joy and trust.

Mary-Lou Stephen’s first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation chronicled how meditation changed her life, saved her job and helped her find a husband. How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ending.

How to Stay Married takes us around the world; from the glitter and glare of Las Vegas to the sub-zero temperatures of the French Alps and the tropical heat of Thailand, all with cabin luggage only.

The discoveries Mary-Lou makes regarding herself and her marriage are a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Mary-Lou! Can you tell us where you are from?

I live on the SunshineCoast, in Queensland, Australia. It’s a sub-tropical paradise. I was born in Tasmania, an island at the bottom of Australia, where it’s cold more than it’s warm. I prefer living on the SunshineCoast.

Q: How did you come up with your title?

My publisher came up with the title. I was going to call my latest book Love, Death and Meditation as it is the sequel to my first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation. I was also thinking of calling the book The Truth About The Happy Ending because that’s literally what it is. However my publisher liked How To Stay Married so I went with it. Ironically my publisher was, in the end, unable to go ahead but I kept the title.

Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?

Derek Murphy from CreativIndieCovers designed the cover. It was quite a process and he was very accommodating at every level. I had definite ideas to start off with but they just didn’t work. Derek came up with many different suggestions and together we moved to the cover I have now.

Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?

How to Stay Married is about creating the kind of relationship you want. Isn’t that what we all seek? A place where we belong. Arms in which we feel safe. Home.

My first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation told the story of how meditation changed my life, saved my job and helped me find a husband. How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ending.

How to Stay Married takes us around the world; from the glitter and glare of Las Vegas to the sub-zero temperatures of the French Alps and the tropical heat of Thailand, all with cabin luggage only. The discoveries I made about myself and my marriage are a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.

Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?

There’s a list of Seven Tips For a Happy Marriage (and one from my mum) at the end of the book and by the time you’ve read the book you’ve seen how these tips have played out in my own relationship. But really it’s the tip from my mum that sums it up best:

On her deathbed my mother gave our marriage her blessing. “Remember darling,” she said. “Love is a decision. Every day you make the decision to love the person you’re with. Keep making that decision every day and you’ll have a long and happy marriage, even when it’s not all that happy.”

Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?

How To Stay Married is set in many different locations around the world and they’re all wonderful in their own way, however it’s the section set at the Findhorn Community in Scotland that really grabbed me. The Findhorn Foundation is an eco-community that was set up in the 60’s and still thrives today. The Hubby and I spent a week there, thrust into living in close quarters with people from many different countries and backgrounds. The emotions and issues that arose in that crucible were astounding, illuminating and often very, very funny.

Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?

When I read self-help books I turn straight to the case studies, the stories. I think human beings are hard-wired for stories, we love them. When I realised my life read like one of those case studies I wondered if other people would be interested in my story. My early attempts to write my first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation weren’t successful. A literary agent read some of it, saw potential but told me I had to get really, really honest if I was to continue. I wasn’t brave enough at the time so put the manuscript away and write a novel instead. When I found my courage I rewrote Sex, Drugs and Meditation and eventually landed a publishing deal with Pan Macmillan. How To Stay Married is the sequel.

Once again How To Stay Married, is a brave and personal book. It touches on areas in a relationship that not many people have the courage to expose. My husband has been my biggest supporter. He gave me permission to write anything I needed to, even though some of it was very tough on him. I’ve been toughest on myself though, often not painting myself in a very good light, but that’s what being honest is about.

Our early married life was a nightmare to tell you the truth. But the lessons I learnt and the hurdles we overcame to get to where we are now make fascinating reading. We’ve just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and are happier than ever.

Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?

Ha! I don’t have any secrets left. They’re all out in the open with my two books. I really lay it all on the line. I must admit it was terrifying at times. As a radio presenter I was afraid that the revelations about my past might get me fired. There was a real danger that I could lose my job, my friends and my family. In the end though everything was fine. I still have my job, my friends love me more than ever and almost all of my family are still talking to me.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’d return to Chamonix-Mount Blanc. I live by the ocean in a flat country. We have hills but not really any mountains. Chamonix-Mount Blanc is the opposite of the geography I live and work in; the balmy sunny days, the endless sandy beaches. I love the drama of the alps and the extremes of the seasons. Those giddy heights, the different languages. And the Orangina.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?

I hate getting up early. I used to play in bands. I’m a night owl. I was happiest when I was presenting Evenings for the radio station where I work. The Drive shift is about as early as I do. I’ll fill in occasionally on Breakfast if need be but it wrecks me for the rest of the week. All respect to Breakfast announcers – you have every excuse to be extremely grumpy.

Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?

No, but I wish they would. One of my sisters in particular has had a fascinating life. She could use it as fodder for best selling novels I’m sure. But she doesn’t have the bug, and as all writers know, you have to really want to write to see this thing through.

Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?

I was left to my own devices when I was young, having to look after myself for the most part, and I didn’t do it very well. Books were my refuge. I loved reading. And I discovered that if I was on a stage people would notice me. I took to acting with a vengeance. I also loved singing, I used to sing myself to sleep when I was young, so I joined the church and school choirs. Both of these pursuits gave me a surrogate kind of family.

Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?

Oh Lordy! To be slim and healthy no matter what I ate? To be financially independent? For all of us to have access to renewable, sustainable energy and clean water? For a world free from all types of pollution? This is the toughest question ever.

I’m going to go with the last line of How To Stay Married:

My wish for you and the one you love is for happy trails and many adventures along the way.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?

I’m going to give my final words to Antoine De Saint-Exupery, a French aristocrat, writer (The Little Prince), poet and aviator who clearly knew a bit about love.

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.

That sums up marriage for me. You’re finished with the infatuation and you’re into the real meat and depth of a relationship. The part where you have each other’s backs. You know, love and support each other and you’re building a life together that will be much greater than the sum of its parts. That’s where life and love get truly delicious. That’s what How To Stay Married is about.


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postheadericon A Tragedy Not In Vain by Steven Fujita, author of Toe Up to 10K

Toe Up to 10K 1Title: Toe Up to 10K

Author: Steven Fujita

Publisher: BookBaby

Pages: 168

Genre: Self-Help

Format: Ebook

In June 2012, Steven Fujita went to the emergency room, and was diagnosed with meningitis. After four days of improvement, he was scheduled to be discharged when his condition worsened dramatically. His blood pressure, body temperature and sodium levels all became dangerously low. He started to lose consciousness. He was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit. He had suffered spinal cord damage at the T4 level. Upon regaining full consciousness, Fujita could not speak, eat, breathe independently, control bodily functions, nor move his legs.

“Once we understand what we have to go through, become resolved to see it through, and know we will survive, we feel our ordeal is not so bad,” Fujita writes. In this book, he takes the reader on a journey of recovery from a spinal cord injury. It is not only a journey of determination and hard work, but of positive attitude, of drawing inspiration, of gratitude towards those around him: his family, his friends, co-workers, and medical professionals.

Purchase Your Copy At:


A Tragedy Not in Vain


In June 2012, I was afflicted with meningitis. As a result, my spinal cord was damaged.  The most visible consequence was my legs inability to move, thus, my inability to walk.  The literature I read implied that movement would be regained between 2 – 12 weeks of the affliction, usually 4 – 6 weeks. I hadn’t moved my legs in 7 weeks.  The literature also indicated that the longer it took for any initial movement to return, the less significant the recovery would be.

Admittedly, I’ve had a remarkable recovery.  I walk at almost the speed I did before the injury, and unless you observed me closely, you probably couldn’t tell that I was ever paralyzed.  The adjustments I now make to other areas that were affected are minor.  But I would not want to relive the experiences of the last two years.

Beginning with my time in the ICU, I lapsed into semi-consciousness, I couldn’t breathe independently, I couldn’t swallow, speak, move my legs, nor wiggle my toes.  I had no control over my bladder or bowels.  There was a chance I would be significantly brain damaged, and also the chance that I would not walk again.   Actually, there was a chance that none of the functions I lost would return.

One by one, those functions did return – maybe not to the level of efficiency before the spinal cord injury, but well enough, if not almost completely.

I wrote a book about my recovery, Toe Up to 10K: A Journey of Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury.  Initially, I wanted to write a book because I found very little information about the recovery process from spinal cord injury.  However, as I recovered more and more, I also wanted to document my recovery to give people an idea of what recovering from a spinal cord injury is like.

Many times the prognosis for recovery will be bleak.  But no one can predict what the outcome will be for any given individual.  This is why even if one is told he/she will not walk again, it is important, especially in the beginning, to try – and to not give up easily.

I won’t be stoic and say that my spinal cord injury was not a tragedy.  It was.  But it also gives me the opportunity to share my story, and if I could inspire one person into not giving up, then my injury has been in vain.


Steven Fujita was born in Los Angeles and raised in Torrance, California. He attended college in Washington, D.C., and currently lives in Long Beach, California.

Listen to Steven Fujita’s interview on the Book Club with John Austin, which aired November 2, 2010, about his novella, Sword of the Undead, a re-telling of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel, Dracula.

His other book, $10 a Day Towards $1,000,000, is available on Kindle. This book promotes the idea of using time and savings to build wealth.

His new book, Toe Up to 10K, was released in September 2014. This book chronicles his recovery from spinal cord injury he sustained in 2012.

Visit his website at:

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