A Conversation with Anthony St. Clair

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It was Marcel Proust who once said, “The Real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” It’s a fact of life that nonwriters could travel to the most exotic corners of the world and still be puzzled about where inspiration comes from. On the flip side, real writers can walk to the neighborhood market on any given day and come home eager to jot down a conversation overheard in the cookie aisle or an amusing exchange witnessed in the parking lot. Author Anthony St. Clair not only has a lot of globetrotting in his background but also possesses the wordsmith-worthy trait of always keeping his eyes open and forever pondering creative possibilities.

Interview: Christy Campbell

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From 1998-­2000 you lived and traveled abroad in Scotland and Ireland, and since then you’ve traveled extensively. How have your world travels influenced your life and writing?

Indie world travel changed my life. When I was 20 I lived abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of a student exchange during my senior year of college. It was my first time staying in hostels, the dorm-style cheap accommodation favored by backpackers; I’d never even heard of hostels before. It was also my first time seeing people who traveled the world, sometimes after high school or college, sometimes for vacation, sometimes as a lifestyle.

It completely changed the course of my life. I spent the next year between Scotland and Ireland before moving from Edinburgh to Eugene, Oregon. Since then I have also gone to places like India, Thailand, Tibet, and Australia. My wife and I went to Canada for our honeymoon, and in 2013 we took our son, then 15 months old, to Japan. We gave him a passport for his first birthday.

When it came time to figure out the stories I needed to tell, things began taking shape when I knew the stories would revolve around travel. But when I understood that travel was just a means to an end, that’s when my fiction really started coming together.

At heart, my writing is about inspiring people to live the world. If in some small way my stories help anyone find the courage and grit to do what excites them, but that they haven’t done yet, then every word I write is worthwhile.

You’ve released two novellas so far in your Rucksack Universe series. What’s next?

Forever the Road, the first novel-length work in the Rucksack Universe series, comes out later this year. Right now the manuscript is with my copy editor, and my designer is working on the cover.

This book is a tale of travel, destiny, and beer. Three travelers in India battle their hearts and their destinies as an awakened evil prepares to destroy all life. Set in the fictional city of Agamuskara—which means “smiling fire” in Hindi—the book tells us more of the story of Jay the traveler, Faddah Rucksack (the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage), and the mysterious more-than-a-bartender Jade Agamuskara Bluegold.

Forever the Road takes our world to a pivotal moment of destruction or renewal. Yet at its heart, the story is about connection: our longing to connect with others, and what happens when we don’t.

In one form or another, I’ve been working on this story since 2003. One day on my way to the office, I had an idea that made me pull over and write it down (I couldn’t care less that it made me late to work). I am so excited to share Forever the Road with readers. It sets the tone for many tales to come.

What makes Rucksack Universe different from other fantasy series?

I call the Rucksack Universe “travel fantasy.” Travel fantasy revolves around indie travel—not the book-a-cruise kind, but the kind where you backpack Asia for a year, live in another country, ride the same buses the locals do, or have been so many places you have to get more pages added to your passport. There’s often a large backpack involved, and dorm-style rooms in hostels where you can meet people from all over the world. There’s street food, friends you haven’t met yet, and a world where you treasure everything you experience, if only because you know there is so much more in the world than you can ever, ever know.

These stories are all about people who don’t have roots, gave up their roots, or had to go somewhere else to put down roots. These folks aren’t tethered to where they came from but seek fuller lives elsewhere. They’re vagabonds, globetrotters. The world is home and home is the road.

While the Rucksack Universe has fantastical elements, it is also very much a similar version of our world, changed by a catastrophic event known as The Blast. The world has gods, powerful forces, not-exactly-human figures, and, of course, destiny-slinging bartenders. The fantastical is interwoven with the ordinary, yet the extranormal elements also happen on an unseen level, unknown and unobserved by most people. The characters and the reader get to scratch back the skin shrouding these things, and go on an adventure with the hidden world happening unnoticed all around.

You also write a lot about craft beer and homebrew, and the beers in your stories almost seem like characters in their own right. Why is beer important in your stories?

As the old saying goes, “write what you know”! As a homebrewer and craft beer writer, beer is a passion—all the easier in a state like Oregon, where Eugene alone has 11 breweries. But what really makes beer so important in my stories is that if beer didn’t exist, travelers would have to invent it.

Everywhere I’ve traveled so far, there’s nothing like a cold one (or warm one, depending on the country) to bring people together. Beer is important in my stories because it’s a common beverage in many societies, and especially among backpackers. Pretty much every country has some sort of beer culture. From my own past, many of my favorite times involve a malty beverage or two or, well, it gets a bit blurry after that. I’m a cheap date.

The main beer in the Rucksack Universe is Galway Pradesh Stout, or GPS. It has nothing whatsoever in common with Guinness. (No, really. Ahem.) GPS is the most popular, most widely drunk beer in the world, even in hot countries like India. It’s a common element throughout the stories too. One of my plans—and I recently did a test batch—is to develop a homebrew recipe for GPS that I can make available to fellow homebrewers.

There’s clearly a lot of “long game” in the series. Is there an ultimate goal or conclusion?

Yes. No. Head bob. There’s a common saying that it’s the journey and not the destination that matters, but my stories hold them as equally important. Every story supports far-ranging plot lines, in part because I want people to come back to the early tales and shout, “That son of a ————, he was already working this!”

I see some similarities with the story and character development in Doctor Who, where there’s short-term stuff and lots of big things that get built up to, sometimes over multiple seasons. It’ll be the same with all the Rucksack Universe stories. At the same time, like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, each book stands on its own enough to where a reader can come to the series from any book and be right at home.

Home Sweet Road in particular sniffs at some of the long game afoot. Forever the Road will tell us more, especially when it comes to Faddah Rucksack, who we first met in The Martini of Destiny. He’s the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. Ultimately—for now, at least—his ongoing story is at the heart of everything happening in the Rucksack Universe.

Your stories embrace a sense of both interplay and conflict between decision and destiny. Do you think we make our own choices in life or are we governed by fate?

I believe that decision and destiny are intertwined. There as aspects of us that we have no control over, such as where we are born, who our parents are, etc. There are aspects of our personalities and bodies that are hard-wired. Sometimes things happen to us that we have no control over.

However, we always have the option to do what we can with what we’ve got, and that’s where decision comes in. We can choose what we do and see where that takes us. As we progress on a path, we can make new decisions. Eventually, you can look back and be amazed at the path you’ve taken, and how you never could have foreseen what you’ve done and where you’ve gone. But all that happens only if you take the first step.

Your latest novella, Home Sweet Road, is set in Clifden, Ireland. What about the plot and setting are based on your own travels in Ireland?

I lived in Ireland for a few months back in 2000, and I spent some fine days in Clifden. The hostel where I stayed was located a wee bit away from the city center. My first full day in the city, the proprietor drew me a map about “the eighth wonder of the world, Clifden.”

Years later, when I realized I had a story that needed to be set in Ireland, I drew hard on my time there, from the hostel to the Irish breakfasts to the pubs. I love the speech there too, from the bright patterns and flowing rhythms, to wonderful words like “feck” and “eejit.” Particularly in Aisling, the Awen of Ireland, I hope that love of language comes through.

There are other parts of Ireland that work in too. The Salt & Crane pub name is both a nod to Clifden being close to the sea, and to The Crane Bar in Galway, where I spent many an evening enjoying Guinness, good company, and the Irish music sessions.

Rucksack Universe stories so far have been set in Hong Kong and Ireland, and the first novel in the series is set in India. How do you write convincingly about these different locales?

Some of it is experiential. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Ireland, and India. Walking those streets with the folks who live and work there gives me a lot to draw on. I can write about India in part because I know how the cities smell, how the food tastes, and how you wouldn’t think it possible to pack so many different vibrant colors in one place. Same with Ireland; I know the feel of mist on my face, how a peat fire feels and smells, and what natural companions a pint of stout and a music session make.

Another part is research. I’ll read about places to answer questions or round out holes in my knowledge. I’ll look through Google Earth and study images. Each of my stories has its own board on Pinterest, where I’ll pin images that evoke or expand an aspect of the story.

My cover designer might also add that my writing style is visually rich and evocative. She says it actually makes her job easier—there’s so much imagery and sensory detail in the story, it helps her do different, more original things with the covers.

What drove your decision to be an indie author?

Until 2011, I held a “Real Job” as a web editor with a sales company. It was decent, honest work, but I had nowhere to go, and after 7 years there felt my career had stagnated. My wife and I spent a long time discussing my options, and more and more it was clear I needed to make a go of being a full-time writer. The year 2011 was still a time where the industry was pivoting. I spent about 6 months researching the publishing industry, what was going on, what was changing, how things might look once the future became the present.

Ultimately, I decided to go the indie route. It would let me move to market more quickly. I retained control over my work. Being indie gave me the opportunity—not the guarantee, but the opportunity—to make more money, and I didn’t have to hand over my rights for a pittance. Yet if the right publisher and the right deal came along later, I still had options. Starting out, I much preferred getting work to market than trying to get work to an agent and publisher, and then spend another couple of years getting to market.

Not every author wants to be indie, and that’s okay. I love being an author today, because we have more viable options that ever. For my skills and goals, being an indie author is a good match. I’m running my own business, and it’s in my blood—there are entrepreneurs and businesspeople throughout my family, right down to my wife, so if anything, indie is a natural fit.

How has parenthood impacted your writing and traveling?

This is where cultural cliches would have me talk about how it’s so hard to get anything done because I’m a parent, and how we never go anywhere anymore. But writing is an integral part of my life, and it is the center of my career. Travel is a passion for both me and my wife.

I’m going to defer to my grandma on this one. She was widowed and raised two daughters mostly on her own. I once asked her if that kept her from doing things she wanted to do. “No,” she told me. “My children were a reason to do things I wanted to do.”

That sealed it for me. Grandma never saw the girls as an impediment to life. She saw them as a reason to live all the fuller, and to share her interests with her kids. Both as a person and a parent, she figured out how to do the things she cared about, so her girls could see how important it was to make time for what matters to their lives. And that’s what my wife and I do with our child and our careers.

We talked hard about the impact starting a family would have on our careers, especially since 2011 not only is when we became parents, it’s also when I left my job, after years of planning. We figured out how to balance career and parenting, though in many ways that’s easier for us because we are both self-employed.

Over 2 years in to our parenting journey, we’ve made it work. As I said earlier, in 2013, when our son was 15 months old, we went to Japan for 3 weeks. My wife was going to a convention, and I was taking notes for future Rucksack Universe stories. It was an amazing trip, and it taught us much about how we work together as a family. Our son loved it, and I can’t wait until he’s older to tell him stories of when he was eating octopus in Osaka.

As for writing, Virginia Woolf nailed this years ago when she talked about having a room of one’s own with a lock. It’s true. There is lots of work I can do with my son around, such as some client work, or administrative tasks and such, and I want him to see his mom and dad engaged in work they care about. Heck, half the time I was red-pen editing the Forever the Road manuscript, my son was laughing and hanging on my arm.

With writing my stories, I have a home office that locks. My wife and I take turns with who’s watching our son. I watch him while she’s at her studio teaching violin, and she watches him while I work. Since he was born in 2011, I’ve published two books, have a third on the way, and am planning more.

If your philosophy of life were printed on a tee-shirt, what would it say?

If it’s meant to be, make it be.

Where an we learn more about you and the Rucksack Universe?

My website is http://www.anthonystclair.com. I’ve blogged since 2004, and write regularly there about the Rucksack Universe [http://www.anthonystclair.com/rucksack-universe].

I also write about craft beer [http://www.anthonystclair.com/craft-beer-writing] and provide online copywriting and marketing help for various organizations [http://www.anthonystclair.com/copywriting].

Readers can discover more about my books at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20643039-home-sweet-road

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19107543-the-martini-of-destiny

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7104178.Anthony_St_Clair

I’ll be announcing the release date of Forever the Road soon, and folks can keep tabs on that and other things through my free email list [http://www.anthonystclair.com/blog/subscribe].

 

The Alternative Medicine Cabinet

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Whether it’s your job, money worries, relationships or problems with health and nutrition, a recent study by the American Psychological Association cites that stress is not only on the rise but also currently costs U.S. employers $300 billion annually in stress-related claims and missed work. Nor is it just professional lives that are suffering; the common symptoms of fatigue, anger, depression, tension and nervousness wreak havoc on the homefront as well, potentially leading to substance abuse, chronic illness, reckless behaviors, and withdrawal from family and loved ones. So what can we do to reverse the damage all this angst is causing us and learn to approach life with a healthier body and a more positive mindset? Author Kathy Gruver, PhD shares insights as she talks about The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: For starters, how did someone who started out as an actress in Pittsburgh end up as a health writer and practitioner in California?

A: Even though my childhood dream was to pursue a life as a performer, the healing aspect was always a parallel path. I started doing massage when I was about five. I would massage my dad’s neck on long car trips. Students in high school would always sit in front of me and ask me to rub their shoulders, as I was so good at it. I apprenticed with a healer in college, very accidentally I might add, who taught me that I was not only good at massage and healing but encouraged me to pursue it as a career. When I arrived in Hollywood I studied further, thinking massage would be a great way to make money while I was pursuing my acting career. And it stuck and eventually overrode my desire as a performer.

When I finally left Los Angeles in 2000 I had a choice to make as to what I would pursue for the rest of my life. In Santa Barbara, I had taken a very high-paying production job. When it fell through after about seven weeks, I realized that healing was the path I wanted to take and proceeded full time. I studied more massage in Santa Barbara and started my own practice. I then pursued further degrees with my Masters and PhD following suit. I started writing books, speaking locally and then nationally, more and more radio and TV interviews, my first book was turned into a TV series and I find myself here and now with a career I never dreamt of. And who knows what the future holds.

Q: What did the acting profession teach you about stress, anxiety, jittery nerves and how to manage them every time you performed in front of an audience?

A: I never really got stage fright; I was always very comfortable in front of people on stage. It was off stage that made me nervous, walking in to classrooms late, that sort of thing. What made me most nervous was singing. I had a very, very horrible experience with an audition when I was in ninth grade and it took me years to get over it. It was a long time before I would open my mouth and sing in front of people. When I had my first big solo in a show, (I was Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors) I was a nervous wreck. But somehow I just managed to get through it. I had tons of support from the cast and knew I wouldn’t have gotten the role if I couldn’t do it. I wish I would’ve known some of the techniques I know now it would’ve made life a lot easier.

Q: To take an even earlier step back, much of your childhood and teen years were spent as an only child whose mother battled cancer for nine years. How did that affect your formative years, and ultimately inspire your future work in healthcare?

A: It was hard; there are a lot of things I was doing that my mother could not be a part of. Because she had trouble sitting, many of my shows and dance recitals were missed by her. So there was a lot of longing to have her attention and acknowledgment that I just never was going to get. Being that I had no thought at that point of doing anything with my life concerning medicine I never really considered it. I did wish for and investigate other options for her healing. She was trapped in the cycle of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. To no avail. In fact, I found out many years later that it was those treatments that led to her death. The cancer never would’ve spread and killed her. It certainly made me grow up a lot faster and be responsible for things in my life that a normal kids that age wouldn’t have. It also taught me compassion and patience for someone who was sick. I didn’t always show that with my mother unfortunately, but now I have certainly adopted that for my clients. My father was also an incredible caregiver and very patient with my mother. That taught me a lot as well.

Q: There’s no question that technology has increased our capacity to get things done, invited us to “chat” with individuals across the breadth of the planet, and enabled us to look up virtually anything we’d ever want to know without even leaving home. On the flip side, it has also escalated our impatience, made us more insular and heightened our levels of stress. Why is that? And what should we be doing to counteract the short- and long-term damage?

A: The technology thing is pretty ironic. We now have the ability to talk to people around the world but can’t say good morning to our neighbors. I find it incredibly frustrating that we have these abilities to communicate but can’t go back to the common niceties of saying “please” and “thank you”. And I think because we have constant access to computers, cameras and phones that we no longer have an opportunity for silence. Whereas before, waiting in line for something would’ve caused us to stand silently by ourselves or talk to our neighbor. We are now immediately looking down into the world of technology. We think we’re saving time but are we just driving ourselves crazy? And being that we have constant access to work or business, I think that is heightening our stress level. Because people can respond in a blink of an eye, we expect them to. So for those people that don’t, others get impatient and irritated with them. We wonder why on a Saturday night at 11 p.m. they haven’t responded to the email yet; I mean clearly it’s in their hands they should’ve responded. And I don’t know if there’s any way to counteract this. I think this is just our society now and until we see a shift in our mindfulness practices and our ability to say no and set boundaries, we are going to be stuck dealing with these issues.

Q: In your opinion, who’s better at dealing with stressful situations – men or women?

A: Oh, it goes both ways. I think women take stress more personally, but they’re also more open to the techniques that may help them deal with stress. Men can often get their stress out with things like sporting and competition, but are less apt to want to sit down and learn meditation and visualization. At this point I think it’s really an individual thing and it’s up to the individual to find techniques that are going to help them deal with their stress in whatever way works for them.

Q: Stress throughout the day often makes it a challenge to fall asleep – and stay asleep. What are your best tips for putting tension on a time-out so your batteries can recharge by morning?

A: Poor sleep is one of the large indications of stress. Doing things like a brain dump where you write all of your stressful things down ahead of time and promise to do it in the morning is one way we can assure ourselves a good sleep. Making sure the sleep environment is optimal including a dark, quiet room and little distraction is also important. Sometimes we wake up and our brain goes crazy with repetitive thoughts of problems from the past and worries about the future. I like using affirmations for this and thinking something like “I fall asleep quickly and easily, I wake up feeling refreshed.” It normally programs our bodies for good sleep but it shuts out other thoughts that are interfering as well.

Q: Let’s talk about some of the correlations between diet and stress. For instance, our grandparents and great grandparents – especially those that worked on farms – tended to eat a lot of foods that would make today’s nutritionists shudder and condemn as “unhealthy.” Yet, oddly, many of these individuals lived well into their 90’s without being debilitated by high levels of stress. Thoughts?

A: I think the key is going back to real food. If it comes in a colorful cartoon character filled box it is not good food. In most cases it’s not even food. It’s a food-like product. Organic is definitely best and avoiding package processed foods, GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup and artificial components are going to be the most important things in keeping nutritional stress out of our systems. One of the few things we can control is what we’re putting in our mouths.

And since you refer specifically to farmers, I’m assuming you were talking about things like milk, meat, cream, butter etc. Frankly I would rather see someone eating those things in the natural form rather than the packaged stuff we have today (except the milk; don’t think we should be drinking milk). Also those people were incredibly active and not stuck behind a desk.

Q: Tell us about your path to publication and the debut of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.

A: I was speaking to someone about how I wanted to do some public speaking. And they said, “So I assume you have a book?” I realized that if I want to be taken seriously in my industry, be recognized as a national expert, I had to have a publication. I assembled a lot of the articles I had written and projects for school and there was created The Alternative Medicine Cabinet. I had heard horror stories about traditional publishers taking 16 to 20 months for publication and changing everything to the point where the book didn’t even seem like your own. I just decided to self-publish with a company that my husband and I had found, Infinity Publishing. I’m very proud of the book and it was turned into a TV series and has won two literary awards. It’s a perfect primer for people who are interested in learning about natural health and a great reminder for those already have a background in it.

Q: Congratulations on the television series! How did that come about?

A: That was kind of my plan all along. I had done a guest spot on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act, and one of my friends said, “Hey you were so great on TV, you should have your own TV series. You should call it The Alternative Medicine Cabinet.” I wrote back and said that’s the plan, that’s what I’m headed towards. I decided to find some of my old production contacts and met with them in Los Angeles. I pitched my show idea to them and about 30 seconds in the woman in the group stopped me and asked me multiple questions and explained to me why the TV show would not work. I was definitely discouraged and I think it was the slowest drive I’ve ever taken back from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. I just didn’t think I had it in me to do all the legwork she suggested to even get a meeting with a producer or a sponsor, etc. However, a few weeks later an old murder mystery friend said he wanted to pitch my show to a network. We did, they loved it, and the rest is history. It has still been a very long process and the show is not yet on the air. Hopefully any month now. One of the reasons the show got picked up was because of my background as an actress I could convey the information in a fun, down-to-earth, informational way and that doesn’t sound stilted or too formal.

Q: You’ve written two other books as well. What are their titles, and was the publication process the same as the one you had for The Alternative Medicine Cabinet?

A: The other two books are both on stress; Body-Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker was the first one, which I wrote specifically for other people in the health industry. I wanted to teach them what I learned through my massage practice about the connection between the body and mind. A lot of it was based on my dissertation for my PhD. Then I decided to do a version for the general public. Conquer Your Stress with Mind-Body Techniques was released last year and just won a finalist place for the USA best book awards and was voted one of the top 50 reads for 2013. Very proud of the book. And have found that I have educated thousands of people about stress, how to control the stress response and the power of their own minds. And yes, I also used Infinity Publishing to self-publish these books as well.

Q: What have you learned about being an author that you didn’t know before you started?

A: It was actually easier than I thought. The thought of sitting down to write a book is really intimidating and somewhat terrifying. What I found to be the biggest challenge is the marketing component of it. I remember the questionnaire in ninth-grade where we were asked if we wanted to read a book, write a book, or sell a book. And I remember pondering that and thinking I want to do all three. I’ve learned I don’t actually want to do all three. I don’t want to have to sell the book. However, to me, the point of writing the book is to get in people’s hands and I will spend the rest of my life marketing and promoting my books and myself as an expert.

Q: How did you become an expert in so many different areas?

A: A few different reasons. One of which is I’m an incredibly curious person. And I love medical knowledge. This has led me to take an enormous amount of continuing education that isn’t even required for my field. Currently I’m in a hypnosis for pain management course. I’ve done dozens of courses through Harvard, some in person, some online. I just eat up the information and I retain it and am able to parrot back to my clients in a way that they understand. I also feel I am providing them with the service by helping them decipher what Western medicine is telling them. It also is in the interest of helping my clients. The more I know, the more I can help them. I just want to keep learning and learning.

Q: There’s clearly no shortage of health and wellness books on today’s market. What would you say differentiates your own titles in this field?

A: I think it’s the down-to-earth way I write the books. I try not to use crazy-big words; I incorporate humor, a light and a very casual way including asides and smart aleck comments. I put a lot of personal experiences or client stories in, which everyone really loves. People say that reading my books sounds as if I’m reading to them. I love that because I actually do dictate a lot of my work. I want it to be accessible to the general public and not a stilted book that is over their heads. I want to be able to reach the masses and give them the power that they can make changes in our lives. My books do that.

Q: It’s often said that teachers learn as much from their students as the latter learn from them. What have you learned from the clients that you have consulted individually or through workshops?

A: Wow, that question could fill an entire book on its own! One of the most important things I learned from a client was about the mind-body connection. I tell the story in my books, but the gist of it is she was experiencing hand pain and the massage and traditional treatments were only helping so much. When we discovered there was a holding onto of emotion, the pain went away and she was able to become 100 percent healed. I truly believe had she not discovered that emotional connection, she never would’ve had full and complete healing. Because of my clients I’ve investigated different illnesses, diseases or prescriptions, which have helped me and my own family or other clients’ lives. I’ve learned patience. I learned tolerance. There are clients that can be very difficult and I’ve had to work around my own stuff to deal with them. And all have come out very positive. Frankly, one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned about are several different religious beliefs. I have clients of all walks of life and it’s fascinating for me to hear about different belief systems and their life stories and experiences.

Q. What role does meditation play in creating a more harmonious life and mindset for oneself?

A: It’s so easy to go through our lives mindlessly. We see that on the freeway when we suddenly “come to” and realize we don’t know if we’ve passed our exit or haven’t gotten to our exit or showed up to work on a Sunday. Staying in the present moment is one of the keys to better health. Meditation can help with that. I am not a good meditator. I talk fast, I walk fast, I want to be moving at all times and it’s hard for me to shut off my brain. To tell me to sit on a pillow and relax my body and quiet my mind is very difficult for me. I do mini meditations, which I’ve taught to thousands of people over the world. That consists of simply concentrating on your breath and on the inhale thinking “I am” and on the exhale thinking “at peace”. This is been one of the most useful things to me, and when I find I’m getting sucked into a stress response I do this. Sometimes I need a reminder but I’ve been doing it enough that I can pretty much direct myself to do it when I need it. It is one of the best tools I’ve ever learned to help with stress and creating a harmonious life and mindset.

Q: If your philosophy of life were printed on a t-shirt, what would it say?

A: Go for it. It was my motto in high school and it stands true today. I see so many people envying another person’s life or saying, “I want to do that”. People say that to me with the trapeze or the way I live my life. And to me you have to just go for it. You can’t live vicariously through another, you have to take the opportunities that you can and live life to its fullest. So it’s pretty simple. Go for it.

Q: What do you hope to give others through the combined elements of your therapeutic massage practice, your books, and your upcoming TV show?

A:  I want people to reclaim control of their lives. I want them to know they have other choices and I want them to know that they have the ability to make changes in their lives. That can be really difficult and scary but we all have that ability and we have to take advantage of the right that we have to choose different things and to really regain control of our lives. I’m really big on options. And many people don’t think they have options. We don’t always have the greatest options, but they’re always there. We have to make the best choices we can. This is why I put so many different modalities into my stress books. It’s a buffet of options and if one doesn’t work for you, you simply choose another or another five.

Q: With a full-time practice – coupled with speaking engagements and writing – what do you do for fun if/when you have time?

A: Oh I definitely make time for fun. My husband is a wine, food and travel writer so he and I do many events involving fabulous food and great wine. Myself, I’m still obsessed with dance from when I was about five years old. So I do hip-hop dance classes three or four times a week. And my new passion and my new obsession is flying trapeze! I drive down to Santa Monica pier and I take a two-hour flying trapeze class and then I spend the evening at the Magic Castle, which is another passion of mine. I’m a total magic nerd and the Magic Castle is one of my favorite places anywhere. So, I still have fun. I wish I had more time for reading. But it just doesn’t fit into my life right now. And we have two adorable little boy cats, which I love playing with and laughing at.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Everyone assumes certain things about me because I’m in natural health and alternative medicine. I am not vegan or vegetarian. In fact I’m not a huge fan of that as a 100 percent lifestyle choice. I do not do yoga nor do I traditionally meditate. That tends to surprise people. I don’t particularly like the slow New Age music that I play in my office; I prefer music like hiphop, NIN, Godsmack and Korn. That catches people off guard. The trapeze is definitely a surprise to people as is the hip-hop dancing because they assume I’ll be doing yoga. I love NFL football. I am a huge crazy loud screaming Pittsburgh Steelers fan. People don’t expect that from a healer. And I have a mouth like a trucker…especially when I’m watching football.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I am finishing off a lot of projects that are blooming from the planting I did last year. I’m doing a lot of expert information for radio, TV and articles. I just had a piece on CNN’s website. People are now seeking me out which is fabulous. I am still promoting the three books I’ve already written. I just started an iTunes channel to have some guided visualizations and meditations to help people. And I am going to be writing another book. I’ve started an outline but am really letting that lay there until I have the strong urge to do it. I feel like I’m just working through and enjoying things that I put into place last year. But another book is coming, don’t worry!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I just want to encourage people to make changes and to go for what they want. I’m not a fan of a bucket list. It makes it out that the things we really want to do have to wait until we’re 80 with a terminal illness. I think we should have a daily bucket list and if there are things in your life that you want to do that you can feasibly do, do it now. There is no time to wait. And no time to waste. We have so little of it and it’s so precious, so take it now. And do your best to get the stress out of your life. It does no good at all. Unless you truly are being chased by a bear.

Q: Where can readers buy your books?

A: The best place is my website which is http://www.thealternativemedicinecabinet.com. You can also find them on Amazon and all the online outlets. But honestly each individual author’s website is the best place from a financial perspective for them. And it’s easier to track for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Waking Dreams

wakingdreams

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”—Edgar Allan Poe

Dreams fascinate us, dreams frighten us. Some dreams may eventually lead to the destruction of any human mind, bringing nightmares into full reality. In J.D. Kaplan’s fast paced sci-fi fantasy Waking Dreams, readers are thrust between two dimensions; the world where we dream and the world where we awaken. With plenty of mystery and edge-of-your-seat moments, one grieving man must fight an evil, otherworldy force who is determined to break down the very wall that separates dreams from a wakeful world.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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How long have you been writing and what initially got you interested in it?

As a child I was a voracious reader. An aunt introduced me to the joys of science fiction and fantasy in equal parts. For my 12th birthday she sent me Dune, The Hobbit and Lord Foul’s Bane. I loved the stories, the escape and the magic of it all and before I reached 13 I had written my first novel–the worst 200 pages ever put to paper. That story has long since been lost in the mists of time and that’s a good thing, but I still look back in amazement that I was able to get the words down at all.

Can you give us a quick introduction to your novel? What is it about?

Waking Dreams is a story of a man whose dreams sometimes come true. He dreams that he loses his wife and youngest daughter in a plane crash and when it comes to pass he is plunged into a crippling depression. The story is about how Colin discovers another world, tightly tied to our own, where all dreaming takes place. This world is in grave danger and it is up to Colin along with his surviving daughter, Sidney, and their strange and mysterious neighbor Penny to save this other world from a horrible nightmare.

Your novel is about dreams–a subject I really enjoy, by the way. How did dreams play into your creative process?

Dreams are an important part of my process. Often things I dream about play into what I write. This isn’t always a good thing, but some of my better ideas were born out of dreams or nightmares I had. I am fascinated

Most of the action in Waking Dreams takes place in a place you refer to as the Dreamside. What is that?

The Dreamside is the world we visit when we dream. It is chaotic and often illogical–anything is possible on the Dreamside. It is a reflection of what people dream. Some of the dreams are extremely transient–rippling realities created by a dreamer yet gone as soon as they wake up. Some dreams are stronger and create places persist, making up the larger part of the dreamscape. The Dreamside is separated from the waking world by the Wall of Sleep–the Wall is a concept that manifests itself in many ways. Sometimes a beautiful woman, sometimes a brick wall separating grasses meadows and sometimes just the hint of an idea on the edge of our consciousness. But we all recognize the Wall when we meet her–she is a mother, a friend, a shepherd to each dreamer. She is central to the conflict of the story as she represents a key part of the interlocked worlds. If our dreams and nightmares could cross that line at will, the waking world would be filled with the horrors and wonders we dream. And as humans need sleep and dreams to maintain their sanity, if there were no longer a place to dream, what would become of us as a species?

Who was your favorite character to write in the novel?

That’s a difficult question. Colin and Sidney are people with lots of depth and it was great fun to work with them–they grew in ways I really didn’t expect. But Penny is my favorite. She is such a conundrum–sometimes flighty and innocent and other times wise and powerful. The way she interacts with people was really fun to write.

Tell us where Tayport, Illinois is and the significance of it.

Tayport exists in my mind entirely. I have never lived in a large city like Chicago or New York. While I spend time in Chicago quite often I really don’t know what it feels like to live there–the subtleties and nuances of life. So I decided to create a city nearby that I could own and build as I wished. It’s something I learned by reading Charles de Lint. He created his own city called Newford where most of his books and stories take place. He’s been able to create and grow that place through out his career and it has such depth and imagination–something that would be hard to manage in a city you didn’t actually live in.

When you’ve got the premise nailed down, where do you get your ideas from as the story plays out?

Most of it happens when I’m running or when I’m driving in my car listening to really loud music. I like to imagine a scene, sometimes the ideas come out of how the music behaves lyrically and the shape of the sounds. More often it’s just that the music generates such an emotional reaction that my imagination is nudged and I go into a creative mode that is often hard to just kickstart on demand. Waking Dreams started as I imagined what it might feel like to burn in a fire. I was listening to a song by a band I love and one phrase in the song struck me and I found myself imagining the house fire scene in Waking Dreams. I know that’s dark and negative but it quickly grew into so much more than that. What would it be like if dreams like that came true–what would the consequences be in the real world? Those questions set me on the path that ended up in the Dreamside.

You chose the self-publishing route. What are the advantages of doing such in this tough market?

One of the advantages is that it’s all on me to get it done. I retain complete control of the work and my creative schedule and process. It’s a lot of work but has been really rewarding. The Internet has exploded the world of publishing. I find myself wondering what traditional publishing houses think about the whole situation. I was able to put my book out not only in the various electronic formats but Amazon provides a publish on demand service called Createspace that allowed me to get it into trade paperback format, readily available not only on Amazon but through Ingram’s distributors. This means that you can go into any bookstore and special order it. The hard part is all the marketing and selling I’ve had to do. I’m a writer and a reader and sales, marketing and self promotion are skills that are so far from what I do well that it’s a constant struggle. But interested people are out there and they are reachable and figuring out ways to find those people has been a wonderful experience.

What is the hardest part of writing a novel, once that first chapter is in place?

Maintaining the habit and tying all the details together so that the story as a whole gets finished and when it’s done it holds up as a whole. Fighting writer’s block is inevitable and like any other discipline you have to really focus on making sure you write everyday. When I first started writing Waking Dreams I had been away from writing for several years, focused on a band I was in and my budding career as a software developer. I had a lot of trepidation about the length of a novel vs the short fiction and poetry I had been doing. At first it was work. But as things began to flow along it became pleasurable. You have to have process you use to face any situation you find yourself in; writer’s block, unsure of the progression of the plot, etc. And you have to have the openness to throw those tools aside when needed.

Who are some of your influences when it comes to writing?

Well, of course there’s Herbert, Tolkien and Donaldson but they were only the beginning. The two biggest influences have been Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman. They were the authors that really reminded me of what I love to read and enabled me to write in that genre and cast off the yoke of “literary fiction.”

What genres do you enjoy reading?

I love contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy–that’s a guilty pleasure. But I also love epic fantasy, hard science fiction and my other guilty pleasure is space operas. I don’t mind a dose of romance and a little explicitness in a book but prefer to avoid erotica if I can help it. I am really in love with strong female main characters. There’s something really engaging about these characters. I also enjoy stories where the main character is not all powerful, or at least grows into some kind of power.

Do you have anything in the works?

Currently I am finishing up the rough draft of a first person contemporary fantasy story about a musician that sees his music as colors and is able to manipulate the emotions and feelings of the people around him with those colors and sounds. He is a person who has always been something of an outsider. Some of the book is set in the Dreamside, and the action takes place in Tayport, of course. I don’t want to give much more away because I really value the art of the “reveal.”

Will there be more stories about Colin and the Dreamside?

Yes, definitely. He makes a brief appearance in my next book and I already have begun storyboarding a novel that features all of the characters from Waking Dreams.

Please tell readers where they can learn more about you and your work:

I’ve got the obligatory Facebook page and I also spend a lot of time on Goodreads. I’ve got my own website that is kind of an afterthought but I might be focusing on more as I get more readers. And of course you can find the book online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Nook, iBooks and a host of other places. Here are a few links:

https://www.facebook.com/jd.kaplan.author

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7363644.J_D_Kaplan

http://www.amazon.com/Waking-Dreams-Torment-Colin-Pierce-ebook/dp/B00FPO638O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

http://www.thedreamside.com/

 

The Ugly Daughter

The Ugly Daughter

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”-Helen Keller

Tragedy and heartbreak resulting from a past of horrific abuse may sound like the next bestselling fiction novel in a world of dramatic storytelling. But for Julia Legian, author of The Ugly Daughter, there is nothing imaginary about harrowing, life-changing subjects such as abuse at the hands of family members one trusts the most. Packed with a powerful message about finding your strengths and leaning on God to restore faith, The Ugly Daughter is a memoir readers will not be able to put down, and will remember long after they do.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us a little bit about yourself—Julia Legian, Author Extraordinaire!

I was born in 1972 in South Vietnam, though truth be told nobody in my family really knows my real date of birth. During the war time I suppose people had other priorities than birth registries. My childhood was pretty tough, and that is the subject of my memoir The Ugly Daughter. In the early 80s my family managed to escape Vietnam as “boat people” and after a few years in a refugee camp, we immigrated to Australia, where I live till this day. I’m happily married to my husband, Simion and I have a wonderful son, Jeremy.

Your latest book is autobiographical. Tell us about The Ugly Daughter.

The Ugly Daughter is my memoir. It covers the early years of my life from a young age till the time we escaped Vietnam and headed to Australia. I had what many would consider a horrific upbringing and despite all that, I managed to survive and become a successful person in my own right. I wrote the book to demonstrate that anything is possible as long as you have firm faith and believe in yourself. I also hope I can inspire and encourage others to persevere and better their lives.

Why did you choose the genre you write in?

I’m not a professional writer. I am just an ordinary person with an extraordinary story I’d like to share with the world in the hope of inspiring others.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is brutally honest, simple and sincere and it’s written from my heart.

What are your preferred routines to use while writing?

I write at home in bed. The moment I wake up in the morning. I lie in bed and try to recall as many memories as I could. I have a notebook next to me and as soon as a new memory resurfaces I start to write it down. Later on during the day I go through my notes, sort them chronologically and refine the words until I am satisfied with the result. I have my favourite Buddha chill-out meditation music playing in the background to keep me calm and focused.

What genre do you consider your book(s)?

Definitely nonfiction; a memoir for women, I’d say.

Did you learn anything in particular that stood out for you once you began writing your book?

I learn the power of forgiveness, the power of letting go and to be compassionate towards the people that hurt me. I also the realization that I’m the only person that could free me from the prison of pain. And happiness is a personal decision and a personal choice and it has very little to do with our circumstances.

Are there any books that have most influenced your life?

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Power of Positive Living Norman Vincent Peale

The infamous question- what advice would you give to any aspiring and new authors out there?

Do what you love. Work hard and never give up on your dream.

What can we look forward from you in the future?

The Ugly Daughter Part 2 is the follow up to my first novel.

Where can readers find a plethora of information about Julia Legian online?

http://www.theuglydaughter.com/ would be a good start.

Also https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7827024.Julia_Legian

And https://www.createspace.com/4653825