Heaven’s Gate

Jan Dunlap

Science fiction, spirituality and a dose of suspense describes author Jan Dunlap’s first book in her new series Heaven’s Gate: Archangels Book I. Jan spins a tale of intrigue when a physicist inadvertently proves the existence of heaven and all hell breaks loose. Be the first of your friends to read what one reviewer called “a mind-blowing experience”!

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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What or who inspired you to begin this whole journey?

The first time I stepped into a public library – I think I was about five years old – I decided then and there that some day, I wanted to have my name on a book on a library shelf. That led me to become a ferocious reader; I earned a communications degree in college and worked in PR and advertising for a few years as an account executive/writer. I wrote a family humor column for our local paper while I raised my five children, and then one day, I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery just to see if I could do it. That turned into my first Birder Murder Mystery, of which there are now seven in the series.

Your previous books of memoir and cozy mystery have all employed humor. Have you always had an interest in scientific subjects that led you to switch genres?

I’ve been a closet science geek my whole life, and especially loved astronomy. When PBS aired their series on string theory many years ago, it renewed my interest in cosmology and the mysteries of quantum physics. About the same time, my oldest son took a college course from the author of the Afterlife Experiments, and he urged me to read the text, which I did. That book sparked a landslide of ideas in my head for a suspense thriller that combined speculation about life after death, religious faith, and cutting-edge physics. I thought about it for years until I realized I had to write Heaven’s Gate (the first book in my new Archangel series) or I’d never quit thinking about it! It was a huge leap from comic cozy mystery, but writing those books helped me hone my skills at suspense and character development which are key to Heaven’s Gate.

And what was Jan Dunlap, successful author, doing before exploring the publishing world?

Raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, volunteering at their schools, writing my weekly humor column and eating chocolate.

Since this book incorporates topics of spirituality and faith in God, do you have a personal backstory to share?

My children and I often discussed spirituality as they were growing up, or at least, I spent a lot of time explaining why people practiced a religion. The older my kids got, the more interesting the questions they asked! In particular, a lot of contemporary scientific discoveries seemed to diminish or contradict faith, rather than strengthen it. It made me really explore my own belief in God, and I wrote Heaven’s Gate almost as an argument for faith in God that incorporates science, rather than taking sides in a faith OR science debate.

There are those people in this world who truly believe in psychic abilities. How do you feel about that?

I totally think that we have yet to discover/document the full potential of the human brain. We all have déjà vu, compelling instincts and even snippets of prescience. I think those are types of psychic abilities, and that some people are more skilled at using those abilities than others. As my Heaven’s Gate medium Khristina reminds my hero Michael, Shakespeare was right when he penned the line that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If we think we know everything about life, that’s our pride talking, because only God knows everything.

Which leads me to of course to ask, have you ever had a psychic experience of your own?

I’ve never had what I’d term a classic psychic experience. I can’t move objects with my mind, I can’t forecast the winning lottery number, and I can’t find lost items by picturing them in my head. (Actually, I can’t find lost items no matter what I do…) But there have been a few times in my life where I could feel that something was about to happen, or I see something and I recognize it even though I have no recollection of seeing it before. Whether that’s psychic or not, it reminds me that there is more in the universe than we know.

Fill us in on some of the research topics you explored to write this manuscript?

I read extensively about Albert Einstein’s later years as he searched for the One Theory of Everything, and I poured over the PBS transcripts of the Elegant Strings series. I read about psychics who work with detectives to find lost children, and I reread the Afterlife Experiments, along with material about mediumship. I even researched survivors’ eye-witness accounts of tornados and reviewed my notes from grad school in English studies about William Blake and the Grand Narrative concept of literary criticism. I spent hours online looking up everything I could find about archangels in the Bible, as well as contemporary religious cults. I read about Russian icons and Jesuit scientists and reviewed what I remembered about a Rubik’s cube.

You’ve developed a great story! What’s next in the Archangels series?

Book Two is already finished, tentatively titled Heart and Soul, and it deals with medical science, neurobiology and the power of prayer. The hero is Raphael, or Rafe, as he’s known to my cast of characters, and his story is another roller coaster of deceit, betrayal, murder, forgiveness and redemption.

Lastly, let’s switch gears a bit. If you could attend a meet and greet for any writer living or dead, who would that be and why?

Dr. Seuss, hands down. He was unbelievably creative. I’d love to talk with him about the risks he felt concocting such wacky stories that influenced generations of children and writers.

Where can readers delve into more info about your series? Any social media or websites?

I have a Facebook page dedicated to the Archangel series at https://www.facebook.com/Archangelsseries/ and readers can get a deep look into my research and writing process on my Pinterest board https://www.pinterest.com/jandunlap/archangels-book-one/ . I’m also on Twitter @BirderMurder, on Facebook at Birder Murder Mama, and my author website is jandunlap.com. I write a blog on Goodreads now, too: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2100500.Jan_Dunlap/blog

 

 

Another Autumn

Yvonne Higgins Leach

Was there ever a more dreaded phrase heard in a classroom than “Let’s read a poem,” “Let’s interpret what this poem meant,” or “Let’s write a poem”? One can’t help but wonder how many careers of aspiring young poets were nipped in the bud by teachers who simply went about teaching it in all the wrong ways and made their pupils eschew this form of expression for the rest of their lives! Fortunately, Yvonne Higgins Leach was not one of those students scared off by the depth of what poetry has to say. We’re pleased to put Yvonne in the spotlight to talk about her debut collection, Another Autumn.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer and, especially, what fueled your enthusiasm to express your feelings through poetry?

A: I started writing poetry in sixth grade. My sister Michelle was about six years older than me and she was writing poetry. She introduced me to the art form, and more than anything, she instilled in me that I could write and that poetry was a gift to anyone who wanted to give it to the world. I went to a Catholic school and every day we’d say the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. After starting to write poems, I approached my teacher and asked her if I could read one of my poems instead of having the class say a prayer (that’s asking a lot when you think about it!) and she agreed.

From there, I got involved in my high school literary magazine. I had a teacher – Mark Arnold – who was influential at such a critical time in my life. He did after-school workshops and even a mini-course where we went to the Oregon Coast for a week with about six other students. In college, I got a degree in English, took as many creative writing classes as I could, and met another mentor and talented writer, Alex Kuo. Alex was more than a teacher, and I vouch for all my co-student friends when I say that. He took each of us under his wing, advised us constantly, read our work carefully and gave honest feedback. We’d do things outside of class too. He’d have us over to his house and we’d go camping. Having a sense of community around poetry was phenomenal. Those were great years.

My MFA came later (from Eastern Washington University) after I was in the workforce for several years. You know, you go to graduate school and you get a degree in Creative Writing Poetry and you make these goals for yourself: mine was that I’d have my first collection of poems published by the time I was 30. Well, my reality at 30 was that I was going through a divorce, raising a daughter, and had started working for a Fortune 100 company. A short three years later, I was in a new relationship and raising two daughters. I did well at my job and was recognized for it, so they kept giving me harder, more challenging assignments and more responsibility. I took on each one and just did my best at it and over the years I found myself an executive and leading good-sized teams and handling major PR corporate issues. The job became a 50 – 60 hour week, easy. But regardless of all that was happening in my personal and professional life, I never gave up on poetry.

Q: Many an aspiring writer has lamented, “Oh, but I just don’t have the time to write because I’m too busy raising my family, climbing the corporate ladder, cleaning the house, etc. In your own experience, you had more than a full plate to fill your waking life. What was your secret to making room for the written word?

I remember many a day at work being tired because I started a poem at 10 p.m. at night and wouldn’t finish until the wee hours. And then I would work on refining it throughout the evenings of that week. For me, it was as if I couldn’t help it. Either I had an experience that moved me to the point that my inner voice said: this has to be told, or someone tells me a story and I am so moved I said the same thing: this has to be documented. When that happened, the poem would stir in me until I could carve out time to get it on paper.

Q: Tell us more about your writing process.

A: It usually, but not always, goes like this: something strikes me…an idea, a story, an experience I had directly, and it tells me that it must be written. I then feel it is something that needs to be made separate, in and of itself, and to be shared with others. I’ll sometimes write the idea in a notebook; but often it just hangs around in my head and heart. When I actually get to the point where phrases are being written in my head or I see the structure of the poem taking place then I know it is time to write. From there, I live with the poem for days and sometimes weeks, replaying the lines, the images, in my head and I’ll tweak them, refine the poem over a period of time. I do a fair amount of this in my head.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your works in progress or did you make them wait until you felt you had polished it to perfection?

A: I do allow people to read my work as I create it. I find that having an “early reader”, as I call them, is very helpful. He or she usually can tell me right away if something isn’t working, is a bit clunky, or unclear. Also, just recently I joined a small community of poets and we now post first drafts on a website called Inked Voices that allows us to critique each other’s work. It’s a really useful tool.

Q: What is your favorite style of poetry?

A: I have two favorite styles of poetry: free verse, especially when a poem uses regular patterns of sound and rhythm that are close to how we speak naturally and yet create an emotional experience that blows your socks off. I have always loved the elegy as well. I know it might sound strange to admire the “melancholy poem that laments its subject’s death” but what I appreciate in an elegy is by the end there is some form of consolation.

Q: Who are some of your favorite poets?

A: I’ll put them in two categories – those who have passed and those who are living.

Those who have passed: Theodore Roethke, for his largeness and realness in poetry. Raymond Carver, for his simplicity of language and expression.  The Irish poet Seamus Heaney, for his acute eye and ear and sense of storytelling in poetry.

Those who are living: some of my favorite poets are Tony Curtis, not the singer, but the Irish poet. He really knows how to capture an experience that moves you.  Edward Hirsch…I find his poetry precise, thoughtful, accessible, and his passion for poetry insatiable. He has written several wonderful books about poetry as well. W.S. Merwin, for his love of the world, both physical and spiritual. And last, Ellen Bass, for her gorgeous poetry that has a great balance between intelligence and heart.

Q: If you could sit down for lunch with any of these beloved wordsmiths, which one would it be, where would you go, and what question would you most like to ask?

A: I am of Irish heritage so I would definitely sit down with Seamus Heaney in an Irish pub in County Derry in Northern Ireland where he grew up. I would ask him to describe what he felt was the hardest thing he overcame as a writer in his lifetime.

Q: My favorite part of any interview is shining a spotlight on a book’s debut. Another Autumn is your first published work. Brava! It’s time to brag and tell us what it felt like to hold that first copy in your hands.

A: It felt surreal to be honest. I remember first feeling happy with the cover art because it represented authentically the title and so many of the poems in the book. Then I read it front to back as an actual book in my hand and that was a wonderful experience.

Q: What’s the story behind the title (and is it a teaser to future “seasonal” collections)?

A: The title comes from one of the poems in the book. I picked it because many of my poems are about the passage of time, which the seasons represent so well.

Q:  You are what I would consider a working poet. Most poets are academics and tied to a college or university. Do you have thoughts on the academic versus the working poet?

As with most things, there are advantages and disadvantages. I have two primary thoughts on this: One, I think if one is in the academic environment there is a lot of support for writing, because writing is taught there and “the structure” and peers tend to be very supportive. In the work world, often your work and your writing are very separate so you frequently have a feeling of isolation when it comes to your writing. It is easy to not feel understood. Second, I think it boils down to how a writer manages his/her time to write. I don’t think anyone can deny whether you are tied to academia or the work world, we’re all busy people. It’s a matter of how you carve out the time to write. For me, it was often late at night after all the duties of the day, both professional and personal, were done. That was just my reality.

Q: What about the naysayers who declare, “But there’s no money in writing poetry. Why aren’t you writing novels instead?”

A: For me, it’s a matter of what drives your passion. I have always had a passion for poetry, knowing there was no money in it. I wouldn’t want to change genres just to make money. I would feel like I would be leaving my real self behind.

Q: The resistance that a lot of people put up toward poetry and its interpretation often stems from their exposure to it in elementary school and high school. What do you say to the person who says s/he doesn’t understand it and, accordingly, chooses not to read it?

A: Poetry is an exchange. I believe both parties have some responsibility in that exchange. The poet’s responsibility is to capture the essence of the poem through the use of his/her tools — words, line breaks, rhythm or song, metaphor — in a way that allows the reader to understand and experience it. I don’t believe in poetry that is so complicated or obscure or internal to the poet that the reader never does understand it. On the other hand, I believe the reader does have a responsibility, too, to give the poem a chance. To wrestle with it, talk back to it, read it again and again because by engaging with it he/she will discover more about the poem and I am certain something more about themselves. When we have this exchange, we make meaning together.

Q: On that note, what’s your personal list of “Ten Poems You Need To Read Before You Die”?

A: What a fun question! “Digging” by Seamus Heaney; “Traveling Through Dark” by William Stafford; “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden; “Sonnet Xvii” by Pablo Neruda; “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost; “Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke; “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins; “What the Doctor Said” by Raymond Carver; “Fall” by Edward Hirsch; “Elegy for a Walnut Tree” by W.S. Merwin.

Q: What’s your philosophy on the writer and the reader?

A: Like a painter, s/he starts with a blank canvas and then, with the tools at hand, paints a scene, image, portrait, whatever it might be. Then the painter waits for a viewer. Poetry is similar. I start with a blank white page and my tools are the words, rhythm, images, metaphor, white space that I create into an experience. The relationship between the writer and the reader is by definition removed by being experienced through text, a body of words on the page. It is a particular kind of exchange between two people most often not physically present to each other. If the poem is good, it is often a passionate form of communication between strangers, and often immediate and intense. Reading poetry is a way of connecting – through a medium of language – more deeply with yourself even as you connect more deeply with another. As a result, I believe the poem delivers on our spiritual lives precisely because it gives us the gift of intimacy and privacy and participation that we wouldn’t experience otherwise.

Q: You’re hinting at the spirituality in poetry. Can you tell us more?

A: Oh most definitely. I have two perspectives on this: First, Wallace Stevens said that “poetry is like prayer in that it is most effective in solitude”. Poetry often comes out of silence and it longs to discover the mysteries of life; hence it is kinship to prayer. So when you think about it, poetry is one of the soul’s natural habitats. In that moment when the soul captures what is deep within we attain something spiritual. I look at the poem as the soul in action through words on a page. Second, poet Pablo Neruda said in so many words: to feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. He also said “but to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, that is something greater and more beautiful because it widens our boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.” I believe that is what poetry does. It connects us.

Pablo told a wonderful story related to this. When he was a young boy in his backyard, he looked through a hole in the fence and much to his surprise the hand of another small boy shot through. When Pablo looked through the hole again, there was a marvelous white sheep there the boy had brought him to gaze at. But the boy had disappeared. Pablo then went into his house and brought out his favorite treasure: a pinecone, opened, full of odor and resin, which he adored, and set down in the same hole in the fence. The next day the pinecone was gone. This little story is about how all of humanity is somehow connected. And when the exchange of gifts occurs, whatever they may be, that is indestructible. Poetry, to me, is an exchange of gifts.

Q: Now that you have more time to write, what do you hope for?

A: Because my time was limited for literally decades, and as a result, many of my poems fit just on one page, I hope to explore writing longer poems, and perhaps write about more philosophical topics. Many of my poems are about experiences, and from there, I have an insight. I’d like now to explore other topics for poetry, like maybe take on concepts and see where the poem goes. As an example, recently I went to a reading where a poet read a 10-page poem about particles meshing into the thing they are closest too. It took her a year to write that poem. I am also reading other poets “by the pounds” now and feeling like I am getting a more complete perspective on the contemporary poetry scene in the U.S.

Q: So who is on your current reading list?

A: I have been reading poets I consider on the national scene but also getting to know many of the local poets in the Northwest. On the national scene, poets include: Claudia Rankine, Nicky Finney, Tony Hoagland, Ross Gay, Gregory Pardlo, Jane Hirshfield, Terrance Hayes, Jamaal May, Saeed Jones, Ocean Vuong, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kathleen Jamie, and Wesley McNair. I could go on and on. I am having so much fun consuming poetry!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: At my website: www.yvonnehigginsleach.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: If you feel you have something to share, a story to tell, a poem to write, then do it. Don’t let that critical voice we often hear inside ourselves shut you down. You have every right to create!

 

 

 

Godless

Jeff_Rasley

Stretch your limits and shake up your boundaries! No one does this more or better than writer, philanthropist, mountaineer, husband, and father than Jeff Rasley. Having written and published his eighth non-fiction book, Godless, Jeff goes deep into the discussion of humanity, and what it means to be a believer and non-believer of any religious or political doctrine. As a man who has travelled the world, trekked mountains, and swam with whales, Jeff encourages us to examine our lives and where we’re going. It’s a pleasure to interview this intrepid spirit and share some of his thoughts to the questions posed. Welcome Jeff!

Interviewer: Debbie McClure

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Q     How did your early life as a child, then as a lawyer, prepare you to undertake life-altering global and spiritual explorations?

A   My family encouraged curiosity and intellectual exploration and that has been as aspect of my identity since childhood. Practicing law demands rigorous questioning about facts and evidence. So, both of these influences influenced me to have open eyes and open mind to different and new ideas and spiritual growth.

Q   Who has been your greatest life coach or mentor, and why?

A   Many teachers, professors, coaches, pastors, and friends have had influence on me, and friendships developed with my Nepalese sirdars have been inspiring. But, I can’t name one as being the greatest. The constant love, forgiveness, and understanding of my parents and wife have been more important to me than anything I’ve gained from other people.

Q   What inspires and drives you?

A   I want to take good care of myself, live life as an adventure, and offer what I can to others who ask for and need my assistance. I want to enjoy life and affect the world with pragmatic philanthropy.

Q   Some would say climbing a mountain is the ultimate physical manifestation of spiritual seeking. What did you discover about yourself during your first and subsequent climbs in Nepal?

A   That I could endure a lot of pain even to the point of being barely conscious. There are moments in mountaineering when your body, mind, and will are in sync or flow, which is beautiful. When you are able to stop, look around and savour the view, it’s movingly beautiful. But, most of the time actually climbing is hard slogging, putting one foot in front of the other while trying to maintain steady breathing, and maintaining a focus on staying balanced.

Q   You’ve written eight books now, each dealing with issues of self-discovery, philanthropy, and seeking. What drives you to delve so deeply into yourself and our current societal beliefs, then write about them?

A   The admonition of Socrates, to “know thy self”, is, I think the first step on the path of seeking wisdom. We are our own interpreters of reality, so we need to be self aware of how we filter information through our subjective experience. Then, we can participate in family, community, and the world more intentionally and productively. I discovered during adolescence that it turned me on to figure out how, and then to implement, ways to improve communal relations, to help people get along better. So, I’ve tried to do that in various ways from my own local communities to international philanthropic development projects.

Q   Clearly travel plays a large role in your life, but why?

A   I grew up in a small city which didn’t have much cultural diversity. Whenever my family did a driving trip, it thrilled me. So, when I was 18 I walked to the edge of town, stuck out my thumb and hitch-hiked across the country. It was a wonderful experience of meeting people utterly unlike those I knew. And, I loved seeing different parts of the country both urban and rural areas. It lit a fire in me that still burns. (I’m leaving in a few days for another cross-country driving trip with my wife out to CA.) Every trip, whether it’s just a weekend of outback camping, cultural tour of a city, or solo-kayaking Pacific islands, is an opportunity to learn and grow, so long as it’s understood as an adventure.

Q   Can you share with us a particularly amusing or scary story about your mountain climbing?

A   How about an ocean story, instead? This is excerpted from Islands in My Dreams:

Fifteen times we approached the mother and calf when they surfaced, and then we jumped in the water and swam as fast as we could toward them. Each time they sounded before we reached the whales. The boat captain gave us one last chance as he was low on fuel and it was time for us to get back on the slower boat to be taken back to Neiafu.

The three of us dove in with fins kicking as hard and fast as we could. Anjo told us splashing bothers whales, so we kicked with our fins below the surface and didn’t stroke with our arms to minimize splashing.

The mother and calf didn’t dive this time. They swam just below the surface staying about twenty yards ahead of us. Tashio, the Japanese guy, tired from the fifteen times we had already swam after the whales, gave up the chase after about fifty yards. Kevin, the Floridian, broke off after one hundred yards. I kept kicking. After another fifty yards of pursuit, the whales stopped.

The mother let me swim up beside her, but kept her baby on her other side away from me. I swam up beside her huge eye, turned on my side and looked through my snorkel mask into her eye, which was as big as my head. She looked back at me. Our eyes locked. Time stopped. It was if we were looking into each other’s souls.

She rolled and nudged her calf with her flipper to encourage the calf to swim over to me. The baby whale swam up to me, swam under me, then circled around me, and let me caress its tail. It was surprisingly smooth to my touch. The calf returned to its mother’s side.

They began to swim off slowly. I swam with them for about one hundred yards, but then another whale-watching boat approached. The mother gave one great flick of her tail and they vanished deep into the dark water below me.

I stroked back to the speedboat and clambered up the ladder and dropped over the gunwale. I could barely stand. My legs were vibrating and shaking. Electric current (or adrenaline) was coursing through me from the thrill and power of the encounter.

For a few moments, the otherness separating the mother whale and me had vanished. We looked into each other’s eyes and saw trust and acceptance, instead of fear and danger. She trusted me to caress her baby. I trusted that she would not crush me like a minnow with her gigantic tail.

I can still see her awesome eye in my mind’s eye. And I remember how she trusted me with her calf. It would be a good thing for our finite planet if humans could see the soul of all other species, especially the endangered ones.

Q   What does your family think of your travels, books, philanthropy, and growing ideologies?

A   That it’s all pretty cool.

Q   You say that your wife encouraged you to go “climb a mountain”, so clearly she supported that first climb, but does she ever travel or climb with you?

A   We travel regularly together, and used to do hiking and camping trips. But she has MS and is medically restricted from strenuous physical activity.

Q   On returning home to the United States after your various travels, you must be met with many conflicting emotions regarding (global) economic waste and excess. What else do you struggle with in your integration back into your everyday home life, and how do you deal with your emotional conflicts?

A   I’m really not bothered by the vast discrepancies in material wealth anymore. I was the first few times I experienced “third world” poverty. It felt very weird coming home, caring for our kids, going to the office, and just living my life which was so different from that of the people I had been around in Nepal, India, and other “exotic” places. But the other cultures I’ve spent time with are more wealthy than ours in other ways. I’d like to bring back to the US the emotional and spiritual maturity I have found in Nepal (which it the poorest country outside of Africa). What I still wonder and sort of worry about is whether my own efforts at infrastructure development in Nepal are actually helping or hurting the villages I’ve worked with. But, we do the best we can, and then, “so it goes” (per my fellow Hoosier, Kurt Vonnegut).

Q   People often feel helpless to “do something significant” to improve our world or find meaning to their lives. What suggestions would you give to others perhaps not so adventurous as yourself?

A   Consider deeply what you care about. When you understand what you truly value, then guide your life in a way which promotes the values you care most about.

Q   Your recent book, Godless, is a very provocative title and offers what others may consider controversial insight into religious doctrines and dogma. Have you received any negative feedback or misunderstanding regarding it, and if so, what would you want to clarify for potential readers?

A   “Godless” is explained in the book on several levels. One of the points it makes is that making gods out of religious doctrines or political ideologies has caused much harm throughout human history. Believers tend to divide humanity into us and them, believers and nonbelievers. But what you personally believe or don’t believe probably won’t harm other people so long as you value tolerance. Unfortunately, religious and political zealots tend not to value tolerance and many are led by unscrupulous leaders to treat nonbelievers as less than human. The book makes the case that we would be better off to ditch the whole God-thing and admit we really don’t know whether God exists, or, to think that everything and every moment is sacred.

Q   What’s next for you, Jeff?

A   After finishing writing a book, I take several months to try to promote the book, as I’m doing now. And, the last thing I want to think about is writing another one. Eventually another seed will germinate. In the meantime, I run the Basa Village Foundation, serve on 5 nonprofit boards, teach a class on philanthropy at Butler University, and organize trekking and mountaineering expeditions.

Q   Where can our readers discover more about you, your philanthropic work, and your books?

A   My website has all that info: www.jeffreyrasley.com

Amazon Author page is http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Rasley/e/B004Q3D6B2

Other social media sites are :

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jeff-rasley/12/984/619

http://www.pinterest.com/pinner362436

https://twitter.com/jeffrasley

https://plus.google.com/u/0/104731913652844816663

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4114763.Jeffrey_Rasley

https://www.facebook.com/JeffRasleyAndMidsummerBooks

 

 

 

Connected To Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire In Business and Life

CONNECTED TO GOODNESS

David Meltzer was at the top of his game in the business world as CEO to sports super agent Leigh Steinberg (played by Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire). He worked alongside Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon and lectured around the globe. But something was missing, and the multimillionaire went on a rapid downward spiral that ended in bankruptcy. It was only then that David realized in order to revive and thrive he needed to blend spirituality with business. The result of his transformation is his remarkably successful venture, Sports 1 Marketing, and the debut of his new book (coauthored with Harrison Lebowitz) Connected To Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire In Business and Life.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: There are lots of books on today’s market that talk about personal empowerment, positive thinking, and defining with clarity what it is you really want out of life, work and relationships. What do you feel best distinguishes your own approach to this topic?

A: I take a pragmatic approach. I’ve tried to take very complex spiritual, religious, and business beliefs and organize and collate them into a pragmatic, step-by-step process to follow in order to manifest what you desire rapidly and accurately.

Q: What in your background gives you the credibility so that others will listen to your message?

A: I have degrees, awards and accolades, been in executive positions and still, I believe my main credibility comes from the “dummy tax” that I paid … the lessons that I’ve learned through experiencing life and overcoming the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.

Q: At what point in your life did spirituality become a core element?

A: Spirituality has always been a core element, but I did not become aware of it until I was a Diver or at a stage of my life that I was empowered trying to empower others at the age of 38. My wife, on the other hand, has always been spiritual and tried to make me aware of it earlier, but I guess I just wasn’t ready and/or let my ego stand in the way. More specifically, however, while on this downward spiral, I was on a flight to Calcutta, India for business and was sitting next to Dr. Sangeeta Sahi, who was a complete stranger at that time. She turned and looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?”

I replied, “I’ve gone through some tough times, but I’m back on track.”

I added cheerfully, “Actually, I’m better than ever.”

Dr. Sahi studied me closely, then said, “You are full of light, but your energy is off. You’re blocking your energy and are in your own way.”

It blew me away that not only could she read my energy, but she used language identical to what I had heard from others who had begun to peak my interest into spirituality. Dr. Sahi turned out to not only be a medical doctor, but also a holistic accelerator of healing, and a practitioner of Quantum medicine. She offered to work with me. I immediately participated in one of her workshops where I could learn about Theta meditation and healing …which completely changed my life for the better.

Q: What was your belief system prior to that moment?

A: Prior to then, I believed that I was in control of my destiny and could overcome any obstacle that I faced. Now, instead of going out and getting what I want, I attract it to myself with no resistance.

Q: How and when did you decide to incorporate spirituality into your business practice?

A: When I became comfortable with Theta meditation and healing, I started incorporating these aspects of manifestation into my business practices. This happened in my late 30’s.

Q: I’m assuming this transition didn’t happen overnight?

A: You’re right. Gaining gratitude and empathy and strengthening a connection to goodness that had weakened takes time and has an accumulative effect.

Q: Let’s talk about intuition. In your view, is it an inherited trait or a learned behavior? For instance, why is it that some individuals when faced with a challenging decision always seem to have a hunch, listen to an inner voice or just “know” which choice is the right one?

A: We all have an inner voice and an intuitive sense to make the right decision based off of our awareness. Unfortunately, sometimes our subconscious – our ego – gets in our way and weakens our connection to goodness. We must then “Cancel” the negative chatter in our head, “Clear” our minds and “Connect” to goodness.

Q: Do you believe that faith – and whether it takes the form of religion or spirituality – is increasing its influence in the 21st century or losing it?

A: Because of the faster vibration and the complexity of what we’re exposed to, I think we’re losing our faith as we lose our awareness. Collectively, we have weakened our connection to goodness.

Q: You’ve indicated there are seven interconnected principles that have a combination of general and specific relevance to our personal and professional lives. Which of these do you believe had/have the strongest bearing on your own success?

A: The Foundation Principle. Knowing and understanding my personal, experience, giving and receiving values affects everything I do. Like everything else in the world, without a strong foundation, things are unstable. This also is the Foundation for all of the other Principles in my book.

Q: Has it been difficult or easy to “keep to the code” of those principles?

A: All good habits are hard at first and hurt, then they eventually get easier and easier. Based on the core of my belief system and principles as well as my philosophy on how the imagination works with the higher mind to create inspiration, the more we do something, the easier it gets as well … be it swinging a golf club, working on a relationship, manifesting financial success and so on.

Q: Tell us about the different life or business stages you’ve identified in your chapters.

A: The life and business stages are the same. The life stages are simply the macrocosmic view of the more specific microscopic components that embody the life stages, such as business. As discussed under the Destination Principle, these stages are: Skivers, who lack empathy and gratitude; Strivers, who are themselves empowered; Drivers, who are empowered and can empower others; and Thrivers, who are empowered and can empower others to further empower others. We need to be aware of when we weaken our connection to goodness. This loss of gratitude and empathy leads us to the stages of: Arrivers, who are self-entitled; Divers, who have an even weaker connection because of self-sabotage; and Survivors, who are just going through the basic motions of living and deciding whether to exist or not.

Q: What is the greatest leap of faith you have ever taken?

A: Wow, this is a great question! I would say that the greatest leap of faith would be when I went to work for Westlaw right out of law school instead of being a “real” lawyer, as my Jewish mother said. Believing that the Internet was going to be a big thing, I went against the grain.

Q: Complete this metaphorical sentence: Life is like ______________________.

A: From my mentor Albert Einstein — “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Q: Describe what the collaborative process was like in working on this book.

A: It was a phenomenal process between Harrison and me. I would do the due diligence and research … and then organize and lecture on each chapter. Harrison would record it and then put it into his prose and voice. I would then edit it and re-adjust it into the clarity, balance and focus of my voice. And then it would go back to him in this circular fashion until we were both satisfied. Like everything else, with this second book we are seeing that it is getting easier and easier, and Harrison and I should be able to get out three or four books a year.

Q: How did your book and training lead to your partnership with Internships.com and what is that all about?

A: Utilizing my years of training others, travelling the world for speaking engagements, and my business model of empowering others to empower others lead to the creation of my internship program. For years, I had been trying to figure out how to monetize this internship program. Through one of our interns being more interested than interesting, we were able to attract internships.com and create a mutually beneficial relationship based off of the reasons, impacts, and capabilities of both companies. We co-developed the sports microsite that posts sports-related internship positions and provides training, certification and other opportunities, including a video training series based on the book and a link to our own Web Channel, The Inspirational Sports Network (www.tisnchannel.com).

Q: If you were making a commencement speech to the next generation of thought and business leaders, what would your theme be?

A: How empowerment leads to happiness.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: www.connectedtogoodness.com; Twitter: @dmeltzer; Facebook: /connectedtogoodness; and

Instagram: @davemeltzer

They can learn more about my business, Sports 1 Marketing, at: www.sports1marketing.com; Twitter: @sports1mktg; Facebook: /sports1marketing; and Instagram: @sports1marketing

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: The official book launch for Connected To Goodness will take place on September 27th at 3:00 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble, Tustin, The Market Place, 13712 Jamboree Road in Irvine, CA. I’ll be there to sign books along with my business partner and great friend, Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon, who wrote the foreword. We’ll also have an informative discussion on how to bring out greatness in others and in yourself. We’d love to see you there if you can make it. Besides Barnes and Nobles, both the brick and mortar stores and online, you can also get the book from Amazon or through www.connectedtogoodness.com.

Also, I’ve already begun a book tour. While subject to change and further additions, here’s the most up-to-date list of dates in case I happen to be in your area:

September 8 – Speaker, Arizona State University

*September 10 or 11, Speaker, St. Johns University

*September 10 or 11, Speaker, Columbia University

September 15 – Speaker, Concordia University

September 19 – Speaker and Workshop, University of Michigan

September 22 – Speaker, Case Western University

September 29 – Speaker, University of Texas

September 30 – Speaker, Texas Tech University

October 6 – Speaker, Umass-Amherst

October 7 – Speaker, Williams College

October 22 – Speaker, Seattle University

October 23 –Speaker, University of Oregon

October 24 – Speaker, University of Oregon

October 28 – Speaker, Tulane University

November 3 – Speaker, University of Miami

November 4 – Speaker, Florida State University

November 17 – Speaker, George Washington University

*November 18 – Speaker, George Mason University

*November 18 – Speaker, Georgetown University

November 19 – Speaker, Southern Virginia University

 

*Denotes awaiting confirmation of date. Please check www.connectedtogoodness.com for any changes.

Finally, we anticipate the next book in this series coming out in January!

 

 

 

Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams

Trust_Your_Life,_by_Noelle_Sterne,_Front_Cover,_1.23M,_jpg,_9.13.11

Author, editor, writing coach and spiritual counselor Noelle Sterne has published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Women on Writing, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider, Transformation Magazine, and Unity MagazineIn her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, re-label their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your personal and professional journey as a writer, along with who or what encouraged you along the way.

In the likely apocryphal story my mother loved to repeat, I stood up in the crib at 4 months old crying not “Momma, Momma” but “Book-a! Book-a!” I don’t remember this. But like so many other writers, I started early. I still have, from my productions at about age 10, crumbling black three-ringed notebooks, 7×10”, filled with lined pages of painstaking handwritten poems and stories. These notebooks proliferated, graduated to file folders, and now to magically stored computer files with gigantic gigabyte capacity.

From my earliest consciousness, the desire to write has been an inner drive, a necessity, a deliciousness, ever unfinished business. I write to share the wisdom that comes through me. To let others to see and feel through me. To capture the essence of what I marvel at, what moves, fascinates, and intrigues me. To touch others with universal feelings and truths. In my professional journey, like almost everyone else, I’ve got a wall-lining collection of rejections. I continue to explore new avenues for stories and short pieces on writing craft, writing motivation, and spirituality—ezines, blogs, the few remaining print magazines.

My mother certainly encouraged and, for better or worse, thought everything I produced was gold. In high school, the closest individual to a mentor was a high school teacher. I didn’t know her personally but attended a lecture she gave. Her words so moved me that I somehow marshaled the nerve to write to her and enclosed some of my poems. Her response (I still have the original letter) was fantastic! This experience is recounted in “The Writing Mentor I Never Met” (ReadLearnWrite, September 27, 2012. http://readlearnwrite.com/guest-post-the-writing-mentor-i-never-met/)

As an adult, when I share my dreams and struggles with my few good women friends, they are extremely supportive. My husband, though, is my most constant supporter. He critiques my pieces honestly, provides a wider perspective (rejection remedy), gives me the alone time and freedom I need, and makes great salads.

Q: What was the “aha!” moment that inspired you to start writing Trust Your Life?

The moment was rather a succession of moments. First was in my coaching and editing practice assisting adults who return to universities for dreamed-of graduate degrees. No matter how impressive their accomplishments and titles, they often lamented about lost time, feared they would never finish, and voiced destructive perspectives that impeded their progress. Editing their dissertations, I also found myself reassuring them that they indeed deserved to reach their dream, at whatever age. In the process, I developed many steps for helping them, and the experiences formed a major impetus for the book.

The second “moment” was my quest of my own dream. Like clients, I was battling the same doubts and fears about deserving to reach my dream—writing my own work. Writing about achieving one’s dream was what I needed to learn too.

Q: The title is wonderful – how did you come up with it?

I wanted words that capsulate what so many of us feel about our lives. In an early essay that was the germ of the book, I persisted in not forgiving myself for past decisions –such as earning my own doctorate—and felt they were getting in the way of my dream. The title reflects the connection between trusting one’s choices, wherever they have led, and not judging them as misguided, wrong, or blatantly stupid.

The second part of the title tells readers that it’s acceptable—no, necessary—to honor our inner guidance and secret dreams. And I am pleased that both titles are imperatives or, if you will, affirmations.

Q: Who would you say is the target reader that will benefit the most from the universal themes and messages your book addresses?

The first answer is from a generous endorser: “This book is for readers of all ages—I am giving a copy to my sharp 87-year-old relative to show her that ‘getting old’ doesn’t mean coming to the end of one’s ‘useful’ life.”

The second answer: Trust Your Life addresses those who want something that’s gnawing but they can’t yet identify, those who yearn for an often lifelong, sometimes outrageous pursuit they’ve never let themselves pursue. The book is also for those who want to increase what they’ve already discovered and may have embarked on. Readers include but are not limited to Baby Boomers, seniors, empty nesters, and retirees.

Third answer (sorry to be so verbose): This book is for all of us who suspect we’re not living up to our potential but may not know what to do for solutions. Today more people are admitting that the great American credo of consumerism doesn’tsatisfy. The book shows readers how to turn from the chase after accumulation, despondency, lethargy, and fears to identify and activate the dreams they’ve denied.

Q: In the preface you talk about the importance of trusting one’s inner wisdom. How do we know, though, whether it’s the voice of wisdom and our inner self guiding us to make smart decisions versus the voice of our head or our ego?

The touchstones for me, and others, are first physical. For example, “I felt a lightness in my chest, a sense of completion, of everything dropping into place . . .” (p. 75).

Later I relate the definitive answer of a member of A Course in Miracles study group: “It gives you peace” (p. 93). Then I expand: “The voice . . . is certain, calm and strong. It commands without censure and doesn’t waste words. Past all my nonsense, it centers right in” (p. 94).

Q: Are there such things as irreversible wrong turns in life?

No! Every turn is for learning. I go so far, with many others, and say there are no mistakes. In the larger picture, whatever the consequences (and they may have been rather severe by earthly standards), we have made no mistakes but rather have had experiences. When we look back on our experiences and reflect on the march of happenings from one person, event, or situation to another, we begin to see the line of synchronicity, connection, and purpose. In my own case, the academic editing practice helped me in my own writing to write better, longer, sharper, and with more discipline.

As writers, we may recognize the synchronicity: Haven’t you experienced something you thought had nothing to do with writing, or chose to do something you felt was a waste of time? And then . . . a day, week, month, or year(s) later you use this experience in your current work?

So, a major premise of this book is this: There are no mistakes. Even if you can’t immediately see the sense, your life experiences prepared you perfectly for where you are now. Nothing was wasted.

Q: Do you believe in destiny or choice?

I believe in choice. More radically—we choose, on a conscious or unconscious level, everything that “happens” to us. I refer readers to a piece of mine on this topic in Inspire Me Today:“We Are the Creators of Our Lives” (http://inspiremetoday.com/brilliance/we-are-the-creators-of-our-lives/).

Q: Have you ever taken a leap of faith? 

Every time I sit down to write I take a leap of faith. I leap knowing I will be given the right ideas and words. I love American poet Richard Wilbur’s command: “Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. / Something will come to you” (“Walking to Sleep,” lines 3-4).

Another very large leap: In deciding to move to Florida (for many pleasant reasons) from New York City, my husband and I worried, I mean, wondered about missing the city’s energy. A wise spiritual teacher advised us: “You take your consciousness with you.” As we took the leap, we have discovered many like-minded people and relationships, personal and professional.

Q: What’s your definition of spirituality?

Spirituality is recognizing we are spiritual beings on a material journey. Listening and surrendering to our inner guidance. Not solely following externally imposed precepts or faithfully attending church. But we can be religious and spiritual at the same time. Many spiritual/religious movements recognize our inner guidance and meditation. Spirituality expresses in many forms, especially with a good heart.

Q: If you could add an extra commandment to the existing ten, what would it be and why?

Thou shalt listen inside to your Inner Guide, which always steers you right.

Q: It’s often said that “thoughts become things” and that our expectations regarding a particular outcome – be it positive or negative – can actually cause those events to manifest. What’s your response to someone who says, “You’re telling me it’s my fault? That I’m the one who created this? Oh no!”

It’s true. You did. But the good news is that you can uncreate and recreate. The ancient Greeks, who didn’t practice religion in our sense, believed the same. In the book (pp. 4-5), I quote Deepak Chopra: “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. . . . we have access to an infinity of choices.”

Q: What about people who live in constant denial of their dreams, be it a mindset of unworthiness or a skeptical view that the dream is impossible? Is that repeated state of denial doing more to jeopardize their physical and mental health than they realize?

Denial of our dreams can indeed result in physical and mental health manifestations. In Chapter 3, I talk about this and refer to spiritual teacher Louise Hay’s valuable chart of body-mind relationships. Many others today, thankfully, have added to our understanding, such as Drs. Larry Dossey and Bernie Siegel. Whatever we deny in ourselves, resent, say yes to when we know we should say no (and vice versa), is reflected in our bodies and our outlooks.

Denial breeds anger, resentment, frustration, and self-hatred, and we become depressed and joyless. How can we then pursue our dreams?

Q: So how do we retrain ourselves to generate more positivity in our lives?

First, with affirmations. A wonderful way is in Emmet Fox’s The Golden Key: whenever a negative thought strikes, think of God instead. Period.

Second, with meditation. Daily meditation is a discipline in itself. Our “drunken monkey mind” relentlessly tries to take over, but the discipline is in sitting there and repeating a chosen meditation phrase or following our breath. Eventually the sabotaging mind quiets down and slinks away.

Third, people we associate with. Surround yourself with positive people, not the emotional leeches and “crazymakers” (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, p. 44). Notice how you feel after meeting or spending time with someone. Rejuvenated? Refreshed? Or depleted? Headachy? There’s your answer.

Q: The theme of forgiveness figures prominently in Trust Your Life. Why is the practice of forgiving not only those who have hurt us but also forgiving ourselves such a critical component of dream fulfillment?

Forgiveness is crucial for our outlook, attitude, perspective, perceptions, and projections (that should cover it). Not forgiving, we’re angry and tight, holding onto old hurts like a favorite childhood doll. We’re using our energy to fuel our resentments and proud rightness. These emotional and psychological activities leave us little for thinking creatively and proactively to pursue what we really want to do. As we forgive even one person, simultaneous miracles occur: We find it easier to forgive our sister, our parents, our boss and coworkers, and even ourselves. 

Q: Why is anger such heavy baggage for most people to unload?

When we’re angry, we think we’re right. Underneath, we also feel hurt and rejected. Anger is also a way to control others and get their attention. For such reasons we hold on—to hurts, slights, insults, betrayals, wrongs, angers, resentments, annoyances—through months, years, decades, and, before we blink, a lifetime.

You know the stories—maybe you have one—of brothers estranged for 25 years over an argument they can’t even remember, or mother and daughter who exchange only frosty greeting cards at Christmas. The anger is heavy baggage because we usually find it hard to put aside our pride and say, “I was wrong” or “Please forgive me.” As we are able to, we’ll feel a great lightness and rush of love.

Q: Do you think the world in general is becoming more spiritual or less so?

Much more spiritual. This book’s popularity, and that of many other spiritual books, attests this. Also, in the field of writing, more publishers and agents are now calling for books in the genres of “New Age,” “Spiritual,” “Metaphysical.” They wouldn’t touch these a few years ago. Spiritually-based blogs and magazines continue to appear. And great teachers like Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer are almost household words, and with television specials.

Too, more people are seeking spiritual resources of all kinds. Articles in mainstream magazines and the Internet feature meditation and intuition-following. Yoga has become widely accepted. Recently, three spiritually-oriented movies became box-office hits— about Jesus, belief in God, and the afterlife. That’s a major shift from the usual action-adventure-thriller-CIA-aliens-monster movies.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

Next: to continue to spread the messages of Trust Your Life. I want to help people realize they are in control of their lives and have the power to build their lives as they wish.

Next again: I am working on Trust Your Life’ssequel: Competition Therapy: Conquer Your Envy Of Others Who Are Where You Think You Should Be. Spiritually based, this book attacks the notion that if you’ve got it, I can’t get it.

Next again: I continue in the academic coaching and editing practice, which gives great satisfaction in helping clients grow and achieve their dreams.

From this practice, I am working on a book helping doctoral students their dissertations, the last and possibly most agonizing hurdle. This book addresses students’ largely overlooked but equally important nonacademic difficulties and is possibly the first to do so in depth. The title: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles.

Next finally: Other works perpetually in progress and stages of publication, including articles on spiritual and writing craft topics, personal essays, and several novels in various stages of sprouting.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers are invited to visit my website, www.trustyourlifenow.com, which has an excerpt from the book and other works. Trust Your Life in paperback and ebook is available on Amazon and other sites.

My webinar presentation can be accessed on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be

A radio interview about the book on Carla McClellan’s show Vibrant Living show can be downloaded: http://www.unity.fm/episode/VibrantLiving_062414

A chapter titled “Send Love Ahead” appears in the forthcoming book (August 2014) Transform Your Life! Information is available at http://transformation-publishing.com/book/transform-your-life/

Essays appear on the Writer’s Digest blogs. And my contributions to Author Magazine are available at the “Authors’ Blog”: http://www.authormagazine.org/

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A great thank you to you, Christina. You are doing wonderful work in so many areas. And for all readers (including myself), I add this: Start or keep meditating. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Dare to be what you know you are meant to be. It is never too late. You deserve a wonderful, satisfying, fulfilling, contributing life.

 

Smile At Your Challenges

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There’s no shortage of people – and perhaps you’re one of them – who believe that if they only had a flawless face, the perfect body, the right car, the dream job, a full bank account, and a blissfully stress-free lifestyle that Happiness would be theirs for the taking and they could bask forever in the love, acceptance and admiration of others. Accordingly, they try every diet on the market, subject themselves to plastic surgery, engage in daily reinvention exercises, and race around to speed-dating venues in order to find the perfect soul mate who will validate their existence. Sadly, these obsessions reflect our national obsession with “Instant Now” – be it the quest for short cuts, quick fixes, or thinner thighs in 20 minutes. As a colleague of mine is wont to observe, if there was a magic pill that would give people everything they thought they needed to have to be perfect, the inventor of said pill would be an overnight gazillionaire. Since no such pill currently exists, the best investment you can make in your future “newness” is a copy of Danielle Pashko’s debut book, Smile At Your Challenges. Pashko – a former New York model and expert on yoga, massage, holistic nutrition and healing modalities – embraces a reader-friendly approach to improving oneself by accepting that happiness is truly an inside job.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: It’s often said that appearances can be deceiving. Have people ever looked at you and remarked, “What kind of challenges could you possibly have? If you’re pretty, life will always be blissfully easy.”

A: I get that all the time. People think I’ve lived a charmed life based on my appearance and judge me in 15 seconds.

Q: As an adolescent and a teen, what was the defining incident that most strongly honed the survival instincts you would need as an adult?

A: Losing my mother and not having a father to protect me made me realize I was alone in this world. I knew if I made poor decisions I’d probably be on the street.

Q: What attracted you to the field of health and wellness and how did you first break in?

A: My mother’s early illness was my first introduction to health and wellness. Her best friend Beverly turned her on to meditation, visualization, holistic remedies and esoteric concepts. I was meditating by age 12 and followed a holistic lifestyle from a very young age before it became trendy.

Q: In a perfect world, a person who eats their vegetables, exercises regularly, practices yoga, drinks green juice and goes gluten-free would never have a day of sickness in their lives, much less a catastrophic illness. As someone so conscientious about maintaining good health, what was your reaction when you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer?

A: Strangely, I was not surprised. I was always scared of cancer due to the fear that was instilled after my mother’s early death. I was convinced that I’d experience some form of cancer by the time I turned 31, the age she was diagnosed. And guess what?…I got sick at 31. Did I will it? It’s a lesson to consider that our thoughts have energy.

Q: What role does spirituality play in your ability to deal with life’s pot holes, speed bumps, detours, and occasional careening off of unexpected cliffs?

A: Spirituality is the only way to stay sane. Although, it’s not a pretend philosophy for me. I believe our souls all have a lesson and chose the incarnation and body that we exist in. If we can view things as divinely orchestrated and not as a punishment, we can always figure out why we had to experience the pain. It just may not happen while we are experiencing it. Believing that YOU are in control instead of a higher power unfortunately leads to suffering. Nothing is random…

Q: Is there an age-related correlation between attitude and expectations and is it different for women vs. men?

A: For women, 40 seems to be like a very scary number. I think men hit it closer to 50. Although there seems to be more pressure on women than men to be married, beautiful, and have children than the pressures that men face.

Q: When expectations aren’t being met, there’s a general tendency to be grumpy about it and walk around with a glower and a frown. Encouraging people to smile at their challenges – as your new book title recommends – sounds like it’s much easier said than actually done.

A: I like to use my mother as that example. She was dying of cancer, but always wore a beautiful wig, full face of makeup, and dressed to the nines on a very limited budget. She never wanted anyone to feel bad for her. I took the lead from her.

Q: How much does our mental state affect our physical health?

A: Attitude is everything. Anxiety, nerves, depression, etc. will slowly kill us. I think those emotions are even more dangerous than sugar and processed foods – which I completely advise against.

Q: As many parents these days can attest, the “heroes” that their offspring zealously worship and want to emulate insofar as fashion and behavior are more likely to be celebrities whose popularity is a manufactured image. What’s your message about the danger of losing your uniqueness – at any age – when you try to imitate rather than create?

A: When you are not natural, authentic or yourself, it reads as fake. People can see right through that. We attract our soul mates, friendships, and even business relationships by being ourselves. Being like everyone else is so boring – why would you even want that? I love being different, it’s one of my best qualities.

Q: Does this carry over to dating relationships as well?

A: Yes, you can pretend to be someone else to get the guy or girl of your dreams. Then when the real you comes out – guess what? Now you are married to someone you are totally incompatible with. There’s nothing worse!

Q: If your next walk on a beach turned up a brass lamp from the Arabian Nights, what would be the most important wish you’d want its resident genie to grant you?

A: It sounds funny, but that I would always be healthy and not have to work so hard on it. I am grateful every day when I feel good. I can just imagine where I’d be if I didn’t take care of myself.

Q: So tell us what inspired you to put your life lessons into a self-help book and pursue publishing?

A: Honestly, I’ve never met anyone with a life anything like mine. (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad) Friends would always joke and say I need to write a book or movie script. As a professional counseling people on health and wellness, the unique chapters of our life can’t be ignored. Most people don’t just wake up being sick and I question how I came to my own health struggles. We need to realize where our physical problems stem from. The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. To be truly healthy, we need to work on all of it.

Q: Who’s your target reader for this book?

A: The book appeals to women age 20-50, although I’ve received some very interesting feedback from men and have applied some of these tools to their lives.

Q: Did you work from a preliminary outline or just let the ideas flow as you went along?

A: I tried to work from an outline but have to say so much was just intuitive.

Q: What was the hardest chapter for you to write?

A: The hardest chapter to write was probably “Age, Attitude and Expectations.” Most of the chapters were based on personal experience. I kind of embrace my age so it’s not something that I have struggled with.

Q: And the easiest?

A: The easiest chapter to write was “You Don’t Have To Wear Your Pain”. It’s a little strange because it reads as the most emotional, but it’s where my journey started.

Q: What would you say are the three major takeaway lessons from Smile At Your Challenges?

A: We are stronger than we think. Shit happens but you can’t let it cripple you. You’re not a victim.

Q: Like many new authors, you opted to go the self-publishing route. What was the journey like for you?

A: You have to be really on top of promoting yourself and social media. Although, for me I like that I’m spreading the word organically without a marketing team. It’s exciting to hear nice reviews that I didn’t pay for!

Q: You also have your first book-signing coming up. Brava! Tell us the details.

A: Yes, I’m doing an event the end of May to talk about the book and why I wrote it. I don’t think even many of my friends know these details of my life or philosophy. It’s really exciting to share.

Q: So what’s next on your plate?

A: I’m going to roll with this book for a few more months and see what opportunities come from it.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:They can visit my website pashkowellness.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear feedback from readers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grove of the Sun

The Grove of the Sun

A fantasy tale about redemption combined with beautiful artistry and complex characters draws readers into the novel The Grove of the Sun by author Parvathi Ramkumar. A magical journey that revolves around one character’s desire to save his land and his personal struggles while doing so. Fantasy lovers will enjoy stretching their imaginations in this intriguing tale.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us a little bit about Parvathi Ramkumar, and how long you’ve been writing.

I’m an author and freelance journalist, as well as a professional book reviewer for a major newspaper in India. I’ve been writing for over twenty years, I began when I was seven. It’s always been a passion.

How would you describe the synopsis of The Grove of the Sun?

The Grove of the Sun is a poetic tale of magic, Order and Chaos, and one man’s discovery that the life he was taught to believe was true might be an illusion.

What kind of books do you like to read?

I like a variety of genres, and my tastes in reading are pretty eclectic. I do have a particular liking for fantasy and science fiction, though.

Is The Grove of the Sun your first book?

It’s the first book I’ve published, yes.

What was the inspiration for the subject matter?

It was inspired by a strange and vivid dream I had many years ago. Some of the setting for the book and part of the plot came from that dream.

How long did it take you to research and write The Grove of the Sun?

A little over seven years. It was a little longer than I’d initially anticipated, and there was so much I needed to know and work on.

Whereabouts did you research for the novel?

A lot of the subject matter came from Indian myths, and I also did some research on esoteric themes for the presentation of Order and Chaos in the book.

How would you describe your protagonist?

Ildanis? He’s lighthearted and warm, with a streak of ingenuity that often leads him to situations he’d love to avoid.

What’s your prime motivation when you write a novel?

To tell a story. I love creating worlds and characters, and I love putting them all together to weave a tale.

Do you have any writer’s habits that are a must when you sit down to write?

Well, I do prefer silence. Also, my desk has to be neat, just so. Anything out of place is terribly disturbing, even that pencil right there in the corner where it shouldn’t be.

Do you like to dabble in other genres?

Yes, I find literature and poetry fascinating. As well as children’s fiction and magic realism.

What next on your plate?       

I’m working on a couple more books, including a children’s book.

Where can readers find out more about you and your novels?

My website, www.parvathiramkumar.com, has more about me and my work, and I’ve created a Facebook page for my book, www.facebook.com/thegroveofthesun. I’m also active on Goodreads.