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Interview with J. Boyce Gleason, author of ‘Anvil of God’

J. Boyce GleasonWith an AB degree in history from Dartmouth College, J. Boyce Gleason brings a strong understanding of what events shaped the past and when, but writes historical-fiction to discover why. Gleason lives in Virginia with his wife Mary Margaret. They have three sons.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Visit his website at

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joe. Can you tell us what your latest book, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles is all about?

Anvil of God 2Anvil of God is about a family in crisis. It chronicles the power struggle that befalls the family of Charles the Hammer in the wake of his death in 741. Despite Charles’s best laid plans, son battles son, Christianity battles paganism and his young daughter must choose between love and her family’s ambition.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Oddly enough for this genre, Anvil’s two main characters are women. Charles’s daughter Trudi flees his court in the dead of night to pursue love halfway across the continent in the camp of his enemies. Along the way she must grapple with the reality of her father’s violent history conquering a continent with what she has been raised to believe.

Charles’s widow Sunni moves to protect her 14 year-old son, Gripho from his older and more battle worn, half-brothers Carloman and Pippin. They suspect (rightly) that she is pagan and refuse to sanction the potential for a pagan state.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They are as close to real as I could get for the 8th century. Most of the main characters are real people and I shaped their personalities based on what is known about them. There are two exceptions (which I note in the author’s note at the end) where a hole in the history appeared and I felt a need to fill it.

For me, it is like a putting together a puzzle. I catalogue what I know about the person, what actions they took, and then begin to list a series of questions. Why did they do what they did? Was it well thought out, or impulsive? How difficult was it? What help would she have to have? How long would it take?

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I researched the period thoroughly and know what happened in history; the trick for me is to figure out why. So, I have an outline of where the story ends up, but I often let the characters (once they are fully fleshed out) drive the plot. In one case, the character-driven plot opened up a whole new perspective for the novel and made it a much richer reading experience.

Q: Your book is set in Quierzy, France and Laon, France. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?

The history took me there. Quierzy today is a small farming community northeast of Paris. In the eighth century it was the primary home of Charles the Hammer and his court. (Back then, the court often used to travel with the army so others could also lay claim to that honor). Queirzy is where Charles the Hammer died, and so is the primary location of much of the early action. Laon was site of a siege led by Charles’s son Carloman against his stepmother and his half-brother Gripho. The siege frames much of the second half of the book.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

I think the time period does. It was a very unforgiving time. Violence was pervasive and religion (whether Christian, Pagan or Muslim) was a central tenant of their lives

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Charles’s unwilling daughter Trudi is expected at a fête to announce her engagement to Prince Aistulf of the Lombards. Her stepmother is trying to excuse Trudi’s absence due to a fictitious stomach ailment only to have Trudi arrive unexpectedly behind her.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

My favorite line is: “In the breadth of that moment, she finally understood the desire to be desired.”

Here’s a short excerpt:

No one saw the second beast charge. It, too, followed the path of the V, although this time no shields were banged and no spears were thrown. The large animal crashed through the wood unchecked, heading directly for Odilo and Trudi. They, like everyone else, had been watching the fallen knight and remained unaware of the danger until the boar lunged at them.

Without a word, Odilo stepped to the right. Trudi spun away to her left. Then, in a fluid motion, their arms lifted and fell together, impaling the beast between them. It twisted under their spears, thrashing wildly as neither blow was a killing stroke. Odilo leaned down on the shaft of his spear, trying to drive its point further into the animal’s shoulder. As he pushed into the animal, it surged forward in an attempt to gore his leg. Trudi, having lost hold of her spear, drew her sword. The blade flashed above her head. She brought it down on the beast’s neck with both hands, severing its head in one stroke.

The hunters were stunned into silence. Blood spewed over Trudi’s legs and pooled at her feet. With a visceral shout Odilo swept Trudi into his arms and raised her high above his head. The knights cheered and banged their spears against their shields. Odilo put Trudi down and bowed theatrically to her. The cheers only grew louder.

He had never seen a woman wield a sword like that. Her strength and speed surprised him.   She laughed, embarrassed at the applause, and he found it oddly compelling that she could be both strong and vulnerable.   He studied the lines of her face and the curl of her hair. He took in the fullness of her lips and the light in her eyes. She was powerful, he realized unexpectedly, and quite beautiful.

One of the hunters stepped forward and put his foot on the animal’s carcass to remove Odilo’s spear. Liberating it, he shoved the tip into the base of the boar’s neck. With a shout of defiance he lifted the boar’s head high above Odilo and Trudi in celebration.   Blood rained down over both of them.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

It’s rare that I have a full-blown case of writer’s block. With me, it is just keeping the discipline of writing every day (at the same time, for the same period). I’ve always got something else to do (like answering these questions). Unfortunately, I’m easily distracted.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d sit outside the Café Lippe in Paris with my wife and have a glass of good red French wine and watch the world stroll by us.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

I wish I had written Tai-Pan by James Clavell. Long live Dirk Straun!

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Start writing. It forces the mind to sort out what is important and what is not. Really research your characters. Know who they are, why they are the way they are, what their dreams and ambitions look like, how they behave, how they talk. Let their interactions with other drive the story. They tell the story more than you do. Finally, edit and edit and edit and edit. It always helps.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joe. We wish you much success!

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.








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The Story Behind The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams by Daphne Michaels

The Story Behind The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams

By Daphne Michaels

The more authors I meet the more I realize how common it is for the seed of our books to have been sown at a young age. The inspiration for my new book, The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams was planted decades ago, when I was young and had an experience — call it a The Giftedvision — that showed me two vast, human worlds in terrible contrast: One of love and one of despair. I couldn’t reconcile these worlds and was tortured by my failure. Human beings could choose to live in either world, and yet so often they chose the world of despair almost exclusively. Why? And who was I, a girl of nineteen, driving to a mountaintop to escape her terrible vision, to think she could figure out what our long human history of strife and suffering had not resolved: How to live with love for oneself and others, and, by doing so, achieve a beautiful and completely satisfying life — the kind human beings dream of. But shouldn’t I, in my life (that teenager asked herself), try to understand how such different worlds could exist both within us and without? To understand how to acknowledge both? To find the secret to bringing heaven and earth together for an authentic, permanent happiness and, in turn an exhilarating life? Shouldn’t I at least try?

This question inspired my life’s work and led to all sorts of experiences for which I am grateful today. It led to my formal study in social sciences, human services and integral psychology. It led me to become a psychotherapist. It led to the creation of my institute which has helped women and men transform their lives through the gifts we are all born with. It led to a lively radio show where I had the amazing opportunity to interview international figures in personal development and spirituality such as Ram Dass, Thomas Moore, Julia Cameron and others. And the same inspiration that began as a desire to answer an important question about life led to my writing The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams. 


Daphne Michaels 7Daphne Michaels is an author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist whose institute has helped hundreds of women and men transform their lives through the “gifts” every human being is born with. Daphne began her own journey of transformation at a young age, pursued it fearlessly, and later studied formally in the fields of social science, human services and integral psychology. The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams launches both Daphne Michaels Books and The Gifted series, whose goal it is to share with the widest audience possible the principles that guide the Daphne Michaels Institute. Daphne’s earlier book, Light of Our Times, featured her conversations with such international figures in the fields of spirituality and personal development as Ram Dass, Julia Cameron, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and Thomas Moore.

Visit her website at

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Interview with Colette Harrell, author of ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’

Colette HarrellColette (Ford) Harrell the author of the debut novel The Devil Made Me Do It is passionate about the written word. Holding a master’s degree, she is a director of human services. Her creation and implementation of a health and energy medical program stands as a best practices model. Her philosophy of service is compassionate care through a spirit of excellence. A motivational speaker, she specializes in customer and human service workshops on state and national levels. She is cofounder of COJACK Productions, a Christian entertainment company. As an active member of her church, KingdomChristianCenter, she serves in several ministries.

Colette is a wife, mother, author, poet, songwriter, and playwright. Her novel is a delectable read, where romance, suspense, humor, and the supernatural all come together to entertain, educate, and inspire.

A Detroit native, she currently resides in Ohio, writing with humor and compassion to engage and minister to the human heart. Her motto is: whatever you do, do it “for love alone.”

Her latest book is the inspirational fiction, The Devil Made Me Do It.

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Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

You’re welcome. I’m really happy to be here. I’m in that midlife second-career change we are sometimes known to The Devil Made Me Do It 7pursue. You become a certain age, and in certain areas of your life you become fearless. Your internal clock starts ticking, and you decide that if you are ever going to birth your passion, it better be now. I have always written poetry, short stories, and in the last nine years, I have cowritten several local stage plays. This is my debut novel.

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?

I think most of us have things about us nobody else knows. Who’s really an open book? Let’s see, how transparent should I get? Well . . . I’m claustrophobic—give me an MRI—and you do it at your own peril. It’s no-holds-barred.

Q: What scares you the most?

Today? Right now? This interview! I’d love to end up with a Sally Field moment: “You like me, you really like me!”

Q: What makes you happiest?

When I can stay in the moment. It gets hard sometimes, you know? But, if I can just sit and enjoy the journey, take solace in a perfect slice of time, I get elated. And then I catch myself and I stop and say, “I’m not worried about tomorrow. Bills are paid, no one’s in trouble or sick, and people’s opinions are far away.” . . . that makes for a golden, happy, satisfied sigh.

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

Man . . . Who’s going to be mad at me after I give this answer? I would say my family—warts and all. When it all adds up—it’s magnificent. Next time, can we give the top five things?

Q: What is hardest—getting published, writing, or marketing?

This answer is reminiscent of the joke concerning the man who fell out of the fiftieth-floor window of a building. On his way down, at each floor, he could be heard yelling, “So far, so good!” When I was writing the book, there were days it flowed like a symphonic orchestra; other days, I wanted to slam my computer against the wall. Then before I was published—pure angst. Now, I’m in the marketing stage . . . Can you see me sweat? What I learned along the way . . . Whatever is behind you is no longer impossible. It’s a done deal.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is; what does success in writing look like to you?

I thought about this, my definition of success. I asked myself if it would be a career that would financially sustain me. Or, one that brought me critical acclaim. Or, maybe it would be one that brought me fame. I’m not sure of any of these answers. Maybe having money would ruin me (nah!!!). But, your earlier question comes to mind. I’d like to define a successful writing career as one where I’m happy and contented, enjoying the creative flow and going with it.

Q: Tell us about your new book. What’s it about, and why did you write it?

The Devil Made Me Do It is a novel that tells the journey of Esther Wiley. We all have dreams as children, and Esther’s was to be a princess. But, a childhood event places a seed of doubt in her self-worth. As she gets older, her life, loves, and choices create the adult she becomes. Her heart yearns for Briggs Stokes, a man of faith who has his own baggage to carry. The book is full of twists and turns. As a person of faith, Esther works hard to be a good person, but even when she wants to do right, she can end up doing wrong.

I don’t think I chose to write this . . . It wrote itself. I wanted to do an inspirational romantic love story, about real people, with real problems, and concrete solutions. I love happily ever afters, but that looks different to different people. The supernatural spiritual edge to the story surprised even me.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

I read—I read profusely. I read in bed, when I’m a passenger in the car, on lunch hour . . . I’m like Dr. Suess’s Sam I Am. I do it everywhere!

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book.

My mother told me a long time ago that it was a poor frog who doesn’t croak over their own lily pond. So . . . because “It’s the best book ever!!!” No . . . really, buy the book. You’ll like it.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Stay positive. It can be really hard to keep going when the doors don’t open fast enough. And when they open, stay true to your story. Keep writing until it feels right to you. Social media is a necessity, but don’t let it define you. Don’t rush into anything or let others rush you. (A bit of transparency here: I’m learning these lessons a little late.). If you can find a mentor in the business who will give you the straight of things—jump on it! And last but not least, forget complaining about it all; get down from that cross—I promise you someone needs the wood.

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It’s Your Decision by Ed Grizzle Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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It's Your DecisionTitle: It’s Your Decision
Author: Ed Grizzle
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 128
Genre: Family Relationships/Parenting
Format: Ebook

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

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

• planning for children;

• knowing what children need;

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

• understanding that children will test parents;

• valuing the role of grandparents;

• dealing with abused children;

• communicating openly and honestly;

• clarifying family roles.

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




Ed Grizzle started a ministry called It’s Your Decision that helps addicts, prostitutes, and others who face difficult circumstances. He and his late wife, Mary, raised two children. Grizzle currently lives in Illinois


Ed is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 21 and ends on August 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, August 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


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The Treasure of Kefer Shimon by Clifford Stevens Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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The Treasure of Kefer ShimonTitle:
 The Treasure of Kefer Shimon
Author: Clifford Stevens
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 344
Genre: Men’s Adventure
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

The Treasure of Kefer Shimon is the story of a young American priest given a secret assignment by the Vatican to track down the source of three ancient scrolls that have come into the possession of the Holy Sea. If the scrolls are genuine, they will cause a revolution in Biblical studies. Along the way he makes many startling and shocking discoveries deliberately kept hidden for centuries.

Filled with historical fact masterfully woven with fiction, it takes David Lavarans on a journey into the secret dealings of the Vatican, into the ancient archives of a medieval Pope, into a Middle Eastern monastery, and into the Arabian Desert. Here, he makes a shocking discovery that has been kept hidden since the time of Christ. If revealed, the ramifications will rock biblical scholars and historians.

David is neither heroic nor a pursuer of power. He is simply a young parish priest completely unaware of why he, among thousands of more prominent priests, is singled out for this mission by someone more powerful than the Pope himself.

Ancient scrolls, the high ranks of the Vatican, a young American priest, the Middle East, and secrets that will shake the world of Christianity and the interpretation of the New Testament all play a role in this intriguing biblical adventure which spans 2,000 years.

Father Clifford Stevens is a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and the founder of Tintern Monastery. He graduated from Boys Town. He entered the Air Force as a Chaplain and served on bases in California, Alaska, New Mexico and Japan. He left the Air Force to become the Executive Editor of The Priest magazine and was later editor/publisher of Schema XIII, a journal for the Priest in the Modern World. He was at one time the associate director of Liturgy in Santa Fe, a liturgical institute in New Mexico.

His writings on religious and theological subjects have appeared in Chicago Studies, America, U.S. Catholic, Pastoral Life, The Priest, Our Sunday Visitor, Liturgical Arts, the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Cistercian Studies, the American Benedictine Review, Angelicum and the Review for Religious.

He is the author of twelve published books, including the historical novel, Flame out of Dorset published by Doubleday & Co., A Life of Christ, The Blessed Virgin, Father Flanagan: Builder of Boys, the One-Year Book of Saints, Portraits of Faith, Astro-Theology: for the Cosmic Adventure, The Noblest Love, On Christian Marriage and Intimacy with God, and Aloysius, a collection of essays about St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

Clifford is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 21 and ends on August 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, August 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


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How Not to Avoid the Rejection Blues, or embracing the inner Smurf… by Julian Rosado-Machain

44How Not to Avoid the Rejection Blues, or embracing the inner Smurf…

By Julian Rosado-Machain

Ah, the rejection blues! When all the hope built up during those long, interminable weeks that pass between sending a query letter or a manuscript and receiving a response is annihilated by the simple “Thank you, but….”

I blame the “but..” God, how I learned to hate the “but…”.

11“Thank you, ” at least, shows a modicum of sympathy, but “but…”? I am sure that everything after the “but…” is optional. The “but…” seals the deal, what you wrote isn’t good enough, at least to the “Thank you,” people. They are grateful that you thought about them, they might or might not have read what you sent, discussed it, placed it on the table as a probable project, fought for it to be accepted by the uber-bosses of the company, it may have moved their hearts, changed their lives and they keep a copy close to the pillows…


Its unavoidable… rejection always feels like a stab in the heart, or at least the spleen, depending on who rejects the manuscript and your hopes about that literary agent or publishing house taking up on your manuscript.

It’s going to happen, so don’t avoid it… Embrace it. I once went to the home of a friend who had been left at the altar, an envoy of his parents to see if he was okay because he didn’t answer his phone, my heart sank when I found the door to his apartment unlocked, and I went in and thankfully found him with a bottle of rum on one hand and watching Star Wars on a VHS. His words of wisdom that stuck with me I will now convey to you:

“Let me enjoy my depression in peace.” He said. “I’ll be over it tomorrow.”

He was so blue he looked like a Smurf and to be completely truthful the blue didn’t wash out overnight, but the rum wasn’t there the next day.

So yeah, embrace it, turn blue and Smurf it and turn it around, go back and edit, fix, twitch and fiddle with your manuscript, then do it again. Or, if you get tired of the “but..” like I did, self publish, BUT (and this one applies) please, do it only after editing, fixing, twitching and fiddling…thoroughly and preferably with the help of a professional… at least the editing bit.

Hopefully, and with a lot of work,(and let’s be honest, wishful thinking) you might hit it and then maybe the “Thank you,” people will come looking for you and you will be the one saying “Oh wow!…This is great!..but…”

Wouldn’t that be something?

So turn blue, embrace it, might as well try to enjoy it and use it in your writing, learn from it and then dream a little dream… and get over it.

BTW… my Smurfy friend found his Smurfette a couple of years later… and now they have little Smurflings of their own.

He got over it and so can we.

About the Author:

Julian Rosado-MachainJulian Rosado-Machain has enjoyed pizza in three continents, worked in graphic design, armored vehicles, built computers, handcrafted alebrijes and swears that he has seen at least one ghost.

He lives in San Diego, California. And enjoys the sun with his wife, three children and cat.

His latest book is the YA fantasy adventure, Guardians Inc.: The Cypher.

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About the Book:

Guardians Inc 7GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future, and to unlock the future they need a Cypher.

This is the first book of the Guardians Inc Series.

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Interview with Lisa Consiglio Ryan: ‘Nutrition doesn’t have to be so boring or rule-oriented’

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Lisa Consiglio RyanLisa Consiglio Ryan is the founder of Whole Health Designs, juicy clean living advocate and mama of two. She loves her yoga practice, running, and has a mission to spread the word, “Food is love.” She provides detox programsand private coachingfor women who desire to embrace clean living.

As a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach, Lisa has worked with thousands in her Renewal 10 Day Detox programs. Her work has been featured in Fitness Magazine, TinyBuddha, Elephant Journal, Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Life, The Daily Meal, and Mind Body Green. You can also check out Lisa’s new membership program, Clean + Sexy 2014 (year-long detox + community) Kickin’ It Clean gluten-freemeal plans for plant lovers and Juice Shop. Lisa is leading a wellness retreat in Costa Rica this July: Clean + Sexy Wellness Retreat.

Her latest book is the health/wellness/cookbook, Renewal “Anytime” 10 Day Detox.

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About the Book:

Renewal 2Lose weight, energize, and glow with over 50 recipes and complete 10 day detox plan. This whole foods cleanse includes detailed menu plan, shopping list, and bonus recipes to make after your cleanse. Renewal “Anytime” also includes pre-detox plan, daily instructions, FAQ’s, and post-detox next steps.

For More Information

  • Renewal “Anytime” 10 Day Detox is available at Amazon.
  • Download your copy at iTunes.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Renewal “Anytime” 10 Day Detox is a detox plan with over 50 recipes. It’s a whole foods cleanse including detailed menu plan, shopping list, and bonus recipes to make after your cleanse. Renewal “Anytime” also includes pre-detox plan, daily instructions, FAQ’s, and post-detox next steps.

Why did you write your book?

As a health coach who focuses on detoxes and juicing, it was pretty much a natural thing to do. I do seasonal cleanses with my community each year and many have requested a book from me. It was a no brainer.

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?  

My main message is that nutrition doesn’t have to be boring or so rule-oriented with weighing, counting calories, looking at numbers. Nutrition can be quite fun and sexy when you let your body take the lead. Your body has all the answers to losing weight, getting more energy, finding balance. Just take a listen and let go.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Sleep. Yep. Sleep. A nap is such a luxury.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

It might sound quite strange, but Halloween. I LOVE the mystery of it all, the legends, traditions like treat –o-treating, parties, the autumn weather, decorations, and making fun treats. Fall is my favorite time of year and Halloween just makes it even more fun.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to be active and be outside. So SUP, yoga on the beach, biking, swimming, running, hiking, I love it all. But my main fun would be traveling. I’ve been all over the world, to Italy, Spain, Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, and still have many more countries to explore.

Can you tell us about your family?

I so love my little family. My husband Kevin and I have been married for 13 years and he is a big supporter of mine. He’s my biggest cheerleader! Kate is 11 years old and is gorgeous, talented, and super smart. She wants to be a dancer and is also very creative. Jack is beautiful, sensitive, intelligent, funny, and so cuddly. He is 9 years old and is an amazing basketball, soccer and baseball athlete.

What do you like the most about being an author?

That I can my story. I can serve many people all over the world with tools that can help with weight loss and overall wellness.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

Take action would be my advice. During this writing journey, I realized that I had a lot of information in my head and getting it down on paper was quite challenging. So just taking one step, one action, got the momentum going and I was able to finish my book and share it with the world.



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Interview with Christina Hoffman, author of INVITATION

Invitation banner

Christina HoffmanChristina Hoffman was born in London, England. She moved with her family throughout Canada and the US, and has finally put down her suitcase, for now, in San Francisco.

She believes that everyone has the right to feel both smart and sexy. We don’t have to be one or the other! She writes stories about characters who live in the real world and who, somehow, still believe in love.

She’s starting a mini-revolution. She writes sexy stories, but hasn’t lost the romance from her Romances. Enough with whips — back to lips!

She hopes you enjoy her stories and see yourself in her characters. After all, they are based on smart and sexy people, just like you.

Christina’s latest book is the contemporary romance, Invitation.

Visit her website at

Thank you for this interview, Christina.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Hello, and thanks so much for having me. I was born in England, and travelled around a lot as a young person. Right now I’m in San Francisco, and I love it (apart from the seagulls, and the cold weather – I thought California would be warmer!)

Invitation 7I’ve written on and off for a while, but this is my first attempt at a romance novel.

Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?

This book came to me one evening. Madison just popped into my mind. She is a young woman who used to be full of life and passion. Something really awful happened a couple of years ago and she is damaged and afraid. But, at the beginning of the book, she is finally tired of feeling afraid all the time, and wants to get back into life. She’s not sure how to do it, but then Liam shows up and makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

Why did you choose your particular genre?

Two reasons, really. The first is that all my research told me that romance readers are the greatest readers on the planet. They’re intelligent, they read a lot of books, and they’re loyal to the authors they love. Of course I wanted to be part of that world.

The other answer is that this story needed to be told as a contemporary romance. I knew it would have a happy ending, and I knew there needed to be a lot of physical passion and love. The story decided what it needed to be.

What was your greatest challenge writing this book?

I was as going to say that the greatest challenge was making time in a busy life – I haven’t read a book or watched tv in 2 months…

But, really, the hardest part was just starting. I had to tell myself that it was all right to try and fail. I can be really hard on myself, so I had to shut that nasty voice inside up for a while. THAT was hard!

Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?

I chose self-publishing because I didn’t want to wait years to hear back from agents and publishers. I wanted to have the control to decide when to publish, what the cover would be…all that stuff.

Was it the right choice for you? 

I’m not sure. The processes of writing and publishing have been great. But, getting the book noticed, getting it into the hands of people who will buy it and like it – that has been incredibly challenging. I have spent almost as much time on “promotion” as I did writing it, which is frustrating. I can see the appeal now of just handing your finished manuscript over to the publisher and getting right back to work on writing the next book!

Thankfully, there are bloggers and readers who are willing to go out of their way to find and support new books. So, a big shout out to all of you! This couldn’t work without you.

If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?

This is a bit tricky because I don’t know yet what will work. I’ll just say that I spent $40 “boosting” my post on Facebook. Supposedly it reached 20,000 people interested in romance novels, but it resulted in ZERO sales! If you have a little bit of money, I would check out smaller websites like World Literary Café or Bargain Booksy. They seem to be better use of your money.

Oh! And get really great cover. You can’t skimp on this one.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully more books. People are already asking for more Liam and Madison, which is really exciting because I love them and would love to tell more of their story.

The next book I have planned is about a big-city cellist who is supposed to get a spot at a prestigious musicians’ retreat in the mountains, but is beaten out by another woman (who is sleeping with the prof.) So, she gets to attend the conference, but has to stay at a rugged ranch instead of the fancy resort. Of course there’s a gorgeous man working at the ranch. They hate each other at first, but…

Thank you for this interview, Christina.  Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?

Of course! Here goes…

Facebook Author Page:



Goodreads Author Page:

Google Plus:

Amazon Author Page:

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First Chapter Reveal: In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

In the Mirror 2Title: In the Mirror
Author: Kaira Rouda
Publisher: Real You Publishing Group
Pages: 214
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

What choices would you make if you knew you might die soon?

From the multi award-winning, best-selling author of four books, including Here, Home, Hope, In the Mirror best sellera gripping and heart wrenching novel about a young mother who has it all. The only problem is she may be dying.

In her previous works including All the Difference, Rouda’s characters “sparkle with humor and heart,” and the stories are “told with honest insight and humor” (Booklist). “Inspirational and engaging” (ForeWord), these are the novels you’ll turn to for strong female characters and an “engaging read” (Kirkus).

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life – head on. But while she’s busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

First Chapter:

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all. Everything had changed.

I looked like death.

I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined. But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me. And loneliness. Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well –

I had to get moving.

I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.

I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now.

I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.

Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.

My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed. On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.

“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”

“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up. I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.

“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.

“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.

“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.

“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”

Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors. Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years. Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.

So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on.

“Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”

“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”

I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”

Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells

request your presence at a

celebration in honor of their daughter

Jennifer Wells Benson

Please see insert for your party time

Shady Valley Center

2700 Hocking Ridge Road

RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells

No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.


At first, I had been incredibly angry about the cancer. Hannah’s birth, so joyous, had marked the end of my life as a “normal” person. Apparently, it happened a lot. While a baby’s cells multiplied, the mom’s got into the act, mutating, turning on each other. Hannah was barely two weeks old when I became violently ill. My fever was 105 degrees when we arrived in the ER. I think the ER doctors suspected a retained placenta or even some sort of infectious disease, although I was so feverish I can’t remember much from that time. All I remember was the feeling of being cut off from my family—Henry, two-year-old Hank, and newborn Hannah—and marooned on the maternity ward, a place for mothers-to-be on bed rest until their due dates. That was hell.

At 33, I was a pathetic sight. My headache was so intense the curtains were drawn at all times. I didn’t look pregnant anymore, so all the nurses thought my baby had died. That first shift tip-toed around me, murmuring. By the second night, one of them posted a sign: “The baby is fine. Mother is sick.” It answered their questions since I couldn’t. It hurt my head too much to try.

By the third day, my headache had receded to a dull roar. Surgery revealed that there was no retained placenta after all. I was ready to go home to my newborn and my life. So with a slight fever and no answers, I escaped from the hospital and went home to a grateful Henry and a chaotic household. I was weak and tired, but everyone agreed that was to be expected. I thanked God for the millionth time for two healthy kids and my blessed, if busy, life.

And then, not two weeks later, I found the lump.

Not a dramatic occurrence, really, at least not at first. I was shaving under my arm, and I happened to bump into my left breast with my hand. I could feel an odd mass that hadn’t been there before. When I pushed on the top part of my breast, closest to my underarm, it hurt. I freaked out and called for Henry.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” he reassured me while his eyes revealed his own fears. “We’ll make an appointment to have it checked out first thing tomorrow, OK?”

Our eyes locked then, and in that moment, I think we both knew.

It wasn’t, of course, fine. When the radiologist at the Women’s Imaging Center read the mammogram, she called my doctor right away. The solid, spider-webby mass had tentacles spreading through my left breast. Deadly, dangerous tentacles full of cancerous cells. Surgery confirmed that what I had felt was a malignant mass that had already begun to metastasize to my lymph nodes. They moved me to the cancer floor and began treatments immediately, and that’s where I’d been, in body or spirit, for more than a year.

Ralph was the one to describe them as “circle mouths”: the initial reactions of family and friends expressing sympathy for our rotten luck. When the doctors finally figured out what was wrong with me, my family was the first to respond with their blank stares and circle mouths. “OOOOOO, Jennifer, we’re sOOOOOO sorry.” But, really, what else could we expect? Before I had cancer, I know I probably reacted the same way.

Initially, I was caught up in the angry stage of grief, enveloped by it. It ate away at my soul and left me spent with useless emotion. Why me? What had I done differently than anyone else I knew? Did I drink too many Diet Cokes? Eat too much McDonald’s? Did I live downstream from a pesticide runoff? Was I a bad person? Why didn’t my children deserve to grow up with a mother? Why? Exhausted by remorse, I eventually found myself safely encased in quasi-acceptance that wrapped around me like a blanket, smoldering the dreams of middle– and old age, and draping the vision of my children as teenagers and adults, tamping out hope.

Hope. I knew my family thought the party was a sign that I had given up, that I was welcoming death, maybe even hastening it a bit by my bold invitation. And yet, hope to me was just another four-letter word without substance. I needed a reason to hang on, to continue what had become a painful and tedious daily struggle. For me, the best thing about life was the people in it. Friends, lovers, teachers, role models—they all made me the person I had become. I needed to reconnect with the living if only for a single night, to be assured my life had meant something and I was not as forgotten as I felt in my institutional isolation. No, the party was not a sign of lost hope, but the opposite—a desperate gathering of the people from my past, as if each held a piece of some cosmic puzzle that could be reconfigured into something whole—and healthy. Hope.

“It looks nice, Jennifer, really,” Ralph said, jarring me from my reverie. “Why are your parents hosting it, though? Why not you and Henry?”

“Ah, because Juliana Duncan Wells would never forgive me if I denied her the chance to host a party. She’s a professional hostess, you know.”

Ralph chuckled weakly. His brown eyes were lifeless, tired. I inspected his pale, thin, worn face more closely. His head, which had been shaved and cut open for multiple surgeries, was now more lumpy and grooved with scars than round. He was an attractive man, but he had a prominent dent over his left eye, swooping to his ear. My scars were tucked away inside my cozy sweatshirt. My head was newly covered in short curly blonde hair. It had been straight before chemo.

I looked away and asked, “What’s wrong today, Ralph? You look really sad. New meds?” Ralph’s room sported the same fake leather chairs arranged around an imitation wood table that mine did. His naugahyde was burgundy; mine was brown. Other than that, our rooms were identical, with green-striped walls and white wicker stands on either side of white bedside tables; a fake cheeriness that tried to mask the anguish of the patients who resided here. I made my slow trek to one of the chairs and sank into it.

“It’s nothing, Jennifer, really,” Ralph answered unconvincingly, clasping his thin hands together on his stomach. I noticed he had moved his platinum wedding band to his middle left finger.

I knew he was lying, but I also knew enough not to pry. Ralph Waldo Erickson—his real name, and his parents knew better—had discovered cancer when he felt a pain in his right cheek while shaving. He had a headache, too, both of which his doctor dismissed as a sinus infection when he first called. A few days later, he woke screaming in the middle of the night, and was rushed to the ER, where an MRI revealed a malignant growth the size of a lemon. On the operating table, the skin of his face was pulled to the side while the doctors cut out the tumor. Success—until they found more tumors. And more still, after radiation, after chemo. He was forty-five years old.

Six months earlier, he’d had a headache. Now, he had four months, tops.

After a few minutes of silence, he suddenly asked, “Did you know it’s the fall harvest?” with his eyes sparkling and his hands gesturing in front of him. “I mean, all those years I drank wine—loved wine—and I didn’t even take the time to learn about it. You know, learn how they make it, when they pick the grapes. God, that’s sad. They’re out there right now, in California, France, even Ohio for God’s sake, just outside our windows, and I never bothered to learn a thing about it. Sure, I did the touristy winery hop in Napa and Sonoma a time or two. But, this is harvest season! The most beautiful time of the year, and I never bothered to be a part of it—you know?” Ralph finished and looked up at the ceiling, clasping his hands again. I’d never noticed how long his fingers were before.

“So, add it to our list, Buddy, OK?” I said, gently, knowing it wouldn’t really help, knowing the impossibility of Ralph ever leaving Shady Valley, much less visiting Napa Valley for the harvest. “Hey, it’s treatment time. I need to go back. Buzz me when you feel like it.”

Ralph didn’t answer, and I didn’t really expect him to. We all went through depressions at Shady Valley, triggered by almost anything: harvest time, or an especially beautiful orange-purple sunset. It was hard to keep your spirits up all the time. He’d be fine in a little while.

I made my way slowly back across the slick floor and padded down the thick green carpet back into my room. Promptly at four, Nurse Hadley arrived with her arsenal of vials and needles, all part of a new therapy I was determined to try.

“Well, aren’t we pretty in blue,” she said, as if speaking to a child.

“My veins do look stunning today,” I agreed. Her eyes darted to mine and then away. Heck, they are nice veins, I thought, as I prepared to receive the latest experimental drug with a mixture of dread and barely detectable hope. The side effects might be hell—but still, this could be the one.


The shrill ring of my industrial-sized speakerphone woke me up. Caller ID revealed it was my business partner, Jacob DuPry. I had faxed him the invitation choices, knowing he’d have an opinion.

“I’m positive you should have no more than two reception times. Period. And you know I love the idea of the party,” Jacob said, exhaling loudly into the phone. I imagined him pushing his blonde bangs to the right with the palm of his left hand. A signature move. “I wish Randolph or Patrick had thought about it before they succumbed. Too late. You have more friends than they did, though. Their death receptions would’ve appealed simply to the curious, beyond me. But you—well with the Loop’s customers alone, you’ll fill the place.”

Jacob was heir apparent to our successful clothing boutique that could’ve been much more. Maybe Clothes the Loop would grow, still, without me. If Jacob stayed focused he could do it.

“Life celebration, not death reception,” I answered, still groggy from sleep. “And, just a reminder, you hated Patrick. Anyway, I just want enough time with each person —kind of like a one-on-one receiving line.”

I talked at the speakerphone, still lying down in bed. The new miracle drug hadn’t made my hair fall out, but my equilibrium was gone. I couldn’t stand, or shuffle to Ralph’s. I had to buzz the nurses for help to the bathroom.

Thank goodness for a voice beyond Shady Valley.

“Schedule appointments, silly. It’s like we do with the trunk shows, if you want a really banal comparison,” Jacob said.

“I don’t,” I snipped. He deserved it; he sounded distracted. “Are you paying attention?”

“Of course, I am walking to the back office, right now, OK? Does that make you happy? I hope so because we are slammed and I AM WALKING TO THE BACK. For you,” Jacob yelled. I imagined him in his shiny black shoes, with risers in the heel to make him taller. I wondered if he was a platinum or a dirty blonde this week. “What I meant was, on the invite, tell them you’d like to spend quality time with each of them, and that you’ll be up to receiving visitors during that same week. Let them decide when to visit.”

“You’re right,” I sighed, sounding old, dead tired. Dying tired. “But where’s the party in that? I wanted a party, Jacob.”

“Have a final party at the end of the week. Make it special. You might not like everyone anymore. Or worse.”

“Good point, but Suzanne’ll be here any minute and now I have nothing for her to typeset,” I moaned, immobilized. “I’m too dizzy to get to my computer.”

“I’ll do it and fax it over. Just tell Suzanne to wait. She owes you a little time after all the printing business you’ve given her,” Jacob said. “Don’t worry, 15 minutes. Oh no, it’s Mrs. Drezner. You knew she’d walk in now. I’ve already dealt with Rachel White today.”

“Aren’t you in the back?” I asked, picturing him, the store, the activity. Missing it all, and him. Even the nosey neighbors who never bought and just snooped for gossip, like Rachel White. I’d love to hear what’s going on from her about now. I didn’t want to see Mrs. Drezner, though, he was right about that.

“Jennifer, I am in the back but you’ve been away too long. Remember, I can hear her when she’s at the antique store, a block down the street that loud, pinched, up-tight—”

“Jacob, stop.”

“I’ll hide from her. Not mature, but doable. If the girls try to find me to help Mrs. Drezner, I’ll sneak out the back door. Don’t worry, I’ll get the invite done.”


And he did. He changed more than I thought he should, but I liked it.

Suzanne, the busybody owner of the local print shop who for some reason spoke with a hint of a southern accent, didn’t. She came bustling into my room and headed straight for the fax machine. When she found nothing there yet, she sat and tried to talk to me for a while, clearly uncomfortable all the while.

“You’d think from reading this Henry wasn’t in the picture or somethin’, honey,” she said, anxiously scanning the fax the moment it did spit out of the machine. I had to give her credit: she had tried to sit still until it came. I’d watched as she uncomfortably folded her rounded body into one of my brown square chairs. The sun streaked in over her shoulder, so I couldn’t see her face, but I guessed it registered impatience. I was too dizzy to care.

“Why? Because Mom’s the RSVP? She wants to do it,” I said.

“How about, ‘Please Join Henry Benson in celebrating the life of . . .” Suzanne suggested. I could tell she was pacing, her voice kept coming from different places in the room, but I didn’t open my eyes.

“Fine,” I said.

“I’ll typeset both versions. Fax it to you. Show it to your mom, Henry, whoever. Then call and we’ll go with whatever you want, honey. OK? I’ve gotta go, you know, gotta get back to the city.”

“Sure, I know how it is,” I said. I did. Suzanne’s hatred of Shady Valley exuded from her every word and movement. It was an unimaginable place, yet here I was.

“OK, glad to see you, Jennifer. Really. You look great. Whatever they’re doing must be really working. You’ll be outta here in no time. I’ll fax you, OK? Great. See ya soon,” Suzanne said. The tap tap of her high heels on my fake wood floor picked up speed and then ended before the word “great.” The last words were from the hall. She was gone.

I pushed my nurse call button. “Yes, Jennifer?” I hated to call them unless it was an emergency. I knew they kept track of who pushed their button and when. Too many times and they got revenge: No response, or at the very least a really slow response. In the middle of the night, it better be death knocking on your door if you buzzed them.

“Sorry to bother you, but this latest treatment is, well, I’m still dizzy and I think I’m getting worse.” I sounded so helpless. I hated that, but I hated the way the room was pitching and swaying more.

“We’ll call your doctor, Jennifer, and see what he recommends.” Probably what he’d recommend would be to stop looking for a miracle, stop looking for a future. We’d exhausted his supply of hope. Henry pushing, then my mother, and then Henry again. “Please, doctor, money’s no object.”

“We’re doing all we can. All I know to do,” Dr. Chris, my exhausted oncologist, would tell them.

“Do more, doctor,” my mother said, like she could simply charge it up on her platinum American Express card. “Whatever you can find, you should try.” Though she’d never smoked, she had a breathy, B-movie actress voice—she had kissed Elvis on screen once—she used it while looking straight into his eyes. Most people, like Dr. Chris, were forced to look away.

And behind it all, I guess, I pushed the hardest. After all, I had the most to lose.

My son Hank believed lightning was God taking pictures, and when I went to heaven, he’d know I was taking lots of pictures of him when the storms came. Death was pretty clear cut for him, really. Poof, I’d be gone, up to heaven. Taking flash photos. At first, I hadn’t wanted to tell him that Mommy might not get better. I wanted to hold him and promise him everything would be all right and that I would be the strong, happy mommy I hoped he could still remember from his toddlerhood. But after six months of hospital visits and guilty silence whenever he entered the room, he knew “Mommy’s sick” didn’t quite cover it. He was one smart cookie, my Hank. Henry and I decided to level with him when I moved to Shady Valley and he absorbed the possibility of my demise with the heartbreaking practicality of a three year old. I would still be his mommy, just in the clouds, taking photos.

Tears threatened to overtake me whenever I thought too much about the kids. Fifteen months without a mother at home. Baby Hannah had only known what it was like to have me rock her to sleep or tuck her in at night in her crib a few blessed times, in between hospital stays and when I wasn’t too ill at home. Paige was a wonderful nanny, a godsend really, but she wasn’t me.

Anger mixed with sadness choked me. I wanted to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t get up. I felt helplessness overwhelm me. This living in the moment thing was hell. Where was Henry? He was supposed to be coming for our “date night,” as we lamely called them. What time was it anyway?


There was a time when he couldn’t keep his hands off of me, my Henry. Our first year of marriage was something of a dream, now. Making love in the morning before work, some days, meeting at home at our condo at noon for more. Evenings were filled with workouts at the gym, dinners out and then more sweet, slow lovemaking. Beyond work, no outside distractions, no kiddos yet, no responsibilities except to discover each other.

“I’ve never been this happy,” he whispered to me as we cuddled in bed, the evening of our first anniversary. It was a beautiful, starry night and we had shared a candlelit dinner on our patio.

“Because I’ve finally learned how to cook?” I teased, looking up into his sparkling blue eyes. To say I hadn’t really mastered any meal would be an understatement. That evening, for our anniversary, I’d created gazpacho from scratch. I didn’t realize, though, that garlic cloves are pieces of garlic bulbs. I’d added eight bulbs. Fortunately, we both took our first bites—and spit them out at the same time.

“Yes, your cooking is the reason, clearly,” Henry answered, chuckling as he rolled over on top of me. “What you lack in the kitchen you more than make up for in the bedroom. Happy anniversary, love of my life,” he added before we made love again.


“Hi, honey. Weather channel again?” Henry said when he walked in my door. I had wanted to look good, a little attractive or at least not be smelly, when he arrived, but the dizziness had kept me from getting ready. I pulled the sheet up over my face and struggled to throw off my dark mood. I didn’t want to waste what little time we shared these days with pointless self-pity.

“Did you know storms turn to the right after dark? I just heard that,” I said through the sheet. I could see Henry through the thin fabric—the handsome man who used to want to touch me all over. Now we discussed the weather.

Henry’s cleft chin nodded in my direction. “The nurses said you had a tough day. They’re still waiting for Dr. Chris to figure out something to counteract the dizziness. They’ll figure it out. Now pull the covers down. You know I think you look fine just how you are. I brought your favorite pasta, and a work problem for you to help me with, so get that sheet off your face and give me a kiss.”

I pulled the sheet down slowly as Henry smiled, then bent over and kissed my forehead. More brotherly than affectionate, but at least he still cared enough to kiss me. It wasn’t the passionate, intense kiss of our life before kids, nor was it the amazed, team-spirited kiss we used to share when we were both exhausted new parents and Hank was finally asleep. No, these kisses were those of a friend, a caring companion, a long-lost uncle. I don’t know where the old kisses went, or how, if ever, to get them back.

Tonight I was dizzy, but sometimes on our date nights, I had felt OK. Shady Valley wasn’t a place conducive to making love, of course, but still. Lately, he had seemed more and more distracted, and I struggled to find topics to hold his interest. New meds and side effects only took us so far. In the old days, he had shared every detail of his day with me and often asked my advice about work issues. He was passionate about life. About me and our relationship, and he’d swoop in from work and grab me in a tight hug and lingering kiss. He loved his job and was determined to be the best, and I loved that about him. He still made an effort to share bits and pieces of his life with me, but I couldn’t shake the sensation that he was just going through the motions for my sake.

“You would not believe what an idiot Bill Jackson is,” Henry said, sweeping into our condo and grabbing me in a bear hug. I’d been rummaging through our refrigerator, trying to decide if I should attempt a meal. After a big kiss, he explained his boss at the law firm’s latest rainmaker scheme, which involved Henry joining the board of almost every nonprofit in town.

“But honey, it does seem like a good way to get your name out there—and your firm’s name out there,” I answered. I’d poured him a glass of Chianti and carried it to him, where he sat fuming in his favorite chair. Our condo was furnished in the traditional just-starting-out manner: one gray leather couch, one coffee table, one gray leather side chair. We had both told our parents we didn’t want help with furniture, so we were working and acquiring things slowly. His choice of his favorite chair was really his only choice.

“That’s not the point. You shouldn’t join boards of charities unless you believe in them. And I want to specialize in business startups,” he said.

“Well, a lot of nonprofits are run like small businesses,” I offered. “I’ll help you find a couple that would be a good fit. Maybe even a small-business incubator/funding group.”

“I love you, Jenn,” Henry said, and I walked over and climbed on his lap. “Once I’m here with you, nothing else matters.”

I looked away from the window and pulled my sheet back over my head. What matters now? I wondered. In high school, Henry’s prowess on the football field had made him quite the heartthrob with the local girls. At thirty-five, his sandy blonde hair was definitely thinning on top, but he still had the broad shoulders and air of confidence that turned heads in a crowd. I didn’t mind as long as I was standing beside him. But now, he’s out in the real world, turning heads, making deals, and I’m here.

Together, we had made a picture-perfect pair. In the early years of our marriage, we were always in the social pages, smiling, successful, in love. Henry came from a much more demonstrative family than mine, and he was constantly holding my hand, hugging and kissing me in public. When we first started dating, I’d blushed constantly, unaccustomed to the overt attention and the pulsing sexual tension underlying each of our dates. Our relationship started out magnetic and intense—and it was obvious to those around us. During our first date, over lunch, it felt as if the air pulsed around us. When our fingers accidentally touched as he passed me the bread, I had felt the touch everywhere. And wanted more. A few months later, my friend, Maddie Wilson, the city’s gossip columnist, described us as the couple “most in need of a cold shower or a quick exit from every fundraiser” in her annual awards. Of course, I had blushed and Henry had laughed.

I wondered if he ever felt as lonely as I did. He had to. Even though that initial head-over heels attraction had waned somewhat with the arrival of kids and a busy life, we still had had a vibrant sex life, before this. Before now. Did his healthy body crave the warmth and companionship of someone equally strong and vibrant? Every inch of me had been poked and prodded, radiated, and shot with chemicals. The doctors warned us that sexual intercourse would be tough during some treatments, with vaginal dryness, early menopause, and other physical…blessings. But they said we should try to maintain intimacy. Touching. Holding hands. As much as I could tolerate, as much as Henry and I could naturally feel in this unnatural state, this artificial place. Until today, and until these new meds, I’d felt as if we could try to have sex. But with the room swooping, I felt lucky being able to communicate.

I looked up at Henry. How does he see me now? As a wife? As a lover? At six feet, three inches, Henry exuded vitality, while I seemed to be shrinking by the day. Would he notice if I disappeared entirely? Or would he be relieved it was over at last?

“Pull the sheet down honey,” Henry said. “Your mother said Alex Thomas is back in town. Did you know that?”

Alex Thomas…

I kept the sheet over my face so Henry couldn’t see me blush. My ex-boyfriend, here. In town. My past, back in my present.

And something in me wanted to see him.

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A Kiss for You by Dianne Powell-Eddings Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


A Kiss for YouTitle: A Kiss for You
Author: Dianne Powell-Eddings
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 92
Genre: Poetry
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

This book of poems is targeted for ages 13 year olds to Adults. Most women find comfort in A Kiss for You!  Between each page Is encouraging thoughts of wisdom, unity, awesome power, bringing nations, communities, families and young people together to share in an awesome experience of A kiss for You  is sweeter than honey on a honeycomb.

This book also includes my true love story about My Million Dollar Man I met in the Detroit Dollar Store.  It invites you to become an Organ and Tissue Donor in your state or support organ and tissue donation by purchasing a license plate with Donate Life on it in your state.

This book also includes my true love story about My Million Dollar Man I met in the Detroit Dollar Store. It invites you to become an Organ and Tissue Donor in your state or support organ and tissue donation by purchasing a license plate with Donate Life on it in your state.



Dianne Powell Eddings is a retired teacher with Detroit Public Schools.  An advocate with Donor Alliance Colorado.  She has won poetry contest, spoken at numerous events, weddings, conferences, funerals and other special events throughout Colorado, Detroit and Florida.  Her ministries are registered with the state of Colorado named Poetic Ministries.  She enjoys baking and Zumba.


Dianne is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 1 and ends on July 15.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Thursday, July 17 .
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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