The Twenty-Nine – J.M. Richardson


If you look at J.M. Richardson’s profile picture the first thing you notice is his smile. It screams gentleness with a touch of wittyness and whimsy.  However, there is MORE to him than his picture.  J.M. Richardson is the author of The Twenty-Nine and the up-and-coming book The Apocalypse Mechanism – August 2012.

The Twenty-Nine described by Glenda Bixler:  “A remarkable tale of the potentiality–the reality of our future!”

So humor and whimsy aside, The Twenty Nine is a serious book written by a serious author. Thus, I am very excited to introduce you Mr. Richardson today as Muse In The Valley‘s Author of the Week:

The Interview

What 5 words describe you best?

Educator, writer, husband, father, (boy, this fifth one kills ya) intellectual

Tell us your latest news?

I have two events/signings coming up this summer: one at the Barnes and Noble in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, TX on July 21 at 1 PM, and one on August 18 at the Franklinton, LA library. I will be signing copies of The Twenty-Nine, but also promoting my upcoming August release, The Apocalypse Mechanism.

When and why did you begin writing?

Oh, I think I wrote my first poem in about first grade, and I also remember trying to write a “novel” at the age of about 12. It was a little western bound in brown construction paper that I had frayed along the edges to make it look old…and…western… I’ve wrote poetry and short stories competitively in high school. I tried to start a couple of novels in college, but I did not start serious writing until about six years ago when I began writing The Apocalypse Mechanism. I came to love writing more than I ever knew I could. It’s therapy for me. Helps me release inner frustrations and demons.


What inspired you to write your first book?

The Twenty-Nine is my first published book, but not the first I wrote. It’s inspired by political turmoil that is very much in the news every day. It’s also inspired by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas–a former candidate for President of the United States, who once mentioned that Texas should secede. But the first book I wrote, The Apocalypse Mechanism, is inspired by my love of ancient theology and the connections of those old Middle Eastern religions. It’s also inspired by my fascination with the sophistication of ancient technology.


Do you have a specific writing style?

Kind of. It’s always sort of morphing. I love description, almost to the painfully slow stuff that Steinbeck wrote. But not everyone likes that. Some abhor it. My novels have some deep, slow moments, and I use a lot of description there. But other parts are more fast-paced adventure, and so I cut back on the description and let it flow along. So I use a hybrid of literary fictional word-painting and the pace of an action novel.

Who inspired your main character, Derek, describe him a little?

Derek, to me, is the same kid as millions of other young men that come from broken homes, impoverished, but hard-working families, and an ever-increasingly difficult American economy to live in.  He grows up in rust-belt Cleveland, where his mother was laid off, his father was a dead-beat, and he was just doing what he could to take care of he and his mother.  His mother’s sick, and they have no health insurance, so he ditches the mechanic job for a military career, hoping to make a better living.  he has no idea he’s about to fight in the second American civil war.  Overall, though, he’s a good kid.  He’s a born leader; has a good head on his shoulders.  He’s a little damaged, and we all are, as he comes from a rough family life.  Just striving to find his place in the world.

Give us a blurb about your book The Twenty-Nine, why the title?

Counter-productive partisan politics in Washington have begun to cross the line, and some leaders take drastic measures.  Twenty-nine states out of the fifty secede as they did in 1860, and form a new country called The Republic of America.  Soon, the Republic and the US begin down a path into civil war–American killing American in burning US cities.  


What books have most influenced your life?

I don’t know that I could say that a specific book has ever really influenced my life. I could name several books I like. I love Fahrenheit 451 and Anne Rice‘s Queen of the Damned. I’m a fan of Steinbeck and Stephen King, but I can’t say that there was a book that made me say, “Hey…wow…I’m a changed man.”


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Anne Rice, and it’s not a vampire thing.  I was way into vampires before this recent mainstream Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries era.  I love Anne Rice’s writing and her style.  I love the complexity of her stories, and how, though it’s supernatural, it all seem to make so much sense.  It’s all so plausible.  I love her darkness.  And it doesn’t hurt that she’s from New Orleans, which is the area I grew up in.


What are your current projects?

Well, The Twenty-Nine got published before The Apocalypse Mechanism, so I had to put the sequel to that, a book I call The Barataria Key, aside to write the sequel to The Twenty-Nine. I’m currently at about 75,000 words with that book, which is called A Line in the Sand, for now at least.


What do you do when you are NOT writing?

Well, I’m a teacher, and I still need the day job for now, so aside from summer and holidays, I’m doing that. I have a wife and two young daughters, so I spend a lot of family time. I play guitar, I like to watch football and baseball. I’m a lover of good beers and enjoy deep intellectual, political, and social discussions. Oh, and I like long walks on the beach…and puppies…


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Nope, it was pretty air-tight. The Apocalypse Mechanism is going through edits right now, and I’m pretty sure, since it was my first and written quite some time back, that I will be changing a good bit about that one. I don’t know that I could name any specifics at the moment, but they’ll come to me once I get into editing mode.


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Maybe not from writing the book, but I definitely learned a lot from the process of finding a publisher. This industry is cold and cut-throat. It’s so difficult to get the attention of ANYONE that will take you seriously. I think it’s cool that the e-book revolution has inspired so many new, fresh publishers to pop up and challenge the big New York and London publishers. At the same time, the ease of just anyone being able to upload a manuscript to Amazon and Barnes and Noble has flooded the market, and publishers have had to become more selective than ever. This industry is crazy.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

Writing is art. So when you hear anyone say that a book was “poorly written” or that some one doesn’t know how to write, don’t listen. That’s like a Monet fan telling Pablo Picasso that his portraits of people were terrible and that it looked like a Kindergartener did them. There is not definition of good art, and there is no definition of good writing. These people sit on their high horses like sentinels, standing watch for “different” styles of writing, ready to defend the language like some holy relic. When it comes down to it, every reader likes a certain type of writing, and rather than say they didn’t care for a book, they pass judgment on it as being a badly written book. So take constructive criticism for what it is, and learn from it, but when it comes to just plain criticism, let it roll off of you.

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

The Walyon Jennings song from the Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in the deep south–southeast Louisiana–and despite the fact that I really don’t listen to a lot of country music or have a pickup truck with a gun rack, there is a part of me that is a fun-loving, light-hearted country boy just floating through this life.


Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

My cell phone, my keys, and my wallet–pretty simple.


What would we find in your junk drawer right now?

Beer coozies, batteries, random buttons and screws, and a million drawings my five-year-old have done because I haven’t had a moment when she wasn’t looking to get rid of some of her masterpieces to make room for the twenty she will draw tomorrow.

Hulk, Spider Man or Iron Man?  Why?

Iron Man. Not only is he virtually indestructible and cool-looking, but he’s also, underneath…what’s the line from The Avengers…a genius, billionaire, philanthropist, playboy.


If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?

To be the most popular best-selling author in the galaxy.

If someone wrote about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?

Man’s head explodes due to too much thinking!

Where to we go to buy The Twenty-Nine?

Amazon  Barnes and Noble and just about any website that sells books.

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J.M. Richardson is a native of southeast Louisiana where he studied education and social sciences, earning his degree from Louisiana State University.  He has been writing for leisure nearly all of his  life, wrote competitively in high school, and had intensive writing coursework in college.   He now resides in the Fort Worth, TX, area with his wife and two daughters where he teaches geography, history, and sociology. ( source:  Winter Goose Publishing )

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Find Joshua on:

Facebook  *  Twitter

I want to thank J.M. Richardson for this delightful interview.  Please come back to Muse In The Valley in August when The Apocalypse Mechanism comes out.  It will be my pleasure.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed here please contact me at:

 kim.larocque@sympatico.ca

His Own Good Sword – Amanda McCrina


You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.  ~Saul Bellow

Introducing Historical Fiction writer Amanda McCrina.   In this interview, Amanda talks about her new book, His Own Good Sword.  She also discusses, her love for books, and future projects.

Reading note:  Sorry for the change in fonts.  WordPress will not let me change them for some reason.  I know it changes the overall look, however, this is the best I can do.  Thanks and happy reading!  – Kim

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Her online bio describes Amanda as:

“…a full-time university student, majoring in history and minoring in political science. She now attends the University of West Georgia, but she also studied for two years at Geneva College, outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and for one semester in Rome, Italy. She has a particular interest in twentieth-century warfare–the World Wars, the Cold War, the Spanish Civil War–as well as a love of ancient Roman history…. She loves film and film culture. She worked as a 35mm projectionist for over two years, until the booth went fully digital in 2011… and  She’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart (Han shot first).” (source:  writing.fly-casual.net )

Our Interview:

If you were an animal which one would give us a good description of you?

I’d probably be a turtle. I’ve always been quiet, shy, and something of a homebody. It takes a while for me to come out of my shell. Of course, being a turtle could mean I’m a nunchuck-wielding ninja, too.

Tell us your latest news and about your book: His Own Good Sword:

His Own Good Sword is the story of a young soldier who’s forced to choose between doing his duty and obeying his conscience. It’s a historical fantasy in the vein of Guy Gavriel Kay or Lian Hearn–the setting is an imaginary world, but one that deliberately evokes real-world history. In this case, the world of the novel is heavily inspired by ancient Rome. I’m currently hosting a giveaway of the book on my website. I’m also scribbling away madly at the sequel, which is forthcoming from Winter Goose in August 2013.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid, and writing with the intention of being published for about five years. I think I began writing mostly because I love reading. I love being transported to different times and places as I read. It’s that same joy that drives me to write.


Why attracts you to historical fiction?


I love historical fiction because I’m fascinated by the past–or, more precisely, what we don’t know about the past. We know the dates and the facts, but we don’t always know much about the people involved, and we have a tendency to forget they were just as human as we are. We don’t always know what they were thinking or feeling. We don’t always really know what their motivations were, or their inner struggles, or their hopes, or their fears. I love historical fiction because it can read between the lines of “fact.”


What is your favorite moment in History?


That’s hard. I have lots of favorite historical moments. But the one I find the most fascinating is probably Europe in the summer of 1914–Europe right on the brink of the First World War. I think it’s one of the most pivotal moments in history. Of course Europe, and the world in general, had seen some drastic changes prior to 1914, but the Great War was the end of the world as we knew it, so to speak. Before the Great War, warfare had essentially remained unchanged for millennia. Suddenly, in the span of just a few years, it was scientific, mechanized, deadly on a huge scale. There’d never been anything like it before, and I think we’re still dealing with its repercussions today. The summer of 1914 fascinates me because it’s the meeting of the old and the new.


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I didn’t really set out to write His Own Good Sword with a deliberate message. I dislike “preachiness” in fiction. I had some characters in my head and mostly I just wanted to tell a good story.That being said, I wanted it to be a story with some substance. I think there is a driving question behind the narrative: what happens when doing the right thing only plays into the hand of those who don’t share your set of scruples?


What books have most influenced your life most?

There are so many books that have influenced and inspired me. The Bible is first and foremost. Beowulf has fired my imagination for years, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings gave me an enduring love for fantasy. Hemingway’s bleak, beautiful A Farewell to Arms is my all-time-favorite book.

What book are you reading now?

I tend to have around five books going at the same time. I just finished Christine Hinwood’s The Returning, and look forward to starting Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. I currently have two nonfiction books in the rotation: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, and Soldiers & Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity by J. E. Lendon. I’m also currently rereading Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, a long-time favorite.


What are your current projects?

Apart from working on the sequel to His Own Good Sword, I’m rather sporadically plotting a straight-up historical-fiction novel, a science-fiction novel, and a fairy-tale retelling. It remains to be seen whether any of these will ever see the light of day.


What do you do when you are NOT writing?

I’m in my senior year at the University of West Georgia, studying history and political science. I also work at a cinema, and I do some freelance graphic design work on the side.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

For me, writing has always been linked to reading. I started writing out of a conscious desire to emulate my favorite books and writers. I grew up with Marguerite Henry’s books, and my first writing projects all invariably had to do with horses or cats. I devoured the Dear America and Royal Diaries series, and for a while I was obsessed with writing fictional diaries of historical figures. In fact, Dear America is probably responsible for turning me on to historical fiction in the first place.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I’m the world’s worst procrastinator–or best procrastinator, depending on how you look at it. In general, the hardest thing was making myself sit down, shut off my inner critic, and write.More specifically, though, I had (and still have) a hard time with action scenes. I avoided writing them as long as I could, until there were big holes all through my narrative (usually accompanied by a parenthetical note to myself: insert epic battle scene here).


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

His Own Good Sword is my first completed novel, and it’s definitely been a learning experience. I’ve learned so much about the writing process and the publication process both. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too.My favorite writing quote comes from Gustave Flaubert: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Writing forces you to confront your own presuppositions about the way the world works–even if you’re writing fiction, even if you’re writing fantasy fiction. Writing is a way to engage and understand the world around you. I never really looked at it that way until I wrote this novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read, and read widely. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read what’s selling, but don’t let it compromise your own vision. Fads change. Good writing is always in style.

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Hockey eh?  Who do your cheer for?

I cheered for the Thrashers until the move. Now I root for our local ECHL team, the Gladiators, and keep on hoping that maybe the Jets will do so badly that Winnipeg will decide they don’t want them after all and send them home.


Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

A notebook, a pencil, and a cup of strong coffee with cream.


How can we purchase your book?  

His Own Good Sword is available in paperback from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Look for the ebook release soon!

Thank you Amanda for sharing your thoughts with us here in the valley of muse!  Come back anytime!

For you readers out there:  Check out Amanda’s book!!

Reach Amanda!  Goodreads * Twitter * Facebook * Website

If you are an author and with to be interviewed for Muse In The Valley, send me an email:   kim.larocque@sympatico.ca

Prismatic – Sarah Elle Emm


I am  pleased to introduce you to Sarah Elle Emm, author of the new book Prismatic published by Winter Goose Publishing.  Her first book, Marrying Missy, is also featured here.    Young-Adult Fantasy & Women’s Fiction Author,  Sarah describes her challenges as a writer, and gives us a prismatic look at the life of a writer.

Like me, you will get a sense of Sarah’s gentle humor and insightful personality as you read on.  I want to thank her for taking the time, in between unpacking boxes, to give me this interview today.  

Describe your life in a “headline” re: news of magazine:

Sarah Elle Emm’s young-adult fantasy PRISMATIC, now available in E-books and Paperback

Tell us your latest news?

Book one, Prismatic, from the Harmony Run Series was just released in paperback and e-books by Winter Goose Publishing.  The Barnes & Noble book signing for Prismatic is this Saturday, June 9th, from 2-3:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers of Evansville, Indiana.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I felt compelled to write from an early age.  When I sat down at Mom’s typewriter to write my first story at age seven, I felt at home and knew that writing was going to be one of the secrets to my happiness.  Even though I didn’t get that first story finished right away, I couldn’t ignore the need to create with words and wrote some poems as a kid.  Mom gave me a travel journal on our first trip to Germany when I was twelve-years-old, and I guess the journal entries confirmed that I needed to write to feel complete.  When I was twenty-two-years old, I decided to start writing short stories and novels in addition to those journal entries.  Even though I couldn’t tell the world about how I was feeling, I knew it was true.  I was a writer, and it was only a matter of time before I would be sharing my stories.

What inspired you to write your first book Marrying Missy?

Marrying Missy is about an unlikely friendship, women hurting themselves to look a certain way, betrayal, prejudice, judging people, overcoming the negative things some of us are taught by the people who have raised us, marriage, and the chance of change and love.  It is set in Atlanta in the spring time during the wedding planning of Missy.  It’s a fast-paced, fun, easy read, and at the same time has some important messages for people to think about.  A lifetime of internal conflict and low self-esteem inspired me to have Missy hate herself so much.  At first glance, it would appear that Missy hates the world around her, but once you get further into the story, you will see that Missy hates herself.  Lots of people hate themselves.  Everywhere I have lived and traveled, I have met women, some worse than others, who struggle with self-esteem and body issues.  I have daughters and nieces now, and I wanted to go ahead and put some thoughts out there about the consequences of negative behavior and getting caught up in the need for material excess.  Life is hard enough.  Let’s stop picking on ourselves, ladies.  You are worth it.  We are worth it.  I am worth it.  Prejudice is another important theme in this book.  Missy is a fictional character, based off of a multitude of experiences and hundreds of people I have met around the globe.  Prejudice is very real, it does not exist within one race or culture alone, and it simply disturbs me.  I might be purple.  You might be green.  Does one color make you better than another color?  No.  I might be broke.  You might have a billion dollars in your bank account.  Does that mean one of us is better than the other?  No.  Believe it or not, we all have hearts beating on the inside.  I don’t see the need to judge each other by the physical and material aspects.  Last time I checked, most people say that it’s our hearts that matter.  Let’s be nice to ourselves and one another, shall we?

Do you have a specific writing style?

Well, I have written in a few different genres.  I have written chick lit, romantic suspense, and now young-adult fantasy.  I think anyone who has read one of my books would agree that there is a common thread with everything I write including a romance or love story, even if it’s secondary to the main story.  I had fun with Marrying Missy, writing the main character’s voice, (the character Tate,) in first person in a chick lit voice, but I intentionally wrote in third person for the other characters’ view points to kind of mix things up.  I thought multiple view points added some depth to the story, but I still wanted Tate to be in first person.  I got into the three different genres being a fan of reading them.  A definite consistent in my writing would be that my chapters are on the short side, so my readers can pick up the book, come and go, and still have time to read an entire chapter at once.

Your latest book Prismatic, just came out.  Tell us about it?

First off, here is the synopsis…

Rare glimpses of birds are the only reminder of the freedoms Rain Hawkins once had.  Now segregated into a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of the Authority, under tyrannical rule of President Nicks, Rain is forced to endure the bleak conditions set upon her.  The possibility of a way out arises when Rain discovers an organized resistance called The Freedom Front, and learns that she, along with many other multi-racial people, has special abilities.  Determined to overcome her situation, Rain sets out on a mission with the resistance that will fill her life with wonder, romance, and the undying hope for a better world.

Prismatic was partially intended for a Twilight type of audience.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are no vampires or werewolves, but there is a teen romance between main characters, Rain and Jabari, vital to this series, and I was writing it for readers who can appreciate the crazy hormones and feelings that a first love or crush can involve.  Prismatic is unique in that the cast is very diverse, and the stars of the show, if you will, are mostly multi-racial teenagers.  The story takes place in the year 2050 and follows seventeen-year-old Rain Hawkins as she embarks on a mission against a tyrannical government, discovers her special abilities, risks her life on a daily basis, and even discovers love in her terrifyingly bleak circumstances.

What were the challenges having your books published?

I spent a few years attempting to get a literary agent to give me a chance.  I spent a lot of time researching how to write the perfect query letter, trying different approaches, and using every tip I could from agentquery.com and publishing books.  It was frustrating, but I made myself keep writing through it all.  When I began my blog, My Name is Sarah, to share my journey and random stories about my life, I got instant feedback from readers.  I wasn’t even published, and I was entertaining and connecting with readers.  That’s when I realized it didn’t matter if an agent ever gave me a chance.  Shortly after my blog began to grow, I received the first positive email from a publisher.  They wanted to look at Marrying Missy.  I was excited beyond words for once in my life.  The long road to publication was worth every bump.

What books have most influenced your life most?

The first time I recall being completely transported into the pages of a book was when I was a little girl reading a Trixie Belden mystery, The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell.  All of a sudden, I was in awe of story-telling, and I felt the desire to write grow stronger.  That was an important moment for me.  The seed was planted.  Trixie was real to me.  I could picture her in my mind and visualize her story.  I wanted to do that.  I loved reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy because they comforted me during some difficult times.  I was inspired to go after my dreams, regardless of how tiny they were, after I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.  It made me want to be a better person.  It made me want to believe in a better world.  If Mr. Mandela could survive, overcome, and change the world after the hell he went through, anything could be possible.  At least that’s how he made me feel.  I recommend everyone read his story.  It’s important.

What book are you reading now?

I like to support indie authors and small presses when I can, so my list usually includes some of those titles.  To be honest, I am moving right now, so I haven’t read a page for at least a week.  On my Kindle app for my cell phone now, I am reading Pearls, by Lisa Mills.  Her cover got my attention.  I just started it, but so far, I am enjoying it very much.  Next up on my to-read list is Stella Stafford’sDid Anyone Die?  I think it is going to be an entertaining read.

What are your current projects?

I am finishing the Harmony Run Series.  The sequel to Prismatic, is called Opalescent, and is set for a February 2013 release.  I am having a romantic suspense I wrote edited, marketing my books, and keeping up with my blog.  Keep in mind, I am doing all of this while keeping up with my preschoolers, (one is getting ready to begin Kindergarten,) being a wife, and oh yeah, moving from Indiana to Florida.  I am currently living out of a suitcase and will be driving to my new home after my Prismatic book signing this weekend.  Regardless of my projects, I have one main goal:  I want to be the best mother I can be.  I am so blessed to have an amazing mother, and I want to try and be the best mom I can for my kids.

Who are your cheerleaders?

These days?  I have a lot of them.  Mom, my brother, Sam, my sister, Coleen, my husband, Charles, my mother-in-law, Muriel, and her sister, Faye, my Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, and of course, my best friend, Sonja.  This group of people are telling everyone about my latest release and being truly supportive.  Before I got published?  Well, not everyone knew my secret.  My mother was my first cheerleader.  She reassured me for nearly a decade that I could, in fact, write, and that I should never, ever stop writing.  My husband jumped on board team Sarah as soon as I told him that I was finishing my first book, one that I had started writing years before I met him.  He was very supportive from the moment he found out he had married an in-the-closet-writer.  I remember the first time he read an excerpt from a book I had written, and he said, “Wow.  You are a writer.”  Sam, Coleen, and Mom have been cracking me up with their theories about what will happen in book two, Opalescent, of this new series.  They are cheering me on and all slightly irritated they have to wait until February to see what happens next.  I have my bag of secrets, the notes, outlines, and details for the entire series in my brother’s spare room right now, and I swear he has looked at that bag with some intensity and too much curiosity a few times.  My sister is trying to trick me into revealing the details, but it’s not happening, Coleen!  All of my cheerleaders will have to wait until the official release of Opalescent.  Sorry, guys.  😉

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Well, as of now…no.  I really like Prismatic.  It’s my baby that started with a dream I had.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Of course, it was just released so there haven’t been a lot of reviews yet, and it is bit of a controversial story.  You never know what people might say once word gets out about a futuristic, racially segregated world with multi-racial kids standing up to resist their tyrannical government.  I might be wishing I had written a Mary Poppin’s type of novel before long.  Ha, ha, ha…

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I love Nora Roberts because she continuously delivers a solid, well-developed, heart-warming story.  I can depend on her to tell a story I will enjoy.  She never disappoints.  I also love the FBI thriller series by Catherine Coulter.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I would just say that it’s best to remember who you are writing for and that you can’t please everyone.  Write what you like to read, but more importantly, write for you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I have a book giveaway once a month on my blog and Facebook fan page.  All you have to do is join the blog, My Name is Sarah, and ‘like’ my Facebook page, Sarah Elle Emm, and you are entered in the free book drawing.  I would also love for everyone to know about the Prismatic book signing this Saturday, June 9th from 2-3:30 p.m. at 624 S. Green River Road in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana.  It’s my last stop before I hit the road for southern Florida, where the next chapter begins.

Fun questions:

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

That’s easy.  SheDaisy’s, “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me.)”  Ha.  First off, I have a small list of country songs I like, and this is one of them.  It’s funny.  She’s talking about her supposed multiple personalities her ex says she has, but she tells him he’s lucky tonight, “It’s just me.”  It makes me laugh.  I can relate to moods, emotions, or hormones, whatever it is, influencing my daily decisions.  No, I don’t actually have multiple personalities, but sometimes I have to struggle to keep the calm, collected exterior in place that the world sees.  I have moods I guess in place of multiple personalities.  There is the crazy Sarah who just needs some chocolate, the stressed out Sarah who needs to blast reggae, rock, or blues from her speakers and dance her troubles away, the Sarah who needs to attack the treadmill to exercise the inner demons, and of course, the Sarah who needs to pour her heart onto the blank computer screen and write a fiction story.  That Sarah is kind of crazier than the rest.  She will laugh or shout out periodically, “Yes!” when a chapter suddenly clicks and it turned out the way she wanted.  You should listen to that song right now, (after this interview.)  It makes me smile.  🙂

Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

Cell phone, (for it’s phone but also because I like to listen to the music I have stored on it wherever I am,) favorite ink pen, paper of any kind

What would we find in your junk drawer right now?

I moved out of my house and am living in a suitcase for five more days, so technically, I have no junk drawer at the moment.  In my temporary junk drawer, (a backpack at my brother’s house,) you will find post it notes and my eye-glass cleaner.  (I only wear my contacts in public.  I am blind and prefer my glasses at home.)  You will also find a lovely scented lotion, an I-pod, and a small purse with coins only.  Change is my junk drawer thing.  My husband leaves a trail of coins wherever he goes, and I collect them.  I made $175 off of coins I wrapped last week.  It was a tedious process but somehow rewarding.  My husband had to laugh after he recovered from the shock of my cash-in.  Yep, I will keep saving those pennies.  You can count on it.

Who is your favorite super hero and why?

I guess I am a product of the eighties because the answer is She-Ra: Princess of Power.  I saw the cartoon when I was a kid.  She-Ra is the alter ego of Princess Adora and He-Man’s sister.  Her powers were cool…incredible strength, speed, she was acrobatic.  She preferred to outsmart her adversaries instead of using violence.  When I am trying to motivate myself to do something I am afraid of or overwhelmed by, the words, “I am She-Ra!” pop into my mind.  I can do it.  I am She-Ra.  Well, at least I am going to keep telling myself that.

How can we purchase your books?

Marrying Missy and Prismatic are in paperback and e-books at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Sarah Elle Emm, a native of Evansville, Indiana and graduate of The University of Evansville, has lived in Germany, England, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and traveled extensively beyond.  Her love of travel, great fiction stories that you can escape into, and multicultural experience have all shaped her stories.  Sarah currently resides in Florida with her Chef husband and their children.  When she’s not walking the plank of her daughters’ imaginary pirate ship, she is writing. (source:  sarahelleemm.com)

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Follow Sarah  on any of these social websites:

 

Blog  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Website *

 Pinterest * LinkedIn * Goodreads

Sea Of Trees – Interview with Robert James Russell


This week’s author inspired me with his candor and excitement.  Robert James Russell has a lot to be excited about!   His book, Sea of Trees, published through Winter Goose Publishing,  is available, as of yesterday on Amazon.com.  I am so pleased our interview goes live today, as I love to see young authors thrive in this, sometimes challenging world of book publishing.

His bio on the publisher’s website, states Robert “is a fan of well-placed stream of consciousness and stories that feature everyday characters and dialogue”.  It states that he leans towards writing stories on relationships in their numerous forms.  Robert is also the founder of Midwestern Gothica site ‘dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here.”  Founded in 2010, this “quarterly print literary journal out of Ann Arbor, Michigan” …” aims to collect the very best in Midwestern fiction writing in a way that has never been done before, cataloging the oeuvre of an often-overlooked region of the United States ripe with its own mythologies and tall tales.”  (source:  About page on  Midwestern Gothic )

The Interview

If you could be any character in fiction, whom would you be?

Too hard to answer! I guess…Jay Gatsby? All that wealth would be pretty grand. If I had to pick who my favorite character is (and not who I would be, because those are very different questions), I’d say it’s a tie: Henry Chinaski, and Patrick Bateman.

When and why did you begin writing?

I actually wanted to be an illustrator when I was younger, drew all the time. Writing stories sort of developed from that—or, in tandem to it, really—and I fell in love with it. I was hooked—I was around ten years old and could not stop writing fantasy stories (a genre I am very foreign to now). And now…it’s like breathing. I can’t not write. It’s just part of who I am.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Sea of Trees isn’t actually my first book. I wrote a book in college when I was really starting to explore my writing voice (which is, and forever shall be, collecting virtual dust), and I’ve written a few other full length “things” since, but I see them, in general, as practice. Getting a good cadence, honing my skills and my voice. So, I guess I wrote my very first book because it was the natural progression of things, of being a writer. I had an idea and I needed to see it written down. But that’s also why I still write books now, why I wrote Sea of Trees, and why I’ll continue to write in the future: Once that little seed of an idea starts germinating in your brain, what other choice do you have? You have to write it. I think inspiration for each project comes from different places, but again, once it’s been implanted, there’s no getting rid of it.

Is anything in Sea of Trees based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

I mean, everything is based to some extent on personal experiences, right? Personal feelings, arguments, things you’ve seen that stand in for places you may not have seen. I’ve never been to the forest at the heart of Sea of Trees, nor have I (fortunately) known anyone who has committed suicide, but I guess this book is a means for me to attempt to understand the understandable—something we all feel the need to do. So to answer your question, it is purely imagination, with feelings and thoughts taken from my own life, reinterpreted to fit this story. The setting for Sea of Trees, however, came about pretty simply: I came across an article about Aokigahara—this mega-forest near Mt. Fuji that is the second most popular spot in the world for people to commit suicide—and just found it absolutely fascinating—and unnerving. Quite simply: It was something I had to write about.

And as I developed the story, I decided to have the main character, Bill, be an outsider so he, like the reader (and like me), can be in the dark about this culture, this place, struggling to understand something so far removed from his own logic.

The story is about, in a larger sense, lost souls—Bill and Junko represent this both physically, as they are lost in the woods, as well as figuratively in a variety of ways (Junko, for instance, seems to be lost in life after the death of her sister, Bill seems lost about the true nature of their relationship, thinking he knows her one minute, then not at all another). I think the themes here are bigger than Aokigahara, and bigger than Japan, bigger than suicide, even, using these unfortunate events as catalysts to talk about what it means to be lost in the world, especially today.

What books have most influenced your life?

Too many to name, but here’s a few (in no particular order):  As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner), American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), Outer Dark (Cormac McCarthy), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), McTeague (Frank Norris), and Post Office (Charles Bukowski).

Can you tell us a little about your book “Sea of Trees”?

Sea of Trees is about an American, Bill, and his Japanese girlfriend Junko as they wander through Aokigahara as they try to find evidence of Junko’s sister who disappeared there a year before. It gets moody, but it’s mostly about them, their relationships, and some stuff, as they say, does go down at the end. The book alternates between the main story, Bill and Junko, 1st person from Bill’s POV, as they navigate the forest in question, and then little 3rd-person vignettes/epilogues after each chapter that detail how someone came to the forest to commit suicide—each focusing on a random person, an unique story that brought them there.

What are your current projects?

Midwestern Gothic is keeping me busy—plus we have some very exciting (and big) announcements coming up that will up the ante of what we’re doing with that. I am also working on a new novel that I’m hoping to have finished later this year.

Do you see writing as a career?

For a very lucky few, yes. I think it’s getting harder and harder to do that, so many writers these days need to diversify their talents (teaching college-level English classes, for instance). I don’t have any grand hopes that I will be able to retire and be a writer full-time, not because I don’t think I’m very good, but just because the chances of that in today’s publishing clime is just so…slight. Also, if in the event that ever DOES happen, at least this way I’ll be surprised (rather than disappointed expecting it to happen, then finding out it won’t).

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Everything! I’m sure every author feels that way, right? But seriously, there are tiny little things here and there I see when I re-read it, little bits of dialog I’d tweak every-so-slightly (to infinity, I’m sure), but I’m actually quite happy with how It turned out in general, even now. But as a whole? No, I wouldn’t change it.

How would you describe your writing space?  Do you have a ritual?

My writing habits vary. I don’t have a ritual, per se. When the mood hits, I have to write. Doesn’t matter where I am (it’s one of the reason I almost always have a small notebook on me, or, at least, I can take notes on my phone), or what time of day. The one “sort of ritual” I guess I have is that I like to be in public places when I write (libraries, coffee shops)—something about being surrounded by people is inspiring to me. If I’m stuck on something, I just have to look around and people watch for about five minutes before I’m inspired again. I also tend to do my best writing late at night.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Hands-down: Faulkner. He was a pioneer, the way he dissected language, combated the norms of what could be expected from an American novel at that time, and just crafted the most gut-wrenchingly emotional and just overall fantastic tales ever. Period. I think it’s a true testament that his works, even now, stand up and are easily accessible. I’m the first to admit that when you read something from a while ago—Dickens, for example—it feels old and it can be hard to get in to. Faulkner’s works, though, at least to me, read like they could have been written in the last decade. They hold up remarkably well.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

First, I would say keeping it interesting. I purposely kept Sea of Trees short—a novella—since there are only two characters, I didn’t want it to get repetitive and stale. I wanted to tell the story and make sure there was an emotional wallop involved with it…again, without it getting repetitive.  I also think, beyond keeping it short (and powerful), making sure I wasn’t too preachy about the topic of suicide was something I was constantly checking myself on. This book is not meant to give some sort of Rosetta stone-answer to why people commit suicide, but instead, study it, study what it means to not understand something that you are—voluntarily or otherwise—a part of…an outsider looking in. So that was a challenge as well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep at it. Writing is not easy, no matter what anyone says. A story may come out of you easy, but then there’s always the submission process, which takes a toll on even the most seasoned veterans. But if you love writing, if you can’t imagine not doing it, then none of that matters. Also, I tend to hear nowadays more “haters” saying how writing has changed, blahblahblah. It has, sure, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get enjoyment out of it—so again, keep at it. Keep the haters at bay. Tell the stories you have to tell. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing that.

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

Anything by the fantastically talented Anthony Gonzalez (aka the musical act M83) would suit me fine.

What would be your 1st first question to the people of Antarctica?

Yes! Interesting tidbit: My Great (x6) Uncle was actually an Antarctic explorer, and there is a piece of land named after him—Ellsworth Land. The very first thing I’d ask would be: “Who wants to help me build the sweetest snow fort in the world?”

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?

Depends, really. I can see a point and while others would like this, and I am a pretty neat (read: not clean) person, but this is one of those things that I just don’t care about. It does make the room look nicer, sure, but more times than not…I let it slip by.

How can we purchase your book?

You can purchase Sea of Trees here

You can follow Robert James Russell on :

 Twitter  

 Facebook  

 Midwestern Gothic  

Website/Blog

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Threads of Life – Interview with Jessica Kristie


“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”  ~Anaïs Nin

These past few weeks of author interviews have been so inspiring.  I have had the pleasure to meet new friends, new writers who all have a distinct muse of their own.

This week, I have to pleasure to introduce you to Jessica Kristie, author of Threads of Life, and many other books you can discover as you follow the links to her website at the end of this conversation.  You can find her amazon profile here.

Her latest e-book, Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators contains:

“Fifty-two topics followed by affirmations and writing prompts, tips and inspiring activities to engage and build confidence. Each week you will have an idea to focus on and a small task to complete that help you in your journey to overcome, and keep creating.”


The interview

If you had to write a short poem to describe yourself, what would you write? 

A great question. All my poems encapsulate pieces of me. We are all filled with so much emotion and strength. Although my poetry is often first person, it is not always a complete reflection of me. It is a reflection of my surroundings and those I have in my life. I would hate to write a poem specifically and completely about me. My guess is, it would contain the words: driven, supportive, caring, and would say I had a lot of love to give.

How did poetry find you, or how did you find poetry? 

Poetry chose me at the young age of ten. I was introduced to it in school and through books like Seuss and Silverstein. There was an instant joy, and through that grew my own desire and voice to write.

What do you love to do when you are not writing? 

I love to be outside and enjoying friends and family. I also love to sing and at one point did theater. I have a creative spirit and look forward to trying new forms of expression.

Where does your creativity come from? 

Originally, I misconstrued my creativity to be a confined space or fleeting muse. I later learned that inspiration can be brought to life and even called upon when needed through my own personal needs. I have discovered inspiration in the strangest things from the tone of someone’s voice to a common kitchen utensil. It is how you choose to look at the things around you. Inspiration is everywhere and you have to decide what that looks like to you.

What book struck you as a child and why? 

I actually read The Hobbit quite young and that book really stood out to me with its visuals and deep characters. That was not the type of book I would normally cling to, but I loved it and read it several times during my junior high and high school years.

What is the last book you absolutely couldn’t put down? 

I do a lot of reading for my current line of work and have got an early read of Prismatic by Sarah Elle Emm. Her book actually comes out this week and is a YA Fantasy. I have not read many YA books and was not sure what to expect. This is the first book in the series and I tell you, I can’t wait till the next one. I am so excited about this series and hope everyone checks it out.

Name a woman who inspired you to be who you are today? 

Maya Angelou is a proud and powerful woman who has been successful in inspiring others, including me, to be strong and keep our creative spirit alive. I have a great love and respect for all she does, not only as a poet but as a woman and human being.

Can you tell us about your book Threads of Life?   

This was an emotional journey for me. I was inspired to write this book after some people in my life confessed to some abusive relationships. My poetry is often a bit dark and I felt so moved by stories of not just physically but emotionally abusive and toxic relationships that so many people I know have found themselves in. The search for love and acceptance is a long road. Dealing with our past and fighting for a better future doesn’t happen overnight, and each of our processes is different.

Threads of Life goes through a series of these types of difficult relationships and the feelings that go along with them. There is a darkness expressed, but also a search for hope and self-acceptance.

I read the poem Onward, The whole poem struck me!  I love the line 

“I feel drained within this sinkhole of madness. But if looking into the tattered reflection that screams back at me won’t halt me in my ridiculous tracks, nothing will”  

The whole piece is very deep and dark, yet I feel a sense of hope.  Can you talk a little about  this poem? 

Onward was the beginning piece because it was that almost rock-bottom feeling. It deals with the issues of being alone, confused, and stuck on the wrong path, knowingly, but still moving forward. We have all been there. That feeling of being trapped is maddening and it is so easy to look past the escape routes when encased in fear and self-doubt.

What are you working on now?   

I am excitedly working on my first novel. I hope to have the first draft done soon and it all completed by the end of this year, with a mid-year 2013 release.

Now for some fun questions! 

Would you say you are a chocolate or vanilla girl? 

Milk-Chocolate all the way. But vanilla is often very refreshing and I wouldn’t turn down someone offering. [Symbol]

What is the weirdest thing you carry in your purse? 

Checking . . . I found an old Easter candy egg and some sweet tarts. Lovely. I would say that is an un-intentional carrying, but carrying none the less.

What is your “theme song” the one you live your life by?

Oh my, I have yet to deem any tune my theme song. Music does play a heavy roll in my life and a tremendous source of inspiration. Let me work on that one and get back to you [Symbol]

Do you love to write free hand, with a pen or pencil, or on a computer?  What are your writing rituals? 

I use all options and do spend a lot of time with a pad of paper and a pen. I LOVE pencils and when I can keep one around and sharpened, I prefer to use that over a pen. I also write on my computer but do seem to write free hand first for my poetry then transfer over later. Writing outside is my favorite but it happens less than I would like.

Do you have anything you wish to share with aspiring writers? 

This business can be hard, thankless and unforgiving but when you write for you and no one else, you can maintain your joy through the difficult moments. Find your voice, read, support others and be strong. There is a place for you that is perfect in this industry. Find your niche and stay inspired.

How can we buy your books?

Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators is available only in eBook, but the others are available in print and eBook at all major retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   Threads of Life is also available on Amazon.com

Jessica Kristie is the author of several poetry books, and the co-creator for the ArtPlatform book Inspiration Speaks Volume 1 which is now available in print and eBook through all major retailers, and benefits ColaLife.org. She is also the founder of the Woodland, CA, poetry series, Inspiring Words—Poetry in Woodland.

Dreaming in Darkness is Jessica’s first volume of poetry; the winner of the 2011 Sharp Writ Award and nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Jessica’s second book, Threads of Life, is available through Winter Goose Publishing along with her eBook offering to writers, Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators.

Jessica has been published in several online and print magazines such as Zouch, Muse, A Writer’s Point of View and TwitArt Magazine.  You can find all of Jessica’s appearances under her Press Page at JessicaKristie.com.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jessica Kristie discovered her passion for writing as a child. Her inspiration comes in many forms, often inspired by just a word or quickly fleeting emotion. Through years of writing she has been able to capitalize on her experiences, whether they are painful or joyous. She hopes to draw you close to her world through shared emotion while inspiring you to forgive, remember, and heal.

Follow Jessica:

Twitter: @jesskristie

 

I want to thank Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions for Muse In The Valley.  I wish her success in everything she takes on.. and keep on writing my friend.  Please come back anytime!

 

Kim 

Nothing Left To Lose – Natasha Head


I would like you all to welcome Natasha Head, author, poet and artist!  Natasha lives in Nova-Scotia, East Coast Canada, a Province I have always wanted to visit because I have heard only wonderful things about its beauty and charm.  Paraphrasing her profile on Winter Goose Publishing , poetry is a longtime form of expression for her, and Natasha was able to publish a collection of these in her NEW book Nothing Left to Lose.   I love the way Natasha shares herself in her poetry, raw, emotional and so authentic.  The latter being a huge attraction for me.

Speaking with Natasha this week, I could feel her enthusiasm and excitement about her work.  I could feel, through the vibes of cyberspace, her love for life.  She exudes beauty and charm.  You will see these qualities in her in the answers to her questions.

So with no further ado:

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The Interview

If you were to write 1 sentence to describe yourself, what would it be?

I am a self-proclaimed freak on a leash.

What brought you on the poets’ path?

I have been writing poetry since I was a little girl.  When I was a teen and would have to baby-sit my little sister, I would punish her and her friends with a poetry reading if she broke the rules. I’ve been very passionate about poetry for a very long time.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Life is inspiration.   I think many of my poems are more personal than journal entries if you want to know what’s up in my bubble. I cry, bleed, fight and love with my pen.   

Tell us about your Newest Poetry Collection:  Nothing Left to Lose. What is your favorite Poem? 

Nothing Left to Lose is a collection that chronicles a difficult period in my life. If I had to pick ONE poem as a favorite, it would have to be “Think About It”.  It’s longer than most I write, and came to life on my blog as a dVersePoets OpenLinkNight offering.  It’s my thought process now, after having endured this difficult period, and states pretty clearly where I am right now.

So tell me…whose life have you been living?

Could we take a moment…perhaps strip away
the dogma that has been taught to you?
Force fed on spoons and forks

that have never once left your mouth.
Who are you I ask, and without thought
like a perfectly timed reaction

you toss me a name. If it is unique
to who you are, then yes, perhaps
you are truly special. I prefer to see it

as the first attack. Who named you?…

You can read the entire “raw” poem on my blog,  or the edited and prettier version in my book.

What was your favorite childhood story?

Gulliver’s Travels was a favorite, along with Hansel & Gretel,  once I learned to read I was unstoppable! The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland…so many fantastic tales that still bring a smile to my face.

What book are you reading now?

I just received Emmett Wheatfall’s “He’s Sees Things” and this has been providing my most recent poetry fix. It’s an amazing collection.  On the reader it’s Stephen King all the way.  Working my way through The Regulators AGAIN.  

What do you do when not immersed in writing?

I immerse myself in music! I LOVE to sing and lose myself in a good song.  Those rare moments when I get the house to myself, I blast the tunes and rock out with my dog and cat as audience.

Who designed the cover of your book, why the chair?

Wintergoose provided the art work for the cover.  I fell in love the moment I saw it. The chair? Well…that’s all I had left 🙂 The chair is a focal point so you can appreciate the space and the state of the nothingness that surrounds it.

What would we find in your fridge right now?

OMG…Really? Lots of salad dressing, bottled water and a case of Diet Pepsi (do I have to describe the leftovers? They’re looking a little fuzzy!)

Note to Natasha:  I have a case of Diet Pepsi in my fridge too!

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be?

That’s a tough one…would love to live in the mind of Salvador Dali, to be able to create with the wild abandon and lack of fear that I get from his work.  There are so many voices in my head when I write, telling me what should or shouldn’t be, creating excuses for not really being true to my vision.

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

I am partial to Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” (see 1st question!) but honestly, I have a different song for every circumstance. Bleed it Out by Linkin Park is a favorite go to tune.

What advice would you give new poets, young and old?

Never stop! The world is desperate for your words…even if it doesn’t know it yet.  Poetry is an amazing reflection of our times and you never know when you will find yourself being a mascot! The internet is ALIVE with poetry.  I really thought I was alone in my love until I stumbled upon Twitter.  Get online, share your words, and contribute to this fantastic movement.  The world is waking up, and the arts and their importance are regaining ground…if you bleed words like I do, then you have to join the army!

Do you have other work you want to share?  What are your projects now?

I was honored to be included in the premier edition of “Inspiration Speaks” compiled by the wonderful Jessica Kristie and ArtPlatform which Wintergoose released earlier this year, and I have a new compilation of poetry and art coming up.  I’m also a recurring host and resident tweeter for dVersePoets, a fantastic community of fellow word weavers launched by Brian Miller & Claudia Schoenfeld.  This is a great place for those just starting to share their words to start out, they are amazing folk! I’m also part of a great team of folks over at The River Journal. (And still working a crazy day job to boot!)

Where can we find you?

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/TashtooParlour

Twitter  https://twitter.com/#!/Tashtoo

Website http://tashtoo.com

How can we purchase your book?

Books are available online through Amazon.com  and Barnes & Noble, or you can order signed copies direct from me via email tashahead@gmail.com

Thanks!!!

Thank you so much Natasha, I cannot wait to read more of your poetry.  Good luck with your book Nothing Left to Loose, and please let us know, here at Muse In the Valley, when you publish again, or just drop by to say hello!

Moving Day!


“What the caterpillar calls the end the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”

~Lao Tzu~ 

 For the next few weeks, the children and I will be starting another chapter in our lives.   I close this book, like I close all books I’ve enjoyed reading…I hug and kiss the book with a sense of sadness that its over, and anticipating the next “good read”!  All good books have chapters we want to rush through, or paragraphs that make us angry.  They have passages where we laugh, and some where we cry, yet all good books leave us with a story… a memory… and inspiration. 

As I leave this chapter in my life.. I leave with no regrets.. no resentments … no sense of loss.  I leave here warm hearted knowing!! Yes KNOWING that this is where exactly where I am supposed to be.

I have let go of my baggage, cleansed my soul, and leave a hint of love in this place I called my home. 

I leave grateful…

I leave proud…

I leave knowing I am the author of my life.

Love and light

See you in a couple of weeks!