Meet the Author: Love Earth Now by Cheryl Leutjen

Today we travel to Los Angeles to chat with Cheryl Leutjen about how being an environmental law attorney, writing in nature, trees, blogging, throwing darts, composting, conversations inspired by a dead bush, and a train ride come together as part of Cheryl’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m the author of Love Earth Now, which is essentially a story book, chronicling my struggles to live more eco-conscientiously. I draw from my wide-ranging experiences as a geologist, environmental law attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, and mother to navigate the fine line between eco-mindful and eco-madness.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, I now live in Los Angeles, my adopted home for some thirty years now, with my husband, two children (when they are home from college). I founded and host the Natural Muse Meetup for people wanting to write in nature. I serve as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the North East Trees nonprofit. I also enjoy creating art from natural elements, to showcase nature’s gifts. I’m also the butler and handmaiden to three felines, none of whom care one whit about all my credentials.

In which genre do you write?

That’s an excellent question, one I’ve been pondering for a while. I used to think my genre was “creative non-fiction” because the stories I tell are all rooted in my own experience. Then I did some further investigation and learned that it requires a stricter adherence to facts than I exercise. “Outraged exaggeration” is my personal stock-in-trade. So now I’m going with “fanciful non-fiction-ish” as my genre. Which, until it catches on, makes it difficult to enter book contests.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I never made a conscious decision to become a writer, even though people had been telling me that is what I “should” be doing all my life. And that’s probably the reason I resisted so long; I tend to flee from whatever it is others think I “should” be doing. Especially if it involves any kind of laundry.

In my prior careers, I’d done a lot of writing for other people’s purposes—and none of it offered opportunities for creativity, nonfiction-ish or otherwise. My creative writing life was inspired by parenthood. I began writing as a way of processing the insanity that only mothers of tantrumming toddlers can know. I started a “mommy blog,” to share my wisest insights with my subscribers—all seven of them. Audience or no, I got hooked on the therapeutic benefits of the writing.

So when I went to a one-day writing workshop, I’d planned to hone my blogging skills. Instead, the environmental themes of my book, Love Earth Now, came pouring out, much to my surprise. Writing is now the essential therapy that keeps me from spontaneously combusting every time I hear more bad news for Life On Earth.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I was given the coyote as my spirit animal when I completed my spiritual training through the Modern Day Priestess program. How disappointing! I was certain it would be the mighty eagle, a demonstration that I was meant to soar and that I possessed laser focus. Coyote seemed far too common.

A ragtag coyote clan clings to a bare hilltop near my home, a rare speck of open space in our densely-packed Los Angeles. Occasionally, one wanders down, especially in times of drought, looking diseased and bedraggled. Surely this was not the spirit animal guiding me to my noble calling.

Then I studied up on coyote in Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson. In many native American traditions, the coyote is known as the great trickster. Coyote lays traps, much like the cartoon Wile E. Coyote, that backfire on himself—and usually forgets to learn from his mistakes. “As coyote moves from one disaster to the next,” they write, “he refines the art of self-sabotage to sheer perfect.”

Welp, I can relate to that. I excel at laying out the best plan for persuading someone to take on a task . . . only to find I’ve convinced myself into doing it. On a tight schedule and with no budget.

Now when I see the bedraggled coyote, I extend some sympathy. Some compassion for a kindred spirit.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

My laptop currently rests on an Army-green picnic table covered in graffiti, some faded and some so recent I had to check for wet paint before sitting. Surrounded by towering trees, the table perches on the hillside wilds of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Tiny white flowers sprout from the sturdy jade plants at my feet while native oaks sway in the breeze above my head. Noisy blue jays, cawing crows and the occasional hawk circle overhead. Dappled sunshine filters through the leafy canopy, though my fingers cramp in the chilly winter breeze.

This is my ideal writing space. The hard bench offers just enough discomfort to keep me on task, while the natural beauty of this wild, urban garden unlocks the vaults of my imagination. I think of Alice Walker’s quote: “Earth was meant for joy. As an artist, connect with that joy. And you will forever be fed by it.” Steeping here in natural wonder inspires far more creative work than sitting surrounded by four walls.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

When I’m not writing, you’ll find me doing yoga, hiking, bullet journaling, throwing darts, and reading books I wish I’d written, curled up with my cat, Handsome. You might also find me tending my compost bin—which gives me far more pleasure than you might suppose. Diverting my apple cores and banana peels from the methane-producing landfill gives me a solid sense of eco-righteous satisfaction.

What’s more, I like to imagine that I’m working in partnership with all the critters in heap, doing the hard work of converting our food waste into black gold. I used to feel guilty for the waste when some once-delicious dish turned moldy or, horrors, a bottle of wine was left open too long. Now, it’s cause for excitement, like finding the perfect gift for your hard-to-shop-for friend. “The compost critters are gonna love this,” I think. “Hang on, fellas, here comes HAPPY HOUR”!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced in the process of your writing?

Writing outdoors produces some surprising experiences. Ducks inching closer, eyeing my trail mix. The dead bush that inspired a conversation. A wide-eyed, nose-wriggling mole popping out of the green grass next to me.

The strangest, though, was the day I was writing in a neighborhood park, my back against a stately oak. Engrossed in my own world, I suddenly felt a moist bit of something land on my arm. I brushed it off, but the wet bits kept coming, landing on my keyboard, my shoes and then my face (ugh). I looked up and discovered a squirrel on the branch overhead, spitting bits of green walnut flesh on me. I swear he was laughing.

These things just don’t happen when I’m writing in my local coffee shop.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Not only do I believe that things happen for a reason, I cling to that belief like the personal preserver it is. To maintain my tenuous hold on something like sanity, I need to know that there’s redeeming value in even the worst experiences. Not just that there’s “a” reason but a Hoover dam good reason why a precious keepsake was lost. Why the cat I rescued sees fit to shred me on a daily basis. Why my beloved mom passed away too soon.

The best example I can recall right now is the time when I got fired from my dream job. I’d slaved over my studies through law school, just for the opportunity to work for a top-notch, environmental law firm in downtown Los Angeles. I’d devoted two years to hammering my square peg into the round hole the firm assigned to me, trying to shoehorn myself into the culture of the firm. I’d asked for guidance and assistance when my reviews were discouraging. And still, I found myself out on the curb one day. Less than a month later, I began a new position in a law department where I fit in and excelled. I would never have given up on my so-called “dream job,” if I hadn’t been fired from it.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

My idea of the perfect solo date is a train ride. Like that song from The Commitments movie, “destination anywhere, east or west, I don’t care.” I’ll bring too many books, journals, and magazines, so I can catch up on a year’s worth of reading. I’ll pack a lunch bag with cheese, crackers, olives, basil, grapes and dark chocolate—which may be consumed with a glass of Chardonnay from the café. I’ll intend to get some serious writing done . . . and end up staring out the window, bobbing my head to the chug-a-chug until I doze off.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a companion to my book, Love Earth Now, for people wanting more guidance in discovering their own eco-contributions. So many people who’ve read my book or hear me speak say, “just tell me what I should be DOING” about X, Y or Z eco-calamity. As much as I wish I could offer a simple prescription—”buy LED lightbulbs and all will be well”—it’s not that simple. Unfortunately.

Nor is it for me to dictate anyone’s eco-contribution. I believe that each of us, all seven-plus billion humans, come to this Earth with our own calls to action to satisfy, our “soul work,” I call it. How do your heart and soul call for you to contribute, to live, to be? Only you can know. That’s why I include a “Love Earth Invitation” at the end of each chapter in the book, a simple exercise for each reader to pause and reflect for themselves. The companion workbook will offer more in-depth exercises in eco-mindfulness, opportunities to discover what each of us can do right now that will mean more to the world than all that power and influence can buy.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Love Earth Now is a deeply thoughtful, often neurotic, and sometimes comedic exploration of my own efforts to make an eco-contribution. Hailed an “ode to our planet,” it’s both a tribute to the beauty of Earth, as well as a call for us each to honor our unique calls to action.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA, Cheryl. The Natural Muse Meetup sounds great!! I enjoy creating art from nature elements, too, so I know what you mean about showcasing nature’s gifts. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Where to buy the book:

I urge readers to shop local bookstores, if there’s one nearby. If Love Earth Now isn’t on the shelf there, request it. “Shop local” isn’t just a trendy catch-phrase; it’s one simple way that any one of us can vote for change with our dollars. Shopping local not only keeps our hard-earned dollars in our neighborhoods; it also fosters stronger communities.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a local bookstore nearby, you can purchase Love Earth Now, both the paperback and the eBook, through all the usual etailers and through my Etsy shop. You can find links to them on my website at LoveEarthNow.us.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2BzyVMn

Connect with Cheryl:

CherylLeutjen.com [author website]

LoveEarthNow.us [book website]

Etsy.com/shop/LoveEarthNow

Facebook: @LoveEarthNow

Instagram: @LoveEarthNow

Twitter: @LoveEarthAuthor

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Meet the Author: The Flowers of Time by A.L. Lester

Today we travel to rural Somerset in the UK to chat with A.L. Lester about how chickens, plotting, Kew Gardens, growing up on a horticultural nursery, making butter-lamps, Roobard and Custard, and an inability to quit come together as part of their past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Ally and I write as A. L. Lester. I live in rural Somerset in the UK, on the edge of the Quantock Hills with Mr AL, our two children, a variety of chickens and animals and an unsuccessful permaculture vegetable garden.

In which genre do you write?

I write queer, paranormal, historical romance.

How many published books do you have?

Three, with a fourth coming out in April.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I’ve always written, but I didn’t hit my stride and find a publisher until 2017.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I’m not sure I have any interesting ones…I can never remember the difference between it’s/its and I loathe plotting. But they’re not interesting quirks, per se, more irritating ones, I’m sure my editor would say!

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

Dachshund. Morris the Emotional Support Dachshund is my real life mascot.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Empty of people wanting me to brush their hair or find their socks or remember whether they’ve paid the gas bill.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading a really fab gay historical romance by Lillian Francis called Under the Radar. It’s set on a WW2 submarine and the details are amazing.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

· I can pluck a chicken in twenty minutes

· I have no sense of smell

· I used to run a farmer’s market stall selling eggs.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My most recent book is called The Flowers of Time and is a romance between a lady botanist and a non-binary explorer set in the Himalayas in the 1780s. The idea was jump-started by a picture of some 1920s plant-collectors from Kew Gardens. I grew up on a horticultural nursery, so I felt very drawn to the whole botanical thing.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I knit, I home educate my frighteningly articulate twelve year old, I care for my life-limited eleven year old.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Dorothy Dunnett. I’d want to ask her about her historical research for the Lymond series.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I’m non-binary. The Flowers of Time is basically me working that through!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I’ve got a really nice circle of online friends from social media.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

Erm. I made my own butter for the butter-lamps in The Flowers of Time. I separated the milk, made the butter, clarified it and then used it with a wick for light.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Be less bothered about what other people think about you – just crack on and be yourself.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Roobarb and Custard would probably be most realistic if I’m perfectly honest. Slapstick comedy and a dog and cat creating chaos.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Very much so. I believe very strongly in reincarnation and karma. Not karma in the ‘instant payback’ kind of way, but I believe that we get back what we put out, eventually, and that life is a series of learning experiences. If you don’t learn a lesson the first time the opportunity arises then you are presented with more opportunities to learn as you go through your life.

I think this is why I find questions like ‘what one thing would you change about your life if you could’ so hard. I wouldn’t change anything, really, not even the bad stuff, because it’s all shaped me in to the person I am and given me the life I have today.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

· Why did you kill that chicken?

· Why do you keep digging a hole out of the corner of the garden and getting stuck down that badger hole?

· Why do you only jump on the bed when you’re muddy?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Probably my inability to quit, even when that would be the best thing to do. I just keep plodding on and a lot of the time it doesn’t occur to me that I could give up!

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Rural places with lots of trees and streams. But I don’t mind too much where, so long as it’s in nature somewhere. I love Exmoor and the Quantocks, which is where I grew up. Similar places really resonate with me.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

In the morning, sunny but not hot, somewhere I could sit outside in nature with a pot of coffee and write, without interruption.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a romance set in the 1970s between a disabled farmer and a disgraced stockbroker. I’m about ten thousand words in and I’m aiming to have it finished by the end of March.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Flowers of Time is the third in my Lost in Time magical universe. It’s a paranormal-historical-romantic suspense set in England and the Himalayas in the 1780s. It’s a love story between Edie, a determined lady botanist and Jones, a non-binary explorer. They travel across the mountains searching for rare flowers and trying to work out what killed Jones’ father three years before. There are monsters and yaks and a dog and mysterious caves and kissing. You can find it on all the major ebook platforms!

It was great having you be a part of MTA, Ally! I listened to the clip of you reading a chapter, and what a lovely voice you have. Captivating! All the best to you! –Camilla

Blurb:

Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.

Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.

A non-binary explorer and a determined lady botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with perils for both of them, not least those of the heart.

Where to buy Flowers of Time: http://books2read.com/flowersoftime

The first book, Lost in Time,  is currently free for the next few days as part of a bundle the publisher has put together collectively for people stuck at home. They are mostly queer romance: https://www.jms-books.com/free-c-440/

Flowers of Time booktrailer:

A.L. Lester reading an excerpt of The Flowers of Time:

Social Links:

Website: http://allester.co.uk

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CogentHippo

Find books: https://allester.co.uk/lost-in-time/

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Meet the Author: The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir by Peter Staadecker

Today we travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to chat with Peter Staadecker about how Canada’s mountainous West Coast, mushroom picking, Cape Town, South Africa, vervet monkey thieves, being an unwilling soldier, and photography set the scenes of Peter’s past and current life.

Have you lived there in Toronto your entire life?

Not yet. I moved there in 1981 thinking it would be temporary because Toronto is flat and I missed the mountains. All these years later, it’s still flat, it’s still temporary. I’m still here.

Why are you still there?

Ask my wife. I would have liked Canada’s mountainous West Coast. My wife is from France. She says the West Coast is too far from her mother and family.

And you still believe Toronto is temporary?

Don’t trample on an old man’s dreams.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa back then had (and still has) some very wild spots. One night four of us were camped in Botswana by the Chobe River under nothing but mosquito nets when a pride of hunting lions walked through the camp. We had thought our campfire would keep them away. It didn’t. Another night, vervet monkeys stole freshly baked bread right off our campfire. We had thought the fire would … I’m not even going to finish that sentence. One monkey also stole some crucial antibiotics out of our parked car. We had detoured three days from Botswana into what is now Zimbabwe to get those precious antibiotics for a sick friend. The monkey thief sat out of reach in a tree, calmly watched our tantrums far below, opened the childproof lid with ease, poured the pills onto the ground, and took off through the trees with the empty bottle, the childproof lid and an enamel mug.

There are also wonderful mountain ranges in Africa. Did I mention mountains?

I’ve had jobs as varied as mushroom picking, salvaging a sunken yacht, being an unwilling soldier, etc. I studied and became a mathematician, worked in business and am now retired with time to write.

What do you do when you’re not working on your books?

You mean aside from time for books, house, garden, wife, children, pets, etc.? It depends on the season. Right now it’s still winter, which is cross-country skiing time if I’m free. For those that don’t know cross-country skiing, if you do it right it’s like flying. Unfortunately, I often plummet. I recently put up a video clip of myself x-country skiing, here https://vimeo.com/393348449. It shows both the flying and the onset of the plummet stage. The clip also contains some of my photography—another hobby when I get time.

What have you been reading recently?

Last year, I was bowled over by J.L. Carr’s “A Month in the Country.” I’ve reread it three times to analyze it and to steal the secret sauce behind J.L. Carr’s magic.

And the secret is?

I don’t know. Each time I read it, I forget that my goal was industrial espionage; I become an entranced reader all over again. I’ve given up trying to analyze it.

Another thing that bowled me over recently was an award acceptance speech by the late poet/musician/singer Leonard Cohen. You can see a video version at

It’s a wonderful example of a poet using language to put a spell on his audience.

Did you like the movie version of A Month in the Country?

For me, the magic is in the book, not the movie.

Did you always write?

Not before the age of about five. But after that, yes. I tried to publish a magazine when I was about ten. I sold one copy. Since then I’ve written occasional journal or newspaper articles and published four books.

What genre?

My first book, and the one I’d like to focus on today, is called “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir.” The closest genre it approximates is historical fiction. Specifically, it’s based on an actual historical event, but it fictionalizes the event and transports it into modern times.

How did you get the idea for it?

Toronto has no mountains—did I already mention that—so, I started sailing on Lake Ontario. As a sailor, I became aware of an 1884 sailing tragedy that set a legal precedent for much of the world. Three men and a cabin boy survived a shipwreck in the Atlantic. They were adrift in a lifeboat for 24 days. The digits 2 and 4 look so harmless in print, but think about it: twenty-four days. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the key events that took place during those 24 days. The survivors were rescued and returned to Britain. The British Home Secretary took an interest in the events. He decided to bring two of the men to trial in spite of the public support the men had received. Again, I won’t reveal details for fear of spoiling the story. What I will say is that I discussed the trial with my teenage boys. I told them why, although the case was controversial, I supported the judge’s ruling. I found to my surprise that my boys were totally opposed to the judge’s ruling.

Fair warning: do NOT EVER, ever, ever find yourself shipwrecked with my teenagers. They are savage little so-and-so’s. You have been warned.

Anyway, I couldn’t get the case out of my mind, so I wrote the book. I was delighted to find it shortlisted for the Kobo-Rakuten Emerging Authors prize. I’m also delighted that copies are held in the USA by library of The National Registry of Exonerations and by the Equal Justice Initiative.

What advice would your now-self give to your younger-self?

Don’t camp where lions hunt. That’s stupid.
If you like the smell of freshly-baked bread you’ll be at peace with all creatures.
If you like the taste of freshly-baked bread you’ll hate vervet monkeys.
Also, find out in advance where your future wife refuses to move to.

It was great having you be a part of MTA, Peter. I very much enjoyed your sense of humor and wish you all the best with your books! –Camilla

Where can readers find your books?

Two of the books, including “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir”, can be found on kobo.com in epub format

All the books can be found on Amazon sites world-wide in Kindle format, and in paperback wherever Amazon sells paperbacks

Most bookshops can special-order the paperback versions

Some New Zealand and Oz readers use a paperback ordering service called https://www.bookdepository.com/

Connect with Peter:

My photography is at https://gallery.staadecker.com
My blog on photography, writing and random musings is at https://blog.staadecker.com
My publishing website is at https://publishing.staadecker.com
My author Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/staadecker.books/
On twitter I’m @PeterStaadecker

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Meet the Author: Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Today we travel to to the south coast of England to chat with Carol Thomas about how teaching in primary schools, being a collector of conversation snippets, a snowy woodland, being a volunteer, and The Flumps come to together as part of Carol’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live on the south coast of England with my husband, four children and lively Labrador. I have been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of my time to writing. In the summer of 2017, I was delighted to gain a publishing contract with Ruby Fiction, an imprint of Choc Lit, for my romantic comedy novel, The Purrfect Pet Sitter, the first in the Lisa Blake series. Maybe Baby, the second in the series, was published a year later.

I have a passion for reading, writing and people watching, and can often be found loitering in local cafes working on my next book.

In which genres do you write?

I write for adults and children: My contemporary romance novels have relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads. While my children’s books have irresistibly cute, generally furry characters, young children can relate to.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I am a collector of snippets of conversation that make me smile. I note them down and then slip them into my writing. This is especially useful when writing romantic comedy because I feel it adds an element of authenticity to the dialogue.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Light, bright and airy, preferably with a good view. Some years ago, we looked at houses in Canada as we were contemplating moving there. One house was perfect and had a wonderful office. We visited in winter, and so the view looked out across snowy woodland. I like to imagine myself sitting in that window, writing. We didn’t make the move, so I am often found writing in local cafes; it’s not quite the same.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You. I love the author’s completely relatable characters and the very natural way they interact with each other. I also really enjoy the author’s ability to sum up a situation in a single and perfectly apt sentence.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself:

Growing up, I preferred playing with toy cars to reading books.
I hated school and then became a teacher.
I was a teen mum, and the birth of my daughter changed my life and gave me the drive to want to be more and do better.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Maybe Baby is a romantic comedy and the sequel to The Purrfect Pet Sitter. I wrote it because I had more I wanted to share about the characters. I also like exploring relationships beyond the happy ever after moment – seeing how characters react as a couple when faced with different situations. I have been with my husband for twenty-nine years, and so I appreciate that how you meet new challenges is an important aspect of maintaining a long-term relationship.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I am a volunteer at my local Cancer Research shop. Being a writer necessitates many hours spent alone with my characters, I think it’s important to go out and interact with real people too. This role enables me to do that, as well as to support the charity.

I’m also currently working as a Teaching Assistant in a local school. This is because I miss teaching and wanted to get back into the classroom. It has been lovely, and I am fortunate to be working in a great class in a very supportive and welcoming school. But, shh, don’t tell my colleagues about the collecting snippets of conversation thing, or they’ll think I am spying on them 😉

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I love the fact that writing allows you to create a fictional world where characters, who become your friends, interact and take on a life of their own. When it is all coming together, when the writing is flowing and the purpose of every character, every scene and interaction becomes clear, it is an amazing feeling.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Honestly, I don’t miss anything about being a child. If I could return to a time in my life, it would be around twenty-six – after I had got my degree and when I first started teaching. It was a wonderful time. I was happy, thin (ah there was a time) young and full of self-confidence.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I am a child of the seventies, and so there are some genuinely crazy worlds to choose from. Though not a cartoon, I would choose The Flumps, I liked the fact they were all one happy family, and they seemed to have a good pace of life.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I go to the cinema regularly, generally once or twice a week, this weekend I saw Harley Quinn, as I had seen the first, and I like Margot Robbie as an actor. I also saw Dolittle with my children. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it, but it was very good, entertaining and quirky – though it has made me want to befriend a polar bear.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Maybe Baby is the sequel to The Purrfect Pet Sitter (Lisa Blake book #1), published by Ruby Fiction. While each book can be read as a standalone story, Maybe Baby revisits the characters readers have enjoyed in The Purrfect Pet Sitter as they move into the next phase of their lives.

It was wonderful to have you be a part of MTA, Carol. I love that you collect conversation snippets. I used to do that more often, and think I’ll return to that practice. All the best to you! –Camilla

The blurb:

Maybe Baby is the story of what happens after the happy ever after …

Lisa Blake is back with her first love, she’s reunited with her best friend Felicity, and life is looking good; even her pet sitting skills are improving – everybody knows you can’t believe all you read in the local Gazette, don’t they?

Felicity is on the cusp of achieving her perfect wife-mum-life balance; Her husband, Pete, is being wonderfully attentive, and her four children are getting older and wiser (sometimes too much wiser) by the day.

But with secrets to be revealed and discoveries to be made, it seems life is full of unexpected surprises!

Book Trailer: https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/book-trailers/

Where to buy:

Amazon: http://getbook.at/MBAmazon
Ruby Fiction: https://www.rubyfiction.com/dd-product/maybe-baby/

Connect with Carol:

Website and Social Media Links:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk
http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/carol_thomas2/
https://www.instagram.com/carol_thomas2/

Blog:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk/blog

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Meet the Author: Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling

Today we travel to West Los Angeles to chat with Debra Eckerling about how telling stories, journalism in college, freelance writing, an Instant Pot, Aikido, and cardio dance come together to form the screen play of Debra’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a goal coach and project catalyst. I help people figure out what they want and how to get it, whether they are at a crossroads and need direction or they are seeking a plan and guidance for a specific project. I do coaching, workshops, and have an online and live support group for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, called Write On Online. There’s a Facebook page and group.

I live in West Los Angeles, and am originally from the Midwest (Chicago suburbs). I’ve written for national, local, trade, and online publications; have worked in publishing, education, financial services, social media, and technology; and speak on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

In which genre do you write? How many published books do you have?

I write non-fiction in the areas of writing/business/self-help with some tech and social media mixed in.

My first two books – Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of all Ages and Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog – were self-published and only released as ebooks.

My third – Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals – was released by Mango Publishing on January 14, 2020, and is available in ebook and paperback formats.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Ever since I learned to write as a kid, I loved to write. Growing up, I mostly wrote fiction. I loved telling stories. I studied journalism in college, so I could have a solid writing background – it amazes me how much publishing has changed since the 1990s, btw.

Then, in my 20s I got my first freelance writing break a week after I wrote my first screenplay, which I did for fun. Freelance writing came easy to me. I still loved telling stories, but now I was telling real-people stories, rather than fiction. And, somewhere along the line, I started incorporating my knowledge and experience in my words, as well.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was never into cooking until I got an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) about three years ago. Sure, I could make the basics, and I love food, but I was never one of those people who thought cooking was meditative and fun. Now, I love my Instant Pot – and also my air fryer – and I will tell anyone who will listen how much I enjoy putting in ingredients and watching them turn into meals. I share recipes and have conversations about food prep. It still surprises me when I find myself discussing cooking or offering advice.

I studied Aikido for nine years. It’s the passive martial art you see on TV, where someone attacks you, you step out of the way, and the attacker falls down … their own power is their downfall. Aikido teaches things like self-awareness, being centered, and creating a mind frame to avoid conflict. Someone attacks you, even verbally, there are ways to use distraction or even kindness to diffuse the situation before resorting to combat, but only if necessary.

I went through a quiet phase as a child. No one believes that when they meet me, since I am very outgoing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I started a writing-focused goal-setting group when I was the event coordinator for Barnes & Noble in Illinois, and re-launched the group in Los Angeles a few years after I moved here. Over time, Write On has transitioned from a live group to online. Now, it’s a hybrid of online – I have a Facebook page and group for goal-setting, accountability, and community – and live hangouts.

Several years ago, a member asked me to help him one-on-one, so I began doing personal coaching, speaking and leading workshops. I worked in communication and project management, so I was able to use all of my skills to help people plan their projects, troubleshoot, and complete them.

Then, in 2018 I re-branded my business as the D*E*B METHOD®. My goal-setting and productivity process worked perfectly with my new acronym. DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path.

The biggest reason people do not reach their goals is they don’t take the time to figure out what it is they really want and how to make it happen. DEB, which is Part One of Your Goal Guide, walks readers through my process. Part Two is all about setting yourself up for success.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

My current fitness of choice is cardio dance. I take an amazing World of Dance UJAM class every week, and it is definitely my happy place. Dance is not only healthy and fun, it’s the best stress-reliever. It energizes me and keeps me going.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I have been keeping a journal for years. It was mandatory for a creative writing class in high school, and it literally changed my life. I discovered the power of getting your thoughts on paper; it keeps you healthier, physically and mentally, and also helps with problem-solving, as well as capturing what’s going on in your life, good and bad.

As an adult, I’ve used journaling more to track my activities, keep notes on my projects, and catalogue ideas. Journaling and brainstorming are significant elements in the process I teach and are a huge part of Your Goal Guide.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I had this question as a college entrance essay for a creative writing program, and it stuck with me. I said I would want to be a cartoon version of myself, because I believe everyone should know how it feels to turn their head 360 degrees. And, yes, I got into that school, but opted to pursue a degree in journalism instead.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I believe everything happens for a reason and in a certain order.

About two years ago, when my primary freelancing client was making changes, I took it as a sign that it was time to focus on my goal-coaching. I re-branded myself – I took the goal-setting and productivity techniques I developed over the years and put them into a simplified process, called The D*E*B Method. Shortly thereafter, I met an agent (he found me), and he sold my book.

Ever since I decided to fully embrace what I believe I was meant to do, things have fallen into place.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I did competitive public speaking in high school and college. When you master communication, you can interact with anyone, present anything, and get your ideas across.

Any parting thoughts?

I love to meet new people … and part of achieving goals is activating your network, and finding the information and resources you need to make your dreams a reality.

And please connect with me. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook – for Write On Online and The D*E*B Method, Instagram, and Twitter. I lead the #GoalChat Twitter Chat on Sundays at 7pm PT.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA, Debra. Here’s wishing you many great meals in your Instant Pot and much fun dancing! –Camilla

About the book:

One of the biggest reasons goals fail is that people often don’t put enough thought into what they really want before diving in. Your Goal Guide by Debra Eckerling starts with that first, crucial step: figuring out your goals and putting a plan in place. Eckerling presents readers with her own tested and proven method: the D*E*B METHOD®. DEB is a brainstorming and task-based system and stands for: Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. It’s a roadmap for setting and achieving goals. Goals can be intimidating because of the pressure people often put on themselves to succeed. However, Eckerling believes that setting goals should be easy—you just need the right tools to tackle them. Through a combination of writing exercises and systems, Eckerling provides readers with a process for making and setting goals that is stress-free, easy-to-manage, and even fun.

Where to buy the books:

You can find Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. If they don’t have it, just ask them to order it for you.

Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals, from Mango Publishing

Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures

About Debra:

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals from Mango Publishing. A professional writer, communications specialist, and project catalyst, she works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. After years of working, adapting, and polishing her goal-setting and productivity techniques, she put them into a simplified process, called the D*E*B METHOD®. DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. Debra is also the founder of Write On Online, a live and online community for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat.

Connect with Debra:

Main Links:
http://TheDEBMethod.com
http://WriteOnOnline.com

Follow Write On Online on Facebook and Twitter
Join the Write On Online Facebook Group
Follow The D*E*B Method on Facebook and Twitter
Join the #GoalChat Twitter Chat
Subscribe to the Guided Goals Podcast

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Meet the Author: Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

Today we travel to Reno, Nevada, USA to chat with Camilla Downs (yep, that’s me) about how a Swedish actress, going for walks, chromosome deletions, tiny house living, a construction company, being a paralegal, nature photography, Scooby Doo, and tenacity come together to form the ingredients for the alchemy of Camilla’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hey! I’m Camilla Downs (pronounced like Pamela, but with a “C”). I was named after Camilla Sparv, a Swedish actress in the 1960’s and 70’s. I’ve been told that I’m the great great grand-daughter of a full blooded Chickasaw Indian and Irish immigrants (haven’t researched this yet, it’s on my to do list for this year).

I have lived in Reno, Nevada, USA for the past 14 years, moving here from the Seattle, Washington area in 2006. I spent my first 18 years in Jackson, Mississippi and Houma, Louisiana.

I love walking. I am out for walks anywhere from three to six days a week. Nature is partly the inspiration for my writings and poetry. The other part is a desire to process my life experiences; to give them an outlet through writing.

Writing in this way allows me to feel and release experiences and to receive comfort and answers. I also write narratives of my life experiences and how I’ve processed the experiences; sharing these on my blog and in my books.

I have been single parenting fourteen year old Thomas and eighteen year old Lillian since Thomas was 1 year old. Lillian has a chromosome deletion simply called 18p-. This means she is missing the short arm of chromosome #18.

My kids and I call ourselves Team TLC to correspond with the first letters of each of our names. During 2015-2019 we were tiny home dwellers, living in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 810 square foot apartment. That was one heck of an adventure!

In addition, we are an unschooling family. Thomas and Lillian focus on what interests each of them and learn about that topic. I act as a facilitator and provide assistance when asked or needed. Lillian is a proud graduate of 2019.

I am inspired by this place I chose as home in 2006. When he was seven years old Thomas summed it up with one beautifully inspired comment ….

“It’s like we are at an art show and nature keeps changing the art for us.”

In which genre do you write?

So far, my genre writing of choice has been memoir, with this latest book being a free-verse poetry memoir. However, I feel a fiction, maybe a creative nonfiction, bubbling and brewing along with more books to follow.

How many published books do you have?

I have 4 published books. Two are authored by me and the other two are with my children.

Words of Alchemy – Published December 2019
Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories by Lillian Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published January 2018
Biggest Little Photographer by Thomas Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published October 2016
D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance – Published February 2012

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading four books. I read different books during different times of the day, also depending on my mood.

Anywhere That Is Wild – John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite, Edited by Peter & Donna Thomas
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books by Leah Price
The World of Serendipity by Marcus Bach
Beyond the Known – How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars by Andrew Rader

List 7 interesting facts about yourself.

We haven’t had a television since 2008, and do not miss it.
I have not used a microwave, for heating or cooking food, since about that same time, and have not missed it. However, I do use the timer and I store food inside it to keep it warm.
I’m headed into my second year of being a vegan and fourth year as a vegetarian.
I am certified in Reiki.
I was a paralegal for 10 years before I had children.
I swear a lot, I mean loads.
I’ve been a grocery checker, a bookkeeper, a receptionist, a paralegal, CEO of a construction company, social media consultant, substitute teacher, route delivery driver, pet and elderly person sitter, and an author.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I didn’t set out to write poetry, an accidental poet, perhaps? I began an incredibly deep and profound healing journey after my divorce. A major part of the healing was going for walks, lots and lots of walks, allowing nature to help me in healing. When in nature, poetic words would simply bubble to the surface of my thoughts. That was the original inspiration. Following this, I began to receive intuitive nudges to take photographs while on these walks.

After a walk, I would scroll through the nature photographs, choosing one to post on social media. As I began to type a comment to accompany the photo, poetic words spilled from my heart and mind, through my fingers, landing on the screen. This began to happen more often with the poems becoming more in depth. Eventually the poems began to flow simply from events I was in the midst of experiencing.

I thought my next book was going to be a memoir or creative nonfiction, detailing the years from 2012-2019. It turned out to be something like that, just not what I was originally thinking. Every time I sat to work on the next book, my thoughts would turn to the poems I had written over the previous six years. I finally listened to that knowing and began organizing the poems; which led to Words of Alchemy being published on December 2019.

Is there something special you do with your book before sending it to a reader?

I personalize each book with a hand written message, at times including a special message within the book. It’s always a little different. Sometimes it’s a handwritten message on a small card, others it’s a micro short poem or message created from the words of a book destined for the trash.

In addition to that, I offer readings from the book via telephone. I’m happy to do this one on one or on speakerphone to a book club (or in person if you are in the Reno/Tahoe/Sparks surrounding area). This is done at no charge and I’m happy to have discussions after the reading. If interested, go here to reserve a slot … https://camilladowns.youcanbook.me/

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I go for walks, take nature photographs, read, meditate, do the grocery shopping (Ha!), cook for the three of us, have a solo dance party, update The Team TLC website, post on my personal website, post author interviews on this website, and keep track of and complete paperwork having to do with my special needs daughter, Lillian.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

The absolute most enjoyable aspect of writing is the feedback from those who are touched, inspired, and moved by the words that flow through my fingertips.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done to help create a scene?

This has to do with the nature photographs I take … I have been known, and seen by onlookers, to lay flat on the freezing cold ground (or burning hot ground) to get at the perfect angle for a photo. I’ve contorted my body in all manner of ways, stood in precarious places … just so I could get the perfect photo. All of this fueled by my intuition. Many times I’m in the midst of a walk, and get the urge to stop, look up, look down, look sideways and know I’m supposed to take a photo. These photos are what inspired the early poetry.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

Yes, I do. When I was a young girl I kept a diary, and still have those early diaries. When I reached Jr High and High School, and throughout my early adult years, I discontinued this practice, picking it up again when I separated and then divorced in 2006.

Writing holds my heart and guides me to confront the unlovely and harsh thoughts that litter my mind at times. Yet, also to fully experience the joyful and peaceful moments. Writing gave me solutions and direction for decisions I was faced with making. Many of the poems in Words of Alchemy came forth in journal writing. I feel writing is therapeutic and I suggest everyone write, even if they have no desire to be an author.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I experienced a pretty rough child hood in my home life, and always felt like an outcast in school, so … I certainly don’t miss that. However, I do miss both of my grandmothers, Estelle Mann and Elnor Downs. Their essence is within me and I call upon it, and them, often.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely the old school Scooby Doo, having adventures in the Mystery Machine! I would choose to be a new member of the gang, a cool cat! I’d be able to fit into all the places the rest of the gang can’t fit and I’d have a smashing sense of humor!

What were the last three movies you watched?

The Aeronauts – Based on the true events in 1862 of badass balloon pilot Amelia Wren teaming up with meteorologist James Glaisher to advance knowledge of the weather, while flying higher than anyone in history.

The Farewell – Beautifully warm true story of cultural differences when a family member is diagnosed with a fatal illness.

Blinded by the Light – A heartwarming true story set to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s songs.

A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?

Excuse me, madam. I’m sure you may not remember me. We were childhood friends in middle school. It’s been a lengthy journey finding you and making my way here. I wonder if you would like to have lunch with me. I have never forgotten you and would like the two of us to catch up with one another.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Tenacity
Laser focused attention to detail
Tenacity

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on getting the word out about Words of Alchemy, having my hands quite full with paperwork now that my special needs daughter has turned 18. If any book bloggers, or authors who blog about other authors and their books, are reading this, would you be interested in hosting me on your blog?

Tell us about your most recent book.

The writings in Words of Alchemy are a testament to how walks, nature, writing, and allowing myself to feel and process buried emotions and trauma alchemized my life experiences.

It’s been a hoot interviewing myself! I hope everyone enjoyed the show! HA! –Camilla

The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love … in one beautiful book.

Book Blurb:

In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

Praise for Words of Alchemy

“Words of Alchemy, a heartfelt new collection by Camilla Downs, lives up to its namesake in numerous ways. Downs spans the broad range of nature, healing, love, and parenting, while making sure we have a little fun along the way. And the bridge she creates from the mindfulness of how we see the world at large to the poetry of everyday life is certainly worth a stroll or two across its borders.” – Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Award-winning author of Painted Oxen

“This poetry collection offers contemplative words, soothing thoughts and peace to the reader.” – Sue Bentley, Bestselling author of Second Skin

“Camilla Downs shares truth, vulnerability and wisdom in her Words of Alchemy collection, inviting readers to be inspired, contemplate and dive into her world of self-awareness and growth.” – G. Brian Benson – Award-winning author, actor and spoken word artist

“These poems take you on a calm and loving walk through the verses of the author’s thoughts. Alchemy is a perfect word for the title as Camilla Downs understands nature; connecting with its magical, medicinal qualities and beauty which she conveys throughout her poetry.” – Ailsa Craig, Author of The Sand Between My Toes

“Words of Alchemy is a chronicle of hope. These poems are an encouragement, especially when we are feeling at our lowest, to keep seeking the light that is our way forward, and focus on the real. This collection is a walk through the positive nature of life. Camilla Downs is to be commended.” – Frank Prem, Author of free-verse memoir Small Town Kid

Where to Buy:

Amazon: (paperback and ebook) mybook.to/WordsofAlchemy (This link takes you to Amazon in your country.)

ebook is on sale for $3.44! mybook.to/WordsofAlchemy

If you’re in the U.S. and would like a personalised, signed book go to this link- free shipping! (I will ship internationally, if the reader would like to pay the international shipping fee): http://camilladowns.com/books/words-of-alchemy/

About Camilla:

Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.

Website: http://camilladowns.com/
Family Website: http://theteamtlc.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CamillaDownsAuthor/
twitter: https://twitter.com/camilladowns
instagram: https://www.instagram.com/CamillaDowns/
pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/camilladowns/
Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/camilladowns

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Meet the Author: Beyond the Margin by Jo Jackson

Today we’re traveling to rural Shropshire in central England to chat with Jo Jackson about how an orphanage in Egypt, views of Wenlock Edge, a large wildlife pond, the Israeli secret police, Wembley Stadium, and spending the night in the Gaza strip come together as part of Jo’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Jo Jackson. I am the author of two books, ‘Too Loud a Silence’ published in 2016 and ‘Beyond the Margin’ published in 2019. Originally from Birmingham U.K., I now live in rural Shropshire with my husband and dog. Our three children are grown up, married with families and careers of their own. My own career was as a nurse, a midwife and ultimately as a family psychotherapist.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Even as a child I enjoyed writing and English was a favourite lesson. My first book was typed, illustrated and bound by my junior school and put in the school library. I read it out in the school assembly as a very proud ten year old.

Fast- forward twenty years and inspiration was ignited when I returned to England after living in Egypt for two years with my family. Events there – abandoned twin girls, an orphanage, and a situation that for me was never resolved became the inspiration for my first novel. I still have the handwritten manuscript that I wrote at the time but career and family took over and it lay unfinished.

On retirement I joined a writing group and the story that had lain dormant for thirty-seven years was rewritten and became ‘Too Loud a Silence’. I set it in Egypt with a backdrop of the Arab Spring with a backstory based thirty years earlier. It was a story I needed to write for those little orphaned girls and for me. I then went on to write ‘Beyond the Margin’, three years later.

What is your favourite writing place?

I am lucky to live in a house in rural Shropshire with stunning views of Wenlock Edge from every window. My favourite writing place, in summertime is sitting with my laptop beside a large wildlife pond in the garden. I share the space with birdsong, mallards, moorhens and their chicks all busy foraging among the reeds. In winter you’ll find me in the conservatory or curled up beside the log burner. I love nature and it inspires description in my writing. My best time to write is early morning and I witness many beautiful sunrises.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

– Driving home from Egypt in a car with Egyptian number plates we were stopped and made to get out while the car was searched by the Israeli secret police. They thought my husband, myself and our 3 blonde haired children, aged 4 – 11 may be Lebanese terrorists!

– We were once marooned on a small island off the coast of Taiwan for 5 days because of a storm. Eventually we were taken back to the mainland by boat, through mountainous seas – and survived to tell the tale!

– I have stood on the seats of Wembley Stadium singing ‘We are the champions’, after watching my son lift the FA cup with Everton in 1995.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My most recent book, ‘Beyond the Margin’ arose out of two short stories I had written. Within my work as a family psychotherapist I was privileged to meet many people whose lives were lived on the edge of society. The novel is a tribute to their courage and resourcefulness. I used the setting of a timber yard because I walk above one almost every day with the dog. The ordered rows of tree trunks and the quiet of the place in the evening when work has ceased inspired me. I began to write the novel when I was in Ireland for a month and the wild scenery in the west seemed the perfect backdrop to the story.

What do you do when you’re not writing or marketing your books?

I have a wonderful life! I paint, I study philosophy, I read, I garden, I walk and travel in both the UK and distant places in the world, Africa and India being particular favourites. We have lots of friends and seven grandchildren all of them a joy.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I have the ability to deeply touch people emotionally through my characters and writing.

What is the craziest / most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Spending a night in the Gaza strip, with my family, in the home of a very kind taxi driver who generously made the offer when we found ourselves stranded at the border. We have the fondest memories of him and his family and the wonderful Palestinian hospitality showed to us that night.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Playing out in the street until it was dusk.
Lying in bed, reading a book until lunchtime on a Sunday morning.

A penguin knocks on your door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

‘”I know I look ridiculous but climate change is real. Don’t let anyone pretend it’s not.”

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My brother and I were always told, ‘if you start something, you finish it’. This message has stayed with me and fuels my determination. The other thing is I am always positive. I like people and see the best, not the worst, in them.

Describe your perfect solo date.

Somewhere in the tropics where I could walk through the rainforest and enjoy the songs of the birds and hear the call of the monkeys.

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘Beyond the Margin’

‘Its strength lies in its authenticity. A gritty bitter-sweet narrative that kept me turning the pages’. ‘Emotionally raw and brutally honest’. ‘A stunning piece of writing – and one of my books of the year’. These are just a few of the phrases used by reviewers of my most recent book. My thanks go to all of them for their encouraging words.

It was incredibly interesting learning more about you and your writing, Jo. I immensely enjoyed our interview.  You have had some amazing and wild adventures. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Blurb: Beyond the Margin

Is living on the edge of society a choice? Or is choice a luxury of the fortunate?
Joe, fighting drug addiction, runs until the sea halts his progress.

His is a faltering search for meaningful relationships.
‘Let luck be a friend,’ Nuala is told but it had never felt that way.

Abandoned at five years old, survival means learning not to care. Her only hope is to take control of her own destiny.

The intertwining of their lives makes a compelling story of darkness and light, trauma, loss and second chances.

Where to find the books:

Both books are available from: https://www.Amazon.co.uk in paperback or kindle

Stepping into Books on Amazon

Direct from Jo’s website http://www.jojacksonwriter.com and

Shropshire bookshops, libraries and Waterstones

Connect with Jo:

Facebook: Jojacksonauthor

Twitter: @jojackson589

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Meet the Author: What Lies Buried by Margaret Kirk

Today we travel to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland, to chat with Margaret Kirk about how comic strips, Ragdoll cats, a spooky holiday flat, Scooby Doo, and Good Housekeeping come together in her past and present writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog! I’m Margaret Kirk, a Highland Scot living and working in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands with my husband and two spoilt Ragdoll cats.

I’ve always loved languages and I lived in Germany for a while (where I developed a lasting love affair with Lebkuchen and Ritter Sport 😉 ). I worked in a mental health recovery unit for several years before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time writer.

In which genre do you write?

Scottish crime, set in the Highlands where I live. So I call it Highland Noir, which seems fitting!

How many published books do you have?

Two currently, Shadow Man and What Lies Buried. Book 3 in the DI Lukas Mahler series, In The Blood, will be published by Orion this summer.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Aargh, slightly embarrassing, but okay. This is where I own up to writing a terrible play, aged 10. It was set in ancient Egypt, involved a murderous priest and a princess in peril – so I suppose you could say I got the crime bug very early on! But even before that, I was writing little comic strips. So I think as soon as I could make stories myself, I wanted to do it.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I feel really bad about this, because I have a lovely little shed at the bottom of the garden, which I really should use more than I do. But honestly, this winter it feels like it’s been raining for a thousand years, so I’ve been staying inside on my comfy chair with my ragdoll cat snoozing by my side! As soon as the weather gets better, I’ll start using ‘The Murder Room’ a little more.

What are you currently reading?

Just finished ‘The Other People’ by C J Tudor – excellent as always! I love the current trend towards the gothic that’s creeping into crime and psych thrillers.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In The Blood is set on Orkney. It’s a place I’ve visited many times and which has a real hold on my heart. But the idea for this book came from an incredibly spooky holiday flat we rented one year – I’ve never felt an atmosphere like it, and it made a huge impression on me. I wouldn’t have stayed there on my own for anything! So of course I was always going to write about it one day …

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

Well, I do have interesting discussions with my husband about blood spatter patterns – and I have enlisted his help on occasion to choreograph fight scenes!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Has to be Scooby Doo. Love the not-terribly-scary ghosts – and that dog! Not Scrappy Doo, though – what the heck was that about?? Possibly I might be Velma’s more sarcastic sister.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

Hmm. I write crime, so not entirely sure I’d want to be dealing with the crimes Lukas Mahler has to solve! Though I am quite fond of his no-nonsense boss, June ‘Braveheart’ Wallace … I think I’d quite enjoy sorting his unruly Major Incident Team out.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I think the last one I watched was one of those superhero ones – Thor or something? As you’ve probably guessed, it wasn’t exactly my choice, so maybe ‘watched’ is putting it too strongly. I am looking forward to catching up with the second part of IT, though.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Broadly speaking, yes. Like my main character, I had to move back to Inverness after many years away when my mother became very ill. I enjoyed my job and it felt like quite a wrench at the time, but if I hadn’t made the move, I wouldn’t have had that experience of coming home to somewhere and not being sure for a long time where exactly I fitted in.

And of course, if I hadn’t bought a copy of Good Housekeeping one day, and happened to see their First Novel Competition advertised, I might never have dared to send anyone the opening chapters of what became Shadow Man!

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Oh, so many places to choose from – living in the Highlands of Scotland, we’re completely spoilt for wonderful scenery and historical locations on our doorstep. Orkney has to be in the running for one of my favourite places, with wonderful, atmospheric settings everywhere you look – it’s a completely magical place. Then there’s Chanonry Point, where you can go dolphin-watching and shudder at the terrible fate of the Brahan Seer, a local psychic who came to a very sticky end back in the 17th century …

What are you currently working on?

Book 3 in my DI Lukas Mahler series, is almost ready to go. There will be at least three more books in the series, but right now I’m contemplating a slightly more gothicky standalone …

Tell us about your most recent book.

I can’t give too much away about it, but I absolutely love my strapline:

‘A missing child. A seventy-year-old murder. And a killer who’s still on the loose.’

It was wonderful to learn more about you and your writing style, Margaret. Thank you for being a part of MTA! All the best to you! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

What Lies Buried , book 2 in the series, is available from all good book stores (and please do use your local indie, if you can!), Waterstones, W H Smith etc as well as the Zon.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N6DRL4K/

Blurb:

Ten year-old Erin is missing; taken in broad daylight during a friend’s birthday party. With no witnesses and no leads, DI Lukas Mahler races against time to find her. But is it already too late for Erin – and will her abductor stop at one stolen child?

And the discovery of human remains on a construction site near Inverness confronts Mahler’s team with a cold case from the 1940s. Was Aeneas Grant’s murder linked to a nearby POW camp, or is there an even darker story to be uncovered?

With his team stretched to the limit, Mahler’s hunt for Erin’s abductor takes him from Inverness to the Lake District. And decades-old family secrets link both cases in a shocking final twist.

Connect with Margaret:

Blog: https://margaretmortonkirk.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretKirkAuthor/

Twitter: @HighlandWriter

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Meet the Author: The Piccadilly Street Series: Mrs. Murray’s Ghost by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Today we travel to North Gower, part of the greater Ottawa area in Canada, to chat with Emily-Jane Hills Orford about how country life, an antique spinet desk, playing the piano, needle-art, journal writing, Barbie dolls, being a dreamer, haunted houses, and ghosts come together to haunt Emily-Jane’s past and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a retired music and creative writing teacher. Ten years ago, my better half and my muse (my dog, Duke) moved to the country in a little town called North Gower. It’s actually part of the greater Ottawa area (Ottawa being the capital city of Canada). I love country life. I have an antique spinet desk sitting in front of a large picture window that looks out onto our wooded front yard and my birdfeeders. I enjoy watching the wildlife while I sit at my writing desk, feeling a little like Jane Austen (although Jane Austen wouldn’t have used a laptop, even if she did write on a spinet desk like I do). In the spring, summer and fall, after my daily writing ritual, you’ll find me outside, walking Duke or having Duke help me putter around the yard, taking care of my gardens. I’m always involved in something creative, whether it’s writing, playing the piano or composing music or working on my needleart and collage paintings. When I’m not writing, however, I’m thinking about writing, plotting new stories in my head.

In which genre do you write?

Several genres, actually. I started my writing career writing creative nonfiction and memoir and I still enjoy writing a few short memoir stories. More recently, I’ve written raw, real-people drama (“Gerlinda”), historical fiction/fantasy (“Queen Mary’s Daughter” winner of the 2019 N.N. Light Book Award) and “King Henry’s Choice”), cozy mysteries (“Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn”, and “Winter”), and Middle Grade fantasy (The Piccadilly Street Series: “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” (finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards), “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure” and “Mrs. Murray’s Home”), which not surprisingly includes a lot of memoir and creative nonfiction narrative.

How many published books do you have?

25

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As soon as I could hold a pencil in hand and write a few words. I come from a long line of storytellers, but as the youngest, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. So, I wrote.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I have a lovely antique spinet desk that I’ve positioned in front of a large picture window overlooking our forested front yard. I feel a little like Jane Austen when I sit at the desk to write, the only difference being Jane Austen would have used a quill and ink at her spinet desk, while I use a laptop.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading John Grisham’s “The Guardians” – I love his masterful storytelling narratives and I’ve started reading Tricia Mingerink’s “Midnight’s Curse” – a charming fantasy re-writing the fairy tales of old.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

“The Piccadilly Street Series” is part memoir (memories of growing up in a haunted house) and part fantasy (dreams and imaginings of a young girl). I have fond memories of a certain old Victorian mansion and the ghost that continues to haunt it. As a ten-year-old girl, moving into a haunted house was terrifying at first, and then fascinating, as the ghost turned out to be quite friendly.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

In the spring, summer and fall, I’m in my garden, in the winter I’m writing about my garden. I also enjoy walking my dog, reading, playing the piano or composing music and working on various needle-art projects. I always have something on the go.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Yes, I journal. Every morning, first thing, before life gets complicated, I sit at my antique spinet desk and write (cursive, long hand in a quaint little book with its own title on the spine: Diary) what happened the previous day, who I saw, what thoughts I have on various current topics in my life or in the news. I’ve chosen first thing in the morning to journal because if I leave it till the end of the day, I usually make the excuse of being too tired to write anything.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss my childhood home and the time I could spend creating my own little fantasies and acting them out with my Barbie dolls. My Piccadilly Street Series has the main character, Mary (who was really me as a child) frequently playing with her Barbie dolls. It may surprise some people today, but in the 1960s when I was 10 (and the setting era of this series) girls played with Barbie dolls until they went to High School – I know I did. It was tragic to pack away my dolls that last summer before starting High School. Today, it seems, girls give up playing with dolls about the age of 8.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

Mary, the main character in the Piccadilly Street Series. She was, after all, me as a child. So, to become Mary would be like stepping back into my own childhood and living again in the grand old Victorian house with its bats and the ghost and my many dreams and fantasies.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Definitely. I believe ghosts visit me for a reason. The ghost of my childhood connected with me, but not the others in the family. Whenever a loved one passed away, they always visited me at least once more before moving on. It’s sometimes scary, but also reassuring. After Dad passed away, he came to me in a dream and gave me a smile and a wave before walking into a large building. He was reassuring me that all was well. When my heart dog, Misty, passed away, he came back one night when I was asleep, I could hear him sniffing around the bed as he always did. He was just reassuring me that he was okay and he was still with me.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I’m a dreamer with what my grandmother always described as a vivid imagination. It’s those dreams and the imagination to go with it that has helped me pursue my writing.

What are you currently working on?

A cozy mystery set in the prairies, following the mystery of an unrecorded piece of music in the original hand of none other than Johann Sebastian Bach.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Piccadilly Street Series consists of 4 books: 2 have been published; book 3 is set to be released February 2020, all loosely based on my experiences growing up in a haunted house with a real ghost and a lot of dreams accompanied by a vivid imagination.

It was incredibly interesting learning more about you, your writing style, and the story behind The Piccadilly Street Series. Wishing you much success, Emily-Jane! Thank you for being a part of MTA! –Camilla

Book Blurbs:

Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 –

Mary’s family has moved into a huge Victorian mansion. She loves her gigantic new house, especially her room. But then she begins to meet the house’s other residents. Mrs. Murray was murdered in Mary’s new house. At first she tries to scare the new residents away, but there seems to be a force connecting the ghost to Mary. Even the stranded Brownies, the little people who live between the walls, feel that connection. When Mary becomes deathly ill, the Brownies and the ghost team up to try to rescue her, only to encounter a witch and her evil minions. Time is running out. They must rescue Mary from a fever-induced dream world before she is trapped there forever. As well as being a fun read for young readers, the story gives an historical perspective to childhood, as it dates to the 1960s. It also deals with some very current issues, specifically bullying.

Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 –

There is a hidden treasure in the grand old mansion on Piccadilly Street, in a place called London, but not the real London of English fame. There’s also a lot of mystery and a murder that’s been unsolved for decades. But it’s the treasure that captures Mary’s interest. Mary lives in this house along with her family, her Brownie friends and a ghost. When the ghost reveals her secret about the hidden treasure, there’s no stopping Mary, her Brownie friends, or her enemies from searching for this treasure. Why the intrigue? Apparently there’s a little bit of magic connected to this treasure. And so the adventure begins. Who will find the treasure first?

Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 –

Home is where the heart is, or so they say. It’s also been said that a home is a person’s castle. But home is also with family and friends. Mrs. Murray longs for home, the family home, a castle an ocean away. The Brownies also crave for home, the same castle Mrs. Murray considers home. And Granny? Mary’s Granny hasn’t been home since she was Mary’s age. It’s time to visit the homeland, Scotland. Mary’s excited to tag along with Granny, Mrs. Murray and the Brownies. And then there’s the witch. The one they thought they’d killed. And the treasure. The one they had found. And it all ties together, for better or for worse. Join the adventure in book 3 of the popular “Piccadilly Street Series”.

Where to find the books:

Available online and in bookstores:

 

Connect with Emily-Jane:

http://emilyjanebooks.ca

https://www.facebook.com/realpeoplestories

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1732544.Emily_Jane_Hills_Orford

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Meet the Author: Bowing to Elephants by Mag Dimond

Today we travel to San Francisco, California to chat with Mag Dimond about how travel, elephants, silent retreats, a blue leather journal, Bach, and the Dalai Lama come together as sign posts on the path of Dimond’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in my “hometown” of San Francisco, where I lived as a child and to which I returned about 15 years ago after moving around quite a bit. I was raised by an eccentric woman who didn’t much like being a mother and who was an alcoholic as well. I was an only child. She took me to Italy when I was 11, and that pretty much changed my life. I became an expatriate at a young age, fell in love with an Italian boy at 14, and grew up pretty fast.

I grew up thirsting for love and affection and understanding….

I married young and was a mother at the age of 20. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I actually completed my college education, and following that I went into teaching writing at the college level (San Francisco State). I began traveling when I was in my thirties – with my husband and sometimes with my kids. Later on, when I was on my own I traveled alone and then with a newfound partner in my life. Travel in a way was an escape from the loneliness I felt in my life and it was also a way for me to learn about who I was…

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, and of course Italy, and I generally feel at home no matter where I find myself.

I’m close to my two daughters, my five grandchildren, and I’m working on establishing a connection with my four year old great grandson who lives in Oregon.

I have been a Buddhist for over twenty years and attended many silent retreats – my life has changed profoundly because of this practice…. I love to cook, drink good wine, knit, play the piano, write, walk with my dog, read, go to museums, and be in conversation with dear friends.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction/essays/travel blogs/memoir

How many published books do you have?

One published book: Bowing to Elephants (pub Sept 2019) by She Writes Press

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I lived in Italy at the age of eleven… my stepfather gave me a beautiful blue leather journal complete with gold trim and little lock and key. I spent most afternoons with this journal, recording such things as loneliness, hunger for experience, questions about my mother’s eccentric behavior, excitement about what I was learning in school, and yearning for love. I was an only child and I had l a lot on my mind. I remember imagining then that one day what I wrote might eventually become published work that would be widely read. I had grown up around books and literature all my life, and this seemed a natural aspiration. Since that early time I persisted in recording my life in journals and notebooks, including my variety of travel experiences in adulthood. The journals were ultimately the scaffolding of my memoir, Bowing to Elephants.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I would choose the elephant. For several reasons: the elephant represents the matriarchal culture which feels familiar and comforting, and draws me to it. The elephant has a prodigious memory, carrying information about not only its own experiences in the wild, but that of its family members. They say that the elephant has “historical memory,” which connects it to its distant past. Who wouldn’t want to have such a vast store of memory? It boils down to maternal love and memory. Growing up with a woman who couldn’t mother me, whom I tried to love, I always looked for this kind of love; in working on my book I discovered that my memory of the distant past was murky and full of holes, and this disturbed me. A therapist once taught me that when childhood trauma has occurred, it’s likely that memories of one’s early days will be lacking in detail, or may vanish entirely….

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I am a great grandmother and proud of it.
I am a terrific (gourmet) cook.
I frequently imagine these past lives: I was once a monastic studying in an Italian monastery, I was a mosaic artist in Venice who helped to create brilliantly colored church interiors…

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

It was born out of my amazing collection of travel journals (from Italy, France, Burma, India, Cambodia, Africa, Vietnam, and so on…). The raw material was all in those “diaries,” and all that needed to be done was figure out how to lay out the whole story as I wove in the important segments about my childhood.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I play Bach on my grandmother’s baby grand, I walk by the Pacific Ocean with my little dog Peaches, I meditate every day, I cook beautiful food, drink good wine, I’m addicted to British murder mysteries (Morse, Prime Suspect) on TV, I knit scarves in luscious colors, I read at least two books at the same time (currently into American history), I eat out frequently in my hometown of SF, I travel (of course!) either alone or with family members…

If you could have a fantasy tea with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

If I had tea with the Dalai Lama, I would ask him to share his secret for accessing happiness, given the deep and relentless suffering he has endured in his long life. All humans want happiness – it is a universal desire – and this man is the embodiment of this emotion. I would like him to share his wisdom with me.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I’ve learned that despite my propensity for seriousness and looking into the darkness, I have a surprising capacity to be funny and irreverent at times!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That moment where I know in my bones and in my heart that I have grabbed ahold of an elusive, murky, and important memory from the past and have made it come alive, have made it knowable to my reader.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

The most inspiring thing was looking into the eyes of a giant elephant in Kenya almost twenty years ago; this humbled me, and transformed my mind and heart, and I can say I haven’t been the same since. I’ve been driven all these years to learn as much as I can about this extraordinary animal and to advocate for its survival. What I saw in those eyes: love, acceptance, gentleness, intelligence.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I had two very special friends growing up: Sue and Lynn – they were sisters. From the time I was four, we spent our days together as a threesome. They lived upstairs from me, and we alternated playing in my apartment or in theirs. We had piano lessons together with a very formal French lady, we made up plays, and we conjured things in the kitchen… They represented family to me, and their mother Josephine was a true bodhisattva, offering love and affection and food and laughter. With my friends and their mother, I felt like I “belonged.”

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

How does it feel NOT to have an obsessive brain like people have? Good??
How do feel about the job I’m doing, really?
If you could be taken anywhere, where would you like me to take you?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My love of words. If it weren’t for my love of beautiful language (and in fact pretty much all beauty!), and my lurking belief that I had the capacity to use words really well, then my book perhaps wouldn’t have been completed. There was a sense that I owed it to myself to craft the most moving, lyrical, and honest work I could and offer it up to the world. I guess I was convinced my words needed to be read.

Tell us about the book:

Bowing to Elephants is a very intimate narrative about traveling in the world and ultimately discovering deep truths about oneself. Beginning as a series of travel essays, it then morphed into a layered memoir that peeled away layers from childhood to look at what drove me to explore the places I chose. I carried an insatiable need to find answers, connection with others, and ultimately to forgive myself for the darkness I held for my narcissistic mother. Thanks to travel, writing, and Buddhist practice, I found many of the answers I was seeking, and most importantly learned to love myself.

It was wonderful learning more about you and your history, Mag. Your book sounds fascinating! Sending you much love and blessings! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS, Tales of a Travel Junkie is a travel memoir… with a twist.

An unloved rich girl from San Francisco becomes a travel junkie to escape a dysfunctional family and a narcissistic, alcoholic mother.

Thanks to a journey of healing and self-discovery, the author navigates depression, loneliness, and loss while learning how to break down the false barriers that separate people.

Music, art, and food influence our hero as she finds her way to far-flung parts of the world.

By the end, Dimond accepts the death of the mother she never really had ― and finds forgiveness, peace and her authentic self in the refuges of travel and Buddhist practice.

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS is an epic adventure — Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and San Francisco — that transformed the author’s life.

More than a travel memoir, readers will be inspired by one woman’s journey of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness… as they encounter strange lands, tantalizing foods, and mesmerizing characters (including a 14,000- pound African elephant).

Pub. Date September 17, 2019 Publisher: She Writes Press 
 List Price: $16.95
ISBN: 9781631525964

Where to find the book:

The book is available in all independent bookstores –

IndieBound.com for complete information on whereabouts of such bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

Connect with Mag Dimond:

Dimond offers her free 10 minute mediation on lovingkindness for those interested in following her and signing on to her list. www.bowingtoelephants.com/gift

Dimond’s website: www.magdimond.com/news

Facebook: www.facebook.com/travelswithmag
Twitter: @DimondMag
Instagram: magpiesbeads

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host