Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Be the Change by Ed & Deb Shapiro

Meditation is now enjoying a renewed surge of popularity, penetrating the public consciousness as never before. What might that mean for us all? Be the Change examines the transformations wrought by this ancient practice through the wisdom of extraordinary luminaries, interwoven with text from award-winning authors Ed and Deb Shapiro. The words of these spiritual leaders from all disciplines and walks of life will surprise, enlighten, and inspire readers to begin their own meditation practice—and perhaps create the foundation for a new and more hopeful age.

Includes wisdom from luminaries such as:

* HH the Dalai Lama * Marianne Williamson * Robert Thurman * Jon Kabat-Zinn * Ram Dass * Byron Katie * Dan Millman * Joan Borysenko * Jane Fonda * HH The Karmapa * Jack Kornfield * Krishna Das * Dean Ornish * Andrew Cohen * Jean Houston * Kitaro * Ellen Burstyn * Gregg Braden * Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks * Debbie Ford * Gangaji * Rabbi Zalman Schachter * Cyndi Lee * Wavy Gravy * Linus Roache * Tim Freke * Don Campbell * and many more


Received from the publicist for review.


The 300+ pages of insanely small print left me wishing that the book was printed on larger paper so the print wouldn't be such an eyestrain, but the material was worth the eyestrain.

My favorite quote from the entire book came from Ed Begley, Jr.:

We can make it a saner and happier world if we just slowed down and had less focus on wanting or needing more stuff. If stuff made you happy, there would be nothing but happy people living in Bel Air and unhappy people living in Fiji where they have nothing, but I have been to Fiji and there are plenty of happy people there. I have never seen a hearse with a luggage rack on top. We have got to get away from stuff and appreciate what is here.

This one gets four stars. While, of course, I did not agree with everything presented, the book did have some wise nuggets of information for everyone who needs it. The discussions of various types of meditation to fit every person and temperament are quite interesting. It is certainly quite dense and needs to be consumed slowly, but it is an excellent resource that you will revisit again and again.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winner: LargeFormatPosters.com 16x20" Custom Printed Roll Canvas

The winner of the LargeFormatPosters.com 16x20" Custom Printed Roll Canvas is MJ!

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it

Thank you so much to DigitalRoom.com for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Calvin Schwartz author of Vichy Water

Calvin Schwartz, author of the book Vichy Water, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote just for us!



Thanks, Beth for inviting me here. A few weeks before the invite, I was sitting at my computer, in my favorite position, Rodin's, 'The Thinker,' heralding the arrival of a much anticipated epiphany; I've finally become a writer.

A decade ago on a rainy afternoon, something (one of my favorite multitude words) made me start writing, concocting memories of my family in a novel format. Over the next few months it grew, with little watering, to forty pages and stopped. Right before the epiphany, I found those first pages and realized (like an old Virginia Slims commercial) that I've come a long way.

Eight years ago, on an August Sunday morning, I opened my eyes and screamed, "Oh my God." My supportive wife pillar thought I was having the big one, like Fred Sanford of old. Something had deposited into my over worked synapses, a novel about the oil industry and for me, a Jersey boy, with its Turnpike, Parkway, and eight million neighbors, oil seemed as far away as the sun. Spiritually, I thought it a sign and call to action. So a first real novel about oil was begun and along the way, I became an avid reader of 'Petroleum News.' The work in progress lasted four years and spit out three hundred pages with no end in sight because in my mind and fingers, I wasn't a writer yet.

The road plot thickens. In the midst of the oil story, I was taken into a special world of haunting spirituality. Just this morning, I was researching writing memoirs; my life's journey to realization. Enough said. Five months down time from the oil novel and another rainy morning in New Jersey (perhaps the Garden State is juxtaposing with Seattle for the dampness crown) and I wouldn't play rainy doubles tennis. There's that spiritual something again and it made me watch 'Casablanca' for the forty-fourth time. Moments from movie's end, Claude Rains throws a bottle of 'Vichy Water' into the garbage in front of Humphrey Bogart. In that split second, my novel was born. I ran downstairs and spent two weeks outlining.

My outlining process was filled with notions that in our crazy mixed up world (Bogart said something like this to Ingrid Bergman, involving a hill of beans) there is precious little time to read (or do much else but work) so a novel (in my case, pure fiction) has got to deliver timely, contemporary, relevant issues and maybe get the reader to find a good mirror somewhere, stare, evaluate, smile in comprehension and want to reach out and thank the author for identifying. A tall order? I'm 6'6".

I call myself a writer now. I put together a story that reaches about four billion people. On my website: http://vichywater.net/ there's a bunch of bullets which outline the Who's and Why's of readership.

As I mentioned to you, Beth, as synchronicity will have it, you're the first review of my career and no matter what, that counts miles in my life's sentimental journey.
Much thanks.

Calvin




About the book:

Alex Zari, Egyptian and Elvin Stone meet in 1960 in a vacant lot as Newark high school students and become life long exceptional friends. Exceptional means trust, sharing life and spirituality, pulled from the author's experiences with angelic intervention and clairvoyance. Alex’s haunting visions tell of becoming more than friends.

Elvin attends Rutgers University while Alex studies astronomy and joins a discussion group at Princeton University where he's groomed to slide into a secret organization and government security clearance. Eventually, Alex lands in the Situation Room of the White House with potentially unsettling news for the President.

Life abruptly changes. Clandestine government meetings, murders, and a plane crash follow. Overcome by change and great loss, Elvin searches self in Sedona, Arizona, Guadalcanal, Montana, Key Largo, Vietnam War Memorials, Guadeloupe, and a Chicago African-American cemetery where Emmett Till is buried. Elvin marries twice, changes career to sales, has an affair with the daughter of a European businessman and when morality is confronted, ponders the Virtue of Selfishness. The story twists through the universe, women's perspectives, racism, tech noir movies, environment, a college bar and a Hollywood antique store where a bottle of Vichy Water from 1942 is found.



WHO, WHY READ 'VICHY WATER' ?


Muslim, Catholic, Coptic Christian and Jewish:

President Obama gave a speech in Egypt at the beginning of June, 2009 stating how America looks to the Muslim world with understanding and respect, which is exactly how 'Vichy Water' presents its diverse religious characters.



Women's Issues:


Strong, but subtle, cerebral references to women's issues/perspectives. Perhaps a challenge is now issued to discover intent, content and relevancy.



African-Americans:


A sensitive view of their world as seen through the eyes of two white teenagers beginning in 1960 Newark, New Jersey.



Baby Boomers:


From pinball to From Here to Eternity to 60's innocent sexual conquests (interpretative), tech-noir movies, a real milk man and a coal bin in the cellar (do boomers go back that far?)



Fatherhood:


Poignant descriptions of a son and father and repeated kissing of a cranial soft spot.



Rutgers University Students and Alumni:


Campuses are used for many scenes. A main character is an alumnus as is the author.



Princeton University Alumni:


Main characters are alumni.



Environmentalists:


Powerful continuous references to environmental warnings, global warming, clean water and certain American companies' failures. Author likes shock approach.



Spiritualists:


Spiritual references, angelic intervention presented from first hand experience.



Lawmakers:


Provocative issues discussed; perhaps creating a heightened awareness on equal justice initiative, environmental justice and consumerism.



Eye Care Professionals (The Three 0's)


It's not everyday when one of your own writes a novel. The author has sold eyewear as a rep for the past twenty-eight years. Patients and customers might enjoy the read.



Weequahic High School, Maple Avenue School Alumni and Newark, New Jersey:


With such active alumni, need we say more?



Sedona, Arizona:


Thoughts, action and memories take trans-continental journeys to Sedona's vortex and spirit. Might really spur tourism if that's what you asked for.



Tuna Fish Purveyors:


The food is talked about (one recipe alluded to) right up to the last mercury laden tuna catch in perhaps twenty years.




About Calvin:

Vichy Water is his first novel. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1969 with two degrees and practiced Pharmacy before a career in sales and currently imports eyewear from China. Calvin is a husband and father. Interests include environmental issues, political science, spirituality, extending life and Rutgers sports. He auditioned for The Apprentice, went to the casting call for War of the Worlds and did his first keg stand in June 2008.




Guest Post: Ed and Deb Shapiro authors of Be the Change

Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the book Be the Change, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



Can Meditation Transform the World?
By Ed and Deb Shapiro,
Authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World

Meditation is now the IN thing. Cross-legged yogis and Buddhist monks can be seen in advertisements for everything from computers and credit cards to herbal teas, major newspapers and magazines carry stories on the benefits of meditation with tips from famous film stars, and no self-respecting bookshop is without a how-to-meditate section.

It is only in the last few decades that the general population has begun to realize how valuable the practice of meditation really is, regardless of spiritual or religious interests. Yet meditation has been the main focus of spiritual practice for thousands of years. You do not have to be a hippie or on a spiritual quest to meditate: we have taught everyone from housewives to athletes and musicians, and therapists to CEOs, in town halls, high school gymnasiums, corporate boardrooms, and on our own TV series in London.

However, if meditation is so available and as well known as it seems to be, why is it not already an integral part of everyone's lives? If health reports are saying how good it is as a way to cope with stress, why do we ignore it or find excuses not to do it? And why do we think of something as a waste of time when all the research tells us it is of such immense value?

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." In other words, change has to start within ourselves; we cannot expect the world to change if we do not. If we want to have more love in our lives, we must become more loving; if we genuinely want to end terrorism and to bring real and peaceful change to the world, then we must start by ending the war within ourselves.

This brings us to the importance of contemplation and meditation. Without such a practice of self-reflection, we are subject to our ego's every whim, and we have no way of putting a brake on its demands. Meditation, on the other hand, gives us the space to see ourselves clearly and objectively, a place from which we can witness our own behavior and reduce the ego's influence. We get to know the madness of our monkey mind and until it loses its hold. Only then do we have a genuine opportunity to change.

Through the practice of meditation we find that the more positive aspects of ourselves are enhanced while the more self-centered aspects begin to naturally fade away. As the need to be constantly engaged in the details of our own story loses its relevance, so the ego releases its grip and becomes less demanding. This does not mean that we become just like a doormat and let people walk all over us. Rather, we become more confident, are able to communicate more openly and honestly, and to love more unconditionally.

In this way meditation enables us to change. From being self-centered, we become other-centered, concerned about the welfare of all equally, rather than being focused on just ourselves. We become more acutely aware of how we affect the planet, how we treat each other and our world, and seek to become a positive presence rather than a passive or negative one. As we find our own peace, we want to actively help others to also be at peace. When we find our peace there is one less person suffering!

We were in India in 1986 when we first met the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, and probably the world's most famous meditator. We were waiting for our meeting in a room that led off a balcony at his residence, beyond which rose the Himalayas resplendent in the morning sunshine. Ed wandered outside to enjoy the view. He saw a monk further along the balcony waving for us to come. We presumed this monk would bring us to our meeting. But as we came closer, we realized that this simple and unpretentious man was the Dalai Lama himself. We immediately began to prostrate, as this is the respected way of greeting such a revered teacher. But the Dalai Lama took our hands and made us stand, saying, "No, no. We are all equal here." It was easy to think, "Oh sure! You are the great Dalai Lama, spiritual leader to millions, and we are just mere mortals. How can we possibly be equal?" But over the following months, we both experienced the true equality he was referring to -- the equality of our shared humanness and, simultaneously, our shared heart.

A Compassionate Revolution

A revolution is a re-evolution, where we take a higher step in the evolution of consciousness; it is also a revolving, a turning around of ourselves in response to an inner calling. To be the change and make a real difference in the world means we need a revolution -- a compassionate revolution. This is the turning of our energy from being focused on self-centeredness, self-survival, and closed-heartedness to concern for others, generosity, and open-heartedness. If we genuinely want to end war, inequality, and abuse, then we have to practice ahimsa and kindness toward all equally, for there will never be peace in the world if we are not at peace within ourselves.

To activate a compassionate revolution is to enter into an exploration of all aspects of our humanness so that we can live sanely in a world that often looks insane, riddled with affliction and conflict. So much hurt and denial, abuse and disrespect, so many atrocities have taken place in the name of religion and politics, or through greed and selfishness, so many misunderstandings between families, races, and countries.

As the Tibetan teacher Mingyur Rinpoche says, "Who makes problems? We humans. And who is the controller of the human? The mind. And how to control the human mind? Through meditation. If you can control the pilot, then the pilot can control the plane."

Meditation can do this because it brings us to a place of clear and caring responsiveness. It is that rare activity that can ease suffering while also giving us the awareness and spiritual intelligence to move beyond the self-centeredness and self-destruction that cause suffering. It removes the obstacles in our mind that prevent us from seeing things as they really are, freeing us to become kinder and more compassionate. In other words, it awakens our full human potential. And, as we are transformed, so the world will also transform.

©2009 Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World



About the book:

From running an orphanage to being a political adviser, from being held in a prison cell to living in a crowded city, meditation has changed people’s lives. Be the Change is a fascinating exploration of how meditation can not only awaken our latent potential, but also transform the world, creating the foundation for a caring and compassionate future.

As a prisoner in a Chinese jail, Kirsten Westby was able to find solace by sitting quietly in contemplation. Deeply affected by walking on the moon, astronaut Edgar Mitchell went from exploring outer space to discovering the vastness of inner space. Coping with HIV, Mark Matousek found healing through group meditation. Seane Corn used her yoga and meditation expertise to work with child prostitutes in LA.

In the last few decades, people in all walks of life have begun to realize the profound benefits of meditation. While this ancient practice is personally transformative by calming the mind and reducing stress, awakening the heart, and deepening insight, can meditation also change the world for the better? We invited many of today’s most notable voices explore this issue, reflecting on how looking within has resolved issues such as anger and fear, inspiring them to work toward a more caring and peaceful future.

Be the Change was conceived in response to a need to make sense of what is happening in the world at large. We wondered, “Could something as subtle and understated as meditation also have an affect on business, conflict resolution, or politics?” And on an even wider scale, “What change could happen if something so simple were to become a global movement?”

Interwoven among our own thoughts on the subject are the words of more than one hundred meditation practitioners from various walks of life, from Ellen Burstyn—Oscar award-winning actress—to Jon Kabat-Zinn—director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, from Marianne Williamson—bestselling author and renown inspirational speaker—to Richard Davidson—Professor of Psychology at Wisconsin University.

Enlightening and inspiring, Be the Change is essential reading for all who desire to make a difference in their own lives and in the world.

From the foreword by the Dalai Lama: “I strongly recommend anyone interested in meditation not to simply read what these people have to say, but to try it out. If you like it and its useful to you, keep it up, and if it isn’t, just leave it. Treat this book as you would a cookery book. You wouldn’t merely read recipes with approval, you’d try them out. Some you’d like and would use again. Like cookery, meditation only makes sense if you put it into effect.”

From the foreword by Robert Thurman: “Thank goodness Ed and Deb have so beautifully enfolded the gifts of all the fascinating individuals in this book, within the moving stories of their own lives and transforming experiences! In this living book Ed and Deb have masterfully woven the many voices into a symphony—the insights and stories harmonize and contrast with each other in a marvelous rich flow that is both calming and energizing, creating a single collective yet selfless voice.”



About Ed and Deb:

Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, are the award-winning authors of fifteen books on meditation, personal development, and social action. They are featured bloggers for the HuffingtonPost.com and for Care2.com, teach meditation workshops worldwide, work as corporate coaches and consultants, and are the creators and writers of the daily Chill Our inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. The Shapiros' books include Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award;Voices From the Heart with contributors such as President Gorbachev, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Bishop Tutu; and Meditation: The Four-Step Course to Calmness and Clarity. Ed, from New York, trained in India with Paramahamsa Satyananda, with Sri Swami Satchidananda, and with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Deb, from London, trained with Tai Situ Rinpoche. The Shapiros have taught meditation and personal development for more than twenty-five years. They currently reside in Boulder, Colorado.




Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winners: Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. etirv
  2. Rebecca Graham
  3. Bingo
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Friday, November 27, 2009

Guest Post: Steve Lindahl author of Motherless Soul

Steve Lindahl, author of the book Motherless Soul, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



Inspiring Thought Through Fiction

The primary goal I had in writing Motherless Soul was to create a book with full characters placed in circumstances interesting enough to keep the readers turning the pages. Yet the people who have read the book also say it makes them think about past lives and reincarnation. That was my secondary goal, but one that was very important to me.

In my section of the world most of the spiritual people believe in an afterlife where our souls go to Heaven to spend the rest of eternity with God. But there are huge portions of the world where the majority
of people have a very different take on life after death. Yet all of these religious people have something in common. They are searching for truth.

Fiction can be a wonderful tool to help with the search for truth. My characters discover new realities and react to those realities in their own individual ways. My hope is that my readers can imagine w
hat my characters are feeling and can open their minds to different possibilities while maintaining their personal faiths.

The other topic that runs throughout my book is mother/daughter relationships. Obviously, my gender has kept me from being either a mother or a daughter, but it hasn’t stopped me from observing, admiring, and often being confused by that complex relationship. Here again fiction can raise issues in
a unique way. The concept of past lives creates an entirely new perspective on family relationships. I had a lot of fun with this part. I hope my readers have a lot of fun with the entire book. That’s my ultimate goal.

www.SteveLindahl.com



About the book:

Emily Vinson’s entire life was impacted by the loss of her mother when she was two years old. At eighty‑two Emily contacts a hypnotist hoping to draw out hidden memories of her early childhood so she can discover as much as possible about the short time she spent with the woman who gave her life. But Glen Wiley, the hypnotist, teaches her more about herself than she had expected to learn. He helps her bring out memories of many past lives she has led, including an experience that took place on a smoke filled battlefield. All of Emily’s lives have had the same tragic event, the loss of her mother at a young age. Her soul is caught in what Glen calls circularity, a word that means the tragedy will occur again and again unless she can break the pattern. To do that she and Glen must revisit what happened in her past lives and use what they learn to find the other souls who are part of the circle. They need to use the past to change the future.

The people in Emily’s world are as influenced by who they were and what happened to them in their past lives as they are by what has occurred in the present. This makes for complicated and fascinating relationships. Emily’s stubborn desire to know her mother is realized in intricate and unsettling ways no one could have imagined possible.



About Steve:

Steve Lindahl has published short fiction in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Motherless Soul is Steve Lindahl’s debut novel.




Winners: Hope for Animals and Their World (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. Ryan G
  2. Wanda
  3. heatherzilla
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Jewell Parker Rhodes author of Yellow Moon

Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of the book Yellow Moon, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



Author’s Note
By Jewell Parker Rhodes author of YELLOW MOON

For decades I’ve been haunted by rumors of African vampires; it’s especially apt since across diverse regions in Africa, vampires were the product of rumor. Responding to colonization, Africans told tales of white vampires, authorities who caused blacks to disappear. Vampire, fluid in its’ meaning, became associated with policemen, game rangers, many other authority figures whose jobs involved killing and blood. It was commonly understood, rumored, that often the blood on their weapons and uniforms belonged to humans. Just as it was understood that these authorities, if not white, were Africans who acted as instruments of colonial power.

Blood in all cultures is precious, and to see it drained from a body is abhorrent. In Swahili, the word wazimamoto literally means “men who extinguish fire.” Even before there was such a profession as that of a fireman, this name—wazimamoto—became metaphorically linked to vampires. Some speculate that its’ based upon rumors of men carrying buckets of blood, men who in blood-letting, literally drained the fire of human life.

Wazimamoto, bazimamoto in Luganda, eventually extended to the slavers who raided the African continent of humanity. Enslavers, colonizers, believed Africans to be superstitious barbarians. Yet through oral storytelling, Africans were indeed spreading necessary tales about the cultural vampirism of Portuguese, British, and French colonialism and the American slave trade. Africans, and later, American slaves, used narrative power as a transgressive and defensive response to colonization.

The wazimamoto is not a western vampire. The wazimamoto is a response and a warning about racist brutality, not a species preying on people and killing to survive.

I recommend Luise Walker’s wonderful book, Speaking With Vampires (Rumor and History in East and Central Africa), published by the University of California Press, 2000.

The wazimamoto vampire spirit gave me the opportunity to bring back Marie Laveau’s nineteenth-century nemesis—John—from my first novel, Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau. I still feel sympathy for John, whose life and character were corrupted by slavery, the ultimate colonization. Yet, if any character would be strong enough to resurrect as a wazimamoto, it would be John, resentful of women and their spiritual power.

Integrating the wazimamoto with the power of jazz seemed both natural and logical to me. Studying voodoo decades ago, many writers, most notably Imamu Amiri Baraka, theorized about the importance of voodoo ceremonies in Congo Square and how it encouraged the development of jazz. Music in America has remained integral to black religion and life. It is a cultural foundation—healing, transformative, and, when necessary, transgressive against racist ills. The wazimamoto is and yet isn’t out-of-place in twenty-first-century America. I tried to capture that even though the Civil Rights era had brought increased black political power, educational and social opportunities for African Americans, and negated the patriarchal and subversive relations between white men and women of color (most notably, the laws and social institutions banning miscegenation while promoting the domestic slavery of the quadroon balls), racism and the aftereffects of colonialism still have resonance and echoes in New Orleans.

I’ve enjoyed writing about Laveau’s descendant in the twenty-first-century—Dr. Marie Laveau. The first novel in this contemporary trilogy is Voodoo Season. Yellow Moon is the second. Hurricane Levee Blues will be the third—and, in this novel, I hope to explore the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent abandonment of New Orleans.

African-based spirituality never died in the Americas—whether in secular or religious manifestations, the Africans carted to the New World were not blank slates but people who influenced and imprinted American culture.

Marie Laveau—the great nineteenth-century Voodoo Queen of New Orleans who was a great gift to America—is the woman who healed, nurtured a community, owned her sexuality, communed with spirits, and, some say, walked on water.

In an era when racial and sexual biases tried to demean black life, black women in particular, she was a woman who rose up and said, “I am.

“I am Marie Laveau.”

May we all celebrate our beings and our names.

Sincerely,
Jewell

Copyright by Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of YELLOW MOON, www.JewellParkerRhodes.com.



About the book:

A jazzman, a wharf worker, a prostitute, all murdered. Wrists punctured, their bodies impossibly drained of blood. What connects them? Why are they rising as ghosts?

Marie Levant, the great-great granddaughter of the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau knows better than anyone New Orleans’ brutal past—the legacy of slavery, poverty, racism and sexism—and as a Doctor at Charity Hospital’s ER, she treats its current victims.

When she sleeps, she dreams of blood. Rain, never-ending.

The river is rising and the yellow moon warns of an ancient evil—an African vampire—wazimamoto —a spirit created by colonial oppression.

The struggle becomes personal, as the wazimamoto is intent on destroying her and all the Laveau descendents. Marie fights to protect her daughter, lover, and herself from the wazimamoto’s seductive assault on both body and spirit.

Echoing with the heartache and triumph of the African American experience, the soulful rhythms of jazz, and the horrors of racial oppression, Yellow Moon gives us an unforgettable heroine—sexy, vulnerable, and mysterious—in Marie Levant, while it powerfully evokes a city on the brink of catastrophe.

Part two of the New Orleans trilogy that began with Voodoo Season—magical realist fiction that takes the legend of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, as imagined by Jewell Parker Rhodes in the bestselling Voodoo Dreams, into the present day.



About Jewell:

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of five novels: Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass' Women, Voodoo Season, and Yellow Moon; and a memoir, Porch Stories: A Grandmother's Guide to Happiness. A sixth novel, Hurricane Levee Blues, and a children’s novel, Ninth Ward, will be published in 2010.

She has also authored two writing guides: Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction. Her play, Voodoo Dreams; was cited as "Most Innovative" Drama in the 2000-2001 Professional Theater Season by the Arizona Republic and she is currently at work on a theatrical version of Douglass' Women.

Her work has been published in Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and reproduced in audio and for NPR's "Selected Shorts." Her literary awards include: Yaddo Creative Writing Fellowship, the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, two Arizona Book Awards, and a finalist citation for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. She has been a featured speaker at the Runnymeade International Literary Festival (University of London-Royal Holloway), Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference, and Warwick University, among others.

Recent fiction and essays have been anthologized in Rise Up Singing: Black Women Writers on Motherhood, (ed., Berry), In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, (ed. Gutkind), Gumbo, (ed., Golden and Harris) Children of the Night: Best Short Stories By Black Writers, (ed., Naylor) among others.

She has been awarded the California State University Distinguished Teaching Award, ASU's Dean's Quality Teaching Award, Outstanding Thesis Director from the Barrett Honors College, and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Extended Education. She is a member of the Arizona/International Women's Forum and a Renaissance Weekend invitee.

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes is the Artistic Director for Global Engagement and the Piper Endowed Chair of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in Drama Criticism (Honors) a Master of Arts in English, and a Doctor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) from Carnegie-Mellon University.




Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guest Post: Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François authors of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François, author of the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat Bread
by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François,
Authors of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients

"I was so pleased when the nutritional powers that be deemed dark chocolate and espresso 'good for you'. Considering what a large portion of my diet they occupy, I was relieved to know I no longer needed to feel guilty, not that I ever really had. So in an attempt to make you all a bit healthier and a lot happier I've come up with Chocolate Espresso Bread. Not too sweet but packed with flavor." --Zoë


Makes enough dough for at least two 2-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. Use any leftover dough to make cupcakes.


2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt (increase or decrease to taste)
¼ cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup lukewarm brewed espresso or strong coffee
1¼ cups lukewarm water
4 large eggs
½ cup neutral-flavored oil
¾ cup honey
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on top crust
Raw sugar for sprinkling on top


1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Combine the liquid ingredients and the chopped chocolate and mix with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you're not using a machine.

3. The dough will be loose, but it will firm up when chilled. Don't try to use it without chilling at least 2 hours.

4. Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

5. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond that, the dough stores well in the freezer for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Freeze it in 2-pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before use, then allow the usual rest/rise time.

6. On baking day, grease an 8½× 4½-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

7. Elongate the ball into an oval and place it into the loaf pan; your goal is to fill the pan about three-quarters full. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise for 1 hour 45 minutes.

8. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. If you're not using a stone in the oven, a 5-minute preheat is adequate. Steam is not needed.

9. Just before baking, Use a pastry brush to brush the loaf's top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

10. Bake near the center of the oven for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, until firm.

11. Remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.


VARIATION: Cupcakes


1. On baking day, grease a muffin tin. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1½-pound (small cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a smooth ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

2. To form the cupcakes, divide the ball into 12 roughly equal portions (each about the size of a golf ball). Shape each one into a smooth ball as you did above. Place the buns in the prepared muffin tins. Allow to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 40 minutes.

3. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack placed in the middle of the oven. If you're not using a stone in the oven, a 5-minute preheat is adequate.

4. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are richly browned and firm.

5. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and allow to cool on a rack before eating.


It's true, chocolate may have powerful health benefits: Moderation is the key, because chocolate is high in sugar and fat. But chocolate contains phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals) that may increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and decrease the likelihood of blood clots. Milk chocolate has less of these phytochemicals than dark chocolate because some of the cocoa is replaced by milk, and white chocolate doesn't have any at all.

Feeling better yet? Well, your coffee contains antioxidants. According to one study, Americans get their highest dose of antioxidants from coffee. It's not yet clear whether that translates into higher body stores of antioxidants, but it's opened up a whole new area of research, not to mention apparently justifying those mocha lattes (careful: sweetened or creamy coffee drinks are a major source of unnecessary calories).

The above is an excerpt from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François, authors of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients



About the book:

With over 100,000 copies in print, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day has proven that people want to bake their own bread, provided they can do it easily and quickly. Knowing that people are changing the way they eat and bake because of health concerns or lifestyle choices, the authors took their established methods and applied it to breads rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. That is where Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day comes in. Health-conscious bread-eaters need homemade options more than anyone else. They want delicious bread, but they can’t find the healthy ingredients they’d like to use in traditional bakeries, or in traditional recipes. Whether you are looking for more whole grains, whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, training for a triathlon, trying to reduced your cholesterol, or just care about what goes into your body, this book delivers. For all who discovered artisan bread through the first book and for health-conscious breadlovers everywhere, this book is a must-have. Includes Recipes for: • Whole Grain Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers and Fontina • Turkish-Style Pita Bread with Black Sesame Seeds • Cherry Tomato Baguette • Gluten-Free Rosemary Parmesan Bread Sticks • Spicy Chile Whole Grain Snack Crackers • Quinoa Bread • Pistachio Swirled Brioche



About Jeff and Zoe:

Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., coauthor of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients, is a physician with twenty years of experience in health care as a practitioner, consultant, and faculty member at the University of Minnesota Medical School. His interest in baking and preventive health sparked a quest to adapt the techniques of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for healthier ingredients.

Zoë François, coauthor of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients, is passionate about food that is real, healthy, and always delicious. She is a pastry chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America. In addition to teaching baking and pastry courses nationally, she consults to the food industry and is the creator of the recipe blog www.zoebakes.com. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two sons.




Winners: Cheating Death (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. G-Zell
  2. etirv
  3. Charleydog
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Anik Bose author of Unity Quest

Anik Bose, author of the book Unity Quest, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



Mid-Life Crisis – Friend or Foe?

If you missed your mid-life crisis, don’t worry. Your ego will soon be big enough to cause it! Life changes are meant to serve as catalysts for transforming our current state of consciousness but they are rarely viewed as such. These phases of profound life changes tend to occur between the ages of 35 and 56. Until we reach these stages we predominantly tend to seek fulfillment by defining ourselves externally – be it through our relationships, our professions or our children.

As we enter our mid to late thirties and forties and the specter of our own mortality begins to emerge through the passing away of parents or other loved ones we find ourselves deeply unsatisfied with the status quo. As children leave home, parents can experience feelings of abandonment, lack of purpose or even find there is little in common without the children in the mix. This uneasiness often prompts existential questioning of one’s careers, relationships, purpose in life and brings us to a fork in the road with two paths.

One path leads to a “train wreck” – broken marriages, embarking on serial changes of all consuming jobs, a relentless pursuit of material acquisitions and expensive toys. The one common theme on this path is the continued seeking of the self in the external world.

Another path leads to an inner introspective journey, striving to reach balance and inner peace. If this inner journey is undertaken seriously and with discipline then it manifests itself in the external world as rewarding and revitalized relationships and also as fulfilling professional career choices.

If we are open to learn from these gut wrenching moments of our mid life crises we begin to experience realizations best described by Vitvan the Gnostic teacher “by putting our trust in impermanent external objects our reward is without exception disappointment, disillusionment and ultimately loss”. Through these realizations and experiences we gradually begin to experience higher states of consciousness. At these moments in time, we begin to increasingly treat objective events as ephemeral and transitory. For the few whose world view begins to transform, they begin to trust something much more enduring.

In Unity Quest, we see that learning only comes through experiences, as that is what gets imprinted in our consciousness. Conceptualizing and thinking driven by our mind-made ego cannot alter our current state of consciousness. This approach only serves to continue the meaningless search for seeking the self externally (through external knowledge) and leads to knowing more about subjects (religion, spirituality etc) rather than knowing the subject itself!

Mid-life crises are the first experiential steps to bring you closer to knowing your true self. But we often find ourselves lacking the discernment to choose the path to awareness. Unity Quest book (www.unityquestbook.com) discusses the life change processes in a compelling story format and provides practical messages that are helpful in today’s world to begin the journey to transcend the mind-made ego.




About the book:

You are about to join a search that begins in the power hungry offices of Silicon Valley leading to the mysterious pasts of Glastonbury and Machu Picchu. One man's search for a meaningful and purpose-driven life in the twenty first century can change the world.

Unity Quest is a compelling story about the evolution of consciousness in man and the struggle between the two diametrically opposed forces within him (his ego and his higher self).

It is the human journey from isolation and separation to unity that comes from transcending ego.

It is also a powerful story about the evolution of awareness, seeking to live a life of purpose beyond the narcissistic expression of the ego, beyond our baser instincts of survival and the seeking for comfort, pleasure and power alone.

This quest is brought to life through the lives of two characters in different time periods – medieval and current day.
  • The contemporary character’s journey is an inner quest of seeking to end separation within him and starts in an egocentric self, ends in breaking through the ego but having to struggle with the difficulty of learning to hold the awareness in his day to day life.
  • The medieval character’s journey lives through a manuscript given to the contemporary character. His is an external quest of seeking to create unity in the community through travelling a path of selflessness but ends in egoic destruction.
The full journey is completed only through the lives of the two characters. The story is peppered with symbolic clues that link the quests and lives of the two.



About Anik Bose and Lane Michel:

Anik Bose is a former Silicon Valley executive. He and his wife Daniela live in Mount Shasta, California.

Lane Michel is a former Silicon valley executive turned entrepreneur, recently co-founding Onionhead & Company. Lane and his wife Lesa have five children and live in Mount Shasta, California.


















Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson (Audiobook)

Since 1922, when Howard Carter discovered Tut's 3,000-year-old tomb, most Egyptologists have presumed that the young king died of disease, or perhaps an accident, such as a chariot fall.

But what if his fate was actually much more sinister?

Now, in THE MURDER OF TUT, James Patterson and Martin Dugard chronicle their epic quest to find out what happened to the boy-king. They comb through the evidence--X-rays, Carter's files, forensic clues--and scavenge for overlooked data to piece together the details of his life and death. The result is a true crime tale of intrigue, betrayal, and usurpation that presents a compelling case that King Tut's death was anything but natural.


Received from the publisher for review.


Well, I have to say that this is the worst propaganda I've read in quite some time. Really, it was just embarrassing. I'm not sure if the author truly believed in this, or if he was just out to bank yet another million. I'm also not even sure why his publisher felt he was even marginally qualified to write this book. And the fact that he is claiming this is a true account is simply laughable.



In case there is any remaining doubt as to how Tutankhamun died, Zahi Hawass has a very well done explanation on his website. Hint: He wasn't murdered.

Recently we CT scanned the mummy of King Tut to examine his life and death in depth and determine how he died. We found that he died at the age of 19, and that he was not murdered, as people have long speculated.





This one gets two stars. The "research" was sloppy, the theories laughable, and quite obviously developed by someone with minimal knowledge of Egyptian history. The author is not even an Egyptologist!! Need I say more? The reader, Joe Barrett, could not even be bothered to pronounce Zahi Hawass's name correctly which was just unforgivably rude. Did no one check out the pronunciation beforehand, or did they just not care in their complete arrogance? I mean, why bother to find out how to pronounce the name of the Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities? As if that were not enough, the consistent references to Tutankhamun as "Tut" were grating and totally disrespectful. Would the author ever think to go up to President Obama and say "Hey Barack!"? Maybe he would. Maybe he really is that rude all the time. I just found it unnecessarily condescending and obnoxious. I cannot recommend this to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of Egyptian history. It is just too ridiculous to bother with.

☆☆= Didn't Like It



Winners: True Blue (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. CherylS22
  2. Karen in TN
  3. CinciMom11
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winners: What the Dog Saw (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. Mary
  2. Linda Henderson
  3. Dawn M.
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Gary Stelzer author of The Cost of Dreams

Gary Stelzer, author of the book The Cost of Dreams, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



BACK STORIES

My publicist asked me recently, “Why do so many doctors turn to writing?” Which gave me pause. Until I saw that my life, my brain, had become so packed with “back stories,” enough of them exceedingly dramatic and interesting, that I could almost do no other than struggle to deal with them, to assimilate them, in some productive and creative manner. Otherwise, I think the “subtexts” of my existence were going to script themselves into my day-to-day living in some unhealthy and dysfunctional manner. The more vital past events were looming larger and pushing to the foreground in my life, demanding an accounting. This reality, and no other that I can see, is the origin for THE COST OF DREAMS.

William Faulkner said it best, “The past is not dead. It’s not even passed!”

The following two subtexts demanded an especial mental and emotional reckoning in working up my first novel:

Firstly, I attended a young foreign-born woman in my hospital’s emergency department a number of years ago. She had been shot and dreadfully wounded in her neck and face by her cocaine-dealing brother-in-law in southern Arizona. Her husband had driven her and their two small children to the northern Midwest some months later, where I found her to be very ill from her inadequately treated, infected and unhealed injuries. She was totally disabled. After several surgeries and sufficient treatment, she required placement in a skilled nursing facility, while her husband dropped the children off at another relative’s home. He then drove away and abandoned them all.

I directed her care for a protracted time, until she drifted away to another nursing facility in another city, I know not where. I always felt very badly for her and the fate she suffered.

Secondly, I had traveled to Central America on a medical education trip many years ago, and came home to read that a young engineer from California had been murdered not so far from the region where I’d resided. Travel mates of mine in San Francisco attended his memorial service at a large public auditorium, which I was informed was filled to standing room only by well-wishers, his friends, and his family. He had been working on a project to bring electricity to a remote village, only to be brutally murdered by that country’s military. A US national news magazine published all the horrifying and gruesome details.

Some had said to me, “Well, he just threw his life away,” or “What a waste.” To which I could only reply, “Complete nonsense!! That young person’s wonderful life was stolen, unlawfully taken from him, while he attempted to elevate the standard of living for highland villagers.” I could not permit the notion that the young man was to be blamed for his own murder.

These two aforementioned “back stories,” and the genuine human beings living them, I have never forgotten. And now, everywhere I go, I have begun to see stories that I want to write.




About the book:

This is a tale about the extraordinary fate and survival of a young woman fleeing the cataclysm of civil war in Central America, and about the strangers who risk everything to rescue and mend her.

Kate Bowman, in her mid-forties, travels to Central America with her brother’s favorite son, a tall handsome 22-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Illinois. Bowman, a wildlife biologist from the upper Midwest, teaches literacy classes in the midst of a three-week long medical aid mission sponsored by healthcare teams from Chicago and California. The moment Andrew Gustafson sets foot in the village of Talapa, a young Mayan teen named Flora Enriquez follows his every move, enthralled by him. The small dark eyed girl demonstrates for Kate Bowman that she already reads, taught by a priest two years prior, even inheriting the deceased clergyman’s books.

Andrew quickly discovers his own project, planning and preparing for the installation of a hydroelectric turbine on the village stream to deliver electricity to the remote community in the land of volcanoes. He declines to travel home with his aunt and the rest of the aid party, insisting on remaining in the dangerous and beautiful jungle highlands. Sick at heart, Kate boards a plane to return to her home on northern Lake Michigan, terrified for her nephew left behind in a country convulsing in a murderous civil war.

Then the midnight call comes from the aid director in Chicago ten days after her return. Andrew has gone missing, never to be seen again. And Kate falls under the blaming cloud of her extended family forever.

Then, some years later, a wretchedly wounded Flora Enriquez unexpectedly reenters Kate’s life, the younger woman having fled the land of volcanoes that erupted in civil conflagration. The young Mayan, desirous of healing for her horrifying injuries and desperate to restore what remains of her family, reignites a fire in Kate to determine the fate her long lost nephew.

The harrowing journey for the two women on the healing and search mission, and employing a wounded Viet Nam veteran to help them, utterly consumes them.

Read an excerpt here.



About Gary:

I was born and raised on the north Texas plains in the post WWII years. My parents had survived the horrors of the Great Depression and then the frightful displacement and violence that had taken the lives of so many millions in the world war. Events that left them fearful all their lives of a sudden and unexplained return to the near destitution that they’d known in the 1930’s.

Post war rural educational offerings in that time and place were very limited. As a late teen, I found my way to a great state university, whose student population was about 25 times the size of my hometown. I graduated in four years with an English lit degree and met an extraordinary woman with roots in Chicago. We moved to the northern Midwest and married and raised three children.

I had decided to study medicine and graduated from University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, afterwards finishing a residency in family medicine at the University of Wisconsin program in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

I worked as a doctor in a small city in the northern Midwest for almost 30 years. It was a very interesting and consuming line of work. All those years, I saw ever-greater hardships of working people struggling to afford healthcare and increasingly even the bare necessities of a modern existence. I was appalled at the fate of a local dairyman, who had taken his wife to a larger city for heart surgery, a woman who died at their home within a few months of her operation. After which, the old man stopped at my office one day to report that his farm had been foreclosed to pay her surgical bills, and that he’d lost the accumulated wealth of his entire life’s work.

More recently, I’d begun to see homelessness with individuals attempting to survive living in their cars in the North Country. Persons for whom access to healthcare had long since been out of the question, but for dire emergencies.

As a doctor, my work to relieve pain and misery had been turned on its head in a living contradiction: the more I rang up the charges at my office, the greater the debt I added to my patients’ financial struggle to survive. And the more likely I’d find them on the foreclosure pages in the legal section of our regional papers. I found it undeniable that we are all of us living in an ill social setup, one in which the very few own most all the societal assets, and the very many own less and less.

I have always enjoyed working with the English language. And, thus I decided to change jobs and to write a series of novels about the downtrodden of humankind struggling to survive in an unjust and ill social order, oftentimes with great dignity, and sometimes not.

http://www.garystelzer.com




Monday, November 23, 2009

Announcement: Blog Changes


No, I am not closing down the blog! Just making some much needed changes.

This first year of blogging has been an adventure. I truly appreciate all the opportunities I have been presented with and all the new experiences I've had, but it is time for some changes.

So, the changes are:

  1. I am taking down my Upcoming Reviews page. I simply don't have the time to update it regularly with the constant flow of books.
  2. I am going Award Free. As I announced yesterday, I have received a number of great awards, but I'm trying to streamline my blogging process and I just don't feel that I can do justice to the award recognition and giving.
  3. I am cutting down on author guest posts. These take a lot of time to go back and forth with the author, and then format the guest post. I won't be eliminating them entirely, but the number will be lower.
  4. I will no longer be doing author interviews. I just am not good at interviews so I'm not doing it. Plus, the formatting time is extensive.
  5. I will no longer cross post my reviews on Amazon. I haven't done this since the infamous FTC announcement, and I see no real difference.
  6. To enter a contest you must now be a Google Friend Connect Follower. It just makes things easier for me.
  7. I will no longer be responding to inquiries about contest winners. If I didn't contact you, you didn't win. Enough said.
  8. I will no longer be responding to complaints about extra contest entries. If you don't want to take advantage of the extra entries then don't. Do not e-mail me to complain about it.
  9. I will be re-adding the Tweet This link on my posts. I took this away after the FTC disaster, but I'm adding it back in.
What I'm not changing:
  1. I'll still be offering giveaways. As many as I possibly can host! I love giveaways!
  2. I will still be writing reviews and Bored Now posts. Well, duh! :) I'm a book review blogger after all.
  3. I'll still be moderating comments. I know this annoys some people, but with the amount of spammers out there it is a necessity.

If you can think of anything you'd like me to add or take away from the blog, please leave a comment with your suggestion.

Thank you all for your understanding and I'm looking forward to another great year!



Winners: Nine Dragons (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. Jaime
  2. MoziEsmé
  3. Melissa
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Chris DeBrie author of Shakespeare Ashes


Chris DeBrie, author of the book Shakespeare Ashes, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



For those of you thinking of self-publishing, print-on-demand is cost-effective these days. Depending which publisher you use and how much input you want into the book and promotion, you'll spend anywhere from 500 to several thousand dollars. If holding your own book is enough reward, then anybody should do it who wants to. If it's your life, and you have characters dying to be born, then it is plenty work. And the hours spent doing everything except writing was surprising at first. So be aware, or beware, that you'll put in more than you get out at first (unless you get lucky and hit the right note).

When i was young, writing stories and creating homemade comics, i had this sense that i wasn't getting past the traditional gatekeepers with my stuff. I remember reading little ads in magazines, from vanity presses, and ordering their brochures. Just out of curiosity. I was too young to afford their fees. I did end up ordering a few of their books, which were substandard, but the writing was usually good. This was 10 or 15 years before the Internet and POD. I'm blessed that I live in a time where anyone can get their creation into hands around the globe

I've published with several POD publishers. For Shakespeare Ashes I used Infinity Publishing. I've also worked with Booksurge and Xlibris. These kinds of publishers can go from manuscript to 'for sale' in a few months. The common perception is that the quality suffers, and it's been true ever since I ordered vanity press books back in the '80s. Admittedly, sometimes that opinion is based in truth. Maybe that stigma will go away in the next decade or so--the learning curve for digital printing is still rising.

Music is a few years ahead of the book industry right now; Napster and all the rest of the file-sharers changed so much. There are ways for any little band to get noticed now, and all these major musicians are bypassing the labels, selling their own. I've heard complaints that so many new musicians would dilute things, but people who have talent and strong will... they're going to rise. The impression I get from big house publishers is that signing up would mean a lot of waiting for stuff to go through lots of hands. Whether big or small, it's up to the author to promote. They have the infrastructure to advertise and connect with the real industry players, but POD is truly current. In Ashes I make a note of President Obama's inauguration, and the book was out a few months later. No way does that happen with a traditional house.

You pick your own poison.




About the book:

Donna wonders how she can forgive and forget.

Charlene doesn’t quite know what she wants.

Robbie is usually thinking about which honey he plans to bag.

And Erven just does his best to obliterate the world…

Their lives and histories interconnecting, these characters navigate that uncertain time between classrooms and the wide-open world.







About Chris:

Chris DeBrie was born in North Carolina, creating comics and stories as soon as he could hold a pencil. He wrote the millennial love story As Is as a ninth grader, publishing it a decade later. Selective Focus was the result of those homemade comic screenplays. With Shakespeare Ashes, he pulls the reader into the raw thoughts of four very different characters. DeBrie is a fan of photography, learning languages, and clean water. He lives in Virginia.

http://www.washyourhandsproductions.com/




Sunday, November 22, 2009

Announcement: I'm going Award Free


Although I really, really appreciate the blog awards I have received over the past year, I am going Award Free.

The blog is taking up more and more time and I'm trying to streamline my blogging process so some things just have to go.


Thank you again for all the awards I have received!



2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge


J. Kaye is once again hosting the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge!

This year I'm aiming for The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

The rules:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:

--The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

--Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

--Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

--Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.



Books Read:
  1. A Year With the Queen
  2. 101 Reasons to Dump Your Man and Get a Cat
  3. The Paris Vendetta
  4. The Lost Symbol
  5. The Cricket in Times Square
  6. The Cat in Art
  7. Tucker's Countryside
  8. Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
  9. Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
  10. Oscar Lobster's Fair Exchange
  11. There Goes the Bride
  12. Chester Cricket's New Home
  13. The Old Meadow
  14. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  15. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  16. Breathless
  17. Zero Limits
  18. Why Our Health Matters
  19. The Wisdom of Your Cells
  20. Food Rules
  21. Write It Down, Make It Happen
  22. The Kind Diet
  23. Heat Wave
  24. American Cheeses
  25. When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?



Winners: Say You're One of Them (Audiobook)

The winners are:

  1. Jake Lsewhere
  2. Winning Readings
  3. Dawn M.
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Ed and Deb Shapiro authors of Be the Change

Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the book Be the Change, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



3 Mini Meditations to Help You Through Your Day (or Night)
By Ed and Deb Shapiro
Authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World


What stops you from sleeping through the night? Is it when things are not going your way or they look topsy-turvy and you just want to scream; when your life appears chaotic and you are not sure if you are coming or going; or when it feels like everything is piled on your shoulders?

Life should be an exciting and outrageous adventure. Isn't it a wonder how a spider weaves a web or a bee makes a hive? Did you ever notice the small, everyday miracles, like the fact that you can breathe in and out? But how many of us get to experience this miracle? Sometimes life just feels too awful. We want to feel good, we want to be happy, in fact happiness is our birthright. But so often there are just too many difficulties to deal with. And although we may know that meditation chills us out, if we are feeling stressed or irritable then it just doesn't seem so appealing.


So here are three mini-meditations, moments to just stop and breathe and remember why you are here. A moment to check yourself out, to look within, and to find what is really meaningful to you. You can get it together even when you think it is all falling apart.


Mini-meditations can be done on a train, walking down the street, at an airport, standing at a bus stop, in an elevator, while sitting in the bathroom (often the only place you can be alone!). Silently count your out-breath up to ten times, or walk with awareness of each step for up to ten steps. Or relax each part of your body, then silently repeat "soft belly" for five breaths.


If you are at work, then use your lunch hour to find a quiet spot, perhaps in a park, or even in the office if everyone else has gone out. If you are traveling then use that time to consciously breathe, letting your awareness follow your breath from your nose tip to your belly and back out again. If you are driving or operating machinery and feel you are getting tense, then stop for a moment, breathe into your belly and silently repeat "soft belly, soft belly." Focus on any part of the body that is feeling tight and breathe into it, until you relax and let go. Silently repeat "soft shoulders" or "soft neck" and so on.


As you walk down the street or ride in an elevator, practice a mini-loving kindness by silently wishing everyone be well, wishing that everyone be happy. In the office you can spend a few moments repeating the names of everyone you work with and wishing them happiness. On your way home from work reflect on your day and generate loving thoughts to all those you met. When you send out relaxing and loving thoughts it relaxes the space around you and often any chaotic or disturbing energies will dissipate. What you put out comes back to you ten fold
.

1. Mini Breath Meditation


Sit comfortably with your back straight. Take a deep breath and let it go. Begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: Inhale . . . exhale . . . count one, inhale . . . exhale . . . two, inhale . . . exhale . . . three. Then start at one again. Just three breaths and back to one. Simply following each breath in and silently counting. So simple. Do this as many times as you want, eyes open or closed, breathing normally.


2. Mini Walking Meditation


You can do this walking along a country lane, a city street, in the office or the garden. You can walk slowly, normal or fast, whatever feels right. As you walk become aware of your walking, of the movement of your body and the rise and fall of your feet. Become aware of your breath and see if you can bring both your breathing and your walking together. Just walk and breathe with awareness for a few minutes.


3. Instant Letting Go


Find a quiet place to sit, have a straight back, and take a deep breath and let it go. Then quietly repeat to yourself: "My body is at ease and relaxed . . . my heartbeat is normal . . . my mind is calm and peaceful . . . my heart is open and loving." Keep repeating this until you have let go of the tension and are at peace. Then take a deep breath and have a smile on your face!


©2009 Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World



About the book:

From running an orphanage to being a political adviser, from being held in a prison cell to living in a crowded city, meditation has changed people’s lives. Be the Change is a fascinating exploration of how meditation can not only awaken our latent potential, but also transform the world, creating the foundation for a caring and compassionate future.

As a prisoner in a Chinese jail, Kirsten Westby was able to find solace by sitting quietly in contemplation. Deeply affected by walking on the moon, astronaut Edgar Mitchell went from exploring outer space to discovering the vastness of inner space. Coping with HIV, Mark Matousek found healing through group meditation. Seane Corn used her yoga and meditation expertise to work with child prostitutes in LA.

In the last few decades, people in all walks of life have begun to realize the profound benefits of meditation. While this ancient practice is personally transformative by calming the mind and reducing stress, awakening the heart, and deepening insight, can meditation also change the world for the better? We invited many of today’s most notable voices explore this issue, reflecting on how looking within has resolved issues such as anger and fear, inspiring them to work toward a more caring and peaceful future.

Be the Change was conceived in response to a need to make sense of what is happening in the world at large. We wondered, “Could something as subtle and understated as meditation also have an affect on business, conflict resolution, or politics?” And on an even wider scale, “What change could happen if something so simple were to become a global movement?”

Interwoven among our own thoughts on the subject are the words of more than one hundred meditation practitioners from various walks of life, from Ellen Burstyn—Oscar award-winning actress—to Jon Kabat-Zinn—director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, from Marianne Williamson—bestselling author and renown inspirational speaker—to Richard Davidson—Professor of Psychology at Wisconsin University.

Enlightening and inspiring, Be the Change is essential reading for all who desire to make a difference in their own lives and in the world.

From the foreword by the Dalai Lama: “I strongly recommend anyone interested in meditation not to simply read what these people have to say, but to try it out. If you like it and its useful to you, keep it up, and if it isn’t, just leave it. Treat this book as you would a cookery book. You wouldn’t merely read recipes with approval, you’d try them out. Some you’d like and would use again. Like cookery, meditation only makes sense if you put it into effect.”

From the foreword by Robert Thurman: “Thank goodness Ed and Deb have so beautifully enfolded the gifts of all the fascinating individuals in this book, within the moving stories of their own lives and transforming experiences! In this living book Ed and Deb have masterfully woven the many voices into a symphony—the insights and stories harmonize and contrast with each other in a marvelous rich flow that is both calming and energizing, creating a single collective yet selfless voice.”



About Ed and Deb:

Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, are the award-winning authors of fifteen books on meditation, personal development, and social action. They are featured bloggers for the HuffingtonPost.com and for Care2.com, teach meditation workshops worldwide, work as corporate coaches and consultants, and are the creators and writers of the daily Chill Our inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. The Shapiros' books include Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award;Voices From the Heart with contributors such as President Gorbachev, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Bishop Tutu; and Meditation: The Four-Step Course to Calmness and Clarity. Ed, from New York, trained in India with Paramahamsa Satyananda, with Sri Swami Satchidananda, and with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Deb, from London, trained with Tai Situ Rinpoche. The Shapiros have taught meditation and personal development for more than twenty-five years. They currently reside in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information please visit www.EdandDebShapiro.com.