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Guest post: “Why I Wrote Defiance and Redemption: A Lifetime of Unbroken Bonds” by Maria J. Andrade

     We have all had our lives impacted by certain people, whether family members or friends. This book was inspired by the stories I heard as a young person about family relations, including my parents’ star-crossed relationship. My parents’ passion brought them together under challenging times, and in the end, their stars took them in divergent directions, leaving a cloud of questions behind for my imagination to explore.

     In addition, throughout my life, I was fortunate to hear about my cultural roots from three matriarchs in our family, my mother, aunt, and godmother. I also witnessed their bond of sisterhood that lasted over eighty years. They lived into their nineties, and they died a few years apart. Those matriarchs taught me to honor family, and to forgive others and oneself for what happened or didn’t happen in your story. My love to you, Maria, Josephine, and Rosa!

     Defiance and Redemption is a story that is as current today in parts of the world as I imagine it was in early 20th century Ecuador when women’s lives were more restricted. Women need each other for support and to envision a more expansive future. But this story is not an autobiography or a memoir. It is fiction and it arises out of certain truths. Yet, I like to think the story has closed a personal circle for me in which the past is like a garden. It is enjoyed, celebrated, and at death, the earth turned, for new seeds to grow.

Maria J. Andrade was born in Ecuador, South America, and raised in New York and California. She has a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. As a licensed therapist and writer, Maria has been diving into other people’s minds and her own, through dreams, poetry, and books for over three decades. She traveled with the Four Winds Society where she studied and was initiated into Andean shamanism in 1990.

Before Maria retired as a therapist, she specialized in women’s issues and founded the Wise Women’s Circle a ritualistic and transpersonal study group that continues today. The women support each other through life’s challenges and in the growth of mind, body, and spirit.

Maria Andrade’s books for children and adults is found in a variety of genres. This is an unforgettable first novel that reflects her imagination and creative storytelling.

Defiance and Redemption is her latest release.

Visit her website at or connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

A Tale of Three Settings: The Story Behind ‘The Cavalier Spy,’ by S.W. O’Connell

TheCavalierSpy_medIn many ways, The Cavalier Spy should have been an easy book to write. After all, it is the sequel to the first book in the Yankee Doodle Spies series, The Patriot Spy, so many of the characters, themes and settings were in place when I began the book. But ironically, that made the book all the more difficult. Why? Because I wanted The Cavalier Spy to stand on its own. I wanted readers who had not read the first book in the series to enjoy The Cavalier Spy as much as those who did read The Patriot Spy. I had no idea how hard that would be. And starting out, I had no idea how I would do it. But then I began to write and the story took over, as it often does.

The story has three general settings. I think that helped. In fact, the settings are essential to the building of the tale. This is, after all, a historical novel and I am trying to portray history through fiction. And history is about places, as well as people. The first setting is New York. The second is the area around the Hackensack Valley of New Jersey. The third setting is “western Jersey,” the area along the Delaware River. During the time of the American Revolution New Jersey was often referred to as “the Jerseys.” The Jerseys were east and west Jersey. East Jersey is that part of the state that borders New York and the North (Hudson) River. West Jersey is the portion that borders Philadelphia and the Delaware River.

Since the first setting was the same as that of The Patriot Spy, and as I began to draw out the plot, I used the setting to refer back to events that unfolded in it. I did not plan this. It just came to me as I wrote. An example is when the protagonist, Jeremiah Creed and his men are sent behind British lines he decides to go by the post house in Yorkville. There he “re-recruits” young Thomas Jefferies to the cause. I use those scenes to flash back to how they originally met, and the events that drew them together. As Creed drives deeper into British occupied New York, people he encounters and venues provide opportunities to briefly let the reader in on what happened in book one. Another challenge for the writer is to do this without making things tedious for those who read the first book. The trick is to keep the flashback short. Usually a couple of sentences. The trick is to do this without tying up the story too much and break the flow. As the story progresses to the other two settings, the need and opportunity to do this fades away. Soon the story is standing on its own legs and the reader is caught up on what happened.

Another interesting challenge I faced was telling the tale of how my protagonist arrived in America. In The Patriot Spy I hinted that he was an immigrant. In The Cavalier Spy, I show it. But how to get there without distracting too much from the main plot, Washington’s desperate attempt to avoid defeat and his use of intelligence to aid those efforts. The idea came to me suddenly. I would have Washington and his fictional “Senior Intelligence Advisor” conduct what is essentially a “subject interview” of Creed. They confront him on his mysterious past and want to “vet” him. He decides to tell all in a “confession” to his commander in chief. Don’t worry. He doesn’t really tell all. Some things have to be saved for future books. But we do get a several chapter flashback out of it. And I had a lot of fun writing it.

By time I got to the Hackensack Valley setting, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was able to create a fictional village and spin some interesting characters in and out of it. But in doing it, I reveal an interesting and little noted fact about the American war for Independence. It was a complex struggle and a local one. New Jersey raised some impressive Loyalist troops for the King and one of those regiments plays a role. The Hackensack Valley had a significant Dutch populace. After all, East Jersey was part of the Dutch colony (along with New York) of New Amsterdam. This provided me some rich characters to develop. It is in this setting that I bring the strange case of “Mister X” into the story. Weaving a controversial historic figure into the plot was intriguing to me, the writer. I hope it is for the reader as well.

The last setting is West Jersey. This is the iconic “times that try men’s souls.” The new nation’s hopes are all but dashed. Washington escapes the British but is now ignominiously holed up on the far bank of the Delaware River and his army has evaporated. To have any hope of saving his army and the cause, Washington must send Jeremiah Creed back into the bosom of the enemy. A key ingredient, almost a character, in this setting is, believe it or not, Mother Nature. A cold winter is gripping the Delaware Valley and it has a role in everything. The characters (and their horses) are affected. The Continental Army is affected. And most importantly, the British Army is affected. The despair that unfolds in the first two settings culminates in desperation. And this desperation sets in on both the fictional and historical characters. Washington is desperate to save his Army and the Revolution. Creed is desperate to do his duty. And the British are desperate not to lose what they have achieved. But desperation breeds valor and resourcefulness. But it can also breed mistakes. And ultimately, the fortunes of men and of nations, can turn on mistakes.



S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.


Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: Historical

Author: S. W. O’Connell


Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase link:

Amazon / OmniLit 

About the Book:

1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.

However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.

“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”

~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel

“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”

~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP

Tickling: Such a Powerful Word by Veronica Frances

Let's Talk About Tickling 2Tickling: Such A Powerful Word

By Veronica Frances

Tickling—such a powerful word. To most people, tickling is just a mere word, an afterthought. Pianists like to tickle the ivories. Perhaps one is tickled to hear such happy news. For somebody with a tickling fetish, tickling is anything but an afterthought.

For someone with a tickling fetish, it is difficult to understand how people are so unaware of the power of tickling. Tickle fetishists find it hard to fathom that people are generally quite nonchalant about tickling, or just don’t think about it one way or another. What’s the big deal about tickling? It is simply an annoyance that can be fun for only a few minutes at a time. Those are the thoughts that many people have about tickling. It is difficult for non-tickle fetishists to understand how somebody could love tickling so much, to the point where it can sometimes become an obsession.

The truth is anything can become an obsession. A love of tickling does not have to be an obsession, but it can be a very powerful fetish. Tickling is powerful in so many ways. That is why so many people avoid it and even hate it. Some of us even love to hate it, loving it and hating it at the same time. Tickling confuses people and frightens those who have a deep fear of losing control. The confusion comes from the way in which tickling can escalate, beginning as such a delightful, erotic sensation and becoming torturous or extremely intense very quickly.

The word tickling and any form of that word holds tremendous power all on its own, especially for those of us who are deeply affected by it. It is sort of like when a dog hears something that others can’t, or when you say the word walk and the dog reacts with such excitement, their ears standing straight up at attention. For a dog, the word walk will make them react with passion and exuberance.

Dogs will also react to sounds that humans do not always hear. Non-tickle fetishists cannot hear the hidden power behind the word tickling the way someone who loves tickling most certainly can. When tickle fetishists hear the word tickle or any form of the word, they react internally and sometimes even find it difficult to hide their delight and the fact that the word even makes them blush at times.

For many tickle-fetishists, any form of the word tickle excites them. Most people with a tickling fetish cannot hear the word tickle and not feel that strange twinge in their body. For the true tickle fetishist, the word tickle puts a bounce in their step and makes them feel just a bit more alive.

But tickling is so much more than a word. It is a feeling, a response, a vulnerability, a powerful kick in the libido and, for many, it is something to avoid. Tickling is scary to some people because it is a straight dive right into the pool of surrender and vulnerability. It can feel pleasurable, but it can also feel uncomfortable and maybe even slightly painful. Pleasure and discomfort do meet up sometimes when it comes to tickling. Tickling can be a place of mixed emotions and reactions.

The tickling fetish can force people to explore their sensuality and all the pleasures and discomforts that come with it. It is so powerful when someone who loves tickling allows themselves to find pleasure from the different sensations that tickling can cause, even if there is some minor discomfort for those who are extremely ticklish. Sensuality is really about exploration and once we stop exploring, our relationships and sensuality suffer.

So, we must admit that tickling has power over us, or else why would we react so passionately to it? I mean, people either hate it passionately, love it passionately, or say that it doesn’t affect them one way or another.

I received a review of my novel Tickling Daphne H. from a woman who personalized her own uptight feelings about tickling in the review. She put on this pair of boxing gloves that really made me see how uptight tickling can make some people. The truth is, she was uptight well before reading my novel. She basically forbade her husband from tickling her or doing any of the wild things in my book. She thought that tickling couldn’t possibly be fun and she would smack her husband if he ever tried that stuff with her.

I remember thinking, Now here is a woman who needs a good tickling, perhaps a spanking as well. I wondered how uptight she actually was with her husband and if he perhaps secretly wanted to loosen her up a bit and teach her a thing or two by tickling her all over her uptight body.

The point is, her reaction to my book was a passionate one and truthfully, tickling does tend to cause differing, passionate reactions in people.

Yes, we each have our own reactions to tickling, but if we suddenly find ourselves with a partner who has a tickling fetish, or if we are facing a tickling fetish ourselves, we must explore those reactions and discover that tickling is not just a mere word after all. For some people, it is a necessary part of life.

Copyright © 2015 Veronica Frances

About the Author:

Veronica FrancesVeronica Frances is the author of the gutsy, no-holds-barred novel, Tickling Daphne H. Her new non-fiction book Let’s Talk About Tickling sheds a refreshing new light on the subject. She is known as the TickleWriter in some circles.

Veronica also writes under her real name, Stacey Handler. Stacey is the author of The Body Burden; Living In The Shadow Of Barbie. Her book was featured in Jump Magazine, Australian Women’s Weekly, The National Enquirer, and several other publications, radio shows and cable TV shows.

Stacey excels at public speaking, singing, composing, and writing. She is a singer-songwriter, poet, and has written in many different styles. She has an album and several singles available, including her two popular anthems, Ain’t No Skinny Little Thing and Soap Opera Diva.

She lives in New York City, where she continues to write erotica, fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

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Special Guest: Five Things I Have Learned Since I Self-Published by Tom Stacey #selfpublish

44Five things I have learned since I self-published

By Tom Stacey

In my relatively short career as a self-published author, I have found the learning curve a steep one. For anybody who is considering self-publishing — or somebody who has already self-published and wants some solidarity — here is a list of the key lessons I have learned so far.

Exile 4You’ll be amazed by the support you receive

The internet is a funny place, and since you want to publish and promote your book to people other than your immediate family, you’ll be spending a lot of time on there. Sure, some people might not like your book, some people might even hate it, but what will surprise you is the amount of good feedback you can get. Everything from helpful critiques, offers for review exchanges, book recommendations, free promotion — the self-publishing industry is stronger than it ever has been and that is evident in the depth of the community’s kindness. Be active on social media like twitter and goodreads and promote others as they promote you. My favourite moment so far is when I was touched by a bit of hubris and decided to google my book. I found it on somebody’s list of their top five favourite books. That’s the kind of thing that drives you.

There is a lot of work required

Everyone who wants to be writer imagines a world where they can sit in a wood-walled office with an open fire and write, perhaps with quill and ink, perhaps with a tumbler of good scotch within reach. Alas, the modern self-published writer cannot just be a writer. You have to be an editor, a formatting expert, someone who understands the software your using to the nth degree, and most importantly, a marketeer. It’s no good writing the next Lord of the Rings if nobody is going to read it. You have to sell yourself, and that is difficult stuff. In short, as a self-published author, you’re going to be doing all of the things that a traditionally published author has done for them. If you tie that in with a day job and (potentially) friends, family, general fitness, etc, it actually leaves you very little time to do the thing you want to do: write. Good thing you can always sacrifice sleep! Of course, if you want to pay people money to do these things for you, then that’s great and will hopefully be very effective, but for those more budget conscious among you, you better start reading up on marketing techniques.

The importance of cover art

The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is absolute nonsense. Sure, you shouldn’t make assumptions, but if you break the saying down into its literal sense, you have to remember that a book is a product, a piece of entertainment. ‘But this is literature!’ I hear some of you cry. ‘It’s art, nothing so grubby as a microwaved meal.’ Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s not true. A book is something that people will exchange money for, consume, and then ultimately discard or store. Therefore it has to be good: well-written and, above all, presentable. That’s how you get your foot in the proverbial door of somebody’s attention. That’s why cover art is all-important. The amount of self-published books I see with awful covers upsets me. It’s sad to think that great content could be hidden by pedestrian cover art. Cover art is the hook. It catches the reader’s eye and makes them pick your work up. I said previously that you might need to wear many hats as a self-published author, but leave something as subjective as artwork and design to the professionals. I paid money for my cover art, and I’m so glad I did. People love it and I have had many compliments — it looks great in print too, almost indistinguishable from anything you would find in a quality bookstore. If you’re great at drawing, then fine, but I am not, and for a one off price I managed to get a custom drawn piece of artwork that does my book justice. Know your strengths and funnel your funds where you are weakest, but do not try and save on cover art.

If anybody is interested, here is the website of the illustrator I used:

Also, here is a great article on cover design and why it is important to get it right:

You will find errors in your work — get over it!

I have almost lost count of the amount of times I have read Exile (it’s a good thing it’s so great!). In writing, editing, editing again, editing some more and so on, I have probably read it cover to cover about twenty times. I can tell you what happens in chapter seventeen and what Beccorban’s response is when Riella asks him about his past. I can recite whole passages of text and describe the great coastal city of Kressel almost word for word. But still I find mistakes. Okay, not mistakes, rather things I would do differently. I like to think that in my constant editing I have eliminated 99.9% of grammatical and spelling errors in my work (you can never be 100%), but in recent re-reads, I have spotted sentences that I don’t like or would phrase differently. I’ve come to accept that this is perfectly normal. As a writer you evolve. I am not the same writer now as I was when I started penning Exile and hopefully I’ve improved. There is a saying that no work of art is ever finished, simply abandoned. This holds true to writing, and there comes a point when you have to let go and lock the text so it can go to print. Of course you can make revisions at a later date, but usually not for free (unless it’s an ebook). I’ve gotten over that, and also realised that the things I see as mistakes will not be viewed as mistakes by my readers. They are reading my work for the first time, learning from fresh who I am as a writer. Hopefully when they come to read the next one, they will recognise my work, but see that it is a step up.

You will make mistakes in general so don’t be afraid to ask for help

It seems like an overly simply statement but you will. Whether it’s in formatting for an ebook, in paying money to a shady company for ‘marketing,’ there are things you will do now on your first time out that you will never do again. I came moments away from approving the proof of my cover design with a glaring spelling error in the blurb. I had a proof copy printed and realised that I had made a new moon become a full moon in the space of two days. Luckily I changed it before it went to print. These things happen and will happen, especially when you are the only person checking things. Get a trusted friend to read your work and edit as many times as you can. Another really good trick is to wait until you are happy with your story, then lock it away for about two months. Work on other stuff and then come back to it and read it fresh. You’ll be amazed what a new perspective you gain. That’s how I managed to cut down Exile into a more acceptable size.

My experience with self-publishing has been a good one so far, and it is by no means unique. I hope this has gone some way to giving any potential self-publishers a ‘heads up.’ Thanks for reading!

Tom StaceyTom Stacey is an English author of the fantasy novel, Exile. Tom was born in Essex, England, and has lived there his whole life. He began writing at school, often taking responsibility for penning the class plays, or writing sketches with his friends. While attending university to read history, Tom developed his writing by creating several short stories, some of which would later become to basis for his debut novel, Exile.

Tom self-published Exile in summer 2014 and is currently working on the sequel as well as another unrelated novel. He earns a living as a video producer in London in the day and writes at night, a bit like a really underwhelming superhero.

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Guest post: The Inspiration Behind ‘When Shmack Happens’ by Amber Neben

When Shmack Happens coverWhere did I get the inspiration to write When SHMACK Happens? I hit the wall, and I hit it HARD!!  My life, my goals, and my next steps were redirected in a span of a few seconds.  Prior to impact, I was on target to win that huge race at The Tour of California, and I was plotting ahead to more cycling goals, maybe even the 2016 Olympic Games.  After the impact, I laid on the pavement while my body screamed at me because it hurt…  SEVERELY.  Blood poured out of my nose and other parts of me.   I was scared and messed up.  But I was awake, and I could move.

In the midst of the pain and fear that filled me on the side of the road and then in the ambulance, I clung to Jesus.  I didn’t understand why or what had just happened.  I didn’t want to be headed to a trauma center, and I definitely didn’t want to have my dreams cut short by another obstacle.  But I clung.  And He filled me with His strength.

Honestly,   it was a miracle to walk away, and a miracle how fast I recovered.  But even more incredible was that in the aftermath of the crash, I had a peace and a stillness of spirit that was beyond me.  I was very limited to what I could do.  Simply moving was difficult for a few weeks.  However, in spite of the physical trauma I was dealing with, my mind was incredibly clear and crisp, and my heart was not anxious.

I began to think about writing my story, and then God began to pound on my heart “write the story that I have written into your life.”  I had always wanted to write a book, but I had never felt the inspiration to do it until the initial days after the crash.  Although there was a definite tug on my heart to write, I still continued to doubt that I could do it.  I also wasn’t completely convinced I was hearing God accurately, and I only wanted to embark on the journey with His help.  So for two weeks, I prayed often about the idea.

Finally, or desperately, after two weeks of talking to God about everything, I prayed a Gideon like prayer at 5AM.  I know it was 5AM, because I remember checking my phone before getting up to use the bathroom.  My prayer when I laid back down was, “God, if I am hearing you correctly, have Jenna Sampson email me.”  Jenna had written some articles about me for Sports Spectrum, and she would occasionally check on me.  She had promised almost 7 years prior that she would help me write if I ever wanted to.  I hadn’t heaAmber Neben photord from her in almost a year, but when I got out of bed that same morning, I had an email from Jenna arriving at 5:16AM.  Confirmed.  I needed to write.

And yes, I needed to write!   There was no way a ghost writer or another author could truly understand my journey or share those intimate lessons I had learned as I had been walking, struggling, or standing firm in Christ through all the storms.   So I met with Jenna, who agreed to act as my editor, I started praying for words and eloquence, and I embarked on writing WHEN SHMACK HAPPENS.

Link to crash:


Amber Neben is a decorated international road cyclist with victories in 11 countries and multiple UCI Category 1 stage race wins. She is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion, 2x Pan American Champion and 2x National Champion. She holds a B.S. from The University of Nebraska and an M.S. from UC Irvine. Amber and her husband, Jason, reside in Lake Forest, CA. For information on speaking engagements or coaching visit


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10 Things You Might Not Know About Colette Harrell

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

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

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

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

For More Information

10 Things You Might Not Know About Colette Harrell

1.) I actually prefer staying in the background. It takes courage for me to put myself out there . . . like marketing this book! (Be a lion . . . can you hear me singing The Wiz song? No? Well, good, because, I’m pretty awful at it.)

2.) I’m sentimental. I have a file cabinet full of cards, letters, and trinkets given to me over the years. I still have my prom pictures from . . .years ago. (No, I’m not telling how long ago; but think several decades!)

3.) I love old black-and-white movies. I can sit for hours on a rainy day and watch AMC movies over and over again. Who wouldn’t want to have Betty Davis eyes?

4.) Okay, guilty pleasure. Popcorn, pecan clusters, and a soda are my “I’m having a bad day” remedy.

5.) I can spend so much money buying books in one month that if I reveal the amount on this list, my husband would confiscate my Kindle, Nook, and Tablet. (I better hide this list from him.)

6.) Most people can’t tell how old I am. Therefore, I rack up at amusement park guessing games on really small useless trinkets.

7.) I love my husband, children, family, and friends. But, I’m really good when I’m alone too. (I crack myself up.)

8.) I once tried out for the Motown Review. (Yes, earlier I said I couldn’t sing, and no, I still can’t—you had to be there.)

9.) I use to never cry. Now I cry so easily, and I can be supersensitive. Then on the other hand, as I get older I am more up front and forthright about my opinions. (The contradictions drive even me crazy.)

10.) When people choose evil over good, I get emotionally down. Every day I talk myself into choosing what’s right, even when I’d rather do easy. (Yes, I admit it. And, sometimes it’s HARD!)

About the Book:

The Devil Made Me Do It 7The voluptuous Esther Wiley has always known that she is special. She’s a tiara-wearing, wand-carrying kind of Cinderella princess in disguise. The problem that her very own Fairy Godmother, the Prophetess Mother Reed, struggles with is getting her to live like it.

Briggs Stokes is the reluctant heir to his father’s worldwide, multimillion-dollar televangelist ministry, yet he yearns to be his own man. His past mistakes have caused him a private life of hurt and loneliness.

Esther and Briggs meet and develop a deep soul connection, until tragedy strikes and the two are thrust apart. Their separation leads each down a different path scattered with emotional minefields. While each step they take brings them closer to who they were always meant to be, the devil is on assignment. He sends in reinforcements to usher in confusion and create chaos, and soon no one is safe. The members of Love Zion church reel from the rumors, innuendo, and downright sabotage that is going on around them.

When others devise evil schemes to seek the destruction of Esther and Briggs through jealousy, greed, and murder, only divine intervention can save them. As an all-out battle for dominion breaks out in the heavens, will Esther and Briggs become a casualty of war?

For More Information

  • The Devil Made Me Do It is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
  • Read Chapter One here.


Guest post: “My Inspiration behind ‘The Saint of Santa Fe'” by Silvio Sirias

Sirias - Cover - 9781937536565.inddEvery June 9, the Republic of Panama mourns the anniversary of Father Héctor Gallego’s disappearance. More than forty years after the crime, his case still remains a source of deep, national pain.

While researching The Saint of Santa Fe, I spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains of the province of Veraguas, where Father Gallego served as parish priest. I had lengthy conversations with people whose lives were deeply affected by this noble Colombian. Among them were Jacinto Peña, the lone witness to Father Gallego’s abduction; Father Raúl Rodríguez, Santa Fe’s current parish priest; and Edilma Gallego, Héctor’s sister who first came to Panama in September of 1999, when it was thought that her brother’s remains had been found. Edilma Gallego, a person every bit as courageous as her older sibling, has chosen to stay in this country to continue his work. And she and her family still have hopes that one day they will learn the truth about what happened to Héctor.

The stories and comments I heard while in Santa Fe were both inspiring and heartrending.  “He was the angel God sent to liberate us,” an elderly campesina said to me.  “To know him was to know Christ,” said Eric Concepción, for whom Father Gallego obtained a scholarship so he could study agriculture. At the time of our conversation, Eric was the president of Panamá’s organic farmers. “He was a prophet,” Father Rodríguez claims. “And sadly, as history repeatedly demonstrates, prophets meet a tragic fate because the truth they speak threatens the established order.”

And Father Héctor Gallego did speak the truth. As the first parish priest in the four-hundred year history of Santa Fe, he helped bring an end to the exploitation campesinos had been subjected to for centuries. Sadly, the truth offended the local strongman—a first cousin of General Omar Torrijos—and this cost Héctor his life.

Who kidnapped Father Héctor Gallego; on whose orders; how did he die; and where are his remains are questions that several former members of Panama’s defunct military can answer.  Yet in writing The Saint of Santa Fe I believed readers deserved to learn the story about the extraordinary things this saintly man did in life.

Find out more on Amazon


Silvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin (2005) and Meet Me under the Ceiba (2009), winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, and most recently The Saint of Santa Fe.  A native of Los Angeles, he spent his adolescence in Nicaragua and currently lives in Panama.  In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).”  He has a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona.  He has also published academic books on Julia Alvarez, Rudolfo Anaya, and the poet Salomon de la Selva.  In addition, he has a collection of essays titled Love Made Visible: Reflections on Writing, Teaching, and Other Distractions.  The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape. For more information, visit his website at / Twitter: @silviosirias

The Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing by Meryl Ain

7 beyond the books guest postThe Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing

By Meryl Ain

It has been 50 years since The Beatles first visited the United States, but their music is as alive as ever. Although the Beatles stopped performing as a group in 1970, and John Lennon and George Harrison have passed, their music is today enjoyed by both those who saw them perform, and their children and their grandchildren.

The power of music to evoke memories is great, and one of the most moving of the Beatles’ songs is Let It Be, Paul McCartney’s tribute to his mother, Mary, who died from an embolism when he was 15. After his mother came to him in a dream during a difficult time in his life, he wrote the song to share her advice with the world. Each time the song is performed, played or heard, it keeps alive the The Living Memories Project 7memory of his mother: “And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be…”

Not everyone can write and perform a song, but when my mother died after a brief illness, I wondered how I could pay tribute to her – in my own way. So I decided to ask others how they carry on the values and legacies of their loved ones. I enlisted my husband, Stewart, and my brother, Arthur, to join me in researching and writing The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last.

The book shows how others have harnessed their grief, transforming it into meaningful action and living legacies. The Living Memories Project describes through interviews, anecdotes, essays, poems and photographs, the many ways that 32 individuals – celebrities and others – keep alive the memories of loved ones.  Some are huge projects; some are small ones.

For example singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, the daughter of the late folk rock icon Harry Chapin, tells how she keeps her father’s memory alive through his music and his commitment to social justice.

“I have so many ways of communing with him and I know he is proud of me. I have an ongoing dialogue with him and read his speeches about social justice and they are so much today—what he wrote about and sang about—they are so current and I feel so connected. I have ongoing dialogue through my own work. So in a way I am privileged he was a public person and, almost every time I perform, someone comes up and speaks of him and remembers him.…”

Others in our book have established foundations, endowed scholarships, relied on favorite sayings, created works of art, made recipes, or simply looked at photographs. The point is that there is no such thing as closure; those we love are in our hearts and minds forever. Carrying on their work or doing something positive in their memory not only serves as a fitting tribute, but also is a powerful healer.

The research and writing of The Living Memories Project has been therapeutic and cathartic for me and for my coauthors. We hope that it will help others by showing readers how to find comfort and meaning through honoring the memory, values, and legacy of their loved ones.

About the Author:

Meryl Ain holds a BA from QueensCollege, a MA from ColumbiaUniversityTeachers College, and an Ed.D. from HofstraUniversity. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She is also a freelance writer specializing in Meryl Ainissues related to education, families, parenting, and children and has contributed to Huffington Post, Newsday, the New York Jewish Week and The New York Times. She embarked on The Living Memories Project after she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.

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Why Educating America’s Incarcerated Class is Smart on Crime by Christopher Zoukis

Why Educating America’s Incarcerated Class is Smart on Crime

By Christopher Zoukis

When many think of prisoners they think of those who have violated the social contract, of those who have victimized their communities. They think of those who deserve whatever they have coming to them, and that any form or amount of punishment they receive is just. There is some validity to these points. But there is also a fatal flaw in this logic.

The Fatal Flaw: Punishment, but no Reformation

Directory of Federal PrisonsWhen we as Americans think of punishing prisoners, we think of just consequences and just desserts. We think of an action occurring and a reaction being required. But we often don’t sit down and realize that prisoners will one day be released from custody. As such, we think of harming those who have harmed us, but not of welcoming them back upon the fulfillment of their punishment (i.e., their sentence). And this is the fatal flaw: we punish those deserving of punishment, but fail to prepare them for life after prison (the point at which their punishment has been fulfilled). We fail to provide them with the tools required to put crime behind them. This is where prison education comes in.

Correctional Education: What is it?

Correctional education is the technical term for education provided to prison inmates. This education can consist of basic literacy (reading, writing, mathematics, etc.), high school equivalency (GED classes), adult continuing education (either technical/career skills or life skills aimed at adult learners), vocational training, or even college education. By far the most prevalent, high school equivalency courses are provided to any prisoner who has not earned a true high school diploma. This is important because research shows that most prisoners possess merely a 6th grade formal education, and many are plainly illiterate.

These courses are often provided inside an education department within the prison itself. The teachers are prison staffers who hold teaching certificates, but more often than not, they merely supervise the more educated prisoners who actually teach the classes. While these prisoners are often called “inmate tutors,” their job is often to plan lessons, teach the classes, and administer sample tests, which help to gauge when the incarcerated student should sit for the true GED examinations or end-of-course tests.

Why Should We Want to Educate Prisoners?

The simple truth of the matter is that correctional education is the single most cost-effective, proven method of reducing recidivism (the act of a person going to prison, serving their time, being released, and returning to crime). The reason for this is because education helps the traditionally disadvantaged prison population compete in the workforce. And this is important because most former prisoners who return to crime do so because of economic reasons. They sell drugs or rob banks or engage in identity theft because they need money. As such, finding ways to make them employable is of paramount importance.

Let’s face it, a high school diploma is the cornerstone of an employable worker. Not many employers are interested in hiring workers without one. But, true high school diplomas are not feasible in the prison context (they simply take to long to earn for learners who’ve had a poor track record in formal education). As such, GED classes are what are made available to incarcerated students. While not the best option, this is a tremendous start for those who, on average, have a 6th grade formal education.

The simple truth is that with each new level of education attained, the recidivism rate is slashed. While this fact is not a feel-good one, it is crime reduction and cost savings in practice. It can only take a year or two for most incarcerated students to earn a GED. The cost of this is negligible compared to additional years of reincarceration. And the value of reduced crime is incalculable.

Dividing Retribution from Reformation

The starting point for many Americans when discussing prisoners is to become angry; angry about the seemingly undeserved privileges being offered to those who break the law. Americans become angry when they find out that prisoners sometimes live in air conditioned housing units. This is seen as a privilege, even though prisoners have been known to die from heat stroke in those housing units which lack AC, and the reason for the climate control is to deny prisoners access to windows that open. Americans become angry when they find out that prisoners sometimes have access to cable television, even though this monotonous form of entertainment is a valuable correctional tool, and has been shown to drastically reduce prison violence by occupying prisoners who would otherwise find trouble. But today we’re not advocating for televisions or air conditioning. We’re advocating education for the incarcerated.

It’s time that the American people stop thinking of education as a privilege, but as a tool. Education is a tool which helps prisoners learn to think, compete in the workforce upon release from prison, and not return to a life of crime. Education for the incarcerated will reduce victimization, burden on social services, and the current prison overpopulation crisis. Education will change lives by changing minds and the ways former prisoners live their lives.

But if this isn’t enough, don’t support prison education because it helps those incarcerated. Support prison education because it is in our best interest. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95 to 97 percent of prisoners will one day be released from custody. These are our future neighbors. The question shouldn’t be, “Do prisoners deserve an education?” No. The question is, “Would you prefer your future neighbor be educated, employed, and a law abiding citizen who is not engaged in a criminal lifestyle, or would you prefer for your future neighbor to merely be waiting for their probation or supervised release officer to violate them and return them to prison?” These are the choices. I, for one, chose education, not reincarceration.

Christopher ZoukisChristopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles.  His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.

Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education.  Recently, he was the focus of an article at concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.

When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at,, and

His latest book is The Directory of Federal Prisons:’s Federal Bureau of Prison Facility Directory.

Story and Setting by T c Tombs, author of Run with the Wolves


Run wit the WolvesIt is the fifteenth century, and three kingdoms are caught up in the dire conflicts of their time. As the possibility of a peaceful resolution provides hope that a decade-long war will finally end, no one realizes that dark forces are waiting to invoke chaos as a full moon rises.

On a farm nestled beneath the Euralene Mountains along the western border of Medinia, young Willie works for the Smythes as a serf. One moonlit evening when the Smythes are gone to a neighbouring village, Willie hears the terrified cries of animals in the pastures. When he goes to investigate, he discovers that this wolf pack attack is like no other. Badly injured during the raid, he survives—but now he is afflicted by the full-moon madness that will soon transform him into one of the wolf creatures he dreads. With his life seemingly warped forever, Willie must face the prospect of a lifelong descent into horror.

In a time of witchcraft, superstitious folk lore, and fearsome creatures roaming the night, Willie struggles with an uncertain destiny and must seek help from the one man he holds most responsible for the dark fate that awaits him during the next full moon cycle.

“Beware of the full moon. This one is for all of the werewolf lovers!”

—Top Book Reviewers

A well-written and addictive first novel.

—Blue Ink Review

A well-developed, tightly plotted fantasy; readers will want installments two and three.

—Kirkus Reviews

Purchase your copy:


   Story and Setting 

In writing the “Run with the Wolves” saga I initially had a concept for a story about a number of different people who suffered from afflictions that were not of their choosing – and how differently those various people chose to deal with what fate had cruelly bestowed upon them. I had in mind a ‘Vampire-like’ character; a ‘Pack’ of both wolves and wolf-like humans who suffered from a lunar-sickness; and finally, a group of people who were rejected by society due to physical abnormalities or forced into hiding due to religious persecution.

To make these characters come to life, it quickly became apparent to me that the setting was going to be every bit as important as the story itself.

I did a lot of research – and a lot of soul searching too, I suppose. The more I learned, the more I was drawn to the life and times of the 15th century in Medieval Europe, and in particular, to the year 1461. This was century of great discovery and learning. It was also a time of terrible repression and great cruelty.

The 15th century saw the birth of great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Copernicus. The famous explorers Bartolomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Vasco da Gamo opened up the world to new trade routes and lands not previously known to Europe. It was a century that saw the Johannes Gutenberg printed bible and the founding of universities in places such as Barcelona.

The 15th century saw the birth of Joan of Arc in 1412, saw her lead the French forces against the English in 1428, and watched as she was burned at the stake in1431. It saw the execution of the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus. It was the time of the War of the Roses, the Plagues that swept across Europe, the on-going conflict between the three pillars of society – the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. It was a century that saw the expulsion of Jews from Portugal and Spain – and of course, the ‘Inquisition’ under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

And, it was the century that saw the advent of firearms and the change that development brought to warfare. If all that wasn’t enough, it was the time of Vlad the Impaler – the man said to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s story ‘Dracula’. What better setting for my fantasy epic to take place in than this time period!

I hope you will check out my trilogy ‘Run with the Wolves’. Pick up a copy of Volume One ‘The Pack’ and see for yourself how history and fiction can be mixed to deliver a spell-binding tale that will keep you riveted and entertained.

Please visit my website for retail sites, full reviews, storyboards, and special events.

All the best T c Tombs


T c TOMBS earned degrees from Trent University and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. Like many Canadians, he loves hockey and golf, and he has a passion for medieval history, folk lore, literature, film, and music. Terry and his wife, Sandra, live in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, where they have raised five daughters.

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