Spotlight with Mita Balani

A Spotlight with Mita Balani

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mita Balani was born in a small town of India and has been living in the United States for several years. Growing up, she cherished writing stories and reciting poems. In engineering college, where most of her classmates published technical papers, she enjoyed taking part in storytelling contests, debates, and poetry competitions. Today she has a successful career in Information Technology, but she still loves writing stories and poems. This book is her first foray in writing a novel. This novel is inspired from parts of a true story. Life experiences of an Indian origin lesbian friend living in the United States inspired her to write this story.

You can connect with author on her website at www.mitabalani.com
You can follow the author on social media:
Facebook: @MitaBalaniAuthor
Instagram: mitabalani
Twitter: @MitaBalani
Pintrest: mitabalani 

ABOUT BREAKING NORMS

Breaking Norms is a story of two Indian girls living in Mumbai. It’s a tale of friendship, love and the struggle to be together as a same-sex couple. The book depicts their romantic love (non-erotic) and emotional journey from Mumbai to New Jersey through the social/cultural/family tussle and anguish. 

Description:

What if you fall in love and your family thinks you are crazy? Sonia too gets in a similar situation.

Sonia, a submissive and people-pleasing girl falls in love with the chirpy girl Esha. Their common passion for painting brings them closer. Sonia realizes that no one in her family will accept her relationship with Esha. But her heart and emotional state are beyond the control of her own mind. At first, they keep their relationship on the hush. Unfortunately, their secret comes out in an ugly way and havoc breaks loose. Will Sonia stand up for herself and withstand the pressure of not following the cultural norms? Are they destined to meet? Can Sonia and Esha live happily ever after?

Breaking Norms is a captivating and engrossing tale of love, agony and tolerance.

Book Video Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4aWt8Up6tQ

Find this novel on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Links given below for more details:

Amazon Australia Kindle

Amazon USA Kindle

Goodreads

A Few Quotes from Breaking Norms 

“The silence of the house gives the feeling of loneliness, broken hearts, and perhaps damaged relationships.”

“Abruptly, the promise of not leaving your husband until death hits me hard. I feel as if I am a demon who doesn’t want to play by the rules of marriage.”

“My own mind turns into my clever foe, leaving me miserable and unhappy, dropping me at the corner of a bifurcated road, for me to decide one path over the other to walk on.”

“A relationship with sadness is not new to me by now. But this time around, the depth of it is beyond anything I ever witnessed or even imagined.”

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Spotlight with Christopher David Rosales – Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper

A Spotlight with Christopher David Rosales

David Rosales is the author of ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’ and today you guys are lucky enough to get to see an excerpt from it!

Feeling excited about the novel already? Here are some links to get you started:
Official Website, Facebook, Twitter 

—-

It was hard to say how Rudy Two’s son, the one called Tre, thought back then.

He stood in the square, against the town hall’s muraled wall, smoking from a joint pinched tight between his fingers. He was young, maybe eighteen, but more than that he was mean and we didn’t want to admit he might think like us—even if he did.

He had one foot kicked back flat against the painted wall, and grease smudged the toe of his shoe where it wore thin from all the gear-shifting in traffic. The motorbike wasn’t far. Wasn’t ever far. He’d left it in the shade in an alley so its red wouldn’t draw more attention. Still, it was getting late. The sun in the square was orange now. The birds were returning, one by one like fat drops of oil splashing at his feet. They hobbled near the broken fountain, where the old men fed them bread.

Another young man called Junior lumbered across the cobbles carrying a crushed envelope. Junior, big and baby-faced but no younger than Tre, almost leaned on the mural to catch his breath but dropped that hand with the other to both knees and went on panting. Tre went on leaning coolly, thinking cool thoughts and staring at the broken fountain in the center of the square. At least three different statues of three different mayors had stood there in his lifetime. He smirked at the crumbled concrete loafer, all that remained of one. These politicos, and their reverse Cinderella dreams. He imagined the same old loafer passed along from statue to statue, from mayor to mayor, from prince to prince. His sister, Nora, was back home, pining for her own kind of slipper offered by some wealthy politico or decorated militant. Tre coughed a laugh to himself. No one in his family knew how to live in this world without depending on others. No one knew how to survive. No one but him.

The painted figure in the mural that towered above the young men was sleek, rosy, and stiff, with a blank expression that could have been mistaken for… Tre theorized constipation, but it was probably meant to show purpose. He offered Junior the joint, but Junior waved it away, still catching his breath.

Tre smoked deep. “Too good, or what?”

“We’re self-employed.” Junior clutched his heaving side. “A business man’s got to set some standards.”

“Oh, and you think this is that kind of business?” Tre laughed. The best way to survive was to adopt new standards, moral and otherwise. At first, his new standards had been a tight heat in the muscles of the jaw and behind the eyelids. At first they were a new skin tight on his face like steam. At first. He checked his cheap plastic watch and held the other hand out for the letter. “Come on.”

“You come on.” Junior finally caught his breath, but didn’t relax. “And don’t lean against that mural, Mamón.” Junior handed the envelope over.

“Why not?” Tre angled his head back until the mural sprawled upside down from his forehead, pouring into the blue. “Who is this guy, anyway?”

“It’s the fucking mayor,” Junior said. “Don’t play dumb.”

“Huh.” Tre may have been reading the letter. He looked at it, at least. Then he used it to tap the mural over his shoulder. “I thought it was Ricky Ricardo.” Yes, his new standards eliminated the guilt, because it was impossible to feel guilty for taking a life he resented.

“Ricky who?”  But Junior squinted one eye up and down, nodding slow recognition at the mural now.

Tre crushed the papers into a ball and tossed them at his feet. He was already laughing at Junior. The joint, Tre plucked from his lips and rubbed out on the manhole sized bottom-button of the mayor’s coat. “The money?”

“Un uh.” Junior said. “After.”

Tre shrugged, held his hand out again. Junior let a handful of bronze bullets fall one by one into Tre’s greasy palm. Tre smiled then. Some things he could still feel the old way. Bullets cold as ice chips in his sweaty palm. A girl’s pussy, hot as a washcloth. He was easy to please.

“Do you ever…” Junior swallowed.

“Do I ever what?”

“Do you ever feel guilty?”

Without opening his mouth Tre licked the outsides of all of his teeth. He shook his head no.

Yeah. It was easier for us to pretend he didn’t think like us. Maybe that he didn’t think at all. Still.

A single bullet fell from Tre’s palm, turning round, and bounced once on the cobbles.

Junior groaned and bent to pick up the ringing bullet but, before he could reach, Tre toed the shiny thing like a snuffed cigarette.

“Not that one,” Tre said.

Junior smacked his lips. “That shit cost me five dollars. What you talking about, not that one?”

“You’ve got yours. I’ve got mine. Standards, homie,” Tre said, grinning. “Standards.”

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Spotlight with Jose Patterson

Jose Patterson on the origins of her newest novel, My Aunt Manya

I live in the university city of Oxford which, by its very nature, always has a ‘floating’ population of visiting scholars. It was always the custom for my late husband and I to invite guests to share Friday night – the beginning of the Sabbath day – with us. During one never to be forgotten Friday night dinner when the conversation was buzzing, our American friend Susie told us about her grandmother, Sarah who was 11 years old in 1891 and lived near the Russian town of Bialystok. Her father had gone to New York to stay with his sister while he looked for work, leaving Sarah behind with her hated stepmother. Her young life changed forever when she heard from her Aunt the sad news of her father’s sudden death. Her Aunt sent her a boat ticket, some money and the offer of a home. Sarah fled the pogroms and set off alone on the long hazardous journey to Ellis Island. When she finally arrived she learned that her Aunt had died the week before. She was saved from the threat of deportation by her aunt’s two close friends.

These are the few treasured facts on which I based the story of My Aunt Manya which some reviewers – including Clare Morpurgo – have likened to the plight of modern immigrants. As I have mentioned it is indeed a fascinating story and I do hope you will enjoy reading it.

Release notes of My Aunt Manya

José Patterson’s latest children’s story details the journey of Sarah a ten-year old immigrant making her way to America (Based on a true story)

From acclaimed children’s author José Patterson comes a new story that will hit home.

Set in Russia at the end of the 19th century, My Aunt Manya is a period novel featuring heroine Sarah, who lives unhappily with her much-hated stepmother. Sarah’s father has gone to live in New York with his sister Manya while he looks for a job.  Sarah’s life changes overnight when Aunt Manya writes with news that her father has been killed in an accident. She sends her a boat ticket, some money and an offer of a home.

Sarah’s family and friends are poor, Yiddish-speaking Russian Jews. When Sarah’s friends get word that a group of Cossacks is planning a pogrom attack, they lose no time in helping her to set out alone on the longest journey of her young life. 

My Aunt Manya is a heart-warming story of Sarah’s journey to America on the ‘other side of the world.’ She becomes an immigrant with just one goal – to live with her Aunt Manya in a free country. Sarah faces difficulties and dangers of the unknown with great courage and determination which, together with the ‘hand of fate,’ combine to make this an unforgettable story.  Released during a time where immigration is a hotly-debated topic in the UK,  My Aunt Manya will show young readers what it is truly like to be an immigrant.  

José’s first novel, No Buts, Becky! was a runner up in the People’s Book Prize Award Competition and finalist in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2013.

Website: http://www.josepatterson.com/

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Guest Post: Robert Eggleton on ‘Reality-Based Inspiration’

Guest Post with Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The Advance Review Copy of Rarity from the Hollow received considerable praise through Robert learning about the world of books as a novice. The final edition was released to Amazon on December 5, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert worked for this agency in the early ‘80s and stands by its good works. He continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group psychotherapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Rarity from the Hollow

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

 

 

The Past is the Past
Reality-Based Inspiration in Fiction

Originally rejected by elitist publishers, George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), semiautobiographical, is still regarded as one of fiction’s most inspiring works. The Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1967) similarly inspired people concerning a disease that continues to devastate families worldwide. Separated by decades, what do these two books have in common? In addition to great writing styles, the technique used to inspire readers is similar. There are many other examples of books that inspire by: if you think that your life sucks, read this. It will make you feel better. This book helps you appreciate what is going right in your life because what’s going on in the lives of characters in the story is awful.

Several notches above listening to an inspirational speaker selling a get-rich scheme, such as was once popular in real estate, other books reach for human drive and ambitions to inspire. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1938) is the best selling self-help book of all time. A cornerstone was its wisdom on how to increase earning power – you can influence the behavior of others by how you behave toward them. A son of a poor farmer, Carnegie’s success (except in marriage) made fiction writers of millions of people in their relationships with others. As a former door-to-door Amway salesperson during college, attitudes and skills shared by Carnegie did prove effective in me paying for my books and tuition. I became a master of the compliment, heartfelt or not. Yes, we can become inspired to achieve material success.

Not counting the thousands of other great books which have inspired us to diet, eat more nutritionally…, one of my personal favorite inspirational books was The Art of Happiness (1998) by Dalai Lama. In contrast to books that inspired pursuit of materialism, this one encouraged us to reflect on our inner selves and to find out what happiness truly means. It questioned whether material success equates with true happiness. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time concentrating on self-reflection if I’m worried about paying the electricity bill. For those who have achieved financial security, and who have found that happiness is elusive despite wealth, books like this one have been successful even if many of the concepts promoted in them cannot be proven to be fact.

Of course, The Bible has inspired countless individuals worldwide. So have Shruti for believers of Hinduism, The Tripitaka for those holding faith in Buddhism, Tanakh – the Hebrew Bible, and several other religious texts. For me, while most familiar with Christianity, the inspirational technique employed is fear: to prevent one’s eternal damnation to everlasting Hell – comply with the scriptures.

Apparently, threats can be inspiring. Quite a few folks who post on Facebook seem to believe so. The principle religious text of Islam is the Qur’an. It would be impossible to count the number of hate posts in recent months that inspire people to vote for politicians and policies because if you don’t, in effect, Muslims will rape all white Christian women unless they marry them first during childhood – all supposedly found in this book.

Have I gotten off on a tangent? This article was supposed to be about inspiration in fiction. Before I consider addressing superheroes, John Wayne-type characters, and the G.I. Joes, please note that, depending on reader interpretation, there may be a fine line between fiction and nonfiction. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to offend any readers of this blog. And, because that was precisely my dilemma as I wrote my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. How could I inspire sensitivity to the plight of maltreated children without taking readers outside of their comfort zones?

All things considered, I knew that I didn’t want to: (1) write something so tragic that it merely promoted readers to be grateful that their own childhoods had not been filled with horror; (2) sell the prevention of child maltreatment based on the positive economic impact that it would have on society or as a tax deductible contribution; (3) promise people that they will feel better about themselves if they contribute to the prevention of child maltreatment; (4) threaten people with damnation if they ignore needful kids; (5) or, warn people that maltreated children will grow up to victimize others, such as increased crime, if they don’t do something to help them now. All that has been tried before and child victimization rates are going up: new federal data shows nearly 3-percent rise in child abuse.

On the other hand, I also didn’t want to draw a veil over such a huge social problem as child maltreatment when writing Rarity from the Hollow. Some Young Adult novels that I’ve read, authors address childhood maltreatment without pulling a single one of my heart strings. Yes, there are wonderful books for children similar to Bobby and Mandee’s Good Touch / Bad Touch by Robert Kahn (2011), but as a retired children’s psychotherapist determined to write a novel that could potentially impact social policy, I knew that my book wouldn’t target children or even teens consumed with plot-driven escapist fiction.

I decided that Rarity from the Hollow would sensitize and inspire adult readers who were not prudish, faint-of-heart, or easily offended. I later realized, as the Advance Review Copy of my novel was being circulated, this designation carried an unintended message about my story to some potential readers and book reviewers – that it contained heavy sexual or violent content. Before the release of the final edition of my novel to Amazon on December 5, 2016, I wrote an article that was published on a book blog in an effort to clarify its content.

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist. While participating with the editor on the final edition, as mentioned above, I sure had collected a bunch of elements that I didn’t want to portray in my debut novel. Most of the writing had been done after coming home drained from having worked at the local mental health center all day. Exhausted, at some point I made a very inspirational decision for me. Half of author proceeds are donated to the prevention of child maltreatment. http://childhswv.org I’m not sure if this aspect of the project has inspired others, but it did the trick for me.

Rarity from the Hollow uses soft science fiction as a backdrop, but has elements of other genres: fantasy, everyday horror, a ghost — so it’s a little paranormal, true-love type romance, mystery, and adventure. The content addresses social issues: poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, local and intergalactic economics, mental health concerns – including PTSD experienced by Veterans and the medicinal use of marijuana for treatment of Bipolar Disorder, Capitalism, and touches on the role of Jesus: “Jesus is everybody’s friend, not just humans.”

Several book reviewers have commented that the story is unique. Here’s one: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….”

I selected science fiction as the backdrop because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The way I see it, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the straight literary, biographical, exposé, memoir, or nonfiction genres wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.

I felt that Rarity form the Hollow had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity – living in the past. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre.  That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

Readers who are used to the fantastical may feel less inspired about my bottom line to achieve a HEA ending for Rarity from the Hollow. While I don’t want to spoil anything for prospective readers, and I don’t think that this will, in the spaceship on their way home after saving the universe, Lacy Dawn’s father asks her, “Will you ever forgive me?” She answers, “No, but I will always love you.” Such is the optimal resolution of real-life child maltreatment cases. While it may never be forgotten or forgiven, the ability to put the past in the past and to move on with our lives regardless of the pain that we all have suffered from time to time, is the key to achieving true inspiration in fiction and in life.

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Guest Post: Erik Therme on ‘Kindle Scout’

An Introduction to Kindle Scout!

I’m excited to hold a guest post today by Erik Therme! I’ve previously interviewed Erik for the release of his second novel, and reviewed his first novel, Morton. This newest novel is titled ROAM.

Erik wants to tell us about Kindle Scout as an option for non-traditional publishing. Take it away Erik!

One of the questions I’m most commonly asked is one of the most difficult to answer: “How should I publish my book? Should I pursue a traditional publishing deal, which might take months—if not years—to attain? Or should I self-publish, which leaves me in total creative control . . . but also in control of everything?” The easy answer, of course, is that both paths have their pros and cons, but what many people don’t realize is there’s a third option: Kindle Scout.

For those not familiar with Scout, it’s an Amazon program where readers “vote” on whether or not a book should be awarded a publishing contract. Authors promote their book for 30 days, and at the end of that time, the Scout team makes a determination. The process is surprisingly simple.

The first thing you need is a cover. Sure, you can whip one up yourself using free online tools, but let me offer a strong caveat: To be a fiscally successful writer, you have to treat your writing like a business, which means spending money. Think of your cover as an investment. It’s the first thing a reader is going to see. Yes, it can get pricey to have one designed from scratch, but pre-made covers are prevalent and affordable. Two of my books—Resthaven and Roam—were both existing covers from a pre-made site, and I’ve gotten numerous compliments on both. Spend some money on a cover. You won’t regret it.

Next: uploading your manuscript. The Scout site recommends your book be professionally copyedited before submission, but for those who can’t afford that expense, fear not—if the book is selected, it will be edited before publication. Some books receive light in-house editing, while others are outsourced to Kirkus. Regardless, having your book copyedited before you submit will only increase your chances of having it selected, so if you have the funds, it’s not a bad idea.

Last, but certainly not least, is your book description. I could easily write an entire post on crafting book blurbs, but for now, I’ll keep it simple. At minimum, you want to disclose the protagonist, the setting, and reveal the conflict. Show what’s at stake. Your goal is to hook the reader and entice them into wanting more. Some authors joke it’s more difficult to write the book description than the actual book, but don’t despair; practice makes perfect!

And with that, you’re ready to submit. Once everything is uploaded, it only takes a few days for your campaign to go live on the Kindle Scout site. If your campaign receives a lot of page visits and votes (or nominations, as they call them) your book goes into the “Hot & Trending” category. The longer it stays in this category, the better chance it has of being noticed. The final selection process is based on multiple factors, and no one—not even previous Scout winners—knows the exact criteria.

Writing a book in itself is a major accomplishment and one you should be proud of –regardless of whether or not you’re selected. All you can do is write the best book you can, believe in yourself, and try to make your own luck.

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Spotlight on The Helper by M. N. SNow

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. N. SNow’s bio includes years as a public radio host and anchor, primarily in the south Florida market, but also for Wisconsin Public Radio. M. N. has had various short stories published and was a contributing writer for Reader Weekly, in Duluth, MN. M. N. is also a published cartoonist and a former Marine Corps NCO.  After spending some years at home in the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior, WI,  the author is currently back living in Key West, FL.

Find this novel on FaceBook and GoodReads, and purchase at Create Space, Amazon, or as an eBook only.

Prologue:

Coyote peered through the bushes and watched the scene unfold. The four legged Trickster knew the humans needed his help. He just didn’t know if he wanted to give it. They could certainly use it, but would it be the best for all concerned? And, would helping them provide him with the most satisfaction? He would just have to watch and wait, as they would. Helping, hurting, hot and cold, part god, part animal. The Trickster.

The Ojibwe, or Chippewa, of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada didn’t have a Trickster that walked on all fours. Nope, theirs stood upright on two legs. Part god, part human. Many of the tribe thought this a better figure, more appropriate given the Trickster’s nature. Especially the human part. Prone to fits of anger, jealousy and resentment. Able to alter events in a way that only a god could, but given to episodes of what can only be described as Trickster-ness. That could only be described as, well, human.

His name is Nana’b’oozoo. A child of the heavens and of the earth, growing up parent-less. Some of the Ojibwe People went so far as to describe him as Jesus-like. After they had found out who Jesus was, that is. Before that time he was only, as he still is, Nana’b’oozoo. God and man, together as one, walking the earth. With god-like talents and human traits. Said not without a certain amount of pride, especially when compared to the four legged Legend of southwestern and western tribes. Not an animal like theirs, but a man. Upright, on two legs, just like us. Pride not an emotion limited to gods. But a Trickster is as a Trickster does, and so they shall. And so shall we.

People fail and people fall. Often noticed, quite often unnoticed. A story as old as time. A story as old as stories. As likely to happen today as it was in the time before time. And if you think tragic surrenders and mythic tribulations happened only in the past, you are truly mistaken. One need only look at tonight’s network news or read today’s newspaper. There are people plummeting from sight every second, often taking others with them. Heck, you only need cast your glance as far as the cubicle next to yours, or peer across the factory floor to see the possibilities. How much do you really know about those people? Do you think that it is not going on around you even at this moment? When a county worker in Florida goes on a rampage and takes three people down with him, do you think that is fiction? When a postal worker or a high school student or even that traffic-jammed driver ahead of you snaps and takes it out on those surrounding him, do you think that is fiction? Let me clear something up right now. That tree philosophers talk about, you know, the one falling in the woods? I’m here to tell you that just because you’re not there to hear it, it still makes a sound. Quite often the sickening sound of that very same tree squashing an innocent passerby. Do not doubt that for a moment.

And yet, sometimes that falling tree, for seemingly no reason at all, does not hit the ground. Sometimes it is brought back upright, before it hits. Before the destruction occurs, it finds itself standing straight, and taller than before, having been helped by a force or forces unseen. Again, do not doubt me for a moment, it happens.

This last reality makes up hope for the eyes peering through the bushes. We know they are there, we have seen both sides of the outcome far too many times to doubt it. The eyes are there and they can help us. The question is, the hope is, will they help us?

Many, many times people fall and fall hard. And sometimes they are Helped.

…Cast me not away from thy presence,

and take not thy holy Spirit from me.

Restore me to the joy of thy salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51, verses 11 and 12.

 

I’m the Helen Keller man, staring at the sky.

Helen Keller man, don’t know how or why.

Am I who I think I am, or am I just a lie?

Helen…Keller…Man

lyrics from “Helen Keller Man”

by Velva Scourge

Hi I’m Greg and I’m back from Honduras.

I was down there teachin’ little kids to kill.

lyrics from “He Said, He Said”

by Mortal Engines.

Chapter 1

Trickster tells his tale…

The first time John Sloan Helped someone was in 1971. He was four years old. He already had a sense that he was different but was too young to know anything more.

John’s mother Roberta had dragged him, along with his five-year-old brother James, to James’s kindergarten class. Roberta was always dragging extra kids along—always a bit behind, as is the case with mothers of children who have husbands who earn their wages over the road. Darn good wages both Roberta and her husband Hugo would agree, but nonetheless things like kindergarten fell upon Roberta’s shoulders much more squarely than Hugo’s. At that time they numbered five children, from ages two to nine, with one more to come in another year or so.

Tall Roberta, five-feet, seven-inches of dark flowing hair, red lipstick, and flashing brown eyes, lugging John along with James to school on that gray, northern Wisconsin, December day. They were late for the four-hour, afternoon class and Roberta went over to Mrs. Hinkley, James’s teacher, to explain how Theresa, the nine year old, had spilled Campbell’s tomato soup on Tracey the two year old and a chain of events had started. Theresa was home sick from school, and should have been in bed, but she wanted to help her mom and it had all gotten out of control so very quickly, as Mrs. Hinkley knew so well. She had twenty-six little potential soup spillers that could quickly bring schedules to a halt.

While Roberta was laughingly commiserating with Mrs. Hinkley, John had wandered over to the brightly decorated Christmas tree that a few of the other children were admiring. He stood back a bit from the others and he smiled. And he felt it. What he was to come to feel quite often during his life. His “extra-ness”, his “special-ness,” stood up a bit inside of him and said, “watch and wait.” Goose bumps broke out on John’s arms and back. So John did as he was told. He watched and waited… and he glowed.

Three little girls and one little boy were carefully stepping around the twinkling Christmas tree. They were playing a guessing game. They were guessing which of their classmates had brought in which decorations. They would point and touch an ornament and say, “oh, that’s from Terry Archambault. And that star is from Ruby Cerdich.”

One of the girls was being extra careful. She had straight, jet black hair that spilled all the way down to her lower back and a smile that was all the more beautiful for it’s missing front teeth. Her name was Lorraine, but Lorraine wasn’t smiling much these days. No, life was not a big barrel of grinning monkeys for little Lainie as of late. Lorraine, or Lainie as her dad used to call her, had a secret. And she couldn’t tell anybody about that secret. Nope, she couldn’t tell a soul, and if she could have put it into words she would have said that the secret was killing her.

Lainie had brought in a beautiful stained glass angel that hung from a silver string. Lainie’s mother had made that angel for last year’s Christmas tree. That turned out to be the last piece of stained glass that Lainie’s mother Evelyn was ever to make. Evelyn was diagnosed by the middle of January and had lasted until spring. This was Lainie’s first Christmas without her mother, and Lainie shouldn’t have brought the stained glass decoration to class. It belonged in the basement. Lainie’s father Douglas had been very firm about that. Lainie was not to touch any of her mother’s things. They stayed in the basement! The very back of the basement. Crouched, dusty, hidden.

Douglas had been so devastated by Evelyn’s death that he had taken everything connected with her, boxed it up and trundled it all down to the basement where it was now stacked in the darkest recesses of the musty, dimly lit cellar. Every article of clothing, every brush and comb, every picture that included Evelyn was grimly boxed up and taped shut. Especially the pictures. Douglas had sent Lainie to her aunt Agnes’s house one Sunday shortly after the funeral and finished the chore in an afternoon. Anything that included death’s hollow scent was now shut away down-cellar. These boxes included all of the stained glass pieces that Evelyn had so lovingly crafted. And the boxes were not to be touched or spoken of. Lainie’s father was very clear on that fact. He had sat Lainie down that Sunday evening and told her not to touch the boxes and not to speak of the boxes.

“Mommy is dead”, her dad had choked out. Lainie could still see her father’s empty eyes staring out the window and hear his haunted voice, so unlike the voice she knew, tell her in no uncertain terms that “she wasn’t to touch anything in the back of the cellar. Ever!” That was the last time Lainie and her father had spoken of her mother. Her dad had changed.

From that point on her dad had started fading away. Not only was Lainie losing memories of her mother, but it also seemed that her father was disappearing, bit by bit and day by day, right before her eyes. What did she do wrong, she thought? Why did God do this? I miss my mommy and why can’t I crawl up into my daddy’s lap anymore? Lainie thought that she might be disappearing too, and this really scared her. When she held out her arm and looked at her hand she could still see her fingers but she wasn’t sure that they weren’t fading a bit. She would stand in front of the full length mirror on the back of her bedroom door and stare at herself and sometimes see that she was not all there. No, she was not all there, at all. She thought that she might be turning into a ghost and that scared her so badly that one day she almost peed in her pants. Frozen white and swaying in front of the mirror she had seen nothing. Lainie didn’t look in that mirror anymore, but she remembered.

This was the secret that Lainie carried hidden inside her that day in the classroom. This and more. Lainie had snuck down-cellar, found the boxes that contained her mother’s stained glass pieces and found the angel. Her mom had made it ‘specially for her and she just had to bring it to class for the tree. She had to bring it or she would disappear completely and no one would ever be able to see her again. She would still be alive and walking around, but she knew that no one would be able to see her.

As Lainie and the other children circled the tree looking at the pretty ornaments, “ormaments” Jimmy Tong called them, John watched. He felt the something swell up and glow inside of himself. He intuitively knew that he was there to Help, whatever that meant. He didn’t know who he was there to Help, but he understood that something was coming on none the less. Lainie caught his eye, and in spite of the fact that she looked so sad, he felt good. No, not just good, or even great. John felt perfect.

Lainie spied her mom’s angel hanging from the branch where she had placed it with Mrs. Hinkley’s help. She stood still and looked at it, mesmerized by the light dancing out from the different colored pieces of glass inside of it. The light seemed to dance out to her and twirl around her. The shards of light that were coming out of the angel’s eyes shot out and stopped right in front of Lainie’s face and seemed to be looking at her. The other kids had moved on to the other side of the tree and Lainie was alone, frozen in her spot, surrounded by light from the stained glass angel. Lainie was petrified. She didn’t think this was any angel anymore. Gosh no. She saw her mom’s eyes and maybe something darker and horrible behind that. Bad eyes.

John watched all of this, and saw and felt it too. He now knew that Lainie was falling. She was falling into a dark pit in horrified slow motion. John was only four years old and didn’t know this in words, but he knew it just the same. He saw it in pictures that appeared in his mind. In spite of it all he felt perfect. He felt a power plant swell through him, humming away and powering up.

John watched as the hypnotized Lainie swayed and started inching toward the tree. Lainie wanted to touch the angel. She was being drawn to the angel against her will. Her arm was outstretched and her pointed finger was moving toward the angel to touch it. It was right at this time that the children on the other side of the tree started goosing each other and when Jimmy Tong started tickling Rosemary Banks, Rosemary let out a shriek. A loud shriek. A fingernails down the blackboard shriek that shatters glass, and causes fillings to vibrate, kind of shriek. This shriek caused Lainie’s feet to get tangled up and she tripped in her trance-like walk toward her mother’s shining angel. The trip was turning into a fall as Lainie stretched out both hands toward the tree, toward the angel. One hand grabbed a branch and stopped Lainie’s slow motion fall. But Lainie’s other hand, her offending hand, had grabbed her mother’s angel. Horrified, Lainie looked and saw that she was squeezing the angel with her other hand. She was squeezing it so hard that she was going to break it, and so because this was her mother’s angel, Lainie’s only link to her lost mom, she let go of it.

Things slowed down and John was able to see through Lainie’s eyes. The stained glass angel came loose from the tree and was starting its fall to the floor. John was helpless to stop its flight and knew that this wasn’t his job to do. John and Lainie watched as the twirling angel head-over-heeled its way to the brown tile floor. Just before its slow-motion descent reached the floor it was facing up and there were beams of colored light shooting out of its angel eyes looking directly into Lainie’s. Nothing had stopped, the angel didn’t hover and look into Lainie’s eyes, but there was one split second, one nano-second, one moment where its eyes glowed beseechingly into Lainie’s eyes. “Help,” they said. And then the angel hit the tile floor and shattered.

A kindergarten classroom has a certain level of noise to it. A buzzing murmur at the best of times, much louder at other times, but breaking glass has a tendency to get everyone’s attention even if they are preoccupied five-year-olds. Then, quickly as you can say “Jimmy Tong said Patricia Barnes was full of crap”, the room was silent. All eyes intuitively sought out Lainie, and as quickly as that, the buzz returned. It returned for all except Lainie. Inside Lainie all was silent. Lainie had shattered too.

Mrs. Hinkley was quick to rush to Lainie’s side, somehow knowing that it wasn’t Lainie’s fault but also not knowing how important the angel had been to Lainie. John’s mom Roberta also came quickly over and helped get Lainie seated in one of those small kid’s chairs that we wonder how we ever fit in, and helped Mrs. Hinkley start the process of cleaning up the shattered stained glass pieces.

John found himself sitting in the chair next to Lainie. He saw her big brown eyes fill with tears and knew that she had lost. Not that she was lost, suggesting a situation from which one could be found. No, no, no. Lainie was only five years old and she had lost. Never to win again. Shit, never to lose again. Lainie was five years old, it was Christmas, her mother had died, her father was disappearing, and she had broken her mother’s last present to her, that she wasn’t supposed to touch. Ever! Lainie had lost. It was OVER and John knew it. Lainie had reached a pivot point and been catapulted in a direction from which there was no return. Five years old and already over. And if you think it doesn’t happen, think again.

John sat in the chair next to Lainie and John’s newly realized extra-ness sat down in it with him. He was only four years old, not five like Lainie which is huge to kids, but he knew what to do. He took his left hand and grabbed Lainie’s right hand and said, “Hi Lainie. My name is John.” He hadn’t known what to say until that moment, hadn’t known to clasp her hand until that instant, and yet that is what he did. That is when John felt it happen. In an amount of time that knew no time, John had the whole story—Cancer, death, a disappearing father, her fading mirror image, and now this. This is when the “little bit of extra”, that was really a whole lot, did what it did.

Lainie looked into John’s green eyes and it happened. John felt the flow pour out of him. A rushing, gushing, flow of good and of light and of Perfect that splashed back and forth over them. It felt like pure love and a lot more. It felt like crawling in bed with his mother and father times nine gajillion and John didn’t even know his multiplication tables yet. Shoot he was still learning his adds.

No other words were spoken. John held Lainie’s hand while Mrs. Hinkley and Roberta finished the sweeping up and the rest of the children got back to the business of being, well, children.

As John grew older there were often more words spoken and more time involved but when he was young the Helping rarely involved more than a greeting and two names. His and theirs. John realized he wasn’t really doing anything. There just seemed to be a pipeline that poured out of him. It was good, and it washed, and it turned losers into winners. Or more accurately the Lost into the Found.

And Lainie knew. She knew that she was washed. And clean and loved and they both accepted in that instant that Lainie would not remember much of that instant and John would. That’s just how it worked. Lainie had been Helped, with a capitol H, and for the first time, John Sloan was a Helper. John felt warm and good and older and perfect. He somehow grasped that no one would ever realize what had just happened. He also knew that because of this Helping, Lainie would go home and talk with her father and he would cry and she would cry, and that Lainie’s dad would stop disappearing and Lainie could look in a mirror again, and that they would go on together as father and daughter.

It was good. That had been a long time ago, thirty-plus years, but John could still remember how very good it had been from that very first time on. Yes, being a Helper was good. The ability to Help was good. And now it was gone.

End of Chapter 1

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THE INKITT APP BRINGS THOUSANDS OF NOVELS BY INDIE AUTHORS TO LIGHT!

THE INKITT APP BRINGS THOUSANDS OF NOVELS BY INDIE AUTHORS TO ANDROID

Inkitt empowers readers and publishers to discover world’s next best sellers

BERLIN, JANUARY 7, 2017: Inkitt, the world’s first readers and data-driven book publishing house is introducing an Android app for phones and tablets, globally available from today.

Inkitt’s iOS app became available back in November and was well received by users: The app was not only featured on the US App Store but also on numerous other App Stores around the world, as well as on the front page of Product Hunt, ranking in the top 10 in Tech.

Inkitt for iOS featured as a top Books app in the US App Store

Following the warm welcome by the iOS community, and in order to meet the demand of their own fast growing user base, Inkitt is now bringing their digital library with thousands of novels by emerging authors to Android devices.

“It was a great reward to see Inkitt featured as a top app in numerous App Stores around the world and receive such great feedback from users” says Inkitt’s Founder and CEO, Ali Albazaz. “Readers were really excited about the iOS app but kept asking when we’re launching on Android too. We heard them, worked really hard and today we’re bringing Inkitt to Android devices. All readers will now be able to discover tomorrow’s bestsellers on the go and read great novels by upcoming authors wherever they are.”

Inkitt for Android – 4 key features:

  • Access to thousands of novels from all fiction genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, drama, action, adventure, YA and more
  • Personalized reading suggestions: hand-picked novels based on a reader’s favorite fiction genres
  • Customizable look to match user preferences (e.g. font size, color combinations)
  • Online/Offline: readers can save novels to their offline library to access them anytime

Beyond being a platform connecting aspiring authors with book lovers, Inkitt’s mission is to become the world’s fairest publishing house: Its in-house developed algorithm analyzes reading behavior to determine the potential of a novel to become the next bestseller. Using this unique data-driven approach, Inkitt wants to ensure that great works by new and talented writers never again stay in the dark.

Since July, Inkitt has published 7 novels: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (Fantasy), Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan (YA Romance), I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben (YA Romance Mystery), Esper Files by Egan Brass (SciFi) and Caged by Onaiza Khan (Psychological Thriller),  King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc (Fantasy Romance) and Three Fat Singletons by J.M. Bartholomew (Humor Romance), six of which became bestsellers on Amazon.

Inkitt for Android will be available to download on Google Play from the 7th of January 2017

About Inkitt

On the surface, Inkitt (www.inkitt.com) is a platform where aspiring writers can share their novels and inquisitive readers can unearth fresh content. But under the hood, we are democratizing publishing: The Inkitt algorithm analyzes reading behavior to predict future bestsellers. In other words: if readers love it, Inkitt publishes it.

 

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Interview with Aniesha Brahma

Interview with Aniesha Brahma, author of All Signs Lead Back to You 

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Hi, Rosemarie! J Thank you for interviewing me. When Our Worlds Collide is my personal favourite novel, because in many ways it set the ball rolling for me to finally be recognized as a young author!

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

The first novel that I ever wrote was about a girl called Sara Basu and her stepbrother called Iemon Mukherjee. I actually got it printed from a print-on-demand shop just to see what the book might look like. I think the story exists on a site I used to write on. I don’t do anything with it. I haven’t decided if I want to go back to it – ever.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

My mind is always bubbling over with new ideas. And in order to stay relevant authors do need to pump out a novel very year. I’m forever looking for that little spark that would set into motion a story that my readers would be able to relate to. The spark comes to me whenever it wants, without warning. It’s honestly a little annoying at times.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I wrote an entire children’s book on my phone during my metro journeys to and from work! I don’t think it’s the place half as much as it is the state of mind one requires to be in while writing. I am most comfortable writing on my laptop. I don’t think I’ve written anything by hand since I was gifted my laptop during my second year in college.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have loving friends who are more than happy to suffer through my first drafts and give me very honest feedback. As for choosing an editor, I’ve just been very, very lucky that the editors and I have gotten along very well. So the nasty fights never happened between us.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I work in a publishing house as a social media manager and hence I’m surrounded by paperbacks and hardbound books all day long. I am the happiest when I’m around books. While I don’t have a favourite bookshop, I am more comfortable ordering books online. While I am not an e-reader fan, I understand that it’s okay to like reading e-books. I cannot possibly afford the paperbacks of all the books I’ve been reading…for me, the story has been more important.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
1. childhood?  Grimm brother’s Fairy Tales.
2. adolescence? I used to read a lot of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond during this phase of my life.
3. young adult? I started reading classics like Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind and Rebecca during the time I was a young adult.
4. adult? And I started reading Young Adult fiction when I was an adult. Because YA is NOT a category, it’s a point of view!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. How do you manage its demands?

I manage my own platform. And I am most comfortable running my Facebook author page and my Instagram page. I am on twitter as well, but I don’t use it as much. I spend chunks of ten minutes a day to make the creatives which I would be sharing from my social media. J On a daily basis, at least fifteen minutes a day get spent in promoting my work. I just find it easier to reach a wider audience this way to be honest.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

Sometimes. But I never recycle them. I take the time out and reply to each and every interview personally.

All Signs Lead Back to You 
2013.

As the final bell for the day rang on their last day in school, Diya Rai, had a chill run down her spine. The chill of not knowing what the future holds for her and her high school sweetheart, Ashwin Chowdhury.
So she does a preemptive strike.
She dumps him before he can hurt her.

2015.

Two years later, Ashwin and Diya, cross paths. Each holds grudges, feelings and only one half of the story that completes them.
Told from alternating points of view, through a non-linear timeline, this is the story about first love, second chances and ALL the SIGNS THAT LEAD BACK TO YOU.

Meet the Characters

Diya Rai – is the protagonist of the story whose actions have always had terrible consequences for those around her. Diya is self-absorbed and never chooses anyone else over her own self. Diya’s troubled past keeps her from letting people into her life. Even though she’s hurt Ashwin she wants him back in her life years later.

Ashwin Chowdhury – is her best friend in school and later on, boyfriend. He is left heartbroken by Diya but when their paths cross later on, he realises he doesn’t want anything to do with her. He lives with his mother and elder brother and hails from a upper middle-class family background.

Nina Gonzales – is Diya’s best friend in college. She and Diya had met during their admissions and had become fast friends with one another. Nina and Ashwin end up competing with one another to see who is really Diya’s best friend!

Rishabh – is the quintessential hot, rich guy that Diya dates in college. He seems to be in love with her, but Diya doesn’t seem to return the same affection towards him. Nina hates his guts.

Trina – is the girl Ashwin is interested in. She goes to the same college as Diya and Nina, and while Diya dislikes her mostly because Ashwin seems to be interested in her, Nina is indifferent to her.

Aniesha Brahma is an author who realized her passion for writing at the tender age of six. She also happens to be the social media manager for BEE Books. Her debut novel, The Secret Proposal (2012) was published by General Press and was followed by When Our Worlds Collide (2015) by the same. She blogs at: www.anieshabrahma.com and runs an online magazine, BUZZ Magazine. She can be contacted at: aniesha.brahma@gmail.com. She lives in Kolkata with her family and her five super adorable cats!

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Spotlight: Q&A with Robert Wideman

VIETNAM VETERAN SHARES FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE OF SIX YEARS AS PRISONER OF WAR

unexpected-prisonerFormer Lieutenant Robert Wideman praised by veterans for his memoir Unexpected Prisoner; a unique glimpse into the courage and endurance of POWs.

Fort Collins, CO — When Lieutenant Robert Wideman’s plane crashed on a bombing run in the Vietnam War, his worst fears became reality when he was captured in North Vietnam and held captive as a Prisoner of War for six long years. Unexpected Prisoner: Memoir of a Vietnam POW tells his harrowing story and explores Wideman’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, his lost dreams and ultimately — himself.

His story of captivity is the most accurate version of the events that occurred in the North I have ever heard,”  says Captain William Roberts, a retired U.S. Marine. “It’s truly refreshing.”

A sentiment many veterans have shared upon completing Wideman’s memoir. “Especially those who were in the infantry,”  says Wideman.  “I think it supports what they went through and what they feel.”

Born in Montreal, Canada, Wideman grew up in East Aurora, New York.  His father flew over the Himalayan Mountains in Burma during World War II. One uncle served as a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew for  Britain during WWII.  Another uncle was captured at the battle of Dieppe at the beginning of WWII and was held as a German prisoner until the end of the war.

It seemed natural that after attending the University of Toledo, Wideman joined the navy as a naval aviation cadet in 1963. Upon receiving his wings and commission in 1965, Wideman served on the USS Enterprise in 1966 and on the USS Hancock in 1967.  In 1967, Wideman’s plane went down over North Vietnam where the story of Unexpected Prisoner begins.

For more news, events and to explore Robert Wideman’s story further, please visit RobertWideman.com

Q&A with Robert Wideman

robert-wideman-1

You have a very unique story – and one someone couldn’t really tell unless they experienced it first-hand. What inspired you to tell this story?

My two sons and six grandchildren – they’re the most important thing to me. I wanted to leave them something that had meaning. After four years of writing, I had my story down on paper about my time in a North Vietnamese prison camp, but nothing else. One of my daughters-in-law said I needed to put some of my life before and after prison into the book. A Colorado Publisher connected me  with author and editor Cara Lopez Lee in 2014, and she helped me piece things together. We published Unexpected Prisoner  two years later.

What do you think will surprise readers most about Unexpected Prisoner?

Even given my experience, I  think readers will be surprised at my attitude toward the North Vietnamese. I don’t really have bad feelings toward them, because the treatment could have been so much worse.  

How so?

When I came home from the war,  I read everything I could on POWs and the Vietnam War. I learned that since the beginning of time, POWs have been treated very, very badly.

For example – In World War II, the Japanese chopped off two American heads for every mile of the Bataan death march. Twenty-seven to forty percent of American prisoners held by the Japanese died in captivity. In our revolutionary war, 20,000 colonial prisoners died in the holds of British ships in Brooklyn and Boston harbors.  Five times as many colonists died on those ships as died on the battlefield. Of the 5 million Russian prisoners held by the Germans in World War II, 3 million died in captivity. The Russians captured 95,000 German troops at the battle of Stalingrad, and only 5,000 of those prisoners ever came home. Thirteen thousand union soldiers died at Andersonville within 14 months during our own civil war – that’s one soldier every 45 minutes!  Our tour guide at Andersonville took 45 minutes to do the tour.

Only 7 American prisoners died in Hanoi the whole time I was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Only 28 prisoners died in North Vietnam. If you compare the treatment we received from the North Vietnamese with the treatment POWs received from their captors in other wars, ours  looks pretty good.

You enjoy sharing your experience with audiences through speaker presentations. What is your favorite part of that process?

I get a rush from telling my story – it can be addictive. The audiences are always good, and I enjoy the connection with them.

How has sharing your story benefited others (and have there been any unique stories prompted by audience members)?

Many veterans – especially those who were in the infantry – seem to relate to my story. I think my story supports what many veterans went through and what they feel.

It surprised me – but I’ve also seen that teenagers have benefited from my story, as they have their own challenges and can relate to the adversity in my memoir. So really – it can appeal to anyone going through a difficult time in their life.

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