Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chocolate as a Stress Buster? Oh Yeah!

Remedy SuperStress with Chocolate
By Roberta Lee M.D.,
Author of The SuperStress Solution

If you love chocolate, you're not alone. It turns out that the average person in the United States consumes approximately 12 pounds of chocolate a year. That might sound like a lot of chocolate, but I actually recommend that my patients -- especially those who are chronically stressed or what I would describe as SuperStressed -- indulge in 1 ounce of high quality and high cocoa mass chocolate a day, and that actually adds up to well more than 12 pounds over the course of the year. Sure, chocolate is a calorie laden food (with most of the calories coming from the cocoa butter), but in my opinion, the benefits of this treat outweigh the caloric load as long as you keep the portions small. Here are the benefits:

  • On a gram for gram basis, chocolate has a terrifically high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids. More than berries and spinach, even. Flavonoids have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Chocolate is rich in magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help promote the "relaxation response," as well as iron and zinc, which are minerals that many people don't often get enough of during the course of the day. Chocolate also contains a good amount of selenium, which enhances immune health.
  • Chocolate contains several psychoactive compounds being studied and debated as responsible for the mood lift many of us experience when eating it. First, there's phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural trace amine that is a stimulant that is elevated in the brain when we are in love and is low when we are depressed. Secondly, there's theobromine, a compound that imparts energy and a sense of alertness. Finally, chocolate contains a small amount of a chemical known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine, a substance that keeps our endogenous happiness molecules -- or endorphins -- from breaking down. In other words, if we are happy, we just might stay happier longer with a little chocolate.
Of course, there's also ample consumer-proven evidence that chocolate tastes good, and that eating it can provide a little respite -- an oasis of pleasure and calm -- from our otherwise hectic days! And to me, that's what's so special about this sweet treat. I find chocolate has the ability to enhance sensory recruitment in every way. It's so inexpensive to have a piece of chocolate and it's so pleasurable, that if that's something you like and that's part of what living well is about, I say: go for it. The ideal cocoa mass is 75% or more -- this will be clear on the label and is most often found in dark chocolate -- and the ideal portion is 1 ounce (about 1/3 of an average bar or roughly the size of the palm of a woman's hand). Doctor's orders!

To reduce stress, and avoid SuperStress, try this today:

Simple as it sounds; focused breathing -- during which you think about your breath as you inhale and exhale -- is a very effective stress-management technique. A slow, full breath triggers physical and cognitive changes that promote relaxation. Deep breathing helps release tension and anxiety and is a great energizer because the deeper the breath, the more your body is flooded with life-fueling oxygen. A full breath begins with the diaphragm pushing downward so that the stomach extends out. As your lungs fill with air, your chest expands. When you exhale, the reverse occurs -- your chest settles first and then your stomach.

* When anxiety strikes or you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts, immediately exhale through your mouth.
* Now, open your lungs, and breathe in through your nose, drawing in a fresh, cleansing air to the count of four.
* Exhale again slowly to the count of five.
* Repeat four times.

Copyright © 2009 Roberta Lee M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution

Author Bio
Roberta Lee, M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution, is vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine, director of Continuing Medical Education, and co-director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel's Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Lee attended George Washington University Medical School and is one of the four graduates in the first class from the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona conducted by Andrew Weil, M.D.

For more information please visit www.superstresssolution.com

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween From My Family to Yours!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Friday, October 30, 2009

First Wild Card Tour: Last Breath

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

My Review: This book picks up exactly where book 1 - Always Watching ended. Caution - spoilers if you have not read the first book!

Shaley and her mother's band are headed back to the hotel after their bus driver, Jerry, is killed. He had been the one who had murdered Shaley's friend Tom and he was also the one stalking her. The last thing he said to her was "Your father sent me".

There were many paparazzi at the hotel and Rayne, Shaley's mom was hit by a car. She cracked her ribs and broke her left wrist. She was taken to the hospital in Denver and this is where the rest of the story plays out.

Shaley's mom overhears Shaley talking to her best friend on the phone as she is telling her what Jerry's last words were. As Shaley has never met her father, nor does she know anything about him, this really threw her for a loop. With her mom overhearing her, she knows that she now has to share it with the police detectives.

Rayne figures it is finally time to tell Shaley about her father, so in between sleeping and pain medication, she begins the story of how her and Gary, her father, met. Is the man who sent Jerry really her father? If Rayne's remembrances are true - why would he want to hurt Shaley? How far will Shaley go to find the dad she has always wanted?

This was another fun read in this series. It was very quick - read it in a couple of hours during the Readathon. I am hoping there is going to be a book 3.

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)
***Special thanks to Lindsey Rodarmer of ZONDERKIDZ for sending me a review copy.***


Brandilyn and Amberly Collins are a mother/daughter team from northern California. Brandilyn is a bestselling novelist, known for her trademarked "Seatbelt Suspense". Amberly is a college student in southern California. She and her mom love attending concerts together.

Visit the author's website.

Here's a video about the first book in the Rayne Series:

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310715407
ISBN-13: 978-0310715405


Your father sent me.

The last words of a dying man, whispered in my ear.

Were they true? What did they mean?

Your father sent me. The stunning claim drilled through my head, louder than the crowd’s screams.

Guitars blasted the last chord of Rayne’s hit song, Ever Alone, as Mom’s voice echoed through the Pepsi Center in Denver. The heavy drum beat thumped in my chest. With a final smash of cymbals the rock song ended. Multicolored laser lights swept the stadium, signaling the thirty-minute intermission.

Wild shrieks from thousands of fans rang in my ears.

I rose from my chair backstage. Tiredly, I smiled at the famous Rayne O’Connor as she strode toward me on high red heels. In the lights her sequined top shimmered and her blonde hair shone. She walked with confidence and grace, the picture of a rock star—until she stepped from her fans’ sight. Then her posture slumped, weariness creasing her beautiful face. Mom’s intense blue eyes usually glimmered with the excitement of performing, but now I saw only the wash of grief and exhaustion. How she’d managed to perform tonight, I’d never know. Except that she’s strong. A real fighter.

Me? I had to keep fighting too, even if my legs still trembled and I’d probably have nightmares for weeks.

Your father sent me.

I had to find out what those words meant.

“You’re a very brave young lady,” a Denver detective had told me just a few hours ago. I didn’t feel brave then or now.

“You okay, Shaley?” Mom had to shout over the screams as she hugged me.

I nodded against her shoulder, hanging on tightly until she pulled back.

The crowd’s applause died down. A heavy hum of voices and footsteps filtered from the stadium as thousands of people headed for concessions and bathrooms during the break.

Kim, the band’s keyboard player and alto to my mom’s lead vocals, stopped to lay a darkly tanned hand on my head. A strand of her bleached white-blonde hair was stuck to the gloss on her pink lips. She brushed it away. “You’re an amazing sixteen-year-old.”

I shrugged, embarrassed. “Thanks.”

Mick and Wendell, Mom’s two remaining bodyguards, approached without a word. I gave a self-conscious smile to Wendell, and he nodded back, sadness flicking across his face. His deep-set eyes were clouded, and the long scar across his chin seemed harder, more shiny. At five-eleven, Wendell is short for a bodyguard but every bit as muscled. Tonight his two-inch black hair, usually gelled straight up, stuck out in various directions. He hadn’t bothered to fix it since the life and death chase he was involved in just a few hours ago. Seeing that messed-up hair sent a stab through me. Wendell was usually so finicky about it.

Mick, Mom’s main personal bodyguard, folded his huge arms and stood back, waiting. Mick is in his forties, ex-military and tall, with a thick neck and block-shaped head. I’ve rarely seen emotion on his face, but I saw glimpses of it now. He and Wendell had been good friends with Bruce, Mom’s third bodyguard.

Bruce had been killed hours ago. Shot.

And he’d been trying to guard me.

My vision blurred. I blinked hard and looked at the floor.

“Come on.” Mom nudged my arm. “We’re all meeting in my dressing room.”

Mick and Bruce flanked her as she walked away.

Usually we don’t have to be so careful backstage. It’s a heavily guarded area anyway. But tonight nothing was the same.

Kim and I followed Mom down a long hall to her dressing room. Morrey, Kim’s boyfriend and Rayne’s drummer, caught up with us. He put a tattoo-covered arm around Kim, her head only reaching his shoulders. Morrey looked at me and winked, but I saw no happiness in it.

Ross Blanke, the band’s tour production manager, hustled up alongside us, trailed by Stan, lead guitarist, and Rich, Rayne’s bass player. “Hey.” Ross put a pudgy hand on Mom’s shoulder. “You’re doing great.” He waved an arm, indicating everyone. “All of you, you’re just doing great.”

“You do what you have to,” Stan said grimly. His black face shone with sweat.

Narrowing single file, we trudged into the dressing room. Mick and Wendell took up places on each side of the door.

Marshall, the makeup and hair stylist, started handing out water bottles. In his thirties, Marshall has buggy eyes and curly dark hair. His fingers are long and narrow, deft with his makeup tools. But until two days ago, he’d been second to Mom’s main stylist, Tom.

“Thanks.” I took a bottle from Marshall and tried to smile. Didn’t work. Just looking at him sent pangs of grief through me, because his presence reminded me of Tom’s absence.

Tom, my closest friend on tour, had been murdered two days ago.

Mom, Ross, Rich and I sank down on the blue couch—one of the furniture pieces Mom requested in every dressing room. Denver’s version was extra large, with a high back and overstuffed arms. To our left stood a table with plenty of catered food, but no one was hungry. I’d hardly eaten in the last day and a half and knew I should have something. But no way, not now.

Maybe after the concert.

Stan, Morrey and Kim drew up chairs to form a haphazard circle.

“All right.” Ross sat with his short, fat legs apart, hands on his jeaned thighs. The huge diamond ring on his right hand was skewed to one side. He straightened it with his pinky finger. “I’ve checked outside past the guarded area. The zoo’s double what it usually is. The news has already hit and every reporter and his brother are waiting for us. Some paparazzi are already there, and others have probably hopped planes and will show up by the time we leave.”

Is Cat here? I shuddered at the thought of the slinky, effeminate photographer who’d bothered us so much in the last two days. He’d even pulled a fire alarm in our San Jose hotel the night before just to force us out of our rooms. Now by police order he wasn’t supposed to get within five hundred feet of us. I doubted he’d care.

My eyes burned, and my muscles felt like water. Little food, no sleep, and plenty of shock. Bad combination. I slumped down in the couch and laid my head back.

Ross ran a hand through his scraggly brown hair. “Now at intermission folks out there”—he jabbed a thumb toward the arena—“are gonna start hearing things. Rayne, you might want to say a little something when you get back on stage.”

Mom sighed, as if wondering where she’d find the energy to do the second half of the concert. “Yeah.”

I squeezed her knee. If only the two of us could hide from the world for a week or two.

Make that a whole year.

Rich frowned as he moved his shaved head from one side to the other, stretching his neck muscles. His piercing gray eyes landed on me, and his face softened. I looked away.

Everyone was so caring and concerned about me. I was grateful for that. Really, I was. But it’s a little hard to know you’ve been the cause of three deaths. Under all their smiles, did the band members blame me?

Ross scratched his hanging jowl. “We got extra coverage from Denver police at the hotel tonight. Tomorrow we’re supposed to head out for Albuquerque. It’s close enough for Vance to drive the main bus without a switch-off driver, and the next two venues are close enough as well. But that’s just logistics. We’ve all been through a lot. Question is—can you all keep performing?” He looked around, eyebrows raised.

“Man.” Morrey shook back his shoulder-length black hair. “If three deaths in two days isn’t enough to make us quit …” His full lips pressed.

I glanced hopefully at Mom. Yeah, let’s go home! I could sleep in my own bed, hide from the paparazzi and reporters, hang out with Brittany, my best friend—who was supposed to be here with me right now.

But canceling concerts would mean losing a lot of money. The Rayne tour was supposed to continue another four weeks.

Mom hunched forward, elbows on her knees and one hand to her cheek. Her long red fingernails matched the color of her lips. “I almost lost my daughter tonight.” Her voice was tight. “I don’t care if I never tour again—Shaley’s got to be protected, that’s the number one thing.”

I want you protected too, Mom.

“I agree with that a hundred percent,” Morrey said, “but at least the threat to Shaley is gone now that Jerry’s dead.

Jerry, one of our bus drivers—and a man I’d thought was my friend—killed Tom and Bruce, and then came after me earlier that night. A cop ended up shooting him.

Kim spread her hands. “I don’t know what to say. I’m still reeling. We’ve barely had time to talk about any of this tonight before getting on stage. I feel like my mind’s gonna explode. And Tom …”

She teared up, and that made me cry. Kim had been like a mother to Tom. Crazy, funny Tom. It was just so hard to believe he was gone.

I wiped my eyes and looked at my lap.

“Anyway.” Kim steadied her voice. “It’s so much to deal with. I don’t know how we’re going to keep up this pace for another month.”

Mom looked at Ross. “We can’t keep going very long with only Vance to drive the main bus.”

Ross nodded. “Until Thursday. I’d have to replace him by then.”

“With who?” Mom’s voice edged.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to jump on it.”

“You can’t just ‘jump on it.’ We need time to thoroughly check the new driver out.”

Rayne.” Ross threw her a look. “I did check Jerry out. Completely. He had a false ID, remember? That’s what the police said. I couldn’t have known that.”

“You might have known if you’d checked harder.”

Ross’s face flushed. “I did—”

“No you didn’t! Or if you did it wasn’t good enough!” Mom pushed to her feet and paced a few steps. “Something’s mighty wrong if we can’t even find out a guy’s a convicted felon!”

What? I stiffened. “How do you know that?”

Mom waved a hand in the air. “The police told me just before we left the hotel.”

We’d huddled in the manager’s office after the policeman killed Jerry.

I stared at Mom. “When was he in jail?”

Mom threw a hard look at Ross. “He’d barely gotten out when we hired him.”

Heat flushed through my veins. I snapped my gaze toward the floor, Jerry’s last words ringing in my head.

Your father sent me.

How could my father have sent Jerry if he was in jail?

Rayne,” Ross snapped, “I’ve told you I’m sorry a dozen times—”

“Sorry isn’t enough!” Mom whirled on him. “My daughter was taken hostage. She could have been killed!”

Rich jumped up and put his arms around her. “Come on, Rayne, it’s okay now.”

She leaned against him, eyes closed. The anger on her face melted into exhaustion. “It’s not okay.” Mom shook her head. “Tom’s dead, Bruce is dead. And Shaley—”

Her words broke off. Mom pulled away from Rich and hurried back to the couch. She sank down next to me, a hand on my knee. “Shaley, you’re the one who’s been through the most. What do you want to do?”

My throat nearly swelled shut. Go home! I wanted to yell. But I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair. This wasn’t my tour. I didn’t have to pay the bills.

I glanced around at all the band members. Morrey was holding Kim’s hand. Stan and Rich watched me, waiting. A canceled tour wouldn’t just affect them. Rayne had three back-up singers, one of them Carly, who’d been such a help to me. Plus all the techs and roadies. They’d all lose money.

Wait—maybe Mom would let me go home and stay with Brittany. Now that Tom’s and Bruce’s killer was dead …

Shaley?” Mom tapped my leg.

“I don’t … I can’t stop the tour.”

Ross exhaled. “Rayne?”

Mom looked at the wall clock and pushed to her feet. “We can’t decide this now. It’s only fifteen minutes before we have to be back on stage. I still need to change.”

Stan stood. “I say we figure on doing Albuquerque, and then we can decide about the rest.”

“Yeah, me too.” Rich got up, along with everyone else. I could see the business-like attitude settle on all their faces, including Mom’s. Soon they had to perform again. Every other concern must be pushed aside. In the entertainment world the saying was true: the show must go on.

Within a minute everyone had left except Mom, Marshall and me. Mom threw herself into a chair by the bright mirrors so Marshall could adjust her makeup. When he left she changed into a steel blue top and skinny-legged black pants.

I sat numbly on the couch, four words running through my mind. Words, I sensed, that would change my life.

Your father sent me.

Mom didn’t know what Jerry had whispered to me as he died. I needed to tell her.

But how? Like me, she was running on empty. It would be one more shock, another scare. I wasn’t sure she could take anymore and still perform.

Had Jerry told me the truth? Had the father I’d never known—the man my mother refused to talk about—purposely sent a killer to join our tour?

I needed to know. I needed to find out. Because if it was true—the danger was far from over.

Devil Anyone? (Giveaway)

To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

Reynaud St. Aubyn has spent the last seven years in hellish captivity. Now half mad with fever he bursts into his ancestral home and demands his due. Can this wild-looking man truly be the last earl's heir, thought murdered by Indians years ago?

Beatrice Corning, the niece of the present earl, is a proper English miss. But she has a secret: No real man has ever excited her more than the handsome youth in the portrait in her uncle's home. Suddenly, that very man is here, in the flesh-and luring her into his bed.

Only Beatrice can see past Reynaud's savagery to the noble man inside. For his part, Reynaud is drawn to this lovely lady, even as he is suspicious of her loyalty to her uncle. But can Beatrice's love tame a man who will stop at nothing to regain his title-even if it means sacrificing her innocence?

I have five copies of To Desire a Devil to giveaway courtesy of Hachette Books!

  1. U.S./Canada only - No PO Boxes
  2. Giveaway ends Nov 20, 2009, 11:59PM CST.
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  4. For first entry - Leave comment with email address.
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Friday Finds 10-30-2009

Here are my finds this week!

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she's a sorry excuse for a Southern
belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one
consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night....Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local
waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis--and two parts fairy godmother...

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey's clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she's going to change Josey's life--because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee's tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her
startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and--most amazing of all--has a close connection to Josey's longtime

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and
romance can blossom at any time--even for her. It seems that Della Lee's work is done, and it's time for her to move on. But the truth about where she's going, why she showed up in the first place--and what Chloe has to do with it all--is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey's fast-changing life. (Amazon)

Then Came the Evening by Brian Hart

A riveting, psychologically rich family drama set in the American West, from a writer who has been compared to Cormac McCarthy.

Bandy Dorner, home from Vietnam, awakes with his car mired in a canal, his cabin reduced to ashes, and his pregnant wife preparing to leave town with her lover. Within moments, a cop lies bleeding on the road.

Eighteen years later, Bandy is released from prison. His parents are gone, but on the derelict family ranch, Bandy faces a different reunion. Tracy, his now teenaged son, has come to claim the father he’s never known. Iona, Bandy’s ex-wife, has returned on the heels of her son. All three are damaged, hardened, haunted. But warily, desperately, they move in a slow dance around each other, trying to piece back together a family that never was; trying to discover if they belong together at all.

With unflinching honesty and restrained beauty, Brian Hart explores the possibilities and limitations of his characters as they struggle toward a shared future. Like a traditional Greek tragedy, suffused with the mud, ice, and rock of the raw I daho landscape, Then Came the Evening is tautly plotted and emotionally complex—a stunning debut. (amazon)

Is it H1N1?

My son (who will be 5 in 12 days) started coughing yesterday and complained of a stomach ache off and on - then about 6pm last night started running a fever. I took him in to the doctor first thing this morning and left feeling worse than when I went in. He basically told me that the only flu's they are seeing right now are H1N1 as regular flu season hasn't hit yet. Since our state just got the H1N1 shot yesterday - he said it is already too late - that we are already in the middle of the epidemic and that shot takes about 4 weeks to reach its maximum effectiveness.

So - he did a nasal swab on him and they have sent it out - results should be back tomorrow. Unfortunately I now have to worry about him - and the possibility of my other 2 girls getting it - and then there is me. . .

I have a disease called Wegener's Granulomatosa. I was diagnosed about 15 years ago - and have been taken to the emergency room 3 times by ambulance - hospitalized 3 times (only once from the ambulance trip), have had blood clots, seizures, pneumonia, voice loss for years at a time (I'm not kidding), arthritis and even just stopped breathing once - they think my throat swelled or collapsed or something. . . Anyway - Wegener's affects nose, throat, lungs (so - respiratory) and kidneys. Thankfully I have never had kidney involvement. The treatment I am on is an immunosupressant drug called Methotrexate - So, in addition to being at high risk - I also have a lowered immune system. So - if my son has H1N1 - what are my chances of avoiding it? Anyone wanna make a bet?

And for the curious bunch out there - for more information on Wegener's.

Also - Bobbie at Book Reviews by Bobbie had a great post on H1N1 today..

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Putting the Fun Back Into Funerals (Guest Post)

Putting the Fun Back Into Funerals

Mary Patrick Kavanaugh, a California writer, put to rest grandiose dreams of publishing contracts, movie options, and a guest spot on the Oprah Winfrey Show at a very public open-casket funeral for her rejected novel. She learned how releasing dead dreams and dashed hopes opens a much larger space for joy, frivolity, and creativity.

I have to have a funeral, I thought, walking in my neighborhood cemetery on a hot July afternoon last year.

Not for a dead person, mind you, but for a dead dream. Mine.

Earlier that month I’d received a strained call from my literary agent. My first novel, Family Plots: Love, Death, and Tax Evasion, had just been rejected for the sixteenth time.

Given that some wildly successful authors have been rejected many more times than that, I didn’t think it cause for alarm. But my agent informed me that the publishing industry—like many professions—was in financial crisis, and she didn’t think a first-time author with no sales history had much of a chance in this climate. “You should try some of the small presses,” she said, “or even self-publish.”

Self-publish? After all the time, money, work, visioning and prayer I’d put into this?


That wasn’t part of the plan.

After I became a widow at age 38, something told me I’d better get to work on my life-long dream of publishing a novel before my own stint on earth was up—and as luck would have it, my dearly departed husband had left me with a juicy tale to tell. He was a criminal attorney who, it turned out, was committing a few crimes of his own. In an attempt to find romance, family, and financial stability, I’d stumbled into a world of pseudonyms, fake weddings, and hidden bank accounts. Events that landed my beloved into the family cemetery plot, also revealed unexpected secrets and stashes that transformed a seeming tragedy into one of surprising healing and redemption. It was a great plotline, but I still needed to write it down.

This is not one of those stories where the author gets an idea, God dictates it to her in thirteen days, and then, while flying to Kalamazoo, she fortuitously meets a famous agent who promises to sell the book. No. Labor and delivery of this baby was harder and possibly more expensive than the one I raised and sent off to college.

With love, support, and regular spiritual mind treatments from countless Religious Science practitioners, I harnessed the inspiration and discipline necessary to get to work. I wrote four versions of the manuscript over four years. After that, I hired three professional editors to help me cut, trim, revise, and re-pace the book. A New York literary agent offered representation, and we celebrated my good fortune when a best-selling author went on record saying it was a page-turner.

The fact that it took seven years—the time it takes to replace every cell in the human body—to prepare the manuscript struck me as a good omen. I wasn’t even the same person as I was when I’d started, and the new me was confident that this book would find exactly what I’d prayed for: the perfect publisher.

When my agent threw in the towel, I spent countless hours cocooned in bed, feeling destroyed—like the caterpillar that dissolves into goo, having no idea if it will ever re-emerge into the light. After all that work, mentally and spiritually, it seemed impossible that I didn’t have the backing of a reputable, recognizable New York publisher to provide the marketing, PR, and distribution to bring my dream to life. What had I done wrong?

I was especially depressed that I wouldn’t get to hold a book launch party at the cemetery, where so many scenes in the novel took place. I’d had such a clear vision of the event, from the pallbearers carrying a casket filled with books, down to the tombstone brownies for dessert. Despite my hard work, prayers, and the colorful vision boards I’d hung all over the house, my dream was dead—or at least it had reached a frustrating dead end—and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

That’s when the miracle happened. It became clear to me: My dream had died, but I could still have a book launch at a cemetery. It could be a funeral, which was thematically appropriate for the book and the rejection. This was even BETTER than a mere book launch.

The clouds parted, a chorus of angels sang, and the butterfly emerged from her cocoon. How perfect! Not only would I embrace this failure—I would flaunt it. I’d have a funeral for my dead dream of landing a mainstream book contract, and use it as a publicity stunt to draw attention to my book. Guests would be invited to bring remnants of their dead dreams and dashed hopes to toss in the casket as well. What better way to acknowledge and overcome life’s disappointments than to do it in community, with music, ceremony, and a tasty snack buffet? We could all use an opportunity to take ourselves a little less seriously.

The idea immediately resurrected my spirits. I’d been praying for “the perfect publisher,” and apparently I was the one I’d been waiting for all along.

Doors opened immediately. The cemetery management loved the idea and donated the chapel, casket, and reception hall. Friends contacted the media and articles appeared in the local and national press, generating a standing-room-only crowd. A gaggle of chic, black-clad wailers filled the pews and made the appropriate scene as the pallbearers escorted the casket and me into the chapel. My beloved practitioner played the role of “the preacher,” and by the end of the service, I, as well as most of my guests, had thrown remnants of dead dreams into the coffin and were dancing in the aisles to James Brown’s I Feel Good. The book received great reviews on book blogs and Amazon.com, and newspapers, radio, and TV booked interviews. I even had bloggers criticizing and debating the relative merits of the event, teaching me that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Lest I mislead anyone, deciding to produce this spectacle was not all rainbows and unicorns. I wrestled with the demonic inner voices of fear, and was worried sick that no one would come to my funeral, or that I was wasting time or pouring money down a hole.

But I ignored the naysayers, even in my own mind, and squeezed more fun out of the event than I ever thought possible. By the end of the year, I even had an offer from a new agent to pitch my next book: Cemetery Mary’s Turning Life’s Crap Into Compost (CrapIntoCompost.com).

When a dream has died, how do we avoid the urge to crawl into the coffin with it?
It’s hard to believe that celebrating death could feel so uplifting, but isn’t that what we learn as students of Science of Mind? “The experience of dying is but the laying off of an old garment, and the donning of a new one,” says The Science of Mind. Many of us are able to accept this as truth—so much so that in this philosophy, the word “death” is replaced with “transition,” to help us reframe the experience.

But as we know, concepts are easier in theory than in practice. The death (or transition) of a cherished person, relationship, or dream inevitably comes packed with grief and is far more disorienting than a simple garment change. It’s more like having our skin peeled off, followed by a period of over-exposure and raw pain, and then a gradual healing. No wonder we do whatever possible to deny, ignore, or resist it.

But everyone and everything in our lives is going to die—to transition. It’s the only way to make room for new growth. Spouses, lovers, parents and children; relationships, careers, and artistic endeavors; youth, beauty, and bank accounts—no matter what visions we hold, they will ultimately die in the ebb and flow of time. And sadly, sometimes they die before their time—causing us even greater trauma, because that wasn’t part of our plan.

That’s why one of the first things I publicly tossed into the casket was my vision board. Creating vision boards, lists of desires, and measurable goals offers great tools and direction. But when our goals and visions are not out-picturing exactly the way we have dictated, I wonder if clinging to these road maps may block a path to greater possibility? Maybe there is a time when we have to let go of the dream or relationship or expectation because, let’s face it, it’s not working or making us happy.

When I finally put to rest my grandiose dreams of publishing contracts, movie options, book tours, and a guest spot on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the rush of the release was liberating and invigorating. Though the book publication didn’t turn out to be even close to the way I’d rendered it on my vision board, a comment made by a business associate who’d watched a YouTube video of the funeral best summed up the deep satisfaction I ended up feeling. “Wow,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so completely creatively expressed.”

If I’d had a publisher, a marketing department, and a cast of others, all with opinions, who knows how it would have played out? Even my agent, whom I told about the funeral, warned me she thought it odd, and in fact a bad idea. Bad idea? Impossible given the doors that were opening and the fun I was having, I thought, suddenly relieved she was no longer my agent.
Just like our over-attachment to vision boards may limit our view of greater possibility, our egos often get in the way of our spiritual growth. And let me go on record as saying my ego was freaking out about me stepping in as publisher and producer of my own book launch. (Who did I think I was? New York didn’t take me, why should anyone else? Bury the book privately and get on with it!)

But when we select a spiritual path, we are consciously choosing expansion and growth. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the ego in that process. The old ideas about who I was and what I deserved had to die too—there was no other way to make room for new growth.
Though becoming my own publisher garnered me some great attention, it has not yet catapulted me to fame, fortune, or a seat on Oprah’s couch. And while that would be nice, the beating my ego took in the process of trying to get my book published made me realize that it didn’t matter anymore. Recognizing that I had the power within to realize my vision for this project without getting outside approval from the book-publishing industry made me feel a bit like Dorothy when she learned she’d always had the power to return to Kansas.

Giving up the dream of how my book was to be published pushed me to be more courageous, creative, and resourceful than I ever knew possible.

Where my writing career will travel from here remains a mystery, and I am certainly not creating a vision board to guide it. Everything I’ve ever tried to force has become a struggle, so I now cheerfully surrender, and focus my efforts on enjoying the work.
Is this bad? Is it good? Who knows? It just is.

A writer since the age of eight, Mary’s award winning creative non-fiction has been published in Alligator Juniper, Room of One’s Own, San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her professional writing has appeared in numerous trade journals. Mary is the 2003 recipient of the nonfiction award from the Soul Making Literary Competition sponsored by the American Pen Women, and winner of a 2004 honorable mention. She was awarded writing fellowships at The David and Julia White Artist Colony, Hedgebrook: Women Authoring Change, and The Vermont Studio Center. She recently published her first book, Family Plots: Love, Death, and Tax Evasion.

View Mary’s outrageous book funeral at www.MyDreamIsDeadButImNot.com. Or read her blog at www.CrapIntoCompost.com. Attention! Mary (aka Cemetery Mary) is holding a funeral (December 31, 2009) and resurrection (January 2, 2010). These two events will allow others to bury dead dreams, dashed hopes, old habits and grudges in 2009 so they can come to the resurrection to begin again in 2010. Information about the live and webcast events will be posted at www.CrapIntoCompost.com, so readers are invited to sign up for the mail list.

First Wild Card Tour: Mom Needs Chocolate (Book Review)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

My review: If you are reading this book - get ready to laugh! It is full of humor, much of which I am sure, only a woman/mother can really understand. Like the spontaneous release of milk upon hearing ANY child cry in the story found below in the first chapter.

Each chapter reads like a daily devotion - usually starting with a scripture and ending with a prayer - and some "Faith in Action" questions. I did not sit down and read this book straight through, though it could be done. I chose to read one (or a few) a day - I just kept it accessible where if I had a few minutes and needed a pick me up I could read a chapter. The chapters cover everything from depression, piggishness and aging to God's Omnipotence, gratitude and prayer.

She talks about how (God) "wants us to be filled with His joy, not weighted down by the joy-sucking dully-funks." And I love how she describes dully-funks - "that black hole when nothing particularly bad is happening, just nothing good," or "that bottom-of-the-barrel place where your spirits are lower than chicken scratch."

I found this little book to be full of humor, wisdom, down-to-earth prayers - and it helped me to put things into perspective when I think I am the only one who doesn't always get it right. This is a very readable and relatable book and I recommend it to every mom!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Mom NEEDS Chocolate: Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood

Regal (April 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, LLC for sending me a review copy.***


Debora M. Coty is the author or contributor to several books, including Mom NEEDS Chocolate: Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood. A resident of Florida where she lives with her husband, Coty raised two children and enjoyed a dedicated career as an Occupational Therapist before beginning to chase her God-given dream of writing. She is known for communicating sound biblical concepts with a refreshing, light-hearted style. Her writings can be read in her monthly newspaper column, Grace Notes: God’s Grace for Everyday Living.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Regal (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0830745920
ISBN-13: 978-0830745920


My Cups Runneth Over


A baby is an inestimable blessing and a bother.

Mark Twain

As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.

Genesis 9:7, NASB

There are a few things I’ve learned while fulfilling the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate.

Pregnancy draws you closer to your spouse. During an emergency stop in our driveway while I tossed my cookies in the grass, my husband, Chuck, tried to comfort me. Soon we were throwing up side by side. It was the most romantic thing he’s ever done. Those two brown spots on our lawn were the envy of all my friends.

Childbirth classes are invaluable informational sources. At the country hospital we’d chosen, one young farmer raised his hand the week after we learned about Braxton Hicks false labor contractions. He earnestly addressed the nurse instructor, “Ma’am, my wife’s been miserable all week. Could you tell us again about them Briggs and Stratton things?” He was the same strapping fellow who confided the first week, “We ain’t ever had any babies, but we’ve birthed a lot of cows.”

The budding momma’s swelling belly and the ledge over her innie-turned-outie navel aren’t the only evolutions in the body’s profile. Average-sized breasts become huge globes that bump into everything. It’s like having volleyballs attached to your chest. These alien chest globes take on their own personalities. I called mine the Bobbing Twins, Freddie and Flopsie. I addressed them directly: “Freddie, stop bouncing around or I’m going to fall off this bike,” or “Flopsie, you’re gonna have to squeeze into this DDD cup—there is no E.”

Finally, you’re in your ninth month. Ah, but the surprises are not over. After hours of sweating, teeth grinding and PUSHing, you are rewarded with a tiny screaming miracle. The little bugger has a surprisingly strong sucking reflex, and when he latches on, it feels like a vice grip to this incredibly sensitive part of your anatomy. You’re awfully glad you did that desensitization with the washcloth beforehand. I once commented to Chuck after performing this unpleasant ritual that rubbing myself with terrycloth made me empathize with that old table he was sanding.

Hmmm. Yes, dear,” he answered, only half listening. I later overheard him inform his sister on the phone, “Debbie uses sandpaper on her chest to get ready for the baby.” No wonder his family thinks I’m weird.

Shortly after giving birth, my friend Julia (also a nursing mother) and I decided to take a well-deserved tennis break. Leaving the babies with their daddies, we headed for the courts. The blissful quiet was shattered by a wailing infant in a passing stroller, triggering that mysterious internal milk breaker switch. Julia and I simultaneously clutched our chests like gunshot victims at the incoming flood.

“Stop it, Freddie! Not now, Flopsie!” I pleaded with the Twins as two dark, wet spots appeared in strategic locations on the front of my white tennis shirt. Julia and I mopped ourselves between points with a soggy sweatband, bringing strange new meaning to the term, “bosom buddies.”1

Son of Man, thank You for the blessing of family and the miracle of babies. Make me more like You because they may end up being like me.


1. Adapted from “My Cups Runneth Over” by Debora M. Coty, first appearing in Today’s Christian Woman, November/December 2004 issue. Used by permission.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chance to win Born of Fire from St. Martin's Press!

New from St. Martin's Press is #1 New York Times bestselling author, Sherrilyn Kenyon's 3-book series, 'The League'! With over 19 million books in print, Sherrilyn Kenyon is renowned the world over as "the reigning queen of the paranormal genre that she pioneered long before the world had heard of Twilight." The second book from 'The League' series, 'Born of Fire', will be available November 3rd, 2009.

In celebration of 'Born of Fire', St. Martin's press is holding a book sweepstakes for your readers to enter - winners receive a free copy of 'Born Of Fire'! Here is the link for the 'Born of Fire' sweepstakes offer: (U.S. only - ends Nov 11)

Read an excerpt of Born of Fire.

You can find out more about Sherrilyn Kenyon at these official sites:

Library Loot 10-28-2009

Can you believe that I haven't had a Library Loot post since June? It isn't because I haven't been going to the library, just lacking the time to post! So, even though it is evening - I figured I could still get this up.

Library Loot is hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth's climate.

Everything else in Miranda's life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely.

But what Miranda and her family don't realize is that the worst is yet to come.

Told in Miranda's diary entries, this is a heart-pounding account of her struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all - hope - in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar time. (book jacket)

The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi

In a career spanning more than thirty years, Patrick Swayze has made a name for himself on the stage, the screen and television. Known for his versatility, passion, and fearlessness, he's become one of our most beloved actors.

But in February 2008, Patrick announced he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Always a fighter, he refused to let the disease bring him to his knees, and his bravery has inspired both his legion of fans and cancer patients everywhere. Yet this memoir, written with wisdom and heart, recounts much more than his bout with cancer. In vivid detail, Patrick describes his Texas upbringing, his personal struggles, his rise to fame with North and South, his commercial breakthroughs in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, and the soul mate who's stood by his side through it all: his wife, writer and director Lisa Niemi.

A behind-the-scenes look at a Hollywood life and a remarkable love, this memoir is both entertainment and inspiration. Patrick and Lisa's marriage is a journey of two lives intertwined and lived as on-throughout their years in Hollywood and at home on their working ranch outside Los Angeles, and culminating in the hope and wisdom they've imparted to all who know them. This book will open the door for families, individuals, and husbands and wives to grow, bond, and discover entirely new levels of love and sharing, proving that life shouldn't be lived as a series of endings, but rather as the beginning of greater strength and love, (book jacket)

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the sweet, sexy, funny journey of Calla Lily's life set in Wells' expanding fictional Louisiana landscape. In the small river town of La Luna, Calla bursts into being, a force of nature as luminous as the flower she is named for. Under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide and protect her throughout her life, Calla enjoys a blissful childhood-until it is cut short. Her mother, M'Dear, a woman of rapture and love, teaches Calla compassion, and passes on to her the art of healing through the humble womanly art of "fixing hair." At her mother's side, Calla further learns that this same touch of hands on the human body can quiet her own soul. It is also on the banks of the La Luna River that Calla encounters sweet, succulent first love, with a boy named Tuck.

But when Tuck leaves Calla with a broken heart, she transforms hurt into inspiration and heads for the wild and colorful city of New Orleans to study at L'Academie de Beaute de Crescent. In that extravagant big river city, she finds her destiny - and comes to understand fully the power of her "healing hands" to change lives and soothe pain, including her own. When Tuck reappears years later, he presents her with an offer that is colored by the memories of lost love. But who knows how Calla Lilly, a "daughter of the Moon Lady," will respond?

A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder features the warmth, humor, soul, and wonder that have made Wells one of today's most cherished writers, and gives us an unforgettable new heroine to treasure. (book jacket)

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent

"The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I killed a man."

So begins the story of Jessilyn Lassiter, a young girl whose world is torn apart the summer of 1932. When Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town.

It doesn't take long for the Lassiters to attract the attention of a local band of Ku Klux Klan members, who make increasingly violent threats on Jessilyn and her family.

As she struggles to navigate a complex world of first crushes, loyalties, and betrayals, Jessilyn ultimately discovers what it takes to be a bright light in a dark world. (back cover)

The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

Sally Thorning is watching the news with her husband when she hears a name she never thought she'd hear again: Mark Bretherick.

It's a name she shouldn't recognize. Last year, a work trip Sally had planned was canceled at the last minute. Desperate for a break from juggling her job and a young family, Sally didn't tell her husband that the trip had fallen through. Instead, she treated herself to a secret vacation in a remote hotel. While she was there, Sally met a man -- Mark Bretherick.

All the details are the same: where he lives, his job, his wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy. Except that the photograph on the news is of a man Sally has never seen before. And Geraldine and Lucy Bretherick are both dead. . . (back cover)

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski

God is love. Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?

It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe - the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor - loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.

Whether you've verbalized it yet or not. . .we all know something's wrong.

Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts - its falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same.

Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything. (back cover)

Sins of the Flesh - Book Giveaway!

Sins of the Flesh by Caridad PiƱeiro

Caterina Shaw's days are numbered. Her only chance for survival is a highly experimental gene treatment-a risk she willingly takes. But now Caterina barely recognizes herself. She has new, terrifying powers, an exotic, arresting body-and she's been accused of a savage murder, sending her on the run.

Mick Carrera is a mercenary and an expert at capturing elusive, clever prey. Yet the woman he's hunting down is far from the vicious killer he's been told to expect: Caterina is wounded, vulnerable, and a startling mystery of medical science. Even more, she's a beautiful woman whose innocent sensuality tempts Mick to show her exactly how thrilling pleasure can be. The heat that builds between them is irresistible, but surrendering to it could kill them both . . . for a dangerous group is plotting its next move using Caterina as its deadly pawn. (back cover)

I have five copies of this new book to giveaway - courtesy of Hachette Books!

  1. U.S./Canada only - No PO Boxes
  2. Giveaway ends Nov 18, 2009, 11:59PM CST.
  3. All entries can currently be left in same comment.
  4. For first entry - Leave comment with email address.
  5. +2 Current Followers
  6. +1 New Followers
  7. +2 Follow me on twitter (kherbrand) and tweet - can use retweet button at bottom, or for a sidebar post in you blog.
  8. +4 For a blog post - leave me the link please.
  9. +1 If you tell me how you heard about this giveaway.
  10. 10 entries possible.

Waiting on Wednesday: Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Press, Jan 12, 2010

Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire. (Amazon)

What are you waiting for? Waiting on Wednesdays is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Alice I Have Been
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Press, Jan 12, 2010
ISBN: 978-0385344135
368 pages


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