Friday, May 13, 2016

UNLOCKED: It's Getting Real

I'm EXCITED to be reviewing the final page layout for my new novel, UNLOCKED! So far - it looks terrific, and I can hardly wait for everyone to read it! Yay for books. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Few Wedding Pictures!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son marry the girl of his dreams. It was a terrific day. Here are a few pictures:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: POUND FOR POUND by Shannon Kopp

A terrific read for anyone who has ever struggled with food addiction and anyone who has ever loved a dog! Scroll down for my full review at the bottom of this post.

Pound for Pound
A Story of One Woman's Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life
By Shannon Kopp
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover: 288 pages
October 6, 2015; 9780062370228

"The dogs don't judge me or give me a motivational speech. They don't rush me to heal or grow. They sit in my lap and lick my face and make me feel chosen. And sometimes, it hits me hard that I'm doing the exact thing I say I cannot do. Changing."

Pound for Pound is the inspirational tale of one woman's journey back from the brink of self-destruction, and a heartfelt homage to the four-legged heroes who unexpectedly saved her life.

For eight years, Shannon Kopp battled the silent, horrific, and all-too-common disease of bulimia. Stuck in an endless cycle of bingeing and purging, Shannon was overwhelmed by broken promises: to herself, to her family, to her future. Finally, at twenty-four, she got a job working at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, where in caring for shelter dogs, she found the inspiration to heal and the courage to forgive herself. With the help of some extraordinary homeless animals -- dogs like Sweet Pea, Big Girl, Abby, Stewie, and countless others -- Shannon realized from her suffering, something beautiful had been born. Compassion.

Shannon's poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience, and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. Pound for Pound vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions -- they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy. Rich with emotion and inspiration, Pound for Pound is essential reading for animal lovers and everyone who has struggled to change.

Author Bio
Shannon Kopp, author of Pound for Pound, is a writer, eating disorder survivor, and animal welfare advocate. She has worked and volunteered at various animal shelters throughout San Diego and Los Angeles, where shelter dogs helped her to discover a healthier, more joyful way of living. Her mission is to help every shelter dog find a loving home, and to raise awareness about eating disorders and animal welfare issues.

For more information visit her website:

My Review:

This is the type of book that book clubs should read. After finishing it, I’m left with the strong desire to discuss it with other people!

The writing: Overall, it was excellent. I was engaged and curious to find out what would happen next. Toward the end, the writing became a bit disjointed. I found myself needing to exert effort to follow the narrative. Up until that point, it was an easy read.

The language: If you have an aversion to the F-word, consider yourself warned. It’s used in the writing, but not to an extent that made me put the book down or lower the rating because of it. (BTW: seven times on page 227)

The sexual scenes: There are multiple scenes, which made me cringe a bit, not because it was sex, but because it was a girl yearning to be loved and accepted. It broke my heart that she felt sexual acts were the way to find that love and acceptance.

The bulimia: Now, understand, I’ve struggled with weight and healthy eating my entire life. I’ve often thought over the years (and I know this is unhealthy thinking – so don’t lecture me!) that bulimics had the best of both worlds. They could eat whatever they wanted and in any quantity they wanted and then throw it up and still have the size body they wanted. Then society would praise them for how terrific they looked. Meanwhile a compulsive eater, eats, gains weight, and is then ridiculed by society for being fat. It’s completely screwed up. I never became a bulimic because I was afraid it might cause death or serious physical harm. (Yes, I was too scared to give bulimia a try.) Kopp’s story never really makes the reality of bulimia look as bad as I always thought it was. Her story almost made it seem appealing. Kopp merely skimmed over the surface of the emotions attached to the disease and at one point even seemed flippant about the physical consequences. I worry that a teenager reading this book might see bulimia as attractive. Something you can do for a while and then find something more interesting to move on to later. Kopp writes, “I was a good bulimic but not great.” (page 93) ---> This is one of the reasons this book would make an excellent book club choice. This is a great topic for discussion!

The dogs: If you’ve ever experienced the love of a dog, you know the joy, comfort, and devotion they offer. “While we might have outlived her, Sugar had outloved us all.” (page 104) The stories of the shelter dogs and how the process of Kopp loving them and serving them SAVED her … moved me greatly. More than once I found my heart in my throat as the stories of the dogs unfolded.

The addictions in general: Kopp explores a lot of important truths in this book. As a food addict, myself, I often ask myself, “Why did I do that? I know better!” But as Kopp eloquently put it, “Addictive craving bypasses all knowledge of past experience and consequences. It puts you in a truth blackout, and your wisdom and sanity disappear.” (pages 124-125) “Bingeing was the opposite of prettiness and perfection. It was rude, gluttonous, sinful—a giant middle finger to the strict, calorie-conscious rules I abided by during the day.” (page 227)

The images of women: Girls are raised from a very young age to know that the way they look influences the people around them. Why? Why is this done to girls? I find it so frustrating! Kopp writes, “I wish I could tell her to find stable ground, to stay away from anything that told her the size of her body mattered … I wish I could tell her to stay close to the things she loved. Find joy.” (page 5) “I had to write about where obsession lived. Where rituals were born. Where a girl believed that sucking in her stomach made her more beautiful, more vital, more seen in the world. I had to write about where she got those beliefs.” (page 225)

The recovery: One of the most moving pages was when Kopp reacted to a doctor who told her “Fat is not a feeling.” (page 26) Anyone who has ever actually felt fat … knows that it is in fact a feeling. And then later Kopp acknowledges, “The world is not what made me so sick and miserable—it was my way of seeing myself in the world.” (page 148)

Not all memoirs are created equal. This one was very moving and enjoyable. I highly recommend it to everyone (but warn you ahead of time about the F-word and multiple sexual scenes)

Kopp gave a lot of herself in the writing of this book. I hope it helps others find a joyful passion in their lives that enables them to overcome their addictions and love themselves fully.

Kopp said it perfectly at the end, “If I know anything at all, it’s that giving saves lives. Especially the giver’s.” (page 264)

[I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review of the book.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Do Demons Really Exist?

We've all heard people use phrases like: 

"What possessed you to do that?"
and / or
"The devil made me do it."

These phrases bring us to a basic yes or no question:
Do demons really exist?

The answer is not simple, and before we can even begin to answer it, we must understand the definition of the word demon.

Dictionary definitions of demon:
1. A demon is a supposed evil spirit
2. A demon is a personal fear or anxiety that torments someone

So … which is it? Do you believe that a demon is a supposed evil spirit? Do you think a demon is a personal anxiety that torments someone? Or do you think it’s both?

By choosing the definition you agree with, you acknowledge that demons do in fact exist.

Yes, demons do exist. 
Now, we might disagree on the precise definition, but we agree on the existence.

Stereotypically, there are two schools of thought regarding demons. Religious and secular.


If you’re religious or spiritual to some extent, you probably believe demons are evil spirits that whisper in your ear, toy with your emotions, or to an extreme, possess your mind.

According to psychiatrist and born-again Christian, M. Scott Peck, “the distinction between ‘human evil’ and ‘demonic evil’ is crucial” (1) 

And according to an article in Psychology Today, “The Roman Catholic Church’s official diagnostic criteria for discerning genuine demonic possession … includes speaking in tongues … supernatural physical strength, and visibly negative reactions of the victim to prayers.” (1)

However, secular psychiatrists will argue that many of these symptoms can be “seen in the most severely [mentally] disturbed patients.” (1)

For example, some of you might remember the Andrea Yates case from 2001. She claimed that she was possessed by Satan himself and he compelled her to drown her five children. “In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity…” (2) Was her demon a personal anxiety that tormented her? Did she suffer from a mental illness such as postpartum depression? Schizophrenia? Or was she possessed by an evil spirit?


If you lean more to the secular side, one that’s not as concerned with religious aspects, then you probably agree more with the psychiatrists who explain that these so called demons are actually your own inner fears and anxieties that have not been dealt with properly.

Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote, “If you’re tightly ‘in the grip’ of something, it’s really a recessive part of your own being that’s ensnared you and it’s probably a part so foreign to how you’d prefer to see yourself that you can hardly withstand the temptation to see it as not really you at all.” (3)  Dr. Seltzer continued, “The consensus of mental health professionals today is that the source of most—though certainly not all—so-called ‘evil’ thoughts and behaviors is linked to growing up in a seriously dysfunctional family.” (4)

Either way – religious or secular – an evil spirit or an unresolved personal anxiety – a demon can torment and endanger your sanity.

And the bottom line is: Yes, demons do exist.


[This post is part of a series leading up to the release of my novel, UNLOCKED, which will be published later this year by Merit Press. I extensively researched mental illness and demons for the plot. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments, because I find this topic highly fascinating!]

1) (page 7)
2) (page 8)
3) (page 2)
4) (page 3)
5) Credit for bottom photo:

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Terrific Quote for Today

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”
― Edmund Lee

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 20, 2016 = National Lima Bean Respect Day

Consider yourself warned ---> Wednesday is an important day!

Besides writing, I tend to do a lot of unusual research and public speaking. Sometimes … I combine the two. That’s one of many reasons I belong to Toastmasters, an international organization committed to empowering people to become better communicators. On Wednesday, April 20, 2016, I’ll fulfill the role of Toastmaster at our weekly meeting. This responsibility includes acting as a host, conducting the entire meeting, choosing a theme, and preparing brief remarks to bridge gaps between program segments. It’s actually quite fun.

As I do with most research, I typed my topic into Google, and imagine my surprise when I learned that April 20, 2016, is National Lima Bean Respect Day.


Here are some interesting tidbits for you to consider:
• National Lima Bean Respect Day is something that grew organically (no pun intended) on social media. It’s an “unofficial” national event … because the Internet says it is!
• Official Hashtag: #LimaBeanRespectDay
• Sometimes called "butter beans" because of their starchy yet buttery texture, lima beans have a delicate flavor that complements a wide variety of dishes.
• Humans have been cultivating lima beans since 6000 BC in Central and South America.
• The bean received its name when the Spanish explored Lima, Peru, during the 15th century. Although the two are pronounced differently.
• Introduced to the United States in the 19th century, the lima bean is primarily produced in California.
• Lima beans are great in pot pies, casseroles, and salads.
• The heartiness of lima beans makes them a great soup bean.
• Lima beans are often cooked with bacon and pork.
• But beware: eating raw or sprouted lima beans may cause stomach cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
• Eating large quantities of undercooked beans can release cyanide (from cyanogenic glucosides), which can impair tissue oxygenation and cause severe illness.
• Lima beans contain oxalic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in some vegetables, which, may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. Therefore, people with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised against eating certain vegetables. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain normal urine output to minimize stone formation risk.
• In Japan, green baby lima beans are an important ingredient in bean paste.
• Mix puréed lima beans with chopped garlic and your favorite fresh herbs. Use this spread as a sandwich filling or a dip.
• Lima beans are filled with nutritious fiber, potassium, iron, copper, protein, and manganese.
• They’re also a rich source of B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin-B6, thiamin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. Most of these vitamins function as co-enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism.
• Lima beans are an excellent source of folates, essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Adequate folate in the diet around conception and during pregnancy may help prevent defects in the newborn baby.
• Lima beans are also low in fat and contain protease inhibitors that stall the development of cancerous cells.
• Lima beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
• Eating high fiber foods, such as lima beans, helps prevent heart disease.
• In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, lima beans can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. A cup of lima beans contains 24.9% of the daily value for this important mineral.
• Lima beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat.
• The beans are generally kidney-shaped and appear in several different colors, including green, red and brown.

Feel free to use any of the tidbits above to share on social media, along with the official Hashtag: #LimaBeanRespectDay … and if possible, link back to this post.

If for some crazy reason, you can’t muster up the courage to support National Lima Bean Respect Day, you may be glad to know that April 20th is also National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day.

YAY for research!

For more information about Toastmasters:
For more information about the TM club I attend:
For more information about lima beans:

Monday, April 11, 2016


I highly recommend this book for all authors. It’s a great resource! My full review is below.

Online Marketing for Busy Authors
A Step-by-Step Guide
By Fauzia Burke
Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Paperback: 144 pages
April 19, 2016; $16.95; 9781626567856

Description from publisher:
There has truly never been a better time to be an author. For the first time, you have direct access to your readers via the Internet -- you can create a community eagerly awaiting your next book (and telling their friends about it too). But where do you start? How do sort through the dizzying range of online options? Where is it most worth spending your time -- what is a "must do" and what is a "might do"?

Enter Fauzia Burke, a digital book marketing pioneer and friend of overwhelmed writers everywhere. She not only makes the job of building your online brand doable, but she proves that it can be fun and fulfilling, too.

Burke takes authors step by step through the process of identifying their unique personal brand, defining their audience, clarifying their aspirations and goals, and setting priorities. Once that foundation is established, she walks you through the process of developing a personalized, sustainable long-term online marketing plan. She offers advice on designing a successful website, building a mailing list of super fans, blogging, creating an engagement strategy for social media, and more.

"Once you build your brand," Burke writes, "no one can take it away from you." Your digital brand is a conversation about your book that builds your community one relationship at a time. By following Burke's expert advice, any author can conquer the Internet and still get their next manuscript in on time.

Author Bio:
Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler, Spring 2016). Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online branding expert, Fauzia writes for the Huffington Post, Maria Shriver and MindBodyGreen. For online marketing, book publishing and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on the book, please visit:

My Review:
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and was in no way influenced by anyone else.]

This is a terrific book for authors interested in utilizing online resources for promoting their writings. While the content tends to be aimed at an Internet novice, more experienced authors can use the tools offered by Burke to reevaluate their current online marketing efforts.

Burke asks, “How do you prevent your brand from getting lost in all the social media noise? The answer: Be uniquely you. Aim for authenticity” (page 9). Sounds simple. Right? But how exactly do you accomplish that? Burke offers step-by-step guidance, including coming up with your own “brand statement” that will help you devise content to share on social media.

“To become a well-known and well-established professional author you have to be ready for the long haul, so adjust your expectations and remember that building an effective brand is a marathon, not a sprint” (page 15).

To maximize the benefit of social media, “You need to know where your readers spend their time and what social media sites they visit” (page 19). Burke provides information to help evaluate your audience and learn which platforms they most likely use.

There’s also an extensive exercise for setting realistic goals and priorities for the marketing of your book.

Burke offers detailed advice on how to maximize your usage of various outlets. For example, regarding using a Facebook author page to advertise an upcoming event, “you can target people who live five to twenty miles from the event location. We have used this type of advertising for many of our clients, and every time we have seen bigger turnouts than expected” (page 45).

This book isn’t only about utilizing social media, it’s also about other necessary online marketing essentials, such as managing your website and your mailing list. Burke includes terrific advice, checklists, and exercises to make sure these tools are helping you achieve your goals.

“Your most important marketing task is to keep your Super Fans happy and engaged” (page 74).

I know personally, I don’t send out a regular email to my readers, because I don’t want them to think I’m “spamming” them. However, Burke gives great advice, which I want to immediately put into practice. She says, “don’t do it only to promote a new book. You should communicate with your fans even when you have nothing to promote” (page 75). This makes sense! I suppose if you only email fans when there’s something to promote, that will feel more like spamming than emailing regularly will. Plus, Burke offers valuable advice regarding content to include in your email newsletters.

I’ve marked up ONLINE MARKETING FOR BUSY AUTHORS with post-its, highlights, and notes, and I’m ready to put what I’ve learned from it into action.

My favorite line from the book:  “No amount of social media is going to help you sell a book that is not well written” (page 92).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#IWSG: Unplug It

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day!

I came across this terrific quote, and I thought it fit today perfectly:

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you."
-- Anne Lamott

Monday, April 4, 2016

Not All Hypnosis is Safe

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time researching various topics. For my novel, UNLOCKED, which will be published later this year by Merit Press, I extensively researched hypnosis. Over the course of the next several months, leading up to the release of UNLOCKED, I will share some of the information I’ve gathered on hypnosis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments, because I find this topic highly fascinating!

According to the Mayo Clinic: 
Hypnosis “is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. When you're under hypnosis, you usually feel calm and relaxed, and are more open to suggestions.”

According to Merriam-Webster: 
“hypnosis: a trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject”

These definitions seem pretty tame, but I’d like to suggest that not all hypnosis is safe.

Actually, let me be perfectly clear: I am not an advocate for hypnosis. 

I believe not all hypnosis is safe for two reasons: 1) the vulnerability of the participant and 2) the ethical code of the hypnotist.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, please share your experiences in the comments below:

      1.      Have you had a positive experience with hypnosis?
      2.      Have you ever been hypnotized for entertainment purposes?
      3.      Have you ever participated in hypnotherapy?
      4.      Have you had any degree of negative experience with hypnosis?

While it is possible to have a positive experience with hypnosis, I encourage caution, because not all hypnosis is safe.

Vulnerability of the Participant

First, let me address the vulnerability of the participant. Typically, in order to be hypnotized, the participant must be willing. However, sometimes, he or she is overly willing and eager to escape the realities of life. Wanting to detach from the real world can become dangerous.

According to Mary Garden in an article she wrote for The Humanist in 2007, “Dr. Solomon Snyder, head of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, warns that … the brain releases serotonin. This may help those with mild depression but too much serotonin can cause, in some, a paradoxical relaxation-induced anxiety. Instead of relaxing … these people become distressed and may even have panic attacks. … some cases can launch a person straight into psychosis.” *

According to Mayo Clinic, adverse reactions to hypnosis may include: headache, dizziness, anxiety, distress, creation of false memories. They also advise, “Use special caution before using hypnosis for age regression to help you relive earlier events in your life. This practice remains controversial and has limited scientific evidence to support its use.”

Depending upon the vulnerability of the participant, a wide range of negative reactions is possible, everything from a headache to psychosis.

Ethical Code of the Hypnotist

Second, not all hypnosis is safe because of the ethical code of the hypnotist involved.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to attend a hypnotism show. In an auditorium along with a couple hundred other students, we watched as approximately fifteen students went on stage and very willingly participated in the hypnosis. We all laughed and enjoyed the show as the hypnotized students on stage did silly things such as quacking like a duck or singing a song. It was great. Terrific. Until the end. While the participants were still hypnotized, the hypnotist turned to the audience and spouted his political views. Then he actually instructed everyone how to vote in the upcoming election. I was shocked. I was not hypnotized, and I was not in a suggestive state, but all of those students still on stage were under hypnosis, and I’m certain there were plenty of other students sitting in the audience who were in some stage of suggestibility from watching the hypnosis being performed.

That’s the exact moment when I decided I did not like hypnosis, and I would never be hypnotized.

Now, you might be thinking: that’s merely an anecdote and an isolated incident. Maybe. However, in my research, I found many of these types of stories.

I also found the transcript of a presentation given by Dr. Charles Tart at a psychology convention where he casually stated to the audience, “Being a hypnotist … You can bend men's wills and change their reality and even give them good experiences and that's really an ego trip. A number of charlatans come into hypnosis, of course, because of that. They're not really interested in these intangible goals of helping people … They're more on a pure power trip … And then you always have stage demonstrations where the beautiful girl does strange things and the shy boy from town gets up and sings like Elvis Presley. It makes great entertainment. You all laugh and then you think, "Would I want to be hypnotized? I don't know. It's great to see it happen to other people." And then, of course, we have the classic thing of Svengali and Trilby, the master hypnotist who seduces the innocent young girl. I actually don't know how effective hypnosis is in seducing people. It if does work, those people don't write it up for the journals! It's kind of hard to get objective data on that sort of thing. I'm sure it does work sometimes because, let's face it … there're a lot of girls who'd like to say, "Oh, no. I would never do a thing like that, but he overpowered my will and it wasn't my fault at all."”

That was said by a man who is considered an expert in the field, whose publications are used in modern psychology.

So where does that leave us? Am I telling you to never participate in hypnosis because it’s evil? No. That’s not what I’m saying.

I am simply asking you to be cautious when considering hypnosis.

First, be honest about your own vulnerabilities. Why do you want to be hypnotized? Are you bored and simply looking for entertainment? Are you trying to escape your own personal reality? Are you looking for answers that can be found via other avenues?

Second, if you choose to participate in hypnosis, please take the time to research the ethical code of the hypnotist you plan to use.

Because …

Not All Hypnosis is Safe

Join the conversation in the comments. What are your viewpoints on hypnosis? Have you ever been hypnotized?

* While this article written by Mary Garden for The Humanist is about meditation, there are significant parallels between meditation and hypnosis, which I will present in a subsequent post.