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Have you ever read a life-changing book--one that haunts you long after you have finished it?  I'm not talking about one of those that gives you an "ah-ha" moment, but one that makes you go back and examine your life in minute detail, wondering....

Imagine for a moment you arrived home and found a package on your doorstep--plain brown paper with only your name.  Opening the box, you find a set of cassette tapes with nothing but the numbers 1-13 identifying them.  Now...imagine you start to play the first tape and a very familiar voice, one of someone who committed suicide the week before, announces that if you are receiving these tapes, you played a role in her suicide.  This is exactly what happens to Clay Jensen.

Clay gathers a map that mysteriously appeared in his locker and the tapes--and spends the night listening to Hannah Baker record the last words she will ever speak.  She has marked the map with the locations that played a part in her decision. Many times, Clay wants to stop for the words are painful, but he continues until the end, interjecting his thoughts between the recorded words, talking to someone who can no longer hear him.

Every word we speak and action we take sets into motion a series of other actions and words.  Nothing we say, do--or don't say or do--effects only ourselves.  Have you ever wondered what may have been different if you had chosen differently?  You will after reading this book.  You'll wonder...and you WILL react differently afterwards.  You can't walk away from this book unchanged.

Some schools have begun to make this book required reading.  It is my opinion that all schools should.  Every parent, grandparent and teacher should read this book.  This is Jay Asher's first novel and it is most likely the most powerful one he will ever write--one of the most powerful anyone will ever write.  Not because of his writing style--he writes well, with a down-to-Earth style that makes the story flow naturally.  He is an author I willl watch for in the future. 

Rather than send you straight to Amazon, I'd like to send you to Jay's website  It is full of excerpts, video and audio and interviews--and more.  You will get the full sense of what this book is about. I guarantee Hannah's story will stay with you forever.

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For the Love of Willow Walk--the Saga Continues (A Review)

For the Love of Willow Walk is the second book in the Willow Walk series by S. K. Hamilton.  This book continues the story of the Kahills, a family full of passion, dreams and love.  Unlike most sequels, which often leave the reader wondering why the author bothered to write a sequel, this book holds its own in the series.  It isn't merely a bunch of words meant to extend the Kahill saga, but is instead just as full of intrigue, mystery and a host of surprises that leave you anxious to see what the enxt page will bring.

Ms. Hamilton is a character-driven writer.  While her setting and plot are well-developed, it is the the characters that carry this series.  From the grumpy Jed Kahill, patriarch of the family down to the charming smile and inquistive questions of his young great-grandson, the namesake he has waited years to see.  The characters in this book are living, breathing spirits that enter your life from the first page and stay long after you close the covers. Ms. Hamilton breaks the often cautioned rule saying you shouldn't write in dialect--and she does it so well!  She seems equally comfortable with a Southern drawl as she is with an Irish brogue.  The nuances of English spoken as a second language are not lost and you would be inclined to think S. K. had gone through the experience herself.  This is a rare trait for even the most skilled of writers, yet Ms. Hamilton does it effortlessly.

The Kahills are people you meet every day as you go about your business.  They share the same love, joys and pain that are universal.  You can't help but believe you;ll take atrip out one day and pass Kat's boutique or see vacationers heading for the family ski lodge. A new group of characters have joined the family in this sequel (including a cute little lassie of four that captured my heart!) Ms. Hamilton's skill at language comes through again in her ability to write from the viewpoint of a man over eighty and a child of four.  She masters them both equally well.

 My only problem with this book was it ended too soon and I have to wait for the third book.  I will repeat what I said in my review of The Kahills of Willow Walk--this series will end up rivaling Gone With the Wind in time. 

For the Love of Willow Walk earns six colors on the Rainbow Scale of Writing Excellence.

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Getting To Know S. K. Hamilton

As promised yesterday, S.K. Hamilton joins us today to discuss her writing, life and books.  Please enjoy our discussion and leave her a note of thanks!

1. What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

Determined - Particular - Creative -- Allow me one more, please. Stubborn.

2. How do you think others would describe you?

Truthful - Plainspoken - Silly

3. Please, tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.

First, is abuse to animals. I'm a member of the Humane Society and ASPCA and I support them as much as my pocket book will allow. It kills my soul to see an animal hurt or in need. Only an evil person would abuse a defenseless animal. I would fight King Kong if I caught him being cruel to one of God's creatures. Second, and this is rather weird, I can't stand to see a tree cut down or mutilated by not being pruned properly. Especially ancient trees that have survived for years.

4. Do you have any pets? If so, introduce us to them.

Yes. I have a precious tortoiseshell 7-year-old cat. My husband says she looks like an owl--something about the way she holds her ears back at times. Her name is Marble and she came to us as a stray. She was pregnant at the time. We had her spayed, and inoculations after her babies were born. She appears to be wearing a milk mustache. Makes her look quite funny but adorable.

5. What is your most precious memory?

The birth of my daughter, Debbie. Learning that my husband's cancer is in remission.

6. What is your most embarrassing memory?

Perhaps I'll embarrass myself all over again by just telling you. I have so many embarrassing moments. My foot gets stuck in my mouth so much. Let's see...I guess when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, can't remember which. It was Christmas, and I was happy and in love. It was the last day of school before Christmas holiday and we were creating cards for our parents and having refreshments when curly headed Robert Woolfell approached my desk. I jumped up, threw my arms around him, and gave him a big kiss. Only then, did I realize--I shouldn't have done that. The teacher scolded me and I ended up crying. Ruined my whole day.

7. If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Probably wasting it. Maybe still decorating and hanging wallpaper with my husband. If I were younger, I would be a fashion designer or an interior designer. The latter is what I actually did before I retired. Now that I've had a full time dose of writing, I honestly don't know what I'd do. I would be lost if I couldn't write.

8. In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.

Hmmm...Let's see...She lived to write and she died trying. Oh! I don't know. This is one question I'm at a loss of words for.

Sylvia K. Hamilton the writer:

9. Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?

I visited a neighbor that I had never met and introduced myself. She said, "Oh, you're the writer? Right here in our own park?" My head swelled a little and my face turned red but I managed to calm my giddiness.

One other thing elated me. It was a letter from a friend's aunt. She's an everyday, ordinary, reader but her letter was so inspiring it convinced me that maybe I was a "real" writer after all. I was in a slump at the time and her words bailed me out and put the pen back in my hand and the words from my head to the keyboard.

10. What is going on with your writing these days?

Just published is a sequel to The Kahills of Willow Walk, titled For the Love of Willow Walk. I’m now working on a third in the series. My characters will not allow me to put them out to pasture. I have some poetry in the making and revising and editing old poetry and some old short stories.

11. What are your future goals for your writing?

I hope that my characters will be ready to retire after this last series and I can start on something new. Other than that, it’s just a wait and see things. I’m a one book at a time person. Can’t seem to divide my attention on two or more.

12. Can you describe a typical writing day for you?

A typical writing day for me is...all day off and on. Of course, I take breaks for normal, trivial living tasks, like eating, cooking, showering and such, but I don't shut down the computer until I go to bed. I'm back and forth all day long.

13. Why do you write?

I write because it makes me feel goof, creative and important. Actually, it's second nature to me and I can't help it. It's almost like a vice, an addiction. Still, an interesting habit.

14. What writer most inspires you? Why?

Rod McKuen. His prose is clever, emotional, romantic, and he has such great style. Also Max Lucado. He has a way with words and phrases. Although he is a spiritual writer, a minister, his stories have all the ingredients good stories should have. Of course, last but not least, all my author friends in the group. They're a breed set-apart, the very best.

15. How do you define your writing?

Well...that's a hard one. It's sort of like a soap opera, I would say. I write stories that just seem to keep on going. Like Dallas, or one of the others. I would like to think, as in one of my reviews, my story is along the lines of human interest, or a family drama with a little romance, a little mystery, and a little bit of everything. I guess I write about life, and people, the love of family and their trials and tribulations, in general. I had a wonderful review that I truly treasure from someone you know quite well. She said, The Kahills of Willow Walk was a modern day Gone with the Wind. Wow, I must admit, my head swelled a bit. However, that was so nice I thought.

16. In one sentence-what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?

Sad, she doesn’t know how famous she’s become. I have to laugh about that-- but hey-- it would be nice.

Sylvia K. Hamilton the details:

17. Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

*Website http://willow-walk.webs.com


* WATCH THE TRAILER on my website

18. Is there a place where readers can reach you?

Sure and I'd love to hear from everyone. E-mail is:


19. Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?

The Kahills of Willow Walk can be purchased at Amazon, - http://tinyurl.com/2rh34t  or Barnes and Nobel online bookstores.

If your local bookstore is out please ask them to order for you;

The Kahills of Willow Walk: ISBN 0-9769989-2-0

For the Love of Willow Walk: ISBN 978-0-9769989-9-0

If you so desire and should want an autographed book please just e-mail me with your address and I'll mail you one.

20. For new readers-what can they expect when they read your book(s)?

When reading my book I believe readers can expect to laugh, cry, get angry, sad, happy, and anxious, love some characters, and hate others. Finally, yet importantly, be fulfilled. Sounds like I'm bragging but after I had put my manuscript away for a month and went back to it, I became a reader and that's exactly what I felt. Above all, if they look forward to the next one then I'll be happy as a lark.

In conclusion:

21. Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers-what would you like them to know about you and your writing?

Thank you so much, Joyce, for having me here for this interview. It's been a pleasure and I appreciate the opportunity.

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper and in elementary school, I loved penmanship. I loved to practice my push-pulls and ovals. Woops! Now I'm telling my age. Oh well. It's the only homework I actually loved doing. Every holiday or birthday, I looked forward to receiving a book and sometimes more than one. I loved reading and was taught never to deface a book in any way. Books, my daddy said, would teach me what the world was about and with every word I read I would gain knowledge. I started writing poetry and from there wrote my first novel. I managed writing short stories in between. Now I'm going for a third in a series, working title, Forever Willow Walk

I was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. The hills and woods became my playground and I was happy. I had a wonderful childhood, wonderful parents and grandparents, and great friends, one of which I still correspond with.

Finally, yet importantly, I want everyone to know that my hubby, Ralph, my ideal reader, has been my beacon of light. If not for his constant encouragement and unselfishness I would not have been as far as I am today. Don’t get me wrong. He hasn’t missed many meals or lost any weight due to cooking neglect, but he has spent much time alone.

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Willow Walk is talking again!

Some time ago, I read a book titled The Kahills of Willow Walk.  To see what I thought of this book (as well as what other are saying) take a look at S.K. Hamilton's site.  Recently, I was able to get a copy of the sequel to this book, For the Love of Willow Walk. Realizing I had not introduced you guys to author, S. K. Hamilton, I figured this just might be the right time! 

The walls of Willow Walk house a wondroous group of characters.  The secrets are deep and many life-changing--and the walls have started talking!  For today, stop by and visit the author's site--and please return tomorrow when Ms. Hamilton joins us for a visit.  On Tuesday, I will be sharing my review of For the Love of Willow Walk.

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Dragon House -- An adventure of the Emotions

The past few days we have been visiting with John Shors and exploring his books, mission with Blue Dragon Children's Foundation and basically getting to know him.  Today, I want to talk about my experience with reading Dragon House.  I won't repeat the synopsis of this book because you can find it here.

The first thing that captured my attention with Dragon House was that it is not scene, character nor plot-driven, all three play an equal role in this book.  As you read, you can hear the scooters as they pass, smell the fish at the market and see the bright colors in every direction.  Within seconds, you are transported into the the midst of modern-day Vietnam.  You not only hear the lilting voice of Thien as she goes about her work, you feel her contentment.  The emotional pain Noah suffers tears at your soul and your world suddenly grows dim and dark as you travel with Sahn on his beat.  Feeling Qui's helplessness as she watches her beloved Tam grow weaker drains your energy and you want to run as Mai sees Loc walking toward her.  This is not a book you can sit and read cover to cover, for the emotion is so strong you need to stop and regain your composure. 

The amount of research that has gone into Dragon House is greater than anything else I have ever read. I have read autobiographies that didn't seem as real and did not give me the feeling that I was living the story.  John Shor has a talent that does not come from a book, but one that can only be said to be part of his very essence.  He brings his setting into your living room and his characters into your mind. 

I could not decide who was the main character in Dragon House.  Every character was so real and played their part so well, and all were equally important in making the book come alive.  If I had to give a name to the central character, it would be Love.  Each character fights his or her own demon, whether in the form of another person, a situation or an internal one.  In the end, it is mere love, in all its many forms that allows the individuals to move beyond those demons and see the beauty in life.  Each learns that sometimes the very beauty and peace they seek is there inside them the whole time. John Shors wrote a book about the street children in Vietnam--he wrote a blueprint to love for the world.


There is only one other time I have done this.  I can't give Dragon House a rating on the Rainbow Scale of Excellence--it surpasses the highest rating of a perfect rainbow many times over.

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John Shors on Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Try to imagine going days without food, never setting foot in a school or being taken from your family and forced to work long hours at dangerous, grueling work for no money.  This is everyday reality for many children throughout the world.  Blue Dragon Children's Foundation was created to give kids like this a chance by providing schooling, medicine, safe and clean places to live and freedom from the slavery many experienced.  More than the material things, this group has provided hope to many children who didn't even know if they had a future. 

Seeing the life led by the street children in Vietnam, John Shors wished for a way to help.  A portion of sales from Dragon House goes to Blue Dragaon.  I asked John to share with us how he became involved with this organization and to share with you what he has been able to accomplish so far.  Here is what John Shors has to say:

I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling. A time existed, after I graduated from college, when I taught English in Japan and then backpacked around Asia. I had little money and tended to stay in rooms that cost a few dollars a night. With nothing more than a couple sets of t-shirts and shorts in my backpack, I visited places such as Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Korea. Some of these countries I grew to know quite well. I’d find a cheap room, rent a scooter, and explore as much of an area as possible. Sometimes my future wife or my friends were with me, though I was often alone.

I saw so many beautiful things throughout these adventures, sights such as the Taj Mahal, the Himalayan peaks, and white-sand beaches unspoiled by humanity’s touch. But I think that I witnessed the most beauty within the street children I encountered. These children seemed so similar, country to country. They were out at all times of day and night, selling their postcards, their fans, their flowers. For many nights in Thailand, I played Connect Four with a boy who wasn’t older than seven or eight. We bet a dollar each game. Some travelers told me not to play with him, convinced that his parents were nearby and were sending him out at night to work. But I never saw his parents, and one night I spied him sleeping on a sidewalk, a piece of cardboard his bed. I don’t think I ever beat him in a game.

Throughout these travels I met hundreds, if not thousands, of children who lived on the street. Sometimes they were sick or had a physical deformity. But most of them were simply homeless—abandoned into extreme poverty. Bright, eager, and unafraid to laugh with a stranger, they taught me so much. I owe them so much.

My encounters with street children inspired my new novel, Dragon House. Set in modern-day Vietnam, Dragon House tells the tale of Iris and Noah—two Americans who, as a way of healing their own painful pasts, open a center to house and educate Vietnamese street children.

I’m quite excited about Dragon House. David Oliver Relin, who lived in Vietnam, and is the bestselling co-author of Three Cups of Tea, let me know that he thought it was “a sprawling, vibrant novel.” Robert Olen Butler, who fought in the Vietnam War, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection of short stories about Vietnamese Americans, told me that Dragon House is “a strong, important work from a gifted writer.” Such feedback from two wonderful writers, and two people who spent a significant amount of time in Vietnam, means a great deal to me.

It is my hope that Dragon House will be a success, and out of that success something good can happen. I am donating some of the funds generated from my book to an organization called Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. This group works with children in crisis throughout Vietnam. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation offers disadvantaged children a wide range of services and support to help them break out of poverty, forever, by getting them back to school and helping them achieve their best.

So far, since the release of Dragon House, we’ve (readers have also made donations) raised enough money to buy complete sets of school books for 700 street children. This result simply thrills me.

I’m grateful for the support of everyone who reads Dragon House, because the success of my novel will continue to allow me to help street children in Vietnam, and to raise the level of awareness of the perils that street children face around the world.

My very best wishes to you.

- John Shors

Tomorrow, I share my thoughts on Dragon House.

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John Shors Stops By for an Interview

Yesterday I introduced you to author, John Shors.  Today, Mr. Shors has stopped by to talk with us.  Please leave John a comment to let show your appreciation for his visit!

Thank you for being here, John. Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are as a person--background, family, pets, hobbies?

I'm from Des Moines, Iowa, and now live in Boulder, Colorado. My wife and I have two young children, so between raising them and writing novels, I don't have time for much else. But when I can sneak away from the computer, I enjoy traveling, hiking, working on my Japanese garden, and heading out on various adventures with our children.

You have traveled extensively in Asia. What is it about that part of the world that captures your interest? Having taught English in Japan, I imagine you speak Japanese. Do you speak any other languages?

I've been fortunate to travel all over Asia, and I'm definitely enamored with this part of the world. I love the history, weather, people, food, natural beauty, culture, and affordability of it all. I'm always eager to explore, and so much of Asia seems somewhat undiscovered. As far as languages, I speak a bit of Japanese and Thai, but many people in Asia speak English quite well, so there's never been a huge need for me to learn local languages. Of course, I try to speak with my hosts in their native languages whenever possible.

History plays a large role in your writing. Do you believe that you could have written such powerful works had you not actually experienced the places you write about?

I'm a writer who has to visit a place in order to bring that place to life on the page. For instance, my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. I spent a month in India prior to writing this novel, which was crucial to the writing process and success of the book. My recent novel, Dragon House, takes place in modern-day Vietnam. To research it, I traveled to Vietnam several times to get a great feel for the people, culture, and environment. I hear from many readers that the city of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh as it's called these days, really comes to life on the pages, and I think this is because of my personal experiences there.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write Dragon House?

While spending time in large Asian cities, I couldn't help but notice how many street children existed. These children were out at all hours of night and day, selling their fans, postcards, drinks, etc. I always enjoyed chatting with them, and was so impressed by their optimism, wit, intelligence, and resilience. I felt compelled to bring their stories to life within a novel.

In Dragon House, you have several characters who have been touched by wars. It struck me how accurately you could portray the feelings involved. Have you personally experienced any combat and if not, how did you go about researching to be so accurate?

Well, I've spent a lot of time in countries that have been affected by war, and have spoken to people who have lived through it. Certainly in Vietnam the legacy of war is quite strong. The people have moved beyond this history in some ways, but in others, war still lingers. I've made it a point to talk with people who have fought in recent wars as well as much older conflicts. No one reflects on war with fond memories.

You speak at a lot of book club gatherings. How did you come to be involved in doing this?

When my first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, took off on an international level, I decided that I wanted to give back to book clubs, so I added a letter to the back of the paperback that invited book clubs to invite me to their evenings. I included my email address. During the past three years, I have spoken, via speakerphone, with 2,300 book clubs around the world. It's been a wonderful experience for me.

Can you tell us a little bit about Blue Dragon Children's Foundation?

This group supports street children in Vietnam--clothing, educating, and sometimes sheltering these children. It's a wonderful group, one that is driven by incredible philanthropists from all over the world.

Part of the proceeds from Dragon House are donated to Blue Dragon. I am curious as to whether this is only because you believe in what they are doing or if it is also your way of giving back to a place that has given so much to you in the way of enrichment?

It's both, actually. I believe that street children can be saved, can be turned into productive and happy members of society. And that's what Blue Dragon does. I also want to give something back to the children of Vietnam, who enriched my life. So far, we've raised enough money to buy complete sets of school books for about 700 street children.

Do you believe that authors are in a position to bring about great changes in the world? If so, do you think we also have an obligation to use our talents to bring about a better world?

I believe that all of us can bring about positive change. Authors do have an advantage of having a platform--we can create work that inspires people, we can pass on our own beliefs, etc. I think it's important for authors to generate something positive from their work. This is certainly something that I take quite seriously.

Your website has information on your two previous books, but I read a preview of The Wishing Trees and know that is on my reading list when it comes out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The Wishing Trees takes place in eight different countries, and is the story of a widower and his ten-year-old daughter who travel around the world, inspired by a series of letters written by the dead wife/mother. It's a different sort of novel for me, and I'm really excited about it. I think it turned out quite well.

Where can readers get in touch with you, John?

I'm in the process of creating a new web site at johnshors.com, but it's not quite up. So, it's best for readers to contact me directly by emailing me at shors@aol.com .

Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?

I'm grateful for everyone's support, and appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.

You can find more answers from John on his website!

Tomorrow, I will be sharing some information on Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, John's charity of choice, and John will share with us how he came to get involved with them.  Until then, if you would like to have your own copy of Dragon House, Please visit here.

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John Shors -- Author With a Mission (and some great books!)

I recently had the opportunity to read Dragon House, the latest book by John Shors.  It made such an impression on me, that I contacted Mr. Shors and asked if he could grace us with a visit.  I was more than delighted when he agreed!  Over the next few days, I will be sharing with you an interview with John Shors, information on Dragon House (and a bit on his other books) and on Blue Dragon's Children's Foundation, John's passion outside of writing :-) 

Set in modern-day Vietnam, Dragon House tells the tale of Iris and Noah—two Americans who, as a way of healing their own painful pasts, open a center to house and educate Vietnamese street children.

Iris and Noah find themselves reborn in an exotic land filled with corruption and chaos, sacrifice and beauty. Inspired by the street children she meets, Iris walks in the footsteps of her father, a man whom Vietnam both shattered and saved. Meanwhile, Noah slowly rediscovers himself through the eyes of an unexpected companion.

Resounding with powerful themes of suffering, sacrifice, friendship, and love, Dragon House brings together East and West, war and peace; and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.


After graduating from Colorado College, John Shors lived for several years in Kyoto, Japan, where he taught English. On a shoestring budget, he later trekked across Asia, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. After returning to the United States, he became a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, winning several statewide awards in journalism. John then moved to Boulder, Colorado, and helped launch GroundFloor Media, now one of the state’s largest public relations firms.

John has been lucky enough to spend much of his life abroad, traveling in Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, Africa, and North America. Now a full-time novelist, John spends his days writing and going on family outings with his wife, Allison, and their two young children, Sophie and Jack.

John’s first two novels, Beneath a Marble Sky, and Beside a Burning Sea, have won multiple awards, and have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Until tomorrow, please enjoy this video of John Shors discussing Dragon House and reading a brief excerpt:

Dragon House can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and IndieBound, as well as local bookstores

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Read a book for Free

I need to apologize. This information, from Fiona Robyn, should have reached you guys on the first! I'll turn the blog over to Fiona........

Meet Ruth. She doesn't know if she wants to carry on living or not, and she gives herself three months to decide. Her diary is my novel, Thaw, and you can read it for FREE, beginning today.

Why am I giving a novel away for free? Because I am a writer, and I want to share my characters and their stories with as many people as possible. And maybe, if you enjoy it, you might want to read more of my books.

Become a follower of the blog page now. Follow on Twitter. Join the Facebook page. Forward this email to your novel-reading friends. Thank you.

Over to Ruth.


These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It's a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we're being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they're stuck to the outside of her hands. They're a colour that's difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I'm giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don't think I'm alone in wondering whether it's all worth it. I've seen the look in people's eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I've heard the weary grief in my dad's voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I'm Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I'm sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat - books you have to take in both hands to lift. I've had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I've still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about - princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad's snoring was.

I've always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I'll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, 'It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,' before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It'll all be here. I'm using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I'm striping the paper. I'm near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I'm allowed to make my decision. That's it for today. It's begun.

Continue reading here.

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Judith Orloff on Emotional Vampires

As promised yesterday, here is one of my favorite articles by Judith Orloff. For more articles, quizzes and tons more, stop by Dr. Orloff's website!

The Emotional Vampire Survival Guide: Emotional Freedom in Action

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Harmony Books, 2009)

To be emotionally free you can’t remain na├»ve about relationships. Some people are positive and mood elevating. Others can suck optimism and serenity right out of you. Vampires do more than drain your physical energy. The super-malignant ones can make you believe you’re an unworthy, unlovable wretch who doesn’t deserve better. The subtler species inflict damage by making smaller digs which can make you feel bad about yourself—for instance, “Dear, I see you’ve put on a few pounds” or “You’re overly sensitive!” Suddenly they’ve thrown you emotionally off-center you by prodding areas of shaky self-worth. To protect your sensitivity, it’s important to name and combat these vampires. The concept struck such a collective chord in my book Positive Energy that in Emotional Freedom I illustrate how it applies to protecting your emotions and not absorbing other people’s negativity. In the book I discuss these vampires to watch for and ways to deal with them.

(from “Emotional Freedom” by Judith Orloff MD)

• Your eyelids are heavy—you’re ready for a nap
• Your mood takes a nosedive
• You want to binge on carbs or comfort foods
• You feel anxious, depressed, or negative
• You feel put down, sniped at, or slimed


Vampire #1: The Narcissist
Their motto is “Me first.” Everything is all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, hog attention, and crave admiration. They’re dangerous because they lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love. If you don’t do things their way, they become punishing, withholding, or cold.

How to Protect Your Emotions: Keep your expectations realistic. These are emotionally limited people. Try not to fall in love with one or expect them to be selfless or love without strings attached. Never make your self-worth dependent on them or confide your deepest feelings to someone who won’t cherish them. To successfully communicate, the hard truth is that you must show how something will be to their benefit. Though it’s better not to have to contend with this tedious ego stroking, if the relationship is unavoidable use the above strategies to achieved desired results.

Vampire #2: The Victim
These vampires grate on you with their “poor-me’ attitude and are allergic to taking responsibility for their actions. The world is always against them, the reason for their unhappiness. When you offer a solution to their problems they always say, “Yes, but.” You might end up screening your calls or purposely avoid them. As a friend, you may want to help but their tales of woe overwhelm you.

How to Protect Your Emotions: Set kind but firm limits. Listen briefly and tell a friend or relative, “I love you but I can only listen for a few minutes unless you want to discuss solutions. Then I’d be thrilled to brainstorm with you.” With a coworker, listen briefly, sympathize by saying, “I’ll keep good thought for things to work out. Then say, I hope you understand, but I’m on deadline and must go back to work. Then use “this isn’t a good time” body language such as crossing your arms and breaking eye contact to help set these healthy limits.

Vampire #3: The Controller
These people obsessively try to control you and dictate what you’re supposed to be and feel. They have an opinion about everything. They’ll control you by invalidating your emotions if they don’t fit into their rulebook. They often start sentences with “You know what you need?” and then proceed to tell you. You end up feeling dominated, demeaned, or put down.

How to Protect Your Emotions: The secret to success is never try and control a controller. Be healthily assertive, but don’t tell them what to do. You can say, “I value your advice but really need to work through this myself.” Be confident but don’t play the victim or sweat the small stuff. Focus on high priority issues rather than on putting the cap on the toothpaste.

Vampire #4: The Splitter or Borderline Personality
Splitters see things as either good or bad and have love/hate relationships. One minute they idealize you, the next you’re the enemy if you upset them. They have a sixth sense for knowing how to pit people against each another and will retaliate if they feel you have wronged them. They are people who are fundamentally damaged—inwardly they feel as if they don’t exist and become alive when they get angry. They’ll keep you on an emotional rollercoaster and you may walk on eggshells to avoid their anger.

How to Protect Your Emotions: Stay calm. Don’t react when your buttons get pushed. Splitters feed off of anger. They respond best to structure and limit setting. If one goes into a rage, tell the person, “I’m leaving until you get calmer. Then we can talk.” Refuse to take sides when he or she tries to turn you against someone else. With family members, it’s best to show a united front and not let a splitter’s venomous opinions poison your relationships.


About Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books, 2009) Her other bestsellers are Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. www.drjudithorloff.com

Please check out “Dr. Orloff’s Living Room Series” to find out more about the special method Dr. Orloff recommends to remember your dreams and other topics to build the power within. Stop by www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd anytime.

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Second Sight -- A Review and a Peek Inside

Yesterday, I shared with you information on Judith Orloff's 2nd Edition of Second Sight. In this book, Ms. Orloff leads the reader through her coming to terms journey with the intuitive gift she has been given. As with many gifts of this nature, there are mixed emotions along the way to acceptance. When Judy entered the medical field, she all but abandoned her gift. Medicine, regardless of the field pursued, is a scientific arena that is intolerant of all that can't be proven beyond doubt. As with all people who try to deny what is an essential part of their being, Judith reached a point where she had to decide once and for all how she would embrace her gift.

Second Sight is not merely an autobiography. It is the complete sharing of an inner journey like that faced by each of us in our lives. Judith Orloff opens her soul to readers, allowing them to feel her confusion and the pain and frustration that comes from denying our innate nature. Going even further, she shares with readers how they can avoid that pain. She shows each reader how to embrace their own intuition and trust it. Ms. Orloff learned things the difficult way and has willingly created a piece of work that can save others that hard journey, or at least lessen the length of it.

With words that let you know the writer has been where you are and knows, not from formal education but from life experience, what works and what doesn't. You can feel her genuine concern and confience in you coming through on every page of this book. I can't limit my suggestion as to who this book is most directed toward. It is a book for all who want to be able to live their genuine life within the life that society has created.

Second Sight rates six colors on the Rainbow Scale.

Before sharing a peek within Second Sight, I want to remind everyone of the multitude of gifts Judith Orloff is offering those who purchase this book on March 1. For all the details, please visit Judith's promotion page.

An Excerpt from Second Sight




I am large;
I contain multitudes.
- Walt Whitman

It was 3 A.M., the summer of 1968. A magical Santa Ana night. A warm wind whipped through the Eucalyptus trees beside our house blowing tumbleweeds down the deserted city streets. I was sixteen years old and had spent the entire weekend partying at a friend's place in Santa Monica, oblivious to how exhausted I felt.

The scene was Second Street, two blocks from the beach, a one- bedroom white clapboard bungalow, where my friends and I hung out. We were like a pack of animals huddled safely together, apart from what felt to be a menacing outside world. Brightly painted madras bedspreads hung from the ceiling and candles in empty Red Mountain wine bottles flickered on the floor. Barefoot and stretched out on the couch, I was listening to Dylan's "Girl From North Country." I felt restless. I wanted something to do.

A young blond man I had met only an hour before invited me to go for a ride with him up into the hills and I accepted. He was a James Dean type, cool and sexy, dressed in a brown leather jacket and cowboy boots, a pack of Camels sticking out of the back pocket of his faded jeans: the kind of guy I always fell for but who never paid much attention to me. I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for anything.

The two of us headed outdoors, stepping over couples who were making out on a few bare mattresses placed strategically on the living room carpet. We jumped in my green Austin Mini Cooper, my companion at the wheel, and took off for Tuna Canyon, one of the darkest, most desolate canyons in the Santa Monica mountain range, an exotic remote place which the Chumach Indians had consecrated as sacred ground.

The road snaked up into the mountains to an elevation of about 1500 feet where we could see the entire Malibu coastline laid out before us in a crescent of lights all the way from Point Dume down to the Southernmost tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The balmy night air blew through my hair, filling my nostrils with the rich scent of pungent sage and fresh earth. A few lone coyotes howled to each other in the distance.

For a moment, the man I was with glanced over at me and I felt something inside of me stir. The softness of his voice, the easy way he moved his body excited me, but I did my best not to show it, determined to play the game, acting as if I didn't care. The heat of his arm stretched across my body and he stopped on my leg. I reached my hand over to meet his, slowly stroking each fingertip, one by one. I felt intoxicated by the newness. He was a stranger, completely unknown to me. It was the ultimate risk. The closer we got to our destination, the more my excitement grew. I was anticipating what would happen when we reached the breathtaking view at the top.

The higher we climbed, the more treacherous the curves in the road became. But we were paying little attention to them, talking non-stop, high on a potent amphetamine that we had taken an hour ago at the house. On the last curve before the top, he didn't respond quickly enough and the right front tire plowed into the soft gravel along the shoulder. The tiny car lurched wildly as he wrestled with the steering wheel in a frantic effort to regain control. He slammed on the brakes. I heard the tires shriek and a second later, we had skidded off the pavement and were hurtling over the edge of a cliff, plunging downward into the darkness below.

I recall only fragments of what happened next. I know that time slowed down and I began to notice things. The night sky was swirling beneath my feet instead of above me. I could hear strange sounds like bumper cars crashing into each other at an amusement park. I made the emotionless observation that something was distinctly odd about this situation, but I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was. The horror of the predicament never really registered. Instead, something shifted and I suddenly found myself standing in a sort of tunnel, feeling safe and secure. It didn't occur to me to question where I was or how I got there. Although far in the distance I could hear the wind rushing past the open windows of the car, I was suspended in a peaceful sanctuary while we were falling through space toward the rocky canyon floor hundreds of feet below.

With no impulse to move or to be anywhere other than where I stood, I looked around the tunnel which now surrounded me. It was a muted gray womb-like place resembling a birth canal, and it seemed to extend endlessly in both directions. Besides containing me, it was completely empty. The tunnel was simple and unadorned; it felt comfortable and soothing. Upon examining the substance of it more closely, it appeared to be made up of swirling, vaporous material resembling billions of orbiting atoms which were vibrating at enormous speeds. I felt that there was no solid mass at all, and I thought that I could probably put my hand right through the walls, but I had no urge to try.

Suddenly I remembered being a little girl, looking up into space while sitting on my rooftop, fascinated by the sky and the planets, sensing an invisible presence. For hours on end I would stare at what I could not see, but could feel more strongly than anything material. From my earliest memory, I always believed in God. Not so much the God of the Jewish religion in which I was being raised, or any other religion for that matter. Rather, it was a formless, ever-present being that twinkled through all things and lovingly watched over me. That same presence was there with me in the tunnel, more familiar and closer than it ever had been when I was a child. Enveloped by it, as if wrapped in a warm cashmere blanket on a cold winter's night, I was in perfect balance, impervious to harm, protected by an invisible but somehow tangible life force that was all-sustaining.

Time had stopped and each moment was stretching out into eternity. From what felt like a great distance away, I gazed out through the shattered windshield, noticing the soft moonlight streaming through the canyon. The car bounced violently off huge boulders, turning end over end through the air, as we plummeted down the sheer mountainside. Yet, I never perceived that I was in the slightest danger nor experienced a single moment of fear. With the coolness of a detached observer, I counted the times that the car somersaulted: 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . all the way up to 8. Protected by the shelter of the tunnel, I remained in a frozen void, suspended in freefall, not knowing if this was life or death.

As abruptly as I had been pulled into it, I was jolted out of the tunnel and back into the present, remarkably unscathed, just as the car touched down onto solid ground. With a high, shuddering bounce and a grating sound of steel against rock, we came to a grinding halt, the front wheels of the car projected over a narrow ledge. We were precariously balanced, actually teetering over the precipice.

Thrown by the impact of our landing, he and I had both ended up in the back seat. Fragments of broken glass were scattered all over the inside of the car, but miraculously, neither of us was hurt. We quickly realized that we were still in danger. At any moment we feared that the car might slide forward and tumble into a larger ravine that was still below us. We had to get out of there fast.

A flimsy tree trying to crawl in through the window, appeared to be our only available support. Without looking back I grabbed onto its fragile branches and somehow managed to pull myself out of the mangled car. My companion was close behind. We scrambled up the side of the cliff, pushing our way through thick, barely penetrable scrub brush and wild chaparral. Trying to avoid the loose, unstable mounds of dirt and slippery leaves beneath our feet, we used the central vines of plants like ropes to pull us up the sheer hillside. While steadily inching to the top, I kept asking myself, "Why were our lives spared?" We should have been killed in the crash. Instead, we were walking away with hardly a scratch. The image of the tunnel haunted me.

Once on solid ground, we hitchhiked a ride with a stranger who drove us down the winding roads of the canyon back into the city. Faint rays of pink dawn light were beginning to illuminate the hills. I don't think any of us said a single word the entire time, but I'm not certain. I have little recall of the trip. Staring off into space, I replayed the accident over and over in my mind, unable to account for how we could still be alive. Only a miracle could have saved us - - - and it appeared as if one had.

For many days, I blanked out the details of the actual fall, but I retained a few disjointed images. I could distinctly remember the car rolling over the cliff and the giddy, weightless, out-of-control sensations during the instant of the drop. It was like going over the first big dip on a gigantic roller coaster. I also recalled how every cell in my body had screamed in protest in the instant of the screeching, bone-jarring landing. I had no idea what to make of the tunnel. It was an enigma to me, a mystery that I would continue to unravel for a long time to come.

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