Top Five Strangest Experiences by Geoffrey Saign – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Geoffrey Saign will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. Click here to read our review.

Top Five Strangest Experiences

Hey, if you saw me on the street, you might say, well, average looking, nothing strange here. But I have had some strange experiences!

When I was traveling in Fiji in my late 20s I lived on a friend’s 50’ sailboat by myself for 3 months. Fiji had just had a coup, and rumors abounded of people running around with machetes. Not true, but we didn’t know that. Guards were posted outside the hotel, the boat was tied up with dozens of others behind the hotel in the bay. That morning I had a call on the dock; my grandmother who I was very close to had just died. That evening, in the bow cabin of the boat, lying on my back, I heard someone stepping on the stern of the boat from the dock. It was very dark down below. The person made their way down the steps, through the main cabin. I readied to attack whoever came through my cabin door. When they entered, I sat up. I was pushed back very hard and held down for several seconds. I couldn’t move. The next day, Ilda, from Austria on the boat next door, said, “Ach, it’s nothing. It’s just your grandmother, she was upset you left. Just tell her you’re sorry and she won’t come back. I did, and that was that.
When I was traveling in the South Pacific on that same trip, sailing on boats from Fiji to Brisbane, Australia, everyone asked me what I was going to do when I arrived in Australia. I said, “Get trained in massage and live a block off Bondi Beach.” I knew no one in Australia, had no training in massage, and had no money. But I traveled from Brisbane down to Sydney, and on Bondi Beach I struck up a conversation with a woman, who knew the owner of the only legit massage studio in Sydney (the rest were prostitution), introduced me, I was trained, hired, and lived a block off Bondi Beach.

That kind of pattern has occurred often in my life. I always wanted to train with a true kung fu master, and at a YMCA met one of 8 reigning kung fu masters of Vo Lam Vietnam (sister system of Shaolin). He agreed to train me. More recently, I told everyone in 2020 I wanted 2-3 movie contracts in 2021. Now I have 4—two on my two thriller series, two on my two YA fantasy series.

More strange, but much harder to put into words, in 2020 I had a major breakthrough/change in consciousness. Intelligence runs all my actions, not thoughts. That is hard to establish, harder to describe and understand. It’s like intuition running 24/7 for everything—every single action. During that transition, I wrote SMILE MORE STRESS LESS, and change continued while I wrote the book. This has been something I have been pursuing most of my life, clarity of consciousness, so in a sense it’s not that ‘strange’—but in another sense it’s very different. I wouldn’t trade that wisdom for anything.

Also, I know the strangest things are yet to come, because once you open the door for intelligence, anything is possible.

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Enjoy an Excerpt

The thought process is regarded as a sign of human intelligence, yet our thoughts often sabotage what we do and are unaware, negative, and create stress. We’re running an old program in our brain’s neural net. Worse, we’re addicted to the repetitive thought process. It feels good, safe, right. It feels like us. Who we are. Our thoughts create feelings and emotions which, even if we don’t always like them, are a known process that continually reinforces itself in the brain.

Minor adjustments are not enough to alter the brain’s stress process. The brain’s neural net needs a system overhaul, a complete update and reboot. We’re going to take thought off its pedestal and get real with it.

Too often we feel that to attain awareness means taking a very serious, “adult” approach to life, like a monk sitting in a cave for a decade. But it can be a playful adventure with childlike wonder.

Our INTENT in this process is the WHY of what we’re doing. Our intent is to consciously break up our habitual neural pattern—mechanical, negative thoughts—by informing and teaching the brain to change. In essence, to rewire itself. If the brain understands what we are trying to do, and why, it will listen. It has no choice. You can be the master of wiring your neural net to a positive state.

About the Author Geoffrey Saign began reducing stress by practicing mindfulness at the age of fifteen. For fifty years he studied many modalities for mind-body calming and awareness, including Qigong, tai chi, kung fu, meditation, biofeedback, positive psychology, and many others. He co-designed and taught a cutting-edge, research-based self-awareness class to young adults for ten years. In 2020 the author experienced a major breakthrough in mind-brain-body awareness, which led to him Living with intelligence, and the resulting book, Smile More Stress Less.

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Proximity and Touch: In Life, In the Pandemic and In Emergence by Ellie Beals – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ellie Beals will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. See our five star review here!

Proximity and Touch: In Life, In the Pandemic and In Emergence

I have a new puppy – he’s 15 weeks old now, and is doing a lovely job of taking brisk walks around the neighborhood on a loose leash. Many people we encounter on these walks get that soft, mushy “OMG, a puppy!” look on their faces when they see him, and I respond affirmatively when they ask if they can greet him. This is a pandemic puppy – he needs all the input and stimuli I can allow or provide. I keep him on a long leash, and step back and turn my face away, to allow appropriate distance between humans, while he moves forward to greet the new folks. As I watch puppy and humans interact, the way the humans revel in the physical contact seems more pronounced to me than what I’ve witnessed in the past with other puppies. Am I imagining this? I don’t think so. I think the hunger for the tactile exchanges that we used to take for granted are profound. We have all become, or are becoming, pandemic puppies ourselves – constantly attached to invisible leashes that prevent us from interacting with the world the way we want to. The way we need to.

As both a dog-trainer, and a human with profound “skin hunger” I have always been highly aware of proximity and touch, and I believe I would have embedded that awareness in my first novel under any circumstances. But I suspect the fact that Emergence was written during the pandemic may have contributed to my decision to use proximity and touch as the principal milestones in the development of the relationship at the heart of Emergence – the friendship that slowly evolves between middle-aged Cass Harwood, an urban-born dog-trainer turned wilderness recreationist, and Xavier, the isolated “wildchild” of Lac Rouge.

At the outset, the contact between Xavier and Cass is, frankly, one-sided and a tad creepy. Unknown to Cass, Xavier surveils her for a long period, during which, unequivocally – he touches her with his eyes, describing for example, how she looks younger and softer as she raises her face to the sun, or how she sighs in resignation when she realizes she’s lost track of one of her dogs. Had she known, surely Cass would have been as disturbed by the invasiveness of this kind of observation as any of us would be if someone we didn’t know or didn’t like, stood too close and touched too often.

But she didn’t know. And as a result, when they finally met, Cass brought her own awareness of proximity and touch to the relationship. Though she (like her creator) is a tactile person, she recognized that Xavier would be skittish about proximity and touch, and suppressed her natural impulses to reach out to him. Numerous times, she alludes to wanting to make physical contact with him but restraining herself, recognizing the kind of intense physical and emotional “privacy” he emanated.

Xavier is also acutely aware of and curious about, the implications of touch. He comments on the fact that the very first time he observed Cass and her husband Noah together, Noah patted her bottom. He is repelled by the way Jean Luc touches him too often and too intimately. He is fascinated by how “touchy” Yates, a close friend of both Harwoods, is. He is also a bit jealous of the implied intimacy between Yates and Cass.

Xavier experiences a kind of epiphany which is part of his emergence from his isolation, when he realizes the extent to which touch can be a communication vehicle, when Cass coaches him on dog-training and explains the importance of “good hands”. It is during that session that Cass, previously so cautious with Xavier, touches him without even thinking about it, because it is so innate a part of her coaching persona. And because that touch is so natural and appropriate to the circumstances – Xavier breaches the touch barrier, and accepts this new degree of contact with another person. He has started to emerge. And the process culminates when later, at a time of high emotion, Cass opens her arms to Xavier, and his empathy propels him to breach the touch barrier. He describes it this way: ‘And she looked at me like she was asking permission as she held her arms out. I couldn’t leave her standing there like that; it would have been mean. So I nodded and stepped in for the hug she was offering.”

Even Stefan, Xavier’s father, whose decision to live the isolated life at Lac Rouge that has created the social void in which Xavier has resided, is not immune to the pleasures of touch. Xavier is intrigued by watching Stefan interact with a puppy, and speculates that based on what he sees – Stefan must have “good hands”. But the fact that this is conjecture says all that needs be said about the absence of touch between father and son.

Dogs, and puppies in particular, are powerful touch champions. I return to my adventures watching pedestrians interact so fervently with my puppy. As a result of these interactions, he will grow up “normally” – attuned to and invested in the pleasures of tactile interactions with humans. But what about us? When this is over, will we be able to abandon our acquired paranoia about proximity and touch, like a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis? I hope so.

It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.

When the “wild child” Xavier ¬ first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before ¬ finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.

The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier’s involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori’s spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass’ isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. His arrival is observed by Xavier, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.

Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Our cabin doesn’t have a basement. It is raised on cinderblocks, and is only maybe a foot off the ground…That has allowed me to have an excellent place to hide things I don’t want Stefan to know about. There are boards underneath where the kitchen is, that I’ve had to explore when working with insulation. I now have my own special board, where I’ve hollowed out a space where I can hide stuff. My secret stuff incudes extra notebooks with the drawings of Cassie and the dogs, that would reveal how much time I spend observing them. But it also includes special stuff I’ve liberated, that I don’t want Stefan to know about.

Liberation is a game Stefan taught me when I was littlelittle. He told me that good equipment deserves to be well cared-for. When he was teaching me how to Just Watch, he’d find hunting stands where we could watch campers, fishermen, and hunters. And he would explain when they did things right, and when they didn’t. Not looking after your equipment is not right. So when people were careless, and particularly when they were careless and drunk, or even better – careless, drunk and asleep ( which happens pretty often!) he taught me how to do a super-quiet “leopard crawl”, which means crawling really low to the ground on your belly. And I would have to leopard crawl to liberate the good equipment. It was scary and very fun! I got us lots of good stuff. As far as Stefan knew, it all went into a big wooden chest in the book room.

But I have liberated some stuff on my own – things I never told Stefan about. And that stuff goes into my hiding space under the house. Most of it is small stuff. My favorite little liberation was a system for carrying water in a pack with a hose you can sip it through. But the main thing, the big thing in my hiding space, is the rifle I liberated a year ago, when Stefan was away.

I was Just Watching a little clearing off the main road where hunters often met up with each other. It was early in the season, and I was there before any one arrived. But as the sun rose, four SUVs showed up. They were all big, expensive looking vehicles. Six men got out, all dressed in in the kind of clothes that hunters from the city wear and that Stefan makes fun of. One of the men, who I think maybe was younger than the others, acted really excited. He reminded me of how bullshit dogs like Zeke try to act tough but end up wagging their tails really fast and low and licking the mouths of the no-bullshit dogs. He was the guy with the biggest SUV. While they were getting ready to go, he took two rifles out of the car and showed them to the other men. There was a lot of discussion. I’m pretty sure they were deciding which one he should use that day. They decided on the fancier, newer-looking one, with a powerful-looking scope. The guy put the other one back in the SUV…

It never occurred to me to liberate it. Breaking into a car was not something Stefan had taught me to do. But the guy never locked his vehicle! I couldn’t believe it!

About the Author Ellie Beals grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Canada when she was 20. She spent the majority of her professional career as a management consultant in Ottawa, Ontario. Plain language writing was one of her specialties.

Dogs have been a constant in Ellie’s life from the time she was a child. In the mid-1990s, she started to train and compete in Obedience with Golden Retrievers, with considerable success. In 2014, she had the highest-rated Canadian obedience dog (Fracas—upon whom Chuff is modelled), and her husband David Skinner had the second-rated dog. During a ten-year period, both Ellie and David were regularly ranked among Canada’s top ten Obedience competitors. They have an active obedience coaching practice in Ottawa, having retired from their previous professional careers in order to spend more time playing with their dogs and their students.
Like Cass and Noah Harwood, Ellie and David have a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, where Ellie is an avid wilderness recreationist, constantly accompanied by her dogs. As COVID-19 spread in March of 2020, she and David temporarily shut down their coaching practice and retreated to their cabin, where Emergence was written. Lac Rouge is not the real name of the lake on which they live. Everything else about the locale for Emergence is faithful to the character of the gentle Laurentian mountains of West Quebec.

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My Take on Critique Groups by Sara R. Turnquist – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

One of the highlights of my week is my writing critique group. I find great joy in joining these like-minded people, sharing my work and theirs, and giving each other feedback as well as encouragement. I have this place to bring my WIP (work in progress) and have others put their eyes (and ears) on it so I can get some insight outside of myself.

There are so many benefits to being a part of a critique group. No matter where you are in your writing journey—whether a newbie or a seasoned professional. My critique group is made up of all stages and places. And I love that. So, what can a writing group do to benefit me?

Provide Instant Feedback. This is one of the most basic and obvious reasons anyone joins a critique group. I encourage everyone to be bold and share his or her work. That’s the only way to improve. Let the group read it and give feedback—the more eyes, the more will be caught. This is not because the writing is bad, but because there are only so many things the writer can catch. We tend to be too close to our own work.

This is, however, where I advise everyone to be choosy about their critique group. No one wants a group that is vicious or tears others down. If that’s the vibe, don’t go back; but try another group.

Broaden Your Horizons. By this I mean that we can learn more about our craft from others that are further along in their careers. I benefit from others who have learned from different editors that point out different things. What can I glean from someone who attended a conference workshop that I didn’t have access to? These are all things to think about.

Teach. There may even be an opportunity to teach others. Volunteer to lead a short teaching time in your group, if that fits the group dynamic. This not only brings on the warm fuzzies, but it solidifies your knowledge of that subject and can give you a confidence boost. As we learn and grow in our craft, it is good to turn that around and teach others.

Connect. Those in the group that are published and going to conferences can connect the group’s newbies with other professionals in the industry. This can be extremely valuable. In my critique group, I have come to see the necessity of going to conferences and workshops and even taking online courses. All of these things have grown me in the craft of writing. But I never would have known where to find these resources had it not been for my critique group’s fearless leader.

Accountability & Support. Those regular check-ins keep everyone accountable to continue working so we have something to share. But the group’s support and encouragement help everyone strive to complete projects and move further along in their career.

These are only a few of the benefits. I could go on and on (but I won’t). The next question you are likely to ask is: “how do I find a critique group?” Look through local publications or check with your public library. You can also utilize your computer to search for local groups. If there isn’t anything promising in the area, try to find an online critique partner or critique group. I would look for these by doing a online search as well.

The important thing for me is that I am in a group led by or at least regularly attended by a published author. And also that the group, while giving honest feedback, does so with gentleness and an understanding that the work is a piece of the writer’s heart.

In the end, it’s all about honing your craft and becoming a better writer. So, walk into your writing critique group with that mindset. Yes, the encouragement and praise are great, but if that’s all you get, you’ll never grow. And isn’t that our goal anyway?

A woman’s choice…is in question.

Brianne is a somewhat naïve college freshman. She becomes disillusioned as her professors and peers challenge many of her long-held beliefs. When she finds a diary that belonged to a distant relative, she hopes it will offer much needed distraction. And she is soon drawn into the story of a passionate woman who seems to whisper from the past.

In 1915’s New York, idealist and primary teacher Margaret struggles with the problems women face at home and in society. She is first timid about speaking her mind, but in time cannot keep her impassioned spirit hidden—not even from the gentleman who teaches in the classroom next door. His concern for her stretches the limits of their friendship, pressing into something more. Caught up in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, she faces down authority figures and others who question her beliefs.

And so, Brianne is whisked along on this journey as Margaret joins the fight for women’s rights, all the while trying to work through her own questions and experiences with modern feminism.

Before long, things spin out of control and she wonders where her newfound relationship fits into everything? Are there any clear answers? Will she land on her feet? Or be forever lost to herself?

Enjoy an Excerpt

HISTORICAL TIME PERIOD – Margaret attends a speech/rally

“And they say we cannot gather and not speak of the vote. What exactly shall be their reasoning for not permitting us the vote? The lack of education from whence they first deprived us? This, and their own insistence that we are not knowledgeable about the workings of the government, politics, and society? And why should we not be? Because we are consigned to the home.”

The crowd murmured in agreement as the speaker continued driving her points.

Margaret nodded along, lost in the speech.

Voices in the crowd grew more aggressive. And progressively louder.

Margaret glanced around, her gaze shifting from one side to the other.

People around pressed in toward the speaker.

Margaret’s heart squeezed. This could not be good. It would not end well. She scanned the faces nearby. So many. All caught up in emotions provoked by the speaker’s words.

What would happen? This could not escape the notice of others. Of those who would oppose…

She swallowed. Hard. Her breaths came rapidly as she thought about the gathering being moved upon.

Jerking her head from side to side, she spotted an opening in the bodies around her. She slipped through and moved farther away from the group.

And once she deemed herself at a safe distance, she took notice of the onlookers. Their disapproving glares stabbed at her.

Dare she defend the women? The speaker?

Her hands shook. And her heart raced.

She just…couldn’t. So she shrunk back across the street and watched from an even greater distance.

Moments later, hoof beats clomped on the pavement.

Her breath caught in her throat.

Police swept down upon the gathering. Had they come to break up the meeting or intimidate?

She didn’t stay to find out. Shrinking farther into the approaching darkness, she slipped into anonymity.

About the Author:Sara is a coffee lovin’, word slinging, Historical Romance author whose super power is converting caffeine into novels. She loves those odd little tidbits of history that are stranger than fiction. That’s what inspires her. Well, that and a good love story.

But of all the love stories she knows, hers is her favorite. She lives happily with her own Prince Charming and their gaggle of minions. Three to be exact. They sure know how to distract a writer! But, alas, the stories must be written, even if it must happen in the wee hours of the morning.

Sara is an avid reader and enjoys reading and writing clean Historical Romance when she’s not traveling. Her books range from the Czech lands to the American wild west and from ancient Egypt to the early 1900s. Some of her titles include The Lady Bornekova, Hope in Cripple Creek, The General’s Wife, Trail of Fears, and the Convenient Risk Series.

Happy Reading!

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