October 28, 2020

Worldly Insights by Larry Taunton

Credit: Larry Alex Taunton

Larry, Welcome to Authors by Sasha. 
You're a celebrated award-winning author, freelance columnist, and producer among several roles you host. If you have to choose between writing more books or producing more speaking engagements, which one would you choose and why?

Thank you, Sasha. I love writing. The speaking engagements are popular, but they are best, in my view, when they are an outgrowth of something that I have written.

Fixed Point Foundation publicly defends Christianity by empowering Christians and challenging skeptics. The foundation invests its resources in speakers, hosting events and sharing faith based material. What led to the inception of this respectable organization that is recognized as a fair and sensible platform for exploring faith from different perspectives while maintaining the integrity of Christianity?

I cut my teeth in an academic setting. There, as now in the public space, there was very little room for real, fair, sustained dialogue. It was hard to hear ideas as those presenting them were marginalized and their ideas politicized. We needed a space for the development of ideas, for conversation, to “reason together,” to use a biblical phrase. Thus, Fixed Point was born. In recent weeks as I and many other Americans have grown frustrated with presidential and vice presidential debates where the moderators confuse their role with that of participants, I have again wondered if Fixed Point doesn’t need to facilitate these kinds of discussions once again.

You've also participated in faith based debates with Christopher Hitchens (God or No God?) and Michael Shermer (Do We Need God?). Have any of your views evolved on any lifestyle or religious topics during your career from engaging in at least twenty debates of such nature? Have you encountered any surprising epiphanies about yourself in the process?

I’ve always been a bit rougher around the edges than the typical evangelical. I grew up on military bases and around rough men, so I’ve never neatly fit the evangelical mold that some want to apply to me. That said, I am less legalistic than I once was. Legalism is a product of the human heart, not religion, and it is at its worst, I think, in our youth. Perhaps age and experience have mellowed me a bit or maybe it is the result of my own mistakes. Regardless, I have come to appreciate the heart of the Christian message more in recent years.

In terms of my debates with atheists, they have largely been disappointing. Even the brightest of them rely on old arguments that are simply repackaged for a new generation. Perhaps my greatest epiphany has been a rather cynical one: contrary to what I believed when I first entered the public arena, truth seldom matters. That was naive.  

Your book "The Grace Effect" is inspired by your adopted daughter Sasha's life story in Ukraine. How did you two cross paths?  How soon did you recognize Sasha was meant to be a part of your life? What has she taught you about life, faith and fatherhood?

I did not meet Sasha until her adoption was well underway. My wife and my three boys participated in a mission trip to bring relief to children languishing in Ukrainian orphanages. There they met Sasha who, as an HIV-positive child, had little hope of being adopted. Lauri proposed we adopt her. We did. She had a huge influence on us all in many ways, not the least of which was the fact that I grew up in a family of boys and had all boys. When Sasha, with all of her girliness, entered our household, it was … an adjustment! But her life, her suffering, her perspective, is much needed in a country were so many see themselves as victims when they aren’t. Not really. By contrast, Sasha has known suffering on a scale that beggars the imagination. That continues to shape my perspective.

The book "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens" presents insights into Christopher's personal beliefs throughout different milestones of his life. If your friend Christopher can hear you from the other side (granted 'life after death' exists), what would you like him to know about the global state of affairs today? Is there anything you would ask Christopher about since he's already on the other side? 

I would tell him that he’s needed! America, his adopted country, is committing suicide, and I am quite confident that he would savage a Democratic Party that has changed so radically in the decade since his death. In his final years, he had become an American patriot, and he grew to detest the anti-Americanism that has come to characterize the Left.

Credit: Larry Alex Taunton

"Around the World in More than 80 Days" explores what makes America great among 195 countries in the world.  You've visited at least 55 of these countries throughout your life's journey. What benchmarks were applied to narrow down the list of countries that you would visit and research for this specific book?

I was in search of a winner for a mythical prize: The World’s Greatest Country. When making a list of those countries that have some reasonable claim to that prize, the list is small. No more than ten countries would make most lists. I included all of those that most would put on such a list, and most of those are there for entirely statistical reasons: wealth, availability of healthcare, clean water, etc. Is that a legitimate measure of greatness or only a component of it? I would explore that question on the journey.

Then, to season the narrative and give the reader a broader perspective, I included another dozen or so countries. And why not? According to the data, 69 percent of Americans have never been abroad. I would wager that most of the other 31 percent have only been to, say, Mexico, Canada, or on a Caribbean cruise. The point is, most have no means of properly evaluating a claim like that made by the New York Times last year in the headline: “America is not great.” The world disagrees.

From your research and travels, which country impressed you in how they invest their resources (human capital and money) to operate a self-sufficient economy without relying much on their neighboring countries or global organizations for assistance?

Oh, my. That’s a tough one. It is cliché to say so, but the world is deeply interconnected. Japan, for instance, a very impressive country for many reasons, has almost no natural resources. Africa, with its vast natural resources, is dependent upon the rest of the world to access them. South America is generally dominated by corrupt regimes. The United States would have to be near the top of this list, I think, along with Canada, and the democracies of Western Europe. But I speculate here. This was not a question I explored for this project.

Larry, what are the top three travel essentials you cannot live without? 

I discuss this in the book. Indeed, I could write a book about this topic.

Top three essentials (assuming food, passport, airline ticket, and accommodations are all included):

1. The savvy travel takes twice as much money (cash) as he thinks he will need.

2. A global phone. That gives you access to maps, up-to-date news on the political situation, transportation, first aid, and much more.

3. Attitude. Go expecting nothing to go as planned. Frankly, that’s when the fun begins, forcing you to extemporize, take chances, and get outside of your comfort zone. I have learned that you don’t know someone until you have traveled with them, and even then you don’t really know them until that travel brings some measure of stress, be it in the form of fatigue, danger, or uncertainty. A travel companion who is prepared to roll with the punches is a treasure. One who isn’t becomes a burden and perhaps even hazard to your safety. Real adventurous international travel—as distinct from traveling the safety of a tour group—is not for “Karens.”

What packing tips can you provide to those traveling on a budget and/or time constraints?

Packing tips:

- Get the Around the World ticket. Most airlines have one and they are the most efficient way to see the world.

- If you adhere to no. 1 above, you can afford to pack less. Don’t be afraid to buy things along the way or dump others as they are no longer needed. Move light and fast.

- Be flexible. A rigid schedule is a recipe for misery if not disaster. Like a place? Stay longer. Hate another? Move on. Don’t feel that everything has to be your way. Be willing to do things differently as the situation requires.

- An up-to-date knowledge of where he is going and how to get out quickly (if necessary)

- Don’t make the often disastrous mistake that so many naive Americans make: believing the rest of the world is a safe place where people think like you. It isn’t and they don’t.

As a freelance columnist, are there any redundant topics that you believe need to be retired in the news and media? 

Good question. Yes, the stereotyping — which is quite bigoted — of evangelicals and so-called “red state” Americans.

In your opinion, has the quality of journalism improved in the past decade, or has it stagnated due to society's need to produce 'fast food news' to appease hungry minds seeking quantity over quality? 

I could never have imagined it so bad as the current situation. MSM and Big Tech, rather than reporting news and facilitating it, have become active participants in a cultural war, suppressing dissent and spinning news to fit a political agenda. It is atrocious. Where are the Ted Koppels and the Tom Brokaws? Gone, I am afraid.

What guidance would you offer to a student pursuing a career in journalism today?

Don’t — unless you are prepared to sell your soul.

You've taken many risks in life as well overcome hurdles in your path with grace. Do you believe you're living on borrowed time? What new adventures do you want to share with your family, advocates and audiences moving forward?

Another interesting question. Yes, I do believe I am on borrowed time. I suffered a life-altering accident five years ago when I was hit by a car while cycling. I was not expected to live. There are many residual physical issues from that accident. It changed me to this extent: I don’t hold my life quite so dear. I was declared dead on the scene of that accident and was then revived. I am reconciled to my mortality. I am prepared to die. Thus, I am prepared to take risks. Not silly ones, mind you (though my wife would dispute that), but worthwhile risks. There is something liberating in that approach to life.

 Please share with audiences how they can support your work.

Send money!! Buy my books!! ;)

Website: www.larryalextaunton.comAbout Larry |  Amazon: Profile & Books |  Twitter: @LarryTaunton

Credit: Amazon Snapshot, Books by Larry Taunton

October 27, 2020

#Community Help Support Literature


Support Author Jeffery Tracey here.

Credit: Jeffery Tracey, GoFundMe

#authors #books #storytelling #community #support
#writing #fiction #nonfiction #projects #goals

October 26, 2020

Meet Larry Taunton, Author and Cultural Commentator

Larry visits Moving Mountains to discuss Around the World in More than 80 Days.

Credit: Larry Alex Taunton
Author, Cultural Commentator;
 Executive Director, Fixed Point Foundation

Learn more about Larry's professional contributions and appearances on CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, BBC, Vanity Fair, TIME, NPR, The New York Times & more by visiting LarryAlexTaunton.com.

Credit: Larry Alex Taunton

October 21, 2020

Meet Dr. Nuccitelli, NYS Licensed Psychologist


Credit: Sasha Talks | Image: Dr. Nuccitelli

Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. is a NYS licensed psychologist, Cyberpsychology researcher and online safety educator. He completed his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology in 1994 from Adler University. In 2009, Dr. Nuccitelli finalized his online aggressor concept called iPredator. Since 2010, Dr. Nuccitelli has educated and advised the private & public sectors involving cyberbullying, cyberstalking, internet addiction and online safety. In 2011, Dr. Nuccitelli launched his website, iPredator, offering site visitors an incredible amount of free educational content. He also has volunteered to serve a multitude of online users who have been cyber-attacked, defamed, and cyberstalked. Credit: iPredator

Facebook: The iPredator |  Twitter: #iPredator |  Instagram: drnucc

Credit: iPredator

October 12, 2020

#TuneIn Larry Taunton Visits Moving Mountains


Meet American author, columnist, and cultural commentator Larry A. Taunton.

Larry is a frequent guest on on CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, BBC; etc.

He joins Sasha to discuss his latest book scheduled for release on October 27th.

Credit: Sasha Talks | Image: Larry Alex Taunton

Credit: Larry Alex Taunton

Secure a copy of the book here.

October 09, 2020

Sasha's Book Pick: Just Listen by Dr. Mark Goulston

Imagine how our lives can improve if we work on becoming better listeners.

Most of life's solutions are derived from listening.

Improve your relationships, defuse conflicts and acquire a new perspective.

Credit: Just Listen, Mark Goulston

This book is also recommended by Harper Collins Leadership Essentials.

October 05, 2020

Meet FM Ellis, Author of My Life as a Lemon

Credit: FM Ellis

Faye, the audiences are excited to learn about you. Can you please share what was the turning point that inspired you to start writing "My Life as a Lemon" back in 2011? The book is a culmination of several years worth of writing stemming from a few year-long breaks. How did these mini writing breaks refine your approach to penning your story?

Thank you for having me. I am excited and privileged to be able to speak with you and your audience in hopes to spread my message and intentions. I do not recall one specific point that inspired me to start writing, but for years prior to 2011, I had entertained friends and co-workers with my crazy stories. At one point, I stopped sharing all the juicy details of my weekend or encounters and started saying, “read the book” and the idea just stuck. The breaks in writing, sometimes years at a time, allow me to mature and get out of my story so that I could write it. It was like a pregnancy, my story had to develop through proper nurturing for it to be born. Through that process, I became the woman I am today. The mother of this beautiful, twisted story that I can share with empathy, love, and confidence. Ensuring that the intended message is conveyed. Had I rushed it, countless lessons would have been overlooked and my purpose thwarted. 

"My Life as a Lemon" is your first book as an author. Writing an autobiography demands the author to relive events from a reservoir of memories and shelved emotions. Our bodies even host cellular memory of our life events. What was the easiest part of penning an autobiography? What was the most challenging part of the writing process when sifting through these personal experiences and deciding what to share with audiences? 

Surprisingly, the easiest part was recounting events. The who, what, when, where, why and how. The challenge was reliving those moments. Being as authentic and naked in my descriptions as possible. There were stories I had to sit on for years because the mere thought took everything out of me. There were plenty of nights I wrote through tears, self-reflection, and doubt. It was the final stages of delivery, and it was the hardest. 

Your autobiography highlights a loving childhood in a close-knit family while exhibiting a balanced religious and cultural home. Your father was an advocate of Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan while your mom devoted her life integrating the presence of Jesus in the home. Did you ever encounter moments where you felt the need to accommodate one parent's interests over the other? How were you able to coexist alongside such diversified ideologies under the same roof? 

I cannot speak for my brothers, but I never felt the need to sort of juggle my parents’ interest to please one over the other. What I did do was show interest in those things each parent presented. For a child, this is just another way to bond with your parents. Additionally, demonstrating interest in what someone else liked was modeled by my parents themselves. They did a wonderful job of tending to the things my brothers and myself showed interest in, so it was a natural reciprocation. As far as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Jesus Christ coexisting under one roof, both taught of loving oneself and living an exemplary life. The world may see the teachings as conflicts, Islam picked up where Christianity may have stopped. Both teachings were essential for our household. As black people trying to navigate through a system not necessarily designed to propel people that look like us. 

Most successful family units pride themselves in building a strong circle of trust and healthy boundaries. In "My Life as a Lemon" various layers of trust are explored as secrets begin to unfold over time. You were raised in an environment that nurtured a strong pillar of strength, empowerment, and faith. How did you define trust as a child? How did your perception of trust evolve as a teenager? How do you define trust today as a mature woman? 

As a child I define trust as love and protection, as demonstrated by my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. Trust was being able to depend on someone to take care of me. That definition has not changed, the reason I lost trust and struggled in some relationships was because I stopped feeling cared for. What rose in the place of trust was anger and disappointment. That belief still holds true for me today. 

Given your past life experiences (some which include patterns of blacking out from drinking and questioning your self-worth), at what point in time did you finally start trusting your judgement again? In today's age, people are often looking outward for validation and life direction. As a mother of two daughters, what have you taught your daughters about trusting their own judgement?

I began to trust my own judgement when I started seeing the fruits of my labor pay off. It took years, but the discipline, hard work and sacrifice worked. I still enjoyed a social life but revisiting my list of “things to do”, setting deadlines and seeing things to completion had become my new norm. It is because of these disciplines I knew I could trust myself to be and do whatever I wanted. That is a feeling everyone should experience. Unfortunately, far too often, those feelings are centered around negative outcomes. But a simple shift in perception and habits will transform that expectation and ultimately your life. 
As a mother, I attempted to be as transparent as needed with my daughters. They witness me win and lose, free and incarcerated, inspired and lost. Through it all my results came with an explanation and from that point they were free to make their own choices, fully aware that each comes with consequences or benefits. I also spoke openly about my financial and legal troubles. As young adults they have been more level -headed, giving and self-assured than I ever was at their ages. It seems that something worked. 

Secrets, like promises, are dangerous if not kept. "My Life as a Lemon" discloses secrets which challenge you to cope as these skeletons come to life interfering with your life journey. In your opinion, are there any secrets that should never see the light of day? Under what circumstances should secrets be disclosed (even at the expense of breaking trust) to offset any dire repercussions down the road? 

The definition of the secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. That being said, what is done in the dark will soon find light. We should ask ourselves, if the repercussions of the secret will be worse through voluntary disclosure or by other means. Yes, there are times when we need to mind or own business and refrain from telling secrets that have nothing to do with us, secrets that have no benefits if disclosed, and vengeful secrets(disclosure with the intent to hurt).

On the flip side, innately we all know what should and should not share. Those secrets that are eating at us and holding us in bondage are the ones that should be addressed. It is like ripping a bandage off a sore, it’s ugly underneath and still hurt, but the exposure can accelerate the healing process. 

Faye, the elements of trusts and secrets also touch upon human boundaries in a literal and metaphorical sense. How do you define and manage healthy boundaries in your life today? How do you know when you are not being true to yourself?

Today I define healthy relationships as the ones that make me feel healthy. Those relationships that enable me to be the change I want to see in the world. For even in my darkest days, I knew that relationships can only do one thing…fill you up or deplete you. I know I am not being true to myself when I feel depleted, rather that is through my own actions or someone else’s. Nowadays, I am comfortable with stating my desires and addressing the issues. I trust results.

Discovering and applying our inner voice is a lifelong process. Speaking up isn't always easy nor is it always welcomed in society. Can you recall a time when you tapped into that voice and exercised courage to speak up for a cause important to you? 

Recently, I started FM Friday on Facebook to speak about my childhood experience with abuse and how to educate and empower our children and ourselves against the pandemic of sexual abuse. RAINN which stands for Rape, Abuse, Incest national network reports that in America (someone, not just women) is a victim of a sexual crime every 73 secs. If that is not a pandemic in need of a cure, then I do not know what is. I am using this platform to give the experts, like my local police department’s sexual victim unit, and other national organizations to speak with my audience and arm them with the correct utility to win this war. I have found my purpose. 

When it comes to self-development, is there any specific aspect of life where you've significantly grown? How did this shift evolve over time? Were there any activities or resources that helped you manifest the "FM Ellis" today?

Today, I trust my decision-making because I know what it is that I want. At any given moment, I can assess to see if my actions and activities are contributing to my big picture or taking from it. The realization of not having a defined purpose, which allowed everything to be of interest and ultimately a distraction. To finally, accept that I could not figure everything out myself. Going to therapy was the commencement of the shift. At that point, I began to hold myself accountable for my day-to-day activities, which eventually led to better results than I previously produced. In addition to therapy, I started a morning ritual of waking up earlier, listening to an online sermon, going to the gym, and using my commute to work to listen to motivational audios and books. Over time these habits changed my approach to everything. 

As a self-published author, can you please share two tips that can benefit new writers seeking direction for presenting their work online and offline.

Although I am still navigating my way through this literary maze, I would strongly suggest growing a following via social media, reaching out to other authors for insight and advice and stay in the public’s eye. Podcast, article, radio interviews, YouTube, collaborations with other up and coming artists/authors. Talk to anyone that will listen, participate, volunteer, just a grassroots effort daily. Eat, breath and live your book. 

Faye, you're a proud St. Louis native spreading joy in Georgia now. What are two things that you miss about St. Louis? What are two things about Georgia that you've grown to love over time?

The authenticity or realness of the people, Midwesterners are pretty much “what you see is what you get”. Also, the sense of community. Regardless of the years that have passed since I was a resident of St. Louis, there is always welcoming warmth I can depend on when I go back. 

As far as Georgia is concerned, it is a staple of progress and has made an impact in one way or another on the world. It is a great place to be associated with. The talent, education, innovation, and influencers that come from this state is unbelievable. Secondly, The landscape both business and literally is something to behold.

If today were your last day, how would you invest your remaining hours on earth?

I would spend it with my family, ensuring they could pick up where I left off in fulfilling the goal of eradicating sexual abuse through education, empowerment and a legal system that believes in a victim innocence without victimizing them again. 

Your life story encapsulates several genres in "My Life as a Lemon". If you had to pair a song to reflect the book's essence, what song would it be and why?

It’s in the opening credits of my FM Friday Facebook live show (I do not own the right to this song) Mary J. Blige’s Know. When I heard it for the first time, I pulled over on the side of the road because of the transparency and truth this song speaks. 
“Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord
They just don't know, know, know
How hard I had to go, go, go
To get through, to get through
They just don't know, know, know, know
Know, know, know
How many times I lost (how many times I lost)
Just so I could win (ooh, yeah)
They just don't know, know, know, know
Oh no, no
How many times I've died (how many times I've died)
Just to live again, oh yeah”

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.

Subscribe at Fmellis.com and follow me at lifeasalemon on Instagram. Best of life to you all!!

Credit: My Life as a Lemon, Author FM Ellis

October 03, 2020

Children's Corner: Books for Consideration

 There's a book for everyone. 👍

Celebrating Authors & Illustrators.

Something's in the air. There's a running theme at book stores lately.

Parents, Teachers and Caretakers...Check it Out!

Credit: Poop Party by Samantha Berger

Credit: I Broke My Butt by Dawn McMillan

October 01, 2020

Meet Liliane Grace, Global Author & Speaker

Credit: Liliane Grace

Liliane, Nice to meet you. You've authored several genres of work among short stories, novels, articles, plays, songs and poetry. Do you recall the type of stories you wrote at the age of seven? What genre of work did they represent? What were the themes in those stories? 

As a seven-year-old I modeled my stories on Enid Blyton! (Eg. The baddies smuggling diamonds in oranges.) As a teenager, I was modelling on Mills and Boon… (One famous line that my sisters recall is, ‘He kissed the creamy curve of her breast.’…) Sadly – or happily – not many of my childhood writings have survived multiple house moves, and I don’t recall any other dominant themes.

Your fiction and non-fiction writings educate audiences on life skills, spirituality, self and professional development. The presence of cancer is referenced in the book, The Hidden Order - Can You See It?, The Power of the Light as well in your work The Dream. What is the purpose of lacing the presence of cancer in your literary presentations? 

I began to explore the theme of cancer because I was learning that it’s not the death sentence so many believe – it’s really a wake-up call to change one’s diet and lifestyle to some degree – and I felt that this was powerful and empowering information that people needed to know! 

My short play, The Dream, was inspired by a friend who died of cancer. I felt that she had ‘lost herself’, in a sense, and so was writing about the cancer message to create time for oneself and nourish oneself. The Hidden Order is a novel for youth that addresses the belief that life is chaotic and unjust – it presents the idea that there is actually a ‘hidden order’, if we know what to look for. Cancer offers a great wake-up call and is really an invitation to heal rather than a reason to go to war against our bodies (i.e. the ‘cut, burn or poison’ response to a tumor). I really enjoyed the research I did when writing Power of the Light when I interviewed people who have recovered from cancer naturally, by changing their minds (attitude) and diets. To my mind, cancer is much more of a pandemic today than covid-19, and is also more easily healed than most people realize. 

As a Coach and an Editor, what are the common challenges that writers face when they embark upon their storytelling experience? As a Coach, do you find yourself spending more time nurturing the writers' mindsets, emotions or skills?

It’s always a pleasure encouraging people to trust themselves and write! I’ve been teaching Creative Writing classes since 1987 and I never cease to be touched and impressed by the originality and skill that even beginner writers demonstrate. So far, I’ve found that most of my clients are very dedicated and committed to their project, even when quite a bit more work is required than they were expecting. (This applied to, for example, the author of a fantasy novel for youth, and several authors of books with personal growth themes.)

As an editor working with first-time authors, I often have to remind them that writing requires an apprenticeship, like any other skill. Just because we can walk, doesn’t mean we can be an Olympic runner; likewise, just because we can speak, doesn’t mean we can automatically write articulate books. There’s an art to it that requires practice. Most people’s grammar is a little dodgy in places, too, so there’s some humility required in receiving feedback and fine-tuning one’s work.

Do you believe that most individuals have the ability to refine their communication skills in order to become better writers?

One of the first things I do in my Creative Writing course is to ‘Bust the Talent Myth’. There is research indicating that ‘talent’ is really ‘deliberate practice’; i.e. those who demonstrate great ability are usually the people who apply themselves more diligently/passionately than others. (This includes the classic example of Mozart, who had already practiced several thousand hours by the age of six.) I’m not particularly interested in arguing the point philosophically that there is no such thing as talent, but I do like to give my students this acronym: TALENT = Time, Application, Love – Energy, Not Talent. It’s not about being lucky enough to have been bestowed with talent; writing skill comes about as a result of writing (and reading).

​Is there an ideal personality that garners better chances of succeeding as a writer?
I don’t know that I’d identify a particular ‘writing personality’. The x-factor is the desire to write! One of my editing clients is a tradie who traveled around Australia on a motorbike. He might not fit the stereotype of a writer but his book is a compelling and colorful read. I felt as if I was there with him, he had described his journey so vividly.

"Let's Bully on Purpose in Schools" teaches students the significance and application of communication skills through role playing scenarios. In your opinion, what factors in society have compromised the quality of communication in schools, work places, social settings and domestic environments? If you had a magic wand, what aspect of communication would you like to change forever?

Gosh, where do you start?! My sister is a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence. She feels that our society has become very ‘left brain’ and has lost contact with feelings/right brain/body wisdom/intuition. I think this is very true. Schooling has ‘externalized us’, making us dependent on approval from outside of us, and we’ve lost connection with ‘within’. 

Bottom line, most people don’t know how to communicate. I remember when I first attended a communication and conflict-resolution skills workshop in the 80s being very impressed with the content, which struck me as brilliant and yet was really common sense. It seems to me that those skills should be a core curriculum for all children from Kindergarten to Year 12+ as they are much more urgently needed by literally all of us than most school subjects. We might never need to know the name of cloud formations but we all need to know how to ask for what we want, how to listen properly, how to stand up for ourselves, etc. And yet we are rarely given the opportunity to practice those skills, and communication is a SKILL – it doesn’t come naturally unless we’ve been brought up by highly skilled communicators, and most of us have not. So… with my magic wand, I would make Communication and Conflict-Resolution Skills a required school subject (and I’d make sure that it was taught in a fun, interesting, useful way).

Most students globally are encouraged to read classic literature in their academic curriculum. Are there any literary classics that you enjoyed reading during your academic years? Are there any literary characters that have influenced your work over the course of your four decades long career?

I’m probably a little unusual in that, while my first love as a writer is fiction, I tend to mostly read non-fiction, and my reading of classics was (too) long ago. As did many, I struggled at first to decode Shakespeare but when I got it, I loved it. There have been a number of characters and authors who influenced me, such as Anne (of Green Gables) – I loved those books when I was a teenager, and more recently Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief) and Guus Kuijer (The Book of Everything). These latter two books are the epitome of language originality and mastery. 

The book "Quest for Riches" delivers financial literacy as a tool for young adults. There are four money personalities presented in the book which exhibit each identity's strengths and weaknesses. What was the motivation behind writing this book? Which money personality do you relate to the most? 

I was approached by a financial coach to write Quest For Riches. She had created a workshop to teach financial literacy and wanted a novel that could accompany the course. She presented the idea of four ‘money personalities’ to me and we agreed that these teenagers would demonstrate their personality in the process of raising money for a school trip to India. I loved the idea of presenting the basic four personality types viewed through the lens of finances and thoroughly enjoyed the project – especially researching India. I had to set one-third of the book in India but we didn’t have the budget to send me there, so all my research was online and through interviews. (But I’m told I nailed it!) I probably relate most to the personality type that works hard and does their best but doesn’t necessarily find it easy to generate abundance! But I also have an entrepreneurial streak… 

Different schools of thought debate whether motivation is inherent while others believe motivation can be derived from our environmental resources. As a motivational speaker, do you believe motivation is an internal or external element of our existence? 
It's funny that you should call me a motivational speaker as I’ve never used that expression to describe myself, but found myself described that way today when looking at my own Facebook page! Both my Tech Support Person and I contemplated the description and wondered how that had happened… 
I think of myself as an inspirational speaker – i.e. I have the aim of inspiring my audience rather than motivating them. I learnt this distinction from one of my mentors, Dr John Demartini, who explains that motivation is external whereas inspiration is ‘an inside job’. I’m not a rah-rah kind of speaker; I tend to speak honestly about my own journey and the principles that inspire me, and hope that listeners will resonate, will hear something that speaks to them, and will find whatever next steps they need to take from within themselves. I don’t tell people what to do. 

As a parent who has home schooled three children, what are the benefits of homeschooling compared to learning in public schools? What advice do you have for prospective adults contemplating the future of their children's education? 

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the child’s freedom to play and find their own way, and especially to create a rich inner life. Schools were designed in the industrial age to prepare children for adult lives in the workforce (slavery…), to condition us for responding to bells and timetables and other people’s agendas. Home education, especially the sort that doesn’t try to replicate school (workbooks and timetables), gives children the opportunity to find what is truly meaningful to them. It’s a risky endeavor, of course, because not all children are immediately able to be self-sufficient and resourceful, and not all parents have the skills to guide their children in managing their time well or becoming an autodidact. 
I have been very inspired by the schedule adopted by American teacher John Taylor Gatto, who was awarded Teacher of the Year a couple of times and addressed a home education conference I attended many years ago. He described his students school week like this, and I wished I had learnt of this model sooner:

Monday: Student is apprenticed to a member of his/her family to learn a family trade or skill
Tuesday: Student is apprenticed to someone in the community who is working in a field of interest to the student
Wednesday: Student spends the day in community service
Thursday: Student spends the day at the town library researching a topic of interest
Friday: Student attends school to discuss the experiences of the previous four days. 

If I had my time again, I would definitely home educate again but I would make sure that we travelled more. I think that children whose parent models are engaged in observable physical activities do the best – eg. gardening, cooking, construction, design, etc. It’s important for a child to be inspired by their parent model, and difficult if that model is immobile, gazing at a screen all day. Reading is a key: parents who read to their children often and across a range of genres are usually effective home educators. There are many inspiring books to be read on this exact subject! 

One last tale is this: when my son was 14, he was struggling with Maths and we were clashing about it. I enrolled him in Kumon where he was told his skill level was that of a Grade 2 child… The very same year he spent a day doing work experience with a staircase builder and was told that his maths skills were on a par with Year 10 students. The difference here: the tutorial setting made him feel like a young child where he had to follow the rules and do busy work that didn’t inspire him; in the workshop, surrounded by timber and wood dust and rulers and saws and presented with the real-life, important requirement to measure accurately, he ‘stepped up’ and did well because this was meaningful man’s work. This is the x-factor: one’s ‘study’ must be meaningful. 

Wanted: Greener Grass is a novel that binds the ideologies of love, envy and courage in one. What were you taught about love while growing up? What have you learned about love in your adult life prior to meeting your present life partner? Is there anything about love that surprises you in the world?

My parents did not create a very happy marriage so I didn’t grow up with a healthy model for how couples should communicate, express their love or manage their disagreements. I was in one marriage (de facto) for 29 years and together we had three children. There were many rocky times and we even reached the low point of not even liking each other anymore, but we had some core values in common and persisted – his skill was in just hanging in there and mine was in continually trying to connect. I learnt how to take any crisis and communicate our way through it. One of our counselors did us a great service when he pointed out that we were both operating under myths about good relationships: I wanted to hear my partner say ‘I love you’ more often and he didn’t want to say it unless he felt moved to do so; our counselor gave me the task of asking him to say it, even if I felt I shouldn’t have to ask, and told my partner he had to say it, even if he felt he didn’t want to. We both found this quite transformational. When we did finally part ways, a few years ago, it was with great love and respect and friendship. 

My current life partner came into my life unexpectedly after I had finished writing the Greener Grass novel. After meeting him, I felt intuitively called to leave my partner of 29 years and begin a new relationship journey. I knew absolutely that there is no such thing as ‘greener grass’ but of course every relationship begins with a sweet ‘fall’ into infatuation, and then one’s eyes are gradually opened… I wanted growth and I got it – after all, the purpose of marriage is growth, not happiness. I love observing how each relationship is a magnificent blend of alignment and difference, and how each person brings to the party the exact lessons and opportunities that the other person needs to experience. 

Liliane, you're also a ghost writer. What parts of ghostwriting do you enjoy? Are there any obstacles that ghost writers need to confront when composing work on behalf of a third party?
I’m going to confess that I’m only a baby ghost writer at this point in time. I have danced around the edge of this role when working with beginner authors whose book project required bigger shoes than they could yet wear, and my examples of what was needed became part of their books. I especially love writing fiction, and when presented with a story that is not quite flowing, or is lacking in the sort of detail that brings it to life, I find that ideas just leap into my mind. Being an author of books about creating one’s reality, I decided to declare to the universe that I am a ghost writer as I think it would be rather delicious to be given a fictional project by an author who doesn’t have the time to do the work, and be paid to flesh it out for them!

Being a seasoned writer has introduced you to several professions through the literary arts. Aside from your present occupations, is there any other role you would like to explore for pleasure or business?

I enjoy my role as a public speaker, which is allied to my author role as usually I’m speaking on themes that show up in my work and simultaneously marketing my books. I’ve spoken in a number of environments now, such as libraries and seminars, though my favourite was on a cruise ship! I’d like to do more speaking, especially events that give me travel opportunities.

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.

Thank you for the opportunity. My website is https://lilianegrace.com and I’d be delighted to sign any books personally to any audience member who is interested in my work and wishes to support me by purchasing them. Book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are also greatly appreciated. I’m a self-published author without a great record for marketing myself, so all word-of-mouth recommendations help enormously. 
My books aim to empower readers through the pleasure of story, so if any of the themes resonate with your audience or if they feel my work would appeal to someone they know, I’d be grateful for any efforts on my behalf. ​(Eg. introductions to other media or school teachers or anyone who might be interested in purchasing books in bulk!)


Credit: Sasha Talks | Liliane Grace

Meet Jeffery Tracey Sr., Celebrated Author

Credit: Jeffery Tracey Sr.

Jeffery, Nice to meet you. As an author of four non-fiction books, when did you decide to finally start writing and sharing stories from your life events? A family of six can provide many anecdotes that can navigate among a flowing stream of emotional events. Did you have any reservations prior to disclosing sensitive matters that impacted your family’s welfare from alcoholism to abandonment?

After I married Debra, I often wrote her short poems. I guess I have always been a romanticism. But it wasn’t until after I raised my family, and retired from the US Postal Service, that I decided to share my childhood stories. 

I used to sit on the back porch with my grandchildren, and tell them my stories of living with three older brothers in the Midwest in the early sixties. They seemed so intrigued, that I decided I would share my stories with the world. 

Initially, I wanted to write several short, humorous stories about my childhood that contained moral values. I was targeting young children from eight to sixteen years old. My first manuscript that I submitted for publication was called “Flip Flop, Flip Flop.” It was an emotional book for me, but I believed it had a moral value that young children could benefit from. It turned out that a lot of readers thought it was a more humorous story than emotional. 

A publishing company was interested in my story, but wasn’t willing to publish a book that was so short, that someone could read it, and place it back on the shelf without paying for it. Based on that one story, they asked if I might have other stories to tell. I told them I did, and thus “A Family Reunited” was published.

As for having any reservations to disclosing sensitive matters that impacted our family’s welfare, from alcoholism and abandonment, the answer is yes. Like I said, I initially wanted to write about fifteen to twenty short, humorous stories about the shenanigans us boys pulled living on the farm in the Midwest in the early sixties (before the invention of the cell phone). Even though we had little money, the book tells about my family reuniting, and for the most part, the good times my brothers and I had. 

I had no plans of writing a part two of my childhood. Mainly, because I would have to disclose sensitive matters on alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, and mental illness. But after consolidating all my stories into one book, I discovered that I really enjoyed writing. I was hooked. And whether it was intentionally or sub-consciously, I ended my first book with the sentence, “The next chapter of my life brought true meaning to “Life isn’t always fair.” Life is what it is. Nothing lasts forever, and do not rely on anyone but yourself. 

Whether I realized it or not, I insinuated there was more to come. In order for the reader to understand how our family spiraled downward, I realized I would have to disclose sensitive matters on alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, and mental illness.

Credit: A Family Reunited

The book “A Family Reunited” captures your reunion with your father and older brothers. As the youngest of four boys, what mindset and characteristics were you encouraged to emulate to grow into a respectable human being? Who was your personal role model while growing up? Did you idolize any historical figures from the entertainment, sports or mainstream media during the 50’s & 60’s?

I don’t know if it is a characteristic or not, but the greatest mindset I was encouraged to emulate was to “Work hard and earn your keep!” My father always told us boys that you had to “Work hard, earn your keep, and rely on no one but yourself.” 

The answer to who was my personal role model while growing up is difficult to say and a lot of people will not be able to understand. But I would have to say it was my father. That was until he abandoned us. He instilled in me to work hard, earn my keep, and rely on no one but myself.

I don’t remember idolizing any historical figures from the entertainment, sports or mainstream media during the 50’s and early 60’s. When we lived in Kansas, our family was poor and we had no television or radio to listen to.

When we moved back to Ohio, I was in Junior High. As my family was torn apart, I used to go to the school library and check out western books. My favorite author was Max Brand. I read a lot of western novels and pretended I was a deputy U S marshal chasing outlaws. I guess it was my way of escaping the realities I was forced to live in. Later in life, I got hooked on watching western movies. So, naturally, Clint Eastwood was my favorite actor, and “Hang Em High” was my favorite movie.

Credit: A Family Torn Apart

“A Family Torn Apart” addresses your separation from the family at age two and then again at age eleven. Out of the several factors (alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, poverty, and mental illness), which one greatly compromised the family’s faith to continue moving forward together? What did observing mental illness teach you about the fragile condition of people in life?

Actually “A Family Torn Apart” does not address the separation of my family when I was two years old. It only addresses the second separation of my family when I was eleven years old. 

I was too young to remember the reasons why my parents separated the first time. Although, in my book “A Family Reunited”, I give the reasons why I believed they separated the first time. The reader actually finds out the real reason that led to the first separation in part three of the trilogy, “Brainwashed by Foster Parents”.

Of all the several factors (alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, poverty, and mental illness), I would have to say the one factor that greatly compromised the family to continue to move forward was the mental illness. Which then led to alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, and poverty.

What observing mental illness taught me about the fragile condition of people in life is this. People, and this include doctors, did not know how to treat people with mental conditions in the early sixties. I observed my mother being forced into a straitjacket and thrown into the back seat of a car and sped away. 

I found out later my mother was confined to a mental institution. While there, she was given shock treatment on both sides of her temples, that left her in a zombie-like state of mind. I once was allowed to visit her while she was in the mental hospital that looked more like a prison. I barely recognized her. She had aged forty years and she barely recognized me.

Most children are resilient to change and evolving circumstances. If you had to relive any two events from your childhood, which events would you choose and why?

The first event from my childhood that I would relive is definitely the time, when my brother and I went on the boy scout overnight camping trip. The scout troop leader paid for our fees so we could go on the camping trip. He knew we believed in earning our keep, and said we could mow his yard until the fees were repaid. My brother and I had a blast, until the last day. Then my brother tried to ruin it for me. But I will always remember the kindness of that scout leader. In fact, I was so impressed by his kindness that I became a scout leader myself, later on in life.

The second event I would relive is the time when I joined the Mennonite church. Only this time, I would not allow myself to be brainwashed into joining that cult like communion. Then, my mother and brothers could allow me to sit with them at the dinner table when eating a meal.

While living with your foster family was challenging from the age of twelve for a period of four years, how do you view them in hindsight today? What was the pivotal moment that granted you clarity to leave your caretakers for an uncertain future? 

How do I view my foster family in hindsight today? Even after fifty-two years, I guess I am still too emotional to answer that question. The pivotal moment that granted me clarity to leave my foster parents was when they killed my only companion, my dog.

Credit: Brainwashed by Foster Parents

“Brainwashed by Foster Parents” discusses your introduction to the church during adolescence. Where does your faith stem from today? How do you define faith in one sentence?

Even though I was living with a family that had six children, I still felt like I was all alone. I believe the Lord allowed me to find a puppy that was in distress, for companionship. I believe the Lord gave me the strength to carry on, and the opportunity to leave my foster parents. If I had to define faith in one sentence, I would say, “Trust in the Lord.”

What did you learn about marriage and nurturing a family through all the events that unfolded before your eyes by the time you were 20? Did you ever lose faith in seeking love for yourself?
Did you ever imagine that you’d have great grandchildren greeting you one day?

I’m probably like everyone else, and I had to learn about marriage and nurturing a family through trial and error. Because of my childhood, and because I developed a hard work ethic at a very young age, I was probably a lot more mature and more responsible at eighteen than most twenty-one-year olds. I knew that I would never abandon my family. One thing I knew for certain was that life is hard. Life is what it is, and you have to carry on. It’s how you handle your challenges that defines one.

Did I ever lose faith in seeking love for myself? I guess I never really thought about seeking love for myself. Throughout my childhood, everyone that I loved either left me or was torn away from me. It became instilled in me that everyone I love, will one day leave me, or will be taken away from me. Therefore, I became a loner. The only persons I hung around with were my brothers.

As for imagining having great grandchildren greet me one day? I would have to say no, I didn’t imagine that to happen. But I can say this, they are God’s blessing and I am already starting to tell them some of my (humorous) stories.

Where did you derive hope from during moments of mental and emotional anguish as your family battled varying degrees of socioeconomic challenges?

I dove into my western novels and my wild imagination would take me away. One time, I was pretending I was a U S marshal chasing this outlaw. I ran out the back door and down to the creek in the woods behind our home. I acted like I jumped off my stallion, onto the back of the outlaw knocking him off of his horse. I tumbled to the ground and rolled into the creek. I jumped up and started to play fighting. I acted like the outlaw hit me in the stomach, and I doubled over. He kneed me in the face and I jerked backward, falling to the ground. If anyone had witnessed my play fighting by myself, they would have sworn I was having an epileptic seizure. That was how I handled mental and emotional anguish.

Credit: Stubborn Debra Sue

The fourth book “Stubborn Debra Sue” is inspired by your wife’s journey living with polio. The story provides a better understanding for the afflicted through exhibiting Debra’s personality and steadfastness which helped her overcome the barriers cast upon her by society. How did you meet Debra for the first time? When did you know she was the right life partner for you?

The first time that I met Debra, I was living on South Shaver St. across from South Houston High School. I walked across the street to a convenient store named Wag a Bag that was next to the High School. I was going to purchase a pack of cigarettes. 

When I arrived at the store, there was a girl about twelve years old waiting outside holding onto a leash on her dog. The dog was a beagle, and it looked just like the dog I used to have when I lived with my foster parents. 

I asked the girl if I could pet her dog and she said, “Yes.” 

I knelt down and scratched behind the beagle’s ears and started talking to the dog, “I used to have a dog just like you. His name was Mickey.” 

I’ll be damned if my eyes don't start to water. Just then, Debra walked out of the store on crutches. I noticed she propped open the door with the bottom of her right crutch, using it like a door stopper. 

I stood up trying to look all tough and macho, and not like a crybaby. I walked toward the door and said, “Let me hold the door open for you.”

Debra said, “Don’t bother. I can manage just fine.”

She swung her left crutch forward, onto the sidewalk, while holding onto a bag full of snacks. She released the bottom of her right crutch from the door and allowed it to swing shut behind her. She did all this motion quickly and gracefully, before I even had a chance to reach the door and hold it open for her. I could tell she was an old pro at walking with crutches. I admired her spirit
Debra looked at me and said, “Hi. Hey, I know you. Don’t you work at the pizza parlor on Spencer Rd?”

I replied, “Yes. How did you know?”

Debra explained, “My stepfather takes the family there every Friday night for pizza and beer, and watches those wacky silent movies.”

I asked, “Do you live around here?”

Debra said, “We live on the other side of that vacant field next to the high school. Do you go to South Houston High?

I replied, “Yes.”

Debra said, “Maybe I’ll see you in school.”

Debra pointed to the girl holding the leash on the dog and said, “This is my sister. We have to get home now,” and they walked away.

That was the first time I met Debra.

For the question, when did I know Debra was the right partner for me? Well, that’s difficult to say. When I met Debra for the first time, we lived less than a half mile from each other. However, almost a year earlier to the date, Debra and I also lived less than a half mile from each other. But at two completely different locations on Red Bluff Rd in Pasadena, Texas. Only we never knew it, because we were never meant to meet during that time frame. 

During that year, Debra’s family would move to the house behind the high school on fourteenth street. My family would move up to Washington D.C., over 2500 miles away. We lived there for about seven months. Then we moved back to an apartment on South Shaver St., only a half mile from each other again. 

I walked to that convenient store at the same time that Debra was there. Since I was always a loner, I never stopped to strike up a conversation. But on this day, I saw a dog that looked just like the dog I used to have, and I struck up a conversation with the dog, until Debra walked out of the store.

Thinking back, I guess I would have to say I knew Debra was the right partner for me when I was escorting her home from school. I had just met her after school to walk her home. She was carrying several books when we met. She had a belt strapped around the books, and had wrapped the belt strap around her right hand. This way she could lean the books against her crutch, while holding onto the crutch handle. 

I loved the way she figured out ways to accomplish tasks. But I was a gentleman, and I wasn’t about to let her carry her own books home.

I said, “Let me carry your books for you.”

Debra curtly said, “No. I don’t need any help. I can manage just fine.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but Debra did not like feeling dependent on anyone. I guess she was kind of like me. I didn’t believe in relying on anyone, but myself.

I stated emphatically, “I insist! I’m not about to let my girl carry her books, when I’m escorting her home. That’s just not going to happen.”

I didn’t realize it at the time that I had just called Debra “My girl.” 

Debra must have realized it, because she gave me a big smile and said, “Okay. If you insist.”

I reiterated, “I insist.”

I guess that is when I knew Debra was the right partner for me.

Call it fate. Call it destiny. Call it the Lord’s will. All I know for sure is that we are still high school sweethearts, lovers, two peas in a pod, and soulmates, and we have recently celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

As a veteran of the US Postal Service, what life values helped you sustain a forty-year career at this institution? What life lessons did you acquire while working and serving the public masses throughout these four decades?

My hard work ethics and dependability helped me sustain a forty-year career. But more importantly for me, was the fact that the US Postal Service was a stable and reliable institution. Something that I desperately needed as a result of my unstable childhood.

I started as a letter carrier, and delivered mail for sixteen years. I learned how customers depend on their mail. How some of the elderly came to the mailbox as I was delivering their mail. Not just to get their mail, but to have someone to talk to.

I participated in route inspections in Houston, Texas. I observed carriers making their rounds in affluent areas, where customers almost treated the letter carriers like they were their servants. And in other poverty-stricken areas, where customers almost treated the letter carriers like they were God like figures delivering their much needed monthly checks or food stamps.

I helped with re-establishing mail service to the city of New Orleans after the Katrina hurricane destroyed most of the city. I had the opportunity to work at the postal service headquarters in Washington D.C. for over a year.

The US Postal Service provided me with exceptional training and outstanding opportunities to improve myself and my career. I would have to equate all the training I received from the US Postal Service to a four-year business degree from a local college. The US Postal Service has also provided outstanding opportunities for my family. My daughter is a postmaster, and my son is a letter carrier. 
The US Postal Service has been and always will be a great institution.

Aside from family and writing, what activities keep your mind and heart occupied?
​Is there any new interest that you would like to explore?

I love to travel across the country. Especially in a vehicle, or in a train. Up and down scenic roads. Especially out in the Northwest. But most of all, I love to sit on our back porch with my wife and watch the hummingbirds fight over their nectar. What can I say, “Life is what it is.”

Please share with audiences how they can support your work. 

My books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Page Publishing Inc., and Traceybooks.com. My books are also available on Kindle, Nook, and Google Play. 

I used to have book signings at bookstores and at Kroger stores. But due to the Covid-19 virus, my book signings have almost come to a halt. I use the sales generated from the book signings to have a new book published. However, due to the lack of sales resulting from the Covid-19 virus, I have created a Go Fund Me account for Jeffery Tracey Sr. to help raise funds to publish my next book “Friendly Fire (A Vietnam Vet’s Story). If you are interested and donate $20.00, I will mail you a signed book, “Stubborn Debra Sue” for my gratitude.

If you know of anyone willing to host a book signing event, please let me know.

Thank you again Sasha, for allowing me to participate in this interview.
Email: traceysrauthor@yahoo(domain)

Links for my books:
Tracey Books: www.traceybooks.com
Jeffery Tracey Sr. @ Amazon
Page Publishing: www.pagepublishing.com

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