Thursday, July 23, 2020

Q&A with Laura Preble Author ANNA INCOGNITO @laurapreble #annaincognito

Laura Preble is the award-winning author of the young adult series, Queen Geek Social Club (Penguin/Berkley Jam), which includes the novels Queen Geeks in Love and Prom Queen Geeks. Her novel, Out, dealt with the concept of LGBTQ rights within a young adult dystopia; Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys, says “Out explores an intriguing, mind-bending, and challenging portrait of an upside-down world that turns the tables on homophobia, acceptance, and love.” She has won a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, and has been published in North American Review, Writer’s Digest, Hysteria, and NEA Today.



Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

Anna Incognito tells the story of Anna Colin Beck, a woman with severe OCD and significant trauma. When she is invited to her therapist’s wedding several states away, she decides to take a road trip to stop the wedding, since she is sure that she and the doctor belong together. A friend of mine actually inspired me to write it…she deals with trichotillomania and dermatillomania (hair and skin picking), but she is so much more than her conditions. She is highly intelligent, funny, and has a skewed look on life that I really love. The story isn’t at all about her, but I based the character on her.  I had her read the book to be sure I got everything right. I wanted to portray a character who dealt with a mental illness, but who was not defined by the illness.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?  

I have several books published. Some of them I did the traditional way (through Penguin, a major press) and for this book, I tried something different. I found a site called Publishizer. I mounted a campaign for the book, and after obtaining more than 250 presales, they pitched my book to hundreds of indie publishers. I had 10 reach out to request the book, so I was able to choose from those 10. I chose Mascot Books.

There are pros and cons to each way. In traditional publishing, most writers get about 10 percent of the cover price when they sell a copy. The publisher gets 90 percent. The upside is you get your book reviewed more easily, you get it placed in physical bookstores, etc.  With an indie publisher, that type of national attention is harder to get, and an author will end up having to pay out of pocket for much of the marketing. But authors will tend to retain more of the percentage of sales that way.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later? 

Oh, I had so many different titles. I had written the whole book before I settled on Anna Incognito as the title. I was in a writer’s critique group during the whole process of writing the book, which helped enormously, and although the original title was pretty good, it seemed generic to me. I kept thinking,  ‘what is it about Anna that is the most prominent feature’?  And I realized — she has lived a good portion of her life being someone other than who she really is, because of trauma. She has, essentially, been incognito from her own life.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?  

My publisher was great in accepting my ideas for a cover. I made a mock-up of what I wanted it to look like (the cover now is really not close to at all to what I originally created, but it’s so much better!) The face on the cover is actually modeled after a real plaster head that I found online, a perfect bisque porcelain wig head with a serene, unscarred face. I have it on my desk. The publisher was able to make a drawn version of it, and then added the tendrils of hair, which I absolutely love.  (see photos below)

Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?

It was a team design from Mascot Books, so I never met the actual person who designed it.

How was your experience working with the designer?

I didn’t work directly with them, but through a marketing liaison at the publisher. They took all my suggestions and were able to translate them perfectly into the design.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?

So far, everyone has loved it and found it really appealing. I’ve brought the actual wig head with me to events so people could see the genuine article that inspired it. I think it’s a very interesting, unique cover compared to so many books that look the same. I think it draws people in.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?

It depends on if you’re working with a publisher, which type of publisher, etc.  If you are working with a big press, like Penguin, you can negotiate (or have your literary agent negotiate) that cover consultation is part of your contract. I did that with my first books, the Queen Geek Social Club series. They won’t usually let you have approval of the covers, but they will let you consult. If you’re self-publishing, I would highly recommend engaging a graphic designer. I think I’m pretty good at making graphics, but what I came up with was so less amazing than what the designer created.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?

I wanted to create a space where the concept of family could be discussed. Family is not always the people with whom you share blood and genetics. Sometimes the deepest connections we have are with people who are not blood relatives. They are still our real family — our family of the soul.

What I also hoped to convey was that people with mental illness are complete people. Everyone in my immediate family has some type of mental quirk (depression, anxiety, autism, bipolar, OCD). But we are who we are in some part because of these conditions. We are not less than. If anything, it adds a layer of complication that makes us even more interesting. I’m not minimizing the difficulties of these conditions; I know that it makes it harder to navigate a world that demands conformity above almost everything else. Anna is kind, hilarious, terrified, brave, and trips herself up with her overthinking. In other words, she’s human.
About the Book:

Lots of narrative pull…wonderfully complicated. – Jincy Willett, author of The Writing Class, and anthologized by David Sedaris in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.

Anna Colin Beck knows all too well what can happen when things go wrong really wrong. So, she’s spent the last several years living an extremely regimented life at home, doing everything she can to avoid subjecting herself to the torments of a germ-infested world. Everything must be just so, and when things don’t go to plan, she punishes her own body…and that still hasn’t helped alleviate her pain.

After a chance meeting in a laundromat, she finds herself completely infatuated with another person, something that hasn’t happened to her in a long time. Dr. Edward Denture is seemingly brilliant and magnetic…and in the blink of an eye, she’s attending intense somatic therapy sessions as his newest client. The more he draws from her, the further their relationship grows, until it’s crossed countless lines and consumed Anna with a fierce toxicity. And before she knows it, she finds herself buckled into the driver’s seat of a powder-blue El Dorado for a solo cross-country road trip, determined to stop his wedding. It’s a trip that will test every limitation she’s ever set for herself, and though she’s planned extensively for all contingencies, there are some twists and turns you just can’t prepare for.
With wry observations on the intersection of luck, fate, and life, Anna Incognito is a searing, darkly witty exploration of what it means to be alive.

PRAISE FOR ANNA INCOGNITO 5/5 “Rich with witticism in the face of painful realities and evoking lyrical truisms throughout, from of a rating scale of 1 – 5 this novel is so off-the-charts good, it deserves a 10.” LINK HERE 4/4 “The writing was captivating…This book would be great for readers who are struggling with mental health or for those trying to understand it better. Are you ready to go for a drive with Anna?. Buckle up, because you are in for the ride of your life!” LINK HERE

Kirkus Reviews:  “The protagonist’s acerbic wit and mordant tone work well in the difficult material in Preble’s unconventional road novel. A razor-sharp, oddly fun  romp through the American West.” LINK HERE


Mascot Books →

Amazon →

 Barnes & Noble →

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Q&A with Misha Handman Author SHADOW STITCHER @frivyeti #shadowstitcher

Born on Vancouver Island, Canada, Misha Handman spent his early life immersed in the arts, with one parent a teacher and the other a manager of theatre and opera. Moving across the country to Ottawa, and then Toronto, he began writing at a young age – first writing comics and designing card games for his closest friends and then, buoyed by their approval, gradually expanding out to submissions to magazines and short story collections, and graduating from the University of Toronto with a classic English degree.

Misha has always believed in the importance of entertainment to our health and well-being. He is also interested in our shared fictional history, working in game design to develop collaborative games and story-driven experiences and exploring the new worlds that we are sharing. His fascination with these things led to the development of his first novel, Shadow Stitcher, as an exploration of the English classic “Peter Pan.”

When not writing, Misha spends his time in Victoria, Canada, working as a professional fundraiser for charities – a job he describes as “helping people to help people.” He continues to work on game design on the side, and is always excited to see the myriad ways that people approach story construction and creation, both as a voracious reader of genre fiction and a dedicated player of games.



Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

Shadow Stitcher is a hardboiled mystery set in the 1950s, on what was once the island of Neverland. Decades ago, corporate interests came to the island, looking to industrialize its mysteries, and now they live in uneasy truce with its inhabitants. Basil Stark, the island’s most notorious private detective, accepts a case to find a woman who has vanished, and is almost immediately drawn into mob struggles, dangerous experiments, and deadly new magic.

The original idea that would grow into Shadow Stitcher literally began as a dream, as ironic as that seems. I had been re-reading Peter Pan as part of a separate project, and I had a dream in which I was a pest exterminator wrestling with the morality of killing fairies. As I worked on the idea, it turned into a broader mystery, and eventually became the story of an ex-pirate who didn’t quite fit in trying to find a way to be a better person.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?

I had experimented with self-publication with a short novella, and it convinced me that while self-publishing is very rewarding for many authors, it wasn’t my preferred choice. As such, I searched for publishers interested in mixed-genre books and emerging authors. I had a few rejections, but each of them gave me useful information that I used to make small edits to my manuscript and re-submit to new markets.

I was fortunate enough to contact EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy, a local Candian publisher with distribution in the United States and worldwide, at a time when they were in search of new authors.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?

The working title for Shadow Stitcher was actually “Bad Form”, as per the phrase Captain Hook is obsessed with in the original Peter Pan. During the editing process, we agreed that while it was on-topic, “Bad Form” didn’t adequately underscore to new readers or those less familiar with Peter Pan that this was a fantasy-mystery. It took us several passes to find a title that we felt was both fantastical and hardboiled, but I was very happy with the result.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?

One of the lovely things that EDGE did before seeking out a cover artist was ask me for a few ideas of what I might want my cover to look like, and to provide a few similar covers for comparison. It was vitally important that the cover both evoke a noir aesthetic and make it clear that this world had magic and wonder in it; from there, the main character standing against a cityscape with a fairy on his shoulder developed naturally.

I submitted my ideas and a few comparison covers, and then was given the first draft of the cover with any notes I might want to make. There weren’t very many! I was fortunate enough to get a great first draft.

Who is your cover designer and how did you find them?

My cover designer was Risa Hulett, a professional designer and illustrator. She was hired by EDGE based on my desired cover, so unfortunately I can’t speak to how they found her.

How was your experience working with the designer?

Very good. We’ve communicated a few times since then, largely to confirm permissions for things like bookmarks with the cover image on them.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?

The response to the cover has been great! I’ve had several compliments, and the cover specifically has been responsible for at least two reviews that I’ve received. EDGE has even begun selling mugs with the cover image on them to interested readers.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?

First: look at other covers of books similar to yours, and figure out what you like stylistically. The more clearly you’re able to describe what you want, the better your final result is going to be. Treat the cover description as a small story in its own right. And secondly, talk to people who know! If you’re self-publishing, talk with other writers in the community about who they approached and how it went. If you’re working through a publisher, look at the other covers of books they publish and suggest similar ones.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?

If you read it, and you like it, let me know! I love to hear what people liked about my work, and I’m even happy to hear what they’d rather see less of. This has been a tricky year for getting out and talking to fans, so I’m happy to do it over the Internet instead.

About the Book:

Basil Stark isn’t the man he once was. A reformed pirate and private detective, he walks the line between criminal and hero, living in the corners of what was once the island of Neverland, its magic slowly fading into the new world of the 1950s.

When a routine missing-persons case turns into a murder investigation, Basil finds himself pulled into a tale of organized crime, murder, unstitched shadows and dangerous espionage. With only a handful of fellow outcasts and a stubborn determination to bring a killer to justice, will he survive the many people who want him dead?




By Lee Matthew Goldberg

How far would you go to make your dreams come true? For budding writer and filmmaker Noah Spaeth, being a Production Assistant in director Dominick’s Bambach’s new avant-garde film isn’t enough. Neither is watching Dominick have an affair with the lead actress, the gorgeous but troubled Nevie Wyeth. For Noah’s dream is to get both the film and Nevie in the end, whatever the cost. And this obsession may soon become a reality once Dominick’s spurned wife Isadora reveals her femme fatale nature with a seductive plot to get rid of her husband for good.

Slow Down, a cross between the noir styling of James M. Cain and the dark satire of Bret Easton Ellis, is a thrilling page-turner that holds a mirror up to a media-saturated society that is constantly searching for the fastest way to get ahead, regardless of consequences.

Here’s what readers are saying about Slow Down!

“Slow Down is a frenetic first novel…full of unedifying characters scrambling for the elusive, perhaps imaginary, brass ring.”
Publishers Weekly

“Lee Matthew Goldberg writes like a young Bret Easton Ellis doing a line of uncut Denis Johnson off the back of a public urinal. Memorable in the best possible way, also mostly illegal, Goldberg’s Slow Down is a mad man’s tour of Manhattan’s vices, follies, and ultimate betrayals.”
–Urban Waite, author of The Terror of Living and Sometimes the Wolf

What would happen if one of Raymond Chandler’s 1940’s femme fatales were to join forces with one of Jay McInerney’s enfant terribles? Lee Matthew Goldberg wrings every delectable trope imaginable out of this mashup while still managing a fresh spin. A writer to watch out for.”
–David Kukoff, author of Children of the Canyon

“Slow Down starts fast and gets faster quick, gunning through yellow streetlights on its way to a full collision with your shattered soul. Lee Matthew Goldberg takes on the American Zeitgeist in this stunning debut.”
–Stephen Jay Schwartz, LA Times bestselling author of Boulevard and Beat

Slow Down is a brilliant rush of a work charting the rise and fall of Noah and other pretentious losers. Savor this book.”
Foreword Reviews

“Dark and hard-boiled writing that grabs you by the throat. Slow Down is one of those rare novels that’s so good you want it to go on forever!”
–Nick Pengelley, author of Ryder: An Ayesha Ryder Novel

“The plot takes off…there’s no denying it’s fun to watch rich snots destroy themselves.”

“Goldberg’s portrayal of the New York demimonde is one of the book’s strengths and brings to mind Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. He also succeeds in marshalling a complicated plot.”


Amazon →


NOAH WATCHED THE PRODUCER’S ASSISTANT PLACE HER PURSE DOWN ON THE STOLEN RED COUCH. He’d taken everything in the apartment, all of it part of another man’s life that he now pretended to lead. The full-wattage smile she gave him never left her face, clear evidence she hadn’t been in the City long, the opposite of a native New Yorker like Nevie Wyeth. Nevie, with her panther-black hair and need for Fast—or any other drug someone had to offer. He was only reminded of Nevie because he’d been waiting endlessly for her to call. He was about to give up hope that she ever would.

“Kristy Edson,” the woman said, shaking his hand. She gave two quick pumps. “Mr. Bronfeld sent me over from the L.A. office.”

Noah knew that a guy like Barry Bronfeld was too much of a power player to ever appear in person, even though Apex Studios was giving Noah a gigantic deal for a novel and for a film based on that novel. The problem was that he hadn’t written a word yet.

“Kid, I can’t wait much longer,” Mr. Bronfeld had yelled on the phone the other night. “Just get it done, whatever it takes. I’m scouting locations already. We’re already spending a fuckload of money.”

They had decided to say that the novel and subsequent film were “based on a true story” to avoid any legal ramifications. They would change all the names, but at the end of the day Mr. Bronfeld wanted as much of the truth in there as possible. The Lee Matthew Goldberg

public craved answers and those answers sold books—reality sold books. Now the terrible things Noah did to make it in this business would be revealed in the guise of a story. Sins that nibbled at his soul more and more until all that remained were crumbs.

“So you’re here to…facilitate this?” he asked Kristy, nodding for her to take a seat on the red couch. He took out a pack of cigarettes and flipped one between his lips. His habit had ballooned from zero to two packs a day.

“Think of me as your cheerleader,” she said, smiling so hard that her back molars showed. He knew she was hungry for this “tell-all” coup, this bad boy bankroll in front of her. She pointed at his T-shirt that asked Who Am I?

“So who are you?”

“Why don’t you tell me when all this is done?”

Yesterday Mr. Bronfeld had threatened that Kristy would be Noah’s last chance; he’d be sued for breach of contract if the book wasn’t finished on time. He’d have to dictate his “novel” to her and then clean it up later on.

“The girl is in love with me,” Mr. Bronfeld had told him. “She can be trusted. And she stands to move up a bunch of rungs if she can get you to open up. She has no reason to go selling your story to some rag. Like I’ve told her some dark stuff. Shit I did at parties in the 80s that would get me arrested today. A hobo I once hit off the Pacific Coast Highway. Anyway… you’re damn young, Noah, but not for too much longer. This is your fucking time to shine. All you gotta do is get me that goddamn book.”

“I’m ready whenever you are,” he heard Kristy say. She removed a digital recorder from her purse and placed it on the glass coffee table between them.

“I’m trying to think of the best way to start,” he said, his mind racing.

“How about when you first met Dominick?”

He put on a pair of sunglasses. There was no need for her to keep looking directly into his eyes.

“Listen, we have an expiration date here.” She was still smiling, but it seemed strained. “Gossip only lasts for so long and then people stop caring. They forget.”

It was hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. He didn’t know if it was because his brain had turned to mush from all the Fast he’d done the year after college ended, or if it was something else.

“I’m a little on edge,” he said, checking his cell. “I’m waiting for a call, an important call.”

“Forget about everything else right now,” Kristy said, and motioned for him to put away his phone. “And it’s normal to be on edge. So how are we gonna get you to calm down?”

She placed her hand on his knee. He noticed she had a tiny gap between her front teeth. He pictured her ten years ago: getting off the bus in Hollywood with an overstuffed suitcase, overfed on impossible dreams.

“I have to say that Slow Down was robbed at the Oscars,” she said. “You totally deserved Best Director.”

She hadn’t taken her hand off his knee, rubbing it now and casting her spell.

“How can I be sure that you won’t screw me over?” he asked.

She stopped rubbing to put a hand over her heart.

“Why would I ever do that?”

“I promise you’ll have a different opinion of me after we’ve finished.”

“I have too much to lose if we don’t deliver your book. Barry is financing most of your deal himself, and he’ll attach me as producer. He’ll give me the world.”

“You do know he’s married.”

She pouted her lips and shrugged her shoulders.

Noah felt his cell ring. He fumbled around in his pocket and picked it up after the first buzz.

“Hello,” he said, chewing on his lip.

“Noah!” a gruff voice shouted through the receiver. “Barry Bronfeld here. How’s it working out with Kristy so far?” Noah pictured this bigwig on the other end. Manatee-sized and wearing globular rings filled with cocaine that he’d snort in between meetings. The only bastard in Hollywood that promised double anyone else’s offer.

“Tell me we got a fucking masterpiece here, kid.”

Noah took another drag and exhaled the smoke through his nose.

“We’ve got a fucking masterpiece here, kid.”

“Noah, you are a hil-a-ri-ous son of a bitch. You hand me a goldmine and I’ll give you carte blanche with the entire project, even forget about any of these delays. Ah shit, I got Tommy Cruise on the other line…Ciao.”

Noah tossed the cell from one hand to the other, rubbing his tired eyes.

He glanced down as if willing it to ring again.

“Sometimes I think about taking a permanent vacation. Away from all the paparazzi.”

He looked out of the window toward a crowd of photographers below.

“Is it like this everyday?”

“With the film being so big, and of course after what happened….”

“So how true are all the rumors?”

He noticed her staring at the giant painting hanging on the wall. A blank white canvas with a yellow circle in the center and traces of red splattered across the bottom in the shape of a handprint.

“The painting caught your eye?”

“Yes…I’m trying to understand the significance of the red handprint, obviously the yellow circle represents–”

“Not everything has to have a meaning.”

“No, of course not, it’s just the yellow circle resembles the tattoos the different girls had in Slow Down, so I thought the red handprint might symbolize blood or death–”

“I’m ready to begin,” he said, more forcefully than he intended.

“Right….absolutely. Time is money.”

She turned on the digital recorder, her fingers lightly shaking. The apartment remained silent for a long, drawn-out minute.

“I met Dominick Bambach four long years ago.” He let out a laugh that sounded like he was gagging. “And I can’t help but wonder, what if I never had? Where would I be now? Who would I be? Sometimes I feel like the real me died a long time ago, or at least whatever part of me was worthwhile.”

He took a deep breath, one last moment of quiet before the purge. He knew that once he’d begin, he wouldn’t allow himself to stop until he reached the brutal end. He sucked in a last hit of smoke and crashed the butt into an ashtray filled with a pile of other snuffed casualties.

“So here it goes….”

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming, along with his Alaskan Gold Rush novel THE ANCESTOR. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City.




Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Feature: The Secrets To Living A Fantastic Life by Dr. Barry Allen Lycka & Harriet Tinka

Dr. Barry Allen Lycka & Harriet Tinka
Nonfiction / Self-Help / Motivational

Each author suffered near-death experiences and sought renewal through the wisdom of human virtues that refocused them on a life of richness, appreciation, joy and service.

Offered in the format of an enchanting and charming dialogue between the two authors, the book also includes their chronicles of pain and triumph, allegories and stories, along with inspirational and insightful quotes. The exploration of each of the 13 Golden Pearls creates a necklace of self-empowerment that will enhance anyone’s life.

The Golden Pearls shared offer a roadmap for living a life that is rich in love, achievement, appreciation, joy and service. They offer strength, comfort and encouragement.

The authors are on a mission to transform lives. Dr. Allen Lycka is now a full-time speaker, author and transformational leader and Harriet Tinka coaches young women to fully embrace who they are through her Empower Me programs.


Amazon U.S. →

 Amazon Canada →


Two lives changed, irreversibly, in an instant, by devastating events…but rather than be destroyed, these two individuals faced the ensuing challenges, embracing them as turning points. Seizing the second chances before them with both hands, they chose the path to “Living a Fantastic Life.” In doing so, they discovered “13 Golden Pearls” to guide them…which they are eager to now share with you - to inspire you for your own journey.

Dr. Allen Lycka has been acknowledged as one of the leading cosmetic dermatologists in the world for three decades. A pioneer in cosmetic surgery, he helped to develop laser assisted tumescent liposuction – an advanced body sculpture technique, and Moh’s Micrographic Surgery, an advanced means of removing skin cancer with 99% success. He has lived and practiced in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada since 1989. He’s written 17 books, 30+ academic papers and hosted the number one internet radio show in the world – Inside Cosmetic Surgery Today. He is a co- founder of Doctors for the Practice of Safe and Ethical Aesthetic Medicine and founder of The Canadian Skin Cancer Association. He has won the prestigious Consumers Choice Award For Cosmetic Surgery for 16 consecutive years.

In 2003, Dr. Lycka’s life changed drastically when he suddenly developed a right foot drop and then misdiagnosed as ALS (Lou Gherigs’ disease). Still, he maintained his status as a leading cosmetic doctor for 30 years.

Because of what he learned, he is co-authoring the book The Secrets of Living A Fantastic Life with Harriet Tinka, a former fashion model and Woman of Distinction. He is also currently co-authoring two more books: one with Corie Poirier entitled, “bLU Talks Presents: Business, Life and the Universe” and one with Jack Canfield entitled, “The Pillars of Success.”

Currently acknowledged as a leading expert in Living A Fantastic Life and Turning Points, he is a transformational speaker, thought leader, coach, and mentor.

Dr. Lycka is happily married to Dr. Lucie Bernier-Lycka for 38 years and they have four lovely daughters and seven beautiful grandchildren. He counts his family as his most important accomplishment.


Website Link:
Twitter Link:
Facebook Link:

As a Turning Point expert, Harriet Tinka is a perfect example of someone finding a need in the community and filling it. Despite dealing with obstacles in her life, she has overcome those hurdles and has found success by inspiring thousands of audiences reach their full potential.

Though stabbed, kidnapped and left for dead, she turned that horrifying experience into motivation. She has inspired and given hope to women who are faced with domestic violence. She is known by her students as a “Powerhouse Role Model” who makes being genuine the most powerful thing of all.
Harriet is an invigorating transformational speaker, passionate life coach, blogger, Chartered Professional Accountant, Football Official, and an ultra-marathon runner. She is the founder and CEO of the award-winning Social Enterprise, Empowered Me Inc, a company whose mission is to inspire and empower girls and women.

Harriet has received numerous awards including YWCA Woman of Distinction, Global Woman of Vision, Afro- Canadian Community Woman of the Year, Action for Healthy Communities Youth Empowerment Award, Rotary Integrity Award and Daughter’s Day Award just to mention a few. She is a tireless philanthropist, and a Toastmaster Divisional Champion.

Harriet feels blessed to have her journey supported by her partner Steve and her three lovable children Tristan, Rhiannah and Aaliyah.

For more information, visit


Monday, July 13, 2020

On the Spotlight: 'Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation,' by Marilea C. Rabasa

Marilea C. Rabasa is a retired high school teacher who moved west from Virginia eleven years ago. Before that, she traveled around the world with her former husband in the Foreign Service. She has been published in a variety of publications. Writing as Maggie C. Romero, Rabasa won the International Book Award, was named a finalist in both the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and the USA Best Book Awards, and earned an honorable mention in The Great Southwest Book Festival, for her 2014 release, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  She lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a number of years and now resides in Camano Island, Washington. Visit her online at: 

About the Book

Addiction is a stealth predator. Unrecognized, it will grow and flourish. Unchecked, it destroys.

Marilea grew up in post-WWII Massachusetts in a family that lived comfortably and offered her every advantage. But there were closely guarded family secrets. Alcoholism reached back through several generations, and it was not openly discussed. Shame and stigma perpetuated the silence. Marilea became part of this ongoing tragedy.

Her story opens with the death of her mother. Though not an alcoholic, it is her inability to cope with the dysfunction in her life that sets her daughter up for a multitude of problems.

We follow Marilea from an unhappy childhood, to her life overseas in the diplomatic service, to now, living on an island in Puget Sound. What happens in the intervening years is a compelling tale of travel, motherhood, addiction, and heartbreaking loss. The constant thread throughout this story is the many faces and forms of addiction, stalking her like an obsessed lover, and with similar rewards. What, if anything, will free her of the masks she has worn all her life?

Read Marilea’s inspiring recovery story and learn how she wrestles with the demons that have plagued her.



Our first year in Greece, Angel and I took the kids swimming on Crete, went skiing at Mount Parnassus, and made the trip up to Nea Makri Naval Base often to buy things in the commissary. There were four bases in Greece that we used for our shopping: the large Hellenikon Air Base, just south of Athens; the small one north of us on the island of Evia; and two more bases on Crete, one in Souda Bay and another in Iraklion. The American presence in that country was considerable and was becoming more and more controversial.
In a letter to my mother, dated 11/24/87, I wrote:

Dear Mom,
Angel has been on the front page of the news here. He has been on the negotiating team for the American bases here. He was in London and Stuttgart for a week, meeting Ambassador Flanagan, and brought him here to begin negotiations with the Greeks. The whole process will be on and off for a couple of years. I’m sure Angel will be promoted as a result of this. Now that his picture was on the front page, we will be hotly pursued by the Greeks. Security has to be increased now. Angel and I have to switch cars occasionally.

I took more of an interest in the political controversy with the unfolding of a tragedy in my own neighborhood—the place where my children had roamed around freely, walking their dog, playing ball, and feeling entirely safe.
As that first school year ended, our family was busy squabbling over what our summer plans would be. But all the plans came to a sudden halt on June 28 with the assassination of our neighbor Bill Nordeen.
 This was too close.
A security detail drove Angel to work daily following the murder, and I shook with fear for months, thinking of my children walking to the school bus every day. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro had been murdered in Nicaragua only ten years before. Up until that second murder, I had enjoyed a devil-may-care attitude about my life. Our adventures in the Foreign Service had been enriching and stimulating—but also dangerous. Even with the kids, I eventually went along, firmly attached to my husband and the sexiness he found from living on the edge.
Angel was attracted to danger; it’s true. It’s not accidental that he became a terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation following his tenure in the Foreign Service. And I think when we were first married it felt exhilarating, watching the fomenting of a left-wing revolution in Nicaragua. I was younger then, and I didn’t have a growing family to consider.
I didn’t find the edge exhilarating anymore.
My husband was relaxed and unstressed about the work challenges he was dealing with and the threats to Americans. But it was a difficult time for me. Our house had become an armed camp with policemen guarding our comings and goings.
            “Angel, why is the security detail here all the time? It’s scaring the children,” I asked him as I watched our kids running to catch the bus. My hands had begun to shake—my reaction to fear that went back to my childhood. “I don’t want to see police cars here all the time. Please, can’t you tell them to meet you at the corner?”
            “Stop it, Marilea,” he snapped, brushing me off, “do you want to end up a widow like your mother?”
I woke up one night while Angel was away on embassy business, sweating and shaking, with the image of heads on stakes up and down the highway to the base at Nea Makri. I doubled the number of cigarettes I’d been smoking in an effort to relieve my stress.
The children were in school all day and had many after-school activities to occupy themselves. But I couldn’t sleep much at night, continually waking with old “They’re coming to get me” nightmares from my 1973 breakdown so many years before. But there in Greece it wasn’t drug-induced paranoia: those fears were real. The terrorist organization under suspicion, November 17,  had promised to kill more American diplomats if the United States refused to remove its bases from Greece.
The bomb that blew up near our house that day was still exploding in me.
Every time I saw Angel’s security guard pick him up I wondered if he’d be coming home that night.
            Bill Nordeen had also been in an armor-plated vehicle, and it did nothing to protect him.