Category Archives: Interviews
The BreakAway Girl: Secrets of a Tantric Yogi is a memoir about your life and how you found peace through hard times. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your story into a book?
Great question. As I mention in the book I’ve been blessed over the years to have the privilege of teaching yoga to so many remarkable students. As a result, in many ways the book is a response to questions I’ve been asked over time. I also believe it’s important that as a teacher you’re seen as a human being. Who can be just as frightened at times, unaware at times, and who may have struggled with insecurities just like the person next to you on the mat, or in front of you at the grocery check-out. It’s all part of this human embodiment.
What I enjoyed was that you didn’t shy away from retelling the difficult moments in your life. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?
Ha – yes! Quite honestly revealing all of my human fragility was difficult. It’s not easy to rip open your heart and expose your vulnerabilities so intimately. Knowing that most likely there will be judgement and commentary. Yet, as a writer it’s how I make sense of my world. I teach the whole of yoga, not simply poses. So, for me it’s a way that I’ve learned how to not spiritually by-pass and one way to be self-accountable. By doing that I’ve also learned, that in the right context, you allow others to see that they are not alone in the messiness that is life. And hopefully they feel more accepting of their own cracks and breakaways.
Writing a memoir forces you to look back and analyze life choices. Do you see things in your life differently now that you’ve written about it?
I love this question. I could write a lot about this, but one main analysis is that I’m more forgiving of myself. I realize that I was doing the best I could at the time. However mis-guided it might look like in retrospect. Plus, I’m even more grateful that I finally found my way to the path of yoga that continues every day to help me step more fully into my own essence.
This book is inspirational as well as functional in that you give some yoga pose instruction in the back of your book. What do you hope readers take away from The BreakAway Girl?
I hope that readers are inspired by my story of self-reflection, and ultimately as I see it, redemption. If they recognize themselves in any small way, I hope that my story might provide insight and motivation into their own breakaways. And to never give up on themselves. Also, if a reader is searching for a tool or a modality that might move them forward perhaps it is yoga – the myths, meditation, mantra, or asana might just be that something that will support their spiritual growth and personal transformation.
Paulette Bodeman is a certified integrative life coach and an Anusara® certified yoga teacher and trainer. When Paulette’s students asked her if she’d always “had it all together”, The BreakAway Girl – Secrets of a Tantric Yogi, was born. Through self-reflection, a sacred yogic practice, Paulette realized that she’d had many significant “breakaway moments” – moments when she made conscious decisions to change her life. Throughout her 20+ years of study, Paulette moved through many phases overcoming numerous personal challenges.
The BreakAway Girl is divided into sections that she named for the Hindu Goddesses – Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi. Only through introspection was Paulette able to understand the meaning the goddesses brought to her life, and how their energetic archetypes supported her personal growth and transformation. In keeping with a relatively new breed of contemporary writing, part memoir – part self-help, Ms. Bodeman reveals with raw honesty and humor the secrets that held her hostage and the secrets that helped to set her spirit free. While she writes with fearless determination from the trenches of personal experience the author’s ultimate message is not only universal, but life-affirming.
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The Adventures of Fawn is a children’s novel that follows a young deer as she seeks adventure and frienship and finds much more. What was your inspiration for this fun story?
I’ve been a department store Santa for 40 years. The many questions children have asked, and my creative responses were part of my reason for writing ‘The Adventures of Fawn’. I wanted to instill a feeling of wonder and enjoyment regarding things related to Santa’s mythology and the North Pole for readers of all ages. The descriptions of making candy canes and sugar plums, and the activities in the Toy Shop are, for me, a great way of ‘bringing the reader in’…regardless of his/her age. Christmas is still my favorite time of year. Writing these books has afforded me an opportunity to spread that love and perpetuate the magic, as well.
I felt that the novel was about friendship and overcoming adversity. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Yes. Friendship and overcoming adversity are indeed a great part of the story. I think the relationship between a child and his/her parents is also a vital part of the tale, and plays out well between Fawn, Comet and Vixen.
Fawn is a loving character that is easy to relate to. What were some ideals you were trying to capture with her character?
I imagined Fawn as a youngster just approaching adolescence. She got ‘smarts’, but her adventurous spirit gets the better of her. Despite, or perhaps even in spite of her parents warnings, she throws caution to the wind and decides she can face life outside the Village on her own. Realizing her Mum and Dad were basically right all along is a big part of Fawn’s journey and self-discovery.
I also like to think Doctor Weather and Fawn are both on a journey of sorts. Both are discovering things they never knew, whether they be North Pole related…or things about themselves.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Book 2 of The Adventures of Fawn, titled: The Ona Pendulum find Fawn, her friends and Doctor Weather trying to save the lives of the citizens of Santa’s Village. The Ona Pendulum, a magical device that enables Santa and company to live for centuries is apparently in grave danger of being destroyed. Book 3, entitled: Far And Yet So Near finds Fawn, her friends, and doctor Weather trailing the reindeer who have come under the control of a mysterious stranger bent on kidnapping the team. But Fawn winds up being the one kidnapped and spirited away to an estate in England. I have a fourth book nearly completed, but I’m not happy with it, and am trying to work on it and make it more entertaining.
This award-winning first entry in The Adventures of Fawn series is an exciting ‘coming of age’ tale! The year is 1849, and legendary reindeer Comet and Vixen have a young daughter, Fawn. In this first book, ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls, the young reindeer spends far too many days alone in the stable at Santa’s Village, with no friends and nothing to do. While her parents caution her she’s much too young and inexperienced to go exploring outside the Village by herself, Fawn disagrees. Declaring, “I want some fun and excitement! I don’t care how dangerous it is!” she begins sneaking out each day in search of friends, excitement and adventure. She’ll find them all…but also find herself in dangerous situations she’s unprepared for! She’ll realize perhaps a bit too late that mom and dad were right all along! And, she’ll learn some valuable lessons about what’s really important in life. The Adventures of Fawn are filled with fun, laughs, excitement, and magical entertainment for readers all ages!
‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls was awarded the Bronze Medal in Dan Poynter’s 2017 Global E-book Awards, received an Honoree Medallion from indieB.R.A.G. Awards, a Reader’s Favorite Five Star Award, One Stop Fiction Books’ Five Star Award, and Literary Titan’s Silver Book Award.
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Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where they’re introduced to many strange guests. What served as your inspiration for this imaginative hotel and its occupants?
The concept was really born from the title. I had wanted to write a counting book for a while but one that carried a stronger narrative than many others in this particular category. After I had the title, everything else just came together. I think that there is something about doors that sparks a natural curiosity, particularly in young children. I wanted to extend that curiosity by placing the story in a setting that would really compound the mystery. A magical castle, to me, holds a lot of intrigue and seemed like an excellent place to begin a curious journey.
There are a lot of interesting creatures behind each door. My favorite was the miniature giants. What was your favorite to write and animate?
I have so many! For most of the characters there is a fascinating juxtaposition between the general perception of their stereotype and a characteristic they embody in the story. Some of the other creatures are simply a play on popular culture. However a few of them are just plain cute. If I had to choose only one favourite, I think it would be from this last category – the big-headed monkeys.
While I was writing this character, I had in my mind something so adorable that it would make a great stuffed toy. What’s exciting about working with Lenny is that we both think similarly. She was able to take my thoughts for this idea and really bring it to life with brilliant expression. They may not be a typical mythical creature, but I think they nevertheless compliment the overall enjoyment of exploring this hotel by diffusing the expectation that each character needs to have some kind of creepy characteristic.
The story is told in rhyme and each door has a theme which, I think, makes this book great for the classroom. Was it challenging to write the story in this way or was it natural?
After I had the idea, the story itself flowed quite naturally. The fantastical nature of the castle meant that each door wasn’t restricted to a single concept or any established rules. I think this is (in part) what both pulls you along in the story and tempts you to linger – every door is a portal to its own unique and perhaps unexpected theme.
I don’t want it to send like I’m begging, but please tell me this story is going to be expanded on in future books?
Ooh, now that’s an interesting question. It was definitely a fun story to write so I wouldn’t rule out a sequel. I’ll let you know…
The magical Hotel of Hoo is a mysterious place with some very unusual occupants. As our guests explore the strange hotel, they are invited to experience everything it has to offer with just one warning… don’t ever look behind door 32.
This imaginative picture book aims to take children beyond the first ten cardinal numbers, and introduces them to the patterns of counting in a fun and accessible way. With rooms to explore and unique objects to count, children will enjoy lingering on each page as they make their way closer to the forbidden door.
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LoveQuest is a dramatic retelling of an ancient Greek myth about Psyche, a mortal woman, and Eros, the god of love. Why did you want to retell this story and what were some new ideas you wanted to introduce?
I’ve always loved mythology, from the time I was first exposed to it as a child. As a student of literature, I was aware of how the ancient myths continued to influence art and culture to the present day.
There were myths in particular that caught my attention, and, in my early 30s, I was particularly drawn to that of Eros and Psyche. I never imagined a Roman setting, but the romantic, wonderful, and bucolic setting of ancient Greece.
To me, the myth of Eros and Psyche comprises all that is romantic. Each of us yearns for a partner who is the ideal of everything we’ve ever dreamed of, but somehow we don’t believe we are worthy of such love.
We deceive ourselves by letting others define us. We vacillate and let fear conquer us. The world leads us astray and we fail ourselves and those who love us.
To be human is to be like Psyche. I identified with her and all her failings, as well as with her attempts to make reparations and redeem herself.
Psyche held her gifts in low esteem, and that was her first mistake. Beauty is a gift, and those who are blessed with it are meant to shine, just as a writer must write and a dancer must dance.
Being morbidly influenced by her malignant sisters was another of Psyche’s mistakes. It should be easy to tell a friend from an enemy; people should not let their enemies define them or direct their behavior.
Eros has a coming-of-age experience; he takes a path distinct from his mother’s and follows his own destiny. As for Aphrodite, she has to decide whether she should set her child free or protect him from making a grown-up’s mistake.
At one point, Psyche has an opportunity to escape her trials and slink back home. Instead of choosing the mediocrity of a safe and easy path, she decides to follow her heart and endure and suffer for a higher objective. The difficult path is the one that gives us a chance to stretch ourselves, excel ourselves, and be better than we would otherwise be.
On an elevated level, the myth is the story of the redeeming power of love, and of the soul in search of redemption and perfection.
I felt that your characters were well developed and their personalities were distinct. What are some important traits you like your characters to have?
I want people to identify with my characters, or at least see in them what they see in others. A character cannot succeed unless he or she connects with the reader. The reader doesn’t have to like the character; it’s only important that the reader perceives the character as alive and real.
I don’t want my characters to be too good or too bad. There is risk of falling into parody if they are. My villains, if they can be called villains, are not all bad; they just behave badly.
What kind of research did you undertake to ensure you got the mythology right in LoveQuest?
The main source for my story is The Age of Fable (1855) by the American writer Thomas Bulfinch (1796 – 1867). This has been a classic and standard text for the Greek myths ever since.
Bulfinch appeals because he attempts to write the myths with all “the charm of a story book,” while adhering “to the text of the ancient authorities.” He writes “for the reader of English literature” and “to popularize mythology and extend the enjoyment of elegant literature.”
I have allowed Bulfinch to provide the framework of my story, but I have attempted to expand upon it, infuse it with other elements of magic and wonder, and, I hope, provide readers with a greater depth of understanding for the lessons the story imparts.
I have taken some liberty with Bulfinch’s story of Eros and Psyche. Gaia, the Earth Mother, is an immortal apart from the gods of Olympus. The talking animals are a tribute to C. S. Lewis and Disney, and the intervention of the South and North Winds is my own device, providing a natural way to give Eros allies outside his mother’s influence.
The mysterious Dream Lover is a mystical being born of imagination.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have been spending much of my time since the publication of LoveQuest in promoting my books (my historical novel Brief Candles was published in 1983) and sharing my short stories on my website. However, I do have many projects planned and already in development.
I am building a narrative around the diary I kept when I was fourteen, filled with the anxieties, vanities, and pain of adolescence.
Another project is a dystopia of a class-based society where the tidal wave for change is already churning under the surface of a closed and exclusive world.
An overreaching work is a history of late 15th century England during the period popularly known as the Wars of the Roses. I have been studying that period on and off for over 50 years, and friends have encouraged me to collect my research in a nonfiction book.
None of these projects is close to completion, and I know by experience that a sudden inspiration could cause me to push something totally unexpected forward.
One way or another, I will never stop writing.
LoveQuest, a romantic fantasy, is a light-hearted retelling of one of the most enduring love stories from ancient Greek mythology: the forbidden passion of Eros, the god of Love, for the mortal woman Psyche.
A god’s love for a mortal woman…
It is ancient Greece, a world of gods, superstition, and magic. The villagers dwelling under the eyes of the jealous and capricious gods on Mount Olympus seek to gain their favor and to uncover the mysteries that only the immortals can know by turning to priests, soothsayers, seers, and fortune-tellers.
The oracle of the divine Apollo is one of the most famous of these seers. Although physically nothing more than a pool of water in a cavern, its wisdom is so renown across Greece that many journey far and wide to seek its counsel.
Among the pilgrims are the wealthy cloth merchant Pericles, his wife Leena, and their daughters Medea, Tanna, and Psyche. Although Psyche is blessed by Aphrodite, the goddess of Beauty, and is cherished by the people of her village for her loveliness, she cares little for their attention, seeking only the approval of her envious and malicious sisters.
Medea and Tanna ridicule the oracle’s prophecy that Psyche will make a “marvelous” marriage to someone “not human,” and use it as another means to torment their sister, driving her to tears.
Offended by Psyche’s behavior and not accustomed to being taken for granted, Aphrodite retaliates by asking her son Eros, the god of Love, to punish Psyche with a life of lovelessness.
Coming to Psyche and her sisters under a cloak of invisibility, Eros is filled with pity for Psyche but determined to carry out his mother’s wishes. Aphrodite’s plan goes amok when Eros wounds himself with his own arrow carrying out the punishment. He falls in love with the woman his mother hates.
Eros must make a decision: Will he do his mother’s bidding and resist the power of love, or will he defy her by setting his own course in pursuit of Psyche’s heart?
And, if he develops an elaborate plan to win Psyche, whose help can he enlist? Is love with Psyche possible, and how long can he keep up his deception before his mother discovers him?
Compared with Eros, Psyche is a novice at love. Eros can’t approach her as a human suitor would approach a human woman. She too has a decision to make: Should she believe the loving words of a mysterious stranger, or should she believe her sisters?
The consequences for Eros and Psyche are dear. Aphrodite’s temper is not something to toy with. She is angry enough with Psyche, but if Psyche should do wrong to her son Eros, there might be no end to the punishment Psyche faces at the hands of the jealous goddess.
Psyche must choose between betrayal and fidelity, just as Eros must connive to win her love and the approval of his mother. Both of them must be put to the test in order to find their heart’s desire.
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Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions tackles project management in an approachable way that I found to be highly enlightening. How has your experience in project management helped you write this book?
I am thankful for all of the disruptors, innovators, and visionaries who contributed to the colorful heritage of agile and Scrum. In particular, I thank Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Scrum was modeled after their groundbreaking paper, “The New New Product Development Game,” published in the Harvard Business Review in 1986. My book was informed by their article and 115 additional sources—listed in the bibliography—along with my first-hand experience launching Scrum in organizations.
I’m the Founder and CEO of Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions, an Inc. Verified Business, which helps our clients achieve their business needs through world-class project leadership. I had the privilege to work with a client in a division of a global entertainment business on their successful journey for improved responsiveness to changing business needs, faster delivery speed, higher satisfaction, and continuous improvement—which made them even more competitive and fueled their growth. That fantastic agile transformation experience and result was the inspiration for my book. I thank that client.
I also helped diverse organizations achieve their business needs through project management related services prior to Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions. I’m a former vice president of a provider of diverse consumer products and services over the Internet including social networking and internet access. Before that, I worked in organizations with businesses ranging from advanced technology products and services to business services, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, and entertainment. I have experience with consumer, business, reseller, government, and international customer markets, as well as international experience spanning 20 countries.
In addition to hands-on experience, a deep understanding of project management (project, program, portfolio, and PMO management—inclusive of agile, traditional, and hybrid frameworks), engagements with professional associations, involvement with global standards, knowledge of leading practices, and professional credentials also shaped what and how information was presented in the book. Some examples follow. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a focus in Human Factors. I hold six certifications: Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Project Management Professional (PMP), IT Service Management Foundation (ITIL), and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB). And I’m proud to be a member of the Scrum Alliance, Project Management Institute (PMI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Consumer Electronics Society, IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, IEEE Internet of Things Community, and the IEEE Consultants Network.
I owe a tremendous debt to the technical editors: Chris Hare and Colin Giffen. Each offered insights that greatly improved Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. I thank them for helping to make this book more clear, consistent, and valuable.
Agile Scrum is often used in technology projects, but do you think Agile Scrum can have a wider application?
Shifting customer needs are common in today’s marketplace. Businesses must be adaptive and responsive to change while delivering an exceptional customer experience to be competitive. Traditional development and delivery frameworks are often ineffective. In contrast, Scrum is a value-driven agile approach which incorporates adjustments based on regular and repeated customer and stakeholder feedback. And Scrum’s built-in rapid response to change leads to substantial benefits such as fast time-to-market, higher satisfaction, and continuous improvement—which supports innovation and drives competitive advantage.
Agile and Scrum were once the sole domain of software development. However, the benefits and results have not gone unnoticed by others. Practices are being adopted by additional departments and industries. The State of Scrum Report: 2017 Edition revealed that 21% of Scrum projects are run by departments outside of Technology such as Marketing, Finance, and Sales. And a New York Timesarticle in 2016—”The New Workplace is Agile, and Nonstop. Can You Keep Up?”—noted agile’s use in diverse industries. Examples ranged from a museum in Sydney, Australia, to an automobile dealership in Maine. Agile/Scrum is being used broadly.
What is one common misconception you find people have about the Agile Scrum methodology?
There are different frameworks supporting the development and delivery of products and services, and most methodologies fall into one of two broad categories: traditional or agile. Traditional practices (sometimes called waterfall) engage sequential development, while agile involves iterative and incremental deliverables. Organizations are increasingly embracing Scrum—the most popular agile framework—to manage projects, and best meet their business needs of rapid response to change, fast delivery speed, and more.
There’s a widely-held view that agile is new. But agile was used decades before it became well-known. A few examples follow. Software was developed in half-day iterations in 1958 for Project Mercury, the United States’ first human spaceflight program. Harlan Mills of IBM promoted in 1968 that “software development should be done incrementally, in stages with continuous user participation and replanning.” In 1980, Tom Gilb introduced the Evolutionary Delivery Model, an incremental alternative to traditional development.
While agile (which includes Scrum) is not new, many innovators and visionaries have advanced principles and practices over time. For those who would like to learn more, there’s a one-minute video—”Agile Has a Long and Colorful Heritage”—at https://vimeo.com/259429846.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have two works in the pipeline. Currently, however, there is no detail on content or publication dates for future books.
Shifting customer needs are common in today’s marketplace. Businesses must be adaptive and responsive to change while delivering an exceptional customer experience to be competitive.
There are a variety of frameworks supporting the development of products and services, and most methodologies fall into one of two broad categories: traditional or agile. Traditional practices such as waterfall engage sequential development, while agile involves iterative and incremental deliverables. Organizations are increasingly embracing agile to manage projects, and best meet their business needs of rapid response to change, fast delivery speed, and more.
Agile Scrum is for those interested or involved in innovation, project management, product development, software development or technology management. It’s for those who have not yet used Scrum. It’s also for people already using Scrum, in roles such as Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Development Team members (business analysts, solution and system architects, designers, developers, testers, etc.), customers, end users, agile coaches, executives, managers, and other stakeholders. For those already using Scrum, this guide can serve as a reference on practices for consideration and potential adaptation.
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The Fall of Lilith is a dark fantasy novel centered around the anti-heroine, Lilith, and the creation and fall of the angels. What was your inspiration for this imaginative novel?
The Fall of Lilith is a High Fantasy with dark elements. I grew up in a religious home and went to religious private school. Angels always fascinated me, but there isn’t much information in the bible about them, so I always imagined what they were like, both the holy angels and the fallen ones. I also read a great deal of religious books (fiction and Non-fiction), mythology and fairytales growing up. I basically combined all three to create this book. I did a lot of research and used facts from the Bible, Hebrew Bible, and Quran to ground it in reality.
I liked that we got to see Lilith change from good to bad throughout the novel, and how that was portrayed was entertaining. Did her character develop organically as you were writing or was it planned?
I always knew she would be an evil character at some point. That being said, she took it from there and developed organically.
There is heavy use of religion and myth in this book. What kind of research did you undertake for this novel to keep things accurate?
An enormous amount of research went into this novel. I researched animals, natural disasters, food, geography, names, and religious text among other things. Like Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In The Fall of Lilith, Vashti Quiroz-Vega crafts an irresistible new take on heaven and hell that boldly lays bare the passionate, conflicted natures of God’s first creations: the resplendent celestial beings known as angels.
If you think you know their story, think again.
Endowed with every gift of mind, body, and spirit, the angels reside in a paradise bounded by divine laws, chief of which are obedience to God, and celibacy. In all other things, the angels possess free will, that they may add in their own unique ways to God’s unfolding plan.
Lilith, most exquisite of angels, finds the rules arbitrary and stifling. She yearns to follow no plan but her own: a plan that leads to the throne now occupied by God himself. With clever words and forbidden caresses, Lilith sows discontent among the angels. Soon the virus of rebellion has spread to the greatest of them all: Lucifer.
Now, as angel is pitted against angel, old loyalties are betrayed and friendships broken. Lust, envy, pride, and ambition arise to shake the foundations of heaven . . . and beyond. For what begins as a war in paradise invades God’s newest creation, a planet known as Earth. It is there, in the garden called Eden, that Lilith, Lucifer, and the other rebel angels will seek a final desperate victory—or a venomous revenge.
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The Day Momma Made Me Dance is a colorful children’s book depicting the consequences of childrens misbehavior. What was your inspiration for this book?
My inspiration was my very own childhood experience. I myself was a mischevious child and my sister was also so growing up in a home where consequences were learned about through whoopings. I decided to write about it and this book is in no way to excuse about but to simply talk about my story and how I learned right from wrong. Not all people will see this book as acceptable but in many black homes that are my culture, it is accepted.
The story follows a young girl who is constantly up to mischief. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in this story?
The themes that were displayed was the experience of going to school and misbehaving, treating my sibling badly and being disrespectful by not listening to my parent. These themes were important because everyone has had a bad moment in their life either in the home or school as a kid.
The story draws a line between punishment and abuse. What is a common misconception you find people have about this subject?
People find that any form of punishment with an object is abuse. I have to disagree with that opinion because we all have to measure the level of discipline with what object and for how long. I believe that it is ok to whoop your child, talk to them and do time out. However, what happens when all of your interventions fail and the child still continues to misbehave. My book was a simple representation of punishment was in my home and the yes the girl learned her lesson in the end. The girl talked with her mom and stated that she understands the rules of the home and school. I had the same similar experience in my life. So this book was a short story about that time.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Readers should take away that punishment is not all bad no matter the form of it. It just depends on the level and frequency of the punishment. This book is not only about punishment but it has a bit of humor in it. The day momma made me dance is simply a metaphor for a butt whipping. The girl understands her faults and is thankful for her punishment because without it she would not understand the rules of home and school.
As a mom, we continuously tell our children the rules of the house. Not only this, we are constantly cleaning and prompting them to do their chores and homework. Until one day, Momma has had enough. Find out what happens when enough is enough in this home.
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Letters to Mary Susan chronicles the life and adventures of a Missouri outlaw that is in prison for manslaughter and is trying to reconnect with his daughter through letters. What was your inspiration behind this story?
The book’s main character, Jim Howard, was one of my father’s boyhood heroes and he’d retained “Jim Howard stories” for over 70 years. I’d promised him, in 2002 to make these stories central to a book with Jim Howard as its main character.
This is a great historical fiction novel that got a lot of the details right. What kind of research did you do for this novel to keep things accurate?
I did a lot of online and library research re: pre-Civil War, Civil War, post-Civil War “outlawry (“guerilla warfare”), Cattle drives, the rise of Montana outlawry and the “Wild Bunch,” Big Muddy outlawry, leading to personal interviews and old newspaper/library reviews regarding homesteading and personal interviews with prison personnel regarding prison characteristics as well as older individuals with recollections of the Prison Chaplain’s, Howard’s lawyer’s and Howard’s daughter’s roles in his release from jail.
What I liked about James’s character was that he held nothing back and didn’t try to cast himself in a good light, just told it like it is. What themes did you want to capture while you were writing his character?
That redemption and a new start is possible for us all.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
A book of poetry that I hope to have ready before the end of this year.
In his historical novel, LETTERS TO MARY SUSAN, Jerry Hammersmith chronicles the life and adventures of a Missouri outlaw, James Marion Howard. The novel is narrated by an aging Jim Howard as he begins to serve a sentence of fifteen years for Manslaughter. His lonely prison cell in the newly built Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert is the impetus to repent and reconnect with his past.
Through Jim’s reflections and letters to his long-estranged daughter, Mary Susan, the novel becomes a chronicle of the life of a Missouri outlaw who fled post Civil War America, leaving behind his wife and family and seeking escape from the law by racing across the western states, robbing stage coaches, trains and banks, until a posse chases him across the 49th parallel and into the newly formed Saskatchewan, Canada. He finds a new life and becomes a citizen of Canada after fulfilling the homestead requirements and establishing a new identity there.
As Howard recalls his outlaw past, Hammersmith leads the reader into the saga of the American Civil War, the tragedy of post war devastation and the flight of an insurgent guerrilla on the run to homestead in the ‘promised land’ of Canada. The surprising identity of that outlaw and his place in the small community of Teddington, Saskatchewan provides a tale of adventure, mystery and passion.
The twists and turns of this amazing story offer a glimpse into the ravages of the Civil War and the aftermath of the brutal and senseless vengeance that stole the lives of many young men. It leads the reader to an understanding of the path of a man’s choices and the hope that redemption is possible for us all.
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