Soul Afterlife delivers a thought-provoking examination of life, death, and the afterlife. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Several years ago, I was studying at Wat Yaranna Rangsee, a suburban Thai Buddhist Monastery in northern Virginia. Although the topics of life and death were occasionally discussed, any tolerance for hard-hitting afterlife debates were almost always tabled or played down.
Let me explain why something like that might occur. Buddhists believe that it is the human ego that triggers suffering when we struggle to find our personal compassion for death and a possible karma driven afterlife. Additionally, they have an uncommon expectation about what occurs after we take our final breath when compared to the general population. These unconventional views are conveyed in the Buddhist doctrine of anatman – the principle of “no self/no soul” that is discussed in the book .
I found anatman to be a difficult concept to support. My explanation for that struggle? My ego’s outright refusal to accept that upon passing I am basically a ball of energy that dissolves and wanders off into the cosmos. I could not comprehend the casual evaporation of my individuality – the essence of who I am.
As a result, my ongoing mystical questions and the narratives within the book were attempts to unearth what is required to “emotionally balance” what I have held as historical spiritual beliefs against newly acquired information.
In writing about a Soul Afterlife, I was not testing my Buddhist friends tenets; I was humbly seeking to understand unusual beliefs that conflicted with my understanding of otherworldly adventures.
What I did not expect, however, were the powerful opportunities, and unorthodox possibilities that the soul guide Laz shared.
What is a common misconception you feel people have about near-death experiences?
I am not sure I would classify anything I have learned as a misconception regarding near-death experiences. Certainly, there is a scientific community that suggest multiple explanation as to why someone might have mental, emotional, or visual outcomes when their biological systems shut down. Additionally, there are a number of academic and philosophical professionals who have a wide variety of explanations regarding human consciousness and they would add to the debate.
In Soul Afterlife I tell the story of a former patient, Whitney – it is the only earthly exposure I have had with a near-death experience. As I began asking questions about an afterlife, it was my ability to recall that encounter that led me to believe that there might be something beyond what many individuals encounter. As my questions were laid out and the answers were forthcoming, I tried to imagine something beyond what I found in research and discussions with religious scholars – something that might just be extraordinarily different.
For any readers seeking to examine conventional expectations from near-death experiences I suggest visiting the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine – Division of Perceptual Studies. For others looking for a more mystical “life after Life” exposure Michael Newtons works, including “Destiny of Souls” is an option.
As for me? My guide was insistent that near-death walked along the parameter of an afterlife experience and as a result souls experienced aura attachments, human memories, religious beliefs, or alternative lives in near-death – beyond those boundaries everything becomes more complex.
I appreciated all the candid reflections on life and life after. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Throughout my ten-year adventure into the world of souls there were three primary themes that were laced throughout the five unconventional memoirs that have been published, including Soul Afterlife – Beyond the Near-Death Experience.
The first was the part my human ego plays in suppressing the awareness required for me to see beyond the obvious. The second was the reminder that I am largely made of undying energy and the third was how I am fixed to the critical elements of life, especially water.
To answer your question, however, let me briefly explain the influence of the human ego, it is the essential theme played out in Soul Afterlife.
To begin, my Buddhist friends have always promoted the human ego as a heartless regime that is on an untiring mission to suspend the development of my human mind and to a degree I concur with that approach. I was encouraged by my monk companions to liberate my ego’s authority over how to live my life – by imagining that nurturing this ability would make available an unpolluted release of both daily life and spiritual awareness. Essentially, I came to trust that there is much more to be understood that the human ego will permit to be known, and if permitted to an unlocked (aware) mind, unusual afterlife possibilities can be explored.
I believe the premise that reverberated most throughout the year long journey was this – “stagnation only comes with the human shell, and when that occurs, the human ego takes over stalling out the soul’s evolution”. I found it odd that throughout life we intentionally rely on our ego for support and strength while developing our earthly plan and self-esteem, yet “soul awareness” might be more achievable if the human ego is silenced.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I believe there might be two that I recommend. First, from a spiritual or soul perspective, we are more than we could possibly imagine. Too often we become locked into the expectations of others and present-day dogmatic understandings – assuming life just becomes easier to navigate under such a mindset. I was consistently invited to think about how traditional spiritual teachings assist during daily human activities yet may delay how a soul might navigate an afterlife. How regrettable, I thought, if this is true.
The second takeaway was Laz presenting the image of old fashioned “key”. He disclosed that it represented the ability to become mindful to discretionary prospects after we die. Suggesting that newly formed afterlife alternatives might create unobstructed pathways for our future soul travels. I was plagued by that comment.
As a final commentary – The Socratic dialogues contained in Soul Afterlife are unquestionably “offbeat” and remarkably unlike other approaches to a life after death. There are countless opinions about how we exist now and hereafter, including that there is no life after death. Soul Afterlife is offered merely as an alternate point of view.
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Dead Mom Disease is a heart-felt memoir about the loss of a loved one and the roller-coaster of emotions that come with it. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I always wanted to be a writer, but I never wanted to be an author. I can’t tell you how many times people told me I should write a book, and my answer never changed – I didn’t want to. In college, I had an assignment in a lit class. We had three or four options of the type of project we would turn in. One of them was to write the first three or four chapters of our autobiography. That option is the only one that I had any interest in, and I didn’t even think about the subject – my sister and I had coined the term, “Dead Mom Disease,” a few years prior, and we already floated around the idea of using it for a book title. A few years after I graduated, I was offered a freelance job to edit a book. That’s what made me realize that I could absolutely write a book. I guess the only reason I never really wanted to before was because I didn’t think I could. So, was it important in the sense that I set a goal for myself to write the book, and I wanted to accomplish it? Yes. But, I never really thought of writing the book “Dead Mom Disease” as something that was important for me to do – it was more like I wanted to write a book, and it was only natural that this is the story I would tell.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope, whether it’s through my book or any other means, more people start to realize that grief looks different for everyone and that it lasts forever.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you lost your mother?
Honestly … nothing. I had all of the advice I needed. What I didn’t have was the understanding. For a while, I wished that I had listened to more people – about how time is precious and not to take people for granted. But you just can’t understand some things until you have experienced them. I was a kid. Of course there are things I would have done differently then if I knew what I knew now, but I think pretty much everyone can say that about everything.
My mom’s advice was always, “Follow your heart.” And my dad has always reminded me that “There’s a time for everything.” I have carried these two pieces of advice everywhere with me since I was a small child, and they will go with me to my grave.
What was the writing process like for you to complete this book?
Well, it was a process, that’s for sure. It was interesting, fun, sad, weird, eye-opening, educational, and so much more. While writing the book, it’s as if my mind was subconsciously aware that I was working on something, so it was bringing all of these memories to the surface. I remembered things I had long forgotten, realized I forgot things I never thought I would, it made me curious about things I never questioned before, it forced me to face a lot of darkness, and it made me so proud to hold the finished manuscript in my hand. It was something that I put a lot of effort into, and I was motivated to do it even though I had no idea what I would do once I was done writing it. It also taught me how important it is to define goals, make plans to achieve them, and hold yourself accountable. I used to wonder how people wrote books, and now I know – the same way anyone does anything … you have to start.
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Dead Mom Disease, by Lucy Layne, is a memoir of a teenager who talks about a rather uncomfortable topic for most people – Death, especially the death of a mother. In this book, she narrates her experience witnessing her mother die, of living without a mother after her death, of how grief makes people uncomfortable so they offer you advice to be happy when you don’t want to be happy, and the never-ending process of grieving. She tells us about the gut-wrenching moment of losing a loved one and of life, all through her own thought-provoking words. It also talks about the all-encompassing maternal love and how the balance of life can never be restored after the death of a mother.
Lucy Layne writes honestly and unapologetically about a topic that makes people leave the table when it is brought up. The death of a loved one is a dark topic and people are afraid of the dark. It takes courage to introspect on one’s dark feelings and then write about them with openness and humility.
The author was very realistic in narrating a painful death experience. She moves through the book while capturing the lasting process of grief very aptly. She takes you through the various emotions of anger, denial, depression, deep sadness, and finally acceptance and how these emotions are a necessary part of experiencing the death of a loved one. The book provides a glimpse into a terrifying reality but also reassures you that even after such an abysmal moment in life, you will still survive.
Another critical aspect of the book is how important it is to let the bereaved grieve. Grief is unavoidable in such a circumstance and to take that moment of sadness away from the bereaved can be very damaging on both a mental and physical level. While society fixates on being happy, a person with a great loss must go through grief slowly to provide a channel for emotions to flow out. This is important to get back into the routine of life.
Lucy Layne’s narration feels personal, like you are not alone in this grief. This book makes you cry and laugh as well. It’s not a depressing tale, but rather an uplifting and insightful one. It gives you honest details of what the death of a loved one feels like and brings you solace through shared human experiences of tragedy, joy, tenderness, fear, and love.
Pages: 146 | ASIN: B07KVHMYDN
Tags: author, biography, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, Dead Mom Disease, death, ebook, goodreads, grief, kindle, kobo, literature, loss, love, Lucy Layne, memoir, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, writer, writing
She was a bubbly and jovial little girl one day and sickly the next. Brittany’s condition deteriorated along with her family’s spirit. When a loved one passes away, they leave with a part of us. You are left with a big hole in your heart that you have no use for. How then do you get past the loss? How do you feel the sun on your face again? How do you accept the loss and learn to live with it rather than let it derail your life? How do you finally find some peace despite the ache in your heart?
Brittany’s Rose is the story of a little girl’s death and her family’s journey through grief. It tells the story of their struggles with mourning. Mary Jane Clayton gives a candid account of what she and her family went through for the benefit of the reader. You can never truly prepare for such a loss. But with a book like Brittany’s Rose then you can hope for a better day. You can hope for a day when the grief will be more of a background ache than an earth-shattering life stagnating condition.
This is a quick read meant to help you get past the fog. To hold your hand through this turmoil. Because, really, there is no way to avoid it. The only way to get through it is to go through it. The author creates a sense of kinship with the reader by being honest and open. This book is written with the utmost empathy and is all heart. It is evocative and sad but comforting at the same time. It works whether your loved one passed recently or a decade ago. It is personal and uplifting and written in simple language. It is almost casual but still in a tone that lets you take in the message therein.
The simplicity of this book, the tone, the emotion, the personification of it and the honesty and transparency all make this book a great companion. Sometimes you have to let the healing happen naturally rather than forcing it. It is a natural process. You will also learn the importance of faith in the process.
Brittany’s Rose is a personal story that is always important and useful to someone. The one telling the story requires bravery and courage to tell their story especially one of this caliber so kudos to the author for letting us in. May all who have suffered losses be divinely guided through their grief to a space of peace and acceptance.
Pages: 206 | ASIN: B0792Y4LFF
Tags: author, book, book review, bookblogger, Brittany's Rose: Finding Peace After Losing a Loved One, death, ebook, faith, goodreads, grief, inspirational, kindle, kobo, literature, loss, love, Mary Jane Clayton, motivational, nonfiction, nook, read, reader, reading, self help, spiritual, story, writer, writing
Pheasant describes in an immediate way the experience of being in a coma and out of her body. She learns how everything in life is her choice, whether to live or to die, when she chooses to live, and that everything in her life has to be relearned and rebuilt. Join her and her mother, Susan, an accomplished artist, in the story of how she had to begin again. Read about the challenges and triumphs of recovering from, and living after, a traumatic brain injury.
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The Contest and Other Stories is a collection of inspiring stories that got me to think and reflect. What was the inspiration behind this collection?
JD: I originally wanted to create a coffee table art book with all paintings connected to a framing story.
KR: Around 2007 or 2008, Joe started bringing these quirky short stories inspired by paintings to the critique group in Prescott, Arizona that we both belonged to.
In February 2011, he shared his draft and invited me to assist with the project as a co-author. We continued to work on polishing the stories and the connecting novella together. In our bios, we say that he has the vivid imagination and I have the word-whacking polish, but the truth is, we both contributed to the imaginative creation and to the nuts and bolts polishing and editing. We multiplied our mind-power by working together!
What were some themes you find yourself exploring in your short stories?
JD: The relationships artists have with drinking, higher consciousness, and insanity.
KR: As Joe says, some of the stories explore the artists’ lives directly in the genres of magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, the paranormal, and alternate history, or as a fabulous motif. The other stories were developed using a painting as a prompt, but have no relation to the artist or their work. Those stories explore life challenges and transitions such as birth, death, falling in love, relationships, family life, and work, also through the medium of various fantasy genres. The connecting novella explores the archetypal overbearing father who insists that his only son follow in his footsteps, while the son rebels to make his unique contribution to arts and literature.
What is the collaboration like between the two of you?
JD: Long distance.
KR: By the time Joe and I started working together on this project, he lived in Arizona and I had landed in California. So we shared thoughts and drafts for The Contest and Other Stories via email.
Will you be putting together another collection of short stories?
JD: We’ve been working on solo projects lately. I completed a connected short story collection in 2016 titled Story Time Karaoke @ The Chicagoua Cafe.
KR: I’ve been working on stories inspired by dreams and a novella created entirely from a series of dreams, with a working title of Loop: Life is But a Dream.
As for other joint projects, Joe and I just published a humorous dystopian sci-fi novelette, Space Race: Robot Rebellion in the Future Wild West (Tootie-Do Press, 2018). We also have a YA story, Thirteen, published in an anthology called 31 Nights of Halloween (Rainstorm Press, 2011). Neither of these stories fit the theme of The Contest, so we searched for other alternatives for publication.
Inspired by the works of international artists, this collection contains nineteen spellbinding Young Adult – New Adult magical realist, paranormal, slipstream, alternate history, and fabulist tales linked by a novella: Peter John Rizzo, a 1960 graduate of Yale University’s journalism program, inherits a floundering art magazine from his uncle, John Rizzo, with the provision that he must increase the circulation or forfeit all assets to creditors. Peter Rizzo, Pete’s father, is a banker who scorns careers in the Arts and Humanities, and is jealous of his late brother’s influence upon his wife and son. Classic Art Expose’s devoted but unorthodox editorial assistant, Jason, and two university interns, sisters Shirley and Evie, help Pete start a monthly short story contest with artwork prompts, hoping to expand and save the business. As the four friends publish the winning (and sometimes disturbing) stories over the following eighteen months, Pete battles his father’s attempts to ruin his business and his reputation, and in the process, discovers a sordid family secret. What else could possibly go astray?
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With a collection of singular point of view narratives the author, Mayne Leitzer, offers his first complete book of poetry; 103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person. The book is sectioned into chapters outlining the types of poems that follow, what those writings mean to the author, and how they came to be. The title is indicative of the style of writing, not the writer, as the poetry is fairly simple; using straight forward thoughts and uncomplicated prose to reflect on life’s complications. The story arc is more of a summation of personal perspective and reflection than a journey forward or illustration of action.
In penning “103 Simple Poems” Mayne Leitzer offers up self reflection, self deprecation, a heavy dollop of fundamentalist religious dogma, and more than a little bit of sadness and remorse, with a glimmer of joy and hope.
Many of his poems are jargon one could find on a motivational poster or greeting card, but that is not at all bad. Life can get messy and sometimes people need soft, plushy words to find comfort and solace. The reader will find many situations that they can relate to; lost love, death, pursuing success, loneliness, finding your destiny, conflict of conviction, etc.
However, there are many poems that can be divisive. Sex before marriage, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, Heaven and Hell, those types of things. The thoughts Leitzer lays out are organic in nature and not derived of a need to be quoted for inspirational prose or to start a deep conversation, but rather, just as he states; a need to express his soul at different stages in life.
Some poems showcase the more complex layers of his humanity that struggle to shine under the dominance of a narrow vision. The Promised Land poem is thoughtful and embraceable. Not a Bad Day and One Moonlit Night lets out his optimistic side which he admits is not in his nature. Leitzer is honest about his mistakes and his struggle with alcoholism. His love poems are truly good; especially Seasons, A Smile and Rock A-bye.
There are a few grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, which are distracting as is his zealous religious fervor, but his writings let the reader feel his authenticity and the last few poems wrap up nicely to summarize his goal and wishes for success.
This book uses simple and fluid style to expand peoples emotional depths but seemed content to keep its voice generalized. The individual writings have value no matter your religious leanings. At the end the reader will come away with some reflections of their own and maybe, quote a few lines for their own stages of life.
Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1425979149
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Paper Heart by Jennifer LeBlanc is a book of poetry that includes ninety poems. Many of the poems are about finding love and have a very uplifting message. Other poems are about lost love (whether through death or the end of a relationship), or loving someone who only brings you pain. The title of the book (Paper Heart) is appropriate because many of the poems are about how fragile love is, both precious and painful. Some of the poems the author included were very personal, especially the ones about the author’s mother. Other poems could speak to almost everyone, with universal messages. Most of the poems are about the past, some about living in the past. There were not as many about living in and enjoying the present or looking toward the future. Many of the poems were about darker topics, like addiction and loss and death. Other poems featured themes of regrets for things wished undone and things that can’t be undone, whether to self or others.
I liked the range in the various poems, covering many different emotions (from sadness to great joy), and the dichotomy of themes of darkness and light. There are varying structures to a number of the poems, and I liked the different styles, that they weren’t all the same.
My favorite poems were the ones with inspirational messages, like Be Every Color of the Sun. I liked how the title of several poems were spelled out as the first letter of each line of the poem. But these titles weren’t just random words, they were appropriate to the poem, as well.
Some of the poems were very short (only a few lines long). A few of these poems almost felt unfinished, and they left me wanting more. They felt as though they ended too soon and could have been expanded upon. Some of the poems were very similar in theme to other poems, seeming like a continuation of earlier poems (though not the shorter ones).
One poem, Vicious Cycles, had dialogue in the middle of the verses, which was unique and unexpected in a book of poetry.
Many of the poems reminded me of my favorite songs or a line from the lyrics because they had the same feeling, and I enjoyed that aspect of the author’s writing.
Pages: 138 | ASIN: B07KDPCV4N
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