Blog Archives

We Need Not Face Our Journey Alone

Anthony Maranise Author Interview

Anthony Maranise Author Interview

Cross of a Different Kind dives into the relationship between cancer and Christianity. Why was this an important ‘field guide’ for you to write?

“I’ve felt my own sort of ‘calling’ to research, teach, and write about matters of the heart and soul, particularly through the lenses of Judeo-Christian theology for more than 14 years now. For 21 years, I have been a cancer-survivor. Without a doubt, I believe my own cancer-experiences have shaped my faith and personal investment in the academic areas I study and write about. That said, Cross of a Different Kind is not a purely academic text in theology and spirituality – I mean, yes, it is these things, but it’s also a self-help guide. I’ve personally experienced all three possible ways that a person can experience cancer. I’ve lost loved-ones to it; I’ve personally fought my own battle against it; and now, I live as a survivor. Those three means of experiencing cancer form the three parts or sections into which the book is divided. In my years of academic study and personal application, especially as both a chaplain and cancer-coach, I’ve seen and experienced firsthand how great the spiritual and existential struggles can be for persons facing cancer in any of these ways. I know their struggles and empathize wholly because I have lived them myself. Faith for me is much more than just a provision of comfort or hope based in naively following a mythic figure. Faith, for me, is the reason I live and love. I believe that, if in the midst of the gargantuan trials and calamities of cancer, persons can cling to their faith, and somehow derive strength from it, that they will find peace in their struggles so that no matter how it turns out – and of course, we pray for survival in all cases – they will know and feel the certainty of love’s triumphant power. This book is about assurance… and not necessarily the assurance of faith alone, but that others have gone through, are going through, and will go through the same things. It’s a reminder that we need not face our journey alone.”

Each year 12.7 million people discover they have cancer. What is a common misconception you find people have about cancer and faith?

“Perhaps one of the wisest persons I know is my theological mentor and former professor (now friend) from both undergrad and grad school. This man is a brilliant theologian and I aspire to be like him as a theologian myself. He once told me, when I was going through a very tough time, something that I believe applies directly to this question. He said, “Anthony, I know that you know there is a difference in knowing something and believing it. You have to ask yourself if what you know is also what you believe.” For so many persons of faith who discover that they have cancer, the enormity of doubt, fear, despair, and hopelessness sets in like a rock tied around someone’s waist in a storm-ravaged sea. It quickly takes persons under. If not instantly, over the course of one’s treatment or the witness of such should they be accompanying a loved-one through cancer, that once indomitable faith in which they were certain begins to be tested, tried, and, in some ways even weakened. When this occurs, I have spoken with many who believe, this is a sign of God’s anger with them, absence from their life, or denial of their devotion to the Divine. This is perhaps the most common misconception I’ve ever encountered. As a Christian theologian, I often study the writings, philosophy, teachings, and associated commentaries surrounding the exemplar of Christianity, Jesus. Even Jesus Himself experienced doubt, isolation, despair, physical and emotional struggle. From the Cross, He cried out, “God, why have you abandoned me?” How often we feel in our own weaknesses that we are so far from God and God’s mercy, comfort, and love when we are struggling! Jesus struggled and had the same sort of experiences. We are in good company. But, here’s the kicker in both a spiritual and theological sense (in fact, this idea is the basis and is further expanded upon in Chapter 10 of this newest book): At the moment when Jesus was at His weakest point and questioned the Father, “Why have you abandoned me?,” God the Father could not have been any closer to Jesus. At that moment when in pain and agony, Jesus asks such a question, His Father had vacated the Heavenly Throne and was, in fact, fully One with Jesus Himself. Very God of Very God had not abandoned His Son to suffering, but was suffering with, in, and through Him. And the same is true for each of us! When we suffer and doubt and feel weak in our faith, it is in those moments that God is not passive, removed, or distant from us. He could not be closer to us.”

National Cancer Survivor’s Day is the first Sunday in June. Do you have any events planned?

“An excellent question. Thank you for that. Many people don’t know that there is a day to honor all persons considered cancer survivors. I should note that in cancer survivorship, a cancer survivor is a person, yes, who has attained remission or cure from their illness, but it extends also to current fighters who survive day-to-day; as well as to family members whose loved-ones have passed, but, for the love, memorial, and honor of their loved one, live on in spirit, metaphysical reality, and memory. Cancer survivor’s day, then, is for all of us who are cancer-touched persons. And indeed, I do have an event planned. I will be offering my 2nd book-signing event and presentation in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday, June 3rd from 1030AM to noon at St. Jude Hall (next to The International Shrine of St. Jude) on North Rampart Street. All are welcome to attend. 100% of all proceeds from the sales of my book (not only at this event, but always, including online purchases) directly benefit the institution responsible for saving my life from cancer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN). It is truly an honor for me to sign this book and present it again on National Cancer Survivor’s Day. I don’t believe in coincidences, but instead in divine providence so I know it must be for that reason that when I was planning this signing with the person who will host me, we set this date before we even realized it was Cancer Survivor’s Day for 2018. Totally amazing!” 

In this book you describe your childhood battle with cancer and the feelings surrounding your family. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?

“Absolutely; but, of course there would be given the content and nature of the book. I’ve written 4 other works aside from this one as my 5th, but I whole-heartedly believe this one to be, and so refer to it as, my “labor-of-love.” The content dredged up a lot of tough memories from my own cancer-experiences from childhood as well as some of the emotional and traumatic after-effects that I deal with even now. Plus, I would think upon persons I have personally loved and lost to cancer and in other situations. During the time of this book’s composition and editing, I lost two persons I very much loved in the span of 5 months while also needing to complete grad school. I lost a best friend to a much unexpected passing and the woman I thought at the time I would have married to an emotional distance. These things were very difficult to power-through when writing contents that are already so emotionally weighty. However, these experiences actually helped me personally relate to the depth of loss and suffering from loss that so many in the cancer-affected community often feel. I think that really shines through in the pages of this book. My ex and I continue to have a cordial and positive relationship now, which is itself a blessing, because we truly recognize a significant goodness in one another. I mention this because I even dedicated this newest book to both of these persons I lost. In that way, I am reminded that incredible good (this book and those it will help) can come out of the deepest possible pain, sorrow, and shame.”

Author Links: Twitter | Publisher | WebsiteLinkedIn

CANCER: with often abrupt and unwelcome entry into human lives as well as profound multi-dimensional impact, such an illness is, for many, considered to be a ruthless thief, intent on stealing not only joy, but life itself. Of course, even as cancer attempts to steal life and captivate those under its hold, lest we forget that as powerful an adversary as it may seem, it is no contestant against the power of the One who “has come to set the captives free” (Luke 4:18) and who is Life itself (John 14:6) and its Source.

Cross of a Different Kind: Cancer & Christian Spirituality draws upon the richness of Christian spiritual theology with the aim of rejuvenating hope within and imparting eternal Truth to all persons who have been “touched” by cancer in any of its wicked forms. Divided into three parts addressing those who have lost loved ones to cancer; those currently confronting their diagnoses; and survivors, this book serves as both a “spiritual field-guide” as well as an informative, yet practical helpmate to ensure all facing such adversities that they are never alone in their journey.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Life Sliding

High school, a time for learning who you are, what your values are, and what matters in life. Gavin is the popular, most liked guy in his school. He is the trend setter and his hand-picked friends are at the top of the social pecking order. When they start planning their last summer bash before becoming seniors; he is quickly ripped out of his comfort zone when his dad decides he needs to spend his last vacation giving back to the community. Gavin is going to spend his summer working as a volunteer for camp Lift Me Up, it is a camp for kids with life threatening illnesses, a chance for them to feel normal. Here Gavin reconnects with an old friend Jacob, and they befriend Marissa, a girl with a lot of emotional baggage. Together the three of them bond and look to make their senior year one to remember not just for them, but for the whole school.

Gavin is your typical self-absorbed teenager, he’s on the football team, one of the popular kids, and comes from a family of money. Everyone knew that kid in high school, if you were not part of that crowd chances are you despised him, if you were in the crowd you looked up to him, or at least followed so not to lose your standing. When Jacob stopped following the cool crowd Gavin abandoned him. He never looked into why his best friend suddenly changed over the course of a summer. Gavin soon learned with his service at Lift Me Up what brought about the change in Jacob. Following the back and forth between Gavin and Jacob is exciting, you are never quite sure what their feelings for each other really are. Seeing Gavin grow is emotional, he learns that there is a lot more to the world than his little bubble, and he learns to really care for other people. This awakening is uplifting, it gives you hope that society is not doomed.

One of the most predominate themes in this novel is that love has no boundaries or appearances. High school romances are often flirty and based on who is who and what social class you fall into. While this novel starts out following those trends and is easily relatable to readers, it soon twists and becomes so much more. The story of Caleb, the boy with leukemia, that latches onto a resentful Gavin is a catalyst for the change in Gavin. His memory is a constant reminder of how fragile life is and that you can’t live your life trying to live up to everyone else’s standards. I was really touched by Caleb and how his short time impacted so many lives. It is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how long we are here on earth, but what we do with the time we are given. Caleb melted the heart of Gavin and reminded him there is more to life than his little social circle. Gavin and Jacob’s relationship is touching and so fluid you just can’t help but want to see how life goes for them both. Everyone should have a friendship like that in life, someone that loves you unconditionally and is there for you no questions ask. Life Sliding by S.L. Mauldin is a touching novel, thought provoking and full of compassion and hope.

Pages: 169 | ASIN: B01BBCY5RO

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Peek in the Window

Stephanie A. Collins Author Interview

Stephanie A. Collins Author Interview

With Angel’s Wings is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. I understand that this book was based on your life. What made you want to put your story into a novel?

I never meant to write a book. I wrote therapeutically through some tough times (which was helpful). Nurses and therapists who were in our home through those years read what I had written and strongly encouraged me to share our story. Well…all except for one physical therapist who said, “Be careful who you allow to read this; child protective services may be called.” That bit of advice certainly fed into any misgivings and concerns I had about publicizing our tale! After years of prompting, though, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes tight, and sent it out for the world to judge me to their hearts’ content. I’m glad I did. The most gratifying moment was when a mother of a toddler boy who has Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome messaged me and said, “I happened to stumble upon your book. Before I read it, I thought there was no way anyone could possibly understand what I’m going through and how I’m feeling. After reading it, I went out and bought 3 more copies to hand out to my family members in the hopes that as they read about you they’ll better understand me.” That’s what it’s all about, right?

You describe every obstacle encountered as you come to terms with your daughters’ challenges. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Given the fact that I was writing therapeutically, I can’t say any part of our story was particularly difficult to write. Writing it down was what made things a bit easier. That being said, there are multiple parts that I still can’t read without crying (most of the marathon IV poke sessions, when Sarah [“Hannah” in the book] coded in my arms, when she got her I.O.’s…I could go on and on). The one section that I avoid reading whenever possible, and when I do have to read it, I feel physically ill, is the section about my “breakdown” (when I [apparently] threw the knife at my husband). There are so many things I would change if I had the ability to go back, knowing what I know now (not that I’d ever want to!). One of the biggest is the way I addressed my depression (or DIDN’T address, as the case often was). I now understand just how big a role depression (and PTSD) played in our story. I wish I had known more about it then, taken it more seriously…and cut myself a little more slack, which hopefully would have allowed me to relax a little more and address every other aspect of my life a little more successfully.

Hannah’s is diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. What are some misconceptions about this condition and how did you educate yourself on it?

Well, to have misconceptions, I suppose you’d have to have any concept at all. Not only had I never heard of the diagnosis, but very few people I’ve come across have ever heard of it, so finding out I was wrong in my thinking hasn’t really been a problem. Something I definitely understand now that I didn’t before is that within every genetic diagnosis there’s a spectrum – not all with the same diagnosis present the same picture. There are, for instance, individuals with Down Syndrome who you hardly recognize as having the disorder, who are quite independent, and those who are much more involved, who are completely dependent on the care of others. Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome is no different. Some WHS kids are quite high functioning…Sarah is not; she’s at the lower end of the spectrum. I have to remind myself of that, sometimes, when I’m feeling guilty over burnout and other WHS moms are posting about what a JOY their son/daughter is in their lives (along with pictures of them going to prom or enjoying a trip to Disney World). Same diagnosis in no way equates to same experience.

Because there isn’t a ton written about WHS, a lot of what I’ve learned has come more recently, since the explosion of social media. This is the generation that specialists are looking to for data on growth charts and life expectancy. That means we don’t have information to look at, but we have a wealth of experiences shared by many families that offer some clues as to what to possibly expect or watch for.

This is an emotional book that, I felt, was honest. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

For the “general population” reader I hope to offer a “peek in the window” of a family living a life likely very different from their own. When the reader sees a medically fragile child on the street, maybe that child will be looked at with more admiration for his/her strength, rather than pity. Maybe if the reader comes across an autistic child, he/she will be a little more patient and a little less judgmental toward both the child and the parent, alike. It can also be just plain interesting to read about others facing challenges we aren’t. It’s the little details that make you say, “Oh yeah…I never even THOUGHT of that being an issue!”

For readers within the special needs community, I hope to offer hope that if I could find the light at the end of my tunnel, you can, too. I hope to offer companionship by way of admission to my own doubts, frustrations, struggles, and screw-ups. I hope that a fellow special needs parent will understand this book is me saying, “You are not alone. You are not wrong for the way you feel. This, too, shall pass. And you are stronger than you know. You can do this.”

Author Links: GoodreadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

With Angel's Wings by [Collins, Stephanie A.]

With Angel’s Wings is the true story of Laura, a young wife and mother of a three-year-old daughter. Her husband, Kevin, a marine, is deployed overseas, leaving Laura to give birth to their second daughter and handle the two young children on her own.

Thirteen days after the birth of her youngest, the pediatrician detects a heart murmur. That leads to just the first of multiple diagnoses for both of her daughters, sending Laura on an unexpected and emotional journey into the world of parenting medically-fragile, special needs children.

Right when Laura fears she will break under the incredible pressure, she encounters the beauty of true love, in a most unexpected and unconventional way.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Incredulous Insight

Glenville Ashby Author Interview

Glenville Ashby Author Interview

The Mystical Qigong Handbook for Good Health details one of the pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I believe that in our global society we are no longer restricted to one mode of medical care; that we can share and learn from each other. Further, Qigong is an ancient practice that offers incredulous insight into the human body and how it functions. I have utmost respect for tradition and the ancients.

It was nice to find a book that covered a variety of questions average people have about Qigong. What is one question you always get asked about this topic?

Can Qigong cure every disease?

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

That they should know the dynamics of the human body and how much we are connected to the universe; that we are inseparable.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on 100 paths to God, a compilation of published articles that I have written for the Gleaner company, one of the oldest media houses in the western hemisphere.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Mystical Qigong Handbook For Good HealthQigong is one of the pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It involves gentle hand movements, postures, controlled breathing and some visualization. Qigong is widely known to successfully treat a number serious illnesses, promote muscular-skeletal strength, increase circulation and promote overall wellness. The Mystical Qigong Handbook For Good Health offers simple but very effective exercises for all age groups.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Shudder of Realization

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Glossolalia is a thrilling ride through the mind of a woman who is seemingly normal but her life slowly unfolds to reveal something bizarre. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?

I have a keen interest in mind control of individuals, and the way controlling each individual can effectively affect a large number of people. All my life I’ve studied in depth the methods that agencies such as the CIA has historically used, and they often have manipulated people’s interest in the occult. And that seems like a topic rich with dramatic fictional possibilities, especially for Psychological Suspense, in which gaslighting is such a common element.

I know I love that electric shudder I get when realize something is not what I thought it was, when I’m just starting to put the pieces together and it’s first making sense, grim as the truth may be. I wanted to give readers that entertainment as well.

Nancy, is like many women at first, but she suffers from narcolepsy and has an addiction to pills that she is trying to kick. How her character unfolds and develops is fascinating. What was your plan as you wrote Nancy’s character?

The only way she can explain her fugues at first is to believe she has narcolepsy, but when she discovers what she does during her periods of amnesia, she realizes her problem is something entirely different from that illness. Similarly, she thinks she’s addicted to the pills to keep hallucinations and delusions at bay, but once she manages to stop taking them, she realizes her visions have been actual memories.

My plan with her was to create an anti-hero who finds a way to redeem herself while staying true to the dubious skills she’s been taught all her life. And she gives readers a way to inhabit the sympathetic victim as well as to perhaps develop compassion for people who are compelled to commit violent acts. In a way, she stands for all of us, because everyone has fallen prey to disinformation at some point, and thus has been an unwilling promulgator of it. And all of us have some chance at heroically redeeming ourselves for that, though of course, I don’t promote violence in any way.

There are a lot of fantastic twists in this novel along with a variety of surprises that kept me turning pages. Did you plan the novel before you wrote or did the story develop organically?

I planned it out to make sure all the plot points, pinch points, act breaks and all were in proper order. However, as I wrote it, I got new ideas for twists that were great fun to conceive of. For example, Brandon the YouTube conspiracy journalist with gigantism wasn’t in the completed first draft. Just as much as I enjoy the shudder of realization, I love the feeling of coming up with new plot twists. It feels delightful.

Glossolalia is book one in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Where does book two, Remember to Recycle, take readers?

People who like Glossolalia will probably like Remember to Recycle because it falls within the same genre categories including Conspiracy Thriller and Political Thriller, and while book one focuses on how coups are created, book two focuses on how proxy wars are created. In both cases, the emphasis is on how intelligence agents deceive the public into going along with the terrible treatment of other countries for profit motive, while pretending it’s for humanitarian aid.

Glossolalia referenced our society’s history, particularly related to intelligence agencies, as a foundation for the series, as well as a pattern of coups that’s been recurring for a very long time; Remember to Recycle specifically addresses what’s happening right now. It goes into all the types of trafficking that go along with war, which is the secondary meaning of the title.

However, the first meaning of the title is more obvious, because a major character is Dave, a homeless man who survives by going through people’s recycling bins and selling the stuff, like all the other guys on the street. But he comes up with a brilliant plan. As in Glossolalia, there’s a darkly humorous aspect to it, and he provides a lot of that. He was really fun for me to write, especially as it’s first person present tense, while he describes his life moment by moment to the “character” he affectionately calls Mr. Interrogator. He’s got a hell of a personality. He likes to wear a wide variety of costumes that he keeps under the bridge, and fancies himself an actor of sorts. He idolizes the Rescuers, who are based on the White Helmets.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 1)

No one but her uncle would hire Nancy, considering her habit of snapping out of amnesiac fugues, wondering where she got her bruises and the scent of men’s cologne. When she sees a crime of poison in progress at the company, she chases the truck carrying away the chemical legally deemed too toxic to use or to dump. Her pursuit leads to a convoluted world of political intrigue, esoteric rituals and an arcane Elizabethan spy code, and assassinations she never imagined – though her imagination is what holds that world together.

This conspiracy novel introduces a young woman with an ambiguous past involving herself in a killer organization with one layer after another of her psyche. DARK, even possibly DISTURBING ROMANCE, is key to finding elusive authenticity.

The old cartoonish formula of good CIA VS bad guys no longer is fresh and relevant. Though through a fictionalized agency, the books in this series, like Barry Eisler’s spy thrillers, explore the shady side of the CIA secret psy-ops, covert experiments, illusions, coups, media theater, psychological warfare, and illicit methods of funding. The Agents of the Nevermind series dares to explore the edgiest controversies and the convoluted lives intelligence agents must endure as they create bizarre delusions for the world in order to hide the truth about their nation’s financial foundation.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: