Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Hunter Caine: The Tomb of Souls

Hunter Caine: The Tomb of Souls

Hunter Caine, Soldier of Fortune Book 3

by JP Vile

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

You need something dangerous done? Call Hunter . . . If you have the cash, she has the flash!

“I’m Hunter Caine.
Treasure Hunter. Soldier of Fortune. Smuggler.
I’m kind of a bad bitch, you might say.
I do what the chicken-shit Corporation, or the Holier-than-thou Collective are afraid to do.
What they don’t want to do.
And I do it anywhere.
When stuff gets ugly, and things need doin’, I get it done.
I don’t play favorites. Strictly Freelance.
But, I do it all.
And more.
You want something done? Something dirty? Something dangerous? Something distasteful?
Call Hunter. You got the cash. I got the flash.”

 What is something unique/quirky about you?

One unique aspect about me is my deep-rooted obsession with cryptozoology and ghost hunting. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to discover how to track and locate Bigfoot and its goat-sucking cousin, the Chupacabra. I also have a pretty extensive ghost-hunting kit and all the tools I need to locate the hidden spirits among us.

Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I've always been immersed in a world of stories and legends, from pulp fiction's golden age to the haunting depths of Victorian gothic literature. My passion for the fantastical, combined with a reverence for classic poets like Tennyson and Coleridge, eventually led me to earn an MFA in Creative Writing. The worlds I'd been consuming for years begged to spill out of me, and thus, my journey as an author began. The 70s and 80s speculative fiction scene heavily influences my long-form novels, and you'll often find threads of heroism, human frailties, and triumphant redemption woven into my works.

Who is your hero and why?

While I find inspiration in many figures, if pressed, I would say my father is my hero. He embodies the spirit of resilience and perseverance that I so deeply admire in literature and life. His actions, self-sacrifice, challenges, failures, and triumphs have taught me the essence of what it truly means to be heroic.

Which of your stories can you imagine being made into a show?

I can easily imagine my Hunter Caine stories being a series of monster-of-the-week-type pulp stories. I think Hunter is a compelling, fun character who would appeal to a lot of adventure and hero-loving audiences.

Who designed your book covers?

I've had the privilege of collaborating with various artists over the years, each bringing their unique touch to my work. But for "Tomb of Souls," the fantastic cover was designed by Roy Mauritsen, a talented artist whose vision perfectly encapsulated the novel's essence.

 Advice to writers?

 Embrace the madness of the world around you. Every quirk, every weird thing you see, every failure, every heroic act, no matter how small, holds the seed of a story. Never shy away from your obsessions, no matter how peculiar they might seem. Dive deep into what fascinates you and let it spill onto the page. Above all, write with authenticity and passion, and remember that the journey itself, with all its ups and downs, is as rewarding as any destination.


I’m Hunter Caine. I’m a soldier of fortune—some might call me a mercenary—who does her level best not to get herself killed. I take all kinds of jobs: treasure hunting, protectin’ folks, savin’ folks, even some stone-cold killing if the target makes some sense. On this occasion, I was doing a little bodyguarding for a group going about a treasure hunt. They were museum types, looking to loot some native cave on Planet #4 to show it off to rich folks back in Corporate Space.

We were looking for some damn thing called the Soul Crystal. It was nothin’ but a planet #4 legend, some said. But my employers were damn sure it wasn’t no such thing. Truth was, that others had gone huntin’ for it, and lots of folks disappeared doing such. I was beginning to reckon we were in for a similar fate. We’d been on the trail for days, weaving in and out of mountain passes, and the stunted forests that covered the planet, following some map they’d brought from their Archives back in Chi-town on Earth.

It was late. I was bone tired and pissed off at the never-ending trek we seemed to be on when I rolled up my blue-dreads on the back of my head, crawled into my fart sack, and lay my noggin’ down on my pistol rig. At that point, it was easy to divine why previous hunters had disappeared without a trace.

Embarrassingly easy.

The fact is . . . it should have been obvious when I signed up for the gig with that bunch o’ well-meanin’ museum folks weeks ago, back in Perdition. Ignoring the fact that the Soul Crystal was probably nothing more than myth, a sort of intergalactic fountain of youth that attracted every treasure hunter in the Frontier, the imbecilic plan our particular mission had undertaken was on display for anyone who wanted to see, probably like every ill-conceived mission before it. It goes something like this: when do-gooders, like these fools from the Chicago Museum of Intergalactic Cultures decide to go skipping around the cluster on some damn treasure hunting scheme, they invariably run afoul of the two cardinal rules of grave robbing, those being, number one: be fast, and number two: don’t get seen.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so ornery about the whole thing. At least the idiots were predictable, and I, truth-be-told, shoulda known better. This team of wannabe tomb defilers was determined to make me crazy.

They made ineptitude their calling card.

For weeks, we’d spent our time making sure we flushed those two rules so far down the damned shitter, we’d forgotten all about them: the long-ass trip here, stocking up on supplies for days and days, hiring porters and guides, the never-ending trek across the waste, the interminable, mealy-mouthed bullshit dealt out by the irascible, if absolutely steaming hot Curator, Doctor Polly fucking Evans.

I was fit to be tied. 

By the time we left Rehvik’s Peak, the only somewhat viable settlement on the backside of Planet #4, everyone on the surface knew what we were doing and where we were going.

All that to say that when our perimeter siren squealed a damned banshee’s warning into the silent desert night, I was on edge and ready for a fight. That is if I hadn’t just fallen asleep and started a rather appealing dream about redheads, strawberries, and just a smidgen-little dose of White Scog.

Startled from my zees, I threw off my sleeping cover, strapped my pistol rig on my hip, and grabbed my Sharps Particle Carbine. I considered grabbing my protective vest, but there was no time. I rushed outside the portable shelter into the darkness.

Well and good, finally—a little excitement!

I was quite prepared to cause some trouble.

** Perseid Press' featured book for October - on sale for Only $2.99 on Kindle!!**

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Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Caine-Souls-Soldier-Fortune-ebook/dp/B09W49D6R1

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/tomb-of-souls-by-j-p-vile

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/99977442-hunter-caine


About the Author

JP Vile is a devious introvert that scribes works of fiction for people that like action. Pulp fiction that is – the kind of fiction that gets your blood boiling and keeps you flipping pages like tomorrow may never come.

JP has been a soldier, a wrangler, a financial advisor, a professor and a professional eater of oatmeal cookies, all of which contribute to a well-rounded attachment to chaos. Most importantly, JP’s family is an eccentric group of lovable maniacs who all harbor an unhealthy commitment to raising their small dog, Shadow (who may or may not be a Martian infiltrator).


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Author Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JPVile

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/JP-Vile/author/B0784QLGRG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17369453.J_P_Vile



$10 Amazon

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!



Monday, October 30, 2023

Tentacle Tied

 Tentacle Tied

by Zeina Khalem

Genre: Erotic Short Story

A cabin getaway gives one traveler more than she bargained for when she finds something lurking in the hot springs nearby...

What is something unique about you?

I’m polyamorous, so that’s bound to make my idea of a happily ever after different than monogamous romances. Having practiced ethical non-monogamy for nearly a decade, being polyamorous isn’t this wild, strange thing to me. It’s just my life!

Just like any other relationship, sometimes my relationships can get hard. My partners and I have conflicts we must work through just like anyone else. But overall, I’d like to challenge the idea that non-monogamy must be inherently difficult. I’ve got an amazing polycule with partners and metamours whom I love. I wouldn’t want my life any other way.

So I try to reflect my polyamorous life in my works. Tentacle Tied is a short story and a bit of a dark romance, considering it involves, well, a monster. I won’t spoil anything, but I think the ending is purposefully open-ended in a way that reflects polyamory. For example, you may have a comet partner who only comes into town twice a year. You care for each other and set bounds and expectations for your relationship that work for both of you. Who wouldn’t want a sexy hot springs monster to visit whenever they need a good tangle?

What kind of world ruler would you be?

In the deepest, darkest depths of my man-eating heart, I am the GIF of Galadriel proclaiming, “All shall love me and despair!” (Would I have turned down the ring and passed the test? Unclear!) Whose ego doesn’t wish to be adored and feared by all?

But I like writing about utopian societies – think Star Trek, not Middle Earth. A pansexual, socialist, post-scarcity, space-faring future sounds pretty rad to me, which is why I’m writing a sci-fi romance novel in that setting. The other alternative to this question would be me ruling the galaxy as a consciousness transferred into an all-powerful, algorithm-based AI that optimizes society. (Except, of course, such systems rarely work as intended.)

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m currently working on an anthology of sexy short stories titled Sexy Shorts! Two of the stories are free to read online on my website and I’ll be releasing more on my Patreon as I go.

The unofficial theme of the anthology is “On the Edge,” focusing on sexy situations that may happen barely outside of the public eye, falling just shy of exhibitionism. The two stories that are currently available to read are Up the Stairs and On the Beach.

I’m also working on a sci-fi romance novel set in a technologically advanced, post-scarcity future called Bound by Stardust that follows a mismatched Earther and Spacer through some galaxy-scorching adventures. Think Star Trek but significantly sexier, gayer, sluttier, and a little kinky to boot, with replicators, holodecks, and sexytimes in space!

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Tentacle Tied?

Neither of the characters in Tentacle Tied has a name. I imagine the first-person narrator to be an independent, outdoorsy femme who has a long trail of well-worn hiking boots behind her and a camping setup ready in her trunk for her next weekend trip up the mountains. She’s not afraid to explore on her own, even into the woods where mysterious creatures may live. In other words, she’s not like me at all! (I’d be happy if I never camp again a day in my life.)

The tentacle monster, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. All the narrator knows is that the creature lives in a hot spring. You’ll have to read the story to learn more about them.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Tentacle erotica is a niche topic. I’ve actually never written this type of erotica before, but I really enjoyed being able to play within a new and unfamiliar set of scenarios and tropes.

I also really enjoyed diving into a character who’s neutral or ambiguous like the creature. The rules are different when you’re dealing with unfathomable monsters from the deep, you know?

Pen or typewriter or computer?

My writing process involves a mix of handwriting and typing. I love handwriting first drafts because I get too obsessive with editing if I type. When I’m handwriting, I have to move forward because it’s a lot harder to edit while I write, especially if I’m working with pen and paper.

I also love the tactile feel of pen on paper, specifically extra fine sharpies. I have a couple dozen notebooks and legal pads filled with my scribbles. But eventually, I started handwriting on my tablet with a note-taking app. Even though the tactile feel isn’t the same on my tablet, I can organize all of my notes and drafts and keep working on them wherever and whenever I want.

I also enjoy handwriting first drafts because the act of transferring my handwritten draft into a typed document helps me do a first round of edits as I go!

What are you currently reading?

I usually read romantic fiction, but recently I picked up a non-fiction book called The Art of Gathering, which considers why and how people gather.

I’ve always enjoyed hosting and organizing gatherings and events amongst friends. Whatever I know about hosting, I learned mostly from the women in my family – my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother. They gave me a solid foundation to build on, but The Art of Gathering goes deeper into the heart of what brings us together and how to best cater our gatherings to the kind of experiences we want them to be. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how pivotal gathering is to our lives – and the book delivers many gems of wisdom on the topic.

 This is an erotic 18+ mature short story featuring tentacles and sexual themes.

**Only .99cents!!**

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Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tentacle-Tied-Erotic-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B0CKQC6R7R

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/tentacle-tied/id6468891542

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tentacle-tied-zeina-khalem/1144180989

Author's Site: https://sociallyrockward.com/product/tentacle-tied-erotic-short-story-ebook/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/199368868-tentacle-tied


About the Author

Zeina lives in the wild west and marvels at the weather every day. She tries to avoid cliches but sometimes can’t resist. She likes pole dancing, drawing, and feminism.


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Author Links

Website: https://sociallyrockward.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SociallyRockward

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SociallyRockwrd

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sociallyrockward

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Zeina-Khalem/author/B0CKTZDCFT

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/27228750.Zeina_Khalem



$10 Amazon

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!


Friday, October 27, 2023

The Hidden Secrets of NOLA

The Hidden Secrets of NOLA

A mixed Paranormal & Supernatural Anthology

with stories by

Laura Daleo, Rhonda Bobbitt, Fern Miller, Preston Allen, Savanna Loy

  Encounter a date with death, paranormal happenings, a second chance at love, dark voodoo, and a cursed bayou, all while taking a trip to the beloved New Orleans.

In 1718, La Nouvelle Orleans was founded and later became the beloved New Orleans. World-Renowned for its distinctive music, delicious Creole cuisine, unique dialects, and annual festivals it is a place that so many adore, but could there be more that we don't know? Have things happened that we aren't supposed to know? Join the minds of these five incredible authors as you explore the hidden tales of Nola. Encounter a date with death, paranormal happenings, a second chance at love, dark voodoo, and a cursed bayou, all while taking a trip to the beloved New Orleans.

Stories featured in the set:

My Name Is Death  by Laura Daleo

Genre: Supernatural Fiction

I am sometimes called the Grim Reaper or the Angel of Death. I prefer the name Death. It's stylish and modern and fits perfectly with my Armani suits. A robe, a scythe, or skeleton are not my style, particularly when releasing one's soul.

The Ghost of Toulouse Street by Rhonda Bobbitt

Genre: Paranormal Thriller

It's the day before Rose's birthday, and things are starting to get strange. Her grandmother has left her a special gift, that may put her into danger. Is she imagining someone following her? Or is there something sinister following her? 

Bidding Up Knox by Fern Miller

Genre: Steamy Second Chance Romance


I am done with men.  After so many chances,  a relationship isn't in the cards for me. Especially with my ex-Knox McCord-the billionaire business guru who ended things without a proper goodbye all those years ago. 

But when he shows up at my charity date benefit auction, old feelings emerge and I will do anything to keep them from breaking free. 


I just need one chance to make things right. So I do what any sensible man would-place myself up to be bid on at a charity date benefit auction. Kara Oliver just doesn't know she will place the winning bid. Date acquired.  Target loaded. All I got to do is make her fall back in love with me . Should be easy. Right?

Crossed at the Café by Preston Allen

Genre: Magic Realism

Modeste is a very powerful voodoo priestess, but when she bumps into a stranger at a coffee shop, she's brought to her knees. Who is this mysterious woman, and why was she able to have an impact on one of the strongest manbo's in New Orleans?

Borrowed Bayou by Savanna Loy

Genre: Clean Sci-Fi Romance

Estelle Laguerre loves her family and loves her city, but after a century of playing the part of murderer to unsuspecting men, she has had enough. 

How much longer can she continue following the guidelines of the curse her family inherited? Will a chance encounter change everything? 

Amazon * Bookbub * Goodreads

Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Secrets-Nola-Savanna-Loy-ebook/dp/B0CHXJ34MD

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-hidden-secrets-of-nola-by-laura-daleo-and-rhonda-bobbitt

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/198986373-the-hidden-secrets-of-nola

Book Trailer:


About the Authors


Laura Daleo is a multi-genre author, known for her Immortal Kiss series. She is a native of San Diego, California, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona with her two dogs, Rose and Cooper. 

Find out more at her Website

Rhonda Bobbitt grew up in a small town in East Texas and currently resides in Illinois. Mother of 4 wonderful children and grandmother of 5 amazing grandchildren. Rhonda is a published photographer and loves to travel. In her spare time she loves to read , horror and dystopian being her favorite genres. This is Rhonda's first published story. 


Fern Miller comes from a small town in Tennessee. Growing up, the school library was her favorite place to escape. From mysteries, romance, action, and fantasy books grew a desire to become a person who's imagination bleeds on paper.

In her downtime, she plays with her children, enjoys murder mysteries, and cooking.

Find out more at Amazon


Preston Allen loves to travel and can almost always be found trying the best iced latte at the local coffee shop of wherever he is visiting. He loves collecting oddities and is always on the lookout for something witchy. 

Find out more at his Website

Savanna Loy is an award winning and best selling multi-genre author. Her dystopian debut, ReSet, was released in October 2022 and she has jumped head first into the world of being an author. Even with the highs of lows, she is loving every minute of it. Her full time jobs consist of Foster/Adoptive mom to six kids under the age of 9, wife to a traveling RN, church secretary, Social Media Marketer, Book Coach, Bernedoodle breeder, and now author. 

Find out more at her Website



Print Copy of the book SIGNED by Laura Daleo! , $10 Amazon giftcard – 1 winner each!

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Thursday, October 26, 2023

Letting Go

Letting Go

How a Family Crisis Brought Clarity and Authenticity

by Lisa Hoelzer

Genre: Memoir

What would you do if your religion forced you to choose between the church and your children?

That's the dilemma Lisa Hoelzer faced after raising her four children within the confines of a strict, high-demand religion that dictated almost every aspect of their lives, from how they dressed to what they ate to how they used their time. Her vision of their ideal future started to change, however, when one child announced they were bisexual. Then another made a similar declaration. Additionally, her children struggled with anxiety and depression-conditions the church didn't prepare Hoelzer to deal with. If she followed the church's restrictive teachings, Hoelzer would have to turn her back on her beloved offspring. For this and other reasons, Hoelzer's small misgivings about the church grew into large objections.

Letting Go recounts the story of how, when faced with a transformational crisis that could have destroyed her family, Hoelzer chose a difficult and forbidden path that would change her world and theirs for the better. 

This is a book for anyone struggling to push ahead when there doesn't seem to be an easy or obvious path. Whether you're deconstructing religion or parenting a teen struggling with mental health, this insightful book will engage you with its thought-provoking ideas. With warmth, vulnerability, and insight, Hoelzer empowers readers to accept their children as they are and step into their more authentic selves. 

Getting Used to They/Them Pronouns

In the fall of 2020, our third child (Brooke) told us they were nonbinary and preferred they/them pronouns. This was in the midst of their mental health crisis, and my husband and I were willing to do whatever it took to help them feel better and be able to function in the world. We had heard more and more people coming out as trans or gender fluid, but we didn’t know much about it. We wanted to be supportive but had some hesitations because of our lifelong participation in a conservative religion. We were more open than some of our church friends and neighbors, though, because we were in the process of deconstructing our religion and eventually left that church altogether.

In an effort to support Brooke, I learned more about the history of gender roles and expectations and how that history is entangled with patriarchy and misogyny. But I also tackled the day-to-day challenge to altering my habits and using Brooke’s correct pronouns. It took effort to get comfortable with the new pronouns, but I was committed to making the change.

You don’t use someone’s pronouns when you speak to the person, you use them more when talking to someone else about the person. This came up most often when my husband, Bryan, and I would talk together about Brooke. At first, we would say “she” and then a few seconds later realize the mistake and repeat the sentence with “they.” This is how new habits are formed—correcting yourself afterwards at first until the new word becomes second nature. I started off at about 30 percent accuracy for the correct pronouns and worked up from there. When we were together as a family, all of us made an effort to use Brooke’s pronouns. I felt thankful that our other kids were supportive and willing to make this adjustment. I would feel a special pride when I used the preferred pronouns in family conversations in front of Brooke, hoping they noticed and felt validated.

            The pronouns also came up when talking to non-family members about Brooke—for example, when I called for their doctor appointments, when I picked up their prescriptions, or when someone asked how Brooke was doing. I often hesitated, pausing to ask myself, should I explain their gender and use they/them to refer to Brooke? Should I not explain but still use the pronouns? Or should I make it easier on myself and others and use she/her? At different times I chose differently. I started referring to Brooke as my child instead of my daughter and used their name more often to avoid the use of pronouns altogether.

In the beginning, I felt nervous bringing it up with others, especially in our conservative, religious community. I didn’t know if people would understand or be sympathetic. A lot of my apprehension came from not wanting to make other people uncomfortable. Eventually I decided that their comfort was not that important, certainly not more important than Brooke’s comfort. Even if Brooke wasn’t present when I spoke, using they/them raised awareness of non-binary people in general. When people found out that our family had a non-binary child, and that we supported the use of the new pronouns, it would stick with them and let them know that LGBTQ people are common and should be accepted.

            When I did use Brooke’s preferred pronouns, people would often get confused. They would ask, “Do you have twins?” Or they thought I was talking about Brooke and our younger daughter, Sydney. It took patience and repeated clarification, but it was worth it. To keep the new pronouns in the forefront of my mind, I changed Brooke’s contact name in my phone to “Brooke (they/them) Hoelzer.” When I texted with friends or family about Brooke, I sometimes began the conversation with those pronouns in parentheses, as a reminder. It meant a lot to me when a friend used the pronouns in text replies. I knew it was different and hard, and I appreciated their efforts.

Occasionally, doubts about they/them pronouns crept into my mind. Do we really need to do this? At times I thought it was weird, different, and uncomfortable. My mind kept going back to the idea that it was incorrect grammar. I wondered why the community hadn’t come up with a new singular pronoun for non-binary people, like zhe. That would be easier. I came to find out that new pronouns have in fact been suggested and temporarily used, but they did not gain widespread consensus. I didn’t want to have reservations about the pronouns; I wanted to embrace the idea without qualms.

One day, I came across an Instagram video that alleviated my questioning. I had started following LGBTQ accounts to learn more about this population. Because of that, Instagram suggested I might like to follow Jeffery Marsh, a popular non-binary influencer who helps people understand LGBTQ issues. In one of the first videos I saw, Marsh explained in their unique and soothing voice,

“You know, the thing about the singular they is that it’s already been decided. If you’re just finding out and you’re just objecting, you’re objecting to years and years of tradition within our movement. It’s in the Oxford English Dictionary; it’s in Merriam Webster; yes, all of that. But in addition, we’ve been using it for ourselves for years. It’s time to give up your objections and to use it.” 

            This video hit me with such power; it was as if they spoke directly to me. I’m the one just finding out, just objecting. It’s been decided. Let go of the objections. From that moment on, I relinquished my reluctance. This is a thing; it’s here to stay.

Three Life Coaching Principles That

Helped Me Through a Family Crisis

My memoir, Letting Go: How a Family Crisis Brought Clarity and Authenticity, chronicles a year in our family’s life when three things happen: our kids struggle with depression and anxiety, some of them come out as LGBTQ, and I reconcile that with my religion. Our third child, Brooke, attempted suicide and was in an inpatient behavioral health unit for five days and then an outpatient, or “day treatment,” program for six weeks.

This was certainly not how I expected my life to go. Everyone has ideas about how their children and their lives will look, but mine were even more narrowly defined because I was part of a high-demand, conservative Christian religion. My church’s prescribed lifestyle and personal choices were billed as the only way to happiness. At the time of our family crisis, I was already having doubts about and frustrations with the church, and within a year of Brooke’s hospitalization, I had left the church altogether.

Thankfully, I had been somewhat prepared for these challenges. Two years before I had joined a life coach program that taught a whole new approach to dealing with problems. My coach, whom I’ll call Liz, had been trained at The Life Coach School, where she learned the Model and many other mind management tools to help clients see reality more clearly and let go of painful thoughts.

There are three concepts I learned in Liz’s program that helped me through the difficult times our family was facing.

1.     It’s all a story.

The mind management skills I had learned from Liz had prepared me to let go of one story and embrace a different one. I knew that my brain gets ideas about how the world should work or what my life should look like, and that sometimes holding on to those ideas can cause me pain. I have learned how to redirect my mind to a new thought, even before I have a lot of reasons to accept the new idea. In fact, one of my favorites of Liz’s teachings was “believing things I don’t have much evidence for makes me mentally stronger.” That concept made sense to me, and I had worked to create a habit of identifying my stories and letting them go.

When Brooke came out as non-binary, I realized I had thoughts and stories about gender and how it should look. I was fortunate to be able to quickly see that these were just made-up ideas. Gender norms are a construct our society created. Somewhere along the way it was decided that girls and boys must look and act a certain way, that there’s nothing in between the two polarities, and that it’s wrong to look or act differently than society’s (or my church’s) definitions. These views had been held for a long time, but that did not mean they were true, real, or right. We could cling to them and continue to marginalize large groups of people who exist outside those norms, or we could see our notions for what they are: false paradigms that we had bought into.

I asked myself, what’s wrong with changing? Why do we hold on to these outmoded opinions? It seemed to me there is no danger in letting these beliefs go, no harm to society. In fact, the opposite would happen, more members of our community could live happy, productive lives, free from discrimination and prejudice. Many of our constructs are based in fear, and I could see that people were afraid of this change in thinking.

Thankfully, most of secular society has accepted gay people and the concept of gay marriage. Now we have a new hurdle: recognizing and supporting transgender individuals and those with genders outside of the binary. These new and different ways of being feel scary because we’re not used to them. But the sooner we can put down our defenses and embrace them, the happier we will be.

2.     How can I be the hero of this story and not the victim?

Liz taught me to ask this question whenever I was facing a challenging situation. I returned to this query again and again, and the answers lifted and sustained me. It would be easy to think of myself as a victim, to ask “why me?” when faced with the mental health struggles of our family. But I liked to turn it around and ask, “why not me?” Who else could do it as well as me? I was made for this. I’ve got this.

Thinking about how I’m the hero directs my brain toward reasons I am capable of handling this instead of focusing on how hard it is. I had knowledge and experience with mental health systems and treatments. I had Bryan to help navigate the doctors and medications. We had a strong foundation as a close, loving family. I remain calm in difficult situations and contemplate what I do and say before acting. Seeing myself as the hero of the story was comforting and motivating.

3.     Negative thoughts and painful emotions are a normal part of being human.

I used to think that feeling any negative emotion meant there was something wrong with me or my life. Before joining Liz’s program, I constantly compared my life to other people’s and concluded that mine came up short. On one hand, I felt cheated and bitter that I didn’t have what others had, but on the other hand, I felt guilty for being unhappy because I had so much.

It was such a relief to learn that these thoughts and emotions are normal and expected. No matter what our circumstances, our default mind finds something wrong with us and our lives. In an effort to keep us safe and to make sure we have what we need, our brain insists on comparison to others’, self-criticism, and worry about what others think of us. Unfortunately, all this usually causes us pain.

As part of Liz’s program, I got to listen in when others were being coached. Hearing other people talk about their problems convinced me that we all create painful emotions for ourselves. There isn’t a way of being or a way of living that prevents experiencing difficult feelings.

As we went through Brooke’s mental health crisis and tried to help them, I experienced a lot of challenging emotions. Luckily, I didn’t overreact to them. In the past, I might have berated myself for being negative or thought that I would feel down forever. But now I knew that no one is immune to life’s difficulties and that resisting the hardships just makes them worse. One of my mantras during this time was “This is what it’s like to be human.”

Liz’s wise teachings were in line with concepts from Buddhism: there will be pain in life that cannot be avoided, but when we resist hard times, we add on a layer of unnecessary suffering. On the other hand, if we put down our defenses and allow ourselves to feel the pain and experience the difficulty, we actually feel more alive, and the discomfort passes through us instead of getting stuck inside of us. 

Getting through that challenging year wasn’t easy, but because of my work with Liz, I had many tools to help me manage the situation. If I hadn’t joined the life coaching program, I would have seen Brooke’s mental health problems as an indication of something wrong with me or something wrong with my life. Fortunately, I had done the work and learned how to manage my mind, so I was able to respond with peace and acceptance. I had also improved at identifying my stories more quickly and loosening my grip on them. I had trained myself to identify how I was the hero of the story and not the victim. And I knew that painful emotions were part of the human experience. I had the skills to allow the discomfort and move through it instead of resisting it and letting it fester inside.

 Book Excerpts

Many parents in our faith community would be distressed by this conversation, particularly the lack of interest in church. They would worry about their child following the precepts of the gospel and qualifying for heaven, and they would worry about the cohesiveness of their eternal family. “What if everyone else in the family made it to heaven, but this one child wasn’t there with us?” they might ask themselves. That would be tragic. I’ve heard a saying from members of our church: “No empty chairs in heaven.” Each person has a seat at the table, and if one of them doesn’t make it to heaven, there will be an empty chair, and the rest of the family members will be forlorn.

Bryan and I have both felt for years that this was a manipulative and fear-based concept. It implies that everyone must be the same and take the same path or something has gone horribly wrong. It also implies a lack of long-term perspective. Life is long. Sometimes children finding their own way come back to the church eventually, especially if they are treated with kindness and acceptance during their time away. The people who use this saying are well-meaning, but in essence it is a form of coercion to get your children to act how you want them to.

Bryan and I had decided long ago that instead of having a family motto centered on no empty chairs in heaven, we would focus on having no empty chairs at our earthly table.  We wanted everyone in our family to feel comfortable with us and accepted by us, not judged for their actions or for who they are. We didn’t care what the church told us to do, we were going to keep our children close.

Needless to say, I was not distressed by Brooke’s answer. I understood that, in general, many people do not have the same interest in the church that I have, and I could especially understand why an LGBTQ person would not want to be involved. I was happy to set Brooke free of the restrictions of the church. I felt calm and comfortable with the idea that she would not participate in or be a part of the church anymore. But of course, there was that nagging thought in the back of my mind that I should care more, I should be more distressed. If I were a true believer, I would strongly desire that my family, as well as everyone else in the world, join and stay in the church.

I had learned from my coach Liz that the “shoulds” of our lives create unnecessary guilt and disgrace. The more we think we should be doing something, the more shame we generate, the worse we feel about ourselves, and the less motivation we have to do that thing. The brain thinks this judgment and criticism are useful, but it’s the opposite. When we have compassion for ourselves, acknowledge the reality, and say, “This is what I should be doing right now, because I am doing it,” then we can use that self-love to activate a desire to do and be better. Although it’s non-intuitive, the best way to change yourself is to love yourself however you are.

            When I learned about this, I was stunned to recognize how the rules and standards of the church result in an intense environment of shoulds. It is human nature to find fault with yourself, of course; non-religious people still create shame and guilt for themselves. But being part of a religion takes it up a notch. There were so many ways to mess up, so many ways to be and do the wrong thing. There was so little grace for and acceptance of weaknesses and shortcomings. Even though the doctrine taught that Christ offered love and forgiveness and grace, the demanding culture of the church fostered judgment of yourself and others. There were some families who had it “all”: job success and affluence, happy marriage, successful children who stayed in the church. The natural conclusion was if your life doesn’t look like this, you’re doing something wrong. 

            I was ready to let go of the shoulds and move into self-approval. My depression developed because of my powerful dislike of myself and my alleged weaknesses. I was tired of berating myself and spiraling into crying spasms. I yearned to release those stories. One of my favorite new concepts from Liz was formed as a question: “Why does it not matter that I have weaknesses and shortcomings?” I was trying to trust that this is what it’s like to be human; we identify faults in ourselves and magnify them in our minds. This feels important, but that focus is damaging. I wanted to adopt the thought “I am not expected to be perfect” and practice radical self-acceptance.

            In addition, I had grown tired of the shoulds the church encouraged for my kids. I was weary of the rules I felt compelled to enforce for them. I wondered if my and Bryan’s diligence in teaching our children the tenets of our religion had contributed to Brooke’s depression and suicide attempt. Had we unknowingly made Brooke feel distressed and inadequate? The church guidelines seemed to engender disapproval, judgment, and disconnection between me and my kids. I didn’t want to participate in that anymore.


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Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Letting-Go-Brought-Clarity-Authenticity/dp/B0CJ1W9RZH

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/letting-go-lisa-hoelzer/1144020499?ean=9798988822523

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/letting-go-233

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/199723628-letting-go

About the Author

Lisa Hoelzer took being a stay-at-home mom to her four children very seriously. She studied parenting books and worked hard to improve and grow as a parent. She eventually created her own paradigm for parenting, which you can find at www.betterwayparenting.net.

An avid learner, Lisa has a bachelors in chemistry and a masters in social work. She is a lifelong student of the human psyche, including motivations, biases, mind management, and mental health. She writes about mind management on Medium. Lisa loves to read, write, and discover more about the world. Her other interests include anti-racism, LGTBQ-allyship, and spirituality after religion.

Her memoir, Letting Go: How a Family Crisis Brought Clarity and Authenticity will be out in October 2023. An essay based on an excerpt from the book was published in the literary journal Academy of Heart and Mind in November, 2022. She and her family have lived in New Orleans, Minnesota, and Utah.

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Author Links

Website: https://lisahoelzer.mailerpage.io

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisahoelzer_author

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lisa-hoelzer

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Lisa-Hoelzer/author/B0CL2R7XKT

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/43718543.Lisa_Hoelzer


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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

C.H.A.R.O.N. Night Vigil Book 2


Night Vigil Book 2

by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy Adventure

 Your best hope to make it through the hour of the wolf is now on audiobook!

Ex-priest Travis Dominick and former FBI agent Brent Lawson hunt demons, monsters, and supernatural troublemakers. When Brent gets a call for help from an old army buddy, he and Travis head to a small central Pennsylvania town beset by a series of unexplainable deaths and escalating paranormal activity. The murders mimic crimes from decades past, down to the smallest detail, and as Travis and Brent battle vengeful entities, rumors surface that shady government experiments helped make a bad situation even worse.

Torrential rain and rising rivers mean there's no escaping the creatures hunting the shadows, beings that take shape from people's deepest fears and feed on their terror. With the lives of everyone in South Fork at stake, Brent and Travis face their toughest case yet. They'll have to confront the town's dark secrets, the legacy of a covert supernatural psi-ops program, and their own painful memories to battle a bloodthirsty ancient creature and fight the deadly spirits that roam the night.

C.H.A.R.O.N. is a dark urban fantasy thrill ride filled with Old World spirits, legends and lore, vengeful ghosts, magic, secret government agencies, Vatican ninja-priests, found family, small-town secrets, badass bartenders, psychics, mediums, witches, small-town heroes, and an unshakable bond of friendship.

**Get the audiobook now!**

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Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/C-H-A-R-O-N-Night-Vigil-Book-2/dp/B0CJS3DF4H

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/CHARON-Audiobook/B0CJS2T73B

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/charon-gail-z-martin/1142792067?ean=2940178337776

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/c-h-a-r-o-n-night-vigil-2-by-gail-z-martin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63911754-c-h-a-r-o-n

About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy, steampunk and more for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria.

Together with Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of Iron & Blood, Storm & Fury (both Steampunk/alternate history), the Spells Salt and Steel comedic horror series, the Roaring Twenties monster hunter Joe Mack Shadow Council series, and the Wasteland Marshals near-future post-apocalyptic series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, with the Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series. Gail is also a con-runner for ConTinual, the online, ongoing multi-genre convention that never ends.

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Author Links

Website: https://ascendantkingdoms.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WinterKingdoms

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gailzmartin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/morganbriceauthor

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/gail-z-martin

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gail-Z.-Martin/e/B002BM8XSQ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1637418.Gail_Z_Martin



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Reaper of Chaos

Blood of Saviors Book 1 A Reign of Goddesses Spinoff Series by C.D. Britt Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance She loves death. He  is  Dea...