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Friday, December 27, 2013

[REVISITED] Conversations' 25 Summer Reads of 2013

Conversations Book Club is excited to announce its picks for Summer reads in 2013. The list, compiled by Conversations Media Group President Cyrus Webb, is a combination of titles by authors who were both established as well as rising literary stars.

Topping the list of Summer Reads this year is "The Power Trip" by Jackie Collins. As one of Webb's favorite authors it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview her for this special anniversary issue of the magazine. The rest of the list is comprised of amazing talent as well. "I read so many great books each year it was difficult to put this list together," says Webb. "The 25 that were finally chosen, though, I believe showcases something for everyone."

Webb began Conversations Book Club in November 2006 as a co-ed reading group for individuals of all walks of life and backgrounds. Since then chapters have created around the South as well as online, uniting readers around the power of books.

It is Webb's hope that this list will give you many hours of enjoyment throughout the Summer.

Conversations' 25 Summer Reads of 2013
  1. "The Power Trip" by Jackie Collins (St. Martin's Press)
  2. "A Killer's Grace" by Ronald Chapman (Seeing True Press)
  3. "Darkness Before Dawn" by Ace Collins (Abingdon Press)
  4. "Secrets from the Past" by Barbara Taylor Bradford (St. Martin's Press)
  5. "Politics. Escorts. Blackmail." by Pynk (Grand Central Publishing) 
  6. "The Laws of Gravity" by Liz Rosenberg" (Amazon Publishing)
  7. "The House That Love Built" by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)
  8. The Aloha Trilogy by Stephen A. Enna and Dennis J. Wootten (Authorhouse)
  9. "Crescendo" by Deborah J. Ledford (Second Wind Publishing)
  10. "What She Wants" by Sheila Roberts (Harlequin/Mira)
  11. "The Comfort of Lies" by Randy Susan Meyers (Atria Books)
  12. "The Devil's Game" by Shawn 'Jihad' Trump (W. Clark Publishing)
  13. "Why Can't I Be You" by Allie Larkin (Penguin)
  14. "Revenge Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger (Simon & Schuster)
  15. "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
  16. Loves Me Not, Vol. I & II by Kenny L.Mitchell (FreedomInk)
  17. "My Private Hell" by Melissa Cobb (Vicious Ink Publications)
  18. "Fifty Two Shades of Blue-ish" by Karen S. Exkorn (Orange Press)
  19. "The Tides of Memory" by Sidney Sheldon/ Tilly Bagshawe (William Morrow)
  20. "Fly Betty" by Treasure Blue (Cash Money Content)
  21. "Tommy the Quarterback" by Donald Greco (publisher unnamed)
  22. "Hollywood Forever" by Christopher Herz (Amazon Publishing)
  23. "The Gospel According To Prissy" by Barbara Casey (Strategic Media Books)
  24. "When Memories Fade" by Tyora Moody (Urban Christian/Kensington)
  25. "Vengeance Is Now" by Scott D. Roberts (3L Publishing)
To stay in touch with updates from Conversations Book Club visit www.conversationsbookclub.com


BRET LOCKETT: More Than Just A Player

by Cyrus Webb


Though many people have gotten to know Bret Lockett as a member of the NFL's New York Jets it would be a definite mistake to think of him as just another jock.

At a young age he has shown himself to be not only dedicated on the field but in every facet of life. Before I interviewed him on the radio show Conversations LIVE I have to admit that I knew very little about Lockett and the work he had done. I quickly realized, however, that he was an individual that was making moves that would soon affect the world.

Case in point: Shortly before our conversation Bret Lockett and Mobli Founder/CEO Moshe Hogeg signed a partnership agreement in which Lockett joined the company's advisory board. Forbes Magazine recently reported that Mobli, a social photo and video-sharing app, had over 2 million of its 3 million users sign up in the last several months. Celebrity investors of Mobli include Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey Maguire and Lance Armstrong.

When he is not promoting the Mobli brand, Bret is focusing on his own which includes work as a model, recording artist and activist for causes that matter to him as well as his own Looking Forward Foundation.

With so much going on I asked Bret if he really got a chance to just sit back and reflect on all of the exciting ventures that he's involved in. "I don't really have the time to think about it," he answered. "I just keep it moving. It's one of those things where you keep knocking down each hurdle and jumping over the next one. There have been a lot of things I have done that I'm proud of. There are also a lot more that I want to do."

As someone who believes that all greatness has a beginning, I asked the entrepreneur if he could remember when he knew that moment for him. "I just did what I thought came natural and what was organic for me," he responded. "I think everybody has been bred with something great. Look at individuals like Michael Jordan and Kobi Bryant. When the opportunity presents itself they are able to achieve that. Each step in my life has been a building block. I just stacked them until I got to where I wanted to be...and I am still doing that."

A great deal of his determination also comes from his upbringing. "My parents have always told me to respect yourself, always believe in yourself and never quit. My mom told me that 'Whatever you start you need to finish.' I learned all of this at a young age, and it just stuck with me."

There is little doubt that football was a real passion for Lockett, but I was surprised to find out that it was not the only sport that caught his eye. "I played all of them," he told me. "Soccer, baseball, basketball...you name it, and I played it. My whole family is football fans. Football was the one that stood out to me and that I excelled in the most. My only goal in college was to play in the NFL. I had no aspirations past that at the time. I wanted to be the best football player I could be."

With the success in football Bret Lockett became a household name. His picture was being shot at events as well as red carpets, and he developed a fanbase that includes thousands on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. "I really can't believe that I am where I am sometimes," he confesses. "When I do sit back and think about my life it seems amazing that people know me and recognize my name. I am blessed and honored to have the opportunity to do something positive for myself and others."

Even an injury couldn't keep this driven individual down. It was during that setback that he was able to explore another passion: music. "I have always been into music ever since I was young," Lockett told me. "The problem was that I never had the time to pursue it. In the last 2 years after my injury I told myself that rather than sit there and do nothing I decided to pursue it." Like with everything else he does, he told me that when it comes to music he does what is in his heart.

Despite being a part of the celebrity world, Bret has done his best to remain true to the values instilled in him early in life. "It's one of those things where you have to remember where you came from," he says. "When you are driven and making moves you have to remember what your core values are. I have been able to remember that."

Giving back is something that he takes seriously, whether he is lending time and his resources to causes like PETA or talking about the dangers of bullying with Bullyville. To really make sure that he is paying it forward for the next generation, Bret started the Get It All Campaign. "When you help other people that is more important than your getting something on my behalf," he told me "I've always given back. Being able to have a platform to share a message for the youth and teenagers is what drives me. We are all people at the end of the day. We all have different roles to play but we are all equal. We need to bring everyone up."

There are so many lessons to learn from this conversation with Bret. One is that you can't judge a book by its cover. He also shows that you have to realize your strong points and continue to work on them as you progress in life. His closing words for you, our audience, were this: "You can't give anything to anyone unless you have worked on yourself and tried to be the best that you can be inside and out."

Stay in contact with Bret Lockett and the work he is doing on Twitter at www.twitter.com/getitallcamp and
www.twitter.com/bretlockett26 . You can also visit his website at www.bretlockett.com.

Aubrey O'Day: Peeling Back the Layers with BETWEEN TWO EVILS

by Cyrus Webb

In spite of the difficulties and challenges they face some people just seemed destined for greatness. Aubrey O'Day is one of those people.

You have gotten to know her from the hit MTV show Making the Band and the chart-topping group Danity Kane, but she is also a star on Broadway and her own reality show (All About Aubrey) as well as a contestant on the hit show Celebrity Apprentice. No matter what she does it would appear that Ms. O'Day is living her life out loud and enjoying the benefits of doing so.

During the month of August 2013 she not only released her debut solo project Between Two Evils but confirmed the return of Danity Kane, both to the excitement of her fans. I caught up with her after the album went number one just on pre-sales to talk about music and inspiration. What followed was a motivational conversation that individuals of all walks of life can benefit from.

"I never underestimate my fans," Aubrey said to me when discussing her #1 album. "They're pretty amazing. I have a group called the Aubtourage who are always there at a moment's notice. They have become my lifeline. She added. "It's been great to see how much they reward everything that I'm a part of. I've been on tv and on stage but I've been gone from music for so long... To have the album go number one is a feeling I can't explain."

The project BETWEEN TWO EVILS is a personal reflection of the artist and her journey through hurt. "It came from a painful breakup that left me in a low place," Aubrey explains. "Nothing was getting me through it except the studio. I got to a place where I could say something honest. I hope this really becomes a mechanism for people to heal themselves as it was for me."

The honesty in which Aubrey writes is not new, and it is obviously part of the appeal she has with her fans. They like her realness. "I have always had a pretty distinct, fearless voice," she told me. "I'm someone you either love or love to hate. I've never been an in-between person. Sometimes I get to a place where I have regrets and think if I wasn't so opinionated I'd have more support across the board, but that wouldn't be me. I am who I am. As I have gotten older I've become more proud of that and less willing to make excuses for it."

Listening to her explain the way she sees herself I asked Aubrey about what she sees as her purpose in life. The answer was surprising for me. "I think that over being a singer, actress or tv personality the one thing that I have always wanted to be is a person that touches as many lives as I can before I die. The only way you can do that is by being honest."

Honesty is at the core of not just Aubrey's album but her daily walk as well. "Whenever you are honest to who you are you always win in life," she told me. "Whether it's the way you thought or something more brilliant than what you expected. Having your own authentic voice is key."

With stand-out tracks like LOVE ME WHEN YOU LEAVE, HURTS SO GOOD and LET ME LAY, Between Two Evils is sure to resonate on some level with all that hear it. Aubrey told me that there are two things they want her fans to get from the album. "First I want anybody that is in that low place to know they can get out of it. They need to know that there are people that are examples of that. I also want to know that all the bad nights I had weren't in vain. There was a purpose behind all of them. Secondly I want my fans to have new respect for me as a music artist."

She describes Between Two Evils as "lyrically brilliant music" that is her ministry, defining her soul. As Aubrey O'Day says all life's triumphs come from struggles. If you can go through the struggle and grow stronger because of it there is nothing that will be impossible.

Stay in touch with all things Aubrey on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AubreyODay and on her website www.aubreyoday.com.

Isaiah Washington: A Man on a Journey

by Cyrus Webb

Whether we recognize it or not each one of us is heading towards something. It can be the fulfillment of a dream or if we choose to be apathetic, it will be the result of failure. No matter what position we hold or what we assume about ourselves, there is a journey we are on that will take us wherever we want to go.

The question becomes this: Will you be a better individual because of it?

I'm not a huge television person, and though I knew that actor Isaiah Washington had been on the hit tv series Grey's Anatomy and starred in several movies I wasn't that familiar with him and his body of work---that is until 2011. It was late that year that I saw a write-up about his book A Man from Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life. After reading it I felt compelled to not just write an Amazon.com review about the book but reach out to him for a conversation on the radio and the magazine.

I'm grateful that he agreed to both.

Isaiah Washington showed me and I think will demonstrate it for you as well the powerful of our individual platforms. He knows what it's like to succeed and to face challenges, but he is not one to quit. When I talked with him on the radio he was preparing for the release of his new project Blue Caprice at the Sundance Film Festival. The striking feature film debut of writer-director Alexandre Moors, Blue Caprice is a harrowing yet restrained psychological thriller about an abandoned boy lured to America into the shadows of a dangerous father figure. Inspired by true events, Blue Caprice investigates the notorious and horrific Beltway sniper attacks from the point of view of the two killers, whose distorted father-son relationship facilitated their long and bloody journey across America.

So how does Mr. Washington feel about the love his fans around the world continually have for him? "I'm still humbled by it and pleasantly surprised," he told me. "I'm still learning how fans are in the television world.  It's a powerful connection they develop with you. They don't let you go."

The gift that is his ability to bring characters to life and draw you in as a viewer in the process is something he realized through a mentor early in his career. "He said to me 'If you knew what you had you would mess it up.' I never really knew I had this gift until I started to have this dream about it." Whatever brought about the dream it proved to Isaiah that he could make this happen for himself---and that is exactly what he did.

Ever the professional but someone who knows what it's like to be in the spotlight and to have all eyes on him, I was curious as to how he kept the glare of celebrity from blinding him. His answer was real and more than I could have imagined he would share. "I made a huge mistake and forgot my place in the world and forgot that the world was looking at me and that I had this particular power and gift," he said, referencing the incident that occurred at the 2007 Golden Globes. "I was only thinking about myself in that moment. When you are in pain and in trauma you respond... In hindsight I realize that if I knew the power I had when I was on that hit show then things would have been amazingly different---but I wouldn't be able to have this conversation with you now."

That to me was a profound statement for him to make, but I think it is a great reminder for all of us. Bad things might be the doorway to the unbelievable blessings that are meant to be a part of your journey.

"Unfortunately for me in my ignorance," Washington continued, "I refused to accept my position as a role model. I know now that was a mistake. Any one who is afforded to live the lifestyle I have lived has the responsibility to share that. You always have to be cognizant of how you show up. Now I am aligned with that."

This revelation that Isaiah Washington has had, however, is not an excuse for us to forget that he is still just a man. "I believe this is true for all of us," he says. "It is the understanding how to play your position at any given moment in time. It's important to know that I'm a human being just like you, but I never want to lose sight of that part of my humanity. As long as you remain humble and connected to the idea that each of us are what I call perfect imperfection I can continue to do the things I say I want to do and leave a legacy that my family and friends can be proud of."

The biggest lesson for us is that you don't have to be a celebrity to have this type of epiphany about yourself and who you are in the world. "I have been given an extraordinary privilege," Washington told me, "but we all have been given a gift. We have to understand that each and every one of us has a divine purpose."

That brought us back to the film Blue Caprice. Washington told me "it's one of many films that I wanted to come on as a producer. I've experimented with different kind of challenges and roles. This particular film probably frightened me and challenged me the most." He plays John Allen Muhammad, the D.C. sniper. "I was out there on the cliff emotionally and put everything I had into it. I had to remove a lot of my own personal issues and try to find some humanity in it."

Isaiah Washington fans also got to see him this year in the Russ Parr-directed film The Undershepherd that premiered on TV One. He stars in the role of Lawrence “LC” Case, an ambitious and charismatic minister overcome by greed and ego who uses the pulpit to further his own agenda and ultimately lead his congregation astray.  LC’s best friend, Roland, starring Lamman Rucker, struggles to get his grassroots ministry off the ground and doesn’t enjoy the same level of success which generates controversy and conflict between the two men.

Regardless of what role you see him in, you can be sure that Isaiah Washington is making the most of every moment on his journey. The amazing privilege we have now is the take the road along with him.

You can stay in touch with the actor in real-time on Twitter at www.twitter.com/iwashington. Through that social media tool he is interacting with his fans and keeping them abreast of all his new happenings. "I think Twitter is like the new African drum," Washington told me. "It's an amazing tool. When you beat it properly you can actually change the world."

*Note: All photos used in this feature were provided and approved by Mr. Washington. Conversations Magazine owns no copyright to the images.

Cyrus Webb Presents... "25 Books Every Man Should Read"


Conversations Book Club is excited to announce its first-ever reading list designed specifically for men.

When book club founder Cyrus Webb began the reading group in November 2006 it was out of necessity. "There weren't any reading groups that were around that had men attend meetings on a regular basis," he says. "I knew from my own personal experience that men read. There just had to be platforms available that welcomed them."

Since then the co-ed reading group Conversations Book Club has hosted events where men and women can come together to read, discuss and enjoy books. With so many problems facing the world, however, Webb decided it was time to do something just for the guys: compiling a list of non-fiction titles that he had read and learned from, knowing that others could as well.

"It is my hope that men and even the women in their lives can read these books and allow the messages to help them as they are going through their own challenges," explains Webb.

Here is Cyrus Webb's 25 Books Every Man Should Read list for 2013:


  1. "The Available Parent" by Dr. John Duffy (Viva Editions)
  2. "This Is How" by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martins Press)
  3. "A Dark Journey to a  Light Future" by Tommie Mabry (West Bow Press)
  4. "DOC" by Dwight Gooden (Amazon Publishing)
  5. "Rocky Spirit" by Felice Cantatore (iUniverse)
  6. "Everyday Meditation" by Tobin Blake (New World Library)
  7. "24/6" by Matthew Sleeth, MD (Tyndale)
  8. "Break Your Addiction to Conflict" by Nathan J. Snow (Snowday Press)
  9. "Get Your Shift Together" by Steve Rizzo (McGraw Hill)
  10. "Letters to Ethan" by Tom McQueen (Seraphina Press)
  11. "Find the Upside of the Down Times" by Dr. Rob Pennington (Resource International)
  12. "Letters to My Unborn Children" by Shawn T. Collins (Quill House Press)
  13. "The Dad Connection" by Scott Hanley (publisher unknown)
  14. "Identity" by Stedman Graham (FT Press)
  15. "Know Yourself, Forget Yourself" by Marc Lesser (New World Library)
  16. "Side-Yard Superhero" by Rick D. Niece (Five Star Publications)
  17. "Get Off Your Attitude" by Ryan C. Lowe (Sound Wisdom)
  18. "Live to Give" by Austin Gutwein (Thomas Nelson)
  19. "Hillbilly Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus (Amazon Publishing)
  20. "Things My Daughters Need to Know" by Rodney L. Demery (Rootsky Books)
  21. "7 Secrets of a Phenomenal L.I.F.E." by Howard Partridge (Sound Wisdom)
  22. "G-Man: The Education of a Criminal" by Gregory Marshall (Marshall Publishing Group)
  23. "By Faith, Not By Sight" by Scott MacIntyre (Thomas Nelson)
  24. "Game Plan" by Alan P. Lyme, David J. Powell and Stephen R. Andrew (Central Recovery Press)
  25. "It's Your Life: Live Big" by Josh Hinds (Sound Wisdom)
For more information on books suggested by Conversations Book Club visit www.conversationsbookclub.com


Friday, December 6, 2013

Model Eric Gray: Building His Brand on the Foundation of Faith

by Cyrus Webb

Athlete. Model Actor. These are just three ways that the world has gotten to know Eric Gray, but if his current path is any indication there are many more additions to his brand to come. In 2013 he has seen many of his dreams come true, however, he's not ready to stop. In fact, in many ways he is just getting started.

"It been an absolute blessing from God to be able to be presented with the opportunities to follow my passion," Eric told me during our conversation. "It hasn't been an easy journey, but if you're passionate about it that's what makes the difference."

Passion is something that Eric has an abundance of. It all began with his love of sports. Coming from a family that was very athletic, he told me that it was his older brother that was his biggest inspiration to pursue football. "It sparked something in me that said 'I can do it'," he says. "It was then that I put my heart and soul in it. I love the challenge and the competitive nature that sports brought. I also love the discipline you have to have to be successful."

When dealing with challenges, Eric said he is reminded of this saying: "Tough times never last but tough people do." He thinks about that when things don't always go as planned.

If you watch his posts on Facebook you will see that Eric is always trying to not just keep his fans updated on what he is working on but inspiring them through encouraging words as well. I asked him where that comes from and he said it was his family. "I saw the foundation of God in my family," he told me. I saw how they handled things through faith. You get knocked down, but you get back up. That's part of life. You might win some. You might lose some. The important thing is that you live to fight another day. As long as you are breathing you can fight again, you can win again."

This attitude followed him from sports to modeling. He says that it all began with a message on Facebook about doing a couple of photoshoots. Though hesitate at first Eric finally decide to go for it. "You got one life to live," he says. "Once I make my mind up, I'm going full-throttle." He says once he hit the stage and when the lights hit it was showtime. "Like in football I had to step my game up and make sure I am seen. When I go out there I want to make a statement. I'm always thinking what's going to separate me from everyone else."

This year he has also pursued acting, making it his goal to continue to excel. What does he hope those watching his success realize about themselves? "I want to continue to show others that no matter where you come from or what you have been through it's all about how you handle the process. I wouldn't take my journey for nothing. It's helped me to appreciate every moment and to continue to excel in every area and embrace the moment."

Stay in touch with Eric and his current events visit www.tinyurl.com/ericgray.




The Write Stuff: Author Tonya Goring

by Cyrus Webb

At the end of 2012 author Tonya Goring released her book MEET DESIREE, and in 2013 it has been one of those reads that people have been drawn to because it reaches people them where they are in their own lives.

During her visit to Mississippi she talked with Conversations' Cyrus Webb about the book and the response. "It was a surprise to me," she told him. People who read the book were telling her "I have been there". The story, which is really the authors personal story has made such an impact that she began the hashtag #iamdesiree.

Webb asked Goring if it made it easier to tell her story using fictitious names. "To take a step back and not call Desiree Tonya was huge," she says. "I think that's what allowed me to finish the story and be able to release it. Once it was released I would proudly tell people 'I am Desiree. That story is about me.'"

In the book MEET DESIREE the main character was not just dealing with situations that affected her. "Desiree didn't just have herself," Goring said. "She is married and has 2 children. The decisions she has to make are tough because they don't just involve her. She wants to do everything to make the best decisions for them." Throughout the book Desiree handles things with the people she loved the most in mind.

One of the things that gets Desiree through her challenges and helps her to make the right decisions is her faith. "The faith part of my story is huge," the author told Webb. "There is no way Desiree would have made it through this juncture of her life without it." Goring says that even when 'Desiree' couldn't see all the moving pieces it was obvious that God definitely had his hand in the matter. "I feel like there is a heartfelt chapter of this book: the decision. Do I stay or do I go? Is it God's Will for me? I'm listening and trying to hear God. I definitely believe it is a critical part of my life. Accepting God and deciding I don't understand all this was a great reward," she says.

When it comes to the take-away from her book Goring says it is letting others know they aren't alone in what they are going through.  "Being able to know who you are and not being defined by someone else is the key," she says. Most of it (Meet Desiree) is her finding herself along the way. Finding she has this strength. "If readers get that she says it's all worth it," she told Webb.

Discover more about Desiree and Tonya Goring at www.meetdesiree.com. You can also find her online at  www.facebook.com/meetdesiree and www.twitter.com/tgoring1.

THE WRITE STUFF: Author Phoenix

by Cyrus Webb

When author Phoenix got the first shipment of her debut novel ANYBODY'S SOMEBODY (published by FreedomInk) she just couldn't keep it to herself. "It was a phenomenal experience, one unlike I've ever known before," she told Conversations' Cyrus Webb during their sit-down in Pearl, MS. "The books came...I was in my pajamas and I immediately brought out my camera and had to take a picture of it because I was so proud of it."

And Phoenix has every reason to be proud. The book, one of Cyrus Webb's favorite of the year, is a powerful release by a first-time author. It's one that the author dedicated to women, the very inspiration before the book.

When asked when she knew she wanted to write ANYBODY'S SOMEBODY the author relayed this story: "It was about 2011...Shortly after college I ad already been doing poetry and had been getting my voice out that way, but women had a story to tell. I would interview them about how they feel and what stories they wanted to get out there." Phoenix would then put them in a poem. Out of that collection Anybody's Somebody was born. "I wanted to get their voices out there in novel form," she says, and that is exactly what she has accomplished..

The book takes you into the personal experiences of best friends Karrine and Mia. Webb asked Phoenix about the decision to tell the girls' story in first person. She told him it was a way of making it more personal for the reader and allow thing to go through the situations right along with the characters.

Though erotic in nature, the book focuses heavily on the themes of friendships, being your best self, knowing your worth and more. "I wanted to touch on everything that a woman in this day and age is going through," says Phoenix.

Her message to men and women? "You were made for a reason. You can't be anybody's somebody... Know your self-worth and where you're going in life... Don't go out there and give yourself away."

Find out more about author Phoenix and the other authors of FreedomInk by visiting www.freedomink365.com.

The Write Stuff: Author Kenny L. Mitchell

With three books already released and more to come, author Kenny L. Mitchell is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to his literary career.

A proud FreedomInk author he sat down with Conversations' Cyrus Webb while in Pearl, MS and talked about the experience of being published and what he hopes readers get from his characters and what they experience.

Webb began by asking Mitchell what it was like for him to bring Regina Washington's story to life. "It's been a wonderful experience," Mitchell told him. Webb also wanted to know what it was like as a man to be able to showcase a wide variety of feelings through the characters. "The thing about men," the author answered, "is that at a young age we aren't really taught to show our emotions. We need to know how to express ourselves. It takes a certain amount of strength, vulnerability and courage to put your feelings out there in the first place. "

When it comes to what's called the LOVES ME NOT series (Beautiful, Broken Me, The Purge and Miracles & Blessings) the author revealed that it wasn't initially a trilogy. The decision was made by the publisher and the author to break it up, making it easier for readers to digest and to keep their attention. "You want to leave your audience wanting more," Mitchell explained.

When it comes to telling stories, it almost seemed inevitable for the author. "In my family we've always used spoken narrative to get our point across," says Mitchell. "If I tell you a story that illustrates a point you will not only remember it but pass it down as well. We were built on telling stories. Nothing will ever take the place of that."

In the LOVE ME NOT series we see the main character go through a physical, emotional and spiritual journey, but Mitchell says that it is necessary for all of us. "Some of the greatest stories that are ever told are taking the characters on a journey. You have to go through the dark times before you actually evolve as a human being." In Mitchell's view it is important that you struggle, but the reward always comes afterwards. "Everything in life has a reason and a season," he says. "When you're in your season nothing can stop you."

For more information about Kenny L. Mitchell and the other releases of FreedomInk visit www.freedomink365.com.

The Write Stuff: Author Katandra Shanel Jackson

Conversations Media Group President Cyrus Webb got a chance to talk with author Katandra Shanel Jackson during her visit to Mississippi this year about not just what led her to writing but her publishing company FreedomInk as well.

Asked if she has gotten used to the idea of being a published author, Jackson told Webb "That part has not sunk in yet. It's still surreal right now."

Webb first interviewed Jackson on Conversations LIVE when she released her book DIARY OF A BRIDGE TO BE. The 'Diary' series is a personal look not just at Jackson's preparation for marriage but the ups and downs that come in relationships. When asked about why she decided to share such a personal look into her life Jackson said "I knew there was a market and an audience for it (the books)." Referencing reality shows about the topic she added: "No two stories are alike. It's real."

Another topic that Jackson has addressed in her books is the issue of sexual abuse. In the book ANGEL EYES she and other survivors share their personal journey from victim to victor. "Sometimes you need to reveal in order to protect," she told Webb during their conversation when he asked about her decision to share not just with the world but first with her own family, namely her children. "Why allow them to learn about it later when it can be something that affects them in their childhood." She then shared this analogy that describes the decision perfectly: "You tell a child not to touch the oven before they touch it." She says that it was a healing process for herself and the ladies who came forward with their stories.

Speaking of that trust, Webb inquired what it was like to have others entrust their truth to her. "People don't want to reveal what hurts them. It's better to reveal those hurts than to keep them if it's going to save someone else."

For writers she offers this advice: "When it comes to publishing just keep writing. never give up. There is a reader for every single book. It could be a book in somebody else just waiting to be written."

Find out more about Katandra Shanel Jackson and FreedomInk at www.freedomink365.com. You can also follow FreedomInk on Twitter at www.twitter.com/freedomink365.

Judge Jeanine Pirro: Fighting For Justice By Not Remaining Silent

by Cyrus Webb

Sometimes the worst thing we can do is refuse to speak up when we know something is wrong or when we have a feeling that justice is not being served. Our silence is sometimes the same as agreeing with the wrong that is being done or said, and that makes us a part of the project instead of an advocate for the truth and what is right.

It's easier said than done, but things work out for the good when we do what we know to be the right thing. A perfect example of someone who lives by this motto is Judge Jeanine Pirro.

I have been a fan of Judge Jeanine for some time. She is a person who is not afraid to speak her mind and fight for what she believes in. I first got to know her through her appearances on television programs offering her professional opinions on legal issues of the day. Then when she began her weekly show on Fox News Channel I was able to see her not just share her legal perspective but shine a light on injustices and causes that mattered to her.

This year I discovered her ability to tell a great story through her Fox series starring Dani Fox. Her book CLEVER FOX allows us to see how even people on the side of right are sometimes handed situations that are not easy to figure out. I had the opportunity to talk with Judge Jeanine about her journey that has led her to writing and what it is that keeps her fighting day after day.

JUDGE JEANINE ON LIFE AND WRITING:
"Writing fiction has given me the opportunity to talk about something that I love and have devoted my professional life to: crime and law enforcement. I've been a prosecutor, a Judge and a Disctirc Attorney for 30 years. For me Clever Fox and the ability to write books gives me the opportunity to tell the public what it's like in the Criminal Justice System. The prosecution of crime is so much more sophisticated than what people see on television shows. It's also quite political when it comes to what cases are prosecuted and get attention. I'm having a great time doing it."

JUDGE JEANINE ON ART IMITATING LIFE:
Fiction allows us to see the truth about ourselves as well as qualities in people that we like and don't like. "The first book (SLY FOX) is about the beginning of my career. I was an Asst. D.A. at a time when I was the only woman, and as I look back I think about how incredibly different it is today and how far women have come. It was very therapeutic and had me look at things a little differently."

JUDGE JEANINE AND SOURCE OF HER PASSION FOR JUSTICE:
"Without a doubt it came from my mother. She taught me a long time ago never to remain silent. Ultimately in my life that was translated into my work with crime victims. I was taught to be kind and to take care of people. I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer and that led me to protecting the victim. That is the best job in the world."

No matter what platform she uses Judge Jeanine Pirro is committed to her passion for life and justice, setting the example for us all. Stay connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/judgejeaninepirro and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/judgejeanine. Get her new book CLEVER FOX on Amazon.com or wherever your favorite books are sold.

Listen to her interview on Conversations LIVE at www.tinyurl.com/judgejeanineinterview.

PROFILE: Recording Artist Matthew Schultz

by Cyrus Webb

Recording artist Matthew Schultz has a reason to smile. Not only has he been able to work with individuals that are well-respected in the world of music but he has found fans literally around the world. His single "Money or Me" featuring Jim Jones has been featured on countless sites across the Internet, spawning profiles for him in The Source Magazine, on MTV, Hype Magazine, Social Magazine, This is 50 and more.

Through it all Matthew remains focused on what is important: the music itself. "I am so blessed and thankful to see the way that people are responding to it."

In describing his style of music the artist does it this way: "All of my music is built around the Hip Hop base but has that rock feel." It was the combination of the two genres that he believes got people's attention. "The single ("Money or Me") took off because a lot of people can relate. When you get a certain age you never really know after a certain point whether someone is with you for true love or because of your situation." Matthew says the song really is about discovering what their true love is."

"Money or Me" is just one example of why Matthew Schultz is able to live his dream. For me creating music is more than just about the beat. It really is about the words and the message. "I see it as a privilege to get to perform my music," he told me With all that he has done, it's hard to believe that he really got back into music this year. Since that time his career has taken off.  It has all been a process. He sees success as 'that carrot dangling in front' of him, pushing him further and further. It all begins with the decision to act. "Once you start picking up a buzz and people start to appreciate your music things just fall in line," he says.

For those artists out there who are wondering if they can take advantage of the same opportunities that Matthew has, he shares one of his secrets. "Most of my success has come from Reverbnation," he admits. "It allows you to get fans and listeners and be among millions of other artists. It's like a mini label and perfect for independent artists. When you go to the site and see who's there then you know you're in good company." He says that places like Reverbnation "give you a great ability to reach out to the world."

Matthew Schultz is a success not just because of who he works with, but how he works. That sets the example for all of us, regardless of who we are and what our passion is. His experience is proof that good things come to those who aren't afraid to go after them.

Stay in touch with Matthew online at www.twitter.com/mschultz33, www.facebook.com/matthewbschultz and on Reverbnation at www.reverbnation.com/matthewschultzofficial.

Sebastian Mikael: Appreciating the Gift of Music

by Cyrus Webb

Whether we realize it or now we all have been given amazing gifts. The challenge for us is to do what it takes to see those gifts nurtured. For recording artist and musician Sebastian Mikael it's not so much about recognizing the gifts he's been given. He is using them to their full potential everyday and the world is responding to his talent in a big way.

Originally from Sweden, Sebastian made the decision that if he was going to be able to take his gift all the way he had to make a change. That change led him to America in 2008 and just 3 years later he released his first mixtape called J'Adore.

With his video single "Beautiful Life", which debuted in September 2011, Sebastian was able to showcase his lyrical ability and the ability to bring people in through words. At the time we were going to press that video had over 150k views on Youtube alone. "My lyrical content is not always about love, but what we go through and feel in life,” he says. “I like to put hope in my music. Stuff that makes you feel good musically and lyrically.”

Fast forward two more years and his single "Last Night" featuring Wale has become one of the biggest singles of 2013, with the Youtube video grabbing over 530k in less than 3 months. While he is enjoying it's success, Sebastian is not taking it for granted. "It's incredible to see how people are embracing the single. People are looking for something that's real, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share that with them. I've always been creative (painting,etc), but I think that doing music has always been a passion and something I enjoyed doing."

Now with the support of his label Slip-N-Slide he has taken to the road, sharing not just the music but the message that is his life: Nothing is impossible. "Whatever your passion is you have to do what it takes to pursue it," Sebastian told me. "It's definitely a blessing to be able to do this. All of the ups and downs that come in the industry...this is one of the amazing things about it. There's not a lot of people from Sweden coming here and doing what I'm able to do. Everything is possible. Nothing is impossible."

He's been spotted on BET, MTV, VH1 and Centric as well as visiting radio stations while he is on the road. This, coupled with the tour stops, has allowed individuals around the world to not just see his talent but to get a first-hand look at what it means to appreciate the gift.

Sebastian's message to his fans? "Thank you for the support. This couldn't be possible without you. I also want to tell you that when it comes to your own dreams it's a lot of hard work, and you have to really put in more than what's required. It's going to be worth it in the end. You just have to have faith and put in as much work as you can."

Listen to Sebastian's interview with Conversations LIVE at www.tinyurl.com/sebastianmikaelinterview. To stay abreast of all of Sebastian's upcoming projects visit his website www.sebastianmikael.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sebastianmikael.

(Photo Credit: Faye Nightingale Photography)

(Self Help) 3 Steps to Heart-Based Living

by Ronna Prince
Creator, Executive Producer, Songwriterof the Film "Sacred Journey of the Heart"
DIVE in, TUNE in, LIGHTEN up!


It seems that now we are inundated with messages about living in the heart. It's the latest catch-phrase. But really, what does it all mean? It means living in balance with emotions and thoughts. It means allowing one's heart to lead the way in decision making and actions. It does not mean letting unchecked feelings rule your life. But it also means, not letting unexpressed feelings limit your interaction and connection with others.

Most of us have been brought up to be logical and rational. To hide our emotions and just "get over it". The problem with this is that we really can't solve today's problems that were created by analytical and mind-based approaches. I'm convinced that the analytical approach is what got us to where we are today, in many of the distressing situations we see in our own lives, communities and on a global scale.

So the question is: how do we really embrace heart-based living and be effective as leaders and decision makers in these times of change?   I believe we can do this by using a heart-based approach which has been distilled down to 3 simple steps: Dive In, Tune In, and Lighten up. It really is a simple process. It starts with a choice to go into the heart-based feelings and explore what is there. If you can't or won't do that, I've found that you're putting a veneer over the truth of your existence. Mastering our emotions through the heart is the key to this time of intense transition. When we check into our hearts, we tend to make wiser and more compassionate choices. And with that, live more peaceful and connected lives.     


STEP 1: The first step is to have the willingness to dive in to the emotions locked inside the heart. This does not mean re-experiencing the traumas of the past. Rather it is to acknowledge that your heart had to shut down in the past as a way of dealing with the hurts all humans experience to one extent or another. In diving in to the heart (step 1), we are really just allowing the awareness of feelings and emotions to surface. In this step, we dive in to touch what's been locked inside. We follow the breath into our hearts and listen. We can ask "what's in my heart?" Usually it's a two or three word message that bubbles up, like: "I'm afraid", or "be careful", or "go for it!"


STEP 2: The next step is to tune into the feelings behind these initial pearls of heart-wisdom. "What is my heart telling me?" If you hear: "I'm afraid" or "be careful", that's informing you that you need to spend some time allowing the associated emotional imprints to emerge. We do that by feeling whatever is there and accepting the feeling no matter what it is: Fear, anger, sadness, depression, happiness, joy. Tune into it, and allow it to move and flow.

As we allow ourselves to tune into these emotional states, we move the energy. When energy moves, there is room for heart-wisdom to emerge. Tuning in to the heart is what takes practice, because we're used to turning to the mind to find our answers. But the truth is, our hearts know. Our minds will rationalize or justify. But the authentic tuned-in feelings of our hearts, will always lead us to compassionate and wise choices.


The FINAL STEP in this 3 part formula is: Lighten up! This is an essential part of the 3 step process. It means that after we do some intense emotional healing, we consciously choose to relax, enjoy and embrace the gifts in life. At first, we have to really focus on this and make it a priority. Because in dealing with emotions, we can easily get stuck in a state of perpetual healing and forget to enjoy each day.



So in this final step, we commit to looking around us and seeing beauty and joy, even if it's just a small thing, like a flower or a bird's song or the smile of a loved one. Living in the heart is a balanced place, and in that balance, we make room for more joy and peace, not by ignoring, but by embracing the wisdom of the heart.


ROnna Prince up close portrait Ronna Prince is the filmmaker behind the new extraordinary new film "Sacred Journey of the Heart." An Official Selection at the LA Femme Film Festival and featured at Sedona International and Awareness Fest Film Festivals, "Sacred Journey of the Heart" is a powerful and inspiring documentary that traces the role of the heart in connecting us to our higher selves, our spiritual essence, each other, the planet and the cosmic design. The heart is the single organ that not only creates a unified field among all people, but also creates a harmonic field with the earth itself. The compelling film reveals how modern science is proving what ancient peoples have known all along: we are all connected - and that connection is the human heart. Featuring such luminaries and bestselling authors as Greg Braden, Joe Dispenza, Mary Morrissey, Colin Tipping, Sarah McLean, plus Dr. Rollin McCraty and Dr. Deborah Rozman of HeartMath, along with an array of other spiritual leaders, indigenous elders, and scientists, the film is designed to give people new tools to achieve a state of "heart centered balance," so they can create a peaceful state of connection in their own lives. For more information, go to www.sacredjourneyoftheheart.com

(Self-Help) How to Awaken the Zentrepreneur in You

Whatever it is we do, whether we run a household, our own business, or work for a company, we often feel imprisoned by fear, doubt, and insecurity. By resisting change and uncertainty, we stem our innate flow of creativity and innovation - what award-winning author and global business consultant John Murphy refers to as the "Zentrepreneur" in us. In this article, Murphy reflects on the secret to getting past this fear - how to tap into our "zentrepreneur" by applying four fundamental steps to inspiration and success. The opinions and observations offered in this article are based on Murphy's diverse experiences as a holistic business consultant (to companies like GE, BMW, Target, Kraft, the CIA and currently ADP, to name a few), corporate director, Notre Dame Quarterback, spiritual mystic and management coach. The author of 16 books, including Sage Leadership and Beyond Doubt, Murphy's newest title is Zentrepreneur.
4 Steps to Manifest Fearlessness and Peak Productivity in your Work and Relationships
by John J. Murphy
Zentrepreneur - book Whatever it is we do, whether we run a household, our own business, or work for a company, there is a "zentrepreneur" within us all- a soul seeking release and a creative idea seeking expression and manifestation. This is the heart and soul of our being - our human being! It is our innate desire to grow, to explore, and to be creative. Zentrepreneurs know this as nirvana, here and now, heaven on earth. We know that we are meant to be free and flow fearlessly. We came to this earth to express ourselves, to interact with one another, to learn, and to make this world a better place. Yet many souls have become trapped - imprisoned by fear and doubt and insecurity. Rather than embrace change and uncertainty with poise and confidence, the timid allow it to hold them back. Indeed, we can be our own enemy. We can get in our own way. The secret to getting past this fear is in tapping our inner zentreprenuer and applying four fundamental steps to inspiration and success - the ring of peace.
The first step to freedom is "Let Be." Zentrepreneurs know that we cannot change what already exists. We have to accept it - like it or not. We have to learn from it. Why? Because it already is. It happened. This includes people, problems, circumstances, weather, long lines, slow computers, traffic, difficult bosses, and painful losses. There is no value in complaining about it or getting upset. There is no undoing it. There is no wisdom in letting it bring us down. Stress only makes things worse. The Law of Attraction delivers to us manifestations that match our emotional vibration. Complaining, stressing and being anxious only call more into our lives to complain and stress about. How wise is that?
The sage zentrepreneur within us offers us an alternative - the capacity to transcend these emotional temptations. We just have to recognize them when we see them and avoid the trap. Rather than becoming anxious and fearful, we can choose to think differently. We can learn to see what "is" as simply a blessing in disguise, a lesson to be learned. For example, the people who challenge us or annoy us most might be among our greatest teachers. They give us an opportunity to learn patience, wisdom and spiritual presence.
The second step in the Ring of Peace is "Let Go." Rather than resist what is, we accept it, feel it, examine it, learn from it, and then let it go. Resistance only makes that which we are resisting stronger. Why strengthen the enemy? Push back invites push back. Force meets force. Try dancing with the problem instead. Embrace it and then let it go. Admit there is a problem and then release it. Denial will get you nowhere. Rationalization and defensiveness obstruct flow and attach you to the problem. Learn to let it go. There are many proven techniques to assist with this, including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Meditation, TRE (Trauma and Tension Release Exercises), yoga, tai chi, and healing sounds. Identify and choose a practice that resonates with you - and then practice it! The only obstacle to releasing fears, phobias and limiting beliefs is you!
When we accept what is and learn to let go any emotional distress drawing destructive drama into our lives, we experience step three: "Let See." This step involves a shift in our perception. We see the world very differently. The people who used to annoy us now appear differently. We feel compassion for them. We recognize their suffering or ignorance. We forgive them "for they know not what they do." We offer a helping hand. We reach out from a higher place - a higher frequency and vibration - knowing that this is really the only way we can be of any true assistance. Misery may love company, but zentrepreneurs know that this match in frequencies does not solve problems. It compounds them. The only way to really help someone in pain is to help them change the channel and see things differently.
The fourth step in the Ring of Peace often results in experiencing a sense of awe and wonder. When we let be, let go, let see and experience "Let Flow," it is as if we are living a dream come true. We are "in the zone" as some athletes like to put it. We experience a sense of fearlessness, timelessness and peak productivity. We make ourselves available to a much higher frequency of spiritual energy and we channel this into our work and relationships. We literally light up the room. People feel our presence. They are inspired by our energy - or zenergy! In return, we reap what we sow. By giving unto others, we are given more to give. We become an instrument of peace, a fountain of love, a beacon of light. By emptying our bowl, we receive more. We channel spiritual wisdom, sacred joy and emotional intelligence. This powerful inner peace then reveals itself to the rest of the world as "good ideas" resulting in positive changes. We make the world a better place. Have you awakened the zentrepreneur in you?

About John J. Murphy
John Murphy A mystic of management and sensei of strategy, John J. Murphy has focused on teaching his corporate clients conscious business practices while improving their bottom lines for the past 30 years (GE, BMW, Target, Kraft, the CIA and currently ADP, to name a few). Murphy has drawn on his diverse experiences as a corporate director, Notre Dame Quarterback, spiritual mystic and management coach to author 15 books, including Sage Leadership and Beyond Doubt. He continues to counsel corporate America, yet with the upcoming release of his latest book, Zentrepreneur(Career Press, Set.23, 2013), he has taken to the streets as a national speaker at expos and seminars across the country to coach the zentrepreneur in all of us.For more information: www.venturemanagementconsultants.com

Tony Lindsay Presents... Etheridge Knight

‘The Essential Etheridge Knight’ is a compilation of poems from the poet’s first three works. These poems demonstrate Knight’s immense talent which stems from his ability to place the reader in the visions of the poet. What Knight sees . . . the reader experiences.

                                  AS YOU LEAVE ME

                Shiny record albums scattered over

                 the living room floor, reflecting light

                my eyes as I watch you, squatting among the platters,

                the beer foam making mustaches on your lips.
                              

And, too,

                                the shadows on your cheeks from your long lashes

                                fascinate me-almost as much as the dimples

                                in your cheeks, your arms, and your legs.
                              

                                You

                                hum along with Mathis-how you Mathis!

                                 with his burnished hair and quicksilver voice that dances

                                among the stars and whirls through canyons

                                like windblown snow, sometimes I think that Mathis

                                could take you from me if you could be complete

                                without me. I glance at my watch. It is now time.


                                You rise,

                                silently, and to the bedroom and the paint;

                                on the lips red, on the eyes black,

                                and I lean in the doorway and smoke, and see you

grow old before my eyes, and smoke, why do you

chatter while you dress? and smile when you grab

your large leather purse? Don’t you know when you

leave me I walk to the window and watch you? And light

a reefer as I watch you? and I die as I watch you

disappear in the dark streets

to whistle and smile at the johns.

                 The ethos of a reader’s mind and heart are manipulated while reading Etheridge Knight. The poet shares dark pain and light joy evenly in the collection. Perhaps, a life lived as Knight lived his (imprisonment, addiction, divorce, homelessness) had no choice but to produce art of the heart and mind.
Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His book ONE DEAD DOCTOR was chosen by Conversations Book Club as one of its Top 100 Books of 2012. Lindsay was named Conversations Author of the Year 2012-2013.  His new book EMOTIONAL DRIPPINGS is available now on Amazon.com. He can be reached at tonylinsay7045@sbcglobal.net or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tony.linssay2.

Mary's Motivational Message: Miss Rowe

Recently, a friend and I were engaged in intriguing conversation surrounding our years in grade school. Enthusiastically, I shared sweet memories regarding one of my favorite teachers Miss. Rowe.

I shared how Miss. Rowe was beyond beautiful.  I recall her being 25-years of age. She had long blond hair, green eyes (I think they were green), a body like Beyonce and skin the color of bronze. And if that wasn’t enough, our classroom was scented with her favorite perfumes; she had this sweet southern drawl similar to Delta Burkes on the television show, “designing women.”

I would like to note: I’m not suggesting that being blond made her beautiful…the fact of the matter is Miss. Rowe was simply a beautiful woman.
Anyways, like most grade school classrooms there were challenging students but Miss. Rowe had a way about her that was very non-traditional. She utilized a lot of positive re enforcement techniques; never raising her voice or succumbing to the use of idle threats.

It was there in her classroom that I was introduced to my lifelong favorite book, “Where the Wild Things Are.”  She read that book to us every week and each time felt like the first. In addition, Miss. Rowe would bring in homemade cupcakes, pies and cookies just because. And we were rewarded with candy and gold stars for performing exceptionally well.
As I continued to reminisce about my season with Miss. Rowe, what stood out most was how one weekend per month she would bring me and three fellow class mates to her home for a weekend celebration. I believe this adventure started as a trip to the Circus or Disney on Ice; a reward for our good behavior.  All parents agreed to allow us to participate in the sleep over for added celebration.

Her life style was a reflection of her being a beautiful single woman in the 1970’s; a charming two bedroom condo with a view, a sexy car, a oversized swimming pool and plenty of space for us girls to have a ball. We would indulge in pizza, hamburgers, or tacos for dinner and snack on popcorn, candy and ice cream while watching The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and various other 70’s favorites. The very next morning, Miss. Rowe would make Pancakes, Waffles or French toast; no cold cereal or oatmeal for her girls.
After a hearty breakfast we would swim in her pool or go to the park. She devoted every moment to us (reading to us, board games, painting, coloring…etc). Miss. Rowe treated every one of us like PRINCESES. That scenario was played out one weekend each month for an entire year. Going to her home for me was equivalent to being at Disneyland.

As I grew into womanhood, I found myself asking, “Why did she give back on such a profound level?” I have pondered over numerous responses which have yielded no solid conclusion.
All four students were raised in the suburbs not the inner city; upper middle class families. All four girls represented various ethnicities. I don’t feel as though Miss. Rowe believed she was somehow saving us from deprivation or exposing us to experiences that were inaccessible. Perhaps, just perhaps, she did all that she could do and gave all that she could give simply because she loved her students!!!

It is my hope that one day in the near future to reconnect with Miss. Rowe and let her know that the gifts she extended to those four little girls had an impact far beyond what she could have imagined. The love she extended is stored in a special “safe” within my heart. I like so many others am forever grateful that GOD blessed our fourth grade class with an ANGEL.

Love, Peace and Endless Joy,                                                                                                                                                    Author-Mary E. Gilder

Mary E. Gilder is the author of the award winning novel, “A Misrepresentation of Myself.  And her soon to be sophomore release, “Even a Man Can Have a Broken Heart.”  In addition, Mary Gilder is available for speaking engagements. She can be contacted at bookclubs.maryegilder@yahoo.com or at meg@maryegilder.com. Also, visit her website at www.maryegilder.com.