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Monday, April 9, 2012

(Poem) Comfort Zone

by Alexander Gibson

The place where dreams die. The best friend to failure.
The only place where growth is a sin and progression is frowned upon.
Presided over by fear and governed by one owns insecurities.
Where temporary happiness and contentment are the order of everyday.
The place where room for advancement is considered profane
And to do something different exiles one from the other.
Where the normal train of thinking is not applied. A place where friendship ends and resentment begins.

A place that truly isn’t comfortable at all.
A place where you are your own worst enemy and the antagonist of your own story.
The place where mediocrity is standard and potential stays at rest.
The place where careers turn to jobs and love turns to lust. A place where habit is natural and conflict is nonexistent.
A place where possibility thrives, but never grows up. A place where could’ve, would’ve, should’ve originated.
Bad grammar? I think not! Real life. The prerequisite to mistake, the white flag of life.
The comfort zone is where the national anthem for defeat was written.
The beginning to nothing but the end to everything. The metaphorical box. The intangible danger.
The pot with no water. The arch nemesis to change. The comfort zone is a vacant place to live where no one should want to move. And if you so happen to find yourself there, get out now! Otherwise you have met the perfect catch twenty-two.

Alexander Gibson is the author of the book FIGHTING THE STEREOTYPE. You can find additional information about his book at

Conversations Magazine: 6 Years Later

When I began Conversations Magazine in April 2006 it was with the mission of sharing in print some of the interviews I had been able to have on Conversations LIVE the radio show. I didn't know where it would lead or if it would last, but I believed there was a place for the publication.

Though we have gone through some changes over the years, one thing that has remained true about Conversations Magazine is its reflection of our audience and ability to reach people where they are. Now here we are six years later, sharing with you some of the best and brightest that the world has to offer, and it is because of your support.

In this anniversary issue I wanted to give you not just the best discussions possible but the tools you will need to be able to reach your own milestones in whatever you might be doing. I have said it before, and I will say it again: we can't make it in this world by ourselves. We are going to have to connect with individuals who share our vision and who see our success as part of their own success.

One of the most exciting facets of this issue is that this year I was reconnected with literary talent Elissa Gabrielle. She and I were first introduced some six years ago, and though we lost contact for a number of years we are back in each other's lives. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. I was able to snag her for the cover, catching up with her when it comes to what she has been up to and getting her advice for others when it comes to going for their dreams.

Then there is my conversation with Greg Jacobs, half of the team that brought the world the powerful documentary LOUDER THAN A BOMB. If that interview doesn't motivate you to find your own personal greatness I don't know what will.

We also celebrate the literary talent of authors Pamela Bitterman and F. J. Dagg, two individuals who were recognized in 2011 by the Character Building Counts Book Awards and are still basking in that accomplishment as well as opening themselves up to what is next for them and their respective books.

In the end this issue is really a thank you for all of those who stood by us and were rooting for our success. It is because of you that I am able to say today that Conversations Magazine is definitely feeding the love of life of over 3k yearly subscribers each and every month.

Have others you want to see featured or have comments about some of those you have read about? Contact me at or 601.896.5616.

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

Comedian Rodney Perry: Building A Brand That Is No Laughing Matter

by Cyrus Webb

He is one of those individuals that I have gotten to not only respect but consider a friend as well. Rodney Perry is a comedian, actor and talk show host that has recognized his calling and is walking in it each and every day.

I recently had the privilege to talk with him for a second time on Conversations LIVE, and he came ready to not only inspire but share some of the keys to the brand he is building and why it is important to never give up.

Rodney Perry on Success:
"I'm just living my life. I am so far from where I'm going that it's not hard to be where I am. Whenever I achieve that thing that I'm shooting for I will still be me. Alot of people are enamored by the things that come along with what you do. It's important as a comedian that I stay connected to my audience. If I become disconnected through fame I can no longer do my job."

Rodney Perry on the Gift of Comedy:
"The comedy is my foundation. Everything else (radio, televison or film) is sitting on the foundation of the comedy. It is what fuels my passion. If I got the opportunity to do one thing forever and not do anything else, that would be the comedy."

Rodney Perry on his radio show:
"I knew that if I created a radio show at the very least I could advertise my engagements. I wanted to create an avenue that you could get to know more about about a guy than just a few minutes. Along this journey I'm floored that I've had the opportunity to make some friends. When I was 25 I said I doubt if I make another friend in my life. Now at 41 I realize that I have met a ton of friends. I have been blessed to have a wealth of friends that don't mind having a conversation with me. I take that very seriously, and I take my reputation very seriously."

Rodney Perry on hard work:
"You can't be naturally gifted without hard work. There are people who are naturals at being comedians but others can learn the mechanics. That person that isn't naturally gifted tends to work harder because they know they have something to prove. If you're not careful and not working hard you wil be passed over by someone who is taking the craft more seriously."

Rodney Perry on Endurance:
"It always gets very difficult before it gets very good. Remember that the person who gives up will never be successful."

You can catch Rodney on tour as well as on his radio show. All of the details can be found on his website

Conversations LIVE Radio's 200th Guest of 2012: Jonathan Hull

On Thursday, March 22, 2012 Conversations LIVE Radio celebrated another milestone: it's 200th guest of the year!

At the beginning of the year host Cyrus Webb announced that the show would be broadcasting three times a day, averaging almost 80 guests a month.  In late February he interviewed his 100th guest (award-winning author Olaf Olafsson) and its 200th guest was writer Jonathan Hull.

During the interview Hull discussed that through hard times and reflecting that he got the vision to love and share love unconditionally. By listening to the voice (to God) he has been able to rise above the things in the world that can bring you down, and he has been using every day as a learning experience. 

Eleven days before he turned 30 (he is now 32) he heard these words: "Love. Build Bridges. Write a book." It took him six to eight books to think about what he was going to do, and then one day he grabbed his laptop, a change of clothes and $100 and headed to the casino. There he won $1000 and knew that he was going to Hawaii to write a book and would along the way assist and learn from people. Through his process he told Webb that he has learned to listen without his ears. He pays attention to his heart.

To commemorate National Poetry Monthy Jonathan lent his poem "Is That Me?" to Conversations Magazine. Enjoy!

Is That Me?
Can't see yourself in the mirror? Have the right idea, but no way to steer? 
Have you lost the ability to think in the clear?
Maybe it's one thing that we forget about, but all hold dear.
Perseverance will help you steer, Perseverance will stare at you very clear back in the mirror..
But only if you can see through your own fear.

What does it mean to Persevere?
Something that is in all of us, but often forgot
Something that comes up when we don't have what we thought. Something that knocks, and disagrees when we have what we think we see.
Some can hang, some can't. Is it by chance? Or do you think you're already there and you've danced your last dance??

You see, you will always have the chance to be and see through whatever your troubles, hurt or demons may be. The question is;
Can you see you and who yourself are supposed to be?
Some take years to get it. Some never do...
Quite sad really. Do you?

Stay in contact with Jonathan on Facebook at To discover who is coming up next on Conversations LIVE Radio visit

(Column) "Tough Love" with Meg Collins

Remember the days when your parents brought you up and,"Leave it to Beaver," was on the television which was black and white in the kitchen? Tough lessons and tough love is what I will be discussing with you today.

Many of us grew up with one parent and not two parents; it makes settling down with the right man or woman quite a challenge, especially in 2012. Higher standards and raising the bar time for many of us who are still single today. Why? I am going to help you solve that problem today and explain to you what I have learned after several years of dating and being single, and hence, why I remain single today. I grew up with a Mother who was both parents, and saw my Father once a year, if I was lucky. Hence, I lacked that Father figure role model that I needed in my life; I made poor choices in dating and marriage. I picked the emotionally unavailable men because that is all I knew and saw around my life. I remember waiting for a Christmas card from my Father the day before Christmas because he always sent the card by Fed Ex mail; he was always running behind, yet I loved the messages and letters he would write in those cards so much. It was not about the check that came with it at all. Well, for a little while when I was younger, it was I suppose, however, I got to a point in my life where I phoned my Dad and said, "Dad, rather than receive your checks, I would rather see you." It happened for a while and then went back and forth to once a year visits.

When my Father was 76 years old, he came to me to apologize to me. He said, "I am so sorry. I have missed so many years with you. I regret it; all that time that I missed in your life." I told him,"Dad, I forgive you and we have today." For the next four years of his life, we were pen pals. I would ask him questions and he would respond to me in his letters, and if he was behind in writing me back, he called me to say, "I know, I know, Meg. I owe you a letter and it will be out to you this week." He finally understood what I meant that one day when I was a young girl; all I wanted was his time, not his money. My Father coded at 80 years old when I was at the foot of his bed. He waited for everyone to be okay and then, he passed onto heaven. I can also remember that I would send him religious books. I was not trying to be preachy, however he was getting older and I was not sure if he was saved or not at that point in his life. His response to my books was, "Well, Meg, if you think that by my reading these books that it will keep me out of hell, I will read them, okay?"

We had an interesting relationship as Daughter and Father, however, because he was rarely around and I spent so much of my life screaming inside, :See me, talk to me, visit me, hug me, hear me, listen to me, love me," I found myself in a spiral of not so healthy relationships. I am telling you this story so that if you are in the spiral of negative relationships that I was trapped in for several years, you will too, see the flags and work on trying to find a way back to what is healthy, what is Christian, and what to look for in a man of quality and love. I went back to my family of origin. I traced back all the relationships in my family, number of marriages, number of divorces, number of alcoholics, number of co-dependant's, and then I was beginning to have a few answers to work with in my archaeological dig of my own past time.

Then I was challenged. I had to list all my relationships up to 40 years old. I had to chart how they were, if they were healthy or unhealthy and why; this took me 3 months to complete and was quite a project for me to be given, right? I was able to figure out that a bulk of my relationships were unhealthy, so then I needed to make a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner. I listed ten and kept them in my wallet. I got to a point later in my life where I felt like I needed to have a questionnaire prior to a first date; I trashed that one to be honest with you. If you ask me today what I am looking for in a man it is: someone who goes to church, shows up at events, someone I can see once a week, a man who is close to his Mother because how he treats his Mother is a direct reflection of how he will treat me, honesty, and a man that has a plan for what he wants out of his life.

Let us go back a bit to the last remark-a plan for what he wants for his life, not mine. You define what you want out of your own life and mesh your life with someone else's and lift one another up in the process of any adversity.This is important because no one in the world can make you happy; that is your job. If you are not happy with your own self, you probably do not belong in a relationship at all at this time. First, find out who you are, and then and only then, if you had an absent parent in your life, try what I did and see if it works. I cannot offer a money back guarantee for this one, folks, however I can tell you that I am choosing much healthier men in my life now.

I was blessed with the best Mother in the world, and my Father, he loved me as best as he knew how to in his life. My message is pretty clear this month to accept and forgive people for their faults and move forward in finding out what you want for you in your life and in your relationships with other people in your life. We all have a shelf life and our expiration date is unknown. Today my friends, make every day count and celebrate the people in your life with their faults and all, as none of us are perfect; only God is perfect. Lower your expectations so that the Berlin wall that you may have up may be chipped away slowly; your heart deserves to be loved by another, so take a leap of faith with me and explore the very being of your soul this month. 

Be well and of good spirits, my friends!


Meg Collins
Columnist, Radio Show Host, Editor, Ghostwriter, Poet, and Author
Contact Meg directly at

Leslie the Cleaning Coach Shares The Joy of Green Cleaning

Did you ever think that making small changes in the way you do laundry could benefit your children for a lifetime? One of the most significant things you can do for your children is to "green" your laundry. Most people don't realize that laundry detergents are full of chemicals that can create allergic reactions. Along with those chemicals, there are all the fragrances that are added to the detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets. These fragrances can create sensitivities to smells that can last a lifetime. Everyone loves a sweet smelling laundry, but remember - the real smell of clean doesn't have a smell.
Along with using fragrances, we also add chemicals and oils to our laundry to make it feel better. If the detergents we are using were rinsing totally out of our clothes, we wouldn't need to use fabric softeners. Fabric softeners are needed because there's a buildup of detergent residue in our clothes that makes them feel stiff and harsh. Our clothes don't come home from the store feeling like they need to be softened. Once we've laundered them a few times, we realize that they don't feel soft, like when they were new. That's when we turn to fabric softeners. The stiffness in our clothes along with static cling are the result of a detergent buildup in our clothes. We need to look for ways to clean our clothes so that they are totally clean and free from anything being left in them from being laundered.
Here are three ideas for making some green changes to your laundry.
1. Try making your own laundry soap like the ones our great grandmothers used to use. Just mix some soap flakes with baking soda, borax and washing soda. This combination will rinse totally out of your children's' clothing, leaving them just plain clean.
2. Look for a green alternative to chlorine bleach. Chlorine based bleach is very harsh on both clothes and skin. Instead, try using an oxygen bleach or even hydrogen peroxide. Either of these will leave the clothes clean and bright.
3. Buy a green laundry soap being made by a green company. Two manufactures that have good laundry soaps are Charlie's Soap and Grab Green. Charlie's Soap is an all natural laundry soap that has been recommended by mom's groups all over the country. Their product rinses totally out of clothes and leaves nothing but the smell of clean. Grab Green makes a gentle laundry soap that comes in scents based on essential oils. They have recently added a line of scent-free laundry soap to answer the demand from their customers.
Here are some recipes from The Joy of Green Cleaning which is a recipe book to make your own cleaners. You can see more about the book and get more free recipes at

Great-Grandma's Laundry Soap

    2 cups soap flakes*
    1 cup baking soda or soda crystals*
    1 cup borax
    1 cup washing soda
    Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, and then place in plastic or glass container with a lid. This soap works best with hot water.
    For top loading washing machines- use ½ to 1 cup, 2 cups for very heavily soiled clothing.
    For front loading and HE machines, use 2 tablespoons.

Laundry Bleach

    ¼ cup borax
    ¼ cup vinegar
    ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
    Heat the vinegar in the microwave for 30 seconds. Dissolve the borax into the vinegar, and then add the peroxide right before adding to the wash. The peroxide will not stay active for very long so you add it to the mixture right before using it.

Hailed as the "Martha Stewart Of Green Cleaning", Leslie Reichert is a cleaning expert that uses her sparkling personality, great sense of humor and contagious passion to engage her fans and followers. Leslie Reichert is known as a Green Cleaning Coach and she is changing the world - "one spray bottle at a time". She is an author and spokesperson for the green cleaning industry and is a teacher of green homekeeping. She is a national lecturer, a contributor to a The Daily Green, Deepak Choppa and Woman's Day; a frequent homekeeping expert on Martha Stewart Living Radio; and author of the book: The Joy Of Green Cleaning- a handbook for DIY cleaners. Find out more about her at and

Tony Lindsay Presents "Gwendolyn Brooks: 'A Street In Bronzeville'"

In her first published collection of poetry, 'A Street in Bronzeville', Ms. Brooks transports the reader to the south side of Chicago during the nineteen forties to an area in the city referred to as the "Black Belt." This Black Belt area would give rise to Chicago's culturally rich south side, and later become known as Bronzeville which was where Gwendolyn Brooks lived and wrote.

When "A Street in Bronzeville' was published Ms. Brooks lived at Six Twenty-three East Sixty-Third Street in Bronzeville. From her autobiography, 'Report from Part One,' she writes "If you wanted a poem, you had only to look out of a window."

This farming of poetic material from her Bronzeville community is apparent throughout the collection. She was a poet inspired by her community. A writer is often advised to "write what one knows," Ms. Brooks was the epitome of that advice. She took the everyday people of Bronzeville and the occurrences of their lives and gave them literary merit by representing them in formally structured poetry.
In the heart wrenching poem 'the mother' the reader is forced into the internal sufferings of a mother who has aborted her children.

'the mother'
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air,
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breast they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, you mar-
riages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?-
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I
Loved you

In the ballad 'of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery Miller' Ms. Brooks exemplifies the death of "a plain black boy."

'of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery Miller'
He was born in Alabama
He was bred in Illinois
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.

Drive him past the Pool Hall.
Drive him past the Show.
Blind within his casket.
But maybe he will know.

Down through Forty-seventh Street:
Underneath the L,
And-Northwest Corner, Prairie,
That he loved so well.

Don't forget the Dance Halls-
Warick and Savoy,
Where he picked his women, where
He drank his liquid joy.

Born in Alabama.
Bred in Illinois.
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.
Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.
Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet who loved her community, so much so that she made it the center of most of work. Her first published work, 'A Street in Bronzeville' is a must read.

Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His new book ONE DEAD DOCTOR is available now on He can be reached at or on Facebook at

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Greg Jacobs: Reminding Us That Spoken Word Can Be LOUDER THAN A BOMB

by Cyrus Webb 

Before I was on the radio, before I hosted a local television show in Mississippi and before there was a magazine, I wrote poetry. It was my way of expressing myself, sharing commentary on the world around me and even getting to the heart of who I was and the person I was becoming. Because of my own affinity for the written and spoken word I was extremely excited when I heard about the documentary LOUDER THAN A BOMB. Here was a movie that was giving airtime to something that has the ability to literally change the world---and it is doing just that.

Produced by Emmy-winning SISKEL/JACOBS Productions, this is a project that has already swept the film festivals and is now available on dvd for the world to enjoy and learn from. After watching the documentary on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, I knew I wanted to talk with someone associated with the project for the radio show and the magazine. Imagine my surprise when co-founder Greg Jacobs responded to my email and agreed to an interview. 

Greg, first of all thank you for taking out the time to talk with me about Louder Than A Bomb. It's now available on dvd. How does it feel to have reached this point?
Jon (Siskel) and I have been with the film for about two years. Alot of times we would go to film festivals and people would ask about when the film was coming out on dvd. Now it's out. We're thrilled that it's now accessible to everyone.

So tell us how this all came about. Where did the idea come from?
Alot of times with documentaries you come to the subject as an accident. This was no exception. I was driving past a famous club called The Metro" and saw a line of kids of all types lined up around the block. I looked on the marque to see what was playing, and it read LOUDER THAN A BOMB. To see teens on a Saturday night there to listen to poetry for fun was not something I did growing up. I thought to myself there must be something there. The whole thing started from that point.

Jon and you had experienced success prior to LOUDER THAN A BOMB. Did you have any expectations going in? 
I think there were two things that we understood. One was that this is a competition that happens every year, so we knew we would need to start following kids at the beginning of the school year. Through the process we started to see the kids and understood that there poetry was so powerful that you would learn about their lives from their poetry. You would also learn about their poetry from their lives. There would be that back and forth. If we could just let them do their thing and watch it unfold, it would make it a great film.

Well it is definitely a great film, Greg. I have watched it twice myself. When it went on to sweep the film festivals and get the accolades from critics and supporters alike did it seem like a mission accomplished for you? 
You know the funny thing is it almost seemed like a mission beginning. It has been gratifying to get the response. People really connected with the film in an emotional way. We knew that if we didn't do something with this it would be a loss opportunity.  The response to the film sparked the outreach elements, using the film to make a difference in the world.  We have been creating a social networking hub for young poets so that we can take the community that has been created and make it nationwide and even global. I guess that you can say that we ended the first half of the game thrilled with how we were playing. Now we're in the second half.

We hear a lot how projects like this affect those who watch them, Greg. I'm curious how did LOUDER THAN A BOMB affect Jon and you?
We were changed in so many ways. One of the biggest was that we took inspiration from them (the students). They are creatively energetic. They wrote in McDonalds, in their homes...wherever they went they wrote. They loved the community that was created through sharing. Seeing that makes you look at your life in a different way and change the way we approach things. We knew that they were great storytellers, and we didn't want to mess up their story. Our goal was to make a film that did justice to their stories. They forced us to be better filmmakers. What I've seen people take a way is a sense that the arts are actually essential. Spoken word is a way they can express themselves and speak out. Hopefully the film will refocus people's minds on the arts for kids, and come to understand others as people. If you can reach them or listen to them you won't ignore them.

Thank you again, Greg, for sharing with us. Congratulations on the film. Attention readers: LOUDER THAN A BOMB is available for purchasing from online retailers and you can find out more information about the project by visiting<p>

(POEM) Her Name Is Ming

by April Mahoney

Like a fleeting boat loaded full of refugees tossing in a restless sea those dollar bills
wash along the shore with the tide while waves splash against the rocks crashing as it
makes land fall depositing seaweed smelling salty whores onto the beach

She's Vietnamese,14, stole and sold into slavery 2003

Master waiting cash in hand, you arrived safely little damage
Bond gagged, drugged, dragged like a rag doll by her hairs beaten, starved, blind folded
then beaten again nastiness forced  its way in 
unrecognizable shamed once young sweet, delicate ,tender innocence bares no resemblance
to her identity.

Ingrained in the memory are the chants of her belief she will not surrender easily
fighting to protect her virginity.

Caption reads:  Please call this number if you have seen or heard anything.
Rich girls/boys families all over the TV news with a face, a last known place, but for
Ming nothing not a trace where is Nancy Grace ?
She yells at the screen "Help me" as a tear trickles down her face.

Be nice make long love to customer all night, Good girls call home while we listen on the
phone, If you utter a word out- of -line it will be your last time. Tell family you're
doing good and everything is fine.

Ming her name only 14 sold into slavery, bonded, stored,  locked, chained  road like an
Amtrak train on her back her legs are gapped. Dry rusty cracked heels face the ceiling
going through the motions expressing no emotion no feeling as she passes people on the
streets dazed, lost, incomplete looking for a way to escape.

Captured and caged plotting planning tortured, imprisoned as they lay in wait easy to
concord and manipulated , desecrated, humiliated promised freedom, a better life in these
United States.

Awh but that lock did un-click a moment of truth finally cuts lose.  Her captures now her
prey lay still to drain with every drop of blood may they feel her pain her shame when
imprisoned for no reason there is no redemption but she said she forgives them.

She is free, she do nails for me.

They never even asked her, her name, I guess that's because her English not so plain.
Just so you know her name is Ming, She was just 14.


Find out more about award-winning author/poet April Mahoney by visiting

Excerpt From David W. Huffstetler's BLOOD ON THE PEN

Someone was going to die that night. Was it Maxwell Thornton or his mistress? Eddie Carter knelt behind an oak display case in the dim hallway outside Thornton's office, waiting for the chance to kill one of them, maybe both. The clock above Eddie's head clicked past nine p.m. The door eased open, and a woman stepped out, straightening the black skirt around her slender hips. A dark mist rolled over Eddie's soul. Kill the bitch. Kill her now. But it was too late. The woman's stiletto heels clattered over the wooden floor as she scampered down the stairs and out the exit door three floors down.

The hall settled back to the faint sound of an occasional passing car and the staccato ticking of the clock. Five minutes, eight minutes, ten. Again, the door opened, and the clock gave way to the jingle of his keys as he locked the door. He straightened his paisley tie, looked at the ceiling, and said, "Hell, that damn light's out again." He shrugged and followed the same path his mistress had taken toward the stairs.

Eddie Carter stepped out of the shadows, eased up behind him, and smashed a piece of pipe into the back of his head. Thornton fell hard to his knees and flat on his stomach, his thinning hair growing wet with blood.

Thick hands worked slowly, calmly tying the prone man's wrists and ankles and shoving a rag into his mouth. The same hands that wrote prose on a computer keyboard now lashed a rope around the corner post of the banister. Thornton came back to his senses in a haze and found himself cradled in robust arms. His hip banged against the top rail as Eddie lifted him up, and then dropped him over the edge. He fell six feet, and his body jerked to a stop, with two steel meat hooks ripping into the flesh of his armpits. His body swung suspended over the stairwell, his screams muffled by the gag in his mouth. He jerked and shuddered, looking desperately for some way to save himself, but the only person there was Eddie Carter, watching him die.

* * * *

The mid-morning sun found Jack Harden sitting alone in a cemetery on the outskirts of Dallas, staring at a gravestone. Jenny, his wife of twelve years, lay in the ground with a plain headstone bearing only her name and the word Gone. Harden opened his jacket. The barrel of his pistol scraped against the silver Texas Ranger badge pinned to his shirt as he pulled it from his shoulder holster. Perspiration covered the back of his neck from the heat of another sweltering August day, soaking into the collar of a pale blue dress shirt, the kind he almost always wore.

He held the forty-five-caliber revolver in front of him and studied its long lines. It was elegant in its simplicity, at once both beautiful and foreboding. He slipped the barrel into his mouth and a stale, metallic taste ran over his tongue, but he wouldn't have to taste it for long. He wouldn't have to taste anything or feel anything again. He cocked the hammer. Three quick rings sounded from Harden's belt.

He thought he'd turned his cell phone off before coming to the cemetery, and now it hailed him. His finger trembled against the trigger and, once again, the phone rang. Harden eased the gun out of his mouth and muttered, "Damn, you people won't even let me kill myself." He snatched the phone from its holder, flipped it open, and said, "Yeah, this is Harden."

Captain Abernathy sounded curt. "Jack, where the hell are you?"

Harden gave a wry, sad grin and said, "Just visiting family, Captain."

"Well, get over to Highland Park. We've got a body swinging in a stairwell over there, and the press is already going ape shit."

Harden stood and stretched the kinks out of his six feet three inches. He thought about closing the phone and finishing what he had started with his gun. Would Jenny welcome him to her world, or would she be disappointed that he had killed himself? He chose to answer his captain. "All right. Where is it?"

"It's in one of the older office building down on Benlow Street, 4713 is the address. The crime scene is on the third floor, outside a literary agency called Thornton Creative Properties. Dallas P.D. had a couple of patrolmen respond to secure the scene, and the Medical Examiner is on his way. And, Jack, be careful about what you say to the media."

Harden snapped his phone back onto his belt. He blew a kiss toward Jenny's grave and said, "I'll see you soon, sweetheart. Not today, but soon."

* * * *

The tires on his ten-year-old Chevy pickup truck whined down Interstate 75, and his tortured mind went back to business, back to being a Ranger. He took the off ramp and snaked his way through town to a series of tall office buildings. As he approached the 4700 block and slowed to show his badge to an officer at the roadblock, a reporter rushed forward with a microphone. "Hey, Ranger, can you tell us what's going on down there?"

Harden pulled away without answering. He drove halfway down the block and, as usual, parked where he "damn well pleased," in the middle of the street. The skyscrapers around it dwarfed the three-story building, one of the few structures still standing from the 1940's. The wooden steps creaked under Harden's two hundred fifteen pounds, a bit heavier than he'd been in his twenties. He looked up, and there hung a bloodstained body dangling from a rope at the third floor. He ducked under the yellow crime-scene tape at the landing, dodged puddles of blood, and clamored up one more hot, humid flight of stairs.

"Hi, Jack." It was the clear, baritone voice of Moses Browner, the painfully thin Deputy Coroner. He snapped another photograph of the body, lowered the camera, and said, "Let me introduce you to our victim. Maxwell Thornton, president and majority stock holder of Thornton Creative Properties."

Harden took a cigar from the inside pocket of his jacket, rolled it in his mouth, and carefully lit it with a wooden match. Two young police officers edged away from the smoke. Harden turned back to Browner and said, "Have you got a cause of death yet?"

Browner put his finger to his chin and answered, "Yeah. I figure his heart stopped beating and that pretty much did it. Now, how do you expect me to determine a cause of death when the man is still hanging up there? He's tied hand and foot, got a gag in his mouth, and is hanging from a rope tied to the banister with the other end tied to a steel meat hook in each armpit. I'm thinking maybe it's not suicide."

Harden overlooked the sarcasm, took another puff on his cigar, and said, "So, what does all that tell you?"

The rattle of a mop bucket and a cleaning lady pulling it toward them interrupted Browner's answer. He brushed her away, saying, "Not now, we've got work to do here yet. We'll call you when we need you." He turned back to the tall Ranger, who was still waiting and still smoking. "Well, I can tell you this much, Jack. It would take a pretty stout man to lift him over the banister, so the perpetrator is either a big fellow or there was more than one. The victim was probably killed sometime last night and he was probably still alive when whoever did this put him on those meat hooks. There's blood on both sides of the landing where he thrashed about, trying to get loose. I'd say he just hung there until he bled to death."

"It takes a pretty sick bastard to do that," Harden answered. "Maybe sick enough to stay around and watch."

Browner held out a plastic evidence bag with a piece of paper inside. "We found this note taped to the handrail."

Harden studied the paper through the clear bag and read it aloud. "Do you believe this? Signed D.A." He handed it back to Browner and said, "Well, that doesn't make much sense, but it sounds personal. I guess it could be a revenge killing. Let me know if you find anything else, Moses. I'm going to talk to the other people in the agency. Maybe they'll know if he had any enemies."

Browner smirked and said, "Well, he sure had one."

Something flashed, but it wasn't Browner's camera. It came out of the shadows behind them. Harden spun around, reached for his pistol, and growled, "Who's back there?"

A slim figure with dark, shoulder-length hair stepped into the light and said, "Hold your horses. I'm just a reporter. Don't shoot me."

Harden let the gun drop back into its holster. "Who are you and how did you get in here?"

Her large brown eyes glimmered in the light as she answered, "My name is Elsie Rodriguez from the San Antonio Post, and I came up the back stairs."

"San Antonio?" Browner quizzed. "Dallas is a little off your beat, isn't it?"

"Yes," she answered. "But I didn't come about the murder. I came to see Jack Harden. I called the Ranger Office, and they told me he'd be here."

Harden dropped his cigar to the floor and crushed it under his foot. "Bull shit. We don't tell reporters where Rangers go."

"Okay, I heard it on my police radio."

"What are you doing with a police radio?"

"The paper loaned it to me, but that's not important. I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes."

He started down the stairs, saying, "I've got no time for reporters. You wasted a trip. Go back to San Antonio."

* * * *

Enjoyed this excerpt of BLOOD ON THE PEN. Purchase your copy on today or by visiting


Treasure Every Moment Of Your Life

by Mary E. Gilder

How many times during the course of a year, month, week or day have you heard someone state, "Life is so short?" How many times during the course of a year, month, week or day have you heard someone state, "Live each day as though it were your last?" How many times during the course of a year, month, week or day you have heard someone state, "Treasure every moment?"

Well, last week while sitting in my car, in front of my favorite grocery store, my mom phoned. For the record, I always cherish conversations shared with my mom. During this particular conversation my mom shared her perspective on life and the importance of treasuring every moment.

It was during that conversation, I became invaded with overwhelming thoughts. Because within that moment, I came to truly understand the depth of my mom's words as I replied, "Mom, we are only here for a moment. In sixty years, in all likelihood, your generation as well as, mine will be gone. Your sister's, their spouses and their children who are my first cousins will be gone. And all who reside within my home, my Aunts, Uncles, first Cousins, friends, neighbors and co-workers; gone.

As my conversation extended, with intensity, I observed several adults walking by, the cars passing by and the interactions of people from afar. And in that moment, I digested a reality; we are simply visitors and our passports will expire. As I made an attempt to process that truth, the cries from an infant in the car parked next to mine, validated that our replacements are arriving daily.

Reflect on this:

  • Why do we exist as though we are going to be here for a life time?

  • Why do we disrespect each other and live as though we have a lifetime to atone?

  • Why do you hold back the love housed within your heart? And live as though you have a lifetime to muster up the courage to express what it is your heart truly feels.

Set aside a moment and look around, take a good look around. In sixty years the landscape may present as unaffected however, what will differ are the earth's occupants. There will be new tourist on assignment. In fact, our replacements are being born each and every day.

Yes, it's time to get serious about your life, it's time to treasure every single moment, it's time to embrace all that adds joy to your soul, and it's time to take a stand for what you truly desire. It's time to distance yourself from negativity, it's time to align with positivity and it's time for you to invest in love. But most importantly, it's time for you to stop living as though you have a life time to get it right. Waiting until tomorrow will no longer do, starting today be committed to treasuring every moment of your visit.

Wishing you endless Love, Joy and Peace, Mary

Mary E. Gilder is the author of the award winning novel, "A Misrepresentation of Myself." She can be reached at or Also visit her website at

Author F. J. Dagg: Enjoying A Literary High With the LOWLANDS OF HEAVEN

by Cyrus Webb

Author F. J. (James) Dagg is one of those authors that is getting a great deal of attention right now.

Now only was he a winner of the Character Building Counts Book Awards in 2011, but the winner title LOWLANDS OF HEAVEN is resonating with readers because of its message of hope and redemption.

When Dagg and I talked about his novel I was surprised when he told me that it initially began as something completely different and evolved. What happened? "The characters took on a life of their own," he relayed to me. What he believed would be a screen play became the outline of the novel readers are talking about.

This is not just any story. It was something developed with a purpose. "I wanted to write something uplifting," he says. Not liking the way things have been going in culture over the past 30 years or so, Dagg wanted to focus on something a bit different.

The result is LOWLANDS OF HEAVEN, and gauging from the response from other readers it is not just the story that is gaining praise. The storyteller is being celebrated as well. I asked Dagg what it was like for him to have individuals not only getting a message from the story but seeing a reflection of who he is as well. "It's kind of a bonus," he told me. "Never thought much of how people would see me as an author. It's nice to think that people connect with you that way."

You can't discuss a book like this and not have the subject of faith come up. When asked about how it played into who he was, the author shared this: "I've been at different places throughout my life. I lived through periods of doubt. Since that time I have become a very devout believer. I have a very solid belief in a Creator. Writing is a labor of love, a service. I believe it has made me as complete a person as I can be."

Already at work on other projects, F. J. Dagg is sure to be pleasing readers for some time. You can find out more information about him and his books at

Pamela Sisman Bitterman: Using Her Words To Save Lives

by Cyrus Webb

I have often said that books have been a life-saver for me, and in many ways its true. There have been times when nothing anyone would say would help me through what I was experiencing, and then I would pick up a book and read something that would change my life and my perspective of what it means to live.

When it comes to author Pamela Sisman Bitterman, she has not just harnessed her gift of writing to entertain but found a cause that literally helps assist with the survival of a people. Bitterman's children's book When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read was recognized by Character Building Counts Book Awards, but that is only part of what she is grateful for. The attention helps to shine the spotlight on the young man Julius profiled in the book and what people in Kenya have to deal with each and every day.

When I had a chance to interview Pam for this feature she told me that her mother always knew she would be a writer and specifically a writer of children's books. It wasn't until her late forties, however, that she acted on what she had come to know: Words can make a difference.

When talking about When This Is Over she is very clear as to why it is so important to get the word out concerning it. "This book will save lives," she told me Pam went on to talk about the trip she took to Africa hoping to make a difference and being faced with the harsh realities that showed her that it was going to be more difficult than she had imagined. She knew that by writing a book about the plight of the people of Kenya she could use the book to be of assistance in a larger way. "If I can get the money from the sales of this book into the hands, tummies and into the classrooms into this small group of children (in Kenya) then I know I am doing good. I will be making a real difference."

I was fascinated by what Pam had learned from the people of Kenya, especially six year old Julius. She explained to me that the title came from a chant he would do when experiencing pain and hardship due to his situation. The chant translated into English is this: "When this is over, I will go to school, and I will learn to read."

I congratulate not only Pam for her dedication to her craft and using it to make a difference and to the brave people of Kenya who are learning to live with purpose, appreciating the gift of each and every day.

Find out more information about Pam and her work by visiting

(Special) Why Easter is So Important

by Maqbool Bashir, Conversations Magazine contributor from Pakistan

Growing up, I never quite understood why Easter was so important. It seemed to me that what happened on the cross on Friday was a lot more important than what happened on Easter morning. Of course, I always believed in the empty tomb, that Jesus was raised from the dead. And I heard sermons that talked about the resurrection like it was God stamping his approval on Jesus, saying, "See, He was my Son after all," or that the resurrection was an event where God got back at Satan. In some sense, it is God's stamp of approval on Jesus' work and ministry, and it is the defeat of death, which is a great enemy.

But there is more to the resurrection than that. 



1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus was raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures. If we seek to understand Old Testament passages about resurrection, we find that the Bible gives us a very simple picture. At the end of time, God will raise all the dead back to life. He will open their graves, pull them out, condemn some to everlasting destruction, and others to new life. Those who are received resurrection bodies will inhabit a new heavens and new earth and their bodies will be perfect, glorious, Spirit-filled.

This is what many of the Jews in Jesus' day expected. So what happens with Jesus? This event that is supposed to take place at the end of time, actually takes place in the middle of time to one person. That is the surprise! The new creation promised at the end of time actually begins simultaneously. So we have Old Creation and New Creation continuing now.


Are you saved because of Jesus' death or because of his resurrection? Or both? Would salvation exist if Jesus had died, and not been raised?

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that there is no atonement without the resurrection. If Jesus has been raised, then we too have hope for a future resurrection. If Jesus has not been raised, then there is no hope. We are still in our sins. Jesus is just a false messiah. Jesus' disciples are false witnesses. Our salvation was not provided only by Jesus' cross. Jesus' resurrection was absolutely necessary. It wasn't enough for Jesus to die. He had to defeat the final enemy, death itself.


This is crucial. Paul's explanation in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 is that Jesus' resurrection serves as the down payment, the firstfruits, the guarantee of our own future resurrection. There can't be one without the other. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we are assured that each of us, that are in Him, will also be raised from the dead.


Death is always an enemy. Watch someone die and you know that something is wrong with our world. Death is never a friend. It is a curse on God's good creation. It mars this world with pain and suffering. Death is to be fought, not embraced.

Jesus defeated death. Death had no hold on him. And because we are in Christ, death will have no hold on us. We are rescued from the clutches of this enemy and then promised eternal life. 

Maqbool Bashir is a minister from Pakistan. You can contact him at Find out more information about him and the work he does at

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Conversations' 10 Best Poetry Books For 2012

by Cyrus Webb

As someone who appreciates the power of the written word, I am always looking for others who are putting pen to paper and giving the world something great through prose. I might not always agree with what is being said, but I can appreciate the skills and the gift that the author had.

Since April is National Poetry Month Conversations Book Club and Conversations Magazine wanted to present its choices for best poetry books to add to your collection this year:

* "Utter Magic" by April Mahoney (A Good Person Publishing)

* "God,Seed" by Rebecca Foust and Lorna Stevens (Tebot Bach Press)

* "BRAGN: Be Real and Great Now" by Zenaida Roy-Almario (BRAGN)

* "Dusting the Glass" by Nancy Kaye Dobson (Xlibris)

* "Nigger For Life" by Neal Hall, M.D. (unknown)

* "Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia" by Patricia Neely-Dorsey (Grant House Publishing)

* "Looking Into Your Voice" by Cathie Borrie (Nightwing Press)

* "Praise Poetry and Propaganda" by Janicfe E. Groves Todd (Unlock Publishing House)

* "REFLECTIONS: Thoughts, Passions, & Truths" by Ya Ya Z. Badasu (Passionate Writer Publishing)

* "While There Is Still Time" by Terrell Dunnum (Tate Publishing)

Want to share your own poetic favorites? Would love to hear about them! Contact me at Your choices might be featured in an upcoming blog post or even in Conversations Magazine!

Conversations' 10 Dog-Gone Great Books For Spring

by Cyrus Webb
This time of year I am known to focus on books that have themes that are of interest to me and that I believe others will enjoy as well. Not surprisingly I have been reading alot of titles over the past several months that have man's and woman's best friend as its focal point. That's right: this list is going to the dogs!
As you will see this list includes fiction and non-fiction books, giving something for everyone. Make sure to add one or more of them to your own reading list and feel free to let me know what you think.
* "Charlie" by Barbara Lampert (Langdon Street Press)
* "Mr. Pish's Woodland Adventure" by K. S. Brooks (Cambridge Books)
* "The Dog Who Knew Too Much" by Spencer Quinn (Atria Books)
* "Your Dog Is Your Mirror" by Kevin Behan (New World Library)
* "Miracle Man" by Robert Haas (Bascom Hill)
* "All I Know About Management I Learned From My Dog" by Martin P. Levin (Skyhorse Publishing)
* "Bad Dog (A Love Story)" by Martin Kihn (Pantheon Books)
* "Cujo" by Stephen King (Penguin Books)
* "Erik's Hope" by Andrea Chilcote and Sara Burden (Crimson Oak Publishing)
* "Goodbye, Friend" by Gary Kowalski (New World Library)
Have your own favorite title featuring dogs? I would love to hear about it! Email me at It might be featured in an upcoming post or in Conversations Magazine!
Happy reading!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brotha Magazine Prepares To Recognize 2012's 40 Under 40

Brotha Magazine Prepares To Recognize 2012's 40 Under 40

As part of its continuing effort to recognize those who are not only giving back as part of their Christian responsibilities but in the community as well, Nebo Publishing and Brotha Magazine are pleased to announce the formation of its 'Brothahood of 40'. This will be a yearly celebration of 40 brothas under the age of 40 that are raising the bar by their example.
"This is not a competition," says Charles Clark, President and Founder of Brotha Magazine. "I see it as a way for our readers to celebrate those brothas whose hard work and dedication may have seemingly gone unnoticed. This is a way for us to shine a spotlight on those who in their professional and Christian lives are reaching for a higher standard."
The nominating process is simple. An email should be sent to with the name, age, city/state and head shot of the person being considered. The email should also include a paragraph which shares how the nominee is meeting the following criteria: their vision and leadership; innovation and achievement; community impact; growth/development strategy as well as faith based involvement.
The deadline for the nominating process is June 1, 2012, which this year's honorees being announced in the October/November issue of Brotha Magazine. For more information email

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ELISSA GABRIELLE: Using Her Words To Take The World By Storm

by Cyrus Webb

At a time when it seems as though many are allowing the world to change them, poet/author/publisher Elissa Gabrielle is creating her own moves and inspiring others along the way.

It's hard to believe that its been six years since I last profiled the woman who has not only thrilled readers herself but given us some of the greatest books through the authors she publishes. When she was featured in Conversations Magazine back in 2006 we were able to talk about her personal journey to get to a place where she was not just identifying a dream but living it. Fast forward to 2012, and the only thing that has changed is that her dream has gotten bigger and her territory has expanded in ways no one could have predicted.

How has she been able to not only stay relevant but build a brand that is not just respected but gets better with each release? Elissa agreed to talk about this and so much more in our conversation for the anniversary issue of Conversations Magazine.

"Everything that we do in life is already written by God to do. I am charged to do what I do. I believe this is a calling. My job is to bring forth wonderful talent and to touch people's lives this way. It's a part of my life's journey. Sometimes its a labor of labor, but there is an honor in doing it because it's bigger than myself."

"The song is based on a song by my dad Joe Thomas written when I was nine years old. The music and melody just touched me. I went on to write a poem called Peace In The Storm. [Through it] I want to be able to produce words can help you through the storms in life."

Elissa, do you see the name of the business as a daily reminder of what is possible?
"Absolutely. Your perspective of life does depend on the lens that you're looking through. If you have the correct perspective that under no certain terms you will not be defeated then there is a peace in any storm that you go through in life."

"I hear the gratitude, and It's very humbling. We can't do this alone. We need each other to do this the right way. I work with some really talented people. I have authors that are just so good that they don't even know how good they are. They take the craft very seriously. It's an honor to work with them. "

Elissa, in 2006 when you were first profiled in Conversations Magazine, I asked you about regret and if you could do anything differently. Your answer to me then was this: "One of my life's goals is to not have any regrets but that is not an easy feat. I'm not sure that I'd do anything differently because it may have taken me away from where I am now. Of course, we want things to move faster or go as we want them to, but God has it all mapped out for us. I think I'm fine with things as they are."

What would you say to that question today?
I wouldn't change a thing, because it's part of my life's journey. In reality I'm quite ok with where things are now. To build a legacy, it takes time. I'm willing to put in the time, the effort and the hard work. It's really quite challenging to do it right. I'm not interested in being hot for the moment. What I'm trying to do is build a legacy so that when I look back I can be proud of what I've done. There are no regrets. As long as I have the opportunity to get better then I'm okay with that. We all want things differently in our lives but I accept what they are, because I know what they could be.

"You have to be able to separate truth from fiction in your own life. You can't conform to what someone else says about your own life. I mean when you even say it out loud it sounds ridiculous. You have to be who you are regardless if others approve or not. You didn't get their approval to start your life, so you won't have to get their approval to end it. Along the journey you have to be true to yourself. If you can look in the mirror and say 'Well done' then that is all you need. It's a journey. It's a process of looking in the mirror daily and being ok with the reflection you see. If we take on that mentality we will be better off as individuals. Who are you living for? You've been blessed to have this life. You have to live it not for any one else. You have to do this for yourself. At the end of the day you are blessed for the life you have been given. Live it."

What would you say to your fans?
"I want to say that I consider them family. Without the readers I would have a hard time spreading my message. I thank you for from the bottom of my heart, for myself and my authors."

And your advice for aspiring authors?
"First of all you have to start somewhere. You have to make that first step. Take the step. Do the research. You can't give up no matter what. You have to keep going. Finally, be open to anything and everything."

It is that openness and that fearlessness that has allowed Elissa Gabrielle to go beyond just poetry to being at the hub of a business that is respected around the United States. What a great example for all of us as we are looking to make our own imprint in the world today.

To stay abreast of everything with Elissa Gabrielle and her authors visit You can also find Elissa and her growing business on Facebook and Twitter: and