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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Celebrating Our Advertisers

Conversations Media Group is excited to support and welcome this issue's advertisers. We invite you to support them and show your appreciation as well.

 HEALING WORDS: Life Lessons to Inspire by Mary Ellen Ciganovich 

 Mocha, Moonlight and Murder by MaryAnn Kempher 

 Deadrise by Robert Blake Whitehill 

 Meet Desiree by Tonya Goring 

 The Fox by Arlene Radasky

A Cry For Justice 

Step Into Your Vision

by Cyrus Webb

Last year I was introduced to a book called STEP INTO YOUR VISION (Komera Press) that features business leaders and their goal-setting secrets. Author and friend Zenaida Roy-Almario was one of the contributors, and through the book readers are able to see what it takes to be able to take a vision all the way to being a reality.

I'm reminded of individuals around this world that are living without passion, without purpose and are without direction. Because of that I wanted to share some of the tips from STEP INTO YOUR VISION that I think will help you to take the steps necessary to improve your outlook on life.

Kenneth Teninty shares this: "Whatever you desire in your life will happen, as long as you believe it and take the right actions towards achieving it." (p.109)

The right you. The right knowledge. The right vehicle.  Ramesh Kumar, MD says this: "You need to ask yourself, 'Why do I want this level of success?' Unless you have a big 'why,' you will get stuck. 'Why' needs to be inspirational, deeply rooted, passionate. It needs to be about the people---that is the fuel for your jet. This propels your ideas and passion forward." (p.31)

When you decide in your heart it's time to change, take courageous action from a place of faith and love; God will direct your steps. Debra Jones says "In order to be true to yourself, your beliefs need to reflect your values and be congruent with your divine purpose. Stepping into your greatness takes courage; it can be a tough battle to break free from your old habits, patterns, beliefs and lifestyle." (p.80,81)

In her chapter STARS OF DREAMS Zenaida Roy-Almario shares the BRAGN secrets to successful goal setting and achieving: 1)Be a big dreamer. 2) Resonate the passion. 3)Act, creating stepping stones. 4)Get intentional results. 5)Nurture your belief. She writes this: "A dream is something you hope, desire and long for, that is usually perceived as difficult in nature or making come true. If you are not actively pursuing your hopes and dreams, it is because you have not been given the permission slip to have a definite purpose in life nor have you been informed of the BRAGN secrets to successful goal setting and achieving. " (p.144)

So are you ready to step out and take the steps necessary to be the person you were always meant to be? If so, then this book is sure to motivate in that direction.

[To You, From Me] Recognizing Your Season

It was about 10 years ago that I embarked on what would be a life-changing event in my life: the hosting of a radio show.

Before that I was known in Mississippi and in other parts of the South for my art work, poetry and speaking engagements. Coming to radio in July 2003 I didn't know what I was going to do or what impact it would have or what would come of it, but I knew I wanted to bring my best to it.

Ten years later that step has led me to not just hosting a radio show with literally millions of listeners around the world but led to the creation of this magazine as well as a global co-ed book club. Again, I didn't know all of this would happen, and if you had told me, I probably wouldn't have believed you. What I did know, however, is something that I had been taught early in life: hard work pays off.

This anniversary issue of Conversations Magazine is not just a reflection of the past decade. For me it is a reminder of what I attempt to represent as well as the importance of sharing something that will inspire others along their journey.

It's not easy to blaze a trail of your own. Being a follower is definitely less of a test of your dedication, perseverance and commitment to a task, but it leads to your fulfilling someone else's dream. Your time on this earth is precious, and it should be spent bringing to fruition your own dreams and passion. Is it scary? Without a doubt. Will there be naysayers? I can answer yes! But the question that you have to ask yourself each and every day is this: Is the fear of failure worth the cost of giving up on yourself? If you can say that fear will not stop you, then I can guarantee that in time success will be yours.

My mother and step-father love the outdoors. I didn't inherit that from them, but I have marveled at how their persistence when it comes to gardening and planting has yielded amazing results. They labor, they nurture and then enjoy the increase that comes in. I call it their season.

Are your ready to do the same? As I continue each and every day to nurture this brand, I knew that great things are going to come my way. I want that for you as well. Discover your passion. Feed it. Work at it diligently, and then watch the increase.

Thank you for being a part of our season. We look forward to many more years of feeding your love of life.

Happy Reading!

Cyrus A. Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mob Wives Chicago's Nora Schweihs: Enjoying Her Own Reality

by Cyrus Webb

I think for individuals around the world reality television has become almost an insatiable guilty pleasure. No matter what your interest, there is something out there that seems to cater to it. I have to admit that I have fallen for the competitive shows like Project Runway, Top Chef and even  more recently Face Off, but for others it is the inside look of the world's elite and notables that has them glued to their television night after night.

When I first learned of the show Mob Wives Chicago I wasn't sure what to expect, except for the obvious. What I wasn't thinking about, however, was discovering someone like Nora Schweihs. She was not a mob wife, but someone who was defined by the alleged actions of her father.

During our conversation I asked her what it was like to be a part of the reality show experience, allowing people to get a glimpse of her life on television week by week. "It was absolutely an honor,
 she told me with no hesitation. "I didn't even think twice. After growing up in this 'lifestyle' it was an opportunity for me to tell my truth to the world my way."

And that is exactly what Nora was able to do, garnering fans around the world with her candor and relatable personality. "I was always judged as a child," she told me. "Through the show I was able to let the truth be known my way." She was also able to show that she was more than just a Mob Daughter. She was a person with feelings, ambitions and plans for the future.

The platform that was Mob Wives Chicago allowed Nora to bring attention to causes and work that mattered to her, including cancer awareness. "What a lot of people didn't see on the show was I was going to school full-time as well," Nora says. She is now writing a book about her life as well as enjoying the success of her wine The German, which is a tribute to her father.

At the end of the day for Nora Schweihs the important thing is to always look forward. Her advice for you? "Stay true to yourself. When someone is negative just cut it off, eliminate the bad and proceed with the good. Don't be fake. Just be true. Most importantly stay real. That's what brings positivity out. Negativity will bring you down, but positivity will always bring you up."

Great advice from someone who knows what it takes to succeed in life and in business! To stay in touch with Nora and her upcoming projects follow her on Twitter at

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recording Artist Manafest: Showing What It Takes to Be a Fighter

by Cyrus Webb

All of us know what it's like to experience challenges, but what is an even better experience is coming out on the other side. Individuals of faith have God's word to rely on, and it comes in many ways. Take for instance recording artist Manafest. When I was introduced to his single Fighter I could appreciate instantly why individuals were saying that he was literally changing the world through music. The song and the project overall is about looking past your problems to the One able to bring about real solutions.

Later this year Manafest is taking that message a step further through the release of his book by the same name. Having the opportunity to chat with him on the radio, I asked what it's been like to see the way his music is definitely having an impact.

"It's amazing," he told me. Manafest went on to say that it's one thing to record the songs but when you hear the stories from the fans "it really touches you."

So how did he get to a place where he was able to fill venues and sell over 200k units? The answer might just surprise you.

"It started in late 1999," Manafest told me. "I hurt myself in a skate accident and got dumped by a girlfriend and was really in a dark place. Skating was my life up until that point. I found I had all this free time on my hands. At that age---18 or 19---it felt like my whole life had fallen apart. Music allowed me to paint the pain and the struggle I went through. It gave me a way to express myself."

Manafest also says that he had a praying mom along with roots of God and faith and that gave him not just a foundation to stand on but a direction in which to focus his creativity. Today that same music is allowing him to resonate with audiences around the world, giving them a voice.

Where he is today is not where he started off, but Manafest says that is just an example of what God does. "When I started in music I was terrible," he confessed, "but God takes unlikely people and does great things with them. He looks at the heart.".

With the success and the recognition that he has gotten I asked Manafest how he has been able to keep himself (meaning the ego) out of the mix. His answer said so much about not just realizing who gave you your gift but why you have it. "You have to understand the why and the purpose, he said. "For me I stopped going out there (the stage) looking to get. Instead I went out there looking to give. I would ask how could I inspire and change people's lives today. When you change that perspective it changes everything."

There were so many nuggets of wisdom that Manafest had to share, but one of the biggest had to do with something I talk about a great deal: the importance of moving forward. "We can sometimes let our past dictate where you are," he says. "We have to get to a place where we can forget it and move on. Sometimes it's easier said than done. Sometimes time is the only healer. Just remember that problems are a sign of life. Get used to it, get used to change and grow from it. The more you do the less fear you will have."

For more details about upcoming projects from Manafest including how to get his album and book FIGHTER visit


Professional photographer, Peggy Kelsey traveled to Afghanistan in 2003 and 2010 to photograph and interview women. In Gathering Strength, Conversations with Afghan Women these interviews come together under different topics creating conversations that illustrate the women's different stories, concerns and issues. 

The various perspectives help readers make sense of seemingly intractable social issues in a similarly intractable nation. Peggy's own story and comments serve as a bridge between the reader and Afghan women. 

Dynamic, candid photographs reveal the infinite variety of women who are too often portrayed as an homogenous mass. Although the book addresses intractable issues and situations that the women face, it is ultimately hopeful.

Peggy Kelsey's Book Helps Us Look Forward While Gathering Strength

by Cyrus Webb

We sometimes think that our circumstances are unique just to us and that others will never know what we are going through. If there is a book out there that proves just the opposite it is GATHERING STRENGTH by Peggy Kelsey.

I don't see how anyone can read this book and not be grateful for the opportunities afforded to them or the possibilities ahead of them. What Kelsey was able to do through pictures and the powerful narratives is give us a look at a group of women who weren't just waiting on the world to decide their fate. They were taking the initiative in bringing about the lives they wanted for themselves, their families and their larger community.

What I really thought was fascinating was that they could have easily looked at where they were and said that they couldn't do any better. There are examples of women who were taking the lead in building businesses, pursuing professions that were sure to make a difference or even provide an avenue for others to have a voice.

Kelsey succeeded in not just telling a story of a people. She also gives us hope and the tools needed to have our own resolve strengthened when we are faced with difficulties. It's not about life's challenges. It's about the solutions we and build together.

The book GATHERING STRENGTH: Conversations with Afghan Women is available now wherever books are sold. You can find out more about the author and the project at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

[REVIEW] Author Dan O'Brien Left His Mark With BITTEN

by Cyrus Webb

For some there will always be a fascination with discovering answers. Even if the questions that are raised are not always as cut and dry as we might think or be led to believe. For Lauren Westlake there is something about being "the one" to come to answer that not only intrigues her but drives her as well.

In BITTEN she gets a chance to not only find an answer to some mysterious murders that have been taking place over quite some time in a town much like the one you grew up in. Along the way, however, she stumbles upon more than she might have bargained for, and that is when things really get interesting.

What a great things about the way Dan O'Brien rolls out BITTEN is that you are not only able to see the world through the eyes of the humans involved but the very creature they are pursuing as well. This adds a connection to the "bad guy" that reminds us that no one is COMPLETELY bad. Then there is the almost obsession that Lauren has for the case that not only threatens to destroy her but also change the way she looks at the world and those in it.

Then there is Dominic. What a fascinating creature he turns out to be! Trapped between two worlds, fighting again his nature and wanting to do something to right what he see as the wrongs in his life. When Lauren and Dominic come together there is something between them that can not be denied, and it give us some of the best dialogue of the book.

I've now read four books by O'Brien but BITTEN is by far my favorite. It not only showcases his literary skills but leaves the reader wanting more. What else could an avid reader ask for?

BITTEN is available wherever your favorite books are sold online. Find out more about the author at

Join Conversations Book Club's online fiction chapter during the month of September as we discuss his novel BITTEN. We will even have a LIVE ONE-HOUR discussion of the book on Conversations LIVE Thurs. September 26, 2013 @ 8p.m. et (7p.m. ct/5p.m. pt) at Save the date and make plans to join us.

Author Dan O'Brien: Following His Literary Path with Confidence

by Cyrus Webb

Over the past decade I have had the privilege to interview hundreds of authors, however, few are able to leave an impact like Dan O'Brien. He has discovered the ability to not just write a book but to bring the reader into the experience in a way that it's difficult not to be able to feel a part of the adventure. That to me is the sign of a true storyteller, and thankfully he doesn't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down any time soon.

To date I have read 4 of his books (Bitten, The Journey, Cerulean Dreams and his newest one The Path of the Fallen), and each time I can't help but see lessons that I thought we in the 'real world' could benefit from. It was because of this that I reached out to Dan about sharing parts of his journey with me so I could then bring it to you.

'It is a privilege. I have loved writing books since I was a kid, so it feels good to be able to put a piece of yourself out to the world. I wanted to write stories that people would want to read and have the confidence to put them out there. To see the response gives meaning to what I do and confidence to continue on.'

'Sometimes I get to the end of a book and say they really grew from the sketches I created for them. They become larger than life to me. Some characters are tougher to part with than others.' In all of his books, regardless of the genre, there is the theme of good versus evil, but not in the conventional sense. As in real life, sometimes the lines are blurred as to where one ends and another begins. 'The notion of good and bad is fun to play with, " Dan said to me, and it shows.

'You really have to be your own worst critic. There's a great quote that says "Words don't bleed so cut them." Being critical is important to your growth.'

'Without social media I wouldn't be where I am now. I have to build a community. My blog is less about me than my interaction with the world. It helps get some discourse going with others.'

'We are all a conduit for something: some kind of knowledge, some kind of belief, something that we want to see enacted in the world. Art gives us that.' he says, and it is for that reason that he chooses to take advantage of it.

Among the other things that Dan mentioned to me during our conversation was his literary consultant business Amalgam Consulting. At he says this: "My job is simple: take the guesswork out of putting together a plan for your small business. I specialize in editing/publishing and creating social media and marketing platforms for authors, artists, musicians, and consultants who are new to the business field." When explaining to me why this was important for him to do, Dan said "Paying it forward is important to me. The more I can do for others the better. That way we can move forward together."

One of the greatest lessons that Dan has learned is one that he shared during our conversation, one that I definitely wanted to share with you, the reader. "We all have a prominent role in creating the world that we want," he said.. And role is one that we take us each and every day of our existence. Thankfully we have individuals like Dan O'Brien around to encourage us towards that objective.

New to Dan's work? Then join Conversations Book Club's online fiction chapter during the month of September as we discuss his novel BITTEN. We will even have a LIVE ONE-HOUR discussion of the book on Conversations LIVE Thurs. September 26, 2013 @ 8p.m. et (7p.m. ct/5p.m. pt) at Save the date and make plans to join us.

For more information about Dan O'Brien and his projects visit his blog at and keep in touch with him on Facebook at as well as Twitter at

1 on 1 with Singer/Actress Taylor Dayne

by Ramona Portelli 

Very few people know that American pop singer-songwriter and actress - Taylor Dayne’s real name is Leslie Wunderman.  But many have heard about her major hit when her debut single ‘Tell It to My Heart’ reached #7 on the Hot 100.  Overall, 51 year old Taylor Dayne had 18 individual hit songs reach the top 10 in Billboard magazine.  These include the 2011 American and international hit ‘Floor on Fire’, and her 2008 song ‘Beautiful’.  She has also topped the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart three times.

As an actress, Taylor has had roles in independent films such as Fool’s Paradise (1997), Stag (1997) and Jesus the Driver (2004) amongst many other appearances and productions. 

Currently, Taylor Dayne is living in Los Angeles, although she is a New York native, and was raised on Long Island.

This year marks her 25th year anniversary release of her first single from her debut album of the same name in late 1987 - ‘Tell it to My Heart’.  

When did you first try hand at singing?
For me singing and hearing music became this life force.  Music was played in our home on Sundays which was a family day.  My dad would make a huge brunch - the tradition was music playing loudly like musicals or the Beatles, or Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66.  We would hear it as we woke and ate together, and it stayed with me.  I started to sing by 5 years old with the radio and then albums, and I had my first solo in kindergarten by 6 years old.

Can you describe your state of mind while singing?
Singing was and still is my greatest form of release and expression.  It's so trusted for me, and I get a great relief recording, when it feels right and moving notes to my will, and expressing someone off a page and bringing life to melodies

What challenges have you had to face in your chosen career?
I face the same challenges all artists do - how to get my music to fans, how to increase fans, and how to stay relevant and make money in the music business.

Are you currently working on any new projects or tours?
I tour always throughout the year and have done so for the last 25 years.  This year marks my 25th year anniversary release of ‘Tell it to My Heart’.  I was inducted into the hall of fame, starting August 21, 2013 - September 11, 2013.  I will Star as Grizabella in Cats for the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse Theatre in Upstate New York.

Can you talk about a fan encounter that completely took you by surprise?
Hmmm fans, an encounter?  Not really.  Some are very insisting, some are so generous and give food, jewelry, notes, or even paintings.

In your opinion, what is the best thing in life?
The best thing in life is a peace that lives inside you, a knowingness that you’re doing well, and you feel that love and at peace for yourself and with those around you.  That connection is fleeting for me at best and feels the best.

In your own words, what is the problem with the world today?
Problems make the world go round, sadly greed and people’s need for their personal beliefs to be the one way are at the heart of most what’s wrong.  Compassion goes a long way, which I certainly need to be reminded of.

During your career so far, you had sold more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide, and also garnered three Grammy nominations. What are your comments about this reality?
I can't live on that.  It's an incredible acknowledgement and achievement, but I work to take care of me and my family and my need to do it, I push myself the same way.

What’s your opinion about massive tattoos on female bodies?
I love tattoo art.  I have a few and it really felt at the time I needed this art to say something about me, and I was so involved in the design and what I needed it to look like and where it would be on my body placement.  I feel it's beautiful.

Any personal ambitions yet unattained?
I have many aspirations from recording to television dreams.  All are in motion and ever evolving.

What are your plans for the rest of this year?
I have summer and fall filled with tour dates and my stage appearance in ‘Cats’.

Ramona Portelli is a Maltese born freelance writer and journalist.  33 years old, Ramona has been a freelance writer for these last past years, during which she has interviewed various Maltese and international personalities. More information about her on

Living "Fearwards"

by Richard Moss, International Bestselling Author of Inside-Out Healing and The Mandala of Being

Fear is a sensation that we name according to the situation. If you are standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon, you speak of fear of heights: acrophobia. If you are in a crowded place the word is agoraphobia. There are a thousand names for fear, but only one sensation, which of course can be present in varying intensity.

Throughout evolution, fear was our teacher of survival. It alerted us to danger. It told us be prepared. This was and remains the healthy aspect of fear. But today, at least in the developed world, we have relatively few threats from outside. Our greatest threats come from within us, from what we tell ourselves about others or our situation and the anxiety, insecurity, hate, or even terror those thoughts create. Our minds create fears by believing stories such as, "I'll be all alone in my old age," or "I won't have enough money." There is only one sensation of fear, but limitless stories that will arouse it in us.

As long as there is a compulsive avoidance of any threatening or distressing feeling, fear unconsciously remains the god ruling our psychic life. Real transformation begins when you are able to bow before fear and acknowledge its power, but declare that it is no longer your god. At that moment you become the disciple of a new god: Awareness. Immediately, what awareness asks of you is to learn, to the best of your ability, to remain present and open even when there is fear.

The sensation of fear is difficult to be with and when you cannot create a big space for it, the immediate tendency is to become self-involved. You contract in upon yourself, your head starts spinning more thoughts; your mind becomes strategic -"How do I regain control?" How do I get away from this feeling?" All that matters to you is your self-interest and you stop being caring to others and their needs. From a psychological point of view, the combination of fear and self-interest is probably the greatest threat facing humanity today. It poisons all relationships whether within marriages, families, business, politics, and international affairs.

But there is no such thing as being safe; life is and will always be full of uncertainty. Nothing from the outside: no laws, no high tech inventions, no amount of guns, no leader, can make you truly safe. Only you can do that inside yourself. The terrible irony is that when fear intensifies self-interest to unhealthy levels this weakens healthy connections between people, which only leads to a sense of separation and even more fear.

As soon as fear closes you down, you have reached the limit of your ability to love and grow. For example, as you risk building a new business, it will be fear, perhaps the fear of failure or even of success that might slow or even sabotage you. If you are in a relationship, it will be the fear of abandonment, or being a betrayer, or just a sense of insecurity that will make you pull back.

To "live fearwards" --or sometimes I say "move fearwards"-- means that instead of being halted by fear you let fear become your teacher. You open yourself to the sensation of fear. You let yourself become vulnerable. You stop blaming others. You stop seeing threats and start seeing opportunities to awaken to greater consciousness.

If we lived in a Harry Potter Universe, the wizard would wave her wand and say the incantation: "Fearwards!" Suddenly everyone on Earth has three times the capacity to be with fear and not become self-involved and self-protective. This means they have three times the ability to be vulnerable and not close their hearts. Instantly, there is a fraction as much greed and distrust, a fraction of the power struggles and conflicts. Instantly, there is three times more openness, three times more capacity for intimacy, three times more fairness, acceptance, and tolerance, and three times more love. The whole world changes in an instant and it is all tied to how we handle fear in ourselves.

But let's not wait for magic. Let's learn to dance with fear. Here are a few ways to do so: When you feel fearful ask yourself: "What specifically am I telling myself that is creating this fear?" If you can see these thoughts are negative judgments, take five deep slow breaths and bring all your attention back to the present moment. Be present for every perception and every sensation. Repeat this over and over until the fullness of the present moment has filled your senses completely. As soon as your attention moves into the Now, all thoughts and mind-made images will recede and the fearfulness will fade away. Then, if examining your stories suggests that there is an action you can take to properly address what must be done, commit yourself to act immediately.

If the threatening feeling seems to be present without any thoughts to provoke it, then be very alert not to let the fearful feeling cause you to think stories like "My life is not working," or "Something is wrong with me." All thoughts born of fear either create more fear or they create imaginary hope, which is another kind of delusion. Instead, keep your full attention in the present and let yourself be spontaneously creative as you breathe into the fearfulness. You can let out sounds, or even dance a silly jig. This lays down new associations and new neural pathways in the brain that short-circuit the conditioned responses to fear.

Keep breathing into the feeling and try not to label it with names like "unsafe" or "terrified." At the same time, no matter how familiar the feeling may seem, pretend that you have never felt it before. Naming separates and puts you in the past and in your ego. Transmuting fear requires becoming one with it in the Now. This means also that you must let go of the future: Breathing into fear and dancing with it is not about getting rid of fear or gaining any desired outcome. It is about an unconditional relationship with fear so that fear becomes a doorway instead of a wall.

You can even use the energy of fear with what I call the "Practice of Gratitude." Instead of dwelling on fearful mental images and thoughts, say "Thank You" for every present-moment perception: the light you see, the colors, all the sounds, smells, and any sensation. Say "Thank You," even for the feeling of fear itself. Keep expressing gratitude for everything that you are aware of or for anything whatsoever that comes into your mind and soon the fearful sensation will transform and perhaps become softness or even a smile on your face and in your heart.

Living fearwards is something you and I and anyone can do as soon as we decide we would rather live in a loving world. Fear will never go away completely, but your capacity to be with it will grow, and steadily you will become a champion of openness and love. 

Richard Moss is the Maestro of "Deep Work." He teaches people how to delve deeply into their inner core so they can achieve a life of "Radical Aliveness," Unconditional Love, and Real Inner Peace. For 37 years, this globally renowned physician-turned-master healer, international bestselling Hay House author, and workshop leader has been guiding people on profound journeys of self-inquiry and self-discovery that have transformed their relationship with themselves, with their loved ones and with the world. Moss' work, outlined in two of his bestselling books Inside-Out Healing and the Mandala of Being, is centered in helping people achieve present moment awareness-and to clear away the beliefs, habits and thinking patterns that prevent them from living in a hyper-alive, joyful and loving state of being nearly all of the time. For more information and to learn about Richard's October and November retreats, go to:

[Mary's Motivational Message] Girl Friend Appreciation Month

There is a beautiful foundation of love and power that exist in women extending support to each other. 

When I hear women speak in a negative tone about our inability as women to maintain healthy, trusting and loving friendships I cringe. How many times have you heard these perspectives stated as facts: You can't trust women, you are just better off keeping to yourself, all women do is gossip and keep up foolishness and if they are being nice they must want something.

Sadly, so many of us (Men and Women) have embraced and given life to the many negative images attached to women. Well, let me tell you about the beautiful women GOD has placed within my life: They represent various cultures and ethnicity's and they are full of LIFE. They love me and I them. They encourage me; motivate me and extend to me their wisdom. As a collective force we hold each other up…24/7.  We don't always agree but we agree to disagree. Most importantly, we have learned valuable life lessons from each other.

 Within my circle and it’s rather large, relationships have existed for over fifteen years and several since high school. And when we met there was one common denominator, there was this instant connection. There was no doubt or fear; a level of comfort existed. Have you ever met someone and immediately you felt as though you had known them for a lifetime? I believe in "SOUL MATE FRIENDS". What I'm saying to you is, there has been no conflict, and no drama and no disrespect…just LOVE.

If you and the women in your life constantly: Argue, gossip, fight, disrespect each other, lack trust, dwell in utter confusion, envy each other and display jealousy and this is reflected in all of your relationships; stop blaming and ask yourself, "why am I attracting such dysfunction" and why am I maintaining it within my life."
For those of you blessed with beautiful friends understand that this is a blessing and let them know how much you LOVE and APPRECIATE them. It is GOD'S expectation that we treat each other with LOVE, KINDNESS and RESPECT. I strongly hold the belief that we learn our greatest life lessons from each other while being an example of HIS LOVE.

I know that you are extremely busy however as you journey through this special month set aside time to reflect on the special women placed within your life. And as you reflect, find your phone book and dust it off or send a text message or perhaps an email.  How you chose to connect is not important, just commit to making the connections happen. Tomorrow is not promised and with that truth in mind, stay connected with the special women GOD has placed within your life.

Enjoy this very special month,                                                                                                       
Love, Peace and Joy,


Author Mary E. Gilder is the author of the award winning novel, A Misrepresentation of Myself and her upcoming release, Even a Man can Have a Broken Heart. Mary is available for speaking engagements and can be contacted at or at Visit her website at: 

Tony Lindsay Presents... Toni Morrison

Only a few American writers have won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize; one African American writer has this honor, Tony Morrison: Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for fiction Beloved and The Noble Prize for Literature in 1993. However, as a writer her prose is not limited to fiction.

‘What Moves at the Margins’ is a collection of essays, critiques, and social commentary that reveals Morrison’s generous heart and gives insight into what she considers a writer’s responsibility. The collection offers a watchful eye on the future, recommends some outstanding writers, and advises on the power of language. As with her career, her political stands and concerns for those living on the margins are quite clear in the work.

From her 1984 essay “Rootedness: The Ancestor As Foundation” Morrison writes,
"If anything I do, in the way of writing novels (or whatever I write) isn’t about the village or the community or about you, then it is not about anything. I am not interested in indulging myself in some private, closed exercise of my imagination that fulfills only the obligation of my personal, dreams-which is to say yes, the work must be political. It must have that as its thrust. That’s a pejorative term in critical circles now: if a work of art has any political influence in it, somehow it’s tainted. My feeling is just the opposite: if it has none, it is tainted."(64)

Chloe Anthony Wofford, Toni Morrison, is a national treasure. A valuable resource to students, scholars, critics, and thinkers in this country and the world, but most importantly, she is a treasure to readers of today and tomorrow.

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 He can be reached at or on Facebook at

[SHORT STORY] Seeing Beyond

by Tiera Gilder

Late one evening, as a young lady walked down a narrow path trying to find her exit for the main road home, she came across a solitary rock. To her surprise, the rock turned toward her and asked, “Who am I?” After a moment of shock, she responded. “You’re a lonely, round talking rock…” The rock stared at her in disappointment, shook its head, and looked away. With nothing else more to say, she continued on her journey home.

Thoughts of her recent interaction with the rock were broken when she encountered a caterpillar perched on a sunflower. She was astounded when the caterpillar asked her the exact same question, “Who am I?” Not wanting to solicit the same dismissive reaction she received from the rock, she decided to give a more descriptive response, “You’re a cute, talking green caterpillar that can’t fly. Oh, and you love to eat sunflowers. Although, I will give you one piece of advice, you just might be damaging them…”

After responding, the young lady stood with a smile of satisfaction decorating her face. However, it was a complete contrast to the caterpillars’ frown of frustration and offense. The caterpillar curtly replied, “I see your vision is superficial and narrow-minded”, and then abruptly turned away.

By this time, the young lady was completely dumbfounded and slightly offended. Although the urge to give the caterpillar a piece of her mind was tempting, making it home before dusk was her priority. So she gathered her pride and sauntered away.

When she finally made it home, she rushed to the restroom to relieve her bubbly, upset stomach. She got comfy and cozy on the toilet seat and allowed her thoughts to drift. She reminisced over all of her accomplishments and relished over all that she planned to accomplish in the near future.  She was amazed by her many facets. Her thoughts of self-praise were immediately interrupted by a foreign voice saying, “ask me anything you like and I will answer.” Startled, the young lady searched the restroom for the origin of the voice, only to find her mirror staring back at her.

So, she decided to ask the Mirror on the wall the same question the rock and the caterpillar had asked her, “Who am I?” The young lady stood in expectancy, awaiting a great response. Based on her most recent thoughts, she knew she was a force to be reckoned with. But oh, was she ever wrong. It was the mirrors response that forever changed how she viewed others.

The mirror on the wall wisely responded, “Your misfortune is that you see people as they are in this moment, neglecting to appreciate all that they were and acknowledge all that they shall become. You see that “rock” was not just a rock. It’s a Cosmo of minerals that came together over centuries. It was once used as a cornerstone to hold up the first church in Africa, but migrated to the US years ago during the African Diaspora. It will soon be used to build a home for a displaced family. Oh, and that caterpillar may not be able to fly now, but in the coming days she will go through a metamorphosis and emerge a rare, beautiful butterfly. She will then play an essential role in adorning the valley with sunflowers through pollination. Without her, the sunflowers might cease to exist… If only you would have taken the time to go beyond the surface and discover their true identity.”

“Now, I will answer you through the same lens that you see others. So who are you, you ask? Well, you are a self-absorbed and full of crap… Oh, and you smell like sh!t too!!!”

***It’s a blessing God does not treat as we are in any given moment!

Want to give your feedback to author Tiera Gilder on Seeing Beyond? Contact her via email at

Monday, July 22, 2013

Conversations Remembers Bestselling author Francis Ray

Like readers around the world Conversations Media Group was saddened to hear about the recent passing of a literary powerhouse, Francis Ray. She united readers through her characters and the messages she gave us of hope, redemption and love.

Conversations' own Cyrus Webb was able to interview Ray for the magazine in its debut year back in 2006. She talked about her literary journey and what inspired her as a storyteller. 

Francis, you have had a long run as a well loved and respected author. I'm curious with over 30 titles in print now what a typical day for Francis Ray consists of. 
I still work as a School Nurse Practitioner for a large school district, so a typical weekday begins with my day job. Once I'm home and family time with dinner is over, I go to my office. Depending on deadlines, I'll either answer email or go straight to work on my current book. I'm usually in bed between 11-12 a.m. If I have a book out, I'm probably doing book signing on the weekend or some type of marketing. Thanks goodness for the summers because I'm off and can get more writing done.

The book that I read ANY RICH MAN WILL DO fits so well into what we see in the world today. Your inspiration, does it come from events you hear about or just issues that are close to your heart?
Inspiration for my books comes from just living, something on TV or possibly a newspaper article. In writing ANY RICH MAN WILL DO, the main character, Bad Girl Jana, was the inspiration. In the last scene which she appeared in the prequel, LIKE THE FIRST TIME, she was humiliated, embarrassed when she learned she couldn't get any man because of how beautiful she was, how sexy her body or how well she wore designer clothes. It was an eye opener for both of us. I thought if she could cry, then perhaps there was hope that Jana could learn to change her philosophy that ANY RICH MAN WILL DO. A newspaper article on luxe linen gave me the idea for the business of a woman who would befriend Jana.

We are celebrating the beauty of women in the worlds of business and entertainment. When you began your writing career who were some of the women you looked up to and respected? As time has gone on, who are some of the newer authors that have emerged that got your attention?
Because I read romance some of the authors' names you probably aren't familiar with like Ann Maxwell, Jayne Ann Krentz and Nora Roberts. I enjoyed these authors because they created real-life people with flaws that I could identify with. No matter how tempting, they always remained monogamous and morally upright. But I yearned to see African-American characters take center stage and began to write. Later I added J. California Cooper, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Eric J. Dickey, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, and Yolonda Joe. Of course in romance there was Beverly Jenkins, Bette Ford, and Donna Hill. A new author I enjoy is Pamela Williams. I want happy endings when I read and when I write.

Do you have an opinion as to how you think women are mainly depicted in books, music videos and movies?
I think in books and in movies women are depicted realistically, some good, some bad. However, in music videos the majority seem to be about degrading the woman and sex. Unfortunately, the vast number of these videos are with African-American artists. I must admit I haven't watched one all the way through in years. I've caught glimpses when someone is flipping channels. However, from what I've seen and what I have heard, I don't want to listen or look longer.

Have you been surprised about how your books have been received, and would you mind relating an experience you had with a reader? 
I thank God and remain thankful and humbled by the way my books have been received. I get a lot of mail saying my books started them reading again or gives them hope that the right man is out there. After THE TURNING POINT/TROUBLE DON'T LAST ALWAYS which dealt with a woman fleeing domestic violence, there were many letters of experiences with an abusive mate or about a relative that didn't survive. Knowing Texas, my home state, has the highest incidence of murders in domestic violence, I started The Turning Point Legal Fund to assist women. In writing you never know how you're going to touch a person's life.

Can you remember when you first made the National Bestsellers List? What was that experience like for you and what type of validation did you feel with that distinction? 
My first national bestsellers list was Blackboard which was printed in Essence magazine. I remember going to Black Images Book Bazaar, a wonderful, supportive book store in Dallas, and having the co-owner, Emma Rodgers, showing me the listing. FOREVER YOURS, the co-launch title for Arabesque, was #5. I felt breathless and just stared. Emma laughed. FOREVER YOURS went on to #1. FOREVER YOURS also made the top 20 romances of 1994 Library Journal. You feel like a writer when you make the list, but also scared, wondering if you can make the list again.

Was there ever a time when you felt like the career of an author was not going to work for you? What kept you going? 
With every book I wonder if there is another book inside me. Writing is very difficult for me, but I continue because I want to show that African-Americans are good people. Yes, we have flaws, we aren't perfect, but who is.

I am an admitted control freak, Francis. That is what led me to self-publish and to continue to do so. I like to be involved in every aspect of the projects that bare my name. Has it been a difficult process for you to let go and trust others? What about the cover designs. They always tell such a story. Do you have any input in that department?
Ah, the cover. I admit I'm not very good at telling the editor what I want, but I can certainly voice my opinion when I think it's wrong. There have been several covers that I haven't liked. Sometimes I'm asked, other times I'm not. I think my best cover is I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW with the new cover of THE TURNING POINT re-titled TROUBLE DON'T LAST ALWAYS, a close second. Not having control doesn't bother me. I trust my editor/publisher to know more than I do.

Book clubs have become the way to really explore an author's body of work as well as learn about the person who wrote the book. If a book club was going to select their first Francis Ray novel to consider, which would you recommend for them and why? 
Book clubs are wonderful. For a first read I'm recommend I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW or TROUBLE DON'T LAST ALWAYS. I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW because of the decision the heroine must face when, moments before her husband dies he confesses he had an illegitimate child and begs wife to take care of the infant. TROUBLE DON'T LAST ALWAYS because of the growing relationship between a neurosurgeon who is blind and angry, and a frightened, abused woman who has to care for him. However, a lot of book clubs are reading ANY RICH MAN WILL DO about a woman without friends, money, or family because of her chosen lifestyle.

Francis, once you write a book, how long do you wait to get feedback on it and tell us how you always seem to come up with titles that are memorable? 
Once I turn a book into my editor, I always send a note asking her to let me know what she thought. As I said, writing is difficult for me so I worry. Feedback usually takes two very long weeks. My romance titles are my own and usually come from the situation. I just finished book #4 of the Graysons of New Mexico series. The series is set in Santa Fe with the mother, a Muscogee/Creek Native American, plotting to marry off her five children. Their African-American father, an airline pilot, died when his plane crashed years before. Ruth knows what real love is like and wants the same for her 5 children who are dragging there feet. All the children are set against falling in love. The titles reflect this - UNTIL THERE WAS YOU, YOU AND NO OTHER, DREAMING OF YOU, IRRESISTIBLE YOU, and ONLY YOU. ANY RICH MAN WILL DO title was so Jana. Coming in February is IN ANOTHER MAN'S BED, a sort of play on words because the women making this statement plan never to find themselves in another man's bed.

What's next for you in the literary world? Are there any surprises that maybe long-time readers of yours might not expect? 
Next is writing ONLY YOU and the next book in the Invincible Women Series (LIKE THE FIRST TIME/ANY RICH MAN WILL DO/IN ANOTHER MAN'S BED) which is tentatively titled, MAKE ME. Once those are finished I'd like to work on a romance series or a Christian fiction series. However, I write so slow I might have to delay the project due to contractual obligation.

Whether you are just hearing about this talented storyteller or have been a fan of hers for years it goes without saying that she will be missed but her literary genius will live on. Details about her life and previous work can be found on her official website