Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Friday, December 20, 2019

10 Tips to Love Yourself Happy by Shari Alyse

Stop beating yourself up.
Stop taking everything so seriously.
Love more. 
Laugh more. 
Forgive yourself more. 
Worry less. 
Trust more. 
Screw regrets!

We hear these words of truly sage advice and know them to ring true within our hearts, yet we still find ourselves worrying about how much we worry.

Why is it so hard to stop being so hard on ourselves? Why is it so hard to simply allow ourselves to be happy?

Pressure? Discomfort? The unknown? What if we do all the things we’ve been told to ‘do’ to be happy and yet we still find ourselves unhappy? That is why I believe so many play the lifelong chase of this elusive happiness.

In my recent bestseller, Love Yourself Happy, I write:

I know most of us are waiting for happiness. Waiting for that ‘thing’ to happen before that elusive happy shows its face. You know what I’m talking about. The ‘I’ll be happy when’ disease. I’ll be happy when I lose weight. I’ll be happy when I have more money, when I am in a relationship, when my health improves... when, when, when. 

If you’re like most of society, you’ve put your happiness on hold for what seems like an eternity because the majority of the time you’re so busy trying to achieve those things that by the time you do, you’re so freaking exhausted and mentally worn out that you forget that this is even what you wanted in the first place and had convinced yourself that it was the magic elixir to happiness. Now, you’ve discovered there’s actually something else you need that will make you happy. Phew!”

I’d like to share something with you that I find very interesting. In the most recent ‘World Happiness Report’, only about one third of the population says they are happy. Seriously! One third! That means 70% of the world is unhappy. When I really dug into this, what I came to find is that most people base their happiness (or unhappiness) on external things. And truth be told, if you’re going to put all of your ‘happy’ eggs into one basket based on something that is not secure and stable, those eggs are bound to break and you’re bound to feeling unhappy once more.

But, what if your happiness isn’t reliant on anyone or anything? What if happiness comes from one thing and one thing alone - your love for yourself?  Yes, self-love. What if you choose each and everyday to love yourself through it all? Through the ups, downs, detours and roundabouts. What if you choose to really take a deep dive within and choose to see your beauty, your power, your potential and your enough-ness. What if you choose to stop determining your worth and value based on achievements and external validation? I can tell you this - you would have a lot smoother and happier of a ride here in your life.

For today, I wanted to share 10 simple practices that you can do that will help strengthen this self-love muscle. Like anything, the more you consistently work on this, the stronger it becomes. 

10 Tips to Love Yourself Happy 

1. Accept where you are
2. Accept how you feel
3. Accept that there will be hard times
4. Pat yourself on the back
5. Do something each day that lights you up within
6. Remind yourself how far you’ve come
7. Say (at least) one loving thing to yourself every day
8. Take a risk looking silly / have more fun
9. Remember you’re human
10. Give yourself a hug (I have a self-hug practice I do 2x a day!)

Now, while these tips might seem frivolous to some, I promise you that if you choose one to focus on each day, you will begin to notice a lightness within. Perhaps even some joy rising. You see, when you’re able to create a life that feels good and you are the one responsible for it, you come to find that no matter what hardships you might journey through, what disappointments might arise, what challenges might meet you around the corner, you will always have the tools and the foundation to not only move through it, but to also love yourself through it.

This is the magic of happiness. It’s found in the lightness of your soul, the love in your heart and the peace you discover when you realize that you will always be there for you and you will always have your back!

Shari Alyse is the best selling author of the book, Love Yourself Happy. She is also a motivational speaker and self-love coach. If you’d like to work with Shari, you can find out more about her at

[FOOD] Summer Squash Pie by Deborah Hunter

There are few things I enjoy more than a casual gathering of friends and family on a beautiful Sunday morning for brunch.

What an absolute joy to have my home filled with the aroma of kindness love and laughter as we wash away the cares of the week with  warm cups of flavored coffee, cold glass of orange juice and chilled glasses strawberry champagne and indulge ourselves with a array of delicious bites of foods that rest on a table filled with fresh cut flowers and fruits served on platters of beautiful brightly colored dishes.

My menu is both elegant and simple, and the crowd favorite is my “Summer Squash Pie”. This dish is not only one of my favorites, but it’s everything that a Sunday brunch dish should be: light, beautiful, fresh, delicious, satisfying, and inviting.

This dish is prepared in a large cast-iron skillet which easily transposition to your table  making it a perfect centerpiece;

• 1 cup of asparagus cut into tiny pieces
• 1 yellow or red bell pepper seeded and cut into small pieces
• 5 to 6 small yellow squash
• 4 large eggs ( whip your eggs until there’s no streaking/without adding salt or pepper)
• 1/2 Cherry tomatoes cut in half’s
• 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
•1 medium red onion chopped
• 1/2 cup Green onions finely chopped
• sea salt
• freshly ground pepper corn pepper
• less 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Olive oil

(Note this dish is prepared on top of the stove and finished in the oven and as always make sure all of your ingredients are properly prepared prior to starting this recipe)
Let’s get started!

(Preheat your oven to 355°)
on medium high heat place your cast iron skillet on top of your  stove
Add  less 1/4 cup of olive oil to your cast iron skillet also add a small amount of salt and pepper to your oil
Next add your asparagus and bell pepper and allow them to  cook for about 2 minutes *Reduce your heat to medium low now layer your squash tomatoes and onions interchanging layers
Once your vegetable layers have been set in place add 2 tablespoons Olive oil sprinkle on a small amount of salt and pepper  pour your egg mixture covering your vegetables well 
*Reduce the heat once again to low heat and allow your egg to lightly firm up about (2 minutes)
add your Parmesan cheese place in the oven for 18 -20 minutes
serve and enjoy this delicious dish!

Looking for more delicious dishes to add to your menu? Don’t forget to get your copy of

TAKE TEN with Award-winning Author T.M. Brown

by Cyrus Webb

It has been so much fun watching award-winning author T. M. Brown rise over the past few years. We have never met in person, however, I am glad to call her not just a colleague as well as a friend. 

She is ending 2019 as author who has introduced her books to the world and is not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. In this Take Ten you'll get a feel of who she is, her work and what's to come. 

Tina, excited about the opportunity to share your story with our readers. First, what has it been like for you this year to see the way that readers have responded to your work?
It appears suddenly, readers are finding me like never before!  I credit a lot of this to the networking that I’ve been able to do over the years.  Folks like you Cyrus, Meredith Hammond, Cruz Sherman and many of my author friends have been providing unbelievable support to me and my books.

Have you always known that you were a storyteller?
Honestly, I did not.  As a kid, I truly thought that everyone had the ability to make up stories.  Story-telling came easy to me although I rarely shared my gift with anyone.  I was a shy kid and would have been just fine blending in with my peers.  I had enough stuff going on in my life at that time.  I did not want any attention drawn on me. 

When did it become clear that sharing stories was going to be part of your journey?  
For many years, I was happy just carrying my manuscript around with me and not sharing it with a soul.  There was comfort in doing the work that later became A Life Not My Own.  The competitive side of me started to blossom as I gained self-confidence.  I felt like my memoir was just as good as many others that I had read.  I also felt like my story would reach those who maybe didn’t have a voice or the ability to write.  I wanted people who had experiences similar struggles to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  They are not alone.

Fear is one of the things that stop so many creatives from doing what they love. Have you ever had to deal with that as to whether you thought others would appreciate your gift? 
It still plagues me!  With every new book, I feel the pressure that comes from wanting it to be received as well as the previous. 

A LIFE NOT MY OWN is without a doubt a personal book for you. What is it like to reflect on the woman you were and who you are today? 
I feel like the woman that was in the past is totally different person from who I am today. I did a lot of work to get to where I am.  Life presented me with challenges, and I took them on, fighting my way through.  I’m also very proud to have survived it all.  I know I didn’t do it on my own.  I thank the Lord for all the folks that he placed in my path back then.  Some kept me safe when I didn’t even know I needed saving. 

The only time my previous self shows up is when I’m angry!  It’s the weirdest thing.  Those survival skills that I learned will kick and then, whew!  Look out!

History is also a part of your work. Is history something you have always been a fan of? 
For me, studying history is about studying people and the events that occurred.  Human behavior has always fascinated me.  It becomes even more interesting when people are faced with adversities. 
Some excel, while others seem to fall apart.  Even when I was in the Army, I found this to be true.

Strong women are also a big part of your fiction. How have you benefited from the examples of strong women? 
I was raised by my grandmother who is a very strong woman.  She’s in her 90’s and still lives on her own, only recently requiring a little help.  She raised my sister and I to be strong, independent women.  When I look back on my life, I know without a doubt that the lessons she taught me have served me well.

Social media has been a big way all of us have stayed connected. How has that helped you in sharing your stories with the world? 
Connecting with folks through social media is something that I’m still trying to master.  I feel like the game keeps changing as more sites become available and its users find different ways to connect.  My followers are awesome.  I don’t have to ask them to support me.  They just do!  It’s a good feeling to know that my words have touched people around the world.

Tina, I’ve noticed you have also been making yourself available for authors to reach out to for advice and direction. Why has that been important for you? 
It's important to me to help my literary colleagues whenever I can.  I gladly assumed the responsibility of sharing what I’ve learned along this walk.  I truly wish that someone would have taken me by the hand and provided me guidance when I first started this walk.  Maybe I would have gotten more sleep!  I didn’t sleep for days before my first book signing!

An obvious question would be what’s next for you? Got a new book you’re working on?
It feels like its time share what my Christian walk is like for me now.  I think some will be surprised.  I did not grow up in the church.  My relationship with the Lord is very personal and probably somewhat unconventional.  The words are pouring out of me!

Thanks again for your time, friend. How can our readers stay connected with you?
My website is  Email  I’m also on Facebook, Instagram. LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc.. :)

Conversations' Top 15 Books for Young Readers in 2019

Conversations is excited to share it's Top 15 Books for Young Readers in 2019 as chosen by book club President and founder Cyrus Webb. As in the past the list features established authors as well as those who are rising stars.

Conversations' Top 15 Books for Young Readers in 2019 (listed in no particular order)

  1. Ballpark Mysteries Super Special #4: The World Series Kids by David A. Kelly (Random House)
  2. Almanac 2019 (National Geographic Kids)
  3. Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic Press)
  4. The Little Dragon by Sheri Fink (Whimsical World Books)
  5. Dork Diaries:Tales from a Not-So-Best Friend Forever by Rachel Renee Russell (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster)
  6. Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster)
  7. Vengeance Is Mine: The Reaping by Calogero Bradley (BlaqRayn Publishing)
  8. Mo's Bows: A Young Person's Guide to Start-Up Success by Moziah Bridges (Running Press Kids/Hachette Book Group)
  9. Oh, The Things I Can Be When I See Me by Valerie J. Lewis Coleman (Pen of the Writer, LLC)
  10. Kidz Biz Book 3: Making All the Kidz Biz Rules by Gwen Richardson (Cushcity Communications)
  11. But Mommy It's Not Fair! I Am Not Alone by Sherria L. Elliott (4Elliott Publishing)
  12. Ginger's Neighborhood by I. Krystal Smith & Sharon T. L. Jackson (Get-Success Publishing)
  13. That's Me by Donna Marie Leonard (Donna Marie Leonard)
  14. Summer Camp Fun with Grandson by Lisa W. Beckwith (Shero Publishing)
  15. Mother of Many by Pamela M. Tuck (Mascot Books)

Remembering Anthony Ellis

by Cyrus Webb

I first interview author Anthony Ellis in 2012 and had the privilege of sharing his story of being HIV positive and dealing with his personal demons both on the radio show Conversations LIVE and in the pages of Conversations Magazine that year.

His book HE GOT THAT PACKAGE is an intimate look at his Ellis' journey and what it's been like to share his journey with the world in the hopes of educating others. Unfortunately he passed away this year (2019). I had the opportunity to interview his mother Brenda Ellis on the radio about his life and his newest book.

Below you will find my interview with Anthony Ellis that ran in Conversations Magazine in 2012. Enjoy and may it inspire you to see why your story matters.


"I can remember the first time I heard the term "package" when talking about HIV, and I remember thinking out sad it seemed. Imagine being the person that is being referred to and having to live with not just the disease but the stigma as well." ~ Anthony Ellis

I was introduced to him earlier this year, and was immediately a fan not only of his book He Got That Package but his mission to educate others about HIV and the importance of loving yourself. Diagnosed in 1993 at the age of 23, Anthony thought at the time that his life was over. What the now 41 year-old has since learned is that in many ways a new journey had begun, one where he could not only appreciate his own gift of life but help others to live life on purpose.

Anthony allowed Conversations LIVE to be the first radio show to share his story, and he entrusted me with the opportunity to chronicle his experiences in this interview. This is our conversation...

Anthony, thank you for agreeing to talk with me about your book and your life. I know you were twenty-three (23) years old when you discovered you were HIV-positive. What caused you to get tested?
Cyrus I thank you for this opportunity to share my testimony. The way this all started is that I had gotten sick and went to the Emergency Room. After some tests I was advised to have an HIV/AIDS, because I was told that my immune system was too low for someone my age.

And the test came back positive. What initially was going through your mind?
I couldn't believe it. I was in denial at first. It just couldn't be true. You have to remember most of the information we had at that time made me feel like HIV was pretty much a gay man's disease. Being heterosexual, I just didn't think that I could get it or had to worry about it. After I took the first test I decided to take two more. Each one came back the same. Positive. At that point I knew it wasn't a game. It was real.

I learned that there are four ways you can get the disease: blood, breast milk, vaginal secretions and semen When I found I was kind of angry with myself. I felt like I should have known.

Anthony, had you had any symptions or signs that would have alerted you to anything being wrong?
Not at all. I had felt like my health was pretty good until then. I had never been hospitalized or anything. Growing up I was pretty healthy.

So did you see HIV as a death sentence?
Yes I did. Society told you that if you had HIV that you were going to die. I conditioned myself to live that way. I told myself that since I was going to die there wasn't really any reason to live. Alcohol and drugs became my way of dealing with it. I saw it as a way out for me.

But you're still here. What changed?
After a few years of giving myself over to alcohol and drugs something in me just woke up. It was then that I realized that HIV and AIDS weren't going to kill me. I was doing it to myself. I knew then that I had a chance to live.

That's powerful, Anthony. After you had the epiphany about your being here is when you decided to write the book?
I started writing HE GOT THAT PACKAGE: about 3 1/2 years ago. I hadn't thought about writing a book before, but I realized I had an opportunity to join in the conversation about HIV and try and help slow this disease down and stop it. I had been through so many emotional changes through this disease that I knew I could help someone. I was ashamed of the "package", and that is where the name of the book came from. My goal was and still is to help others get rid of the ignorance still surrounding HIV.

For some people others finding out about them being HIV positive is a concern. Was it for you?
When I first found out the first person I told was my first cousin who was very close to me. To be honest other than family members I didn't tell any one. I kept it a secret. I was really living a double life. I now know that anytime you have to try and hide a part of yourself from society you aren't going to be able to really live. Back then, though, I thought people would judge me.

In the book you discuss the issue of faith quite a bit. How has your belief system changed or evolved since living with HIV?
I was raised up as a child in the church. I knew about God, but I didn't really have faith in Him. That has changed tremendously. Now I know that God is the only reason why I am still here. I thought that life was over for me, but it is my faith in what is possible that continues to keep me strong.

Thank you again, Anthony, for sharing this story with us and the world. What do you hope people take away from your book when they finish it?
The book came out in November 2011. After reading my book I want you to ask yourself this question: Are you positive you are negative? Get tested. The life you save might very well be your very own.

Conversations Book Club's 50 Best Books of 2019

We love books! And for 13 years Conversations Book Club Founder and Media Personality Cyrus Webb has been sharing his pick of books that he has enjoyed that he believes readers around the world would as well. In 2019 he presents his most diverse list to day, sharing 50 books (25 fiction and 25 non-fiction) titles for adults that are sure to entertain, engage and encourage you.

Conversations' 25 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2019
(listed in no particular order)

  1. Yes, I'm That Guy by William Sanderson (BookBaby)
  2. The Beautiful No by Sheri Salata (Harper Wave)
  3. My Life, My Way by John Schneider (Maven Entertainment)
  4. The Parrot's Perch by Karen Keilt (She Writes Press)
  5. There's Something Your Son Needs to Tell You by Vernon Ennels, Jr.
  6. The Revolution Will Be Publicized by Joy Elan (Joy Elan)
  7. Lead Like Walt by Pat Williams (Health Communications Inc)
  8. The Iconist by Jamie Mustard (BenBella Books)
  9. Becoming Super Woman by Nicole Lapin (BenBella Books)
  10. Identity Leadership by Stedman Graham (Center Street)
  11. Success Factor X by Jill Liberman and Sean Kanan (Plain Sight Publishing)
  12. Prison Or Passion by R.K. Russell (Jack Wild Publishing)
  13. Resilience by Judy Stone, MD (Mountainside MD Press)
  14. Hurricanes by Rick Ross (Hanover Square Press)
  15. African Samurai by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard (Hanover Square Press)
  16. The Courage to Step out of the Familiar by Dennis Perkins (Xulon Press)
  17. Love Yourself Happy by Shari Alyse (Wellness Ink Publishing)
  18. Darkness to Light by Lamar Odom (BenBella Books)
  19. Your Life Is Your Prayer by Sam Beasley and BJ Gallagher (Mango Press)
  20. All Blood Runs Red by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin (Hanover Square Press)
  21. Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson (Scribner)
  22. Prison by Isiko Cooks (Peter Mack Presents)
  23. Stutterer Interrupted by Nina G (She Writes Press)
  24. Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani (Currency)
  25. Called to Forgive by Anthony B. Thompson (Bethany House)

Conversations' 25 Best Fiction Books of 2019
(listed in no particular order)

  1. A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing) 
  2. I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan (Lake Union)
  3. The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter (William Morrow)
  4. Grace by Dan Burns (Chicago Arts Press)
  5. A Love Story to Remember by Linda Diane Wattley (Pen It! Publications)
  6. Love and Happiness by Ben Burgess, Jr. (Urban Renaissance)
  7. Greed by Victoria Christopher Murray (Simon and Schuster)
  8. The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer (Ink Yard Press)
  9. Finding Cade by Bernice Layton (Limitless Publishing)
  10. Beneath the Attic by V. C. Andrews (Gallery Books)
  11. Devil's Sympathy by A. Shane Etter (Thomas Max Publishing)
  12. The Accidental Road by Jodi Lea Stewart (Fire Star Press)
  13. Bread Bags and Bullies by Steven Manchester (Luna Bella Press) 
  14. When I Got Out by Peter Seth (The Story Plant)
  15. Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst (Crooked Lane Books)
  16. The Patient by Steena Holmes (Lake Union)
  17. The New Girl by Daniel Silva (Harper)
  18. Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan (Lake Union)
  19. Trophy Life by Lea Geller (Lake Union)
  20. Fake by John DeDakis (Strategic Media Books)
  21. K3 by Tracie O'Neil Horton (Outskirts Press)
  22. Out of the Shadows by Natasha D. Frazier (Encouraging Works)
  23. Trespassed by Sonya Visor (Covenant House Press)
  24. The Unforgivable Sin by D. B. Corey (D. B. Corey)
  25. Lost at Sea by Linda Bello-Ruiz (Mariah Publishing)

Mary Ellen Ciganovich: Sharing Her T.R.U.T.H. with the world daily

by Cyrus Webb

If you are someone who is looking for daily inspiration and positivity then look no further than Mary Ellen Ciganovich. She and I have been friends for years and in 2018 she released her book T.R.U.T.H that has spawned a media brand that includes a weekly show on Instagram and a daily radio segment through Conversations Daily News. 

In this chat we discuss the year that's been 2019, what it's been like for her to overcome challenges and remind us all of what is possible. 

Mary Ellen, a lot going on with you this year. Not only are you still celebrating your book T.R.U.T.H. (Taking Responsibility Unleashing True Healing) but you are also the co-host of the live show “Truth of the Day” as well as the host of your own daily segment called “Truth of the Day”. What has it been like for you to see how the “Truth of the Day” brand has grown? 
It definitely has been an amazing journey, a dream coming to fruition and full of so many wonderful blessings along the way. 

Did you know when you started sharing the “Truth of the Day” messages online that they would expand the way that they have?  
I began writing the “Truth of the day” posts in a way to promote my first book,” Healing Words, Life Lessons to Inspire.” I thought if people enjoyed my “Truth” posts they would enjoy,” Healing Words, Life Lessons to Inspire. “ The Truth of the day posts really took off and while my first book did well, my readers kept urging me to write  T.R.U.T.H book or a book of my daily posts. So I sat down and took an entire year to write, “ T.R.U.T.H  Taking Responsibility Unleashes True Healing.”

You have definitely had your challenges and setbacks in life, Mary Ellen. What has kept you pushing onward?
The one thing that has always kept me moving forward is my Faith – and also my readers! Every time I would think about quitting writing my Truth of the day posts God would send a reader with a comment about how that particular posts helped them or kept them going. My readers reinforced my own faith that I must continue writing in order to aid in the healing of our society. 

Do you think one of the reasons your message is reaching so many is because they can resonate with your journey?
Everyone has a journey and ALL of us face difficulties no matter what we look like or economic level we come from. We are all here to learn and WAKE UP to so many incorrect societal truths. My Truth of the day posts resonate with so many people because I know people are searching for the Truth and they are tired of having superficial, platonic answers tossed their way. 

We have all heard the saying ‘do it afraid’. How have you been able to face the fear in your own life and do things that might have scared you at one time? 
This is a tough question, and the answer is simple as God put me in a place where I had no choice. It was either face your fear or ( in my case) allow my MS monster to take over. I also had a near death experience- way back – in 1974 . After a very horrible experience, I attempted suicide by taking an entire bottle of pills. I was in a coma for 3 days and went to a very dark cold place first until a doorway opened and a very beautiful bright light appeared. I floated up to it only to be told by Christ /God that what I had done was very bad and I had many purposes to fulfill on Earth. As soon as the door slammed shut I was awake and in intensive care. Hopefully now I am completely some of that purpose. So as you can imagine,  fear is not an option. 

The book T.R.U.T.H. has 366 messages for us to read and reflect on. How did the book come about? 
As a result of trying to promote my first book. It also has 366 because my Father in law, who is now passed on was born on leap year so the extra day is for him! The peacock is on the cover because peacock’s get their beautiful tail feather colors from eating thorns. The harder the thorn is to digest the more beautiful color in the tail. I relate this to all of us going through our trials and tribulations.  As we learn we become beautiful people living in peace and harmony.

Ego is one of those things you have written and talked about a lot. Why is it so important to keep the ego in check when pursuing your passion and going day to day in life?  
I call the ego – our devil.  Your ego will get you into trouble every time. Ego is full of expectations,  motives and judgments. Your ego is full of worry, doubt and self loathing, even when you think it isn’t.  Your ego and your thinking self need to be quiet while you listen to your intuitions, knowing’s, and God which will always speak to you from your soul level when you are quiet .(or your gut)

Like I said lots of great things already happening. What is next for you?  
I have no idea what is next . I do have a new book outlined and an autobiography that no one would believe.  I think I will just see where God leads me. 

Any advice for those out there who are on the fence about pursuing their goals and dreams?
The advice I would give to everyone listening is to follow your passion. Do not allow any one or anything to stop you. Ask yourself,  what do you love to do? Then go about finding a way to make money by doing it. 

Thanks again for the time, Mary Ellen. Your book T.R.U.T.H. is available on Amazon. How can our readers stay connected with you and get T.R.U.T.H. for themselves?
My website is

Author A. Shane Etter: 'Writing' Each Day by Pursuing His Passion

by Cyrus Webb

This year I had a chance to sit down with author A. Shane Etter who now lives in Atlanta but will always be one of Mississippi's own. As we are saying goodbye to 2019 he is celebrating another great read called DEVIL'S SYMPATHY.

I have fallen in love with his way of storytelling, and the great thing about him is that you NEVER know where he will take readers next. In our most recent chat we talked about his career and what it's like to show others what Mississippi Success looks like.

Shane, what has this experience been like for you doing what you love as a storyteller and now to share it with all of us?
If you had told me a long time ago that I would be doing this, I would have called you a liar. Probably this is the best experience of my life, too. I mean, I work harder probably than I ever have. I write every day of the year, but some people--my closest friends--would say you don't work at all. You just write they say. Nevertheless, to be able to do that, just to let my brain go where it wants,and you can tell from what I write that it does, and then be rewarded for that in so many ways. I just feel like I'm living the dream.

Well, I'm definitely a fan and not just because you're from Mississippi, like I am. (laughs) I love the fact that you have not put yourself in a box. One of the things I love about your writing is we really never know what we're going to get with you. Whether we're talking about A War in the Bronx and even A Brain in Third Person. You have other books like Bottom Dwellers. Is that part of the fun for you that you get to do whatever you want to do?
It is. I do like series of books. My Dwellers were a series. I liked the supernatural or the out there on the edge element. I like just going wherever my brain takes me and not being led by anything. In fact, there's two camps in writing fiction. I think those who outline and those who don't. I just write and what I like to say is I like to be surprised just like the reader, letting the story take me where it wants to go. I don't outline therefore I'm surprised as much as the reader are many times..

Shane, in your work there's so many different types of conflict. There is internal conflict with the Brain in Third Person books. The conflict spills out outwardly in like A War in the Bronx. Do you find that conflict is one of those motivators for you as you are addressing the "What if?" question when it comes to your characters?
Well, that's one thing I had to learn in writing. I didn't have a plan or anything. I had to learn that if you make a character all good, he's boring. Or if you make your character all bad, he's boring. Even in A Brain, in a certain person went bad. So I had to learn that you have to make good characters, have some flaws, and have fun as well as have flawed characters that have some good traits in them. That's what I try to do in everything.

Shane, we have become good friends, but the funny thing is that this trip makes just three times that we have even been in the same room. Can you believe it? I use that as a transition to talk about the power of social media. That is the way we have stayed connected, right? What has it been like for you to use the internet to build your community?
I always invite people to reach out to me whether on Facebook or Twitter or even LinkedIn, because I hope it's the start of something with new people, and I enjoy it. Without social media I would not know you today. And we have become friends because of social media. That just shows the power it has to bring people together and form real relationships.

Definitely glad to call you a friend. Last question. What advice would you give to aspiring authors and creatives about the importance of starting based on your experience? 
That's easy. Start today. That is the best advice I can give anyone. You'd be surprised how many people I meet in the course of a day whether I go for coffee in the morning or have lunch or go to the mall or whatever. They see me and ask what I'm doing. When I say I'm a writer you'd be surprised how many tell me they always wanted to write a book. I tell them well start today. Go home and start writing. And I know that's easy for me to say, but I wasn't a writer when I started and neither was John Grisham and others. Everybody had to start someplace.

My Amazon Review of DEVIL'S SYMPATHY by A. Shane Etter

"He was already thinking he might have to decide, make a choice, about whether he wanted to live a normal life---albeit a boring,unfulfilled life---or continue to live the life he's already pursued for forty years.."

And with that passage the book that is DEVIL'S SYMPATHY unfolds into a book not just of good versus evil but the passion and pursuits that are part of life. With the character George Albert Frederick Drummond we are able to see how anyone can change, transform and even deceive---covering up who they really or and what they are capable of. And with Holmes we are able to see how life can change quickly and having something to fight for can definitely change your approach to life.

I love the themes in this book, mainly because it has something that all of us can relate to: choices. Who will we choose to listen to? What will we choose to do with our lives? Are we aware of the consequences?

As this book unfolds we see the main characters wrestling with these very things. What the reader gets in the process is a book that moves quickly, keeps you engaged and curious about what's to come.

Get author A. Shane Etter's books on Amazon.

#MississippiSuccess Story: Author/Speaker Glenda L. Hunter

by Cyrus Webb

She's an author, poet and speaker---but most importantly a survivor. .

Glenda L. Hunter, a resident of Clinton, Mississippi, is one of those individuals who has been able to use her life to not only help other people but show what it means to celebrate the gift that life is. This, however, has not been an easy road for her. At a young age she had her innocence taken away from the very man who should have been there to protect her: her father. As a result of the abuse she suffered, Glenda developed alters or multiple personalities that would become a part of her life not just through childhood but adulthood as well. With courage and conviction she has shared her story in two books: AN UNSPEAKABLE SECRET and MOMMY TWINKLE EYES. Her goal? To let others know what is possible for them, regardless of their circumstances.

We met each other initially in 2011 through a mutual friend, and it has been my pleasure to see the amazing results of Glenda sharing her story with the world. I was privileged enough to be her first radio interview and to host her first book-signing. Over the past years we have worked together several times, including my illustrating her children's book, writing the foreword to her poetry book and her becoming a contributor to Conversations Magazine.

This year we have worked together to share not just her message of survival but what it takes to thrive. It was my honor to also recognize her as a #MississippiSuccess story during WYAD 94.1 FM's anniversary program.

In describing how the abuse began, Glenda says this in her book AN UNSPEAKABLE SECRET: "Fear was always gripping my body because I was never sure what was going to happen. When he became mad, he was like a monster out of control... Dad was quick to tell me how bad I was. No longer was I his special girl.. Somehow I had become an awful person who couldn't do anything right. I wasn't sure what had changed to make me this kind of a person."

That can be painful to read, let alone believe of yourself. Glenda explained how she has been able to now break her silence and share her story. "I felt like other people probably struggled with the same thing that I had struggled with," she told me. "I had looked for books to help me get better and that's why I wrote mine so I could get my story out there and help others."

A large part of the healing she has experienced today has come from seeking help. Glenda told me that she didn't begin to really understand that she wasn't alone in what she had experienced and felt until therapy. "It was then that I realized a number of people have suffered from that (meaning abuse)." Coupled with dealing with the abuse, however, was the Multiple Personality Disorder. Not finding anyone who was talking about it the way she had experienced gave Glenda courage to move forward with sharing her own experiences. "I found the courage because I wanted someone to write a book from their point of view to say this is what it's like to be multiple. I'm putting it out there for people to say here's the story, and I hope it will be beneficial to you."

That is exactly what it is doing. "It has helped people to open up to me," Glenda shares. "Some have never shared with anyone before. The fact is that (the abuse) affects them in their lives many years after." The communication about it is helping others to understand what the person has gone through and is going through.

Faith is such an important factor to Glenda Hunter's survival as well. When you are abused and mistreated it is easy to feel as though you don't matter. She experienced those very feelings about herself.

That is not the person she is today.

"Getting through the therapy and working through the issues has helped," she says. "When you are degraded in numerous ways you carry that with you until you can work through that to say 'I am worth something'." She has also come to a revelation about herself and all of us. "God has made us all very special," she says. "He has made us all unique. We all have a place and a purpose. I want other to know that they have worth outside of what has happened to them."

Glenda's third book WHO ME? WORTHWHILE? YES, YOU! shares how we can begin to look at ourselves and our circumstances differently. She admits it's not easy and might take time, but it is definitely possible and worth it. "You might ask 'How can God love me with all of this in my background?' The wonderful thing is that He does. He loves you as equally as He does anyone else."

In WHO ME she goes on to say this: "I have always felt like I was not good enough for anything. Therefore, everything I tried I did in fear. I was afraid that if people really found out who I was they certainly would not like me. Everything I worked for would be over. Being fearful can cause you to always be looking over your shoulder wondering what was going to happen next. You become afraid that something bad was waiting down the line for you, therefore, you chose to stand still. When fear controls you, you do not move far or at all. Let God help you get over the fears that cause you to shudder whenever you think of facing the world. The world can be scary enough place without carrying added, unnecessary fear. What will you do with your fear? I have chosen. Let God handle those kinds of fears in my life. It is not always easy but worth the effort."

In sharing a part of herself, Glenda Hunter is giving us all something to reflect on when we look at our lives. What does she want everyone who has suffered in silence with the abuse to know? "I want them to know they are worthwhile," she says. "Even though you have had to hold that secret in or been a victim you don't have to stay a victim. You can be a victor. I want them to look within themselves and say I do love who I am. I am important."

Get Glenda's books on Amazon. Her website is

TAKE TEN with Marriage and Family Therapist/Author Holli Kenley

by Cyrus Webb

Conversations' "Take Ten" series allows us to communicate with movers and shakers in a way that is quick, concise and thought-provoking. Holli Kenley is someone I have had the pleasure of interviewing several times on Conversations LIVE the radio show. She has been able to address issues of family, relationships and technology in a way that is both effective and filled with compassion.

As 2019 was coming to a close she returned to Conversations LIVE to discuss her newest book PILATES FOR PARENTING. Before that, however, she participated in "Take Ten", sharing a bit of her work and the impact it's having around the world. Enjoy!

1) Holli, glad we can have you be a part of “Take Ten”. First of all you have become an authority when it comes to the topics of trauma and moving forward past trauma. What has it been like for you to share what you have learned with others?
Sharing what I have learned is incredibly rewarding. Working in the areas of trauma, abuse, as well as all kinds of betrayal, I am mindful of the painful self-deprecating emotions such as shame, self-blame, and guilt which are embedded deeply within these injuries. Therefore, whether it is in my writing or my speaking, I approach my audiences with the concept of “shared suffering,” reminding them they are not alone. Because I am an abuse survivor, I know that moving towards wellness is hard fought and it can be a lengthy journey.  Thus, by creating recovering tools and healing strategies tailored specifically to address sensitive issues, it is my passion and purpose to help others shorten their stay in their pain-fields.

2) Over the past year the book DAUGHTERS BETRAYED BY THEIR MOTHERS has gotten a lot of attention. What was your hope in writing this particular book?
In many cultures and societies, it is often not permissible or it is of great risk to speak about personal injustices which take place, especially within families. Because of the traditional roles which mothers play within our lives along with the various positive connotations of “motherhood,” it is extremely difficult for daughters (and sons) who have been wounded by their mothers to voice their truths. My hope in writing “Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving  From Brokenness To Wholeness” is to open up a conversation about a truth which is rarely spoken of or addressed – “knowing you have a mother but you don’t.” Also, by sharing the narratives of seven daughters, I hope to peel away the shame, secrecy, and stigma of this topic, allowing the Daughters’ voices to connect to the silence of others.

3) It might be a difficult question but out of DAUGHTERS BETRAYED BY THEIR MOTHERS whose story hit you the hardest?
This is a difficult question. However, what I discovered is this.  Each Daughters’ narrative “hit me differently.” What I mean is that within each Daughters’ story, there was at least one experience that both of us shared which connected me to her pain by taking me back to mine. For example, when Robyn described the physical abuse from her mother, I immediately visualized the horrific beating I endured at a young age from my mother. Although my heart was hurting for Robyn as she disclosed her years of trauma, at the same time I felt a level of comfort knowing I wasn’t alone. With every Daughter, I discovered that she did not feel like she was “enough” for her mother.  She did not feel valuable, or important, or that she mattered. While this was hard for me to hear, I knew other Daughters (and sons) would find comfort in knowing this as well.

4) I also love that you have written other things that are great for the entire family, especially when it comes to technology. Your book POWER DOWN & PARENT UP is a great example of that. What was your hope in writing it?
Thank you for asking about Power Down & Parent Up!  I have been interested in our relationship with technology for over a decade. Because I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I am very interested in how our degree of access or exposure to or consumption of ANYTHING  is impacting or affecting the well-being of our children and our families. I believe that most parents and guardians want to be very effective in their parenting. However, I also believe that most parents and guardians don’t have any idea about the harmful effects of an abundance of screen time.  Therefore, my hope in writing PDPU is two-fold. First, in a concise format, I want to inform and educate them about some of the concerns regarding our degree of usage. Secondly, I want to provide them with tools and strategies in cultivating a healthy diet of face to face time and screen time within their families.  As I share with families, it is not about banning technology. It’s about balancing it!

5) In POWER DOWN & PARENT UP you deal with a host of issues including cyber bullying. What practical tips do you include that our readers here should know about?
The first section in “Power Down & Parent Up” deals with cyber bullying.  Within that section, I provide tools for parents and guardians so they know how to “Protect” their children against cyber bullying, how to “Intervene” when something harmful takes place, and how to “Prevent” cyber bullying. For example, one Intervention strategy is “Have a safety plan in place.” I describe the three step safety practice of “Stop, Save, & Share.” In the Protection section, I discuss the importance of establishing a Family Media Plan.  In fact, this is also highlighted in Screen Dependence, the second part of PDPU. This is a mandatory tool! This is foundational to establishing a safer and healthier relationship with technology and in reconnecting with one another! And, there is lots more.

6) You bring a part of yourself to everything you write and do. Did you know that was going to be important to the connections you are forming?
Bringing a part of myself into everything I write and do  has been a natural evolution for me. Although sometimes it can be a bit scary, I trust that by being authentic and truthful with my audiences they in turn will trust I am not coming from a place of judgement but from a place of  empathy, compassion, and unconditional positive regard. Having had years of therapy in my journey, if I want others to connect to my work and engage them in the recovering process, I must first “show up” and I must be transparent.

7) We have talked on the radio show Conversations LIVE about the work involved in moving past the trauma and hurt we have faced. Have you found that process to be the real work in getting to a place of peace?
In “Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness,” I begin with a well-known  quote by Stephan Hoeller: “A Pearl Is A Beautiful Thing Produced By An Injured Life.” After doing a little research, I discovered that it takes around seven years for a real pearl to form. The process cannot be rushed or it will jeopardize its growth. I have found that recovery is no different. If we want to get to a place of peace and wellbeing, we must be willing to do the hard work, for as long as it takes.

8) This work you do is not easy. What keeps you going in spite of the challenges and what it takes out of you?
Thank you for acknowledging that the work I do is not easy. In my life I have found, anything worthwhile rarely is. Tragically, issues such as abuse, addiction, betrayal, bullying and cyber bullying, trauma, and relapse (of all kinds) are pandemic. What keeps me going is believing  my work will connect with others, creating a shift in their thinking or feeling and motivating them to choose wellness. There is no greater reward than knowing one of my writings or workshops contributed to the recovering of another precious being.

What also keeps me going is conducting the research behind my work. Whether the topic is betrayal or screen dependence, learning from the narratives or findings of others, it is critical and foundational for me to remain open and receptive to their truths. Although at times this can require much of me, as it was when conducting the interviews for  “Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers,” this process replenishes me, both personally and professionally.

9) PILATES WITH PARENTING is the new book. How did you decide what you wanted to address?
After the publication of the Daughters’ book, I was excited to write a creative yet practical guide for parents and guardians based on what I had learned from the Daughters about mothers who “unwilling, unable, or incapable” of fulfilling their roles and how that impacted their daughters’ lives.  As a mother, I wanted to incorporate the concepts I’m proud of in raising my daughter but also include aspects of parenting which I would have done differently. My new book “Pilates For Parenting is a concise book for those who are parents currently and for those thinking of adding to their families.  Filled with assessments and exercises, “Pilates For Parenting” is designed to “Stretch Yourself & Strengthen Your Family!”

10) Thanks so much for your time, Holli. Really appreciate it. Let our audience know how they can stay connected with you.

Thank you so much! Audiences can connect with me on the following:

[FITNESS] Five Tips for Getting Fit by Branden Nicholson

Starting a fitness journey is always a challenge, but it may feel even more daunting when you’re carrying a few extra pounds.

If it’s been awhile since the last time you laced up your sneakers, you may not be 100 percent sure what you’re still capable of — which can make it a little intimidating to hit the gym alongside people who look like chiseled bodybuilders and aspiring fitness models.

But “fit” comes in many shapes and sizes — and you can always nail fitness goals in your own living room if the gym isn’t exactly your happy place.

Here are a few tips for getting in shape, no matter what your shape.

1. No workout is off limits
Have you ever seen a workout that looked intriguing, but you were concerned you didn’t have the “right” body type for it yet?

Maybe you want to try martial arts, but you’re worried that you lack the mobility, coordination, or power to execute a jab/cross/snap kick combo like a Muay Thai fighter. Or you want to try yoga, but you can barely hold a pose.

Put those worries aside. If a workout program looks fun don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try it — because you’re more likely to stick with a workout program you actually enjoy. You can always modify exercises to make them less strenuous until you build the strength and mobility needed to execute them fully.

2. Don’t underestimate your fitness abilities
Your weight or BMI (body mass index) can help you determine your starting point, but they’re not the only (or even the best) way to measure fitness.

Instead, gauge your progress by how strong and energetic you feel, and when you notice your workouts getting easier, go harder. If you begin to notice that the modifiers aren’t leaving you out of breath and drenched in sweat by the end of a workout, it’s time to move on to the main moves.

3. Get the right workout gear
Splurging on workout gear might feel kind of vain, but it isn’t just about taking awesome sweaty selfies. The right gear can keep you comfortable and even help prevent discomfort and injury.

For women a supportive sports bra can keep everything in place during plyometric (jumping) exercises, for example. Working out with the right shoes is vital for many reasons. Unless you’re running, stop wearing running shoes when you exercise. Consider purchasing training shoes instead. Everyone’s feet are different, so it’s not one-size-fits-all. But for anyone — especially anyone who’s plus-sized — make sure you have a shoe that supports the workout you are doing.

4. Pay attention to your technique
Proper form is always important. Not only does it help you get the most out of the exercise, but it can also help you reduce your risk of injury. It’s really important to make sure your technique is there — especially if you’re carrying around more weight because you need to protect your joints.

Work on proper alignment and proper technique so you’re avoiding injury — and getting better results, as well.It can be tempting to go full-throttle from the get-go, but that can backfire — if you get hurt, you won’t be able to work out for awhile.

5. Set non-scale goals
Don’t let the scale be your only barometer of success — look for other signs that you’re getting stronger and slimmer. Have you lost an inch off your waist? Are you using heavier weights than you were last month? Can you hold a 10 seconds plank longer? Do you see a thinner profile when you look in the mirror?

Focus on non-scale victories, like how you’re feeling during the workouts and if you have more energy during the day. That includes emotional victories, too, such as feelings of pride and confidence following a tough workout. The keys to meeting fitness goals are to stay positive and not get discouraged. Stay consistent and be patient — results will come.

After a tough workout a lot of people feel like a new and improved version of themselves, regardless of how much weight they have lost. Results vary depending on starting point and effort. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.

Always consult your physician and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program or using any supplement or meal replacement product, especially if you have any unique medical conditions or needs.

For more information on ways to get fit with Branden Nicholson visit

Lamar Odom's Journey From DARKNESS TO LIGHT

by Cyrus Webb

So many of us have heard the name Lamar Odom and had our own thoughts about the man. Some automatically think sports. Others might go to his relationships. For some the first thing that comes to mind are the demons he has battled. Regardless of what comes to mind there is no doubt that in 2019 Lamar Odom has chosen to define himself on his own terms, accomplishing new goals (competing on the court, on Dancing with the Stars and now as an Entrepreneur), hitting new milestones and finding love long the way.

I’m not the sports guy in my circle, but everyone knows I’m a sucker for a great story. So when it was announced that Lamar Odom’s book DARKNESS TO LIGHT was being released I knew I had to read it and have a chat with him about it. Though I’m still working on the radio version of this chat to share with our listeners of Conversations LIVE this honest, no-holds barred conversation you’re about to read is Lamar Odom in his own words, telling his story and what he is going to do with the gift of today.

“I've had separation anxiety since my mother died, although back then I didn't know there was a name for it. I hated to be alone. The feeling that no one was around and that I'd been abandoned could easily trigger the pain of my mother's death. To this day, I find it ironic that when things get the darkest I choose to be alone. I retreat to where no one can find me.

“Big decisions intimidated me, and I tried to avoid them as best I could. There was a lot of pressure. People constantly in my ear and the fear of making the wrong decision. (This led to sometimes the wrong choices, reverting to old vices.) Regret seems to linger with me, and I didn't want to add to the existing pile of woes.

“I had been obsessed with sex as long as I can remember. I love to touch women, and I need to feel close to women and feel their skin on mine. To touch a woman is to feel safe. The physical contact is something that I need. It doesn't even have to always be sex. If it's spooning on the bed, it will satisfy me just the same. I just need the connection. I've been looking for my mother ever since she died. I looked for her in the women I took home. I use sex to fill the void to make me feel complete. I want to be loved, but I could never find love. I could be physically fulfilled, but I was always left emotionally empty. I needed women as an outlet and escape, but this does not come without problems.

“When you have a burgeoning drug habit surrounding yourself with enablers and habitual users is one thing, but rolling with people who have bigger narcotic appetites than yours is like hitting fast forward on your drug problem. I was a drug addict, plain and simple. I had arrived at this terrible, unwanted, inevitable conclusion almost on cruise control. It felt like destiny. I've been building the resume before I ever rolled my first joint or others have been rolling it for me.

My love affair with cocaine wasn't going to go away (on its own). You know how you meet a new girl and fall head over heels in love and can't seem to get enough of that person? That's what happened when I first did Coke. And when you first do it, you don't realize the power it has. As my cocaine use transformed from experimental to habitual, I hid it from my closest friends.

“My father physically abused my mother, (who was ) my only source of protection. She screamed and cried and struggled. I was helpless and felt like a coward, because I couldn't do a thing about it. It stripped me of any power before I knew what those things meant. I'd see my mom beaten. Then we'd go to sleep several feet from one another in our twin beds in the upstairs bedroom of my grandmother's house.

“These were things that I would never recover from. I still haven't to this day. I convinced myself that everything I was doing was my destiny, but I cringe when I heard Kathy Odom's voice in those moments of indecision and despair. ‘Lamar, you are your own light.’ She tells me ‘You are a light for all others.’

“Khloe introduced me to her family and even though I had seen KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS a few times, I was taken aback by how close knit they were. They would squabble and argue, but love always prevailed. I never had a strong family union, and as a 30 year old man it was something I still craved deeply. I've always wanted brothers and sisters and all of a sudden I had five, so many holes in my life were filled instantly. Being with Khloe made me feel like a part of the family that was valuable to me beyond words. Being a part of Khloe's life and getting to know each member of the Kardashians family is one of the things I'm proudest of in my life. It's right up there with winning a championship and having kids.”

As 2019 comes to a close Lamar proudly says he has found love, new opportunities and a new appreciation for life. “I am closer to God in this moment than I've ever been,” he says. When he nearly died and then opened his eyes for the first time in 48 hours afterwards he says he was coming “from the darkness to the light.” In that moment he thought: “This is the first day of the rest of my life. This is not the final portrait of Lamar. I'm not ready.”

As he says in his book DARKNESS TO LIGHT “I've learned so many lessons in this life. I fall down, I get up or God picks me up, or my kids do. We are born, we live and we die. I will keep breathing. I will keep loving, and I will believe today I will live.” What a great affirmation for us all.

Stay connected with all things Lamar at