Friday, April 27, 2012


The Middle East is a beautiful place filled with the magic of the ancient world liberally mixed with modern. It’s filled with people good and bad—as with any place you visit in this world. Despite the political structures, scratch the surface of people, regardless of race, and there is a commonality; they want to be happy, have a good life, a secure place to live with plenty to eat, raise their children in safety to thrive and succeed. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible due to political instability. Such is the case with Egypt and in January of 2011, a campaign of non-violent civil resistance which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, and labor strikes. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Mubarak. It wasn’t a particularly safe time for westerners to be there. Various governments started evacuating their people living in Egypt.

My cyber friend, and romance author, Jenyfer Matthews and her family were among those evacuated. I knew she had lived in the Middle east for over ten years. It was home to her children. I was curious about the changes she and her family faced relocating back to the States and the effect on her writing career.

It’s been just over a year since my family evacuated Egypt, days after the first wave of the revolution. After we left, my children and I spent much of the year in limbo, staying with family and friends, waiting to see what would happen next – and whether or not we would be returning to Cairo. Just after summer vacation, days before I would have purchased tickets for us to return to Cairo, my husband was offered a job in Michigan.

About face!

If I had been paralyzed by anxiety and indecision in the first part of last year, suddenly I had too much to do in a very short period of time. My husband had already returned to Cairo after visiting us on his summer vacation and worked out his notice period and organized our personal things for shipping. I came to Michigan to find a rental house and then packed up my car for our move. The children and I arrived on Labor Day, the day before school started. We spent the first week on air mattresses, but they started school on time!

Being anxious and perpetually stressed out didn’t do much for my creativity last year either. I managed to get my backlist formatted for digital and paperback release but wasn’t able to add anything to my unfinished stories. Since returning to the US, I’ve had the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles by stalking garage sales and refinishing furniture that I find – a practical occupation as well since we lived in furnished housing while we were abroad and have very little furniture of our own. A pleasant side effect of that creative outlet was to find my mind wandering while sanding and telling me stories again.

Our transition to living in the US again after a decade abroad hasn’t been without its bumps. I’m a naturally chatty person and when you live abroad, you tend to make friends fast. It probably has something to do with being out of your own element, but I’ve met and bonded with people nearly instantly in my travels and am used to that sort of interaction now. However, I think my instantly familiar manner is a bit off-putting to the classic Midwest reserve if the people I’ve found myself chatting to in the produce section of the grocery store are anything to judge by! (That’s me, the talkative blond by the bananas)

I’ve also had to adjust my shopping habits. Having daily access to a Target is a dangerous thing! I’m used to what I call binge shopping – or trying to buy a year’s supply of “X” at a time because there was nothing that came close to Target in Cairo and I had to stock up on everything in the summers. Having a mall within ten minutes of my house doesn’t mean I need to visit it every day – I can shop at will, when needs arise now. Amazing.

One thing I love love love about Michigan is the number of weekly garage sales. I’ve always loved garage sales but it’s great to be able to use the bargaining skills I honed in the Middle East to get a great deal.

Do I miss Cairo? Of course. Cairo is a tremendously large and polluted city, but Egypt is the kind of place that gets under your skin. Life in Michigan isn’t as exciting or as challenging a place to live on a day-to-day basis as Cairo was – but when “exciting” is punctuated by the sound of gunfire, the constant threat of political instability, and rising crime rates then I’ll take the less exciting option, thanks!

If you want to read more about Jenyfer's thoughts on this and her life back here in the States, check out her blog

Three popular contemporary romance novels by Jenyfer Matthews together for the first time in one volume for one amazing low price. —Here to Stay, One Crazy Summer, and All the Way Home

I am an American recently returned to the US after more than a decade in the Middle East, most recently living in Cairo, Egypt. Aside from writing, I'm a married mom of two, a decent (if reluctant) cook, an encyclopedia of random scientific / medical facts, a wine lover (but not a snob!), and a Capricorn. I love to travel, spend time with good friends, and laugh at life's surprises. View of life - definitely half full. You can find Jenyfer: Facebook and her website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


What do you do when your schedule is full to bursting and the juggling act is next to impossible? My guest, para-romance author Sara Humphreys faced just such a situation. But, I'll let her tell you about it.

For the past few years I’ve been juggling my family (I’m married and we have four boys), a full-time job, side gigs from time-to-time with Taney Speaker Training (my company) and a writing career.  It’s been exhausting but exhilarating as well. However, the grind of doing it all was taking a toll on me and I realized that something had to give.

So what are the options?

1. Give up the family. Not in this lifetime. Not in any scenario. Family is everything. 
            Ok…clearly not giving up the family. What else?
2. Give up writing. Not happening. First of all, I’m contracted for two series and I’ve got    more books to deliver. Secondly, I love writing. I adore creating new characters and weaving a unique world for the readers to get lost in
            Ok…not giving up the writing. What else?
3. Resign from my full-time job and build Taney Speaker Training into the company I know it can be. Hmmmm. This one had possibilities. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Pros:  Work for myself doing something I love. Work out of my home office, which will give me both the time and flexibility to accommodate my family and write.             Cons: No steady paycheck.
          Yikes. That’s a big-ass con.

My husband and I sat down for a major heart-to-heart and discussed the options.  Our boys are in middle school and high school and they’re going to need me around now more than ever. Time is flying by and I don’t want to miss out on this special time in their lives but I still need to make a living.  No matter how many times we went over it…we kept coming back to the same thing.

Option #3.

The interesting thing is that once we decided that #3 was the obvious choice…doors began to open for my company, Taney Speaker Training.  Within about two weeks, I had four or five potential gigs come my way and proposals starting to go out. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? The universe seemed to be sending signals that I’m making the right choice.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m terrified.  I’m aware of the risks. I vacillate between being excited about what the future holds and wanting to vomit for not knowing what exactly that might be.
I worry that my books won’t sell or that my company won’t get proposals but on the other hand…I can envision success and feel as though it’s within my reach.

At the end of the day, this is an enormous leap of faith. I’m going to practice what I preach and follow my passion.  If I don’t try…then I’ll never know.

Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and leap.

  • How about you? Have you ever made a giant leap of faith?


She should be seen, but never touched… 

Kerry Smithson's modeling career ensures that she will be admired from afar, which is essential since mere human touch sparks blinding pain and terrifying visions. 

Every good model needs a heavenly bodyguard… 

Dante Coltari is hired to protect Kerry from those who know who she is—or more importantly what she is—and want her dead because of it. Nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of keeping her safe. But, strangely, his lightest touch brings her exquisite pleasure rather than pain, and Dante and Kerry have an otherwordly connection that might just pull them through. EXCERPT

Red-hot love scenes punctuate a well-plotted suspense story that will keep readers turning pages as fast as they can.
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Sara Humphreys has been attracted to the fantasies of science fiction, paranormal, and romance since her adolescence when she had a mad crush on Captain Kirk. An actress and public speaker, Sara lives with her husband--who is very considerate of her double life--and four amazing boys, in Bronxville, New York. For more information, please visit, Website. Like her on Facebook!/authorsara. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 23, 2012


As a kid, I always had a absorption for eyes—the sheen of them, the size and shape, and what they tell you about the creature they’re attached to. I drew them constantly. All sizes and shapes. I go back and look at some of my school notebooks and there are all sorts of eye pictures in the margins—human and animal. I still catch myself drawing them.

A curious young Bengal tiger, taken by Swamidu

The big cat’s eyes have a particular allure for me. Which probably explains my fascination for the gem called Tiger-Eye. The luster and shades of colors they come in is amazing.

Polished Tiger-eye gemstones in various colors.
Tiger-eye is in the quartz family. What makes them different from many quartz gemstones is they’re metamorphic—meaning they start out as one thing and through great heat and pressure become something different, something beautiful. They tend to be golden in color—all shades of amber and brown because of the iron oxide. As you can see from the picture, some do come in blue, green, and some rare reds (and they can be dyed other colors and there are simulated tiger-eye gems, too).

Tigers eye is one of the most popular chatoyant gemstone. In gemology, chatoyancy, or chatoyance is an optical reflectance effect seen in certain gemstones and the amount of color or luster depends upon the angle of light when being cut and shaped. Aquamarines, tourmalines, moonstone, and some beryl quartz are chatoyant gemstones.

Polished Tiger-eye gem-easy to
see the reason for the name. 
The word Chatoyant comes from the French word, chatoyer and means to shimmer like a cat's eyes. Chat is French for Cat.

Most Tiger-eye gems are found in South Africa but are also found in places like Australia and the US. 

One Tiger Eye meaning assures the correct use of power, courage, grace and the ability to see clearly without illusion. It was a stone carried by soldiers to enable them to see clearly in the heat of battle. Shamans and healers carry tiger-eye for grounding in metaphysical work and healing. 

In business, the Tiger-eye is supposed to draw the qualities of the tiger into the wearer—patience, focus, and determination. Tiger-eye is a popular gem for men’s jewelry and there are those in business who carry the gem as a talisman for clear thinking and insight in to the situations. 

Another Tiger Eye meaning was to restore peace and harmony to the wearer.

I don’t wear the Tiger’s Eye for it’s supposed mystical properties or what it represents. I wear it because it’s a beautiful gemstone when cut and polished properly, and placed in the right setting. Like a pendant. :-)