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Friday, April 13, 2018

In the Spotlight: Bagels & Salsa by Lara Reznik


BAGELS & SALSA by Lara Reznik, Suspense/Romance/Humor, 296 pp., $12.99 (Paperback) $3.99 (Kindle edition)


Title: BAGELS & SALSA
Author: Lara Reznik
Publisher: Enchanted Indie Press
Pages: 296
Genre: Suspense/Romance/Humor

Author Lara Reznik blends suspense, romance, and humor in her latest novel, BAGELS & SALSA (http://www.larareznik.com/bagels-and-salsa). Loosely based on Reznik’s life, the story of Laila and Eduardo highlights the turmoil that surfaces when a Jewish sociologist from New York and a Hispanic doctor from rural New Mexico fall hard and fast for each other. Their blossoming relationship develops against the backdrop of terror the Son of Sam created in New York City during the summer of 1977.

Early reviews of BAGELS & SALSA praise the story’s dynamic plot and colorful characters:
“The author tells a simple love story, but she structures the novel to provide a panoramic view of her characters” (Kirkus Reviews).

“Another lovely read from Lara Reznik! . . . As with all her novels there are also plenty of fun subplot twists and turns. I wanted more.”  (Barbara Gaines, Former Executive Producer of The Late Show with David Letterman).

BAGELS & SALSA opens at a high school assembly hall in a rough part of the Bronx where Laila Levin is giving her first postdoctorate presentation on the US teen pregnancy epidemic. Her fear of public speaking and a chance encounter with the Son of Sam unravel her as several loud bangs crack through the air. Laila falls on the stage and injures her right shoulder. Fortunately, Dr. Eduardo Quintana jumps into action.

What begins as a playful flirtation while Laila recovers in the hospital propels into a more serious relationship with the handsome doctor. Their mutual passion is so intense that it stuns them both. The unlikely pair share strong family values and an interest in teen pregnancy prevention. After a brief courtship, Eduardo persuades Laila to accompany him to his family’s ranch near EspaƱola, New Mexico, where he plans to open a family practice. The rural town has one of the highest pregnancy rates in North America: the perfect place for Laila’s research.

Once in New Mexico, Laila is blatantly rejected by Sylvia, Eduardo’s controlling mother. Sylvia wants Eduardo to marry Violet, his high school sweetheart, who has recently returned to New Mexico after a failed flight attendant career and a walk on the dark side of Hollywood. Violet’s mother and Sylvia cook up a plan to send Laila packing and reunite their children. The Quintanas hold a large pig roast and invite a menagerie of tattooed cousins, rodeo stars, and mariachis. And the drop-dead gorgeous Violet makes a grand entrance.

In the midst of the pandemonium that results, a shocking family secret is revealed, and Laila and Eduardo’s love for each other is severely tested. Can their relationship survive the fierce clash of cultures, the murderous intentions of a Son of Sam copycat who has stalked Laila from New York City, and their own uncertainties about the upheavals that their union will cause in their lives?

Reznik’s first goal in writing BAGELS & SALSA is to entertain readers. However, she says, “On a more thematic level, I’d like readers to think about the importance of embracing religious, ethnic, and cultural differences, which have been at the core of so much conflict in the world.”
Order Your Copy!

https://www.amazon.com/Mistress-Suffragette-Diana-Forbes-ebook/dp/B06XG3G2TF


On the morning of July 29, 1977, as New York’s blistering heat wave persisted, every woman in Manhattan was in a state of panic. The Daily News published a handwritten letter from a man claiming to be the serial murderer of forty-four victims. That specific day had been singled out in the letter as the date he planned to strike again. Some of my friends refused to leave their apartments. Others escaped to Fire Island or the Catskills, or retreated to their parents’ homes in the suburbs.
I tried not to let the panic pervading New York City that stifling summer morning dictate my life despite the fact that July 29th was also the two-year anniversary of my disastrous nuptials to Julian Goldblatt or Jules Gold, the nom de plume he used on his hip late night radio show. Any reminder of my wedding day still made me cringe with rage and humiliation.
Admittedly, my anxiety was at an all time high as I parked my canary-yellow Chevrolet Bel Air, and fed coins into the meter at the curb. Fearful of the new threats from the Son of Sam, I opened my purse and eyeballed the .38 caliber pistol my father had slipped under the table last night at Ratners on Delancey Street, a kosher dairy restaurant, and the perfect choice for a vegetarian like me.


Lara Reznik is a native New Yorker who studied at the University of New Mexico and the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Bagels & Salsa is her third novel.

Writing books since she was six years old, Reznik retired from an executive position in information technology after the success of her first novel, The Girl From Long Guyland, published in 2012. In 2015, Reznik published her second book, The M&M Boys.

Reznik currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two miniature Aussies.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

 


Friday, April 6, 2018

In the Spotlight: Imagine That: Playing With the Power of Imagination @tamaradorris


IMAGINE THAT: PLAYING WITH THE POWER OF IMAGINATION by Tamara Dorris, Self-Help/Spiritual, 190 pp., $12.88 (Paperback) 


Title: IMAGINE THAT: PLAYING WITH THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
Author: Tamara Dorris
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 190
Genre: Self-Help/Spiritual

From rock-solid science to centuries-old scripture, we’ve been told our thoughts and emotions matter, and may even be indicators of our future. In this book, Tamara Dorris shows you that the real key to navigating your way to a new reality rests in your almost-dormant imagination. She points out that we’re all using our imaginations anyway, but most of us are using them to conjure up the worst instead of designing the best.

With wit, humor, and sass Tamara shares how anyone can learn to use their imagination in a more productive, profitable, and effective way.

The second half of the book is a 33-Day Challenge, including daily lessons and journaling exercises to help solidify and apply the age-old, as well as scientifically new ideas presented in the first section of the book. Be prepared to have your mind a little bit blown, your “mean monkey” a little bit riled up, and start intentionally creating your life with excitement and intention!

Order Your Copy!

https://www.amazon.com/Mistress-Suffragette-Diana-Forbes-ebook/dp/B06XG3G2TF



Introduction

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
                                                              Carl Sagan

Let’s imagine a house. There it is, sitting on the street just being a house. Got it? Okay, now imagine you took the roof off. Is it still a house? What about if you took the walls down? I’m not asking you if it has “house potential,” I’m asking you if it’s still a house. Now what about if you took all the sticks and stucco down, and bulldozed the whole mess away. No house, right?

Then let’s go back to square one since that’s the whole idea here. A person had an idea of a house. Next, he hired an architect to draw out the house (with me so far?), and then after all the permits and politics, the ground is finally broken. Then with time and red tape, the foundation is poured, then the sticks and stucco and eventually, the “For Sale” sign goes in the yard (my favorite part). The question really is this: when did it become a house? Wasn’t the idea/image in the builder’s mind already a house? Didn’t he simply convey that image to the guy who drew it? And weren’t the tractor operators and construction workers just carrying out that original image?

You see, in “reality” our reality is but a reflection of what has already been “real” in another realm; or our imagination. Now if that’s too farfetched for you, don’t worry; I do not and will not rattle on about bending reality in weird ways, but it may interest you to know that quantum physics is the basis for that statement. And not coincidentally, even spiritual teachings like the Bible have my back. But let’s be clear. I can’t just imagine a house in my head and then have it pop up out of nowhere and appear on my street tomorrow (but what a fun way to freak out the neighbors, right?). We have to do things to make things happen. My point is merely to make you aware that anything and everything you are seeing in the material world right now first started as a thought. The thought alone starts the wheels of creation even though we may see no sign of it in the “real” world.

It’s no secret or surprise that most (winning) athletes and Olympians mentally rehearse their victory before it really happens. They imagine the jump, the bell, the whatever-their-sport is until it’s so real they can actually hear the roar of the crowd and the sound of the popping champagne bottle (I’m not positive about that last part, but if I ever get a gold medal you can bet there’ll be some bubbly).

Likewise surgeons, musicians, and other performers mentally rehearse their successes. Many military programs now use virtual reality to help soldiers imagine with their five senses what a specific experience would be like. Same with astronauts and pilots that use simulation experiences. The people in the make-shift shuttle are actually being spun around ridiculously fast. The Navy divers are really being dropped into below freezing-your-ass-off water and deprived of oxygen. While none of the latter sounds like a day in the park to me, the point to glean from these painful parties is that some situations require such attentive imagination, that we’ve got to throw in some physical components to make it even more real so when it is real, fewer people will freak out and not know what to do when shit hits the fan.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t heading off to Mars or deep sea diving for missiles anytime soon. We are going to use our beautiful brains in ways that bring us what we want—but honestly, if you have to use your imagination to solve a not-so-fun circumstance, the practice I teach you in this book will come in handy too. So let’s first ask ourselves what imagination is.
The occipital lobe is located in the back of your brain (visual cortex) and your parietal lobe lies above that. Obviously the visual cortex is what allows you to “see” inside your mind (as well as outside in your world) and the parietal lobe is responsible for the sensory parts of your experiences. In a recent study it was suggested that when you are looking at something, the image of it goes to your occipital lobe, up to your parietal lobe. But the study indicated that when people visualize, the image starts in the partial lobe and flows down to the occipital. While the researchers aren’t certain what that means, I suspect it’s the brain’s simple way of telling itself whether something has hit our physical reality yet, or if it’s still in the planning stages of our mental rehearsal, but interestingly, it’s all happening in the same region of the brain.

In other words, your memory recall and future imaginings use the exact same parts of the brain. Think about that for a minute. When you’re remembering the birthday cake your Aunt Betsy made you when you were five, you’re activating the same mechanism in your head as when you are imagining yourself getting new hardwood floors. This has powerful implications that we’ll continue to touch on, but for now just recognize that your brain treats an imagined event very much as if it were a real memory.

An important point to remember is the difference between visualization and imagination. Note that we all possess a tiny gland in our brain called the pineal. Ancient teachings have always called it the third eye. When you simply visualize an image in your brain, you’re likely just seeing a quick picture without emotion. However, when you close your eyes and really feel a moving picture, in your imagination, you may be activating this little guy in ways that science still doesn’t fully understand…but when used properly, it’s in a good way.

The pineal gland is shaped like a baby pinecone and lets us know when it’s time to wake up or go night-night. It does this by releasing serotonin (the daytime neurotransmitter) when it detects daylight, and by releasing melatonin (the nighttime chemical) when it’s dark. Some scientists—and virtually all spiritual teachers and sages—say that this little pinecone in our heads is our “God gland.” In other words, it’s how we connect to infinite intelligence. The trouble is that most of us have our third-eye closed (wake-up, little guy!). The more relaxed we can become when we’re envisioning our future self, the more our imaginations kicks quantum ass.

So just how powerful is your imagination? Ever hear of the Placebo effect? While we can attribute a safe moon landing or an Olympic gold medal to persistence, practice, and training, when it comes to indisputable placebo studies, we got no excuses. What I mean by that is you can’t have cancer one day that every single “fact” proves is incurable and then heal it with a sugar pill, right?  If this was a now and then kind of thing, I may be skeptical too, but the number of documented cases, in spite of modern medicine not being a big fan of it, far outweigh any hocus pocus or wishful thinking. So let’s look at how this works. A patient with a problem—and it could be anything—is given a pill that contains no healing properties whatsoever. The good doctor in the study who usually doesn’t know which pill is the real deal and which is nothing—so he can’t taint the results (more on that later)—tells the patient this new miracle cure (or whatever) has been having phenomenal success. The patient takes the pill and quite often heals (to at least some extent).

Those who heal didn’t do anything differently than the one who didn’t heal, with one small exception: the self-healers believed the doctor was telling the truth so their subconscious minds “imagined” they would be well, and they were. So what happened to the others? Let’s face it, sometimes people feel like they have nothing to live for or maybe they didn’t like or trust the doctor, or importantly, they genuinely didn’t believe healing was possible. I will add that when people are in immense pain, it can be exceedingly difficult to even begin to imagine themselves well, and in some sad cases, I’m sure the poor patients have already been using their imagination in the reverse way—mentally planning their failure to heal, often with the powerful emotion of fear. Emotions are the octane that fuels our imaginations.

In other placebo studies, patients who “needed” knee replacement surgery were taken to the operating room, sedated, and sliced and stitched at the knee cap. Clearly in these cases the doctors knew who was who. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pissed if someone performed pretend surgery on me. Anyway, in most of those cases, the non-knee replacement folks were up playing shuffle board with all the real knee replacement people in no time. Okay, I really don’t know if there was any shuffle board involved in these studies, but you get the point: the placebo effect works because our brains are (usually always) perfectly capable of curing our bodies when given the proper direction and permission, backed by belief.

So if most people can cure or heal themselves, why don’t they? Well, remember that the placebo effect includes a doctor (authority) telling you that you will heal. So like a good trooper, you follow orders—or I should say, your subconscious mind does—and you get busy getting better. This is not to say a person cannot do this without a doctor, as I know firsthand.

When I was very ill with a debilitating disease, it was hard to imagine being healthy. In and out of ICU a few times over the years, and once in a hospital bed for six weeks, the doctors had no faith in my recovery. They told me I couldn’t heal unless I left some pretty important body parts behind; parts that people can’t really do without. Clearly it was not within my capacity to focus on anything but pain, weakness, and fear. But I knew that’s exactly what I had to do. Against medical warning (and some family member’s wishes) I left the hospital to heal at home. Now I’m not going to lie. It was very tough to fully embrace my imagination when my emaciated body was practically down to skin and bones and I could barely get out of bed without help. Yet every day I would lay there and see myself being healthy and happy...running around with the kids, laughing, and having fun. When you are that sick, even something as simple as driving a car seems impossible, but I would see myself driving the kids through Taco Bell (I know, but I was literally starving so work with me here).

It was a long healing process, but my body didn’t get in that condition overnight, so it took a little while to fix it. Of course I supplemented my imagining health with other holistic measures, but only through my mental fortitude did I even discover those. The point is, there was no sugar pill outside of my own determined, persistent imagination. I convinced my brain that I was happy and healthy until it believed me and started whatever miraculous process it did to have me sitting here today, telling you how freaking amazing your own imagination is.   

The issue for many of us is that we often feel like we’re at the mercy of the medical industry and we’ve long but given up self-healing efforts. Plus, people get scared when they are very ill, not to mention how hard it is to imagine yourself happy and healthy with tubes sticking out of your arms and pain wracking your body. And while the premise of this book is not focused on healing anything beyond hangovers(drink water), I  will enthusiastically point you to the book by Dr. Joe Dispenza called, You Are the Placebo. This will help your skeptical brain understand way more of the science behind all this so you can start to heal yourself...and then apply all of the information in this book to get busy getting better too. But let’s get back to the positive aspects of your brain and how you can use it to imagine whatever your heart desires.

Neuroscience tells us (and this has to do with our occipital lobe and visual cortex) that what we see in our external world is but an interpretation (reflection) based on our very own belief patterns that are firmly fixed in our cute little cortex. In other words, your outer world is mirroring your internal one. This is why the once kind of hokey statement “You create your own reality,” is not a hippie dippy new age adage, but rather, a pretty valid fact. Just sit with this a minute: your imagination is the cause and your condition, the effect. The reticular activator system of the brain “shows us” evidence of our most frequent thoughts—even the unconscious ones that we don’t know we’re thinking because its main job in life is to filter our external environment so that it matches our expectation of it. Pretty scary, right?

What’s ironically sad is that we all spend so much time and sweat equity trying to change things in our external world, feeling like we’re banging our head against a brick wall...and guess what? We are! Now I’m certainly not saying you don’t have to take actions and precautions in life, so don’t go down that rabbit hole. What I am saying though, is that it’s like looking at your reflection in the mirror, not liking how long your bangs are and trying to trim the mirror (careful, you’ll cut yourself!).

Let me give you another analogy. Consider you’re at the theater to see a good love story, but when the lights go down and those dreaded phone carrier commercials are over, the film is actually a scary clown one (because all the clown ones are scary). Do you shoot the screen? No? Why not? Could it be because the scary clown is not coming from the screen but merely being projected from the little tiny window in the back of the theater you always wonder about? You’d either change out the reel or go to another theater, but you wouldn’t blame it on the screen. It isn’t the screen’s fault. That screen is your life and your own imagination is the film.

Our eyes are projectors showing us what our brains have been programmed to focus on, and yet, we fail to recognize that we’ve got to change the movie (your brain’s projections), not shoot holes in the screen (your external experiences). The proverbial plot thickens when we realize that the majority of our thoughts aren’t even in our conscious control, until we intentionally utilize our imaginations to take the reins.

The goal of this book is to help you put on a different reel—one that you fall in love with over and over again. And the really great part is that YOU get to write it, produce it, and play in it. Move over Quentin, there’s a new kid in town.

Are you ready?

Book Trailer:





Tamara Lee Dorris, MA, is the author of 19 books, a long-time coach, consultant, and adjunct college professor. She’s spent the past few decades studying and sharing ways that people can live more fulfilling, fun, and effective lives. She’s also an avid yogi, podcaster, and wine-lover, committed to inspiring as many people as she can. Tamara holds degrees in psychology and communications, is a certified hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner, too.

Website & Social Links

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http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: When Bad Backs Happen to Good People by Jordan S. Fersel, MD





Title: When Bad Backs Happen to Good People
Author: Jordan S. Fersel, MD
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Medical
Format: Ebook


Chronic back and neck pain is a thorny issue that plagues millions living in today’s modern world and has the power to take over a person’s life—not just physically, but also psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically. The good news is that there are effective ways of dealing with chronic pain that allows patients to return to a productive life without undergoing unnecessary surgery. Dr. Jordan Fersel is a board-certified pain specialist who relies on his diverse professional experience to distinguish the differences between acute and chronic pain, scrutinize the accuracy of an MRI scan to diagnose pain, examine the architecture of the spine, explain nerve injuries, differentiate between the various types of arthritis, and offer potential treatment options. Through included case studies and illustrations, pain sufferers will learn there is hope for managing pain through proper diagnosis and a treatment plan tailored to treat individual needs. It’s Not All in Your Head shares guidance from a trusted physician that explores chronic back and neck pain, its sources, and the many treatment options available.

PURCHASE HERE


REVIEW

Many people suffer from bad backs...I am one of them. I have seen many doctors in regards to treatments and have been following the more natural path. With that said, I try to read any book I can that might shed some light on things that might be beneficial. This is one book that actually offered some new ideas, which was really refreshing.

A lot of doctors like to throw surgery out as an option, and while it can help many time it causes a myriad of other problems. Dr. Fersel lays out many different ideas in this book, and while reading it you should come away with some ideas that will help you with your type of back pain.

I recommend this to anyone who suffers from any kind of back or neck pain.



Jordan Fersel, MD, is a board-certified, pain-management fellowship-trained physician who earned a BA in biology from Queens College and an MD degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He has been director of Pain Management Services at Trinitas Medical Center Oncology Unit for several years. Dr. Fersel and his wife, Esty, divide their time between Philadelphia and West Orange, New Jersey. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Blast: The Possum in the Pool by Joy Liebl






Title: The Possum in the Pool
Author: Joy Liebl
Publisher: XLibrisUS
Genre: Children's Book
Format: Ebook


A fun and educational book with attention grabbing illustrations for younger children and easy to read text for older ones.  The book's focus is on listening to parents and the consequences of not doing so.  It also deals with a parent's love and concern for their children. It received great reviews from "Pacific Book Review" and "US Review of Books (w/Eric Hoffer)". 






Joy Liebl was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI.  She spent 5 years living in Elmhurst, IL before settling in Winter Park and then Safety Harbor, FL.  Joy loves to crochet, do needlepoint & embroidery, sketch and work with dollhouse miniatures which she sells in her Etsy Shop “JoysHandmades” along with her crocheted pieces and varied vintage items.  She is an avid reader but enjoys “Fantasy” the most.  This is her first published book.  The story line is based on a true life experience of finding a small baby possum in her pool one morning and expanding her mind to create what she felt happened before and after the poor possum fell into the pool.  Joy designed every bit of the book herself as to how each page must be set up to maximize the story.  She was thrilled with D’Lynn Roll’s vision of how Robby would look and with each picture subsequently done.  Joy was equally thrilled with the wonderful reviews she received from “Pacific Book Reviews” and “US Book Reviews”  

GIVEAWAY

Joy IS GIVING AWAY A $25 GIFT CARD!

  
Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins March 19 and ends on March 30.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 31.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone! 

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Monday, March 19
Review From Here
Literal Exposure 

Tuesday, March 20
The Writers Life
As the Pages Turn 

Wednesday, March 21
A Title Wave
I'm Shelf-ish 

Thursday, March 22
Straight From the Authors Mouth
The Dark Phantom 

Friday, March 23
The Zen Reader
Inkslingers Opus 

Monday, March 26
All Inclusive Retort
A Taste of My Mind 

Tuesday, March 27
Bent Over Bookwords
Zensanity 

Wednesday, March 28
Lover of Literature
The Book Czar 

Thursday, March 29
The Book Refuge
The Revolving Bookshelf 

Friday, March 30
Voodoo Princess
The Literary Nook


In the Spotlight & Book Giveaway: Survivors' Dawn by Ashley Warren

We are thrilled to be hosting Ashley Warren's Survivors' Dawn Blog Tour this month! Sign up to win a free copy by filling out form below. Good luck!


Title: SURVIVORS’ DAWN
Author: Ashley Warren
Publisher: Chaparral Press LLC
Pages: 316
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction / New Adult Fiction

BOOK BLURB: 

A heroic story of three college women’s fight for justice
At first glance, Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers have little in common: a churchgoing virgin, a party girl, and a resident advisor. But they all have their own dreams, dreams that can be shattered in a single night.

When freshman Brooke Flanagan first arrives at the university, she’s excited to escape her sheltered life in a Southern town. Lauren Le, a scholarship student, likes to have a good time, but she never disappoints her hardworking, single mom. Nikki Towers always goes her own way. Confident, poised, and wealthy, Nikki’s biggest problem is what to do with her future.

Into these girls’ lives walks Colin Jordan. Colin is the son of a private equity titan, captain of his club basketball team, and a brilliant pre-law student. He is also a sexual predator.

Survivors’ Dawn relates a journey of heroes: the strength, courage, and determination of the victims as they fight to survive; the obstacles they face in their pursuit of justice; and finally, with its conclusion, hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

A contemporary novel, Survivor’s Dawn wrestles with issues of privilege, sexual assault, and the responsibility of academic institutions to protect their students.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon


Book Excerpt:

LAUREN LE BEFORE:
At eleven thirty Lauren Le stood with her new friends at the Homestead, a lively bar in the Triangle. Everyone talked at once, shouting to be heard above the music. The Homestead had space for a couple hundred people, with a large square bar in the middle, dozens of stand-up tables, and two dance floors. The constant beat and the bass notes coursed through Lauren’s veins.
She took a slug of the vodka soda.
Pace yourself, Lauren.
It had taken her a month to get comfortable on campus. She had grown up in Irving, Texas, outside of Dallas, and had never traveled this far to the east before starting school here. Some of her high school friends had gone to college, but none as far away as Lauren. They fell short when it came to grades and test scores and ambition.
Lauren was the result of a short-lived and reckless affair between a Vietnamese immigrant, Kim Le, who worked in a nail salon, and a tall Texan who lit out for the oil rigs as soon as Kim missed her first period. Kim had never heard from him again, and she seldom mentioned him to Lauren. As Lauren grew older she became curious and would sometimes ask about her father.
“I was stupid,” Kim had said. “I tried for a big dream with a big white man. But he was no good.”
When Lauren pressed for more information, Kim would grow adamant.
“You forget about him. You need to study.”
If Kim wasn’t working at the salon, a short distance from their apartment, she was doing piecework for a local tailor. Kim never paid Lauren an allowance, but she let her work a part-time job so long as she kept her grades near perfect.
With a tired mother and an absent father, Lauren was forced to learn how to have a good time on her own, and at that she had excelled. As a senior with a full figure, a fun nature—her hobbies were cosplay, online gaming, and organizing flash mobs—and a curious mind about partying and sex, Lauren had always attracted guys.
She had drunk one cocktail at the Italian restaurant and started with a shot of tequila at the Homestead. When they had first arrived, the girls danced as a group for nearly an hour, not allowing the dearth of boys to deter them from getting the party started.
Lauren took a break, her head buzzing slightly from the alcohol and the dancing. Cool air from the duct above her whisked away the perspiration.
God, college is fun.
The bar began to fill, and boys drifted by their group in ones and twos. A sophomore from New Jersey bought her another drink. He was her height, with red hair, and talked fast in a northern accent. He was almost cute, except for a big pimple and his lack of coordination. They tried dancing but couldn’t make it work. Afterward, he told her his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Snore.
Lauren spied one of the resident advisors from Roxbury Hall, Nikki Towers, watching her from the other side of the bar. The girls had approached Nikki when they first entered the Homestead, nervous because they had used fake IDs to get past the bouncer. They needn’t have worried. Nikki’s nickname was Cool RA. She had a reputation for doing her own thing in her own way and never traveling in a crowd. Cool RA had wished them a good time but advised them not to get wasted. (“I’m your RA, not your babysitter.”) Nevertheless, when Lauren caught Nikki’s eye, she could tell Cool RA was not impressed with the New Jersey kid.
“So…,” he said, “do you want to come over to the frat house and listen to music? I’ve got some killer weed.”
“Oh…well…like…”
His eyes were glazed and his shoulders swayed, like a five-year-old on a bicycle. Lauren wasn’t a fan of just-met sex. If he had been gorgeous, like Liam Hemsworth, then maybe. Wait, maybe? Not maybe. Definitely! But she would not have sex with New Jersey, at least not tonight. “You know, I’m gonna hang with my friends a while longer. Thanks, though.”
“Not a problem. Catch you later.”
He leaned toward her as if expecting something. She hesitated, unsure, and then offered to shake hands. He only got about ten steps before he stopped to chat up another girl.
“What did he want?” said Caitlyn, her roommate. Caitlyn’s face turned sour as Lauren told her of the invite to smoke pot. “Eewww! That guy?”
They laughed. Lauren was light as a feather. She could party all night.
LAUREN LE AFTER:
At two thirty in the morning an Uber dropped Lauren outside Roxbury Hall. Lighting a cigarette, she gazed up at the three-story brick building and remembered move-in day, how excited she’d been; her mother and aunt and uncle had come to help. What had she wanted then? Freedom? Relief from her mother’s watchful eyes? Yes, that was part of it, but she’d hoped for a lot more.
Lauren had smoked pot with her latest score, a hipster from California, and now her head felt heavy and thick. After the joint he had wanted to have sex again. She had no urge for an encore but couldn’t think of a polite way to turn him down. What did that make in total? Three? Four? Five counting the blackout sex with Colin Jordan. Five boys (men?) in four weeks. What the hell? So weird. The hookups were like gorging on pizza, but the gnawing emptiness she’d felt after Colin hadn’t abated at all.
What did she have on the calendar for the next day? A couple lectures: Psychology and English Lit. She might make it to class, or she might not. They were easy courses anyway. Crushing the butt beneath her heel, she tossed it in a trashcan and walked through the door.
Inside Lauren’s dorm room, Caitlyn sat at her desk reading a textbook with her earbuds in.
“Hey,” said Lauren. “What are you doing up so late?”
Caitlyn turned in her chair. “Studying for the psych test.” She sniffed the air.
What? Caitlyn never studied this late. Lauren walked to Caitlyn’s side and saw, sure enough, that the fat psych book was open a third of the way through.
“What for? The test is next week.”
“It’s tomorrow.”
“No, it’s next week.”
“It’s tomorrow. I texted you to study together, but you never answered. Where’ve you been?”
Lauren ignored Caitlyn and walked to her desk to check her laptop. The test had to be next week; she’d skipped a few classes and hadn’t read the book. “What?”
“I asked where you’ve been.”
“The Homestead. I went for a drink.”
Fuck! Caitlyn was right. The test was that morning—less than seven hours away. Lauren shook her head. The buzz from the pot had turned into a headache. How did she mess this up? Caitlyn was saying something else.
“What?”
“You smell like cigarettes and pot. Where did you smoke pot?”
“Uh…I stopped at this guy’s place to party.”
“On a Tuesday? Shit, Lauren. What the fuck?”
“Hey, you’re not my mom. Chill the fuck out.”
After a shower and some caffeine, Lauren reviewed her notes and opened the textbook. Caitlyn had gone to sleep, and Lauren’s desk lamp made shadows on the floor. The quiet of the room calmed her, and for the first twenty minutes she made progress, covered the better part of a chapter, but then her eyelids grew heavy, and the words blurred on the page. A short nap would clear her head and allow her to absorb the material with her usual speed. She set a twenty-minute timer on her phone, lay down, and closed her eyes. The psychology concepts quickly drifted away.
* * *
Lauren sat in the classroom, breathing fast; her eyes flitted back and forth over the questions. Half of the class had already finished and left. She flipped back several pages. Damn. There had to be another question she could answer, but she couldn’t find it, and after another minute the professor called time.
She had woken at eight thirty to Caitlyn roughly shaking her shoulder.
“Wake up! It’s time to go. I woke you twice already.”
With no time to even brush her teeth, Lauren had pulled on boots and a clean top and walked with Caitlyn to class. She had never felt so unprepared.
And now she’d failed the test. Fucking flat-ass failed it.
Outside in the bright sunlight, Caitlyn stopped to face her. Her eyes peered into Lauren’s, her ever-present smile nowhere to be seen.
“How’d you do?” said Caitlyn.
“Awful. I really fucked up.”
“I’m sorry. You know…I tried to text you.”
Lauren’s legs were numb. Adrenaline had fired her up during the exam, but now all the energy had burned off.
Caitlyn headed off to another class, and Lauren trudged to the student union. She’d spent the last of her cash on cigarettes. Once inside, she made it to the ATM and took out ten dollars.
She stared at the red and white logo on the touchscreen.
Bank of America.
Her mother’s apartment was two blocks from a branch. Kim would deposit cash tips at the drive-thru while Lauren sat in the passenger seat. Some days at the salon were hard. The owner would berate the workers for not learning English. But the drive-thru had always lifted Kim’s spirits. On the way out she’d pause to look at the B of A sign and say the same thing every time: “Your future is in this bank.”
Lauren took two steps and her knees softened. She turned her back against the wall and sank until her butt touched the floor.
Don’t cry. Don’t.
But her throat tightened and warm tears forced their way through closed eyelids. She sat with elbows on knees, her hands over her face. Silent sobs shook her shoulders. Students walked past in the hallway, busy, with classes to attend, futures to build. Two girls giggled, happy, oblivious.
Fuck. What was happening? She was freefalling into black air.
Someone said something. A man’s running shoes appeared through spread fingers.
“Are you all right?” he said.
Lauren pressed her palms against her eyes to rub away the tears. She wouldn’t compound her failure by making people pity her, too. Pushing off the tiled floor she stood, pulled her backpack over her shoulder, and faced him.
“You looked kind of sad,” he said.
Who was this guy? What was his game? Not bad looking, with strong shoulders and a relaxed vibe, faded jeans and a simple black T-shirt.
“Do you want to fuck me?” she said.
“What?” His mouth opened. “No!” He stepped back and thrust his hands in front as if to ward her off. “What’s the matter with you?”
Several students stopped, sensing an incident of interest.
Lauren marched away from the onlookers. She ran upstairs to the second floor and exited onto the grounds on top of the hill. She kept walking, past the admissions building and the Old Chapel and onto Philosopher’s Row. She took one of the paths into the side gardens and dropped on a bench.
She rocked slowly, hugging her arms. God, how pathetic was that? What would she do next? She wanted to skip class and walk to the Homestead for an early afternoon cocktail.
As if clinging to the edge of a dark abyss, Lauren tried to hold on, her stomach roiling, her arms shaking. She had propositioned the boy, because she had wanted to fuck him. She wanted to fuck a guy…any guy…every guy.
But why? She’d never done that before. Never on the first night…that was her rule, one she’d broken how many times now? Five.
She grasped the edge of the stone bench, squeezing, ignoring the grating surface against her fingers. A bird sang from a nearby tree. The bird flew from one tree to the next, a flash of red, a cardinal. It settled for a few moments on the branch of a maple tree, whose leaves had begun to turn, sang, and flew off.
The cardinal reminded her of Todd, the gay guy she’d met three weeks earlier, with his bright plumage and sweet song. What had Todd told her as they waited for the Uber driver? Something about the dean of student affairs. Maybe she should check it out.



 About the Author

The unending accounts of sexual assault on college campuses compelled me to write Survivors’ Dawn.

My goal in writing the novel was NOT to focus on the act itself, but instead, to write of the victim’s journey, to tell a story about the strength, courage, and determination of survivors, to describe the difficulties they face in their pursuit of justice, and finally, to offer hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

As Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” implies, non-victims can never truly know how it feels to be assaulted, but we can try to empathize, and we can try to help. Awareness is key to reducing the incidence of sexual assault on campus. Please do your part by taking the It's On Us pledge and contributing to organizations that are fighting on the front lines.

Thank you to readers who give me encouragement. It means so much to me. Word of mouth is an incredible thing, so thank you also for telling your friends about Survivors' Dawn. 

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