Mike Ranta the Voyageur

On May 22, 2014, I picked up a couple of hot coffees from Tim Horton’s and drove my family to the Bow River in Calgary at the ungodly hour of O’Dark-thirty. We’re not keen to get up early when we could be sleeping in, but the sun had risen and it promised to be one of the best days of the year. Besides, it’s not every day you get a chance to catch a man they call a Canadian hero, a man with humble roots in my hometown of Atikokan, Ontario.

Our intel was good and, wearing his trademark homemade birchbark hat, he appeared before the coffee got cold. With his dog Spitzi at the bow, Mike Ranta paddled his way around a bend in the river, trailed by his photographer David Jackson in a second canoe. Mike smiled when he spotted me waving and waved back, a big smile on his face. He headed for the boat landing under the bridge where others waited to greet him.

Mike was as friendly as people said and his handshake was real. We talked about the trip and about this year’s cause, First Responders and PTSD. Inevitably, his dog Spitzi stole the show with his handsome looks and serious attitude. He’s a working dog and I think a lot of people follow Mike’s journey to keep an eye on what Spitzi’s up to.

We gave him a copy of Canadian Shorts, a collection of short stories from authors across Canada to keep him entertained around the fire at night. After hugs, and a chance to sign Mike’s canoe, he replenished his supplies at the local store and headed off down the river. Here’s the video I compiled from photos and video we took that day.  You can follow Mike Ranta’s expedition at mikeranta.ca or catch him on Facebook.

Makenzi Fisk
Author of the Intuition Series
MakenziFisk.com

Shooting Adam Dreece

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The last flotilla of yellow buses wound its way down my street, with loads of squirming school kids fogging window glass. I thumbed the TV remote to the news channel. Political drama, social unrest, environmental calamity, these were but precursors to my day. The kitchen clock ticked ominously. I waited. By now, the little ones were safely delivered to their classes and out of our way. I checked and re-checked my gear bag before I zipped it up and stowed it in the back of my car. I looked over my shoulder one last time before I pulled away. Today I was going to shoot Adam Dreece.

Whoa! What?

Perhaps I should clarify. Today I was going to shoot Adam Dreece with my camera, at his house, with his full consent and cooperation. If I know anything about Adam, it’s that he’s an extrovert with a great imagination. This was going to be fun.

Fantasy SceneI brought my lovely assistant Stacey, who is also my wife, because she is my idea person and fills in the gaps of my shy awkwardness, but it was immediately apparent that there was no need for me to be nervous. Adam was friendly and helpful, even assembling the backdrop that I would later digitally remove from the photos.

There’s one thing I’ve learned from photographing people over the years. Very few can deceive the impersonal judgement of the camera’s glass eye, and I don’t trust the ones who do. When they’re in front of the lens, people can’t conceal their insecurities, their personalities, their passions. 

blogSo it was when I shot Adam Dreece. He revealed himself as an intensely committed writer, devoted father, generous spirit, a bit of a ham, and a truly nice person. His passion for his work is motivating, having penned best selling YA series The Yellow Hoods, Man of Cloud 9 and Wizard Killer. I look forward to following his writing career.

You can learn more about Adam on his website http://adamdreece.com/

 


MakenziFisk150pxMakenzi Fisk
Author of the mystery/thriller Intuition Series
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It’s been a great year!

xmasheaderIt’s been a great year and now the holidays are upon us. If you’re anything like me, you’re saying:

Already? But I didn’t do half of what I planned!

What we don’t realize is that, although it doesn’t seem we met our goals, we certainly accomplished a lot.

Let’s look back, shall we?

staceyartThis year, I published my second children’s book, titled BLEU, Book 2 of The Magical Adventures of Miki and Siku. I write these under Brenda Fisk and the books are illustrated by Stacey O’Sullivan, who is pretty great at what she does.

I had 24 bookstore signings, most of them from January to June, and met hundreds of great people at five different Chapters stores in Calgary and Thunder Bay. You have no idea the weird questions I get. Some people actually tell me their own murder plots and I am left wondering if they are serious!

I spent the summer at my second home near Atikokan, Ontario where my plans to write were derailed by construction, renovations, and a very adorable neighbour dog who came to sit on my feet when I was trying to paint the deck. She has an uncanny ability to hear me flipping pancakes from across the lake and will be at the door, tail wagging, before we’ve had a chance to sit down and eat. She’s such an awesome dog that she has worked her way into my next novel, although renamed and with a gender change.

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I did two author readings and played with kids at the Atikokan Public Library during the summer. Kids came to hear my stories, make crafts and concoct a crazy fun recipe from my second book titled BLEU. A few dozen kids got copies of my first book LOST.

I spent a day at the Atikokan Bass Classic Artisan Festival where I got to reconnect with a lot of old friends and make new ones. During the day, I discovered that a baker from another table had been my boss at my first job when I was eleven. It took us half a day to piece together how I knew her. She’d fired me for throwing away too much “good lettuce” when I was on morning salad prep. I reassured her that I had turned out okay after all! 😀

I talked about books with a lot of cool people at the Lethbridge Library’s Word on the Street Festival in September.
I presented on Writing a Series to the Lethbridge River Bottom Writers in October at Lethbridge College, a fantastic group of authors who write in all genres.

lpcoverfrontI started a web project to help authors promote each other across social media. If  you’re a Canadian author, get in on the buzz at Canadian Author Spotlight for under $20 until Dec 31/16.

Jameson Kooper is a talented poet from Atikokan, Ontario, my home town. This fall, we have been working on his first book and I’m truly excited about the project!

It will be published under my own company
Mischievous Books.

Author Sarah Kades tries CIA Duct Tape Escape

Sometimes I get together with author Sarah Kades to drink coffee, and talk about writing, and marketing, and boring stuff like that. Most of the time, we stay on task and brainstorm a few great ideas to take home and work on. The thing about Sarah is that she has a lot of positive energy and things can get sidetracked. On occasions, they can get totally out of control!

Yesterday, we started as usual, drinking coffee, taking notes and sharing info on our laptops. Then one of us, I’m not sure which one, but probably Sarah, decided that everything would be so much more fun if we only had duct tape. Whoa.

There is a rational explanation for this. Most writers like to get their facts right. Sarah writes adventure and I write adventure so it’s only natural that topics like break and enter, and escape techniques would come up – and they did.

By now, many of you have already seen the YouTube videos from a former CIA agent who teaches women to escape from duct tape. If you haven’t, here’s a YouTube video that shows how it’s done.

And of course we decided to try it for ourselves. Being the more “mature” one, I opted for the role of chief taper, and Sarah got the crazyfun role of stuntperson. Here is a little snippet of a day in the life of a writer. We had a great time and hope you enjoy it too.

About the Authors:

Makenzi Fisk
Murder/Mystery/Thriller
Author of the Intuition Series
makenzifisk.com

Sarah Kades
Action-Adventure Eco-Romance
Author of Kiss Me in the Rain
sarahkades.com

Meet Author Simon Rose

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My guest today is author Simon Rose, writer of sci fi and fantasy  novels for kids and young adults. Simon is active in the Canadian writing community and shares his skills as presenter, editor, teacher, and writing coach. I first met Simon at Chapters Indigo in Calgary, Alberta, where he was connecting with readers. He was kind enough to take a little time out of his busy schedule for my interview questions.

Simon, can you tell us about yourself and your most recent writing project?

FutureII’m originally from the UK but have lived in Calgary since 1990. I first became interested in writing novels for children and young adults when I became a parent and the first novel, The Alchemist’s Portrait, was published in 2003. Other novels in the science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction genres followed on a regular basis and the most recent book, Future Imperfect, was published this spring. Future Imperfect is an exciting adventure featuring technology, teenage geniuses, corporate espionage, and mysterious messages. Most kids these days are very familiar with laptops, tablets, and video games, and don’t go anywhere without their cell phones, so the technology and gadgets that feature in the story make the novel very appealing for young readers. My paranormal novel, Flashback, was published in 2015 and two sequels are coming out next year.

We’ve all heard the advice that writers should write the books that they themselves would like to read. Do you write for yourself, or is there a specific person or type of person you have in mind when you write?

I don’t think there’s a type of person I write for. As you say, we tend to gravitate toward what interests us or what we’d like to read. That’s what ‘writing what you know’ really means. When I first began creating novels I was influenced by the Harry Potter series, among other books, but didn’t want to write about the same subject matter. I liked the style and the age level that the first few books were targeted to but my story ideas were about things that interested me or that I would like to have read about when I was a young adult. These included science fiction, fantasy, the paranormal, superheroes, ancient civilizations, and so on.

You recently participated in TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, where you visited schools in Quebec. Are your books translated into French or intended for Anglo readers only? Did you experience language barriers? If so, did you have any strategies to overcome these?

Yes, I visited schools on Quebec City and Montreal in early May. It was a hectic week but a lot of fun too. My books aren’t available in French and the tour was at English language locations only. Consequently there were no language barriers to overcome but naturally I practiced my French whenever I could and was surprised how much I remembered. I spoke to audiences of around 100 children in most places, usually grades 3/ 4 or 5/6 but there were audiences containing some older grades at a couple of the schools. I also spent a day with adult students at The Learning Exchange in Laval.

Your schedule of writing, teaching, speaking and bookstore signings seems hectic, to say the least. How do you make time for yourself? What do you like to do to relax?

It does seem hectic but this is a full time role for me unlike other authors who perhaps have a regular career that keeps them busy. I don’t take a lot of time off since I do enjoy what I do, whether it’s crafting new plots and outlines, writing books, or doing all the marketing. Since it doesn’t really feel like work there’s isn’t as much motivation to get away from it, I guess. I do have two children that have kept me busy throughout the time that I’ve been writing and publishing books. My dog also insists on going out for walks on a daily basis, which pulls me away from the computer. Nevertheless I always seem to be thinking about stories while we’re out, but I guess a lot of writers appreciate those times when they can let their mind wander while appreciating the great outdoors. I also watch movies, keep up to date with current events, read a lot, and enjoy the company of friends whenever I can.

What’s next for you? Can you give us a sneak peek at your new book? Where is it set and what is it about this project that gets you excited?

FBAs I mentioned, the sequels to Flashback will be published next year so I’m sure I’ll be tinkering with those stories in the coming months. I also hope to start work on two sequels to Future Imperfect. The novel has proved quite popular so far so I want to explore the possibilities of further adventures for Alex, Stephanie, and the other characters that appear in the novel. I’m also currently working on a science fiction trilogy about a parallel universe that I hope to have completed by the end of the year. I’ve had the concept for quite a while, but it’s one of those stories that continually improves, in my opinion, and as it’s being written I get ideas all the time to expand it further.

You can visit Simon’s website at www.simon-rose.com or subscribe to his newsletter, which goes out once a month and has details of his current projects and upcoming events.

Social Media links

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Meet author Mahrie G. Reid

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I am pleased to introduce you to my friend, author Mahrie G. Reid, who agreed to do a little Q&A with me today.

Can you tell us a little about your current mystery series?

The Caleb Cove Mystery Series is set where family doesn’t always have blood-ties. They have a Touched by Murder Club with rather an alarming number of members. Surviving a crime changes people and each of the heroines deals with the issues differently. However, they face death and learn that they are capable of more than they ever thought possible. And whether the murders are the results of guns, knives or poisons, the folk in the cove are front and center and ready to help.

Your titles feature the Came Home theme. Can you tell us what that means in the context of the story’s setting?

CameHomeDead_MahriGReid_1600x2400[1]Nova Scotia, with its seafaring history has some unique terms. Came Home Dead comes from a phrase used when the body of a sailor who died at sea, or drowned, shows up on shore. He is deemed to have come home dead. Additionally, Nova Scotians refer to any where other than N. S. as “away.” So you might hear the phrase: Did you hear, Johnny Zinck came home from away for Christmas? So the came home term comes from those uses. I also learned from a police officer in the province that they serve a lot of warrants and arrest quite a few people in December. “Those Nova Scotia boys just can’t stay away at Christmas. They came home and ended up in jail.” 

What motivates you to write? Caffeine, sugar, carbs, or a higher moral purpose? 

On any given day, coffee starts my brain and my brain has all these ideas. I have to do something with them. On a larger scale, I dislike shopping, I found VLT’s boring and I can only clean the house so much. Given that I love to read, and I’ve been writing since I was a kid, writing my favorite type of books is a logical extension. Words do it for me. My father was a clergyman and had several Bibles in his office. But my mother’s bible (she was a writer) was the Oxford English Dictionary and it sat on the cast iron radiator beside the kitchen table. “Look it up,” she’d say. And we did. Grandpa wrote as well, so I suppose it’s almost genetic. Besides, it’s darn good fun. 

A little bit of the author is written into every one of her characters. Which character are you most like? Least?

I like Uncle Lem, a man who gets things done, has a mysterious past and guides walking tours of old houses and graveyards. He’s more my age, so that might factor in. Devon and Kelsey and Emily all have a piece of me. Growing up a minister’s daughter in the 50’s and 60’s I don’t remember being me. I was his daughter, then I was someone’s wife and later someone’s mother. Life-changes had me questioning who I, as an individual, was. And in one way or another, all three of the main characters struggle with that question. 

You have taught, mentored, edited, and critiqued other writers, including me when I was a noob. What part of the writing process do you enjoy most? Why?

CameHomeToAKilling_MahrieGReid_1600x2400[1]My favorite part is developing the back story. Murders and kidnappings don’t come out of thin air, they have reasons. Knowing who can kill, who invites murder and who knows enough, or asks enough questions, to solve it requires knowing both the characters and their history. Psychology fascinates me, so making up people and understanding them works. And passing on what I know – I am so excited I’ve learned things, I just want to share them.

Please tell us a little about your next writing project.

CCameHomeTooLate_MahrieGReid_1600x2400ame Home too Late, book 3 in the Caleb Cove Mystery series will be out in a couple of weeks. I’d planned to move on to another series I’ve been brainstorming, but one of the cove’s recurring, secondary characters took me by the brain and inserted ideas for her book. Therefore, my next project (already started) will be book 4. It’s Constable Natalie Parker’s story, but as of yet it has no title. Suggestions welcome.

Thanks Makenzi, for coming up with such great questions. It’s been fun.

Mahrie’s bio:

An avid reader from elementary school on, Mahrie often read twelve books a week. Once she’d read the Nancy Drew books, mysteries dominated her lists. Agatha Christie, Dick Frances and Dorothy Gilman, among many others, set the tone for her reading and writing. Her published books are Came Home Dead, Came Home to a Killing and the third, Came Home too Late, will be out by the end of June 2016. They are books 1 to 3 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series.

Over the years she’s published articles, poems and short stories. She has belonged to writing groups and attended conferences and workshops and, in later years, taught in all these areas. Her stories involve ordinary people who get caught up in extraordinary situations that push them to be more, and do more, than they ever thought possible.

Mahrie is a member of Alberta Romance Writers’ Association and a graduate of Calgary’s Citizen’s Police Academy and Private Investigation 101. She lives north of Calgary, Alberta with her hubby and a cat called Kotah.

Learn more about Mahrie and her books at www.mahriegreid.com

2 Mystery/Thriller Goldie Finalists

Golden Crown Literary Society announced finalists for the 2016 Goldies this morning and social media is noticing. I am pleased to have two books shortlisted as finalists in the Mystery/Thriller category: Burning Intuition and Fatal Intuition. This is a pretty heady experience for a new-ish writer like me, to be included in a list of such exemplary authors.

doubleFinalist

Last year, my first novel Just Intuition was also named a finalist in the same category and won Debut Author at the awards held in New Orleans. I was unable to attend, thousands of miles away in northwestern Ontario, and only became aware when I wheedled free Wi-Fi from a laundromat in the remote town of Atikokan. People were congratulating me on Facebook and, when disbelief turned to realization, I could hardly breathe. The first people I told were two ladies, total strangers, sitting with their laundry by the washing machines. Kudos to them for being so polite to an apparent crazy person.

This year, I’ll be back in the woods, although I’m sure I’ll travel into town more often to keep track of the awards from the local library. I put a lot of research and effort into my books and I’m proud of my work. Will my family and my author friends let this all go to my head? Not likely. If this tells me anything, it is that I need to keep writing.

Makenzi Fisk
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www.makenzifisk.com

Stacked Networking: a Network Sandwich?

Yeah, I wrote a book. It’s for sale right now at all the cool online booksellers. I’m going to make SO much money. Now I can relax, sit back and wait for the royalties to roll into my bank account.

Ba-ha-ha-ha! Every author knows this is simply not true. We joke about it all the time. Writing is hard work but so is everything that follows. If you are your own publisher, the onus is on you to organize your own launch party, your promos and to take responsibility for networking.

Recently, I realized that I unintentionally do something that might be effective. I stack networking opportunities. I’m not sure if I do this out of a deep-seated sense of inadequacy, a fear of failure, or sheer brilliance. Maybe I’m just hedging my bets. Let me explain what I mean by stacked networking, since I just made that term up for this blog post.

I had a book signing scheduled at Chapters Dalhousie and realized that the date fell conveniently close to the launch date for my new novel. I hadn’t planned a party yet but here I had a pre-arranged venue that would cost me nothing. In addition to fans or friends who saw my announcement on social media, there was an influx of unsuspecting customers who were somewhat entertained when they walked right into my launch party.

The store was happy because the shenanigans engaged customers. Engaged people stay longer and spend money, not only on my books but on store merchandise in general. Good for them. Good for me.

The bonus was that the event also coincided with Halloween, and my book cover featured a skeletal hand. Let’s stack another networking idea on top of our little sandwich. Now there’s a book signing, a new release and Halloween. We have stacked 3 layers on our sandwich, and it’s a fine reason to party. Let’s top it all off by giving away Halloween candy and free eBooks to anyone who shows up in costume. Not expensive but good perks. Perfect. And it was a ton of fun.

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Another opportunity to create stacked networking occurred last weekend. Once more, I had a book signing scheduled and local talent Joshua Pantalleresco contacted me to try to arrange an interview for his regular Podcast. I refer to Josh as “talent” because merely calling him a writer would be inadequate. He is multi-talented and always has a variety of artistic projects on the go.

Let’s stack the two events together, I suggested, so we did. Josh interviewed me in the middle of Chapters Crowfoot in Calgary while music played overhead, inquisitive customers wandered by and Starbucks customers chatted in the background. It was an intriguing atmosphere and I hope the ambience was recorded along with our conversation. I won’t give too much away about the interview, since it’s not scheduled for release until June, but I will divulge that we talked about books, and cats and a little bit about police work.

Makenzi&Josh

I like stacked networking, and I like sandwiches.

Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Makenzi Fisk
Signup for my newsletter at
www.makenzifisk.com

Stalking Author Makenzi Fisk

0cc6a483-dada-4f66-ac26-fb5601ab42a7Event recap:
Beware the Ides of March
Multi-Author Mystery Event, March 5th,
Indigo Signal Hill, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  
Facebook Event page

9 mystery authors
Unlimited fun
Calgary Indigo customers were treated to a fantastic event last Saturday. There was something for everyone, and a Hunt for Clues to win mystery gift baskets and store gift cards. Some authors performed card tricks, others baked cookies. I brought Mystery Mugshots, a test of your intuitive ability to tell good guys from bad guys. The winners guessed if my mugshots were of real bad guys or just models. The prize was a free eBook.

Here’s my unofficial analysis:

  • Women generally guessed better than men.
  • Men were fooled by photos of good-looking women.
  • Women were fooled by photos of good-looking men.
  • A few people have remarkably good intuition and could tell good guys from bad ones in about a second.
  • A few people have remarkably bad intuition and guessed almost every one wrong, no matter how long they stared at the mugshot.
  • I now understand why serial killers Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos were so successful.

It was a fun day and a few intuitive people walked away with a free eBook. If you missed it, and want to play Mystery Mugshots, check my local schedule on the Amazon Author page for in-store signings in the Calgary area. Chances are, we’ll play again!

Makenzi Fisk
www.makenzifisk.com

Q&A with Swati Chavda

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Swati is a new member of my writing group, ARWA, and we’ve recently spent some quality weekend time together working on our projects. (Yeah, we hang out at Starbucks.) Her new book has just been released, and that makes it perfect timing for us to do an author Q&A. I’m so glad she was willing to participate and share a bit of her fascinating experience. ~Makenzi Fisk

AUTHOR Q&A, with Swati Chavda

Q: Can you tell us about your A-ha moment when you realized that you must put action to your thoughts and change your life? Would you describe that moment as terrifying, a calm conviction, or something else entirely?

A: It was a gradual build up over time, with cumulative years of sleepless nights, missed meals, and missed connections—not only with family and friends, but also from my own authentic self. I gritted my teeth and pulled along, telling myself, “That’s life.”

But when my father died, it hit me suddenly. He had wanted to do so much ‘more’ in life, but never got around to it. The trappings of a regular daily life kept him a prisoner—and as a prisoner, he died.

The need to be free and doing what truly mattered to me caught root then.

Initially the thought terrified me. Here I was, a fully qualified neurosurgeon, with a high-profile career and a stable income. How was going to cut off that part of my life and still survive? But that fear left me as soon as I took the plunge. Now it’s an exhilarating journey.

Q: Most people who’ve made major life changes have mixed feelings. Do you have regrets? Guilt? How do you deal with negative emotions?

A: In the initial phase after changing tracks, I had a lot of mixed feelings. First of all, I missed talking to patients, I missed surgeries, and most of all, I missed the high of walking out of the operating room late at night after just having saved someone’s life.

And then there was this question of what to call myself. I was no longer a neurosurgeon, but not quite a ‘proper’ writer as yet. Meeting a new person and introducing myself was a torture. Lots of hemming and hawing when it came to answer, “So, what do you do?”

Over time, as I wrote more and got deeper into the writing community, things became easier. Now I no longer regret leaving my old profession. In fact, it feels like the best decision I have ever made. And the only negative emotions I have these days are towards the first drafts of my stories, when my heroes are not quite heroic yet—or worse—villains not diabolical enough.

Q: In your blog post, you talked about not being accustomed to leisure, that everything felt strange. Do you have any advice for others in how to smooth the transition (or shock) from a hectic professional schedule to one more in tune with living in the moment? What worked for you, and what didn’t?

A: That’s a great question! My suggestion for people making the transition due to burnout is to take it easy for a while. There’s no alternative to this. Unless we refuel ourselves first, we’re going to be unable to journey further in our new direction.

For me, I found that my work had put me in a perpetual performer’s mode. I had become great at ‘doing’, but lousy at ‘being’. So mindfulness practices, taking long walks in nature, simply noticing my surroundings deliberately—and most importantly—not feeling guilty about any of that, started reviving me over time. I definitely recommend hitting the pause button for a while before jumping from one phase to another.

Q: Do you feel that women in high stress professions have more pressure, whether from others, or created by themselves toward achieving higher goals?

A: In my first week of neurosurgery training, a senior said to me, “You’ll have to work twice as hard as a man to prove yourself half as good.” I was young and naive then, and not yet assertive enough. So I simply thought it was good advice, and followed it. Big mistake. (If I could rewind time, I’d go back and protest.)

Q: When you embarked on your new career as a writer, did you find that you approached it in much the same way as you did your medical career, with much research, practice, and serious thought, or was it an entirely different learning experience?

A: Yes, in fact, I automatically eased into the same approach I used for my medical career: dissecting books to see what works, spending long hours honing the craft, and so on.

However, over time I realized that too much discipline was turning my prose stiff instead of shaping it into a living, breathing entity. So lately I’m encouraging more flexibility in the way I write. The process is already starting to pay off, and I think my recent writing is livelier than my earlier work.

Ignite-iPad-A.-David-Singh-822x1024Q: Your new book “Ignite, Beat Burnout and Rekindle your Inner Fire” has just been published. Would you tell us a little about it?

A: Ah! My favorite question!

What I’ve noticed while talking to people is, that many folks complain about being on the verge of a burnout—but few readily admit this in public. It’s almost as if there’s some unspoken consensus that one must always present a flawless face to society.

My goal with this book is to demonstrate, using logic, examples, and analogy, that there is no need for stigma associated with burnout. The inner fire we all possess—and which dies during a burnout—resembles external fire. And so, deconstructing the elements of external fire can shed light on the ways to ignite our inner fire.

If it makes even one person pause for a moment and think of small changes they can make to start living a life filled with passion and joy, my goal will be achieved.

Hop over here and take a peek if you’d like to read more: http://www.swatichavda.com/ignite/