Friends Who Move Couches by CJ Zahner

Rating:           ?

General Rating: Strong female characters and Evy. Hope you love them. (Disclaimer: I had to put my own novel in the can’t-put-down category. You’ll have to decide for yourself!)

Favorite line: “Sometimes families rise out of the ashes together. Maybe with a smidge of dirt on their wings.”

Skip factor:  0%. Of course.

Who should read:  Any woman who values friendship.   

Summary:  This is almost a memoir.  

Nikki Grey’s idea of living dangerously is not wearing a seatbelt, yet calamity always seems to find her.

Married to a workaholic, mothering three rebellious kids, and feuding with neighborhood friends, Nikki forgets her problems one afternoon by smoking marijuana. That blunder ignites a lifelong yet dormant medical condition, and she loses her driver’s license. Suddenly stranded in her home, she’s forced to stare out the window at women who have ostracized her.

Her true friends encourage her to concentrate on her health, but Nikki is her own nemesis. She embarks on a scheme to win back neighborhood friends and plunges into efforts that only end in muddying her reputation. She becomes the butt of neighborhood jokes. Foolishly, her ache to mend her broken relationships escalates.

Not until her two-timing husband asks her a question that catapults her frivolous suburban life into a tailspin is she forced to stop reaching for others and stand on her own.

Storyline, characters, and author’s note:  

While my life, friends, family, and true-life quotes at the beginning of each chapter inspired much of this almost memoir, many aspects differ. 

First, it’s true I come from a small family and am frivolously addicted to friendship, but thankfully, I married Jeff Zahner, not Mark Grey. Throughout my thirty-eight-year marriage to Jeff, I often wondered how many men would so easily smirk and shake their heads at my escapades. In other words, I married a Blake the Pro right off the bat. Jeff and I have been faithful to each other since the day we met. (He assures me I can state this. He does not want to end up a character in one of my thrillers.)

Second, I’m not a cute, little blonde like Reese Witherspoon. I did this for your reading enjoyment. Imagine the same story with a frumpy, old, nagging brunette?

Third, I have one sibling, a brother, Mike. He is married to Barb. Mike is eleven years older than me. He began dating Barb when he was thirteen, and I was two, so Barb has been like a sister to me throughout life. This is a girly book, so I made Barb my sister. The hard, tragic, almost unbearable truth is Mike suffers from early-onset dementia, and Barb, from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

I do have three children who were rambunctiously mischievous throughout their childhood and teenage years, but I am happy to announce they have surpassed their father’s and my wildest expectations, superseding us in education, strength, courage, and character. My oldest daughter earned a master’s degree and has a resume grown men would kill for. She worked in the professional sports arena (Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, Capitals, Wizards, and Rams). My son is an attorney. (He is also a poker player and pretty good golfer.) My youngest daughter grew up to challenge her father and I as much (if not more) than her two older siblings. She did become a teacher and is currently completing her doctorate in Special Education. Yes, I remain a royal pain in the butt to them, but no one will ever love them like their mother.

Finally, Jody and Val do not live by me. They were my first friends. Val and I played together in the nursery of St Luke’s Church in Erie, Pennsylvania alongside our mothers who attended mass there. Jody moved into my childhood neighborhood when she was two, and I was three. These two women are both brilliant, yet so interestingly opposite in nature that I transplanted them into my adult neighborhood. They remain the greatest of friends from afar. I love them both.

All other friend characters, from Carol and Carolyn to Doctor Jim, are real except for Evy and Ellie (who are the culmination of all my friends), and Janice Everglade (whom I hope I never meet). Reah and Natasha are not the real names of the two friends who broke my heart. Our parting was exaggerated for interest, but I do still struggle over the loss of their friendship. I have come to realize we were friends at a time when we needed each other most. I must trust God’s wisdom, wish them the best in life, and carry on.

One final note, I am truly a girl’s girl and wonderfully blessed with great friends. The one thing I am sure of in life is that the friends I do have would move bodies for me—and I, for them.   

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Book Club Questions for Friends Who Move Couches

Select your favorites or answer all. The author’s favorites are 4, 8, 9, 13, & 14.

  1. Do you believe women need friends more than men?
  2. Which character in the book would you like to have as a friend?
  3. Are Nikki’s children typical kids and did you have a favorite?
  4. If you could toilet paper one person’s house in the whole world, whose would it be?
  5. Do you have a Rock-of-Gibraltar Jody in your life?
  6. How about a fun-loving Val?
  7. Which of the characters are you the most like?
  8. Where in the book, if ever, did you wish Nikki would notice Blake the Pro?
  9. Who was the best friend in the book?
  10. What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
  11. Have you ever toilet papered a house? (Truth, please.)
  12. What one question would you like to ask the author? 
  13. The author unexpectedly fell in love with one character. Who do you think it was?
  14. Do you believe friends move into and out of our lives at precisely the right moment?
  15. If you had a nickname like Blake the Pro or TP Nikki or Doctor Death, what would it be?

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CJ Zahner is the author of a psychological thriller, The Suicide Gene, two thrillers with paranormal edges, Dream Wide Awake  & Project Dream, and ChickLit, Friends Who Move Couches, Chicklit. Book clubs may contact her at cyndie@cyndiezahner.com to set up in-person or Zoom meetings.

Searching for other author’s books? Read Zahner’s reviews here.

Follow CJ on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Educated by Tara Westover

Name:      Educated
Author:    Tara Westover
Rating:     4.5    This book challenged me. Yet, once I got past the Westover’s junkyard and herbal world, I was mesmerized by Tara’s journey.

Skip factor: 8%    At around 30% I called a friend and asked if the story improved. I did not like the junkyard or herbal lore at all. However, I hung in there and once I worked through that beginning section, I couldn’t put it down.

Who should read? Deep-thinkers, people inspired by education, hard-workers who themselves have risen out of poverty, and lovers of the English language—young and old.

Summary: This is the memoir of Tara Westover, the seventh and youngest child of Val and LaRee Westover. She was born in her childhood home which sat on the side of a mountain in Provo, Utah. The month of her birth was September of 1986, but the actual date is unknown. Her birth was unrecorded, as were most of her sibling’s births. She grew up in a Mormon family littered with racism and anti-Semitism. She worked in her father’s junkyard for much of her youth and often encountered dangerous, life-threatening tasks at his direction. She had no formal education until she was seventeen years old and received no home-schooling from her family. Her mother was well-versed in and revered for her herbal remedies and mid-wife expertise. Her father, along with her older brother Shawn, suffered mental illness and Tara and her siblings were often abused.

This is the story of a young girl’s metamorphosis, her rise from the ashes of her parent’s scrapheap despite all odds. Her father believed the end of the world was imminent and the government against him. His mental illness led to many hardships over the years, for not only him but his wife and children as well.

Inspired by a brother who left the family to attend college, she accepted a friend’s offer to teach her to read. She enrolled in college against all odds and was forced to choose between her family and her education. Despite her passion to learn and the education she eventually received, her mind sometimes led her back to the rudimentary fundamentalist viewpoint of her father, making her question much throughout her educational journey. She had never even heard of the holocaust until she was in college.

Characters: Lots of great books have unlikeable characters, and while I found myself rooting for Tara throughout the book, I wasn’t in love with any of the characters. I was shocked by many. Disgusted with others. Westover created very “real” people, but many confound me. I was baffled by them more than like them. Yet, they interested me. The characters that stood out the most to me were:

Tara: Of course, I rooted for her all the way, but I never felt close to her. She had an aloofness about her. Because of her upbringing, her personality held a protective emotional shield that prevented people from knowing her well—even, to some degree, her readers. Simply, I couldn’t get close.
Her mother: Simply put, I did not like her for the fact she sided with her husband, who had mental challenges, over her children. Period.
Her father: I couldn’t understand and felt no compassion for him whatsoever. Lots of people have a mental illness, but they are not as evil as this man. He hid his sins behind religion.
Shawn: The abusive brother I felt differently about. Although I adamantly disliked him at times for the pain he caused family members and women, every once in a while you’d see a spark of kindness. Confusing, as the results of mental illness can be.
Minor characters I liked: Brothers Richard and Tyler were compassionate. I was fond of both of them along with Tara’s Grandmother who offered to take her to Arizona and enroll her in school. I felt disappointed Tara didn’t leave with her. Just that she offered made me like her.
Other minor characters: I wasn’t drawn to any others, not one. (And especially not to her only sister, Audrey, who in the end hurt rather than helped her.) Because many of the minor characters were introduced to me through Tara’s eyes, they seemed impersonal. Toward the end of the novel, a softness seemed to develop in Westover. She looked at later roommates and people more compassionately, seemingly letting her guard down and consequently, I liked those characters a bit more.

Storyline: The story does come across as a bit unbelieve. I did read several online articles that stated fact-finding had been extensive. That the author herself included footnotes when her memory differed from one of her siblings, gave credibility to her story. That there is a Tara Westover, who was born without record, attended college, completed her master and doctorate degrees in England, further substantiates her story—at least in my mind it does. I’ll let the rest of you decide for yourselves.

Writing style: This woman’s writing is exquisite. Not much more to say. That she rose out of such poverty to champion the English language is remarkable.

Read this author again: Maybe. I’m not often fond of non-fiction, but Westover’s writing is superb, so I may attempt another.

Read on!
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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Secret History

Name:                             The Secret History

Author:                             Donna Tartt

Rating:                              4

General Rating:

A perfect beginning. I may have read this entirely because of the first few pages. Let me be clear up front; I didn’t understand this novel but could hardly put it down. I read the opening once and then slipped it back onto the bookshelf when my book club considered reading it. (I hate reading books too early and forgetting important parts.) But I couldn’t stop thinking about the beginning.

Skip factor:

10% and I can’t believe I skipped this little. After all, I DNF Middlesex for Greek detail.

Who should read?:

English majors, Greek Mythology lovers, attention-to-detail readers. This is the most perplexing question for this book as I have no idea why I couldn’t put it down.

Summary:          Richard Papen works his way into the classes of college instructor Julian Morrow at a small Vermont College. There he befriends, Henry, Bunny, Francis, and twins Camille and Charles. Morrow teaches them about Greek bacchanalia and/or the Dionysian Mysteries (which I admit, proudly, I had to look up and am not sure I even placed in the sentence properly.) These teachings have, before Richard enters the class, inspired the members of that odd group to make a sacrificial murder—which leads to a second murder.

That second murder is of one of its own—Bunny. No spoiler here. This secret is told upfront, which may be part of the reason I could not put the book down. The entire novel has to do with how they lived after Bunny’s murder.

Characters:        The bizarreness of these characters superseded any dislike I had for them. I wanted, needed, to hear more. Maybe their behavior flabbergasted me. Here are the characters in preference order:

Bunny – If I came close to liking a character, it was Bunny. Somewhere, I’m sure there is a psychologist, possibly of Greek descent, clumping personalities of people who read this novel into flawed groups depending on who their favorite Secret History character was. Bunny’s character goes so against my grain I found myself cheering for him. He’s a fake, uncaring, and relies on the favors of friends to get through life to a point of exasperation.  But he is also a cheery bloke you can’t help find yourself smiling over when he works his way onto a page. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next.

Camille – Everyone loves Camille, including her brother—a little too much. Yet Camille is not enamored by anyone. She has an admiration for Henry, who is their mysterious, well-read, gardening leader.

Henry – I like Henry more than Richard because, like the characters in the book, I was drawn to his strange, independent mentality. He seemed to think himself Greek God-like. He has lots of money and is the master manipulator of the group. Henry calls the shots.

Richard – Dull and boring, but it reminded me of—was it Daisy’s cousin?—the narrator in The Great Gatsby. Richard is the newcomer to the group. For lack of a better word, he’s detached. He seldom shows emotion, yet he is unwaveringly loyal to the group.

Francis and Charles – I can’t decide the order. They were the most insecure of the group. Alcoholics (although they all probably were). Sometimes gay, sometimes not, with Charles having an incestuous spark. I liked them less and less as the book went on. For a while, I experienced a soft spot for Francis, but that washed away toward the end. Simply, I have no idea why these were my two least favorite characters. I almost lumped Richard with them and might have had I not been astounded by his detached nature. I’m sure there is some flaw deep down inside me for liking these two the least.

Storyline:            I’ll be frank. I didn’t understand it. If I were younger, taking this for a class, or not ADHD, I’d google this book and delve into Greek Mythology, or story, whichever needed, and search for meaning. But I’m old and the ship sailing toward old Greece (remember? I didn’t finish Middlesex) left the docks a long time ago.

Still. I’m rating this a four because I simply couldn’t stop reading THE STORY, which highlights a character, whom I didn’t like, and his life before and after Bunny’s murder. His life was mundane afterward. I kept thinking, really? You’re going to sit and read?

See what I mean? Confusing.

Writing:              Superb. I highlighted quotes and will use some. Already have. While Tartt’s attention to detail was too intense for me, she does command a reader’s attention by a sweet rhythm of words.

Read this author again? I’m not sure. Because she is such a good writer, I’m willing to try. I’m not sure the story of The Goldfinch will be enough to keep me reading and skipping past the detail as this one did. I’ll let you know.

Read on!

 

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

What I saw in the Chapel

What was that? Am I crazy? Or am I having (gulp)—a vision?

At the risk of sounding deranged and for the lack of a better description, I’m admitting I experience occasional, brief, inexplicit “movies in my head” without reason. These little episodes surprise me in different settings: at home while relaxing on the couch, at my workplace, the bank while talking to a teller, or in a chapel while I’m praying. This last setting was the inspiration for the first chapter in my new novel, Project Dream.

What happens in the book is much more melodramatic than my real-life experience because, well, because I write fiction and real-life isn’t all that exciting. So here’s what I conjured up:

In Project Dream, ten-year-old Izzy Jimenez visits a chapel in San Diego, California. An angel appears. The ghostly spirit swoops down and begs Izzy to dissuade a forlorn woman in that chapel from going to New York City. Reluctantly, Izzy approaches the woman and relays the advice of the angel (who she thinks is the woman’s mother). The woman asks Izzy what the angel’s name is. Izzy doesn’t know. She doesn’t hear the angels, only sees them, but they do give her signs.

“Wait!” Izzy says. The spirit opens her arms. She’s holding roses. “Rose? Is your mother’s name Rose?” And with that verification of the mother’s name—walla—the woman cancels her trip. Izzy has saved her life.

Was that the real-life story?

No. I wish it was. My 9/11 vision (read that story) was so vague, it helped no one. I often question why I had it. I knew a building would collapse and I suspected people would lose their lives, but I had no idea where the building was located other than somewhere in northeastern America near a body of water.

The single advantage of that premonition was personal confirmation. That vision made me, CJ Zahner, believe I wasn’t crazy. It was too accurate to be coincidental.

But I digress, what actually happened in the chapel?

Many years ago, a new friend asked if I would like to visit a side chapel of a Catholic church—not in San Diego, but in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The chapel struck me as lovely. I knelt beside my friend and immediately began praying. I don’t recall who I prayed for, probably my kids. Regardless, there I was—minding my own business praying—when I had this swooshing feeling like an angel came down out of the ceiling. I attempted to ignore the sensation, blaming my wild imagination. This time, however, the woman, white spirit, ghost, whatever you would like to call her, was relentless. She wouldn’t leave.

She said, quite clearly, “My daughter doesn’t believe in this sort of thing.” She chuckled, told me she wanted her daughter to know she loved her, and just before she left, she opened her arms and showed me roses.

The dream seemed so real that I was quite shaken. When we were leaving, my friend asked what was wrong.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” I said. “But I think the mother of one of those women in that chapel appeared to me.”

My friend didn’t know me too well at that time so, of course, she looked at me like I was nuts. But still shook, I described what the angel relayed, and my friend became quiet.

“What was the woman’s name?” she asked.

I told her I’d seen lots of spirits, but I never seemed to get their names right. They usually only gave me feelings or showed me signs. Then I remembered the roses.

“Oh, wait,” I said. “The woman’s name may have been Rose.”

Again, silence from my friend. I was sure she thought I’d lost my mind. Finally, she spoke. “My mother’s name was Rose.”

And from that true-life experience, I conjured up the entire first chapter of Project Dream.

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two paranormal thrillers. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own real-life experiences. See the video of her 9/11 premonition here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Support the Girls!

Female business owner, Tracey Bowes, decided to invite three female authors to Pressed Book’s first local author event. How cool is that?

I am a miniscule drop in a bucket of authors but a very lucky drop. I received unremitting support from countless people in my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. I love Erie.

Writing novels has been my dream since childhood, so when my first book, The Suicide Gene, was picked up by  The Wild Rose Press, I was elated. My husband threw me a release party, my daughter did a video, and friends and family celebrated with chocolate, cake and wine! Two books later, I’m working ten-to-twelve-hour days writing and loving life. What’s not so fun, is the marketing. But…

Erie

But my hometown has made this nasty chore much easier.

Thank you Erie readers for purchasing my books, sharing my posts, and shouting from the mountain tops that I am an author. I feel blessed to have you in my life.Release day friends in front of sign

I’m sure I speak for fellow authors Rebecca Kightlinger and Laura Weber, too, when I say we are all blessed to have you in our lives. We cannot possibly mention all of the people, both men and women who have supported our dreams. Simple words don’t seem thanks enough.

Thanks to my family

Thank you Jeff for supporting me relentlessly and for pulling off my surprise release party. Thank you Jessie for spending an entire night awake obtaining, cutting, and piecing together a release-day tribute video of my family and friends. Thank you Zak, Release day cake outsideJilly, and all of my friends who sent videos to Jessie so I have a lifelong reminder of how many supportive people I have in my life. Love all of you!

Thanks to the men

Guys, some of you have been relentless in your support of, not just female authors, but women in business. I’m proud to know you.

This morning I woke up to a blog by local author, Jim Dehavern, encouraging his readers to support us. (Take a read! Jim Dehavern’s blog.) Thanks Jim!

Thanks to our sisters

Come see us this Thursday at Pressed Books, girls. Rebecca, Laura, and I will be selling and signing books. Even if you aren’t into reading, stop by for a cup of coffee and support Tracey. If you’ve never been to Pressed Books, you are in for a surprise. Bring your little ones. They have a great kid’s room.Pressed books layla and Jessie

Make this your night, too. If you aren’t interested in our books, pick up a Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn, or Michelle Obama novel. Stop next door for a bag of Pop Luck. Go home. Put your feet up. Relax and read a book. It’s ladies’ night.

Read on!
_________________________________________                       Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Follow Cyndie on n InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books at Pressed Books, 1535 West 8th Street, or on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.

Make an Author Happy! Write a Review!

What do authors want? Reviews, reviews and more reviews.  So, a note like this? Much appreciated and a great confidence builder but please, consider posting those kind words.

Readers have no idea how much posting a review online matters. We authors are a mere molecule in a bucket of a million. There are lots of readers out there but many won’t consider reading a book until fifty reviews pop up under the title. Worse, Amazon, Goodreads, and the like won’t give your book a second look.

So, have a favorite author? Write a review for him or her on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub or other popular review sites and help them connect with other readers. If that doesn’t encourage you to post a review, here’s another reason: Authors appreciate every word, and most take your views into consideration as they write more stories.

Oh, and another thing,  I’m an author and NONE of us expect all five-star reviews.stars (Well, there may be a narcissist or two out there but most of us realize we aren’t the next Stephen King.) I’m almost afraid to say this, but truth be told, I’ve learned as much about my writing from three-star reviews as five-stars. Authors are thick skinned. Tell us the truth. Couple a compliment with your critique, and we will love your review.

Compliments are important because a novel is a big part of an author’s life (months, years sometimes). Characters are their children. Authors like to hear what you enjoyed about their lives and kids.

Equally, we want to know what you didn’t like. I learned so much from my first readers. Bill Callahan, a friend of mine, suggested in both my novels, The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake, that I create character/family charts. So, I did, for both. Because I like to challenge my readers to think, my novels can be confusing in the early pages. Readers are loving the character keys. Thanks, Bill!

So, please, if you find an author you particularly like, write a review and make them happy. I promise we will read every review, multiple times. We listen. We appreciate. We learn.

How to review on Major Sites

Amazon: if you have purchased the book make sure you post a VERIFIED review. This is important because Amazon sometimes removes reviews but almost never removes reviews posted by verified users.

  • go to your Amazon account
  • select “orders” in the black ribbon toward the top (next to account), if you purchased through Amazon, otherwise enter the book title in the search box,
  • scroll down to the book and on the right side click the “write a product review” box,
  • click a star (1-5 stars)
  • add a headline (page-turner, couldn’t put down, must read, etc.)
  • write a review!

(Give a description. See suggestions below. Amazon is less likely to remove more detailed reviews. If you received the novel free for a review, write: Thank you to the author/publisher for providing a free copy for an honest review. This review is posted voluntarily.)

Goodreads:  create an account and review as follows:

  • Enter book title in search box (or web address, mine is http://bit.ly/CZDWAg)
  • Click dropdown box (arrow) under cover picture on left side
  • Select read
  • Click number of stars for My Rating:
  • Copy and paste your Amazon review into the ‘What did you think?” box or write a review from scratch.

(If you do not see a review box, hover over “read” and “write a review” will appear.)

BookBub: is the simplest. Create an account, then:

  • Enter book title in search box,
  • Click on book when it appears below box
  • Click review
  • Select stars
  • Check I recommend if you’d like to recommend this book to others
  • Write a review
  • Click share

(For Barnes & Noble, Rifflebooks, or Kobo see my book club article here.)

Samples of What to Write in Your Review

What was the story about? Ex.: Dream Wide Awake is a thriller based in Erie PA….This thriller, based in a small city,…the storyline is about seers…Mikala Daly was born into a family of seers…Detective Jack Daly attempts to keep his daughter’s dreams secret in this psychic thriller.

Who was your favorite/least favorite character and why?: I liked Mikala Daly…I wasn ‘t fond of Billy’s sarcasm…minor character Andy Mesmer was one of my favorites…I hope to learn more about the chief in a sequel…I wasn’t fond of Lenny…

Did you like/dislike the plot? I enjoy a book with a lot of twists and turns…the plot kept me thinking…I hope a sequel resolves a question I had…

You get the idea, here are some other questions:

  • Were characters credible?
  • Could you relate to a character?
  • Was the story believable? Possible?
  • Have you experienced anything similar?
  • Did you like the book?
  • What was your favorite and/or least favorite part?
  • If you could change something, what would it be?
  • Would you recommend this book?
  • What type of person would like this book?
  • Would you like to read a prequel, sequel, or other books by this author?

How to Review CJ Zahner’s Novels

If you’ve read mine, I’d love to see your review on any of the following sites. Click on the name of the site under the book you’ve read and you’l be redirected to my page on that site!

Dream Wide Awakewrite a review
Amazon
Goodreads
BookBub
Barnes and Noble
Rifflebooks
KOBO

The Suicide Gene
Amazon
Goodreads
BookBub
The Wild Rose Press
Barnes and Noble
KOBO
Riffle

Read and review on!

_________________________________________                 Cyndie Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake., Listen to her BookCircle Online interview how her 9/11 premonition influenced her writing here, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn, purchase her books on Amazon, or sign up for here semi-annual newsletter here.

My Inspiration for Dream Wide Awake

Dream Wide Awake was inspired many years ago on a night I met fright. I was sleeping in the attic of my grandparent’s home—just like LeeLee in chapter three.

In a pitch-black hour, I awoke when someone grabbed my hand. My arm was wedged between the head board and mattress of my bed. I felt someone’s fingers slip into mine and when I opened my eyes, he didn’t let go.

I say “he” because I was sure I clasped hands with a devil. I didn’t see him, but could feel him with every inch of my three-year-old being. I screamed and my mother came and lifted me into her arms, pulling me from his grip. She said I was dreaming, but I knew better.

Fast forward fifty years. This single incident, still so alive in my memory, inspired Dream Wide Awake. The story is fiction, but the setting in chapter three is my grandparent’s attic. My own grandmother was bedridden as in the novel, my mother did have to help nurse her, and my parents, brother, and I moved into a makeshift apartment in her attic.

How impacting was that single incident of feeling someone’s grip in the night? Well, one, I have never once slept with a hand dangling over the side of the bed since, and two, it inspired a novel.

The novel

Dream Wide Awake is a paranormal thriller about a family of seers. And at the risk of having some people think I’m crazy and others ask what their future holds, I’ll admit I have had an occasional premonition. My most substantial one being a vague forewarning of 9/11.

For two months before the twin towers fell, I had visions that I was approaching a northeastern American city, near water, from a plane’s eye view. The image came (and there is no sane way to describe this) as a movie in my head. First, I was in the sky moving, and next, I was in a building and the gray floor boulders were buckling beneath me. The building was collapsing.

I kept notes of this vision on my big July desk calendar. Wouldn’t throw it out at the end of July or August because I was sure a building was going to fall. On September 11th when the first building collapsed, I dug my calendar out from under a myriad of paperwork, and there were my notes. All contained in the big box of the 11th of the month. I nearly passed out.

Hence my belief: premonitions can be real. Do I believe in psychics and mediums, too? Yes, to varying degrees.

As a freelance writer I once interviewed a true medium, Anne Gehman. Gehman participated alongside four other mediums in a University of Arizona professor’s afterlife experiments. (The Afterlife Experiments, Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of life After Death, by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. with William. L. Simon.) She said clairvoyance was like playing the piano. Some people sat down and played naturally. Others, no matter how long they trained on the keys, would never make great pianists. But some who practiced long and hard? Did became proficient.

This made me wonder. Could children be trained to be psychic?

The notion

In Dream Wide Awake, three boys have been abducted in a small town. Mikala Daly, a six-year-old girl from a normal American family, is having visions of those boys, but her parents must hide her sixth-sense abilities because of a governmental program called Project Dream.

The backstory is that after 9/11, the CIA initiated an innovative national security test program. Twenty-five children were removed from reformatory facilities across the country and placed in Project Dream. The program’s purpose was to augment the adult remote-viewing program. Scientists believed children might be more easily trained and more successful in identifying threats to the American people and government through remote viewing.

When the project produces stunning results, they “recruit” seventy-five more children. Good kids without juvenile records. Children selected had two main characteristics: a sixth sense and physical superiority.

Mikala Daly’s aunt Rachel was one of the original Project Dream kids, and now no one in Mikala’s family will divulge Mikala’s gifts for fear the government will take her away to Project Dream, too. Unbelievable? (Let me remind you of the immigration debacle.)

This story is fiction, not a premonition—I think…

Author Links:

Author website www.cjzahner.com
Dream Wide Awake by CJ Zahner, Amazon http://bit.ly/AMDWACZ
Dream Wide Awake by CJ Zahner, Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/BNDWA
Dream Wide Awake by CJ Zahner /, Kobo http://bit.ly/CZDWAk
The Suicide Gene by CJ Zahner, Amazon http://bit.ly/AMSGene
Follow CJ on goodreads at http://bit.ly/gCJZahner
Follow CJ on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cjzahner/?hl=en
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Follow CJ on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TweetyZ

Excerpt from Dream Wide Awake, Chapter 1, Jack:

She was quiet, still, her expression soft. Lip relaxed against lip. Then her eyes opened.
“He can see me.”
At first, because of her casualness, he thought he’d surely heard her wrong. “Who can see you?”
“The bad man.”
His calmness faded to confusion. He tightened his eyebrows. Premonitions, they called these episodes. His wife experienced them, now his daughter. But they were never interactive.
“What do you mean he can see you?”
“He said my name. He has a guide.”
“A guide?”
“You know, Daddy, someone who shows him movies. He knows who I am.”
“No, Mikala, the bad man does not know who you are.”
“Yes, he does, Daddy.” For the first time, he heard panic in her voice. “That’s the reason he is at Danny’s house.”
A creak in the floor behind him grabbed his attention, and he turned his head. Lisa darted from the bedroom, ripped Mikala from his arms, and handed him something in her place.
“I told you not to allow this. I said you were playing with fire.”
“Lisa, she’s wrong. He can’t see her.”
“Yes, he can, Daddy.”
“No, he can’t, Mikala.” He lowered his voice to sound stern.
“Yes—yes he can. He’s with Danny right now. Run Daddy. Get Danny!”
“Go.” Lisa screamed so loud one of the boys in the next room woke crying.
Jack looked down at his lap—at the ratty sneakers Lisa had placed there. For the moment it took him to put them on, he wondered if he should run or drive the block and a half to his sister’s house. He decided, descended the stairs, and bounded out the front door bare-chested, leaving Lisa behind switching on lights and talking into the scanner. She would call for a cruiser to go to Janice’s house, to her own house. But Mikala was wrong about Danny. She had to be. He was going to be in a heap of trouble with the chief later.
He ran down the driveway and disappeared into the black night within seconds. His legs turned over like an Olympic sprinter’s, his breath labored, and sweat beaded on his upper lip. He rounded Third Street and nearly slipped in the wet grass on Nevada Drive but caught himself. He saw her house in the distance. Janice, four months separated from her husband, was alone there with her son. Alone like the others. Three single mothers of three abducted little boys.
His mind raced. The police would be at his house in two minutes. At Janice’s in three. They protected each other’s families.
When he was four houses away, he began screaming his sister’s name. Trying to scare anyone off. Make the bad man drop the child? Leave without the child? He didn’t know why he screamed. By the time his feet hit her driveway her light had turned on. The front bedroom window opened.
“Jack?” Janice’s voice slithered through the screen.
He passed her window and ran toward the back of the house, toward Danny’s room. He could see broken glass on the ground shimmering with the reflection of a street light. Dear God, no, he thought. It couldn’t be. These abductions could not have hit his family.
“Danny,” he yelled.
When he reached his nephew’s window, the whites of Danny’s two little eyes glowed in the dark room. He was there. Standing. Looking out the bare, open window back at him. Waiting.
“Hi, Uncle Jack,” Danny said, his little face peeking over the window ledge, his stuffed bear, Tony, nudged under his chin.
Jack leaned hands on house and huffed, trying to catch his breath. Trying to decipher Danny was okay. Alive. Mikala was wrong.
“Thank God, thank God,” he uttered out loud. When he caught his breath, he gazed up at his nephew.
That’s when horror seized him. Above Danny’s little face, secured on the broken glass, a scribbling on Christian stationary paralyzed him. It was the abductor’s fourth message, but the first to make Jack’s blood circulate like an electrical current. The words he read flowed over his lips in a whisper, expelled with terrifying breath.
“One mulligan for Mikala.”
______________________________________

Cyndie “CJ” Zahner is an author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake. She is also, very much, a dreamer. Follower Zahner at http://www.cjzahner.com, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, goodreads, and Bookbub.

The Flagship City Book Fest & Little Pink Miracles

Do you believe in little pink miracles? The simple kind? I do…my belief was inspired by an innocent, little message from Diana…

The Flagship Fest

The first of, what I hope to be, many Flagship City Book Fests was held on September 28th and 29th, 2018. The event, hosted by the Erie Downtown Development Corporation, brought authors, readers, and book store owners together on a stretch of road in the four-hundred block of State Street. During the festival, customers paged through books, children gathered on the steps of the Erie Art Museum for activities, Mayor Schember  stopped by, and readers relaxed in comfy chairs of an outdoor makeshift reading room.

Being a brand-new author, I gratefully participated. As a tool to draw readers to my little Cyndie and Mayor Schmberspace in the Erie writing world, I raffled off my books to someone who stopped by to sign my list.

A few hours into the festival, I received a Facebook message from Diana.

Diana and I grew up in the same Parade Street Boulevard neighborhood and had reconnected on Facebook. She wanted a chance to win my novels, but she couldn’t come. She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to undergo treatment.

Little Pink Miracles

I only had to think for a moment before deciding to open the raffle to my online followers. I posted a message on Facebook stating if people were unable to come to the Flagship City Fest, they could simply message me their name and telephone number, and I would sign them up. A few people took me up on the offer. Diana was one of them.

I’m sure the reason I did not draw the name of the person who won my novels on Sunday, as I promised I would do, was a simple little “pink” miracle. On Monday, October 1st, I remembered the raffle, hurried to my laptop, and brought up a number through a random-number generator program. The number 33 appeared on my laptop.  I ran my finger down the raffle list to number 33.  And the name Diana Dodson Bool smiled up at me.

You may say, ah, coincidence. I don’t. Not only was October 1st the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it was also Diana’s first day of breast cancer radiation therapy.

Diana

Growing up, Diana lived in the house next door. She walked me to kindergarten and helped my mother with my birthday parties. Four years my senior, I remember her as the nicest “older” kid in the neighborhood. She was kind, sweet, and always looking after the younger kids.

Fast forward fifteen years and Diana became a teacher. (No surprise there.) She worked in this capacity for a total of thirty-two years, the last twenty at Rolling Ridge Elementary School, before retiring seven years ago. Then, this past August, Diana received the bad news; she had breast cancer.

She said she surprised herself with a calmness that she can only attribute to her faith.  “I am a Christian, and I know God was with me.  I have an inner peace like I’ve never quite felt before.  To this day, I still have not cried,” she said.

During Diana’s first visit with her surgeon, Dr. Engel, he told her, “You’re not going to die from this.”

For Diana, those words were comforting. “I thought, okay, well let’s get on with this then.” Although she does admit that, at home, when her husband asked if he could get her anything, “I thought for a minute and then answered, ‘a scotch and water and chocolate chip cookies.’”

With this, Diana laughs, and as she does, I remember that boisterous laugh from childhood—from Diana, strong, sweet, optimistic Diana—now a grown woman whom I’m beginning to realize is the type of woman who is sure to weather most any storm.

The SAVI Brachytherapy treatment

Diana’s three choices included a lumpectomy, breast reduction, or a mastectomy. She elected the lumpectomy and because she did, she was a candidate to receive the SAVI Breast brachytherapy. Typically, radiation includes five or more weeks of five-day-a-week radiation treatments. With SAVI brachytherapy, SAVI catheters deliver radiation to the lumpectomy site.  That treatment occurred in a much shorter time frame–two times a day for five consecutive days.

After several doctor appointments, screenings, and consults, Bool was determined to be a viable candidate.

“I was so fortunate to qualify,” she said. “I still can’t believe how blessed I am.”

In this procedure, a tiny radiation seed travels through each catheter to deliver a precise dose of radiation, customized for the exact size, shape or location of the tumor cavity.  (https://www.ciannamedical.com/savi/how-it-works/)

Rather than the burning sensation that sometimes accompanies radiation to the outside of a woman’s body, Diana said the SAVI therapy produced no pain. She attributes some of the painlessness of the procedure to the care of her doctors and clinicians who continually made sure she was comfortable.

The people who matter

Diana said the loving support of her daughters, Katie and Meghan, and her husband, Chuck, have helped her through this period in her life, and she believes her six-month-old granddaughter, Samantha, Dianas granddaughterwas the best medicine ever. She’s sure they are a part of the reason she’s come through this so positively.  She feels blessed to have them, and other family and friends who delivered flowers and meals, in her life. She also said there were a myriad of medical professionals who were encouraging.

“My family physician, Dr. Debra Radder, is an angel. She is the one who reminded me I was behind in my mammograms,” she said. Other medical personnel in the community who went above and beyond were the radiologist, Dr. Thomas, the Regional Cancer Center’s Medical Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist, the nurses and technicians at the various health facilities, the home health care worker, and her surgeon, Dr. Engel.

“Dr. Engel spent an hour and a half with us at my first appointment,” she said. “Everyone treated me like I was their only patient.”

And while Bool is realistic, her positivity is hard to combat.  “Yes, it could come back,” she said. “But breast cancer is not usually a death sentence. Women have to remember that.” What she wants to relay to other women is: “You have to be good to yourselves. Don’t be afraid. Schedule that mammogram. And remain positive.”

Bool refuses to bring her family and friends down.  “This has to be a positive experience. If I can show other people how wonderful the medical personnel in Erie were and how a good attitude helps, then maybe women will be less afraid.”

Positive words of encouragement from a woman who used to hold my hand when I crossed the street. Her love, strength, and kindness are still apparent.

And what about the festival

So, back to the festival. Was the first annual Flagship City Fest a success?  It was for me—in so many ways. Flagship Book Fest 2018

________________________________________

Cyndie “CJ” Zahner is an author of The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake, of which Diana Dodson Bool is currently reading. Follower Zahner on her website at www.cjzahner.com, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, goodreads and Bookbub.

Dash Queen Fetish

I have a dash fetish. I am the dashes-create-tell-all-adjectives queen.

My addiction began while writing reality recaps for my daughter’s website, athletchic.com. Jessie, my daughter, asked me to admit I was addicted to The Bachelor and begin blogging recaps about the show. Athletchic.com readers were asking for them, and Jessie dedicated her Monday evenings to blogging about the Kardashians. So could I write it?

Admitting I watched The Bachelor was no easy feat. I was working in the business world and hoping my co-workers didn’t get wind of it. My dash-queen qualities began surfacing slowly. First I mentioned Shower-shy Brit—a bachelorette noted for not taking showers. Then came What’s-her-name Megan whose name the Bachelor could never remember. It advanced to Love-my-widow-story Kelsey about a girl who (it almost appeared) relished recanting her widow story. Then it peaked. I reached the dash-queen apex when my fingers typed Pick-me-pick-me-I’m-a-virgin Ashley for a girl who constantly flaunted her virginity hoping to persuade the Bachelor to pick her. It was there in print before I knew it. I had sunk to a new low. Six dashes. Is there a linguistic chastisement for using that many dashes?

Now my real-world diction mingles with my blog-world diction. It is a thoughtless diction that was accidentally catapulted by addiction. Yet, in the blogging world, readers loved it. Compliments flowed and followers multiplied. They couldn’t get enough of the dash-queen’s adjectives.

So now I read and reread, watch and re-watch Write 101x’s adjective lectures to right my wrong. Bad habits are hard to break. But I must change my ways and refocus as I enter back into the literary atmosphere.

Let my love-my-dashes-more-than-conventional-adjectives ways cease to exist. Well, at least Tuesday through Sunday.