Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lifestyle: Looking forward to the mailman - the end of snail mail.

Lifestyle: Looking forward to the mailman - the end of snail mail.

When I was a young girl learning English, years ago, one way our teachers encouraged us to learn was by finding pen-pals around the world who also spoke English, so we could practice reading and writing in the new language.

Since I always loved writing and receiving letters, I embraced the suggestion as my new hobby heartily. I searched for pen-friends on magazines (there was no Internet back then), and sent out several letters introducing myself to other students around my age all over the world. I still remember my excitement when the first response arrived, about a month or so after I mailed my first pen-pal letter. It was from a girl in Austria, who was also learning English. We started a long distance friendship through letters. Several other pen-pals followed, from different and exotic places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Greece, Ireland, India, Scotland, Denmark, Norway... In every letter, we exchanged pictures, stickers, stamps, postcards, currency notes from our countries, and even small gifts like dolls, music tapes and souvenirs. Writing and receiving letters was a pleasure, I was always looking forward to welcoming the mailman and see from where in the world he was bringing news to me. The colors, the stamps, the envelopes, the stories the pen-friends would tell revealing their lives and daily routines, and talking about their vacations and families and homework, just like me, but in a far away land, was a precious surprise and a wonderful way to learn about the world and the people.

As I grew up, the pen-friends started fading away, with less and less letters coming; the friends were moving, getting married, going to work, finding less time, losing contact. But as long as I traveled and made new friends, letters and postcards would still be exchanged, lots of birthday cards and Christmas cards as well. There's always a magical feeling when you receive a hand written card on your birthday, and realize someone is wishing you the best on your special day with a specially picked card for you.

What happened to the beautifully mailed cards and letters? They are no more. Internet, email and social networks have destroyed the simple pleasure of receiving a letter, of finding a new stamp, or collecting postcards. No one wants to find time to mail a letter or a card, because it's so much easier now to just send an email or make a comment on Facebook about your friend's birthday, Christmas or any other special date.

I tried to find my long lost pen-pals on Facebook, and to my surprise, I even found one! That was really amazing. The interesting thing though, is that when we were pen-friends, we used to write to each other frequently, telling stories and exchanging ideas. Now that we know where we are everyday through Facebook, we hardly ever communicate. No more exchange of ideas and experiences. Electronically speaking is not the same, I guess.

I miss sending and receiving real letters and cards, miss the handwriting of my friends, miss finding a surprise picture, postcard or sticker inside the envelope, miss discovering a new stamp, and figuring out when the letter was posted and how long it took to get to me. Waiting for the mailman on your birthday is a thing of the past. Nowadays, we log on to see how many people remembered to post happy birthday on our social page and be happy for it!

Care to send me a letter?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Books: Interview with Author Sally Ember

Books: Interview with Author Sally Ember

Sally Ember is a produced playwright (Crystal Dreams, 1983) and nonfiction co-author (Acting Out: The Workbook, 1996). Originally from St. Louis, MO, she now resides in a picturesque cottage in northern California where she enjoys visiting the farmers’ market and swimming at the local community pool. Her upcoming book, Volume I, This Changes Everything, from The Spanners Series will be released on December 20, 2013, to Amazon and many other retailers. Here she gives us a little insight on the book and her writing. Read on to find out more!

1. What inspired you to write this series?

I'm not sure exactly what "inspired" me to write this series. One night in February, 2012, I was awakened by a very clear voice that said: WRITE. I went to the computer, hearing sentences and seeing scenes in my mind. Five hours later, most of the first Chapter, all of the summaries for all the Volumes, and the Chapter outline for Volume I were drafted. I kept going from there and finished the first draft of Volume one in 8 weeks. 

In This Changes Everything are: a love story, spanning about 35 years; dialogue and scenes of the relationships among the CC and her mother and siblings; communications between the CC and her adult son; dialogue between the CC and some friends; info about the selection and identity of the chosen media contact for the CC, with excerpts from her journal; news stories about the CC and the MWC events from Earth media as well as MWC media; background about the CC and the reasons for her being selected; excepts from minutes of meetings of the InterGalactic Council of the MWC; and much more. In the novel, after the MWC educational resources and information become widely available, in 2013, all time is now known to be simultaneous. Writing from any point in time and timeline is means that the love story and other aspects are depicted in multiple versions. I like that the readers will have to decide: do Clara and her Future or Fictional Husband get to be together? Which Re-set of the Transition After Public Contact prevails? 
The tone is humorous/serious; the mode is utopian. I really dislike reading the endless stream of dystopian futuristic sci fi. I decided to write the books I want to be reading!

I feel very driven. Part of the reason is that I identify a lot with Clara. The line between fiction and nonfiction is very blurred in these Volumes, intentionally, and my life seems that way sometimes as well. I'm curious as to what the readers will decide is "real."   

2. That sounds intriguing, so who would be your target readers?

I place these novels in the sci-fi romance/speculative fiction genres, targeting adult, YA and New Adult audiences. Buddhist, physicists, sci-fi/speculative fiction readers, paranormal romance readers, aspiring/actual UFO-logists will all like this series.  

The narrative is unique in that it includes history, poetry, literature, music/lyrics, science and technological advances, paranormal skills, law and government, Buddhism and other religions, meditation, social-emotional intelligence, time and space travel, interspecies communication, and social/futuristic depictions of the Earth, post-MWC public contact. 

This Changes Everything is the first of The Spanners series, which chronicles the public contact between the CC and the MWC and the impact of these contacts on Earthers and the MWC over the over 30 years that Branon is the CC. Chapters are written from several perspectives. Some Volumes in series are purported to be nonfiction or have nonfiction sections, as Volume I does. Even-numbered Volumes are narrated and written from the perspectives of young adults, teens, and new adults exclusively; odd-numbered Volumes are mostly written from Clara's and other adults' perspectives.   

3. Fascinating. How did you come up with the name for the series and the first book, then?  
As a “Spanner,” Clara Branon is one of millions of “Baby Boomers” who survive across two centuries and bridge the divide (hence, “Spanners”) between nonpublic and public contact with the MWC and many other major changes that occur during these decades.

Because most Earthers are not prepared to accept this type of reporting or storytelling as nonfiction, this first and some other volumes of the series are of the realistic fiction/science fiction/fantasy genres. Many of the characters, events and locations are actual; some are not, or haven’t happened (yet) at the time of first publication.

When aliens do make their first public contact, as they do in these novels, it's one of those events that people say "This Changes Everything" about, right?  Then, because all the circumstances and events of the Transition and decades after Earth joins the Many Worlds Collective involve more changes, every Volume in the series has the word "change" somewhere in its title. 

5. It sounds like your book tries to convey a message for the reader, was that your intention?

I strongly believe that Earth is in serious trouble, politically, economically, environmentally, socially: in every way. I do wish we could be rescued by stronger, more intelligent, compassionate, capable beings! How would things change if Earthers are certain that we are not "alone"?

Fascinated by physics, multiple timelines/multiverse concepts, alien life and psi phenomena, family relationships, world affairs and the environment, and unrequited/requited love, I have incorporated all of these themes and topics into my sci-fi novels.

I also believe in the inherent intelligence and value of all species, so interspecies communication between equals both on Earth and off-planet becomes central to the Series.

7. Speaking of a message, what is your greatest source of inspiration?

I am a practicing Buddhist meditator, feminist, swimmer, singer/pianist, feminist, dreamer, and mother/ sister/ aunt/ daughter/ cousin/ friend. I have an adult son who lives in New Hampshire. I was raised Jewish in St. Louis, went to college in Wisconsin and Connecticut, have lived in every state in New England, New Mexico and now in California.

All of these people I've known well, environments, activities and experiences as well as global affairs and politics, plus the hundreds of thousands of books I've read, influence the books I write.

My single greatest source of inspiration is probably my overwhelmingly romantic optimism.

8. Where can we find your books/articles/writing?

My website,, has the first fourteen chapters of Volume I, as do and I also posted excerpts on my series' Facebook page, Follow  and please Tweet about this book and series!   I am also on LinkedIn as Sally Ember, Ed.D.

I blog many times per week, sharing stories about my Buddhist  meditation practice retreats, personal philosophies, science topics, writing tips and whatever else strikes me as interesting: 

My Pinterest boards ( are mostly devoted to The Spanners Series and to help readers get to know me. I would love to get readers following me there or on Facebook and commenting there or back on my website or tweeting me about their experiences.

Volume I, The Changes Everything has been uploaded in e-book format via Smashwords and is available there and on iBooks, nook and Kobo for pre-orders 11/5- 12/19 at half-price ($1.99). Release date at full price ($3.99), to those, Amazon Kindle and other ebook retailers, is 12/20/13 (links available after 11/5 and 12/20/13).

Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, narrated by young adults and new adults exclusively, is in the final revision stages and set to release Spring, 2014. Volumes III - X are in various draft stages. 

I change my books based on readers' suggestions! Also, I would be delighted to visit your Book Club or class if you are using one or more of the books in The Spanners Series. Ask me to co-develop curricula, projects and activities for your group/class members!

I am experimenting with CROWDCREATING sections or entire upcoming Volumes of The Spanners Series. If you'd like to participate, please email and tell me a little about what Volume or portion you'd like to help create! Put "CROWDCREATOR" in the subject line.

I'm being interviewed LIVE on BlogTalkRadio's SciFi station, by Will Wilson, 11 AM EDT, 12/27/13, and available in the archives after that:

Please write a review and give This Changes Everything a rating on SMASHWORDS, iBooks, Kobo, nook, whatever retailer you use for ebooks, as well as many other sites that bring readers to this book:,,

I have also published and presented educational research, some short stories and articles and other nonfiction short pieces related to my work. I have co-written, edited, and proofread many nonfiction books and worked for a couple of magazines. I also am responsible for unrecorded songs and corny lyrics and guilty of penning mediocre poetry.

In my "other" professional life, I have worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager in colleges, universities and private nonprofits for over thirty-five years in New England (every state), New Mexico and the Bay Area (where I now live). I have a BA, master's and doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

My dissertation, "I am more who I am here than I am anywhere": An ethnographic study of the influences of safety and connection on the co-constructions of gender and sexual orientation identities in adolescents in small groups, can be found at:

10. Now tell us why should we buy your book?

After several millennia of mostly secret visits and contact with Earthers, members of the Many Worlds Collective (MWC) Council decide that a liaison, dubbed the Chief Communicator (CC) must be contacted and that this contact must be made public in order to avert multiple types of disasters on Earth. The visiting members of the MWC come in hologram form to the selected CC (Clara Branon, 58, living in northern California) for the first time on December 21, 2012. Clara is closely modeled on me, so I know how she thinks and feels very well!

Here's the blurb: "Timulting allows Clara Branon, Ph.D., 58, to depict several versions of her 40 years as the Chief Communicator /liaison between Earthers and the Many Worlds Collective (MWC) starting in December, 2012. Clara spends some of her multiverse timelines with her long-time love, Epifanio Dang. The MWC authorizes several “re-sets” of the Transition to ensure the fewest deaths among those who resist the MWC's revealing itself and Earth's inevitable membership, with the Psi-Defiers challenging the Psi-Warriors during the first years of the Transition in the Psi Wars, sending many to be Sequestered or Reinvolved. In her role as CC, Clara trains in the aliens’ Excellent Skills Program's paranormal techniques, finds out the causes and reasons behind crop circles, Area 51, pyramids, and many other of Earth's mysteries, but is quite lonely. Psi skills won’t bring Epifanio to her. What will?"

I've been writing since I was in 2nd grade: stories, songs, articles, plays, in my journal, letters, emails, posts online; nonfiction and fiction. My first story, "Princess Why," was published in the school newspaper and I believed I would be world famous from that. I sat on the couch by our picture window that overlooked our busy street and had a view of the school parking lot day after day for months, reading, looking out the window regularly. I was waiting for the news trucks and reporters to arrive. They never did....

Well, I may become world-famous...just a lot later than that, and not from that!  Help me get world-famous!  That 7-year-old is waiting for her tiara!