Three Things We Could ALL Learn from Time Out in an Ashram: A Guest Post by Susan Shumsky, Author of Maharishi & Me

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I’m always on the lookout for something a little bit different to the usual here on Linda’s Book Bag so I was delighted to be asked to participate in the blog tour for Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky. Today Susan reflects on her experience and suggests three things we could all learn from a similar experience ourselves.

Published by Skyhorse, Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru is available for purchase here.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru

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Susan Shumsky is a successful author in the human potential field. But in the 1970s, in India, the Swiss Alps, and elsewhere, she served on the personal staff of the most famous guru of the 20th century―Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Maharishi died in 2008 at age ninety, but his influence endures through the spiritual movement he founded: TM (Transcendental Meditation). Other books have been written about him, but this spellbinding page-turner offers a rare insider’s view of life with the guru, including the time the Beatles studied at his feet in Rishikesh, India, and wrote dozens of songs under his influence.

Both inspirational and disturbing, Maharishi and Me illuminates Susan’s two decades living in Maharishi’s ashrams, where she grew from a painfully shy teenage seeker into a spiritually aware teacher and author. It features behind-the-scenes, myth-busting stories, and over 100 photos of Maharishi and his celebrity disciples (the Beatles, Deepak Chopra, Mia Farrow, Beach Boys, and many more).

Susan’s candid, honest portrayal draws back the curtain on her shattering, extreme emotional seesaws of heaven and hell at her guru’s hands. This compelling, haunting memoir will continue to challenge readers long after they turn its last page. It dismantles all previous beliefs about the spiritual path and how spiritual masters are supposed to behave.

Susan shares: “Merely by being in his presence, we disciples entered an utterly timeless place and rapturous feeling, and, at the same time, realized the utter futility and insanity of the mundane world.”

Susan’s heartfelt masterwork blends her experiences, exacting research, artistically descriptive and humorous writing, emotional intelligence, and intensely personal inner exploration into a feast for thought and contemplation. Neither starry-eyed nor antagonistic, it captures, from a balanced viewpoint, the essence of life in an ashram.

Three Things We Could ALL Learn from Time Out in an Ashram

A Guest Post by Susan Shumsky

After 22 years living in the ashrams and 6 years on the personal staff of the Beatles’ spiritual guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I would say we could all learn a lot by disconnecting from the busyness of our mundane life and taking time for spiritual growth. Whether that’s in an ashram or our own home, everyone can benefit from meditation.

When Maharishi first arrived in the West in 1959 to teach his method of Transcendental Meditation (A.K.A. TM), there was no “yoga,” no “meditation,” and no “mantra.” Within 10 years he made these into household words, “with a little help from his friends”—the Beatles.

In the mid-1960s,we hippies sought higher states of consciousness through psychedelic drugs. But, just as the Beatles discovered, LSD was not the answer. After a few horrifying trips down the rabbit hole with Owsley’s sugar cubes, I never came down from the drug and suffered a perpetual LSD flashback.

Learning TM in early August 1967 changed all that. The Beatles also learned in late August 1967, and they studied with Maharishi in Rishikesh for a few weeks in 1968. I spent six months there in 1970.

The atmosphere and idyllic setting in the jungle on a high cliff overlooking the Ganges River in the holy area of Rishikesh was ideal for meditation. That’s where the Beatles enjoyed one of their most creative periods and composed the songs for the “White Album.”

So what are three things we could all learn at an ashram?

  1. Every moment is precious.

Maharishi urged us to make the best use of our time on earth. That means it’s vital to focus on seeking and finding the ultimate reality. Since meditation is a powerful way to do this, practicing meditation and helping others to learn meditation are top priorities.

During the two decades I lived in Maharishi’s ashrams, I found meditation could bring clarity of mind, physical health, emotional balance, spiritual awakening, and ultimate freedom. It can heal all kinds of disturbances and create a more meaningful life.

It’s essential to take time in our busy lives for meditation, affirmation, prayer, and/or other spiritual practices that are suitable for us.

  1. The spiritual path is not what we expect it to be.

People might think living in an ashram is thrilling and romantic. But it isn’t what we expect, and it isn’t a fantasy. During their stay in Rishikesh, the Beatles’ towering expectations included the secret of life, astral magic, supernormal powers, and global peace—all in one month.

We tend to judge others based on personal bias and clouded ego projections. With gurus, our projections are extreme—skewed by notions of how holy people are “supposed” to behave. We fantasize spiritual masters possess no emotions or failings and never make mistakes. They must be self-effacing, austere, chaste, pious (whatever that means), and, above all—poor.

What we don’t realize is enlightened beings are human beings. Absurd expectations of anyone, enlightened or otherwise, surely bring disillusionment. The Beatles left Rishikesh in a huff because Maharishi didn’t measure up to the ridiculous pipe dream they’d invented in their heads.

3.The guru must ultimately be left behind.

Maharishi was known for walking up to people out of the blue and saying stunning, life-changing statements. One day he handed me a flower and said, “Don’t look to anyone. When you don’t look to anyone, then everyone will look to you.”

Though I wanted to stay with Maharishi forever, he knew that wasn’t the best path for me. After I’d worked on his staff in Europe for six years, from 1971 to 1976, he called me into this room and said, “You are too dependent on me as a person. I won’t always be here.” He told me to return to the States and make a lot of money. This was the last thing I expected to hear from him, and the last thing I ever wanted to do. However, by getting kicked out of the nest, I discovered that either God would catch me, or I would have to learn how to fly—real fast.

I continued to live in Maharishi’s ashrams in the States for another 12 years, until 1989. Then I had to leave him behind altogether. It was tough, but what I found was much greater than I ever expected. What I found was myself.

(What a remarkable journey Susan. Thanks so much for a fascinating guest post.)

About Susan Shumsky

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Dr. Susan Shumsky has dedicated her life to helping people take command of their lives in highly effective, powerful, positive ways. She is the multiple award-winning, best-selling author of 14 books. A pioneer in the human potential field, she has spent 50 years teaching thousands of people meditation, prayer, affirmation, and intuition. Her book titles include Miracle Prayer, Divine Revelation, Exploring Meditation, Exploring Auras, Exploring Chakras, How to Hear the Voice of God, Ascension, Instant Healing, Awaken Your Third Eye, Awaken Your Divine Intuition, Color Your Chakras, and Maharishi & Me.

You can find out more by following Susan on Twitter @SusanShumsky and visiting her website. You’ll also find Susan on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:

Blogger Tour Poster Maharishi

Staying in with Angela Panayotopulos

The Wake Up

I began these staying in posts for 2018 with a view to showcasing as many authors as I could because I simply can’t read all the books I have for review. What I hadn’t realised was that I would find my TBR increasing as new to me authors stayed in with me! Today I welcome Angela Panayotopulos to stay in with me.

Staying in with Angela Panayotopulos

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Angela. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

The Wake Up

The Wake Up, my most recently released novel. The Wake Up was six years in the making, primarily based on personal experiences, and it has since emerged as a dark fantasy novel interwoven with socio-political satire and rich with fairy tale allusions. It is set in an alternate U.S. where mirrors sometimes reflect the content of people’s character, terrifying the nation’s leaders and plunging society into a dystopia of fear.The Wake Up is meant to serve as a surreal modern-day fable of loss and love, examining how our choices determine the manner in which we live before we die, reframing the question of whether monsters make war or whether war makes monsters.

(Oo. Good question! What an interesting book The Wake Up sounds.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Wake Up

Hopefully, a book that will — to paraphrase the words of John Updike — help unblock the traffic jams in people’s heads, whether they’re grappling with a life-altering decision regarding their relationship with themselves, their loved ones, their enemies, their communities, or society as a whole. It’s about illuminating and breaking through stages of denial and grief, and about choosing love and truth over everything else. I use writing as an avenue for expression in the hopes of connecting with others and leaving the world a tad more thoughtful and happier than as I found it. I hope this book helps accomplish just that.

(I think this sounds wonderful. My TBR pile is going to get bigger again I can see!)

What else have you brought along and why?

hug mug

It’s evening, so I’m going with a mug of tea instead of my beloved cup of coffee; still a hug in a mug, so I’m happy! I’ve brought some tea packets to go around; a bit of green tea with raspberry undertones and a spoonful of honey goes a very long way. And if a background soundtrack is doable while we read, just know that these three tracks were my top loops while I was writing the majority of the scenes: Paint it Black by Ciara, Talking in Your Sleep by The Civil Wars, and Bones by MS MR.

Now you’ve intrigued me further Angela as I want to know how that music links with the writing. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me about The Wake Up. It sounds fascinating.

The Wake Up

The Wake Up

For years, Lexi has repressed her secret gift: a rare ability to glimpse the angelic or demonic manifestations of people’s personalities in their mirror image. With her family’s glass-blowing studio as her playground and her mirror-making grandfather as her mentor, Lexi comes of age when the nation’s president—an undisclosed Seer who demonizes his gift as fiercely as Lexi treasures hers—bans man-made reflective surfaces, plunging the nation into a dystopia where government agencies annihilate families like Lexi’s.

As her family breaks apart, Lexi falls for a man who comes to stand for everything she despises. Betrayal and deceit ignite a domino effect of dangerous consequences in a world of blurring boundaries between the worldly and otherworldly. Caught up in a battle as old as time itself, the last mirror-maker must revamp a breakup into the greatest wake up of her life, embracing her forbidden capabilities in an attempt to rouse her world out of darkness.

The Wake Up is available for purchase here.

About Angela Panayotopulos

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Angela Panayotopulos first tasted the magic of wordsmithing when she penned and illustrated her debut stories The Horse and His Baby Horse and The Wolf and the Monkey as a five-year-old. These did not become international bestsellers. However, Flint Hill Publishing Center stamped her books and contaminated her with the dangerous notion that she could write. She will be forever grateful.

At 22, Angela earned her Creative Writing M.F.A. from George Mason University, emerging as a full-time freelancer and part-time novelist. Her passion for storytelling is rivaled only by her love of dancing, adventuring with her beloved partner-in-crime, and savoring steaming cups of coffee (preferably while reading something by Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, or Laini Taylor). Her prior publications include The Art of War: a Novel, inspired by her grandparents’ ordeals during WWII, and The Cardiology of Broken Things, coauthored with the wonderful Dr. Lars J. Østergaard.

You can find Angela on Goodreads and Facebook.

Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch

Mavis and Dot

As life is rather busy, I’ve been turning down about 90% of the blog tours I’ve been asked to participate in over the last few months, but I’m so glad I agreed to take part in this one organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch, not least because all profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer and with my sister-in-law currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer this feels like a personal post. I have my review to share with you today.

Mavis and Dot is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Mavis and Dot

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A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant.

Introducing two eccentric ladies who form an unlikely friendship. Meet Mavis and Dot – two colourful, retired ladies who live in Worthington-on-Sea, where there are charity shops galore. Apart from bargain hunting, they manage to tangle themselves in escapades involving illegal immigrants, night clubs, nude modelling, errant toupees and more. And then there’s Mal, the lovable dog who nobody else wants.

A gently humorous, often side-splitting, heart-warming snapshot of two memorable characters with past secrets and passions.

Escape for a couple of hours into this snapshot of a faded, British seaside town. You’ll laugh and cry but probably laugh more. “This book is quirky and individual, and has great pathos…[it] will resonate with a lot of readers.” Gill Kaye – Editor of Ingenu(e).

Written with a light touch in memory of a dear friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, Angela Petch’s seaside tale is a departure from her successful Tuscan novels.

All profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the cure for cancer.

My Review of Mavis and Dot

A chance meeting at a bridge club will lead to friendship for Mavis and Dot.

Mavis and Dot is a delightful book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I’m always cynically sceptical of claims about books in their advertising and when I saw ‘A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant’ I wasn’t quite prepared for how accurate a description this is. It sums up Mavis and Dot perfectly.

There’s fast paced action and so much packed into Mavis and Dot that I’d defy any reader not to be able to find an aspect that resonates with them. I particularly liked the concept that a larger sized, older woman like Mavis could still enjoy a sexual relationship. I was also very touched by the details of Dot’s past as they are gradually uncovered. There’s the potential for many more adventures for Mavis and Dot and I’d love to read them.

Both the main characters are very well developed so that they feel like real and vibrant women, warts and all. Neither is perfect and their flaws add to the realism and pleasure in the book. It’s so refreshing to read about a developing friendship between older protagonists as I feel they are underrepresented in fiction. Mavis’s outrageous outfits and Dot’s haphazard approach to housework and cooking give a brilliant message that we don’t have to be confined by convention.

I loved the balance of humour and pathos in the storytelling because the realities of life are so well balanced by quirkier and entertaining aspects. Mavis’s malapropisms had me chuckling and her early encounters with Lance were a real hoot. I don’t often laugh aloud when reading so-called humorous books but I certainly did here. That said, Angela Petch is not afraid to tackle big social issues head on so that there’s actually quite a bit to think about at the same time as being royally entertained.

Mavis and Dot is a warm-hearted exploration of life and friendship that I found beguiling and engaging. It’s a super read.

About Angela Petch

Mavis and Dot Author Photo

A prize-winning author, Angela Petch lives half the year in West Sussex and the summer months in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture for her Tuscan novels and Mavis and Dot is a temporary departure from her usual genre. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book to capture more ideas.

In May 2017, Angela Petch won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a dozen stories published by The People’s Friend magazine.

Mavis and Dot was written in memory of a dear friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. All profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer.

You can follow Angela on Twitter @Angela_Petch, visit her website and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Mavis and Dot Full Tour Banner

one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields

One Hundred Breaths

My grateful thanks to James at Cynefin Road for a copy of one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields in return for an honest review.

one hundred breaths is available for purchase here.

one hundred breaths

One Hundred Breaths

Stephanie Shields breathes life into her debut collection of one hundred, one hundred word stories, creating a book somewhere between poetry and a net cast to harvest the essence of life.

“forgotten

until next Spring

for it will come back

it won’t be this blossom

but it will be blossom…”

Bare, true, and as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, one hundred breaths isn’t so much a body of writing as a soul captured on paper.

one hundred breaths features hand-inked art by Ruby Lilith.

My Review of one hundred breaths

A beautifully illustrated collection of poems.

I’ve actually had this collection some time, but have been returning to it and rereading before writing my review because I enjoyed the poems so much. Before I review the poems themselves, I have to comment on the drawings by Ruby Lilith that illustrate one hundred breaths. They are so well positioned and perfectly linked to the individual poems that I found they enhanced my pleasure in reading this collection.

I loved the references in one hundred breaths to established writers such as Robert Frost in good fences make good neighbours or Emily Dickenson in antihope and actually, I think Stephanie Shields’ writing holds its own in comparison with great poets. Her imagery and lyrical quality is equally as good and I was frequently reminded of poems by Dylan Thomas amongst others, and of course EE Cummings because of the lack of upper case letters and the physical structure of pieces like birthdays. These poems may pay homage to and take inspiration from other writers but they are no pastiche. Stephanie Shields writes with a vibrancy and style that is all her own.

There’s an intensity to Stephanie Shields’ imagery and emotion that I found enormously affecting. The depth of loneliness in a simple task of washing up in one or the activities in friday night for example brought a lump to my throat. I think everyone should read connections as it is a true anthem for so many in today’s society. I was completely undone by dad as reading it coincided with the anniversary of my father’s death and it isn’t an exaggeration to say I found exploring one hundred breaths quite a cathartic activity. Stephanie Shields touches on many aspects of our modern lives from homelessness to love, despair to hope.

The use of the senses is woven in a perfect tapestry throughout one hundred breaths whether it is the scratch of a fingernail or the scent of a bonfire so that each piece is like a jewel of sensuous experience. Each poem is brilliantly structured. Some have a more physical appearance on the page and others look more conventional, but in each the techniques used enhance the meaning. The use of enjambement, repetition and the starkness of a single word mean that there is a truly affecting punch with each. Although I loved them all, I think the poem that most resonated with me was fuck this. The passion and anger, the determination and the references to our obsession with doing the right thing made me feel uplifted and empowered.

I know many readers are put off by poetry, but one hundred breaths is a superb collection. These poems are literary, emotional and beautiful but they are also real and accessible and I think any reader would find something here about which to say ‘Oh, yes!’

one hundred breaths is a stunning collection and I loved it.

About Stephanie Shields

Stephanie Shields grew up in a small village in Derbyshire. Her friends call her Veep. In her thirties she ran away to London to seek her fortune, where she started writing to try and make sense of the world.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @PrincessofVP.

Staying in with Samuel Bigglesworth

A beautiful Place to Die

I am delighted to welcome Samuel Bigglesworth to Linda’s Book Bag today. Sam is staying in with me to tell me about one of his books and I won’t be giving too much away if I say it is a collection of short stories. I think we need more short stories in our lives so let’s see what Sam has to say.

Staying in with Samuel Bigglesworth

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Sam. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

A beautiful Place to Die

Hi! I have chosen A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability, a collection of literary fiction short stories.

(I think we need more short stories in our busy lives Sam so I’m delighted you’ve brought this collection along.)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability?

I chose this collection because I love stories which humanise people, and show their flaws. Many people who appear unremarkable from the outside, have remarkable stories to tell. Pain and growth are common to all our lives.

(You’re absolutely right!)

Many reviewers have applauded the descriptive and succinct writing style. Please find a review below which will give a good idea of what to expect.

A new albeit ominous voice in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor, it also delves into a Murakami-like simplicity that pulsates with a wicked undertow. These short stories are full of life, character, manically-distinct description. Realities are established impeccably–so well, in fact, that a lack of plot in several of these vignettes seems just so right, very natural. Bigglesworth develops a slight psychosis in most of his tales that does not paint everything quite black. It manifests itself in the mundane dog walk, in the forgotten homeless. Forest walks or long journeys through adulthood; life is stretched out and then condensed. For our reader’s pleasure.

Also, the illustrations by Henry Boon add a children’s story sadness to the whole collection. It’s a good one!

(That’s quite an endorsement Sam.)

What else have you brought along and why?

tea

Well, I am from Manchester, England, so to eat I have brought along a cup of English breakfast tea with a dash of milk and a slice of Manchester tart!

manchester tart

To play I have brought Definitely Maybe by Oasis. It really gives you a feel for the city!

You’re just my kind of guest! You are welcome back any time if you’re going to bring tea and food! I’m not averse to Oasis either! Thanks so much for staying in with me Sam, to tell me all about A Beautiful Place to Die: Heart-wrenching tales of human vulnerability. Let’s tell everyone a bit more about the book.

A Beautiful Place to Die

A beautiful Place to Die

A pensioner with advancing cancer is kicked out of her home with her dog. She doesn’t want to die on the filthy city streets, so sets about finding a more beautiful place to rest her head.

A lady sick of seeing people act coldly decides to help a man on the street. She later finds out he escaped from prison only twenty-four hours before.

A Beautiful Place to Die is a heart-warming short story collection which will make you laugh and cry. Plunging you into the minds of outsiders of all stripes, from nine to ninety year olds, and from settings as diverse as derelict warehouses and wild woodland, these stories highlight the beauty buried in the most unlikely of places.

A Beautiful Place to Die is available for purchase here.

About Samuel Bigglesworth

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Samuel Bigglesworth’s writing career started in 2014 with a blog; in 2015, he decided to commit to writing fiction long term. Towards the end of the year, after a few online courses and a great deal of time writing, he self-published his first novella, a character based comedy about one man’s love affair with nature, entitled The Woods, The Jungle, The Sea. It was inspired by experiences he had visiting remote parts of Patagonia, Bolivia, and Colombia. It has sold one-hundred copies and received generally positive reviews. From that experience, he decided to wait longer and take each project through more edits before self-publishing it. He wanted to try writing in different voices, from a variety of character’s perspectives, and develop his writing style, so he began writing this short story collection.

You can follow Samuel on Twitter @sambigglesworth and find him on Facebook.

Cover Reveal: The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes

The Blameless Dead.jpg

As you probably know, I haven’t been able to take on many new items for Linda’s Book Bag of late as life has been a tad tricky. However, when Endeavour Media‘s Hannah Groves got in touch about participating in the cover reveal for Gary Haynes’ The Blameless Dead, I took one look at the blurb and cover and couldn’t resist taking part.

See what you think:

The Blameless Dead

The Blameless Dead.jpg

In the dying days of World War Two, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the carnage and detritus of  a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.

As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.

And so it is, as post-war Europe tries desperately to drag itself back onto its feet, and soldiers attempt a return to normality, that retribution continues to ferment in the Gulags of the Soviet Union and beneath the surface of apparently ordinary lives.

Which is how, seventy years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past — even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.

The Blameless Dead is an epic, compelling, edge-of-the-seat drama that sweeps the reader from twentieth century Europe to modern-day New York, taking in some of the most important events of modern history and exposing them in honest and unflinching terms. Part murder-mystery, part historical novel and shot through with adrenalin-pumping action, this novel superbly demonstrates that, while the hostilities may cease and the peace be signed, the horror that is war is never really over.

There is more about The Blameless Dead on Goodreads.

About Gary Haynes

Gary Haynes author image

Gary Haynes is a bestselling thriller writer, and member of the International Thriller Writers organisation.He studied law at university and passed his post-graduate legal qualifications before becoming a commercial litigator. He is a Freedom of Speech advocate and is interested in history, philosophy and foreign policy. Gary’s previous novels include the popular Tom Dupree series: State of Honour and State of Attack.

You can find out more by visiting Gary’s website or by following him on Facebook and Twitter @GaryHaynesNovel.

Writing Inspiration: A Guest Post by Jo Worgan, Author of Picking Up The Pieces

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I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Jo Worgan today in celebration of her recent publication with Urbane; Picking Up The Pieces. Jo has been such a support to Linda’s Book Bag, always selflessly sharing posts for other authors and I’m delighted to be able to return the favour today, especially as Jo has written a wonderful guest post for us all to enjoy.

Picking Up The Pieces was published by Urbane on 8th November 2018 and is available for purchase here.

Picking Up The Pieces

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A compelling and emotive fiction debut about a mother’s unbreakable love for her autistic son.

Kate has a six-year-old autistic son, Sam. She has started a new life to escape her controlling and abusive boyfriend Jake. She believes that the past is behind her and that she and Sam are safe. But after spotting Jake through a misted-up cafe window, Kate knows that Jake has found her.

Kate confides in her neighbour Matt, a man running from his own past. He seems to offer a genuine chance at happiness for her and son Sam, but Jake is determined to get them back at all costs….

Picking Up The Pieces is an original, moving and gripping page-turner about a woman’s search for happiness as she fights to protect her autistic son’s future.

Why I chose autism as a central theme

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Picking Up The Pieces

A Guest Post by Jo Worgan

I think most writers tend to write from their own experiences, those things that have happened in our life, places that mean something to us or the people who have helped to shape us. Inspiration is all around us, from the people we meet, to the books that we read and what has happened in our past.

Picking Up The Pieces started with the idea of writing about a young boy with autism. My youngest son was diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) at the age of three. From this tiny nugget the story grew to that of a single mum who was running from her past. I wanted to explore the bond between mother and son. To explore how the maternal relationship differed with an autistic child.

Sam is very much inspired by my youngest son. I wanted to write about a little boy who was so much more than autism. I wanted to raise the issues of autism awareness and acceptance in my novel, while dispelling some of the many myths that surround it. For example, many still believe that autistic individuals have no sense of empathy and this upsets me. I know that my little boy feels deeply, in fact I sometimes think that he feels more than other ‘neurotypical’ people. He is deeply caring, an example of which was when a classmate was upset, he was missing his mum and started to cry. My son went and fetched some tissues and sat next to him. This was when he was nine years of age.

I wanted to explore on paper the many challenges that families face on a day to day basis, in getting the right education, help and support for their child. That there are still people out there who believe that autism does not exist, that it is simply an excuse for naughty children. A stranger told me this one day while my son was having an autistic meltdown. Hard to believe, but sadly true.

So, autism is very close to my heart and I wanted to feature a child on the spectrum to dispel some of these myths and to just show that these children are bright, funny and are just so much more than autism.

I was also inspired to write this story from having read countless online accounts, newspaper articles and books about the realities of parenting a child on the spectrum. I wanted to provide a snapshot into one family’s life. To give the reader a small slice of what life can be like.

Ultimately though, I wanted Sam to shine for who he was, for the reader to see so much more than the autism. I hope I have succeeded.

(I’m sure you have Jo. What a wonderful inspiration for Picking Up The Pieces. You must both be so proud of one another.)

About Jo Worgan

Jo 4 Urbane

Jo Worgan is a freelance copywriter, columnist and book blogger. She has published 4 non-fiction works aimed at parenting children on the Autistic spectrum, based upon her experiences as a mother of an autistic son.

Jo has always had a passion for reading, writing and all things books. She began writing short stories in her spare time while studying at University, gaining a BA(Hons) English Literature and Drama with Theatre Studies. Her writing was put on hold while she studied to become a nurse, eventually working as a senior renal nurse, first in Liverpool, then in the rural idyll of the Dorset countryside.

The birth of her first child followed very closely by a move to North Lancashire that allowed Jo to start thinking about writing once more, and the birth of her second child, diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, inspired her to write fully once more. The result was a book aimed towards helping parents of newly diagnosed children on the autism spectrum, Life on the Spectrum, the Preschool Years, Getting the Help and Support You Need. Jo continued to write and a further 3 books were self-published, all about autism. With this new-found thirst for writing, Jo wanted to start writing fiction again, as this is what she truly loves. She also finds it cheaper than therapy. Today Jo lives in Lancashire with her husband of 19 years and their two young sons. When she is not busy writing, she likes to take her boys to the local museums, cafes, cinema, the Lake District and lots of playgrounds. She also drinks a lot of coffee.

You can follow Jo on Twitter @JoanneWorgan and visit her own excellent blog.