On the Eve of Groundhog Day

26852382_sEach year, I join in the fun and anticipation surrounding Groundhog Day, hoping Wiarton Willie (Ontario’s groundhog) will predict an early spring. A feeling that is shared by millions of Canadians and Americans who are also focusing on their respective groundhogs, among them Punxsutawney Phil, Shubenacadie Sam, Balzac Billy and Buckeye Chuck.

This year, however, I have a different perspective on Groundhog Day. Several days ago, I came across the following post in Editor Bob’s newsletter.

From Editor Bob…

In NYC, we crave for the luminous skies and warm weather which are still months away. I am recovering from the cabin fever. All is frozen outside but certainly not my heart.

As a curious explorer in school, I used to enjoy weather forecasting by observing the activity of a groundhog at Staten Island Zoo where on February 2, the groundhog comes out of the burrow all day and the ceremony is open for all.

As it looks at its own shadow it indicates the continuation of cold dry winters while if there is an umbrella of clouds, it stays outside predicting the arrival of spring. The behavior of this intelligent rodent helps in predicting the waning of winter or the onset of spring. I find this phenomenon fascinating.

Last evening as I was sitting with Fred, my retired, reformist friend, at the pub, he enlightened me with his perspective of the Groundhog Day which was rather unique and interesting. It gave me a new insight.

Fred said, “You know Bob this day reminds me of my lonely days, I emerged from my coldness only to find my own shadow which was as solitary as my pride, my seasons never changed till I transcended my attitude and eventually, I made great friends who enveloped me in love and warmth. More I open myself to camaraderie, the springtime of my life continues.”

The only prerequisite for long-lasting happiness is to stop walking in your own shadow. We are the weather prophets of our life. So pause and reflect, are you warm or cold today?

Spotlight on Elisa Balabram

I am happy to feature coach, entrepreneur, and author Elisa Balabram and her novelette ebook, Mending a Broken Heart: Lili’s Magic Journey.

Here’s Elisa!

elisapictureI remember making up stories as a teenager to entertain my little sister but I never wrote them down. Since I didn’t excel much in essay writing in school, and I exceled and loved math, I ended up pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. A few years after graduation, my desire to write and express myself grew, and I started working on my first novel before I moved to the U.S. The file of the novel was accidentally deleted from my computer and never published. It took me a while to recover from the loss of that first book, which I had written in my first language – Portuguese, and a few years later, I started writing in English a non-fiction book about living abroad, which was also never published.

After I got my MBA in New York, I launched an online magazine for women business owners, and with it, my career as a non-fiction writer. I wasn’t yet ready to venture into fiction again, so in 2009, I published my first book (the third I had written), a self-help business book called “Ask Others, Trust Yourself – The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Key to Success”. I received inspiration to write this book based on my experience coaching aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs.

When I faced a heartbreak a few years ago, I decided to write a fiction story on mending a broken heart. I wrote it as part of my own healing journey, and I knew I’d like to publish it someday to inspire others, and give a deeper meaning to my journey. The process of publishing it in December 2014 made me very vulnerable, for a couple of reasons. First, I wrote a fiction story that was based on a true story, and my own healing journey, and I felt exposed. Second, I was known as a business writer until then, although I had been adding self-love articles to my blog for about a year.

The feedback I’ve been receiving from those who read my new novelette ebook “Mending a Broken Heart: Lili’s Magic Journey”, reassures me that publishing it was worthwhile as it is helping others in their own heart healing journey.



After having her heart broken by Prince Charming, Lili goes on a journey of self-discovery, self-love and spiritual growth. She reaches out for help from friends and connects with her Higher Self and her guides. Lili’s magic journey takes her on new adventures and, more importantly, takes her deeper within to realize who she truly is, and to learn to fully embody her power. Lili also teaches Love Classes and as you read them, you can follow the exercises to experience more self-love in your life and to heal your own heart.

If you’ve ever experienced heart break, let Lili’s journey inspire you to create your own self-love and healing adventure.



Elisa Balabram is an Intuitive Business and Life Coach and the Author of “Ask Others, Trust Yourself: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Key to Success”, and “Mending a Broken Heart: Lili’s Magic Journey”. Her main mission is to share her own self-discovery, spiritual, healing, out of her comfort zone, challenging at times and magical journey with women to empower them to go for it, achieve their full potential, pursue their life’s purpose, and business dreams. In addition to providing one-on-one business coaching, Elisa Balabram hosts webinars, 7-week programs, and in person workshops to help women uncover and pursue their full potential.

She founded and published an online magazine for women business owners from 2003 to 2012, archives of the interviews can be found at Womenandbiz.com. Between 2004 and 2012 she was the director of the SBA Women’s Business Center: in the Bronx for three years and in Brooklyn for five years.

Ms. Balabram was named the U.S. Small Business Administration New York District 2008 Women in Business Champion of the Year. She is currently an adjunct lecturer at Baruch College, teaching entrepreneurial and Family Business Management classes to undergraduate BBA students.

Prior to moving to New York, she assisted in running her family’s business (Coffee shop and chocolate business) in Brazil.

She holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship Management from Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, CUNY, and a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Through her own self-love quest, she worked with therapists, coaches and mentors, she became a Reiki Master and she continues to grow and focus on self-love on a daily basis.

Where to find Elisa…

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters


Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.


A child asked his father, “How were people born?”

His father answered, “Adam and Eve made babies, then their babies became adults and made babies, and so on.”

The child then went to his mother, asked her the same question and she told him, “We were monkeys then we evolved to become like we are now.”

The child ran back to his father and said, “You lied to me!”

His father replied, “No, your mom was talking about her side of the family.”


A doctor and a lawyer are talking at a party. Their conversation is constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asks the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you’re out of the office?”

“I give it to them,” replies the lawyer, “and then I send them a bill.”

The doctor is shocked, but agrees to give it a try. The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepares the bills. When he goes to place them in his mailbox, he finds a bill from the lawyer.


A dentist told a mother, “I’m sorry madam, but I’ll have to charge you $100 for pulling your boy’s tooth.”

The mother exclaimed, “$100! You said it was only $20!”

“Yes,” replied the dentist, “but he yelled so loudly that he scared four other patients out of the office!”

Spotlight on Kim Hotzon

I am happy to feature Soul Mate author Kim Hotzon and her new release, Hands Full of Ashes. Prepare for an adventure-filled ride that spans three continents.

Here’s Kim!

kimhotzonTwenty five years ago, I boarded a plane (I do that a lot, it seems). My purpose for travelling to Japan was to teach English. I was quickly in over my head. The problem was that I did not have any money, nor did I have sponsorship, which would allow me to stay in the country. I bounced from one youth hostel to another and soon I became ill. After many hospital visits I was given varying diagnoses including (correctly) a kidney infection and severe stress, and (incorrectly) appendicitis and heart disease. After a visit with the Consulate General at the Canadian embassy and his personal physician, I eventually recovered. I found a job teaching English in Osaka and I remained in Japan for two years. Upon my return to Canada I began writing my memoir, When the Cherry Blossoms Fall: My Life as an English Teacher in Japan.

Fast forward two decades. I now had accomplished many things: a marriage, children and a thriving career at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. One morning, I opened up the local newspaper and read an article. A woman was looking for a group of volunteers to travel to Rwanda to work on a project assisting genocide survivors. I felt an instant connection, a need to go. I boarded a plane for Africa. My family were shocked and scared. I was excited and about to fulfill a life-long dream. Naturally, Africa changed my life. How could it not? I was inspired once again to write. This time, what developed was not a memoir, but a fictional love story. I called it Hands Full of Ashes.

I began the long road toward publication. My learning curve was rapid and very steep. I posted part of my work online and began to receive compliments and critiques. I was approached by a well-known Canadian author who also works as an editor on the side. She did the initial editing on the manuscript. I spent months researching agents and how to write a query letter. I enlisted beta-readers to provide feedback. I kept editing. Rewriting. Editing some more. I began to send out query letters. Many of them. I had several agents show interest, but they would not commit. Seems my story was hard to pin down into a specific genre. The prevailing response was, ‘Love your writing and your voice, but what genre is this?’

I was contacted by Deborah Gilbert, the editor of Soul Mate Publishing. She suggested a different ending. I was finally ready to consider making changes. I re-wrote the ending and in the same week I had two requests from two different publishers who were offering a contract. A third was interested and considering the manuscript. I nearly fell off my chair. I chose Soul Mate Publishing. Believe it or not, their tag line and website were part of the reason I made that decision. I was looking for professionalism and a good fit for the genre of my story. The other reason was purely based on an intuitive feeling.

Hands Full of Ashes is to be released on January 14, 2015. I am now working on my next novel, another love story, but this romance veers into historical and fantasy territory. Writing is definitely hard work. However, if it’s something that you feel called to do, you can’t imagine not doing it. My advice for new writers – do not give up. Ever.



Olivia promises to fulfill her dying husband’s wish – to scatter his ashes around the world. Wading through grief and depression, she journeys to a remote orphanage in Uganda. Living amongst the children in their threadbare surroundings, she vows to fight for the children’s lives as she begins to fight for her own. While Olivia develops a passion for humanitarian work, the lonely director of the orphanage develops a simmering passion for her.

Just as time begins to heal the wounds of her heart, Olivia learns the truth of her husband’s unimaginable betrayal. She flees to the tiny country of Rwanda where her soul is reawakened with a startling new love. Olivia realizes that love always comes with a price when she is faced with a decision she thought she would never have to make.
Surrounded by the rugged beauty of Africa, Olivia is determined to find true love while learning how to survive in a region left torn apart by civil war.



Born in beautiful British Columbia, Kim developed a passion for writing at an early age. Her interest in people led her all over the globe, including a two year stay in Japan and a humanitarian trip to Rwanda.

She loves to write romance stories with a twist, usually involving a dangerous and dramatic backdrop. Her first novel, Hands Full of Ashes, was inspired by her trip to Africa.

Kim spent many years teaching young adults with learning disabilities at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and she currently resides in the sunny Okanagan with her husband and two children. When not writing, she can be found plying the local ski hills, or getting lost in her kayak in the surrounding lakes.

Where to find Kim…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | LinkedIn


Almost two years have passed since reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, but the powerful scenes and vivid imagery in Wild have lingered in memory. I eagerly awaited the film adaptation and wondered if 38-year-old Reese Witherspoon could capture all the nuances of a 26-year-old embarking on a journey of self-discovery, or as Cheryl eloquently put it: “Finding the woman my mother thought I was.”

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was riveted by the Oscar-worthy performances of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who played Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi.

A bit of back story…

After Bobbi died of cancer at age 45, Cheryl’s life took a downward turn. Her wild love for her mother turned into wild sorrow and then she went wild into her life. Hungry for affirmation, she indulged in bouts of sexual promiscuity and drug addiction. Fed up, her husband asked for a divorce. Unhappy and desperate, Cheryl picked up a guidebook about the Pacific Crest Trail and six months later started hiking from the Mojave Desert to Oregon, a distance of over one thousand miles.

Screenwriter Nick Hornby has skillfully adapted this memoir, interspersing Cheryl’s internal thoughts and a series of flashbacks with an adventure tale featuring the highs and lows of this unimaginable solo trek. From the opening scene, we can feel Cheryl’s anguish while removing a septic toenail and watching one of her boots tumble into a ravine. More unnerving episodes follow, among them dealing with extreme temperatures, running out of water, and encountering a rattlesnake.

Early in the film, thoughts of quitting occupy Cheryl’s mind. The backpack—aptly named Monster—provided the first challenge. It was well over half her weight and Cheryl could barely stand up, let alone walk. Her boots were too small and a constant source of pain. Truthfully, I don’t think I could have lasted one day, let alone three months.

Photos of the real Cheryl Strayed in the closing credits add an authentic touch to this larger-than-life film.

Spotlight on Stormee Waters

Alpha Males, Desirable or Despicable? Will Stormee make the right choice?

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Dirk Savage never fails to acquire what he wants until he encounters Stormee Waters and a backwash of trouble…

Stormee Waters knows about hard times. Needing to care for her aging grandmother and teenage brother, she moves to Houston, Texas and takes a writing job for a popular magazine. Her first assignment is to interview a successful business man for a series of articles entitled, Make My Man Texas-Sized. Her target, Dirk Savage, appears to have the right criteria. He’s adventurous with the air of a conqueror. Admired by his peers and coveted by beauty queens and debutantes, he’s just the type of man that Stormee needs to make her first article sizzle and sell. But can she handle the heat when she catches his attention?

Dirk Savage is used to acquiring what he wants, except in the illusive quest for the one woman who can fill his heart. The shock of discovering her in the naive young woman assigned to interview him sets his jaded emotions on high alert. Can he convince her that his pursuit is genuine?


“How old are you?” His tone possessed a clipped edge of exasperation.

What does my age matter? Mortified, she fidgeted with the small purse she held in her lap. “Twe—twenty-three.”

“You blush and fidget like a little girl.”

To her astonishment, and with more force than necessary, he closed her door, circled the car, and slipped back behind the wheel. A few minutes later, he parked in front of the Stardust Restaurant. This time, when her door opened, he helped her out and led her toward the restaurant’s entrance, stopping just short to maneuver her into a secluded niche in the building’s exterior.

With her back against the rock wall, Stormee muttered, “What are you doing?”

“Time to make up for leaving me standing in your doorway.”

Shock kept her immobile, while the sweetest pleasure she’d ever experienced sensitized her mouth beyond bearing. With unhurried, soft kisses, he explored the corners of her clenched lips.

Mrs. Stanton’s warning echoed in her ears. “Remember to keep it professional, Stormee. He’s not the kind of man you’re used to dealing with.” She pushed away the annoying memory as he wet her bottom lip with his tongue.

Buy Links

The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Stormee Waters Launch Giveaway Link


Lynda Coker    Author Photo (2)Lynda is an author of contemporary romance that lingers in a reader’s mind long after they’ve closed the book. She lives in Northeast Texas with her husband of fifty years. They enjoy traveling, trying new foods, spending time with family and friends, and doing community service work together. When she feels the need to take a break from writing, she enjoys creating fabric art. She offers an open invitation to view both her writing and fabric art on her blog.

Where to find Lynda…

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest