October 15 2017
I like it a latte…
An interview with Cortney Kern the Barista Maniac
By Una Danz
Sitting with my mug of hazelnut coffee, skimming my Twitter feed, I came upon a picture of a hot beverage. This hot beverage was more beautiful than the regular cup of coffee as it had the likeness of the lovely and talented Georgia May King on its surface. After chuckling to myself about how someone is ‘thirsty’ for Georgia, I decided I couldn’t drink something that beautiful. It was art. I looked into my own pathetic mug and all I saw was my own pathetic mug reflecting back. So I clicked the name of the person who posted the photo and that is how I found Cortney Kern the Barista Maniac. He’s a freehand etching latte artist, coffee roaster, artist, organic syrup maker, recipe specialist, espresso judge and coffee consultant. Phew. That was a ‘latte’ to write. I need coffee now to ‘perk’ me up.
If you’re like me, coffee is your blood type. I can’t function without it. It’s a huge part of our culture. Bars, gas stations, movie theatres, I’ll bet even your hair salon offers it. Yet we take for granted the people who provide it. So when I looked at Cortney’s Twitter feed, I realized he’s doing for coffee what flair bartending did for alcohol. He’s ‘brewing’ up a whole new career with his passion.
The TWAM Nation wanted to know more about this Barista Maniac and reached out to ask for an interview. Join us in welcoming Cortney Kern.
*Whistles and applause*
O.K. Cortney, what’s your story? How in the world did you discover this talent?
I began with Starbucks in 1996 and worked for them until 2004. Was a store manager as well and worked very hard. I found that company to be too competitive. I discovered specialty coffee in Chicago from Intelligentsia and Ipsento. Tim Taylor, the owner of Ipsento, gave me a couple pointers on home brewing and is a major reason for my advancement.
I have always been a suburban man with very little options for good coffee. So began my path to try to figure out coffee. I brewed so many cups, tasted so many, spit out many and was trying to figure out, why does the coffee taste better at Ipsento than anywhere else? Let's just say in the last four years I've kinda figured it out but I'm still learning about Third Wave coffee. (Third Wave coffee as defined by Wikipedia “is a movement to produce high-quality coffee, and considers coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity.” If you didn’t know that don’t feel bad. I had to look it up, too. ~Una)
During this time I wanted to learn latte art but had absolutely no idea nor training. Seen many people do free-pour hearts, tulips and Rosettas. Yes! They look beautiful in a cup with delicious coffee. But that wasn't enough for me. I said - wouldn't it be cooler to see an image inside that was so detailed and made you not wanna drink it right away?
So began my etching latte art. I grew up playing baseball, video games, enjoying movie theaters and music artists. That's what made me happy. How do I express myself in these lattes? I want the world to know what I like. On my website you can see my beginning stages through to today. Most think what I do is fake or just don't like me. But this is about me and what I like, haha. I have taken no art classes nor studied art and dived into this on my own. It's been a ride.
I never knew I had this talent but wanted to impress myself mostly and be my own critic. I tend to do dark images because when I see those, I personally remember them more. They rattle around in my head. Plus, I find so much detail in those images.
Does it work on other beverages or just lattes?
I have personally seen others do more not so detailed art in cold beverages and other coffee drinks but I typically stick with hot chocolates and lattes.
How do you decide what image to create?
Sometimes, I'll process this in my head throughout the day or in the morning waking up to my first cup. My dopamine levels still kick-in high for good music, movies and games, so when someone I cherished or grew up on passes away, it inspires me to draw them out of appreciation.
Do you take requests?
Absolutely! For quite some time I did everything for free, and kinda still do, but most are willing to pay now without even asking. Celebrities, musicians, businesses, models, Playboy centerfolds, Vice Principals cast members, and 20th Century Fox reached out to me. Many others compliment me and request a creation. I've had people fly in from another state or country to meet me and ask for a piece. That makes me feel so good, and I get kinda emotional.
What else do you offer and where can people find you?
You can visit me at Cora Italian Specialties Monday-Friday and you'll see me living out my dream and what makes me happy. I do private events, parties, weddings, movie premiere parties and guest appearances at coffee shops, restaurants and coffee festivals.
I also make cedar wood infused cold brew with an organic Rosemary syrup which people purchase from me. Making organic syrups is another passion of mine. I started Barista Maniac because I am very knowledgeable and want people to know I'm a one man army and great latte artist. It's a silly name but fun.
Silly name? We here at the TWAM Nation, as I. Singh & U. Danz, think it’s lovely. Silly is in the cup of the beholder.
You can find Cortney at www.BaristaManiac.com or LIVE at Cora Italian Specialties 9630 Joliet Rd, Countryside, IL 60525Thank you Cortney for sharing your passion with us! Its ‘bean’ fun!
August 23, 2017
An Eclipse Epiphany
Where did the time go?
When I was a kid, under the age of 18, I couldn’t imagine getting old. I even wished I could get older faster. (Be careful what you wish for, em I right?) In my upper teens and 20’s I would go out at night and only realize it was hitting the morning hours when the establishment announced it was closing time. And I thought to myself: Where did the time go?
In my 30’s and 40’s I’d walk into Walmart and stroll past the baby clothes with my then elementary schooler and middle schooler and wonder when exactly I stopped buying diapers. Where did the time go?
This week, I will see the big 50. I repeat - Where did the time go?
Yesterday’s Eclipse gave me the visual to explain what that question means. It took almost no time for objects so large they make humans seem like specks of dust - to move across and in front of each other. Objects much larger, and even heavier, than me! Only seconds for them to cross paths to make something beautiful and unusual happen. We could see the movement of these objects as the sun was blocked out completely and in seconds the light began to glow again. We witnessed it. And then it was over. Where did the eclipse go? Where did the time go?
Thanks to the eclipse, I realized that time is not just going by fast – it’s f**king FLYING by. Maybe it’s time again to stay up all night and watch that sunrise. Jump in that rain puddle again. Barrel roll across the floor by the open door of my kid’s rooms while they’re quiet and hurl dirty clothes at them for fun. Or just do something that I’ve always wanted to do but talked myself out of like making my kids do the damn laundry.
If we all knew our own exact expiration date, we would take our days, hours, seconds more seriously. I refuse to think that my life is nearly over. I have to believe I’m merely at the half way point. So maybe it’s time to be more like the children and stop imaging what it will be like to be old and go back to being young.
Maybe it’s time to live so hard that we forget to check the time. Because there is something wonderful about being so involved in living life, that we look up and ask -Where did the time go?
July 7, 2017
For The Love Of … Una’s Sanity
Series 6th Edition
Everything to Lose
There are a ton of reasons we gain weight: pregnancy, eating disorders, or if you’re me, you merely woke up and found yourself staring at the Michelin man in the bathroom mirror. It can happen to anyone and for any reason. My reason was that I spent too much time with the French.
Well, OK, maybe it was more like ingesting too much fermented
FINE! It was vodka. I was drinking a lot of vodka.
After the unexpected death of my husband, I turned to vodka, and it was there for me every day at 5 o’clock. Which I started calling vodka o’clock. Vodka was amazing. It made me feel warm inside and gave me the courage to walk into my empty bedroom every damn night. It lulled me into peaceful sleep. All right, it was more like I chemically forced my eyes shut, but still.
Vodka understood me. We were good together. We worked.
Sleep, wake up to a nightmare, drink, repeat.
At first it was only two glasses. Eventually those two glasses became six with a dozen crackers and a block of cheese. I managed to go through one bottle of vodka a week. Each time the guy at the liquor store asked me if I wanted a bag for my bottle, I wondered how long it would be before he asked if I wanted a straw.
Vodka and I dated for at least two and a half years. For those two and a half years, we had a great time, but the time had come to break up with my Precious. It was time to admit that it had changed me. Like, really changed me. Not as an alcoholic, but something worse. Something much, much more disgusting and forbidden by any social standards. I’d gotten FAT.
How did this happen? When did this happen? Why was I putting makeup on the stay puff marshmallow creature in the morning?
Let me put this into perspective. One average 750 ml bottle is approximately 25.5 ounces. Each of those ounces is 70 calories each. That is 1,785 calories per bottle per week. With 52 weeks in a year that equals 92,820 extra calories annually. In two and a half years (130 weeks), I had ingested 232,050 calories. That’s 66.3 possible pounds to gain! No wonder I had gained so much!
Now let’s consider how 3500 calories must be burned to eliminate one pound of fat. With 232,050 approximate calories to burn off, it would take at least 60 weeks to get rid of the weight safely. It had to be done the right way, with a healthy diet and definitely no more vodka. With the big 5-0 birthday looming ahead, I was determined to get started. After one last night with my precious Grey Goose, I grabbed that beautiful frosted neck of glass and tossed its empty body into the trash and said goodbye.
It didn’t hurt as much as I expected. The first night I slept just fine. Two nights, then three nights which turned into two weeks and I was sleeping just fine. I didn’t need the vodka. It was a habit. A really bad habit. I started dreaming about my husband then. So in a weird way, by giving up the vodka, I got Doug back. Even if it was just in a dream. He was a reminder that everything was going to be ok.
Next I did what any focused and determined heavy set person does who wants to lose weight; I took my gorgeous and fit 16 year old daughter to look at treadmills so the sales associate would take us seriously. Didn’t all middle aged women only use their treadmills for a coat rack? He was probably mentally already giving me directions to the Pier One store.
When Pierre approached us, he looked past me to my daughter. I knew what he was thinking – clearly we weren’t here for me. Joke was on him. She was just bait.
We gave Pierre the list of requirements. We wanted a treadmill with buttons not touch screen; incline ability; calorie and distance counter, and also foldable. Foldable for the convenience of being able to vacuum the popcorn leavings off the floor since the torture chamber, er, I mean exercise room, also doubles as our entertainment cave.
As Pierre showed us the three foldable models on the floor, he pointed out that the X285 model had a Max User Weight of 250. Yay! I was still nowhere near that capacity. But then… Pierre kept going.
“This is the X385 and it has a max capacity of 350 lbs.”
“This is the X485 and it has a max capacity of 450 lbs.”
“Woah there, Pierre,” I held up my hand, “we aren’t all going to use it at the same time. You had us at the first one.”
As he rattled on about the fan feature and heart rate transmitter strap, I noticed some colorful plastic orbs off to the side. I fell into a daydream of balancing gracefully on top of it, strengthening my core. (Didn’t people shaped like apples already have a core? All I knew is I wanted to strengthen mine.) So I asked Pierre, “Will those hold me? Or do they have a weight limit too?”
“You should be fine,” he answered but he sounded like he covered a chuckle. Here is what I’ve learned: fat people are funny. No wait, that wasn’t my point.
My body had been trying to tell me for two and a half years that I wasn’t taking care of myself. My issue was trying to avoid missing Doug every night. That was the root of my problem. Once I admitted that, the repair work was obvious. Acknowledging it helped me break the bad habit.
Believe me, I am NOT saying that extra pounds means someone is a troubled person, nor am I saying being skinny makes someone a good and happy person. I’ve met a lot of skinny assholes. My epiphany was that it wasn’t the vodka to blame. It was my denial of my underlying pain that lured me into that evening habit. Other people will have different struggles and different reasons for those struggles. It’s important to be honest about what that issue is.
So honestly, I don’t care if I look like a spandex covered walrus doing yoga poses in my entertainment cave on top of a giant yellow plastic ball– I just want to get healthy. There is a whole beautiful world out there and I want to see it! By taking a good, hard, look at myself, I know have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Well, fat, I could lose fat. And then maybe I will find someone again who will get hard taking a good look at me.
July 1, 2017
FREE! FREE! FREE!
Get your fireworks courtesy of the Henley clan. To honor our freedom on this Independence Day weekend, we are offering "Miss Matched No More" for FREE starting July 1st. Offer ends 7/5/17 Click here for "Miss Matched No More" for FREE!!
Have a fun and save holiday everyone!
JUNE 7 2017
The last brain baby of our Miss Matched trilogy is born!
We present to you : Miss Matched No More
If you need some fictional fun summer reading material, this is it.
Imara and I spent longer than usual to finish the tale of the Henley's and their friends hoping to provide a satisfied ending to each character.
Drop us an email at [email protected] and let us know what you thought. Constructive feedback is always welcome.
Purchase available on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072JYSYR8
May 22, 2017
For The Love Of … Animal Shelters
Series 5th Edition
I roam the streets. Dirty. Exhausted. Hungry.
My matted hair and unkempt appearance don’t endear me to anyone. I scavenge for food in garbage, street corners, and anywhere I can find it. If I’m lucky a kind soul will give me their leftovers. I usually live in cardboard boxes. I squat in abandoned buildings and parks. I try my best to shelter myself from the elements, but sometimes there is nothing but the pavement to sleep. It’s a hard life on the streets.
I’m skin and bones but food is not the only thing for which I hunger. I crave a friendly smile, a little affection, a bit of consideration, but I receive so little. That’s probably why I go overboard when someone shows me compassion. Usually people shoo me away, reminding me I have no real home. Other times people chase me and threaten physical violence. Sometimes the threat become reality and I’m bruised, battered and sad, but mostly confused.
What have I done to deserve this? I should be man’s best friend.
This is the reality of millions of stray animals every day across the planet. This month we’d like to salute the unsung heroes who have dedicated every single day to rescuing, helping and caring for these forgotten and ignored animals on the streets. The star of this month’s For The Love Of series are Animal Shelters.
Animal shelters rescue stray animals from the streets, give them medical attention, groom, feed and care for them, but most importantly, provide a safe and nurturing environment to heal their physical and emotional wounds.
Why are there so many strays?
Owners who don’t spay and neuter their dogs/cats or other pets are the culprit. Unwanted animals are abandoned and left to run free. These puppies, kittens or other animals continue to breed causing an over population of animals.
Many animals are dumped at remote locations or tossed out into the street. If the unwanted animals are lucky, they are given to other people or dropped off at an animal shelter. If they are in the wild and are rescued by a shelter, they are super lucky to get a second chance at life.
Puppy and kitten mills have contributed to the increase in stray animal population. A puppy or kitten mill is an inhumane dog or cat breeding facility in which the health of the animals is disregarded in order to produce as many puppies and kittens as possible for maximum profit.
The animals may or may not survive for long but since they haven’t been sterilized they produce more puppies or kittens. It’s a vicious cycle.
Are you considering getting a pet in the near future? Check out the animal shelter near your home before you consider contacting the nearest pet store.
Many people are misinformed about recused animals. There a lot of myths about them and we wish to debunk them one by one.
I want to adopt a pet. Isn’t the pet store or a breeder better than going to an animal shelter? - FALSE
The sole purpose of an animal shelter is to care for the animals and ensure they are healthy, and happy, and find them a home, while the sole purpose of a pet store/breeder is to sell them to make maximum profit. When you adopt an animal from a shelter, you are literally saving two lives – one, of the animal you are adopting, and two, of the animal who will be rescued off the streets and take the place of your adopted animal at the shelter.
Animals from the animal shelter are given not only medical attention when they are brought in, but also time with professionals to help them get familiar with socializing and building trust. They are only put up for adoption when they are healthy and are ready to go out into the world.
Every animal at the animal shelter is grateful to be given a second chance and they are very devoted and protective of their owners. They offer unconditional love and are just as worthy of care and affection as an animal from a pet store. Don’t we all deserve a second chance?
If I adopt a rescue dog/cat from an animal shelter it won’t be a pure breed – FALSE
Being a pure breed animal is not a special stamp of quality. Many so called pure breeds have health issues from being overbred. An animal which is not a pure breed can be just as smart, intelligent, caring and devoted. Mixed breeds are equally amazing in their own right. They appreciate being rescued so much they give all their loyalty and love to show you how much they appreciate you every single day for the rest of their lives.
However, if you cannot move past the idea of a pure breed animal, shelters do have pure breed dogs/cats. In fact, 20% of the dogs and cats in the animal shelters are pure breed. There are also rescue shelters which specialize in types of breeds and this information is available online. www.Petfinder is a good source if you ‘have to’ have a certain breed. You can fulfill your desire and still save a life.
Rescued animals are aggressive, untrained, and not good at socializing – FALSE
Animal shelters spend a lot of time and effort to heal the souls of the animals that have been rescued. Apart from being groomed and fed, they are also given love and affection to undo the damage of being abused or neglected while living on the streets. In fact, a rescued animal will be all the more affectionate and devoted to you, because they remember being without a home.
Animals are not put up for adoption until the professionals are certain they are ready for socialization. Having said that, animals are very much like people, each one has a different personality, some are naturally playful and bubbly while others are more restrained.
Spend some time thinking about the type of personality you want your animal to have and share this with the shelter employees. Chances are they will know which animal will match your needs and introduce the two of you.
In order to ensure a bond between the animal and the potential owner, the animal shelter will allow you in a room with the animal and guide you through developing the trust before you will take it home.
Isn’t it better for rescue animals to stay in shelters? FALSE
While animal shelters provide care and a temporary home, it’s not the same thing as a forever home. It is the equivalent of a child remaining in foster care instead of being adopted.
The animals should get far more attention in a permanent home. They would have a bed to call their own with a deeper emotional bond with their owner. And let’s face it, no matter how clean a cage is, it’s still a cage.
The animal shelters try to provide the best care they can to the animals they house, including exercise and socializing, but the numbers of strays and unwanted animals increase rapidly. Shelters can only house so many critters. Adopted animals provide companionship, unconditional love and unwavering devotion. When you adopt an animal from a shelter, you’ve also opened up a space to save another animal.
No-Kill Shelters are better than Kill Shelters – FALSE
Kill shelters euthanize the animal if it’s not adopted within a certain period of time. The time period varies by shelter. It depends on their resources and the health of the animal. Reasons for euthanizing could be deteriorating health or aggressive behavior.
While kill shelters do practice euthanization, the decision is not taken lightly. The choice is made on resources versus the number of new animals being brought in. They tend to euthanize a senior animal before a younger one, based on adoptability. None of these decisions are easy and they try to make the process as painless as possible for the animal. Of course the TWAM Nation prefers the scenario of all fur babies getting adopted instead of euthanized.
No-kill shelters have a policy of keeping the animals for as long as it takes to be adopted. Now while this may sound ideal, it has a few caveats. No-kill shelters may refuse to take in more animals for lack of space or resources. They may choose to refuse an animal deemed less adoptable in order to maintain their no-kill status. There is no easy answer and not everything is as black and white as it sounds.
One fact remains true, the work done by animal shelters, both the kill and no-kill variety, is vital to reducing the population of stray animals. But only spaying and neutering can truly impact the situation.
Animal Shelters are supported by the government - FALSE
Only shelters governed by municipalities are funded by the government. However the funds are often not enough to cover expenses. Most shelters depend on donations, fund raisers, and crowd funding to keep their doors open. They may connect with local businesses to agree to post collection boxes on their counters. It doesn’t take a lot to help support an animal shelter. Even a $5 donation can make a difference and every bit counts.
What you can do to help:
Animal shelters work tirelessly to provide a safe haven to homeless, abused, unwanted animals and while their efforts are nothing short of heroic they could also use a hand.
Efforts are slowly paying off to educate pet owners on the importance of spay and neutering and creating more awareness about the number of stray animals. Thanks to social media, more people are aware of the work that animal shelters do and the payoff is the decreasing number of unwanted animals.
Even if you aren’t ready to adopt a pet, or you already have a pet, there are still numerous ways you can help.
Donations – Cash, Things, and Time
Most animal shelters ask for an annual donation but give whatever you can. All donations are accepted graciously. If you cannot make a monetary contribution you could help by donating things most needed, such as bedding, blankets, towels, small stuffed animals or toys. These are much appreciated.
Another way to help is to give your time. Every hour you volunteer allows the shelter to put their limited resources to use to rescue more animals. Volunteers can help with administrative duties, answering calls, playing with the animals, dog walking, passing out flyers, educating other people and encouraging them to adopt. Check with your local shelter to see what tasks are available and ask about their schedule and any necessary training you may need to undergo.
Other ways of helping animal shelters are:
- Help with fundraisers/crowdfunding
- Creating awareness within your community about animal shelters and their work
- Foster an animal
- Set up a donation drive
- Ask for birthday donations to be made to the shelter of your choice
- Create a culture of volunteering at animal shelters in your family or workplace.
The animals in the shelters are victims of circumstances beyond their control. We can help. A little bit of kindness and compassion goes a long way in improving their lives. Let’s all do our bit.
Oh, and if this isn’t reason enough, helping someone else in need will make you feel amazing. If you won’t do it for them, do it for you.
So, what are you waiting for?
We’re listing links for Animal Shelters across the US and the world :
April 10, 2017
For the Love of… Fun and Sexy Authors ft Jamie K. Schmidt
Series 4th edition
By sheer miracle we were able to wrangle one of our favorite sexy authors into an interview without threats or blackmail even! The author of Sentinel’s Kiss (Sentinels of Babylon series) out now on Amazon, she’s a USA TODAY Best Selling author who has published more than thirty short stories in small-press journals and e-zines. She’s an active member in the Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she relaxes with a mug of hot tea and knits or makes beaded jewelry. She’s the one, the only, Jamie K. Schmidt.
*Applause, whistles, clapping.*
We are so excited to have you here, Jamie!
Thanks guys! Glad to be here.
- You have written sooooo many books, paranormal and contemporary romance, even a few manga related stories. Otaku, Obake got our interest. Are you a big manga fan?
I'm a screaming fan girl for Rumiko Takahashi. Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha are my all time favorites.
2. There are quite a few series: Club Inferno, Sentinels of Babylon, Emerging Queens, Hawaii Heat, etc. How many books do you usually write at any given moment? Can you write more than one at a time? Ever forget which one you were actually writing and cross the characters?
I usually am writing one book while plotting two others and editing two others. I've had to write two books at once and that's no fun. I didn't cross the characters, but I mixed up a few scenes and in edits was like . . . .wait. . . .there aren't any dragons in this dungeon!
3. All writers have moments where an idea hits them and they have to stop and write it down for fear they will lose it. Where is the strangest place/moment you were hit with a story idea and had to stop and write it down?
I was sleeping and I woke up out of a dead sleep with the most brilliant idea for a story. I wanted to get back to the dream, so I only wrote a few words down: Screaming Penguin 2000 with Kevin "Sax" Jones. I still have no freakin' idea what the brilliant story was. All I get when I think about it is a chain link fence and that Screaming Penguin 2000 is a band name. Aside from that, I've got nothing.
4. Imara and I like to hide Easter eggs or private jokes in our stories. Do you do that? Can you share one?
Sometimes, when I can fit it in. For example, in the upcoming book STUD (July 25th) the main character Terri briefly mentions Rory, the hero for my November book HARD COVER.
5. You co-wrote the FATE trilogy with Jenna Jameson. Did you get to meet her? How was it to work with her?
I didn't get to meet Jenna in person. She lives on the West Coast and I'm on the East Coast. We spoke mainly on the phone. She's sweet. Very vulnerable. What you see, is what you get with her. There's no artifice or fake personality.
6. Most writers will say they’ve always enjoyed writing or they always knew they were going to be a writer. Was it the same for you? How was your journey into publishing? Was it torture?
Oh yeah, I've always known I would be a writer. I wrote my first books when I was in my teens. I swore to myself I'd be published at 16. Then 18. Then 21. Then 25. Then 30. I didn't actually start my search for an agent until I was 39. I told myself that if I didn't get published by 40, I would quit. It actually took to 42. :D Which, as I'm sure you know, is the meaning of life
7. Soooooo, Indie or traditional publishing?
Both. Traditional publishing is great because you get a publicist, an editor, a cover designer and the sales team of a big five publisher behind you. But Indie is great because you have all the control (and all the expenses). I'm glad to be a hybrid author because I don't like to have all my eggs in one basket -- unless they're Cadbury mini eggs. Those are the ones with the hard shell -- not the crème eggs. Those are tooo sweet
you could give one piece of advice to all aspiring authors, what would you tell
BICFOK - Butt in chair, Fingers on Keyboard. It's the only way you're going to finish the book. :D
Thank you for stopping by Jamie. Write on man! (er, woman!)
Alright TWAMsters, isn’t she fantastic?! We love her. You can buy Sentinel’s Kiss which is available now on Amazon and preorder Stud due out July 25, 2017. Go check out all of Jamie K. Schmidt’s titles here: HERE There is something for everyone. Seriously. Go.
Una & Imara
I. Singh & U. Danz
March 11, 2017
For the Love of… Tarot ft Kayleigh Jean
Series 3rd edition
(Inhaling deeply) Do you smell that?! It’s Spring! Such a magical time for the earth when all living things once dormant and cold, come back to life and wake up. To reach for the sunshine and grow. We want to celebrate all forms of magic. And this month, we spotlight our love for Tarot. That’s right – Tarot. Why? Because it’s the magic of psychology in its purest form.
Like the Rorschach test, Tarot cards bring to light what we already have inside us. It’s a tool, pictures on paper cards that mirror our internal selves based on how we interpret the picture. Just like a Rorschach test. We all have the answers we seek inside us. Tarot helps us expose the answer we already know. Not much different from seeking an answer from an ancient tome except Tarot keeps the responsibility of a decision on the individual. It’s accountability for our free will decisions. Something we need more of in this world instead of blaming someone or something else.
Imara and I watch many people on social media and look for people who shine in all areas; art, self-help, entertainment – anything that gives a positive experience. It’s clear that people who love what they do impart the warmth of their soul in their work. We discovered this amazing ray of sunshine named Kayleigh Jean. She is such a positive and kind soul. We had to share her with you. The TWAM Nation welcomes Kayleigh Jean!
(Applause. Whistles. Loud clapping.)
So, Kayleigh Jean, what first sparked your interest in tarot?
I have always been interested in magic and synchronicity. As a child, I was really into the Harry Potter series and CS Lewis’s Narnia books. I grew up close to my maternal family line also, which had stories of psychic experiences throughout a couple of generations. So, the idea was always in my mind that there was more to reality than what could be readily explained. In addition, I was a very sensitive child. Now that I have more experience, I get that I was picking up on a lot of emotions and energy but had no personal boundaries so I was really affected by energetic “vibes.” I saw and spoke with “guides” often and had very intense dreams. When I realized that my sensitivity wasn’t “normal,” I did my best to block out that sensitive side of myself until I was in my twenties.
Then, in late 2013, when I was working as a private chef, a couple of my girlfriends gave me an oracle reading that really changed my whole perspective. In the cards I saw that there was something missing from my life—a magical element or a way to convene with the divine. My intuitive senses were reawakened by this event. Even the cards themselves said so, loud and clear. That one reading sparked something inside me that led me on a path that completely altered my existence.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional tarot reader. How did you train/learn?
After that one late night oracle reading, it started a little bit slowly. I bought an oracle deck and began to do readings for myself. I started to read blogs and books, and listen to YouTube videos about cartomancy.
During that time period, I also committed myself to my writing, my other main life passion. That’s where these nebulous ideas of creativity, Tarot, and magic started to really take shape in my mind. They were connected. I started doing readings for my writing projects. Before outlining a chapter, I’d pull cards to show me things I needed to know about it. It worked beautifully!
Over the next couple of years, I wrote and edited three fiction novels. Each of them involved Tarot as an element of the story, so I really got to play with the cards and feel them out. I developed a relationship with the archetypes and they became characters that felt real to me.
Then, synchronicity struck again! During a writing class I was taking locally in the town I lived in, I offered one of my pieces for critique. It involved Tarot as a story element. My writing teacher took me aside at the end of class and told me that her best friend was none other than the famous Tarot author and scholar, Mary Greer! She connected us so that I could have a Tarot mentor, which was pretty amazing.
From that point, I met with Mary Greer a few times for private sessions and took some of her classes. It was a wonderful source of growth and inspiration for me. I highly recommend her books and personal readings, too, for anyone interested in learning more about Tarot.
After that point, I felt that I had a working understanding of Tarot, from reading and writing about it so much over the span of a few years and working with Mary and reading her books.
So, for fun, I started offering free readings on craigslist in my local community. I wanted to see if I could read for others and if my readings would prove meaningful for them. I got a lot of requests, and a lot of positive feedback, so eventually I started an Etsy shop, realizing that this was something that I very much enjoyed doing and that I could help people through this work. It’s been a magical ride ever since!
What are the benefits of consulting Tarot and how has Tarot influenced your life?
The benefits of Tarot are myriad and multifaceted. It’s going to be different for everyone, depending on how they use it. For me, Tarot gets me in touch with something bigger than myself. I look at it as creating the circumstances for synchronicity to happen.
I believe that when we pull cards, we’re consciously allowing magic to enter our lives. We ask a question, and inexplicably, the perfect cards come up in response, out of 156 potential variations. How does it work? We don’t really know, we just know that it does work.
A Tarot session offers an opportunity for self-reflection, validation, understanding, and growth when we see our situation depicted in the cards. It gives us alternative perspectives that could feel better and be healthier than the ones we were holding before we shuffled and drew the cards.
Using Tarot has influenced my life by essentially mirroring to me how connected everything is. Every turning point in my life correlates to a lesson, which was built on a lesson or an event from my past. With Tarot, I am able to see how each little decision leads to the next one. Tarot shows me how energy grows and changes. It has made me more accepting of circumstances in my life, more willing to see the “larger picture” and to be grateful for everything in my life, even the challenging stuff. It also shows me my personal responsibility, and how I create my own life experiences through the power of my choices.
Now, when something “bad” happens, I am a little bit less reactive. I know that there is some magic or some connection within it. And, I always know that there is something I can turn to for guidance, support, and compassionate wisdom. I don’t need to consult anyone else or make any appointments. I just close the door to my reading room, light my candles, grab my journal, and starting working through it. It’s a wonderful way to process life!
Why do you use different decks or spreads for readings?
It all depends on the energy of the question. I have some decks that I rarely use, but occasionally, there’s a strong pull toward one of them. Different decks have different artwork, obviously, and the artwork does really affect the flavor of the reading. So I always trust my intuition.
Over time, when you use a deck repeatedly, you develop an intuitive relationship with it. Especially when you do readings for yourself first before trying to read for others. Symbols will start to stand out to you on certain cards, which then take on a unique and very personal meaning for you. It really is like developing your own private language, as the symbols that start to jump out at you will remind you of experiences from your own life. That’s really when the “ah-ha” moments start rolling in. The more you work with a deck, the more it will “give” you in terms of guidance. You get out what you put in.
I feel that it’s important to have a strong relationship with a particular deck before you start reading for others with it. You have to develop that personal relationship first because then the readings will be so much stronger.
As for spreads, it really just depends on the question being asked. I have memorized about six of seven different spreads which I know without needing to stop and look in a book or try to remember. These include spreads for love, creativity, a general spread, a localized question type of spread, as well as the other standards like three-card spreads and so on.
It’s really important what spread you choose because even something like the geometric shape that the cards take when they lay out on the table will affect your reading, sometimes on a subconscious level. But essentially it’s about having enough points of view or “facets” of the question that you can look at, without having too much reflection. It’s best to keep it as simple as possible while being thorough, too, which is why it is important to think about your spread before you pull any cards.
What do you do when you’re unsure of the message in a reading?
I think the most important thing to do when I’m unsure about something is to stop and breathe for a few moments. I also like to put my focus or awareness on the bottoms of my feet, which is a grounding practice.
If nothing comes through after that, then the most important thing to do is to say, “I don’t know what this means, but it looks like it could be…” and explain a couple of possible options. Usually the client is able to determine which message is the right message for them, so I don’t stress about that.
Often, there will be at least a few different meanings to the card, and sometimes indeed each card will have multiple points of relevance for the Seeker. In those situations when I can tell that there’s more than one meaning (because one singular meaning isn’t coming through very strongly) it’s not my place to tell them which one it is. It’s up to the Seeker to decide.
Have you ever been told that Tarot is the devil’s work and how do you respond to that?
I have not been confronted in that way, not yet. I am aware that there are still people out there who believe that about Tarot, but as far as I know, I haven’t attracted anyone who believes that into my life. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone so I feel that if I was ever in a situation with a person who thought that way, we naturally just didn’t talk about Tarot.
I would never argue about this with anyone. There is a shadow side to everything and not every Tarot reader is a “light worker” just like being “psychic” doesn’t mean that a person is spiritually evolved. You can be intuitive and psychic and at the same time, be doing negative work in the world. You can use your abilities to harm instead of heal.
So, for some people who are operating on an energetically fear-based level, perhaps a belief that divination and Tarot are the Devil’s work actually protects them from attracting negative, fear-inducing Tarot readers into their lives. It’s really relative in that way. For some, believing that Tarot is evil may be exactly the defense they need because if they didn’t think that, they would be taken advantage of by self-serving readers.
That’s where they’re at vibrationally, so I don’t think that Tarot is right for everyone. It’s just for people who want a little bit of magic and mystery in their lives. I am not out to change anyone’s mind or push anything on anyone. I’m just here to play joyfully with the other Seekers!
Thanks for stopping by Kayleigh Jean! If any of our readers would like more information, check her out here: https://www.youtube.com/c/KayleighJeanTarot
Happy Spring everyone!
Una & Imara
FOR THE LOVE OF the movie ‘Self Help’ with Poppy Roe & Katie Brayben
(Series 2nd edition)Ahhhh February. The month of pink hearts, Valentine’s chocolates and sappy greeting cards. Imara and I are approaching this V-Day (and Imara’s birthday) currently unattached. Not that it bothers us in the least. *Cough. Sips tea and looks away.* We have lots of love to give. So we’ll give it to our next spotlight feature. We’ve twittered across two immensely talented and busy ladies - No, not us - who are making their own movie. Super impressive and an arduous task indeed. We’re talking about the dynamic duo of Poppy Roe and Katie Brayben, the stars as well as the master minds of the film project, Self Help.
Come on now. What else says Valentine’s Day romance more than dark humor (or humour to honour our new UK friends)? Let’s face it, all relationships can be funny as shit and sometimes cruel. Something about this movie resonates with us. Self Help is described as a “hilarious, female-led jet-black comedy horror about a woman's journey through the sometimes ridiculous world of Self-Help.” Oh yes, TWAM is smitten. Deep down we’re hoping this film will be our future Netflix and chill. Until then, let’s show some love to Poppy Roe and Katie Brayben.
The TWAM Nation welcomes Poppy Roe!
So Poppy, how did you and Katie meet?
Katie and I met, in London, at drama school – back when we were both ridiculously young and still sipping half pints of cider in run-down pubs. However, sadly, we never got the opportunity to make friends – we were always placed in separate classes, it’s like they knew we’d be too much trouble together. It was only years later, in 2010, that we ended up performing side by side in a musical (Company by Stephen Sondheim - starring Rupert Young from Netflix Merlin) and we immediately hit it off. We’ve been so close ever since.
What sparked the idea for the film Self Help?
We spent one afternoon idly chatting about crazy dark comedy ideas with my husband (writer/director Staten Cousins-Roe) and ended up playing the leads in our short film This Way Out – a dark comedy set in a struggling Euthanasia centre (yup, dark). We shot it on a teeny budget (I mean teeny, most of it was shot in our one bedroom apartment) but it went on to win a number of awards, then screened on HBO and Sundance Channel Europe - it had such a great response and we were so proud of it. So, driven by the success of the short film, my husband started writing Self-Help: A Serial Killer’s Guide To Life – our first feature film - a hilarious, jet-black comedy about a woman’s journey through the, sometimes ridiculous, world of Self-Help – a violent road trip of self-discovery around the UK’s most alternative therapies. Which we shoot this April!
Has anyone ever said you are crazy for taking on this endeavor and where did you hide the body?
Ha! In fact we’ve been eerily lucky – people have been so positive and supportive. We launched our Kickstarter campaign to see what support we could raise and the response was immense! It became apparent that audiences are so keen to watch something original and darkly funny with two strong, interesting, slightly psychotic female leads. We smashed our initial target in the first 5 days! Now we’re aiming for a stretch goal to complete our budget, we’re so close (the campaign closes on February 16th)!
Do you have any funny anecdotes thus far on this journey to make this film?
It’s been a bit of a mad whirlwind since we launched our campaign! The day our Kickstarter site went live, Katie, Staten and I sat round a table, nervously shaking and then suddenly jumping up and madly yelling every time a backer came on board. So many absurdly talented people have joined the team – it’s going to be bigger and better than anyone could have imagined.
You and Katie have both been in some super cool projects! Poppy, you’ve done This Love (short film), The Leisure Class (short film), This Way Out (short film), Doc Marten (TV series) and Doctors (TV series). Katie was also in some of the same short films, plus she’s done Doctor Who. Imara geeked-out over you being in Dr. Who and I geeked-out Katie played the role of Carole King in the theatre production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical onstage for which Katie won an Olivier Award! To those of us American’t-Understands, that’s equal to a Tony Award! Alright, enough fan-girling. With all these accomplishments, it begs to ask; what is more fun – TV, Movies, theatre, or writing? Which is more satisfying?
I come from a theatre background but have exclusively done TV, commercials and independent film for the last few years. I loved theatre but am totally absorbed and loving creating and working on my own projects. Making a film is a bit like having a baby...it’s feckin’ exhausting and pretty much all consuming – but that pride and unconditional love, of something you helped create, is ultimately incomparable – and hey, that’s all part of living. J
How can we support you ladies? Are there any other projects you’d like us to mention?
We’d love more people to jump on board and show their support for our film, to help us to make it wonderful – There’s a video of me and Katie talking more about the film and the team on the Kickstarter page here: Kickstarter Self Help film – take a look!
Thanks so much, Poppy Roe for taking time to talk to us. We give a huge TWAM shout-out of recognition to you and Katie as friends who stick by each other to follow your dreams, and to your husband, Staten Cousins-Roe for being a part of that as well! Through the twisted, dark-humour facade, we see the love.
If there are any other TWAMsters out there lucky enough to have their partner by their side in their endeavors, make sure they get lucky this Valentine’s Day. Or how about for Imara’s Birthday on the 26th? That day should really be a national holiday for getting lucky. I’m lucky as hell to have her as my friend.
Come on TWAM Nation, go to Kickstarter Self Help film and help Poppy and Katie bring some joy to this messed up world! They have some cool benefits to boot. Do it! Because Together We Are Magic.
I. Singh & U. Danz
FOR THE LOVE OF... a graphite drawing ft. artist, Ebony
(Series 1st edition)
One of my (Una's) favorite things to do when the world has me down is poke around on Tumblr. This week as I was Tumblr-ing I came across a depiction of the character Nathan Appleby from the show The Living and The Dead with a steampunk esthetic. It was a drawing so detailed that it took my breath away. Not just because it highlighted the actor, Colin Morgan whose ethereal splendor is worthy of capture, but because I was in awe of the skill it took to create such an image. I read that the artist, Ebony, used a graphite pencil. I have trouble using a pencil for much more then hurling them at the ceiling to make them stick when I have writer’s block – 2 points!
The detail on this picture is seriously mind blowing. The texture of the enormous cog wheel behind the man, the wrinkles in the jacket, the curl of hair around the ears from the pressure of the hat, the individual pattern of growth on each hair in his beard, the shadow around the Adam’s apple, the sparkle on the eye glass lens and also in his eye, the curve of his thumb from the weight of the firearm, the exact shape of his nostrils - - all perfection. Down to his full lips, am I right ladies? Oh, yeah, Ebony got it exactly right. It’s so real, I expected it to animate like the AHA “Take on Me” video. If you get that reference then you are old like me. But never too old to appreciate talent and the ability to create art.
I must have stared at this picture for a half hour and wanted everyone to experience the awe I felt. All I could think of was this artist should be acknowledge and shared. Her love for art is shown with every touch of graphite pencil against paper. I wanted to meet this artist and get to know the mind of someone that carries such a skill.
(*Cue upbeat talk show music*)
Imara and Una would like to welcome and introduce to you Ebony, the newest sensation in the TWAM Nation.
Question 1: So, Ebony we noticed on your Quilting [email protected] on Twitter that you have a tagline that says, “Was a quilter until I found Colin Morgan. He became my muse and now I can draw.” Did you have to sell your soul to Mr. Morgan before you found your artistic gift or were you born with it? Any formal training?
Well, in my defense it says “now I draw” not “now I CAN draw”. But that doesn’t mean there was no soul selling involved, haha! Actually, I was born into an artistic and musical family. Both my grandparents on my mother’s side were well known artists, as well as several of my aunts and uncles. So I grew up in a house bursting with original paintings, sculpture and pottery, with music and song happening almost continually. So I can’t remember a time when I didn’t ‘feel’ like I was meant to be an artist, even when I was tiny.
As a child I drew constantly, and was encouraged by my mother as far as she could afford to keep me in art supplies. When she ran out I would finger paint with soap on a cookie sheet. I drew up until my teens, when early motherhood and the cares of the world caused me to put my pencils down.
(picture of Donny Osmond I drew at age 11)
I never picked them up again for nearly 40 years.
Of course I still felt like an artist inside, but I had no outlet, which caused me to spend many years in deep depression. Finally in 2001 a friend invited me to join her quilting guild. I had only made a couple of quilts, but thought it would be good for me to make some friends and perhaps have an outlet for the creativity that was screaming inside me.
I quilted heavily for 15 years. It helped feed the need to create, and I went on to earn a few ribbons for my work, but there was still something missing, although I didn’t know it at the time.
(Goodnight Chloe quilt) (Lord of the Rings quilt)
Then early last year I discovered Colin Morgan. I was working full time (as always) and my mother was dying. I worked all day, went straight to the hospital and spent all evening there. I came home exhausted at the end of the day and turned on the TV for an hour before bed. I discovered Merlin on Netflix and was hooked. The more I watched the more this young, beautiful man intrigued me. I searched fan sites, tumblr, and eventually ended up on Twitter.
That’s when I met Merlocked18. I had already seen lots of her work, and thought she was brilliant. It was almost like meeting a celebrity for me! We talked and became friends. When I told her I had once drawn, many years before, she challenged me to start again, to draw Colin every day. Thus began our ‘#ColinADay’ challenge. That was last July (2016).
I drew my first picture of Colin. It was awful. The pencil felt weird in my hands and I just couldn’t seem to remember how to draw, but I did the best I could and tweeted the drawing. Merlocked18 encouraged me and I did another one. It was still pretty bad and didn’t look like Colin at all. I tried a third. This time, it looked like Colin to me, so I drew another one. By my fourth I was starting to feel some success. I drew more and more. I felt inspired! I felt elated! This was the feeling I had missed! How could I have forgotten the artist that had lain so deep inside me all those years?
So formal training? No, not much, not really. Two oil painting classes in college that’s all. Other than that I’m self-taught and nurtured by my dear friend.
Question 2: What else inspires you?
I have three beautiful grandchildren and have done a portrait of each of them. They inspire me. Colour inspires me. I now belong to DeviantArt, and the other wonderful artists there inspire me. I’m inspired by the masters - Merlocked and I have been working on a ‘#ColinArtChallenge’ over the last several months and it’s been great for me to study the works of the true masters, and try to emulate their style.
(Colin Klimt Challenge drawing)
Question 3: Do you have other really cool skills?
Well, I like to sing so do that a little, but I wouldn’t say it’s a really cool skill, just a mediocre one.
I think I have a bit of a gift for teaching too, I teach children aged 3 to 11 on Sundays, have taught many quilting classes and do my best to mentor other artist friends on Twitter. I always feel a responsibility with knowledge; someone shared it with me, it’s only right if I try to enrich the lives of others by doing the same.
Question 4: If you ever became, oh let’s say, Picasso famous, how would you want the world to remember you?
By all accounts Picasso was a bit of a jerk, so I would want to be remembered as an artist who treated others kindly, shared her work and knowledge, and helped give others a hand up. Many people when given a talent hoard it to themselves; they see life as a competition and feel a need to be ‘the best’. But I don’t see it that way at all. I believe that if we help each other and lift each other, that we all become ‘the best’, the best that we can be. I try to never turn up my nose at knowledge. I believe you can always learn something from everyone.
Question 5: Is there any one piece of work that you’ve created that you are particularly proud of more so then the rest?
Ah, that’s like asking me which is my favourite child. Of course the short answer is “the one I just worked on” and I am really proud of my Steampunk Colin because I worked really hard on it, spent much more time than usual. But I also really love the Klimt challenge I inserted above, and the Durer challenge.
(Colin Durer Challenge drawing)
But I really love Skinny Luke too, and NYCC 2016, and… and… like I said, it’s hard to choose your favourite child.
Question 6: Do you use other mediums or do you prefer pencil? Ever go blank and just chuck pencils up at the ceiling for fun?
Right now I use graphite, coloured pencils and oil pastels, although on the Klimt challenge I used gold ink and felt tipped pen as well. Remember, I’m a new artist of just seven months, so haven’t had time to try much more than that. I’m starting to learn what medium I prefer for a particular drawing. For example, Steampunk Colin would not have been nearly as effective if I had made it in colour. It begged to be made in graphite. But Skinny Luke needed to be in bright, in your face colour.
(Skinny Luke drawing done in oil pastel)
My kids gave me some cool brush tipped felt markers for Christmas and I can’t wait to try those. I’m also interested in learning to paint and would like to try gouache. I still have much to learn, and am still trying to find my own style.
Question 7: Is any of your art for sale? How can I contact you and buy one?
Yes, I am currently collecting names for a printing of Steampunk Colin, and I also have prints available of Skinny Luke and Poor Wee Cathal. I am willing to make prints of any of my other works (other than my family works) that are on DeviantArt, but I need to make a minimum of five prints, so if there’s something someone is interested in, it would be quicker if you can find some friends who are interested too. Of course original art is negotiable as well, but the price will reflect that.
All my work can be viewed here: http://quiltineb.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=0
I can be contacted there, on Twitter @quiltineb1 or contact Singh & Danz [email protected] and they can provide more information.
Question 8: Any advice for those of us who can’t even draw stick figures or smiley faces?
Yes! Be who you are. Do what you love to do. If you love to draw but can’t draw stick figures, practice every day until you can, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s no good. If you can draw but would rather do archery, do archery. If you love to write, write. If you love to dance, dance. I believe we all have a gift, something that makes our heart sing. Find it and feed it. Share it. Whatever your gift if you practice every day you will get better. Go look at my drawings from seven months ago if you don’t believe me. Don’t let your job, your spouse, your parents, your responsibilities squash your joy out of you. Find a few minutes each day, and feed your gift. As you do, you will feed your soul.
Thank you, Ebony for taking the time to visit us! Feel free to share any works you have in the future and we’ll pimp you!
Thanks so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure!
The pleasure was all ours! Keep on Arting!
If any of our TWAMsters would like to get in touch regarding any of Ebony's art work, or share thoughts, click below.
I.Singh & U. Danz
January 28, 2017
Defining TWAM: The Symbol of Our Mission for Love
Preeeeeeeeeesenting (*sound of drum roll*)
The TWAM Nation logo! (*cymbal crash*)
Imara and I are so damn excited to share with you our brand spanking new logo created by AR Solli over at 99Designs. We considered over 70 designs and fell in love with this one. We’re giddy over the new logo.
“Hey Singh & Danz, why do you need a logo?” you might be asking. The answer is simple, because TOGETHER WE ARE MAGIC.
That’s our catch phrase “Together We Are Magic.” TWAM. Initially, it explained how we felt about our friendship and connection. Imara and Una. But we now realize it was just the beginning. Together means ALL of us.
So much good can be done when we all pull together. Imara and I have been discussing how we can make a difference in our time on this planet. Whether its writing fun stories or helping in the community, we want to be the reminder that life can be pretty damn good! Because all in all, we believe people are pretty damn good.
First, let’s talk about the Shield. To us it’s a symbol of strength and protection for the Nation of love we are building. With all the disorder and chaos around us, we intend to be a safe haven of kindness and acceptance. If we are going to fight, let’s fight FOR humanity and love. We will not tolerate hate or cruelty of any kind.
The Wands represent the magic that lies in all of us. The potential to create wonderful things. We just need a little imagination and hope. If you happen to be a Star Wars fan, then squint and tell yourself they are light sabers.
Did you notice the four states of matter? Each letter of TWAM is represented by an element. T is fire which reminds us to persevere no matter what, to keep the spark in our hearts and minds alive. W is earth which reminds us stay humble and grounded and keep doing the work. A is air which reminds us of the creative alchemy which takes places while writing and transcending our skill with every book. M is water which reminds us to follow our intuition and write from a place of raw emotion and vulnerability.
Whichever element you are, you have a place in the TWAM Nation.
There you have it. The new logo! We believe it represents our mission – to unify as many people as possible in the name of respect and love for our world. That means regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or political view - we welcome anyone who wishes to share their love with the world and promises to respect each other for those differences. We aim to spotlight the beauty in everyone. Except trolls. Trolls will be executed - - I mean banned and blocked.
Una & Imara
JANUARY 18th, 2017
It won’t be long before the 3rd installment of our Miss Matched trilogy is available. We are excited because Miss Matched No More is the first title of ours to receive professional cover art! (The others would have had professional cover art but that thing called 'money' held us up a bit.) But we did it! Cover sneak peek next month.
Shout out to our beautiful betas (Deb and Doreen) who help us edit and proof Miss Matched No More. Their job is a labor of love for sure. And we love them for it!
As Imara and I discussed our next project, we realized we needed a logo to represent us. Imara came up with a FANTASTIC idea which kicked off our drive to start a campaign in 99Designs. This project could be complete as early as February. We also visited our ideas sheet to decide on the next book/series we want to delve into. There are over 100 ideas on there - - Imara is a genius at coming up with ideas - - it’s hard to choose! Our next big goal is to make our next story available on Amazon as a printed copy option as well as the Kindle version. Each step of this journey, we learn something new.
We want to thank all of you for your support and for sticking with us. If there are any shy new members out there we haven’t met, please drop us an email at [email protected] and say hello! We would love to hear from you. This is your world as much as ours, and remember – Together We Are Magic!
Una Danz & Imara Singh
January 1st, 2017
WELCOME to 2017!
Phew - we made it! I love New Year’s Day because it reminds me, that as long as we are still alive, we get a Do-over. No other holiday does that. Not even a birthday. New Year’s is about having a fresh start. A chance to change, morph, grow and evolve.
This is the year Imara and I have decided to go all out to reach for our dreams - for EPIC life goals. Go big or go home! I am going to transform my body into a fit love machine, while Imara, who has already started on her quest for a rockin’ body, has a whole new life waiting for her in Canada.
Together we are fine tuning our style for the TWAM Nation, striving to offer a haven; a place where everyone is welcome. A place to relax, laugh, unwind and celebrate this life we share on this planet.
I can’t wait to exfoliate all the negativity that last year brought. How about you? There was just too much anger, intolerance and fear and it spread like a virus all over the world. Almost as if the need for a happy place such as TWAM was put on steroids. If you are as sick of the anger, intolerance and fear as we are, we extend an offer for you to immigrate to the TWAM Nation. If you seek love, acceptance and respect, you are welcome here.
Imara and I want to wish you a healthy, happy year of wonderful things ahead. Stop by any time for a little love and happiness.
Happy New Year TWAMsters!!
Una & Imara
October 31st , 2016
Happy Diwali to ALL TWAMsters !! Diwali or the Festival of Lights is a hindu festival, yet celebrated by all races and religions in North India ( kinda similar to how X-mas is in the US) So while Imara follows Sikhism ( different religion from Hinduism) she celebrated Diwali 2016 with the same fervor as all of North India. It's tradition to decorate homes with lights and candles. Imara's celebrating Diwali at home with parents after 4 loooong years ! ( That's them in the background).
Here's wishing everyone abundance, joy and light in their lives ! Check out the photo gallery for more pics and in depth explanation of Diwali celebrations !
September 17, 2016
Author Spotlight on
The cover art for Deeper begged me to read it. Bellatas created what I consider the perfect love story. Her characters, Adriana and Val swept me into their relationship journey with every one of their experiences shared in exquisite realistic detail. Set in a ski resort I was surprised to discover that snow and ice can be sexy! If you doubt that, I challenge you to read it and disagree. I felt every word on the page whether the moment was tender, painful, frustrating, scary or steamy. I did not stop reading once I started. That does not happen to me often. Lyla Bellatas is now on my Must Read list. I’m looking forward to making my way through her Real Fling series. Give her a read. You will be satisfied.
September 12, 2016
I. Singh & U. Danz @ CT RWA Fiction Fest 2016
This past weekend has been such a whirlwind, we're just now catching our breath. We just got back from our first ever writing conference organized by CT RWA in Norwalk.
The whole experience went far beyond our expectations. We had such an AMAZING time ! The lectures were intelligent and informative, the people we met were incredibly kind and welcoming, and the conference itself was especially well organized. We gained so much valuable information,we're spinning. Kudos CT RWA !
September 3, 2016
Shout out to Ali at the Moto Photo in Avon, CT for making our first time in front of a camera an amazing experience. We went in nervous as hell and left feeling like superstars! It was a historical moment and a huge step for TWAM. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
July 8 2016
We are in the editing and cover design phase... that's when my coffee maker gets more of a work out then we do.
July 6 2016
IT'S JULY ALREADY?!
Imara and I have officially entered the editing phase and are working on getting our cover art for Miss Matched No More! We've been working our butts off to complete this project because we can't wait to share it with you! Meanwhile, we took a small break to recharge our batteries. If you want to see our Mohegan Sun adventure, click on the Picture This! link above. Stay tuned! There is more fun & frolic ahead TWAMsters!
June 23, 2016
Woah! A month has gone by in a blink! Since we've updated, Una and I have become member's of a national organization called the Romance Writer's Association. They give us access to a plethora of industry events and services that we would otherwise not even know about. Thanks for the RWA, we have signed up for our virgin voyage to our first ever writer's conference known as FICTION FEST 2016 which will be held in Norwalk, CT from September 9th through the 11th. There are workshops, speakers, publishers and other amazing author's that we can share some fun with for a weekend! We will be bringing our Miss Matched Book 3 of our trilogy to get some feedback. It looks like we'll be publishing this year after all!
Stay with us, TWAMsters! It's going to be an amazing ride.
May 15, 2016
Can you feel it? The change is coming! We are on the verge of good things happening. Admittedly not like we had imagined them, but things are headed in the right direction. Imara has made a huge step to follow her dreams, and although we hit a road bump, we are not discouraged! We are still focusing on making both our dreams come true and we are fighting the good fight. All the obstacles we are encountering will make a GREAT story someday. Take that *agency we can’t currently identify*! We will write about this one day. Oh yeah. We will. Welcome to ‘merica…
Miss Matched No More is in the works but it’s taking longer. Now that we know a little about how to self-publish, we are working harder to improve. That requires cowering under the desk in fetal position because of all we DON’T know, but - - we are learning. And we WON’T give up! Unfortunately that takes money so we are taking a little longer. If you can believe it, we are NOT asking for donations! We are instead asking for your patience and support. We ask it because we believe in what we are writing and we love what we do. Stay with us Twamsters. You won’t be disappointed.
And if you are… well... hit the Contact Us button above and let us know.
We will always WRITE ON!
2016 promises to be a BIG year for TWAMnation!!
A new year brings new beginnings, new hopes and dreams and new changes. One of the most frequently discussed, planned and reverently hoped for things between Una and I has been the topic of me moving somewhere closer to Una.
I’ve been living in Shanghai for the past four years, and inadvertently we would always come back to the topic of my leaving China during our daily video calls. We would spend many an hour plotting fun acivities and how amazing it would be and how we would be so much trouble together and how we couldn’t wait for the day!
Well guess what ?
That wait is now over! I’ve taken the plunge and quit my job here in Shanghai. I will be visiting Una for an extended break and we’ll finally get to spend time together the way we always made plans for. Time to go LIVE!!!!
Change is immensely necessary. Change is how we grow. It is how we move forward and evolve. It is how we keep transforming into the heroes we’re meant to be. Change is what leads us to those dreams we keep hidden within our depths.
Is it tempting to stay nestled in the coze of the familiar, the comfortable, the well-known? Of course it is.
But that is not where our deepest desires lie, nor new challenges, nor inspiration.
Only Change can steer us to those waters.
“Ships are safe in the harbor; but that is not what ships are built for”
Go forth and sail into the stormy seas of Change and you shall find yourself rewarded tenfold. Trust in yourself and let the universe guide you to your next destination
We are all but travelers in this realm.
Riley Hudson, age 15, Vermont
Riley Hudson, age 15, Vermont
While Imara and I are writing the third of our Miss Matched trilogy, we thought it would be fun to spotlight other authors that inspire or move us. Today's spotlight is on a young lady who wrote a story for a school assignment which addresses a very important topic to women of all ages - body image issues. Well done, Riley. Thank you for allowing us to post this.
We are proud to share with you:
By Riley Hudson
It wasn’t an ordinary day in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. My mother, father, my 13 year old younger sister and I were on our way to leave me at a facility where my doom awaited. I am a straight ‘A’ student and I’m one of the top students of my grade. I am devoted to my schoolwork, and because of that people treat me differently. People treat me like I am a goody two shoes, therefore, it is harder for me to make friends. I am 15 years old. My name is Catherine.
I wish I could say I like long walks on the beach, but I hate to wear bathing suits. When I look in the mirror, all I see is a girl with long red hair and green eyes, green eyes with dark bags beneath them. I can see my ribs poke out through my skin and my stomach caved in. I am someone who is undecided on what she wants to do in the future. I look at myself and try to accept the fact that I will never be the model in a magazine.
Upon the first impression of me, people may see me as inconsolable. But there is a story behind that. I look out the window with my headphones on and music turned up, listening to ‘Stressed Out’ by 21 Pilots. My mother looked back at me from the passenger seat with a tear in her eye, and sighed “Honey it is for your own well-being, when you are back to health, we will take into consideration if you are ready to come back home.”
I just kept staring out into the distance as if there was something there. Home seemed as if it weren’t home, I was being forced to leave my small single home in a community. Again.
I didn’t want to go back to the facility from hell where there was no independence. They don’t let you exercise, I won’t be able to wake up before sunrise to do my 6 mile morning run. Here, in the hospital, that won’t be possible. I don’t want to change.
The moment arrives that I’ve feared greatly. As soon as we pull into the parking lot, my parents looked back at me from the front of the car. My mother told me, “Sweetie, we love you dearly. We don’t like seeing you depriving and torturing yourself. You will be out soon as you’re well.”
Then my father chimed in and said, “It is time to go in.”
Immediately as we walked through the doors, staff members surrounded me, to make sure I won’t make a run for it.
I screech, “No! Mom and Dad don’t do this to me! I promise I will be better! I do not want to be back, I will change.”
That is when I tried to sprint for the door, but my father grabbed me and hugged me tightly. He whispered in my ear “You will be fine, you will be happier after this.”
I broke out in tears and begged him, “Please daddy, don’t do this.”
My mom and sister came over and clutched us both and we all cried. I thought to myself, did my mom and dad not love me? Why are they doing this to me? The nurses and doctors are telling me “It is time to go and say your goodbyes.”
They take reach of me and I turn around and see my mom, dad, and sister staring back at me with tears filled in their eyes. That was the last glimpse I saw of them until they took me into a room full of many girls of different ages.
A female nurse brought me to a scale, weighed me and took my height. I came out to be 70 lbs and 5’7”. They were taking notes on a clipboard filling out my vital signs. Then they showed me to my room where I would be staying. There was no door attached. All the rooms do not have doors, even the bathrooms.
There are many women and girls throughout the rooms. I started walking towards a near bathroom, when the nurse that showed me my room grabbed my wrist.
I yelled, “Hey! What are you doing? Let go of me!”
She replies with, “Where do you think you’re going?”
I say furiously, “I am going to use the bathroom!”
She demanded, “Well if you’re going to use the bathroom you need to ask before.”
In a joking voice I replied, “Can I go to the bathroom then?”
Then the women nodded her head and followed me. As I walked past a room called a common room, I see desks lined up facing the walls and near the nurses’ station. In the chairs I see a girl crying and picking at her food. I remember the days where I sat there and sat there, until it was the next meal. That room was meant for girls who refused to eat their food, they sat there until they surrendered.
Then I finally go into the bathroom. I asked Nicole “May I have some privacy please?”
The nurse laughed, “No, it is my job to keep my eye on all the ladies in here, to make sure that you are doing the right thing.”
I wasn’t shocked at how strict they are here. This place is like prison. There is no freedom.
It was dinner time. I sat down at a long table full of other girls. Some were my age and some looked older. A dietitian placed a plate of food in front of all of us. Everyone was served different foods. As soon as the dietitian placed a plate a food in front of the girls and women, they started to choke up and had tears in their eyes. The dietitian placed a plate of food in front me. I stood up and said, “How many people are we serving here? You gave me 3 cups of spaghetti with meat sauce, 2 broccoli pieces, 2 carrot sticks, and a cookie. Who do you think I am? This is enough food for 4 people!”
The dietitian turned around.
She acknowledged, “You will eat your food without complaining, or you can sit in the common room until you finish your food.”
I feel like I am a pig being fattened up and getting ready for the slaughter house.
It had been two hours and I haven’t taken a bite of my food. The sight of the food made me nauseous. They then forced me into the common room. Sitting there made minutes turn into hours. I was determined to not eat. I caught a sight of Nurse Nicole walking by and she muttered, “I warned you, but this is for your own good.”
I finally picked up a carrot and stared at it for a good long minute. I brought the carrot to my mouth and took a bite. I think I will just do what they tell me to do, so I can get the hell out of here. The sooner I get out, the sooner I can lose this weight. I finish the carrots, broccoli, and cookie and they dismissed me to bed.
She was quiet and reserved and a mother of 2 around the age 30. Her name was Sylvie. We talked every now and then because our rooms were next to one another. We sat next to each other during group counseling session. This is where I learned she had 2 young children back at home. The years of the abuse have damaged her body. The bulimia had taken most of her teeth, and she looked more aged than what she was.
One morning was a devastating sight that I couldn’t erase. Sylvie was sitting facing the wall of the common room, with her food that must have been sitting there for long periods of time untouched. She walked over to my room and told me “I am not feeling so good, may I sit next to you?”
I said concerned, “Of course, are you okay?”
As soon as she sat down next to me, she was holding her chest intensely. She collapsed in my arms and I realized she had her last breath. I started screaming and screaming for the nurses and doctors to come. They rushed in and they saw that she was unconscious in my arms.
One doctor began to yell at me “Please leave. We need to give her the help that she needs.”
As a nurse pulled me away. I shouted “Will Sylvie be alright? Will Sylvie be alright?”
At once I was hushed.
This is not who I want to be. I want to be able to have kids of my own, and see them grow up and be successful. My heart sank from the thought of Sylvie’s passing. Age didn’t matter, she was a friend to me in this place of torture. This made me think about my future. Starving myself, and running until I couldn’t take another step from being dizzy. My body wouldn’t last to even have kids.
My perception of life had evolved seeing the possibilities that could occur, depending on how you treated your body. It had been 4 months, and I was allowed to go out for a day with my family. They would be here any moment now. I was sitting in the lobby where I first entered 4 months ago. I imagined the flash from the past, that felt so long ago.
I saw the blue Audi flash through the parking lot. The passenger seat door opened, and out stepped my mother with her long red hair just like mine. Then right after, my father and sister got out of the car. When they walked into the lobby they looked my way and smiled. They walked over to me and hugged me tightly. No matter how mad I was at them for putting me back into this facility, I missed them so much. I returned the hug.
My mother asked me, “What would you like to do today?”
I gave them a smirk and said, “How about we get some lunch? Maybe some pizza?”
My parents looked at one another in surprise and relief. My father said, “Of course.”
I’ve envisioned my future right then and there. It came to me all at once. I would help young girls and women, battle through anorexia, because they are strong enough to do it.
Every day is a battle against
myself. I have to remind myself that I am Catherine and I am perfect the way I
September 22, 2015
Happy Fall Twamsters!
Today Imara and I popped another proverbial cherry thanks to Laura Shabott, author of Confessions of an eBook Virgin and correspondent for the Provincetown Banner. Thanks to Laura, we’ve entered Miss Matched into our first literary contest for self-published authors! The prizes are pretty good: $500 and a full page ad for a year in Shelf Unbound magazine. If any of our fellow writing friends want to check it out, the link is below.
Wish us luck!
p.s. Miss Matched 3 is taking a bit longer then we hoped. But, fear not! We are working diligently on it!
July 3, 2015
Happy Independence Day to the United States TWAMsters and Happy summer to all our international TWAMsters, too. Imara and I are still immersed in the antics of Henley Inc., and you can rest assured that we are working hard on getting Miss Matched No More (book 3 of the Miss Matched trilogy) finished for this year. Have you been worried about what happened to Ria and Christian? Were you rooting for Ally & Declan? Did you fall in love with Ben, or maybe you fell for our latest character, Sam Jenkins. Or maybe, just like Imara and I, you too are angry with Matthew Henley right now. We promise that we are elbow deep in our favorite family and we will have something for you before you know it!
From now until August 1, 2015 anyone interested in a free digital copy of our first book, Miss Matched may contact us under the tab above. We will be happy to provide you with a complimentary copy of it in Word or pdf format.
April 8, 2015
We're working on the 3rd book of the Miss Matched Trilogy. I've reached a new personal record of 8,210 words written in one day! Wahoo! Our fifth title is on its way!
The TWAM Nation Spotlights another Brilliant Lady: Pam Lacko
Pam Lacko is many things: Computer consultant, private drum instructor, and a fellow author who happens to be a cancer survivor. She wrote a book about her experiences, from her diagnosis all the way through her treatments. It's called Laughing in The Face of Cancer. She will make you laugh (not an easy fete considering the topic) and she'll give you hope and direct you to other helpful sources. If you, or someone you know has cancer, I strongly encourage you to read Pam's story and check out her website. She has a blog and a website and a Facebook page too that can help. Go Here: http://www.laughinginthefaceofcancer.com
November 20, 2014
Thanksgiving is approaching and we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Friends both new and old have been instrumental in getting our latest work out to all of you in time for Thanksgiving. A HUGE – THANK YOU to Naomi for designing the book cover and to Debbie for taking up the role as our ‘unofficial’ editor but worked officially hard. We couldn’t have done it without either of you. Una and I can cross of one more thing of our list of goals - - We’ve achieved our goal of publishing two books per year!
We are incredibly excited, yet biting our nails at the same time with this latest offering. There are a lot of firsts with this one – Noami and Debbie have come onboard and it’s the first time we’ve worked on a sequel. We can’t wait to hear the feedbackyou’re your reactions to it! We have given it our all these past few months and we’re tremendously proud that we are finally ready to present to you Miss Matched AGAIN.
Available exclusively on Amazon.com HERE
All aboard the TWAMNation love train! Enjoy the ride.
SPOTLIGHT ON A MOST TALENTED WOMAN
Imara and I are Singh-ing & Danz-ing over TWAM Nation’s new illustrator and cover artist, Naomi Jeon! We welcome Naomi and the brilliant artwork she is bringing to our team.
So, we asked Naomi to share something that she would like our TWAMsters to know. Here, we shine the spotlight on a most talented woman. Take it away, Naomi!
Name: Naomi Jeon
Nationality: Born in China, Korean ethnic
This is Naomi. I started doodling when I was a little kid. Somehow painting helps me to calm down. I was not brave enough to choose painting as a major in the university, but it has always been my dream to be an illustrator. As a starter, wish I can bring TWAM Nation new energy.
There you have it! Just wait till you see our new cover for the sequel to Miss Matched! It will be available exclusively on Amazon.com in November.
September 12, 2014 A Special Day: We hit 1,000 views! Love you all!
SPECIAL OFFER! July 17th thru July 23rd
Hello TWAMsters! Imara and I hope you've enjoyed Miss Matched and are longing for the sequel. We're working super hard on it along with another piece for the fall. Till then, we thought we'd throw out a special offer for our first story, The Perfect Setting. If you haven't read it, now is your chance. Between July 17 and July 23rd The Perfect Setting will be available on Amazon for 99 cents!
July 4th 2014
Happy Independence Day!
In a battle of wills between Mother Nature, a fast approaching deadline, a distance of 7,328 miles and sheer grit to carry on, Una and I kicked ass this time round!
The journey to get you this latest offering has been a roller coaster of emotions, mad coordination, fast and furious writing, moments of utter frustration and intense belief in our dreams!
We have toiled laboriously in order to get this one published within time for the 4th of July weekend for your reading pleasure.
Each book is a milestone and we are proud for having answered the universe’s question of “How bad do you want it?” with a resounding “Oh hell yeah, we want it!”
We invite everyone to meet Miss Matched, our newest brain baby. Let us tickle your senses with a sample of drama, excitement, anxiety, friendship, trust, and laughter.
We hope you enjoy the book and keep cheering us on in our journey.
Una and Imara
June 29, 2014
CELBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH A LITTLE LOVE
Only five more days and we'll be bringing you Miss Matched, the third story to come out of our fertile minds. We've altered the cover and are on course to make it available by July 4th.
Till then, Lotsa love,
Una & Imara
MAY 30 2014
Imara and I are so motivated and excited. This has been quite a month for us.
We got our first invitation from a Publisher asking us to submit our work for consideration. Sure, we know, it’s a form letter, and it probably went out to tens-of-thousands of other independent authors who bought ISBNs, and it may sound silly, but it felt G R E A T to be acknowledged as published authors by a major player in the industry. No one can take that away from us now.
We made business cards too! Enough people have asked about our work, we decided it was worth having something to hand out. If anyone would like one, oh, say, as a bookmarker, send us a message and we’ll mail you one!
Look to the left. See that? That’s our third title cover! Celebrate with us!!!! Ready? (Squeeel!)
We are in the process of finishing Miss Matched and should have it ready in about 3 more weeks! Just in time for summer reading.
If anyone wants a sneak peak, give us a page number between 1 and 150, and another number between 1 and 5 for the paragraph and we’ll post it!
Imara Singh & Una Danz
Wow! Time really does fly when you're having fun. Where did the last four months go? I'll tell you where -- into writing!
Imara (the gorgeous chick on the right) and I have been working on our next adventure titled Miss Matched filled with more fun loving rascals and vixens that are all thrown together for the sake of a wedding. With a little luck (and a lot of hard work) we'll have it available in a few months, just in time for summer reading.
We'll post our cover reveal soon. Stay tuned!
Una & Imara
December 31, 2013
Imara and I want to wish everyone in the TWAM Nation a happy, healthy, safe New Year. May 2014 bring you all the love and joy you can imagine!
Singh & Dance
December 22, 2013
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and A Joyous Kwanzaa to all the TWAM Nation!
It's such a special time of year that Imara and I decided to switch things up to bring you a little bit of Holiday love before we continue with any of the other stories we have in the works. Just a little Christmas fun. So grab a glass of your favorite beverage, snuggle up in your favorite place, and enjoy Jingle Cells which can be purchased HERE.
From our families to yours, have a joyous holiday season and a happy healthy new year.
Una and Imara
October 31, 2013 Happy Halloween TWAMsters and TWAMps!
We are furiously working on some new treats to send your way. Stay tuned for some upcoming news on our goodies!
Una & Imara
OCTOBER 14 2013
What an exciting month of activity! Imara and I want to thank everyone who bought The Perfect Setting! We feel so loved and we love you right back! Don't be afraid to Talk To Us and let us know what you liked and didn't like about the story. We want to hear from you!
Now we are furiously working on our next mental vacation: Bottled Up which should be available by mid November. Stayed tuned!
Una & Imara