Saturday, February 4, 2017

Say Hello to Avid Traveler, Memoir & Children's Author Susan Joyce....

      Hello one and all! How are you today? Hope each and every one of you enjoyed your holidays no matter special day you celebrated. Happy New Year! I'm back and hope everyone is doing well and happy! It’s so great to be with all of you again. Welcome back to my writing blog page where I try to share whatever I think may interest you. Of course, by now you all know how very much I love promoting other authors. Today I interview a fellow writer. With me this time all the way from her home in Uruguay in the southeastern region of South America is memoir writer, children's author and world traveler, Susan Joyce, as she discusses writing and her published memoirs, The Lullaby Illusion and Good Morning Diego Garcia.                             Susan Joyce.
     Born in Los Angeles California, Susan Joyce spent most of her childhood in Tucson, Arizona and returned to LA as a young working woman. Inspired as a child by postcards from her globe-trotting great aunt, Susan left the United States at age 20 to see the world.

     She planned on being gone for a year, but ended up living her 20s and 30s in Europe and the Middle East. As a Jill of all trades, she worked as a secretary, freelance writer, taught computer classes, wrote songs, and became an accomplished artist while writing her first children's book, "Peel, the Extraordinary Elephant."
     An award winning author and editor of children's books, Susan's first adult book in her memoir series, "The Lullaby Illusion--A Journey of Awakening" is a travelogue of the politics of Europe, the United States, and Israel during a twelve year 'roller-coaster' period of her life and an adventure of survival through friends and sheer determination. She even formed her own publishing company, which became an overnight success.
      The Lullaby Illusion was awarded
• Readers' Favorite 5-Stars and the 2014 GOLD Medal Winner, Non-Fiction--Travel in the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards.
• Honorable Mention Prize Winner--2014 Stargazer Literary Prizes
    Her second memoir, about transiting the Indian Ocean in monsoon season, is entitled "Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery" was published in February 2016 and has been honored with several awards in 2016:
2016 San Francisco Book Festival: Biography-Autobiography—Winner
2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: E-Book Non-Fiction—Finalist
2016 International Book Awards: Narrative Non-Fiction—Finalist
2016 Paris Book Festival: Travel—Runner-Up
Susan & hubby in Uruguay.
     Welcome Susan! Thanks so much for joining us here. You’ve lead such an interesting and well-traveled life, to say the least and we want to learn all we can. Shall we begin to learn more about you and your writing?

      SJ: First, off Susan, you haven’t exactly lived the “traditional” life. Please tell us about your need to travel.
      Susan: As a child, I travelled often with my family in a nine-passenger station wagon on long trips across the United States. Exploring unknown places always thrilled me. And then when my globe-trotting great aunt sent me postcards from exotic, faraway places, I knew I was destined to travel to exotic places faraway. Exploring is in my blood. I also journey in my dreams.

     SJ: Now, what made you decide to put your experiences into memoirs? Didn’t that scare you to let others into your world?
     Susan: Life inspired me to become a writer. Friends and acquaintances encouraged me to share my unusual, “stranger than fiction” life story with readers. When I started writing my first memoir, “The Lullaby Illusion,” I did so to explain my life puzzle to myself, to get individual pieces in the proper place to tell the whole story. Dreams play a big part in my life and also appear in my writings. They are my spirit guides. I decipher their meanings and see them as a different way of thinking. Dreams let me journey from one place to another on a different level—a give a peek into consciousness.
Susan's 1st memoir.

     SJ: Memoirs and children’s books? Do you prefer writing one over the other? If so, why? Is one genre easier for you to write than the other? Why?
     Susan:  I have several ideas for more children's books. But at the moment, memoirs beckon me. I need to explore my dreams, understand the journey of life, the world we live in, and examine other dimensions beyond.

      SJ: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
      Susan: An elephant. I've had the pleasure of meeting a few. They're amazing; gentle, caring, sensitive, and an elephant never forgets.

       SJ: With such a big world out there and so many places to choose from, how do you choose where you will travel next?
       Susan: My husband and I moved to South America in order to experience this part of the world. We have travelled extensively in North and Central America, Europe and the Middle East. And now we're exploring the southern hemisphere from our home base in Uruguay.                       

Susan & her dog Gita on beach in Uruguay.
      SJ: What do you love most about being a writer? Least?
      Susan: As a curious soul, I love to research, ask questions, and get answers. When I'm on a roll and with the flow of thoughts, it's a wonderful high. Least? The editing process.

      SJ:  What writer inspired you most and how?
      Susan: I have been inspired by many writers over the years. Nevil Shute, Penelope Lively, and so many more. Richard Bach's work has most inspired me because he questions the reader's view of reality. Something I've questioned for years.
      SJ: If you could give just one piece of important writing advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
      Susan: Trust your thoughts. They speak your truth.  Follow your dreams! Make life happen!

      SJ: What is a favorite book you enjoyed reading and would recommend without hesitation? Why?
      Susan: “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by writer and pilot Richard Bach. This novel, first published in 1977, suggests that what we call reality is merely an illusion we create for entertainment and learning. It's a magical read, one that has been a major influence on my life path.
Susan's 1st Children's book.

     SJ: In closing, and without giving too much away, do you have any more projects in the immediate future? We’d love to hear about it.
      Susan: One is a book of short story travel journeys. The other project is one near and dear to my heart as I explore soul connections. When my aunt died in May 2016, she began visiting me in visions and I realized our spirit bond was an endless connection of energy.

     Wow! I'm so floored away by all that you've done. Keep the momentum going! Thanks so much, Susan for participating. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for allowing us to take some time out of your busy schedule and interview you. Readers, as always, thank you for dropping by. Take note you may purchase a copy of Susan’s  books at her website down below, at online retailers and independent booksellers.
       Susan: Thank you for inviting me to share my journeys with your readers!

     But before we go, we can’t depart without sharing a bit of Susan’s books with you.
     First, here is the synopsis for The Lullaby Illusion: A Journey of Awakening....

The memoir of a young American woman who experiences intense personal transformation amidst churning historical events. When Joyce endures the loss of a child, her marriage is shaken. Following a coup, and a war on the island of Cyprus in 1974, her life seems to unravel before her eyes.
But she has dreams, and pays attention to them. Following their guidance, she discovers her spiritual connection to the universe … and the truth of her mysterious husband's involvement in the Cyprus conflict.
Inside this riveting true story about self-discovery and change is a tale of friendships prevailing over deceit, and the importance of making dreams a reality through dedication and determination. It shows how in the strangest twists of fate, adversity can make you stronger, your relationships deeper, and help spirit overcome whatever stands in the way of creating for yourself a life of meaning and beauty.

"The idea for my first memoir, The Lullaby Illusion: A Journey of Awakening came as I struggled to find answers to questions about mysterious events that happened in my life. My life was shattered by the coup in Cyprus on 15 July 1974, followed five days later by the Turkish invasion on 20 July 1974. Thousands of lives were drastically changed forever by the atrocities, including foreigners who lived there. Of which I was one. Bewildered at how a place—which seemed like paradise— could simply disappear and how my own perfect life could unravel as a result pushed me to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. As I started putting my life back together, scattered fragments of news clippings, letters from friends, dream and travel journals, poems, notebooks filled with tidbits of thoughts fell into place and I started writing my story."
        But what good is the synopsis alone without an excerpt from the Lullaby Illusion:
Kyrenia, Cyprus, July 1974

Turkish ships were landing and unloading their cargo—soldiers, tanks, half-tracks, and other military hardware.

“A bit bizarre,” I remarked. “Like watching documentary films of World War II.”

We returned to our site on the hill before noon, and discussed the seriousness of the situation.

Helicopters flew low overhead. We watched them drop troops and supplies farther up the mountain, beyond the UN camp.

The children counted aloud as the falling parachutes “unfolded in the sky. “Eighty-eight. Eighty-nine.”

“The Good News, the fleet has arrived,” someone said.

“The Bad News, it’s the Turkish fleet,” someone else muttered.

“The Good News, we’re in UN territory. The Bad News, the Turks haven’t heard of the UN,” someone remarked.

“More C-47s,” Charles said, as transport planes dropped dozens of bundles.

“Look, they’re dropping more paratroopers,” someone said.

I sat and watched as more parachutes dropped from the sky.

The children stopped counting.

I turned on the radio, hoping to hear what the drop of hundreds of bundles meant. But rescue of stranded citizens no longer played on the British Forces station. Instead, it played song requests from its radio audience. “Food, Glorious Food” was followed by “I Want to Go Home.” Next came “Give Me a Ticket to Anywhere.”

Another delay. Obviously no rescue for us today.

Sabre jets returned, flying low overhead. “Looks as though the Turks will be terminating the lone Greek position this morning,” Charles commented.”

“In groups of three, the jets pummeled the position. Rocket after rocket smashed into the “hillside emplacement.

After each air strike, we waited for a response.

The British family near us stood, to hear the response better.

I waited and held my breath until I heard a faint “rat” sound.

Minutes later, it was followed by a louder “a-tat-tat.”

Emotions overwhelmed us. “Bravo!” we cheered.

“Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.”

A sudden and loud burst of gunfire nearby pinned us to the ground. Soldiers appeared from all directions, surrounding us as they fired at each other.

“Move!” I screamed. “We’re under attack.”

“Move! Move!” Others shouted and screamed, as round after round of machine gun fire exploded.

I scurried further downhill, away from the targeted area. I looked around for Charles and Ronit. Didn’t see them. I noticed a small boy sleeping on the ground, face up and alone, a few feet from me. I crawled over to him and covered his body with mine until the firing soldiers moved on. I picked the child up and ran with others down the hill toward the ravine. It was total mayhem.

I heard Charles shout. “Quick, into the ravine,” he yelled, and grabbed the boy from my arms and tossed the child to Syd, “who stood at the bottom of the ravine catching children as they were thrown to him.

“Jump!” Syd shouted.

I jumped.

Charles ran back up the hill to help a young mother with two children. He jumped into the ravine and sat down across from me.

Heads down, we crouched together in the ravine as bullets flew through the air from both sides.

Heavy shooting continued. We could do nothing but sit and wait as the barrage of bullets whizzed past overhead. Powerful explosions uphill, near the lookout point, shook the ground.

Charles pointed to a house on a rise above the mouth of the ravine. It was shaken again and again by explosions. Fragments of shells, and pieces of rock and dirt rained down on us.

“Let’s move farther down,” Charles suggested to Syd.

“It might be even worse farther down,” Syd replied.

So we stayed put, hunkering down to avoid the crossfire over our heads as Greek and Turkish soldiers exchanged rapid gun fire. As bullets whizzed past, I prayed we’d survive.

Susan's 2nd Memoir.

        Did that excerpt from the Lullaby Illusion intrigue you? I know it has me interested in reading more and wanting to read the second one, too.
        Here’s the description for Susan’s second memoir: Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery:
     While writing her eye witness account of the Cyprus coup and war, Joyce suspects that her husband was somehow involved in the events leading up to the Turkish invasion in July of 1974. Young and living comfortably in southern California, they are financially secure. When she asks Charles how, he ignores her questions. They are biding time while he waits for another job overseas.
A letter arrives, from friends they knew in Cyprus, inviting them to meet in Sri Lanka and help sail a new yacht back to Europe for a Swedish millionaire. Neither knows about boats or sailing, but Charles convinces Joyce it will be the trip of a lifetime; cruising the Indian Ocean in a 54’ pleasure yacht.
Up and away they fly. From India to Sri Lanka, and on, they meet people facing political change and turmoil. This award winning memoir takes you on a wild ride across the Indian Ocean; without charts. In monsoon season. And with an emotionally unstable crew mate.
Joyce retreats to reading to sustain her. Like spirit guides, her dreams and intuition direct her to find her own unique path and discover her place in the universe.

     And before we go, how about an excerpt from Good Morning Diego Garcia: A Journey of Discovery?
     Stormy Seas
      I need the sea because it teaches me. — The Sea, by Pablo Neruda

Soon after dawn the following day, a frustrated Dylan made several attempts to get a read on our location with no success. The skies were darkening and black clouds billowed over a choppy sea. I watched him go back and forth trying to figure out where we were. I also noticed he tapped the barometer often.

“Why does he tap it?” I asked Charles.

“If it falls fast when tapped,” Charles answered, “it means a storm is coming.”

“Oh,” I said.

Sometime later in the day, Dylan announced, “Strong winds are taking us further east than planned.”

“Are we lost?” I asked. Lost at sea? A scary thought. I shivered.

“We’ll get back on course,” Dylan said, trying to calm my concern. He grabbed a cup of coffee, his cigarettes, and headed back up on deck.

Seconds later, he called for Alon to help him lower the sails. “Twister, heading our way,” he yelled.

Alon ran up the stairs.

“A twister could capsize Zozo!” Charles bounded up the stairs after him.

I followed and tried to help. Squalls with sudden, violent gusts of wind could sink a boat. We were all acting fast to lower the sails and secure them with ropes. Quick action was the only way to keep a boat under control during severe weather.

Sails lowered, we went back to the safety of the galley. Dylan closed the hatch to keep out the wind and rain.

“A sudden gust can topple any sailing ship,” Mia said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you can’t react fast enough to match the sudden change in force.” Charles explained. “You have to keep a “close watch of changing skies, so you know before it arrives”

“A sea twister is like a tornado on land, right?”

“Yes, it is a whirling column of air and water mist. A funnel cloud,” Charles said. “And quite destructive.”

I could hear the ferocious wind blowing and see the swells rise higher. Two visible water spouts, about forty feet in the distance, were sucking water from the sea while lightning strikes lit up the dark sky.

“Glad we’re not out there,” I said, as the boat heaved back and forth in the raging sea.

When the worst of the dark clouds and strong winds had passed, Dylan opened the hatch and climbed up on deck to take his turn standing watch for other ships or obstacles in the area.

Not knowing where we were and with sails lowered, Dylan decided to continue letting the winds take us where they would until the storms cleared.

The men kept constant vigil during watch.

Charles mentioned the cross bar on the main mast kept plunging into the water, and jolting back to the other side as the ship rolled side to side with the mountainous waves. “Keeping watch is the only thing which keeps me from losing my mind,” he said.

“Not exactly pleasure yachting,” I said. I knew he was having a hard time dealing with this.

“Watching the ship’s course indicator, and other instruments keeps my mind occupied,” he replied. “Keeps me from going insane.”

“Opportunity of a life time is the way you described the adventure before we left sunny California.”

“What was I thinking?” he muttered, questioning his original thoughts of a fun high seas adventure.

“It will be opportune, when we survive.”

Charles trembled. He looked pale.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Weak from lack of food and sleep.”

“These squalls and waves are overwhelming.”

“It’s difficult to sleep knowing how easily a boat can tip over,” Charles added.

“Let’s hope Zozo’s hull is as great as Dylan claims.”

“Charles nodded. “If it takes in water, it will sink. And it will happen fast.”

“A matter of seconds, minutes?” I asked.

“In an instant.” He snapped his fingers. “No time to grab a life jacket or launch a raft.”

We looked at each other and sighed.

Charles bowed his head.

“It is disheartening,” I said. “Hard to think clearly. But I think we’ll make it.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“The ultimate struggle for survival happens mentally,” I said.

Charles looked at me as if I were a stranger. “Have you had one of your crazy dreams?” he asked.

“Several,” I answered.

Squalls arrived frequently. Their strength varied. Some were severe with strong winds and heavy rain while others passed us by with little action or damage. The problem was not knowing how extreme they would be until they were directly overhead.

“Huddled together in the galley the following morning, we sat silent again and listened to the angry sea.

Dylan decided it was too dangerous for anyone to be on deck. He closed the hatch and went to his stateroom.

Charles sat in a corner cleaning his fingernails with a penknife, clearly depressed. I had hoped to find alone time to ask him about Mia’s strange question. It would have to wait for calmer seas and clearer thinking.

Mia and Alon also seemed distraught. No wonder! We were all agitated, knowing the dangers we faced. The continual pounding wrought havoc on our frayed nerves.

“Eima, Eima,” I heard Mia call out several times, as if praying for her mother to save her.

“Heaven help us,” I cried out, hoping the skies would clear, and the storm would move on.

But the freak waves and hard winds continued to pound. Waves so steep, I felt like I was on a wild roller coaster ride which couldn’t stop. No brakes! No breaks. We were at the mercy of nature. No place to run. No place to hide. Hang on tight.

No sign of other ships in the area waiting to rescue us. Nothing to do except wait for the storm to clear while Zozo did a wild, crazy dance in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Where, we didn’t even know.

My fears rose and fell with each mountainous wave, and the ship’s every motion. No choice but to face them head on. It was scary to think about letting go of anxiety, especially when I felt so vulnerable. I sat still and took deep breaths to clear my head and found myself calming, and communicating with the sea.

A shift in my thinking allowed me to be fully awake on the conscious level. My imagination went wild. I didn’t resist. Instead I welcomed the mountainous waves to zap my fears head on.

A powerful surge of energy flooded my body and relaxed me. It was a breakthrough as I became aware of a reality outside my perceived normal existence. The sea heard, answered me, and calmed. I experienced a moment of pure joy when I discovered the interconnections of nature and the universe around me. My epiphany.

This was not the first time I had felt supernatural powers surround me. I had experienced this also as a child when I sat out on a hot rock in the Arizona desert with my dog Brownie. We watched magic happen while we waited on a spaceship to collect us. My senses became so keen I could see rocks change as the wind brushed them.

I thought back to Cyprus and the long months I had spent in bed thinking and dreaming, bedridden in an attempt to have a healthy baby. Information seemed to flow then from a higher spiritual reality, and events that were beyond what could be explained by nature happened. Again and again.

As the sea stirred my senses, I became the curious, wide open-eyed child again, welcoming the power of magic

Examining these connections, I realized I had touched on a greater truth; the reality of how I fit into the bigger picture of life. The quieter I became, the more I could see and hear. Was it my imagination? Or was I experiencing a heightened awareness as a result of being in tune with nature. Floating in this immense ocean at eye level, gave me a new appreciation for how massive the universe is, and how small and insignificant a human is by comparison. A small speck in the full spectrum of life on earth.

I had traveled far and wide to find myself; to discover my core. My soul.

     Most importantly, the writing of Susan's books all began with her aunt's death in May 2016. Sharing this photo with all of you, readers is more than appropriate:
     Don’t forget that both books by Susan are available at on-line retailers, independent booksellers and her website.                   

      Feel free to connect with Susan Joyce at one of the below web sites:
     Amazon author page:



                     Susan Joyce @SusanJourneys

Thank you all for visiting with us. It’s always a pleasure to meet readers and authors. Until next month, every one please stay safe. Smile. Be happy. Show compassion. Be nice to others. Put a little love into your heart. Please speak up for those without a voice, whether it be a dog, cat, elephant or monkey. One person, one voice can make a difference. Read a book and pass it on. Leave a review. Reviews are important for authors. Believe me. I know. Thank you!
S. J. Francis, Writing is my passion, but animals are my world.
Advocate for the underdog, and cat, and supporting writers, et al.

In Shattered Lies: "It's All About Family." Available now from Black Opal Books and for sale at all on-line retailers and independent booksellers.
                      Shattered Lies is a winner in the Fall 2016 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards for Women's Fiction.
                    Shattered Lies is a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Best Book Award Competition.
                     Shattered Lies is a 2016 Reader's Favorite Honorable Mention in the Fiction - Women’s category. 
                     Shattered Lies was a Finalist in the 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards.
                     Shattered Lies was chosen as General Fiction Official Selection in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards.
                     The first, original book cover design for Shattered Lies was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Authors dB Best Cover Contest?

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And now for some legal stuff: Copyright 2017 by S.J. Francis. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, S. J. Francis and the guest author and are meant to entertain, inform and enlighten, and intend to offend no one.