Cosplayers Assemble!

Denver Pop Culture Con – © Viacheslav

Denver Pop Culture Con is coming this weekend at the Colorado Convention Center! I’ll be there doing panels with awesome authors: Terry Brooks (Shannara Series), Cinda, Williams Chima (The Heir Chronicles) and many more!

Stop by the Author’s Booth during my signings for a chance to win free ebook copies of The Heart of the Warrior series books one and two!

Find my complete Denver Pop Culture Con Schedule at this link.


Special Guest Interview: Mental Health Month

Mental Health, 4Mind4Body, WhyCare

© ileezhun

May is Mental Health Month. A special guest is joining us this week to discuss her experiences as a Mental Health Provider. Tamara Soal is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MA, LPC, NCC) in Southern Oregon. Welcome, Tamara and thank you for sharing your insights on Mental Health with my readers.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you decide to become a Mental Health Provider?

I began studying psychology in my teens and while attending college. During those first psychology 101 courses, I knew it was my calling. I had too many friends in high school complete suicide and a long-term boyfriend complete suicide years after we had separated. In the course of my adult life, I chose interpersonal relationships with people diagnosed with bipolar and substance abuse dependency. Several of my colleagues and friends suffered from trauma and substance abuse. I decided I wanted to be a healer. A higher psychology degree was the answer for me at the time.

A late bloomer in the field (I earned my degrees later in life), I got on a fast track to experiencing the mental health profession after graduate school and accepted positions to accelerate my knowledge. I decided in graduate school to have a private practice, and in four years after graduation, I accomplished what I believed would be my calling.

You named your practice “Winding Tree.” Is there any special meaning behind the title?

Winding Tree Counseling Services LLC was the seed I planted in 2010. The name was chosen based on a partner’s suggestion. The more I thought about it and the Chinese Proverb, “The twisted tree lives out its life. The straight tree ends up as a board,” I decided winding was a better synonym than twisted. It also represents the complexity of family systems theory and the family tree or family of origin genograms.

Philosophy & Approach of My Practice:

An integrative, client-centered approach is the type of psychological style used in meeting the needs of individual clients. Integrative is a way to introduce different psychological theories in meeting the needs of children, adolescents, their families, and couples. My philosophy is to treat individuals with kind, empathetic, positive regard to assist them in gaining insight and balance. I practice Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with DBT of Southern Oregon for high-risk individuals as well.

One of your specialties is working with children and adolescents to help them overcome their behavioral challenges. What are some positive actions adults can do to encourage kids with mental illness?

I work with children and adolescents to help them overcome their behavioral and cognitive challenges. I was that child and have walked in their shoes. My childhood was confusing and challenging, and I wanted to assist children in navigating the patterns of their parents or caregivers. I am drawn to foster children with abandonment and attachment issues because I experienced these as a child as well.

The most important thing an adult can do for a child is to be present, loving and without judgment. Children are naturally intuitive and can feel your truth. Behavior is communication. If a child is misbehaving, then they are trying to tell you something perhaps they cannot articulate or have the capacity to express.

It’s essential to have a holistic view of behavior, mind, body, and soul. Just as a baby cannot verbalize pain or distress, they pick up nonverbal communication. We communicate to our children nonverbally in significant ways. Adults need to be consistent and use reward rather than punishment (punishment doesn’t work). Reward, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement are shown to be effective in changing behavior.

May is Mental Health Month. If there was one thing you could share with someone who is living with mental illness, what would it be?

I would like to share for Mental Health Month the concept of radical self-care.

Radical self-care is taking care of the Self in a way that matters such as firm boundaries, and eradicating people-pleasing behavior. It is essential to take care of Self holistically by living mindfully. Live your best life and don’t allow social stigma to impede you from seeking out a professional. A mental health counselor will guide you in living your best life, offering you skills and assisting you with insight. Only you know how to live your best, authentic life. Trust that.

Remember, if you are not connecting with the counselor, find one with whom you can connect. This is your life, be the director of your story.

Mental Health, LPC

Tamara Soal, MA, LPC, NCC

My Code of Ethics

I am a licensee of the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists; I abide by its Code of Ethics. To maintain my license, I am required to participate in continuing education, attending classes dealing with subjects relevant to this profession. I began practicing in the state of Arizona in 2013 as a Crisis Response and with court-mandated individuals in group therapy transitioning to Therapeutic Foster Care and a Psychiatric Hospital as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Wyoming in 2014. I moved to Oregon in 2016 to work in community health and ultimately started a private practice in 2017.

Formal Education & Training

Master of Arts Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University – Phoenix, 2013. My practicum/ internship and the postgrad experience were completed in the judicial system counseling court-mandated individuals; domestic violence offenders, substance abuse offenders, anger management and life skills group counseling. I currently graduated with a Master of Philosophy – Psychology – February 2019 and I am completing a Ph.D. Psychology (ABD) attending Walden University since 2014 and working with a chair and committee on my dissertation looking at parenting stress and high-conflict divorces.

NBCC, Mental Health


Crisis stabilization in providing services for children and adolescents in an acute inpatient-setting meeting Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) criteria and trauma. Services included trauma-informed care and crisis stabilization for the individual and family with approaches such as family systems, trauma-focused CBT, trauma-informed interventions and crisis interventions.

Areas of competence include crisis intervention, trauma-informed CBT, DBT and psychoanalysis/psychodynamic modalities. I have completed level one of The Gottman Method for couple counseling and Grief Training with New Song for Grieving Children (AZ) and WinterSpring for credentialing to continue to serve grieving children in Oregon. I am currently working with DBT of Southern Oregon in the Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) program as an individual therapist and co-facilitator for a weekly Teen DBT group and in private practice.

Counseling experience includes providing services for SED children/adolescents and their caregivers including foster care in wraparound services and therapeutic family care. Counseling experience includes court-mandated individuals in providing services for domestic violence offenders and individuals required to complete anger management using the Duluth method within diversion programs. Mental evaluations required by the court in determining further legal action.

Winding Tree Counseling Services, LLC

More about Tamara Soal on Psychology Today

Book Baby Announcement

I finally have a firm release date!

Look for the latest book in the Heart of the Warrior series

October 18th, 2019!

Dark Fantasy Books

Book Three – COMING October 18th, 2019

Protect the Innocent. Punish the Guilty.

Seth the Ice Lion, now an Apprentice in the Jalora Legion, reluctantly travels aboard ship with his new battalion. Western Beta’s mission seems a dull assignment. Guarding miles of bogs and old ruins should be a simple task, but Seth soon learns nothing is easy for the Bearer of the Lion Ring. The Jalora is the embodiment of Good and the source of Seth’s power. It commands he search North Marsh for a relic capable of saving his homeland from the ravenous appetite of the Jackal invaders. Surrounded by deadly bogs and savage beasts, he must find the relic before the Lion Spirit inside of him takes control of their shared body.

Invaders from across the sea hold a firm grip on Valdeon, but their thirst for blood remains unsated. They lust for the riches of Andara. Using fear and greed as weapons, the Jackal enlist aid from the continent’s unscrupulous mercenaries to prepare for a larger invasion. They build a stronghold – Stone Fang Fortress – in the Blood Mountains of the north. It is here they prepare to conquer the free world.

Will Seth find this powerful relic before the Jackal swarm invades Andara? Or will his people be enslaved under the iron fist of the Jackal Lord? Seth’s answers hide in the deadly bogs of North Marsh…

Read the Dark Fantasy Epic from the beginning

Dark Fantasy Books

Book One of The Heart of The Warrior Series

Dark Fantasy Books

Book Two – Heart of the Warrior series

Can What You Eat Reduce Your Stress?

Culinary Medicine, Nutrition

Culinary Medicine © norikko –

One of our local news stations holds an annual health fair this time of year. During their morning broadcast, they dropped the term “Culinary Medicine.” I’ll confess, I hadn’t heard the phrase. As a Celiac on a strict gluten-free diet, I was intrigued. There is no cure for Celiac Sprue or gluten intolerance. My diet is used to counteract the symptoms of the disease as well as reduce my risk of developing certain types of cancer.

So, is western medicine moving away from a “pop this pill” philosophy and embracing a holistic approach? Answer: It depends on the doctor.

What is Culinary Medicine?

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and I am no expert in Culinary Medicine either. However, I am living proof of how a healthy diet can improve your energy, reduce illness and help with depression.

The healthcare industry, to combat rising obesity rates, is increasing its efforts to counsel patients on nutrition. Nutritious cooking to reduce illness is at the forefront.

Food as medicine? It makes sense if we remember the saying, “you are what you eat.”

How Choosing the Right Food Can Help in Stress Management

Blueberry, Nutrition

The perfect berry! © pilipphoto –

  • Green Leafy Vegetables – Eat your spinach, because Popeye was right. Green leafy veggies produce dopamine – the feel-good chemical. They help to encourage calm and good moods
  • Oatmeal – This hearty breakfast food is good for you on several levels. It will help to manage your stress by keeping your blood sugar level stable
  • Yogurt – Take it from someone with food allergies. When your gut is sick, then your brain doesn’t work well either. We’ve seen the commercials about probiotics. Yogurt is a great way to increase these chemicals and calm brain functions which handle our emotions
  • Salmon – Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatories which assist in reducing harmful stress hormones. Salmon isn’t as “fishy” as other fish. It doesn’t have to be in fancy dishes. Try it in tacos for a yummy new take on an old favorite
  • Blueberries – “Calling Dr. Blueberry!” I eat these perfect little berries every day. They boost my mood and make me smile.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.


Don’t Let Worry Waste Your Time

Worry, Stress, Anxiety

Worrying is a waste of your precious time
© pathdoc –

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning with an email from my client stuck in my brain. The document I’d sent them was acting strangely. It was, for all intents and purposes, unusable. Confusion. Panic. Worry. They hit me like a bucket of ice water to the face. I couldn’t get back to sleep. What had happened to the document? Should I get out of bed and go into my office to fix it?

Life and Work Balance is vital for our health and happiness. Our society, however, is a demanding machine that never sleeps. We, as individuals, must schedule our personal time and stick with it. I broke this rule when I finally caved to my worry and worked Sunday morning (my prescheduled day off) to fix the problem. Lack of sleep, residual tension and no personal time left me feeling worn out. Did the client need my document on Sunday? No. They were content to wait until Monday morning. All my angst was a waste of time.

Avoid Worry with Healthy Choices:

Unplug from the Daily Grind– I had no business checking my email right before bedtime. Stop viewing work emails, texts, and social media at a set time each evening. A peaceful night’s sleep is essential. I need it and so do you. The work will be waiting in the morning

Set boundaries for your well-being– Stick to your personal plans. Don’t cancel fun activities with your friends, because you’re stressing over a work task. It’s tough when you run a business or are held accountable for a project. I get it. However, if you work too many weekends, your employer will come to expect it from you regularly. Then goodbye personal life!

Take care of YOU first! Approach the work or problem after you’ve rested and refreshed your mind. You’ll find the solution comes to you much faster.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.


Top Five Ways to Reduce Your Stress

Stress, Stress Awareness

Stress Awareness Month © Kaspars Grinvalds –

April is Stress Awareness Month (not that we need a reminder).  Life can become overwhelming at times. We all feel the pressures from negative sources in our society. They are persistently vying for our attention, our emotion, our outrage, and our money. We, however, make the choice to listen or to ignore these messages.

Our brain is an amazing processor of information. It takes audio, visual and sensational (touch) data, figures out what it means to us and then transmits instructions to our body. Stress can induce our “fight or flight” reaction. We grow tense. Our adrenalin spikes as does our heart rate. This is perfect if you’re running from a charging bull. Staying stressed out for long periods, however, can do serious damage to your body.

Stress Triggers You Can Change

  1. Fear of Failure
  2. Fear of Being Judged
  3. Fear of Being Rejected

You’ll notice “FEAR” is in all three of the triggers. Hmmm. And aren’t they really all the same thing? Let me give you some advice about dealing with these triggers. Know that everybody fails. It’s how we learn. If you’re worried about people laughing at you for failing, then understand those people aren’t worth having in your life. Seek out people you will lift you up rather than tear you down. Remember: You had the courage to try!

Topsy-turvy Nonsense You Can’t Control

  1. Politics
  2. Natural Disasters
  3. Aging
  4. Death

I think the most profound advice I’ve ever been given was “Live your life.” Nobody can really control any of these stress triggers. Worrying about them is counterproductive. Focus on what makes you happy, because we are all headed to the grave. I’d prefer to go after having enjoyed a full life being who I am and doing what I want.

Reduce Stress, Meditate

Manage stress to stay healthy. © Romolo Tavani –

Five Daily Practices to Reduce Your Stress

  1. Meditation – I know I harp on this quite a bit in my posts. Sitting in a quiet place and taking a few minutes to just breathe does help. Take it a bit further by letting your mind explore what lays beyond the space of your body. You will begin to understand your problems are merely a temporary blip in a grander Universal scheme
  2. Exercise – Sometimes, you’ve just gotta sweat it out. Daily exercise can boost your mood, give you more energy and help you to sleep better. Speaking of which…
  3. Get More Sleep – Your body and your mind need a good night’s sleep. Worrying about what’s happening during your waking hours leads to insomnia. Insomnia leads to more stress. It’s a nasty cycle you must break. Try taking a hot bath before bed to relax
  4. Aromatherapy – Your nose knows best. Healing herbs have been used for centuries to treat illness and “dis-ease.” Nature is the best healer and provides hundreds of plant-based solutions to our body’s health problems. Lavender, for instance, is very calming. I sprinkle a few drops of Lavender oil under my pillow or put it on my wrists each night before bed. It knocks me right out. I also grow a big barrel of it beside my front door to instill a sense of peace as visitors enter my home.
  5. Take Care of Your Temple – Software developers have a saying, “Garbage in, garbage out” meaning put junk food in your body and get lousy performance. Next time you eat a greasy hamburger, observe how it makes you feel. Maybe you’re satisfied at first, but don’t you feel a bit heavy a few hours later? Try a healthy meal of grilled fish and steamed veggies. I’ll be honest. It isn’t going to give you the same temporary rush, but it will make you feel lighter and more energetic throughout the day

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Are You Stuck Inside Your Box?

Individual, Motivation, Inspire

© Michael Flippo –

Society loves boxes. Large, small, blue or yellow – every item must fit in its designated container. It’s an efficient method for organizing inanimate objects quickly. Hundreds of books line the shelves in our local bookstore. Each claim to have the best solution for stuffing items in the various boxes.

People, however, are not inanimate objects. We are individuals with multiple facets to our personalities. Society’s cold logic can be lazy and sometimes cruel. We put individuals in boxes because it makes our judgment of them much easier. Sadder still, we as individuals begin to believe we are stuck inside the box society has assigned us.

Big Personalities Can’t Be Trapped in A Box

My Aunt Della was one of the first women to help me understand big personalities cannot be locked in a single box. Several years ago, my sister and I were spending a summer in Anchorage, Alaska. Before the days of cellphones and the internet, a phone call from the lower forty-eight was the best communication you could manage. Our family asked us to visit our seventy-six-year-old aunt who’d just moved to a condo in the city. Alaska was a challenging place to live back then, especially for an elderly woman. Many thought she was crazy to pack up and move there on her own. We had placed her in the “Age Box.”

I come from a long line of strong women. My grandmother, Agnes, spent her youth in an untamed area of the West. She could break horses and strip down a rifle double quick. Aunt Della was a true daughter of Agnes. Despite her age, she’d purchased a cozy multi-level condo in a city she was determined to explore. The condo had steep stairs enclosed by high walls. I took one look and knew they were a death trap.

Aunt Della, as if sensing what I was thinking, ran up and down the staircase at a surprising pace for anyone over forty. She grinned at my sister and me.

“Seventy-Six Years Old and I can still climb stairs,” She said with a laugh.

We later discovered her daily exercise included a brisk walk to and from her local pub. Aunt Della had chosen to live her remaining life full of fun and friends. She refused to be stuffed in Society’s “Age” or “Widow” boxes.

What about you? Are you living life according to someone else’s category?


Individual, Motivation, Inspiration

© anitasstudio –

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” Buddha


Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.