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Here’s Mary, tour guide extraordinaire.

Today we’ve put the Magic Dog on a leash and walked down the street to the Corner Cafe, where we’ve caught up with Mary Montague Sikes, a woman who knows exactly what a vacation should involve–an exotic location, a mysterious, studly stranger, a beautiful woman (who is “us,” of course), a spice of danger, and romance. How do we know this? Her popular Passenger to Paradise series proves it. She’s been writing books that offer her readers a taste of the perfect summer vacation for 10 years now.

Bodie: Hi, Mary, thanks for meeting us. We’re all curious, though–why here?  What is The Corner Cafe, and what’s so special about it?

Mary: Almost every small town has a gathering place—a diner, a cozy family-run restaurant. That’s what the Corner Café is for me. This quaint little restaurant has been in business for many years and is now a community landmark.

Bodie: But The Corner Cafe  is also a charming collection of short stories produced by Dani Greer, mastermind and blog book tour maestro, and you have a short story in it, right?

Mary: Right–“A Face at the Window.”

Bodie P: “A Face at the Window” starts out like many of your travel books–a young woman finds herself in dire need of a vacation, so she packs a bag and heads out. But that’s where the similarities end. Your central character, Arianna, has tragically lost a child, and in seeking to escape the anniversary of her loss she winds up in Milwaukee, possibly one of the least “exotic” cities in America. And there’s not a whiff of beefcake in sight. What prompted this story?

Mary: Last summer we spent several days in Milwaukee where I visited the beautiful art museum located on Lake Michigan. One of the exhibits that most impressed me was the bronze sculpture with a countless number of the same male figure, mouth open in a cry. That exhibit left a lasting memory for me. The story itself was prompted by something that happened years ago when our middle daughter was four years old. We were crossing a street to one of the Smithsonian Museums when she suddenly disappeared. I still remember my terrible panic which, of course, she never understood. What if I had never found her?

Bodie: Remember that movie, Tootsie? There’s a scene where Jeff (played by Bill Murray) says, “I don’t want people to say, ‘I saw your play. I liked it.’ I want them to say, ‘I saw your play. What happened?’ “A Face at the Window” is like that. I read your story.  And after I read the closing words I found myself wondering, What happened next? I don’t want to give away the end of the story for those who haven’t read it yet, but is there anything you can share without doing that? If you see Arianna and her daughter in another ten years, where are they? What are they doing?

Mary: That’s a very good question. In this age of the Internet, people do reconnect. Children find parents they never knew. Sometimes reconnecting can destroy a family. I know of one such case. I can see this story as the beginning of a novel. I’m going to think about it.

Bodie: In Arianna, you’ve written a character who badly needs the sort of escape your “Passenger to Paradise” series offers. Since we’re just heading into summer, can you recommend a few summer reading destinations you think we’d particularly enjoy?

Mary: I love the Caribbean where St. Martin is one of my favorite destinations. Although I haven’t written about it yet, I have a story set there waiting for me to tell. My book Secrets by the Sea  is set on another favorite Caribbean Island, Antigua. A sequel, Jungle Jeopardy,  is more of an adventure and is set in Central America. Jamaica is my favorite destination of all—we’ve been there more than a dozen times. My very first novel Hearts Across Forever  is set there. If you enjoy reincarnation stories, you’ll want to read this one.

Bodie: Thanks, Mary, and thanks for introducing us to The Corner Cafe. (All right, all right–full disclosure prompts me to admit that I already know about it, and this is part of a little thing we like to call a “blog book tour,” where a bunch of us bloggers get together and decide we’re going to blog about one thing–in this case, a book for which many of us contributed a short story or two–and we’re going to do it in succession. And so the party rolls across the internet, going from blog to blog, spreading the glad news that The Corner Café is open for business. Tomorrow The Corner Café book tour visits Heidi Thomas‘ very fine blog. Stop in and say hi. If you’d like to download The Corner Cafe for yourself, you can do it here for the very fine price of 99¢. Or, if you’re really thrifty, wait for a free download weekend–I believe we have one coming up soon (like in a couple of days).

Mary: Thank you so much for having me as your guest, Bodie. Now I want to hit the road for one of those beautiful destinations where a fragrant summer breeze dances through my hair.

And thank you, Gentle Readers, for joining us on this stop of The Corner Café’s blog book tour. Here’s the tour itinerary. Please join us for tomorrow’s scheduled event!

June 8 Heidi Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com
June 11 Marian Allen http://www.marianallen.com/
June 12 W.S Gager http://wsgager.blogspot.com
June 13 Chris Verstraete http://candidcanine.blogspot.com
June 14 Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com
June 15 Kathy Wheeler
June 18 Morgan Mandel Double M http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
June 19 Pat Bean http://patbean.wordpress.com
June 20 Shonell Bacon http://chicklitgurrl.blogspot.com
June 21 Alberta Ross http://albertaross.wordpress.com
June 22 Karen Casey Fitzjerrell http://karencaseyfitzjerrell.blogspot.com
June 25 Pat Stoltey http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com
June 26 SB Lerner http://www.susanblerner.com
June 27 Maryann Miller http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/
June 28 Mary Montague Sikes http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com
June 29 Stephen Tremp http://breakthroughblogs.blogspot.com

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Publication: Jul 28 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1463739834 / 9781463739836
Page Count: 128
Trim Size: 5.06″ x 7.81″

So here’s the thing: at a certain point in my life I felt a great need to understand my past. I did my best–I went to therapy. I talked to as many relatives as I could. I journaled. And still there were big gaps. So when I happened upon a past-life regression book (“Includes CD!”) I purchased it, hotfooted it home, fed and bathed The Boy and put him to bed, and started reading.

According to the author of this book, we tend to come back again and again, sort of like bad sausage, and, like bad sausage the parts of our experience we repeat tend to be the parts we liked the least–traumas and in particular violent deaths seem to have as profound affect upon our current lives. He maintains that by understanding this, by “owning” the past-life traumas, we can put the resultant fears, destructive behaviors, and psychological traces to rest and live fuller, happier lives.

That sounded pretty good to me. Perhaps the idea of reliving past traumas wasn’t so great, but at the time I was certainly plagued by fears and destructive behaviors. Some I could explain from my past history, present pass, but it seemed to me that the pain in my childhood didn’t really explain the depth of some of the issues I carried. If re-living a pre-life trauma would help with that, I was all for it.

A word of warning here: I’ve had several responsible therapists tell me that this isn’t really a smart way to go about past-life regression–that it’s pretty important to have a qualified therapist on hand to help you deal with what might come up (and to bring you out of hypnosis if things get too hairy). I have no reason to doubt this, and if I had this to do again I might well do it differently, but in this blog we’re sworn to honesty. This is what I did. And this is what happened. Bear in mind that you might not get the same results, and just because I did this doesn’t mean I’m advocating you do the same. (Did you notice I’m not providing the link for the past-life regression book and CD I used? I did that intentionally. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to do your own research. I won’t help you do something that, with more information, I now believe might not be a good, safe thing to do.)

Anyhow, back to the story. So I read the book, and I did the guided imagery, and the next day I dropped The Boy off at school, took my journal to my coffee and bagel joint, and set about recording the image flashes that had resulted from my experiment the night before. And something amazing happened: as I wrote, a whole story spooled out. It wasn’t a happy story–actually, it was a story about a woman who faced an issue much like one of the central issues that I faced. She did no better and dealing with the issue than I was doing.

That night I repeated the exercise. The following morning there I was, back at the bagel shop, writing–and getting a completely different story. In the end, the woman in the story loses her battle, too.

I did the exercise again, and again, and each time I wound up with a different story. Some ended well. Most didn’t.

I never really made up my mind to stop doing the exercises. I think it was more that the need to do them just went away. I still have the book and the CD. Haven’t opened them for years. I’m still no more certain about the reality of multiple lives than I was before I began the exercises. Do the stories reflect past lives, or my past life here and now? I don’t know.

What I do know is that these stories hold something for me. In writing them, I released something in myself. Much of that deep, inexplicable fear and pain disappeared. What has remained is a series of stories that probably hold some of my best writing so far–stories about women in crisis, women facing the ultimate questions about the nature of fear, of pain, of love, and what ties us to our lives. They’re not easy stories. If you’re a fan of happy endings you’ll want to skip right to the last story in the book. I wrote these stories because I needed to write them. And then, one day, I didn’t need to write them anymore. So I stopped. Here they are. Enjoy.

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