Rebecca Yount – The Erlking: A Mick Chandra Mystery

erlkingfinal_option1Title: THE ERLKING: A Mick Chandra Mystery

Author: Rebecca Yount

ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-4675-3378-2

Page count: 438

Genre: Crime

Price: $.99

 

Author Bio:

REBECCA YOUNT trained from childhood as a concert pianist, is a published poet, and worked in education reform in Washington, D.C., but she always wanted to write. Coming from a family of writers, it wasn’t hard for her to put pen to paper, but it took an actual unsolved murder to give her the idea for her first novel. On a home exchange in England — something she and her husband regularly do — a villager told her about a local murder that remained unsolved, even by Scotland Yard. Sitting under a tree in a fallow field one day, she began to imagine what might have happened. The result was A DEATH IN C MINOR. In 2010 Rebecca underwent open heart surgery, which left her unable to write for two years. When she returned to writing she decided to publish the entire Mick Chandra series herself as e-books. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, author and columnist David Yount.

 

Tell us about your book:

Detective Inspector, Mick Chandra of New Scotland Yard, struggles to link the murder of the young wife of a popular British Member of Parliament to the seemingly random death by drowning in a north London canal of 8-year-old Josie Stephens. The forensic pathologist discovers that Josie was abused before she was murdered. Mick is informed by a Quaker Friend who knew Phoebe that she, too, may have been physically abused. Mick realizes he is getting close to the fire when his live-in love, American expatriate and renowned England-based concert pianist, Jessica Beaumont, is suddenly harrassed. During a concert, someone even takes a shot at her. Seconded to the Yard’s Pedophile Unit, Mick and his partner, Sergeant Elizabeth Chang, receive help in breaking the case. The Unit’s chief informs Mick that a notorious pedophile ring is working out of north London, headed by someone who calls himself The Erlking. Day by day, more children are reported missing in north London. How is this linked to Phoebe’s death? What is the connection between Phoebe and Josie? As Mick struggles to expose the identity of The Erlking, help arrives from a most unexpected source.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Approx.  a year to write.  The research took several months.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I write about those issues that outrage me, and child abuse is one such issue.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

First, I have no systematic writing process.  I just tap into my word processor.  Before I begin writing, I have already constructed the first and last sentences of the story.  Insomnia helps – all those sleepless hours that I use to spin the story in my head.  I do vast amounts of research.  For The Erlking, I conducted a great deal of it through New Scotland Yard, and interviewed police officers who are “on the ground.”  I also relied on current press reports, plus current stats that are available through Google.  There are some very helpful books on the topic of child abuse as well, many of which I used as references.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

I want readers to know that child abuse is epidemic, both in the US and UK.  I want to let readers know that pedophiles are “the nicest men in the world,” as one police officer put it to me.  I want to let readers know that pedophiles are relentlessly patient, sometimes waiting years to pounce on a chosen victim.  That pedophiles are probably not “curable,” that they are very much in our midst, acting like perfectly normal, congenial people. That pedophiles often enter activities or professions that attract children, or can present themselves as people who “care deeply” about children.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Erlking-Mick-Chandra-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00AKHVIRM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1357307381&sr=8-6&keywords=the+erlking

 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-erlking-rebecca-yount/1113934468?ean=9781467533782

 

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Erlking/book-oHnIdep3vEuUEWYN3ezBRw/page1.html?s=QzKkMvq09kuGnY256Ya7xA&r=1

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

www.rebeccayount.com

 

“I am in love with Rebecca Yount’s writing….I can’t wait to read the third installment in this series and I urge you all to get the first two books as soon as possible. I envision a series of movies on these books and can’t wait to say I knew Mike Chandra from the beginning.”—TheBookTree.blogspot.com

 

“With a chilling opening, Yount’s mystery packs a punch and keeps delivering….The author has handled a difficult and often disturbing subject matter with sensitivity without losing any of the dramatic impact to the story….Another brilliant, well thought out and intelligent mystery. The handsome Anglo-Indian detective is just as charming and even more likable as his is stunning partner, Jessica. Old friends are met again and despite it being the second book in the series, this is still a stand alone mystery….Overall, this story is a real page tuner and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. With the inclusion of the first chapter from the next installment of the series, I am very much looking forward to meeting up with the charismatic Mick Chandra once again. A highly recommended read.”—Shalini Ayre Book Reviews

 

Excerpt from book:

 

Excerpt from Chapter One

On the October morning that the semi-nude corpse of eight-year-old Josie Stephens was discovered floating in a north London canal, Detective Inspector Michael ‘Mick’ Chandra had no idea that the next several weeks of his life would be dedicated to tracking down her murderer.

As far as Mick was concerned, he was on his way from his Stoke Newington home to spend the morning putting the final touches on a sting operation with his team at New Scotland Yard. A call from the Yard’s Commissioner changed all of that. Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Albion Road, Mick was informed over his cell phone that he had just been seconded to the Yard’s Pedophile Unit. Given only the sketchiest of details, he was instructed to make his way to the Grand Union Canal in Islington to meet with Detective Chief Inspector Kip Brodie, head of the Unit.

After another maddening thirty-five minutes of snailing through the rush hour traffic on upper Essex Road, Mick was standing next to Brodie, watching divers retrieve the child’s body from the murky, trash-infested waters of the canal.

Fifty-five-year-old Kip Brodie was a twenty-three year veteran of the Criminal Investigation Department, better known as the CID. Revered by his staff, he had a reputation as a dogged investigator into crimes of child abuse and pedophilia. Of middling height, stocky build, with piercing pale blue eyes and a full head of light brown hair just beginning to turn grey at the temples, Brodie’s high-flushed coloring betrayed his Scottish heritage.

He stood in conspicuous contrast to the thirty-five-year-old Chandra, himself a fourteen-year veteran, seven of them with the Metropolitan Police, and another seven and counting specifically with the CID. Mick’s Anglo-Indian heritage was obvious from his dusky good looks, onyx-black eyes, straight patrician nose, and black-brown short cropped hair, gifts from his Kerala Indian father. His 6’1″ height and muscular build were attributes from his Welsh mother’s side of the family. What both men did share in common were stellar reputations within the CID.

“How many scenes like this have you witnessed, Kip?”

Brodie grimly shook his head. “In my nine years with the Unit, more than I care to remember.” He trained his intense blue eyes on Mick. “‘Hope you don’t mind that I pulled rank to have you seconded to the Pedophile Unit, Mick. I’m desperate for additional help, especially the kind you can offer. You have the best record of anyone in the CID for breaking the cases that have gone cold. Just when we’re up against a vicious pedophile ring, the Home Office cut my budget to ribbons.”

“Happy to be of service,” Mick assured the Chief. “However, I would like to have Detective Sergeant Chang seconded to the Unit as well,” he added, referring to his partner, Elizabeth Chang.

Brodie smiled, causing the lines around his eyes to deepen into crevasses. “I’ve already requested her. The Commissioner agreed, after Elizabeth conducts this morning’s orientation for the sting you’ve been planning.”

“Brilliant. What can you tell me about this pedophile ring?”

“Not much. What we do know is that it probably operates somewhere out of north London, because all of the children who have gone missing are from the Hackney Borough.”

“How many children are missing so far?”

“Before this morning, four.” Kip nodded toward Josie’s corpse. “Now three.”

“Sweet Jesus,” Mick muttered. “Anything else?”

“One thing. From persistent rumors we’re getting on the street, one of the participants in this ring — perhaps even its leader — may be a member of Parliament. According to the little information we’ve been able to gather, the head of the group refers to himself as ‘The Erlking.’”

“That’s curious. I vaguely recall a poem entitled The Erlking about a troll who snatches children.”

“Well, I don’t know much about poetry,” Brodie said, “but I do know we’ve got a serious problem on our hands, and no child in north London will be safe until we can break up this group.”

The two men lapsed into silence as they watched the police forensics team comb the area around the canal while the divers, protected from the cold in heavy-rubber wet suits, struggled through the numbing water to bring Josie’s corpse to shore, depositing it on the bank near them.

“She’s wearing nothing but a pair of knickers,” Kip noted. “The bastards obviously disposed of Josie like a piece of rubbish once they finished with her. God, look how pretty she is. What a bloody waste!”

It pained Mick to see the nearly-nude child lying on the wet grassy bank exposed to the early morning cold. He resisted the impulse to take off his storm coat and drape it over the child’s pitiful blue corpse.

“What’s her full name?”

“Jocelyn Ann Stephens,” Kip answered, still looking at her.

“Are her parents here?”

“Parent.”

“Single mother?”

“Isn’t that usually the case?”

“Where’s the father?”

Brodie shrugged. “Who knows?”

“So another deadbeat dad goes missing. Mind if I speak with the mother?”

“Go ahead. She’s sitting in my car,” Kip said, jerking his head in the direction of the Yard car parked on the grass near the lip of the canal.

As Mick approached the vehicle, he could see Josie’s distraught mother sitting in the back seat with her head between her knees. He rapped gently on the window.

“Mrs. Stephens, Inspector Michael Chandra,” he announced through the glass, displaying his badge and ID. “May I have a few words with you?”

Slowly lifting her head, the woman nodded, wearing the expression of a somnambulist. Mick opened the door, sliding in next to her.

“I realize this is a terrible time for you, Mrs. Stephens, but the more information we can get now, the sooner we’ll be able to apprehend whoever did this to your daughter.”

“Josie was only eight,” the woman muttered to no one in particular.

“I know,” Mick responded gently. “When did you last see her?”

She blinked back her tears, trying to remember. “A week ago this past Tuesday — in the morning, when she left for school. I couldn’t walk with her that day.”

“Why?”

“I…couldn’t because….” The words stuck in her throat like a bone. “I work as a server in a cafe at one of the Marks and Spencers. That morning — the morning Josie went missing — I was on breakfast duty… you know, for the commuters. So I had to leave home earlier than usual.”

“Josie was home alone?”

Mick’s question prompted an avalanche of convulsive sobs.

“Yes…yes. God, I hate myself!”

Considering the circumstances, Mick wasn’t about to lecture a grieving mother on the illegalities of leaving a child of eight at home without proper supervision. Since many working single mothers could not afford child care, Mick knew it was common practice for them to risk leaving an underage child alone.

“Did Josie walk to school by herself that day?”

Wiping her eyes with a much-used tissue, the woman nodded. “Usually she went with a friend from the neighborhood, but she was sick that morning, so Josie had to walk to school by herself.” Giving in to despair, Mrs. Stephens covered her face with her hands. “I know what you’re thinking, Inspector. I’m a bad mother.”

Mick peeled the despondent woman’s fingers from her face. “No. You’re a good mother who was trying to earn a paycheck so you could clothe and feed your daughter.”

Observing Mrs. Stephens more closely, he saw a woman who embodied hardship and disappointment. She may have been pretty at one time, but life had turned Josie’s mother into an overweight plain entity who lacked the time, money, and will to invest in her appearance. Everything about this woman resonated her sense of futility in life.

“Can you think of anybody — a stranger — who may have approached Josie on the street while she was playing, or tried to engage her in conversation before she went missing, Mrs. Stephens?”

“Well, there was that social worker,” she answered, blowing into the shredded tissue, prompting Mick to give over his handkerchief to her.

“What social worker?”

“The one I reported to Social Services.”

“Fill me in, please.”

“A woman who claimed to be a social worker came to my door about…oh…three weeks or so ago. She told me the agency had received a complaint from a neighbor about my occasionally leaving Josie alone in the morning. She threatened to take my daughter away from me.”

“Did she show you an ID?”

“I demanded one, but she refused. She also refused to show me the agency’s paperwork on Josie’s case, saying it was none of my concern.”

“What did you do?”

“I grabbed something that was on the table next to the front door — I can’t remember what — and told the bitch that I was going to bash her face in if she didn’t leave immediately.”

“And did she?”

“Yes. But she was very shirty about it. She said, ‘If that’s the way you want it, fine,’ or words to that effect.”

“Did you see her car?”

“Umm…yes, but I don’t remember much about it. It was white, is all I know.”

“Sedan? Hatchback?”

“Sedan, I think.”

“Two doors? Four?”

“I…I can’t remember, Inspector.”

“Did you get the license plate number?”

Mrs. Stephens lower lip began to quiver again. “Sorry, no.”

“Don’t be sorry. You’re giving me a lot of helpful information.”

“I did report the incident to Social Services, though,” she added, brightening a little.

“Excellent. What did they tell you?”

“That they would look into it.”

“Right, but not before hell freezes over,” Mick offered cynically. “Can you describe this woman?”

Wearily closing her eyes, Mrs. Stephens leaned her head back. “Middle aged, heavy set.”

“Hair color?”

“Dark brown. But it looked phony.”

“A wig?”

“No, dyed.”

“Long hair? Short?”

“Jaw length.”

“How was she dressed?”

“Mm…professionally.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Blazer, skirt, blouse, sensible pumps — that sort of thing.”

“Did she carry a briefcase?”

She thought for a moment before answering. “Yes, she did. And a matching purse.”

“What color?”

“Black, I think. Maybe dark brown.”

“Had you ever seen this woman before in your neighborhood?”

With her eyes still closed, Mrs. Stephens shook her head slowly. “No…no. I’m certain I hadn’t. I would have remembered her.” Opening her eyes, she looked directly at Mick.

“Did she take my baby, Inspector?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“Why?”

Still a novice on child abuse, Mick decided to leave the responsibility of explaining the details of the Erlking’s ring to Kip.

“I’m not entirely certain, Mrs. Stephens. We’re looking into possible motives,” he hedged.

“But why? If she was a woman who wanted a child, why would she kill Josie?”

“We don’t know yet if she’s the one who killed your daughter. If you like, I can…”

Mick was rescued by Kip, who opened the door and stuck his head in.

“Mrs. Stephens, do you want to accompany your daughter to the pathology lab?” he asked as solicitously as one could under the circumstances.

“Yes,” she answered firmly. “I’ll be along in a moment. I just need to ask the Inspector one more question.”

“Take your time,” Kip said, leaving the two of them alone, much to Mick’s considerable discomfort.

Struggling to compose herself, the woman twisted around in the seat, facing Mick head on.

“Inspector Chandler…”

“Chandra,” Mick corrected her.

“Very well. Inspector Chandra, I know you’re not telling me everything. It’s a mother’s instinct. Whatever it is, I’ll find out sooner or later, so you might as well tell me now. Why was my daughter kidnapped, then murdered?”

“Please, Mrs. Stephens. Chief Inspector Brodie will tell you everything you need to know.”

“No, I want to hear it from you! What did they do to my baby?”

Sighing heavily, Mick gave in to his inquisitor. “They — whoever they are — may have kidnapped your daughter in order to…to sexually abuse her. We won’t know for certain until the forensic pathologist examines her body. Josie may have been a victim of a pedophile ring that’s operating somewhere out of north London.”

The mother’s hand involuntarily jerked to her mouth. “They used my baby girl for sex? For sex? My God, she was only eight years old! What kind of monsters would do such a thing?”

“Very sick monsters.”

Under the weight of truth, Mrs. Stephens again dropped her face into her hands and sobbed inconsolably. Mick could do nothing but leave her to the dignity of her grief. Then, abruptly, she stopped and plaintively turned her tear-stained face to him.

“Are you going to catch them, Inspector?”

“Yes.”

“For sure?”

“Yes.”

“For Josie’s sake,” she pleaded, taking his hand.

Mick nodded. “For Josie’s sake.”

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Clay Reston – Back To Woolstock

01-CoverTitle: Back To Woolstock
Author: Clay Reston
ISBN: 9781301590599
Page count: 25552
Genre: humor fiction
Price: $2.99

Author Bio:
Clay Reston stays in shape by jumping to conclusions. He has been a writer for decades, becoming known first for cryptic notes passed around classrooms and then for his creative use of checks to obtain the funds to support his YooHoo habit. He used to be taller and thinner.

Tell us about your book:
The author returns to his hometown to document the early years of its most famous son. From vengeful birds and okra to the milk dancing and the final concert debacle, Woolstock secures its reputation as a good place to be from as soon as you’re old enough and able. And you never, ever go back…

How long did it take to write the book?
About six weeks of spare time effort

What inspired you to write the book?
Nothing in particular

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
No research and no routine.  I just started with a blank page each time and wrote until I had more than 1000 words.  I don’t understand the process at all.  I didn’t even think I could create fiction.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope they laugh a lot.  That’s all.

Where can we go to buy your book?
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300020 And, in a week or so, all major online ebook retailers.

Excerpt from book:
There was the big tree coming up on the left.  “The Big Tree”.  As landmarks go, it wasn’t much.  It was only a tree, and, compared to others around it, I suppose it was big enough.  Someone once suggested calling Woolstock “The Big Tree City”.  But it wasn’t a city, and the residents could never agree on anything anyway.  That poor civic-minded fellow left under cover of darkness, and no one heard another word from or about him.

Darkness…  That’s the image I remembered.  There were no streetlights.  It was pitch black at night, unless you count the few places where somebody was up and doing something.  They kept to themselves for the most part, because they didn’t like each other all that much to start with.

You won’t find Woolstock on many maps.  It may be an oversight, and it may be that there’s really no point in going there.  I wouldn’t call it “quaint”, because the term carries positive implications that would be misleading.  And, to be honest, quite a few of the locals wouldn’t know the meaning of the word and fisticuffs could ensue.  So it’s best to leave things as they are.

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Jackie Charley and Dr Greg Nazvanov – Unlock the Cage

unlocking-the-cage_Book-coverTitle: ‘Unlock the Cage’ Subtitle: Empowering parents to step out of fear into freedom

Author: Jackie Charley and Dr Greg Nazvanov

ISBN: 1482306344

Page count: Paperback: 310 also in Kindle

Genre: Non-fiction: parenting

Price: Paperback: $13.99, Kindle $9.76

                             

Author Bio:

Jackie Charley is a published author and keynote speaker, a Psychology graduate, NLP Jackie180pxwidePractitioner and Life Coach focusing on process addictions, confident parenting, change management and personal development.  Her passion is to see people discover their freedom, and believes that life should not be lived without a mischievous sense of fun. (Longer bio available if required.)

Tell us about your book:

Most parenting books are only concerned with modifying a child’s behavior. Unlock the Cage is different. It’s about developing you, the parent. Many people assume that being a parent is such an instinctive role that there’s something wrong with them if they find it a struggle. They feel they are just ‘muddling along’, doing the best they can without understanding why they do the things they do, or how to do them better.

 

This book shows you how to:

- Connect with your kids so they willingly include you in their world

- Be confident in yourself and the choices you make

- Discover the 3 essential secrets of raising a smarter child and how to prepare them for leadership

- Learn how to protect your child from bullying, drugs, alcohol, media abuse and too much texting!

- Teach money skills to your kids

- Involve your kids in healthy, stimulating activities and have fun with them come rain or shine

- Make time for yourself to discover how you can achieve your dreams in the midst of the chaos that is raising kids

- and so much more!

 

How long did it take to write the book?

It took me a year to write, including the extensive research that was required.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I felt that too many parenting books were over-prescriptive in their insistence on following ‘this formula’, or ‘that program’ to arrive at the ‘perfect’ family.  I also felt that they concentrated too much on the children, and not enough on developing the parent. ‘Unlock the Cage’ attempts to redress the balance, and enable parents to regain confidence in their parenting skills whilst continuing to explore their own dreams and passions. In short, I believe the best way to bring up children is to put yourself first. That way, you can offer them the best ‘you’ it’s possible to be.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I approached the writing process as a nine till five commitment.  We were living in a caravan at the time – husband, two boys and one boisterous dog – on the site of what we hoped would be our new home. So the practicalities of writing were quite a challenge – a laptop on the dining table whilst the boys were at school, and a wood burner to stop my fingers freezing! After a few months I was able to use a room in my friend’s holiday cottage – heating was still a bit of an issue, but at least it was quiet.

The book required extensive research but, fortunately, my co-author had managed to locate most of the academic papers and sent them, or their links, to me via email.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

I hope readers will come away with the sense that they have what it takes to be an effective parent. It doesn’t, in fact, require slavish adherence to someone else’s philosophy of parenting – although there may be useful things to be gleaned from that – much more simply, it requires confidence and a clear knowledge of their own personal values.  I also hope it puts to bed the notion that once you are a parent you have to wave goodbye to any other form of self-identification. You do not have to leave your dreams at the door – you can continue to pursue them even while you stir the custard, or fly the kids’ kite.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

‘Unlock the Cage’ is available in either kindle or paperback version from Amazon.com http://amzn.to/YhMEue

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

The book has its own website at www.unlockthecage.com, blog www.unlockthecage.com/news/ and Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/FreetoParent.

 

Excerpt from book:

The crazy world of parenting

Remember those ‘Love is …’ cartoons?  The ones with those funny captions: ‘Love is letting her take over the bathroom’ or ‘Love is agreeing to cycle the world with him’.  Well, parenting has got plenty of its own captions to choose from like, ‘Parenting is … the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s like jumping without a parachute.’ Or, ‘Parenting is … being the eternal taxi-driver, the world’s best sock picker-upper, toilet-flusher, play-date organizer and referee. The list is endless.  And after the first few weeks days of bliss with your newborn, or your first fight with an emerging teenager, you can confidently say ‘Welcome to the crazy world of parenting!’.

 

The crucial foundation

If you’ve picked up this book it’s because, in some measure, you’re dissatisfied with your performance as a parent.  Phew!  I’m so glad.  Dissatisfaction is a wonderful energiser and agent for change.  So often I’ve looked at other people’s kids and wondered why mine are not so tidy, well-behaved and responsive as theirs seem to be.  Have I missed the boat, did I drop the memo?  How come I’m struggling to tame these wild yet wonderful creatures, while others seem to have their kids toddling behind them like well-trained ducklings?

The truth is, of course, that we see only what serves to reinforce our own limited view of the world.  Sub-consciously we doubt either our ability or our knowledge, and so we’re magnetically attracted to the good things every other parent is doing which, in turn, seem to confirm our own lack.  In actual fact, every parent who truly values their children is often aware of their inability to parent in the way they would most like to do.  Most parenting books focus on the quick fix solutions, the tips and tricks of the trade that offer immediate relief to exasperated parents.  This book, however, is different.  Of course it will provide plenty of effective ways to improve your skills as a parent and tackle particular nuggets of concern, but fundamentally it will look at how you can release the power and compassionate intelligence that you already own.  To be the best parent you have to be the best you.  So let’s look at what it takes.

Whose map are you reading?

“The map is not the territory.”  Alfred Korzybski

Have you ever been lost?  I have quite a few times – even with a map.  My husband has had to rescue me both in person and on the phone.  It’s OK for him, he has a natural in-built navigational system that outclasses any ‘sat nav’ I know.  He and directions go together like bread and butter but, sadly, the same is not true for me.  Give me a map and I’d probably just throw it back at you – I mean, what’s the point of a map when you have absolutely no idea where you are to start with?  Those squiggles and coloured lines bear absolutely no resemblance to the hills, houses or dead-end alleys I see out of my car window, so what good are they to me?  I think Korzybski and I could have been good friends because he agrees with me – the map is not the territory.  Although some cartographer has tried to be extremely helpful by supplying me with visual representations of real life trees, streets, bridges and so on, they are definitely not the same as the real thing (hence my brain-numbing confusion).  Maps can’t tell me how tall the street lamps are, or the colour of the paving slabs.  They can’t tell me the names on the shop fronts or how many sheep Mr Brown has got in his south-facing field.  They can only tell me what part of the world is like, in just the same way that a person’s thoughts and opinions can only express their worldview – their mental and emotional map, as it were.  Whose map are you reading?

We may actually have a few maps in our pocket: our own map, our inherited map and our peer-group map, and as we look at each one in turn we may decide to throw one or two of them away.  Let’s start with our own current map.  This is made up of our own experiences, perceptions and fears.  If in the past we’ve attempted to do something like say, walk a dog, but we’ve made a complete mess of it – perhaps the dog’s slipped its lead or messed in a neighbour’s garden – we might say “Oh, I’m no good with dogs” and thereafter put a line around that part of our territory rather like a Police cordon with a sign saying ‘Keep Out’.  We’ve begun to outline our map in a particular way and restrict access to certain areas.  We’ve declared that certain experiences are now off-limits.  It happens all the time, but is our reaction based on fact, on what’s really there or merely on our perception?  What would happen if the dog’s owner came back and said “Oh I’m so sorry.  I forgot to tell you that Bonzo’s had a really upset tummy all week.  He’s lost so much weight I should have put a smaller collar on him.  He can’t control himself very well either at the moment and tends to mess all over the place.”  Would you still think you were useless with dogs, or would you realise that you’d only seen half the picture and that it wasn’t worth writing yourself off after just one experience?  Perhaps we should adjust our map a little.

Next, let’s pull out our inherited map and take a good look at what we’ve been handed from both our parents and our grandparents.  Although it might be easier to see what we’ve gained from our parents, our grandparents have a lot to answer for.  Their views, values and generation’s principles have shaped our parents who, in turn, have shaped us.  Their social and biological DNA has been passed down in whispers of “We don’t do things like that in our family”, or “We’ve always been a hot-headed bunch.  It’s in our genes.”  Even if a quick-temper is ‘in our genes’ it doesn’t mean we have to behave in a quick-tempered manner.  We have a choice and that’s what’s so fantastic.  Their map of the world, though useful as a guide around certain social and moral landscapes, is not ours.  We may choose to pick it up, or put it down.  It does not define who we are or the way we behave.  Similarly, the way our parents brought us up with their particular style of discipline, family rules and ways of expressing affection and so on has drawn yet more contours on our inherited map.  We do not need to keep it or, if we do, we don’t need to use it as our sole means of navigation.

Finally, let’s look at our peer-group map.  This map has been drawn by other people or influences in our life – friends, work colleagues, the man in the shop. Even government policy could be included here since it represents an external influence which you feel is commenting on or doing something to you.  What shape does this map have?  What are other people’s opinions of you?  What do they say or think about you?  Do you have a nickname or a label for example?  “Oh, she’s the shy one”, “He’s the daydreamer”.  Do you feel you negotiate your life according to their classifications: “He’s never on time”, “She’ll never do it”, “I never thought you’d finish!” or even “I can’t believe you did it.”  Their perceptions of you are not what you truly are, and so often the weaknesses they comment on are actually theirs, not yours. 

In addition, they experience life differently to you.  If you had all been invited to a wedding reception, for example, and asked to describe it the following day, each person would give a slightly different account.  One person may have noticed all the different colours used in the hall decorations and the guests’ outfits.  Another would comment on the music and the conversations he had heard.  Someone else would describe the food in great detail: which accompaniment was served with which dish, and what each one tasted like – not forgetting the wine of course.  Every person has a preferred way of interpreting the information with which their senses provide them.  We all get pretty much the same information but we pay attention to it in different ways and this causes us to draw a slightly different map of the world to others.  Whose map do you want to keep?

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”  Anais Nin

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