Friday, November 7, 2014

2014 Blog Tour: It's This Monkey's Business

It's This Monkey's Business banner 2
Pump Up Your Book is pleased to bring you Debra Mares’ IT’S THIS MONKEY’S BUSINESSvirtual book tour November 3 – 28!
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PUYB Inside the Book

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It's This Monkey's Business 2Title: It’s This Monkey’s Business
Author: Debra Postil
Publisher: Justicia House
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s Books
Format: Hardback/Kindle
“Cabana,” a young spider monkey is brought to life to tell her story It’s This Monkey’s Business to help children who are affected by domestic violence and divorce. Cabana, who lives with her parents in a treehouse high up in a rainforest canopy, becomes startled one day from her Mama’s scream, when she is waiting atop a tree branch for her Papa to teach her how to swing. After falling to the forest floor, Cabana frustrated from her parents’ fighting, decides she will search for a new family to be part of. Her persistence is cut short when she braves the river to play with a pink dolphin, unaware she cannot swim. The tragedy brings her parents together to realize they can no longer live together. Cabana reconnects with her Papa, realizing he is the only one that can teach her how to swing.
It’s This Monkey’s Business is an approximately 756 word children’s book targeting ages 4-8, which is set in a rainforest and featuring “Cabana,” a young female Spider Monkey, her parents and rainforest animals. The book is approximately 30 pages long and features full spread color illustrations.

For More Information

  • It’s This Monkey’s Business is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
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PUYB Meet the Author

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Debra PostilFor Independent Author Debra Mares, violence against women is not only a topic in today’s news, it’s a topic in her crime novels, cases she handled as a county prosecutor, and now it will be the topic in her first children’s book It’s This Monkey’s Business.  Debra is a veteran county prosecutor in Riverside currently specializing in community prosecution, juvenile delinquency and truancy.  Her office has one of the highest conviction rates in California and is the fifteenth largest in the country. You name it – she’s prosecuted it – homicides, gang murders, domestic violence, sex cases, political corruption, major fraud and parole hearings for convicted murderers. She is a two-time recipient of the County Prosecutor of the Year Award and 2012 recipient of the Community Hero Award.
Debra is the granddaughter of a Mexican migrant farm worker and factory seamstress, was born and raised in Los Angeles, was the first to graduate college in my family, and grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico and Salsa. Her own family story includes struggles with immigration, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, which she addresses in her novels. She followed a calling at 11 years old to be an attorney and voice for women, and appreciates international travel and culture. Her life’s mission is to break the cycle of victimization and domestic violence.
Debra is also the co-founding Executive Director of Women Wonder Writers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization implementing creative intervention and mentoring programs for at-risk youth.  In 2012, Debra self-published Volume 1 of her debut legal thriller series, The Mamacita Murders featuring Gaby Ruiz, a sex crimes prosecutor haunted by her mother’s death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. In 2013, Debra released her second crime novel, The Suburban Seduccion, featuring “The White Picket Fence” killer Lloyd Gil, who unleashes his neonatal domestic violence-related trauma on young women around his neighborhood.
To bring to life “Cabana,” Debra partnered with 16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia and Los Angeles based professional illustrator Taylor Christensen.
16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia attends high school in Panorama City, California, is the Los Angeles youth delegate for the Anti-Defamation League’s National Youth Leadership Mission in Washington D.C., an ASB member and AP student and enjoys reading, crafting and knitting.
Taylor Christensen is a Los Angeles-based illustrator holding a BFA from Otis College of Art & Design, focuses on fantastical creatures and surreal imagery, and produces artwork for illustration, character and concept design.
Her latest book is the children’s picture book, It’s This Monkey’s Business.
For More Information
Divider 9PUYB Tour Schedule A
Divider 9Monday, November 3
Book Featured at Examiner
Tuesday, November 4
Character Interview at The Literary Nook
Wednesday, November 5
Guest Blogging at Mayra’s Secret Bookcase
Thursday, November 6
Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC.
Friday, November 7
Book Review at A Simple Life, Really?
Monday, November 10
Tuesday, November 11
Book Review at Our Families Adventure
Wednesday, November 12
Book Review at Bottles & Books Reviews
Thursday, November 13
Book Featured at Mom Loves to Read
Book Review at Fabulous and Fun
Monday, November 17
Interview at The Writer’s Life
Tuesday, November 18
Guest Blogging at Mythical Books
Wednesday, November 19
Book Review & Character Guest Post at I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Thursday, November 20
Book Review at Maureen’s Musings
Interview at As the Page Turns
Friday, November 21
Book Review at Confessions of a Reader
Monday, November 24
Book Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Tuesday, November 25
Book Review at The Blended Blog
Wednesday, November 26
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Mina’s Bookshelf
Thursday, November 27
Book Review at Nay’s Pink Bookshelf
Friday, November 28
Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Growing Up With a Jaguar: Domestic Violence

Illustration by Taylor Christensen for It's This Monkey's Business
children's book promoting prevention of domestic violence due out Oct. 29
All rights reserved.
by Debra Mares

Over 3 million children witness violence in their home each year.  As many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in their home.  It’s a big topic this month.  October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month.  And this topic is real for me.  
What most people don’t know is that I grew up with a jaguar: domestic violence.  It wasn’t easy.  Its effects are long-lasting.  Children witnessing domestic violence or are victims of sexual assault or physical assault constantly respond with stress, which affects their ability to focus, learn, trust and develop empathy. 
Whether you were around it as a child, were an abuser or victim, the pain pushes forward.  Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their partners as adults and girls who witness abuse are more likely to become involved in abusive relationships.
I hope if you are reading this, you never experienced domestic violence as a child or adult.  However, chances are you know someone who has.  1 in every 3 women will be assaulted by their domestic partner.   Domestic violence happens behind walls and its usually not discussed outside the home.  If you’ve ever been through it or know someone who has, I hope this post will help.
I still remember the day my dad left home and my parents separated.  I was so relieved, thinking I would finally live in peace.  He walked out the back door off the laundry room . . . 
That’s when a new set of problems began.  To numb the pain, I began to escape.  Children of domestic violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.  The average age a girl has her first drink is 13.  For a boy, it's 11.
Then, my sister came home from her freshman year in college . . . pregnant.  Another effect of children of domestic violence is teen pregnancy.
Life sure does have a way of teaching you the lessons you need to learn.  I graduated from college, then law school.  I got married . . . then divorced.  I’ve been through a lot of relationships . . . and therapy.  It took a while, but I got through it.  Today, I have a healthy relationship with both of my parents, who I love and trust.  I mentor over 100 youth as a Community Prosecutor; many who have also been affected by domestic violence.  I am happy I can teach them tools to get past their pain.  I share my story with them and tell them things like, “it’s not your fault,” “you’re not responsible for what happened,” and I encourage them to focus on their education, learn about healthy relationships and build positive self-esteem. 
People have asked me how I overcame the effects of growing up with domestic violence.  But all I can say is I’ve handled it like a jaguar: tamed it, managed it, and trained it as best I could.  I work daily to keep my mind, body and spirit balanced.  Meditation.  Exercise.  Discipline.  I practice and teach empathy.  I also focus on the happy times growing up.  Because there were a lot.  Summer trips to Tahoe.  Fishing.  The beach.

I also remind parents there are ways to lessen the negative effects to their children.  Keep a close relationship with your child and let them express their fears, talk about the chaos at home and don’t keep it a secret, help your child stay connected to extended family, help them build healthy self esteem & relationships, teach them empathy, help them develop an easy temperament, stress the importance of education, facilitate relationships with mentors, educate yourself and your child on the affects of abuse so you know their triggers, teach impulse control, incorporate healthy eating, exercise & meditation, and most importantly, make life fun and don’t forget to laugh!  Life has already been stressful enough.  

Another thing most people don’t know is that I write poetry and legal thrillers about domestic violence.  I'll be releasing my debut children's book later this month, It's This Monkey's Business, targeting ages four to eight and bringing awareness to domestic violence.

If you would have asked me ten years ago if I would ever be able to talk publicly about growing up with domestic violence, I would have said, “no way.”  But poetry has helped me express the ineffable, especially childhood fears.
Behind the Wall
Little girl, behind the wall.
Curled up, in her ball.
Parents fighting, while she's alone.
Another scream, another moan.
Always worried no one could hear,
Her silent death, caused by fear.
Every time she feels him pull away,
It takes her back, to that abandoned day.
Curled up, in her ball.
Now a woman, behind an imaginary wall.

If you are struggling with the effects of domestic violence or know someone who is, know this:
You will get through it.
You’ll come away from it a stronger person.
You WILL find serenity and love in some form.
You WILL learn to trust.
Take each day at a time & balance. Mind. Body. Spirit.
Go easy on yourself and from time to time, visit the sea to breathe.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Feather Drop

Debra Mares

Tickle Pink Inn ~ Carmel, California
As I retire to our balcony at Tickle Pink Inn at Carmel-by-the-sea, facing the epic Big Sur Coast, a delicate white and grey seagull feather lands in front of me and rests comfortably at my feet.  As a rule, I don't look for symbols; but when I see them, I don't ignore them.  I investigate them.

Seagull feathers represent many things, including rising above life's tides and our love for the ocean. The seagull feather wings depict the message of flying high above doubt and believing in yourself.  Native American cultures have made the seagull a meaning of a care-free attitude, versatility and freedom.  A seagull that settles on a ship's rigging or gunwale is considered an omen for a happy journey.  Once used as a "pen," a feather symbolizes communication and thought.  Paulo Coehlo, the Brazilian author of The Alchemistlooks for a white feather before starting each new book, which he then uses to touch each page of his first draft with.
San Francisco Seagull

I've often seen seagulls throughout this 10-day California roadtrip with my too-good-for-words boyfriend David, who is watching NFL's first season game yards away from me inside our room (Go Packers!).  But this is the first time a seagull has decided to drop her feather right in front of me; or maybe it's the first time I've taken the time to notice.  Afterall, symbols are all around us, but we rarely take the time to notice them. As Angelica in The Mamacita Murders reminds us, "symbols are like angels or gut instincts, everyone has them, but not everyone pays attention to them."  To her point, this is the first time I've been alone during our roadtrip, taking the time to pay attention to what's right in front of me; and the feather is now making perfect sense.

Monterey Cypress Tree
Thoughout our 10-day journey we've reconnected with love, family and nature.  As I sit here embracing the Cypress, magestic coastline and wood-burning aroma from a nearby fireplace, it feels like Christmas and a time of rebirth.  I feel revived, strong to fly high above doubt and stay true to myself, and I'm reminded of the power of the "pen."  

I hang onto the feather's symbolism as I watch it blow away, inspired to dream, write and believe.  "I believe in the concept of 'anima mundi' (soul of the world), where each person, through total dedication to what he does, comes into contact with the inspiration of the universe," Paulo Coehlo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Riding the Waves: Battling Depression & Suicide

by Debra Mares

Depression is real.  It’s alive.  And it’s on the top of our minds.  Dr. Joseph Cohen, Marin County's Chief Forensic Pathologist, who conducted the autopsy on comedian Robin Williams, determined he died of suicide as the result of asphyxia due to hanging by a belt.  News reports revealed Williams had been recently battling with depression.

Something I rarely talk about is my own family's struggle with depression.  My grandmother suffered from it, the manic kind, which causes people to show up one day smiling and the next wanting to drown themselves.  At least that was my impression as a child.  I remember Granny arriving at our doorstep from the Midwest, widowed and with a suitcase full of prescriptions. She was moving into our modest family home in Eagle Rock, a suburb of Los Angeles.  My dad wanted to cut her off cold-turkey from the very pills that gave her a reason to wake up the next morning; they were also giving her disturbing hallucinations.  When she pointed out the breakfast room window at the imaginary children she saw playing on our backyard swing set, I just smiled at her.  I was eight.

Part of growing up was learning when Granny was undergoing electric shock treatment or had been checked into "M3," the Mental Health Ward at Glendale Adventist Medical Center and was on “suicide watch.”  As a family, we learned to ride the waves with Granny.  Despite it all, we stood tall.  And today what stands out the most about my grandmother's disease, was her smile; it was the same kind Robin Williams shares in many of his photos - that grin that now makes me wonder if she was hiding behind a wall, fearing the unknown and the tidal waves inside her mind that most of us will never understand.  What also stands out to me was my mom’s caring ways for her mother-in-law, never leaving Granny alone, never questioning her hallucinations and helping her live with dignity, despite the demons in her mind.

Some call suicide selfish, but I learned at a young age that empathy requires us to put ourselves into the shoes of our loved ones, or more appropriately, their minds.  They ride waves that are probably better described as tsunamis.  I was called to exercise extreme empathy when one of my own Deputy District Attorney colleagues and mentors took his own life in 2010.  I still remember the day I pulled into a gas station near my office building and cried quietly as I read an office email detailing his passing.  I regretted not stopping by his office one last time, the time I walked right by him in the lobby while texting, and I felt terrible for his family, hoping they didn’t think it was their fault.  Ironically, Dr. Joseph Cohen, the same coroner who examined Robin Williams, was the Chief Forensic Pathologist in Riverside (he also happens to be my friend and has consulted my book writing); he conducted the autopsy of my colleague, who I learned died of suicide as the result of stabbing.  I acknowledged him as, “One of my many heroes” in my first book The Mamacita Murders and addressed suicide vis-a-vis the fictional character Officer Cruz.

Depression and suicide are real.  Studies show suicides are the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., eighth among people 55-64 years old and second among young adults ages 18-24.  According to the Washington Post, "Many suicides are the result of undiagnosed or untreated depression, often masked by self-medicating behaviors such as alcohol and drug use."

To honor Robin Williams and our loved ones who have ridden the waves, let us give the empathy, compassion and care to each of these women and men and their families suffering from depression.  Let’s recognize the warning signs, support them, and most of all, honor their lives with dignity. My grandmother Virginia was a gentle woman who lived a humble life, my colleague John was a heroic advocate for justice and Robin Williams was a comedic genius and titan. Despite it all, they all stand tall in my mind.