Author Interview–Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Questions: 1. Your novel Sitnalta has been out in the world for a number of months now, what has the process of having a book out been like for you?

Honestly, I've found it a bit nerve wracking. This book has been a private part of me for so long, that to have complete strangers reading it is a bit scary! But, at the same time, I love the idea that this little story of mine is finding an audience, and that people are enjoying these characters' journeys. So far, the reception has been really good!

2. One of the central themes of the book is the daughter (sitnalta) trying to find and do what she wants with her life. Did you base her feelings on any of your own experiences growing up?

I think every young person out there has to find their own way. Our parents want certain things for us, and they have a certain way that they envisioned our lives. Often what we want is vastly different. So, yeah, I did put a lot of my own thoughts and feelings into Sitnalta's journey, if only from the point of view of "I want something that my parents don't." In fact, I don't think that ever changes, no matter how old you are, and how old your parents may be!

3. what were some of your favorite fairy tales growing up and how did they inspire you as a writer?

My favourite fairy tales have been Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen", "The History of Jack the Giant Killer", "The Twelve Brothers" about a princess whose brothers get turned into swans, and "The Little Mermaid" - the original version. Not the Disneyfied one.

I always loved how creative the original versions of the fairy tales were. They didn't all have happy endings, but they all taught valuable lessons about life. I actually liked the really sad ones. They seemed more honest in a way. That inspired me a lot. I try to be honest in my writing, even if I'm writing my own fairy tale. It doesn't matter if you're telling a story about trolls and princesses. Everything should still seem real and true to the reader.

4. There are some cool names in the book (Najort is my fave) where do you come up with names for a book that resides in a fantasy world?

I pull names from anywhere and everywhere. If I like the way things sound, I will find a spot for it. I'm going to be hearing the names a lot in my own head, and as I read and write them, so I better find something that resonates with me. In the next Sitnalta book, I was stuck for a name, so I asked my kids what I should call the character. They came up with some interesting possibilities! Not all were useable, but together we found something that stuck.

5. You have young triplets! Does having young kids around help you as a writer, especially one writing fantasy/fairy tales?

It does! They have some great ideas, and watching them imagine and play together is some great inspiration. At the same time, it also gets hectic and crazy trying to find the time to actually sit down and write. It's all about finding a good balance in life. They love stories, and ask me to make them up for them. I love it. I started doing it for my younger brother, which was how Sitnalta was originally born, and now I'm doing it for my kids. It's wonderful.

6. What are you working on now?

Now I'm working on the sequel to Sitnalta. I was struggling to find a name for it, but I am pleased to say that it will be called "The Kingdom Thief". I am also working on first draft edits for the third book in another series I write. The first book is out now, and it's called "The Strings of the Violin". The second book is out September 9, and is called "The Dybbuk's Mirror". The third (the one I'm working on now) will be called "The Dybbuk's Revenge". I also have a short story coming out in an anthology called "Night Life". I wrote the story with a good friend, An Tran. It's called "Ouroboros". Other than that, I have the outline done for the third Sitnalta book. That one came to me title first. It's called "The City of Arches". It's more of a prequel, and will focus on the character of Kralc. So, I'm definitely keeping busy!


Alisse Lee Goldenberg is an author of Horror and Young Adult fantasy fiction. She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child. Alisse lives in Toronto with her husband Brian, their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey, and their rambunctious Goldendoodle Sebastian. For more on Alisse and her books, check out her website

Behind the Mic interview with Michelle Yu


Michelle Yu

Michelle Yu

My guest today for this edition of “Behind the Mic” is Michelle Yu.  Whether it’s at Santa Anita, HRTV or now Los Alamitos, you can almost always find Michelle talking about Southern California horse racing year round, and doing it with a big smile on her face!

1.  How did you get into Horse Racing?


MY:  I was always into horses and found a picture of a racehorse in the LA Times.  That led me to start reading the sports section every day to find out more and more about horses.  My dad took me to my first race on Big Cap day.

What was your first job in horse racing?


MY: My first job in racing was as a PA for TVG.  Around that time I also walked hots for Ron Moquett.  

What are some of the key factors you look for when handicapping a race?


MY: I always look for excuses.  I generally try and beat the favorite or at least find a price horse to play with the favorite.  So I key in on horses with back form that I can make excuses for like a bad trip, an off track, a surface swap or too much competition.  I also like 2x lasix, 3rd off a layoff and drop from a maiden claiming tag to half the price for 1x vs winners . 

You often do interviews in the winner’s circle after the big races, what are some of the more memorable interviews/races you’ve been in the winner’s circle for?


MY: Gosh, I have done so many and at the time its easy to remember but as the years go by they kind of blend……I interviewed Jess Jackson one time in the pouring rain but I can’t remember if it was for Rachel or Curlin and he didn’t talk to anyone else that day so I got my interview played all over and I was a newbie so that was memorable.  A funny one was when I was interviewing Bill Currin (trainer of Stormello) on a colt that had won first time on the grass and we had been noticing that Stormellos were striking at an unbelievable rate on the lawn.  So I had asked Bill if he ever thought that Stormello would be a good turf sire and he says (live, mind you) “Well… know I think that the only time Stormy ever set foot on the grass was to go and take a piss.”.  There have been a lot of emotional moments especially here at Santa Anita with owners that are older or sick winning with a homebred or taking their first stake that everyone is in tears.  And even after the 2 year old races…you can see the hope people have.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on camera?


MY:  I don’t really get embarrassed.  I mean it’s live TV.  Sometimes you say something wrong but you just push past.  I am always the one to eat weird food or learn a dance or make a spectacle so that’s not a good question for me!!!

As a public handicapper, you get criticized and praised.  What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said to you?  What about the harshest?


MY: Anything that is nice is always great.  Thanks to Twitter especially, fans can connect right with you all the time.  They might have played a winning longshot and are thanking you or just appreciate you explaining something they didn’t know or understand.  You always get a smile on your face when you read or hear that you made a difference in someones day.  The harshest is always the same.  “you don’t know anything because you’re a girl”, ” all you know you learned from sleeping with xxx” ” Why show this giggly child when there are real handicappers” and anything to do with a mumbled word.  I am first to admit that I am by no means perfect and that I don’t annunciate flawlessly all the time but again, it’s live TV and no one is perfect.  I think that I worked very hard to get where I am and I am the first to ask if I don’t know something.  And as far as me laughing and having fun, well have you seen my job?? How do you NOT have fun?!!  I LOVE it, I can’t help but smile and laugh and cheer.  Its amazing.  

You have an off the track Quarter Horse.  Tell us how you and he met and what you love about off the track horses?


MY: My current OTQH is named It’s Our Secret.  I remember I was at the State Championships for gymkhana and I was speaking to my boyfriend at the time asking him what he had claimed that day and he said “we got a horse you’re going to want for a barrel horse.  Bay with a blaze and socks”.  Im a sucker for a blaze and sure enough, when I got back to the barn I was head over heels.  I started working on flexing and stuff with him right away while he was still racing and a year and a half later he was my Christmas present.  I have had several off track Thoroughbreds, IOS is my first QH but they are just so smart.  They seem to take all this new stuff you’re asking them to do in stride, they are appreciative to have a human around.  I have a 30 year old Navajo mustang too and he could care less if I came out to groom him or ride him but the off track horses have always loved it.  

What’s your best hit as a gambler?


MY: I don’t really gamble!!  I hit the Oaks Derby double with Lemons Forever and got $864 or something for my $2 bet.  

In 2015 you get to handicap any race in the world on TV….which race would you choose?

MY: Does this mean I get to GO to the race???? I have always wanted to go to Dubai and I would love to go to the Arc.  If its just on TV, then I have to say that I am SO fortunate to be a part of HRTV because we really get to cover the best races.  We talk about Dubai, Ascot, The Arc, Derby, Breeders Cup…. You always get to be a part of amazing races.  

 It’s the last race at Santa Anita and I’m getting hungry.  Where are you gonna send me after the races for a great meal?


MY: If I was sending you for food I would probably quiz the heck out of you about what you wanted because I aim to please.  If you want to rub elbows with racing, head to the Derby.  If you want an upscale meals for a mid scale price Sesame Grill (french based cuisine!).  Chicken?  Head to Roscos Chicken and Waffles.  Just need to drink your woes away?  100 to 1 or Gem City (Can’t promise any food there…)

Thanks Michelle!




Behind the Mic with Angela Hermann

Angela Hermann handicapping the races at Canterbury Park

Angela Hermann handicapping the races at Canterbury Park

Our guest for Behind the Mic today is the television analyst for Canterbury Park in Suburban Minneapolis, Miss Angela Hermann!  Angela has also been the track analyst for Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago and made many appearances on TVG while there.

How did you get into Horse Racing?

I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember, but I first started watching horse racing regularly when I was 11.  I had seen Canterbury races occasionally but the Kentucky Derby in 1998 was the hook for me.  I picked my first winner, Real Quiet.  From that point forward I recorded all nationally televised races, Canterbury replay shows, etc. and clipped the entries each day from the paper.  It was an odd path to this destination, but I have no family connections to horse racing.  My family have become fans through me but I started as a pure fanatic.

What was your first job in horse racing?

I started in Hospitality an usher in the Clubhouse.  My duties included seating guests, checking tickets and clearing dishes.  I’m fairly confident I was the only usher with betting tips at the time.

What are some of the key factors you look for when handicapping a race?

Pace handicapping works best for me.  The classes are not as far apart at Canterbury as at larger tracks so I am usually seeking lone speed.  Our grass also plays kindly to speed, so sometimes I’ll give a second look to a front runner if the price is right.  On a bigger scale I like to play horses-for-courses regardless of class.  Midnight Lute offspring tend to get handicapped through rose-colored glasses.

You’ve worked at Hawthorne and Canterbury, what are your favorite races from each track?

Hawthorne is easy, The Illinois Derby.  The day was chaotic but the feel was unlike any other I’d been around.  Departing is a horse I always quietly root for and he is all class.  Canterbury is a little different, there are too many to choose from!  I’d have to say it’s the 2008 Lady Canterbury.  I had just wrapped up my first summer working at (now defunct) Lincoln Race Course and I was back to work for the Press Box at Canterbury.  Claiming Crown day was big enough, then we added on the Lady Canterbury.  There was a big handicapping contest in the Press Box with TVG folks, DRF writers, local press and a couple young kids that worked upstairs.  I was the only one that had the 30-1 winner of the Lady C, #13 Quiet Queen.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on camera?

Another question with many possible answers….I passed out on camera during a different edition of the Lady Canterbury.  The heat index was pretty high that day and I didn’t go inside much.  The mic also got ripped out of my hand once at Columbus.  The guy was tanked.

As a public handicapper, you get criticized and praised.  What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said to you?  What about the harshest?

Any time that a fan says they’ve had a good time because of a pick I gave them or a wager they found in the program I’ve done my job.  My goal is to get people to love what I love about horse racing, and I feel like I have one of the best possible positions to do that.  Of course we always hear about when we’re wrong but the worst thing I’ve heard was about me taking a horse that broke down.  Not only did I get blamed for it breaking down but there were allusions to me joining the horse next time.

Other than tracks you’ve worked at, what are your favorite tracks to follow and wager on?

Southern California, that’s about it.  I used to play more Delta but have moved away from it to focus on one or two tracks only.  My attention span only accommodates for so much.

What’s your best hit as a gambler?

A pick four at Hollywood Park in December of 2011.  It was one of only a few times I’ve seen the pick five not pay out, and there were only two winning pick four tickets.  A friend of mine and I split one.  I plead the 5th on the amount.

 In 2015 you get to handicap any race in the world on TV….which race would you choose?

The Mystic Lake Derby….check.  I’d be tickled to tackle the Arc……but I’d need a lot of time!

It’s the last race at Canterbury and I’m getting hungry.  Where are you gonna send me after the races for a great meal?

I get paid to say Turtles in Shakopee :)

Thanks Angela!

Help when we need it

I’ve been so blessed in my life with people who love and care about me.  One of the downsides of my anxiety has been at certain times I’ve withdrawn, not just from them, but from society at large.  Let me paint a picture for you.   December 22, 2013.  The last day of Hollywood Park running.  I had stopped taking my medication a few months before, had slowly stopped going out to dinners, social events, going to GA.  I was struggling massively with my anxiety, especially at work.  Calling races had become a chore.  Well this day, for some reason when I woke up I was extra anxious.  I remember standing in line at Subway before the races getting my sandwich and feeling like I was going to fall over my legs felt so weak.  At work that day I was struggling…bad.  Adrenaline and cortisol were pumping through my veins, and not in the fun way.  After the 7th race I called our Assistant Racing Secretary/Back Up announcer Jerry Kohls (maybe the nicest guy ever) and said “Jerry I’m really not feeling well and I need to go home.”   Jerry came and filled in an I went home and tried to calm down, but just never could.  I sat in the parking lot of Outback Steakhouse and waited for my curbside order, I’d gotten into this habit because even going into restaurants or the grocery store now equaled anxiety attack.  I watched Vic Stauffer’s tour de force race call of the last race from Hollywood on my telephone (Thanks .  I cried the entire time, but not because of being sad Hollywood Park was closing.  But from being sad that my life was closing.  My life had become staying in the house, on the computer, and only venturing out when I absolutely needed to.  Two days later, scared to leave my house and feeling sick from all the stress hormones, I called in “sick” to Christmas.  I spent Christmas alone in my apartment.  I had a microwave Chicken dinner for Christmas Dinner, while my family, who I love more than anything ate a delicious meal and my cousin Jenna brought some hippy organic dish.

I was crying everyday, the weight of depression coating me like a warm blanket.  My weight was out of control, my life was a shell of what it had been and could be.

So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I reached out for help.  I called Devora, my long time counselor and asked if she’d see me.  She said she would.  She also said “you have to find someone to help get you on a proper medication and level.  You need to see a trainer and a nutritionist. ”  Those were her “conditions” and they sounded like torture, especially the personal trainer.  Exercise to me is voluntarily giving yourself a panic attack.  Getting your heart rate up mimics the start of a panic attack in my warped mind.  So I went and saw the nutritionist and looked for a medication provider.  I found both.  I saw both.  I started taking medication again.  Why I ever stopped, I have no idea.  I guess I wanted to prove I could beat my anxiety all on my own.  I’ve always taken a low dose anti-depressant and never taken Benzos.  So this time, they gave me a much bigger anti-depressant dose and magically…I started to feel better.  I’ve been working with Annie Petrillo, who is a wonderful provider and she’s been so caring and understanding with my hesitations about medications and been a rock through the process of starting with taking literally a crumb to now taking a therapeutic dose that’s helped me feel light years better and be out and about doing lots of fun things again.  Annie rules!

So now came the personal training part.  7:30 Am.  Tuesdays.  Monday night before it started I was sick with fear.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to even go.  Alarm went off at 6:30am.  Yeah…I really don’t want to go to this.  But I put on my shorts anyways.  I drove to the gym.  I went in and sat down and watched this blonde woman named Laura McKeand intensely motivating her client on the treadmill and doing it loudly (did I mention intensely).  I was ready to walk out immediately.  The last thing I wanted was someone yelling at me to do something I already don’t want to do (Dad Flashbacks!!).  Laura knew Devora my counselor and Devora had warned her I believe that I was a “special case” and I warned Laura of the same.  She said “ok let’s get on the treadmill and walk 10 minutes for warm up.”  “Ok Laura…but just FYI, 10 minutes on the treadmill is usually my whole workout.”   So after that ten minute walk I sat down, trying to keep my anxiety in control but it was getting bad.  So then Laura says “Ok we’re going to do some squats.”  Squats?!?!  Are you fucking kidding me?  Squats?!?!  So ten squats later my legs were shaking like a leaf in the breeze, my panic is in full flight and I say “well that was fun Laura, I’m gonna step outside.”  I sat on the bench trying to compose myself as I started to cry.  Laura came outside and told me it was ok.  I stood up and said “nice to meet you, I’m leaving now,” and I ran to my car.  It sucked.  I went home and laid in bed the rest of the day.  Squats.  What an evil bitch!  Well I went back again the next week.  For that first month or so my “workouts” were slowwwwly getting better, eventually moving up to 15 minute walks and about 3 or 4 different exercises.  Then some 20 minute walks and 3 or 4 different exercises.  I would come in on Thursdays by myself and try to mimic my tuesday workouts with Laura, but I never pushed myself much when I was alone.  The first hint of anxiety I was out the door.  After three months of working together, we went on a 40 minute walk and did ten minutes worth of exercises.  The last couple weeks we’ve been doing 20 minute walk warm ups and a couple sets of 6 or 7 different exercises, working out the full 50 minutes.  Today, our last meeting together before I moved, Evil Laura hands me dumbbells and says “here now we’re gonna do two sets of 10 squats with you holding these and when you come up each time do a shoulder press with these dumbbells.”  Squats!?!?  with dumbell presses at the top?  Two sets?  You evil evil woman!  Evil Laura.

I’ll tell you about Evil Laura.  She’s got a heart bigger than her biceps.  She was an amazing confidant the last few months.  She pushed me gently and at a pace that allowed me to improve while not discouraging myself.  She took it in stride when I ran out of there in a panic and would even text me to say nice job in a moment when I was feeling as though I failed.  We got take walks and talk about our worlds.  Our families and friends.  15 Tuesdays ago I would have told you I hated Tuesdays and if you would have told me I was never gonna see Evil Laura again i would have said “thank god!”  Now, having seen her for the last workout this morning, I’m feeling sad that next Tuesday my alarm won’t go off early and make me go workout with her.  I always watch fitness shows and people gush over the trainers who help them.  As far as I’m concerned, I wasn’t paying Laura for training nearly as much as I was paying her to be an ally in bettering myself.  Which I suppose is training.  Anyways, she’s fucking amazing and I’m already sad I won’t get to call her an evil bitch again for when she makes me do squats.  Fucking squats.

Author Interview: Elgon Williams of Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce)

The cover of Elgon's book Fried Windows

The cover of Elgon’s book Fried Windows

I was pleased to be able to catch up with author Elgon Williams to talk about his recently released novel Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce).  I just finished reading the book last week so was excited to speak with him while the book was fresh in my mind.  It’s a wonderful book, a quick read and thought provoking and fun all at the same time.

Your novel Fried Windows came out just a few weeks ago, what has it been like having a novel out in the world?

It’s not my first trip around the bases but I’m more satisfied with the quality of the editing on this book than any of the others. Also I like the cover a lot, though IO think some people are confused by it, thinking it’s a children’s book when it’s not.

Has the fantasy genre been something you’ve always enjoyed writing or was this your first go at it?

I’ve always loved reading fantasy. A lot of my stuff is sci-fi but I have a ten book epic fantasy series called The Wolfcat Chronicles waiting in the wings. I like the freedom a fantasy story gives me as a writer. Anything really is possible, so you just turn your imagination loose and have some fun. I think that makes for an interesting read.

Your main character Brent, was he influenced at all by your own life or by someone else?

Brent is a lot like me in ways. There tends to be some of the writer in ever character, I think. It’s a lot like how your character Ryan in Southbound is enough like you to be uncomfortable at times. But Brent tends toward the extremes of behavior in directions I would never go. He appears in several of my books so he’s a character I know very well. There are parallels in his background to mine. I had him attend the same colleges and things like that. He was more of a jock in school than I ever was and when he was in the military he was an officer, which I wasn’t. You get some of that background in Fried Windows but in the sequel and prequels you will learn a lot more about Brent’s involvement with The Program and just what kinds of missions that organization assigned to him.

Brent enters the home of a woman with no windows and in that home is where he can explore his innermost thoughts and dreams of his childhood. Is that something you’ve always dreamed of being able to do?

I think we all would like to go back in time and fix some of our mistakes, or at least have a good try at it. There’s a girl I was madly in love with when I was twelve or so. The funny thing is she liked me as much as I liked her but both of us were too shy to admit it. My best friend liked her too and he was more aggressive than me, so she got the wrong idea about me, like I thought she was strange or something. I know all this because we reconnected a few years ago and text messaged a lot. 

It’s probably a good thing that we can’t go back and fix things, though. As much as I wonder what my life would have been like had I been braver when I was twelve, I have some pretty great kids and I have experienced a lot of things that I might have never done had I remained in my old hometown, married my childhood sweetheart and all that.

People tend to make bad things worse, don’t they? And you never really know how things are going to turn out several years after an event.

I found the most interesting part of the book to be the looking back and self-reflection through imagination and our dreams. You had to have spent a lot of time looking within yourself to write this?

I’ve always been an introspective sort of person. I’m weird like that. Also I have written a lot about myself in the past, thinking things through and figuring out why people did this or said that. When you do that you start to see there probably are not any coincidences or accidents in life. I take a lot of things seriously even if I don’t show it. I like to joke around and have fun, but it is a defense mechanism for how I deal with uncomfortable situations. I was painfully shy as a kid and just sort of gradually outgrew it forcing myself to be a radio DJ in college and taking all sorts of courses that required me to give speeches. After I went out into the world I’ve had to train large groups of people both in the military and in management. And I sold cars for a while. It’s hard to be shy when you sell cars.

What’s next for Elgon Williams the author?

While I was waiting for the edits on Fried Windows, I wrote a book titled Becoming Thuperman. I don’t know if it is the quickest I have ever written a book but it came along at a good clip, around 2000 to 2500 words a day. I was posting drafts on Fanstory to receive immediate feedback from other writers. So, I sort of knew I was writing something magical when everyone was saying how much he or she was looking forward to the next installment. That one will be out in the spring of next year. Other than that we’re looking into publishing my ten book epic fantasy I mentioned before. There are a lot of other manuscripts I have to submit. It will be a while before I run out of things. And, anyway, I’m still writing new stuff. There will be a sequel and a prequel to Fried Windows. Like I said there is a lot of material with Brent as a lead character. And there will be a sequel to Becoming Thuperman. And there is another project in the offing that is really strange about a guy who had temporal dyslexia – that’s where you’re 12 but your experience being 21. You know that one will be a lot of fun.

Mini Bio:

Born in Springfield, Ohio, Elgon Williams was given a first name hardly anyone knows how to pronounce. L-gun is the best phonetic rendering. He attended Purdue University and The University of Texas at Austin. He served in the USAF and is an advocate for veterans.

Williams has lived in Asia and speaks Chinese. Currently he lives in Orlando, aka American’s fantasyland, and stays in touch with his three adult children via text messages and the Internet.

Social Media Links:

Author Elgon Williams

Author Elgon Williams


Saying Goodbye to Portland….Meadows

Goodbye Portland Meadows.  My booth was that window on the far right of the roof.

Goodbye Portland Meadows. My booth was that window on the far right of the roof.

So the whole moving thing seems to be getting more “real” as I get closer to Thursday.  I went down to Portland Meadows this morning to say goodbye to a few friends from the track.  I didn’t take very long.  Didn’t want to sit and overdramatize it.  But I did make sure to go out front and get one last look at the front of the grandstand.  I mean, it’s not like I’m never not going to go there again.  I certainly plan on attending a day of races at Portland Meadows this season and if I’m in town, I definitely want to stop by and say hi to everyone.  I will always support Oregon Horse Racing and hope the place can thrive.  Portland Meadows has a beauty to it, both inside the people and the facility itself.  I’ve met so many wonderful people there.  I could list them all, but most of you wouldn’t know who they were.  But essentially every employee there was very always so kind to me.  And for that I’m most thankful.

For my first two years at Portland Meadows, I was just an announcer.  I showed up 30 minutes before the races, called the races, and went home.  I worked for Dwayne Yuzik, who was a supporter of mine from the day I started practicing there.  He’s been an advocate for me in horse racing and in my personal life.  I remember calling Dwayne in the summer of 2009, during a time I was struggling mightily with depression and anxiety.  I was worried about asking to take time off work because I needed additional help in an outpatient program at the local hospital.  Dwayne told me “get yourself well first and foremost.  PM will always be there for you.  And your boss will understand.”  Dwayne was right and I’m very thankful he hired me in 2006 and brought me to Portland.

During 2008, I left River Downs in Cincinnati, because…shocker…I was struggling bad with my anxiety and depression.  I kind of assumed at that point I was done with horse racing.  I had abruptly left and felt like maybe I just needed to go home and be home for a while.  Home being Seattle.  Well, Will Alempijevic, the new GM since Dwayne had left to pursue a brief stint in Baltimore, called me and said “Would you be interested in working here year round?  Announcing races and doing guest services, media etc?”  I came down to Portland for an interview a week later.  Funny side story.  I had been talking to a gal for a few weeks in Portland when I came down for the interview and I scheduled a date with her for later in that evening.  So I came down for the interview, was made an offer and accepted it and was excited to be back in horse racing.  So it was about 2pm and the date wasn’t til 5pm way on the southside of town.  Well, since it’s Portland, and I had a few hours to kill, I went to a strip club.  I just hung out, had some cranberry juices and about 4:00pm a lovely lady who had just started her shift asked if I wanted a dance.  Sure, I’d love to.  She seemed like a very nice lady.  I was wearing khaki’s and a collared shirt and she was wearing much less as she grinded away dancing.  So after the dance I looked at my watch and thought “well I better go.”  I walked out of the dark club and into the light and looked down at the front of my pants, and the dancer’s fake tan spray was essentially covering the front part of my wardrobe.  Shit.  i can’t go on a date like this.  So I had to run to the mall and was late by 30 minutes to the date, but she bought my story about a flat tire.

Working in management was a learning experience for sure, and often frustrating.  That’s all I’ll say about that LOL

The PM grandstand.

The PM grandstand.

My passion at Portland Meadows was always getting to announce the races.  I know we don’t have the best horses in the country, in fact, we have some of the slower ones.  But that never mattered to me.  I’ve spent countless mornings on the backstretch with the horse people and they pour their entire lives into their horses.  Living in the liberal bastion that is Portland, when I would tell people where I worked and what I did, they would often ask about animal abuse at the track.  I would then volunteer to bring them to the track and see for themselves.  What they saw were people who loved their horses and cared about them like their children.  Horses who were well fed, received great veterinarian care, and were not abused, but rather were loved.

My greatest pleasure of getting to work at Portland Meadows was to get to call those amazing animals.  To put my voice and my thoughts to their poetry in motion is a blessing.  I love that when owners, trainers, and jockeys watch videos of their horses winning, that I get to be in the living room with them talking about their horse while they watch it.  I truly love that.  What a gift.

Also a gift was getting to sit up on the roof with my great friend Gary Norton, my great friend Debbie Peery, and for 2006 and 2007 my great friend Steve Peery.  So many good memories spent up there with them.  The announcer’s booth at Portland really sucks.  It’s tiny.  It’s like 4 feet deep and it moves if anyone is walking up there.  The heater stinks in the winter and the AC doesn’t keep it that cold in the summer, but it was my booth.  I was so proud to be up there.

I could go on about Portland Meadows all day.  To be the “voice” of Portland Meadows, a track with nearly 70 years of history here in the Northwest is really a privilege.

I don’t believe I’ve called my last horse race.  I’m not leaving because I’m done with racing or announcing.  I’m leaving because at this point in my life I’m ready for a new challenge and a great opportunity came my way.  Plus I need health insurance again LOL

Thank you Portland Meadows.  Thank you Mr. Stronach.  Thank you Mr. Alempijevic.  Thank you General Kohls. Thank you Horsemen.  Thank you Gamblers.  Thank you PM co-workers.  Thank you Amtote Benny and Luke and part time Mike.

Me and my binoculars in front of the PM toteboard.

Me and my binoculars in front of the PM toteboard.

Author interview with Chrissy Lessey

Author Chrissy Lessey of The Coven

Author Chrissy Lessey of The Coven

One of my favorite books I’ve read this year was The Coven by Chrissy Lessey.  I was fortunate to land an interview with her to talk about her book, her life, autism and more.

Your book is soaked with Carolina and the area around where you live. How important was location/geography to your writing process and the book itself?

CL: I find a lot of inspiration in the natural beauty of the Crystal Coast and that really helps my writing process. I don’t think The Coven could have been set anywhere else. The nearby barrier islands and Blackbeard’s history played a big role in the novel’s backstory. Most of the story is set in Beaufort, which somehow manages to be both historical and quirky – a perfect fit for the witches in The Coven.

Where did the idea of writing The Coven come from?

CL: No one is more surprised than I am that I wrote a fantasy novel. The idea came after my son, who has autism, had a particularly difficult day. I found myself wishing that there was a magical cure for his condition so that his life could be easier. That simple thought led me on an imaginative path of witches and autism that eventually became The Coven.

You work, are a mom and a wife, how difficult was it to find time to write and edit?

CL: It’s very hard to find time to write and edit. Like most moms, I tend to put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own and it’s not unusual for me to miss an entire day (or week) of writing because there simply aren’t enough hours in a day. I’ve learned that I have to set a work schedule and protect it diligently.

You’ve been active with autism awareness in your personal life. Was writing the book therapeutic in some ways or difficult in some ways writing about something that’s so close to your heart?

CL: It was so difficult that I almost eliminated Charlie’s character altogether. Writing about his relationship with Stevie and her feelings about his diagnosis was painful for me. There was also tremendous pressure to get it right. We don’t see autism in a lot of commercial fiction, so I was determined to present a realistic and fully developed character with Charlie. The whole process was a tremendous challenge that turned out to be therapeutic by the end.

Now this book is part of the Crystal Coast series…what can we expect next?

CL: I’m working on the second book in the series now. With a modern day witch hunt at the heart of the story, it’s shaping up to be darker than the first one and the stakes are higher.

How much of your main character Stevie came from your experiences as a mother?

CL: Stevie’s life is infinitely more interesting than mine, but I’d say that my experiences made it easier to tap into her emotions. I think all mothers can relate to Stevie’s overwhelming drive to protect her son. Nothing transforms a woman faster or more thoroughly than a threat to her child’s safety.

Chrissy Lessey is an autism advocate, a coffee junkie, and an avid reader. She enjoys connecting with readers via social media and on her website,