Friday, November 30, 2007

Sherry James and Studs for Hire Returns

Today we welcome back author, Sherry James to talk about her latest novel in the Studs for Hire series, Woman in Charge, which was released by Black Velvet Seductions this month. The first book in this series, Woman on Top, is also available, as is Sherry’s novel Cowboy Fling. Check out Sherry’s website at for details.

Welcome back, Sherry. It’s great to talk to you again!

It's great to be back, Cheryl! Thanks for having me again.

Let’s start off by giving folks a brief overview of who you are, what you write, and what you do in your spare time.

Well, I write both contemporary and historical romance, however, at this time I just have contemporaries in print. I'm working to change that, though! I've also written more than 85 magazine and newspaper articles, and have been a winner/finalist in a number of writing contests. I've lived in the rural Midwest all my life, am a former rodeo queen, love horses, still have horses, and am married and have two kids. What do I do in my spare time? Write! With two kids I don't have much spare time, so I squeeze writing in every chance I get. I also love to ride and work with the horses, and spend time with my husband. Oh, and I love to do research. I love to dig through old courthouse records and books, traipse through cememteries, and visit historical locals.

I was just looking at my calendar. Was it really September when we talked last? What have you been up to since then?

Yes. Time flies! The last few months have been very busy. One major event was getting our son started in Kindergarten this fall. Having only one chld at home all day now has helped in the writing department, let me tell you! But the last few months have been tough, too. My dad had been very ill for a quite some time and he passed away during the middle of November. I'm just now getting back into a somewhat normal routine. If you can call it that. Things will never be quite as normal again. There's hardly a moment that goes by that I don' t think about him. He was a writer, too, and he loved to do research as well. He was not only my father, but my friend, a fellow writer, and my walking encyclopedia! I miss him terribly. But I keep pushing forward. He was so proud of me and all I've accomplished. He wouldn't want me to give up on my dreams.

So that readers can get a feel for your Studs for Hire series, can you tell us a bit about Woman on Top?

Woman on Top is the first book in the series. I should mention that you don't have to read the books in order. They are meant to stand alone. But I think readers would enjoy them more, and get a better feel for the characters if they are read in order. Woman on Top is Sydnie's story. She is the brains behind Studs for Hire.

If I remember right, each book in this series will focus on one of the three friends who owns Studs for Hire. Who is Woman in Charge about?

This is Casey's story. She is the accountant for Studs, but she also has a flare for design and color.

When we first meet Casey in this novel, she’s having a horrible day. She’s soaked from the rain; she smashed her leg on a car door; lost her favorite lipstick, and she knows it’s all because she’s a wreck over the man she is waiting for at Eppley Airport. Is Casey feeling a bit vulnerable when readers first see her?

Yes. Which is unusual for her. She's normally pretty cool, collected and in control. But this day, everything around her is totally out-of-control.

Things go from bad to worse (you were so mean to this poor woman). She’s waiting for a high-dollar Denver architect who could make or break the future of Studs for Hire and she gets accosted by an elderly pervert. Even though he is a minor character, I found him funny and sick all at the same time. Is there anything we should know about him?

Ha! Making life tough for our characters is what we writers do. If their lives were easy, it'd make for a really boring story for the reader. As for the old man in the airport, you'll just have to keep reading to figure out what the deal is with him. ;-) Sorry. I can be ornery, too. Where do you think my characters get it from?

A tall, dark-haired stranger ends up coming to Casey’s rescue and this is where we get our first glimpse of Alex Roy, the man Casey has been waiting for. What can you tell us about him?

He's hot! Sexy! And Yummy! Need I say more? :-) Well, okay. I'll say a little more. Alex is struggling to rebuild his reputation as a respected architect after his former female business partner took him for a major ride. He's a little gun-shy, but determined to get his feet back on the ground. And what Casey is about to offer him isn't in his plan.

And you know I can’t resist asking, what does Elvis have to do with this whole story?

Well, Elvis is the catalyst that brings Casey and Alex together, the reason they're business association almost never is, and the tie that binds them in the end. When I first started plotting this story several years ago, I knew I wanted to include Elvis in the story, but I had no idea he'd take on such a big role. I was an Elvis fan as a kid, and getting to revisit my inner Elvis was a blast. I dug out all my old LPs, books and clippings I'd saved, and it was fun to look at and enjoy them again. As I was writing, I decided I need to be able to hear Elvis, too. Since we no longer have a record player, I couldn't listen to my LPs. So I went out and bought some CDs. Oh, man. As I wrote, researched, watched DVD's of his concerts, and listened to his songs, I was captivted all over again by his amazing talent and chrisma. And you know, the '68 Comeback Special where he's dressed all in black leather? Whew! Can you say hot! At age 33, Elvis looked better than ever. Needless to say, Elvis demanded a bigger part in the story. And he got it! Who am I to tell the King no?

Tell us where readers can purchase a copy of Studs for Hire: Woman In Charge.

You can request the trade paperback it at your local bookseller, or order online at, Barnes & Noble, or at if you prefer e-book format, you can get it at or, to name a few. And Woman on Top is still available in both formats, too.

What’s up next in your world? Have you begun working on the third book in this series yet?

Yes, I have. Well, mainly plotting so far. Book three, Woman to the Rescue, will be Terri's story. I need to have it into my editor by the end of April in order to see it released in late 2008. I'm also trying to squeeze in the sequel to Cowboy Fling. I've had some really great reviews on that book and I want to get the sequal written and into Ellora's Cave very soon. Country Fling will be Dorie's story. And hopefully, it'll be out sometime in 2008 as well. But I need to get busy, busy, busy!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. Right now I'm holding an Elvis contest on my web site. I'm giving away an autographed copy of Woman in Charge, Christmas Chocolates, and an Elvis Guitar ornament. All readers have to do is stop by my web site,, read an excerpt and answer a simple question. They can also check out how they can get their name in the drawing twice. I'm also blogging, or at least trying to, over at

Thanks for coming back to tell us all about your latest release, Sherry. I hope we’ll see you again when book three comes out. I wish you the best of luck in all you do.

Thanks so much, Cheryl. I appreciate your support! Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Author Christee Gabour Atwood is Three Feet Under

Joining us today is Christee Gabour Atwood, who is the author of the hilarious book, Three Feet Under: Journal of a Mid-life Crisis. We’ll talk about this book and what Christee has to say about rubber chickens.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Christee. I’m glad you’re here.

I’m thrilled to be here! I love being able to do interviews in my pajamas… Oops, we don’t have to tell everybody that, do we? Too late?? Oh well, they’re really cute PJs anyway. They’re Atlanta Braves pajamas – and after the year those boys had, they need all the encouragement they can get…

Before we get to your book, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? What led you down this career path? Do you have any fun hobbies you want to share with us?

I wrote my first book at the ripe old age of 4. The Lion Who Tamed the Man. What a social statement. And what a collection of scribbles, drawings, and chocolate smears. In those days, I did my own illustrations…

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I was raised by parents who owned a weekly newspaper and I slept in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet. Which explains why many of those early records are somewhat soggy. My parents gave me one of the old typewriters from the office for my own when I was six and I took over the hot water heater closet as my office.

Since then I’ve been writing constantly. Some of it even made sense … I now have enough manuscripts to wallpaper a 4,000 square foot house. Now, if I could afford a 4,000 square foot house, that would be pretty cool.

I’ve had enough careers so that my resume looks like a novel. Maybe War and Peace. With much more war than peace. There were some tough jobs in there…

I’ve worked in radio, television, newspaper, association management, corporate America, stand-up comedy, Universal Studios Tour Guide, professional speaker, unprofessional speaker (we all have our off days), and as a columnist.

I haven’t had much time for hobbies lately – but I did discover a love for quilting not too long ago. I adore old black and white movies – William Powell is my hero! And I collect old books. Gee, with those hobbies you’d think I was in my 90s…

How long did it take you to bring this book from just a little blip inside your brain to a published creation?

45 years … I’m a slow writer…

The thing is that this book was unusual. It was inspired by the columns I’ve been writing since 1989. By the way, if anyone out there is having trouble being a disciplined writer, a column is a great solution. You have to write whether you’re in the mood or not. It teaches you to throw stuff on the page and keep throwing until something sticks…

The real compilation of this book happened when I got spayed … known in polite circles as a hysterectomy. I actually had to stay home for weeks and I would have gone crazy without being able to write. I was able to finish it in the six weeks before I had to go back to work. Of course, the first few days after surgery, I wasn’t using real words. After all, those are some good medications they give you. But after that, my humor started getting clearer and writing was more fun than ever.

Oh yeah, I did doze off and drool on the keyboard frequently, but that’s just natural for me.

In the prologue of Three Feet Under, you say that mid-life occurs from “mid-thirties to beyond a mid-thirty inch waistline.” I guess I’m there from a chronological perspective anyway. Got any advice for me?

Enjoy it. It’s an excuse for anything you want to blame on it.

“That outfit is inappropriate for someone your age!”
“I’m having a midlife crisis.”

“You are acting ridiculous!”
“I’m having a midlife crisis.”

“You just ran your Toyota over Pauly Shore.”
“I have good taste. Oh yes, and I’m having a midlife crisis.”

See how this can work for you?

There’s an excerpt on your website, which talks about a certain shopping trip you took with your mother. It starts off by saying that your mother just doesn’t understand you. Has this been a life-long battle for understanding or did it happen as you got older? Is there any hope for your mother or is she a lost cause?

Well, now Mom is having those memory issues that come with advanced years, and we’re actually finding that works well for us.

We can have the same disagreements five times in one hour, so we never run out of things to talk about. She tells me it’s okay to tell her the same joke over and over. She still won’t laugh at it. And we’ve decided that anything we forget must not have been all that important.

The battle for understanding actually comes from the fact that she knows me way too well. And she knows the buttons to push to make me crazy. It’s a great way to keep me humble.

Mom has the best method of keeping her kids in line. Whoever is living the furthest away from her is her favorite child.

I love that woman. She’s an inspiration to me at all times…

Speaking of your mother, do you ever find yourself acting just like her now that you’re middle-aged? Is it scary when you stop and say, “Oh my God, I’ve become my mother.”?

Oh lordy yes…

I talk about “kids today”. I say things like, “I remember when none of that was here.” And I play new games like “Connect the varicose veins” and “Make the hair dye job last one extra week”.

I cook like she does. We create meals that we call “exotic”. That means leftovers with additional seasoning on them.

I give myself the same kind of positive self talk that Mom does, like “Well, that’ll have to do” and “At least I don’t sweat much for a fat girl.”

My favorite car used to be a Mercedes. Now my favorite car is “any one that’s paid for”.

I often turn off the radio saying, “That just sounds like noise.”

And I don’t apply lip color anymore. Instead, like Mom, I “slap on a little lipstick before I go out the door”.

I got all of these from Mom and discover more every day…

What are three things that women in the midst of a mid-life crisis will relate to in your book?

I think most women will relate to:

a) Using their exercise bikes as coat racks.

b) Not really remembering what their real hair color was.

c) Spending a half day at the mall trying to remember where they parked their cars.

Those are pretty basic experiences that I think most of us have in common. And one person going through those types of experiences can be depressed, embarrassed, or feel silly. With all of us going through it together, it’s hilarious…

So, what does the rubber chicken have to do with this whole thing?

About 15 years ago I found myself in the hospital from stress. No, not a mental hospital like you might expect from me, but a regular one. I was physically sick, but I knew it had been induced by the constant stress I was under. I worked and worried about work and on my off time, I worried about not working. I was as much fun as a day at the DMV.

When I got home I decided that it was time to stop taking myself so seriously. That’s when I found my first rubber chicken keychain. I started carrying it with me everywhere to remind me not to take myself so seriously. Since then I have given hundreds of rubber chickens to people in my audiences, workplaces, and even drive-thru windows. It’s my own little legacy of laughter. It’s also a way to ensure that my keys are never lost by the guys in valet parking.

I also find that big rubber chickens are a great tool. I use one in meetings. If anyone says anything negative, they get the rubber chicken thrown at them. Then they’re stuck with it until someone else says something negative. Then they can throw it to that person. It reminds everyone to be positive … and it just looks darn funny to see a chicken flying around the room.

And if you want people to give you a lot of room on the road, do what I do. Get a full sized rubber chicken and roll him up in your car window so that just his head is hanging on the outside. No one will tailgate a car with a rubber chicken staring at them.

This all fits in with my theme for midlife, “If I laugh at myself first, then the rest of the world is laughing with me, not at me.”

Where can readers get their hands on a copy of Three Feet Under?

Anywhere books are sold in stores or online. It’s distributed through Simon & Schuster, so if folks can’t find it in their local bookstores, they can order it. And if they order it, I can assure them that it will make my friend, Mr. Electricity Bill, very happy.

And if they want it autographed, they can email me at and mention this website and I’ll mail them a free bookplate with an autograph to insert in the book. I’ll even autograph it to whomever they like so they can use it as a Christmas gift after they finish reading it. How’s that for a special deal???

What is up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with our readers?

Right now I’m working on the book, In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands. I’m doing it as part of National Novel Writing Month, so it will be complete by November 30. It’s a lot of fun and basically celebrates getting comfortable in our own skin.

I’ve also got a number of business and training books out right now – Succession Planning Basics, Presentation Skills Training, and Manager Skills Training. Readers can find out more about these at online bookstores or on my blog at

Is there anything you would like to add?

I’d like to quote Erma Bombeck, who was a great inspiration to me as a writer. She said, “Seize the day. Remember those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

How can anyone top a quote like that?

Thanks for stopping by, Christee. Your book sounds great! I hope I can bribe Santa into bringing it to me. Good luck with your mother. If all else fails, I have a friend who lives in a town with a state mental institution on the main drag.

A mental institution?? You’re brilliant!! We’ll just tell Mom it’s a spa.

Thanks so much for allowing me to visit with you and your readers today. This has been a lot of fun. Now I’d like to sit back and see what midlife stories they have. I might want to steal – I mean recycle them for the sequel…

Sunday, November 25, 2007

True Crime Author Dennis Griffin Talks CULLOTTA

It’s hard to believe that November is almost over. Before we know it, the winter holidays will be upon us and then we’ll ring in the New Year. Joining us today is Dennis Griffin, a retired New York State Director of Investigations, turned author. Concentrating on mysteries and non-fiction titles, Dennis uses his former career to create books reviewers have called, “riveting”, “engrossing”, and “well-written”. We’ll be talking about Dennis’s latest release, CULLOTTA: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.”

Welcome to The Book Connection, Dennis. It’s great to have you with us!

Before we talk about CULLOTTA, can you tell us about yourself? How long have you been writing? Is it because of your employment history that you are drawn to writing mysteries and non-fiction books about law enforcement and organized crime?

I began writing my first manuscript in 1994, following my retirement from a 20-year career in law enforcement and investigations in New York State. My motivation at that time wasn’t money or fame. It was solely to tell the story of a medical examiner’s office run amok. It was based on the last investigation I did prior to retiring, and was a story I felt needed to be told. I plunged ahead with my project without doing any research on the writing business. I didn’t know traditional publishing from self-publishing. I had no idea what a POD book was. I only knew I had a story to tell and wanted to get it out there.

The Morgue was completed in early 1996, and that’s when all the things I had failed to do came home to roost. There I was with an 110,000- word document and was clueless about what to do next. Belatedly springing into action, I researched publishing options and commenced sending our queries, followed by sample chapters, followed by the entire manuscript in some cases. Each attempt ended with a rejection. As the copying and postage expenses mounted, along with the frustration, I was about ready to pack it in. Suddenly, out of the blue I was thrown a life line. A company called 1stBooks (now AuthorHouse) contacted me to announce they were expanding their services to include printed and bound books as well as e-books. Was I interested in being one of the first authors to have their manuscript published in POD format for only a $75 setup fee? I still didn’t understand what POD was all about, but without any attractive alternatives I couldn’t sign fast enough.

From there I wrote five more mystery/thriller fictions, all of which were self or POD published. With my background, this was the genre that was the easiest and most fun for me to write.

When your novel The Morgue was released in 1996, readers didn’t believe anything like that could happen, but it was actually based upon one of your investigations. Do you still receive this type of feedback from readers? Are they amazed at the kinds of things portrayed in your novels?

The Morgue generated the most disbelief among my readers. But Red Gold and Blood Money, which were also based on actual events, drew comments such as, “You certainly have a vivid imagination.”

I think the reason for that type of reaction was because most people aren’t familiar with the workings of morgues and clinical laboratories. When I turned to writing about more traditional crimes such as robbery, rape and murder — subjects that can be read about in the newspapers or heard discussed on TV newscasts every day — readers were more easily able to relate to the events I was describing.

Your three non-fiction titles have ties to Las Vegas, which is where you now live. How is New York similar to Las Vegas from a law enforcement perspective? How are they different?

Las Vegas is unique. Its reliance on the gaming industry and related tourism for much of its economy makes it different than about any other place in the country. But from a law enforcement perspective, I think it’s much the same as other large cities. They all have to deal with organized crime, gang violence, illegal drugs, burglars, robbers and murderers. Lawmen have to contend with the same types of people — the good, the bad and the ugly, if you will — no matter where they ply their trade.

Let’s move on to CULLOTTA. Frank Cullotta--the subject of this book--provided a great deal of information to you and also shares the title of author on the cover. What was it like to work with him? If you didn’t have his cooperation, what would you have done differently to provide a true account for your readers?

What it was like working with Frank is a subject that interests many writers and readers. I think I can best answer that question by sharing an article I wrote after the book was released in July.

Writing CULLOTTA – The Author and the Hit Man

In the spring of 2006, if anyone had told me I would become involved in a business relationship with a former hit man, I’d have said they were crazy. After all, a guy like me with 20 years working as a law officer and investigator, one who has always been a staunch supporter of law enforcement, would never allow himself to be associated with someone from the dark side. However, in a little over a year I not only co-authored a book with such a man, I’ve come to consider him a friend.

This strange turn of events began for me when I was researching for my book The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob (Huntington Press, July 2006). In it I told the real story of Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro’s Las Vegas reign. As I was writing the book I was fortunate to develop a number of now-retired FBI agents and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detectives as sources. These were men who had actually been involved in the investigations of Spilotro and his gang.

I was very pleased with the information I obtained, but felt I was lacking one thing: a perspective from the bad guys. Spilotro’s crew was either dead, in prison, or their whereabouts were unknown, except one: Frank Cullotta. Tony’s one-time right hand man had turned against his friend and become a government witness. After a stint in the Witness Protection Program, Cullotta was around somewhere with a new identity. I thought if I could talk with him, I might be able to nail down additional details and maybe even come up with some previously undisclosed information. But how was I going to get in contact with Cullotta, and would he talk with me if I did?

I knew that one of my sources, retired FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy, had been Cullotta’s handler after the crook rolled. I figured he’d be a good place to start in my quest to locate the former mobster. It turned out that Dennis and Frank had remained in contact over the years and they spoke on a regular basis. Dennis said he couldn’t promise any results, but that he’d mention me to Frank and see what happened.

Several weeks later Dennis called and said Cullotta had agreed to speak with me by phone. The interview was brief; only a couple of questions. Although it was by no means the in-depth conversation I’d hoped for, it was better than nothing. I added Cullotta’s input to my manuscript and submitted it to the publisher. I then forgot about Frank Cullotta, at least for a while.

When chatting with Dennis Arnoldy a few months later an idea popped into my head. I asked him if Cullotta had ever thought about writing his life story. I opined that it would probably be a great read if he would be willing to be totally candid. Dennis said he’d ask Frank and let me know. Not too long after I got my answer: Frank had been thinking about doing his bio for several years. He’d already recorded cassette tapes of his memories and had them transcribed. Now he was looking for a writer and wanted to meet with me.

After my initial excitement over the news faded, doubts began to surface. Cullotta had been a thug, thief, arsonist and murderer. All things I’d been against my entire adult life. If we reached an agreement about doing a book, would I be able to bring myself to work closely with him? I pushed those thoughts from my mind as I awaited my chance to meet the confessed killer in the flesh.

I learned almost immediately that when working with Frank, security was first and foremost. For our initial meeting, Dennis Arnoldy told me the day Frank would be in Vegas, but not the time or place we’d get together. I got those details one hour before we met in a hotel room of a major casino. Dennis also informed me that I wouldn’t be able to learn Frank’s new identity, business, location or phone number. Any communication between Frank and me would have to go through Dennis.

Once inside the hotel room, Dennis introduced me to Frank Cullotta. He wasn’t a particularly imposing figure physically, although he looked like he could still take care of himself in a tussle. As we talked, what impressed me most about him was his demeanor. He talked about crimes he had committed, including murder, with no more emotion than a couple of co-workers standing around the office water cooler discussing the weather. I thought of the line from The Godfather: This is nothing personal. It’s strictly business.

After two hours, Frank and I reached an agreement. He’d provide the details of his career as a criminal and I’d do the writing. The story would begin on the streets of Chicago, and go through his days in Las Vegas, life as a government witness, and his involvement in the production of the movie Casino. All the criminal activity he would admit to would be that for which he had been granted immunity or the statute of limitations had long since run. We were in agreement that candor was key. His account had to provide information previously unknown to the general public and be as accurate as humanly possible. As the meeting wore on I became ever more confident that Frank was being up front with me and would fulfill his end of the bargain. We ironed out the financial arrangements and sealed our deal with a handshake.

The project wasn’t very far along before it became clear that our method of communication wasn’t adequate. I needed to be in touch with Frank frequently, sometimes several times a day. Routing everything through Dennis Arnoldy was simply too cumbersome, resulting in delays and frustration for all of us. I was given a special phone number to contact Frank directly. That simplified the process, but also provided a clue as to Frank’s location. That meant I now had a role in Frank’s security, a fact that Dennis made sure I understood.

My easier access to Frank certainly helped, but on occasion using the phone or mail wasn’t sufficient. There were times when getting together in person was the only way to go. We decided that the best place to have our meetings would be at my place. My wife, nicknamed Bear, wasn’t particularly enthused about me getting involved with Frank in the first place. When I announced his initial visit she was not a happy camper. The day Frank showed up, he came in one door and Bear went out the other. Eventually though, they’ve become buddies and she now looks forward to his calls and trips to town.

In summary, although there have been a few bumps along the way, co-authoring CULLOTTA has been an experience I wouldn’t trade, regardless of how the book sells.


What would I have done if I didn’t have Frank’s cooperation? The short answer is that I wouldn’t have written a second Spilotro era book.

It is my belief that if I write a book claiming it as a true crime story, I owe my readers the most complete and accurate information available. That means doing a lot of research, that includes whenever possible talking to the people who have first-hand knowledge of what transpired. I did that with The Battle for Las Vegas and was very comfortable with the finished product. Without Frank, Battle would have been my only book on the subject.

What was it about Frank Cullotta’s story that made you want to write it?

I found Frank’s overall criminal career to be fascinating. And CULLOTTA provided an opportunity to set the record straight about what really happened during the last few years of Tony Spilotro’s Las Vegas reign.

In addition to the tremendous story Frank had to tell, his candor when we met, and the reputation for being truthful that he had developed with detectives, agents and prosecutors, made taking on this project an easy decision for me.

According to the back cover blurb, this is a no-holds-barred biography. How much graphic detail is included? Do you think readers will be comfortable with what is found between this book’s pages?

I think that the majority of people who read this book will be organized crime buffs. They will have read other mob books, seen the Godfather series, Casino and Good Fellas, and watched The Sopranos on TV. For them, I don’t see anything that would cause discomfort.

However, for anyone being exposed to the mob life for the first time, there could be certain things that might be a bit upsetting to them. I hope those cases are few and far between. I’d like to think CULLOTTA will create fans rather than alienate them.

Frank’s life took an interesting turn when he became a cooperating government witness. Nicholas Pileggi--who worked on the script for the Martin Scorsese film, Casino--says in the Foreword to CULLOTTA, that Frank’s life as a free man was dependent upon his telling the truth. Did this help your working relationship with Frank as you drafted the manuscript?

I actually learned the details of Frank’s plea agreement while researching for Battle. Dennis Arnoldy, the retired FBI agent who had been Frank’s handler, was very confident that after Frank rolled and became a prosecution witness he was very forthright in his statements and testimony. Unlike some witnesses or informants who will say whatever they think the prosecution wants to hear, if Frank didn’t know an answer he said he didn’t know. As mentioned previously, that fact made me much more comfortable working with him.

Where can readers find a copy of CULLOTTA: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness?

The book is available at or through any bookstore and all the major online outlets. I have purchase links for CULLOTTA and all my books on my AuthorsDen site at Currently, has the best prices for both CULLOTTA and Battle.

What is up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with our readers?

I actually have quite a lot going on right now. I’m heavily involved in promoting CULLOTTA. In my spare time I’m finishing a fiction called Vegas Vixen, and doing consulting for The Vegas Mob Tour, which is based on The Battle for Las Vegas, and takes passengers to the actual locations where many of the incidents depicted in Casino took place

I’m also mulling over three appealing true crime projects. I plan to start work on one of them in the near future.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Dennis. It has been a distinct pleasure finding out more about your latest book. I wish you continued success.

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Enthralled by Nadia Aidan--Book Review

Smart, sexy, and strong characters battling a war against age-old traditions in the hopes of bringing peace to their planets is what you will find in Nadia Aidan's Enthralled.

Candace, the Queen of the Amazonian planet Kish, is as head-strong as she is beautiful. When the new King of Akkadia requests a meeting with Candace to share his plan to bring peace to their warring planets, she is not sure that Ares is sincere, but Candace cannot deny how attractive Ares is. They agree that they will be joined--it really is just a matter of business. Or is it?

Candace and Ares are unable to deny their growing feelings for one another, but neither of them is used to surrendering their will or their hearts. Problems arise for Candace and Ares, as they do their best to mix their drastically different cultures and maintain the peace that their joining has brought to Kish and Akkadia. But there are those who do not accept their joining, and Candace and Ares find themselves falling even more in love with each other as the danger increases.

With Enthralled, Nadia Aidan has created a spicy, romantic story filled with well-developed characters. Combining strength and beauty, Candace and Ares are the perfect romantic leads. It would be so easy in a story such as this to create flawless characters, but Aidan has gone to great lengths to display the strengths and weaknesses of all her characters. The reader gets a strong sense of the Amazonian and Akkadian cultures and how their pasts are a large obstacle for Candace and Ares to conquer, but the backstory never threatens to overwhelm the present day action.

The only challenge I found while reading Enthralled was the prolific use of the "F-word" and vulgar terms to describe certain body parts, which tends to define this genre. These words were scattered throughout this short novel and distracted me from the storyline at times. Overall, Enthralled is a great read for those who enjoy strong, sexy characters thrust into difficult situations, whose ultimate reward is the love that conquers all.

Title: Enthralled
Author: Nadia Aidan
Publisher: iUniverse
ISBN: 978-0-595-46267-4 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-595-90564-5 (ebk)
US Price: $10.95

Note: You'll find my interview with Nadia Aidan at

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts--Book Review

Funny, inspiring, and unforgettable, On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts left me crying tears of laughter and found me cheering for characters who became so real that I would swear they lived on my street.

Joy, Laura, and some of the other wives in their knitting group feel their husbands don't appreciate the time and effort that goes into making Christmas special. From entertaining to shopping for gifts, from mailing out cards to decorating their homes, these women do it all. But this year they are sick and tired of not being able to enjoy the season and fighting to get their husbands to understand they need some help.

When Joy decides to go on strike for Christmas she has no idea what she's started. One after another, women from the knitting group join her, and once the local newspaper gets wind of the story, letters of support roll in and create an environment in the town of Holly where women and men are choosing sides. As the husbands learn exactly what it's like for their wives to create the perfect Christmas, the wives struggle not to interfere and make sure it is done the right way. And Rosemary Charles--the local reporter covering the story--has a bet with the newspaper's photographer that the women will win.

This is one of the funniest holiday stories I've ever read. Watching these husbands try to cook and decorate in addition to working all day was a rare treat. But On Strike for Christmas is more than a book about a battle between the sexes. It is about love, understanding, compromise, and friendships. While Joy and Laura get a lot of the limelight, the one character I truly loved was Carol. She is a widow and she can't understand why the women in her knitting group don't appreciate the men in their lives. Watching Carol's story unfold in the background is a special gift to the reader because it happens so calmly against the booming madness of the strike.

Sheila Roberts has written a story that is overflowing with unforgettable characters who inspire and entertain. I found myself not wanting any of them to fail. There were points where I was cheering on the wives, but then some of the husbands were trying so darn hard I wanted them to come out on top. And some of the best scenes included the children of these parents who were warring against each other.

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts is not a classic tale like A Christmas Carol, but it will leave you appreciating the season and the people you love as much as George Bailey did at the end of It's A Wonderful Life. With On Strike for Christmas, Sheila Roberts touches upon the heart of Christmas in a very funny way.

Title: On Strike for Christmas
Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37022-0
ISBN -10: 0-312-37022-9
Price (US): $13.95

Monday, November 19, 2007

Susan Sukman McCray and Harry's Piano

Today I have the honor of connecting you with a talented woman who I have gotten to know over the past several months. Susan Sukman McCray is the former Casting Director for my all-time favorite television show, Little House on the Prairie. Susan wrote a charming children’s book titled, Harry’s Piano, about the young life of her father, Academy award-winning composer Harry Sukman. Susan joins us today to talk more about Harry’s Piano and why she decided to write this tribute to her father.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Susan. I’m happy you could join us.

It is a pleasure Cheryl. Thank you for inviting me.

So that we can get to know you a little better, can you share some of your past professional experiences with us?

I began my career as a casting director working on such shows as: Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mannix and The Odd Couple. I then formed Susan McCray Casting – an independent company, and cast “Little House on the Prairie”, “Father Murphy” “Hawaii 5-0” and several movies of the week including; “The Diary Of Anne Frank", “The Five of Me” and “Rodeo Girl” When dear friend Michael Landon started his own production company – Michael Landon Productions, I became Vice-President of Talent for his company and cast the television series, “Highway To Heaven", TV movies “Where Pigeons Go To Die” starring Art Carney, and the Michael Landon Pilot “US” for CBS.

Two years ago, I was asked to create and host an internet radio show on "Getting To Know You” is a wonderful way for listeners to get to know the history of well known/successful people from all walks of life and to learn how they became successful in a business they chose to pursue.

And, of course, I became a first time author, writing a children’s book that was a labor of love for me; the story of the young life of my father titled “Harry’s Piano.”

Did your years in the entertainment industry help you with getting Harry’s Piano published?

No it did not…I thought the entertainment business was incredibly difficult, complicated and competitive, to coin the phrase “Dog Eat Dog” business. I was wrong… publishing is just as, if not more of all of those.

You decided to self-publish this book. Was self-publishing a good experience for you? Were there any stumbling blocks along the way to publication?

As I mentioned – this is a complicated business and there is, as in most businesses, so much to learn and understand. In some cases I learned as I went along. Actually, I think I probably had a good experience because I self-published the book. There really weren’t stumbling blocks.

Tell us about Harry’s Piano. What years of your father’s life does this book cover?

"Harry’s Piano" is about the very early years of my father’s life. When he began piano lessons at 5 yrs old - his concerts at the age of 9 – to becoming a successful accompanist for well known violinists and opera singers at 12 yrs old Then becoming a conductor/ musical director for radio to his developing career after arriving in Hollywood, California when he appeared as a guest soloist at the famous Hollywood Bowl. At the conclusion of the book I write about how he achieved his dream –becoming one of the most successful composers for television and motion pictures and how he received the ultimate tribute… the Academy Award.

Where did you find the illustrator for Harry’s Piano? Having seen these illustrations, I can say that they alone could make the book worth buying.

I actually found Karen C. Rhine by searching online. I was incredibly lucky. I went to her website and looked at some of her previous illustrations for other books she had done. As I recall she mentioned she never did a children’s book such as mine. When I sent the manuscript to her and spoke with her on the phone about the story, she was very taken by it. Though she had never seen a photograph of my father or the family, it was truly uncanny how she was able to capture the likeness of all of them. Even my father’s piano teachers. Most especially, the great illustration of how Harry’s piano was lifted outside his apartment building into the apartment window … it is a glorious picture that all children who read the book truly love.

There is an exhibit of Harry Sukman’s life and career on permanent display in the Harry Sukman Foyer at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut. Can you tell us what it was like to go through your father’s papers and belongings to decide what would be included in this display? How did this lead to the writing of Harry’s Piano?

I wanted to have my father’s career memorabilia as well as his beloved Steinway grand piano in a place that would be appreciated and loved by those who want to achieve their dream to become successful musicians. Through my husband Kent, who is an alumn of the Hartt School of Music, which became one of the schools that comprises the University of Hartford, I thought that would be an outstanding place. We are, by the way, both on the board of Regents at the University of Hartford.

I began by writing my father’s “Life In Music” which is combined with memorabilia on nine panels on display in a space I completely renovated. The once dark and dingy lobby was dubbed (by me) as a Foyer - The Harry Sukman Foyer. When gathering numerous pieces of memorabilia for display, it took me back to my early childhood. The days I would hear my father practice and get the calls for work at Paramount Studios when he was a staff pianist there. When listening to the old “glass” records from early concerts in Chicago – his music sketches – his scores and his personal papers. I think you can imagine how emotional all of that was for me. The memories these things brought back – the great musicians who came to our home and would perform their music with my father, the funny stories. You see I am an only child and my best friends were my mother – who was also a professional pianist, organist and painter - and my father. So going through all the memorabilia was actually like feeling the loss of my best friends all over again. When the Foyer was dedicated, there was a beautiful concert to honor my father and his work which I put together. The Hartford Symphony as well as my father’s friend – Sinatra’s musical director, Vincent Falcone who played his arrangements of some of my father’s music and conducted the orchestra. Before the concert there was a lovely reception for everyone to tour the space and read the panels. Cheryl Kloczko, then Principal of the University of Hartford Magnet Elementary School, was reading the history of my father. She turned to me and said; “Susan, this material would make an incredible children’s book.” When we left Hartford, CT and returned home to California, I took all my notes and writings for the panels and added personal remembrances told to me by my father and my Aunt Rose (dad’s sister now 97) and started to write “Harry’s Piano”. I feel, in my heart, it is a story for all who love music. I thought including a CD of my father playing a couple of his compositions would also add to the beauty of the book.

I just remembered one particular quote of my father’s I found in his papers. It seems to be quite poignant these days:

“Music is sound, but not all sound is music.”

Where can readers purchase a copy of Harry’s Piano?

Harry’s Piano can be purchased on its official website:

What is up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with us today? Will there be a sequel to Harry’s Piano?

I have just produced a new CD. It has ten selections composed by my father. They are arranged in the jazz genre by Vincent Falcone and played in trio by Vincent Falcone Trio. It will be released next month and can be purchased on or can be ordered at your music store. The CD is truly something for all to enjoy.

I am seriously thinking about producing a possible short film based on
“Harry’s Piano”. I would love to do that but we’ll see – it is a big undertaking.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My internet radio show “Getting To Know You” will be celebrating its second anniversary on - I am planning a special show. I hope to make a portion of it a Live show for people to call in. I love speaking to listeners and answering their questions.

Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, Susan. We’ve enjoyed getting to know more about your father’s life.

I think "Harry’s Piano" is an inspiring children’s book for those who have a dream in music. I always quote my friend Michael Landon when talking about dreams: “Never give up on your dreams, for if you work hard and keep dreaming, they can come true -they did for me.”

It is always my pleasure to share thoughts and remembrances of my father. He was a fine musician and an even finer man.

Note: I encourage everyone to check out my review of Harry’s Piano, which can be found at and to consider this book as a holiday gift for any aspiring musician you know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Author Dyan Garris Takes the Floor

Intuitive cooking is something that I know absolutely nothing about. So, today I will try to be quiet and let the expert tell us what she knows. Author Dyan Garris Dyan Garris has been counseling clients in order to help them positively move forward in their lives. She is clairvoyant, clairsentient, and clairaudient. In addition, Dyan is also what is known as a voice recognition psychic and trance channel. This means that she can help her clients via phone, which is how she conducted her readings throughout her career.

Growing up in Illinois, Dyan became aware of her clairvoyance, and other gifts, at a very young age. She spent years learning how to appropriately use these gifts for good and to help others.

In 2005 she created a CD series of music and meditation for self-healing, relaxation, chakra balancing, and vibrational attunement. Her interest in music began as a child. A blind piano teacher taught her to “feel” music and “see” through different eyes and influenced her at a young age. Dyan continued her music studies with the violin. Through the violin, she learned how easily music vibrates throughout the body and, hence, all of the chakras. This was her first lesson of how the power of music and sound could be used for healing.

In the early 1990s, Dyan launched a jewelry business custom designing and manufacturing Austrian crystal earrings and healing bolos. Even in this work, she continued to use her special gifts for her client’s benefits. The healing bolos were custom made with stones such as crystal, onyx, hematite, jade and rose quartz. Each came with a channeled poem specifically for the person who commissioned the item. The bolos were designed to be worn over the heart chakra as a form of healing, as well as protection.

She eventually re-focused her life on home, family, spiritual counseling, and teaching meditation and energy classes. Music was incorporated in her classes as a method of sound healing as well as an effective method for opening and balancing the chakras.

In 2005, while sitting at the piano, she heard specific songs and titles coming from her psychic connections. Writing them down as fast as she could, the result was A Healing Journey – The Voice of the Angels CD. This is the first in the series designed for self-healing and vibrational attunement of the mind, body and spirit. There are six CDs in the series. A new release, titled, “Release,” will be available September 24th and is available at or

She is the author and developer of Voice of the Angels – A Healing Journey Spiritual Cards. These are a 30 card deck of Angel Cards based upon scenes from A Healing Journey-Guided Fantasy, which is the guided meditation found on the last track of A Healing Journey-The Voice of the Angels CD. Each card has its own channeled message in verse from the Angels.

Her new book, Voice of the Angels Cookbook – Talk to Your Food! – Intuitive Cooking is now available at her website and This is an adventure in opening the creative centers and communicating with your food so that it can transform from raw ingredients into what truly nourishes you on every level. The book includes twelve food-related channeled messages and several “Intuitively Speaking” paragraphs, which explain how to prepare the recipe using one’s own unique creativity.

See, I told you I couldn't stop talking. Here's Dyan:

Voice of the Angels Cookbook – Talk To Your Food! – Intuitive Cooking by Dyan Garris
The book comes with a warning: This is real food! And it is. A variety of original recipes are included, from sinfully rich cheesecake and “Love Bars” to “Healing Soup,” easy fish recipes, hearty stews, and colorful skillet suppers. The author’s Greek heritage shines though in such recipes as “Easy Baklava Roll-Ups.” The book includes twelve food-related channeled messages such as “The Secret Recipe of Life,” and “Ode to Popcorn,” and several “Intuitively Speaking” paragraphs, which explain how to make the recipe using one’s own unique creativity. This is not just an ordinary cookbook. It is an adventure in exploration and opening up one’s creative centers.

Soup and Sandwich © 2007 Dyan Garris
You get invited to a picnic and are asked to bring something. You decide you will bring soup and sandwich. As you begin to make the food, your poverty consciousness (the consciousness that tells you that you don’t have enough) kicks in and you decide that you can only afford to bring one half of a sandwich and no soup. So that is what you do. On the way there, you eat part of the sandwich yourself, because you feel entitled to do so. When you get there, no one wants to share it with you and you tell yourself that your sandwich must somehow be inferior, all the while thinking to yourself that you made it with good intentions, so you do not understand what the problem is. While you are talking about yourself to someone and not paying attention, the sandwich falls to the ground and ants become interested in it. You tell yourself that these kinds of things always happen to you and you do not understand why. What you are missing is that if you were paying attention, if you covered the sandwich or if you made sure it was in a place where it wouldn’t fall carelessly to the ground, you would still have it and be able to enjoy it or share its enjoyment with others, even if it is only one half of what it could be. This is self-sabotage.

OPEN FACE TUNA MELT © 2007 Dyan Garris
Super easy! Serve over noodles with cheese sauce or on rye bread.

1 pound fresh raw Ahi tuna, cut up
1 T olive oil
1 T onion powder
Dash or two of garlic salt
Seafood spice blend
1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded or grated
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
2 to 4 slices rye bread, toasted
In food processor, pulse tuna with olive oil and spices. Stir in cheeses. Shape into patties. Fry in olive oil in skillet until tuna is cooked rare, medium, or well done (to your taste). Place on toasted rye bread and pour cheese sauce over top. Or serve on noodles or rice and pour cheese sauce over top. Delicious!*

* One might want to add onions, or use a different blend of cheese, or completely different seasonings, serve it on a different kind of bread or over noodles or rice. If we listen to what our physical body wants, our food can transform from raw ingredients to what truly nourishes us on every level.

Cheryl's note: Dyan included a beautiful picture of this tuna melt, but Blogger and I couldn't get it posted.

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Crime Fiction Author Michael Simon And The Last Jew Standing

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with a talented author who is also a former actor, playwright, and Texas probation officer. Michael Simon's first novel, Dirty Sally, was published by Viking in 2004. Dirty Sally, introduced readers to half-Jewish, New York Mafia-born Texas homicide detective Dan Reles, who is also the main character in Michael's latest novel, The Last Jew Standing. Michael will be telling us more about The Last Jew Standing and the entire series featuring Detective Dan Reles.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Michael. It is a pleasure to have you with us.

Glad to be here.

Before we talk about the book, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been a writer? What is it that got you started along this career path?

I started writing stories as a kid, as soon as I was old enough to make words on paper, but I wanted to be an actor. I studied acting in high school and college, then decided to become a professor. By the time I was in grad school and writing plays with my brother, some drunk at a party suggested I write thrillers, that thrillers were the way to fame, fortune, and more importantly, immortality. So I began what became Dirty Sally.

Did you draw on your career as a probation officer to inspire your writing?

Yes. The office where I worked was in the poorest section of Austin, the Spanish ghetto. So the first thing I noticed was how geographically segregated the town was. And I was introduced to a lot of small-time criminals. But what affected me most was the desperation, often inspired by drugs and alcohol, poverty, or all of the above. I was seeing a different Austin than the one I lived in, where poverty always seemed transitional.

What affect has being an actor had on your writing?

As an actor, then director, then playwright, I had to learn how to prepare for an audience. On the stage, you get one shot at the audience but you get lots of time to prepare. So the written word gets to be read, interpreted, through the director, designers, technicians, and finally, actors. I had to translate that process to write for a reader, who is doing all the designing and staging instantaneously, while reading. You have to give a reader a whole lot so see, hear, even smell, and still make the experience of reading close to effortless. But I still feel as though I’m scripting a play, one that’s going to be staged in a reader’s head.

So that readers can get a better feel for your latest novel, can you tell us a bit about this series of thrillers?

While the main character’s life develops through the series, each of the books is self-contained, so you can read them in any order. They’re all about one man’s struggle in a town which is first in a recession, and then experiencing uncontrolled growth, to do what’s right in a world where the police are forced to protect the powerful, and not the innocent.

The Last Jew Standing brings some changes to Dan's life. He has a new house, a wife, and a son. Is he missing the single life?

Dan hated being single, even in the periods of his single life where he was juggling multiple girlfriends. Part of this is because he doesn’t understand the concept of “friends.” He thinks friends are people you work with, who do favors for you. The only person he’ll ever be close with is the woman in his life, and later, his child. So he’s glad to have a wife and a son. But he has other problems and so do they.

Dan's father, Ben, used to work for the Mafia. He's been on the run for a long time and suddenly appears on Dan's doorstep. Does that sound a bit strange when his son is a homicide detective?

Very strange. But Ben comes from a world where cops and criminals drink together, and often do business together. (There are many stories of real cops who come from criminal pasts.) So Ben isn’t shocked when he learns his son has become a cop (the salary and benefits would appeal to anyone.) He’s shocked when he learns Dan takes the job seriously. And throughout the book, Dan is confronted by people who assume he’s corrupt.

After reading Chapter One, I get the idea that Dan has a lot of internal conflict to deal with. Does he blame anyone for that--his father, his wife Rachel, some other element from past?

Dan blames his father for his horrible childhood, although his mother is the one who took off when Dan was ten. Still, Dan idolizes her and can’t blame her for anything.

That he blames his father for everything and is forced to spend a few days facing hell with him, is the core of this book.

You've written three books about Dan Reles. Does it ever get old? Would you like to see Dan slink into the sunset so that you can concentrate on fresh projects?

I wouldn’t say “old,” but I’ve spent eight years writing these four books. (The first one took five years.) And he won’t slink. He’ll ride. ;)
This is it for Dan, at least for now.

Tell us where we can get our hands on a copy of The Last Jew Standing and the other books in this series.

The easiest way is to go to, where you can get them at a significant discount off the cover price. Here’s the link:

What's up next for you? Are there any ongoing projects you would like to share with us?

I’d like to, but I won’t. I’m working on a new project, which, like the Reles books, will probably take a while to see daylight.

Is there anything you would like to add?

No, but here are a few last words from reviewers:

“The fourth excellent offering from lit noir master Michael Simon”
Texas Monthly

“Outlandish and highly entertaining” —Austin American Statesman

In his trademark neat, almost noir prose, Simon perfectly conveys the dilemmas facing a perpetual outsider determined to do the right thing. His hero is subtly drawn, his problems plausible and his colleagues… are smart renderings. A graceful thriller.
—Kirkus Reviews

Fast, furious and anarchic. —Booklist

Thanks for spending some time with us today, Michael. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing The Last Jew Standing. I wish you much continued success.

Thanks for having me.

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson--Book Review

Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson is shocking, gripping, and horrific, but it’s a book you must read.

In Bad Girls Club we follow the story of Destiny and Cassidy, two girls traumatized by abusive and neglectful parents. The story opens with Destiny begging her father to get a summer job so she can buy a car, which he will not allow her to do because she must help her mother, June. That’s all Destiny’s life has really been about--helping her mother, taking care of her younger sister, Cassidy, and keeping the house running because her father can’t handle life. She would love to take Cassidy and run away from the freak show known as her family, but she is trapped and it seems like there will never be any way out.

If only Destiny could find the way to fix her mother--bring her back to the person she was before Crater Lake, then things would be better. But Destiny doesn’t even know if that way exists, as she watches her mother spiral ever downward into the depths of mental illness. Her father, long ago, stopped trying to make things work; to find a solution to the family’s problems. It’s all up to Destiny to figure out how to save Cassidy from the mother who hates her, while trying to find a way to save herself from the abuse her parents dish out.

As things go from bad to worse, Destiny even distances herself from her friends. How long can she continue to try and hold her family together? What will it take for her father to admit that her mother wants to hurt Cassidy? How will she ever find a way out? And will she find it before or after her mother has destroyed her life and Cassidy’s?

Bad Girls Club has to be one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t put it down. Judy Gregerson has created a gut-wrenching story of a family torn apart by mental illness. Told from Destiny’s present day point of view, Bad Girls Club will make you want to turn the other way, while at the same time compelling you to read more. Destiny’s personal struggle between wanting to help her mother while also desiring to run away reminds you of the strong bond between mother and child. And it tears you up as you watch Destiny pull away from even her closest of friends so she can deal with her mother’s ever worsening condition.

With characters so well-developed and real, you would swear you had met them, Judy Gregerson holds nothing back in sharing Destiny’s and Cassidy’s story. I applaud Gregerson for tackling such a weighty issue and for going all the way in depicting the realities of child abuse.

Compelling and disconcerting, Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson is one book you will never forget.

Title: Bad Girls Club
Author: Judy Gregerson
Publisher: Blooming Tree Press
ISBN-10: 1-933831-01-4
ISBN-13: 978-1-933831-01-5
Price in US Dollars: $17.95

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas on Deery Street & Other Seasonal Stories--Book Review

Christmas on Deery Street & Other Seasonal Stories is a collection of uplifting, delightful tales of the season from Steven Roberts.

The story that opens this collection tells of the day that Frank Robinson brought Roger home because “everybody’s gotta have a place to go on Christmas Eve.” And word soon spread throughout the neighborhood that anyone who didn’t have a place to go on Christmas Eve would find a place at the Robinson’s house on Deery Street.

As the neighborhood changes and the children grow and move away, the gatherings on Deery Street get smaller and smaller, until a set of twins shows up at Frank’s door and it’s Christmas on Deery Street all over again.

Magic Socks finds Katie looking for the magic Christmas socks that will help her remember her lines at that night’s Christmas play. After her frantic search does not turn up her magic socks, a frightened Katie goes to the play. When Katie’s halo falls off right before the big scene, she tells the story of Baby Jesus in her own special way, and discovers that the magic was hidden inside her all along.

And in The Angel of Union Station, a snowstorm traps Army Captain Sam Kennedy at Union Station. With the help of a friendly janitor, Sam might just be able to reunite with Jessica and ask her to marry him.

In Christmas on Deery Street & Other Seasonal Stories, Steven Roberts has created a collection that personifies Christmas as much as roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Every story in this collection reminds you of the love and friendship that surrounds the season and warms your heart with just how wonderful life can be. Christmas on Deery Street & Other Seasonal Stories is destined to become a holiday classic.

Title: Christmas on Deery Street & Other Seasonal Stories
Author: Steven Roberts
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN-10: 1432713116
ISBN-13: 978-1432713119
Price in US Dollars: $12.95

While Shepherds Watched by Steven Roberts--Book Review

Heart-warming, charming, and full of nostalgia, While Shepherds Watched: Stories of Christmas Miracles and Mysteries will touch your heart. This short story collection by Steven Roberts is full of stories that remind the reader of the true meaning of Christmas.

Gabriel’s Trumpet opens this collection. It is the story of a young aspiring musician who wishes to play the trumpet, but finds himself saddled with a Model 2353 Hohnica Keyboard Accordion, which he loathes. But to please his mother--who bought him the darn thing in the first place--Georgie takes his music lessons and learns to play.

Broadway Baptist church puts on its annual Christmas program and their guest is Lonnie Latimore, a talented trumpeter who Georgie idolizes. Georgie and his friends accompany Mr. Latimore in a rendition of “Silent Night”. But when Mr. Latimore unexpectedly cannot perform the grand finale, it is up to Georgie to save the day, playing the one instrument he always wanted.

Another of my favorites from this collection is The Madam and the Paperboy. Miss Maybelle Boudreaux owns a large house at the end of Third Avenue. Sonny Suffrage delivers the newspaper to Miss Maybelle’s house, but when she suddenly stops paying for her paper, Sonny must pay her a visit, even though he is wary of approaching a woman who is talked about all over town.

Sonny gets to meet Miss Maybelle and a budding friendship blossoms between them. Miss Maybelle tells Sonny wonderful stories and he is always amazed at how much she knows about everything happening in town. When Sonny invites Miss Maybelle to Christmas dinner at his house, no one--Miss Maybelle, Sonny, or his family--is ever the same.

While Shepherds Watched will make you laugh and cry and hold your family close. Steven Roberts weaves a variety of memorable characters into unforgettable stories which you will cherish like a gift from a special friend. Every once in a while the backstory threatened to take over the present day action, but none of it was wasted. Each person and story was fully developed to provide the reader with an enjoyable conclusion.

If your family tradition includes the reading of heart-warming tales of the season, then you must buy While Shepherds Watched by Steven Roberts. It will be a book you reach for year after year.

Title: While Shepherds Watched: Stories of Christmas Miracles and Mysteries
Author: Steven Roberts
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4327-1401-7
Price in US dollars: $15.95

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Science Fiction Author Darrell Bain Beams in with Savage Survival

Joining us today is Darrell Bain, the award-winning author of more than three dozen books and one of the best selling authors in electronic publishing. While Darrell has written humor, mystery, and non-fiction, over the last few years he’s concentrated more on science-fiction and suspense/thrillers. Today we will discuss one of Darrell’s latest sci-fi novels, Savage Survival, which is a limited special edition hardcover.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Darrell. I’m thrilled to have you here!

Thanks. I'm glad to be here.

Before we talk about Savage Survival, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? What inspired you to become a full-time novelist?

I've been interested in writing since I was a little shaver but only got serious about it when I was around 50 years old and bought my first computer. I wrote quite a lot even after quitting medicine to become a Christmas tree farmer, but became a full time writer after closing the farm a few years ago. It's a great profession to keep you busy after retiring!

You’ve been published in a variety of genres. When you sit down to read, what type of books are you drawn to? Does your wife, Betty, enjoy any of the same books that you do?

I love to read, period. I'll read the label on a box of cereal if there's nothing else handy. My favorite genres are thrillers and science fiction. Betty likes British mysteries, but she also began enjoying science fiction after we were married. Like me, she's an eclectic reader. For both of us, we'll read anything that's interesting and well written! We swap books with each other and Santa always fills our stockings with books whether we've been good or not. Isn't he nice?

Authors of science-fiction novels amaze me in the way that they can create worlds that are so different from our own. After writing so many of these novels, does making up worlds and creatures get any easier? Do you have a starting point--is it the world or the creatures or something else?

Now here is a question I don't get asked very often. The answer is yes, it does become easier with time. It's like any other mental exercise. Do it often and you become better at it. The starting point can depend on a number of things. The theme, whether it's in our solar system or somewhere else, whether you want to portray the aliens as good or bad and so on. When creating a new world and/or other species, you have to be consistent in everything written about them.

Let’s talk about Savage Survival. What is this novel all about?

Savage Survival is both a coming of age story and a novel of survival under extreme conditions, purposely imposed on millions of humans. We follow Lyda Brightner, an eleven year old girl for over five years as she copes with increasingly harsh and life-threatening environments. But ultimately, Savage Survival is designed to portray all that is good and decent and noble in our species, even when challenged by the most horrible kinds of adversity, such as Lyda is throughout the novel.

In Chapter One, we meet Lyda’s parents. What can you tell us about them?

Luckily for Lyda, they are a good, intelligent couple who have given Lyda a basic understanding of moral and ethical behavior. Just as important, they have taught her how to think and learn, something she will need almost every instant in the future.

Also in this chapter, Lyda and her parents witness aliens taking over the world. Eleven-year-old Lyda is asking her parents a million questions. Was it challenging to portray the curiosity of a young girl?

Laugh! Not at all. I was very curious at that age and remember wishing I had someone to explain a lot of things. Unfortunately, I didn't have as good a home life as Lyda. But I certainly know what curiosity and the desire to learn is like.

After aliens put Lyda through her first survival test, she decides not only will she survive, but she will exact revenge on the creatures responsible. When she makes this decision, does she have any idea how she will accomplish this?

Not in the least. All she knows is that no one deserves to be treated like she and the rest of the people who are thrown together are, where only one of a thousand will survive. Of course she has no idea of the ulterior motives of the aliens, not until near the end of the book and then it all makes sense.

What are some of the challenges Lyda will face in trying to follow through on her decision?

Lord have mercy, what challenges doesn't she face? She has to overcome men who want to either kill or enslave her, mind bending psychological horrors, facing and overcoming her own worst fears (how about having to decide whether to run or try making friends with a spider-like creature bigger than you?) and possibly the hardest challenge of them all, resisting temptation in one of the environments and not succumbing to its artificial pleasures that are more intense than reality.

Here’s an important question, where can readers purchase a copy of Savage Survival?

For an autographed copy, you can go to my web site and click on the book sale link in the menu. Other places are ( ) and
Twilight Times ( ). The best price is my web site or Twilight Times. Amazon has it listed at the full list price because it is a special limited edition and will become a collector's item.

What is up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with our readers?

Oh yes. I've been honored by the offer to collaborate on a novel with Travis S. "Doc Travis" Taylor, a noted scientist and a popular science fiction writer. The title will be Human By Choice and will be out next July or so. And Bark! my novel of an addled little dachshund doggie who saves the world from an alien invasion is being published in England in February (but copies will be available here).

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. Savage Survival is my favorite out of the books I've written and Lyda Brightner is my favorite character. I'm very glad that it's out in print so others can read about her and be with her as she grows into a young woman. She has become almost real for me. I might add that this was one of those rare books that suddenly pop into an author's head already themed and plotted and the characters already vivid in your mind. It practically wrote itself.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your work, Darrell. I wish you continued success.

Thank you very much. I've enjoyed talking to you.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paranormal Romantic Suspense by Maureen Fisher

Today The Book Connection features author Maureen Fisher. Born in Scotland, Maureen immigrated to Canada at the age of seven. Maureen spent many years in the business world working outside of her home, but traded in her power suits and panty hose so she could concentrate on writing. Maureen and her husband live in Ottawa, where she volunteers for an addiction family program, plays bridge, and slaves over her computer to improve her writing skills.

When Maureen decided she wanted to write books, she didn't want to write those dry, boring, technical treatises she used to; she wanted to write funny romantic suspense novels.

I think she hit her mark!


Ancient Danger Stalks the Jungle on Velvet Paws…

What if she had lived before? What if she had created a legacy of betrayal that spanned several millennia? What if passion could heal her soul and love could release her from bondage?

THE JAGUAR LEGACY is a vivid story of romance and humor, peril and suspense, betrayal and trust, healing and absolution.

Despite baffling panic attacks that devastated her career, journalist Charley Underhill barges in on a Mexican archaeological dig, bent on sniffing out a juicy exposé that will restore her reputation and earn enough money for her mother’s life-saving treatment. Haunted by past betrayals, Dr. Alistair Kincaid isn’t about to let a smart-mouthed reporter leak word of his latest discovery, an ancient Olmec city, to the press. A battle of wills and wits ensues. Strands from a past life intertwine with the present, drawing the couple into a vortex of chilling evil. Torn between redeeming her soul and betraying the man she loves, Charley faces impossible choices.

Look for The Jaguar Legacy at:

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Diana Holquist & Sexiest Man Alive

How many women out there want to buy this book based only on the title? I sure do. But if I didn't tell you anything more about Diana Holquist and her new release, Sexiest Man Alive, that wouldn't be very nice. Diana's official bio goes something like this:

"I love to write. That’s pretty much all I do. Ask my family about the undone laundry, the un-bought groceries, and the fact that I rarely find time to get dressed in the morning. Actually, if you train your family right, they won’t notice any of these things. "Popcorn for dinner again, mom! Cool," say my filthy children. God bless them, they don’t know what panty hose are.

Oh, my poor husband.

Anyway, it took me a long time to figure out WHAT to write. So I spent years writing ads, brochures, and company reports. If I had to give advice to anyone--which, thankfully, I don’t--it would be that if you want to write books, start now. In fact, get the heck off this website and do it.

(First, throw your TV out the window. Good. Now write.)

Are you still here?

Okay, then you must be a pure reader (or my mother). Good for you. No money in writing. Best to have a real job.

What else do you want to know about me? I love kids. I love cats. I love chocolate. (Not necessarily in that order.) I live in upstate New York in paradise, and yet I’m moving in a few months back to a city. (Wanna buy a cool house in rural NY? Wanna sell me a cheap one in a suburb with decent schools?)

Okay, that’s enough about me. Let’s get to work and talk books."

Now, don't you want to read a book by this woman? How can you not, she's hilarious!

But, for those of you who need more convincing, I'll offer a synopsis of Sexiest Man Alive.

Jasmine Burns has always wanted to know the name of her one true love. Her sister Amy is a psychic who can read the name of a person's true love, but she's always refused to tell Jasmine hers...until one day Amy needs Jasmine’s help bad. When Amy finally gives it the name, Jasmine can't believe it. How is it possible that her one true love is People Magazine's SEXIEST MAN ALIVE, one of the biggest box office movie stars around, and a fixture on the red carpet? Shy by nature, Jasmine envisioned warm nights spent cuddling in front of the tv with her beloved, not the frightening flash of a paparazzo's camera as he chases her down the street. This can't be true!

For once in his life, Josh Toby wants to be taken seriously as an actor. He's sick of playing either the boy toy or the action star—he wants parts he can sink his teeth into. So he's done the scariest thing he can imagine—he's accepted a part on Broadway in "Romeo and Juliet". The problem: no one can know it's him or it will turn into the second coming of the Beatles. The solution: an undercover disguise at the hands of budding fashion designer Jasmine Burns, the most charming, genuine, and delightfully eccentric woman he's ever met.

Before long, chemistry sizzles between the shy wallflower and the most recognizable movie star in the world. But can true love really blossom between two polar opposites?

Do you really need more? You do, don't you? Okay, but this is the last thing I'm sharing with you. Here is an excerpt from Sexiest Man Alive:

Chapter One

“Hi! I’m Jasmine Burns!”

The naked man stared up at Jasmine blankly.

Great. She sounded like a cruise ship director on crack. She cleared her throat and adjusted her black teddy. “It’s great to meet you!”

Ugh. This was definitely not working.

Jasmine met her eyes in the mirror on the far (okay, not-so-far) wall of her tiny Upper West Side studio. This only looks crazy, she silently assured her reflection.

She looked down at the tiny naked Ken doll perched on her couch.

Okay, it was crazy. Call-the-cops nuts, even.

She paced. Seven steps. Pivot. Seven steps. Pivot. Exercise #12, page 127 in her Goodbye Shy! workbook had made sense in theory: practice job interviews with a doll to focus on until the panic is gone. For best results, rehearse the interview with both parties naked to achieve optimal vulnerability. Jasmine just couldn’t get completely naked; she settled on a black lace teddy for herself. Ken wasn’t so shy. He went all the way without complaint.

The mind controls the body. Let the panic wash over, then continue. Repeated exposure to the object of fear will dull the emotion.

So why was her terror growing? Her interview was three days, seven hours and twenty-seven minutes away and she was getting more panicked by the second.

She flopped onto her bed and stared at the ceiling of her shoe-box shaped apartment. The heel end was crammed with her elaborate double iron bed, centered between the door to the hallway and the door to her tiny bathroom. The toe end was dominated by a lead-glass window that stretched four feet across and from the ceiling to within two feet of the floor.
And what a window. If she stood outside on the sidewalk and craned her neck to the fifth floor, it reigned proudly between two identical, grand windows. Once, they had let light in on one expansive room. Sometimes Jasmine would imagine she still heard the muted footsteps of the maids hurrying over the hardwood floors from the days before the brownstone was sliced into tiny studios. She’d smell the pipes of the long-gone men in dressing robes reading the New York Saturday Post.

Wonder what those guys would have made of Ken?

Despite her exhaustion, she forced herself off the bed and back to the “living room”—a flea-market, white-boned couch, one white over-stuffed chair, and a white coffee table rescued from a curb-side trash pile all arranged neatly at the foot of her bed. She flopped next to Ken on the couch and toyed with a scrap of black wool (worsted, Italian) that she had scored the day before from a sample table on 37th Street. Salsa music and car horns floated up from Amsterdam Avenue below, a melody of the city she barely noticed anymore.

This job was the chance of a lifetime. After all, her tailoring business she ran out of her apartment was an accident, not part of her plan. A hem here, a tuck there and within weeks she was in demand. She became known as a miracle worker who could make a cigarette hole in silk pajamas disappear, take in a suit better than anyone west of Hong Kong, rescue your mother’s mildewed wedding gown. It wasn’t a bad way to make a living. She rarely had to leave her apartment.
But now that her graduation (M.A. in costume design from N.Y.U.) was five months past, her ex-classmates were out hitting the pavement, interning and networking, sometimes in theaters, sometimes even getting paid (she let the wonderful possibility of one day being in their shoes spread through her).
And she was playing with dolls.

Naked dolls.

Maybe that was the problem. Naked Ken was too much. After all, if Ken were impersonating a famous costume designer, shouldn’t he have amazing clothes?
She carried Ken to the white-washed plywood door balanced on two white wooden saw horses next to her window. Her 1949 Singer nine-stitch sewing machine gleamed in welcome. She ran her hand down it, her steel and chrome kitty. She settled at the table next to it and began to sketch.

What would Arturo Mastriani, New York’s top costume designer, wear to interview her, Jasmine Burns, his next brilliant new assistant?

Now, go out and buy this book, to read the rest of the story. And don't forget to tell Diana what you thought of it. She loves hearing from you. You can find her on the web at

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