With 2007 behind us and 2008 on the horizon, it’s time to reflect on how we want the rest of our journey here on earth to go. Do we settle for letting life happen or do we take steps toward achieving our dreams? Do we think about it or do we DO it?
If you have watched the movie, “The Secret”, then you understand the power of affirmative thinking = affirmative action. Are you taking those steps in the right direction to enjoy life at its fullest whether it’s through financial success, relationship bliss or perfect health?
On January 1, 2008, Judi Moreo, author of the You Are More Than Enough Achievement Journal (Stephens Press, Dec. '07), will embark on a virtual book tour throughout the blogosphere, but it will involve YOU. She wants YOU to be the star in a campaign to let the world know how you are taking those steps in realizing your dreams.
If you would like to become involved in her ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘08, here is how it works:
1. Repeat this passage from her book: “Every step I take brings me closer to the realization of my dreams” until you understand its powerful message.
2. Think about what steps you are taking to achieve your dreams and write about it. Your entry can be as long or as short as you’d like.
That’s all there is to it! Hurry before time runs out. Become involved in a nationwide campaign to bring in 2008 with a bang and help others realize that dreams are not something that happens; dreams are something that YOU make happen. Let's make 2008 the year when you realize your dreams and make them happen. Share your stories and become involved in Judi Moreo's "Achieving Your Dreams Virtual Book Tour '08" where YOU are the star!
Judi's virtual book tour will be highly publicized including press releases and other promotions. Let us know what steps you are taking to achieve success and be read by thousands of Internet users!
Today’s guest is not only a talented author; she is also a full-time associate professor of educational technology at the University of Alabama. Angela Benson is the author or nine novels. Her first hardcover title, The Amen Sisters, was released in 2005. The trade paperback of The Amen Sisters was released this November. I had the pleasure of working with Angela to set up her virtual book tour this month and the response has been tremendous. I knew I had to have Angela stop by The Book Connection and tell you about her latest novel.
Welcome to The Book Connection Angela. I’m thrilled you could stop by, though finding space in your tour was difficult because of the response.
Before we starting talking about The Amen Sisters, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? Do you concentrate on a certain genre? What do you do in your spare time?
I'm an author with a full-time job as a university professor so I don't have much experience with the concept of spare time. Kensington Books published my first novel, Bands of Gold, back in 1994 during the launch year of Arabesque Books, their ground-breaking line of romances featuring African-American heroes and heroines.
I published five romance novels and one romance novella with Arabeseque during the 1994-1997 timeframe. BET Books (now Harlequin’s Kimani Books) released a collection of three of those early books (Bands of Gold, For All Time and Between the Lines) in April 2006. I also published two novels with Silhouette Books, both in 1997, which were recently re-issued.
My first Christian fiction titles were Christian romances published by Tyndale House Publishers. Awakening Mercy hit bookshelves in 2000. It was a finalist for both the RITA Award for Excellence in Romance Fiction and the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction. Abiding Hope, winner of the EMMA Award for Excellence in Inspirational Romance Fiction, followed in 2001.
My third and most recent Christian fiction title, The Amen Sisters (Walk Worthy Press, 2005/2007) marked my entry into what is considered mainstream Christian fiction. The hard cover edition of The Amen Sisters reached #10 on Essence Magazine’s list of bestselling books in February 2006.
My tenth novel, Up Pops the Devil, will be published by HarperCollins in September 2008.
How do you balance your writing career, a full-time job, and personal time?
Balance is another interesting concept, right up there with spare time. I believe in taking breaks. It's Christmas break now and I'm taking two weeks off from both writing and my full-time job. Well, I'm not really getting away from writing since I'm doing this blog tour, but you get my drift.
Sometime during the break, I'll work on the proposal for my book that's due in September 2008. I'll also find some time to work on an academic article for a peer-reviewed journal.
After school starts back in mid-January, I'll put the fiction writing on the backburner and focus on my academic endeavors. Then when summer rolls around, I'll finish my book that I started during Christmas break.
I'll also take a couple of vacations this summer. I spend a week each summer with girlfriends from college so I'll do that. I'll also attend an academic conference and a writing conference and take a few personal days before or after each..
I recently moved in closer proximity to my family so seeing them doesn't take as much effort as it once did.
What types of research have you done for your novels? What is the most interesting fact you’ve found out while performing research for a story?
I guess it was with Between the Lines, a story set in a newspaper room. I spent a couple of days at a small paper in an Atlanta suburb. I just sat and observed the people and their interactions. I don't remember any particular fact that I learned other than I developed a new respect for Sports reporters.
Let’s move on to The Amen Sisters. What is this book about?
The Amen Sisters is a story of recovery from an abusive church situation. The main character, Francine Amen, left her home and her family to follow a ministry that she believed was doing the work of God, only to find that the pastor and the church had secrets that would lead to the death of one of her closest friends. In her recovery, Francine has to return home and mend fences with her sister, Dawn (who’s now married to Francine’s ex-fiancé), the church family she left behind, and the family of her dead friend. Francine finds the world she left behind in a bit of turmoil and she can’t help but blame herself for some of the problems. As she tries to make things right in the present, she finds she must first make peace with what happened in the past.
While the story deals with the sensational topic of sexual predators in the church, I didn't want to write a story that focused on the bad acts of some preacher. I wanted to write a story that honored those who were, and are, preyed upon. So The Amen Sisters does not take the reader into the bad acts of pastors and ministry leaders; it shows the far-reaching impact of those acts on the parishioners who sit in the pews and the struggle those parishioners face as to recover from the blow.
How did you write a book which is about two sisters trying to reclaim their lives and faith, without having it come off as being preachy?
I think to the key is that my book is about the people, the sisters, not the issue of church abuse. That's a fine distinction but a clear one for me. If I tried to make a point about church abuse, the book might become preachy but since I wrote a book about two women going through a traumatic time due to church abuse, I was forced to focus on them and their emotions. As a writer, you have to give the story to the characters. It's their story, not mine.
Tell us about the Amen Sisters. Who are they? Why will readers care about them?
How can readers not care about estranged twin sisters who find their way back to each other?
I think readers will find parts of themselves in Francine and Dawn Amen.
Francine Amen, the older twin, was a ministry leader with an up-and-coming church who believed she had found her true calling. She publicly renounced her family, friends and church because she felt they didn’t believe “enough” and left her hometown. But, when Francine turned against a dear friend who accused the church pastor of sexually abusing her, the woman killed herself. Guilt ridden and ashamed, Francine turns to the one person who should always be there – her sister.
Dawn Amen-Ray sticks by her sister, Francine, because she feels it is the right thing to do. Still, Dawn has her own problems. She recently found out that her husband (Francine’s ex-boyfriend) cheated on her and Dawn is NOT in a forgiving mood. Besides, Francine hurt so many people Dawn cannot see how her sister can possibly ever make it all up to them or convince them to trust her again.
A lot of readers don’t read the prologue of a book, but if they don’t read the one in The Amen Sisters they will miss a life-changing event. Why did you choose to start the book off this way?
I had no idea that some readers didn't read prologues. I may have to re-think including one in future books. That said, I chose a prologue because I had a critical event in the past that I wanted the readers to experience. I could have made the prologue the first scene in chapter one, but because it occurs three months before chapter one it seemed to need its own space.
In this prologue, we get a glimpse of Francine Amen’s best friend Toni. What can you tell us about her?
Toni could be any one of us. She came from a loving family and had a strong cadre of friends. Unfortunately, she was deceived by her pastor into doing something she knew was wrong.
Up until the start of the book did Francine and her sister, Dawn have a good relationship? Is there any part of their past you can share without giving away too much?
Dawn and Francine were not the Doublemint chewing gum type of twins. Francine was always held up as the “good” sister that the unruly Dawn should emulate. Of course, this made Dawn even more rebellious. The tables turned after the grandparents died. Dawn decided she wanted to become the responsible woman her grandparents wanted her to be, while Francine decided the values she'd learned from her grandparents were no longer good enough for her.
Bahiyah Magazine called The Amen Sisters a “juicy novel.” I don’t believe people always think of Christian fiction that way. If you were trying to convince a reader to give your book try, what would you say to her?
Interesting question. I'd ask her who her favorite authors were and what she likes to read. Then I'd draw comparisons between The Amen Sisters and those authors and types of books.
Where can readers purchase a copy of The Amen Sisters?
It should be in local bookstores everywhere. If your bookstore doesn't have it, please have them order it. You can also get it from any of the online bookstores like amazon.com, bn.com and christianbook.com
What is up next for you? Are you working on any projects you would like to share with us?
My tenth novel, Up Pops the Devil, will be published by HarperCollins in September 2008. It's a fun story about an ex-convict who finds living the straight life complicated by the four women in his life, each with a different goal for him.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today, Angela. Best of luck with the rest of your virtual book tour. It’s been great working with you. I wish you all the success in the world.
This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:
Nelson Pahl is a Bronte Prize-winning and Maurier Award-winning author signed to the independent publishing house, Cafe Reverie Press. Indie Nation Magazine has called him "Indie Lit's most intriguing writer", so it's a huge thrill to be able to spotlight the work of such a talented author.
Bee Balms and Burgundy is the story of Nick May a successful Gen X entrepreneur now living in Vancouver. At 32, he's lost patience with live-in girlfriend Sonja, as well as business partner, Jason. Upon a late summer visit to his hometown of St. Paul, he reacquaints with childhood neighbor and lifelong friend, Mia. Unbeknownst to Nick, Mia is now a post-mastectomy breast cancer survivor, with her cancer currently in remission. She also harbors another powerful secret - one that will change Nick forever.
Aren't you just dying to read this novel? I would be, especially after hearing that Indie Nation Magazine named it "...the best love story you'll read this year!"
While most of Cat Muldoon's stories are romance, paranormal, futuristic, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, you never know what she'll dream up next. Yes, she does dream up stories at times. She also converses with her characters, which is what makes them so lively.
In Rue the Day: The Undercover Heir, Book 1, magic is dying. The only person who can restore it is the Queen, but she is in a coma. Everyone believes that grief over the presumed death of her only child, causes her mysterious condition. But the child - now a woman - lives, and she is their last hope.
When Aislinn is retrieved from her unintended exile the mortal world, she discovers that treachery, not grief, is the cause of the Queen’s condition. Someone has been poisoning and spellbinding people in power, but whom? The keen observer soon finds her own life in peril as she tries to discover and stop the culprit before anybody dies – and before Faerie falls into evil hands.
Sure sounds like a must read for fantasy suspense fans to me. But in case you're not convinced just yet, get a load of this awesome cover. Oh, and here's an excerpt:
RUE THE DAY EXCERPT:
Lynne felt as if she were in a waking dream. Night had brought an unexpected chill that the hidden October sun could not warm. Her incessant headache throbbed worse than usual. At times, the pain was so bad she thought it might kill her. She gazed out of the only window in the tiny hut, breathing deeply and attempting to drain the pain out of her head. Fog shrouded the hills and trees in a milky white blanket. She had learned not to fear the frequent misty mornings in the Ozarks, but there was something unusual about this one. She felt restless.
The cat rubbing insistently against her legs ended her reverie. It occurred to her that he still seemed to be a young cat even though he had been with her ever since she and Mother were separated forever on a misty morning much like this one. After more than seventeen years, he was still, unaccountably, as spry as a one-year-old. He had been with her through placements in over a dozen foster homes and was her only true friend. Smiling and scratching him between the ears, she said, “I’m sorry, Bree. I know you think you’re starving to death.”
She fed him and focused again on the veiled world beyond her door. No breeze rustled in the trees. No birds sang. Nothing moved at all. Why was it so still?
A yearning rose within her that she did not comprehend. A compulsion to go into the mist overtook her. Although Lynne did not understand what drove her actions, she felt she should make ready for travel. Trusting her instincts had saved her life more than once. Following the urge, she pulled her well-used backpack from under the bed, checked its contents, and found she had enough supplies to sustain her for a while if her journey was an extended one. An experienced journeyer, she filled the canteen and set the pack by the door. Lynne was sure-footed even in rough terrain and enjoyed being in the woods and sleeping in the trees.
A stubborn thought screamed for attention. She felt as if someone was trying to pressure her out of the house, so she fought against the desire to leave. Instinct had saved her life on many occasions, but it never felt like a compulsion, and she hated to be forced to do anything. Maybe this is not my instinct trying to save me …There is nobody else here. Why do I feel someone trying to chase me out of here?
Bree had finished his meal and was licking the bowl, pushing it around the floor with the vigor of his tongue. The sound stopped abruptly. Lynne turned to see the cat standing, tail fluffed, back arched, staring transfixed at--what? Whatever Bree saw in the middle of the room, Lynne did not. He let out a low “mmmm” that was neither growl nor purr.
“What’s the matter, Bree?” she asked shakily.
Not acknowledging the sound of his name, the cat stared fixedly at whatever only he could see and made that strange, guttural sound again.
The back of Lynne’s neck prickled. She tucked her golden-red hair behind her ears. Her mouth went dry. “Bree?” Lynne realized that she was clenching her fists only when the pain of nails digging in her palms alerted her. She let out an exasperated sigh. “Get a grip,” she admonished herself. “I'm being ridiculous.” The unsettling feeling remained.
Determined to bring normalcy to the morning, she sipped some water. Willing herself to calm, she practiced the Tai Chi centering breath that helped keep her in the present moment as she turned back to watch the cat. Bree’s murmur soon ceased. His tail shrunk to its usual size, and his back lowered. He stood more relaxed, but still stared at that specific empty point in the middle of the room. Lynne’s uneasiness mounted.
The throbbing pain in her head was almost more than she could bear. She splashed cold water on her face, hoping to shake off the mental fogginess that so perfectly mirrored the weather. Fighting for calm, she took several deep breaths in an effort to calm herself and diminish the pain. Maybe this time the deep breathing would help.
Lynne’s breath caught. She felt the presence of someone standing behind her. Her heart pounded. She whirled around and sunk into a battle stance, ready to attack the intruder. Nobody was there. “I must be losing my mind.” She grabbed the counter to steady herself.
Bree purred--a real purr this time. Lynne released her grip on the counter. The gray cat slowly raised a snowy paw and stepped forward. Though Lynne’s anxiety remained, his behavior aroused her curiosity. She knelt beside her beloved friend. Bree’s long grey whiskers twitched as he took another step, this time with less hesitation. His purr grew louder as he tilted his head upward with an expression of bliss on his face, as if being scratched under the chin by an unseen hand.
Lynne had the strangest feeling someone was trying to comfort her. This only heightened her sense of alarm. Who could be trying to soothe me and my cat, and why? She feared for her cat’s safety and wanted him away from the mysterious presence. “Bree, no!” she yelled, but he stayed where he was and purred contentedly. Not knowing what else to do, she scooped Bree into her arms, grabbed her pack, and dashed through the door into the misty woods.
The feline tensed and squirmed in Lynne’s arms as she raced away from the hut. Bree squalled in protest and dug his back claws into Lynne’s stomach, but she held him close. Her footing faltered as she slipped in a mud puddle. Reflexively, her arms spread to catch her balance, and Bree dashed away. “Bree, BREE!” she yelled, pursuing him.
Lynne rebuked herself for fleeing into the fog like a frightened deer. Bree had lived his whole life indoors, and she had terrified him. Certainly, he would not come to her call. She let out a cry of anguish as she started searching for her companion. She rarely cried, but now hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She tried to make her voice calm as she called to Bree.
Maybe if I act like a normal person, he might come to me.
The only sound was her breathing. Her incessantly throbbing head made it difficult to focus and quiet her mind. She forced her breath to quiet as she walked more calmly, listening for him. Without noticing, she held her arms out to help guide her, since her eyes gave her no useful information in the milky mist. At one point, she felt a branch break beneath her foot. A few minutes later, it occurred to her that she had not heard the branch crack. Walking with purposeful disregard for the terrain, she did not even hear her shoes contacting the earth. Though an expert at moving quietly through the woods, the headlong dash through fog surely must have taken her through countless crunchy autumn leaves and fallen sticks. She could not see her feet, and could not imagine moving soundlessly in these conditions.
Experimentally, Lynne stomped her foot hard. She felt the impact through her leg, but heard no sound. She clapped twice and heard two dull thuds. She raised a hand before her face. All she saw was a vague shape. She shuddered. The temperature had surely risen; the fog should be lifting. The back of her neck prickled and her sense of danger increased.
“Bree, I’m not going home without you,” Lynne called. Her voice did not travel through the woods as it should have. Finally, weary and hoarse from hours of anxious searching and calling, Lynne slumped against an old tree and sank onto the ground. Bree might be lost forever, and it was all her fault. If only she had kept her wits and stayed to face whatever was happening at the hut, none of this would have happened.
Lynne shivered. Had the day grown so cold? She was no closer to locating her beloved companion. You’ll never find him sitting on your pity pot. She cautioned herself to stay centered and keep her wits. Be in the present moment.
Just then, a sense of imminent, mortal danger shocked her into action.
I know you are just sitting there saying, "I have to get my hands on this book." So, click on the title of this blog entry to be directed to Amazon.com where you can pick up your copy.
This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Holly Fretwell. Professor Fretwell teaches economic principles, microeconomics, and natural resource and environmental economics at Montana State University. That interview will appear at American Chronicle later this week. But as a mother of two children, I asked Professor Fretwell to discuss how what we are hearing about global warming impacts our young people. Here is part of what she had to say:
"Like so many other people I was confused about the information I was hearing about global warming. The popular press says it's human caused, there is far less concensus in the scientific journals where a multitude of factors that influence climate are examined. That confusion followed by the costly policy recommendations encouraged me to look further...Some of the most disappointing material I found was propaganda to scare our children into making uninformed choices. There is so much information available today, via internet, TV, radio, etc., that I think it vitally important to teach our children how to think critically and be able to decipher fact from fiction. That is why I wrote "The Sky's Not Falling", and that is why I wrote it in simple enough terms for children, parents, and all adults to read."
Professor Fretwell provided this example of the type of misleading information our young people are being exposed to, which leads back to why she decided to write "The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's OK to Chill about Global Warming."
"Many students are being asked to watch Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." This has been a real inconvenience because, as the High British Court has stated, they are many non-truths and misleading statements in the movie. One of the most brazen examples is demonstrated with the graph that shows atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature change. The two variables are correlated; they move together. Gore and one of his producers Laurie David who just wrote a children's book on global warming, both assert that increases in CO2 levels cause temperature to increase. They have missed something really important here, one correlation does not mean causation, and two the data show that on average temperature changes 800 years before CO2 levels. Yes, read that again, temperature changes lead the changes in CO2 over the last 650,000 years."
I will post the link to my full interview with Professor Fretwell on December 18th. You can purchase a copy of "The Sky's Not Falling!: Why It's OK to Chill about Global Warming" from Amazon.com by clicking on the title of this blog entry.
This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:
Joining us today is epic fantasy author, Jim Melvin. Born in New York, Jim grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida where he became an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times. At age 50, he retired in 2004 to become a full-time novelist. The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy series, marks his debut as a published novelist.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Jim. It's a pleasure to have you with us. Before we dive into your series, please tell our readers a bit about yourself. What was it like to move from journalism to novel writing? Who do you enjoy reading? What do you do for fun?
I became a journalist fresh out of college at age 20. At the Times, I was a reporter, designer, editor, and supervisor for 25 years. But though I enjoyed my work, I always considered myself a novelist who supported his family as a journalist. Soon after I was hired at the Times in 1978, I wrote my first novel: a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah's Curse. It was never published, but at the time I wasn't overly concerned. I figured my second novel would be the one to hit it big. But for a quarter-century, there never was a second novel. Finally, in September 2004, I wrote the first page of The Death Wizard Chronicles. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I'm in the final revision process of Book Six, which concludes the series. To finally answer your question, the move from journalist to novel writing came naturally to me. Everything about the transition felt joyous.
As for what I enjoy reading? Well, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time in the mid-1970s and have read it at least 25 more times since then. So I guess that sort of clues you in. Ha! At least 70 percent of what I read is fantasy, with my favorites being Tolkien, of course, along with Stephen King, Stephen Donaldson, Steven Erikson, and George R.R. Martin. But there are many others.
What do I do for fun? I have five daughters ranging in age from 8 to 24, so not much. Ha, again! I live near the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I love to hike in the woods, swim in lakes and streams, and kayak.
What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
I write seven days a week from about 8 p.m. to midnight, and am definitely most productive during this time slot. I rarely miss a day; probably no more than 20 days during an entire year. When I'm writing the first draft of a novel, I also spend about an hour the following day, usually in the morning, revising what I wrote the night before.
Let's move on to The Death Wizard Chronicles. The first book in this series, The Pit, was released by Rain Publishing in September, and the next book, Moon Goddess, followed soon after. Tell us what these two novels are about.
In what I consider to be a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative — death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken unfolds in epic fashion throughout the series.
In a truly original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a temporary “suicide.” Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with a dazzling array of magical powers. The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath. Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The Death Wizard Chronicles carries readers on a breathtaking journey they will never forget.
In Book I (The Pit), Torg, the Death Wizard, is imprisoned in a horrifying pit bored into the solid rock of a frozen mountain. His captor is Invictus, the evil sorcerer whose power threatens to engulf the land in eternal darkness. Torg spends 22 days in agony before making his dramatic escape and setting off on a series of adventures that will change the fate of Triken.
Book II (Moon Goddess) introduces the powerful love story of Torg and Laylah (sister of Invictus), who are irresistibly drawn together by supernatural passion. After each one escapes the clutches of the sorcerer, they meet in the wilderness in a frantic attempt to outrun the forces of evil and reach Jivita, the White City.
Do you have release dates for the other novels? Can you give us a bit of a teaser on what they are about?
Book Three (Eve of War) already has been released and is available at http://www.rainbooks.com and http://www.amazon.com. Book Four (World on Fire) will be released before the end of December. Book Five (Sun God) will be released in late January and Book Six (Death-Know) in late February.
In Book IV (World on Fire), the story of Torg and Laylah’s flight culminates in three massive battles between the forces of good and the monstrous armies of Invictus. One battle takes place at the ancient fortress of Nissaya, the second at Jivita, and the third in the great desert called Tējo.
In Book V (Sun God), Invictus is defeated on the battlefields, but the sorcerer, even with his armies in ruins, still wields unstoppable power. He recaptures Laylah and takes her back to his tower in the city of Avici, out of reach of the man she loves. Eventually Torg defeats Invictus, with the help of a snow giant and an ancient demon. But the damage already has been done.
In Book VI (Death-Know), Laylah gives birth to Invictus’ child, who turns out to be even more dangerous than his father. In the dramatic finale, Torg and the forces of good combine to defeat the boy in a battle that takes place in the frozen wasteland called Nirodha.
Karen Haymon Long, book editor of The Tampa Tribune, said, “Adult Harry Potter and Eragon fans can get their next fix with Jim Melvin’s six-book epic The Death Wizard Chronicles.” What is it like being compared to popular authors like J. K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini?
It’s wonderful, of course — especially the popularity part. The best part of that review is that it came completely out of the blue. It’s not like Karen and I were friends and she was doing me a favor. Now, if I can become just one one-hundreth as popular as Rowling, I’ll be cooking!
In what ways are you books similar to Harry Potter and Eragon? Did you write them with these books in mind?
This is a good follow-up question. The Tribune reviewer was comparing my imagination and narrative descriptions to Rowling and Paolini, not necessarily my content. While Rowling and Paolini are very popular for young adults, my series is more adult in nature. If my six books were made into a series of movies (I wish!), each would be R-rated. I compare more to the Eriksons and Martins of the world, in that regard.
You are a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation. I understand that both are woven into your work. How so? And do you also weave in other elements of spirituality into your novels?
Another good question. My series revolves around a race of desert warriors called Tugars. In an allegorical sense, Tugars are Buddhists at heart, in that they meditate as part of their training process and that they believe in karma and rebirth. However, many other forms of religion also are allegorically represented in my series. People of different faiths must unite to defeat to defeat an all-powerful enemy.
The major theme of The Death Wizard Chronicles is the “fear of death” and what role it plays in the human psyche. The Death Wizard, more accurately called a Death-Knower, has died and returned. And he remembers. He doesn’t fear death. Between the lines, you’ll find out why.
Please tell us where readers can purchase The Death Wizard Chronicles.
For people who live in Canada and the northern United States, it can be purchased directly from my publisher’s website: http://www.rainbooks.com. For others, http://www.amazon.com probably is the better way to go, due to shipping costs. It’s not yet available in bookstores nationwide, but Rain is working on it and I have high hopes.
Are you working on any other projects outside of The Death Wizard Chronicles?
Though I have only been writing the series for about three years, The Death Wizard Chronicles has been a part of my mind for more than 30 years. For this reason, I have no other projects going right now. My next book probably will be a stand alone novel in the horror genre. I’ve got a very spooky ghost story in mind.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Write from the heart. Pull no punches. Don’t try to guess what readers want to read. Write what you want to write, and then let the chips fall where they may. Write with passion about large issues. And cry real hard when you’re finally finished. Then, do your best to get an agent, and work hard every day at getting published. Even then, there’ll be no guarantees. But at least you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you’ve given it your best shot.
Thank you for joining us today, Jim. It has been wonderful getting to know more about you and your work. Best of luck in all you do.
It was my pleasure! May you and your readers be healthy, happy, and peaceful.
This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:
Preaching to the Corpse is the latest from murder mystery author Roberta Isleib. Just look at this great cover!
Jennifer Winberry of Mystery Reader says that "Preaching to the Corpse is a fun holiday mystery with a heroine who will easily win new fans and keep old fans well satisfied" and "Isleib has created in Dr. Rebecca Butterman a professional who cares and who is better at her job for her own flaws and failings," says Armchair Reviews.
I asked Roberta to fill us in a bit on her main character Dr. Rebecca Butterman. Here's what she had to say:
Advice columnist/psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman is the main character in DEADLY ADVICE (Berkley, March 2007) and PREACHING TO THE CORPSE (Berkley,December 4, 2007). She actually made cameo appearances in two of my golf mysteries, A BURIED LIE and PUTT TO DEATH. I needed a smart woman psychologist for part of the story and she stepped up.
My first protagonist, pro golfer Cassie Burdette, did not like her at all! And therefore, a couple of my readers were worried about whether Rebecca would be likeable in the new series. I had to remind them that Rebecca and Cassie both dated the same fellow--so the antagonism was natural!
That said, Rebecca Butterman is a 30-something, newly single woman living on the shoreline in Guilford, CT. She has a complicated family history (as many of us do) that colors her reactions to her life and her work. And she's still raw from her recent divorce. That puts her in the funny position of giving advice to the lovelorn in Bloom! Magazine and conducting a psychotherapy practice, while struggling with her own issues. All that is realistic enough, I hope.
A couple of things I really like about her--she has strong relationships with two women friends and her younger sister. I count on my friends for support, encouragement, and a dose of realism, so I'm glad she has them too. She's also an amazing cook. It makes me hungry to write about the dishes she prepares--and I'm always watching my friends who cook well for suggestions and tips. I've even posted a few of her recipes on my blog: http://www.robertaisleib.com/blog
I hope you'll enjoy reading about her as much as I've enjoyed writing!
Now here comes the blurb:
PREACHING TO THE CORPSE
The holidays have arrived in postcard-perfect Guilford, CT, but someone's taking the joy out of the season...
Psychologist/advice columnist Dr. Rebecca Butterman gets a call in the middle of night from the minister at her church. He's in custody after going to a fellow parishioner's home and finding her dead. The murdered matron was the leader of a search committee charged with finding a new assistant pastor after the previous assistant left in a rush. Rebecca learns that the committee was divided--has someone tried to eliminate the competition? Rebecca puts her analytical skills to work to do her own Search--for a killer. All while resisting the urge to break the seventh commandment with a very married detective, and praying she's not the next victim.
And here's the teaser:
PREACHING TO THE CORPSE by Roberta Isleib
The phone jarred me out of a restless sleep.
I groped for the clock radio. 12:18. It was pitch dark and my mind swirled with dream riffs.
"Rebecca? Are you there? It’s Reverend Wesley Sandifer. Sorry to wake you." His voice sounded tremulous and strained.
My lizard brain—home of primitive fears and fight-or-flight reactions—kicked in: "Minister plus phone call after midnight equals disaster." Years of training as a clinical psychologist couldn’t protect me from a rush of nightmarish possibilities and dread.
My sister Janice? My niece Brittany? My dearest girlfriends, Angie or Annabelle? The image of a terrible car wreck, pulsing red flesh and twisted metal, flashed into mind. But why would any of the people I loved most be driving in the middle of the night? And how the hell would Reverend Wesley know? My heart pounded and my hands slicked up so much I almost dropped the phone.
"What’s wrong?" I whispered fiercely. "What happened?"
"I’m sorry to bother you at this hour," he said again, his voice growing shrill. "It’s not what you’re thinking. I need your help."
I logged a reassuring observation: Besides the comforting words, he hadn’t cloaked himself in the sorry-to-have-to-tell-you-this tone that preceded breaking bad news.
"We have a situation." He cleared his throat and paused.
"Could you be a little more specific?" I asked, feeling the adrenalin sluicing through my veins shift to annoyance at being woken up and frightened out of my gourd.
"I’m going to put Detective Meigs on, if that’s okay." I heard rustling and mumbling then Meigs’s voice.
"Dr. Butterman? I’m with the Reverend Wesley Sandifer at the emergency facility on Exit 59."
I hadn’t expected to hear Detective Meigs’s deep rumble any time soon—not ever, really. Midnight observation number two: He and I were back to formal salutations.
We’d made an unexpected connection after I stumbled into one of his cases last fall. But I’m single and he isn’t. End of drama, curtain falls, as my practical friend Annabelle would say. Only it wasn’t really the end, if you counted flashbacks and dreams in which the sighing damsel (me) was rescued over and over by the muscular though well-padded redheaded cop (him). It was enough to make any card-carrying feminist cringe.
The partial fog in my mind began to lift. "Is Reverend Wesley hurt?"
"Not exactly," said Meigs, sighing heavily. "You’re a member of the Shoreline Congregational Church?"
He was looking for religion at midnight? I was too tired to answer anything but "yes."
"There’s been a suspicious death," Meigs said. "We’d like to get this sorted out before the news hits the coffee shops in the morning. Can you possibly come down? The reverend insists he won’t talk to anyone but you," he continued, his exasperation plain. Clearly he thought this utter crapola. I had to agree. I’m a psychologist, not a detective. Or a lawyer—if that’s what he needed.
My brain shifted one gear higher, trying to put the pieces together. "Good God! Was Wesley involved in the death?"
"He called it in," said Meigs, not saying what everyone knows from TV: whoever finds the body is a damn good suspect.
"Trust me, Reverend Wesley wouldn’t kill anyone." Another shock wave of fear rocketed through me. "Who died?"
I felt the air whoosh out of my lungs, as if I’d been socked in the gut. Maybe he had it wrong; maybe it wasn’t her at all. I was just getting to know Lacy—a big woman with a forbidding exterior, but all heart underneath. My mouth watered with budding nausea.
"When can you get here?" Meigs asked. "Should I send a patrol car?"
I didn’t want to get involved with another tragedy; I’d barely recovered from the stress of my next-door neighbor’s death in September. "What am I supposed to do once I’m there?"
Meigs was silent for a moment. "Reverend Wesley says he’ll talk to me if you’re here. Look, he hasn’t been arrested. Yet. You might make a big difference with that."
"I’ll be down in half an hour."
I pulled on my warmest sweats, heavy gray fleece pants and a hoodie whose princess seams could not disguise the seven pounds of winter padding I’d packed on earlier in the season. Being held at gunpoint by a lunatic back in September had had the effect of increasing my appetite and decreasing my self-control.
I glanced in the mirror, then stripped the sweats back off, exchanging the Michelin Man look for jeans and a holiday sweater, refusing to think about why I would spend more than one minute dressing for our minister and the local ER. Refusing to think about what could have happened to Lucy Bailes. Grabbing my purse and a small notebook, I headed out to the garage.
A plume of exhaust drifted under the Honda as I backed into the street. Babette Finster’s white Christmas lights glowed softly on the large holly bushes on either side of her front walk. I could feel the hairs in my nose freeze up before the heater kicked in. It was unusually cold for December and clear enough to see a picture-book display of stars. We’d had six inches of snow in the last week and not one flake had melted.
I turned the radio up, looking for company. An all night station was playing a run of sappy Christmas tunes. I suffered through "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," then Paul McCartney crooning about having a wonderful Christmas time. He was a Beatle for God’s sake, an icon of rock and roll. Couldn’t his manager—or his wife—have saved him before he sank to the lowest common denominator of holiday schlock?
McCartney’s faux cheeriness couldn’t push back the worried possibilities that waited to surge forward if I gave them any room. Reverend Wesley a murderer? It didn’t seem possible that he would hurt anyone, certainly not Lacy. They were always cordial in my presence. In fact he’d handpicked her to head the search committee currently working to find a new assistant minister. This was one of Wesley’s strong points—persuading lay people to take up the heavy yoke of church business in return for no pay and lots of second-guessing from the rest of the congregation.
I felt a little twinge of small-minded dismay. What did he want from me? Enough! I ordered. You’ll find out when you get there. My mind glided seamlessly to Detective Meigs. What was the status of his wife’s illness? STOP! STOP!
I turned off Route One, drove under I-95, and pulled into the Shoreline Emergency Clinic’s driveway. Quite a few cars were parked in the front visitors’ lot, even though most people in our little Connecticut town are fast asleep at this hour.
I picked my way across the blacktop, boots crunching on small pyramids of compacted snow—and slipped on a patch of ice. Arms flailing, I crashed onto my butt. A sharp pain radiated from my buttock and down my right thigh. I lay on the pavement, moaning, and assessed the damage: bruised hip and pride. I rolled to my knees and staggered up.
Meigs was waiting at the front door, the smile on his lips not quite reaching his worried eyes.
"You all right?"
Was he interested in the sequelae of my awkward landing or the deeper psychological ramifications of this past fall’s events? I chose to grunt out "fine." Meigs looked more tired than when I’d seen him several months ago: cheeks a little more chiseled, circles under his eyes a darker hue. His close-cropped curls glinted gold-red with a spritz of silver under the bright lights of the front portico.
Forget it, Rebecca, I scolded myself. "What happened?" I asked curtly. "Why am I really here?"
"Your reverend seems to be flipping out," Meigs said. He strode ahead of me through the waiting area, detouring around a woman vomiting into a trash can and an older man with his head wrapped in a bloody towel. We pushed through two sets of glass doors and walked down the hallway toward the back of the clinic. "He called 911 and reported an emergency. He says he stopped into Lacy Bailes’s condominium and found her very sick."
"So she isn’t dead!" I exclaimed, weak with relief.
"She’s definitely dead. They worked on her for almost two hours before they gave up. We haven’t been able to get a sensible word out of Reverend Wesley since, and he insisted on speaking to you. The doc on call has been too busy to formally evaluate him." He glanced back at me and grimaced. "We had three choices: Put him in jail, take him to the Yale emergency room, or give him a half a Valium and call you." He shrugged. "We’re trying you first."
I stopped still. "But if Lacy was ill, why would you even consider putting Wesley in jail?"
Meigs turned to face me, lowering his voice. "She had all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. But the doc got suspicious about poison and called me in. We can’t be certain until the autopsy results come back. That could be days—we need permission from next of kin, and nothing happens on a damn weekend. Obviously, I’m exaggerating about an arrest tonight, but it’s imperative that your reverend tell us everything he knows."
We rounded the corner and passed through another set of double doors, these painted deep purple. Reverend Wesley was slumped in a blue plastic chair in a mini-waiting area, his white shirt rumpled and marked with rings of sweat. His eyes were closed and he held a dog-eared copy of People magazine on his lap.
As the minister popped up to hold out his hand, the magazine dropped to the floor, open to an article about celebrity cheating. "The Ultimate Betrayal!" the headline brayed.
"Thank goodness you’re here."
I squeezed his fingers gently. "What happened? Are you all right?" With most people in this situation, I would have rushed forward to offer a hug. Reverend Wesley’s body language didn’t welcome that kind of consolation.
"Let’s find a room where we can talk more comfortably," said Meigs. He strode down the hall, poked his head into one of the doors, then waved us down. "Can I get you some coffee? Water?"
I almost smiled. Flight attendant Meigs: who’d have guessed? Wesley and I shook our heads as we settled into more plastic chairs on either side of an examining table. Wesley’s gaze shifted to the metal stirrups and quickly back to the floor. Meigs perched on a rolling stool near the medicine cabinet. I reached diagonally across the white paper-covered table to shorten the distance between Wesley’s hand and mine.
Meigs pulled out his Palm pilot and cleared his throat. "Start from the beginning please, Reverend, and take us through what happened tonight."
Wesley patted his lips and combed through his hair with his fingers. His nails, ordinarily as fastidious as a hand model’s, were filthy.
"I had an appointment to talk with Lacy at eight." His eyes filled and he snuffled into the back of his hand. I rummaged through my purse, extracted a tissue, and handed it over.
"You had an appointment to talk about what?" Meigs prompted.
"The search committee, of course," said Reverend Wesley. He closed his eyes, clenched his hands on the examining table, and lowered his forehead to his fists.
"Lacy was chairing the committee charged with locating an assistant pastor to serve under Reverend Wesley," I said to Meigs. "Our former assistant found a new job and left rather precipitously. But nothing moves quickly in a church bureaucracy. And we have a large congregation. It’s been quite a stretch, hasn’t it, trying to meet everyone’s needs?" I patted the white paper on the table. "We do have an intern," I added inanely.
Wesley lifted his head and stared at me, his pupils dilated. Valium or shock? I wondered.
"Will you take over as chair?"
I sucked in a deep breath, noticing the sharp tang of his body odor and a waft of disinfectant. "Wesley, listen to me. The search committee is the least of your problems." I glanced quickly at Meigs. Leaning closer, I squeezed the minister’s wrist and whispered: "You could be arrested for murder here."
"No!" he said, shaking me off, a glazed look in his eyes. "Of course I didn’t kill her! She was barely conscious when I got there. She was having trouble breathing. That’s why I called the clinic."
"How did you get into the house, Reverend?" Meigs asked. "It doesn’t sound like she was in any condition to answer her door."
Wesley’s cheeks flushed pink. "She was expecting me. When she didn’t answer my knocking, I went in. I had a feeling something was wrong."
"So you arrived at eight, discovered her on the couch a few minutes later, and called 911 right after that?"
Wesley nodded, the movements of his head a little sloppy. "We were so close to filling the position. We have two interviews scheduled: Paul Cashman on Monday; he’s our intern who’s finishing up at Yale this spring." He glanced at his watch and pressed his palm to his eyes. "And Ellen Dark’s on her way down from New Hampshire, if she isn’t already here. She’s spending the weekend in Madison. She wants to check out the area. The committee is going to interview her Sunday night." He spread his delicate but grubby hands wide, a beseeching look on his face. "Both highly qualified, of course. If we put this off any longer, we’ll lose them and have to start from scratch. We simply can’t go on without another minister."
Meigs was right—Wesley did appear to be losing his mind. "We could always hire someone temporarily—"
"No!" he yelped. "Don’t you understand? We’ve already done the work!"
I patted his arm, cooing softly until he settled down.
"I found her," he whimpered. "When I got to her house, she was almost—dead." His hand wandered to his chest, plucking at his wool scarf. His eyes welled with tears. "Will you do it? Join the committee, I mean?" He began to cough, a sharp bark, thick with phlegm. Meigs handed him a small box of tissues from the counter and rolled his stool back a few inches.
"When you arrived, she looked sick?"
"I already told you," Wesley snapped. He took a ragged breath. "I’m sorry. She was so pale. And her breathing was labored and her skin was clammy." His eyes bulged as he coughed again. "It looked like a heart attack."
"Did you try CPR?" I asked.
He stared blankly. "Nothing I could do was going to bring her back. Nothing." With his hands to his mouth, the last words were mumbled. "So I called 911." His head wobbled, as if the weight was too much for his neck. "I learned CPR twenty-five years ago—never took a refresher. I was afraid to hurt her."
"Did you see anyone on the way in or out of her apartment?" Meigs asked.
Wesley shrugged his shoulders. "No. Will you—" he looked at me and hacked helplessly—"join the committee?"
"Of course I’ll help."
Meigs frowned and tipped his head toward the hall. I excused myself and followed him out.
"I think he’s suffering from a version of post-traumatic shock," I said to Meigs, who was leaning against the wall. "He’s not thinking straight."
He raised his eyebrows, one a quarter-inch higher than the other.
"He wants to appoint me to the vacant slot on the search committee. Why would he be so worried about that at a time like this?"
Meigs straightened, spreading his hands. "Spell it out."
"Lacy Bailes chaired the group that was choosing a new assistant minister." I bit my lip, organizing my thoughts; he’d want to know everything. "Because we had an intern coming on board, we skipped the interim minister step this time."
He scratched his head and shrugged. "I’m Catholic," he said. "By upbringing anyway. We don’t choose our priests; they’re sent from on high. You’ll have to explain the procedure."
I sighed. "When a minister leaves, the church is supposed to choose an interim pastor. This guy—or woman—helps the congregation mourn the old minister and make an emotional attachment to the new leader."
Meigs shook his head. "Greek to me.”"
"Put it this way, the interim pastor is sort of like a foster parent. Churches that don’t follow the protocol run the risk of ending up with an attachment disorder." I was beginning to sound like a pamphlet from the church’s central office.
"So let me get this straight," Meigs said, yawning and pulling on his left ear, "you were supposed to hire someone to help you recover from your previous minister?"
"Not only this particular minister," I said impatiently. Right now it seemed like a stupid process and impossible to explain. "It’s a specialty—clergy who go from church to church for short periods of transition. We call them interim pastors."
"Sounds to me like it’s the interim ministers who have attachment disorders," said Meigs.
I stared at him, then glanced at my watch. "One-thirty in the morning and you’re a comedian. I’d like to know why my pastor went to this woman’s home for a meeting on a Friday night."
"We’d both like to know that," Meigs said briskly. "And then an hour later she turns up dead. What can you tell me about Ms. Bailes?"
I sucked in a breath. Funny how you can see someone every Sunday, even talk with them in coffee hour, and still hardly know them at all. But I liked her. My eyes teared up. And I’d given Wesley my only Kleenex.
"She was single. She works—worked—for an insurance company in Hartford." What if I’d known her better, taken more time? STOP! I wasn’t going down that road with Lacy: it’d brought nothing but agony with my dead neighbor. A tear started down my cheek. "I’m so tired. I can’t really think."
Meigs frowned. "Fine, we’ll talk in the morning. Meanwhile, do you think the Reverend’s gone bonkers?"
I blotted my face with my sleeve and cracked a small smile. "You won’t find that diagnosis in the DSM –V. But probably not a bad idea to keep him for observation overnight and get an official psychiatric consult."
"And not a terrible idea to have you sit on that committee," said Meigs. "Just don’t start thinking you’re on the case. Or the clock." He pressed on before I could cut him off. "You’re a damn good observer and your minister seems to trust you. And I have a feeling there are going to be gnarly confidentiality issues before we’re through. Think it over. I’ll check in with you tomorrow."
He wheeled back into the exam room. I was dismissed. "Can I say good night to the reverend?" The door clicked shut behind him.
"What do you think happened to Lacy?" I called. My voice echoed in the empty corridor.
Outside, the wind had picked up from merely sharp to biting. I minced back over the icy blacktop to my car, feeling a dull ache in my hip. I drove slowly home, passing the church on the way. Spotlights illuminated green wreaths with red bows on massive wooden doors, and candles gleamed through the wavy window glass, projecting an aura of peace and beauty.
Wouldn’t that be shot to hell by morning?
What are you still reading for? Click on the title of this post to be directed to the Preaching Your Corpse page on Amazon and pick up a copy of this amazing book today!
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What would happen if three successful people were brought together to review their lives for the Devil? You can find out in Sydney Molare's novel, Devil's Orchestra. Sydney Molare is one of the latest Southern authors who should be on your watch list. Her novels' messages cross genres, ethnicities, and locales to bring readers powerful stories. That could be why Sydney's books are garnering awards from book clubs and reviewers across the country.
Devil's Orchestra takes a successful radio personality (Tab) on the Eastern seaboard, a hip-hop princess (Deva), and an author (Juan), all very successful in their own right, and living life on their own terms. But at what cost?
When three old friends come back into their lives, they entice these successful people living on their own terms, to take stock. Little do Tab, Deva, and Juan know that Luke, AKA Lucifer, really wants to make sure they continue along their paths so that he can welcome them into his kingdom.
You'll have to read the book to find out what happens, but here's a teaser of Devil's Orchestra by Sydney Molare:
WJZU screeched with activity--phones rang, voices boomed out messages, people zigged and zagged. As the number one station on the Eastern seaboard, it was all in a day's work.
The double doors banged open. An imposing, white-haired figure stood just inside, arms akimbo, his essence nearly visible to the naked eye. It wasn't that he was extremely handsome, because he wasn't. The timeworn face was often described as plainer than plain and the paunchy body, definitely not pin-up material. However, it was the POWER emanating from Tab McGrith which made people take notice...just as they did now.
His mouth lifted at the corner; hard eyes surveyed the room. His lair. His domain. Conversations interrupted or halted as people greeted him, lips pulled back in pleasure or in some cases, fear. For Tab was what one would call "The Franchise."
The top radio personality on the East Coast, his program "Living Life As Your Right" was carried in more than two thousand stations worldwide. Advertisers, the lifeblood of any station, loved him. In fact, two nearly came to blows trying to waggle one of his commercial spots.
He was a cash cow and he knew it. Hell, the world knew it. Station owners from New York City, LA and London practically drooled oceans trying to court him away. Not for Tab, though. He was a big fish in a pretty big pond and he liked it that way. No way would he risk everything he had, what he had worked and cheated to get, for maybe more. To say that he was totally indispensable without a major "F" up--and even that was debatable--was an understatement.
With a strut of learned arrogance, he moved further into the room. Hearty slaps peppered his back; lips stretched even further, distaste swallowed behind porcelain veneers. Tab barely acknowledged the giver; accepted the fawnings as his due.
A studio technician hesitantly walked toward Tab, stopping six feet shy. "Ah, ah...we're ready if you are," he mumbled, eyes shifting behind, above and beside Tab. He didn't have the guts to look him straight on...few people did.
"Lead on, son! My people want to hear from me!" Tab boomed.
“Ah, ah, yessir.” Nervous, the tech stumbled over his feet and crashed into a waiting desk. Face red, he snapped back upright, ignored the coffee he’d spilt on the secretary sitting at the desk—as well as her papers—and threw open the studio door. Tab winked at the pissed woman but offered no assistance. That was beneath him. As he entered the door to the studio, a voice stopped him.
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Today I am giving the lovely, Marilyn Morris the floor to talk about her experience of sitting on a Q & A Panel which aims to help people who suffer from Lupus. In her book, Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient, Marilyn shares her journey of living with chronic joint pain, frustration, anger, and grief, revealing her unexpected spiritual growth and gratitude for life, in the hopes that her story may help other Lupus sufferers.
Without further ado, I give you a talented author, a wonderful lady, and a friend--Marilyn Morris.
My Experiences on a Q&A Panel
Marilyn Celeste Morris
I was reminded once again of its quirks at a lupus symposium held last week at the University of Texas, Dallas campus. Of about one hundred persons there, I can safely say, none of us had exactly the same experiences at the same time. Several were newly diagnosed, bewildered by the suddenness of their illness, and the shock of knowing there is no cure and treatment varies in each individual.
Most of us, however, rely on the tried-and-true use of steroids (to reduce the swelling of joints) and Plaquenil, an anti-malerial that was discovered quite by accident to have a remitting effect on lupus activity. However, the use of steroids causes extreme weight gain with a "moon-face" effect, thus causing yet another crushing blow to the patient, and taking Plaquenil requires a yearly visit to the ophthalmologist to ensure vision is retained. As I succinctly summed it up after my initial diagnosis and given a prescription for Plaquenil with the caution that I might lose my eyesight: "Oh, I get it. I can either hurt or go blind?"
There are days I still feel that way – conflicted and afflicted. Conflicted about the treatment for lupus, and afflicted by its limitations on me for that day. And yet, I have learned to rely on those last two words as gospel truth: "That day." It won't last forever. Whatever is going on inside my body will not last forever. It will either get better, get worse, go away for a while, or I can learn to live with it, one day at a time.
At this point I must relate the experience I perceived of one person in the audience of lupus patients. Although she had been diagnosed at 11 years of age, and she is now in her mid-twenties, she is still seeking answers. How long will this last? Will I keep getting sick with the same symptoms? How can I file for disability when they tell me I'm not sick enough?
We on the panel and in the audience attempted to answer her questions, but it soon began to dawn on me that she wasn't willing to listen to our answers.
She wanted attention. For her own particular set of symptoms, for that day. And we were not set up to deal with one individual's case history at the expense of others. I began to realize that since the age of 11, she had been playing "Victim." And she had no idea she was doing that. Yet in her baby-sized voice, and her singsong questions, she was reverting to childhood. Soon some of us "old timers" began exchanging knowing looks, and the moderator began somewhat unsuccessfully to cut off her incessant questions. Yet how could we squelch someone's quest for answers? After all, isn't that what we were there for?
Yes and no. Yes, we could provide her with the information that we are all affected differently at different times. And no, we couldn't recommend any one treatment that she hasn't already had and she needed to ask her own doctors. In an age where we can pull up an answer to almost any question in the universe by using a Google search, medicine cannot give certain answers to an uncertain disease. And that's a shame.
I know now what I should have told her. (Don't you just love it when you leave an argument or a situation where you think, "I should have said…..?) I was told early on by a very frustrated doctor who told me I "might" have lupus. "You will find that lupus is a do-it-yourself- disease. You will have to become your own best physician."
Our fifteen minute office visit is over. Pay on the way out, please.
The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation's leading nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to lupus. The LFA has a dual mission: to provide support and services to all people affected by lupus, and to fund research to find the causes of and cure for lupus. The LFA has a nationwide network of nearly 300 chapters, branches and support groups. Visit www.lupus.org or call toll-free 1-888-38-LUPUS (1-888-385-8787) for more information.
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Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Anne Newton Walther, the author of the historical fiction novel, The Loss of Innocence. I had the opportunity to review this title for the Muse Book Reviews and I was impressed with Anne’s ability to weave actual events and fictional happenings into an intriguing story with a hint of romance. I couldn’t let too much time pass before I had this talented author as a guest at The Book Connection, because I wanted to connect readers with Anne and this well-written, engaging, and gripping story.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Anne. I’m honored to have you join us.
Thank you, Cheryl it’s a pleasure to be with you.
Before we talk about Loss of Innocence, can you tell us more about yourself? How long have you been a writer? What draws you to historical fiction? Have you dabbled in other genres?
I’ve always loved the world of books and words. Most of my friends in school hated writing term papers and book reports. I loved them. My first book, Divorce Hangover, non-fiction, was published in 1991 by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division. It helped people going through divorce and after divorce to get rid of the negative emotional baggage of divorce and move on with their lives. Not Damaged Goods was my second non-fiction book which helped the children deal with their parents’ divorce and move on positively with their lives. My first historical fiction was A Time for Treason, A Novel of the American Revolution.
The island of Bermuda inspired my passion for history and compelled me to embrace fact and fiction in a book. I’ve found that fact is often wilder than fiction and fiction is icing on the cake. The factual element feeds my love of history and the fictional element frees my imagination and lets it take wing.
As with all historical fiction, there must be a great deal of research to perform before you can sit down and write a story. How do you approach researching a topic you are interested in writing about? What do you do to keep all your research organized? How do you know when you’re ready to start writing?
I first look for a compelling tidbit of history that acts as a springboard for the story. In the case of “Treason” it was an actual plot – called the gun powder plot – which involved a conspiracy between the American patriots and a group of Bermudians that took place at the outbreak of the American Revolution. Its intrigue and danger was far more shocking than anything I could have made up. My knowledge of this period of history (the American Revolution and the Colony of Virginia of that period) was in depth. I went to Bermuda to gather the primary and secondary sources I needed to build the story and bring it alive. I love research. The trick is to cull the tastiest morsels to keep the reader fascinated and entertained. There’s always a lot of research and facts left on the cutting room floor. When I reach the point that I’m learning nothing new and my sources are repetitive, I know the moment has arrived to shift from investigating to creating and I pick up my #2 pencil and legal pad and plunge in.
Loss of Innocence is a story revolving around the French Revolution. Were you familiar with this time in France’s history prior to writing the book?
I was familiar with the French Revolution prior to writing Loss of Innocence, but not in depth. Again, I came upon a “historical tidbit,” this time a conspiracy between a group of Americans and a group of Frenchmen who plotted to rescue Marie Antoinette and spirit her across the Atlantic to a town they were building for her as a haven from the guillotine. This actual plot and Eugenie (the heroine of “Treason”) triggered Loss of Innocence.
Two of the main characters in this book are also featured in your novel about the American Revolution, A Time for Treason. Is Loss of Innocence a sequel to this novel?
Yes, Loss of Innocence is a sequel to A Time for Treason. Eugenie Devereux and Bridger Goodrich met in “Treason” and continue their relationship in “Innocence.” Eugenie Devereux, Comtesse de Beaumont is entirely fictitious. Bridger Goodrich, an exiled Virginian, successful shipper and privateer, is an actual historic figure, rogue and entirely irresistible.
I loved how strong-minded and resourceful your main character, Eugénie Devereux, is. What can you tell us about her?
Eugenie is a member of the French nobility who spied for her constituency in the Colony of Virginia in A Time for Treason. She is strong-minded and resourceful as well as extraordinarily beautiful (of course!), a skilled equestrian, and owns and operates vast holdings in the Bordeaux Valley of France. Inspired by the Americans, she is an avid believer and supporter of revolution in her own country.
The other character, who is found in both novels, is Captain Bridger Goodrich, who is Eugénie’s love interest. He is an actual historical figure. If my information is correct, Goodrich worked against the French in the late 1700’s. What can you tell us about him from an historical perspective? Were you able to remain true to the person that people will know from studying history?
Bridger Goodrich was one of five brothers. His family owned several plantations on the James River in the Colony of Virginia. The family had several businesses. They had an extensive shipping and trading company. The family was apolitical, but when a very valuable cargo was stolen from their warehouse, in revenge they became agents for the British. When Virginian patriots discovered this, the entire family, Bridger, his brothers and parents were driven from Virginia and all their property was confiscated.
His parents and some of the brothers relocated in and around the Colony of New York. Bridger and another brother remained in the vicinity of Bermuda. Bridger flew whatever flag was expedient, was a privateer, continued his successful shipping business and thoroughly enjoyed beleaguering the American patriots.
I do take some liberties with Bridger, but for the most part, I am true to his character and activities. Those who are familiar with the Goodrich family will recognize Bridger.
The events in Loss of Innocence are based upon a little-known plot by French nobles and some Americans to rescue Queen Marie Antoinette from her prison in France and bring her across the Atlantic to settle in Pennsylvania. How did these events inspire your story? What piqued your interest enough to want to write about it?
I got a bit ahead of myself in answering an earlier question. The plot to rescue Marie Antoinette was the perfect kernel of history to give Eugenie a vehicle for her adventures in Loss of Innocence. There was no question at the end of A Time for Treason that Eugenie was not satisfied to disappear into the mist. I’ve come to know that fictitious characters have a life of their own. Between the urging of my readers’ feedback and Eugenie’s persistence, there was nothing for me to do but pick up my #2 pencil and legal pad and let the Comtesse have her way.
There are a host of other memorable characters in this novel. Jeremy--who is Eugénie’s Master of the Horse and trusted confidant; Jamie MacKenzie and his family--who are servants and trusted friends; and Amelia Stanton--a spoiled rich girl from America who pays Eugénie a visit at the worst of times, gets on everyone’s nerves, and ends up befriending the queen. Do you have any favorites?
I have to say that I don’t have any favorites. Each had a role to play and at times they surprised me. The greatest surprise was Amelia’s ability to always land on her feet completely oblivious to the havoc she left in her wake. At the beginning of the book I didn’t even expect her to be in the book, but suddenly there she was! Amazing. The Roan, the magnificent thoroughbred, to me, was the real hero of the piece. I guess you can tell I have a particular soft spot in my heart for those courageous beasts.
Where can readers purchase a copy of Loss of Innocence?
All of my books are available on Amazon.com. If local bookstores don’t currently have them in stock, they can order them through wholesalers or IPM, the distributor.
What is up next for you? Any upcoming projects you would like to share with our readers? Will we see Eugenie and Bridger in another novel?
I have a couple of projects I’m very excited about. One is the potential for a film project. As for Eugenie and Bridger, let me say, she keeps me on my toes and where she is, can Bridger be far behind?
Is there anything you would like to add?
This has been a great interview, Cheryl. Your questions have been insightful and have given me a wonderful forum for Loss of Innocence and Eugenie. I have always loved history. It was part of my undergraduate degree. If my two books “Treason” and “Innocence” entertain and inform my readers so that they discover a love of history, I will be very grateful.
Thank you, so very much Cheryl for this opportunity. It has really been special.
Thank you for spending so much time with us today, Anne. You’ve written an outstanding novel. I wish you much success.
The Dragon Clan Trilogy actually started as a short story about a woman buying a house. In Awakening the Dragon (978-0-9798406-0-9), the initial premise was that Wiccans and Pagans experience discrimination when it comes to some living and working situations. However, Kevin suddenly rode up on his horse and the romantic connection between him and Rachael expanded the story beyond the six pages and suddenly the history of the home turned it into a novel. Their interest in each other is not only smoldering passion, but also is sparked by their common spiritual path and the secrets they are trying to hide; however, both their past issues and threats from others impede the relationship. Neither of them feel it is safe to drop their guard long enough to allow the other within their inner circle.
Kevin has been living a lie that has been destroying him from the inside out. He knows his mother murdered his grandmother, but his love for her and the promises he has made has forced him to be silent. He is never sure if it was his mother’s greed or her bigotry that pushed his grandmother down the stairs. However, it was her greed that had been motivating her since then. His father’s sudden death was listed as a suicide. Yet the message in his father’s note and his mother’s attempt to destroy it brought that into question. He can only admit the truth of his life when the alcohol has numbed his inner censors, allowing him to face the secrets he has been forced to keep. It is on one of these nights that he prays to the Goddesses for justice for his murdered grandmother and his father’s death. He didn’t think he was heard, but he was and a series of events was set into motion, which brought Rachael to Coyote Springs. Only he doesn't see that his prayers are being answered; instead, he reaches back to his own soul's history to find the dark magic he needs to create the justice he seeks.
Rachael threw a dart to find a place to open her New Age bookstore where she could also make a difference. The dart landed on Coyote Springs, which was too close to her family home. Although she attempted to rig the results, the dart kept finding the same mark. She wasn’t comfortable living so close to her unhappy childhood, but she accepted the Goddess’s will and moved her furkids to the small Northern Michigan town. She found the store space, but was having difficulty finding a home until a reluctant real estate agent showed her a country cottage. Although the cottage had locked itself down since the murder of Kevin's grandmother, it opens it's doors to Rachael. By agreeing to move into the cottage, Rachael not only makes herself another target of the fanatical cult but also becomes the catalyst in exposing the murderer. In order to save herself and her loved ones, she is forced to awaken her dragon spirit prematurely. Only she has no way of know if she can control the sudden rush of power or if her attempt to protect all she loves will consume her from the inside out.
When I finished Awakening the Dragon, I realized there was more story to be told and the Trilogy was created. Dragon Domain (978-0-9798406-1-6) centers around a spiritual retreat several miles down the road. It was created by Cheyenne with the help of her two spirit sisters, Celeste and Jane. They had created a safe, peace place for others to learn and grow spiritually until an old love finds Celeste. Dominic arrives unexpectedly and suddenly dark magic surrounds the farm. Cheyenne tries to warn the others. Celeste's passion for Dominic deafens her to the warnings and she once again turns to the dark path.
Cheyenne’s first memories were of Celeste finding her in the desert. Beaten and left for dead, she had lost the memories of her first four years of life. Ignoring her family's wishes, Celeste nursed her back to health and took her from the Mesa. For over twenty years, Celeste kept them moving. She refused to settle in one place for more than a short period of time. She would never say why. Celeste became her mother and her teacher, until the Mother Dragon came to Cheyenne and awakened her dragon spirit. By choosing the Dragon path over Celeste's, Cheyenne caused a rift between them that was never addressed, so it was never be able to be healed. Yet Cheyenne longed for a home--a place where she could nest and safely explore her spirituality. When they came to Coyote Springs, she knew she had found what she was looking for and she refused to leave. The rift between her and Celeste widen enough for the evil to come between the two of them.
All Celeste wanted from her life was a home, family, and a man who loved her. She never thought it was too much to ask. Yet she could never seem to find someone who loved her unconditionally until she met Dominic. He gave her permission to give in to all her passions. He loved all of her the good, bad, and the ugly without judgment. Yet her family named him evil and tried to keep him from her. By lying to them both, Celeste's family separated them and once again gained control over her, but they only succeeded in banking the dark coals that burned within her. They waited dormant, waiting for Dominic to return to her life. He found her and fanned the flames back into life. Greedy for power, he exploited her buried resentments and turned her love for Cheyenne into hatred.
For the first 30 years of her life, Jane did what was expected of her. She followed the path of least resistance, but instead of finding happiness, she only felt lonely and empty. When she met Celeste and Cheyenne, they awakened her psychic abilities and the missing piece slipped into place. For the first time in her life, she was complete; there were no longer empty rooms in her heart. She felt connected and important to others. Celeste and Cheyenne gave her a sense of family. Yet there was always the inner doubt that it wasn’t real and she wasn’t worthy of these wonderful blessings. After Dominic arrived, it all started to slip away. She denied it until it was too late to stop the spreading evil, which sought to steal their souls.
The Return of the Dragon Tribe is the third in the trilogy. What Rachael initiates by coming to Coyote Springs, Cheyenne and others nurture until the rest of the tribe convenes and an old karmic debt comes due. The Dragon Clan Trilogy is filled with magic, romance, suspense, and karmic justice as a tale of horror and betrayal unwinds until at last the truth is reveal and the scales are again balanced.
The first week of December continues with a talented author who I am happy to also know as a friend. JoElle Martín is an author of young adult fantasy and fantasy romance novels. Her first two young adult fantasy novels were recently released from Windstorm Creative.
Welcome to The Book connection JoElle. It’s great to have you here!
Thanks Cheryl. I’m excited to be here. I’ll try not to break anything. Heh!
It seems so strange to actually call you by your first name. Why don’t we get started by having you tell our readers a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing? What inspires you to put pen to paper? And why is it your friends call you “Elf”?
Hmmm. Well, I learned to write when I was five. I wrote throughout school. My first paid piece was a front page story for a local newspaper. That was almost ten years ago.
What inspires me to put pen to paper? I don’t know … I just have all these characters that show up in my head and I can’t stop myself from telling their stories. I suppose more than anything, I am a storyteller. What I love is to tell a story … on paper.
Forest Elf is my cyber-world alter ego. I write fantasy and love elves. Years ago, when I first needed a user name I choose “Forest Elf”. I use it … or a form of it on forums and chat rooms. So, most of the people I meet online know me as “Forest”, “Elf”, or “Elfie”.
Both your young adult and romance novels have elements of fantasy in them. What do you like about the world of fantasy?
I create elves and fairies that live with nature and the earth the way I imagine we should. Elves and fairies love the earth and treat her with respect. They love trees, plants, animals, and rivers. Pollution does not exist in their world.
But they also have a bit of a mischievous side. They play jokes and tease and break rules. They are honest to the point of tactlessness. They are so open with each other that secrets are impossible. If you tell one elf or fairy a secret … you may as well have told the whole community. They are a strange combination of very wise and very innocent. Sprinkled over that is hint of irresponsible.
I find I very much can relate to my fey characters.
In my novels they meet up with humans in our world and time. It is fun to create the results of such a meeting.
It amazes me when authors can create fictional worlds so different from our own. What is your approach to creating the fantasy world in which your characters live? Do you start with a map, a picture of a place you’ve visited, a character? And how does that lead you to create these fantasy worlds?
I make it up. When I was a little girl I believed it was possible that fairies lived in our yard. I spent my first eight years in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I’ve always had an active imagination.
I love hiking in the forest and I can really imagine fairies and elves living in untouched forests and gardens. And last year when I visited Ireland it wasn’t hard to see why they believe in the little people. There are some truly beautiful places there.
My worlds are very real to me. When I go into the places I create in my mind, I can see them. I can smell them. They are real. I can make them any way I want them to be. I just have to imagine it.
I can get an idea of how I want a place to look and just create it. A beautiful park or forest isn’t hard to imagine, of course. But in my stories dragons, unicorns, and a few creatures I’ve made up, live in those forests and parks.
A Bridge in the Forest and A Promise in the Forest were recently released from Windstorm Creative. Congratulations! What does it feel like to be a newly published author?
Ah, thanks! But, um, actually due to technical difficulties, their computer hard drive decided to quit on them, the release of the two novels is being delayed a couple of weeks.
Hmmm! How does THAT feel? It’s kind of like being an expectant mother whose doctor has just told her during her ninth month of pregnancy that he made a mistake regarding the due date and she has to wait a couple more weeks. So, yeah, it’s a bit disappointing … yet still very exciting.
These books are the first two in your Dreamer’s Forest series. What can you tell us about this series?
It is a four book series. The first two novels should be read together and that is a big reason they are being released at the same time. “A Bridge in the Forest” mostly takes place in FeyTerrah (the land of the elves and fairies) and “A Promise in the Forest” is a lot of fun, this is where the elves and fairies come to the human world … and a lot of uh, interesting things happen with that!
The story is part fairytale, part romance, part adventure. It’s contemporary, takes place today. It was fun combining a small university town in the Pacific Northwest with the enchanting fey world.
Tell us more about Lily Kingman. What is it about Lily that young readers will relate to? Why will they care about what happens to her?
Most young people can relate to the feeling they are different from everyone else. Lily feels this way. Of course she IS different. One thing I made a point to NOT do with Lily is have a horrible home life like Cinderella and Snow White.
Her parents are still married after over 20 years and love each other. She has an older brother she gets along with very well. She’s happy.
But she also knows she is odd and different … she just doesn’t know why. She has best friends and has just finished high school. She loves animals. She’s not really popular. And she is a little naughty. She slams doors, though her mother repeatedly reminds her she is breaking house rules. She’s a little irresponsible. She daydreams and doesn’t pay attention in class. She teases her brother. She’s not perfect. And when she smiles her impish smile she has twin dimples that are irresistible.
When Lily finds a secret gate that takes her to FeyTerrah, she meets an elf named, Dreamer. What is one thing that Lily likes about Dreamer? Is there anything about him she doesn’t care for?
Of course when Lily and Dreamer first meet they don’t hit it off. Lily firmly believes she is human. But Dreamer and the others in the group immediately see her uncanny resemblance to a missing fairy princess.
Dreamer is immediately attracted to Lily but he believes she is lying. He distrusts her and questions her intentions. Because he treats her so coolly she isn’t sure how to act around him.
Dreamer has an unusual entrancing look about him, even for an elf. And though his best friend, Nicholas is much more handsome, Lily is right away attracted to Dreamer and is impressed by his friends’ fierce loyalty to him. Dreamer also has an unusual strong sense of honor.
Lily and Dreamer are both unaware that they are destined for each other by an ancient spell that is cast on members of the royal family of Kelyshire. The village that Lily will eventually discover is home to her father’s family.
Lily, and a group of elves, and a fairy are sent by the fairy king to find the king’s missing daughter. Is Lily forced to be resourceful along this journey? Does she surprise herself or the others along the way with what she can accomplish?
What happens is Lily’s companions notice that Lily has natural fey traits. These are the same traits that make Lily strange and unusual in the human world. Lily ends up using these skills when she and her companions are faced with danger during their quest.
When a dangerous creature attacks them and Lily saves Nicholas’ life, Dreamer’s attitude toward Lily changes. He realizes she truly believes she is only human. He also sees that she is brave and loyal. Two traits he greatly admires.
There are two other books planned for this series. Can you tell us a bit about them?
In “A Secret in the Forest” her adventures take a more serious turn. Lily and her companions discover there are more fey living in the human world. Also, a young man who Lily spurned suspects there is something not entirely human about Lily and her strange new friends. He begins to investigate Lily and her family and threatens them.
In “Moonlight in the Forest” the kings of FeyTerrah realize that their world and the Otherworld (the world of the humans) are facing changes. That the old laws governing travel between the worlds and forcing their subjects of mixed blood to choose a world may need reexamining. Once the ancient dragons discovers something new about Lily, that helps her bring an end to the spell that has bound her family for centuries.
Where can readers purchase a copy of A Bridge in the Forest and A Promise in the Forest?
They are available for pre-ordering from Barnes & Noble (either online or in the store) and from Amazon.
What is up next for you? Are there more projects we should be looking forward to?
Right now I have four Fantasy Romance manuscripts that I need to polish and edit. I hope to have them all submitted by the middle of next year. I’ve also just invented a new horoscope system. I’ve built a website for it and I’m working on turning it into a fun little reference book.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. 4+5=9. (That’s the number of books I’ve written and am working on.)
I just want to add that writing doesn’t have to be a solitary or lonely profession. A lot of writers may think they are struggling alone. But thanks to the internet you can find a lot of other wonderful writers who are wonderfully supportive and encouraging and who know exactly what you are going through. Find a friendly forum and / or chatroom. It made a big difference for me.
In fact a wonderful writer friend of mine, Rhett DeVane, sent me a surprise gift in the mail for the release of my books. It was a very nice fancy designer pen … for autographs! She even searched and found my favorite color: green.
Thanks for joining us today Elfie. I’m sorry, I just can’t get used to calling you JoElle. It was great to finally get a chance to hear more about your novels. I wish you all the success in the world and I hope you’ll come back for a visit in 2008 when the next novel in this series is released.
It was great visiting with you! This was fun. And don’t worry, I love being called Elfie!