Friday, June 26, 2009

Going to the Chapel...


We're off to Cape Cod this weekend for my brother-in-law's wedding. Check back in on Wednesday, July 1st for more exciting book news.

Thank you for your support!

Cheryl

The Story of an Angel and the King of Pop

What a shocking and sad day America experienced yesterday. Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with cancer and the King of Pop died suddenly and mysteriously from a suspected cardiac arrest.

While we typically stick to books here, the passing of such legends, along with the recent passing of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, cannot go unacknowledged.


While I was a bit young to watch the Tonight Show, everyone knew about Johnny Carson and the famous "H-e-r-r-r-r-r-e's Johnny!" line that McMahon delivered each night. McMahon had his own turn in the spotlight when he hosted Star Search in the 1980's, many years before American Idol and America's Got Talent made their way on the scene.

In the last few years of his life, McMahon had been plagued by health issues and financial woes, but I'm sure America will always remember the wonderful second fiddle who delivered his serious lines and still got laughs.




Farrah Fawcett became a household name when she starred in the first season of Charlie's Angels as Jill Munroe, one of the three crime-fighting beauties who worked for the mysterious and never seen Charlie, voiced by John Forsythe. Along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, Farrah heated up the TV screen each week and became a sex symbol.

Leaving after one season, Farrah took on many dramatic roles after Charlie's Angels, the most famous of which was The Burning Bed, a movie about domestic violence.

Farrah's long and brave battle with cancer was recently highlighted in the documentary, Farrah's Story. Her longtime companion, Ryan O'Neal had intended to marry the actress as soon as she was up to it.

Farrah Fawcett was an amazing actress and an inspiration to those fighting life-threatening illnesses. While we rejoice that she no longer suffers the ravages of a dreaded disease, we mourn the loss of a brave and beautiful woman.


Perhaps the saddest news this week was the sudden and unexpected passing of Michael Jackson who was poised for a comeback when he died of an assumed cardiac arrest.

Even at a young age, you knew that Michael Jackson was destined to be a star. The Jackson 5, a group formed with Michael's four brothers, were a huge pop music phenomenon in the 70's, which led to solo careers for Jermaine and Michael.

Michael's solo career included huge hits like Thriller, Billie Jean, and Beat It. His unique fashion sense and ground-breaking videos inspired future generations of music artists. He crossed racial barriers, collaborating with Paul McCartney on Say, Say, Say and The Girl is Mine, and encouraged change with songs like Man in the Mirror.

While his personal life was plagued by many hardships the past several years, Michael was planning a comeback tour in London at the time of his death.

No one can deny his influence on the music industry or Jackson's level of talent. As Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation, said, "Michael Jackson was a brilliant troubadour for his generation, a genius whose music reflected the passion and creativity of an era. His artistry and magnetism changed the music landscape forever. We have been profoundly affected by his originality, creativity and amazing body of work..."

May all these icons of various generations rest in peace!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stephen Meier, Mail Order Brides and KATKA



Katka by Stephen Meier is a gritty, edgy novel of greed, love, and swindles gone very wrong. When Gavin and his girlfriend team with her best friend Simona to pull a phony mail order bride scam in the Czech Republic, Gavin gets in way over his head in the high-stakes and dangerous business of selling wives. When Gavin talks Katka, his girlfriend, into becoming part of the merchandise, planning to bait-n-switch the client in the end, things go awry and Katka disappears with the client. Partnering with the jealous and volatile Simona, Gavin begins to lament this risky life he has chosen, but finds the money is something he can’t walk away from. Gavin’s doubts grow; the con begins to consume him, and he finds himself thinking of Katka, the fate he dealt her, and whether he can undo the biggest mistake of his life.

Written with staccato grit and streetwise savvy, Katka reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie.

As our guest blogger, Stephen discusses the type of research he did for Katka:

The truth is the research I did for my book, KATKA, was talking with girls who were willing to be mail order brides or who were mail order brides. To hear their first-hand accounts or reasons for doing it was truly amazing, and all I needed to know. I wanted the emotion behind the story, as this book is an emotional roller coaster, fueled by love, greed, and the desire for a better life. Talking with people who have lived through this is all the research you need.

Yet, I am also lucky enough to know someone, a guy, who actually purchased a young woman from the Phillipines. So I asked why he did it. He's a very nice man,very religious. So to hear him tell me how much he just wanted a companion, and then to see how happy he was when she finally came over, just brought it all home for me.

You can go online and type in mail order brides and find about a million hits. There are some sleazy sites, as well as some very professional ones. I mean, Facebook even advertises for an agency. So that tells you right there, that it's big business! And it's not going away!

Stephen Ross Meier was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the first of many places he would live worldwide. He received his Bachelors in English from Arizona State University. He currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada

Inspired by music, films, books, and the world around him, he is currently working on several projects, with his next book, Teaching Pandas to Swim, ready to be released soon. A huge fan of such writers as Charles Bukowski, Milan Kundera, Irving Welsch, Irving Stone, Chuck Palahniuk, and Brett Easton Ellis, Stephen has always been drawn to writing and story telling.

Having been diagnosed with Heart Disease on May 10th, 2006, Stephen has been reminded that life void of passion is really not a life at all.

For more information please visit www.stephenrossmeier.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I Learned on My Virtual Book Tour by Barry Eva (Storyheart)


YOUR BOOK IS PUBLISHED:

So now what?

EXPOSURE!!!!!

Twitter it, blog it, join groups, check Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc, get your name and that of your book OUT THERE!

Try checking your book on something like http://www.fetchbook.info/ where you can put in your ISBN number and see all the locations online that are selling your book and the cost.

Another GREAT way to spread the word is a “VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR”.

Normal book tours where you might go to a book shop, sit there all day and have four people come up to you, two to take a free book mark and perhaps one to purchase a copy of your book (unless you're a big-name author who can bring in a big crowd and sell an impressive number of books). Virtual tours allow you to visit locations all over the world without leaving your desk. Normal tours, once your visit is over it’s over, virtual tours can go on promoting your book for months even years after your event. Unlike the few people in the book store, virtual tours allow you to reach thousand with each interview, each review and each stop along your tour.

I did a VBT back in February; it was a few days after coming out of hospital where I'd had major back surgery. Yet for the whole month I was on my virtual tour, I visited places all around the world while still in my sick bed.

Just think, you do a tour to a book store, you have to cart all your books and supplies along with you, perhaps even donate a few to the book shop itself. Unless you’re some huge star, if you're lucky during the whole day you might manage to get ten people to stop and chat. Three to ask questions, three to ask for directions and four to help themselves to the free bookmarks or whatever you might have to give away. Once your day is finished it’s over and you’re forgotten. On a virtual tour, you can reach sites, blogs and even newspapers that might have hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, and your interview/review does not disappear; it’s there afterwards for people to continue to read.

There are many offerings for virtual book tours. I have been quoted up to three thousand for some tours; others I have seen offering seven days tour for $149.

However the best one I have found and one I highly recommend is PUMP UP YOUR BOOK PROMOTION.

They offer three different packages starting at $249 and they will set you up with a full month's tour, blogs, interviews even radio show stops. As well as information about each stop along the way being shared at several major sites. These are a great group of people I completed my tour with and have stayed friends with ever since.

THINGS TO REMEMBER ON A VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR:

* These tours take a month or two to plan so book ahead of time.

* Be prepared to be part of the tour. Visit your guest stops, reply to comments, and be prepared to send out book copies for reviewers.

* Don’t just leave everything to your tour organizer look for some stops of your own.

* Link these stops/reviews/visits in your blog and on your web site. You MUST have a web site.

* Don’t supply the same dull answers to interviews or post the same guests posts. Be creative, you're meant to be a writer, try and add some humor.

* Like many other things with a virtual tour… What you put in you take out.
Put in nothing and you’ll get nothing.

* You never know where one of your interviews might turn up. During my month I appeared in the Chicago Sunday Times and even the Wall Street Journal.

One thing I will state again is…

Marketing and PR doesn’t sell books - it gets you exposure!

There are always those who expect every stop along the way to mean they will sell another hundred books. Don’t forget the formula -

Publicity=exposure
Exposure=name recognition
Name recognition MAY equal book sales



Born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, Barry Eva, also known as “Storyheart”, left his beloved England in 2000, moving to the USA to be with the woman he'd met and fallen in love with on the Internet.

Better known for his short romance stories on the net and in his book Stories from the Heart, Barry is popular for narrating his stories on local TV or as a guest on other media stations,where his whit, oratory, and old-fashioned English charm make him a popular interviewee. His latest release is the teen romance novel Across the Pond.

At present, Barry is living in Connecticut, with his wife and two children.

You can find Barry online at http://across-t-pond.com/index.htm or his blog at http://acrossthepond-storyheart.blogspot.com/ where he has been sharing a series of articles on book promotion on a budget. And don't miss his entertaining show on Blog Talk Radio.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I Learned on My Virtual Book Tour by J.W. Nicklaus



I don't honestly recall when I first contacted Dorothy with questions regarding Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Frankly, that part is inconsequential to me because what I gained from her and my resulting tour has been far more important than such surface details.

One thing of importance I do recall prior to my involvement was a day in mid-February 2009; I'd received a package from my publisher. I'd waited anxiously for it for quite some time, and yet even as I held it I had a mild sense of trepidation. Gently, carefully, protectively I held her, hands encased in cotton gloves so as not to outwardly soil her skin. My eyes drank in every detail: her size, her gentle heft, her color. She is now and always will be my first. After indulging in a few profoundly quiet moments with her I knew I needed to begin planning for her future.

I'd done some research into virtual book tours and they seemed perfectly suited to a society which increasingly gets its information from online sources—myself being one of them. Why not avail myself of the innumerable, faceless users who blog, or simply read and follow blogs? The decision was a no-brainer for me. I honestly believe that I was somehow guided to Dorothy and her crew. There are other VBT entities, assuredly, but PUYBP—as I'd told Dorothy early on—provided me with something I hadn't expected, but hoped for: The Human Touch.

I learned there are people whom you may never meet that still care not just about your product or their service, but about you. These same people will go to great lengths to help you out or make things right if events go astray.

I learned there are people in the Great Cloud who, while faceless, embody all things human. They laugh, they love, they get frustrated, they rant, they suffer heartbreak and celebrate love. Perception by many blog/internet initiates seems to border on sterility and cold objectivity. In my experience the complete opposite is true. You, sitting there reading this, perhaps sipping your tea, coffee, or soda, are equally flesh-and-blood as I. The only thing sterile between us is this text, and even the words themselves carry power in their static state.

I learned that I'm never too old to make friends.

I learned that in doing a VBT the work doesn't stop when you turn in all your interviews and such . . . the fun really begins when you get to interact with the hosts and blog readers. They're the lifeblood of your tour. Go back to your host blogs, repeatedly. Do your best to interact with those folks, even offline if you can. Walk on the beach instead of using the boardwalk, know what I mean?

I learned that the coordinator's job is far more involved than I ever imagined. These people are on your side, playing to win, but they have teams in other leagues too, not just yours. They're frantic behind the scenes. But month after month they pull off small miracles with the success of each tour.

Speaking of success, I learned that it's a two-way street. I never had the expectation that one blog tour would be my ticket to fame and fortune. NEVER. It's a vehicle for getting name recognition, for getting your name to come up big and bold in the big search engines. They can do everything possible on their end to fulfill all the stops and make sure hosts are prompt, but their promotional efforts only extend just so far. You have to be an equal partner in the success of your tour. Blog about it, send e-mails about it, Twitter about it. Do everything in your power to drive people to each of your stops if you can. Believe me, if you do your part as a writer in keeping the stops interesting there will be those who follow you the whole way. And that's a lot of following, folks! If you build it, they will come.

As an author there are times I may feel like I'm an island unto myself, but I'm not blind enough to accept that as truth. On my tour I had support, guidance, and in the end—I believe—success. It wasn't my doing entirely, rather it was very much a team effort. My coordinator was the best cheerleader and coach I could have wished for. My tour is long over, but the efforts of everyone remain for anyone to search and read online. Ultimately that's the goal.

Friendships and solid business relationships are possible from keyboard-to-keyboard. I learned that both extend far beyond the boundaries of a page . . . and both are worth far more than the initial cost.

Regards,
J.W. Nicklaus
Author - The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between


J.W. Nicklaus maintains his own personal space between the soul and soft machine in the arid southwest amongst the snowbirds and the Arizona Diamondbacks. After graduating with an Associate of Arts in Journalism and Photography and a B.S. in Telecommunications he’s spent the better part of twenty years experiencing life and working in trades as varied as a small advertising firm to a litigation service bureau. Born and raised in Arizona, he has been fortunate to have seen and experienced parts of this wonderful country, West coast to East.

He maintains a small website at www.avomnia.com and a blog found at avomnia.wordpress.com.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Renee Hand and The Crypto-Capers - A New Interactive Reading Series for Kids


Today's special guest is author Renee Hand. The first two books in her Crypto-Capers series have been released and a third book is due out later this year. We reviewed The Case of the Missing Sock and The Case of Red Rock Canyon here and here.

In this story siblings Max and Mia Holmes, along with their good friend Morris and their flamboyant Granny Holmes, are know as The Crypto-Capers. They are a group of detectives who unravel crimes by solving cryptograms that criminals leave behind.

Renee is touring the blogosphere in June to promote Book 1. The Case of the Missing Sock leads the Crypto-Capers to Florida, where they are hired by a Mr. Delacomb. The mystery leads the team to different locations. Clues flourish throughout the mystery. Suspects by the handful seem to pop up at every turn, but who committed the crime?

Readers must solve the cryptograms and puzzles to help the detectives solve the crime.

Renee shares with us the inspiration behind this new interactive children's detective series and why she targeted this specific age group.

My Crypto-Capers Series is read mostly by 4th-7th graders. I wrote in this age group for many reasons. After doing lots of research and asking some of my book industry friends, I came to the conclusion that there were a lack of books out there for this age group, especially around that 5th – 6th grade level. The biggest complaints I have heard from some teachers I have asked concerning reading, is that they have kids who are just not interested in reading. Reading comprehension we know is big in schools and in testing and there are many kids out there who are just not thinking about what they are reading and they want everything just laid out for them nice and easy. Several kids that I have talked to from all over have admitted this to me. That’s a problem and it is a hard one to overcome. Kids not wanting to think about what they are reading, and just getting by. Well, we all know that you just can’t “get by” in life. In life we know that we need to have reading comprehension in our lives as well as problem solving and critical thinking. If kids don’t start asking themselves why things happen then they will never know.

That’s where my series comes in. This series is fun and entertaining, always keeping the reader’s attention. Not only does the series challenge the avid reader, but also keeps the reluctant reader's attention. As soon as the reader picks up the book, they have instantly joined the team as a detective. The reader will be asked to look up different things and to participate in the story on different occasions. My goal was to have kids remember what they were reading because they were learning information with value, yet having fun at the same time. I am all about having fun in my stories and the activities I create for it. I want kids to learn about various things and remain interested in them. But most importantly I want my readers to ask why? Why did this happen? How did it come about? That’s what I love about mysteries. I love to read mysteries and the reason why is because I have to think about what I am reading. I have to pay attention to detail and why events in the story are happening. That is what I am teaching kids to do in my series. They need to ask why, and when they do, they will be rewarded with an answer and a better understanding. Kids have to realize that they also can’t always believe what they see, sometimes our eyes deceive us. We see things happen and we come to a conclusion based off what we see, not what we know. I am getting kids to find the whole truth in something and not to believe everything they see but to put the effort into finding out what really happened.

There were no major hurdles that I had to overcome in writing in this genre or for this age group. The biggest thing that every author deals with is getting your book out there to the right audience who will most benefit from it. I have learned a lot since my first book was published a few years ago. I have four books to my credit with more to come and each book brings its own frustrations and problems to overcome, but what I have also learned is to be strong and determined. Any problem can be fixed with a little time and patience.

View The Crypto-Capers video trailer!



The Case of the Missing Sock and The Case of Red Rock Canyon can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the author's website.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lisa Sweetingham and Chemical Cowboys


For nearly a decade, Ecstasy kingpin Oded Tuito was the mastermind behind a drug ring that used strippers and ultra-Orthodox teenagers to mule millions of pills from Holland to the party triangle—Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. CHEMICAL COWBOYSThe DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin: is the thrilling, never-before-told success story of the groundbreaking undercover investigations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy trafficking network, starting in 1995 when New York DEA Agent Robert Gagne infiltrated club land to uncover a thriving drug scene supported by two cultures: pill-popping club kids and Israeli dealers.

Gagne's obsessive mission to make Ecstasy a priority for the DEA and to take down Tuito's network met with unexpected professional and personal challenges that almost crippled his own family. Woven into the narrative are the stories of Tuito's underlings, who struggled with addiction as they ran from the law, and the compelling experiences of a veteran Israeli police officer who aided Gagne while chasing after his own target—a violent Mob boss who saw the riches to be made in Ecstasy and began to import his own pills and turf warfare to the U.S.

PRAISE FOR CHEMICAL COWBOYS:

"With enviable skill and flair, Sweetingham plunges readers into the depraved drug scenes of New York, Miami, and Los Angeles alongside an undercover DEA agent consumed by his mission to bring down a cunning Ecstasy kingpin."
BRUCE PORTER, author of Blow: How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All

"This book is the closest you'll ever get to the inner workings of a globe-spanning, high-stakes DEA investigation without a badge, a gun, and a grand jury subpoena. An extraordinary, fearlessly investigated tale."
CHRIS AYRES, author of Death by Leisure and War Reporting for Cowards.

Journalist Lisa Sweetingham spent four years following in the footsteps of DEA agents and Ecstasy traffickers to bring CHEMICAL COWBOYS to life. Previously, she covered high-profile murder trials and Supreme Court nomination hearings for Court TV online. Sweetingham is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Parade, Spin, Time Out New York, Health Affairs, and many other publications. She resides in Los Angeles. CHEMICAL COWBOYS is her first book.

For more information about the author or his work, please visit www.lisasweetingham.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guest Blogger - Tristi Pinkston, Author of Agent in Old Lace


I recently reviewed Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston. In case you missed that review, you can find it here.

Tristi is currently touring the blogosphere to let people know all about her contemporary romantic suspense novel Agent of Old Lace, and I agreed to host her. Actually, if she hadn't asked I would have offered because I loved her last book, Season of Sacrifice so much, I knew I wanted to read Agent in Old Lace the minute it was available.

Though Tristi told me it might be dangerous, I allowed her to take the reins and discuss whatever she wanted to today. So, I'm taking a nap for a few moments and Tristi is moving in.

Catching the Waves
By Tristi Pinkston

When a surfer wants to catch a wave, he goes out into the water and gets ready, holding his board poised just right. When the wave comes, he takes full advantage, placing the board and hopping on, holding his arms just so in order to keep his balance, and he rides that wave as far as it will take him. As he’s standing in the water, waiting, he doesn’t feel guilty if the wave doesn’t come right when he thought it would. He just waits a minute, remaining ready, and then enjoys the ride when it comes.

Spurts of creativity are very much like waves. They come and they go, sometimes pounding into the beach and sometimes gently lapping, often with gaps in between. Writers ride those waves of creativity, tapping out pages upon pages as the wave takes them into shore. Yet, for some reason, the analogy stops here. Whereas the surfer patiently waits for the wave, knowing one is coming, the writer frets and stresses. “Where’s my next wave?” he moans. “I’m a fraud. A failure. I’ll never get published. I’ll never finish this book. I’m stuck and I don’t know how to fix it. I’m a loser.”

What the writer needs to realize is what the surfer knows instinctively. The wave will come. It might not come right now, or thirty seconds from now, but it will come. No amount of stressing or whining will bring it any sooner. The question is, are you poised in the water, gripping your board, ready to leap on when the time is right?

1. Are you getting enough rest? Sleep is one of the major factors in creativity. If you just can’t come up with a decent idea to save your life, it’s time for a nap, or two or three … whatever you need to recharge.

2. Are you feeding your mind? If you’re writing a romance, are you reading romances, watching romantic movies, and snuggling up with your sweetie? You’ve got to feed the fire. If you’re writing a historical fiction, read them. If you’re writing a nonfiction text, read them. Keep your brain firing on those topics so that when your idea flares to life, it won’t be like trying to start a rusty chainsaw.

3. Are you taking enough time away from the computer? That might seem counterproductive, but it’s not. Sitting in the same place day after day, staring at the screen, isn’t the most awe-inspiring place you could be. If the screen is mocking you, take a break. Go for a walk. Get some oxygen flowing. Go shopping. Sometimes changing your atmosphere is the best thing you can do to get those ideas coming again.

You are not a failure if your ideas seem slow in coming. You just need some time to recharge yourself and possibly even remind yourself why you love to write in the first place. It should never feel like a chore. If that’s where you are right now, take a break. Then get back in the water and wait for the wave. It will come.


I'm back! I popped in at Tristi's blog and noticed this post from the day she kicked off her virtual book tour. It's not often I read of an author interviewing herself, so please check it out.

You can also find Tristi online at her website.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NaBloPoMo Special Feature - Heroes

If I asked you to name a well known Christian author, who would it be?

The author I am thinking of is a man who has written more than 175 books and assisted Billy Graham in writing his memoirs, Just As I Am. He owns a filmmaking company and a guild for Christian writers, and he also wrote the nationally syndicated sports story comic strip, Gil Thorp from 1996-2004.

As if all that isn't enough, he collaborated with another popular Christian author and speaker on a sixteen-book Christian fiction series that has sold 70,000,000 copies.

Who is this literary hero?

Dr. Jerry Jenkins.

I might never have heard of the name Jerry Jenkins had it not been for my family being so enthralled with a new Christian fiction series that told of a world in chaos when family, friends, and loved ones suddenly disappear. Pilot Rayford Steele loses a son and a wife in the Rapture as believers are taken up and the rest are Left Behind.

This fictional series uses the Book of Revelation to depict what happens in the End Times for Rayford Steele, Buck Williams, Bruce Barnes, and many others.


The Book of Revelation has long been a favorite of mine, but the symbolism can sometimes be hard to understand. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation as an elderly man while he was a prisoner of Rome. In the Bible, John is referred to as "the disciple who Jesus loved", and it is into John's care that Jesus placed his beloved mother Mary right before His death. John's love for Jesus was so strong that he defied the Roman magistrate's order to no longer proclaim Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord; even while a prisoner.

It is, therefore, fitting that John should be the one to receive this vision of the End Times. The opening line of Revelation says, "1The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,2who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.3Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (NIV)

On the Left Behind website, one can read the mission for this series: "This fictional account of life after the Rapture delivers an urgent call to today's readers to prepare their own hearts and minister to others."


In addition to the Left Behind series, Jenkins and Tim LaHaye collaborated on The Jesus Chronicles, a four-book series that focuses on the writers of the Gospels. So far, Mark's, Luke's and John's stories have been released. Matthew's story is yet to be released.

Jenkins has also written numerous non-fiction titles and many books on marriage and family. He is also the author of several children's series. It seems that there is no stopping him.

Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life was released in 2006. I own this book and often refer to it.


If you go to Jenkins's website, you'll be able to read chapters 1 and 2 of Riven, the book he says he always wanted to write.

For his unlimited talent, for all that he does to mentor aspiring authors of all ages, and for the inspiration that his long career provides others, Dr. Jerry Jenkins is our next featured literary hero.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jean Koning and Pushing the Limits...or Not


Today's guest blogger is Jean Koning, author of the absurd humor non-fiction book Visions.

As most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego '!JP') was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.

At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you're studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren't too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel Visions, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.

He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.1jp.org/

Pushing writing to the limit is like feeding a two year old LSD; you know that some people on this planet do it, but it is still something shocking and totally unreal. You probably never get in touch with it.

Let’s face it: where you truly satisfied and excited when you read Danielewski’s House of Leaves for the first time? I was going like: okay, Mark, I admire what you’re doing here, but where the hell is the story!

Reading the House of Leaves was like going to a gym class. I was exhausted every time I managed to finish ten pages. By the time I finished the book, I was suffering from both agoraphobia as well as claustrophobia. Which leads to the conclusion that Danielewski did one hell of a job.

Of course I try to push limits myself. Not only am I the King-of-Ignoring-Deadlines, I also put down everything that comes to mind. Let’s focus on my only English book “Visions”. I was invited to write columns for an American e-zine. So my research was based on American writing. Safe, conform to all the rules and standards. But once I started writing, I thought: let’s do it! Why don’t I introduce myself as the Devil Incarnation? Why not – as Jodie Foster stated to Hannibal the Cannibal – “look at yourself in the mirror and write down what you see!” So I did. I thought after my second entry I was next in line to get fired, but I could keep up this form of writing for over a year. A big surprise, you said it.

Because, once you start pushing it and just focus on the reflection in the mirror and write down exactly what you see – without an editor around the corner screaming that you shouldn’t use the same words in writing as the words you use in the private of your own home – you are in the constant danger of being accused of being too fierce.

Do we know some authors, who have actually pushed the limits in their writing and still got published? Milorad Pavic for instance, who wrote a male and female version of the very same book. Or Kobo Abe in his novel Kangaroo Notebook, but then again, it’s just an experimental story. The writing maintains traditional. And what about Andy Warhol’s “A”? This was basically written by a typist once Andy said: “Today, I want… to write… uhm… a… uhm… book!” And he took all his tapes he made in The Factory and the typist typed all the conversations to paper and – applause, applause – there was the novel “A”. Pushing the limit? I don’t think so.

To understand an author who is pushing the limits, one has to understand what “pushing the limits” means. Is it: ignoring the deadlines – like yours truly does? Or is making up new words – or on purpose typos. Or do we mean House of Leaves Revisited?

And – to be honest – I don’t know anymore. Writing has always been the same. One can write beautifully crafted sentences, but they’re still just sentences at the end of the day. It’s a difficult terrain to wander. And what I find pushing-the-limit, the next guy finds bordering-Victorian-boredom– to state something.

Was De Sade truly pushing the limits or did his 120 Days of Sodom just didn’t fit the time-frame? And didn’t Hunter S. Thompson just write down what he saw, while digesting huge amounts of Benzedrine and other Cool Aid-like substances? Was it a limit? Did he truly push it? I don’t think so.

Make up your own mind: I will hand you two sentences and you can pick the one that truly pushes the limits in writing.

One: “His remorse came on just like a green pony, which he rode up and down a hill for the longest time he could remember – if only he hadn’t smoked that much pine-apple-tea in his childhood, he could actually make up his freaking mind about the subject.”
Two: “Y d.o.e.s. Ur

TNUC
Taste


Lk




Eating donut s

On


A


R a re
Okasion.”

You could say that with both the sentences the limits where slightly pushed, but we’ve seen it all before. The only thing remaining is a complete novel written in binary language. But who wants to read that? Or write that, by that matter.

I just do what I do. Write down what I see and like I see it. And if it hurts you, turn the other way. I cannot help it. Honestly I can’t.

But that slightly contradicts with my conclusion that – you didn’t miss it, did you? – pushing the limits in writing simply doesn’t exist. So I don’t push it in writing. I try to do other stuff that freaks people out. And then write about it.

So, in conclusion – once more – the only limit I pushed was to publish the first edition of “Visions” with a Dutch ISBN number and my latest novel – written in Dutch – with an American ISBN. A morbid sence of humor, I guess. But it’s where I draw the line. It’s the limit… For me…

About Visions:

Visions is a collection of columns written for the e-zine The Noise. A surprisingly intimate portrait on life and every day politics, accomplished with a fierce manner of writing.

Inspired by his own research for the musical album 'Notes from Purgatory', Jean Koning digs deep into the well of his personal life and blends the stories he found there with his experiences and visions of the American Way of Life, to portray a whirlwind of emotion, anger and doubt.

Dipped deep in a cocktail of absurdity and melancholy, the swift stories are built upon the eagerness to achieve a deeper understanding in trends, hypes and the corrupt world of commercial art.

The stories' subjects change as swiftly as the Dutch climate. From Amsterdam hookers to New York art openings and the ongoing war in Iraq. From the duality toward American lifestyles and Hollywood productions to Barbie and Ken in a setting of ironic perversity. From a heartfelt letter full of tips for Hillary Clinton to a remarkable talk show with Oprah Winfrey.

Visions is a humoristic approach of the life we lead today, with a huge comment made on worldwide politics. This is our planet today, with America as the prime suspect, Europe as the jury and Koning himself as the brutal judge.

Surprisingly enough, Koning doesn't point a finger of blame at anyone without pointing that finger at himself first."

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston--Book Review


Mystery, suspense and romance create a fast-paced and engaging read in Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston.

Shannon Tanner's world turns upside down when she realizes her boyfriend Mark isn't the Prince Charming she thought he was. When she discovers his secret, Mark turns on her and Shannon's life is suddenly in danger.

The FBI assigns a female agent to go undercover as Shannon's roomate to see if they can flush out Mark. But when this agent is injured right before the assignment, the FBI must turn to their top agent, Rick Holden.

For a while things seem like they will be okay. Rick is by Shannon's side--even though he's wearing a dress most of the time--and Mark might have taken off for good. When Shannon's best friend Tate is kidnapped, Shannon realizes that only way to stop Mark once and for all is to make Rick move out. Can Shannon lure Mark out into the open? And if she does, can Rick save her before it's too late?

After enjoying Tristi's novel, Season of Sacrifice--which we reviewed here--I knew I wanted to read Agent in Old Lace when it came out. This is a decidely different book than Season of Sacrifice, but it is equally as engaging and riveting.

Shannon discovers her life isn't quite as perfect as it seems and she suddenly finds herself in danger from the man who supposedly loves her. In steps Rick Holden, the dashing FBI agent who ends up having to room with her to keep her safe from Mark. That proves challenging because everyone knows Shannon would never have a male roommate, so Rick becomes a woman. This leads to many funny scenes that help to break up the suspense of Mark being on the lose and waiting for the chance to get back at Shannon.

One of the subplots of Agent in Old Lace is that while all this is going on, Shannon's father is fighting for his life from some mysterious illness that the doctors have yet to identify. This raises the stakes for Shannon because she needs to worry about her father's health, her mother's safety, and trying to draw Mark out without getting killed. Pinkston certainly knows how to push characters to their limits.

While the formula has been done before, the extra element of faith that is added to Agent in Old Lace makes this romantic suspense novel unique. All the main characters are LDS, and Shannon uses the power of prayer on more than one occasion to help bring her through her troubles.

Fans of romantic suspense will be flocking to Agent of Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston. Don't miss this one. It's worth every penny!


Title: Agent in Old Lace
Author: Tristi Pinkston
Publisher: Bonneville Books
ISBN: 978-1-59955-308-5
SRP: $13.00

Girlforce by Nikki Goldstein--Book Review


Young women who read CosmoGIRL, Teen Vogue, Seventeen and Girls' Life will feel right at home in between the pages of Nikki Goldstein's new book Girlforce: A Girl's Guide to the Body and Soul.

Basing her book upon India's ancient medical system, Ayurveda, which according to Goldstein offers a complete system of living, the author has modernized this ancient system and made it applicable to young women and the situations they are dealing with on a daily basis. Proving her knowledge of the age-group, Goldstein includes quizzes similar to those found in popular teen magazines, which allow the reader to figure out which Body Type she is, how much stress she is under, and where she is on the self-esteem meter.

The colorful front and back cover, color photographs, and appealing inside design will certainly attract teens to this book and encourage them to read more.

The basic advice found in Girlforce is all stuff we've heard before: be happy with who you are, eat right, exercise, and take care of yourself. It encourages yoga and meditation as ways to relax, which are parts of Ayruveda. What Goldstein, does however, is create Body Type specific applications for diet, exercise, stress management, fashion, and beauty techniques.

I have to admit, while I found most of the advice in this book to be helpful for young women, I did have a few challenges as I read it.

The first is that while it does tell the reader over and again how much she should appreciate who she is, most of the photos show girls who look more like professional models than average teens. In addition, Earth girls are said to be "curvaceous" and "...tend to put on weight around the hips and butt." None of the girls photographed for Girlforce look like that.

As with all general quizzes, you tend to find yourself not always able to locate the right answer for you, so you end up choosing the best answer of those available, even when none of them truly apply. This can skew the results. And for those who don't land completely in one Body Type, it can be challenging to know which Body Type specfic advice to follow because different Body Types, according to this book, should avoid certain things or use them moderately, whereas others should use them more liberally.

This reader would have liked to have seen a bit more information on how certain foods interact with specific Body Types and meditation, along with a few more examples of creative visualization.

Girlforce interested me enough that I wandered out to do a bit of additional research about Ayurveda. What I found at www.ayurveda.com is that this philosophy believes "...the entire cosmos is the interplay of the energies of the five great elements--Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth." Why the other two elements are not included in Girlforce, is not explained.

Overall, Girlforce by Nikki Goldstein will appeal to its target market. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management are good for everyone, not just teens. By encouraging young women to get into this type of daily routine earlier in life, they will have an advantage over those who wait until they are much older to make such lifestyle changes.


Title: Girlforce: A Girls' Guide to the Body and Soul
Author: Nikki Goldstein
Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A.
ISBN-10: 1-59990-354-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-59990-354-5
SRP: $14.99 (U.S.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Giveaway: Winner of Sea Changes by Gail Graham



Our congratulations go out to Allison, the winner of an ARC of Sea Changes by Gail Graham.

Synopsis: When Sarah’s husband dies suddenly, she is left with no anchor and no focus. Grief is an ever-present companion and counseling a weekly chore with minimal results, but when Sarah decides to end her life her suicide attempt takes her to an underwater world where she finds comfort and friendship. Afterwards, back on the beach she wonders – Was it a dream? Was I hallucinating? Or am I going mad?

Her efforts to make sense of the experience lead to Sarah’s becoming a suspect in the alleged kidnapping of a young heiress. Now her worlds are colliding – and the people she trusts are backing away, not believing a word she says. She must decide what is real and what is not. Her life depends on it.

Still want to get your hands on a copy of Sea Changes? You can find it at Amazon.com.

Thanks to all who participated in this giveaway. Check back again soon for more great giveaways!

Jeffrey B. Allen Shares Insight into the cover art for Gone Away Into the Land



Joining us today is Jeffrey B. Allen, author of the philisophical inspirational novel, Gone Away Into the Land.

This ambitious yarn follows twelve-year-old John Greber who, along with his mother Ellie, is the object of abuse at the hands of John’s father whom he names “The Beast.”

One day, “The Beast” abandons John and his mother while at the same time snatching away John’s six-year-old sister Marny. John vows to seek revenge, confront his repulsive father, and rescue his sister Marny. As we discover, all of this transpires during a time where John and his mother will be indirectly involved in a Civil War that has far reaching repercussions that may lead to the destruction of the world. Tagging along with John and his mother, Allen cleverly uses his mind-boggling world as a vehicle in understanding what life is all about and the human condition. This is particularly in evidence as we witness John’s challenge of making the transition from childhood to adulthood as he self-examines the big questions in life as well as the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life and the quest to understand himself.

After reading a detailed synopsis of the book, I wondered about the cover art, which I find simple and fascinating. I asked Jeffrey to discuss the significance of the cover art to his story.

Jeffrey's turn: When Wandering Sage Publishing and I were developing the ideas for the cover, I must have done ten covers myself. They all had to do with the story. The publisher rejected them all, saying they were too busy. He came up with the current cover. I liked it immediately because it was a powerful looking cover. To me it does not key in on the story, but instead, speaks more to the philosophy of the story.

The main character, John Greber, is severely beaten by his abusive father. The reader will get the impression that John has either died or gone into an unconscious dream state.

As one moves further into the story, John’s journey into the Land becomes more intense. He loses his urge to question what is happening to him. He stops referring to the events that led to his beating and the abduction of his sister. John moves into the present. There is never any mention of time from that point on. There is no passing of the days. The entire story takes place without any reference to universal cycles, such as weather, or day and night. There is no direction to the light of the Land. It seems to come from everywhere. There are no human needs to satisfy such as hunger or sleep. John moves into a whole new reality, one that is consumed by his desire to find his kidnapped sister and kill his father, who he names "The Beast", and who is growing larger and more grotesque as the story matures.

The cover is a spotlight on the mountain that represents John’s difficult journey, but also an indication that he is not alone. He is accompanied by the energy of the human spirit, whether one calls that energy God or not does not matter. It is John’s journey. Gone Away imparts to the reader one boy’s journey, but the novel suggests that someday we will all take our own journey. One that will be unique to us, guided by how we lived our lives and how we perceived we lived our lives, as opposed to being judged by a supreme being for the way we lived.

In the end, John reaches the proverbial top of the mountain and finds his peace. He has, thus, reconciled the deep questions that had plagued him in life, and will embark on a whole new life, a whole new reality. One with a great purpose.

Thank you.

Jeffrey B. Allen
www.jeffreyballen.com

Jeffrey B. Allen studied art at Bloomsburg University for two years before attending Boston University where he majored in history and minored in set design and fine arts. A one year hiatus, in the form a hitchhiking trip, served only to heighten his restless and inquisitive nature. Allen attributes those early journeys to laying the foundations for his views about politics and religion and the relationship they share with historical perspective.

Later, he traveled through Europe and Mexico where his compulsive curiosity with historical myth and legend intensified, especially for the interpretations that obscure the truths underlying foreign and American cultures. Allen was fascinated by the way events are twisted and misconstrued within historical writings because of religious beliefs or political power brokering. Those years of learning, searching, and questioning have contributed greatly to the philosophical depth of his writing. Allen continues to this day to study, research, and philosophize about the positive and negative effects on our culture due to an over abundance of historical and religious misconceptions.

Jeffrey Allen graduated from Millersville State University in architectural design and taught for two years while also working toward his Masters degree at Temple University in Philadelphia. After a brief teaching career, he created his own architectural woodworking firm in 1980.

By 1982, Allen was owner and president of Artistic Furnishings Incorporated, a design house and manufacturer of custom architectural millwork. The company employed designers, artisans and support staff. His work can be seen throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey in private residences and businesses. Today, Allen resides in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he still works in the field of interior space planning, although most of his time is devoted to writing.

A Talent for Quiet by Kim Chatel--Book Review



A book of photography, learning new talents, and accepting change comes to life through the talent of artist, photographer and author Kim Chatel.

Reanie has a new stepfather. He has a loud voice, likes sports, and makes their house seem too small when he's there. Bill also has many cameras, terribly breakable cameras that Reanie is not allowed to touch.

When Bill decides to go on a photo safari, he asks Reanie to come along. They pack up a picnic breakfast and head out in Bill's truck. After some lessons from Bill, Reanie begins snapping photos of the wildlife and soon discovers a new talent. She also comes to the conclusion that Bill isn't quite as scary as he first seemed.

What a wonderful book! Chatel's stunning photography and masterful storytelling create a beautiful story of a shy, young girl intimidated by her new step-father, who is able to discover a talent she never knew she had, while slowly getting closer to the new man in the house.

Chatel has a way with words that truly engages young readers and makes them want to keep turning the pages; and in this book, the photographs of the wildlife encourage young readers to learn more about the world around them.

Also included is a glossary of terms about cameras and photography tips for children and adults. The last page of the book contains facts about photography, making A Talent for Quiet an all around great read and learning experience.

Both my daughters enjoyed this book, and my budding photographer couldn't stop commenting on the beautiful photographs.

A Talent for Quiet is destined to win awards!


Title: A Talent for Quiet
Author: Kim Chatel
Publisher: Gaurdian Angel Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-935137-56-6
SRP: $11.95 (U.S.)

Rita and Whatsit by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod--Book Review



What do you get when a little girl with a big personality teams up with a dog that has no name? A delightful new series of books titled Rita and Whatsit by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod.

In this first book, Rita is celebrating her birthday, but she's in a bad mood and everything is all wrong. And when one of her presents jiggles and bounces across the floor, she yells, "Get back here, present, or you'll regret it!"

Inside is a furry little dog who she right away tries to name. For one reason or another those names won't quite work. Then she settles on "Whatsit". Both Rita and Whatsit decide that's a very good name and the two become fast friends.

What a wonderful beginning to a planned series of children's books! Who can help but love Rita, who has such a powerful personality? Every child has those bad mood days; and with Rita and Whatsit, children find that not only is it normal to have bad mood days, but also that something wonderful can come out of a day that seems like it just isn't working out.

Parents of young children will enjoy reading this story to their children and those children who are beginning to read independently will chuckle at Rita's strong personality and be thrilled to discover Whatsit's secret (I'm not going to share it here).

Rita and Whatsit at the Beach is now available too. I'm definitely going to pick up a copy of this one because I want to follow Rita and Whatsit's adventures.


Title: Rita and Whatsit
Author: Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod
Publisher: Chronicle Books, LLC.
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6550-0
SRP: $14.99 (U.S.)

Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal--Book Review



Pigs are messy right? Well, not Little Oink. The one thing he really doesn't enjoy is "Mess up time". That's when pigs are supposed to make a mess. But Little Oink wants to have a clean room like his friends.

Papa Pig tells him that respectable pigs must learn how to make a "proper mess". So, Little Oink snorts and goes off to mess up his room, saying to himself, "When I grow up, I'm going to let my kids clean up their rooms as much as they want."

Once Little Oink messes his room up to his parents' satisfaction, he can go out and play his favorite game--house. Now he can finally do what he wants!

I haven't read Little Pea and Little Hoot from creators Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace, but I did read and review Rosenthal's book with Tom Litchenheld, Duck! Rabbit!. You'll find that review here.

Rosenthal tackles the challenging issue of cleaning your room in a funny way. Parent/child relationships can be so contentious at times, especially where a strong-willed child is involved--take it from a strong-willed mother who has a strong-willed daughter.

While I seriously doubt any child will be running off to clean her room after reading Little Oink, the book shows in a non-confrontational way that while children should obey their parents, there will also be a time to do what the child wants to do; thereby encouraging a child to explore her individuality.

A delightful and fun story for young readers. I'll certainly be keeping my eye on what Amy Krouse Rosenthal is up to next.


Title: Little Oink
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Publisher: Chronicle Books, LLC.
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6655-2
SRP: $14.99 (U.S.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June NaBloPoMo Special Feature - Heroes



One of the great things about living in Massachusetts is its wealth of history. From the landing of the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1620 to the infamous Salem Witchcraft Trials; from the first shot of the Revolutionary War in Lexington to Massachusetts becoming the sixth state in the Union (1788); and from Massachusetts troops being the first to die for the Union Cause in the American Civil War, to the election of Edward Brooke as the first black elected to the United States Senate since the Civil War era, if you live in Massachusetts you have many historical sites and museums to visit.

The Bay State has also been home to many famous leaders, poets, and authors: John Quincy Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Seuss, and Henry David Thoreau, to name a few.

The Orchard House at 399 Lexington Avenue, in historic Concord was the home of another famous author.


Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women while her family resided at The Orchard House.

By the time Alcott was 15, she was determined to make something of herself, but the times in which she lived offered very little to women seeking employment. Not easily deterred, Alcott did any work she could find.

In 1854, her first book, Flower Fables was published. During the Civil War, Alcott was a nurse stationed in Washington, D.C.. Her letters home became the basis for her book, Hospital Sketches, which was first published in 1863.

At the age of 35, Alcott was approached by her publisher to write a book for girls. Set in Civil War New England, Little Women told the story of the March sisters. Alcott based the March sisters on herself and her own sisters: Anna, Elizabeth, and May. Not surprisingly, the character of Jo March is very much like Louisa May Alcott.


Little Women was originally published in two parts. The success of Little Women and her other children's books supported her family, something she had been determined for many years to do.

Her sister May married and died only a few weeks after giving birth to a daughter. May had asked that her daughter (Louisa May) be sent to live with Alcott, and she cared for the child for many years.

Louisa May Alcott died on March 6, 1888, only two days after her father.

On the same birthday that I received my treasured Anne of Green Gables three-book set, I received a beautiful six-book set of stories by Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys--all about the March family, Jack and Jill, Eight Cousins, and Under the Lilacs. This edition was printed in 1956 by Nelson Doubleday and was illustrated by Ruth Ives. Each leather bound edition is half cream and half green, with a color illustration on the inside cover and black and white illustrations throughout.

This set must have cost a pretty penny in the 1970's when it was bought. I've read all the books about the March family, but never ventured to read the last three books in the series. Strangely enough, Eight Cousins is included in this set, but its sequel, Rose in Bloom is not. It is still available at Amazon, so I might pick it up.

Little Women remains Louisa May Alcott's most famous work. Having been made into movies, mini-series, musicals and a couple of television series, Little Women even has a Little House on the Prairie connection.

In Season 3 of Little House on the Prairie, the episode "Little Women" aired. Walnut Grove's teacher, Miss Beadle, allows the students to put together skits based upon popular literature so that they can perform for their parents. Laura and Mary Ingalls team up with Nellie Oleson and Ginny Clark (a one-episode character) to act out the infamous scene where Jo presents Mrs. March with the money she earned from cutting off her hair and selling it to a wig shop so that her mother can visit their father, who is an ailing Civil War chaplain.

For the strong woman she was, for all she experienced, for how much she helped her family with her writing, and for the legions of fans who have been inspired by Little Women and her other works, Louisa May Alcott, is certainly a literary hero.


Information on historical events taken from Encarta. Famous Bay Staters taken from 50states.com. Information on Louisa May Alcott taken primarily from http://www.louisamayalcott.org/.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fun Book Meme



This is my first book meme. I honestly haven't had time to look much into these, but hey, I am willing to try anything once. And, anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy talking about myself. [Cheryl imagines all the friends nodding their heads as they read this.]

I found this meme over at Laura de Leon's blog, I'm Booking It.

1. What author do you own the most books by?

Dare I admit this in public. The author who fills more bookshelf space than any other is Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yes, I know I am supposed to be an adult, but I love the Little House books and the many other books of Laura's writing that adorn my shelves.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?

I think the only book I own multiple copies of is The Truth: I'm a Girl, I'm Smart and I Know Everything by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein. If I had a copy of this book when I was a young girl, I might have made different decisions and saved myself a lot of heartache searching to be accepted for so many years.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

I didn't even notice.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

I can't say I've ever been in love with a fictional character. There are characters who I admire, such as Alexander Hunter from Shades of Gray by Jessica James or Detective Doug Milligan from F.M. Meredith's Rocky Bluff P.D. series; but while there are many characters I get attached to, love is too strong of a word to apply.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life?

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was in my early twenties before I truly began to appreciate the Little House books. I enjoy seeing Almanzo Wilder play the dashing hero, knowing that in real life Almanzo and Cap Garland were those heroes who traveled sixty miles to find the seed wheat that kept the town of De Smet, SD from starving during the hard winter of 1880-81.

6. Favorite book as a ten-year-old?

I'm lucky I remember yesterday, never mind 31 years ago. Probably, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I'm still surprised my overprotective mother let me read it.

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

I hate questions like these. A contemporary book that I was disappointed in is Lies and Liberation by Barbara Bérot; though many people raved about this sequel to When Europa Rode the Bull. It took me over 300 pages to get really interested in this book.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

This is hard, because I've read several: Shades of Gray by Jessica James, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah, and The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.

9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be?

I would never force anyone to read a book, but the best book I've ever read is The Stand by Stephen King.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

Another tough question, because all the books I mentioned in my answer to number 8 would make excellent movies. I would also like to see F.M. Meredith's Rocky Bluff P.D. series brought to the small screen and The Dead Guy by Doug Hewitt would be an excellent film for a younger Mel Gibson to star in.

11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I still remember some of the gory passages from this novel of a group of boys who end up on a deserted island and are left to create a new society; even though I was a freshman in high school when I was forced to read it.

12. What is your favorite book?

The Stand by Stephen King.

13. Play?

The Sound of Music.

14. Poem?

"The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

15. Essay?

Would it be vain if I said the essay where my son told his entire senior class that I was his idol? LOL! Honestly, I haven't read an essay since I was in high school, and none of them must have been memorable because I can't think of a single title.

16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

I don't believe I am qualified to answer that one.

17. What is your desert island book?

Faith and Honor by Robin Maderich. I could read that one over and over again if I had the time.

18. And . . . what are you reading right now?

I just finished Magic, Mensa and Mayhem by Karina Fabian and I am about to start Tristi Pinkston's new release, Agent in Old Lace.

Leave me a comment with a link to your answers!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem by Karina Fabian--Book Review


Humor, mystery, and fantasy combine to create an outstanding story in Magic, Mensa and Mayhem by Karina L. Fabian.

This was not going to be one of those STUC (Save-the-Universe Cases). Just an all-expense paid trip to Florida to chaperone a group of Magicals at a Mensa convention for Vern the dragon detective and his partner, the mage Sister Grace.

Well, someone forgot to tell the pixies. They start pulling their pranks. Then the Brownies start cleaning and organizing things they aren't supposed to and a hyped up elf who is behind the times might declare war on Florida. And as if that's not bad enough, there's a Native American Trickster who can change forms and a Valkyrie heroine of legend who has turned her attention to bodybuilding and fashion design, both of whom create a little chaos of their own.

So much for that cushy job!

If you are looking for a deep fantasy novel, this isn't it. Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is, however, one of the most uproariously funny books you'll ever read. Honestly, I laughed so hard that my husband thought I had found my decades-long missing sense of humor.

Fabian proves once again that she is a master storyteller. Who else could combine a dragon detective, a magical nun, a host of other bizarre characters and Oprah, and make it work so well?

Now, keeping in mind that I am not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, this book hooked me from the very first sentence. Actually, the Acknowledgements section caught my eye first, and I rarely read those. Fabian shares how the book came about, the origin of Vern, how she entered into a relationship with publisher Dindy Robinson of Swimming Kangaroo Books and talks about where you can find Vern online.

Included at the end are two appendices. The first is "Uncle Vern's Glossary of Faerie and Mundane Terms" and the second contains the "Pronunciation of Elvish Names" found in the book and includes brief comments about each elf. Both appendices are as devilishly funny as the rest of the book.

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is a must read for anyone who enjoys a funny, offbeat story.

I leave you with a Vern quote that is also included at the back of the book:

"...Wisdom of the Ages, Knowledge of Eternity, and I end up a babysitter at the Smart Humans' Convention."


Title: Magic, Mensa and Mayhem
Author: Karina L. Fabian
Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books
ISBN: 978-1-934041-78-9
SRP: $13.99

Sisters Collaborate To Write About Brothers: K.M. Daughters and Beyond the Code of Conduct


We have a special treat for you today. The writing team of K.M. Daughters is here to talk about collaboration. The idea of sharing the effort with another writer has always intrigued me. How does it come about? How much effort does each person contribute? What happens if two people have different visions for the same piece of work? And while collaborating can be challenging, what happens when you're writing a book with one of your sisters?

It certainly looks like the sister writing team of K.M. Daughters has figured out a way to make it work.

K.M. Daughters is the multi-published writing team of sisters Pat Casiello and Kathie Clare. Their penname is dedicated to their parents Katherine and Michael, the “K” and “M” in K.M. Daughters. Their author career began in January 2008 with contracts from The Wild Rose Press for an inspirational romance, Jewel of the Adriatic, and a romantic suspense novel, Against Doctors Orders, Book #1 in The Sullivan Boys Series. Beyond The Code of Conduct, Book 2 in the series, is rated 4-stars, compelling, page turner, by Donna M. Brown, Reviewer for Romantic Times Book Reviews (June 2009 Issue #304). A contemporary romance, Past, Present and Forever is available in E-book from Sapphire Blue Publishing. Residing in Illinois and New Jersey, the sisters continue to work on The Sullivan Boys Series. Book #3 will release later this year and two additional books are anticipated to complete the series. You can visit their website at www.kmdaughters.com and follow them at http://twitter.com/kmdaughters.

Here, K.M. Daughters talks of how they have collaborated to write about brothers.

Sisters Collaborate To Write About Brothers
by K. M. Daughters

We’re not forgetting about Kay Lynch nee Sullivan, the only sister among six brothers in our Sullivan Boys romantic suspense series. But, to date, each of the books in the series focuses on one Sullivan brother in the hero role searching for his perfect match.

Beyond The Code of Conduct, Book 2 in the series tells Joe Sullivan and Bobbie Leighton’s story. Introduced as secondary characters in Book 1 (Against Doctors Orders), the pair have a history clouded with what Joe considers tragedy. Although he saved Bobbie’s life in the midst of crisis in the first book, Joe was gravely injured. His bravery cost him his career as an active homicide detective.

We had a blast writing these characters. Joe overcompensates to prove to his superiors he’s fit for active duty and as the book opens he’s “Iron-man” conditioned and a rather forbidding attitude – wonderful to write. Bobbie has finally found a career fit at the end of a long line of odd jobs. She thinks she’s moved on and forgotten Joe until they’re brought together again. Behind the scenes manipulations not only require their partnership working an undercover operation but also that they live under the same roof posing as a married couple.

Bobbie and Joe’s physicality in conflict versus book one’s Molly and Danny’s subtle maturity appealed to us and was fun to write. As we continue the series we’re discovering the personality differences among the brothers – a real family dynamic considering birth order, sibling rivalry, etc.

Since we’re each other’s only siblings our family dynamic is simple – oldest, youngest, duke it out. We tried to knock each other brainless when we were kids and had our share of screaming matches when we were teenagers. When the first of us went off to college, we acknowledged an astounding truth. We hated separation. It’s ironic that we live half a country apart considering that sentiment is no less true a couple decades later.

Maybe that’s why our writing collaborations are so special to us. Long distance or not, when we’re writing, we’re living in the same worlds with the same immediacy. And in the case of the Sullivan brothers, we can play out all those things that make us different yet uniquely close as siblings.

More about Beyond the Code of Conduct:

FBI Agency Brass and Sullivan family connections force Special Agent Bobbie Leighton into an undercover operation with inactive Homicide Detective Joe Sullivan.

Posing as a cattleman and his arm-candy wife the couple is assigned to infiltrate NY attorney Bradley Sterling’s illegal operation. Suspected of baby trafficking, Sterling maybe be connected with Joe’s brother, Jimmy Sullivan’s murder.

How do Bobbie and Joe adhere to their professional code of conduct living under the same roof? Can they forget their personal history, ignore their volatile feelings for each other and ensnare their target when they might be next on Sterling’s victims list?

Now available from Amazon.com.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Norm Applegate and Blood Bar



Today's guest blogger is Norm Applegate, author of Blood Bar.

Norman Applegate is an author and consultant, with a growing body of work to his credit. Born in Glasgow Scotland, growing up in Toronto Canada and now residing in Florida with his wife Cheryl, Norm Applegate works and travels for an international consulting company, then occasionally scares the “heck” out of his family with his thoughts and writings.

His early years in Toronto were filled with aspirations of the late 60’s hippie music scene, and as a drummer in numerous bands led to a short lived career playing the bars and clubs in the Toronto area. The band Photograph, signed to a recording studio, made some noise on the coast to coast CBC radio show, the Entertainers, and after the legal issues strangled them into submission, they went their separate ways. The life of drugs, sex and rock and roll were over, sad but true.

His first novel, Into the Basement, a raw dark thriller introduced us to his unlikely heroine Kim Bennett and is scheduled for a movie release in 2009 with Triad Studios. The cast for the movie includes Courtney Gains, Naama Kates, Jonathan Breck, Two Foot Fred, Nicola Fiore, Jamie McCall, and a seasoned crew of horror and TV actors.

His follow up novel, Into the Spell, continued with Kim Bennett and the dark world of hypnosis, the paranormal and murder. Early 2008, Norm released a short story called “Jumpers”, with a Twilight Zone feel to it in the horror anthology “From the Shadows”.

Currently Mr. Applegate is a resident of Sarasota Florida, where he is working as a principle for the movie Into the Basement, a new horror thriller, and a sequel to Blood Bar.

For more information about Norman and his upcoming projects go to www.normanapplegate.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Vampires don’t exist...yet, on the brownstone back alley side streets of New York, a vampire dies. Desperate, his lover turns to Kim Bennett, author Norm Applegate’s quintessential heroine whose passion for S&M led to celebrity status as a hell-and-back murder mystery sleuth who’s been there, done that, and then some. This time, Kim finds herself caught between a secret vampire society’s attempts to locate The Black Testament (a sacred document written by Jack the Ripper), the modern-day vampire hunters bent on their destruction, and a white knuckled journey of self-discovery that catapults her into the bowels of hell and the arms of the ultimate vampire.......courtesy of The Haven, New York’s ultimate BLOOD BAR.

Norm is going to share a bit about Blood Bar with us today. Here's hoping even this brief mention doesn't give you nightmares!

You’re becoming a vampire, that was the premise to my recent novel Blood Bar with former S&M dominatrix Kim Bennett, a hell-and-back murder mystery sleuth who’s been there, done that, and then some.

With vampires we expect murder, erotic romance and adventure. To deliver that, we need a sensual male or female lover, Blood Bar delivers both. For adventure, Kim is placed in a murder, a search for the Black Testament a secret document written by Jack the Ripper which exposes the genealogy of the modern day vampire, and along the way some crazy distractions.

In creating dynamics with characters I look for opposites or at least something unexpected. In Blood Bar, I’ve placed a North American Indian Detective, Cheyenne Billings Montana, a vampire hunter who bonds with Kim, but is chasing the vampire she falls in love with Nicolai Avelli, a handsome Italian.

Adding to the cast, we have Erin Roberts, who like her father, never smiled a day in her life except when she was killing someone, and she is killing vampires.

For gore, we have vampire, Holger the beast Weinmar, who had the reputation of a primal animal, evil and aggressive, who would tear people and animals apart just for the pleasure of feeding violently.

To make the vampire killing somewhat different this is a paragraph from the novel.

Nicolai witnessed the removal of seventy-two choice chunks of fingers, toes, arms and legs, spread from largest to smallest on a white linen table like meat in a butcher shop, as the Beast meticulously went to work on the poor soul. The blade thick with yellow stringy fat carved through the soft flesh to the white of the bone leaving behind a mass of quivering wet carcass that heaved with each breath it took. Slice seventy-three was the delicate removal of the larynx, and with a suction sound it popped out releasing a gush of red spray and a hissing whisper of air.

The humorous part, all my characters are composites of friends and family, and when you study people, look deep, we’re all a little strange.

All the best,
Norm Applegate
May 2009
www.normanapplegate.com