Monday, October 29, 2007

Meet Author and Political Analyst Earl Hutchinson

Today's distinguished guest is Earl Hutchinson. An author, syndicated columnist, political analyst and commentator, Earl has been a guest on Hannity and Colmes, The O'Reilly Factor, The Big Story, EXTRA, and numerous CNN News and Talk Shows. Earl joins us today to discuss his new book, The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics.

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

Before we talk about your book, can you tell us a bit about your career? You have an impressive list of credits. How did you get started? Have you always been interested in politics?

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on writing and my book with your audience. I wish I could say that I started out wanting to be a career writer/journalist but that isn't the case. I happened to see an ad that a local throwaway newspaper needed a reporter so on a whim I applied. And to my shock I was hired. It took me a while to find my writing legs and figure out just what I was supposed to do as a reporter. But I persevered, and found that I enjoyed the challenge of crafting reports that actually got people thinking about issues. In covering stories and personalities in the 1970s in L.A., I had occasion to rub shoulders with history in my interviews and writings. In one year, I interviewed Bob Marley, Benjamin Spock, Ralph Abernathy, Julian Bond, Dick Gregory, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Gary Hart and countless other luminaries. I was hooked on writing and politics from then on.

Tell us about The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics. What is this book about? Why is it important to the world we live in today?

I like to think the book breaks new ground on the little understood turmoil behind blacks and Latinos. It looks at an area of race and ethnic relations that has not been closely examined, namely intra racial and ethnic conflict and tensions. Race problems in America for decades have been framed in black and white. That's no longer the case. It's black versus brown, brown versus black, black and brown versus Asian, and all sorts of other conflict combinations. In the Latino Challenge I assess how illegal immigration, gang and prison violence, competition over jobs, education and health services and funds, political jockeying, and racial stereotypes color black and Latino relations.

One topic we have been hearing in the news for quite some time now is immigration. It is an age-old battle that continues to be waged in modern America. Your book provides a history on how immigration has impacted blacks over the years. How does immigration impact blacks today?

It cuts two ways. Many blacks blame illegal immigration for taking jobs from blacks, running down inner city schools, increasing the deterioration of their neighborhoods, and fueling violent attacks on blacks. Many Latino and immigration rights groups blame blacks for creating a straw man issue out of immigration and say it does none of these things. So there is the seed of conflict.

You mention in Chapter 9 of The Latino Challenge to Black America, that immigration law reform may not have been successful in answering the question of whether or not illegal immigrants take jobs from the young, the unskilled, and often African-American low-income workers. Why is that? Why has Congress been unsuccessful for so long in handling this issue?

Fear and lack of political will explain Congress's failure to craft a meaningful immigration reform law. The debate over whether illegal immigrants hurt black job seekers would be there whether Congress enacted immigration reform or not. It's shrouded in myth, half truths, opinion and passions. That's always a volatile mix.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics?

At any bookstore, if they don't have it ask them to get it and it's available on Amazon. Visit this website for additional information -

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Black and Latino relations will be a touchy, edgy, and pivotal ethnic and race issue problem for years to come. My book tells why.

Thank you Earl for taking the time to speak with us today. I wish you continued success in all your future endeavors.

For more on this and other topics concerning race and politics in America, visit Earl's blog, The Hutchinson Political Report at

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Young Adult Author Diane Wolfe And The Circle of Friends

I’m thrilled to start off the last week of October with a talented author whose young adult novels have been called superbly crafted, emotionally charged, and thoroughly entertaining. Diane Wolfe joins us today to talk about her latest installment in her The Circle of Friends series--Mike.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Diane. It is wonderful to have you with us.

Thanks, Cheryl!! I am delighted to be here!

Let’s start by finding out a little bit about you. When did you begin writing? At what point in your life did you decide to make it a career? What creative interests do you have outside of writing?

I’ve always been a reader, devouring several books a week. However, the desire to write sparked inside of me when I read Anne McCaffrey’s “The White Dragon”. Holding that book in my hands, I could picture my own name on the cover. At the age of just thirteen, I set a goal of becoming an author one day.

Life got in the way of writing for many years, but when the wisp of a dream inspired me to begin writing The Circle of Friends series, my husband encouraged me to pursue that goal. I continue as a professional photographer and self-employed businesswoman, but speaking engagements, appearances, and seminars have taken over my life right now!

Outside of writing, I do still pursue photography, especially in the area of black & white work.

You maintain a rigorous tour schedule for your books. What are some of the advantages of promoting your writing this way? Are there any disadvantages?

I do 60 appearances a week, plus seminars, interviews and festivals! Yes, it is rather crazy, and I know most authors don’t do what I do. But the advantage is that I can get out there and meet the readers, personally introduce new fans to the series and talk with those already involved with the series. I love people and thoroughly delight in all of the new friends I have made over the past few years. Disadvantage is the amount of time it consumes. I do not get to write as much as I would like, plus I have to manage my time carefully. Sometimes it can be frustrating, because meeting an author no longer excites people the way it did 10-20 years ago. But I am not called “Spunk On A Stick” for nothing, so I enthusiastically continue down this path!

In addition to everything else you are involved in, you conduct seminars on publishing that outline the options open to writers today. How do you juggle all you do and still have time to write?

As I said, I do not write as often as I would like these days. But I have always done just a little here and a little there, plus heavy promotions for Book IV will wrap up just before Christmas. The seminars will be ongoing, though – there are so many people wanting to publish their work!

Before we chat about Mike: The Circle of Friends Book IV, can you give us a brief overview of what this series is all about?

Meant to inspire as well as entertain, these books been described as “encouragement personified” and offer readers hope. The Circle of Friends focuses on the pursuit of dreams and the overcoming of obstacles. The stories intertwine as the characters learn that with belief and encouragement, they can achieve anything. This series focuses on wholesome and uplifting stories that are suitable for adults and teens alike.

What inspired you to write Mike’s story?

Mike was a very central character in Book II. I had already outlined his tale, but it really came to life as I wrote Sarah’s story. His inner turmoil and guilt spoke to my heart. It is not a personal struggle of mine, but so many readers wanted to know more about Matt & Sarah’s roommate that I knew they had connected strongly with his character. And he is the one male readers have enjoyed the most!

What is it about Mike Taylor that readers will relate to? Why will they care about what happens to him?

I believe many will identify with Mike’s plight of being held a prisoner of guilt. I recently read a book about apologies and forgiving, and it stated that most people never forgive themselves. In watching Mike’s touching and emotional story unfold, readers will realize they too can let go of past mistakes and forgive themselves.

Tell us about Sarah, who is Mike’s roommate’s wife. Mike is carrying a torch for her. How does this affect Mike’s relationship with Matt (his roommate) and Sarah?

Mike’s love for Sarah contributes a great deal to the guilt he carries! Sarah struggles with a low self-image, but otherwise is a fun-loving, caring person. She is very accepting of Mike and his strong moral beliefs, even though she does not understand, and becomes a very dear friend. Watching her steadfast dedication to Matt, he realizes he would do anything to be the recipient of her devotion. Fortunately, he has such great respect for Matt and Sarah that he refuses to come between them in any way. He becomes the strongest supporter of their relationship, encouraging each in times of doubt. Matt is aware of Mike’s feelings and completely trusts his best friend, but Sarah has no idea Mike views her with more than just sibling love and affection.

If there is one message within the pages of Mike, what is it?

No one has to be held a prisoner of his or her own guilt! Forgive yourself and move on.

Where can readers purchase a copy of Mike and the rest of the books in The Circle of Friends series?

They can get them from just about any Barnes & Noble or Waldenbooks on the East Coast, or go to Barnes & Noble
or Amazon - to place an order online.

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

I am completing the fifth and final book in The Circle of Friends series, Heather. After that, I will do a non-fiction book on publishing & promoting and a science fiction novel about two brothers in a war. My first love will always be science fiction and I look forward to working on a story with all male characters.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I started writing the first book in this series, Lori, with the hope of inspiring others to achieve their dreams. No matter what path I take as an author and speaker, that will always be my goal!

Thank you for joining us today, Diane. It was great getting to know you and your work. I wish you much continued success.

Thank you so much! True success is in knowing one has touched many lives.

This Virtual Book Tour has been brought to you by:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nicola Beaumont and The Resurrection of Lady Somerset

Today’s guest is perfect for the month of October, because while Nicola Beaumont’s recent release, The Resurrection of Lady Somerset, is listed as an historical romance novel, it also has the twists and turns of a mystery thriller. And after reading a brief synopsis, I want to run right out and buy it.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Nicola. I’m glad you could join us today.

Thanks. It’s great to be here.

Before we begin talking about your novel, let’s hear a bit about you. How long have you been writing? What genre do you concentrate on? Is there anyone or anything that influences your writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My favourite genre is Regency romance, but I also write contemporary inspirational romance and non-fiction. I try not to let anyone influence my writing (outside of listening to constructive criticism)—I want it to be completely unique—but as a Christian, I’m sure my Christianity influences the things I write, if not how I write them.

You are also an editor. Do you feel this role allows you to self-edit your work better or are you still too close to your stories to be objective?

You know the old saying about the person who represents himself in court has a fool for a lawyer? The same can be said about self-editing. No one can be objective enough to be their own editor. Being an editor may help me to have a cleaner draft sooner, perhaps, but I also work with other editors who edit and proof my manuscripts for me.

In addition to your writing career, you are a wife and homeschooling mother. How do you find that perfect balance between your career and your family life?

There is no balance; I’m always right on the precipice of falling into total chaos! Seriously, I just have to organize my time, and allow for lots of interruptions. I’m not sure how it works, but it does.

Let’s talk about The Resurrection of Lady Somerset. Tell us about this story. What inspired you to write it?

My inspiration for this novel came in a strange manner. I had written a few other manuscripts before it, and each time they were evaluated, I received the same criticism: My sentence structure was too proper. I didn’t quite understand why that was a problem, but I realized that evidently it was something that needed to be fixed. Because I didn’t want to relax on grammar, I tried to think of a way to turn my weakness into a strength—and what better way than to write a book in a time period where the characters had a very “proper” way of speaking? That’s how I got turned on to Regencies.

The book itself is the story of Lark and Jonathon. She is mute, and has been thought dead for many years. The book opens with Jonathon becoming the new Lord Somerset because his father has died. During the reading of the will, Jonathon discovers that in order to keep the family fortune and reputation in tact, he must marry Lark—and protect her because her life may be in danger.

Where is Somerset Manor located? What era does this story take place in?

This takes place in Regency England which is the period between 1811 and 1820, when the Prince Regent was acting monarch. Somerset is located in the southwest of England.

Jonathon’s first meeting with Lark Blackwell does not turn out well. In the excerpt from your website--which reveals Jonathon and Lark’s first meeting--Jonathon vividly describes Lark. Why is Jonathon so harsh with Lark when he is admittedly attracted to her?

That is precisely why—because he’s attracted to her, but doesn’t want to be. For years, he has had to deal with swirling rumours about his family because his father had basically become a recluse in the years before the man’s death, so Jonathon is very conscious about being “proper.” When he discovers he is being forced to marry, he’s upset. When he further discovers that Lark has been in hiding and listening to the conversation, he doesn’t hold much respect for her—even though he’s still attracted to her. So he experiences this push-me-pull-you response to her, both wanting her and not wanting to want her.

As you mentioned, there is a terrible mystery surrounding Lark. People assumed her dead, but Lord Somerset had hidden her away in Somerset Manor until his death. It isn’t until Jonathon inherits the estate and becomes the new Lord Somerset that he discovers he is expected to marry Lark. What can you tell us about Lord Somerset--Jonathon’s father?

I can’t tell you too much; I don’t want to give away the story. But I can tell you he was not as loony as people thought.

What is it about Jonathon and Lark that readers can relate to? Why will readers want their relationship to work?

Both are extremely flawed and shaped by their past experiences—as are we all. I think readers will want their relationship to work because Lark and Jonathon both deserve to be happy. Being responsible for the family reputation, even while his father was still living, has been a burden on Jonathon that has kept him distant from relationships. Lark is a victim of circumstance who has been forced to lead the life of a recluse since childhood, without knowing why or if she would ever be allowed to leave Somerset Manor.

With the death of Jonathon’s father, new, exciting, and dangerous possibilities arise for them both.

Jonathon considers marrying Lark to prevent his squandering brother from inheriting Somerset Manor. What can you tell us about Jonathon’s brother? Do the two brothers have anything in common?

Jonathon and Cyril are as different as chalk and cheese—at least that’s what Jonathon thinks, but Cyril has a loyal streak that matches the one in Jonathon. It’s just that Cyril is a free spirit who doesn’t really care about reputation—or responsibility, for that matter. But, I love Cyril. He’s a witty rogue whom I think will one day find his match in a lady.

So, where can readers get their hands on a copy of The Resurrection of Lady Somerset?

The book is available in both electronic and print formats, and can be ordered online at or Amazon. It can also be ordered at any brick-and-mortar bookstore.

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

I’ve got several projects in the works, but one exciting announcement is that I had the privilege of having two books released on the same day. The day The Resurrection of Lady Somerset was released, I also had an inspirational novella released. The Lighthouse is the contemporary story of two best friends who fall in love with each other—but the timing is all wrong, and Malachi must race to save Rachel from a man whom Malachi knows is bad news. It’s also available in electronic and print formats from—and I have just been notified it has received a “Reviewer’s Top Pick” from Night Owl Romance.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I love to hear from people, so I invite everyone to stop by my website at

Thank you for chatting with us today, Nicola. I’m looking forward to reading The Resurrection of Lady Somerset. It will definitely be on my Christmas list this year.

Good luck with the rest of your Virtual Book Tour. I wish you continued success.

Thanks so much for the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you like Resurrection…be sure to let me know. :o)

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Erotic Romance Author Nadia Aidan Tells All about Enthralled

Lucky us, today I have an author whose books fall right in line with the October holidays and are also extremely sexy. I mean, what girl hasn’t dreamed of being an Amazon. I knew as soon as I read that Nadia Aidan liked Xena, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and La Femme Nikita (some of my favorites) that this is an author who needs to chat with us about her work.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Nadia. It’s great to have you here!

Before we get into your novel, Enthralled, let’s find out more about you. How long have you been writing? Why did you choose to become a writer? What’s the journey been like so far?

I began writing about a year ago when I was finishing my dissertation, but once I finished my dissertation I didn’t look at the novels again. It wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer that I began searching for an outlet for the emotional highs and lows of taking care of her. My mom recently lost her battle to cancer, which finally gave me the courage to submit my work. My mother was (and continues to be in spirit) my biggest cheerleader and support system. She was a strong, courageous woman who wasn’t afraid of anything and she raised me to be the same. I know she would have been disappointed in me if I let insecurity and fear stop me from submitting my work. So that is really how I ended up becoming a writer and the journey has been amazing. It is undoubtedly A LOT of work, but I love each and every moment of coming up with an idea all the way to seeing a finished product. Promoting my book is also exciting because it allows me to share with others just how passionate I am about what I do and that is what makes this ride so much fun!

You hold a PhD in Political Science and Public Policy and are also an Assistant Professor. Does your educational background or your occupation inspire your writing in any way?

Absolutely not! LOL! It actually helps balance me as a person. In the sense that when I do my writing and researh for work I am focused solely on that. However, when I put aside my work for that day I get excited about working on ym novels. I see my fiction work as my reward for being so productive in my full time job. So in a way I guess it does inspire me or at the least it motivates me.

You like to watch, read, and write about strong, assertive heroines. What is it about characters like Xena, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and La Femme Nikita that you are drawn to?

I just remember loving how kick butt these women were and yet they were stil very feminine. There is so much power in being a woman and sometimes I think we as women forget that. You don't have to be a bitch to be strong and you don't have to be masculine to be strong. I love that about these characters because they are strong, assertive, tough women who maintain a distinctly feminine persona. You can be a woman and you can still kick butt and hold your own and later you can go shopping! Being feminine doesn't make you weak and I love that these characters reflect this.

Let’s move on to Enthralled. What is this novel about? Is there a particular person, event, or thing that inspired it?

Set in a fantasy world, Enthralled takes you into another realm and introduces you to characters that you only dream of! It is a perfect erotic romance because it has all of the critical elements, dominant men, feisty women and a lot of sensuality! I mean A LOT!

No single event or person inspired Enthralled but I will say this....Enthralled is a work of fantasy but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ancient history. From the Egyptians to the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans--I LOVE IT! So don't be surprised if you recognize several planets and character names that have meaning in ancient cultures.

Tell us more about Candace. What motivates her? Why will readers care about what happens to her?

I love my heroine! She is strong and corageous, yet at the same time there is a vulnerability about her. Mainly she is motivated by a desire to be a good ruler. To do what is right. When you read Enthralled I think you will find that you can't help but cheer for Candace. She has so much to deal with and yet she remains poised through everything. She compromises but not at the expense of who she is. I love that about her and I hope the readers do too!

Ares, the heir to the Akkadian throne is just as powerful as Candace. How does this affect his relationship with her? Why will readers want to see him win Candace’s heart?

The two dominant leaders clash a lot which makes their relationship difficult at times, but what endears you to Ares is that he genuinely cares for Candace and you can tell that he wants to make her happy. You want to see him win Candace's heart because he is a good man who, like everyone, makes mistakes but he admits them. How can you NOT love a man willing to admit when he is wrong?!!!

In this novel, you have created worlds different from our own. How did you approach creating the planets of Kush and Akkadia? What challenges did you face in making up worlds that did not exist?

As I said before I love ancient history so I started with that. Actually in a lot of my fantasy work I start with a historical battle, place, leader etc. and go from there. The main challenge you face when writing a fantasy is remaining consistent in your language, tone, etc. It is easy to slip back into contemporary slang so you have to really focus and do a great deal of editing to be sure that everything remains consistent throughout the entire novel.

So now that we are all excited to get our hands on a copy of this book, where can readers purchase Enthralled?

You can purchase both print and ebook copies from my from my website and print copies from

It looks like 2008 is going to be a busy year for you. Can you tell us about your future projects?

I am working on a five book contemporary series titled Friends and Lovers. The first title, Sweet Revenge is currently under review with an editor and hopefully it will be released in the next few months. This is actually the first book I ever wrote so it is very dear to my heart.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I just want to say how thrilled and excited I am by the release of Enthralled. This has truly been a labor of love and I am happy to see that my dream has finally come true. I enjoyed interweaving many people and places into this erotic fantasy world and I hope others will love reading it as much as I loved writing it.

Thanks for spending time with us Nadia. We look forward to talking with you again when your next book comes out. May the future bring you continued success.

This Virtual Book Tour brought to you by:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

EPOCH by Timothy Carter--Book Review

EPOCH by Timothy Carter is one of the funniest books I've read in years. And I knew it would be, just by its back cover blurb--which takes the Biblical Book of Revelation and tells you that the apocalypse isn't playing out the way it is written.

At fourteen years old, Vincent Drear is already living a hellish life. Thanks to his parents, his brother Max, and their dedication to the Holy Triumvirate, Vincent spends his days saving souls and protesting movies about boy wizards. Problem is, Vincent isn't buying what the Triumvirate is selling these days and he ends up locked in the family's basement chapel for punishment a lot of the time.

While at his school's science fair, Vincent spots an elf who tells him the Triumvirate are right about one thing: the end of the world is coming--and it's coming in 48 hours!

The elf elicits Vincent's help to save the world from being eaten alive by hungry demons as soon as the epoch ends. To do this, Vincent must find the Portal Sites, which everyone can use to escape from the demons. But the Portal Sites are going to close soon and anyone left behind becomes demon food. Vincent's next problem, the demons are after him; the elves jam a bug up his nose which forces him to do everything they tell him to--like beat up his best friend, Big Tom--or risk excruciating pain; the elves and the pixies are both trying to find the Portal Sites, but they hate one another; and Vincent has to try and avoid Barnaby, the school bully, who loves using Vincent as a punching bag, while trying to figure out if Barnaby's father's company, the Alphega Corporation is involved in any of this.

Vincent is in a race against time as one obstacle after another wastes precious moments that could save the lives of everyone that Vincent holds dear.

EPOCH by Timothy Carter provides a unique outlook on the End Times, and does it with a heavy dose of humor. His characters are funny and sarcastic, but in the end most of them are trying to do the right thing--save lives (whether that be their own or others.) Vincent is a truly sympathtic character who is at the mercy of his parents' and brother's beliefs in the Triumvirate, and Carter does an excellent job of portaying--with humor--what a belief system taken to extreme measures can do. It is Vincent's decision to do whatever it takes to save people's lives--including going against his family's beliefs--which makes him stand out...and he does it at great cost.

This book could have used some minor editing, but the story captured me so deeply that almost nothing could pull me away. Carter knows what he's doing when it comes to writing for the teen market.

EPOCH by Timothy Carter will find its place among other fictional works about the End Times, and it will stand out because Carter dared to be funny about it.

Meet Author and Conservationist Marina Kuperman

This week rolls on with a talented woman on a mission. Author Marina Kuperman wrote a young adult novel which combines her love of Costa Rica, her interest in surfing, her awe of the Leatherback turtle, and her desire to make a difference in the world. Marina will discuss Turtle Feet, Surfer’s Beat, her inspirations, and her ongoing work to preserve marine life.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Marina. It’s so nice to finally have a chance to talk to you.

Before we chat about the book, please tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing? What was it like to move from the United States to Costa Rica? How long did it take you to adjust to life there?

Hi, thanks so much for having me here! To be honest, moving to Costa Rica was the most natural thing for me. I absolutely love the country and the people here are very accepting of foreigners. I’ve been writing for ages. I must have like a million journals stacked in my closets, but after going to the Leatherback park and having an encounter with the turtle, I felt a need to go further with my writing.

If I remember right, you have a little boy at home. Do you struggle to balance your writing career and family life? Do you have any tips for other working parents?

Costa Rica is great, because it gives you the opportunity to hire help, something I would never had had if I lived in the States. However, I also find that I do a lot more work in the early hours of the day, and when your child is really little you can work while they nap, and once they get older during school hours. The secret is to get as much done as possible in a short period of time. And that is no small feat.

Why do like about writing for young people? Do you think you’ll ever branch out to another genre?

For now I’m truly enjoying this age group. First of all, you can have a lot more fun, without being so serious, secondly my writing is fun but educational, and I truly believe this age group is THE NEXT GENERATION!

What is your opinion of sexual situations in young adult novels? Are they appropriate? How graphic would you expect a sexual situation in a young-adult novel to be?

I think it’s important to have it there, because like it or not kids are sexually active. If we ignore this, and pretend it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t solve anything right. So, if we talk about it then they can make their own decisions.

I really want to get into Turtle Feet, Surfer’s Beat. I’ve read it and I know how wonderful it is. Tell us what made you decide to write this story.

When I had my first encounter with the Leatherback and found out that their numbers have diminished from 1160 to 50 per year and at this rate there will be no more left within 10 years, something stirred inside of me. I have a 3 year old, and I desperately want him to see this creature in its natural habitat. So I decided to write a book. I wanted to make it educational, but not boring. Plus, I really like preteens and teens, so I realized if I add the surf cultural, a typical girl—like them, and the turtles it will be a fun ride and hopefully inspire them to do something.

This story is written in first person. Why did you choose this point of view? Could the story have been told from the point of view of another character?

Definitely. But since the main character is 16 and the main market for the book is girls from 12-16, I figured they can relate better to someone similar to them, placed in a new experience.

In Chapter One, we meet Penelope and her family. What can you tell us about them? How do they end up in Costa Rica?

Penelope’s dad is a photographer commissioned to capture the turtle on film. Since the parents are having marital problems they decided to bring the whole family along for the ride.

Tell us about Kendall Browne. What is it about Kendall that readers will relate to? Why will they care about him?

I fell in love with Kendall. He’s one of those guys that is gorgeous but doesn’t know it. Talented, but will never boast about it. Friendly, but without the look-how-cool-I-am attitude. Plus his genuine love for the ocean and the turtles brings out his real side rather than just your party-hard surfer. And, he’s a surfer dude!

Turtle Feet, Surfer’s Beat is about more than just reading enjoyment. You want to get people involved in marine preservation. What have you done to capture people’s interest in saving marine life?

I’m starting an online community for kids to hear what their favorite surfers, artists, musicians and other people are doing to help out. Hopefully to give them ideas to take action and have fun.

You’re also donating a portion of the proceeds from Turtle Feet, Surfer’s Beat to help saving the Leatherback Turtle and other marine animals. How does that work?

I started the Turtle Foot Foundation which works hand in hand with PRETOMA the Costa Rican organization that works directly with the Leatherback park. All my donations go to helping get the proper care, equipment and protection for this animal.

What is up next for you? Will you continue Penelope’s story? Are there other projects you would like to share with us?

I’m hoping to continue with Penelope and Kendall, however, I’m working on another book right now about a girl skateboarder who is handicapped and thrives against the odds in a male dominated sport.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I hope that kids enjoy the book, and then come to site to get fun ideas how they can help out too. Every little bit counts and everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small your efforts!

Thanks for spending time with us today, Marina. I wish you much success in all your endeavors. I hope you’ll have the chance to join us again soon.

Thanks so much for having me!

Note: Check out my review of Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat at

Monday, October 22, 2007

Find Out Why Youth Sports Coach Steven Reilly Says The Fat Lady Never Sings

Joining us today is author Steven Reilly. He is a lawyer and youth baseball coach in Connecticut's Lower Naugatuck Valley. We'll be chatting about his youth sports memoir, The Fat Lady Never Sings: How a High School Football Team Found Redemption on the Baseball Diamond.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Steve. It's a pleasure to have you with us.

Thank you for letting me stop by. The pleasure is all mine.

Before we get into your book, let's talk about you for a minute. How long have you been coaching youth baseball? Has any aspect of your law career helped make you a better baseball coach? Are you fascinated with any sports outside of baseball?

I've been coaching baseball about thirty years now. I've coached Babe Ruth league, Senior Babe Ruth league, American Legion and high school players in the spring, summer and fall.

Being a lawyer makes game decisions somewhat easier to make. After I help people make far more important life decisions, making a strategy decision in a high school baseball game does become a bit easier or at least it allows me to put it into perspective. But even to this day, I still lose quite a bit of sleep thinking about every possible thing that could happen in a game about to be played and how I will be able to deal with it. In the courtroom, there are no scripts and one has to develop the ability to adapt to how a case plays out; one must prepare as much as one can for whatever will be faced. Similarly, the beauty of a baseball game is that it has to be played. Those coaches who can adapt to what's happening during the game are far more successful. Preparation is key in baseball as well as the courtroom. High school baseball is unique since you cannot draft or recruit a player. You have to play with the cards you are dealt so to speak.

Law is an extremely competitive arena where losing is unacceptable and where skills of negotiation as well as litigation are developed over time. The analytical skills required in practicing law also help me in dealing with umpires and the interpretation of the rules of the game. Law has also taught me not only when to speak, but when to shut up before I make things worse.

I like a number of sports outside of baseball, but I wouldn't say I am fascinated by any one of them. Football and basketball probably are my next best favorite sports followed by hockey although I never played either football or hockey competitively. I did coach an eighth grade Catholic grammar school basketball team once and enjoyed it. I almost forgot, I was also a co-captain of my high school bowling team in addition to being a co-captain of my high school baseball team, but I haven't bowled in quite some time.

Tell us a bit about Derby, Connecticut, which is the setting for The Fat Lady Never Sings. Why is youth sports such a big part of that community? How competitive are these youth teams?

Derby is the smallest municipality in Connecticut land-wise. It covers only about 5 square miles. Like a lot of small towns in America, Derby used to be a manufacturing town with many blue-collar residents. It is still a blue collar city. In Derby in the late 60's, 70's, 80's and early 90's it would more accurate to say that it was the sport of high school football that was a big part of the community.

I think football became a big part of Derby's community as a result of a combination of factors. Football is kind of sport that requires a certain mental as well as physical toughness to play so I would imagine that in a blue collar town you are more likely to find football more popular than you would for example golf or swimming. Derby didn't have a golf course and the only public swimming pool(which was actually in the basement of City Hall), wasn't regulation size. Back when I was at Derby High, however, they did have a number of sports besides football including those two.

In addition, I think that it was due in large part to the football coaches who created and sustained a winning tradition, in particular, a coach named Lou DeFillipo who was overqualified for the job and became an icon in the city and deservedly so. Big Lou, as he was called, was among other things, captain of a Fordham University team that made it to the Cotton Bowl. He played for the New York Giants in the 40's, was an assistant with the Baltimore Colts and was a friend of Vince Lombardi's. Never mind the fact Big Lou had already established himself as a high school football coach with championships on Long Island before he got to Derby.

I also think whenever you have a high school that bears the name of the town it is in, the high school is going to be a barometer of many things. High school football is a sport that allows for the largest number of students to participate, hence parental following and, if you're successful, fan following with its resulting benefits, i.e. gate receipts to help fund other sports at the school. Football players are athletes and in a small town like Derby successful ones become popular and popularity breeds attention and adulation. Derby wasn't just successful back then. They were very successful winning multiple league and state championships. After a while, people began to think it would last forever. The school could've had a losing season in every other sport, but as long as we kicked butt in football, everything would still seem in order.

Take us to Thanksgiving Day in 1991--the day the Derby High School Red Raiders football team lost after 28 years of winning seasons. What was it like for these kids who played their hearts out only to know they would forever be branded losers?

Derby had been undefeated and won the 1990 overall state championship the year before and lost quite a few players from that team to graduation. After Ben Bartone, the quarterback of the 1991 team, broke his left wrist in the third game of the season playing defense, everybody began to fear the team might have a losing season. Many players on Derby's team played both ways and in addition to playing quarterback, Ben also played defensive back. The break in Ben's wrist was a bad one and required the insertion of surgical hardware to help it heal along with a plaster cast from his wrist to his elbow. Eleven games were scheduled that year so there could be no 5-5 season, Derby either had to have a losing season or a winning one. Derby was not(and still isn't) a large school so for it to lose its first string quarterback was devastating.

Fans started to look at the schedule and think about which games were winnable and which the team was likely to lose. When the losses started to accumulate, there was no room for error and the pressure to win mounted. The High school football season is a long one and you only get to play one game per week. It's not like the baseball season where if you lose you get to play a game two days later to try and redeem yourself as a team. The halls of Derby High were very quiet with each loss.

There was talk in town debating whether or not Ben should still be playing despite the wrist fracture. Some people felt he should be on the field anyway, at least as the quarterback. Ben did come back to play quarterback for the last three games, but he couldn't even take snap without fumbling the ball. The coaches inserted a shot-gun offense to try and help Ben but he still couldn't manage the snap consistently.

Unfortunately, the last game of the year was against one of Derby's biggest rivals who were ranked as a top ten team in Connecticut that year and Derby would have needed a minor miracle to beat them. It didn't happen. The Thanksgiving Day game is a game where a larger than normal crowd shows up and you usually see alumni football players rooting on the current players. To "blow the streak" in front of a large crowd made it all the more difficult for that year's players.

The Fat Lady Never Sings centers around three seniors from the Red Raiders football team, who join the baseball team the following spring. What can you tell us about Gino DiMauro, Ben Bartone, and Donny Shepard? Why will readers relate to them? Why will they cheer them on?

Ben is now a police officer for the City of Derby. I think readers will relate to Ben because he had the weight of both the football loss and the state championship baseball game on his shoulders. He not only was a tri-captain of the baseball team, a relief pitcher and shortstop in the championship baseball game, but he also found himself up at bat in the last inning with two outs, two men in scoring position and down by two runs. If he doesn't get a hit, he will be remembered as the quarterback who blew the streak as well as the baseball player who wasn't clutch when it counted. One of my polls on the book's website of the same name asks who should play Ben in any movie version of the book. So far, Keanu Reeves is winning. Whoaaaaahhh. (Voters have already picked Danny Devito to play the head coach of the team and Jack Black to play a fellow assistant coach of the team and James Gandolfini or John Goodman to play another so what does that tell you?).

Gino is now also a police officer for the City of Derby. Gino is a very likeable character, since he wasn't as much of an athlete as the others(the only second baseman I ever knew who wore protective goggles) but made the most of his abilities. I nicknamed him "the pizza box maker" because he used to work at a local pizza restaurant. He is also a sympathetic character since his father was the mayor of the city that year. Derby was the kind of town where if its high school football team lost, people would blame everybody, including the mayor for presumably not supporting the school enough. Gino's grandfather was formerly the football team's mascot. In full Indian garb donning a multicolored headdress and holding a spear, "Papa Gino" would ride near the bench and root the football team on.

Donny is also a very sympathetic character, since he never played football until his senior year in high school. He was more or less cajoled into playing because he was an athlete and the team needed him. After he was talked into playing, he ended up being a starting receiver and defensive back and returned punts and kickoffs. Donny was the kind of kid who had his arm blessed before the baseball season started. In the final baseball game, Donny was our starting pitcher who had a 9-1 record. He ran out gas and was removed from the game. After our second pitcher(Ben)had to be removed because of a pitcher limitation rule in extra innings, Donny was reinserted onto the pitcher's mound. Although he could barely throw the ball, he had to hang on.

You must have a lot of great memories from all your years of coaching youth baseball. Where do the events portrayed in The Fat Lady Never Sings rank in your list of highs and lows?

Although I've been privileged to coach many great teams and players in three different towns, I'd have to rank that 1992 team at the top because of the adversity they faced. I often wonder how different their lives would be if they had lost. I jumped on that victory pile that Friday night not just because they won, but because of the way they won; they never quit in the face of near certain defeat and battled every extra inning.

Second to that would be the teams and players who played with a lot of heart despite the fact they didn't win a championship and my 1977 Senior Babe Ruth team who did win a district championship because they were just a bunch of "wild and a crazy guys" as Steve Martin would say. The weekend I took that team to Maine, could be the subject of a whole book.

What was it about these three young men and how they reinvented themselves that made you want to write their story? Is there a lesson for young athletes to learn from Gino, Ben, and Donny?

I think part of it was their vulnerability. After all, they were just young men going through their high school years. A lot was expected of them in Derby.

Ben was not your typical football player. He was good at it, but when he was young he was the kind of kid who couldn't wait for fishing season to begin. I think baseball was his best sport and, in fact, he went on to pitch in college. After that state championship game, Ben asked the head coach of our baseball team, John DeFrancisco, "Am I a loser now?" That made me realize the amount of weight that was on his shoulders that year.

Gino was just a likeable kid. On many a practice day, I could tell he was arriving at the fieldhouse because he would let out a loud bird call that sounded like, "Cacaw! Cacaw!" Sometimes it's the oddball things kids do that reminds me they are just kids. As the season wore on, I could see how much Gino was maturing into a young man. He became the consummate team player and did everything we asked him to do without question. There are few players like that today.

Donny Shepard grew up in a congested neighborhood of Derby not far from where I grew up. Donny took baseball very seriously. (What high school pitcher do you know that would ask his Reverend at his church to bless his arm before the season began?) But Donny was prone to bouts of frustration whenever he didn't succeed. He was his own worst enemy sometimes. It was the way that he dealt with that last inning that made me want to write about him. At first, when he was reinserted into the game to pitch for the second time, he didn't want to go back in. But he knew we really didn't have anyone else to pitch so he accepted what he had to go through and still tried to win.

There is a lesson to be learned by young athletes from Gino, Donny and Ben. They found out what it was like to go out and do their best. We ask our young kids today to "just go out there and do your best". I think many times we take those words for granted and downplay them to mediocrity; the rising of lowered expectations. I think many times young teenagers don't know what "their best" is. Heck, many times I don't know what my best is, but I think we as coaches have to show young players how to reach that level so they can strive for that in everything else they do; it's part of the educational experience. But as I was taught by a man much wiser than me, it's a simple formula. "Don't quit." Everything else falls into place from there whether its baseball or anything else.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Fat Lady Never Sings?

They can buy it at multiple places online:;;;; and a host of others listed on the book's website

What's up next for you? Will you write more about your years coaching youth baseball?

I started working on a screenplay for the book. I'm hoping there will be interest for a baseball story that's the equivalent of Hoosiers in overtime with the stakes ratcheted up. After that I'll go back and probably write another book.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Check out the book's website to learn more about the book and vote in the polls or contact me on my MySpace site. (You could also click on my friend Buttermaker's site and become his friend too.)

The book also comes with a total satisfaction guarantee. If you buy it and aren't thoroughly entertained by the story, let me know and I'll be happy to buy it back.

Thanks for talking with us today, Steve. I wish you much success. Good luck during the rest of your Virtual Book Tour!

This Virtual Book Tour has been brought to you by:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat by Marina Kuperman--Book Review

Compelling, character driven, and full of teenage exploits, Marina Kuperman's young adult novel, Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat is a fabulous read.

Penelope Lennox is not a happy young woman. Her boyfriend just broke up with her and she has been dragged away from all her friends to travel with her family to Costa Rica for her father's photography assignment. And to make matters worse, her mother has signed her up for a two-week volunteer session at the Leatherback Turtle Biological Center. As if this wasn't enough to make Penelope want to retreat to her room for the rest of her life, the whole reason she got dragged along on this outing is because her parents are trying to find a way to live with one another so that they don't end up divorcing.

In walks Kendall Browne, a stunning-looking surfer who is committed to helping save the Leatherback Turtle from extinction. Penelope can't believe that a guy like Kendall could give her one passing glance, never mind ask her out. Everything seems to be looking up. Her parents are getting along and Penelope's thrilled that her parents forced her to join them. Until the night that Penelope and her brother, Sam, get lost on the way to meet Kendall and Kendall gets the wrong idea about why they didn't show up. But Sam isn't going to let a little thing like Penelope's pride get in the way of going to the surfing competition and watching Kendall ride the waves.

Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat is a great read from beginning to end. Told entirely from Penelope's point of view, readers can immediately relate to her whether they are ten or one hundred and ten--though I hoped to forget how sarcastic I was at that age. Kuperman turns Penelope's entire life upside down and then says, "Okay kid, what are you going to do with it?" And Penelope never once disappoints you with what she can accomplish.

Kuperman's knowledge of surfing comes to life in this book. From the lingo, to the fashion, to the the thrill of the competitions, Kuperman brings you onto the beaches of Costa Rica and gets you hanging ten with the locals.

Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat by Marina Kuperman will, without a doubt, capture the reader with its compelling storylines and its well-developed characters. Readers will sympathize with Penelope's plight because it connects so well with the trials and tribulations young people deal with every day. And while they will cheer and cry over Penelope's victories and defeats, they will never forget how she discovered her place in this world and how much fun she had making a difference in the life of the Leatherback Turtle.

Note: Look for my interview with Marina Kuperman coming to The Book Connection on October 23rd.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Erotic Romance Author PG Forte Returns to talk Love, From A to Z

Erotic Romance author, PG Forte returns to The Book Connection during her October Virtual Book Tour. PG's novel, Love, From A to Z, came out this summer from Liquid Silver Books. This is the second book in her LA Love Lesson series. Today, I have given PG the floor to talk about what is on her mind.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Rules to Write By
(Or: Can’t We All Just Get Along?)

By PG Forte

First the disclaimer. I’ve never been a big fan of rules—especially on the subject of writing. Show me a rule, and I’ll probably want to find a way to break it. I don’t think it’s a control issue, though, or even a matter of being a contrarian. I think it’s just a case of psychological claustrophobia: I work better in the wide-open spaces and blank canvases of my mind. Not even my own personal writing rules are sacrosanct. Take, for example, the amnesia sub-theme in Love From A to Z. As I’ve mentioned several times now, I’d previously sworn I’d never write a character with amnesia. And we all know how that turned out.

So, with an attitude like mine, you ‘re probably not surprised to learn that I ended up living in Berkeley, CA, home of the Free Speech movement. I must really fit in here. Right?

Well, you’d think. But Free Speech, Berkeley-style, has its own set of rules and they’re all very, very PC. Not that I think political correctness is all bad—in fact, I think it’s better than most of the alternatives. But too much of even a good thing is still too much. Unless we’re talking chocolate.

So while it’s cool, by Berkeley standards, that I write erotica—‘cause, you know, real womyn like sex as much as anyone else—it would be so much better if I wrote GLBT erotica. And the fact that I write erotic romance...well, that’s just a whole lot less cool.

I do get a few environmental brownie points for writing ebooks and sparing trees, but romance? The perpetuation of outdated societal myths and sexist stereotypes? It’s the Barbie Doll of literature.

Well, whatever. I’m not out to change the world with fiction, I’m just trying to entertain people. Not as easy as you might think, however, because—on the other end of the spectrum—I’m also faced with all the ‘rules of romance’; words and acts which are strictly verboten. Even in erotica.

As a lapsed Catholic, I have to admit I was surprised. There are rules to writing smut? Which my sister-in-law assures me is what I’m doing. Well, apparently there are.

So, to get (at long last) to my point, here is my own list of rules which I call:

The PC Girl’s Guide to Trashy Novels
AKA How to Write Smut without Offending Anyone

Rule # 1: Be Kind to Your Four Footed Friends. Companion animals (or what many speciesists still refer to as ‘pets’) are a common staple in many contemporary romance novels. They’re right up there with ‘the best friend’ as a plot device. Animals in romances should never be harmed in any way—especially not the cute, cuddly ones. Kill off the odd hero, if you have to but, by all means, spare his pet cat.

I learned about this rule the hard way when I let a character put her aging, injured dog to sleep. Talk about hate crimes! Wow.

Your characters should love their companion animals...but not too much. They should think of them as family. See rule #4 for details.

Some exceptions are possible where non-cuddly creatures are concerned. Spiders, for example, might be exempt and scorpions almost certainly are. Rodents fall into a very, very gray area. Especially gerbils. Fishing may be allowed but, just to be on the safe side, please catch and release. Hunting, on the other hand, probably falls into the same category as most other violent crimes. In other words, acceptable only when done by the villain and best restricted to ‘off-screen’ references.

Again, except in the case of your villain, your characters should eschew the wearing of fur and leather. Exemptions may apply in the case of Harley riders, characters of Native American descent, or Time Travelers. If you’re writing BDSM, why not choose neoprene? It’s probably more hygienic anyway.

Rule #2: Watch Your Language! A very important rule, number two. Although, of course, it is not generally appropriate to use the term number two, due to its slang, scatological reference.

Scatological references are generally frowned upon, anyway, unless your characters are werewolves or werecats or members of some other subspecies/culture for whom scatological references may be the norm.

When in doubt as to the acceptability of a word or term, it is occasionally useful to employ the middle-school-aged-boy test. If it’s something that would cause a middle-school-aged-boy to blush or giggle, avoid it. Then again, the middle-school-aged-boy test is considered suspect, in some circles, due to the ageist and sexist aspects of its name. So never mind.

If you’re writing non-erotic romance your publisher will likely provide a list of words that are not to be used under any circumstances due to their crude, obscene or overly clinical natures. If, on the other hand, you’re writing erotic romance, your publisher will likely employ a ‘heat index’ which will require you to use the very same words if you wish to receive anything above a ‘lukewarm’ rating.

Apparently, it’s not so much what your characters do that determines how hot you are, it’s what they say while they’re doing it.

Words that are demeaning, degrading, or misogynistic are safest in the mouths of villains or Dominants. Doms can, of course, say whatever they please and everyone else in their stories can say whatever they’ve been given permission to say.

The PC girl, as a member of an historically repressed class, is also mostly exempt from this rule and is allowed to use whatever words she wants when it comes to sex. Other than ‘girl’, actually, since this word should only be used to refer to an immature female and she’d better not be doing anything sexual, anyway. Again, see rule #4 for further clarification of this point.

Rule #3: OMG Be extremely careful when employing any references to religions, religious beliefs or deities since it’s almost impossible to use these without upsetting someone. The sole exception to this prohibition is, of course, when your characters are caught in the throes of passion. Pretty much anything goes at that point, other than egregious, gratuitous violations of rule #2.

Rule #4: We Are Family. Okay, here’s the thing. My grandfather, who died before I was even born, worked as a blacksmith while he was a young man in Ireland. My sole historical erotic romance novel (still in the works) features a hero who is a blacksmith in Ireland. Coincidence? Uh, yes, thank you, it is, because writing erotica involving blood relatives—even ones I never knew—would score a little too high on even my Ick scale.

Sex between fictional family members is also tres outre, for obvious reasons. Sex with a minor—uh-uh. No good. Sex between minors—yeah, that can also get you in trouble. I should know. Sigh.

Actually, there are those who will argue that even exposing your fictional minor to sexual relations between other (presumably consenting adult) fictional characters counts as child abuse. Personally, I think that’s taking things a little far.

First of all, I’m not altogether certain that would count as child abuse if we were talking about actual people—although I grant that it would probably depend on the circumstances. But to apply the concept of child abuse to fictional characters? Can book burning be far behind?

Moving on...let’s discuss the exemptions to this rule. Ghosts, as long as they’re not members of your immediate family, are probably okay. Time travelers are all but required to sleep with any familiar-seeming stranger they cross paths with because of the whole paradox thing: seriously, if you don’t impregnate your own great-great-grandmother, who will?

As with rule #2, restrictions may be eased in cases where the characters in question are from alternative species/cultures/time periods/planets/etc. The key word to keep in mind here is sentience. Sex with sentient-shifters is super—albeit a little hard to pronounce—just as long as they’re mature, consenting adults of their respective species. Sex with non-sentient, non-human, non-shifting, terrestrial creatures is not PC.

And, as noted in rule #1, even though you and I might consider our companion animals to be more sentient (not to mention intelligent, lovable, affectionate and attractive) than some humans we’ve met, they’re family. So treat ‘em like they are.

Don’t tell me how old Spot or Fido is in dog years, just leave him/her alone. To be on the safe side, you might also want to do the same with your houseplants...unless, of course, they’re alien or non-native species. In that case, all bets are off. Little Shop of Horrors, anyone?

Rule # 5: In the Closet, Under the Rug, Behind Closed Doors. Or, in other words, there are just some places you don’t want to go.

There are some things people just don’t want to read about. There are some things other people don’t want you to read about as well. Of course, I personally have a problem with other people making those decisions for me, but those would be other people’s rules—so we won’t go there, either.

As I mentioned in the opening, it really surprised me when I started to learn about all the things I couldn’t write about. I kinda thought the ideas of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press actually meant something. I also thought the whole concept of Book Banning had been discarded once James Joyce was raised to the rank of Literary Genius. However, as the following, fascinating web page shows, that ain’t the case.

It appears there are still plenty of things you can’t write about, if you wish to both get published and stay un-incarcerated. Unfortunately, the PC girl can’t really enumerate these acts here. That’s not because to do so may, conceivably, offend someone but because (contrary to what you might read on a particular publisher’s website) in many cases they seem to be more a matter of personal preference, on the part of the publisher or editor in question, than actual law.

Some of the laws regarding sexual practices still on the books in some places would probably put 90% of the world’s population in jail, if they were ever enforced. Most editors aren’t nearly as repressed as that! On the other hand, I guess everyone’s entitled to their own levels of squeamishness.

So, anyway, there you have it. Adhere to these five rules and you’ll probably mange to write something that will avoid offending most of the erotic-romance reading public. Whether you write something that enthralls, captivates, entertains and arouses them—well, I guess that’s up to you now, isn’t it?

To find out more about PG Forte and her work, visit her on the web at

This Virtual Book Tour has been brought to you by:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Radio Interview with Janet Elaine Smith

Hello all,

My interview with Janet Elaine Smith will air tonight from 8-8:30p.m. on Passionate Internet Voices Radio - On her show Marketing for Fun & Profit, Janet and I chatted about Musing Our Children--a group who is dedicated to encouraging a love of reading and writing in young people. Musing Our Children's Reading and Writing Appreciation Week kicks off today. We are always looking for writers, editors, illustrators, and storytellers to join the cause. To find out more, you can visit us on the web at Parents and educators are also encouraged to visit our website to sign up for our free newsletter, which includes age appropriate suggested reading lists, reading tips to help children become happy readers and writers, interviews with children's authors, fun activities for the kids, and more.

Check out Musing Our Children at today!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Indian-American Author Shobhan Bantwal Talks about The Dowry Bride

You’re in for a rare treat today. Mainstream women’s fiction author Shobhan Bantwal joins us to talk about her fascinating and suspense-filled novel, The Dowry Bride, which came out from Kensington last month. Shobhan has published short fiction in literary magazines and articles in numerous publications. She also writes plays in her native tongue--Konkani and performs on stage at Indian-American conventions.

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

Thanks so much for inviting me to your forum. You have a warm and wonderful spot for authors and readers to meet and discuss books, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.

Before we discuss The Dowry Bride, I would like to take a few moments to let our readers get to know you. How long have you been writing? Is there a certain aspect of life that your writing centers around?

I took up creative writing rather late in life -- quite recently as a matter of fact. I like to call it my “menopausal epiphany.” It wasn’t exactly a calling, but at age 50, when my menopausal problems included insomnia, mild depression and major surgery, I felt like I needed a creative hobby despite having a demanding full-time job. I started by enrolling in a creative writing course at the local community college. I also began writing short human interest articles for Indian-American newspapers. When they were received well I tried my hand at short fiction. Imagine my surprised delight when one of my short stories won first place in a fiction competition and two other stories won honorable mention in nationwide contests. The writing bug got me very quickly after that point and I wrote two full-length novels, one of them being THE DOWRY BRIDE.

My writing centers around my Indian heritage. They say one should write what one knows, so I try to stick to what I know. With my arranged marriage background and Hindu philosophy, I enjoy writing about those topics and other elements of Indian culture.

You were born in India and came to the United States as a young bride. Can you share what this experience was like? Was it difficult to adjust to a different culture after so many years of living in India?

I arrived on a cold wintry evening in early March 1974, wearing a sari, fancy Indian sandals and a thin coat that did nothing to protect me from the icy New York City wind that whipped up my sari into a balloon and left my unprotected feet frozen into popsicles. Having come from Bombay’s hundred degree heat, that was something! Later, while I waited outside JFK Airport for my husband to bring the car around from the parking lot, I noticed a young couple kissing and groping each other openly (one of them was obviously leaving for someplace and this was a passionate goodbye). Talk about “culture shock.” Both my body and mind took a good battering that day, my first day on American soil. But within a few months I felt right at home. Summer brought on warm temperatures, too. I was a young woman with a mind of my own, so I totally embraced the freedoms afforded by American culture.

You give credit to your parents for giving you an outstanding education and a love of reading. How can parents do that today in a society where everyone is busy running in five different directions?

It’s actually easier to give one’s children both those things in today’s society. Both my parents worked seven days a week while raising five children. They didn’t have many choices back then either, since there was only one decent English school in our small town and one tiny private library that charged a fee for membership and had a very limited selection of books. Whereas now, with easy access to the Internet, free public libraries, great public and private schools, books in print, electronic and audio format, and educational toys, the sky is the limit for middle-class kids. But the important thing to remember is to introduce reading to children at an early age. Less television and video games and more books could make a reader out of any child.

Let’s move on to The Dowry Bride. What is this story about? What is the source of inspiration behind it?

THE DOWRY BRIDE is the story of one young woman trapped in India’s arranged marriage and dowry system and a culture of fascinating contradictions. When the bride, Megha, accidentally discovers her in-laws’ plot to kill her for not producing the promised dowry, she escapes and embarks on a rocky journey to freedom. Her savior turns out to be a kind brother-in-law, the most unlikely individual she could think of. But the growing attraction between them has the potential to destroy them -- a married woman and an in-law in a conservative society.

The source of inspiration was the knowledge that in this day and age, when women have supposedly achieved emancipation, these kinds of atrocities still continue with impunity. I decided to take an extreme case of dowry abuse and weave a story around it.

For those of us who might be unfamiliar with the Indian culture, why is a dowry so important? Is it important enough to kill for?

Dowry is the custom of giving money, gold and diamonds, sometimes real estate and/or livestock, etc. to the groom’s family by the bride’s family. It supposedly started as a way to ensure equitable distribution of property amongst sons and daughters in a patriarchal society. Dowry was given voluntarily as a gift by the bride’s family as a sort of insurance for her future (in case of abandonment by her spouse or widowhood), but somewhere down the line it turned into an ugly system of the groom’s family demanding it and in extreme cases extorting it.

Mind you, dowry is not the norm in India. Most marriages take place with no hint of dowry, but there are some small communities where dowry is very prevalent and is practiced to this day. Large money transactions can lead to greed, and extreme greed can lead to crime. Money can be very corrupting as we all know.

Kiran hides Megha in his apartment after she runs away. Why does Kiran agree to help her? Does he realize the danger he is putting himself in?

There are two reasons why Kiran agrees to help Megha by hiding her in his apartment: first, he’s in love with her and will do everything in his power to save her; second, he is a man of integrity and abhors the idea of dowry and any sort of abuse.

At first, although he knows of the dangers involved in helping Megha, he does not realize the degree of peril surrounding the situation. Later, when he realizes his aunt will stop at nothing to get her way, he comprehends the gravity of the situation.

Megha’s and Kiran’s feelings deepen into more than just friendship. How will readers relate to this change in their relationship? Do you believe they can accept it and wish for Megha and Kiran to be together?

Most people, and especially women, are likely to relate to the change in Megha’s and Kiran’s relationship. I’m a romantic at heart and I’m sure there are lots of readers who feel the same way. If not all my readers, at least a fair number of them are likely accept the tender feelings between the two main characters and wish them well. In fact, I receive plenty of positive feedback from readers rooting for Megha and Kiran and wishing them a “happily ever after” future.

The Dowry Bride sounds like an amazing novel. Where can readers purchase a copy?

Thanks for the kind words. THE DOWRY BRIDE is available through all the bookstores and retail stores in the U.S. and Canada, and all on-line booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, etc. Any place that sells books has my book available for purchase.

Do you have any future projects you wish to share with our readers?

I have a two-book deal with my publisher, Kensington Books, so I’m currently discussing some ideas for the second book with my editor. We have not quite settled on the theme yet.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes. I’m giving away a “Dowry Bag” to one winner at all my book signings and I will be conducting “Dowry Bag” drawings every now and then through my website as well. To enter a drawing, go to my website: By the way, my website also has lots of information on India, some of my favorite Indian recipes, and photographs.

Thank you Shobhan for providing us with insight into the Indian culture and for sharing so much about The Dowry Bride. Good luck with the rest of your Virtual Book Tour. I wish you great success.

Thank you for interviewing me and for the good wishes. It was loads of fun and very stimulating talking about THE DOWRY BRIDE and about myself. I’m enjoying the Virtual Book Tour very much.

This Virtual Book Tour has been brought to you by:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Horror Author Mayra Calvani Scares us with Dark Lullaby

Today’s guest is perfect to start off the month of October. Multi-genre author Mayra Calvani is here to chat about her latest horror novel, Dark Lullaby, published as an eBook and in Trade paperback by Whiskey Creek Press.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Mayra. I’m thrilled and a bit frightened to have you with us.

It’s a treat being here, Cheryl! Thanks for having me.

Before we talk about Dark Lullaby, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and your fascination with the dark side of things.

I was an avid reader when I was a child and from an early age began to love scary films—those old black & white movies about mommies, werewolves, and vampires. They must have made a deep impression on me, because since then I’ve always been attracted by the supernatural. I was a quiet child and reading was my escape into a world of mystery and adventure, a way to live ‘on the edge’ yet be safe at the same time.

You create stories that thrill and chill your readers, but write for children too. How do you change gears and write heart-warming tales like The Doll Violinist?

I guess I’m one of those writers who could never write in only one genre. Many things inspire me and I write what I love. It’s like switching to different modes. When I write children’s stories it’s as if a switch turns on and I’m in my children’s writer mode. When I write horror, the horror switch turns on, and so on with the other genres. I love the idea of being a multifaceted author and don’t really care about branding my name specifically with one genre.

What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?

When I’m working on a novel, I try to write every day, otherwise I get disconnected from the story and it’s very hard for me to jump back into it. Mornings work best for me because my mind is fresh and because the house is quiet. Late afternoons are for my family and I’m always too tired to write at night. That’s mostly when I do my reading. I’m a reviewer as well, so there’s always a book in line to read or a review to write, so in this sense I do write something everyday.

I think I’m ready to chat about Dark Lullaby, though if I get too scared I’ll have to run upstairs and get my favorite blanket. Dare I ask where you came up with the idea for this chilling tale?

Three things, actually. I’ve always been very interested in moral dilemmas and in the concept of a higher good. For instance, is it okay for a man to steal in order to have money to save his little girl, who is dying? In the case of Dark Lullaby, I went a step further: is it okay for a man to kill for the higher good? As far as the location goes, I lived four years in Turkey, so this was a big influence. I was intrigued by the stories I heard there about the jihnn, and by the fact that so many people believed in them. My brother, who is an astrophysicist, was my inspiration for the main character. This is the first novel I write with a male protagonist, and I have to say it was very interesting getting inside the head of a man.

In Chapter One, we meet astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz, who is having a heated discussion with his ex-girlfriend, Liz at a popular bar. What can you tell us about Gabriel? Why will readers like him? Is there anything about him that readers might not care for?

Gabriel is a smart guy with a big heart and a grand sense of justice. He’s also a bit naïve, which together with his smarts, is somewhat unusual. But he is haunted by a dark childhood, one he would rather forget. When he meets the anti-heroine, Kamilah, she does everything in her power to bring his dark, buried feelings to the surface, leading to tragic consequences. I think readers will like his sense of goodness and justice, as well as his total loyalty to his sister Elena. At some point in the story this sense of justice somehow gets twisted inside his head… and he does a pretty terrible thing, something which readers may not agree with, but I’ve made Gabriel with plenty of faults and as real as possible, and this is really part of it all. He’s too temperamental and impulsive for his own good. Plus money simply slips from his fingers.

This heated discussion is about the discrepancies between law and justice. Why does Gabriel feel so strongly about this topic?

Gabriel has always loved philosophy and arguing about it. Being a scientist, he has an analytical mind and enjoys a heated debate. The conversation about law and justice they have in the beginning sets the ground for what happens later in the story. Will his ideals stay true, or will they collapse?

Having broken up with Gabriel just four months ago, Liz still carries a torch for him. And even more than that, she seems to enjoy bating Gabriel into these heated discussions. Is she drawn to him because of how strongly he feels about things or does she just enjoy the debates?

Liz still loves him, not because of the debates they have, but because of who he is as a person. More than anything, she loves the sweet, sensitive part of him. She can never forget how supportive he was during her mother’s illness. But Liz is too jealous and independent to be compatible with Gabriel, who unconsciously needs a vulnerable woman by his side, a woman who will need him to be protective. This, of course, stems directly from his childhood and relationship with his sister.

We met Kamilah in Chapter 2, when she joins Gabriel and Liz’s conversation. You painted a very detailed picture of Kamilah—her looks, her mannerisms, how her voice sounds. Why so much effort for this one character? How did you know what details to put in and which to leave out?

Kamilah is the center of the story, apart from Gabriel; she’s the anti-heroine, the catalyst that drives Gabriel to the extreme. I wanted Kamilah to completely overshadow Liz. Liz is merely a secondary character. I also wanted Kamilah to evoke both innocence and sensuality. I felt her mannerisms, voice, looks, were all very important in creating her powerful, alluring, supernatural nature.

Gabriel’s twin sister, Elena, is due to have a baby soon and he is debating about whether to go visit her. Why the hesitation? And what’s up with these disturbing daydreams he has of Elena and her unborn child?

He hesitates simply because he’s too busy! Astrophysicists don’t just take off to Europe whenever they feel like it! LOL. Did I mention how money slips through his fingers? He’s up to his neck in credit card bills, and cross-Atlantic airplane tickets are expensive. About the dreams… Yes, his sister is about to give birth to a child, but Gabriel keeps picturing this empty pram in a wooded park. This ominous daydream serves to foreshadow what happens later in the story. He has a bad feeling about the whole thing, a feeling that intensifies when he notices Kamilah’s fixation upon his sister, even though she is thousands of miles away. His sister Elena had lost her child a few hours after delivery 3 years ago, so this also adds to his apprehension.

Alright, I’ll be forced to stop myself there before I start shivering. I think we’ve given readers enough to whet their appetites. Where can readers purchase a copy of Dark Lullaby?

Dark Lullaby is available in both ebook and print form.

The book is available on Amazon:

Also from the publisher:

You’ll be touring the blogosphere the entire month of October. Where do you journey to next?

Tomorrow I’ll be on Caridad Pineiro’s blog,
You may view the complete tour schedule on my website,

What’s up next in your writing world? Any exciting or spooky projects you would like to share with us?

I’m working on a paranormal thriller about wolves set in the French countryside. Wolves are my favorite animals and I’m enormously enjoying the writing and researching. The book will be out in the fall of 2007.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

For a blurb and excerpt of Dark Lullaby, readers may go to my website,

For the book trailer, go to

I also have a book review blog and a newsletter:

The Dark phantom Review, .
The Fountain Pen,

For my children’s books, the links are:

Thank you for scaring…er…I mean joining us today, Mayra. It’s been fun to be exposed to the dark side for a while. I wish you much success.

Thank you, Cheryl! I enjoyed your questions!

Look for my review of Dark Lullaby coming soon!

This Virtual Book Tour has been brought to you by: