Thursday, May 29, 2008

To Blog or not to Blog...That is the Question

As a virtual book tour coordinator, I am constantly surfing the Internet for interesting, eye-catching, and frequently updated blogs to host Pump Up Your Book Promotion's clients.

Our tours typically consist of a healthy mix of book review, author interview, genre and/or topic, reader, and writer blogs. What never ceases to amaze me, however, is the number of writers who don't blog. It doesn't make sense when the Internet has opened up new and free avenues for writers to promote their work, that people out there aren't taking advantage of it.

I can understand why some writers don't have websites (I don't know much about HTML either), but blogs? Come on, you're missing a chance to promote your work for free and all you have to do is something you already love--write.

In the pre-blog world writers were told the importance of having a website--and they definitely have value. A blog, however, gives you the chance to have ongoing conversations with your readers in a way that just isn't possible with a website.

I always tell my clients, if you have to decide between creating a website and creating a blog, then I suggest a blog. I have both, and the number of visitors to my website doesn't even come close to the number of people stopping by The Book Connection.

So, my question to you is: do you have blog? If so, what do you like about it? What are some of the benefits that blogging has provided you? And if you don't have a blog, what's keeping you from starting one?

Cartoon image borrowed from

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Virtual Book Tours--why I love them!

It was spring 2007 when I first became exposed to the term virtual book tour (VBT). I was asked to host a client of Pump Up Your Book Promotion's at my blog.

I had such a great time, I did it again, then again, and again, and again. Eventually, my being a blog host led to me starting The Book Connection.

I joined the staff of Pump Up Your Book Promotion in October of last year. As a tour coordinator, I've been given the opportunity to promote some awesome books. I am one of those lucky few who can honestly say she loves her job.

But what's so great about them? Why should authors even consider them? I'm going to share the reasons I love VBTs with you now, and if you aren't convinced, feel free to email me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com and tell me why...or better yet, leave a comment here and we'll see what develops.

Reason #1: VBTs create a necessary online presence for our authors.

The Internet changed the shopping habits of consumers. We can sit at our PCs and browse an almost unlimited number of online retailers, click our mouse a few times, and have everything delivered to our doorstep.

But what good is it to have your book available online if no one knows it's there?

A virtual book tour plasters your name and book title all over the Internet. Instead of one page of Google search results, readers find numerous pages.

Reason #2: VBTs help authors sell books.

This goes along with Reason #1. Now that readers know about your book, they know where to buy it. And believe me, they will buy it. Many of Pump Up's clients tell us about the positive impact a virtual book tour has on their sales.

There have been instances where readers have gone to an author's in-store book signing as a result of seeing the author at a blog during her virtual book tour.

Reason #3: VBTs allow authors to network with other writers.

Whenever I talk to clients about virtual book tours, I am quick to point out that while selling books is an important goal, it is equally important to see a VBT as an opportunity to network with other writers. Many of our tour hosts are freelance writers and/or authors. We also have a regular group of reviewers who handle our clients. Isn't that handy when your next book comes out?

Some of our clients have gone on to host radio talk shows or become regular contributors to blogs or magazines as a result of their VBTs. One author credits his virtual book tour with opening the door for him to have his books turned into audio books and be considered for screenplays.

Reason #4: VBTs make an author's life easier.

VBTs don't require travel, new clothes, or lugging around boxes of books and promotional material in your car. While I don't discount the fun of going to an in-store book signing and meeting potential readers face to face, a virtual book tour offers an author a chance to reach a much wider audience without the additional expense and inconvenience.

The author can sit in his pajamas with his hair sticking out in all sorts of crazy ways, while reaching out to potential readers at various blogs along the tour trail.

Reason #5: VBTs offer long-term exposure.

A great thing about virtual book tours is that they offer long-term exposure. As long as the blog that hosted an author remains online, new readers can discover this author's books. It's not like a book signing where you have just one chance to grab a reader's attention. A potential reader can find out about your book one, three, six months or more after the end of your virtual book tour.

Bonus: VBTs are fun!

I don't have enough digits to count the number of times our clients have said that virtual book tours were fun. And we really do strive to make them fun for everyone. Authors are answering a variety of questions, providing articles on a multitude of topics, and communicating with potential readers all month long.

And at the end of the month they get to give away a free copy of their books!

Okay, I'm done now. Feel free to add to my list of reasons to love VBTs and to discuss this amazing promotional tool for authors.

Book image taken from MIT Libraries News.

Monday, May 26, 2008

West Across the Board by Andrew Jalbert

About the book: From the time of their meeting and first chess match on Key West in the 1930s, each man’s win is scratched into the back of the board. As the game tally grows, so does their friendship. Now, both men are in their twilight years, but it’s Dominic’s life, weathered by cancer, which is reaching its conclusion. Lázaro, who fled from his island home and his friend years ago, learns that Dominic is rapidly dying and sets off on the long journey from Boston to Florida to see his old friend. Prior to leaving, Lázaro retrieves the old chessboard and makes a startling discovery. The number of scratches, first marked over sixty years before and uncounted until now, has the two men evenly tied.

As he drives toward Dominic and the keys, Lázaro is forced to confront a past he has struggled to forget while anticipating the reunion with his old friend and what could be their final game.

The idea behind this book intrigued me. A lifetime of friendship, a game of strategy, friends separated by the miles, and one man racing against time to see his old friend before they are forever parted. I asked Andrew to share a little bit about Dominic and Lazaro with you today.

My two main characters met in Sloppy Joe’s Saloon in Key West, Florida in 1934–-the year after Prohibition ended and the year before the Labor Day Hurricane would devastate the middle keys. Dominic, a brilliant engineer, had recently purchased an old chessboard from a Bahamian rail worker and was looking for a challenger that night in the tavern. Lázaro, a Cuban mariner and successful fishing guide, agreed to play what would for the next sixty years be spoken of as Game One.

West Across the Board is not a book about chess. I initially wrote the chess games solely as a conduit between the two men’s lives; however I soon discovered that the matches could also highlight the friends’ fundamental differences. Dominic’s approach to strategy, be it the games or his engineering work, was based on numeric truths that seemed so apparent to him. His adherence to linear, structured thought served him well to a point, but the reader soon discovers that his brilliance is also his handicap, something we see in the story as he struggles to understand the chaotic nature of relationships and even his own environment. In spite of this, Dominic shows a deep kindness and thoughtfulness throughout the novel and based on the feedback I’ve gotten from readers, he seems to be the favorite character in the book.

Lázaro is a man driven by instincts. He makes decisions quickly, generally based on nothing more than his gut. His life on the water probably accounts for much of this. The typical cadence of the chess games is staggered, with Dominic thinking through every move before committing a piece, then Lázaro moving quickly. From West Across the Board: “Yet in spite of Lázaro’s impatience, he had a certain feel for the game, and when playing at his best, he seemed to control the flow of the game effortlessly, without showing the tense concern for each individual move that Dominic did.” As well as being impatient, Lázaro is often emotional, something that plagues him throughout the book and ultimately drives him from his island home.

The contrasting personalities of these two characters create an interesting friendship that spans nearly six decades. They not only learn from each other along the way, but gain new perspectives. Across the board from each other, they enjoy and talk about happy times and support each other while weathering loss. And while the chess game is a constant throughout the book, West Across the Board is really a story about friendship, hope, loss and reconciliation.

WEST ACROSS THE BOARD VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Andrew's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of his blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of his tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy! By Aaron Cooper, Ph.D. & Eric Keitel, M.Ed.--Book Review

Helpful, insightful, and filled with great advice, I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy! is a book today's parents must read.

While parents are more committed than ever to their children's happiness, kids today are more worried, more anxious, and more depressed--a fact the authors point out so well through the use of statistics and examples.

Why is this the case?

According to Cooper and Keitel, the "I just want my kids to be happy" mantra has led "well-intentioned mothers and fathers astray in their child-rearing practices, ultimately undermining the ability of young people to face the challenges of life with balance, resilience, and imagination."

By overemphasizing pleasure, promoting unrealistic expectations, fostering guilt and shame, encouraging too much self-focus, and telling a half-truth, we are leaving our children totally unprepared for a life that won't always be rosy and bright.

Cooper and Keitel show how this happiness creed leaves parents captive to their children's moods and feeling unnecessary guilt and shame, how it abdicates parental authority, how parents overprotect their children from adversity, and how it emphasizes feelings over actions. They also discuss three myths about happiness.

The only way for our children to be truly happy, according to the authors, is for parents to plant the seeds of authentic happiness and till the soil of authentic happiness.

How do we do this? Read the book!

If I could afford it, I would purchase a copy of this book for all expectant and new parents. It sheds light on how changes in the focus of what is important have created a society of children who aren't prepared for the realities of life.

I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy!: Why You Shouldn't Say It, Why You Shouldn't Think It, What You Should Embrace Instead shows parents in an easy and helpful way how to bring up children who are truly happy, not ones who experience short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term happiness.

I highly recommend this book to parents, grandparents, and caregivers everywhere!

Title: I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy!
Authors: Aaron Cooper, Ph.D. & Eric Keitel, M.Ed.
Publisher: Late August Press (an imprint of Ace Coupay Publishing)
ISBN-10: 0-9797926-0-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-9797926-0-1
U.S. Price: $15.95

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wai-nani: High Chiefess of Hawai'i - Her Epic Journey by Linda Ballou

Through the eyes of high chiefess, Wai-nani, experience the Hawaiian society as it existed when Captain Cook arrived at Kealakekua Bay in 1779; ride the billowing seas with Eku, the wild dolphin she befriends; learn why she loved the savage, conflicted ruler, Makaha; walk with her as she defies ancient laws and harsh taboos of the Island people; share the love she received from all who knew her and learn how she rose to become the most powerful woman in old Hawai’i.

About the author: Linda Ballou's appreciation for nature took her to Kauai, the most luscious of all the Hawaiian Islands with pleated cliffs and treacherous seas fending off newcomers. It is believed by Hawaiians that a mantle of mana (spiritual power) protects the island from harm. It is here that she listened to wind voices and the seed for her historical novel Wai-nan: High Chiefess of Hawai`i took root in my heart. This story inspired by the powerful personage of Ka`ahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great is a poetic rendering of the ancients with tales of heroes and heroines doing supernatural deeds of mythological proportions. The people of old Hawai'i were connected to nature, played freely, loved passionately and communed with gods that dwelled in every tree, rock and flower. This book is written in the name of Wai-nani with great Aloha.

Linda's quest today is to get to as many naturally beautiful places as she can before they are no more! She has hiked, biked, kayaked and ridden on horseback through some of our most precious wilderness areas. Her travel articles and photos have appeared in numerous national publications. Her essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and various literary journals. “Look Both Ways on Small Islands” was included in the I Should Have Stayed Home anthology published by RDR Books.

You may visit Linda on the web at where you may view many of her articles and photos. If you look closely your reward will be to discover the Secret to Youth.

Read the excerpt:

Chapter 1

Dolphin Dance

The red apple of the ohi'a tree tasted sweet in my mouth as I watched the drifting plumes of Pele, Goddess of the Volcano, cast shadows upon the shimmering sea. Frothy surf reached my ankles then receded, leaving tiny bubbles of foam upon a blank tablet of sand. The crescent sail of an outrigger flared upon the horizon. The ancestors who lived in the long-long ago sailed here in canoes like this, bringing pigs, dogs, bananas, breadfruit and the gods with them. Just beyond the arcing swells, I spied my dolphin friend, Eku. His playmate Laka’s dorsal fin cut through the clear water in the opposite direction of his as they dallied away the day in their dance of secret yearnings.

My hair felt hot and heavy on my shoulders. I longed to feel it floating free in the sparkling sea. I untied the knot of my pa'u and let it fall to the ground. Splashing through the shallows, I dove under a cresting wave. Once on the other side of the breakers, stretching arms and legs to maximum stroke, I swam to Eku. The crystalline water soothed and cooled me as it swirled through my mind in gentle rivers.

Halfway to Eku, I called out to him in his squeaky tongue. He would have to come quickly to protect me from Laka, his jealous lover. I had named her after the Goddess of Dance because of her graceful, swift movements. Once, long ago, she rammed me hard in the belly with her rubbery beak. Eku had to stop her before I drowned. I always noticed when Laka was near.

I swam fast to get to Eku. His dorsal fin sliced the water as he came toward me, then his sleek body rose out of the water as he picked up speed. Laka was close behind. When Eku reached me, he circled about then rolled over on his back so that I could rub his tender belly. He loved this greeting and giggled when I massaged his underside. There was much squeaking and head bobbing from Laka as she circled about us, but she did not come near. I reached around Eku’s body, draping myself around his mottled frame. His skin trembled at my touch. We rolled to and fro in the heave of the deep blue swells.

I grabbed hold of Eku’s ragged fin, aligning myself on his right side. Laka took her regular position on his left. He let out a long, low whistle signaling us forward. We churned through the clear water, creating a wake in our path. I kept my head above water where I saw bubbles and brilliant blue sky, while he maintained a stable level so that I could breathe. Laka stayed with us, knowing exactly which direction he would turn, how slow and how fast he would go, without a sound from Eku.

I feared nothing, not even Mano the shark, when I was with Eku. His round soft eyes and constant smile spoke of kindness. His strong body moved with grace at exhilarating speeds. I felt at rest and safe with him. I wondered if I would ever meet a man with Eku’s strength, tenderness and loyalty. Could I feel this joy with a man? As we skimmed across the blue mountains of water, these thoughts trailed out behind me.

When I returned to my family’s houses that night, my mother was tapping her mallet on a carved wooden block used to stain a design onto kapa. This was the work of maka'ainana, but she loved to create her own designs and scent the cloth for her many dresses with the perfumes of fragrant plants. The smell of the fish wrapped in luau leaves steaming in the ground oven reminded me that I was hungry.

“Oh Wai-nani, my wandering wahine, has come home in time to eat, but not in time to help her mother,” she said without lifting her head from her labors. Her dress, tied at her shoulder, was stained with the colors of a lavender sunset. She wore a lei po'o of braided coconut fibers to hold in place a thick shock of black hair laced with silver streaks. Once renowned for her beauty, my mother was no longer lithe and athletic, but her glittering orange-almond eyes held many secrets, and she remained my father’s favorite wife.

“I’m sorry.” Inwardly I grumbled as I watched our servant fill the koa bowls full of rich purple poi to be delivered to my father, my brother and the other young warriors of our village in the men’s eating house.

“Why is it forbidden for me to eat with my brother? We swim, wrestle, and fish together but when the evening sun sets, I am no longer welcome in the company of the boys of our village.”

“Men face great dangers; they carry war sticks to keep peace, snare birds and fish so you may eat. You don’t want to do these things,” she said, impatient with my protests.

“This is not a good answer,” I said.

“You are the blossom from the topmost branch with beauty unsurpassed. It is time you put away childish pleasures and follow the royal path.”

She held out a slim hand and beckoned me to come to her. I settled down beside her.

As she combed tangles from my hair that smelled of salt from the sea, and massaged pungent ginger oil into it, she tried again to answer my question.

“Many things that come to us from the ancients we don’t question. In the beginning, Wakea, the God of Light and the Heavens, married Papa, the Goddess of Earth. From this great love came a daughter, the Heavenly One Who Made the Stars. She was so beautiful that Wakea could not resist the sweet smell of her skin and the dance of the sun in her eyes. He schemed night and day to have his daughter without Papa knowing and becoming jealous. His kahunas smashed the head of a black pig and read the entrails to find the solution.”

As she talked story and stroked my hair to a lustrous shine, her aloha for me softened my questioning heart.

“‘Build eating houses separate for men and women. Tell Papa that this is the will of the gods. This way you will always know where she is and can know your daughter’s great charm without discovery,’ the kahuna advised.

“Wakea thought well of this plan. He made it kapu for men and women to eat together and set aside tabu nights of separate sleeping. He lay down with his dazzling daughter of the heavens. From their coupling came the birth of the islands of Molakai and Lanai.”

“Do you believe this story?” I asked.

I felt a sharp tug on my scalp. “It is the way of our people,” she said, putting an end to our talk.

I left her and went into the velvet night to ask the winking stars my question. But, no answer came. I crept into the shadows cast by the walls of the men’s hale, peered through the thatching and eavesdropped on their talk. Their bowls of poi were empty, and they sat talking of the day and drinking 'awa. Much of the drink from the bitter root was shared as they laughed and challenged one another to sport. The day had been spent wrestling. Soon it would be time for the festival of makahiki, and their contests would begin in earnest. They had to be fit to win these mock battles. Death or injury could easily come to the warrior who was not swift and daring.

“Will you be in the wave-sliding contest tomorrow?” my younger brother Mimo asked Kali as he swilled another cup of 'awa. “Today was a sorry day for you in wrestling, but no one can beat you on the olo board.”

“That’s true. No one can beat me in the water. I am the most powerful of all the swimmers on Maui.”

“So you say,” said my brother. “I place a wager on Maka. We will see who is the richer at the end of the day.” He took the shark tooth necklace from his chest and held it up so his friend Maka could see the strength of his bet. I left the hale saddened that I was not allowed to meet my brother’s challenge. I knew I could wave-slide as well as any of them, if not better.

The next day found Maka and Kali floating belly down on boards that weighed as much as me and were twice my height. They rested behind the curl of cresting waves that came in sets of seven and waited patiently in the midday sun for the right wave. A crowd gathered on the shore. Mimo stood among the villagers, waiting for the match to begin.

I whistled to Eku, signaling him to come to me in the quiet cove out of sight of the others. Soon, he and Laka arrived. He let me place a vine noose about his nose while I tried to stand on his slippery back. I couldn’t keep my balance in even a small wave surge. I slid from side to side and grabbed hold of his dorsal fin for balance. Puzzled at my antics, Laka squealed in high-pitched cries as I kept trying to stand up on Eku’s back. Eku called to her in an eerie, shrill voice. She came up to his side, close enough for me to place one foot on her back and one on his. I rose from a crouched position and steadied myself with my rope. It worked! Soon, we were riding the white-backed waves together.

Eku, Laka and I came around the long finger of the rock jetty and got into position with the other wave-sliders. Maka saw me out of the corner of his eye, but too late to stop me. A great wall of water forming behind us lifted, heaved forward, and broke over the top of us. I caught the movement with Eku, who found the perfect balancing place to take us to the base of the foaming green giant shot through with sunshine. As we slid across the wave, I rose and stood in the tube of luminous water. With one foot planted on Eku, the other on Laka, I rode the great white bearded one and felt the power of the sea churning beneath me. Dazzling light shafts penetrated the wall of the wave, creating a continuous rainbow. I became a sea goddess riding the comet as it streaks through the starry sky—free of all manner of human weakness, free of all kapus, graceful, filled with divine mana.

When my ride ended, I could see that Maka and Kali had both fallen from their boards. I was the winner. I gave Eku a vigorous rub on his white belly and kissed Laka’s beak. Even she seemed to smile as I parted from them. I strode to the shore through the surf, eager to share my glorious adventure. The crowd murmured at my approach. My brother frowned when he realized that I was wearing his malo. It is kapu, punishable by death, to wear another warrior’s malo. The small congregation went silent. He glowered at me with burning eyes and snatched the loincloth from my body.

My budding breasts stand rigid and high, and my slim hips ride on sturdy, solid legs. Still, I felt burning humiliation in my nakedness. My father stomped across the beach wearing his shoulder cape of yellow feathers. His mood was as dark as Pele’s heart. His face was turgid, purple with rage. His hand trembled on his spear as he drove it into the sand at my feet.

“Wai-nani, what is this? Do you think you are a warrior?”

“No, Father,” I replied, meeting his fierce eyes, framed in the tattoos that curled to his forehead. “But you do not love Wai-nani as you would a son.” I cast my eyes down afraid of his rage.

I was just a keiki when I witnessed him put to death a servant girl who had come too close, letting her shadow fall upon his royal presence. A seasoned warrior, he could pull an arm out of its pocket or crush the rib cage of an enemy with his skilled hands, but something that day kept him from bashing me unmercifully or ordering my tongue removed for insolence. Instead, he turned to the villagers who had witnessed my miraculous surfing feats. Although they were in awe of my grace in the water, their fear of my father kept them silent. They fell back when he shouted,

“There will be a contest. I will place my necklace at the highest point of Nihow,” he said, pointing to the isle on the horizon. He took off his choker woven from human hair with an ivory pendant made from the whale’s tooth, and held it high for all to see. “The warrior who swims to the island and returns the necklace to me will have my daughter as his wife and become a chief.”

He turned back to me. “You will have a husband and children and honor the ways of all wahine before you.”

I was thunderstruck. I didn’t feel a woman’s love for any of the young warriors of Hana. Although I was terrified of my father’s violent nature, I looked into his murky black eyes.

“My father is a cruel chief who has lost his mana!” I said, this time holding his gaze. He stared blankly back for a few tense moments then he struck me solidly in the face with the back of his hand. The taste of blood trickling from my torn lip told me this was not a dream. The sky spun, lights whirled in the black around my head and my ringing ears were deaf to all around me. His next words sounded far away.

“The contest will begin with the new sun.” Any tenderness he once possessed for his first daughter retreated behind stony eyes.

Whirling about, I ran back into the surf. My tears tasted of blood and the sea. I dove under a pounding wave and paddled frantically out beyond the breakers. Calling out in a high-pitched whistle, I clicked my tongue furiously, trying to bring Eku to me. I made the sounds of a stick rubbing against a gourd, but the squawk of sea birds was my only reply.

The sun rose the next day, casting a crimson flare across the sky. Jagged purples kissed the horizon. Black plumes from the distant volcano rose high above white clouds. Twelve young men stood on the beach awaiting the signal from my father. In the middle of the line was Maka, my old friend who had taught me to cast nets, spear fish and throw stones from a sling. We had spent many hours diving in the cave pool where the octopus hides under the rocks. His stout, sturdy legs were bowed from birth. He smiled at me with gentle brown eyes, exposing strong white teeth. He was a fair and generous man, but I couldn’t imagine myself with him in the marriage bed.

The twins Makoa and Keha standing beside him were identical except for the jagged scar that went across Keha’s belly. Mano the shark had made him warrior when he was still a child. Makoa’s dark eyes were filled with deviltry. Given to pranks, he had once taken my pa'u while I sunned myself beside the rock pool. No passion passed from me to either of them. Boasting Kali strutted before the group and came up to me. He put his hand to his chest and said, “When the sun turns red, Wai-nani will share my mat.”

I feared his dark eyes with heavy brows that knit together, forming one line across his bold features. He had bullied and bested the others at wrestling and sport all the seasons I could remember. I recoiled at the thought of this braggart for my husband. Even though his six-foot-six-inch frame, supported by flat, firm muscles alive under his brown skin spoke of royal blood, he was fouled fruit to me.

My father arrived wearing his finest yellow feather cape and the crested helmet of an ali'i chief. He planted his spear and spoke to the warriors before him.

“There will be no wrestling, no bone breaking and no gouging. The swiftest, most agile swimmer will have my daughter, Wai-nani, for his wife.”

When he finished speaking he clasped his spear, lifted it high over his head, then dropped the tip into the sand, signaling the race to begin. My brother was among the warriors who dove into the calm sea, rippling the prism of morning sun upon the water with broad strokes. My marriage to him would produce an ali'i ruler of the highest blood caste. As I watched them swim into the horizon, I glimpsed a fin arching like a quarter moon. Untying the knot of my pa'u, I let the drape of cloth drop to my ankles. Casting a last glance over my shoulder to my father, I ran into the sea and dove under a foaming wave. My hair swirled like seaweed about my face as I kicked with strong legs, stroking hard to reach Eku.

He heard my shrill whistle and came dashing to me with Laka close behind. Excited, he circled me swiftly once then came closer so that I could rub his tender underbelly. I did, then clasped him in a rolling embrace. I reveled in his affection and acceptance. The familiar tingling I felt whenever he was near brightened my spirits. He took me on a plunging ride, lifting me completely out of the water as I clung to his dorsal fin. We flew so fast I felt the chains of my father’s edict falling from my mind. Racing from the embrace of a man I could not love, I left behind children destined to be conceived in hate and cast my fate like a fisherman’s net upon the sea.

I saw Pele, Goddess of Fire, resting on the clouds with her shining lava-black hair falling down on round shoulders. She wore a white hibiscus spiked with red on her left ear, and a blood-red kikepa tied at her shoulder. Drifting in the cloud cradle that circles the smoking cone of the volcano above her billowy bed, she dozed with her feet crossed at the ankles and her hands lying peacefully on her belly. Her full lips were parted in a wistful smile. The lids of her eyes, laced with long black lashes, were closed. I held onto Eku’s muscled neck as his great strength lifted us out of the deep with cool spray flying. I could feel the pull of Pele and prayed I would find shelter at her tumultuous breast.

You can purchase Wai-nani: High Chiefess of Hawai'i - Her Epic Journey by visiting

The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta--Book Review

There are times as a reviewer that I feel inadequate. That no matter how eloquently I string together words, they fail to convey all that I found within the pages of a book. Such is the case with The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta.

On a rainy, gloomy night in April 1917, young artist Lily Canning falls to her death, drowning in New York City's Hudson River. The vagrant who jumped in to try and save her tells police he doesn't think it was an accident. As Lily's family and friends try to come to terms with her death, they question why she would consider suicide at a time when her life was finally coming together. Having lived through the loss of her beloved father and a short, but horrific marriage, Lily's first art show was coming up soon. It seems incomprehensible that she would choose to end it all now. But could she have done it? And what would this sudden loss mean to those who were left behind to go on living without her?

The River, By Moonlight is one of the finest pieces of literary work I have read in years. Told from the perspectives of family, friends, and the men who loved her--and there are many of those--the complex person who was Lily Canning unfolds like a blooming rose, starting off small, until it fully opens to reveal all its hidden treasures.

This story invokes strong emotions from the reader: the sense of loss felt by those left behind, the angst felt by the men who loved Lily--feelings she did not return, except once (and that ended terribly for both Lily and the man), the anger and confusion from those who suspected what Lily might have done, the constant torment Lily always dealt with until she was finally at peace, and the uncertainty of a country on the brink of entering World War I.

In an ingenious move, the last chapter is told from Lily's perspective. Up to this point, the reader has only experienced Lily's life secondhand. Now, they get to hear Lily's story and understand the decisions she made and the mistakes she had come to live with.

What will make this story a winner with readers is the thorough development of the characters. Henrietta (Etta), Lily's heartbroken mother, Edmund, the despised husband, Louis, the cousin secretly in love with Lily, Nuala, the servant girl and friend, and many others who allow the reader to experience the full gamut of emotions as Lily's tale unfolds.

The River, By Moonlight is a powerful, gripping story. Exquisitely written, filled with diverse, well developed characters, and brimming with rich descriptions, Lily's story is one that you will never forget.

Title: The River, By Moonlight
Author: Camille Marchetta
Publisher: Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-60264-017-7 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-60264-018-4 (Hardcover)
U.S. Price: $14.95 (Paperback)
U.S. Price: $21.95 (Hardcover)

You'll find Camille's thoughts about New York and why it plays a role in almost all her books here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

World Building by R. Leigh author of the Winds of Asharra

The one thing that has always amazed me about fantasy writers is that they can create worlds so different from our own and use those worlds as settings for their stories. I have a hard enough time figuring out the planet Earth, never mind create a whole new world out of nothing.

I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Winds of Asharra and decided it would be neat to offer you a guest article on world building.

Here is how R. Leigh created Asharra, the setting for her new fantasy romance novel:

Asharra, the land of the twin suns, under the purple sky, is a far cry from the day to day routine of American life. Devoid of modern technology, highly sensual in nature and utilizing unusual materials such as crystals and “zim” for daily needs, the world described in The Winds of Asharra, is where I spend most of my time. It’s my second home.

Creating the mystical world of Asharra was much more than transposing images of tranquil beaches or lush jungles into my brain, and populating them with fanciful creatures including musical dragons (actually, the little ones are called dreegins), sexy evolved felines, telepathic trees or dream inducing crystal beings. They are all a “nice bunch of folks” but without a compelling and rich culture and philosophy, Asharra would be as elusive as any myth. That would not be my Asharra.

After an exhaustive study of comparative earth cultures and their associated religions for approximately ten years, and armed with my own mystical feelings of serendipity, interconnectedness and societal empathy, I began to create something different from anything I had ever encountered, something wonderful and magical. I created the philosophy of Asharra, which is the backbone of the story. Did it spring from my subconscious or was I somehow channeling a complete world with all of the trimmings? I’ll let the readers be the judge.

Describing a complex philosophy and making it believable and the prime motivation for the (alien) characters was a challenge, especially when it had to be done in such a way as to not disrupt the flow of the adventure and the sizzle of the story. The saga of Victor, Zoe and Ionera (and all of the rest) must blend harmoniously with all aspects of Asharran culture until the reader forgets that he/she is learning about another place, another way of life. He becomes Asharran, inch by inch, as do the two main characters, in The Winds of Asharra, the two 18 year old teenagers.

It would make sense to say that I took plenty of notes, cross-referenced them and meticulously pieced together specific elements from a variety of earth cultures from the past several thousand years. That would make sense, but it would not be true. In fact, creating the world of Asharra was similar to the way nature creates diamonds from carbon under the ground... it takes time and pressure, nothing else.

There was a ten year gap between my first novel, 3 Passports to Paradise (now out of print), a Science fiction effort and The Winds of Asharra. During that time, I lived and experienced life, traveling and absorbing (mostly through books) as many different cultures and beliefs as I could. The “pressure” part of the equation in this literary diamond creation came from my unconscious, relentlessly pushing me to put it all together. The silent nagging in my brain continued for years until something magical happened. I sat down at my computer and the world of Asharra burst onto the screen. Sure, there are elements of shamanism, Taoism, and a dozen other “-isms” within the world of the Asharrans but the mystery is that the culture and world sprung forth almost fully formed. My fingers were struggling to keep up at the keyboard. Either I can thank my subconscious, after having imbibed so much raw data for ten years, or I was channeling another reality.

The results matter far more than the process and the resulting diamond is the world of Asharra. After 600 pages, the readers are comfortable with the mundane elements such as looshi’s, doh-rah, dreegins and zim but also with the “feel” and the philosophy of Asharran life. They learn through Victor and Zoe’s eyes, step by step, how to be Asharran, distinguishing “true”, “shallow” and “empty” words, and engaging in the “Friendship Doings” and the “Uatu”.

While the obvious cast of characters includes humans and all manner of creatures, the least obvious character is the world of Asharra itself. Unlike most authors, I can not provide you with detailed explanations how I painstakingly created each term and notion. Nope. That’s not the Asharran way. I suppose I must have used my “Greater mind”, as the characters suggest in the book. Magic only happens when you allow yourself to be carried along by the Winds.

Thanks for having me here and as the Asharrans say, “Warm and Deep, Never Empty!”

THE WINDS OF ASHARRA VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow R. Leigh's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Battle of Chaeronea in The Heretic by Andrew Feder

I enjoy hearing about books that cover periods of history I am unfamiliar with. I had heard the name Alexander the Great, but I couldn't tell you much about him or any of his military campaigns. In walks The Heretic by Andrew Feder and all that changed.


Women flock adoringly to him. Men fear his battlefield prowess. He believes in a monotheistic, infinite God and he’s the best friend of the most powerful man in the world. However, in his time, he was considered not only a hero, but a heretic as well. Meet Aias, the unsung hero behind Alexander the Great, in Andrew Feder’s gripping new novel.

The Heretic is the sequel to Feder’s first novel, When Angels Have Risen starring post-modern American Senator Jerry Fletcher. Following some bizarre dreams and an unsettling experience at a Los Angeles museum, Fletcher decides to see a psychic and go under a regression to tap into his past lives. Aias’ story is told through Fletcher’s regression, when he experiences his past life as the Greek war hero.

Aias was Alexander the Great’s mentor and friend, and a key ingredient to his famous military successes. Thanks to Aias’ formidable battle tactics, his enemies nicknamed him The Decapitator. After Alexander’s army enters Egypt, Aias falls in love with an Egyptian high priestess, who shares many of his counter-culture viewpoints and opens his eyes to the secret truth behind the Egyptian sciences and discoveries.

Filled with incredible historical details about one of the most illustrious military campaigns in history, sizzling romance and mystical themes, The Heretic is a provocative novel sure to spice up the day of any historical fiction fan.

I asked Andrew to tell us a bit about one of Alexander the Great's military campaigns and how he incorporated it into his novel. Here's what he had to say:

Though there are many military campaigns that were all intriguing, I would say that the less notoriety campaign at “Wolf’s Pass” would display Alexander the Great’s ingenious and military skill, but it was the battle at Chaeronea which made Alexander’s mark before the eyes of his father King Philip as well as the Greeks in general. This was the very battle that Alexander wiped out the famous “Band of Thebes.” It was also the first battle that Alexander implemented his version of “Blitzkrieg” by striking with his cavalry at an opening created by King Philip’s phalanx-pikemen.

This battle scene at Chaeronea allowed me to incorporate Aias along with the Elite Cavalry in my story while utilizing Alexander’s alert military tactics before all of Greece. Besides being in the beginning of the many military campaigns, this particular battle naturally allowed me to display the very prowess and military skills of Aias to be presented in great detail and allowing the reader to experience these bloody events at first hand as if he/she was there riding along with Aias. This scene allowed me to show the genuine trust and friendship that was deeply held between Alexander and Aias. And when it was quite obvious that it was Aias who made his mark like the “Aries” incarnate to his fellow Greeks or as he would now be called “the Decapitator” by his enemy, he stepped aside unselfishly giving credit for the success in this battle to Alexander which deepened their friendship while also creating in the minds of Alexander, King Philip and Greece that Aias might after all be a god but in mortal form.

THE HERETIC VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Andrew's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of his blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of his tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Rainbow Sheep by Kim Chatel--Book Review

Rainbow Sheep by Kim Chatel is a great book for young readers!

Genevieve is caring for her sheep on a rainy, yucky day. When a pale, sad rainbow comes to hang over her hill, Genevieve's imagination, and a few monkeys, mermaids, and seahorses make the rainbow smile and cry tears of laughter, turning her sheep into a herd of colors.

My daughters and I loved this book! Chatel adds the right amount of description and imagination to create a perfect children's book. The reader is immediately drawn to the story of Genevieve and her sheep as they slip and slide in the mud up to her hill where she tickles a cloud. Because Chatel chose to use words like "tattered", "sighed", and "shimmered" the entire story and its emotions are brought to life and felt by the reader.

A fiber artist, Chatel used 11 fiber art illustrations in Rainbow Sheep, which make for a unique and beautiful way to bring this story to life. And this book becomes interactive when the reader and her parents journey to the last few pages of the book, where they find information about felting and fun felt crafts to do together.

Every young reader will find something to love in Rainbow Sheep.

Title: Rainbow Sheep
Author: Kim Chatel
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-933090-84-9
U.S. Price $10.95

Ashley's Unforgettable Summer by Grace Reddick--Book Review

Ashley's Unforgettable Summer is a humorous story that will find you and your child laughing at the many misadventures that flow through its pages.

Ashley's parents surprise her with an announcement that they are all going to Africa. The ride and the accomodations are very different from what Ashley is used to. The surprises just keep coming, when Ashley finds out she is going to be allowed to take a pet home with her. Little did she know how challenging taking care of that pet would be.

Ashley's Unforgettable Summer is charming and funny. It has a format slightly different than I would expect from a children's book. The reader starts out in the present day with Ashley and her friend, Rylee trying to keep Tina, the chimpanzee from getting into mischief...and failing miserably. Then the reader is brought back to how Tina came to live with Ashley and moves forward from that point. The book was a bit long for my four-year-old daughter and she didn't like that some of the pages did not include illustrations, but the target audience for this book is stated as 9-12 at, so slightly older readers probably won't have an issue with those things.

My one challenge with the book is that you can tell it's written by an adult. Ashley and Rylee act like frustrated parents over Tina's constant getting into trouble. They complain of being worn out and wonder if it's worth the aggravation. Ashley has trouble dressing Tina because she won't sit still. Ashley even says, "You don't listen to a word I say." In essence, the girls don't really act like girls.

Charr Floyd should be commended for his vibrant and detailed illustrations that worked so well against the more subtle colors of the other pages, which changed throughout the book: soft greens, yellows, blues, pinks, peaches, and purples.

Ashley's Unforgettable Summer is a fun, enjoyable read.

Title: Ashley's Unforgettable Summer
Author: Grace Reddick
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 978-1-4257-4770-1
U.S. Price $26.65

This virtal book tour has been brought to you by:

Rules Are Rules by Julie Scandora--Book Review

Rules Are Rules is a charming tale of rules and compromise for young children and parents to enjoy.

Maya has a problem. All the adults in her life have stupid rules and she doesn't know why she should obey them. She's told by everyone that rules are rules, but why? And perhaps the worst rule of all is having to kiss Aunt Trudy when she comes to visit. With the help of Mrs. Morales and a noisy chickadee, Maya figures out a way to make everyone happy...even Aunt Trudy.

This beautifully illustrated story reaches right to the heart of children who don't always understand the need to follow the rules that adults set for them. As Maya talks over her problem with the kind, unassuming Mrs. Morales and listens to the chickadee's song, the reader experiences the change in Maya's mood and witnesses as she is led to find a solution. And this book will help children learn how to approach their parents and others about rules they believe to be unfair or that make them uncomfortable.

Kudos go out to Scandora for bringing Maya, Mrs. Morales, the chickadee, and Aunt Trudy to life with her stunning watercolor illustrations. This hardcover comes in a lovely bright purple, with Scandora's artwork in a golden yellow border adorning the front. The one curious thing I noted in the cover art is that the chickadee stands out more than Maya, prehaps highlighting the author's love of nature and the role that nature plays in the book.

Rules Are Rules by Julie Scandora is a book your youngster will ask you to read again and again.

Title: Rules Are Rules
Author: Julie Scandora
Publisher: Book Publishers Network
ISBN-10: 1-887542-64-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-887542-64-7
U.S. Price $17.95

Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out by Crimp and Richardson

Here's a book I would love to read if my "to be read" pile every dwindled down. When someone decides to change faiths I always wonder what the deciding factor is. What is it about his current faith that he felt he could no longer relate to or accept?

I found myself faced with the same decision a decade ago and it wasn't the easiest choice I had to make...especially considering that I had practiced my faith for 30 years. Looking back on it now, I know I made the right choice; but back then I felt very uncertain.

Why We Left Islam Synopsis:

The penalty for renouncing Islam is death, which makes the stories in Why We Left Islam -- and the lives behind them -- all the more remarkable.

Contained in these brutally honest personal accounts written by former Muslims is an urgent truth that the mainstream media and cowed politicians won't admit -- that far from being "a religion of peace," Islam is instead barbaric and repressive, a nightmare for those living under it and those seeking to confront it.

Here are some of the voices from Why We Left Islam...

"I still remember my sister's black eyes; she stared at the sky while she was dug into the ground. She was wrapped in white sheets and her hands were tied to her body. She was buried up to her waist. The rabid mob circled her with stones in their hands and started throwing them at her while the roars of 'Allah-u-Akbar' added to their frenzy..." -- Yagmur

"As a Muslim man, the fact that my mother had only given birth to three girls made him really angry. He beat my mother very badly and the doctors were forced to remove her womb...When she awoke, my father was kind enough to tell her that he was divorcing her now that she could no longer have children, and being a man he needed a son." -- Shara

"The Koran is full of verses that teach the killing of unbelievers and how Allah would torture them after they die. There are no lessons on morality, justice, honesty or love..." -- Ali

These shocking, real-life stories from those who have escaped the Muslim yoke make Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out a powerful communique -- and a warning -- to the West.

Read the excerpt!

My Sister

My sister, Dr. Homa Darabi, was born in Tehran, Iran, in January 1940, two months premature, to Eshrat Dastyar, a child bride who at age thirteen had married Esmaeil Darabi. Homa was my older sister, my protector, and my role model. Homa had a life full of hope and promise that a tyrannical and fundamentalist Islamic system destroyed.

Indeed, my sister could never have imagined what lay ahead for her as she completed her elementary and high school education in Tehran. She then immediately entered the University of Tehran’s School of Medicine after passing the university’s entrance exam in 1959. It was a marvelous accomplishment and one that made our family proud. Homa was in the first 150 out of thousands of students who took the examination and became one of the three hundred who were accepted (the medical school’s capacity).

A feisty and spirited young woman, my sister became quite active in politics and hoped to bring human rights and equal status for women in Iran. Her dream was most evident during her days in high school and in her freshman year at the university. Yet her quest would not be easy. In 1960, as a result of her efforts, she was arrested and imprisoned for a while, during the students’ protests against the oppressive regime of the Shah. The regime was especially hostile towards students and youth who were beginning to demand more freedom of expression, assembly, and speech.

In 1963, my sister married her classmate, Manoochehr Keyhani, presently a prominent hematologist. Together they brought into this world two intelligent daughters.

Following the completion of her studies at the University of Tehran, Dr. Darabi practiced for two years in Bahmanier, a village in northern Iran, while her husband completed his military obligation as a physician in the Iranian health corps. In 1968, she and her husband passed the Education Council Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) examination and came to the United States to further their education. She took her residency in pediatrics and later specialized in psychiatry and then in child psychiatry and was licensed to practice medicine in the states of New Jersey, New York, and California. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in the mid-1970s.

Due to pressures from her husband and family and her desire to give back to her native country, she returned to Iran in 1976 and was immediately accepted as a professor at the University of Tehran School of Medicine.

She was the first Iranian ever to pass the board in child psychiatry in the U.S. and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Psychiatric Clinic of Shahid Sahami in Tehran.
Although she was a strong supporter of the revolution, my sister opposed the establishment of an Islamic republic. Furthermore, when her party leader took advantage of the new Islamic guidelines and took a second wife, Homa was devastated and totally broke away from all politics. My sister then devoted her time to her profession as a medical doctor.

In 1990, due to her non-compliance with wearing the hijab (covering up of women), she was fired from her position as a professor at the School of Medicine.

Later, my sister was harassed in her practice for the same reason until finally, when life was made too difficult for her, she closed down her practice and became a full-time housewife for the first time in her life.

During her professional life my sister was under pressure from some parents of her younger patients to give the label of “mentally incapacitated” to many perfectly intelligent young girls so that they could be saved from the tortures of the zealots (150 strokes of a whip for things such as wearing makeup or lipstick). Having to label these young women truly broke my sister’s heart.

When a sixteen-year-old girl was shot to death in northern Tehran for wearing lipstick, my sister could no longer handle the guilt she felt about her former involvement in the Iranian Revolution. My sister felt Iran had been hijacked by the religious factions, and the way women were treated in Iran was unforgivable.… She wanted the world to know what was happening. She finally decided to protest the oppression of women by setting herself on fire in a crowded square in northern Tehran on February 21, 1994. Her last cries were:

Death to tyranny!
Long live liberty!
Long live Iran!

Susan Crimp is a respected journalist and author specializing in Middle East affairs and Joel Richardson is an expert in Jewish and Islamic theology.

The WHY WE LEFT ISLAM VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and will continue all month. If you would like to follow Susan and Joel's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of their blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 31!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sparking Ideas by Heidi Hess Saxton Author of Behold Your Mother

Our guest blogger today is author and editor Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi is author of Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert and Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments. She is the editor of “Canticle” magazine and an adoptive parent columnist at and She and her husband Craig adopted their two foster children in 2005, and the family resides in southern Michigan.

As you can see, Heidi is more than qualified to discuss the topic she has chosen for today: combating writer's block.

Someone one asked me how I come up with ideas for writing. In addition to my most recent book Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert and Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments, both available at my website, I have two regular adoptive parent columns, four active blogs, and I edit “Canticle” magazine. So, as you might imagine, I always have several pieces going at once, and I work hard at writing quickly and coherently.

Here are five suggestions I’d give any writer who is just getting started, to help her combat “writer’s block” and get in touch with her creative muse!

• Read voraciously. You never know where your next great idea is going to originate. Obviously plagiarism (in any form) is out of the question … and yet, creative minds frequently can (and do) “piggy back” one idea into another. For example, one of the blog sites I read regularly, “Antique Mommy” (, recently had an article published in “Good Housekeeping” about her scars. Her article got me thinking about the emotional scars foster children experience through the trauma that brought them into care, and how we as parents help them cope with those scars.

• Get in touch with your spiritual side … literally. I have my favorite pictures and icons sprinkled around my work station, my favorite Gregorian chant CD on a permanent loop in my stereo. (At the moment my work station is in a fairly chaotic state, which is understandable considering what my life is like right now. This, too, is something a writer needs to pay attention to … The more stress we feel, the less likely it is that our creative juices can flow uninhibited.)

• Practice childish wonder. The best stories come from bumping into them through your own or (in the case of our children) another person’s lived-out experience. Look for every-day miracles, and you are sure to find them … and your writing is bound to improve as a result! The only way to get away from the trite and obvious is to come at things from a different perspective. In my book Behold Your Mother, I worked hard to understand and explore the human side of the Blessed Mother. Yes, she was the mother of Jesus, the perfect son who undoubtedly NEVER put socks down the toilet. Still, she had to deal with many of the same struggles we do … and a few unique ones of her own.

• Write, then edit. So many writers have a little voice in our heads (we don’t admit it because people would look at us strangely … oh, yes they will), that constant, on-call inner critic. Silence him (or her) while you are getting your ideas on paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. That’s why God created the “delete” key.

• Write every single day, no matter what. Hit enough balls, and one of them is bound to clear the trees …. Get enough words down on paper, and you’re bound to find a few gems in the rock pile. When you come across a particularly good turn of phrase or observation, jot it down in your little writer’s notebook (you do have one of those, right?).

I’d like to close with a favorite quote of one of my favorite writing coaches, Brenda Ueland: “If you want to be a better writer, become a better person.” Enjoy the process!

The BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Heidi's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

You'll find my review of Behold Your Mother here.

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heroes and Heroines from Checkmate by Jean Hackensmith

I was thrilled when I heard romance author Jean Hackensmith was returning to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for another virtual book tour. After reading and loving The Ultimate Passage, the final book of the "Passage" saga that she co-wrote with Kathe Birch, I knew I wanted to bring Jean back to The Book Connection to talk about her latest novel, a romantic thriller.

Caryn Deaver survived a nightmare.

A victim of spousal abuse, Caryn’s ex-husband bound her and their children hand and foot, locked them in the bathroom, and set the house on fire. They managed to escape with their lives, and Dan Hamilton was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for the crime. He’s out now, though, and the rules in his sadistic game allow Caryn only twelve “moves” before she dies.

Zach Riker, Cheyenne’s Fire Chief, was the first paramedic on the scene eighteen years ago. He saved Caryn’s life. Now she is his life and he’ll stop at nothing to protect the woman he has come to love.

Here Jean talks about the hero and heroine from Checkmate and even a bit about the villian.

When Cheryl from Pump Up Your Book Promotion asked me to write this guest post telling about the hero and heroine in “Checkmate,” it was like…yes! This one will be easy. Caryn and Zach are like members of my family. I know them better than I sometimes know myself. Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t so easy. I know them both intimately, of course, but describing just who these two complex characters are—and doing them justice—is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I’ll give it a shot.

Caryn is a second grade teacher. Zach is the Fire Chief in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They’re both in their forties. The initial review I received on “Checkmate” commented on that fact. The reviewer said it was “refreshing” to see an older couple as the main characters in a romance. While the actual “romance” may take a back seat to suspense in “Checkmate,” it in no way lessens Zach and Caryn’s commitment to one another. In fact, if anything, they are more committed than the average couple because they’ve both been “around the block.” In other words, they’ve both been married before. They both have grown children. Caryn even has two grandchildren. In some ways, though, their individual histories hamper their relationship. Caryn’s ex-husband was controlling, possessive and abusive. Consequently, she was single for sixteen years and, even now, is hesitant to commit herself legally to another man. In Caryn’s mind, it’s all about power. Dan Hamilton exerted his authority over her from the moment she signed the marriage certificate, and she’s not sure she wants to give another man that kind of control. Zach faces a different dilemma. His wife cheated on him repeatedly during the course of their marriage, leaving him distrustful and bitter. Though he did date other women in the interim, none were able to crack the protective shell he had encased himself in—until Caryn.

Caryn and Zach had been together for two years by the time Dan Hamilton was released from prison. He’s Caryn’s ex. He tried to kill her and their children eighteen years earlier. Now he’s stalking her, and the ensuing reign of terror will test their commitment to one another like nothing before ever has. Their children will be threatened, too—they each have two—and so will Brian Koski, Zach’s best friend. Brian’s a cop. It’s his job to get involved. When it soon becomes apparent that Dan’s sadistic game of cat and mouse could lead to murder, however, even Brian gets scared and goes above and beyond the call of duty to protect his friends.

The last “main character” in the book is Mika. She’s a protection dog. A black German Shepard. She will give her life to save her masters and is trained to attack on command. I worked extensively with Chris Byrne from Stone Hill Kennel in Connecticut to make sure Mika’s abilities were portrayed correctly. He even agreed to become a character in the book. Mika is a sweetheart. She can also be deadly. In Chris’ words, she’s “a good man’s best friend, and a bad man’s worst enemy.”

The characters in “Checkmate” are more down-to-earth than any I’ve ever created before. They have flaws. They’re vulnerable. They make mistakes. In short, they are real.

The CHECKMATE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Jean's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Monday, May 12, 2008

The First Patient by Michael Palmer--Book Review

The First Patient by Michael Palmer is an outstanding, exciting thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from the very first page.

Years ago, Andrew (Drew) Stoddard and Gabe Singleton were roommates at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Then their lives took very different directions. Drew became a war hero, a governor, and soon President of the United States. Gabe ended up a country doctor living on a ranch in Wyoming, surviving various addictions as he lives with the fact that he killed a woman and her unborn child while driving drunk one night; an accident that sent him to prison.

When Drew and Marine One touch down on Gabe's ranch, Gabe learns that the president's personal physician has mysteriously disappeared and Drew wants Gabe to temporarily replace him. Not without reservations, Gabe agrees to go to Washington...but nothing could prepare him for the mess he dropped into.

While Drew is embroilled in a tight race for reelection, he might also be going insane; and Gabe will have to make the decision whether or not to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

If you enjoy thrillers filled with suspense, mystery, action, and some political wrangling, then The First Patient is a must read.

Palmer is a master storyteller, weaving the reader through plot twists that lead her to believe everyone is a suspect, but knowing she must decipher the evidence to find out who is really responsible. A story full of lies, cover ups, and shocking addictions, Palmer's characters truly bring this novel to life: the war hero, turned governor, and now president; the Naval Academy student whose life takes a new direction after a tragic accident he can never forget; an overly protective father, and a virtual garden variety of special agents and operatives create an all too realistic of politics at its best...and its worst.

The First Patient is a satsifying, suspense-filled story of dynamic proportions that will thrill you up to its shocking end.

Title: The First Patient
Author: Michael Palmer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN-10: 0-312-34353-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-34353-8
U.S. Price $25.95

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Developing the Characters of Embittered Justice by Michael Riley

When I read the synopsis of Embittered Justice, a debut novel by author Michaela Riley, I was more than intrigued.

What if everything in your life was changed because you opened a mysterious package?

Jennifer Campbell is a beautiful, talented woman with ambition and drive to succeed in corporate America. Moving to Virginia into the tightly knit community of Norfolk was a dream come true. A house on the beach, famly and security for the first time in many years providing the comfort and serenity Jennifer had searched for.

All is well, until the fateful day Jennifer received a telephone call. “Jennifer, go someplace and hide; don’t trust anyone. You can’t trust the police or internal affairs. Just go somewhere you can’t be found. I’ll call you in a few hours.”

So, I decided to ask Michaela how she went about developing her characters. Here she'll tell us about Kyle:

Character development for Kyle St. James, the last attorney in the long drawn out fight for freedom was actually based on a real person. This character--the hero in the book--isn’t what some would say has the appearance of a hero. But heroes come is all sizes and shapes and don’t have to be aesthetically beautiful. Kyle is kind, loving and passionate about fighting for Jennifer and this makes him more attractive as the story unfolds. I am sure we have all had an occasion in our life when that first impression of a person was incorrect. We begin to trust and care for someone because of who they are on the inside; not the outside. Kyle is larger than life in many ways; he is the knight in shining armor as far as Jennifer is concerned, and he comes to rescue her from the evil prosecuting attorney.

I find that is essential to know the character inside and out and attach a feeling to that character either good or bad. When emotion is tied to the character development it helps the character become a real breathing person on paper. It is also important to give as much detail as possible to allow the reader to become emotionally attached to the character. When a reader doesn’t have this attachment to the character, then I have lost the reader all together.

EMBITTERED JUSTICE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Michaela's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Multicultural Romance Heats Up with Vina St. Fran and One Foot Outside The Door

Today we are thrilled to welcome multicultural romance author, Vina St. Fran. Her debut novel, One Foot Outside the Door was recently released by ZAM Publishing. We’ll talk to Vina about her inspiration, her novel, and what’s coming up next.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Vina. It’s great to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you! It’s great to be here! I was born in Detroit but raised in Southfield Michigan, a suburb outside of Detroit. I really started writing when I was seven, and I started out with poetry. As I continued on in school, I began writing plays and short stories. I also won the Pride Of Performance Award for Creative Writing from the city of Southfield in my senior year of high school.

Have you always concentrated on romance writing?

You know, I have always loved romance novels, but I didn’t know where my focus as a writer would take me. When I began to write my first book, “One Foot Outside The Door” at the midpoint, I realized that it was of either mainstream or multicultural fiction.

What inspires you to put pen to paper?

Current world or personal events have a bit of an impact. Additionally, my inner voice dictates to me when it is time to start writing.

What is One Foot Outside The Door all about?

Cyndarella Worthy, the heroine is a woman scorned by the past. Her first love leaves her and she is forced to draw her own conclusions. Is it because she is African-American, and Bashar Bazzi, her lover, is Iraqi? Bashar led her to believe that wasn’t the case, but a change of events, shatters his reasoning and her trust in men. Cyndarella completes college and is a successful businesswoman, and treats dating as if it were a sport. She plays to win. Thad Mitchell, an African-American gentleman, changes that and Cyndarella is finally able to love again. Within weeks of her upcoming wedding, Bashar resurfaces ready to claim his former flame by any means necessary. Can he win her heart again?

What do you like the most about your heroine, Cyndarella? Is there anything you dislike about her?

I really liked Cyndarella because she is tough, man. She also is not afraid of making a commitment if she has a reason too. Cyn, as she is nicknamed, knows what she wants or at least she thinks she does.

How about her current love interest, Thad Mitchell. Is he a good guy? What kinds of flaws does he have?

Thad is a good guy, but he is selfish. He likes to be in control and be the decision maker in the relationship which he finds challenging with Cyndarella because she is so spirited and independent.

Bashar Bazzi, Cyn’s high school sweetheart is Chaldean (Christian Arab). How did you go about creating Bashar’s personality? How did you relay his belief system to your readers?

Metropolitan Detroit is the largest Middle Eastern community outside of the Mid-East. With this being said, I learned a lot about the Chaldean community because they lived within my community. One of my dearest friends is Chaldean. It was through these relationships that Bashar was formed. The Chaldeans are Catholics and they take their faith seriously. There are also customs that are unlike Americans when it deals with matters of the heart. I incorporated the Chaldean belief system in "One Foot Outside The Door" at a slow pace, as not to lose or confuse my readers. I believe I have accomplished that goal.

Did you write any of your beliefs or personality traits into your characters?

Of course I did! Slightly, but specific, yet deliberate.

Tell us about your publisher, ZAM Publishing.

Zam Publishing is the company I formed to bring my books to market. Zam is really about the current face of our country in terms of diversity. Our mission is to bring multi-cultural fiction to market that other publishers would not take a chance on. There is a voice for everyone. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be censored because of someone else’s standards. That is unfair. Right now, we are not accepting submissions, however, we will post on our website when that changes.

One Foot Outside The Door is the first book of a trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about the other two books you’ve got planned?

For starters, I must say that the readers will not be disappointed. However, Part Two, which has yet to be titled, is going to be intriguing, sexy, and more. It will also pull at your heartstrings in ways that I can’t elaborate on right now. It will be a treat!

Do you have other projects that are in the works?

Definitely, but my main focus is on completing the trilogy. The next book is scheduled for release in 2009.

Where can readers purchase One Foot Outside The Door?

They can purchase "One Foot Outside The Door" at,, and other major online book retailers.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I appreciate all of the support I’ve received from readers and reviewers. It means a lot to be embraced as an author, which I have aspired to be for as long as I can remember.

Thanks for stopping by Vina. I wish you much success in all you do.

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure!

ONE FOOT OUTSIDE THE DOOR VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Vina's tour in progress, visit in May. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Adina Rishe Gewirtz and How to Say It: Business Writing That Works

Today our guest blogger is Adina Rishe gewirtz. For 15 years, Adina has been helping struggling writers get organized. Trained as a journalist, and with a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland at College Park, she spent her early career freelancing, and then created The Writer's Roadmap based on techniques pioneered by two-time Pulitzer prize winner Jon Franklin. Those techniques were designed to help professional writers structure and execute a well-crafted piece of writing. By translating them into tools even non-professionals could use, Ms. Gewirtz quickly discovered the vast need for such a system by those struggling to write for work or school.

By the mid 1990s, she was teaching writing seminars for accounting giant Arthur Andersen LLP. After 2001, she returned to her own writing and again worked with high school and college students. Her recent book, How To Say It: Business Writing That Works (Prentice Hall, 2007), is available at or area bookstores. Another book, The Student Writer's Roadmap, is in the works for struggling writers in college and high school.

You can visit her website at

I asked Adina to share with us what are the three biggest mistakes people make in business writing and how they can correct them. You'll find her response below:

The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make In Business Writing and How to Correct Them

By Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Panicking, working blind, and rushing – these are the three biggest mistakes people make when they set out to write at work. And they can be solved with the following three pieces of advice: calm down, open your eyes, and think.

Put that way, it looks like you take about the same route to good business writing that you do to inner peace. And in a way, you do. But I hope people don’t start laying out the yoga mats on the office floor just yet. Instead, what I try to get my students and readers to understand is that if you know what often goes wrong in business writing, you’ll be able to fix it.


When asked to write something, people tend to react with a single, strong emotion: fear. “What will I say?” “How will I get it all down?” “What if I sound like an idiot?”

A great life lesson that works, just as well, when writing on the job: Take it one step at a time. The writing process is just that: a process. It has its distinct steps. You don’t start out with a finished piece, you start out by brainstorming, gathering research, and writing everything down. Then you evaluate what you’ve got with a keen eye to what you need to convey. What gets in the way of thought? Panic. So seek calm through focus, specifically by focusing on three important questions:

1. Who is my audience?
2. What do they want to know?
3. What do I need to tell them?

When you begin breaking things down into smaller chunks – especially questions that require concrete answers – the task becomes manageable and your heart-rate slows right there. Deep breathing never hurts either.

Working Blind

Even the most social person in the universe tends to forget, when staring at the blank screen, that there’s someone on the other side. That person is a reader, an audience, and writing is as much a social activity as talking – just one that comes with a built-in delay. Forgetting who is on the other side of that screen – who will be reading what you write – is a big reason for difficulty in every type of writing, from a simple memo or email to a complex business plan, performance review, or report.

The first question a writer needs to ask him or herself when sitting down to begin the process is “who is my audience?” – question 1, above. Thinking about other people isn’t just a relationship skill; it helps shape the piece of writing. In business writing, readers are almost always a known quantity. They’re a boss or client, or both. Even when the reader is a category of person – home-buyers for example – the writer needs to think about what those people hope to get out of what’s being written. What information are they looking for? What do they already know? What questions are they asking? Discovering the answers to these questions through research and a good amount of thought is the most important step in the writing process.


Probably the most common mistake in business writing is thinking the last step comes first. Too many people sit down and expect to write a draft filled with fancy words, when what they really need to remember is that writing is first and foremost about ideas. The most obvious writing errors – confusing, disorganized memos, jargon-filled reports that say, in the end, nothing at twice the normal length – come from the unfortunate misconception that writing is about vocabulary. Write eloquently, sure. But don’t even think of putting down sentences until you’ve gotten the logic of your argument down. Follow these steps and you should have no problem:

First, know your audience. Second, figure out what they want to know. Third, research and brainstorm the answers. Fourth, lay out your ideas, evidence, and information in a logical pattern. Fifth, write it all out in full, beautiful sentences and paragraphs. I explain this process in much greater detail in my book, How to Say It: Business Writing That Works, which offers readers ten concrete steps to great writing, from idea to polished draft. But this is the general thrust of the process. It may not be the route to complete inner peace, but slowing down and taking writing in steps – the right steps – is the beginning of great business writing.

Synopsis: How to Say It: Business Writing That Works takes the gut-wrenching pain out of the writing process by breaking it down into ten easy-to-follow steps. Adina Gewirtz teaches that writing is first of all a thinking and organizational skill, and that if writers learn how to ask themselves the right questions, understand their audience and group ideas and information before they try to find the right words, the words will come.

In a funny, light style that makes the learning painless, Adina Gewirtz teaches her ten-step system, then shows how to put that system to work in various business writing tasks, from a letter to a report to a proposal. The book covers even notoriously hard writing tasks like audits and performance reviews, and teaches writers how to make even a reluctant audience a willing one.

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