Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dean Kilmer and Igniting the Moral Courage of America

Today's guest blogger is Dean Kilmer. Dean is the preaching minister for the College Street Church of Christ in Waxahachie, Texas. He is also the author of the Mastering the Word and Igniting the Moral Courage of America: Six Ways You Can Inspire People to Live with Integrity.

Dean will briefly discuss how we can restore our families to moral integrity.

by Dean Kilmer author of Igniting the Moral Courage of America

Jerry was 41 years old with two teenage boys, a Christian wife who loved him and a 20-year-old girlfriend on the side. When I talked with Jerry and his wife Fran, she was in tears. He was leaving her for the younger woman and there was nothing she could say or do to change his mind. Now jump forward fifteen years and go with me on another visit to Jerry. He is sitting in his chair all alone crying because the young chick is gone. He never sees his boys. His ex-wife has moved on with her life after suffering the horrible pain of divorce. He will now spend the rest of his life alone!

At 39, Bob faced a similar situation. He was having an affair with a lady at work. Once again I was called to the house. I reasoned with Bob about what he was doing to himself, his wife and his three children. He would be separating himself not only from his family, but also from God. He would probably lose his soul over this affair, but even worse, his children would become bitter and probably lose their faith in God. Bob repented. His children are now grown and all three are leaders in the church, married with children. Bob and his wife are enjoying their retirement and rejoicing in the love of their grandchildren.

Over a lifetime, the greatest joys are found by building godly families. Here are some keys to help keep your family strong.

1. Read Corinthians 13:1-9 to your mate on your anniversary each year and insert your names in the texts. For example, I would read verse one and say, “If I, Dean could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have the love of Karen, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Going down to verse four I would say, “My love for Karen will be patient. I, Dean will be kind to Karen always . . .” If you will read the whole passage this way and make a year long commitment to each other, you’ll have a great relationship.

2. Write a family mission statement! Why did God put your family on the earth? Why do you exist? You can formulate a mission statement by having each member of your family answer these questions:
a. What will I do to make life better for each member of this family?
b. What will I do with my life to make our community and our country better?
c. How will my life impact future generations for God?
d. What will people say about me at my funeral?
e. When I meet God, will he be proud of me?

3. Start having fun! Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” We are always talking about working at marriage and raising children. Stop working so hard at it and enjoy the love of your mate and your children! Slow down and drink in the smiles, the laughter, the beauty of life! God designed marriage to bring pleasure! Over a lifetime, the joys in your family will be the greatest of all joys!

4. Stand firm on God’s moral values. Pain comes into your home when a child becomes pregnant before they are married, develops an addiction, or commits suicide. To keep pain out, establish God’s love and teachings as the foundation for your home! He knows exactly how the family should function.

The IGNITING THE MORAL COURAGE OF AMERICA VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on October 1 and end on October 30. You can visit Dean's blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in October to find out more about his latest book!

As a special promotion, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on October 30!

Hal Lanse Book Giveaway--Winner Announcement!!!

Congratulations goes out to Linda J. Hutchinson for being the winner of our first book giveaway! Linda has won a copy of Hal Lanse's Read Well, Think Well: Build Your Child's Reading, Comprehension, and Critical Thinking Skills.

Synopsis: Millions of children struggle with reading-and even more struggle to understand exactly what they're reading. Read Well, Think Well will help you to teach your children to build the essential reading and comprehension skills they need to succeed in today's demanding school system. Teacher trainer and literacy specialist Hal W. Lanse, Ph.D., provides the necessary knowledge, strategies, and exercises that will turn your kids into first-rate readers and thinkers.

Learn how to:

Choose the best, age-appropriate reading material

Boost your child's memory and retention skills through verbal and visual exercises

Utilize technology aids to help your child understand the comprehension process

Understand the "Big Six" of reading comprehension through analysis and summary of the text

Promote values for everyday life through reading

Read Well, Think Well-the ultimate guide to secure your child's academic success.

Thanks to everyone who entered our first book giveaway. Be looking for a new giveaway soon!!!

This contest was sponsored by:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Author Spotlight: Anna Maria Prezio and Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost-Buster

Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost-Buster by Anna Maria Prezio. Written with thoughtfulness, clarity and immense compassion for both the ghost or entity and those being haunted, "Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost-Buster" will intrigue, delight and capture you as you journey with Anna Maria Prezio, Feng Shui Consultant and Metaphysician, through her knowledge and experiences with the ghostly realm.

Ms. Prezio is a Certified Feng Shui Consultant and Intuitive, and has studied with a multitude of Feng Shui masters and metaphysical gurus. She has devoted herself to helping others achieve optimum positive environmental energies, and has done this through hundreds of Feng Shui audits, readings and consultations on a local, national and international level. She teaches, lectures and writes on Feng Shui and metaphysical subjects.

Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost-Buster is the result of a life-long journey that begins in a tiny village in Italy and has yet to truly end. To help you understand this journey -- and benefit from the lessons learned along the way -- the book is divided into three parts.

Part I will capture your attention with a ghostly first experience of an intuitive and vulnerable 6 year-old child. The culture and experiences of the author growing up in a rural and mystical village in Italy where ghostly occurrences and stories were part of every day life serve to set the stage for what would be a life long study of the mystical and the Divine.

Part II describes Feng Shui, like medicine, as both an art and a science. Here, the definitions and different sects of Feng Shui are discussed to provide a backdrop for the connection between environmental balance and the appearance of ghosts. You will learn how mastery of Feng Shui helps us to understand the occult, or hidden knowledge, as it applies to all aspects of our life here on earth.

With the formation of a solid foundation and understanding of this art and science, Part III delves deeper into the correlation between environment and entities with ideas, cures and stories about ghost-busting as a result the author’s direct and extraordinary experience.

This book -- part memoir, part guide -- promises to intrigue you from cover to cover. However, the price of admission to this world is an open mind. In return, you will not only better understand yourself, but the metaphysical world in which you live.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Easy Entertaining for Beginners by Patricia Mendez--Book Review

Easy Entertaining for Beginners by Patricia Mendez is a must have for new home owners interested in entertaining and a great refresher for experienced entertainers.

Filled with mouthwatering but easy recipes, color photos, and music and activity ideas, Easy Entertaining for Beginners is a host's dream cookbook. Each chapter includes a Step-by-step Checklist, optional shortcuts, etiquette advice, a mistake to avoid, and tips to ensure success. Themed party ideas for adults and children and Thanksgiving and Christmas season menus will help make you and your parties the talk of the town. Also included is a list of kitchen items to have on hand for the recipes in the book, a Basic Chicken recipe, a Fahrenheit/Celsius conversion chart, equivalents list and liquid conversions list.

And yes, someone finally admits that although cooks and chefs jump through hoops to come up with a new take on a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, most people "like the basics...".

I remember the first year in our new home and suddenly finding myself as the only daughter-in-law and someone who had become responsible for cooking for every holiday. If only Easy Entertaining for Beginners had been around then, I wouldn't have needed to stress over my food preparations.

For easy and fun entertaining menus and ideas, pick up a copy of Easy Entertaining for Beginners by Patricia Mendez!

Title: Easy Entertaining for Beginners
Author: Patricia Mendez
Publisher: Maple Heights Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-9799564-0-9
ISBN-10: 0-9799564-0-4
U.S. Price: $16.95

Kindred Spirits by Marilyn Meredith--Book Review

Murder, ghostly visions, and a quest for justice are woven together to create an engaging story in Kindred Spirits, the latest in Marilyn Meredith's Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

A forest fire rushes through the mountains of Bear Creek as Tempe searches for local artist Vanessa Ainsworth. When Vanessa's body turns up inside her burnt out studio with a bullet hole, Detectives Morrison and Richards seek Tempe's help in finding out who could have behind what might have been a perfect murder.

Even though Tempe and Hutch's marriage is on the rocks, Tempe takes a trip to Crescent City to visit with Vanessa's family and friends to see if she can find any clues to who might have wanted Vanessa dead. Tempe's involvement in the case puts her in danger, but she knows she'll never be rid of the ghostly visions haunting her until she brings Vanessa's killer to justice.

In this installment of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, Meredith brings back Tempe, Hutch, and members of the Bear Creek Sheriff's Office and gives them a mission: to prove who killed local artist, Vanessa Ainsworth. While in Judgment Fire--the book before this one in the series that I reviewed here--Tempe and the gang had a full slate of suspects, in Kindred Spirits their efforts are combined to prove the one person who couldn't possibly have committed the crime, did it. And even though I typically prefer a "who done it" kind of mystery, this novel had me on the edge of my seat as Tempe dodged threat after threat to bring Vanessa's murderer to justice.

Again Meredith has woven Native American history, small town charm, and a quest for the truth to provide an entertaining read for mystery and crime fans. And while Tempe is still dealing with the prejudice of being the only woman in the Bear Creek Sheriff's Office, she finds Detective Morrison an unexpected ally in this latest installment, perhaps forever changing their working relationship and making me eager to see what the next book will bring for Morrison and Tempe. True to form, Meredith has made the personal lives of her characters an integral part of the story and the reader is eager to see if Tempe and Hutch, her minister husband, can find their way back to each other. Involving Hutch in Tempe's case makes for many tense moments as they each deal with concern for the other's safety, even though they are worlds apart on issues that might have forever changed their marriage.

A great read that mystery and crime readers will certainly enjoy, Kindred Spirits proves why Marilyn Meredith's fans keep coming back for more!

Title: Kindred Spirits
Author: Marilyn Meredith
Publisher: Mundania Press, LLC
ISBN-10: 1-59426-735-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-59426-735-2
U.S. Price: $12.95

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sam's Quest: The Royal Trident by Ben Furman--Book Review

Filled with action and adventure, The Royal Trident, the second book in the Sam's Quest trilogy by Ben Furman is even better than the first.

Now living with Grandpa Paul at the farm on Mile High Mountain, Sam finds her life in limbo. Keeper of the Crimson Crystal, Sam doesn't feel like she belongs much of anywhere: New York, the farm, or Innerworld.

When her good friend Prince Buznor (Buzz) is seriously wounded in battle, Sam leaves the farm and descends to the World of Bergeron where she comes up against the most powerful evil she's ever encountered. Could this be the end of the Originators?

Once again, Sam and Patch meet up with Buzz, King Kaylan, General Gorn, and a variety of unusual and often funny characters in a battle against evil. And while readers get a chance to see how much Sam has changed since her last excursion with Buzz, they will also be delighted to find that in many ways Sam remains the same: still unsure and a bit lost, but always a strong leader--much to her surprise. In The Royal Trident readers find Sam pitted against a new enemy and her limits again put to the test as she is also struggling with finding a place where she belongs. This added conflict gives true depth to Sam's character and makes her a much more realistic and vulnerable heroine.

Furman does an excellent job of weaving Sam's past into this story; bringing in her life in New York and melding that with life on Mile High Mountain, along with sharing some of what made Sam a legend to the Awokians and the creatures from the World of Bergeron. This book could easily stand on its own, but I highly recommend reading Book 1 so as not to miss the developing friendship between Buzz and Sam.

I can honestly say that I didn't see the end coming. I had my thoughts on who would be wielding this powerful evil, but I was way off base and pleasantly surprised by the revelation. There is one character whose fate is left up in the air, and my hope is that readers will find out what happens to him in the last installment of the trilogy.

Young adult fantasy and adventure lovers are sure to enjoy The Royal Trident.

Title: Sam's Quest: The Royal Trident Book 2
Author: Ben Furman
Publisher: Black Hawk Press
ISBN-10: 0-9778731-4-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-9778731-4-7
U.S. Price: $8.95

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White--Book Review

Brilliant and engrossing, The House on Tradd Street by Karen White brings the reader through Charleston's deep-rooted history and Confederate legends to uncover a story of passion, heartbreak, and murder.

Real estate agent Melanie Middleton visits with the elderly Nevin Vanderhorst just days before his unexpected death. Melanie isn't much into historic homes--even though she sells them for a living. She much prefers new construction, free of the ghosts that she's seen since childhood. When she inherits Vanderhorst's historic Tradd Street home she is less than thrilled, but their meeting and Nevin's letter about the mother he is sure would never have abandoned him encourage her to restore the house at 55 Tradd Street and try to unravel the mystery surrounding Louisa Vanderhorst's sudden disappearance.

In walks stunningly gorgeous Jack Trenholm, a true-crime writer obsessed with unsolved mysteries. He believes that the diamonds from the missing Confederate Treasury are stashed inside the house. Using Louisa's story Jack is able to convince Melanie to let him help with the restoration of the house in exchange for allowing him to perform research for his next book.

Neither of them quite knows what they are getting into. An evil ghost also resides in the house on Tradd Street and it doesn't want Melanie or Jack telling Louisa's story. How far will this spirit go to keep a secret?

This book captured me from the very first sentence. Steeped in Charleston's history and Civil War legends, The House on Tradd Street is a rare gem among paranormal mysteries. Exquisitely told, rich in descriptions, and filled with multi-faceted characters whose past lives are eloquently woven into each others, I was sad to read the last word of this moving novel.

White gets right to the heart of things by blending family secrets, love, legends, and the charm of the South, creating an emotional tale that will leave you begging for more. The cover art is strikingly handsome and truly completes one of the best novels I've read in my lifetime.

Lovers of southern fiction, paranormal mysteries, and moving stories that tug at the heartstrings will want to read The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.

Title: The House on Tradd Street
Author: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library
ISBN: 978-0-451-22509-2
U.S. Price: $14.00

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Book Giveaway Reminder for Read Well, Think Well by Dr. Hal Lanse

There's still time to enter this month's giveaway for a free copy of Read Well, Think Well by Dr. Hal Lanse.

Synopsis: Millions of children struggle with reading-and even more struggle to understand exactly what they're reading. Read Well, Think Well will help you to teach your children to build the essential reading and comprehension skills they need to succeed in today's demanding school system. Teacher trainer and literacy specialist Hal W. Lanse, Ph.D., provides the necessary knowledge, strategies, and exercises that will turn your kids into first-rate readers and thinkers.

Learn how to:

Choose the best, age-appropriate reading material

Boost your child's memory and retention skills through verbal and visual exercises

Utilize technology aids to help your child understand the comprehension process

Understand the "Big Six" of reading comprehension through analysis and summary of the text

Promote values for everyday life through reading

Read Well, Think Well-the ultimate guide to secure your child's academic success.

Here are the rules:

You must comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you.

If you blog about this contest, leave a comment, telling us where you are blogging about it and that gives you 2 entries!

Contest ends on September 29. The winner will be announced on this blog on Sept. 30.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Douglas Carlton Abrams and The Lost Diary of Don Juan

Today's guest blogger is Douglas Carlton Abrams, author of the historical fiction novel The Lost Diary of Don Juan. The use of historical figures in fiction always fascinates me, and I often search for more about the real life of the figures portrayed in these fictional settings. Douglas provides some insight into how the time period that Don Juan lived in affected the man he became. Enjoy!

Over the course of more than four years and thirty drafts, I revised The Lost Diary to try to get as close as I could to Don Juan’s world, to understand the decadence and the dangers of Golden Age Spain.

The more I researched, the more I discovered that the Muse was leading me down the right alleyways of history. Don Juan’s story had to be set in this particular time and place, for the unique combination of rebellion and repression that symbolized the end of the 16th century in Spain helped shape him both as a man and a character.
This period marked a fault line in Western Civilization, when the openness and humanism of the Spanish Renaissance clashed with the fear and murderous fury of the Inquisition and Counter Reformation. Rituals of bodily denial and self-mortification were at their height, and yet the wealth, creativity and decadence that accompanied the gold from the New World was opening society up to the influences of the rest of Europe. It was the perfect time for Don Juan, whose life reflects all of these tensions.

I also discovered that Don Juan was not alone. His was an age of Don Juans, who reveled in the gold and silver of the Americas as it poured into Sevilla, the city that ruled the world. But theirs was a city emptied of men, who had left to fight in King Felipe’s endless wars and to colonize the New World. Historical census data revealed that 30% of the city’s women were widowed or abandoned, and in some neighborhoods the number was as high as 50%. You can imagine that Don Juan had his work cut out for him.

Don Juan was ultimately both a product of his society and a reflection of the contradictions it contained. Lover of women, worshipper of God, constantly trying to serve a higher truth while simultaneously evading the Inquisition’s accusations of heresy… Don Juan could only ever have lived in this particular time and place.

THE LOST DIARY OF DON JUAN VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, 2008 and end on September 26, 2008. You can visit Douglas's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about him and his new book!

As a special promotion for our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. One winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Speak through the Wind by Allison Pittman--Book Review

A moving and compelling story of the power of God's love and forgiveness is what you'll discover in Allison Pittman's Speak through the Wind, Book 2 in the Crossroads of Grace series.

When a young orphan living in the impoverished Five Points District of Manhattan is gravely injured by a horse and driver, Reverend Joseph nurses her back to health. He also tends to Kassandra's soul, helping her to learn Bible verses and sending her off to school. Now a teenager, Kassandra decides to flee the only real home she's ever known for the promise of a young man's love.

Living a life so far from the one she knew with Reverend Joseph, she fears neither God, nor the Reverend, will ever forgive her. Kassandra heads off to California and is transformed into a woman known as Sadie. Will she ever find her way back home?

Allison Pittman has done it again. She's delivered a powerful, gripping novel that is sure to win the hearts of Christian fiction fans everywhere. Just as with Ten Thousand Charms--which I reviewed here--Pittman's attention to detail, complex characters, and inspiring message blend together to create an amazing reading experience.

Beginning in 1841, we are introduced to Kassandra, who we know as Sadie from Ten Thousand Charms. Sadie is such an interesting character in Ten Thousand Charms, that the reader is granted a wonderful opportunity to discover her full story in Speak through the Wind. It makes her actions in Ten Thousand Charms crystal clear once you know who she was before the mining camp in Wyoming.

But you needn't read Book 1 to enjoy this novel, as it truly stands on it's own. Pittman provides just the right amount of material from Book 1 in Speak through the Wind; and those who have read both books will not feel they are reliving information already known. But instead, they will feel as if they are in familiar territory, but reading it all again for the first time as it revolves around Sadie, and not Gloria--the main character from Book 1.

I said at the end of my review for Ten Thousand Charms that I wasn't sure how Pittman would top such a strong introductory novel, but she has raised the bar with Speak through the Wind, and now I am eager to dive into With Endless Sight, the third and final book of the Crossroads of Grace series.

Title: Speak through the Wind
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISBN: 1-59052-625-2
U.S. Price: $12.99

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stacy Gooch-Anderson and The Santa Letters

Joining us today is Stacy Gooch-Anderson. Stacy is a wife and mother and the author of The Santa Letters, a book I am sure will quickly become a Christmas classic. We’re going to talk to Stacy about the inspiration behind this heartwarming story, the choices she made, and what the future holds in store for her fans.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Stacy. I am thrilled to have you with us.

Thank you, Cheryl. It is truly my pleasure!

Why don’t we get started by having you tell our readers a little bit more about yourself.

I’m pretty simple really. I’m a wife (we just celebrated our 22nd anniversary on August 26) and a mother who also happens to serve as a taxi and cleaning service for four rambunctious boys. In my spare time (what little there is), I find sanity by writing inspirational and humor based stories. I would say I’ve become pretty balanced since I learned that imperfection truly is my new best friend…;-)

What are some of your favorite ways to spend time with your family?

I love watching my son’s hockey games (I do have something in common with Sarah Palin although I couldn’t run or kill caribou if my life depended on it) and soccer games and curling in on cold yucky days to watch funny movies. We also love trying new things and traveling when our schedules mesh.

Do any of these pastimes or family traditions pop up in your work?

The sports and humor pop up quite a bit. A lot of what is in The Santa Letters came from actual family experiences and traditions and my next book, “Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make it Out Alive” is based all on family experiences.

Let’s talk about The Santa Letters. First of all, I can’t tell you how much I loved the book. My family will be reading it together as we get closer to Christmas. Was The Santa Letters inspired by real life events? Were you active in the LDS church at that time?

I found out that two of my sons had been placed in sexually abusive situations which made me question everything I'd ever been taught and I wondered if there truly was justice in the world. I was active in the church and it was the lessons I’d learned at church throughout my life that thankfully had sunk in which helped me to get past it and aid my sons in getting past it too. I think a stable basis grounded in faith – no matter what religion one is – can help anyone get through the toughest of times.

Has your faith in God grown as a result of everything that happened? Did your family grow closer together too?

Yes, because I watched His hand in all aspects of my life at that time and came to really understand that He loves us and wants the best for us – no matter how insignificant we think we are. I know many of us feel that way at times but we are significant and vital, not only to this world, but to His plan.

As for my family, I will never forget the night my son - who’d been struggling through this terrible situation so much - cried and told us that for the first time he felt loved and protected and surrounded by a family who loved him unconditionally. He thanked God for having given him a good family to be a part of. No mother could have ever had a better Christmas present. We learned that there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish or survive if we stuck together.

As a wife and mother I was very touched by the sudden loss of William and how it impacted his wife and children. Was it difficult writing Emma (William’s wife) Jensen’s story prior to the arrival of the first Santa letter?

It was because much of it came from watching my mother as she grieved after the loss of my father to cancer. Although he was older (61), the joy in life for her left the night he died. Almost four years to the date (four years, 1 month and 1 day to be exact), she passed away from cancer at age 63. I know that they are now happy together watching over their family from beyond.

As each Santa letter and package arrives the excitement for the Jensen family grows and each letter and package also continues the family’s—especially Emma’s—road to healing. In these letters, you managed to share the true message of Christ’s birth without coming across as preaching. Was that a challenge?

The whole goal was to write it for a mainstream audience in a non-offensive, non- threatening way since people, including myself, are turned off by ‘preachy-ness’ and I certainly didn’t to do that! But I also believe that understanding comes through education and perspective. So that became my focus, to teach and help understand through simple lessons and a different perspective. What was hard was studying His life and putting it into simple terms that mainstream (including myself) America could easily understand and relate to.

McKenna is the youngest member of the Jensen family. She embraces the Santa letters and their origin from the first arrival. How important is this for the story? Does McKenna’s easy acceptance draw on any Biblical principles?

Actually it does. You always hear about the faith of children. In correlation to that we are told to become as little children and I think that if we could harbor the faith, innocence and purity of a little child, many things in life would just take care of themselves.

After reading The Santa Letters, I thought this would be a great book for church members to read together and discuss. Does your publisher offer discounts on group sales?

I’m sure they would. You could contact them directly through their website at http://www.cedarfort.com/ or email me directly at stacyanders@gmail.com and I will hook them up with the representative that can best help them down there. You can also call them at 801-489-4084.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Santa Letters?

It’s available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and deseretbook.com. It’s currently on shelves at Desert Book and Seagull Book and will be on shelves at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Walden bookstores, Sam’s Club and Wal-Marts and I think in Star Books, Costco and in airports.

Do you have a website where readers can find out more about the book?

They can go to http://www.thesantaletters.org/main.html?src=%2F to find free-downloaable templates to the Santa Letters and also read the first chapter to its companion book The Inmate Letters which goes more in depth into Guillermo’s story and picks up with his association with the Jensens.

What’s up next for you? Any exciting news you would like to share with our readers?

Look for Life is Tough coming out Mother’s Day 2009 and The Legend of the Star, another Christmas book coming out Christmas 2009. I’m not sure when The Inmate Letters will be released yet. Probably when I get done writing it..;-)

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just remember that no wound is so deep that with a little TLC (a tender Lord’s care), it can’t be healed better and stronger than it was before.

Thank you for sharing so much of your time with us today, Stacy. I wish you all the success in the world. You’ve written a wonderful book!

Thank you for thinking so but in all honesty, I don’t look at it as my book. Just a story that I was blessed enough to be a part of. The success belongs to Him…

The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson--Book Review

Heartwarming and filled with the spirit of the season, The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson is sure to become a Christmas classic.

After the sudden death of her husband William, Emma Jensen struggles to find hope in her life. Even knowing she must go on for her children is not enough to bring Emma out of the depths of despair. Instead, she curls up in an old patchwork quilt and cries the nights away.

But after the first Santa letter arrives with promises of gifts and instructions for activities that will teach the family the true meaning and gifts of Christmas, the lives of the Jensens might be forever changed. Will these messages from the man in the red suit help them find that missing hope as they celebrate the Savior's birth?

I have never been so touched by a novel as I was while reading The Santa Letters. I could barely contain my emotions. And it came to me, while I read each Santa letter that this would be an excellent way for churches to share the message of Christmas with their congregations. The lessons the Jensens learn from this anonymous stranger are ones that people need to be reminded of every day of the year: the importance of traditions, laughter, friendship, family, mercy and forgiveness, along with many others are found within its pages.

Gooch-Anderson's mastery of storytelling is evident in the emotions The Santa Letters invokes and the ease with which this novel draws the reader completely into the lives of its characters. The author has also included instructions for how readers can create their own Santa Letters Christmas.

A book you'll never forget, The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson will become a Christmas tradition you'll want to share with your family time and again. An excellent book club or church group selection. I eagerly await Gooch-Anderson's next release.

Title: The Santa Letters
Author: Stacy Gooch-Anderson
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
ISBN: 978-1-59955-145-6
U.S. Price: $16.99

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back to Writing Event at StoryCrafters!

Starting Wednesday the 17th StoryCrafters will be holding a "Back to Writing" challenge.

Prizes will be awarded for total word count from the 17th until Oct. 31st along with several "challenge" days that will be announced as we go along.

So sign up at the StoryCrafters forum and read the details in our Announcements section.

If you need some motivation, you can check out my article at the StoryCrafters blog to help you get back into your writing schedule.

StoryCrafters...weaving imaginations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irene Watson and The Sitting Swing

Our special guest today is Irene Watson, author of the memoir, The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference. I've asked Irene to discuss how childhood issues impact adulthood. Here's what she had to say:

To understand how childhood issues impact adulthood, one must first understand what happens during childhood. Socialization practices and the effects contribute consistent evidence that parental warmth, acknowledged and non-inflicting punishment practices, and consistency in child rearing obviously discharges positive personality development. How young children relate to and are related to by others is conceptualized by the end of the first year.

The "internal working models" of self convey attention to social experiences and form subsequent relationships with others. If the environment and interpersonal experiences change, particularly with parents, the expectations regarding self and others also change. If there is an insecure attachment bond in infancy, there is then a low level of empathy, compliance, cooperation, and self-control, as well as high levels of negativity during toddler, pre-school, and early elementary school years. It is clear that attachment security is related to children's early child-rearing experiences and their subsequent psychological, behavioral, and personality development.

Importance lies in parents paying attention to events in early childhood, namely, knowing that it takes years to acquire and to consolidate learning necessary to produce a competent adult, and that personality structure is highly dependent on the family or social setting into which a person is born. However, parental values and attitudes, and parental practices also influence character development. Furthermore, parental goals, informational assumptions, and evaluative judgments are basis for the different parenting styles and behaviors. It is evident that the authoritative rearing approach combined with positive parental behaviors, is critical in developing a functional personality. However, a very small percentage of parents use this approach.

In many cases the functional personality is not developed and if all the needs are unsatisfied, then the life is dominated by the physiological needs of acceptance, love, fun, and power. The needs are then acted out in dysfunctional ways, e.g. codependency, substance abuse, abusive relationships, or addictions. Seeking help to address these issues is of utmost importance.

Once you realize the behaviors are unacceptable and come to terms the behaviors are dysfunctional, you can start developing the understanding of the roots of the dysfunction and provide a foundation for healing. Healing is about family of origin work as you discover the role, the rules you were given and general dynamics from your family. Most adults from dysfunctional families remain in those roles, abide by those same rules and, struggle with dynamics that are similar to those learned in their family of origin, repeating patterns with their partners, their friends, and their children.

However, insight alone doesn’t heal the pain caused by the dysfunction, nor does it provide the healing necessary to change the unacceptable behaviors and patterns. Learning how to emotionally detach is important in the early stages and will be the foundation throughout the rest of your life. Detaching is learning to balance yourself in the relationship with others. This may be setting boundaries which in turn allow you to have lower emotional reaction and less dependency on dysfunctional relationships. It certainly is a new space that needs to be learned but in the end you will be able to answer the question: Who am I? At this point, needs, wants, and feelings will be identified and communicated as you move toward healthy relationships, diminishing the need for codependency, addictive substances, or acting out.

But, there is more. Self-esteem building, stress management, and communication skills also need to be addressed. Learned tools assist in regaining the lost self, or a self that never developed because of the parental dysfunctions. Recovery is about salvaging the innate personal power that never developed or was lost during the dysfunctional family dynamics. It is also about living a life without the need of approval, the fear of abandonment, preoccupation about pleasing others, and basically over-functioning in relationships. Recovery is claiming the self back.

About the book:

Irene Watson's pretentious life could go no further until she faced her past. Her moving and inspiring memoir begins at the end, in a recovery center, where she has gone to understand a childhood fraught with abuse, guilt and uncertainty. Her powerful story is a testament that it’s never too late to change your life, never too late to heal.

THE SITTING SWING VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit Irene's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about her and her new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Worthy Muslim by Amir Makin

Joining us today is Amir Makin, author of A Worthy Muslim: Quranic Tools Needed to Overcome Oppression and Imperialism in Order to Institute Justice. As our guest blogger, I've asked Amir to discuss the objective of his book.

Many facts on Sunni Muslims have become distorted and misrepresented in today’s world. All too often we rely on information from those who do not have the benefit of the experiences they attempt to convey. I’ve noticed this trend for quite some time, and decided to rely on things I have to come to know based on my study, analysis and experiences as a Muslim for the drive behind this book. As easily one can lie, one can also misrepresent by omission. That unfortunately is what some Muslims have done when representing the way of life called Islam to others.

They often speak of this way of life from a ritualistic perspective, and rarely from a uniquely applicable one. In writing I’ve chosen to speak from the latter and convey key points that have been omitted by others. One of many topics developed in this book is the rarely discussed duty that each Muslim has in standing up for justice and fighting all forms of oppression whether its victims are Muslim or otherwise. Some in the Muslim community have stayed away from this subject because dealing with it effectively requires one to take sides. If the side of oppression is strong and its resistance is weak, then the survival of the resistance will always be in jeopardy. But there is no way to rise above that which is wrong without first identifying that wrong and developing a strategy to overcome it. One of the first strategies is to understand that Islam is not a religion. This means that it is not something that one merely chooses to associate with and claim yet only chooses to follow its principles when the desire to do so arises. It is however a way of life that encompasses intellectual, emotional, physical and socioeconomic and political development, all from a spiritual foundation. If the spiritual structure has not been developed correctly, then the strength of the individual will be ill equipped to handle any of the other categorical developmental issues to which I refer, let alone challenge them when corruption exchanges peace and justice for chaos and oppression.

Members of any society must then understand that regardless of its form the foundation of all oppression and injustice is the same. The tactics and techniques are accepted from one oppressor to the next and the only change is the face of the victim. The reason for this is because all oppressors study the history of those who complement their behavior. So what should those who resist the chaos and want a return to a balanced system of justice study? Should they all study the same? How do they develop a strategy from different vantage points?

These issues and several others like them are on the minds of many throughout the world. Whether it is a situation in the Middle East or Iraq or Africa, someone is dealing with this reality. Whether it is racism in America or understanding facts on Sunni Muslims in Britain, someone is contemplating this. Whether it is internalized oppression at home or terrorism abroad sooner or later, these issues must be addressed. A Worthy Muslim: Quranic Tools Needed to Overcome Oppression and Imperialism in Order to Institute Justice speaks to this and more unabashedly, unashamed and without apology.

I’m often asked what is the number one problem of Islam? One of the answers I give is that rarely is it explained from a standpoint of those that ask the question. Then I’m asked, if Ramadan and jihad are actually pillars of Islam? I give the same answer again. These and other questions helped provide motivation to write this book. As this is Ramadan (the month of fasting), I’m offering an opportunity for a book giveaway which will conclude at the end of Ramadan (projected date is October 2, 2008). This will require reader participation of which the complete details can be found on my blog.

I’d like to thank the Book Connection for allowing me the opportunity to share this information with you.

In addition to the book giveaway you’re invited to participate in a survey by the author by visiting his blog at http://aworthymuslimovercomes.blogspot.com. The book may be purchased from here as well as the publisher’s website at http://www.aicpublications.com/featuredbook.html

The WORTHY MUSLIM VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit the Amir's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about him and his new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away one FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Birthing the Elephant by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman--Book Review

Are you considering leaving the corporate world behind to strike out on you own? Are you a woman who wants to create her own destiny? Do you wonder what to expect before, during, and after launching your business? Then Birthing the Elephant: The woman's go-for-it! guide to overcoming the big challenges of launching a business is a must have.

As the back cover of this amazing resource for potential and new entrepreneurs states, "Surviving the ups and downs of entrepreneurship takes more than a great business idea." And while most business books focus on how to get your business up and running, Birthing the Elephant is a step-by-step handbook on how to deal with the psychological and emotional aspects of launching a start-up. Filled with expert advice from successful entrepreneurs like cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown, designer Liz Lange, independent bookseller Roxanne Coday, and a host of other female entrepreneurs, you'll learn how to:

* Think and act like an entrepreneur
* Anticipate problems and overcome barriers to success
* Manage the four key stages of your launch
* Avoid the ten costly mistakes that new business owner often make

A true inspiration for aspiring and new entrepreneurs, Birthing the Elephant will put you on the right path and keep you there.

Each chapter ends with a series of Quick Tips that summarize the information from the chapter. Also included are numerous checklists of Action Steps to help the reader apply the concepts learned. Chapter 9 focuses on avoiding the ten biggsest pitfalls you might encounter with your start-up like "Pitfall#2: Not Getting the Right Help Early" and "Pitfall #9: Not Trusting Your Gut". This chapter is especially helpful when combined with all the reader has learned in previous chapters. The book also includes a list of resources for launching your business and a notes section.

A unique look at launching a business, Birthing the Elephant by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman is a must have for any woman who dreams of striking out on her own!

Title: Birthing the Elephant: The woman's go-for-it! guide to overcoming the big challenges of launching a business
Authors: Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN-10: 1-58008-887-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-58008-887-9
U.S. Price: $15.95

Read Karin's article from when she was a guest blogger at The Book Connection here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shobhan Bantwal and The Forbidden Daughter

The Book Connection welcomes back Indian-American author Shobhan Bantwal who first visited us in October 2007. Shobhan's latest release is titled The Forbidden Daughter.

About the book: This is the story of one young mother, Isha Tilak. When a sonogram reveals that their second child is another girl, Isha and her husband Nikhil's lives are forever altered. Their doctor suggests an abortion and her in-laws insist on it. Refusing to comply with their wishes leads to a bizarre chain of events -- Isha's husband becomes the victim of a mysterious murder plot, leaving her alone with one daughter and another on the way. Her only option is to sever her ties to her in-laws and raise her girls as a single mother.

But more danger threatens to rip apart her new life. The stakes become impossibly high -- even for a woman as brave as Isha.

I've asked Shobhan to discuss the social issues that she raises in the book. Here is what she had to say:

While the female fetus abortion plot is a product of my imagination, there is an element of truth in it. Truth can often be not only stranger but significantly more disturbing than fiction. In this case, it may very well be.

Some two decades ago, patriarchal cultures like India discovered that ultrasound or echogram technology could be used for purposes other than what it was designed for. Overnight, the sonogram went from a way of detecting tumors, abnormalities, and life-threatening conditions in unborn children to an easy method of detecting the sex of a fetus.

Consequently, millions of couples in India have allegedly resorted to female feticide with the help of medical practitioners. In a culture where a daughter is viewed as a burden because of dowry and other archaic but persistent customs, ultrasound has become a valuable as well as dangerous tool in empowering families to rid themselves of female children before they come into the world.

The Lancet, a British medical journal, reported in January 2006 that according to a study nearly 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the past two decades. Besides the moral issues involved in gender-based abortion, the unbalanced female-to-male ratio could lead to severe social repercussions in the future: a disproportionate number of males with no hope of marriage or healthy long-term relationships. Just imagine how that could affect crimes against women!

Under pressure from activists, the Indian government passed The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act in 1994, banning the use of ultrasound machines to reveal fetus gender. Furthermore, a 2002 amendment stiffened the penalties. And yet, the practice of selectively destroying female fetuses supposedly continues.

When I wrote The Forbidden Daughter, it was not only to draw my readers’ attention to an alarming social issue in the world’s largest democracy, but also to tell a compelling story that brings to light the spirit of a woman, and a mother’s strength and conviction to stand up to societal pressures when it comes to protecting her children.

And as a hopeless romantic, I love stories written in a positive vein and love at their center.

An excerpt and book trailer of The Forbidden Daughter can be found on my website: www.shobhanbantwal.com

THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit the author's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about them and their new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away one FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Angus Munro and A Full House - But Empty

Today's guest blogger is Angus Munro. Angus is the author of A Full House - But Empty: A Memoir with a Message! Here, Angus discusses the challenges of publishing a memoir in the post James Frey's A Million Little Pieces world.

My book has been self-published through iUniverse and it represents my Memoirs. As a non-celebrity this was my best vehicle as traditional publishing companies and literary agents have little interest in accepting material from those of us who are unknown.

In terms of book promotional services, the onus lies with the writers to seek the best available avenues open to promote their book. Needless to say, as a total novice in this field, it has been a very challenging experience. However, in the process I have received some excellent book reviews and I have been working with some wonderful people whose services are readily available to persons such as myself. The key has been to find the right ones. And I believe that I have been fortunate in seeking some of those fine and talented individuals. Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion is one of the aforementioned and she has led me to The Book Connection.

Seemingly, the question as been posed to me, “ What have been the challenges of writing a memoir after the James Frey fiasco?” My first response – A very good question! However, one must furnish a little background before expressing one’s opinion. In other words, who is Angus Munro who has written a book with a contradictory title such as, A Full House – But Empty? I was raised by a single parent, my father, since the age of three, along with my two sisters. This occurred during the Great Depression and we were living in Vancouver, Canada.

Prior to those events, my father was a farm boy from a very wealthy family in Saskatchewan. When he married, his father leased separate farmland to get him started. When he received the proceeds from his first wheat crop, a wild poker game was ensuing at the local grain elevator. The end result was my father returning home with one can of strawberry jam to present to my mother. One can only imagine the thoughts that occurred during that exchange. Shortly thereafter, my father threw up his hands on farming and moved to Vancouver.

My grandfather died not too long after that incident and left his total estate to his other son. As the Depression deepened, my father went back to Saskatchewan to seek some financial help from his inherited brother. He returned to Vancouver failing to obtain any financial assistance from him. When he arrived at our apartment unexpectedly, he found my mother in bed with some cheater. The cheater jumped out of the nearest window and my father pointed the front door for my mother to exit. To complete this tragic picture, the following day, I was rushed to the hospital with acute appendicitis and was hospitalized for seven weeks. My poor financially and otherwise father.

At age thirteen I was in the seventh grade and wrongly accused of an incident which took place. I was extremely upset and refused to study. I played sick at every opportunity to avoid attending classes. I failed and had to repeat the seventh grade and I dropped out thereafter.

At age seventeen, I was working in a sawmill tossing lumber ends off of a conveyor belt – a total dead-end position. At that time, my father was an outside foreman for a large oil and coal company. He worked hard and was highly respected at work and in the community. However, he had that penchant for poker games and/or parties of which occurred in our home frequently on weekends and either one lasting all night.

On Saturday evening, a group from my father’s pub club arrived bringing a young theological student from the University of British Columbia. George, apart from studying theology, was very active in working civic pursuits – such as teen town organizations, etc. He and I became good friends. One quiet evening, during the week he stopped by and delivered a Dutch uncle speech to me. He informed me that I had above average intelligence and wondered why I was working in a dead-end job that had no future options. I informed him that I was a total failure and an uneducated grade-school dropout with no skills.

His response was, “You need to get off of your ass and get moving!” He further challenged my comments by saying he wanted to discuss my potential not the unfortunate circumstances relating to leaving school. He further stated that I needed to enroll at a local high school taking evening classes in typing and accounting to acquire some basic skills. Additionally, I needed to immediately seek a white-collar job at an entrance level that would have future promotional opportunities. His rhetoric was so compelling – I did exactly what he suggested.

To summarize, I eventually spent nine years in the petroleum industry in both Canada and the USA and I was being groomed for a junior executive position. I decided to change fields and spent thirty-nine years in hospital administration in both California and Alaska. As a director, my staffing complements were from fifty-five to seventy employees.

Comments re: James Frey Fiasco

Getting back to the James Frey situation it brings forth to me a lot of mixed thoughts. Based on my limited background, I became very successful – but in terms of my exposure – I revealed nothing to anyone regarding my limited educational background. On one hand I was a very successful and well-respected articulate person and on the other hand background wise – I felt as if I were a mole with a deep dark secret – a fraud. Upon retirement, I had both the independence and the maturity that afforded me the ability and fortitude to tell all – and the end result was – who the hell cares! And nobody did – they knew who I was as a person. Ironically, the writing and revisiting of my past was so cathartic and a great positive and productive journey.

Frankly, writing my own story has actually been a piece of cake. I am simply doing a review of my life and fortunately I have been blessed with a very good memory. And in taking that journey I am simply expressing my individual thoughts, perceptions and interpretations. Recently, a couple of my contemporaries, recalling the poker games and parties held at our house those many years ago – from their perspective thought we lived in the ‘in place’ all fun and games. They didn't do the cleanup – I did!

Currently, in this political scene and along with the cast of characters, books are being hailed and/or challenged regarding factual or nonfactual comments and/or segments. During the manuscript gathering sources, it is difficult to decipher, rumors, innuendo, half-truths, falsehoods, interpretations, whatever. In terms of researching a subject, there could be a natural tendency in some circles to seek dramatic events pro or con having a window for possible embellishments. If one is seeking it on their behalf, I believe this to be a half-baked story and of course, lacking both credibility and credence.

Material based on celebrity and/or prominent persons present or past, is always subject to be accepted, disputed, refuted or considered questionable, particularly if the subject has a somewhat controversial background. In a lot of situations, it is simply give or take. As an individual, I can only speak for myself. I was not proud of the fact that I left school early – regardless of the circumstances. Most of my colleagues and friends are very well educated persons and I wasn't about to freely tell all that I was merely a grade-school dropout. It certainly was not a badge of honor for me, even though I worked very hard, was well respected and successfully held good positions.

In writing my book, it was to be a very positive experience, overcoming some difficult periods, I was not looking for the ‘poor me syndrome.’ To begin with, I personally could never write fiction. I have absolutely and unequivocally no imagination. One of my physician friends, upon reading my book, suggested that I write another book – using my childhood cast of characters and dramatize it – finding a haunted house with ghosts or a similar scenario. This would be an unthinkable project for me, again no imagination. And I am personally and exclusively a nonfiction reader.

In the case of those that deliberately embellish their personal life experiences are probably looking for fame and fortune. Suggestively, it would be better spent in the world of fiction – in that case, who cares!

In this world, everything and anything is up for question. From a broader sense, we do not know where we came from and where we are going. Living in this very nebulous world my religious teaching is where I seek my comfort. Let it be!

Angus Munro

The A FULL HOUSE BUT EMPTY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit Angus' tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about him and his new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away one FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Maryann Miller and One Small Victory

Today's guest blogger is Maryann Miller, the author of One Small Victory.

About the book:

Life can change in just an instant. That's the harsh reality that Jenny Jasik faces when her son is killed in an automobile accident, but never in her wildest dreams did she ever expect to be working undercover as a member of a drug task force. She is, after all, just a Mom. In the course of her work, she discovers that she is capable of much more than running a household and managing her floral shop.

I asked Maryann to tell us how she created her strong female lead. Here's what she had to say:

Jenny Jasick, the central character in One Small Victory came to me as a full-blown character when I read a short news item about a woman who infiltrated a drug ring and helped bring down the main distributor in the area after her son was killed in a car accident and marijuana was found at the scene. The news story had few details about the woman, other than what she did and the fact that she couldn’t tell anyone about it, so I immediately started wondering what it must have been like to do this.

The more I wondered, the more the character came to life on an emotional level. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to lose her son, then take some of the emotional turmoil of grief and put it into action. Then how did she get on the task force? What was it like to meet with the dealers? The answers to those questions not only helped me get to know Jenny more, but also helped with the plotting. Because of the nonfiction books I have done about drugs, I already knew quite a bit about how the drug business operates, but I didn’t know how a rural task force is put together, or in what capacity Jenny would work. Because the news story said the woman couldn’t tell anyone what she was doing, I surmised that she worked as a confidential informant, but I had no idea how a CI is handled on the rural law enforcement level. Luckily, my son had some contacts in a small town police station, as well as the county sheriff’s office, so he was able to put me in contact with the right people to answer all those questions.

The choice to set the story in a small rural town was made for several reasons. First, I thought it would be more believable that she could bully her way onto a small task force as opposed to one in a large city. I thought it would be easier in a small town for someone to see her trying to connect to the dealers, and that would add complications to the story. This was also a way to highlight the fact that illegal drugs are such a growing problem in rural areas.

Readers will relate to Jenny on a number of levels, especially women. We all like to read about strong, capable women because I think it helps us see our own strength. Not that we would go to the extreme that Jenny did. In fact, I had one reviewer who stated unequivocally that even though she admired Jenny, there was no way that she, the reviewer, would ever be out on the streets at night trying to combat the drug problem. I also had one reader who told me that halfway through the book she wanted to tell Jenny to stop. Go home and take care of the children you have there. But the reader also said that by the time she came to the end, she realized that staying home and doing nothing was not an option for Jenny. And in the long run, what she did was good for the other two children because she worked through her grief instead of wallowing in it.

If visitors to this blog would like to know more about Jenny, they can read an interview with her that is in my press room on my website. http://www.maryannwrites.com

Thank you so much for this opportunity to be here and write about my book and my character.

The ONE SMALL VICTORY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit Maryann's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about her and her new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away one FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!

This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal by Ben Furman---the story behind the book

Our guest blogger today is author Ben Furman. Ben writes counterterrorism thrillers and young adult fantasy adventures. I've had the pleasure of reading Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal. You'll find my review here. After reading this first book in the Sam's Quest trilogy, I wondered where Ben got the idea for his unusual heroine. He shares that with us today.

SAM’S QUEST TRILOGY: The Story Behind the Books by Ben Furman

“Get off your fat butt and do something with this!” my sister said. She didn’t bother looking back as she dangled some yellowish paper over her shoulder and continued poring through stuff in the closet. I had returned home to help pack essentials my mother would need in the full care nursing facility. Every scrap of paper that had anything to do with her kids she had meticulously tucked away in stacks of labeled shoe boxes – even the drawings and scribbles of a love-spurned fifth grader, me.

Yep, there for all to see was my feeble effort to impress the cute redheaded girl, who had just joined the class. The small rural school, dead center in the California San Joaquin Valley farm country, seldom added anyone new, and that included Mrs. Higgins the history teacher, who delighted in telling me what a brat my father had been. Sins of the father, and she had a second crack at his son. So Samantha’s arrival had created quite a buzz, and Samantha instantly became my favorite girl’s name.

I wracked my brain trying to come up with something to impress Samantha, couldn’t bribe Johnny, who was sitting directly behind her, to switch places with me – Higgins cataracts had limited her field of fire to the first row seats, giving me adequate cover. I could draw and spin a pretty good story. A fantasy adventure with drawings of the characters – that was the ticket! As the project gained speed I heard the whispers. Samantha had asthma! Asthma? Was it contagious? “No” my brat father said. In the drawing I added an aspirator that Samantha sprayed in the eyes of the bad guy, thus defeating him and saving Innerworld! I slipped the finished story on her desk one recess and held my breath as she read it, shoved it in her desk, and turned around to smile at Johnny, who had just pulled her hair. Feeling stupid, I retrieved the story and took it home. At the end of the school year Samantha’s family moved, thus ending my gnawing embarrassment.

Following my sister’s directive, I decided to write a trilogy detailing Samantha’s adventures. The core characters of the story and positive message remains the same: to be successful you don’t have to be Superman, even he has a weakness, keep churning and good things will come of it.

The SAM'S QUEST FOR THE CRIMSON CRYSTAL VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on September 2, '08 and end on September 26, '08. You can visit the Ben's tour stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in September to find out more about him and his new book!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away one FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.wordpress.com on September 26!


This virtual book tour has been brought to you by:

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner--Adding Fiction to Real Life

Historical fiction is a genre I especially enjoy. It amazes me how an author can plot a fictional story around historical events or create a fictional life for unknown portions of a historical figure's life.

I asked C. W. Gortner, the author of The Last Queen to tell us about adding fiction to a historical figure's life, what the challenges were, and how he met them. Here's what he had to say:

THE LAST QUEEN is the story of Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit the throne, and of her tumultuous relationships with her parents Isabella and Ferdinand, and fight for her throne against her husband Philip of Hapsburg. Juana is a legend in Spain, known as Juana la Loca— the mad queen. Her story has been filmed twice; there have been numerous biographies in Spanish throughout the years. But outside of Spain, she’s scarcely mentioned except as the sister of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and as the mother of the Emperor Charles V. Yet her life was full of drama, intrigue and passion, certainly worthy of a historical novel.

I’m often asked how I became interested in Juana. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I was raised in Spain and am half Spanish by birth. In my childhood I lived near a castle that had belonged to Juana’s parents, Isabella and Ferdinand. Clambering to its highest tower, I knew Juana had touched these same stones, perhaps marveled, as I did, at the arid beauty of the Andalusian landscape. During a school trip to Granada, where Juana is buried, I found myself entranced by the marble effigy of this woman, whose face is turned away from the figure of her husband beside her. Most school children in Spain know the tale of Juana la Loca but I immediately wanted to know more. What was she like in real life? Did she really pull her husband’s bier behind her throughout the country, venerating his corpse? Was she truly mad? What happened to her to plunge her into such despair?

It took six years to research and write THE LAST QUEEN, including several trips to Spain. I even took the same route Juana made from Burgos to her final residence in Tordesillas. I visited the Alhambra and other castles associated with her, and read every contemporary account about her that I could find, including letters from her custodians to her son Charles V, many of which are archived in Simancas. The challenge after this rather exhaustive research was to sort through it all and decide what I wanted to write about. Fortunately, it soon became clear that I wanted to focus on the woman herself— the fallible, humane, courageous and often lonely woman, whose experiences, while different from ours, certainly, are universal in the struggle to balance life and duty, betrayal and love.

The challenge in bringing Juana to life via a fictional voice was deciding how to interpret the events that she lived, through her eyes. I had to escape the verdict of the past and see her through fresh eyes. She’s been branded with the epithet of the Mad Queen, and it is generally accepted by most historians that she was insane and incapable of ruling. While I knew these facts, I also knew rulers paid chroniclers to write their particular version of history. It is how we got the distorted image of sovereigns like Richard III, whose life was distorted by historians in Tudor pay to vilify him and exalt their dynasty. I suspected much the same occurred with Juana; every contemporary account I read about her was written by a man with an agenda, either one in service to her husband or later on, by men working for Charles V. I was taken in by these accounts at first; in fact, I thought her terribly romantic and tragic, an eccentric, possibly unstable queen, who should never have been thrust into the situation she found herself in. However, as I began to shift more closely through these accounts I was stuck by the impression that no one seemed interested in questioning whether Juana might have been sane. I had this gut feeling that her “official” story, as so many histories, contained half-truths and lies, and so I set out to paint an emotional portrait of her based on facts but untainted by what others had written. If you view her actions from her viewpoint, i.e., a woman determined to defend her country and her children but without the advantages of an army at her back, much of Juana’s alleged madness unravels itself.

Fiction is a marvelous tool for exploring the past because it allows us to focus on the moments, and that is what I strived to do in fictionalizing Juana. From a fifteen-year-old princess sent into an arranged marriage with a handsome and callous foreign prince, to a young mother who wanted to be happy, to a daughter charged with her mother’s crown and a queen denied her voice, I tried to uncover the flesh and blood person underneath the various guises. While Juana lived over 500 years ago, and we cannot know the true “reality” of her existence, our emotions as human beings have not changed all that much. We all know what it is to suffer a loss, to yearn and hope; to fight for what we believe in. Through these common feelings, I painstakingly recreated the person I think Juana might have been. She is very different from the queen others have written about, but I think she is far more interesting and complex, as well.

None of us is a stereotype: we all carry contradictions in our characters. The biggest challenge of all was to allow Juana her contradictions and not fall into the trap of judging them. Did she always act wisely? No. Did she make mistakes? Absolutely. But she also showed great strength and endurance, and perspicacity in a time when women were expected to be passive vessels. She showed mettle, and that, more than anything else, made her into a threat. Had she submitted to what was demanded of her, her life would no doubt have been different. This gave me the key to unlocking her heart: it’s often what we don’t do that most reveals who we are.

I do hope readers will enjoy reading about Juana as much as I enjoyed writing about her.

THE LAST QUEEN is published in hardcover by Ballantine Books and will be available at most bookstores. Readers can visit me at http://www.cwgortner.com. My website has a tour of Juana’s 16th century world and special offers for book clubs, as well as a reader contest to win a free copy of the book and a gift. I’m happy to send a signed bookplate, too; just write to me at cwgortner@earthlink.net.

Thank you so much for taking this time with me!

About the book: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, is an enigmatic figure, shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C.W. Gortner challenges centuries of myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.

The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amidst her parents’ ruthless unification of their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the Archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents’ strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.

Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Hapsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a struggle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to win her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything . . . .

With brilliant, lyrical prose, author and historian C. W. Gortner conjures Juana through her own words, taking the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England. The Last Queen brings to life all the grandeur and drama of an incomparable era; and the singular humanity of this courageous, passionate princess whose fight to claim her birthright captivated the world.

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