Friday, July 31, 2009

Off to the Outer Banks

The picture above was taken last year at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island in Manteo. We go there almost every time we're on the Outer Banks. They have a large tank with live animals that the girls can touch. They say they don't like the sting rays because they're too slimy.

We're leaving for the Outer Banks tonight and won't be back until August 16th. Thanks to technology, however, there will be plenty to read while we're away. I have several spotlights and guest posts set to run, so keep checking back in with us. If I can get a good Internet connection down south I'll even pop in and let you know if I've discovered any great books in the many used book stores along Route 158.

We hope you'll follow The Book Connection, bookmark us and let your friends know we're here. There are several summer reading giveways running right now, so make sure you enter those. And don't forget to check out The Kids Book Connection from time to time. That blog will be on hiatus while we're away, but once we come back we're planning all sorts of fun stuff for that site.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski

I was recently contacted to review The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski. I hated turning it down, but my TBR pile is threatening to become the highest mountain in the world, and I didn't want Chris to wait so long for a review.

I have been given permission to post this Q & A session with the author. For more information about Chris and his books, you can visit him online at You'll find reviews and an excerpt from The Lost Throne there.

A Conversation with CHRIS KUZNESKI

Q: You’ve had an interesting career as an author, from self-publishing The Plantation to becoming famous overseas and now making it big in the United States. Can you tell us about the twists and turns?

Obviously my career has taken some unexpected detours along the way. I taught middle school and high school English for five years before I had saved enough money to take a year off and write a novel. I wasn’t sure if my effort would pay off or not, but I know I would have hated myself if I hadn’t tried. Unfortunately, at the end of the year, I had a manuscript, The Plantation, but no agent to represent it.

After being turned down by every agency under the sun, I decided to take a different approach. I figured if anyone could identify with my predicament, it would be other writers who had gone through the same process at the beginning of their careers. Hoping they would be supportive, I wrote personal letters to several of my favorite authors, asking them to read a print-on-demand version of The Plantation. Amazingly, most of them agreed to do it, and before I knew it, the endorsements started rolling in. And I’m talking big-name authors like James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, Lee Child, Douglas Preston, James Rollins, and many more. Needless to say, I was stunned and overjoyed.

After that, I got an incredible agent (Scott Miller at Trident Media) and started working on my next novel, Sign of the Cross. Just about the same time I finished it, Dan Brown released The Da Vinci Code. Thanks to him, publishers around the world were desperate for the next big religious thriller, and my book fit their needs. In less than a year, I went from being self-published to being translated into over twenty languages.

Q: You alternate between two mysteries throughout the book, seemingly different stories involving Interpol Homicide Director Nick Dial and ex-Special Forces operatives Jonathon Payne and D.J. Jones. As a storyteller, was it difficult to keep the pacing and the plotting of the book going while writing both sides of the story?

Believe it or not, I think it was easier to write two separate storylines than one cohesive plot, especially for a novel of this scale. In my mind, dual plots gave me a lot more flexibility as a writer. If my three characters had been in the same city, following the same clues at the same time, their movement would have been a juggling act, a constant battle to keep them out of each other’s way. Personally, I think that would have become claustrophobic—not only for me, but also for my audience. By writing two plotlines, I had the freedom to alter the tempo any time I wanted. For instance, if Nick Dial had an introspective chapter, I could follow it with an action scene for Payne and Jones. Or vice versa. Of course, the biggest problem was bringing the two storylines together at the end of the book. Once I figured out how to do that, the rest was easy.

Q: Where did you first learn of archeologist Heinrich Schliemann? How did his story provide the inspiration for The Lost Throne?

I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, taking a course on the Greek Classics. One of the lectures focused on Heinrich Schliemann’s life, particularly how he used The Iliad to discover the lost city of Troy. Or, how he didn’t. That was the incredible thing about Schliemann. No one knows what to believe because he was such a brilliant con man. Half the time he was taking credit for things that he didn’t do, the other half he was denying things that he actually did. As an author, that gave me a lot of fodder to work with.

Q: While Schliemann plays an integral role in The Lost Throne, much of his life was even too bizarre to include in your book. What was the strangest Schliemann story you uncovered?

Anytime Schliemann would invent a new fact about himself—for instance, he claimed he had dinner with the President—he would actually change his diary to cover his tracks. Sometimes he even glued in additional pages if he didn’t have enough room for all the fictional details. Keep in mind, I’m talking about his personal diary, something only he got to read during his lifetime. How bizarre is that? I’m not sure if he did it to help keep all of his tales straight, or he did it because he knew scholars would read his diary after he had died. Whatever the reason, it spoke volumes about the man and his ego.

Q: Are you a student of Russian history? How much of one did you become while writing this book?

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated with the city of Saint Petersburg. Even though it’s located in Russia, it has a Western feel to it. Most of its architecture is French or Western European. The city is surrounded by water like Venice. And compared to Moscow, the populace is widely diverse. That being said, it is still governed by Russia, which means it’s a dangerous place for Payne and Jones, two ex-American soldiers, to be searching for an assassin. One false move, and they’d be in a world of trouble.

In order to make my setting realistic, I had to do a lot of research. One of the coolest parts of the book—at least from what I’ve been told—is an extended chase scene through the streets of Saint Petersburg. To make it accurate, I printed dozens of pictures of the buildings and landmarks and attached them to a street map of the city. Therefore, when my characters ran down a street, I knew exactly what they would be looking at.

By the time I was done, I felt like I could drive a taxi in that city. Who knows? If this book doesn’t sell, I might learn Russian and go over there for work.

Q: Have you ever been to Greece?

Yes, I visited for a week and saw most of the major sites. After spending a few days in Athens, I toured the countryside, stopping at Delphi, Mycenae, Sparta, Olympia, and many towns in between. I also took a boat to some of the islands in the Aegean, which was probably my favorite part of the trip. The islands were simply gorgeous.

Q: How do you conduct your research for a book like this? With locales and characters spanning the globe, how do you ensure you get things right?

Thankfully, my books are fiction. So if I screw something up, I get to claim that I did it on purpose. I mean, talk about no pressure!

That being said, I was trained as a journalist, so I always strive to get things right. Back when I was in college, that meant dozens of trips to the library, digging through the stacks, trying to find multiple sources to support your conclusions. Nowadays, I can do the same thing with the touch of a button. Without the Internet, I couldn’t have written a book like The Lost Throne—at least not in a year’s time. A decade ago, it would’ve taken me a minimum of three years to do all the research.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book?

Even though I had heard of Mount Athos, I didn’t know much about its history or its role in the Orthodox faith. But the more I researched that place, the more I realized that it needed to be in my story. It’s almost like a separate country inside of Greece—similar to the relationship between Vatican City and Italy, but not as distinct.

Q: Whereas many thriller writers feature an alpha-male protagonist, you have three in The Lost Throne. Was that at all troublesome while you were writing?

Since I’m an alpha male, it wasn’t tough at all. I pretty much just described myself in every scene… Kidding, just kidding!

Actually, in all seriousness, I try not to think of my characters in black-and-white roles, like alpha-male or heroine. Writers who do that tend to write stereotypical characters, and that’s something I want to avoid. So in my mind, I wasn’t creating three alpha males, I was simply creating three different characters.

Q: Do you identify with one of them more than the other two?

The thing I love the most about my books is the witty banter between Payne and Jones. Those guys definitely have my sense of humor. Sometimes, especially late at night, I crack myself up writing their dialogue. Of course, the next day I read it again and realize half the stuff doesn’t make any sense! Oh well, I’m the same way in real life. I rarely make any sense, which probably explains why I’m single.

Q: Payne and Jones belonged to a military group known as the MANIACS. Does such an organization exist?

During times of war, the U.S. Military has experimented with all-star squads. That is, taking their best soldiers, regardless of their branch, and throwing them together on important missions. Over the years, these squads have gone by many names, and some of them still operate today.

In my novels, Payne and Jones are former members of the MANIACs, a Special Forces squad that they once commanded. MANIAC is an acronym that stands for Marines, Army, Navy, Intelligence, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

Q: Do you plan to continue your books as one series, or would you like to spin Dial off into one of his own?

From the moment I created Nick Dial in Sign of the Cross, I realized he had spin-off potential—whether I wrote it myself or had someone co-write it. I might have to give Clive Cussler a call and ask him how he launched his NUMA Files series.

Out of curiosity, do you have Clive’s number? Seriously. Do you have it?

Q: What are you working on next?

I’m close to finishing the next Payne/Jones thriller. It’s called The Prophecy, and it focuses on the lost work of Nostradamus. Putnam will be releasing in Summer 2010.

# # #
Katie Grinch
Publicity Manager

Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life by Jude Treder-Wolff

In Possible Futures: Creative Thinking For The Speed of Life (Life Stage Publications, ISBN 978-0-9799905-0-2, May 2009, Softcover, $11.95), author and certified psychotherapist Jude Treder-Wolff discusses the need for real connection and how community fuels advancement in society. She evaluates the risk of overconsumption in society, such as the effect of being inundated with advertising and our quest for accumulating more material possessions, and examines the link between creativity and community. Treder-Wolff asserts that these factors have a great effect on our mental, physical and emotional well being.

As the pace of society hastens, and we move into what some business leaders are calling the Network Economy, Treder-Wolff sees the need for people to sharpen their creative thinking and relationship skills, as we move from a society where 401Ks and gold watches were rewards for long service to a free-lance-based marketplace where strong social networks and innovative thinking are essential.


Communication at the speed of light, convenience and control come to us with unprecedented ease these days, transforming the landscape of our outer lives in a thousand ways that also designed our desires and in some not-so-subtle ways are reshaping the script for a good-enough life.

"Just as technology changes beyond all recognition in the space of a single life-time," writes social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, "so too do family structures, social life, education sexual behavior and everything else. What is at stake in the breakneck speed of social change is too important simply to leave it to wash over us like a tide about which we can do nothing. We need to understand how it works, where it is taking us, and what we can do to alter its direction when necessary."

Our homes are wired for action. Right now, Tivo tapes a program while a DVD entertains my niece on the same TV. The fax transmits, the dishwasher swishes, the Rhoumba vacuums with all its robotic precision.We have a self-grinding coffeemaker, self-regulating central air conditioning, and my personal favorite, the self-cleaning oven. Not an idle outlet in the place. And I am well aware that by the time this goes to print, some of the technology just described will already be outdated. All systems are go. That's the way life is now. Going. But the extra time we seek eludes us the way convenience and efficiency delude us. We run as much as the machines run, ever-ready batteries juiced, on the move. We can phone, fax, text or email from almost anywhere. Still, there are people in our lives right now with whom we have a great deal of trouble communicating. There are feelings about these people that sit inside us, sometimes for years, sometimes forever. And for all the social transformation technology brings, we are as hungry for love and connection, for meaning and purpose, as human beings at any other time in history. "Technology is evolving at roughly 10 million times the speed of natural evolution," writes economist Brian Arthur in "Scientific America." "For all its glitz and swagger, technology and the whole interactive, revved-up economy that goes with it, is merely an outer casing for outer selves. And these inner selves, these primate souls of ours with their ancient social ways, change slowly. Or not at all." ("Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life,"
excerpt p. 3 -- 4)

A licensed clinical social worker, registered music therapist and certified group
psychotherapist, Jude Treder-Wolff knows a thing or two about our fast-paced environment and how it affects our physical, mental and emotional well-being. With
more than two decades of experience helping people as a creative arts therapist and
psychotherapist, she’s seen her fair share of stressed, burned-out clients looking for ways to deal with the “speed of life.” Her solution: get creative.

Treder-Wolff’s new book, Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life (May 2009, Life Stage Publications, ISBN 978-0-9799905-0-2, Paperback, $11.95), addresses the risks associated with our fast-paced, technology-driven society and explains how creativity and community will be the force that continues to fuel innovation.

A Midwesterner by birth, Treder-Wolff grew up in Berlin, Wis., and eventually moved to Milwaukee, where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music and music therapy, in 1981. After graduation, she worked as a creative arts therapist for St. Michael’s Medical Center, in Newark, N.J., and Gracie Square Hospital in Manhattan. In 1988, Treder-Wolff became the director of clinical services at YMCA Family Services, a community-based substance abuse prevention and treatment agency, in Long Island, N.Y.
Treder-Wolff earned a Master of Social Work from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1988.

She studied group process and group therapy at the William Alanson White Institute and is certified through The National Registry of Group Psychotherapists. She has designed and implemented training seminars for mental health agencies – including Pederson-Krag, Options for Community Living, YMCA Family Services, Suffolk County Dept. of Mental Health, among others – and organizations, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Therapeutic Recreation Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Music Therapy Association and American Society of Group
Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

Along with her husband, Treder-Wolff is in full-time private practice providing individual and group psychotherapy and addiction treatment. As president and founder of Lifestage, Inc., a training and consulting company, Treder-Wolff and her team provide seminars on professional and personal growth, health education and stress-resilience.

She has developed courses for the Summer Institute Continuing Education program at State University at Buffalo and has been published in The International Journal of Arts and Psychotherapy – for a special issue on addiction and a special issue on HIV/AIDS – Music Therapy Perspectives, Clinical Social Work and Recovery Press. She is the editor of Lives in Progress and is a leading expert on creativity and stress-resilience and has been featured in Newsday, Woman's Day and The Three Village Times.

When not doing treatment or training, Treder-Wolff enjoys fostering her personal creativity through playwriting and acting. She trained as an actor with Bay Street Theater, in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and was a playwright with the 42nd Street Collective. Treder-Wolff is an avid volunteer and has worked with organization such as Time for Teens, a nonprofit that helps teens deal with grief and loss; Habitat for Humanity, Creativity for Peace and Oxfam International. She currently resides in Smithtown, N.Y., with her husband.

For more information, visit

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Author Spotlight and Book Giveaway: Jon Meacham and American Lion

New York Times Bestseller and 2009 Pulitzer Prizewinner for Biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
by Jon Meacham is a deeply insightful and eminently readable narrative biography of Andrew Jackson (often called "America's second founding father") and his pivotal years in the White House that shaped the modern presidency.

Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers–that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.

One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will–or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.

Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. He lives in New York City with his wife and children. You can visit his website at

Here are the rules to win a free copy of American Lion by Jon Meacham:

1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

2) Get an additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you are blogged about it.

3) Tweet about this contest and get two additional entries. Don't forget to leave us a comment to let us know you tweeted.

Contest runs from August 1st, 2009 to August 27, 2009. The winner will be announced at this blog on August 28, 2009.

This contest is open to residents of the United States and Canada only.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Miss L'eau Inspires Little Hands To Do Big Things by T. Katz

Today's guest blogger is T. Katz, author of Miss L'eau.

Two young boys in a coastal town discover a secret about their mysterious elementary school teacher, Miss L'eau. James and David had always known there was something unusual about her, but they could never quite put their finger on it. David discovered their first clue had been there all along, in her eyes.

The boys lived their whole lives near the ocean, but had never thought about how important it was or how vulnerable it might be. Through Miss L'eau, and her unexpected relationship to the sea, they develop a deeper love and understanding of the ocean and become involved with the nearby aquarium to organize an annual seaside clean-up.

Miss L'eau Inspires Little Hands To Do Big Things
by T. Katz, author of Miss L’eau

Having been born in Santa Cruz, CA only blocks from the beach, I always said that I had saltwater in my veins and have never liked being too far from the sea. Years ago, I moved to the high desert area of California and would run away to the shore whenever I could. As years passed, I noticed more and more trash on the beaches and knew how it was affecting the world at large. Water covers nearly 75% of earth's surface and is critical to the balance of the planet, so I wrote Miss L'eau to help kids understand that everyone can pitch in to take care of it, no matter how small their hands are.

Miss L'eau tells the tale of two kids in a coastal town who discover a secret about their elementary school teacher, which changes their lives forever. The boys had always known there was something unusual about Miss L'eau, but they could never quite put their finger on it. Even though David and James have always lived near the ocean, they never thought about its importance, power and certainly never its vulnerability. Thanks to their teacher and her unexpected relationship to the sea, the boys develop a love and understanding for the great body of water covering most of the earth's surface.

While it seems that most kids embrace the idea of taking care of the planet, it has been my experience that they also find the task of cleaning their own room overwhelming. In my children's chapter book, Miss L'eau I wanted kids to relate to the boys in the story and how they, too felt that organizing a community clean-up might be too much for them. James and David initially ask for help, but come to realize they are more capable than they originally thought they were.

It is my hope that Miss L'eau inspires kids to want to protect and preserve our oceans and research more about how to do just that. In the book, James tells his teacher his ideas for an annual seaside clean-up and begins to write out a plan to do so (work with a local aquarium, speak to city officials, etc.). The main goal of Miss L'eau is to motivate readers to start thinking about how they might follow the example of the kids in the story and after, they can visit the Miss L'eau webpage for step-by-step instructions on organizing their own clean-up in their community. Parents and educators can utilize an on-line study guide (located at to further encourage conversation and help children research more about ocean conservation and preservation.

Miss L'eau is a fictional story with a factual heart and if one page makes a young reader want to investigate more about protecting and preserving the water surrounding us, then I think a good deed was done.

T. Katz is the author of the children’s chapter book, Miss L’eau. You can visit her website at or her blog at

Look for our review of Miss L'eau, coming soon!!!

Rebekah Redeemed by Dianne Sagan--Book Review

Lose yourself in a moving story of a young girl's journey to womanhood and redemption in Rebekah Redeemed by Dianne Sagan.

At the age of six, Rebekah is orphaned and sent to live with relatives. But she is treated as a servant girl; passed along from home to home, her true identity kept secret by others who mistreat and abuse her. Surely, the God her father spoke of and prayed to does not exist.

Now a young woman, she is sent to be another relative's house servant, her identity kept hidden by her uncle's wife. Barely escaping a rape at the hands of a Roman solider, Rebekah is found by her friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Will they help her? Or will they be just like all the others in her life who have turned on her?

This is one of those stories of faith that you could just cry over. A young girl loses both parents and is sent to live with relatives who care nothing for her and make her a servant. She is mistreated and abused at every turn. Things continue to go from bad to worse, and Rebekah doubts that the God her father has told her about could even exist. Certainly no one she knows prays to him. And yet, by the end, after all she has suffered, she comes to the realization that faithful do: not only does God exist, but he loves me.

Sagan has painted a beautiful picture for her readers with historical details that draw you into Biblical times. She has obviously done her research, and it shows in the clothes, the scenery, even the laws of the time in which Rebekah lives. In addition, scenes from the Bible are accurately portrayed as they flow into the storyline. Having partaken in a Passover seder for many years, I found this portion of the story very interesting.

The author truly pushes Rebekah to the edge, and readers are wondering if she can sustain one more setback, one more moment of mistreatment from people who are her family or their friends. They will also rejoice upon her redemption, something she, like all of us, could never have accomplished alone.

The first in a planned series of Christian fiction books covering little known women of the Bible, Rebekah Redeemed by Dianne Sagan is an impressive start. I look forward to future books from this author.

Title: Rebekah Redeemed
Author: Dianne G. Sagan
Publisher: Buoy Up Press
ISBN: 978-0-937660-52-2
SRP: $11.95 (U.S.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Interview with Etta K. Brown, Author of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges

Today we welcome back Etta Brown, author of the helpful parenting guide, Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges. We hosted Etta at the beginning of the month and have asked her back to discuss one of the important topics from her book: nutrition and learning disabilities.

Welcome back to The Book Connection, Etta. It’s a pleasure to have this chance to hear more about your book.

As a reminder to our readers, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your book Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges?

The book is in response to the Federal law entitled No Child Left Behind which delegates to parents the responsibility for appropriate education of learning disabled and other exceptional children. This law empowers parents with rights that supersede those of the school.

The problem is that parents are not prepared with the knowledge or experience needed to be successful at monitoring the special education process and designing an Individual Educational Plan for their child.

Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges is a retired School Psychologist’s effort to meet the need for empowered parents prepared for the business of answering the question, “Is special education necessary, even if the child is eligible?” The law states that education should occur in the least restrictive environment. The least restrictive environment is the general education classroom with needed assistance.

There are many dynamics that occur in the education environment that necessitates on occasion that this does not always occur.

This manual empowers parents with an insider’s view of special education, and prepares them for meetings with a list of what to do, when to do it, what to say and when to say it, and what to do if they don’t get the right answer.

In addition to all this, the book explains environmental factors that cause interference with the development of the central nervous system in the developing child, and how to identify and remove these factors from their child’s environment so that he experiences normal neurological development.

Lastly, the book provides modifications and strategies for helping the child at home and school. The objective is to prepare parents to become a co-participant in the educational process by supporting at home what the teacher is asked to do in the classroom.

Having read this book, I can tell you I wish it was available a couple of years ago when I began navigating the waters of getting my daughter assessed and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) put in place. What made you decide to write it?

After assessing hundreds of children, and participating in the development of their IEP, I retired with the memory of so many unfortunate children and their frustrated parents whose needs were not being met by public education as it is currently organized. As a classroom teacher turned School Psychologist, I had an insight into the needs of children which one gains by being a classroom teacher. Reading about the learning problems of children is not the same as one-on-one contact with children in the classroom.

Friends after listening to me rank about children and learning often commented, “You should write a book.” After retirement, I got out of bed one morning and said, I think I’ll write that book today.

I began writing about something that I knew something about. When I finished the book and began editing for grammatical errors, I realized that I had been doing therapeutic writing, venting all the frustration about the things parents needed to know about their children, but would be a disadvantage to the schools, so the schools didn’t tell them.

I edited and reedited the book until all the anger was gone, then began to research and share all the things that I could now share with parents without being disloyal to my employers. By the end of the third year, I had compiled a manual of helpful information that would empower parents to take an active role in the special education process.

Let’s move into the meat of our interview because I want to focus on some of the information you bring up in Chapter 6 about nutrition and learning disabilities.

On Page 36 it says, “It may be accurate to say that the diet of most American children today is a diet that automatically results in a very low level of intelligence.” Why might that be true?

The US Department of Agriculture states that only 2% of children in the US actually meet the recommendations of the Food Guide Pyramid, resulting in a lack of sufficient nutrients to build a healthy brain and nervous system in 98% of our children.

Making matters worse, most children simply do not eat enough of the critical elements needed to build and maintain the brain from infancy. As the brain develops it needs first gamma linolenic acid an essential fatty acid found in abundance in human breast milk, but entirely missing from cow’s milk or soy substitutes. Clinical studies have shown that babies weaned on cow’s milk score lower on intelligence tests than those weaned on human breast milk. This presents a very potent case in favor of breastfeeding.

The brain is composed of billions of neurons, or nerve cells. The more brain cells the child has, the more intelligent he is because he has a greater capacity to think and problem solve. With malnutrition restricting the availability of the nutrients needed to build neurons, fewer neurons are built. Severe cases of malnutrition result in severe mental deficiencies. A diet that provides moderate nutrients for brain development will result in moderate intelligence. There are very often other factors involved, however, and in the book 7 other conditions effecting the development of the brain and central nervous system are discussed, and they are all equally important to the development of the learning mechanisms of the brain.

Isn’t this surprising news in a world where Americans are living longer and exercise and good nutrition are pushed harder than ever before?

In the US government, there are two very important but mutually exclusive groups known as the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The DOA researches and publishes the Food Pyramid telling people all the good foods they should be eating, and the FDA grants permission to put the very additives into our food that the DEA tells us is not good for us. Over the years the Department of Agriculture has increased its efforts to get the people to engage in a healthier diet and life style, while the Food and Drug Administration approves more dangerous drugs and chemical food additives that are killing adults and causing brain deformities in our children.

Just for fun, listen to all the side effects added as a disclaimer on drug commercials. The side effects far out weigh any benefits gained from some drugs. While they tell us all the things that comprise the food products offered for sale, it would be more beneficial to the public if they just didn’t permit companies to put those harmful chemicals into the food supply. If the FDA were to state suddenly, we will only permit pure nature ingredients into our food, the incidence of learning disabilities would significantly decrease.

The book also discusses hypoglycemia. How much impact does sugar and carbonated beverages have on brain function?

The body needs fuel to work. One of its major fuel sources is sugars, which the body gets from what is consumed as either simple sugar or complex carbohydrates. Of all the organs in the body, the brain depends on sugar (glucose) almost exclusively. The brain cannot make its own glucose and is 100% dependent on the rest of the body for its supply. If for some reason, the glucose level in the blood falls (or if the brain's requirements increase and demands are not met) there can be effects on the function of the brain.

Complex carbohydrates, found in vegetables and whole grains, help to avoid hypoglycemia by replenishing glucose at regular intervals. These foods take longer to digest, releasing nutrients into the blood stream gradually. This keeps the body’s energy constant.

Refined carbohydrates absorb very rapidly into the bloodstream because little digestion is required. This causes a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, followed by an increase in the production of insulin, which removes sugar from the blood and results in a low level of blood sugar.

A low blood sugar reaction can cause recurrent fatigue, irritability, tension, hyperactivity and aggression. These behavioral changes occur because the brain does not have the necessary nutrients to produce normal behavior.

A child with low blood sugar feels miserable, and has difficulty learning. This can be avoided by providing a diet of complex carbohydrates found in vegetables and whole grains and be sure that the child eats them for breakfast, the most important meal of the school day.

What can you tell us about the large-scale study of 200 hyperactive children that is mentioned on Page 38?

Here is a summarized report of a similar study taken from one of my favorites

“A change in eating that is as strong as attention deficit drugs?! “

Researchers at the University of Southampton studied over 1800 three-year-old children, some with and some without ADHD, some with and some without allergies. After initial behavioral testing, all of the children got one week of a diet without any artificial food colorings and without any chemical preservatives. The children's behavior measurably improved during this week. But was this from the extra attention, from eating more fruits and vegetables, or from the absence of the preservatives and artificial colors?

To answer this question, the researchers continued the diet, but gave the children disguised drinks containing either a mixture of artificial colorings and the preservative benzoate, or nothing - each for a week. The results were published in the June 2004 Archives of Diseases in Childhood. The weeks that children got the hidden colors and preservatives, their behavior was substantially worse. This held true whether or not they had been diagnosed with hyperactivity, and whether or not they had tested positive for allergies - good news for parents of 3 year olds everywhere!

Removing artificial colors and preservatives from the diet was dramatically effective at reducing hyperactivity - somewhere between the effectiveness of clonidine and Ritalin, two common ADHD drugs. How much better to support children's mood and behavior with healthy food, than to just turn to drugs! Some children may still need medicine, but with a healthy diet, we may be able to use lower doses. And it seems to me that this diet may be better for all children, whether or not they have behavior problems.”

Can food allergies play a role in behavior and brain function?

Some of what is known about allergies is that they have a significant impact upon a child’s performance. Some forms of hyperactivity, short attention span and mood swings are caused by allergies and intolerances for certain foods and other environmental factors. Allergies can also play havoc with a child’s ability to benefit from classroom instruction.

For these reasons, when a child is diagnosed with learning problems and poor behavior, consideration should be given to the role that chemicals, stress, food allergies and other factors in the environment may be having upon the child’s performance.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding nutrition, let’s talk about solutions. It’s easy to say, cut out this, substitute that and make sure your child is eating X, Y and Z. It’s not always easy putting it into practice. With families who are busy with work, school, and multiple extracurricular activities, how do we improve children’s diets without sacrificing a significant amount of time?

Like all other things in life, one has to set priorities. I don’t think any busy mother has stopped to ask herself the question: “What is more important for my child, a well developed social life filled with extracurricular activities, or a healthy mind in a healthy body?” I have not encountered any research that concludes that a lack of extracurricular activities interfered with learning.

Parents sometimes have to make these decisions for children based upon long term goals for the child’s future. In real life, a healthy brain in a healthy mind bodes more likely success than all the other activities combined.

One approach might be a family meeting in which the effects of poor diet and nutrition are discussed. Agree upon and make a list of the foods the family should have then have each person assume responsibility for helping achieve the objectives. This would be a good time to learn to set priorities, to compare present benefits with future consequences.

Some meals can be cooked the night before, use a slow cooker, prepare meals ahead of time and pop them in the microwave. And then slow down, way down the wisest people are calm and collected. Would you give up the social life if it had a direct, negative connection to your child’s hyperactivity?

The book also mentions the negative impact of fast foods. Are there some fast food options that might be better than others?

Not going to let you off the hook on that one. The healthiest fast foods I know are organically grown vegetables prepared the night or weekend before and popped in the microwave. Again it is a matter of priorities. A trip to the beach on a Saturday morning, or a few hours in the kitchen preparing next week’s fast foods.

Some school systems have a wellness policy in place for their cafeterias. Should this be required in all school systems?

For some children, the school cafeteria is their only source of health food. So yes, of course school cafeterias should have a wellness policy in place. In some schools the cafeteria produces health edible food. In other systems where food is mass produced and shipped to the schools, you have to read the menu to determine what you are about to eat. Often it is a disguised group of chemical additives that teachers and adults won’t eat. Yet, it is deemed ok for our children.

How much of a difference can one good meal make to a child’s brain function?

If you are going to give a child one good meal, make it a breakfast of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods digest slowly giving the brain a steady supply of nutrients throughout the morning it will prevent hypoglycemia and all the associated symptomatic behaviors.

On test day, this one meal can mean the difference between a diagnosis of learning disability, or average performance. That is why the school psychologist asks whether the child ate breakfast. If he did not, the test scores are invalid because you don’t have a measure of normal brain function.

Any final advice for parents seeking to improve their child’s diet?

Children can’t eat what you don’t buy. Substitute fresh fruit and popcorn for fatty snacks; filtered water for soda and other soft drinks containing caffeine sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and don’t feed your kids foods that have things you can’t pronounce listed under ingredients. If it is not a natural food that you can visualize when you read it, don’t feed it to your kids.

Children are precious commodities. Pretend that they are valuable antiques worth thousands of dollars. You will be more motivated to protect them by preventing the decline of brain function, allergies, and other damage done by the environment.

Where should readers go if they want to know more about Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges?

The book can be reviewed and purchased at The site also contains a lot of helpful information that is not included in the book.

How can readers pick up a copy of the book?

It will be in all major bookstores soon.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for a second guest post on your blog.

Thank you for spending so much time with us today. I’m thankful that someone took the time to write such a helpful book for parents.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beach Trip by Cathy Holton -- Book Review and Giveaway

Looking for a great summer read? Look no further than Beach Trip: A Novel by Cathy Holton.

Mel, Sara, Annie and Lola were roommates and best friends at Bedford University in Mount Clemmons, North Carolina. After graduation, however, their lives took very different paths and the women grew apart.

Now in their forties, Lola invites her former college buddies to her lavish North Carolina beach house for a week, hoping to renew their friendship. As the story unfolds, a past filled with secrets threatens to be revealed, and their lives may never be the same.

Cathy Holton knows women's fiction and she writes it well. Beach Trip opens in the Spring of 1982 with an event that will have a long lasting impact on Lola and her three friends. The reader quickly moves to the present day in 2005, where Mel, Annie and Sara are deciding if they will accept Lola's invitation, each coming up with reasons why they shouldn't. This is the format for most of the book and it works well, allowing the backstory to easily be woven into the current events.

Holton's strength is definitely character development. In Mel, Annie, Sara and Lola she has created four complex, multi-faceted women whose past is closely woven into their present. I found the backstory in this novel to be more engrossing than the present-day happenings, though admittedly, from the moment I picked this book up I couldn't put it down.

Through dialogue and well-drawn descriptions, the author paints an excellent picture of the setting and culture of the area. While I have never been as far south as Wilmington, after numerous trips to the Northern Outer Banks region, I felt very at home in Lola's world. I also enjoyed Mel's mention of how even people who knew her for a long time in New York couldn't get used to her slow, Southern way of speaking. It's something that also rings true from our various trips down to North Carolina.

There are moments when you might not care too much for these women, especially Mel, who is really tough to understand and appreciate. But in the end, I truly believe that most readers will see a little of themselves somewhere within this book's pages.

A cathartic journey that comes to a surprising and superbly written conclusion, Beach Trip by Cathy Holton should be on your summer reading list!

Title: Beach Trip: A Novel
Author: Cathy Holton
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345505999
ISBN-13: 978-0345505996
SRP: $25.00 (U.S.)

Would you like to win a copy of Beach Trip by Cathy Holton? Find the rules for how to enter our giveaway below:

The Rules:

1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

2) Get an additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you blogged about it.

3) Tweet about this contest. Don't forget to let us know here that you tweeted!

The Beach Trip giveaway runs from today until August 31st. A winner will be announced at this blog in early September.

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.

Good luck!!!

Summer Reading Giveaway!!!!

In June we ran a giveaway for an Advanced Reading Copy of Sea Changes by Gail Graham. Now is your chance to win one of two additional copies of this ARC that we have available.

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

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

Gail Graham’s previous novel, CROSSFIRE, won the Buxtehude Bulle, a prestigious German literary award. CROSSFIRE has been translated into German, French, Danish, Finnish and Swedish. Three of Gail’s other books were NY Times Book of the Year recommendations. Gail lived in Australia for 32 years, where she owned and operated a community newspaper and published several other books, including A COOL WIND BLOWING (a biography of Mao Zedong) STAYING ALIVE and A LONG SEASON IN HELL. She returned to the United States in 2002, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona.


1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

2) Get an additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you blogged about it.

3) Tweet about this contest. Don't forget to let us know here that you tweeted!

The Sea Changes ARC giveaway runs from today until August 31st. Two winners will be announced at this blog in early September.

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.

Good luck!!!

Winner of Gracious Living on Social Security!!!

Our congratulations go out to Debbie for winning a copy of Gracious Living on Social Security by Valerie Kent!

Gracious Living is an easy-to-read decade-long journey that offers tips and suggestions on how senior citizens can stretch their dollar and get the most for their money. Eleven chapters cover every important aspect of living together, from the wedding preparations to where to live. Key considerations follow each chapter for quick reference: Considerations like where and when to buy clothing, choosing a place to live and juggling your finances. Artist Jeff Nitzberg adds his unique touch with original drawings introducing each chapter.

Disappointed you didn't win? Pick up your copy of Gracious Living on Social Security at for under $15.00.

Now, that's living graciously!

Thanks to all who participated. We have new Summer Reading Giveaways running right now. Check out the first one here.

Too Many Visitors for One Little House by Susan Chodakiewitz

You'll find a funny and delightful story of offbeat neighbors making a big splash when they move into a quiet community in Too Many Visitors for One Little House by Susan Chodakiewitz.

The neighbors of El Camino Street don't seem to like anything: pets, kids, or big families. They hate babies, huggy-kissy families and music. So when the new neighbors move in, they are not happy at all. They pull up in a huge camper and out comes teens with tons of stuff, grown-ups, a toddler, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. They zip on skateboards, play music and clatter around the kitchen.

The people of El Camino Street must do something...but none of them expects what comes next.

Too Many Visitors for One Little House is a charming and funny story of being included, making new friends and accepting our differences. Author Susan Chodakiewitz does an excellent job of creating quirky characters who come together at a new house for a family reunion, much to the dismay of the older residents of the street.

Children may relate one of these cranky neighbors to someone they know; and they will certainly find at least one character who reminds them of a family member. Based upon the back cover blurb, it's possible that Chodakiewitz used her own big family as inspiration for this story.

Illustrator Veronica Walsh makes her debut with Too Many Visitors for One Little House. From cover to cover her digital color illustrations perfectly compliment the story and her attention to detail brings these fictional characters to life for young readers.

Perhaps the best part of Too Many Visitors for One Little House is that children will be learning while enjoying a humorous and engaging story.

You and your child will love to read this story over and again.

Title: Too Many Visitors for One Little House
Author: Susan Chodakiewitz
Publisher: Booksicals
ISBN: 978-1-4196-5470-1
SRP: $13.99 (U.S)

Summer Inspirational Reading Giveaway!!!

Are you ready for the big SUMMER READING GIVEAWAYS?

I have to admit this is tough for me because any time I enjoy a book I want to own it and hold onto it forever; but I literally have no room left on my shelves...even after making a few donations to the local library. They are almost at the point of asking me not to give them more books because they don't have the space to store them either.

But this means good news for all the readers here at The Book Connection. I certainly hope if this is your first time dropping in at The Book Connection that you'll become a follower, add us to your blogroll and let people know about us because we feature a lot of great books here.

Enough of my rambling, let's get started. This inspirational book pack includes four books: Choices, My Secrets, The Secret of Yahweh, Sermonsnacks ~ Help...Hope...and Encouragement for today...and You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think. Since these books reach different age groups, this would make an excellent addition to a Christian family's library.

Here is more information on these books:

Choices, My Secrets by Thomas Wade Bounds - This planned series for teens gives parents a way to jumpstart conversations about the important choices facing our young people today. In the first book, My Secrets, released by Xulon Press, young Rachel gets pregnant after one night of passion shared with her boyfriend Gary. She doesn't find out until after Gary leaves for college and he never returns any of her messages. Left alone to decide what she will do, Rachel believes abortion is the only way. As a frightened Rachel waits for the doctor to come in and perform the procedure, she passes out and has dreams of her unborn child, which make her realize she might have another choice.

The Secret of Yahweh by LeFerna Arnold-Welch - It's the start of a new school year and best friends Mary and Petey are hoping to avoid mean kids like The Con and Bitsy. But to their horror, The Con, Bitsy and some of the other mean kids are in Miss Sawyer's class too.

When the children are told that the words "under God" are being removed from the daily reciting of The Pledge of Allegiance, everyone is confused. Why can't they say it the way they always have? And so Miss Sawyer's class embarks upon a journey to discover how the modern interpretation of the First Amendment has removed any practice of religion from their school.

The day Mary brings J.C. Lamb with her to school turns into utter chaos as the children realize not everyone is able to see or hear the fuzzy lamb with the heart embroidered on his chest. But Miss Sawyer can see him, and she assures everyone if they come to Mystery Sunday at her church, everything will be made crystal clear. (Ages 7 - 12)

Sermonsnacks by Don Collette (autographed copy) - This powerful devotional will inspire you along life's journey and make the ordinary seem extraordinary. Donald Collette chose the best Scriptures and perfectly matched them with thought-provoking comments to put together a devotional that is powerful, yet easy to read.

You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think by Ray Comfort - This is a compilation of questions and answers from Comfort's Atheist Central blog, along with additional comments from the author. The book also includes quotes from Professor Stephen Hawking, author C. S. Lewis, Sir Issac Newton, and several Biblical quotations.

Tackling such issues as: Creation Must Have a Creator, The Promise of Heaven and Eternal Life and What Sets Christianity and Christians Apart, the author uses Biblical evidence and the lack of reliable evidence proving the theory of evolution, to engage the reader in a thought-provoking journey that leads to only one conclusion--God exists and He wants to have a relationship with you.


1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

2) Get an additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you blogged about it.

3) Tweet about this contest. Don't forget to let us know here that you tweeted!

This inspirational four-pack giveaway runs from today until August 31st. A winner will be announced at this blog in early September.

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.

Good luck!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

In Pursuit of an Idea by Kim Smith, Author of A Will to Love

We welcome Kim Smith back to The Book Connection today. Her new book is a romance novel titled, A Will to Love.

Benton Jessup wants his bed and breakfast to be successful. He will go to no lengths to insure that it does. But when Kitty Beebe, a famous romance author, arrives at The Inn, his desire for success becomes a struggle of wills with love.

In the Pursuit of an Idea by Kim Smith

Recently, I was out of town on a business trip. No great thing but for the fact that I had horrible trouble with the airlines that was supposed to move me from point A to point B. The long wait times (two different days!) gave me plenty of opportunities to think about situations and writing and what worked and what didn’t.

For most beginning writers, the pursuit of an idea wide enough to carry an entire book is a big deal because many agents and publishers say “make the story universal, make it something that is timeless”. Most beginners (some who are not as well) take this advice seriously. They want to do everything right straight out of the gate.

I know many established, multi-published authors who take the idea that flashes through their mind and keep building on it “off the paper” for extended periods of time. Some have even developed their characters, their settings, or their plot for years in their pre-planning. But, for some of us, this simply won’t work. I happen to be one of these other writers, the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sorts. This post is not for the writer who can create for extended periods before writing their first word, but rather the ones who cannot.

As I sat in the airport contemplating writing something (anything!) because my heart felt that I had put it off too long trying to make it into something useful not wasted, I remembered William Faulkner.

He is quoted as saying, "Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him"

So I am here to tout the news that it is okay to write out the idea on paper, not carry it around in our heads, go forward, dive right into the story by writing a few thousand words. It is okay to turn those few thousand into a few thousand more in an attempt to see if it will go anywhere, only to discover that you do not have a story. Yes, I am an advocate of broken beginnings, saggy middles, and books with no hope.

Why, you ask, would I do such a thing? Why would I encourage writers to write anything less than their best, and most well-thought out work? Waste paper, muddle a mind?

Because writers write. That’s what we do, that’s who we are!

Beginning writers (especially) need to keep poking the muse to see what she has to offer up. When we censor our writing mind, and toss out ideas before they have a chance to be developed (because someone says “that won’t work” or “that’s been done before”), we get into a mind-set that hobbles our creativity.

Let that weak idea flow! You may have a short story, not a novel. You may have a character sketch, or a mood piece, not necessarily a short story, but that is perfectly fine. You still have something to write. Something that moves your writing life forward a little bit more than yesterday. Along the way, you will know when it is right, when it is something that can be stretched, or developed, when it will go into a bigger piece of the puzzle, and who better to know such as that? It is your story to tell, your character to develop, your plot to pursue.

After returning from my business trip, I walked the grounds of Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi. I smiled when I felt the urge to write hit me. I didn’t tarry either. Maybe ole Will was standing somewhere under one of those huge, old trees in the avenue, waving at me—(laughing, probably) telling me to go, go, go at my fierce determination to wrestle something out in the name of writing. Telling me to be free in my methods, my failures. I had a small amount of success, churning out one small story. Thanks, Will.

Kim Smith is the hostess for the popular radio show, Introducing WRITERS! radio show on Blog Talk Radio. She is also the author of the zany, Shannon Wallace mystery series available now from Red Rose Publishing and also the new romance novel, A Will to Love. You can visit Kim’s website at

Summer Reading Giveaways at TBC

It's time to clear our shelves and that means you have the chance to win some great books!

Starting next week, The Book Connection will be running major book giveaways. Some are ARCs, some are autographed and all of them you'll want to own.

Do you like inspirational titles? How about mysteries? Are you looking for a book to get your son or daughter ready for middle school?

We have these and more. Check back next week to see what titles are available and enter to win.

All giveaways will run through the end of August, so there will be plenty of chances to win and you'll receive extra chances by getting the word out about these giveaways.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Humane Award - Paying it Forward

Imagine my surprise when my fellow author, client and cherished friend, Beverly Stowe McClure sent me an email awarding me The Humane Award. I wish to thank Bev for this honor and encourage you to check out her blog, The Story of A Writer. Bev writes for young adults and one of her books, Rebel in Blue Jeans, was featured by The Book Connection.

According to this award's description, it is to honor certain bloggers who I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn't for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a regular basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world. And I would like to do so now. There are many, many I could list. These are just a few that I'd like to give this award to:

* Malcolm Campbell, also known as, Sun Singer and his Sun Singer's Travels blog

* Barry Eva, also known as, Storyheart and his Across the Pond blog

* The blog of author J.W. Nicklaus

* Kim Chatel and her Chatel Village site, which includes several blogs on a variety of topics

* Mayra's Secret Bookcase by Mayra Calvani

* I'm Booking It by Laura De Leon

Once again, thanks to these and all my blogging friends. I certainly hope you'll visit their blogs and consider becoming followers.

First Night, being a Walking Tour with Alex and Jackie by Tom Weston

Our special guest today is Tom Weston, author of First Night.

Alexandra O'Rourke, aged 16, is not a happy camper. It's New Year's Eve. She should be partying in San Diego with her friends, but instead she is stuck in Boston, with just her younger sister, Jackie, for company. As if that wasn't bad enough, she is being haunted by Sarah, the ghost of a seventeenth century Puritan. Oh, and there is the small matter of the charge of witchcraft to be sorted out.

Armed only with big shiny buttons and a helping of Boston Cream Pie, the sisters set out to restore the Natural Order. Can Alex solve the mystery of the Devil's Book? Can Jackie help Sarah beat the sorcery rap? And can they do it before the fireworks display at midnight? Because this is First Night - and this is an Alex and Jackie Adventure.

Having lived all my life in Massachusetts and having been to Boston multiple times for field trips and sporting events, I asked Tom to discuss some of the landmarks and familiar areas readers will find in First Night.

First Night, being a Walking Tour with Alex and Jackie
by Tom Weston

While First Night is a fantasy, I wanted to set the story in as real a world as possible. Cue Boston - although it would be more accurate to describe Boston on New Year's Eve as surreal.

Part of my aim was to feature Boston as a character in the book. So I dropped a great deal of ink on the history of the city. There are more than 70 landmarks referenced, many of them in detail.

I have to admit, I did worry if all this history throughout the novel would detract from its pace, but I have been gratified by the reactions of the readers: from Bostonians (of both the ‘I-never-knew-that-existed’ and the ‘been- there-done-that’ variety) to out-of-towners, who have been kind enough to write me that the book has made them want to visit the city and follow in Alex and Jackie’s footsteps.

And the good news is: many of the landmarks featured in the book (except, of course, for the ghostly Court of Spirits) are within walking distance of each other. Indeed several of them form part of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. In the story, Alex and Jackie manage to visit all of these sites in just one day. While this is technically possible (I know, I did it), to do so comes at the expense of a great deal of enjoyment and discovery. So if you visit Boston, I would suggest that you employ a more leisurely pace than that used by the girls.

I have been accused of favoritism in my selections. Indeed I left out so many worthy attractions that I could fill several Alex and Jackie sequels. But I hope that the reader will agree that I chose based on history and connection to the story, not because of personal preference. That said, if I had to highlight any particular landmarks of those featured in First Night, I would choose the following:

The first is the Granary Burying Ground: where the real child, Sarah Pemberton, was laid to rest in 1688. I won’t say where exactly - go and discover. It may seem macabre to list a graveyard as your number one tourist attraction, but the history of Boston (and America) stems from the people buried here, and it contains many names that will already be familiar to you. And this is where the story of First Night had its genesis, during a visit one earlier New Year's Eve. Before I put pen to paper, I knew that this would be where the story began and ended.

The second is the Old South Meeting House: another Boston gem that I discovered one New Year's Eve (thank God for those buttons). Small, sparse and unassuming – a cathedral it isn’t. But with its little museum dedicated to revolution, democracy and civil rights, it is both humbling and inspirational at the same time. That this also turned out to be Sarah’s church was a happy coincidence.

So if you find yourself in Boston, grab a map from the Visitor Center and follow the Freedom Trail, and don’t forget to say hello to Sarah.

Originally from England, Tom now hangs his hat in Boston, Massachusetts; with occasional spells in such faraway places as London and Luxembourg. Tom has a degree in Computer Science, and he claims to speak three languages: English, American, and Visual Basic. Before turning his hand to fiction, Tom had a successful career as the CEO of a systems consulting company, conference speaker, and writer of industry articles and business books.

As well as the novel, First Night, Tom has also written the screenplay, Fission, based on the true story of scientist, Lise Meitner, and the race for the atomic bomb. While Fission has yet to find a home in Hollywood, it garnered enough critical acclaim, including being named as a finalist at the London Independent Film Festival, that Tom was encouraged to keep on writing, resulting in his latest work which is, of course, First Night.

You find Tom online at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Time Management In An Instant by Keith Bailey and Karen Leland

Time Management In an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day (In an Instant (Career Press))

In today’s hurly-burly work environment many business people find it challenging to avoid distraction, stay focused, use their time and energy to maximum benefit, and gain ground on important goals and outcomes. One study by the Families and Work Institute found that one-third of Americans are overworked and more than 50 percent of those surveyed say they are either doing too many tasks at the same time or are frequently interrupted during the workday - or both. In short, we are overloaded!

Time Management In An Instant helps you to overcome this feeling of overload and avoid the traps that lead to an unproductive relationship with time. It offers field-tested time habits and expert advice based on the latest research that will help you better manage, create and spend your time with more satisfaction and results.

Based on the authors’ popular Time Management workshop, given to Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike, Time Management In An Instant outlines the best practices for improving your everyday work situations including:

* Harness the power of completion
* Link your core values to key projects
* Find the power of mini-tasks
* Master the art of time planning
* Play the 80/20 game of accomplishment
* Cut your meeting times in half
* Get a procrastination inoculation
* Arrest the biggest time crimes
* Take back your time - Just Say No
* Go for your goals - everyday
* Fight distraction and find your focus

My thoughts:

In case you haven't heard, time management and organization is my thing. I am a contributor to Writer2Writer, an online magazine geared toward assisting writers generate cash from their passion. My articles help our readers increase productivity through time management and organization.

When I read this book was going on tour, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It just came in on Monday, so I haven't had time to get too much into it yet, but here's what I can tell you I like so far:

* Its Size - At around 150 pages and in paperback, this book is easy to tuck into your briefcase and will make excellent reading material during lunch hour or while waiting for a doctor's appointment.

* The Content - The subtitle is "60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day", and those 60 things cover a lot of ground, so don't let its size fool you. From assessing your time-management skills to achieving your daily goals, and from determing what to delegate to getting a good night's sleep, I see a lot of topics I mention in my articles, and they can never be stated often enough for those who struggle with time managment.

* Its Cover - I absolutely love this cover! Covers sell books, and cover designer Howard Grossman did an excellent job in putting together a cover that is not only attractive, but speaks to the content of the book.

* The Format - With exercises, charts, tables and step-by-step instructions, this book will make learning how to manage your time easier.

Look for my full review of Time Management In An Instant, coming soon!

In 1986, Karen Leland and Keith Bailey founded Sterling Consulting Group, Inc. and shortly thereafter made history by being chosen over more than a dozen European competitors to become the first American consulting company to win a major contract for communication and service training within the British government.

Inc. Magazine chose Keith and Karen as their primary judges for the Inc. Magazine Positive Performer Award, which honors companies that have achieved an outstanding level of business excellence. For a period of five years, Karen and Keith were responsible for selecting the winning finalists from among 500 applicants.

Today, after having worked with some of the most prestigious companies in the world, they are internationally acclaimed experts on increasing productivity through the people side of business, whose speaking and consulting talents have brought them such clients as American Express, Oracle, AT&T, Marriott Hotels and IBM.

Their unique ability to make their research accessible, humorous and practical has led to a thriving business that takes them throughout North America, Southeast Asia and Europe, giving them the chance to both learn and teach world-class best business practices.

Karen and Keith are highly sought after keynote speakers and have presented to a wide range of audiences including: Young Presidents Association, American Management Association, American Marketing Association, The Bakersfield Business Conference and countless corporate meetings.

They are the best selling authors of seven books which have sold over 350,000 copies including Customer Service For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons), Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper in the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change (New Harbinger Publications), Customer Service In An Instant, Public Speaking In An Instant, Email In An Instant and Time Management In An Instant (Career Press). In addition to distribution within the US, their books have been translated into ten other languages.

Karen and Keith are regularly featured in the news media and have been interviewed by the New York Times, Newsweek, Fortune, Inc. Magazine and Time among others. They also have extensive on-air experience and have been interviewed on The Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America, Fox News and Oprah.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visit From the Publisher's Office

Last month Penquin (USA) launched From the Publisher's Office, which includes a Screening Room, Radio Room and Reading Room.

You'll find featured fiction and nonfiction titles, a list of books and authors, links to book clubs and the Penguin blog, live chats with authors and even be able to send them a note in via their Suggestion Box.

Be sure to check out From the Publisher's Office so that you can find some great summer reading material!

What if? - Pat McDermott and A Band of Roses

Today's guest blogger is Pat McDermott, author of the alternate history adventure novel A Band of Roses.

A Band of Roses is an alternate history adventure set in modern day Ireland. The "what if" premise of the story supposes that Irish High King Brian Boru survived the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 A.D. and founded a dynasty that rules Ireland to this day.

Crown Princess Talty Boru, the daughter of the current King Brian, is the heir to the throne, though she wishes she weren’t. She’d prefer to pursue a military career, but she’s resigned to her royal fate until England’s Prince Geoffrey seizes a tiny Irish island in the North Atlantic and the oil-rich ocean bed around it. Geoffrey plans to return the island to Ireland in exchange for oil wells in the Irish sea. He proposes a conciliatory treaty that would marry Talty to the unbalanced young English King. Talty agrees, as the terms demand that she relinquish her title as heir to the throne. She believes she’s free of her duties as crown princess, but a murder attempt on her wedding night turns her life upside down.

Multiple attempts on Talty’s life force King Brian to send her away to protect her, though he unwittingly sends her into further danger. From Japan to California, Talty must hide her true identity until her elders can set things straight. She can’t disguise her ingrained training as one of Ireland’s ancient Fian warriors, however.

Her recruitment into International Security Forces’ top secret Peregrine Project allows her to visit strange worlds, one an eleventh century Ireland preparing for the Battle of Clontarf. She finds romance and adventureand brings back a discovery worth more than any oil well, yet all she wants is to return to her family and her lifelong friend and protector Neil Boru, the adoptive cousin she secretly loves and can’t have—or so she thinks. Talty’s warrior cousin has a secret of his own, one that emerges as the Boru clan works with England's MI6 to thwart an invasion of Ireland and bring Talty home.

What If? by Pat MacDermott

From time to time, most of us wonder how life might have turned out if we’d had richer parents, attended another school, married a different person. Historians have asked similar questions concerning the outcome of world events. What if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen? What if the American Revolution had failed? What if Germany had won World War II?

Hold those thoughts for a moment, please. As a second generation Irish American, I’ll never know what it is to be truly Irish. I only have the stories my grandparents told, the songs they sang, the letters from siblings and cousins they never expected to see again. My childhood vision of Ireland was one of magical legends and ancient kings, banshees and leprechauns, rebellions and heroes. When at last I saw the real Emerald Isle, the palm trees astonished me. My grandparents never mentioned palm trees!

I longed for the Ireland I knew through song and story. My aunts had assured me our family had descended from Irish royalty, kings and queens long gone but hardly forgotten. How could such great men and women simply vanish?

What if they were still around?

In 1002 A.D., the chieftain of an obscure Irish clan rose to claim the High Kingship of Ireland. Brian Boru united Ireland’s warring tribes under one leader for the first and only time in Irish history. A scholar as well as a warrior, King Brian rebuilt churches, encouraged education, repaired roads and bridges, and roused the country to rise against the Norse invaders who had ravaged Ireland for centuries.
On Good Friday in 1014 A.D., Brian’s army challenged a host of Vikings and their allies on the plains of Clontarf. Though his troops were victorious, Brian’s son and grandson perished in the battle. Brian himself died as he prayed in his tent, murdered by fleeing Vikings who stumbled upon his camp.

Many historians have speculated that Ireland would be a different place today if Brian Boru and his heirs had survived the Battle of Clontarf. A Band of Roses presents one possible scenario.

So begins the preface of A Band of Roses, a book whose concept offered the refuge I sought. In my Ireland, King Brian survived the Battle of Clontarf. His descendants still rule modern Ireland, and the current crown princess, Talty Boru, longs to be anyone but the heir to her father’s throne. She quickly learns to be careful what she wishes for. Her adventures take her from Japan to California to an ancient Ireland whose facts don’t fit the history she knows. Time travel? Not quite. The parallel world she visits is ours.

While some argue that “Alternative History” is more grammatically correct, “Alternate History” has emerged as the common name of this interesting genre of fiction. The “what if” asked by so many authors has produced a wealth of thought-provoking tales. My “what if” has created an Ireland that might have been, one where all are welcome. I invite you to stop by and lose your way for a while.

Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts, Pat McDermott grew up in a family full of music and myths that have found their way into her stories. She is a member of The New Hampshire Writers' Project, Seacoast Writers' Association, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A frequent visitor to Ireland, she lives in New Hampshire, where she is currently working on her next novel.

To find out more about the author and her work visit