Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Featured Book: The Big Book of Dan by Daniel C. Dulik

About the book:

Eclectic, eccentric essays . . . satirical, salient stories . . . petulant, perceptive poems. ACRONYM, (Aggregate Congressional Re-engineering of Natural Yard Mammals), about an inept government committee called the EIEIO (Environmental Interlarding Ecosystem Interloping Organization), is the first in a series of stories and essays as diverse as the blurred scenery outside the car window when you are speeding down the highway. The Evolution of Man postulates the theory that humans at some point in their evolution were hermaphrodites. The dominant of the species evolved by mental acuity rather than physical ability. Amid these stories lurks a highly captivating and competitive game called Berm Bingo, based on identifying animals and found objects along the roadside. Entertaining poems are interspersed throughout. New Millennium Writings previously published “The Narcissist,” a poem of our times.

About the author:

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1948, the middle child of five, Dan began to develop a sense of humor in order to claim his place in the family. He grew up on the west side of town within walking distance of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, at a time when both were so toxic that when the river caught fire, the main concern was that it would spread to the lake. Humor became a useful tool to deflect scorn when asked where he was from. When a career in sales was foisted upon Dan, humor provided an expedient device to develop the gregarious façade helpful in closing deals

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guest Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I'd like to welcome Audrey Porterman who has stopped by to share a lovely book review she's written for us!

The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Guest Review by Audrey Porterman.

From Personal Collection

Bitterblue is the third companion novel in a world created by Kristin Cashore. Her three novels are set in the same world, but focus on different characters and different time periods in each novel. Some of the characters do overlap in each of the novels, which adds interest to the books.

Bitterblue is the main character in the book She is the queen of a country that was destroyed by lies and a truly evil king, Leck. Leck was also her father, and she is left trying to help your kingdom heal from the atrocities that her father committed while he ruled over them. She must learn what happened in the past, and what is happening now to have the opportunity to rule over her people.

The story begins with seventeen-year-old Bitterblue sneaking out of the castle to learn more about her city. Bitterblue is an extremely strong character that thinks for herself and is trying to make changes even though she feels trapped by her situation and frustrated by the information that she is feeling. As she explores the city she soon learns that reports she has been getting, and the things that she is finding are in stark contrast with each other. Bitterblue must use her wits to unravel the mystery in the kingdom so that it can have a chance to heal again.

Cashore has created a wonderful world where many of the characters are graced with special gifts or superhuman powers, and her previous two novels focused on characters with these gifts. However, Bitterblue is not graced with special abilities and must only use her wit to survive. This is a refreshing take and it is inspiring to see her figure out the solutions using her own wit and the help and friendship of those around her. Throughout the novel Bitterblue is given the opportunity to form relationships and work with those around her. You can see her growth as a character from the friendships she forms and the decisions she makes as a leader of her country.

This is a powerful novel because it looks at the damage that one corrupt leader can have over an entire nation and how long lasting those decisions may be on future generations. However, it does offer hope by the end of novel, and a chance for Bitterblue and her people to overcome the problems they have faced in the past.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was the chance to see Katsa and Po from Graceling again in detail. It is nice to see how these characters have progressed from their novel. I really enjoyed the world that Cashore has built, and her prose and descriptions are perfect. This is a fantasy novel, but it should be accessible to most readers because it is not high fantasy. This is considered a young adult novel, but it does have a strong crossover appeal, and all of the adults I have recommended her other books to have enjoyed them. 

★★★★ = Really Liked It

About Audrey:
Audrey Porterman is the main researcher and writer for doctoralprograms.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Ohio State, with a degree in business management. Her current focus for the site involves online english phd programs and criminal justice phd programs.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Guest Post: How John Medina's 12 Brain Rules can Transform Your Life by Sam Roberts

Sam Roberts, freelance writer, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

How John Medina's 12 Brain Rules can Transform Your Life

The human brain is a highly complex and sophisticated organ that can execute an astounding number of intricate tasks. To date, even the most powerful and sophisticated computers cannot fully simulate this human organ. Scientists are constantly seeking new and unique ways to study how the brain works and how it is influenced by external sources.

In his 12 Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares some fascinating information about how the human brain truly works and how anyone can maximize the performance of his or her brain. This really is a powerfully transformational book that anyone can digest. While Dr. Medina's book includes 12 specific rules, we'll take a look at four of them. This will allow you to get a taste of what 12 Brain Rules is all about. To really transform your life for the better and enjoy a more positive outlook about life, you will want to fully understand each of the rules outlined by Dr. Medina.

Rule #1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

By engaging in vigorous and consistent aerobic exercise, you can profoundly improve the quality of your life. This is because exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which corresponds to a surge in mental clarity and sharpness. Medina makes it clear that regular aerobic exercise helps improve executive functions, reaction times and quantitative skills.

Rule #7: Sleep Well, Think Well

You may think that when we are asleep, our brain is shutdown and inactive. However, this could not be farther from the truth. The human brain is actually incredibly active while we are asleep. The lack of sleep impairs our attention span, memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning and motor dexterity. You may have been taught that napping harms our productivity. However, Medina completely debunks this myth. Based on a study, NASA pilots' performance improved by 34 percent after just a 26-minute nap.

Rule #10: Vision Trumps All Other Senses

Humans are incredible at remembering pictures. If we hear a piece of information, we might remember 10 percent of it after three days. If a picture is thrown into the mix, we'll remember 65 percent of it after three days. If you have to deliver an important presentation to a group of people, be sure that your presentation includes a wealth of colorful images.

Rule #11: Male and Female Brains are Different

Male and female brains are very different, and this is one of the most important rules conveyed in 12 Brain Rules. Based on a study that involved men and women watching slasher films, men fired up the amygdale in their brain's right hemisphere, while women lit up their left hemisphere. What this means is that men are more interested in the gist of an event and women are more interested in the details of an event. There are several other fascinating distinctions that Medina makes in terms of the differences between the male and female brain.

By thoroughly understanding each of the 12 brain rules established by Dr. Medina, you can really begin to transform your life for the better. 12 Brain Rules is an excellent and fascinating read that will allow you to understand just how the human brain has evolved and functions after the many years of evolution. 

About the author:

Sam Roberts is fascinated in the latest developments in brain science. He is a regular contributor for KeyInsuranceQuotes.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Featured Book: The Churning Cauldron by Ronald Dahle

About the book:

There are those, who believe so strongly in an ideal or concept that it consumes their very soul. “The Deacon”, a retired Green Beret is one such person. He has decided that this nation of ours is in rapid decline and he plans to save it from a totally destructive Administration, as well as it’s other problems by whatever means possible. He has teamed up with several old friends with like backgrounds and they set out to, in their words “Save Lady Liberty.”

About the author:

Rebellious, freethinking and with abundant contempt for authority, Ron Dahle was the ideal Special Forces soldier. Ron epitomized “never a better friend or a worse enemy.” Ron retired from the US Army after 24 years of service as a Command Sergeant Major. Most of his Army career was spent in Special Forces where he rose to the highest levels of responsibility and fame. Unconventional, mercurial and intolerant of incompetence Ron was respected for his ability to get the tough jobs done. Constant in his loyalty to his friends Ron has an extensive network of brothers-in-arms from his service in five Special Forces Groups, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, plus 3779th Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Ron served in Vietnam during 1965. 1966, 1967, and 1970 experiencing life on the edge and acquiring a flavor for life that he still has. After retiring from the Army Ron worked as his interests drew him: railroad, wool mill, manager of a horse ranch, lumber jack, photographer, and now author. Today Ron remains ready to launch new adventures, here today, gone tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Kiss That Frog by Brian Tracy and Christina Tracy Stein

Just like the lonely princess in the fairy tale who was reluctant to lock lips with a warty frog and transform him into a handsome prince, something stops many of us short of attaining our dreams. Our negative thoughts, emotions, and attitudes can threaten to keep us from achieving all that we’re capable of. Here bestselling author and speaker Brian Tracy and his daughter, therapist Christina Tracy Stein, provide a set of practical, proven strategies anyone can use to turn those negative frogs into positive princes.

Tracy and Stein present a step-by-step plan that addresses the root causes of negativity, helps you uncover blocks that have become mental obstacles, and shows how you can transform them into stepping-stones to achieve your fullest potential. The book distills, in an accessible and immediately useful form, what Tracy has presented in more than 5,000 talks and seminars with more than five million people in fifty-eight countries and what Stein has learned through thousands of hours of counseling people from all walks of life.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” the authors quote Shakespeare. The many powerful techniques and exercises in this book will help you change your mindset so that you discover something worthwhile in every person and experience, however difficult and challenging they might seem at first. You’ll learn how to develop unshakable self-confidence, become your best self, and begin living an extraordinary life.

Received for review.

This was basically a pretty standard self-improvement book packaged in a new way.  Yes, the new framing was amusing and helped to present the material in a different way but the book was really just the condensed version of every other Tony Robbins/Jack Canfield book.  There was nothing really new about it.

If you're looking for a condensed version of standard self-improvement techniques this would be the perfect fit.  Everyone who has already read self-improvement broadly will most likely find this extremely repetitive.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Featured Book: The Evolution of Human Sexual Privacy by Andrew Haywein

About the book:

Few basic biological functions are more important to an individual or species than successful reproduction, yet so few of us are willing to talk about it. Despite today’s veritable deluge of sexual information, we need more than sexual information and/or sexual experience. Without including an understanding of the emotional aspects of sexual relationships and a sense of gender-related interpersonal dynamics, sexual information on its own is not enough, leaving us with many unanswered questions: • Why do women respond more slowly than men in arousal? • What is the significance of the human orgasm? • Why does sexual experience so often fail to lead to lasting relationships? • When is the most vulnerable time for a new relationship? These and other questions can be answered by our evolutional history. In this wide-ranging and penetrating study, the author offers a fascinating profile of how our human reproductive nature developed, showing how human sexual nature is inclined toward committed relationships and a biological investment in each generation’s young. He demonstrates that a critical reproductive turning point occurred with the advent of sexual privacy, strengthening male-female bonding and reinforcing human family development. The Evolution of Human Sexual Privacy gives us a better understanding of the enormously important but endlessly complex subject of human sexual nature.

About the author:

Andrew Haywein was a primary care physician for over 50 years and maintains an enduring interest in human prehistory. He lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: I Hate You, Kelly Donahue by Mark Svartz

As a little kid, a boy would pinch the girl he liked. As a grown-up, Mark Svartz plans her ultimate demise through a number of twisted murder plots that involve lead pipes, escape routes, and David Hasselhoff. Some guys never grow up.

This book chronicles the eight months, sixteen days, and some-odd hours since Mark first laid eyes on the despicable, wretched wench he's destined to fight to the death. Every note, thought, IM, email, Post-It, and craigslist ad looking for a crime-scene clean-up is meticulously catalogued in Mark's journal.

Is it a diary of a mad man? Or a man madly in love? Who cares? It's seriously messed up. And seriously funny.

Received for review.

I'd heard good things about this so I was intrigued to receive it for review.

Let's just say that I was not impressed.  At all.  The book itself looks like an eighth grader's journal.  It's wire bound which makes for incredibly annoying page turning, and you're turning the pages quickly because there is a minimum of text.

Yes, some parts were mildly amusing, so mildly that they did not make up for the lack of enjoyment in the other 99%.

While it was not "throw it across the room bad" if I'd bought it I would have returned it to the store for a refund.

☆☆ = Didn't Like It

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer

This book is dedicated to your mastery of the art of realizing all your desires. The greatest gift you have been given is the gift of your imagination. Everything that now exists was once imagined. And everything that will ever exist must first be imagined.

Wishes Fulfilled is designed to take you on a voyage of discovery, wherein you can begin to tap into the amazing manifesting powers that you possess within you and create a life in which all that you imagine for yourself becomes a present fact.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer explores, for the first time, the region of your highest self; and definitively shows you how you can truly change your concept of yourself, embark upon a God-realized way of living, and fulfill the spiritual truth that with God all things are possible—and “all things” means that nothing is left out.

By practicing the specific technique for retraining your subconscious mind, you are encouraged to not only place into your imagination what you would like to manifest for yourself, but you are given the specifics for realigning your life so you can live out your highest calling and stay connected to your Source of being. From the lofty perspective of your highest self, you will learn how to train your imagination in a new way.

Your wishes—all of them—can indeed be fulfilled. By using your imagination and practicing the art of assuming the feeling of your wishes being fulfilled, and steadfastly refusing to allow any evidence of the outer world to distract you from your intentions, you will discover that you, by virtue of your spiritual awareness, possess the ability to become the person you were destined to be.

This book will help you See—with a capital S—that you are divine, and that you already possess an inner, invisible higher self that can and will guide you toward a mastery of the art of manifestation. You can attain this mastery through deliberate conscious control of your imagination! 

Received for review.

I've read most of the author's previous books and when I heard he had a new one coming out I was really excited about it and jumped at the chance to review it.

I actually really enjoyed this and would have rated it a four but for the extensive Christian and bible references in what one would think would be a non-religious book.

That said, the messages presented were the usual post-Secret kind but had the author's particular twist to them.

The part that concerned me was that the author proclaims that his method of positive thinking will heal all ills, however he himself is suffering from a serious disease and his wife left him.  The method just doesn't seem to be working particularly well for him.

In any case, the ideas and methods should provide at least some beneficial results for most readers who apply them.  Of course, not all of us live a life of leisure in Hawaii like the author so they may need to be applied a bit more vigorously for those of us in the real world.

Fans of the author should find this an intriguing addition to their libraries and Secret fans should find familiar themes.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: The Secret of Quantum Living by Frank J Kinslow

For years people have been waiting for a book that merges the abstract Eastern philosophy of inner peace with the scientific applications of quantum physics. Well, that book has finally arrived! The Secret of Quantum Living is a straightforward guide that offers profound spiritual insights and a practical, easy-to-apply process for healing and harmonious living.

Join Dr. Frank Kinslow on a journey to deep inner peace through what quantum physics calls the “implicate order.” Within the pages of this powerful book, you will learn Dr. Kinslow’s process of Quantum Entrainment® (QE) and discover how to enrich and enliven all areas of your life. You’ll be able to resolve problems or challenges you face by applying QE to your finances, your relationships, your sex life . . . and even your eating, sleeping, and exercising habits. You will also uncover ways to dissolve anger issues, negative thinking, physical pain, and emotional discord. And the great news is that anyone can practice QE! It doesn’t require previous training, and it’s so simple that a child can do it.

The Secret of Quantum Living is fun to read and exciting to apply. You’ll begin seeing results from your very first session. Give it a try . . . you’ll be surprised how quickly the process works for you!

Received for review.

The book's premise sounded quite intriguing so I leaped right in, and promptly fell asleep after about five pages.  I thought it was a fluke so I picked the book up the next day and began to read ... only to discover I'd fallen asleep yet again!  It took me simply ages to finish reading this since every single time I started reading it it put me to sleep.  Seriously, this was better than a sleeping pill!

Sleep inducing qualities aside I actually quite enjoyed this.  The author's tone and flow made for an enjoyable read.  It came across more like listening to a lecture by a well-liked professor than reading a science heavy quantum physics tone.

This was a nice mixture of a non-denominational spirituality a la Deepak Chopra and new age healing.

I can't personally attest to the healing results of the QE process but it does seem to have potential and everything is worth a try.

I certainly recommend this to those readers interested in alternative healing modalities.  At the very least it will be a calming and educational read.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Who Will Care When You're Not There? by Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth A. Carrie

Practical guide to planning for your pets' care when you are no longer able to care for them. Explains why this type of planning is critical for your pets' welfare, the available options, and how to do it. Includes extensive tear-out Pet Information Sheet, Pet Trust Drafting Checklist, wallet card for pet owner, sign for residence of pet owner, and table analyzing laws of 50 states relative to pet trusts. With this book you will be able to direct you attorney to draft the necessary documents -- saving hours of legal time by having already done your homework. 14 full-color illustrations and inspirational quotations to lift your spirits!

Received for review.

Although this is a subject no one who loves their furry babies would like to ponder this is the book to consult on the subject.

Well written by authors who are clearly animal lovers, this provides everything you need to know to get you started with the process.

This is a must read for anyone with furry babies.  They really should carry this at every vet's office.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Featured Book: Clarabelle's Rose by Judy Kashi

About the book:

Clarabelle’s Rose explores the appalling world of racism during the 1960s and 1970s and the secrets, challenges and pain that accompany bigotry. Clarabelle Simmons, who has been physically abused throughout her childhood, hears her racist father plotting to murder a local black man, but remains silent fearing she might be killed as well. Shortly thereafter, Clarabelle is raped by a mentally challenged black man and gives birth to a biracial daughter she calls Rose. Along the way, she meets and befriends a black woman whose family was affected by Clarabelle’s father’s hatred. As their friendship blossoms, secrets are revealed, that can destroy their worlds. A decade after the baby’s birth, Clara, Sara and Rose return to their hometown and risk their lives to face the Klansmen who tried to destroy them. Will they succeed at finding justice or will their efforts be futile? Clarabelle, Sara and Rose take the reader on a journey and along the way they discover forgiveness, redemption and friendship.

About the author:

Judy Kashi is married with four children and lives in New Jersey

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim by Scott Alan Roberts

The ancient books of Genesis and Enoch tell us that sprit beings known as the Watchers descended to the Earth, had sex with women, and begat a hybrid race of offspring known as the Nephilim.

Such tales are as old as humanity itself. These histories and accounts of visitations and subsequent mixed-blood, alien-human races comprise the bulk of the world's myths, legends, religions, and superstitions.

The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim examines:
  • Elohim and the Bene Ha Elohim--God and the Sons of God
  • The Watchers: UFOs, extraterrestrials, angels, infiltrators, and impregnators
  • Biblical and apocryphal sources from Enoch to Moses
  • The role of the Fae, Elves, Elementals, and ancient gods
What if the old spiritualities and religions weren't just legends?

What if there was something living and breathing beneath the surface, a tangible interlinking of religious thought and spirituality, science and myth, inter-dimensionality and cold, hard fact?

The Nephilim walked among us... and still do today.

Received for review.

First of all, the author works from the idea that the bible is a historically accurate document.  From that view there were quotes from it on nearly every page.  Fine, I could deal with that.  What I absolutely could not deal with was the propaganda about Moses and the Egyptian pharaohs.  The author seemed to just ignore all archaeological evidence entirely and go into some sort of fantasy scenario.

I had to abandon this after that section.  The bible quotes became increasingly oppressive, and the accomanying "evidence" just too far fetched.  It wasn't even mildly amusing enough to pretend that it was science fiction.

Frankly this mixture of pseudoscience and religion was just too bizarre.  The best I can say for it is that it was a nicely bound trade paperback with a readable font.  Give it a pass.  Really, don't even crack it open, just step away.

☆☆ = Didn't Like It

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Featured Book: Wake Up Americans by William H. James

About the book:

The United States is weak and becoming weaker. People are unnecessarily losing their homes and security. Businesses are collapsing. Among many problems, the nation has a debt-based, systemically flawed, exploitive, and nation-weakening monetary and banking system which should be modified. That nation-weakening system is called monetarism in this book and its controllers are called monetarists. As explained here, it has long been foreseeable that the United States, under monetarism, could not and cannot win strategically either in peace or in relation to its wars even if its military forces are powerful. The United States has been losing strategically for years. Political conflicts are developing and intensifying worldwide, instability and chaos reign, the weak United States is in danger, and under monetarism it is unable to serve the best interests of its people. The nation needs new strengths and increasing national strategic power. Under monetarism the United States is declining in relative strategic power and has many serious problems including foreseeable increased national debts, debt-burdened states and communities, deteriorating public services, two current unwinnable wars, and other problems. Many nations in Western Europe are also having monetarist-generated problems while China, India, and Russia are building their relative strategic power. Significantly, the United States and the West are weakening while the East is becoming more powerful. This book describes recommendations for helping to strengthen and build the nation and for improving the lives of the people without causing an increase in national and public debts. Many nations are in a critical phase of history. The United States needs many changes including new political, economic, geopolitical, and monetary reasoning, new goals, new independence, and new and constructive nation-building leaders. The lives of the people should be improved and the nation should be strengthened and built. Start building it now!

About the author:

The author has a baccalaureate degree from Brown University, masters and doctoral degrees from Yale University, an honorary doctorate from the University of New Haven, 60 years in education including 40 years of teaching and administration from the elementary grades to higher education; four years of military service during World War II primarily as a combat intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Air Force in India, China, and on Tinian Island; and additional years of adjunct teaching of history, international relations, macroeconomics, management, labor-management relations, and other related subjects at four colleges and universities. Other background experiences are described in this book

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Post: Andrea Kayne Kaufman author of Oxford Messed Up

Andrea Kayne Kaufman, author of the book Oxford Messed Up, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.

Redemptive Love

The word I most frequently use to describe the romance between Henry and Gloria in my novel Oxford Messed Up is redemptive. It’s a heavy word, for sure, but one I use intentionally and deliberately. I don’t mean redemptive in the sense that either character has done anything truly wrong and must make amends to society. They’re not convicts, that’s for sure! It’s more about the philosophy of allowing a second chance. Of believing in fulfillment, restoration, and being set free. All of those fall under redemptive love and all apply to Gloria and Henry.

This isn’t a boy meets girl, something zany happens or a tempting other suitor appears, and they work stuff out kind of novel. That’s the world of sitcom, romcom, and chick lit. I’ll happily curl up on a weekend night to watch a romantic comedy and all those genres serve a purpose, but not the purpose I wanted to serve. Instead, I wanted to offer readers a complex, nuanced love story. One that, while wholly unique to my characters, felt familiar in the sense that love isn’t slapstick. It’s hard work, it’s hard, and it’s fragile. And a true love is much more than a happily ever after.

Oxford Messed Up is a love triangle between two people and the inner demons that sabotage them. It’s a redemptive love because we all suffer those love triangles, battling the internal saboteurs who deny us happiness. All of us have that saboteur. The story, then, is about overcoming whatever you’re struggling with to find hope and transcendence, and ultimately a happy ending. The book’s tale of two people doing just that gives readers hope and strength. My hope is that readers travel with Gloria and Henry, sit with them in the claw foot tub, watch them grow, cheer them on, and see how the fight for love makes the other battles we’re facing all the more worth it. And, that readers will see that they are worth the fight.

It was so important to me that Gloria be a rich, deep, complicated character. When a reader says they couldn’t put the book down, which pleases me to no end, they’ll sometimes comment that initially they weren’t sure if they were supposed to root for Gloria. Most days, Gloria’s not even sure if she’s allowed to root for herself. Part of the journey with her in Oxford Messed Up is watching her realize her worth and her worthiness of love. And poor Henry! Henry assumes his charm is the only reason he gets by. Gloria doesn’t believe she deserves love and neither does Henry. Yet we still root for him, too. As the story evolves, we’re hopeful for them. For the couple they might be. Just like me, I think we’ve all got a bit of Gloria and Henry in us. So, ultimately by rooting for both of them, flaws and all, and their love we’re rooting for ourselves. We’re opening ourselves up to a second chance.

Gloria and Henry battle with believing they deserve happiness. It’s something I’ve come to believe many of us suffer from: a belief that we don’t deserve whatever it is we want or need. So this is a love story with a lot of twists. It’s two people who feel they are irrevocably damaged and messed up. They meet, they struggle, and they challenge each other. They both so badly want the other person to get to this new, deserved place but have to fight to believe they deserve it too.

And, that description I started with? The one about redemptive love being all about fulfillment, restoration, and being set free? My own path has shown me just how much that applies to me. I had to work to believe no matter how screwed up things seem you can find hope and you can find love and it’s a real truth for me now. It’s a truth I desperately wanted to share with people. This story encapsulates that journey. I’ve come to embrace that what somebody dreads the most is sometimes the best thing for them. That’s the key to redemption and, ultimately, happiness. It was a lesson I had to learn and one I wanted to share through Gloria and Henry’s journey. It such a satisfying and fulfilling experience to tell their story. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that Oxford Messed Up has inspired readers to grant themselves that second chance.


About the book:

Oxford Messed Up is a unique literary love story that transports readers on a meaningful and emotional journey—where the academic world of Oxford, the music of Van Morrison, and an old claw-foot bathtub serve as a backdrop for learning, self-discovery, and transcendent love.

Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman is an academic superstar who has come to Oxford University to study feminist poetry. Yet the rigors of the academy pale in comparison to her untreated Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, fueled by her overachieving parents and manifested in a deathly aversion to germs and human contact.

Her next-door neighbor (who is also, to her mortification, her loomate) is Henry Young, the appealing but underachieving musician son of an overbearing and disapproving Oxford don. Still mourning the death of his supportive mother while enduring the mockery of his disapproving and merciless father, Henry is haunted by the unexpectedly serious ramifications of a reckless and tragic youth.

Gloria and Henry’s relationship evolves from a shared obsession with Van Morrison’s music into a desire on the part of each to fill in the gaps in the life of the other. Yet the constraints of a debilitating illness and the looming revelation of a catastrophic secret conspire to throw their worlds into upheaval and threaten the possibilities of their unlikely yet redemptive love.  

About the author:

Andrea Kayne Kaufman is chair of the Department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum at the DePaul University College of Education in Chicago. An educator and attorney, she earned a B.A. from Vassar College, an M.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

FYI: 400th Follower!

Woo Hoo!  I officially have 400 followers as of today!
Thank you all so much for your support!

Author Q&A: Sara Ramsey author of Scotsmen Prefer Blondes

Sara Ramsey, author of the book Scotsmen Prefer Blondes, stopped by for a Q&A.

Welcome, Sara! And congratulations on the release of your first book!!

You’ve set both of your novels, the Golden Heart Award Finalist HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE and the Golden Heart Award Winner SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, in Regency England. Were Regency novels among the first romances you read? 

Yes, though the very first romance I read was a western, Brave the Wild Winds by Johanna Lindsey, which I read at age twelve. My family lived in Ukraine for a year while my father worked for an agricultural nonprofit, and I read anything in English that I could get my hands on. As soon as I returned to the US, I devoured every romance my local library carried. Johanna Lindsey’s Regencies were a natural starting point, and from then on, I was hooked on the period.

You started The Muses of Mayfair series by writing SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES and then you wrote HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, which has just been published. Time-wise it’s the first book in your The Muses of Mayfair series. Why did you write them “out of order,” so to speak? And when do we get to read SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES?

I originally intended for HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE to be the sequel to SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES. However, when SCOTSMEN didn’t get a traditional publishing deal, I put it aside and wrote HEIRESS as the first book in the series. The rationale was that we would try to sell HEIRESS, and then do some rewrites for SCOTSMEN and sell it as part of the same deal.

As it turns out, I love having SCOTSMEN as the second book – Amelia, the heroine in SCOTSMEN, plays a key role in HEIRESS that she wouldn’t have been able to play if she were minding her own business as a newlywed. SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES should be out by the end of March 2012.

We meet Madeleine in HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, in which her muse calls out to her and she (gasp!) ends up performing on the London stage. Will you tell us a bit about the three friends who are the other Muses of Mayfair?

Madeleine is an actress, but at the start of HEIRESS she’s unhappy because she can’t pursue her passion in private – an actress must have an audience, after all! The other muses are able to conceal their identities, even though there’s always a risk they’ll be caught. Madeleine’s cousin, Lady Amelia Staunton, writes Gothic romances under a pseudonym – and there are times in HEIRESS when Madeleine wishes that Amelia had stayed holed up with her characters rather than trying to rewrite Madeleine’s story. Amelia stars in the next book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES.

The next muse is Ferguson’s sister Ellie, the widowed marchioness of Folkestone. A painter, her artistic expression has been blocked since her disastrous marriage to her former husband. But his cousin and heir is about to return from a spying mission in India, and Ellie’s encounter with him will unlock everything. They star in THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME, which will be out sometime in June.

After that comes the story of Miss Prudence Etchingham, a bluestocking with an interest in history. She has been corresponding with other scholars who think she’s a man, but when she gets caught up in an investigation into an ancient artifact of mysterious origin, she’ll find a passion that goes beyond anything she’s read about in the history books. Her book is still untitled, but it should be out by early fall 2012.

Who were some of the other stars of the theater at the time Madeleine was on stage? And, in addition to Shakespeare's work, what other sort of plays were commonly performed? 

Sarah Kemble Siddons was the most acclaimed actress of the age; she retired in 1812, the same year that Madeleine made her debut. She was most famous for playing Lady Macbeth, although she played many of Shakespeare’s other heroines to great acclaim. Her family consisted of a number of great actors and actresses, including her brother John Phillip Kemble, and her niece, Fanny Kemble.

Dorothea Jordan wasn’t the greatest actress of her generation, but she was one of the most famous, if only because of her long-lasting affair with William, Duke of Clarence, who later became King William IV. She had ten children with him while acting on the stage, often playing “breeches roles” in which she wore men’s clothing and played a male part. She couldn’t marry the duke and eventually died in poverty, but her children were given titles and/or married well, and her descendents include David Cameron, the current British Prime Minister.

There were a lot of plays written every year for the stage. Only a few theatres were allowed to stage drama, but many smaller theatres staged comedies, musicals, and pantomimes. It was also possible to attend opera and ballet performances.

What attributes do you share with your protagonists—especially Madeleine and Ferguson—in HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, and Amelia and Malcolm in SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES? Humor? Resilience? Intellect? Feeling disenfranchised? 

I think all of my books deal with the issue of finding a path that feels true to oneself regardless of society’s expectations. My heroines are all trying to pursue their artistic passions even though they should be thinking of marriage, and my heroes tend to be unconventional and rebellious, too. However, I also feel pretty strongly about honor and loyalty, which makes things interesting for my characters – how can they be true to themselves without betraying those around them?

Beyond that, all of my main characters tend to be some combination of smart and funny. They tend to laugh a lot. I guess I feel that no matter how bad things are, there is always something to laugh about, and I think their humor makes them feel more real than if they were dark and brooding all the time. (Although they do their fair share of brooding too!)

What compels you to write?

I absolutely love to tell stories. I make up stories in my head all the time. I’ll see someone on the street and create a whole back story for them without ever having a conversation. Writing is a better outlet for my storytelling tendencies than making up stories about me. In an effort to keep my friendships, I put my fictions on the page rather than in my relationships.

I also think writing is a deep act of connection. Writing lets me connect with readers, makes me feel like my voice has been heard, and gives me a way to show myself to others. It’s also cathartic; even though my characters aren’t autobiographical, I learn more about myself through my writing than anything else.

Your writing has been called fun and feisty—is it?

Ha! I hope so! It would probably be more accurate to say that my characters tend to be fun and feisty, and their interactions with each other are meant to be entertaining. But my books aren’t entirely light romps – there’s emotional depth in them, too, as the characters learn more about each other and dig deeper into their own souls.

Will we see Madeleine and Ferguson again? Are you working on your next book? Do you have anything else being published this year?

Madeleine and Ferguson play a supporting role in SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, and may make an appearance in Ferguson’s sister Ellie’s story, THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME. 

I’m working on THE MARQUESS WHO LOVED ME and have written the first part already. It should be out later this year. I have a glimmer of an idea for Prudence, the fourth member of the Muses of Mayfair – if she cooperates (uncharacteristically!) her story will come out in fall 2012.

Please recommend a few books to put on my reading list.

If you read paranormals, the book at the absolute top of my list if Kresley Cole’s Lothaire, which I’ve been looking forward to for years. I predict that it will be the hot paranormal book of the season.
In the Regency/historical world, I can’t wait for A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. I’m also looking forward to Anna Randol’s debut novel, A Secret in Her Kiss—it’s set in the Ottoman empire, which is a refreshing change.

About the book:
She never wanted marriage...

When a friend is forced to consider a marriage of convenience, Lady Amelia Staunton is determined to rescue her. But her plans trap her in an illicit seduction, and Amelia must marry him herself. Malcolm’s all-consuming kisses and devilish humor might make up for her lost freedom, but she believes he will force her to abandon the Gothic romances she yearns to write. Since she can’t escape him, she must distract him from her secret...

He isn’t looking for love...

A powerful autocrat with a well-hidden rebellious streak, Malcolm MacCabe doesn’t need another beautiful mistress – he needs an obedient wife. Obedience is not one of Amelia’s virtues. But he’s too enthralled by her wit and passion to let her go – even if it means risking the political reputation he is building to save his clan.

Their hearts can’t survive the scandal...

Despite their intentions, every wicked embrace binds them together. But as their conflicting desires combust into insatiable hunger and unavoidable ruin, they must decide whether to pursue their personal destinies alone – or fight for the love that could destroy them both. 

About the author:

Sara Ramsey writes fun, feisty Regency historical romances. She won the prestigious 2009 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart award with her first book, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes (formerly titled An Inconvenient Marriage). The prequel, Heiress Without A Cause (formerly titled One Night to Scandal), was a 2011 Golden Heart finalist.

Sara grew up in a small town in Iowa, and her obsession with fashion, shoes, and all things British is clearly a rebellion against her hopelessly uncool youth. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in Symbolic Systems (also known as cognitive science) and a minor in history. Sara subsequently worked at Google for seven years in a variety of sales, management, and communications roles. She left Google in 2010 to pursue her writing career full time. Read all about her Regency obsessions and upcoming works at www.SaraRamsey.com.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Guest Post: James O'Kon author of The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology

James O’Kon, author of the book The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

Lost Technology of Maya Civilization Discovered
By James O’Kon

The century old question of how Maya engineers constructed their grand high-rise cities and other advanced technical feats have been a complete mystery to archaeology. Archaeologists studying the Maya Civilization have concentrated on the advanced sciences including astronomy as accurate as modern computing, elegant higher mathematics using only three symbols and one of the five original written languages on the planet. While the pure sciences have been glorified by archaeology, the Technology of the Maya has been totally neglected. Now the mysteries of Maya technology have been revealed by Archaeoengineer James O’Kon PE in his book: The lost secrets of Maya Archaeology. His revelations of surprising Maya technical achievements were uncovered by exploration of ancient Maya cities deep in the rainforest.

The Maya were a science based civilization that dwelt in the rainforest of the Yucatan peninsula. The Maya developed a scientific civilization in the total isolation this tropical hot land, their civilization was inspired by a cosmic philosophy that venerated time and the glory of the universe. The Maya civilization was the longest lived in the history of the planet. The civilization extended from 1800 BC to 900 AD, it ended when the civilization mysteriously collapsed and the grand cities were abandoned to the rainforest.

The Maya civilization was unknown to the world until rediscovered in 1839 and celebrated in a series of books by John Lloyd Stephens. In the last 171 years the Maya civilization has become popular and extensive archaeological efforts have been expended on discovery, excavating and consolidating the ruined cities while assembling their history and breaking the code of their complex written script.

Archaeology has concentrated on the art, architecture and the sciences of the civilization and has totally neglected the advanced technology that constructed the grand cities, water systems, roads and bridges.. All are amazed at the exotic architecture, tall structures, and infrastructure of their grand cities. Regardless of the obvious technological wonders that were constructed by Maya engineers. Archaeologists consider the Maya to be a Stone Age people; because they did not possess metal tools. Due to this “Stone Age” mindset archaeology has totally neglected the study of Maya technology. Archaeologists are trained in anthropology and art history and are not schooled in science or technology. They do not recognize the brilliant technology that the Maya used that constructed their grand cities, infrastructures, paved roadways and long span bridges .The study of Maya technology was an open field when James O’Kon began his quest for the truth.

The author is a professional civil and forensic engineer who has studied the ancient cities of the Maya for over forty years. His professional experience and scientific training has enabled him to recognize the advanced technology the Maya used to construct their cities, construct water management systems, build paved highways, and construct the longest bridge in the ancient world. His inquires to archaeologists were answered by folk tales about Maya capabilities with a comment that they were not capable of technical feats because they were only a “Stone Age” culture.

This attitude became a challenge and initiated his quest to search out and identify Maya technical capabilities. His quest has been fulfilled; he has identified numerous examples of Maya technology throughout the domain. His investigation included field investigation, remote sensing, and forensic engineering analysis using digital tools to virtually reconstruct lost technology with three-dimensional software.

His discoveries, analysis and detailed technical methodology are the topic of the book. His narrative recounts the thrill of discovery and the adventure of his quest. The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology have been identified and their capabilities proven using scientific tools including thermodynamics, physics, chemistry, structural mechanics, hydraulics, and geology. The book details field discoveries and scientific proof of Maya technical skills including: 

1. Astronomical calculations of the end date: December 21, 2012 and what it really means
2. Fabrication of jadeite tools that are harder than steel
3. Fabrication of cement using blast furnace technology, 1850 years before it was patented in Europe
4. Development of cast-in-place concrete building materials and structural mechanics that introduced high-rise long span structures to the grand Maya cities.
5. Development of water management system to collect, store and distribute water for the grand cities
6. Construction of wide, all-weather, concrete paved roads elevated a above the jungle floor
7. Invention of the vulcanization of rubber 2600 years before Charles Goodyear was born
8. Construction of long span bridges including the longest span in the ancient world
9. Development of man powered transport that is more efficient than beasts of burden
10. Design and construction of large sea going cargo vessels that enhanced their trade capabilities

O’Kon describes the history of the Maya, their rediscovery, their motivation for scientific and numerous technological breakthroughs, concluding with the collapse of the Maya civilization. The over populated cities depended on advanced technology for water supply and agriculture, so when a cataclysmic natural disaster enveloped the Yucatan Maya technology failed them, the civilization was decimated and doomed.

As we can see, the Maya were an extremely advanced society that archeologists have been looking at wrongly, classifying it as a more primitive “stone age” society when they were really much more than that. The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology uncovers this fascinating history and sheds light on how archeologists may even be looking at other civilizations the wrong way as well.


About the book:

The Maya have been an enigma since their discovery in the mid- 19th century. Maya science developed an elegant mathematic system, an incredibly accurate astronomy, and one of the world's five original written languages. This technology was more advanced than similar European technology by more than a thousand years.

In this book, you'll see how James O'Kon, a professional engineer, synergistically applied field exploration, research, forensic engineering, and 3-D virtual reconstruction of Maya projects to discover lost Maya technological achievements. These lost principles of technology enabled Maya engineers to construct grand cities that towered above the rainforest, water systems with underground reservoirs for water storage, miles of all-weather paved roads tracking through the jungle, and the longest bridge in the ancient world.

Maya engineers developed structural mechanics for multi-story buildings that were not exceeded in height until the first "skyscraper" built in Chicago in 1885, invented the blast furnace 2,000 years before it was patented in England, and developed the vulcanization of rubber more than 2,600 years before Charles Goodyear. Discover a host of unknown wonders in The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology.

About the author:

James A. O'Kon, P.E. is a professional engineer with decades of experience designing award-winning projects. He has also spent 40 years investigating Maya engineering feats and lost Maya technology. His investigations have taken him to more than 50 remote Maya sites. He has delivered numerous scientific papers to scientific symposia dealing with Maya technology. He was inducted into the Explorers Club as a National Fellow for his work on Maya technology. A resident of Atlanta, he is currently an expert witness on construction failures and a problem-solving consultant to global corporations when he is not in the rainforest. Read more about him at www.theoldexplorer.com

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Excerpt: Scotsmen Prefer Blondes by Sara Ramsey

Sara Ramsey, author of the book Scotsmen Prefer Blondes, stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.

Excerpt from

SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, Book 2 Muses of Mayfair
by Sara Ramsey

“Say what you will about Miss Etchingham’s historical leanings,” Amelia said, nodding toward the pair in front of them. “If it’s a political wife you’re after, she could write your entire treatises on what is happening here, if you gave her time to learn.”

Prudence and Salford were deep in conversation, no doubt about some long-passed era. Whatever lack of interest held her tongue around him did not extend to Amelia’s brother. Malcomb moved his horse closer to Amelia’s, lowering his voice. “Miss Etchingham is accomplished, I’m sure. But I want a wife who can talk, and laugh, and feel something other than academic detachment.”

A fly buzzed against his ear. He lifted his hand to brush it away. Amelia flinched away instead, as though she feared his touch.

He narrowed his eyes. “Is something amiss, Lady Amelia?”

She blushed, but she didn’t apologize. “No. You should discuss your requirements with Miss Etchingham. Given enough time, you’ll suit each other well enough.”

“What if it’s not Miss Etchingham I want?”

Amelia’s hand tightened on her reins. Her mare mouthed the bit uncomfortably. “Then I wish you very happy with the next woman on your list.”

Her voice was as cold as the great hall in winter. He wanted to be the fire that brought her back to life.

“There’s only one woman on the list at present.”

She reined in her horse so quickly that he was ten yards beyond her by the time he came to a stop. He looked over his shoulder, turning slightly to keep her in sight. Her face was ashen, with all the pallor of marble under her crown of golden hair.

But her blue eyes were fierce as she nudged her horse up to meet him. “You brought Miss Etchingham here to marry, and marry her you shall,” she said, in a dark, urgent voice. “Whatever you may think of either of us, I assure you that she is the one you want.”

He wanted to touch her, to prove her wrong. But he couldn’t do it here. “We both know what could have happened last night. Why would I give that up to marry a woman who barely speaks to me?”

She closed her eyes. Without the sharpness of her gaze, she suddenly looked vulnerable. “If you won’t marry Prudence, find another. There are dozens of women in London who are better for you. I cannot entertain your suit.”

“Do you not want to upset Miss Etchingham by marrying me? There would be no scandal there.”

When she opened her eyes again, she didn’t look at him. Instead she turned her gaze out over the countryside, across the estate he had vowed to save. “You know nothing about me, my lord. I’ve caused no scandals, but I’m not a witless porcelain doll. I have dreams of my own. Find a sweet girl who will be content to let you think for her. Your career will be better for it.”

Her certainty shook him. But he couldn’t agree that easily. “Meet me tonight,” he said, knowing it was foolish to say the words even as they slipped through his lips. “Let’s discuss this where we can have a proper conversation, not in the middle of a road. Earls should propose marriage indoors, at the very least.”

That brought a glimmer of a smile to her face. “How very proper of you, my lord.”

He had never felt less proper in his life. “Tonight?”

She didn’t falter under the sudden command in his voice. She coolly stared him down, then looked up the road to where Salford and Prudence were disappearing around a bend.

When she turned back to him, there was mischief in her eyes. “The library, at a quarter to eleven. I trust that after our interview, this nonsense about a union between us will end.”

She cantered away from him, up the final rise toward the fort where Salford and Prudence awaited them. He gave her a few moments’ start before following her. She seemed so sure that they were ill suited- and perhaps they were. Ferguson surely has a reason for recommending Miss Etchingham over her.

Ferguson’s disapproval made no sense. Amelia wasn’t just more entertaining – she was the daughter of an earl, with a dowry large enough to compensate for any number of indiscretions. If he were marrying solely for status, Amelia was a better choice than Miss Etchingham, even without considering how her laughter heated his blood.

But Amelia’s reference to her dreams gave him pause. The ton didn’t appreciate women who thought of anything beyond the next social event. If her dreams were something that could harm his reputation by association, it could bode ill for his attempts to win allies.

A footman had taken his note to Ferguson that morning, as planned. It was a two-hour ride from Malcolm’s castle to his friend’s estate, but he could expect an answer by evening.

It couldn’t be bad – but if it were, what would he do? His scowl was gone by the time they caught up to Salford and Prudence, but his conscience still vacillated. He needed to marry for the MacCabes, not for himself.

But for the first time, he wondered if the clan was worth the sacrifice.


About the book:
She never wanted marriage...

When a friend is forced to consider a marriage of convenience, Lady Amelia Staunton is determined to rescue her. But her plans trap her in an illicit seduction, and Amelia must marry him herself. Malcolm’s all-consuming kisses and devilish humor might make up for her lost freedom, but she believes he will force her to abandon the Gothic romances she yearns to write. Since she can’t escape him, she must distract him from her secret...

He isn’t looking for love...

A powerful autocrat with a well-hidden rebellious streak, Malcolm MacCabe doesn’t need another beautiful mistress – he needs an obedient wife. Obedience is not one of Amelia’s virtues. But he’s too enthralled by her wit and passion to let her go – even if it means risking the political reputation he is building to save his clan.

Their hearts can’t survive the scandal...

Despite their intentions, every wicked embrace binds them together. But as their conflicting desires combust into insatiable hunger and unavoidable ruin, they must decide whether to pursue their personal destinies alone – or fight for the love that could destroy them both. 

About the author:

Sara Ramsey writes fun, feisty Regency historical romances. She won the prestigious 2009 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart award with her first book, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes (formerly titled An Inconvenient Marriage). The prequel, Heiress Without A Cause (formerly titled One Night to Scandal), was a 2011 Golden Heart finalist.

Sara grew up in a small town in Iowa, and her obsession with fashion, shoes, and all things British is clearly a rebellion against her hopelessly uncool youth. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in Symbolic Systems (also known as cognitive science) and a minor in history. Sara subsequently worked at Google for seven years in a variety of sales, management, and communications roles. She left Google in 2010 to pursue her writing career full time. Read all about her Regency obsessions and upcoming works at www.SaraRamsey.com.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Author Q&A: Kergan Edwards-Stout author of Songs for the New Depression

Kergan Edwards-Stout, author of the book Songs for the New Depression, stopped by for a Q&A from his publisher.

Q: What inspired you to write Songs for the New Depression?

A: Over 12 years ago, out of the blue, a line popped into my head: “James Baldwin once wrote that Americans lack a sense of doom, yet here I stand.” At the time, I didn’t know where that line came from, who was speaking it, or what it would become, but that line stuck with me, eventually becoming the first line of the novel.

Q: Were you familiar with James Baldwin’s work?

A: I’d read Giovanni’s Room many years ago, and that concept, that Americans lack a sense of doom, really resonated. I really wanted to try to capture that moment in time, before the new HIV drugs came along, with all of that raw humor, love, friendship, sex, and danger. Too often, the temptation is to write about such times in sepia tones, but I really wanted to try to capture that moment as vividly as I could.

Q: Your lead character, Gabriel Travers, knows he’s going to die, and is looking back at the choices he has made. Are his experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

A: His journey is entirely fictional, but when I hear his voice in my head, it sounds a lot like my partner Shane Sawick, who died in 1995. He was witty, cynical, passionate, but also had his insecurities and self-doubt. I wanted to honor him, as well as friends who died during that time, and tried to do that with this book. It’s filled with a lot of the love, laughter, and sex that seemed to be so prevalent in those years.

Q: Gabriel makes many mistakes on his journey. What is he hoping to accomplish?

A: Like so many of us, Gabriel really wants to better himself, but doesn’t know how. Growing up, he wasn’t given the tools he needed, and when you don’t feel loved, it’s easy to make mistakes in pursuit of affection. When he realizes that he is dying, however, he is forced to confront his past, in particular a horrific event that happened in his youth and shaped his future choices. Learning to love and accept himself, flaws and all, is what he attempts to do. And I think that is why he and the book resonates with women. That kind of quest and the epic love story really appeal to women, as well as gay men.

Q: Your novel is broken into three distinct sections. What lead you to take that approach?

A: I felt like this story, Gabe’s discovery of himself, was really about peeling back the layers, finally revealing what is at his core and makes him act the way that he does. I like the way we first meet him, in 1995, facing death and trying to make amends. It then skips back 10 years, to when he’s in his 20’s, living that hedonistic L.A. life, and we seeing him making his mistakes. Then it jumps back another 10 years, finally revealing his high school self, his more naïve nature, and the moment which would inform everything that came after. Plus, if I’d told the story linearly, and the readers knew what he’d faced right away, much of the drama would have been gone. 

Q: Given the events Gabe experiences in high school, how do you feel about all of the recent news about the bullying of LGBT youth?

A: Clearly, it is terrible. But I also believe that many of the campaigns trying to alleviate the problem are missing the point. We can never get rid of bullies. There will always be another. So the question becomes, what can we do about those who suffer at their hands? What tools can we give them? How do we make sure they have every chance to overcome their ordeal and blossom into well-functioning adults? It is our duty to help them not be defined by that moment. 

Q: Where does the title, Songs for the New Depression, come from?

A: It’s the title of Bette Midler’s third album, released in 1976. Gabe is one of her biggest fans, and that album resonates thematically throughout the book. 

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Michael Cunningham is wonderful, and Armistead Maupin, who wrote the Tales of the City series, is just brilliant. I love his ability to quickly draw you in, sketch out the characters, and involve you emotionally. He is great at balancing the tender moments with much-needed humor, and I try to do the same with my writing. I’m not a fan of so much of what passes as literary fiction these days. Most of it seems over-written and is hard for me to connect with. 

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?

A: I try to serve the story, in whatever way I think fits best. I’ve written light, funny things, as well as darker, moodier work. Songs for the New Depression walks a balance between comedy and tragedy, which is very challenging. 

Q: What did you do before you started writing?

A: I’ve always loved writing, but when I was younger, I got my degree from UCLA in Theatre, focused on acting and directing, and did a lot of production work in film and television. Writing became more of a passion when I realized what a bad actor I was! (laughing) But I have some great stories from those days. I cast and directed Jack Black in his first college productions, one of which went on to perform at the Kennedy Center. I also directed Eric Close, of TV’s long-running Without a Trace, in his first professional production.

Q: What made you leave entertainment?

A: As much fun as all of that was, I wasn’t being fulfilled emotionally. I came to a point where I realized that I needed something more rewarding in my life, and I took a job at AIDS Project Los Angeles. I’d been a longtime volunteer, and ended up working there for four years, running an AIDS intervention program. Little did I know then how much that decision would ultimately change my life.

Q: Is that where you met your then-partner?

A: Yes—Shane was the coordinator of the Southern California AIDS Hotline. We were together for two years before he died, and that experience of fully loving and caring for another really readjusted me. Until then, I’d been pretty self-obsessed. Without that personal awakening, of being a caregiver for another, I don’t think I would’ve been a very good parent, partner—or even a decent writer. 

Q: So, you mentioned you’re a parent. How did that come about?

A: My partner Russ and I have two amazing boys, Mason and Marcus, who bring us a lot of joy. Mason was adopted privately at birth, and Marcus came to us at age two, through fost-adopt. Mason is now 12 and terrific at sports, and Marcus is 9, and will likely end up on a stage somewhere.

Q: Do you have another project in the works?

A: I’m currently writing a memoir, based on an incident which made me question every single aspect of my life, called Never Turn Your Back on the Tide.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

A: Absolutely—find your own voice. When I was in college, I worked closely with playwright Michael Sargent, whose writing was so good, so tinged with anger, that I thought to myself “I can’t write like him—I’ll never be a writer.” What I didn’t realize, though, is that I didn’t have to write like him to be a writer. You have to reach inside yourself and discover your own unique voice. And for me, that only came with age and life experience.


About the book:

Gabriel Travers knows he's dying; he just can't prove it. Despite his doctor's proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, all it takes is one glance into the mirror to tell Gabe everything he needs to know. His ass, once the talk of West Hollywood, now looks suspiciously like a Shar-Pei, prompting even more talk around town.

Back in his 20's, life had been so easy. Caught up in the 1980's world of LOVE! MONEY! SEX!, Gabe thought he'd have it all. But every effort to better himself ended in self-sabotage, and every attempt at love left him with only a fake number, scrawled on a realtor's notepad.

The only happiness he could remember was in high school, where he'd met Keith, his first love. Only Keith had recognized the goodness within, and knew of the brutal attack Gabe had faced, the effects of which still rule his life today.

Now almost 40, and with the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons - with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom's new wife, a country music-loving priest.

About the author:
Kergan Edwards-Stout is an award-winning director and author, whose work has appeared in a number of publications, including Huffington Post, Bilerico Project, LGBTQ Nation, American Short Fiction, and the health magazine SexVibe. He has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign as a “2011 Father of the Year”, and blogs regularly at kerganedwards-stout.com. Songs for the New Depression, which has been short-listed for the Independent Literary Award, is his debut novel. Currently, he is at work on a memoir, Never Turn Your Back On the Tide.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guest Post: Top Crime Thriller Reads for the Summer by Jane Smith

Jane Smith, freelance writer and blogger, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.

Top Crime Thriller Reads for the Summer

Many people consider summertime as the prime period for reading big thrillers and mystery novels. You know the iconic image: a man or a woman laying outside in sunglasses with a fat book in one hand and an exotic drink in the other. I feel like a “beach read” is synonymous with either crime fiction or romance fiction, and considering that I’ve never had much of a stomach for romance fiction, I’d like to share some great crime fiction reads for this summer season. Here are three that have really stood out to me so far this year.

Bloodland by Alan Glynn

This crime thriller by the Irish writer Alan Glynn is all about weaving together disparate plots that seem to have nothing to do with one another. You go from a firefight in the heart of a Congo to a somewhat wry tale about the journalist Jimmy Gilroy looking for decent work in Dublin, and then to several vignettes across the country involving powerful men that at first don’t seem to have much to do with anything in the other plots. But slowly, Alan Glynn draws all the elements of this story together into quite an impressive thriller about deception and the destructive thirst for power embedded in some men. At the heart of the story is Jimmy Gilroy, who just wanted to make some money writing a cheesy biography for a recently deceased reality star. And that simple act takes him through places you wouldn’t believe.

Getaway by Lisa Brackmann

A perfect meta read for those of you on holiday for the summer (count your lucky stars), Getaway by Lisa Brinkmann is basically the story of a beach resort vacation gone horribly wrong. Recent widow Michelle Mason is “vacationing” in Puerto Vallarta, soaking up rays on the beach, and trying to forget about the shambles of her current life. Her banker husband recently passed away in the wake of a huge financial scandal, and Michelle doesn’t know what her next step should be. She meets a man while relaxing on the beach who offers to take her out, and (of course) everything starts to go awry from there. Drug deals gone wrong, double agents, secrets unearthed—this book has it all and then some. What’s more, Lisa Brackmann writers this crime thriller with such a knack to setting and dialogue that it reads like a fairly realistic (albeit dramatic) true story about a woman caught in the middle of a maelstrom. Good beach reading indeed!

The House of Silk
by Anthony Horowitz

The summer season, as you well know, is also a time for blockbuster movie hits. Well there’s a blockbuster movie hit of a book to be read by Anthony Horowitz, and it’s his rendition of the classic character of crime fiction: Sherlock Holmes. His new(ish) book, The House of Silk, is told from the point of view of Watson, looking back on Holmes’s previous cases, and this one in particular shook him so much that he couldn’t mention the details of it until now. Told with biting wit and clever exposition and characterization, this update of a Victorian classic will keep you turning the page until the surprising end. And don’t be intimidated by the setting: though it’s set in a dreary London before the age of our modern conveniences, it still reads like a pitch perfect modern thriller.


About the author:

Jane Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes about free background checks for Backgroundcheck.org. Questions and comments can be sent to: janesmth161 @ gmail.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Giveaway: The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner

High above the bustling streets of Dubai, in the world's tallest and most luxurious skyscraper, reside the gods and goddesses of the modern world. Since they emerged 14 billion years ago from a bus blaring a tune remarkably similar to the Mister Softee jingle, they've wreaked mischief and havoc on mankind. Unable to control their jealousies, the gods have splintered into several factions, led by the immortal enemies XOXO, Shanice, La Felina, Fast-Cooking Ali, and Mogul Magoo. Ike Karton, an unemployed butcher from New Jersey, is their current obsession.

Ritualistically recited by a cast of drug-addled bards, THE SUGAR FROSTED NUTSACK is Ike's epic story. A raucous tale of gods and men confronting lust, ambition, death, and the eternal verities, it is a wildly fun, wickedly fast gambol through the unmapped corridors of the imagination.

Thanks to Hachette I have three copies to give away!

US/Canada only.  No PO boxes.

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Featured Book: Charlie's Hoot by H. Trussell Pyle

About the book:

As a favor to his boss, Charlie, an ambitious teenager, uses high tech savvy to trace the movements of a fleet of drug runners circling the Caribbean Sea. For his well intended initiative, Charlie suffers a vicious beating and undergoes diabolical torture. His boss is the drug kingpin, posing as a respectable citizen in this Florida resort town. By day he’s the mosquito control director, by night he runs a successful drug smuggling operation. In mob tradition, family ties are important, so he buys a luxurious yacht for his sister, who belongs to a religious order whose members are nuns. She gladly allows him to talk her into running drugs for him because secretly she’s investigating the smuggling racket as her chosen religious vocation. The nun hopes her findings will break up the drug smuggling ring and convince her brother to go straight. Instead, she finds herself in deep trouble with the law. Meanwhile, the mosquito man manages to keep his smuggling activities a secret from the town’s police chief and the editor of its newspaper who are hot on his trail. The cop thinks that breaking the nun’s story of innocence will lead him to the kingpin. The newsman’s best source is Charlie, who once worked part-time at the paper. Complicating things, the nun falls in love with the police chief, who wants only to put her behind bars. Meanwhile, Charlie has mysteriously disappeared.

About the author:

H. Trussell Pyle covered many crime cases as a newspaper reporter. He got acquainted with people, young and old, living outside the law. Pyle saw the soft sides of these hard men and women, the lawless and the law enforcers. You’ll see such people putting their lives on the line in this riveting story.