Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pump Up Your Book! Announces June ‘11 Authors on Virtual Book Tours

Join a talented and diverse group of 38 authors who are touring with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Tours during the month of June 2011.

Follow these authors as they travel the blogosphere from June 6th through June 30th to discuss their books. This month is filled with a variety of genres: thrillers, children’s books, fantasy novels, historicals, memoirs and more!

The month of June finds several authors continuing their virtual book tours. Returning are Buzz Bernard and “Eyewall,” Sandi Gelles-Cole and “The Memoir of Marilyn Monroe,” Emily Sue Harvey and “Homefires,” Douglas Jacobson and “The Katyn Order,” Tom McLaughlin and “Borneo Tom,” M.J. Rose and “The Hypnotist,” Alexandrea Weis and “Recovery,” Nzingha West and “Is My Kid Stupid?”and Lory Kaufman and “The Lens and the Looker.” Kaufman will also be touring with “The Bronze and the Brimstone,” the second book in his Verona Trilogy.

Short story collections come to you from Hank Aaron and Garasamo Maccagnone, while Michael Scott Miller talks about his contemporary novel, “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers.” Thrillers are being promoted by Steve DeWinter, Julia Madeleine, bestselling author Aaron Patterson and Chris White, L.L. Reaper, and Dave Zeltserman.

Check out literary fiction offerings from Patty Friedmann, Lynda Simmons, and Carole Waterhouse. Mysteries come to you from Ray Ellis, Larry Jukofsky, and Wayne Zurl, while Paul Levine promotes his hardboiled crime novel, “Flesh and Bones.” Amazon bestselling author Mayra Calvani talks about her children’s picture book, “Frederico, the Mouse Violinist,” and award-winning author Renee Hand tours with the second book in her Joe-Joe Nut and Biscuit Bill children’s mystery chapter book series, “Mineral Mischief.”

Also on tour in June are F.J. Dagg, P.J. Hoover, Leonora Pruner, and C.W. Gortner, who is promoting the paperback release of “The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.”

Memoirs come to you from Neil Cullen McKinlay, Jessamine Rose, and Jane Rowan. Other nonfiction authors on tour are Harriet Cammock, Barbara Conelli, and Dr. Frederick Lukash. Pump Up Your Book! is also running a one-day promotional event on June 14th for author Laurel Dewey and her crime thriller, “Revelations.”

Visit YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PujAarlkpBo to view a video trailer introducing our authors on tour in June.

Pump Up Your Book! is a virtual book tour agency for authors who want quality service at an affordable price. More information can be found on their website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Contact Information:

Dorothy Thompson
Founder of Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Tours
P.O. Box 643
Chincoteague, Virginia 23336
Email: thewriterslife@yahoo.com

Interview with John Philip Riffice, Author of Waiting for Pops

Today's special guest is John Philip Riffice, author of the novel, Waiting for Pops. John worked in heavy industrial construction until he sustained a serious injury. He then pursued a lifelong interest in teaching and took up a career in education, culminating in a rewarding life instructing children with disabilities. This experience, coupled with his understanding of the challenges facing single parents as well as all the intimacies of alcoholism, enable him to weave interesting tales of love, friendship, betrayal and deceit.

Welcome to Books, Products and More, John. We're thrilled to have you with us.

Where did you grow up?


What is your fondest childhood memory?

If I had to point to one single event which could be called my fondest, it was one which occurred when I was four years old. I had just had my tonsils removed to alleviate some hearing-loss issues (which still plague me today… I am almost totally deaf) and after a days-long hospital stay, my mother and grandfather arrived to take me home. One of the orderlies strolled up with a wheelchair for me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get in it. Somehow, in my four-year old brain, I thought that if I were to sit in that wheelchair I would be stuck there for life. Though this happened over 48 years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday! My grandfather, an extremely warm, affectionate man, must have sensed what I was thinking because he bent over, picked me up, and held me close. I recall wrapping my arms around his neck and pressing my cheek to his. It felt so good to be protected that I didn’t even mind his day-old stubble! I felt safe! I believe all children should feel safe, each and every day, and this is a recurring theme throughout my book Waiting For Pops, a biographical novel about a boy struggling to feel safe, but with not a soul to lean on.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing at the end of my sophomore year in high school. The love of my life had just broken up with me and I proceeded to pass that summer brooding and lamenting my loss. At the beginning of my junior year, I wrote a story about the event, perhaps 5,000 words, and it was pretty darned good! When I saw my old flame, I tried successfully to hide my disobedient emotions, playing it cool, as any sixteen-year old boy would. I mentioned the story to her, and she asked if she could read it. It must have been much better than I thought, because when she read it, she fell madly in love with me. Of course, I was already at that point long before, so it worked out just right! While we never married, the following four years were among the best of my life.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I write at every available opportunity, when I don’t have my nose in a book. Morning, noon, night, coffee break, lunchtime, whenever! You gotta get it on paper before you can refine an idea into perfection!

What is this book about?

Waiting For Pops is about a boy who is mistreated by his alcoholic mother and longs for his deceased father. A mainstream biographical novel, it is a tale of a young boy’s appalling mistreatment at the hands of his alcoholic mother. It is a tale of spousal secrets and parental lies. It is a tale of love, friendship, and, above all else, betrayal. Pops is seen through the eyes of an innocent boy growing steadily into manhood in 1950s Chicago. Johnny Ryba tells his story and transports the reader into his small, blue-collar existence—his mother’s alcoholism, his much-loved father’s sudden death in an auto accident, his beloved little sister’s autism. Later, as the reader accompanies Johnny into his teen years, they experience as well the painful heartbreak of his first love and loss.

The storyline rapidly evolves and ultimately centers on a mystery that Johnny attempts to solve as a mature adult, resulting in a shocking revelation that reverses almost everything he once believed about his mother and father, as well as his own harrowing past. He inadvertently discovers his parents’ role as accomplices in a lifelong conspiracy of silence, and also becomes aware of a misplaced affection for his father. Johnny must finally come to terms with the most important aspect of his life: the truth about his parents, and about himself, too.

What inspired you to write it?

I simply thought that this story is so moving and so compelling that it needed to be told. I have yet to talk to a reader who hasn’t loved it, particularly for bringing them back effortlessly and seamlessly to their adolescence and the great fun it often was.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

Johnny, the book’s main figure, who suffers through a great many deprivations, yet despite all that, as an adolescent and as an adult, he ends up a good, caring boy and man. An example for all of us, I think.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My wife. For some reason she thinks I’m wonderful. And a superb writer, too.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

I receive feedback mostly from my wife, but also from sample groups, always of mixed race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Who is your favorite author?

Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?

Agents are great, I guess, but sometimes I wonder if they really know what they’re doing. How many really outstanding books have gone unrecognized by agents for being wonderful works of art and miraculously, after umpteen letters of rejection, the book is picked up and hailed as a masterpiece? The Kite Runner is an excellent example of this.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Bumpy. It’s so hard just to get people/agents/publishers to read it! If your name isn’t Steven King, it’s a long, tough road.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

Yes. I wouldn’t have wasted time with agents, the so-called arbiters of fine literature.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s website, or my own website (www.johnphilipriffice.com)

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more?

Yes, and a nice site it is! www.johnphilipriffice.com It’s one of the rare times I’ve actually taken a nice picture, too.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

Word of mouth and emailing, as well as book reviewers.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Don’t be discouraged if some guy/gal who’s can barely string three sentences together tells you they’re not interested in representing you, especially if they’ve never read the book! Onward!

What is up next for you?

I’m presently working on a book about a man, a WWII veteran, who raises his nephew and teaches him that kindness and respect make you far more a man than a loud voice or a booming fist. It is only upon the uncle’s death that the boy comes to know of his Uncle Cameron’s heroic exploits in Nazi-dominated Europe.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes. I sure would like you to read the book, too! Like I said, the tough part is actually getting people to read it.
Thanks for the opportunity to put my two cents in!

Thanks for spending time with us today, John. We wish you great success.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Summer of Gomez! Contest

It's the Summer of Gomez!

Get free books and win a Kindle or iPod.

As reviewers have been calling “No Hope for Gomez!” the perfect summer read - light, fast, fun - I decided to give this summer's Gomez readers some exclusive content and the chance to win prizes.

About No Hope for Gomez!

It's the age-old tale:

 -   Boy meets girl.
 -   Boy stalks girl.
 -   Girl already has a stalker.
 -   Boy becomes her stalker-stalker.

We've seen it all before, many times, but this time it's different. If only slightly.

    When Gomez Porter becomes a test subject in an experimental drug trial, he is asked to keep track of any strange experiences through a blog. 

What Gomez isn't ready for, is so many of his experiences suddenly seeming strange; the antiques dealer trying to buy his old tax papers, the phone-sex salesman who hounds him day and night, the super sexy lab assistant who falls for him but is unable to express herself in terms outside the realm of science.

   But when one of the trial participants turns up dead and another goes missing, Gomez begins to fear for his life. No longer sure who he can trust and which of his experiences are real and which merely drug induced delusions, he decides it's time to go underground and work out a devious plan.
Read a chapter.

Nominated for Book of the Year by both ForeWord Reviews and USA Book News, here's what reviewers have to say about "No Hope for Gomez!":

“Extremely witty and clever writing.” -- California Chronicle

"An unputdownable read. a Coens Brothers' film in book form." -- BookReview.com

"A veritable page turner of nonstop laughs!" -- Reader Views

"A Party for your Brain!" -- Warren Baxter

Warning: clinical studies have shown that reading this novel is likely to make you more attractive to the opposite sex and elevate your random luck by about 9.5%**

(** These statements have not been evaluated by any person of consequence!)

With every cool summer party comes a gift bag, so here's just some of the stuff all summer readers will get:
  • Exclusive new story collection
  • No Hope for Gomez: The Lost Chapters
  • Making of Gomez: behind the scenes eBook
  • Signed hi-res poster + bookplate

Additionally, several lucky readers will win a prize. I'm raffling off a Kindle, an iPod Nano 8GB, and five exclusive spin-off paperback novels that are not available elsewhere!

All you have to do to have a "Summer of Gomez" is get the book from any store before July 12th 2011 and forward your receipt to nohopeforgomez@gmail.com.(Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Amazon CA, Amazon UK, Amazon DE)

Every purchase counts as an entry so increase your chances by stocking up on some extremely cool birthday presents ;)

Points towards additional entries are gained by getting your friends to join in, and tweeting/blogging/face-booking (is that a verb?) about the summer of Gomez.

Graham Parke is responsible for a number of technical publications and has recently patented a self-folding map. He has been described as both a humanitarian and a pathological liar. Convincing evidence to support either allegation has yet to be produced.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Spotlight: Darien Gee and Friendship Bread

In Avalon, Illinois, a woman and her young daughter return home to find a plate of Amish Friendship Bread along with a bag of starter on their doorstep. There’s no note, just a yellow sticky with the words, “I hope you enjoy it.” The instructions tell them to feed the starter over a ten-day period, then bake two loaves and share the remaining starter with three other people.

At the insistence of her five-year old daughter, Julia Evarts reluctantly follows the instructions. Soon, the bread and its starter are making their way through the town of Avalon, touching the lives of its residents in ways both comical and unexpected. Julia befriends Madeline Davis, 74, owner and proprietor of Madeline’s Tea Salon and Antiques who harbors a secret of her own, and Hannah de Brisay, 28, a concert cellist who relocates to Avalon after the premature end of her career and marriage.

Julia’s sister, Livvy, is struggling with her own loneliness as she and her husband, Tom, try for a child of their own. Julia’s husband, Mark, is tired of the sadness that seems to have taken over their lives for the past five years. As the town of Avalon becomes overrun with the Amish Friendship Bread starter, a kernel of a story presents itself and activist and reporter Edie is quick to jump on it, even if it means pointing a finger at Julia as the instigator and dividing the small community that they live in.

When a neighboring town is devastated by high floods, Julia and her friends supply loaves of the bread to the residents and volunteers. As word spreads, so does help. Soon the entire town of Avalon is doing their part to aid their neighbors in need as they put their differences aside. Friendship Bread is a captivating, engaging novel about life and loss, friendship and community, and what endures even when the unthinkable happens.

Read an excerpt!


I hope you enjoy it.

Julia Evarts looks up from the paper in her hand and studies the gallon-size Ziploc bag. Inside is a substance that reminds her of drywall compound, except it’s much pastier and filled with tiny air bubbles. It would have gone straight into the trash had Gracie not been standing beside her, eyes wide with curiosity.

“Mama, can I try one?” Gracie asks. She holds up a china plate decorated with pansies and roses. Several slices of what looks like banana bread are fanned out on the plate and covered with plastic wrap. Gracie was the first to spot it when they pulled up to the house–the plate, the Ziploc, and the accompanying instructions for “Amish Friendship Bread” sitting on their front porch. There was no card, only a yellow sticky note with the five words written in shaky cursive.

For a moment Julia was confused–had the weekly meals started up again? Not that she’d mind having a casserole to serve for dinner tonight, but this? This smelled suspiciously like a chain letter, with the added headache of having to bake something. Julia can’t remember the last time she’d baked something.

Gracie tears off the plastic wrap before Julia can stop her. “This looks good!”

Julia has to admit that it does look good. It’s coming up on 3:00 p.m., time for an afternoon snack anyway, and as usual she hasn’t thought this far ahead. She has no idea how other mothers do it, or how she managed to pull it off before.

“Gracie, hold on. Let’s get inside first.” Julia unlocks the front door and ushers her five-year-old daughter inside.

She puts their things on the kitchen island and then opens the fridge. It’s pretty bare because Julia has forgotten to go grocery shopping, and there’s no milk. She doesn’t want to have to go out again, so she pours Gracie a glass of water from the tap and heats up the remains of this morning’s coffee for herself.

“Now?” Gracie is practically bouncing in place.

They eat straight off the plate, using their fingers. It’s not banana bread or like anything Julia’s ever tasted before. It’s moist and sweet with a hint of cinnamon. It hits the spot, as unexpected kindness always does, and soon there is only one slice left.

“I bet Daddy would like it,” Gracie says. Her fingers have crumbs on them, and she licks each one.

Julia bets he would, too. Mark has a sweet tooth, even though he’s been on a bit of a health kick lately. She tucks a stray strand of Gracie’s mousy brown hair behind her ear, so different from Julia’s flyaway strawberry-blond curls. “We’ll put it aside for him,” Julia says, even though she was hoping to have the last piece for herself. She reaches for the used plastic wrap but Gracie gets to it first.

Julia watches as Gracie tries to extricate the wrap from itself. She waits for the tantrum, for the meltdown that sometimes happens at this time of day, but Gracie manages to pull the plastic wrap apart and lay it over the single slice of bread, carefully tucking it under the scalloped edges of the plate.

“I did it!” Gracie looks at her handiwork, proud. “So now what?”

Julia notices a blue streak of dried paint on the back of Gracie’s hand and gives it a rub. “What do you mean, now what?”

Gracie holds up the note and the instructions. “Is this a recipe? It looks like a recipe. Are we supposed to do something? I can mix. I’m great at mixing!” The sugar from the bread has clearly entered Gracie’s bloodstream.

Julia turns to look at the Ziploc bag slouching on the counter. She has figured out that it’s basically fermenting batter, but the mere thought of baking and what it entails exhausts her. “Yes, you are great at mixing, Gracie,” Julia concedes. “It’s just that . . . well, someone gave this to us to be nice. They don’t expect us to actually do it. I’m not sure I even have the ingredients.”

“We could buy them.”

Julia gives her daughter a small smile. “I don’t think so, Gracie girl.” Her voice is apologetic but firm. “Would you like to watch a little television while I get dinner ready?”

Gracie slides off the stool. “I think Clifford is on,” she tells Julia, then runs off.

The microwave dings. It’s a reminder ding, a clever feature the manufacturer came up with. Or maybe all microwaves have reminder dings now–Julia has no idea. Their previous microwave caught fire when she placed a box of dry macaroni and cheese inside and set the cook time for an hour. Black smoke billowed out and the fire alarm shrieked. Gracie was barely a month old. She was startled but didn’t cry, even when Julia broke down and Mark frantically ran about, fire extinguisher in hand as he tried to air out the house.

The microwave dings again. Julia opens the door and sees her cup of coffee. She takes a sip and finds that it’s lukewarm and stale. She puts it back in for another minute then stares at the last piece of bread, wondering if Mark will care if she eats it.

He probably won’t. He’s deferred to her for the past five years, too tired to argue, too tired to try. She can’t say she blames him. She doesn’t know what to do to make things better, either.

Her coffee is now hot and she pulls back the plastic wrap to finish off the last piece. The evidence is still between her fingers when Gracie walks in holding a piece of pink construction paper.

Her daughter looks shocked, as if Julia has just committed a cardinal sin. “Mama! That was for Daddy!”

Julia feels guilty, and then defensive, but it’s pointless either way. First, Gracie is five. She has the clear advantage in this situation, as Julia can’t bear to see her daughter distraught. Second, Gracie was born after everything happened. She doesn’t know a life other than the one she’s living now, where the worst thing that can happen is Julia eating the last piece of Amish Friendship Bread.

Julia tries for an apology. “I’m sorry, Gracie. I was just really hungry.”

“But I wanted Daddy to try it.” Gracie is near tears.

“Well, we could make him a smoothie or maybe some fruit salad . . .” She has none of these ingredients but offers it up anyway.

“No, I know he’d like this best. I even made a card for him.” Gracie holds up the paper in her hand. On it she’s laboriously copied the five words from the yellow sticky note.

I hope you enjoy it.

Julia feels a lump in her throat. Her daughter’s neat, careful handwriting looks like that of an eight-year-old. Julia knows this because that’s how long it took for Josh, a leftie, to master printing. His teacher had suspected developmental dyslexia, and Julia had to fight to keep him out of special ed, not wanting him to be labeled for life. In the end, she had been right. While Josh’s handwriting would never be called a thing of beauty–his letters were always sloped, almost kissing the line–he had ended up one of the brightest kids in his class.

As Julia gazes at Gracie’s tear-stained face, she knows there’s only one solution. She reaches for the instructions for Amish Friendship Bread and sticks it on the refrigerator with a magnet. She steps back, resigned, then puts the Ziploc bag safely to one side as she pulls her daughter into her arms for a tight hug.

“Hold on to your note, Gracie. We’ll be baking in ten days.”

Mark doesn’t want to go home.

That’s not entirely true, actually. He wants to go home, but he doesn’t want to get into another fight with Julia or hear about what an awful day she’s had. Sometimes she’ll just look at him in stony silence, indifferent to his questions, a wall.

But it’s the sighs that get to him the most. He’ll take silence over sighs any day. The sun can be shining, the house spic-and-span (seeing how he stays up late every night cleaning it), Gracie healthy and full of joy, and still it’s not enough.

He sits in his car in the parking lot, unsure of what to do. He doubts Julia has come up with a game plan for dinner. She’ll probably ask him to get some takeout or heat up leftovers while she goes into the bedroom for a rest.

A rest from what? Gracie’s in kindergarten at the Montessori school, gone for a seven-hour stretch of time. Julia doesn’t work anymore, doesn’t have to do anything. She picks up Gracie from school and that’s pretty much it. Mark does everything else, filling in the gaps wherever he can.

There’s a rap on his window and he jumps. The smiling face of Vivian McNeilly is looking at him. Vivian is an interior designer with Gunther & Evarts Architects, in charge of all their high-end commercial and residential projects. She motions for him to lower his window.

Mark presses the button but nothing happens. It takes him a second to realize that the engine’s not on. He fumbles for his keys and turns the ignition, feeling like an idiot when the window finally descends with a hum.

“Am I interrupting anything?” Vivian is all smiles. She has a lilting voice, something Mark has always noticed and appreciated for its ability to charm a client. “You look like you’re deep in thought.”

“What? No. I’m just debating whether or not to go to the gym.” What a dumb thing to say, especially since he already worked out before going to the office this morning. Mark wishes he could take it back.

But Vivian nods solemnly as if this is the most intriguing thing she’s heard all day. She’s worked for them for a year and he’s never felt uncomfortable around her, but suddenly he’s picking up a vibe he hasn’t felt in months.


“Where do you work out? I ask because I usually run through Avalon Park after work, but I was thinking about picking up a gym membership somewhere.” She leans forward, just a bit, and he catches a whiff of perfume.

Mark knows where this is going and that he should just nip it in the bud, but he finds himself contemplating Vivian instead. She makes it look effortless–the wavy auburn locks that fall just past her shoulders, her fitted suit and heels, the way she leans comfortably against the door of his car. She can’t be a day over thirty but she holds herself like a woman who’s seen the world. She’s bright and single, much too young to be living in a small town like Avalon. Before he can stop himself, Mark says, “I go to a gym in Freeport. Fitness Lifestyles. It’s a really great facility–they’ve got an indoor pool and everything.”

Why is he telling her this?

“That sounds great,” Vivian says. She is beaming and Mark’s not sure what just happened. “So I’ll follow you there? I have my running gear with me. Maybe we could grab a quick workout after I sign up?”

He’s in dangerous waters. Sink or swim.

“Maybe some other time,” he says, and offers a conciliatory smile. His palms are sweating as he grips the steering wheel. “See you tomorrow.” He manages a wave before putting the car into drive and gunning it out of the parking lot.

Julia stands over the kitchen sink, her hands soapy as she washes each dish and puts it onto the wooden rack to dry. Mark is getting Gracie ready for bed.

This time, the evening time, is the only time Julia feels sane. Safe. She can finally breathe, can finally let herself exhale without fear that the ax is going to fall and destroy what’s left of her life. Whatever has happened during the day is over, gone and done with. Her husband is here, her daughter is here. They are all in the same house, under the same roof. Even if they pass each other silently in the hallway, at least they are together.

All that’s left to do is finish washing the dishes, then she’ll wipe down the table, shower, and crawl into bed. She won’t bother with a book or television, as Mark likes to do, but fall straight into a dreamless sleep, her mind and heart finally at rest.

Julia reaches for the next dish. The unfamiliar weight in her hand makes her look down and she sees that it’s the scalloped plate that was left on their porch, a few crumbs still on it. She takes a moment to admire the red roses, the pale blue and violet pansies dotting the dish. When she and Mark had married, they were poor and young. It seemed like a waste to register for china, an extravagance. Plus, they had joked, the children would probably break it. They rolled their eyes, imagining the messes to be made by their future progeny. Already Mark and Julia were making plans for these children, letting their decisions revolve around these little beings that had yet to be conceived.

“Can we register for Tupperware?” Mark had asked, and Julia had only giggled.

Julia runs a soapy hand over the smooth plate, wistful and sad for what could have been. When she turns the plate over in her hand, she sees a printed stamp on the back side.

Fine Bone China Shelley England

But that’s not what makes her suck in her breath, almost drop the plate into the water. There’s a pattern number, and then the name of the pattern right above it.

Rose . . . Pansy . . .

And then the last one, on a line of its own.



“Heads, it’s a girl. Tails, it’s a boy.” A shiny quarter sails through the sky and Livvy catches it with a laugh. She gives her coworker a nudge. “Come on. Guess!”

Edie takes a bite of her sandwich. “While I appreciate your highly scientific method for determining the sex of my unborn child, I think I’ll pass. Besides, I don’t know for sure that I’m even pregnant. I’m just late.”

“Edie, come on! I don’t know what you’re waiting for.”

Edie’s blue eyes sparkle behind a pair of rectangular glasses. “My period, maybe?”

Livvy slaps the quarter onto the table. “Heads. You’re having a girl.” She reaches for her own lunch, a cold pasta salad tossed in a low-fat Italian dressing. She can’t understand Edie’s nonchalance about this. If Livvy were late, she’d be in the drugstore buying every pregnancy kit available to man. Or, in this case, woman.

She hasn’t told anyone that she and Tom have started trying, just in case it doesn’t happen. Livvy’s thirty-seven, not exactly over the hill, but Tom is convinced that the longer they wait, the greater the chance that something could go wrong. He knows two people who know other people who have children with Down syndrome. Livvy feels her indignation rise. You can’t really control these things, and even though she’s not a religious person she believes all things happen for a reason. Even the unthinkable, which she’s witnessed firsthand. She just nods her head when Tom suggests forgoing birth control to “see what happens.”

Excerpted from Friendship Bread by Darien Gee Copyright © 2011 by Darien Gee. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read what they're saying about Friendship Bread!

"If you are like me and love feel good books about female relationships, then FRIENDSHIP BREAD is a must-read book."

--Booking Mama

"This a very touching book. It will definitely make you appreciate those in your life that make a difference."

--You Have How Many Kids?

"Friendship Bread by Darien Geen is an absolutely beautiful story about how friendship can change people’s lives."

--Life in Review

"Darien Gee has created a wonderful cast of characters (and there are quite a few) to populate this story, and she creatively includes a bit of romance, a bit of mystery (where did that first starter come from?) and a lesson or two about the value of frienship in her tale that will delight readers and is sure to have them clamoring for more!"

--Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews

"I don't think it's possible for me to forget this book and it's friendship bread."

--Just Another Book Addict

"This is a story of friendship and how a simple act can lead to a special relationship between two or more people. It’s also a story of healing and finding a way to get back what you’ve lost. And it’s a story about being there for others and learning how to be there for yourself, as well."

--Reading Frenzy

"In her book Friendship Bread, Darien Gee has crafted a beautiful tale of hope and friendship. Her fictional small town came to life in the pages of this novel, as did each of her characters."

--Lynn's Corner

Darien Gee lives with her husband and three children in Hawaii. She is the bestselling author of three previous novels (Good Things, Sweet Life and Table Manners) written under the name Mia King. You can visit Darien Gee’s website at www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com. And check out the Friendship Bread Kitchen Facebook fan page.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Blogger: Heather Haven, Author of Murder is a Family Business

Today's special guest is Heather Haven, author of the humorous P.I. novel, Murder is a Family Business. This is the first book in the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series, released by MuseItUp Publishing.

Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez doesn't think so. But the 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve. Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and rest of the Alvarez Family, detectives all. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.

Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. The love, humor and camaraderie shared within this family are what set this series apart from others.

The Alvarez Murder Mystery Series by Heather Haven

In my twenties and thirties, I spent my writing career in New York City creating short stories, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, and commercials. I even ghost-wrote a book once. The idea of writing my own book didn’t occur to me until I was in my early forties. What can I say? I’m a late bloomer.

I read my first Nancy Drew book at the tender age of nine and have never looked back. I love a good mystery, in particular, humorous mysteries. Most of the time when I read a book, I like it to be on the humorous side. If I want to cry, I can pick up a newspaper and read the real estate or financial section. Tears will spring to my eyes immediately.

So I decided to write a funny murder mystery series, beginning with Murder is a Family Business. After all, a writer lives inside her or his head and if I have to be in there 24/7, I’d like to have a few laughs along the way. Also, I felt my mystery series had to include two important things: the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s natural resources, and the family unit.

Right off the bat, this wasn’t going to be a ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all careening around in a shiny SUV. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait. Archeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. The Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist. Hello there!

But I wanted something unique. Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. Quirky Lee Alvarez, the protagonist, along with her younger brother, Richard, are the products of a 35-year union between Roberto, a Mexican Immigrant who made good, and a Palo Alto blueblood, Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day Lila Hamilton Alvarez. Roberto dies unexpectedly and like most sudden familial deaths, a realignment of the surviving members takes place. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but as a rule, it will be different. Who would have thought another death two years later would help rekindle what this small family had lost earlier?

Lee Alvarez is a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum. This 34-year old divorcee works as a private investigator in the family business, Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. Her beautiful ice-princess mother, Lila, has taken over as CEO and head of the business. Lee’s younger brother, Richard, is the head of Research and Information Technology. Her Uncle Tío is a retired head chef of a well-known Mexican restaurant. Even the new foundling kitten, Tugger, becomes head of the household in Lee’s small, two-bedroom apartment over the family garage.

Lee isn’t head of squat, thank you. But she’s got the heart of a lion, eyes the color of twilight, and the instincts of a first-rate PI, which is good, because she’s always getting herself into trouble.

Read what they're saying about Murder is a Family Business!

"I very highly recommend this book! It’s a great mystery with wonderful characters. I loved the Alvarez family!"

--Life in Review

"This was an enjoyable 'whodunit' book! It has tone of humor throughout so they mystery doesn't get too heavy..."

--Ashley's Bookshelf

"I really enjoyed this story and the connection between Lee and her brother Richard. It was written very well which in my opinion puts Ms. Haven up there with Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovitch and many other detective novels. By the end of the book I felt really connected with these characters and wondering what Discretionary Inquiries is up to next?"

--Community Bookshop

"The author combined mystery, suspense and family into a great detective novel. There were twists and turns throughout the book that made the plot interesting and fresh.I look forward to following the Alvarez family in the next book of the series, A Wedding to Die For available now."

--Books R Us

"I highly recommend this book with 4 star praises. It's the start of a series that is SURE to be a hit selling one, and a series that I can't wait to collect and read more about this Latino WASP investigator! Well done, Heather!"

--Book Reviews by Molly

"I quite enjoyed this new series and I think Heather Haven has found a successful and fresh approach to murder/mystery suspense novels. I look forward to reading more in the months ahead."

--One Day at a Time

Purchase your copy of Murder is a Family Business by Heather Haven at:

MuseItUpPublishing - http://museituppublishing.com/musepub/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=81&Itemid=82

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Business-Alvarez-Mystery-ebook/dp/B004HYHCWO/

Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Murder-is-a-Family-Business/Heather-Haven/e/2940011170546/?itm=1&USRI=murder+is+a+family+business+by+heather+haven

Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.

One of her first jobs as a writer was given to her by her then agent. It was that of writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week and then promptly came down with the flu. She wrote “The Sands of Time” with a temperature of 102 and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Later on, she wrote short comedy skits for nightclub acts and ad copy for such places as No Soap Radio, where her love for comedy blossomed. Many of her short stories have been seen in various publications, as well as 2 one-act plays produced in Manhattan, one at the well-known, Playwrights Horizons.

Her novel, Murder is a Family Business, the first in the Alvarez Murder Mystery series, has been epublished by MuseItUp Publishing in January, 2011. The second in the series, A Wedding To Die For, debuts April 22, 2011. She is currently writing the 3rd of the series, and says they are a joy to write. Heather gets to be all the characters, including the cat!

You can visit Heather online at www.heatherhavenstories.com and her blog at http://heatherhavensays.blogspot.com/.

Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson Giveaway at TBF Reviews

Go to The Book Faery Reviews to enter to win Wickedly Charming book courtesy of Sourcebooks!

He’s Given Up on Happily-Ever-After…Cinderella’s Prince Charming is divorced and at a dead end. The new owner of a bookstore, Charming has given up on women, royalty, and anything that smacks of a future. That is until he meets up with Mellie…

But She Might Be the Key to Happily-Right-Now…Mellie is sick and tired of stepmothers being misunderstood. Vampires have redeemed their reputation, why shouldn’t stepmothers do the same? Then she runs into the handsomest, most charming man she’s ever met and discovers she’s going about her mission all wrong…

It’s only natural that sparks fly and magic ensues when these two fairy tale refugees put theirheads—and vulnerable hearts—together…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…Before turning to romance writing, Kristine Grayson edited the Magazine of Fantasy & ScienceFiction and ran Pulphouse Publishing (which won her a World Fantasy Award). She has won theRomantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and, under her real name, Kristine Kathryn Rusch,the prestigious Hugo award. She lives with her own Prince Charming, writer Dean WesleySmith, in Portland, Oregon. Her next book from Sourcebooks Casablanca, Utterly Charming will be in stores in October 2011. For more information, please visit www.kristinegrayson.com and www.sourcebookscasablanca.com.

For more details, visit The Book Faery Reviews at http://tbfreviews.net/2011/05/25/kristine-grayson-utterly-charming-author-interview/

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Review: The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God by Dr. Labib Mikhail

A thought-provoking look into the role and significance of Mary from a Biblical perspective is what you'll find in The Virgin Mary In the Light of the Word of God.

Theologian, apologist, journalist, counselor, and evangelist Dr. Labib Mikhail puts decades of knowledge to writing this book that seeks to provide a clear picture of what the Word of God says about Mary, the woman who bore Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In under 160 pages, Dr. Mikhail examines what the Bible has to say about Mary as opposed to how some religions view her role and significance.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to start off this review by stating that I am a former Catholic. I was a member of the Catholic Church for 30 years. I taught C.C.D. for 10 years, and directed our church's elementary C.C.D. program for 5 years. My decision to leave the Catholic Church was for very personal reasons, but doesn't reflect upon the Catholic Church as a whole.

I currently attend a non-denominational evangelical church; the same church I was married in almost 11 years ago. We believe that the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God.

It is also important to note that I was paid by the author's publicist to promote this book through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. That fee did not, however, include a review of the book.

Now that's all out of the way, let me get to the meat of my review.  The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God by Dr. Labib Mikhail is an excellent book if you're looking for information on how Mary is presented in the Scriptures. The author has obviously studied theology a great deal, he cites Scripture passages to back up what he says, and overall, I can't disagree with him.

That said, I see how this book could be controversial and only widen the chasm that exists between those who have given Mary a revered position in the Church and those who don't. While Dr. Mikhail gives Mary her full due as a blessed virgin woman who was chosen by God to bear the Savior of the world, he is forthright in dismantling basic tenets of the Catholic faith. Again, I don't disagree with what he says, I only wish that the style of writing was more compassionate and understanding.

I feel it's also important to mention, though, that this book was originally written for a non-American audience. It was geared toward Muslims in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and those in Latin America. As the author and translator/contributor, Dr. Nasser S. Farag, point out, in Africa and Latin America, "nominal Christianity is at times only a thin veneer over-lying deeply embedded native pagan beliefs and practices." That would, in my opinion, be a good reason for the author to provide such a strong position on how Mary is viewed in the Bible. Yes, the book dispels the ideas that Mary acts as a mediator for Christians and should be prayed to along with the other saints; that Mary should be given exalted titles such as: Queen, the ladder of Jacob, the Bride (of the Lord of Glory), and the Holy of Holies; that she performed or performs miracles; and that she has appeared to people after her death. It also states there is no Biblical reference for the Immaculate Conception (Mary being born without original sin) or her body being assumed into Heaven. I have to say again, however, that if you are seeking to reach those nominal Christians, don't you have to make your arguments clear and leave no room for gray areas?

The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God by Dr. Labib Mikhail is not going to be for everyone. If you are looking for a book that will help you understand Mary as viewed in the Holy Scriptures, then you'll want to buy this one.

Title:  The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God
Author: Dr. Labib Mikhail
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing
ISBN-10: 0982707495
ISBN-13: 978-0982707494
SRP: $12.95

I received no monetary compensation for providing this review.

Book Release Celebration and Giveaway for Montezumas Treasure by Linda Weaver Clarke!

Book Release Celebration for Mystery/Adventure Novel and Book Give-Away May 23 June 1: To win a mystery/adventure novel with a touch of romance, leave a comment at http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com. But thats not all! You may also be eligible to receive two free e-books as part of this contest.

Montezuma's Treasure and Family Secrets are Themes for Mystery Novel

Mysterious events, the search for Montezumas treasure, a good-looking rogue, and family secrets! How important is it to learn about the past? Will it make a difference in ones life and the choices we make? To April, it makes a big difference. Knowing about her parentage changes her perspective of life.

With a blend of mystery, adventure, humor, and sweet romance, Linda Weaver Clarke creates a story based upon the adventures of a married couple and their three daughters in Montezuma Intrigue.

When a leather parchment of Montezuma's map is found in great-grandfather Evans' old chest, April and the twins know this summer is going to be a memorable one. The girls want to search for it but their father is against it for some mysterious reason. With Julia's help, she and the girls convince John to go on a treasure hunt. Is Montezuma's treasure a legend or reality? Whatever the case, John insists on keeping their little treasure hunt a secret. If certain people find out about it, the family could be in danger.

Sukos Notebook wrote, "In the latest book by Linda Weaver Clarke, Montezuma Intrigue, the mysteries continue as this author entrances us with life-like characters and electrifying adventures. The search for Montezuma's treasure is both exciting and memorable--I am spell-bound!"

While searching for Montezuma's treasure, Matthew is trying to get the courage to tell April how he feels about her. How does he tell his kindred friend that she means more to him than just a friend? Oblivious of Matthew's feelings for her, April is gradually learning the importance of her heritage. Who were her ancestors and why has the family kept a certain secret all these years? This mystery series includes Anasazi Intrigue, Mayan Intrigue, and Montezuma Intrigue.

Visit Linda's blog at http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com/2011/05/montezuma-intrigue-book-release.html for more details on this giveaway.

I would also like to take a moment to congratulate Linda on her latest release. I have the first two books in this series and I look forward to reading this one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: People of the Book by Kathi Macias

A masterfully told story that is both timely and powerful, awaits you in People of the Book, the fourth and final installment of Kathi Macias's Extreme Devotion series.

What do you do when what you've most believed in changes?

Farah Mohammed Al Otaibi wants nothing more than to develop a deeper devotion to her Muslim faith. During the month of Ramadan, she hopes she will get her chance to draw nearer to Allah. Then the prophet Isa (Jesus) appears to her in a dream and calls her to Himself.

A favorite of her father, he has allowed Farah many liberties, much to the anger of her brother, Kareem. He feels his father is too weak with the women. But Farah is certain even her loving father would not tolerate her accepting Isa as more than a prophet.

Farah's cousin Nura has already begun to consider that Isa may be more than her Muslim faith indicates. Nura explores the possibilities in an online chat room where she corresponds with Sara, a girl of Muslim ancestry who lives in the United States. Sara's family has converted to Christianity, and she shares the message of Jesus's salvation with Nura. When Farah approaches Nura to talk about her dream, the two girls are happily connected by their new discoveries; though they know if their infant faith were discovered, it would be disastrous for both of them.

As Farah's, Nura's, and Sara's worlds collide, a jealous brother seeks to uncover Farah and Nura's secret, while Sara experiences a crisis of faith.

Wow! Kathi Macias continues to amaze me. She has been my client and friend for the past few years. I've read her fiction and her nonfiction; but I have to say that with her Extreme Devotion series, and People of the Book especially, she has outdone herself.

Not only did she tackle the timely issue of honor killings, she created a powerfully told story, written by her masterful hand, that captivates the reader from the very first page. I have been astounded by all the books in this series:  No Greater Love, More Than Conquerors, Red Ink, and People of the Book. After each book I would say, "This is my favorite of the series." Without a doubt, People of the Book will remain my favorite.

The characters truly make this story all that it is. You have Farah who is called by Isa (Jesus) in a dream, throwing everything she has ever believed about her Muslim faith into an uproar. Nura has secretly been participating in a chat room to learn more about Isa. Both girls, know, however, that if they are discovered, it will mean death. Nura's friend, Sara, is on the other side of the world. When her once easy life is turned upside down, she's no longer sure of the faith she has been sharing with Nura.

Not only these characters, though. You have Kareem, who has always been jealous of Farah. He's willing to do whatever it takes to discredit her to their father. You also have Sara's brother, Emir, who makes some unwise choices that come with a very high price tag.

Macias connects all these lives so well. She's done this with some of the other books in this series, but here it's just amazing. I couldn't put the book down. I went to bed late many nights reading this one.

The ending is superb. I was crying right along with the characters.

The four books that make up this series are total stand-alones, each having its own set of characters and circumstances. I highly recommend reading all of them, but if you only have time for one, make it People of the Book. You won't be disappointed.

Title:  People of the Book
Author:  Kathi Macias
Publisher:  Hew Hope Publishers
ISBN-10: 1596692820
ISBN-13: 978-1596692824
SRP:  $14.99

The author paid me to promote her book via a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review consists of my honest opinions, for which I received no monetary compensation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames Giveway at Debbie's Book Bag

Click on this link: http://debsbookbag.blogspot.com/2011/05/review-and-giveaway-lost-and-fondue.html to make your way over to Debbie's Book Bag to enter a giveaway for a copy of Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames.

Mysteries are one of my favorite genres. Add food to them and I'm in heaven.

Open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

Book Spotlight: As the Sycamore Grows by Jennie Helderman

As the Sycamore Grows is a true story about abuse, loss, redemption and hope.

Think about Sleeping with the Enemy out in the woods when the enemy totes a Bible and packs a .38. Mike slapped and shoved, but his primary tools were isolation and economic abuse. Until he discovered the power of the Lord as another means of control. Ginger was brought up to pray and obey, but she escaped the isolation and poverty of the cabin hidden behind a padlocked gate.

Both Ginger and Mike speak, as do family, friends, in-laws and exes. Thus Ginger is revealed as a flawed heroine, a rebellious teenager who abandoned her baby. Mike ran away to escape his father’s fists and yet, years later, he glimpsed himself in his father’s casket.

From south Texas to a Foxfire lifestyle in Tennessee, they spiraled downward into poverty by Mike’s choice, and abuse enforced by religion and a gun.

Undergirding the abuse is loss: the alienation of families, the spiritual void from betrayal of church, and the death of the son Ginger abandoned. This boy’s suicide as a teenager, symbolized by the sycamore tree, became the wedge that allowed Ginger to break free and ultimately to work toward ending the legacy of abuse.

Read an excerpt!

A noise. Ginger awoke, listened. The hum of a motor, the scrunch of tires creeping along the road outside the cabin. She reached over to her husband’s side of the bed. Empty. Where he was heading in the thin light of dawn, she didn’t know. Mike McNeil didn’t offer explanations for his comings and goings. She knew better than to ask.

She rolled back onto her pillow, wide awake now. She could see the black handle of Mike’s .38 at the edge of the closet shelf. Mike seldom strapped the gun to his belt anymore. He had made his point. She wouldn’t take it again and he knew it.

The light was still too dim to see the photos fastened with thumb tacks to the rough-sawn boards next to the closet. It didn’t matter. She pictured them in her mind. She and Mike had squeezed into the metal kiosk at a truck stop that day and posed fast, before their quarter ran out. Mike had just trimmed his beard. A good memory.

Birds chirped outside.

Time to rise. She rolled out of bed.

In the boys’ room, she stood over her sons and smiled. Casey’s feet hung off the foot of his bed. He’d hit a growing spell the day he turned thirteen. She kissed his forehead, then his brother’s.

“Wake up, both of you. Casey, I’m going to put a brick on your head or you’ll outgrow everything you own.” She laughed and gave twelve-year-old Jody a nudge.

In the next room, she built a fire in the woodstove to chase off the morning chill. Atop the stove, water for coffee heated in a blue enamel pot while the last of the oatmeal cooked in a dented stewer. The boys would have the oatmeal. She wasn’t hungry.

She laced up her boots and trudged up the hill to milk the cow while they ate breakfast.
An ordinary morning at the cabin in the woods where she lived with Mike and their two sons.
Nothing different or ominous, nothing to suggest that before noon on September 29, 2000, Ginger would make her escape.

She forced a needle through pigskin for a rifle pad while each boy pulled on his one pair of jeans. Better pick beans today before the sun gets up in the sky. Summer didn’t like to let go here at the bottom of Tennessee, and this day would be hot by noon. She twisted her hair through her fingers, wishing she could pull it up off her neck. Or cut it.

Casey crossed the kitchen in two steps, gathered his homework under one arm, and dashed out the door. Knees, elbows and perpetual motion, he disappeared up the hill. Jody lumbered in from the bedroom and fumbled with his papers, a scowl on his face.

Still my little freckle-faced boy.

Jody and Casey had entered school for the first time this year, a small church school just across the state line in Alabama. She’d hoped they would like a regular school but so far it was a split decision. It was early, just three weeks into the school year. Plenty of time yet to adjust.

She gave Jody a quick squeeze before hurrying both boys toward her old Honda. They had ten miles to drive to school.

Mike spotted the blue of Ginger’s car in the distance as he returned home. He checked his watch and calculated when she would be back. At the cabin, he opened his Bible to Revelations and read until time to go. He tromped down their dirt road to the blacktop where he ducked into the trees to watch for her car. Leaning against a pine, he lit a Winston Gold, then another as soon as it burned to the filter.

The last time she left, he had watched her. He could see to the bottom of the hill where, that time, she’d stopped for a few minutes, backed up the road, then stopped again. She was trying to pick up a signal on that car phone, way out here.

He was on to her.

Ginger slowed to turn between two scrub oaks onto their road when she returned from the school. The galvanized metal gate stood open. Mike didn’t always padlock it now like he once did. He’d made that point, too.

This time her tires crunched against the road as she headed the quarter mile toward the honeysuckle vines and briars that hid the cabin. Mike didn’t want anybody in his business. If somehow anybody slipped past the padlock and wandered up the road, they could pass within thirty yards of the cabin and never know it was there.

They’d built the cabin back in 1996, when they had to vacate the rental house in a hurry. She and Mike sawed and hammered while the boys, young as they were, toted and hauled. Five hundred square feet divided into two rooms, board and batten sides, a tin roof. No electricity, no phone, by design.

Mike’s car sat in tall grass just off the road. She parked beside him and called his name when she got out of the car. No answer.

Backtracking down the road, Ginger walked to Trent’s tree, a young sycamore she had named in memory of her oldest son. She had first planted an apple tree for Trent, but ants made a bed at its base. When she poisoned the ants, she killed the tree. The sycamore was a sapling that came up in the compost pile. A smile spread across her face. The sycamore was thriving. She’d kept a close watch on it.

She hurried to the garden. Time to pick beans.

Read the reviews!

“Jennie Helderman has taken a heart-breaking issue and boiled it down to human beings, of flesh and blood and lost days and fearful nights. It opens the door on a too-common human story, and closes you in with it.”

– Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Most They Ever Had, All Over But the Shouting, Ava’s Man, and The Prince of Frogtown.

“Rarely has a story of a woman’s courageous fight for freedom been told in such an eloquent and moving way. And, even more unusual, we get an open view into the twisted mentality of a man who was able, like so many abusers, to convince the outside world that he was normal. A hard book to put down.”

– Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That? and co-author of Should I Stay or Should I Go.
“This is a page turner! A powerful portrayal of mind control!

—Patricia Evans, author of Controlling People

“This story grabs hold of your heart and squeezes it dry. It is a tale so touching, so emotionally overwhelming, women will cringe and thank God they never had to walk in Ginger’s shoes, and men will wish they could have met Ginger’s husband in a dark alley. I applaud author Jennie Helderman’s gift for writing, I marvel at Ginger’s courage for sharing it.”

– Jedwin Smith, two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, author of Our Brother’s Keepers and Fatal Treasure

Jennie Helderman broke the glass ceiling at age ten by becoming the first girl page in the Alabama State Legislature. That surge of girl power wouldn’t be the last time she saw a need to put women’s issues at the forefront. Years later, after she helped set up a crisis-call center in an old house, a cry for help at the other end of the phone line resounded in her head. That call was the catalyst; eventually, the empty bedrooms upstairs served as the community’s first shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

From there, Helderman began work with women’s issues and leadership, community development, public relations and communications, beginning in Gadsden, Alabama, and reaching to national levels. She has championed women’s and children’s issues and worked with child abuse victims. From 2000 until her term expired in 2006, she presided over the six-member board of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which serves 520,000 clients each month and oversees all family abuse issues in the state.

A 2007 Pushcart Prize nominee, Helderman coauthored two nonfiction books, Christmas Trivia and Hanukkah Trivia and writes profiles for magazines. Previously she chaired the editorial board of the 120,000 circulation alumnae magazine of Kappa Kappa Gamma, The Key.
Her latest book is As the Sycamore Grows.
Helderman is married to a retired newspaper publisher; is the mother of two and grandmother of three; and has recently moved from Alabama to Atlanta. Her website address is www.jenniehelderman.com.

This book is also available in a Kindle edition.

Book Spotlight: The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God by Dr. Labib Mikhail

Is Mary a perpetual virgin? Should we pray to her? Does Mary mediate between God and us? Is Mary truly "The Mother of God?" Or the "holy of Holies?" Does the Virgin perform miracles or make supernatural appearances?

Mary may be the most famous New Testament woman, but she is arguably the least understood and most misrepresented person in the entire Bible. In The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God, Dr. Labib Mikhail uses his years of experience as a theologian, apologist, journalist, counselor, and evangelistic speaker, to give Mary her due honor, while fending off the many faith-damaging myths perpetuated about her.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1:

All generations of true believers agree that Mary is blessed among women because she was the vessel that God the Father used to prepare the body of His Son, Jesus Christ, who would complete by His death on the cross God’s plan for man’s salvation. The Virgin Mary is blessed among women because she believed in the possibility of this most unprecedented event in all human history…that a virgin girl can give birth without being touched by a man.
Now let us look at the specific words of Elizabeth that have caused a lot of controversy … “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) The traditional churches have built on these words of Elizabeth the teaching that Mary is the Mother of God. So what was the intention of the Holy Spirit when these words were recorded in Scripture?
It is logical that any mother precedes her son as far as time is concerned; but is that the case as far as the relation between Mary and Jesus? Did Mary precede Jesus as far as time? Certainly not! In fact, Christ was eternal with God the Father before creation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Dr. Nasser Farag translated Mikhail's book into English. He's also authored a non-confrontational apologetic/evangelistic book that expresses the ultimate greatness of God only in Christ, which has been distributed in numerous languages.

Dr. James Massey, Dean Emeritus, Anderson Univ. School of Theology, "One of the 25 most influential preachers of the past 50 years," according to Christianity Today, had this to wrote about The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God: "This is a relevant study clarifying Mary's role and significance...I highly recommend it as a balanced and Biblical portrait."
Mikhail is the author of 80 books and is well acquainted with traditional theology. Originally from Egypt, he is also a former professor of homiletics, psychology, and journalism. He has 30 years experience as a pastor.
The Virgin Mary in the Light of the Word of God is published by Nordskog Publishing. You can purchase this book at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview with Tinisha Johnson, Author and Founder of Have Stress Relief Now

Joining us today is Tinisha Johnson. She is an author and the founder of the self-help, inspirational online membership website Have Stress Relief Now. We’ll talk to her today about her writing and what led her to launch this amazing new website.

Welcome to Books, Products and More, Tinisha. It’s great to have you with us. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Sure, thank you for having me. It’s actually my birthday today LOL May 18th, so this is a great birthday present to be a guest blogger. [Blogger's note: Happy Birthday!]  About me: I’m an author and freelance writer. I’m a mom to two wonderful kids and I reside in Denver, Colorado. I’ve always had a love for writing. As for my day time job if you will, I host political and sports Teleconferences, which I really enjoy.

Our readers might be familiar with you because you’ve been our guest before—first to talk about your book, Searchable Whereabouts, and then to promote Lessons Learned. When did you first start writing?

My love for writing started at age 11 when I wrote 3 chapters to a storyline my teacher provided for us as an assignment in my creative writing class. I ended up writing 8 chapters and received an A+. My teacher said something I’ll never forget. “Tinisha you’re a great writer. I know what you’re going to be when you grow up.” He gave me a new perspective on my future. It was very encouraging to hear him say that. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to write stories and eventually see my stories published.

As far as writing professionally, 2002 was when I published a short story for the Chicken Soup for the Soul. My mystery, Searchable Whereabouts was published in 2007 and my self-help book Lessons Learned was published in 2010.

I know we haven’t talked about your website yet, but your writing helped to bring you through a difficult time in your life, which eventually led to the launching of Have Stress Relief Now. Would you be willing to share some of those difficulties, and how you coped with them?

That is true. My writing has had a lot to do with me launching my site Have Stress Relief Now.

My difficult journey started as being an overweight child, looking back on it. But to fast forward, my difficulties seemed to get worse in my early twenties as a single mom. I had gotten out of a mentally and abusive relationship, amongst other painful memories, in 2000. I honestly thought long and hard about ending my life, and even tried once. I was very unhappy in so many areas of my life. Not to mention my self-esteem was non-existent. The daily overwhelming pain had gotten to me really bad.
“Everyone has a story, but I found out that I had to finally just tell the truth of what I was feeling and deal with it head on. I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and started searching for answers by helping others.” Tinisha Johnson

My son who was very young at the time and I believe he kept me believing things would get better, and that’s why I kept pushing forward with hope.

In my book Lessons Learned, I talk about an epiphany that occurred to me one morning during that time. It was very early in the morning. I immediately woke up and looked out the window, something I usually don’t right away when I first wake up. As I was looking out the window, I saw this homeless lady digging in a dumpster. For a minute, she appeared so similar to me. Meaning, she looked just like me. It was actually one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in my life. I kept staring at her. She was pulling all kinds of items out of the trash and putting it in her basket. Who hasn’t seen a homeless person before? But this was just an odd experience. It’s kind of hard to really explain.

But at that moment, a light went on in my head. I’m not really sure what my subconscious was trying to tell me as I was watching this homeless woman, but I pulled out a journal and just started to write positive messages - designing my future. Something clicked, something changed, maybe my outlook on life. But anyway to make a long story short that journal that I was writing at that time began my journey to write my self-help book Lessons Learned.

As you discovered, journal writing can be very therapeutic. What were two things you learned as a result of journal writing?

I suggest everyone keep a journal. It’s a sort of meditation. Journal writing allows you to release the clutter and noise in your head and sort out what to do, or what not to do. So basically, with journal writing I learned that helps me relieve some stress and helps me sort out difficulties that worries me.

Let’s talk about the website now. You experienced definite challenges in your life and even consider committing suicide, but you kept writing. How does that get us to the launch of Have Stress Relief Now?

I originally thought of starting the site Have Stress Relief Now in 2009 through a compilation of blogs, which are no longer live. These blogs and journal entries were all about how to relieve stress from your personal and professional life. The ideas were based off what I’d done personally to get through some difficult times in my own personal life, and research I read on the subject of stress and depression.

It wasn’t until April 2011 that I went ahead and bought the domain for my site and launched the site. My dedication with the site is to aid growth in people’s lives and provide content that will help provide great tips on how to relieve stress in many areas of life.

What’s interesting is that on the day I was building the website, I was supposed to go on a date, but I was stood up. LOL. It’s kind of funny now, but I was actually stressed out of my mind, and upset. How ironic, since my site is all about how to relieve stress. LOL. All I can do is laugh now. So, I took off my dress, slipped into my pajamas, wiped my make up off, and made myself a cup of coffee and spent the rest of the night compiling my website and ended up launching the site after midnight.

What will members find on the site?

People will find a “Stress Relief” personal blog and a “Stress Relief” business blog. I provide an article of the month, a “Stress Relief” daily news of world events site, daily quotes, recipes, real work at home opportunities and much more. (A lot of this information is only accessing after someone signs up as an online member) There are also several membership benefits as well, which are outlined on my website. I’m also running a prize give-a-way for the month of May 2011.

It’s great that you wish to help others who are struggling. Why is this so important to you?

I care about people. I’m really into self-help. It has helped me tremendously in my life, and I just want to give back. I’m a true optimistic. If I’m not helping someone else, I’m not living. It’s a must for me. Even my close friends and family know me as the ‘To-go’ person and a great listener. And to be honest, deep down inside helping others makes me happy.

Tell us about the Business Section. What is it about? What does it offer your members?

The Business Section is still a work-in-progress, but I wanted to list sites for those who are self-bloggers, maintaining a website, or have their own online business and needs business tips, products or services to help them with their business.

What I found amazing is that your membership is free. Why not charge for all the great information and services you offer?
My website Have Stress Relief Now is a hobby and at the same time a business for me. The site is new and I’m just having fun with it, while offering the best content I can. Although I do a lot of research on the content I provide, I don’t want to burden anyone with a fee. All I ask is that people sign up to my newsletter and sign up as a site member to get access to the quality content I share.

How can others help support the site?

Sign up as an online member or/and comment on some of the blog entries if you feel the content has value. Feel free to Tweet and make comments on Facebook about the content on the site. The website is: www.havestressreliefnow.com

What do you see for the future of Have Stress Relief Now?
I want to have a large community of people interacting and helping one another. My vision for the website is to help people find the answers to the tough questions in life, by providing powerful information that changes lives and aids growth.

What else would you like to share with our readers?

Check out the site, I’d love to hear feedback from readers on what they like, or what they’d like to see, and even what I may not be doing right. I welcome all feedback and interactions. The website is: www.havestressreliefnow.com

Thanks for spending time with us today, Tinisha. We wish you great success.

Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview with Chad Coenson, Author of Me and Bobby McGee

Today's special guest is Chad Coenson, author of Me and Bobby McGee. Chad was born in Orlando, FL, but he can barely remember that and pretty much spent most of the years following his birth in a nomadic state of perpetual motion until finally finding a home in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two dogs. He has a degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona and spends his time “trying” not to take life too seriously. Despite his generally adventurous nature and willingness to attempt almost anything, he has never had the opportunity to cast the first stone.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Chad. It's wonderful to have you here. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was originally an inhabitant of the east coast but by the time I graduated from high school in Georgia, the western half of the country beckoned to me. It's not always easy to be akin to the highway as it often leaves you in a perpetual state of unrest; it ripples within your blood. And thus, while working to get my degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, I spent quite a bit of time on the road exploring the country with intrepid eyes in a never ending search for adventure and good old fashioned mischief. During that time I could also be found playing music in a rock band, for which I wrote most of the lyrics, and competing regularly as a performance poet in Tucson. The music led me to Tasmania, Australia where I spent quite a bit of time composing and playing gigs with my partner in melody, whilst exploring the many pleasantries and occasional provocations of the South Pacific. Upon returning to US soil I found myself in a whirlwind of transiency that dropped me off in Boston, spun me back across the country to Southern California, and eventually let me loose in the Pacific Northwest where I currently reside with my beautiful and notably patient wife along with our two dogs; our first child will be joining us in October. As I am a family man now, I am also a recovering adrenaline junky though I doubt I will ever be able to fully kick the habit as I have an unabashed affinity for bungee jumping and big-wave-surf-kayaking. Beyond that, I love live music, hiking the backcountry, and brewing my own beer.

When did you begin writing?

It's funny because shy of the actual date, I can pinpoint the moment that I began writing. I was in third grade and the entire class was given a paragraph long prompt and told to finish the story on the half-page of blank lines that followed it. After stapling six additional full pages to the original I realized that writing was all I wanted to do. I started constructing stories on a weekly basis and reading them to my class every Friday. By the end of that year I had won a countywide writing competition and had become addicted to the sound of lead and ink against the page. Naturally I continued to write and during my freshman year of high school, I had my first piece published in a small local newspaper outside of Atlanta, GA. I also wrote several poems and short stories that appeared in the award winning literary magazine, Chrysalis. The ten year span which I have just described is what I would classify as my larval writing stages.

What is this book about?

Me and Bobby McGee is a blatantly humorous adventure that examines several aspects of our modern social infrastructure from the perspective of a former CIA assassin turned Jack-of-all-Vices, Keesey Cypher. Constantly the victim of his unabashed alcoholism and penchant for games of chance, Cypher finds himself sea-leagues deep in debt after waking from an Absinthe inspired blackout in the back alleys of New Orleans. In an effort to avoid death, Cypher is given the option to make a risky cross country delivery for his "merciful" creditors. Upon excepting their offer he meets his chaperone, the beautiful and infinitely unstable Miss Bobby McGee. Their journey together unfolds into a frighteningly funny reality as the novel uses the vehicle of an illicit white-baby-slave-trade to ponder a host of humanistic issues including: apathy and indifference, corporate greed, human commoditization, and the supremacy of personal desires over what is best for the whole of civilization. At its core, the novel looks to inspire both laughter and thought as it scrutinizes the absurdity of ape-descendents with a perfect balance of ashamed love and playful distaste.

What inspired you to write it?

Me and Bobby McGee was inspired by a number of elements, but two in particular strike me as the most prominent. The first and most obvious is Kris Kristofferson's song by the same title. The concept that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" is a prevalent theme throughout the novel that is pensively examined under several types of lenses. This notion is in many ways the essence of the story and the primary reason for the title. In parallel to that, the current state of human affairs in the US and abroad was a further mode of inspiration. I wanted to create a story that was relevant to the modern social and political climate without being preachy, something that would rouse both thought and laughter, while avoiding telling people what to think. This is also the motive behind the main character, who doubles as the narrator, being such an uncomfortably likeable antihero, barren of role-model-qualities but brimming with seductive charm and rationalized evil.

Who is your favorite author?

Hunter S. Thompson is probably my all time favorite but Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Ken Kesey are not far behind. I am also a sucker for Jonathan Swift, Tom Robbins, and Henry Miller.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
At present I do not have an agent but truth be told, I am working on a new novel and in parallel, I am actively looking for representation. I could probably be more active in this search but I tend to enjoy writing the new book a bit more than writing query letters.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

All of the major online retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble carry Me and Bobby McGee, it also available in Kindle format. If readers are local to the Portland, OR metro area, the novel can be found on the shelves at Powell's Books, Broadway Books, or Murder By the Book in addition to some other local bookstores.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

My website is www.chadcoenson.com and it is filled with all types of information ranging from useful to useless, depending on what you are looking for. Folks can find out about upcoming events, new works, reviews, and check out the catalog of media available for viewing and listening as well.

What is up next for you?

I am currently working on a new serving of comedic American cynicism which I hope to have completed by the end of the year. The upcoming novel will include illustrations by E. Cobb Hoelzer as well. In addition, we are potentially collaborating on a book of poetry as I have a vast collection of works that I have written over the years that have been gathering dust for far too long. And to that point, there is a very talented, up-and-coming band out of Southern California called BISAHA. I collaborate with their front-man lyrically from time to time in addition to some other musical projects I am co-developing in the Northwest, so keep your ears open too.

Thanks for spending time with us today, Chad. We wish you great success.