Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview with playright and novelist Michael D. Dennis

Today’s hot seat is filled with novelist Michael D. Dennis as he talks a bit about his debut novel, A Native’s Tongue.

Michael D. Dennis is an author and playwright who earned a degree in English literature from Loyola Marymount University. Winner of a LMU Playwriting Award for his play Death of a Watchdog, Michael also had his play, Hen in the Field, produced at the Whitefire Theatre in 2012. His highly anticipated debut novel, A Native’s Tongue, will be released in June 2014. Michael currently lives in Santa Monica, California with his girlfriend and two dogs, Jack and Aurora. To learn more, go to or connect with Michael on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Welcome, Michael. Please tell us about your current release, Native’s Tongue.
The book is about a young man who struggles to keep the woman he loves while entangled in the sex, drugs, and tragedy of Los Angeles. It was inspired by real events.


Charlie Winters has never been an overachiever. He is used to just getting by while living with his single mother and working a dead-end job at a cheesesteak stand. Meanwhile, he’s constantly grappling with the voice of his sister, who died in a tragic car accident years earlier, echoing in his head.

So when Violet, an older woman, sets her sights on Charlie and refuses to let go, he follows along. He soon finds himself immersed in a destructive relationship that still fails to fill the void within him.

But then he meets Jennifer, a mystical young woman whose energy and life convinces Charlie to pursue her, even through the darkest corners of Los Angeles, and sets their lives upon a path that can’t be stopped.

Escaping to the California coast, Charlie and Jennifer finally find what they’ve always needed. But a sudden illness quickly pulls them both back to LA. It is there, amid the sex, drugs, and split-second decisions that pulse through the city, that tragedy strikes—threatening to tear Charlie and Jennifer apart forever.

What inspired you to write this book?
I witnessed a lot of crazy love stories and broken hearts growing up in Los Angeles. I was exposed to a lot at a young age and thought it was time to tell a few of the stories. I thought I would give an insider’s look from characters that weren’t rich or famous, but lived really passionate and tragic lives trying to find some sense of what love is.

Jennifer Bannister’s footsteps echoed down the hall. The uniforms of the inmates dampened the sound. Her ears tried to follow the faint sound, if only to affirm that she was still moving forward. There wasn’t anyone to hold her hand. She just trusted that each sign would guide her in the right direction.
I’ll get there at some point, Jennifer thought, trying to convince herself that she was doing the right thing. You can’t get lost in here; they don’t let you go off course. Her words slipped away. She felt the cold air settle over her skin. She glanced at a placard marked Visitors Only.
In the cool air, her skin tightened. Jennifer shivered and wished she were somewhere warmer. Seeing Violet for the first time was going to be hard enough. She was going to look the woman she hated most in the world in the eye. She didn’t want to be shaking from the cold and covered in goose bumps.
Jennifer peered through the bulletproof glass at Violet. There were markings embedded in the glass, swirls that made it harder to look directly into Violet’s eyes. Jennifer picked up the phone and listened. Violet grabbed it and began to speak, “It was never you that he loved. You know that right?” Violet’s voice was raspy.
Her expressions and mannerisms changed from static to fully engaged. She stood up and waved her hands maniacally at Jennifer, and then she slammed her fist against the glass.
Jennifer hung up the phone. Her blonde hair got caught in between her hand and the receiver as she placed it back on the black hook. Turning, she slid out of the red plastic chair and down the corridor, guided by the exit sign’s green light. In the stale air of the prison, she searched for a pack of cigarettes, unsheathed a Parliament, lit it, and smoked nervously.
Two overweight guards carrying guns in nylon hip holsters directed her to the parking lot, where they offered her matching robotic waves good-bye. The midnight blue 2005 Jaguar xk8, which her parents loaned her for this visit, was the only vehicle in the parking lot row. Her parents thought she would feel safer in their car rather than her own bright red Honda.
In either case, she seemed to fit this car, or the car fit her a lot more. Her lean physique matched the lines on the Jag, and it made her feel more mature. She was constantly trying to act older than she was. Jennifer went around to the passenger side of the car and opened the rear door. She set her oversized black leather purse on the back seat and took out a translucent orange bottle filled with tiny white pills. She slung her head back, popped two, shut the door and walked around to the driver’s seat.
The heat had melted the surface of the Jaguar’s leather seats, reducing the fabric to a buttery texture. Jennifer’s blonde hair clung to the sides of her shoulders, heavy with sweat. She retrieved her car key from the passenger seat, pressed the key into the slot, and burst into tears, suddenly unable to move.
Jennifer hadn’t eaten all day. The heavy dose of Xanax caused her to feel excessively nauseous. She blacked out and fell forward, hitting her forehead on the steering wheel. The car increased in temperature with the late afternoon heat. Her powder-white skin grew red.
“Miss. Are you alright? Miss?” A young guard, Bill Marsh, had spotted the car, and decided to go in for a closer look.
When Jennifer didn’t move, he took out his club and smashed the window. She woke up from her temporary coma and lashed out.
"You Fuck!" Her voice was barely audible, even with the window smashed. Her energy was gone.
"Miss--I, I’m sorry you didn't look okay."
"I am! What business do you have involving yourself in my business? Do you know what you did? You just fucked up my car, you moron.”
“Look, I just saw you from my station.”
To Bill, her face looked familiar, though he couldn’t place where he had seen her before.
"You have no idea. Sitting in your stupid box, behind that intercom.
"I’m sorry, I know we’ll pay for the window. Hell, if the prison won't, I personally will." Bill said.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am at about the mid-point of my next novel. It is definitely different from the first release. It still has some similar elements of twisted romance, and is set in Los Angeles, but very different. It takes place after a major crisis hits Los Angeles and follows the main character as he tries to piece together his life. It involves some more spiritual and even occult elements that make it interesting.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I thought of myself as a writer since I was really young, maybe 7 or 8 years old when I would write quirky poems in school. But the moment I knew I was a writer was my first year in college one of my professors actually dubbed me a writer, you know like a knight. It was a funny moment, and done in a joking way, but I decided that was when it became official.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I juggle a lot of different jobs at the moment to pay the bills. I work independently on projects so I try and make time to write everyday. Even if it's just for an hour, it makes the rest of my day mean something.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmmm... I guess that once I put my headphones on and start writing an earthquake could happen and I would still be writing. Also, I'm not the best grammarian. I have to proof my stuff multiple times before I will ever let my editor see it out of pride.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always just wanted to be happy doing something that I loved to do. I couldn't ever picture myself doing any real job, so I knew no matter what odd jobs I did eventually I would be a writer. 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Enjoy the book! Please stay in touch with me as I love to hear from my readers. I am also having a book signing at Book Soup (W. Hollywood, CA) on August 13th, so come say hi.

Thanks, Michael!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Interview with exec director, producer, debut thriller novelist DJ Williams

Today’s guest is debut thriller author DJ Williams. The focus is on his novel about human trafficking, The Disillusioned.

For the past sixteen years Williams has worked in the non-profit and entertainment industry. With the DNA of a world traveler, Williams was born in Hong Kong, has ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the slums of the Far East, to share stories of those who are overcoming incredible odds. His first novel, The Disillusioned, is the first in a series Williams is currently writing.

As an Executive Producer, Producer, and Director, Williams is part of a production team that have collectively produced and/or written over 400 episodes of broadcast television for SONY, The F/X Network, The Game Show Network, FOX Family, FOX Television Studios, Spike TV, NBC, ABC, and various cable networks worldwide.

Welcome, DJ. Please tell us about your current release, Disillusioned.
The story begins with a mother's suicide that threatens to destroy a family legacy. Her sons, Sam and Daniel, are forced to leave their worlds behind as the journey takes them in search of a woman they believe will unlock the secrets that have remained hidden. On their adventure they find themselves in the heart of Africa, in a place where death is one breath away, and thousands of children are disappearing into the darkness. When they stand face-to-face with the forgotten they must fight to redeem what has been lost.

What inspired you to write this book?
I read Treasure Island cover to cover when I was eight. My imagination ran wild as I was captivated. From then I was hooked. I’m a sucker for a good story. From Grisham to Connelly to Meltzer, I’ve always been drawn in by realistic plots and characters that keep me reading late at night. I wanted to give it a shot, to see if I had it in me to do it. I wanted to write stories that left you flipping the page to find out what happened next.

I didn't pursue that dream until I found myself coming out of a difficult year personally and professionally. There were two unexpected deaths in my family only thirty days apart. A business venture ended at the same time. For months I wondered why it was all happening. I didn’t realize how that season would change the direction of my life. I struggled to understand what I had been raised to believe since I was a kid, and how it affected me years later. That’s what started me researching the plot. I didn’t expect the twists and turns that followed as I discovered the story along the way. The deeper I went the more I knew I wanted to involve a social cause as part of it because I hoped it would make people judge the truth for themselves.

What kept me going during the writing process was the thought that this story is also a part of raising awareness for the fight against human trafficking.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently, I'm writing a novel that connects a present day homicide with a real life mystery from the twenties. For those interested, I'm pulling back the curtain during the writing process to give exclusive access of snippets from chapters, characters, videos from various locations, a glimpse into my writing life, and readers will be able to share their opinions through various polls. To gain access you can go to

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably not until I finished The Disillusioned. Until then it was all just a dream. Actually, no one really knew I was writing the novel. When I finished the first draft I showed it to a few trusted friends and they were shocked that I had actually done it. Even now, I’m still learning the craft and hope that I’m becoming a better storyteller with each page.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m balancing my writing life with being an Executive Producer and Director in the television industry. When you combine those two things you get quite a roller coaster ride. Typically, I’ll either spend a few hours writing early in the morning or later at night. First, I’ll rewrite what I worked on the day before and then move forward. What I’ve found is that there are certain times of day when I’m more creative, and other times I’m more in the editing mode. It really depends on the flow of things. For the novel I’m working on now I’ve found that writing at night has been more productive. As far as finding the time to write, it would be an easy excuse to say that I’m too busy to fit it in. It has to be a priority or it will never happen. No one is going to put those words on the page but you. So, I find the time no matter how hectic the week might be.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write better on my iPad than on my laptop. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I think typing on the iPad slows me down enough to let the paragraphs evolve. Sometimes when I’m working on my laptop I’m cranking out a bunch of words but then I end up going back and rewriting. I know it sounds weird, but I think my iPad has helped me become a better writer.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always dreamed of writing, even though my journey has taken me in different direction over the years. But as a kid I think I wanted to tell stories, but didn’t know if it would be fiction or whatever else. In a way, I think that’s happening now through my novels and through the television projects I’ve been fortunate enough to work on.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Pursue your dreams! We get one shot to live life on this earth, and taking chances and risk is part of the adventure. Whatever it is you dream of accomplishing, put your heart and soul into it and watch what will happen.

Thanks for being here today, DJ!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Interview with mystery author Terri Herman-Ponce

Mystery thriller author Terri Herman-Ponce is here today talking about her newest novel, Covet

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Terri will be awarding one free e-copy of Covet (Book 2 of the Past Life Series) and In This Life (Book 1 of the Past Life Series), to a randomly chosen commenter at each stop and a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To be entered for a chance to win leave a comment below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and leave comments there, too!

Welcome, Terri. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I look for any opportunity to make stuff up. I think anything that can’t so easily be explained is worth an extra look and often makes a great story. I love red wine, scotch, sunrises, Ancient Egypt, the beach—and a host of other stuff that would take too much real estate to talk about. The youngest of five children, I live with my husband and son on Long Island. And, in my next life, if I haven’t moved on to somewhere else, I want to be an astronomer. I’m fascinated with the night skies almost as much as I’m fascinated with ancient Egypt. I’m also a member of member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Please tell us about your current release, Covet.
Oh boy. I’m so excited to share this with you. Here’s the blurb:

Everyone wants something.
Even if it belongs to someone else.
And some will destroy the very thing they want, just so no one else can have it.

Professional soldier David Bellotti's latest mission seems simple: steal the key card to a drug lord's compound so the empire can be infiltrated and destroyed. But when David discovers evidence of his lover Lottie’s possible infidelity, his mission turns personal. He searches for answers others would kill to keep buried and discovers a link to the past he's been trying hard to ignore.

Ancient lives, twelve thousand year old secrets, murder, and primal instincts lead David on a journey through past lives and present danger—all to save the woman he loves.

Find your way back through history, when hunter-gatherers roamed and David and Lottie's past incarnations began. The Reading Café calls Covet, Book Two of the Past Life Series, "An amazing and fascinating storyline of suspense, mystery, betrayal, hatred and love."

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always had an interest in ancient Egypt and their idea of the afterlife, and also often wondered about the possibility of reincarnation. And the more I thought about it, the more questions came to mind. Like, why do we experience déjà vu and how is it that some people experience memories of a time before they were born? And, more than that, if past lives were real and we really did keep coming back until we “got it right”, what would happen if we had the chance to fix past wrongs or mistakes? Would things really be better? And what if they weren’t? Well, that led me to start writing the Past Life Series and I released Book 1 (In This Life) in April. But David Bellotti, my sexorific male lead from the series, grabbed hold of me big time and I wondered…what if he had past lives, too? And what if he, being the single-minded Alpha Male he is, had to put blind faith in a past he didn’t believe existed to save the woman he loved? And Covet was born…

I blew out the entrance and took off, hustling through the panicked crowd. Another gun fired and police sirens sounded in the distance. I made a left down a small street then a right into an alley, jumping a garbage can, hurtling over a short wall, and disappearing into the neighborhood. If Galen didn't make it to our backup rendezvous point, I had to get to the safe house and that was five miles away. And right now, I had no idea if Galen and Lady in Blue were still alive.

I skidded past a corner, wondering if I should take the chance and call an alert into HQ, when I heard screeching tires. I backed up, pressed myself against a wall, and realized who it was. Galen in a Toyota. He threw open the passenger door and I jumped in, slamming the door shut as Galen jammed the gas pedal.

“You get it?” he asked, swerving through a turn then dropping our speed so we didn’t draw attention.

I nodded. “Is Lady in Blue okay?”

Galen hugged another turn. “She will be. She came to when the gunshots were fired.”

I blew out a sigh of relief. It wasn't the first time a distraction job had taken a bad turn, but it was still a worry. “And the cops?”

“All at the nightclub. But we will have to lose the car.” He used his cell phone and dialed our contact, making arrangements for cleanup.

I pulled out Sahin’s wallet and lifted the keycard. “Payday,” I said, holding it up.

“Mommie Dearest says we should leave the wallet and card with the car.” Galen disconnected the call. “They will pick it all up at the Starbucks near the safe house in ten minutes.”

I drew in a breath and held it, forcing my heart and my lungs to calm down. Another close call. I loved this stuff.

“You love this stuff way too much,” Galen said, glancing my way.

I had known Galen all of three months, and he was far too good at reading my mind already. I was trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that we were connected in a way that didn't make sense, but that didn't mean I had to like it. Ignoring him, I sank into the seat, letting the adrenalin wear off.

“Let’s see what else we’ve got on this guy.” Inside his wallet I found a black American Express, a MasterCard, and over five thousand Euros in the billfold. A picture was tucked in with his identification. I pulled it out and held it up to catch the light from passing street lamps.

It was a photo of the love of my life kissing another man.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on Book 3 of the Past Life series right now. Another David Bellotti story, which means I get to spend every day with the sexy man all over again. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. My hope is that it’ll be released at the end of 2014.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Yikes. I don’t know. And here’s the thing. Some days I don’t think I’m a writer at all. It’s a curse many writers experience, too, in questioning whether or not you truly are capable of telling an exciting, entertaining story. Ask me again in a few years…maybe I’ll have a definitive answer for you then.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Oh man, writing full-time would be wonderful! But no…I’ve got a day job in downtown NYC, and I get up at 4:30am (yes, you read that right) to catch the train into the office. So I write on the train, and many times at night after I get home, and again on weekends. Plus, I’ve got a family. So, yeah, it’s a juggle. But I can’t imagine NOT writing, which means I find a way and find the time.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm…thinking…I don’t have a writing quirk. Boring, I know! But I have another quirk I can share with you. I have a penchant for colorful pens and notebooks. Yeah. I do. I’ve got a box full under my bed of all different kinds of pens and notebooks that I pull out when I need a fix. Some people love shoes? I love pens…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
You know, I never really went through the “I wanna be…” phase. But I was always pretending to be a character in my favorite TV shows when I played with my friends. We’d act out scenes from an episode of The Partridge Family or Starsky and Hutch (stop laughing!), or make up our own. So I guess in some ironic way that was my way of setting the stage for eventually going on to write stories of my own decades later.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Well, I certainly hope that those that buy Covet (or In This Life, or both) enjoy the series I’ve launched. I work hard to find just the right words, to convey the right mood, and to create as realistic characters as I can. I’ve been told the series is “different”, and yeah, I’d agree. Which means I also hope that readers find them as entertaining as I do! That said, thanks so much for having me here today! I enjoyed the interview!


Thank you, Terri!  Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win the e-book and/or the grand prize!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interview with paranormal romance author Stephanie Burkhart

Today’s special guest is paranormal romance author Stephanie Burkhart. She’s sharing a bit about her newest novel, Sunrise Over Brasov.

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Stephanie will be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit other tour stops and leave comments there, too!

Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She writes romance and children's stories. She's currently published with Desert Breeze, 4RV, and Victory Tales Press. She adores chocolates, loves coffee, and enjoys going for walks. In September 2014, she'll be participating in the 5K Walk to End Alzheimer's in Santa Clarita, CA.

Welcome, Stephanie. Please tell us about your current release.
Sunrise Over Brasov is Book 3 in the Moldavian Moon paranormal series. It's set near Brasov, Romania in the 1880's. Romania has such delicious folklore with the Vlad Tepes/Dracula legend that one just might believe the paranormal is real in Romania.

In the story, Rosa, who is a virgin witch, is kidnapped by Clement, an evil werewolf intent on using the purity of her witchcraft for his own personal gain. Michael, Rosa's beloved, chases after her in the hopes of freeing her from Clement, but will the separation doom their relationship or bring them closer together.

What inspired you to write this book?
Michael's story had to be told. The series is a trilogy and starts with Michael's parents, Mihai and Theresa. While finding love, Mihai and Theresa make a series of choices that doom their family to be haunted by werewolves. Can Michael finally end the curse? Love can led to redemption and forgiveness, but does Michael have the inner strength and courage to travel down that path considering the hurts he's suffered?

He raised his hand and lowered his hood. An inherent strength filled his profile. Confidence. Concern. Relief.

Rosa's breath jammed in her throat. He looked familiar. He smelled familiar.

"Rosa, it's Michael. Let's go."

"I'm not going anywhere with you."

A frown set against his rugged features. "I don't have time to argue -- now put on a warm dress and cloak."

"No." She was not going anywhere with him despite the relief in his voice.

He sighed and shut the door. Moving with fluid grace, he crossed the room, jerked the door to her closet open and threw the items he wanted her to wear on her bed. "Get. Dressed."

"No." She was determined not to budge, despite the danger outside.

"Rosa, we're leaving."

"I'm staying."

"Why would you want to stay? Clement kidnapped you."

Disconcerted, she pointedly glanced away from his hard stare. What did he mean by kidnapped? Clement didn't keep her behind bars and feed her only bread and water. Rosa could even go into Brasov to shop as long as Lucien or one of the bodyguards went with her.

"I'm going to take you back to your mother."

Her head snapped toward his direction. Mother? Of course she had a mother -- a family, even -- only she had no recollection of them. So why did her body fill with warmth at the mention of her mother by a man she hadn't seen before, but was hauntingly familiar? She pursed her lips, torn by conflicting emotions.

"Caroline and Darius can't keep this up. Now get dressed or I'll dress you myself."

"You'll find me an unwilling subject."

He drew in a deep breath and raked a hand through his thick ebony hair. "You are exasperating."

"So I've been told."

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm between stories right now. I want to work on a paranormal for Halloween and I need to start the prep work for Book 4 in my steampunk series, "The Windsor Diaries." In June, I'll have a short story coming out called "Arrow Through the Heart," in the Victory Tales Press Summer Anthology and Book 3 of The Windsor Diaries is coming out called "A Lady Never Lies."

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I remember there was a show in the 1970's called The Electric Company (Interesting note: Morgan Freeman was a cast member). After watching the show I'd go to the kitchen table with my crayons and pencils and create little Spiderman comics based on the skits from the show. Since then I kept writing, focusing on poems and short stories, but it wasn't until I was a teenager did I realize I was a writer and this was something I was going to do for the rest of my life.

What do you do other than write and how do you find the time to write?
I have a full time job as a 911 operator for the city of LA. Since we don't have access to personal computers, I usually do my writing on my down time with a pen and paper. When I get home, I type up what I've written at work. I'm a fast typer so it comes together quickly.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I used to tell people I wanted to be a bus driver because I wanted a job where I didn't have to go to college. I chuckle because I got a lot of reaction with that so sometimes I would say it just to get a reaction. I eventually went to collage (graduated Magna cum laude from California Baptist University in 1995) and went to work in law enforcement after serving in the US Army from 86-97.


Thanks, Stephanie! Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment if you’d like a chance to win the gift card!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interview with middle grade author Catherine DePino

Today’s guest is multipublished author Catherine DePino with her fourth book on the topic of bullying: Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book about Bullying.

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Catherine will be giving away a $20 Amazon gift card to a lucky commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and leave comments there, too!

Catherine DePino has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.

Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.

For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement, appeared on the market in March, 2014.

Welcome, Catherine. Please tell us a little bit about, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying.
My book’s main characer, Elliot, a freshman in high school, faces relentless bullying by some of his classmates. The story starts with his entrapment in a school supply closet and ends with a vicious head dunk in a toilet. Elliot, the book’s protagonist, lives on top of the family business, a funeral home in South Philly, with his detached, workaholic dad and Nonna, his overbearing grandmother. Since his parents divorced, his mother has lived on the west coast where she’s trying to make a name for herself in commercials. When Elliot lands in the hospital from his worst encounter with the bullies, he begins to come to terms with his bullying issues and his life. With the help of his mentor, Mr. Boardly, the school custodian, and two good friends, he works out a plan to deal with the bullies. Will he triumph and overcome? Read this crazy, sad, and funny book to find out.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve written four other books about bullying: two for children, one for parents, and one for teachers to use with their bully prevention classes. I believe that bullying is the biggest challenge of our generation and that we need to find solutions that work. Writing this book offered me a way to help address the problem. Of course, we have a long way to go, but I think we’re making progress.

I feel that kids, parents, and teachers can relate to Elliot K. Carnucci because I’ve seen bullying first hand in my stint as a teacher/department head, and disciplinarian. I also believe that the characters in the novel ring true because the school setting is one in which I’ve worked for many years. I know the pressures kids face and the challenges teachers and administrators encounter on a daily basis. I also thoroughly researched the funeral industry since Elliot lives in the funeral home his father operates. I believe that my middle grade novel has something for everyone: kids, parents, and grandparents. It gives some tips that can help kids in their fight against bullying and shows adults constructive ways to help kids. To get an idea of the book’s message, read my Amazon reviews.

When Nonna, my grandma, and I got home, Dad was standing in the reposing room (that’s where they lay out the dead bodies) admiring his hair and make-up job on his latest customer.
I moved close to the casket and peered in. “Didn’t Mr. Luisi have white hair?”
Nonna frowned. “White, black–he’s dead now. He doesn’t know the difference.”
Dad looked like he was in a trance. He slid Mr. Luisi’s trifocals down low on his nose, like he wore them when he read the sports page on his front porch, and straightened his plaid bow tie.
“Looks like he’s about to pop up and dance the Tarantella like he did at his daughter’s wedding,” Dad said to himself.
 Nonna poked Dad’s shoulder with her bony finger. His head spun around like Linda Blair in that movie, “The Exorcist.”
Dad looked at me all teary eyed. I didn’t know if he’d gotten emotional because of what he'd heard happened at school or if he was thrilled with the job he’d done on Mr. Luisi.
“Are you okay, Son?”
Nonna slammed her head with the palm of her hand.
“If you call being abused by a pack of punks okay, he’s fine.”
“I’ll live,” I said.

She motioned for me to follow her upstairs. Dad peeled off his rubber gloves and trudged up after us.

“Sit down,” Nonna said, offering me a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies. “Pour yourself a glass of milk. You’ll feel better.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written a book called Cool Things to Do While a Bully’s Bugging You and am currently looking for a publisher. I’m also thinking about writing a kids’ self-help book called How to Get Along with the Adults in Your Life When You Just Want to Tell Them to Bug Off. I’ve traditionally published all of my books except for Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser, the subject of this interview. I felt that since it was somewhat controversial, I’d be better off self-publishing it. I’ve also published a prayer book for pre-teen and teenage girls called Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for teenage girls after my publisher gave me back the e-rights. It’s a kid-friendly, non-preachy, non-denominational prayer book for all religions.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I knew I’d always write when I published an article in my local paper about my work as a young waitress (I was thirteen!) in a hot spot ice cream parlor in my neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia. It was called “I Was a Pig at Greenwood Dairies” and chronicled the fun my friends and I had making monster sundaes with six scoops of ice cream and every topping imaginable. Those who could demolish one of these “Pig’s Dinners” were awarded a coveted badge which proclaimed them pigs at Greenwood Dairies.

After I retired from the PhiIadelphia school system, I wrote a study guide about Cynthia Voigt’s young adult books for J. Weston Walch, an educational company; subsequently, the publisher accepted my grammar book called Grammar Workout. I’ve written many books since then and plan to write until I can no longer hammer out the words on my computer, which, I hope, is never.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write whenever I can. I’m an exercise nut (Zumba is my favorite), and always make time for that. I also like to read, cook, and visit my grandchildren.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My most interesting writing quirk is dreaming up a title to help me create a book. First the title enters my mind. Then the book begins to take shape directly from the title. Very few publishers have changed my titles because the titles always tell you exactly what my book is about. I think the title Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser is my wildest title yet. It’s also my favorite of all the books I’ve written. I hated to leave the characters behind and plan to write a sequel that takes place in the funeral home and deals with kids getting together to help each other with bullying problems. Mr. Boardly, Elliot’s mentor, was patterned after a beloved school custodian I worked with named Scotty. One of my daughters says I’m Nonna, the grandmother. However, I don’t think I’m quite as bossy or meddlesome as she is.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and I was fortunate enough to have the honor of being both.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Please write to me on my website, I’d like to know what you think of Elliot and if you can relate to anyone in the story. I’d love to hear your readers’ feedback on any of my books.

Book links:

Thank you, Catherine! Readers, don’t forget to comment below if you’d like a chance to win the gift card.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with novelist Anne Steinberg

Today’s special guest is novelist Anne Steinberg who is telling us quite a bit about her writing, particularly her new novel, Manroot. You can connect with her on Twitter, and Goodreads.

While living in England, Anne Steinberg’s first novel, Manroot was published by Headline Review in London. Manroot was heralded as an important first novel in 1994 and included in the Headline Review’s prestigious “Fiction without Frontiers,” a new wave of contemporary fiction that knows no limits. Eight modern storytellers were featured: Anne Steinberg, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, William Gibson, Peter Hoeg, Roddy Doyle, and E. Annie Proulx. It was an auspicious beginning to a long and varied career for Anne Steinberg, who went on to write several acclaimed novels, Every Town Needs A Russian Tea Room, the story of a wealthy socialite who falls in love with a penniless young Russian immigrant who is haunted by a bizarre shameful secret, The Cuckoos Gift, First Hands, and An Eye For An Ear. She is also coauthor of The Fence, written with her grandson Nicholas Reuel Tolkien, the great grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien. Nicholas is a filmmaker, director, and published poet. The Fence is a chilling story of a magnificent Gothic fence forged by a despicable blacksmith and infused with evil.

Anne was a partner in the world famous vintage clothing store, Steinberg & Tolkien, on Kings Road in Chelsea. After a successful run for over 20 years, the shop closed, and she returned to the US. Approaching her eighty-second birthday, she now writes, reads, and studies antiques, American Indian history, animal welfare, mythology, and folklore legends.

Welcome, Anne. Please tell us about your current release.
Manroot is the evocative and stirring story of a lonely town in Missouri, and a young woman named Katherine who discovers a mystical side to herself that she’d never known existed. It weaves together fantasy, romance, and a young girl’s coming of age into a darkly magical story.  

In the spring of 1939, Katherine Sheahan and her father, Jesse, are looking for work in the isolated tourist town of Castlewood. Jesse gets a job as handyman and Katherine as a maid at a small hotel. Jesse drinks and neglects his work and eventually disappears, abandoning his daughter. Frieda Broom, the hotel Manager, takes Katherine under her wing, and teaches her about ginseng, the manroot, and other secrets of the foothills. Katherine discovers that she is a natural healer and has the ability to communicate with spirits, a gift she inherited from her Navajo Indian mother.

Among the hotels regular clientele is Judge William Reardon. Escaping his sterile marriage, he becomes captivated by Katherine. As the pair bond over astrology and gardening, Katherine becomes convinced they belong together, despite him being much older than her and married. As they begin to fall in love, the violence of dark magic threatens to annihilate all Katherine knows and holds dear. Can their love survive?

Manroot is a potent tale of destiny, spiritualism and love, written in Anne Steinberg’s signature compelling style. The kindle version was published March 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon.

What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for writing Manroot came about from a country property that our family wished to purchase. It was wooded acres in the Missouri Ozarks by the Meramac River. The property contained an old derelict building that had been a small hotel during the depression. There was an abandoned swimming pool that we found had contained salt water from an underground spring from 1800 hundred miles south from the gulf of Mexico. This strange oddity for a pool in the Midwest and the local facts told of another strange phenomenon that the hills had a wild crop of Ginseng called the Manroot, where in the olden days many came this way to hunt for the plant. The river was named an Indian name MERAMAC. All the strange facts intrigued me and I tried to image who came in those days in the depression looking for work, and somehow this beautiful strange young Indian girl was born in my imagination and I tried to see who she would have fallen in love with.... an older exciting bad boy of a man, Judge William Reardon.

Excerpt from Chapter 5:
Working alone in the kitchen, Katherine scrubbed it clean. Looking up at the calendar, she knew tomorrow was Friday. The Judge was one of the few people who stopped here regularly, even now, in late autumn. Perhaps it was telling Sally that had started it all, for now her thoughts of the Judge were like a fever that stayed with her. Last Friday when she took him his bourbon and spring water, she noticed it for the first time, the birthmark. It was on his right hand, so clear and vivid that she had almost dropped the tray. He had smiled at her nervousness, called her ‘my dear,’ and given her a silver dollar for a tip.
Katherine slept restlessly; she dreamed of the Oh mu and heard its moan of agony echoing in her sleep. She dreamed of Papa floating in the muddy river, caught and held under by a treacherous branch, his eyes vacant pools staring upward through the water. It was so real that in the morning when the siren from the firehouse once again split the air, she rushed into the kitchen where Frieda was telling Bruce, “You be careful…another one’s gone and gave herself to the river. It was a suicide, a painted woman from the Eagle’s nest…” Frieda shivered as she told the story the way that she had heard it from the postman. The woman in the night had cut her wrists, but the dying was too slow, so she ran from the clubhouse, perched only for a moment on the railing, then jumped headlong into the cold water.
Katherine moved slowly this morning. Frieda fussed at her, but knowing the girl had never been lazy, she thought the drowning must have upset her or maybe she was coming down with something.
The guests were all gone. They only expected one tonight – Judge Reardon. They’d have time to go into the woods today, hunting for herbs and the manroot. But Frieda went alone as the girl looked a bit too peaked.
Alone, Katherine cleaned the rooms again; it took no time, for they were already clean. She lingered in Number 8, The Judge’s room.
She knew a lot about him now, and she felt a very real presence that he left in the room. She knew intimate things about him – like the size of his shirts, the smell of his aftershave, which side of the bed he slept on, how he preferred his coffee, the brand of cigarettes that he smoked…numerous details about him that she had collected bit by bit, saving them in her mind and in her dreams, like pennies to be spent at a later date.
He knew nothing of her dusting his dresser, straightening the bed after he had risen. He was not aware that while he was out, she pressed his shirts to her lips, inhaling his aroma, and sat on the bed in the same crevices his body had made over the years that he had slept here. Now she knew with the wisdom and instinct of centuries, she knew that what would be, would be.
Last week for the first time she had seen it, the birthmark, on his right hand. It was paler than the surrounding skin, crescent-shaped like a slice of the moon, and within its outline, unmistakable, a perfect five-pointed star. She knew its shape by heart, as just above her right breast she had its identical replica.
The Navajo blood flowed strongly in her veins, with all its beliefs in the signs, even though her father had tried vainly to smother these strange alien traits. Since her childhood she had believed that she could speak to animals, and she could find herbs hiding under any rock and knew exactly what they would cure.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I am multi tasking, writing the screenplay of Manroot and accumulating scraps and incidents of a memoir that I am writing sparked by the many questions my grandchildren asked about the different things that existed when I was growing up. I am also currently working on promoting my previously published novels, which include: The Quest | First Hands | Every Town Needs a Russian Tea Room | The Cuckoo’s GiftElias’sFence

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess I thought I was a writer when I had my first stories published by True Stories back in the 60s. It was such a thrill to see the magazines on the stand at the drug store, and sometimes I would see a woman pick up the magazine issue my story was in and leaf thru it. Of course your name isn’t published as these tales are supposed to be true, and I suppose they can be, the story could have happened to someone. And in the broad sense they could have been looked at as morality tales as they all have the same theme....Sin ...Suffer and Repent. 

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don t write full time I never could afford to do this...its a lonely difficult occupation and so few are able to do so. I have been in writing classes where I read pieces and stories by other writers that I feel were so very, very good but again in those days never made it to print. Thank Goodness with ebooks everyone with talent has a chance.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I guess my main quirk is I can only feel creative at night. When my children were small I would write all night, when the house was quiet and sitting at the dining room table with our faithful dog Charlie Girl under my chair and only the night sounds for company, that’s when I could hear the muse speaking softly in my ear. Over the years I have tried writing in the daylight, no dice.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I wanted to be a Veterinarian. I think this was prompted by the fact that my mother was very ill with asthma and we could have no pets. I viewed cats and dogs as mysterious wonderful toys of sorts but better, they seemed capable of love given and received.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

Right now I am excited as a screenplay of our dystopian book ELIAS FENCE has won a prestigious contest and is making the Hollywood rounds of production companies. The book and screenplay was co-written by my 23-year-old grandson and myself.

Thank you for being a guest here at Reviews and Interviews, Anne!