Monday, December 31, 2012

A Hat Tip to the New Year

Ah!  After a peaceful Christmas season, here we are on the edge of the New Year.  The snow is falling outside and the cats are laying all over my desk as they stare at the strange, white fluff descending from the heavens.

Today's post is a simple one.  No stories to review.  No authors to interview.  Just a reminder to you, my dear readers, to cherish your loved ones and find time to relax and take in the fleeting moments as they pass by during the coming New Year.

In the meantime, if you've a mind to do so, please drop me a note either here on the blog in the comments section or my email at and share your thoughts on reading, writing, and your favorite moments of 2012. 

And if you've taken time to read any of my work, I'd love to hear from you on what you liked and didn't like as I prepare to immerse myself once again into the world of Darkness.  Plus there's that promised short story sequel I know many of you are itching for.

So hats off to a glorious and prosperous 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Adult Christmas Tale

So here we are, arriving upon the heels of the Christmas season to marvel at the snowfall outside, the chill wind blowing said snow, stirring up a cup of hot cocoa and cozying up by the fire to read about a fart.

A fart you ask?  Yes, you read that right.  This winter evening (or morning, depending on your time zone) I bring to you a Christmas story to end all Christmas stories - The Fart That Saved Christmas.

Book Summary:
The behind the scenes story of what really happened "The Night Before Christmas."

It's Christmas Eve. The reindeer go on strike with a list of demands for Santa, the elves and Mrs. Claus. Santa gets "loaded" and threatens to cancel Christmas, fire the deer and divorce Mrs. Claus. But, just when all seems lost, Christmas is saved by a timely fart.

My Review:
Yep, the above pretty much sums it up.  This adult illustrated book is a whimsical take on The Night Before Christmas - and it is definitely for adults (and clearly marked as such).  Beware the language and "Playdeer" magazine!

The meter matches the rhythms of its namesake with a clever twist to the old familiar story.  The illustrations are beautifully done, however I have a confession to make.  I took a gamble by accepting this story to read and review, as it is obvious (as the title suggests) that this is geared more toward the bathroom humor crowd.

And I have sorely no experience or understanding of said humor.

So I requested and received permission to allow my twenty-year-old son (who grew up loving the old Captain Underpants series, much to my chagrin) to read and offer his input from a more "experienced" pallette.

He laughed several times throughout and thought it was a hoot - he gave it two thumbs up for both the storyline as well as the illustrations.  The idea of the reindeers going on strike, a cranky Mrs. Claus, and drunk Santa reminded him about some crazy song about Santa getting drunk, going bezerk and blowing up the North Pole then making reindeer sausage out of Rudolph.  Then he proceeded to sing what he remembered to me.

"Sigh" - Lord, I tried!

So if your penchant leans toward the adult, bathroom humor crowd then you will absolutely LOVE this unique take on The Night Before Christmas.  And if you have a loved one who appreciates said humor style, then you simply must gift a copy to them of The Fart That Saved Christmas.

They will probably thank you - maybe. :-)

A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good (and white) night!

Jacob Morningside's Bio:
Born into a body inhabited by multiple muse personalities, I create stories by stretching the "normal" beyond the boundaries of the absurd.  The result is a worm-hole ride to the Far Side.  I love a good story — so, I wrote one.  Enjoy it with my wishes for a happy holiday season.

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Price: $4.99
Format: Ebook
Pages: 40 illustrated
Publisher: Publish Green
Release: September 6, 2012

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Review of Hell - Step into The Devil's Garden

Okay readers, we're going straight to hell today.  No seriously, in this season of giving, blessed peace, and remembering why we celebrate, I've the pleasure to take you on a journey to hell - at least a hell on this earth.

Today, I'm bringing you a review of Brady Christianson's novel The Devil's Garden, a story of death and destruction with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor and sharp wit.  I already know of several acquaintences who will enjoy this book immensely.  So here's my gift to you this season - Merry Christmas!

Book Summary:
A Marine’s past is never far behind him, but sometimes it’s a lot closer than he thinks . . .

After years of enjoying the soft, quiet, civilian, family life, former Recon Marine Brandon Colson still has a large price on his head…only his family doesn’t know it. That is, until a heavily armed squad of terrorists breaks into his house and tries to kill him and his family.

After swiftly dispatching the would-be assassins, Colson realizes the ghosts from his past have somehow managed to come back to haunt him. His worst nightmare has come true. His identity—a secret until now—has been mysteriously compromised. Something he did years ago, while on a recon mission during his tour of service, has kept anger burning in the hearts of powerful Arab adversaries. And the men who attacked his house are simply an omen of what is to come.

With his family in hiding, Colson and local detective Sam Collier set out to locate and neutralize the remainder of the terrorist cell. It’s a race against time, and the plot they uncover along the way defies all expectation.

Their fates in the balance until the last second, the two men must fight for their lives as they navigate a trail littered with bloodshed and revenge that leads straight to hell on earth: The Devil’s Garden.

My Review:
I have to admit, when first starting this book I wasn't sure what to expect.  It is a little confusing and slow to make sense, but once it really gets started it is a rocket blast forward to the finish line.

We first meet Detective Sam Collier as he unfolds his six-foot-ten frame from his car and heads into the station at four in the morning.  Inside he'll find his strangest and most unsettling interrogation suspect of his entire career.

Suspect Brandon Colson claims to have been born on November 10, 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He also claims to have special powers and an evil sword to explain why there are four dead men in his house (one decapitated), and why he tore through security at the small airport to shoot down the remaining two men during takeoff in a twin-engine turboprop - with only a 9 millimeter and a 12-gauge shotgun.

Brandon proceeds to make verbal mincemeat of his interrogators, especially the staff psychologist.  I laughed so hard during this section of the proceedings until the psychologist tucks tail and runs from the interrogation room.  After interrogations of Brandon, his wife, and each of his three daughters (the youngest's observations are quite funny), Brandon's saving grace comes in the form of Homeland Security, Deputy Director Dain - or as Brandon refers to his former Marine partner, Day One.  Brandon and his family are released to Dain.

And that's where the storyline begins to takeoff.

Brandon's past has caught up with him.  A band of Muslim extremists have placed a price on Brandon's head from a long-ago incident in the Philippines, which is gradually brought into the picture to assist us in understanding the 'why'.  Approximately forty Palestinian hit-men have illegally entered the country with one primary purpose - kill Brandon Colson.

Now Brandon, with the help of Detective Sam, must find each of the targets and wipe them out in return so they cannot report back the success or failure of their mission - and all to protect his family and those involved.

Brandon's smart-mouthed repartee is the real winner in this novel.  The majority of the novel consists of dialogue and some action, with very little internalization driving the story - and in this case, it works very well because of the dry wit and humor referenced.  You HAVE to have a semblence of a sense of humor to really appreciate how Brandon verbally cold-cocks everyone around him.  If you don't, you will just be incensed and walk away like the psychologist character.

Even though Brandon, his past actions and how they play into the present actions, is the primary focus of the story, Sam is our true protagonist.  We see him progress from a 'by the book' detective to a man willing to put everything on the line and do whatever is necessary to save his loved ones and those he respects from harm.  Plus his size and 'grazing' habits make for some interesting jabs.

You'll have to read the book to find out why.

As I said, the beginning was confusing and a bit hard to follow at times, though I doubt the Marines and retired Marines in the audience will have the difficulty I had in this regard.  Also, in the few scenes that did not involve constant dialogue, the writing was very passive and I found myself mentally editing out the unnecessary words to make it more action oriented.  Again, however, this is probably just because I'm also a writer and used to editing, while the average reader probably wouldn't have a problem with the extra words and passive voice.

One word of caution - if you do not like action involving violence and blood-letting then don't pick up this book.  Personally, I had no problems with this because the reasoning was justified.  But there are a few scenes that are quite gory in the telling, though it does not dwell on and draw out these actions to the point of being gratiutous.  This is where we get a chance to visit the story's 'hell'.

And for those of you concerned about the Muslim religious connotations, the author makes a VERY clear distinction between those who are peaceful Muslims and the extremists - and weaves this case throughout without being preachy.

Even with the few issues I had, I still enjoyed The Devil's Garden very much and was surprised at how the irreverant humor drove it forward and kept me laughing - and reading.  The climactic scene was exciting and heart-pounding while maintaining a sense of humor even amidst death and destruction.  If your penchant leans toward the thriller genre, you will find this a fun addition to your reading library.

So on that note, I think it's time for me to go and graze a little.

Brady Christianson's Bio:
Brady Christianson is a former United States Marine Corps Recon Marine whose military service and Christian faith has shaped his writing.  Visit his blog at

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Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
ISBN: 9781938690167
Pages: 391
Release: November 11, 2012

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Piercing the Darkness Now on Amazon

Well if I'd realized it would be live so quickly, I'd have just waited to make the sequel's release announcement today.  Oh well!

This afternoon you can now find Piercing the Darkness, the sequel to Running into the Darkness, available for your Kindle through Amazon at  I imagine it will still be a few days or weeks before it is out on the other avenues, but remember you can still pick it up via Smashwords as well.  I'll keep you up to date as to availability.

So on a cold and snowy day, sit by the fire, enjoy a cup of hot coffee or cocoa and read Book Two in the Deepest Darkness series.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sequel Announcement!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make tonight.

Piercing the Darkness is ready for publishing!

As you are aware, I've been going round and round concerning the cover art.  For weeks now the content has been formatted and ready to upload - it's been the pesky cover art that has given me too many sleepless nights.

Recently I was told the original cover was being scrapped and the process would start all over again due to the new cover artist being so new to the whole platform.  Things just weren't on track to match the appearance of the wonderful cover artist I'd retained last year. 

The scrapping of the cover art sent me into a panic, because that meant publishing would be severely delayed into 2013.  So in order to avoid any further delays, I requested and was granted a few minor changes to the original cover in order to get SOMETHING out to my patient readers before the end of the year.  We can always go back and modify the cover at a later date.

As of this evening, Piercing the Darkness is live and available for purchase on Smashwords at .  Within the next few days, it will be live on Amazon Kindle and then Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc.  I'll be sure and update you as the other sites become available.

In the meantime, re-read Running into the Darkness or pick up your own copy while it is still available on sale for only ninety-nine cents.  Then you'll be set to go with the continuation of the Deepest Darkness series.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Twisted Tale - Review Nobody Has to Know

Once again, I have a review to share with you today, Frank Nappi's thriller Nobody Has to Know.  The novel is a sad, frightening, and twisted tale that keeps you reading - even when you sometimes want to stop.

Nobody Has To Know, Frank Nappi's dark and daring new thriller, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages, Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces that threaten to expose him.

Nobody Has To Know is a sobering look into a world of secrets, lies, and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you love.

My Review:
As I said, the story kept me moving forward toward the finish line even though I wanted so many times to stop.  I knew what was coming.  The nature of the novel starts with a fresh-faced, exciting high school English instructor, Cameron Baldridge, who is the favorite of the entire school body.  He's got everything going for him and a bright future ahead.  One momentous decision changes all of that, sending his life down the slope toward a train wreck. 

Worse is, you see the crash coming.  So many times I wanted to pull Cam from the story and slap some sense into him.  Getting my emotions churned up is a sign of a good novel, in my estimation.

Every character in the story has difficulties in their lives that they either never dealt with and continues to haunt them, or that they are continuing to deal with - without dealing with it, if you get my meaning. 

Since the time of the drowning of his summertime sweetheart when fourteen, you see Cam continuing to be deluged by the memories.  It affects his relationship with his fiance in the present. 

Nikki, the young, innocent siren and target of Cam's lust, feels like an outcast, an old soul among immature, power-hungry, high school illiterates. 

Samantha has been molested by her step-father since the time she was young, and even though she's tried to get her mother to understand what's been going on, has no one in her court - and this twists her thinking to an extreme. 

Melanie is a brainiac who just wants to fit in, to be thought of as more than just a smart girl on her way to Harvard.  When she voices her desires, her family just puts her down and tells her she isn't pretty or talented enough to be anything more than a brain. 

Hayley saw and endured far too much abuse from her alcoholic father and strives for nothing more in her OCD existence than to have money and power in her career.  She constantly seeks to control the uncontrollable.

They all collide together, woven and twisted into a dark tapestry of sex, violence, and despair.

The one saving grace is Cam's mentor, John, but sadly Cam never takes advantage of the older instructor's wisdom.  Instead Cam pushes John farther and farther away as he sinks deeper and deeper into his actions, deceit and lies.

You want to root for Cam to do the right thing, but he never does.  This makes him a less-than likable character.  We see him become engulfed in his own fantasies until he acts on them again, and again, and again.  Even when he has the chance to come clean, he chooses to just add more fuel to the blazing bonfire.  His selfishness is on full display - and it isn't pretty.  He destroys many lives in the process, but then many of those lives make choices that only add to their own destruction.  The cycle goes full circle.

I did pretty much figure out what was coming about 65% of the way through the story, but even then I wasn't quite sure I was right.  This kept me reading - again, for me a sign of good storytelling.

Some miscues in word usage (constantly using lied instead of lay or laid) and some issues with formatting at times got in the way of the reading flow.  There were also many times throughout where point-of-view shifted several times within a scene, sometimes even within the same paragraph, and disrupted the flow as well.  But then other times there were transitions that kept the shift from being quite so jarring.

Overall, Nobody Has to Know kept me moving forward despite the depressing and despicable nature of the storyline and characters.  I found myself continuing to hope Cam would do the right thing at some point in the story, and that kept me reading as well.  This is dealing with some VERY touchy and grotesque issues of the human soul, so keep that in mind if you decide to read this.  But if you like a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing, I can recommend Nobody Has to Know.

But you can't say I didn't warn you!

Frank Nappi's Bio:
Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, Echoes From The Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Frank continues to produce quality work, including Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story, and is presently at work on a third installment of the unique series. Frank lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.  Please follow his blog or contact him through his website at

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Price/Format: $3.99, ebook
Publisher: G Agency LLC
Release: October 16, 2012

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sequel on the Horizon

Well the sequel is on the horizon.

Piercing the Darkness, the second in the Deepest Darkness series, is finished.  Formatting is complete and ready for upload.  The only thing standing in the way of publication tonight is adjustment to the cover art.  Still needs a bit of tweaking.

Last year's cover artist wasn't available for this release so all responsibility for Piercing's cover has fallen to a young man who is still learning some of the tricks of the trade.  Latest views are promising.  My fingers are crossed that we'll have a nice cover ready for upload before leaving for Thanksgiving break.

Apologies for the delay, oh patient readers!

In the meantime, if you haven't yet purchased your copy of the first in the series, Running into the Darkness, then now's your time while it is still available for the bargain price of only ninety-nine cents.  Let your friends and family know while it's hot!

I hope you are anticipating the release of Piercing the Darkness - almost as much as I am!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Intriguing Step Back into History with The Banker Spy

Hello again, dear readers!  Have I got a good read to present to you today - you betcha.  If you love World War II history like I do, you will be able to follow the events in The Banker Spy as if it were all happening once again.  Eerie!  So now I give you William G. Byrnes' The Banker Spy.

Book Summary:
The Banker Spy weaves history into a contemporary thriller about ex-lovers who become entangled in a web of international intrigue. Investment banker Peter Armstrong believes he’s left his past in the States. He has an exciting new job in London and is managing the largest equity offering in European history. Behind him are an incident at his old employer and a broken engagement. He thinks his only problem is his client—an automobile company desperate for cash. Then he receives a phone call from his ex-fiancĂ©e, Dayna Caymus, a beautiful and unpredictable CIA agent. When Peter discovers that his client is secretly working for the German government the two ex-lovers enter into an uneasy alliance which their past sometimes helps and sometimes hurts, all the while sorting through their feelings for each other. Dayna puts her mission first, leading Peter into a labyrinth of deception and conspiracy. Peter loses his client, his job, and almost his life as they race to learn Germany’s secrets—secrets that could start a nuclear war.

My Review:
As a lover of history, cars, and speed, the opening autobahn chase scene immediately catapulted me into this story, from the crash of a high-speed Porsche to the introduction of the high-stakes intrigue.

Meet our "banker spy", American Peter Armstrong - a man with a challenging past both in his career and his personal life.  Peter is fired after a large deal he pushed through for a friend turns south.  The sting of rejection reminds him anew of his failed engagement, ended by a calloused phone call.  Then a European bank handpicks Peter to oversee the largest international equity transaction offered by a European company, the prestigious Storch Motors.  Storch's CEO has a reputation as a tyrant, but he also has ties to the current German chancellor, which brings with it certain perks.  The Storch CEO bristles at all of the unnecessary inquiry as Peter questions the overall purpose for the massive cash influx into the company - and also the reasons for the chancellor's involvement.

Chancellor Denker secretly idolizes Hitler, but this information could defeat his reelection bid if the general public were made aware.  From the initial meeting with Peter in Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" to revitalizing and utilizing old underground research and construction facilities for missile development, Denker lives to realize the reunified Germany's return to the glory of the Third Reich.  He just never anticipated the tenacity of Storch's new banker, who questions every anomaly hidden in the company's financials.

When ex-fiance, Dayne Caymus, comes waltzing back into Peter's life, he's immediately suspicious of her desires and what she's doing in Germany, especially considering she's an agent for the CIA.  As this femme fatale enters the scene, Peter's life gets turned upside down - again.  But this time his life and the lives of tens of thousands are at stake.

I enjoyed most every aspect of this well-written, nicely plotted and paced story.  The characters were well fleshed-out and neither flat nor one-dimensional, with difficulties shaping their pasts, potential life-altering decisions in their presents, and hopes for the future.  The twists and turns kept coming, and once the action ratcheted up it didn't slow down.  Being a World War II history buff, I loved "visiting" the old tunnels and elaborate underground Luftwaffe facilities, hangars, and camouflaged airstrips.  It's truly amazing what human ingenuity accomplished to advance technology on both sides of the pond during that troubling time in our history.

The comparisons and similarities between Adolf Hitler and the fictional Chancellor Denker's antics, such as with the Sudetenland/Eastern Border Territory, were well managed and would be fairly simple to define by most readers with any knowledge of the era.  However, I felt the usage of Hitler's questionable ancestry and possible Jewish roots by the Denker character to be a bit over the top.  There was also one scene where Peter was mysteriously released from detention, which would never have occurred under the Nazis.  That felt a bit unrealistic.  However, the next time he was detained, the situation ended up being pretty intriguing in how it played out.  Ultimately it made up for the previous dismissal.

I believe anyone who loves a good international thriller will find the action and intrigue in The Banker Spy enough to keep them reading until the morning's wee hours.  It did me!

And now I'm once again dreaming of the day I can open her up full-throttle and roar all-out along the autobahn.

William G. Byrnes's Bio:
Bill Byrnes was an investment banker with Alex. Brown & Sons for 17 years. After that he was a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Finance and, subsequently, member of the Board of Regents at Georgetown University. He's founded three companies and has served on the boards of six public companies. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Michigan. His interests include European and Mesoamerican history, wine collecting, and automobiles. He's happiest around the water and on the tennis court. Bill, his wife, and their two poodles divide their time between Washington, DC and West Palm Beach, FL.

You can follow the Tribute Books blog tour here
Format/Price: $2.99 ebook
Publisher: Publish Green
ISBN: 9781938296345
Release: August 27, 2012

Kindle buy link ($2.99):

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Isaac Sidel Novel for Review

Today I bring you a review for Under the Eye of God, the most recent novel in a mystery series by Jerome Charyn - his famous, gunslinging character, Isaac Sidel.  With no further adieu, let's get started!

Under the Eye of God Book Summary:
After decades of madness in the Bronx, Isaac Sidel visits the craziest state in the country.

Isaac Sidel is too popular to be America's vice president.  Once the New York Police Department commissioner, he became the most beloved mayor in the city's history - famous for his refusal to surrender his Glock, and for his habit of disappearing for months at a time to fight crime at street level.  So when baseball czar J. Michael Storm asks Sidel to join him on the election's Democratic ticket, the two wild men romp to an unprecedented landslide.  But as the president-elect's mandate goes off the rails - threatened by corruption, sex, and God knows what else - he tires of being overshadowed by Sidel, and dispatches him to a place from which tough politicians seldom return:  Texas.

In the Lone Star state, Sidel confronts rogue astrologers, accusations of pedophilia, and a dimwitted assassin who doesn't know when to take an easy shot.  If this Bronx bomber doesn't watch his step, he risks making vice-presidential history by getting killed on the job.

My Review:
There were several things I really enjoyed about this book.  It had the expectation of one of the old "noir" movies of yesteryear, with the mob, the femme fatale, and our lone (and lonely) hero.

The idealism of the protagonist, Isaac Sidel, was refreshing.  He was portrayed as a man of principle, though not above using the lower elements outside the law to stand up for what is right.  Isaac doesn't spend much time worrying about what the pundits will think of his actions - he does what needs to be done.  Even so, he never devolves into a caricature of the proverbial "knight in shining armor".  We still have opportunity to see his flaws, which makes him more relatable to the human element we all endure.  Too bad we never see a politician like him.

The political arena of the book reflects the reality that both sides of the aisle are neither all good nor all evil.  This was an element I thought was well portrayed, that it's still politics as usual when it comes to Washington D.C., regardless of which party Isaac attaches to at any given time.  Isaac remains true to who he is, not beholden to any particular group or the machinations behind the scenes.  Sometimes his idealism gets him into trouble with both sides, but Isaac is first and foremost a man of the law, Old West style.  He even totes his gun around with him everywhere he goes, to the chagrin of the Secret Service - funny at times!

Another favorite character wasn't a true character at all.  The Ansonia (a very real, iconic New York City hotel/apartment building), with its seventeen floors of circular living rooms and windows of etched glass, was a standout.  The descriptions of the Ansonia and her occupants, both in her hey-day and the present, were intoxicatingly rich.  It made me want to drop everything and fly to New York to take a tour and relive her glory days - "sigh" - I miss New York City!  I loved it when the character, David Pearl, says, "Every time I'm on the stairs, with the wrought-iron rails, it's like having my own little piece of Europe."

Without having read any of the previous Isaac Sidel novels, however, I felt lost in the constant shuffle of characters.  There were so many secondary characters thrown in, with little to no description of their purpose to this particular story, that I was continually frustrated.  It left me with the impression throughout that these may have been key people in prior novels in the series, but here they just seemed to get in the way.  Most of the time their inclusion spurred actions without any defined motivation or understanding of why they reacted the way they did.  Without a clear idea of the characters and their internal motivations, it made the action mindless.  Then just as soon as these characters appeared - poof! - they were gone again.

Though I love history and reliving certain elements of how actual history ties into this story (especially when it came to the Ansonia), there was too much jumping back and forth between past and present with little transition.  Many times the lack of transition made reading jarring, and I'd have to go back to see where I was before the flashback then flash forward to regain my footing.

The supposed big fight near the end was anti-climactic, mainly due to yet another previously unknown character being thrown into the mix.  We had his introduction, the fight, and then the cleanup within a few paragraphs.  It left me dissatisfied, again with the desire for even a basic understanding of internal motivations to make the "fight" have meaning.  I just wanted more.

Overall, I would recommend this novel only if you take the opportunity to first read the other Isaac Sidel books in the series.  Armed with that necessary background, Under the Eye of God might have been a more enjoyable addition.

Jerome Charyn's Bio:
Jerome Charyn (b. 1937) is the critically acclaimed author of nearly fifty books. Born in the Bronx, he attended Columbia College, where he fell in love with the works of William Faulkner and James Joyce. After graduating, he took a job as a playground director and wrote in his spare time, producing his first novel, a Lower East Side fairytale called Once Upon a Droshky, in 1964.

In 1974 Charyn published Blue Eyes, his first Isaac Sidel mystery. Begun as a distraction while trying to finish a different book, this first in a series of Sidel novels introduced the eccentric, near-mythic detective and his bizarre cast of sidekicks. Charyn followed the character through Citizen Sidel (1999), which ends with his antihero making a run at the White House. Charyn, who divides his time between New York and Paris, is also accomplished at table tennis, and once ranked amongst France’s top Amazon10 percent of ping-pong players.  Visit his website at

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Price: $14.99
Release: October 30, 2012

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Scary Halloween Treat

On this, the eve of Halloween, I thought I'd take a bit of time away from edits of Piercing the Darkness to share a special post from a very special guest.  He's the author of numerous action and adventure books, mysteries and thrillers but what he has cooked up to share tonight is all-out, blood lust.  That's right - come one, come all and join the horror that is Gordon A. Kessler's Jezebel.

Gordon's Post:
I got the writing bug back in 1990 and started writing a comedy novel, until I found out that comedy wasn't selling unless you were an already established writer like Jay Cronley (Funny Farm, Screwballs).  I'd heard that horror was a closely related cousin to humor, so I started thinking I could take on the big boys like Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Well, let me tell you, it was no easy task.

Sitting at the dining room table, I stared at the proverbial blank page I'd jammed into the old electric typewriter for several minutes, never coming up with even an opening line I liked.  I had no plot, no hero, no villain in mind, but I wanted words on paper.

About to give up, the family pet ferret came bounding around the corner from the living room.  "Jezebel," I said aloud, "ferret from Hell!"

A tiny ferret just wasn't threatening enough to center an entire horror thriller novel around, so I went back to work, trying to conjure up a larger, more frightening villain.  I think I came up with a really good one.

I'd been fascinated by how really sweet and timid the Great Danes I'd been around were, yet, how imposing and menacing they can look, and would be if any should ever "go bad".

So, I had my villain for a horror thriller called Jezebel - a huge, black Great Dane.  But making her the antagonist in the story was too easy.  How about making her the victim of someone seeking revenge - make her the sweet, benign dog that I knew most Great Danes to be, but have her and dozens, maybe even hundreds of other dogs forced into doing terrible things they don't want to do.  Now, I had a plot.

But I needed a good hero to deal with all these dog attacks and to get to the bottom of this wild story of revenge.  Who better to throw into the middle of a bunch of vicious dogs?  How about...the dog catcher!  How about the head dog catcher of a Midwestern city, who's going through a midlife crisis and being tempted by his seductive young and beautiful assistant?  Wow, I was about to have great fun writing this one!

Jezebel was my first novel.  I researched heavily and spent considerable effort in peopling it with deep, realistic characters that readers will feel like they know.  There are no superheroes in this book.  They have flaws, they are you and me.

I wrote Jezebel before I knew how to write.  Yet, it's a timeless story and may be my very best.  I guarantee it will frighten you!

For a sample of JEZEBEL, go to:

For a look at Gordon Kessler's other work, check out his blog at:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Step Right Up! Pre-release Sale

Ladies and gentlemen - step right up and take advantage of a pre-release special deal on Running into the Darkness!

Work on the sequel, Piercing the Darkness, is rapidly drawing to conclusion.  The culmination of the year's work is coming together for a release in early November.  I'm so excited, and I hope you are too.  There's death and destruction, intrigue and seduction,with power and control in the balance - and so many surprises it will blow your mind.

My critique group hates it when I do that. :-)

So for a limited time, to celebrate the upcoming release of Piercing the Darkness, you can purchase the first book in the Deepest Darkness series for a steal of a price at ninety-nine cents.  The sale price is already live at Smashwords and soon to be at Amazon and other online eBook retailers.  Just click on the links under the cover image to your right here on the site and voila - right at your fingertips.

Please tell all of your family and friends while the opportunity is available - and if you've a mind to do so, leave a comment or review on your purchase site of choice.  Honest reviews are always appreciated.

Thank you again, dear readers, for your feedback and encouragement over this past year.  Stay tuned also for information on how you can win a free copy of Piercing the Darkness upon release.

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome a Recovering "Good Girl" - Annmarie Kelly

As stated in my review yesterday, I'm pleased to bring to you this morning Annmarie Kelly, author of "Victorious Woman!".  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the inspirational life journeys she shared.  Let's get started so she can share with you how her life's work transpired.

DAB:  I have to admit, your website alone inspired me.  Tell our readers a little bit about your background that led to this fascinating project.

AMK:  Thanks – I appreciate that you took the time to look the website over and so very glad you like what you found there! And thanks for doing this too!

I grew up in a strict Italian-Catholic home. I was a "good girl" - and I know many of your readers will identify. You know, I did all the right things: good grades in school, didn't make problems, became the peacemaker, became a teacher, etc. But the first part of my life included very difficult times - but also contributed to some of the most profound turning points of my life. My father became an alcoholic in my teens (he didn't drink at all before then). My oldest brother was physically and emotionally abusive brother, and my sister was already showing signs that the moodiness (as my mother called it) which she exhibited when I was a child was the beginnings of mental illness.

In my twenties I fell in love and was engaged, only to realize the relationship wasn't going to work out in the long term. I ended the engagement but at the expense of my father's approval. A couple years later, when I moved into my own apartment, my parents (with their strong first-generation Italian values) didn't approve. Not only did they not help in any way, my father didn't talk to me for almost a year. I was teaching in a Catholic elementary school and making next to nothing - or, as I often joke, earning a couple holy cards (prayer cards) a week.

DAB:  What was the catalyst that inspired your desire to write “Victorious Woman!”?

AMK:  I got the idea to write Victorious Woman in a dream. Then, like many of us who get great ideas that way, I immediately found an excuse to ignore the inspiration. A few months later I started having a gyn problem and the doctor couldn't diagnose it. After ruling out different kinds of cancer, I was waiting for a call and wondering if it was ovarian. If it was, I didn't know what I would do; I didn't even know if I wanted to be treated or just go peacefully into the next world. That’s when the Victorious Woman idea popped into my mind again – and it was like the universe smacking me on the head, and gleefully telling me, “We tried to tell you nicely but you ignored us, so we had to give you the ‘two by four between the eyes’ to get your attention. Now will you write Victorious Woman?” The phone call came moments later and it wasn't cancer. Interestingly, my gyn problem resolved itself within two weeks; it was the outcome of an embolization which, at that time, was an experimental treatment for fibroids. But I wasn't going to fool around anymore. I did my first Victorious Woman interview six weeks later.

DAB:  Was this your first foray into writing a book?  If so, please tell us a few choice tidbits along the way.

AMK:  Yes and no. Early on I mostly wrote in my journal. Later on I wrote business articles (freelance) for magazines. My marriage has an unusual foundation, that is, I only get married for five years at a time. People really liked the idea and, as I was preparing to get married again (to the same man), they encouraged me to write a book about it. The concept was working for me, so I drafted a book about it. Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn't find a publisher who would consider it. So, in 1998, I boxed it up and put it away.

I'm now in the 4th year of my fifth marriage – and it’s still working well. In the years since 1998, I've noticed that the market for my “different twist” on marriage is broader now. So, in 2011, the book came out the box and is in the process of being finished – finally! The Five Year Marriage is generating more interest now and I think it will be better accepted by the public in 2013 than it would have been in 1990s. To everything there is a season!

DAB:  How long did it take to write “Victorious Woman!” from concept to final draft?

AMK:  I got the inspiration in October 2001 but didn't pay attention until late January 2002. I did my first interview in the spring of 2002 and went to press in 2004; it was available in early 2005.

DAB:  Many times I describe writing as a pregnancy and birth experience.  Give us a nutshell about how you would describe it.

AMK:  Well, it was definitely a birthing experience! I can really appreciate that analogy. But for me I think I felt it was like a roller coaster. Each interview was a “high” and I loved doing them. But the writing part wasn't always easy and, as anyone who writes knows, writing is rewriting. The interviews and getting the published book were both great, but everything in-between was emotionally very up and down.

DAB:  In your lifetime, who among your family/friends/acquaintances/memories most inspired you?  Tell us about that person and what they did that propelled you forward.

AMK:  Cheez, I was so lucky to have wonderful people, mostly women, who guided me. One woman, Jeanne Grayson, has been my spiritual mentor for years and years. I'm not sure my life would be as positive and upbeat if she hadn't shown me a better way to think. It’s what I trust I do for other women through my keynote speaking for groups and associations and with my Victorious Woman Project workshops, webbings, determiners and books. In fact, Jeanne is older now and I often tell her that, because she was good enough to help me, her influence is reaching and helping so many other women.

Specific to Victorious Woman!, it would be Gloria Williams. Almost fifteen years ago, still missing my undergraduate degree, I made the decision to go back to college. It was a curriculum designed for people like me who were way past “traditional” college age. It began with a required first course for research science. Each week I turned in the required paper on some topic I researched. While my grades were mostly in the B+/A category, I somehow presumed that I was just keeping up with the rest of the class. After all, we weren’t kids just starting out as teenager freshman.

But a conversation with Gloria turned things around. She told me that I was one of two students in her class whose writing was head and shoulders above the rest of the class. She also told me that I had a talent and should do something with it.

I graduated, magna cum laude, in 2001. Gloria retired a few years later. We still keep in touch and have a breakfast together from time to time.

If I hadn't returned to finish my college degree, I might never have never written a book that could actually get published. Sometimes, as Robbie Motter (another of my mentors) tells me frequently, it’s all about showing up!

DAB:  Do you think it is imperative for success and overcoming life’s obstacles to have that inspiration/encouragement from another person?

AMK:  Without a doubt! But it can't be false or phony stuff. Not one of the women who influenced me gave me a pass on the work I did with them. They challenged me and the challenge made me better.

DAB:  Please share with us a snippet about your question, “Are you one of the good girls?” and what the meaning is behind the question.

AMK:  Those of us who are “good girls” are the ones who did all the things we were expected to do:  we went to school and got (at least) decent grades, we didn't cause problems, we kept the peace and accommodated others. Then we got to a certain point in our lives and said to ourselves, “Hey! I've been being a good girl for all this time and where’s it gotten me?”

But being a good girl is a habit so ingrained in some women – many women. And though I don't think of being a good girl like an addiction, it is, like any habit, tough to change. And, because being a good girl serves most of the people in our lives, they aren't happy when we stop. So, when we break through good girl behaviors and replacing them with powerful woman behaviors, everyone doesn't like it. Then we hate the disapproval and rejection that comes with our change; some good girls think it’s easier to be unhappy in our life than to be rejected. So, because of that, I think “good girl” is as difficult a habit to break for good girls as giving up smoking or drinking is for other people. And, BTW, I'm an ex-smoker who really liked smoking, so I know what I'm talking about when I say they're similar!

I was a good girl...I'm better now :-). I sometimes say I'm a recovering good girl. I might have a good girl slip-up once in a while. Fortunately, I've done enough victory stretches to know how to get back on track right away.

In the Victorious Woman Project, I help women find their own path and do the same.

DAB:  What other writing projects do you have in the works?

AMK:  I have a couple small projects but my big and really exciting one is The Five Year Marriage. I designed the concept because I didn't then and still don't think traditional marriage is all that great a deal for most women. The Five Year Marriage gives her a least a “fighting chance” for a more equal, happier and more satisfying marriage. It isn't for everyone, but there are plenty of women, and the men who love them, that will find it’s a perfect fit for them! I'm hoping it’s out in early early-mid 2013.

DAB:  Now’s the time I like to leave for you to share a bit of inspiration for our readers about you, your work, and “Victorious Woman!” – take it away.

AMK:  The focus of pretty much everything I do is around women having the power to choose what they really want and create a lifestyle that brings it to them. I don't promise that it’s easy, because it usually isn't. But that’s where the victory comes into play.

Victory is the stretch out of your comfort zone that enables you to go from where you are to where you want to be. When you stay in your comfort zone, you have to settle for whatever is there – and all too often, it’s not what makes you happy or satisfied.

In the first and last chapters of Victorious Woman I tell stories about some of the women I interviewed who did just settle, and what happened to them.

I believe you have a dream that you're meant to fulfill. If you don't, you are unhappy and you get to the end of your life and look back with regret. I don't think it has to be that way for you, me, or any woman.

That’s the idea that gets me up in the morning and keeps me going when things get tough. When I talk to or get email from a woman who has taken my advice, followed the steps, gotten to the other side and is happy – that warms my heart and fill me with joy!

Once again, thank you to Annmarie for visiting the blog and for Tribute Books Blog Tours for bringing us all together.  If you know a victorious woman or have someone in your life who desires to become so, be sure and pick up a copy.

Visit her website at:

To follow her Tribute Books blog tour, go to:

Purchase "Victorious Woman!" for $16.95 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or her website at:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are You a Victorious Woman?

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a book chock-full of inspirational stories about some very special ladies who faced incredible challenges and not only survived, but who learned how to rise above the difficulties and thrive.  Yes, this book is written toward an audience of women, but there are some gems here that even some men may find beneficial if they are facing life's uphill battle.  Take a moment and meet the ladies from Annmarie Kelly's "Victorious Woman!"

Book Summary:
Real Women – Real Stories – Real Challenges – Real Victories

What’s a woman to do? If she makes a bad choice or gets thrown one of life's curveballs, is she forever doomed?

Author Annmarie Kelly says "NO!" and proves it with compelling real life stories of women who faced and overcame seemingly overwhelming life challenges. This powerfully moving book overflows with intelligence, understanding, emotion and true grit.

Kelly explains victory as the stretch you make out of your comfort zone and into the greater, fuller expression of who you really are – your authentic self. She demonstrates victory by taking you inside the lives of nine distressed women and showing you how they became victorious. You are likely to recognize something of yourself woven in each of these stories; each one will inspire and encourage you to forge your own victory over whatever is challenging you right now. At the end of each woman’s chapter you’ll find soul-searching questions that you must ask yourself to insure your own victories.

Author Kelly concludes the stories with a "lessons learned" chapter. Gleaning the best from each Victorious Woman, from the many other women she interviewed and from her own intriguing life challenges, Kelly describes the FOUR LIFESTYLES that either support you in victory or sabotage you, and the SIX SKILLS every woman has to learn to be in control of her SELF. She also gives you, her readers, the Victorious Woman Model to help you figure out what you need at different stages of challenges. The result is a book that is part inspiration, part motivation and part skill building. Some have called Victorious Woman "a blueprint for life" and "a practical approach to taking control of your life."

Since its first publication, many women say that they keep Victorious Woman! on their book shelf for reference or on their nightstand for comfort at the end of a long day. This "celebration of life" is an encouraging and enlightening read for women who want to create their own personal and professional victories.

My Review:
In the first few pages, Annmarie introduces us to two women facing that dreaded battle with cancer.  Both eventually succumb to the disease, but only one did so as a victorious woman.  One gave up the war without entering the battle.  The other lived her life with gusto until the very end.  Even though both eventually passed, Annmarie wondered what it took for one to live victoriously until the last breath.  This was one catalyst that prompted her to begin the writer's journey that became "Victorious Woman!".

Each chapter contains the story of one woman, follows her through the choices she made that resulted in her particular trial, how she decided to face the trial, and then ultimately what it took to overcome that chain-reaction, downward spiral to become victorious.

It was hard for me to pick any favorites, but I'd have to say that I was struck most poignantly by Nancy's and Maureen's stories.  One left an abusive situation at a time when women just didn't typically leave their husbands, especially with children in tow.  The other was left suddenly for a secret lover, alone with five children and no means to survive.  Now that I think of it, I have to also mention Tekki, a woman suffering from dwarfism and how her body image infected her entire life until she decided to face it head-on.

Some stories may not resonate with you - that's okay, because the chapters focus on one individual and her particular situation.  If needed, you can always skip that person's story and move on to another.  But I have to say, I don't recommend it.  Several times a person's story took a turn I didn't expect and I would have missed out on the treasure their full story provided.

The end of each chapter offered an overview of the aforementioned individual, questions to get you thinking about how your situation might relate, and then what practical steps you could take to begin or continue your own victory journey.  I really liked this and thought it worked well for the individual reader to glean helpful information, to dig a little deeper into their own psyche, but it also would work well to utilize in a group setting to spur discussion.

The final chapter defined the different stages, or "stepping stones" of where you might be in your journey and then practical methods to move you from each step toward the "Victorious Woman!" model: the Victim, the Surviving, the Advancing, and then the Victorious.  The step reveals details defining each to help you determine where you may be at the present time, with suggestions to help you identify how to move forward.

If you're like me, you've struggled with what Annmarie describes as the "good girl" syndrome, doing what others expect of you, for their approval, and putting aside what you want and watching a part of you die inside.  Like Annmarie, maybe this will be the catalyst that helps break you from that desire to please everyone all the time and learn to be true to yourself.

So if you're in need of inspiration, or you feel stuck somewhere in your life goals or relationships, I can recommend "Victorious Woman!" to assist in propelling you forward.  Stay tuned tomorrow, where I have the pleasure of presenting Annmarie Kelly to you live, and in-person - well, at least via an interview for the blog. :-)

Annmarie Kelly's Bio:
Author Annmarie Kelly is a professional speaker, workshop leader and victory strategist, who has firsthand knowledge of the transformative power which determination and motivation, the stuff of victory, can have in a person’s life.

Growing up in her Italian-Catholic home, Kelly wasn’t a natural go getter but rather a shy and introverted girl – a “good girl” who felt invisible and insignificant and powerless to deal with family problems including alcoholism, sibling abuse and mental illness.

In her early twenties, a broken engagement and her father’s reaction to it, caused Annmarie to look at her life and where she was going. After a couple “dark” years, she realized she had a purpose but that she was following a path that would only give her more of what she already had: disappointments, regrets and lost opportunities. Annmarie understood that she needed to make a change; she decided to start on a new track.

Through the rest of her twenties and thirties, step-by-step, she changed the way she thought about herself and her future, set major goals, and let go of many of the limitations that were holding her back, from kicking the undesired habits of smoking cigarettes and being a couch potato to getting honest about her own sabotaging behaviors. She also let go of people and environments that became obstacles to her efforts.

While leaving the comfort of the familiar for something better was what she wanted, it wasn’t easy. But in time the effort paid off. The decisions Annmarie made then have enabled her to BE more and DO more than she ever thought she could and HAVE more of the kind of life that, on her old path, would only have been a dream.

Not content to keep that kind of empowerment and success to herself, Annmarie Kelly has made it her life’s mission to help other women find the same confidence, inner power, and most importantly the “feminine victory” within. Whatever she does, whether she’s speaking, teaching, writing, blogging or coaching, she shows women just how much power they have over their own lives, encourages them to LIVE VICTORIOUSLY - out loud and in living color – and shows them the skills they need to do it!

Annmarie Kelly owns and manages SkillBuilder Systems, a training and development firm specializing in management development and communication skills. She is also the founder of The Victorious Woman Project which focuses on the information, resources and skill building which help women empower themselves so they can live their best life.

Annmarie is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTDPhl), The Press Club PA and the National Association of Female Executives.

Her services include:

- Keynotes for Corporate Events and Association Conferences

- Training Workshops (SmartWoman@Work and New Beginnings)

- Retreats

- Seminars, Teleseminars, Webinars

- Individual coaching

- Group coaching (Victory Teams)

Annmarie Kelly is available for interviews in the Greater Philadelphia area, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Washington DC, and by phone anywhere.

Visit her website at:

To follow her Tribute Books blog tour, go to:

Purchase "Victorious Woman!" for $16.95 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or her website at:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dating Minefield w/ Charles A Johnson

This week I'm bringing you a book about dating, romance, and love - Charles A. Johnson's "How to Find the Right One & Make It Last".  As a single woman who has been out of the dating scene for much of my adult life, I thought it might be interesting to see what this life coach had to say about the dating minefield.  Perhaps I could learn a thing or two about what to do and what to look for as I consider venturing back out into the world of romance.

Book Summary:
We all want that special someone in our lives.  But isn't it odd that one of life's most important lessons tends to receive the least amount of focus.  It's no wonder why we have so little success attracting the love, passion, romance and fun that we all need and desire.

The problem for many busy and successful people is that they do not know where to find and meet the right partners, how to approach dating, or what it takes to build and sustain a healthy, loving relationship.  To address these issues, I have taken a unique approach and have written this book about real people, like you, who struggle with finding love and the right companionship.  Many who have used my techniques have been able to find happy rewarding relationships.

This book provides real world experiences and proven dating strategies and techniques.  It's a guide that can be used to change your life and bring you the romance and love you've always wanted.

My Review:
First of all, it is clear from the get-go this is a book directed toward a distinct audience of wealthy executives, not the average Joe or Jane.  The average Joe and Jane don't go to department stores and boutiques where they have personal wardrobe shoppers, nor do they typically hire a personal chef from their favorite restaurant to cook a gourmet meal in their home.  Most are happy to take one family vacation a year, not able to take time away to travel the globe in search of Mr. or Ms. Right.  Those options sound lovely and nice, but for the average person they are neither feasible nor practical.

That said, there are some helpful tips just for anyone considering or starting a potential relationship.  It is always important to dress appropriately for the occasion and venue.  Keep the physical aspects aside until you have the chance to really get to know someone.  Too much attention for the senses clouds your better judgment.  Find out what you have in common - if it's just about the chemistry, you're in for a letdown eventually.  Never anticipate changing your mate.  Then there's that most important piece of the puzzle that tends to get left out of the equation far too often - communication.  Learn to communicate properly with respect and dignity early on in a relationship and make it an ongoing priority. 

Continue dating one another after marriage, remembering the little things you did early on and the things that light up your spouse and make them feel special.  Everyone goes through a few bumps in the road, but that can be alleviated with continued communication and counseling as needed when the bumps arise.  They should never be left to fester.  If you suspected or found out you had cancer, why would you put off treatment while it is still manageable and instead wait until it becomes inoperable?

I'd liked to have seen more of a focus on being the right one instead of just having the appearance of the right one.  So much of the first half of the book focused on looking the part, designer shoes and handbags that most men would never even notice (I even took a sample from many of the professional women from all walks of life I have the opportunity to work with and/or talk to on a daily basis, and every one of them felt the same about their boyfriends/spouses).  Very little referenced important character issues and traits, things to consider about ourselves and potential mates and how these can enhance or hurt. 

There was a promise several times to ladies about upcoming information on how to spot a player.  I anticipated this would focus on cues to pick up on when someone was trying to hit on you.  When I finally arrived at that section, it was mainly about how to figure out you're with a player AFTER you're dating or in a relationship with them.  Not being a part of the dating scene for so long, I'd have appreciated some cues on how to detect them up front.

The book had some wonderful real-life stories, some sweet and some difficult, but for the most part there was little here I haven't read before, or that I felt truly applied to a traditional girl who has left the corporate world behind and embraced simplicity.  But if you pick up the book and take something away from it that can help you in your particular situation, then it is a good thing indeed.

Charles Johnson's Bio:
Surrounded by three sisters and eight female cousins, Charles Johnson had a significant female influence growing up.  With the knowledge he gleaned from that experience, he spent the last 25 years coaching and mentoring hundreds of single professionals and up-and-coming, career-minded men and women -- including his own four daughters.

He found himself providing guidance to help these otherwise successful individuals improve their personal confidence by updating their image, polishing their social skills and providing insight into the art of establishing and maintaining relationships.  Charles has connected and helped hundreds of couples find marriage or committed partners and coaches them on how to make relationships last.

He has been married for more than 32 years and three of his four daughters are now married.  Charles has found happiness and balance in his own life as well, pursuing his passions as an avid traveler, photography enthusiast, art collector and a supporter of various charitable causes.  He enjoys basketball, football and tennis.  His greatest passion is writing about hope and how people can achieve their dreams and still have a balanced and complete life.

Visit the Tribute Books Blog Tour Page:

Charles Johnson's Web Site:

Charles Johnson's Blog:

Price:  $19.95
Publisher:  Two Harbors Press

On Amazon:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sitting Down With El Tio

I'm so happy to bring to you an incredible husband and wife couple - Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans.  Together they share with us a wonderful, real-life story of an incredible geologic find and how a challenge led them to spend so much of their lives in the tiny Bolivian village of San Cristobal.  That experience continues to live on in their hearts today.

So please join me in welcoming the authors of "The Gift of El Tio".

DAB:  Larry, what was it about geology that led you into the field?

LARRY:  I found a form of liberation in geology.  My memory as a kid growing up in the coalfields of western Pennsylvania is of grimy brick buildings, black snow, soot covered fields, ashes, cinders, drunkenness, ignorance, and universal povery.  I knew deep inside, somewhere there had to be a better world.  At age 11, I left an abusive family behind and moved to the Mojave Desert of California.  For the first time I saw color in my life:  blue sky, orange and red cliffs among the butte and mesas, olive-green sage poking out of the yellow sands, vast expanses where I could walk a hundred miles and never come across a fence.  I saw romance in the ruins of ghost towns and wondered over the azure-and malachite-green stained rocks around the abandoned mines, explored entire petrified forests turned to swirls of agate and chalcedony.  Even the name, Mojave, conjured up an image of mysterious peoples of long ago.  I found freedom there, a peaceful solitude broken only by the rocks, snakes, and scorpions.  I decided then at that early age to become a geologist, to make a living in such a place, to get paid to hike the hills and valleys.

DAB:  Larry, describe for us what it was like first coming across the village of San Cristobal and the incredible silver deposits out in the open for all to see.

LARRY:  When I first saw the adobe village with its grass-thatch roofs among the cobble stone streets, I was struck by the lack of people.  Other than a little girl peering at me through some cracks in a rock wall, the streets were deserted, not a soul in sight, everyone hiding from the stranger hiking along their streets.  I knew a hundred pairs of eyes were staring at me from the dark cracks in their doors and windows.  I felt this village must be the poorest I had seen, and I had seen a lot.  Then I inspected the rocks in the walls, the cobbles in the streets, the cliffs surrounding the houses.  All were laced with thin veins and masses of silver minerals:  argentite, galena, limonite, all of no particular note to the layman, but to a trained geologist, ineluctable proof of the presence of silver.  Their homes, their streets, their walls were made of silver; the village of San Cristobal lay right on top of one of the world's largest silver deposits.  I had to tell my boss but in those pre-cell phone days, I had to drive 12 hours across dry lakebeds and up and down rocky canyons to get to the first functioning phone.  My voice broke, I shook with excitement, and told him to be ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to see if I was right or not.  To his credit, he jumped at the chance.

DAB:  Karen, what was your initial reaction to this discovery?  Were you immediately aware of how this would impact the villagers or did realizations occur gradually?

KAREN:  I was appalled.  I adored - and still do - my husband, but at that time, we saw the world from very different perspectives; he, being conservative, was convinced that this mine would bring jobs and eradicate poverty; I, being the liberal, could not tolerate the loss of culture and identity that inevitably would face the people.  Locked in our polarized views as so many are today, we were each convinced our positions were correct.  Neither of us could have known the outcome of Larry's discovery in the beginning.  As a matter of fact, now, fourteen years since the town was moved, we know some outcomes, but we're aware there are even more to come.  Thus, new realizations have occurred over time and continue to occur, enabling us to re-examine our viewpoints; I, accepting the advantages of developing a mine and Larry, recognizing the value of culture.

DAB:  Where did the challenge to go live in San Cristobal originate and why?

KAREN:  The challenge to go live in San Cristobal sprang from our polarized viewpoints.  I didn't know how I could justify living with a man who supported the destruction of an indigenous village nor did I trust what the mining company would do.  I had to see for myself.  This prompted me to demand that Larry and I follow the people to see the impact of the changes.  Fortunately, my husband agreed!

LARRY:  Actually, Karen didn't leave me much choice.  Either go there and live with her, or risk losing her entirely.  I figured she would last maybe two weeks and then beg to go home.  Who would have thought that 10 years later....

DAB:  Tell us what it was like when you first arrived in country, knowing you were going to spend so much of your lives there.

KAREN:  First of all, it's important to note that Larry and I were always aware that we could escape and return to the comforts of our home in Ashland, Oregon, and we did this from time to time.  If we hadn't, I fear we might not be able to write this blog today.  San Cristobal was hidden away in a remote canyon in the high desert of Bolivia.  At 14,000 feet above sea level, I initially experienced altitude sickness - headaches, nausea, weakness.  Even though we adapted somewhat to the altitude, lack of oxygen forced us to move slowly, extreme dryness parched our lips and cracked our skin on our fingers, and "el viento" (the wind) filled our lungs with dust.  These elements either robbed us of sleep or triggered nightmares.  At the same time, the uniqueness of the village excited me and I loved each new experience; well, maybe not "loved", but welcomed the adventure.

LARRY:  To tell the truth, it was quite easy as I had to be on site anyway to do my geological studies of the property.  Thus, living in the village allowed me to work with fewer interruptions.  And having Karen there to come home to at night was just wonderful.  We were, and still are, on our honeymoon.

DAB:  Was the trek to the village difficult?

KAREN:  My first trip from the capital of Bolivia, La Paz, where we'd fly in, to San Cristobal was a challenge.  I curled up in the back seat, fighting altitude sickness, but at the same time, I didn't want to miss anything.  In 1998, what Bolivians called a road was not my idea of a road.  Our Toyota bounced across endless desert for 12 hours with nothing in sight but some distant mountains - brown, no trees, no lakes, barren like the moon - and the smell of dust filling our nostrils.  Remember, I'm from the damp, green Northwest.  Larry is the desert rat.

LARRY:  Naw, not a problem.  I am used to 12 to 15 hour rides across the desert.  'Twas a bit bumpy, though, and seeing how green Karen was in the back seat did concern me a bit.  But I figured she'd survive, somehow.

DAB:  Karen, tell us about what you first noticed when seeing San Cristobal for the first time.

KAREN:  I loved the village the moment I saw it.  The old town was nestled amidst rocky hills, the browns and yellows matching the surroundings as if they had sprung up from the earth.  The adobe houses with grass-thatched roofs lined the three streets, all meeting in a central plaza where a single pipe from a distant spring delivered the town's water through a faucet.  The quaintness charmed me.  I love children and volunteered to teach English at the little school.  The teachers and students welcomed me with curiosity and delight.

DAB:  Do you have some special memories of your years in San Cristobal you'd care to share with the audience?

LARRY:  One experience stands out strongly:  my crawling three times around the cemetery with the village chief at midnight, begging the souls and spirits to forgive us for disturbing their peace, all the while stoned on coca leaf and beer.  I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a religious experience of the first order, one that set me on a course to look deeper into the Quechua ceremonies.

KAREN:  A young adolescent, whom we call Soledad in The Gift of El Tio, befriended me early on.  One day while hiking the hills, Soledad suddenly dashed away, leaping across thola brush like a swift deer, and then ever so slowly returning, her hands cupped.  When she approached us, she opened her hands to reveal a baby ostrich.  Soledad's ability to live in harmony with her surroundings as well as her resourcefulness of how to survive in this barren land amazed me.  I felt safe and cared for in her presence.

Other positive memories include moments with students in the classroom.  They received every song, every picture book (there were no books in the school), every game with enthusiasm.  We danced the hokey pokey and we played bingo endlessly.  For the first time in their lives, they received letters and photos from penpals at my school in Ashland, Oregon.  I experienced such joy from my contact with these children.  And then years later, to witness them as young adults taking advantage of educational opportunities and training that the mine brought, well, I don't want to give away what happens in our story...

DAB:  What prompted you to write "The Gift of El Tio" to chronicle the experience?

KAREN:  For me, moral obligation.  I felt that if I were married to the man who found the deposit that required a village be destroyed, I needed to know the outcome for the villagers.  Larry is an exploration geologist.  His job is to discover ore and then move on to look in other places.  I demanded that he not abandon these people, and that we not only live among the people, but also document the changes.

LARRY:  We had such unique experiences, involving blind witches, zombies, shaman, animal (and human?) sacrifices, crawling around cemeteries in the middle of the night, chewing coca till green goo slobbered down our chins, rocks that came alive to kill and maim, long evenings huddled against evil spirits and sprites and walking, living devils...well, how could you not write about such experiences?

DAB:  How have your lives changed since discovering the deposit and then living among the Quechua culture?

KAREN:  I truly feel I am a different person having lived among the people of San Cristobal.  I no longer cling to my way of seeing the world.  I've not changed my liberal values, but I can listen to my conservative husband and respect his viewpoint, sometimes I even agree with him.  I no longer sit in the comforts of our coffee house, sipping my latte and expounding on the evils of mining and development in far-off places of the world.  I recognize how complicated the issues are and how individual is each situation.

LARRY:  As I wrote in the epilogue of The Gift of El Tio, "Karen and I started out at opposite poles, two points of view looking at the world from different angles, acute against obtuse.  Karen saw injustice where I saw opportunity.  She imagined a healthy, vibrant culture, and I, only dysfunction and despair.  Our images of the world were focused by prisms cut concave and convex:  hers, I thought, rose-colored; mine, she thought, as opaque as coal.  It's funny how a shared experience can prove that neither of us was right."

DAB:  What do you miss most after leaving San Cristobal?

KAREN:  I miss the friends we made and being in San Cristobal to witness the changes that continue to affect their lives.

LARRY:  Huddled by a fire while the shaman and the village chief relate stories long into the night, listening to the cold wind whistle around the cracks and the sharp corners of the rocks.  "Are there spirits out there?" they ask with their eyes, "and are they friendly or...?"

DAB:  Do you have plans to go back to Bolivia and visit San Cristobal again?

LARRY:  Are you kidding?  You bet, any time.  There is still so much to experience.

KAREN:  Yes, we will return to San Cristobal.  Our connection has lived on through a young man, Cornelio Gonzales, who came to live with us five years ago in order to learn English.  After achieving a sufficient level of English and with the help of Larry's generous boss, Cornelio studied at our local university - quite a feat for a young man who grew up without a single book - and graduated this past June.  He will attend East Anglia University in England next year where he plans to acquire a Masters in International Development and Education.  His hopes?  To improve education in developing countries.  We hope to visit him in Bolivia when he is Minister of Education!

Once again, I want to thank Larry and Karen for visiting the blog and allowing us to be a part of their lives - even if only for a moment.  As a youngster, I'd always loved geology and archaeology - dirt and dead things, I used to say.  So when the opportunity arose to interview this fascinating couple, I jumped at the chance.  I never expected the depth of the story I found in "The Gift of El Tio" and can highly recommend this touching and heartfelt encounter they shared.  I laughed at Larry's journey on his knees around the cemetery in the icy, freezing wind.  I cried along with Karen at the heartbreaking loss of the village children (even newborn twins).  Soledad was truly an inspiration!  But you'll have to read the book to find out why. :-)  Then you can also find out the gift not only that El Tio gave to the village of San Cristobal but also the gift that Larry gave back to El Tio.

The Gift of El Tio Summary:
Larry, a world-renowned geologist, discovers an enormous deposit of silver beneath a remote Quechua village in Bolivia and unwittingly fulfills a 400-year-old prophecy that promised a life of wealth for the villagers. Karen, a specialist in child development, is deeply disturbed by the prospect of displacing the people in order to open a mine. She challenges Larry to leave the comforts of home and move to the village in order to bear witness to the massive change his discovery will spark. Thus begins the couple's life-changing, ten-year journey into the Quechua community, their evolution from outsiders to trusted friends. Then part two of the ancient prophecy is disclosed to them, and they are shocked by the truth of its predictions: alienation, despair, even cannibalism.

Author Bios:
Larry Buchanan earned his PhD in Economic Geology in 1979 and taught university-level geology for several years, but his love of the field led him to gold and silver prospecting in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 2006, he won the coveted Thayer Lindsley Award for the San Cristobal silver discovery. Dr. Buchanan has published a dozen scientific works and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences and college campuses.

Karen Gans earned her Master s degree in Early Childhood Development and has thirty-five years of experience as an educator, counselor, and consultant. She taught English in the Quechua village while the couple lived in Bolivia. Ms. Gans and her husband have four children and two grandchildren and reside in Ashland, Oregon.

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Price: $19.95 paperback, $5.99 ebook
Pages: 254
ISBN: 9781450739146
Publisher: Fuze Publishing
Release: December 2010

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