Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie Review - Shutter Island (2010)



Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio are together again in this movie adaptation of Dennis Lehane's thriller, Shutter Island.

DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who with his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from Ashecliffe, a hospital for the criminally insane located on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Daniels pursued this case for personal reasons, but it soon looks like he may have been brought there by the powers that be who wish to hide the unethical and illegal happenings at Ashecliffe, which include some controversial treatments by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). It appears the entire staff of the hospital might be involved in what is going on at Ashecliffe, and they don't make Teddy's investigation very easy.

When a hurricane strikes the island, cutting them off from the mainland, some of the most dangerous criminals escape in the confusion. As Teddy uncovers more clues, he begins to doubt everything he knows, even his own sanity.

My husband and I went to see Shutter Island in the theater on opening weekend. We had a choice between this movie and The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington, but I wasn't in the mood for a post-apocalyptic movie, so we opted for the former. Now I wish I had given The Book of Eli a shot.

I have never read the novel, so I didn't know much about Shutter Island going in. This is definitely a movie that you need to pay attention to or you might get lost. DiCaprio has said in interviews that viewers need to see the movie a few times to pick up on everything--I'm just not willing to spend the money to do that considering the husband and I were left a bit disappointed.

This is definitely not one I would consider bringing kids under 13 to see considering the violent and graphic nature of Teddy's dreams and visions. Speaking of dreams and visions, Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek, Brokeback Mountain) gives an excellent performance as Teddy's deceased wife Dolores, who appears to him throughout the movie.

While I not a huge fan of DiCaprio, he provided a good portrayal of Teddy Daniels. The viewer sympathized with the reasons he pushed for the assignment at Ashecliffe, despite the outcome. The bigger style of clothes from 1954 didn't wear well on DiCaprio's slender frame. And while Teddy Daniels was supposed to be from Boston, his accent wasn't quite as convincing as this viewer, who has lived in Massachusetts her entire life, would have wanted.

The ending was perhaps the greatest disapointment, since both my husband and I felt it could be interpreted one of two ways. I'm not fond of uncertainties in movie endings, and just like Fatal Attraction's final scene, I was left wanting to know for sure that my opinions on what it meant to the movie as a whole were accurate.

A friend of mine who has read Lehane's novel said that the movie follows the book well, but that you definitely know for sure by the end of the book exactly what happened. I just might try to get my hands on a copy from my library to see what I think about the movie versus the book.

My husband and I walked away feeling a little short changed after spending $21.00 to see Shutter Island, but despite the fact that the movie's second weekend saw a 50% drop, it still beat new releases Cop Out and The Crazies to take the top spot.

It's a good plot, but I just didn't come away with the satisfied feeling of having watched a great movie.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers (WGA):Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay)
Dennis Lehane (novel)
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.
Runtime: 138 min

How Many Books are in Your TBR Pile?




I was just counting up all the books in my TBR pile and it finally stopped at 64. You can find a list of them here. I usually catch up over the summer because we go away for two weeks and I read most of the time I'm gone. That twelve hour drive both ways helps a lot too.

How many books are in your TBR pile?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III - Giveaway at Cafe of Dreams


My friend April at Cafe of Dreams is giving you the chance to win a copy of Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III.

April reviewed Double Eagle at her blog last week, saying:

"I truly feel that Double Eagle is a story that even the most hesitant and picky of reader will dive into and love. Though Double Eagle is the first work by this author that I have read, I am incredibly anxious to read more!"

She rated the book a 5 out of 5, which I can tell you is a rare thing; so the book must be superb.

The suggested age range for this one is 9 - 12. Even though I don't usually talk up children's books here, I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to win a copy of this book that April called "wonderful and delightful..."

You can read April's entire review here.

You'll also find a link to the review in this interview that April performed with Sneed Collard. Your giveaway opportunity is listed in this interview.

The contest is open to U.S. residents only and will remain open until midnight on March 15th.

Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III. Stop by Cafe of Dreams today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Story Behind Flaherty's Crossing by Kaylin McFarren



Today's guest blogger is Kaylin McFarren, author of the women’s contemporary novel, Flaherty's Crossing.

From Pacific Northwest’s award-winning author Kaylin McFarren comes a powerful novel about love, loss, and the power of forgiveness…

Successful yet emotionally stifled artist Kate Flaherty stands at the deathbed of her estranged father, conflicted by his morphine-induced confession exposing his part in her mother’s death. While racing home, Kate’s car mishap leads her to a soul-searching discussion with a lone diner employee, prompting Kate to confront the true reasons her marriage hangs in the balance. When her night takes an unexpected turn, however, she flees for her life, a life desperate for faith that can only be found through her ability to forgive.

Read an excerpt from Flaherty's Crossing at the book's website.

"The Story Behind Flaherty's Crossing" by Kaylin McFarren

I'm often asked about the story behind Flaherty's Crossing and to be honest, it's not an easy one to tell. My father was a hard-working Irishman who aside from expecting dinner on the table promptly at 5pm never had much to share or complain about. There were disappointments, of course, since money was often tight. But my dad was content working his blue-collar job, reading the nightly newspaper, watching sports, and visiting occasionally with neighbors. My only interaction with him came from camping and skiing trips where he spent most of his time working on outboard motors and insisting that my family had a good time. I never had a serious or lengthy conversation with my dad as he preferred to keep his emotions hidden away. But sixteen years ago that all changed when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Over the course of his two and a half year battle, I was given small glimpses into his past. I discovered that my father's inability to communicate had little to do with the affection he kept buried inside. But this cruel disease was aggressive and soon took its toll. Before long, it was time for me to bid him a final farewell. I was not only heartbroken over losing a parent but also for never knowing who this man truly was. As a result, I was angry at him, at God, at the world in general. I needed an outlet to release all my pent up emotions and found it in front of my computer, punching away on keys. This therapeutic exercise gradually evolved into a related fictional story about a woman’s personal journey to find faith and forgiveness.

In the process of writing Flaherty’s Crossing and exploring my main character’s growth, I found myself learning and growing as well. I discovered I wasn't alone. There were thousands of daughters and sons like myself who had similar stories to tell – who had strained, complicated relationships, but loved their parents none the less. I've learned that through my writing, I can inspire and touch lives and can urge others to mend fences and relationships before it's too late. This novel truly has a purpose. Not only did Flaherty's Crossing heal my heart, but I believe the message it carries can make a difference for other families as well. I've chosen to donate 100% of my proceeds to the cancer research center at Portland's Providence Medical Center with the hope of finding a cure in our lifetime. This story has opened my eyes to possibilities and given me a voice that I plan to use in future stories with the intention of inspiring and uplifting lives.


Linda Yoshida, aka Kaylin McFarren, is a rare bird indeed. Not a migratory sort, she prefers to hug the West Coast and keep family within visiting range. Although she has virtually been around the world, she was born in California, relocated with her family to Washington, and nested with her husband in Oregon. In addition to playing an active role in his business endeavors, she has been involved in all aspects of their three daughters’ lives – taxi duties, cheerleading coaching, script rehearsals, and relationship counseling, to name but a few. Now she enjoys spending undisciplined time with her two young grandsons and hopes to have many more.

Although Kaylin wasn’t born with a pen in hand like so many of her talented fellow authors, she has been actively involved in both business and personal writing projects for many years. As the director of a fine art gallery, she assisted in furthering the careers of numerous visual artists who under her guidance gained recognition through promotional opportunities and in national publications. Eager to spread her own creative wings, she has since steered her energy toward writing novels. As a result, she has earned more than a dozen literary awards and was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest.

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

You can visit Kaylin online at www.kaylinmcfarren.com or visit her book’s website at www.flahertyscrossing.com.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Type Matters" Video from Penguin Group Discusses Fonts and Book Design


I received an email from the Penguin Group about a new video available in their Screening Room. It is titled "Type Matters" and it discusses the role of book designers in the creation of a book and why fonts matter.

This is an excellent video if you are even remotely interested in how a book comes together. It's serious and funny, but most of all, it offers a wealth of information.

You can enjoy this video by clicking here.

Author Spotlight: Bill Walker and A Note from an Old Acquaintance



Brian Weller is a haunted man. It’s been two years since the tragic accident that left his three-year-old son dead and his wife in an irreversible coma. A popular author of mega-selling thrillers, Brian’s life has reached a crossroads: his new book is stalled, his wife’s prognosis is dire, and he teeters on the brink of despair.

Everything changes the morning an e-mail arrives from Boston artist Joanna Richman. Her heartfelt note brings back all the poignant memories: the night their eyes met, the fiery passion of their short-lived affair, and the agonizing moment he was forced to leave Joanna forever. Now, fifteen years later, the guilt and anger threaten to overwhelm him. Vowing to make things right, Brian arranges a book-signing tour that will take him back to Boston. He is eager to see Joanna again, but remains unsure where their reunion will lead. One thing is certain: the forces that tore their love asunder will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

Filled with tender romance and taut suspense, A Note from an Old Acquaintance is an unforgettable story about fate, honor, and the power of true love.

Read an Excerpt from A Note from an Old Acquaintance!

“Please tell me why you’re doing this, Brian! Please!”

He tried opening his mouth, tried to tell her the truth, but the words he’d always wielded with such effortless aplomb, failed him, slipping away like smoke on a windy day. His throat felt as if it were gripped in a vise, his mind a flat, cracked slab of flyblown desert; and her muted sobs echoing through the phone’s earpiece made him want to take it all back. Every word. But how could he do that, now?

“I—I’m sorry, Joanna…for everything….”

“BRIANNNN!”

THE PHONE JANGLED, RIPPING Brian Weller out of the dream. He sat up, gasping, sounds and images jumbling in his groggy brain until none of it made any sense.

The phone rang again, startling him.

He grabbed it, his eyes struggling against the darkness in the room. What time was it?

Jesus, it was only 6:00. It felt even earlier due to the late night he’d spent at the computer.

Read the Reviews!

“Brian has been hit with life’s most devastatingly tragic event a parent can encounter. Not only did the horrible accident leave Brian to mourn the loss of his son, it also put his wife in a coma. Brian is left to face this life alone.

But then, one day he receives an unexpected email from someone in his past. This someone is Joanna, a woman he was once in love with. At that time the two were thrust apart by circumstances beyond their control. Fifteen years later the two are given a chance at a second shot at love. Will the past years make a difference and allow them to find happiness together or will Brian have to deal with yet another disaster?

A very touching novel that will make your heart ache.
" -bridget3420, Readaholic

“I can say with all candor I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I’m the novel reader in my family and I usually read an average of two novels per week. My taste runs the gamut. I read NY Times best sellers and books by lesser known authors purely because I’m intrigued by the description on the back dust cover. Mr. Walker’s book is a very entertaining and quick read. Love at first sight is something most of us can relate to, and I dare say that pretty nearly everyone that I know has a Brian or a Joanna in their past. The author’s combination of the torment of love lost with the elation of discovering that love can endure through the most trying of life’s events was very emotional and ultimately very gratifying. That most of us are, or have been, on a quest to find and capture our “soul mate” adds total credibility to the book. If I might be totally clich√©, I really did find this book to be both heat-wrenching and heart warming. My husband and I have a fairly sizable library and the Walker book has taken it’s place on the shelf to be enjoyed again in the near future.“ -Carleen

About the Author:

Bill Walker is a graphic designer specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles and can be reached through his web site: http://www.billwalkerdesigns.com/

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Author Spotlight: Jay Slosar and The Culture of Excess



In the wake of buckling markets, banks knocked to their knees, and massive amounts of presumed wealth revealed as the product of self-deception and breathtaking criminality, an age of indulgence has dramatically impacted American life. Economically, we understand how it happened, but why it happened is more of a mystery. What psychological factors fueled the years of excess and, more important, how do we refocus ourselves for a more rational, self-controlled future?

As J.R. Slosar shows in this urgent, sometimes startling volume, the nation’s fast-and-loose approach to money was, in fact, a symptom of a more widespread pattern of excessive behavior. In The Culture of Excess: How America Lost Self-Control and Why We Need to Redefine Success, Slosar portrays an America where the drive to succeed and the fear of missing out manifested itself not only in self-entitled corporate fraud, but in everything from sharp rises in obesity and cosmetic medical procedures to equally troubling increases in eating disorders, panic attacks, and outbreaks of uncontrollable rage.

Illustrating its thesis with numerous vignettes and case studies, The Culture of Excess is the first book to assess the impact of economic and social factors on the nation’s psychological well-being. It shows how capitalism, technology, and media interact and become additive factors in the loss of self-control, and it explains how the compromises made in adapting to intense economic competition lead to a false sense of self and reality. Narcissism, productive narcissism, psychopathy, rigidity and self destruction, perfectionism, the illusion of success, and identity achievement all come into play as Slosar diagnoses the psychological drivers behind this indulgent age, offering his prescription for helping “Generation Me” become “Generation We.”

Read the Reviews!

“Jay Slosar gives us the benefit of his years of clinical and teaching experiences with people who reveal just how firmly we live in an age of excess. Wonderfully written, The Culture of Excess not only discusses how we got to this point, but offers insights on how to change course. Individuals, parents, decision-makers, and others will come to see how we might turn ‘Generation Me’ into ‘Generation We,’ and create a better world in the process. This is an important book.”

Elizabeth Loftus, PhD

Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine

Past President, Association for Psychological Science


“Dr. Slosar offers an in-depth psychological analysis and understanding of the forces shaping our popular culture. He reaches the troubling conclusion that we are in an age that applauds excessive self absorption and devalues a community spirit. His insight into the psychosocial conflicts that are unfolding in the 21st century breathes new meaning into that ancient, Talmudic query about the relationship between self and others: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? This work is timely and wise.”

Richard Lettieri, PhD

Clinical and Forensic Psychologist

Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst, Newport Psychoanalytic Institute

Faculty, New Center for Psychoanalysis


Jay Slosar, Ph.D., is the author of a provocative new book The Culture of Excess: How Americans Lost Self-Control and Why We Need to Redefine Success (ABC-CLIO, LLC, November 2009). For the past quarter-century he has run a successful private practice as a licensed psychologist and has provided direct clinical and consulting services in a variety of diverse settings. Currently, Dr. Slosar is also an adjunct assistant professor at Chapman University in Orange County, California. He also provides forensic evaluations from court referrals, specializing in evaluating teenagers.



Dr. Slosar has worked and consulted for many companies and organizations, including: Health and Human Services Group, Young Life Enrichment Program, Family Solutions, Western Youth Services, Villa Millard Facility, and the Dawson Education Foundation. The services provided included: counseling, psychological evaluations, program design, staff training, and conflict resolution.

He also has served as the administrative clinician for a federal contract in the delivery of an employee assistance program for federal law enforcement employees and their families. Over six years, he was responsible for all clinical and administrative needs for an $8 million federal contract which included providing training/education workshops in the areas of stress management, trauma response, supervisory management, domestic violence, and workplace violence. He co-directed the critical incident response services for operational and non-operational traumas. He has completed certification in critical incident response training from the American Red Cross and the National Organization for Victim’s Assistance.

Dr. Slosar has written and published professional materials and articles, including a staff training manual for residential treatment services. He has also presented a paper at the FBI Quantico training facility on perfectionism and its relationship to suicide in law enforcement personnel.

Since 1985 he has taught in both the psychology department and the health services department at Chapman University as an adjunct assistant associate professor.

He was the president of the Orange County Psychological Association in 2004 and is a past board member of the California Coalition of Ethical Mental Health Care, a San Francisco-based group that promotes the ethics and integrity of mental health-care delivery services. Dr. Slosar was on the board of directors for the California Psychological Association in 2006 and 2007. He is also a Board Member of the California Association of Psychology Providers (CAPP).

Dr. Slosar received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, earned his Master’s Degree from Wichita State University, and received his Bachelor’s Degree from Jacksonville University. He resides in Newport Beach, California. For more information, please consult www.cultureofexcess.com.



Friday, February 19, 2010

Tricia Goyer's Blog Running a Giveaway of Embracing Your Freedom by Susie Larson




Susie Larson is on a virtual book tour through February 26th with her book, Embracing Your Freedom: A Personal Experience of God's Heart for Justice.

Author, speaker, and family life/teen expert Tricia Goyer, reviewed Susie's book today as part of the virtual book tour. You can enter to win a copy of Embracing Your Freedom at her blog.

Don't miss your chance to win a copy of this powerful, life changing book. Visit Tricia Goyer's blog today!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Author Spotlight: Misa Ramirez and Hasta La Vista, Lola!



What’s a girl to do when she finds out she’s been killed? Pinch herself to make sure she’s not a ghost, for starters. When Dolores Cruz comes home to her parents’ house to find every relative she has mourning her death, all hell breaks loose. With the help of on-again/off-again love Jack Callaghan, and juggling a new case thrown at her by muy misterioso boss Manny Camacho, it’s up to fledgling detective Lola to find out who’s behind the identity theft and suddenly wants her dead.

Read the Reviews!

"Hasta la Vista, Lola! will keep you turning pages and smiling and sometimes even laughing out loud. The characters are so real, you’ll get the feeling they’re talking in the same room with you. Lola is sympathetic and her comebacks and observations are smart and humorous. The story mixes elements of mystery, chick lit and romance, making this a fun, enjoyable read. Of course, Ramirez also adds a generous measure of Latina flavor to the mix. If you love chick lit mysteries, you’ll love Lola."

–Latino Books Examiner

"This is Misa’s second Lola book and if you enjoy Stephanie Plum then you will love Lola because she is a saucy little PI in Sacramento, Calif that tends to get into some funny spots just like Stephanie….This was a great book full of fun and laughs especially Lola’s crazy family! I Look forward to more adventures in this series!"

–Jen’s Book Talk

Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published. You can visit her website at www.misaramirez.com.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Author Spotlight: Victor Pross and Icons & Idols: Pop Goes the Culture



Icons & Idols: Pop Goes the Culture is an eye-popping visual homage and satire of pop culture that is sure to tickle a funny bone. Icons & Idols is comprised of Victor Pross’ “extreme caricatures” of the famous—-such as Elvis Presley, Sylvester Stallone, Marilyn Monroe, George Bush, Albert Einstein—-and others icons from the world of film, music and literature. Victor Pross’ most important works-–over 70 paintings and drawings–-are assembled under one volume to entertain and astound.


Read the Reviews!

“Pross’ portraits are frequently funny and striking in their grotesque exaggeration, but always powerfully able to reintroduce us to that which we take for granted. Pross’ talent leaps from the frame.” —William O’Higgins, arts writer

“Victor’s caricatures, aside from being clever in their own right, also convey an intelligence and knowledge of his subjects that is sometimes absent in similar sketches.” –George H. Smith, author of Atheism: The case against God

“Victor Pross’ portraits examine in subjective—sometimes hideous, often hilarious—detail the faces of those who’ve shaped our times.” —Edward Keenan, media writer and editor for Toronto’s Eye Newspaper

“Pross is a caricaturist, but that term does not nearly do justice to the art he creates. These are not line drawings of political figures published in a newspaper to poke fun, and then be forgotten the next day. Pross takes caricaturing to another level making powerful—if entertaining and exaggerated—canvasses of famous people.” —Paul J. Henderson, the Times

“Victor, like his art, is larger than life. He tackles the big issues and puts them right in your face. I knew that making caricatures was about exaggerating the features a little. Little! Victor manages to exaggerate them a whole lot while keeping the essential personality clear. He does not walk the safe and simple path, but like hisforebears walks the lonely path of seeking truth without flinching.” —Ray Thomas admirer



Victor Pross is a professional artist born and raised in Toronto, now residing in British Columbia. He is known for his "extreme caricaturing".

He has many high profile commissions to his credit including painting Ron Howard’s caricature portrait as a gift for the famous director, as well as, painting various agents of the William Morris Agency. He has rendered numerous International celebrities and Canadian media personalities for commercial and private purposes. Victor Pross has been interviewed on television shows such as: Canada AM, Breakfast Television, News at Noon and has been pegged by Canadian Media as "Canada’s foremost caricature artist".

He has worked on various posters, comic books and CD covers bringing to each work his own unique style. He is currently instructing an art class as well as offering his services as an editorial caricaturist. Victor’s first book, Icons & Idols, features a collection of the artist’s paintings and drawings and is now available. You can visit his website at www.victorpross.com.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Author Spotlight: Michele Paiva and Truth, Next Exit



Have you struggled with weight, wellness, addictions, relationships or work? This spiritually based book is set up with the idea that when you begin reading it, it will lull you comfortably into motivation and creating changes “now”.

Essentially, when you open the book you are on a journey, and as you read you have opportunities to “drive” or apply these ideas into your life. The book is set up as a no-excuses approach; if you say you believe in scripture you can’t pick and choose when to apply scripture to your life; it’s immediate connection, which also, helps take immediate action. You may be comfortably motivated but it may bring upheaval and some hard truth to swallow, so be prepared for no-excuses scripture to change your life.

Read an Excerpt from Truth, Next Exit!

…Abraham has three guests; one states that Sarah will have a son. She mocks him and then God announces that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his wife flee, are warned to not turn back, the wife turns back to view and turns to a pillar of salt.

Later, Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, he makes all intention to do so, as much as bringing the knife above the boy on the alter he has made, and an angel appears to him to stop him; God responds with a promise to Abraham and in exchange for his obvious obedience, “All ye nations of earth shall bless themselves by your descendants”. Jacob collects statues and accuses others of stealing his idols.When we practice idolatry, we are really placing importance on something as it if were more important than it is. We do this with entertainers, celebrities; vain attempts at our external image and more. We also do not place the correct weight upon honesty.

…Some of us use truth in ways meant to hurt others; telling someone that they are inexperienced in spite of their good ideas and motivations because perhaps we fear them rising above us. Is it true that they may lack experience? Yes. But should that truth be used, or manipulated, to hold against them? Pick your battles and focus on truth and it’s part in peace. If you use truth as a weapon it loses authenticity.

These passages from the Torah or Bible can teach us so much about us and others. It is wonderful that Sarah welcomes visitors and drops what she is doing to feed them. We have food shelters now, but how often would we welcome people into our home in the same breadth?

We have lost the luster for personal relationships and outreach has become more contrived. When we say we volunteer we are correct; when we say we help others, we do so, but more superficially.

Our world has become idol worship focused and we show this even in outreach. We brag about helping others and it is an “event” to help others. How many of us help others in silence, without public reward or group effort?

We focus on the beauty around us; we want to look beautiful. We want our children to look beautiful. We buy jewelry and fancy clothes and cars, and continue to focus on the beauty of our homes and lives in almost every way.

Again, we focus on false idols. We say we don’t but we give a lot of time, energy and money for celebrities to live honored lives while we actually as a whole, give far less to those who are hungry.

So, we take something not beautiful. Dust and dirt. We try to rid ourselves of such. But without dirt, we would have no gardens, yards, playgrounds, and acres of forests. Dirt is really, more beautiful than a diamond.

So, in your worst moments, realize that you may be looking at the wrong focus, the wrong idol, and that maybe you are much more amazing than you think. Maybe the very people you should be focusing on, are the very people you’ve ignored.

When you look at yourself, before you leave your home, how much about you do you change? Or, how much do you wish you could change?

What are areas of your life you are 100% happy with?

When you think of things you feel are beautiful, what are they? Would you rather have a garden to feed you endlessly or riches to show off to others?

What are ways you can begin to see the light within yourself without comparing yourself to others?

What can you do, to create more personal relationships even while volunteering? How can you help those you volunteer for, to be touched by your generosity?

Read the Reviews!

“This book asks many questions and slyly leads one to understand that the only one who can answers these questions is you. It reminds you that there is a higher power who can help you through your life challenges, yet shows you that you need not believe in organized religion to believe in that higher power. It poses questions that, if you are honest enough to answer them, can help guide you to the self realization that your problems are not insurmountable and can be dealt with. This book is an easy read and extremely helpful. Thank you Michele for this wonderful book and for the inspiration to improve my life through the principles you have discussed." -A. Timothy Fowlar


Much like the patchwork of a quilt, Michele Paiva’s experiences seem topically eclectic but are sewn together by a love of empowerment, justice and spirituality. A former broadcast news anchor, broadcast reporter, telesales spokesperson, television choreographer, print journalist, editor, yoga therapist, dance and yoga studio owner, myoskeletal therapist and legal advocate; Paiva has been dedicated to bringing a voice to others and helping others achieve. A former Mrs. Pennsylvania, a title won on a dare and at first in jest, Paiva is down to earth and approachable, and credits her diverse background as a way that she reaches wide demographics. Paiva enjoys collecting I Dream of Jeannie memorabilia, cooking, spending time with family and friends and honestly, being a couch potato when not being a yogi or hiking. Paiva lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her family and three rescue dogs who have taken over her world.

Paiva can be reached at www.michelepaiva.com where there are also free downloadable recipes and more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Giveaway at The Book Connection



Stop in at The Book Connection and enter for your chance to win a copy of the apocalyptic novel, The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley.


How far would you go to protect your family?

Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying–and failing–to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken as Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: A virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland.

And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

As their town goes into lockdown, Peter is forced to return home–with his beautiful graduate assistant. But the Brookses’ safe suburban world is no longer the refuge it once was. Food grows scarce, and neighbor turns against neighbor in grocery stores and at gas pumps. And then a winter storm strikes, and the community is left huddling in the dark.

Trapped inside the house she once called home, Ann Brooks must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where opening a door to a neighbor could threaten all the things she holds dear.

Carla Buckley’s poignant debut raises important questions to which there are no easy answers, in an emotionally riveting tale of one family facing unimaginable stress.


Author Spotlight: Heart Magic by Maria Andrade



Love needs help!

One out of two marriages ends in divorce in the US. Couples applying the communication skills in Heart Magic, are not merely “lucky in love” they are prepared to be harmoniously together for a lifetime. You can too!

Discover the 8 characteristics found in lasting marriages. Learn basic, “do’s and don’ts” to get along, build trust and a strong joyful partnership. Personal case histories included

Read an excerpt from Heart Magic, Keeping Love Alive and Well!

Much has been written about how to find the “right person” to love, that “special someone” with whom we might share our life. Heart Magic,Keeping Love Alive & Well, is a book about how to sustain love once you have found it! Relationships form the thread which binds all life. The heart and soul of a people are reflected in how they treat themselves, each other and the natural world. In fact, the future of a society rests on its children and what they are taught about love and relationship. We are in a love crisis in this country with one out of two marriages ending in divorce. We must become better educated in the greatest of all arts-the art of relating.

Read the reviews!

“Congratulation on this easy reading and practical guide book for people who wish to succeed in love and partnership!”
La Oferta Review Newspaper, San Jose CA

“I wish all people could read this to prevent broken marriages.”
– Douglas Stevens, Psychotherapist & Divorce Mediator


Maria J. Andrade, M.S. M.F.T., is a psycho spiritual therapist and poet. She was born in Ecuador, South America and raised in New York and California. In 1989 she was initiated in Andean Shamanism by Amazonian and Inca medicine healers of Peru. She uses poetry, stories and ceremony in her work. Her poetry and articles on social justice has appeared in the nationally awarded winning, bilingual newspaper, La Oferta Review and Vistazo San Jose, California as well as in La Opinion newspaper, Los Angeles.

Maria is a social and human rights activists who helped establish organizations such as Habitat for Humanity in Pomona, CA and FACTS (Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes Law) Los Angeles Chapter. She worked with Peace and Justice, a political activists group based in La Verne, CA and for 25 years served on the Board of the Carl Jung Society of Claremont as Program Coordinator gathering speakers and programs which bring transformative visions for the new millennium. She is founder of the “Heart Magic” workshops based on her book Heart Magic, Keeping Love Alive & Well. This book focuses on important fundamental principles and communication techniques for sustaining a loving and lasting partnership.

She lives in California and has a private counseling practice with her husband Sy Cohn. You can visit her website at www.magicunion.com
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day




Happy Valentine's Day! We hope you'll check back in with us again soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Not Just About Finding “Mr. or Ms. Right” by Maria Andrade, Author of Heart Magic



Today's guest blogger is Maria Andrade, author of Heart Magic: Keeping Love Alive & Well.

Love needs help!

One out of two marriages ends in divorce in the US. Couples applying the communication skills in Heart Magic, are not merely “lucky in love” they are prepared to be harmoniously together for a lifetime. You can too!

Discover the 8 characteristics found in lasting marriages. Learn basic, “do’s and don’ts” to get along, build trust and a strong joyful partnership. Personal case histories included.

"It's Not Just About Finding 'Mr. or Ms. Right': Heart Magic Principles Help You Keep the Love You Find" by Maria Andrade

It is certain that finding the right partner is essential for a loving relationship. Yet, we have long held certain beliefs in our society, which don’t help us keep love once we find it! The divorce rate in America reflects this truth. One out of two marriages fail. Here are some beliefs we must change. The first goes like this.

“I want to find the right person. Someone who will love and respect me.”

This sounds like a reasonable desire. Yet, No.1 of the “8 Select Heart Magic Principles,” in my book, Heart Magic, Keeping Love Alive & Well, states that finding or keeping a loving and respectful partnership is based on whether we love and respect ourselves.

There are three areas where self-respect and love of self are reflected. We see it in how we take care of our mind, our body and our spirit. In terms of the body, we can see it by whether or not we eat a healthy diet, whether we rest and sleep well and whether or not we get enough exercise. As regards to our minds, self-love is shown in the amount of peace we feel and create around us. Are we able to control negative thinking, control anger, let go of past hurts, keep learning and growing in awareness? The better job we do in caring for our body and minds, the more our spirits will be at peace. A healthy partner will be more successful at creating an environment in which love and partnership thrives.

The second belief, which hampers the art of loving, revolves around the topic of romance.

“Romance only occurs in the courtship period. You can’t expect it to continue for ever.”

This is love heresy! It is a myth, which is not always verbalized but often apparent when couples begin to take each other for granted. They may no longer prioritize time for being together. Affection starts to wane. They may give more of their attention to work, study, their children, extended family, friends or their hobbies, the TV or computer, rather than to each other. This diminishes romance and brings alienation in partnership. In many cases it creates bickering, because like children if we can’t get the positive attention from someone we love, we tend to get that attention through conflict.

This is why No. 2 of the Heart Magic Principle is that for love to survive you must prioritize your relationship. This keeps romance alive no matter how many years go by. How do people fall in love with each other? The answer is they spend quality time together. They express how much they appreciate one another with affectionate words and actions. So it is essential that partners continue to spend quality time, to share their day, their thoughts and feelings, an enjoyable moment, an opportunity to give physical or verbal expressions of affection. Our lives are built moment to moment, so when loving couples look back on their years together those years are filled with intimacy and valuable experiences shared. This is why such partners can feel the power of love for each other and romance thrives no matter how much time has passed!

A third belief, which must be changed for love to endure, states, “All we need is love.”

If this were actually true, marriage would not be the kind of crapshoot it seems to be in our country. One of the most important principles in my book is that we must have preparation in order to be educated in how to be good partners. More and more people agree, because they are seeking to learn healthy communication habits and skills to resolving conflicts productively, before they live together. In my book, they are described as the “Dos and Don’ts of Relating”. If we are truly devoted to having a happy life and a peaceful world, what better place to begin than under our own roof!

I believe more people in our society will fulfill their dream of having a loving and happy home once these beliefs I have mentioned become a thing of the past. I am happy to say that in the past 25 years, I have seen a greater change in consciousness precisely in that direction and I hope my book will continue to be of help to people in that regard! Thank you. I have enjoyed being with you.



Maria J. Andrade, M.S. M.F.T., is a psycho spiritual therapist and poet. She was born in Ecuador, South America and raised in New York and California. In 1989 she was initiated in Andean Shamanism by Amazonian and Inca medicine healers of Peru. She uses poetry, stories and ceremony in her work. Her poetry and articles on social justice has appeared in the nationally awarded winning, bilingual newspaper, “La Oferta Review” and “Vistazo” San Jose, California as well as in “La Opinion” Newspaper, Los Angeles.

Maria is a social and human rights activists who helped establish organizations such as Habitat for Humanity in Pomona, CA and FACTS (Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes Law) Los Angeles Chapter. She worked with Peace and Justice, a political activists group based in La Verne, CA and for 25 years served on the Board of the Carl Jung Society of Claremont as Program Coordinator gathering speakers and programs which bring transformative visions for the new millennium. She is founder of the “Heart Magic” workshops based on her book Heart Magic, Keeping Love Alive & Well. This book focuses on important fundamental principles and communication techniques for sustaining a loving and lasting partnership.

She lives in California and has a private counseling practice with her husband Sy Cohn. You can visit her website at www.magicunion.com.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Schooled in Lies by Angela Henry



GED instructor Kendra Clayton’s high school days were nothing to brag about. So she’s not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school’s reunion committee.

Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it’s murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously.

To try and prevent another death-and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife-Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

Read an Excerpt from Schooled In Lies!

She woke up in the dark. Confused and disoriented, she lay still for a few seconds and tried to get her bearings and figure out where she was. She tasted blood in her mouth. Tentatively, she touched her lower lip and discovered it was split. There was also an egg-sized knot on the back of her head, causing pounding that made even thinking painful. Curled into a fetal position on her side, she slowly turned onto her back and reached out a hand hitting something hard and unyielding mere inches from her face. She tried to straighten out her cramped legs but couldn’t. Where the hell was she and why was it so dark? Then another sensation cut its way through the mind-numbing pain in her head. Movement. She was moving.

A familiar smell filled her nose. Exhaust fumes. Car exhaust fumes. She was in a moving car. Judging by the enclosed space she was in, she quickly realized she was in the trunk. Panic welled up inside her and she started screaming and frantically beating on the inside of the trunk. But the car didn’t stop and after a few minutes both her throat and hands were sore. She was feeling around the trunk for something to pry open the lock with when the car came to an abrupt stop. She heard the opening and closing of the car door and footsteps crunching on gravel.

Fumbling around in the dark, her hand came to rest on a hard, round, plastic cylinder. A flashlight. She felt for the switch to the sound of a key being inserted into the trunk lock. When the trunk flew open, she flashed the light into her captor’s face. When she saw who it was, memories suddenly came flooding into her head, jolting her back in time, making her remember how she came to be in the trunk of a car with a murderer staring down at her.

Read a Recent Review of Schooled in Lies!

"I would recommend Schooled In Lies to anyone looking for a witty, modern cozy mystery; it makes for a light and fun afternoon read." --Rundpinne




Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she’s a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She’s the author of four mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, and is also the founder of the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, and was named a “Hot Site” by USA Today.com. When she’s not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline. You can visit her website at http://www.anglehenry.com and her blog at http://angelahenry.blogspot.com. Connect with Angela on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mystnoir.

Follow Angela's tour every weekday in February by visiting http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/

New Giveaways at Confessions of an Overworked Mom



My friend Ellen over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom is doing a great job with reviews and giveaways. She was recently a Blogcritics writer of the week!

Take this latest giveaway she's offering for a St. Eve's Kid Cozy, my girls would love one of these. They bought me a Snuggie for Christmas, but that's because secretly they want one.

I really like the look of the St. Eve's version, so I entered that giveaway and am blogging about this contest in the hopes I win it. Make sure you stop by Confessions of an Overworked Mom every day to see what else Ellen has to offer!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Author Spotlight: The American Medical Money Machine by James R. Goldberg


Health care today sits at the center of a ‘perfect’ storm whose effects are inescapable for every living person of every age from infancy to death: the tenure of politicians up to the highest levels of key governments, the trillion-dollar revenues and profits in every world currency and the life or death of us all, not just in the U.S. but worldwide.

The tangled world of healthcare seems like an undecipherable riddle. What’s wrong? Who’s responsible? The suspects are everywhere.

Following the death of my only child, who died under mysterious circumstances at a U.S. – accredited hospital in Bangkok, I began a three-and-a-half year intensive investigation to discover WHY?

The unimaginable paths I followed started in Bangkok but quickly led to discoveries of how vast and secreted corruption in the American medical industry have contributed to destroy, with self interested greed and unbridled power, the greatest healthcare system the world has ever known.

The American Medical Money Machine is available at Amazon!



James R. Goldberg, has served as a senior level executive and CEO with deep experience in running early and mid-stage technologically complex businesses with a major focus in health care. He has been a Principal of one of the world’s leading technology/business consultancies, the PA Consulting Group, based in London, England.

The author has been primarily involved, as a biomedical engineer and technologist, in developing medical technologies for surgery, drug delivery and diagnostics.

He served as contracted Executive Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories health care initiative, a U.S. Defense Research Laboratory program aimed at converting military technology into medical technology, Jim has invented over 12 technologies that have received U.S. and International Patents.

Goldberg earned his advanced degrees. along with other post graduate degrees at Michigan State University, New York University, Stanford University and European study programs including the Sorbonne, France, The University of Mainz,The University of Jena, Germany and the University of Madrid, Spain.


To follow James during his virtual book tour, please visit http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Don't Have to Argue with You, You're Not My Wife by Gary Morgenstein, Author of How to Find A Woman...or Not



Today's guest blogger is Gary Morgenstein, author of the comic step-by-step guide to finding true love, How to Find a Woman…Or Not.

Tired of ordering in Thai food and watching a Netflix on Saturday nights? Don’t despair. Finding true love isn’t impossible as long as you view the entire world as one big singles bar. Walking your dog, practicing yoga, riding mass transit, buying a book, even visiting a friend in the hospital can lead to the woman of your dreams.

Critically-acclaimed novelist/playwright Gary Morgenstein provides the romantic roadmap!

Using his own battle-scarred experiences as a divorced man along with many years “spinning” as a public relations specialist, Morgenstein takes men (and women eager to go inside the mind of a guy) on a step-by-step comic and erotic guide to love and sex.

From making eye contact, dazzling opening lines, online etiquette, younger and older women and how to conduct yourself on a date to what goes into a successful relationship (in and out of the bedroom), How to Find a Woman…Or Not is a riotous, poignant and indispensable blueprint for passion and commitment


“I DON’T HAVE TO ARGUE WITH YOU, YOU’RE NOT MY WIFE”
by Gary Morgenstein


The first date I had after my marriage broke up was with this very foxy late 40s woman, off the nerve.com dating service, at an Indian place on East 6th Street in Manhattan. Here we were, sipping wine and dipping Nan in chutney. For all I knew, there were many middle-aged men at adjacent tables dripping rivers of sweat down their shirts on their first date in more than 25 years. Pale expressions, gaunt looks, notes scribbled on the inside of the sleeve, do you still bring flowers/candy/Mateus Rose/exactly what do I do on a date?

A date. What the hell was a date? That thing you get dressed up for, but without the wife crowding you in the bathroom and criticizing your choice of shirt/socks/pants. Where you get dressed alone and then meet at a bar or, even more terrifying, pick them up at their apartment. A strange woman’s apartment filled with strange foreign objects like lamps and windows and end tables. Where they have dangerous traps like a couch and bed and you’re expected to dance and kiss and, as for sex, well…

Then deciding where to eat, having no knowledge of their prior eating habits, what might anger them.

What, are you crazy offering me a shrimp when you know I’m allergic and it could kill me? You think you’re getting anything now?

Smelling good, dressing right, speaking properly, not dribbling b√©arnaise sauce down your chin, coming up with good stories/jokes, hoping you don’t repulse her.

A date. A great deal like March Madness, one mistake and you’re eliminated, back to Boise, baby.

Yeah, I was terrified that night. I’d recently quit smoking. After learning my marriage was kaput, my friend Vicky explained women don’t like to kiss smokers. Hmm, let’s see, tongue or addiction, which wins? Got that monkey off my back in a few days. I swallowed several tic-tacs, took deep breaths and prayed for guidance.

I mean, do you act as if they’re a friend or colleague at work? Is that how you charm a woman? Just talk, be smart and witty, hopefully the hammering of the heart won’t lead to cardiac arrest. Somehow I remembered turning blue wasn’t a turn-on.

If I remembered. Even in college and post-grad, I wasn’t exactly a stud muffin. Okay, I had my triumphs, which I ascribed more to delusional behavior on the part of the woman, greatly aided by alcohol and Quaaludes. But now I have gray hair. My jawline isn’t exactly taut. I keep myself in shape with weights and yoga, but no six-pack. Maybe one Bud Light.

Suave I never was. Nor rich nor powerful nor famous. No Jack Nicholson snapping his fingers courtside. Plus I’m a Republican living in New York. I do have a few things going against me.

Yet here I was. She laughed at my jokes and looked at me a certain way. I think it’s called with sensual interest. That was in retrospect, mind you, because I was just hanging on the ropes, babbling and throwing down wine like they’d just found three spots on my lung. Somewhere between the aloo chat and the tandoori chicken she suddenly reached across the table and squeezed my hand. Course, she needed a bath towel to wipe away the perspiration, but a strange woman had tenderly touched me. What would my wife say? Wait, I didn’t have a wife anymore. I was alone. Looking for love in all the wrong places.

Outside on a frigid January night that made icicles shiver, she tongued me up and down East 6th like a vacuum cleaner to a dirty rug amid cries from passing cars of hey, get a room. She slipped my hand under her down jacket and then under her sweater and then under her blouse. Just before I lost feeling in my fingers, I touched the top of another woman’s breast.


In addition to How to Find a Woman…Or Not, Gary Morgenstein’s books include the novels Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, about a divorced man who falls in love with a beautiful woman rabbi; Jesse’s Girl, a powerful story about a father’s search for his adopted teenage son, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a political baseball thriller, as well as the baseball Rocky The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. His prophetic play Ponzi Man played to sell-out crowds at the New York Fringe Festival. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by lots of books and rock and roll CDs.

Gary Morgenstein’s HOW TO FIND A WOMAN…OR NOT VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 runs from February 1st to Feb. 26th. You may follow his tour each weekday by visiting http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pump Up Your Book Promotion's February 2010 Authors On Tour



Pump Up Your Book Promotion Announces February ‘10 Authors on Tour

Join a talented and diverse group of 21 authors who are touring with Pump Up Your Book Promotion during the month of February 2010!

Follow these authors as they travel the blogosphere from February 1st through February 26th to discuss their books. You’ll find everything from gritty memoirs to mystery novels, children’s books to legal thrillers, historical fiction to inspirational nonfiction, self-help and more! And for the month dedicated to love, we have several authors who have written books on relationships or romance.

Maria Andrade, Barbora Knobova, and Gary Morgenstein will be promoting titles about relationships, while Bill Walker is back for another tour with his soul searching romance novel, A Note from an Old Acquaintance. Life coach and motivational speaker, Judi Moreo, is just one of the contributing authors for the motivational book Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths, and Michele Paiva returns with her spiritual self-help book, Truth, Next Exit.

Susie Larson tours for another month with her inspirational devotional, Embracing Your Freedom, and Victor Pross tours with the humorous art book, Icons & Idols: Pop Goes the Culture. Alan Markovitz, Joy Slosar, and Kay Marshall Strom return with a gritty memoir, a psychological book, and book for baby boomers; and Pamela Samuels Young and Vincent Zandri tour their thrillers.

Also on tour with Pump Up your Book Promotion in February are historical novelist Ogo Ogbata, mystery authors Misa Ramirez and Angela Henry, women’s contemporary author Kaylin McFarren, and children’s author Chris Wardle. February shines the light on Carla Buckley’s apocalyptic novel, The Things That Keep Us Here, and the current affairs book The American Medical Money Machine by James Goldberg. Marnie Swedberg is also on tour with her book for writers, eBooks: Idea to Amazon in 14 Days.

Check out YouTube at to view a special Authors on February Virtual Book Tour video trailer featuring each author. To follow these authors during the month of February, visit the official Pump Up Your Book Promotion website at www.pumpupyourbook.com or our publicity blog found at http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com.

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

Author Spotlight: The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley



How far would you go to protect your family?

Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying–and failing–to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken as Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: A virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland.

And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

As their town goes into lockdown, Peter is forced to return home–with his beautiful graduate assistant. But the Brookses’ safe suburban world is no longer the refuge it once was. Food grows scarce, and neighbor turns against neighbor in grocery stores and at gas pumps. And then a winter storm strikes, and the community is left huddling in the dark.

Trapped inside the house she once called home, Ann Brooks must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where opening a door to a neighbor could threaten all the things she holds dear.

Carla Buckley’s poignant debut raises important questions to which there are no easy answers, in an emotionally riveting tale of one family facing unimaginable stress.

Read an Excerpt from The Things That Keep Us Here!


Prologue

It was quiet coming home from the funeral. Too quiet. Ann wished Peter would say something, but there was just the soft patter of rain and the wipers squeaking back and forth across the windshield. Even the radio was mute, reception having sizzled into static miles before.

As they crossed into Ohio, Ann turned around to see why Maddie hadn’t called it, and saw her seven-year-old had fallen asleep, her head tipped back and her lips parted, her book slipped halfway from her grasp. The first hour of their trip had been punctuated by Maddie asking every five minutes, Mom, what does this spell? Ann leaned back and teased the opened book from her daughter’s fingers, closed it and put it on the seat beside Maddie. Kate hunched in the opposite corner, a tangle of brown hair falling over her face and obscuring her features, the twin wires of her iPod coiling past her shoulders and into her lap.

Ann turned back around. “The girls are asleep.”

Peter nodded.

“Even Kate. I don’t know how she can possibly sleep with her music going.”

He made no reply.

“Do you know I caught her trying to sneak her iPod into the church? I don’t think giving her that was such a great idea.” When Peter remained silent, she went on. “It’s just one more way for her to tune everyone out.”

He shrugged. “She’s twelve. That’s what twelve-year-olds do.”

“I think it’s more than that, Peter.”

He said nothing, simply glanced into the rearview mirror and flicked on the turn signal, glided the minivan around the slowermoving vehicle in front of them.

It was an old argument and he wasn’t engaging. Still, there was something else lurking beneath his silence. She read it in his narrow focus on the highway and along the tightness of his jaw. “You all right?” Of course he wasn’t.

“Just tired. It was a long weekend.”

A long, horrible weekend. All those relatives crammed together in that small clapboard house, no air- conditioning, Peter’s mother wandering around, plaintively asking everyone where Jerry was.

“I’m glad your brother made it.”

“Yep.”

Not yes, or yeah. Yep. He never talked like that. He was throwing up warning signs, telling her to back off. But fourteen years of marriage made her plough straight through anyway. “Everything okay between you two?”

“Sure.”

So he wasn’t going to tell her. “Bonni said she saw you and Mike arguing.”

He glanced at her. So handsome her breath snagged for a moment. The strong, tanned planes of his face and the beautiful bluegreen of his eyes that Kate had inherited; now he looked drawn and older than his forty years. He returned his attention to the road. She wanted to cup her hand to his cheek, but he was sending out those keep-away signals.

She crossed her arms. “Mike doesn’t think it was an accident.”

“Mike doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“He has a point, though. It is strange your father wasn’t wearing blaze orange.”

“What are you suggesting, Ann? Suicide by hunter? Give me a break.”

She should have, but she couldn’t let it go. The questions piled up inside her, three days’ worth of strangers whispering, three days of Peter’s mother tugging at Ann’s sleeve. “Things have gotten so bad with your mom, Peter. I had no idea. This morning, she told Maddie that her parents must be looking for her and that she’d better run along home. You should have seen the hurt look on Maddie’s face.” Ann shook her head. “It just breaks my heart. We can’t leave her like this.”

“Bonni will check in on her.”

“Checking in’s not enough. She needs round-the-clock care.”

The rain had stopped. A watery sunshine glinted through the clouds.

Peter switched off the wipers. “I don’t want to talk about it. Especially not with the girls in the car.”

“You mean the girls who are sound asleep?”

“Ann.”

Maybe she was pushing too hard. She leaned her forehead against the window and watched a hawk spin circles high above. “You sure you need to go into the field tomorrow? Maybe one of your students can go in your place.”

“I’ve got no choice. Hunters are nervous enough right now without me sending in some twenty-year-old.”

“Because of the bird flu?”

“Exactly.”

“Do you think you’ll find anything?”

He shifted position. “Probably. But it’s not an isolated case that’s a problem.”

“It’s a cluster of cases.”

“Right.”

The hawk grew smaller and smaller, a smudged dot that eventually disappeared. No doubt to perch on a branch somewhere and watch for prey. “I forgot to tell you, things were so rushed Friday, but that interview came through.”

“At Maddie’s school?”

She nodded. “I go in next week to meet with the principal. I keep thinking, what if I don’t get the job? Then I think, what if I do?”

“You’ll be fine.”

“I haven’t worked in, God, twelve years.”

“How hard can it be?”

She flashed him an irritated look but he was staring straight ahead. “It’s not finger painting and Popsicle sticks, Peter.”

“I just meant I know you can do it.”

“It’s theory and history, too. What if I teach above their heads? What if they’re bored? What if Maddie hates me being her art teacher?”

“There must be some part of you that’s looking forward to it.”

Did she want to talk about this? “It’s the whole . . . thing. I’m not sure I can do it.”

“You mean, art in general?”

“Exactly.”

He heaved a sigh. She heard the impatience in it. “It’s been a long time,” he said.

Nine years. An eternity. A blink.

“Maybe you’re ready, Ann.”

“In other words, I should be ready.”

He lifted his hands briefly from the steering wheel. I give up. “Whatever.”

The hills undulated by, the woods fiery red and burnt orange. She caught glimpses of barns and houses set high and solitary. She wondered about the people who lived there, if they were lonely.

“It’d be good for you to go back to work,” Peter said. “A fresh start.”

She nodded, distracted. They needed the second income, what with two college tuitions coming up. And everything had gotten so frighteningly expensive, especially gas. It was costing as much to fill up the minivan as it was to take everyone out to dinner and the movies.

“Actually.” He cleared his throat. “We could both use a fresh start.”

She turned to him, worried by the strangeness in his voice. “Okay.”

“Not okay, Ann. It hasn’t been okay for a long time.”

“What does that mean? What are you talking about?” But she knew. This quiet autumn day had suddenly become strange, queered by intensity and the feeling that something terrible was about to happen.

“I think we need some time apart.”

She stared at his profile, speechless, feeling her heartbeat accelerate. He was suddenly a stranger to her. The seatbelt slid down her arm, she was skewed so sideways. “You don’t mean that.”

“I have to.”

“I thought we were doing okay. Not good, but . . . better.” Maybe this weekend had been the last straw. Was it just his father’s death? Or had he been thinking about this for a while? How could she not have known? How foolish she’d been, taking things for granted, being her clumsy, pushy self. She’d been too harsh about his father’s death. Maybe she should have been kinder, but she’d never really liked the man.

“Dad was sixty-two. Sixty-two.” Peter gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles white. “There were so many things he never got to do. So many things he put off. Going to Gettysburg. Seeing the Vietnam Memorial. Finishing that tree house for our girls. I stood there and watched them put his coffin into the ground.” He leaned back and let out a breath. “I don’t want to be that man. I don’t want to live like he did.”

She put her hand on his arm, felt the warmth of his skin. “But . . . you’re not.”

He shook his head. “I’m just like him, living in suspended animation, watching everything go past.”

“Is this some kind of midlife crisis?”

He glanced at her. “I wish it were, sweetheart.” His eyes were gentle. “Ever since the baby died–”

“Don’t,” she said, hearing her voice sharpen, and took her hand away. She’d never forget walking into the nursery. Seeing William silent and unmoving in his crib.

“We can’t even talk about it.”

“This isn’t talking about it. This is telling me to get over it.” She twisted to look back at the girls, saw that they were still fast asleep. He didn’t want to discuss his mother with them sleeping back there, but it was okay to talk about the one thing they struggled every day to get past? She felt a spark of anger at his indifference. “Which is all you’ve ever done.”

“That’s not fair. You won’t let me in to do anything else. It’s like you slammed all the doors shut and threw away the keys.”

“I’ve tried.”

“I know you have.” There was that horrible kind voice again. “I’ve tried, too. Don’t you think it’s time we both stopped trying, and started loving one another the way we used to?”

She stared at him. “But we can’t,” she said, helpless. “We’re not the same people.” They couldn’t be that man and that woman who happily fell in love at that insanely crowded party; they couldn’t be that naive twosome who thought finding each other was the hard part. She tried again. “We do love each other.”

“I know.”

He sounded so sad. She hated this. Couldn’t he understand she was doing the best she could? Couldn’t he be happy with the way things were now?

He slowed to take the exit toward Columbus. They passed a cluster of gas stations, then a series of strip malls.

“But Thanksgiving’s next week.” A stupid thing to say. Who cared about that? She clenched her fists in her lap. It wasn’t about Thanksgiving. It was deciding whether to go with his mom’s traditional stuffing or her mom’s walnut-apple. It was picking out the Christmas tree, loading the dishwasher, and bringing in the mail. It was waking up in the middle of the night, hearing the person breathing next to you. About knowing you weren’t alone.

“We both need to move on,” he said. “We can’t live like this, two people afraid to be real with one another. I love you. I’ll always love you.” His voice was low but relentless. “I’m just not in love with you anymore.”

She didn’t want to hear this. She sat back and stared numbly through the glass. This was one of those hideous things that happened to other people. The fabric of her life shredded just like that, all the truths she’d clung to now melted into nothing. Everything she was or thought she was, everything she thought they were, had vanished as though they’d never been.

Another house appeared, tucked among the golden trees by the roadside. Someone was there, crouched and working in a garden. A woman. Ann watched as she straightened, lifted a hand to shade her eyes to watch them shoot past, the four of them entombed in a blue minivan and hurtling toward the unknown.

Excerpted from The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley Copyright © 2010 by Carla Buckley. Excerpted by permission of Dell Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Praise for The Things That Keep Us Here!

“In her debut, Carla Buckley provides a thought-provoking thriller that asks her readers who would they become if civilization somewhat vanished.” - Harriet Klausner, Alternative Worlds

“This apocalyptic novel is an absolute page turner…Highly recommended for anyone interested in realistic apocalyptic scenarios and for readers who like a bit of science as well as internal conflict in their reading.” – Shellie, Layers of Thought


Carla Buckley was born in Washington, D.C. She has worked in a variety of jobs, including a stint as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution, and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband and children. The Things That Keep Us Here is her first novel. Bantam Dell will publish Buckley’s next novel in 2011. You can visit Carla Buckley’s website at www.CarlaBuckley.com.

You can visit Carla’s blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com during the month of February to find out more about this great book and talented author.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Turn Your Hobby or Passion into a Business by Christy Strauch



Today's guest blogger is Christy Strauch, author of Passion, Plan, Profit: 12 Simple Steps to Turn Your Passion into a Solid Business.

In 1989, Christy Strauch, took a job as a sales representative for a small IT company with $50,000 a year in sales. Christy had an MBA in finance and marketing from UCLA and a dream of making a difference in business. Fifteen years and 3 mergers later, Strauch was a partner, took the company public, and sold it.

In 2005, with over 9 years experience working for nationally known companies such as IBM, Carnation International and Capitol Records, Christy decided that it was time to follow a lifetime calling to help small business owners learn to prosper doing the work they love. Considered an expert in small business, Christy has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and the Scottsdale Daily Progress, among others.

Throughout her career, Christy has received numerous honors. She won several regional managers awards during her tenure with IBM, has been honored by the Arizona Small Business Association, received the advanced Toastmasters Silver designation and earned her Certified Professional Co-Active Coaching (CPCC) certificate from the Coach Training Institute, as well as her Associate Certified Coach (ACC) certificate from the International Coach Federation.

In 2005, Christy formed Clarity To Business, a coaching and consulting practice. To date has worked with over 300 small business owners, from artists to real estate agents, helping them to both do what they are passionate about – and to make a profit.

In this hands-on workbook, Christy Strauch gives creative people and small business owners the tools they need to help them understand the purpose their business or skill serves in the world; serve their best clients even better; and get clear on "Number," the language their business speaks to them. Passion, Plan, Profit takes a light-hearted and semi-painless approach to helping readers create a useable, fun plan to run a successful business. No one is "too creative" to make money doing the work they love.

"Turn Your Hobby or Passion into a Business" by Christy Strauch

Want to start a business based on your hobby or passion? Here’s what you should do.

The first thing you have to know when you are evaluating whether or not to turn your passion into a business is your level of commitment.

Having a hobby is a lot like being single—you can work on your hobby (i.e. go out on a date) when you feel like it, or stay home in your pajamas and watch TV if you don’t. Hobbies don’t demand anything of you (just like that casual date you had last night). You can work on your hobby every free minute you have, or put it down for a year, or change your mind and forget about it completely, with few repercussions.

A business, on the other hand, can be very demanding. Deciding to cross the line from hobby to business is like committing to getting married. If you decide you want to make your hobby into a business, you have to commit yourself heart and soul. If you decide to turn your passion into a business, you’ll be making the decision to go from happy-go-lucky hobby kid, to grown-up business adult.

You know what making a commitment looks like. There will be days when you don’t feel like working on your business. But since it’s now a business instead of a hobby, you’ll have to do the work anyway, or figure out how to delegate it to someone else. Your commitment will force you to take actions that scare you; take risks that might frighten you, or do things you don’t enjoy.

But just like with a marriage, if you pick the right work, the work you love, turning it into a business can be deeply fulfilling, not to mention fun and profitable.

It boils down to one question. Are you ready, willing, and able to commit?

Do you have what it takes to turn your passion into profit?

The skill of successfully owning and running a business doesn’t require a specific genetic trait, or possessing the set of secret rules from a small business society that only allows five selected people into their membership every three years. What it does require is:

• A willingness to learn, at a deep level, who your perfect clients are and how to market to them.

• The perseverance to keep going when things are tough.

• The training to understand what your business numbers are telling you.

• The ability to flow with change.

If this all sounds too scary, then you should consider keeping your hobby a hobby.

But if you think these challenges sound interesting, stimulating and fun, you’re the right candidate to turn your Passion into Profit. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you love your hobby enough that you’d like to do it regularly, as work?

2. Would you like to become a professional at your hobby; to step up your level of skill at it so you would be considered one of the best in your field?

3. Would you be willing to spend time marketing your work?

4. Are you willing to work on it even on days you’re not in the mood?

5. Can you weather setbacks (a client firing you, someone not paying who promised to pay, a downturn in the economy, plus a host of other things that happen to every business owner).

6. Are you willing to learn new things; such as new ways to market, updated ways to do your work, etc.?


Christy Strauch is the author of Passion, Plan, Profit: 12 Simple Steps to Convert Your Passion into a Solid Business. In addition she is president of Clarity To Business and has worked with over 300 small business owners, from artists
to real estate agents, helping them do what they are passionate about – and
make a profit. Her book is available at Amazon.com. She is currently at work on You Hate to Market, and What To Do About It, which will be available Fall 2010.