Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Flight of the Goose by Lesley Thomas was kindly offered to me by the author herself.  She also generously sent me a second copy to give away to a lucky reader.  I’ve had this interview sitting around for awhile and am sorry to say that I never got around to posting it.  So without further ado, here’s Lesley Thomas and I discussing her book.  See the bottom of the interview for details on how to win your own copy of Flight of the Goose.



Flight of the Goose

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Lesley Thomas was nice enough to say yes when I asked for a short interview.  So a big thank you and welcome!

Q.  My first question is about the cover art of “Flight of the Goose”.  The front is what looks like a sepia photograph depicting a beautiful landscape (my guess is tundra?) with a child running gleefully through it.  Did you have any input with the cover and are you pleased with the result?

A. That is an old family photo. It was taken in the region in which my book is set, Bering Strait. It is tundra, Inupiaq territory and the land of so many of my relatives through marriage, and their ancestors going back centuries. My Inupiaq stepfather used to be carried on his grandmothers back through those very hills as she foraged. I grew up there too and spent much time alone in those high hills, roaming.

Though a few readers, some macho men, thought the cover should have shown a shaman mask or perhaps something with guns, (saying the girl is too “domestic” and more for a woman’s novel, like that is a bad thing. Well, I am a woman and women read my book as well as men, and the book is about a woman. I love the photo and what it represents. I think showing a child is perfect. Perhaps she is the child born from the union of the two characters. And the photo shows the land, such a big part of the story. I love how the small mountain in the photo was exactly like the mountain my main character roamed upon in summer and through her childhood (picking blueberries). And the hills are of course where Gretchen has her spiritual connection to the Earth and where she spies on her birdman. The photo doesn’t show it very clearly but the little girl has blueberries on her face from gorging on them like a bear cub, from the ancient traditional freedom of “summer camp”.

Q.  What inspired you to write this book?  I confess to knowing little to none about Alaska’s people and/or traditions.  Did you hope to enlighten those who may be in my shoes? 

A. I didn’t really set out to enlighten others so much as to understand myself better, maybe. An identity thing. Like the first part of my novel where narrator says how you have to look back from a distance to understand. I had a very rare and complex upbringing. The Arctic is my homeland and where all my family still lives; it is where I grew up and was formed – I always feel moved very deeply in my soul when in the Arctic, more than other places on Earth. My best friends were born there and died there. In addition, I am deeply bonded with the Inupiaq culture, from my early exposure to village life, and my mother encouraged me to assimilate, then through the family marriages that meshed outsiders and Native. I was taught – nurtured in – the Inupiaq ways by many traditional mentors and then my stepfather and his mother, so it is an intrinsic part of me; I am bicultural. (I think part of it might be genetic too, since my grandfather was from the Arctic, in Norway’s Lapland. It looks exactly the same as the photo, and there are reindeer, wolverine, the same berries, the same ways of sharing and honoring spirits and elders. And I am part Sami so am descended from hunting-gathering nomads of the Arctic). I also wrote the book to honor an old childhood friend who died at a very early age – in a way the story is a eulogy for her. Her spirit visited me a lot at night in dreams while I was writing the story. She influenced me – and it – tremendously. At times I felt like was channeling the Otherworld while writing, in a shamanistic way.

That’s the mystic’s answer – Freud would say I had ‘complexes’ to work out. Whenever I write a book it always manages to get set in the Arctic, as if I am unconsciously compelled to go there. I wrote a science fiction novel and even it was on an Arctic-like planet with hunter gatherers. But I also always write about the conflicts and creative union of culture, the old and the new, outsider and indigenous, good and bad, all ambiguity you get when you combine two very different world views, and that is no doubt due to the way I was raised in my bicultural family. My next books (see bottom question) will be set in the Arctic.

All that being said, sure, I wanted to let others in on the great beauty of the Arctic, its animals and people, and to warn them that is very fragile and endangered. I did want to preserve the old ways somehow, and to honor them.

Q.  I would think your surroundings would influence your writing but I notice you now live in Seattle.  Just out of curiosity, how much of the book was written in Seattle and how much in Alaska? 

A. I don’t know – I visit family a lot and spend summer in the homeland, asking all kinds of questions and absorbing new cultural and earth lessons. I never stop learning or researching and would like to keep amending Flight of the Goose. I keep learning new things about subsistence and the Inupiaq traditions as the old people up there open up more and more. My brothers learn more from their wives, and Elders feel safer to talk about the old ways now that outsiders don’t disparage, abuse the knowledge, use it against Natives through colonization, or mock it racistly (not that I ever doubted- I always honored ancient ways. But the fact remains I have a white identity, I sure look white, and will always be an outsider). The old people also feel an urgency to pass knowledge and stories along while they are still alive.

Readers ask me a lot about why I live in Seattle when I so obviously love and know the Arctic. My living in Seattle but channeling and writing about the Far North reminds me of the Kite Runner author, writing about Afghanistan as an immigrant/refugee living in California. I have a love-hate relationship with the Arctic; it is not the land I want to get away from or feel pained by, or the bears (though I fear them as well as honor them) or mosquitoes or the cold and dark or the old culture, it is the society of Alaska I feel pained by. The dysfunction of the new Alaska. It is a frontier, a colony, a deeply ravaged land, the people in post traumatic stress and ongoing stress and I get traumatized by the emotional pain, especially as a sensitive, empathic woman.

Q.  How has your life changed since you wrote “Flight of the Goose”, and do you have plans for writing another novel sometime in the future?

A. It changed big time when I was doing a lot of author events and getting to teach at writers conferences, and took a hiatus from my day job. I got to make friends with other authors from all over the nation, and wear the hat of author for the first time and it felt great. I loved it. But now I am back to the daily grind of teaching ESL for a living, having learned the lesson that for most of us authors, we have to keep the day job. Literary fiction is not very lucrative for most of us, even if we get good reviews.

I will write another novel – probably an eco=thriller – set in the very post modern Arctic. Global warming is altering the Arctic swiftly and radically, more than any other place on Earth except the Moldaves. The renewed plans for rampant oil drilling, right off the coast of my hometown and the Chukchi Sea adds another dimension.

My other plan is to write a novel set in the ancient Arctic of Scandinavia and delve into my own genetic past.

Q.  Finally, let’s finish with my usual final bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I just finished a book that delighted me: Finding Nouf, a mystery set in modern Saudi Arabia. I know a lot of Saudis at the university and since I was a kid was always fascinated with both archaic Bedouin and modern Wahabi-state controlled urbanites, especially the lives of women there. This book was well written and reminded me of Martin Cruz Smith’s work (he is a favorite, especially Polar Star) I read some reviews of Finding Nouf that criticized the author for being incorrect on some of her facts, but I feel a lot sympathy for that. We can’t be perfect. Also, I know editors and marketing teams are responsible for a lot; they will override an author and change things culturally if they feel it will make American readers like the book more.

Oh, to get back to your question: I love Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, Peter Matthiesen’s At Play in the Field of the Lord, and the post-Victorians, especially Thomas Hardy. I love Dickens and Conrad, the Romantic poets (grew up on them, since we didn’t have TV). My first adult novel, which I read and loved at the age of 7 was To Kill a Mockingbird, followed quickly by Never Cry Wolf by Mowat.

This year I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction political science, economics, the rise of American Empire, and – if you will – apocalyptic science about climate change and peak oil, ecological breakdown. I am reading that “downer” stuff because I am concerned, and want to know what is happening and what is likely to happen. They are like my oracles. And I always love anything about Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell, or world mythology and anthropology.

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Huge thanks to Lesley Thomas.  If you’d like to be entered to win this amazing book, leave a comment here telling me why you want to win a copy of this book.  For an extra chance, you can blog/tweet about this contest- but be sure to tell me you did it, and provide a link 🙂



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Title: “Two Brothers: One North, One South”
Author: David H. Jones
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0979689857
Publisher: Staghorn Press
Date of Publication: September 1, 2008— Available now!

Two Brothers - One North, One South

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“Moonlight glimmered on the distant capitol dome and cast long shadows from the gothic towers and battlements of the Smithsonian Institute. To the west, the partially completed shaft of the Washington Monument appeared like a giant white chimney protruding from the dark landscape. Between these edificeswere fields filled with temporary streets and wooden buildings. Bathed in the dim light was a city transforming itself from a military bastion consumed by the business of war to a city intent on governing the once-again United States.”

(“Two Brothers: One North, One South” pg 7)


I have to say that I love the opening paragraph above.  Sometimes when I go back to reread a book and I’m looking for a few good lines to use in my review, I have to look for quite awhile.  In this case, it’s the first thing you read- and they’re perfect.  As I mentioned in one of my recent reviews about another author, this is what Creative Writing teachers strive to pull from you.  The imagery is fantastic.  You can picture the capitol!  Or perhaps it’s even those first two words- “Moonlight glimmered“– a perfect descriptive hook.

The story itself is pretty good.  The title is pretty self explanatory, it’s the story of two brothers during the American Civil War.  I’ve not read much historical fiction set during this time.  The only thing that comes to mind is Ann Rinaldi’s “The Last Silk Dress“, but that is a completely different type of book (still good though!).  “Two Brothers….” is based upon acutal historical events which is what I think really makes it work.  As you can see from my interview below with the author, he did a tremendous amount of research- and I think it really shows in the story.  (Not that I would know differently, as my knowledge in this area is lacking… but I’ll take his word for it that most of the details and dates and such are historically accurate!)

What I liked most about this book is that it didn’t read like a boring history book.  I’ve come across so many historical fiction novels that put too much emphasis on history and not enough on fiction.  They attempt to write nonfiction disguised as fiction.  In this case, “Two Brothers…” is the perfect balance.  There’s action and dialogue.  The history is there, but you can tell that you’re reading fiction.  Hopefully you understand what I mean!

I would indeed recommend this to anyone looking for historical fiction set during or around the American Civil War.  For that matter, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good story!  Thanks to David H. Jones and Trish from TLC tours.  See below for my interview with David, and for details on how to win your own copy of this book.


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David H. Jones has graciously agreed to allow me to interview him! Welcome David, and thank you for joining us today.

Q. I love the cover art, the split uniform showing the uniforms for both the North and the South. It works extremely well with the story. I’m always interested in how much influence an author has over the cover art. So my question is are you pleased with the cover, and were you directly involved in the process of choosing an image?

A. I share your delight with the “Two Brothers” cover art for its great appearance and the fact that it clearly depicts the story within. The amount of influence an author has on cover art and interior layout depends on the publisher. I was directly involved with developing the concept and working with the designer, The DesignWorksGroup, but I’m aware of other circumstances where the publisher has total control over the decision making process and the author is not consulted. After several discussions with Charles Brock, a principal of The DesignWorks Group, I received three presentations and chose the one that evolved into the final design approved by all parties. As it was important that the uniforms be absolutely correct, exact reproductions were purchased and used in the photography, then donated to Pamplin Historical Park for its interpretative program.

Q. From the jacket I can see that you’re a “lifelong student of the Civil War”. What first interested you about the civil war? What’s kept you so focused and interested on it, as opposed to say, the American Revolutionary War?

A. American history is my passion, all phases of it, from the first colonization to more recent times. However, the Civil War has special meaning to me as my father told stories during my childhood that he heard from his grandfather, personally linking me to the horrendous event that wrought our nation from a loose collection of states. My dad lived a long and good life, and I knew him well. He knew his maternal grandfather, Jacob Eckes, who served as a private in the 10th West Virginia Infantry. Thus, as a 68-year old man, I knew people, who knew people, who fought in the American Civil War, proving that it happened not so very long ago.

Q. What did you hope to accomplish by sharing “Two Brothers…” with the world?

A. Great question! I found the Prentiss brothers story while researching my ancestor’s regiments in past wars. My great great grandfather James Touchstone served in the 6th Maryland Infantry with Clifton Prentiss. Fascinated by the story, I compiled voluminous notes over three years of research and determined that it was the quintessential story of the Civil War. It was clearly a story that needed to be told! What I hope to accomplish is recognition by readers of Walt Whitman’s conclusion–that the soldiers of both sides were American patriots and that their stories must not be forgotten.

Q. How has your life changed since you wrote “Two Brothers…”, and do you have any plans for writing another novel sometime in the future?
A. The research phase and subsequent book tours have included a number of trips back East (we live in California) to Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, and Petersburg–all places that are among our favorites to visit. Next week we are doing a book signing at the Museum and Visitor Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park. We have visited the graves of all of the main characters and many sites where important events in the book took place. Dian and I were honored to unveil the new Veterans Administration gravestones for the Prentiss brothers at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where they’re buried side by side. These have all been great departures from our typical routine and things that we have thoroughly enjoyed.
The next writing project–that’s another great question. A memoir of a 6th Maryland officer which describes in great detail his experiences throughout the war has recently come to light. If permission to publish can be achieved, I may write a history of the 6th Regiment of Maryland Infantry, or a new novel, based on this journal. Time will tell.

Q. This kind of goes along with the previous question, but what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A. Dian and I enjoy travel and spending time with family and friends. I’m also still actively involved in business.

Q. Let’s finish with my usual bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading right now and why?

A. I like both fiction and non-fiction. On a recent trip to Florida I read the novel “Down River” by John Hart and enjoyed it very much. My favorite book of all time is “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. Presently, I’m about one-third into the just released “Now The Drum of War: Walt Whitman and his Brothers in the Civil War” by Robert Roper. It’s excellent and provides great insight into Whitman’s Civil War experiences.


A big thank you to David for joining us. I’m sure my readers enjoyed our interview as much as I did. Don’t forget to check out David’s Blog here!

Giveaway details: David as well as Trish from TLC tours have sent me an extra copy of “Two Brothers: One North, One South” for me to giveaway to one lucky commenter. The book is even autographed! If you’d like to win it, comment on this post telling me about your favorite Civil War book. If you don’t have one, tell me why you want to read this one. You have until the end of the month, November 31rst, and like my other contests, this is open to anyone- not just the US and Canada. For an extra entry, you can blog about this contest, but make sure to tell me about it!


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I’m doing things a little differently.  If you’ve visited before, you know that I when I host giveaways, I usually include my review and author interview all in one post.  Today I’m separating them a bit.  Below is my interview with Eric Van Lustbader- the author of the thriller “First Daughter“.  Later in the week I’ll be posting my review of “First Daughter” and the giveaway details.  However since the book is coming out now, I wanted to post my interview to generate a little buzz about it.  But I can tell you now that you have a chance of winning a copy of this book by leaving a comment regarding my interview with author Eric Van Lustbader! 


First Daughter

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So, a big welcome to Eric Van Lustbader!  His new book is called “First Daughter” and I’m thrilled that he was able to answer a few questions for me!  

Q.  I can see that this is far from being your first novel!  With over twenty five books, including three Bourne books, how do you keep coming up with ideas and story lines?

A. If I have a problem it’s that I have too many ideas to write them all! I’d like to finish my Pearl fantasy series, I’d like to write another Nicholas Linnear (“The Ninja“) novel, but I have other commitments now.

Q. There have been a couple of movies released (the most recent starring Katie Holmes) called “First Daughter”.  In addition, chick lit author Mitali Perkins has published books using the same title.  Did any of these influence your decision when it came to picking a title for your book?

A. To be honest, I don’t know about any of these. “First Daughter” was the perfect title for this novel.

Q.  Did you start writing “First Daughter” knowing exactly who the villains were, or did it come to you as you continued to write?

A. Actually, the main villain began to write himself as I got further into the book. He was only fully fleshed out in the writing. This often happens with some of my best characters. Funny, that.

Q.  You ended “First Daughter” in a way that leaves it open for a sequel.  Any chance that such a sequel is in the works?

A. Absolutely. From the beginning, I conceived of Jack McClure have many, many adventures. The next one is already in my head, and very interesting it is, too. I’m hoping that as soon as I finish the next Jason Bourne book, due out next summer, I’ll be able to get back to Jack.

Q.  Let’s end with my usual bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Lastly, what are you reading now and why?

A. Your readers might take a look at my Web site to see some of my favorite novels, but here are some current favorite authors: Roberto Bolano, Martin Amis, Don DeLillo, Laura Restrepo. “Cryptonomicon” by Neal Stephenson is simply astonishing. Right now, I’m reading “Theft” by an Australian writer named Peter Carey. A friend of mine recommended him. It’s about an artist and his brother. My wife and I have a good friend who’s an artist, so I thought it would be of particular interest. But the writer who has had the most powerful and lasting influence on me is Colin Wilson, especially his seminal work, “The Outsider,” in which I first began to recognize myself.


There you have it folks.  Thanks again to Eric Van Lustbader for stopping by!  I’m already excited for the sequel, and I’m sure you will be too, once you’ve read “First Daughter“.  As I mentioned above, my review of this book will be posted later this week along with more chances to win a copy of your own.  For now, leave a comment on this post about my interview with Eric and you’ll be entered to win 🙂  Good luck.

Don’t forget that “First Daughter” comes out today! Stop by and pick up your own copy here 🙂

Edit: I never got around to my review…. it’s coming sometime. But I’ll be picking a winner on October 10, so you all have a few more days to enter.


Missed my last review?  It was REVIEW: “ONE MORE YEAR” BY SANA KRASIKOV

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Seen my latest giveaway? Enter for a chance to win “Surviving Ben’s Suicide“  by C. Comfort Shields!  Only a few more days to do so!

Title: “The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist”

Author: Kamilla Reid

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 316

ISBN: 978-1419664045

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing

Date of Publication: May 31, 2007















 “The race of a lifetime is about to begin!”

“It began in the lower left foot of the Cradle, a curving leaf of opulent design.  As if someone had taken a brush, dipped it in liquid marble and spread its exquisite alabaster brilliance up along each ornate spindle, each detailed sun and moon and star that embossed the long surface of the railing, each luxurious baluster thickly detailed with angelic children.  And when the entire Cradle was a radiant glow of gold and pearlescence, a sheer white veil of light drifted from an unapparent point overhead and draped over it.”

(“The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist” pg 6) 


When you’re searching for a new book to read, authors and publishers have only a few things they can do to influence whether or not you pick up that book.  One is the cover art.  I’ll admit, after picking up “The Questory of Root Karbunkulus” that it is hard not to compare it to Harry Potter.  Think about it: three kids in cloaks- two boys (one with red hair and one with dark brown) and one girl, a giant castle in the background surrounded by a creepy forest and maybe a lake, with a large bird with red and yellow feathers framing the picture….  But I understand what they were going for.  Essentially they’re saying, “hey if you liked Harry Potter, you’ll like this book!”  Guess what?  They’re right!  Anyways, another factor in whether or not you’ll buy a book is the title.  In this case, “the Questory of Root Karbunkulus” really stands out and I think it works well.  (Although can I say it is a pain to type it out each time!!)

 As for the writing, at times I was struck by the detailing.  The excerpt above, for example, is strikingly beautiful.  It reads like poetry.  This is what creative writing teachers strive to bring of their students.  It’s descriptive writing at it’s best.  And there are many places throughout the book exactly like this.  But it’s not just beautiful descriptive writing.  It’s adventure… mystery…. intrigue…. danger…. and magic.  And unlike the last book I read (my review for “Cruel Summer” is here) this is a book that is interesting and exciting for all ages- not just children or young adults.

And as for me comparing it to Harry Potter, yes there are similarities.  But I think that any new book about children and magic will end up being compared to HP.  Reid’s book is certainly different in many ways, and unlike HP where I hated Hermione, in this book I absolutely adore Root.  Shouldn’t that be the goal for authors?  To have people like their characters?  In this case, Reid succeeds, and I have no trouble recommending this book to others.

Still not convinced?  Check out the book’s trailer here.  And stop by the book’s website, there are a bunch of fun things to do 🙂  But don’t forget to come back here!  My interview with the author Kamilla Reid, and details on how to win a copy of the book are below!

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Kamilla Reid, the author of “The Questory of Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist”thankfully agreed to have a short interview with me.  Welcome Kamilla, and thank you for spending some time with us.

Q. I know that the title of your book is named after your main character. Can you tell us how you came up with that unique (and hard to type!) name? And what came first- the story or your character’s name?

A. Y’know it’s funny, in one day, miraculously I heard the word used in both of its quite opposing definitions ( I know! What are the odds of that?) And I knew right then and there that that was to be her name. Of course I had to ‘K-ify’ it to make it uniquely hers. It still kinda freaks me out, the serendipity of it. And, though I do love the name I agree that it’s horrendous to spell.

Q. In my review above I mention what comes to mind when I see this cover. Did you have any input in what the cover art would be and are you pleased with the final result?

A. Being that I was the writer/director of a theatre company, I had immediate access to some pretty amazing talent. One being Matthew Brett, who was my set designer at the time. He was the perfect choice as illustrator, not just because of his abilities but because he and I already had a comfortable working relationship. So, I gave him the copy of the manuscript and from there we met regularly and honed the image to what you’ll see over at Book Cover Lovers. It was done in watercolor and is actually quite big, coming up to my waist! I remember we had a bit of a struggle with the green ribbon because, in the first one he did, the ribbon was too small to fit the title and, believe it or not he had to do the whole thing over again! But overall it was great fun and a thrill to watch it develop!

Q. I was pleasantly surprised to see illustrations throughout the text. How was it working with your illustrator, Matthew Brett? I imagine that at times it could have been difficult to get your exact vision down on paper.

A. Sometimes I’d give him the evil eye and say “You didn’t read that part, did you?” because it was so different from the description I’d given. But other times it worked to my advantage. For instance, my initial description of the Sea Wraith had a long, metallic type of mandible coming out from the hood. But Matthew drew something that looked like it actually inhabited the sea and I loved it so much better.

Q. I’ve heard that there may be a second book in the works…? Can you tell us anything about that? I for one am looking forward to it!

A. Oh yes, indeedy! There are five more books to come in the series, one for each successional item and each ending with the elimination of a team. So, in this first book, out of all those hundreds of teams, only six remain to compete for the next item (book 2). And of those, only five will advance to the next item (book 3), then four teams will race for item three (book 4) and so on until only two teams remain to go after the last item. Of course there is another, deeper, darker agenda going on and Root will learn the terrifying truth behind the mysterious items. She will also discover, to her horror that she is not a player in an innocent kid’s race but a pawn in a vicious adult game.

Q. And like my other interviews, let’s finish with my usual final bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. It totally runs the gamut. Right now I’m reading my first YA romance, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Then I’m on to Coraline by Neil Gaiman (finally!), The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and Making Money by Terry Pratchett. Woohoo! I loved Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I don’t think I could pick a favorite. There are way too many! I chose them all for different reasons, sometimes to see what’s out there in the teen world but mostly just to roll around in another’s sandbox for awhile.
Thank you so very much for for granting me this time to share with you and your readers. It was a thrill and an absolute pleasure!

 A big thank you to Kamilla for stopping by!  You can buy her book- “The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist” here.  If you’re interested in following her while she’s on her book blog tour, watch for her stops here.  Don’t forget to watch the book’s trailer, and stop by the book’s website.

ATTENTION: Kamilla and Blog Stop Tours graciously sent me prizes for one lucky commenter!  That’s right, one winner will receive a copy of “The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist”, a bookmark, and a dog-tags.  Did I mention that the book is autographed?  To enter, simply comment below and tell my why you want to read this book, AND something about Kamilla’s interview with me.  The contest will end August 15th 12:00am EST.  For an extra entry, blog about this contest and let me know about it.  Good luck! 


Thanks to Kamilla Reid, and Dorothy from Authors on Tour.

Missed my last post?  It was REVIEW: “CRUEL SUMMER” BY ALYSON NOEL

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Title: “Surviving Ben’s Suicide

Author: C. Comfort Shields

Format: Hardcover

Number of Pages: 260

ISBN: 978-0-595-70530-6

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.

Date of Publication: April 23, 2008

5 stars: How do you survive the suicide of a loved one?

 A Woman's Journey of Self-Discovery

“A month after Ben died, days and nights were long.  I tried to fill them with early morning walks on the beach and early evenings of painting in the garden.  At night, when I could not sleep, my mother and I would sit on my bed for hours talking about life, death, ghosts, and Ben.  But every morning I looked at the phone on my bedside table, knew that Ben would never be on the other end, and felt a deep void that I thought would never go away.” (“Surviving Ben’s Suicide” pg 1)


As for what this book is about, the title pretty much explains it all.  It opens with a preface from the author.  She explains how when Ben died she searched for books on how to deal with losing a significant other to suicide, and came up empty.  And when she began to write her own story, how many encouraged her to write it as fiction.  I admit that the words flow so well that they seem like they are fiction.  I’m drawn into the story, and then have to shake myself as I realize, “Oh wait, all of this really did happen.”

Perhaps my favorite parts of the book are the descriptions.  Shields clearly has a way with words as she describes Ben.  It is heartbreaking to read in the beginning, as she describes crumbling up a wildflower that Ben had picked and saved, only to moments later try to scrape the dust back into the envelope the flower was originally in.

Since I’ve never been in the same position as Shields, I cannot say whether or not this book would be helpful after the suicide of a loved one.  But I thank her for sharing her experience, and I would hope that this book, would be a comfort to those going through the same thing.  See below for my interview with C. Comfort Shields, and a details on how to win “Surviving Ben’s Suicide“.  

But don’t just take my word for it!  My friend Meghan aka Medieval Bookworm wrote a great review of this book too. Read it here 🙂 


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After reading “Surviving Ben’s Suicide“, the author- C. Comfort Shields, agreed to answer a few questions for me.  Hello Comfort and thank you for being with us here today!

Q.  Because you use the initial C, I admit to being curious as to what your first name is.  Plus I noticed that you are called Comfort throughout the book.  So my first question is, what is your first name, and is there a reason you published your book only using the C? 

A. That’s a great question. My full name is Caroline Comfort Shields, but I have always been called Comfort. My parents named me Caroline after my great-grandmother. Comfort was the middle name of my parents’ dear friend, Nathan Comfort Starr, who was a poet and an expert on the Arthurian myth. Years later, we learned that we had several ancestors from England named Comfort. It was a popular man’s name during the Middle Ages. My parents wanted me to be called Comfort, but they felt that Caroline Comfort had a better ring to it than Comfort Caroline. Normally, I go by Comfort Shields, but I decided to keep the initial C in my memoir, because it reminds me of my beloved great-grandmother.

Q.  Something that I always wonder about when I pick up a book is the cover art.  It’s only since I’ve started doing author interviews that I realized I had the power to ask about it.  So, my next question is: did you have any input in the cover for your book?

A. I’m fascinated by cover art, too. I chose the photo for the cover of the book. The woman in the photo is not me, but I liked the idea of the cover showing a woman who looked like me, from behind, sitting in a quiet and peaceful place and thinking. The designer decided to make the background black and white and the woman’s figure in color to represent how I was writing in present time, while looking back into the past and re-examining my life and the place that my relationship with Ben had in it. I asked the designer to try to create a meditative and serious mood, while not being overly dark, since the message of the book is positive and life-affirming.

Q.  Through your book I believe you have done something remarkable, and that was to immortalize Ben.  You’ve shared with us who Ben was, and allowed us to see how special he was.  And though your entire book is in itself a message, is there anything you’d like to say to those who are considering picking this up?

A. Thank you, how nice of you to say that I have immortalized Ben. That makes me feel wonderful, because bringing Ben’s character to life was one of my greatest difficulties, while writing the book. Sometimes, I think that it is most difficult to describe or ‘show in words’ the people to whom we are the closest. Putting my feelings about Ben and my memories onto paper was something that I struggled with for years, while working on my memoir. In the end, I felt that dialogue was the most effective way to show who Ben really was, and I have received several emails from people, who have said that their favorite part of the book was the series of phone calls between Ben and me towards the end of the book, because the conversations brought Ben, and my relationship with Ben, to life.

That brings me to your question, which is what I would tell people, who were considering reading my book. I would talk about how strongly I feel about the place of memory in our lives. Of course, the word memoir comes from the French, memoire, which stems from the Latin, memoria or “memory”. A major theme in Surviving Ben’s Suicide is the power and the importance of memories in one’s life. To me, the most tragic thing that can happen, when a person undergoes a serious loss in his or her life is to repress one’s emotions and memories. So often, we are told to ‘move on’ after the death of a loved one. That phrase can be extremely unhelpful to people in the depths of mourning. Everyone grieves in his or her own way on his or her own time. In fact, for most of us, it is impossible to forget those we loved. Trying to do so, can cause us to become full of rage, despair and, eventually, to explode, taking out our feelings on ourselves or others. Perhaps the most critical lesson that I have learned, while writing my memoir, is that our memories of the people we have loved and the events that we have endured become part of who we are. The more we examine and re-examine those memories, the wiser we become and the more able we are to treat ourselves and others better in the future.

Q.  On a lighter note, let’s finish with my usual final bookish questions!  What kind of books do you like to read?  What is your favorite book?  Who is your favorite author?  Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I love to read memoirs and autobiographies. I have always been fascinated by other people’s lives. My favorite author is Anais Nin. Her early diaries opened up a new world for me, when I was in college. They inspired me to be more open about my own life. Since then, I have read all of Nin’s diaries, essays, and novels. I love to re-read the books in my library, because, as I change, I find that my interpretations of my books change. Currently, I am re-reading Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin. I love Trillin’s voice and find the book to be wonderfully straightforward and poignant. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is another favorite writer of mine. If one had to write the perfect ending of a book, I would recommend getting as close as possible to the end of Love in the Time of Cholera or No One Writes to the Colonel.

There you have it folks!  Surviving Ben’s Suicide” can be purchased here, and I recommend you do.  Don’t forget to take a minute to visit Comfort’s new blog.

ATTENTION: Carrie from Planned Television Arts sent me an extra copy to give away to one lucky commenter.  All you have to do is comment on this post telling me why you’d like to win and read this book, AND mention something about my interview with Comfort.  (Don’t just say “I want to win this!”)  Link to this post and tell me about it for an extra entry.  The contest will run from now until July 31rst at 12:00am EST.  So lots of time for you to spread the word about it!  Good luck 🙂

Thanks to C. Comfort Shields and Carrie Wallick.  



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Hey guys!  Just wanted to let you know that a fan page for Penelope Przekop’s book “Aberrations” is now on Facebook here. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to become a fan of the page.  Spread the word 🙂




And if you haven’t already, read my review of “Aberrations” and check out my interview with Penelope here.  Don’t forget to visit Penelope’s blog: Aberration Nation.

Missed my last post?  It was TUESDAY THINGERS.

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Author: Penelope Przekop

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 978-1934572030

Publisher: Emerald Book Co

Date of Publication: July 1, 2008

4 stars:  An eyeopening look at life with narcolepsy




 “What do you really think about  it?” I asked.

“I’m not gonna judge,” she said, opening her car door.  It was time to go.

“Because you’re a virgin?”

“No, because I’m human.” ( “Aberrations” pg 10)


Every once in awhile, I think about a book’s cover art.  Some are hideous, ugly, boring and bland.  Then there are the beautiful ones.  I found myself struck by this one.  (Stephenie Meyer’s books also come to mind.)  Of course once you’re impressed by the cover, you hope that the words inside are just as wonderful.  (I’ve been disappointed in the past: see my review here for “Tantalize” by Cynthia Leitich-Smith.)  But in this case, the book lived up to it’s cover.  The blue flower is somewhat symbolic, and I just love the way the sun hits her hair.

The story itself kept me hooked.  As I mention below in my interview with Penelope Przekop, I’ve never read anything about narcolepsy.  I only knew that it was some kind of sleep disorder, and Penelope was exactly right when she mentions that narcolepsy is usually used in some humorous way.  The movie “Moulin Rouge” comes to mind.  If you’ve seen it, then you know what I’m talking about.  In “Aberrations”, Angel’s condition is far from being funny.  She’s forced to take medication in order to keep her awake, but even with it, she lives a sort of ‘half life’.

“Aberrations” isn’t solely about Angel and her narcolepsy, although I found that to be the most fascinating aspect of it.  It’s also about life, death, family and friends.  If there was anything that I disliked about this book, it was probably the Southern twang to the speech.  That said, it doesn’t take anything away from the story, and if you’re a fan of Southern fiction, then you’ll probably have no problem at all.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  See below for my interview and giveaway.

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Hello all, today I’m joined by Penelope Przekop.  Her new book “Aberrations” will be released in a few days on July 1, 2008, and I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to interview her.

Q. As I mention above in my review, I found the cover art to be very interesting.  Were you involved, or did you have any input in the final design?

A. Yes, I was able to brainstorm with the cover designer about initial ideas, images, and concepts. We were both focused on creating a unique and eye catching cover that would reflect the themes and tone of the novel.  We both liked the idea of using some type of blue flower.  It seemed unique and would reflect a specific scene in the novel as well as the aberrations of life we all must deal with in some form.  As for the hair, we started out thinking about somehow incorporating a braid, which evolved into the hair on the cover. The designer suggested that a braid may influence folks to think of the book as a young adult novel, which was not the intent.  The cover designer created numerous designs, which were circulated internally.  I was able to see the top five covers, and provide my input.  I was lucky because the cover I liked best was also their top choice.  It was a fun process and I’m extremely pleased with the outcome.  The designer loved Aberrations; she was dedicated to creating a beautiful cover that would inspire people to take a look. 

Q. Your main character, Angel, is narcoleptic.  This is the first time I’ve read about someone with this disorder, and I found it an eye-opening experience.  What inspired you to write about a woman with narcolepsy?

A. When I began planning the novel ten years ago, I threw together several unrelated ideas and concepts that interested me, including narcolepsy.  I have a degree in Biology and always found narcolepsy to be particularly interesting from a biological standpoint.  I also recognized that the media had not accurately portrayed or fully explored the topic.  Interestingly, ten years later, this is still the case. Narcolepsy continues to be commonly used as comedic relief.  I suspected that it wasn’t actually funny for those who suffered from it, and thought it might be rewarding to tell their story. The more I learned about narcolepsy and rolled it around in my head, I realized it would be a fascinating and powerful avenue for character development. It is a great metaphor for how, at times, we’re all in jeopardy of sleeping through life.  As I wrote the novel, Angel became incredibly real to me.  I felt that if I could relate so intimately to her based on my own history, surely others might as well.  Her struggle reflects many emotions that we all feel, and deal with, regardless of our specific aberration.  I hope that it will help build more compassion and understanding of narcolepsy for readers, while providing some universally thought provoking messages about life that reach far beyond a specific medical condition. 

Q.  I believe this is your first foray into writing fiction.  Did you find it difficult to switch from nonfiction to fiction? 

A. Actually, fiction is my first love.  I wrote another novel before Aberrations, which has yet to be published.  I’ve always loved fiction.  When I was five years old, I used to sleep with my favorite book, The Pokey Little Puppy.  I stuck it under my pillow every night when I went to bed.  I wrote my nonfiction book, Six Sigma for Business Excellence (McGraw-Hill) during the ten-year period I was writing Aberrations.  At the time, I was asked to speak at an industry conference, and my editor at McGraw-Hill came across the conference brochure.  I’d been plugging away on novels, trying to get an agent, a publisher, etc., for years, and out of the blue, McGraw-Hill calls to ask, “Have you ever thought of writing a book?”  It felt like a miracle!  So I put Aberrations  aside to write the McGraw-Hill book.  It took about a year.  I was also finishing a Master’s Degree during that time, which I could not put aside. In addition to that,  I was working full time as a Director at Johnson & Johnson, and raising a family.  Needless to say, it was an extremely busy time. It worked out great because by the time I finished the McGraw-Hill book, I’d worked through how I wanted Aberrations to end.  I’ve particularly enjoyed writing my blog, Aberration Nation, as it allows me to write non-fiction in the tone and voice I’ve developed while writing fiction. Business books don’t lend themselves to that quite as easily. 

Q.  I enjoyed your unique beginning, with the definition of ‘Aberration’, as well as the newspaper clipping (which I also thought was a good way to end too).   What made you decide to start and end like this?

 A. I’m one of those strange folks who actually spends time reading the dictionary; I’m a word freak. When coming up with the title for Aberrations, I scanned the Internet for a word related to photography that would miraculously relate to the underlying themes of the novel. I wasn’t sure if such a word existed, but in the end, I found it. The word aberration has several interesting definitions that are all a perfect fit for the novel. The first three definitions relate particularly well to Angel’s story, and to my own.  I decided to include the definition simply because it was so fantastically perfect and I wasn’t sure readers would fully see the connection without having the definition.  I used the beginning newspaper clipping to hopefully build some questions in readers’ minds.  Once I’d finished the book, it seemed fitting to show them some of what had become of the characters through a subsequent news clipping.

Q. Many authors find that as they write, the story goes in a different direction.  Was this the case for you, or did you always plan for the story to go the way it did?   

A. I usually create my characters and the general plot before I begin writing.  I also decide what themes I want to explore, the overall setting, and some of the settings for various scenes.  The themes I choose come from ideas, emotions, or philosophical points that I want to explore and better understand rather than things I want to preach or instruct about.  The aspects of life that I’m most sure of and confident about usually don’t creep into my writing.  I also think about the format of the novel, which I believe is a creative element that’s underutilized in novels.  Lastly, I choose symbols and recurring ideas that I want to weave into the story.  As I sort through all this, the various elements eventually begin to connect in my head.  Then I’m ready to write.  With that said, I’ve only written two novels, but I’m now in this planning phase for a third.  This process seems to work for me and so I plan to continue.  As indicated above, for Aberrations, I didn’t have the ending figured out when I began.  This eventually became a challenge for me, and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. I like the idea of creating all the various elements I mentioned above and weaving them into the story backwards and forwards, sideways, and upside down to create what feels like a self contained globe or a world rather than a linear experience.   

Q.  And now just a few bookish questions!  What kind of books do you like to read?  What is your favorite book?  Who is your favorite author?  Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I love to read a variety of books.  This year I’ve read Alan Greenspan’s book, books on painting, numerous novels, and also biographies.  I particularly love books that teach me about other cultures such as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and A Thousand Splendid Suns

My all time favorite is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I read it as a teenager and couldn’t get past the writing style.  Then I picked it up about twelve years ago and absolutely fell in love with it.  My added maturity and my own life experiences enabled me to relate to it in a profound way.  Its timeless relevance shocked me. Other favorites are Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Ran, Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.  As you can tell, I love books that are entertaining but also thought provoking.  This is the type of book I’ve always longed to write. I do enjoy purely entertaining books, and read many of those, but my ultimate desire is to read and write books that are highly meaningful and timeless. 

I’m just finishing The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield because it was chosen by my neighborhood book club.  They’re planning to read Aberrations soon, which will be interesting!  I included book club questions in the back of the book, so I invite book clubs everywhere to put it on their list!

 Well folks, there you have it!  You can purchase “Aberrations” here.  (Don’t forget to suggest it to your book club as your next read!) And if you want to know more about Penelope and “Aberrations“, visit her blog: ABERRATION NATION

ATTENTION:  Penelope’s people have sent me an extra copy of this book to giveaway to a lucky commenter!  (I’d give mine away, but I’m rather attatched to it lol.)  Simply comment on this post telling me why you’d like to read this book, AND something about Penelope’s interview– make sure you do both !  (Don’t just say “Pick me please!” – those will be ignored.   Make an effort!)  Link to this post (and tell me about it) for a second entry.  You have until 9:00 EST on 7/3 to do so, and I’ll randomly pick a winner that night.

Thanks to Penelope Przekop and TJ Dietderich. 

But don’t just take my word for it!  See Out of the Blue’s review here.

Missed my last post?  It was CONTESTS.

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My second book in the ARC Challenge:

Title: “The Triumph of Deborah

Author: Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 362

ISBN: 978-0452289062

Publisher: Plume

Date of Publication: February 26, 2008

4 stars:  I couldn’t put it down!


 Cover Image 


“Two women were standing on high places, shielding their eyes from the blazing sun with their hands, peering into the distance in search of the messengers from the battlefield.  Each knew that her life depended on the outcome of the battle; but their lives depended on opposite results.” (“The Triumph of Deborah” pg 3)

I received “The Triumph of Deborah” by Eva Etzioni-Halvey not too long ago and stuck it on top of my pile of ARCs.  It sat next to my bed for a few days.  One night I did some serious reading, and finished my LT May book (“The New Yorkers“- my review here).  It was late, lol, or early depending on the way you look at it.  “The Triumph of Deborah” caught my eye.  I figured I’d pick it up and read a couple or pages, or maybe the first chapter, just to get a feel for it.  I was rather tired.  Well folks, I didn’t stop at a few pages.  I didn’t stop at the end of the first chapter, or even at the end of the next one.  I read all 362 pages at once. 

If you’ve read some of my reviews, you know that I love historical fiction.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really considered reading Biblical historical fiction until recently.  (Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” is on by TBR list)  I’m not sure why I never tried it.  It’s not because of the religious aspect, as I love reading about all different types.  In any case, I’m glad I picked up this book, and will certainly be on the look out for more in the same genre.   

As I mention in the interview below, I was hooked from the very beginning!  It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book that grabbed me like that.  I very much enjoyed the story.  The stories of three different women are told, each for at least several pages, and I was never confused as to whose point of view I was reading (in this case: Deborah, Nogah, and Asherah, and at times Barak).  I found myself sympathizing with one of them, and then entirely changing my mind and agreeing with another.  All three of the women were very strong characters, with Nogah being the most timid– but I think that worked for her.  As for the man, Barak, even with all his womanizing he still managed to be oddly attractive.  I could see why these women were drawn to him.

So would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  The good far outweigh the bad.  The only problems I had with it, were at times I felt that the dialogue was a bit stiff; but that could just be because I’m unused to reading stories in that time period.  I also felt there were a few places where modern phrases were used, like ‘a cranky child whose toy had been taken away’ that didn’t sit well for this time period.  It was just something that didn’t work for me.  Both of these things were the reason I gave four stars instead of five.  In any case, the story is amazing.  Read “The Triumph of Deborah“.  You won’t be disappointed.  See below for my interview and giveaway.

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Hello all, my guest today is Eva Etzioni-Halevy.  Her new book “The Triumph of Deborah” has recently been released and she was kind enough to grant me an interview with her. 

Q. I’ve not read your previous work, but after finishing “The Triumph of Deborah” I definitely will. “The Song of Hannah” and “The Garden of Ruth“… I’ve noticed that all three have a common theme, a sort of Biblical historical fiction. What made you decide to start writing about women in these ancient times?

A.  It so happened that rather late in life I began reading the Bible on my own and I was fascinated by it. What enthralled me was that it is full of the most DRAMATIC and the most TRAUMATIC stories about people who lived in ancient times, thousands of years ago, and yet are so similar to us in their psychological makeup, in their hopes and anxieties and desires and in the way they relate to each other.

I was fascinated in particular by biblical-historical women, because I found so many astonishing similarities between them and present day women in general, and myself in particular.

I began to identify with them so strongly that I felt as if I were part of them and they were part of me.

In the Bible they are usually side characters. So decided I to move them to the center of the stage and turn the spotlight on them and amplify their voices so that they could be heard loud and clear across the generations.

In this way I was also hoping to emphasize the feminine part of the Bible.

So I began writing about them, stories of love, betrayal and redemption through more love and friendship, novels for light entertainment, with twisting plots, page-turners, as they have been often referred to, which can be enjoyed also by people who have no connection at all to the Bible, and which are yet totally faithful to the text of the Bible.

In my novels there are no deviations at all from the scripture, only additions. The original biblical stories are short and where they leave gaps, I fill them out with my imagination and identification, and the feeling that I was really there and witnessed what happened.

Q. Your opening lines grabbed me and hooked me, which of course I assume was your goal! The idea of two women waiting for battle, and hoping for opposite results…. I know that some authors continuously rework first chapters. Were these always your beginning lines, and did you always plan on having the story start here?

A. Actually the opening lines grabbed me as well, and they sort of set the scene for the rest of the book, so I saw no reason to change them. I wanted to show that there was a conflict between the Israelites and the Canaanites and on both sides there were human beings, particularly very human women, who were anxious about themselves and their loved ones.

In more general terms, my first book THE SONG OF HANNAH, changed quite a bit as I was writing it and came out completely different from what I intended it to be at the beginning.

But THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH, being my third book, I already had it in my mind pretty much from the beginning, and there we’re no major changes as I went along, either in the first chapter or anywhere else.

Q: Most stories that have love triangles only have two women with one man. What made you decide to have three women revolving around Barak?

A. I did not actually plan it that way because I wanted it to be a “quadrangle” , it was just part of the logic of the plot.

But looking back on it in retrospect, I am happy that it worked out that way, because as you say most stories have triangles and having a quadrangle, makes this story different and perhaps more original. I believe that THE cardinal sin for any author is to be trite and tread well-trodden ground yet again, so if this form helped me beware of this trap, it is a distinct advantage.

Q. Did you decide before you started writing who would end up with Barak, or did it come to you as you were telling the story?

A. As I said, in this case I had it all in my mind before. And the same also in my second novel THE GARDEN OF RUTH.

But in my first novel, THE SONG OF HANNAH, the heroines of the novel played an incredible trick on me, and in the middle of writing the novel they turned around on me and did precisely the opposite from what I intended them to do initially.

So each book unfolded in its own way.

Q. From the title, one may assume that the entire story is about Deborah, however I was pleasantly surprised to read about the other women throughout the book. Deborah is such a fascinating character, is that why you made her the title character?

A. I am happy that you liked the other women in the story as well. Because I identified with them a lot and felt that they were an integral part of the story.

I chose Deborah as the title character for two reasons. First, because she is such a prominent and fascinating character in the Bible, in fact THE most prominent woman in the Old Testament of the Bible.
She is sort of a super leader and deeply adored by the people.

The second reason is that she is the most influential character in the novel as well. She makes things happen, pulls the strings behind the scenes, even when she is not physically there. She is the one who leads the nation to war, and then also to peace. And the novel is also a tribute to her wisdom and foresight and power.

Q. And now just a few bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I love reading historical and biblical novels. I don’t have one favorite author, and as to what is my favorite book, well it is, perhaps not surprisingly, the greatest bestseller ever, the Bible.

This is what I am reading now, not only because it is an incredibly amazing book, but also because I derive inspiration from it for my next (also not surprisingly) biblical novel, about a lady named Tamar, daughter of King David.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that my novels are available at bookstores and if they are not there they can be ordered. They can also be ordered online from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and the like.

 It certainly is!  I know I’ll be be ordering mine shortly 🙂  Again thanks so much for stopping by and answering a few questions!

Click here to order “The Garden of Ruth”, and here for “The Song of Hannah”. 

ATTENTION: As for “The Triumph of Deborah“, Eva has generously sent me a copy to giveaway to one lucky person!  Simply comment on this post, telling me why you’d like to read this book.  (Don’t just say “Pick me please!”  Make an effort!)  Link to this post (and tell me about it) for a second entry.  You have until 9:00pm EST on 6/21 to do so, and I’ll randomly pick a winner on 6/22.

Cover Image          Cover Image



 Thanks to Eva Etzioni-Halevy  and Barry Elad.


Missed the post before this one?  It was TUESDAY THINGERS.

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