Monday, February 08, 2016

Interview with Brian Bennudriti, author of 'Tearing Down the Statues'

We're pleased to welcome Brian Bennudriti, author of Tearing Down the Statues at The Writer's Life!  Brian is on a month long virtual book tour with us and would love it if you could leave a comment for him!

Brian Bennudriti has degrees in Physics and Business. He’s taken a nuclear reactor critical, piloted a destroyer, slept in the Omani desert, negotiated multi-million dollar acquisitions, run two companies, provided strategic and management consulting across the United States and traveled around the world in every hemisphere. He’s a plankowner on the aircraft carrier, USS Harry S Truman and has made a lifetime study of religious beliefs and mythology. Brian lives in Kansas City with his wife, two children, two dogs and a lizard. His first book, Tearing Down The Statues, was published in 2015.

For More Information
  • Visit Brian Bennudriti’s website.
  • Connect with Brian  on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Find out more about Brian at Goodreads.
About the Book:

Misling is a Recorder, having perfect memory and expected to help build a seamless record of history. That’s what the Salt Mystic taught us two thousand years ago when she came stumbling from
the flats with her visions. Unfortunately he’s probably the worst Recorder ever. So when he meets a joker with an incredible secret, the two of them are soon on the run from swarming lunatics and towering assault troops in the heart of a city under siege.

As it has for three generations, the horrible Talgo family is the spark of this swelling world war; and their wily generals and scheming counselors clash their fleets in battles of shrieking steel-entrained tornados, cannonballs of lightning, and tanks the size of cities. But it’s the joker’s secret that is the most powerful weapon of all…a trigger set by the Salt Mystic herself in myth, to save the world from itself.

For More Information

  • Tearing Down the Statues is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I was serving as assistant navigator on a destroyer after the first gulf war; and my friends and I had made our way to a beautiful rock gorge in the Omani desert to blow off some steam. It was really beautiful with this opening in the rock - you could jump down into rushing whitewater, but surrounded by scrub brush and barren sand. A bit homesick till then, I’d been watching loads of John Wayne westerns like, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, True Grit and War Wagon. I was keeping up with Buffy The Vampire Slayer through VHS tapes my wife was sending along, and was reading through the first three Dune books. I blame all of that. This picture opened up in my head unwelcomed and without any help from me, condensing down from all those influences I suppose. What I saw was a worn out old soldier in a dirty and torn uniform burst through saloon doors, with everyone inside terrified of him though he was unarmed. Things didn’t really take shape till much later; but it started me asking what led him to that point, what he wanted from them, and above it all, why were they so afraid? Answers to those questions are what led me ultimately to Tearing Down The Statues.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Great question. It was ridiculously hard…the kind of hard to give creepy clowns nightmares. I rewrite as I go; and I have a peeve about crappy dialogue – which means the same chapter gets luxury spa treatment over and again. I also pick up far too easily little quirks of authors I’m reading, like they say tofu does of anything lying around it, which means it only gets trickier to sound like the same guy writing it the longer it takes to do so. Beyond those things, I dreamily ignored the warning cries of people like Stephen King and others who’ve written about the craft of writing that you’re not to plot the book up front, that you let the characters just do what they do and ride it out. Sheesh, what a bad idea to ignore them! 

The idea for me at least then, is I’m better off spending quality time on the character sketches and not the plot. When I feel like I know what they’d say, I’m ready to drop them screaming into the mess I’ve laid for them. I’m saying listen to what they’d do; and allow them to do those things. It’s none of your business if they have different ideas than you – stop being such a control freak anyway. Then if you’re like me with the tofu thing, picking up the moods and narrative structures of whatever you’re reading, use that to your advantage and purposely read things reflecting the moods and feel of whatever you’re writing. If I need to be funny, I’ll pay somebody like P.G. Wodehouse or Nick Hornby a visit, just to stir some of those ingredients into the stew. Make your subconscious work for you.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I submitted to a couple of traditional publishing houses that specialize in science fiction, as well as a handful of agents. I have a number of nice compliments to show for it…very nice people, at least the folks from whom I heard back. The conventional wisdom is to stay at the gun and just keep firing, tweaking the blurbs and pitches and query letters to adjust your aim till someone finally brings you in. It’s an incredible gamble and a frustrating, draining experience with very little promise on the other side apart from more gambling. I decided to start Grailrunner Publishing as a small private outlet for my own works as well as maybe a select group of fellow authors interested in leveraging first-world wonders like Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Print On Demand sites, collaborative audiobook services like ACX, and social media promoters to self-publish. The pressure is on; but it’s enriching to learn so much about the industry and how to connect with people who love what you love.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Almost everything surprised me once the book went live. The electric shocker for me was how high a percentage of Amazon reviews are bought and paid for – that’s a new concept for me. I thought they were all legit and used them religiously to pick my reading stack. Anyway, I’m glad Amazon has been working on this to clean it up.

More importantly, I’ve been so cheered by how welcoming and encouraging some science fiction fans are. If you’re down about anything and have the remotest interest in speculating on mind-warping ideas and technology or twisting concepts around to inject concentrated awe into somebody’s head, there are still people out there for you. Some of them read voraciously, some barely break away from Fallout4 long enough to answer a Tweet or whatever; but it’s a great audience full of fascinating folks. And some trolls; but we won’t talk about those guys.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m working now on my second novel, a horror book titled, The Line Of Them. We’re aiming for late summer; and it’s going to melt your face! It’s set in a traffic jam in sizzling summer heat, which along with what’s happening really cranks up the boiler. It’s a really fun one! I’m frustrated with modern horror right now – we’re a little lazy with vampires, zombies and just pillaging folklore. Wouldn’t it be incredible if someone put together a challenging, innovative compilation of breakthrough horror the way Harlan Ellison spearheaded with his, Dangerous Visions? Anyway, I’ve placed the mark for myself to avoid leaning on what’s been done before.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I do the Twitter and Facebook thing: @grailrunner and under my name. News on published or upcoming works goes up on My email address is  I just heard there will be no new Doctor Who episodes until Christmas, so anyone who can talk me off the ledge, please contact me.

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

I like to have a savory idea or image in my head before I go dark to see how shiny it is, turn it this way and that while I’m slipping off. Sometimes, it’s mythology or folklore or something visual like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Sometimes it’s philosophy or religion like Clement’s, Stromata or Heraclitus. Sometimes it’s a fart joke off the internet. 

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

The core of the book orbits around an idea. An ancient mystic placed tripwires in the stories we tell in order to save us from ourselves; and this is what happens when they’re triggered. I’ve studied physics, religions and mythology for many years and have traveled extensively. I study and influence people for a living as a consultant. One thing I believe we’re missing entirely is the fact that we crave spiritual connections the same as we hunger for food, water or sex, yet it’s aggressively sold to us these connections are naïve and unnecessary. When you see terrible things on the news, pay attention to the people in the background avoiding the camera but slugging bottled water or bags of sand or carrying someone out of the smoke – tragedies bring out the best in our character. If we fail even one generation to pass down a common morality…if we let even one generation grow up with absentee or distracted parenting and no framework for integrity and selflessness, we’re all on our own when bad things happen.   
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Why not just go get the book?   

Probably more than a lot of the folks you may be reading, I’m especially interested in hearing from you whether you loved the book or hated it. Tell me why.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Writing Life with Authors Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney

Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.

Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments. Lover of all styles of music he has played classical, jazz, rock, funk, country, blues, and rap. He is very excited to play bass with his brother’s band and his son’s. He is very proud to have co-authored The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People with his son Leif.

What’s inside the mind of a Young Adult Fiction author?

The idea that the impossible can become a reality is exciting! The notion that we can empower with the words we use and the stories we write. I think that Suzuki Roshi perhaps said it best when he said, "Zen Mind Beginner Mind." This means that everything is a beginning. If we look at life as we did as children, everything is new and fresh and filled with possibility. I think a major goal of our writing is to bring this awareness and sense of possibility to Young Adults (and everyone else). We also have a very zany understanding of humor which drives the satire.

What is so great about being an author?

The idea of the ideal that your mind from stillness is creating spurs us. Everything comes from this stillness. When you think about it, you start with a blank piece of paper; what unfolds is coming from this deep well of silence and latent creativity. Whatever you create is from you and your relation to this moment which is filled with the experiential past and the pregnant possibility of the future. To be a writer is to have this sense and to be "the touch point of calligraphy" as they say in the East.

When do you hate it?

We hate when we don't have the time or other commitments take us away from our craft. Writing is very sacred; it is an exercise of the soul that needs its hygiene of daily care; without it, it is hard to not feel lost, adrift in the day-to-day normative nature of life.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

We enjoy writing in the early morning and afternoon. A typical day is to sit at the living room table with a beautiful pastoral view across from each other and working out the details of a blueprint, story line, revision, or edit. It is a joy working together. 

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

You have to believe in yourself. In many ways the writer's life is a life that is simple, humble, ego-less. In order to develop a story line or perhaps a new sense of cogitation within a passage, a writer must listen deeply within to cull from the experiential and learned knowledge of the past and strive from this to create a work that is new and exciting. To us if your ego is too big, perhaps you will not see the subtle nuances that go into creating a new piece of literature. In our case you also have to consider you have two people working, so there has to be a sense of common purpose and collaboration. 

How do you handle negative reviews?

With the same sort of vicious ferocity that a raccoon demonstrates when cornered. We respond with a savagery unmatched in the realm of human affairs! However, having said that, it should be mentioned that we take any criticism that is honest, authentic (i.e. based on a thorough understanding of the material), and constructive into serious consideration. At least one-third of this answer is serious. You choose which third. 

How do you handle positive reviews?

Positive reviews are handled in an understated manner befitting the innate class, dignity, and nobility of our characters. This usually involves rowdy bacchanals that threaten to tear the framework of the sky asunder. So, you know; events where temperance is the guiding principle.    

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

The usual response is either one of abject horror or utter indifference. Seriously though, one of us has worked as a musician for many years and the response generally for any of the arts is, "Well, that's nice; what do you do for work?"  I blame a culture that is not supportive of their artists for this. Consequently we have seen such a drop in the level of creativity in all art. When culture tells you that art is an avocation, then subliminally and overtly you constantly question, "Am I good enough? Can I really do this?" So we have a culture of artists who work in the arts as an avocation, not a culture that fully supports the arts where artists can professionally work at their craft. 

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Write no matter what you feel! On some days it may not be the best of what you do, of what you are capable of writing, but write anyway. The process of writing is important. Think about someone who would like to be an Olympic athlete. The athlete takes steps each day to reach his or her goal. Day by day, week by week, the athlete gets better at his/her event. Some days the athlete might not want to run or lift or practice, but it must be done to reach the goal. Writing is the same; we must practice daily! 

Any writing quirks?

Veering rather haphazardly into the realm of deeply personal questions, eh? That depends on how you define a writing quirk. One of the defining peculiarities of our writing method is its nonlinearity. Sections of the narrative and whole sequences of action or dialogue are written in an unusual natural progression-defying fashion; either starting from the end and moving back to the beginning or starting from the middle and working to the end and then back to the beginning or some other variation on this style.      

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

One of us would likely shout to the offensive detractor: “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!” In all seriousness, is anyone able to determine what his or her hobbies are? Van Gogh painted for years and only sold paintings to his brother; are we to seriously consider that he did painting as a hobby? There is so much cultural misunderstanding about art and artists! 

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

Sometimes when you look back at a piece of work, you may cringe as it is not at your current level. We might have thought at the time we wrote a brilliant poem; then two months later we want to burn it. This has to do with a more objective view you now have of the work which is facilitated by time’s gradual dulling of the passions utilized and sublimated during the creation process. Does it mean we should burn it or throw it in the waste bin? Absolutely not! The work we have always stimulates something from within you as it is you. Later you may wish to refine or revise or edit, but don't throw away!

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

We all need food, shelter, clothes and the necessities to live; so in one regard, yes, we have to make money in order to thrive. It would be a blessing to be able to sustain our existence on the income derived solely from an artistic dream job. This doesn’t necessarily mean that success as an author has to be linked to money though. Writing is its own reward. If the world stood against us and we were greatly constrained by the horrors of impecuniosity, we would still write to satisfy the gnarring need for creative expression.     

What had writing taught you?

Writing has taught us about the universe of creativity within. We are really remarkable as human beings, able to take experience and knowledge and use symbols (writing in this case) to relate this depth of inwardness. We have learned that the universe of creativity from within is endless. We have learned that we can tap this well and ride the current.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

We leave you with some simple words of advice (this is geared towards all the aspiring authors amongst your undoubtedly charming audience): Take your art seriously; refine your abilities, hone your skills and develop a habit of writing on a quotidian basis; not necessarily a piece of art that inspires the pneuma and rattles the firmament but something that is at least adequate or decent. Practicing your craft plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being and the liveliness of your mental character as well as improving your writing abilities. Let the sensitive fabric of your psyche become pachydermatous and persevere through all the vicissitudes that adversity can muster.  

Title: The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Author: Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney
Publisher: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

About the Book: The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People is a young adult fantasy comedy novel written by a father and son writing duo for an intelligent general audience. It is the first book in an upcoming tetralogy. It is a darkly humorous, fast-paced, action-packed celebratory unification of the world’s rich cultural lore through the lens of an inventive fantasy concept that stands both as an occasionally subversive satire that satirizes the YA genre and an anachronistic experiment on the fusion of storyline narratives (differing stylistically and compositionally). 

When Tommy Dana is abducted into a fantastical realm called Lethia, where the worthy stories of humanity are granted a physical reality, the social media-averse thirteen year old must plunge through a multi-varied meta-fictional adventure in order to save his, and the entire human world’s, imagination from falling into the thieving clutches of the witty supernatural villain Facinorous.

Friday, February 05, 2016

A Bookish Conversation with Effie Kammenou, author of 'Evanthia's Gift'

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog,, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book.  

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga 
Follow Effie on Twitter @EffieKammenou, 
Contact Effie at
For More Information
About the Book:

Title: Evanthia’s Gift
Author: Effie Kammenou
Pages: 548
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance


In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets - ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family. 

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families. 

Magnificent 5 Stars
Exceptional, outstanding and award worthy were the first words that popped into my mind after I finished reading this book. A surface description of this story could be easily stated by saying; it’s a 50 year generational Greek family saga that’s filled with multiple love stories, devastating betrayals and heart breaking secrets. That depiction alone would be enough for anyone to be drawn to this book. But the essence of “Evanthia’s Gift” is held within each character created in this masterpiece; that is the true heart and soul of this book. I could feel the struggles within each to come to terms with their past mistakes, recognizing their self-worth, all the while staying steadfast to their beliefs and for some, finding inner peace. I started reading this book late one evening with the intent of reading a few chapters and then going to bed. I found myself incapable of putting the book down… several hours later I was wiping away the tears to get through the last chapter.
This superbly written emotional story comes full circle in the end, which reminds us all just how precious love and family really is.

--Stephanie Lasley, from The Kindle Book Review

For More Information

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea to write this story came from a couple of sources, but it was my mother’s passing that put me on the path to writing in the first place.

In 2012 my mother passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. Attempting to be the strong older sister, a compassionate mother and aunt, and a supportive daughter to my grieving father, I never really let myself crack. One night I sat down at the computer and just started writing. It was my way of working through my grief.

I’d had a story in my head for a long time, one I kept developing over the years. I began to write a story inspired by my mother’s life and turned it into a saga when I combined it with my original plotline.

I’d heard stories all my life of my mother’s childhood in Athens, and her experiences during WWII as a child. My father had his own recollections growing up in NYC, his tales of how his family came to America and for what reason, plus his own experiences as a flyer in WWII. I took all those stories and gave life to several characters.
Although the story is fictional, pulling from true stories was my inspiration, as well as a legion of emotions running through me. There were some vey difficult chapters where I sobbed every time I wrote, revised, or edited them. But I honored my mother, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing the actual story was not difficult at all. It seemed to flow out of me. I had a basic plotline, but I remember thinking to myself that I would never get a full book out of it. Five hundred-forty eight pages later, I not only had a nice little romance, but also a family saga with substance.

As a writer, I had so much to learn. I wrote the story and thought I was finished. I told the story I wanted to and it was all down in black and white. I started submitting to agents. Was I ever naive! Little did I know that I had many revisions to go before the story was told properly.

I found beta readers to give me feedback, as well as a critique partner. I connected with other authors, who were all generous with their advice. And after may rewrites, I hired a professional editor, and that made a world of difference. It was a long process, but it took patience and perseverance.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published Evanthia’s Gift. I tried to get an agent, but other than being an unknown in the publishing world, I had other strikes against me. My book is long—much longer than any agent or publisher would take a chance on with an unknown author. I was advised to split the book into two books. I believed in the story the way it was, and although the book is written in two parts, I don’t believe the book could be split and make the same impact. Part one supports part two and the whole story comes full circle in the end.

I’d known other authors who self-published successfully, so why not me? And how does one measure success? For me, completing it, being happy with the final product, and seeing it in print meant success. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when readers contact me to tell me how much they loved the book, and that they related to one or more characters. The positive feedback is my reward.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes. How much I had to learn! The steps to get the work published, and then getting it noticed by the women’s fiction loving population, was more work than writing the book. I had never even heard of a blog tour before I published Evanthia’s Gift.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Evanthia’s Gift is the first book in a trilogy. I am currently working on Book Two in The Gift Saga. I would like to aim for the fall to publish the second one, but if the process takes longer, so be it. I will not rush to get the book on the market before it is exactly where I want it to be. I love the characters too much not to give them a continuing story, which is true to who they are.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I joined a Greek facebook group over a year ago. I came upon it accidently, and through it I’ve met many wonderful people from around the world. The Group is named Greeklish, and the members are all of Greek heritage who can converse in English. On any given day I can speak to Greeks all over the US and Canada, as well as the UK, Australia, Germany, and Greece. It’s been quite an amazing experience to compare stories and traditions with other Greeks who live all over the globe.

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

I write mostly at night because I have a day job. I’m a night owl and I often stay up until two in the morning, writing. I get so energized that I can’t possible go to sleep, so I sit on the couch and watch a little television. That puts me to sleep, and I wake up a couple of hours later and drag myself to bed. My neighbors think I’m a vampire because my lights are on all night and they ask if I ever sleep at all.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

There are so many messages in the saga, including the importance of tradition and the love for where you come from. Family dynamics and how parents must toe the line between what they want for their children and what their children want for themselves is another theme. In the subplots, there are messages of morality, humanity, and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Ultimately, the message is of love, in every context of the word.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

It was my pleasure. Yes. The Greek community has embraced Evanthia’s Gift, and I am so grateful for that, and elated that I was able to share our heritage with those who know little about us. But this is not a book geared only to the Greek reader. The themes are universal. The Greek history and backdrop simply make the story more interesting.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Interview with Mike Phillips, author of Hazard of Shadows

Inside the Book:

Title: Hazard of Shadows
Author:Mike Phillips
Publisher: Caliburn Press
Pages: 280
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Ecopy/Paperback

The enchanted creatures of legend still exist, taking refuge from an age of camera phones and government labs in a secret place called the World Below. After leading a revolution against Baron Finkbeiner, the despotic ruler of the World Below, Mitch Hardy has taken the throne. Unknown to him, ancient powers are at work. The Lords of Faerie seek to revenge the death of Baron Finkbeiner and recover the mysterious Blade of Caro. Soon Mitch is fighting for his life against hellish monsters, the likes of which he never imagined.
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpgB&N    

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Mike.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A:  Thanks for having me. I appreciate having the chance to talk with your audience. My background isn’t all that remarkable. I grew up in a Midwestern, middle class family. I went to a public school and public university. What started me on this path, however, is unusual in modern terms. I grew up on a farm. My parents had traditional values. During the summer, rather than letting my brothers and I waste away in front of the television to reruns of lame sit-coms, they made us work. We pulled weeds and shoveled manure and tended sheep and did all the other chores families have been doing for hundreds of years. Our only entertainment was trips to Lake Michigan, board games, Garrison Keillor on Saturdays, and most importantly, weekly trips to the library. I hated it at the time. I didn’t understand. Some of your readers won’t be able to figure why my parents did it. Some won’t understand why more don’t do the same. As an adult, I see now how this lifestyle caused my parents as much hardship as it did for their sons. But it gave us strength and certain knowledge of our abilities. My brothers and I are all successful, but in a way that is of service to others. Now I can thank my parents for what they did. I hope I become a fraction of the man and the woman that raised me. As many of your readers will no doubt know, writing is a hobby for me. I don’t seek fame or fortune, which is good, because it’s not come. My joy is in creating stories and the written word and spreading a little happiness and magic in the world. 

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Hazard of Shadows is Book Two in my Goblin King series.  When I began the series, I knew that I wanted to do an urban fantasy of some kind, but I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted it to go. I’m not interested in comic book heroes that never lose, or tragic, flawed heroes. That’s all been done before. So I took the lowest of the low and low and wrote about their challenges, how sticking together makes all the difference. Beyond that, it was about the writing. I wanted to write what is sometimes ugly things, but do it in a beautiful or at least interesting way. Last of all is the mayhem. I love stories with crazy, unpredictable stuff going on. If you’ve read The World Below, you know what I mean.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A:  For a writer, the day to day obligations of earning a living, making time for family, and enjoying life as it comes can be the most challenging. Writers write. Finding time every day to do what you love and being in the right frame of mind to do it when the chance finally arrives, though not very glamorous to talk about, I think is one of the biggest challenges. 

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:  I’ve done a few reading groups and some radio, but generally I’m horrible. Yes, my jokes fall flat, my voice cracks, I draw a blank, or the section I chose to read suddenly has inappropriate content. I guess I don’t know what people want to hear. I’m not all that interesting, which compounds the problem. That’s why everyone should pay more attention to book blog interviews, they’re the best!

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A:  No, I haven’t had much luck with agents. I’ve been through a number of them, but they were never able to do anything for me. At this point in my writing career, I’m reconsidering that position, however. It’s always good to get help and advice from others. Maybe now I’ll be able to find someone to help me take the next step.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:  No, no blitz for me. It’s too impersonal. Mostly, I go to the book blogs myself. Sometimes I use a tour company to help me out. I like being in closer contact with the bloggers and the readers. This is to me is one of the best parts of writing, meeting new people and hearing how they liked my work.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  Lots of projects are in the works. My Sci-Fi streak just won’t be denied. Reign of the Nightmare Prince and Dawn of Ages have been out for a while, but a new one is on the way. We are editing Lost Amidst the Cosmic Storm as I struggle to keep up with interviews and promotions for Hazard of Shadows. So, if you are interested, we may be talking again some time soon. Summer release is what they are saying at Caliburn Press, so keep your fingers crossed. For those of you who like the Goblin King, don’t worry. Book three is shaping up to be the best yet. Look for news on that next year. 
Q: Thank you for your interview, Mike.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: Thanks for having me as your guest. It was fun. I hope your readers check out my books and let me know what they think. My website is See you there! MP

Meet the Author

Mike Phillips grew up on a small farm in West Michigan, living much the way people did at the turn of the century. Whether it was growing fruits and vegetables or raising livestock, Mike learned the value of hard work and responsibility at a young age.

While his friends spent their summers watching reruns of bad sitcoms, Mike’s father gave him a very special gift. He turned off the television. With what was affectionately referred to as “the idiot box” no longer a distraction, Mike was left to discover the fantastic worlds that only exist in books. When not tending sheep, gardening, building furniture, chopping wood, or just goofing off, Mike spent his time reading.

With all that hard work at home, Mike was always eager to go to school. He excelled as a student and went on to pursue a career in the sciences. Working as a Safety Engineer in the Insurance Industry, Mike soon became bored with the corporate grind. Writing engaged him like nothing else. After a few novels and numerous short stories, he thought getting published would be a pretty neat idea. And so, here it goes…

In the Spotlight: The Daffodils Still Grow by Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell + T-shirt Giveaway!

Title: The Daffodils Still Grow: A Book for Grieving Daughter
Author: Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell
Publisher: Mascot Books
Pages: 38
Genre: Children’s Picture Book 

The Daffodils Still Grow is a full-color illustrated book that portrays life after a loved one dies as seen from the observations of a motherless child. “Beautiful and inspiring.”

For More Information

  • The Daffodils Still Grow is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch a narrated video of the book at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell is giving away a The Daffodils Still Grow T-shirt!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one The Daffodils Still Grow t-shirt
  • This giveaway begins February 1 and ends April 29.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on April 30.
  • Winners have 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Interview with Dede Barbanti, author of 'TRANSFORM: The Secret to Unlocking the Perfect You'

Dede Barbanti is a renowned fitness & lifestyle coach, certified soul memory discovery facilitator, author, motivational speaker and single mother of three. Once weighing over 200 pounds, Dede has dedicated her life to developing innovative methods that have literally changed the face of weight loss, fitness, dieting and lifestyle!

Through the creation of her first format Boogie Box (BBX) and the “Un-Diet” nutrition and weight-loss program; Dede lost over 70 pounds in less than 6 months and has since helped countless people from all over the world. Since forming BBX, Dede has released two groundbreaking workout DVD's "Boogie Box LIVE" & "BBX Hardcore."

Her groundbreaking techniques and work have been featured on shows such as: Dr. Oz, Shark Tank, Fitceleb, OnAir, Good Day Utah, ABC, KTLA and FOX News, as well as several media productions. Dede was also named one of OC Metro Magazines "Top 20 Women In Business."

Dede's passion, training and experience has helped countless people from all over the USA transform their bodies and lives through her unique and “straight shooting” methods.

Pulling from her years of experience, Dede has written a complete lifestyle guide, TRANSFORM: The Secret To Unlocking The Perfect You. In it, she shares her three principles to obtaining the body and life of your own design!
For More Information
About the Book:

Title: TRANSFORM: The Secret to Unlocking the Perfect You
Author: Dede Barbanti
Pages: 257
Genre: Self Help/Lifestyle/Health/Weight Loss

Finally, a book that will provide you with the answers that change your body and your life! TRANSFORM really is the SECRET TO UNLOCKING THE PERFECT YOU. Once weighing over 200 pounds, Fitness and lifestyle expert Dede Barbanti not only gives you the tools to achieve your weight-loss goals, but helps you dig deep to fix the core issues that keep you from lasting success and your true potential.

This is not your traditional weight-loss book. Most diet books focus on the outside by changing your eating and exercise routines,but they fail to find the root cause of your bad habits: what, why, and where they all started. These band-aid treatments never treat the problem, only the symptom, and most people find themselves back at square one, frustrated and defeated. Dede's no-holds-barred approach gets your booty into gear by tackling the real issues of your weight loss merry-go-round; so you can stop the madness and unlock the perfect you.

You can continue reading all of those other diet and lifestyle books that ultimately keep you repeating the same old story and never seems to get you anywhere, or you can get real with yourself and finally bring about the changes that you have always wanted...permanently!

For More Information

  • TRANSFORM: The Secret to Unlocking the Perfect You is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I love it when people ask me this question because although they would like one, the truth is; there is no short answer. There were several factors that led up to me getting into fitness, speaking and writing; nothing is coincidence or happens randomly. From the time I was a child, up until this point; every moment and every experience shaped the person I am today and who I will become in the future. That is the way it goes for every person in this world. It’s just that many times people never put the puzzle pieces together, or do so later in life.  I had an incredible 15-year career as a professional dancer and choreographer up until I was 28 years old, it was my passion and I believed it would be my career forever. However, life throws you a curve ball and I fell in love, got married, had three incredible children and left the dance world because I knew that I could not raise a family while traveling or spending 40 hours a week at the dance studio. During this time, I got into Real Estate and had a tremendous amount of success; but at the same time I found myself living the life of a single working mother because my ex-husband left me to handle being the primary money maker, housekeeper and parent. I also didn't seem to get along with his girlfriends, so that definitely didn't help the marriage. During this time, I had gained over 70lbs and found myself in a deep depression. I lost my voice, my dreams, my passion…myself! After some time, I realized that nobody could change my circumstances but me, so I picked up my three kids, who at the time were 2 weeks, 2 years and 4 years old; and I left my husband. I knew I had to get myself together physically so I could feel confident and strong again. I started going to the gym for 2 hours every day after work; but nothing was coming off. Not only was I frustrated with the fact that I could not lose the weight, I hated knowing that some daycare was practically raising my children.  One day, a friend of mine gave me the idea to return to my dance roots and create my own fitness format. It was from that day forward that my life completely changed. I began to research all of the popular group fitness formats, pulling from what I felt worked and what was lacking and combined it with my 15 years’ of experience as a professional dancer. It was during this time I lost over 70 lbs. in 6 months and created my first fitness format Boogie Box Fitness (also known as BBX). From that moment in time until now, it has been a whirlwind. I ran several test groups and saw incredible success with each person I worked with, eventually having it University tested three times to prove its effectiveness. I studied food and how it works within the body; creating the healthiest plan that I felt would provide the most effective and permanent weight loss results. As a single mother of three, “save time and money” was my motto. That is what most women, especially with children, worry about right? “How can I get to where I need to be in less time and without having to shell out a ton of money?” Over the course of several years I have had the privilege of helping countless and incredible women. What I didn’t expect was to learn that the issues most people had with weight had absolutely nothing to do with eating and exercise, but had to do with what I now call “core barriers.” It was during this time that I realized the “BIG LIE” of the diet industry, Band-Aid treatments, and the misconceptions people had about health and weight loss. It was through all of this experience that I was drawn to write my book and speak out about what I had learned and developed. It became my mission! “TRANSFORM: The Secret To Unlocking The Perfect You,” was written so that I could inspire people to realize their true potential and power they all carry. While giving them the exact steps they need to take in order to discover the spark and power they all possess, to achieve the body and life of their own design.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing the book came naturally because it was a passion project based on my own experiences, as well as those of personal clients. What was I didn’t realize was the importance of hiring a great editor that would be true to my voice. After a lot of research, I was very lucky to find an incredible editor with “My Two Cents Editing.” However, the editing process was a much longer process than I had anticpated….so be prepared!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
I self-published

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?
Currently, I am not working on any other books because I plan on taking “Transform” on a live tour. However, down the road I will be writing a self-help book on the adventures of being a single mom.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?
To be honest I am old school. Although I understand the importance of social media for business purposes; that is pretty much what I use it for. Apart from my business, I really don’t hang out online. I’d rather watch a good movie.

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?
As I always say, I am a straight shooter and tell it like it is; so here I go. From 6:30am until 9:30 at night my days are jam packed with my kids, classes, errands, chores and building my company. So once 9:30 hits, it’s all about mindless television. My brain is on constant overdrive; especially when it comes to the growth of my company, book and speaking engagements. The only way I can get myself out of my own head, is to watch something that will literally suck me out of that place in order to “not think” and just relax. Some people find it in a good book, I am a fan of great stories through great actors.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?
“Transform” isn’t just for people that want to lose weight or get healthier. This is an overall health and lifestyle book, and it can be just as powerful for those who want to rediscover themselves, gain perspective, and find that passion in their lives. There are many so-called experts out there that will tell you what to do, as if we live in a society where everything runs perfectly in Wonderland. Umm, no. Reality check, people! I live on this planet, and I know and have experienced the difficulties and crap life throws our way. Heck, with all the stuff I have been through, I’d like to say I am quite the expert. My life is not and has never been perfect. I thank God for that, because I know that every difficulty I have encountered has taught me major lessons and helped shape the person I am today. You don’t have to love to work out. You don’t have to love eating healthy or become some fanatic. But you do have to love yourself enough to change on the inside and exercise and eat right to take care of the outside. My hope is to show people their true potential and inner strength and to know that every obstacle can be a stepping stone toward changing their lives for the better—forever! I want to show everyone that there really are no boundaries, other than those that people unintentionally create on their own. Nothing is permanent, everything CAN be changed!

Inside the Mind of Time-Travel Romance Author Chris Karlsen

Chris Karlsen is a Chicago native. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her late teens where she later studied at UCLA. She graduated with a Business Degree. The daughter of a history professor and a mother who was a voracious reader, she grew up with a love of history and books.
Her parents were also passionate about traveling and passed their passion onto Chris. Once bitten with the travel bug, Chris spent most of her adult life visiting the places she'd read about and that fascinated her. Her travels have taken her Europe, the Near East, and North Africa, in addition to most of the United States. She most frequently visited England and France, where several of her books are set.

After college, Chris spent the next twenty-five years in law enforcement with two agencies. Harboring a strong desire to write since her teens, upon retiring from police work, Chris decided to pursue her writing career. She writes three different series. Her historical romance series is called, Knights in Time. Her romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters, and he latest book, Silk, is book one in her mystery/suspense series, The Bloodstone series.

She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five wild and crazy rescue dogs.


What is so great about being an author?
Giving a character the story they deserve. For example, the hero in my latest book, In Time For You, was the antagonist in the previous book. He wasn’t a villain though and he had heroic qualities. I knew I wanted to give him a story of his own. So, this was his book, his opportunity to be a hero.

When do you hate it?
I struggle with love scenes. I worry about making them flow naturally and I want them to be sensual. It takes me forever to get through one. I have friends who can just write them with such ease. Not me. I fuss over the choreography and the language and the sights and sounds. I just dread them.

What is a regular writing day like for you?
I try to do all my regular chores in the morning, shopping or doctor appointments, that sort of thing. I sit down to write around midday. I write until 4, when I feed the dogs, then I write for an hour more and quit for the night. I try to write every day. I take breaks as I write. I get up and make tea or walk around to try and stay fresh. It’s a battle not to troll the internet, of courseJ.  

Do you think authors have big egos?
I’ve met some authors who are rather full of themselves but you find that in any industry. I don’t know that authors are any worse than others. If I were to paint authors with a particular brush, it would be that as a whole they are well read, articulate, and knowledgeable about their fields of interest. On a more personal level, I’d say most I’ve met were gracious and many had a great sense of humor.  

How do you handle negative reviews?
It’s hard not to let them ruin your day. It truly is hard not to, but I generally call a writer friend or two, whimper and have a good grumble about it. I kind of sulk all afternoon, have a glass of wine or two, and finally let it go. I have to just move on. What’s the point of holding onto the bad feelings? I can’t change the fact. Someone didn’t like the story. That’s bound to happen.

How do you handle positive reviews?
I’m all atwitter with those. I have two FB pages, one is strictly my author page and one is me as an author and with other bits and bobs. I post the good reviews on both. I have a publicist and ask her to post on my website and on my Amazon page as well. I need to start posting on Pinterest. I keep forgetting to do that. My publicist posts on Twitter. I’m not really good with some forms of social media, Twitter is one I’m not good with so she does that for me.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
People are generally very interested. They ask a lot of questions about what I write and where I get my ideas for stories. They like to know all sorts of things like how covers are designed and even how I choose character names. People have a genuine curiosity about writing, which I am delighted to share.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
On the rare days I don’t write, I hang out. If the weather is good, I putz around the house or the yard. Sometimes, we go to the movies. I will go shopping with a friend or go to lunch with friends. I don’t usually force it unless I am really trying to finish a book by a certain time.

Any writing quirks?
I am not superstitious so I don’t think I have quirks, per se. I don’t have a lucky doll or idol that I rub. I usually do an outline, which I rarely, if ever follow.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
Ignore them. I’m at an age where I no longer feel like I have to justify who I am to anybody or what I do. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement. I retired and proud of my time as a detective. Now I am doing something different that I always wanted to do. I don’t owe anybody an explanation.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
No, not really. If I ever felt that it was getting me down, that I was stressed in the way I was the last years I was as a detective, I’d stop writing. I don’t need that aggravation anymore.  

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
Absolutely not. My husband said it so well to me several years ago when I finished my first book. He said, it doesn’t matter whether you get published or not. The fact that you said you always wanted to write this story and that you sat down and did write it, that’s what matters. Everyone says they want to write a book but you did it. I’m so proud of you. My mom said the same thing. She told me that she only wished my dad were still alive to see that I did finish the book I dedicated to them because they always encouraged me to try.

What had writing taught you?
I have more discipline and dedication and butt endurance than I thought. 

Leave us with some words of wisdom.
Don’t lose heart by rejection. Steve Berry said his first story was rejected 80X. Stephen King said Carrie was rejected so much he threw it in the trash. His wife, Tabitha, saved it and wouldn’t let him throw it out. Harry Potter was rejected over 100X.

That said, when or if your story is accepted keep an open mind when working with an editor. The editor is generally not making suggestions to ruin your story but to make it flow better and to make it more marketable. 

About In Time For You, by Chris Karlsen

While horseback riding in the English countryside, sisters, Electra and Emily Crippen find themselves trapped in a tear in time. Thrown back to 1357 England and caught by a local noble, they are in a place that is home but as frightening and unfamiliar as an alien world would be. With no idea how the tear in time came about, the one thing they do know is: they must stay together and stay near to where the event took place in hopes of discovering the way back to their modern life. That certain need to stay together is the first certainty taken from them when one sister is forced to remain in England and one is sent miles away to Wales by royal order.

There is one other hope for help the sisters don’t know exists. It’s Electra’s lover, Roger Marchand. A time traveler himself, he never told her of his past. When he realizes what has happened to the sisters, he enlists the help of a scientist friend to help him open the suspected passageway through time. Any effort to save Electra and Emily will likely cost him his life. This was the time Roger came from, a time when his country, France, was at war with England. If he is discovered on English soil while searching for the sisters, he will either be killed or taken prisoner of war. Any risk is worth saving the life of the woman he loves.

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