Monday, January 31, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author & Motivational Speaker Richard Rowe

EVEN THOUGH I write fiction, much of what is found on my book shelf is non-fiction. So when I have the opportunity to pick the brain of an author who is also a motivational speaker, like my friend Richard Rowe, I jump at the chance. Rich served over 20 years in the U S Navy, living in Australia, Bahrain, and Japan while also visiting over 50 different countries. During this time he has sat down with people from all walks of life, including the Dalai Lama.

After leaving the navy, Rich ventured into the corporate world and worked for a Fortune 500 Financial company promoting better customer service, sales, and leadership through facilitation. He is the author of Is Your Life a Puddle or an Ocean? which is a look at how we create ripples in our lives based on our choices, and the upcoming Ferdinand Factor - are you the Alpha or Beta in Leadership? He has presented over a 1000 speeches and seminars nationally and internationally.

Mike: Welcome, Rich. Before we get into your writing, how did you become a motivational speaker? Which came first, the writing or the speaking?

Richard: Speaking was first – within my first 6 years of service in the Navy, I was asked if I had ever considered being a military trainer. I researched the job title and found it to be very interesting, so I applied and was accepted into military instructor training school. One of the primary focuses of this instruction was public speaking and after going to my first instructor training assignment, found out about the Master Training Specialist program. A four year intensive program that taught us about human behavior in learning and understanding the adult learner. After certifying under this program, one of the primary duties was motivational delivery of material and concepts – so my journey started and has now given me over 20 years of speaking experience, my largest audience was 5000 people.

M: What kind of audiences do you speak to? Corporate? Academic?

R: I speak to a large group of audience types; Corporate, non-for-profit, and academic. Some of the speaking contracts I’ve had come from; Principle, Wells Fargo, Prosperity Mortgage, MetLife, Shaman financial, Iowa Care Givers Association, US Army, National Nurses Association, Iowa Medical services, DMACC, Iowa State, Drake, UNC, Future Farmers of America, Future Business Leaders of America, several high schools. These are just a few over the last year. I speak on sales, customer service, leadership, relationship building and life improvement.

M: Let’s talk a little about your current book, Is Your Life a Puddle or an Ocean? Can you give us a short synopsis?

R: Is Your Life a Puddle or an Ocean? Explores the concepts of responsibility and human behavior, the book looks at how we learn as children and then carry our experiences into adulthood and how we treat others. It looks at the cause and effect of actions positive or negative we have on people around us and in return how it will affect us. Several examples are given on the ripple effect of each word we speak or action we create and in the end about taking ownership for our actions or lack of actions. My book has been the focus for leadership, customer service, sales approaches, and relationship building. It’s biggest punch is the understanding of the golden rule in our lives, not just saying it but living it.

M: Where did the idea come from? In other words, what motivated you to write it?

R: My motivation for the book was my travels around the world in the US Navy, I saw the worst of human action and the best so the book was my way of putting all these observations into a useable product. We can change a person’s life with a smile or destroy it with a harsh word. Seeing the faces of people in over 50 countries, I started to see the same persons; they may have spoken a different language but the human behavior was always the same. What I really found out was that we all have a responsibility to help each other, the golden rule; the book was my way of breathing life to something we all knew as babies but have forgotten as we journey through adult and young adult life. Maybe helping us take the golden rule serious; imagine what our world would be like if we really lived the golden rule every time we encountered a person – our relationships would be fuller and more purpose directed, and we would again understand the truth of our birth. Watch a baby in public, total acceptance of everyone they meet.

M: And your upcoming book, Ferdinand Factor - Are You the Alpha or Beta in Leadership? Can you give us a short synopsis of it?

Available as DVD

R: Ferdinand Factor is again taking a real world look at human behavior in leadership. We have all meet the Alpha leader, they take the role of leader on without effort and naturally surface in any organization or even family unit. Problems occur when the Alpha is not the positional leader of a group, like the manager, supervisor or even parent. The book looks at the complex but yet simple concept of leadership in our lives and if we are the Alpha personality or the Beta. Ferdinand the Bull was the concept I’ve applied to the Beta, in the book Ferdinand the Bull, bull ring organizers in Spain are looking for rage driven strong bulls to provide sport in the bull rings of Spain. They find Ferdinand the biggest and strongest of all the bulls in the land so they think they will have the best show for the ring but they didn’t understand that size and strength does not determine the heart or mind. Ferdinand was gentle and only wanted to play with the butterflies in the field not wanting to get angry or hurt anyone, he was the Beta. We’ve all seen the Ferdinand leader, promoted because of time in the company or a great sales record but never at heart the Alpha. My book goes into the concepts that being the Alpha or the Ferdinand (Beta) is good, the only condition is that the Ferdinand needs to learn effective leadership skills and the Alpha needs to learn how to apply instinctual leadership insight.

We see the Alpha – Beta structure in wolf packs, horse herds, lion prides; and my book outlines the connections of these relationships and how they relate to human behavior interactions and leadership. It also explores why conflict occurs in the work place because of the Ferdinand factor, Alpha’s exist in every origination but in many cases are not the positional leader so conflict is the result when leadership is challenged. How do you deal with it? We also see this same form of conflict in our homes with children wanting to become the Alpha and how we can deal with those moments when our relationships can become challenging because of the Ferdinand factor. Being an effective leader or parent is about understanding why something happens and being about to correct the behavior, just like the Alpha in a horse herd. My book opens the door to that understanding and takes a common sense approach to being a real leader by understanding ourselves and then those around us. This only scratches the surface of what the book we talk about but is a good start.

M: When will it be available for purchase?

R: It should be available in 2011.

M: Tell us something about your writing process, i.e. when do you write, how often, is it on a regular schedule or otherwise?

R: My writing style is journal driven. I record thoughts on both voice recorders or in a journal that I carry around with me. Observation is my best tool, and then I look back at my experiences and connect them to theorist or religious leaders past and present. After I have recorded a concept or observation I then begin to research the idea for valid facts to support the idea. It’s funny I have several journals full and find myself going back and forth through the pages, and pulling concepts from 20 years ago. One experience or observation sometimes brings my journal entry to life and it connects. I do shift to a regular schedule once my observations find a foundation.

M: How can we purchase your books?

R: Amazon, or from my web site; we will see more locations soon.

M: Any hobbies, besides speaking and writing?

R: Physical fitness and my children; I’ve missed so much of my children’s lives by being deployed in the Navy so they have become my every moment hobby now that I’ve retired. We will see what the future holds.

M: Thank you for your time. If you are interested in contacting Richard here is how to do so:;; or

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author Kimberly Stuart

THERE ARE A number of talented writers in Central Iowa and I am fortunate to know quite a few of them. One is Kimberly Stuart, a member of one of my author groups, who has a new novel, Operation Bonnet, being released next month. It is the story of a young wantabe private investigator, Nelle Monroe, who goes undercover in an Amish community to find the girl her client left behind. Says the book jacket: “So Nellie straps on her bonnet and goes undercover to get the dish. Literally, since she’s talked her way into Amish cooking lessons…. Will the boy still get the girl? Can Nellie save her career in criminal science? And more importantly, will she ever learn how to make a decent piecrust?” Kimberly is a stay-at-home mom and author who says that means she writes under pressure, during naps and before laundry! You’ll have a chance to win a copy of Operation Bonnet at the end of the interview.

Mike: Kimberly, welcome. Before we get into your books, let me ask you how you got started writing novels?

Kimberly: I've always loved reading, which is a close cousin to writing. However, if you'd asked me about writing as a career, the firstborn in me would have scoffed. Wasn't that like wanting to sing on Broadway? Nice dream but completely unrealistic.

Shortly after my first child was born, I found myself needing a linguistic outlet that did not rely heavily on words like "blankie," "poopy" and "pee-pee." I turned to writing, first non-fiction vignettes about parenting, God's grace, and my need for it, and eventually the beginning pages of Balancing Act.

M: I think it is easy to tell from the synopsis of Operation Bonnet and your answer above that you like to write humor. So the obvious question is how did you settle on humorous stories?

K: For a long time, I wanted to write books that I thought I SHOULD be writing. My coveted genre was dark literary fiction, accompanied by reams of horrible poetry. Turns out, God did not wire me to write stories like that, try as I might. I'm about as dark as Pollyanna. Once I started writing in my most natural voice and cadence, I found contemporary comedic fiction to be the best fit.

M: Operation Bonnet is your fifth book. You’ve obviously been successful with your writing, so I’d like to go back to the beginning: How did you find your publisher and agent? In other words, how’d you get first published?

K: I attended the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. There I met a great author and friend, Ray Blackston, who was kind enough to spur me on and to introduce me to the editor who would eventually acquire my first two books.

My agent came along after the first two books were sold. I am forever grateful for Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, who is infinitely smarter than I am and a great asset to any writer trying to make sense of the publishing world.

M: By my count you have four other books. Can you give me a brief (like 2 sentence) review of each.

K: Balancing Act: First of two in Heidi Elliott series. The story of Heidi, a new mom who is navigating (not very successfully) the struggles of work, home, a postpartum marriage, and a woman with synthetic body parts who preys on husbands.

Bottom Line: Heidi Elliott, Book Two. Heidi gets sucked into a pyramid scheme selling "Christian lingerie." It's as dicey as it sounds. I do love Heidi and have another of her sagas in me to write someday...It's so much cheaper than therapy!

Act Two: I recommend this book to readers of all ages. Sadie Maddox is a New York diva whose classical singing career has hit the skids. Desperate times bring her to an Iowa pig farm, among people who have never even SEEN New York, much less Parmesan cheese not in a green container (gasp!). I think of this book as a modern Green Acres with good doses of wit and romantic comedy thrown in.

Stretch Marks: Mia Rathbun is a yoga-practicing, earth-loving, granola-munching twenty-something living in urban Chicago. Her mother, Babs, is a straight-ticket Republican who wears stilettos even to her job as a cruise ship hostess. The two are thrown together when Mia finds herself pregnant by her sloth boyfriend and in need of help. Babs is a lot of things, but "helpful" isn't one of them. This book is particularly perfect for any woman who has or is a mother.

M: Are they still in print and available for purchase?

K: Balancing Act and Bottom Line are available on Amazon but are now out of print. Act Two, Stretch Marks and Operation Bonnet are in print and available in bookstores and on-line.

M: I understand that Act Two, Stretch Marks and Operation Bonnet are available in ebook form.

K: Correct.

M: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing style, when, where, etc. do you write?

K: I write during the afternoon, which is not naturally my best body time but I've had to force it into accommodating that schedule. I have three young children and I am blessed (most days) to stay home with them. So I write while they are napping or at school. I'm also a deadline and goal girl, so I set a word count I need to reach each day or week and I plug along until I reach it. When I hit the mark, I shut the laptop and get back to my normal life. It makes for quick muse-gathering, I'll tell you. Not much time for mind wandering.

M: We know writing is only part of the game; marketing is a huge part of being an author. What do you do to market your books?

K: Oh, for the love of Pete. Marketing. Blech. This is not my favorite piece of the puzzle. While even twenty years ago, authors were sometimes discouraged from involving themselves in the marketing effort, we are now expected to shoulder a hefty percentage of the marketing burden. So I'm always looking for ways to expand my audience and reach people who might enjoy a Kimberly Stuart book. I blog, I maintain an e-mail relationship with a list of readers, I'm active on Facebook and Twitter, I do lots of speaking engagements, magazine articles, interviews, and I send snail mail postcards for every book I release. I also try not to be irritating, if you know what I mean. Do we REALLY need to know when Kimberly Stuart is taking her car in for an undercarriage wash? I think not. It's always a tightrope walk for me, how much to reach out to readers and when to just be quiet.

M: I have to ask you about the video SPELLBOUND. How did that come into being and is that your husband and kids in the video with you? I’m putting it at the end of the interview…it is great!

K: Thanks. :) We did the Spellbound video when Stretch Marks released. I know a brilliant video guy and a brilliant songwriter guy, so they joined forces and we recorded the song and the vid. It was great fun and incredibly humbling. My husband, apparently, has an inner Julio Iglesias, and still rubs it in that a woman in a restaurant recognized HIM as the star of Spellbound. My kids are in the last few frames as well and think they're hot stuff too.

M: What upcoming projects are you working on?

K: Operation Bonnet releases in a few weeks, so I'm happily busy working on all that entails. Our release event will be Monday, February 7 at 6:30 at the downtown library in Des Moines. I have a great publicist and marketing team at my publishing house and we're working to get the word out about the book in innovative and fun ways. In a few months, though, I plan on starting a new novel. Ideas are percolating and after a year off of writing, I'll be ready to start in again.

M: If someone can’t make it to the release, where can they find Operation Bonnet?

K: Operation Bonnet will be available in lots of great places: Barnes and Noble, Borders, independent bookstores, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and online. So no excuses, blood relatives. You WILL be required to show your copy of Operation Bonnet in redemption for Christmas presents in 2011.

M: What activities are you involved in when not writing or promoting? Do you have any hobbies, etc.?

K: Hobbies? Does that mean outside interests when I'm not wiping noses or bottoms or kitchen counters? Um....Wow, Mike. This is a stumper. I'd say I love to cook, eat, and read, preferably all at once. I also sing at church quite a bit and get whooped at Trivial Pursuit by my husband who, in addition to starring in questionable music videos, plays a mean game.

M: How can your readers contact you?

K: I'd love to hear from you! E-mail me at, and visit my website and blog at

M: Thanks, Kim.

For those in the Central Iowa area, the launch party for Operation Bonnet will be held at the Downtown Des Moines Library February 7 at 6:30. Also, for those interested in winning a copy of Operation Bonnet, autographed by Kimberly, just add a comment and at the end of the week one commenter will be selected to receive an autographed copy of Operation Bonnet.

And now, enjoy SPELLBOUND:

Remember to post a comment for a chance to win the book!

Sunday January 30: We have a winner!!

Monday, January 17, 2011


FOR THOSE OF you who are planning on attending Love Is Murder next month in Chicago, here are some tips on how to “pitch” your manuscript to an agent or editor. This comes from the LIM website.

How to Fast Pitch

Prepare a 2 to 3-minute succinct platform of your work. (For a good description of what a “platform” is, read Sarie Morrell’s article describing publicity she developed for CREEPERS, a novel by her father, David Morrell. The article can be found here.) 

Practice your pitch to include the salient points—definitive type or sub-genre of mystery; what sets your manuscript apart from others in this category; etc. Make your platform “slick and quick.”

Be prepared to list any previously published work if asked.

Don't chitchat; pleasantries take up valuable time.

When the doors open, take a place in line at the table of the person to whom you want to pitch. When the lights flash, begin your pitch. When the lights flash again, move quickly to the next line. Continue around the room in this manner until the pitch session ends.

Bring business cards with your contact information and give them to the agents or editors with whom you meet. If you don't have business cards, use small index cards with your information and include a short sentence describing your manuscript.

Try pitching to all the agents and editors. Be aware that some lines may be longer than others, so take that into consideration as you move from table to table. Don’t be discouraged if you’re unable to speak with someone during the first pitch session; there will be 3 sessions, giving you sufficient time to speak with everyone present.

LIM volunteers will be on hand to help keep the lines moving and the center of the room clear. Please be considerate if you're asked to do something by a volunteer. They are there to help everyone get their fair chance to pitch.

Lastly, have fun! Be creative, but not bizarre!

To date, almost three dozen writers have found agents, editors, or publishers for their books at LIM. It could happen to you!

* * *

I sold my first book through a pitch session at LIM, so if you have a manuscript, or are just a fan, check out LIM … there are still reduced price packages available!  Love Is Murder will be held at the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare February 4 – 6.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Love Is Murder's Hanley Kanar

I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE that one of the nice things about going to conferences is meeting the other attendees. My favorite conference is LOVE IS MURDER held every February in Chicago and I’ve met many great friends through that conference. One of the people who is a fixture at LIM is Hanley Kanar, a college teacher and avid reader who has always been my “go-to” person whenever I’ve needed anything. Hanley works year round with a volunteer board to make sure LIM remains the premier mystery conference that it has become. This year’s conference is February 4 – 6.

Mike: Welcome, Hanley. I may be a little biased, but I think Love is Murder is one of (if not the) best mystery conferences offered each year. If we can, I’d like to start with a little history of Love Is Murder.

Hanley: Love is Murder is the brainchild of Evelyn Hopkins. She conceived of the idea in 1995 when she was leading the Continuing Education Department at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. She felt that there needed to be a fan-friendly writer’s and readers’ conference in the Chicago area, something sorely lacking to that point. It was a small conference then, more like a large seminar, but she had big plans for it. If I have my history straight, that first year had about 60 people in attendance, a few who are still faithfully attending every year.

Evelyn Hopkins
When Evelyn left Harper for College of DuPage she took the conference with her, where it continued to grow. This wasn’t a very good fit, however, so she decided to take Love is Murder out of the academic sphere, and it was this move that really helped LIM, as we call it, grow and expand to be more inclusive adding bigger names, more New York agents and publishers, and making it more fan friendly.

M: Who, besides you, are involved with putting on the conference?

H: The Love is Murder Board of Directors consists of Luisa Buehler [see my interview with Luisa last August here], Wally Cwik, Silvia Foti, Susan Gibberman, Hanley Kanar, Marlene Leonardi, and Terri Stone. We all work together on all aspects of the conference, but we all also have specific areas where we concentrate our efforts. And we have lots of wonderful volunteers. Love is Murder is almost entirely run by volunteers, though some of us have more limited roles than the board. Wally is in charge of the non-board volunteers this year and he does a great job pulling them all together. We could never handle it without our volunteers.

2009 Board, Hanley is 2nd from Left
Speaking of this, though, reminds me that Love is Murder is really starting to need new people to step up and start learning the ropes. We have lost and will lose key people, as happens to all groups, and we will need to train new people. Wally Cwik joined the board two years ago, and he has been a great asset. Ophelia Julian has had to step down after years of fantastic involvement, along with her husband Jim, and boy do we miss them. Evelyn Hopkins is returning, and we are hoping that Diane Piron-Gelman will be working with us more as well. The conference is a year round commitment, so we need people who can help during the conference itself, but also people willing to do a lot of the grunt work of planning.

M: How did you become involved with LIM and what has been your experiences?

I first got involved in when it was still at Harper College, where I was teaching English and also working in the Access and Disability Services office. Someone working on Love is Murder heard me speak at Of Dark and Stormy Nights about language and disability. Evelyn found me at Harper and asked if I would be interested in working on Love is Murder. I think the first thing I did was moderate a panel. I was peripheral for a year or so, and I remember one year in between when I did not attend at all. That changed when Evelyn moved Love is Murder to College of DuPage. I remained part time at Harper but I also took a position at College of DuPage in the Continuing Ed Department, which took over the operations of Love is Murder. Evelyn was Dean of CE at COD then, but I moved into playing a much bigger role with LIM. This was 2001. I have remained in leadership positions since then, but the actual titles on the LIM board, though a very solid core of people volunteer every year and keep the thing moving ahead and changing with the times. That core consists of the current board, of which Luisa Buehler is the current president, and she has been for the past few years. Having Luisa move into that position was HUGE!!!! She is a much better business woman than I have ever been and she really knows how to keep us all on track. It is funny, actually....I may not even be a titled board member at all this year! It doesn’t stop me from working away, like always.

M: What are the Loveys and the Evie?

H: The conference always includes a ballot so that attendees could vote on their favorites from the past year, and in fact the award itself was called the People’s Choice Award, but in a stroke of genius, writer Raymond Benson suggested that we should give them an affectionate moniker like the Screen Writer’s Guild when they started calling their awards the Oscars, and he suggested calling them the Loveys. We all loved the idea and it became what they are now. We have had lots of fun with this every year, and people proudly claim them.

A funny story about them, too. When David Morrell, of Rambo fame, tried to take his home after he won one, he was stopped by airport security and detained. It showed up in the x-ray as suspicious! He blogged about it hilariously afterward.

The Evie, named after Evelyn Hopkins, is a special award given every year to a person or group who does something notable in the service of writers or writing.

M: Why do you think LIM is so popular? What does LIM do that other conferences do not do?

H: I think the thing we hear most often is how accessible Love is Murder is for readers and writers alike. There is no other conference where you can actually meet and even share a meal with the stars of the show like you can at Love is Murder. Plus we build fun, and lots of it, into the program every year. We are very careful with the programming so that people who want only to meet their favorite authors or find out about publishing or learn from our experts aren’t bored by an author heavy program with little fun.

You can get your business fix, plus rub shoulders with all of the witty and interesting writers just hanging with each other. I can say this about writers...even though writing itself is a solitary and very quiet activity, writers themselves are, as a rule, neither quiet nor solitary. When they get together they like to party and talk...let some of the steam they build up being solitary off for a while. Authors are a lot of fun...but then Mike, you know all about this yourself! You are not exactly the quiet retiring type yourself!

M: I know LIM provides an opportunity for new writers to “pitch” nationally recognized agents, editors, and publishers. How did that come about? And do you know how many writers were first published through an LIM pitch?

H: Gosh...well, getting published is every wannbe author’s dream, and the holy grail of this dream is getting an agent. I think that Evelyn always knew that getting agents to come and hear book pitches was something that we needed to get if Love is Murder was going to meet its potential, but it wasn’t so easy. When LIM was just starting, agents didn’t want to come, but as our reputation has grown the agents have come. We had some help getting them, of course. Ben Leroy, from Bleak House Books and now Tyrus Books, helped us with some of his contacts in New York. Jon Jordan from Crime Spree Magazine, too, but our contacts with them is an offshoot of LIM growing so we all help each other.

M: What is planned for this year’s conference?

Hanley with Author Lee Child at '08 LIM
H: Tons....First, there is the dynamite line-up of featured guests—writers and experts in many areas. Writers include Rhys Bowen, Joseph Finder, Carolyn Haines, Joan Johnston, Jon Land, F. Paul Wilson, plus Michael Allen Dymmoch, who is our local guest of honor, and James Strauss, who writes for the television series House, and the graphic novelist Brian Azerella, who will be giving a Master Class on Graphic Novels that are so hugely popular now. In fact, if you are only interested in this, you can just come on Friday and take part in it alone. Love is Murder is very user friendly. We always have a great lineup of experts, and this year is no exception. We have a whole forensics track. Back by popular demand is DNA expert for the State of Illinois Kara Stefonson, plus FBI computer expert Lee Williams, gun expert Allan Reed, blood spatter expert Jeff Gurvis, plus agents, publishers, publicists, a book discussion on The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo, and Joe Konrath will be with us again this year, he is always a crowd favorite. There will be a fascinating talk on Dick Tracy, and his creator Arthur Gould. Dick is out Ghost of Honor.

M: How late is too late to register for this year’s LIM and what is the cost?

H: It is NEVER too late to this point, it may not be possible to get on a panel, BUT you can come to all of the conference, take a Master Class, learn about marketing, blood splatters, ebooks, guns, writing great sex scenes, and even pitch a book, if you are a High Tea and lots of afterhours events planned. Love is Murder is a great time. Ask anyone who has been there or better still, come and find out for yourself! You can get all of the information at And let me say, it is a GREAT DEAL!!!

If you want to stay overnight, which we recommend for the best chance to really mix and mingle, we got a great deal at an absolutely beeeeooootiiiiful hotel, the Intercontinental O’Hare. Rooms are only $89! If you register for the full package, all of you food plus the tea are included, as are all of the panels all day and all of the evening events as well. Of course you can register for less time and for no food, but I highly recommend the meals and banquet, there are interviews and other things that make them really special.

M: What else do you do besides your work with LIM, what other activities or hobbies are you involved in?

H: I am pretty boring. Currently I teach English at the Illinois Institute of Art, Schaumburg, I do a little freelance editing and writing, I love music, Husband, Kirk, who has been great about helping out and long-suffering through the frantic January lead-ins to Love is Murder for ten years!

M: Thank you, Hanley – not only for taking time with us today, but for all your work on LIM. Good luck for another successful conference next month and I’m looking forward to attending.

This year’s Love Is Murder will be held at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare February 4 – 6. If you would like to receive the LIM newsletter, go to the website and scroll down the left side of the home page and sign-up for free.

Friday, January 7, 2011

VIPER: Why are the living in the Book of the Dead?

I JUST FINISHED reading an advance copy of my friend John Desjarlias’ new thriller VIPER, a don’t miss it page-turner, which will be released this March. VIPER is a blend of ancient Aztec mysticism, Catholic Mariology, and a good old-fashion whodunit. The story follows a former DEA agent, Selena De La Cruz, haunted by a young girl’s shooting that ended her career, whose name shows up on a list of the dead for All Soul’s Day. Selena, as it turns out, is not the only living person on the list, and as – one by one – the others are killed, the “Book of the Dead” appears more of a hit-list than a religious exercise.

Selena, who is now an insurance agent, is paired with her former DEA pals and a local cop to locate the killer, thought to be a high profile drug dealer she helped put in prison years ago who goes by the name The Snake. Each of the persons named on the list had some dealings with The Snake. Selena races to find La Serpiente while a young visionary, speaking on behalf of an unseen Blue Lady, announces each death in advance. Selena’s name is now next on the list!

VIPER is a great sequel to John’s earlier novel, BLEEDER. However, familiarity with BLEEDER is not a prerequisite to enjoy VIPER. Look for VIPER this spring from Sophia Institute Press. You can check out John’s website here.

You can also read my earlier interview with John here.

VIPER, Sophia Institute Press, ISBN: 978-1-933184-80-7, 256 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 trim paperback, $14.95 available March 25, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Monday With Robyn: Overcoming ebook snobbery

Author Robyn Gioia
Wow. What can I say?

The world of ebooks is advancing like a tsunami. When ebooks first appeared on the horizon back in the 90s, authors had high hopes. But ebooks didn’t quite take off like people thought. A friend of mine, who was a vampire author long before it became the trend, landed a three ebook contract with a cyber publisher known for quality reads. Unfortunately, my friend’s books were never published because the company closed. Seems no one was purchasing ebooks. I’m not saying quality books were not available, but Ebooks eventually evolved into a backdoor for authors who couldn’t get in the front door of publishing. It also became the portal for no-so-good writers. But things are changing, and the publishing industry has been turned upside down because of the muscle coming from the digital world.

As an author, I have always been partial to paper bound books. I admit it. I’m a snob. Who doesn’t love the feel of a book hot off the press, or the musty smell of an old tattered favorite? Six months ago, I would have scoffed at anyone touting ebooks over the real deal. Then I started paying attention to the chatter on my FB page. Agents were placing books with ebook publishers and well known editors were losing their jobs at the major houses because bound book sales had dropped off. But the most important announcement of all was coming from the paper bound publishers themselves. The “big boys” were opening their own ebook imprints! Instead of shunning the digital age, they decided to embrace the inevitable.

Then an author friend shows up at our critique group with a brand new Kindle, Amazon’s brand name ebook reader. Seems his wife bought it for him. Not being an author herself, she didn’t realize it was traitorous for a paper bound author to own such a thing. Of course he passed it around, where each of us had the chance to examine it with a skeptical eye. The screen was comfortable to read. They had fixed the back lighting problem of earlier readers. The text could be set to different sizes. It remembered where you stopped reading. The dictionary feature provided definitions of words you didn’t know. Highlighting passages was easy and so was taking notes. And it was incredibly comfortable and lightweight to hold. Trying to appear neutral in our approval, we asked the question on each of our minds. Do you like it? He didn’t hesitate to answer. “I love it.” It was then that I realized ebooks had finally arrived.

When I left my critique group that night, I walked away with a totally different attitude. I was no longer a snob. I realized there is room in this world for both paper bound books, and digital ebooks. It wasn’t one verses the other. It was a matter of convenience and preference. Authors need not fear. The digital world has created another portal for the written word.

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Robyn Gioia is the author of, America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565, a controversial, middle-school history book featured on the front page of the USA Today Life Section. She is currently tweaking her middle-grade novel, The Ghost, The Rat and Me, for an ebook publisher.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Something NEW for the New Year

MY GOOD FRIEND Robyn Gioia is going to take over the first Monday of the Month in place of my regular Mndays With Mike. Robyn is a talented writer and educator and you may remember her from my interview with her on November 8. Robyn will be starting her column this Monday, January 3, 2011 with a trip into the world of ebooks. And speaking of ebooks, look for my upcoming interview with new ebook author Stephen Brayton, coming later this month. Welcome Robyn!

And, for those who have wondered, Bo is coming along nicely. Later today we’ll be taking down the barrier to the stairs so he can go up to his regular bed. Good boy, Bo. Bow-wow.