I’m delighted to be taking part in Dana Rongione’s virtual book tour for her children’s book The Delaware Detectives. This is a highly enjoyable mystery story for children.

This book is a wholesome and intriguing tale which will keep young readers hooked. Narrator Abby and her little brother Jamie are spending time in the holidays with their grandfather Pop-Pop. They discovery something fascinating in the attic of his house. And then, when Uncle Harold has to put his house up for the sale and the children go and help clean it up, the mysteriousness continues. Helped by friends Phyllis and Scott, the children carry on their treasure hunt …

As a child I loved adventure stories like this, and my ten year old son is following in my footsteps! We read this book together and it’s hard to say which one of us enjoyed it the most. Ruadhri loved trying to solve the clues. He enjoyed the very realistic minor brother-sister squabbles that flare up between Abby and James. He was also very pleased by the part where Scott pulls a spider off his sister’s hair. Phyllis wants him to kill it, but Abby points out it’s one of God’s creatures that we should be kind to. They let it go outside. It’s nice to see a little reminder about how we should treat each other and the rest of the world. Rors wants to be a naturalist so he was delighted that the characters in the story shared his respect for wildlife.

I asked Dana some questions about her book and writing. I’m delighted to discover that as well as a talented author, she’s a chocoholic  – like me!

1.  What inspired you to write The Delaware Detectives?

I first began writing The Delaware Detectives as an assignment for a course I took through The Institute of Children’s Literature.  Through the course, I had learned to write about what I know and what I’m passionate about.  As a mystery lover and elementary school teacher, I could think of no better story for me to write.  Based on some true life experiences, The Delaware Detectives was born.  Sad to say, that was six years ago.  Yes, it took me six years to finish and publish the story, but now that’s it’s finished, I can’t wait to begin the next one.

2. Are the characters based on yourself as a child? Did you have an annoying little brother or older sister?!

Actually, I had a younger brother and an older sister.  Yes (sob, sob), I’m a middle child.  My characters, however, are actually based on my niece and nephew, though I tweaked their personalities a bit for the sake of characterization.  Much of the story is based on my own childhood.  My family did move from Delaware when I was very young, but I remember countless hours spent in my Pop-Pop’s (Grandfather’s) attic during vacations, uncovering the many mysteries it contained, including some old and rare stamps, just like in the book.
3. The Delaware Detectives has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

The cover.  Now, that is a tale.  Let’s say it was a collaborative effort.  The original artist did a wonderful job on most of the drawings, but he struggled to draw the children to my specifications.  In fact, in the original drawings, the two main characters looked like they were in their late 30’s rather than mid- and early-teens.  So, I kept his other drawings to use and hired another illustrator to “fix” the original picture with the characters  in the attic.  Once she provided me with a color picture, I used one of the cover templates provided by CreateSpace to design the cover.  I must say, after all that work, I was rather pleased with the way it turned out.

4. Do you like solving mysteries?

I love mysteries!  In my mind, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with a good mystery.  While I enjoy the “who-done-it” mysteries, my favorite mysteries are those that involve a lost treasure, a secret place and/or a valiant quest.  And may I say, I never, never read the last chapter first.  Where’s the fun in that?

5. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I actually just finished “The Gift of Magic” by Lynn Kurland, one of my favorite authors.  I’m about to begin “Depth of Deception” by Alexander Galant.  It’s a mystery based on the Titanic.  I’m excited to get started.  With my morning devotions, I’m reading through the book of Psalms in the Bible and reading a chapter in the book, “40 Days to Healthy Living” by Danna Demetre.  During devotions with my husband, we’re reading through Mark Gungor’s book, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.”  You’re probably wondering if I ever read just one book at a time, and the short answer is “no”.  It is not at all uncommon for me to be reading four to six different books at once.  And still, my Kindle library is overflowing with books I haven’t read yet.  How does that happen?

6. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

Hmm, that’s a tough question.  I’ve always loved to write.  Yes, I was the geek in school who relished a good book report or term paper.  I enjoyed the research and delighted in putting words to paper (or computer).  However, all of my life, I dreamed of being a teacher.  It was all I had ever really wanted to do.  So, after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, I fulfilled my life-long dream and became a teacher.  For nine years, I poured my heart and soul into teaching, but sometime during the eighth year, something changed.  I didn’t enjoy teaching anymore.  Every day felt like a duty rather than a delight.  I dreaded going to work and became easily frustrated at the most minor things.  To make a long story short, I finally discovered that my uneasiness was coming from the prompting of the Lord.  He had a new direction for me to go, and He made His will quite clear.  So, with great fear and trepidation, I walked away from a solid career and steady paycheck into the world of writing.  And while the pay is still not great (or even good), I can honestly say I’ve never regretted it.  Yes, things can get hard and discouraging, but writing is such a joy. . . and it is never, ever boring!  (And I must admit, I love being able to work in my pajamas and bedroom slippers.)

7. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Never stop trying!  It’s so tempting to look at the success of other authors and say, “How come I can’t sell books like that?”  Some days are filled with rejection and disappointment, and unfortunately, sometimes that disappointment lasts for a while.  But you’ll never reach your writing and publishing goals if you stop pushing forward.  Don’t be distracted by the success or failure of others.  Focus on yourself and the goals you have set for yourself.  Success won’t happen in a day, and to be honest, it may not happen in a decade, but it certainly won’t happen if you give up.  Write, write and write some more.  Get your work out there, and let others know what you’ve accomplished.  Then, instead of waiting for success to happen, work on the next project.  If you haven’t figured it out already, I have a secret for you:  there’s always more to do in the writing world!

8. What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing about self-publishing to me is that I get to spend more time doing what I love (writing) and less time doing the grunt work (queries, manuscript submissions, e-mails and follow-up letters, etc.)  It’s downright frustrating to spend more time sending your manuscript off than it is to write the thing in the first place.  I don’t miss that at all!

The worst thing about self-publishing is the stigma that is associated with it.  The term “self-published” carries with it the idea that the book was not good enough to be published by a traditional publisher, leaving the author with no choice but to self-publish.  And sadly, many self-published works are pure junk.  Thankfully, though, the self-publishing stigma is wearing off as more and more authors are turning to self-publishing instead of traditional publishing.  Still, the self-published author faces more difficulty in getting books accepted into stores, schools, libraries, etc.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

9. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate with nuts, chocolate with peanut butter and chocolate with chocolate

 

10. And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!

Oh, that’s easy.  My perfect day away from work is a family hiking trip.  Depending on the weather and my current physical state, my husband and I will pack our backpacks, load up the dogs and head out for a hike in the mountains.  We generally prefer less popular trails of anywhere from four to twelve miles in length.  We hike and talk, stopping for lunch and sometimes a “rest time” at a gently flowing creek or powerful waterfall.  Our pace is unhurried and all negative conversation (arguments, financial stress, problems at work, etc.) is strictly forbidden.  At the end of the hike, we travel home for an evening of pizza, a movie and some snuggle time (where usually at least one of us drifts off to sleep).  There’s something about a good hike that clears the mind and stimulates the body.  It gives us a time to get away from everything and everyone except each other.  It’s the perfect family time because there are little to no distractions.  Ah, yes, the perfect day indeed!

 

 

I’m delighted to be featuring the very enjoyable Helens of Troy by Janine McCaw today as part of the author’s virtual book tour (with Virtual Book Tour Café).

First up, a quick synopsis. Helens of Troy is a quirky, well written and very original paranormal novel. There are three Helens – daughter Ellie, mum Helen and grandmother Helena. Goth teenager Ellie has a busy first day when she moves to the small town of Troy. She has a row with Helen, meets a hunky boy and then finds a corpse on Helena’s porch.

Helen is also having a tough time. She knows that her daughter is having vision-like dreams, since she’s had them too. But she’s not telling anyone. And also, like her daughter, she’s been attracted to dangerous men.

And there’s Gaspar Bonvillaine to deal with too. He’s a teen vampire and catches Ellie. Should he kill her or keep her with him forever?

To overcome the threats around them, Helen must recognise and use the gifts she has. Helena must learn to be there for her family. And Ellie must make a choice. Is she ready to grow up and become another in the line of the Helens of Troy?

 

I interviewed Janine to find out more about her and her writing.

 1.            What inspired you to write Helens of Troy?

The title came to me first. The original Helen of Troy we all know popped into my head, and I thought…what if there are more of them…and what if they have supernatural powers. Three Helens, living in a town called Troy.

2.            Which character from the book are you most like – Helena, Helen or Ellie? Or Gaspar the vampire?

(Laughing) … I think at some point in my life I have been Helen and Ellie and I’m working my way towards Helena…never a Gaspar. At least not in this life.

3.            Helens of Troy has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I had their house in my head, and luckily a friend mentioned that another acquaintance lived in a house that fit what I was looking for. A few emails later and I got the go-ahead to shoot his home, so I grabbed my camera and shot it on a snowy day. My brother Tom Photoshop’ed the third floor and did some artificial landscaping, and voila, the LaRose home came to life. We played with some fonts for the title, and I found the talent on Shutterstock. It was a godsend to find a Goth-Chic with a bear in her arms.

4.            Deep down, would you like to have supernatural powers?

Wadda ya mean would I like? (smile). Yes, of course. But it’s probably just as well that I don’t. From time to time I do have premonitions, and I do believe that I have seen ghosts. But I have no control over any of this. I wouldn’t want to be able to read people’s minds, that would just be too disturbing, but I wouldn’t mind a little super-human physical strength from time to time.

5.            How many more books will there be in the series?

There are at least two more books in the series. Helena thinks she’s having a quiet Thanksgiving dinner alone with her girls, but we know that’s not going to happen. And they’re headed off to England for Christmas to meet Helena’s mother, Elaine.

6.            I love hearing from the characters themselves on the website  http://www.helens-of-troy.com/! Do they get many emails from fans?

Yes. Teenagers chat with Ellie and the rest of the world chats with Helena. Helen is a bit pissed-off about this, but she’s busy looking for a job anyway and doesn’t have a whole lot of time to respond. However, there was one mom who wanted some advice about dealing with a daughter who was going through a Goth phase…

7.            Another book you’ve written is Olivia’s Mine. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Olivia’s Mine is based on a true story. In the early 1920’s, there were a series of disasters in the tiny mining community of Britannia Beach, BC. There were fires, and floods and the flu epidemic, but one night, the side of the mountain came down, killing hundreds as the town washed out into the sea. I spun a story around those events, and I’m quite pleased that the BC Museum of Mining carries the book in its gift shop.

8.            Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I have to confess that I am a big fan of Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series. I also recently read Liisa Ladoucer’s “Encyclopedia Gothica”, partly as research for the next instalment of the Helens. I also like biographies.

9.            How has your background in film and television influenced your writing?

I write the dialogue first. That part of my writing comes from writing scripts. The narrative is harder for me, because of course, in scripts, it’s rather simple. Helena’s bedroom. Day. In my opinion, the dialogue in “Supernatural” is some of the best on TV, and I strived for that type of talk back and forth between the characters.

10.          When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

When I was ten and reading Nancy Drew. I started my own mystery series with a little dime-store notebook. It lasted one book. I wasn’t big on follow-through when I was ten.

 11.         What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Someone said to me, “What makes you think you can write a book?” And I said “What makes you think I can’t?” If you want to do it, do it. The sense of accomplishment is amazing.

12.          What’s the best thing and the worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing is you get the job done. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like it used to. The worst part is getting the word out. Not that I think authors that go the traditional route have any easier of a time with publicity. There is no right or wrong way to do it anymore. The work will stand on its own feet. Know your audience and target them. Give them a good story and hope they come back for more.

13.        Enough of the serious questions. What are your three favourite foods?

1. Spaghetti. I can wolf down a bucket of it in one sitting. 2. Fresh Florida cantaloupe. I can smell it a mile away.  3. Celery. Go figure.

14.          What do you like to do for fun?

I like to grab my camera and head out and see where the day takes me. Luckily my husband is a big planner, and I get to just go along for the ride. I have a permanently packed get-away bag, so we can be spontaneous. A couple of years ago we rented an RV and drove to Alaska. It was the trip of a lifetime.

 

Thanks Janine! Do treat  yourself to this fabulous book. You can get it from Smashwords here and from Amazon here. It’s very reasonably priced at $2.99 and you’ll definitely enjoy it.

The Story

On August 15th, 1939 an English passenger plane from British Airways crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykobing/Falster and Vordingborg.  Just two weeks before, Hitler invaded Poland. With the world at the brink of war, the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police, created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust.

There were five casualties in the crash :

  • Cesar Agustin Castillo, a Mexican national and bio-chemical engineer educated in both Germany and the USA,  he is  working for Standard Oil of New Jersey’s London branch.
  • Samuel James Simonton, an American,  also employed by Standard Oil of New Jersey’s London office with a very strong military background, graduate of West Point.
  • Erich Bruno Wilhelm Beuss, a German national and corporate lawyer who is travelling with his medals earned in the Frist World War.
  • Anthony Crommelin Crossley, English MP who is known and outspoken in his antipathy to Hitler and the Munich Pact. He is also the sole defender of the Arab cause in the matter of Palestine in the 1930s.
  • Alfred Stanley Mardsin Leigh, employee of British Airways LTD.

The sole survivor was the pilot, Clifford Frederick Cecil Wright.

In the winter of 2009-2010 a young executive, Bill, is promoted and transferred to London for a major International firm. He has struggled for the better part of his life with nightmares and phobias, which only seem to worsen in London. As he  seeks the help of a therapist, he accepts that his issues may well be related to a ‘past-life trauma’. Maggie, his love interest, helps him in his quest and realizes that she too is part of the events in the past as much as she is in 2009-2010. Maggie and Bill find that, through their love and the courage to submit to past life regressions, they begin to find more questions than answers.  They become very curious about events leading up to the Second World War.

Using archives and the information superhighway of the 21st century, Bill and Maggie travel through knowledge and time to uncover the story of the 1939 plane crash. Their quest includes a friendship forged through Skype with a middle-aged woman in Florida obsessed with the truth about her grandfather’s death. This woman has been working for nearly two decades to unfold the mystery that left her family scarred  and wondering.  Her meticulous search and actual copies of documents in the book help the reader understand that we are indeed dealing with true events.

All historical data is clearly documented and footnoted as many of the files used by the author were rather obscure and not found in any history books. All data from psychics and past life regressions are also very clearly documented.

The Bridge of Deaths is a unique combination of love story and historical mystery. It is based on true events and real people, but uses fictional characters who travel through the world of past life regressions and information from psychics to solve the mystery. It is the culmination of an incredible 18 years of sifting through sources in Denmark, England and the United States. The reader also feels that he or she is sifting through data and forming his or her own conclusions. The journey that takes the reader to well-known and obscure events leading up to the Second World War, both in Europe and America, also transports readers to the possibility of finding themselves in this lifetime by exploring past lives.

 

The author

M C V Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Egan, the author of The Bridge of Deaths. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, one of eight children. She spent her childhood in Mexico. From a very young age she became obsessed with the story of how her maternal Grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo, died.

When she was 12, she moved with her family to the United States. She was already fluent in Southern English as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There, the only one who had English as a second language in her class, she won the English award.

In the DC suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill HS in Potomac, Maryland in 1977. She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France, at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (the Swedish kind, not the football player kind), Catalina moved to Sweden where she lived for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish and Finnish businesspeople. She returned to the USA where she has been living ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Catalina has worked for various companies and holds an insurance license for the State of Florida. Not her favorite field but involves very nice folks and makes money! She is married and has one son, who, together with their five pound Chihuahua, makes her feel like a fulltime mother.  Although she would not call herself an astrologer, she has taken many classes and even taught  some astrology. This is one of her many past times when she is not writing or researching.

She celebrated her 52nd birthday on July 2nd 2011 and gave herself the gift of self-publishing The Bridge of Deaths. She never submitted it to anyone prior to this decision and has enjoyed the very positive feedback.

 

My opinion

Despite the massive amount of research that the author did before writing this book, it does not become a heavy, overly meticulous historical account of the mysterious events of the fateful day when her grandfather died in the plane crash. Instead, through using the fictional characters and their journey into past lives and psychical realms, it is a fascinating work of fiction-cum-creative-non-fiction – historical-paranormal-romantic-mystery. It is an innovative book that almost defies classification. The historical element is fascinating and the characters are persuasive. Most unusual and enjoyable.

 

Where to buy the book

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

AuthorHouse

Website

http://www.thebridgeofdeaths.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m taking part in the Assisting Authors Online virtual book tour for the inspiring, self-help book Fulfill Your Threats by Jonathan Wutawunashe.

Jonathan Wutawunashe is a hugely successful musician, songwriter, and record producer and so is well qualified to write a book about fulfilling your potential and achieving more. However, he uses his own experiences in a very low-key way and there’s no brashness or hype in this common sense book. He gives gentle yet persuasive advice throughout and it is well sitting up and taking notice of it.

The formula is easy to follow. There is discussion of a particular idea or point of view, often illustrated by a story of an incident from his own life or that of someone he knows, and then comes a punchy summary in bold type of what we should learn from this lesson.

There are 14 chapters in the book. In the first the author presents his thesis which is that “success is the outcome of a simple process based on deciding, doing and learning”. It sounds so simple. But is it? Wutawunashe’s view is that failure stems from a lack of common sense. He sets out to threaten us in this book, to “cajole, annoy and shock” us into getting off our butts and acting and achieving. The boxing gloves on the cover are a good reflection of this attitude. While I don’t think the book is as aggressive as this might suggest, it is undeniably forceful.

Chapter 2 looks at how the first step is always the hardest. Sometimes it’s easier to turn and run from a problem or a challenge, but that’s what we have to resist. Instead we should seize the opportunity and tackle the challenge to test our skills. We all have courage. We should use it. We have to adjust our perspective to see something as normal and achievable, not impossible. We must take that first step.

Risk is considered in chapter 3. The author looks at real risks and uses these to give us perspective on the perceived risks we conjure up for ourselves. Like farmers, we need to sow in order to reap. Our fear is usually inappropriate and we need to recognise it as such, overcome it and take the plunge.

In chapter 4 we are told to stop talking and start doing, but the following chapter warns us to make sure we know what we’re going to do before we get too over-confidently enthusiastic. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. We need to have the necessary information at our fingertips before making important decisions. Personal experience counts for a lot here too.

The sixth chapter, Mortgage your Reputation, deals with keeping going, even when times are tough. Sincere effort and development are rarely noticed or praised, but the odd setback has everyone looking and commenting. We have to learn to ignore it and soldier on. If we believe in ourselves and what we’re doing, then that will keep us on track. Grow a thick skin and learn not to be embarrassed over mistakes. Money management is touched on too. Look at the big picture, we’re advised. We might have to give up a few luxuries in order to invest all our energy and money into what is important to us. We can always downscale in certain areas and that will help us in the long term.

Can You Manage opens with the crucial reminder that when we pay money, we must pay attention. Auto-pilot doesn’t work when we’re building an enterprise. We have to focus and concentrate all the time, and be prepared to organise and interfere in every detail. As well as organising how the business is run, it’s important to organise our time. The next chapter suggests how to structure a successful day. Whilst I don’t entirely agree that all goals should be acheived within the first three hours of daily working, I can appreciate the point that is being made – don’t put things off and tackle the big issues when you’re at your best. Spending time purposefully gives us the impetus and energy to keep working at that tempo all day.

Chapter 9, It’s a Goal, is about building up a good working team. This isn’t relevant to everyone of course, and I imagine a lot of sole traders and lone entrepreneurs will read this book, but there is sound advice there. Hire people for their skills and for no other reason.

Money comes back into play in the next chapter with the theme that money matters, whatever we are trying to do. Be careful with it and don’t waste it. Every penny counts. Don’t leave it lying around too conveniently in case it tempts you to spend more than you should. Bank it and budget carefully.

Chapter 11, Less is More, builds on this book’s premise that we, its readers, are not satisfied with what we’ve accomplished in our lives so far. We want to do more. But we must be patient and do the groundwork first. It may not seem that we’re doing much, but we’ll get the better results in the long run. It’s better to “plod steadily” on than rush over the cliff edge.

The next section of the books teaches us how to overcome a fear of falling or failing. The more we start to achieve, the more we can lose, but that shouldn’t stop us. Fear of failure is often “an indication of a willingness to fail”. Trade can be tricky, we should soldier on and confront things, accept new challenges. Test yourself and feel liberated by it.

Be Known for Something exhorts us to recognise and define what we can give and who we are. This will help us build our brand and our business or success. Look for the niche that only we can fill and find something that only we can say to the world. Be different and stand out.

The final chapter is about not feeling along and not seeing it as weakness to ask for help and advice from our peers. We’re never really alone. Other people are always contributing to what we do, however indirectly. We need our customers too and should treat them honestly and with respect, and welcome competitors since they will spur us on to better things.

The epilogue talks of how we all want to leave graffiti – our mark – behind us and the author hopes this book will show us how. He says the principles hold true whether we’re a grocer or a Sunday school teacher. If he can make us move another inch towards achieving a goal then he feels he has fulfilled his threat. It’s up to us now to fulfil ours.

 

Fulfill Your Threats is well worth a read if you feel that you’re not achieving quite as much as you should be, whether in your professtional or personal life. You can buy it here.

Video Review Link

Jonathan’s website is here

Jonathan’s blog

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