Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pump Up Your Book June Chat/Book Giveaway Tonight!

Pump Up Your Book will be hosting the June 2011 Authors on Tour at a chat/book giveaway party on Thursday June 30, 2011 starting at 8 p.m. eastern (7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain and 5 p.m. Pacific) and ending at 11 p.m. (eastern time) at their new chat room at Pump Up Your Book!

Tell your book friends that not only will this give them an opportunity to chat with their favorite authors there will be a huge giveaway at the end of the chat!

For more details, visit

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mystery/Crime Fiction Month in August!

Books, Products and More! is looking for mystery and crime fiction authors to feature during the month of August. Here is what we need:

  • Synopsis of your latest book (Word.doc or .docx format or pasted into an email)
  • Short excerpt (Word.doc or .docx format or pasted into an email)
  • Cover art in jpg format
  • Author photo in jpg format
  • Author bio written in 3rd person (Word.doc or .docx format or pasted into an email)
  • Links to where book can be purchased
  • Links to author's website and/or blog
  • Link to video trailer if available
Please email all this information to Cheryl at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com by July 31st. Those are zeros in the email address, not Os. Available slots will be alloted first come, first serve. 

Books, Products and More! will be on vacation from July 1st - 10th, so you will not receive a response to your email until after that time.

Thank you for your participation. We look forward to featuring your book during the month of August!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jane Rowan at A Book and A Chat Tonight!

Tuesday June 28th – 6:30pm EST

Number you need to call is: 347- 237-5398

People don’t make up things like that for fun.

That’s what Jane’s therapist tells her when Jane reports fragmentary memories from her childhood that hint at sexual abuse. A busy, successful scientist, Jane at first fights the implications, but finally has to admit that something indeed happened. With help from a gifted therapist as well as creative arts, Jane taps into her own aliveness and reconciles with both her parents’ love and their betrayal.

This deeply personal memoir invites the reader behind the closed doors of the therapist’s office and into the author’s journal and her very body. Jane’s tender story shows how we can use the challenges of painful childhood traumas to transform our lives.

Jane Rowan is a New England poet and writer. After teaching science for three decades in a private college, she retired to pursue the creative life. She has published numerous articles and the self-help booklet Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups, available through her website and through Amazon (Kindle). An excerpt from The River of Forgetting appeared in Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change. Visit Jane at and find out more about her memoir at

Listen to Jane on A Book and A Chat tonight starting at 6:30 PM Eastern at

Latest Product to Review for Amazon Vine

I know I don't talk about it much, but I love gardening. I don't get a chance to get outside as much as I would like, but when I noticed this Garden Genius PF11-1T Durable Pot Filler Disc was available for review, I knew it's what I was looking for, so I grabbed it from my Amazon Vine Monthly Newsletter. I have two containers that I need to fill, but when you load them down with rocks for drainage, those guys become heavy and hard to move around. I figured I would give this a try to see if I could lighten up the pot.

It came in this week, and now I have a dilemma. It says that this is durable and can be reused. So, do I wait and post my product review at Amazon after the season is over so I can see if that's true, or do I post it after I've used the product and liked what it does for me right now?  Hmmmm... the life of a reviewer is never simple.  :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Powerful Woman Writer Award!

My thanks goes out to Deirdra at A Storybook World, who designed this lovely award for Books, Products and More! I hope you'll stop by her blog and check it out at

She also left me a note stating that she is interested in interviewing avid readers to find out what they like to read and published authors (agented, self published, small press, etc.) to find out what they wrote and what the pathway to publishing was like for them.

You can reach her at guidedhope(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Product Review of Snackwell's Brownie Bites on Amazon

I had a chance to review these Snackwell's Brownie Bites through the Amazon Vine Program. I can't repost my reviews of those here, so if you would like to see what I had to say about them, please visit my Amazon review page at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Catholic Writers' Conference at Valley Forge in August 2011!

Press Release
June 9, 2011
Contacts: Ann Margaret Lewis, Catholic Writers Guild President

Karina Fabian, Catholic Writers Guild Secretary

Catholic Writers to Convene August Conference in Valley Forge

Valley Forge, PA--The third annual Catholic Writers' Conference LIVE will take place August 3-5, 2011, at the Scanticon Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer's Guild (CWG) and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), it will be held in conjunction with CMN's annual retailer trade show. The Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.

CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis said this year's conference will, "focus on marketing and selling one's written work." Highlights of the conference include:

• Over 30 sessions taught by professionals in writing, marketing, blogging and publishing
• Pitch Sessions where writers may meet privately with representatives from four publishers
• One-on-one coaching sessions. For $35 an author can have a 30 minute private consultation with a specialist who will review their manuscript and guide them toward publication.
• Rapid-fire readings. Published authors will each have five minutes to read a selection from one of their books. A mass book sale and signing will follow.

Lewis says the conference comes at a modest cost. "Registration for the jam packed three days is only $90 for CWG members or $100 for non-members. And we have a special price of $42 for students. Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, to show your work, learn the craft and network." Priests and religious are invited free of charge, but must register at the email address:

This year's conference speakers include:

• Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman of Servant Books/St.Anthony Messenger Press,
• Regina Doman, author of numerous young adult and children's books and acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press,
• Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, EWTN TV host of "Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms" and author of numerous Catholic books including "Mother Teresa and Me,"
• Michelle Buckman, author of the young adult novel "Maggie Come Lately" and the adult drama "Rachel's Contrition,"
• Angela Breidenbach, author of "Gems of Wisdom" and
• Patti Armstrong, co-author of the best-selling Amazing Grace book series and author of "Catholic Truths for Our Children, Stories for the Homeschool Heart."

Past attendees gave glowing accounts of their experiences at the conference:

• Carol Bannon, author of the children's book "Handshake from Heaven," said, "Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally."
• Writer Melanie Cameron concurs, "I recommend this conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!"
• Maureen Martin, a consultant and trainer said she attended to connect with other professional Catholics. "It was such a wonderful, nurturing environment where we could share our faith and our love for literature."

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. "Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre," says Lewis. "These events are integral to our mission of `creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters."

Also at this year's conference, the CWG will be presenting its first ever Catholic Arts and Letters Awards (called the "Lilies") for the best in Catholic fiction. This award will recognize one book in the adult market and one in the children's market for its literary merit.

Information for the Catholic Writer's Conference can be found on the conference web site:

The CWG is a professional group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies whose mission is to build a vibrant Catholic literary culture. The organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Spotlight: In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner

Set in 18th century England, our heroine Anne is betrothed to a man she’s never met and must leave behind her girlhood fantasies. When she arrives at the home of Lord Wolverton, Master of the Wolf’s Aerie, the mysteries and challenges of her new life cause her to seek Biblical wisdom and guidance concerning honor, integrity, and faithfulness. In this story of the discovery of true love, there is also danger, betrayal, and sword fighting—and it all takes place in a castle complete with secret passageways. Become lost in another time and place. You will not want to put this book down.

Read an excerpt!

The strange, deep voice coming from a dark corner startled her, prompting a rash of prickles on her skin. She heard a crunching step on one of the paths. Had he come through the door? She heard no sound of it. Should she call for Smithson? Anne pulled her Spanish shawl tighter as she rose and faced the voice, demanding in tones elevated by fear, “W-who are you?”

“Andrew Lupus, at your service.”

She saw the flash of diamond buckles as he made a proper leg in bowing. Diamonds? Who else could it be in this place? Despite a mouth suddenly dry she managed to murmur, “Anne Crofton,” and dropped a curtsy.

“I know.”

“Have we met?” she asked hesitantly, trying to recognize his voice.

“Not formally. We do not stand on ceremony at the Aerie.”

“Oh.” Her heart was pounding uncomfortably hard. “Are you, are you Lord Wolverton, m-my host?”

“The same.”

At last! She made a deep curtsy, trying to conceal her nervousness. “I am so happy to have this opportunity to thank you for your kindness in providing my lovely rooms. The moment I crossed the threshold, I felt the warmth of ‘home’.”

“Such was my desire. I am gratified it pleased you.”

She noticed the moonlight exposed the white stockings covering his ankles above the sparkling buckles. If she could talk long enough, it might move up his figure and reveal his features. “I was uneasy coming to this strange place, as you might imagine. But, on seeing my things from ho… the Haven, and realizing your considerable effort in bringing them here, not to say planning and forethought, I felt easier in my mind.”

“Then the efforts were more than justified. I trust your journey was not overly tiring.”

“No. Lengthy, but Old Samson took excellent care of me.”

“He is … my most faithful servant.”

Anne took a small step backwards and was pleased to see his feet move towards her and the moonlight expose his dark breeches fastened at his knees. “This is a very unusual garden. Old Samson said it was developed some years past, which I take to mean by one of your ancestors?”

“Traditions in the region indicate it was first planted in the 15th century by the eccentric master of the castle. He also delighted in fostering the notion that we were werewolves.”

Suddenly chilled, Anne asked, “W-werewolves? Surely you jest.”

“Not at all. Very likely it suited a perverse sense of humor or provided primitive power over a very superstitious people. Whatever his reasons, he cultivated that image. He called this place the ‘Aerie of the Wolf’ and took ‘Lupus’ as the family name.”

“How strange,” she murmured, seeing the dark skirt of his coat become visible, possibly brown like his servant’s livery. Casually, she moved a step away from him.

“Anything out of the way was attributed to him, justly or not. As a result, a number of legends grew up about us.” Again, his feet moved forward.

The fingers of his right hand became visible. Beneath the wide lace hanging from his sleeve, she noticed a ring with a large dark stone on his fore finger. Perhaps it was like the betrothal ring she wore. A word, long forgotten, learned with exciting shivers of fright, rose to her consciousness. Gripping her fan tightly, and taking a deep breath, she asked boldly, “And you, are you also a, ly, lycanthrope?”

“A what? A lycanthrope?”

Tensely, she awaited his reaction. Fascinated, she watched the light slowly move up his arm as he stepped towards her with a low laugh.

“You are asking me if I am a werewolf? Come, come. How might I answer? If I say ‘No, of course not,’ I could be lying. If I was a werewolf, I certainly would not admit to it to my … betrothed.”

The emotional timbre when he pronounced ‘betrothed’, created an enjoyable tingle in Anne. “No, I suppose not. I might be frightened away before being wed.”

“And that would not suit my plan at all.”

He almost sounded as if he was smiling. “And what is your plan, milord?” She tried to speak lightly, but her voice trembled slightly.

He paused briefly before answering in measured, vibrant tones, “To make you my wife.”

“Oh!” Her pulse quickened. “But why? Why me? You don’t even know me.”

“Ah, there you err. I know a great deal about you. Your gentle kindness and graciousness will be valued at the Aerie, and your wit and brave heart especially please me.”

“I cannot think why you should entertain such absurd ideas about me. I am far from brave, although I should like to be so,” she ended wistfully. She looked down at her fan, opened and closed it, and drifted back another step.

“It takes great courage to converse with a suspected werewolf on the night of a full moon without screaming for aid.”

She looked up in surprise. The lace of his shirt was clearly visible and metallic braid glinted down the front edges of his full-skirted coat. He’s not a great deal taller than I am, she thought. Perhaps he is shy because he is of small stature. “I, I may be foolish, but I admit I feel no danger.”

“Under these circumstances it is foolhardy to inquire if your companion is a werewolf, even in a veiled manner. The question might rouse him to a lethal reaction.”

“Ah, but if you do not wed me, your plan will fail. I must be safe until then.”

“As you say.”

“In any event, as your guest, I am already at your mercy, milord. Your many kindnesses encourage me to trust you.” Turning, she walked away slowly to the far side of the bench, hoping he would follow into the light. “Please, do not tell me my trust is misplaced,” she said, glancing hopefully over her shoulder.

But she was alone.

Read the reviews!

“What a triumph! IN THE AERIE OF THE WOLF is Leonora Pruner’s best book ever. A gripping love story with the page-turning pacing of a gothic romance and the fairy tale evocations of The Beauty and The Beast. A heart-stopping tale set in the wilds of 18th century Yorkshire with Pruner’s superb period detail and spot-on theology.”

–Donna Fletcher Crow, VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, The Monastery Murders

"I really enjoyed this love story!  I liked all the mystery and inuendos that the author shares, enough to keep you guessing even though you believe you suspect the truth.  This alone kept me turning the pages.  I liked how the love story wasn't all mushy/gushy, well, except for the ending, but its realistic in its approach, the innocence of Anne's situation is believable.  I liked Anne, she wasn't a "damsel in distress" type of nobility..."

--One Day at a Time

"There are numerous threads running through this book. It was one of those that has a touch of just about everything: mystery, romance, paranormal, thriller, fantasy and fairytale."

--One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

While born in Dubuque, Iowa, Leonora Pruner was brought to California by her parents during the Second World War, which has since been her principal residence. In 1953, she graduated from Westmont College then earned an MBA from Pepperdine University in 1981. Having married in 1953, she has seen her family expand from two children to thirteen grandchildren and five great- grandchildren.

Writing has been an important activity since junior high. In the late ‘60s, an eighteenth-century English character on The Wonderful World of Disney, captivated her interest. The desire to create a variation of him, led to five years of extensive research, followed by the publication of two period novels in 1981 and 1987, Love’s Secret Storm, and Love’s Silent Gift. Feeling that all that research should be reused, eighteenth-century England continues as a setting for her work.

From 1987 to 1997, she lived in the Republic of Maldives collecting folklore and teaching economics and computer science. While there, she wrote the first drafts of Close to His Heart and The Aerie of the Wolf on her computer.

Visit Leonora online at  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Spotlight: The Liquid City by Curtis Hopfenbeck

Shadoe Kilbourne is the consummate intellectual assassin, with an impressive arsenal of both wit and weaponry at his disposal. As Seattle’s most successful nightclub owner and restaurateur; he is also a man of great resource, humor and humanity. His lethal charms and deadly ideologies are a devastating double-edged sword; brandished at will to put the bad guys in their place and get the good girls back to his. Driven by vengeance, derived from a painful and poignant past we can only speculate on, his ties to the highest echelons and lowest corridors of humanity also make him the perfect middleman for those who seek to solicit his fervor and favor in the hunt for his brand of justice, both inside and outside of the law.

This book was just named by GQ Magazine as one of the 5 Best Books of 2010 alongside titles from Stephen King and John Grisham.

Join the Online Tour by visiting

“My passion and impetus to write has been in existence since birth. I pursued adolescence in the shadow of Ian Fleming’s ‘Bond’; survived my teens in the company of John D. MacDonald’s ‘McGee’; and grew to adulthood under the guidance of Robert B. Parker’s ‘Spenser’. My infatuation with literature’s lethal lotharios, including Spade and Marlowe, is as innate as it is undeniable, and is much of not only who I’ve become, but of who I’ve come to encapsulate within my writings. I hope I have done my predecessor’s proud, and that the legends will continue to mentor and wax immortal within my written prose and pages. Please enjoy, for it is truly a writers only silent ovation!”

– Curtis J. Hopfenbeck


Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Move from Blogger to WordPress Giveaway at Acting Balanced.

All the recent issues with Blogger have given me a reason to consider moving all my blogs to WordPress. I already have a blog on WordPress, so I'm familiar with it. No, it's not as user freindly as Blogger, but since I can't comment at blogs without updating my browser (I upgraded and it caused other issues so I backed it out) and the Followers widget is missing at one of my blogs, WordPress is looking better all the time.

Heather over at Acting Balanced is running a giveway for a copy of Sharon Hujik's How to Move from Blogger to WordPress book. If you're also considering the move, visit and enter this worldwide giveaway.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: Virgin Coconut Oil by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy

Have you ever considered the health benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil? If not, you will if you read this book.

In Virgin Coconut Oil - How It Has Changed People's Lives and How It Can Change Yours, authors Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy share their stories, years of research, testimonies from others, and recipes to show you how to live a healthier life.

This book opens with an introduction discussing the decrease in farming in America, and how many developing nations like the Philippines are attempting to follow the way of industrialization and technology to prosper like the United States has. It then swiftly moves into the authors' stories. Born in the Philippines, Marianita talked about her father being a farmer and the daily use of coconut oil. She goes on to discuss the health of the people in her farming community, and how they rarely visited the doctor.

After Marianita and Brian were married, they lived in the States until 1998, when they moved to the Philippines. Though the area had gone through some changes, Brian was amazed by the health of the older generation. This led him to begin researching dietary habits and herbal traditions. They began making their own coconut oil, following the older methods, instead of purchasing refined versions in the stores.

What follows after their moving tales is a well-researched book on the health benefits of using virgin coconut oil and numerous testimonies from people from all walks of life who have experienced these benefits for conditions such as: diabetes, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, weight loss, and more. There is even a section on coconut oil and pet and animal nutrition.

Virgin Coconut Oil contains over 75 recipes like: Jalapeno Orange Sauce, Turkey Soup, Green Beans with Spicy Basalmic Sauce, and gluten free Chocolate Fudge Brownies. Yum! The first Appendix is a Candida Questionnaire. Candidiasis is the technical term for yeast infections.

The only thing that seemed a tiny bit out of place is the second appendix which discusses how Brian found peace with God and how you can too. Though the author ties it into looking for better health, which is the topic of this book, since this wasn't a prevalent theme throughout the book it seems to drop in out of nowhere. That aside, I definitely think health conscious people and those wishing to improve their overall health will be interested in reading Virgin Coconut Oil.

Title: Virgin Coconut Oil
Authors: Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy
Publisher: Tropical Traditions, Inc.
ISBN-10: 9780976057802
ISBN-13: 978-0976057802
SRP:  $19.99

I received a copy of this book from the Tropical Traditions in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for providing my review.

Product Review: Utopia Tea

I've been a big tea drinker since I was kid. I don't like coffee, so tea is something that is stocked here. I responded to a message on Twitter from Utopia Tea about samples. I'm always on the lookout for new teas to try.

They were generous enough to send me three different and unique flavors:  Irish Breakfast, Strawberry Ginger Peppercorn, and Jasmine Green. Also included in  my sample packet were five tea bags to hold the loose tea leaves.

Irish Breakfast has always been a favorite flavor of mine. I like black teas and they contain antioxidants, so I never feel guility about partaking in a cup. Utopia Tea's blend is very robust. It smells divine and tastes heavenly. Since I've been drinking mostly decaffeinated tea over the past few years, I didn't have more than one cup a day, because the caffeine level in this one is high.

I would definitely recommend Utopia Tea's Irish Breakfast.

I'm not a huge fan of green teas, even though they are very good in helping to fight off a variety of diseases and ailments. Utopia Tea's Jasmine Green is a sweet tea that would be perfect in the evening, as it has a low level of caffeine and its aroma is calming. Out of the three teas this was my least favorite flavor, but if you enjoy green teas, I'm sure you'll like this one.

Honestly, the thought of drinking a tea called Strawberry Ginger Peppercorn scared me a bit. When I opened the package, the aroma reminded me of PopTarts and musk perfume. Strange, I know, but that's what I thought of when I smelled it. This is a blend of organic white and green tea, ginger, roasted rice, strawberries, peppercorn, chili bits, and natural flavors. I use some of these ingredients when I cook, so I hoped I would enjoy this blend.

With all the unique ingredients, it had the appearance of potpourri, and I wouldn't be opposed to boiling some on the stove to scent my kitchen. Even though I'm not a fan of green teas, I liked the flavor of this one, so I will look for more white and green tea blends in the future. It has a sweet flavor with a kick to it because of the spicier ingredients. I think this would make a perfect summer late afternoon party iced tea.

If you visit Utopia Tea's website at you'll not only find their products, but also brewing instructions and instructions on how to make iced tea--small or large servings. You can also find details on how to join the Utopia Tea Club.

I'll definitely be purchasing teas and accessories from Utopia Tea in the future.

Find Utopia Tea on Twitter at!/utopiatea

Find Utopia Tea on Facebook at

I received free samples from Utopia Tea in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide my review.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Spotlight: The River of Forgetting by Jane Rowan

People don’t make up things like that for fun.

That’s what Jane’s therapist tells her when Jane reports fragmentary memories from her childhood that hint at sexual abuse. A busy, successful scientist, Jane at first fights the implications, but finally has to admit that something indeed happened. With help from a gifted therapist as well as creative arts, Jane taps into her own aliveness and reconciles with both her parents’ love and their betrayal.

This deeply personal memoir invites the reader behind the closed doors of the therapist’s office and into the author’s journal and her very body. Jane’s tender story shows how we can use the challenges of painful childhood traumas to transform our lives.

Read the excerpt!

Chapter 1: Pandora’s Box

The memory emerged from a dim corner of my mind, jolting me awake. It was a humid morning in August. The air flowed softly through the bedroom window, bringing in a catbird’s song from the cherry tree just outside. I sat up in bed and propped a pillow behind me, grabbed my spiral-bound journal from its place on the bedside table, and began scribbling:
I am three or four and I hurt between my legs. I’m perched on the toilet in the big bathroom in our house at Shell Beach. The door is opposite me and the light streams in from the window on my right.

I feel the sting when I pee. My mother says that I slipped in the bathtub and fell on the bathtub rim. I have no memory of anything that caused the hurt, but I know I don’t believe her story of how it happened.

Fear sank claws into my stomach. I wondered what had happened and who had hurt me.

No way. Surely not. Not my father. I don’t know how to tell what’s true. I don’t want to make things up.

This was Revelation Day, the day that started me on a long journey into my past. How did it happen that a 52-year-old woman suddenly woke up to the possibility of long-ago abuse? What had kept the issues at bay so long? Why could the past now grab me by the throat?

Read the Reviews!

“A powerful and sensitive portrayal, full of insight into Jane’s own confusion as well as her family’s bewildering dynamics. The writing is by turns lyrical and gut-wrenching, angry and tender. This inspiring, important book shows that healing and joy are possible after childhood abuse.”

—Marilyn Van Derbur, author of the bestselling Miss America By Day

“A brave and inspirational book. Jane Rowan has made an important contribution to our understanding of child sexual abuse and healing, affirming that we can transform trauma into lives filled with peace and joy.”

—Ellen Bass, co-author of bestseller The Courage to Heal

“With astonishing bravery and eloquent voice, Jane Rowan explores what it is to be haunted by memories of childhood abuse so long and so deeply buried that you must fight to believe them true. Her work honors scars long hidden and offers hope for healing. Her book is a gift that dares to render clarity from childhood chaos.”

-Martin Moran, author of The Tricky Part

"Sharing with us the story through poetry, dreams and narration, we are taken upon a journey with a family that loves even though the horrors are long forgotten. As we all know, the truth always prevails and the strength and courage Jane Rowan shares with the reader will leave you heartbroken at times."

--One Day at a Time

Purchase The River of Forgetting at:

Jane's website:


Amazon Kindle:

Barnes & Noble & Nook:


Jane Rowan is a New England poet and writer. After teaching science for three decades in a private college, she retired to pursue the creative life. She has published numerous articles and the self-help booklet Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups, available through her website and through Amazon (Kindle). An excerpt from The River of Forgetting appeared in Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change. Visit Jane at and find out more about her memoir at

Guest Blogger: Garasamo Maccagnone, Author of Sentiments of Blue

Today's special guest is Garasamo Maccagnone, author of the short story collection, Sentiments of Blue.

Set in a Michigan factory, the title story takes readers inside a workplace dominated by a ruthless bully and his cronies. While explaining the actions taking place around him, it becomes clear that the narrator yearns to escape the blue-collar life handed down to him from his father. “Perfect Game” unfolds during a minor league baseball game with Chi-Chi Gomez on the mound, a fearless pitcher who never fails to brush a few batters back from the plate–a space he considers his personal property. Along with other stories, the book also features original poems including “Uncle Nardo’s Store,” “My Father’s Foot,” and “The Malediction of Miss Holstein.”

In defense of President Obama's execution of Bin Laden

by Garasamo Maccagnone

This may be the only issue I'll ever defend President Obama on. As a strict fiscal Conservative, as one would expect, I've denounced everything about the big spending ways of this President, who I consider to be farther to the left than Woodrow Wilson. On more than one occasion, I've argued that since he's taken office, President Obama is one swing away from hitting for the cycle. He's tripled the debt, doubled unemployment, and single-handedly pushed our military into another war. With his next trip to the plate, let's all pray he doesn't smack a “grand slam” against the economy. The country can't handle it. We are all holding on to our seats.

However, in the matter of the recent raid and execution of Osama Bin Laden, I do applaud our President on a job well done. As recent reports indicate from information pulled from the compound, there were definitive plans to strike United States targets and citizens in the future. As the Commander in Chief, there wasn't anyway President Obama could allow that to happen.

Intelligence uncovered from Bin Laden's compound tells us this: Bin Laden was not a terrorist in retirement. He wasn't on some fixed income, playing golf on plush Pakistani golf courses, or sucking down a vodka and lemonade while pushing the rock at a shuffle board contest. In reality, this guy was simply in hiding – micromanaging every aspect of the terrorist network down to picking the actual black dye needed to make his aging beard appear more virile.

Most bothersome to me were the dripping pacifist sermons given by numerous writers, objecting to Americans celebrating the death of a man. In the wake of the new plots against Americans being publicized, had these misguided writers just waited a week or so before subjecting us to their pathetic opinions, we would have all been better off for it.

First of all, there's a tendency for the press to encapsulate the views of all Americans by stating them for us in a headline. Since at least half of America was sleeping when the President made the announcement, I don't know how our press corp can speak for all of us. For those who did celebrate, from what I could see, most seemed to be young people who couldn't have been more than ten years old when 911 occurred. The celebration was spontaneous; seemingly happening more on account of the American triumph of mastering such a dangerous raid, or perhaps, the relief of knowing the world's most evil man was eliminated from the human race.

I didn't see any effigy's burning. There were no ticker-taped parades. In fact, it all lasted about four to five hours, and by celebration standards - compared to a team winning a basketball crown for their city – it was as tame as can be. It was over before half of America woke up.

By being restrained in his rhetoric, and by being respectful of properly preparing Bin Laden's body for burial at sea, President Obama set the right tone for all Americans. In fact, we as a nation celebrated less in our destruction of one evil man than did all the Middle East nations that danced in their revelry after three thousand innocent Americans perished in the brutal and cruel 911 attacks.

In past cultures, men that were considered rebels, like William Wallace, were hung and quartered. Peasant leader Jakob Rohrbach was burned alive while the great apostle, St. John, was dropped into boiling oil. The Roman Senators and upper crust of Roman society paid handsomely for the heads of great leaders or rival Generals. For generation after generation, families in antiquity stored the heads as keepsakes.

In our typical restrained manner, America disposed or our biggest enemy in a dignified ceremony. After preparing his body in the tradition of his religious custom, we prayed, tipped the plank, and sent Bin Laden to the depths of his afterlife. I challenge anyone to name a country that has ever done the same after capturing their most feared enemy.

While I'm at it, I want to remind those same writer or detractors spitting out the gobbly- gook about the illegality of the expedition, that it's not the first time America conducted a manhunt. If you recall, Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth was hunted down and killed on the spot in a raid on the barn he hid in. History has yet to prove Booth's death was not justified.

Also, in knowing how many innocent people have died at their hands, would the world not been better off if the plots aimed at killing Hitler, or Castro, had been successful? Are we to value one evil man's life to the ten million that perished by his order?

Of course not. And of course, as an American and Christian, I abhor all this violence. I want to live in peace. Like most Americans, I'm not interested in occupying other countries, or maliciously plotting against foreign leaders, or stretching our influence simply to stoke the passions of certain citizens who believe American Imperialism is our right.

What I know is that good always triumphs over evil, and though this case is behind us, I speak to all others in the future considering committing such atrocities to American citizens. No amount of time or money will save you. Regardless if it takes a decade or two, we have the resources and the willpower to hunt you down. One way or another, either by the deafening blows of the gavel, or through the burn of American firepower penetrating your flesh – American justice will be served. You can count on that.

Good job Mr. President.

Garasamo Maccagnone is a writer and entrepreneur. The founder of a successful airfreight business, Maccagnone now focuses on his literary career. He is the author of the novel St. John of the Midfield, the novella, For the Love of St. Nick, a collection of short stories entitled, My Dog Tim and Other Stories, and a children’s book titled, The Suburban Dragon. Sentiments of Blue is his latest short story collection. Maccagnone currently lives in Shelby Township where he is working on his second novel, The Sorrows of Pebble Creek.

Visit Gary online at  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Spotlight: Sentiments of Blue by Garasamo Maccagnone

Set in a Michigan factory, the title story takes readers inside a workplace dominated by a ruthless bully and his cronies. While explaining the actions taking place around him, it becomes clear that the narrator yearns to escape the blue-collar life handed down to him from his father. “Perfect Game” unfolds during a minor league baseball game with Chi-Chi Gomez on the mound, a fearless pitcher who never fails to brush a few batters back from the plate–a space he considers his personal property. Along with other stories, the book also features original poems including “Uncle Nardo’s Store,” “My Father’s Foot,” and “The Malediction of Miss Holstein.”

Read an excerpt!

The Careers of My Mother

When I was a boy
she was a secretary.
Her nights were filled
with filing groceries,
taking phone calls,
posting notes
around his office
to remind him of things
he always forgot.

Then, when I turned fourteen,
My mother earned her law degree.
As a defense counselor,
she became a dazzling chief litigator,
furious with her polished tongue,
bullying us with verbal assaults,
clearing his name with brilliant oration
while drilling her steely finger into my chest
with every point she made!

Today, she’s a nurse.
From the den I watch her
slowly lean over to turn him,
stroke his hair, cut the drool that sways,
from the corner of his mouth,
kiss his hand that trembles
between the tubes that feed him.

Read the Reviews!

Throughout the pages of Sentiments Of Blue, author Garasamo Maccagnone takes the reader deep into the hearts and minds of individuals who find themselves up against some of the greatest challenges of their lives. A creative mix of poetry and short stories, Sentiments Of Blue conveys the raw, unfiltered essence of humanity at its best and worst, painting for the reader a compelling portrait of courage in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Maccagnone’s collection leads off with five reflective poetic pieces, culminating with the jarring “My Father’s Foot” – an eye-opening offering sure to catch the reader off guard. Sentiments Of Blue then closes out with five engaging short stories, including the stirring “Perfect Game,” “Holy Thursday,” and the eponymous tale of a conflicted young soul yearning for release from the mundane legacy of his father. All taken together, Maccagnone’s stories and poems comprise a quite moving collection with the potential to resonate within readers for a long time to come. An impressive, thought-provoking read.

–Apex Reviews

Garasamo Maccagnone is a writer and entrepreneur. The founder of a successful airfreight business, Maccagnone now focuses on his literary career. He is the author of the novel St. John of the Midfield, the novella, For the Love of St. Nick, a collection of short stories entitled, My Dog Tim and Other Stories, and a children’s book titled, The Suburban Dragon. Sentiments of Blue is his latest short story collection. Maccagnone currently lives in Shelby Township where he is working on his second novel, The Sorrows of Pebble Creek.

Visit Gary online at

Book Spotlight: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

Catherine de Medici was one of history’s most powerful women. She has been called brilliant and bold, but was also known as a vengeful Italian Jezebel who resorted to murder to protect her family’s throne. Was she the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence? Or was she the passionate savior of the French monarchy?

Originally published in hardcover in 2010, C.W. Gortner’s novel THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (Ballantine Trade Paperback; On Sale: May 24, 2011) challenges the dark legend surrounding Catherine de Medici, revealing her tumultuous youth as a papal pawn; her gift of second sight; her courageous fight to save France; and her secret passion for a man she is fated to destroy.

The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. Married to a French prince, eventually a queen in name if not in her husband’s heart, she strives to create a role for herself, aided by her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her 40th year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

Read an Excerpt!

Chapter One

I was ten years old when i discovered i might be a witch.

I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.

“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”

I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”

She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must I tell you, you must restrain your impulses in order to prepare for your future?”

I didn’t care about the future. I cared that it was summer and here I was cooped up in the family palazzo forced to study and sew all day, as if I might melt in the sun.

I clapped my embroidery hoop aside. “I’m bored. I want to go home.”

“Florence is your home; it is your birth city,” she replied. “I took you from Rome because you were sick with fever. You’re fortunate you can sit here and argue with me at all.”

“I’m not sick anymore,” I retorted. I hated it when she used my poor health as an excuse. “At least in Rome, Papa Clement let me have my own servants and a pony to ride.”

She regarded me without a hint of the ire that the mention of my papal uncle always roused in her. “That may be but you are here now, in my care, and you will abide by my rules. It’s midafternoon. I’ll not hear of you going outside in this heat.”

“I’ll wear a cap and stay in the shade. Please, Zia Clarice. You can come with me.”

I saw her trying to repress her unwilling smile as she stood. “If your work is satisfactory, we can take a stroll on the loggia before supper.” She came to me, a thin woman in a simple gray gown, her oval face distinguished by her large liquid-black eyes—the Medici eyes, which I had inherited, along with our family’s curly auburn hair and long-fingered hands.

She swiped up my embroidery. Her lips pursed when she heard me giggle. “I suppose you think it’s funny to make the Holy Mother’s face green? Honestly, Caterina; such sacrilege.” She thrust the hoop at me. “Fix it at once. Embroidery is an art, one you must master as well as your other studies. I’ll not have it said that Caterina de’ Medici sews like a peasant.”

I thought it best not to laugh and began picking out the offensive color, while my aunt returned to her seat. She stared off into the distance. I wondered what new trials she planned for me. I did love her but she was forever dwelling on how our family prestige had fallen since the death of my great-grandfather, Lorenzo Il Magnifico; of how Florence had been a center of learning renowned for our Medici patronage, and now we were but illustrious guests in the city we had helped build. It was my responsibility, she said, to restore our family’s glory, as I was the last legitimate descendant of Il Magnifico’s bloodline.

I wondered how she expected me to accomplish such an important task. I’d been orphaned shortly after my birth; I had no sisters or brothers and depended on my papal uncle’s goodwill. When I once mentioned this, my aunt snapped: “Clement VII was born a bastard. He bribed his way to the Holy See, to our great shame. He’s not a true Medici. He has no honor.”

Given his prestige, if he couldn’t restore our family name I didn’t know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt she’d already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me—

All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .

I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I can’t hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal

“Dio Mio, no!” My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.

“Caterina, my child,” my aunt said. “Please, not the fever again . . .”

As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. “I don’t think it’s the fever,” I said. “I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.”

She stared at me. Then she whispered, “Una visione,” as if it was something she’d long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. “Come, that’s enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow we’ll visit the Maestro. He’ll know what to do.”

Read the Reviews!

“A remarkably thoughtful interpretation of an unapologetically ruthless queen.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Meticulously researched . . . Gortner breathes life into his queen."
— Library Journal
“A compelling and fascinating view of Catherine’s life and world . . . You will devour this read. Highly recommended!”
— Historical Novels Review, Editors' Choice Title

C.W. Gortner is the author of the acclaimed historical novels The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. Half-Spanish by birth, he divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

You can visit the author online at or his blog at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Counting Our Blessings

This wasn't the post I planned for our first day back from vacation, but there are times when you see something that touches you and you must collect your thoughts on it.

On Wednesday, June 1st, Western Massachusetts was hit by severe storms that included thunder and lightning, rain, hail, and several tornado touch downs. We lost power for two days, and we spent the night before flying out to Disney at my in-laws' house, whose community was amazingly untouched by the tornadoes that led Governor Deval Patrick to declare a State of Emergency. It wasn't a great start to our vacation, but it was more of an annoyance for us than to the many people throughout Western Massachusetts who still have not been able to return to their homes.

That night, I found myself dismally unprepared for such an unexpected event. My husband called from his office to say he could see the funnel from his window. Within minutes, we had lost electricity at the house and I scrambled to find batteries to work even one of our radios. I started bottling water and prayed.

As the girls and I listened to updated reports on a radio that literally fit in the palm of my hand, I could only imagine what it looked like out there beyond the view from my house. I heard of roofs being torn off buildings, people trapped in cars, and some being forced to seek shelter when they couldn't get home. We had no electricity, no phone, and cell phone service was so sporadic that for a span of several hours, we were totally cut off from the outside world. In between this mess, my husband thankfully made it home safely.

When all was said and done, four people died and dozens were injured. On the drive home from the airport yesterday, we had a chance to view some of the damage from last week's tornadoes. It left me speechless. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed. Once familiar landscapes have been forever changed. Thousands of majestic trees have been uprooted and many that remain had their tops sheered right off.

Our local schools, utility companies, police and fire personnel, and numerous volunteers are working together to clean up from this horrific event that caused home owners to file insurance claims totalling $90 million, according to this Boston Herald article.

I hope you'll keep everyone affected by the recent storms in your thoughts and prayers. Right now we're definitely counting our blessings.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Off to Disney

Despite the tornadoes whipping through our area, I think we'll still make it to the airport for our plane to Disney. Over the next week I'll be without Internet access, so you won't see any posts until I return, unless we buy some Internet time while we're there.

The housesitter is all set and hopefully all the cats behave themselves.

Try not to have too much fun without me.


Interview with Kurt Stradtman, Author of Am I the Person My Mother Warned Me About?

Our guest today is Kurt Stradtman. Kurt, author of Am I The Person My Mother Warned Me About?: A Four-Year College Experience . . . Only the Fun Parts, is the next up-and-coming author aiming his satire works at college-age students documenting true events that have happened in his life.

Welcome to Books, Products and More, Kurt. It's great to have you here.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a coastal island off of the state of Georgia, St. Simons Island.

When did you begin writing?

I have always had an interest in writing, and have always written off and on. I began writing Am I The Person My Mother Warned Me About? two years ago after posting my first blog post on “A Haphazard Collection of Contemplation” (My personal blog).

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

Because I work full time in advertising and photography, after getting my publishing deal, I could only write late at night (early in the morning). Countless energy drinks, loud music, and 4am bedtimes is what go the book completed in time.

What is this book about?

This book has a lot of underlying meanings. This book is a personal memoir about the four years I was in college. Just because it is of four years, does not mean that I finished college. I took a very long holiday off college.

However, during college, many people face identity issues. Issues trying to find your true identity or colors. This book is an account of the incidents and events of my actions that led me to ask myself the question, “AM I The Person My Mother Warned Me About?” I wanted to use this book to lead to my answering the question, but then I decided to make it a little game; you answer the question yourself… but don’t judge a book by its cover.

What inspired you to write it?

The first ever chapter was written as an email to a friend, it was received with praise, and soon all my friends wanted to read it, and encouraged me to write more. I then posted them on a blog, and then people suggested I compile them into a book.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

My favorite character is my best friend who’s name was changed to Jessica in the book. She shares my quirks, and we have had the best of times. (I will give you a hint, the book is dedicated to her).

Who is your biggest supporter?

I would say my biggest supporter is my family. My mother likes to say that she didn’t expect anything less from me, she was a bit disappointed in some of the themes of the book, but where would the title be if she agreed with everything?

Who is your favorite author?

I can be poignant and say Henry David Throeau, but Augusten Burroughs is probably my favorite author. Even though my memoir is edgy, and politically incorrect, it’s theme is still comparable to a modern day Thoreau. Be yourself, and don’t change yourself for anyone. The world will take you for who you are.

Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?

I am looking for an agent.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Smoother than I thought. From the time of finding a publisher, to holding the book in my hand was about 3 and a half months.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

Nothing at all. We have all made mistakes, we have all had opportunity’s where we would have liked to have done things differently, but it all happened for a reason, it shaped me into who I am, so I made this bed. I am sleeping like a baby.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

3,000 booksellers, surely your favorite store sells my book. But your local bookstores order desk,, etc.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more? and links to my blog and Facebook are on the site.

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

A book trailer is under construction and will be made available on my homepage as soon as it’s completed.

What is up next for you?

I am currently working on my next memoir, scheduled for release late 2012 encompassing my childhood until now and my unconventional family.

Thanks for spending time with us today, Kurt. We wish you great success.