Monday, December 21, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Ricky Spann

Of all of the books Conversations Book Club President Cyrus Webb has read in 2009, few had the power to affect him personally like MAN-UP by Ricky Spann. A native of Michigan, Spann now calls Stone Mountain, GA home and has put a lot of thought into his first printed work. His book was chosen as one of Conversations Book Club's Top 100 Books of 2009, but why? What was his objective in writing this book about the roles of black men in America and how all races have to work together? Webb and Spann discuss this and more. Here is their conversation...

Rick, thanks for talking with Conversations for our Take Ten segment. Before we get into your book MAN-UP I want to say it has been great having you on the radio show in 2009 to address some of the issues of the day. Have you always found it easy or in your nature to express yourself the way you do?

First of all Cyrus it is good to be on your show and I definitely appreciated the opportunity to come and share my views.  It's always been easy to express myself, especially in a small setting and regarding what I am most passionate about – the social, political and economic issues as they relate to the black community.  I enjoy discussions surrounding black leadership past and present, and where we have failed our community as black Americans.  I also find it very easy to talk on a spiritual basis, which is a theme for another book idea that I am drafting.

When did you realize that you had a book you wanted to write, and was there any fear about the subject matter?

Since I was in high school I have always had something to say and wanted to put it down on paper.  I remember English literature and all the classes where you have to do interpretive reading; and I always admired how the people were able to take what was near and dear to them and put it in the written word.  From that time on I've always wanted to write.  I've always had certain fear and reservations because in my mind only great grammarians and English majors could write.  Then I realized that it's about those who have something to say…that what a writer is someone who can take their ideals and thoughts and put them on paper.  Once you put them on paper there was always the fear that the subject matter might be too hard for the day.  At a time for political correctness, I thought my word might be too hard because the topic would cause black people to look at the truth of our responsibility of ourselves.   I believe that this is  something that we haven't quite dealt with historically and I think we have a tendency to blame others for our plight…though others are truly at fault to some degree.  My message places a large responsibility on the black people to understand the root causes and solve our own issues.  I didn't think that message would go over real well and so I was a bit apprehensive and uncertain as to how it would go over in the black community.

Rick, many say that in order to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. What role has books played in your life over the years?

Well books have had a very important role in my life.  I can remember one of my first experiences with realizing that I enjoyed reading was when I was transferred from the 3rd to the 4th grade and my homeroom teacher happened to be the librarian, Ms. Henderson.  She noticed that I always liked to read the titles of the books and open up books and read passages, and would always volunteer to stand up and read out loud in class.  So Ms. Henderson really encouraged me.  Unfortunately, being a new student in that school I would often get laughed at and picked on for always wanting to stand up and read before the class.  As a young man new to the school, my tendency was to succumb to the peer pressure and not volunteer to read and let anyone know that I really enjoyed reading.   Once Ms. Henderson detected my phobia, she took me aside and said don't let the other boys influence you and cause you to stop reading or reading in class.  She explained to me that reading is a gift and more people should do more of it, and that reading would truly lead to greater understanding and greater wisdom.  She explained that most of your great readers where avid readers such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King and Gaundi, etc.

We are living in a new time in America right now with the country electing its first black President. How has that changed your perception of the work that blacks have ahead of them if at all?

Personally, it hasn't changed my perception at all.  In fact, I think the fact that America has elected a black president can actually be a setback to the challenges that face the black community.  What I mean by that is that so often blacks tend to get emotionally involved in issues without understanding why or being not deeply emerged enough into issues to prevent them.  Actually I think that electing a black president has given black people a sense of arrival, and that is not the case.  I think that black people have a tendency to become complacent once an emotional hurdle has been achieved and they take their eyes off the larger issues of future political, social, economic and spiritual parody with all of mankind.  So I think that blacks don't want to hear the message that electing a black president at the wrong time is tantamount to racial demise.  By that I mean the entire black community's future seems to rest on whether or not the current president can solve everyone's problems.  The favor that a white president would get, President Obama will not get; and consequently his failures will be failures of the black community.  An analogy that I use is that in sports, such as the NFL, the argument is that black athletes do not make great quarterbacks, when in reality as black athletes become more and more comfortable playing the position of quarterback from little league to the pros, then their performance of quarterback will be as great as any other race. 

Do you think that some minorities will take success for granted since there is a man of color in the White House?

I don't think they'll take it for granted.  In  a broader since I don't think most minorities understand what success is.  Black America tends to think that success is getting a good paying job or a descent business and making a lot of money from an individual standpoint.  They fail to realize that success on such a small scale as an individual form of achievement is short-lived and serves no purpose in perpetuating the successful survivability of the race.  So the message that blacks get having a black president is that we as black individuals can achieve great heights is such a shallow message, and vastly overrated and misunderstood.

Rick for those who haven't read the book, tell us what Man-Up is about.

Man-Up is about mankind, and specifically black americans' position in the scheme of creation.  It's not about racial divide or prejudice.  It's about all men are created equal and all men's responsibility is to do the best they can do the greater good of all mankind.  It gives a spiritual road map for the healing that must occur and the forgiveness that must occur before blacks as a people can transcend a carnal existence to the spiritual existence, and become true cohabitants of this world and worlds to come.

If you had to decide on a particular group of people that your book is most targeted towards, who would it be and why?

First and foremost it is targeted toward the black community.  It's a how-to self-help book of developing strategies and subsequent plans to solve the social, political, economic and spiritual problems that are currently inhibiting the advancement of the black race, and fulfilling our God-giveen purpose.

Have you been surprised at the response you have gotten so far? 

No.  I expected the responses to be mixed and they have.  Some blacks, even prominent blacks think that the book is too harsh on black people.  Other blacks think that it's about time someone gives a how-to as oppose to a what's wrong with us approach to addressing the political, social, economic and spiritual ills of the black community.

What message do you hope readers get from the book overall, and how do you hope they can apply what you share?

That whether we succeed or whether we fail, we have to take responsibility for our own success and survival and also we have to realize that we are only a part of  God's plan and not the totality.  As such, we have a duty and obligation to seek our role in the universe as it relates to other races and other creatures that God has created.  I think that we cheat ourselves when we denigrate God's creation along racial divide.

Now that you have one book under your belt, what's next for you?

The goal is to write 10 books with various themes around the spiritual, social, economic development of the black community.  Each book will give a more finite plan, milestones and phased approach to becoming self sufficient and globally relevant and justifiably equal to all mankind.

Rick, thanks again for talking with us. Continued success to you. How can our readers keep up with you online and through the social networks?

I'm on FB and also have a webpage at  and my twitter site.  You can email me directly via my webpage.  You can also order my Man-Up: A Plan for the Organization and Spiritual Retooling of Black America at or


Monday, December 7, 2009

In The U.K? Take Advantage of Qype

Visiting London, England for the first time are just using for the best site to find out what to see or experience in the U. K.? Already in the U.K. and want to find something different for you, your family or friends? Then Qype was designed for you.

It is your online source for where to go for the best in entertainment, dining, lodging or whatever your interest might be. It also leads you in the right direction when it comes to finding places you might frequent on a regular bases. Visit and explore categories that fit your need and then enjoy the opportunity to read what real consumers like yourself have to say about locations across the country. Want to find a nice event for the entire family to enjoy during the holidays? Simply click on the ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT section and then the FESTIVALS AND FAIRS link You can then find out what is coming up or is an ongoing event that each member of your family can enjoy, in addition to find out what others have to say about their experience. This is also a perfect way of letting others know how you felt after your own trip or visit to a restaurant . Having to deal with the unforeseen illness of a child? A quick search on Qype will give you a listing of the closest hospitals, what they specialize in and what to expect . Found something that has caught your attention and not sure how to get there? Take advantage of the map and directions provided on the site.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author T. C. Alexander

(Listen to author T. C. Alexander's interview with Conversations LIVE! Radio here.)

There are many authors who are trying to make their mark and let readers know they are on the scene, but one of the authors that got the attention of Conversations in 2009 was T. C. Alexander. The 36 year old Dade City, FL native got involved with words at a young age, and that love has now grown into her releasing the novel CONSEQUENCES OF ADULTERY. Cyrus Webb of Conversations talked with her about her beginnings, how she transitions between writing and marketing herself, and what she would tell aspiring writers about the lessons she has learned.

Here is their conversation...

T. C., thank you for taking out time out of your schedule to talk with Conversations. We have a lot to cover, but I want to start by asking when did you realize that you loved to read?
Thank you, Cyrus, for letting me share my story. To answer your question, though, I fell in love with words when I was a very small child.

What did books do for you, and what keeps you reading today?
Well, I love words and I love imagination. I love to imagine being in that particular scene, situation or just being that particular character

Writing is something that many authors pick up on at an early age. Is that true of you as well?
Very true. I wrote this book at 35 and my 12th grade English teacher told me to pursue a writing career in high school and she was also an accomplished author.

Your first book is called CONSEQUENCES OF ADULTERY. Tell us about it.
In life we must all come to the realization that to every action there's an equal and opposite reaction and we shape our lives based on our decision and if you make good decisions then good things will arise. If we make not so good decisions then we have to deal with that. We have to deal with the consequences, and in this situation, in the book this wonderful man; husband, father and hard worker made a poor decision, but it was based on his wife's bitterness from past indiscretions and not being the wife that he deserved and him just crying out for help. This book will hit every end of the spectrum in dealing with adulterous relationships, friendships and how divorce effects the children.

Although, the title makes the book seem a bit more religious than it is, I also included some spiritual knowledge in it as well with a bit of a twist at the end.

Readers will wonder how much of yourself is in the book. What would you say about that?
Wow!! Probably 50%. I have had similar situations in my life in dealing with marriage, kids and friendship. Although, some of the situations, I would have handled a lot differently.

What do you hope that people get from the book?
I really hope that the women whom are married will come to the realization that when a man goes out and cheats it's not always just his fault and a lot of times we wives do play a role in that, whether that means not being submissive sexually and meeting his needs or not supporting him emotionally, psychologically, financially and physically.

Writing a book is one thing. Promoting it is another. Have you been surprised at the amount of work that goes into letting people know about your book?
Very. I am still astounded. I thought that once I finished the book and got it published everything would be golden from there. Well, I got a wake up call. As far as selling it locally hand-to-hand or word of mouth I did wonderful, but when it comes to actually marketing it for the world to see, that's another story. It's almost like, where do you start, because books are not like CD's or other forms of entertainment, you have to target a specific audience that enjoys fictional reading and mine has such a unique genre.

What has been the biggest reward for you as an author?
Accomplishment. That is the biggest reward. I feel that if I can write and publish a book and actually sell it, I can do anything.

Aspiring writers will look to you as an example of what they can do. What advice would you give those who feel like they have a book inside of them?
First of all, you need to decide what type of writer you are going to be and if writing is your niche. When people read my book, they always ask, how do you know that. Well, it's all about imagination and creativity if you're aspiring to be a fictional writer. I have both inside me; fictional and non-fictional because the book that I am currently writing is a self-improvement book from within and you have to also consider what type of book it will be, meaning how will you write it, in storybook type format or character type expression format.

How can readers find out more about you online?
I am on Twitter ( and my email is I also have a website at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Cheryl Pillsbury

Author and Publisher Cheryl Pillsbury has been a friend of the Conversations Brand and more specifically The Write Stuff Literacy Campaign for over a year. What she has accomplished as a wife, mother, author and publisher is a testament to what can be done with hard work and the desire to make a difference.

In this interview she shares what caused her to start her publishing company AG Press, what she hopes it does for aspiring writers, how she is surviving inspite of the tough economic times and what's next for her.

Here is our conversation:

What got you interest in books?
My mother made sure we had all worlds growing up. School, television, outside playing and reading.

Did you always think you would be a published writer?
No, I studied Engineering and Computer Design; I have an Associate Degree in the subject. Writing and publishing found me and the rest is history. I love telling stories.

What titles have you currently released yourself?
Several. Angus Grady, The Beginning, Amie and The Purple Butterfly, Bradley & Farley; 33rd District Case Files One & Two, Peleport, and more coming.

Tell us about AG Press. What made you decide to form your own publishing company?
I published my first book in May of 2005 with a traditional publisher. BIG MISTAKE. They never edited my book, didn’t create the cover I wanted and did nothing in the marketing department, plus the cost of the book was way too high. I published book 2 with a POD and they didn’t edit, I supplied the cover. They never marketed it and hidden fees on my own book. I got angry knowing what they were doing to me but mostly others, so I developed a simple POD, with prices reasonable and things they don’t do that we do.

What separates you from some of the other independent publishers out there?
One, we truly care what the author wants for their dream. We have them work one on one with their team to create the book or project they want. We fully market each book every day as well the author showing off their project. They talk to people as well as emails.

How many authors have you currently published?
We have had the honor of working with 20 authors releasing their dreams and new dreamers come in about 2 a month or so.

What is your greatest reward as a writer and publisher?
Money is very important to pay bills, food and whatever else. As a writer, for me, when a person comes to me and says 'great story', they tell me what they experience and ask if there will be more.
As a publisher, it's hearing and seeing the smiles of dreamer's dreams coming true and they become storytellers. My payment is 2 words: THANK YOU.

What do you think is the greatest misconceptions of the publishing business?
Authors do pay us for their books, but that pays for the supplies, printing, ink, etc. But working as a team with them to advertise and display their dream for everyone to enjoy, no price for that. Most publishers see the dollar signs. I see and hear a dream of a story that is aching to be told and shared. The others don’t see that or can’t.

Everyone is dealing with challenges now because of the economy. What advice would you give to aspiring writers as to why they should still pursue their dreams inspite of the hard times?
The recession/depression hit us hard and we’re still trying to climb out. We seem to be still here, and plus I am not a quitter.
Be kind and work together as a team. Some things may run slow, but never surrender your dream. You may be the one to inspire someone, give smiles to a child that’s sad, etc. Dreams should never fade, but given a boost of energy. Work with the publisher to help.

AG Press has 3 payment plans because of this, assist the writer to finish their dream and someday they will remember you and return, also tell friends that want to do the same. Many of our authors are returning with new books, bigger and better, including myself.

Cheryl, what’s next for you?
Finish my vampire books for releasing, plus other books. I am writing a romance novel with a close friend and we’ll have that next year and publish new dreams for others.

AG Press has joined the cause for Desert Swap to support our troops. Authors can go to join in on the cause and you will be assigned a soldier to write to and send books to them to read and share with the others.
Also, Tuck-In with Sprout Online, for children who need pajamas and they receive a children’s book for bedtime. Wonderful cause and a personal one for me.
Organizations that support Autism is also a priority of mine. My daughter is Autistic. It is now 1 in 91 and growing very fast. My book, ‘Amie and the Purple Butterfly,’ and the series is a fundraiser book for research and programs for Autism.

It's been great getting to know you over the past year, Cheryl. Continued success to you and your organization. How can readers find out more about you and AG Press?
The website for AG Press is It has all of our information, but if they need more I can always be reached at 978-300-5178.

TAKE TEN: Author G-Starr

When it comes to being open and honest with self and growing into your own skin, there are few examples as pure as author G-Starr of Urban L Publishing. Cyrus Webb of the Conversations brand was introduced to the talented author/co-owner of Urban L through Dawn Michelle of Dream Relations, Inc., and it led to the reading of her debut novel PULLING ME BACK. What we found through the book and the author is a woman who knows how to tell a story and get her point across in a way that everyone could understand and appreciate.

In October 2009 G-Starr appeared on Conversations LIVE! Radio and shared her story with the world ( see ). In November 2009 it was announced that her book PULLING ME BACK was chosen as one of Conversations Book Club's Top 100 Books of 2009. One read and you will see that this author and her savy business sense aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Here is our conversation:


Thank you, GStarr, for talking with us. You are involved in a lot of new endeavors including not just a debut novel but a publishing company as well. Is this a world you saw for yourself growing up?

I didn't see myself as a publisher back then, but YES, I always said I was going to write a book in my lifetime.

When did you realize that you had a love affair with words?

It sucks to say this but I knew I had a way with words when I realized I got people to believe anything I said…when I was tween, I was good at not telling the truth.

The book PULLING ME BACK chronicles the challenges that many people face when it comes to sexuality and how people deal with relationships in general. I guess the obvious question would be to ask how much of the characters can you identify with?

Honestly, all the characters are pieces of my personality. For instance Kenya is the "homegirl" in me. The one you can talk to when you're feeling down. Bre is the vulnerable woman in me and Sean is the "jerk" side of me. Sometimes I can be unkind; it's a flaw… we all have it. All the characters make up most of who I am.

Talking about sexuality, even though in entertainment gay and lesbian themes seem more acceptable, that is not always the case when it comes to real life, especially in the black community. What do you hope books like yours do to encourage dialog about the subject of same-gender-loving individuals?

My main objective is that readers will understand that same sex relationships are the same as heterosexual ones. We get cheated on, fall in and out of love and we want to start a family like anyone else.

Tell our readers about the storyline of the book.

Pulling Me Back is about two female friends who discover intimate love in the midst of their own personal issues of live. Beginning a lesbian affair, each women is risking the fate of their friendships, family acceptance and careers—if and when outed. In the end they will discover if they ruined a perfectly good friendship or found true love.

One of the things I got from the book personally is how on the surface it would appear that the message is that all relationships---whether they are gay or straight---come with their highs and lows. Was that something you wanted to convey?

Absolutely, but I also wanted to touch the subject of friends becoming lovers. Many friends have crossed that line or thought about it. Pulling Me Back shows one of many possible outcomes.

Put on your publishing hat for a moment. Do you think there is a larger market for books like PULLING ME BACK outside of the gay community and how are you going about reaching them?

Pulling Me Back does not only focus on gay relationships. It also touches issues that some families have, married couples, problems at work, and money issues, anyone can relate to this book— gay or straight. I'm promoting my book to avid book readers of urban, contemporary and chick-lit. If you love relationship drama type novels you will enjoy my book.

Has it been difficult for you, GStarr to balance the marketing and promoting of the book and your love of just the craft of writing?

I feel its one of the most difficult parts. Aside from being a full time mom, I'm also trying to establish a successful business and on top of that complete my next novel. Marketing and promoting requires a huge amount of attention and not just anyone can promote your work. You need someone who is as passionate about your work as you. They have to know the business as well.  Finding that person is rare. Sometimes you have to wear four hats to get the ball rolling.

What advice would you give for others who are taking their writing careers into their own hands like you did?

If you are looking for instant gratification, then you should choose a different route. This business requires a lot of patience and knowledge of the field. You will definitely put out money before you reap the benefits of self-publishing.

Thank you for your time and continued success to you. Let our readers know where they can keep up with you and your company on line.

Thank you for this opportunity. All upcoming events and new releases can be viewed on my website and follow us on Twitter


Monday, October 5, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Johnny Rico

Author Johnny Rico seems to live his life moreso in the moment than by a regimented calculation like some. The 33 year old American who now lives in Longdon,England is a self-professed Athiest who finds himself fascinated by Religion, doesn't consider his style of writing that of a journalist but of someone just recording what he has experienced. Of his three acclaimed titles, BORDER CROSSER caught my attention the most because of its addressing a controversial issue that divides people of all backgrounds and political affilliations.

Conversations' wide-ranging discussion with Rico both surprised and impressed me. He talks about 1)how he views his work as opposed to how others characterize it, 2)why he does what he does, 3)the things Americans might not appreciate about those who try to enter the country illegally, 4)what readers can expect next from him, and 5)why aspiring writers should be careful about what they choose to write about.  


Thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. Before we get into your latest book BORDER CROSSER, let's talk a little about yourself. How would you describe Johnny Rico?

I'm someone with fairly bad people skills which is, I think, why I was attracted to being a writer.  I'm an intense introvert and wouldn't have it any other way.  Spiritually I'm an atheist.  Politically I'm a hybrid mix of Libertarian and far-left liberal. 

I'm fascinated by a myriad of topics, but what really captivates me is studying  the human condition and the depths of its dysfunction. I'm enthralled by religious cults, serial killers, criminal behaviour, mass hysteria, politics - and by the way, I include myself within that dysfunction, my interest isn't as one who considers himself immune to the behaviour I study.

When you look at the impact you have had around the world just through your words can you believe you have been given such a powerful gift?

Let's get two things straight.  First, my words have not had any impact whatsoever.  There's dozens of books released each day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  I've been fortunate enough to have authored two of them.  But that doesn't mean that I've made an impact on the world in any meaningful way.  I'm quite sure that, like most modern forms of communication, my own message, whatever it was, got lost in the tsunami of information overload like almost everything else that we consume these days.  Do you remember a blog you read last week or a book you read last year?  I don't.  I consume too much information to remember the particulars unless a book was exceptionally spectacular.

Second, I think I can be a decent writer at times with brief explosions of artistic genius, but by and large, I'm sure there are thousands of writers out there, yet undiscovered, that are infinitely more talented than I am.

I have always believed, Johnny, that the mark of a great writer is someone who is an avid reader. When did you first realize you had a love affair with words?

I don't know if it was ever a love affair with words.  To be honest, I'm more attracted to the hours that the working writer keeps than any love of words.  But I would say that I owe my appreciation for words to my parents.  When I was born, my parents got rid of the family television and started reading to me almost as soon as I was born.  So, as a child, reading was a pretty big staple in my household.  I remember being in the first grade and while other children were still learning to read, I was re-reading Tolkien for the third time.  Doesn't mean I was exceptionally intellectually gifted, just that my parents made it a priority for their children to be readers.

BORDER CROSSER tackles some topics that are ripped directly from the headlines with one of the major themes being the politics of imigration. What inspired the interest in the topic and the decision to write the book?

I'm fascinated with the difference between subjective and objective perspectives on what are otherwise normative human processes.  Illegal immigration, for example, is a normative human behaviour.  Humans have always and will always seek to migrate from poor conditions to better conditions.  Similarly, those who live on the other side of the fence, in the place where the migrants aspire to arrive at, have always and will always become protectionist, feel violated, attempt to defend and secure themselves.  Which, ultimately, is a futile gesture.  Any fair examination of history tells us that countries change, cultures change, ethnicities change, demographics change and it's something we can't stop.  What I think is fascinating about the issue of illegal immigration in America is that the opponents of illegal immigration, the virulent ones, the Minutemen and such, they're angry about illegal immigration, but they're also angry about a changing culture, about a world of complex economics and globalization that they don't understand, they're worried about changing cultural norms like gay marriage.  Illegal immigration is only one facet of their worldview that seems tangible, that they feel they can make a difference in affecting.  So there were interesting actors on the periphery of this issue, and that's just on the U.S. side!  And in Mexico you have poor migrants dying in the desert and drug cartels.  It's an issue that's political, economic, racial, social and it cuts a lot of interesting ways.  My job was just to drive through the middle pointing out interesting observations wherever I could.

When looking at what is said about illegal immigration today, what do you think is the major misconception about those who choose to enter a country illegally?

In the U.S. I think we tend to forget how dangerous it is for so many of the migrants to come here.  We forget that they have to save for years to pay the coyote to take them across the border, and that they have to make multiple attempts, and leave behind all the family they know, and risk life and death in the desert, and the fact that they would risk so much is testament to how bad economic conditions were or are in Central America.

What has surprised you the most about the response you have gotten from the book?

I've been pleasantly surprised that everyone has found it to be so funny.  Yes, I am writing about intense issues of life and death, but that's no reason not to make it funny, and people seemed to have responded well to the humour.

Johnny, it seems from reading the book that you seem to think just as much about getting to the bottom of the story as you do about your safety. Would you agree with that assessment, and if so, do you think that is a quality that we don't always see in journalism today?

I don't know if my desire for safety has anything to do with getting to the bottom of a story as much as just a basic need for survival.  I also don't feel qualified to speak about journalism as I never claimed to be a journalist, I never studied journalism, or was trained in journalism. I was just a  guy who wrote about a crazy combat tour in Afghanistan in Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green and was suddenly given this label of immersive journalist. Which, technically, I don't know if that's even journalism.  I just like to immerse myself in an experience, write about it in a colourful and interesting way, and hopefully along the way tell a funny and amusing story.  My aspirations extend no further than that.

What do you have planned next for your readers?

I'm working on a book where I spend a year infiltrating and joining religious cults.  I just got back from a cult in Slovenia and it was a terrifying and exhilarating experience, one that ended in an episode of mass hysteria.  Crazy.  Religion is my true passion, so of all the projects I've done, this is the one I'm looking forward to the most.

Because of your success, I know that aspiring writers must contact you all the time looking for suggestions that they can apply to their own careers. What advice would you give someone looking to write a book about a subject that interests them?

I joined a local writer's group here in London and while some of them are very talented, they're each attempting to break into publishing by writing that next great literary novel which, of course, means that they will all fail.  There's just not that much room within the marketplace or that much demand for literature, and to be successful with literature, you have to be really good.  You're, in essence, relying on your imagination to provide the story, the characters, the plot, the pacing, and the central crisis.  My recommendation is to instead live a real life story. The world is filled with potential stories just waiting to happen as long as you're willing to put yourself in the wrong situation.  And I think that is the key to finding great stories, too many of us live life attempting to make safe decisions, and that just doesn't typically lead to great stories.

Last summer, some friends of mine and I drove from London to Mongolia for an article for Penthouse magazine.  I didn't have to imagine or create a single part of the story, the story, and it was an amazing story, told itself.  One of these same friends, despite being married and straight, worked in a gay sauna, he got an article out of that.  There's a big demand at the moment for stories of journalistic immersion, stories where people tell an unusual story, or approach a news story through personal experience.

So my advice to your aspiring writers would be to go and become homeless for a year, or track down the family members of serial killers and interview them as you visit all the places where the crimes occurred.  Just don't pick crossing the border illegally from Mexico into the United States, because I already did it.

It's a pleasure to talk with you, Johnny. How can our readers find out more information about you online? 

They can't.  I try to remain as obscure as possible.  Although, I have recently signed onto Twitter ( , but no promises, I don't really Twitter much. 


Friday, September 25, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Nesta Aharoni

Award-winning author/activist Nesta Aharoni is doing her part in not only encouraging young people but their parents as well. Her book MY GOODNESS: MY KIDS has been well-received from coast to coast, and she can be found throughout the country promoting her message of helping children reach their individual levels of success.


Cyrus Webb of Conversations spoke with Nesta about the book, the key to her success and why she felt like it was important to get her message out to the world. (Nesta was also a gust on Conversations LIVE! Radio in Sept. 2009. Listen to the interview here: )


Nesta, I appreciate your talking with us about your book MY GOODNESS: MY KIDS, CULTIVATING DECENCY IN A DANGEROUS WORLD. Before we get into the book, though, let's give our readers some background. Tell us a little about yourself. I am proud to be the author of a two-time award-winning book. My Goodness: My Kids has been honored with a 2009 Mom's Choice Award and a 2009 Living Now Award. I am a writer, editor, and magazine/book publisher. I am a past college instructor and department head. I have made many guest appearances on radio, TV, and Internet talk programs, and my book has been highlighted in numerous print publications. I am the mother of three grown, children. I live in Carlsbad, California, with my husband. In addition to my work as a writer, I enjoy public speaking engagements where I can share my message of raising honorable children to live audiences.


A lot of people say that they should write a book. You actually did it. What made you feel as though you had something to say? One day I was sitting around a large table with nine friends. Each one spontaneously and in an ordered pattern started to share stories of the challenges they were having with their children. Some of the stories were humorous, like the young boy whose homework accidently caught on fire. But others were not. I heard stories of cruelty to animals and other children, prison time for drug offenses, a pregnant 15-year-olds, a DUI offense, and on and on. Then it came to be my turn. All eyes were on me. But before I could open my mouth, one woman announced, "We are skipping you because you have never had a problem with your children." At first I felt a little stunned at the rebuff, but I soon realized what an honor it was to be skipped. She was right. I had never suffered a sleepless night because of my children…not in elementary school, junior high, high school, or beyond. According to this informal poll around a dining room table, I represented a small percentage of the population—10 percent of the population. It was then that I knew I had something to share.


When it comes to something as personal and sensitive as children some people don't take kindly to advice and suggestions. When you were thinking of your own experiences as a parent, why did you think people would respond well to what you had to say? Because the information I share is not theoretical. I offer real-life advice and techniques that actually worked for me. I have raised three decent, honorable, and responsible children who contribute generously to society. My Goodness: My Kids is a tribute to lay wisdom—parental lay wisdom. How do I define "lay wisdom"? It is the insight that is gained through living in, struggling with, and experiencing the world around us. It is grounded in real life. Lay wisdom is incorporated into our knowledge base after we grapple with situations, choices, and dilemmas. In My Goodness: My Kids, I offer the end product of 30 years of common sense child rearing—philosophies and methods that worked to build decency and character in my children. I expose my tools, including some unpopular methods and unconventional ideas, in the hope that others will be inspired to focus—first and foremost—on goodness and character building while they are raising their children. In the back of my book, I have a "Family Feedback" section where my husband and three grown children get the opportunity to make comments on the previous chapters. Readers find this section to be validating of my remarks.


I believe that part of your success as an author is the fact that you are very hands on with your career, traveling and doing whatever it takes to get the word out. Do you think one of the keys to that success is that you take advantage of every opportunity to share your message? Absolutely! The biggest challenge for authors is to research and discover all of the many ways available to them to promote their books. First, new authors must read books on book publishing and book marketing. Many promotional ideas are described in these books. Next, they must move into action. Here are some of the things I did to promote my book: web site with opt-in to collect e-mail addresses and build a platform, blog site with entries focused on my topic—raising honorable and responsible kids, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, article writing and distribution to other sites, book reviews, library mailings, foreign rights programs, premium sales programs, newsletters, press releases, radio interviews, TV interviews, speaking engagements, publishers groups, list-serves. And the list goes on.


If you had to summarize the overall message of the book, what would you say it was? Evil exists in our world. We can try to fight it, treat it, and punish it. But we can also avoid a lot of it if we focus our parenting on raising honorable and responsible children. It is a parent's obligation, for society's sake, to focus first and foremost on building honor and integrity in their children—above and beyond all of the other things parents focus on today, like grades, success, talent, sports, popularity, happiness, et cetera. Parents can instill goodness by learning to recognize the many character-building opportunities that occur in their homes every single day. If a child shares a cookie with another child, that is a character-building opportunity. If that same child takes a cookie away from another child, that is also a character-building opportunity. The world will benefit most from children who are raised primarily to be good. Good children grow into individuals who bring humanity and security to a fragile world.


What has surprised you the most about the response of MY GOODNESS? What surprised me most is how quickly and enthusiastically parents have incorporated my ideas into their parenting plans. When I went to a recent medical appointment, my doctor told me that she had used my suggestions on how to control unruly children in a restaurant setting, and she was thrilled at how fun and easy it was and how successful the results were. She continues to use those techniques to this day. Many people have told me that my common sense, easy to comprehend approach has helped them more than their visits to professionals. It has been very rewarding to contribute to a develop generation in this way.


Did you have any expectations in particular with how you would measure whether or not the book met its intended purpose? I have two expectations. One is to inspire parents to take goodness seriously. When an event happens, like Michael Phelps losing an endorsement or Bernie Madoff cheating thousands of people, I want parents to recognize that these are teaching moments; further, I want them to develop the spirit and know-how to act on those moments. According to all of the feedback I have been receiving from readers, I would consider my mission successful. My other expectation is to have fun in the process. My speaking engagements and radio and TV appearances have helped me to grow professionally and to engage in some fascinating conversation with interesting people.


We all grow up differently, Nesta, so no one's children is exactly like any one else's. With that being said, what would you say is the common factor that all parents and their children deal with? Yes, there are some universal factors. One is that parents must maintain their position as the alpha dogs of their family units. If children do not learn to respect the authority of their parents, they will have a difficult time learning to respect their teachers, employers, et cetera. I have a whole chapter in My Goodness: My Kids devoted to this topic. The bottom line is that parents must enforce consequences to unwise actions. Without consequences to teach them their limits, kids can quickly get out of hand. If you look at my "Punishment" chapter, you will see some creative and successful ways to ensure consequences and reduce rebellion at the same time. Another universal factor is consistency. Parents can never put their guard down. Kids must be taught that you mean what you say every single time there is an episode to deal with. Another common thread is the importance of teaching empathy to our children. I consider empathy to be the most important quality we can instill in them. The Columbine shooters took a lack of empathy to the extreme. If our kids can learn to feel other people's pain in their hearts, the world would be a kinder place.


Aspiring writers and those just getting started in the business will read this and wonder how they get to where you are. What would you say to them? Research, research, and more research. Book publishing is not for the lazy or faint at heart. Become a self-didactic learner. Learn to improve your writing. Learn all about the book publishing process. Then teach yourself about all of the avenues open to you for promotion. Join local publishers and writers groups. Build a support system. Don't be shy about e-mailing contacts and asking for guidance.


Thank you for your time, Nesta. How can our readers find out more about you and your book? Readers can visit my Web site at . They can also check out



TAKE TEN: Author Sean Gardner

 If there are women who still believe that men don't read or like to communicate then they haven't met the likes of Sean Gardner. A big fan of sports growing up, Gardner has always been known for pursuing what he wanted to do. Originally form Baltimore, MD, he now calls Los Angeles, CA home, and it is there that he has penned his first book EXCESS BAGGAGE.

Doing away with the stereotypical ideals of manhood, the book allows you into the thoughts and motivations of men who find themselves in challenging situations while balancing the day-to-day aspects of their lives. Does the author think books like his will bring the sexes together more to discuss issues they face? What was more difficult, the writing of the book or the marketing that came later? Gardner talks about this and more in this exclusive interview with Cyrus Webb of Conversations Magazine/Conversations Book Club. (Note: Sean Gardner was a guest on Conversations LIVE! Radio on Tues. Sept. 22, 2009. Listen to the interview here:

Congratulations, Sean, on your book EXCESS BAGGAGE. It is definitely a great read for readers of both sexes to enjoy. Before we get into the story, tell our readers a bit about yourself.

For anyone that knows me, they'll tell you that I'm a very positive person. On one side of my family, I'm just two generations removed from sharecropping. My father was first in our family to attend & graduate from college, so I think this inspired in me the belief in our ability to improve our personal circumstances, whatever those may be. It's through these individual efforts that we lift up our community as a whole. To the extent that I have these throw-back values, I'm all about this notion that our collective success really is dependent upon our being our "brother's keeper", rather than the hyper emphasis on individual materialism that is put forth today by the mainstream media.

When you look at the finished product of your book are you surprised that you are now an author with a book available nationwide?

No, I wouldn't say "surprised" necessarily. For me, the words that come to mind more frequently are "awed" or "humbled". It is an amazing thing that people want to buy and like something that was once just a thought in my head. That God blessed me with the ability to turn this idea into something that I could share with the world and have it be well-received is mind-blowing. I know some people think I say "thank you" too much, but that's how I feel. I really am blessed.

If I had grown up with you what would have been your interests and are those who have known you most of our life surprised at your writing a book?

Growing up, I was a big sports fan and participated in pretty much everything. I played football, baseball and basketball, with basketball becoming my greatest childhood love. Like the characters in my book and the rest of us in the real world, I had my share of family and personal "issues" coming up. Sports saved my life from addiction, crime and violence that I might not have otherwise avoided. For example, I lived in ATL during the "Atlanta Child Murders" and subsequently in urban areas of Baltimore, New Jersey and Los Angeles as heroin and crack cocaine flooded into our neighbors & replaced alcohol as the drugs of choice for a new generation. Sports allowed me to turn away from such temptations because as an "aspiring" pro athlete, I didn't want to put anything in my body that would not allow me to run faster or jump higher.

I think some might be surprised by my writing a book because they were not aware of my interest in or gift for the written word, especially given my intense love for sports at that time. However, those that knew me wouldn't be totally surprised because I've always been a person that did what I set out to do. Some of my friends were told that I "wanted to write" a book.

Sean, for our readers that haven't read the book tell them about the general premise of the story.

Excess Baggage is a story about redemption from whatever holes in our soul that might have developed during our childhood. Rather than beat the reader over the head with the blunt message about the importance of confronting our shortcomings, he or she gets to "live" vicariously through the experiences of 2 couples that are busy juggling professional careers, their social lives and other responsibilities; as they try to connect with their one true soul mate. These characters are valuable because they remind us that communication is at the core of the difficulty in establishing relationships, especially new ones. And our communication is affected by past experiences that we bring to any interaction with someone that we're romantically involved with. Some of these experiences are good and can help a relationship, but some are bad. That's the reason for the title, Excess Baggage.

To add flava' to the story, this message is set upon a "canvas" where an attorney falls in love with a witness during a high profile trial in which the opposing side has vowed to win at all costs, including murder, in one story. In the other, an advertising director falls in love with a record exec only to have their relationship interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious and dangerous person from their past. The stories are linked by the guys, who are long-term friends and share a common childhood tragedy. The ladies also have more in common than they would like to share. Before the tale ends, the quartet must re-examine their priorities in order to save their love & their lives.

Alot of authors find the writing process to be a great deal easier than the marketing aspect. What about you?

Yes & no. I think that it's really a matter of perspective. When you're writing your masterpiece and you're fighting against the blank page, that part of the process feels like it's the hardest. However, once you're done and working on marketing your work, you discover a new definition for "hard." There's definitely a lot of truth to the idea that marketing is harder than writing. It may have something to do with the perception that work that does not come from one of the big publishing houses is of lesser quality. Aside from being untrue, it is a strange paradox, given how difficult major houses make it for non-celebrity first-time authors to get a deal. I think the good news, though, is that this perception will continue to change, especially as publishing company restructure and seek more ways to be profitable. Eventually, authors will be evaluated by the quality of their work, not where they're coming from.

Have you been surprised that your book has gotten the attention of men and women?

No, not at all. One of compliments that I receive most often is that these characters are so real, they seem like people we all know. So, the men in story are both easy to relate to in terms of their motivations, behaviors and dialogue.

As you probably know, Sean, most book clubs are made of mostly women. What do you think we can do to get more men to reading and discussing the books they have read?

(laughs) That's a great question. Fortunately, the economy is helping us with this one already. As couples look for more cost-effective entertainment, I think we're seeing a lot of couples getting back to the things folks did in ole' school courting like grabbing a basket of food, a blanket, some wine, a good book and are heading to some scenic location to read to one another.

In terms of men reading on their own, it's a matter of perception. 1) We're socialized to be breadwinners, so men are suppose to be out figuring a way to make more money to provide for their loved ones, not reading a book. And 2) we seem to be going through a period where definitions of manhood and masculinity are shrunk down to fit into the perception of a "thug." This is especially true for younger people. Unfortunately, while it is portrayed as the whole or complete emotional make-up of a man, this is not true. It is only one side of our complexity. We have to educate our community on the importance of embracing the diversity of our character, as doing so allows us to live richer lives. Also, since we all have limits on time & resources, books allow us to improve our own lives by learning from the experiences of others, without having to go through such trials & tribulations ourselves.

What do you hope people get from EXCESS BAGGAGE?

We will all be in a much better place when we understand that before we can truly love others, we have to be able to love ourselves. Sometimes, in order to do this, we have to forgive past shortcomings. And it's okay to do that.

Sean, now that you have one book under your belt you have the experience that many aspiring writers dream of. What advice would you give them?

Writing is all about the power of revision. Too frequently, people tell me that they could never write as good or that they gave up because whatever they were writing didn't seem perfect. Well, it rarely ever does the first time you get in on paper. Like the characters in my story, I was really busy with life, work and responsibilities when I wrote this book. I wrote it mostly "in-between time" and "in the meantime" for three years. In that time, I revised it several times, in addition to having it edited. So, I tell every aspiring writer that the world is waiting for your unique voice. Don't quit! Just get your idea(s) down on paper first, before you evaluate them.

Thank you for your time. How can our readers find out more about you and your book online?

Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure. The book is available on and Barnes & Noble's website. However, the best place to get update info about me, promotions and my calendar are at my website, 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Patricia A. Thomas

If you haven't heard of Author and Minister Patricia A. Thomas before, after this interview you won't be able to forget her. The native of Arcadia, Louisiana now resides in Columbus, Ohio but has penned a book that will have people talking all around the world. GOD REVEALS A MYSTERY is more than likely one of the most intriguing books that Conversations has read thus far. Addressing issues that involve science, religion and faith, the book will cause you to examine what it says closely and measure it against what you already believe.

(NOTE: Author Patricia A. Thomas discussed her book on Conversations LIVE! Radio recently with host Cyrus Webb. Listen to it here,

In this exclusive interview, Thomas talks about what her intentions are with the book and how she hopes to get people talking and reading for themselves before they make a decision. Here is our conversation.

Patricia, thanks for taking the time to talk with us about your new book GOD REVEALS A MYSTERY. Before we get into what the book is about, tell our listeners a little about yourself.
Cyrus, I first want to thank you for this great opportunity to share the love of God, through Jesus Christ, and the truth that is in my book. I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana weighing in at exactly 10 pounds (thank you God for giving my dear mother the strength to deliver me with NO medication). I was raised primarily in a small rural town called Arcadia. I was very active at my high school with playing basketball, being a cheerleader, being on the drill team, and participating in other school activities to keep me busy.

After graduating from my high school, I was accepted to attend The Ohio State University in Columbus,Ohio, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in English. I am also a Licensed Missionary Evangelist who has been blessed by God to do Radio Ministry, in the past, for a few years, and I have been able to deliver messages of love and conviction from God to youth, adults, and to those who are incarcerated.

One thing that is clear from the book is your love of scripture. Is that something that has always been the case?
Yes, I have always loved the holy scriptures. But like many young people, I didn't read and study the entire Holy Bible until I became an adult. I began to seriously study and read the Holy Bible, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, around the age of 30 and I have read the entire Bible and I continue to read and study, which is God's will for every Christian.

I'm curious as to how your faith has guided you in making decisions in your life, and why you think you have followed your faith with so many have not.
With the ministry that I have been chosen to do, along with my unique book, God has allowed me to experience things to prepare me to build up my faith walk, which is necessary. With that being said, since God has given me a lot (compared to others) He expects a lot from me. With me being a visionary, God has guided me to do His will and with me being imperfect, I sometimes fail God. However, God is faithful and
He has remained with me as a true spiritual Father would do. I am honored and humbled of God's faithfulness to continue to guide and lead me in my imperfect life.

Can you tell us when you first got the idea to write the book?
God first opened my spiritual eyes to the truth and spoke this revelation knowledge to me, concerning the demise of the “dinosaur”, in 1997 and from that I wrote a poem, with the foundation being that the name “dinosaur” was coined or made-up in 1842 and the real animal's name is serpent or dragon (both names mean the same thing in Greek) and that they still exist- in its cursed form according to Genesis 3:14. It only took me a few months to write the manuscript and in 2006, God gave me scientific information to write in my book to prove that my theory would eventually become a fact, at the appointed time, unlike other theories that will never be proven. That year, in 2006, my book was published.

There are some who will say, Patricia, is that you using scriptures to justify your own thoughts about science. How would you respond to that?
My response would be that not only do I know the God-given truth, but others do too. There are people who know this truth concerning the demise of the “dinosaurs”, who don't have my book and the truth is growing. But, I am the only person to have the scientific or concrete information in my copyrighted book to prove that the DNA in the spine of the cursed serpent (commonly called a snake) will match
the fossil of the serpent or dragon that have been found in many places on the earth. This DNA testing has never been done before in the world and it will prove that they are synonymous. One truth can silence many lies. Therefore, I must stay in my lane and finish my God-ordained race and not worry about what some people will say about my book or me. God has a great plan to unveil and I am excited about the outcome! God will always win!

Do you think that it is possible for faith and science to co-exist when it comes to the universe and what the earth was like many years ago?
Absolutely! Science is defined, by some, as the process or technique of how things are done. God created everything and He has recorded the beginning of things in the book of Genesis and He continues to show us His power daily with things that are evident, such as the earth being suspended on nothing without falling or the WIND- we can physically feel it; but, we can't physically see the wind. Only God has the scientific knowledge and wisdom to explain His creations and my faith believes in Him and not in the Evolution Theory, which are a set of assumptions that have NOT been proven, but this guess can be taught to our youth in public schools, who are our most vulnerable.

Can you tell us about the response you have gotten so far to the book?
So far, the majority of the responses have been good, God has opened the spiritual eyes of some people to see the truth. Some have told me that it is so obvious and wondered why they couldn't see it before until they read my book, God Reveals a Mystery! As my book continues to grow, it will be controversial to some people. I will accept the cheering and jeering to do God's will, because many other faithful servants before me have too, including Jesus Christ. I will not be afraid in what I know God will do.

With it being such a hot button topic, do you plan on holding events around the book to discuss it?
Definitely, I know that my unique book will continue to grow and the doors that God will open for me, no man can shut. I will continue to tell others the absolute truth, with using tolerance and love.

What advice would you give individuals who feel they have been given a story to tell but haven't taken the steps to share it?
My simple advice that I would give, as I have given to others is: “If you put forth the effort, you will see the results.” Also, please stay focused and do research before pursuing your goals, because knowledge applied is power, it means nothing if you don't use it.

Thank you for your time, Patricia. How can our readers find out more about you, your book and what is next for you?
Again, Cyrus thank you for this great opportunity to share the love of God, through Jesus Christ, and the truth that is in my book. Please know that my book is available on the world-wide web at thousands of websites, including my preferred site, Barnes and Noble. Anyone can find out some information about me,
my book, and my upcoming events at: or

Saturday, September 19, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Gary Kaschak

They say three times at anything is the charm, but for author Gary Kaschak, the first two times weren't that bad, either. The Binghamton, NY native has seen three of his titles published, the latest one (LIFESTONE) being chosen as Conversations Book Club's Book of the Month for September 2009 and as a Reader's Choice Selection. Currently a resident of Cedarbrook, NJ, Kaschak is not content with letting others dictate his future. He has taken his writing career in his own hands and seen remarkable success in the process. In this exclusive interview, he talks with Cyrus A. Webb about the diversity in his life and work, how a book report on one of his novels opened up new doors and why he thinks good writers are made from readers who do their homework.

Here is their conversation...

Gary, thank you for talking with us about your writing career. The new book, LIFESTONE is your latest title, though you have released two books before it. Is it like the first book with every release when it comes to your feelings about how it will be received?
I think the first book,(Hands That Break...Hands That Heal) like
everything else we experience for the first time, had a magical feel
to it when it was released. Just running my hands over the cover and
turning the pages and seeing my name on every page was thrilling. I
don't recall ever wondering at first if people would like the story
itself, I was so tuned into the "experience" itself. As time went on
and that initial feeling began to dissipate, my focus turned to the
content and its acceptance, and as sales and circulation of the book
increased, I received many cards and letters from readers of how I'd
moved them. With that first novel, I did choose ten people to read my
manuscript before it went to print, and asked for real feedback on
what they'd thought of the story, so I had a good idea based on that
small readership of how that book would be received. I've kept that
same policy for both The Hole To China, and Lifestone, choosing
different readers to critique before sending it to print, as well as
leaning heavily on my mentor and writing coach, Mark Orrin for guidance.

It seems as though you have a diverse background of interests. How
much does that influence what you choose to write about?

I'm mostly influenced by unlikely heroes rising above their problems,
and somehow, whether through faith or the circumstances of life and
how they adapt to particular problems, they somehow prevail. Movies
like Rudy and Hoosiers and Forrest Gump just get to me every time. TV
shows like Touched By An Angel and Highway To Heaven have totally
taken me in the direction of my writing. I'd always been drawn to
underdogs and kids and adults who'd been bullied or persecuted and
have found it difficult to fit in socially or have been shunned by
society because they are different. I've seen enough of it in my
lifetime, both from personal experience and afar, and I really feel I
can help in some small way to make things better with these fictitious

As someone who has written three books I have to assume that you are
a reader as well. If I had met you five years ago, what would you have
been reading and would you have thought that you would be where you
are today?

I'll take you back almost 10 years ago when I'd decided to write Hands
that Break, and I recall as I began writing the story, that I needed a
better sense of style, and the best way for that development was to
read, read, read. So I decided to read 100 books in a years time,
choosing a wide range of authors and topics both fiction and non-
fiction, and when I'd accomplished that goal, and did read 100 books
in a year, I was ready to write. I might add that in that experience I
learned to be extremely patient with myself, and that through that
process I developed a style of writing that is both descriptive in
nature, and timely with dialogue. As for what I was reading five years
ago, most likely, Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, which I absolutely
loved, but mostly historical novels like, Rise To Rebellion by Jeff
Shaara, John Adams by David McCullough, and Cold Mountain, by Charles
Frazier. I love American history, and much of what I read revolves
around characters and events that shaped the early years of our country.

LIFESTONE is a book that skips across time as well as into the lives
of very real characters. What inspired the storyline and how is this
different from what you have done in the past?

My drive home every day takes me past a college on one side of the
road, and a cemetery on the other side. I'd traveled this road 15,000
times or more over the past 20 years, and had never thought until this
one day that the idea for LIFESTONE would come to me in a flash. When
the idea first passed through my mind, and my mind began to churn out
ideas, I knew I was onto a good story, and immediately gave it the
LIFESTONE title. As to why a college and a cemetery gave me the idea
for the story, it would have to be broken down into two parts: The
college represents both the current and future of the story, and the
cemetery represents the past and the future, each part so reliant on
the other for closure. LIFESTONE is quite different from my prior
works, in that the first two books were written for a young-adult
audience, and LIFESTONE for a more mature audience.

Being an author is one thing, however promoting the book is something
totally different and sometimes just as challenging. What has the
process been like for you when it comes to marketing yourself and your

At first I didn't know what to expect being self-published, but
quickly found out that it was totally up to me to market myself and my
novels. I contacted several groups that I'd thought would be
interested in my story, but found many doors closing and very few
opening due to the self-publishing stigma, and the fact that I had
very little credibility other than a few cards and letters from
satisfied readers. My big break came when a 7th grade student from St.
Stanislaus (Lansdale, Pa) read both my books and turned them into his
teacher, Bonnie Marino, as book reports. When she'd read his reviews
and the contents of the stories, she contacted me and soon I was
invited into her class to speak to the kids about my writing. Soon
after that, we began an essay contest which has blossomed into an
annual event at the school. That one incident gave me the credibility
I'd needed to move the books into new hands. and I'd sent out
proposals to several hundred schools across the country, and, did
relatively well with that endeavor.

Social networking websites are a tool that many authors including
yourself are using. How have they help you in getting the word out?

Having my own website has been the key. Now when I reach out to groups
about my novels, there is clearly a definitive place for perspective
readers to go to check me out. No longer do I have to spend any money
on mailing out proposals, and with time being so precious in our
lives, the website has been one of the best decisions I've made
regarding the marketing of my books. I'd recently added a Facebook
account and several other social-networking websites, but finding the
time to really get into them has been a challenge.

With your experiences in writing and publishing your work, what
advice would you share with aspiring writers or even new writers?

There's so much advice to give on this subject. First of all, if you
decide to write a novel, take your time and enjoy the process, and
don't ever rush yourself to finish a chapter. Let the story grow, and
let is show though your writing. Get to know the characters as if they
are real people. If you can afford it, and you are serious about
getting published, find an editor who will guide and direct you in
ways you may not see at first. Know the rules of the writing industry.

Subscribe to magazines like Writers Digest which will serve to help
you in so many ways. Think positive when your work has been completed,
but know full well there will most likely be rejection from agents and
Publishers. I have stacks of rejections, and to this day I still have
no representation for my work. I've followed all the rules, but there
are no guarantees in this business, and not a soul owes you anything
for being diligent in writing great queries, novels, etc. Write for
yourself and your message, and not for monetary means.

What's next for you?
As for my writing, I have several ideas at the moment, and I'm trying
to decide which one to do next, but I'm leaning towards writing a
religious comedy where the Devil gives his legions of demons a well-
deserved two week vacation (first time in the history of Hades!) from
tempting others, leaving the world open to what happens when there is
no temptation in our lives. It will be light-hearted, but still has a
ways to go in the developmental stage. Currently I'm marketing
Lifestone as much as I can, and am working on an essay scholarship for
African-Americans based upon Lifestone, and have contacted a few
schools in our area regarding this idea. I have no doubts this will be
well-received, and I'm looking forward to helping out worthy
individuals who need financial help the most as they move onto college.

Thanks again, Gary, for a great read. One of the things that I got
from your book is the power of understanding the past and appreciating
the lessons it teaches when we open ourselves up to it. How can our
readers find out more about you online?

Please go to If you'd like a signed copy of Lifestone, or my other books, send me an E-mail. I'd love to hear from you.

(NOTE: Author Gary Kaschak will be a guest on Conversations LIVE! Radio on Sunday, October 4, 2009 @ 6p.m. CST (7p.m. EST/4:00p.m. PT). Listen by clicking here.)