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.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TAKE TEN: Our Exclusive With Mr. Mean Mug

(UPDATE: Author Mr. Mean Mug was on Conversations LIVE! Radio on Sun. Sept. 20, 2009. Listen to the interview here-

For some the life of Mr. Mean Mug is what movies and gangsta rap is made of: drugs, guns, a broken home, music, jail and then redemption. But for the man born Shane Gregory it is much deeper than that. What he has lived through over the past 29 years is not something he would have chosen. It is, however, what he was dealt, and he has emerged a stronger, wiser man because of it. Now with a new lease on life he lives everyday to its fullest with an emphasis on how he can use the time he has been given to make a difference in the life of those around him. With his debut novel TATTOO TEARS creating a steady buzz in the streets, he is using the pen and his words to get people to stop and listen to the words of what some would consider an unlikely messenger.

In this exclusive interview with Cyrus A. Webb of Conversations Magazine and Conversations LIVE! Radio, Gregory opens up like never before and it is worthwhile to pay attention to what he has to say.

Here is their conversation:

Mr. Mean Mug, I appreciate your taking out the time to talk with us about your journey. Before we begin I have to say that some might look at you or hear your name and not find you to be that approachable.  Yeah, people talk about the serious look on my face, but it's not for what they might thing. I think alot. If they see me like that I'm thinking tough, thinking hard. Always thinking ahead to my next move in life.;

Since you were released from prison you haven't been pursuing music. You told me, though, that you wanted to still incorporate music in your mission today. Explain. I teamed up with a recording artist that will help me mix music and the message of my book by including a cd inside the cover. That way I can let them read and hear some of the soundtrack of the lessons I have learned in life.

Thanks for taking out the time to talk with me. Take us back to the beginning. I appreciate your letting me tell my story. I was born Shane Gregory in Ohio. My family was really big into church, and about the time I was 3 or 4 we moved to Texas to follow our church. It was after that move that things started to happen in my family. My dad got involved with drugs. There were days he wasn't around and that us kids were home alone with Mom. I learned quickly that to live and survive we would have to do it without him.

Do you think that what happened with your dad contributed to the life you turned to? Definitely. As the years went by I got in the streets. I didn't know how to sell dope or anything like, that because I didn't grow up like that. Instead I started jacking cars and dope houses. Even then I was a go-getter and knew how to get what I needed. It's funny because now instead of snatching pockets I am mugging minds through the truth I am sharing.

You have done some bad things, Mean, but what you did in the streets didn't make you a bad person. Realistically we know that some look at you and will say that no good could ever come from you. How would you respond to that? People who look like me can have intelligence. Those of us that were in the streets and come from the streets are a different breed, but that doesn't mean we can't have what others do. Some will automatically judge me and others who look like me. That kind of prejudice is hurting alot of people, and it's all over the place---even in the church. Those in the church can be guilty of blocking some people's way to God and happiness, and that's wrong.

You seemed to escape paying for the wrong-doing for a while. What happened to change that? My lifestyle of crime started to catch up with me before my 18th birthday. I was 17 when I was locked up the first time. I made a deal with someone in the streets to get bailed out. He wanted to help me elevate my game, but I wasn't stupid. I knew he would be benefiting from my hustle, too. This would not be my only run-in with the law. I was acting foolish. At that point I started to think I was my own God in that I was the one that was going to make things happen in my life.

Just 8 days after my 22nd birthday I was involved in a situation that forever changed my life. I had made plans with a partner of mine to busy some weed from these individuals and then come back and jack them for the money. Things got out of hand. One of the people in the dope house called the police, and before I knew it the incident escalated into a situation where I was jumping a police officer, was accidentally shot and eventually sentenced to 15 years. I went from believing that I was the author and finisher of my life to realizing that when God has something for you to do that it is going to happen. I know that God is keeping me here for a reason.

Would you say this time your time in jail made a real difference in your life? In many ways. While I was locked up my good friend and business partner was killed. We had been like brothers since I was four years old. Looking back at it I know that if I hadn't been locked up that I would have been there with him and shared in his fate. It's for that reason that I keep his name alive in everything that I do. As long as I'm here, he's not going anywhere. Another ironic thing that happened to me while locked up was that the person who called the police during the incident ended up being my cellmate for a whle. We had a chance to talk things out and even became friends.

Mean Mug, music was such an important part of your life, but how did books come into the picture? A few years into my sentence, around the age of 25 or so, I started getting books sent to me from my people on the outside. I was reading books like True To The Game by Teri Woods, The Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Soula, Grown & Gansta by Jacki-O and Death Around The Corner by C-Murder. I didn't have music, but I saw these books as a sign as to what could be the next best thing. I started writing, with Tattoo Tears being the first work that I have published with much more already written to follow-up later. My voice as a rapper was silenced in jail, but I refused to be quiet. My words on the page became my new voice.

Obviously you were released from prison early. What is your priority now that you have another chance? Yeah, I was released on November 14, 2008 after 6 years locked up on this last case. I'm a new man now, and I have a new beginning with my career as a writer, motivational speaker and more. This is just beginning.

Tell us about your debut novel. Tattoo Tears is about an individual trying to find his purpose in life. Though they go through different trials and tribulations, at the end of the day they realize that all they have to do is get a personal relationship with God and open up their hearts and minds to what their purpose might be. The book is urban fiction, and at the end of the day I know those who open up their minds and read it will benefit from what I am saying.

More information can be found about Mr. Mean Mug by visiting or follow me on Twitter at

(NOTE: For interviews, appearances or speaking engagements, contact Cyrus A. Webb at or 601.896.5616.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Anthony Pedriana

For those who ever felt as though their one voice couldn't make a difference in the world, they need only look at the example of Anthony Pedriana to see differently. The Wisconsin native has been aware of the power that one person can have for decades, and he has used his life to not only educate but make sure that others know of their responsibility to do the same. His book LEAVING JOHNNY BEHIND (Overcoming Barriers to Literacy and Reclaiming At-Risk Readers) is just the kind of manual we need for those who want to know where they breakdown has taken place in our school system and what we can do to turn things around.

In our amazing discussion with Pedriana he talks about when he realized his own power when it came to sounding the alarm about what was going wrong with education, why we have to work togeter but have individual responsibility when it comes to our youth, and what you can do right now to make a difference.

Tony, first of all, congratulations on your book LEAVING JOHNNY BEHIND. It is a powerful tool for us to use in understanding where we are in the fight against illiteracy and how we can make progress moving forward. Before we talk about the book, though, I want to talk about your own passion for education. When did you realize that you had an interest in helping others succeed?
I guess I began to feel that passion when I was an undergrad student in the 60's, a time of war and social upheaval. It was the decade of Woodstock and the Vietnam War. But it was also the time during which we passed the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts. It was amazing to me that a country supposedly founded on democratic principles had to pass laws guaranteeing equal rights to everybody. We had essentially lived a lie for nearly 200 years. If I was going to do my part to address those social inequalities, what better place to start than in an urban environment where I could help others get the education that would give them the best chance to participate in the American dream.

Has reading always been a part of your life, and if so, is it something that your family enjoyed as well?
I was born to lower middle class parents, neither of whom had a high school diploma. They were avid newspaper readers but we didn't have many books around the house. But that all changed when I was around ten and began asking for them. My younger brothers followed in that same tradition. That is one thing they never denied us.

As an educator, I know you saw up close and person the results of not having the proper tools needed to be one's best. What surprised you the most about your time in the classroom?
I spent my entire career in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the country. Pretty much every day brought one surprise or another, usually the result of poverty and all its associated ills. After awhile, they weren't really surprises anymore. Bad things happened to our kids all the time. Reading ability offered the best chance for them to escape this tragic cycle.

And so the real surprise came when I discovered a disconnect between what science had identified as the best methods to teach kids to read and the training I had received prior to and throughout most of my career. It took awhile, but I eventually discovered that Schools of Education didn't teach reading science. That was a real shocker. How could we do right by kids if there was nothing to verify the effectiveness of the methods we used.

ABC News released a poll earlier this year, Tony, that said that 16% of Americans ages 16 and up are not able to read and write well. Are you surprised that with all of our advancements as a nation that literacy is still something we are falling behind in?
We may have made a lot of advancements, but we are now a nation in decline. There are many causes for that, but the figure you just quoted points to a major contributor. It's not just illiteracy any more; it's also low literacy that has led to school failure for so many and thereby compromised our status as a world power. So I guess it doesn't surprise me much at all, especially given my answer to the previous question. Most have heard the expression, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." Why would we continue to do things that failed so many? It's like subjecting kids' literacy futures to the vagaries of a crapshoot.

The book LEAVING JOHNNY BEHIND is in some ways a stinging indictment of not only government programs and their failure to help at-risk students but also of us as individuals. What can we do starting today to turn the page in the right direction?
We need to do all of the things that have been espoused for so long such as making sure we are involved in our children's education, immersing them in good literature and teaching them to value and respect education both for its own sake, and as a gateway to gainful employment and a well adjusted and productive life.

But there is something else we can do as well. We can start framing the issue in the context of civil rights. The Constitution guarantees all of us the right to a free and appropriate public education. But what is appropriate about an education that ignores the product of legitimate science. Individuals need to become aware of this flagrant omission and begin demanding that schools proceed based not on what looks good, or what makes adults feel good when they see it, but instead on what stands to bring about the best results. Perhaps reading programs should come with warning labels: Attention: There is no clinical evidence to suggest that use of this program will give your child adequate literacy ability.

Have you been surprised at how many who have also been in education have come out in support of the book?
Many have expressed support and agreement with what I wrote in Leaving Johnny Behind, and yes, it does surprise me a little given that I am a first time author. A literacy advocacy group in Washington contacted me to tell me how the book expresses everything they have been trying to communicate for years. Members have worked aggressively to promote Johnny and to find opportunities for me to tell the story behind it, much as you are doing right now. But support is not unanimous. There are some who hold firm to old beliefs and choose to ignore five decades of empirical data, despite the fact that it accommodates multiple perspectives. There is no accounting for that, at least not in my mind.

What is your overall goal now as some one sounding the alarm about the importance of reading?
My goal is to bring about unity of purpose among all reading practitioners so as to better meet the needs of all children, especially those who are most at risk of reading failure. The book is just a first step in that regard. The next is to tell my story to anyone who will read or listen. I might be lunging at windmills, but I feel compelled to try.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had accomplished in the classroom that you weren't able to do?
Yes, as I pointed out earlier, I wished that I had managed to attain a much higher success rate with my students, both as a teacher and a principal. I should have known about an alternative knowledge base that spoke to early literacy training in clear, concise and resonant terms. But I didn't. In one sense, I am outraged at those whose role it was to bring it to my attention. But I am also disappointed with myself that I wasn't smart enough to find it on my own. It wasn't until after my retirement that I finally had the chance to look more deeply into the matter. While it's a little late for me to put this information into practice, I can try my best to communicate it to those who walk into schools every day.

What's next for you? Is there another book in the works?
There will probably be another book, but I won't begin writing it for another year or two. In all likelihood, it will be a follow-up to Johnny. In it I am hoping to showcase schools and districts that turned things around because they were willing to cast aside their biases and opt in favor of practices with a proven track record of success. That, in my mind, is the ultimate expression of Children First.

Thank you for giving us such a useful tool as well as useful information. Where can I readers find out more about you online?
I invite your readers to visit my website,, and to contribute to the author's blog. I know that there are many others out there with stories to tell, and I am sure I can learn as much or more from them as they can from me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Jason Kays

Ever think that your life is stranger than any fiction novel you could ever read or write? If so, then you know what it feels like to be author Jason Kays. In his book VIRTUAL VICE he gives us a snapshot into experiences that none of us should have to experience in our profession, but he also let's us see what it takes to overcome any adverse situation we might face. For aspiring writers he also tells what it takes to make it in the business and how readers can always tell when an author is giving them their all.

Here is our conversation:

Hello, Jason, and thanks for talking with us. Before we get into the book VIRTUAL VICE, tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an intellectual property attorney. I work in the Information Technology sector, primarily with software developers, performing trademark and copyright review, licensing agreements and related transactional matters. Essentially, the objective is to protect the original work product of an engineer from theft by a third party. The same body of law protects an author's writing from plagiarism. Prior to that I worked in the field of entertainment law doing IP work, contract review and putting together deals. I have been around computers and technology since my childhood in the 1970's, and have always had a passion for the cutting edge of IT. That enthusiasm is reflected in my writing and will be a focal point in my next book, Mainstream. Regardless of topic or genre, I believe that in order to maintain relevance, it's essential for writers to stay current with social and technology trends. If one doesn't, the exercise becomes one of narcissism and not one of art or utility.

If I had met you some five years ago, would I have expected then that you were interested in writing a book?
Yes, because I would have muttered under my breath from time to time, "If I survive this, I'll write a book about it." My eight plus years as an entertainment law attorney exposed me to an unscrupulous collection of "suits": egocentric entrepreneurs, amoral angel investors, and elements of organized crime. When I switched market sectors from show business to IT, it was with the intent to leave that chaos and sliding ethic behind. As you can see from the machinations of the book's protagonist, a Colombian drug kingpin turned IT CEO, that was not to be the case. As fantastical as certain episodes in Virtual Vice appear, they pale in comparison to the reality. 85% of the book is factual. The portion of the book documenting the build out of a hybrid brothel/church is the fictional component. Even that bit of gonzo literary styling proved more fact than fiction: the book's protagonist recently partnered with a Santa Monica real estate developer to establish a new age, religious themed Hawaii resort as a church in order to dodge taxes. No doubt the brothel is soon to follow. Pastor Petey has a real world counterpart, as well.

What about reading? Have you always enjoyed it, or is it something you came to later in life?
Reading has been a passion throughout my life. The first memorable book I read as a child was Bram Stoker's Dracula. I was six or seven years of age, so wasn't attuned to the book's nuance as metaphor for the Victorian era's repressed sexuality and hypocrisy, but it was the first book that I found completely immersive. To this day I think Stoker is one of the best at conveying atmosphere, both environmental and that of social dynamic. His rendition of the human psyche under siege is nothing short of sublime.

The book VIRTUAL VICE is based on actual events. What led you to write it, and tell our readers a little about it.
The book was inspired by my representation of a most unpleasant client during an eighteen month period, Gregg Scott Luce. The client, a former drug trafficker, allegedly laundered drug money through the IT startup, Millennium III Corporation (MIII), after the DEA shut down his previous venture.

MIII was a Seattle based broadband content provider, streaming audio and video from live rock concerts to subscribers over the Internet. Although business was thriving, its CEO soon fell back on old habits, structuring MIII as a Ponzi scheme. Aggravating the problem, Luce embezzled money.

Seven years after the founding of MIII, I was retained as counsel to review intellectual property issues August of 2001. Approximately twelve months into my work, original note holders began contacting me, expressing concern that they had received no annual statements from MIII -- for that matter, no communication at all from the board of directors or corporate officers for several years. More troubling, to a man, every investor had demanded buyback upon maturation of their convertible note loan agreements in 1997. Luce refused to honor the promissory notes. The paper trail showed Luce used money from the non-accredited investor pool to line his own pockets, and money from new investors to pay contracted employees that held stock options; thereby, perpetuating the ruse. A textbook definition of the classic Ponzi scheme: using money from new investors to pay dividends to original investors.

I approached the CEO with my concerns. He was non-responsive, as was the board. In addition to confronting shareholders with Luce's malfeasance, I reported his actions to attorney general offices in two states. Formal investigations into Millennium III and its CEO commenced.

Luce fled Washington State and setup shop in Arizona. He laid the groundwork for a second Ponzi scheme, this time focusing on holistic cures, naturopathy and controversial quasi-medical procedures. Con men will often select a market where product and performance are difficult to quantify and grade. The New Age racket lent itself perfectly to this model. After his last remaining anchor investor pulled funding in 2007, Luce relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He had now reinvented himself as a sort of schizoid renaissance man: part shaman, fitness guru and self-proclaimed "Internet genius". As surety in case his genius fell short of the mark, Luce misappropriated the intellectual property of a group of Santa Fe and German technologists to defraud a Los Angeles music industry venture capitalist out of $500,000. He was ultimately found out and relocated to Huntington Beach.

Were you in any way worried about what the response would be from those who knew you?
No. Friends and family were aware of all that is chronicled in the book -- any event of any consequence. I was very circumspect in disclosing details that related specifically to loved ones. Since the book is partially autobiographical, I clearly took some hits. I think readers know if an author is being disingenuous and has attempted a revisionist history. The writer must be candid about what he sees in the mirror before he can be candid about what he sees out the window.

At the end of the day, what do you hope that readers get from VIRTUAL VICE?
How easily the fine line between "legitimate" enterprise and criminal enterprise can be blurred. Legitimate business can be more toxic than underworld activity because it operates unchecked. There is a presumption of innocence. A veil of propriety. Protagonist Scott White arguably inflicts more damage upon society through his boardroom duplicity than he does through past drug deals. Pastor Peter Huckalby yields a higher body count as evangelical preacher using fear and emotional manipulation to extort tithings from his cybergation than Clarice Westwater does as brothel madam. The Benny Hinn's and Joyce Meyer's who preach the "prosperity gospel" in order to line their own pockets pose a far greater threat to the nation's social fabric than does a literal pimp.

Jason, a lot of people may read your book and see it as pages from a journal that someone would keep. Would you agree it was that personal, and was it easy to be that open with the world?
The book, while stylized reality, is autobiographical. Metropoleis III attorney and antagonist, Ian McKenzie, represents my personal misadventures during the period chronicled. A self-portrait with so little artifice as buffer leaves one vulnerable to an extent. It's all a matter of how comfortable and accepting one is of that state of vulnerability. I made errors in judgment along the way, the gravest of which was agreeing to representation of Metropoleis III as a client. The flip side is that I exercised honorable intent, judgment and action in how I went about shutting down White and extricating myself from the dilemma. To the best of my ability, I attempted to do the right thing, including blowing the whistle on a Ponzi scheme that bled investors of millions. In the past, I would trouble myself over appearances and perception, but that is a folly of youth I've long since retired. The most trying aspect of writing about the experience wasn't exposure or accepting my missteps, but retracing and reliving those missteps. In the end, it was a very cathartic and meditative stroll.

Writing a book is one thing. It is totally different to get it published and promoted. What has been the hardest step for you so far?
Mastery of SEO techniques. There are countless self-proclaimed SEO gurus out there that are nothing more than affiliate scam marketers (MLM). Hucksters far outnumber genuine experts. It takes a good deal of time to find legitimate SEO references, tools and consultants. Michael Santoro's Authorpreneur program is a good place to start. I understand that mid-September he will be launching a new SEO program for authors. All a Twitter (Tee Morris. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2009) is a great Twitter resource hot off the press by an author and experienced podcaster. The New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Merman Scott. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007, 2009) provides a comprehensive overview of new trends in Net-centric marketing.

You have done what many aspire to do, Jason, and that is get a book published. What advice would you give to aspiring writers about the process?
Writing process: Write what you must; not what you think you should or is expected. Don't seek input by family and friends along the way. That will either inflate or emaciate your ego and neither is healthy. Finish the book then hire the best editor you can afford, heed her advice and let the self-flagellation begin. If you are a first time novelist, forget about finding a literary agent. Short of nepotism, it's highly unlikely you will land one, regardless of the merit of your book or skill as an author. I would highly encourage looking into print on demand publishing, as that minimizes your overhead; namely, you do not have to warehouse books. POD also allows you much greater control over marketing and product placement. The bricks and mortar sales model is an antiquated and highly inefficient business paradigm. It's also rigged in favor of the conglomerate publishers. Books that are unsold must be bought back by the distributor (that would be you). With books now the number one commodity sold on the Internet, marketing and sales are moving online.

Publication and marketing: Plan on spending as much on marketing the book as you did getting the book to market. In today's world with the inundation of information and entertainment in all its forms, for any author to attract and hold an audience is exceedingly difficult. I suggest both new and established authors embrace technology in exploring alternate and inventive ways to connect with their readers. Become fluent in SEO techniques. Exploit social media networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Entire books have been written about marketing on each of these platforms. Offer a sample chapter or two via audiobook format or downloadable Adobe Acrobat file. Use the Internet to brand your name and your new title by setting up a book dedicated website and Wordpress blog.

Thanks again for answering our questions. How can our readers get in touch with you and find out more about you online?
Readers can reach me at the book's website: I have additional writings under the musings section of the website and on my blog: Readers can purchase Virtual Vice directly from Amazon at the following URL:

Friday, September 4, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author S. Dodson

Thinking about stepping out on your significant other? One read of the new book by author S. Dodson will give you something to think about before making what could be a costly mistake. The native of Arkansas has woven together a tale of love, lust and downright payback in CHEATING ON MY MISTRESS. What was inspired by a dream has come to life in a run read that book lovers will be easily drawn to. S. Dodson talked to Cyrus A. Webb of Conversations about the idea of the book, promoting it and what advice she has for aspiring writers.

Thanks for taking out a few minutes to talk with us. First of all, how does it feel to see your novel actually in print?
It feels great. I have a strong passion for writing. I enjoy the opportunity to share my works with the world.

What surprised you the most about the journey from having the idea, writing the story and the process to seeing it published?
I think I was must surprised with the time it takes to find a good book editor. Everything else flowed smoothly from beginning to end because I did some research about the book industry beforehand.

Have you gotten used to the promotional aspect yet?
Yes and No. Promoting your work is a job within itself. You have to stay on top of it or else your work will get lost in the pack.

Take us into the book CHEATING ON MY MISTRESS. It is a provacative title and an incredible read. Where did the idea come from?
The idea for Cheating On My Mistress came to me in a dream. The story is centered on the life of a retired NBA player named Carmelo Miller. He has the money, cars, wife and the home. He seems to have it all together, but doesn’t have the courage to talk to his wife about their sex life. Instead, he steps outside of his marriage to fill this void. This results in him meeting and starting a relationship with two other women: Augustine and Monique.

It seems like something that is ripped from the headlines with all of the scandals that have erupted among celebrities today. What has been the response from your readers?
Most of my readers love the book. It has recently been compared to the lots of the cheating and revenge cases in the news such as the Steve McNair situation.

As someone who reads a book not only for enjoyment but consideration for our book club, there are definitely several discussion pieces in your work. Did you write it with a particular message you wanted to get across?
Yes, I wanted everyone to know that forgiveness is power and what is done in the dark will always come to light.

Is there one character in particular that surprised you as to how they developed?
Yes, I would have to say Monique. She was freaky and uncensored. But she was ambitious. She set goals and mapped out a way to reach them.

An obvious question would be is will there be a sequel to CHEATING? Yes, the sequel will be ready in sometime in 2010.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who might look at you now as an example of what they can accomplish?
My advice would be to follow your dreams and have thick skin. Sometimes in life you only get one shot at it.

Thank you for talking with us. Let our readers know where they can find you online.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Justin C. Hart

When it comes to talking about author Justin Hart it is difficult to do so without mentioning the passion he has for life and his debut novel. A native of Newport News, Virginia, Hart talks with Conversations about the role of faith in his life, what led him to write the book, the response of those who know him best and why he feels though life is hard that loving can be even harder. This is our conversation.

Justin, first of all congratulations on the release of your debut novel LIQUID SUNSHINE. Before we get into the book, tell our readers a little about who you are?I am a humble and fun loving young man from Hampton Roads, Virginia who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I diligently serve my church and community as a leader. I promote abstinence to singles of all ages, and I’m devoted to helping others find direction, purpose, and identity. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, and participating in athletics. In addition to all that… I’m a writer and I love it.

When you were growing up did you see yourself being a writer? When did you first realize it was something you were interested in?
Being a young kid I didn’t think twice about pursuing a career in writing, because Architecture became a love for me in the 6th grade, but I used to always write my thoughts down; I remember that. Throughout high school and college I continued my passion towards getting a degree in the field of Architecture, still I was extremely consistent with journaling, poetry, and writing rhymes. Within my lifetime of 20 something years, I have written 3 short stories, I have pages and pages of poetry, and now I have published my debut inspirational fiction novel. I guess writing to me has always been an outlet of expression that somehow evolved into a dream. The love for writing has had a piece of my heart from when I was a youth and it hasn’t left me. It’s honestly a dream come true to hold my novel in my hand and hear the pages turn. It’s an amazing feeling to hear a dream come true.

Now that your first book has been released, was it a surprised to those who grew up around you that you are now a published author?
Funny you ask, Cyrus. I recently had a campaign party for my debut novel Liquid Sunshine in my hometown of Newport News, Va. and my family and friends received me with open arms. It felt so good being on stage, speaking about my book, and looking into the eyes of the same knucklehead guys and girls I used to go to grade school with. I wouldn’t say they are surprised because I’ve been talking about this book for the last four years that it took me to finish it, but I will say that they are extremely proud of their hometown friend. Extremely proud.

Go ahead and tell our readers a little about the book Liquid Sunshine.
Liquid Sunshine is a weather-shifting story about love, life, and finding the will of God. Narrated in hindsight and filled with wisdom, this story is truly an emotional roller coaster. With all the issues that love and life can bring, it is good to know that there is a purpose and a reason for them all. Jayden Rockaway, a charming senior in college, learns this the hard way when an unwanted third party stands in between him and his unstable Hispanic girlfriend, Lydea Mireina. After falling in love with his gorgeous companion, Jayden begins to regret his relationship more than appreciate it. Balancing school, his job, and his relationship with the Lord, his rain-filled season would ultimately turn out to be the sunshine that would grow him into the mature man that God had intended.

This love story examines the souls of three young adults, and reveals the hidden desires of direction, purpose, and identity. It captures the importance of forgiveness and redemption, proving how God can cause everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

I want to get into some of the themes in the book, Justin. One of the most important ones seem to be the issue of faith. How has your faith guided you in the direction you are now in?
Plain and simple, without my faith I would be lost in the world, still searching for direction, purpose, and identity. The moral behind Liquid Sunshine is finding the will of God, and what God revealed to me in the story line, which he has also confirmed in his Word is that “obedience” is what he wants… This is his will. But obedience has 3 separate dynamics; spiritual, physical, and emotional. Because I am so confident on what he wants from me, I recognize when I am off course. Jesus directs my steps daily, and I thank him for it.

In Liquid Sunshine you also talk about the temptations that befall all of us. Our young people are particularly at risk. What do you hope they get from your book?
This is the question I’ve been waiting for; this question right here. I hope the youth and young adult readers will receive a renewed perspective on love, life, and finding the will of God. Life is hard; and love can be even harder. But there comes a time when you want to learn from what someone else has been through, because you are tired of making dumb mistakes and learning from your own bad decisions. A young man doesn’t have to go to jail to know that he shouldn’t steal, he can learn from his brother’s experience. A young lady doesn’t have to have sex to know that STD’s and becoming pregnant are consequences, she can learn from her best friend’s experience. I am all about passing on wisdom and sharing what I’ve learned. I may be young at heart, but there is an old man living inside of me that is filled with insight. As young adults read Liquid Sunshine, my hope is that they will take an inward look at themselves and be motivated to change for the better.

As a first-time author I'm sure you are asked all the time which of the characters best represents you or do you relate the most to. How do you answer that question?
I would say I can relate to all of the main characters. They are all fictionalized and have been wired by many emotions that I used to struggle with. Jayden Rockaway, whom I speak through in first person, is the more spiritual and well rounded character. He is the protagonist that is given a command from the Lord, yet battles with himself to fulfill it. Lydea Mireina is Jayden’s girlfriend who is attractive, intelligent, yet very unstable. Her life is filled with the most rain amongst the main characters; however she makes a few good decisions towards the end of the book that place her feet right where God had intended. Jason Steele, the antagonist, is Lydea’s male best friend. He stirs up the story with conflict and causes constant tension within the romance of Jayden and Lydea. I love these characters. Sometimes they even keep me turning the pages, and I’m the one who wrote the book!

Was there anything that surprised you about the way the story unfolded?
Due to Liquid Sunshine being based on a true story, I would have to say yes. The “painting” or the epiphany that is given at the end of the book is worth more than silver and gold. Just knowing that God knew how the relationship would end from the very beginning, blows me away. God has a plan for all of us, to give us a future and a hope. He wants us to realize that all things do work together for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. But due to our free will, in real life, our stories don’t always end up for our good…It’s only when we tap into his will, that we realize God is right there painting our picture.

Now that you have a book out, are you surprised at how much work actually goes into promoting it for people to know it's out there?
Heck Yes! If it weren’t for me being unemployed and out of my career I don’t what I would do… Promoting this book is a full time job. I need more than 24 hours. I feel like I could never spend enough time pushing my book. It’s endless. I need a street team; plain and simple. Thank you for being my street team Cyrus. I mean it… I would never want to do this thing alone. Never.

Thank you for your time, Justin. How can our readers find out more about you and the book online?
Currently my main website is where you can listen to a little bit of the soundtrack for my book and read excerpts and write in my guestbook. Also I am on Facebook as Liquid Sunshine Novel, Myspace as Justin Hart, and Twitter as Justinhart82. I will be pushing my video interviews and theatrical video trailers on Youtube and Facebook in the next month, so look out. I will be traveling to promote my book as the buzz continues to stir nationwide. If there are any questions, my readers can feel free to email me at or leave a message on my Facebook Liquid Sunshine Novel fan page. If my readers reach out to me, I will certainly reach out to them.