Monday, December 29, 2014

Dr. Shaunte’ McFarland, Author of Cinderella's Still Going to the Ball

shaunte' mcfarland, cinderella's still going to the ball, author of cinderella
Today we are interviewing the incredibly talented author Dr. Saunte' McFarland, author of Cinderella's Still Going to the Ball.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a southern girl from a small town in Arkansas called Pine Bluff. I have been an  educator/child advocate for the past six years. I currently live in Hawaii supporting my loving husband who is a  marine and raising our  beautiful son.

What inspired you to write a book about your experience with abuse?
Adrian Peterson inspired me to  write about my experience with abuse. A few months ago I was reading news article about him whipping his son with  a switch. I’m from the south so hearing about a child being whooped with a  switch did not surprise me.  But I saw those scars and became nauseated. I was overwhelmed with sorrow. As I continued to read the pictures of the 3-year old’s bruises and cuts were shown. He had about 40 lashes on his legs, arms, back and unpictured his scrotum. I was mortified. Peterson was sorry for what he did and stated that he was just doing what was done to him  as a kid. I had seen so many stories like this in the past. But this time I vowed to do something more: speak out about my own experiences, how they wrecked me, how they taught me what not to do and how I overcame.

What do you hope readers will take away from Cinderella’s Still Going to the Ball?
The power of forgiveness and awareness. I want readers to see that I am not a perfect person and I don’t claim to be. That I was the recipient of an amazing miracle. That dreams do come true.  That nothing is impossible with God.

Was there a specific incident that started you on your journey toward healing or was it something that was more gradual?

My healing was definitely gradual. I don’t think that I could have healed overnight or in one day. I wanted to, badly. But it was too much apart of me. Taking all of  my hurt away at once would have killed me. I  slowly had to   be unraveled and separated from the abuse that plagued most of my mind. It takes longer to untie a knot than to simply cut it.

Do you have any advice for someone who knows someone who has been abused but does not know what to do?
Expose them to stories of survival and recovery. This will encourage them and make them aware of services that are available to people who have suffered what they have.

Other than your book, are there any other resources you recommend for people who have been abused?
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is fantastic. They are based in the UK but have great website. You can call and speak with someone, leave an email and download several resources to help you along your journey to recovery.

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?
My next writing project is the companion to Cinderella’s Still Going to the Ball, the devotional. It will give step by step techniques and descriptions of ways to heal from the past.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
I would like for potential readers to know that it is a powerful short read that will propel them into new levels of strength, forgiveness and personal peace.

More Information
Dr. Shaunte' McFarland's Website
Buy Cinderella's Still Going to the Ball
More information about the author

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Interview with Ayn Bootham, Author of The Cleaning Agency

the cleaning agency, ayn bootham, romantic comedy, rom com, chick lit,books,holiday reads
Today we are interviewing Ayn Bootham, author of the romantic comedy / chick lit book The Cleaning Agency. 
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a single mother, a Gemini, a chick lit or romantic comedy writer, a terrible cook and a big dog lover. But cats are OK too. Books were a form of escape for me growing up. I think I wanted to write books to give something back to the world of reading. I don’t mind my book falling into the holiday reads category, actually I find that a compliment.

Is there an author that had a major influence on you while you were growing up?

I finished Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind in three days when I was 12 years old. I absolutely loved the drama and the characters. This still is one of my favorite books.

Describe the plot of your new book in a few sentences.

Eva Charles is an average housewife whose life is in a rut but she only realizes this once her husband skips the country with all their money. She makes some unusual decisions – with some very funny consequences. She starts a naked cleaning agency, commits a crime and has an affair. But she learns a lot about herself and in the end – about what she really needs to be happy.  

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

Women, mothers. Anyone who is looking for some fun weekend or holiday reads. Those fantasizing about moody handymen who are good with their hands…

What made you decide to write a quirky comedy/chick lit novel?

Life is too short for heavy, dull books with boring descriptions you have to skip through! I wanted to write a book that made people laugh and cheered them up, the sort of book women recommend to each other as holiday reads. A romantic comedy with a twist. Chick lit, but darker.

Eva Charles finds herself in a tight spot when her husband flees, yet she adapts to the situation and starts her naked cleaning agency. What drew you to write about a character who is so resilient and resourceful?

I like to think that deep down, we are all resilient and resourceful. We must also allow ourselves to fail sometimes, to fall down, so we can get up again and do something different. Eva’s life may have fallen apart but she has a lot of fun picking up the pieces.

Do you see yourself in Eva or is she a completely unique creation?

I think there are parts of me in her but she also does things I would never do. She is definitely more adventurous!

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?

Writing books is very hard work. Being a writer is not easy. Especially the chick lit/romantic comedy genre, which so many people think is superficial and escapist nonsense. But being funny is serious work. I have learned a lot about applying myself to my work, not giving up, editing and then editing some more.

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years?

Write more books! 

Is there any aspect of writing you don’t like?

Rewriting is a pain. Looking at work you did the previous day and realizing it is rubbish. That hurts. But you’ve gotta go there.

Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?

Definitely. There are times when you can’t get a chapter or section right and the more you try, the worse it gets. I usually give myself a break of a few days, try to think of something else. But then I force myself back to the computer to write anything, even just a sentence, to get the flow going again.

Do you write with a computer, typewriter, or pen and paper? Why do you use this tool?

I like the computer and seeing the sentences appear on the screen, like magic!

What do you have in mind for your next project?

Yup, it’s chick lit again! I’ve got quite a juicy idea for my next book, something that I think people will relate to as it will be around marriages and how to make them work.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?

There is some sex in The Cleaning Agency but it isn’t gratuitous and I think it fits into the story. It’s not about sex, so if people want to read about sex they will be disappointed. It’s not erotica as I define it. I would rather say it is a sexy holiday read or a sexy romantic comedy.

An excerpt from chapter 1 of The Cleaning Agency:
For nine years I was a typical suburban housewife, a car pool mom and dutiful wife, spending large parts of the day thinking about what to cook for dinner and where to plant my petunias. I was your basic law-abiding citizen who always got the books back to the library on time and who didn’t even break the speed limit when she was late for a doctor’s appointment. 
Then I got one phone call and everything changed. 
That was all it took. 
One phone call. 
It was the bank, informing me of unusual activity on our accounts. 
It sounded like a joke. I mean, it had to be a joke. What did unusual activity mean? I tried to think of what I had been buying lately, if I had gone overboard with any retail therapy. 
But the bank was not worried by a few big purchases. The bank was concerned about several extremely large withdrawals. I was on the line with an accounts manager or a client liaison person, something like that. I hadn’t really paid attention to anything she said on the phone until she told me that our money was gone. 
All of it. 
Then she had my attention. 
“But we have overdrafts,” I replied, slowly. 
“Well, yes,” she said, kindly. “But these have now also been exhausted.” 
I sat up and tried to process what she was saying.  
“How is that possible?”
More Information
Buy the book on Amazon
Check out the book on Goodreads

Interview with Marios Savva, Author of Dark of Night

dark of night, the man from the yard, marios savva, thriller, suspense, horror, novel
Today we are interviewing Marios Savva, author of the suspense/thriller novel Dark of Night, the first book in The Man From The Yard series.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Although I am a Greek Cpriot from the island of Cyprus, I was born and raised  in England. I am a psychologist. I am single. My greatest joy is spending time with my nephews and nieces.

Having written a few Psychology and Health books, what got you interested in writing a suspense thriller?
I used to have difficulty in sleeping so I placed my imagination in a mythical place and made up a story until I lulled myself to sleep! I have now accumulated quite a few fictional stories over the years! I have taken the decision to put my stories into print.

Who do you think would enjoy reading Dark of Night?
Everyone. I know this sounds like a cliche, but I believe this to be true for several reasons: One, the story is unique and captivating. Everyone loves a good story. Two, the warmth of the characters and the story of love that develops despite the tragedies, touches the heart and balances the continual suspense. It is a book that has everything, so that is why it has a broad appeal.

Who was your favorite character to write in Dark of Night?
Both Jake and Chief share a few aspects of my character and beliefs, so it's a tough choice. If I had to choose one,  I would say Chief, because his character and convictions are rare these days.

In Dark of Night, a Ouija board séance results in the arrival of an evil entity. Did you ever use a Ouija board growing up?
No. Never. And I never would. But I do know someone who did, and there were consequences for him.

The entity obviously plays a large role in the book, having killed Jane’s friends and pursued Jane. Without giving too much away, can you tell potential readers a little bit about what to expect from the entity?
It is a dark supernatural entity that pursues and torments the participants of the séance. It is relentless in its attempt to kill Jane. It follows Jane to Whitesands and causes untold tragedies there. It is evil and a creature of darkness.

How many books do you have planned for the Man from the Yard series?

Do you think your background as a psychologist plays a role in how you write fiction?
Yes. My insight into peoples' psyche is transmitted into the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Is there anything else you’d like potential readers to know about your novel?
I believe readers will find the the story enthralling. They will endear themselves to the noblity of the characters and go through a rollercoaster of emotions – like the characters.

An excerpt from Dark of Night:
‘Brother ...’ Chief started saying, ‘She's right ... we're in danger ...’
Jake saw that Chief looked serious. Chief was always serious. He rarely showed his emotions. Jake often teased him about his expressionless demeanour by saying; ‘He shows about as much emotion as a brick wall.’ But although Chief was a sombre, contemplative sort of person, his 'seriousness' had subtle degrees of intensity; when it was a ‘10’ (Jake had his personal point scale for Chief's 'seriousness' between 0 and 10), then Jake always became worried. ‘Bobby, talk to me brother,’ Jake implored.
‘Jake ... my dear beloved brother ... one of us is going to die.’ The sheriff almost fell down in shock.
With his heart now racing, Jake said: ‘Brother, what's this you’re saying? Why are you saying such a thing? This isn't like you.’
Chief smiled a sad smile, nodding his head slowly, purposefully. He could see Jake, his brother-in-arms, his kindred spirit, looking confused – and worried. And Jake was worried, because he knew Bobby well enough to know that when Bobby gets ‘one of his feelings,’ he's always right. Always.
More Information
Buy the book on Amazon

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Interview with Almney King

a valley of anchor, almney king, author, poet, hope, optimism, human condition
Today we are interviewing Almney King, whose works include the poetry collection "The Valley of Anchor" and the upcoming sci-fi adventure novel "All Light Will Fall."

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m majoring in film at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for screenwriting. My hobbies include poetry, photography and acting. In the far future, I see myself becoming an editor. My life’s motto is “Live, Love and Leave a Legacy.” I have a family of five; mom, dad, two sisters and an older brother who now live in Orange California. I plan to attend film school at Chapman University or USC. I look forward to a career as a screenwriter and eventually a screen director.

Your book, “The Valley of Anchor,” has this theme of hope and optimism. What inspired you to write about this theme? 

almney king, female poet, female author, poetry, poet, writer, director
Poet/author Almney King.
There are a lot of societal and global issues in this world, and the themes featured in “The Valley of Anchor” is my way to fight against those issues. Writing is not only an art to me, it’s a sword, and a guide, and a form of meditation. The world needs hope, passion, and wisdom,
specially in these violent and trial filled times.

How do you hope readers will be impacted by reading your writing?
I hope that in some way I can challenge my readers to think farther, travel deeper, and express themselves in bold new ways. Writing is a spiritual language, and it’s my deepest hope that my readers use that language to connect with each other in a way that is intimate and honest. I hope readers will break out of themselves; break from society, small mindedness, and the day-­to-day push and pull of life and leave their own special mark.

When did you first get interested in poetry?
When I was young, I became intrigued with the idea that everyone has a story. Everyone has battles and battle scars, and I discovered that poetry was the perfect means to connect and sympathize with others and become a stronger, more compassionate individual. You’re an avid writer, from writing prose to poetry to science fiction.

What do you like most about writing? Do you get something different from each type of writing you do? 
What I like most about writing is the freedom to create. Writing is an art to me. It’s alive and the words I use to write poetry and tell stories have little heart beats. It’s so intriguing for me to have the ability to create worlds and characters that can impact readers in the real world. Both poetry and prose grant me the same kind of freedom. I get a different feel of emotion when I write poetry and prose, but with both works of writing I get the same creative high and sense of accomplishment.

What poets have influenced your writing?
I can’t say that I’m influenced by other poets. There are certain poems that have motivated
me to explore new styles of poetry, but I’m more influenced by life experiences and the human condition.

You’re also active with open mic events. What’s it like to share your work with an audience?
Sharing my work with an audience is the greatest reward as an author. I get connect with people in a deep and intimate way, in a way I rarely get to experience with other people. There’s a sort of energy buzz that I get from the audience. I can feel them, every emotion of every person in the room, and in that moment I’m immediately reminded—we are all connected in more ways than we could ever imagine.

What is the next project you have planned?
I’m currently working on the sequel for my sci­fi adventure novel. I’m also in the process of compiling new poems for my second book of poetry.

More Information
Visit Almney King's website 
Buy the Valley of Anchor
Connect with Almney King on Twitter 

Interview with Ken Williams, Author of Fractured Angel

fractured angel, ken williams, poverty, homelessness, homeless teen, urban, veteran, drugs
Today we are interviewing Ken Williams, author of the urban poverty novel Fractured Angel.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
After working as a social worker for the homeless in Santa Barbara, California I have decided to move on and write full time.  While working the streets of this beachside community I worked primarily with the long-term disabled.  And within this group my specialty was the mentally ill homeless.  But I also worked with the physically disabled, those impacted by alcohol and drugs and those who ended up on the streets due to the human condition.  Obviously this included a lot of veterans.  Perhaps most disheartening were the homeless children and women.  Women had to not only deal with the issues that men had to but also with the widespread violence against them on the streets.  It was like they carried a sign that told the world of their vulnerability once the security of housing was ripped away from them.

I have lost count how many of my clients’ lives ended violently and/or tragically short.  A memorial wall that a friend of mine commissioned to honor the homeless who have died in Santa Barbara has the names of over three hundred people!  These names came from my journals that I kept that document my work.  The youngest name on the wall belongs to a four-month old baby.  Can you imagine a baby dying on the streets in one of the wealthiest city’s in the world?  Few people witness such carnage during their careers.

In your new novel, Fractured Angel, you write about a struggling teenager and the people trying to save her. What made you decide to specifically write about a teenager on the streets?
Again, homeless women and homeless children were the most heart wrenching to deal with.  Adding mental illness on top of homelessness and their particular vulnerability you have a Kafkaesque landscape of pain.  So many times I would find a young homeless woman, a child really driven to the streets because of her first psychotic break.  Not only are they trying to deal with the alien world of the homeless but with the unknowns of a wounded mind.

I remember this one time this successful businessman came to see me.  He was dressed in an expensive business suit minus the tie which he had ditched seeing the foreign environment that he was forced to enter in the search for his daughter.  He had come to Santa Barbara looking for her.  She had sent him a postcard from there, scribbling some nonsense on it.  The cops and homeless shelters told him if anyone could find his daughter it was I.  He gave me a picture of her.  It was torn in half to exclude other family members.  It was the last time the family had been together.  I remember standing in the hallway when he gave me the picture and his business card, (a Silicon Valley tech firm) and thinking how totally different we were from each other.  Me from the public sector whose job took me daily to the streets and him a highflying businessman in the promising new field of technology.  Yet one thing did we have in common: The love of our children.  And the heartbreak that I saw in this man still haunts me to this day.

Fractured Angel is a very personal novel for me.  I can still see the faces of so many mentally ill homeless women who were beaten, raped and killed.  And yet life went on in the city as if this was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to get too concerned about since they were neither famous nor rich.
ken williams, author, writer, fractured angel
Ken Williams, author of "Fractured Angel."

Describe your process of moving from an idea to a finished book.

I find the creative processes of the mind to be fascinating and somewhat mysterious.  As you can see I live with a lot of memories and I have my journals.   I begin to think of situations I have lived and how can I fictionalize them and bring them into the construct of a novel.  Free flow writing doesn’t cut it.  You must know the art and rules of writing a novel.  For me the first step of writing a novel is coming to know—to really know the creative core, the arch, or arches of the story one is trying to tell and the characters that populate it.  I find dialogue; realistic dialogue is the key to what gives characters their uniqueness, their strengths, flaws, demons and angels.

When I have an idea what it is I’m trying to tell I then will write pages of notes of scenes, characters and situations. I don’t use an outline.  Once you start writing I find that the characters take on a life of their own, act and react to situations in their unique way.  To try and stuff a story into an outline robs it of its natural flow.  When you write a novel you are crating an artificial universe, yet that universe is governed, as is our own by laws and forces.  Of course several rewrites follows.  There is a lot to remember in a novel and internal logic of the story must be strictly adhered to.

You have more than thirty years’ experience working with the homeless population. What got you interested in working with the homeless?
While recovering on a hospital ship during the Vietnam War I came across the novel: I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.  It dealt with a young girl suffering her first psychiatric break.  Realizing that I might just survive the war I promised myself that if I did so I would dedicate my life to work with the mentally ill and outcasts.  I think it was a way to try and come to some kind of moral terms with all the violence and pain one sees in war.  I know that if I had come home and not tried and work to make amends for the carnage of war I would have ended up in a very different and sorrier place than I am in now.

You served as a Marine in Vietnam. How has your experience as a veteran allowed you to help other veterans?
Homeless veterans don’t trust most people.  Trust was the cruelest casualty in Vietnam as I’m sure it is for Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans as well.  We came home bitterly disillusioned knowing that our trust in our government and its institutions had been used to propagate an unjust war.  We felt a huge sense of betrayal.  Also the country wanted to pretend the whole war never happened.  Veterans were a constant reminder of what they wanted to forget.  So most of us kept the war to ourselves.  Almost all of my college friends, and my work comrades as well never knew I served.  Again, it was something we kept to ourselves.  But then ironically, and suddenly all sorts of men who hadn’t served claimed to be combat vets.  It was the Rambo effect.  A macho, make believe for men who wished they had served in a fairy tale war.  It got so bad that when someone I was working with on the streets claimed to be a veteran I assumed he wasn’t.

But war veterans have a way of knowing each other.  The skepticism of the government and the war of the moment is one clue.  Other subtle signs distinguish a war veteran from those who have never heard a gun fired in anger.  The word quietly and quickly spread that I was a veteran and in time homeless veterans began to search me out and ask me for help securing benefits, placements in shelters, help with the V.A. etc.  You have to love the irony.  Within a handful of years our country went from shunning veterans, and veterans hiding their service to one where every wannabe He Man claiming to have served.  And of course all the wannabes claimed to have served in Special Forces, no grunts at all.

How does writing fit into your role as someone who helps the homeless?
In fact helping the homeless directly caused me to pick up the pen—or should I say keyboard.  First I began to write quick snippets in my journals.  I began to do that when, during the Crack and AIDS epidemics when I was losing so many clients, and so fast were they dying that I was beginning to forget them as individuals.  Then I began to write letters to the editors of the local newspapers about the treatment of the homeless and the hateful prejudices many of them were being subjected to.  The newspapers began to run my writings as features.  Then noozhawk.com put me on as a columnist for their online news service.  A screenwriter, having heard me give a speech about the homeless encouraged me to write screenplays.  From writing screenplays it was a logical jump to writing novels.  Looking back it seems like a straight line, cause and effect so readily apparent.  But I can assure you at each milestone it was anything but, the only constant being one of engagement:  The need to help my clients.  To do so I had to humanize their existence and their tribulations, to demystify the stereotypes that society had fenced them in with.

The same journey was traveled with my writings about war and its impact on veterans.  Agent Orange, PTSD, the forever war against terrorism with constantly changing sides, all these I also addressed in my writings from letters to the editors, guest columns, feature articles, screenplays and novels.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from 30+ years of working with the homeless?
Working with the homeless is a humbling experience.  Every time you think you know something the reality of the streets teaches you otherwise.  Every prejudice I had was challenged.  Every prejudice was revealed as ignorance on my part.

Also the homeless taught me true spirituality.  Not in the formal sense of organized religion but in the real sense of seeing a greater whole than merely oneself and how we are all interconnected.  I think part of the spirituality that I saw in the homeless comes from them being a survivor of an unjust system.  Most of the homeless that I knew lost their homes, thus their connection to mainstream society by forces outside of their control.  Then they had to endure the violence and the prejudicial hatred that the homeless are subjected to.  In many ways their quiet life with a spiritual grace in the face of an unjust fate was what I saw on the hospital ship, especially with the mutilated civilians who were horribly burned by napalm.

The universe is a vast and indifferent place.  The earth can often be an unjust and cruel home planet.  Yet some of the kindest and most caring people I have known are those without anything—even something as fundamental as a roof over their heads.  I stand humbled over what they have given me in knowledge and spiritual teachings.

Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

I’m currently working on two projects:  Seven Levels, Homelessness, A Combat Veteran, Mental Illness, A Love Story is my tenth novel.  It is a story of how an Afghanistan Marine Veteran finds redemption and healing from the war that haunts him in an abandoned warehouse used by the homeless in L.A.  I am also writing a screenplay for a singer and up and coming actor.  And I still have my column with noozhawk.com and the beginnings of yet another novel.  Life is short.  There is so much left to do…

An excerpt from Fractured Angel:
…Sitting in almost total darkness, trepidation drew aged lines across her face. Staring hard at the rat, she watched him pawing at the dirt. Was he about to charge her like a raging bull? She looked around hoping to see her companions; that is—the ones who existed independent of her mind. But, like so often recently, aloneness stared back. Cold hollowness froze her insides as if carved out by a scalpel. A hard shiver rolled over her. Fear registered in degrees. 
Tensing her muscles, she prepared for flight. Paused. She convinced herself that it was just an ungrounded fear. She pretended that the other wasn’t present. And, the rat was no threat. He hadn’t done anything to hurt her. He hadn’t even really threatened her. As was often the case, the frightening situation was made harmless once she was able to acknowledge fear and meet it head on.

She smiled. Maybe the rat could be a friend? She could use a friend. She stared. It was curious—no, lonely—like she! Tracy’s paranoia dissipated. The insight that this fellow creature shared sadness with her opened her heart. Looking about, she found a chunk of stale bread from last night’s dinner.
Slowly, she reached out her hand, holding the bread before the rat. An offering. The rat perked up with interest. With no fear, it quickly paced the few steps that separated him from breakfast. It sniffed the bread and began to nibble. A crooked smile came upon Tracy when his long whiskers tickled her hand. Suddenly the rat chomped down hard, yanking the bread free. She squealed with delight. Her eyes brightened honoring the courage of the rat. If only she had such inner strength!
This last wish washed sadness over Tracy, sweeping the brightness from her eyes. It also opened the doors within to the inner voices that ran her life more and more, making it hell. If it wasn’t for her new friends…

Tracy once again looped her arms through her legs and began rocking back and forth to the beat of a cadence heard only by her. Humming a gentle children’s lullaby, her soft voice filled the lonely void. Abruptly, she stopped. The sudden silence was first oppressive, and then terrifying. An ache swelled within her body and soul, rising like high tide before a storm. She shut her eyes. Tears broke from them. She swallowed the liquefied salt hard. A new insight: Fear also had a taste. She missed her mom. Maybe she would know what to do about the voices. 
Her lips pinched hard. Her mom wasn’t there. She was alone. Her only companion was a rat. It was possible that even her roommates only existed in her head. Maybe, the only reality was Him—the danger that lurked in the darkness. Her body locked up as she forced herself not to look about. Maybe he was simply waiting for the fire to die out before he jumped from the blackness to devour her. Tracy rocked harder and began humming again. She ratcheted up the volume—increased the intensity. No longer was it a lullaby. It was the only trick she had left. And it did help with the voices. The dying light flickered—its will to live fleeing. Her own—was not too far behind.
More Information
Visit the author's website 
Buy Fractured Angel on Amazon 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Interview with John D. Ottini, Author of A Reason To Kill: Collected Mystery Stories

a reason to kill, john d. ottini, mystery, thriller, suspense, money, love, revenge, murder
Today we are interviewing John D. Ottini, author of 'A Reason to Kill,' a collection of mystery stories.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is John D. Ottini, I was born in Northern Italy, raised and educated in Canada, and currently reside in Central Florida with my wife and mischievous kitty named Bella.

I have published three mystery novellas in e-book format, My Journey to Hell, A Fool and His Money and The Object of Your Desire. All are available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

My short story 'Slipper's Last Breath' was selected and published in the 2014 edition of the Holiday Tales Anthology by Firestone Publications (available from Amazon in paperback and e-book format).

Describe the plot of your new book in a few sentences.
This book consists of three mystery stories, 'My Journey to Hell,' 'A Fool and His Money' and 'The Object of Your Desire.'

I’ve always been fascinated by ordinary people behaving badly. Why do perfectly rational people who know the difference between right and wrong, still choose the wrong path? The lead characters in these stories are a prime example of what I’m talking about.  When faced with everyday problems such as a destructive marriage, personal addiction, unemployment, financial debt, lost love or a bad sexual liaison, the choices they make can change their lives for the better or drag them into a living nightmare. 

The stories are a fast paced combination of mystery and suspense. They highlight the frailty of the human mind when confronted with the choice between good judgment and bad behavior. 

Interesting characters, in everyday situations, presented with a dash of humor and a splash of ‘who done it’, make for one fun read.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery book which consists of many twists and turns and a gotcha ending will love this book. If you figure out ‘who done it’ before the end of the story, then I haven’t done my job.

What got you interested in writing mystery?

Growing up I’ve always loved reading mystery novels or watching a good mystery movie. I take pride in trying to figuring out the plot and I’m always impressed when the writer can keep me guessing until the very end of the novel.

Your new book, “A Reason to Kill,” is a collection of mystery short stories. What attracts you to the short story format?

Actually, the stories fall into the ‘novella’ format, because they are much longer than the traditional short story. I’m not necessarily attracted to the short story or novella format, but that’s just the way the stories have come to their nature conclusion. In other words, I don’t start out by thinking I’m going to write a novella, I just write a story and when I feel it has reach a satisfactory conclusion, then the story is complete. At that point, depending on the word length, it will be categorized as a novel, novella, novelette or short story. 

Your collection has a theme of ordinary people going down a negative path. What drew you to write about this theme?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been fascinated by ordinary people behaving badly. Why do perfectly rational people, who know the difference between right and wrong, still choose the wrong path? Why do people rob convenience stores fully exposed, stare into the camera and somehow expect not to be caught? I guess the main questions behind my stories are - What the hell was I thinking, when I did what I did? Why did I think I could get away with it?

Do you have a favorite short story in your collection?

My favorite story is ‘A Fool and His Money’ because anyone who has been in love can sympathize with the plight of the lead character Thomas O’Connor. We have all done crazy things for love, perhaps not as crazy as Thomas, but I think we understand where his heart is and why he would go to such lengths without seeing the error of his ways.

Having said all that, I’ve been told by a reliable source (my wife) that the ‘The Object of Your Desire’ is by far the best story in the book.    

Is there an author who had a major influence on you while you were growing up?

Not so much when I was growing up, but when I was older I loved reading anything by the late great detective/mystery novelist Robert B. Parker. He had a smooth almost effortless style of writing, where he could tell the whole story through fast paced and witty dialog. There were no wasted words in his novels and no segues into useless descriptive paragraphs which add nothing to the overall storyline. I try to emulate Mr. Parker’s style in my stories, whether I have been successful in doing so, I’ll leave for my readers to decide.

Who was your favorite character to write?

All my characters are very different, but if I had to choose, it would be Thomas O’Connor in ‘A Fool and His Money’, although the psychotic Joel Simon in “My Journey To Hell’ is a close second

What do you have in mind for your next project?

My next project is actually a book of short mystery stories (not novellas).  I’m only about half way through and I haven’t chosen a title yet, so it’s all a bit sketchy at this point.  For more information about me or my books please check out my Blog at John D. Ottini Novels

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
Yes, I want to clarify that each novellas in this paperback book was previously released as an individual e-book and is available in the Amazon Kindle Store. If you’ve already read my e-book novellas, then buy this book if you want a paperback copy of the stories.

Also, I want to thank anyone who has purchased and read one of my e-books and especially those who have taken the time to post reviews on Amazon. You have no idea how grateful I am to my readers and to you for this wonderful interview. Thank you

More Information
A Reason to Kill on Amazon
A Reason to Kill on CreateSpace
John D Ottini's Amazon Author Page
John D. Ottini's Author Blog

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview with Debora McLaughlin, Author of Running in High Heels, How to Lead with Influence, Impact & Ingenuity

debora mclaughlin, Women in Leadership, Women CEO, Business, Leadership
Today we are interviewing Debora McLaughlin, author of the business/leadership book Running in High Heels.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
A business leader who experienced leadership in the trenches of a male dominated high tech industry selling IT solutions to fortune 500 companies in NYC and Boston. Combining an expertise in business and psychology (an APA board certified psychotherapist) with executive coaching (company opened in 2003) to help leaders be more effective with people, performance and profitability.

Describe the purpose of Running in High Heels in a few sentences.
The leadership parody is shifting to one of inclusion, empathy and creativity, traits thought of as feminine (and learnable by men) and for the first time business research supports that women in leadership and having the most positive effect on the bottom line. The fact is, there’s never been a better time to be a woman in the business world.  There have never been more opportunities for smart, talented women who want to lead. And you don’t have to trade your Jimmy Choos for wingtips to do it.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

Any women who works in business or has her eyes set on leadership.

Compared to your last book, “The Renegade Leader,” your new book focuses on women leaders, from CEOs to designers. What inspired you to write a book focusing on successful women?

Both books talk about culture and influence. I felt women needed to hear a message, that they don’t need to change to succeed.  I feel Running in High Heels leads in where Lean in Leads off, it offers the practical strategies to lead in its L.E.A.D Forward formula but more importantly gives women the permission slip to be themselves. Women want to succeed but are asking the question “how”. By keeping the female in female leadership they can succeed by leveraging their female leadership advantage.

In Running in High Heels, you bring up the idea of ability of women to Leverage the Female Leadership Advantage.™ Tell us a bit about this concept.

We women, we’re collaborative.  We’re consensus-builders.  We’re great communicators.  What we might not realize is the fact that these qualities – qualities that are naturally present– gives us a unique advantage in the business world.

It’s all about using your natural powers of persuasion to align others to your vision, build collaboration through your sense of connection and relationship, and turn not only heads, but challenges into opportunities.

What was the most interesting thing you uncovered while doing research for the book?

I was saddened to hear that so many women at the top from CEO’s I’ interviewed or from the research done on others like Tory Burch (who I just saw speak in Boston) or Adrianna Huffington’s ideas were initially discarded or they felt they had to work really hard or not attend a child’s daytime school event because they felt they would be viewed as less powerful. If women are bringing in bottom line performance how can we help to balance the commands of work with the flexibility to live a full life too?

A lot of leadership books are just straight narration. You use a mixture of interviews, case studies, etc. What made you decide you to approach the material from this angle?

When my clients heard I was writing the book several wanted to give it “voice.” I also had not walked in a women’s CEO shoes although I’ve coached many of them, I wanted to offer insights from a coaching, leadership perspective as well as that of an up and coming 28year old leader to that of a seasoned CEO.

You have a unique background, with experience in neuroscience, PR, consulting, among other fields. How do you think this eclectic background has helped in your approach to leadership?

My business experience helps me to drive results, increase profits, reduce costs, meet organizations goals, how I do my work is through leading with heart, motivating and engaging people to their highest levels of performance and positivity so their brilliance can shine. The psychology and neuroscience skills help me to do that and to quickly uproot the beliefs, fears and inner critic that every human faces on the path to success.

What first got you interested in helping others with their leadership goals?

When I first opened my doors I was surprised about the amount of executives who came to me that were managers, regional directors and team leaders who were burnt out and wanted to leave their organization. My heart breaks to know the failure rate of big business, many of whom I used to work for ( digital) and to see when a dream closed behind the closed door of a small main street business. I realized that the only way I would have the biggest influence and impact in business was to empower leaders and to create sustainable growing businesses as a result.

Tell us about your Renegade Results program.

I love to work with companies and leaders who are innovative and have dreams of fast growth. My results programs focus on working with executive leaders to communicate their vision effectively so that they gain the buy in of their people and to create an engaged and positive work culture so the company meets its vision faster and with great results. My clients usually distinguish themselves in their market and as a result of a great work culture, leaders find time for themselves, to dance on the beaches of bali, to take a 4 week vacation and the company still is standing in their absence and to be with their families. I also like to give them the creative space they need for their next innovative idea!

How do you think reading Running in High Heels will impact people?

It is the first book of my several that I allowed myself to show my vulnerability, I hope that by reading it others will get in touch with their own as we are far better leaders when we are transparent and our teams understand our “story.”

-For those ready to ramp up their career, leadership or business results it will: Accelerate your career 
and project a seasoned, credible career presence.

-Gain visibility and recognition for your accomplishments.

-Build a reputation as a leader, expert, or go-to person.

-Navigate organizational politics with savvy.

-Create your sphere of influence.

-Leverage your network to gain access to hidden resources.

-Live your life on purpose with conscious conviction.

For those who are lingering in the shadows, waiting for a permission slip to show up fully in life, consider it written, it will encourage them to let their brilliance shine. I am putting resources on my website to support them and it is my plan to build a community of women who lead.

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?

A hot topic I’ve been discussing with leaders is the shifting demographics in business, the retirement of the baby boomers yielding the way to Gen Y and X. There is a much worry about the younger generation not having the collective intellect of the retirees and worry that boomers are not mentoring those below them. My take…perhaps its time to develop a new language that is not generational but is of shared values, a shared culture, shared vision and develop workplaces where creativity is allowed at all levels. Breathing life into organizations is what has made my clients achieve unprecedented results; it is what will be needed to be innovative and sustainable for the future.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?

It allowed me to go through my own transformation. I think I wrote it 3 times much to my editor’s dismay. The first version was light and comical filled with heel metaphors, the second had an academic voice adding in the “how to” practical strategies, the last one rounded it out by fearlessly expressing my own story of how I learned that in life only you can step forward and claim your space and sometimes that means stretching into the uncomfortable place of the unknown and sometimes that means leaving what you know behind in order to step forward. Writing Running in High Heels gave my true authentic voice its expression and allowed me to own my full self as a woman, a leader, a business owner and to embrace my own bunions and imperfections along the way.

More Information
Buy the book on Amazon
Bonus resources on Debora's website