Times Insider #BookClub: More on #College #Admissions Mania #MondayBlogs

Last Tuesday, the Times columnist Frank Bruni sat down for a live chat with an audience of Times Insiders, who dropped in with questions about Mr. Bruni’s latest book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.”

The turnout was higher than we’d anticipated, and we received many more questions than Mr. Bruni had time to answer. He’s addressed a handful below.


Is Low Cost College — Outside the U.S. — a Good Idea?

Do you think universities outside the U.S. with lower tuition rates, or, in some cases, tuition free, are a better choice? I am thinking mainly Canadian Universities and the U.K. and Europe. — Janice Badger Nelson 

Rebloged from Times Insider Book Club

Frank Bruni: It depends, of course, on the particular school, and I’m not nearly well-informed enough about colleges outside the United States to name the ones that represent the safest bets.

I hasten to add, though, that I don’t believe it’s easy, possible or sensible to divide the world into good schools and bad schools, because the education a student gets has every bit as much to do with the control he or she seizes over it, the experiences he or she demands, the thoroughness and cleverness with which he or she surveys the landscape of that school and figures out how to till it to the best of his or her advantage.

In fact, I’ve met graduates of supposedly “lesser” schools who, because they felt it incumbent on them to maximize that experience, got more out of their higher education than an elite-school student who felt that he or she could just coast through, absorbing the glory of it all by osmosis.

More specifically to your question: There can be a short-term risk to going to a foreign school that’s unfamiliar to some American employers, who aren’t accustomed to hiring from there, might not be entirely confident of its instruction and graduates, and might assume, wrongly, that the student was having a grand lark. But I think that’s offset by several advantages, and so I think considering schools outside the United States is a fine idea for students who have the maturity and confidence to travel that far from home.

For one thing, education is about expanding your parameters, broadening your frame of reference and challenging your previously held assumptions. Nothing does that as well as entering another country, another culture. Also, the world of business is more international and companies’ reaches are more global than ever before, so you might actually find that your familiarity with, and fluency in, another country could be a résumé plus. And if, in a given situation, going abroad saves money and prevents a college graduate from emerging with enormous debt, well, that’s a major consideration, too. To emerge from college with more rather than less debt is to have to make immediate career and job decisions that are dictated almost entirely by salary and the need to repay that debt. It can discourage the kind of long-term pacing and planning that may be the best way to sculpt a career.


Finding Under-the-Radar Schools and Blocking Out Noise: A Quick How-To Guide

Any suggestions on resources to good schools that may not have the name recognition? What are your suggestions on helping kids block out the noise? (Deactivating from social media beginning fall of senior year perhaps?) These days, my kids want to impose a moratorium on college discussion (I have a junior and a freshman, and they’re sick of all the college talk at school and home regarding who’s going where) — we’ve repeatedly told them college is just a place you spend four years of your life and it will not make or break you, they will end up where they’re meant to be, but somehow it is still a source of stress. Kids have it rough these days.
— Anne Blythe

Frank Bruni: Stippled throughout the paperback version of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” are anecdotes about schools — and sketches of schools — that might not come on your radar otherwise, and the paperback has a bibliography with books and websites that speak to your concern and might help.

Let me single out two of these. The first is familiar to many people, and it’s called “Colleges That Change Lives,” a website that evolved from a beloved book of the same title. The second is less familiar, though I wrote a column that described it. It’s a survey of honors programs and honors colleges at public universities throughout the country, and it too comes in book and website form.

As for blocking out the noise, you can’t control what happens at school or on social media. You can and should control what happens at home, and need to start monitoring that early on. Think about how often we adults, when trying to start a conversation with a teenager and find some quick and easy subject matter for that, ask: “What are you thinking about college?” or, worse, “Where are you thinking about going to college?” Every time we do that, we send a message that the selection of a college should be at the center of their thoughts at all times and that where they decide to go is going to define them. There’s an argument for a drumbeat of “college, college, college” in a disadvantaged community where kids need to hear that to realize that it’s a possibility for them and something to aim and strive for. But in many communities where that drumbeat is relentless, kids are bound for college anyway, and all that’s happening is that they’re being driven mad.


Missing From College Admissions: Logic and Integrity

Could this be considered consolation for the “losers” of the college application process? I was rejected, much to my chagrin, from all of the Ivy League schools, and I frequently wonder if I would buy into the notion that “schools do not define success” had I been one of the accepted students.
— Jeffrey Qiu

Frank Bruni: Explain to me how one is a “loser” if he or she didn’t get into a highly selective school that’s doing the following: reserving a certain number of spots for the children of its alumni; reserving another batch of spots for the children of celebrities and superrich people who will donate lavishly over time; using applicants to cast all of the various sports teams and orchestras and debating societies and such on campus; paying careful attention to the way the assembled class, with its test scores, will look on paper and influence meaningless rankings; making sure not to have too many kids from any one specific geographic area; paying attention to racial and ethnic diversity; giving certain applicants priority because they seem to be interested in disciplines and departments that are shy on students at that moment in time; prioritizing early-decision applicants, in order to improve yield; and including more international students than ever before for reasons that aren’t just about the tapestry of campus life but are also about netting applicants likely to be paying full freight.

My point is that this process is nowhere near a straightforward or objective evaluation of merit, which is largely subjective anyway. Some aspects of this process are rigged; other aspects are akin to a lottery. That is not to take away the accomplishment and compliment of being admitted, which more often than not reflects significant, laudable achievement. But there are many more students whose achievement warrants admission than there are students admitted. And there’s no reason to feel like a “loser” if you’re left outside the gates. If what I write in the book and in related materials is consolation, great. But what I’m really saying is you shouldn’t need or be looking for consolation, because that presumes a kind of integrity and logic to the process that don’t really exist.


Why This Book?

How did you decide to write this book? Was there a particular person or situation that moved you to pursue this topic?
— Kelly Linehan

Frank Bruni: When I began researching the book, I was at an age — 49 — that meant that many friends’ kids and a few of my many nieces and nephews were going or had just gone through the college admissions process, and I was confronted with how much more frenzied and brutal it had become over the 30 years since I’d been through it. And that frenzy was predicated on the notion that a handful of “elite” schools could guarantee a glorious future, while other sorts of schools would possibly impede one.

I looked at that and then I thought about what I’d seen in more than 25 years of journalism, during which I’d had an array of beats and interviewed and written about hundreds of successful people across scores of disciplines. Those people’s lives did not include the common thread of fancy undergraduate diplomas. Some had such diplomas. Many — probably more — didn’t. So there was a disconnect between the myth of Ivy importance and the reality of distinguished careers and contented lives forged in an infinity of ways. I felt strongly that the disconnect warranted examination. Hence the book.


Introducing: Race and Gender

Do your recommendations apply equally across race and gender lines?
— Byron Harrison

Product DetailsFrank Bruni: Generally, yes, but not exactly and not precisely. You ask a great and important question, and I’d refer you and everyone to the research of Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale, which questioned (and largely debunked) the notion that elite schools were sprinkling some magic fairy dust on their students and creating big careers that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. But that same research noted that certain elite schools did seem to have a more measurable positive effect on the professional futures — at least as judged by earnings — of minority and first-generation college students, in whose case the imprimatur of that school’s name was perhaps a more important reassurance to employers or the network provided by that school was especially crucial, because there weren’t other family or high school networks to supplement it.

But my larger point — that there are multiple paths to where you’re going and that over-focusing on elite schools is unnecessary and wrongheaded — holds for all students, including minorities. Two young men I profile in the book illustrate that well. One got into Stanford and all the most competitive University of California schools but went instead to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County because of a special scholarship program that gave him a tightly knit community of support and mentorship. This worked out terrifically for him. Another went to the honors college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He’s now a Rhodes scholar.


Will a New Free Platform Help Students?

How do you feel about the new Coalition Application and how would it affect incoming high school senior applicants this fall?
— Michelle

Frank Bruni: For those unfamiliar with Michelle’s reference, she’s talking about a new group of more than 90 private and public colleges — most of them enormously prestigious ones, including all eight in the Ivy League — that have just made available a free online platform meant to guide students through the college admissions process, bring them up to speed on what’s required and give them ways and incentives to collect work they can share with colleges when application time comes. The group is called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.

I don’t know how to feel about it, because we haven’t yet seen how it winds up working. Next year’s applicants will be the first to have this portal and application option. I remain concerned about, and puzzled by, how the online platform addresses the goals the coalition says it has, which include demystifying the application process and broadening the socioeconomic diversity of applicants by giving more kids from more backgrounds a link to the schools in question. The online platform in and of itself won’t guarantee that broadening: Kids need to have instructors, mentors and counselors in their lives who make them aware of the platform and guide them toward it. Do they? Will they? This project will be only as successful as follow-up efforts to put this new tool in the hands that it’s supposedly designed for.


The ‘Client’ Never Fails

Mr. Bruni, my friend’s stepfather is a Stanford professor. He says that, as a matter of unwritten policy, Stanford and the other Ivy’s take a view of their student bodies which is much different from mainstream universities. Stanford sees its students not as competitors striving to prove themselves scholastically and earn their success within the school, but as clients — clients to be serviced with a level of academic credential and institutional support that will enable them to reach greater heights in life than normal people.

In other words it’s a private club and once you’re in, you’re in; they won’t let you fail. Consequently this unofficial policy informs the behavior of the Stanford faculty in ways that it wouldn’t (and couldn’t) at a less prestigious school with less resources to lavish on students. Do you believe this revelation could be true, and if so why wouldn’t every high school student in America want to try their luck at joining such a club?
— J.

Frank Bruni: I believe this observation to be largely true but too narrowly rendered: It’s not only at Stanford and at Ivy League and Ivy-like schools that students have gone from being competitors to clients. That’s a shift that’s occurred over recent decades and over the last decade in particular at scores if not hundreds of colleges. And I thinkcustomers is a better word for it than clients, including in the sense that “the customer is always right.”

Consider that A’s and A-minuses are the most common grades at many if not most of the elite institutions, except perhaps in the sciences. Consider the amount of attention and money lavished on student services and student facilities that exist to the side of, and sometimes far from the heart of, the primary academic mission. Consider the impulse on many campuses to keep away speakers and purge conversations that upset prevailing sensibilities. Consider trigger warnings, which aren’t as widespread as the media sometimes suggests but which do exist and are emblematic of something larger.

When I taught at Princeton in the spring of 2014, it was still practicing what it called “grade deflation,” which meant that in a large, lecture-style course, the grades given had to average out to something like a 3.4 (or essentially a B-plus). (If that’s deflation, it’s a great illustration of how inflation is now the norm.) Students were so concerned about what this did to their transcripts vis-à-vis other Ivy Leaguers applying to grad schools that Princeton subsequently abandoned the practice. It had previously stopped making entrance into its Woodrow Wilson School selective and competitive among the undergraduates, as was once the case. Now anybody who chooses it as a major can have it. Maybe it should have always been thus, but the change in policy tells you something about the shifted balance of power toward the students, whose compulsory ratings of professors — a facet of the college experience that didn’t exist so prominently decades ago — inevitably color how rigorously those professors teach.

Why shouldn’t every student crave this experience? Because it may not be the right preparation for work and for life, which aren’t as forgiving and coddling. Because high standards and demanding appraisals are often what exhort you to your best achievements and best self. The list goes on.


Is College Worth the Bother?

Why college? I have a B.E., B.A. an M.E. and an M.S. I like learning, however they don’t mean a thing. I could do my job with my high school diploma. I cannot believe that the grade schools, junior high schools and high schools are that bad.
— Jonathan

Frank Bruni: It depends on the grade school, the junior high and the high school. Some are awful.

But that’s not the gist of your question, which seems to be: Is higher education even worth it? I fervently believe so, and most people who pursue higher education don’t rack up the number and diversity of degrees that you did, a cluster that may well be excessive. (It depends on what was required for your job and what motivated you to get those degrees.)

There remain many employers who, rightly or wrongly, won’t look at someone without a college diploma. There are many fields that require specific graduate degrees, and those graduate programs can’t be breached without a college diploma.

So as a job credential, college still matters very much. But college isn’t just or even principally vocational, and though I understand the reasons, I’m frustrated by how much of the conversation about college centers on its immediate, measurable utility and some blunt, dollars-and-cents cost/benefit analysis. College ideally doesn’t just pave the way toward a career but also paves the way toward more informed citizenship, more enlightened thinking, a better understanding of who you are and a better understanding of the world around you. It’s giving you tools for an engaged, thoughtful life. It’s exercising the muscle (so to speak) of your mind as surely as daily running exercises your heart.

There’s surely a point at or after which more education becomes self-indulgent. I don’t think that point arrives at the end of high school.


Résumés and What They Omit

Do you think high school résumé polishing” causes early burnout in kids? What do you think should be the primary criteria for choosing a college?
— Lisa J.

Product DetailsFrank Bruni: I think such résumé polishing — which can become frantic, manic — does cause problems, including burnout, and they’re problems of a particular kind. That’s what fascinates me.

Such polishing concentrates kids’ efforts on a very narrow spectrum of pursuits that play to their strengths and that are mastered with pure discipline, diligence and plotting. It doesn’t necessarily foster or reward creativity. It doesn’t acknowledge the importance of spontaneity, serendipity, setback, resilience and (to use the coinage du jour) grit in life and in eventual success. I think frequently of something that a former admissions director at Pomona said to me, because it’s something that other elite-school faculty members and administrators have also told me: They recruit and admit young men and women who are fantastic on paper but who are in fact very fragile, because they’ve flourished in a very particular way and in a very particular climate, with the illusion of complete control, and they don’t know how to pivot to new circumstances and turn on a dime.

As for the primary criteria for choosing a college, go with one that’s strong in the areas that interest you but also strong in areas that don’t, because you will be a different person at 19 than you were at 17 and you’ll be different again at 21. You’ll discover new sides of yourself. You’ll turn in new directions. Make sure the school can accommodate that.

Go with a college that will, as I said in another answer in this discussion, fill in the blanks of your life, expanding you and showing you new things rather than just validating who you already are and replicating your high school. Appraise the diversity at the colleges you’re considering: More diverse is better, because that means you’ll confront a wider range of perspectives, and such a range is key to education. If there’s an option that involves significantly less debt on the far end, give special consideration to that. Pay attention to which schools the adults in your life whom you find most interesting went to (not just the schools that the highest earners went to). Use the Internet enterprisingly and creatively, to get a real-time sense of what students at and recent alumni of a school think about the experience there.


Online Education: Why Not?

With the advent and robustness of online education, couldn’t a student learn just as much (or more) in that environment compared to the traditional brick and mortars? I see the Apples and Googles willing to hire based on what you know compared to your pedigree. But, since the brightest minds have generally been gravitating to the top schools, there’s a bias toward thinking that a degree from a top school being a prerequisite for those jobs.
— Day Yi

Frank Bruni: I don’t think the full verdict is yet in on online education as a complete substitute for the more traditional approach, and I have concerns and worries about it. There are aspects of the classroom experience that can’t be replicated online, including elements of interaction and socialization. Can one fully learn so-called soft skills and people skills online? Not based on the tenor of so much of the online and social-media discourse I see! Apple and Google aren’t the only employers out there, and their methods aren’t the only methods.

But you touch on a wider point that’s crucial and a big part of my push for people to stop obsessing on only a handful of schools: The skills you learn, the intelligence you build and the demonstration that you can make of your usefulness to an employer are going to be more important, broadly speaking, than the name of the school on your diploma. So focus on those, whether that’s online or on a campus.

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Why Rankings Matter #HigherEd #QSWUR

By John O’Leary

The number of people going abroad to study had doubled in recent years and has now passed 4 Million.

Universities used to insist that they were not interested in ranking positions. Now, however, only a handful of the global elite maintain a lofty silence when international rankings are published.

That does not mean that academics like them – there is a coterie of determined critics (some better informed than others) and the ranking organisations themselves acknowledge that there are important aspects of university life that they cannot capture satisfactorily. But most universities now use rankings not only in their promotional material, but also in choosing international partners and often in their own policy-making.

Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, head of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and a longstanding analyst of rankings, produced a report on their influence for the European University Association (EUA) last year. Her conclusion was that because of the significance attached to being listed in the rankings, they were having a growing and significant impact on institutional decision-making and actions.

“International experience shows that rankings have become a significant driver of opinion formation and decision-making at national and institutional level,” Professor Hazelkorn wrote. “The influence of rankings differs from country to country, and institution to institution – but there are few which have been immune to their effects.”

The report found that the QS World University Rankings were the most influential of a growing number of such exercises. More than half of all European respondents included them among those having most impact on their institution. Professor Hazelkorn’s survey also showed that international rankings had become more important to universities than the national equivalents.

A third of universities had a unit that was responsible for monitoring ranking positions and a quarter discussed the institution’s performance and prospects regularly in specially convened meetings. The respondents identified a wide range of audiences for the rankings: students were thought to be most influenced by them – 78 per cent thought so – but at least half named prospective researchers; partner or prospective partner institutions; the ministry or authority responsible for higher education; prospective teaching staff; parents; benefactors, sponsors and investors; as well as funding bodies or similar institutions.

Two-thirds of the respondents felt that rankings had helped their university to enhance its public image, and at least half thought they had assisted in establishing academic partnerships, fostering academic collaboration and developing internal quality assurance. The report uncovered very few reports of negative impact on institutions from rankings, although there were knock-on effects such as funding reductions or negative media reporting.

Professor Hazelkorn found that the influence of rankings correlated with the competitiveness of the national higher education sector, particularly where there was a hierarchical system in which some institutions had much higher status than others. It was dangerous to generalise about rankings or their impact, she said, but there was no doubt that universities were paying considerable attention to them.

The primary reason for this is obvious: higher education has become truly global, both in terms of student and academic mobility. The number of people going abroad to study had doubled in recent years and has now passed 4 million. Some studies expect the figure to reach 7 million by 2025.

Source: QS World University Rankings 2015 


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#LoveLetters of Henry The Eighth, #King Of #England: A Linguistic Analysis

“My heart and I surrender ourselves”…King Henry The Eighth’s words to Anne Boleyn…A declaration of love…A dream come true…A king’s love…What woman hasn’t dreamed of such a thing as this?

Who is Anne Boleyn?

Historians tell us: “It is because she is what she was, and did what she did, that England is what England is today… We may take it that round about the year 1525 this young woman was something between twenty and twenty-three years of age and had thoroughly captured the King…

Her sister Mary Boleyn had already been the mistress of Henry The Eighth in very early youth, and he had got rid of Mary by marrying her off to one of his gentlemen. ” – Hilaire Belloc (Characters of the Reformation)

What can we learn about King Henry The Eighth by reading his letters to Anne Boleyn?

He is a man in a hurry, who knows how to wait for what he wants.

Henry the Eighth is an enigma, a contradiction in terms.

How does he use words?

He chooses his words carefully, saying much in few words. He prefers the little words, rarely using big words. Linguistic analysis confirms this and much more.

Who was Anne Boleyn?

Some say she is a saint.  Many people would agree she died an unjust death, showing faith in God that would reap heavenly rewards.

Some say she is a sinner. She captivated another woman’s husband and made him her own. Surely that would condemn her to burn in the eternal flames of damnation.

Still others say she is a sorceress. She was described by people close to her as having six (6) fingers. That would seem to confirm her supernatural effect on King Henry The Eighth.

Henry fought with the Pope and broke with the Catholic Church all because the Pope would not grant him a divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Saint, sinner, or sorceress? Maybe a bit of all three.

Linguistic analysis, however, has the last word on her most famous letter, written while she was a prisoner in the Tower of London. Is it a fake, or is it real? Read this fascinating book to find out!

Love Letters of Henry The Eighth, King Of England


Available in Paperback

Amazon Createspace

Other books by

Thomas Jerome Baker


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#BookReview & #AuthorInterview The Eclipse of Power: The Interdimensional Saga, Book 3, by J. L. Hendricks #ASMSG


I have powers, not like superhero powers… well kinda like a superhero. I can hear the thoughts of others and I can even ‘mind speak’ with those I am close to.

But it is very dangerous for me to have these powers. I have to keep it from the fae council and General Avex.

While practicing my powers with the only person on Earth I can trust, I accidentally ‘hear’ the rippers discussing a battle that is going to happen that night.

On the guise of a training op, we gather all 5 squads and start our training mission.

We discover that the rippers, or vampires as you call them, are planning to go through the portal to Sendryl and attack.

WAIT! Lancer is in the Capitol!

I make my way to Sendryl and find out that things are not what I thought they were. There is a spy in our midst. And the enemy knows about me. More than I thought they did.

Is that a dragon?


Author Interview: J.L. Hendricks (Jennifer)

984289_ehwhebupThomas Jerome Baker: This evening, my guest on the blog is Ms. J. L. Hendricks. Jennifer, welcome, and thank you for accepting my invitation to be here with me and my readers.

Jennifer L. Hendricks: Thanks for the invitation Thomas. I’m happy to be here tonight.

TJB: Jennifer, please tell us about yourself and your books.

J.L. HendricksJLH: I am a new Independent Author, I just started writing in February of this year. Although, I have always had stories running through my head. I was beta reading for Michael Anderle (The Kutherian Gambit Series) and we were talking and he suggested I join his 20books50k group and put some of my ideas down on paper. I joined the group, who all motivated me to start writing my stories down. I created a world that I would like to live in and the story has mostly written itself.

I have 3 books published so far and my 4th book will be out May 13th. I am working on book 5 right now. My first 4 books have been short stories with 70 – 78 pages, or novellas. The 5th book will be a full length novel, if all goes well.

TJB: That’s very interesting, especialy yhe way you started out beta reading. It was a kind of apprenticeship, because you learned your craft from the inside out, in a support role. And then your group encouraged you to put your own stories down on paper. Jen, tell me what the name of your new book is please.

JLH: My newest book is called: The Eclipse of Power, Book 3.

TJB: Jen, the cover artwork is fabulous. It has everything a cover is suposed to have: artistry, beauty, affinity. It loks at a potential buyer and whispers softly, “Buy Me. Take me home with you.” You obviously learned how critical it is to have an amazing book cover. Believe it or not, some really great stories aren’t being read because the author neglected to get an awesome cover, like yours for example.

JLH: Thank you Thomas. (smiling)

TJB: So I get home with a copy of your book. I bought it based on the cover alone. Now tell me Jen: What is the book about? What did I just buy? (smiling)

JLH: It is the continuation of Book 1 and Book 2. It is set in Los Angeles, CA to begin with. By the end of the book we are on Sendryl, which is a planet in another dimension. There are portals here on Earth that take you to Sendryl and back again. On Sendryl there is a war between the Fae Warriors and Rippers (aka vampires).

Product Details Product Details

They have brought their war here to Earth and my protagonist, B’Lana, must step in to help save Earth. In this episode, (book 3) there are a couple of battles in LA between rippers and fae.

B’Lana has taken sides with the fae who have changed her into a hybrid fae warrior. B’Lana’s squad leader is in trouble for several things, and he is sent back to Sendryl for trial. Our gang of regulars also stop the rippers from a full scale invasion of Sendryl.

There are multiple attacks happening in the capital of Sendryl at the same time, but our team stops the enemies from leaving Earth with a small army intent on destruction. The rippers come to Earth to kidnap humans and change them into hybrid rippers and they are nothing more than vampires with bloodlust who will kill anything in their way.

They have been compared to suicide bombers. They don’t care if they die as long as they get to destroy something and lots of people. There is also a love triangle between B’Lana, her squad leader, and another guy on her team.

One of the guys can’t stand to be in the same room as her, and the other never wants to leave her side. But both secretly want her and make plays for her heart.

TJB: Fascinating. Let’s talk about your writing now. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

JLH: I have a note app on my phone and it is always within reach. I have had ideas come at the strangest times so I want to always write them down for later. I have ideas all the way up to book 20 and beyond, if I am blessed to keep writing.

Also, in my author’s group, we were discussing names one day. Several of us kill off a lot of characters. Some of mine die without names. I was looking for some cool names and a few in my group volunteered theirs. I have killed off on author (Martelle is in book 3) and in book 4 is another one (can’t share his name yet or it will ruin book 4 for you).

I also created a character, name taken from another author friend, who I thought I would kill. Xandrie is a female fae warrior who shows up in Book 3.

I was going to kill her. It was to be a gruesome battle and death. But my character didn’t want to die, so she kinda wrote herself into the story and befriended B’Lana.

I am running a Twitter campaign to see if readers want her to live or die. You can tweet #KillXandrie or #SaveXandrie and when the time comes I will see which one wins.

TJB: I tweeted once for each one: one kill and one save. I’m undecided right now. After I finish reading and review your book, I will let you know which decision I make. (smiling) Jen, I’d like to know what authors, or books have influenced you?

JLH: Michael Anderle has mentored me on writing and how to make it your career. I would not be here without his help. But I also have been influenced by KM Shea. She writes clean YA novels that really draw the reader in to her stories and made me realize that I can write a good, clean book that anyone can enjoy, not just young adults.

TJB: I like that. I’m a clean writer too. We have enough tools and techniques available to us in our writer’s toolbox that we don’t need to write stories with content that is graphic or use a lot of four letter words. Having said that, when readers indicate that they will buy graphic literature, then it creates a market that will be catered to. What you and I do is make a conscious decision not to participate in that market. We are not censoring it, nor condoning it.

JLH: It’s our personal decision. Everybody has to decide for themselves what kind of writer they want to be.

TJB: Exactly. Let’s change the pace here and talk about your future Jen. What other books are you working on now?

JLH: Book 5 to my series. It was unplanned to begin with. I started with an overall story idea and the first part was to be 4 books. As I was writing book 3 certain things happened in my story that were unplanned so I knew I was going to need that 5th book before I could introduce the next part of the story.

TJB: My head is spinning Jennifer. (smiling) I’m starting out on Book 3. There’s alrady been Books 1 and Book 2. And here you are talking about when you were writing Book 4, you knew you needed Book 5. (smiling) Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to go back, and start out with Book 1.

JLH: That makes a lot of sense Thomas, to begin at the beginning. If people will do that, it will increase your overall enjoyment of the story. But it’s important also for me to say that I’ve written each book with a genuine start and finish. So in your case, starting out with Book 3, when you turn the last page, you will have a sense of closure. Knowing that there is a Book 1 and Book 2, you could go back and read those books, or you could go on to Book 4 to find out what happens next.

TJB: I see. Let’s talk about promoting your work. You mentioned one creative way that you engage your readers in the series, by getting them to kill or save a charachter. That technique was used by many writers in the past when their stories appeared as serial instalments in newspapers. You may recall the story about how Charles Dickens wrote two endings to his novel, “Great Expectations.” He had one ending ready to go, the first one, and then in response to his readers, he had to change the ending to give them what they wanted.

JLH: Yes, I can see the similarity. Being an Indie writer makes this much more flexible and agile to craft the story to the rading audience that we have.

TJB: What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?

JLH: I am still new to this, but so far I have seen my best results with BKNights in Fivver and with BooksGoSocial.

TJB: I’ve been hearing a lot of authors praising BooksGoSocial recently. What can you tell me about them specifically?

Laurance O'Bryan launches is book "The Istanbul Puzzle" in Dubray Bookstore on Grafton Street. Photo Nic Mac InnesJLH: BooksGoSocial has a lot of expertise. They are able to advise you and guide you in the right directin about using your time and resources to get the maximum results for your work.

It’s really all about working smart, using your time wisely. But Thomas, I’m still new at this. Don’t take my word for it.

The founder, Laurence O’Bryan, recently did an interview which is very informative about BooksGoSocial.

I have a few more places I am working with and looking forward to giving them a try. One is BargainBooksy.com, that promo is coming up on May 13th when I launch book 4. Then I have two giveaway promo’s I am in; one in June and one in July. I am keeping data on sales, book and author rankings so I will know which ones work best for me.

TJB: Thanks for those tips Jen. Do you have any advice for new authors?

JLH: Join a writing club. There are a ton of them out there! You need their support and encouragement. Find a mentor if you can, that has helped me. I can’t say enough good things about Michael and how he has helped me. He even did my first two book covers!

TJB: That’s mentorship in action. With that example to go by, you can pay it forward by mentoring someone else when that opportunity presents itself to you. Jen, what is the best advice you have ever heard for authors?

JLH: Don’t fear social media. It is too important to overlook. I hated Facebook, that’s right. I was one of the few who did not have a FB account, if you can imagine. But once I started writing the other authors told me I had to have one. So I created a site for my book series and have even done some FB promotions.

I already had a Twitter account, so that wasn’t too hard for me. I didn’t have many followers. I started with 85 followers about two weeks before this interview and the last time I looked I had over 400 followers.

Some are really awesome authors who will RT my tweets when I have a new release. When that happens, my tweet gets sent out to over a million accounts now. It has really grown since I did the BooksGoSocial promo. I ended up with almost 150 followers just over the weekend from them. And my KENP doubled this weekend. I do believe it was from all of the tweeting about my new book.

TJB: Amazing, the power of social media. What are you reading now?

JLH: I have two books I am reading at the moment. One is called The Catalyst, by a friend of mine CM Raymond and the other is People Raged by another friend, Craig Martelle (he is the author I killed in book 3). They are both book 1 in their new series and totally different from what I usually read, but also very exciting. Who doesn’t love a good superhero story? Or spy novel?

TJB: What’s next for you as a writer? (smiling)

JLH: This past week I was in Santa Barbara doing research for book 5. There are some interesting local legends I wanted to learn more about and possibly add them to my story. If they are what I think, then it will help to segue into my origins story for the entire world I have created.

Book 6 will be more like a prequel then the next part of the story. It will however, start off at the end of book 5 then go back in time a few thousand years. I will give you a teaser, the fae and rippers actually came from Earth back when it was still young. They are a distant relative to the Nephilim. But I don’t want to ruin the surprise so no more spoilers for you!

TJB: smiling) One last question for you Jen. If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you take?

JLH: Snow Queen by KM Shea, I have read it twice already and could read it many more times!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, who couldn’t read about Mr. Darcy over and over forever?

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. I have started that book many times, once in Russian, and can never finish it. It’s too big to keep my attention. So if on a deserted island I should have time to finish it.

I would love to bring one of Michael Anderle’s books, but I would die if I couldn’t read the continuation! So maybe my 4th book would be the conclusion to KM Shea’s Snow Queen. I hate to leave a story unfinished. Which is why I have trouble reading traditionally published books; they take 12 – 18 months to put out their next book in a series and I hate waiting. That is why I will publish every 2-5 weeks in my series, depending on the length of the book.

Social Media Tools:

Author’s Email: JLHendricksAuthor@gmail.com






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#CoverReveal for Riptide: Betrayal of Blood, by #Author Claudette Nicole Melanson #ASMSG

Cover Reveal for Riptide with ‪#‎Giveaway‬ ==> Click here
Come enter now for a chance to win over at SnoopyDoo’s BookBlog
PreOrder link for Riptide, the long-awaited 3rd book in the Maura DeLuca Trilogy:






Riptide: Betrayal of Blood (The Maura DeLuca Trilogy Book 3)Maura has never felt so alone in her life…nor has her existence ever been so overshadowed by peril …

Both her parents—her distant but loving mother and recently- returned father—remain absent from her life.

Not only that, but due to the hideous error in judgement executed in collusion with her best friend, Valdamir, and adoptive sister, Susie, Maura has been cut off from the pair’s friendship and support.

She is forbidden by both her father and the fallout from the dire outcome to see either of them.

The heartbreak she suffers, brought on by the weight of these estrangements, is only intensified by the continued mysterious absence of her supernaturally-destined mate, Ron…whose disappearance delivers grave consequences Maura would have never dreamed possible…

Despised by her vampire cousin, Aldiva, for reasons Maura cannot yet comprehend, the young changeling will be forced to guard her back with every step, as she comes to realize this member of her vampire family would love nothing more than to bring about her demise. Aldiva’s wrath calls forth other members from both Vancouver covens, forcing them to rush to Maura’s aid—even though her father, their king, has expressly forbidden the other vampires to initiate contact with his daughter. Will her extended family on Vancouver Island obey, abandoning Maura to her doom, or will they instead rebel against Maxwell’s wishes in order to save her life?

In addition to the menace personified in her unsolicited enemy, the unlikely vampire princess will find herself drowning as she is pulled down into the depths of a far more devastating crisis…one which may condemn her to a fate she considers much more undesirable than death. But in order to tear herself free from the deadly pull which is drawing her under, Maura must enlist the help of her preternatural family, exposing her newfound friends to a danger none of them have ever had the misfortune to face before. Can she be saved or will the riptide drag Maura under…along with those she loves the most…

In this third and final book of The Maura DeLuca Trilogy, the reader will delve even deeper into the secrets guarded by Maura’s father, the mystery of Ron’s role in her life and the identities of the mysterious Vancouver Island Coven members who have, up until now, remained hidden in the shadows. This trilogy rounds out the segment of Maura’s life during which she discovers she is a member of The Born—a human destined to complete her transformation into a vampire!

This series of young adult fantasy novels has been enjoyed by readers of nearly every age and are found by them to be dramatically different from any other vampire books they have read in the past. Discover a magical world filled with fae, angels, elves, pixies and other enchanting creatures in addition to two families made up of some of the most likeable vampires—for the most part—to ever exist. Scroll up to read a sample once the book is available!


Author’s Bio

Claudette MelansonClaudette Melanson writes & edits in Guelph, Ontario, with her husband Ron and four bun babies: Tegan, Pepper, Butters & Beckett.

She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English and an MA in Literature.

She’s wished to be a Vampire since age five. She hopes to one day work full time as an author, since there are many, many books living inside her head.

In her spare time she enjoys watching Japanese Anime and reading vampire stories….along with other great fiction. She is also very interested in good health and is an advocate of Ketogenic eating, using whole and natural foods. Her favorite foods are bulletproof coffee, cashew flour crust pizza and treats made with xylitol and almond, coconut or cashew flours.

Future dreams include writing many more books and spending more time with her son Jacob. Her biggest dream is to make Universal Halloween Horror Nights a yearly event with hubby and son. A Rabbit Rescue fanatic, she also hopes to help rescues all over the world save many innocent lives.




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Rum, Cigars, and Corpses, by Jerold Last #MondayBlogs #BookReview


Roger and Suzanne have to solve a cold, but still hazardous, case in a hot climate. Roger’s newest client was fired after leading a disastrous tour to Cuba during which a tourist died in a devastating accident.

Our detective couple joins a subsequent identical tour of Cuba to seek evidence the catastrophe was murder, not an accident. There’s no shortage of suspects in this perilous case, including the Cuban Intelligence Services, the CIA, a sprinkling of additional spies waiting for them in Havana, and several suspicious characters traveling on their tour.

Danger lurks as they investigate the nightmare scenario that the victim was targeted by a deadly terrorist conspiracy. The author recently visited Cuba on a similar person-to-person tour, so all of the details about locations are authentic and the background is real.



As normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba gives American tourists the opportunity to visit the island, this exciting novel provides a real glimpse into a country that was literally frozen in time for over fifty years. The author and his wife recently took a people-to-people tour and provide interesting historic and cultural highlights sprinkled into a fictional account of murder, espionage, and intrigue.

The resilient attitude of the Cuban people shines through in spite of restrictions and repression imposed by an authoritarian regime. The beauty and history of the island are sure to attract business and expand freedoms in spite of harsh controls. Therefore, the country is bound to change rapidly.

The fictional part of the story centers on the death of an American tourist, who was killed in an “accident” after he strayed from the sanctioned people-to-people tour. The American tour guide was fired due to his death, and she hires Roger to uncover the truth, clear her name, and get her job reinstated. It’s a nearly impossible assignment. Roger takes on the job with Suzanne’s invaluable help and contacts an old friend from Peru, who is also a spy for the Israelis.

Product DetailsAnother part of the story is focused on a new American attaché assigned to the U.S. Embassy to uncover a leak. Of course, he is another spy working for the CIA. Will competing spies clash and threaten Roger and Suzanne? Their investigation leads down a bumpy road filled with deception, treachery, and betrayal. The Cuban pharmaceutical industry draws their attention with its potential to inject terrorist funds into the pockets of a traitor. Roger and Suzanne face danger at every turn.

This complicated novel is spiced with Latin flavor and sightseeing nuggets, but the tale of murder and espionage is sure to please any mystery/adventure enthusiast. If you wonder what the real world is like inside Cuba, take this exciting trip with Roger and Suzanne from the safety of your own home.


Setting is very important. To some writers, it is almost a character in their books. I suspect this holds true for author Jerold Last, who actualy visited Cuba, in person, to make sure he gave his readers a “You are there” experience.

I have little doubt he would ever dream of writing about a place that he hadn’t actually visited himself. So, if you feel like you know what Cuba looks like, how the air feels, what the birds sound like, what the flowers smell like, it’s because of the author’s dedication to his craft.

Having said that, he astutely observed that the Cuba he presents in this book is intimately connected with the Cuba that was presented to him. At the end of the day, he is a traveler to a country that few tourists from the USA have ever seen.

In this genre, (detective story), we have the obligatory visit from a potential client at the beginning of the story. In this case, it’s the beautiful Ms. Christine Suzuki, a former international tour director. She’s American, of Irish ancestry, and with conservative taste in stye and dress.

We find out she’s been fired from her job as an international tour director because  a tourist died, in Cuba, while on a tour she was responsible for. She wants her job back, and the only way to do that, is to prove that the death of the tourist wasn’t her fault.  Evidently, this investigation is more preferable to Ms. Suzuki than suing her company in court for wrongful termination of employment.

If you are nodding your head now, it’s because you begin to understand that Ms. Suzuki was earning a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that she actually wants to return to her job. This investigation will not antagonize her employer, and if she can show compelling proof that the tourist’s death was not her fault, she reasons that her old company will welcome her back.

I agree with her reasoning. Thus, Author Jerold Last has made the story plausible. As a reader, I am now willing to suspend disbelief. Rather than question whether or not such a thing is likely or not in real life, I can follow along and match wits with Roger Bowman. I want to discover who the murderer is is before it is revealed to me.

Product DetailsWe now have a good grip on setting, characters, major plot points, conflict, and theme. Our setting is present day Cuba. Our major characters, and their motives, are clear. The plot is a classic “Who Done It”, and the conflict will be “Man vs Man”. Whoever killed this tourist is the natural antagonist to Roger Bowman, our private detective.

The only question left to be resolved is whether or not we can predict / discover who is responsible for the death of the tourist. Author Jerold Last entertains readers while engaging all of our senses as he takes us on a highly imaginative journey to find a murderer in a country where the USA has not had diplomatic relations in over half a century. If this sounds like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, you are absolutely right.

If you are a fan of detective stories, this story is one of Jerold Last’s finest. Whether you have read other books in this series or this is your first time reading his work, you will be pleased with “Rum, Cigars, and Corpses“. Highly recommended.


Jerold Last: Amazon Author Page



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#Author #Interview: Spotlight on Best-Selling Author Cindee P. Willow #MondayBlogs

Thomas Jerome Baker: This afternoon, best-selling author Cindee Pruitt Willow has stopped by for a chat with us. Cindee, welcome to my blog.

Cynthia P. WillowCindee Pruitt Willow: Thank you for the invitation Thomas.

TJB: Cindee, please tell my readers about yourself and your books.

CPW: Hi! I am a full time mother of three children. My oldest is in college and my youngest is 4 years old. I’m also a full time student and just earned my Master’s degree.

I’m also a marriage coach and a soul care counselor. I have written 12 books, plus two that I co-authored with my teen daughter.

TJB: That is amazing Cindee. I don’t know how you manage to do all of that on 24 hours a day. When do you find time to sleep?

CPW: I am a good organiser Thomas. I usually get 6 – 8 hours of sleep a night. (smiling)

TJB: Let’s talk about your books now. What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

 CPW: I published a Christian paranormal novella a few months ago called “Shelley.” It is inspired by the work I do in soul care. Here is the blurb:

When 13-year-old Narie loses her mother to cancer, she is forced to leave the city and move to the country with her grandmother–a woman who is nothing more than a stranger to her.

With no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception, Narie is sure her new life in the middle of nowhere is going to be dull and boring.

But she discovers her mother’s childhood diaries and embarks on a search for the creepy house in the woods–a house that Narie’s grandmother insists was only a figment of her daughter’s imagination. Things become complicated when Narie realizes that the woods hold much more than a creepy house.

Who is the little girl in the white dress? What does she have to do with Narie’s mother? What secret is Narie’s grandmother harboring?


TJB: What authors, or books have influenced you?

Cynthia P. WillowCPW: I grew up loving C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, and some of my books have gotten reviews that mention similarities. Most recently, I have loved the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

TJB: What are you working on now?

CPW: My current work-in-progress (WIP) is a story about a man’s life. It will be a story similar to Forrest Gump where the main character shares his funny and interesting stories with customers in an old 50’s style diner. I’m very excited about this one.

TJB: Very interesting. Forrest Gump is one of my all time favorite movies. Let’s talk about how you promote your work. What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?

CPW: I prefer Twitter when it comes to marketing my books.

 TJB: Do you have any advice for new authors?

CPW: Just write. Don’t follow a formula. Write naturally. And please, please, please have your books edited and proofread before publishing.

TJB: If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you take?

CPW: The Bible, The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis, and The Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling.

 TJB: (smiling) Cindee Pruitt Willow, thank you very much for spending time with me and my readers today. I appreciate your time very much. I enjoyed having you and your daughter, Ciella Naden, appear on my blog. You are both incredibly talented authors.

CPW: It was my pleasure Thomas. Thanks for having me over. And I’ll pass your compliments on to Ciella. (smiling)


Social Media Tools:

Author’s Email: sapphiretheweepingwillow@yahoo.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-P-Willow/e/B008URB3YW

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CynthiaPWillow

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaPWillow

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cindeebumpus/cynthia-p-willow/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpZCfxNhu6jwUdf0zRF2qqA

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#BookReview: The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, by Duncan Whitehead #MondayBlogs


Little is what it seems to be in a leafy Savannah neighborhood as members of an afternoon cocktail and dog walking club mourn a neighbor’s death.

Jealousies surface when friends vie for the widower running for mayor. An old woman with an infamous uncle plots to avenge a wrong.

Memories haunt a once successful children’s writer. And a model has won the trip of a lifetime.

But a killer lurks and secrets unfold, as does a web of deceit. Is anyone really who he or she seems to be?

A mysterious South American, a young Italian count, and a charitable nephew add suspicion and intrigue, as do an enigmatic organization linked to organized crime, a handsome firefighter, and three widows with hidden agendas.

What’s a retired accountant’s secret, and why did a former showgirl really have plastic surgery?

The plot thickens, the Georgia temperature rises, and someone is destined for an early unmarked grave. The truth contorts to a climax that leaves readers breathless.


984289_ehwhebupI read Duncan Whitehead’s The Reluctant Jesus and found his writing style to be extraordinarily entertaining and engaging. He has a way of injecting humor into a story that is well timed, creating a pleasant impact upon the enjoyment of the story.

This book is no exception. It is evident that a master storyteller is at work. I became engaged and absorbed with this story right from the very beginning. I did not put it down until I had completed reading it in one sitting, which is quite a feat.

Fortunately, I had a free weekend, because everything else I was supposed to do simply faded away because I was so engrossed with the book that I did not notice time slipping away as if it did not exist at all!

What did I like most about this book? That’s a difficult question because the prose, the characters, the setting… everything about this book was absolutely fascinating… If you are looking for an entertaining and enjoyable read, this book will deliver. It is “unputdownable! Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Thomas Jerome Baker
Author of How to Coach A Debate Team


The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club opens on a lovely morning in Savannah, Georgia, with your friendly neighborhood contract killer preparing to execute his latest job. Rewind the clock by about a week. The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, a group of older women with a shared fondness for canines and cocktails, sigh about the impending death of one of their own. Thelma is on the verge of succumbing to cancer. Two of the ladies, former Vegas showgirl Carla and wholesome housewife Cindy, already have their eye on Thelma’s soon-to-be widower, mayoral candidate Elliott. We are also introduced to the club’s queen bee, an eighty-something-year-old named Heidi, and to several of their neighbors, including Kelly and Tom–a young couple with Hollywood good looks–and newlyweds Veronica and Doug. And then there’s the neighborhood villain: an old man who fails to clean up after his dog during his walks in the park.

Each member of this idyllic suburban neighborhood harbors a dirty little secret. Or, if they don’t at the beginning of the novel, they do by the end. The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club follows each member of the community through their intertwining lives. Picture perfect on the outside, not so much behind closed doors. One of them is the contract killer’s victim, and one of them the employer. But who? And why? With everything that’s going on in Gordonston, everyone is fair game.

Whitehead successfully employs the third person omniscient perspective in his novel to give the reader insights into each character’s thoughts and motivations, often within one scene. In an era where first person and limited third are in fashion, using the omniscient voice is a daring yet highly effective move. Although Whitehead writes with a distinctive lilt, the narrator for the most part seems invisible, a mere camera through which the reader watches the characters, none of whom is exactly what they appear. Whitehead wastes no words, somehow keeping the prose fluid and tight at the same time. As a result, the pages fly by while at the same time allowing a reader to become immersed in the language and descriptions. Honestly, this book contains some of the finest examples of the omniscient voice I’ve seen in contemporary literature.

Whitehead seamlessly integrates the various intertwining storylines. The cast is large, yet each character is so unique that it’s easy to keep track of who is who. Whitehead deftly guides the reader through the secrets, mysteries, and multiple plots, making The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club an easy, relaxing read. There is so much going on, and yet everything feels straightforward with the way Whitehead tells it.

In addition to his plotting abilities and knack for creating memorable characters, Whitehead also possesses a real talent for descriptions. It’s easy to picture the locations described in the novel, be it a town in Argentina or the luxuries of Paris. His writing style is mesmerizing, hypnotic even, and it’s easy to get lost in the locations and the lives of the characters. My one criticism would be that he doesn’t always let the reader know where in the timeline they are (for instance, there’s no indication that the first chapter, with the hit man, actually takes place after the bulk of the book until you get close to the end).

The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club is a garden of irony, a brilliant suburban satire on par with the popular American TV show Desperate Housewives. Part thriller, part drama, the multitude of questions hanging in the air make it a gripping page-turner, especially toward the second half, where the plot really thickens. It’s a relatively short book, and I ended up reading the whole thing in a single day. With all the juicy details and shocking revelations, I just couldn’t put it down.

Author Duncan Whitehead is, among other assorted hobbies and jobs, a standup comedian and it shows. Not that this book as a comedy (well, in many instances it is a droll comedy at that) – it is billed as a thriller and there are indeed enough acts of derring-do played out in this wild assortment of characters and enough instances of death and killings and even the opening chapter is an elegy for a gravedigger/to become killer to be slotted as such.

But the setting is a rather wonderfully silly shallow group of ladies who walk their dogs in the park in Savannah GA in and around a rich neighborhood called Gordonston. The story isn’t all that startling but it is entertaining and there are enough faux pas situations that nearly backfire the plot – until you realize that is precisely what the author is trying to do.

Others have commented on the plot, and enough is enough. What this novel pleads to be is a dark comedy on film. And hopefully the author is stepping out of his home in Savannah far enough to encounter a potential producer/director/screenwriter to make it happen. Read it, and you’ll be able to cast it easily enough. This is a dandy little escapist novel for an evening’s enjoyment. Grady Harp, February 13

Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award and Gold Medalist

“A real page turner that is perfect for anyone who enjoys a story filled with secrets, mystery and devious characters. Even though I loved the ending I can only hope that Mr. Whitehead will continue this story with a sequel; after all there are three more jobs to be completed! On a scale of one to five I would give this book a six because it is just that good!” —Readers Favorite

“Doggone it, whodunnit? Readers of The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club will just have to read to the end of the novel to find out. The thriller was written by Duncan Whitehead, who seems to have more in common with Ian Fleming than his idol, Agatha Christie. —The Savannah Morning News

–This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Duncan WhiteheadThe life of Duncan Whitehead, winner of the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award and Gold Medalist, is as quirky as his works. Born in 1967, he served in the Royal Navy in embassies across South America and was an amateur boxer. He worked as a purser on some of the world’s largest super yachts and visited many exotic places. He’s also an instructor of English as a foreign language, fluent in Spanish, and a children’s soccer coach.

Duncan retired to Savannah, Georgia, to pursue his passion—writing. Mindful that we all harbor secrets and inspired by the locale’s odd characters, he wrote The Gordonston Ladies Walking Club, a dark comedic mystery.

In 2011, Duncan spent six months in Brazil before settling in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His interests include cooking, the Israeli self-defense art of Krav Maga, and Dim-Mak, a pressure-point martial art.

He has written over two thousand comedy news articles for US and UK websites, and The Reluctant Jesus, a comedic novel set in Manhattan.


More About the Author

Duncan Whitehead


Award Winning Writer, Duncan Whitehead, was born in England and is the author of the best-selling and award-winning GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB Trilogy. The series, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness in the real life Savannah neighborhood in which he once lived is a humorous mystery, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists.

He has also written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for a variety of websites both in the US and the UK.

He has written further novels; a comedy set in Manhattan, THE RELUCTANT JESUS, published in April 2014 and republished in July 2015 & three short stories.

Duncan is well known for his charity work, kindness to animals, children and old people; and, of course, his short-lived bullfighting career and his hideous hunchback.

In February 2045, he invented time travel and now spends much of his time in either the future (where he has won the lottery an astonishing 117 times) and the present day.

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#AuthorInterview: “Nebulous” Author Joseph Schweichler #MondayBlogs #ASMSG

Thomas: Today I’m pleased to welcome Joseph Schweichler to my blog. Thank you for accepting my invitation Joseph.

Joseph: Thank you for the invitation Thomas.

TJB: Joseph, please tell us about yourself and your books.

JS: Well, I am a military service member, I love to read and write; especially the superhero genre. So far I have written a total of three books,

TJB: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

JS: My latest book is Nebulus. The book was inspired by a series of things. I have always been a science fiction lover: Star Wars/Trek etc…I also enjoy reading about unconventional characters. Those that aren’t really pretty or glamorous. For example, I think Superman is a fantastic hero, but him looking human has always been a downer. I thought isn’t it possible for an alien to look nothing like a human and yet have the world still see him as a hero? This is something I try to tackle in my books.

TJB: (Looking into the camera) Let me read the blurb for “Nebulus” here:

Nebulus is the third book in the Justice Strike series. It follows the adventures of the alien Nebulus from the planet Kortath. When an unknown threat attacks his planet, Nebulus and his brother are forced off their world and are placed into suspended animation. Upon awaking, Nebulus finds that his brother is missing. So now with the assistance of his computer program, Izla, and the help of an unsuspecting human family, Nebulus will follow in the footsteps of Tigerman and Exile. He will discover what it means to be a hero.”

JS: Tigerman is Book 1 and “Exile” is Book 2.

TJB: Do you have any unusual writing habits?

JS: I’m not sure what I would label as unusual. I know many authors, and each with their own habits and styles.

I guess the fact that I don’t write my chapters sequentially. I do them as I envision them and fill in the stuff around it.

TJB: What authors, or books have influenced you?

JS: Oh yes. I have been influenced by the likes of Steven King, RA Salvatore, Terry Goodkind.

For books I’d say Spider-Man the Venom Factor, Star Wars novels. There are really too many list.

TJB: What are you working on now?

JS: Now that I have finished Nebulus I have been outlining and writing sample chapters for the next book listed, which is Hyperbolt.

TJB: What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?

JS: I have had good success with Facebook. I’ve reached more people on that medium than any others, thus far.

TJB: Do you have any advice for new authors?

JS: Don’t stop writing. New authors I’ve noticed become easily discouraged, myself included, where I all but gave up on my writing. But, with the encouragement from my wife, family, and friends I picked it back up. Because of this I have done three books.

TJB: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

Joseph SchweichlerJS: Don’t listen to the cynics, just do what you love. Believe in yourself.

TJB: What are you reading now?

JS: Currently I have been reading the Resident Evil Novelizations by SD Perry.

TJB: What’s next for you as a writer?

JS: As I delve into my fourth book I hope to get a Kickstarter going soon so I can get some good people involved, as I would like to make some comicbook adapatations of my characters.

TJB: If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you take?

JS: Do series count as one? (smiling). I would say I need the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Star Wars Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, and at least one Resident Evil book, probably the Umbrella Conspiracy.

Thomas: Thank you for the interview Joseph. It has been a pleasure.

Joseph: Thanks for inviting me. Time went by so fast!

Social Media Tools:

Author’s Email: joeyschweichler@yahoo.com

Blog: http://coldshadow25.tumblr.com/

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/josephschweichler

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#BookReview: Hot Mess by #Debut Author Madeline Antonia Rosenberg, Editor Sylvia Z. Weinberger


Anna McCormick seems like a cliché from her basic coffee orders to her relentless drama; however she is more than meets the eye.

Join the journey of Anna and Trevor Sullivan through the laughs, tears and heartbreak. Meet the Clairetown crew – each character is more interesting than the next!

Warning: you may not be able to put this book down!

Anna McCormick is every girl after a break up- she is vulnerable and seeks attention in the wrong places. She is easy to love and hate at the same time.

Trevor Sullivan is almost too good to be true. He seems like he is perfect on the surface, but there is much more to him than meets the eye.

Benji Shaw is the “perfect” boy next door. He has a bit of a hero complex and wants to fix everyone’s problems.

Tanya Rosen is the quintessential popular girl- everyone thinks she has so much confidence but really she is just as insecure as the next girl. The book takes an unexpected turn and I think you will be pleasantly surprised!!!


My ReviewHot Mess

Madeline A. Rosenbergby Madeline Rosenberg

Let’s begin with the cover artwork. We are met with a cover that does do justice to the book’s title. With clothes hanging all over the place, the one word description that comes to my mind is: “Mess. What a mess!”

And if I allow myself the freedom to extend the book’s title to include the young lady, standing with her back to us, arms akimbo, I would anticipate that she is the cause of this book’s title being, H-O-T  M-E-S-S.

And if you will permit me to keep playing word games, by exchanging the letter “M”, for a letter “N”, I now have


The curious thing about my word game is that nothing could be further from the truth.

What this book is NOT, is hotness.

It’s not hot, it’s not erotic, and it’s not graphic.

There are no graphic descriptions of people having sex, not even one.

So, if you allow me to be frank, the title of this book and its cover don’t attract the author’s intended audience. The content of this book is tailor made for a small niche audience, people in the age range from 17 – 23. Under that age, yes, even at age 16, this book will not resonate with you. At age 24, you really need to move on with your life.

The book deals with that terrifying feeling of becoming a grownup, but not quite having everything figured out yet. This is a book for the misfits, those people who are having problems growing up. One and one, two and two, the numbers just aren’t adding up.

You’re trying to figure out who you are. You are still allowing yourself to be defined by the way others see you. It’s still important to be cool, to be admired, to be pretty, to have a boyfriend or have a girlfriend.

984289_ehwhebupYou just want to belong to something bigger than yourself. You want to be loved, and to give your love in return.

And of course, you make mistakes. Genuinely honest mistakes.

Some mistakes you learn from. Other mistakes cost dearly. They leave you badly scarred, emotionally, physically, for life.

This is author Madeline Rosenberg’s debut novel. At age 24, working with her grandmother, she’s given readers a look into the world she has recently emerged from. She writes in the language forms that teens and young adults will recognize, relate to, and feel comfortable with.

And yes, she uses vulgar, profane language when the situation calls for it. She uses it sparingly, but if you find vulgarity offensive, then you should avoid this book. It’s because her vulgarisms are  of high quality. It must be her grandmother’s influence as her editor. (I smile as I say this)

It’s the language of Facebook, the language of text messages, and the language of Caller ID. It’s the language of teens making decisions that only teens and young adults have to make. Examples? Let me give you only three examples:

1. “I hope you’re on birth control.” 

2. “If I control my eating, I can control my life.”

3. “I know I shouldn’t have done that, but I did anyway.”

What stands out the most to me in a book like this, is the sense of urgency that permeates the narrative. Everything is of the utmost importance. That lends itself to the multiple first person limited POV that Rosenberg uses as a narrative tool. We have unreliable narrators. Are things really the way they see them?

In other words, these are young people who are trying to make sense of the world in which they live. It’s a wild ride, a real rollercoaster of emotions and events and changes and friendships and relationships.

Why is it like this? Because our protagonists are in a state of becoming. They are becoming grownups, like me, like you. We were once like them, and if they are lucky, they will find a way to avoid becoming the grownups you and I became. They belong to a different time and a different age. They are products of their time, just as we are products of our time.

So, let me conclude. This is beautiful: it’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s heartwarming, it’s uplifting. Like I said, it’s a real rollercoaster. So, if you’re going to read this book, just make sure that you are the right person to go on the ride…



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