Wednesday 27 June 2012

Interview with author Chris Rakunas

Today I have a fascinating interview with author Chris Rakunas, who has written a non-fiction book about his experiences with the Haitian relief effort after the 2010 earthquake.  He talks about the book, his publishing experiences and his upcoming novel, The 8th Doll.  Enjoy...

Interview with author Chris Rakunas

1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself. 

My wife and I just moved to a small town in Western Oklahoma called Clinton (pop. 9,000), and I grew up west of here in another small town called Los Angeles, CA (pop. 18,000,000). I grew up body surfing on the beach, and I still have a love for the ocean that comes out whenever I get to scuba dive.
Most of my career has been spent in various healthcare roles, including time as a COO and CEO of hospitals, which I think gave me a unique look at the world. When you get to meet with people who are dying and their families, you get a good perspective on what is really important in life. I never once met a patient who said, “You know, I wish I had spent more time at work.”
I have been very fortunate in life to have traveled a great deal as well, and I try to tie that into my writing. I have spent time in some out-of-the-way places like Lithuania, Mongolia, and Siberia. I just love the little gems you get from travel because it’s a gift that stays with you forever.

2. Please tell us about your book, Tears for the Mountain.  

Tears for the Mountain is a non-fiction book about a medical mission trip to Haiti following the devastating earthquake there in 2010. Over 200,000 people died, and over 1,000,000 were made homeless in the blink of an eye, and the need for medical help was immense. I was involved with a team whose job was to deliver 20,000 pounds of medical supplies to local hospitals.
The book goes through how I became involved with the project and ends with the first day back from the trip. It’s partly a chronicle of the trip, but partly meant to give people an idea of what medical mission work is really like. There are funny moments, heartbreaking moments, confusion, passion, terror, and every emotion in between flying at you because that’s truly what the situation was like. One moment you would want to cry because of story someone told you, then you’d be laughing at something hilarious a child did, and then you’d be wondering if you were going to be safe.
There is a nice promotional video that people can watch about the book as well. It’s a nice video to watch after reading the book as well because those photos are all from moments that are mentioned in the book.

3. Why did you write this book? 

The book actually started off as a bit of therapy when I returned from the trip. I had a hard time dealing with some of the images and things I had witnessed when I was in Haiti, and a physician friend of mine suggested I write some of it down.
About a year later some people I know suggested that I put it down in a book, so I began writing seriously. The project was never meant to be something that I personally profited from, but instead something that could benefit the orphans at New Life Children’s Home. Once I had made the decision to donate the proceeds to them, I really felt a sense of passion about getting it published and promoting it.

4. What was your goal in publishing your book? 

There are two things that I wanted to accomplish. First was to remind people about Haiti. When the earthquake happened, it seemed to be in the news everywhere. People were starting drives to collect goods and money to ship over there, and then suddenly the next week a new reality TV show started, and everyone forgot. The kids who were orphaned by this earthquake are still there. The people who were made homeless are still there. They didn’t go away just because a new season of The Bachelor started.
The other goal I have is to fund-raise. When I got to see Miriam Frederick in action first hand, I knew I needed to do something to support her. Lots of people talk about doing good in the world; Miriam just goes out there and does it. She holds orphans in her arms, she touches mothers who are living in the streets, and she never loses an opportunity to let a child know that he or she is loved. It’s amazing.
I have been thankful that some major news sources like CBS news have picked up the story about the book, and I am always thankful when people tweet about the book or post something on Facebook.

5. What would you like your intended readers to take away from reading your book? 

Probably the first thing is to let them know that you don’t have to be some sort of superhero to make a difference in the world. I’m just a regular Joe, but I decided that I was going to ensure that those supplies got to their destinations no matter what, and that’s what happened.
I also want people to get a sense of what things were really like on the ground there. There were a lot of people ‘assessing the situation,’ which ended up being a phrase I hated. I think some people like the drama of disasters, and they’re almost like disaster tourists. It’s ok to be involved with a crisis, but just make sure that you’re focusing your time and efforts on affecting a positive change.
When someone puts down Tears for the Mountain, I hope that they feel compelled to tell others about the story. Whether it’s posting reviews on Goodreads or simply telling a co-worker, every little bit helps.

6. Did anything surprise you about the process of writing Tears for the Mountain?

There were two surprises. One was just how different memories can be. When we were in Haiti, it’s not like we had planned to write a book and kept copious notes and photographs of everything. We went, we did our thing, and then we came home. But when I started writing the book, I shared the manuscript with Dr. Schroering and he and I had some different recollections. (He recalls me saying, “Dude…!” quite often during the trip)
The other thing I learned was that publishing really is a business. I received lots of praise from agents and publishers that said things like, “Wow, this sounds great and reads well, but we don’t do non-fiction right now.” But I received one email from a publisher that said they only did paranormal teen romance, and they’d love it if I could put a vampire into the story somewhere. At first I blew my top because…well, you can’t just add things to non-fiction, and you really can’t add a vampire to non-fiction. But then I realized that that’s just the nature of publishing. Publishers want to have books that sell, and if vampires help a book sell, then they’re going to ask for a vampire in everything.
I was very fortunate to start working with Divertir Publishing because we really had our goals aligned for this project. I try to thank Dr. Ken Tupper, the publisher, every time I speak with him for not making me add a werewolf.

7. I know you currently have a novel in the works. Tell us a bit about it. 

I spent the back half of 2011 trying to figure out what I was going to write next. I felt such a strong connection with Tears for the Mountain that I didn’t want to jump into another non-fiction unless it was something I could really stand behind.
For the New Year, my wife and I were down in Mexico with some friends (Melanie Wilderman was one of them, for you Paranormal YA fans), and I was standing in front of the Temple of the 7 Dolls, a major Mayan temple in Dzibilchaltun. I was staring up in awe of it, and suddenly this story popped into my head. I wandered around the ruins for the next few hours, looking at all the different buildings and aspects of the area, and I couldn’t get the story out of my head for the rest of the week.
The 8th Doll ties together aspects of Mayan culture and architecture to weave a fast-paced story about the 2012 apocalyptic prophecy. It is fiction, and it’s the first of a four book series that follows the main character, Alex Guidry, to various places around the world, almost all of which are places I’ve spent time in. I find that the writing is much more interesting when you can describe the smell of the room and the way the air tastes. The mysteries and twists in the book are all factual.
The book will be out by 31 July worldwide, in both paperback and e-book formats.

8. Did you find it more difficult writing a non-fiction book or a fiction book? 

This is an easy one. Non-fiction is way harder to write because you can’t change the story! In a fictional account, you can add whatever you want. If you suddenly think of a neat twist that requires a Mercedes Benz and a pile of rubber bands, you just go back 5 pages and mention that there happens to be an SL-500 with office supplies in it.
With non-fiction, you’re bound by the truth, which can sometimes be exciting, but sometimes boring. (Notice that there aren’t any bestsellers about getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist or trimming your toenails)

9. Are there any more upcoming projects for you?

I just finished the second book in the Alex Guidry series, The Eye of Siam. It’s about a jewel heist in Thailand, and I’m about to start the third book, which will take place in Lithuania. I visited an amazing 15th century castle there about 10 years ago, and I have never been able to get it out of my mind.
For anyone who wants to hear about release dates for The 8th Doll and what I’m writing next, I have a page with pretty regular updates.  I also love interacting with fans, so I will respond to all emails and messages sent. One thing I have really enjoyed about writing is talking with people all around the globe. On any given day I can be emailing with people in Europe, India, Canada, and Australia. It is very humbling to have someone take the time to let you know that they’ve read your work.

Friday 22 June 2012

Guest Post: 8 Golden Bits Of Wisdom From Successful Authors

Today we have a guest with us,  Patrick Del Rosario, and he brings with him a little sage wisdom from  famous authors...

8 Golden Bits Of Wisdom From Successful Authors

The world of writing is unique. Those who are successful with it often times learn very valuable lessons along the way, including some bits of wisdom that are applicable to more than just authoring a book. Here are 8 quotes from successful authors to encourage you to write and live better.

1. “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” – This golden tip comes from Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a successful science fiction writer and short story author. Whether it is entertainment value, an escape to fantasy from reality, or factual information, the job of any author is to deliver on what the reader is expecting when they pick up your book.

2. When writing, put "a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free." – This comes from the well-known and widely respected author, Stephen King. In his book “On Writing”, Stephen King reveals that when he is planning a book, he does not plot out the entire storyline first. Instead, he himself engages with each character and their own struggle, and develops the plot as he writes to help them break free from the challenges they face. This method of writing gives less structure to the story and delivers more of an impact to the reader because you are just as curious as they are how it will all turn out, which transforms the way you author the piece.

3. “Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind” – From the masterful mind of Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road, this tip talks to the person behind the writing. Being an author is a very personal job. You display your most inner thoughts, and to be successful at it, you must follow this tip and put yourself on the line.

4. “Have self-confidence” – This one comes from Ian Rankin, a Scottish crime novelist. He has lived the author life of being put through the ringer, experiencing rejection, and yet he has still managed to keep his confidence alive and pick himself up, dust himself off, and keep writing. This is important for any author. Rejection is natural in the publishing industry, but knowing how to overcome it by remaining confident and true to yourself will ultimately make you a success.

5. “Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” – This quote comes from one of the world’s greatest children book authors, Shel Silverstein. It is a great piece of wisdom from one successful author to those who are striving to achieve their dreams. Push forward and do not listen to what you should not do, or what people are telling you not to do at all. Instead, follow your heart and you can achieve whatever you set out to achieve.

6. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – This famous sentiment from Dr. Seuss shows again the true importance of being you not only in writing but in life as a whole. Do not listen to the naysayers and the people who will inevitably try to bring you down, but instead, trust who you are and you will succeed.

7. “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Famous children’s book author Roald Dahl encourages people and authors in particular to have a fantasy and believe in the magic. Without this, creating a story and living a full life beyond what you can dream will be impossible.

8. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway sums it up with this quote. Writing is easy but the process is never over. From revisions to new ideas, authors are constantly refining their craft and developing their skill.

What are your favorite quotes from a successful author?

About the Author: 
Patrick Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s pioneer and leading providers of management degrees and certificate iv in training and assessment. When not working, Patrick enjoys blogging about career and business. Patrick is also a photography enthusiast and is currently running a photography studio in the Philippines. If you have a blog and would like free content, you can find him on Google+.

Friday 15 June 2012

A Dramatic Historical: A Review of Casting Stones

My Book Review of Casting Stones by G. M. Barlean:

I enjoyed reading Casting Stones by G. M. Barlean, very much.  It is a taut historical drama, with the emotion played just right and never overwrought.

The book tells the story of James Raven and his family, the tragedy involving his first marriage and the nightmare existence that becomes his second marriage.  It takes the reader on a tense ride through his turmoil to the stunning conclusion.

I love good historical fiction and Casting Stones fits the bill.  It’s not one of the sweeping epics or historic mysteries I usually read, but it takes a solid story, and marries it with strong, believable characters.  Mix in the author’s excellent writing style and you have a winner.

I really liked the fact that author manages not to pull punches when it comes to misfortune while still maintaining a credibility of plot.   Nothing goes too far over the top, and the motives and rationales of the characters are realistic.  And that is where the heart of the book lies, with the characters.  You feel for James Raven and his son, and grow to loathe those responsible for their pain.

It was a treat to read Casting Stones and I recommend it.

Casting Stones is available at Amazon in:

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Welcome to Shadows of Kings and the Dragon Rising...

Today we have a guest, author Jack Whitsel.  Jack is currently on a blog tour for his new fantasy book, Shadows of Kings, and he brings us an introduction this novel, the first in the Dragon Rising series.

Welcome to Shadows of Kings and the Dragon Rising Series

With the June release of Shadows of Kings upon us -  I thought I would share a sneak peak of the region and provide a list of characters. Thanks to everyone who have contributed to this journey.

Shadows of Kings

Steel and sorcery clash as the Harhn incursion sweeps through the Hugue. Only Lord Baudouin and Lady Lucia, a Dragon Maiden from the Order, stand in the enemy's path.  Only together will there be any hope to repel the onslaught, and preserve the future for a mysterious girl they do not know.

The Players:

Lady Lucia – Dragon Maiden of the Order
Lord Baudouin – Son of Duke Theudis
Rizela – Princess and Sorceress of the Darkfey
Ghruelnar – Sorcerer and leader of the Harhn Horde
Alaric – Dragon Initiate of the Order
Norris – Cousin and Standard Bearer of Lord Baudouin
Flannery – Cousin of Lord Baudouin
Isidore – Knight of Mersalia
Gui - A peasant from Marcellus
Dragana – Young sorceress, daughter of Lord Yannic of the Order.
Celestine - Sorceress
Duke Theudis – Duke of Camille and Standard Bearer of King Amger.
King Amger – King of Mersalia

The Founding:

According to the Hugue Calendar, the region was established over five hundred years ago. Following the Great War between Elves and Men, Humans from the Ancestral Plains, fearing another onslaught from the Elves, left their homes and traveled across the Barren Steppe to the region called the Hugue.[1]  The settlers comprised of nobles and commoners from the various cities decimated by war. Together, they made the long journey, putting aside cultural differences in order to start a new beginning. Upon reaching the Hugue, they found the region infested with Harhn and all manner of foul beasts. Led by Lord Theudemund of House Amric, the warriors from the assembly of Men, combined with the native Humans and Halflings of the region, drove the beasts from the Hugue. After this great victory, the Principalities were established. Each sovereign of the three strongest factions were married to one of Theudemund's daughters as a token of good will and to strengthen the newly formed alliances. Theudemund’s son became the  King of Mersalia. The other Principalities formed were Pratalsia, Gruneheim, Cadyrnia, and Mersalia. The already existing Principalities were Verslund, Vhor, and Henstubber.

[1]  There is no documented evidence that describes who started the war. The scholar’s sentiment suggests the Elves were purely behind the conflict.

You can find more on Jack, his blog tour and his books at his website:

Wednesday 6 June 2012

On the Death of Ray Bradbury

'Photo by Alan Light'

It was with a great deal of sadness that I read today that author Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91. 

Ray Bradbury was one of my inspirations, both as a writer and a reader.  His words instilled in me a love of short stories that lingers to this day.  He showed me stories could be beautiful, poetic and leave a powerful lasting impression.  My childhood was littered with his stories, such tales as All Summer in a Day, Uncle Einar (and the other stories about the Elliot Family), The Emissary, and The Fog Horn.  They opened my mind to possibilities and strange wonders, and gave me the knowledge that words are more than just plot and dialogue, they are emotion.  With them a writer can conjure images of sadness, fear, astonishment, or send a shiver down a reader’s spine.  He demonstrated that stories can be timeless.
And that is his legacy.

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