Character Interview: Tommy Dana from Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney’s Young Adult Fiction Novel ‘The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People’

Beyond the Books

authorphotoWe’re thrilled to have here today Tommy Dana from Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney’s new Young Adult Fiction Novel, The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People. Tommy Dana is a thirteen year old student living in Bangor, Maine.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Tommy Dana. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

Well, they did portray me as pretty much a wimp at first! Seriously though, I don’t have any qualms about the way I was portrayed as I build strength over time through the many adventures that I go through with and without my formerly fictional companion and erstwhile bodyguard Shannon O’Neil. This brings up a great question about strength though. In western culture we are…

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Character Interview: John Birch from Robert V Baynes novel, ‘The Day the Dollar Died’

Beyond the Books

book cover (1)-1We’re thrilled to have here today John Birch from Robert V Baynes new novel, The Day the Dollar Died. John Birch is a 54 year old farmer living near Peoria, Illinois.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, John Birch. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I think I have been fairly portrayed. Personally, I did not like the direction the book took my life. I really had a pretty good life when the book started, but I lost quite a bit by the time it was over.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

I think the author did a good…

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Character Interview: Kate Davidson from Tracy Weber’s cozy mystery, Karma’s a Killer

Beyond the Books

book_coverWe’re thrilled to have here today Kate Davidson from Tracy Weber’s new cozy mystery,Karma’s a Killer. Kate is a thirty-three-year-old yoga teacher living in Seattle, Washington.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so much for this interview, Kate. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I think Tracy did a pretty good job of characterizing me this time, though I wish she would have shared fewer of my internal thoughts and emotions with readers. I mean, come on, shouldn’t a girl have a few secrets? And there are some scenes I’d prefer to forget. That whole rabbit in the Doga (yoga for dogs) class scene, for example. Did she really have to share that? It was humiliating!

Do you feel…

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Guest post: “The Journey from Finance to Fiction” by Georges Ugeux

GU Author Photo for BlogI was sitting in my office at home, watching another gorgeous New York sunset and had just put the final touches on my book, International Finance Regulation. As absorbed the peaceful surroundings, my mind began to wander and I started writing a few pages of the novel: the death of Bertrand Wilmington, falling from the trading room of a bank.

My thoughts led me to a core issue: the arrogant and egotistic mentality of the population of people that play finance like Russian roulette – they have a real sense of entitlement and like to be challenged. Who better to challenge this group than the young, beautiful Chinese female detective, Victoria Leung? She is unpredictable and one that some men believe they can easily manipulate and seduce.  To their surprise, Victoria Leung is a shrewd financial professional. I immediately adopted her as the protagonist.

Without realizing it, I had written three chapters. I printed them and read them (reading printed copy is in fact, different than text on a screen). After returning to my living room, I showed the chapters to my wife, who had no idea why I began writing a novel, especially since I was just completing a major non-fiction book. However, after reading the first three chapters, she looked at me and smiled. I smiled back and kissed her. I knew I had just received approval and interest from my most challenging critic.

My journey as a fiction author had begun.





Author:  Georges Ugeux


Publisher:  Archway Books

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book: 

Celebrated non-fiction author Georges Ugeux delivers an intense, imaginative and intriguing financial thriller in his debut novel, The Flying Dragon.  Set against the backdrop of the high-energy, high-tension world of global finance, The Flying Dragon plunges readers deep into a world where power, greed, money, and passion can intersect in a most dangerous way.

The Flying Dragon introduces protagonist Victoria Leung, a beautiful, brilliant, fearless, and highly accomplished financial fraud investigator.  Responsible for taking down Sun Hung Kai Properties’ Kwok Brothers, a real estate empire, Victoria not only established herself as a formidable talent, but earned the nickname “The Flying Dragon” in the process. When she leaves the fraud department of the Hong Kong Police, Victoria accepts a position as a senior detective at Pegasus, an international security firm based in London.  The Pegasus job affords Victoria much-needed freedom, but that calm is shattered when Victoria receives an urgent message from her close friend Diana Yu. It seems Diana’s ex- boyfriend Henry Chang is in danger.  Henry’s co-worker, Bertrand Wilmington, head of the derivative trading desk of a global bank, has fallen from a window of the twenty-second floor trading room.The Hong Kong Police Force quickly concludes that the death was a suicide, but is there more to this story than meets the eye? Henry Chang thinks so—and knows that if anyone can find answers, it’s Victoria, the Flying Dragon herself. Hong Kong and Mainland authorities are unsuccessful in cracking the case, but Victoria uses her expertise to discover key clues. And Victoria, a dogged, tough, tenacious investigator, won’t back down until she gets answers. As she races to piece together the puzzle of what really happened, Victoria is swept up in a world of danger, deception, and deadly consequences.   Can she extricate herself from this perilous web of arrogance, power, money and greed? Will she expose the corruption and bring down a financial giant?  Or will time run out? The clock is ticking….

A Belgian and U.S. national, Georges Ugeux is the Chairman and CEO of Galileo Global Advisors LLC, an investment banking advisory boutique.  Ugeux joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1996, as Group Executive Vice President, International. An adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, Ugeux is the author of a numerous nonfiction books about finance.  The Flying Dragon is his first work of fiction

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The Story behind ‘Q Island’ by Russell James

Q Island, my novel about the impact of a virus that sweeps across Long Island, had two inspirations, both pretty far apart.

The first thing that sent the muse into action was a news story about scientists discovering a complete baby wooly mammoth frozen in the Siberian tundra. They dug out the ice around it, then I watched a clip of a helicopter slingloading the thing out of the ground. The mammoth was encased in a perfect cube of ice, with the exposed tusks protruding from one end. I could see the flawless outline of the baby through the frosted ice.

My first thought was “No way someone isn’t going to clone this.” My second thought was “Why did it die so young?”

I knew viruses lived practically indefinitely if frozen. Whatever killed this thing might still be inside it, waiting to be awakened from a 10,000 year slumber. And it would likely be something no scientist had ever seen.

So I wrote the story of the mammoth’s last moments, from the mammoth’s point of view. And that was it. I had no idea where the story would go after that, so it went nowhere.

A year or two later, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. A lot of people got isolated from the rest of the world. Society disintegrated in what seemed like hours. People abandoned jobs to save themselves. Cops did crazy things. Civilians did even crazier. I remember a story about people who were too sick for evacuation and how staff was forced to face that. The whole thing was horrific.

I wondered what would happen if that occurred on a larger scale. In a bigger, more populated place. And while eventually, the waters covering New Orleans would recede, what if the isolation was permanent. That seemed like a setting for a horror/thriller. My home stomping grounds of Long Island, New York came to mind since it would be a few bridges, ferries and a tunnel away from a natural isolation. Then I remembered my frozen mammoth idea, a novel way to introduce a new pathogen without having the government cook it up like most other post-apocalyptic novels do. That would fit in perfectly.

So the lesson I learned is to save every interesting idea. Sometimes it takes two of them to get a nvoel started.


Title:  Q ISLAND





Purchase on Amazon

About the Book

Epidemic! An ancient virus surfaces on Long Island, New York turning its victims into black-veined, infectious, psychopathic killers. Chaos and madness rule.  In desperation, the military quarantines the island, trapping Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden. Somehow, Aiden survives the infection. He could be the key to a cure—if Melanie can somehow get him to the mainland.

A taut, tense, terrifying thriller that teems with intensity, Q Island is an eerily realistic tale. With a chilling plot, compelling characters, and a pulse-quickening storyline, Q Island will leave readers breathless.  Earning nods as one of this year’s best horror novels, Q Island is an extraordinary story exceptionally well-told.

About the Author

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, Russell James now spins twisted tales best read during daylight. In addition to two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness, James is the author of seven paranormal thrillers:  Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker and Q Island. His next novel, The Portal, is slated for release in 2016. Visit him at

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Interview with Ken Lizzi, Sci-fi Author of ‘Under Strange Suns’

lizzi_author_pix (1)Ken Lizzi is an attorney and the author of an assortment of published short stories. When not traveling – and he’d rather be traveling – he lives in Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife Isa and their daughter, Victoria Valentina. He enjoys reading, homebrewing, and visiting new places. He loathes writing about himself in the third person. Connect with Ken on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Book:

In the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’John Carter of Mars, Under Strange Sunsbrings the sword-and-planet novel to the twenty-first century. War is a constant, and marooned on a distant world, former Special Forces soldier Aidan Carson learns there is nothing new Under Strange Suns.

Read Chapter One

Amazon / OmniLit / Twilight Times Books

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, “Under Strange Suns.” To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: “Under Strange Suns” is the story of a burned-out, former Special Forces soldier hired to search for the lost inventor of the Faster-than-Light spaceship drive. You can blame this one on Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB popularized the sword-and-planet genre with his “A Princess of Mars” back in 1912, the first of the John Carter stories. But what cut it with readers in 1912 might raise some eyebrows a hundred years later. So when I decided to dip my toe into the sword-and-planet genre, I knew that getting my characters to another world would require a bit more heavy lifting on my part. The resulting novel, “Under Strange Suns,” works the mechanism of space travel into the narrative itself, driving the plot (in addition to driving the characters to their destination.)

Q: What do you think makes a good science fiction novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: As with every story, the primary consideration is to entertain. With science fiction, a secondary requirement is novelty, or at least some twist on a familiar theme. And finally, the story must entertain. Yes, I used entertain for two slots. That factor is twice as important as any other.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I worked out a moderately detailed outline, broken down into chapters and describing the events each chapter must cover. Once I began writing, the outline became more of a mission statement or list of suggestions. But most of the events described in the outline made it into the novel in one form or another.

UnderStrangeSuns_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Since the impetus for “Under Strange Suns” was “A Princess of Mars,” I knew the main character would be a soldier. Other than that, his character owes little or nothing to John Carter. I spent some time in uniform, many years ago, and did have the opportunity to train and hobnob with members of the Special Operations community. Aidan Carson’s personality is based to some extent on my foggy memories of those unique people.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: My villains are fanatics, true believers. The primary step required to make them realistic was reading the news. Other than that, I needed to show sincerity, that the villains truly believed their actions were not only justified, but moral, even laudable.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Know when to end the chapter. Cliff-hangers never go out of style, because they work. Try to leave the reader with a desire to find out what happens next.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: With an alien landscape as a setting, I tried to reinforce the novelty and unique aspects of the place. I used frequent repetition to reinforce the unearthly lighting that two suns would provide. I also employed intermittent description of alien flora and fauna to occasionally remind the reader he’s no longer in Kansas.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I considered theme at the outlining stage and stuck with it. The theme, or related aspects, have cropped up in my other work, yes. But theme is secondary to the obligation to (say it with me) entertain.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: There’s a question for you. Something to hash out over a pitcher of beer. I’d suggest that from traditionally published debut writers up through the ranks of mid-list authors, craft predominates. Art dominating craft, for better or worse, is found among either the self-published or the best-selling traditionally published authors. In between those two poles, editors are going to push conventional narrative voice and technique. And in most cases, I’d guess, rightly so. But I’m just speculating here. And without that pitcher, damn it.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: A firm grasp of craft, perseverance, and the ability to entertain.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: No one ever paid me to do homework. I like this writing gig better. Less math.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Any book on craft is useful. I’ve read several. The good advice stands out by repetition from multiple sources.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Pay close attention to your editor. Even if you don’t agree with a suggestion, consider the reason for it.

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Guest post: “Cheryl’s 5 Seasonal Favorite Reads,” by Children’s Author Cheryl C. Malandrinos

I am a Christmas freak. There, I admitted it. I LOVE Christmas! One of the fun things I like to do around Christmas is read my favorite seasonal titles. At this point, I only get to read one a year, but sometimes I can sneak in two. Here is a list of my top five seasonal favorites. Let me know if you have heard of any of them.

The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

This book tells the story of the Emma Jensen, who struggles to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, William. She is in such despair, she can barely hold it together for their children.

Then the first Santa letter arrives with promises of gifts and instructions for activities that will teach the family the true meaning and gifts of Christmas, giving them hope as they prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth.

The Santa Letters is a heartwarming story that is not to be missed. You should probably have a box of tissue on your nightstand.

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover

It would be difficult to imagine Santa without a little bit of Christmas magic.The Christmas Chronicles tells the story of Klaus, whose parents died when the Black Death came to their village in 1343. Little Klaus is adopted by the Worshipful Guild of Foresters, Carpenters, and Woodworkers, where he becomes a master at his craft. His work is well-sought after and his generosity leads to his sharing his toys with children at Christmas.

This is how I described the story in my review: “It is an adventure, an inspiration, and a love story blended together with many of the symbols we have come to associate with Santa Claus and Christmas.”

This is a beautifully told story.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

As prevalent today as it was when first published, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol has an amazing transformation. He hates everything about Christmas shows his employee, Bob Cratchit, no compassion or mercy. One evening he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, who show him he must change his ways.

What I believe is even more astounding than Scrooge’s transformation is that the author is able to take a despicable character and create in the reader’s heart a degree of sympathy for the old man who was hardened by loss and suffering.

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts

This book is downright hilarious, even though I feel it addresses an important and serious issue: getting help from your spouse.

Joy and some of the other wives in their knitting group feel their husbands don’t appreciate the time and effort that goes into making Christmas special. They are sick and tired of not being able to enjoy the season and fighting to get their husbands to understand they need some help.

When Joy goes on strike, she is amazed at how quickly the idea snowballs. The women from her knitting group join her. Then the local newspaper picks up the story. The town of Holly is soon in the middle of a holiday war with men and women choosing sides.

But On Strike for Christmas is more than a book about a battle between the sexes. It is about love, understanding, compromise, and friendships. The story was turned into a movie in 2010—which I haven’t seen because I am afraid any storyline changes will bug me. I think this story is perfect just the way the author wrote it.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

It would be unthinkable if a children’s author didn’t have at least one children’s book on her list of seasonal favorites. I have loved this story since childhood and my girls love it too. We watch the original movie from the 1960s when it’s on TV every year.

The mean, old Grinch doesn’t like Christmas, so he tries to steal it. When the Whos down in Whoville wake up Christmas morning without decorations, presents, and all the yummy fixings, he’s sure he will hear them all the way up on his mountain crying “Boo Hoo.”

So, imagine his surprise when the sounds of joyful singing reach his ears on Christmas Day. Not only is it wonderful to witness the Grinch’s transformation, from this book we also get one of the most profound quotes from any picture book ever written:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Seasonal stories can touch our hearts, make us laugh, and remind us of the magic of Christmas. I hope you’ll share some of your favorites.

Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas season.



Title: A Christmas Kindness

Genre: First chapter reader

Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos


Publisher: 4RV Publishing

Purchase link:

About the Book:

Eight-year-old Robert is eager to share his wish list with Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve. When he meets Glenn, who has only one request for Santa, Robert is confused over what he should do. Can he cast aside what he wants and ask Santa to bring his new friend a special gift?

CCMalandrinos Author Photo

About the Author 

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author, ghostwriter, and editor. Her children’s books include Little Shepherd (GAP, 2010) and A Christmas Kindness (4RV, 2012 & 2014). She is also a book reviewer and blogger. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.

You can visit Cheryl online at:




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