Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interview with Melodie Campbell, author 'Rowena and the Viking Warlord'

Billed as Canada’s “Queen of Comedy" by the Toronto Sun (Jan. 5, 2014), Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich.

Winner of nine awards, including the 2014 Derringer (US) and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge (Orca Books), Melodie has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and seven novels.

Melodie got her start writing stand-up.  In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. Her fiction has been described by industry reviewers as "hilarious" and "laugh-out-loud funny."

Melodie has a commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well.  She has been a bank manager, college instructor, marketing director, comedy writer and possibly the worst runway model ever.  These days, Melodie is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Her latest book is the paranormal romance time travel, Rowena and the Viking Warlord.

For More Information
About the Book:

He was her enemy and her lover…

As Cedric fights battles down south, Rowena unwittingly rides into an enemy war camp and is taken prisoner by her old friend Lars, who is not what he seems. 

Yet Rowena is not helpless. After all, she is a hereditary half-witch with a whole lot of magic in her.  Too bad she doesn’t know how to use it. Escaping from the camp, she continues to botch up spell after spell. Soon Kendra joins her on the trek back to Huel, along with the latest magical mistake, a flame-burping dragon called Cinders.
When war comes to Land’s End, it brings the one man who threatens to conquer everything in Huel, including Rowena’s heart. Now she has to make the biggest decision of her life. Will she return through the wall to safety in Arizona? Or will she stay in Land’s End for good, and fight to save her people from the Viking Warlord?

For More Information

  • Rowena and the Viking Warlord is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I love to eat.

Okay, for a second point, I’m tempted to say Eat again. But my dog Frankenpoodle would probably prefer a walk.  That’s what happens when you have a giant of a dawg lying on the beat up couch beside you as you write.  When you lift your hands from the keyboard, it’s dawg time.

When did you start writing?

At the age of 4.  My parents called it lying.  That was so short-sighted of them.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

When a fan wrote to say that ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL (book 1 of this trilogy) was the best book she had ever read.  I actually cried.  I’ve won 9 awards, Shelf-ish.  None of them can match that moment. I write for her now, and readers like her.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

To the medieval stone castle in Land’s End, where Rowena and the Viking Warlord takes place.  This was once a real castle that my family owned in Shropshire, that burned down in 1550.  But dammit, Air Canada hasn’t perfected time travel yet!

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

WRITE!  I work full time as the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada, so I am always fighting for time to write.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Sicily.  Half my family is from Sicily.  I’d like to write something historic there, maybe another rip-roaring fantasy adventure.

Back to your present book, ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD, how did you publish it?

I’m with a small traditional publisher in Canada, Imajin Books.  They are wonderful!  They pay a small advance, and above-average royalties, and provide TLC for your book.  I had some input to cover design and marketing blurbs.  All good.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

I believe in knowing your location really well.  So yes, I have traveled to Arizona many times for this series.  I also know the south of England (relatives live there).  And although I can’t go back in time, I learn a lot by seeing the landscapes of ‘Land’s End’ as they are today.

Why was writing ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD so important to you?

This was the third book in the Land’s End trilogy.  But I think the thing about this book is:  it is my ultimate fantasy.  I wanted to write a fast-moving, rollicking fantasy novel, with castles and swordfights, humor and sex…but I wanted it to be written through the eyes of a woman.  Reviewers called ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL “The Princess Bride with Sex!”  That’s what I wanted:  a rollicking medieval adventure novel, with broad humor.  And yup – that Viking Warlord is my secret fantasy!

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

Ah, that question.  I teach Crafting a Novel at college, and everyone asks this.  The thing is, if you are a writer those ideas are with you all the time. They haunt you at night.
They distract you during the day.  I have been writing fiction for 25 years, and I will need another 25 to go through all the ideas I currently have.

As I tell my students, I can teach you the craft of writing, and how to become a much better writer.  But plot ideas are magic that you have to create yourself.

Any final words?

ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL, the first book in the trilogy, was an Amazon Top 100 Bestseller (all books) in Sept. 2013!  T’was jolly cool to find myself sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts on the bestseller lists.  I hope readers find ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD equally wonderful reading.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest post from Bernadette Bland, author of Flights of Fancy


Title: Flight of Fancy
Genre: Poetry/Prose/Short Story
Author: Bernadette Bland
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 64
Language: English
ISBN - 978-1-45028-453-0

Life is filled with emotional highs and lows. Riding the wave of this experience is part of living, but for poet Bernadette Bland, dreaming was even more important. No matter the attitude, mood, or circumstance, Ms. Bland has always believed in the beauty of life. Never to be deterred from her heart’s desire, she has ridden her own life wave with an eye to her dreams and an eye to the beauty of nature. In her new poetry collection, Flights of Fancy, Ms. Bland shares her imagery with the outside world. She delves into the lavish splendor of nature in “Drifting Grace: God’s Art Show.” She peers behind the protective mask of a weeping clown in “Behind the Mask.” She recalls watching her mother slowly grow old in the poignant “Mama.” In all her words, she reveals her deepest yearnings and fears with selfless honesty. Flights of Fancy is an example of an imagination set free. Ms. Bland fills her poetry with wonder and will leave you longing to step out into the sun. She is not afraid to depict the sometimes traumatic rollercoaster of life; yet she encourages us to move on, move up, and not look back. Within every word, she calls to the reader, challenging each one of us to never stop dreaming!

Purchase your copy:


A Trip to Treasure - Boston, MA

H I recently had an experience of a life time traveling from Schenectady, Boston, MA. to attend and participate in the Annual Convention of the AARP -SO+ Uving. A huge event,the Center is filled with all types of vendors that cater to the Senior Citizens of this country.

As a newly published author, I was invited by iUniverse Publishing to represent them at the convention and to do some signing of my new book to be handed out to the attendees. What an exciting prospect for me. Imagine me! Signing my books for people to actually read. I was excited and terrified at the same time.It was all so new to me. What do I do? How am I supposed to look/dress appropriately for such an occasion?I'd have to meet and greet people, all strangers. How do I act?

As the time got closer,I was provided with some tips and advice; directions to the to the center,and a layout of the floor plan. This trip was planned to be a time for my husband and myself for the day after the book signing. Boston has what is known as the Freedom Trail, 9 originally Freedom Way), a walking tour of the most historic sites within the City of Boston. Many years ago, all these historic site were scattered about with no definite conjuction of the sites and probably no real interest. I have an Uncle (Bill Schofield) who lived and worked  in the city for most of his life. He was very interested in these sites and felt they should have a connection to each one. He planned out a  tour to make this connection and took it to the city's planning/governing boards with his proposal for the walking tour path. After many years of pleading and cajoling,these officials finally agreed and the walkway was built. Soon, tourists by the thousands instead of hundreds were making the tour to connect with some very important history, There are 16 sites incorporated into the 2.5 mile brick marker sidewalk tour Including The Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, the USS Constitution,The Paul Revere House,Bunker Hill Monument and more. Ifelt it to be part of my history too. Uncle,Bill Schofield, a veteran newsman. Honored as 'Father of the Freedom Trail' Schofield was an editor and
daily columnist for 'The Boston Herald'.He was better known for his invention for the Freedom Trail.A Veteran Navy Captain who served in
WWII,he wrote seven novels about the war and Navy Frogmen in particular. As detailed as they were, I couldn't find an interest in them but my husband did being he is a 25 year Navy Veteran himself who served with the Navy Seals.

Unfortunately,I never got to do the trail due to a bad fall which put me out of commission for a few days.I did do the signing though from a wheel chair and was so happy I did. The people I met were charming and shared some very kind words about my book which made the whole trip so very worthwhile,and if I could, I'd do it all again in a nano-second as they say.


Bernadette Bland was born in Westerly, Rhode Island. A news reporter and photographer for many years, her poetry has been published by the National Library of Poetry, the Amherst Society, and the Iliad Press, among others. Ms. Bland lives with her husband in the Capital District of upstate New York.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

A Conversation with Eliot Baker, author of 'The Last Ancient'

Eliot Baker lives in Finland. He teaches communications at a local college and runs an editing and translating business, but would be content singing for his heavy metal band and writing novels full-time. He grew up near Seattle, got his B.A. in World Literature at Pitzer College, and got his M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University. He was an award-winning journalist at the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, and before that he wrote for the Harvard Health Letters. He spent four years pursuing a career in the sciences while at the Harvard Extension School, during which time he spun old people in NASA-designed rocket chairs and kept younger people awake for 86 hours at a time in a sleep deprivation study. He likes good books, all music, and bad movies, and believes music and literature snobs just need a hug.

His latest book is the supernatural thriller/historical mystery, The Last Ancient.

About the Book:

 Around Nantucket Island, brutal crime scenes are peppered with ancient coins, found by the one man who can unlock their meaning. But what do the coins have to do with the crimes? Or the sudden disease epidemic? Even the creature? And who--or what--left them?

The answer leads reporter Simon Stephenson on a journey through ancient mythology, numismatics, and the occult. Not to mention his own past, which turns out to be even darker than he'd realized; his murdered father was a feared arms dealer, after all. Along the way, Simon battles panic attacks and a host of nasty characters -- some natural, others less so -- while his heiress fiancee goes bridezilla, and a gorgeous rival TV reporter conceals her own intentions.

Thank you for this interview!  When did you start writing?

In the womb. I tapped out a morse code story against my Mom’s uterus about a little boy who wanted more in life than umbilical apple juice and tuna fish sandwiches (this was before we knew the dangers of mercury in tuna, of course). But I didn’t pick up a pen start writing stories again until I learned to write, and once I got that whole remedial literarcy thing down, I began writing short stories at age seven. Then I wrote a bunch more in high school, then nothing but essays in college, then wrote a novel right out of college that was neglected by publishers but loved by me. I still heart you, unpublished first manuscript, even if nobody else does.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

A single sentence. Before I get there, some background is in order. My inspiration for The Last Ancient started off as something darker than the final product. Some people very close to me were having their lives ripped apart by addiction, and I began writing a dark fantasy parable about that downward spiral. Then I basically went down a creative Rabbit Hole myself, found some incredible stuff, recorded it, and realized the story I needed to tell was a much different and much more personal tale. I’d just quit my job as a reporter on Nantucket and moved to Finland to raise a family with my Finnish wife. I was struggling with feeling like a man between two worlds, living in one and and nostalgic for the other. Staring out my office window at the pale winter sunlight, I suddenly thought back to our former home on the island. I got homesick. I recalled one of my first field assignments as a reporter where I’d shadowed a deer hunter at sunrise, and how amidst a chorus of shotgun blasts the red island sun rose over the cold, windswept island. I remembered seeing truckloads of dead deer at the weigh-in station, and some illegally butchered carcasses discarded on pristine trails and beaches. Looking back down at my laptop, out of nowhere, I typed, “Shotguns crow across Nantucket.” The Finnish sunlight outside just seemed to turn golden. A gateway to this darkly fantastic Nantucket opened. It was a pivotal moment.
If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

One of my next projects is a middle-grade high-seas pirate fantasy thingy. If I could go anywhere, it would be on a sailboat headed out of Nantucket, down around South America, and over to Hawaii. I’d like to re-trace Melville’s steps, without actually killing any whales, and live off limes and the rainwater and fish I catch.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

I’d jam with my metal band. I’m a singer. We just started writing our own music this winter, and right when we started getting good, life got in the way of practicing more than once every two weeks. Singing takes the edge off of life and gives an edge to my creativity.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Finnish Lapland in winter. Living in Finland for four years, I’ve been to real Lapland in the summer just once, and only visited the edges of it in the winter. Lapland is such an eery, beautiful place. Everything about it seem otherworldly and endless, from the summer midnight sun to the winter darkness, to the clouds of summer mosquitoes and thousand lakes and snow and northern lights… You can understand why so much of Finnish mythology (recorded in the Kalevala) was inspired by Lapland and Laplanders. It’s an ideal location for a couple modern folks to meet a lot of creatures. And there’s some pretty cool creature-lore in Finland, too, that hasn’t been popularized yet. I have something sketched out called The Reindeer Killers that I’ll hopefully write this winter.

Back to your present book, The Last Ancient, how did you publish it?

I went the small press route.  I didn’t really consider self-publishing because I don’t have the social platform to pull it off, and because I really wanted the validation of being accepted by a house and having a great editor, which I received in Nikki Andrews. I pitched my novel at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association in 2012, and got interest from some New York agents and indie publishers. BURST Books was the one house who wanted my book as-is, no substantial changes please, and they praised my writing and story right off. The larger houses were worried the book was too long and combined too many genres. I went with the house that believed in me. And have they ever. They named The Last Ancient Novel of the Year for their Champagne Book Group Annual Author Awards. I’m honored.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

In a way, yes (grinning). I worked on Nantucket for two years as a reporter and fell in love with the island. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever been to. Magical, I’d call it. While there as an environmental and health reporter, I wrote extensively about the nooks and crannies of the island and its people. I basically got a Master’s in Nantucket Studies and parlayed that into The Last Ancient, which takes place on Nantucket. Indeed, Nantucket is in its own way the protagonist of my story.

Why was writing The Last Ancient so important to you?

Writing this book kind of saved my life. I had a lot resting on it. By moving to Finland, I left behind a job, city, country, friends and family I very much loved. It was a very hard move, and this isn’t a terribly easy country to live in for a writer; there are few opportunities as a journalist. I basically said, “The only way this can work is if I can write novels.” And I did.

Moreover, The Last Ancient is the fulfillment of a life long dream. And it contains themes of deciding between worlds that are very personal and important to me, as is the location of Nantucket.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best creative ideas come when I’m spacing out from highly logical work, like scientific papers or delivering lectures or writing technical manuals or translations. I think some part of my giggling-monkey-brain demands that this (often very interesting but extremely dense) stuff be more funny or exciting, so I’ll be working on a presentation about Peak Oil Theory or nuclear fusion technology when all of a sudden I’ll think about how dang convenient it would be if an alchemist would show up and make it all energetically feasible.

Any final words?

Thank you for having me here! Lastly, I want readers know what they’re getting into. The Last Ancient has been uniformly well-reviewed by Kirkus, Midwest Book Review and Foreword Clarion, who’ve all described it as a unique, genre-bending tale of everything from thriller, horror, fantasy, and suspense to historical mystery and steamy romance. You may squirm a little, but this isn’t a gore-fest or a swinger party. The deer mutilation crime scene on the first page contains the most graphic content of the book. If you can handle that, you’ll be fine. And there are a couple steamy romantic scenes but they serve a higher purpose. I don’t believe in gratuitous sex and violence, and I refuse to write about rape. But I do believe characters’ reactions to sex and violence provides insight into their souls. So: There’s some stuff in here. You’ve been warned! Happy reading!

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Interview with Paul DeBlassie III, author of 'The Unholy'

PAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.

His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.

Visit his website at or his blog at

Can you give us a little background behind The Untholy?

The story comes out of over thirty years of treating patients in psychotherapy who are survivors of the dark side of religion…have been used and abused and cast to the side. I’ve seen that when this happens people, those around the victim, to include family and friends, often turn a blind eye and deny what has happened. Rather than writing a self help book I decided to approach this realm of human suffering in fiction. To tell a story moves the reader into a deep and unconscious dimension that bypasses conscious defenses, leaving us open to truths that otherwise would be blocked. So, dramatizing the dark side of religion, pulling what can be the most vile and evil, and pivoting it against
an innocent and sincerely searching soul leaves the reader on edge, hopeful, but unsure as to what will happen and who in the end will survive…a truth conveyed symbolically and dramatically. To have written out a list of what to do or not to do in the midst of religious abuse might have helped some individuals, but would have left many people stone cold because there is no emotion is such guidance. In The Unholy, the story is pure emotion, fear and rage and hope and challenge, that inspires and frightens and causes us to stay up late at night in order to finish the story. Dream and chronic nightmares plagues people who’ve gone through the horror of being abused within a religious system. It could be emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual torment---or all of the above---a true encounter with the unholy---that people undergo during childhood or adolescence or adulthood. They become anxious, depressed, or suffer a terrible emotional breakdown. I’ve treated them, helped them, and they helped to inspire the story of The Unholy!

I know you did a lot of research for your book.  Can you give us some researching tips?

What you need to know about your story is often presenting itself to you during the course of daily life by what happens, what you read, and what you want to avoid, so listen, take internal notes and then hit the page. I find that I am always doing research, the newspaper article that I’m reading in the morning before starting to write, something my wife tells me at the breakfast table, a casual remark by a friend all act to inform my writing of the day. Research takes on a synchronous quality because I really believe in the meeting of the inner and outer worlds so that what we are writing about is swirling about us in our daily life, information constantly coming our way that will guide us in the development of the story. In The Unholy I was confronted with one priest after another, one zen master, one protestant minister, bishops, popes, ministers, all on the news. They and their antics fed right into what I sensed I needed to write about. I was familiar with all of this through my work in psychotherapy, but the more I wrote the more started hitting the press. Right before publication of The Unholy, the Vatican, various ashrams, and eastern cults were blasted over the news media. My pr people were jazzed about the coincidence, something that I feel is more synchronous a meeting of outer facts and inner realities informing and confirming the story, The Unholy. Research is always happening, during conversation, sleep, wakefulness and fantasy!

What are 5-10 musts every story in your genre should have?

Scary, mean, dark, compelling, transformational potential, and hope but not too much hope for the future. If there is too much hope then we run the risk of selling our soul out to an angel. Selling out to an angel is a terrible possibility because that trivializes the human condition, takes what is complex and looks only at the surface and ready made answers that seem to provide immediate relief from suffering. Scary and mean and dark and compelling set the stage for dark forces infringing on human hope and potential with no guarantees. We have to remain on the edge our seat, waiting to see what’s going to happen. Claire, in The Unholy, is a young woman haunted and intimated by a life-threatening figure, a man robed in black. He haunts her dreams, comes in nightmares, terrifying remembrances of things past. This deep fear from childhood trauma so laces The Unholy with compelling imagery and emotion that the reader is flung forward into the narrative desperate to find out not only what will happen but how it will happen, how a young woman could possible handle the power of a misogynistic religious male patriarchy. Archbishop William Anarch hates women and Claire Sanchez, curandera, is a young and vulnerable women. When a man carries the sanction of society, particularly of a huge religious organization, and mixes it with his own sordid inclinations so as to empower himself then we’ve got one of the building blocks of good set against evil. Innocence is the other building block, Claire Sanchez, and when she confronts face to face the worst thing in her life…we’ve got action and thrills. Scary, mean, dark, compelling with the potential for hope and transformation are the building blocks for good psychological thrillers and dark fantasy!

What are 10 things most people don’t know about you?

Those ten things will remain ten things that most people don’t know about me. But, the other ten things that I’m willing to share concern The Unholy itself, the fact that it was a story twenty years in the making. It’s held up over such a long period of time because every time I wanted to put it away my wife would encourage me. It was rejected well over one hundred times…so there’s one hundred things people didn’t know. If it wasn’t my wife, then my dreams would say not to give up on it, even though I had shelved it and moved on to other novels. People don’t know about the dreams about The Unholy that I had. They said to leave it in the kiln, to be fired some more, and then one day when I least expected it would be ready to be removed from the kiln. That’s when Jim White from Sunstone Press and I met up and he was on fire for the story. This is stuff people don’t know about me. Years, and despair, and patience, a plethora of dreams and nightmares, struggles, encouragement from my wife and family, and synchronistically meeting the right people went into publishing of The Unholy…dreams, nightmares, patience, despair, my wife, my family, encouragement, the phantasmagoric kiln, Jim White and Sunstone Press…all things some people know but many people do not. So, these ten things are hidden emotions and relational encounters and The Unholy and how it was woven into the fabric of my life for twenty years before publication in 2013.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parker by Stephanie Macneil Book Feature


Title: Parker
Genre: Young Adult
Author: Stephanie Macneil
Publisher: iUniverse
EBook: 226 pages
Release Date: November 20, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-47596-038-9

The secret came out a few years ago: Parker Knight is gay. Now Parker is sixteen, and everyone has either embraced it, does not care, or has forgotten—everyone except for Dylan Baker. He is determined to make Parker’s life miserable. Parker really thought killing himself would make everything better. If he was dead, he would not have to get kicked around by Dylan and his friends anymore. He would be free. Now, after a failed suicide attempt, Parker just wants to get through the last few months of tenth grade and stay as far away from Dylan as possible. What’s worse is Parker is secretly in love with his best friend, Liam Eriksson. But luckily, Liam doesn’t know this. Parker does not want to risk losing the friendship by telling him his true feelings. But as a tragedy overshadows his already complicated life, Parker soon discovers that the truth has a habit of surfacing in unexpected ways. Parker is the poignant story of one boy’s struggle for acceptance as he reaches out for hope, life, forgiveness and Liam.



 Stephanie Macneil was born in Ottawa, Ontario, but now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Her goal is to become a screenwriter. Parker is her first book.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

From My Heart by Randolph Baltimore Book Feature

From My Heart
Title: From My Heart
Author: Randolph Baltimore
Publisher: Xlibris
Pages: 34
Genre: Poetry
Format: Ebook
Purchase at AMAZON

 “From My Heart” is my first publication, my labor of love I have worked on for many years. It is the fruition of the many trials, tribulations, ups and downs that life has dealt me over the years. May you be inspired and enlightened by the words on these pages.


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Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with Dawn Carroll, author of The Banana Bunch

Banana Bunch 2
Title: The Banana Bunch
Author: Dawn Carroll
Publisher: Amolibros
Pages: 120
Genre: Children's Book
Format: Ebook/Paperback
 Purchase at AMAZON

 The monkeys have a human friend called Sheila. Sheila is in hospital – and she hates the hospital food. The monkeys decide that something simply has to be done… When their first attempt at delivering bananas to Sheila is thwarted the monkeys decide to form The Banana Bunch, a secret society dedicated to the delivery of delicious, health-giving bananas to Sheila and all the other unwell people at the hospital. Banana delivery proves, however, a little trickier than they had expected…

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
The answer is less one of pride, but more one of amazement. Like all junior doctors of my generation I spent my first years, after qualification, working outrageously long hours, with minimal sleep.  When I look back I realize that there is a ten year period for which I have almost no memories. Everything just merged into a long blur of exhaustion.
It is a wonder that any of us managed to stay on our feet, let alone function and make important decisions for our patients. The power of the human body is awe-inspiring. Somehow we made it through, and most of us (definitely me) emerged still loving our chosen career.  I’m seriously proud of all of us.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
Books have always been an important part of my life. My parents are avid readers, who taught me to read before I attended school. As a child hours spent tucked up with a book were one of my biggest treats.
My family also, very early in my life, taught me how easily unkind, incorrect, or thoughtless words can cause distress to others.  I learned that it is not okay to get a cheap laugh, if this is done by creating unhappiness for another. I don’t think it is possible to totally avoid causing unintended offence (there are so many different cultural norms and rules in this lovely world) but I am always alert to at least trying to write in a way that has a powerful effect (in my case I’m usually hoping to make readers smile), while remaining decent and kind.
The Banana Bunch monkeys are the perfect vehicle for this approach. They are good-natured, always cheerful, goofy and gorgeous. I love that the personalities of the Banana Bunch monkeys make it possible for me to write in a way that makes others smile, while (hopefully!) causing zero offence.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always loved to write. At school we were often set the task of writing a story using imagination alone. While some of my fellow students groaned, I loved it!  
The other influence is travel.  When I travel something will go subtly wrong (I’ll be in one country, my luggage will be in another / cruise ships develop engine problems / if I set off to see the Northern Lights a 5 day blizzard will start … ) When I discovered that letters written about these experiences were making those at home howl with laughter I just kept on writing.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Honestly, No. I’ve just always enjoyed writing from the moment I could first use use a pencil.
When did you first know you could be a writer? 
Even now I don’t truly feel like a writer. In my head “proper” writers create serious books.  My writing is light-hearted and I’ve always felt that it was just something fun that I did to amuse myself and close friends. The same friends have, though, spent years telling me that I should publish my letters from abroad, but I’ve always laughed off the idea. It has come as the greatest surprise that a series of short stories, written for a friend who was unwell, has sold so well that we have already been able to donate over £7000 to two children’s charities.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Humour, definitely
What inspired you to write your first book?
Our friend Sheila was unwell, stuck in a hospital bed – and she absolutely loathed the hospital food.  It also helped that Sheila shared her home with 3 furry, soft toy monkeys.
 On the day that I heard about Sheila’s passionate dislike of the hospital food a lightbulb went on in my head. A few hours later, I had taken a photo of Sheila’s monkeys, with bunches of delicious fresh bananas. The photo became the cover of a handmade greetings card, inside which was the first short story of what would, in time, become  The Banana Bunch book.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
So many things and people. As soon as others became aware of the general Banana Bunch concept (in the stories Sheila’s monkeys are determined to help by delivering some delicious bananas to her, to save her from the hospital food – but somehow, something always goes slightly wrong with their plans) I started to receive offers of clothing and props for the photos, and everyone had an idea or two for future stories.  In the end I had so much material and photos that I simply spread them across the dining table, scanned them before going to sleep, and would wake each morning with the next instalment of the Banana Bunch adventure ready to be written.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Publication! Thank heavens for the wonderful folks who work in the publishing industry and who understand all the things that have to come together to create a successful, and properly professional, book.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
I learned that there is still a place for innocent, gentle humour in the world of literature.  I’ve also learned that all of the hard work that that goes alongside publishing and selling a book is 100% worthwhile. For publicity we take some of the original toy monkeys out and about to create photos for the Facebook and Twitter stories.  It is tough on the shoulders (the monkeys have been eating a few too many bananas, and they are very heavy!) but every time we meet strangers who crack up laughing, it is all worth it.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I have to admit that the idea is tempting. Working alongside The Banana Bunch’s illustrator we already have the text and illustrations for a children’s story about a friendly frog and a lonely lizard.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
Yes. I hope to achieve writing which is (and we do test the text on a lot of readers of all ages before agreeing the final text) upbeat, happy, and capable of raising a smile. When writing imaginative essays at school we were giving a set subject – sometimes happy, sometimes dark. It was good experience to be obliged to write across a whole range of styles and emotions, but I soon learned that my natural style is light.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
That I thoroughly enjoy the process. 
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Tenacity. When others say that something can’t done I first check whether it is wise and reasonable to make it happen – and if it is, then I set to work and don’t stop until whatever it is has been achieved.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Laziness. I put heart and soul into tasks most of the time, but in-between times am guilty of slumping into an armchair to do precisely nothing for hours at a time. I can’t even pretend to be doing any useful thinking at these times. At these moments the old Spike Milligan quote comes to mind “Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits!” It seems such a waste on a lovely, sunny, day.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
The original quotation was written in Spanish by George Santayana 1863-1952 - philosopher , poet and novelist. There are numerous translations.
The most accurate translation is possibly “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
The version that I first heard was:“Those who do not learn from history well be forced to re-live it”.
As a passionate student of history the quotation made instant sense. I despair of world leaders who again and again lead their peoples into situations that wiser minds (with history as a guide) may have been able to avoid.  
I also passionately believe that it is vital that we should all know about the dreadful events of human history. Without this knowledge how can future generations avoid making the same mistakes again?

This might seem a strange favourite quotation, given that I have emphasized the importance of the light-hearted and humourous in my own writing. I think, perhaps, that I have spent so much time reading and listening to important, but challenging, historical archive material that I need to break out into a brighter world when I put my own pen to paper.
Dawn Carroll was born in London, to a family who loved to read – and who also moved house with great regularity. One of the first tasks on arrival at each new home would be to find the nearest lending library, with the result that Dawn grew up with a great love of books. Encouraged by family and teachers, Dawn also started to write short stories. In adulthood, Dawn’s busy life as a hospital doctor left little time for leisure writing. Indeed, The Banana Bunch stories would probably never have been written had Dawn not, one fateful day, discovered that falling from even a very small tightrope can have devastating consequences… but that’s another story! Unable to return to her chosen profession, things seemed very black for a while. And then The Banana Bunch monkeys bounced into Dawn’s world…. Since then the monkeys (and Dawn) have been having a great time – telling the stories of their adventures in print and online, and also travelling far and wide to source new story ideas and to meet new friends. Find out more about Dawn and the Banana Bunch at
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The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams: Interview with Daphne Michaels

Daphne Michaels is an author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist whose institute has helped hundreds of women and men transform their lives through the "gifts" every human being is born with. Daphne began her own journey of transformation at a young age, pursued it fearlessly, and later studied formally in the fields of social science, human services and integral psychology. The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams launches both Daphne Michaels Books and The Gifted series, whose goal it is to share with the widest audience possible the principles that guide the Daphne Michaels Institute. Daphne's earlier book, Light of Our Times, featured her conversations with such international figures in the fields of spirituality and personal development as Ram Dass, Julia Cameron, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and Thomas Moore.

Visit her website at

About the Book:

In The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams author, speaker and licensed psychotherapist Daphne Michaels celebrates the nine gifts that are our birthright, guiding
readers in how to recognize and use them to transform their lives.  In her author's preface, Michaels reveals how her own journey of life transformation began when she was young and realized that human existence wore two conflicting faces--one of love and joy, and one of fear and despair. She decided then to commit her life to reconciling these two visions because she knew that, irreconcilable though they seemed, together these two faces held the secret to living a life of endless possibility and authentic happiness. Her personal journey and formal education in social science, human services and integral psychology led to the founding of the Daphne Michaels Institute, which has helped hundreds of men and women design the lives of their dreams.

In The Gifted Michaels shows us that the first three “gifts” we must recognize and embrace within us if we are to re-design our lives are Awareness, Potential and Stillness. These three allow us to identify and use the remaining six with a life-changing power:  Disharmony, Harmony, Ease, Clarity, Freedom and Engagement.  Each of these six relies on the “essential three” for its own power to change our lives, and each has its own gifts--its “children.” By approaching the nine gifts with real-world metaphors, Michaels answers in easily understood ways what for many readers have been lingering questions about personal transformation—such as how it works, what kind of commitment it takes, and why, if we’re committed, real transformation becomes inevitable—and addresses obstacles that readers may have encountered in the past in trying to reach in life a happiness every human deserves.

While the human universe’s face of love is celebrated in The Gifted, so is the face of fear that haunted a young girl decades ago. As Michaels shows us in her book, even Disharmony—the “quagmire” of life born of the human ego’s fear, defenses, delusions and despair—is a gift, too, and one as important as the others if we know how to see it clearly and use it. Once we understand Disharmony, we are ready to understand the real purpose of Harmony in our lives. Disharmony does not need to rule us.  It is ours to use as we design the lives of our dreams. 

The final gift in The Gifted, Michaels tells us, is the gift of Engagement. Engagement—with the universe and with ourselves—allows us to use all of the other gifts with more power and joy than we ever imagined possible.

That mountaintop decision never left me. It drove my life’s work and over the years led me to understand that there are gifts – nine of them, in fact – that we are all born with but rarely experience in their full glory and potential. These gifts – which make each and every one of us “The Gifted” of this book’s title – are the keys to living lives of endless possibilities and, in turn, achieving an authentic happiness that cannot be lost. They are, in other words, the keys to achieving the life of our dreams.

Thank you for this interview!  Id like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when youre not writing?

Thank you for asking. I have a very busy life. My time is shared between my writing,  institute, private practice and thirteen year old son. I like to manage my time really well. Every moment counts.

When did you start writing?

While I have been writing since I was an adolescent, I began to write professionally about fifteen years ago.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

There is a huge difference between being a writer and a being a published author. Writing is an art and skill and publishing is a business. These are two completely different mindsets and it was a pivotal point for me to discover how to do both in a way that would both express and honor my message.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

That is a really tough question, especially since where we write affects what we write. It would have to be a place that inspires my muse.  Fiji comes to mind at the moment.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Sleep! Im getting ready to launch The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams at the International Book Expo - America in New York next week and I must admit that Ive been burning the candle at both ends to get ready!

Where would you like to set a story that you havent done yet?

Interestingly, even though I write non-fiction, this question still applies in a certain way. The storyfor non-fiction writers is often the reality within reach that we are pointing to and encouraging our readers to discover — such as a trip in a travel magazine or an interesting piece of history. As a personal development writer, I am interested in setting the “story” in my readers lives. My theme is to show readers how truly gifted we all are and how by using our gifts we can transform our lives.

Back to your present book, The Gifted: How to Live the Life of  Your Dreams, how did you publish it?

I chose to launch the Daphne Michaels Books imprint. It is great to be launching my imprint in an era where POD publishing and ebook publishing helps one reach an even larger audience and its nice, too, that this is the first year Book Expo America has invited self-published authors to exhibit and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and other venues are featuring the best self-published books. Being part of this new era in publishing allows opportunities to help shape it. This means teaming in new ways with new people and being free to see our projects all the way from conception to publication and beyond.

 In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Only through the lands of potential and possibility!

Why was writing The Gifted: How to Live the Life of Your Dreams so important to you?

I have worked with men and women of all backgrounds and personalities for over twenty-five years, guiding them to live the lives of their dreams. In addition to having a long-term psychotherapy practice, my institute offers transformational programs for people interested in living lives of endless possibility.

My own journey, which led me to eventually write this book, started when I was an angst-ridden adolescent. I smile today, because it was such a dramatic time in my life with classic teenage experiences. And even this was classic Im sure, although I am still shaken today when I think of the first time I really saw the world beyond my limited scope of experience. I was devastated by what I experienced as a gut-wrenching discovery of two worlds existing side by side: the world of love and the world of despair. It was the world of despair - the fear and misery that I witnessed robbing people of the beauty in life — that propelled my journey to understand and help eradicate unnecessary suffering.

My personal journey took years and led to all sorts of experiences for which I am grateful today. Writing personal development books is a natural next step in my journey to take my message to as broad of an audience as possible.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best ideas come from a connection that I feel with the universe. Many writers and poets speak of this. There is a sense of otherness in my writing. A sense that a am the messenger, but the message is much bigger than me.

Any final words?

Those of us who feel called to share a message - a how to, inspiration, biography, humor, or guidance, or to tell a story - have an important role in life. Celebrate it! Make developing and sharing your message a priority because it truly is a gift to your readers!
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