Archive for January, 2015

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Front Cover hi resTitle: Fantastical: Tales of Bears, Beer and Hemophilia

Genre: Memoir

Author: Marija Bulatovic

Website: www.fantasticalbook.com

Publisher: SOL LLC

Purchase on Amazon.


It’s been said that the truth is stranger than fiction.  Marija Bulatovic’s dazzling debut, Fantastical: Tales of Bears, Beer and Hemophilia, certainly underscores that adage.  Fantastical, Bulatovic’s reflections on her Yugoslavian childhood, is a mesmerizing memoir that takes readers on a wild and unforgettable tour of a country that has vanished from the map, but lives on in this lively collection.

With a pitch perfect voice, and a keen eye for capturing the absurd, the outrageous, the hilarious, the touching, and the sublime, Bulatovic weaves a rich tapestry.  Bears, gypsies, quirky family members, foiled plans, unusual and unorthodox neighbors, Fantastical has it all.  Lovingly told with an unmistakable fondness and deep affection, Fantastical is resplendent with humor, magic, and whimsy.

In this…

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Marija Bulatovic 2014Born in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Marija Bulatovic, along with her parents, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s just ahead of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and the breakup of the country.  An accomplished business professional with years of experience driving enterprise business with Fortune 500 companies, Bulatovic graduated from Colgate University. Marija Bulatovic lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Amazon

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, FANTASTICAL: Tales of Bears, Beer and Haemophilia. What was your inspiration for it?

A: My inspiration for writing FANTASTICAL: Tales of Bears, Beer and Haemophilia was to provide amusement, lift spirits from the mundane set of activities and transport readers to another place and time, fantastical in my memory, that has vanished from the map but not the mind.

My goal was also to tell stories about 1980s Yugoslavia, this beautiful country and time that was magical and very special to those of us who had the opportunity to be touched by the richness of its people, culture, its Slavic soul that embraces melancholy with a twinkle in the eye.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: The protagonist in FANTASTICAL is me as a young child and the 13 stories describe episodes in my life in the 1980s Yugoslavia.  It’s the world recounted from memory and seen through the eyes of a child.  It’s filled with curiosity, typical misbehavior of children, and mystery of growing up.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: The writing process was easy and enjoyable as all the stories in FANTASTICAL are personal to me.  The writing itself took about a month, as I had a goal of writing a story a day for 25 days.  The entire process of publishing FANTASTICAL took much longer-2 years.

Front Cover hi resWhile there were no real bumps along the way, there was a lot of learning, especially as I self-published FANTASTICAL.  Self-publishing is enormously labor and time intensive, but also very rewarding and profitable, assuming one is able to make investments to get the book to the finish line.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting? 

A: FANTASTICAL is a deeply personal work for me and I was just excited to be up every day and writing another story that I felt so deeply connected to.  I was also excited about sharing these stories with the broader audience and sharing the magic of this bygone era with my readers.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: I didn’t but I understand it’s very common.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: Since I was so excited to pen my stories and share them with the broader audience, I had a personal goal of writing a story a day for 25 days.  The actual writing took place during my baby’s naps while the house was quiet and there were no distractions.

However, most of the envisioning of FANTASTICAL came during night feedings, while I was nursing my baby.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I already feel that I’ve been successful with this book project-FANTASTICAL is published and available for readers to enjoy it.  That is very satisfying and rewarding to me.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: First, I’m sorry you are experiencing lack of support for something that is very important to you.  While domestic harmony is important too, following one’s own professional path is important to one’s happiness and fulfillment which positively impact those around you.  To foster this virtuous cycle, find out why your family is not supportive of you becoming an author.  What in specific is the problem?  Perhaps it’s just 1 or 2 assumptions which I’m sure you can work to clarify and move beyond. Good luck!

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No, I had a very enjoyable and enriching process!

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Thank you for your interest in FANTASTICAL and hope your readers and enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

Purchase at AMAZON

Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

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Finding Hope banner

2fa53416-c4e7-4100-ae33-9138d73fc456Title: Finding Hope
Author: Stacy Finz
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Pages: 276
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle

The small mountain town of Nugget, California, is way off the beaten path. But somehow it helps the lost and lonely find a new beginning in life—and in love

One solitary day at a time is the only way cookbook writer Emily Mathews can restart her life—and cope with consuming loss. Still, the former city girl is finding all kinds of odd inspiration and advice from Nugget’s proudly eccentric residents on everything from new recipes to opening her heart again. Especially when it comes to her rugged rancher landlord …

His no-drama new tenant is the first break Clay McCreedy has had in a long time. He’s got his hands full enough dealing with his wife’s scandalous death and his sons’ unresolved grief. Clay can’t help but be drawn to Emily’s quiet understanding and strength. When their fragile trust turns into passionate healing, he longs for much more. And when both their pasts come calling, he’s determined not to walk away…

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Stacy Finz

    Stacy Finz is an award-winning journalist. After more than seventeen years covering notorious serial killers, naked-tractor-driving farmers, fanatical foodies, aging rock stars and weird Western towns for the San Francisco Chronicle, she figured she finally had enough material to launch a career writing fiction. In 2012 she won the Daphne du Maurier Award for unpublished single-title mystery/suspense. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband.

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Visit Stacy’s website.
Connect with Stacy on Twitter and Facebook 

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LindaDiFruscio_29.1FLinda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. While Cornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.

About the Book

In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.

Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Cornered allows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.

Find out more on Amazon.


Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Cornered is the story of my long and complicated association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife in 2000. He had been my friend and business mentor before his crime, and afterwards I had to decide whether I could continue to befriend him. It was not an easy decision to make. He was a troubled man who did a terrible thing. For nine years, from 2000 to 2009 when he died, the media couldn’t get enough of him. They covered every moment of his trial, his imprisonment, his various suicide attempts and finally his death. So did I, in a sense. As his friend and confidante, I achieved a better understanding of the inner workings of his mind than the jury or the journalists or the psychiatrists all told. I met most of the people who walked in and out of his life after his incarceration. I came to understand the motivations of the various women who offered him their support—and often a lot more—while he was in prison. Having written lots of magazine articles and being a lifelong note taker, I knew that I could turn my story of knowing Richard Sharpe into a compelling book.

Cornered_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Since Cornered is a memoir, I am the protagonist. Even though my book is written in the first person, I still had a sense of separation as I wrote it; there was the me writing the book and the me who was one of the players in the drama that unfolds in the book. That sense of separation allowed me to observe my motivations in a manner that wasn’t always available to me when I was actually living the drama. I can see clearly now how my protagonist grew and changed as a result of the things that happened to her.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: I take notes regularly, regarding just about everything. But my note taking regarding Richard Sharpe went to another level beginning with his trial in 2001. I wrote notes about him—and his interactions with me and a host of others—until he died in 2009, and then I wrote more notes about how is death affected me and others. Thereafter I began to assemble my notes into what would become my book. So, if you count the note taking, which I do, the book took about thirteen years to write.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a memoir?

A: Keeping things exciting may be a challenge for other books, but for this one, the subject matter was inherently compelling. Here you have a man who was a genius, a doctor who was as obsessed with finding a cure for cancer as he was with making the right picks on the stock market and, towards the end of his life, creating a business model that would function as an empire. But in spite of the fact that he had everything he wanted—millions of dollars, a loving wife and beautiful children, a gorgeous home, hundreds of business associates and people who admired his genius—underneath it all he was still a badly abused child, a needy, needy man who was probably mentally ill and prone to making terrible decisions in his personal life. As a character study alone, my book would be compelling. But the narration takes the reader through Richard Sharpe’s rise to power to his downfall and his unraveling. And because I was his friend, and not a biographer, I was privy to details of his life the reader won’t find anywhere else.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: The anxiety that I experienced was more about having to relive my story as I was writing it than concern about the writing process itself. I did a lot of crying as I worked on Cornered. But I experienced a bit of the other kind of anxiety too, especially when I would remember something crucial to the story while I was at work or doing something else. I would have to keep it in my head until I could get somewhere to write it down.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I have my own business. I have an office and a secretary and several employees and lots of clients who count on me. Even without the writing, I have to make appointments to be able to spend time with family and friends. Scheduling dates with loved ones may sound cold, but in fact it works quite well. I feel that my life is well balanced between my work, my hobby (writing) and the quality time I get to spend with the people who mean the most to me.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Writing Cornered was an enormous project. I had to turn boxes and boxes of notes and newspaper clippings into a book. I accomplished that. That’s success right there. Hopefully more versions of success will follow.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: If your spouse or partner doesn’t support your writing, try writing when they’re not around. You can take your laptop to a library or coffee shop. If they still have a problem with your writing, you may have to consider a separation or even a divorce. My ex-fiancé couldn’t stand that I worked past 4:30. He would never have been able to cope with me writing a book. My husband is just the opposite. He is not always happy about things I feel I need to do, but he is always willing to make a deal with me. For instance, there were times when I just didn’t feel up to going to the prison to visit Richard Sharpe by myself. My husband would come along, but then the following weekend I would have to accompany him to a movie that was not to my taste and to a seafood restaurant, even though I don’t like the smell of fish. As for the actually writing, my husband was not only supportive but he was helpful in providing insights and ideas to improve the prose.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: I didn’t feel that way about the writing process. There were times I felt emotionally weakened from having to call up some of the details of the story, but that was about relieving an experience, not about problems inherent in the procedure. I’m a very patient person; if I struggle with a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, I put the project aside and come back to it. I don’t fret and throw things around or tell myself I have writer’s block.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Know what your goal is and stick to it. A lot of people give up and never finish what they set out to do. Don’t be one of them if you can help it.

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blackwellThe Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara’s YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher’s Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences–for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world…A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school’s cockiest leader of mischief.

I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara’s world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.

There’s romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!

Find out more on Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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DSC_0088 - standing up against wallHarris Kern is recognized as the foremost authority on providing practical guidance for solving management issues and challenges. He has devoted over 30 years helping professionals build competitive organizations. His client list reads like a who’s who of American and International Business. His client list includes Standard and Poor’s, GE, The Weather Channel, NEWS Corporation, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminal (HACTL), among hundreds of other Fortune500 and Global 2000 companies. He pioneered the Discipline Mentoring Program and Professional/Personal Growth Program (P²GP) and is the author of over 40 books, including his latest, Going From Undisciplined to Self-Mastery.

Website / Amazon

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Going From Undisciplined to Self-Mastery. What was your inspiration for it?

A: As a life coach my clients gave me the inspiration to write this book. On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest level of discipline – the average rating for my clients is a 3. Very few people are disciplined. People waste on average 4 hours a day – that’s 2 months from their life flushed down the toilet. It’s the same issues all over the world – I refer to them as the dirty dozen:

The Dirty Dozen:

  • Severe procrastination
  • Failed goals
  • No motivation
  • No sense of urgency
  • Disorganized
  • Lack of structure
  • Not focused
  • Not managing sleep optimally
  • Poor performance
  • Poor time management
  • Lack of energy
  • Inconsistency

Q: Why do you think so many people have problems with discipline?

A: Being disciplined is hard work – although the results speak for themselves: efficient with time, always achieving your goals and living life with urgency to accomplish more. However, very few want to put in the effort to acquire discipline. It means living a very structured lifestyle (being organized, following a routine, following a to-do list and maintaining a good health regiment daily).

self-mastery-198x300Q: How is your book different than others about this subject?

A: My formula for success is derived from hundreds of life coaching case studies and dozens of organization performance mentoring engagements from Fortune 500 and Global 2000. It is the proof not the hype. I also walk the talk. I’ve lived the past 4 decades following the 5 steps in my book and my accomplishments speak for themselves.

Q: Why do people procrastinate?

A: For several reasons:

  • They don’t know how to train their mind to consistently motivate themselves.
  • They have a lackadaisical approach to each day. They don’t know how to live life with a sense of urgency.
  • They look at time wasted as a few hours here or there. However the average person wastes 4 hours a day procrastinating. If you extrapolate that throughout the year – they’re flushing 2 months of their life down the toilet.

Q: What do you hope readers will learn from your book?

A: How-to combat the DIRTY DOZEN above to live a happier, more productive  and successful life.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family life?

A: I write approximately 2 hours a night after I wake-up. I’ve trained myself to sleep only 4 hours a night so it allows me to go to the gym and write before anyone in the family wakes up. During the daytime I have 2 businesses to run and my daughter to take care of.

Q: As an author, how do you define success?

A: Success for me is:

  • Living a happy, productive and balanced life by focusing equally on my 3 priorities (and they’re all top priority): career, health and relationships
  • It’s waking up with a purpose everyday
  • Constantly accomplishing
  • Leaving behind a legacy for my family
  • Living a healthy lifestyle

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: I would tell them to start small and begin writing as a hobby. Don’t quit your day job.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Yes: LIVE or EXIST! By being disciplined you will accomplish more and to me living life is about waking up with a purpose, being productive and always accomplishing to eventually leave behind a legacy for your family.

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