Tuesday, May 15, 2018

20 Questions with Mystery Author S.K. Derban @skderban #20Questions

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Born in the United States, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England until the age of five. Her mother was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, S.K. Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries.

Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe. S.K. Derban has smuggled Bibles into China, and has been to Israel on seven missionary trips. When writing, she relies on all aspects of her life, from a strong faith in the Lord, to her unique combination of professional experience. The many personal adventures of S.K. Derban are readily apparent as they shine through into her characters. Circumvent is the third mystery novel for writer S.K. Derban.


1. Are you a morning writer or a night writer?
Morning, noon and night! I write whenever I can find an extra moment.

2. Do you outline or are you a pantster? 
Both. I first use a mind map, which is similar to an outline. But then – watch out! I rapidly become a pantster. 

3. Which comes first – plot or character?
Plot, plot, and plot, unless I am writing a sequel. 

4. Noise or quiet when working on your manuscript?
Definitely quiet. I like it very quiet. Shhh.

5. Favorite TV show?
Downton Abbey remains one of my favorites, and I am still sad the drama is over. Typically I search for murder mysteries! (Is that wrong?) 

6. Favorite type of music?
All! Not really, but almost. I grew up listening to the Great American Songbook as that was my Mum’s favorite. My beach playlist features songs from that genre, while my workout playlist is mostly R and B. Speaking of music, I recently received a fun tweet from singer Gloria Estefan! https://twitter.com/GloriaEstefan/status/978328017872310275
7. Favorite craft besides writing?
Painting. I enjoy beginning on a new white canvas as I enjoy beginning a new manuscript.

8. Do you play a musical instrument?
That would be a sad no. My sister has all of the musical talent. I only dream of playing!

9. Single or married?
Married for years and years to a wonderful husband.

10. Children or no?
Since we were never blessed with children of our own my husband and I get to spoil our many nieces and nephews!

11. Pets?
No pets either.

12. Favorite place to write?
At a large desk in my home office. I like to get dressed and feel as if I am going to work. It makes me more productive.  

13. Favorite restaurant?
My absolute favorite is Emeril’s New Orleans located at 800 Tchoupitoulas Street in NOLA.

14. Do you work outside the home?
At present, yes. I am currently making the transition to writing full time.

15. What was the name of the last movie you saw?
Black Panther.

16. Favorite outdoor activity?
That is such a tough question as I love sports! Please forgive me for selecting three. I cannot decide between tennis, golf or SUP boarding.

17. Pet peeve?
Hearing ladies talk on their mobile phones while in the bathroom stall next to me! Arrggh!

18. Your goal in life?
To love the Lord with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.

19. Your most exciting moment?
Successfully clearing customs in China with over fifty Bibles hidden in our suitcases.

20. The love of your life?
My husband, who is also my best friend.
Great questions! Thank you!

Author: S.K. Derban
Publisher: Touchpoint Press
Genre: Mystery


Imagine living in a quaint, beach front cottage on the Hawaiian island of Maui. You have an amazing job, combined with the pleasure of working from home. Lunch breaks become a daily picnic on the sand. Dessert is always included because of your marriage to a famous pastry chef. Life could not be any better. Or so it seems… When French born, Nikki Sabine Moueix travels to Hawaii for a special work assignment, her job of writing an article about a famous Swiss pastry chef generates more than a magazine piece. They fall in love, get married, and Nikki becomes Mrs. Ruggiero Delémont.

When another assignment calls for Nikki to spend three weeks in France, Ruggiero’s schedule prevents him from joining her. She travels alone, advancing straight into danger. After a threatening confrontation, Nikki wakes up in a French hospital with no knowledge of her past. When she fails to check in, Ruggiero panics and pushes for an immediate investigation. But as he closes in, Nikki’s new found friend moves her to another city. It becomes a game of hide and seek with Nikki as the prize.

CIRCUMVENT allows readers to form a bond with Nikki as they yearn for her to remember. They will cheer for Ruggiero and his relentless determination to locate his beloved wife. This is a story about two people who never lose their faith in God, and find amazing friends to help them along the way.



Monday, May 14, 2018

What Changed Everything For Me As An Author l Benjamin Mester #writing #getpublished #books

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What Changed Everything For Me As An Author

Every writer starts their first book with stars in their eyes.  I'm actually going to become a published author!!  That high will drive you for awhile.  But then comes the work.  When I first started writing, I gobbled up every book I could find on writing as a craft.  And I came across something by the poet, Mary Oliver.  In teaching poetry workshops, she noted that for every ten students attending her courses, nine of them were in love with the idea of being published and only one out of ten was actually in love with writing.

That hit me like a ton of bricks.  I realized for the first time that I was more in love with the idea of being published than I was with actual writing.  I knew if I didn't develop a love for writing I'd never make it as an author in such a competitive market.  So I took a step back.  I put my dreams of being published aside and I just wrote.  I wrote backstories for my world, little snippets of witty dialog, character sketches, emotional scenes and outlines galore.  I kept the ten percent I liked and started over with the rest, honing my story into a work I could genuinely be proud of.  I wrote and rewrote until something amazing happened.  I started to fall in love with the world I was building and actually began to care about what would happen to the characters.

To me, writing seems a lot like wedding planning.  I had a friend who started planning her wedding at five years old – the scenes, the people, the magic of it all.  That's just how it is for an author when they first get their big idea for a book.  But when the wedding day approaches and the work begins, the magic can quickly fade.  That's how writing is.  We all dream the big dream.  But the dream of finishing a book and being a published author isn't enough to motivate you during the real work.  You need to fall in love with your story and the beauty of writing as a craft.  Then the magic really happens, the marriage of a skillful writer with something genuine to share.  That sort of marriage can change the world.

About the Author
Benjamin Mester is native of San Diego but can often be found wandering the woods of northern Minnesota.  He fell in love with language at an early age – the eloquence of poetry or the grandeur of an epic story.  Fantasy is his favorite genre, crafting new and magical places of heroism and adventure.  When he isn't writing, he's often taking long walks through nature or wondering about his place in the wide world.
Benjamin is the author of The Banished Lands series.
You can visit him on Goodreads.

About the Book:

Author: Benjamin Mester
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy

A kingdom in danger. A prophecy that will change everything. But will they understand it in time? The old world is gone, and barely even histories remain. But something from that time is returning. The closing lines of a farewell poem, written centuries ago by the last great king of the age to his slain wife, might be more than just a poem:

The world and all its light shall fade,
I'll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world's remade...

Join us in this epic fantasy adventure as three friends plunge into the great mystery of their age, twelve centuries in the making. A mysterious fog blankets the forest just outside the sleepy town of Suriya. A dark plot unfolds as Durian and his friends discover ties between a strange wanderer and the warlike barbarian kingdom far to the north. Are the mysterious things happening in the forest a prelude to invasion? What happens next will propel Durian and his curious friends into the middle of the oldest riddle in the history of their kingdom, a dozen centuries old.



Other Books in The Banished Lands Series

The Banished Lands series

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Q&A with Holocaust Survivor Andres Algava #holocaust #600DaysinHiding

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Andreas Algava was born in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1939, the only son of Henri Algava and Allegra Carasso-Algava. When Andreas was 16 months old, Hitler’s forces invaded the country of his birth. Having to decide whether to believe the Nazi propaganda about a safe haven for Jews in Poland or go into hiding and risk execution, Andreas’s parents chose the latter relying on the courage and character of their Christian friends.

After the war, the Algava family moved to New York City and became U.S. citizens. Andreas became known as Andrew who later attended Cornell University where he earned an engineering degree. This was followed by military service in the U. S. Army including a tour of duty in France. After military service, Andrew worked with his father in the family export business in the United States and Argentina.

He joined IBM and worked on assignment in Germany where he lived with his wife, Priscilla and where his two daughters, Alisa and Carin were born. Andreas now lives in Rhode Island to be close to his daughters, son-in-law Michael and grandchildren Drew and Sabria.

Algava wrote 600 Days in Hiding: A Jewish Family in Nazi-Occupied Thessaloniki Greece to tell the story of his family’s survival during the Greek Holocaust. Andreas regards his book as his declaration for people to live in peace and harmony and a warning to not repeat the horrors of the past.

“Writing my Family’s story energizes me; it’s a fulfillment of a dream.” He plans to write a sequel to 600 Days in Hiding to address “How as individuals and society we are making very bad choices and need to take appropriate actions.”

The author is available for media interviews and speaking engagements in hopes of inspiring others to take action to create a more just world.

The author is committed to his personal mission: "To empower myself and others to manifest generosity, kindness, forgiveness and compassion for myself and for others to relieve the suffering in the world."


Thank you so much for this interview, Andreas. During the heart-wrenching years of the Holocaust – a period of history that so many people would like to forget – Jews were being sent to concentration camps and left to starve and eventually killed. It is a period of history that will stay with us forever. There were a few survivors – namely yourself – and I want to get into that aspect of it, but can you tell us why you felt you needed to write your story?

Andreas: I believe it was my commitment to tell my parent’s story, which is also my own story even though I was so young. I grew up with four Holocaust survivors who retold the story of our family’s survival over and over through the years, and this story became embedded, and I took on the responsibility to tell others but not only about our fear, but about the immense courage of our Christian friends who risked their lives and lives of their children to save us. Can you imagine risking your child’s life to save a friend? These heroes did not hesitate. It was part of their character. So for me, committing myself to telling this amazing story was the pivotal point of my becoming a writer.

I needed to write my story because my experience of what happened to us was horrific, it was an energy that I metabolized that create who I came to be. What I thought about, what I worried about, what I was afraid of; especially afraid to make mistakes. I learned to keep a low profile; don't stand out. Don't get caught, etc.

You were three years old at the time the Nazis invaded your country and you and your family were taken in by a Christian family to hide until it was safe to come out again. I know you were young, but do you have any remembrances of that period?

Andreas: Yes, I do recall when we went to the first location in hiding, I had to sleep on two chairs butted together.  I also remember being interrogated by the police: What's your father's name"?  I had to remember at three years of age his alias, Aristides Toufexides. "What is your father's work"? I told the police he was an electrician because his friends vouched for his membership in the electricians union as a cover. 

How did your family fare during that time? Were there any illnesses? How were you able to get food?
Andreas: We were out in the open, unlike Anne Frank. My mother was shopping at an outdoor market, and a former neighbor saw her. The neighbor expressed shock at seeing her alive. My mother put her hand to her mouth to signal the neighbor to not reveal her presence. There were no illnesses, however, I was bitten on the cheek by a dog; we didn't know if the dog had rabies. After the market scare, my parents were afraid of being recognized a second time, so a good neighbor volunteered to take me to the hospital and claim I was her child. We went into hiding with gold coins and jewelry the owner of the house where we were staying would buy our food for us.

What did you and your family do for entertainment?

Andreas:  During this time in hiding, entertainment was nonexistent. 
So I would pretend to be my father's barber and would hold the comb under his nose to make him look like Hitler.

Do you know if you had any close calls and thought it was over for your family?

Andreas: My mother insisted on going to see Baba Yorgo, a fortune teller to ask "if we would ever be free"?  When my parents were leaving the building, they saw a group of Germans checking everyone's identification. At that time, my parents did not have authorized papers and were terrified fearing they would be captured. They hid for hours before the Germans finally left the area. 

Do you have any bad memories of that time? Nightmares, that sort of thing?

Andreas: As a young child living in the United States safe from the evils of the Nazis when my parents would go out for an evening and I was alone with my sister I would wait by the window anxious and afraid they would never return.

Take me back to that period of your life. What would you like to say to the Nazis who did this to your fellow Jews?

Andreas: You have a family at home, you have children at home... How could you do this, you took away my mothers parents and her brothers and sisters.  With the passage of time, I came to realize they were incapable of feeling. They were without control, not unlike a rabid dog.   Over the years, physically and spiritually I learned to forgive.  I realized they were not in control of themselves and in that realization there was no soul to be affected by my anger. And in that, I was able to finally find forgiveness; my angst no longer served me.

I am so excited to read your new book, 600 Days in Hiding. What would you like to tell your readers?

Andreas:  Please do one kind thing for someone today, and do this every day. As the saying goes, everyone is fighting an incredible battle and each of us needs love and support. If all of us did just one kind and compassionate thing for someone every day, imagine what a wonderful world we could all enjoy so much more!

Author: Andreas Algava with Daniel Levine
Publisher: For Passion Publishing Company, LLC
Pages: 424
Genre: Memoir

The Nazis invaded Salonika, Greece in April 1941. Within two years, the city’s Jews were shipped by cattle cars to the Auschwitz death camp. There were just three families who stayed in the city and survived because of the courage and kindness of Greek citizens who risked their lives and hid these Jewish families in their homes. Among the survivors were Andrew “Andreas” Algava, who was three years old at the time, and his family. They were five of 56,000 Jews who had lived in Salonika.

Algava, who moved to the United States at the age of seven, has written a gripping account of his family’s experience of survival titled 600 DAYS IN HIDING (600DaysInHiding.com). His memoir stands beside such classics of Holocaust literature as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Elie Wiesel’s NIGHT, Primo Levi’s SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ, and Nechama Tec’s DEFIANCE.

Two excerpts from 600 DAYS IN HIDING dramatically illustrate Algava’s intention to “communicate the humanity or inhumanity of how we choose to respond to each other.” The first scene takes place in a graveyard:

“Henri stood at the edge of the massive Jewish cemetery sprawling before him. The crypts and headstones extended for thousands of meters in all directions, a vast city of gravestones marking the remains of Jewish men, women, and children buried here during the past 450 years. At one end of the enormous cemetery a small army of several hundred Greek workers were busy with shovels and pickaxes, tearing up the gravesites, pillaging for treasure. Henri watched with a mix of astonishment and horror as Thessaloniki’s Jewish history was being destroyed before his eyes, forever.”

The second excerpt describes the family’s first perilous night as they go into hiding from the Nazis:

“Marcos looked at Allegra. ‘I think the most danger we will face tonight will be from Andreas.’
 ‘What do you mean?’ Allegra asked, taking a short breath.
‘We agreed he should come with me so if you are caught, he will have his freedom. Is he prepared to play the game we talked about? Being quiet and not paying attention to you?’
‘I think so,’ Allegra replied. ‘He’s old enough.’ Marcos looked at the sleeping child and knew their fate rested with him.
…‘Remember,’ whispered Marcos, as they were about to open the apartment’s door, ‘stay in three separate groups. We’ll gather at the trolley stop on Martiou Street. When you’re out of the ghetto, tear off the stars and put them in your pocket. We’ll get off at Saint Sophie as planned. Whatever happens, just stay calm. We’ll be all right.’ He looked at each of them, and made his face relax with a little smile to reassure them. ‘They look ready,’ he thought.

...A knock on the door and a thin narrow face greeted them quietly. Quickly the six travelers entered. Allegra saw it was a small room in a poor house with a dirt floor. …‘Welcome, welcome,’ said Pachis. ‘It isn’t much, but we can shelter you. Your room is over here,’ and he walked to a room with a curtain as its door. ‘We have some blankets you can use,’ Pachis said, indicating a small pile of old wool blankets.
…‘Good night,’ said Marcos. ‘You’ll be safe here, for a while at least.’
‘Thank you, Marcos,’ Allegra said. ‘We are grateful.’
‘I’m glad to help.’ Turning to go, he said softly, ‘I’ll return tomorrow with a few of the things you said you wanted. It may take a few trips, but I’ll get them here. Get some sleep,’ and he stepped through the open doorway, drawing the drape across the opening.
Quickly setting up a sleeping area, soon everyone had settled down. Henri took his place beside Allegra and his son, and though he was very tired and drained, he stayed awake, still edgy. Eventually the sounds of slumber lulled him to sleep as the night yielded to the dawn of their first day in hiding.”

600 DAYS in HIDING is well-positioned for adaptation as a film. Such a production would provide a powerful thematic counterpoint to news stories about current political upheaval and the drumbeat of dehumanization in the United States and throughout the world.
Algava also notes that he is writing a sequel to 600 DAYS IN HIDING that will address “how as individuals and as society we came to be.” He adds that writing his inspiring story “absolutely energizes me. It’s the fulfillment of a dream.”




Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cathartic Writing l Michelle Bellon #michellebellon #writing #books

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Cathartic Writing

Most authors will tell you that there are little pieces of themselves intertwined within the fabric of their writing and the plight of their characters. For many of us, it can even be healing as we explore thoughts, feelings, and fears through the experiences of our protagonists. I embrace this concept fully and utilize my writing not just as a means for tapping into the creative side of myself, but for that healing aspect as well.

Breathe In has been my most cathartic writing to date. It’s dark. It’s violent. It’s gritty. But it’s also witnessed the birth of a truly kick-ass female heroine.

I wrote it in the midst of my own brutal discovery-of-self journey. After 16 years of being in an abusive marriage, I grabbed my kids and my dog and finally walked out. In the middle of learning to be a single mother and throwing myself back into the workforce as a registered nurse, I met someone who I truly believed was my soulmate. It was a breath of fresh air and for two years we were together, but eventually that fell apart for many complicated reasons and I experienced a different, even more emotional heartache.
Through that three year period, I struggled with so much PTSD from the abusive marriage, including watching the impact it left on my children. I struggled with the weight of being a single mother, financial strain, sick children, and then another failed relationship, all the while, still discovering my own inner strength and power. It was all so much, so pervasive, the only way I could really process it was to channel it into my writing. This is where Tessa Benson was born.

I could see her so perfectly. In the beginning, she is meek and mild, even a little pathetic, unable to find her inner voice. Then the unspeakable happens as she finds herself kidnapped and the victim of what is intended to be a snuff film. As she realizes this may be her final moments, she finds a strength and a will to survive that prove to be the only string of hope to whether she will live or die in that cabin in the woods.

About the Author

Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four quirky and beautiful children. She loves coffee, Superman, rollercoasters, and has an addiction to chapstick. 
She works as a registered nurse and in her spare time writes novels. As a multi-genre author, she has written in the categories of romance suspense, young adult, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. She has won four literary awards.



About the Book:

Author: Michelle Bellon
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Pages: 272
Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Breathe in. Breathe out. This mantra gets Tessa Benson through the day. The man she loves walks all over her, and she just wants to get by without her heart shattering to pieces. If she could find her voice, she’d scream. Everything changes in one night, when she’s snatched from the streets and tied to a bed, a camera set up to capture her dying moment. And the person who paid to watch her die...is still out there somewhere. Tessa prowls dark neighborhoods in a quest for justice, but she doesn’t find the killer. Not until they strike again…in the place Tessa is least expecting, and where it hurts worst.


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On Writing What You Don't Know l Rebecca Burrell @raburrell #writing #books #atshutterspeed

12:00 AM 0 Comments

On Writing What You Don’t Know

Somewhere back in caveman times, I envision a young, creative soul with a fistful of ochre and torch soot. As she ponders the limestone, instead of bison or aurochs or deer, her head fills with great creatures who live under the sea and though she’s never seen them, she knows exactly what they look like. How they move. The way they shimmer when sunlight hits their skin. And then, an elder comes up behind, and after a dismissive grunt, tells her ‘stick to what you know’.

It’s maybe the oldest pieces of writing advice out there. And it has its merits. If our aspiring cave artist can only manage a soggy-looking bison, she’s added very little to the world. Or maybe she paints a respectable dolphin, except it’s blood crimson with snaggly tusks, and no one is the wiser until some seafaring stranger happens by and says it’s all wrong. Still, our intrepid artist hasn’t committed any harm. But is that always the case?

In the real world, when we tackle a topic outside our experience, we own the force of our words. For a reader in a marginalized group, a depiction which rests on unwanted stereotypes can feel more painful than the lack of representation itself. The main protagonist of At Shutter Speed identifies herself as biracial, which I do not. However, I am an adoptive mother who’d been watching her non-white, immigrant child struggle with the changes that have occurred in America over the past few years. (Although that’s his tale to tell someday if he chooses, not mine.) Writing this story became my window into how scary and uncertain all this feels to him. The challenge was how to avoid the trap of falling into my own biases and perceptions, but I found that so long as I maintained an awareness of this, I could approach it much the same as I do any time I write a new character or setting. I’ve never been a war photographer either, but I immersed myself in memoirs and geeked out with photos and cameras until I was confident I could inhabit the character’s headspace in a believable way.

“What you don’t know” is only true for a fixed point in time. Perhaps it’s a piece of historical fiction set in an unfamiliar time or place, or a voice you want to explore, but aren’t sure you can do it justice. A magical thing about writing: you can always turn back. Don’t be afraid to venture out of your cave and take your first steps towards the sea.

About the Author

In her own fictional world, Rebecca Burrell is a secret Vatican spy, a flight nurse swooping over the frozen battlefields of Korea, or a journalist en-route to cover the latest world crisis. In real life, she’s a scientist in the medical field. She lives in Massachusetts with her family, two seriously weird cats, and a dog who’s convinced they’re taunting him.



About the Book:

Author: Rebecca Burrell
Publisher: Cranesbill Press
Pages: 381
Genre: Women’s Fiction

In the click of a shutter, #Resistance becomes more than just a hashtag.
Pass the bar exam. Convince someone—anyone—in the Egyptian government to admit they’ve imprisoned your husband. Don’t lose your mind. For fledgling human rights attorney Leah Cahill, the past six months have been a trial by fire, ever since Matty, a respected but troubled war photojournalist, disappeared during a crackdown in Cairo.

Leah, the daughter of a civil rights icon, grew up wanting to change the world; Matty was the one who showed her she could. Though frustrated by the US government’s new fondness for dictators, she persists, until a leaked email reveals a crumbling democracy far closer to home.

Risking her own freedom, she gains proof Matty’s being detained at a U.S. ‘black site’, stemming from his work covering the refugee crisis in Syria. Armed with his photo archives, Leah plunges into their past together, a love story spanning three continents. She uncovers secrets involving Matty’s missionary childhood, her own refugee caseload, and the only story the deeply principled reporter ever agreed to bury. It’s what got him captured—and what might still get him killed. With Leah’s last chance to save him slipping away, Matty’s biggest secret may be one he’s willing to die to protect.


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