Thursday, March 28, 2013

Welcome to the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop


Wayne and Nancy grow up on opposite sides of the country, each certain they must have love better than what others will settle for. Something stronger, something richer, something worth searching for. During the turbulent nineteen-sixties, they meet while he is attending blue-collar Drexel, and she is at neighboring, Ivy League Penn. Although irresistibly drawn to each other, they must overcome obstacles posed by the class and social differences separating them, as well as opposition from both families, and later, a twist of fate that will be the cruelest test of all. Can they reach the emotional heights they seek? Can they overcome time's downward pulling inertia? Coinage of Commitment is dedicated to all who ever paused and wondered about the altitude love might soar to.

Available from Amazon

More Blog Hop stops are listed below. And don't forget to enter the Giveaway.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Personal Top Ten in Music

Here's a post I did for Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews.

What are your ten favorite songs?


Music is special to me because it evokes strong emotions, and it often triggers cinematic mental sequences. These are derived from memories, or they spring from pure imagination. For example, my favorite song is
Serenity, composed by Kevin Riepl. This is an electronic tune included in the PC game, Unreal Tournament 2004. Whenever I hear this song, The chapter one subway scene from my novel, Coinage of Commitment, plays out in my head, and the sequence usually continues through the restaurant scene and into the subsequent chapter where Wayne walks Nancy home to her apartment in the wee hours. For me, this is Wayne and Nancy’s song, and it plays out in my head like a music video. This song is so special, I insist you try it. Here’s a link:

Serenity on YouTube

When I was in college, I met my future wife at an outdoor bus stop during a February snowstorm. We had seen each other on the bus, but had not met. When I saw her in the distance through a curtain of snowflakes, my natural shyness fell away, and I knew I must introduce myself to this, one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Fortunately, she was just as determined to meet me, so the bus ride home that day was one of the high points of my life to that point. We each got home okay, and after I arrived, I heard The Mamas and The Papas’ California Dreamin for the first time. This song, plus two of their others, Look Through My Window, and Twist and Shout, are tunes that always remind me of the time I spent, madly in love with my wife, before we married, while I was in college.

Let’s go back a bit further in time. As a high schooler, I had romantic dreams that I knew were unusual for a boy in my peer group. Roy Orbison had that one special voice whose drama could cause the hormones raging in my veins to harmonize perfectly with his breathtaking lyrics. To this day, his songs, Only the Lonely, Crying, Goodnight, The Crowd, and especially, In Dreams, still evoke the catharsis of teenaged longing brought on by this singular voice.

I’ll list the rest in approximate order of personal sentiment, and without further comment. These are taken from my iPod list of favorites, which numbers over 200 songs.

Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton

Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely by The Back Street Boys

Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day

Only Hope by Mandy Moore

Wait for Me by Vangelis (from the Bladerunner soundtrack)

Live to Tell by Madonna (the 45 rpm vinyl version)

Diana by Paul Anka

Something about You by Level 42

We Two by Little River Band

Hysteria by Def Leppard

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The 1960s as a Shifting Point

Here's an Article I did recently for Tina's Book Reviews (Link)

Your book is set in the 60's. What about this decade stands out to you as a shifting point in American culture?

Being set in the 1960s, Coinage of Commitment does highlight cultural change aspects of the one decade that still stands out from every other. The campus drug culture gets only grazing treatment, but the Wayne/Nancy love story, as portrayed in the book’s first half, can seem an embodiment of the decade’s sexual revolution. True, Wayne’s family object to the relationship on the basis of traditional morality. But the Sexual Revolution became infamous because it loudly promoted—with the help of the media—promiscuity, something, by the way, it never delivered on any large scale. Indeed, a study on sexual attitudes by the Playboy Foundation, published in 1973-74, found that Baby Boomers still overwhelming viewed marriage as their romantic destination. I remember the study because it shocked into silence many counterculture pundits who had been loudly predicting for years (and I am not making this up) the imminent demise of marriage as a legal institution.

But let’s come back to the Wayne/Nancy romance. Although it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that it develops into a pre-marital affair, it’s a relationship based on a lifetime commitment. That’s hardly ammunition for a sexual revolution. But it is the kind of shift from the previous generation that was more typical of what many experienced in the 1960s.

What made the decade so exciting to Baby Boomers was the combination of unprecedented media blitz and our youthful denial of any risk factors. It came from a cultural frenzy that fed on itself during the decade’s last few years. Our media and rock star idols taught us to disbelieve the previous generation, and that created the illusion that we had reinvented human nature and that traditional moral hazards didn’t apply to us. But we were wrong. The risks in our behavior may not have been as high as preached by our parents, but they were real, and Baby Boomers went on to learn this lesson the hard way.

In Coinage of Commitment, Wayne and Nancy embark upon a bold romantic adventure. They definitely are pathfinders in that they seek a love in each other that’s higher, richer, longer lasting than any that’s come before. They commit their lives to each other and live together in a bonding that’s entirely traditional except that marriage is deferred instead of coming first. They have tremendous obstacles to overcome before achieving the intimacy each has craved and dreamed of. So perhaps it’s understandable that they don’t give an ounce of thought to the risks they are taking as they approach their first night of bliss. Soon Wayne will sense, if vaguely, the small risks inherent to their relationship. What he does about this and how the risks play out over time is a theme explored by the book right down to its final paragraphs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Author Interview: Exceptional Question Set

Here's an interview I did for MK McClintock's Blog (Link). I usually don't repost interviews, but MK had an exceptionally well coordinated set of questions, and the chemistry of this particular interview felt just utterly right. Here goes.

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

I wrote a few stories as a kid, and then after college I wrote a first novel that I submitted to publishers. But it was of such poor quality that I left fiction writing and got deeply involved in career and raising a family. I was determined to never write fiction again. But then in 2005 something dramatic happened to turn my life inside out. I read a love story by Anita Shreve. It was a book-tape I randomly picked off the public library shelf. I’ll keep you guessing on the title, but in the last paragraph, the author had the male protagonist commit suicide, and she consigned the heroine to an old age of despair. Well, I just couldn’t believe what I had read. This plot reversal was so sudden, it was an utter ambush. It was also a punishment, and I was outraged. But not so much for me. Rather, I kept thinking of all the readers who had suffered because of such literary cruelty. English-speaking readers deserved better than this, I decided, and suddenly I felt the call. At first, it felt unreal. This can’t be happening, I thought, even as I unwillingly started anticipating the research I would need to pursue this preposterous notion. But the clincher was that I could already see the story—at least enough of it to be drawn by its siren song. I held out awhile. It was a delicious time of being suspended over a decision that seemed the stuff of fairy tales. But this suspense only lasted a short time, and by the next day I was writing what would become my first published novel, Coinage of Commitment.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?

I’ve always enjoyed film. In fact, I’ve long been more movie goer than fiction reader. And this became more pronounced once I became a writing contest judge and book reviewer. For mental conditioning, I do read a lot of fiction, but always as book tapes, and even then, I only finish a fraction of what I start. It’s film I usually rely on for inspiring my stories.

What inspired the idea behind your book?

It always struck me as odd that no one wrote love stories that got deeper into the nature of love and what it is capable of, the heights it is capable of achieving. I mean, if you’re a young, single character who’s hungry for romance, and you look around at the placidly humdrum marriages that most people have, then why would you want to follow the same romantic path they have? If you do everything the same, you’re only likely to end up the same. If you want something higher, something stronger, something richer and longer lasting, then you’re going to have to think and plan about how to achieve the better outcome you seek. I decided that if I ever returned to writing fiction, it would feature characters who want something better from love, and who are willing to work and plan to make it happen. This is the theme that dominates Coinage of Commitment. Although Wayne and Nancy have class, political, and religious differences—plus opposition from both families—they are drawn to each other. And they each share a dream of achieving love that’s higher and longer lasting than any other.

What has been your greatest challenge in writing Coinage of Commitment?

The second weekend I was drafting Coinage of Commitment, I got the flash inspiration for the book’s surprise ending, one unlike any I’d encountered in literature or film. It was the inspiration of a lifetime, and it changed the frame of reference for producing the book. To make best use of the ending, I incorporated new characters, and I added a love triangle I hadn’t thought of until then. As I drafted the book, it became clear the character and plot elements were harmonizing in a special way. My challenge, then, was to write prose good enough to match the quality of story I’d been given. The original print edition benefited from three rounds of professional editing before publication. The print book then became a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. I went on to publish another novel, plus I undertook nonfiction pursuits, but I always felt a certain bonding with this one special story. A few years later, in the spring of 2012, I realized that my writing ability had improved dramatically since writing Coinage. In the next instant, I knew I would rewrite the book. I simply could not turn away from the opportunity to make it substantially better than what the National Indie Excellence Judges had originally seen. The rewrite took seven months; the digital second edition was published on the Kindle platform in January.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?

I hope they get a glimpse that higher love is within our grasp, it’s doable, and that with work and planning, it can indeed last. Most of all, I hope they come away thinking the effort is worth it.

Which character in Coinage of Commitment will be the most difficult to part with?

All the characters change and grow throughout a story that spans decades. But one of the mains is transformed by decisions and events to a position that’s very nearly a complete reversal. This is the character whose final disposition readers will be pondering afterwards.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?

Not when I’m passionate about a project. I wrote Coinage while dining in restaurants, while waiting in airports, and while sitting in the Costco snack area. Many times I awoke in the night and rushed to the adjoining bathroom. There I would scribble draft while kneeling at the sink.

Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?

Coinage of Commitment is my favorite because it’s an exceptional story with a unique surprise ending. And the characters are the best I’ve come up with who strive for higher love and refuse to settle for less.

How do you unwind after a long writing session?

I’ll usually watch a movie.

Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?

Indie self-publishing has become such an attractive option that even some established authors with traditional publishers are choosing that route. Many traditional authors are finding that their publishers will no longer budget funds for promoting their books. They are literally on their own. Traditional publishers still have a monopoly lock on supplying brick-and-mortar bookstores, but the stores themselves are withering away. I am happy with the switch to Indie publishing. I would choose that route again.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Great prose can’t happen unless you write clearly and with the fewest words.

How long did it take to get this book from idea to being published? What was the most grueling process?

The original print edition took twenty months from inception to publication. That included two query campaigns and three passes of professional editing. Plus I designed the cover. The second edition rewrite took seven months. That included one pass of editing, one conventional query campaign, a week for professional formatting, and a few hours to actually get the book digitally published. For me, the most grueling aspect of the process is querying.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?

The Count of Monte Cristo, the 2002 version starring Jim Caviezel, is superior to the original classic, which I’ve read many times. The screenwriter took liberties with the plot and characters to produce a magnificent love story, one of my all-time favorites on film. If you’ve read the original book, this movie is a delightful surprise to take in the first time.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen/pencil for writing?

I use all of the above. When inspiration strikes, I grab whatever is handy. But apart from that, I write certain scenes by hand, and others by word processor. I can’t detect any logic to it, but I always know which to use. Then there are other instances where I’ll start drafting by hand, then switch to writing on the PC.

Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book you’ve written?

Yes, my first novel, completed when I was in my twenties, was so dreadful in quality that I eventually discarded it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Featuring Summer's Growth by Tina Gayle

Summer’s Growth – 1st Book in the “Family Tree” series

Blurb –

Forced by the family spirits to get a life, Mattie Winston has to train her replacement Amber Harrison to be in charge of all the workings of the Winston estate. Reluctant to make changes in her life, Mattie forms a bond with Amber, when strange accidents start happening which threaten their lives and an unknown ghost makes an appearance.

After being rescued by an old flame, Quincy Miller, Mattie faces old wounds of rejection. As the general contractor for Amber’s redecoration project, Mattie is in constant contact with Quincy and realizes she still in love with her childhood sweetheart.

Amber, learning her new role in the family, wants to discover the identity of the ghost who keeps appearing. After several appearances, Gwen, Amber’s distance grandmother, shifts the book into more of Amber’s struggle to find out why her grandmother disappeared two hundred years ago without a trace. In a fight to claim her position in the family, Amber searches for clues to solve the mystery.

Mattie and Amber are both challenged when the family spirits decides Amber shouldn’t be the keeper. Battling for Amber, Mattie realizes she wants a life with Quincy outside the Winston estate.

Amber realized the importance of her new spiritual family, and she works to discover how Gwen died.

Can these two women achieve their goals?

Read the first chapter at

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Vulnerability as a Romantic Strategy

Here's an article that originally appeared on
Makayla's Book Review Blo

Earlier this year I wrote a blog article about some advice I overheard from a financial planner who was appearing on a TV morning show. He advised couples planning to marry to set up separate checking accounts. But the advice struck a dissonant chord with me. What kind of message does this send to the special person you’ve chosen as your lifetime romantic and marriage partner? “Okay, let me get this straight,” I can hear her tell me. “You say you love me, that there will never be anyone but me, and that we are one flesh, but with your actions you are saying I can’t be trusted not to abscond with all our liquid assets?” Worse yet is that she may not be saying that out loud, but instead storing it in her heart as resentful doubt. Of course, there are definite advantages inherent to separate accounts. It’s neater, and if the account won’t balance, it won’t cause an argument. But my ultimate question in the article was whether those advantages outweighed the connotation of mistrust, something that could damage the relationship longer term.

Today I’d like to return to the same theme, but from a different angle. Let’s flip the question on its head, shall we? At a deeper level, the question of separate accounts is about vulnerability. And the question I want to ask is whether vulnerability can be used to strengthen a relationship. Isn’t love about sharing, and isn’t sharing secrets, and the vulnerabilities they represent, a way that lovers deepen their emotional intimacy? So the single checking account decision is a message of vulnerability (and transparency) that should strengthen the relationship in a small way. It should work so long as the bookkeeping each of us does on the account is sufficient to keep from annoying the other. How about another, lower level example? My wife and I work from home, but usually on different PCs whose files are synchronized through an Internet-based utility. We share a single email account, and you wouldn’t believe how cluttered that inbox gets at times. We’ve talked about setting up separate email accounts, and we always agree on the manifold benefits. But we’ve never come close to actually taking that step. We’ve always sensed that the messy transparency of the single account, the sharing of potential vulnerabilities, is good for our relationship. Worth the mess, and I want my wife to know that there’s nothing I do in the Internet realm I would hide from her.

Let’s wrap up with a more dramatic example. My novel, Coinage of Commitment, has a love triangle that changes the story’s frame of reference in the book’s second half. I don’t like to talk much about the triangle because I think it’s a story feature best “discovered” by the reader. So I don’t even mention it in the book’s description. One of the female protagonists tells the love of her life that she is assuming a posture of emotional vulnerability and dependence on him. She does this as a way of inducing him to meet her emotional needs by loving her more. He is startled by the gesture, but he responds, if awkwardly. But her pledge, and how she lives it over time, will be a major factor in resolving the book’s surprise ending.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Surprise Your Mate into Loving You More

This article was originally a guest posting on Kimberly Lewis's blog. Link

My books feature characters who want more from love that what they see all around them. Something stronger, something higher, something worth pursuing. Part of that pursuit is usually an effort to understand love. We can’t make it soar higher or make it last longer unless we figure out how it works and what can harm it. This usually means the characters need to take a thinking as well as an emotional journey to attain the romantic altitude they seek. And this opens up all sorts of story paths to explore. What conditions in their lives produced a hunger for such fulfillment? And, of course, what are they going to do about getting what they want?

But what I wanted to do today is open up musings over how to make it last. Not just last as in the marriage surviving, but how to keep it fresh and vibrant? How to do that over time despite the combined toll taken by parenting and career? I think you have to start by wanting that kind of success. So many couples lose sight of the dream and lapse into a yawning ho-hum. But even wanting it is probably not going to be enough. It takes planning and work and being willing to prioritize your romance near the top of the list.

But although planning is crucial, spontaneity can play an important role. It can be a tremendous energizer for the magic. One reason I write love stories for readers is because of what my wife has taught me about love. And more than anyone else, she’s shown me how to use surprise gestures to ignite the magic.

How about a real life example? When my wife and I had been married a few years, we were still living love’s bloom, but struggling to keep it sweet amidst job stress, kids and the sheer pace of it all. One day, I was coming home from work in pouring rain via carpool. As we turned onto my street, the driver let out an exclamation that silenced the chit chat. There ahead, in the rain at the curb, stood a woman, holding an open umbrella. “Is that your wife?” the driver asked incredulously. I don’t remember answering because the magic of her gesture was already affecting me.

“What made you do this?” I asked, after we had walked huddled beneath the umbrella’s shelter to our apartment.

“I saw the rain and I thought of you on your way home. And then she just smiled.

It’s smile I’ve never forgotten.