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

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

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

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

Well, they did portray me as pretty much a wimp at first! Seriously though, I don’t have any qualms about the way I was portrayed as I build strength over time through the many adventures that I go through with and without my formerly fictional companion and erstwhile bodyguard Shannon O’Neil. This brings up a great question about strength though. In western culture we are so fixated on the external. We seem to give lavish praise to those who appear to be Adonis-like in stature without giving credit to people that are truly strong on multiple levels, like Gandhi or the Clan Mothers of the Native side of my heritage. So here you have a kid (little old me) who is physically weak (at first) but has this indomitable character and iron will that helps him to carry forth, using wit, intelligence, and mental fortitude to examine the issues within the various intertwining stories and help to creatively problem solve them to a vaguely satisfying resolution. I really think that history tells of what strength truly is. For instance, Abraham Lincoln was immensely physically strong by all accounts, but what is he known for? His greatly persuasive rhetoric, powerful speeches and strength of character led America through its darkest days. That is what he will always be known for.

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

I feel these authors did a pretty good job at making my character fully HD. That’s high definition for the technologically impaired amongst you. Some of it was cringe worthy and downright embarrassing, as far as characterization goes, but overall, the authors (frustrating and mystical creatures that they are) did a commendable job showing my insecurities and positive attributes and periods of doubt and bravery and courage and also the gradual uncomfortable process of my evolution as a character.

Ebook - JPG format-.jpgWhat do you believe is your strongest trait?

I believe it must be the strength of my will and the power of my creative identity (the industriousness of my imagination). At times, sheer determination and resourceful imaginativeness were all that I had to fall back on. My creativity was able to flourish, once given license, so as to problem solve my way out of these very tight situations that allowed no margin of error.

Worse trait?

The timorousness (a loathsome characteristic of my personality!) that frequently drains my resolve of its firmness is my worst trait.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

I think it would have to be an up-and-coming star much in the vein of the outstanding performance that Keisha Castle-Hughes gave in the movie “Whale Rider”. Obviously it would have to be a male teenager though. This book, my world entire, is so modestly original and takes so many twists that it would be nice to have a fresh face, not jaundiced by the fame and fortune of the industry and the monotony of similar roles, portray the central role in its big screen rendition.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Maybe, it is quite possible. Can someone love a fictional person who turns out of to be a lot realer than expected? Can true affection breach the lines between reality and imagination? Can an inter-dimensional mutual adoration thrive? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then I would have say that I do perhaps have a love interest in the book. I can’t imagine seeing a sunset or a sunrise or the variety of the seasons and the change that goes with them, without an image of her enshrined in my heart, if that’s what you mean.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

I became very nervous and doubtful of my chances of success when I first realized the sheer enormity of the quest I had willingly tumbled into and what that world-hopping adventure would demand of me.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

If I could trade places with anyone, I would avoid the character of my nemesis Facinorous, the arch antagonist of the sprawling scene in which I was set, like the plague. He’s a bottomless abyss of devious intent and nefariousness. Who would want to be the filthy harvester of the innocent imaginations of humanity? It would be an absolute nightmare to be trapped in the mind of a nebulous ultra-powerful entity that lacks an authentic imagination. Plus, because of his rampant magniloquence, I can hardly ever understand what he’s saying.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I feel that the ending is a little too short. I would even go so far as to say that it is remarkable in its abruptness. The authors seemed a little too preoccupied with setting up the sequel. They should have invested more time instead in making a satisfying conclusion. It is a flaw common to the genre. Perhaps they were spoofing that convention. Who knows? The book I am featured in is a satire, after all.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if they decided to write another book with you in it?

For the love of the heavenly landlords of the cosmos, go easy on me next time! Seriously, I have no idea what these two authors have in store for me with their feverish creativity. I will offer a tiny suggestion though. Could you give me a break once in a while?! I am picturing a pacing similar to Proust so maybe I can ease into the peculiarities of being me once in a while.

Thank you for this interview, Tommy Dana. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Thank you for the opportunity. Yes, you will most definitely be seeing more of me in the future. The authors are hell-bent on prolonging my suffering and misery. I am to be the main character in three upcoming sequels. Pray for my deliverance!


Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.

Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments. Lover of all styles of music he has played classical, jazz, rock, funk, country, blues, and rap. He is very excited to play bass with his brother’s band and his son’s. He is very proud to have co-authored The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People with his son Leif.

Book description:

The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People is a young adult fantasy comedy novel written by a father and son writing duo for an intelligent general audience. It is the first book in an upcoming tetralogy. It is a darkly humorous, fast-paced, action-packed celebratory unification of the world’s rich cultural lore through the lens of an inventive fantasy concept that stands both as an occasionally subversive satire that satirizes the YA genre and an anachronistic experiment on the fusion of storyline narratives (differing stylistically and compositionally).

When Tommy Dana is abducted into a fantastical realm called Lethia, where the worthy stories of humanity are granted a physical reality, the social media-averse thirteen year old must plunge through a multi-varied meta-fictional adventure in order to save his, and the entire human world’s, imagination from falling into the thieving clutches of the witty supernatural villain Facinorous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think the author did a good job with my personality. I am not a ball of fire, but I like to think that I am pretty stable.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My strongest trait is probably my ability to stick to things and see them through. I worked very hard on my farm for years and I was well rewarded for it.

Worse trait?

My worst trait is the fact that I can’t see what is happening around me that endangers my family even when it is obvious and people point it out to me.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Boy, that is a tough one. Maybe Liam Neeson or Harrison Ford.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Well of course, my lovely wife! I fell in love with her when we were young and I still think she is beautiful!

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When everything started skyrocketing in price. I had never seen that kind of inflation and I wasn’t sure how to react.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I really would not want to be Jimmy. He never knew his father very well and he never learned how to work and provide for himself. I kind of felt sorry for him.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I have mixed feelings about it. At least I was able to save my family, but I lost almost everything else.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

I’m not really anybody special so don’t build me up too much. I’m just an average guy.

Thank you for this interview, John Birch. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

I believe so. I hope to be in the same story with a different ending. It might be interesting to explore what could happen if things were a little different.


dad 2

Robert V Baynes is concerned about the direction America is headed and wants to share his concerns with others who care about their freedom. In his spare time, he likes to fish, cook and read.

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First Chapter Reveal: Sabotage by Bryan Koepke

SabotageTitle: Sabotage
Author: Bryan Koepke
Publisher: Writers Cabin Press, Ltd.
Pages: 316
Genre: Thriller

Reece Culver and his friend Haisley Averton travel to Scotland with only one thing on their minds – fishing. After witnessing an automobile accident involving a freelance journalist they quickly realize that something far greater than a crash caused his SUV to sink into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

With increasing curiosity, Reece inserts himself into the complicated life of Marie Rhodes who is in the middle of her own crises as she watches her 20-year marriage crumble.

Realizing that they’ll never make it out fishing, Haisley uses his skills in computer forensics to find out who hacked into Karl Rhodes’ office computer at Draecon International and made it appear that he’d remotely accessed the dead journalists laptop. As Haisley combs through logs on the chief of strategy’s computer he stumbles upon an even bigger plot involving a secret drone factory somewhere in the United Kingdom, what looks like funds being embezzled out of Draecon International, and a plot that threatens the national security of the U.K.

Reece spends increasingly greater amounts of time with Marie Rhodes trying to learn what she knows and soon finds that he can’t resist the temptation of falling in love with the woman of his dreams. But as things heat up he questions her true motives.

When Karl Rhodes’ executive secretary is found dead Reece agrees to protect Marie’s soon to be ex-husband Karl. In a tricky game of cat and mouse Reece travels the globe as he tries to keep Marie, her husband, and Karl’s mistress out of harms way, and unknowingly puts himself directly into the crosshairs of a hired assassin.

For More Information

  • Sabotage is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Chapter 1

Saturday June 8, 2013

Julian had been told the target would be traveling south along the coastal road. With a practiced hand he pivoted the stock of the Russian-made sniper rifle on its black steel swivel mount atop the bipod legs and aimed toward the highway below. The SUV would be passing right through his sight . . . there. A chilly breeze blew through the tent, rippling the damp cotton shirt that lay molded to his back. He wasn’t nervous, but he did tend to sweat as the killing hour approached. He regarded the unpleasant sensation as just part of the job. It wasn’t like anyone would ever find out.

Peering through the custom-made rifle scope, he adjusted the magnification between his thumb and index finger, zooming in on the worn white strands of the highway’s center line several hundred yards below. As he rotated the knob back out, he spotted the farthest flag he’d placed in the branches of a nearby tree. The strip of white plastic barely fluttered, telling him the wind was calm.

His square unshaven chin pressed firmly against the cold black stock of the Dragunov SVD, and he pushed upward, seating the steel magazine that housed multiple 7N1 steel-core sniper rounds. With its 151-grain projectile and velocity of 830 meters per second, it was perfect for this type of work.

A rifle was the best—precise, anonymous, and decisive. He ran the shot through his mind one more time. Envision what you want to have happen. He’d read about that in an e-zine, and he adopted it as part of his preparations, even though it was supposed to be part of his ten-year life plan. He didn’t need any plan. In ten years he’d be rich and retired on a private island in the Caribbean.

The tracking device he’d stuck under the rear bumper would tell him when the SUV was near. It would approach on its way south toward the city of Talbert. He’d picked the perfect spot. The narrow Scottish road curved left around a large hill, and the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean spread beyond the guardrail.

Confirm the license plate BV-061-EK, lead the target, and pan upward to the windshield. He’d draw a bead on the man’s head, squeeze the trigger, and watch as the windshield filled with a fine red mist. He’d envisioned the heavy vehicle veering sideways and crashing through the flimsy rusted guardrail before plunging into the depths of the sea. The driver would be dead before he realized how freezing cold that water was.

As the assassin waited patiently enduring the wet chill that reminded him of his home on Bainbridge Island, he monitored the moving red dot on his cell phone. A young woman with a yellow scarf drove past in her blue Volvo sedan. His stomach growled, and he remembered the bacon he’d had at the inn. The slabs were thick and cooked only in patches. Typical British cuisine.

The dot was rapidly approaching, and he shifted his attention to a silver Nissan Pathfinder rapidly making its way up the road. It carried two occupants. Damn it, he thought as a maroon BMW X5 came around the corner. The Pathfinder would pass in front just as the BMW entered his field of fire.

He could feel a drop of sweat rolling down the knobs of his spine. He zeroed in the rifle scope on the BMW windshield. The cross hairs remained steady as the SUV slowed to make the curve. He saw the Pathfinder pass through in a blur. He had a split second of clearance as he squeezed the trigger. The windshield misted red and flashed beyond his line of sight.

About the Author

Bryan KoepkeBryan Koepke lives in the United States with his wife, and dog. He grew up in the midwest, settled in Arizona, and then twenty years ago made his way north to Colorado. He’s a private pilot, Electrical Engineering Technician, and since 2009 has been employed as a Financial Analyst. Bryan has always had an interest in writing. He wrote his first stories at the age of 7. He started writing thrillers in 2010, and published his first book in 2014.

He holds an FAA Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic’s license, Pilot’s license, and has a BS in Finance. He’s also taken multiple graduate level engineering classes. His many hobbies include hiking, fishing, skiing, and travel. He’s an avid reader and enjoys watching television shows like 24, Homeland, Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, and Ray Donovan.

His latest book is the thriller, Sabotage.

For More Information






Character Interview: Victoria Leung from Georges Ugeux’s mystery novel, The Flying Dragon

9781480818569_COVER.inddWe’re thrilled to have here today Victoria Leung from Georges Ugeux’s new mystery novel, The Flying Dragon. She is a 34-year old Chinese detective living in Hong Kong.

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

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

I honestly believe that Georges has truly captured some of the complexities of my personality: my mix of sensitivity and assertiveness, my femininity and my determination. I am proud of these qualities. I often felt that he was so perceptive, he even uncovered some of my vulnerabilities in a way that I might not have been aware of in the moment. It isn’t often one meets a man that understands such a complicated woman.

My readers have noticed or will probably notice how I react under duress and stress, especially when I am pushed. I immediately go back to the inquiry. This, of course, does not mean I am not shocked or upset. However, Georges knew what I was going through and decided to be discreet. I thank him for that. I would not have liked to see what I went through in excruciating detail on paper. He respected me.

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

Let’s face it: I believe that he loves me even if he will not admit it. The color he gave to my character was truthful, but he painted it as a friend would do. So my personality is a very appealing one. In fact, Georges was probably a little too nice. He is obviously an emotional guy…and probably a romantic one!

I actually really like the way my personality was colored, but I know I cannot always be as nice as he made me. I also happen to know, my character was created and based on a combination of women he has known or admired. It is, of course, very flattering to be associated with pianist Yuja Wang and actress Zhang Ziyi.

What he captured extremely well is the difficulty for a young woman, particularly in the Chinese culture, to be taken seriously in the professional world. Flirtation is, of course, plentiful, and I am not shy. I have to use my charm sometimes. But, I also want to be recognized for the professional I have become. Having been a bank auditor, a financial fraud cop and now a detective, I have gained experience and knowledge – and I expect it to be recognized and respected. It is an uphill battle, and Georges captured my challenges very well in the novel. 

What do you believe is your strongest trait? 

I am assertive. Even in emotional moments, I am capable of holding myself and maintaining my position. I am not a crier, even though I am emotional. When I encounter people that are dishonest or try to manipulate, I can be ruthless and unforgiving. For example, one of the suspects in this case was trying to seduce me and was lying to me simultaneously. He quickly found out it was NOT the way to convince me of anything.

Worse trait? 

I can overreact, which is probably connected to the emotional part of me.

I am not convinced it is a bad trait, but I can be a bit sneaky. I use all the tools I have to destabilize a suspect or a liar. When I know I am right, I apply my skills to make sure he or she falls into my trap. I relish the moment I see some arrogant liar become a paper tiger. I have found that men can often be so infatuated with themselves when interacting with women. I can very well pretend to be seduced if it encourages a suspect confess.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)? 

Georges has contacted Zhang Ziyi. He was impressed by her roles in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. I agree completely. The combination of her films fit the two sides of my character: the warrior and the seductress. I would be thrilled if she accepted to play me. We are even the same age. If not, there are certainly other Chinese actresses who could represent my character perfectly.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

If you’re asking whether or not I was attracted to a man in the book, the answer is yes. There were moments in which I struggled internally to remain objective and assertive. Many of the men were very handsome…but there was one in particular I wouldn’t have minded spending an evening with. Of course, he was one of the prime suspects and had betrayed my best friend, Diana Yu. So, it was definitely a non-starter.

I also could understand the elements of passion and sexual orientation in the story – they fit with my personality.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out? 

As soon as I realized that sexual orientation was a major factor and a reason for aggression, I knew the story would evolve into a different world. I did not mind it, but it this was the moment I needed to mobilize assessment of its role in the plot and realized that some of the character’s motivations would likely be irrational. I knew it would become ugly.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why? 

Without disclosing details, there is a sleazy character in the book, one who actually approaches Victoria Leung to launch the investigation. He is so infatuated with himself, disingenuous and manipulative, not to mention the way he treats his peers and women in general.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away? 

I never thought that the hatred of the primary suspect would be so extreme and irrational, and it was a true challenge interrogating him. However, I do like the fact that I enraged him to the point where he unconsciously admitted his own guilt. 

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it? 

Georges should continue the path he is on. He incorporates so many of his own values in the story. He may, however, have to include a bit more detail in the sex elements of the book…I will be 36, and each day that goes by I can feel my biological clock ticking. I do wonder what he has in mind for me. He certainly knows my femininity but protected me this time. Hopefully he will unveil that side of me in the next book. 

Thank you for this interview, Victoria.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Absolutely. I know Georges wants me to travel.

He did share with me that the next plot will likely take place in the city of London. I look forward to it, as I am delighted to spend some time in London. It is a city that Georges himself, lived in for many years so I am sure he is going have me discover unusual parts of his own experiences. He is truly unpredictable.

I should be back early 2017!




Author:  Georges Ugeux


Publisher:  Archway Books

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book: 

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

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

GU Author Photo for Blog

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

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Talking Books with Roxanne Bland, author of ‘The Moreva of Astoreth’

Roxanne BlandRoxanne Bland grew up in Washington, D.C., where she discovered strange and wonderful new worlds through her local public library and bookstores. These and other life experiences have convinced her that reality is highly overrated. Ms. Bland lives in Rosedale, Maryland with her Great Dane, Daisy Mae.

Her latest book is the science fiction novel, The Moreva of Astoreth.

For More Information

About the Book:

Moreva Tehi, scientist, healer, priestess of the Goddess of Love and three-quarters god, is a bigot. She hates the hakoi who are the Temple’s slaves. When she misses an important ritual because the enslaved hakoi are participants, her grandmother, the Goddess Astoreth, punishes her by exiling her for a year from her beloved southern desert The Moreva of Astorethhome to the far north village of Mjor in the Syren Perritory, (where the hakoi are free) to steward Astoreth’s landing beacon. But Astoreth forbids her from taking with her scientific research on red fever, a devastating scourge that afflicts the hakoi. She does so, anyway.

The first Mjoran she meets is Laerd Teger, the hakoi chief of the village, who appears to hate her. She also meets Hyme, the hakoi village healer, and much to Moreva Tehi’s surprise, they form a fast friendship. This friendship forces her to set upon a spiritual journey to confront her bigotry. While doing so, she falls in love with Laerd Teger, who returns her love. She eventually has a revelation about the meaning of love, and rids herself of her bigotry. And she develops a cure for red fever, and is the first healer to do so.

But there is a price for her love for Laerd Teger, and that is her certain execution by the Goddess Astoreth upon her return home because she has broken her sacred vows. But then, through Laerd Teger, she learns a terrible secret about her gods, that they are not gods at all, but aliens, and rather than being part god, she is part alien. Her world destroyed, she turns on Laerd Teger for showing her the truth. They eventually reconcile. But there is still the problem about her love for Laerd Teger. Astoreth will know what she has done and will execute her. She formulates a plan, involving the erasure of her memory, in which she will bargain for her life by giving Astoreth the formula for red fever. Astoreth agrees. For breaking her vows and disobeying a direct order not to take her red fever research to Mjor, Astoreth strips her of her morevic status and exiles her again to Mjor. Back in Mjor, she recovers her memory and sends the red fever formula to Astoreth. Now freed from the constraints of being a Moreva, Tehi and Teger embark on a new life together.

For More Information

  • The Moreva of Astoreth is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Roxanne. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’m multi-published, with two books under my belt—The Underground, and now, The Moreva of Astoreth. Assuming no delays, I’ll have a third out in 2017.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I started my own publishing house, so I’m an independent author/publisher, or indie. Being the somewhat impatient type, I did it this way because I grew weary of waiting for agents and publishers to make a decision on my book. It was taking years. And the more I learned about the publishing industry, the more going the indie route seemed a viable option. Besides, one day I’d like to open my doors to other authors. So for now, I’m experimenting on myself, learning the ins and outs of publishing.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Well, considering the contract was between me, myself and I, it didn’t take long at all! It took only a couple of months from finalizing the manuscript to designing the cover and then to publication.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was in awe. Even though I held it in my hands, I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually done it, published my book. As for celebrating, I was taken out to dinner by family and friends. We had a great time.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I immediately started sending out review copies to interested parties, advertising on various book-related websites in the U.S. and England, and by doing giveaways on Goodreads. I did them simultaneously.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

As a writer, I believe my prose has gotten better, and I’m more willing to scrap what doesn’t work, rather than tying myself into knots trying to fit it in. I don’t throw the rejects away, though. I keep them because I might use them in another book. As an author, I’ve learned that not everyone is going to like my novels, and might even find fault with them. And that’s okay. I can’t please everyone. From those experiences, I learned not to take it personally. Instead, I use reviews—good and bad—to improve my writing skills.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

That it is as large as it is, and so varied. When I started out, I knew nothing about small, independent presses, especially those that specialize in certain genres.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

To have readers tell me how much they enjoyed my books. After all, I write to entertain. It’s also gratifying to be told they understood the message I was trying to get across.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Don’t give up on your dream. There are so many options to getting published these days. Don’t think the traditional route is the only way. Check out the smaller presses, or consider going indie, like I did.

A Bookish Conversation with Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noel Balen

Jean-Pierre Noel BalenJean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose. The series has 24 titles to date and is a hit TV series in France. So far 10 have been translated. Jean-Pierre Alaux currently lives in southwestern France and Noël in Paris. They both are full-time writers and participate in the TV adaptation of their series.

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.

And Anne Trager has a passion for crime fiction that equals her love of France. After years working in translation, publishing and communications, she founded the mystery and thriller publishing house Le French Book, dedicated to picking top mysteries and thrillers from France and translating them into English.

Their latest book is the cozy mystery, The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus.

For More Information

About the Book:

An immersion in French countryside, gourmet attitude, and light-hearted mystery.

The Winemaker DetectiveTwo amateur sleuths gumshoe around French wine country, where money, deceit, jealousy, inheritance and greed are all the ingredients needed for crime. Master winemaker Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien solve mysteries in vineyards with a dose of Epicurean enjoyment of fine food and beverage. Each story is a homage to wine and winemakers, as well as a mystery.

In Treachery in Bordeaux, barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage?

In Grand Cru Heist, Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. He and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and very particular heist.

In Nightmare in Burgundy, a dream wine tasting trip to Burgundy that turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era.

This made-for-TV series is “difficult to forget and oddly addictive” (ForeWord Reviews).

For More Information

  • The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q&A with Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, creators of the Winemaker Detective

How did you start writing a crime fiction series?

We wanted to explore a specific theme—wine and winemaking—from a variety of different perspectives. In the Winemaker Detective series, it is clear that each wine region deserves a different approach. By having recurring characters that see and observe the different regions and wine estates, we create consistency and a link between the different whodunit stories.

Your characters are very attaching. How do they evolve?

No matter what you do as a writer, characters eventually take over and do what they want. They evolve with the series because they reflect life. Everybody changes because life makes you change, even when you keep your initial values and character traits. So like anybody, our characters mature, become wiser in some areas, more experienced, or let themselves go, or cannot overcome their pain or refuse to face life head on. Since we began writing the series, our central character, the winemaker detective Benjamin Cooker, has grown, become more complex and taken on a life of his own, thanks in part to the French television series in which actor Pierre Arditi embodies him remarkably.

How much reality do you include in your books?

Generally speaking, we do our best to respect the reality of our settings. We go to the various wine regions, take pictures, get a feel for the place, and use local and historical documents. Many of the wines estates, restaurants and even hotels are all real. Sometimes the plot requires that we invent places where crimes have occurred, so that we don’t ruin the reputations of real places. For the plot, the key is finding a rather subtle balance between what is real, what seems real, and what is invented and improbable. But, you must also be wary of reality, as it is often much tougher, crueler and more sordid than anything you could imagine. Curiously, you sometimes need to lighten up reality for it to remain credible in a story.

How do you check your facts?

We do a lot of reading, using specialized books, and online research. We call on experts (winemakers, toxicologists, police officers, ballistics specialists, historians). Experience helps, making it easier and quicker to do the research. We also know many winemakers and winegrowers, with whom we check details. Both of us are careful about verifying our sources.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, she could have made me a little bit less neurotic-seeming. My anger management issues and my pogonophobia—the irrational fear of beards—aren’t exactly my strongest traits. But to be fair to Tracy, I’m far from perfect.

What do you believe is your strongest trait? 

Loyalty. Like my German shepherd, Bella. I might take a while to warm up to someone, but once I do there’s almost nothing I won’t do for them. Including putting myself in danger to prove they are innocent of murder.

Worse trait? 

My temper, for sure. I’ve struggled with my fiery temper since my first two-year-old temper tantrum, which is a problem when you make your living teaching yoga. People expect yoga teachers to be Zen all of the time, and I’m definitely not. I am getting better though. Maybe all of that meditation practice is finally paying off.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)? 

That’s a tough one. Maybe Zooey Deschanel? Her hair color’s darker than mine, but we have the same sort of girl-next-door energy.

Do you have a love interest in the book? 

Definitely. My boyfriend Michael and I have been together almost a year now. That’s six times my normal record! ;-) He recently moved into my house and it’s going pretty well—except for his housekeeping deficit disorder and the chaos of our home remodel. If we can make it through the house renovations, we’ll make it through anything. So expect Michael to stick around for this and all future books. Unless we kill each other off during the remodel.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out? 

When my car got broken into with my German shepherd, Bella, in the back seat. I don’t care about my beater Honda, but when someone threatens Bella, they’d better be prepared to deal with the full wrath of Kate. Bella has proven in the past that she would die for me. How can I do anything less for her?

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why? 

I’d rather not be the murder victim, of course, but I don’t want to give that name away, so I guess I’ll have to say Tiffany, the little bleached-blonde bimbo who works for Michael at his pet store, Pete’s Pets. Then again, it can’t be very fun to be Dharma, who is stuck in a prison cell for a crime she didn’t commit. All things considered, I’d rather be me.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I’m delighted with it. Who could have predicted that three hundred pages after being attacked by a Chihuahua, I’d have come to peace with a repressed memory from my childhood and reconnected with a long-lost family member? And I even ended up with a new way to torture Tiffany! Nothing is more fun than that.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it? 

The biggest piece of advice I would give Tracy is to keep the promise she’s already made to her readers—that she’ll never kill an animal in her books. I’m not too worried, though. Tracy’s as much of an animal nut as I am. I’m pretty sure she’d kill me off before Bella.

Thank you for this interview, Kate. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Definitely! My fourth adventure, tentatively titled A Fatal Twist, is already written and at Tracy’s editor. And I’m sure there will be many more. There seems to be no end to the amount of trouble I can get myself into. And Bella is never far behind, making life infinitely more interesting!



A certified yoga therapist, Trcay Weber is the owner of the award-winning yoga studio, Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and the creator and director of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program which, to date, has certified over 250 yoga teachers. She and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha.

Connect on with Tracy on the Web:


Genre: Mystery

Author: Tracy Weber


Publisher: Midnight Ink

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

A fun, fresh, feisty new mystery featuring Seattle yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her trusty canine companion Bella,Karma’s a Killer is a taut tale with more twists and turns than a vinyasa yoga class.   In this charming, clever and utterly captivating cozy mystery, Kate Davidson discovers that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like om. 
When she agrees to teach doga—yoga for dogs—at a fundraiser for Dogma, a local animal rescue, Kate believes the only real damage will be to her reputation. But when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning, a few downward-facing dogs will be the least of Kate’s problems… The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism, organizational politics, and the dangerous obsessions that drive them.   And if solving a murder weren’t complicated enough, Kate will also have to decide whether or not to reconcile with the estranged mother who abandoned her over thirty years ago.  Not to mention having to contend with an almost-bankrupt animal rescue, a cantankerous crow, an unwanted pigeon houseguest, and a rabbit in a doga class. What couldpossibly go wrong?


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