Saturday, December 1, 2012

Author Interview: John Riffice

Today we have an interview with John Riffice, author of Waiting for Pops. Read to the end to find out how to win a copy!

Jennifer: Where can we find out more about you and buy your book?
My book, Waiting For Pops, is available through Amazon or through a link to Amazon at my website for a mere $9.99 (paperback) or $3.99 (ebook).  There at my website the reader can find out a little more about me both professionally and personally.

Jennifer: Tell us about your book.
Waiting For Pops, a mainstream biographical novel based on real-life events, is a tale of a young boy’s appalling mistreatment at the hands of his alcoholic mother.  It is a tale of spousal secrets and parental lies.  It is a tale of love, friendship, and, above all else, betrayal.  Pops is seen through the eyes of an innocent boy growing steadily into manhood in 1950s Chicago.  Johnny Ryba tells his story and transports the reader into his small, blue-collar existence—his mother’s alcoholism, his much-loved father’s sudden death in an auto accident, his beloved little sister’s autism.  Later, as the reader accompanies Johnny into his teen years, they experience as well the painful heartbreak of his first love and loss.  The storyline rapidly evolves and ultimately centers on a mystery that Johnny attempts to solve as a mature adult, resulting in a shocking revelation that reverses almost everything he once believed about his mother and father, as well as his own harrowing past.  He inadvertently discovers his parents’ role as accomplices in a lifelong conspiracy of silence, and also becomes aware of a misplaced affection for his father.  Johnny must finally come to terms with the most important aspect of his life: the truth about his parents, and about himself, too.

This mystery centers around young Johnny Ryba, who is used to his mother physically and verbally abusing him.  He can’t turn to his father for help; Pops died long ago.  But strangely enough, finding help is not Johnny’s main concern: keeping his mother’s alcoholism a secret is.  To him, it is the only thing that matters.  The mere thought that neighbors and friends might learn of his family secret is more than the little boy can bear.  And in attempting to keep it all secret, Johnny discovers the truth about his mother and father and their lifelong conspiracy of silence.  Waiting For Pops concerns itself with two subjects which have plagued societies worldwide for decades: child abuse and alcoholism, both uniquely portrayed in this mystery set in 1950s Chicago.  Back then, we spoke of it in whispers.  Today these matters are open for discussion, but their solutions still elude us-and their effects still linger on.  And they linger for Johnny, too, until he finally discovers what may have been better kept a secret. 

Jennifer: Where did you get the idea for the story?
The entire storyline is fundamentally autobiographical in nature, though snippets here and there have been incorporated into the book's text as a result of personal observations of the lives of two childhood friends.  Curiously, the three of us as adolescents never discussed what we each were privately facing, under the misguided belief that what we were experiencing was both 'a well-kept secret' as well as a life unique to each of us individually.  Neither assumption, of course, was true.  Over three decades passed before we individually came to terms with the reality of our youth and were able to discuss our experiences honestly and openly.  It seemed that only with age and maturity we were capable of letting go of the shame of 'covering' for an abusive, alcoholic parent and the embarrassment they brought into our lives.
What do you find most rewarding in writing a book?
JPR: I think the most rewarding aspect of having written this book is the many emails and comments I have received.  Curiously, the theme of all these communications tend to be similar in nature.  "God, I swear you must have lived my life!" or "I had a friend and the poor girl was going through the same thing. But we never talked about it...".  Additionally, my description of life in a solidly blue collar, middle class neighborhood was apparently right on the money, from day-to-day life to the clickety-clack of passing trains to the more sordid, tawdry details of infidelities and deceitful behavior on the part of neighbors.  All from a child's perspective, too!  So, in short, readers confirm that what I intended to do when I set out and first set pen to paper was realized!  Writing a book that all  readers could relate to-because most of us grew up middle class with either an abusive or substance abusing adult somewhere in our lives-was very rewarding.  Knowing I touched so many people (which of course is the objective of most writers) was rewarding and, after all , the whole point of starting such an endeavor. 

Jennifer: What other projects do you have coming up?
I just this week finished a novel entitled "Dog and Butterfly," a lovely story about a little boy and his relationship with his uncle, the boy's deceased father's older brother.  It is a beautiful tome revolving around the power of Fate and how it shapes our lives and essentially, how one life event (whether good or bad) just has to happen so the next thing can.  Life, after all, is just a series of events that when connected tell a story.

Jennifer: Do you write full time? If so, tell us how you manage it. If not, what is your day job?
I do not write full-time (darn it!), though it usually feels like I do!  By day, I am a pipefitter in Chicago (yes, it's true... a construction worker who writes books!) since 1982.  Sometime in those years I left the trade to pursue my dream of becoming an educator.  For nine years, before the economy took its most recent severe downturn, I taught Spanish, Italian, Special Education, Vocational Education, Driver Education, and Social Studies.  Whew!!!  It was a profession I loved (and still do) and one I hope to some day return to.

Jennifer: What is your writing process like--do you outline first or just start writing, etc.?
I see creative writing as very similar to spring cleaning: hard to get started, but once you do, you don't stop till the job is done!  Typically, and I suspect this is true for most writers, I start with a thought.  That thought makes its way to a sentence and then to a paragraph.  And of course that paragraph gives birth to another paragraph and then another and another and... well, you get it.  Over time, deletions are made and additions are inserted.  Unfortunately (and I suspect this is true for most writers, too), after weeks of penning a chapter and reviewing and editing it a million times, I read it over and say to myself, "This is garbage!"  So I put it down for a few days and come back to it then.  And guess what?  Sometimes it is garbage!  But more often than not, it's pretty darn good stuff.  I equate it to spending a few hours in the kitchen making a nice pot of soup: after tasting it over and over it turns into a big disappointment.  But the next day?  "Hey, this is good!"  And that's how writing is for me: writing, rewriting, reading, rereading until Shazaam! I've actually got something exceptional on my hands.

Jennifer: What have you done to develop your writing craft?
In all honesty, with respect to writing, I'd have to say that I'm a natural.  This I attribute to the fact that I have always been a gifted storyteller, something that served me well particularly when I was in the classroom.  No way to better get your point across to a captive audience (that is, kids who would much rather be elsewhere) than deliver your message in storyform.  And so, this gift enabled an easy transition from oral storytelling to written storytelling.  Add to that the fact that I am a voracious reader and have enjoyed the various writing styles of countless authors, it is little wonder that my writing is so good and so entertaining.  My wife tells me that few people have this talent.  Maybe she's right; I don't know.  All I can say is that for me it comes relatively easy.  Now that's not to say that I don't get stuck or suffer from writer's block from time to time.  I do!  But that passes too, and before I know it I'm back in the saddle and writing like Hemingway!  Well, okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little...

Jennifer: Tell us a little about your non-writing life. Family? Pets? Hobbies?
Pets?  Skippy, Atticus, and Ted, two miniature dachshunds and a shepherd-mutt, respectively.  And may God rest their souls...  I never had dogs as a boy (my mom knew she'd get the brunt of the work laid at her doorstep-she was right about that, too, I think), but as a little girl my daughter wanted a dog.  I fought that notion for as long as I could, but being weak of heart and not wanting to disappoint my daughter, I gave in.  It didn't take long before I was in love with ol' Ted, and before I knew it I had a managerie of pets: three dogs, a cat, and a canary.  Despite the sadness (and I do mean sadness) of eventually losing them all, my daughter is now a veterinarian (University of Iowa, Class of 2012), having them around enhanced my life tenfold.  Now, however, the sadness of losing them precludes me from getting another pet, but in time I hope that will pass.  But when?  It's been four years and my heart is still broken!
My hobbies are (of course) writing and golf.  And that's another reason I'm delighted to be done with my latest venture, 'Dog And Butterfly'.  Now I can take a break and get back on the golf course!  And family?  Well, I told you about Dr. Riffice (my daughter), of whom I am oh-so-proud!  But then there's my better half, Karen (and I do mean better), my wife and life companion for the last 28 years.  How she puts up with me I'll never know.  All I can say is that she's a better man than I! 

Jennifer: When and why did you decide to become a writer?
It's all my wife's fault!  Several years back I became friends with an immigrant from Sicily, a restaurateur, with whom I opened a little trattoria (forgot to mention that cooking Italian is my passion, an art I acquired after living in Italy several years after college).  The whole sordid affair is far too long to go into here (but it is the subject of a yet-to-be-released book called 'Divided By One'), but suffice it to say that my partner's association with certain underworld characters (unbeknownst to me when we became partners) caused the whole situation to go south in a hurry.  The bullet to his head didn't help any, either.  At any rate, over dinner with friends, I would tell the whole story, detail by delicious detail.  Our companions' response was always the same: "You should write a book!", a refrain my wife uttered a million times previously.  So I did.  It was then that I decided to pursue writing a bit more seriously.

To be honest, it may have started a little earlier, my desire to write.  When I was a sophmore in high school, I met a girl and just flipped out over her.  Needless to say, she dumped me not long after, leaving my heart shattered in a zillion pieces.  The following year, I wrote a ten page love story, based on our so-called relationship, and lo-and-behold I won her back!  A few years later, Fate interceded and snatched her away from me again.  But I thank the Lord it did.  I wouldn't have ever had Skippy and Atticus and Ted et al., not to mention my good wife and my daughter the doctor!

Want to win a copy of Waiting for Pops? Leave a comment on this blog and you could win! Winner will be announced on Monday, December 10, 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Week on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book Radio Program: Greg Interviews Kimberly Morrow-Stephens, Author of Family Secrets

Markus Randolph and his wife Angel have found themselves plunged into a world of drugs, crime, murder, and undercover Federal agents. Markus has also made a grim discovery: his biological father is a member of New York's most lethal drug cartel, and he must travel from New York to North Carolina to convince the man that he's on his side - with both their lives dependent upon his success...

J.D. and Rico Smalls have the drug trade sown up in Reidsville, North Carolina; however, J. D.'s affiliations are about to change life in "small town America" as they know it. When visitors from out of state come calling, can the two survive the outcome...?

Eva Miller has come home to North Carolina after spending most her life in the big city, but when she meets the love of her life, his family's business threatens everything. Can her love save him when the bullets start flying...?

For nearly thirty years, the Colonel and J. D. have been friends, and their sons have grown to become major players in family business and family ties - but when the devil comes to collect his due, only one family can survive when the Family Secrets are finally revealed...

Be sure to join us for a fun and informative afternoon with Kimberly Morrow-Stephens and learn about her latest novel, Family Secrets, on BlogTalkRadio on Wednesday, November 14, from 3:30 to 4:00 Pacific Time. And join us each week at the same time to meet exciting new authors and hear about their latest books and their creative processes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

This Week on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book Radio Program: Greg Interviews Deanna Proach, Author of To Be Maria

Seventeen-year-old Anya Preschnikov dreams of one day becoming a famous actor, but she's faced with two problems: her one-parent, dysfunctional family neglects her and has no money to support her, and at school, she's the target of her peers' contempt. Anya believes that in order to secure her stepping stone to stardom, she must dress like the rich girls and be surrounded by a large network of friends. All of this changes, though, when Maria Hernandez comes to Peach Valley Senior High. Rebellious and headstrong, Maria instantly gains the acceptance of her peers - yet she sees in Anya what everyone else does not: her physical beauty and immense talent. So when Maria extends her hand of friendship, Anya is elated. Her lifelong dream seems like it's about to become a reality - until it falls short one Saturday night at a party when a boy's rude comment sends her into a rage.

Desperate to belong somewhere, Anya and Maria set out to find new friends outside of school. They soon meet Alex and Marissa, a young couple who eagerly welcomes them into their world of parties and drugs. Anya and Maria soon learn that Alex is a drug dealer, but they're so lured by his wealth and aggressive confidence that they can't resist his friendship. What they don't know is that Alex's gang is at war with a rival gang - one run by Anya's older brother, Adrik - until a deadly incident puts their lives in danger's path. To make matters worse, Alex refuses to let Anya and Maria out of his sight.

The two young women soon find themselves forced into a situation that could have very tragic consequences if they don't escape it soon...

If you are interested in picking up her book before the show, it is currently available in a Kindle edition at Amazon. And be sure to visit check out her witty and wise weblog at Goodreads!

Be sure to join us for a fun and informative afternoon with Deanna Proach on BlogTalkRadio on Wednesday, November 7, from 3:30 to 4:00 Pacific Time. And join us each week at the same time to meet exciting new authors and hear about their latest books and their creative processes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This Week on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book: Greg Interviews Quantu Amaru, Award-winning Author of One Blood

This week on special Halloween Edition of A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, Greg interviews Qwantu Amaru, author of the award-winning supernatural thriller, One Blood.

From Kirkus Book Reviews:

"A governor and his sordid past are at the heart of a tale of retribution in Amaru's stunning debut novel. Amaru's greatest achievement is a nonlinear story that still manages to be clean-cut and precise. The plot bounces readers from one time period to another--flashbacks sometimes occur during other flashbacks, and dream sequences meld into memories and back into real time. Despite this narrative style, the story is, surprisingly, never perplexing. Amaru skillfully manages this feat by presenting uncertainty--such as Lincoln's relationship with a man named Amir--but immediately clarifying it with prior events, complete with a time stamp. Similarly, voodoo and many appearances of loa (spirits) are treated sincerely, not merely as wacky, otherworldly manifestations. The thorough examination of peoples' pasts allows for sharp, distinct characters. This heightens the tension between characters engaged in high-pressure situations, of which the author has ample supply. For deep-rooted characters immersed in violence, the novel's defining moment may be a wounded man reciting the Lord's Prayer aloud while dodging bullets in a blistering gun battle.

(One Blood) is a gutsy book that blazes trails, plotted at breakneck speed that won't let up."

Join us on a spooky edition of A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book as we interview Qwantu Amaru about this eerie new book. The show is this Wednesday, Halloween, at 3:30 pm PDT.

This episode of A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book promises to be a great kick-off to a “BOO!” filled Halloween! Join us, if you dare!

Monday, October 22, 2012

This week on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, Greg interviews Michael Crisp, author of Murder in the Mountains: The Muriel Baldridge Story

On a warm 1949 summer’s night in Eastern Kentucky, Muriel Baldridge and three girlfriends did what most 17-year-old girls do in a small town on a Tuesday night: they attended a local softball game and a visited a traveling carnival that had set up camp nearby.

Later that evening, as she made her way home alone across the historic West Prestonsburg Bridge, Muriel was abducted and assaulted, meeting her untimely death along the riverbank.

Though her screams were heard throughout the community, the crime went unseen and her killer vanished into the night.

Once Muriel’s body was discovered, an investigation was triggered involving the newly formed Kentucky State Police, the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, and the FBI. Despite only rudimentary forensics, there was no shortage of evidence: an eight-inch pipe believed to be the murder weapon was found near the body, along with several sets of footprints and an empty whiskey bottle.

Among the eyewitness testimony was a 15-year-old carnival worker who claimed he saw the murder occur. However, like all of the confessions heard in the case, it would be retracted several days after its admission.

The investigation was anything but conventional and included a jailbreak, a manhunt that stretched across the eastern United States, and the administration of a “truth serum” to several local citizens. The local grand jury would eventually indict two Prestonsburg men: one who worked with Muriel’s father, and one who was the Baldridge’s neighbor.

The trial would prove to have as many twists and turns as the investigation, and it is easy to see why the Floyd County Times called the case “probably the most bizarre and confusing in the annuals of Eastern Kentucky crime.”

Award winning documentary filmmaker Michael Crisp has over 20 years in the entertainment business as a singer, guitarist and disc jockey. His first feature film, The Very Worst Thing, revisited the 1958 Floyd County (Ky.) school bus disaster and won critical acclaim at film festivals across the country. Michael’s recent film projects include Legendary: When Baseball Came to the BluegrassWhen Happy Met FroggyPolterguys, and the upcoming A Cut Above: The Legend of Larry Roberts. He lives in Kentucky with his son Conner.

Find out more about and purchase this exciting novel at
Michael Crisp’s website and also at Amazon.

This promises to be an exciting and educational interview with an intriguing new author. Please join us on
BlogTalkRadio on Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:00 pm Pacific Time for a visit with Michael Crisp and to hear about Murder in the Mountains: The Muriel Baldridge Story and his creative process and publishing experiences.