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.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Author Interview: G.W. Eccles

Today we have an interview with G.W. Eccles, author of The Oligarch: A Thriller. Mr. Eccles is currently on tour with the book--best of luck to him!

Tell us about your book
G.W. Eccles: The Oligarch is unashamedly a thriller. At its start, the Russian President is determined to destroy the oligarchs. He not only resents the fact that they own most of the country's natural resource wealth which should be available to benefit the whole population, but also sees them as a threat to his power base. When the global economic meltdown decimates their wealth, the President seizes this chance. His greatest opponent - Anton Blok, owner of the mighty Tyndersk Kombinat - has a secret agenda: he wants to fund a separatist rebellion in Southern Russia and therefore faces far more than just financial ruin as his empire threatens to fall apart. The President knows that his old enemy will stop at nothing to avoid such a catastrophe, so with battlelines clearly drawn, he turns to Alex Leksin, a British troubleshooter of Russian descent, to thwart Blok's plans. Against the challenge of hostile Arctic conditions, Leksin has to tread a dangerous path through a labyrinth of corruption, terrorism and FSB intrigue until the final showdown in Russia’s northernmost seaport.

The story starts immediately after the controversial election of a Russian President for a third term amid protests and accusations of vote rigging. Are you referring to Putin?
G.W. Eccles: Not really. For most of the time the book was being written, the Russian Presidential election had not taken place. Of course, it wasn't rocket science to guess that Putin would be re-elected, that this would be controversial, that there would be protests and that the election would involve a fair degree of vote rigging. Additionally, Putin has gone on record many times since he first came upon the political scene to say that he disapproves of the way that the oligarchs obtained their stranglehold over his country's assets and would like them returned to State control.
However, there the similarities really end. In fact, you never actually meet the President in the book. You only learn about him through references by other characters, who see him, if anything, as a tough, but more or less benign, figure determined to destroy the shady oligarchs. In reality, though, who would portray Putin and his thuggish, bullying cronies as benign? His former position as head of the FSB tells you a lot about the real man, I suspect. In any sequel, you'll most likely learn much more of what is really going on in the President's mind, and that might well make him more like Putin.

The hero of the story is Leksin, a British former investigator of Russian descent and now living in Russia.  In many ways, he's not the usual clean-cut charmer that one's used to seeing as hero. Was this your aim?
G.W. Eccles: Absolutely. I wanted a hero who was every bit as manipulative as the oligarch he would confront in the story. Russian oligarchs are generally not nice guys - while there may be exceptions to the rule, many of them are more akin to gangsters than businessmen, and they react very badly to anyone or anything who gets in their way. For evidence of this, just look at the number of company directors and owners who were murdered during the turf war that went on while the oligarchs were amassing their fortunes . If Leksin is to take on such people, then he needs to share many of the same qualities - a wallflower wouldn't survive a minute.
As a human being, Leksin is flawed. Like the oligarchs, he is driven to succeed. This amounts to an obsession: he cannot tolerate failure either in himself or other people. In his personal life, this means he is unable to sympathise with his dependent and unstable sister. To him, she is a chore. He pushes himself so hard in his work that he has to resort to cocaine in order to cope with this self-imposed pressure. Moreover, although attractive to women, his personal relationships always come unstuck because he regards them as an unacceptable distraction from his assignments.
In one sense, Leksin is amoral. He tends not to pass judgement. If the President had been portrayed as a much more sinister, Putin-esque character, that would not have stopped Leksin working for him. Similarly, Leksin might not like Blok, the oligarch, but he has an underlying admiration of the way the man had played the system to build up his vast business empire. Such disapproval as he expresses reflects how third parties feel about Blok rather than his own views.
So why do we empathise with Leksin? Well, partly because we like the people who like Leksin: their fondness for, and loyalty to, Leksin indicates that he must have things going for him. We learn how Leksin took Nikolai, now part of the government and his closest friend, under his wing when Nikolai first arrived in Cambridge out of place and an outsider. We approve of the way that he takes great pains to care for his mentally-ill sister despite his disappointment with her. His love of art and the meticulous manner in which he is gradually buying back the paintings that were appropriated from his grandfather during the revolution also gives us an insight into a different side of Leksin's character. And we like Anya, the oligarch's daughter, who falls in love with Leksin.

You paint a very bleak picture of Tyndersk, the Arctic mining town owned by the oligarch. Did you base this on experience?

G.W. Eccles: Yes. Some people's image of Siberia is the glossy postcard image portrayed in the film of Dr Zhivago. Indeed, when you are in the depths of the Siberian countryside and the landscape is covered with snow, it can look very pretty. But in reality the working towns in Siberia, many of them ex-gulags, are nothing like this.

I spent a considerable amount of time in Siberia when I was working in Russia, and many of the towns there are just like Tyndersk: polluted, dirty, one-company towns built around giant mining or oil operations. Some of them are so geographically cut off from the rest of Russia by the lack of transport in and out of the region that locals refer as a trip to (say) Moscow as 'going to the mainland'. In winter, these places are staggeringly cold: while the average winter temperature might be -30C, it will regularly fall below -60C. Spending any length of time in these dehumanised places is a depressing and disheartening experience.

How much of the rest of the story is based upon your experience?
G.W. Eccles: Let me say first that the novel is a work of fiction. Although I think the plot is entirely possible in today's Russia, it isn't in any way based on real events - at least, so far as I know.

However, the depictions of life in Russia - shopping in open air markets, the food the Russians eat, the way they dress in freezing Siberia, the nightmare of its airports, hotels and restaurants, and so on - are all based on what I observed when living there.
Many of the anecdotes are also based on something that happened to me also. For example, like Leksin I once arrived at a Siberian airport where the snowfall was so thick that during the walk to the terminal I could only see a few metres ahead. If I'd lost sight of the person ahead of me, I wouldn't have made it to the terminal or, indeed, at all.

With the action moving a breakneck speed alternating between Moscow, Ingushetia (Chechnya’s neighbour), and Tyndersk, a Siberian mining town inside the Arctic Circle, your book has all the ingredients of a good movie? Who would you cast as the main characters and why?
G.W. Eccles: Interestingly one of the most consistent comments I have received from people who have read the book so far is that it is almost tailor-made to be a film. I have to admit that I felt this myself as I was writing the book, though it was not at any time an influencing factor.
Who would I cast? I can see Damian Lewis as Leksin. In Homeland he plays another complex character struggling to relate to people and to cope with the pressure, just as Leksin does. Dustin Hoffman's portrayals often have similar characteristics.
Blok, the oligarch, is slightly more difficult. He is not a very nice man, yet notwithstanding his outrageous behaviour, we can't help having some sympathy for him. Thinking a little out of the box perhaps, I have in mind Hugh Laurie for the role since we all have a similarly ambivalent attitude towards House.
Anya, his daughter, is easier, so far as I'm concerned. Rooney Mara. Anya starts off as a spoilt, bored, rich girl, but once the man she loves is under threat she really shows her mettlel. When this happens, I see Anya in many ways as a somewhat better-adjusted version of Lisbeth in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

What was the hardest part: writing the book, getting it published or marketing it? Why?
G.W. Eccles: Although writing the book seemed hard at the time, it turned out to the easiest part of the process. Finding a publisher to take a chance with a new thriller writer nowadays, even if they like a project, seems nigh on impossible. These publishing conglomerates have their portfolio of established writers whose works automatically sell the day they are released. To the publishers, these writers are a sort of herd of cash cows, as a result of which they don't see the need to risk a debut author. It's the same in any industry that has consolidated as publishing has done: choice is one of the first things to disappear. Where twenty or so years ago an aspiring author could find forty or fifty publishers to consider his or her book, the options are much more limited nowadays.

As for marketing, it's early days for me. The jury's out at this stage, so far as I'm concerned.

What other projects do you have coming up?
G.W. Eccles: I have the manuscript of a second 'Leksin thriller' in my drawer, although it pretty much needs a complete rewrite if it is to be published. Will I get around to doing this? Probably, though I need something to spur me into action. Some good sales figures for The Oligarch would go along way towards providing the necessary impetus!

Is your family supportive of your writing?
G.W. Eccles: I definitely could not have written The Oligarch without my wife's help. While she might describe her role as that of editor, she was in fact much more than this. Having lived in Russia herself throughout the time I was there, she had a unique insight into the way things work in Russia which she was able to add as she worked her way through the drafts. She was the one who brought the conversations and scene descriptions alive.

My two 'children' (they have both recently graduated from Cambridge helped in different ways. My son read the various drafts of the manuscript and was pretty ruthless in persuading me to cut any scene that didn't really progress the action. My daughter designed the cover, which I love.

Where can we find out more about you and buy your book
G.W. Eccles: The novel's website contains more information about both me and the book. The address for this is

You can buy THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER from all major online bookstores, including Foyles, Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. A full list (with links) can be found on the 'where to buy' page of the website.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Author Interview and Book Giveaway: M.R. Cornelius

Today we have an interview with author M.R. Cornelius about her book, The Ups and Downs of Being Dead. Read to the end of the interview to find out how you can win a copy of the book.


Tell us about your book.
M. R. Cornelius: The Ups and Downs of Being Dead is about 57-year-old Robert, who finds out he is dying, but he can't accept his fate. He has heard about cryonics, and he decides to take the gamble and have his body frozen in the hopes that he will be revived sometime in the future. He thinks he'll go to sleep, like during surgery, and just wake up in the future.

That doesn't happen. He finds that he's a ghost, able to come and go as he pleases, along with the others who were frozen before him. But what's a workaholic like Robert supposed to do with his time for the next 100 years? There's no eating or drinking. he can't hold a golf club. He doesn't even need to sleep. And he certainly can't communicate with the living.

Where can we find out more about you and your books?
M. R. Cornelius: I have a website:

The book is available on Amazon ( and Amazon UK. (

Where did you get the idea for the story?

M. R. Cornelius: I heard about Ted Williams being cryonically preserved a few years ago. It got me thinking about the whole dead/not dead question. Sure, a person has to die before they can be preserved, but it doesn’t seem like their soul would go to heaven or wherever, because when they get thawed out, they’ll need that soul back.

Don’t a lot of us believe there are ghosts out there roaming around? It just seemed logical that Robert would be stuck in some kind of limbo.

What do you find most rewarding in writing a book?
M. R. Cornelius: Nothing compares to having someone, especially a stranger, tell you that they read your book and loved it. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, that when you finally put your book out there for everyone to see, you’re hesitant. Is the story interesting? Are the characters believable? Will people like it? So that affirmation from readers is everything.

And seeing your book cover on Amazon for the first time? That’s quite a rush.

Tell us about your previous work.
M. R. Cornelius: My first book is called H10 N1. It’s about a flu pandemic that gets way out of control. It’s a play on the term H1N1. H10 is much worse. The book is not about how a pandemic gets started, and it certainly isn’t about a miraculous cure; it’s about people dying, and how survivors adapt to the new world they find themselves in. There are still rotting corpses out there. And looters who’ll shoot you for a can of beans. Finding a safe haven is a top priority for my two main characters, Rick and Taeya. That, and not killing each other.

What other projects do you have coming up?
M. R. Cornelius: My editor has my next project. It’s the story of a homeless man who helps a woman and her two small children get off the streets of Atlanta. I set the story in 1984 because Frank, my 34 year-old protagonist, has been drifting ever since he came back from Vietnam in 1972. I needed a character who felt pretty hopeless and bewildered about his life, and I think a lot of men came back from Vietnam that way.

Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a book about the Vietnam War; it’s about two lost souls who happen to meet, and help one another get their lives turned around.

The title of the book is still up in the air. I’ll have to let you know once my editor and I decide on one.

You mention your editor, but you don’t have a traditional publisher.
M. R. Cornelius: That’s right, I’m an indie author. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand how important an editor is. I think some writers believe that they can just write a book and get it published without that crucial editing step. Maybe their friends read their book and said it was great, but no one can do the job an editor does. It’s his or her job to point out the flaws.

Yes, I pay an editor to review my work, so when she tells he what is wrong with my books, I listen, and I rewrite. Every good author has an editor: Stephen King, Karin Slaughter, James Patterson. I don’t think anyone’s work is so flawless that they couldn’t use some objective help.

What was the hardest part: writing the book, getting it published, or marketing it? Why?
M. R. Cornelius: The hardest part for me is the marketing. I’m really not a salesperson. And self-promotion must be the hardest kind of sales. Sure, if you believe in a product, it’s easy to encourage others to buy it. But when you’re basically selling yourself, it’s tough.

Another part of writing that’s hard is getting a bad review for a book. Especially if it’s a mean-spirited review that attacks the author.

What have been your most successful marketing techniques?

M. R. Cornelius: By far, Kindle Direct Publishing’s Select program has worked the best for me. After I offer a free download of a book, my numbers jump way up on Amazon. Then when the book is on sale again, I get the advantage of that exposure. Both my books have been in the Top Ten paid for drama on Amazon, and the sales really soar.

Now if I could just figure out how to stay in the Top Ten!

If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be, and with whom?
M. R. Cornelius: I’d like to be a professional cruiser. I’ve heard of people who sell their homes when they retire, and they just go from cruise ship to cruise ship, seeing the world. I’d love to do that, at least for a few years.

And I guess I should say that I’d like to do that with my husband. (But if Johnny Depp is interested, I’m game.)

Want to win a copy of The Ups and Downs of Being Dead? Leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on October 8, and a random commenter will be selected. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, October 9.

Monday, October 1, 2012

This Week on the BlogTalkRadio Edition of A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book: Psychic Talk

This week on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, Greg interviews Mary Barrett, author of Psychic Talk and Psychic Talk 2.

Her first book, Psychic Talk, addresses whether psychics are prophets, from where they get their information, and why many people feel that there is a conflict between God and psychics. 

Her second book, Psychic Talk 2, discusses what it is like to be a psychic and if you have ever wondered if you are one. 

Mary Barrett is a spiritual advisor and medium, a certified hypnotist, a certified reiki master, a motivational and inspirational speaker, and a radio and television show host.

She hosts her own program on BlogTalkRadio titled Psychic Talk with Mary Barrett.

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 her website at

This promises to be an unusual and other-worldly edition of A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, perfect for starting our spooktacular month of October! So bundle against the unnaturally cool air, think about what is really rustling in those leaves, get yourself a cup of hot coffee, and join us for some really good books!