DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Inspirational JD Messinger


JD Messinger’s book “11 Days in May” is easy to read and understand, and yet, possesses a level of difficulty in explaining. I believe that is because each and every reader will walk away with something that belongs only to them, a perspective unique and individual. 

“11 Days in May” is the culmination of a thirty year journey. JD traveled to the top of the corporate mountain, only to undergo a personal calamity that shattered the stones of his spiritual foundation. He was suddenly, and unexpectedly, forced to question who he was…or wasn’t. And that’s where his story of life, of hope, truly begins. 

JD was the man behind the corporate scenes, amassing wealth, wielding power. He was, and remains, extremely skilled at what he does. However, what he does now isn’t what he did. I realize I’m being a bit veiled here, but bear with me. JD’s professional credits read like a Who’s Who of business, and his job experience is an array most of us will just shake our heads at. He was a fireman, nuclear engineer (how’s that for a career shift?), and served as a nuclear submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He joined Exxon, serving in a number of managerial positions, including supervising the Valdez oil spill’s cleanup. As CEO of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (South-East Asia) where he was responsible for all IT and management consulting services. In this capacity, he served as a key advisor for innovation and economic development for the Singapore Prime Ministers Office as well as numerous national statutory boards and government ministries in Singapore, Malaysia and China, and served as a senior advisor to the Singapore Ministry of Defence. 

Then his neck unexplainably broke – for the second time. 

The immediate question in JD’s mind was “Why?”. He became convinced something or someone was trying to get his attention. That power succeeded. Today, JD operates Essence, a company he founded that provides informational, educational and entertaining offerings to accelerate personal, corporate and global evolution. In other words, he’s trying to make the world a better place. 

“11 Days in May” is a fictional conversation written over a period of eleven days. Yet, every word is nonfiction as it is JD’s journey not just of his self-discovery, but what really drives us in the directions we choose. And still, I know that once a reader finishes this book, he or she will totally disagree with my remarks here as they will have found their own interpretation and inspiration.
Yes, this book is that unique and memorable.

Q) In “11 Days,” you mention a homeless man who asked why you were sitting in a gas station. You responded, “Thinking.” His (shortened) comment ‘You think too much’ impacted your book. Has it impacted your life? 

A) This single incident might not have changed the course of my life, but it certainly reinforced that every sign is a confirmation that we are never alone, always being guided, and there are no accidents. At the time, I had been sitting there asking God if the chapter on “What is Time” was fitting, and the stress was taking a toll on me. When this man I had never met before answered my prayer I felt at peace because the chapter had been perfect all along. This homeless man made me feel empowered and energized because he confirmed that help is only a prayer away.  

Q) In the dedication, you state “…unusual experiences are not all that unusual.” Briefly, what did you mean by that? 

A) Throughout my life I have experienced countless metaphysical phenomena that science cannot explain, but what I find more intriguing is that I am not alone—not even close. Almost everyone I have come into contact with during my ten-year quest has felt a supernatural presence in their lives whether they chose to believe it or not. The only reason these phenomena are considered unusual is because people are afraid to talk about them for fear of being judged. My greatest hope is to open a dialogue and create a safe environment for people to share and connect through their unexplainable experiences. After all, why should anything initiated by a benevolent, higher-being be considered taboo? 

Q) This book will stimulate some interesting debate. How do you feel about those who will miss the point of your message? 

A) Well I must admit that I’ve been there; I was one of those people that just didn’t get it, and that is part of the reason I wrote 11 Days in May. I want to share my lessons and my journey so that others will feel empowered to take a similar spiritual journey in their lives. Of course there will always be readers who aren’t ready and who don’t understand, and that is just fine. Judging them would be hypocritical. I have been in that position, and I send them compassion and love so they will eventually discover their spiritual gifts.  

Q) Why should a working mother on a tight budget buy this book? 

A) I think working moms often get overlooked, and they certainly don’t get enough credit for everything they do in a day: financially supporting a family, driving carpool, making dinner, doing laundry. The one thing these women seem to be searching for is rest, a moment of peace. My book is a fast read, so it isn’t daunting to a woman who has limited time, but it will teach valuable lessons about prioritizing one’s life. I was so wrapped up in work as a CEO that I focused more on money and retirement than family and fun. I think this book will offer a quiet oasis for working moms and give them a moment or two during the day to sit down and think. In the end, it’s all about the relationships we have made and the children we love and the happiness we possess.  

Q) You hold your family close. Did this turn of life events and discoveries draw you even closer? 

A) Absolutely, but initially we had to adjust to a dramatically different lifestyle after I quit the corporate world. I spent a decade searching for answers to life’s great questions, and everyone had to pull together and power through. We became more money conscious, and vacations were out of the picture for a while. At first it was a struggle, but it brought us closer because we learned that it doesn’t take money to have fun on game night. I also believe that families are soul groups that travel together; a family is a sacred arrangement, and this bond exists to help family members grow. Each soul has a special gift to share with the family, so we teach each other patience, understanding, and tolerance. We realized that all souls are equal. Sometimes a child’s soul might be wiser than a parent’s soul. It is all about respecting everyone’s opinion regardless of age. We still bicker, what family doesn’t? But the best part is when we can all hug after a fight because we know together we are stronger.  

Q) Any parting comments for potential readers?  

A) There is one message that I would like to hammer home: Hope comes from knowing that you are constantly being guided and looked after by a greater source. All it takes is trust. We are assisted every moment of every day, and it comes in the form of goose bumps—which are truth bumps confirming a spiritual path—coincidences—which are not accidents, but our guides signaling us—and amazing signs and wonders. Metaphysical phenomena are simply answers to our thoughts, intentions, and prayers. I am not special, nor am I alone in experiencing the presence of God. Everyone has access to divine guidance so that they can reach their full potential. All it takes is to believe, then the magic happens.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist www.kevad.net




Friday, July 20, 2012

Mystery Author Alan S. Orloff


Alan Orloff will kill you with a laugh. Or, at least his skillfully crafted characters will. Orloff is the author behind the Last Laff mystery series centering around amateur sleuth and standup comedian Channing Hayes. Though Orloff employees a unique brand of his own humor, the stories themselves hold true to the genre with edge of your seat suspense and enough clues and twists to keep the reader guessing to the very end. 

A born and bred Washingtonian, this husband and father has worked as a forklift operator, factory supervisor, in engineering, and on nuclear submarines. I have no clue how he got the forklift on the submarine. With degrees in engineering and business, Orloff has been employed in the newspaper business, marketing, and software development. A believer in waste reduction and recycling, he started his own newsletter, educating the public about the need to improve our ecosystem through simple changes in our daily routines. But, Orloff’s passion for writing refused to take a backseat. 

“Killer Routine” debuted last year, introducing Channing Hayes, his comedy, and the tragedy he’s had to overcome. “Deadly Campaign,” the second in the series came out this year and once again has Channing immersed in a mystery embroiled in politics, payoffs, blackmail, and, of course, murder. 

Orloff’s initial offering to readers was “Diamonds for the Dead,” an Agatha Award nominee. In that novel, he established a solid storytelling foundation rife with family secrets and murder that would serve as a precursor of things to come from this talented author. However, similar to Channing Hayes, Orloff has a parallel persona he dubbed Zak Allen, who also happens to write mystery novels, albeit a bit darker than Orloff. Zak pits his protagonists against cannibalistic killers and psychotics who enjoy bragging about their victims to a shock radio DJ. Whether a reader starts with Orloff or Zak, there is more than degree of certainty the reader is in for bumpy and thoroughly enjoyable mystery ride.

Q) Why mystery? 

A) They say you should write what you know, but since most of the stuff I know is pretty boring, I decided to write what I read. I read a lot of crime fiction--mysteries and thrillers and everything in between. I guess over the years I’ve absorbed many of the conventions, rhythms, and pacing from those types of stories. I don’t think I’d be very good at writing romances or historical fiction—they’re just not my cup of tea. Now, if you want to talk horror and science fiction, I’ve read quite a bit in those genres, too, so…well, enter Zak Allen. 

Q) You credit your wife with providing much needed support for your venture into a career of writing. Writing is a lonely occupation with little regard for clocks. How do you stay connected with your wife and children? 

A) My wife is my biggest supporter and my kids are my biggest fans. I’m a stay-at-home dad, so I’m fortunate to get time to write when the kids are at school. When they’re not in school, or when my wife’s not at work, I get plenty of opportunities to interact with them—we’re quite connected. What might be lacking is my connection with the outside world. Sitting in my cave, pounding a keyboard all day long makes Alan a dull boy. 

Q) Quite literally, you have utilized your own neighborhood as stalking ground for your killers. Have your neighbors ever raised a questioning brow during barbeques? 

A) My neighbors, my friends, my relatives. All are fair game. I’m always looking for inspiration for my next plot, my next characters, my next setting. Now that you mention it, though, I stopped getting invited to barbeques about two years ago, right about when my first book came out. Probably just a coincidence, huh? 

Q) I have to ask. What was your involvement with nuclear subs? 

A) Armed with a mechanical engineering degree, my first job out of college was with General Electric, in their Manufacturing Management program. It consisted of different jobs, in different locations, in different business units. One of my assignments was at the Newport News Shipyards, helping to supervise a crew repairing the missile hatch seals on nuclear subs. All in all, a fascinating experience, both on the subs and in the rest of the shipyard (The USS Nimitz was in drydock there, too, and man, that thing is huge!) 

Q) You acknowledge there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Actually, the line can be almost nonexistent. How do you maintain your characters’ balance without leaning too far to either side? 

A) It is a tough balancing act. I wanted to write a series that concentrated more on the “darker” side, than on the comedy, and I think I achieved that. Those readers looking for a “funny-funny” book might be a little disappointed. These are mysteries that just happen to take place in the comedy club world. Of course, since many of the characters are comics, their worldviews do have some humor behind them. 

Q) Any parting comments for your readers and those yet to pick up one of your books? 

A) I’m thankful to all my readers (and reviewers!) for spending their precious time with my characters and my stories. I work very hard to make those stories entertaining!
DA Kentner is an author and journalist www.kevad.net





Friday, July 13, 2012

Fiction Author Shobhan Bantwal


Before reading even one word of Ms. Bantwal’s extraordinary work, my interest in her was piqued by the fact, in this day and age, she became betrothed to a man living in the U.S. through an arranged marriage. Do not confuse that with Internet dating and marriage agencies. This was a marriage arranged by her family, without regard for Ms. Bantwal’s wishes or objections. Fortunately, fate intervened and the marriage turned out to have a happy ending. 

Needless to say, Ms. Bantwal’s Indian heritage and life experiences filter into her stories, presenting the reader with insights to a modern day culture entrenched in the past. Blending humor with her unapologetic passion for women’s rights and issues, Ms. Bantwal is a voice that combines a very important message with a most enjoyable reading experience. 

Bantwal possesses two master’s degrees: Sociology and Public Administration. She recently retired from her job at a government agency while still pursuing her love of writing. A former playwright, this wife, mother, and grandmother is still occasionally requested to take the stage and share her insightful humor and anecdotes. 

Her first novel, “The Dowry Bride,” established Bantwal’s literary presence with the story of a young Indian bride yet to produce a child for her husband, the plot to kill her for that failure, and her unexpected discovery of love. Next came “The Forbidden Daughter,” a dramatic story of daughters born when a son was expected, the husband’s murder, and a mother who decides to risk everything in her quest to keep her children safe. With “The Sari Shop Widow,” Bantwal moved her stories’ settings to the U.S. while continuing her theme of the magic of love and family. 

Now, “The Reluctant Matchmaker” is being released. In this book, Bantwal melds the rigid customs of India with the freedoms of the U.S., yet, keeps the line between the two distinct and divisive while presenting a heroine willing to challenge embracing the old in a coat of the new. This is a story of strength, hope, love, and a woman’s determination to forge a life for herself amidst unbendable expectations and her need for happiness. Read and enjoy.

Q) The obvious question I’m bound to ask is how your marriage is today, and what barriers the two of you overcame to find happiness? 

A) First of all, thank you for a great introduction and interview. The questions are very insightful and interesting. I am happy to say that with some good karma combined with our commitment to each other, our marriage is still thriving today. As strangers thrown together in an arranged marriage, nearly 39 years ago, the initial adjustment was tricky. My husband is nine years older than I, and an independent man who had been on his own since he had left home for college as a teenager, therefore unlike me, he was more set in his ways. To add to that, he is more analytical in his thinking and even-tempered; I am more impulsive, creative, and impatient. While all those could be deemed ideally complementary characteristics for a couple, it took us some time to learn how to make them work harmoniously for us.

Needless to say, love and passion took some time to take root, and ultimately thrive. Today, my husband is my very best friend and actively supports my writing career by managing my website and the business end of it. 

Q) Briefly, what strife-filled commonalities do you see between U.S. born women and women born into the Indian culture and ancient beliefs still so prevalent? 

A) Women, no matter where they are born, share certain emotional feminine needs, e.g., the desire for love and fidelity, motherhood (perhaps), and  in today's world, a fulfilling career. It is their social environment that eventually shapes their lives to a great extent. American women look to satisfy their needs in their own independent fashion while women in India depend on their parents and other family members to help them make the right choices. Either way, the goals and motivation are similar. 

Women in India have come a long way since I was a young women. They now seem to enjoy almost as much independence as men when it comes to pursuing careers. However, many of them still marry by arrangement and not by falling in love first. Nonetheless, most of them do this out of choice and not coercion. 

Q) This question is out of my curiosity. Does your daughter understand the difference in choices she has and will have versus the family structure you were raised in? 

A) Our daughter (our only child) was born and raised in the U.S. We instilled in her all the values inherent in American culture, so she was totally American in her thinking. Fortunately for us, she was very aware of how different our lives were compared to hers, and how lucky she was to have so many more choices than we had, simply because of the social climate of America. She chose wisely when she married eight years ago. Surprisingly, she chose to marry an Indian-American man. Why? First of all, she fell in love with him, and secondly because she felt the culture adjustment would be minimal and the two families would bond more easily. For a young lady, that was mature and practical thinking. We are proud of her. 

Q) When a family (regardless of nationality or culture base) objects to a daughter or son’s choices, what one thing would you recommend to restore balance? 

A) Ideological differences will never disappear, no matter how thoroughly families immerse themselves into the melting-pot culture of the U.S. However, when a family objects to their children's choices, the one thing I would recommend for restoring peace and balance is to treat them like intelligent human beings. America has an emancipated culture and one of the most outstanding educational systems in the world. Children who are lucky enough to grow up in this milieu and receive such a superior education grow up to be insightful and perceptive adults. After giving them this opportunity it would be a shame to squash their individuality with old-fashioned dictates. I would advise any conservative parent to trust their children's instincts when it comes to making life choices. 

Q) Will we see another side to your superb storytelling abilities? In other words, do you have plans to write in other genres? 

A) While my brand of fiction, which I affectionately call "Bollywood in a Book," has earned me a large and loyal readership, it is very tempting to spread my wings a little, write in other genres. I am currently playing with the idea of romantic mysteries since I adore reading them. A literary type novel (but with more commercial appeal) is also something that I may attempt to write in the distant future. 

Q) Any parting comments for your readers and those yet to pick up one of your books? 

A) I always tell readers who have never read any India-centric books to go ahead and try one of my novels. They may actually enjoy reading about a foreign culture that they may not know much about. I consider my stories both entertaining and educational, therefore readers can have fun and learn at the same time. 

I receive a large number of letters from women, and a few men, who have become loyal readers after they accidentally stumbled upon my books, either at their local library, through a book club, or an airport bookstore. Almost always they say they had never read a book about Indian culture, but discovering my book(s) has opened their eyes to it in a most exciting and unexpectedly pleasant way. Now they look forward to reading more of my books and also other South Asian authors' works.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist www.kevad.net

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chocolate Enthusiast Laura Florand


                                              

Laura Florand’s real life is the stuff romance novels are made of, which is a good thing since her debut novel “Blame It on Paris” was just that – a semiautobiographical accounting of her odyssey into love and marriage. Four marriages to be exact, or rather four weddings, all to the same man. Add two overflowing septic tanks and a French minister who turned to the groom and said, “‘Love is kind.’ So no matter how much your wife deserves a beating from time to time, young Sebastien, you should try to be generous and restrain yourself,” and readers should get the idea Laura’s life journey is anything but ordinary. Oh, and chocolate. Add lots of chocolate. Read the book and you’ll understand. 

Her next published appearance was in “Kiss the Bride,” an anthology of three romantic stories. Laura’s contribution – no surprise here – was titled “All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate.” This month “The Chocolate Thief” (see the continuing thread yet?) will be released. 

“The Chocolate Thief” is the story of a young American woman at romantic odds with a French chocolatier both for his secrets and her heart. Laura’s wonderful sense of humor and attention to detail shine in this story and combine laughter with heart-pounding romance amidst a Parisian setting. “The Chocolate Thief” is romance at its finest, bordering on modern day fairytale, and a story readers will enjoy again and again. 

We could end this here, but that wouldn’t touch the other passion in Laura’s life (besides her husband) – education. 

As a Fulbright scholar, this Georgia native studied Polynesian culture in Tahiti. Her interest in varying lifestyles has carried her around the world, which is how she met her future husband in France. With a Master’s in French, she now teaches the language, but isn’t content to adhere to standard expectations and those limitations. Her work now includes the introduction of Francophone films to submerge students in the beauty and intricacy of language, the elegance of speech and tone, not just the means to impress friends over dinner. 

That’s what truly caught my attention about this author. She is in love with life and sees beauty beyond the obvious, opting to share her joy in the classroom, and with us all via her books. I believe we will be blessed with many more wonderful stories from Laura Florand.

Q) On ratemyprofessors.com (a web site where students anonymously rate educators), students have repeatedly praised your work in the classroom. How does it feel knowing you have left such an indelible mark in their education? 

A) I think they are sweethearts to say that.  I have had many far more wonderful professors than I could possibly be.  Mostly I just try to do as well by my students as I expect them to do by me and by the class, and I've been very lucky in regards to how much of themselves my students bring to the classroom.  The energy, the enthusiasm, the interest in life and the world...it’s so much fun to work with them.  Plus, I love travel and truly passionately believe that languages can expand your whole world into something wonderful--that's been my own experience in life--and so I try to pass this on.  It’s my little way of saying, Have a wonderful life. 

Q) While this question may seem hypothetical now, a number of authors have hit this crossroad. If forced to make the choice, teaching or writing?  

A) I can't imagine being forced to make the choice.  They're two careers that nourish each other very well, and my university is entirely supportive.  I've written every day most of my life, since I was nine years old, but I also put a lot into my teaching, and find that there's something that really energizes me in teaching.  While I love the introspection of writing, teaching brings out the extrovert in me.  I get to directly engage with smart, curious people on a daily basis and encourage them to argue with me, which is one of my favorite things to do.  Of course, I do make them argue in a foreign language, so that I have a hope of winning. 

Seriously, I don't think I, voluntarily, would choose between teaching and writing; they're both essential to me in different ways, and I think the combination of them helps to bring out the best of me and to keep me balanced.  

Q) You really do love chocolate and frequently send confectionary gifts as well as receiving them from readers. You aren’t heavy. I hate you. How do you not add the pounds?   

A) Ha, ha. It’s kind of you to say that, as I try in vain to squeeze myself into last year’s jeans. Mostly, I picture my skinny French mother-in-law shaking her head in concern whenever I think about getting a snack.  But—and I’m being perfectly serious here!—I really think dark chocolate is an important part of any healthy diet.  Patrick Roger, one of the top chocolatiers in the world, has stated that he eats at least 100 of his chocolates a day, and he's as skinny as can be.  Granted, he probably burns through about five thousand calories a day, as intensely physical as the profession is, so I just divide by five and content myself with 20 or so. 

Q) How much consulting did you do with your husband for “Blame It on Paris,” or did you ‘surprise’ him with his novel appearance?  

He read it well ahead of time, starting with early versions.  In fact, he would say, "Don't forget about this!"  There are a lot of good memories for us in that book.  It was a fun, crazy time.   

Q) How many more stories can we count on facilitating your enjoyment of chocolate?  

A) I like the way you phrase that.  I alway say I'm writing these just so I can do the research.  There are four loosely connected books scheduled, starting with "The Chocolate Thief" July 31, continuing with "The Chocolate Kiss" in December, and then two more out next year.  Plus the novella "All's Fair in Love and Chocolate" that came out in "Kiss the Bride" in May.  After that, I have a trilogy that--gasp!--is not about chocolate that I would like to do, but I also have at least 2 more characters from the chocolatier series that are just begging for their own books, so at this rate, the end of chocolate might never be in sight.  (My sigh of relief here.)  Every time I step into a workshop or kitchen to do research for one book, I get more ideas for future books.  It's quite a fascinating world, the world of top Parisian chocolatiers-p√Ętissiers.  And of course, I also love the interplay between French and American cultures that comes with this kind of story. 

Q) Any parting comments those who haven’t read your work yet? 

A) I have some recommendations for top chocolatiers on my website, just in case you get hungry!
 DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net