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, January 25, 2013

NYT Bestselling Author Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and journalism and a Master’s in Professional Communications. Southern born and raised, Jennifer admits to a love of food and a preference for honey on her corn bread. 

Jennifer debuted in the world of published books with what would become the Bigtime books, a paranormal romance series set in fictional Bigtime, N.Y. The author likens the series to “female-centered comic books without the art.” The Elemental Assassin series takes place in the Southern metropolis of Ashland, a community rife with giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – including assassin and restaurant owner Gin Blanco, with the power to control stone and ice, and a love of sharp objects. Both of these series are for the over-eighteen reader.  

For the young adult (YA) reader, Jennifer developed the Mythos Academy urban fantasy series. The stories focus on seventeen-year-old gypsy Gwen Frost, who has the gift of psychometry, and her education at the Mythos Academy, a school for descendants of ancient warrior socities. 

“Crimson Frost”, the fourth book in the Mythos Academy series is Jennifer’s latest release. The story features a potential relationship between Gwen and handsome Logan Quinn. The fact Logan’s father would just as soon see Gwen become a soon forgotten memory of life might be a bit of a stumbling block. Landing in jail on their first date for allegedly helping the sadistic Loki escape from prison…. Sure beats dinner and a movie, but how do you plan a second date from behind bars? 

Jennifer employs an easy-to-read style of writing in all of her work. Her characters are well-drawn and interesting, and the plots original with just enough twist to keep readers turning the page.

Q) What was the inspiration behind the Mythos Academy series? 

A) I’ve always enjoyed mythology and all the stories of the gods, goddesses, warriors, and creatures battling each other and going on these epic quests. I remember watching the old Clash of the Titans movie whenever we would have movie days in school, and I read things like The Iliad and The Odyssey for class assignments over the years. 

One day, I thought it would be cool to write my own mythology story with my own characters and magic, put my own spin on things, and tell the story that I wanted to tell. So that’s what I did, and that was sort of the beginning of my Mythos Academy series. So far, I’m having a blast writing the books. 

Q) The assassin Gin Blanco began as a killer for hire, but seems to be evolving into more of a vigilante or seeker of vengeance. Why did you decide to change her motivation for killing? 

A) I’ve always enjoyed reading about assassin characters in fantasy literature because they can be everything from cold to calculating to crazy. It just seems like there are so many different stories that you can tell with assassin characters. 

With Gin Blanco, I wanted to start out with a character who was cold, reserved, and closed off, even from her friends and family. But as my Elemental Assassin series has progressed, Gin has opened herself up more to her friends and family, and that’s one of the things that has changed her focus a bit. Gin is still an assassin, but now she’s more of an assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold who helps folks who can’t help themselves. 

Q) Fantasy stories require worldbuilding - the construction of the locale, environment, demographics, society the characters interact in. You have stated that you sometimes find authors spend too much time on worldbuilding and not enough on the plot. What do you think the proper balance is? 

A) Worldbuilding is a big part of any fantasy book. I think one of the fun things about writing fantasy books is coming up with a town, city, castle, or whatever and then dreaming up all of the magic, creatures, and more that live in that place and how they interact with each other.

However, plot is equally important. You can have a really creative magic world/system, but without strong characters and a strong plot, it’s really just an empty town, city, or castle. It’s important to strike a good balance between your worldbuilding and the characters who drive your plots forward and hopefully keep readers engaged in their adventures. 

Q) With three active series, are you planning to branch out into other stories in other worlds? If so, what do you have in mind? 

A) I have a couple of ideas for new fantasy books/characters/series that I would like to explore. I think it would be cool to maybe write a YA series with more of a fairy tale or epic fantasy feel. I’d also like to write in some different genres and maybe try my hand at a spy thriller, a heist book, or maybe even a western someday. I have more ideas than I could ever possibly have time to write. 

Q) Any parting thoughts for fans and potential new readers? 

A) Folks can visit my website at www.jenniferestep.com for more information on my books and to read excerpts. Folks can also follow me on Twitter at @Jennifer_Estep or check out my author pages on Facebook and Goodreads.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate it. Happy reading, everyone!
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

Friday, January 18, 2013

NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Gregg Olsen







Readers might be familiar with Gregg Olsen through his numerous TV appearances on the History, Learning, and Discovery Channels. He has also been a guest on Dateline NBC, Anderson Cooper 360, The Today Show, CNN, Entertainment Tonight, and many others. And, of course, he has been featured in Redbook, the New York Post, USA Today, and People.

Olsen rose to literary fame through his superb offering of true crime stories, not the least of which was “Black Widow,” the tale of Sharon Lynn Nelson who turned being a widow into a murderous profession. “If Loving You is Wrong” is the story of Mary Kay Letourneau, and “Abandoned Prayers” follows the destructive path of multi-murderer and Amish member Eli Stutzman. Olsen also wrote “The Deep Dark,” capturing the intensity of men trapped in a silver mine cave-in, and the long reaching effects on all involved.

But Olsen had always had an inner desire to write fiction. His debut fiction novel, “A Wicked Snow,” introduced readers to the intense suspense and mystery that would become Olsen’s trademark, as well as the author’s interest in strong female lead characters. Readers wanted more, and Olsen was ready to deliver. More novels followed, including “Victim Six” about a serial killer using Puget Sound as his hunting grounds. “Victim Six” deservedly rose to the #1 Amazon Bestseller spot in the U.K. Then Olsen took a turn in his writing interests.

“Envy” is the first in a Young Adult (YA) mystery/suspense series titled the ‘Empty Coffin Series.’ These books revolve around teenaged twin sisters with a near paranormal connection to each other, and a passion for solving murders. “Betrayal” thrust the twins into their second novel and the question of just who is betraying whom? Of note is that Olsen himself is the father of twins who quickly spotted curious parallels between themselves and their father’s “fictional” characters.

Yet, with Olsen’s newfound love of YA storytelling, he has returned to the adult side with his upcoming release of the nerve-rattling thriller “The Fear Collector.” “The Fear Collector” centers on two women: one, a cop whose sister may have been murdered by serial killer Ted Bundy, and the other, a mother wholly devoted to the executed murderer and raising her son to carry on Bundy’s reign of terror. Thank heaven for pizza delivery because readers may not want to put this book down. Oh, and worry not. “Guilty,” the third in the ‘Empty Coffin Series,’ is on the horizon.

Q) In an interview you stated that you love to laugh, but don’t like comedy. Why do you inject threads of humor into your stories since you don’t like comedy?

A) I love comedy! And I love to laugh. I just don’t like – generally -- comedy movies! If I go to a movie it will almost always be a thriller or even a horror movie. My all-time favorite movie is FARGO because it combines the dark humor and some suspense.  I’ve been told that there are funny moments in my books that people seem to enjoy.

Q) You’re actually a very pleasant, jovial person. What is it about murder that magnetizes you?

A) I think I’m like a lot of people – when we hear a horrible crime story our first reaction is shock and horror. But next, we really want to know what happened – and why it happened. I’ve always been fascinated by why people do the ugliest things. What put them on that path? What could have been done to avert the tragedy? What should we look for so that it doesn’t happen again? I really am drawn to the drama of it all, but with a detective’s eye to trying to find out the WHY.

Q) Book tours have taken you around the world. Will these visits to other countries and cultures influence future stories?

A) I have been so lucky to visit other parts of the world to meet readers of all ages. And yes whenever I go anywhere I get some good ideas for my next books!  I have learned so much from all the great people along the way. Cultures may be different and there might be great distances between us, but we are more alike than different. We all care about finding the truth, catching the bad guy, and knowing that the next chapter is going to make us stay up late at night.

Q) You’re especially proud of “Envy.” What is it about this book that has made it so special?

A) I have loved the interaction with the younger (and some not so younger) readers. I was especially honored when Washington State’s Governors’ office selected ENVY to be our state’s office book for the 2012 National Book Festival.  I have won a few other awards over the years, but that one meant a lot. I’m very proud to be from Washington.

Q) What do you and your wife enjoying doing to keep your relationship solid?

A) In January, my wife and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. That’s a pretty big number! I am the lucky one here. She’s the glue that has always held everyone in our family together. Traveling together is fun. My happiest time in a long time was our recent trip to Hong Kong, London and Paris. When we got out of the cab from dinner to see the Eiffel Tower, the lights turned on and it sparkled like a million diamonds. I told her it was sparkling just for her. But the look in her eyes just then reminded me as they always do – I’m nothing without her love or the love of our two daughters.

Q) Any parting thoughts for fans and new readers?

A) A lot of authors say this, but I really mean it. Nothing is better than hearing from a reader (good or bad). I have a website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, instagram, pinterest….you name it. I want to know what you’re thinking and how you’re doing.  I feel so honored to be a part of your life in a small way. Thank you.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

Friday, January 11, 2013

NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Rosalind Noonan



 Rosalind Noonan has a firm foothold on becoming one of the finest authors of family drama and suspense. One of five children raised in an Irish family, she has traveled Europe and worked as a senior editor for Simon and Schuster. Today, she resides with her NYPD retired husband and children in Oregon.

I mentioned her heritage as Rosalind often speaks fondly of her family and upbringing and maintains a close relationship with her siblings. Yet, this author pens stories that have been termed “emotionally charged” and “provocative.” The fact she has already made the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists early in her career is a testament to her literary skills. Yes, the lady can write, and readers around the world are quickly becoming steadfast fans.

But, what is “early”? Rosalind first entered the world of published author with a number of pocket books such as “Sarah: don’t say you love me” (based on the then hit TV series Party of Five) and “Turning Seventeen #1: Any Guy You Want,” lighthearted, but touching stories designed for readers age twelve and up. Then a more serious side of Rosalind began to emerge.

“Whispers From the Past,” based on the TV series Charmed, became a fan favorite due to the intensity and realism Rosalind injected into the story. She was turning a corner.

The release of “One September Morning,” the tale of a murderer obsessed with living the life of the soldier he kills, and the widow trapped between life and learning how her husband really died in Iraq, cemented Rosalind’s departure from pocket books. “In a Heartbeat” told the story of a mother awakened by the news her son has been beaten and isn’t waking up. The author took readers on a dramatic journey into the unconscious youth’s relationships, and the mother’s inevitable changing perspective of her own marriage and life.

Now, “All She Ever Wanted” has been released. This absorbing story of a new mother’s dreams shattered by sanity-threatening postpartum depression, and the crisis that forces her to rise above her own needs and rediscover the true power of love, exemplifies the author’s ability to see inside us and explore the darkest, and ultimately, the brightest corners of our hearts and minds.

Rosalind has been compared to long established bestselling authors. I submit that Rosalind Noonan is quickly securing her own measure by which future authors will be compared.

Q) Your life appears to be filled with joy and love. What inspired you to write such dramatic and poignant stories rather than the light romances you initially seemed to be destined to write?

A) I do savor the joy and love in life! I’m so glad you picked that up from my profile.
I believe my career as a novelist began with the publication of One September Morning in 2009. Before that, I had been working on series fiction based on characters created and owned by someone else. That was a great experience – the ultimate writer’s workshop with the bonus of being paid to see the world through Julia in Party of Five or Phoebe from the much beloved Charmed series. I loved those characters! When I wrote those books I was working as an editor and learning the craft of writing. When people asked me about the “big novel,” I realized I didn’t have anything important that I wanted to say.

In September, 2004, the government reported 1,000 U.S. military casualties in Iraq. I was chatting with friends in a coffee shop when the subject came up, and the statistic surprised me. Were we at war? A friend downplayed it, saying that one thousand deaths was not a big deal for a country like the United States. I think my jaw dropped at that, and I remember being so perplexed that I couldn’t voice an answer. That was the catalyst for my first novel, One September Morning. Since then, I have learned that I need a source of pain or intrigue as a touchstone for each novel I write. It took me awhile, but at last, I have something to say.

Q) I have to ask. How did you meet your NYPD husband, and why take up residence on the opposite side of the country?

A) If only I had a “meet-cute” story to tell about my husband and me. The truth is that we met through friends. I was dating his partner and we went out for drinks one night in a foursome. When my relationship didn’t work out, I remembered Mike as being a low-key, calm listener. My memory served me well. Some ten years later, we were married.

Our move to the west coast was prompted by a few factors. Mike was able to retire, and we knew our dollar would go further outside New York City. There was a certain spirit of mad adventure, moving thousands of miles and landing far from our family members, who had settled along the east coast from Florida to Maine. Missing family is the big downside of living in Oregon.
Another reason for our move was the fallout from the terror attacks of September 11th. Our children were four and six that day, and we were surrounded by fear and tragedy. My daughter had two classmates who lost their dads in the north tower. Our neighborhood was filled with smoke and ash when the wind shifted. Mike was still working as a sergeant in NYPD, and he had to report for duty that day and stay on for mandatory twelve hour shifts, seven days a week. In many ways we were the fortunate ones – we were healthy and whole – but the trauma took its toll on our children. My son drew pictures of planes crashing into burning buildings, and my daughter had nightmares about terrorists attacking her on the playground, terrifying dreams that persisted until we left New York three years later. In search of a safer environment, we headed west to Oregon, where we had friends in the Portland area. My husband and daughter don’t like the rain, but my son and I are happy transplants. In fact, my son is now thinking of majoring in environmental science or forestry in college. I like to think that’s a result of living under the tall Douglas firs.

Q) As your fame increases, have you encountered folks a tad concerned that you might turn their lives into a story?

A) Ha! I love the image of people worried about a soul-sucking, demonic story-stealer! Usually it’s exactly the opposite. Some people approach me with stories they think would make a great book, and others are delighted to see shades of themselves in my characters. But my characters are pure fiction. Real life provides inspiration, mannerisms, attitudes, but my characters are drawn from a combination of sources. If anyone is depicted in one of my novels, it’s me; as the author, I have to draw on the emotions and voices in my head. Crazy business, isn’t it?

Q) The depth of post-partum depression covered in “All She Ever Wanted” is chilling. Why tackle this subject?

A) Although postpartum depression is a very real crisis for many new mothers, I don’t think our society has taken it seriously yet. Some people I’ve spoken with admit that they don’t understand it. Others view PPD as some type of character flaw or laziness. I wanted to bring this issue to light by putting the reader into the life of a woman suffering from postpartum depression. The early feedback based on Advanced Readers Copies has been exciting for me, with some reviewers going into detail about their own experiences with PPD. It’s as if these readers were waiting for a chance to vent about the ways this crippling depression affected their families. To hit a chord that way – that’s a writer’s dream.

Q) “All She Ever Wanted” has been recommended for book club discussion. How does it feel knowing people may well sit and discuss your work in unvarnished detail?

A) I am thrilled and honored that these readers are picking up my book. Beyond that, I try not to think about it too much. Really. Okay, I’m thinking about it now, and suggesting that book club members should have another glass of wine, as long as they are getting a ride home. We all want the happy ending.

Q) Any parting comments for fans and potential new readers?

A) A word of reassurance that I won’t try to capture your soul in my next book? Or maybe I will. I think that’s one of the marks of my favorite writers. Novelists like Stephen King and Jodi Picoult seem to have a finger on the pulse of society. They tap into the collective consciousness and mirror our anxieties and fears in their writing – and they do it so well. That’s my challenge.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

Friday, January 4, 2013

Educator, Author Professor Siegfried Engelmann





“Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” is the current #2 bestselling nonfiction book on Amazon.com. The book was published in 1986. No. That’s not a typo. 1986. My immediate question was ‘why’ this book continues to sell more than any other written on the same or similar subject. The authors are Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, and Elaine Bruner. 

Hundreds of reviews from parents point to one basic attribute: simplicity. In other words, the book is easy not just to use, but to understand the techniques and their importance. Beneath the surface is a clear cut guide to implementation and use. All a parent has to do is follow the steps in order to reap the benefits. Simple. The research and methodology utilized to create this book – not so simple by any stretch of the imagination. 

In the 1960s, Professor Engelmann and the late Wesley C. Becker developed Direct Instruction, an instructional method focused on systematic curriculum design and skillful implementation of prescribed behavioral script. Basically, that means teaching students from a prepared lesson plan the instructor follows to the letter. Needless to say, but I will anyway, much debate arose and continues today. What cannot be debated is the worldwide use (including by some home schoolers) of Direct Instruction and the program’s effectiveness to students with learning difficulties (cite: Marchand-Martella, & Martella (2002) An Overview and Research Summary of Peer-Delivered Corrective Reading. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (2), 214 -235). 

Over the years Professor Engelmann has either written or co-authored many books on education, including “Preventing Failure in the Primary Grades,” “War Against the Schools’ Academic Child Abuse,” “Give Your Child a Superior Mind,” and the release on Dec 17th, 2012 of “Inferred Functions of Performance and Learning” co-authored by Donald Steely. 

What is blatantly clear is Professor Engelmann’s devotion and passion for educating those destined to inherit the world we leave them. He also happens to be a very nice man who hosts an annual Zignic – a gathering of all his friends and family, loaded with food and fellowship.

Q) Professor Engelmann, were you surprised by the long-term parental interest in “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”? 

A) Confused more than surprised. A school version of the same sequence that appears in Teach Your Child has been on the educational market since 1968.

In contrast to Teach Your Child—which has 700 positive reviews on ├ůmazon—the school version (Reading Mastery) is not popular, even though it has more experimental evidence of effectiveness than all the other reading programs combined. 

Q) What do you believe is the greatest hindrance to verbal communication in our society? 

A) The limitation of choices. Issues are shaped by the press and groups that have an interest in conveying particular messages and prejudices. It’s not practical for one to address many central issues because discussions don’t reveal the technical nature of the issues. Discussions of the schools, for instance, rarely identify differences between what the schools are actually doing compared to the rhetoric about what they doing. This perspective makes it very hard to solve problems that are quite soluble. 

Q) There is a current tendency to place all blame for a child’s lack of education and/or classroom discipline on the shoulders of the teachers, and none in the home. How do we change that, or can we?

A) Actually, blame for failure almost always is directed to the children. In the 1980s, Galen Alessi analyzed hundreds of referrals of children for being placed in special classes. He did not find one referral based on poor instruction or poor teaching. The number one cause identified by the school psychologists was the student; number two were the parents and the home. In fact, I’ve never seen a child who performed in the normal range of intelligence and could not be taught to read in a timely manner, but the same priorities that Alessi described are with us today. Alessi, G (1988). Diagnosis diagnosed: A systemic reaction. Professional school Psychology, 3, 145-151. 

Q) Is Direct Instruction gaining or losing momentum within the schools, and why? 

A) Probably losing. The reason is that it has very little support. In past years, the publisher took steps to assure that programs were being properly implemented in the schools. Today there is no such preparation and the Direct Instruction sales have dropped considerably. 

Q) Due to the number of books you have written on education, which one would you recommend a parent read first? 

A) The book “Teaching Needy Kids In Our Backward System” provides illustrations and evidence about why school districts are failing and how they would have to change to meet performance standards that are achievable. I think the book presents vignettes that truly characterize why the schools are backward and will continue to be backward until schools become accountable for egregious student failure. 

Q) Any parting comments for those not familiar with your work or books? 

A) Nobody is to blame for the pathetic state of current instruction, but we have to start looking at what is possible within the constraints of school budgets and draw up rules and regulations that assure schools are doing what they need to do to guarantee teacher success, and therefore student success. We can’t continue to accept students in middle school not being able to perform basic math operations or not being able to read simple texts accurately. See my website Zigsite.com for videos and articles that suggest what can be done.

DA Kentner is the author of the award-winning novel Whistle Pass http://whistlepass.blogspot.com/