Up Close and Personal with Jenny Ruden, author of Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet

Camp Utopia and The Forgiveness DietTitle: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet
Genre: Young Adult
Author: Jenny Ruden
Publisher: Koehler Books
Language: English
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback

Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.

Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”



The thing about me is that I …..when I complain about something (a lot) it means I love it (a lot)

When I first get up in the morning, I …..see my kids because they get me up every single day telling me that it’s time to get up and get dressed now and I should really become a morning person.

The most important thing in my life is ….. my family and our health

I love to travel to ….. some place without a Target. I’d like to hear the words, “We will be sleeping in trees because of the jaguars, but watch out for snakes on the branches.” Or, “we don’t have indoor plumbing, but we should in the next 50 to 100 years.”

In my spare time, I ….. day dream.

One thing I learned about life was ….. It’s your own. You’re not required to take anyone’s advice.

The sole mission I am on this earth is to …..destroy the Klingon army. Oh wait, that’s another mission. I am here to give voice to the unsaid.

One little known fact about me that might surprise you is …..I’m a bit of a smartass (I know, I know. You’re shocked.)

My favorite time of day is …..definitely not the morning.

I love to write about … teenagers. Always have. Always will.

The most difficult aspect about writing is ….. loneliness.

My most favorite aspect about writing is ….. everything else. I love writing!

When I became a published author for the first time, I ….. won a contest and went around town sweeping up the weeklies from the local news stands like they’d be worth something one day. LOLOLOLOLOL!

The inspiration behind my book comes from …..spending the majority of my life thinking that everything would change if only I lost weight.

The most asked question about my book is ….. have you ever been to fat camp? (answer: no)



Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She does a flawless impersonation of a normal person. Don’t be fooled. She’s a writer.




It’s Your Decision by Ed Grizzle Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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It's Your DecisionTitle: It’s Your Decision
Author: Ed Grizzle
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 128
Genre: Family Relationships/Parenting
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

Children are gifts from God, but parenting those children can often be a difficult task. In It’s Your Decision, author Ed Grizzle shows how parenting can be successful when it’s carried out according to God’s plan.

Using his life’s experiences as a guide, Grizzle explores the importance of making the right decisions in life—from choosing the right lifestyle and the right mate and to raising children according to what God has planned for you. It’s Your Decision discusses

• planning for children;

• knowing what children need;

• being aware of the important years in a child’s life;

• understanding that children will test parents;

• valuing the role of grandparents;

• dealing with abused children;

• communicating openly and honestly;

• clarifying family roles.

Grizzle presents a guide to strengthening lives and making your family life more enjoyable. He shows how this is possible when you accept Jesus Christ into your life; he will show you the way in the difficult times.




Ed Grizzle started a ministry called It’s Your Decision that helps addicts, prostitutes, and others who face difficult circumstances. He and his late wife, Mary, raised two children. Grizzle currently lives in Illinois


Ed is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 21 and ends on August 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, August 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


The Treasure of Kefer Shimon by Clifford Stevens Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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The Treasure of Kefer ShimonTitle:
 The Treasure of Kefer Shimon
Author: Clifford Stevens
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 344
Genre: Men’s Adventure
Format: Ebook

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The Treasure of Kefer Shimon is the story of a young American priest given a secret assignment by the Vatican to track down the source of three ancient scrolls that have come into the possession of the Holy Sea. If the scrolls are genuine, they will cause a revolution in Biblical studies. Along the way he makes many startling and shocking discoveries deliberately kept hidden for centuries.

Filled with historical fact masterfully woven with fiction, it takes David Lavarans on a journey into the secret dealings of the Vatican, into the ancient archives of a medieval Pope, into a Middle Eastern monastery, and into the Arabian Desert. Here, he makes a shocking discovery that has been kept hidden since the time of Christ. If revealed, the ramifications will rock biblical scholars and historians.

David is neither heroic nor a pursuer of power. He is simply a young parish priest completely unaware of why he, among thousands of more prominent priests, is singled out for this mission by someone more powerful than the Pope himself.

Ancient scrolls, the high ranks of the Vatican, a young American priest, the Middle East, and secrets that will shake the world of Christianity and the interpretation of the New Testament all play a role in this intriguing biblical adventure which spans 2,000 years.

Father Clifford Stevens is a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and the founder of Tintern Monastery. He graduated from Boys Town. He entered the Air Force as a Chaplain and served on bases in California, Alaska, New Mexico and Japan. He left the Air Force to become the Executive Editor of The Priest magazine and was later editor/publisher of Schema XIII, a journal for the Priest in the Modern World. He was at one time the associate director of Liturgy in Santa Fe, a liturgical institute in New Mexico.

His writings on religious and theological subjects have appeared in Chicago Studies, America, U.S. Catholic, Pastoral Life, The Priest, Our Sunday Visitor, Liturgical Arts, the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Cistercian Studies, the American Benedictine Review, Angelicum and the Review for Religious.

He is the author of twelve published books, including the historical novel, Flame out of Dorset published by Doubleday & Co., A Life of Christ, The Blessed Virgin, Father Flanagan: Builder of Boys, the One-Year Book of Saints, Portraits of Faith, Astro-Theology: for the Cosmic Adventure, The Noblest Love, On Christian Marriage and Intimacy with God, and Aloysius, a collection of essays about St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

Clifford is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 21 and ends on August 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, August 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


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When Shmack Happens: The Making of a Spiritual Champion by Amber Neben

When Shmack Happens coverTitle:  When Shmack Happens: The Making of a Spiritual Champion
Author: Amber Neben
Genre: Christian nonfiction/inspirational stories/sports autobiography
Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: Neben Px4 (March 18, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0991303008
ISBN-13: 978-0991303007

Purchase at:

Amazon USA:   http://www.amazon.com/When-Shmack-Happens-Spiritual-Champion/dp/0991303008/

Book website: www.whenshmackhappens.com

Amazon UK and Amazon EU

About the book:

Have you ever been through a hard time in life? Ever wondered why bad things happen? Amber Neben has you covered. The 2x Olympic cyclist for Team USA knows a thing or two about shmack- her word for describing adversity that comes our way in life. Follow Amber’s journey as she overcomes major obstacles both on and off the bike-and encourages you to join her in developing the perseverance, patience, perspective, and power than only Christ can give us. Very few people may know or understand what road cycling is, but everyone knows what it means to be an Olympian. The champion road cyclist chronicles her disappointments and failures, as well as amazing comebacks and victories-while thrilling audiences along the way with gripping stories of faith and hope. After reading When Shmack Happens, you’ll feel equipped and encouraged to face life’s tough moments, and find yourself cheering for Amber to get back on the bike…one more time. Learn what it means to be a spiritual champion in God’s eyes.


From Chapter 10

Fear gripped me as I skidded to a stop against the guardrail and looked up at the entire peloton riding toward my head. Another rider had just slid into my front wheel, causing it to turn violently sideways, ripping the handlebars out of my hands, and instantly halting the bike’s forward momentum. Since my body was still carrying the 30-plus mph speed and energy, I launched with my arms out like superman until I hit the pavement. Hard. The combination of the friction of my body on the road followed by the impact with the guardrail spun me around, so I could see what was coming at me. For a few seconds more, I was terrified of being run over until the peloton had passed.

After this immediate danger was gone, I realized my finger was screaming at me. I hadn’t initially noticed it, but now it hurt like nothing I had ever felt. Fear grabbed me again as I connected the pain with the blood and the massive gash on it. I thought for sure I was going to lose the tip of it if I didn’t get help fast.

I had no idea what had just occurred. We had crested a climb and started an easy downhill. I was still up front on the outside of the group. The corner was sweeping to the left, and I was looking far down the road…when suddenly I was tossed. It wasn’t until later that night that the rider who was behind me explained what had happened, and why I had no chance to react or had any sense that it was coming.

I was in the middle of the 2009 racing season, coming off of the World Championship win the previous year. Only two days prior, I had won the time trial stage in this race, the women’s Giro d’Italia. The win had catapulted me into the General Classification (GC) lead, and although I had cramped the next day and lost it, I was still close enough to fight back. There were enough hill-top finishes remaining, and I wasn’t planning on giving up the race so easily. However, in an instant, everything changed. I went from being in contention, to being bloodied on the side of an Italian road in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the race ambulance and a doctor.Amber Neben photo

About the author: 

Amber Neben is a decorated international road cyclist with victories in 11 countries and multiple UCI Category 1 stage race wins. She is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion, 2x Pan American Champion and 2x National Champion. She holds a B.S. from The University of Nebraska and an M.S. from UC Irvine. Amber and her husband, Jason, reside in Lake Forest, CA. For information on speaking engagements or coaching visit amberneben.com.

Interview with J. Boyce Gleason: ‘I always dreamed of writing a novel but like most people life got in the way’

J. Boyce GleasonOur guest today is J. Boyce Gleason, author of the historical fiction novel, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles. With an AB degree in history from Dartmouth College, J. Boyce Gleason brings a strong understanding of what events shaped the past and when, but writes historical-fiction to discover why. Gleason lives in Virginia with his wife Mary Margaret. They have three sons. Visit his website at www.jboycegleason.com.

What made you decide to become a published author?

I had always dreamed of writing a novel but, like most people, life got in the way. It was something I’d hoped to do “one day” but with a wife, three kids, a dog and a mortgage, “one day” became “some day down the road.”

Anvil of God 2Eventually I got to the point where I either made good on the promise to myself or let it go. I decided to give it a shot. But writing a novel is not something you can “try.” You have to commit to it. I told everyone I knew that I was writing a novel so that there could be no turning back (at least not without great embarrassment). After that, I just kept at it until it was done.

Would you consider your latest book, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles to be a one of a kind? How so?

I hope not. It’s the first of a series, so I hope there are several more coming down the pike. I do think Anvil is somewhat unique in that it explores a time period with which few people are familiar. It is also unique because the characters who drive much of the novel’s action are women. For historical fiction of this type, that is somewhat unusual.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I like to write at the beach.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Don’t rush. Get the story right. Get the writing right. Pay for an editor, get feedback, listen and rewrite. Make sure your book is ready for primetime before you try to sell it.

What inspires you?

To write? I’d have to say, great storytelling. I am always in awe of writers who can seduce you into their world and sweep you off your feet. People like Pat Conroy, John Irving, Herman Wouk and James Clavell are extraordinary storytellers. Sometimes I hesitate to read their work, because it is such an emotional ride.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

I learned that it was worth the wait.

Why do you love to write historical fiction?

I have always loved history. I’m fascinated by political ebb and flow of it. But while we know what happened in history, it’s much harder to ascertain why it happened. I write historical fiction to discover the “why.” To write a novel, the author must become an expert in each of the characters that people his or her book. In historical fiction, the characters are based on real people. You become experts in their lives, their motivations, their hopes, fears and dreams.

By writing their story, you see the history unfold through their eyes. You see the “why.”

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

Strong characters. A good character will drive the plot for you. Sometimes I have to wrestle with them to keep them under control.

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

I originally thought it would be a science fiction novel.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

There are scenes that draw from experiences that move me. There is a scene in Anvil where Bishop Boniface tries to stop a battle from erupting during Charles the Hammer’s funeral. He drapes himself over the antagonist to keep Charles’s family from killing him. I drew that scene from Bishop Desmond Tutu’s effort to save a white South African from being killed by a black South African mob. He wore his ecclesiastical robes out into the crowd and draped his own body over the man being attacked to save his life.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

My family. No question.

What’s next for you?

I’m halfway through Book Two of the Carolingian Chronicles. It’s called Wheel of the Fates. I’m also working on a novel about young Ben Franklin called Sin of Omission.


Psyche-Soul-Ology by David Roberts Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Psyche Soul OlogyTitle: Psyche-Soul-Ology
Author: David Roberts
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 202
Genre: Psychology
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

Psyche-Soul-ology: An Inspirational Approach to Appreciating and Understanding Troubled Kids is a companion text to At the Mercy of Externals: Righting Wrongs and Protecting Kids, 2nd Edition. Dr. Roberts presents a spiritually based application of his theories and the Roberts FLAGS Model detailed in his first book. His use of the term Psyche-Soul-ology focuses on the importance of addressing both the minds and souls of troubled kids. Of utmost importance is the need to look beyond the obvious external behaviors and problems of every kid, making an effort to see who they truly are relative to their unique potential for redirecting their lives. By looking into each kid it is possible to discover their uniqueness and encourage them to understand who they are intended to be, rather than who they are becoming. Dr. Roberts stresses the importance of complicating factors serving as obstacles to the progress of low income, disadvantaged kids. He focuses heavily on professional ethics and the need for both extreme compassion and full competence when working with troubled kids and their families. Both of these books are vital for parents and professionals if we are to fight against social injustices associated with poverty and other complicating factors.


Dr. Roberts, a proud father and grandfather, is also a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and college instructor, trained in California and living now in his home state of Alabama. His education, training experiences and worldview make him unique, and he is recognized as an expert with troubled kids and families.


David is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins July 21 and ends on August 1.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, August 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Julian Rosado-Machain: ‘I’m starting to make a living off my books which is exhilarating’

Julian Rosado-MachainJulian Rosado-Machain has enjoyed pizza in three continents, worked in graphic design, armored vehicles, built computers, handcrafted alebrijes and swears that he has seen at least one ghost.

He lives in San Diego, California. And enjoys the sun with his wife, three children and cat.

His latest book is the YA fantasy adventure, Guardians Inc.: The Cypher.

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About the Book:

Guardians Inc 7GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future, and to unlock the future they need a Cypher.

This is the first book of the Guardians Inc Series.

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Can you tell us who or what was the inspiration behind your book?

A Conspiracy Theory! The what if Magic was real and a select cadre knew about it and what would a teenager do if he somehow learned about all this? From there everything else came into being: The seven thousand year old company, the elves living in our national parks and the balance between Magic and Technology that has to be preserved to keep humanity alive and well and Magic in check.

Nature, Science, History, Mythology. I always read a lot about these themes and there is always something to explore about them, some hidden connection between all of them that should be brought to light.

Those connections with nature are the heart of Guardians Inc.

Is this your first published book and if so, can you tell us your experiences in finding a publisher for it?

I self published because Guardians Inc. was a pet project, but I’m beginning to look for a publisher now that I know that my market is the middle grade crowd. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Where do you live and if I were coming to town, where would we go to talk books?

I live in San Diego and there are many places where we can go and talk about books depending on the genre, YA? Let’s go to PacificBeach. History? Well, there’s Balboa park, Comedy? SeaportVillage is always a fun place to be or maybe Romance? Let’ go to the Coronado Hotel for dinner instead of just a walk and maybe, just maybe we’ll delve into Horror with all the Ghosts that supposedly live there.

When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax and have fun?

I am an avid strategy gamer! Yes, I know, I am old enough to have gone through that phase, but then again, I was Generation Atari and Pac man! And there is no denying just how powerful a jolt to the imagination some of these games can be.

Do you make a living off your books or do you have another job?

I am starting to make a living off my books, which is at the same time exhilarating and scary! I owned a restaurant for ten years and sold it because I was tired of slaving away watching my kids grow up from afar.

So now I’m devoting 100 percent of my time to writing (actually like 25% because promotion is taking a huge chunk of time!)

In your opinion, what makes a good book great?

Relatability… No I didn’t make that word up… I think… anyway, the more a reader can relate to the story being told, the more he will be into it. No matter what the genre is, there is a heart to each story, a conflict that resonates with the reader and that makes the story relatable to him/her.

That what I think makes a good book great.

Psychologists tell us the thing we think we’d most like to grow up to be when we’re ten years old is our avocation. What did you want to be?

I wanted to be an astronaut! But not of the mercury program, but of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos ship! I didn’t know how many people have seen it, but it SHOULD be mandatory viewing in all schools along with the remake with Neil Degrasse Tyson, which is just as good. It opens the mind to possibilities and to science and our natural world.

Can you give us a short excerpt from your book?

Sure! Here’s Thomas as he sees Pervagus Library for the first time:

Thomas felt a current of air moving through the library. He couldn’t hear the air conditioning, but he felt a draft on his arms and hair. The temperature inside the room had dropped and he shuddered involuntarily.

“The cold helps preserve the collection,” Mrs. Pianova told him. “Humidity is also controlled. Do you have any known allergies to chemicals?”

Now that she mentioned it, Thomas perceived a faint smell of leather and a more distinct smell that he couldn’t quite place, like when entering a hospital. It was chemical, but he didn’t know what it was.

“Mr. Byrne?” she asked when he waited too long to answer.

“No, ma’am,” he said. “Not that I know of.”

“Good, this is your station,” she said pointing at the desk. “The computer already has your clearance, but to use it you need to be wearing?” She paused and lifted her eyebrow.

“The tag?” he offered.

“Correct.” She pointed at the screen. “Some days one or two people will come in, some days fifty or more, and some days you’ll get someone screaming at the top of their lungs about a life or death situation. Don’t get nervous. Just punch the information into the program and the computer will tell you which aisle to send them to. You can cross-reference any way you like, words, titles, authors or by need. You’ve used the Internet before?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said. His head pounded and he felt overwhelmed. Was he cut out for this job? He swallowed the lump in his throat and meekly asked, “Life and death?”

“Those books will appear on this tray.” She pointed to a drawer on the right side of the desk. “All others on the aisles. Follow me.” She walked through the middle of the hall. The bookcases were arranged alphabetically. Each had a golden letter on the sides and tags on each shelf.

As they reached the end of the hall, she stopped in front of a wooden wall etched with thick concentric circles. The circles covered a full quarter of the wall and extended all the way to the ceiling.

“Some books will not be readily available to you. If such is the case, you can contact me through the computer and I will search for the book in the library.”

It was Thomas’s time to lift an eyebrow. “Isn’t this the library?” he asked, and Mrs. Pianova adjusted the pair of glasses she was wearing.

“No, Mr. Byrne, this is your station.” She paused. “I don’t need to remind you of your Non-disclosure Agreement. Do I?” she asked.

“You just did ma’am,” Thomas answered with a playful smirk that made Mrs. Pianova purse her lips unnervingly.

“Welcome to Pervagus library Mr. Byrne,” she said pressing a panel on the wall. There was a short hum and a mechanical sound as the wall with the etched circles began to rotate, disengaging internal locks, and the circles moved to the sides inside each other. The wall became a set of double doors that opened to a hall beyond what Thomas could describe as immense.

The ceiling was at least ten stories high and the bookshelves disappeared in the distance. A clear crystal floor and metal beams supported each row of shelves. Robotic arms and elevators loaded with books ran on rails above the bookshelves loading and unloading their cargo into them. Thomas had been to a football stadium before, but he was sure that this room dwarfed that.

“I don’t know how many books there are, so don’t ask,” Mrs. Pianova said as soon as the question formed in his head. “The best answer I can give you is that we probably have at least a copy of every book ever written after the year 269. Before that, well… a lot of things happened.”

The mind reading trick again! “How did you… “

“Everyone asks the same thing,” she snapped, cutting his question short. “I even know how to answer the next one.” She stared at him as if daring him to ask it.

Thomas pursed his lips, “Very well then,” he said. “What’s the answer?”

“We do have them in electronic format too, but we need them in print for a very specific reason.” She raised an eyebrow at him, his face betrayed that she had answered correctly.

Behind her, a glass elevator appeared on a rail from the left.

“You don’t need to check out with me, Mr. Byrne. But if I need you to stay longer I can notify you up to five minutes before your shift ends.”

“So you work here alone?” he asked as she entered the elevator.

“Not anymore. Apparently.” The elevators doors closed. “Bathroom is on the left. I’ll see you tomorrow. Won’t I, Mr. Byrne?”

“Definitely,” he answered but saw the eyebrow lifting. He added, “Mrs. Pianova.” The librarian nodded approvingly. Apprehensive or not, now that he saw the library he wanted to work here.

He wanted to know more.