Tag Archives: book

Second In Command: The Debut Novel by Sandi Van!

I’m proud to introduce you to my neighbor, friend and author Sandi Van. Her first published novel Second In Command, is available TODAY on Amazon! Sandi is a writer, counselor, and former special education teacher from Buffalo, New York. She blogs at Caravan of Composition, and for all of my WordPress blogging friends, she is a WordPress blogger, so go give her a follow. Her work has also been featured in Adoptive Families magazine.

Second In Command synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Leo dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout and, someday, a police officer. He makes sure to always do the right thing and be responsible. With his mom deployed and his dad constantly working, Leo is often left in charge of his two younger siblings. Then Leo’s brother, Jack, gets caught up in a dangerous plot that rocks the community. Can Leo keep his promise to stand by his brother no matter what, or will he stand on the side of justice?

Me: Hello Sandi and welcome to The Phil Factor! Although your cover, pictured above has the title Second In Command, on Amazon the title is Second in Command (YA Verse). I know that YA means Young Adult, but what does the Verse refer to?

Sandi: A verse novel is a story told entirely through poetry. It follows the same narrative structure as a traditional novel (in other words there is a character with a goal, and there are obstacles preventing him from reaching his goal that increase in peril as the story progresses), but instead of chapters there are poems. Not to fear, the novel is aimed at reluctant readers and was written for anyone to enjoy, despite their experience in the realm of poetry.

Me: How did your own personal experience influence the plot and characters of your novel?

Sandi: The story is about a family affected by their mother’s deployment. The main character, Leo, is 16 and expected to help take care of his younger siblings. My husband serves in the Navy and was deployed for most of 2003. I witnessed firsthand the stress deployment can have on those left behind, particularly young families. The characters are loosely based on our next door neighbors from that time period. Mom was deployed and Dad worked long hours, leaving the kids to take care of homework, meals, and laundry. I was impressed with how responsible the oldest son was, and years later he inspired me to create the character of Leo. 

Me: When and how did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

Sandi: In fifth grade I was chosen to be part of an experimental group that tested this newfangled 1980’s software that could create a sort of choose your own adventure story. My story was about a witch, and I had a lot of fun coming up with ideas and watching the completed project spill out of the dot matrix printer. Around seventh grade I discovered Edgar Allan Poe. Between that and various episodes of unrequited love, my poetry flowed heavily and with abundant angst. There is also a box full of old journals in my basement my husband and children have been instructed to burn upon my passing. I started my first blog in 2008, and in 2013 I found myself without a job and with an idea for a novel but no clue how to write it. Fate brought a writer into my path who introduced me to a whole bunch of other writers and helped me figure out how to turn my ideas into a book. The book wasn’t very good. But the process of writing, editing, and putting it out into the world made me believe I could actually be a writer.

Me: So what comes next? Is there a sequel to Second In Command, or do you have something else you’re working on?

Sandi: Oh the million dollar question. No, there won’t be a sequel to Second in Command, although I’d love to write another verse novel. Currently I’m working on a story about a young Naval Reservist who serves on the funeral guard. On her way to a funeral she gets stuck in a snow storm and learns how to cope with a personal tragedy through her interactions with other stranded motorists. I was born and raised in Buffalo and although thankfully I’ve never been trapped in my car during a storm, I’ve always been impressed by the way people come together and help each other during heavy snowfalls. 

Thank you for sharing my story with your readers, Phil!

Me: You’re welcome Sandi! A book about someone stranded in a snow storm? With the weather this week, it’s too bad you can’t launch that one right now!

Even though Second In Command is her debut novel, do you know how you can tell that Sandi is a big time author? (Aside from the fact that she’s featured on The Phil Factor. ) Hardcover! Her first novel is published in both hardcover and paperback!  Hardcover is big time. Hardcover is James Patterson/Stephen King big time. Michelle Obama’s first book came out in hardcover and so did Sandi’s!

Thank you again Sandi for appearing on #ThePhilFactor. I wish you the best of luck with your new novel and we look forward to what’s next. Please check out Sandi’s novel on Amazon . You can find her at her website and please give her a follow at Caravan of Composition and Twitter!

Have a great day! ~ Phil

The Magic of Emotional Intelligence by Magician James David

At 7:30 a.m. I boarded a flight to Detroit. I made my way down the aisle to the coach section where we were packed into our tiny seats like eggs in a carton. I found myself seated next to a young serviceman. Army I think. He was in uniform and had carried on a duffel bag as if he were headed back to his base. A moment after we had both gotten situated, a guy makes his way back from the first class section, stops at my row and says, “Go take my seat. I’ll switch with you. You deserve it.”  Woo Hoo! It’s my lucky day, I thought. He must be a fan of The Phil Factor. 

As fate would have it, he was talking to the young serviceman next to me. Little did I know that both the young serviceman and I were in luck that day. My new but extremely weary travel companion was magician James David. He must have pulled at least $40 in change out of my ear during the hour long flight. I’m kidding of course. His real trick was staying awake. He had performed until late in Buffalo the previous evening and then during the night drove over an hour to get to Rochester where his flight was leaving from and he hadn’t slept all night.

This is James’ third time appearing on #ThePhilFactor, but it’s his first as an author. You can read his other two interviews HERE and HERE

Me: I have yet to see a job listing for magician on LinkedIn. How does one become a magician as a career?

James: Hey Phil, well one doesn’t just get to pick a job as a magician from Linkedin.   You have to receive a letter from an owl saying you have been accepted to Hogwarts.  Everyone knows that Phil!!   However,  if you are not that lucky (like myself) then learning from a book or a website is a good place to start.  Once you master the basics of magic and get good enough at them you don’t have to “apply” for a job, the jobs just come to you.  When I started to get really good people would just ask me if I did this for a living and how much did I charge?  All I had to do was answer yes!  So the short answer to your question is LOTS of hard work and practice.

Me: What led you, a magician, to decide to write a book about sports team chemistry?

James: Long before I was a magician I was a basketball coach.   In fact, I started learning magic to entertain my students and my players when I felt like making the atmosphere a little more fun. It gave the kids and myself a mental break from reality. But as I learned more and more about magic, I realized magic and sports/life are identical.   What I mean is that they both have fundamentals.  The more you practice a skill set the better you get at it and the better you get at mastering the fundamentals the more it looks like “magic”.   The same is with building chemistry with someone.

I was turned onto the topic of emotional intelligence through a conversation I was having with a friend one day.  It fascinated me and the more I researched the topic, the more I realized it had to do with building chemistry.  But my coaching mind never shuts off and I just kept saying to myself, “This is team building stuff.”   From there I realized that building chemistry is the same as magic and sports.   There are certain fundamental of chemistry as well.  Those fundamentals are self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management.  If you work hard at them and developing emotional intelligence, you will build chemistry!  (It’s explained in more detail in the book)
Me: What has been your most unique or exciting experience working with sports teams?
James: Since I am by heart a basketball guy, my two favorite team to work with have been UCLA men’s basketball and the Portland Trailblazers.  I just loved talking hoops and being able to help professional athletes think about team chemistry in a different way.  But UCLA was my favorite team growing up and it was special to work with a historic program like UCLA because of its rich history in winning championships and because of their former head coach John Wooden.   In fact, John Wooden has a lot of high emotional intelligence principles in his coaching style which is what helped him win so many hearts of his players.   They loved him because of it.
Me: What does your book offer for someone who isn’t in sports coaching?
James:  It was funny you asked this question because when I was having people pre-read my book, I picked some people  that knew sports and some that never played.  One consistent thing I heard back from people was that not only did they learn how emotional intelligent relates to sports, but that it also relates to life!   You do not have to be a sports person to get the value of emotional intelligence. You just need to be willing to learn  and apply it.   When you do that whether you play sports or not, your life will improve.
Me: Thank you James. I appreciate you stopping by The Phil Factor again. Best of luck with your book and your magic.
If you’re interested in learning more about James you can find him at JamesDavidMagic and you can find his book on Amazon! Have a great Wednesday! ~Phil

My Amazon Book Giveaway!

Yes, I know that you’re saying to yourself, “What?!!? A chance to win Phil’s incredible, hilarious, unique time travel mystery to read on my Kindle? Hell yeah I’m all over that!”  First of all, isn’t that “hell yeah” just a bit too salty for the holiday? Hell no it’s not! I have an effing giveaway on Amazon! It’s a random chance giveaway and 10 lucky winners will get a FREE copy of my book! Here’s the link: BOOK GIVEAWAY

Thanks a lot! I hope you win! ~Phil

Marie Lanza’s New Novel: The Strangers

On today, Friday the 13th and just in time for Halloween, a new novella by my favorite zombie author Marie Lanza!

A group of young adults are handed a free weekend away at an old cabin in the woods.  What was supposed to be a weekend of fun and relaxation quickly spirals into a fight to stay alive.  As each person comes face to face with the realization of what is really lurking in these woods, will they be able to save each other before it’s too late?  Or will they succumb to this nightmare and never get out?
Marie is an actress and radio personality who can currently be heard on her radio show The DiRT on iHeart radio. The best move of her career however was when she wrote a Top Ten list for #ThePhilFactor. In addition to her new book she has also written several other awesomely scary, creepy novels. You can find her new novella The Strangers and all her other books HERE on Amazon.Have a great Friday! ~Phil

Circumstances of Childhood by John Howell

A new book from one of my favorite bloggers, John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites.

When a former pro football star and broadcaster, now a Wall Street maven is accused of insider trading, will he be able to prove his innocence and expose those who are guilty?

Greg and his boyhood pal dreamed of big success in professional football and then later in business. Greg was the only one to live the dream. Now the founder of an investment fund Greg is faced with a routine audit finding by the SEC. The audit points to irregularities and all the tracks lead to Greg. The justice department hits him with an indictment of 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, and insider trading. His firm goes bust, and Greg is on his own.

His best friend knows he is innocent but has been ordered under penalty of eternal damnation not to help.

If you enjoy stories of inspiration, riches to rags, redemption, brotherly love, and a little of the paranormal, Circumstance of Childhood will keep you riveted.

As an aside, in my opinion, John is a brilliant writer of snappy, witty dialogue. I am sincerely envious of how well he writes conversation between characters. I haven’t read this book yet, but I plan to because with his gift for dialogue his characters will be full of life that just jumps off the page. Also, for a limited time, it’s only 99 cents for Kindle!  If you’re on your Kindle or iPad just click that live link to go to the Amazon store! Have a great Tuesday! ~Phil

To Beat The Devil: Author Interview with M.K. Gibson!

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An author friend who has a small independent publishing company recently asked me to read and review a recently published first novel by a new author. Admittedly I was a little leery. I’m very picky about what I read. I’ve started and stopped three different novels over the last several months because I didn’t enjoy them. My friend told me a little about the plot and I agreed to try To Beat the Devil by M.K. Gibson. Remember those three novels I never finished? I flew through To Beat the Devil in a week and was disappointed the sequel wasn’t out yet. It is flat out fun. It may not be for everyone. For instance, if you’re a woman who likes Nicholas Sparks, move on. We don’t need your kind here. If, however, you’re someone who might like a book that is the equivalent of Star Wars, Blade Runner, and The Hobbit thrown in a blender with a dash or two of funny 80’s and 90’s pop culture references, then To Beat the Devil is your new favorite book. Let’s hear from author M.K. Gibson:

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TPF: For my readers who haven’t yet downloaded the book, without giving too much away, could you give them a quick plot teaser?
M.K.: Haven’t downloaded the book yet? Your words anger and confuse me! 😉 hah hah, just kidding. So the short elevator pitch is Bladerunner meets Dresden Files meets Supernatural. The slightly longer plot pitch is thus: To Beat the Devil is a quasi cyberpunk novel set after the biblical apocalypse. God is gone, Hell has risen and to combat that, mankind began augmenting themselves with technology. The novel picks up almost 200 years later. Our protagonist, Salem, is an immortal smuggler who a bit of an isolationist and a jerk. He has his world opened when he meets a mysterious client who helps him find his humanity, while together they investigate what’s happened to the human soul.
TPF: What did you do in the Air Force? How did your experience in the Air Force help you with this book?
M.K.: I could tell you but…
But seriously, I worked in Military Intelligence as an analyst for 20 years.
Did it help me? Not directly. But indirectly, 100% yes. In my career I’ve been all over the world and see places and things many folks don’t get the chance to outside of travel. Plus, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to meet many diverse and interesting people, learn their stories and watch every manner of human interaction. And, in my time, I’ve been at tremendous personal and emotional highs with horrible, wretched, tearful lows. As I write, I try and draw from those people and those experiences to hopefully infuse my writing with heart and believability (I swear that’s a word!), even in a dystopian, cyberpunk, Hell ruled future.
For example, back when I was stationed in Alaska, I did a lot of shift work. Over the winter, you would go weeks to months with no sunlight. I was single and recently promoted so my age peers were no longer my work peers. Thus, I was sad, alone in the dark for a good long time. I used those feelings when I write Salem who feels isolated from everyone and everything in this new, messed up world.
TPF: Since retiring from the Air Force, is writing your full time gig, or do you do something else? And if you could, would you just write full time?
M.K.: My current full time gig is as a military contractor. Basically doing the same thing I used to do when I was in the Air Force, but as a civilian. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but when the day comes when I can support my family with my writing, I will walk away from government work and never look back. I want NOTHING more than to write and entertain people until the day I die.
TPF: As unusual as some of your characters are, are some based on people you’ve known in real life, and are you Salem?
M.K.: Hah hah…you found me out. Yes, in many, many ways I am Salem. Similar build, appearance and manner. He is my avatar. My way of reacting in an insane, unique world. But, in many ways, he and I are vastly different. In my defense, a lot of first time writers with 1st person point of view books put a lot of themselves in their primary character. It not only makes the voice more personal, it strengthens their writing as they (we) learn the craft and practice.
And yes, I’ve used people from my life as templates for some my characters. But those templates evolve into, hopefully, fun characters to read.

Jensen Ackles

Jensen Ackles

TPF: If you could choose anyone play your protagonist Salem in the movie version of your book, who do you think would be the best fit?
M.K.: When I originally came up with the idea and tinkered with it back in 2008, it would have been Jensen Ackles, Dean Winchester from Supernatural. Hell, I guess he could still do it. I’m sure Hollywood would want Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds. I think it may actually be against Hollywood law that they are not in a movie at least once a quarter. Hmm…
TPF: So what’s next for you? How soon is the sequel on the way? Will there be other books not based on Salem and his Earth?
M.K.: Well, book 2 is slated for late summer. I’ve written enough material so far for 5 books, and I have a lot more ideas for where the series goes, ends, possibly picks up again and perhaps some one-shot spin-off novels. I recently submitted my manuscript for Villains Rule to my publisher. It’s my attempt at a Pratchett/Goodkind tongue-in-cheek comedic action novel, which follows a human from “the real world” who acts as a villain adviser to fantasy overlords.Of course, like all writers, I have a ton of great story ideas in my mind. I just need to the bloody time to get them out.
But, before this interview is over, I would like to take a moment and say Thank You to you Phil Taylor. Thank you for taking a chance and reading my book. Thank you for your review and lastly, thank you for this opportunity to talk to your readers. Writing has been a lifetime goal of mine. Starting from the bottom sucks. But, with good people like you, helping poor schlubs like me, each day is easier and worth sitting down at the laptop. To any reader who pick up my book and gives it a read: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are why I do this. In the immortal words of Henry Rollins: Live Long & Strong!

M.K., thank you very much for taking the time to talk about your book for my readers. You can find M.K.’s awesome, action packed and hilarious book on Amazon and you can follow M.K. on Twitter, and his website. For more great novels from other authors in this genre visit Amber Cove Publishing and JimBernheimer.com. Have a great Sunday! ~Phil