Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interview with Marc Bennetts, author of Kicking the Kremlin

What did you learn through writing this book?

I discovered how deep the divisions are in Russian society between those who support Putin’s rule and those who are against him. But I also learned that while Putin’s supporters are mainly passive, his foes are extremely active and committed. All of which could prove vital if the opposition movement ever manages to seriously challenge his long rule again.

What message do you want to get out to people about it?

Russia’s anti-Putin movement was championed by the West. But few took the time to examine the movement, which was made of very disparate groups, from the far-left to the far-right. While many in the West would like to see Putin toppled, it’s far from certain what ruler would emerge to take his place.

What's been the response to the book?

It’s had some great reviews. My favourite was in the Times of London Literary Supplement, by John Lloyd, the director of journalism at the Reuters Institute. It was good to have the book praised by such a qualified person. It’s also just been released in Poland, which I’m very pleased about. On the downside, pro-Putin supporters have included me on their list of Russophobes.” Which is laughable. I mean, I’ve been living in Russia for 15 years and have a Russian wife and daughter. Hardly Russophobe material. But “Russophobe” for these people means you are willing to speak to Putin’s opponents, I guess.

Anything else you'd like to say?

I’ve also just released an ebook on Russia’s long-time obsession with the occult. From Kremlin-backed psychics to urban witches and wizards, Russians have been fascinated with the paranormal and the occult since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The book’s called “Resurrections for Roubles: Adventures with Modern Russia’s Psychics, Sects and Sorcerers” and is available on amazon.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Q&A with Miranda Sherry author of Black Dog Summer

What inspired this book?

I was inspired by the way stories bind us together as families and connect us, even after someone dies. When the main character in Black Dog Summer is murdered, she finds that she’s still tied to her sister and her daughter by their continuing stories as they battle to make their way the a world without her. She becomes drawn in, unable to leave until her story has been told.
I was inspired by the possibility that within the violent reality of the world we all live in now, when things seem at their worst, there’s hope for redemption and healing. I wanted the book to take the reader on a journey: through the dark places in which the sinister spectre of a black dog (the embodiment of all that violent energy) stalks through the narrative, and into a space where the light finds a way through.

What was the best part of putting together the book?

I’d say the best part was the sense of peace I gained from writing every day, from chipping away, even when I didn’t feel like it, even when I was working on a part of the book that seemed so impossibly difficult that it felt as if I was being scraped raw. That discipline to keep coming back to the page, to keep defying that terrible, blinking cursor in its blank white space, to push through the doubt and the fear that comes when you’re trying to create something, that was incredibly empowering, and has left me changed.

What's been the response to the book?

The book has been out in the UK for a few weeks now, and has already received some truly heartening reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, mentioning that it was ‘beautifully written’ and kept them turning the pages. It was also made ‘Book of the Month’ on, which was a big thrill for me, and hugely encouraging. I hope my fellow South African readers find it as engaging, and I look forward to hearing their thoughts.

What new projects are you working on?

I never say much about the book I’m busy with until the first draft is safely done and dusted. I feel that telling anyone even a tiny aspect of the story tends to lessen the urgency to write it, and I need that urgency to power through the difficult writing days. I will say though, that it’s a new novel that features (amongst other things) a vegetable garden, a secret grave, and a dead horse. That’s all I'm giving away for now...

Anything else you'd like to say?

When I was little, there was a massacre on a rural farm that resulted in the death of someone I knew. It was the first time my life was touched by violence and it affected me deeply. Black Dog Summer was born from the fears and questions that had been plaguing me since.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 Questions with Marc Meyer

1. How did you get involved in T'ai Chi?
Once I reached my forties, I looked around for an exercise I could feel interested enough to adopt as a daily routine and continue with into my later years while avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination and injuries associated with activities like jogging and weight training. At that same time in the late 1990's, David Carradine, star of the long running and popular 1970's television series "Kung Fu" began advertising his T'ai Chi videos for beginners. His television commercials seemed fun, intriguing and coincided with a perk offered as part of a club membership I owned which began featuring a T'ai Chi Class on the beach. The idea seemed just different enough to be irresistible and I felt that if I had no time to exercise on a given day, at the very least I would attempt some T'ai Chi. Over time, practice of T'ai Chi became much more than that to me. I was hooked from the first class onward and the practice of T'ai Chi has proven itself to be of lasting benefit. I became a teacher in 1999 and have been teaching the art of T'ai Chi Chuan to students and friends up until the present day.

2. What is the difference between T'ai Chi and other martial arts?
T'ai Chi is classified is an "internal" martial art, meaning that martial skill and power are developed from the inside out through a process involving many years as opposed to the reverse theory practiced by "external" systems such as Karate or Tai Kwon Do, which can be developed in a shorter period of time but are by no means more effective.

3. Tell us about the Master and his nephews.
In the book, a T'ai Chi master named Kuo Yun San leaves mainland China in the 1960's for what he thinks is the last time. His goals are simple, he envisions opening a successful T'ai Chi school and strengthening the bonds between himself and his Asian American family in Chinatown with whom he has had little to no communication in years. The results are surprising as Master Kuo finds himself trading one Cultural Revolution for another and his newfound friends and family members, thinking they were going to educate him into adopting an American lifestyle, find he has more to teach them.  

4. What are some of the life lessons that can be realized from this book?
Using himself as an example Master Kuo teaches that patience, diligence and skill aquired through effort are some of the most valued lessons one can achieve in the course of a lifetime.

5. What's next for Marc Meyer?  Do you have other books in the pipeline?
I have at least three more novels in me that I have begun working on simultaneously. One is a memoir, one is about an elderly batchelor who finds his way toward the end of his life and one is a young adult novel about five very unusual preteens in the possesion of individual healing powers. Of course getting ideas is easy, setting them down in a readable form that will capture an audience's interest is very hard.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Q&A with Jennifer Storm, author of Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America

Q&A with Jennifer Storm, author of Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America
What was the inspiration behind writing this book?
I knew I had a story that was unique but not unique if that makes sense, I had been through so much in my life and as I began recovery, I couldn’t find any books that spoke to my story.  I started writing as a path towards healing and after a few years realized I had a decent book on my hands. I wanted other people struggling the way I was to be able to find a book that spoke to them and helped them on their journey. 

What's the most rewarding part of this process writing the book?
I love hearing from people who have read the book and it has helped them in someway.  I still get emails from readers who thank me for sharing my story with them.  I also love speaking and traveling with the book whenever I can.  I think story telling is the most powerful means by which we can create real awareness about issues. 

What did you learn about yourself through writing the book?
I learned that I am stronger that I thought and I can overcome anything and stay in a healing place. I was very scared upon the publication of the book fearing for what people would think of me laying all my skeletons out for public inspection.  It gave me a new freedom that I wasn’t prepared for but welcomed in a new way. 

Was it therapetuic writing a book?
Incredibly. I started writing as a way to heal from my past traumas, I knew that I had to go back and unearth all that ailed me, I had to find the root cause of my initial need to escape and deal with it to the best of my ability.  I didn’t want to ever live the way I was living again so I became willing to truly deal with it all in a healthy way. Every time I stand before a crowd and share my story, my soul heals a bit more.

What's next for you?
I have been working on screenwriting as of late and am really enjoying diving into this creative area of writing.  I’ve written a screenplay for the book and a TV show based on it. I am now moving into a more fictional area.  I love to write and cannot imagine it not being a part of my life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

5 Questions with Ray Moynihan, author of "Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals"


What's this book all about for people who haven't heard?

The  book is about the making of the new big blockbuster medical condition -a condition called "Female Sexual Dy sfunction". It reveals how drug
companies are actually helping to construct some of the basic scientific
building blocks of this condition - in order to help build markets for their
new products.

How did the book come about?

I have been an investigative journalist reporting on the business of
healthcare for many years - and I became interetsed in the way part of drug
company marketing strategies were aimed at "creating the need" for their new
products. One of the ways they help to "create the need", is by shaping
perceptions of the conditions their drugs target.  In about 2002 I attended
a "medical education" seminar on female sexual dysfunction, and I realized
there was a big fascinating story here.

What's the main idea you want people to realize?

That marketing is merging with medical science - and that when they hear
claims about sexual disorders and dysfunctions being widespread- they need
to be a little skeptical.

What's the response been to the book?

Very positive. all over the world. The only important criticism that I have
seen has come from the association representing the pharmaceutical industry
in Australia. They accused me of using sex to sell something.

What's next for you?

Growing some vegetables, playing some music, doing some more dancing,
hanging out at the beach some more, and getting on with the journalism.

Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Questions with Simon Maier, author of "Speak like a President"

What's a quick tip to speak more like a president immediately?
Have one proposition and stick to it.

Which president was the best speaker? Clinton was excellent, Lincoln wasn't. George W Bush was actually extremely good too (as a speaker) but got little credit. That will change. Washington was excellent, but had problems with his teeth. Kennedy was fabulous and had a terrific writer (Ted Sorensen) working with him. FDR was measured and very good. If you want one only, then I'd pick Kennedy.

What's the greatest speech you've seen? A speech made in 2009 by Stephen Fry. And, as an option, a speech made by James Rubin who was President Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief Spokesman for the State Department. A third option was a speech made by Lord John Browne as CEO of BP. Barack Obama’s speech on November 10th 2009 at Ford Hood was extraordinary rhetoric. Brilliant – and that’s probably the greatest I’ve ever seen and heard from a politician.

What's a big mistake a lot of new speakers make?
Not understanding the people who comprise an audience, not knowing what your audience knows or doesn’t, not knowing what an audience needs or wants. Not understanding period. The other big mistake is that business speakers use vast quantities of PowerPoint. PowerPoint doesn’t make a bad speaker good or a dull subject more interesting. None of history’s great orators used PowerPoint. Also, many new speakers think that speeches are for themselves, not their audiences.

What's the best way to get back an audience if you're losing their attention? Tell a story that's relevant to your proposition and one that you know unequivocally will press people's buttons - and make it one that amuses; if the story’s slightly tilted against yourself, then that helps.

5 questions with "The Laws of Charisma" author Kurt W. Mortensen

Do you have any tips on how you can try and feel and radiate confidence when you're not really confident?

Lack of confidence can be summed up in one word: fear. Fear can be defined as a magnified doubt. All worries, questions, concerns, insecurities—can ultimately be traced back to fear in one form or another. Fear breeds doubt and doubt destroys confidence. You need to make sure that your confidence is bigger than your doubt. What does your audience really sense in you? Are you afraid to exercise confidence and charisma? The desire to overcome your fear needs to be bigger than the fear itself. When you are afraid, that fear will breed doubt and suck the energy right out of you. While it is okay to have fear, you must be able to handle and manage that fear. When you doubt yourself, doubt your abilities, others will doubt you and your charisma.

For people who are not very charismatic at all, what's a good easy way to get the ball rolling?

The challenge is that most think of charismatic people as movie stars, CEO’s, politicians, or even religious leaders. Sure we born with a few of the skills, but the studies show charisma can be learned. Remember with charisma that people want to be around you and be influenced by you. I would have an honest moment with yourself and choose the one area that is causing people not to want be around you or influenced by you. Find others in the workplace that that have that skill you want and watch how they use it with others.

Who is the most charismatic person you've met and what specifically made him or her so charismatic?

When I think of charisma, I think of Anthony Robbins. He is the author of Unlimited Power and made famous by having everyone in his audience walk on fire. You probably have seen him on an infomercial promoting personal development programs. Stop and watch him and you will see the definition of energy and charisma. He can engage an audience for 4 straight days and those events will last very late into the evening. He is so powerful, engaging and charismatic that his audience does not realize they have been with Tony for over 12 hours. His transfer of vision and hope cause him to be charismatic.

What is the biggest breakthrough you've made in your life in terms of getting to the next level of charisma?

My biggest breakthrough during my life was the ability to influence others. We all influence for a living and need to make sure we have mastered this skill. I learned that the ability to influence others how they want to be influenced was a critical factor not only to success, but with charisma. Long gone are the days of force, the data dump, closing skills and hype. People are more skeptical than ever before and if you don’t know how to influence the right way – there will be no charisma.

Out of the Four Core Qualities of Charismatic People, which one is most difficult to master for the vast majority of people?

The most difficult charismatic quality for most people to master is the ability to communicate and present their ideas. Yes, this would be your presentation skills. The studies show that the ability to give presentations is the most critical skill needed to move up in today’s business environment. Charismatic people have excellent communication skills that captive, inspire and rivet the audience. They can articulate their vision and make that vision come alive in the audience’s mind. Communication includes phone skills, face-to-face interactions, group presentations, negotiations, and even text and email. How are your presentation skills?