Author Chris McGoff Releases Book On New Peak Performance


For the last 30 years, Chris McGoff has perfected the art of conveying complex ideas and enduring wisdom in both direct terms and in deeply engaging, actionable ways in order to assist businesses, governments, international organizations, associations, NGOs, and others in engendering new and transformative possibilities.

The fact is that the act of creating an organization, in and of itself, is a noble and mighty endeavor. We all desire to create something that resonates far beyond our own lives – something that makes a real contribution to the world. But to do so requires unshakable courage and lifelong dedication. It takes the ability to intentionally shape and live in a culture that demands peak performance from every player, on every level.

Through an engaging, interactive discussion, Chris shares how anyone, on any level of an organization, can be the driver of a peak performance culture. He delves into what this takes, revealing principles that any group can use to understand, shape and sustain a peak performance culture over a lifetime…and beyond.

Chris McGoff has spent the last 30 years assisting businesses and governments in engendering new and transformative possibilities. The author of both The PRIMES: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., copyright © 2012), a compendium of 46 universal patterns of high performance, and Match in the Root Cellar: How You Can Spark a Peak Performance Culture (Advantage Media Group, copyright © 2017), Chris speaks to how any one, on any level in an organization, can drive a culture that demands peak performance. How to achieve this culture is based on those PRIMES – patterns of behavior that, once recognized, can be referred to using a shared language to effectively communicate and solve problems in ambiguous and challenging environments.




About the book


What would it be like to work in a place that drove you, inspired you, gave you honest feedback as well as unlimited support and encouragement…and you were eager to return the same? If you had the right tools to create this environment, imagine what would be possible for you, your team, and your customers.

There is an ideal organizational culture, where your team understands and whole-heartedly believes in why your organization exists, where even the most complex tasks are accomplished with relative ease, and where the customers’ needs are second to none. It is a place of shared intention, focus, and passion – it’s incredible, and it’s in your power to make it happen.

In his newest book, Match in the Root Cellar: How You Can Sparka Peak Performance Culture , author Chris McGoff illustrates how you can make this happen, even in the face of adversity. Match in the Root Cellar follows the story of Carolyn Qualey, a CEO who finds herself immersed in a broken, sullen culture who discovers that even in the midst of darkness, we all have the ability to shine.

McGoff explains that anyone in an organization – in any position – has the ability to strike the match, to repel a dark default organizational culture and stand for something better and, in doing so, change everything.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but if you have courage and remain persistent, it will happen.

2819 Vaulx Lane, Nashville, TN 37204
Angelle Barbazon
(615) 928-2462

Renowned Brand Strategist Fabian Geyrhalter wants to empower any venture to turn into an admired brand


From the Author of the #1 Bestseller “How to Launch a Brand” comes “Bigger Than This”
Renowned Brand Strategist Fabian Geyrhalter wants to empower any venture to turn into an admired brand, regardless of their product or service offering

LOS ANGELES, CA –– What do brands like Planet Fitness, Everlane, and Bombas all have in common? They’re capturing peoples’ emotions and winning customers’ hearts. And they are based on commodity products or services.

Following the success of his #1 bestselling book, “How to Launch a Brand,” acclaimed brand strategist Fabian Geyrhalter is back with an enlightening new book that digs deep into today’s new world of brand creation. “Bigger Than This” challenges companies – from startups to Fortune 100s – to (re)discover their spark and connect with today’s consumers on a deeper level.

In “Bigger Than This,” Geyrhalter analyzes brands that are based on commodity products – watches, socks, shoes, fish – yet they quickly turn into beloved brands. He emphasizes the importance of storytelling, encouraging brands to embrace 8 simple traits these brands showcase and offers specific, actionable commandments that any brand can implement – story, belief, cause, heritage, delight, transparency, solidarity and individuality. Instead of playing “dress-up,” he wants businesses to uncover the roots of their ventures and share honest, empathetic stories that resonate with consumers, creating a loyal following that leads to strong, successful brands.

Delightfully concise and refreshing, Geyrhalter draws on his personal experience of having helped shape over 60 brands, and intentionally (and noticeably) steps away from marketing fluff and business lingo that often clouds the integrity of marketing books.

Fabian Geyrhalter is a renowned brand strategist and the founder and Principal of FINIEN, a Los Angeles-based consultancy specializing in turning ventures into brands. Geyrhalter is also a columnist for Inc and Forbes, and he has been published by the likes of The Washington Post, Mashable, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post. He is an advisory board member of Santa Monica College and has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California and Art Center College of Design. A frequent speaker and mentor to entrepreneurs worldwide, he is a “Global 100” mentor at the Founder Institute, and his book “How to Launch a Brand” is a #1 Amazon Bestseller. His newest book is “Bigger Than This.” He lives and works in Long Beach, California and is a graduate of Art Center College of Design.





About the book


“Bigger Than This”
How to turn any venture into an admired brand
Fabian Geyrhalter • January 23, 2018 • Brandtro
$14.95 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-9896461-7-8
Business & Economics • Business Management • Marketing • Entrepreneurship
“Bigger Than This” is a quick read about the deceptively difficult task of turning your venture into an admired brand.
Inspired by a new wave of commodity brands that is winning hearts, using the eight traits and their commandments in this book will guide you to your specific path to turning your venture, may that be a commodity product or a hot startup, into a better, more beloved brand.


“Fabian Geyrhalter quickly moves beyond the clichés, identifying key building blocks of an authentic brand and specific ways to leverage them. Brands need not be radically new to inspire passion, he argues, but thoughtful and honest in finding, telling and embracing their story. Perhaps most refreshingly, Geyrhalter’s impatience for marketing fluff and business-speak keeps him focused on sharing insights for action. Bigger Than This is no collection of philosophical musings, but rather a guidebook for finding the potential in even the most mundane product or service.”
– David Glaze, Creative Director, Amazon



An Interview with Fabian Geyrhalter


Does a brand have to offer a radically new and unique product to spark interest among consumers?
Given today’s world filled with hot startups that are fueled by tech innovation and are disrupting one segment after the next, the surprising answer is: No.

How is it possible for a company that manufactures mundane commodity products, like staplers or socks, to feel “special” to the general public?
These commodity companies that quickly turn into beloved brands all realized that they need to find a story that is bigger than their offering. In “Bigger Than This” I analyzed that all of these ventures lead with branding rather than product. By using empathy with their audience, they found ways to tell bigger stories that immediately resonated with their new audiences. These stories are based on shared values, beliefs, heritage, individuality, just to name a few.

What does it take to launch a brand in 2018? How do you turn any venture into a brand in 2018?
Either disruptive innovation or brilliant brand thinking. If you lack innovation, which many companies do, you have to carefully align your offering with a specific audience and a shared belief. What these common beliefs are, and how to uncover them for your own venture, is what I discuss in the book.

How do you go about creating a brand? How is a name and an identity crafted?
It really is half science, half art. And emotional intelligence combined with experience, that obviously helps too. Before I start to even think about a name or a visual design language, I lead an intense one-day workshop with the company’s founders to dive deep into the, what I call, AND?DNA. The AND?DNA is the search for something that is not necessarily inherent in the DNA of their offering but in the DNA of a carefully crafted and authentic brand story, which I derive together with the founders that day. When they introduce their, sometimes very basic, products to consumers, the natural question anyone would ask is, “And?” – as in, “And why should I buy these very basic shoes?” Great brands can answer the “And?” question with an intriguing, convincing and honest answer that adds a new layer to the brand’s DNA: the story. Once we have that story, the name and identity follows suit and is based on it.

What brands consistently impress you through a brand marketing lens?
Planet Fitness for excluding the many to gain the few with their “Judgement Free Zone” fitness centers. The “few” being over 6 million members. Fishpeople Seafood for putting “people back in seafood” making the journey of where your food comes from transparent and engaging. Everlane for their radical transparency going as far as shaving off $25 of their bestselling product overnight, citing lower production costs. These are all remarkable, and consistent, brand moves. I could keep going on and on…

Your consultancy’s work has mainly been with Silicon Valley startups and Fortune 500s. How did you get fascinated with startup commodity brands?
Now that is a great question as it really sounds downside up. Well, it is “easy” to craft a brand around an exciting new product or a service that piggy-backs on a Fortune 500’s brand legacy, but one day I realized that some really hot new startup companies, famously TOMs with their 1-for-1-movement, are actually based on complete commodity products, so I set out on an Inc/Fast Company/Forbes/Entrepreneur/Harvard Business Review diet – as I like to call it – for a few months straight, trying to find more brands that have mundane products but through great brand strategy launched to near-immediate fame. It’s fascinating to me, on many levels. If these brands can make it, just imagine how my innovative startup or Fortune 500 clients, and now my readers, can benefit using their successful brand traits. I wanted to uncover and share that.

What is more important, a great product or a great story?
A great product. You can not rise to fame with a sub-par product in 2018, but you can with a normal, mundane product coupled with a great brand story.

How has branding changed over the past few decades? What does the future hold?
Branding changed from being advertising-based to being human-based. I clearly remember how I started writing this book on the Saturday before Halloween and it came to me that dressing up for Halloween is a great analogy for how many educated consumers see branding: a fake persona is crafted to evoke emotions from a specific audience in order to achieve a predetermined goal. It sounds as calculated as it in fact can be, but this approach is on its way out. Brands are being forced to leave the costumes to humans during Halloween. Instead they opt for complete transparency and engaging, open conversations because of the rise of social media and the birth of a generation ready to participate, as long as the brand’s approach is inclusive and amicable. We will see this trend of empathetic branding continue on, and we’ll see Fortune 500s struggle to adapt to that new era.

If an entrepreneur picks up your book and follows its advice, are they guaranteed to turn their business into a brand?
If they have a well manufactured product, or a good service – again, it doesn’t need to be anything innovative – and they are open to transforming into a story-based brand, this book will definitely provide them with all the inspiration necessary to turn into a true brand.
2819 Vaulx Lane, Nashville, TN 37204
Angelle Barbazon
(615) 928-2462

Author Andrew Rowen retells the history of Columbus’ voyage with Native American voice in compelling new novel “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold” offers fresh, bicultural perspective written at the 525th anniversary


NEW YORK – With 2017 marking the 525th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World, author Andrew Rowen is releasing a new historical novel, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold,” on Nov. 8, 2017 that dramatically recasts the epic voyage that has shaped cultures, religions and ideologies for centuries.

Most literature relating the history of Columbus’ voyage and first encounters with Native Americans focuses principally — whether pro- or anti-Columbus — on Columbus and the European perspective. Rowen’s historical novel now dramatizes these events from a bicultural perspective. It fictionalizes the beliefs, thoughts, and actions of the Native Americans who met Columbus and places their viewpoints alongside those of the explorer himself and other Europeans, all based on a close reading of Columbus’ “Journal,” other primary sources, and modern anthropological studies.

“Encounters Unforeseen” gives insight into the mindsets and backgrounds of key Taíno and European protagonists, including Columbus, Spain’s Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, three historic Taíno chieftains — Caonabó, Guacanagarí, and Guarionex — and a Taíno captive seized by Columbus. Rowen’s portrayals of the Taíno protagonists presents them as neither victims nor statistics, but as personalities and actors comparable to the Europeans. Their side of the story is forcefully told.

Rowen also explores stark social differences between Taínos and Europeans, including their religions, slavery, and notions of private property, and dramatizes the collision of Taíno spirits with Christ and the Virgin Mary. The novel carefully depicts conversations that primary sources indicate occurred, and Rowen weaves fascinating stories around documented incidents. “Encounters Unforeseen” presents a remarkably insightful and fresh look at one of the seminal events that reshaped the course of world history.

Andrew Rowen is a U.C. Berkeley and Harvard Law graduate who practiced law as a partner of a major New York City law firm for almost 30 years prior to retiring to write his first novel, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold.” He devoted six years to research and traveled to nearly all the Caribbean, European and Atlantic locations where the book’s action takes place, including the archaeological sites where the Taíno chieftains lived in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He has long been interested in the roots of religious intolerance.




About the book


Book Details

Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold
Andrew Rowen | Nov. 8, 2017 | All Persons Press
$32.95 (hardcover) $12.99 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-0-9991961-0-6 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-9991961-1-3 (ebook)
Historical Fiction


Advance Praise

“Amazing! The lives, loves, victories and defeats of the Taíno Indians are just as meticulously and poignantly brought to life as Columbus, his famous voyage and Queen Isabel’s court. A sprawling, globe-trotting, all-consuming tour de force illuminating all sides of the epic cultural clash that created the New World.” – Trey Ellis, Platitudes, Home Repairs, Right Here, Right Now

“The encounter of Columbus and Native Caribbean peoples set in motion events that created the modern world. History books provide brief accounts, but what was the Encounter really like, what did it mean, how was it expressed, in simple, human terms?  Andrew Rowen transports us to this moment of creation, and does so by tracing the lives of the main protagonists. This is a fascinating story of enmeshed lives, and the consequences of new worlds. It is written with scrupulous detail to historical accuracy, and, even knowing how it will end, the prose is an imaginative and entertaining portrait of a past we could not otherwise experience.” – William F. Keegan, Curator of Caribbean Archaeology, Florida Museum of Natural History, Talking Taíno, Taíno Indian Myth and Practice, The People Who Discovered Columbus, forthcoming Columbus was a Cannibal (and so are we)



An Interview with Andrew Rowen

The 525th anniversary of Columbus’ historic voyage is this year. Why should people reflect on it today, and what does “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold” add to our understanding of it?
The voyage and ensuing encounters dramatically altered the course of world history by initiating and influencing the subsequent European settlement of the Americas, which molded the religious, social, and cultural fabric of the New World we live in today. All school children are taught about Columbus and the voyage; a day and countless places — cities, towns, streets, plazas, etc. — are named in his honor; he’s praised by many for being self-taught and self-made, his courage and incredible perseverance through adversity, and his astonishing ability as a mariner; and he’s reviled by Native Americans and many others for the atrocities he committed and the centuries of oppression he initiated. Most of us have thought about the voyage at some time as we try to understand how we as a people became who we are.

As they say, history is told by the conquerors, and most of us have been taught the story of the voyage from the conquering European perspective. “Encounters Unforeseen” attempts to recount what actually happened and how that was understood from both the conquerors’ and the conquered’s perspectives, considering primary sources closely and letting the reader decide among viewpoints.

Understanding the conquereds’ viewpoint pushes us to remember the tragedy that continues to haunt Native Americans and to consider our society as an outsider would. More fundamentally, “Encounters Unforeseen” forces us to confront the disturbing possibility that modernity doesn’t necessarily involve improvement in all aspects of the human condition, as the civility and tolerance of the society and religion conquered are now often lacking in the modern societies and religions we have inherited.

What kind of research went into writing “Encounters Unforeseen?” Did you discover anything unexpected?
I spent six years researching the history leading to the voyage in primary and secondary sources. My Spanish is rudimentary, but sufficient to labor through texts not translated into English.

I believe that understanding the physical environment where events took place is important to their comprehension, providing clues as to what people might have thought or felt five centuries prior. Standing at the beaches of Bord de Mer de Limonade, Haiti, or on San Salvador’s west coast; in the open field at the Corral de los Indios in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic; atop the western cliffs of Porto Santo, Portugal; or on the quay in the tiny harbor at San Sebastian, Gomera, Canary Islands, has shaped my depiction of those thoughts and feelings.

Although I was familiar with some indigenous societies and polytheistic religions prior to commencing my research, Taíno society and religion and the Taíno protagonists were entirely new to me and a fascinating subject to explore.

But the “surprises” came mostly from learning things about Columbus and the voyage which I never knew or had forgotten. Prior to 1492, he sailed to Greece and Africa — where he would have witnessed slave trading of both European and non-European peoples — and possibly London and Iceland. Isabella and Ferdinand’s key advisors who reviewed or promoted the voyage were “conversos,” Christians whose ancestors had converted from Judaism — and then the target of the Spanish Inquisition. The Pinta deserted the voyage off Cuba. There were lots of others, many included in the book.

Why did you choose this period of history to focus on in your first book?
There’s a lot of historical literature which presents in the same book both European and Native American voices, mostly commencing with the 17th century and with some selections in prior eras. But there aren’t many such works focused on Columbus’ voyage, so I thought there was a need to write one. More importantly, I’ve always been interested in the roots of religious intolerance, and the Spanish history of the time period — including the Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the subjugation and Christianization of the Canary Islands, all closely prelude to Columbus’ voyage — and then the Christianization of the New World commencing with Columbus, drew me to write about it.

How does this book stray from traditional Columbus narratives?
While others may disagree, I believe “Encounters Unforeseen” generally incorporates a traditional academic view of what happened on the European side, following for the most part histories written by Samuel Eliot Morison, Paolo Emilio Taviani, and others. Historians disagree among themselves about what happened, and the primary sources leave much unknown or in doubt even on the European side, and I have had to make choices to decide what to depict. “Encounters Unforeseen” is researched historical fiction, dramatizing events with a specificity that the historical record simply doesn’t support — but in a manner I believe consistent with the historical record.

The larger difference between “Encounters Unforeseen” and traditional Columbus narratives is the bicultural approach and the inclusion of a speculative Taíno history. The Taínos had no written history, and the only contemporaneous written accounts of their society are by their conquerors, reflecting the conquerors’ knowledge and perspective and sometimes lacking credibility.

The novel’s Taíno stories depict both events known to have occurred (e.g., the chieftains’ ascensions to power, a prophecy of genocide, the captive’s baptism in Spain) and known practices or experiences (e.g., hunting, inter-island canoe travel, a hurricane, a Caribe wife raid, a batey game). The stories are fictionalized based on descriptions of Taíno culture in the writings of contemporary Europeans (such as Peter Martyr d’Anghera, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Ramón Pané, and Columbus himself) and 21st century anthropologists, archaeologists, and linguists. Commencing Oct. 12, 1492, the stories are constructed by extrapolating from the conquerors’ day-to-day accounts of the encounter (to the extent credible), including Columbus’ “Journal,” the biography written by his son Ferdinand, and Las Casas’ “Historia de las Indias,” what the Taínos then experienced — fictionalizing the conquered’s account to mirror the conquerors’.

Similar to European historians, Taíno anthropologists and other experts also disagree among themselves as to how the Taínos lived, and here, too, I’ve also had to make choices in what to depict.

Is this a pro- or anti-Columbus book? What is your opinion of Columbus?
As many of us, my boyhood education focused mostly on Columbus’ great perseverance and exceptional ability as a navigator and discoverer, not his treatment of Native Americans. I’ve tried hard to shed this overarching perspective and, through book research, reconstruct him piece by piece by identifying facts or probable facts in the historic record that can be relied upon. As all the protagonists in “Encounters Unforeseen,” I’ve researched his life and writings through his death, and seen that — as most of us — his outlook and temperament changed over his lifetime. Above all, I’ve tried hard not to care whether particular scenes in the book show him to be good or bad. As with each character, my goal has been to depict validly what he did and thought at various points of his life — be it good or bad — as I determine the record most likely supports.

“Encounters Unforeseen” ends in 1493, largely before Columbus commits the atrocities in his treatment of Native Americans. The book thus depicts many of the admirable qualities many see in Columbus, while at the same time showing his thoughts to embody the concepts underlying the European subjugation of Native Americans over the next centuries.

Do you have plans to write more books?
Yes. I’ve completed most of the research for sequels dealing with Columbus’ subjugation of the Taíno homeland, and the protagonists introduced in “Encounters Unforeseen” will be followed through their deaths. The sequels will explore — from a bicultural view, of course — the horrific story of the slaughter, religious contempt, servitude, and slavery that ensued.

What eventually happened to the Taino people, and are there still traces of their culture in the Caribbean?
The Taíno people largely suffered genocide other than in isolated areas, but their blood, culture, and spirit has survived through intermarriage. Throughout the Caribbean, there has been a reawakening that many people have varying degrees of Taíno ancestry.

What sparked your interest in religious intolerance?
As a boy, I always found the biblical requirement to worship one true God suspicious, perhaps designed more for a religion’s benefit than my own. I think that suspicion matured to an interest in the more general question whether religious doctrine itself is one of the roots of religious intolerance. From a practical perspective, I’m interested in the question whether religious beliefs themselves motivate military or political aims or religious justifications are merely used to support military or political aims — it’s hard to open a newspaper these days without asking that. I see both, and both are depicted in “Encounters Unforeseen.”

Did you feel drawn to one particular figure in your book?
While I’ve tried hard not to, the captive, who has a plight barely describable.

If you could be a fly on the wall at any event in your book, which would you choose?
When Guacanagarí hosts Columbus in his bohío on December 28, 1492 (with the captive translating), when perhaps the first friendship between a Native American chieftain and European explorer is formed — a moment soon tragically lost to history. If only things had proceeded differently thereafter.

What will history buffs, teachers, and academics enjoy about this book?
It’s a historic novel, closely researched, and they will appreciate that it gives both a rounded explanation of the European and Atlantic world history, as well as reasoned speculation as to the Taíno.

The Isabella and Ferdinand stories include their establishment of the Inquisition, subjugation and Christianization of the Canary Islands, completion of the Reconquista, and expulsion of the Jews from Spain, illustrating European doctrines of conquest, enslavement, and involuntary conversion and how the sovereigns ruled over Old World peoples before encountering Native Americans. The Columbus stories portray his pre-1492 sailing experiences and the evolution of his world outlook. Stark societal differences are illustrated, with the Europeans practicing slavery and the Taínos sharing food as communal property. The narrative carefully dramatizes conversations that Columbus or Bartolomé de Las Casas indicate occurred.

The narrative often incorporates text from primary sources, and a “Sources” section provides citations. It also briefly discusses interpretations of historians, anthropologists, and others contrary to my presentation and issues of academic disagreement.

“Encounters Unforeseen” also reflects some historical information infrequently focused on, such as: the identity of all the Taínos taken to Europe and their known survival and activities; and the Taíno chieftains’ encounters with the Pinta’s crew, which arrives in Haiti/the Dominican Republic prior to Columbus, discussed by witnesses in the Columbian lawsuits. The book’s Atlantic world perspective integrates African themes and events.
2819 Vaulx Lane, Nashville, TN 37204
Angelle Barbazon
(615) 928-2462

Poetry meets thriller in a crime-fighting adventure through Manhattan Award-winning poet Aaron Poochigian releasing novel in verse, ‘Mr. Either/Or’


FRESNO, Cal. – Never cosied up to modern poetry? Loved choose-your-own adventures as a child? Aaron Poochigian has blended the best of both to create an absolute masterpiece that’s accessible to poetry’s newcomers with language rich enough to intrigue even the most devout poetry reader. A poetry epic for the modern age, “Mr. Either/Or” (Etruscan Press, Oct. 10, 2017) sweeps you away with atmospheric rhythms into a story where you, the reader, are the hero.

About the Book: In a world made of rhythms and rhymes you are a government spy undercover as an NYU undergrad—today, you’re cutting classes: Bureau Director One has ordered you to bring in the Dragon’s Claw, a jade box which, according to Chinese legend, contains the apocalypse. Will you recover the artifact from the reclusive Heinrik Van Raadsel before Maoist gangsters known as The Righteous Fists of Harmony unleash its catastrophic power on New York City?

etruscan logoLi-ling Levine, young but cantankerous curator of the Met Museum’s Asian Wing, knows everything, including how to neutralize the threat, but can you endure her haughtiness? Do opposites repel or attract? The answers are out there but, to find them, you must survive an erotic massage parlor, a gang war in Harlem, subway tunnels lousy with mole-men, and the nighttime secrets of the Met Museum.

About the Author: Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His book of translations from Sappho, “Stung With Love,” was published by Penguin Classics in 2009, and his translation of Apollonius’ “Jason and the Argonauts” was released October 2014. For his work in translation he was awarded a 2010-2011 Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book of original poetry, “The Cosmic Purr” (Able Muse Press), was published in 2012 and, winner of the 2016 Able Muse Poetry Prize, his second book “Manhattanite” will be out in the Fall of 2017. His thriller in verse, “Mr. Either/Or,” will be released by Etruscan Press in Fall of 2017. His work has appeared in such journals as “The Guardian,” “POETRY” and “The Times Literary Supplement.”

Poochigian is creating poetry intended for all readers, and his new campaign #SavePoetry, serves to get poetry back into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Follow along @Poochigian on Twitter.




About the book


Mr. Either/Or
Aaron Poochigian | Oct. 10, 2017 | Etruscan Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9977455-2-8 | Price: $15.00
Poetry | Literary | Thriller

Mr. Either/Or” is an ingenious debut, melding American mythology, Noir thriller and Classical epic in language in which gritty rhythms, foreboding overtones and groovy jams surround you like an atmosphere. Imagine Byron’s Don Juan on a high-stakes romp through a Raymond Chandler novel. Think Hamlet in Manhattan with a license to kill.


Advance Praise

“Aaron Poochigian’s ‘Mr. Either/Or’ is the most significant verse novel since at least Vikram Seth’s best-selling ‘The Golden Gate’ of three decades ago, although Poochigian’s prosody and plotlines are more innovative than Seth’s. A kaleidoscopic fusion of the masterful verse of Richard Wilbur and the hipster wryness of Douglas Adams, this book combines multiple genres, high culture with pop culture, and grimness with exuberance. It is a memorable, challenging and entertaining read. —A.M. Juster, author of “The BIlly Collins Experience

“Welcome to Apollo’s Dinerette, where high and low alliterate and rhyme. Think of a Gen X Ovid channeling Dashiell Hammett in a hard-boiled Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, without the illusion of choice. Here we find periods Miltonic and Byronic, gleefully seething with cartoon villainy, pratfalls, B-movie clichés, and vivid brutality. ‘Mr. Either/Or’ is a pop art symphony — sprezzatura on the tongue, melisma in the mind — and a Zoroastrian epic of kitsch and contradiction, aware that “tension alone can keep the world in balance.” Also, it’s funny as hell. The bro-tastic Keanu of a protagonist may face many choices in these pages, but for you, there can be only one. Don’t choose poorly — read it!” —Chris Childers, poet and critic

“Mr Either/Or’ is like nothing else you will have read. You have to imagine Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, the script-writers of The Sopranos, Robert Browning and the author of Beowulf all being miraculously melded into one supremely talented writer, with a gift for rhyme, for metrical verse and for extravagant but spot-on metaphors. The story is entertaining, fast-moving and delightfully over-the-top. We move from mysterious Eastern legends of ‘The Dragon’s Claw’ (shades of Modesty Blaise?) to espionage-fiction with shades of gritty hardboiled, and finally to an imaginative parody of apocalyptic science-fiction. It all takes place in contemporary New York, which is described with a loving but acutely sardonic eye, from the gingko trees of Washington Square to Trump’s Palace poking ‘its crenellated top / over boutiques and consulates,’ from the ‘slick / avenues of primordial goo’ of the sewer system (complete with army of subterranean ‘troglodytes with dirt/ for skin, sporadic teeth and vermin eyes’), to the halls and galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, all culminating in a surreal grand finale with lizard-like invaders assaulting the mast on the roof of the New York Times Building. Poochigian alternates action-scenes in superbly handled alliterative verse in Anglo-Saxon style (scenes of gang-warfare, of fights with aliens, chases through the subway, through the galleries of the Met and across Manhattan by car) with deft narrative and dialogue in rhyming iambic pentameter. There is no other voice quite like this in contemporary fiction or contemporary poetry: ranging from coolly colloquial to wittily literate and, when called-for, straightforwardly thrilling. Poochigian is enjoying himself. Read this book and you will enjoy yourself too. That’s a guarantee.” —Gregory Dowling, author of the “Alvise Marangon Mystery” series


An Interview with Aaron Poochigian

Aaron-Poochigian-photoWhat inspired you to write this hybridization of modern poetry, epic, and thriller?
I want to find a broad audience for poetry, and snappy, un-put-down-able narrative verse is, I think, the best way to do it. Poets often complain that no one reads poetry anymore but, as I see it, the lack of interest is primarily the fault of the poets themselves who tend to alienate readers in various ways, rather than giving them something engaging and exciting. That’s what inspired me to write “Mr. Either/Or.” The novel brings together all of my great loves—epic poetry, genre fiction (noir and thriller), action films and Americana. I really don’t know what to call it—sometimes I call it a thriller, sometimes urban fantasy, sometimes an epic poem. The “action” mode was appealing to me for a number of reasons. First, because it is the opposite of most of the poetry that is being written today—it is not static, observational, meditative. Second, the adventures of the hero gave me, I confess, a purely escapist pleasure.

For someone who is inexperienced reading poetry, how would you recommend they approach the book, and why is this book more accessible than others?
Think of the book in terms of a “first-person shooter” video game and of an action film. First off, the hero of the novel is “you”—“you” are an undercover spy in New York City. You encounter the world through his eyes, as in a video game or in those “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” books I read when I was a kid. Second, in being like an action film, “Mr. Either/Or” is an “upgrade” to prose fiction in that the poetry provides a sound-track as in a film by alternating between free-rhymed lines for the exposition and the pounding rhythms of Beowulf for the action scenes.

How has this book differed from your previous work in poetry, and how has it grown your writing?
Mr. Either/Or” is different from my other work in that it is narrative and action-oriented. Because the hero “you” is a twenty-something, I had to charge up the book with his slang and idioms—with living language, the language of today and tomorrow, and his way of thinking and speaking brought my whole poetic style up to date. “Mr. Either/Or” taught me that poetry can be about anything—anything from shopping at Walgreens, to molemen living in subway tunnels, to alien invaders.

How does writing the book in second person change the narrative style and reader experience?
The reader gets to escape not only into the sensory experiences of the character but into his quirky mindset. Female readers get to learn what it is like to see the world as a male, and all readers get to have the adventures they always dreamed of having. In this sense, the book is similar to the film “Total Recall.”

What was your mindset in developing the music and rhythm of the book? What were you trying to convey with the atmosphere you created?
I just re-watched the film “The Matrix” the other night, and I was struck by the music in that film. The music and rhythms of “Mr. Either/Or” work in a similar way—the movements of the characters are not so much everyday movements as choreography. The whole poem is like a dance from beginning to end, like the fight scenes in “The Matrix.” This dance, when joined with the noir atmosphere, combine to make the book a unique sort of urban fantasy set in New York City—the sort of world I dreamed about while living there.
2819 Vaulx Lane, Nashville, TN 37204
Angelle Barbazon
(615) 928-2462

Louisiana jazz pianist and appellate attorney releases “Cashed Out,” the next novel in the Bayou Thriller Series


BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Film noir meets Southern gothic in Michael H. Rubin’s new novel, “Cashed Out,” releasing on Aug. 15, 2017, from Fiery Seas Publishing.

Holding $4 million of your dead client’s cash makes you everyone’s target. Following the success of his award-winning debut novel, “The Cottoncrest Curse,” Rubin’s “Cashed Out” combines both the allure of and the inherent danger in Louisiana’s bayous with the rush of a legal thriller in a page-turning journey that winds through sultry swamps, corrosive chemical plants, and a web of deceit involving murder, greed and redemption.

An enticing combination of Dashiell Hammett and James Lee Burke, Rubin’s writing style will blow readers away with his astute and adept handling of each and every character in this riveting story and will keep them coming back for book after book in his compelling Bayou Thriller Series.

CASHED OUT: One failed marriage. Two jobs lost. Three maxed out credit cards. “Schex” Schexnaydre was a failure as a lawyer. Until three weeks ago, he had no clients and no cash. Well, no clients except for infamous toxic waste entrepreneur G.G. Guidry, who’s just been murdered. And no cash, except for the $4,452,737 Guidry had stashed with him for safekeeping.

When Schex’s estranged ex-wife is accused of killing Guidry, she pleads with him to defend her. He refuses, but the more Schex says no to her, the more he becomes entangled in the fall-out from Guidry’s schemes and the target of those who want Guidry’s money, careening from the swamps and marshes of Louisiana’s chemical corridor to the deep water oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, from the industrial plants that pollute minority neighborhoods to the privileged playgrounds of New Orleans’ crime syndicate bosses, all in an attempt to clear his name and claim Guidry’s cash for himself.

Michael H. Rubin is a former professional jazz pianist who has performed in several states, as well as in clubs in the New Orleans French Quarter. He also is a former radio and television announcer, a nationally known speaker and humorist who has given over 400 presentations throughout the country, and a full-time practicing attorney who helps manage a law firm with offices from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. His debut novel, “The Cottoncrest Curse,” won the IndieFab Book of the Year Gold Award as the best thriller and suspense novel published by a university or independent press. “Cashed Out” is his latest novel. He won the Burton Award for Outstanding Writing given at the Library of Congress and is a member of the Author’s Guild, the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and the International Association of Crime Writers




Book Details for Cashed Out

cashed-out-book-coverMichael H. Rubin
Aug. 15, 2017
Fiery Seas Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-946143-19-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-946143-18-1 (ebook)
Legal Thriller

“If you like John Grisham and Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer, you’re gonna love “Schex” Schexnaydre – a down-and-out-attorney who breaks all the rules looking for some kind of justice. Fast, funny and filled with twists and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Michael H. Rubin really nails it!” – R.G. Belsky, author of the Gil Malloy mystery series

“Michael H. Rubin catapults his main character, Schex Schexnaydre, into impossible situations, and the tension never lets up. Schex finds himself engulfed in a series of seemingly inescapable physical and mental traps. And then…neither our hero nor the reader has a way out of the growing, chilling suspense until the surprising conclusion.” – Steven W. Kohlhagen, author of “Where They Bury You” and “The Point of a Gun”

“Michael H. Rubin’s new legal thriller is filled with great local color, entertaining characters, and plenty of action. Cashed Out goes beyond the typical setting and deeper into Louisiana in a way that makes the reader feel she’s being pushed down the bayou at breakneck speed. It’s fresh, exciting, and well-paced. I’ll be watching for the next in the series for sure. Five Stars!” –Manning Wolf, author of the thriller, “Dollar Signs”

Twitter: @MichaelHRubin


About the Author

mike-rubin-photoMichael H. Rubin is a former professional jazz pianist and composer who has performed in several states, as well as in clubs in the New Orleans French Quarter. He also is a television and radio host; a public speaker and humorist; and a full-time practicing trial and appellate attorney who helps manage a law firm with offices from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. His unique blend of scholarship and humor has made him a sought-after, nationally-known speaker who has given over 400 presentations throughout the U.S., Canada, and England to a variety of groups ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional organizations to community and religious groups.

Rubin has received the prestigious Burton Award at the Library of Congress for outstanding writing. His debut novel, “The Cottoncrest Curse,” won the IndieFab Book of the Year Gold Award as the best thriller and suspense novel published by a university or independent press.

Combining an informal approach with scholarship, thought-provoking commentary, and humor, Rubin has created a signature audio-visual presentation style using a computer and a projector to illustrate his substantive talks. Consisting of a constantly moving and shifting display of multiple layers of photos, illustrations, and words, nothing remains static on the screen for long, and everything is timed to reinforce Rubin’s rapid-fire, in-depth analysis. Attendees at Rubin’s programs have given him enthusiastic ratings, including “Best talk I ever heard,” “Rubin was great,” and “Fantastic.”

Locations where Rubin has wowed audiences with his unique presentation style include: Atlanta, Austin, Beverly Hills, Boston, Bretton Woods, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Destin, Honolulu, Hot Springs, Houston, Jackson (Mississippi), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Lexington, Lincoln (Nebraska), London (England), Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Orange Beach, Orlando, Palm Beach, Point Clear (Alabama), Poipu (Hawaii), Providence, Reno, Rockport, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Savannah, Seattle, Shreveport, Sun Valley, Toronto, Vancouver, Virginia Beach, Harvard Law School, Georgetown Law School, Hastings Law School, and the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.

Rubin’s presentations about both the history behind the mystery of “The Cottoncrest Curse” and the background of “Cashed Out” are not dry, talking-head lectures or boring readings. Each consists of a 20-minute fast-paced multimedia presentation that captivates audiences, as he ties the situations and issues in the book about which he is speaking to local concerns and events in the geographic area where he is giving his talk.

He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the International Association of Crime Writers.

An Interview with Michael H. Rubin

Both of your books are deeply rooted in Southern culture. What makes the Deep South such a great backdrop for a mystery?

Those who know the Deep South only by its reputation often confuse stereotypes for reality. Those who have visited the area or live in it are well aware of the unique complexity created by its combination of geography, climate, war, waves of both slaves and free immigrants, and the continuous swirl of religious, racial, and regional antagonisms. It is the palpable tension between all of these factors that makes the Deep South as much of a character in my mystery/thrillers as the protagonists.

Your characters are complex, and the plotlines in your books are equally thought provoking. Can you tell us more about your writing process?

During the daily 4:30 a.m. power walks that my wife, Ayan (who is also my writing partner) and I take, we talk through the characters, their backgrounds and motivations, possible plot lines, and the arc of each story. Thus, by the time I sit down to work on the first draft, we have fleshed out the beginning, middle, and end of the novel together. However, we don’t write a detailed outline of each chapter in advance, because part of the fun of writing is to discover things we hadn’t initially considered and to let the story and characters take on a life of their own as our writing process continues.

You’ve had a variety of interesting career paths – jazz musician, attorney, professor – how have all those professions influenced your writing?

I used to play jazz piano professionally in bars, clubs and restaurants in several states, as well as in the New Orleans French Quarter. I still play piano every day. Playing jazz is like writing a novel. Both involve working creatively around a theme. In jazz, the theme is melody and chord structure. In a novel, the theme is the plot. When I play and compose music and when my wife and I conceptualize our tales, we use the theme as the jumping off point from which we create our own interpretations, freely improvising within an identifiable structure. Writing a novel is like that for us. Our goal is to creatively use words to develop a plot line into a meaningful story, flesh-out the characters, reveal things that readers might not previously know or have thought of (or that neither my wife nor I might have considered when initially formulating a story), and move the plot along to a satisfying conclusion.

As an attorney, my job is to dispassionately evaluate facts, consider legal issues where there is no “clear” answer, and devise a strategy to accomplish a goal that is just. As an author, I’m always striving to show that most of life not only consists of ambiguities, but also consists of differences in how the people evaluate the same facts but come to different conclusions. A compelling novel should draw readers in to work through the ambiguities and lead them to a conclusion that is unexpected but which neatly ties up all the loose ends.

As a law professor I use the “Socratic” method and teach by posing hypotheticals and asking my students questions rather than just lecturing to them. As a novelist my goal is to create compelling plotlines that revolve around universal ethical and moral choices within the context of a page-turning thriller.

How do you balance legal accuracy in your books with the fast pace necessary to entertain readers?

Writing a thriller involves a different process than writing a legal treatise, primarily because it is not incumbent upon the fiction writer to footnote every statement to verify its accuracy. On the other hand, without a solid grounding in the legal intricacies that underpin storylines and plot points, my novels would sacrifice credibility. No legal thriller should devolve into a law school lecture. However, if the law is glossed over or portrayed inaccurately, it is a disservice to both the reader and the tale. My goal is to incorporate just enough of a legal context to create believability without bogging the story down in minutiae.

You’re an accomplished pianist – do you listen to music while you write?

As a former professional musician, music is always “foreground” to me, not background. So, when I’m writing, music is a distraction, because I find myself concentrating on it rather than on the manuscript. Having music play while I’m writing is like trying to whisper a secret while someone else is yelling in your ear. On the other hand, I listen to music to relax and still make time to play jazz piano every day, even when traveling.

What will fans of your debut novel, “The Cottoncrest Curse,” like about “Cashed Out?”

While “Cashed Out” is a stand-alone contemporary legal thriller, many of the key characters are descendants of characters in “The Cottoncrest Curse,” which is a work of historical fiction whose storyline takes place from the Civil War era to the Civil Rights era. Though one does not have to have read “The Cottoncrest Curse” to enjoy “Cashed Out,” readers of my first novel will be able to understand why the primary characters in the second book of the Bayou Thriller Series exhibit `some of the same proclivities as their predecessors. Moreover, both novels are set in the unique environs of Louisiana, with its complex gumbo of French aristocracy, rural Cajuns, Spaniards, Italians, and Germans, of slaves and freemen of color, and of keelboaters, farmers, privateers, pirates, politicians, organized crime, and entrepreneurs.

What can readers look forward to in the next installment of the Bayou Thriller Series?

The next novel in the Bayou Thriller Series is “Sanction,” a contemporary legal thriller involving Mardi Gras madness, mutilated prostitutes, crooked cops, corporate corruption, courtroom chicanery, big oil, big deals, and big problems. A variety of strange coincidences cascade through the boardrooms and bedrooms of sultry New Orleans. Or, are they really coincidences? As in “Cashed Out,” the key characters in “Sanction” are descendants of some of the primary denizens of “The Cottoncrest Curse.”

Tell us about how you came up with the title to the book and about the cover design.

My wife came up with the title. We wanted a name that simultaneously conjured up both the fact that the novel revolves around more than $4 million in cash stashed in a suitcase, and the fact that the owner of the cash had been murdered.

The cover design grew out of a very rough sketch my wife and I drew to visually depict our storyline. The talented artist Fiery Seas Publishing assigned to this project did a remarkable job bringing our cover concept to life. We were aiming for a cover that telegraphed the fact that our thriller involves both millions and murder. The cash bulging out of the suitcase, the blood dripping onto it, and the dollar sign in the “S” of the title graphically bring our storyline to the fore.

What is the best advice you’ve received as an author? What is the harshest criticism? What have you learned, or can others learn, from either? What advice might you give to aspiring authors?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is the one many fledging writers get but find hard to put into practice—show, don’t tell. A novel isn’t a textbook. A novel isn’t a history lesson. A novel isn’t a rushed outline. A novel shouldn’t be dry and pedantic. A novel should be so compelling that readers feel as if they are completely “in” the story, and not outside merely peering in.

As you might imagine from this, the harshest criticism I received when I was starting out was that I was telling, not showing. It took quite a few rewrites to learn how to show and not tell.

In addition to the useful advice I received about showing and not telling, the other invaluable advice was “don’t give up; just keep writing and refining.” Almost no one writes a classic in one draft. Few do so in two. It has been said that mastering any skill requires 10,000 hours, whether it is playing an instrument or learning to write fiction. My wife is my best friend, my co-author, my editor, and my critic. She revises and rewrites, cutting out excess verbiage, stilted language, boring paragraphs, and any tangents I may have wandered off on, and encourages me to not be afraid to produce multiple versions of a manuscript until we both feel we have gotten it right. Every author can benefit from frank comments and constructive criticism coupled with a sincere reminder that they should rewrite and that they shouldn’t give up, because what they have to say is worthwhile.
2819 Vaulx Lane, Nashville, TN 37204
Angelle Barbazon
(615) 928-2462





D.E. Night unleashes magic and mystery in debut middle grade fantasy novel, The Crowns of Croswald


Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – In D.E. Night’s debut novel, The Crowns of Croswald, magic sparks around every corner in a kingdom ruled by a dark queen. Ivy, a young orphan living in the Kingdom of Croswald discovers that she has powers of her own. She enrolls at the Halls of Ivy, a school where young students learn to master their magical blood and the power that Croswald’s mysterious gems can wield. Unfortunately, Ivy’s schooling – and her life – is threatened by the evil queen and her henchmen. As Ivy tries to unearth her past and save Croswald’s future, a fantastical adventure ensues.

Releasing on July 21, 2017, The Crowns of Croswald is the first book in a series for middle grade readers brimming with whimsy, adventure, and steampunk undertones. Croswald’s gutsy heroine is part Cinderella, part Harry Potter, part Percy Jackson, and all fun.

“We get to watch Ivy not only grow into her own magic but also be the very hero that Croswald needs,” Night says. “I find that sometimes girls don’t know how powerful they are, and how what makes them different can be what makes them destined for greatness. Even if she’s not always sure of herself, Ivy has a sense of adventure, determination, and courage that I hope we can all see in ourselves.”

Night’s debut novel wisks the reader to a land of enchantment, adventure and colorful characters. Reminiscent of fantasy classics, this is a world that readers won’t want to leave.

D.E. Night lives, dreams, and writes in South Florida amid her menagerie––two dogs and two cats––with her husband. “The Crowns of Croswald” is her first book. She draws inspiration from silver-screen storytellers, magical imaginings, and her younger brothers. A day spent in Croswald, or another whimsical world, is her favorite kind of day.




Book Details for When the Future Comes Too Soon

crowns-of-croswald-coverD.E. Night • July 21, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9969486-5-4 (paperback) • 978-0-9969486-1-6 (ebook)
$10.99 (paperback) • $8.99 (ebook)
Middle Grade Fantasy


An Interview with D.E. Night

What inspired you to write The Crowns of Croswald?
I have always found joy in being creative, art projects and things like that. But more than that, I’ve always loved stories, mostly my favorite animated movies. I’m a Disney fanatic. My draw toward fantasy and my creative drive sort of forced me to start writing. For me, it’s not just about the writing, it’s about creating characters, designing scenes, and imagining everything and anything magical. Croswald is basically me in a book––fairy tale with an edge. I love fashion, fairy tales, anything that sparkles, and I especially love magic.

What was your favorite part about creating the world of Croswald?
I’m so grateful to be one of those people that really truly loves what they’re doing. My favorite part of this whole experience is seeing pieces of my world come to life, whether in the form of illustrations or being able to hold a physical book in hand. It’s like a dream. I also love the process of creating characters and naming them. I have a lot of fun with that.

Tell us more about creating a character. What sort of process do you go through?
Well, I don’t know if it’s a process exactly. It always seems sort of like random inspiration. For example, eating dinner beside my 11-year-old brother who loves butter and bread. Emphasis on the butter. Readers get to meet Woodley Butterlove and understand how my little brother inspired such a character.

Ivy is a strong, inspirational character. How do you think she grows throughout the book, and what would you like the reader to take away from that?
I think a lot of people’s natural talent is hindered by self-doubt. I think for Ivy Lovely, the first book is all about discovery and uncovering her hidden talents. It’s all about taking that first step and trusting your gut. I like to think that her first stride across the slurry fields may speak to a reader waiting to take the first step in their own adventure. Everyone should get the chance to step into something magical.

As a debut author, what surprised you most about the writing process for The Crowns of Croswald?
Probably my patience. I think people often get deterred by the time it takes to complete something. It’s taken me three and a half years to get to this point and I was surprised by how calm I was throughout the whole process. Excited, but calm.

This is the first book in a series. Without giving too much away, what do you have in store for your readers as the series evolves?
Of course, readers will get to join Ivy on her adventures of discovery through Croswald, full of weird and whacky character. Also a lot of magic and new inventions. The final show down with the dark Queen is going to be spectacular!

Your love of magic and fantasy is apparent in your writing. How did your love of magic develop?
I spent every birthday visiting theme parks with my best friends. My mom would pick us up early from school and we’d spend a day in a place of total imagination. That world of fantasy seemed so vibrant and I always dreamed of creating a place one day where people can visit. When I wrote, I always wrote keeping that in mind. Where can people visit? What can they see when they go there? Like I said, I love being creative and writing a book seemed the perfect fit. Besides being a Disney fanatic, I love that, with magic, anything is possible.

The Crowns of Croswald follows the adventures of Ivy Lovely, a strong heroine who is full of spirit and unwavering courage. Can you tell us more about her and how her character came about?
The reader meets Ivy when she’s unsure, held back, and lonely. Through the course of The Crowns of Croswald, we get to see Ivy become who she is meant to be: impulsive but smart, studious but adventurous. She doesn’t know it yet, but those are the very traits that will save her kingdom. She trusts her gut and that gets her pretty far in life, but she learns to ask for help along the way. Most importantly, she’s compassionate and funny: two must-haves in any friend, in my opinion.

If you could give readers one message to inspire them from your book, what would it be?
Believe in the magic of your dreams.




New WWII Malaya Novel from Selina Siak Chin Yoke


Hauntingly beautiful family saga transports readers to WWII Malaya in new novel, ‘When the Future Comes Too Soon’

LONDON – Deeply inspired by her great grandmother’s life and the often-overlooked history of South East Asia during World War II, author Selina Siak Chin Yoke is releasing “When the Future Comes Too Soon” published by Amazon Crossing on July 18, 2017.

“When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows the story of Wong Mei Foong, a woman struggling to thrive during a time of war, increasing racial tension, and a husband who has been beaten down by life and consumed by bitterness. Uniquely immersing readers into another world and time, the novel embarks on a journey through Malaya and the forces that shaped its culture.

The release of “When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows the amazing debut success of “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” which, in addition to garnering almost 1,000 Amazon reviews from readers around the globe, has earned accolades from best-selling authors, as has Siak’s upcoming release.

Perfect for readers who loved “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan and “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, “When the Future Comes Too Soon” blends an exotic setting with eternal questions that cross cultures and time.

The tales Siak writes are inspired by the women in her family, her great grandmother foremost, and stories she grew up listening to as a child. After being diagnosed with cancer, Siak found a sense of comfort and solace in writing, especially while reaching out to family members to learn more about the old days to create a truly compelling and personal narrative filled with dynamic, relatable characters.

Written through the lens of a lifetime of family lore and extensive research, “When the Future Comes Too Soon” shines a light on the little-known world of war-torn Malaya and the struggles of a people under culturally divisive rule. Filled with twists and turns, this emotional story will keep readers enthralled until the last page.

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. Her first novel, “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” (The Malayan Series, #1), was published in 2016 and made an immediate emotional connection with readers. It debuted as an Amazon bestseller in historical fiction, was named by Goodreads as one of the six best books in the month of its release and has been favorably compared to the work of Pearl S. Buck and Amy Tan. “When the Future Comes Too Soon” is her latest novel.




Book Details for When the Future Comes Too Soon

FutureBookCoverSelina Siak Chin Yoke • July 18, 2017 • Amazon Crossing
ISBN: 1542045754 (paperback) • ASIN: B01N5P78JM (ebook)
Price: $10.99 (paperback) • $4.97 (ebook)
Historical Fiction

Praise For “When the Future Comes Too Soon”

“…an intensely visceral evocation of life in Malaya during World War II…” —María Dueñas, author of New York Times bestselling The Time in Between

“…an intricately drawn network of human relationships.” —Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author of Man Asian Literary Prize shortlisted Between Clay and Dust


Praise For “The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds”

“…vividly drawn, deeply affecting first novel…” —Laura Esquivel, author of Pierced by the Sun and the New York Times bestselling Like Water for Chocolate




An Interview with Selina Siak Chin Yoke

SelinaChinYokeIt may surprise your readers to know that you weren’t always a writer. Before becoming an author, you led successful careers as a research physicist and an investment banker, and even today, you work as a trader. What turned you on to writing?
I began writing out of desperation and a cherished dream. In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After finishing chemo, when I should have been feeling better, I felt worse, even after many months. I was listless, out-of-sorts and far from being myself. Nothing seemed right. I saw a counselor; I stayed with friends outside London; I continued exercising. I was in a depression, except that I did not know it. And I certainly had no idea what to do – until I started writing. It was like a miracle: the act of searching for words and putting them into sentences transformed me. And then I remembered the dream I had of writing a novel loosely based on my great grandmother’s life. With every page I wrote, I could feel my strength returning. Writing saved my life. And now I can’t stop – I love it.

Why do you think readers develop such strong emotional connections to your characters?
I believe there are several reasons. First of all, my books are an easy read. The stories may be set in unfamiliar cultures and countries, but they are very accessible; I write from my heart and I think this shows. Secondly, my characters are rich and complex, and readers are able to glean their life histories – to get a sense of why they are the way they are. Finally, people across cultures and time have been more alike than we think. My characters reflect this. They face situations readers themselves have either faced or have heard about and can relate to in a very palpable way.

Fans have described being totally immersed in the world you built. How do you go about developing your narrative world?
Many readers say that they feel as if they were there in British Malaya with my characters. It must be because while I’m writing, I myself am there in the house or the jungle or wherever with my characters! I live and breathe every sentence while writing it. Not only do I visualize each scene – seeing what my characters see, hearing what they hear, and feeling what they feel – I even try to do what they do. In “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds,” the protagonist eats with her hands, as is the Malay custom. I had a tutorial from a friend on how to eat with one’s hands, and then tried eating with my hands for a couple of meals. The protagonist also has many children – I drew the line there (!), though I did interview a range of women about their childbirth experiences. It’s the only way I know to transmit my characters’ experiences viscerally to readers.

On the one hand you work as a trader, which involves numbers, but at the same time your other job, writing, involves words. How do you combine the two?
With some difficulty! When I trade, I try to shut off my emotions, whereas while I write I need to tap into as many feelings and memories as possible. This can be schizophrenic, but fortunately they have something in common: they both require discipline. Some people think that authors only write when inspired. If this were true, there would be very few books! To be any good at writing you have to practice it every day, like any craft, regardless of whether you feel inspired. This takes a huge amount of discipline. I’m thankful to have both discipline and tremendous powers of concentration.

Your first novel was partly inspired by the life of your great grandmother. What can you tell us about her?
My great grandmother was a feisty matriarch of mixed Chinese-Malay descent who had many kids. She had to feed them, so it was just as well that she was apparently a great cook! In the town where she lived, she was also famous for her sharp tongue and shrewdness as an entrepreneur. No one is sure where or when she was born and what her name was. In those days, we had a tradition of addressing older people strictly by their familial titles. For example, you would call your father’s second brother Second Paternal Uncle. The result? Everyone knew exactly how they were related to each other, but they did not always know the names of older relatives. I dedicated “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” to my great grandmother, but had to scramble to find out her name! (We believe she was called Chua Paik Choo.)

You raise an interesting point here – you have an intriguing name: Selina Siak Chin Yoke. What can you tell us about your name?
Believe it or not, all of those names are actually on my birth certificate! Westerners will be forgiven for thinking that my family name is Yoke; in fact, it is Siak. Here’s a brief explanation: I was given both a Western name, Selina, and a Chinese name – Chin Yoke. “Selina” is of Greek origin, I believe, and has something to do with the moon, while Chin Yoke means “Pure Jade.” My name is easy to decompose, if you know how. In the West, a person’s name comes before the surname, hence you have “Selina Siak” on the left hand side. In Chinese names, however, the surname comes before the name. Therefore, the Chinese part of my name is “Siak Chin Yoke.” Putting the two parts together, you get Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Now here’s what’s interesting: in Chinese families, we like to be able to identify the generation to which a child belongs. Therefore, children have names which may sound very similar, but aren’t. For example, if I had a sister, she could be called Chin Fah. The first parts of our names would then be Chin, so that everyone would know we were related and of the same generation. This is the reason why the Chinese siblings in my books have similar sounding names. It’s definitely not because I’m out to confuse readers! For anyone interested, I’ve written a blog post about Chinese names (

How much of your work is fictional?
My stories weave invented characters and situations with real historical events, and all are underpinned by thorough research. In other words the people are made up, but their behavior is sometimes drawn from a hodge-podge of people I’ve known. The exact situations that my characters find themselves in are also invented, though they do take place within a real historical framework. I research the historical events carefully, using a mix of archived news articles, books, road maps and interviews. I think it is this mix (plus my trying to do what the characters do, as described above) that provides the authenticity readers have picked up on.

What themes should readers keep an eye out for while reading “When the Future Comes Too Soon?”
“When the Future Comes Too Soon” follows an ordinary Malayan family through the Second World War. For many Asians, this invariably meant a time when their country was occupied by Japanese forces. The circumstances described in the novel are harrowing, and challenging times tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. Readers will see instances of betrayal in its many forms, but also instances of unexpected strength. The protagonist, for example, discovers that she is more capable than she thinks.

“When the Future Comes Too Soon” is the second book in The Malayan Series. What can you tell us about the series?
All of the books in The Malayan Series can be read independently and in any order. Each book will follow a different generation of the same family – the Wong family – and will tell not only their human story but also the story of the country they live in – British Malaya. Readers don’t need to know anything about Malaya beforehand! My books can be read on many levels, including as pure entertainment. “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” (Book 1) sees Malaya under British colonization and the rapid cultural changes this brings. “When the Future Comes Too Soon” (Book 2) takes place during WWII, with the Japanese occupation and all the consequences thereof. The third book will bring us closer to modernity. The closer we get to modern times, the more controversial the books may seem, especially in Asia, where we prefer to avoid inconvenient truths, striving instead for harmony over conflict.

Does this mean that there are messages in your novels?
My writing is not political in that way. I want first and foremost to touch emotions and to entertain, and to do both in an intelligent manner. However, because British Malaya was historically such a melting-pot of cultures and peoples, questions about identity, culture and how we live with one another emerge naturally in The Malayan Series. What happened in the past can shine a light on the present, and in this way provide lessons for modern Malaysia and any other multicultural country that is willing to learn from mistakes.

What do you think readers of “The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds” will like about “When the Future Comes Too Soon?”
They will be transported to British Malaya in the same way that they were in the first novel. They will find out what happens to characters who were briefly introduced there. They will laugh and cry – probably cry more than laugh, as Malaya is at war – and hopefully, they’ll wait anxiously for the third book!


Gerald M. O’Connor impresses in his debut coming-of-age adventure novel, The Origins of Benjamin Hackett

Inspired by a controversy that once tore families apart in the heart of Ireland, Down & Out Books is releasing The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by debut novelist Gerald M. O’Connor on Feb. 6, 2017.

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett is a unique adventure tale set in County Cork, Ireland. The story introduces readers to a young man on the cusp of adulthood whose parents reveal that he is adopted on his 18th birthday. This revelation sends Benjamin on an unforgettable journey with a friend to find his birth mother – and himself – before the people determined to keep his origins a secret destroy his records forever.

O’Connor’s book draws on a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland would quietly take children from mothers in convents and Magdalene Laundries and deposit them into new homes, making it nearly impossible for these kids to find their real parents. Attempts by children to find their birth parents were often blocked by a dark web of secrecy and bureaucracy that, in many ways, still continues to haunt the country today.

Brimming with unfathomable escapades, a motley crew of characters and a healthy serving of Irish humor, O’Connor’s book is steeped in Irish culture told in the inimitable Corkman’s brogue. Set in a time before the chaos of modern digital culture, The Origins of Benjamin Hackett takes a step back, allowing space for readers to escape and think about the realities of growing up in a family founded on a lie. In his stylish debut, O’Connor shows an amazing ability to paint heartbreak and longing that will keep readers thinking about The Origins of Benjamin Hackett long after they finish the story.

GERALD M. O’CONNOR is a native Corkonian, currently living in Dublin with his long-term partner, Rosemarie, along with their three children. He writes character-driven novels of various genres by night and is a dentist by day. When he isn’t glued to the keyboard, he enjoys sci-fi films, spending time with his family and being anywhere in sight of the sea. He is currently working on his second novel, The Tanist.


An Interview with Gerald M. O’Connor

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett takes place in your hometown of Cork, Ireland. For people who are not familiar with the region, what is it like and why did it become the perfect setting for your book?

The county of Cork is no small place. It is a big unwieldy organism that is almost impossible to pin down without living it. I would need a year to decipher it properly to do it justice, but even then I fear I would fail miserably. But you did ask, and so I will try. First a few fun facts: Cork is known as the rebel county. The Irish for Cork is Corcaigh translated as “marsh” as it began life on a swampy estuary. We are best known for Murphy’s stout, All-Ireland winning teams, a glorious coastline, a rich vibrant history and our bullet-speed wit. As with all populated areas, there are the good and the bad parts. The locals can swindle or charm you on the whim of the weather, but at the heart of Cork is its inimitable character.

It has the layers and complexities of an urban area with solid rural roots. It has been the center of rebellion and republicanism for centuries. It was the only place in Ireland the English could never truly tame. It is surrounded by the Atlantic sea and has some of the sandiest beaches you will see the world over. Some say God gave us foul weather to counterbalance the beauty. And I’m fine with that, as it keeps the fair-weather types away! I firmly believe there is no better place to be than down at Barley Cove beach when the summer is at full-throttle, and the sun decides to shine. At the heart of Cork are the locals, or Corkonians as we call ourselves. We are a fiercely loyal, bitingly bright and determined people. I have never been in any other city where I have felt that same burning sense of belonging than when I lived in Cork. If you are from there, you will recognize the words I am saying as unadulterated facts. If not, the county may sound like some Fenian stronghold that still thinks the War of Independence rages.

In our hearts and minds, we are unique, abandoned by those up in Dublin, constantly fighting for our share of the pie, stuck at the bottom of an island that’s barraged by sleet and rain. We are often negated or chastised as insular or bull-headed, but we do not give a damn. Because we are proud of that community mind, the hive mentality. If you ever come across a Cork man or woman anywhere in the world, in any walk of life, I can wholeheartedly say that not a single one will talk with anything but fondness for the county at the southern tip of Ireland. I do not imagine there is a better plaudit than that as proof of our county’s effect on its natives.

I set the novel in Cork for various reasons. First, I know it better than any other part of the world, so it was natural for me to use it as a setting. And second of all, despite us having a host of fantastic writers from our city—Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O’Connor and Joseph O’Neill to name but a few—there is a real lack of recent Cork-based Irish literature in comparison to other parts of Ireland. I hope my writing this novel may have righted those scales a bit. But predominantly I focused it on Cork because of the lilt of the locals, the characters I have met and known throughout my life, and the sheer breath-taking beauty of its landscapes and surrounds. To use the old adage, I wrote what I know, and I know Cork.

 What inspired you to write a coming-of-age novel? Did your own childhood influence your characterizations of Benjamin or JJ?

I have always been drawn to these type of tales. In many ways, that period in your life, when you are on the cusp of adulthood with all the hormones and fears of the future spinning your head into glue, can be the most traumatic of our lives. Having something that upends your sense of self is almost always a shortcut to figuring out the convoluted mess of life. If stories are all about trouble inducing change, I can think of no greater contrast in character than the growth from child to adult. Setting a story in this borderland of life always seems to be fertile ground for wild adventures. You can never get away with the same level of naivety, or ill-considered actions, in someone other than a youngster. Rip their idealized life apart and the reaction is nearly always bedlam. I wanted the freedom to write a story fueled by the white hot rage of teenagers. The coming-of-age adventure story allowed me to do so without the rigid logic of maturity stifling the madness.

As to whether or not my own childhood influenced the characterization of Benjamin and JJ… in truth, I am not too sure. I know I did not consciously draw the characters from my life growing up in Blarney. I was not adopted, nor did I know anyone who was. I had a large group of friends from the estate and village where I lived, but none bear any true resemblance to these characters. But we are the sum of our experiences, and my childhood clearly influenced me in my life, so there must be some subconscious part of me that comes out in those two lads. If it is not in their stories then it is most likely in their camaraderie and kinship and general outlook on life. I had a fantastic close-knit crew, still do to this day in fact, and it would not surprise me if they saw threads of themselves in the characters on the page. But rest assured, if they do, it is by pure happenstance rather than design. 

Your book tackles some serious topics, including the main character’s quest to find his birth mother, but you eloquently infuse the story with a bit of humor. How would you describe your sense of humor, and how does it play a role in your novel?

As with most of my fellow countrymen, my sense of humor is severely grounded in self-deprecation first and foremost. I do not think anyone could survive growing up in any parish in Cork without having that quality ingrained into you. We use humor as a shield in Ireland, hiding our fears and insecurities behind it, and as a weapon to bludgeon anyone with notions (people with an inflated opinion of themselves). It is like a code in its own right, nuanced, secretive and governed by rules only understood by those who grew up there. Cork is a county dripping in good-humored mockery. And nothing is sacred. Everyone and everything is a potential target.

Sometimes we go too far, of course, and the line between genuine comedy and thinly-veiled insults becomes this shady, intangible thing defined by the mood of the person on the receiving end. But on the whole, we manage to strike the balance just right. The general rule is this—if you ever find yourself on the sharper end of our tongues, then you probably deserve it.

For the uninitiated arriving in Cork, though, be warned. You had better do so fully-armed for banter. We slag and hop the ball, mock and deride, and there is nothing in the entire world that can savage your ego faster than a quick one-liner from a Cork-born native who is in the mood for badness. And God help you if they know you, because they will have total knowledge of all your weak spots and will package their goading up into perfect bullet-shaped assassins and riddle you senseless. If I ever get too big for my boots, all I have to do is pop down to my local, and I’ll be righted within the hour.

So as you can probably imagine, comedy is not a construct or a style choice used for any particular reason in my novel. It is there simply because that is how we behave in Cork. I could never have written a story set in my homeland without infusing that quality into it. It would have been dishonest to my roots.

Over the course of their road trip, how do Benjamin and JJ develop as characters?

To answer this truthfully would force me to spoil a lot of the surprises. So I am reluctant to go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, at the start they are at sea in life, unsure of what they want to do, as is the fate of many teenagers the world over. JJ is the straight-man in many ways, loyal to a fault and a lot more emotionally balanced than Benjamin. There is not too much in the way of change for him from beginning to end. Benjamin, though, goes through a large evolution in character. He does not cure himself completely, as he is still naïve and reckless by the end. But his reaction to the adoption and his ultimate decision at the close of the book shows how he has matured from a boy to a man and begins to see the world through adult eyes. It is the natural arc for a tale like this, really.

How does the history of adoption in Ireland play a role in this story?

Adoption plays a massive part. Benjamin’s story solely exists because of him being secretly deposited into a new family without the knowledge of his birth mother. The history of adoption in Ireland is a sore point and still very current. In the mid-20th century having a baby out of wedlock in Ireland was culturally unacceptable and would result in rejection by family, friends and society in general. The stigma was so bad that many unmarried women would be sent away to convents and Mother and Home facilities run by the church and funded by the government. For example, in 1967 over 97% of all children born out of wedlock were adopted and the vast majority were done without the full knowledge and consent of the mother. I did an almighty amount of research into it while writing this novel. It is funny in a way, because there’s barely the thread of the facts I uncovered in the book. I think you could have a lifetime of material if you researched the stories hidden behind the doors of those convents and Mother and Baby homes.

What can you tell us about your next book, The Tanist?

My new book is a world apart from this one. It is a thriller set in a turbulent Celtic world, drawing on the folklore and myths of the early 14th century in Ireland. I cannot divulge too much as I am in the midst of finishing the first draft, and a lot may change by the time I have a polished product ready for publication. But The Tanist is a far darker novel, devoid of humor and set in a violent and unforgiving time. The tag line goes something like this: “Unjustly banished for murder, an innocent boy must survive three impossible tests in a foreign land, before his city is destroyed, his people enslaved and his freedom lost forever.

‘The Craving Brain’ shows the way out of addiction, following the path of one recovering addict and a physician’s 40-year walk beside 1,000 others

Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr., who has more than 40 years of professional addiction treatment experience, and James B., a recovering addict, have teamed up to write an honest and insightful book on the pathology and treatment of addiction.

Blending firsthand accounts, medical science and spiritual reflection, “The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery” dives deep into the dark and often complex world of addiction from the perspective of doctor and patient. This guide answers questions about addiction from how college binge drinking affects the brain and long-term uncontrollable craving, to whether interventions serve a productive purpose, to the role of community in rewiring the brain hijacked by addiction.

Unapologetically realistic, yet hopeful, “The Craving Brain” is an incredible resource for people with a substance use or abuse disorder, their family members, physicians and anyone interested in how addiction affects the brain and what can be done to remedy it.

“The Craving Brain” answers some of the most compelling mysteries of addiction:

  • Why are some people at higher risk?
  • Is addiction a moral failing or a brain injury?
  • Why can’t addicts see their problem and just quit?
  • Are interventions helpful or dangerous?
  • How effective are twelve-step programs?
  • How can brain science and spiritual practices, together, improve treatment outcomes?

Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr. is an emeritus professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who has been active in the practice and teaching of internal medicine for more than 45 years. Dr. Spickard is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of substance abuse and addiction having served as a certified addictionologist, founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction, founder of the Center for Professional Health at Vanderbilt, national program director of the Robert Wood Johnson “Fighting Back” program and leader in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. His books include, “Dying for a Drink: What You and Your Family Should Know About Alcoholism,” “Stay With Me,” and “The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery.”


An Interview with Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr.

Andy's Picture-001

Over your 45 years working in addiction treatment, what has changed the most about the approach physicians take in working with people struggling with substance abuse?

 Protocols for detoxification from alcohol addiction provide medications to help the individual become symptom free in about five days. Other medications like naltrexone help to control alcohol craving and suboxone used in the treatment of opioid dependence can be lifesaving.

The most important discovery has been the research that has defined addiction as a disease of the brain and the hijacking of the brain’s reward system by dopamine, the neurotransmitter of the addictive process that produces negative behaviors in all addicts (craving, denial, anger, minimization, etc.).

The most impressive result of treatment (80%-85% recovery) is seen in addicted physicians who are treated in a program for four months or more and who are under a five-year contract not to use their substances of addiction and are monitored by regular observed urine screens. If their contract is broken by using, they are at risk of losing their license to practice medicine and their professional position in a hospital or clinic. This close observation and monitoring of addicted prisoners on parole has also been reported as effective.

Barbara Thompson and I began this journey of writing about addiction after I founded the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction in 1984. She and I co-authored our first book, “Dying for a Drink – What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” published by Word Books. The revision in 2005 was published by Thomas Nelson. There are seven foreign translations. The Russian translation has been distributed to the treatment centers in Moscow.

What role does spirituality play in substance abuse and recovery?

The underlying spiritual issues of the addict are the guilt and shame of their addiction- guilt, about what they have done while addicted and shame about who they are and have become. The power and love of God as the individual knows Him in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous will lead the addict to a spiritual awakening that will sustain the person as they “work the steps” daily with a sponsor and a home group of other addicts who are working to break the bonds of addiction. The family members who attend Alanon and Naranon and work the steps also can have amazing peace and understanding of their loved ones illness. The Serenity Prayer prayed by all the addicts and their families is a spiritual healing prayer.

How has the opioid crisis influenced your work?

The tragedy of the opioid crisis has reinforced the urgency I feel to distribute “The Craving Brain” to everyone who will read it. In addition to that commitment, I have reactivated my membership in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse so that my colleagues and I, who teach in our nation’s medical and nursing schools, will expand and accelerate teaching of the early diagnosis and referral for treatment protocols for patients with abuse and addiction to all addictive substances.

 Tell us about your connection to James B. and his role in writing this book with you.

James B. was an acquaintance of Barbara Thompson, the writer of the book, and she asked him if we could use his story in the book. His detailed description for us about the importance of the addict working each of the 12 Steps, having a sponsor and home group was critical for me since in our treatment unit at Vanderbilt we could only finish the first three steps. I have used James’ method of the addicted person working each step thoroughly to make a new questionnaire for all the steps. This has become the document I use in teaching addicts in a homeless shelter, Matthew 25, in Nashville. The spiritual awakening in about half of the men is wonderful to see. I am hopeful that this process will reinforce their commitment to sobriety when they are discharged to a job and drug- and alcohol-free housing. James’ testimony about his illness, the recovery process and his present state of continued sobriety is a wonderful story.

How has writing a book with a recovering addict influenced your perspective in conveying ideas to the public?

I believe that working and writing with James B. has reinforced my excitement about the disease of addiction and its effect on individuals. I know from our joint presentation at the Southern Festival of Books this fall that being on the podium together was a profound experience for both of us. If we had more opportunities to be together in a teaching environment, we could present an impressive program. Both of us are Christians and we could be very helpful to a group of Christians struggling with addiction issues in themselves or their families.

What has surprised you most about working in addiction, either scientifically or emotionally?

The most wonderful surprise has been the understanding of the brain changes that defines addiction as a disease of the brain. Everyone who deals with addicted persons just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t stop drinking, snorting cocaine, taking opioids, etc. When the research uncovered the presence of dopamine as the neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward system that hijacked this system and kept it moving on its own and causing these strange uncontrolled behaviors seen in the addict, it became clear that the addict wouldn’t stop because they couldn’t stop using. This is the most “AHA!” moment in my professional life.

The other part of this story is that the neurons participating in this brain injury by the substances begin to repair themselves once the use of the substance stops and recovery begins. Those neurons that are not destroyed start to regenerate themselves and in some cases restore the damaged brain.

Finally, it has been shown that parts of the neuron involved in the addictive process can remain poised to become stimulated again if the person starts to use again even years after they completed their recovery program years before. There may be similar processes in the person’s brain who has a father or grandfather who is an addict and the person inherits that susceptibility to become an addict too. These principles of addiction make teaching about addiction more scientifically established and exciting. Medications that block the neurotransmitter process in the reward system could lead to blocking craving completely. Even now naltrexone given by mouth daily and by injection (Vivatrol) once a month controls much of the craving seen in alcoholics.

What aspect of addiction recovery do you find the most interesting to study?

At Vanderbilt, we have researchers who are experts in studying the reward system, and I will keep up to date by observing their work. My particular interest now is using the 12 Step questionnaire I created to teach homeless addicted men about their addiction and the way out of it.

What new research have you seen lately on addiction, and how do you think the future of substance abuse recovery seems to be unfolding?

The research on the effect of medications on craving, denial, etc. from the reward system hijacked by dopamine will be the most exciting result of present day research labs. The importance of detailed and comprehensive reviews of the 12 Steps in homeless populations will be another fertile field of study. I haven’t mentioned yet the value of a comprehensive program of prevention in communities and especially on our college campuses. We are hoping to begin such a program at Vanderbilt. 

What led you to become so involved in working with people battling problems with alcohol and drugs?

I was trained in the usual complications of alcoholism in medical school but was totally surprised when a physician colleague who was my patient committed suicide during a drinking binge. This event became the wake-up call for me to learn what addiction is and what I could have known to prevent this tragic event and the other behaviors of alcoholics that I should have learned in medical school and residency. Absolutely no training in medical school and residency at Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins prepared me for this moment. I tell people this was God’s call to me to learn as much as I could and teach the medical students under my leadership that this disease can be treated and we can know what to do when confronted with this strange behavior. The leader of the psychiatry department at Vanderbilt at the time, believed alcoholism was a “bad habit.” I knew that wasn’t right so I started the journey, beginning at St. Mary’s rehabilitation center in Minneapolis, MN, to learn what alcoholism and drug addiction is and what can be done about it. The books “Dying for a Drink-What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” and “The Craving Brain-Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery” contain all that I have learned in the last 40 years about addiction.

What is on the horizon that gives you hope?

Medications for treating addiction to alcohol, opioids and tobacco have been available now for some time. Naltrexone is one of them and has demonstrated effects on reducing craving in severe alcoholics. Naloxone is a rapid acting medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. The pressure of craving that drives the compulsion to drink alcohol or take addictive drugs is being intensely studied by researchers. An emerging molecular imaging technique using PET scans and (CT) computerized tomography of the brain have allowed researchers to study the craving of alcoholics and perhaps develop new medications to block their compulsive desire to continue taking the addictive substance.

What kinds of collaborations would you like to see among those in this field to better serve those with addictions?

Programs to prevent use, abuse and addiction to alcohol and drugs in high school students are in place now that demonstrate effective strategies. The program STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) that is in place in many high schools and middle schools of Tennessee that has shown positive results. The principles of STARS translated into colleges and universities provides ideal approaches to reducing the tragic consequences of binge drinking experienced now on our college and university campuses. Also, community organizations in most of our states, organized by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), have successfully approached the abuse and addiction problems in each community and provide blueprints for successful prevention strategies.

What has your work with men experiencing both homelessness and addiction taught you?

The addicted homeless men that I have taught at Matthew 25, a local homeless shelter, are a group of addicted men that respond as well to the usual detoxification procedures and medications as other patients in treatment centers. The problem of relapse prevention though is complicated by their lack of resources that would enable them to live in a drug and alcohol free environment, being provided medications for co-occuring medical illness and having a good paying job at discharge. I have added to the relapse prevention program for the Matthew 25 men a detailed questionnaire about each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The men review each Step, write out their answers and discuss their answers with their group members. We urge them to attend AA and NA meetings, have a sponsor and continue their spiritual program after discharge. We hope they will finish the questionnaire and build a strong spiritual backup for their recovery program.

What do we as a society need to be doing that we are not?

The most effective strategy that I think is important for our country is strong leadership about the issue of addiction as a public health problem underlying many of our social ills. The issues of addiction prevention and treatment are becoming clearer as each day passes. The work by the researchers at the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other federal facilities uncover additional medications for preventing craving.

The recent publication of the Surgeon General’s Report is an excellent document to use as a blueprint for action. Leadership by our elected officials will be required to put the recommendations into action.

Tim Shaw, former Tennessee Titans linebacker living with ALS, writes inspirational book, “Blitz Your Life”

Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Tim Shaw’s unexpected diagnosis of a life-altering disease did not stop him from finding hope and advocating on behalf of those faced with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. From participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to living life to the fullest, Shaw’s story is one of hope not only for people battling ALS but for anyone aspiring to be more. “Blitz Your Life” (Jan. 3, 2017) is a story of overcoming fear and living life with a purpose.

Written with Belmont University associate professor Richard Sowienski, “Blitz Your Life” shares the way Shaw and the people in his life have changed each other for the better, challenging readers at the end of each chapter with a call for self-evaluation. With interviews ranging from leading entrepreneurs and business leaders, to musicians, to athletes, Shaw’s book shows how each and every person affects the people around them and calls each reader to set their bar a little higher and push a little harder to pursue their purpose—even when it seems impossible.

Whether you’re a football fan, battling difficult times or simply seeking inspiration, “Blitz Your Life” reaches into the hearts and minds of readers to tell them they’re made of more than their circumstances.

Former linebacker TIM SHAW’s seven years in the NFL included seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears, and the Tennessee Titans. A graduate of Penn State, he also holds an MBA from George Washington University. Now an entrepreneur, Tim is a frequent speaker and supporter of ALS awareness. Blitz Your Life is his first book.

RICHARD SOWIENSKI is associate professor at Belmont University and directs the first undergraduate Publishing Program in the U.S. He’s held a variety of writing and editorial jobs, working for Better Homes & Gardens, Raising Teens, Country America, Successful Farming, and The Missouri Review. He and his wife Rola call Nashville home.



If you’ve ever dreamed of something more in life, this book is for you. Blitz Your Life is a collection of reflections and challenges from a former NFL linebacker who is living life fearlessly.

These powerful stories range from Tim’s time on the football field to the radically different life and goals that resulted from his diagnosis with ALS in 2014. Tim also shares stories of ordinary people who have faced everyday challenges and accomplished extraordinary things. Through his “whiteboard challenges,” he provides practical help takes readers on a road to success. From his NFL days to his support of ALS awareness, this fighter’s message is a courageous call to find and enjoy a life with purpose.


An Interview with Tim Shaw

This is a 2013 photo of Tim Shaw of the Tennessee Titans NFL football team. This image reflects the Tennessee Titans active roster as of Thursday, May 30, 2013 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

What inspired you to write “Blitz Your Life”?

I knew that my life experiences were unique and I wanted to use those experiences to impact people in a positive way. I’ve actually known I was going to write a book for about 10 years, and I’ve always enjoyed writing. And I also wanted to do something that would last for a long time, not just be relevant in today’s day and age.

What message do you want people who read your book to receive?

I want people to embrace who they were made to be, as well as their unique gifts and talents. And with that, I want them to pursue a life that is full of passion. I want them to know that life is meant to be lived on purpose. Through this, I believe every reader can reach their maximum potential.

How has your ALS diagnosis changed your perspective on life? What would you say to others going through the same challenge?

ALS has really brought my focus to the things in life that matter the most, and more so eliminate those that don’t matter as much. Because of that I have been able to enjoy every day and make choices based upon what is most important right now, each and every day. To those experiencing similar challenges, I would tell them to focus on what’s most important. If they could choose the most important action all the time, then they will have no regrets.

How has your faith shaped your journey as a football player and ALS advocate?

My faith is my foundation and the thing that I can always count on to be there in good times or bad. With that, I was able to pursue football with all my heart. And now, with ALS, my faith has allowed me to utilize my diagnosis in a positive way, as I see this as an opportunity to reach and impact even more people than before.

Why did you include challenge sections at the end of chapters? What do you hope people will learn about themselves from them?

I don’t want people just to think about what I’ve written. I want to inspire action. The challenge sections will hopefully allow readers to ask themselves the hard questions and then transform their answers into meaningful change. By taking a closer look at who they truly are, I hope these questions lead them to the strength, courage, and clarity needed to live their life of purpose.

This is unlike a typical memoir in that you include interviews from Nashville-area business people and entrepreneurs. Why did you decide to include those?

I don’t consider this a memoir. My life has been blessed by others, so I feel it’s more impactful to share lessons from various walks of life. We all have a purpose to live. Your life is shaped by the people around more than you realize.

For people wanting to inspire and encourage others, what advice would you give them?

Be yourself. The most impactful people are authentic people.