Monday, December 11, 2017

New release: Mama Graciela's Secret, by Mayra Calvani PLUS Goodreads Giveaway

Mamá Graciela’s Secret
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Written by Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by Sheila Fein
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
36 pages, 3-7 year olds
Reading guide at:

Mamá Graciela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town...
Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.

About the author:
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her children's picture book, Frederico the Mouse Violinist was a finalist in the 2011 International Book Awards; her anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses was a First Place winner at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards; her nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a Foreword Best Book of the Year winner. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications like The Writer, Writer's Journal, Multicultural Review, Bloomsbury Review, and others.

She lives in Belgium with her husband of 30+ years, two wonderful kids, and her three beloved pets. When she's not writing, editing, reading or reviewing, she enjoys walking with her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Connect with the author:

About the illustrator:

Born in Queens, New York and living in Los Angeles since 1987, Sheila Fein has always been inspired by the changing world around her. Earning her BA in Design from Buffalo State College of New York, her concentration was on drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. Sheila's education as an artist has taken her everywhere from Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia to Bath University in England. Today, Sheila Fein runs two figurative workshops, Imaginings Sketch in LA and People Sketchers in Thousand Oaks. She has been featured in numerous collections, magazines, books, solo and group exhibitions. Her paintings and drawings reside in public and private collections. Sheila loves to make the imagination of others a reality and has done so through her commissioned Fein Fantasy Portraits and Interactive Paintings. In addition to being a fine artist Sheila works as an illustrator. She just completed the book "Mama Graciela's Secret" for Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Book info:
ISBN:HC 978-1-365-86153-6
SC 978-1-365-86155-0
ISBN Dyslexic Font Version:
DY HC 978-1-365-86154-3 DY SC 978-1-365-86156-7
**This book also has version printed in the Dyslexic font, the typeface for people with dyslexia. Go to to find out more about the typeface.
Suggested Retail Price - 17.99 Hardcover & 13.99 Softcover 40 % Discounted Price – 10.80 Hardcover & 8.40 Softcover
Available through - Ingram - Discount 40% Returnable – Yes
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing – Discount 40% - Returnable – Yes
Publishing company Contact Info: MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 1024 Iron Point Rd 100-1478 Folsom CA 95630
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 620 Buchanan Way, Folsom, CA 95630 916-897-1670

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mama Graciela's Secret by Mayra Calvani

Mama Graciela's Secret

by Mayra Calvani

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nadia Natali: "I just knew I had a story to tell and hoped others would find it valuable."

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 
Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.



About the Book:

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin's daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn't have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was
tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn't what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn't have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

-Can you tell us what your book is about?

One may believe genius, fame, and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience. My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, I learned early on that it distorts values. That was my first lesson. I turned my life around when I met Enrico who was to become my husband and partner in life. We moved out to the wilderness and met with many obstacles while raising a family. We turned all the apparent false values of the social system inside out and then had to face the consequences.

During those years I discovered my own truth, a journey that took me inward to body sensation, an inner experience, rather than looking to authority or others for answers. Perhaps most importantly was how I found my boundaries, my authenticity and my voice, which led me to find meaning in my life and a meaningful way to help others.

-Why did you write your book?

It was an urge that had no direct path. I just knew I had a story to tell and hoped others would find it valuable. In a sense it wrote itself.

-What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?
I believe that my message might inspire and inform readers how to shift from turning to others for answers to finding one’s own truth within.

Learning that you are the utmost authority on being human was huge for me. And finding out thinking is not reality was at the bottom of it all. I had to turn inward, to the inner experience, to feel when I looked for an answer. I prefer to hear from people’s experience rather than to read a how to book and I hope my journey will provide such a context to others.

-Who influenced you to write your book?

A good friend who teaches writing at UCLA said to me, “You have such an interesting story to tell you ought to write a memoir”. Her suggestion confirmed an impulse I had been holding, which was to write how being part of such a famous and wealthy family was completely at odds with my finding a wholesome life and then the challenging journey I took to find it.

I joined my friend’s weekly writing group and found it daunting as I listened to the other professional writers read their pages. After months of feeling painfully inadequate I stopped participating and wrote the rest of the book at home. Luckily my friend was very encouraging and without all those listeners I realized I was better off working on my own.

-Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

I first self-published my memoir and sent it out to other publishers.

I found someone who would do PR for me at a given cost. Since they were also a publishing company and liked my book, I asked if they would publish mine if I paid for the printing. It has been a mixed experience.

-Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

There were times I felt an uncomfortable sensation in my belly as I wrote challenging parts of my story. I believe my belly was telling me that what I was writing was either not genuine or off center. My desire to be authentic pushed me to rewrite whatever was necessary to go to a deeper level that allowed both authenticity and integrity. Sometimes the sensation was there and I had no idea why but I had to rewrite until it disappeared.

-What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I would bake something.

-Which holiday is your favorite and why?

I like Thanksgiving because I love to cook and love good food.

-If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

I would go to a really good but quiet Japanese restaurant

-What do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy cooking and writing my cookbook. I love technology and am on the computer a lot reading the news as a break from my writing.

I also love my animals, three German Shepherds, four cats and lots of chickens.
They all roam freely on our property out in the national forest.

-Can you tell us about your family?

My family of origin was full of genius and trouble and I tried to create a new paradigm with my current family, one of wholesomeness and integrity.

The life my husband and I created in the wilderness felt like an antidote to society and its apparent pitfalls. We home schooled the kids and ran into serious trouble when they entered their teenage years. My world turned upside down. We lost one of our three children in an accident. I have spent my life trying to find my own voice and have written about it in my memoir.

-What do you like the most about being an author?

I like having to be authentic and real and that challenge is equally a part of my life.

-What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

It took many years to write, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin. In some way I felt I had a hand at my back that pushed me through the whole process. It was very hard work but for me there was little or no resistance. You really need to want to do it; if there is any doubt I imagine the process could be agonizing.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy: 'I have always been intrigued by the miraculous'

Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy worked as an actress and writer in film and television in the United States and Israel. Night in Jerusalem is her debut novel, which she has adapted to film. She lives in Ojai California with her husband and daughter.

She writes, “I lived in Israel in the 1960s, a naive twenty-year-old, hoping to find myself and my place in the world. The possibility of war was remote to me. I imagined the tensions in the region would somehow be resolved peacefully. Then, the Six Day War erupted and I experienced it firsthand in Jerusalem.

I have drawn Night in Jerusalem from my experiences during that time. The historical events portrayed in the novel are accurate. The characters are based on people I knew in the city. Like me, they were struggling to make sense of their lives, responding to inherited challenges they could not escape that shaped their destiny in ways they and the entire Middle East could not have imagined.

I have always been intrigued by the miraculous. How and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny. How two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another.

Israel’s Six Day War is not a fiction; neither was the miracle of its victory. What better time to discover love through intrigue, passion, and the miraculous.

Writing this story was in part reliving my history in Israel, in part a mystical adventure. I am grateful that so many who have read Night In Jerusalem have experienced this as well.”



It’s a pleasure to have you here today, Gaelle. Can you tell us what your new book is about?

I have always been intrigued by the miraculous: how and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny; how two people who are destined to love, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another. Night In Jerusalem is a love story set during Israel’s Six Day War in which passion, mystical encounters and the miraculous come together to change the lives of everyone caught up in it.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

David Bennett is a young British aristocrat who longs to find his place in the world. He is invited to Jerusalem by his cousin who, to the alarm of their family, has embraced Judaism. Unlike his cousin, David has no interest in religion and feels little affiliation with his Jewish heritage. Shortly after he arrives, we learn why David is unable to sustain relationships with women

Reb Eli came from an orthodox family in Germany. His father, a prominent rabbi, arranged for him to be evacuated to England through the Kindertransport.  He was taken in by David’s family and developed a deep friendship with David’s father, Phillip, who was a young boy also. Learning after the war that his family had been lost in the holocaust, Eli found a new life in Israel where he became revered as a sage and spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s orthodox community.

Sarah, one of Reb Eli’s daughters, lost her husband to an early death. She had no children and was judged to be barren, leaving her utterly bereft. Without a sense of purpose, her sadness grieves Eli who can find no way to give her comfort. She is devoted to her father and their religious tradition, which she observes faithfully and sincerely.

Anat is fresh out of the army. She is a free-thinking Israeli beauty, confident in her sexuality and ready to embrace the world on her own terms. She is an archeologist, impatient with the shibboleths of Jewish tradition, insisting on a clear-eyed interpretation of the historical record based on the facts, not religious convention.

Your book is set in Jerusalem. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

The story takes place in Jerusalem, a city more redolent of mystery than anywhere else. It is not uncommon for visitors there to fall completely under the spell of its energy, having visions of the archetypes of religious faith as they wander the city streets.  Psychiatrists call this experience the “Jerusalem Syndrome.” I have always been affected by the energy of place, and never more so than in Jerusalem. Its unseen, nighttime world is the wellspring of the book’s plot, even though the story is set against the backdrop of the Six Day War. I wanted the title “Night In Jerusalem” to evoke the mood of the city and point to the spiritual story that unfolds there.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Sarah’s revelation that she is about to undertake something that can endanger as well as forever change her and the life she knows, severing the bonds to her family and community.

What has been the most pivotal point of your writing life?

I studied creative writing at Columbia and came to appreciate the astonishing virtuosity of our writers. But the pivotal shift for me came when I realized I am not at all interested in writing for its own sake, no matter how well-crafted it is. Sometimes, I find that writing can get in the way of the work. I love stories that are told simply, where the writer is unobtrusive and the characters and plot say it all. Einstein said it is easy to make something complicated, but it takes genius to make things simple. That’s a “simple” that takes mastery to achieve. It is hard to write stories that are so clear and transparent you can see right into the souls of the characters. That’s what works for me. The writing I love is where the writer becomes invisible. I found it hugely liberating to disappear into my characters and their world. I have never looked back.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

I would encourage aspiring authors to start writing today. I’d tell them the story doesn’t have to be completely worked out before they start writing it. They can start with the characters, let them come alive, and then stay with them - I write every day to make sure I stay in contact with mine. During the rest of the time, the characters are in the background, imagining alternative futures. I have a general idea of where I am heading with the story, but I am regularly surprised by turns of events. The book takes on a life of its own, once you get going.