Monday, February 28, 2011

BLOG BOOK TOUR: Lessons from the Concrete Garden by Kurtis Smith

Outskirts Press author, Kurtis Smith, is taking his latest book, Lessons from the Concrete Garden, on a virtual book tour and stopped by here for a visit. 

Lessons book cover


The Most Advanced and Comprehensive Selling System Designed Specifically for Dealerships and Their Sales Teams 

Over a decade has been spent in research, development and field testing in order to identify and document the specific skill sets, characteristics and knowledge of a highly skilled and professional salesperson.

“Lessons From the Concrete Garden” is a by-product of this work and is packed with insight and ideas that will explain why many salespeople struggle and most fail.

It shines a spotlight on the struggling automotive industry and its selling practices and asks the question:

How is it possible to spend billions of dollars on R&D, manufacturing and marketing to produce some of the most technologically advanced and complex products, then miss the mark when it comes to educating the individuals responsible for selling them?

It drives the point home that salespeople are the first and last to touch the actual buyers of these products and they are probably the most important spoke in the business development wheel and are deserving of a quality and proper education.

This exciting book provides real answers and proposes real solutions for businesses and selling professionals that are struggling to find a plan of action that actually works. It discusses what to do, when to do it, how to do it and why it needs to be done. Lessons From the Concrete Garden is a Gem!

This is a must read for anyone involved in selling, training or business development.

R&T: Tell us a little bit about Lessons from the Concrete Garden. What is it about?

KS: The book is about providing real answers and solutions to selling professionals struggling to do their jobs daily. It was important to me to use real examples and relatable scenarios to make my points, not theories or conjecture so I drew from over two decades of experience in sales, management and business consulting to form my thesis. I decided to use the automotive dealerships as the case study to explain how an ambiguous policy regarding the development of selling professionals is not only a failing proposition, but a recipe for disaster. It allowed me to emphasize how a lack of a system to educate and measure a selling professional’s performance 
against a standard is responsible for the quality of the client experience and poor sales numbers which in turn leads to high employee turnover and business failure rates, regardless of industry. The goal of this book was to spotlight the profession as a whole in order to draw attention to the fact that there is no formal education program available to its practitioners and, in my opinion, is the reason for the extremely high failure rates.

This book introduces a solution in the form of Professional Standards for Sales Excellence, a set of systems and process that anyone can use to produce more predictable and consistent results as the new core competencies of professional selling and business development.

R&T: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

KS: I wrote the book out of a necessity to organize my thoughts in order to explain a process that is literally changing lives. There is a desperate need for a new approach to developing selling professionals and those responsible for business development and I had the answer. The problem was that the answer was more than one word and consisted of a series of systems and processes that when I tried to explain it to some, they would get this glazed over look on their faces because it was unlike anything they had heard before. The fact is that selling as a profession is not being taught at institutions of higher learning and is not looked upon as a real profession. However, when you consider that someone has to sell something in every company in order for them to stay in business; you would think that the person they hire would be of the highest caliber with the formal training to confirm what they know. Ironically it is just not the case. 

I wrote this book to outline the standard and offer a solution by using the automobile industry as the case study, because what happened to them is a mirror image of what is happening in most businesses. But most importantly, it was written to give salespeople a roadmap to follow and management the understanding that without specific activities for them to measure against standards, it is difficult to do their jobs effectively.

R&T: What types of readers would be interested in this story?

KS: The book was written to speak to three specific types of readers; the first being the selling professional who is struggling to produce consistent results and has no idea why he or she is struggling. The second is the entrepreneur or business owner who has a business and needs to put him or his sale force to work and does not know where to begin. And finally, for the sales managers who are responsible for producing results through a sales team and are still trying to manage by coercion, intimidation or even begging and pleading to produce results.

R&T: What is special about your book?  

KS: As James Dyson puts it, “Solve the obvious problems that others seem to ignore.” Lessons from the Concrete Garden was specifically written to identify and address the reasons why salespeople struggle and fail. It provides answers that challenges the paradigm of those individuals stuck in this is the way we have always done it here mentality. 

It is an original thought written to provide hope for those looking for answers in a world full of sameness.

R&T: What differentiates it from other books in the same category?

KS: I believe Lessons from the Concrete Garden focuses on substance by offering specific original solutions and not regurgitated rhetoric. My goal in this book was not to tell you what you should do, but to provide you with tangible solutions backed up with process based action plans.

R&T: Have you published any other books? Do you plan to publish more?

KS: No I have not. Yes. There are several other projects in the works.

R&TThanks for your time, Kurtis! We look forward to learning more about you as you visit other bloggers!

Andy Schoepp
With a diverse background as a United States Marine, sales and management professional,business 
owner and consultant, Kurtis Smith brings over two decades of experience and know-how to the table.

He is the president and CEO of The K-Method Group, a teaching organization focused on teaching businesses, entrepreneurs and sales professionals the step-by-step processes of how to build, maintain and manage a book of business.

His vision for the company is to continually provide the content and the environment where organizations and their salespeople can acquire the knowledge they need in order for them to flourish.

For more information or to contact the author, visit

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BLOG BOOK TOUR: Letters From Wheatfield by Patrick Shannon

Outskirts Press author, Patrick Shannon, is taking his latest book, Letters From Wheatfield, on a virtual book tour and stopped by here for a visit. 

Time Ninja book cover


What do you do for fun if you live in a small rural town, dauntingly far from the nearest city's plentiful amusements? Upon what resources do you draw to spice up your existence? Letters From Wheatfield provides the answer - and it isn't always pretty.

The fictitious town of Wheatfield is a tiny island in a vast sea of wheat fields and cattle ranges. Its nearest neighboring towns, similarly small, are well over the horizon. But its isolation has no effect on its inhabitants. Theirs is a society of mirthful, blithe, spritely wags - a condition abetted by the presence of not a few eccentric individuals.

In Letters From Wheatfield, two transplants from Manhattan write to a cousin back home about the remarkable community that has assimilated and transmuted them - much to their amazement and great pleasure.

R&T: Tell us a little bit about Letters From Wheatfield. What is it about?

PS: It’s about a couple from Manhattan who retire to a tiny Montana town and discover a virtual “parallel universe” of eccentric folks and wacky situations. They send letters to a cousin back in Manhattan, vividly describing their hilarious encounters.

R&T: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

PS: Actually, from living here in my adopted town of Conrad, Montana. Approximately 40% of the stories in the book are based on actual events here, gussied up by my imagination, of course.

You see, Montanans, in general, are very witty people, and the residents of Conrad just seem to have a greater share of that trait. So when you have a town full of congenial, fun-loving characters like that, you have a community that is one heckuva good time.

And there is another factor. Like my fictitious town of Wheatfield, Conrad lies within the “Pixie Triangle” – an area where loony things just sort of happen. For example, there was an incident recently, in a nearby town, that would have 
been a surefire candidate for the Wheatfield Book Of World Record Vegetables. (I swear this is the truth. I have the newspaper clipping to prove it.) A black bear was trying to force its way through a woman’s kitchen door, and she successfully beat it off with a giant, 14-inch zucchini from her garden. The article included a picture of the zucchini and a yardstick. Now, if you can live in a place like this and not write a book, there’s something wrong with you.

R&T: What types of readers would be interested in this story?

PS: I think anyone who has a sense of humor and likes to laugh will find it worth their time. If they happen to come from or reside in a small town like Wheatfield, I think they will readily identify with the crazy stuff that can happen.

R&T: What is special about your book?  What differentiates it from other books in the same category?

PS: I think the fact that so much of it is based on actual situations gives it an authenticity that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Several of my reviewers who have small town backgrounds have commented on this.

R&T: Have you published any other books? Do you plan to publish more?

PS: My first book was for young readers in the 10 to14 age group. Its title is Viva Cisco and, in keeping with my style, it is humorous. I have a third book ready to go. Its called Viva Laughter, and I like to think of it as my tour de force as a humorist. If I can get the necessary releases for my use of a few well-known names, I will try to get it published.

R&T: Thanks for your time, Patrick! We look forward to learning more about you as you visit other bloggers!

Andy Schoepp
Patrick Shannon, author of the young reader's book, Viva Cisco, currently resides in Conrad, Montana. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, he worked thirty-three years for a major oil company, bringing him rich experiences from traveling in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S. Born and raised in Southern California, Shannon attended East Carolina and Oklahoma Universities and UCLA. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi scholarship society.

For more information or to contact the author, visit

Thursday, February 17, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Part II)

I made a pact with a family member to read two chapters of Anna Karenina every day (5 days/week) to finish it in approximately 5 months. Currently 6 weeks in we are ahead of schedule - 68 chapters read so far. The book has a total of 8 parts and I'm going to review each part as I go so I don't forget what I've read by the end. Then I'll put the separate reviews together for my Amazon review.

Last week I reviewed Part I with a breakdown of the characters we met.  

In Part II, we meet the following additional characters:

Princess Elizaveta ("Betsy") – Anna's friend and Vronsky's cousin, seems Anna's only trusted confidante during her affair with Vronsky.

Countess Lidia Ivanovna – Friend of Anna and her husband, Karenin, who warns Karenin about Anna's relationship with Vronsky.  

Varenka – A young, beautiful and kind-hearted orphaned girl, adopted by an "invalid" woman.  She and Kitty become friends at the end of this section.

I mentioned earlier we are slightly ahead of schedule.  This is because the book has begun to move along faster.  There were some chapters in this Part where I didn't want to stop reading, I just had to find out what was going to happen next.

In the beginning of this section, Kitty's health is poor and a doctor advises her to go abroad to recover.  Stiva (Anna's brother) comes to stay with Levin and sells a plot of his land, which Levin is unhappy about because he believes the land was worth much more.

Anna begins to spend more time with Betsy (Vronsky's cousin).  Anna and Vronsky begin having an affair.  Karenin becomes suspicious of this relationship and warns Anna about public appearances, although he does not allow himself to believe that Anna is doing anything disloyal.

Vronsky comes to visit Anna just before his horse race and she tells him that she is pregnant.  He asks her to leave her husband and she tells him that she cannot.  Her husband, who has been spending the summer away, returns to town in time to go to the race.  During the race, Vronsky makes a move that results in the horse breaking her back.   Anna is visibly upset when the accident happens.  Karenin strongly urges her to leave with him, for fear that her behavior was becoming embarrassing.  The argument on the way home leads to her confessing the affair to her husband.

Finally, we go back to Kitty who is abroad with her mother and befriends a young girl name Varenka.  Her new friendship with Varenka sparks in her a desire to help people.  She seems to begin feeling better, her father comes and they return to Moscow.

I'm definitely remaining interested in the book at this point.  It's becoming easier to read now that we know most of the main characters.  I don't like when Tolstoy shifts between story lines (i.e. from Levin in the country to Anna in Petersburg to Kitty wherever she is abroad).  It takes a little while to shift gears, but as we get further in to each individual story line, that seems to get easier.  

I'm currently 12 chapters ahead of schedule and now moving on to Part III.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Animals/Animales by Eric Carle


This bilingual board book with a sliding panel uses Eric Carle’s vibrant artwork to teach the names of common animals in both English and Spanish. The panel slides back and forth to reveal the name of the animal in English (“dog”) and in Spanish (“perro”). The facing page features a simple sentence about the animal in both languages.


I don't usually like bilingual English/Spanish books.  Although I speak Spanish, I figure most people aren't comfortable reading the Spanish text in bilingual books.  That may be the case with this one, but I like the way it's done in this one.  Parents can read the English text (one sentence per page, on the left side) and skip the Spanish text if they are not comfortable reading it.  Then on the right side there's a sliding panel where parents can read the English then Spanish word for each animal.  This is the best part!  I can tell my 2-year-old knows I am teaching him a new word each time I say the Spanish version and he repeats it every time.  This is definitely a fun, easy read for (parents with) babies through preschool age.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Elmo's World: Love! by Kara McMahon

I'm not a big fan of these Elmo's World books.  I think most parents buy them when their kids are between the ages of 1 and 4, when Elmo is all the rage.  They are okay to read; the kids enjoy them, but my kids don't beg for them and I certainly don't push to read them over and over.  This one is a little more fun for younger listeners because of the "lift the flap" feature, but like the other Elmo's World books, the text is somewhat disjointed.  You can't just read it straight through.  There are little quotes and "side notes" throughout the book.  This is probably intentional for the reading age group, but as a mother of 3 (reading several books a night) I prefer to just read straight through a story and move on to the next rather than point and discuss different things on each page.  

I'm also not a huge believer in "fate," but there was just something about this book that made me feel like it was meant for my children.  The publication date is the exact day and year my oldest child was due to be born.  I discovered it about four years later when I bought it for my second child for Valentine's Day and gave it to him in the hospital after I had delivered by third child, my Valentine's Day baby - born February 13th, he's two-years-old today!  So, although it's not my favorite book, it certainly has meaning to me and the kids enjoy it, which is really all that matters.

Friday, February 11, 2011

BLOG BOOK TOUR: Time Ninja by Andy Schoepp

Outskirts Press author, Andy Schoepp, is taking his latest book, Time Ninja, on a virtual book tour and stopped by here for a visit. 

Time Ninja book cover


The year is 2101, global warming and a depleted ozone layer are destroying the Earth. The human race lies on the brink of extinction with its only hope being a planet in another galaxy. A raging civil war reigns supreme over the technology to transport people to that planet which can save the human race. It is in this future that Master Ninja Ryu Kendo must obtain a special sword that can help him save his village from annihilation. But the raging civil war may consume Ryu’s mind, body, soul and indeed his very being. Will Ryu sacrifice his village for his friends, the woman he loves and for the future of humankind? In Time Ninja, Andy Schoepp paints a vivid tapestry of an ancient, Japanese village in modern times and a future fraught with civil war, high-tech weaponry and characters fighting to stay alive with the Earth in peril of obliteration. And, when Andy Schoepp combines the ancient techniques of Ninjutsu with the high-tech weaponry of the future, it will be a battle none will soon forget! Time Ninja is a must-read epic you won’t want to miss!

R&T: Tell us a little bit about Time Ninja. What is it about?

AS: Time Ninja is about Master Ninja Ryu Kendo who is teleported to the year 2101 to obtain a special sword that can save his village from annihilation.  When he arrives, he finds a future Earth that is dying from out-of-control global warming and a depleted ozone layer.  There is also a civil war being waged over the technology to save the human race and Ryu finds himself getting reluctantly pulled into this civil war with the future of humankind at stake.

R&T: Why did you decide to write this story?

AS: This novel had been in my mind for many years just itching to get out and I feel that I am an excellent storyteller and this novel is my masterpiece thus far so I just had to write it.  I also feel it is an important contribution to the Science Fiction and Action & Adventure genre due to the fact that it is epic in both length and scope.

R&T: What types of readers would be interested in this story?

AS: Science Fiction readers, Action & Adventure readers, Martial Artists and anyone who is interested in Ninjutsu or anyone who just loves ninjas (they are still big in pop culture).

R&T: What is special about your book?  What differentiates it from other books in the same category?

AS: What differentiates it from other books in the same category? I don’t think any other Science Fiction or Action & Adventure writer has ever pitted the ancient art of Ninjutsu against high-tech weaponry of the future.  Chapter 18 which is entitled Armageddon is what I consider to be my crowning achievement thus far.  Chapter 18 is essentially a 38 page action scene and then readers get to read a similar chapter (Chapter 33: Armageddon Revisited) which is a very similar action scene with different outcomes from Chapter 18.  All of this stems from the time travel elements of the story, a lot of things get revisited and changed from earlier chapters in the novel from Ryu taking two trips into the future.

R&T: Have you published any other books? Do you plan to publish more?

AS:  I am also the author of The Martial Arts Murders trilogy.  Book one: The Martial Arts Murders, book two: Life and Money Heist, and book three: Moral Executioners.  I am also working on a collection of short stories in the Horror genre, another Martial Arts related book which is NOT a part of The Martial Arts Murders trilogy and a sequel to Time Ninja.

R&T: Thanks for your time, Andy! We look forward to learning more about you as you visit other bloggers!



Andy Schoepp holds a second degree black belt in the martial arts, has fourteen years of training, eight years of teaching experience and is trained in ten martial arts weapons. He is also the author of The Martial Arts Murders trilogy.

For more information or to contact the author, visit

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Part I)

I made a pact with a family member to read two chapters of Anna Karenina every day (5 days/week) to finish it in approximately 5 months.  We're currently five weeks in and just entered Part II last week.  Until this point, I didn't even realize the book had EIGHT parts!  I decided it would be best for me to review the book after each part so I don't forget what I read by the end.  Then I'll put the separate reviews together for my Amazon review.


In this first part we meet the following characters:

Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky ("Stiva") – A civil servant who has cheated on his wife with the family's governess.  He is Anna's brother.

Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonskaya ("Dolly") – Stepan's wife (and mother of his 5 children) who has just discovered the affair and is very distraught.

Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin ("Kostya") – Childhood friend of Stiva who comes to visit from the country.  He has come to ask Kitty to marry him. 

Countess Vronskaya – Vronsky's mother, only in the story briefly as she traveled with Anna by train.  Not sure if she'll come back into the story later.

Princess Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya ("Kitty") – Dolly's younger sister who is conflicted by her feelings for Levin and, simultaneously, Vronsky.  She rejects Levin's marriage proposal.

Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky – A man with a charming personality who Kitty believes is a better suitor, but who does not have intentions to marry Kitty.  He follows Anna home and confesses his love for her on the train.

Anna Arkadyevna Karenina – Stepan Oblonsky's sister who comes to visit, helps Dolly and Stiva repair their relationship, and leaves abruptly at the end when she and Vronsky become attracted to one another.

Nikolai Levin – Konstantin's brother

Sergius Ivanich Koznyshev – Konstantin's half-brother

Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin – Anna's husband, who we meet briefly at the end.  It is apparent that Anna may be falling out of love with him.  

Sergei Alexeyitch Karenin ("Seryozha") – Anna and Karenin's 8-year-old son

I had tried to read this book a few years ago, but couldn't get into it. This time, I almost gave up at chapter 5, but once I got through it, the chapters and the story line seemed to move along pretty quickly. It's definitely an interesting story, just difficult to read because it was written in Russian in 1873. The translation I am reading is slightly awkward at times, but I'm glad I am reading it on my Kindle where I can look up words I don't know. For example, Stepan had an affair with a "governess." I wasn't completely sure what that meant, so I looked it up and found that a governess is a woman who is employed to teach the children, similar to a nanny, but she is there for their educational needs, not their physical ones. 

Overall, I am enjoying the book so far.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

BLOG BOOK TOUR: Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon

Outskirts Press author, Kelli Sue Landon, is taking her latest book, Sudden Moves, on a virtual book tour and stopped by here for a visit. 

Sudden Moves book cover


Katie Brashers announced to her friends that she was taking a trip to Florida for Spring Break, but when class resumes, Katie isn’t in attendance. The school staff claims that the family moved there. Katie's friend Michelle Martin grows suspicious, especially since she let Katie borrow a treasured family book that she failed to return. Not to mention, Katie never said goodbye to her devoted boyfriend, Brad. Michelle confides in her best friend, Tami. Dodging Michelle’s demanding mother, they team up with Brad and form their own investigation by talking to neighbors and looking inside Katie’s house. Michelle is about ready to give up until she takes her dog on his daily walk and uncovers a clue that leads her closer to the truth, but also throws her into circumstances beyond her control.


R&T: Tell us a little bit about Sudden Moves. What is it about?

KSL: Sixteen year old Michelle Martin grows suspicious when classmate, Katie Brashers, doesn't return after a Spring Break trip to Florida.  Michelle is worried because she let Katie borrow a family heirloom that needed to be returned to her.  She talks it over with her best friend, Tami, and Katie's boyfriend, Brad, who is crushed over her sudden departure.  Together, they snoop around the neighborhood and learn more and more about what happened to Katie and her family.

R&T: Why did you decide to write this story?

KSL: I had the idea in my head since I was in high school.  I started it as a story, but it evolved into a full length novel..

R&T: What types of readers would be interested in this story?

KSL: Teens or women who will be taken back to their high school years.

R&T: What is special about your book?  What differentiates it from other books in the same category?

KSL: This book is about regular teenagers, not the supernatural or vampires, which seems to be the norm right now.  They react as normal teens would react in their situation.  It's a YA mystery, but evolves into a more adult finale.  These kids learn a lot on their quest to find Katie.

R&T: Have you published any other books? Do you plan to publish more?

KSL:  This is my first one, but I have another one written.  It will be sent off for publication this spring.  It takes place on a weekend camping trip – a slasher type of story with a whodunit angle.

R&T: Thanks for your time, Kelli! We look forward to learning more about you as you visit other bloggers!



Kelli Sue Landon was born in Peoria, Illinois. Her published short stories include The Diary, Pizza Night, and Campfire Dreams. She is employed by the United States Postal Service in Peoria. Sudden Moves is her first novel.

For more information or to contact the author, visit

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Pond by Tamera Lawrence


Do the Adam's have more to fear from the living or the dead? Twenty-five years have passed since eight-year old Carl Weber drowned in Gray's Pond, and now one member of the Adam's family has returned to Kimberton, Pennsylvania, to reside once again in the old mansion. It is time for Michael Adams to revisit his past, and for wife Donna and daughter, Kim, to become acquainted with their neighbors-a rather odd old couple who own the farm next door. Each day, however, brings strange occurrences--increasing paranormal activity, till it becomes agonizingly clear that ghosts of the past are trying to make their presence known.


Something strange is going on in the Adams' family home!  Michael Adams and his wife and daughter move back to his childhood home - an old home in a rural area with odd neighbors across the street where a young boy had drowned many years ago.  Unexplainable things begin to happen around the house, such as a grandfather clock being overturned in a room by itself, objects getting broken or moved and strange appearances of frogs.  Donna Adams finds herself investigating these occurrences to get to the bottom of what is happening to her family, and find out what really happened to Carl Weber that day.  

The Pond is a suspenseful thriller, sure to keep you interested until the very end.