An Interview With Christi Phillips And All About Her New Book, The Devlin Diary

THE DEVLIN DIARY is set in England however, in two time periods, as the reader finds parallel stories taking place. In London, during the 17th Century, there is Hannah, while Claire lives in 2008. Their stories are indeed unique and yet they entwine making one grand mix of mystery.

Hannah Devlin treats the sick because her father was a physician and she wants to carry on his life’s work. However, women are not allowed to be practicing physicians in those days and so it is mainly the poor that she ministers. But all that changes when she is asked to come to court to treat a mistress of Louis de Keroualle. Because of all the odd and devious things that she finds when she is there, she begins a diary written in code about all she sees. When arcane symbols are found on two murder victims, Hannah becomes part of a major conspiracy that is thought to have taken place between Hannah’s father and the king.

Meanwhile, Claire Donovan is working as a professor of history in Cambridge in 2008 and learns of the diary that may contain valuable information but someone else has found it and is using it for his own gains. Claire discovers that someone wants to keep this secret so much that they will kill for its safety. She is working with Andrew Kent, a historian, when they discover a colleague murdered and are led to believe that the murder is associated with the very last person to have been involved with the diary, Hannah Devlin. They follow the clues they gain from their research and discover that what happened with Hannah Devlin years past may still be a problem today.

The story evolves into a twisted plot from both time periods and I enjoyed the perplexing mystery that only solving the puzzles and code would resolve. Claire and Andrew begin to wonder if the two mysteries are somehow linked from the past to their current time. How can a book written so long ago still hold the answers to solving a present day problem? Is something in common happening? Do both women solve their mysteries?

I found that the romance and mystery blended well and kept my interest although I was surprised that the earlier story was much more to my liking. All the characters are well written and believable. The best part for me was I figured out who did it before the end which is unusual for me. I recommend this book especially for book clubs as it would surely bring about a lively discussion.

Welcome to Christi Phillips, author of THE DEVLIN DIARY.

1. Can you tell us anything about the next or current book you are working on?

My next book takes place in seventeenth-century France. This one will be set entirely in the past.

2. What have you just finished reading?

I just finished “Revenge of the Spellmans” by Lisa Lutz. It was charming, funny, suspenseful and poignant.

3. What books would you say made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?

The books I read as a child had the most influence on me. I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was ten.

4. What gets you started on a new book?

A new character. Even though I set my books in other times and other places, it’s the character who drives the story and makes it compelling for me. In part, I write the book to find out who she is, what motivates her? What’s going to happen to her, what is she going to do?

5. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?

I’m a very happy person who feels lucky to be doing what I love-writing novels.

6. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?

Read as much as you can. Read everything. Read outside your comfort zone. Then write as much as you can. Don’t get too caught up in others’ criticism or praise of your work. Develop your own sense of what’s good: what works for you as a writer and what’s pleasing to you as a reader. Even though others can help you, guide you and offer suggestions, ultimately, you’ll have to rely on your own judgment.

Thank you so much to Christi Phillips for taking time from her busy schedule to answer my questions.

New Book Teaches Entrepreneurs How to Become Better Speakers

The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is simply talking to people. If you don’t know what to say to people, or you don’t know how to say it well, you can’t make the sale, get a client, or share information about your company. In short, being able to speak about your business is the only way you’re going to get business or stay in business.

Michelle Mazur, a longtime speaking coach with a Ph.D. in communication, makes public speaking easy-okay, not easy, but easier and less painful than doing nothing. You’ll become a much better speaker simply by following her practical advice and suggestions in her new book Speak Up for Your Business: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Transformational Presentations that Tell, Sell, and Compel.

Nor is this your average “how to” book on public speaking. It’s more like a Toastmasters Manual on steroids. As a former Toastmaster myself, I felt I knew a lot about public speaking, but Michelle surprised me with all the great advice in this book, and she kept me interested all the way through with her down-to-earth humorous writing style and her entertaining stories. In other words, she speaks like she writes and vice-versa, and it has served her well, so she’s the perfect coach for anyone who wants to overcome the fear of public speaking or take his or her speaking abilities to the next level.

Right from the start, what I appreciated about Speak Up for Your Business was that Michelle tells people to quit trying to fake who they are. Her call to action includes, “Let’s stop copying other great communicators out there and start being ourselves!”

Michelle then walks the reader/would-be speaker through the process of crafting a speech. The main concern here is to have something worth saying, to create what she calls a “Transformational Talk.” The many steps to this process include how to find your BIG IDEA, know your audience (including stalking the audience members online before the big speech), the entire process of speech writing from beginning to end-although she tells us not to do it in that order-and all sorts of problem-solving advice, including why you should avoid the Q&A session at the end of your speech and how to adapt your presentation to whatever unexpected circumstances arise. Michelle even offers advice on how to get more speaking gigs-and it’s not by contacting her to get her free kit or sign up for her next workshop-because she’s all about taking the sleaze out of selling-I mean, public speaking-and delivering real value to your audience.

Michelle’s down-to-earth personality shines throughout the book and helps to get her point across. She’s not afraid to share her own triumphs and, even more, her faults, and she reminds us that we don’t need to be the audience’s hero because then we seem unreachable. Rather, we need to connect to the audience. I loved her chapter on embracing your inner F-bomb-that F-bomb is not what you might think it is. But that doesn’t mean people don’t occasionally say something they shouldn’t-Michelle even shares the time during a presentation when a word came out of her mouth that shouldn’t have and how she dealt with it.

I can guarantee that reading this book will help you become a better public speaker. As an author myself who often is asked to give presentations, I’ve found many helpful hints and ideas as well as examples of what not to do that I will apply to my own future presentations. Whether you are an author, business owner, employee who just wants to make a case for why you deserve a raise, or someone who wants to promote a charity-whatever your business or purpose in life, reading Speak Up for Your Business is going to help make a big difference for you, your business, and most importantly, your audience-it’s really about the audience, not you-just another of the great tips I learned from Michelle.

New Book Nudges Us to Live Life Fully

Can you even imagine what it must have been like to be a responder to the Columbine shooting? How could anyone move past the horror and sadness of such an event, and go on to continue to do her job through numerous other tragic situations, much less to live a happy and fulfilling life?

Autumn Shields has just about seen it all in her former career as a victim advocate. She has seen tears and pain and senseless violence, but she has also seen the human spirit rise above it all and continue on. Now, in her new book Living Your Life Alive, she shares with us how sometimes it takes tragedy to make us wake up and live the lives intended for us. Hopefully, however, you won’t need to experience a tragedy to have a wakeup call; instead, as Autumn explains, you just have to listen to your “inner nudges.”

Sadly, too many of us don’t listen to our nudges. We allow negativity and self-doubt to hold us back in life. Autumn illustrates this point by explaining how monkeys are captured on Borneo:

“On Borneo, the natives have a unique way of catching monkeys. They use a hollowed out coconut and some green bananas-the monkeys’ favorite treat. In one end of the coconut, they make a hole just big enough for an adult monkey’s open hand. They tether the other end of the coconut to a tree. Then they drop a banana into the coconut and scatter some around to bait the monkeys.”

“When a troop of monkeys shows up, one monkey will invariably find the coconut and stick in a hand and grab the banana. The monkey is then trapped. Not in the sense that the monkey can’t get away-all it has to do is let go of the banana, after all. But when the villagers show up the next day, they almost always find the monkey battered and bruised or dead of exhaustion because it spent its energy struggling to free its hand without releasing its grip.”

Too many people are like the monkeys. As a result, it may take something drastic for us to wake up and live our lives alive. Other times, we just need some guidance from someone like Autumn to help us move past our fears and doubts. Through her book’s pages, Autumn takes readers on a journey that addresses many of the things that hold them back from living up to their greatest potentials. From discussing overcoming fear to how to remove the masks we hide behind, and from creating a vision for our lives to taking steps to making that vision our reality, Autumn leads us down the path to becoming our own success stories.

Autumn also reminds us that success-however we want to define it-will take some work. Not that we should be intimidated by successful people, thinking we can’t accomplish what they have. She uses Facebook to illustrate this point: “We tend only to see the result, the success story, or the perfect life portrayed on Facebook. What if we could see the minutes of someone’s life instead of just his or her title or result? We tend to compare ourselves to everyone else’s success, but we judge ourselves by our minutes.”

We need to take the time to focus on our minutes. We need to realize that in those minutes, one piled on another, are the steps to our success provided we use each minute well. In the end, our nudges will lead to vision and work, and we will have a payoff finding rewards we least expect. Autumn illustrates this by referring to sunsets on Maui, where she now lives. (How she moved to Maui is a story of nudges answered that you’ll have to read for yourself). People often want to watch the sunset, but Autumn has observed that if they see the sky darken or cloud over just minutes beforehand, they figure the sunset won’t be worth watching so they leave. But Autumn knows the sunset still happens and will be beautiful and the sky may clear at the last minute: “But those other people left… right before. Why not wait the five minutes and just enjoy the air or watch the waves crash on shore? Why do we put so much emphasis on the exact time of the sunset and then walk away from it? As my son has pointed out, ‘Who cares about the sunset? The sky is always more colorful right afterwards.’ We make things the point and forget to enjoy the surrounding moments. We forget to enjoy the right before, the point, and the after… the moments.”

Living Your Life Alive is full of other beautiful moments that have important messages for us, but I’ll just conclude by mentioning that at the end of the book Autumn interviews a number of inspiring people who are examples of living your life alive. Among these people is Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a man who teaches others about Hawaiian Culture. In his interview, he remarks that when people ask him how he can paddle his canoe for hours and stay calm despite the unknown things out on the open sea, he replies, “Because they went before us.” Autumn goes on to explain, “Although we might not know our ancestors, they are with us. He [Kimokeo] just thinks about what his great-grandfather must have done with his mind or hands with the resources he had. He knows that many of his ancestors were doing what he is doing, years and years ago. He draws on their strength because it is now in him. He encourages you to draw on the strengths of those who have gone before you.”

I’ve often felt the same way Kimokeo does. After everything our ancestors have endured, and everything they did to make this world better for us, we have no excuses. We stand on their shoulders and they are cheering us on from a distance to live our lives alive. I encourage readers to honor those ancestors, and more importantly, to honor themselves by living their lives alive. Begin to do so by listening to your nudge to read this book.