Posted in reviews

Guest Blog Post: Reading that led to the Second Son Chronicles by Pamela Taylor

I suppose it’s arguable that everything I’ve ever read about the era in which the Second Son Chronicles are set has, in some way, influenced the creation of the narratives. After all, there’s a certain amount of osmosis that happens with every book we enjoy. But within that broad-brush landscape, some highlights do stand out (in no particular order).

Alison Weir’s non-fiction has been a rich source of details about life in Medieval and Renaissance times. Regardless of the specific subject, her books describe in great depth what daily life was like during these periods – it’s an immersive experience, and the osmosis factor helped me to create the world of the Chronicles.

I also found inspiration in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series, particularly The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.  Follett’s detailed depiction of the building of the great Gothic cathedrals got me thinking about architecture, engineering, and building from Roman times through the Renaissance and led to the inclusion of some building projects in my own books. His narrative of the inventive ways that those outside mainstream medicine of the day began to understand the nature of the spread of infection and the importance of hygiene and other methods for containing it helped inspire my own exploration of how people dealt with disease over six hundred years ago.

Whether it’s in the shield wall with Uhtred of Bebbanburg or in the fields of Agincourt with Henry V, Bernard Cornwell doesn’t shy away from the gritty and brutal realism of the battlefields of long ago. My battle scenes pale by comparison to Cornwell’s ability to bring the sights and sounds and stench and fear and blood-lust of medieval war to life. But I happily acknowledge my debt to him for showing how to make my battles more realistic than they might otherwise have been.

While the time period is much earlier than that of my stories, Jack Whyte’s re-imagining of the Arthurian legends in his Camulod Chronicles influenced a number of decisions I made for my own series. Whyte postulates a world that might have existed in post-Roman Britain and an entirely realistic history that could, in the absence of any surviving written record, have been the basis for the legends. So what does this have to do with the Second Son Chronicles?

My stories are set at the dawn of the Renaissance, a time when so much is well-known about the characters and events of northern Europe. Asking readers to accept that an entirely different set of royalty, nobility, and events could have existed seemed like too great a suspension of disbelief. But if Whyte could create an entirely imagined history, why couldn’t I create an imagined setting for my own narrative? If readers notice some similarities to northern Europe, then perhaps that only adds to the flavor of the world where my characters play out their lives.

I hope you enjoy reading the Second Son Chronicles as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing the stories to life.

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Book Summary

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?

Print Length: 234 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ASIN: B08563V87C

ISBN-10: 1684334810

ISBN-13: 9781684334810

Pestilence is available to purchase as a print copy and as an e-book at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Be sure to add this to your GoodReads reading list too!

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About the Author, Pamela Taylor

Pamela Taylor brings her love of history to the art of storytelling in the Second Son Chronicles. An avid reader of historical fact and fiction, she finds the past offers rich sources for character, ambiance, and plot that allow readers to escape into a world totally unlike their daily lives. She shares her home with two Corgis who frequently reminder her that a dog walk is the best way to find inspiration for that next chapter.

You can follow her online at:

Author Website: https://pamela-taylor.com

Series Website: https://www.SecondSonChronicles.com

Twitter: @PJTAuthor

Instagram: PJTAuthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSecondSonChronicles

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/51487326

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— Blog Tour Dates

June 22nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Join us as we celebrate the launch of Pamela Taylor’s blog tour for her book Pestilence. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win the first three books in her series “The Second Son Chronicles.”

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

June 23rd @ Lisa Haselton’s Review and Interviews

Stop by Lisa’s blog today where she interviews author Pamela Taylor about her book Pestilence.

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

June 24th @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

Visit Rebecca’s blog today and you can read Pamela Taylor’s guest post discussing the allegory (themes) embedded in the narrative of Pestilence specifically and the Chronicles generally.

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com/

June 25th @ A.J. Sefton’s Blog

Visit A.J. Sefton’s blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://www.ajsefton.com/book-reviews

June 26th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Visit Jill’s blog today and read Pamela Taylor’s guest post about getting historical details accurate.

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

June 27th @ Storeybook Reviews

Join Leslie today as she shares Pamela Taylor’s guest post about her life with corgis.

https://storeybookreviews.com/

June 28th @ Reading is My Remedy

Visit Chelsie’s blog today and you can read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://readingismyremedy.wordpress.com/

June 29th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog today and you can read Pamela Taylor’s guest post about the authors and books that inspired the creation of the Chronicles.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

June 30th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf

Visit Veronica’s blog today and you can read a guest post by Pamela Taylor about the trap of linguistic anachronism – getting the language and word usage right for historical narratives.

https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogspot.com/

July 1st @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

Visit Rebecca’s blog again and you can read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com/

July 2nd @ 12 Books

Visit Louise’s blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://12books.co.uk/

July 3rd @ What is that Book About?

Visit Michelle’s blog today and you can check out a spotlight of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://www.whatisthatbookabout.com/

July 5th @ The New England Book Critic

Visit Vickie’s blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://thenewenglandbookcritic.com/

July 6th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog today and read his review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

July 7th @ Fiona Ingram’s Blog

Join Fiona Ingram today when she shares Pamela Taylor’s guest post about data encryption in ancient times.

https://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

July 8th @ Bev A. Baird

Visit Bev’s blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

July 9th @ To Write or Not to Write

Visit Sreevarsha’s blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

July 10th @ Thoughts in Progress

Visit Mason Canyon’s blog today and you can read a guest post by Pamela Taylor about deriving details for your setting from historical maps.

https://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

July 11th @ Books & Plants

Visit Ashley’s blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://booksbeansandbotany.com/

July 11th @ A Darn Good Read

Join Yvonne as she reviews Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://adarngoodread.blogspot.com/

July 14th @ Knotty Needle

Visit Judy’s blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

July 15th @ World of My Imagination

Visit Nicole’s blog and read Pamela Taylor’s guest post about period-appropriate names for characters.

http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

July 17th @ Books & Plants

Visit Ashley’s blog and read Pamela Taylor’s guest post about ways to do historical research.

https://booksbeansandbotany.com/

July 18th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s blog today where you can read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence. Plus you can read an interview with the author!

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

July 20th @ Coffee with Lacey

Visit Lacey’s blog where you can read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

July 24th @ Medievalists

Stop by Medievalists where you can check out a spotlight of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://www.medievalists.net/

July 25th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion

Stop by Linda’s blog today and read her extensive interview with author Pamela Taylor about her book Pestilence.

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

July 25th @ Reading in the Wildwood

Join Megan today and read her review of Pamela Taylor’s book Pestilence.

https://readinginthewildwood.com/

Posted in reviews

Curses of Scale by S.D. Reeves Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young girl must outrun destiny as a powerful threat emerges while others chase her through another realm entirely in author S.D. Reeves novel, “Curses of Scale”. 

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The Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Niena wants nothing more than to attend an elite bardic college, but when the dragon that shattered the empire awakens again she finds herself on the run, through the fey realm of Fairhome, to the city where she was born. On her trail are her army veteran grandfather, thrown into a commander’s role he doesn’t want, the lord of the fairies, trying to steer her to his own ends, and the husband she won’t meet for fifteen years. If she kills the dragon, she’ll save everyone she holds dear. But if she kills the dragon, she’s cursed instead to become it.

The Review

A fantastic prequel to the author’s novel “The Melody of Three”, the author does an amazing job of building up this magical, fantasy world. From ancient curses and alternate timelines to the fae, dragons, and a young woman fighting destiny in an attempt to make her own path in life, this book hits every mark for a great epic fantasy novel.

The mythology and character arcs were the highlights of this read. The main character Niena was someone the reader could really stand behind and root for and did a great job of showcasing a well-rounded story arc that felt authentic to who she was as a character. The action was intense and the final chapters of the book proved emotional and rewarding all at once. 

The Verdict

A well rounded, in-depth and evenly paced read, author S.D. Reeves does an amazing job of capturing the reader’s attention early on and creating complex characters, some of which you eagerly wait to see if they prove trustworthy or not. An epic quest that challenges the notion of expectations and destiny, this was a fantasy whirlwind adventure that fully realized the fantasy genre and showcased the ever-growing mythology the author has created. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Stephen Reeves was born in 1980 in Huntsville, Alabama, but grew up in a small community just on the edge called Madison. His writing career began during a boring math class in college and has blossomed over the last couple of decades into something decidedly not boring. His works have been published in numerous zines including The Blotter, Chantwood, Yellow Chair Review, and The Writers Drawer. Stephen has also reviewed books for Oxford University Press, including Micheal Newtons Victorian Fairy Tales.

Curses of Scale is his debut novel, written over the course of four years in the inspirational country of Switzerland, where he now resides with his wife, two cats, and an obsessive Pomeranian.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/194684912X/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sin-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=194684912X&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2#customerReviews

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17067943.S_D_Reeves

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, Guest Post

Guest Blog Post by Author/Poet Elizabeth Hazen

I am honored to share with you a fantastic guest blog post from author and poet Elizabeth Hazen, as part of the wonderful blog tour for “Girls Like Us”.

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For Christmas, which seems like three lifetimes ago, my parents gave my husband a book of interesting words from around the world*. An engineer who has a soft spot for spoonerisms, puns, and wordplay in every form, he found instant delight in this book. Did you know that Germans have a word for the weight we gain from stress-eating? Kummerspeck. Or that the Scots have a word for that awkward pause when you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’re introducing? Tartle. Among my favorites are the whimsical Swedish smultronställe, a place of wild strawberries; the romantic Italian dormiveglia, the space between sleeping and waking; and the essential Japanese tsundoku, that pile of unread books on my bedside table that grows with each passing month. 

Needless to say, I took that book of words from my husband, adding one more to my stack.

Getting through my tsundoku – or at least managing it – is one of my goals for this summer. I am a teacher, and the summer brings with it the beautiful freedom of longer days and fewer responsibilities, but the lack of structure –ironically, frustratingly, and inevitably – invites bad habits and a gradual decline into despair over the time I fear I am wasting. As a result, I know I need to impose some kind of schedule – a routine that will keep me on track. Part of that routine, I have decided, will include reading more poetry. 

One of the lessons I most love to teach to my seventh-grade students involves defining poetry. We examine a range of definitions – the top of our heads being blown off, the best words in the best order, language at its most distilled and most powerful. We can debate the specifics, note our preferences, but that words are the poet’s medium is indisputable. Imperfect, delicious, malleable, living, breathing words. It is my love of words that I always return to during the darkest moments, and boy are these days dark. 

In a review of my recent collection, Girls Like Us, Nandini Bhattacharya defines the poem as “ineffable interrogator, ethicist and chronicler of human history.” Indeed, I certainly have found more accuracy and truth in poems than in the newspaper, more solace in poems than in meditation or exercise, more freedom in poems than in the endless walks I take to escape the confines of quarantine. As when I was in the thick of adolescent depression, poems come to rescue me, to remind me that the legacy of human sadness and loss and pain is infinite, but so is our legacy of resilience and power and change. 

Perhaps poems allow us to do what the Dutch call uitwaaien: “to take a break and walk away from the demands of life to clear one’s head.” Or maybe life demands poems, and it is precisely in these moments of trauma and fear and violence that we must dive in head-first. Whatever they do, I am grateful for them. Here are several recent collections by women that I highly recommend. Each, in its own way, has given me what the Icelandic call radljóst: enough light to find my way.

Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne, Peepal Tree, 2014

Thrust by Heather Derr-Smith, Persea Books, 2017

American Samizdat by Jehanne Dubrow, Diode Editions, 2019

The Miracles by Amy Lemmon, C&R Press, 2018

Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, Knopf, 2016

Code by Charlotte Pence, Black Lawrence Press, 2020

How to Exterminate the Black Woman by Monica Prince, [Pank Books], 2019

American Lyric Trilogy by Claudia Rankine, Graywolf, 2004, 2014, 2020

The State She’s In by Lesley Wheeler, Tinderbox Editions, 2020

*The book of words I refer to is Other Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Yak with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50162841-girls-like-us

Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2U4wdtg

Alan Squire Publishing (also available is a SoundCloud Audio reading from her first collection): https://alansquirepublishing.com/book-authors/elizabeth-hazen/

Schedule for Blog Tour:

May 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)

May 15: Allie Reads (Review)

May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)

May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)

May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)

June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)

June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)

June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)

June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)

June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)

June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)

June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)

June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

July 9: The Book Connection (Review)

July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)

July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Girls Like Us by Elizabeth Hazen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A powerful book of poetry that dives into the complex nature of female identity and the roles they’ve been forced into playing in society throughout history comes to life in author and poet Elizabeth Hazen’s book, “Girls Like Us”. 

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The Synopsis

Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value. 

The Review

What a moving work of poetry. The author does an incredible job of bringing the pain and emotion that many women in life have had to endure through society’s expectations and the roles cast upon them through her work. As someone who considers himself a feminist and someone who has always wanted to live in a world where my mother and sister could live knowing they were viewed by everyone as equals and were respected, this poetry really spoke to me on a personal level while also feeling personal to the author at the same time. 

What really captured my attention as a reader was the way the author writes, in which many of the poems were written with such precision and detail-oriented writing, and yet felt personal to the author and broad enough for others to connect to on their own personal levels. The complexity of the layers of this poetry speaks to the simple desire for equality so many seek throughout their lives, and the ongoing fight to bring that equality to life. 

The Verdict

A truly one of a kind read, the author and poet Elizabeth Hazen and her book “Girls Like Us” is a truly amazing work of poems. The raw emotions combined with the true and often sad realities the poems capture of life connect with readers on an intimate level, and the theme and heart of the book speak to so many that readers will not be able to put it down. Be sure to grab this quick yet powerful read today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50162841-girls-like-us

Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2U4wdtg

Alan Squire Publishing (also available is a SoundCloud Audio reading from her first collection): https://alansquirepublishing.com/book-authors/elizabeth-hazen/

Schedule for Blog Tour:

May 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)

May 15: Allie Reads (Review)

May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)

May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)

May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)

June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)

June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)

June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)

June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)

June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)

June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)

June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)

June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)

July 9: The Book Connection (Review)

July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)

July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)

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Posted in reviews

The Seaborne by A.G. Rivett Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man shipwrecked and rescued finds himself on not only a different world, but a different time altogether in author A.G. Rivett’s novel “The Seaborne”. 

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The Synopsis

Seaborne. The word echoes in Dermot’s mind. Washed up from who knows where, with no people to belong to, no clan to speak for him: aa man alone in the world. If this man lives, what will he turn out to be? What might he bring among the Islanders?

John had not dreamed that anywhere in the North Atlantic could be this remote. There must be someone, if not here, then not far away, who even if they didn’t speak English would at least recognise it.

John Finlay, engineer, is running away from his failed business, his failed relationship and his debts. He runs away to sea. Dermot, pulling a body, barely alive, from the water, has never seen anyone so strangely dressed. His Celtic island knows nothing of debt or of engineering. And John, waking among a people who cannot understand his language, struggles to accept that he has been carried across time and into another world.

From this starting point, tensions build between cultures and outlooks, and focus on Shinane, the blacksmith’s daughter, who is looking for something beyond. John and Dermot find themselves stretched to their limits. It is a matter of survival, or transformation. Choice is key – and not only for John, Dermot and Shinane: the whole community finds itself caught up in conflict over The Seaborne.

The Review

This was such an engaging read. The author does a great job of creating a breathtaking world that draws the reader in and populates it with characters that keep the reader invested throughout. 

The interesting concept of how society has evolved and the ways in which people choose to live are thoroughly showcased throughout the narrative. The thing that fascinates me as a reader is how John’s mentality and way of life from his own time and the way of life he learns to have while in this new world is interesting to see, both in their similarities and differences. In the end, is it not true that the past and the future both have their ups and downs, and can impact the present? 

The Verdict

A powerful, memorable, and evenly paced read, author A.G. Rivett has masterfully told a brilliant tale of a man outside of his own time, and the community impacted by his appearance, both good and bad. Fueled by culture, romance, questions of morality, and advancements in technology, mentality, and society, the novel does an excellent job of creating a thought-provoking narrative that will keep readers wanting more. Be sure to grab your copy of “The Seaborne” today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Andrew (A.G.) Rivett was born in London. He has lived in England, Nigeria, Scotland (where The Seaborne was drafted) and now in Wales.

The inspiration for The Seaborne, his debut novel, came twenty years ago on holiday in Ireland, at which time he wrote some opening chapters, relics of which remain in the published book. The Seaborne, the first book of the planned Island trilogy, was published in November 2019.

Posted in Interviews

Author Interview with Lorin Morgan-Richards

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I grew up in a place called Beebetown, Ohio, at the corner of four counties. When I was a kid, it had a lot of old buildings from the 1800s. I lived in an old converted schoolhouse with a well for water. The old blacksmith shop was across the street and used by the neighbor as a barn. Fields and horses were nearby, and a little creek to sail wood boats along was down a hill with a giant pear tree. My parents had plenty of animals to care for, and I would spend many hours drawing them into my stories. Though I struggled with dyslexia, it did not prevent me from being creative. So doodling in class was familiar, but with the help of a tutor and plenty of reading, I eventually gravitated towards highly imaginative works by Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, Edward Lear, and others.

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2. What inspired you to write your book?

The Goodbye Family and The Great Mountain, is the second novel in the Great Mountain series, about eccentric undertakers living in the Old Weird West. It follows Me’ ma and the Great Mountain that focuses on an Indigenous child named Me’ma who uses her traditional knowledge to battle a tyrant of the land. Shockwaves of this conflict are felt in the community of Nicklesworth, where the goodbyes have their business. 

Back in 2009, my wife Valerie and I visited parts of the United Kingdom and later Paris. We always have had a morbid curiosity and interest in the Victorian era, spirit, and funerary customs. After all, my wife and I met at a Gothic club in 1996. So we visited as much of these places as we could, and I took to writing down ideas and a diary of our trip. On the streets of Paris, I began doodling the Goodbye family and their traits.    

3. What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The readers will find it full of laughs, adventure, and quirkiness that all together makes the Goodbye family so oddly unique. I will let the readers find their messages and takeaways from the book. I will say, though, that an underlying theme of my series is that you can fulfill your goals in life by being yourself and taking that first step outside the norm. 

4. What drew you into this particular genre?

If the genre is Weird West, Gothic, Western, or Dark Humor, I suppose a lifetime of interest in it did the trick. However, I don’t think anyone of these quite describes what it is by itself. It’s dark, humorous, weird, and western. At one time, I thought Down West was a good moniker until people started calling it a Gothic Western, but then that sounds maybe too serious for the series? I’m not sure what to call it, but I guess a Western Gothic may be plausible. Now, what was the question? Oh yes, as a child, I wanted to be like Robert Conrad from the series The Wild Wild West and sought out every book I could on the subject of Native Americans and the Old West. I sometimes would wear a wool poncho to school and even made a Cowboy movie about the OK Corral in my early teens. I guess it all solidified for me with family trips visiting the Native American reservations, historic parks, Mexican American areas, and ghost towns in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. I lived in New York City for a time but knew I had to be out west. My wife and I moved across the country, visiting many more of the same on our way, and landed in Los Angeles where I worked at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian/the Autry Museum of the American West while receiving a bachelors in Anthropology. Then after, I started a Native American film series with some friends. I now live across from the CBS Lot where they filmed many TV Westerns including, you guessed it, The Wild Wild West.

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5. If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

What an interesting question. In my novels, there is one character that has appeared throughout, Frank Thorne, and we slowly understand his complexities. He will be unraveling more in my third novel, for better or worse. However, if I had a chance to ask him anything, I think I’d pass for fear of being shot.    

6. What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Unfortunately, social media comes and goes. So you have to be on the tip of just about everything to some degree. All platforms should go back to one site. For me, it is lorinrichards.com. Facebook has been around the longest for me, so I have invested more time in it than others. But around the corner will be something new, and like any company/brand, I’ll need to put on my glasses and look into it (all while sighing, of course).

7. What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Just be yourself, don’t waste time, work routinely on your craft, explore new avenues, and find your niche. Once you find it, don’t take yourself too seriously and be open to accepting everyone as a potential reader.

8. What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

As mentioned, I am writing my next novel called Hollis Sorrow and the Great Mountain. It continues the story of Hollis Sorrow and Madeline Sage, whom readers that are familiar with the first book know their adventure to find Hollis’ old pals during the war is still ongoing. The story will take them into the sky world for answers. For fans of The Goodbye Family, I work daily on telling their stories through my comic series that appears on my social media and Tapas, a comic syndicate. Also, I am gradually putting together an animated series about their lives. I partnered with The Heathen Apostles for the series theme song.   

Please visit lorinrichards.com if you’d like to learn more about my stories.

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About the Author

Lorin Morgan-Richards is an author and illustrator, known mostly for his YA fiction. A fan favorite is his daily comic series The Goodbye Family about a family of eccentric undertakers living in the Old Weird West with their daughter Orphie who oversees the town of Nicklesworth as their sheriff. Richards writing career started in 2009, with his latest novel The Goodbye Family and the Great Mountain (2020) being his thirteenth release. In addition to writing and illustrating, Richards colorizes Old West and Victorian-era photography.

The Goodbye Family and the Great Mountain follows the lives of Weird West undertakers Otis, Pyridine, and their daughter Orphie. Pyridine is a witch and matriarch mortician, Otis is a brainless but bold hearse driver, and Orphie is appointed grave digger for her strength of twenty men. Through bumbling, Otis discovers his neighbors are turning into zombies, a mystery that is directly affecting their burial business. In their backyard cemetery, they travel to the underworld for answers and uncover a plot to surface the evil entities that would otherwise burn in the Lake of Fire, have risen again through oil pumps that are bottled up as a tonic medicine for the ground above. The tonic goes fast, and the host takes over the body when the body perishes. Can the Goodbyes hilarious gaffes and revelations plug up the works? 

Some important links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorin_Morgan-Richards

https://www.lorinrichards.com (Official page)

https://www.facebook.com/lorinmorganrichards (Facebook)

https://www.instagram.com/lorin_morgan_richards/ (Instagram)

https://twitter.com/LMorganRichards (Twitter)

Posted in Interviews

Interview with Author Robert J. Sawyer

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

My father was an author of books on macroeconometrics, his field of specialty, and my great uncle had written a definitive volume on antique salt shakers, so the concept of writing a book was never daunting to me.

I had some great school teachers—particularly in the fifth and sixth grade, where it happened to be the same woman, although she was Miss Matthews the first year and Mrs. Jones the second!—and also in high school who were very encouraging.

In fact, I’ve got a phone message on my answering machine right now from one of those high-school teachers, Bill Martyn, that I need to return. It’s been forty-one years since I graduated from high school, but he just called to say he’d loved my latest novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

This is the 75th-anniversary year of the birth of the atomic age, with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It seemed like a good time to try to delve, as only a novelist can, into the inner lives of the people who were responsible for unleashing hell on Earth: Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, General Leslie R. Groves, and, most notably, the scientific leader of the Manhattan Project, the mercurial, tortured J. Robert Oppenheimer.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The theme of not just The Oppenheimer Alternative but some of my 23 other novels, too, is that the world would be a far better place if the brightest people simply stopped making the things the stupidest people wanted them to make. No general, president, or dictator can make an atomic bomb—only geniuses could do that—and instead of saying nope, they dove right in.

The great irony is this: it’s arguable that, although Oppenheimer and others were salivating at the notion of an essentially unlimited budget—the spent two billion 1945 dollars, which is the equivalent of $28 billion today—to create the atomic bomb, the head of the German bomb project, Werner Heisenberg, knew the folly of letting a madman like Hitler have such a thing and so he may very well have deliberately failed to build one.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Well, “this particular genre” is one that actually I may well have created: hard-science fiction secret/alternate history.

My novel is a real, honest-to-goodness accurate and carefully extrapolated science-fiction tale built on sound science woven into the gaps about what we know really did occur between 1936, when The Oppenheimer Alternative begins, and 1967, when the novel ends. Nothing in it contradicts anything we know to be true, but the reader will be treated to what I hope they’ll consider a mind-blowing science-fiction tale as well as a heart-wrenching historical-fiction story.

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

Perhaps surprisingly, it would not be my main character, the J. Robert Oppenheimer of the book’s title, but rather his erstwhile friend and then betrayer, Edward Teller.

Although ironically Teller wrote his memoirs and Oppie never did, it’s Teller—the man often cited as the principal inspiration for the title character in the movie Dr. Strangelove—who leaves me scratching my head.

Teller really said, “No amount of fiddling will save our souls” and he really did go to see his dying colleague, Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, to, in Teller’s own words “confess his sins.”

But even with such apparent misgivings he just went right on pushing for bigger and bigger bombs—ranging in size from merely genocidal to ones that would trigger the extinction of most life on our planet—as well as shilling for Ronald Reagan’s fatally flawed Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) until the day he died.

What the hell was Teller thinking? He was great with kids, often carrying candy for them in his pockets, and he loved his own children and grandchildren—and yet he was monstrous.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook, for a few reasons.

One: I’m a long-form writer—a novelist!—and so the character-count constraints of Twitter make it ill-suited for me.

And two, as all good writers know, the heart of good writing is revision: you can’t edit a tweet, and but you can go back even years later and correct typos or ambiguous phrasing on Facebook.

I long ago hit the hard-coded 5,000-friend limit Facebook has built into its architecture, but you can still follow me there—as 6,500 additional people do—and join in the daily lively discussions and debates we have there.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

In 1997, I came out of a deli in Los Angeles and saw Gordon Jump, one of the stars of WKRP in Cincinnati standing on the sidewalk, so I went up to him and said, “I’d just like to shake the hand of the man who uttered the funniest line in sitcom history.”

We chatted for a bit, and I asked what he was doing just hanging out in front of a deli. He replied a young wannabe actor had said he’d take him to lunch here in exchange for some advice about getting into the industry. I asked, “What advice are you going to give him?” And Gordon replied, “Don’t get into the industry.”

Seriously, this is an awful time to be a traditionally published author. In the thirty years I’ve been a novelist now, there have been enormous cost reductions for publishers—no more re-keyboarding typed manuscripts, no more sending page proofs by courier, instead of servicing thousands of small bookstore accounts mostly just servicing a few big ones, having authors do their own promotion via social media instead of publishers advertising their books, etc.

But every penny of those costs savings—every single one—has been kept by publishers, with none passed onto authors. Meanwhile, in addition to the production of print books for distribution to bookstores—the one thing publishers are good at—they also demand ebook rights, audiobooks rights, and they’re trying to get a piece of the film and TV action, too.

So, my advice is simply this: license your intellectual property as narrowly as possible and only let a licensee have rights to specific aspects of it that they have a great track record with, and make sure they’re making real money not just for themselves but for you, too.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’ve been asked to write a lengthy original audio drama, and I may, or may not, sign the contract for that; we’ll see. But really, the new books on my horizon right now are books that are new to me: I’m just catching up on my reading!

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About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada’s best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.

Robert Sawyer grew up in Toronto, the son of two university professors. He credits two of his favourite shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s, Search and Star Trek, with teaching him some of the fundamentals of the science-fiction craft. Sawyer was obsessed with outer space from a young age, and he vividly remembers watching the televised Apollo missions. He claims to have watched the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey 25 times. He began writing science fiction in a high school club, which he co-founded, NASFA (Northview Academy Association of Science Fiction Addicts). Sawyer graduated in 1982 from the Radio and Television Arts Program at Ryerson University, where he later worked as an instructor.

Sawyer’s first published book, Golden Fleece (1989), is an adaptation of short stories that had previously appeared in the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. This book won the Aurora Award for the best Canadian science-fiction novel in English. In the early 1990s Sawyer went on to publish his inventive Quintaglio Ascension trilogy, about a world of intelligent dinosaurs. His 1995 award winning The Terminal Experiment confirmed his place as a major international science-fiction writer.

A prolific writer, Sawyer has published more than 10 novels, plus two trilogies. Reviewers praise Sawyer for his concise prose, which has been compared to that of the science-fiction master Isaac Asimov. Like many science fiction-writers, Sawyer welcomes the opportunities his chosen genre provides for exploring ideas. The first book of his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Hominids (2002), is set in a near-future society, in which a quantum computing experiment brings a Neanderthal scientist from a parallel Earth to ours. His 2006 Mindscan explores the possibility of transferring human consciousness into a mechanical body, and the ensuing ethical, legal, and societal ramifications.

A passionate advocate for science fiction, Sawyer teaches creative writing and appears frequently in the media to discuss his genre. He prefers the label “philosophical fiction,” and in no way sees himself as a predictor of the future. His mission statement for his writing is “To combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic.”

Posted in reviews

The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Race relations, immigration, and the role government plays in our daily lives take center stage in author Lisa Braxton’s historical fiction novel “The Talking Drum”.

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The Synopsis

Displacement/gentrification has been happening for generations, yet few novels have been written with the themes of gentrification, which makes this book unusual.

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi’s dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport.

For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world, while trying to hold onto his marriage.

Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts.

Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships.

The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

The novel delves into the profound impact gentrification has on people in many neighborhoods, and the way in which being uprooted affects the fabric of their families, friendships, and emotional well-being. The Talking Drum not only explores the immigrant experience, but how the immigrant/African American neighborhood interface leads to friction and tension, a theme also not explored much in current literature involving immigrants.

The book is a springboard to an important discussion on race and class differences, the treatment of immigrants, as well as the government’s relationship to society. 

The Review

There has never been a more relevant or prominent moment for a novel of this magnitude than now. Such a rich and powerful narrative takes center stage in this book, creating a tense and emotional atmosphere that many today can identify with. 

The characters are true standouts, as the author expertly creates relatable and memorable characters that do an amazing job of embodying the theme of immigration, race relations, and government roles as a whole. While a historical fiction and fiction setting, the message, and heart of the story shines brightly through and conveys the hardships that have come with trying to find common ground, find equality, and integrate it into everyone’s daily lives. 

Especially when readers are taken into an often overlooked subject like the tension that can arise in communities such as African American/Black neighborhoods amongst its citizens and immigrants settling into the area, and the need to find common ground and come together as a whole community in the face of great upheaval and tragedy. 

The Verdict

A well-read, highly engaging and richly drawn-out narrative, author Lisa Braxton’s “The Talking Drum” explores so much, from history and the culture of a group of people and the importance of remembering that culture, to the struggles for immigrants to make a new life for themselves and the hardships that come with intra-racial relationships as well. It’s a novel that speaks volumes in its message and theme and deserves to be read during these tumultuous times. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, and her B.A. in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area. www.lisabraxton.com 

Buy Link: Amazon; IndieBound; B&N 

Author website: www.lisabraxton.com

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisabraxton6186/

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisa.a.braxton?ref=bookmarks

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisareidbraxton/

Author GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19923317.Lisa_Braxton

Posted in reviews

Out of the Basement by James Rourke Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A writer with a haunting past must face his history and forge a new path forward in author James Rourke’s novel “Out of the Basement”. 

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The Synopsis

Michael Tanner is a citizen of two worlds. His outer world as a respected college professor affords him the opportunity to quietly pursue his joy of learning. His inner world, shaped by childhood abuse, is a prison of shame and pain where he battles mythological monsters that draw power from his nightmarish memories.

Though Michael has mastered the art of hiding his pain while in full view, the unexpected success of his new book, Bruce and Buddha: How Rock and Roll and Ancient Wisdom Can Guide your Life, pushes him well beyond his comfortable existence.

Bolstered by the possibility of romance, the encouragement of old friends, and a new ally, he decides he must face his past. Only by challenging humiliation can he earn the inner victory necessary to bring authentic peace to his life.

The Review

A truly powerful read, the author does an amazing job of creating a personal story of inner-turmoil that the protagonist has to fight from bleeding into his everyday life. Interspersed with the protagonist’s personal struggles is a fantastic and intellectual study of philosophy and mythology that really fascinated me. 

While exploring the study of great philosophers and how modern-day equivalents exist even unwittingly in music, television, and film from some of pop culture’s greatest artists was a fantastic concept to explore. One of the early discussions that the protagonist had with a reporter that immediately stood out to me was the concept of synchronicity, as this is something that has played into my daily life for the last year or so and the study of it has been a truly remarkable journey to undertake, so getting to see the protagonist’s perspective was incredible. 

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, emotional, and grounding, this was a quick yet engaging psychological drama that readers will instantly love. Memorable and relatable characters showcase the inner demons so many people must face and yet hide behind a carefully orchestrated mask to hide the pain, creating a truly one of a kind narrative that cannot be ignored. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

James Rourke has been a high school of teacher of history, psychology, and philosophy for twenty-five years. His commitment to the idea that these three disciplines can assist his students to connect not only with his material, but to the unifying aspects of humanity, also guides his writing. “The Comic Book Curriculum” is praised for revealing”how major superheroes and their stories raise some of the deepest and most important ethical and psychological questions we all need to ask and answer.” This aspect of storytelling, the quest to tell stories that entertain, challenge, and uplift the reader, inspires James in his fiction as well.