Friday, June 18, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: JEFFERY YOUNG

 



ABOUT THE BOOK


Beth Davis and Marjorie Williams were best friends who could not be any more alike. They were both athletic, vibrant and very charismatic. However, as so often is the case, their friendship became strained when life began to move them on divergent paths. While Marjorie succumbed to the temptations of young adulthood, Beth found solace in the teachings of Christianity, and despite Beth’s efforts to save Margorie from her own misjudgments, the two found their friendship crumbling into resentment and heartache.

It’s only when tragedy struck that Margorie began to learn that the superficial nature of popularity and beautiful are illusionary and ultimately finite.  As a family and a community mourns the loss of a young soul, Margorie is faced with how to move on without her friend and contemplates whether Jesus can help her find her way.


Book Details

Title: Beth

Author: Jeffery A. Young  

Genre: coming of age

Publisher: Fulton Books (November 30, 2020)

Print length: 384 pages




LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH JEFFERY YOUNG


A few of your favorite things: science fiction, documentaries and history programs.
Things you need to throw out: clutter, old magazines.

Things you need in order to write: inspiration, good music, and good equipment.
Things that hamper your writing: TV, distracting people, health.

Things you love about writing: being able to say what is deep in my heart.
Things you hate about writing: writer's block.

Easiest thing about being a writer: there is nothing easy about being a writer.
Hardest thing about being a writer: meeting public demands on me.

Things you love about where you live: I have a lot of memories here of my family.
Things that make you want to move: I miss Florida and the beach.

Things you never want to run out of: medication, toiletries, and basic supplies.
Things you wish you’d never bought: nothing now.

Words that describe you: always striving to be better.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: egotistic, selfish, deceptive.

Favorite foods: Mexican cuisine, Chinese food.
Things that make you want to throw up: extremist people.

Favorite music or songs: old time classic rock, dance music, Latin music; "Aquarius," "Eye of the Tiger."
Music that make your ears bleed:
heavy metal.

Favorite beverage: diet cola.
Something that gives you a pickle face: pickles.

Favorite smell: orange blossoms.
Something that makes you hold your nose: raw sewage.

Something you’re really good at: writing.
Something you’re really bad at: math.

Something you wish you could do: math.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: architecture.

Something you like to do: Watch Chinese films, historical documentaries.
Something you wish you’d never done: hurt a lot of feelings and frequently said the wrong things.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a beautiful girl.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: extremist people.

Things you always put in your books: love, music, people with character and bravery.
Things you never put in your books: magic, explicit sex, politics.

Things to say to an author: You now have a voice, use it to do good and make the world a better place.
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: make my death have meaning.

Favorite things to do: work on my computer.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: sitting through an objectionable political meeting.

Things that make you happy: love, God, church, beautiful music, peaceful moments.
Things that drive you crazy: ignorant people who think they’re smart.

Proudest moment: when I gave my first sermon.
Most embarrassing moment: going to a costume party and being the only one actually dressed in a costume.

Best thing you’ve ever done: I wrote a book to honor an old friend.
Biggest mistake: I moved out to Tennessee.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: I stood down a gunman to save a child's life.
Something you chickened out from doing: I’ve never chickened out from anything.

The last thing you did for the first time: drove in 12 inches of snow.
Something you’ll never do again: I’m retired, I’ll never punch a time clock again.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeffery Young is an award-winning writer and Army veteran whose multi-faceted career has included work in the culinary field and in the newspaper industry. Jeffery holds degrees in communication and criminal justice, and his work with AmVets California garnered interest from President Ronald Regan. He is also the author of the book, Tales Out of Church, which is a collection of short stories told by an over-imaginative Catholic priest.   

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: C.L. TOLBERT


 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Emma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identified only one suspect ˗ Louis Bishop ˗ a homeless sixteen year-year-old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School, agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threatening situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Details:
Title: The Redemption, book 2
Author’s name: C. L. Tolbert
Genre: mystery
Series: Thornton Mystery Series
Publisher: Level Best Books (February 9, 2021)
Print length: 296 pages



 

TWENTY QUESTIONS/ONE WORD ANSWERS INTERVIEW WITH C.L. TOLBERT


1.     Where is your cell phone? Close.
2.     Your hair? Attached.
3.     Your workplace? Home.
4.     Your other half? Home.
5.     What makes you happy? Family.
6.     What makes you crazy? Family.
7.     Your favorite food? Cookies. 
8.     Your favorite beverage? Chai.
9.     Fear? Loss.
10.  Favorite shoes? Flats .
11.  Favorite way to relax? Writing.
12.  Your mood? Content.
13.  Your home away from home? Coffeehouse.
14.  Where were you last night? Restaurant.
15.  Something that you aren't? Pretentious.
16.  Something from your bucket list? Orient-Express.
17.  Wish list item? Vacation.
18.  Where did you grow up? Biloxi.
19.  Last thing you did? Cleaned.
20.  What are wearing now? Sweats.


EXCERPT FROM THE REDEMPTION

CHAPTER ONE

September 9, 1994


8:05 p.m.

Just before dark on the night of his death, Brother Reginald Antoine stepped out of the cottage where he lived. He slammed the door shut to prevent the soggy heat of the late summer evening from invading the front room. Except for occasional river breezes, the New Orleans climate was swamp-like until late October. His exits had become swift and cat-like to avoid escalating power bills and a strain on the house’s only window-unit air conditioner.

He stood on the front porch for a moment, staring at the entrance to the Redemption housing project. All was quiet. No one was in sight.

He was looking forward to the evening. He’d promised to help Alicia Bishop complete forms for a scholarship to Our Lady of Fatima, the top girls’ school in the city. He found himself singing under his breath as he locked the front door.

Most of the kids Brother Antoine worked with never finished school, and he was painfully aware that he’d failed far more than he’d helped. But Alicia’s story would be different. Her graduation would be her family’s first. Clear-headed and determined, much like her Aunt Juanita, the woman who had raised her, she was destined to earn far more than a high school diploma. He believed she was destined for great things.

Brother Antoine surveyed the street familiar to him from childhood. Alicia and her Aunt Juanita lived in an apartment was only a few blocks over, but well within the Redemption housing project. Driving such a short distance would be silly, plus he felt like a little exercise. It was a good evening for a walk, even though no one felt completely safe walking around any neighborhood in the city at night. At least one person had been killed in New Orleans every day that year, so far. Sometimes more. Too many drugs were on the streets. But he didn’t worry about any of that. 

He tucked the bundle of papers he’d pulled for the meeting under his arm and headed out. When he was a kid he’d found the Redemption overwhelming - so vast it couldn’t be taken in, visually, from his porch or from any single location. A crowded jumble of russet brick, broken down porches, and peeling army-drab paint, it stretched across the lower garden district from Magazine Street to the Mississippi River. When he was about six he tried to count the buildings, but gave up when he got lost. Everything looked the same to him back then. When he returned to live at the mission house he realized he’d been wrong. Each place was unique. Every apartment, every stoop, every front door was distinct, because everything inside was different. Every place had its own family, its own problems, its own joys. Every place had its own family, its own problems, and joys. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed it until his return.

He passed the community garden planted around the corner from the mission house with its patches of brave sprouts pushing out of the ground. He was proud of that little spot, and equally excited for the people who were involved, especially those few who returned week after week to dig, and prod, and encourage the seedlings to grow. Some of the plants even promised to bear fruit, which was reason enough to celebrate. 

As he walked he could smell urine from the street gutters where drunken men or stoned boys had relieved themselves. A recent rain only added a steamy intensity to the mix, creating a cauldron of odors which would vanish only when the next day’s sunlight parched the streets.

The Redemption was teeming with human spirit, poverty, and crime. It was home to many, but with rare exception, no one chose to live there. And everyone who did, even the very young, understood how fragile life could be.

He walked up the steps to Juanita Bishop’s apartment and rapped on the front door.

***

9:00 p.m.

Sam Maureau pulled his car into the Redemption and parked at a curb at the end of Felicity Street. He was alone. Jackson, his partner, couldn’t come. But Sam wasn’t worried. He checked his watch. He was right on time. Things were under control.

He turned off his lights and, except for the murky glow of the half-obscured moon, was surrounded by a blanket of darkness. It took several seconds for his eyes to adjust, but even after he waited, he still strained to see. Most of the streetlights on that block had been shot out, and several apartment windows had been boarded over. He peered in between the last two buildings on the corner for any sign of movement.

Sam kicked aside a beer can as he stepped out of his car. He didn’t expect any trouble that night. Marcus, a dealer who ran the Gangsta B’s, the largest gang in the city, had asked for a meeting to discuss ‘some business’, but they’d never had problems before. Their businesses had always co-existed, side-by-side. Sam had begun selling crack in small quantities ten years earlier, when he was twenty-five, and had remained one of the smaller distributers in the city. He figured that Marcus, who was younger by at least ten years, either wanted to bring him and his territory into the Gangsta B’s, or he wanted to buy him out. He didn’t see the need to change anything right now, unless the price was right. He was making pretty good money. His clients were happy with him. But he didn’t mind talking with Marcus.

Sam patted his jacket pocket. The gun was still there. It never hurt to be careful. He locked his car, checking to make certain nothing was in the back seat. Marcus had asked him to meet around the corner.

Sam made his way across the grassy common area, dodging the few mud puddles he could see reflected in the wan moonlight, to an old iron bench across from Marcus’s grandmother’s apartment where they had met once before. He sat down to wait. The bench hadn’t quite cooled from the daytime heat. The faint breeze from the river ruffled what scant remnants remained of his once luxurious surfer-boy hair and sent greasy paper bags, discarded whiskey bottles, and random debris scurrying across the sidewalk. He absent-mindedly patted his bald spot to make certain it was covered.

He couldn’t see them, but their chatter floated over to his bench. Even though the words were indecipherable, Sam heard three distinct voices. Then he heard Marcus speak.

“Go get Louis.”

Out of habit, Sam felt his jacket pocket again, reassuring himself that his piece was still there. Marcus and one other young man came into view. Sam nodded as they approached.

Marcus was a commanding presence. Tall, and athletic, intricate tattoos of black ink woe across his dark skin, tracing his biceps, and emphasizing his ropy, muscular arms and powerful shoulders. His long hair, pulled back into a pony-tail, flowed down his back. No one questioned his authority.

“We’re gonna wait a minute for Louis,” Marcus pulled out a cigarette from his back pocket and lit it, blowing billowy clouds into the night air.

“Yeah, sure. But what’s this all about?” Marcus ignored Sam’s question and pulled hungrily on his cigarette, blowing smoke rings, refusing to make eye contact with Sam.

Several minutes later a tall young man and a boy who couldn’t have been over sixteen joined them.

“You and your people gotta go. You’re right in the middle of my territory. I’m claiming it, and I’m taking it – now. Ain’t nothing you can do about it.” Marcus threw down his cigarette and stomped it into the grass.

Sam stood up to face Marcus. “Fuck you, Marcus. You don’t need my three blocks. I’ve had it for years, and its outside your territory anyway. You can’t just take it.” Sam clenched the fist of his left hand and shoved his right hand in his jacket pocket where the gun was hidden.

“That’s where you’re wrong, mother fucker.” Marcus grabbed another cigarette and rammed it three times against the pack. “I got business coming to me from uptown all the time now. It’s time for you to give it up.” Marcus nodded to the three boys, who formed a circle around Sam and Marcus.

“No way, bro’!” Sam’s hand instinctively tightened around the gun.

Surrounded by the group of young men, Sam saw an opening, turned, and simultaneously pulled the gun from his jacket. As he stepped toward his escape, he saw something moving along the sidewalk next to the street. It appeared to be a man dressed in dark clothes, but it was impossible to be certain. Sam heard one shot, and felt it whizz by him. The distant figure dropped. Sam twisted around, and aimed his weapon toward the sound of the gun fire. Then he heard another shot.

Feeling something hot in his chest, he crumbled to the ground. The last thing he saw was the young kid, the one they called Louis, running toward the river.

***

Brother Antoine said good night to Alicia on the front porch of her aunt’s apartment and started his walk back home. He was feeling good, lighthearted. He and Alicia had completed her application and she had nearly finished her essay. He was certain she was a shoo-in for the scholarship. He’d only traveled a few feet down the sidewalk when he saw a group of men and a few boys gathered together in the grassy area next to one of the buildings. The cloud-covered moon offered enough reflection to allow him to make out the scant silhouette of the tallest member of the group. There was no doubt. His swagger and perpetual cigarette were unmistakable. Marcus Bishop. They had to be up to no good.

Brother Antoine followed the curve of the sidewalk, which brought him a little closer to the group. He noticed there was movement, perhaps a scuffle. He heard a shot, then felt a searing pain in his chest. He placed his hand on his shirt where he felt dampness, and, struggling to breathe, fell to the ground. He grabbed the scapular around his neck, praying, as he lay there, someone would come administer the last rites.

***

Excerpt from The Redemption by Cynthia Tolbert.  Copyright 2021 by Cynthia Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from Cynthia Tolbert. All rights reserved.



 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of Out From Silence.  Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled The Redemption, which is set in New Orleans, was released in February of 2021. 

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired from the practice of law several years ago. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today.

Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Connect with Cynthia:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads
 
Buy the book:
Amazon    



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Saturday, June 12, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: LOIS SCHMITT



ABOUT THE BOOK

When attorney Samuel (Sam) Wong goes missing, wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied to her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront that the Calm Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in a nearby inlet. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff—secrets that points to one of them as the killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.
But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed, septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.  
 

 Book Details:
Title: Something Fishy
Author: Lois Schmitt
Genre: cozy mystery
Series: A Kristy Farrell Animal Lovers Mystery, book 1
Publisher: Encircle Publications (July 2019)
Print length: 237 pages




 

TWENTY QUESTIONS/ONE WORD ANSWERS INTERVIEW WITH LOIS SCHMITT


1.     Where is your cell phone? Pocket.
2.     Your hair? Auburn.
3.     Your workplace? Den.
4.     Your other half?  None.
5.     What makes you happy? Animals.
6.     What makes you crazy? Lateness.
7.     Your favorite food? Pizza.
8.     Your favorite beverage? Coffee.
9.     Fear? Spiders.
10.  Favorite shoes? Slippers.
11.  Favorite way to relax? Puzzles.
12.  Your mood? Determined.
13.  Your home away from home? Montauk.
14.  Where were you last night? Home.
15.  Something that you aren't? Singer.
16.  Something from your bucket list? Africa.
17.  Wish list item? Safari.
18.  Where did you grow up? Brooklyn.
19.  Last thing you did? Ate.
20.  What are wearing now? Pajamas.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined her love of mysteries with her love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife conservation and humane organizations, as well as Mystery Writers of America.  Lois received a second runner-up for the Killer Nashville Award for her second book in the Kristy Farrell series, Something Fishy

Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young adults. She previously served as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island.

Lois lives in Massapequa, New York with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a huge dog of many breeds, featured in her Kristy Farrell mystery series.
       
Connect with Lois:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads
 
Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: MARK LEICHLITER


 

ABOUT THE BOOK



How do you start an investigation when you have no evidence that a crime has been committed?

When a seventeen-year-old girl abruptly disappears, the ensuing investigation probes dead-ends seemingly as deep as Montana’s Flathead Lake—the geographic and investigative center of The Other Side. The search to find her unearths crimes but none that can explain her disappearance, and when Detectives Steven Wendell and Stacey Knudson grow suspicious that Britany Rodgers has been murdered, they have scant evidence and no body. Their investigation takes readers into starkly contrasting environments—inside spectacular lakefront mansions and within gritty trailer parks—and into the lives of those who exhibit motivations as murky as the fog-choked Montana woods and mist-shrouded Flathead Lake bays.



Book Details

Title: The Other Side

Author: Mark Leichliter

Genre: crime fiction/police procedural

Publisher: Level Best Books (June 8, 2021)

Print length: 292 pages





LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH MARK LEICHLITER


A few of your favorite things: books (of course, too many, not enough time; the stack on the nightstand is getting tall); dark chocolate (bribes always accepted); kind, genuine people who want to hold conversations about any manner of topics.
Things you need to throw out: an alarming number of well-used running shoes; fear that can get in the way of difficult writing; probably 90% of what I might find under the kitchen sink. (I mean that literally, but it’s probably a good metaphor for equivalent mental storage clutter as well!)

Things you love about writing: ultimately as a writer you have no one to answer to but yourself. I care greatly about readers. I need to satisfy editors. But each day when I sit down at my writing desk, I really can write anything I desire.
Things you hate about writing: ultimately as a writer you have no one to answer to but yourself. Sound familiar? If you want to write, you had better learn to live with your decisions.

Things you love about where you live: I live with the expansive quiet and heavenly scents of forests that I can literally step into within a few minutes’ walk from my front door and where I can venture to the coffeehouse or the grocery store by bike. It is a place where animals visit as frequently as people. I can look in any direction and see mountains, and the view from my writing desk is of a lake so vast that it looks nearly like an ocean.
Things that make you want to move: homogeneity breeds closed minds. I live among overwhelmingly good, kind people, but it is a place that, because of a lack of diverse experience for some, can refuse to consider that the world seldom provides singular answers.

Words that describe you: resilient: you can’t survive as a writer if you can’t respond to nearly constant rejection by rolling up your sleeves and getting back to work; optimistic: this might seem an unexpected word for a crime writer, where you spend a lot of time considering the worst parts of human nature, yet my core self is optimistic, not only about a future better than the present but a belief that there is more likely good in people than there is bad.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: naïve, a really bad trait in a crime writer, but in real life I tend to accept what people tell me and am terrible about spotting those with hidden agenda; it’s simply foreign to my way of thinking. Proud, too often I let pride get in the way of vulnerability; as a result, sometimes I fail to open doors to opportunities.

Favorite smell: sagebrush after rain.

Something that makes you hold your nose: okay, so it’s either kind of a cop-out or punch line for a crime fiction writer, but here it is: the smell of death. Let me contextualize that. I live in a place where things like the decaying carcasses of deer and other animals are common, so it’s actually a smell, particularly because I am a trail runner, that I encounter often. But also this: a searing memory from adolescence for me is being in the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado days after a tragic, devastating flood that killed 143 people. The smell of death is something that never leaves you.

Something you wish you could do: sing or play a musical instrument; I piddle on guitar but you wouldn’t want to be in hearing distance.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: procrastinate.

Things you’d walk a mile for: apropos to several answers in this interview, I’d gladly walk a mile for the perfect chocolate croissant.  
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: mean people. I mean, really, there’s just no place. Oh, and those Lincoln commercials with Matthew McConaughey. I like several of his film roles and loved him in the first season of True Detective, but really, that glib look in those commercials. Come on, Matt, like you need the money!

Things to say to an author: (or at least the thing I hope to hear) “You know, something similar happened to me once and the way you described it is exactly right;” or “I am/used to be a ________ (cop, nurse, carpenter, etc.), and I appreciate that you got _______ right.”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You know, if I was writing this, I would have . . .”

Favorite places you’ve been: we have a daughter who lives in Germany where she is a researcher, and the Rhine River Valley is a truly spectacular place we are anxious to get back to. There’s a particular little Bed and Breakfast I visited when I was nineteen or twenty in Salzburg, Austria that was truly magical. Practically any Paris café sidewalk table; give me that blanket, a warm drink, a croissant, some sunshine, and I’ll happily stay there forever. And I’d return to the night market in Chang Mai, Thailand in a heartbeat.

Places you never want to go to again: I’m from Wyoming originally and spent lots of years there. I have a fondness for many parts of the state. But as someone who has slept in a car alongside the pavement when Interstate 80 is closed during a blizzard and has survived lots of white-knuckled trips in white-out conditions on that corridor and elsewhere in the state, there are a number of places and experiences I’d rather not revisit.

Proudest moment: I’m the father of three amazing, accomplished young women. Pick the moment of birth for any of the three, but don’t ask me to pick between them.
Most embarrassing moment: okay, well, I have too many to choose from, some from adolescent years that are SO embarrassing I still can’t face them publicly. But since I need to choose one moment, I’ll leap forward to adulthood. My middle daughter was a DI basketball prospect making one of her official recruiting visits and it was our first time to meet the coaching staff. We were leaving the Student Center to meet them, and as we were exiting the building below us beyond a long, wide flight of stairs, the whole coaching staff was approaching on the sidewalk. My daughter and I both waved in recognition and descended the stairs. Somehow, I managed to miss a step, tripped, and essentially sprinted the whole length of the stairs in an arm-whirling fast jig. I managed to keep my feet and jumped to the sidewalk, breathless, hand extended to the head coach. I felt stupid enough, but was more embarrassed for my daughter, in a moment when essentially the only logical thought was: “Please don’t judge a daughter’s athleticism from the absence of her father’s.” 


Most daring thing you’ve ever done: more accurately described as “stupid” rather than daring . . . in our college dorm, we used to open the outside elevator doors, wait until the elevator arrived at the floor below us, then climb out on top of the elevator car. There were three elevators in the building, all in parallel shafts, so we’d ride atop the elevators and cross from one to the next when they stopped at the same floor or get off and balance on the ironwork between them. Like I said, not so bright in retrospect, but we sure thought it was fun at the time.

Something you chickened out from doing: (and a strong regret) my wife gave me the chance to take flying lessons and I couldn’t make myself do it.


OTHER BOOKS BY MARK LEICHLITER

The Other Side

Lost & Found: Stories

In the Chameleon’s Shadow




ABOUT THE AUTHOR 


The Other Side is the crime fiction debut from Mark Leichliter. Writing as Mark Hummel, he is the author of the contemporary literary novel In the Chameleon’s Shadow and the short story collection Lost & Found. His fiction, poetry, and essays have regularly appeared in a variety of literary journals including such publications as The Bloomsbury Review, Dogwood, Fugue, Talking River Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, and Zone 3.

A former college professor and writing program director, he has also taught in an independent high school, directed a writers’ conference, and worked as a librarian. He is the managing editor of the nonfiction magazine bioStories, is on the resident faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, teaches workshops and courses in fiction and memoir, and helps other writers as a writing coach and editor. He writes from his home in Montana’s Flathead Valley.



Connect with Mark:
Website  |  Twitter Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 3, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: MARK JOHNSON



ABOUT THE BOOK


Life As Play chronicles author Mark Johnson's 50-year spiritual odyssey with some of the most fascinating spiritual teachers of the last half-century. His travels take him from the mountains of Pennsylvania to exotic temples in China and Tibet and eventually to the wild and dangerous hills of Malibu, California.
 
Mark chronicles his ten years training in an Advaita Vedanta center in Florida, then a year of visiting Suzuki Roshi in California. Then the Play began, with an intense 28-year apprenticeship to the powerful Daoist wizard he meets in Taiwan and convinces to come to the US.
 
Mark learned many valuable self-healing techniques in their Malibu clinic: how to heal oneself with high-frequency energies available to everyone; how to utilize deep breathing techniques for clearing and integrating our subconscious; the power of love, compassion, spontaneity, intuition, and inner stillness; how to recognize an Avatar if you are lucky enough to meet one; and how to activate your acupuncture meridians and auric energies. There are chapters on Feng Shui, Daoist sexual practices, the nine secrets to a life of Play, and much more.
 
The central message is that if an ordinary boy from central Pennsylvania can learn to live in an abiding state of Play, then surely you can too.

Book Details

Title: Life As Play: Live compassionately, intuitively, spontaneously, and miracles will happen!
Author: Mark Johnson

Genre: self-help; spirituality

Published: Dao Publishing (December 2020)
Print length: 236 pages




STUPID QUESTIONS WITH MARK JOHNSON


A few of your favorite things: when I am not on call, I sit quietly and let my intuition and spontaneity flow through me.
Things you need to throw out: I give things away or I try to integrate them with the rest of the stuff I have.


Things you need in order to write: quiet time.
Things that hamper your writing: noise, unexpected interruptions.

Things you love about writing: the fact I let it flow through me effortlessly.
Things you hate about writing:  I don’t hate anything about writing.


Things you love about where you live: I love the 50-mile view from my lofty penthouse.
Things that make you want to move: nothing.

Words that describe you: funny, compassionate, spontaneous etc. ad nauseam!
Words that describe you, but you wish they didn’t: impatient when asked to answer stupid questions.

Favorite foods: anything I can create in 3 to 5 minutes at most.
Things that make you want to throw up:  answering stupid questions.

Favorite song: “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
Music that makes your ears bleed: almost everything I hear these days.

Something you like to do: whatever the divine wants me to do.
Something you wish you’d never done: I learn through experiences so I try to learn from everything I do.

Things you’d walk a mile for: getting the exercise that my body needs at the moment.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: when the room is on fire.

Things you always put in your books: guidance for everyone to realize their innate divinity.

Things you never put in your books: trivia—unless it is humorous.

Favorite places you’ve been: I have been damn near everywhere on this planet.
Places you never want to go to again: They all were interesting in their own way.

Favorite things to do: help people realize their innate divinity.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: answering stupid questions.

Most embarrassing moment: I can’t remember people’s names after a nasty plane crash 10 years ago.
Proudest moment: when I remember their names.

Best thing you’ve ever done: at age 16 I made a clay dinosaur movie that involved  30,000 still shots that involved a fight between 2 T Rexes then a fly in Pterodactyl. Then a T Rex sinks into a tar pit and dies.
Biggest mistake: I misplaced the dinosaur DVD and have never found it. 

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: I flew with a new flying buddy who turned out to be an idiot and smashed us into a warehouse at 120 mph and smashed my frontal lobe off -hence no people’s names.
Something you chickened out from doing: getting married again.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Mark Johnson is a semi-retired Tai Ji and Chi Gung instructor and healer. He continues to judge Tai Ji tournaments regularly, serves on the Advisory Council to the National Qigong Association, and leads Daoist retreats to China and Tibet yearly. He sells his Tai Chi for Seniors video and other instructional DVDs through his online company. Mark has studied and practiced Eastern Philosophy for over forty-five years and has apprenticed with some of the most prominent Vedanta, Zen and Daoist teachers in the world. He has been a member and research subject at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for nearly fifteen years.

Connect with Mark:
Website Facebook 

Buy the book:

Amazon



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: LEO FLYNN


ABOUT THE BOOK


Mara Keres. A trained warrior and formerly highly respected peacekeeper. Note "formerly."

Once, she had her life under control. Once, she had the trust of the galaxy. Now she rots in the same prison she used to sentence people to. Solitary confinement for six years. Would've brought anyone else to their knees. Not her.

Then an offer resurfaces, almost too good to be true. Ghosts of her past and demons come back to haunt her; will she ever make it out alive? Sometimes, facing your worst memories is worth the risk.


Book Details

Title: Mara’s Awakening
Author: Leo Flynn

Genre: science fiction, space opera

Series: The Mara Files, book 1

Published: March 31, 2021

Print length: 44 pages





LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH LEO FLYNN


Things you need in order to write: Scrivener, music and no interruptions.
Things that hamper your writing: the internet, distractions, and my annoying brain!


Things you love about writing:
creating worlds, characters, and knowing a person was affected by the words you wrote, even if only for an hour or two.
Things you hate about writing: how draining it can be, how it fills you with doubt, and how your brain wants to question every word you write!

Easiest thing about being a writer: it’s perfectly socially acceptable to be weird.

Hardest thing about being a writer: how much work it is! Especially being self-published. 


Words that describe you: creative, disciplined, and hardworking
Words that describe you, but you wish they didn’t: doubtful, stubborn, and rushing headlong into things.

Favorite foods: sushi, tacos, and bread.
Things that make you want to throw up: chocolate, cream, and butter.

Favorite music: I love electronic instrumental music for writing. Outside of that, I listen to a variety of genres.
Music that make your ears bleed: metal, aggressive electronic, and country.

Favorite beverage: water, juice, or milk.

Something that gives you a pickle face: tea or coffee.

Favorite smell: cinnamon, spices, freshly cut grass, and curry.

Something that makes you hold your nose: the carob tree.

Something you’re really good at: coming up with ideas for stories and poetry.

Something you’re really bad at: transforming them into a coherent piece.

Something you like to do: reading.

Something you wish you’d never done: tried dance lessons.


Things you’d walk a mile for: good food, quality time with friends, and exciting experiences.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: uninteresting small talk.

Things you always put in your books: poetry, action, adventure, diverse characters, women protagonists, fun banter, heartfelt moments, and some serious character development.

Things you never put in your books: real-world locations, explicit content, or excessive violence.

Things to say to an author: What’s your book about? Do you have any book recommendations? How can I support your work?

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Writing? That’s not a real job!

Favorite places you’ve been: the Southern Carpathians, Tokyo, South Spain.

Places you never want to go to again: shopping malls and airports.

Favorite things to do: write stories and poetry, read and watch science fiction.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: being forced to write anything other than science fiction.

Things that make you happy: rainy days, good music/TV shows/movies, my favorite foods, spending time with friends and family, going on walks through nature.

Things that drive you crazy: people who don't educate themselves, disrespectful people, littering, and people who don't listen and constantly interrupt.

Best thing you’ve ever done: finally self-publishing my book.

Biggest mistake: letting the world tell me I have to wait for someone’s permission to follow my dreams.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done:
climbed a small rock face near a beach with my bare hands.

Something you chickened out from doing: going paragliding.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leo Flynn writes poetry & gripping, action-packed SciFi like The Mara Files, his debut, an exciting science fiction short story series.

Other galaxies, reading, talking too much about writing and music consume his waking hours.

Connect with Leo:
Website Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads Amazon

Buy the book:
Amazon

Monday, May 24, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: HEYWOOD GOULD


ABOUT THE BOOK

 
It's 1966, and young Heywood Gould, a Brooklyn boy with literary ambitions, has his dream job. He is a reporter at the ultra liberal (that's right liberal) New York Post, alongside young writers like Nora Ephron, Pete Hamill, and Anthony Scaduto. New York is a newspaper town, six dailies trying to beat each other to the big story. He revels in the action and competition.  In this comic memoir of his early life, screenwriter, director and novelist Gould cuts back and forth between vivid scenes of childhood as early as age 2, and coming of age in New York City in the '60's. Fighting anti-Semitic bullies in the neighborhood. Collecting corpses for a Brooklyn funeral home. Dropping acid in Greenwich Village and dropping out of college for a year of sleazy encounters and one bittersweeet love affair in the down and out world of left bank Paris. Possessed of uncanny recall for details, an unparalleled ear for dialogue, and disarming candor about his foibles, young Heywood is great company. Reader will be treated to a ride to another era, not so terribly long ago.

Book Details

Title: Drafted: A Memoir of the '60s

Author: Heywood Gould

Genre: memoir

Publisher: Tolmitch Press ( June 21, 2021)

Print length: 376 pages







LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH HEYWOOD GOULD

 
A few of your favorite things: George Simenon novels. Spaghetti with anything. Any Michael Curtiz movie. Blueberries. My new favorite writer, Yenta Mash.
Things you need to throw out: nothing. I keep everything.
 
Things you need in order to write: a good idea that I feel I can execute
Things that hamper your writing: social obligations. Family obligations. Medical appointments. Anything that keeps me away from the desk.

Things you love about writing: nothing. It's torture.
Things you hate about writing: seeing something you should gave changed when the book is already published.
 
Easiest thing about being a writer: not having to punch a clock.

Hardest thing about being a writer: rejection. It's not the tragedy it once was, but it still stings.

Things you love about where you live: the insanity of the city.
Things that make you want to move: nothing. I've tried other places, but always come back to New York.


Things you never want to run out of: peanut butter. Ideas. USB sticks.
Things you wish you’d never bought: I try not to buy anything.
 
Favorite foods: I eat everything.
Things that make you want to throw up: nothing. I worked in a funeral parlor for three years so I have a pretty strong stomach.
 
Favorite music: Jazz.
Music that make your ears bleed: Rap.
 
Favorite beverage: coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: wheatgrass.
 
Favorite smell: my grandson and granddaughter.

Something that makes you hold your nose: male cologne.
 
Something you’re really good at: bartending.

Something you’re really bad at: flipping omelets.
 
Something you wish you could do: dunk a basketball.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: write a Hollywood ending.
 
Something you like to do: hike.

Something you wish you’d never done: that's classified.



Last best thing you ate: s
ausage and peppers last night.

Last thing you regret eating: bad mushrooms. I was sick for days.
 
Things you’d walk a mile for: exercise.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: cable anchor people.

Things you always put in your books: new twists I hope
.
Things you never put in your books: anything I wrote before.
 
Things to say to an author: a page turner. Couldn't put it down. You're a genius.
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I just felt he/she wouldn't have done that.
 
Favorite places you’ve been: Paris. Anyplace on Hawaii.

Places you never want to go to again: Boca Raton.
 
Favorite things to do: hang with my grandchildren.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: have a notes meeting with a producer.
 
Things that make you happy: too many to list.

Things that drive you crazy: politicians.
 
Proudest moment: watching my kids excel.
Most embarrassing moment: being caught in a bad mistake.


Biggest lie you’ve ever told: I never took drugs. (Said to my kids.)

A lie you wish you’d told: none. Lies have never worked out well for me.
 
Best thing you’ve ever done: I'll leave that for others to decide.

Biggest mistake: not kissing up to producers.
 
Most daring thing you’ve ever done: hitching buses on Coney Island Avenue.

Something you chickened out from doing: ice climbing.
 
The last thing you did for the first time: had my ninth and tenth ribs removed for a biopsy.

Something you’ll never do again: have my ninth and tenth ribs removed for a biopsy.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, Heywood Gould got his start as a reporter for the New York Post when it was still known as a "pinko rag." Later he financed years of rejection with the usual colorful jobs-cabdriver, mortician's assistant, industrial floor waxer, bartender, and screenwriter. He has written fourteen books and nine screenplays, among them Boys From Brazil, Fort Apache, the Bronx, Cocktail and Rolling Thunder.  In addition, he directed four features, One Good Cop starring Michael Keaton, Trial by Jury with William Hurt, Mistrial with Bill Pullman and Double Bang with William Baldwin.


His novel, Leading Lady, was a finalist for the 2008 Dashiell Hammett Award and Foreword Magazine Award for literary excellence in crime writing and was a Bronze Medal winner for the Independent Book Publisher's Award.  His novel Greenlight for Murder was praised as the “blackest of screwball comedies," and it was also nominated for a Hammett Prize. Heywood Gould lives in New York City.


Buy the book:
Amazon 



Friday, May 21, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: JENNIFER CHASE



ABOUT THE BOOK


“Please Mommy, can Tessa and I go play on the swing by the creek?” the little girl begs, pushing a blonde curl from her eyes. “We’ll stay together, and we promise to be safe.” Hours later, their mother waits anxiously for her darling girls to arrive home with a list of reasons why they are late. But the front door never opens . . .

When the bodies of eleven and twelve-year-old sisters, Tessa and Megan, are found at the bottom of a ravine—dressed in matching pastel summer outfits, their small bodies broken from the fall—Detective Katie Scott is called to one of the most shocking and heartbreaking crime scenes of her career.



Carefully picking through the fragile remains, Katie makes the first of many disturbing discoveries: the girls were not biological sisters. The youngest, Megan, is a DNA match to a kidnapping case years before. The tiny number burnt into her skin the mark of a terrifying killer intent on keeping count of his collection.



Her PTSD from the army triggered, Katie is left reeling as she maps other missing children in the local area. Has this twisted soul found a way to stay nearby his victims? Could he be watching now as Katie hits one dead end after another? 

A wild storm building, matching a fiber found during the autopsy to a nearby boatyard is the break Katie needs. But when another girl goes missing, just as lightning strikes and the power goes out, Katie only has her instincts, her team and her service dog to rely on. As time runs out for Katie to finds the stolen child alive, who will become the next number on this monster’s deadly list?



Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine, and Melinda Leigh, you better buckle-up for the ride of your life! BEWARE – this gripping crime thriller is guaranteed to keep you up all night!

Book Details:

Title: The Fragile Ones

Author: Jennifer Chase

Genre: crime thriller    

Series: Detective Katie Scott

Publisher: Bookouture (March 8, 2021)

Print length: 300 pages




TWENTY QUESTIONS/ONE WORD ANSWERS INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER CHASE


    1.    Where is your cell phone? Off.

    2.    Your hair? Unruly.

    3.    Your workplace? Quiet.

    4.    Your other half? Supportive.

    5.    What makes you happy? Beach.

    6.    What makes you crazy? Noise.

    7.    Your favorite food? Italian.

    8.    Your favorite beverage? Soda.

    9.    Fear? Nope.

    10.    Favorite shoes? Boots.

    11.    Favorite way to relax? Sunset.

    12.    Your mood? Inspired.

    13.    Your home away from home? Mountains.

    14.    Where were you last night? Movies.

    15.    Something that you aren't? Hateful.

    16.    Something from your bucket list? Travel.

    17.    Wish list item? Acreage.

    18.    Where did you grow up? California.

    19.    Last thing you did? Clean.

    20.    What are wearing now? PJs.



EXCERPT


 PROLOGUE

“Please can we go?” whined Tessa as she followed her mother through the living room and into the kitchen. “Please,” she said again, pushing her blonde curls away from her eyes. “I really want to go to the swing by the creek.”

“Not by yourself,” countered Mrs. Mayfield, ignoring her daughter’s angry stare. “We’ve talked about this before.”

“Yes, and you said I couldn’t go alone, and I’m not. Megan will be with me.” Tessa’s older sister was barely a year older and her best friend. Her mother began emptying the dishwasher, putting plates and glasses away in the cabinet. It was unclear if she was thinking about what Tessa had said or not, so she tried again. “I’m almost eleven and Megan is almost twelve. We’re practically teenagers,” she said. “Besides, Janey and her brother will probably be there.”

Mrs. Mayfield laughed. “You know, you would be a good lawyer the way you make your case.”

“I don’t want to be a lawyer. I’m going to be a vet,” Tessa said, grinning.

“Well, I know you are going to be whatever you want to be.” Mrs. Mayfield laughed to herself as she slipped the last piece of silverware into the drawer and turned to face her daughter. At the sound of her name, Megan had joined Tessa in the doorway and they both stood quietly waiting for an answer. Glancing at the wall clock with a sigh, she said, “You both have to be back by four thirty, not a second later. Understand?”

“Thank you! Thank you!” Tessa said, grabbing her sister’s hand in glee. Both girls were in denim shorts and pastel T-shirts with their favorite matching blue sneakers.

“Be home on time,” their mom called after them.

“We will,” chimed the girls.

Mrs. Mayfield heard the front door shut, followed by the sound of running footsteps.

She smiled and went back to her chores as the afternoon ticked by.

At 4:45 p.m. Mrs. Mayfield was waiting impatiently to hear the girls enter the house with a list of a dozen reasons why they were late—but the front door never opened. An hour after that, unable to wait any longer, she looked outside, thinking that the girls might be in the yard.

Debris from a croquet set littered the lawn; the wooden mallets abandoned and colored balls scattered as if the girls had been playing only moments ago. The trampoline in the corner had one of the girls’ bright blue sweatshirts hanging on the edge. It swayed slightly in the breeze.

There was no sign of them.

She ran through the house to the backyard, but it, too, was deserted. No whispers. No giggles. No shrieks of laughter. The wind was picking up and whistling through the branches and leaves of the surrounding trees—almost whispering a warning.

Mrs. Mayfield pulled off her apron and reached for her coat, deciding to walk to the creek and bring the girls back herself. At this point, she was more angry than concerned, knowing how they could be forgetful when they were having fun, and often lost track of time. But surely they would be on their way home by now? she thought to herself as her pace quickened from a fast walk to a jog. Against her better judgment, and knowing that she couldn’t shelter them forever, she had crumbled and let them go down to the creek where one of the neighboring boys had constructed a swing that they loved to play on.

And now fear ripped through her body. “Tessa!” she yelled. “Megan!” Terrible scenarios shuffled through her thoughts as she tried desperately to keep her emotions on an even keel.

“Tessa! Megan!” She yelled their names over and over until her voice went hoarse. Her chest felt strangely heavy and her vision blurred as she ran, but her strength and mother’s instinct pushed her forward, down the trail leading to the creek. The trail was well-worn by local kids looking for adventure and fun. Stumbling as she ran, she frantically turned left and then right. There wasn’t a soul around… She was alone. She kept moving.

Looking up at the tall pine trees, everything spun in a dizzying blur of forest and darkening sky. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and open again, then stopped for a moment to listen.

The swing was only visible at the bottom of the path just above the creek and she could hear the water rushing below. Peering over the edge, there was no sign of them—or anyone. She kept turning, expecting to see her girls everywhere she looked. They weren’t there. All around her were discarded candy wrappers and remnants of fast food containers. Proof that children played here often.

There was no sound apart from the whisper of the trees. No children laughing nearby. “Megan! Tessa!” she yelled again, but there was only silence. She ran all the way up the trail to the street, still calling their names in a full-blown panic.

Mrs. Mayfield turned her attention up the road, her mother’s instinct in high gear. Something blue lying beneath a bush caught her eye and she ran towards it.

She leaned down and her hand trembled over the light blue canvas before she forced herself to grab the abandoned blue sneaker.

“No,” she said, barely breathing.

Written on the side tread of the shoe with a thick black pen was one word: Tessa.



Excerpt from by .  Copyright © 2018 by . Reproduced with permission from . All rights reserved.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master's degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.

Connect with Jennifer:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Book trailer

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble


Thursday, May 20, 2021

FEATURED AUTHOR: KEVIN D. MILLER


ABOUT THE BOOK


A megalomaniac god is pursuing a millennia-old vendetta, and Leif must learn to wrangle a newly awakened power to either become a hero or a villain. He will leave his old life and run from creatures he believed were reserved for myth and legend. He travels across the realms while struggling to tame the blinding rage that comes with his new demi-god like power. Will Leif survive the intra-realm quest and prevent Ragnarok or will he fail to control his awakening.



Book Details:

Title: Awakening
Author: Kevin D. Miller

 
Genre: high fantasy, dark fantasy, mythology, action and adventure

Series: The Berserker Chronicles, book 1
Publisher: Bifrost Books (December 5, 2020)

Print length: 336 pages





INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN D. MILLER


Where’s home for you?

I live in Redlands, California.  

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Palm Desert, California.

Who would you pick to write your biography? 

Jim Butcher, he is one of my favorite author’s and a truly amazing writer.   


Have you been in any natural disasters?
I don’t know if this counts, but all my life I have lived near the San Andreas Fault. Due to being so close I have been in numerous earthquakes, some of them quite big on the Richter scale.


What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
I would change several of the college courses I took. Instead of choosing  easy classes, I would pick those courses that would better help me in my adult life.



What makes you nervous?
The thought of undiscovered typos in my book Awakening. 


What makes you happy?
Spending time with my girlfriend, Amy and our two dogs Pepper and Riley.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
Yes, I am a practicing attorney.

Who are you?
That’s a deep question. I am still learning who I am. Up until three years ago, I didn't even know I wanted to be an author.

If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?

My dogs.

What’s one of your favorite quotes? 
This isn’t exactly a famous quote or anything, but I always ask myself “Why not,” when I am considering doing something new. Why not writing a book. Why not write a series. Why not learn a new skill.  It helps reinforce for me the notion that no one is stopping me from doing what I want to do. I just have to push past the initial nerves of trying something and possibly failing. But the possibility of failure shouldn’t stops me from trying. So, why not?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
Kyoto, Japan. I absolutely love Japan and Japanese culture. I’ve been to Japan twice and plan to go again next summer. I studied Japanese history in college and even wrote my college thesis on ancient Japan. I loved being there. The food is delicious, the country is beautiful and everyone is so nice. If I could, I would sell all my stuff and move there tomorrow.

How did you create the plot for this book?
I came up with the initial idea for Awakening while watching the opening scene from the first episode of The History Channel TV show Vikings. After the initial inspiration, I mentally story-boarded my idea until I felt that I had worked out all the kinks, then started writing.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
None that were inspired, but I did include several of my friends and girlfriend’s names into small roles within the book. Just as fun littler Easter eggs for them to come across when they first read Awakening.  

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Garon Whited, Terry Mancour and Robert Kirkman. They are all amazing authors and creators. Getting the chance to pick their brains and ask for advice would be amazing.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Garon Whited, Terry Mancour, Christopher Palolini, Michaelbrent Collins, Craig Alanson, Anthony Ryan, Brent Weeks, and Brandon Sanderson.


What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I am reading Homeland by R. A. Salvatore in e-book format and listening to Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton on Audible.


Do you have a routine for writing?
My typical routine is to write for 45 to 60 minutes during my lunch break at work.    

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Typically during my lunch break in my office. I shut my door, turn on my music and can write free from distraction.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
That they thought Awakening should be turned into a Netflix series. I got chills when they told me.

You can be any fictional character for one day.

Harry Dresden from The Dresden files.

What would your dream office look like?
A comfortable chair, a stand up desk, framed paintings of nerdy scenes from my favorite movies along the wall. There would be two computer monitors so I can have my notes up at the same time. One wall is a floor to ceiling whiteboard so I can mind map and keep a running list of notes on it, with the final wall has a large window so I can procrastinate by staring out it.

Why did you decide to self-publish?
I researched reaching out to the major publishing houses and from everything I read, it made me feel like it would be a colossal waste of time to try and get published in the traditional sense. So I figured, why not do it myself.

Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?
Yes, I like have complete control over my book and writing.

What steps to publication did you personally do, and what did you hire someone to do? Is there anyone you’d recommend for a particular service?
I wrote Awakening along with spending several months reviewing and editing it myself, but I can only do so much. I felt it was necessary to hire a professional editor. My editor performed two developmental edit read-throughs along with copy and line-by-line editing. I then hired a digital artist to draw my cover and back page. Once all of that was done, my editor then went the extra mile by compiling everything together and uploading onto Amazon, Draft2Digital and IngramSpark.

What are you working on now?

I just turned in Ascension to my editor last week, and I'm now working on my first draft of book three, Ragnarok.



EXCERPT FROM AWAKENING


Prologue

Alexander never thought that he would live long enough to enjoy quiet nights like this. He noted it was a particularly cold night as he stepped onto his back porch. His breath sent out a little fog, and he marveled at how peaceful winter could be in the Icelandic forest. The freshly fallen snow sparkled as the Northern lights flashed through the night sky. Alexander never grew tired of watching their fiery dance. He only wished his wife, Helga, was still around to enjoy the peace and quiet. Sighing contentedly, Alexander reached down, grabbed a bundle of firewood, and turned to head back inside. Suddenly he froze. He felt it, a tingling he hadn’t felt in a long time, danger. Scanning the surrounding forest, Alexander couldn’t see anything out of place, but the feeling that something was out there, something that didn’t belong, still pulled at him like the tide. Alexander stared into the darkness for a few more moments, but the forest remained silent, unwilling to give up its secrets. Alexander shrugged and went back into his house. For the first time in years, he locked the door behind him.

As Alexander sat by the fire, the warmth failed to chase away the feeling that someone or something was out there roaming his forest. A familiar howl rang out from deep within the forest, pulling Alexander out of his thoughts. A second later similar howls answered. Alexander could identify each individual wolf by their howl; he had known this pack for years. Settling back in his chair, he envisioned the wolves in full force. The howls continued to ring across the forest. In all his years living in the forest, Alexander had never heard so many wolves at once. They sounded agitated. They must sense it too, he thought.

Alexander groaned as his knees popped and his old bones protested the sudden movement of getting to his feet. It was as if his body knew what he was planning to do and was voicing its discontent. It had been decades since he had been in a fight, but it seemed he was being called out one last time. Hell, Alexander thought, I may see Helga sooner than I thought. Pulling on his thick wool parka, Alexander grabbed the double-bladed ax he used to chop wood. The weight felt comfortable in his hands. The ax had been his weapon of choice from the time he was strong enough to swing one. His mother had pushed him to branch out and learn to use other weapons, but it wasn’t meant to be. The ax was the weapon of his ancestors, and he honored them by using it. The cold hit Alexander like a hammer, clearing his senses and waking him up to the world around him. The Berserker had laid dormant inside of him for decades now, but Alexander could feel the old battle lust stirring within. The forest had gone too quiet, the howls of the wolf pack had died down. Goosebumps speckled Alexander’s body as the tension in the air thickened. Alexander knew why. A predator not of this realm stalked his forest.

Alexander silently crept through the forest. The snow crunched lightly beneath his weight; his senses screamed at him to turn back, but he ignored them and pressed on. It had been decades since he had felt the thrill of a fight, and he relished the feeling.

A bird pierced the silent forest with a loud squawk. He peered through the tangle of trees and branches; he could barely make out a blotch of darkness that seemed to be darker than the surrounding forest. As he moved closer, the air blew warm breaths on his face with each step. Alexander was within ten feet of the odd black blotch when he noticed that the snow had completely melted away. Steam rose from the freshly uncovered earth in a circle around the object. Thick drops of water splashed down from the tree branches above, puffing into steam upon hitting the forest floor.

Alexander continued to move slowly around the dark object but didn’t see anyone or anything. Creeping ever closer, his feeling of unease intensified. As Alexander stepped around the inky darkness, the heat had him sweating through his clothes. He stopped dead in his tracks. His blood ran cold. From the back, the round black object drank in all the available light, but now that Alexander was in front of it, he could see it opened up to a world of fire and lava. Alexander knew what he was looking at; he just couldn’t figure out why it was here. The dark blob was a bridge to another realm. However, it differed from any bridge he had used in his youth. This thing

was more like a rip in the fabric of reality. Whoever did this was immensely powerful. Peering into the gateway, memories from a lifetime ago came flooding back to him. Muspelheim, the realm of fire and lava. The home to an unimaginable evil. It was a place he had hoped to never see again.

As if in answer to his thoughts, something rose out of the molten river that lay beyond the bridge. Alexander’s stomach backflipped as he recognized the creature that was steadily stalking towards the bridge. It’s the beginning of the end, Alexander thought. Ragnarok is here.

As the being stepped through the bridge and into Alexander’s world, the frigid forest air hissed and steamed in protest to the fiery monster’s trespass into Midgard. Alexander stared up at the molten giant and thought he looked even taller than he had appeared decades ago. Alexander backed up, making sure he was out of range of the monster’s hulking sword. He knew a fight was inevitable. Alexander closed his eyes and freed the dormant Berserker, embracing the longforgotten thrill of the fight. Icy fire burned along his veins as his muscles grew and strengthened. Alexander knew, even in his enhanced state, that he was no match for the force of nature that stood before him. He only hoped to fend the giant off long enough to create an opening and run for help. Hopefully, with luck, he could lose the creature in the forest.

Alexander opened his eyes, filling his old frame and flooding his veins with the familiar icy burn of the Berserker. Any thoughts of running vanished as a thin red haze of rage colored the edge of his vision. Fear and doubt evaporated and was replaced with excited determination at the chance to cross blades one last time with a worthy foe. Who gives a damn that I’m well into my sixties? Alexander thought. “I am the last of an ancient and powerful Berserker clan, bestowed with the power of Thor, chosen to defend Midgard from invaders such as you. How dare you step into my realm, Surtr,” Alexander growled. “You aren’t welcome here. I will say this one time; return to Muspelheim or face my wrath.”

Surtr’s molten eyes studied Alexander. A voice Alexander had hoped to never hear again thundered in the clearing. The fire giant’s voice washed over Alexander like an oncoming forest fire. “You arrogant and foolish Midgardian. Do you have any idea who you are speaking too? Face your wrath? Don’t think I don’t remember you. You are one of the few beings who was lucky enough to escape me the first time we fought. You will not be so lucky this time. By Hel’s will, I have been given a second chance to finish the fight you started many years ago.”

“You think I’m afraid of you, giant?” Alexander boasted, “I have faced hundreds of enemies and killed them all. Last time we faced, we were in your realm, but now,” Alexander gestured around. “You are far from Muspelheim. I have the advantage here.”

Surtr laughed and pointed his massive sword at Alexander. “You truly don’t know what I am, do you? I cannot be killed by the likes of you.”

Surtr blurred, moving with a speed no normal human could track. But luckily for Alexander, he wasn’t a normal human. This also wasn’t his first fight. Alexander had been waiting for Surtr to make the first move and was ready for him. Surtr’s burning blade slashed through the air mere centimeters from Alexander’s face as he dodged out of range. A blast of scalding air washed over Alexander as Surtr’s blade sliced through the air.

Alexander rushed forward, relishing the speed his Berserker state granted him. Alexander hoped to throw Surtr off by attacking him head on. Slashing upward, Alexander attempted to split open Surtr’s unarmored stomach. Before the ax hit, Surtr lashed out, kicking Alexander square in the chest, causing him to fly backward. He slammed into a tree trunk with a bone crunching crack. Alexander felt the ancient pine sway back and forth from the impact. Snow rained down from the branches above, pelting him in wet kisses. Alexander struggled to catch his breath. Damn, that hurt. I can’t afford to take too many hits like that, Alexander thought. Struggling to his feet, Alexander felt every cell in his body struggle with the pain. He suspected a few of his ribs cracked, but nothing felt permanently damaged or out of place.

Luckily, years of training had taught Alexander to never let go of his weapon in a fight. Even in his old age, he still had the wherewithal to keep hold of it. Alexander used his ax as a crutch and looked up at Surtr. His enemy hadn’t even bothered to follow up his attack; he just stood there studying Alexander. “You’ve grown old, Berserker. You weren’t a match for me decades ago. You certainly aren’t one now.”

Alexander eyed the giant, “Ha, I’m just warming up, Surtr. Before long I’ll have you running back through that bridge, crying to whoever sent you here,” Alexander boasted. However, deep down he knew he was finished. That kick had hurt him more than he cared to admit. His back was ablaze with pain and his legs felt like wet noodles. I must have damaged my spine when I hit the tree, Alexander thought. “This fight will be over before I get a chance to heal,” Alexander grumbled.

Alexander eyed the fiery giant and quietly thanked the gods he had the foresight to leave a letter to his Berserker heir. He had wished he could have had more time with his daughter and grandson. He’d wanted to introduce them to the idea of realms, gods, and supernatural creatures slowly, but as with all great plans, it fell apart. Alexander could only hope they would find the journals.

There is no way this attack is random, Alexander thought. A being such as Surtr doesn’t leave his realm unless provoked, and for a bridge to open right in his backyard, linking Muspelheim to Midgard - it was too much of a coincidence. The gods were moving against each other; he could feel it. Wincing in pain, Alexander steeled himself.

Whispering reverently, Alexander breathed into the icy wind, “Odin, Allfather, my time on this mortal plain has come to an end. I, one of Thor’s anointed, choose to die with an ax in hand, and can only hope to be welcomed into the halls of Valhalla.” A raven cawed an answer to Alexander’s prayer somewhere in the trees. Even though Surtr was far stronger than him, Alexander couldn’t just roll over and die. That wasn’t the Berserker way. Taking a deep breath, Alexander took a two-handed grip on his ax, feeling the smooth grip of the handle form perfectly to his weathered and calloused hands. He charged, bellowing a war cry. Surtr moved in as well, sensing the fight was coming to an end. Surtr brought down his massive sword in an attempt to split Alexander in two, but Alexander saw it coming and blocked the attack with his ax. Sparks flew in all directions as the two blades met. Alexander’s ax blade chipped and bent along the edge where it met Surtr’s sword, but that didn’t faze Alexander. Quick as lightning, Alexander swung for Surtr’s outstretched forearm. Alexander thought he had scored a hit, but it merely bounced off Surtr’s thick hide. Alexander, unwilling to relent, swung a horizontal slash meant to take the giant in the knee, but Surtr’s burning blade materialized and Alexander’s ax slammed edge first into the flat of Surtr’s broadsword with a loud clang. The resulting tremor ran up Alexander’s hand and arm, causing them to momentarily go numb. Dodging to the left, Alexander averted a savage punch aimed for his head.

Alexander ducked and dodged Surtr’s onslaught. He never gave up, always looking for an opening to attack. Spinning the ax between attacks, Alexander continued to duck and dodge, waiting for the giant to make a mistake. Alexander knew he couldn’t keep this up for much longer, but he couldn’t waste his attack either. Alexander backed away. Overconfident, Surtr grew bolder with each attack and was swinging wildly. Just as he had hoped, Alexander’s opportunity came as he ducked under a slash meant to take his head off at the neck. Ducking under the smoldering blade, he stepped in as Surtr’s blade slammed into an ancient pine tree. The force of Surtr’s blow nearly cut the massive tree in half, but luckily for Alexander, the blade stopped three-fourths of the way through.

It only took him a second, but that was all the time Alexander needed. Alexander knew this was his only chance, and he swung with all his might. His blade hit Surtr in the stomach. Sparks fluttered to life as Alexander’s ax impacted Surtr’s hardened skin. A look of shock crept across Surtr’s face; Alexander’s blade carved out a shallow cut. Surtr blurred, attacking faster than Alexander thought possible. Not knowing where the attack was coming from, Alexander flung himself backward, but it wasn’t fast enough. Surtr’s blade buried itself deep into Alexander’s right shoulder.

Alexander crumbled, falling to his knees as Surtr pulled the blade free in a spray of blood. Alexander’s vision blurred. Through the pain, Alexander focused on a thin trickle of molten orange blood seeping out of the cut chiseled into Surtr. Surtr followed Alexander’s gaze and looked down. He dabbed lightly at the bleeding wound.

In his grave voice, Surtr intoned, “You are the first to injure me in decades. Be proud as you go to your death.” He heaved the sword above his head, “Give my regards to the Aesir. Their rule over the realms has ended. Ragnarok begins.” Reverently, he brought his sword down for the killing blow.

Alexander, broken and bleeding, moved on reflex, brought up his ax in an overhead block, but it wasn’t enough. Knowing that his time had finally come, Alexander hoped he had made his ancestors proud and that his family would be ready for what was to come. The Berserker mantle that he had held for so long would finally pass on.

A flutter of wings and a caw from the onlooking raven were the only sounds in the silent forest as Alexander slumped back, dead. Surtr took a long moment to stare down at his fallen foe before turning and disappearing through the bridge.

Excerpt from by .  Copyright © 2018 by . Reproduced with permission from . All rights reserved.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Kevin D. Miller is an attorney in Southern California who spends his two hours a day commuting to work either listening to science fiction or fantasy books on Audible or plotting out the storylines for his future books. When he isn't working, Kevin can be found spending time with his girlfriend Amy and their two dogs Pepper and Riley. Kevin enjoys writing, playing video games, kayaking in Big Bear, and enjoying the ocean air in Newport Beach
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