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In Fiction, Context is Everything

Ed Protzel Author Interview
Ed Protzel Author Interview

Something in Madness concludes your DarkHorse trilogy. Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to do with this series?

I did accomplish all my major objectives for writing the trilogy. My themes came across clearly in each novel, though each had a slightly different emphasis. The struggles of the characters under historical slavery (The Lies That Bind, 1859-61 Mississippi), Civil War guerrilla brutality (Honor Among Outcasts, 1863 Missouri), and, finally, post-war oppression (Something in Madness, 1865 Mississippi), clearly make their points. Though the characters, living in a repressed society, must remain tightlipped, rarely giving speeches, I think the reader gets the idea that humanity can— and must learn to — get along.

In fiction, context is everything, and the main concept carries throughout the series. For example, in book 1, a drifter and a dozen escaped slaves form a partnership to build their own plantation, but pretend their enterprise is a traditional master-slave one to trick the town. At first, the hostility and suspicion between the partners, driven together by circumstances, is palpable. But as they seek common goals under enormous pressure (as they do throughout the series), the partnership’s internal conflict blends into familiarity, friendship, and finally trust. And isn’t that what we aim for ideally?

The plot of each novel ties up neatly and better than I’d hoped. Each involved complicated situations and seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the characters, requiring numerous twists and turns, and ingenuity in the part of the protagonists. I had a lot of fun devising them and hope readers can sense that excitement.

Further, I worked hard to make the major characters (below) complex, fully-formed individuals — Black, white, Native American, mixed-race, male and female  — each with admirable qualities and flaws,  unique personalities, and ways of thinking and speaking:

  • Durk: an imaginative, idealistic hustler, whose ambition brings real danger to himself and his cohorts.
  • Antoinette: a sophisticated, strong woman carrying heavy emotional burdens and secrets.
  • Big Josh: wise, intelligent, highly competent; the group’s real leader, bearing his own past tragedies.
  • Mrs. Marie Brussard French: a reclusive, powerful planter controlling the town and perhaps a bit mad.
  • Devereau French: the unhappy and embittered French family heir.
  • Wounded Wolf: Chickasaw chief whose arc is completed surprisingly in book 3.

In fact, I think the arc of the series as a whole worked in tandem with the character arcs of each novel. As for the plots, the final novel not only ties up a number of tangled situations within the its storyline, using clever tricks and surprising gambits played out dramatically in court, but the novel also resolves a number of issues left unresolved from book 1 in an emotionally satisfying and meaningful way.

Was there anything in the story, that developed organically while writing, that surprised you?

Actually, my novels develop almost entirely organically. I never get bored because of the exciting surprises I encounter along the way: plot, dialogue, characters, everything. It’s a hard slog, but the constant need for invention keeps me, and the story, fresh.

Some of my most pleasant surprises came through the dialogue. I like to create characters with strong views and then listen to what they have to tell me. Some of the best lines merely pop into my head in the shower or taking a walk.

One good example of strong dialogue is from The Lies That Bind. The Mrs. French character detests being around townspeople. But I needed a way to get the recluse to town so that Durk, the protagonist, could expose her darkest secret to the citizenry. So I have her going to church, unwillingly, once a year:

“I don’t see why I have to go to church every Easter, just because that Man rose from the dead,” the bitter widow said.

I also gained terrific dialogue through my research. In Something in Madness, Colonel Rutherford, one of my few true villains, says some shocking things about race relations. Rutherford is an unregenerate Confederate who refuses to surrender nor to accept emancipation. In this scene, he opines on the concept of Black literacy:

“Negro schools have sprung up like mushrooms after a storm; hell, they’re starting them themselves. These so-called schools are a plague descending upon our civilization.”

Rutherford’s attitudes were taken directly from contemporary letters to newspapers and articles written by correspondents. I merely put them in the mouth of one man — who spoke them in a tense meeting with the story’s hero, Durk, a Southerner who’d fought for the Union. To Rutherford, Durk is a traitor. In other words, the two men don’t like each other, or the other’s politics. Frankly, the racial animus prevalent in 1865 was tough to read about, and I had to put my source materials aside at times.

As for my methodology. First, I came up with the central concept of the trilogy (the partnership), which established the context for everything that happens after, themes and conflicts. Second, I get a rough idea of the arc the plot will take, plus an arc the major characters will undergo, working on their strengths and weaknesses. Then I let the characters go at it to create the plot twists, always working more conflict into every situation and scene. Is the story tense enough? Does it move?

For example, Durk and his Black partners are equal; they have to trust each other. But with Durk acting as front man for their enterprise, what if his ego drives him to gamble on the cotton market? What if that venture endangers their whole scheme?

I have to figure my way through all the possibilities. That constant need for invention creates suspense for the reader — and a lot of fun for the writer.

What has been the most surprising reader reaction to your books in this series?

How I write the female characters, without a doubt the most commonly asked question. After the publication of The Lies That Bind, I was invited to speak to a book club with about a dozen women and a few men. I went there with the notion of discussing many of the book’s elements, but the major thing they wanted to discuss was how I could write the women so well! In retrospect, there were two reasons for that.

Most importantly, I set out to give the women’s stories, Mrs. French and Antoinette predominately, as much weight as the men’s in terms of plot and outcomes. Not doing so would, in my opinion, sabotage the notion of “equality” and realism, an omission committed by far too many male writers past and perhaps present.

And second, I asked for and received feedback from female writers, friends, and my most ardent fan and critic, my wife, who often pointed out: “A woman wouldn’t say that” or asked  “How would she feel about…” And she was always right.

What project are you working on next?

I’ve been considering a sequel to The Antiquities Dealer, my futuristic suspense thriller featuring the clever David Greenberg, released in 2018. The story involves the search by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian extremists to find the surviving nail from the Crucifixion, tied to an attempt by a secret society to clone Jesus Christ. Murders, puzzles, and romance drive the suspense toward a surprising conclusion. In the meantime, I’ve begun working on another sci-fi thriller, Remembering Planet Earth, where in the not-so-distant future, our world has become an offbeat tourist destination for advanced, wealthy aliens — they’re here to have fun and observe…what? In both sci-fi scenarios, I get to explore politically and socially relevant themes, and offer up possible consequences.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Appomattox ended the war with a penstroke…
but the struggle for freedom had only begun.

1865. After the Civil War, Durksen Hurst and three black friends return home to a devastated Mississippi, the sole survivors of a Union colored cavalry regiment. But instead of peace, they find unregenerate Confederates who reject emancipation still in charge.

Undeterred, Durk opens a law practice to help disenfranchised freedmen — only to be threatened by powerful planters and nightriders. A black school is burned; a petition march to Jackson is terrorized. And when one of his friends goes missing, Durk is horrified to discover Black Codes being used to force freedmen into brutal servitude. Clever Durk schemes to liberate them but must contend with armed ruffians — and a rigged court system. Will fire and bullets prevail?

In this concluding chapter of Ed Protzel’s DarkHorse Trilogy, Something in Madness illuminates Reconstruction, the least understood epoch in American history, exposing the origin of America’s ongoing racial divide.


WHAT LED TO THIS UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP?

Read The Lies That Bind, book 1, and Honor Among Outcasts, book 2.

Trumping The Race Card

Trumping the Race Card: A National Agenda, Moving Beyond Race and Racism by [Rodney S. Patterson]

 

 

Racism has plagued the country for years. It always seems like it is the cast iron ball chained to our ankles preventing us from moving forward. When it seems like we have had enough of crime against people of color, something new emerges. From killings to wrongful incarceration to brutality against innocent people going about their daily life. Trumping the Race Card highlights the beginning of all this and the evolution of oppression through history. Rodney Patterson has cast a light on this sensitive topic to help people realize where they go wrong as well as what can be done about the systemic failures within our society. These are human failures and as such, they can be fixed.

One thing that stands out to me the most about this book is how Rodney Patterson’s passion is palpable throughout this though-provoking book. Someone said that racism is also a human rights issue and should be treated as such. Trumping the Race Card elaborates on this idea and colorizes it with insightful concepts. This is a deeply emotional and sensitive issue to write about especially at this crucial moment in our nations history where we are on the precipice of some potentially monumental changes to the way in which police officers serve our community. Prejudice is an issue that has crippled our communities since the nations founding. Rodney Patterson inspires progressive thought and spurs action. For me, this book did a fantastic job in helping me understand how much of prejudice is racism and vice versa.

Trumping the Race Card is well written and well-timed. I left this book feeling well informed and better prepared with strategies that can be utilized for action at any level of involvement in advancing human rights. This book is really for anyone whether they have experienced or been proximal to racism.

With a pragmatic approach and easily understandable language this book is easily the best civil rights book I’ve read this year. I believe this book will appeal to a wide range of readers. This country needs this book now more than ever.

Pages: 101 | ASIN: B07W4S684D

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MIRRORS OF LIFE: What is your life in the mirror?

MIRRORS OF LIFE: What is your life in the mirror? by [Neal Owens]

Mirrors of Life vividly explores contemporary experiences of black people in America through the emotional tale of a mother and her children. Yvonne is a single mother who is stuck between tragedy and poverty. She finds a release for her pain through her religion and focus on her children. Yvonne’s children are all motivated individuals, though each in their own direction. Each blaze their own path in life, but Derrick is the one that seeks economic equality for his community and finds opposition coming from surprising places. Can Derrick overcome these challenges and change the social and economic fabric of a community set in their ways?

What I found most striking about this novel was the unique way in which it broached sadly common economic and educational deficiencies in minority groups and their communities. Derrick seeks substantial change to address racial inequalities and social justice and does so through his own drive and faith. In a time where black men are killed regularly at the hands of law enforcement, and vigilantes, this novel speaks volumes in its ability to keep the conversation on these topics civil and focused on human experiences.

Derrick, I think, is the main focus of this story. He’s a character that was slow to build but was well developed and stirring. The challenges he faces, they are numerous and varied, and the way he handles them, propels this novel forward at a delightful pace. His mother, Yvonne, is an equally captivating character that I wanted to learn more about. She could have easily had her own novel.

This is a thought-provoking novel that uses compelling characters to bring life to an otherwise familiar story. Mirrors of Life explores themes of family, faith, and love while waxing philosophical, occasionally, on a few topics. If your looking for an intriguing contemporary urban fiction story that addresses many societal issues in a heart-felt yet engaging way then Neal Owens has a novel for you. Mirrors of Life: What is your life in the mirror? is an inspirational novel that made me smarter, if not more aware.

Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07VGLQKTS

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Overcome a Multiplicity of Adversities

Coach Michael Taylor Author Interview

Coach Michael Taylor Author Interview

The Cure For Onlyness is a motivational guide to help black men live a life filled with joy, passion and purpose. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Despite the mainstream media generated narrative that suggests black men are in danger of becoming extinct, I personally believe black men are positioned to experience unprecedented levels of success in America today. Now more than ever, black men need to be exposed to optimistic stories that refute the negative media generated stereotypes about black men. My intention with the book was to not only share some reasons for optimism, but to also provide some insights and strategies that support them in becoming optimistic about the future.

You have dedicated your life to empowering men and women. How has your experience helped you write this book?

After overcoming divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, depression and being homeless for 2 years living out of my car, I decided I wanted to share the lessons I learned during those challenging times in my life. Since I was able to overcome a multiplicity of adversities in my own life, I definitely have first hand experience in dealing with adversity. Being able to rebuild my life after all of these challenges gives me credibility and my story gives others permission to challenge themselves to overcome any adversity in their own lives. I’m a firm believer that experience is the best teacher, and my experiences have definitely made me a great teacher.

I enjoyed your view on positivity expressed in this book. What do you find is a common misconception people have about positivity?

Because of the over proliferation of negative news stories, most people are extremely pessimistic about the world right now. I on the other hand happen to be extremely optimistic about the future. A big misconception that people have about optimists is that we are in denial about the challenges facing our world. The truth is we aren’t. We simply choose to focus our attention on the things that are right with the world versus the things that are wrong. If a person is willing to look past negative media headlines they would find there are a lot more things that are right with the world than are wrong with it. It’s really all about perception and the lens through which we see the world. I love this quote by Deepak Chopra, “There are two types of people in the world. Those who believe the world is primarily a dangerous place with only moments of safety, and those who believe the world is primarily a safe place with only moments of danger. I choose the latter.

I found this book to be ultimately uplifting. What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

I hope people will feel a sense of optimism in regards to race relations in this country and abroad. I personally do not believe race relations are getting worse in this country despite the current racial tensions we all feel. As an optimist, I see the world through an evolutionary lens and I believe humanity is still evolving. We are evolving in consciousness and ultimately, we will evolve to the understanding that we are all a part of one human family. More specifically, my hope is this book reaches the millions of men of color who have given up on their dreams and let them know they have everything they need already inside of them to create an extraordinary life. I hope my story inspires them to find their joy, passion and purpose in life.

Author Links: Website | Amazon | GoodReads

The Cure For Onlyness: A Black Man's Guide To Joy, Passion & Purpose by [Coach Michael Taylor]

Discover the secrets of thriving as a black male in a world that is rigged against you with this definitive guide to self-improvement for black men!

Do you often find yourself despairing at the abysmal and “doom-and-gloom” statistics of black men? Are you tired of being forced to conform to noxious societal labels and subscribe to stereotypes that don’t serve your ultimate purpose and goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this guide might just be what you need.

In this powerful guide, Michael Taylor, an accomplished life coach and entrepreneur, shows you how to shatter limiting beliefs peculiar to black men and hands you the blueprint to living a life of joy, happiness, fulfillment and accomplishment.

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Wounded

Wounded by [Burgess Jr., Ben]

Some scars will destroy everything in your path. No one understood this better than Samantha. After being a heartless and disengaged person for most of her life, she has no remorse about what she does to other people. She is perfectly fine deceiving and targeting women. That is until she meets Sasha, who upturns her entire life. Sasha loses some important people in her life for the simple reason that she loves Samantha. However, Sam’s past and her scars will ruin everything. Isis died but who will Samantha be now? Can she make it having lost a chunk of her heart? Can love truly improve a person?

Ben Burgess Jr writes Wounded with a passion that will make you feel the characters devastation. It is sad to watch Sam be the person she is, knowing full well she could be different. The stories of Sam’s childhood are told with vivid emotion and pain that the reader cannot help but empathize with a person who is still a scarred little girl inside. Even when she messes up, the reader still remains on her side. This book will keep you hoping that love will finally show up and conquer all. When you think it finally has, unseen twists will have you reeling.

It is evident that Samantha’s character took time to sculpt. She is deeply complex and multidimensional. This only increases the frustration when other characters do not see these sides too. She is an extraordinarily broken person but the enthusiasm with which she executes her bitterness is inspiring. The friends, among other supporting characters, are developed enough to make them interesting but allow Sam to remain the driving force in this novel.

The emotive way in which this book has been written, along with a vibrant use of language, makes the writing simple yet captivating. However, I felt like the story was wrapped up a little too quickly. I wanted to see more of the process that led to Samantha’s change and I felt like the death of Isis should be broken down as we simultaneously witness the birth of a new Sam.

This book pulls you in right from the beginning. You will find yourself hoping for a better Sam right from the first page. Wounded will inspire an emotional investment. After this emotional roller-coaster, at least you will get a happy ending.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07TT13N13

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Literary Titan Book Awards September 2019

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

End Times: More Great Adventures in Real America by [McCord, Michael]

Blood on the Chesapeake (The Haunted Shores Mysteries) by [Overbeck, Randy]

BUTTERBALL Goes to the Beach by [Seaborn, Julia]RESCRIPT the Story You're Telling Yourself: The Eight Practices to Quiet Your Inner Antagonist, Amplify Your Inner Advocate, & Author a Limitless Life by [Georges, Colleen]

Phoebe Douse: S3A2 by L. Samuels

The Farthest-Reaching Ball: A Memoir of Motherhood by Sandra Bowman

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Award Winners

Die to Live Again: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel by [Crane, David]Experiment X: Exposed by [Haase, Nikki]Immortals' Requiem: An Epic Grimdark Fantasy by [Bobbe, Vincent]

Love and Happiness by [Burgess Jr., Ben]The Dream Defenders: A YA Sci-Fi Adventure by [DenHartog, Neal]

Son of the Serpent (Fantasy Angels Series Book 2) by [Quiroz-Vega, Vashti]

The Eighth: Intro to The Alt-World Chronicles by [Somerville, Sunshine]The Line Between: A Novel by [Lee, Tosca]

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

Love and Happiness

Love and Happiness by [Burgess Jr., Ben]

Anyone who has been or is married knows that it is work and often the perspective of one partner is completely different from that of his/her partner. This book delves into the difficult topic of two married partners who are not on the same page, which leads to the wife, Karen, seeking what she needs, both physically and emotionally, outside of the marriage.  As the old adage says, what is done in the dark will come to the light! The infidelities are revealed, and Karen and her husband Chris must deal with the fallout. The interesting part about this story is that the reader gets to experience their marriage from both perspectives. This is so revealing about the way that two partners can see things completely differently. It also gives us a better understanding of the complexities of a relationship. Just because someone is unfaithful does not mean that they do not love their partner, which is sometimes counter-intuitive.

The characters in this book are raw, honest, and truly flawed, which often makes them more relatable. It is too easy to wrap up characters in pretty packages that often feels more comfortable to the reader, Burgess is not afraid to show the human side of the people he creates.  As a reader, I found myself often shaking my head at Karen’s behavior, but I also appreciated the real, honesty with which she was portrayed.

I’ll tell you one thing for sure, that woman gets some major action in this book! Burgess is not scared of a sex scene so be prepared for some very descriptive erotic moments. I felt that this added to the realness and rawness of this book rather than detracting from it. Don’t worry, Chris gets some action too!

I also really enjoyed the supporting characters in this book. Chris and Karen’s different set of friends are flawed in their own ways and not always the best influences. They are great additions to the story and a part of helping the couple along in their conclusions. There are times that they definitely added fuel to the fire, but, again, this is a realistic reflection of life and friendships and how they can impact your decisions in your own life.

This book has a fantastic and unexpected arch. It is so realistic and raw! I really love the journey this author takes us on through the perspective of these two people. It really shows how life’s difficult twists and turns can turn out to be exactly what we needed to get where we need to be. I highly recommend this read for anyone who has ever experienced the drama of a loving relationship falling apart and how it can actually lead to the right path.

Pages: 304 | ASIN:  B07V4G3BL8

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Black Family Addicts

Primary Storyline: A family’s predilections treat their PTSD in delusion only. Subtextual Storyline: The extent of crutches people have to cope with life.

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