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There Are No Heroes or Villains

Michael Reed Author Interview

Michael Reed Author Interview

Songs from Richmond Avenue is a novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that knows all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. Why was this an important book for you to write? 

I felt like it was important that if I was going to write a book at some point in my life, I get on with it. Since the age of about 20 years old, back when I was a journalism student, I had always just assumed I’d get around to writing a book. I guess the older I got the more not writing a book bothered me.

Fortunately, a few years ago, I became unemployed for about eight months. I say fortunately because that’s when the book started taking shape. I was drawing unemployment after a publication I worked for went belly up. I looked for work online in the morning and when that got boring, which happened pretty quickly most days, I started writing a couple of short stories based loosely on some funny things I’d witnessed riding metro buses or walking through my neighborhood. One morning I stuck a couple of these short stories together and decided to have them come from the voice of a single, first-person narrator. Then I decided to have the narrator go to a bar. That is the essence of the book. While it didn’t take a long time to actually write, there was fairly long span of time between when I started and completed it, because I set it aside when I got another job. Maybe there’s a lesson in that, but I hope not.

What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

That’s a tough one since I really didn’t approach Songs From Richmond Avenue with any thoughts of trying to espouse any particular point of view. This isn’t really a moralizing kind of book that takes sides among its characters or proclaims one vantage point in a conflict is right and the other one is wrong. I think the moral perspective might be not to be judgmental of others. There are no heroes or villains in the book, just people with strengths and weaknesses having good and bad moments. I think the book may share its basic moral underpinning with film noir. These characters live by their own loose moral codes and the protagonist, despite his many trials and close calls, doesn’t come away having learned much of anything from his ordeal.

How did you decide on the title of this novel?

Initially, I thought the book would be more a series of individual character vignettes, loosely held together by the fact that they all frequented a fictional dive bar called the Relix Club on Houston’s Richmond Avenue.

There was originally going to be more of a secondary plot involving a down-and-out musician who occasionally hung out at the bar. There were also bands and singers who appeared there, so I came up with Songs From Richmond Avenue, using “song” as a metaphor for each of the character’s lives. When I changed courses a bit, the book remained Songs From Richmond Avenue, primarily because I liked how it sounded and couldn’t come up with anything better.

What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?

It’s a book that, hopefully, will be available in about year. This will be largely dependent upon whether I write a little more frequently once baseball season is over. I’m about halfway through a story that bears some similarities to Songs From Richmond Avenue – hapless characters, drunken debauchery, bad company, worse decisions. The setting will be far less urban, but what isn’t less urban than Houston? There won’t be a first-person narration this time either. It’s had a couple of working titles, both of which are terrible, so I won’t mention them.

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Songs from Richmond Avenue

If the adage “nothing civilized ever resulted from the drinking of beer” requires further proof, one needs look no farther than down Houston’s pothole-infested Richmond Avenue. There, the blurry-eyed denizens of the Relix Club wile away the hours engaged in their two favorite activities – drinking and betting.

Until recently that was good enough for our storyteller, a journalist of questionable work ethic, who undergoes an epiphany following a bus stop meeting with pretty Michelle, a woman he declares has “skin so perfect I doubted she even had pores.”

Could she be his redemption? Maybe, but first he’d better contend with her baseball bat-wielding former beau, her nihilistic stripper roommate and the suspicious death of a friend, who fancies himself the father of Brute Generation poetry.

Mostly satire, often wildly unpredictable, the only real long shot in Songs From Richmond Avenue would be for its protagonist to put down his beer long enough to learn anything of true value.

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Just Another Girl’s Story

Just Another Girl's Story: A Memoir on Finding Redemption

Everyone must face their individual journey of life alone no matter the support system, or lack thereof. We have the opportunity to continue improving ourselves for a better future surrounded with love and happiness, even if many take what they currently possess for granted. In Just Another Girl’s Story, author Laura Eckert allows her readers to follow her as she goes through her ups and downs of life in her perspective. There are many things she’s experienced that could make someone judge, but the point of her sharing her life is what many can use as a testimony that life can get better. Through her eyes, we gain the understanding that we should not let our decisions define who we are destined to become. The most challenging part is embracing flaws, accepting the consequences, and learning from them.

There were plenty of emotions invoked through Laura’s writing style. While reading, there were times that had me shaking my head in bewilderment because of instances when she knew she was doing something wrong, yet continued doing so. One thing that stood out despite all of the obstacles occurring in her life, is maintaining her relationship with God, that shows pure dedication. She did her absolute best at staying true to her faith even after moments she wanted to throw in the towel. Laura’s story is inspirational to everyone, especially women. It’s a story that shows you that it is okay not to be perfect, as long as you want to be a better version of you.

I understood how she felt, although I don’t fully understand her reasoning to make certain decisions. I know that the heart cannot help who it loves and sometimes you just have to respect that as the case. It’s amazing to learn about everything she’s been through from a young age to continue going despite her odds. The wonderful experiences led to her having a beautiful family that is centered around God, full of more happiness than frowns, and built on a sturdy foundation. I truly enjoyed reading this book and seeing the life that this woman had, it inspires me to keep reaching for a better life for myself. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great story that could be relatable to most people in the world who are going through a rough patch, to know that in time it will get better.

Pages: 242 | ASIN: B0737V5JJY

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Songs from Richmond Avenue

Songs from Richmond Avenue

Songs from Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed is a dark novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that seems to know all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. He meets a beautiful woman named Michelle that he becomes infatuated with from the start. Michelle could change things for the journalist, but not before he gets caught up in some seriously crazy shenanigans that include kidnapping, booze and roommates. Among everything else, you get to know some barflies who have very interesting stories and a love for alcohol and bets.

This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.

There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone’s real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”

“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.

It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!

While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.

Pages: 185 | ASIN: B01N039ZM7

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Black Sky

Black Sky will take you on a  personal journey of addiction through the eyes of a physician, Dr Y. What is addiction? Addiction can come in all shapes and forms and does not discriminate against race, color, age or social status. Addiction has a grasp on our society and Black Sky shows how discovering spirituality and understanding of addiction can awaken someone from the brink of destruction. Follow Dr Y as he unravels the web of addiction and shares his story of life as an addict, his recovery and how you too can overcome the battles of addiction.

Black Sky, written by Dr Y, is a book inspired by addiction and discovering the human soul. From the first few pages, you feel a connection to the author and feel inspired to push through your adversities, regardless of whether you have experienced addiction yourself or not.

Addiction is portrayed in the book as being “asleep” and in order to awaken and begin a life of sobriety, one must overcome their circumstances and begin to feel the void and emptiness that addiction has created. Addiction can also come in various forms such as wealth, drugs, alcohol and sex or even just a compulsive behavior that is rewarding, despite the negative consequences. Regardless of your addiction, each individual must go through a similar process to recovery.

There are religious tones throughout the book, however Dr Y. explicitly states that this book is not centered around one particular religion, and instead is based on the spirituality illness that addicts suffer. One particular quote summed up this sentiment perfectly “It has been said that religion is for those who are afraid of hell while spirituality is for those who have been through hell”.

As I was reading the book, there were multiple times where I felt like I had experienced a “light bulb” moment with understanding people who are battling addiction. It enlightens the reader on the mentality and challenges that addiction creates, but also focuses on the possibility of recovery. There are sections of this book that I believe will be quoted in years to come as Dr Y beautifully explains life and the importance of living. Black Sky shows how complex addiction can be and how hard it is to break free from the chains it has on our family, friends and relationships.

Dr Y allows the reader to explore his personal life and the roads that led to addiction to various substances. Interestingly, there are events which occur due to his addiction earlier on in his life which lead to certain career paths and choices. But addiction is always knocking on the door and it takes a series of events and mistakes that lead to Dr Y’s realization and sobriety.

I would recommend this to anyone suffering from addiction, or for anyone wanting to understand addiction and the hold it has on the human soul. I found the book to be extremely uplifting and truly believe that anyone suffering from addiction would find great solace and understanding from Dr Y’s words.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06Y3MVXSX

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Uniquely American

Kwen Griffeth Author Interview

Kwen Griffeth Author Interview

The Law of Moses is a captivating western novel that paints a vivid picture of life in the American west. What were your sources of inspiration as your created this world that Sam lives in?

I’ve always enjoyed Westerns. I grew up reading Louis L’Amour, Clair Huffaker, and even today, I enjoy Craig Johnson and Tony Hillerman. The western is uniquely American and even modern heroes are compared to the tales of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and such. All too often, in my opinion, the western hero is portrayed as shallow. I asked what if a soldier from the 1800’s became sick with an illness not identified or understood until the late 1900’s? I’m talking about PTSD. I grew up in the west, I’ve studied the west and I spent two decades in the military around men who suffered from PTSD. I was compelled to write the story. I knew I got it right, when I received an email from an 82-year-old veteran of the Korean War and he told me Sam inspired him.

Sam has a tumultuous past and lives a dangerous life while being a very deep character. How did you set about creating his character?

As I mentioned, I was blessed to work for several years in a rehabilitation center for troubled veterans. Many of them had alcohol problems, as the most common remedy veterans find is intoxication. Underneath, the illness attacks the spirit, the humanity of the soldier, and all too often, the alcohol is a secondary problem. Serious? Yes, but secondary. Sam is a blending of several men I worked with. I purposely made Sam a non-drinker (essentially) as I wanted the reader to focus on the real issues suffered by veterans, anger, guilt, loss, failure and loss of faith. It was important to me that Sam, after years of suffering, not meet a beautiful woman and suddenly be cured. In the story, the first “person” Sam connects with is a stray dog. Kind of like Sam, himself.

I felt that the backdrop, time frame and use of guns was very well used. Did you do any research to maintain accuracy?

Anyone who writes historical/fiction is obligated to the reader to do full and complete research. Every gun, the cattle trails, and the battles are accurate. Sam grew up in Elmira New York. In actuality, Elmira was not only a rally point for Union troops going south, there was a POW camp in the later stages of the war. The death rate of the prisoners matched those of Andersonville in Georgia. The Confederate soldiers housed there referred to the camp as “Hellmira.”

Even the weather conditions for the Battle at Antietam was researched as best as records kept for that time frame. The retelling of that battle is accurate with the one exception of the Forty-duce from New York.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will that book be available?

I currently have “Dead Men Walking,” book two of the Nate and Clare series (The Tenth Nail), with my editor. She tells me the book should be ready late May or early June. We are shooting for June 1st. I am working on my first fantasy/crime drama/romance and it is a story of werewolves. As always, I strive to make my characters as “human” as possible. “The Shadow on the Moon,” working title is planned to be ready this fall.

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The Law of Moses (Sam and Laura's Story)Samuel Cardiff had a plan. He had recently graduated from the Teachers College and now he was returning home. The first goal completed, his next step was to find a position and then he could get married.

Samuel was a quiet man, some would say a pacifist. He believed in God, family and education. He was not concerned with the happenings outside his home town.

Outside events, however, were about to drag him from his beloved Elmira. It was the spring of 1861 and Confederate forces had recently attacked Fort Sumter.

Against every moral belief, he enlisted in the Union Army and with his first step toward the south, he changed his life forever.

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Rage and Desperation

mari.reiza Author Interview

mari.reiza Author Interview

Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?

This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.

Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?

On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.

On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.

I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?

Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…

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Physical: The catastrophe of desire“A book about female desire.

In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…

Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”

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High-Functioning Alcoholism: Live It Sober

High-Functioning Alcoholism: Live It Sober4 Stars

High Functioning Alcoholism: Live it Sober by Gray Nomad is a non-fiction book on how to recognize high-functioning alcoholism in yourself or someone else. There is also a short fiction piece with the purpose of illustrating how widespread high-functioning alcoholism is within people. The piece shows anyone, of any status, can be a high-functioning alcoholic. The book also contains some tips on managing high-functioning alcoholism. Nomad stresses the importance of seeking professional help if you suspect an alcohol issue and the importance of education. Furthermore, the book provides concrete examples of high-profile people who had issues with high-functioning alcoholism.

This book is an informational introspective work. The short story produced by Nomad unquestionably opens your eyes on who could have a high-functioning alcoholism issue. The book is short, about 40 pages, and it’s all focused on education and awareness regarding the safety and hazards of consuming alcohol. What I enjoyed most about this work is that it gives examples of how to safely enjoy alcohol.

One of the more important aspects I got out of the book was the author’s mention of talking with children and teaching them about alcoholism at a young age. Teaching is a type of intervention, which is an essential part of preventing future issues. Conversations about sensitive and taboo topics like this one are crucial, which is why a book like this is great. Nomad uses their knowledge of the health science field and their personal experience to bring you in.

There are a few grammatical issues that could use some polishing. However, it does not take away from the overall message or enjoyment of the book. The book is well written and informative which left me wanting more after 40 short pages. It’s informative and interesting. However, I think more information and a more in-depth look at the case study could increase awareness on the topic. I believe it would give more potency if there were more details, especially with high profile cases and the case study.

Overall, this book was enjoyable. It is a quick, compelling read. The purpose is to “wake up” someone to the dangers of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and it does just that. There is good, solid advice on not only how to recognize the dangers of alcohol consumption but also tips on managing high-functioning alcohol issues, the importance of educating others and talking about this subject, and the importance of talking to professionals.

After reading this book I had to reflect on my own life to see if I was a high functioning alcoholic! I did have a glass of wine last night. Oh no! (You’ll be happy to know that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not. Thanks Gray Nomad!)

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to know more about alcoholism. As a person who is concerned with people’s health, this is a good read. It gives you a glance into the world of alcohol abuse and how it is more pervasive than one might think. Nomad makes a significant contribution to health services and humanity.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B01N95RT4E

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