Blog Archives

Losing our Humanity

Jerry J.C. Veit Author Interview

Jerry J.C. Veit Author Interview

Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?

Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.

Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature.  The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.

I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.

The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.

The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?

Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.

The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.

I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?

Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.

It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.

Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.

I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future? 

I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.

In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Into the Night by [Veit, Jerry J.C.]

In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.

While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Weird, right?

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?

It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.

The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?

1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.

Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?

Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.

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

I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

Sour Lake by [McCandless, Bruce]It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell (Volume 1)

This true story based on my life growing up was by no means anything close to being normal. No one in my life heard my cries for help. Please, LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN. Their lives are in our hands and with proper guidance will be destined for greatness.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Letters to Mary Susan: From her Outlaw Father

Letters to Mary Susan: From her Outlaw Father

Although this is a work of fiction, if you have any interest in American history, and the mystery surrounding Jesse James, I urge you to read Letters to Mary Susan: From her Outlaw Father by Jerry Hammersmith.

The story line comes from a story told to the author, by his father. It’s nice when the author’s father ‘appears’ in the book! The author points out that this is a work of fiction, but it certainly leaves you wondering. It has an interesting concept, as it is told in letters from the main character, and his flashbacks through his long life.

The majority of the book is set in a prison. A rather stark prison in the 1920’s. It’s not a prison novel but rather the recollections of his life, by one of the prisoners. The story comes about as he is advised, by the chaplain, to write to his long lost daughter. She grows to know her father, who was presumed dead, through his letters.

The main character is Jim Howard, who started life as Jesse James, and who spent most of his life as an outlaw. The book begins with him in prison at the age of 77. I certainly didn’t wish to feel sympathy for the character. I mean, outlaws are the bad guys. Aren’t they? It is not possible though not to feel a tinge of pity. Especially at the thought of somebody so old, in those conditions.

Jim doesn’t come across as a bad guy so you feel more and more sympathetic as his story progresses. This is illustrated by the fact that he was held in high esteem by others, throughout the various phases of his life. He didn’t always make the best choices, but many of the things that led to him originally becoming an outlaw, were out of his control. Stealing is like a high, which is one of the main reasons he couldn’t stop. This adds to the sadness as he could have had a good life, if he had stopped robbing people.

The chapters deal with his life, and wrong doings, in chronological order through his 3 incarnations; Jesse James, John Allen and Jim Howard. They deal with his life, and what he had to do to survive it, through being an outlaw, cowboy and farmer. He doesn’t try to present himself in a good light, he just tells it like it is, so his daughter can get to know him, and understand his actions.

There are some portions of the book that are a little repetitive. Some scenes are described several times. Also the swapping of first name and surname are a bit confusing. Especially as this is a character who has 3 different names already! There are some sentences where he is referred to as both Jim and Howard which takes some working out. But these are small annoyances and don’t detract from a good read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a great, interesting, and poignant read.

Pages: 189 | ASIN: B077PH4STR

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Away From Home

Away From Home

Away from Home by Joanne Clairmont is a very real and heartbreaking look into the troubled thoughts and insecure feelings many children and teens experience when part of the foster care system. As an experienced foster mom, Clairmont has dealt with a number of heart-breaking cases of fostered teens feeling lonely, isolated, and abandoned upon entering her home. She writes vividly about the struggles and emotions those in her care have faced, and the unseen turmoil brewing within them as they are placed into yet another new environment. Oftentimes sorrowful, Away from Home is an important read in understanding the ups and downs of the foster care system by those directly experiencing it.

A short book broken up into six sections, Away from Home shares Clairmont’s foster care experiences in poem form. Each section contains several poems related to a specific type of foster child, such as The Unsettled Teenager and The Challenging Teenager. Most of the six sections share the pain and loss of security many fostered teenagers can relate to when thrust into a foster situation. The last section, titled The Independent Teenager, completes the journey of emotional growth of the foster care teenager and consists of more uplifting and positive poems.

I appreciated that the author could interpret the actions of her fostered teenagers from the first night they arrived at her house until they had grown and moved on with their lives. I found the poems in The Unaccompanied Minor and The Unsettled Teenager especially easy to connect with due to their complete realization and understanding of how a teenager would feel upon entering a new foster placement. They presented a personal psychology into the effects of the instability and adaption foster children must cope with through no fault of their own.

I especially liked how the author construed the emotions of a new placement in “Don’t know if I am coming or going.” It was a simple and realistic take on how a newly placed teenager may feel upon arriving in a new place after enduring several former placements. It captures the frustration and identifies the protective wall that has been built up to shield the fostered teenager from experiencing any more emotional loss.

While there were many poems that hit the mark in eliciting a feeling or emotion when read, there were also a few that didn’t do it for me. “It is not cool” and “No school today” seemed like unfinished thoughts or small snippets that could have been better fleshed out. I think the book would greatly benefit from some additional structuring and the addition of more personalized images.  The images in the book are generic and vary in artistic design. More simplified, original artwork would do wonders to visually present the ideas and feelings of the poems.

Overall I thought Away From Home really presented the emotional psychology and depth of the foster care system and those who live it. It created a descriptive and realistic picture for those who may not be familiar with the tragedy and distress many teens experience while in foster care. Aside from the few issues I had in reading, this book was an intense, creatively written study of an important subject.

Pages: 52 | ASIN: B077QLBKSC

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Like Peaches and Pickles

Like Peaches and Pickles

Like Peaches and Pickles follows Georgia Davis as she fights to maintain her position in a work place that is quickly changing. Georgia has worked her whole life for her success. But just as her career goals are about to come to fruition the new University President hires an old friend of his. New Vice President Carl Overstreet quickly sets himself up to be the sour pickle in this story. Easily unlikable, but somehow, Georgia has a romantic connection with the man that the rest of the staff is plotting to overthrow. With her job on the line, and soon her reputation, Georgia is faced with the adage; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

While Georgia Davis fights to maintain the success she has we get to see office politics play out in a entertaining yet believable way that leaves Georgia endearing. If you’ve ever worked in an office then you can easily place these characters into your own workplace. Far too often have I seen people like Carl Overstreet walk over people like Georgia Davis in my career. It’s nice that this book looks at those relationships and expands them in a story that moves along quickly with smart writing and easy prose.

While Carl sets out to, seemingly, directly offend everyone, somehow, Georgia has romantic feelings for him. I don’t want to ruin things here so I won’t say more, but I will say that things don’t end up the way you think they might, which was a nice plot twist for me and one of those small examples that kept me turning pages just to see what happens next.

Georgia is doing all that she can to remain a great team player and save the public face of the University. Unfortunately, members of her team have concocted a way to get the Vice President fired at the cost of their most valuable team member, Georgia. I enjoyed the soft of internal office war that breaks out as people begin to realize that others are plotting and scheming; that could end up giving the University a bad name.

I liked that this book felt familiar to me. It allowed me to easily empathize with the characters. It’s so hard not to give away so many juicy details here, but rest assured, you will want to read this book for yourself. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great drama in a professional setting with a hint of romance.

Pages: 256 | ISBN: 1612969798

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Lucy’s First Christmas

Lucy's First Christmas (Lucy's Tale #3)

Lucy’s First Christmas, written by Rolynda Tassan and illustrated by Ruby Wheeler, is the heartwarming tale of Lucy the rescue cat’s first Christmas with her adoptive family. Like any other cat, her curiosity wins out, and she becomes entangled, literally, in the preparations for the coming holiday. From present-wrapping to light-stringing, Lucy is allowed to be a part of it all. Lucy is even afforded her first trip into the snowy outdoors and is a part of the family’s Christmas read-aloud. This particular book is the third in a series of stories written about Lucy and her adventures.

Tassan has written a much-needed tale with Lucy’s First Christmas. As a mother, teacher, and adoptive parent of three rescue pets, I don’t see enough of these books on the shelves. There is a joy like no other in watching a shelter pet bloom in a loving home. The author captures this feeling quite well with Lucy’s Christmas experiences. She describes each family member’s patience with the curious cat and demonstrates the various ways in which the family involves the pets in their routines. The love between the family and Lucy is mutual and communicated well throughout the book.

Any parent or teacher choosing this book to read with children will find it touching and true-to-life. The author has included a fair amount of “awwww” moments and lots of snuggling and loving. The pets themselves are no strangers to snuggling. This is an all-around sweet story to share with children who have pets, are wanting pets of their own, or who are in a family who has adopted a pet from a shelter.

Generally a realistic fiction piece, Tassan has managed to work in a bit of fantasy with the pets talking to one another. For the most part, these sections serve to explain some of the things that drive Lucy’s curiosity and, in the conclusion, add to the dearness of the overall plot.

Lucy’s First Christmas is a touching story that hits home for readers of all ages and features delicate illustrations of the pets and their family. Tassan and Wheeler’s precious Christmas story is a must-read for any family with rescue pets. Lucy’s first Christmas with her family will bring a smile to the reader’s face and touch the soul of any animal lover.

ISBN: 0998331848

Buy Now From Amazon.com

From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

 Buy Now From Amazon.com

Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch, written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen, is the tale of an animated little itch who wants nothing more than to make friends the only way he knows how–by doing his job. When his wayward, “no-reason-at-all” itching isn’t appreciated in the home of one large family, Titch the Itch seeks to make friends outside the home. Trying his luck with a cat, a neighbor, a police officer, and a park full of children, Titch learns that life is hard for an itch of his sort. His journey leads him to the hospital where he soon learns that he has had a bigger impact than he realized.

B.C.R. Fegan has constructed a touching story centered around the personification of a lowly itch. The author has managed to take a difficult concept and design a precious plot surrounding the poor little itch’s desire to be needed and to have lasting friendships. Titch is a memorable character with whom young readers will empathize. As he moves from one character to the next, he experiences rejection and disappointment. Fegan has included some important lessons in this wonderful picture book. In addition to friendship, the author teaches the benefits of being determined and the results of perseverance.

As with any children’s book, it is essential to include those moments of humor. Fegan does not lack in this area. The unforeseen circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the book are whimsical and encourage children to reread the book to find things they may have missed–a wonderful aspect to include to inspire young readers to delve further into the intricacies of text. As a teacher and parent, I more than appreciate those small amounts of mystery which energize readers. Kudos to the author!

The illustrations for Titch the Itch are fantastic. Lenny Wen’s vision of Titch is a cross between a ghost and a friendly dust bunny–exactly how one might visualize an itch. The facial expressions of Titch absolutely make the story. His woeful looks tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The color schemes chosen to brighten the pages make this a beautiful story to read aloud.

B.C.R. Fegan’s story of the needy little itch just looking for friendship is a sweet tale perfect for teaching young readers about the value of friends and loyalty.

Pages: 33 | ASIN: B076342B9D

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: