The Twisted Crown is a fascinating story about a free black woman from the North searching for her mother in the post-Civil War South. What served as your inspiration while writing this novel?
My father’s family is from Moncks Corner, SC, and we still own property there. I was born in Ohio and grew up in the North. I have always been fascinated by stories about our land in Moncks Corner, called Bryan Tract, and how it was acquired, as well as our family’s unusual genealogy. My great-grandfather was a white man from Iowa, who went to South Carolina during Reconstruction, and eventually became a wealthy state senator. I have always felt that period in American history was not well documented from the female, Afro-centric point of view. So, I decided to focus on that time period. Once I began to acquire primary source documents that provided details of my great-grandfather’s life, I wanted to pen the novel from the point of view of a woman from the North who travels into the South during Reconstruction.
This is an entertaining novel that is high in social commentary. What were some themes you wanted focus on in this book?
Romance: My family’s mixed race background demonstrates the crossing of racial lines at that time, as is really evident throughout history. I wanted to present this aspect of society through characters who could see past the racial, cultural, and societal barriers that existed during this time period. Political: I wanted to better define what Reconstruction actually was. It was not rebuilding bridges and constructing new buildings, but an effort to establish a solid political structure and an economic base to replace the defeated Confederate government. Societal: My goal was to showcase the work of the Freedman’s Bureau and underscore its importance in helping freed slaves establish new lives in freedom after the Civil War.
Eva is an intriguing character that continued to develop as the story progressed. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young black woman during this tumultuous time in history?
As a novelist of historical fiction, I have always focused on examining a period in history through the eyes of an African-American woman. My own family experiences, coupled with years of researching the role of black women throughout pivotal periods in history helped me shape Eva.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
Writing historical fiction takes time, detailed research, and inspiration. I always spend time traveling to the geographic locations that I plan to use in my books I’m mulling time periods, traveling, and pulling my next story together without any release date in mind.
The Twisted Crown takes readers from the bustling streets of Boston at the height of the Abolitionist movement to the war-ravaged landscape of Reconstruction-era South Carolina.
In 1867, Eva Phillips, who was born a slave yet lived in freedom, travels across the chaotic landscape of South Carolina in search of the mother who gave her away. During her journey, she is befriended by a black political activist promoting the rights of the newly freed slaves, a wealthy northern Carpetbagger, and a gutsy lady gambler who teaches Eva how to survive in the tumultuous Post-war environment.
When the spirited young widow’s quest draws her into a dangerous web of theft, lies, and murder, she becomes the target of a long-awaited confrontation that forces her into a fight for her life.
Posted in Interviews
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Kate’s family has just survived the devastating loss of her brother, Julian, and she is learning that her father’s coldness toward her beloved brother could have taken a much different turn had fate not intervened. As a new mother, Kate faces many challenges. One of those challenges is finding an effective and appropriate way to handle the affection she receives from Stefan, her husband’s friend and her sister’s true love. While Kate is facing one obstacle after another as a young mother, Tommy is reeling from the loss of his mother and coping with his fiance’s mysterious illness. Not to be left out of the cast of characters meeting life head-on, Marian is learning to love herself again with the help of a much younger and virile man named Nick.
Mallory M. O’Connor’s characters are a force with which to be reckoned in American River: Currents. O’Connor has created one of the most unique blends of historical fiction and the soap operas of the 80s. This lengthy novel features three families, ethnically diverse and intertwined in each other’s lives–in some cases, too much so. The bounce back and forth between chapters gives the entire book the comfortable feel of watching episodes of a well-established soap opera.
O’Connor has, without a doubt, done the research and created amazingly accurate and detailed accounts of historical events. Each of these events is not just described but somehow affects the characters day-to-day lives. From Cesar Chavez to John F. Kennedy, she has succeeded in further bringing life to her characters by having them live through gripping and history-making events.
As O’Connor’s chapters tend to vary from one family to the next, I found that I looked most forward to those focusing on Marian and Nick. To say the two are interesting would be putting it mildly. In an otherwise heavy book, Marian and Nick’s dynamic provides much-appreciated lighthearted moments and a breather from the drama of the other family members. Marian, not without her own faults, is my favorite character. Being one of the older characters in O’Connor’s work, she is struggling to make her way as an artist and is learning to love herself again and finding that trust is something she just might be able to feel once more. Nick is just the remedy for what ails her.
I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sadness at the relationship between Alex and Stefan. I see Alex as a strong woman who is, when it comes to personal relationships, weak and needy. The manner in which she pursues Stefan is almost pitiful. She is an interesting character indeed.
It seems like such an obvious thing to note, but I love the way O’Connor ends each chapter. Not every author currently producing books brings chapters to a nice, succinct close. O’Connor provides closure and never leaves reader hanging or feeling as if they have hit a brick wall when the new chapter quickly takes a new direction.
American River: Currents is beautifully written and consists primarily of long strings of dialogue between well-developed and easy to visualize characters. A long book but one that is an almost effortless read, American River: Currents is sure to engage readers and lead them to follow the cast of characters into the rest of O’Connor’s books in the series.
Pages: 453 | ASIN: B07BJ3XT2M
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DR: How did you come up with Gina S. Miyoko?
MKB: I honestly don’t remember except that she arose from a dream I had, the plot of which (yes, my dreams often have plots) I don’t remember. I knew I wanted to write her as the protagonist of a mystery novel, and I knew I wanted her to be different from the female P.I.s I’d read. I love mystery and crime fiction but I noticed that all the female protagonists were alienated and broken and party to dysfunctional relationships. I wanted Gina to be flawed and have enough pain in her life to be relatable, but I also wanted her to be part of a very functional, if quirky family and support network. Among the Japanese names I was considering, Gina Suzu Miyoko meant ”Silver Bell Temple”; Tinkerbell became an inevitable nickname. And her personality just grew out of that.
DR: And Russian Orthodox witches?
MKB: Around the time I was developing Gina and the characters that would surround her, I was reading a book entitled THE BATHHOUSE AT MIDNIGHT: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia (WF Ryan). I was reading it because the novel I was working on at the time (MAGIC TIME: ANGELFIRE, from Harper-Voyager) had a Russian ex-pat as one of the central characters. Okay, and also I’m Russian-Polish on my father’s side and have been fascinated with the folklore and history of slavic culture since I was a child. Probably more so because my grandmother was so adamant that I not be taught anything about the Old Country but be brought up thoroughly American. In any event, the book sparked the idea that I wanted Gina’s mother to be Russian and fascinated by arcana. She was originally going to be a psychologist, but by the time I started writing the book that became THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER, she had morphed into a cultural anthropologist and folklorist.
As tends to happen with these things, as I began to write the characters, they essentially told me who they were. I’m sure you know the feeling—as if the character is inside your head whispering sweet somethings to your Muse.
DR: Can you talk about Tinkerbell on Walkabout—the novelette that describes how Gina became a detective?
MKB: I wanted to document Gina’s genesis as a PI, but the plot actually came about as a weird synthesis of several real-life moments. I lived in Grass Valley for about 35 years and set it there in part because of an experience I had being a founding member of Nevada County Citizens for Racial Unity, a group that formed after a black man who’d just moved to the area was beaten up by a bunch of white teenagers in a local park. That caused us to consult with the California Highway Patrol about the forces of racism in the area. What our CHP liaison told us about gangs from Colusa and Yuba counties trying to gain a foothold in Nevada County gave me most of the plot elements I wanted for the story. A visit to Charlotte, North Carolina one Christmas occasioned me seeing the mostly scrupulously tidy wrecking yard I have ever laid eyes on and that gave me a key element in Gina solving the crime that lies at the heart of the story.
DR: Did you research PI procedures like the post-it notes and Who/What/When etc?
MKB: I have to laugh. The post-it note method is something I’ve used to plot novels for years. It seemed to me that my post-it process would be as ideal for working out the nuances of a real world mystery as it is for plotting a novel. My editor suggested editing the scene in which you first see Gina use the post-its so that she just wrote on the white board. I declined and explained the beauty of post-its to her by having Gina demonstrate it for the reader.
DR: How did you become interested in the problem of looting of antiquities? Why the Southwest?
MKB: I have loved archaeology for as long as I can remember. I subscribed for years to Archeology magazine, and KMT (Kemet – which is the old Egyptian name for Egypt). I happened to read an article about a female undercover agent for the National Park Service and the sort of work she and her teammates did, chiefly in the Southwest where there are a lot of vulnerable caches of artifacts, mostly on First Nations land. But I’d also been following several international cases at the time—the Elgin Marbles that the British Museum had to return to Greece and the blackmarket cases that big US auction houses and museums alike had been implicated in. I was also following the rediscovery of the Rosalila (an utterly fantastic nested temple at Copán in the Honduras) and some amazing finds at Bonampak, which is in Chiapas, Mexico.
It was that last item that gave me the location for some of the action in the book. I sort of let all of that percolate and it seemed natural to have my protagonist have the experience I’d dreamed of having—seeing those antiquities first hand. More than that, I wanted her to have a hand in saving some of them. The lack of funding for preserving these sites is a real and persistent problem in the world of archaeology.
DR: These days cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic. How did you go about portraying Hispanic, Asian, and Native characters in a respectful manner?
MKB: I suppose every writer has their own approach; mine is to love the people I write about and to recognize that they’re people first, not representatives or symbols or archetypes of a particular culture. But, in writing them, I have to recognize that their cultural framework will condition their responses to things. So, to Rose Delgado, though she’s married to a non-Hopi, living in Sausalito and working all over the country, she’s still Hopi. That means that Hopi lands are still sacred to her and that she takes the theft of native artifacts personally. Her job is more than just a job because of her cultural background and her investment in it is different than the other members of her team.
To me, Gina’s tattoo is exemplary of the cultural intersectionality I’m portraying. It’s a Russian Orthodox True Believer cross with a Buddha seated at the nexus in a lotus blossom. The cross is for her mom, the Buddha for her dad. Gina calls herself a Russian Orthodox Buddhist, which is an echo of what I told people who asked about my religion before I became a Baha’i. I’d say I was a Hindu-Buddhist-Christian. So, what I was trying to capture in Gina was a character who was an intersection of three cultures—Japanese, Russian and American.
I’ve been privileged to have been surrounded by people from diverse cultures all my life and I think that if you approach characters of any culture with curiosity, love and an attitude of learning, you’ll strive to portray them as complete, three-dimensional human beings.
DR: Is there such a thing as SASH (Society for the Appreciation of Sherlock Holmes), and would you join?
MKB: There’s a Sherlock Holmes Society of London, but as far as I know, there’s none in the Bay Area—at least not like the one Gina’s dad, Edmund, is part of. I made it up. Or maybe Edmund did. I would totally join SASH if there was one around. I love Sherlock Holmes—in fact, I have a Sherlock Holmes pastiche idea I’d love to write.
DR: What have you written recently?
MKB: I’ve been doing a lot ghostwrites lately. And they have been diverse and interesting. I just finished up a YA set in Seattle, and am still working on one that also makes use of my deep love of archaeology. Beyond that, my dear agent is shopping a crazy range of novels I tossed at him, including an SF novel with a peculiar genesis that I’d love to see be the first of a trilogy, a YA paranormal/contemporary fantasy featuring a 14 year-old-protagonist who discovers she’s a witch from a long line of witches, a magical realism yarn that is my take on the old Russian fairytale, Frog Princess, and a paranormal romance that I collaborated on with a couple of show runners from LA.
DR: What lies ahead? What lies ahead for Gina Miyoko – are new novels in the works?
MKB: I’ve been working on what I hope will be the next book in the Gina Miyoko series—working title, THE FORGETFUL FOLKLORIST. I’ve got about eight or nine novels sketched out and more ideas popping into my head all the time. I’ve also been outlining a steampunk novel I’d like to write, involving yet more artifacts. (I got the idea from a book cover someone asked me to design, then didn’t want.)
DR: How does The Antiquities Hunter fit into your repertoire of published works?
MKB: It’s a real outlier among outliers. I started out writing science fiction. In fact, I’d published a bunch of stories in Analog before I shifted gears and wrote four epic fantasy novels all based on dreams. Then I discovered magical realism and fell madly in love with it. That caused my writing to take a weird turn that peaked with ”The White Dog” (Interzone). In moving over to crime fiction, I’m really pursuing something that’s fascinated me as a reader for years. I’ve been in love with mysteries and detective fiction forever. So, even though THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER looks like a departure from the outside, from where I sit, I’m just writing what I’ve always read. I also realized, when I looked at the fiction I’ve written, that most of my stories have a mystery embedded at the core—sometimes blatantly, as in ”The Secret Life of Gods” and ”Distance” (Analog), or in a veiled way as in my novels THE SPIRIT GATE (originally from Baen, in reprint from Book View Cafe) and STAR WARS LEGENDS: SHADOW GAMES (Del Rey/Lucas Books).
DR: What authors have most influenced your writing? What about them do you find inspiring?
MKB: My greatest prose heroes are Ray Bradbury, W.P. Kinsella (whom I cast in DISTANCE with his permission), and Tim Powers. These are the writers whose use of language, storytelling chops, and sheer imagination made me hungry to write. Bradbury and Kinsella have written some of the most beautiful and evocative prose in the English language and Powers has given me epiphanies about the many ways reality can collide with the fantastic.
I admire Dean Koontz, JK Rowling and Sue Grafton as well, especially for their character development chops and the uncanny way they connect the reader to their characters from page one. I also have to credit Harry Turtledove (who’s written some of my favorite Analog stories) with making me stray into alternate history, with my novelette ”O, Pioneer” (Paradox) which takes an upside down and backwards look at Christopher Columbus’ ”discovery” of the Americas.
DR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
MKB: I write what I do because either a character demands to be written about (Gina Miyoko being a case in point) or an idea demands to be explored. I thrive on exploration. It’s why I love road trips (What’s around that next curve?), research, archaeology (What is that thing I just dug up?), first contact stories, and mysteries of every kind. Writing is exploration I undertake to satisfy my insatiable curiosity about what if.
I’ve been told that I write fantasy with rivets, meaning that my fantasy work tends to take a very pragmatic approach to the fantastic. It works the other way, as well. My Gina Miyoko stories have an undercurrent of the supernatural to them if the reader chooses to read the pragmatic references to obereg (the good luck charms her mom is forever sneaking into her pockets), Holy Water, and spells as being more than just a concession to Nadia Miyoko’s avocation. This means that my fiction often falls through the cracks. When I sent ”The White Dog” to Interzone, the editor wrote back and said essentially, ”I loved it, but where’s the fantasy element?” I responded, ”In the eye of the reader.” He bought the story and it was a finalist for the British Science Fiction Award.
DR: How does your writing process work?
MKB: Mileage varies … a lot. With short fiction, I’ll sometimes scribble a handful of questions that become notes and when I see a beginning and end, I start writing. With novels, I sometimes get out the sticky notes. I had a great little flow chart app I used for a while, but they stopped making it. I use Evernote to toss bits and pieces into, as well. The sticky note brainstorming is still the best method I’ve found of plotting a novel because it allows me to visualize relationships between characters, their motivations and other plot elements.
Once I’ve charted something that way, I write a synopsis that becomes a living document that I can add to as I work. At some point the characters start yakking and doing things and I have to start writing. I used to have to write everything in #2 pencil on lined paper first, then edit as I committed it to the computer. Then I’d do that until roughly the last third of the book when the boulder started rolling downhill. But for some time now, while I still love writing notes long hand, I do all my writing at the keyboard. I’ve only ever had a laptop, because I feel the need to be portable. Sometimes a silent house is the best place to write, and sometimes a noisy coffee shop is best. I’ve also learned to give myself permission to do what I heard one writer refer to as ”moodling”. It looks (and feels) like I’m not doing anything, but my mind is hard at work looking for connections. And when enough connections are made between elements and characters, the writing happens.
Whenever I sit down to write, I always read back what I did previously. I tried Hemingway’s stopping in mid sentence and it only led to frustration.
DR: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
MKB: First, write without editing. Ray Bradbury famously said of writing, ”Don’t think.” He advised hiding your editor hat and just getting the bones of a story or a scene down without worrying about whether you found the right word. THEN, put on your editor hat and edit. This can make the difference between a story ending up attached to an email on its way to an editor’s inbox or ending up in an obscure file folder.
Second, learn your tools—words. Know what they mean, what they imply, how they taste, how they sound. Read your prose out loud before you submit it. Here, I find Mark Twain’s advice sage: ”Use the right word, not its second cousin.”
Third, be flexible. The method you used to write one story may not work for the next one. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or that your process is broken. It just means it’s different this time. This was a hard-learned lesson for me. It took reading Lawrence Block’s learning experience with regard to flexibility (in one of this Writer’s Digest columns), to understand that I wasn’t losing ”it”; ”it” had just morphed a bit.
I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of other writers and from their prose. One of the most valuable learning experiences for me is to read other writers’ prose with an awareness of my own responses to it and analyze why it makes me feel how I feel. Then I try to apply that in my own work.
Oh, and when you’ve written that story and read it out loud, making sure that (as Twain said) you’ve used the right word, not its second cousin, send it to the magazine or agent or publisher you really want to see it with, not something less. When I sent my first story to Stan Schmidt at Analog, the wisdom in all the writing magazines I’d read was that I should send it to a small non-pro market first and work my way up. And I should send something short that stood a better chance of being accepted. I went against that advice and sent a 19,500 word novella to my favorite magazine and got accepted.
Short form: Always shoot for the moon.
This interview was provided by PrentisLiterary.com.
Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko is not your typical private eye. Armed with a baby blue Magnum, a Harley blessed with Holy Water by her dramatically disposed mother, and a Japanese mingei tucked in her pocket (a good luck charm from her Sherlock Holmes-obsessed father) Tink spends her time sniffing out delinquent dads in the San Francisco Bay area and honing her detective skills.
But when her best friend Rose, an undercover agent, discovers there’s a stalker on her tail, she hires Tink as a bodyguard. Someone must be trying to intimidate Rose and scare her out of testifying in an upcoming case on looted Anasazi artifacts. But when Tink tries to flush-out the stalker, things take a far more dangerous turn.
Now, with a dead black-market dealer and an injured Rose on her hands, Tink must take her best friend’s place and follow the looters’ trail towards a powerful and lucrative antiquities collector in Cancun, Mexico. Equipped with an ingenious disguise and a teasingly coy persona to match, Tink is determined to find out who is behind the attack on Rose and the illegal trafficking of these priceless artifacts. Along the way, she will find help in the most unlikely of partners…
Deep in the jungle and far from civilization, Tink must decide who she can trust as she tries to unearth the ones responsible behind the pilfering and bloodshed―and still make it out alive.
Posted in Special Postings
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A poem by Jeffrey Cooper.
Arlington Heights follows the course of a gifted and beautiful black woman who overcomes the stigmata of a youth of mistakes to become one of the more powerful forces in New York’s fashion and business scene. Arlington Cavanaugh has past her prime as a model and has committed her life to the building of the highly regarded fashion magazine, HEIGHTS. Through the novel she takes a journey that speaks not only to the incredible climb up the ladder of success, but also details all of the consequences of decisions made along the way by a woman so focused on escape from her past that she nearly loses her soul.
Posted in book trailer
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Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?
Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.
I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.
There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.
This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM
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Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison finds Julissa ready to take on Chancellor Venloran while the United Nation Republic is gearing up to take over Mexico. Was this book an easy continuation of part I or did you have to plan and develop the story before writing?
VOCA Part II took quite a bit of planning, up there with End of Knighthood Part III: Ballad of Demise. I knew telling the entire story of The Expansion from start to finish wasn’t really possible (outside of a very, very, long novel), so I isolated the events that seemed most important and then tied the main characters to them. VOCA Part II, I think more than any other of my previous work, challenged my use of setting. Writing tests an author in odd ways, and one of those ways for me was geography. The setting in question, of course, Mexico. How big is this city? Is it dry or wet this time of year? Is it a metropolis or a small town? Luckily, my story takes place in the future, so I can tweak things, but I prefer going off reality. The first round of writing left VOCA Part II shorter than I wanted, but the final product I’m most pleased with.
Weird thing is at first, I was paying very little attention to the current situation. When I conceived of The Expansion, I was looking at it as a continuation of Manifest Destiny, where Americans expanded westward. The more I examined the history of expanded empires, The Expansion became more and more interesting to write. It went from being a small part of the original book to an integral backdrop for the Iranian characters. Now it’s the main focus in the VOCA trilogy. In future stories, I hope to explore neocolonialism more. Since 2016, immigration has become one of the most decisive topics in the American politics. It influenced me as I watched debates and heard different arguments, but it’s a bit different in VOCA Part II. In the book, the focus is more about imperialism reborn than the push for isolation that we’re experiencing now. What the book does do, I hope, is paint a picture of the circumstances that I feel are similar to current events. For example, I think no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, people accept that we live in an era where patriotism is a very touchy issue. Even critique from a person within the system can lead to harsh cries of them being “unamerican.” Blind patriotism, more than anything, fuels a beast like Venloran and his UNR. What I also wanted to focus on was displacement. Civilians can be turned into dissidents when pushed. People have forgotten that the Mujahideen that battled the Soviet Union was propped up by the United States. This same organization became Al-Qaeda, and in the age of the “War on Terror”, we’ve seen an upsurge in the formation of radical groups. I would argue that intervention, this need to intervene and ‘democratize’ other areas around the globe, fuels fundamentalists. Former New York Times writer Chris Hedges (who was fired around the start of the Iraq War) called the usage of violence a disease. Therefore “Poison” was the proper title for this installment. What I wanted to do with the book was take the “War on Terror” and move it closer to home. Instead of across the Atlantic in countries most Americans have never been to, I wanted to imagine it happening right next door.
Have you tried exploring other mediums for your series; games, comic books, etc? I ask because you have developed such a rich backstory already.
I’m not much of a gamer, so I’ve never really considered that route. Comics, however, have always intrigued me. I’ve always been obsessed with visuals (one of my worst habits was the tendency to doodle during class). Comics, namely graphic novels, have always been a favorite medium of mine. You can say a whole lot with just a single frame, and not to mention a good use of color goes a long a way in establishing the mood. The look of the cyborg uniforms, namely the overcoat, was inspired by the Blade design from Marvel comics, while the armor itself is actually manga-based. As a child, I’ve read my share of manga, including Dragon Ball. Unfortunately, I can’t draw all that well. If I could meet a comic book artist who wanted to tell a story from Reverence, I’d be honored to be a part of such a project.
I’ve actually given some thought to this! After all, as I write I often listen to my favorite movie soundtracks. This helps me set the mood and envision a scene: scary might be Ennio Morricone, action-oriented Hans Zimmer, and somber along the lines of Michael Giacchino. Naturally, sometimes I envision certain faces of certain characters. The big one is Will, and for him I could see Will Smith or Denzel Washington taking the role. They are both older and can play action heroes, but all while still giving them emotional resonance. Another instacast for me is Liam Neeson as Chancellor Venloran. This is largely due to his portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005). He’s calm yet menacing, all without being over-the-top. One of my favorites to envision would be Jessica Chastain as Gabriella Neeson. After seeing her in Interstellar(2014), I was thoroughly convinced. She’s both gorgeous, tough as nails, and can portray a character who is anything but a damsel in distress (no thanks Cameron Diaz). Others are mind boggling. In the case of Marisol Leone, for example, it’s really hard to pin down. One of these days, I’ll sit down and sort them all out.
Julissa Marconi is finally ready to be a soldier again, and now it’s time to take on the tyrannical Chancellor Venloran. With Captain Halsey and her daughter Zaneta by her side, the resistance is the last line of defense preventing the United Nation Republic from seizing the country of Mexico. The combat will prove bloody as Venloran sends his cyborg warriors to squash all opposition. As bullets fly and bodies pile up, Julissa will be forced to consider what she’s capable of. To defeat the enemy, she may just have to become the enemy.
Welcome back to the world of the Reverence series with Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Witness the spark that lit the fire.
Posted in Interviews
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Book of Matthew Part I is a tale of forbidden love in rural Missouri in 1850 which was a tumultuous time in the U.S. What was the inspiration that inspired the setup to this intriguing novel?
It all began with a conversation. I had just started dating the man who is now my husband and we were still getting to know one another. He asked if I would vote in the upcoming election and I replied, “of course I will. My ancestors fought and died to give me the right to. Without their sacrifices I wouldn’t be able to vote, own property, read, let alone attend my university. I wouldn’t even be able to date you.” After that conversation I started to wonder how difficult it would have been to have an interracial relationship centuries ago and my first book was born.
I have always been a lover of suspense, mystery and horror so I decided to write in these genres. My goal was to create a Jack the Ripper sort of villain, while maintaining the drama, romance and personal conflicts that make characters relatable and memorable.
While growing up I noticed a double standard in regard to history. If you were white and you wanted to trace your lineage back to the Mayflower this was perfectly acceptable. People were intrigued to hear your family’s history and they encouraged and praised your vast knowledge of a bygone era… but if you were black you were often discouraged from learning anything about your ancestry. I was told things like, “Black people need to leave the plantation,” and “Black people live in the past and need to just forget things.” Yearning to educate myself about the past is not the same as living in it. I didn’t desire someone to blame or scapegoat, all I wanted was the same answers that other races of children were encouraged to seek out.
When I received correspondence from readers in England, France, Ireland and several countries in Africa they applauded my stories and said, “Wow! This was a fascinating look at American history.” Not Black history, nor African American history. Other countries acknowledge this topic as American history because that’s exactly what it is. When I am criticized for this subject matter my response remains the same,
I don’t write racist literature. Nor do I write black history. I write American history.
The book touches on sensitive social topics rarely discussed, slavery and the dynamic between master and slave. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
The main theme I wanted to capture was that every form of this institution was morally reprehensible. When I grew up in school most of my teachers refused to teach this subject whatsoever. We would skip over huge chunks of our textbooks just to avoid it. The few who did teach about it romanticized the hell out of it, and made it seem acceptable because “most slaves were like part of the family” …I actually heard this more than once. What I desired to express in this story was that even if you were a house slave who was treated better than others and much like part of the family, merely being owned endangered your life because someone has diminished your social standing from that of a human being to that of a piece of property. This fact alone placed even the best treated of slaves at risk for kidnapping, rape and murder with no law enforcement to save them.
Second, I wanted to make it known that when some of us are slaves, we all are. Destitute white men, minorities and women of all colors were treated as second class citizens because of that system of inequality.
Third, I wanted to acknowledge all the people who were adamantly opposed to slavery and fought against it at every turn. 400 years of Americans are blamed and villainized for what some people did. Though slavery was socially acceptable, not everyone agrees with 100% of what is socially acceptable. Disagreeing with social norms is what makes us individuals. Fighting against corrupt social norms is what makes us heroes. The people who stood against these heinous acts are rarely recognized, but without them our society would’ve failed to evolve.
Sarah is a slave that is targeted by a serial killer that murders with impunity. What were the driving ideals behind Sarah’s character development?
The driving force behind Sarah’s character development was the total lack thereof I have witnessed in similar stories. In many of the plantation novels I have read the slaves are faceless one-dimensional victims who serve as little more than background for white main characters. The female slave characters were poorly developed and served as little more than objects of lust incapable of inspiring true feelings of love and affection. Reading a plantation novel with no black main characters is like reading Memoirs of a Geisha with no geisha. These stories failed to capture my attention and I found the characters unrealistic and totally unrelatable. When I wrote a book I was determined to make sure there were black main characters as well as white ones, and that ALL of my characters have depth and unique personalities. I wanted Sarah’s character to have hopes, dreams, ambitions, drama and romantic conflicts of her own. I yearned to put a human face on a slave character, an aspect rarely seen in books of this nature. Though there have been many forbidden lust stories in this genre I wanted to give Sarah an against all odds forbidden love story readers wouldn’t soon forget.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Revelations: The Colburn Curse is a prequel to Book of Matthew that traces the Colburn family back to their beginnings in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this story Matt Colburn Sr. is a young plantation heir who has been given the duty of protecting an aristocrat named, Arial. He falls madly in love with the elusive heiress, but she is hiding a deadly secret that has made her the target of the Louisiana Strangler, a secret that endangers everyone she holds dear, especially Matt. This book is already available for purchase on amazon.com.
The Infinity series is based on the many star crossed lifetimes of Sarah and Matthew. I wrote this series for readers who enjoy historical suspense but prefer a tale with less violence and adult content. Three of the ten books are already available on amazon.com.
Book of Matthew II: Ancient Evil will be released December 2018.
Women of color are not a priority of law enforcement in 1800’s Missouri. They are not even considered human. These social injustices allow a serial killer to run rampant. Sarah, a beautiful black slave, finds herself in the crosshairs of a monster who murders with impunity. The only one concerned with her plight is the master’s son. Will Matthew find the strength to rescue this slave girl, even if he lacks the courage to admit he’s in love with her…
It’s Jack the Ripper meets Roots in this pulse pounding historical thriller. House of Whispers packs the chills of a Stephen King book, the romance of a Nicholas Sparks novel and the in your face irony of an M. Night Shyamalan flic.
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Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.
Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.
A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.
Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY
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The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.
Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.
Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.
Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J
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