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Through Hard Work and Tenacity

Will Hallewell
Will Hallewell Author Interview

Driven follows a young man who fights to achieve his dreams while trying to pull his dad out of his depression. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I was asked to participate in the Legacy Series of teen sports novels by my publisher and gladly accepted. At that same time, my wife and I were on the phone with my stepson who had played high school sports, and I asked him to help me develop a theme. He had gone through what Gabe had to go through with the rich kids in school getting playing time over those who had played hard for their four years and felt thrust aside because of wealthy parents. The theme was established.

The depression arc with Gabe’s father was based on my depression and the struggle I encountered to even get up off of the couch some days. Even though I didn’t drink my way through it, the struggle is very hard. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk about it or help others through it, I do. The white fleece jacket that Gabe’s father wore was the same one I wore each and every day of my depression. It was my security blanket, keeping me mentally safe.

Gabe is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Every story has to have conflict and a hero to fight through it. Realizing what was going on in his town and that he was the only one who could help himself achieve his dreams, I wanted to use Gabe to bring focus to teenagers the concept that life isn’t handed to them, they have to go out and get it on their own through hard work and tenacity. In today’s world where so many young kids fall into that “me” mentality, I also wanted to stress the importance of family. No one is more important than family. And although I realize that not everyone has the same core family of mother and father, they still have parental role models. And, good or bad, we all need to be there for our families and friends.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The fact that money can’t buy you everything, the importance of family and helping those in need, and the possibility that life can be lived and conflict can be resolved with “No Hate in the Heart”. Those were the main themes.

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

I have written a series of mid-grade books called The Gazore Series, which is an older kid’s tribute to Dr. Seuss, and am currently working on turning that into a podcast with 9 episodes completed so far. My current sports book is a hockey book entitled Blindsided. The Gazore Series and Podcast are available now and Blindsided I hope to get finished soon. I am approximately two-thirds of the way through that.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Good or bad, money can be a major factor in everyone’s lives. In the lives of Charlie Shaw and his family, however, it’s what makes them happy and what makes them popular.
When they move into the small town of Falls Creek, divisions of people who have known each other for years begin to occur, and the town becomes split by the creek that bears its name. On the north side resides the Shaws and those who have latched on to their money to try and better themselves, their social status, and their baseball team’s bottom line.
On the south side, there is no influence, only layoffs at the factory. Layoffs and sadness and depression.
Gabe “Honus” Wagner is a senior at Falls Creek High school, and his family is feeling the crunch of the layoffs, his father slipping deeper and deeper into depression. All Gabe wants is a chance to get to the regional game where he and his senior friends will get to display their talents for the scouts of the nation’s biggest schools, but Nate Shaw – Charlie Shaw’s freshman son – has other ideas.
Can Gabe overcome the misguided lure of money as well as help his father out of his depression, or will he lose his chance at a scholarship and his dreams? Driven to succeed, he has to do whatever it takes with no hate in his heart.

BEING BROTHERS

BEING BROTHERS by [Mike DeLucia]

If you’re looking for a heartfelt coming of age story, you should definitely read Mike DeLucia’s Being Brothers. This book takes readers through the life of Jackie, an 11-year old boy growing up in the Bronx in the 70s. It specifically focuses on his relationship with his brother Sal and how their mutual love for baseball brought them together.

The fact that the brothers’ story is told as a screenplay written by Mark Marino, a writer who digs into his own life to birth the character that is Jackie, makes it even more intriguing. The story within a story narrative allows us to be in a unique position where we are both an insider and an outsider, creating an intimacy that is hard to replicate.

Moreover, the author’s knowledge of baseball is so vast that the game scenes could be mistaken for real-life events. But if there is something that truly warms the heart, it is the part of the story where Jackie realizes that despite appearances, his brother always had his back, from birth in fact. Needless to say, this story has a strong family theme to it, with the love and comfort of Jackie’s being at the foundation of the narrative.

The book also succeeds in bringing to life the realities of male bonding and friendships, especially those formed in childhood. With the 70s as a backdrop, it almost feels like this narrative was set in simpler, sweeter times. The music titles the author adds to his scenes also add a subtle realism to them.

Honestly, the only minor thing I could complain about would be that sometimes the jump from scene dialogue to prose can be disorienting especially when Jackie is in dialogue. The jump between Jackie talking in the first person and then referring to himself in the third person is a little odd.

Otherwise, Being Brothers is extremely well written and easy to read. Moreover, the perspective of Mark Marino adds a layer of reality that many writers can relate to. For instance, when he catches his own grammatical errors and talks about all the rules that govern writing, he pulls any writer in. Ultimately, the author has done a great job at making us care about Mark and Jackie and even clearly see the Jackie in Mark.

Being Brothers is an thoroughly entertaining story that expertly integrates sports in a compelling coming of age story with a literary prowess that only author Mike DeLucia can pull off.

Pages: 162 | ASIN: B08LGJB71H

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The Conman: A Baseball Odyssey

The Conman by Mike Murphey is based on a true story of the life of professional baseball player, Keith Comstock. The story follows Conor Nash a professional baseball player. His sole mission in life is to pitch in the major leagues. He has been released from his baseball contracts ten times within his 16 year career. After being forced to retire due to an injury he is not able to recognize the person he has become. He goes on a journey to discover who he is now that he can no longer pitch.

Mike Murphey has done a fantastic job portraying the life of a professional baseball player and the struggles they deal with. You begin to understand Conor and his tenacious attitude towards baseball. Conor has gone through so many challenges from being fired, dismissed, kicked off the team, traded multiple times but he still persevered. The portrayal of Conor’s wife Kate is admirable, she is a strong and loving woman and supported Conor throughout his baseball career. The author seamlessly switched between third person narration to first person. Murphey displays his sophisticated writing skills by smoothly transitioning between a memory and what was going on in the present.

You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to truly appreciate this story. The dialogue is funny and witty and keeps you entertained from beginning to end. Not only does the author discuss the obstacles that Conor went through he also brings forth Conor’s accomplishments. You are taken on an emotional roller coaster right alongside Conor. At times I did get frustrated with some of the decisions Conor made but I was still rooting for him.

The Conman is a witty, complicated and inspiring read that gives the reader hope that no matter what you are going through in life, if you never give up, you will reach your dream.

Pages: 379 | ASIN: B07ZJNDSHD

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A Different Type of Diversity

Kris Condi
Kris Condi Author Interview

Lefty Saves the Day follows Gracie as she tries to overcome her anxiety about an upcoming baseball game. What was the inspiration for the setup to this lovely children’s story?

From a personal experience, the first time I played baseball someone put the bat in my right hand. I swung and missed each time. Then, I switched hands, which felt natural to me. I swung. The bat made contact with the ball. I was told to run. I made it to the make-shift base which was a sweatshirt. I am left-handed. Ruth Craver, the illustrator, is left-handed. Neither of us had read much literature about being left-handed.

Gracie is presented with some unique challenges for being left handed. Why was this an important topic for you to discuss?

There are so many different approaches and mannerisms left-handed people adapt to such as reading the print on a pen (upside down if you hold in your left hand), measuring cups, rulers, and wall-fastened pencil sharpeners to name a few. Being left-handed is a different type of diversity and one that comes with some challenges but can be accomplished with awareness.

The art in this book is cute and lively. What was the art collaboration like with Ruth Craver?

Ruth and I have known each other for over twenty years. Ruth is a very creative illustrator. Our first work together was in N Is For Noah, then with the debut Lefty novel, Don’t Call me Lefty. We work well together even though distance makes it rare to discuss the books in person. We go over all of the artwork and placement of Ruth’s illustrations within the book. I really appreciate her timeliness, gift, and dedication.

Lefty Saves the Day is the second book in your Don’t Call Me Lefty series. What can readers expect from book three in the series?

Gracie Carter will address other challenges for being left-handed. The next few books in the series are a bit more humorous and of course, Scott and Gracie bump elbows. The exact book from the remaining four has not been determined so the precise lefty challenge cannot be revealed.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

Lefty Saves the Day is the second of six in the Don’t Call Me Lefty series. When a class pizza party depends upon winning a ball game Gracie Carter wants no part of it. Gracie’s parents think it is a great idea for Gracie to get involved. Gracie’s dad buys her a left-handed mitt and teaches Gracie how to throw a ball.
A group of Gracie’s classmates join the Carter’s play ball. Gracie hopes for rain. The surprise was Gracie could throw a ball but that’s all. She could not bat especially when the pitchers are all right-handed.
The day of the game arrived, and the sun was shining. Gracie wanted to pitch but her class already had a pitcher. She also did not want to bat. Then there was her nemesis, Scott Collins, who referred to her as trouble.
Gracie was not sure why teams switched places. Then, it was her turn and she felt like throwing up. She saw a relief pitcher warming up before going to the mound.
“I got this,” Gracie said.

Lefty Saves the Day

Lefty Saves the Day is an inspiring children’s picture book that teaches children to believe in them-self while also learning about baseball. School comes with all sorts of challenges, even more for those that are left handed. When her teacher tells the class they’re going to be playing baseball Gracie starts to get nervous because she doesn’t know a lot about baseball. This sets off a series of events that will leave readers better educated on the sport of baseball, how the game is played, and the importance of participation and trying even when you think you can’t win.

Dr. Kris Condi is able to deliver some very important life lessons through effective story telling and simple language. Gracie faces challenges that many kids can relate to, but with a unique twist of being left handed. If your child is left handed, timid or nervous about something then this would be a great book to open up a conversation about the subject. The art that accompanies just about every other page are hand drawn and charming. With some challenging words sprinkled throughout the book I think this would be suitable for new readers that are aided by their parents. Lefty Saves the Day is a delightful story with a focus on challenges left handed kids face but remains relatable to all.

Pages: 32 | ASIN: B0861QZ335

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The Backwards K

The Backwards K by [Hebert, J. J.]

Reading a sports-themed inspirational novel is one of the best things about literature. You get to learn a lot about particular sports and your heart is filled with hope and aspirations at the same time. ‘The Backwards K’ is a great book simply because the author wrote it with enthusiasm and deep feelings. The book is nothing but entertaining, exciting, fun to read and educative. There is so much one can learn from Jet Brine’s life; everything from his struggles, achievements, goals, personal life, general work and contribution to the baseball community. Reading about Jet Brine’s love for baseball was a wonderful experience. I learned how passion and dedication can make you move mountains through his life. Each one of us wants to be a winner and achieve set goals at the end. Jet Brine made me clearly visualize this.

Jet Brine’s end game was to be the best at baseball. He loved slot machines too and enjoyed playing the games. I loved that about him because they made the story cheerful and happy. I loved reading Jet’s story up until things started falling apart. I must admit that I did not see the troubles in his marriage coming, as he seemed so much in love. Linda is among the characters I loved in the book. I had so much faith in her as she seemed to turn things around. She rarely disappointed and was incredible throughout. She was one of the engaging characters whom I could feel connected to. I loved how she reasoned and how she brought the best in everyone. I appreciate her because her encounter with Jet Brine made the plot interesting and fun to read.

The Backwards K is a fictional inspiration book which apart from being entertaining, offers lessons that can help the reader in real life. It is great when a work of fiction blends with the real world, making the reader relate better to the events and the characters in the book. There are some things that most of us did in the past and would love to forget or overcome them. Jet Briner struggled with such things and got to be in situations where he needed to forgive self to move forward. Through Jet Brine, one gets to see how imperfect humans are. You may excel in everything else but one thing comes between you and your success. I am glad the author helped me examine myself when he wrote about Jet. The major theme in the book may have been sports but the author sure explored a lot of issues through the main character.

J. J. Hebert is an excellent writer. His way of storytelling is great and his execution of characters worth noting. Everything in the book flowed well; the plot, themes in the book, lessons, the diction and the general presentation of content. The author is skilled in more than one ways. I love that he made me inspired and motivated by reading Jet Brine’s story. One good thing about J. J. Hebert is his style of narration. One easily grasps what he is talking about and fully enjoys the story.

Pages: 226 | ASIN:  B076B6M1RS

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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.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

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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SAM: A Girl Undercover

SAM: A Girl Undercover

We all face various trials and tribulations through life, learning lessons along the way. We face a good majority of these during adolescence, especially in that gray transitionary age between teen and young adult. Sam – A Girl Undercover is a story of just that, the decisions, insecurities, and questions we face when learning our place in the world. We follow Sam as she struggles to accept herself and her flaws while trying to figure out her emerging feelings for boys. It circles around the various hurdles of social responsibility and the comfort we take in our friends and family, even when they cause us some exasperation.

This story is one that many will find them selves relating to, though is definitely more female oriented. Eva Beaty gives words to a lot of the issues so many of us face growing up, representing such through Samantha, or Sam as she prefers. She carries a birthmark that fields a lot of insecurity and self doubt, something that is very common among young women. We all have that flaw we constantly try to hide. That quirk we spend so much energy trying to not show. Through the various relationships Sam navigates, it’s easy to place ourselves in her shoes – changing our image for fear of judgement of others and yet seeking acceptance and love for who we are naturally.

Yes, Beaty does a good job of sharing a story that is easy to relate to; it could easily be a relative, a friend, or even ourselves in not just the part of Sam, but other characters as well.

The story is as I said relatable, but hard to read. The writing style is short, clipped, and jumpy, making it hard to really immerse yourself. I felt that the characters lacked depth which makes this book relatable but it’s also a draw back – the characters could be anybody, and I wanted something to make these characters stand out as unique in my mind. The story was also fairly predictable, I kept expecting some dramatic twist, but it was all fairly straight forward. It almost reads like a script versus a book, focusing on a lot of action and reaction, spending a lot of time in Sams perspective but with little supporting material. It has the potential to be a solid coming of age tale, geared toward female youth.

This is a story that shows just how complicated interpersonal relationships can become when we jump to conclusions without all of the facts, or omit the truth due to timing or fear of the reactions it could receive.

Pages: 395 | ASIN: B071GV3T92

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