Burn Marks is a collection of fictional short stories that give readers a unique perspective on historical events. Why was this an important collection for you to write?
- Fort Worth Star: The public only saw and heard about what Lee Harvey did. Nobody ever got to feel how Mrs. Oswald absorbed it.
- Ethel: The public heard and read what the government said she did. No one got to hear Ethel’s side of it.
- The Jumper: Sure, we know the skyjacker jumped from the plane with the money. What about that which his daughter went through.
- The Conductor: Of course, there were sympathetic whites in the south who opposed slavery. Her was one who had his own solution.
- It went without saying, Leopold & Loeb were the worst of the worst. What about a young women, hanging out with them, who was just as bad?
The stories are all engaging and well developed. Did you write them over time or did you write them specifically for this collection?
Each story is the result of an individual thought process. It was not until the last story was completed when I realized the similarities; the letters. That was when I decided to make a book from them. The first story that I did was about Ethel Rosenberg. For the longest time, I had been fascinated by how Ethel Rosenberg maintained her silence. She was eventually offered a deal by the prosecution: tell on your husband, Julius, spend minimal prison time, then be reunited with your children. She remained stedfast, silent. From that truism I was compelled to speak for her. When “Ethel” was completed, I knew that I had to venture out and speak for others who historians recorded differently.
My favorite story from the collection is Deja’ Blue. What is your favorite story from the collection?
Ethel is my favorite. For me, there is something nice, almost romantically innocent, about writing to Santa Claus in the face of the hardships that she suffered through. In a somewhat odd way, I found myself relating to that type of pen pal relationship—comforted in a canal of calm while in the center of a whirlwind chaotic storm.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a sequel to Burn Marks. Jack, Siobhan and Deja resurface. What is easy about the sequel is that readers need not have read Burn Marks to grasp the full flavor of my second book.
No Old Souls at Fury Tavern follows the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. What pulls you towards telling the story of the people many others seem to use only as background characters?
While watching movies or reading books, like many other people I’m sure, I take note of as many background details as I can, including the people populating the background. I get to thinking, I wonder what that person’s story is, I wonder what they do for a living, what their troubles are and all that juicy stuff that we’re supposed to wonder about the main characters. No Old Souls at Fury Tavern most definitely has a story that follows the main character, but it’s also largely about the other characters and how all their pieces fit together to form the overall picture. In a way, Rocko Pitts wouldn’t be who he is without the other characters, and vice versa.
I always enjoy how you bring your characters to life and make them seem real. Were you able to use anything from your own life in this book?
Every one of the people populating Fury Tavern and Grocer Junction in the book were inspired by people I’ve worked with, drank with, had relationships with, and lost my sense of morality alongside of.
What were the driving ideals behind Rocko Pitts character development throughout the story?
Rocko Pitts, if he can be, while compared to most everyone else in the story, really has no particular drive. He’s a wallflower and he’s okay with that. But while the book progresses, he starts to wonder if he’s going to be okay with that lack of purpose for the remainder of his life, or if he’s just going through a phase of apathy. The main story of “Fury Tavern” is his coming-to-the-realization that while everyone else around him has their own lives, he really doesn’t have much of a life at all.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently I’m working on the follow up to “Fury Tavern”, titled “A Scorched and Mystified Wilderness”. It continues the story of Rocko Pitts and the other denizens of Fury Tavern. I can’t really say too much about the plot without spoiling the end of Fury Tavern. But there will be chaos of all kinds, and I’ll be exploring deeper into the characters introduced in the first book. I am also working on Book II in a western/post-apocalypse trilogy, and my seventh collection of poetry. All three of those books I’m hoping to have released at various times next year.
Rocko Pitts is a low-ranking receiving clerk at Junction Grocer Supermarket. He doesn’t like going to Fury Tavern with his coworkers, but he does it anyway. He likes the woman at Register 4 but everyone says she’s ugly. He doesn’t have any interest in politics, but the Mayor wannabe, Rand Sleeman, will do whatever it takes to get his vote. Rocko lives a quiet life and likes it that way but doesn’t seem to know why he likes it that way. In fact he doesn’t seem to have any purpose at all, and he’s okay with that. But travesty begets travesty, forcing the simple-pleasure-seeking Rocko to complicate his life just a little bit more than he’d normally be comfortable with. “No Old Souls at Fury Tavern” is a story about the seemingly meaningless meanderings of the dredges and sloths of society who exist in the background and behind closed doors, the denizens who populate the barstools at Fury Tavern, and more importantly, the very soul of Fury Tavern itself.
Butterball is a fun-loving dog who enjoys playing with all types of balls. He’s curious about the world around her, and loves visiting the beach. When Butterball and her owner arrive at the beach, Butterball immediately begins to explore and forms some new friendships as she roams. Along the way, she learns how she compares with her new seaside friends. When her exploration goes a tad too far, Butterball relies on her new pals to get her out of a tight spot.
As an elementary teacher, I can’t say enough positive things about Butterball Goes to the Beach by Julia Seaborn. Seaborn’s book about Butterball’s beach adventure is simple to read but contains enough challenging vocabulary to make it a wonderful teaching tool. This short picture book fits easily into a life science lesson for kindergarten through second grade students and features illustrations that engage readers and emphasize the educational aspects of the story line.
A unique aspect of Butterball Goes to the Beach is the author’s choice to include websites with further information about the sea turtles mentioned in the book. In addition, Seaborn has added a short list of discussion questions at the end of the book for teachers and parents to use to engage readers more completely with the book and its characters. Young readers will enjoy the activity pages following the story as well.
Seaborn’s book is an easy and engaging way to involve students with both an interesting main character and to teach facts simultaneously. I highly recommend Butterball Goes to the Beach to any teacher or parent needing a picture book for a text set or unit on sea life.
Pages: 34 | ASIN: B07V71XNT1
The Dream Defenders by Neal Denhartog is a young adult science fiction adventure story following Nolan Erling, a fourteen year old boy who has felt forgotten by his parents ever since his baby brother, Max, joined their family. When Nolan keeps waking up with a headache in the morning, he doesn’t suspect that the cause of his problems is his dreams. But Aeryn Sandman knows. She is a junior agent at the DREAM institute, and Nolan is her first official assignment. Her job turns into more than just a simple recruitment mission, however, after Nolan’s unchecked powers release two nightmares into the dreamstream. Suddenly, things turn deadly–because dreams can kill. Will Nolan and Aeryn succeed in protecting millions of innocent dreamers while they sleep?
This book had a unique premise and the writing style was engaging and kept my interest. The author’s descriptions of the actions taking place pulled me into the story. I enjoyed reading about the weird details of Nolan’s dreams and how he could control them and make things happen. There were several humorous parts, as Aeryn fumbled her first official assignment and failed to keep Nolan under control. I liked the descriptions of the whimsical and frightening dreamscapes, which painted a vivid picture of the setting. I loved the Wispes, Stan and Scranton. They were one of my favorite parts of the story.
I felt that the initial ‘reveal’ of the villain happened too soon. Or maybe it could have just been handled differently. Since it seemed as though I’d already learned the villain’s identity at one third of the way through the book, I felt that the story lost some of its momentum after that. Although it took me a little while to get excited about the story again, it did happen well before I got to the crazy twist at the end.
Although the ending was entertaining and thrilling it left me with many questions. I assume that this story is intended to be the first book in the series, and if that’s the case, I would definitely want to read the next book to find out what happens and learn all the answers to my lingering questions. Overall, this is an exceptional book with a unique premise that is guaranteed to entertain.
Pages: 318 | ASIN: B07S475R84
The somewhat untold fictional story based on real historical events during one of the most infamous times in human history. This novel explores the story of the persecution of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the wife of the man who ultimately sentenced him to death, Pontius Pilate.
This story does a fantastic job of showing that despite history painting Pilate as a villain, he was actually a very wise and valiant man who, with the support of his patient and earnest philosophical wife Claudia, did everything to try and save Jesus from the High priests.
This story is a fantastic retelling of one of the most famous times in history. You get to explore the rise of Pontius Pilate and see the human side of him that the gospels leave mainly untold. Plus, much of the story focuses on his wife and her upbringing and events that led her to becoming the woman beside one of the most vilified rulers in the bible.
This story goes into the heart and mind of the man history has held responsible for the fall of the son of god, and the woman who many believed sat idly by and allowed it to happen. Whilst being technically historical fiction, the plot line and events are very believable and with the fantastic background stories of the main characters being explained properly, you begin to really connect with Pontius and Claudia very early on.
There is a good dose of suspense and romance sprinkled through the adventure and by the end of it you actually feel genuine sorrow for Claudia and Pontius Pilate because the author did such a remarkable job of making these historical villains into suffering humans just like all of us.
With the weight of the world on their shoulders, they managed to make the right decisions time after time and you are rooting for them the entire way through the story, hoping for them to succeed and not let the problems of the Empire destroy the idealistic world they created.
Pages: 301 | ASIN: B07LB8NKN4
Anyone who has been or is married knows that it is work and often the perspective of one partner is completely different from that of his/her partner. This book delves into the difficult topic of two married partners who are not on the same page, which leads to the wife, Karen, seeking what she needs, both physically and emotionally, outside of the marriage. As the old adage says, what is done in the dark will come to the light! The infidelities are revealed, and Karen and her husband Chris must deal with the fallout. The interesting part about this story is that the reader gets to experience their marriage from both perspectives. This is so revealing about the way that two partners can see things completely differently. It also gives us a better understanding of the complexities of a relationship. Just because someone is unfaithful does not mean that they do not love their partner, which is sometimes counter-intuitive.
The characters in this book are raw, honest, and truly flawed, which often makes them more relatable. It is too easy to wrap up characters in pretty packages that often feels more comfortable to the reader, Burgess is not afraid to show the human side of the people he creates. As a reader, I found myself often shaking my head at Karen’s behavior, but I also appreciated the real, honesty with which she was portrayed.
I’ll tell you one thing for sure, that woman gets some major action in this book! Burgess is not scared of a sex scene so be prepared for some very descriptive erotic moments. I felt that this added to the realness and rawness of this book rather than detracting from it. Don’t worry, Chris gets some action too!
I also really enjoyed the supporting characters in this book. Chris and Karen’s different set of friends are flawed in their own ways and not always the best influences. They are great additions to the story and a part of helping the couple along in their conclusions. There are times that they definitely added fuel to the fire, but, again, this is a realistic reflection of life and friendships and how they can impact your decisions in your own life.
This book has a fantastic and unexpected arch. It is so realistic and raw! I really love the journey this author takes us on through the perspective of these two people. It really shows how life’s difficult twists and turns can turn out to be exactly what we needed to get where we need to be. I highly recommend this read for anyone who has ever experienced the drama of a loving relationship falling apart and how it can actually lead to the right path.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07V4G3BL8
A threat that most readers can see as a real possibility considering how far science and technology has progressed. Coupled with down to earth characters that you feel a real connection to make this book an outstanding ‘end of world’ saga that has your heart racing right till the end. While overtly spiritual in it’s plot, even the most atheist person could come to enjoy this story because it is a masterful blend of science and religion. With horrifying villains and inspiring heroes plus a few characters who you are never quite sure of which side of the good versus evil fight they stand on, this story is well worth the read.
This book takes a little while to explain how the prologue fits into the narrative but after you see how it all comes together and with various chapters outlining the back stories of the various characters, you begin to understand why the author took time in slowly building toward the most eventful parts of the story.
Once you understand how everything fits together, it takes you on an edge of your seat ride where you wonder how things will turn out. Each character has their part to play and readers get to see both the best and worst aspects of each character, which allows you to become invested in their adventure more deeply than you usually would for a fictional story.
There are a few repeated phrases and words that could have been left out or replaced with a simplified explanation but the intensity of the plot line and anxiety inducing obstacles that are thrown in the way of the main characters do enough to make you forget these minor annoyances.
If you want a thrilling story that takes you to the depths of what an evil mind can cause in this world with the excitement of whether the heroes can triumph. This is a book for you.
My best piece of advice to any would be reader is to make sure you don’t give up on the slow build up toward the real plot because it is well worth the wait and actually helps you understand and feel more invested in the entire story.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B078LWJ632
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For The Love of Alison follows David who is a witness, and eventual suspect, of a murder who must rush to clear his name. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
In my first novel, The Secret Resort Of Nostalgia, I had a clear idea from the outset what the big mystery was and how the surprise reveal at the end would be done, so I only had to fill in the detail. This second novel, For The Love of Alison, was written the other way round. I started with a few details, like the unconventional college friend who marries a respectable solicitor, and the weird guy breaking into a house in a clown suit to perform a scene from a play, but I had no plot other than a vague idea about a murder which comes back to haunt the murderers. In fact, looking back, the material was so thin, it’s surprising that I thought it worth continuing. Only after I got the opening idea of “the murderer who doesn’t exist” did all the other ideas come thick and fast.
David is a London newspaper columnist, and I found his character to be interesting and well developed. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in his character?
I always create my central character as “man-in-the-street” and deliberately write my novels as first person narrative. Basically, I am saying to the reader: if you were put in this extraordinary situation that the protagonist finds himself trapped in, how would you try to get out of it? So, it’s important the reader can empathise with the character. He needs to be resourceful, persistent, basically a good guy at heart, whatever problems he might be experiencing in his life. And in this novel there is the initial element of uncertainty – has David fully recovered from his mental illness; how much can we trust what he is telling us?
I enjoyed the mystery embedded in this story, and the twists that came sudden and often. Were these planned or did they develop organically?
A mixture of both. For example, there is a startling twist about ten chapters in that sets up the fundamental mystery. I suddenly realised I could do something with the Alison character that would raise it above the level of a mundane, missing person story. The problem then was to come up with a resolution that readers would find convincing. I remember telling a friend I’d dug myself a very big hole and didn’t know how to get out of it. That’s where the organic plot development comes in, devising connections between people and events that make the apparently unfathomable all seem simple and obvious after the fact. However, it’s no pleasure for the reader if they guess too early, so I constantly misdirect, making it look like a situation is like this, or a character is like this, only to end chapters with a twist that effectively says “you weren’t expecting that, were you?”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have started on a third novel, which is more ambitious than the first two. It will have a central mystery and a central character who tries to unravel it, but there will also be a number of parallel plots involving political opportunism, environmental emergency, religious fanaticism, even a semi-erotic situation between the 20-something protagonist and his 50 year old boss. The setting will in the future, the year 2050, at an inland lakeside town in Ireland that has become a booming European tourist destination due to climate change. Optimistically I might finish by December 2019, but the following summer is a more likely time-scale.
Author Links: Website
Journalist, David Buckley witnesses a murder. Only one problem – the murderer doesn’t exist, so now Buckley’s the chief suspect, and he’s on the run. Can he prove his innocence – and his sanity?
Student David Buckley’s obsession with fellow student, Alison Tindell, led to hospitalisation for mental illness. Thirty years on, Buckley, now a successful journalist, receives a surprise phone call from Alison, inviting him to visit. That same evening, a murder occurs; Buckley is accused, and Alison, his only alibi, vanishes. The police don’t believe she ever existed. Buckley escapes, travelling the country in a desperate search to find her before the law catches up. But someone else intends to find Buckley first, a person he fears more than anyone.
I Have Demons is a collection of stories following three characters grappling with the demons in their lives. What served as your inspiration while writing these stories?
Fiction is usually built at the crossroads where self-reflection, your surroundings as you perceive them, and your imagination meet. I Have Demons is character-driven and each protagonist is an amalgam of people I have met–even if for fleeting moments–creative license and of me. The idea for the first story, “An Alpine Lodge Special,” was sparked from my observations of the regular patrons who frequent a Canadian coffee shop chain and a restaurant located a few blocks from where I live in Ottawa’s historically Francophone east-end. It seemed as though the same elderly people would congregate here on a regular basis; merely by their presence they would add colour with their rich memories and lived experiences to an otherwise humdrum and drab restaurant franchise. More often than not, everyday people are, in fact, extraordinary.
The story “David and Franco” is probably something to which most people at the cusp of their adult lives can relate. I think we were all David once: we begin adulthood with idealism and grand ideas, perhaps even a missionary zeal of sorts, as we tend to have some very definite ideas of ethics and the world around us. It can be exciting, overwhelming and full of promise, even when we don’t have money, and when a good job and a proper livelihood seem difficult to attain. But does life experience temper our idealism and compromise our values?
The story that stands sandwiched between these two and provides the title for the anthology is also the “heart” of my book. I am not a priest, but I have been involved quite closely with the Catholic Church for many years and I can relate to the protagonist, Fr. Solomon. I’ve encountered Father Solomons along the way. This thirty-something priest is also the character that probably includes more fragments of my own personality than any other in the book.
Each character has their own challenge they must face. What were some themes you felt were important to capture?
Sometimes people we don’t expect to be marginalized in contemporary society do, in fact, live on the peripheries. This does not mean that they perceive themselves to be victims of oppression, even if they are forgotten or disadvantaged. In their own way, perhaps with limited success, they display a degree of agency as they journey towards the centre and attempt to make their voice heard.
I find that, while writing, writers sometimes ask questions and have the characters answer them. Do you find that to be true? What questions did you ask yourself while writing this story?
Creating characters and building narratives with them can be a process of discovery for the author. Inevitably, you begin to see the world around you through eyes other than your own. No character is completely divorced from the author, who is after all the creator of these people and their worlds. Yet if the goal is to tell a story credibly, the author must make a best effort to walk in the shoes of others.
One of the questions I asked myself is whether or not the Divine still exists in a mostly secular society. As the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches become more marginal to, and even absent from, the lives of the majority, where does that leave the concept of a Divine presence in the world–if, indeed, there is one? Writing these stories helped me better imagine the possibility of the Divine’s implicit and mediated, yet real presence in the world, through every living creature. This isn’t a new concept at all. The idea that everyone we meet, whether friend, foe or stranger, represents part of the image of God, is the fundamental underpinning of the Catholic and Christian faith, and the Jewish tradition too. Yet it can be a hard teaching to embrace. Fiction can help.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on my first novel, which will see a return of Fr. Solomon. I feel he’s a character with still more potential and room to grow. As for when this work may be available–I fear that I would make for a very bad clairvoyant, so I’ll have to give an evasive answer to this question. Scene by scene, I have been working on this new story since the spring. Once I’m done, my fate, and that of my novel, will rest in the hands of potential publishers.
A jaded young priest of a dwindling parish faces a man with a terrible secret. A lonely pensioner spends a Thanksgiving she’ll never forget at a local diner, served by an acerbic waitress who has finally found her ticket out of there. A recent university graduate from small-town Ontario leaves home with nothing to his name but the hope of a new life in the city and places all his trust in a charismatic yet dubious life coach.
Lyrical language, at times haunting, and moments of dry humour weave through the three novellas in this collection. Set in and around Ottawa, Ontario, these stories examine the peripheries of society. In the characters’ journey toward the centre, they navigate flawed human relationships, seek to encounter a divine presence that is at once implicitly present yet dreadfully distant, and struggle to negotiate the conditions of redemption.
The Enchanters’ Child follows three unlikely allies on a quest to find the sorcerer as they try to keep their identities secret. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
A hero on a journey to defeat the main villain is a common story arc that I sought to put my own twist on. Since I was a kid, I have always been an avid reader and I often found myself being drawn to the magical worlds I could transport myself to. I loved the idea of creating a world where anything was possible whether that is through magic and otherworldly creatures. Inspired by these stories, I decided to write a fictional fantasy story of my own.
Wren, Quinn, and Zayne are all intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?
The characters of Wren, Zayne, and Quinn are inspired by everyday teenagers. The way through which they struggle and attempt to find their identities is what makes them the most relatable. Despite this common journey to their identities, each one of them has experienced unique circumstances in their life that mold their beliefs and unique individuality. For Wren, the death of her parents causes her to become a determined, brave person that will do anything to find justice for the ones she loves. However, her thirst for revenge soon morphs into her own character flaw through failing to enjoy and live in the present. Zayne’s determining characteristic is his steadfast loyalty, whether that is to his kingdom or to his friends. His sense of duty is what drives him to aid in defeating the main antagonist as well as his empathy towards the world in which he lives in, as shown in his tenacity to find the killer of the many bodies that mysteriously begin to appear. Yet, his duty is the very thing that keeps him from his desires as he struggles with going against his father’s power and expectations. Last but not least, Quinn initially is a character portrayed to be callous and emotionless, with his only objective being to follow his orders, even if that means killing others to achieve it. Despite this, as the story progresses, readers discover that even the most notorious assassin has his own reasons for his actions, ones that can even be considered noble. Despite his sinister past, he learns to love the people around him. Quinn is unique in that his weakness is his own self. His own beliefs of his unworthiness and vileness causes him to push away those around him as he grapples between doing what is right and the sacrifices he must make if he chooses to do so.
The backstory to this world is intricate and captivating. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating your world?
The setting of The Enchanters’ Child was designed to have an enchanting atmosphere, complete with magic and strange beasts. I wanted to capture a world that reminds readers of the fairytale-like worlds that they are familiar with while showing that even the most remarkable places coexist with darker facets such as greed and misused power. Along these lines, I also wanted to capture that there can be beautiful brilliance in the bleakest of places, whether that brilliance is the surroundings around the characters or each other.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
As of now, the date for publishing my next book is tentative; however, I am in the process of writing another work.
Wren has a secret. She’s the last of the Arobol, a group of magic-wielders. After her parents were murdered by a dark entity when she was young, she has been trying to discover who has killed them. However, it wasn’t just anyone; it was the Dark Sorcerer, a being who is believed to exist only in a fairytale. When an unexpected tragedy hits, Wren is forced to flee to town in hopes of finding the leader of the Gavreel Society, said to have information on her parents’ killer.
Zayne has been working for months to uncover the reason behind the dead bodies showing up in multiple towns and the mysterious symbol that is etched into their skin. As Trading Day approaches, he goes to meet with his Gavreel Society to formulate a new plan for uncovering the person behind these killings. Little does he know that he’ll find the solution in a girl, one who’s holding as many secrets as he is.
Quinn is an assassin, killing anyone his Master orders him to kill. Tasked with finding the Enchanters’ Child and bringing her back alive in exchange for his freedom, Quinn won’t let anything get in his way. Yet, when he finally discovers the Enchanters’ Child, he finds himself questioning his ability to fulfill his mission. Weaving a story of deception, he befriends the Enchanters’ Child, but wonders if she is worth his freedom.
As they race to find the Sorcerer, each for their own reasons, secrets come out, powerful enough to tear them apart.