Where does a soul go after one’s life is over? Does it drift away into nothing while the body returns to dust? Or does it goes on to rest, to be resurrected? Or does it recycle back into the physical plane of existence in yet another form? These questions always come to mind as we see, feel and live the experience called life.
Returning Souls by Ernestine B. Colombo is a unique book that allowed me to connect with the characters and allowed me to visualize not only the descriptions the author presents but also the struggles and emotions the characters go through in the story.
The story starts by presenting our protagonist, Evelyn D’Arico or Evie and takes her point of view. The beginning is captivating as we find the character lying on the floor, incapacitated and on the edge of death. The narrative masterfully captures the emotions you might have if you were to find yourself in the same predicament. The descriptions easily come as they paint some dramatic pictures. The language is fluid and allows you to get lost in the story. I particularly liked the author’s presentation of the behavior of the pets. I always believe that animals are more attuned to the metaphysical plane of souls and spirits.
The story, to me, presents a unique idea that I have not read in any piece of literature, the concept of Pre-incarnation. As the story progresses the reader gets to know a different character, Astara. She is a girl a little over 12, living in the Mesolithic time period. She is a unique complement to Evie’s character. Switching between the two characters points of view is handled expertly and I enjoyed being able to inhabit both of these two fascinating characters.
The story is touching as well as we get to learn of her sister who is suffering from Down syndrome. This for me, was one of the more emotional elements to the story that left the character endearing. The relationship was believable and the condition, I thought, was explained with care.
This book will take you on a reincarnation adventure with a deep look at the beauty, and maybe even the futility, of life. This is a must read for people coming of age or people looking for a metaphysical story that stands out from the rest as different and compelling.
Pages: 292 | ASIN: B079ZZ2M84
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Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries follows an elderly amateur sleuth as she sets out to solve the various mysteries plaguing her retirement home. What was your inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
Thanks for the kind words. My inspiration came while I was hanging about in a Vancouver care home, preparing to help move an enormous television set into an elderly acquaintance’s bedroom. I wondered, what if I lived here? What on earth would I do with myself? How do you wake up every day knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing (there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here.) We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning. What would that be? Watching television? Complaining about the food? I thought Stella Ryman might come up with an intriguing Third Option.
Stella is a senior with a tenacity that I enjoyed reading about. What were some themes you wanted to explore while creating her character?
I love exploring these:
- Old or young, we need to serve the world somehow.
- Almost everything is funny from some angle, and nothing is ever quite what it seems.
- No life is over until the final breath passes (and maybe not even then, see Mad Cassandra Browning.)
- Even in dire circumstances, there are always new chances at happiness.
- Without connection to others, we’re all just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
I enjoyed the logical mysteries portrayed in the novel, they were always intriguing yet intuitive. What was the process like in developing the different mysteries in the book?
I’m glad you enjoyed them—they were fun to write. I wanted to explore ways Stella struggles to regain the symbols of power that she discarded from her world when she checked herself into Fairmount Manor Care Home: a handbag on her wrist, a best friend, freedom to walk outside if she likes, or fix herself a cup of tea, or enjoy solitude, and above all the power to help others and right wrongs. All the mysteries turn on these.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Extra: A Monument Studios Mystery, is next, in second edition on Amazon in April 2018 and, writing as Melanie Archer, Younger Men. a comedy, also on Amazon in April 2018. The second Fairmount Manor Mystery novel, Stella Ryman and the Mystery of the Mah-jongg Box, comes out this fall from Pulp Literature Press, along with the seventh of the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, published in Pulp Literature’s literary quarterly.
On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she did of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon. For not only was Stella eighty-two years old, but she had lately sold her home and a lifetime of gathered possessions and washed up at Fairmount Manor Care Home in such a state that she would have bet her remaining seven pairs of socks that she’d be dead in half a year.
But when money goes missing and an innocent woman stands to lose her job at Fairmount; when malicious poison pen letters find their way into the hands of staff and residents; and when a resident vanishes without a trace, Stella takes matters into her own hands. To hell with being elderly — Stella will break every one of the Director’s rules and slash all the institutional red tape in the place in her struggle to solve mysteries and protect the innocent. Over the course of the first five mystery adventures, Mrs Stella Ryman transforms from a woman on her deathbed to a force of nature and intellect. She’s a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land, and an amateur sleuth trapped in a down-at-the-heels care home.
You’d be cranky, too.
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Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul by Keeshawn C. Crawford is certainly among the most interesting books I had the pleasure of reading this year, if not the best. This piece of non-fiction is an apt example where in the author delves into a personal need of an individual for that special word of inspiration.
This book has a clear vision of it’s purpose and direction and was a really good read. The focus of the writer is crisp and smooth. We are observing a world today that is experiencing more and more women raising their voice against violence and sexual aggression of men in power and influence. The first topic thus selected, aptly deals with the intrinsic build up of the common woman, and to take care of herself.
The subsequent topics have been laid out in a well-defined manner, starting with happiness, love and the concept of helping. The book further delves into other topics which form an important part of moral principles such as sacrifice, strength in troubled times, empathy, and many others. The author also touches on other equally important topics such as parenting, the ingredients for a well-nourished relationship, and accepting criticism constructively to become better. The author balances this with wise words of caution against weakness, ignorance and greediness.
There are many other word gems in this book as well, such as the ones highlighting wisdom of elders, the notion of self-respect, signs of a true friend, just to name a few. I was a bit bewildered at first at how much these moral principles influence, affect and shape our lives, and of those with whom we interact. The author however, seems adept in corralling these principles together with the physical constructs. I feel it important to point out that this book is not meant for speed reading to be just done away in a few days time. The real pearl of this work lies in soaking up the meaning in the words and continuously striving to build a strong mental platform upon which you can work to see your behavior change and be improved by the many areas which the author has pointed out in every chapter. The author fervently impresses upon the reader to conduct oneself in such a manner that would make it more pleasurable for others to follow their lead.
This book can be categorized as a self-help book, but it goes beyond and compels you to think and continuously strive to be a better individual and a good citizen. I am already looking forward for the next book from this author.
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Lesley J. Mooney’s Flight From Fear traces the frightening ordeal of a grandfather and his two grandchildren after they find themselves hosting a bizarre guest. When Gabe’s plane crashes in the Canadian woods, Frank Benders and his grandchildren, Jacob and Natalie, open the door of their secluded cabin to find him bleeding, desperate, and clinging to life. During his time in their home, Gabe shows the small family two very different sides to his personality. As their fears increase, so do Gabe’s unsettling episodes. Before Frank and his teenage grandchildren are able to summon help from the rangers, things in their remote forest home go tragically wrong.
Mooney has taken a unique approach with her protagonist. His diagnosis of schizophrenia and the subsequent personas he develops make for an interesting back and forth between the characters. The reader is faced with feeling sorry for Gabe as his multiple personalities come and go rapidly throughout the plot. As much as I wanted to hate him for kidnapping Natalie, a part of me felt pity toward him. Mooney is effective at bringing out these mixed emotions with her villainous characters.
I was somewhat thrown by the introduction of Frank’s trained eagle. As I read, I saw the usefulness of the eagle to the story line, but I felt the eagle pushed the book a tad further toward a fantasy category.
Another element I found a bit difficult to grasp centers around the newlywed couple who shows up at Frank’s cabin shortly after Gabe’s abduction of Natalie. Samuel and Margaret, almost without question, step directly into assisting Frank and Jacob in their hunt for the two in the dense Canadian forest. This aspect seemed a little difficult to swallow considering the volatile nature of Gabe’s mental state.
Natalie remains, throughout the book, a character of immense strength. Her immediate willingness to help the man who otherwise seems hellbent on harming her is nothing short of amazing. She is pulled into a situation that most adults would find mentally devastating, but she is able to persevere. In fact, she not only perseveres, but it would seem she is able to forgive and forget. Mooney’s Natalie is an admirable heroine indeed.
As much as I admire the evolution of Natalie throughout the plot, I feel the story lacks in a few areas. There is a good bit of repetition of dialogue toward the end of the book which leads the reader to feel he/she has already read this page or that paragraph. In addition, I feel that some sections of the plot are stretched a little too far without getting to the meat of the plot. For instance, Gabe’s hospital stay in the final chapters covers several pages without zeroing in on his condition, his criminal past, and his apprehension. Mooney, however, has fashioned a story different from any other in the thriller/suspense genre–her entire cast of characters is filled with an empathy unmatched by other authors. This alone makes Flight From Fear worth the read.
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A young American physician Dr. Scott Fitzgerald from Pennsylvania sets out on a journey to fulfill his fathers dream by returning to Afghanistan where his father Bryan had spent nearly twenty years as the first American in that remote kingdom. Bryan had befriended Prince Akbar, the hero of First Anglo-Afghan, and won the hearts and minds of Afghans receiving a golden sword and the title of the American Prince. Like his father, Scott wanted to take the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution to the farthest lands of the world. Following many adventures he joins Prince Ayoub, the hero of the Second Afghan War.
Scott travels from Philadelphia across Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, India to the Far East. He returns with lessons learned and truths he discovered and writes them in this book to reach the present and future generations. He regards the American Republic as an indestructible fortress of freedom and democracy that all extremes of left and right factions are inevitably drawn back into the fortress of ‘Immortal Ideas”, built by their forefathers with their genius, their fortunes and their lives. Scott believes, as Americans we have never claimed to convert or to rule the world. We just want for others to have the same inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of their own happinesss.
Scott quotes a great American, The Constitution of the United States is the impassioned and inspired vehicle by which we travel through history. It grew out of the deepest inspiration of our existence that we are here to serve Him by living free. That living free, releases in us the noble impulses and our best abilities so that we use these precious gifts for good and generous purposes and that we will secure them not just only for ourselves and our children but for all mankind.
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Don’t Call Me Chip is the story of one determined chipmunk and his fight to save the creatures who share his yard from an illintentioned family. What was your inspiration for this fun novel?
The inspiration is my ‘pet’ chipmunk named Chip ‘Hoover’ O’Donnell – my wife gave him the middle name ‘Hoover’ because he sucks up seed like a vacuum. Chip lives under our deck and has been a welcomed friend throughout the warm months. He’s been around for three years now (he just resurfaced from hibernation 2 weeks ago). Last year I learned that chipmunks live only 3-5 years. I wanted Chip to have an adventure. This book grew out of that.
Timothy, the chipmunk, befriends an eccentric old man and they form a heart warming relationship. What was the basis for their relationship and how did it change as you were writing?
The friendship is based on my friendship with Chip. He is very comfortable around me, letting me pet him while he eats food from my hand. Chip actually suns himself at my feet while I read or write on my deck.
This is a very fun novel. What was the funnest part for you to write?
Writing Timothy’s hand jestures and sarcasm – especially his waving to the neighbors, saluting Mikey, and and the pranks played on the neighbors.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is the sequel to my fantasy novel, People of the Sword. Its title is Rise of the Celts. I am hoping to have the book out in early 2019.
DON’T CALL ME CHIP is a tale about Timothy: a chipmunk who protects an elderly man and a host of woodland creatures from the wrath of a family of nasty neighbors, who seem determined to drive out everyone Timothy cares about.
Timothy might seem like your average chipmunk who loves seeds, sunbathing and enjoying a quiet life in the suburbs. But after the new neighbors move in and wreak havoc, they will have to come face to face with his wit and resourcefulness.
The last straw is that the new neighbors keep calling him CHIP. Convincing all manner of rodents and other small wildlife to work together, Timothy launches an assault against their invasive neighbors.
Based on a true character, this book is a clean, fun read for eight-grade reading level and over.
Posted in Interviews
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The Congress of Rough Writers is an anthology that showcases flash fiction from a diverse set of writers. What was your inspiration for putting this collection together?
Carrot Ranch started as a sandbox — an online place to invite other writers to play for the sheer joy of creating literary art. The weekly flash fiction challenges created a safe space for writers to explore and push into their craft 99 words at a time. Maybe it was Julia Cameron’s teaching that we can be creatively healthy as we gain experience. We created a literary community with diversity that blows my mind every week. It’s uncoached and has no expectations beyond meeting the constraint and boldly going where the prompt leads. The writers inspire me to work with their material in an artistic way, to show how individuals of different backgrounds, genres, and levels can collectively create a powerful vision.
I’m a little jealous because you got to work with so many talented writers on this project. What was the development process like in putting this work together?
Right? The Congress holds some amazing talent. That’s what made me think of calling them the Congress of Rough Writers in the first place because I felt like Wild Bill Cody gathering talented riders from around the world and getting to play with their feats. The development process included coordinating with Sarah Brentyn who developed the structure from my crazy ideas to pull together memorists and fictioneers and build from their original material. I’ve become enthralled by the challenge of putting together collections of 99-word stories, and it’s like a secondary artwork to me. Norah Colvin developed my ideas for building community and wrote a clear and compelling educational component. We had a great challenge throughout the process to uphold different styles of English from global writers. C. Jai Ferry line-edited the entire book and several other Rough Writers served as editorial advisors. It’s not easy melding world styles but we succeeded. It’s breath-taking to work with a large group of writers beyond submissions.
I enjoyed how this collection showcased stories that were only hundreds of words long but managed to inspire some thought-provoking ideas. What was your favorite story from the collection?
Just as any reader acknowledges, we often pick a favorite based on how it personally resonates. For me, that one story is Pete Fanning’s original 99-word “Normandy.” He manages to express what the combat veteran’s experience is like as he ages. The story gives me shivers every time I read that final line, “I was alone on that beach.” I’m a spouse of a combat veteran and we’ve had hard times. We are finally getting him VA care although it’s a fight every step of the way. As my spouse’s advocate, this is my battle. So, to read Pete’s story to a group of combat veterans and their spouses, there was not a dry eye in the room. This is the power of literary art in 99-words. Pete nailed it.
Do you plan to put another anthology together?
You bet! Right now, I’m working with 33 Rough Writers on seven new parts that will focus on what writers can do with serial material. We had several writers create returning characters or write follow-ups to interesting story developments in previous 99-word stories. I’ve invited these writers to craft complete three-act short stories up to three thousand words long. I’ve invited writers to write narrative essays to tell the real story behind a 99-word BOTS (based on a true story). Memoir expert, Irene Waters, will help me develop that section. Educator, Norah Colvin, returns to help craft a new educational component that encourages writers to use their material in clever ways beyond a single use. We are also playing with three acts by piecing together three 99-word serials. Instead of creating chapters from prompt-linked flash fiction, I’m arranging hundreds of 99-word stories into 10-minute reading collections and connecting the stories in surprising and compelling ways. And, because Carrot Ranch is about making literary art accessible, I’ve invited 26 more writers as Friends to respond to new prompts. Each writer will include a 99-word artist’s statement in the new collection. It will publish in November after a rigorous editing process. I’m so excited to be working with such talent and passion for literary art.
Witness great feats of literary art from daring writers around the world: stories crafted in 99 words.
Flash fiction is a literary prompt, form, and tool that unites writers in word play. This creative craft hones a writer’s skills to write tight stories and explore longer works. It’s literary art in thoughtful bites, and the collective stories in this anthology provide an entertaining read for busy modern readers.
Writers approach the prompts for their 99-word flash with creative diversity. Each of the twelve chapters in Part One features quick, thought-provoking flash fiction. Later sections include responses to a new flash fiction prompt, extended stories from the original 99-word format, and essays from memoir writers working in flash fiction. A final section includes tips on how to use flash fiction in classrooms, book clubs, and writers groups.
CarrotRanch.com is an online literary community where writers can practice craft the way musicians jam. Vol. 1 includes the earliest writings by these global literary artists at Carrot Ranch. Just as Buffalo Bill Cody once showcased the world’s most daring riding, this anthology highlights the best literary feats from The Congress of Rough Writers.
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The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.
Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.
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My Name is Nelson by Dylan Fairchild is a political thriller set in modern-day America. Nelson Troutman is a phenomenal scientist who has been working under the radar until one day he snaps at his treatment under his employer’s hand. Armed with an extensive background, tons of knowledge and access to weaponry equipment, Nelson moves into his familiar strip club with favorite acquaintance Tiffany Golden, where he sets up an office for himself. His plan is to begin exacting his revenge to teach both his boss and the thousands of bullies out there a lesson in how to treat people with respect!
From the very first page to the last, My Name is Nelson is a captivating read with spectacular prose throughout. The forthcoming action and story line are not immediately apparent in the first few chapters, as Fairchild develops our relationships with some fascinating and likable characters, such as the President Andrew Macintyre and his National Security Advisor Chet Addington, alongside Nelson’s favorite stripper, Tiffany Golden. There are also other enjoyable characters including a security guard named Walt and Julie the Presidents Science Adviser. I found I only had to read a few lines of each chapter and immediately felt a connection with every character in this thrilling story.
However, what I personally think is done to perfection in this book is Fairchild’s pacing as it all begins to come together. With many strands all initially unrelated, when the plot does start to take shape, each character and chapter is perfectly woven together, so much so that you continue to marvel at just how good Dylan Fairchild is as a writer!
It does feel at times, albeit naturally so, that the book weaves effortlessly between several genres, including that of political, thriller, sci-fi and even a hefty dose of humor! This only succeeds in making it a more approachable and enjoyable read for a broader audience.
Then there is the man himself, Nelson. When we are first introduced to him, it is perhaps not in the best of lights, more so as in awkward scenarios, as an odd guy who likes to frequent one particular strip club which is home to his favorite girl. However, Nelson is not your average strip club customer, and Tiffany has become more of a trusted companion and the club his safety net when things get tough with his boss, Hawthorne.
What follows is an enthralling, though peculiar, character whom you cannot help but root for as the story progresses, despite what Nelson intends to do. It does not take much for his character to pull you in and encourages you to begin thinking he just may have some form of entitlement, some sort of right, to continue on the path he has prepared for himself, after the way he has been treated throughout his childhood and indeed his adult life.
I could not find fault with this book and devoured it with enjoyment. My Name is Nelson is most certainly a worthy five-star contender.
Pages: 222 | ASIN: B07B4KCTYR
Posted in Book Reviews
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Six months have passed since Dr. Samantha Delaney faced deadly encounters with a man who had sworn to destroy her and take the $60 million she had received as the last remaining heir to the Delaney legacy—a legacy that had been stolen many decades before. Given the demise of her enemy, Samantha thinks the danger is over.
But but she is wrong.
When a distant relative sends her a newspaper clipping reporting the 1914 murder of Samantha’s great-great-grandmother in Costa Rica, Samantha and her husband, Dr. Brett Perry, decide to do some preliminary research, never dreaming that their investigation would imperil Samantha once again.
Beginning their research in Costa Rica, Samantha and Brett hope to learn about the murder of her ancestor and the loss of the family cacao planation. What they find is a picturesque country with clear ocean water, pristine beaches—and more danger than they had ever anticipated. Their investigation quickly catapults them into the middle of a very calculated, lucrative, and illegal gold mining operation where the stakes are high enough to make murder a necessity for anyone who gets in the way. Samantha quickly learns that as a beneficiary to her great-great-grandmother’s company, she will most certainly be in the way.
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