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Cursed with Immense Powers

David    Crane
David Crane Author Interview

Demon Heart follows a a cop in Osaka who must hide the fact that she’s a demon hybrid while stopping a fanatic from acquiring an ancient artifact. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this suspenseful novel?

There were three important factors that contributed to the creation of this novel. The first was the exposure to the Japanese animation and cinema after my immigration to the United States in 1987. I am a great fan of the movies of Akira Kurosawa and also a great fan of Japanese anime, which is very beautifully made and with great attention to detail and emotional realism. My second inspiration came from the exposure to the Japanese customs and traditions as well as a unique way of thinking. Japan is the most technologically advanced country in the world and yet it is deeply rooted in old traditions. I admire their hard work, their designs and their great emphasis on personal honor and respect of people and nature. The third reason for the creation of this book was my strong and enduring friendship with my beautiful Japanese female friend, a young lady whom I met in college. My main character Naoko Kitamura is partly based on her character and her looks, and she is very beautiful!

Naoko Kitamura’s lineage and background were immensely interesting. How did you develop her background and what were some aspects that were important for you to focus on?

In my character design of Naoko Kitamura I made a reference to the formula followed by the writers and artists of Japanese manga and American graphic novels. This formula is simple. If you are an extraordinary person, it’s very hard for you to live an ordinary life. This is true of all superheroes, and Naoko Kitamura can be definitely classified as one. In developing her background and human-demonic lineage, I wanted to present her as a unique creature of both worlds, material and spiritual, a being of darkness and light blessed and cursed with immense powers and capability for great destruction. At the same time, I wanted her to take responsibility for everything she does. Since Naoko is Japanese, she does receive guidance and wisdom from her demonic ancestral memory and her mother, who is herself a demon hybrid. I wanted to present my protagonist as a strong, intelligent and independent woman and yet vulnerable both emotionally and physically, even if she can recover from almost any injury.

Osaka Japan is beautifully detailed in this story. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?

It is very important for every writer to get things right, especially if he or she is writing about another culture and people that represent that culture. A full year of intense and fascinating research went into creation of this novel. I wanted to understand not only how the modern japan works but to understand the intricacies of the Japanese mindset, their philosophy, history and their attitude toward life and death. I explored everything from food to movies to Japanese novels as well as interviews of my Japanese friends and study of books about Japan written by both academics and travelers, as well as fiction writers who studied Japanese culture and shared their findings with the world. Working on research for this novel was a great fun and a labor of love. I often try to place myself in my protagonist’s shoes and visualize their thoughts and actions to achieve the best literary as well as cinematic effect.

Do you have more stories planned that include Naoko?

Yes, I do have more stories planned for my demon hybrid protagonist Naoko Kitamura. Demon Heart is the first novel of the trilogy, which I plan to gradually introduce to our readers in the near future. Sometimes it is hard to determine whether or not the story would have a continuation. To make the series featuring a single main protagonist required a large amount of material to work with. I ended the Demon Heart novel with a scene that would hint on Naoko’s continuing adventures and a new life and a new identity that she would have to assume after making a heroic sacrifice to save her city from destruction. In the following novels, Naoko Kitamura will once again rise to defend her country and people she loves not just on the national but international scale. To my readers I would like to stay tuned for the more upcoming adventures of Naoko. One thing I would like to add is that she will return!

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Amazon

SHE IS A CREATURE OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT.

Living in modern-day Japan, Naoko Kitamura has a dark secret she must hide from her family and friends. She is a demon hybrid, a descendant from an ancient union between a samurai and a female demon. Possessing awesome powers that manifest in times of danger, Naoko tries to maintain the balance of her demonic powers and her human soul while concealing her terrifying potential. But being extraordinary, she cannot live an ordinary life.

With her demon awakening as a result of a brutal assault, Naoko seeks a personal challenge in life after experiencing love and personal tragedy. Choosing a career as a police officer, she is thrust into a secret war between powerful corporations, the underworld, and a fanatical environmentalist organization. Old and new enemies arise to alter the future of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sworn to protect Japan against its enemies, Naoko fights her battles in a world where ancient magic will point the way to her country’s destruction or salvation. . . .

Throw in a Hell Hound

T.L. Bailey Author Interview

Eve of Darkness really puts the ‘dark’ in dark fantasy. Was this intentional or did this just happen organically while writing?

It was intentional. I wanted to take a time when we were at our cruelest to one another. Slavery, piracy, stations, disease, etc. I wanted to show that and then throw in a hell hound, demons, the walking dead, shapeshifters, and then some magic and see what would happen.

Eve of Darkness is really brought to life by Wesley Bruff’s narration. What was the collaboration like to convert your book to audio?

I was so very blessed to have found Wesley Bruff. Not only is he a talented narrator but he also just seems to “know” the characters and seems to understand what I want. He would do a character’s voice and then send it for me to review and it was so mind blowing how dead on point he was. He is AWESOME! He brought my book to life and made it seem real for me and the listener.

Do you see storytelling from a different perspective now that you’ve had your story read aloud?

Yes, now that I can listen I see how different it is then sitting down and creating that world.

Just hearing how the characters interact help me a lot more when I am writing.

Which of your other books do you plan to have in audiobook format?

Wesley Bruff is set to start on book two soon.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Website

In 1717 it was a time of darkness,where stations kept to their own and people struggled to survive. A time where pirates still roamed the seas, slavery was suffered and ignorance reigned supreme. But there is coming a greater darkness that man can’t hope to fight A darkness that will consume every soul on earth. One young girl named Eve, born with a mark on her hand, outcast and abused, learns that she is the chosen one that must stop the rising evil. The last of a known race who protected the world, she must fight a horde of demonic hell hounds, demons, and her worst fears. Together with six others, she must learn to use powers she never knew she had if she ever hopes to defeat Nyx…. the most powerful Necromancer ever born.

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.

Dreams You Give Your Children

Catherine Bellizzi
Catherine Bellizzi Author Interview

The 86-Year-Old Orphan follows a woman that is dealing with getting old and searches for renewed meaning in life. What was the inspiration for the setup to this heartwarming story?

I came up with the idea after visiting my elderly aunt in assisted living. I realized no one who knew her now had any idea of the vibrant, energetic woman she once was. She was young and beautiful and so much more than the image she currently presented to the world. I wanted to tell the story of her life and to show what led her to this new chapter, a chapter she embraced as she had all her other chapters, with openness, love and friendship.

Tessie is an interesting character. What were some ideas that guided her character development?

While motivated by my aunt to explore the subject of women who came of age in the 1940’s, Tessie was really inspired by my mother. She was a woman before her time in many ways. A working woman, who loved her family, but also found fulfillment outside the home in her work, in books, in film, in Broadway shows. She gave up some of her dreams so that I could have mine, like so many mothers of that era, and I wanted to write about her generation and the choices they made.

The novel explores growing old and family. What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?

I wanted to explore the joys of having a family, but also the sacrifices, sacrifices that may not always be appreciated. The dreams you give your children while they may not realize the dreams you gave up for them. I wanted to explore how our families react to us getting older. Also, what happens to us as we age and how we can make the best of it, oftentimes finding, unexpectedly, we have made a new family for ourselves with new caring friends.

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

In the beginning stages, the new book is about Luna, a young career woman who deals with mixed messages in communications, both personal in her established relationships and technical, specifically phone or text messages that may be unseen or deleted and may change the course of her life.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter

Tessie won the prize. A long life. Why didn’t she always feel like a winner? She had led a charmed life. She was young and beautiful, shiny and new, once. Had the world at her feet. She would walk into a room and every head would turn. Now people avert their eyes, especially when they see her wheelchair. She didn’t plan on becoming an old woman, but here it was. Sure she had graying hair and wrinkles now, but were those such terrible things to have? Why couldn’t people just let her age? Why couldn’t she let herself age? Follow Tessie from Brooklyn, to career, to family and finally to a new life in Arizona. She always felt that you should bloom where you’re planted and that’s what she intends to do. Can she make a new life for herself at this age and in this place with new love, new friends and new family?

The Garden And The Glen

Elizabeth Moseley’s The Garden and the Glen is a delightful fable with a timeless feel. The story, which follows a blue butterfly exiled from her home for being different, is simple yet poignant. With the help of her charming woodland friends, who take her in with gracious, open arms, blue butterfly finds the strength to overcome the tyranny of the bossy butterfly and once again turn the forest into a safe haven for all to inhabit without fear of discrimination.

The book is divided into sixteen chapters, including the epilogue. Each chapter is bite-sized and easily digestible by younger readers, while still remaining enjoyable and engaging to older readers. The delivery of this fantastic story is similar in style to Aesop’s Fables.

Maggie Green, the illustrator, does a superb job at capturing the idyllic imagery of the garden and the glen. Her use of soft pastel watercolors throughout makes both the woodland creatures and the scenery of their home appear magical and precious. The illustrations also help the reader follow along with the dialogue and happenings of the story.

The content is just as welcome in an elementary school classroom as it is to a contemporary adult audience. The author’s ageless message about the value of embracing our own differences, as well as the uniqueness of those around us, is particularly relevant at this current juncture of 2020. This is a read I would gladly pick up over and over again when I feel that I need the inspiration it provides.

The Garden and the Glen

GardenAndGlen.com

 

Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes

Oink and Gobble have very little in common, but that doesn’t stop them from being the best of friends. No matter what others on the farm may say about either of them, they manage to ignore it and live happy-go-lucky lives. When Oink’s cupcakes go missing, the two best friends set out on a mission to find the culprit. With Gobble’s love for logic and Oink’s overactive imagination, the pair is bound to solve the mystery–with some light-hearted moments along the way.

Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes, written by Norman Whaler and illustrated by Mohammad Shayan, is a children’s book filled with humorous moments between farm animals and best friends on their way to solving a mystery. Bright and colorful illustrations clearly convey the story line and further add to the plot. Included is a page with the names of each farm animal complete with labels.

I enjoyed this book, but I felt like the story line belongs in a book for children ages 2 to about 6 while the verbiage and some of the exchanges between characters I think might be above the heads of most children in that age group. I enjoyed the asides and the humor injected into the dialogue but found it more appropriate for older readers. I would recommend the plot of the story for young children, but the narrative is much more fitting for young adult readers.

Well-written and superbly illustrated this book will bring a smile to readers’ faces. I think this book is best read with parents or teachers as it presents many learning opportunities. Oink and Gobble and the Missing Cupcakes is a fun and funny picture book.

Pages: 30 | ASIN: B07YN4W37Q

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The Penitent: Part II

The Penitent: Part II (The Immortality Wars Book 1) by [A. Keith Carreiro, Jamie Forgetta, Hollis Machala]

The Penitent: Part II introduces readers to Evangel. Rescued by a hermit and raised to embrace her powers. Although she tries to keep her powers a secret, fate has other plans for her. As she struggles with understanding her powers while keeping them hidden, one vision she has will change her life and the lives of countless others.

This is book two in A. Keith Carreiro’s Immortality Wars epic fantasy series. While I picked up the series at book two I was no less intrigued by the compelling world and lured in by the fascinating characters. Evangel is a character that is well accustomed to loss and pain. She’s a character I could easily empathize with and root for. The slow development, and evolution of her character, was something that kept me turning pages. The story is colored with base tones of faith and religion and I appreciated the subtly of its presence balanced with the far reaching effects it had on the characters. Evangel’s perspective of the world is a bit naive, but I found that to be endearing. In light of the dangerous world in which she lives I found it to be a welcome contrast that is well portrayed by the author. Her faith and beliefs are challenged, but what protagonist isn’t challenged in some way in a good epic fantasy novel?

I recommend starting the series with book one if you can, but otherwise this book is still intriguing. Pall is an interesting character that I would love to learn more about, especially since his story line seems to be so closely connected to my favorite character Evangel. Their relationship is intriguing and I wanted to explore it further.

A. Keith Carreiro has created an intricate world for some enthralling characters to inhabit. Things are rarely what they seem and I enjoyed the air of mystery that seemed to color everything coupled with a relentless sense of adventure. With deep world building and multi-layered characters, fans of epic fantasy will have much to appreciate in The Penitent series. I can’t wait for part three.

Pages: 256 | ASIN: B01MAZDG4S

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The Amazing Adventures of Jimmy Crikey

Jimmy McGellan is known as Jimmy Crikey, a name he loathes and only serves to remind him of the bullying he has endured from children in his school. His aunt is raising him and caring for him the best way she knows how, but Jimmy needs a change–he wants to be rid of the hurt and begin again somewhere far from this place that doesn’t ever really feel like home. He has no way of knowing exactly how much his young life will change when he chooses to venture away from his aunt and out on his own. A new world awaits him–a world he could never have imagined.

The Amazing Adventures of Jimmy Crikey: Worlds Beneath And Above The Stars, by Wallace E. Briggs, is a fantasy/science fiction adventure based on the main character Jimmy Crikey. Young Jimmy is relatable, lovable, and heroic. As his journey begins, he is clearly bullied, singled out for some glaring physical differences, and belittled to the point of despair. Young readers will find themselves identifying with his struggle and rooting for him from the very first chapter.

Briggs has created a beautiful world that meshes fantasy and science fiction for young readers. When Jimmy finds himself meeting one fantastic being after the other in Roombelow, readers will get an Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-The-Wizard-of-Oz feeling. However, Briggs’s work is original and departs from both story lines enough to make it into its own category. As the story began, I wasn’t taken with the science fiction aspect of Jimmy’s tale, but it grew on me, and soon I was engrossed in his mission and the plight of the unique characters.

Briggs’s lengthy list of secondary characters can at some points grow a little confusing, but many of them stand out in their own right. Gemma, for one, is a well-drawn character who provides important plot points and is just the right fit for a boy like Jimmy coming from a world of pain above. I was impressed with the vast array of characters and the unique traits given each.

Two notable elements of Briggs’s story deal with the obvious departure from violence and the rise of an otherwise weak character. As a teacher and mother of teens, I found it refreshing that characters in a book meant for school-age readers took a pointed turn from violence. The book does have some later scenes in which pain is inflicted, but the author is careful at the outset of the story to veer away from violent acts between groups of beings.

I found the heroism and the building up of a character’s self-esteem to be a refreshing and much-needed read right now. Young readers who look for science fiction elements in their chapter books will appreciate Jimmy’s discovery about himself and will find themselves lost in his world. I highly recommend Briggs’s work to any teacher looking for a long-lasting read aloud for students from ages 9 to 11.

Pages: 302 | ASIN: B08B34V4TN

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