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Justin’s Quest

In the wild Australian Outback, Justin Fielding seeks to find his destiny. A young artist on the cusp of manhood, Justin wrestles with uncertainty as he attempts to balance his dreams to become an artist with his family’s expectations of him. Searching far and wide to find himself, Justin explores the mysterious Australian Northern Territory, taking odd jobs as he continues to improve his artistic skills. Intrigue and secrets abound wherever Justin goes, from the isolated cattle stations to the urban centers. As Justin fights to pursue his dreams, dangers surround the young man, as well as a whisper of a possible romance. Can Justin hope to discover his place in the world and choose his own destiny, or will he forever lose all that is truly important?

Justin’s Quest by Winsome Board, book two of the Shangri-La Trilogy, is an engaging adventure steeped in Australian culture. Although this is the middle of a trilogy, this tale stands on its own without the reader feeling a loss of context. Board includes a wealth of information about the Aboriginal history of Australia, as well as the complex lives of those with Aboriginal heritage as they fight to balance the values of their culture in an ever-shifting modern society. Justin’s struggle to learn more about his heritage was real and spoke volumes to my heart. In fact, the story, written in the style of a diary, was so incredibly realistic that I felt as if I was actually reading the journal of an aspiring young artist.

Board does not shy away from heavy themes such as domestic violence and addiction in this somber narrative as the history and culture of Australia are explored. Written as an actual diary account, there are many loose ends and mysteries that may never be solved and motivations that will forever remain unclear. There are a few moments of implied intimacy, but these are handled with discretion as Justin fights to understand his own heart. Finally, the deep story comes to an ending that, while not entirely conclusive, leaves the reader perfectly satisfied and curious about what book three will hold.

Justin’s Quest is deep and rich in cultural awareness and is an excellent find for readers who enjoy adventures in world history. Containing violence, language, drug references, and mention of domestic abuse, this story is perfect for mature readers looking to expand their literary horizons. A deeply touching tale of self-discovery in a dangerous and confusing world, Justin’s Quest is an engrossing journal-style narrative unlike any other.

Pages: 140 | ASIN : B0BYPCQB78

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Life Overnight Turned Upside Down

Author Interview
Barbara Bryan Author Interview

Topanga Canyon: Fire Season follows a teenage boy from Chicago who is sent to live on his grandfather’s horse ranch in Topanga, CA. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I’ve never been disciplined enough to keep a daily journal, but I do enjoy chronicling moments and thoughts by writing short stories when time allows. And when the Coronavirus countywide “Stay at Home Order” took effect in Los Angeles, turning my life, and everyone else’s, instantly upside down, I found I had a lot of it.

Overnight everything came to a halt. A few designated businesses were allowed to remain open if deemed “essential”: as long as the employees followed a strict regimen of cleaning, mask-wearing, and intensified hygiene.

Our small café was one of them. Granted, we had the option of closing, but we were desperate to have some sense of normalcy in our lives and the lives of our customers, neighbors, and friends despite the constantly terrifying, changing world of Covid. And that the simple act of brewing coffee and baking muffins would signal our trust that that world would, one day, return to normal.

Santa Monica had become a ghost town. Hours would go by before anyone entered the café. And the unknown deadly threat of Covid and the sudden lack of control over our future began to get to me. I began to write a short story about Matt, a teenager whose life overnight turned upside down, and how he dealt with the frightening new circumstances

Around the same time, I came across an old interview from 2014 on NPR about Tennessee Walking Horses.

Now, Walking Horses are an American breed started by Albert Derment in the late 1800s in Tennessee. Albert bred horses, and late in his life, he purchased a rather plain-looking small black stallion named Allan, who had this uncanny ability to walk at different speeds. Now that might sound like a simple thing to do, but other horses cannot do that. And because Allan could walk at different speeds riding him was like sitting in a rocking chair. So Albert Derment began breeding the stallion with this genetic quirk to see if his offspring would also carry that trait. And some of them did. This selective breeding resulted in what is known as the Tennessee Walking Horse. They are beautiful to watch with their heads held high, their front legs fully extended, and their long flowing tails as they fast walk around a show ring.

Unfortunately, to ensure show horses raised their legs higher, some unscrupulous trainers invented the practice of soring, which is applying a caustic material on the horses’ legs so that the pain would make them raise their legs higher. Granted, legislation through Congress has been passed to eliminate this decades-long abomination, but the laws were basically toothless. The most recent bill H.R. 5441 117th Congress, reintroduced as the PAST Act of 2021, is still pending. I hoped that by highlighting this ongoing practice, people would once again become aware and get involved in ending soring once and for all. And I was convinced that my main character Matt would be able to do that.

Why choose this place and time for the setting of the story?

Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga Canyon is next to 16,000 acres of Topanga State Park. With its deep canyons and slopes dotted with oak trees, this pristine park allows one to envision what California looked like a hundred years ago when the indigenous people, the Tongva, thrived in the Los Angeles Basin. Topanga Canyon is a magical place where one can be transported to another place and time. And I did not know how to write about the Canyon without bringing in a character of Tongva heritage. I thought Topanga Canyon was the perfect place for a horse ranch where Matt could be introduced to that reality and Los Angeles today with its vibrant and evolving indigenous community.

What were some challenges you felt were important to defining your characters in this story? 

As my little short story grew into a much longer project, I found that the more time I spent with my main characters, the more solid they became.  It took a while to ensure that each one had their own voice and did not blend into one another.  I had to be careful to avoid every character saying the same thing in trying to get a point across.  It was important that each one had their own point of view and were true to their age and gender.  This was easier said than done.

Will there be a follow-up novel to this story? If so, what aspects of the story will the next book cover?

I enjoyed my time at the High Stepping Ranch. And Matt keeps leaving articles on my desk about Horse Therapy, also known as hippotherapy, and how it is used with people with PTSD, Autism, and physical disabilities. Silas’s boots banging down the hallway as he complains about the proposed Convention Center slated for the pristine Canyon reverberates in my head. And Esmerelda keeps whispering about researching the Tongva language. So I would enjoy doing a follow-up novel.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Matt, a teenage boy from Chicago, is exiled to his grandfather’s horse ranch in Topanga, California by his alcoholic mother. There, he must learn to adapt to an alien lifestyle filled with strangers and animals he finds terrifying.

As Matt’s new life unfolds and his love for horses grows, he realizes that his grandfather is in danger of losing his beloved ranch due to outstanding debts. Desperate to keep the ranch, his grandfather leases out one of the barns to an unscrupulous horse trainer named Robert Sinclair.

Matt soon witnesses the antiquated and brutal methods of training Sinclair uses on his Tennessee Walking Horses. Confronted by an unwillingness by everyone at the ranch to oppose Sinclair and his use of horse soring, Matt searches for a way to make the outside world aware of the horse’s needless torture. With the help of his friend Ariel, they devise a plan to expose Sinclair and his brutal methods. But will the fury of the yearly Santa Ana winds ignite a devastating fire and give Sinclair his chance for revenge?

Topanga Canyon: Fire Season by Barbara Bryan weaves a tale that reignites the essential truth that we all intrinsically possess the courage to face the myriad of challenges in today’s world and restores the knowledge that, through us, change is possible.

Erift’s Journeys: The Dark Messengers

After more than a year since their journey to the Sealed Forest, Joseph, and Eric, who were about to head off to college, were suddenly brought to another adventure. The best friends were called by Professor Ben, and during their travel from home to the Murean Islands, they were met with supernatural challenges. Unfortunately, things got even more chaotic when they arrived on the island. New enemies started emerging, bringing more conflict to the three, and a foe from the past took this time to announce their return. In this sequel to Secrets of The Sealed Forest, the boys are once again pushed to their limits and, with their friends’ help, must do everything they can to go home to live the peaceful lives they strived for.

Erift’s Journeys: The Dark Messengers by J.T. Tenera is a new compelling narrative that brings back Joseph and Eric, two memorable characters, and pulls them back into the world of fantasy and magic. We see how much the two have grown in terms of their relationship and powers, which they execute particularly in the book’s first half. As for the main character’s personal journey, the author should be applauded for making them human despite all that is happening around them. It is essential to keep in mind that Joseph and Eric are still trying to figure themselves out, have internal conflicts of their own, and are also on a path toward self-actualization. Knowing these about them had me rooting for their success even more, so they can go home and fulfill their individual dreams.   

True to their characters, the funny, quick, and unnecessary banters stayed even during the fight scenes, reminding us once again that this book is humorous as it is riveting, keeping readers invested in going through the pages. The other side characters were a welcome addition to the mix, both friends and foes, giving a fresh take to the setting of the previous book.

The second book from Erift’s Journeys is a gripping coming-of-age fantasy novel that teens and young adults will love. I would recommend this for high school students, for I believe the main characters’ language and their penchant for fun despite hard times would resonate with them.

Pages: 435 | ASIN : B0BR4JZT9R

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An Authentic Coming Of Age Story

James M. Fisher Author Interview

Spiral follows a teenage boy grieving his mother’s death who has his entire life uprooted twice and heads for a life of self-destruction. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

Though Spiral is certainly a work of fiction, I must admit that there are some biographical events woven in. I think most writers can be at their best when they are writing from experiences that they have had, or had witnessed personally. I also enjoy tossing in a bit of history to season the place and the time, as a way to add more flavor into the body of the story. The inspiration began after emptying out a box I had found in the attic. It had stacks of old punk vinyl records in it. In the process, a floodgate of emotions and memories began to stir, or perhaps it was a hornet’s nest that had burst open, either way, I go into greater detail of that moment on my website at  

Is there anything about Michael that came from yourself or your life experiences?

Yes, for sure. I think that happens a lot when writing an authentic Coming of Age story. Michael and I do have a lot in common. We both are from California and love to surf. We went to Catholic high schools and we were both uprooted to Utah and attended Weber State. And, we both like classic punk music. That is about it. Michael started writing his own story from page one and I just sat back and held the pen. I had wonderful parents; he had a nightmare.

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

Certainly, the lumps, bumps, and hiccups of adolescence, discovering what love is, perhaps could be, and what it’s probably not, the insane pressure of religion on young people and the existential leftovers that can linger on for the rest of their lives. Friendships, betrayals, and the pursuit of trying to be cool. These were all the necessary ingredients for a perfect storm called “Spiral.”

Can you tell us a little about where the story goes in book two and when the novel will be available?

Thank you so much for asking that! Spiral does leave you hanging. However, readers will find an invitation to my website at the end of the book. When you come to visit and hit subscribe, I will send you the new cover art for Flux and a free copy of Chapter I, “Dead Man’s Curve.” This will also allow me to keep in touch, send release dates along with a special preorder price for Spiral/Flux subscribers.

Book II, “Flux” starts right up where Spiral left off. An event happens at the end of Spiral and it carries over into book II. Dead Man’s Curve begins again with our hero rising from the ashes only to find himself in a state of, you guessed it, Flux. Who is Tony and Sarge really? What is going on with Dave? Will our hero ever find “The One”? There has been a murder, somebody is going to jail, the cops are swarming, there are cartels moving in the distance, and somehow the boys find themselves in Costa Rica in the middle of the Contra War. Find out how, and the choices that got them deep into the jungles of Flux. This action-packed book is planned to be released before Christmas 2023.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

They say our youth is plagued with brutal awakenings. For Michael Price, however, it is about to spiral out of control.
Ever since his perfect life came crashing down after his mom’s death, Michael Price can’t catch a break.
First, his dad remarries a social-climbing Trophy Wife. Then, said Trophy Wife manages to get money from her rich daddy so she can move Michael to a private school and keep up appearances with her rich peers.
Away from his neighborhood friends and the life he has come to love, Michael is put through the wringer as he navigates the tricky landscape of a Catholic private school.
Luckily for him, he meets Dave — a football jock who shows him the ropes and makes school life a little less lonely. But if you’ve been paying attention, things rarely ever work out in Michael’s favor.
Dave succumbs to a coma after a tragic accident and Michael finds himself alone again to face his stuck-up schoolmates and less than compassionate teachers.
And yet, that’s not even the worst part.
More dark storms brew on the horizon for Michael as he is uprooted once again — this time to Ogden, Utah, where mountains replace California beaches, and friends come in the form of ubiquitous Mormon missionaries and one eccentric character, Tony.
Now, this Tony fellow is Ogden’s version of a Dave. And meeting him on his first day of college at Weber State is a welcome relief for the weary youth.
Not only did Tony share Michael’s love for punk music, but he also pushes him toward finding his bliss… in the best and worst ways.
It’s with Tony that Michael is able to explore his musical gifts, but it is also through him that Michael dips his toes into the frigid waters of self-destruction. And yet, Tony isn’t solely to blame.
Also in Ogden, Cali girls are swapped for just one: Danielle. And much like everything else in Michael’s life, this cute, angel-looking blonde leads to more hell — one that threatens the new life he’s trying to build.

Spiral: Book One Of The Crane Trilogy

Spiral by James M. Fisher is a captivating coming-of-age novel that follows the story of Michael Price, a young man deeply affected by his mother’s loss. His happy life crumbles when his father remarries a Trophy Wife, and Michael is forced to attend a Catholic private school, where he struggles to fit in. He befriends a football jock named Dave, who helps him make school feel less lonely. Michael is once again uprooted from his California life and is moved to Utah. He befriends Tony, who introduces him to the world of punk, self-destruction, and Danielle.

The author takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster as we follow Michael through his struggles and triumphs. The story opens on a dramatic note, and I was immediately intrigued. Fisher adeptly highlights the stark contrast between life in California and life in Utah, adding depth to the story and characters. The dialogue feels real, and I began to feel sorry for Michael because of what he dealt with his stepmother and real father. I was sad to see Michael and his father’s relationship deteriorated after the passing of his mother.

Through vivid descriptions and Michael’s nightmares, the author allows readers to understand Michael better and relate to his angsty teenage character. I found it amusing that Michael referred to his parents as “real mom,” “jock dad,” and “trophy wife,” as this shows his true feelings towards the people in his life. This short read moves at a smooth pace, but the tension picks up in the middle of the book, immersing readers into Michael’s world.

This unpredictable and unexpected twist had me guessing until the very end. Overall, Spiral is an enthralling read that many readers will empathize with, as we have all experienced life-changing events that shape us into who we are today. I eagerly anticipate the next book in this series.

Pages: 268 | ASIN : B07NFBVBZ9

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What Many Women Experience

Kirsten Pursell Author Interview

Long Enough to Love You follows a middle-aged woman who feels like something is missing in her life and must decide on a safe or fulfilling life. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

A story with this much raw emotion can only come from personal experiences and feelings. I had given so much of myself to raising my family, but as the nest started to empty, I found myself reflecting on my own life. I questioned my marriage. I questioned what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. Talking to friends who were in similar situations, I was comforted by the reality that so many of us go through this process. I wanted to tell a story that mirrors what many women experience emotionally.

I also needed the character to really challenge her convictions by facing unexpected challenges. My own diaries gave me the fuel for the first love part of the story. I had forgotten so much of that first love and was reminded of it when I rediscovered my diaries. You get one first love, and imagining what the range of emotions of reconnecting might be like decades later was intense. How crazy, beautiful, painful might it be to reunite with that first love and be reminded of the person you were once when you could love with all your heart without walls or pretenses? Reliving those moments was a rush of emotions and I was able to incorporate that into the story. I think it added to Jenn’s difficult decision of choosing safe or fulfilling. It added layers to the already raw and emotional journey Jenn was going on as she was figuring out how to be true to herself. Like most women, making that kind of decision is hard without the added reminders of the past. Those emotions are real for so many women, just as I imagine Jenn could be so many women. Society says we’re too old to start new. It says be good with what you have. Starting over in your fifties is a brutal thought to most any of us.

Was there anything from your own life that you put into the characters in your novel?

While this story is fiction, it is predicated on real emotions. I think it’s what has resonated with readers. I knew the beginning and end long before I ever started writing the book. And I knew I wanted it to be about second chances much later in life. My diaries gave me the idea for Tripp. My mom got sick when I started this book and I found myself spending a lot of one-on-one time with my dad. I cherished that so much and it inspired the dad in the story. My mom, however, is nothing like the mom in the book! Hard conversations in my own marriage definitely found their way into parts of the story. And animated conversations with friends did too.

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

I wanted this to be an honest look at a marriage from the woman’s perspective. I wanted her issues to be front and center as she figured out their importance. I wanted it to be okay for her to not choose safe even if society said that’s what we should all want. There is such a stigma as we age that we’re too old or incapable of wanting or needing more and that’s so wrong. We should be allowed to ask for things in a marriage. Even little things go a long way and Jenn was missing that. I think, too, it’s easy to forget that women, as we age, still want to be seen as sexy and beautiful and we like the idea of a man challenging us. Jenn was open to all that, even if it meant being uncomfortable and sometimes awkward while trying to figure it out. In the end, I wanted to write a story that was fair to the process of being true to yourself even if it hurts.

What is the next book that you are working on, and when is that book due out?

I am in the early phases, but the ideas and words are coming to me faster than I have time to sit down and write them. It’s called The Scarlet D. D standing for divorcee. And it takes the perspective that not all women are the ones scorned in a marriage; we aren’t always the victim. I enjoyed writing Long Enough to Love You and tackling the whole later in life love and second chances thing that I wanted to continue to build on that. I think women are often just as culpable in marriages ending; owning it in settings where the others you’re with were the victims presents a new set of challenges too. The book will also serve as a reminder that women are sexual humans regardless their age. I have been so busy promoting Long Enough to Love You that this book is happening in spurts. But I’m hoping that I can have a rough draft done in the next six months.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A coming-of-middle-age novel that challenges the assumption that the status quo is as good as it gets.

A love story of self, of past, of present, of future. One woman’s journey to put the pieces of her life together in the most meaningful way – at times chaotic, at times cathartic, but ultimately beautiful in all its imperfect pieces.

Jenn, fifty-something and empty-nesting, feels like a donut: whole on the outside but missing the middle. The deafening sound of silence in the picture-perfect, oversized home she shares with a husband who does not see her makes the voices arguing in her head hard to ignore. One voice tells her to stay because safe and simple is good; another says leave so you can be the version of yourself not defined by others. The thought of ever after without happily feels like purgatory.

The chance discovery of her long-forgotten diaries unearths memories of a first love long buried, reminders that the most beautiful love is sometimes wasted on the young. Her words become a very real reminder of everything first love had been when she reconnects with Tripp in unexpected ways.

Long Enough to Love You by Kirsten Pursell follows Jenn – a courageous yet vulnerable protagonist – as she dissects and unpacks her marriage in an emotional journey to stay true to herself despite societal norms and middle-age stereotypes that would suggest otherwise.

Thaddeus of Beewicke

Louis Sauvain’s Thaddeus of Beewicke, the first book in The College of Sorcerers Trilogy, is a gripping tale following a young boy named Thaddeus, who is set to follow in his father’s footsteps as a beekeeper until a Master Sorcerer, Silvestrus, comes along and offers him the opportunity to become his apprentice. However, Thaddeus’ journey to college, where he is set to learn the ways of a sorcerer, is not an easy one. The path is fraught with beasts, assassination attempts, and wonders that are entirely new to him. Along the way, Thaddeus finds two other apprentices chosen by Silvestrus, and together they embark on a journey filled with twists and turns that keep the reader captivated.

Sauvain’s storytelling skills are exceptional. He takes his time to establish Thaddeus’ intricate world and builds a captivating mystery through a brief prologue that sets the stage for a compelling narrative. While Thaddeus is the protagonist, the author does not shy away from providing glimpses into the minds of the other characters, which adds depth to their personalities and the story.

The novel’s pacing is smooth and well-orchestrated. This pace allows us to spend plenty of time with the protagonist, where readers are provided with ample background information about Thaddeus. The length of the book may seem daunting, but it is necessary to provide a comprehensive understanding of the characters and the deep backstory and lore of the world.

Thaddeus of Beewicke concludes with a satisfying ending yet leaves the reader with unanswered questions that create anticipation for the next installment of the trilogy. Sauvain has created a rich and well-thought-out world that is filled with magic and fantastical creatures that are sure to appeal to fans of the sword and sorcery genre. Overall, Thaddeus of Beewicke is an engrossing fantasy novel that takes readers on a spellbinding journey. Sauvain’s storytelling skills, combined with the thrilling plot and well-established world, make this book an exciting read for fans of coming-of-age fantasy stories.

Pages: 532 | ASIN: B0B59LLNTN

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Firefly: Let There Be Light by Sean Coons presents a middle-grade adventure with a meaningful lesson within. When a mischievous firefly named Flash learns how to illuminate and fly for the first time, he makes reckless decisions and invites trouble into his town. As a result of his latest stunt, he unintentionally unleashes a tyrannical dragonfly attack in Temple Hollow. At the same time, he and his friends find themselves stranded in a dangerous desert in Texas. Amidst the mysterious desert, he inspires a motley crew of misfits to help him get home, but is he prepared for all the challenges that lie ahead?

Sean Coons has written an enticing tale with amusement suitable for children of all ages. He has interwoven real life with his fictional world of insects by setting this story in existing US towns. Various insects make up the exciting cast in Coons’ book, and he has used dialects of different languages to make this book even more enjoyable.

The author engages his fictitious cast in scenarios that illustrate real-life lessons, such as the battle between good and evil, democracy and tyranny, the importance of friendship, and, most importantly, the cost and consequences of actions. Flash’s wild and daredevil-like spirit will enthrall young readers, and when they watch him own up to his reckless decisions and do everything in his power to correct them, they will likely want to do the same. In addition, several riveting plot twists will pique children’s interests and keep them engaged throughout the story and into the exciting finale.

Firefly, written by Sean Coons for his son, is a middle-grade chapter book that kids worldwide can relate to and enjoy. Filled with fatherly advice and love, this coming-of-age story is an incredible adventure with humor and words of wisdom that will delight the whole family.

Pages: 317 | ASIN : B0BSBVJK2Z

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