Black Inked Pearl follows Kate, a young Irish girl, as she searches for her lost lover. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
It began in a dream when I was in New Zealand visiting my daughter and granddaughter who live there. This was, essentially, the first page (and chapter) of the novel when Kate, panicked and feeling she was too young for love runs away desperately as her best childhood friend (I never learn his name) tries for the first time, a teenager to kiss her. That scene, that act, is the foundation for the story as she years later discovers that she as frantically and desperately loves him as she had frantically fled from him years before
I say ‘dream’ as that is the nearest word I can get, vision perhaps they would have called in in the middle Ages. But that word’s a bit misleading. In two ways.
First, it wasn’t exactly a dream in the sense of being, asleep more an experience in that liminal in-between state of being neither awake nor asleep but somehow fully both – the whole novel came in that somehow enchanted enspelled state ( I suppose you might call it ‘inspiration’). I planned nothing, but it was still a chapter a night, written down effortlessly (I don’t even remember doing it! or, by now, what the words were. it surprises me every time – so many times – I reread the book now).
Second, ‘dream’ suggests something visual, But it was more a kind of very intense node of emotion, something very personal to me (in a metaphorical sort of way the whole book is kind of autobiographical – what serious novel is not? – and the second chapter about a small girl experiencing the magical world of Donegal – is directly so.
Then the novel – and Kate – just grew. I came to know the hero well, but wish that my ‘dreams’ had given me his name
Black Inked Pearl is told in a dreamlike, almost stream of consciousness, style of writing. Why did you want to tell the story in this style and what were the challenges?
Well, it arose in dreams and the writing essential came from, and took place in, my unconscious – at least that is the only way I can understand and it. So the style is scarcely surprising, it was little under my deliberate control and almost not at all revised later.
I didn’t know in what style I was writing – the process was almost unconscious – but when it was finished I saw (or rather heard when I read it aloud ih my inner ear as I always do with my writing)that it had the rhythms and sonorities of African and Irish story-telling (my mother was a wondrous story-binder) and that some literary giants (Joyce, Fulkner, Hopkins … many others) had written in similar styles. Poetry is mixed with prose – well in a way, as with its oral resonances (a subject on which I have written in academic contexts, in Oral Poetry for example), it is all poetry, some fully, some ore in a kind of blank verse: all unexpected by me!
Also, the content. Part of what I learned as the story revealed itself to me was that the division between dream and reality is an elusive and perhaps non–existent one.
Problems – well some of my readers have problems with it! Some object because they cannot abide what they see as ‘incorrect’ grammar orthography words, not what they learned in the first form at school – I appreciate that they have tried but think they miss the point (how do they cope with Shakespeare?).
Others including my deeply wise best friend, get a bit lost in the plot from time to time, too full of Celtic mists said one. It’s too late now to amend that (and maybe it is just a necessary feature of the novel – mystic, mysterious – anyway) but I have tried to make things clearer, while not abandoning what has now has now become my signature style, in the related ‘Pearl of the Seas’ and, on the way, The helix pearl’ (the latter the same story but this time as told by the garrulouos ever-sprarklng laughing sea (a very different perspective but equally born in dreams). I wonder what is coming next ..
Oh yes, the unusual spellings were loved by the Garn Press, the lovely publishers, but at the same time gave the copy-editor real problems. Microsoft, can yoy believe it (the cheeky thing) kept automatically ‘correcting’ the ‘wrong’ spellings. In the end they got me to send a special list to add to their ‘glossary’ of all my new spellings and word and abbreviations etc. I thought that would be quick and easy – about fifty cases? Whew, no! They tell me, incredibly, that it was nearly two thousand! Don’t believe it! Ut they ear that’s true. Anyway, hey did a great job whatever.
Kate is an enthralling and curious character. What were the driving ideals behind her characters development throughout the story?
As I say it wasn’t conscious since it all came in dreams. So in a way no ‘driving ideas’.
Still I have noticed some abiding themes , detected, later, in the text, as if looking at someone else’s writing (well in way it’s NOT exactly mine, not t=in the normal way anyway – not of the deliberate, conscious careful academically trained me). /tow especially, the ones `I swoudl like to think readers will take form the novel (and from the movie if it gets made a I hope it one day will)
First as I said earlier is the understanding , that we may pretend or think we do, but that actually we do not really know the difference between reality and dreams. Given the way we have been brought up as children of the scientific revolution, this is an exceedingly difficult idea, is it not – but so important to try to accept, specially now as we become more aware of the lives, and, in a way, precious value of those with dementia. Perhaps it is only through literature and metaphor that we can eventually begin to grasp this.
Second is the thought, revealed near the end, that it is and was indeed right as Kate did, to search for others and try to help them carry their burdens. But that in the end it isourselves we are responsible for, it is our own souls for which we have to answer before (whatever metaphor we prefer here) the last judgement throne. As Kate in the final chapters had to do.
Also, after I had finished the book, I was inspired by the little butterfly that, unknown to me, the publishers had put, with the pearl and the jagged black, on the beautiful cover. ‘Butterfly’ in Greek –elsewhere too I think – is the same word and concept as for the soul, breath, spiritus, life: psyche (as in ‘psychology’, ‘psychiatry’). So the soul – figured as Kate, as every man – flies through the black ink print of the story and at the end settles down on the back cover, life fulfilled story told, with her wings folded.
Kate’s discovery of herself at the end was also, I now see, a kind of discovery of myself as person, as soul.
What are some of your inspirations as a writer that helped shape Black Inked Pearl?
Again, ‘dreams’, my unconscious I suppose. But, as one perceptive reviewer put it, only someone with my background and personality would have had those dreams. So – my life, my loves, my experiences of the resonances and styles and images of great literature, above all Shakespeare, Rumi, Homer and the Bible.
An epic romance about the naive Irish girl Kate and her mysterious lover, whom she rejects in panic and then spends her life seeking. After the opening rejection, Kate recalls her Irish upbringing, her convent education, and her coolly-controlled professional success, before her tsunami-like realisation beside an African river of the emotions she had concealed from herself and that she passionately and consumingly loved the man she had rejected.
Searching for him she visits the kingdom of beasts, a London restaurant, an old people’s home, back to the misty Donegal Sea, the heavenly archives, Eden, and hell, where at agonising cost she saves her dying love. They walk together toward heaven, but at the gates he walks past leaving her behind in the dust. The gates close behind him. He in turn searches for her and at last finds her in the dust, but to his fury (and renewed hurt) he is not ecstatically recognised and thanked. And the gates are still shut.
On a secret back way to heaven guided by a little beetle, Kate repeatedly saves her still scornful love, but at the very last, despite Kate’s fatal inability with numbers and through an ultimate sacrifice, he saves her from the precipice and they reach heaven. Kate finally realises that although her quest for her love was not in vain, in the end she had to find herself – the unexpected pearl.
The novel, born in dreams, is interlaced with the ambiguity between this world and another, and increasingly becomes more poetic, riddling and dreamlike as the story unfolds. The epilogue alludes to the key themes of the novel – the eternity of love and the ambiguity between dream and reality.
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With Zombie Mage Jonathan Drake has moved beyond the tiered story lines of your basic flesh eating zombies and brings a fresh take to the zombie genre. Zombie Mage is the story of Olligh, who is known as a Walker. He is a zombie that can travel the cosmos and transcend time and space. A group of cultists, called the Dark Cloaks, have trapped the Walkers claiming to be helping them find finial death and peace. They enlist Olligh to help them bring back five Walkers that have gone missing in exchange for his and his wife Laura’s final death together and an end to this life as zombies.
I found it difficult in the beginning to understand what was going on. There was a lot of shifting from one location to another as well as change in time periods. Going from ancient times to modern and then into the future. I was thrown off a bit at first because there is not much context given. But the story really starts to pick up after we are introduced to the characters and the order of the Dark Cloaks. This brings the story into focus and kept me flipping pages. I was fully invested in the story once we discover that Olligh is a mage and the possibility of magical zombies or, zombie mages, existed. This was unique to me and is a novel approach to the zombie genre.
Olligh’s one goal is to reunite with his wife Laura who is also a zombie. She wants nothing more than to be with Olligh as well and makes life difficult for the Dark Cloaks on several occasions in her insistence to be reunited with her love. I felt that this was similar to Romeo and Juliet where they want to be together but circumstances keep them apart. It is sweet that they were so dedicated to one another even in death.
Marvin is probably my favorite of the missing Walkers, all that remains of him is a skull, one disconnected eye, and his brain in a jar. This doesn’t stop him from having a great sense of humor and a love of playing practical jokes. His sarcasm adds much needed comic relief to the novel at a time when Olligh is so serious and focused. The novel does a famtastoc job showing Olligh’s internal emotional struggle. I felt that Olligh’s struggle was an example of humanities constant struggle to find balance a balance between good and bad while fulfilling ones own selfish desires. The love story that develops throughout the book is well developed and adds a another romantic layer to what is otherwise a bleak genre.
Zombie Mage by Jonathan Drake is a fresh twist on the zombie genre. It has all the ingredients of a great story and combines them into a tale that is consistently entertaining. Don’t worry, there isn’t too much gore; Drake often uses humor and sarcasm to accent the gruesome parts of the novel. Overall a fantastic new take on the zombie genre.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B00A4HQM42
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It all starts with a dead cat. Thomas Beckon is a father of two daughters, a husband to a kind, happy woman named Pat, an IT Manager, and a seemingly nice man who many fondly refer to as “Tommy.” His life changes when his daughter’s cat dies, and he realizes that the dead cat’s soul temporarily inhabits the body of another cat in the house. It’s always been his belief that even the smallest creatures have souls, so this discovery intrigues him more than it surprises him. His curiosity leads him to attempt a soul transfer of his own, taking over the body of the remaining cat. After much struggle, he’s successful.
This early success gives him the confidence to move on to humans. He comes to believe that he’s trained his entire life, through his interactions with his co-workers and his ability to understand them, to take on the role of Inlooker. An Inlooker is an immortal supernatural being which has the power to take over the souls of others. Beckon works to enhance these powers, not just reading souls and manipulating his own, but taking control of other people, body and soul.
He starts out using this power for what he believes is “good,” but even his idea of good is twisted around his own self-interests. He moves from doing “good” to purposely doing evil. As Beckon explores his abilities and learns the extent of his power, he will face many enemies, the strongest one of all, himself and his baser instincts. When the future of the world and humanity hangs in the balance, the question for him becomes: can he overcome his greed and hunger for power and chose to utilize his superpowers for the greater good?
Set mostly in England and written by a British author, The Inlooker has a distinctly English voice with a dry sense of humor readers often find in British mystery novels. I enjoyed the voice most of all. It’s humorous, dark, clear, and ironic. At first, I didn’t like the narrator’s intrusions into the story, but I soon grew used to them and enjoyed the quirky voice very much.
The author, Terry Tumbler, is able to move around in time without confusing the reader and without making unnatural or abrupt scene changes. I like the way he reveals Thomas’ true nature slowly, first showing us how he became the Inlooker, and then backtracking to illustrate how he was kind of always an Inlooker, or at least an Inlooker-in-training. His skills didn’t just appear in an act of God type of moment; rather, they were always evolving, always building until the moment when he took over the cat.
This idea of latent powers is further explored when Thomas uses his powers selfishly and heartlessly. Early in the book, I was reminded of the quote by Sir John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” I at first believed that ultimate power corrupted Thomas, but as the story went on, I realized that self-centeredness and the lack of conscience he displayed always existed within him. Societal norms, familial pressures, and office etiquette had served to control his baser instincts, but once Thomas achieved absolute power, he no longer needed to work within those parameters, so he didn’t. In an ever-evolving world that grows more complicated with an alien invasion, Thomas must decide if dominating the world or saving the world is his ultimate destiny.
I like the format of the book, specifically the short chapters and the descriptive chapter titles. Both kept the story moving at a steady pace. My own personal preference would be for the book to end with Chapter 25 and to not include the Addendum and the five Reference chapters. Beckon does a splendid job in Chapter 25 of wrapping up all the major themes and storylines of the book in a satisfying, yet unexpected way. Readers who like to dive in deeper and learn all the ins and outs will likely enjoy the evolution of the story in the remaining sections.
Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00VVCVEZ6
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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Eight years since her grandfather tried to kill her, Courtney has suffered strange dreams and delusions of aliens standing over her bed. What was the motivation to write a young adult book that deals with emotional and mental trauma?
My motivation to write a young adult book that deals with emotional and mental trauma came from my own childhood experience, and the desire to present teen readers with a fantastical story that doubles as a road map out of suffering alone. Alienation is a story that demonstrates what happens when you burry childhood trauma: it comes back, creeps up from your unconscious, and continues to traumatize you until you deal with it. It is also a story about how powerful and resilient the human mind can be. No matter how different or damaged you feel, you are not broken!
I suffered debilitating anxiety as a child and throughout my early adult life. My anxiety was caused by previous traumatic experiences, or more specifically, by my inability as a child to deal with the frightening emotions that resulted from my experiences. Unfortunately for me, as opposed to seeking out help and discussing my growing fears and feelings of hopelessness, I did my best to bury those emotions and any memories that had to do with them. This only resulted in more anxiety, fear, and loneliness. I became afraid of my own mind—the horrible thoughts and feelings it created.
Nobody likes feeling frightened or hopeless or lonely. It’s extremely uncomfortable, and can quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, we all have these types of feelings from time to time, and they are nothing to be ashamed. Nor is the trauma behind them. The way to make these horrible feelings go away is not to bury them like I did. It is to talk about them and any traumatic experience the feelings are rooted in.
Now, that said, I did not want to simply write a book about girl who is suffering emotionally as a result of past trauma, and show her dig into her past and resolve her issues. While it was important for me to present that story line, complete with a road map out of suffering, I also wanted to challenge the idea of mental illness and the stigma of being different. I wanted to challenge the idea of what is ‘real?’ What is ‘normal?” And what in the world is wrong with being ‘special’ or ‘unique?’ So with this in mind, I wrote a book about a teenage girl who is traumatized by past events and must dig into her past to resolve them. But when she does so, she discovers two things: 1) she is not so crazy after all, but very different in a gifted way; and 2) not only does she have to wrap her head around the discovery that she is different, but she has do it quickly, because the survival of the world depends on her embracing her unusualness.
Courtney, as well as the other characters, are well developed. Did you use anything from your own life to help develop these characters?
Courtney’s mom could be seen as a horrible selfish person who is more concerned with her daughter appearing to be a normal popular high-schooler, than she is with her daughter’s actual mental health. This was a huge exaggeration of my parents. But let’s face it, there are parents who are so concerned with the image their child presents, and with their child’s accomplishments and accolades, and how their child‘s image reflects on them as parents, that they ignore their child’s emotional needs. The same could hold true for teachers, peers, siblings, or the criminal justice system. I’m not playing the blame game here. But kids and people of all ages are hurting. The way to help one another is to talk about how we feel, help one another understand our feelings. So Courtney’s mom, the character who is most criticized by book reviewers as being too mean or too horrible of a parent, is to me, one of the most important characters in the book. By far she has more impact on Courtney’s life and her mental well-being that all of the bad guys Courtney is forced to face off against, and if you’ve read the book, there are some pretty unsavory characters who put Courtney through the ringer.
As for Agatha, I never had a friend like her, but I certainly wish I had. She is a badass, alien and Norwegian black metal obsessed chick with mad sleuthing skills and enough life experience to know that the first step in healing is to tear off the bandage start repairing yourself from the inside out.
As to Courtney’s character, I have to admit that I chose to tell the story through a female protagonist, as opposed to a male, because it was too painful for me to write the panic attack and nightmare scenes in first person point of view using a male teen character. It was too close to home. And Courtney being female bought me just enough separation from my own past experience to allow me to dig into the dark areas.
I understand that you have a graduate degree in law. How did you think that has helped you in your writing?
A law degree, or let’s say the experience of law school—where you spend three years learning to be analytical and precise—had a great impact on my story developing skills. My fiction doesn’t involve law, or courts, or crime investigation. Yet, what I took away from law school was that there are not merely two or three sides to every story, but more like one hundred and three sides. So, in my writing and story development, the analytical part of my brain developed in law school helps me keep asking ‘what if’ over and over and over, until I find exactly what I feel a scene or character’s decision should be.
That said, I may have been better off spending those three years in a doctoral or masters of fine arts creative writing program. Who knows?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will the book be published?
Currently, I am working on a couple projects. But my main focus is a sequel to The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman. I left a few balls up in the air at the end of that book, and I am really excited to pick up the story where Alienation ended. Alienation was written as a standalone book. By that I mean there is certainly resolution of the conflict by the book’s end. But at the same time, I spent quite a bit of time (or words) setting up a situation for my characters that is not going to go away overnight. So, I have a really great adventure I am writing where the bad guys strike back, and some of the same protagonists, now more mature but also damaged, use what they learned in Alienation to conquer great obstacles. I think it is going to be a really exciting read. Given that the stage was set (the world-building laid out) in Alienation, in the second book I am able to focus more on the meaning of things, and the psychology of the characters. As I mentioned earlier, the universal difficulty and often confusion that is involved in developing psychologically from a child to an adult is of great interest to me. While Alienation is the fast-paced story of Courtney’s journey of self-discovery and her physical battle to save herself and the world, I tried to allow the reader to discover along with Courtney the emotional impact that past events were having on her. That is what rings true to me in a good story: Not defeating the bad guy, but letting readers in on what it feels like for a teenager to be forced to push themselves to explore and overcome their fears to achieve a higher level of self-awareness. So, to put it bluntly, after having written Alienation, I cannot just sit around and wonder what psychological impact the events of Alienation had on Courtney and the other characters. They went through a traumatic ordeal of epic proportion. They are no doubt affected. But rather than hide from their new understanding of the world, and burry their painful emotions and memories, these characters have learned there is a better way through. Courtney is a unique person, with unique gifts, and she has a calling. But like every other human being, in order to tackle new dilemmas, be they epic and otherworldly or not, she needs to digest what has happened to her, and take care of her emotion needs. Unfortunately for Courtney, I throw her right back in the fire, forcing her to heal and grow while on the fly. But heal and grow she will, because the world is falling apart around her!
I don’t know when the sequel will be published. But I am working at a furious pace.
Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She’s being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they’re starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.
The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a “chosen one” with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it’s too late for everyone.
Posted in Interviews
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This fantasy novel is bursting at the seams with an intricate world waiting to be discovered, not only by the reader, but also by the main character, Asher. He is a college student in a world that appears to be similar to the Earth we know and love, but he is also an immortal. He uses his power to help people with their issues for small fees. This earns him enough money to survive, but it also earns him some powerful enemies and sends him on a trip to learn about his past and parentage.
In the Fae Realm, Asher gets caught up between two feuding noble houses, Summer Court and Winter Court. While he is there to meet his mother, the inhabitants of the realm look to exact some favors from Asher before his quest can reach its end. Will his immortality prove to be a blessing, or will he come to think of it more of a “curse of the deathless”? What will he discover about his birth and will the evil organizations of his home planet come for him?
This novel is gritty, funny, and entertaining. The narration is mostly in third person, although Asher will interject his thoughts directly to the reader whenever he deems necessary. For example, while trying to survive what would otherwise be a fatal sword blow, he thinks “Note to self: Lungs and swords don’t play nice together”.
However, there are some pitfalls that come with a fantasy novel of this scope. The author has created a universe that is seemingly vast and full of magic creatures and objects, of which the reader and the protagonist know very little. Because of this, it gives the reader difficulty when it comes to finding out what is going to happen next. I felt that issues were resolved by seemingly random events which then spawned the next set of events. The plot points come across as if they were written for a video game, as there are checkpoints to be met before the story can progress. For example, Asher has to gain favor with the rest of the family members before his step-sister will let him meet his mother.
If you can ignore these minor issues then you will find an entertaining adventure story in a world that is rich and worthwhile. The universe has plenty of depth, lore, and legend for any fantasy fan. The narration is spectacular despite a couple of minor grammatical mistakes. The characters are fun, and the dialogue is original although parts of the story may be a bit cliché. I’m not sure how nearly every woman in the story came to be so attractive, but there it is.
Overall, this story is quite the undertaking, and I can’t wait for a sequel, which the author seems ready to deliver.
Pages: 319 | ASIN: B01F0ING16
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