Slay the Dragon follows Cesar as he rises from his working class roots to fight against the opioid crisis while navigating South American politics. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a book about this topic?
Years ago I enrolled in a creative writing class at New York University. The professor required us to write short papers about what protagonists and antagonists would do in various scenarios. For one assignment, I used a magazine article about drugs and corruption for inspiration. My professor graded my paper A+ and strongly encouraged that I develop this theme into a novel. I did and then for various reasons put the novel aside for many years. During the presidential election, I became aware of the extent of the opioid crisis. I was astonished and particularly concerned that this epidemic was hardly reported by the media. I realized that this crisis would work well into my existing novel and was a way to highlight the gravity of the issue to a wider audience. So, I spent the past year updating my manuscript. The result was SLAY THE DRAGON.
I felt like this book could have easily been non fiction. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?
I enjoy reading novels that are somewhat based on fact. I find reading realistic fiction a casual way to learn about issues and locations. Combine realism with suspense and conspiracy and I am sold. As a writer, realistic fiction gives me the opportunity to loosely express experiences and issues while being creative. For SLAY THE DRAGON, I traveled to Latin America and observed. I visited several countries and cities, explored the countryside, walked the streets, and spent time with locals– all the while taking notes. I love destination novels and wanted my book to capture the essence of the location. Since I am an economist and worked on Wall Street, it seemed natural that my protagonist would be the finance minister and that much of his efforts entailed economic issues. I did little research for the economic side of the book. For weeks, I researched the opioid crisis– reading articles and medical surveys. I wanted to learn how, why, and who. I could not find a single article that addressed the complexity of the crisis. Most articles are biased toward one reason or another. However, there are many causes and many to blame. SLAY THE DRAGON attempts to encapsulate all the forces and entities that contributed to this tragic epidemic.
Cesar was an intriguing and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing his character?
César Rosada is the conscience of SLAY THE DRAGON. He is a decent man with good intentions who faces reality. The themes I attempted to capture through Cesar include: good vs. evil, doing the right thing, power and corruption, personal responsibility, self-reliance, how actions of a few affect us all, and why social ills exist.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next novel will address themes expressed in SLAY THE DRAGON but will be set in the digital world.
Slay the Dragon is a political suspense novel set in Latin America that explores how corruption and inefficiencies feed into social ills and how leaders exploit these conflicts to cling to power. César Rosada is on a crusade. Descended from generations of coffee farmers, the former professional athlete turned politician is determined to improve life for the working class of his country. As Minister of Finance, César is committed to righting decades of corruption, crime, and misguided economic policies, and defending progress made in the fight against the illegal drug trade. He anticipates resistance from those with money, power, and vested interests. However, he now confronts a burgeoning challenge—America’s opioid epidemic. This deadly crisis poses more than the usual conflict between law enforcement and organized crime. It is a complex and insidious challenge with pervasive and deep-rooted origins. César’s adversaries intent on maintaining the status quo conspire and threaten everything for which he has worked. The stakes are high—a reversion to the days when drug syndicates rule, politicians collude and profit, and the people remain hopelessly trapped in a cycle of poverty. César is conflicted, but must decide on a course of action. Weighing choices between what is perceived as right versus wrong, he pursues a path that for some is morally ambiguous.
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I Spy With My Little Eye: A journey through the moral landscape of Britain, written by Linnea Mills, is a novel written in an attempt to understand the morals, norms and values held by Britain’s current society. It is based around the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues and uses these ideas as metaphors for the current issues present in society. There is a combination of statistics, quotes and recent topics to illustrate the consequences of economic divides, celebrity status, money, power and greed. It will leave you wondering- what is your interpretation of wealth, happiness and success?
I Spy With My Little Eye is a masterpiece that analyses and discusses our changing behaviours as a society. Prepare to reconsider your personal views and be confronted with statistics and studies that prove just how much of our lives are shaped by media, “celebrities” and power.
It challenges the norms held by today’s social standards and instead encourages the reader to consider whether the behaviour we partake in is a reflection of our true intentions and beliefs or are we just following the crowd mentality. It also pushes you to contemplate whether your behaviours actually contribute to any form of personal or societal gain. At times I felt as though I could see the world in a new light, especially reading alarming studies about what children aspire to be or the implications of the celebrity phenomenon on our culture and identity.
Even though the chapter titles are based around Christian values, the author stresses that this is not a religious book and instead uses these sins and virtues to simply reference problems in Britain’s society- with a cheeky nod to our internal moral compasses. At what point does wealth become an addiction as opposed to a simple goal? And is it moulded by society or what truly makes you happy?
One of my favourite chapters was one that discussed Envy. With social media being such an integral part of most people’s lives, it was interesting to see the comparative statistics of happiness between those who continued to use the social media platforms or compared to those who gave them up. It also discusses trolls, consequences of online abuse and the implementations of social media on politics.
I was impressed at the depth of knowledge presented in the book as well as the sourced quotes and studies. The staggering statistics are mind-boggling and emphasise the manipulation of greed in positions of power. Linnea Mills also uses current events and trends to strengthen her arguments further and increase the validity of her ideas.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone! It a perfect balance of social issues, philosophy and facts, combined to create a piece of literature that challenges your belief on what makes you innately happy.
Pages: 145 | ASIN: B077PLR3FK
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Miss Sally is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Primarily because I was living in Texas when I wrote it and my three daughters, though not yet in their teens, faced the hazards of adolescence, the coming of age which always is difficult and which Sally Halm, the protagonist of his novel, confronted in exaggerated form. I spent my boyhood in a small predominantly Protestant rural community and felt it important to portray what rural life was like for a contemporary audience.
The 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. Why did you choose this as the time period for your story?
My parents were severely affected by the “Great Depression”: they lost everything and had to start life anew in very changed circumstances. Texas was one of the states most affected by migration and the social changes that the Great Depression triggered. Mere survival became the primary preoccupation of millions of people. These are basic ingredients for the making of a novel.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. How did you set about capturing the thoughts and emotions of a young girl in the 1930’s?
I had a clear impression of Sally, who she was and what she was like, before I began and in the process of writing became Sally, at least to the extent of feeling what she felt, seeing the world as she experienced it, incorporating my own background of growing up in a socially restricted rural community where failed crops and tent revivals were a reality.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’ve just completed a novella about how an incapacitating illness affects a marriage. It’s being considered by several editors. Also in the hands of editors is a recently compiled book of published short stories about Mexico. This fall I’m issuing as an ebook a nonfiction account of government repression of a teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which includes firsthand reporting. It’s to be called Kill the Teachers! And I’m beginning work on a freewheeling journalistic appraisal of the confused political and economic shenanigans involving the United States and Mexico.
This is the story of a young girl’s painful initiation into womanhood: the discovery of sex without hope of love, and grief without the release of tears. The setting is rural Texas in the 1930s, a rough and tumble environment in which the thirteen-year-old Sally Halm questions but tries to appease her authoritarian mother’s religiosity, appeasement that leads to misguided attempts to seek a salvation that her environment ruptures
Sally’s father has distanced himself not only from his wife but Sally and her two older brothers and two older sisters. The mother’s ally is the son who hopes to become an evangelical minister; the rebel is Sally’s oldest sister, who Sally and the middle sister Hill’ry discover in a lovemaking tryst with a neighbor boy. Hill’ry is the family’s child protégé who is given privileges that Sally is denied and who Sally both envies and admires, attributes which tumble her into misadventures than Hill’ry sidesteps.
As Sally struggles to reconcile the concepts of “sin” and “salvation” that seem to dominate her life she ricochets between hope and rejection. Inspired by the testimony of a woman evangelist who recounted rising from degradation to achieve happiness and prosperity thanks to accepting Jesus as her personal savior Sally tries to emulate her but realizes “everything I do I do backwards, I can’t even sin without people laughing at me.”
Sent to live with relatives in another part of central Texas, Sally becomes infatuated with an older cousin whom she helps to milk and to breed a mare. Though supportive he’s a man who seems to hate himself, a hard drinker who has no use for religion and prefers the company of prostitutes than that of “churchy people.” Again Sally does things backwards and alienates him as she’s alienated others. Her decision to run away from family, from the she’s leading and has led, thrusts her into even greater entanglements, entanglements that make her realize how difficult it is to have one’s immortal soul saved, even when that’s all that one has left.
A reviewer cautioned, “You’ll love Miss Sally, but she’ll break your heart.”
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When an alien species detects the dissolution of a planet in a neighboring solar system, they send out a group of skilled teenagers to save what they can of the planet. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
My goal in writing this novel was to attempt to describe this world from the point of view of outsiders – people who had not been born and raised on Earth; people not conditioned and tainted by the absurdities of everyday life on this planet. Aliens. As a vegan, an atheist and an anarchist, I am dismayed on an, almost, hourly basis by the irrational behavior of my fellow species. We call ourselves ‘civilised’ and ‘highly evolved’ yet we participate in practices so horrific that, when committed against humans, are, quite rightly, thought of as shocking and unlawful yet, when perpetrated against non-human animals, are considered perfectly acceptable – or, usually, not considered at all. We call ourselves ‘intelligent’ yet we homo sapiens, we self-proclaimed ‘wise men’, are, not only, allowing the very environment we totally rely on for our own lives to be destroyed to slake the greed of a tiny number of other human animals but we are blissfully helping them to do so by believing their lies and consuming their unnecessary and harmful products. Some would call us ‘enlightened’ but up to 95% of all humans truly, truly believe that they will be transported to some kind of paradise after they die! Why should they care if life on the physical world were to be destroyed? I suppose that could explain why we do not care about the destruction of the rain forests, the desertification of vast swathes of the land, the befouling of the atmosphere and the creation of massive dead zones in the ocean. Also, how civilised or evolved or intelligent or enlightened can we be if we are killing and being killed by each other for nonsensical reasons such as the ancient writings of those ‘Religions of Love and Peace’ or the greed-based ideologies of power-hungry politicians? There are countless other stupidities I could mention here but the divisions based on race, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, age and, yes, even nonsensical superstitious belief, spring to mind – all of which I do discuss in the novel. Obviously, I cannot mention all of those forms of discrimination without also mentioning speciesism which plays a huge role in informing the aliens and, naturally, the book. Did I achieve my goal? From a practical angle – that is, putting myself in the minds of total outsiders and viewing the world afresh – I like to think that I did pretty well. However, in other aspects of the work, I am not so sure.
the hell world is full of detailed characters and places. How long did it take you to imagine, draft, and write this world?
The whole process took about 2 years from conception to pre-publish and then about 9 months to get the novel out. There was a lot of research involved – all of the figures I cite as being facts, to the best of my knowledge, are actual facts – the sixty-billion non-human land animals slaughtered for food every year, as just one example. I did, perhaps, use some poetic licence when detailing some of the projections of the aliens – on predicted human population levels, where, I think, I suggested that the numbers of humans alive in 2050 would far exceed the predicted eleven-billion – but I do not believe I took too many liberties on their behalf.
Their are many animals on this hell world. Were these animals allegories for humans on Earth? What was your favorite animal to create and write for?
This is an area where I obviously failed in my writing because the portrayal of the dominant animals, the Kaahu, on the hell world was not allegorical – they are humans and the hell world is Earth. There were no metaphors, no cryptic clues; the novel was set here and now on this planet with you and I as players in the story – there are many, many pointers to this fact in the book! My favourite character is Hentanayre – she’s a bubbly, intelligent young female alien (an ap Vandan) who loves all animals (except, maybe, the Kaahu) and, just like me, is terrified of heights – we have a lot in common!
What is the next book that you are working on and when is that book due out?
I am in the planning stage of a new novel – again, written from the viewpoint of aliens… mainly. I do intend to intersperse the narrative with a human voice here and there. It will also be written, again, from a vegan, atheist and anarchist perspective – so plenty of anti-carnist, anti-god and anti-hierarchical stuff. My working title is ‘It’ but I have no idea when it may be finished or published – I am in no hurry.
the hell world is a work of fiction that seeks to highlight the absurdity of the human condition as seen from the vantage point of outsiders – an alien view. It is a critique of the now in the genre of science fiction; an attack on all of the ridiculous ideologies that have retarded, and continue to retard, the evolution of those, self-proclaimed, wise men (homo sapiens) of the planet. These nonsensical philosophies, be they socio-political, economic, military or religious, have all crippled human animal evolutionary development for millennia. But not just that. Of much more importance is the impact that just this one species of animal has had, is having and will continue to have on all other lifeforms of this beautiful world and on the planet itself – though, I fear, not for too much longer. An unthinkable, unmentionable, unconscionable number of individual, sentient beings are slaughtered for human consumption in their multiple-billion every single year. Habitats essential to other lifeforms have been, and continue to be, destroyed on a regular basis, affecting the very existence of thousands of species of animal and vegetable life – in itself an act of mass suicide for human animals as all of those other lifeforms are part of the cycle of life. All are interdependent – taking away one leads to a domino-effect and, albeit at first slowly, the whole structure starts to collapses. We have passed that initial, gradual degradation stage – it has long since gone. Also an environmentalist, n o o n e cannot comprehend the idea that human animals are nonchalantly destroying the planet – an action which can be likened to people steadfastly hacking away at the foundations of a borrowed house and constantly defecating in every room whilst kidding themselves that they can pass that house on to their children. Couple those atrocities to the insane befouling of all of the water and the entire atmosphere of the planet by this species, the unconscionable weapons of mass murder they possess, then add-in the sheer number of these human animals and their determination to increase that total without limit points to just one, inevitable conclusion: The total annihilation of, not only themselves, but of life itself on this one world in a million or billion or trillion or, perhaps, the only planet like it in the entire, vastness of the universe. We will never know because, the sad truth is, it is much too late for the human animal, much too late for other species of life and much too late for the planet.
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