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Take it in Stride with Patience, or Die

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down explores the lives of three “downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living” people as they battle with their demons while leaning on one another. What were some of the stand out moments for you when writing this story?

Stand out moments… I would have to say some of the quieter, more introspective scenes in which the three main characters collide with from time to time. These moments of theirs are aimed to define them or break them entirely, or both. Particularly, some scenarios in which a resolution is expected to eventually come to fruition, but never does, because many times in life that is what happens. Or a resolution won’t be surmised for an unfathomably long time, and during those long stretches we can either take it in stride with patience, or die.

Once again you are able to amaze me with some realistically gritty characters. Where does the seed for a character start and what is your process for developing them through the story?

In most cases, any character I write, whether he or she is a major character or just an ornament on a mantle in the background, I begin with myself… as I’m sure most writers do. But where the emotion comes from, generally when I’m alone at night after a really, truly bad day at work. The birth of a character’s emotions can also come from the moments immediately following a delicious meal I’ve just enjoyed. So I can’t really say there’s one single place it all comes from. Almost every character I write, they start out as one type, and by the end of the book they become something entirely unintended, and not just because of the story. But because somewhere during the months of which the writing takes place, I think that a part of me sometimes changes depending on what’s going on in my own life, and sometimes… not always- but sometimes that bleeds out onto the page.

The title for this book is interesting. What was the inspiration for the title, and why did you choose a blank cover?

The cover was once full of color and pretty chaotic. But once I finished the first draft and really took a step back to look at everything, I felt a certain pull towards The Beatles’ White Album. And the theme of purity. In the book, the purity of the human soul is constantly at stake, whether it was lost long ago and there might be a chance to regain a sliver of it, or it’s literally on the brink of total collapse. How that theme is encompassed by all of the characters and where it steers them through their adventures, which can take them in very random directions, or keep them on a steady “forward” path, was a big part of why I chose the cover to be what it was. In a way, it serves as a figurative blank slate, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. The title, on the other hand, went through probably the most changes I’ve ever shifted through while writing a book. The title began as something very simple, I can’t remember exactly but it was very one or two-worded. Boring. And didn’t at all convey anything. The title that I landed on at the very end, I feel, paints a picture of emotion. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with any physical scene of the book, and for everyone I think it will be different. But for me, when I read the title, I picture a very, incredible quiet night. Like taking a deep breath, and being engulfed by absolute relief that the day is over with.

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

The next book I’m currently working on is another story involving Arlo Smith, of The Mire Man Trilogy. The book takes place between the events of Book II and Book III, during his mid-twenties, where he meets a person who introduces him to really good jazz, and a very particular kind of nightlife away from home, when “home” starts to sometimes feel like a prison. It’s a sort of a love-letter to Kerouac’s “On the Road”. It’s tentatively titled “Electric Gypsies Beneath the Whiskey Tree”, and I hope to have it finished by next year some time.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookTwitter | Website

Boots and Bonnets Inn, an isolated motel of questionable quality positioned just outside Moab, Utah, is home and haven to a handful of self-proclaimed societal outcasts who for better, worse, or much worse, have found their way here just in time to live out the rest of their lives. Among these longstayers is Wendel Trope, a slightly overweight almost-nihilist who survives within this little realm of “contentedness” by exercising his right to medicinal and alcoholic experimentation, while battling ruthless anxiety attacks and the “you owe me for last week’s stay” death stares of Jerry, the hotel owner. Holding his proverbial hand in an off-kilter, symbiotic friendship through this chapter of his life is Fag Bush Betty, the motel’s infamous “anything goes” prostitute, who may have more to her history than simply a catalytic reason to defile her own spirituality. And anchoring Betty, is Lotus, a young girl who harbors a shattered past and an as-of-yet untainted future that will inevitably bring her to the doorstep of Moab’s most unforgiving roadside motel. “THE SOUNDS FROM THE HILLS GO AWAY WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN” is a story without direction, without hope, and most importantly without a beginning or an end. It is simply an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.

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A Book of Wisdom

Keeshawn Crawford Author Interview

Keeshawn Crawford Author Interview

Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul helps one achieve a higher quality of life by realizing one’s own value. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your wisdom into a book?

The inspiration for writing this book came from God’s whisper. Although I have a beautiful heart, my walk in life hasn’t been so great. I love giving to other people, regardless of the color of their skin. One day I was reflecting on all the books that I’ve read and noticed that none of them spoke to my soul. I was looking for a touch of guidance and in doing so, I thought it would be a good deed to provide our youth with a book of wisdom. Now no one can say they were never informed.

This book covers many different topics from happiness to accepting criticism. What were some themes you felt were important to express in this book?

I thought it was important to express: Accepting constructive criticism, the importance of respecting our elders, appreciating and respecting woman and all of the other themes. 🙂 I can honestly say that this book is what my heart needed to express.

Why do you think some people struggle with finding value in themselves and in their lives?

I think some people struggle (as I have) with finding meaning and value for their lives because they weren’t taught about values, emotional intelligence, and how to show love to the next child, woman or man. “America, I am an example of how intelligent and compassionate your prisoners can be.”

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

My next book will be, Traits and Emotions of A Salvageable Soul, Vol. II. Truthfully, it’s already completed. In case you weren’t aware, $1.00 from every book purchased goes to St. Jude’s Children Hospital. A dollar from my next book will probably go to The Ronald McDonald House.

I can’t give away too many details, but I’m working on a deep novel titled, Silenced by a Predator’s Threat. You can look for Vol. II sometime in January or February of 2019. Please, tell the world about this book. Everyone can find me at Inkwater.com or via my Facebook link (below).

Author Links: GoodReadsWebsiteFacebook

Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul: A Conversation with a Touch of Class: Volume 1 by [Crawford, Keeshawn C.]

All people have their own remarkably intrinsic value, and it’s time we recognize it in ourselves and share it with the people in our lives.

From the wisdom of elders comes Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul: A Conversation with a Touch of Class, a guide to growing and healing ourselves so that we can live the quality of life we were always meant to live. From life’s hard lessons, Crawford offers the reader encouragement and truth, a path for using life’s challenges to overcome and even thrive.

Don’t give up, he reminds us. Every one of us has great potential and purpose. We just need to have faith in ourselves and courage.

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SHAME, GUILT, AND SURVIVING MARTIN BRYANT: One Woman’s Journey from Terror to Joy

SHAME, GUILT, AND SURVIVING MARTIN BRYANT: One Woman's Journey from Terror to Joy by [Collyer, Karen]

A gut-wrenching journey through life is portrayed in the pages of Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer. It’s a short read, but the raw emotions within the page are heavy, terrifying and intense. This book follows Karen through her life as a very young girl towards where she is today and spares no detail. Karen’s life has not been kind to her, and the novella is not afraid to tell readers exactly what horrors she has gone through. This is not a book for those who are emotionally fragile or have troubles reading about assault and rape. These horrific events are laid out in painstaking detail as well as the trauma Karen faced when she was stalked by the man who committed the massacre in Port Arthur.

The book takes great pains to let readers know what they are getting into before it even begins. Readers should pay careful attention to the trigger warning at the beginning, as it accurately describes the type of events that take place in the book. The book, however, is a powerful tool that demonstrates the ways in which deep rooted emotional scars can shape our lives.

Karen tells the story from the perspective of the ‘wide-eyed girl’. This serves to disconnect the author from the story in a sense that readers may forget they are reading a memoir of sorts. This also allows readers to avoid projecting the feelings of the protagonist on themselves, as can often happen when stories are told from the first person perspective. This makes the story powerful and allows readers to relate on a deeper level. Those with empathy may feel drained after reading the emotional journey Karen had to go through.

This book states that it is a journey from terror to joy. Upon reading the book and now writing this review, it is hard to see where joy comes into play. There are several times that the protagonist Karen embarks on ventures that light her up and cause her to feel elated and wonderful, however by the end of the story there is no confirmation that she was able to obtain the happiness she is long overdue. Yes, she barely survived being a victim of Martin Bryant, but where is the confirmation of her happiness? Where is the consolation for the readers that the wide-eyed girl made it and was able to attain joy? It’s not explicitly stated, just implied. It leaves one wondering, in a good way, where one finds this confirmation in life.

For those who are looking for a short but meaningful book that will take them on a roller-coaster of emotions, Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer is a must read. It’s gripping, tears at the heartstrings and exposes the ugliness of the ‘don’t tell’ culture that is still alive and well today.

Pages: 174 | ASIN: B07B8Y47XR

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The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down

“Ya know, it’s my understanding that the success rate of funerals is impeccably high.”

The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down is the latest book by author Dave Matthes. I very much enjoyed the style and tone of Dave Matthes’s writing. The story is about what Matthes describes as “an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.” In the story, we follow several characters. Wendel Trope battles his anxiety attacks with alcohol, Jerry, the owner of the run-down hotel where the story takes place, Bush Betty, a prostitute, and Lotus, a young girl struggling with her past. This collection of characters creates a strange community that holds each other up. The relationships between the characters were one of my favorite parts of this story. The peculiar and subtle interaction of people who haven’t known each other long but are connected by struggles and traumas.

The morbid humor of the book fits perfectly with the setting and the characters. That being said the subjects of this book are pretty dark, including a suicide early on, so if you find yourself triggered by these kinds of subjects this might not be the book for you. The way Matthes deals with these emotional subjects throughout the book is done with a gritty artistic class. He is not afraid to talk death, addiction, and mental illness, subjects that are often considered taboo to speak about. Matthes deals with them in a relatable and real way. They are apart of peoples lives, even if society would prefer to ignore it. The matter of fact tone of the book allows life to stand on its own two feet, not shied away from or glorified. This story was a whirlwind to read as it took me on an emotional roller-coaster. The story itself really captures the moment in time aspect where there doesn’t need to be a grand arc because it is simply a fragment in the lives of people. I very much enjoyed reading this intense book and look forward to delving into more of Matthes’s extensive collection of works. I would definitely give this book five stars and would highly recommend it.

Pages: 350 | ISBN: 1975607597

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The Ghetto Blues

The Ghetto Blues by [Brooks, Tammy Campbell ]

The Ghetto Blues by Tammy Campbell Brooks unexpectedly won my heart. The book’s full title is The Ghetto Blues – An Autobiography of Tammy Campbell Brooks’ Trepidation, Tragedy, and Triumph, and it follows the life of Tammy from childhood through adulthood. In the opening pages of the prologue, Tammy’s daughter writes, “In this book, you will go through different stages of emotions from tears, laughter, happiness, and joy of growing up in poverty and impoverished environments, but not letting the circumstances define you.” As I began the book, I was skeptical that I would experience all these emotions, but as I concluded the final chapter, “Bells Will Be Ringing,” I found that Tammy’s daughter had been entirely right all along.

Typically, authors are referred to by their last names in reviews, but after reading Tammy’s story, I feel it only right to call her by her first name. Tammy’s story was incredibly challenging for me to read at the beginning because it is so disparate from my own experience in suburban America. Growing up in the projects of San Antonio, Tammy had an upbringing that is almost unbelievable for most readers – gunshots, emotional and physical abuse, poverty, extreme hunger – but she avoids writing about her experiences in such a way as to say, oh woe is me! Completely the opposite, Tammy describes herself as driven and dedicated. Even though she experiences setbacks and succumbs to vices that will have readers wanting to call her up and say, what were you thinking?!, she does not let her weaknesses or mistakes define her, and she is always striving for the best out of herself.

Tammy’s autobiography is written in an almost spoken format, and not at all how Strunk & White might have preferred. While the typos and grammatical errors irritated me at the beginning on the book, I came to realize that if it had been written like Faulkner, for example, it would not have truly been Tammy’s autobiography. Her story is edgy and uncomfortable, and sometimes painful to read. It is the opposite of polished, but it is honest and eye-opening. That said, the book would have benefitted from some additional editing to correct some of the simple spelling errors and word usage errors. Those glaring errors are the only reason I would give the story four stars instead of five, because Tammy’s story is undeniably a full five stars.

Describing Tammy to someone who hasn’t read her autobiography feels almost as if she must be fictional: how could one woman overcome all those challenges thrown at her? Not only is Tammy an inspiration, but she was also eye-opening to me. I knew nothing of the ghetto lifestyle in the projects that she describes, and her story reiterates the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” At the conclusion of her autobiography, my overwhelming emotion was one of thinking that Tammy’s story would be amazing to share through radio or podcast. The courage and strength that it took Tammy to share her and her family’s story with readers should not be underestimated, and I hope that many readers have the opportunity to learn from her experiences.

Pages: 257 | ASIN: B07BFKCQZ9

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Masks

Masks by [Restokian, Nataly]

Masks by Nataly Restokian is salacious from the very beginning. We’re brought into the story where two relative strangers are having a one-night stand, one married woman with a lover on the side! It may appear to be an adult erotica novel at first, but keep reading, this is only one of the many layers to the plot that got me hooked and kept me flipping pages.

The protagonist is a fiery but spirited female named Anna that is surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the television industry. She is beautiful and successful, with her own show that sets her up to be an icon to woman in her country. The background setting gives the story a more visceral feel as one goes through the story. Anna is confident, daring, unstoppable and vivacious, but she is also hurting, bitter and cynical. She puts on her masks, as props to keep up appearances, lest others take advantage of her. The story evolves quickly and picks up speed from the risque beginning. Anna’s pursuit of happiness takes the reader on an emotional ride through the dark side of fame and fortune.

The story takes place in different cities throughout the middle-east which give you the same globe trotting feeling that Anna must have felt. I’ve never visited any of these places so this all seemed magically exotic to me. The settings are genuine and natural and lend to the emotional turmoil of the story.

There is a fresh feel in the author’s approach as she has been a keen observer of the societal nuances of the region, and is able to express it in terms that I felt were original and thought provoking. People from the west are inundated with reports everyday in the media and news channels about the region’s political and economic turmoil and forgets completely about the people, as individuals, living their lives. Hoping for a better future, like Anna. That’s what I like most about this story, that it’s a human story that I could relate to, because sometimes we too wear masks. I admire this story because it casts the region and culture in a different light, one that is not a hot spot for terror but instead brings forth the spirit of resilience. The spirit that makes people persevere in the face of difficulties and yet still have a passion for life. People that are scarred by their past, but not a prisoner of it. I feel that Anna embodies this spirit. I was intrigued by the exotic setting, Anna’s complex character, and the twists and turns that the story took as she risked it all in her quest for love and acceptance. I highly recommend this book.

Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07BB6RMDS

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Sam’s Theory

Sam's Theory by [Mendivel, Sarah]

Sam’s Theory by Sarah Mendivel is a magical realism novel hitting major elements of mental health. We follow a teenage girl named Sam through her heartbreaking and triumphant journey to escapes tragic abuse. When she runs away she stumbles upon a tree house in the forest where a magical old woman lives who is compassionate and kind. It is here where Sam’s journey takes her through healing, acceptance, becomes a healer herself, and learns family can also consist of the people we choose.

This book is a fantastic magical, heartfelt, and heartbreaking journey. Sam endures many challenges in her life that lead to her feeling broken and betrayed. She no longer feels as if she is worthy of anyone’s love, she no longer feels safe, and does not trust anyone. I could really feel the hurt and the story does a great job of creating deep feelings of empathy and sympathy. There are many dark themes to this book and is riddled with stories of abuse of all kinds. One of the aspects I appreciate about this book is that it does not go into gritty detail of the abuse and instead focuses on the emotional impact and subsequent journey. The author treats these events as they are, terrifying and ugly, but also shows how the abuse is not the fault of those who are abused. The story also made me feel like those who have been abused are still worthy of love, can find love, and can heal. That they do not have to go through anything alone.

The book is incredibly relatable to anyone who has faced abuse. It is heartwarming to be reassured that what happened was not the fault of abused, and that they can turn the situation around and become a stronger person through the bravery of sharing their stories. From a mental health perspective, I think this book can be a great way to learn about the impacts of violence, neglect, and other forms of abuse. And also teach those who have been in those situations that they are worthy and loved. This is an incredibly important message to send to people.

While the book dealt with heavy topics and made me cry on numerous occasions, it is written beautifully. I love this book and highly recommend it to everyone who wants to learn more about abuse and see a persons value. Even though it can be a heart-wrenching read at times, I think it is powerful story with a lovely message.

Pages: 352 | ASIN: B078TQMRRQ

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An Opportunity to Humanize

Skyler Worley Author Interview

Skyler Worley Author Interview

Because It Was Raining tells a story of Louis who is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning while trying to find his place in the world. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Well, Louis is in many ways a reflection on myself and my own experiences. Initially, I wrote this story as a therapeutic exercise, but as I progressed I began to see an opportunity to help other people with similar experiences and emotions. I wanted to reach through the pages, hold the readers hand, and tell them that they aren’t alone. From the reviews and feedback that I have received, I believe that I have managed to do that. I feel very fortunate to have been given a five-star review from Literary Titan and to have the opportunity to share my own experiences with others. If I had not written this story I probably would not have published anything ever.

Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. What experiences from your own life did you put into this novel?

I actually used a significant portion of my own life in the telling of this story. The story depicts a trip to Kansas City, then to another town. I actually did get in a car with two women and drove with them to KC, saw the depicted meth house, picked up a man, then headed back to a house in Aurora Mo. where I stayed for two weeks. I also described situations that were very real to me such as the death of a friend as well as my grandfather, whom I was very close to.

I enjoyed watching the character progression of Boobe who was a complex multilayered character. What was your inspiration for this character?

Believe it or not, Boobe is based on a woman whom we actually called Boobe. In reality, she was a recovering meth addict who fell on hard times and relapsed. I wanted to show her as she was through my eyes over the years that I had known her. I wanted to use her as a means of saying that even meth addicts are people who feel and need love and compassion. I loved Boobe, and I felt that she was an opportunity to humanize those people who we routinely depict as less than human.

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

Currently I have several projects in the works, but the main focus is on a story which I have tentatively entitled “Eden”. This story will be set in the future and will follow more of a science fiction theme. Writing “Because It Was Raining” was draining enough on my mind that I felt a somewhat more playful story was in order. “Eden” will hopefully show up sometime in the next year.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Because It Was RainingA young man, tormented by his past, descends into a world filled with drugs, sex, and violence in an attempt to find salvation and meaning in life, knowing full well that the cost of failure could be his very soul…

It is a story that touches on depression, addiction, grief, shame, and the power of hope. Truly a must-read for anyone. 

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Away From Home

Away From Home

Away from Home by Joanne Clairmont is a very real and heartbreaking look into the troubled thoughts and insecure feelings many children and teens experience when part of the foster care system. As an experienced foster mom, Clairmont has dealt with a number of heart-breaking cases of fostered teens feeling lonely, isolated, and abandoned upon entering her home. She writes vividly about the struggles and emotions those in her care have faced, and the unseen turmoil brewing within them as they are placed into yet another new environment. Oftentimes sorrowful, Away from Home is an important read in understanding the ups and downs of the foster care system by those directly experiencing it.

A short book broken up into six sections, Away from Home shares Clairmont’s foster care experiences in poem form. Each section contains several poems related to a specific type of foster child, such as The Unsettled Teenager and The Challenging Teenager. Most of the six sections share the pain and loss of security many fostered teenagers can relate to when thrust into a foster situation. The last section, titled The Independent Teenager, completes the journey of emotional growth of the foster care teenager and consists of more uplifting and positive poems.

I appreciated that the author could interpret the actions of her fostered teenagers from the first night they arrived at her house until they had grown and moved on with their lives. I found the poems in The Unaccompanied Minor and The Unsettled Teenager especially easy to connect with due to their complete realization and understanding of how a teenager would feel upon entering a new foster placement. They presented a personal psychology into the effects of the instability and adaption foster children must cope with through no fault of their own.

I especially liked how the author construed the emotions of a new placement in “Don’t know if I am coming or going.” It was a simple and realistic take on how a newly placed teenager may feel upon arriving in a new place after enduring several former placements. It captures the frustration and identifies the protective wall that has been built up to shield the fostered teenager from experiencing any more emotional loss.

While there were many poems that hit the mark in eliciting a feeling or emotion when read, there were also a few that didn’t do it for me. “It is not cool” and “No school today” seemed like unfinished thoughts or small snippets that could have been better fleshed out. I think the book would greatly benefit from some additional structuring and the addition of more personalized images.  The images in the book are generic and vary in artistic design. More simplified, original artwork would do wonders to visually present the ideas and feelings of the poems.

Overall I thought Away From Home really presented the emotional psychology and depth of the foster care system and those who live it. It created a descriptive and realistic picture for those who may not be familiar with the tragedy and distress many teens experience while in foster care. Aside from the few issues I had in reading, this book was an intense, creatively written study of an important subject.

Pages: 52 | ASIN: B077QLBKSC

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From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

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