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Surviving on the Fringes of Society

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Pushing Back follows a young man who’s struggling to find his way in life but finds help in unexpected places. What was the inspiration for this emotional novel?

I spent my professional career working with teenagers who were surviving on the fringes of society. They are the invisible children, the throwaway kids, but I believe that theirs is a story worth telling. In the several decades I was their teacher (and their student), some common themes began to emerge. The expected anger, despair, and cynicism were there, but there was more. Their resilience and bravery were admirable, and although not apparent on the surface, there was a part of each and every one of them that wanted to figure it out, to learn how to be an adult, to find a voice. I thought I could play a small part in giving them that voice. While Boone is not based on a specific person, his struggles and successes are theirs, and to a surprising extent, ours as well.

Boone is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I see Boone as a kind of Everyman, working through the same questions and grappling with the same insecurities that most teens have. Boone faces much longer odds than most; in addition to the economic and social disadvantages he carries, he finds himself having to unlearn many of the lessons his father taught him about how the world works. His father’s rage and distrust color Boone’s view of the world in general and the motives of those around him in particular. He is moving into adulthood hampered by his upbringing and driven by his desire to get it right, to become a successful adult.

I enjoyed how this novel explores poverty, addiction, and depression. What were some themes you felt were important to explore in this book?

Boone’s anger comes at least partly from the fact that he has had very little life experience that tells him that adults are trustworthy, kind, or capable, and he’s old enough to know that he is entering adulthood himself. Growing up with a mean drunk for a father and a mother who has given up on pretty much everything means that his experiences with others are seen through that lens. Acts of kindness or generosity run counter to what he knows from his family experience, and the internal struggle between the way he was raised and what he is learning about the larger world is central to his sometimes painfully clumsy attempts to negotiate the world he is entering. Boone is stumbling into adulthood, but he is moving forward; his dawning recognition that some of his basic assumptions need to be revised is part of the reason he is making progress. I do see this book, as well as the other two in the series (a fourth is in the works) as hopeful.

This is book one in your Boone Series. What can readers expect in book two?

Matching Scars begins soon after Pushing Back has ended, and Boone is more completely out on his own, learning about how the adult world works and taking on more adult responsibilities. A crisis in Gamaliel’s life redefines their relationship and eventually leads to significant changes for Boone. He begins reaching out to others, creating a sort of tribe he can call his own. His relationships with Nancy and his new friend Tiny develop and are tested in ways Boone never saw coming. He continues to make mistakes, sometimes through ignorance and sometimes through his inability to completely set aside the counterproductive and sometimes dangerous lessons learned from his father and, to a lesser extent, his mother. His temper is somewhat less on a hair trigger than in Pushing Back, and his developing trust helps him as he reworks his definition of the world. In his expanding circle there are familiar enemies, new friends, and unexpected opportunities to step up and be the adult he’s trying to become.

I have to add that if Boone read the answers to these questions he would very likely say, “Man, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about with all this stuff. I’m just trying to get by.”

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Boone Series is the story of a teenager on the fringes of society. He doesn’t have looks, or money, or education going for him, but he’s a decent human being trying to grow up with the odds stacked against him. He is often belittled or ignored, but like others out there on the edge of things, he has a story that deserves to be heard. “Pushing Back” is told from Boone’s point of view.

The first book in the series finds Boone at sixteen years old, in a family he can’t wait to escape. His father is an angry drunk who scrapes out a living doing farm work and takes out most of his frustration and rage on his family. Boone’s mother is a passive sort, unable or unwilling to stand up to her husband, and his sister is only seven, so he feels like he can’t leave. Then, in one weekend, his family disintegrates around him and Boone finds himself alone for the first time in his life.

Soon he begins to realize how much of his father’s anger and mistrust is also a part of him, and much of his struggle to become an adult revolves around trying to let go of most of what his daddy taught him. Circumstance brings him into contact with an elderly neighbor, and he and Gamaliel form an unlikely friendship. Gamaliel’s son-in-law has nothing but contempt for Boone and the conflicts with him bring out the worst in Boone’s character.

Boone’s low social standing and his inexperience with most kinds of relationships makes his growing involvement with Nancy, a former classmate, full of stumbles and missteps on his part and a determination on hers to make things work, even though she has her share of normal teenage insecurity as well.

A decent person at heart, Boone’s battle with his inner demons and his almost complete lack of knowledge about the adult world make his progress intermittent at best, full of setbacks often of his own making. He approaches maturity clumsily, but when he can figure out the right thing to do, he usually does it. Unfortunately for him and those around him, sometimes his anger and insecurity get in the way.

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Myrrendryl

Myrrendryl by [Lord, Kirby]

What starts off as just another teenager-focused bully story quickly shows its teeth to reveal something decidedly darker. The fear and emotion felt by the main protagonist seem both plausible and real, and the dysfunctional home life that he is forced to live through is also crafted to feel quite genuine.

We learn early on in this dark urban fantasy novel that Davey was forced by his difficulties to mentally escape into worlds of movie characters that he looked up to. He imagined himself overcoming his difficulties in a similar way that heroes from his favorite movies had, and it made him feel good to think that he could live in someone else’s shoes.

It doesn’t take long for Davey to find the escape he was looking for. What he found was something he never would have thought possible.

The world that Davey finds seems perfect to him. He cannot see any of the violence, abuse, or bullying that tortured him up to the point of finding ‘Cardboard City’. What he does see is a tight-knit community of kids living free from adult oppression. They govern themselves and seem to have a good hold on how to get things done, their way. Davey quickly feels right at home with his new friends. Friends that he would change his life forever.

As time goes on, Davey and the other kids grow up, but they stay connected to one another in a variety of ways. The connections that show up throughout the story between characters, and how their individual stories interconnect is impressively crafted.

Lord has a talent for characterization and building believable interactions between characters like no other. The reader is taken for a ride through several lives as they search for a deeper meaning and it is a pleasure to follow them and experience what they do.

The writing is simple yet has plenty of the details necessary to set a scene and show the inner-workings of the characters. One can easily get a feel for where you are, who is involved with each scene, and what events are unfolding. The pace is steady, as well, making for a story that is difficult to put down.

Myrrendryl by Kirby Lord, is a first novel by the incredible author, but you would never know that. If you like dark fantasy stories that questions the fabric of our reality, Myrrendryl is a must read.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B07MXZQ9QW

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Snapdragon: A Father-Daughter Story

A harrowing tale of family challenges one women faces traversing the life of her defiant father after her mother’s passing. Embodied with the faith of God the author narrates her perseverance with every roadblock she encounters, which adds up quickly as her patience is tested dealing with a rebellious father. Snapdragon reads as a series of episodic events, each chapter highlighting a situation that would bring anyone to the boiling point of frustration. Woven through each of these trials, the author recounts her involvement with faith. Her Christian beliefs are spun deep into the fabric of this intimate story revolving around confronting all odds to find peace with her father.

Allison St. James undoubtedly writes with a personal voice, her persistence to become close and receive the love of her father is heartbreaking at times. The seemingly open face view of her struggles with personal relationships, financial setbacks, and physical ailments never once waiver her beliefs. Aside from anyone who is a Christian or feels they have some connection to organized religion might find Allison’s passages depicting her beliefs to be preachy at times. However, her honest expression of the situation will have any reader astonished with her resolution and drive to care for her father.

The author writes with a clear tone that had me flipping through page after page finishing the book in no time. Easy to read and written in the first person the story flowed smoothly through each transition. I was impressed with the heart and emotion that shown through with such simple language. Although a few characters came off written with just a rigid introduction, and I wondered how many times Allison could be “emotionally drained”, the spirit of these relationships fostered a deeper understanding of how convoluted the authors’ life became as the story went on.

Allison’s story is composed of real-life scenarios which don’t always amount to a fairy-tale ending. Instead, despite all the challenges the author faces, Snapdragon portrays a genuine feeling of forgiveness. It reassures the reader that through these constant battles in life doing the right thing might be difficult but the conscious will always remember that decision.

Pages: 238 | ISBN:1449788777

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Ameher’s No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope

Ameher's No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope: Beloved I Wish Above All That You Prosper and Be in Health Even as Your Soul Prospers by [Ameher]

Ameher is a woman of strength, compassion, and a faith like no other. From a very early age she endured hardships in Nairobi only to pursue the American dream as an immigrant and face immeasurable abuses and prejudices in her new home. When she struggles to find a safe place for herself and her children, she is met head-on with one challenge after another but chooses to hold her head high and never give up as she battles a system designed to protect citizens but fails in all too many cases. Nowhere is faith more explicitly exemplified than in Ameher’s life as immigrant to the United States.

Ameher’s No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope is the author’s own story of harrowing experiences as she tries desperately to find someone she can trust. Her story in an important one and one that bears repeating until a broken system is finally repaired.

At 400 pages, the author has enough striking material to make a short series of three separate books based on her life. The many abuses and the detail to which she goes into regarding her life with Todd make for an entire work on their own. The author takes great care to explain the entire process to which she was subjected, and this section of the text would make for a moving book all by itself.

The author recounts the expectations placed upon her as one raised in a religious home. She addresses the stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock quite well. Throughout her ordeal battling the system in the United States, she is able to lean on her faith and holds strong as she relies on friends who seem to exhibit a shared strength of faith. As I see it, Ameher has the makings for a fantastic self-help/devotional book centered entirely on her own faith. A book of this nature would make a fascinating read.

Because Ameher is an amazing example of persistence in the face of adversity, she is a prime candidate to pen a book on the discrimination faced by a woman of color in the United States. The challenges she faces are a sad but true testament to the daily struggles faced by people of color across this nation.

Ameher’s work is explicit enough to be engrossing, but not graphic in nature. The author takes care to explain the horror of her trials without turning readers off with vulgarities.

As effective as Ameher’s work is in capturing readers’ attention, it could use some additional editing. At times, it reads a bit like a rough draft with more care placed in the emotion of the wording than in the accuracy.

Ameher has bared her heart and soul to the world in order to help other women with her book. Any reader who picks up her story will be inspired to keep the faith and rise up in the face of adversity.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B079438P7M

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On Loving

From an early age Rose Hemmings is asked to define love, a theme that is analyzed throughout the book and truly encompasses On Loving. While at the time she cannot compose a definite response, a single turning point in Rose’s life has her struggling to find the answer. She continues to question what love means as she narrates the story of her life.

On Loving begins with the tragedy of Rose’s beloved father, a man she attributes her love of literature, and who urges Rose to find the truth of her birth parents resulting in a spontaneous trip to Iran in search of answers. Just before leaving Rose’s world is once again shaken to the core as she comes face to face with a stranger who instantly steals her heart away. In a twist of fate, the two fly off to Iran resulting in a storm of emotional chaos involving family, secrets revealed and another man to drastically change Rose’s life forever.

For blatantly being a romance novel, On Loving rarely rears the exotic scenes of lust and passion. Instead, Lili Naghdi illustrates a love story shrouded in poetic anecdotes and literary quotes through the eyes of an A-typical surgeon inquiring every aspect of her ever-changing life. The story of Rose spans decades of heartache and misfortune, deep longing and joyous fulfillment.

However, I could never completely empathize with Rose. She shows all the signs of a well thought out main character, the author thoroughly explored the mind of Rose Hemming detailing all her faults and frustrations. I could tell Naghdi held Rose close to her heart while writing this book. The story is written in the first person, and like so, we are bound to watching Rose make decisions the reader might not completely agree with.

Overcoming these hiccups, I found steady glimpses of genuine understanding for several characters. Especially in the second half of the book, Naghdi beautiful vindicates the hurricane of emotions Rose has been building up throughout the story. Those moments of Rose carefully weighing her judgments, decisions, and feelings are true bliss. Moreover, the authors’ literary insight is phenomenal and while at times the call back to famous authors and poets is overdone, each example is carefully chosen perfectly matching the mood of the scene.

Any romantic or literary buff will wholeheartedly enjoy this book. Read the book and you will understand.

Pages: 483 | ASIN: B07NSJLJLZ

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Lessons from the Frogs I’ve Kissed

Lessons from the Frogs I've Kissed: I have made all the mistakes in the book so you wont have to by [Kolnik, Krystal]

If you can imagine it, Krystal has experienced it. If you’ve ever wondered what an abusive relationship truly feels like, Krystal can tell you. If you’re curious as to what a true survivor looks like, take a good long look at Krystal–her life is a testament of dedication, overcoming the worst of the worst in relationships, and learning from one’s mistakes. When Krystal finds Pete, she believes she has found forever. She could never have foreseen that the world into which she would bring her children would be one in which their father would make their lives a living hell.

Krystal Kolnik’s Lessons From Frogs I’ve Kissed is one of the most heart-wrenching stories of love and loss I have ever read. The strength it takes Krystal to simply live from day to day in the presence of such a dismissive and disloyal husband is completely stunning. As I read page after page filled with descriptions of her husband’s indiscretions and manic outbursts, my heart ached and I was filled with a rage of my own.

Krystal’s willingness to open her heart and spill her experiences for the world to read is beyond admirable. More than that, her story resonates with both men and women across the globe. Abusive relationships of one type or another are, sadly, a common occurrence. Readers who are desperately seeking validation will see themselves mirrored in the way Krystal is drawn back to Pete time and time again as his hollow promises are broken one after another–so goes the life of a victim of domestic abuse.

From Krystal’s own struggle to believe or not to believe Pete to her family and friends’ choice to conceal their own knowledge of Pete’s ongoing affairs, the author details each and every crushing blow before calmly describing the ease with which Pete is able to slide from his duties as a father and husband into the life he prefers as a sleazy cheater and abusive sociopath. Without having to present him as an actual character, Krystal succeeds in giving readers an antagonist worthy of all the hatred they can muster.

Krystal details the day-to-day struggles of being a single parent wanting to date in today’s world. Her descriptions of her young daughter’s vision of her father are almost too much to bear. Her recollections of his tantrums and abuse make my stomach turn. Krystal and her children have lived through more than their share of hard days and deserve all the good times life now has to offer.

Relationship after relationship, Krystal lays it all out on the line and goes for broke. Time after time, she is met with adversity. She does a wonderful job of making readers feel her pain and frustration–her descriptions of online dating are relatable in every way.

This is easily one of the most engaging stories I have read in years. Krystal’s mistakes become her lessons and, in turn, become the reader’s as well. Were it not for authors like Krystal, many of us would continue to feel alone in our frustration and misery. Krystal opens the door for communication. For that, I am grateful.

Pages: 342 | ASIN: B07NP6FNXC

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Toxic Relationships

Diane Pomerantz Author Interview

Diane Pomerantz Author Interview

Lost in the Reflecting Pool is a candid retelling of your life and the many trials you faced throughout. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was an important book for me to write Lost in the Reflecting Pool for several reasons. On a personal level, writing was a way for me to process some very difficult, and traumatic times in my life. The act of writing itself, allowed me to gain enough distance and perspective to gain understanding that I don’t think I would have otherwise gained.

Equally important, my book covers many issues that are of particular relevance to women and men in terms of toxic relationships, narcissism, trusting the red flags that one sees early on in relationships and I think that it is important that these are important issues for the general population to be aware of as they enter into relationships.

You wrote about a relationship with a man that you struggled to break free of; what is one piece of advice you wish you had at the beginning?

Trust what I saw – and to not ignore what I saw.

The book is a memoir about many difficult things in your life, but the story is ultimately uplifting. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope that people will take away from my story that it is possible to change to course of one’s life even when things feel as if there is no way out – things can get better. Developing a support system is essential. When in a toxic relationship make sure that one does not allow oneself to become isolated from all other supports (friends and family).

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

I am currently working on a psychological thriller, Call Me Angel which should be available late 2020 and I am working on two children’s books.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website | Twitter

Lost in the Reflecting Pool: A Memoir by [Pomerantz, Diane]

When Diane, a psychologist, falls in love with Charles, a charming and brilliant psychiatrist, there is laughter and flowers—and also darkness. After moving through infertility treatments and the trials of the adoption process as a united front, the couple is ultimately successful in creating a family. As time goes on, however, Charles becomes increasingly critical and controlling, and Diane begins to feel barraged and battered. When she is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, Charles is initially there for her, but his attentiveness quickly vanishes and is replaced by withdrawal, anger, and unfathomable sadism. What Diane previously thought were just Charles’ controlling ways are replaced by clear pathologic narcissism and emotional abuse that turns venomous at the very hour of her greatest need.

A memoir and a psychological love story that is at times tender and at times horrifying, Lost in the Reflecting Pool is a chronicle of one woman’s struggle to survive within—and ultimately break free of—a relationship with a man incapable of caring about anyone beyond himself.

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Strong Is…

Strong Is . . . by [Pulliam, April B.]

What is strong? According to Merriam-Webster, strong is not mild or weak. But what exactly does that mean? To determine if someone or something is strong you need to look at it in context and compare it to other things that are similar. Strong Is… by April Pulliam and illustrated by Amy Grantham looks at the situation through the eyes of a child. The child is relaying all the ways they have heard the word strong used to describe people and things. Each situation gives a new view on what makes something strong or not. As you go through the book you encounter funny images like a stinky dog or a hungry lion, but then it starts to focus more on people and the images become more serious; a hospital, a distraught mother. It all leads up to the end with a picture of a small child. While the book never says cancer in the story line, it is implied with the imagery and by reading up on the author’s page at the end.

This is a challenging subject and this book is a great way to introduce a young child to what might be going on. Learning that it’s okay and even when you’re little you can be strong in your own way. I think this is a great book for siblings or even a child that may be going through this to read and gain some confidence. It’s an emotional topic that is handled with dignity and simplified for young readers. I recommend this book to anyone that knows someone going through an illness and trying to explain it to a young child.

Pages: 15 | ASIN: B07NKH1FNC

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