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It Turned Out To Be Chilling And Brutal

Kaye D Schmitz Author Interview

The Road Renounced follows a mourning woman as she goes through her father’s things and discovers the diary of her grandmother, that died before she was born. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

The premise for the setup of this book, which follows my last novel, presented itself to me before I had even finished writing The Road Remembered. That earlier book explores Sam Ryan’s family, where we learn that his father, Buzz, was a less than stellar parent. I knew that my own father’s father was, in fact, a less than stellar parent, and there are some parallels between the life of my father’s mother and Sam’s mother. While my real grandfather was not a drunk (as far as I could learn), he had a habit of leaving my grandmother alone much of the time with no or very little money—and eight children to care for.

Like Sam, who spent much of his life wondering how his father could have abandoned his mother, I wondered what got into my grandfather to leave my grandmother alone so much with all those mouths to feed. No one in the family had a good answer and since my own father WAS a stellar parent, I couldn’t understand the thought process my grandfather must have gone through to have been okay with leaving my grandmother alone the way he did. So I began thinking of reasons my grandfather may have had for leaving. Was he disappointed with his life and searching for a better one? Or at least a different one? As I speculated all manner of things that could have gone through my grandfather’s head, as often happens, the characters, themselves, reached out to me and told their own story rather than, I believe, my grandfather’s story. It turned out to be chilling and brutal. Much worse than my grandparent’s real life story.

And, since I knew that everyone who could have related the fictional story to Sam’s daughter was dead, I had to think of another way to tell the story to my readers. So I told it in layers—Suzanne reading her grandmother’s diary to get the big picture and then the scene morphing into that particular point in time so the reader could learn the “as-they-happened” details. My early readers and the Literary Titan reviewer have led me to believe that that story-telling style worked.

Suzanne learns of her family’s past and about how alike she and her grandmother are. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

The primary ideal was women’s strength and how strong women do whatever is necessary to care for their children and keep a roof over their heads. While Suzanne wasn’t faced with raising children alone the way Maude was—Suzanne’s husband didn’t die until her son was grown—she still had to face life alone once he died and then the day-to-day trials of caring for her father. So while we didn’t have a chance to explore the depth of Suzanne’s strength, we certainly saw how strong Maude was.

Another huge ideal was dealing with emotional impact as a result of external factors. In Maude’s case, she had to deal with losing her brother, her mother, and then her father in addition to figuring out how she would cope when she realized she couldn’t count on Buzz. In Suzanne’s case, it was dealing with losing her husband, then her father and finally, realizing that she couldn’t share what she had found out about her grandfather with his remaining children.

And of course, both women shared their fierce love of family.

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

Since the story takes place during the first World War, I wanted to explore the themes surrounding what leads to and takes place during global fighting. The overarching thing I tried to get across was the emotion generated from all aspects of the war—the dread of having to leave your home and go and fight someone with whom you had no quarrel, the heartsickness of those left behind, the devastation when loved ones are lost, and finally, the realization that a few people decide the fate of the world and that foot soldiers are simply pawns in the process. One of the things that upset me the most was the fact that so many soldiers died needlessly on the last day of the fighting because one general didn’t agree with the armistice.

Other themes included how the world handled the Spanish flu, especially given the fact that we are still recovering from the COVID pandemic. I also wanted to explore women’s rights—or in this case, lack of them. There were many times, as I researched, that I was shocked at what women had to endure a mere hundred years ago. And because of the time in history, it was also important to bring in tidbits about prohibition and the Great Depression.

Mostly, I wanted to write a satisfying story of human emotion and a mother’s determination to keep her family together during difficult times as Maude, first, reinvented herself to leave home and get a job, and then—always—focused on maintaining her selfless devotion to and love for her children.

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

I am currently exploring an idea for a third book in the “Road” series that would focus on Sam’s remaining siblings. I haven’t gotten very far with this one yet, so it may be 2024 before that one is ready. And of course, like any writer, a myriad of other ideas are chasing around in my head and working to take shape.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

In the story telling style of Kristin Hannah and Delia Owens, The Road Renounced is a World War I tale of one soldier’s triumphs and tragedies as told by the woman who loves him.

2015. Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. Suzanne Ryan uncovers her grandmother’s diary hidden in the binding of a century-old photo album. Thrilled to learn about her grandmother, Maude, who died before Suzanne was born, she reads the first entry, written on Maude’s tenth birthday.

1915. Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. Maude Brewer, her brother, Henry, and his best friend, Buzz Ryan, live a relatively care-free existence. But the darkening conflict in Europe looms, threatening them all with the fight of their lives.

At the same time, across the ocean, darkness has already fallen as the Germans march into neutral Belgium and shatter the life of nurse Marthe Peeters, whose family is viciously killed right in front of her. She is captured and forced to travel with the German Army, each step escalating the rage in her heart that explodes into plans for revenge.

But as Maude’s story unfolds through the years, it intersects with Marthe’s and despite the fact that an ocean separates them, it is clear that the two women share their perspectives on the war. They also, Suzanne learns, share the love of the same man, Buzz Ryan, Suzanne’s grandfather. Buzz must not only fight the war on the battlefield, he must also fight the war within his heart.

The 10 Elements of Transformational Healing

The 10 Elements of Transformational Healing: How to Rebuild Your Life After Trauma by Eugene Pizzolato is a book about generational trauma and human development, or rather a lack of providing for a child’s development in the early stages of life and how this affects the individual’s entire perspective on life, as well as taking a step towards healing yourself and breaking generational “curses.”

This thought-provoking book is almost completely biographical with Pizzolato starting his story way before he was born. His story starts almost a century ago in Italy in 1929 where his grandmother got pregnant out of wedlock for the second time and thus his father was born. His father had a difficult childhood and early life with an inattentive mother which later on led him to be a similar father. Eugene himself had a tough upbringing from the very second he was born, with his mother wishing that he had been a girl. Growing up in an abusive household with an alcoholic father and a mother who tried to commit suicide a couple of times, the death of a baby sister, and his pet lamb being killed in order to be eaten as dinner, are just a few stories he tells in the book. His stories continue into his adult life and him feeling all sorts of confused, unimportant, unlovable, and more, as well as the long road of his healing process and breaking generational trauma.

What I really appreciate about this emotionally stirring book, as a reader and as a psychology student, is that Pizzolato isn’t just sharing his experience and what he has learned from it, he is also mentioning and quoting important names in developmental psychology, most importantly Erik Erikson and his 8 stages in human development. In addition to that, the book is well written and filled with so much heart, pain, and growth that it will definitely leave you thinking about the author’s experience and even more so your own.

The 10 Elements of Transformational Healing is a wonderful read, I especially recommend it to psychology and psychiatry students. I find it to be really helpful in better understanding the developmental needs and what a lack thereof can do to a young child and the effects it carries throughout life.

Pages: 190 | ASIN: B0BDFP5YQ9

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My Own Imagination Of The Possibilities

A.D. Vancise Author Interview

Hidden in the Shadows follows a young woman who returns to her hometown for her grandfather’s funeral, and discovers secrets her family has hidden for decades. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

An actual photograph I found in my grandfather’s box of family photos was my inspiration, and just like Evie, it nagged at me for years. I was nine when I came across it. My grandfather was a police chief in my small hometown for over thirty years, and when I asked him about the photo of the mysterious woman standing next to a tiny box, his reaction was the same as Evie’s grandfather. He didn’t want to talk about it. Of course, that only made my mystery-solving nine-year-old brain more curious. He died with the story of what happened, leaving me to my own imagination of the possibilities. Hidden in the Shadows finally came to life after forty-five years of wondering.

How did the mystery develop for this story? Did you plan it before writing, or did it develop organically?

Great question! Evie took me on quite the journey with her. In fact, I had no idea who the killer might be, whether they were male or female. Was it the mom, a sibling, or a stranger? And what would Evie uncover? As I wrote, the story unfolded. I didn’t even know why a grandfather would keep such a photo if he didn’t want to talk about it. That answer only came to me when I wrote Daniel Jones’s confession letter surprising even me! So, I think organically is absolutely the answer to that question. In fact, the original version had Evie and Luke meeting for the first time, and a third of the novel was building their relationship. It wasn’t working. The editor of my first book suggested that Evie move away for a reason and return for another reason allowing me to not only have more stakes for Evie but to have an already established relationship between them and eliminating the need to throw a romance novel into the middle of a mystery.

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

Oh, without a doubt, the child trafficking pandemic happening all around the world. To give voices to children who never had one. To let the survivors know that someone heard them. That was the reason behind Hidden in the Shadows, although I didn’t know it at the time. As I began researching the photo, stories landed in my lap that broke my heart. I knew I had to take it down a dark and uncomfortable path because as hard as it was for me to hear the survivor’s testimonies, I couldn’t imagine what it was like to live through.

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

I am currently working on two. Behind the Shadows and Memoirs From A Killer. Behind the Shadows has taken a temporary back seat, though, because a character named Roman (yes, the one from Hidden In The Shadows) in Memoirs From A Killer is occupying my mind and persistently tapping me on my shoulder and filling my brain and keyboard with quite a story! It should be available within the year if all goes well. Behind the Shadows will follow shortly thereafter.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Website

“All I can ever think about is murdering her.” -C.B.

Twenty-three-year-old Evie Day never dreamt she’d be back in Woodsville Arkansas, a small town in the middle of nowhere, after having left five years earlier, but the death of her grandfather called for her return. After discovering a photo from 1933 of a mysterious woman standing next to a tiny wooden box, a strange vial of blood wrapped up in a handkerchief in the pocket of her grandfather’s overalls, and a key hidden in his desk drawer that belongs to a secret safety deposit box, Evie is unwittingly thrown into a world of evil where those closest to her are the ones to be the most feared and danger lurks around every corner.

Hidden in the Shadows by A.D. Vancise shines a light on the darkness and reveals the underlying players that have been hunting in plain sight.

Ride

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Morgan wanted out. After spending her childhood with her abusive mother, alcoholic father, and successful sister, she wanted nothing more than to carve her own path in life as a film director. Likewise, Alayna wished to have a picture-perfect family, even if it meant putting her dreams of singing behind her. Separated by the trauma of their past and brought back together by the death of their mother, these two sisters want nothing more than to move on with their lives. But that’s easier said than done, especially when home means old ghosts are lurking around every corner.

Inspired by the music of Lana Del Rey, author Zachary Ryan tells the compelling story of two sisters trapped by circumstance and family ties as they try to right the wrongs of the past in his newest novel, Ride. The story itself is a beautifully written tale of trauma and healing. As the chapters flip between Alayna’s and Morgan’s perspectives, the reader is welcomed to the full scope of the story and both sides of the sister’s harsh upbringing. In this gripping book, Ryan doesn’t stray away from difficult topics such as suicide and drug abuse but accepts them as a brutal part of life. His willingness to discuss both the good and the bad brings the story to life.

Zachary Ryan tells a narrative that makes it hard not to feel genuine sympathy as you watch the sisters work their way through old ghosts and drudge up long-buried trauma. He writes the story in a way that allows you to bury yourself under the words. With the exception of a few jarring jumps between past and present, this book was a captivating and smooth read, and I found it hard not to put it down.

Ride is a compelling women’s fiction novel about the strained relationship between sisters and the struggle to work through past trauma. Readers will be taken on a journey of self-discovery and reflection as the sisters heal from their upbringing and find a way to move forward in life.

Pages: 341 | ASIN: B0BKYHV2PT

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Our Current Precipice of Environmental Disasters

Budd Titlow Author Interview

Coming Full Circle follows a multi-generational family across America and back again in an entertaining story that shines a light on the origins of the current conservation crises. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

As a lifelong wildlife ecologist and conservationist, I’ve always been both offput and discouraged by the still far too prevalent notion that humans have a “biblical right” to exert dominion over all creatures of the natural world. Over the course of 15 years, I wrote “Coming Full Circle (CFC)” to emphasize the exact opposite of this misguided thought. Heavily relying on the knowledge I gained and experiences I had throughout my career, my goal with CFC was to set the record straight and—in the process—bring readers to the understanding that we have always been “part of” and not “apart from” our natural world.

Also, “Coming Full Circle” is a fiction sequel to our 2016 non-fiction book, “Protecting the Planet”, in that it reaches the same positive conclusions about solving our twin ecological dilemmas of climate change and biodiversity loss. The main difference is that CFC uses an informative and entertaining blend of historical fiction and poignant truths to tell the story of how we “progressed” from colonial times to our current precipice of environmental disasters.

Your characters are intriguing and well-developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Thank you! Many of the characters in “Coming Full Circle” are derived from my personal learnings and experiences as a field ecologist and freelance natural history writer/photographer. My co-author and daughter, Mariah Tinger, also used her personal experiences as a career environmental scientist to craft some of the book’s characters.

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

In “Coming Full Circle”, life is represented as a circle because it is a constant loop. The idea of life as a circle exists across multiple religions and philosophies. This belief was prevalent throughout the early Indigenous Peoples of Earth. Unfortunately—owing to what some may term “progress”—this fervent belief in the circle of life is much less common in today’s world.

On the U.S. history side of the ledger, no group has ever been more disrespected and abused than our Native American tribes. Most valued all species as equals and managed their lands not just in sustainable ways, but in ways that enhanced the flourishing of ecosystems. Yet they lost both their ancestral lands and their cultural societies to colonial settlement.

Throughout CFC, Mariah and I emphasize our lifelong beliefs in the sanctity and equality of all living things—both human and non-human. Our belief system encompasses all races, religions, cultures, and lifestyles—but especially those of the Indigenous—or Native—Peoples of the world.

Since the environmental “regulatory heydays” of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, we have seen numerous and significant improvements in the local quality of our air and water. Now we must realize that this fight is far from over and we have to expand our threat level to preserving the long-tern quality of human life on Earth. It is now time to transform our world from the “Industrial Revolution” to the “Renewables Revolution”.

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

Right now, I’m concentrating on producing an array of blogs that correlate to my existing books. Produced through WordPress, my blog posts are categorized as:
https://environmentalheroes.blog
https://thisbirdinglife.blog
https://opedpieces.blog
https://climatechangesolutions.blog

Meanwhile, Mariah is busy teaching sustainability courses at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business and obtaining her Ph.D. in environmental/climate communication from Otago University in New Zealand.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Is there a winning re-write of United States history that everyone will feel good about? Following a multi-generational family across America and back again, this book sets the record straight. The skillful, entertaining story-telling shines a light on the origins of our current conservation crises—climate change and biodiversity loss—while convincing readers that we have immediate solutions right at our fingertips. Only one question remains: Will we use these solutions in time? Buy a copy of “Coming Full Circle” and find out what happens! (from Budd Titlow and Mariah Tinger, the authors of “Protecting the Planet”)
 Readers’ Choice—Five Stars: … “recommend “Coming Full Circle” to fans of issues-focused fiction who also enjoy family sagas and tales of growth, learning, and self-discovery.”
Reader Views—Four Stars: … there is a message within this eco-novel that we need to live in harmony with our living environment and respect and care for it … before it’s too late.   there is a lot that makes (this book) a worthy read. It is a text for our times.
Book Excellence Awards: “(Titlow & Tinger’s) groundbreaking dive into the intricacies of conservationism … brings their unique perspectives to today’s issues from both modern and historical standpoints. … Despite their dire theme, their message is ultimately one of hope.
Highlight Review, US Review of Books: “Using a blend of historical fiction and poignant truths, the (book’s) narrative delivers a spirited discourse on conservation, our environment, oneness, and, chiefly the concept of coming full circle. Overall, the authors’ expertise in the topic of conservationism and their knack for storytelling is on full display, making for a highly recommended read.”
Online Book Club: … “recommend this book to environmentalists and lovers of nature. History lovers and academics can also learn some things from this book.”
Literary Titan—Four Stars: … “an impassioned and edifying book … a compelling story about conservationism for nature-lovers.

Coming Full Circle 

Coming Full Circle: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America, by father-daughter team Budd Titlow and Mariah Tinger, is indeed as broad a saga as the subtitle advertises. The bulk of the novel follows a family line’s evolving relationship with the natural world, beginning with Thaddeus Adams in 1820 down to twins Shiloh and Sunny Childers-Nkosi in 2024. In the early generations that relationship means learning to coexist with the natural world, such as Thaddeus in his hunting and exploring on the frontier or his immediate descendants confronting poachers, while later generations take to government agencies and even the U.S. Senate to confront lobbyists, business interests, and short-sighted government officials.

Titlow and Tinger write in their prologue that their goal is to illustrate the concepts of biodiversity and the circle of life. These themes are what make the wide-ranging story feel coherent. For example, they show us what these concepts look like up-close when Thaddeus reflects on the cycle of birth and death among the wildlife he encounters on the frontier, while later on we get a broader view as Sunny and Shiloh speak about passing environmental protection legislation.

The authors are open about their goal of promoting conservation efforts, and at times the characters’ reflections and speeches can feel deeply personal. Most of the characters, heroes and villains alike, provide a very focused perspective of the singular idea they are meant to convey. This is a compelling story about conservationism with little deviation from that narrative theme. That said, Titlow and Tinger do succeed in drawing the reader in to this family’s story. We see the central characters’ entire lives, often from birth to death, good times and bad, and by the end it’s hard not to feel almost like a part of this family so that even those not committed to the book’s social/political message can’t help but root for these people. This impassioned and edifying book is ultimately worth reading for nature-lovers and those who find such wide-ranging stories compelling.

Pages: 688 | ASIN: B0BG98CCWF

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I Thought Up The Oddest Name

Gary F. Jones Author Interview

Stalking Throckmorton follows the great-grandson of a mysterious man as he tries to find the hidden family assets hidden beneath a demolished brewery. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My maternal great-grandfather and grandfather built and owned a brewery in Bangor, WI, a small town in west-central Wisconsin. It shifted to a canning factory with Prohibition and went bust in 1935 weeks after my grandfather died. The building was used as a feed mill when I was in high school and had enough space left over to raise steers on the third floor and store boats on the North end. Tunnels and caverns built from 1862 to 1864 allowed them to brew lager beer all year long and deliver it to all the bars in town without being exposed to winter weather.

Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the characters’ personalities grow organically as you were writing?

I created an outline for the first half of the book. A couple of the early chapters were dropped. Some of the characters were drawn from relatives who lived in town, a few others were inspired by people I’ve met.

To name the title character, I thought up the oddest name I could think of. You can imagine my surprise when my spellchecker corrected my spelling. Lord Throckmorton was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I in England after he failed in an attempt to assassinate her. Since then, I’ve learned of a couple people by that name in NE.

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

My youngest son had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (A.L.L.) when he was 32. He had less than a 50/50 chance of surviving. He’s doing well now, but that was a wrenching period in our lives. Nixon passed a law that funds treatment for A.L.L., but I believe that is the only type of lymphoma that is covered. The cost of treating cancers can be horrendous without good insurance.

What is the next book in the Throckmorton series about that you are working on, and when will it be available?

The next book is tentatively named “Last Gasp.” Nancy and Throckmorton discover the body of one of his elderly clients in the client’s home. There is no clear cause of death and the sheriff, in a tough re-election campaign, doesn’t want to probe too deeply. It would be easier to call it “natural causes” rather than take the risk it was murder and not be able to quickly solve it.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Publisher

Chris Throckmorton races a killer to find a treasure hidden by his great-grandfather.

A lawyer hands Throckmorton an 82-year-old letter that claims his dying great-grandfather Otto Kessler stashed the family assets in an office under his brewery. Those assets could be worth $50 million or nothing in today’s market. The village has demolished the brewery and buried the office.

Murder victims are found in homes once owned by the Kessler’s. The crooked village mayor and a con man learn of Otto’s letter and force Throckmorton to make them partners. An inept crew slows the excavation to the office, and security cameras show the killer has visited the dig. Once in the office, the men find stock certificates in companies that went bankrupt between 1950 and 1990. His partners quit. Throckmorton finds another treasure in the office, but not the one Otto put there. To keep it, he must face the killer in the dark.

Love Can Conquer Any Strain

Joseph Lewis Author Interview

Fan Mail follows a family of adopted brothers who are threatened and their father nearly dies, they must figure out a way to hold the family together and survive the threat. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

This was a logical step in the family dynamics, especially after the last book, Blaze In, Blaze Out. I wanted to show that love can conquer any strain and stress, if you are willing to trust in yourself and each other. These characters have appeared in each of my books. This story, a coming-of-age story embedded in a thriller tells the story about the makeup of the Evans Family. Their struggles, their joys, there love for each other, and their individual paths they walk on.

Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the characters’ personalities grow organically as you were writing?

Because these characters are in my previous books, my readers and I know what to expect from them. I don’t outline. I had a vague idea how the book was to end, but as I wrote it, the ending appeared to me. As much as anything, besides the story of the Evans Family, this is Brian’s story, his struggles with past demons, his struggle with who he is and his seeking acceptance of it.

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

Love and relationships within the family. Each boy is adopted, but there are sibling groupings: George and Michael (Two) are step-brothers; Brett and Bobby are biological brothers- sons of Vicky (mom); Randy and Billy are twins, but were adopted separately. The only one without a true sibling is Brian. In many respects, this shows throughout this book and the others. His struggle with who he is and accepting who he is. That’s a struggle and an exploration all adolescents go through, and to some extent, adults.

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

I am currently working on At Any Cost which is a true thriller in every sense of the word. Twin storylines converge. And of course, the backdrop is the cops trying to solve two cases that closely align with each other, and the Evans Family saga within it. It is almost a sequel to my book, Caught in a Web.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers.

Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad.

As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart. Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And, if faced with that choice, will he?
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