Imagine if you will for a moment a medieval fantasy drama being brewed in a cauldron: throw in a measure of How to Train Your Dragon, add a dash of Game of Thrones, sprinkle in some of The Hobbit all topped off with a liberal dose of a King Arthurian legend, leave to simmer on a medium heat for few chapters and then you might have replicated Dragon Ascendants by Paul Vaughn.
So let’s get on to the plot, the setting and the highly descriptive cast of characters without creating spoilers for you.
Dragons, shadow-bats, elves, dwarves, bandits, skulduggery, betrayal, magic, fear, treachery, family discord, sibling rivalry, disappointment, parental disapproval, forgiveness, redemption and, lest I forget (although, how could I?) a very good measure of graphic violence – it’s all in there – so what more could I want from a fantasy novel? Perhaps a little romance? If it’s in here I missed it.
The action is all set in a mystical land, named the Luminess, which at first visit seems almost idyllic. That is, until the conflicts of this land are slowly revealed in the following chapters.
In these mountains live the elves, which have been there for centuries happily mining the gems hidden within. Their lives are occasionally interrupted by an assortment of other species, some for good cause some for ill.
Also, as within most fantasy novels, there is a power struggle between the forces of good and evil. From my reading, I felt that we are to consider these two grouping; one under the ‘command’ of the dwarf burrow’s hereditary leader, named Meerkesh, (representing the forces of good) and another under a very angry rogue elf, with unexplained issues, named Fearoc (representing the forces of evil). Such is the power of the latter, we are led to believe that the world has, or is about to, come to an end for the dwarves.
But I am not totally convinced as to which side is really the good and which that of evil is. In this strange land, where sapphires, ruby stones and diamonds are used as currency and the internal ‘politics’ seems to be driven by greed and ruled by bloodshed. On the one hand we have a population that apparently eats nothing other than apples, whilst the baddie mainly feasts on his conquests, we have quite a lot of axe wielding violence, bloodletting, beheading, dragons blinding by fire and melting of opposite forces during this fight between good and evil. Both sides seem as driven by bloodlust as the other. And this interesting dichotomy lends to some thought provoking reading.
This novel left me begging for more. More answers, more character development, more world building. I want to know! Ah, the mark of a good writer I suppose. I look forward to the next book in Paul Vaughn’s Luminess Legends series.
Pages: 217 | ASIN: B07B8STMY4
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In Anam Cara you speak of the ‘soul friend’ as the bridge to enlightenment and creativity. How did you discover your ‘soul friend’ and how has it helped in your life?
The soul friend can emerge at any point of time in your life. There is hardly a need to go out and seek a soul friend. Doing so makes the process artificial and inauthentic. There is a saying: When the student is ready the master will appear. This principle applies to the Anam Cara. There are times in our lives when we are challenged, tested and at the very point of folding someone appears to listen, to guide and counsel. The Anam Cara does not provide us with answers but his or her presence facilitates the learning process. Notable is that the Anam Cara is not a spirit guide or discarnate being. The key attribute of the Anam Cara is the power of listening and the ability to subtly guide others toward discovering their own truths.
I have been fortunate to have a number of Anam Caras and do believe that their presence in my life has accorded me the ability to experience and explore truths without criticism and condemnation.
In this audio book you guide readers through 42 confessions to the soul. Why do you think these are essential for spiritual growth?
The 42 confessions are comprehensive and pertain to every aspect of human consciousness. The principles are timless, cross-cultural and aim at developing the human spirit with virtue, righteousness and kindness.
How do you see Anam Cara working in conjunction with, or supplementing, Buddhist and Christian principles?
The Anam Cara is neither Christian nor Buddhist. In fact the Anam Cara is found in every culture and clime The Anam Cara can only strenghten the principles of the great faiths. I am here reminded of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises where the Anam Car is referred to as a confessor.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book, “In Search of Truth: A Course in Religious Psychology” will be available in March 2018. It offers incredible insights into metaphysics, philosophy, religion and spirituality. The reader is encouraged to conduct his or her own research and to challenge the various themes presented. The subjects covered will no doubt stir debate.
This essential reading teaches us how to transform our lives by showing gratitude, acceptance and forgiveness. Your Anam Cara or Soul Friend, or confessor is never is judgmental and facilitates this process by listening and listening.When we remove our psychic blockages and barriers we begin to experience the fathomless potential of our soul, the very source of creativity ad intuition. Eric Ober, media consultant and former President of CBS News, calls Anam Cara, “an inspirational book that will maximize our quality of life.”
Posted in Interviews
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Just Another Girl’s Story is a memoir about finding redemption. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This was an important book for me to write because far too many people let their past mistakes define who they are in the present. Too many people from all walks of life live with shame and guilt. Unfortunately for many, they exasperate their turmoil into further problems by not releasing their past. Such as addictions, severe depression and unhealthy relationships with others. I wrote my story to offer hope. I also wrote it to testify how my relationship with Jesus was the only way I could move on and find redemption.
This book recounts some harrowing events in your life, but the title of the book is Just Another Girl’s Story. Why did you choose this as the title?
I choose this title because of an experience I had when dining with friends. Shortly before publishing my book, I had quite a few titles I was kicking around. Then one evening I was out for dinner with five women, all of us are Catholic. I was asked about my upcoming book, and I revealed some of the content. Two of the women abruptly stated that they too had abortions. After I got home that evening, I pondered our discussion and realized that out of six women at our table, 1/2 of us had an abortion. I realized that I am “just another girl” that has experienced abortion; thus shame and guilt.
I appreciated how you were willing to tell both the good and bad aspects of your life choices. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
My abortion experiences were the most difficult to write about. When I wrote the outline for my book; I did not know if I would be able to reach the level of detail I felt the reader would need to have to understand my journey. Most especially my abortion experiences. At first, I thought I needed to spend most of my time writing about when I was physically at Planned Parenthood. I even went to the Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee to ask for my records. When I was told they did not have them anymore (they only need to keep records for 7-10 years) – I was devasted. I didn’t write for a while after that day, as I believed I had to have those records to validate my experience. When I finally began writing again, I asked God to help me retrieve the details of what I needed to provide the reader an understanding of my experiences. As I began typing, it was as if God was at the keyboard typing the words as I relived those two days at Planned Parenthood. God gave me exactly what I needed, and I recalled many things I had buried long ago. I cried many tears as I re-read what was typed and I marveled once again at how God is so powerful and how I could not have written my story without Him by my side.
What is one thing that you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope and pray that readers suffering from shame and guilt; regardless of reasons – can find inspiration to reach forgiveness and redemption. I hope readers take away the adage that you do not have to let your past mistakes define who you become and how you live today.
Laura confesses, “I was spending so much time grieving the loss of my two aborted babies; all the while taking for granted that God gave me two more that were alive and standing right in front of me”
At the tender and problematic ages of 16 and 17, Laura Eckert twice found herself as a patient at an abortion clinic, after her parents had discovered that she was pregnant. Addicted to sex and an overindulging in alcohol while maintaining an unhealthy desire for isolation and coping with deep depression, Laura didn’t understand the link between her problems until she was in her thirties, when she was finally able to accept them for what they were. Then, her pursuit of redemption for what she did became relentless, as she tackled the dark humiliation she had endured, eventually finding peace within a loving family of her own.
Now, in her book, Just Another Girl’s Story, Laura relives those traumatic teenage experiences in an honest and genuine teen autobiography that many will find shocking, harrowing and provocative, and yet implores sympathy and holds the reader spellbound at the same time. Read about her plight and her path to finding the peace and healing that she craved, as she tackles controversial topics of teen abortion, teen pregnancy, teen drinking and alcoholism and sex addiction.
Perhaps you will be inspired to find your own peace within Laura’s story.
Posted in Interviews
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Never a Choice but Always a Gift follows Max as he tries to connect with someone from his past and is set on a journey of self discovery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
As vague as it is, one day, when I was walking down Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with my girlfriend, I had an idea to create a story about “life”. Nothing more than that. I didn’t even think that initial and simple idea would become a novel. I was going through a tough time myself and I just felt writing a story would heal me in a way. As my ideas progressed and narrowed “life” became “everyday living”.
Writing and writing, scratching out this idea and writing some more, the story flourished; and I was creating a story and character(s) that in some way inspired the beautiful struggle (the roller-coaster of ups and downs) and how it is to face those trivialities.
That through the hardest adversities one can overcome and one can illuminate their light within them, even if it’s in a subtle way.
A story that involves the mysteries of love and how that is faced in each aspect of life.
I felt Max was a relatable character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
First, I sifted through Max’s flaws and I wanted to put that on the page. And then I wanted Max to eventually become aware of those flaws. In doing so it pushes Max to become a more enriched human being. Max, as all of us, are unfinished jigsaw puzzles, in knowing that we can fill in the pieces however we want.
So ideals such as understanding and perseverance were a driving force for Max’s character.
This is a beautifully written story. Is there any moral that you hope readers take away from the story?
I want readers to feel the power of forgiveness. Sometimes we are so quick to judge, criticize, anger–especially, to the ones closest to us–we forget about compassion.
And so, I also want the readers to feel the importance of family. That family is not only blood related, but can take shape however we define family. And not to take that for granted but to be grateful for that kinship/companionship/friendship.
Finally, I want the readers to find Max’s character and the story itself to inspire them to kick start their own journeys, to live out their passions or simply to find time for those passions. But most importantly to understand that when one door closes, inevitably, another one is waiting to be opened. It’s funny how life works like that. That stopping something is not necessarily failing or quitting, but just a pause, to change up the blueprint and to truly find what tugs strongly at the heart.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will the book be published?
At the moment I am focusing a bit more on my poetry and short stories. My poetry has recently been published in literary mags/reviews/journals/etc., such as, The New Engagement and Slink Chunk Press. Thus, I eventually want to get a full poetry collection published.
However, within the next couple of years there might be a romantic short story collection to come and/or a thriller/crime novel.
Max Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal–not only his character–but what lies in his heart and soul. Will Max find what he is searching for? Will he ever find closure? Will he find himself along this journey? Or will he die without ever knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?
Posted in Interviews
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Paradise City begins with Arlo and his best friend peeping into a stripper’s window trying and see what any young boy hopes to see. But what they see instead changes them forever. Do you think there’s a single moment in everyone’s life, maybe not as traumatic, that is life changing?
I hate to think of myself as believing in anything absolute, as if the same sort of scenario happens to everyone in some way or form. However, I do believe that everyone at some point in their life experiences a moment that separates how they were before that moment, and how they live the rest of their lives as a consequence. For me, as I’m sure most people can relate to, it was the day my father passed away. I remember the day itself starting out like any other in the summer. I was with my friends and everything was perfect. Then it happened and I remember the feeling, like everything that I was was switched off like a light switch. And even as it was happening, I knew that everything would be different from then on. With Arlo, in the beginning of Paradise City, he experiences a similar event, but deep down doesn’t know what to make of it. Instead, it sort of numbs him and sets the stage for the climax. At the end of Paradise City, the confrontation with his best friend, that moment is the moment that is the defining “light switch”. At that moment, even Arlo can’t ignore the fact that everything after that day will be different. It’s the seed that plants itself into his heart which spreads its roots deeper into his body and soul throughout the rest of his life. So yeah, I do think that everyone in some way can relate to that sort of change in their life.
In a lot of contemporary coming of age fiction novels authors often add their own life experiences to the story. Are there any bits of you in this story?
Absolutely. Many of the party scenes were directly translated from memory to page, some of the adult characters were based off of some of my friends’ parents, and on a very subtle level, some of the parts involving Arlo’s mother were taken from my own experiences, though not quite in a literal sense. One thing that stands out the most though, is the feeling I think most kids grow up with, the feeling of wanting someone but never being able to have them. And also, I’ll never forget my first experience drinking whiskey. The feeling Arlo gets in the book when he drinks it for the first time… is pretty much exactly how I felt about it, if it could even be put into words.
Lot’s of bad things happen through Paradise City, but it makes you think about what one would do if in that same situation. What do you hope readers take away from the story?
The main theme of The Mire Man Trilogy, at least from my point of view, is being able to live with yourself after having done something excruciatingly horrible; so.. self-forgiveness in a way, and not letting whatever that thing is completely destroy you. In Book 2, being that it is an origin story, the main focus of the story was to give readers the notion that it’s actually okay to remember where you came from, whether it was a good place or bad place. Really, the only way to fill in the blanks of the future is to remember the past, remember how we got to where we are. We’ve all done horrible things, maybe not quite as bad as Arlo, but then again maybe Arlo didn’t really “do” anything. Maybe that something happened TO him. It’s that combination of question and consequence that drives Arlo forward. By the end of Paradise City, Arlo is left with that consequence, and he has no one and nothing to tell him or explain to him why he’s feeling the way he’s feeling. This is what really starts him on his path that leads to how we see him in Book 1- Bar Nights.
When is the third book in the trilogy due out and what will that be about?
Book 3 is titled Return to the Madlands, and the main theme of this final volume, besides the overall arc of self-forgiveness, will be something along the lines of “self-preservation”. Arlo will be confronted with the idea of death, and what happens after this event. Not necessarily to him, but to his memory. He’s lived mostly his entire life not really caring about what other people think of him, and to some extent that’s actually a healthy way to live, but he takes it to unhealthy and dangerous extremes. In Return to the Madlands, he’ll finally sit down with himself and do a little thinking on that matter. The story itself picks up about fifteen or so years after the present day events of Paradise City, and involves a recently deceased loved one imploring Arlo to hit the road one last time and experience life before he gets too old or dying to get that chance again. The twist here, which won’t ruin the reader’s experience, is that this loved one has been hiding something pretty major from Arlo, and only confesses to it after their death via handwritten letter. This leads Arlo to believe that Constance, the main woman from Bar Nights, (whom Arlo in his own way, fell in love with) is still alive and out there in the world waiting for him to come find her. The first big chunk of the story is all about this road trip, this journey to find Constance, and involves Arlo getting stuck or hindered by several bouts of misadventure. The road eventually leads to Nevada, where he runs into his still-alive, and very old and aging father, which sets in motion one hell of a torrential downpour of emotions for Arlo. Obviously I won’t say much more about what happens from there, but there will be a very, very bittersweet flavor of closure by the end. I’m about a hundred-ish pages written into the first draft, and am shooting for a much larger scale page-count with this final volume, not that the size of a book matters, that’s just how much is going to be going on. If my current work schedule is anything to go by, I’ll probably have the first draft finished by Christmas… maybe. I wrote Bar Nights in four months, and Paradise City in six; I may or may not have rushed through them, so I’d like to really take my time with this one.
Book 2 in “The Mire Man Trilogy”, “Paradise City”, tells the origin of Arlo Smith, and illustrates the first steps on his journey toward becoming the seemingly soulless nothing he is in “Bar Nights”. It is a story that narrates what it’s like to grow up against the grit and torment of youth while under the vengeful weight of inevitability masquerading beneath the guise of well-intentioned promises… and the price of what true friendship can sometimes require.
Posted in Interviews
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