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Like the Hero in the Myth

Charles C. McCormack Author Interview

Charles C. McCormack Author Interview

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?

I was inspired by two of my children and some of my patients. My oldest daughter, Keeley, once presented me with a book that asked questions about me. The idea of the book was to have it for the grandchildren in posterity. I liked the idea of leaving something for the grandkids but didn’t like the venue. I didn’t think that telling them my favorite color was particularly pertinent to letting them know who I was. Then my son Chandler, several years later, prospering greatly in both his business and personal life in his mid-thirties asked me, in somewhat of a despondent tone, “Is this it?” He was kind of like the hero in the Myth of Percival who after garnering great fame as a killer of Dragons asked a similar question. I translated my adult children’ questions into “Who am I?” and “What is it [life] about?” My patients also played a role in that I often use stories from my life to illustrate points I am trying to make and also to normalize rather than pathologize the struggles they are having. In turn, they have found these stories very helpful and even entertaining and often suggested “You should write a book of these stories.” These three factors percolated in my mind for several years until one day they bubbled up and I just started writing.

There is a lot of reflection on life events in this book. Is there anything that was hard for you to write about?

My relationship with my first wife, Jane, and my own struggles in relationship. My first wife came to fight mightily with mental illness and I was extremely concerned with writing anything that might upset her. However, when my editor received the manuscript she noted immediately the presence of the absence of much to do about that relationship. I explained the problem and she respected the restraint feeling that many people make the book the all of everything without concern for its impact on others. At the same time, she pointed out that the readership would have a difficult time in empathizing with either Jane or myself with such sparse information. I was thus pushed to confront this issue and did so after several sleepless nights by writing the chapter on Jane and then sending it to her with complete and total veto power. To my surprise she responded with praise for the chapter, thought it was beautifully written and wouldn’t change a word. That felt so healing.

Other chapters that were difficult to write were the ones several reviewers have picked up on including yourself. Those are the chapters on the kids. They were indeed somewhat of an afterthought in that they were written later after my kids asked me why there wasn’t much on them or the grandkids in the book. On thinking about this, I did think it was an oversight driven by the difficulty in deciding what to write and the impact this could have on them. At the same time, even though somewhat an appendage to the book, I decided to go forward with it in that I thought, particularly as a family therapist, that there were valuable lessons to be learned within them for both adult children and parents. So, though I agree the book may seem to lose focus in these three family related chapters, I still thought they added to the lessons I wanted to share with readers and pertained to my ongoing hatching and self-discovery, as well as sensitizing me to the shadow my history cast on the lives of my offspring. In addition, with these chapters I was able to discuss the challenges of the life cycle and I older readers, those from my generation, have expressed particular appreciation for them.

Finally, just writing about my romantic relationships and failures in them were difficult to write because I find them embarrassing and felt some shame about them, particularly in that I’m a marriage and couples’ therapist. Yet, I didn’t feel I could tell my story with integrity and walk the walk of my talk if I avoided them. As I note in the book, you can’t lead a self-examined life if you cheery pick what you look at.

In this book we get to witness many peoples lives, loves, and tragedies. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

First, that we are all human and imperfect and to be okay with this. In saying this I don’t mean to imply we should shrug them off as “typically human,” but recognize the losses, or mistakes and/or harm we have done and to learn about ourselves and grow from them. I believe it is incredibly important for people to keep learning and growing till death do us part and that if we stop doing so we are more likely to become despairing as we’re caught in the smothering quicksand of stagnation. Second, that we have to live our lives, there are no short-cuts and that the attempt to not deal with our lives through avoidance and denial only leads to bringing about that which we fear. Finally, I wanted to posit a belief I’ve come to as a therapist and as a human being in the last several years. It was a realization that struck me as as an epiphany. That is, “Each of us is as happy as we can stand.” Isn’t that a concept worth thinking about? Here I’m not talking about people with psychotic illness or intense mental illness of any kind, but more so what I call the normal/neurotics who have been primarily affected by issues of nurture rather than nature that comprise the majority of the human race. The ultimate limiter of our happiness is we ourselves. We are each encompassed in habituated mental/emotional states that resist change, even when or perhaps even especially when, those changes are for the good. I won’t rewrite the book here but the how and why of this alone, in my view, is worth the read.

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

I don’t know the answer to this although it is a question I have been asking myself. Writing is hard for me. I don’t do it for fun unless I feel inspired, then it is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. So, I’ve been looking inward, trying to discern what is moving out of sight within the fathoms below. It has not yet come into view but I do feel its stirrings.

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If you’ve ever wanted to read someone’s diary, be a fly on the wall during a private exchange, or wondered what someone, possibly your therapist, really, really thinks, then Hatching Charlie will roundly satisfy that curiosity. It’s a fascinating read if you just leave it at that, but, in doing so you’d miss a rare invitation to be guided through elements of your own personal story on a parallel plane. An emotionally charged, inspirational, thoughtful and humorous book filled with wisdom, psychological insight and relationship truth Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is both an autobiography and a quest story. In spellbinding fashion, it interweaves the incredibly interesting life journey of Charles McCormack with his becoming a counselor and psychotherapist. Born into an abusive home and spending early years in the racist Jim Crow South where he witnessed segregation first hand, Charlie at age eleven is then involuntarily exiled to a Catholic boarding school in France even though he doesn’t speak the language. There he is again abused. Cut off from family and friends, isolated from those around him and under the rule of sadistic authorities Charlie spirals downward in the grip of anxiety and depression. Disoriented and confused he feels a determination to make sense of his life, his world, his relationships, and his place in them, core questions that will shape the rest of his life. But the going is not easy. Charlie acts out, flounders, is a mediocre student, fails high school, is expelled from college, and goes on an odyssey to Mexico where he meets a psychologist turned auto-mechanic who plants an idea in his mind. After this encounter, Charlie pursues a career as a counselor and psychotherapist. He returns to school, finds he’s a natural, and eventually earns a master’s degree in psychology and then another in clinical social work. Subsequently, working on a long-term psychiatric locked door inpatient unit he suffers PTSD following the suicide of a patient, begins writing, becomes published, and encounters career success. He is invited to join the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry, promoted to Senior Social Worker of Long-Term Adult Inpatient Services at a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore, is named the Clinical Social Worker of the Year in Maryland, and writes a book on how to treat “difficult to treat” couples entitled Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression and Severe Resistance that is well received. Yet, as his career is evolving his personal life is disintegrating. He is forced to confront mental illness in his own family, divorces twice, suffers a return of anxiety and depression, and leads him to question the impact of his early relationships on his own capacity for love and loving, and of being a father and grandfather. Throughout his journey Charlie repeatedly travels to his own interior, his internal world, where he continues to grapple with those early questions, “What is life about? What’s the point? How can one be happy? How can one be secure in relationship? What is love? What is loving?” In so doing Charlie “truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.” (Literary Titan) His insights and answers will surprise you. “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end.” (Midwest Book Review)

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J.O.E.

J.O.E.: Just an Ordinary Earthling

Joe is your average college kid on spring break, just wanting to take a camping trip with his friend Homer.  They are camping out in the continental divide, Homer’s first experience with camping and Joe being the good buddy that he is teasing him to no end. Late at night Joe is off near the lake watching the stars when unexpectedly an alien ship crashes into the water. Frank and Fred soon have their first encounter with an Earthling. After accidentally getting stuck on Frank and Fred’s ship and launching into space, Joe finds himself in the middle of a jewel heist, and some intergalactic espionage, as well as at the center of a planets battle for freedom from two other worlds disturbance. It was a busy week for Joe and his most eventful spring break ever.

While the book starts out on Earth and then moves to the planet Ladascus, it is hard to remember sometimes you are not on Earth. Some of the characters are described, but aside from the different language they sometimes use, so much of the scenery and even the day to day activities are the same as any town on Earth. There is a very familiar and at home feeling to the setting and even the characters, that while the authors tell you they are not human, the definitely feel human in their personalities and mannerisms. The town most of the story takes place in is called Ngorongoro. It has a mix of low tech and high tech devices, including part of the population being androids that are made to emulate human minds and appearances. They can even have addiction problems, what are they addicted to? 9 Volt batteries from Earth of all things. The novel has quit a bit of humor such as this sprinkled through out, like the Ladascus Zoo, it has four humans on display. This creates an awkward moment for all parties involved. While the story doesn’t always feel like it’s from an alien world, I love that I can relate to experiences that are going on. The political maneuvering of the characters reminds me of the insanity revolving around our own politics right now. The authors write on a level that made me want to be there, to see it all unfolding and made me care about the characters, especially Joe.

The story line of the diamond heist introduces us to Ralph (not their real name) and how the miss scheduled job interferes with an intergalactic spy ring’s operations. This side story is quite fascinating, reading about the double life, bringing me back to the old spy movies, it was engaging. There are highly sophisticated and complicated spy nets and agents. One famous agent is Evinrude for the Quesonte. He is entertaining and very good at what he does. He is one of my favorite characters in the novel because of how well he outsmarts the others and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Edward A. Szynalski and Allen L. Petro give JOE Just and Ordinary Earthling a comical and unique twist to the alien abduction plot. The connection to the characters and relatability to them and their world with our own world is the reason for the five stars.  The aliens are so human like in their behavior it is relatable to the reader. The subplot of Homer being lost in the woods and thinking he is going to die is comical and provides a reminder that Joe is off in space with aliens. Overall it is a good novel that will keep the reader engaged and entertained by the antics of all the characters as well as the different plot lines to follow. I would love to see a sequel to this novel and read more about the world of Ladascus.

Pages: 218 | ASIN: B06XJWVKTN

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Totally Unexpected

Harry James Fox Author Interview

Harry James Fox Author Interview

The False Prophet is set in a post apocalyptic America and follows Donald of Fisher, our unlikely hero, as he must confront an army raised to conquer the land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

The question applies to the first novel, The Stonegate Sword as well as The False Prophet although it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The initial idea was to create a character with a world view similar to present-day America and place him in a society with very different values, such as Medieval Europe. I considered a time-travel approach, but then hit on the idea that in the future the world could enter a second Dark Age.  So the main character, Donald of Fisher is a lore-man, steeped in the study of the past from an early age. Then circumstances forces him to take up a sword and take on the role of a warrior. The conflict between the evil figure in the west owes a bit to Tolkien and a bit to the prophecies of the last days in Biblical prophecy. I made no attempt to create the details associated with the Antichrist, except that if the imagery in Scriptures is taken literally, it sounds as if the final battles will be fought with antique weapons. I realize that this could be figurative language, but I decided to take it literally, and that implies, again, that a dark age lies in the future.

The story follows two characters, The False Prophet and Donald of Fisher, which I felt were two contrasting characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?

The story follows the archetypal “hero’s quest.” Don is the hero and must face adversity. The False Prophet is the anti-hero and he does not actually appear in the first novel, being only a rumor, a malignant force driving the forces of evil. In the second novel, he is revealed to be a ruthless despot of the kind with whom we are all familiar. The Prophet’s armies are the driving force behind much of the conflict that Don must face and overcome, though human frailties (his own and those of his companions) are other obstacles in his path.

There were many biblical undertones throughout the novel. Where do you feel you paralleled the Bible and where did you blaze your own path? And how did that help you create an engaging story?

The story of the novel does have some similarities to the Bible in that the Israelites were often raided by their enemies and the kind of weapons were similar. The military tactics I describe are probably not similar to those used in Bible days, although some of the principles are timeless. The use of walled cities reminds one of the Bible and also Medieval Europe. The political situation in the free cities east of the mountains reminds me of Israel during the time of the Judges, when there was no king, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The apostasy or falling away from the faith is prophesied in the Bible. The rediscovery of lost technology, for example, cannons, is a new path. The idea of a man of sin arising in the last days is found in the Bible.

The False Prophet is the second book in the Stonegate series. Where does book three take readers?

Book three will take place a generation later. The False Prophet was not destroyed, and the evil in the West rises again. It is up to the children of Don, Rachel, Carla and Howard to bring the saga to its final conclusion. Donald, now a middle-aged man, past his prime, attempts to mount an invasion of the West to overthrow the Prophet, but his attempts are met with disunity among his friends and overwhelming might of his foes. As to be expected, the victory depends on help from a totally unexpected quarter.

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The False Prophet (Stonegate, #2)This is the sequel to the award-winning Christian fantasy novel, The Stonegate Sword. All the major characters return, Donald, Rachel, Carla, and Philip.

Stonegate remains the key, and Donald returns to that great walled city and his beloved Rachel just as the hosts of enemy are also closing in. Part adventure, part love story, this epic saga covers the vast panorama of New Mexico deserts and Colorado Rockies in a possible future that looks very much like the medieval past. But duty, love, courage, and honor remain and are even more important than ever.

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The Seal of Confession

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A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?

Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.

Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.

Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.

I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.

When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?

I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)

I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?

Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.

A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.

Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.

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A Burning in The DarknessA murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.

Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.

Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.

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In Between… Life

In Between... Life: Selected Poems

In Between… Life by Luiz Valério de Paula Trindade is a collection of 30 of the Brazilian poet’s English-language works. Each poem is headed by a full-page, colour photograph that is related to the topic of the poem, showcasing the poet’s other loves of photography and travel. In the introduction, he states that his vision for the collection was to capture a range of human emotional experience in the most apt words possible, but without making the poetry feel inaccessible and distant. It’s supposed to feel like a conversation with a friend.

I loved the idea behind this collection, of sharing poetry as widely as possible. I can certainly imagine philosophising about some of the topics late into the night with a friend. Unfortunately, in places this aim detracted from the poetry itself, leading to the telling-rather-than-showing, shallow exploration of Human Dignity, or some of the repetitive, clichéd references to an unapproachable woman in impenetrable armour.

In other places, though, there was evocative imagery that I instantly related to; Turning the Page is a mature description of unrequited love, and it’s expressed as a rounded story. Many of my favourite poems appeared in the latter half of the collection, and most had this same characteristic. The well-chosen order of the lines and stanzas of You Don’t Know allowed me to travel with the main character as their feelings developed, and the ending felt like the cliffhanger in a novel – I wanted to find out what happened next!

Love is a common theme, but I felt as though more aspects of it could have been covered besides the romantic one – Especially For You was a notable exception.  Within the romantic poems, Today stood out for me, written with a beautiful simplicity that was still deeply imbued with meaning. The repetition of similar phrases has a strength of several other poems. How combines this with descriptive imagery which really got me feeling its frustration! The rhythm adds to this nicely, but I thought the ending of it was a little awkward. I put this down to the occasional, unnatural syntax. I can imagine that in the poet’s native Portuguese these phrases would flow smoothly.

The last two poems I want to mention are Why I Write and Words. As a writer, their content resonated with me, and I think their description of the process and the importance of writing could help people who have different creative outlets to understand why I spend so much time doing it!

Overall, I believe the collection did cover a range of aspects of the human experience, and although it didn’t work for all of them, the poems that did benefit from the simple phrasing were very effective in bringing the emotions alive for me.

Pages: 94 | ISBN: 154303988X

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2PM On A Black Summer’s Day

2pm on a Black Summer's Day3 Stars

A mysterious box that cannot be opened. A line of witches and the melding of two very distinct spiritual ideals. Throw in the military while all these groups try to fight demons and you’ve got 2pm, On a Black Summer’s Day by IP Spall. An interesting story that takes place in a quite town in America spanning at least a decade while the true main character doesn’t make an appearance until later on. We begin with a normal teacher who is trying to make a few extra dollars from his eclectic collection of ‘junk’. It is Samuel that finds the strange box at a market but it will be his son Chris that opens it all those years after his father’s death. What begins as a drunken gathering unleashes forces beyond human understanding. Shadow creatures pour into the world of man from beyond a void. Their appetite is insatiable and they thirst for human blood.

Spall has a knack for the surprise. What first seems like a simple book about growing up and coming to terms with grief unexpectedly morphs into a supernatural thriller where no one knows who will die next. The surprise demon summoning is just that: a surprise. While we got an idea that magic exists and is relatively accepted in this world, there was no foreshadowing for the battle to come. The surprise works in Spall’s favour as it is executed quickly before the reader or the cast has time to react. This allows the reader to be pulled in and feel as though they are part of the story themselves. A clever tactic for sure.

There are some drawbacks to this book, however. Stylistic and grammatical issues aside, the story appears to take place in the United States of America. This isn’t clarified until a chapter or so into the book but it comes as a surprise. While reading how the characters talk and the description of the town, it feels as though this book takes place in England, perhaps in a small village or hamlet. There are certain phrases and ways in which the characters talk that do not occur in everyday American speech. This is not relegated to a single family, but affects all in the story. This is a bit confusing for the reader. Had the story taken place in England or anywhere else in the United Kingdom it would have seemed natural.

This jarring bit of speech aside, the entire flow of the book seems as if it has been sped up. Time passes in a blink and characters whose point of view we were reading from on one page are dead on the next. It fragments otherwise good storytelling and detracts from the overall tale as a whole. A massive battle occurs and then the story is just over.

Those who delight in reading about magic, the macabre and the quintessential fight between light and dark are sure to enjoy IP Spall’s book 2pm, On a Black Summer’s Day.

Pages: 139 | ASIN: B01MXPZ9TW

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Recusant

Recusant (The Brin Archives #2)5 Stars

I was delighted to discover the writing of Jim Cronin in Recusant, the second book of his series, The Brin Archives. This fantasy/adventure/science fiction tale chronicles the journeys of two peoples, the Brin and the Kolandi, through time. The story depicts two different species whose lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium.

Maliche Rocker, descendant of the original “saviors” of the Brin race on their new planet, was a very talented archeologist, and therefore, an embarrassment to his family, as most of the Brin people believed that genetics was the only honorable profession. Maliche came into possession of an article which enabled him to not only glimpse, but to experience the long-forgotten past of their forbearers. The history that subsequently unfolds will shake the very foundations of the Brin and their beliefs.

Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world (past and present), such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. A meaningful example of this is in some of the Brin people’s willingness to abuse another race. This corresponds with humans’ tendency to justify the abuse of others that may be different from us by demeaning their worth, and labeling them as undeserving of compassion. Because of this, the tale can strike home with many readers, allowing them to fully engage.

I lost myself in the narrative, as it felt quite real; palpable. I became truly fond of many of the characters, especially Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit, along with their ability to love, trust, and to overcome adversity particularly appealed to me. In addition, I loved the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. I was totally absorbed, and could not put the book down.

The artful approach of the author in interlacing past and present to reveal, bit by bit, the characters’ missions, secrets, fears, and ambitions, is fresh and exciting. Although I enjoyed the creativity of Cronin’s unique approach, I did have to go back and re-read certain sections a couple of times to determine what was actually transpiring (and in which timeline). It is not absolutely necessary to first read Recusant’s predecessor Hegira in order to enjoy this book, however, I feel it would be helpful.

Mr. Cronin has created a reality with this series which will captivate and enthrall readers, young and old, for many years to come. I highly recommend Recusant, and the entire Brin Archives series.

Pages: 269 | ASIN: B01KTVTMNK

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Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall5 Stars

Fired. Workaholic technology executive, Dan Underlight is fired from his high-paying job at a Fortune 500 tech company by the woman he considered his best friend. Sixteen years of working together reduced to a severance package. He feels angry, betrayed, and heartbroken, but mostly he feels lost. Lost because being unemployed gives him too much time to think about the tragedy of his ten-year-old son’s accidental death, and the guilt he still carries for spending too much time working and not enough time parenting.

Before he’s processed this toxic blend of emotions, Dan embarks on a new relationship with Willow, a victim’s advocate, a poet, a lost soul, and an abuse survivor. Their love is deeper than anything Dan has experienced before, but will it be enough when he accomplishes his dream of opening a new tech company, one that is in direct competition with the one he left? Will Dan allow himself to grow into a kinder, more compassionate human being at the same time as he grows his company into a conscientious innovator, or will the demons from his past collide with his present and destroy him?

From the very first paragraph, Rich Marcello drew me into his book with a command of the language that I liken to a poet’s. Passages like this one, “He put his head down, tried to rekindle the wildfire he helped birth years ago, tried to daydream down a riven path.” and this one, “Don’t look down, the pinpricks have spouted and are covering the new carpet in blood.” provided me with ample proof early on that Marcello was a real deal literary composer, a master of the language, and a wordsmith with soulful depths.

But beautiful language alone can’t make a reader keep reading. Original characters with powerful character arcs and a compelling story to keep all the characters growing is fundamental. No problem there, either. From Dan to his counselor to Willow to his son, stronger characterization is front and center. I know Dan—he reminds me of the author Richard Bach. I know Willow, too, this wild child, compassionate, changer of the world woman who is always strong, always courageous even when her heart is broken. These characters kept me reading.

Then we arrive at the story. Characters and language need movement, need story, setting, pace, tension. Marcello has these covered, too. Set in New England, the vivid colors of the seasons remain clear in my brain long after I finished the book. Authors who take the time to divide their books into parts and give them names always receive a grateful nod from me. I like to know the structure of a story before I begin reading, and I like rolling back to the Table of Contents to remind myself what’s next in this journey. The Beauty of the Fall’s Table of Contents is especially brilliant; titles like “So it Spins,” “Build from the Sky Down,” “Spectacles, and Halos and Code” promised each chapter would carry its own mini-story and all the mini-stories would merge to form a powerful narrative.

Themes of forgiveness, trust, simplicity, honor, technology as healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall and held me captive until the end. If I had to name a gripe, it would be that the last chapter was unnecessary. The story should have ended with “The Good-bye Return,” but I can understand why, for closure’s sake, Marcello included “In the Coming.”

The Beauty of the Fall will appeal to readers who love a compelling, well-written story with elements of literary fiction, technology fiction, and romantic fiction. Marcello doesn’t write the type of literary fiction that prizes language over story. He writes the type that uses beautifully soulful language to real unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives.

Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW

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The Tragic Rift

C.A. MacLean Author Interview

C.A. MacLean Author Interview

Seed of Treachery takes place far in the future, where humanity is on the brink of extinction and alien star systems are on the brink of war. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

First of all, thank you so much for your kind words on Seed Of Treachery. I’m glad you enjoyed the read. Architects as a series is actually the realization of a long-game story arc that I’ve had in my head since I was a tween or so, which went through various forms until it finally ended up in this format as a published work. Seed Of Treachery, in particular, was always intended to be just that: a seed, an introduction to the universe, with a story arc that resolves while also sending out hooks for the next books. The tragic rift between the two sisters was the first plot point that really came together as the beating heart of the story. And as I got deeper into the writing process, the Jagged Edge plotline came together, and the idea that our protagonists are fighting a war against people whose motivations they actually agree with, the more they think about it, informed the way the narrative moved forward from there.

This story follows two interesting characters, Eva and Ashy, members of a bird-like alien species. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

I think most of us can relate to Ashy, who constantly feels judged as something she’s not, tension and anxiety worming their way in with every intrusive thought. Outcast and downtrodden, I admire her spirit to keep running if it means a sliver of a chance of making right. She’s clinging to a past that was unjustly stolen from her, while Eva, always the more stoic of the two, has abandoned her past to become what some would call a beacon of hope, and others have called an ‘outlaw with exceptions’. I think one of Seed Of Treachery’s main themes is Separation, and the sisters are no exception. It’s clear that Ashy still has hope for a brighter tomorrow, but at this point, is Eva really a totem of stoic resilience, or, as a certain someone says, “a shell waiting to be shattered”?

As for their species, the arkerian race, I had a ton of fun with it, and I’m still having a ton of fun with it as I currently write the third book in the series; they have hollow bones, which means that they break easier, and they have a species-wide aptitude for feats of tricky athleticism to compensate for that, which means I always enjoy writing their action sequences. In the back of my mind, I kind of like the term ‘genetic parkour’ when summing it up.

Space adventure novels are my favorite. What were some authors and books that inspired you as a writer?

I like to think I soak up inspiration from anything and everything I can get my hands on. A lot of things that inspired this series in my formative years actually weren’t books; films like Star Wars and video games like Metroid Prime caused the sci-fi bug to bite me early on. I love entertainment-art in general, no matter the format (music, film, books, games), but I latch on to just about anything with elements of futurism, sci-fi or a speculative nature.

What was the driving force behind the idea in this novel that humans are a dying race?

It’s something a bit different, and there’s an inherent sense of intrigue behind the idea of having outraced our own extinction, I think. It turns humanity’s socio-political paradigm in this universe on its head. Lots of great sci-fi narratives depict a universe where humanity goes right from Earth to joining with a wider universe full of cool aliens and worlds, like Mass Effect (one of my personal bibles of thorough sci-fi worldbuilding) and Star Trek. In Architects, humanity’s still managed to lift up and join the Convergence, but it hasn’t been without some pretty huge speedbumps in their past that inform their future.

Where does the story go in book two of Architects of the Illusion?

Storm clouds are gathering. If Seed Of Treachery is a bit more insular – most of the action mainly takes place in a single star system – then The Great Scourge is the gateway to a larger, darker, wilder, more dangerous universe.

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Seed of Treachery (Architects of the Illusion, #1)Earth is long-gone. In a distant future where the endangered species known as humanity has assimilated into a much broader tapestry, the star system of Arela is at the brink of war with itself. What measures are right and wrong in the moral vacuum of space? Join the last vestiges of the human race, the birdlike Arkerians, technological Terraxins and others in the first installment of Architects Of The Illusion. Though the galaxy may be won by the bolts of blasters and forbidden sciences, darkness lurks just beyond the corners of perception…

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Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall5 Stars

It is impressive, nay amazing, what the human soul can withstand. The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello chronicles one such journey. Our protagonist is Dan Underlight, a man approaching the end of his prime who is getting laid off from the company he helped found. Dan has always been involved with hi-technology and the story opens with his seemingly unjust dismissal from a company he has birthed and nurtured much like a child. As Dan leaves RadioRadio Software after being pushed out by his founding partner, Olivia, we are privy to the sensational emotional and physical journey he undergoes. We learn that a few years ago Dan lost his only child, ten-year-old Zack, and that he dropped into a deep depression. We learn that Dan is divorced and that there is nothing in his life that brings him joy as much as working for RadioRadio had. When we begin our story, we meet a battered man who has nothing left. Then he begins a journey, and takes us with him.

Marcello is a master with language. The story flows in such a natural way it is easy to get sucked into what you’re reading and lose track of time. There are no unnecessary words. In a tragically beautiful tale like this it is easy to drown your story in frivolous language. Marcello keeps the dialogue short and only uses it when absolutely necessary. We journey through this story from Dan’s perspective as it is told in the first person. Marcello weaves effortlessly between Dan’s thoughts and the words he and those he meets say. Poetry peppers the text due to the creative Willow who will become both a source of strength and sorrow for Dan. He is a man who is grieving: grieving the loss of his child and the loss of his reason for existence. We go with Dan through therapy, we journey with him on his pilgrimage and we arrive at his revival as he creates a company even better than the one he had before. It’s not all roses and sunshine for Dan, however, and we also continue with him through his intense sorrow and his drunken attempts at coping. Marcello’s portrayal of the human condition is fantastic and readers will not be disappointed.

 The story is broken down into parts and time flows effortlessly. In some novels time skips are awkward and unnecessary. Even the short six month time skips are effortless and useful. When we meet Dan, he is broken and wounded. He rebuilds, even better than before, but suffers two detrimental losses that may have readers concerned about his recovery. After all, he is only human and the soul can only withstand so much pain. Marcello doesn’t disappoint and the resolution of The Beauty of the Fall is realistic and will leave readers feeling confident in Dan’s choices for the rest of his life.

If you’re looking for a masterful tale that will have you laughing, crying and questioning how you view yourself in the universe, you will not be disappointed with Rich Marcello’s wonderful portrayal of the human condition in The Beauty of the Fall.

Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW

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