The High Court picks up after the events of the previous book, with Hyperion and Kronos being tried for their crimes. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from book one and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?
I definitely wanted to carry over themes of parenting, or lack thereof. So much of mythology is deities behaving badly. and in Kronos we have the ultimate crappy parent. And how. But I also wanted to contrast that style of parenting with Rhea’s more maternal side. But other parent/ child relationships arise as well.
Additionally, I wanted to carry forward this idea of duality and that nothing is ever as simple as it appears to be initially. I wanted to confuse the readers’ loyalties a bit in that regard.
New ideas I wanted pursue were the ideas of justice and what that meant. And retribution versus restraint.
A race of giants attack the students and force them to flee while the giants grow stronger with every attack. What was the inspiration for this race of giants?
In Greek mythology, there actually was a Gigantomachy, or war between gods and giants. Chronologically, it occurred after the Olympians-Titans war (Titanomachy). I wanted to sneak a representation of it into book 2 seeing as though to many readers a war between gods and giants might have been anti-climactic after all the egos and storylines of the Titanomachy.
Zeus continues to be an intriguing character with multiple layers. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Firstly, thank you for that. I’m happy that he came out so well in your eyes. One thing I was very cognizant about was the perception of Zeus, the classic king of the pantheon. He doesn’t have the best reputation. Haha. I wanted to build a view toward more humble beginnings for him and show the natural teen angst, uncertainty, and discomfort with coming of age.
Where will book three in the Sky Throne series take readers and when will it be available?
Sadly, the third book in the series didn’t get picked up for publication. 😦
High atop Mount Olympus, as dawn breaks on a new academic term, normalcy returns to campus following a harrowing expedition into The Underworld to rescue kidnapped students.
Zeus and his fellow Olympians now prepare to testify in The High Court where Hyperion will be tried for the attack on Crete and death of Anytos and Kronos will stand trial for the murder of MO Prep’s Headmaster Ouranos.
As the trial draws near, the MO Prep students and faculty are besieged repeatedly by a race of gargantuan stone and earth giants. Under heavy assault, the Olympians are forced to flee to the volcanic island of Limnos to regroup. Meanwhile, a toxic poison Zeus has carried with him since a prior fight with a dragoness creeps toward his brain.
In a race against time and beasts, Zeus and his friends must find a way to survive not only the toxin ravaging Zeus’ body, but also the giants who grow stronger after every attack, and somehow make it to the The High Court alive.
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This book will hopefully bring the justice that should have been done in the first place. It has been a long ride of being hungry and lonely for the author. I really hope justice will come, and he will finally be happy and be with his kids again. It’s been so long I wonder, do his kids even know him anymore? I know it’s been a long battle for him. But we all know God got him.
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Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?
It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.
The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?
1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.
Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?
Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.
It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.
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The Consort Conspiracy follows Kate who travels to to Georgia to cover a story only to get embroiled in the towns dark history. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
The inspiration for this novel is actually one of my favorite parts of the story. While I have been a writer in some form or another my whole life, I had never done much with it other than a couple of short stories and poems. But I visited the Midway Cemetery in Georgia–yes, it’s a real place–in 1997 because I knew it contained the graves of signers of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I went there for the history. But as I wandered the oldest part of the cemetery, I stumbled upon the Robarts family plot with death dates in the early 1700s. One grave was for the wife of William Robarts and right next to her grave was that of Ann Evelyn Robarts, listed as “The Consort” of William. My first thought was indignation, since I interpreted “consort” to mean “mistress” (my research later told me, however, that “consort” was simply another name for “spouse”). My second thought was of deep sorrow when I read the epitaph that stated she was only seventeen-years-old when she died and was buried with her two infant daughters. Immediately, my mind started spinning with a myriad of jumbled thoughts that ranged from “Oh how horrible to die so young with so much to look forward to,” all the way to “This happened so long ago…how could anyone today be certain that these deaths actually happened the way it’s written here…what if one of the little girls had lived?” I felt so strongly about it, it was as if Ann Evelyn, herself, had reached out from the grave. A story began to take shape in my heart…and it was one I knew I had to tell.
This book was filled with lots of great twists. Did you plan these or did they develop organically as you were writing?
The main twist about Kate’s ancestral roots was the first one I thought of and, in fact, in the very first iteration of this story–written long hand on four yellow legal tablet sheets for an early writing class–developed that one twist and only covered the crypt and its contents. As my writing instructor and friends encouraged me to expand on the story, I knew that more things needed to happen and be intricately woven together. I needed to figure out what caused Katherine to die at such a young age in the first place–yes, women did die of childbirth all the time back then, but that was too easy–and not very exciting in a thriller. So the reason Katherine died led to the story line of not only the circumstances prior to her death, but also of what catapulted the Penningtons into the most powerful political position in the world. And once that happened, the events that transpired to bring them karmic justice–family come-uppance, if you will–also spawned a story line. All of the other twists simply presented themselves to me “organically,” as you said, in the course of the writing.
I enjoyed how each character had their own voice and was meticulously developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?
I really love it that you asked that question because as a writer, one of my fears has always been that people will think my characters are shallow. I have been thrilled to find out that’s not the case. The characters in the two-hundred-year-old story were probably the easiest to write because I believe they follow typical character themes from the period–the strong, silent “leading man” who was a pillar of the community until he experienced his downfall, the sweet naïve young bride/mother who steadfastly refused to believe there was evil in any of her associates, the evil-doers who were only out to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to others, and the salt of the earth folks–primarily Jewel, in this case–who kept things moving with undying love and loyalty and a steady hand. One of the characters I especially enjoyed writing was Lucilla, from the older story. One of my editors suggested I tone down her surliness and some other aspects of her character, but I fought to keep her the way she was. She needed to do everything she did in order to maintain at least semi-equal footing with Caleb in their sinister plot. Kate’s character had initially been written in a more literary style–more formal speech and fewer glimpses into her internal insecurities. But when I turned in a writing assignment in an advanced writing course using a “girlfriend ” type voice, my instructor wrote on the top of my paper that she really liked that voice and that I should incorporate it into my writing. So I did…which also led to a massive re-write to change Kate’s part of the story from third person POV to first person POV. And after that, Kate became much more fun to spend time with.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book is the first in a new series about two new families–the Sinclairs and the Maguires–and takes place in North Carolina, just a few miles east of Asheville–I’ll pick back up on Kate and her friends in a later book. We are still negotiating on this one, but expect it to be out in 2018. Here’s a teaser:
In 1947, JEFFREY SINCLAIR, hidden in his family’s mansion, sneaks from his safe place on his eighth birthday and witnesses his father’s murder. Almost seventy years later, MATTIE MAGUIRE the fourth generation of the working class family whose lives have been intertwined with the wealthy Sinclair family, attempts to fulfill her lifelong fantasy of buying the old mansion. But her plans fall apart when she learns that the mystery shrouding the earlier murder has also clouded the identity of the property’s true heir. Worse, in her research to clear the title, she uncovers some troubling information that points to the involvement of her beloved grandfather, MICHAEL MAGUIRE, into the earlier murder that, if made public, would put her whole family in danger. Suddenly, nothing matters beyond protecting her loved ones and clearing her family name. It’s up to Mattie, accompanied by an unlikely source, to unravel her grandfather’s involvement, discover the true Sinclair heir–hidden away for decades–and return him to his rightful place, where together, he and Mattie finally reveal the family’s long-held secrets, along with the identity of the true killer.
For almost two hundred years an ancient cemetery, deep in the lowlands of Georgia, has protected the identity of an infamous, brutal murderer, whose act of betrayal changed the course of the town’s history. Now, eight generations later, MIDWAY CEMETERY conceals the activities of international conspirators engaged in a fast moving counterfeiting ring operating right under the noses of the slow-paced Midway residents.
Thirty-one-year old Bostonian KATE COVINGTON travels to Midway to film a documentary intended to increase the favorability ratings for the current United States President, WILFORD PENNINGTON, who was born in Midway and descended from the murdered victim from two hundred years earlier. As she becomes enthralled with the town’s history, Kate uncovers the truth about the murder of the President’s ancestor. Her discovery also leads to her learning the truth behind her own mother’s death and eventually changes not only the town’s history, but Kate’s future as well.
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Losing a parent is painful. It is earth shattering and completely disabling. Lucas Tremaine’s loss was due to negligence at Drax Enterprises. Even more than that, his mother was left dependent on valium to look remotely sane. He wished he could bring them to book but Drax is a big corrupt entity, what can one little guy do? He wished more than anything to exact revenge on the people who did harm to his family. Lucas wished all kinds of discomfort and unhappiness for the people who caused his father’s death. So blinded by the quest for revenge, it sometimes impairs his ability to properly collect and analyze the evidence.
Drax Enterprises will not pay for their sins in the conventional way, so Lucas needs to do some unconventional and dangerous things to get justice served. With the help of Reuben Klein, his best friend, they search the old underground subway system of the city of Cincinnati. The further they explore, the more sinister and complicated the corruption and fascism of Drax Enterprises gets. Lucas, Reuben and everyone who is near and dear to Lucas is in danger. Will Lucas find what he so desperately seeks? Will Drax Enterprises eventually pay for their sins? After facing three generations of Drax Enterprises leadership, will Lucas escape unscathed?
Follow Me Down by Gordon MacKinney is an intelligent thriller with a lot of ironic situations and lively conversations. The characters are complex but still relatable. Lucas’ need for vengeance is understandable to anyone and the reader will find himself rooting for him. This book is an interesting look into the lives of urban explorers. The reader gets to explore an underground rail systems not yet explored. The authors research and attention to detail is evident with the historical accuracy of the story. Gordon MacKinney’s description of the scenes is vivid and instantly transports the reader. One can almost smell the heavy air inside the tunnels. The love stories therein are especially heartwarming. The love between father and son is a beautiful narrative that is developed throughout the book. His admiration and love for his former boss and photojournalist, Alfred Blumenfeld, feels organic and true. I truly appreciated the authenticity of the character relationships in this novel.
Action, suspense and treasure hunts are among the simple pleasures. The adventures of Lucas’ endeavor are captivating and make for a great read. The end reveals a side of Tony Drax that you least expect, but makes for a good ending to the story.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B0779GCH3V
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Capricorn by Jerry Veit is a pulpy thrill ride. Set in a dystopian world where a city has fallen to criminals and other underworld scum, we follow the hero, Montague, who deals out his own brand of justice. A man who clearly has a dark past of his own struggles with his unrelenting anger until he meets Capricorn, a beautiful young woman. They instantly have a connection but their meeting is cut all too short when a group of thugs kidnap her. Montague is driven by his pledge to Capricorn and undergoes seven trials in order to enter Mammon’s domain wherein his love is imprisoned.
The story is given in play format. The format does not detract from the story itself, although it would do well in audio format. The world of Capricorn is an interesting mix of fantasy, dystopian, and urban fantasy. There are even some themes and symbolism of classical mythology and the Judeo-Christian mythos thrown in for good measure. The world building itself walks a fine line of being just complex enough to make the world feel alive.
Typical of Veit, Capricorn is a story driven by fast actions and passionate motivations. Montague is a not quite anti-hero, but embodies similar traits of the archetype, especially by how he deals out justice. He seems to sway back and forth over the line of being good or bad, although he bears everything that is thrown at him. The trails follow a somewhat formulaic method, but still give the reader certain checkpoints.
This brings up the antagonist, who in some stories helps define the protagonist. Named the Demon, but later Mammon, Veit does some interesting things when the Demon clashes with Montague and it was these moments that will make the reader keep reading until the end. A traditional quest story set in a world that is so strange but familiar to us. Montague does seem to exist in a vacuum and does come across as too singularly minded, which tends to alienate the reader somewhat. This is circumvented by the pure romance and chemistry that Capricorn and Montague have for one another. The adventure, danger, and risk also keep this story lean and fast-paced.
Overall, Capricorn is a fun read for more mature fans of pulp fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction.
Pages: 136 | ASIN: B00IPSZQCQ
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The Testimony of a Villain follows Manuel into the gritty alleys of the inner city as he seeks retribution. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a thrilling novel?
Good question. My inspiration or should I say, “the book that inspired me to write” was The Adventurers by Harold Robbins. In his story, he wrote about a South American character named Dax who lost everything. The book was almost a thousand pages, it covered decades of history. It took me on a ride through time. I enjoyed it.
So, I was compelled to I start writing about Manuel Doggett a man who lost everything. I asked myself, how would it effect a black man here in the United States? So I pulled from the history of the African-American experience. Manuel is born on the tail-end of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King is dead. Malcom X is dead. The Black Panthers and the original Nation of Islam had been dismantled.
Here comes Manuel Doggett. The future.
As a child, he shows great leadership abilities. He is smart, thoughtful, and a good speaker. Further, there’s nothing stopping him from being anything he wants to be. He has aspirations of being a judge or the first black president.
His family is murdered in front of him. His wealth is stripped. He is forced to live in the inner-city. This young man with so much potential is now faced with dangers from the same black people that his family talked about with so much pride. He realizes that he is a cub that has become prey to a jungle of hyenas.
Manuel had two choices. Try to rise above it or become part of it.
From the spirt of a leader, he took the third choice. He became it. He became the fear. He became the danger. He became the king of the concrete jungle.
He became the villain.
For me this was thrilling to write.
Manuel Doggett is a boy who lost everything and was formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. How did you set about creating such complicated characters?
A loaded question. I will try to answer it the best I can. The characters around Manuel are not complicated to a person who grew up in the inner-city. You see them all the time a car thief, a pick-pocket, or a drug dealer. You see the upset aunt or the concerned mother. Manuel, on the other hand, is a complicated character. He has physiological issues and is force into different environments, his higher intellect compelled him to rise up at any cost. Further, he had become a killer. Now, as an author, I had to navigate Manuel through the streets. I had to take on the mind of a madman. What would an intelligent madman do?
The original title of the book was “Product of Environment”. I named it Product of Environment because while I was writing I noticed how Manuel had to adapt and lead others into each new environment he faced. A leader will be a leader wherever he goes.
The title changed to Product of Environment: The Testimony of a Villain and was later changed again when I sat down with my project manager, Anthony Lindo.
Anthony was putting the book cover together on a computer and I was watching him. We were discussing colors and letter sizes, and then, all of a sudden, he deleted Product of Environment out of the title. After looking it over, it made sense.
Thus, we have The Testimony of a Villain.
I found myself enjoying the book because I found a lot of truth embedded in the story about life, justice and society. What themes did you try to capture while creating this story?
The themes that I tried to capture about social justice revolved around relevant issues: abortion, race, politics and crime. I think most readers found it interesting how “living the life of crime”, didn’t seem like a crime to the people living it.
It was simply a way of life.
To me, the the biggest social issue that the Testimony of a Villain brings to light is that there are people who live like the characters in the story every day. For them, it’s normal. They never had a job and they don’t plan on getting a job. They are just waiting to go to jail or get murdered or hustle another day.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book that I’m about to release is called: Wisdom of a Dying God. It’s a crime story about a crime fiction writer who is in prison, dying. He has books floating around the prison system. He is revered by his peers because of his knowledge of the criminal underworld. As the prisoners read his books, they find better ways to commit crimes.
The book should be available in the next 60 to 90 days.
Outsiders call Manuel a villain. After spending his youth entangled in inner city gang warfare, he’s lied, robbed, and murdered his way to the top of the brutal organized crime underworld. His path toward vengeance was set long ago when two killers massacred his family in front of him…
Manuel tracked down one of the murderers and exacted revenge, but his bloodlust grew for the killer who got away. When he got the chance to complete his vengeance, the city cowered beneath his thirst for retribution. As he continues to retrace his old scars, Manuel has one chance for vindication. To succeed, he’ll need to take a hard look at the street life he’s built upon the ashes of his childhood…
The Testimony of a Villain is a dark crime thriller set on the unforgiving streets of inner city Boston. If you like true crime stories, complex characters and an unapologetic look at urban reality, then you’ll love Aaron G. Harrell’s poignant psychological thriller.
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The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.
Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.
The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.
I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.
I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.
Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!
Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH
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