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The Struggle to Survive

Russell H. Plante
Russell H. Plante Author Interview

A Sense of Purpose follows a kitten who’s abandoned on the streets and finds a sense of purpose among the various people and obstacles he encounters. What were some sources that formed this novel’s development?

“A Sense of Purpose” is a story about Chester who was an important character in my earlier novel, “Journey Home – A Cat’s Tale”. He was that down to earth, honest and helpful character that we all wish existed in our lives, always there to help, to be a friend, to be a positive influence. Because of those traits, I thought he deserved a story of his own. While I thought about writing a story based upon the character I had created, a lost and lonely cat exited the forest near our home, looking for food and shelter. For over six New England seasons this abandoned cat approached our home ever so cautiously as my wife called him from the forest and placed food outside on a daily basis. The character I had created actually became real; hence, we named our homeless friend, Chester.

While we fed Chester over several New England seasons and attempted to give him a permanent home, my wife also discovered a feral mother cat with her four kittens on another portion of our property. It was Chester who eventually brought her to our front door for us to feed. This feral mother cat with her four kittens and the dramatic incidents that revolved around Chester provided me with the consequential inspiration and resolve to create this story; a story that has relevance to everyone of us.

The struggle to survive, the determination to complete something meaningful, and the intertwining of Chester’s life with the lives of others make this story what it is. Chester’s life has relevance to tragedies and joys for all of us, and I hope this story will make people think about their own lives and how each life can be important to others in so many ways. Each of us affects one another at some point in our lives—to create a purposeful meaning. No matter what we do in our lives, we all have a sense of purpose—a message, I’m sure, Chester would want me to share.

Just so you know—on one early, cold October morning, Chester finally decided to step through our front door on his own volition. He now has a permanent home.

Chester is a stirring character that I enjoyed following. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

When Chester appeared at the edge of the forest near our home, my wife and I wondered where he came from and what his travels might have been like to get here. So I started his story as an orphaned kitten surviving in New York City and then traveling to a coastal town in the State of Maine. After finding a new home in a small town surrounded by forests, I introduced him to an abandoned kitten by the name of Patches, the main character in my previous novel “Journey Home – A Cat’s Tale. When Chester’s new friend disappears in a blizzard, I wondered about what lengths he would go through in order to find him. What might any of us do under unforeseen circumstances? It is during his search and his relationship with other characters involved with the obstacles he encounters that affect his character development throughout the story. The homeless people, the perils of a forest, a blizzard, the friendships, and the resolve to never give up on hope all add to an understanding of himself and what he must do to complete his quest to find his friend.

There were a lot of great scenes in the book. What scene was your favorite to write?

There were actually several descriptive scenes that were a favorite. It’s difficult to pick just one. Please bear with me. Here are six examples:

1) On the first day of being on his own in the city, Chester wandered into a bodega owned by a shopkeeper by the name of Mr. Pettigrew, searching for something to eat. That’s where a nine- year-old girl by the name of Helena first met Chester. The following excerpts are portions from that beginning:

—As I neared an aisle of baking goods, I noticed a young girl shopping with her mother. It didn’t take much time for the little girl to notice me. Perhaps it was the combined appearance of my white feet in addition to the reflection of the florescent light that intensified a bluish color to my eyes that caused me to be the object of her immediate attention. The little girl had curly brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a smile that seemed to make the world take notice, much like my distinctively white feet.
She stared at me for what seemed a very long time, beamed a big smile, then looked up at her mother, tugged on her mother’s coat sleeve, and said, “Mom, we don’t have any pets. You told me that when I got to be nine years old I could have a kitten. I’m nine. Can I have that one?”
“Helena, we’ve shopped in Mr. Pettigrew’s bodega now for many years. Today, we are just picking up some cut flowers and a few items for dinner, not a cat.”
“But Mom, you promised, and I like that one.”
“Well, I don’t think Mr. Pettigrew would like us absconding with one of his cats,” replied her mother as she bent over slightly to take a closer look—

—Pettigrew had overheard the conversation. Distracted from his task of shelving canned goods, he paused and turned to face Helena and her mother. While thoughtlessly snapping one of the red suspenders that stretched across his robust stomach with his one free hand, he quickly responded, “He’s not my cat. He just wandered in here a few minutes ago. Like all the others in the past, he’s looking for a hand out. I doubt if he even has a home. This morning is the first time I’ve ever seen that one,” he said as he lowered his head, peered over the top rim of his spectacles once again, and pointed at me.
Helena’s understanding mother took another look at what she considered to be a somewhat bedraggled kitten, then glanced back at her daughter and remarked, “Well, he looks like he could use a home, doesn’t he?” —

—Helena’s mother glanced at her daughter and paused as she deliberated on what to do. “He certainly is a pocket-sized bundle of fur,” said her mother. “I wonder if that tan and gray fur is color or just plain dirt,” she added. Then she nodded her head approvingly, and said, “Okay Helena. But you’re responsible for taking care of him.”
“I promise. I’ll take really good care of him.”
“We’ll have to take him to a veterinarian and get him checked for fleas, get him a rabies shot, and get him fixed,” said her mother.
“Is he broken, Mom?”
“No honey. I just mean that we should make sure he’s okay,” her mother added with a slight smirk on her face as she turned her attention to Mr. Pettigrew.
Surprisingly to Mr. Pettigrew and Helena’s mother, Helena needed no further affirmation and didn’t hesitate to act. She looked down at me, scooped me up with both hands, cradled me into the sleeves of her warm coat, and said, “I’m going to call you Chester.” —

2) When Chester stayed with Abram, a homeless man in New York City, during below zero degree, pitch-black winter nights, there were a few scenes when they huddled together to keep warm from the cold. Here is an excerpt from a portion of one scene:

—When a gust of wind invaded our space, he quietly looked down at me, while shivering, and apologized for not being able to do better. “We need to stay out of this wind,” he whispered repeatedly. “We could get hypothermia if we’re not careful.” I looked up at him, not understanding at the time what he meant. Then he continued to provide an explanation and tried to remain lucid in our frigid surroundings. “It’s a gradual type of trauma,” he said. “We don’t want to get soaked by this cold wet snow. If we’re not careful, we could get disoriented, tired, not realizing we’re freezing. You huddle in my coat. I’ll keep you warm.” He then removed one of the tattered mittens from his hand and stroked the top of my head with his chilblained fingers, even though they throbbed from the cold.

I stayed with Abram for almost one entire winter, until one early below-freezing morning I awoke to his breath hardly but a whisper. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. He stroked the side of my head with a gentle hand, looked down at me with pale blue eyes, half shut, and in a barely discernible voice said, “Storms will come. I’m sorry I can’t be there for you.” I sat there nestled in his arms as he held me close—

3) When Chester was trapped in the back of a moving van and transported to a small town in Maine, he was adopted by the family who moved there. This is an excerpt of his arrival:

—It was the screech of the metal door latch that woke me early the next morning. Both doors to the back of the truck opened wide, simultaneously. Sunlight streamed through the darkness, and the sight of Helena surprised and exhilarated me as she poked her head into the wide opening and peered into the van. But when I emerged from my sleepy stupor, I looked closely at the welcome intruder and realized that it was a girl who only resembled Helena. It wasn’t her. It was the dark brown curly hair both had in common that confused me for one brief, exciting moment. It’s difficult to explain how disappointed I was.
The girl immediately spotted me at the back of the moving van. “Daddy, look what came with our furniture,” she yelled excitedly.
After that excited response to my presence, another face peered through the opening, and an older man’s voice boomed, “How did a cat get in there?”
Quite simply, that’s how I got my second chance at finding a new home. A family of seven, moving from New York City to a small New England town on the coast of Maine, quickly and unanimously decided to adopt me as they carried both me and the couch into their new home. They figured if I had been a feral cat, I would have quickly cowered to the rear of the van or would have been aggressively defensive. Although fearful of what might happen, I decided to remain on the couch, and accepted the ride into the house. I never once thought about fleeing. I figured things couldn’t get much worse; only better. I guess the family figured that if the stray cat came with the furniture, he stayed with the furniture; that’s the way it was supposed to be. Fate had determined a new destiny for one homeless cat. Me. —

4) During the development of the story, there was a point in time when Chester visited a nearby forest, sensing he wasn’t alone. The following is an excerpt as he was leaving the forest late one afternoon:

—Even though it was getting dark, a bright moon lit my way as light glistened from the frosty snow-covered ground. Clouds swirled around a full moon and provided an eerie, otherworldly reflection over the landscape. Just before I exited the edge of the forest, however, I sensed a shadow in the distance, a rustling among the saplings—heard but not seen. The silhouette wasn’t caused by the moon’s reflection or by the stiff breeze that swayed branches through the snow-covered trees. Rather, the shapeless shadow lurked as something sinister, beyond comprehension. Something dark, moving through the snow-ridden undergrowth—quietly. I sensed a danger never before known, an instinct to run, but instead I turned to look in the direction of movement, yet found nothing there. The shadow lurched within the deep recesses of the forest, a silent movement, perhaps a ghost I thought. Fear engulfed my soul. The unknowing made me cower. The wind chattered through the trees and in the distance the cawing of crows diminished until I could only sense the beating of my heart and the freezing whiskers against my face. Snowflakes hushed over the forest till there was no sound except for my own rapid breathing, my chest pounding as if a hand had choked my very breath. I plunged headlong into the coastal driven wind that had changed direction, no longer at my back. Swirling snow from fierce winds punished the air and made it difficult to see any distance ahead. —

5) When Chester started to search for his friend after several days of blanketing snowstorms, he hurriedly headed for home as a new storm strengthened. This is a scene from that experience:

—The walk home was laborious. I sloshed my way along the empty streets while the freezing wind sought to steal my every breath. By the time I arrived home, darkness had swallowed the afternoon. The Anderson’s had been watching for my return and had left the outside lights on. I was glad they had because by the time I arrived I could barely see the house. I made my way up the snow-covered walkway and was happy to see the front door creak open just enough to let me inside. I heard Beth Anderson’s voice before I even got to the front stairs.
“It’s about time you got home. If we had known this storm was gonna turn into a blizzard, I never would have let you out this morning,” she said, talking to me as she would chastising a child. As I entered the house she added, “You look like a walking snowball.” —

6) At a later point in the story, Chester met Tate, a solitary man who kept mostly to himself and spent much of his time quietly walking about the neighborhood, as if he were in his own world. Unlike Abram, Tate didn’t talk to anyone he could find. He was usually quiet and only spoke to a select few. When he did speak, his voice was a low, barely audible mumble about his forecast of the weather. The following is an important excerpt from the story:

—When I proceeded down the granite steps onto the sidewalk, Tate was sitting on the bottom step mumbling one of his not so unusual incoherent rants; to no one. As I casually passed beside him on the last step, however, his left hand gently washed over the top of my head and onto my shoulders. He had never done that before; never had touched me, never had patted me, but this time he did. I stood there for a moment, feeling a calming connection between us; his hand gently rested on my shoulders. I looked up as he continued to mumble something about the cloud cover and saw him staring out across the street, as if he was looking at something. Then he suddenly stopped talking and slightly lifted his hand from me. He removed his baseball cap with his right hand and placed it on the stair beside him while he continued to stare directly ahead. Then, as if he had received some sort of message, he turned his gaze downward, catching my upward glance with his. In a low methodical, distinctively firm voice he warned, “A storm is coming.” It was the same announcement he had made just days before the blizzard in January. I had heard him utter those same four words several times before. This warning was vocalized as it had been previously, but this time it had a sympathetic sound to it. His words seemed apprehensive, yet the tone of his voice was soft and strangely empathetic.
It wasn’t just the tone of his voice, however, that was different. Tate never had much of any kind of facial expression when he spoke. I had never seen him smile, but he did on that day. Perhaps it wasn’t his intention, but there was a slight, asymmetric smile that expressed a deep sadness, as if what he said was somehow painful for him; a smile that turned up ever so slightly at the corners of his mouth and exhibited a kindness I had never witnessed before. He placed his left hand ever so gently on my shoulders once again and paused as if doubting what he knew and didn’t dare say. Then he stood and slowly pulled his hand away. I looked up at him and his eyes drifted downward once again, looking at me. He stared intently into my eyes in a way that made me think he could see into my very soul. That’s when I realized there was a real sadness in his look. Then he stepped down onto the sidewalk, leaving me on the last step, and walked away. He never looked back or spoke another word as the distance between us grew. I watched, sad to see him go from the moment; a simple exchange of emotion, an experience so intense, yet seldom shared. I didn’t know it then, but that was the last time I would ever see Tate. It was as if he had waited all those months I had known him in order to deliver a message that could no longer wait. I returned to the forest that day and thought about Tate’s implicit words. I wondered what he had meant. Winter was over. Even I knew that. —

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

My fourth novel, “The Path Before Me”, is a Middle Grade Young Reader version of my philosophical adult novel, “Journey Home – A Cat’s Tale”. It should be available in July 2021. I wrote it in hopes that such a story would provide a better understanding of compassion, empathy, and hope for a young reader; a good social aspect addition for schools systems and the in-home library. I am currently working on my fifth novel, a science fiction story about our Earth, our possible connection with other worlds, and the reason why other civilizations have not contacted us. I still have a bit of research yet to do while writing the manuscript. I would expect completion and publication sometime in 2022.

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

Orphaned as a kitten on the streets of Manhattan, Chester recounts his first home with Helena, a nine-year-old girl, then losing his home two years later. Living on the city streets, he befriends Abram, a homeless man, who warns him about an impending storm, then dies early the following morning after a bitter, cold night. Friendless once again, Chester becomes trapped inside a moving van and finds himself taken to a small town on the coast of Maine. There he meets an abandoned cat named Patches, a compassionate cat named Buster, and Tate, a peculiar homeless man who also warns Chester of an impending storm. Remembering his own past struggles, Chester helps Patches find food and shelter. Becoming friends, they explore an ancient graveyard one day in a nearby wetland forest where Patches tells Chester about his father entering the dark forest but never returning. When winter arrives, the worst blizzard in over a decade strikes the small coastal town and Patches disappears like his father had. Hoping Patches might have sought shelter from the storm in the nearby forest, Chester begins an arduous search into the forest for his friend. There he encounters a young woman in the old graveyard, drawing in her sketchbook, and ultimately learns the truth about the disappearance of Patches’ father. He also discovers a feral mother cat with her four kittens, struggling to survive, not knowing they would change his life forever. When terrifying events happen under the halo of a moonlit night, Chester realizes the warnings from Abram and Tate were about significant events that would occur in his life. His search not at an end, he comes to understand that every life affects another, and that no matter what we do in our lives, every living being has a sense of purpose.

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The Commune

The Commune, by Erica Abeel, is about a commune in the Hamptons where newly liberated women come together to plan the seminal 1970 Women’s March for Equality. These women find that while they’re talking and planning, they are tugged between the ideals of the movement and the draw of the past they may not be ready to let go of.

Abeel started this book off with a good hook: Leora is at the beginning of the Women’s March for Equality, explaining what some signs say to her young son, and is wondering if they were going to get enough people to make the March mean anything. This scene ends with Leora’s happy surprise at all the women who are going to the March. After this, we are taken back in time four months. We learn how Leora came to be a part of the Women’s March for Equality and learn more about her past and the important women who planned the March.

Throughout this poignant book we’re taken to different times and locations, with thoughts and dialogue all flowing together. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. We freely float between characters, locations, and times, ensuring the story is always moving forward, always revealing something, and always reading some engaging piece of dialogue, but sometimes it was hard for me to understand who was talking.

The Commune is told from the perspective of multiple characters, but ultimately I felt like this was Leora’s story, as I connected with her more than the other characters we follow throughout the story. While I appreciated the intriguing detours the other characters takes us on, Leora steals the show because she is such a compelling character.

Author Erica Abeel has a strong command of language that she uses to construct some scenes that are firmly rooted in locations, with very little fluff, always focused on our emotive characters, and because of this story story is riveting.

The command of language, the sections of connection, and the good hook at the beginning is the best parts of the book. Also, the end brings this captivating historical fiction story to a nice close. The Commune provides a satirical but impassioned story on women’s suffrage that will appeal to anyone looking for a culturally impactful story.

Pages: 330 | ISBN: 1954351798

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There Was Much More To Tell

T P Graf
T.P. Graf Author Interview

Seeds in the Desert Wind is the final book in the trilogy of The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz. Did Jamie’s story end the way you had imagined when you first started writing the trilogy or did it change while writing?

As I wrote chapter one of “Tumbleweed and Dreams” (book one), I knew that Jaime would by logical extension of the region have interactions with the ranching community. I had no notion that he would be taken in by the ranching family that “adopts” him. In fact, I recall early in the book after the Cardona’s explain who the rancher is that Jaime sees in the grocery store, Jaime writes that little did he know how intertwined their lives would become. When I wrote those words, the author also had no idea how the lives would be intertwined. Somehow, I just knew they would.

It wasn’t until near the end of book one that I knew I wanted to keep the story going—that there was much more to tell.

What were some things you learned as a writer after completing this trilogy?

I learned just how hard it is to work with a dialogue heavy story and keep it from being tedious as you work to keep track of who is speaking to whom. While I could have let Jaime tell more of the story, I felt to do so only robbed the characters of what made them endearing to me (and I hope my readers).

If you had to cast characters for a movie version of your novel, who would play the leads?

None come to mind though I can see Jane Lynch (coach on Glee) making a pretty convincing Sallie. I would hope for a very strong casting director who really “got” the book to find relative unknowns well-suited to the peculiarities of each character. Particularly, in the case of Sallie, Billy and Ernesto, the match of physique and personality is integral to defining their character as well as the musical talents needed for Jaime, Billy and Ernesto.

Do you have plans to continue this story in a different book or will you start a new book?

If I write more based on these characters, I’d like to do so from the perspective of Sallie’s memoirs where she takes us back to the early days of the ranch and how her parents shaped her life as well as bring the readers along up to the present.

If I live long enough, I’d love pick up the story with Noah as the narrator and lead us through his grandparents and great aunt’s death as well as putting up with the two old men, Billy and Jaime, that share the ranch life with him.

Regarding possible other works in other locales, I shall have to wait and see if inspiration comes.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Seeds in the Desert Wind is a story of casting seeds as an act of faith for what can be. Some will take root and flourish. Some never will.
Jaime’s life has taught him how the invasive seeds of estrangement slowly choke our lives. He reminds us that sowing seeds of compassion and forgiveness remains the work of us all. His story is a story of lives made whole. It is also one of stewardship and care.
In this final book in the trilogy of The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz, we continue the journey with Jaime and with all those who are now so much a part of his life, as they take each day as it comes with gifts of humor, grace and dignity. If the heart is open, love finds a way in.

Seeds in the Desert Wind

Seeds in the Desert Wind: A Novel (The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz Book 3) by [T P Graf]

Jaime is one of several folks on the ranch who work hard, plan meticulously, share a common faith, and love those around them fiercely. He leads a full life and is part of a strong, close-knit family. Faith is a huge part of their lives, and that faith is put to quite the test when college-aged Quinn returns home to live with her father bearing news that may bring a significant change to the plans they already have in motion.

Seeds in the Desert Wind: The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz, Book III, by T.P. Graf, is the third in a series chronicling the life of main character and narrator, Jaime. His life on the ranch is laidback, eventful on an average scale, and steeped in faith. The cast of characters surrounding Jaime are actually much more well-drawn and easy to visualize than Jaime himself. He serves as the reader’s window to life on the ranch and the guide throughout the experiences that shape the family’s dynamic.

Graf tackles some highly relatable topics in this third book in the series. The controversy surrounding Quinn and her pregnancy news is timely and will, no doubt, resonate with readers. Quinn is welcomed into the fold and, even though she faces questions and side-eye from many, she finds her place and is surrounded by love and protection from those on the ranch, no matter their initial reactions. The theme of unconditional love is prevalent in Graf’s work even if it is peppered by hints of tough love.

I am intrigued by Jaime. We hear so much about the lives of the other characters and so little about Jaime’s. It truly is as if we are watching him live his life and seeing everyone else through his eyes. The reader hears very little introspection from Jaime but can see the results of his thoughts and actions in the events as they play out. It is a truly interesting way to position a narrator in a realistic fiction story that gives off the feeling of a biography.

I love the backdrop of the ranch and the tight knit group of characters. Every quirk, every nuance, and each daily challenge make this story relatable and enjoyable. Jaime is a fascinating narrator. I highly recommend Seeds in the Desert Wind: The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz, Book III, by T.P. Graf, to anyone looking for a book that wraps around you like your favorite blanket and touches your heart in a unique way.

Pages: 223 | ASIN: B08T9X2V7Q

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The Risks Necessary to Live

Thomas Duffy Author Interview
Thomas Duffy Author Interview

HEAVENLY follows a man who is given a second chance at life after he dies and comes back as another man. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I based the premise on an idea which begs this question: If you were to die unexpectedly, would you feel that you lived a satisfying life? I think people are pursuing their financial goals and personal goals every day but rarely do they stop and take the risks necessary to live a truly fulfilling life. Some of those risks include reaching out to other people. Without other people, it is not possible to live a full life. That is in my opinion, of course. It’s human connections and interactions that make this life worth living. We may not get a second chance like Peter does in the book so we better be prepared just in case we have to answer to a higher power about the lives we’ve lived here on Earth.

This is the ninth book that you’ve written. What were some things you’ve learned as an author that you’ve used in this book?

I learned that not everybody will relate in the same way to every single book I write but I also discovered that every book is unique. HEAVENLY says everything I ever wanted to say about life and the possibilities that await us when we die. I have no regrets about writing it nor do I have regrets about any book I’ve written. Each book I wrote had a purpose and a story to tell. Whether or not everyone relates to that story is another topic altogether. I hope other people can get something positive from the books as well. If they don’t, I can’t make any apologies. Everybody is different and I’ve learned to understand this fact.

Your characters, as usual, feel authentic. Were you able to relate to your characters while writing them?

Of course, I felt a connection to the characters in HEAVENLY, almost more so than in any other book I’ve written. I feel the characters I write so deeply and hope others can see that the central characters I write are full of passions and dreams. I want my books to have relatable characters first and foremost. That is the goal I strive for in each and every book. I see myself in both John and Peter in this particular novel.

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

I am working on a film criticism book. I also do movie criticism on the side and I’m writing a book called “100 Movies I Love” which details my analysis of 100 movies I absolutely adore. It should be out by the end of the year. Movie fans, take note. Some classics and some modern day classics are discussed in great detail!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

HEAVENLY is Thomas Duffy’s ninth book. It is the story of second chances, love, hope and faith. When a middle-aged man named John is killed, he is given a second chance at life through the birth of a new male named Peter. Peter struggles to find his way, discover love, and understand the meaning of his existence as he does the best he can to learn the true purpose of his life.

Decades of Studying Dogmatism

Judy J. Johnson
Judy J. Johnson Author Interview

Thief of Reason follows a college student in a dysfunctional family who seeks counseling which sets the stage for starkly contrasting views. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As far as I can tell, the perilous influence of dogmatism, particularly in politics and religion, isn’t going away anytime soon. That awareness plus three decades of studying dogmatism (the research focus for my M.Sc. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation), motivated my first nonfiction book, What’s So Wrong with Being Absolutely Right: The Dangerous Nature of Dogmatic Belief (Prometheus Books, NY), which was written for a niche market of psychology professors. During the several talks that followed, I was delighted by my academic audiences’ engaged fascination wth the topic, especially during the Q&A. Their response motivated my attempt to reach a broader audience with a fictionalized account of dogmatism. Because Canada has its share of closed-minded extremists, I wanted to alert Canadians to the dangers of this personality trait, but I confess that Donald Trump’s MAGA followers ignited a timely sense of urgency for Thief of Reason, particularly as I watched the divisive, polarized debates and recrudescence of racism throughout the four years of Trump’s administration. (Please excuse my blatant partisanship here, but my parents were born and raised in the USA so I have American relatives who are increasingly grateful for their mental tranquility now that Trump is out of office.)

Although Rick, the bright, 28-year old male protagonist, was deeply injured by his father’s authoritarian, dogmatic beliefs and behaviours, he yearned for personal insight and growth—a drive intensified by Liv, the new love of his life. Unlike many men in similar circumstances, he was not drawn to dogmatic, reactionary groups of angry protestors looking for a powerful leader who could provide an outlet for their frustration, and group identity that assuages alienation. I also wanted to show the impact Rick’s mother’s and sister’s steadfast love and support had on him, and Dorothy’s (the mother) questioning of her submissiveness to her husband and the Catholic church portrays a skepticism and open-mindedness that facilitated Rick’s gradual, more expansive understanding of his father.

What were some ideas that were important for you to personify in your characters?​

Above all, I hope readers will recognize the importance of trying to open-mindedly understand others before judging them, as difficult as that often is. I also hoped to illustrate dogmatic characters’ lack of conversation skills and provide suggestions that readers might want to consider in their own conversations, especially when discussing cherished beliefs they defensively and emotionally protect—a reaction that is fairly common even among non-dogmatic people. Finally, I hope readers will consider monitoring the habitual use of extreme words that may accompany their beliefs and ongoing experiences. Are they able to tolerate ambiguity without becoming unduly anxious? What would it take for them to change their mind about beliefs they fervently uphold? How have their childhood experiences shaped their personality traits, and how malleable are those traits?

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

Themes of: 1) genuine, openminded reasoning in contrast to closed-minded certainty, 2) respect for self and others, 3) self-awareness, 4) a generosity of understanding imperfections and weaknesses in one’s self and others, 5) authentic relationships, 6) the need to have, or appear to have, certain answers to life’s most difficult questions, 7) the normal need for social connection, dignity, and personal safety.

At times I thought it would be easier to scale Mt. Everest over the noon hour than personify so many themes in a literary style that didn’t sound preachy or self-righteous.

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

I’m considering authoring an edited book in which chapters focus on dogmatism in politics, economics, religion, science, education, business, marriage and the family, and perhaps art (poetry, music, and literature, among others). I’ll write the introduction, which briefly outlines the features of dogmatism, and contributing authors can apply these features to their own understanding and experiences in those domains.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Like pesky wasps buzzing circles around us, people who act as if they’re the sole expert on a subject put us on edge. We bristle at their arrogant, rigid certainty and refusal to change their minds in the face of abundant evidence that should give reason to pause.
Thief of Reason opens with a gripping scene of rising tension during a family dinner conversation. Polarized viewpoints spark a heated argument between an intolerant, dogmatic father and his son, Rick, a bright, twenty-eight-year-old university student who’s determined to understand his fractured relationship with his father and capture the heart of his new love-a political neophyte who, unlike himself, is devoutly religious.
With a lively injection of humour, Johnson skillfully contrasts closed-minded characters with those who are more open-minded, respectful, and inclusive-those who get second dinner invitations. Readers will think of people they’ve met or are related to, partners they’ve loved and left, bosses and coworkers they’ve endured, or candidates they’ve unwittingly voted for.
Compelling, insightful, and unforgettable, Thief of Reason peers through a powerful psychological lens that’s delightfully original and life-changing.

Real Women’s Stories 2018

Real Women's Stories 2018: A powerful, inspiring collection of short stories by and about real women. by [Beth Kallman Werner]

Real Women’s Stories 2018, edited by Beth Kallman Werner is a potent take on the journeys of twelve women. The chapters of the book vividly present to the readers the upheavals of a woman’s life, and the struggles that often go unnoticed by the world. 

This collection brings together women from different spheres of life, transcending ethnicity, and borders. Narrated in a simple tone, the honest stories take center stage, immersing the readers in an incredibly beautiful journey. This book is a light-read, but the essence of the experience of these women is nonetheless powerful, leaving a strong impact on the reader. 

Each of the stories is vastly different from one another, but somewhere, there is an invisible thread connecting them, predominated by the indomitable spirit of these amazing women. The writings exhibit a seamless flow of emotions, difficulties, losses, and triumphs, and make us understand this world a little better, from the perspective of real women. These are not stories of world-renowned stars, but in their personal lives, these women are the superheroes– dealing with battles and championing them too. 

These stories are curated not only for women but also for men. It allows a glimpse into the life of a average women and documents their life in powerful words. This book reveals certain aspects of these women’s lives that are hardly recognized in society. From stories of war, surviving abuse, to creating a successful business– you will find a beautiful amalgamation of anecdotes, reflected through these short and gripping pieces. 

The stories are crisp and unputdownable, which makes them all the more impactful. Since these women belong to completely different backgrounds, the settings in each of the stories are vastly different. 

Through these twelve short pieces, you can undertake a journey to celebrate their wins, while also learning about how they paved ways for themselves in the world. As real, living humans, living away from glitz and glory, the inspiring tales of these women are sure to move every reader. 

I would like to give this book a 5/5, owing to its sheer simplicity of narration, and capturing human emotions, difficulties, and victories with utmost subtlety. This book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to delve deep into the lives of women who live away from the limelight.

Pages: 146 | ASIN: B076Q3L3Q2

Buy Now From B&N.com

Live In The Moment

Ryan Standley
Ryan Standley Author Interview

To the Top of Greenfield Street is a compelling coming of age story about a teen starting a new life in a small town in the 90’s. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fascinating story?

My story was unexpectedly inspired by a coming of age pop song, “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran. The lyrics resonated with me and I began writing about similarly misbehaved teens from my hometown, but I struggled to find a clear beginning/ending setup. Then lightning literally struck, a block away from my house, and a beautiful, gigantic church burned to the ground, the tragedy that’s described in the first paragraphs, as Eric’s home. While I watched the church burning I knew their insurance would never cover a rebuild and the parishioners would be uprooted like Eric.

Eric is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

Thanks! I knew Eric had to be innocent, and somewhat naive, so his traits could change over a short time and carve out his journey. In early drafts, Eric came off as arrogant. He needed the self-loathing, and the insecurity of being overweight, which were also traits that could be shed quickly at his age. Plus, from an actor’s vocab, I wanted Eric to “live in the moment” and let the conflicts be real-time discoveries

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

Classic themes like appreciating what you have, and hard work pays off were deeply anchored in the plot. I had fun exploring the circumstantial morality, loyalty, and whimsical hope of teenagers. I wanted to show how rumors spread and fade while the history of a town remains solid. Above all, honesty and trust were huge, so the events and dialog had to ring true.

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

Right now I’m working on another coming of age novel tentatively titled “Better Out West,” about a college dropout who finds love and inspiration, gets dragged back into the dark world of substance abuse, and has to claw himself free again. Sounds pretty rugged but there’s a lot of hope there too. Should be available next fall.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

After tragedy strikes, Eric Daniels, age 15, must start over in a small town, where rumors fly and trouble follows. Though shy at heart, Eric meets neighborhood kids, builds his reputation, and excels at his first job. Then as soon as he lands his first kiss, he is betrayed and attacked by a jealous friend. Like most teens, Eric wants happiness, love and independence. He finds everything he ever wanted on Greenfield Street, but how long can it last?

TO THE TOP OF GREENFIELD STREET is an honest unveiling of the teenage spirit, a sensational coming-of-age tryst, and an uplifting example of starting over. Standley writes with an irresistible blend of action, humor, disgust and nostalgia. Set in the sleepy town of Freeport, IL, in 1993, the novel speaks to the teenagers in the midst of their heartaches, and to the adults who will never forget theirs.
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