The Moving Blade follows detective Hiroshi as he navigates street level politics to solve the murder of an American diplomat. What was the direction that you wanted to take book two in the series that was different from book one?
The direction I wanted to take it is not the direction it ended up going. So, I headed more into the characters, who became more and more interesting. I focused on the roiling tumble of conflicts inside them, and what that might reflect of social, political and historical conflicts outside. I think that’s similar to book one, but because the characters are embedded into a larger framework of political pressures and international relations, their actions resonate differently. The canvas is broader in this second book, and I go deeper into Tokyo, to see the background of the characters and their choices, good and bad.
I enjoyed the mix of interesting characters throughout the novel. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I like all of them. Well, I don’t like the bad guys, but I like hating them. My favorites were maybe the bookstore owner twins and the radical leftist. They were fun to write and to put in scenes together, the twins steady and demure and the leftist stridently angry. Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, is always fun to write for. He has this core set of values that is rock solid Japanese. When he explodes, he really explodes. And of course, Hiroshi developed and grew as a person and as a detective, in perhaps meandering ways, but human ways. The women characters are great to write for, too, as they pull the story in their direction.
It quickly unfolds that the missing manuscript was the driving factor behind the diplomat’s death. How do you balance storytelling with mystery and action to ensure readers are engaged to the very last page?
Among all the different types of mysteries, whodunnits, whydunnits, I-dunnits, I didn’t-do-its, I tend towards the why. Maybe because I was a philosophy major? Not-knowing who creates a different kind of curiosity than not-knowing why. Withholding certain pieces of information is essential. As Alfred Hitchcock pointed out, if you know there’s a bomb under the table, but the characters don’t…well, that’s suspense. And if you don’t know why the bomb is under the table in the first place, it’s really intriguing. As jazz musicians often say, and I think Mozart said it originally, the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between. I think writing should be aware of what’s not spoken, what’s not known. The unknowns make you lean in and pay attention.
Where will book three in the Detective Hiroshi series take readers?
Book three is called Tokyo Traffic. The story revolves around a young Thai girl who gets lost in Tokyo, after running away from some horrible people. She is rescued by a young Japanese woman who lives in an internet café and plays in a rock band. Most of the story takes place in the nighttime youth hangouts in Shibuya and Shimokitazawa, another side of Tokyo. The detectives are the same, though Hiroshi has moved in with his college girlfriend and Takamatsu is off suspension. It goes deeper into the characters and deeper into Tokyo.
When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.
When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.
With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.
THE MOVING BLADE is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.
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The Newspaperman is an intriguing horror novel that follows Seth as he encounters a newspaperman selling newspapers with bizarre stories. What was the inspiration for the newspaperman and the stories he sells?
The story stemmed from this vision I had of a swarthy-looking, rough-around-the-edges guy—Cedrick, the Newspaperman—who’s trying to be an enthusiastic gentleman but isn’t fooling the main character of the story, Seth Kesler. I liked the idea of such a guy replacing the wholesome image we’ve all seen of the young boy from the 1930s selling newspapers on the corner, so I put Cedrick in Depression-era clothing and let him go to town in the year 2016. That whole image I had of Cedrick on the street corner kind of got the story off and running. In the beginning, the stories in the C-U Journal are legitimate, but they quickly devolve into total garbage, and poor Seth is the only one who can see that. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
I wrote the first draft of The Newspaperman in one month in December of 2016, not long after graduating with a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I don’t work as a journalist for a living, but at the time I had all this fresh journalism knowledge, and I needed a new project since I wasn’t in school anymore. So the ideas I had for The Newspaperman just came pouring out. It was fun to write.
This is an entertaining story that is high in social commentary. What were some themes you wanted to focus on when writing this book?
Thank you very much. Obviously I was looking to highlight the sordid fake news we’ve all seen, which has become more prevalent in recent years. Some of those fake stories are very well written, so it can be hard to tell what’s what, especially if you don’t read news from legitimate sources that often. I love the character Meghan, Seth’s wife, in The Newspaperman because she’s such a perfect foil to her husband. He’s almost this journalistic snob while Meghan represents the American masses who mindlessly scroll through their phones all day and night looking at useless junk. She’s clueless in some ways but also lovable. Many things are exaggerated in this book to make a point, so readers should go into the story knowing that.
Beyond the issue of fake news, I wanted to write a book that highlighted the importance of journalism to society in general in a non-political way. On subsequent rewrites after the first draft, I really made an effort to do that. I love the portion of the book where readers get to read Seth’s impassioned letter about why good journalism is crucial, and also the part when he and Meghan are in bed and Seth is explaining why he’s on such a crusade to save journalism. Poor Meghan is crying because she loves Seth and doesn’t want him to step in to any danger, but he plows ahead anyway.
Seth is an interesting character that continued to develop as the story progressed. Did you plan his character progression or did it develop organically?
Thanks. I’d have to say the progression of Seth’s character grew organically as I wrote the story and he grew as he faced these issues. I knew from the get-go that Seth was going to be the one sane guy in this story who could rationally see what was going on, and as he was bumping up against these strange characters and observing all this craziness around him, as you said, his character evolved.
Some people have told me they found Seth’s personality to be rather passive considering all the madness around him, but when I read the book and see the things Seth was trying to do, I don’t view him as passive in the least. In my opinion he was trying hard to change what was around him, all the while in disbelief about what was happening.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
This past summer I wrote a 10,000-word story called The Millionaire’s Gift, which is a sequel to a novel I wrote called The Millionaire’s Cross. It’s supposed to be published in an upcoming anthology, and I’m not sure at this point if I’m at liberty to say who the publisher is. But I hope it comes out and it gets some exposure and people read it.
I had another idea for a novel and was thinking of writing it this November in the National Novel Writing Month contest. I guess I’d better decide pretty quickly if I’m going to do that or not!
Seth Kesler is thrilled to discover that the defunct C-U Journal is making a comeback. He loves newspapers and believes it is his—and society’s—civic duty to read them. But something is deeply off about the new publication in Champaign-Urbana, starting with the oily paper-hawker he dubs the Newspaperman, who hand-sells the C-U Journal for a mere dime on a downtown street corner. Seth’s delight soon turns to dismay when he sees the bizarre stories printed as fact and mysterious goings-on at the once-esteemed paper’s main office. He makes it his goal to put a stop to the whole shady operation, even though it means battling news titan Richard W. Fields, a multimillionaire who represents the worst of an exploitive corporate world.
The Newspaperman is a smart horror/mystery that will keep readers intrigued right up until the gut-punch ending.
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Destiny Revealed begins with Gabby in a precarious situation, one that propels readers into an intriguing adventure. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
The 1960’s was a fascinating time to be a teenager, although none of us realized it until much later in life. The historical events, music, art, pop culture, all contributed in many ways to who we are today. I knew many “Gabbys” in my high school in California. I experienced the loss of a “Jake” at an early age, as a result of the Vietnam war. In college I studied Literature, graduated with a BA and MA in English and became a high school teacher. Those years resulted in my continued appreciation for every author that I taught, even those that I was not always fond of. It was always my desire to be a writer. And, although I believed I could be successful, those years were so busy, teaching, raising a family, living life that there was little time for writing. Finally, once retired from teaching, and moving to the Midwest, my passion to write returned. As I met other people from this region, one thing that we all had in common was our memories of the ‘60s. This is when I decided to create a story that my generation, and hopefully others, could relate to; the desire to sometimes want to revisit those wonderful early years, and even reflect on what might have happened differently based on our choices.
In Destiny Revealed, the sequel to my first novel, Destiny Revisited, it begins where the last one ended, Tybee Beach near Savannah, Georgia. Gabby has come full circle and is still struggling to understand why happiness is eluding her.
My objective with this novel, was to answer all of the questions that still remained at the end of the first novel, now that all of the characters are approaching middle age. This is why I provided the history backdrop to the the two main characters, still living, Caden Cassidy and Sterling Powers. Destiny Revealed hopefully will add a new dimension that readers will appreciate.
I enjoyed how Gabby’s character continued to develop as the story progressed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character and the relationship with the men in her life?
Gabriella, means , a gift of strength from God. In this novel it will take her as much patience and self reliance as possible to make it through her complicated life. Each of the men in her life, Jake Girard, Caden Cassidy, Alex Blair, and Sterling Powers have contributed to her growth as a woman. But, it is not until she meets the mysterious lady, Maggie Mendoza, born on the same day she is, forty years later, and experiencing the same life threatening experience, on the same day, two thousand miles apart, is she able to realize how strong she is. Although I provide clues to the reader about what will ultimately happen, I am hoping that the conclusion is powerful and surprising.
The story has underpinning of a supernatural force at work, but I felt that the novel was well grounded in reality. How did you balance this while writing?
Balancing the supernatural with reality happens everyday, people just don’t always realize it. Whether it is prayer, or astrology, or a Shaman who performs rituals in Catemaco, Veracruz, people are in search of relief from their pain. By including Jake’s journals, Gabby believes she will be connected to him, even in death. The coincidence between Maggie and Gabby are both mysterious yet, realistic. We just do not always have the opportunity to meet our doppelgängers. My intention is to lead the reader into an unknown space without making it uncomfortable.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Seven Days in Lebanon, my third novel, takes a totally different approach than my first two novels. It is based on the true story of my grandmother’s exile from St. Petersburg, Russia during The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and her marriage to the last Prince of Kiva. This is a historical fiction that is now complete and will be available at the first of next year.
The Mermaid’s grandmother is my next novel that I am currently writing. Although not completely “fleshed “ out it will be a story told by an aging mermaid that lives a normal life with a few idiosyncrasies. Her grandson, also part merman does not have any idea about his heritage. The bond that the two of them share, will offer readers a new perspective on some traditional legends.
“Where the hell are you, Gabby?” Is what Caden Cassidy wants to know and Destiny Revisited readers are also asking. It is also what Gabriella Gerard Blair wants to discover.
Floating in the freezing Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ashes, Gabby has no idea why she is at Tybee Beach and who saved her from drowning. It is Sterling Powers, a man from her past, who she turns to for some answers.
What Gabby finds is more questions than any answers. Can Caden convince Gabby that fate has finally allowed them another chance at happiness? What secrets are Sterling keeping from Gabby, and why? Will Jake’s journals be her guidebook to the parallel universe?
Perhaps the answers will finally be found at The Hotel California, in Todos Santos, Mexico when she meets the proprietor, Eleanor Rigby. It is here when Gabby, in desperation, decides to visit a Shaman located at Catamaco, Veracruz, the capital of sorcery.
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“Powderfinger” is a present-day scary horror story set mainly on the decrepit, abandoned but soon to be redeveloped, bank of an old canal between two towns. It centres on an old tar works known as Raven’s Gate. Nick Swann is a world weary mid-forties widower and Assistant Probation Warden at St Joseph’s Hostel for young male criminals, situated overlooking the canal and Raven’s Gate. A woman is brutally killed on the bank opposite the Hostel on a night when Nick is on duty. Nick believes his lads had nothing to do with it, though consequently Nick is suspended for issuing too many late passes at once. Then another woman is killed and Nick becomes drawn into discovering the culprit. He works with DCI Findlay and DS Deacon as the murder toll rises. Together with help from his old friends Alan and Hugo, Nick’s research uncovers a long series of similar murders in the same area, stretching back through the centuries. “Powderfinger” as the killer is dubbed, appears to be some kind of ancient mellifluous, malevolent, murderous being that attacks anyone it considers to be disturbing its peace and quiet. Eventually, as the story climaxes, Findlay, Deacon, Nick and Alan set a trap to lure “Powderfinger” to his doom and rid the area of this beast once and for all. Yet, traps can swing both ways.
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Dark Karma is a fascinating tale of vengeance and dark magic by author, Laura Simmons. Laura Simmons does a beautiful job in creating an epic tale that creates an array of whirlwind emotions. Simmons’ writing is flawless and thought-provoking, great for any avid reader of suspense and mystery novels. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a novel that surrounds itself in magic, tension, mystery and revenge.
The narrative of Dark Karma is extremely captivating and strong. It has been written in such simplicity, but is highly effective for all readers. Luke Decker is introduced to the readers as the protagonist. He is banished by his evil enemy into a hell-like alternative dimension. Luke has to deal with the fact that his whole world has been turned upside down, and what is more, he is on trial for murdering his beloved Nina. However, the plot twists dramatically throughout the novel, and the reader is constantly left wanting more. I kept trying to guess what was going to happen next, but then just gave up and went along on this eventful and thrilling ride.
The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Laura Simmons structures her book beautifully and your imagination is left running wild. I think that the mystery elements in the book really kept me wanting more. Readers are able to dive into a world that is based on pure imagination. Simmons use of magic is embued with a dark energy throughout that is creepy, enticing, and begs you to keep reading. I think I read this whole book with a raised eyebrow. Dark Karma is a beautifully told story that, I think, is suitable for readers of any genre as it first focuses on telling a great story before delivering the unique qualities of it’s genre.
Dark Kara does an amicable job at creating an evil magical dimension that is just detailed enough to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks. The characters and the plot are strong, and Laura Simmons shows that she is a writer to be reckoned with. Overall, I think the story, twists, and characters are great, and I really enjoyed reading this book.
A fantastic attempt at creating a novel that blends and transcends genres. An enjoyable read which really dives into a different dimension, making the reader want to know more as the story progresses.
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 1977201555
Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a fascinating novel that finds itself straddling a variety of themes, writing styles, and motifs. In this novel, one can witness the conjunction of several major literary genres. From bleak dystopian imagery and post-apocalyptic ruin to deeply intense mystery and intrigue, Extinction 6 provides enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. Taking place in the year 2066, the reader is introduced to a world mostly underwater. Following a sharp rise in global temperatures by an average of 8 degrees Celsius, sea levels drastically increased and major settlements like San Francisco were submerged. In conjunction, animals and plants have completely vanished. Beyond this, the world appears to be plagued by war and corporate espionage. Battles for oil fields and small scraps of territory appear to occur daily, while depressing news bulletins ring out, highlighting decreases in rations or celebrating the smallest of military victories. In this dystopian future, greenhouse gases continue to be pumped at alarming rates, and it becomes clear to some that the world is facing its sixth, and potentially last, extinction crises.
Hosein Kouros-Mehr expertly uses this setting to deliver a story that is captivating and vividly written. There is a profound amount of world building conducted in this novel and the story’s framing gives readers a holistic experience at what life in this dreary world would look like. Through the use of multiple perspectives and point of views, Hosein Kouros-Mehr provides readers with an inside and personal look at the various dimensions that take place in this world. In some chapters, readers will become intimate with a forlorn lover embroiled in major geopolitical developments. Other sections masterfully showcase the experiences of an aggressive and cunning CEO. These different perspectives are woven in a way that provides keen connections and startling insights.
The writing itself is suspenseful and tense. The diction wastes no time in putting the reader through long segments of empty description and word padding. Every sentence is deliberate and has a definite sense of immediacy. Every word counts in a world that is slowly ticking towards oblivion. This is aided by Hosein Kouros-Mehr’s wonderful sense of pacing. While the writing is forward facing, it still gives readers the time to engross themselves in the world. Details about the major corporations and the nations that inhabit this world are peppered in where needed and helps to provide depth to the world. Many of these elements come into play throughout the course of the novel, and the pace in which these details become relevant greatly benefits Kouros-Mehr’s deliberate writing style. If there is any issue in the way in which Hosein Kouros-Mehr presents his work, it is the fact that the large cast of characters can lead to some confusion. This is somewhat alleviated by the clear characterization and literary role each character plays, and as a whole, this critique does not detract from the novel.
Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is an incredibly tense story about what our future could easily look like.
Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07HB5Q24P
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Gabby awakens in the ocean, frostbitten, alone and confused. As we get to know Gabriella Girard Blair we hear about her painful past and how it has propelled her life and lead her to this beach, washed up. Her most recent tragedy is losing her best friend and “female soulmate” and it seems that this is too much for her to handle. She has disappeared from her life, purposefully. She left behind a lifeless marriage and a life that seems haunted by her past. An old friend comes back in to her life and is determined to help. This is a love story, but it is also a story of self-discovery and the twists and turns in our lives, those moments that define us, changing feelings, and changing relationships and those that stay the same no matter how much time passes.
Eleanor Tremayne does a great job capturing the complexities of her characters’ relationships, which span over decades. She gives the reader an inside look into the mindset of her characters, so you can understand how their relationships and dynamics play out. The writing flows well and is not overly dense. She is a great storyteller. I love the poems that the author includes at the beginning of each chapter. They give you a little hint about what this chapter might include.
She wove the different characters and their pasts together seamlessly. If you are a fan of great character development, you will love this book. At times there were a lot of names to keep track of because she goes in to some details about their backstories and histories but once I was engaged with the characters it was fine.
There are some graphic scenes and graphic language, so this may not be appropriate for younger readers. The ending is intense and sad but has a great arch with all her characters. I loved how it ended and was hoping throughout that it would work out that way.
This was a romantic story without being over-the-top or cheesy. I also very much enjoyed how the main character was on a path of self-discovery and healing and how we got to experience how she processed this. A great original story with romance, heartache, trauma, friendship, and love. This was a fun and easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Pages: 372 | ASIN: B07D9YQ8BP
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Made of Stone introduces readers to Desiree Palmer’s first fictional creation, Satori Stone. She is a carefree and witty single mother living in the Midwest. She embarks, unwillingly, on mystical journey being torn between good and evil. Her world begins to spin out of control when she goes home to visit her mother for Christmas. Her quirky neighbor Naoma and a stranger she meets along the way quickly turn into her new life support system. She will face a decision to accept her new fate and learn to use her natural powers or lose her family forever. Will she decide in time?
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The Cape: Overdrive sees The Capes coming together to protect the world from a destructive asteroid. What was the inspiration for the setup to this installment in your Dark Spore series?
The Cape Overdrive was written on a whim of sorts. The Dark Spores Series is a compilation of 6 books (currently) from three different authors and is part of the Cosby Media Productions Dedicated Superhero Universe. It was envisioned to be along the same lines as as say a Marvel or DC universe in which all the superheroes have separate tales which have some overlap in story lines and then all the heroes come together for a similar cause, obstacle or enemy. I had already completed The Cape (book 1) and was looking for a new story arc that moved the overall scope of the Dark Spores forward, while providing fans and readers with a new wrinkle to keep them interested.
To that end, I was having a conversation with another author and thought, man, it would be cool to have The Capes fight encounter something other than a villain in this book. My wife had read an article about the value of a “Quintillion” which is the number one with 16 zeros after it. I thought, hmm, what if an asteroid was made up of precious stones and carried a value of a Quintillion dollars was hurtling towards Earth. What would happen if all the super power countries of the world wanted to obtain it? How would that play out in my Cape Universe? The outline began right there.
There are so many fascinating characters in this book with their own unique powers. What was your favorite character to write for?
I love The Blurr. She is actually my most powerful character and she is actually modeled after my wife. But more than that, The Cape represents superheroes that were once regular people; complete with flaws and all. They just happened to gain powers in book 1 after being caught in a storm. The city of Chicago then became an experimental pitri dish for producing special people separating Normals from Super-Normals.
Blurr’s character arc from a call girl to the evil Super-Normal Cheetah-Girl in book 1, who lacks confidence and self esteem, and then eventually converts to The Blurr at the end, joining Paladin and his team, was both challenging and rewarding to write. I think she reflects the best attributes of the human spirit and is and can inspire all of us to fight through those low moments of our lives and ultimately walk in a bright future.
If you read closely you’ll also see a larger character arc looming in the future that will play a major part in the CMPDSU going forward when all the Phase 1 heroes get together in INFINITY 7 (the collaborative effort of all three authors: Chayil Champion, Keshawn Dodds and myself). Phase 2 has other authors and heroes coming as well that can be read about on our website.
Thief and Blurr are a dynamic duo. What were some obstacles you felt were important in developing their characters?
Their past relationship for one. Sebastian (Paladin) knew Karla (Blurr) a long time ago and always had a crush on her but was too afraid to express it; fearful that it would kill their friendship if it didn’t work out. When Paladin seeks to solve the mystery of the murder in book 1, he discovers who Cheetah-Girl really is and desires to convert her over to the good side, without letting her know his true identity.
The other obstacle is Karla’s past catching up with her. She has a dark history that has held her down for years and kept her in a place where she feels undeserving of a good man like Sebastian and now she must face and overcome those demons in order to walk in the light and receive what he has to offer – love without judgment. This allows their relationship to blossom and they become a modern day Cyclops and Jean Grey. Paladin sort of becomes her redeemer and that character trait creates this “Perfect Guy” persona for her which I think makes him very likable as a character. Amongst the triad of Paladin, Blurr and Thief, he is definitely the shining star and symbol of honestly and is the glue that keeps the squad grounded.
Lastly, the larger looming obstacles with be the baddies: Dark Phase in book 1 and the new villains, along with the entire world vying for a piece of the asteroid.
The challenge, I think, with superhero novels is making the danger feel real, which I think you accomplished. How did you balance the danger and their powers to make things feel legitimately life threatening?
The answer was simple: man versus the unknown. In that sense, I used war as the catalyst. As I said earlier, all the powerful nations of the world would be converging on the crash site to secure the asteroid and only The Capes would be able to stop them. Imagine if you gave a quintillion dollars to say Russia, Germany or North Korea. What would they do with such resources? It would definitely tip the scales of power to some degree and it’s unimaginable what the impact would be. Would we be looking at World War 3 or the end of the world itself?
Then there’s the basic theme of good versus evil. Not to give the story away any further, but I added some powerful, new Super-Normal villains in the sequel that really challenge The Capes; along with a nice twist to keep it fresh. Seat of your pants action never hurts a story and I think I have a lot of that mixed in.
Super Heroes Wage War Once Again When the world is thrown into a panic from the imminent threat of a gigantic asteroid worth a Quintilian dollars, The Capes are asked to protect the planet from certain doom. But it’s not just the destructive force of the impact that everyone fears; it’s greed. Multiple nations gather to collect on the bounty for the precious meteorite while evil Super-Normals threaten to salvage the precious stone for their own deeds. Even the position of military power hangs in the balance as the most poorest of countries will catapult to the top of the totem pole with just an ounce of the spoil. Once again Paladin, Thief and Blurr must stand together and utilize every bit of their super powers – shifting into Overdrive – as the fate of the entire galaxy will ultimately hinge on the emergence of a new enemy from deep space.
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