Blog Archives

Appropriate But Also Funny

Jolly Walker Bittick Author Interview

Bag O’ Goodies is a collection of short stories and poetry, sometimes real and sometimes pure fiction, covering a wide variety of topics. What was the inspiration for writing this collection of works?

I was a big fan of the movie “Creep Show” that showcases short stories by Stephen King.

I find the title of this collection interesting. How did you decide on the title of this book?

I love the format, and when I went about writing my own book of short stories (and poems) I wanted it to have a title that was both appropriate but also funny. “Bag O’ Goodies” fit the bill.

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

Themes of a man in his mid-30’s, to include childhood-type stories, wild tales about joining clubs, substance abuse, love, social issues, and pure fiction. I wanted to showcase a variety of themes and scenarios in the stories.

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

The next book is “Line Rats.” It’s a sequel to my debut novel “Cape Henry House.” I’m aiming to have it done and hopefully published by the end of the year! Stay tuned.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Bag O’ Goodies is a collection of short stories and poems, some based on true events, that showcase an array of topics and themes. These pages contain tales of where late nights go wrong, scary neighbors prove their scariness, motorcycles rule, and deep arguments hit deeper topics while in the line of duty. This proverbial bag has quite a scent. Poems are included for added aroma!

Screaming Against The Raging Winds

Jennifer Widelitz Author Interview

Battle Cry is a collection of poetry that chronicles your battle with chronic illness, sharing the emotional and physical toll it has taken on you through. Why was this an important collection for you to write?

This is not just a poetry collection; it is my story, my memoir, my battle cry, and as such it is perhaps the most important collection I could ever write. Millions of Americans—and even more worldwide—suffer from autoimmunity and other debilitating chronic illnesses. It is far too easy for their stories to be overlooked, being grossly unglamorous and painful in nature, and thus causing many to turn a blind eye and remain in the blissful realm of ignorance. And many who attempt to have their voices heard aren’t healthy enough or have the means to do so. I, too, felt myself screaming against the raging winds of my diminishing health while writing this collection and striving to get it published. This is a collection a decade in the making, stemming from the seed that was planted with my first diagnosis, and has been no stranger to weathering storms. As chronic illness affects a significant portion of the population, it is important for there to be representation for those living with it as well as to raise awareness of the issues and dispel misconceptions surrounding it. While every individual’s experience is different, there is a mutual understanding of pain and suffering that creates a common thread amongst humanity. And it is that unifying human connection that is so vitally important to remember, now more than ever.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you opened up about your illness. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Initially, I wrote these poems as a coping mechanism to deal with my illnesses and a life much different than what I had imagined for myself. Opening up to others has never been an easy feat for me and trying to open up to those who didn’t understand what I was going through was even more difficult. Instead, I turned to poetry throughout the years, seeking familiarity and solace in the words of others, but I was never fully satisfied. So, I wrote the words I was searching for but wasn’t finding. By writing for my own eyes, it was easier to be honest about my feelings and experiences, expressing the words I was too afraid to voice aloud and the words I needed most to hear.

There are many poems in this collection that I found difficult to reread while editing during the publication process, for there are struggles I still face today that were also present ten years ago. It’s obvious some wounds haven’t quite healed, though I continue to hope that one day I’ll be able to read this collection with dry eyes and the comfort of knowing they are simply painful memories and nothing more.

However, perhaps the hardest thing is sharing this collection with the public. I have shared many stories and poems, several of which have been published in literary magazines, but I have never shared anything so personal with loved ones and strangers alike. I’m a private person and when this collection came out, many of my friends and family commented with, “I had no idea.” It was the perfect example of how silence only breeds more misconceptions and a lack of awareness. I found a valuable lesson in those comments: nothing will change unless you speak up.

While I still have a lot of apprehension pertaining to sharing a part of me so raw and unfiltered that it’s even difficult for me to view, I ultimately decided to do so for those who need to see this vulnerability. The power of empathy and recognition of another’s pain is greatly underestimated in the world today, and there are many who can benefit from simply knowing another person understands and acknowledges the effort it takes to fight their battles. It’s something that could have helped me, and now it’s one way I wish to help others.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about chronic illness?

There are many misconceptions I have encountered over the years, from people believing chronic illness can only affect the senior population to people assuming chronic illness affects everyone equally to people thinking those with chronic illnesses are attention-seeking hypochondriacs. The plethora of misconceptions regarding chronic illness is not only hurtful to those battling it but is also quite harmful as those misconceptions can present additional societal limitations and stigmas. I find the most troublesome misconceptions are those that stem from others believing an individual’s chronic illness is a farce. Just like most things in life, people often need to see to believe, which poses a problem when many chronic illnesses are invisible to the naked eye. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard phrases like “It’s all in your head”, “You don’t look sick”, “You just need to push yourself”, or “It can’t be that bad.” Unfortunately, people tend not to understand unless it happens to them. Eliminating misconceptions and preconceived notions is just one of many reasons why raising awareness about chronic illness is a necessity.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

When readers close the book for the final time, I hope they have a different perspective from when they initially flipped to the first page. I hope this poetry collection broadens awareness of chronic illness and helps increase the ability to empathize, knowing that others may be suffering in a way they may not realize. At the very least, I hope this collection is a blanket of comfort for the warriors in need of one, serving as a reminder that the battles are worth fighting and comrades can be found if one is willing to look. Everyone is suffering in their own way, and I want them to know that they are not alone. As difficult as it may be to admit, none of us would be who we are today without our struggles and adversities. Pain, struggle, and strife—no matter the cause—are all a part of the human experience and should be embraced as necessary steps on the journey of one’s life. After all, storms shape pebbles just as much as the steady stream.

Now, if I may speak directly to the readers:

Dearest warrior,

Thank you for picking up (or considering) this book and joining me on this journey. Thank you for having the courage to fight your daily battles, even when they go unrecognized. I understand the pain and I see you. You are so much stronger than you realize, and you continue to inspire me every day.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

You may have lost the battle,
but you will win the war.

You are not falling apart,
you are falling together.

In her debut poetry collection, Jennifer Sara Widelitz guides us along the unpredictable path of living with chronic illness, through the front lines of wars waged within, and to the heart of human courage. Told in five parts, Battle Cry begins with the innocence-laced time before, halted by the sudden onset of illness—the momentous event in one’s life that changes everything. The journey continues with a soothing interlude of healing interrupted by pain-stained relapses, concluding with the strength and resilience accumulated through years of endurance. Accompanied by whimsical illustrations from Jennifer’s own hand, these poems reminisce on lost childhood innocence, teach gratefulness for the rain, cycle through the seasons, persevere through struggles, and rise from the flames even stronger.

Interweaving themes of fairy tales and myths, loss and grief, pain and suffering, love and hope, resilience, and more, Battle Cry is a testament to the warriors fighting unseen battles and any survivor of the human condition. Like its namesake, this collection is a battle cry—a call to arms—that is bound to echo through the generations.

Poetic Mind

Poetic Mind is a deep dive into the mind of its creator, John Nevel. Nevel clearly enjoys experimental writing as he utilizes a range of styles to keep his work fresh. No two poems are the same. Nevel is familiar with and influenced by the classics. He has taken what he has learned and created his own amazing style. Many of the poems are best enjoyed read aloud as Nevel makes repeated use of rap structures.

While each poem is different Nevel, has taken this opportunity to share with us what he cares about most. Nevel has fought for his country, and there are clearly parts of modern society he is unhappy with. In this work, he rallies against varying social dilemmas and kinds of discrimination whether it be racism, sexism, or prejudices against mental health. Nevel’s imagery is vivid and strong. Some poems are almost a slideshow of his innermost thoughts. Most powerful are the poems where he reflects on his own struggles and history. He does give readers some lighthearted moments. Some poems are joyous and tell us a short story. One of my personal favorites is Kiss of the Dragon–a fantasy poem about a dragon and an old lady.

Nevel is confident in his both his writing and the value of his experiences. The author spends a lot of time in this collection trying to inspire others to write. Several poems in the collection are solely about writing processes and helping others to take the dive into discovering their own talents.

Poetic Mind: The Collection, by John Nevel, is a great collection of poems whether you’re familiar with Nevel’s work or not. The poems are vivid and inspiring and, if nothing else, it is fascinating to take such an incredible look into the psyche of another human being. I highly recommend this exceptional piece of work by Nevel.

Pages: 201 | ISBN: 979-8490047575

Buy Now From Amazon

Shadows of the Trees

Shadows of the Trees is a collection of thought-provoking poetry and prose. The poems are chronologically presented based on the time of composition, which makes me feel like the poet wants us to follow his journey by following these pieces. 

If you start from the initial poems, there’s a free flow of raw emotions. The heavy influence of American Romanticism is evident throughout, but the poet also manages to express his own passions and insights through his writings. As we progress towards the later chapters, the melodies in the poems start to develop. Poetry enthusiasts can easily recognize this shift, both in terms of rhythmic quality as well as a gradual change in the poet’s perspectives. 

The poems are of varied moods – some are dark, while others carry a beautiful introspective quality. The poet not only looks inward, but also at his surroundings, and takes inspiration from life. The last chapters ‘1996’ and ‘1997’ have a somber feel, but it’s also where the melodies find maturity. Even though the poems sing of anguish and broken hearts, there is a hint of faith and hope pervading throughout them. Once you read the compositions, you would truly agree with what the poet said in the introduction – poems are “lyrics to melodies of the mind”. 

Shadows of the Trees can be an excellent gift for someone who enjoys reading poetry, or aspiring young adults who love to compose. These candid poems are short but potent, so they can be read in one go, but it’s better to read them leisurely, and let the feelings sink in as you ponder. 

Pages: 115 | ASIN: B09QFDYYNS

Buy Now From Amazon

To Sit Upon The Mountaintop Of My Soul

Author Interview
Paul Lomax Author Interview

What was the idea, or spark, that first set off the need to write and put together the collection of poetry and short stories in Amygdala Blue?

This is, quite honestly, an incredibly concrete and foundational question I would take the liberty to invariably rephrase as: What drives you to compose, canvass, sculpt, and personify poetry? Answer: At the core of what drives my poetry – as well as creative nonfiction – what fuels my need to invest myself in poetry, to sit upon the mountaintop of my soul, listen to past voices rustling across sub-Saharan African ranges, excavating the self, lies the need to uncover what June Jordan beautifully stated as “… formulations of what’s important”. Therein rests my poetic bloodline, to swim in the forever tide of truth, of a gripping, forever biopsychosocial River… Moreover, I contend, my style of poetry is certainly NOT mainstream in nature, rather speaks with a bold tone, sometimes distilled and dissected, other times, brash and emotional. Overall, my works are written with a revolutionary ‘structure’, canvassed around the postmodern notion embodying the African American ‘Presence of Absence’ phenomenon. Authentic poetry demands poets become idiosyncratically ‘attuned’ to an uncompromising, creative self.

“Panther Lurking High Above the Hood” is one of my favorite pieces in this collection. Do you have a favorite writing in this collection, if so what is it and why?

Yes, “Durn my Hide” is a personal expression of antebellum, post-reconstructionist musings, channeled from an authentic voice and time. Unquestionably experimental, undeniably raw, but true to cultural place and time. Because this poem evokes so much emotion, and unique qualities – including prominent rhythms, imagery, and compactness – the prose poem form and structure works best in showcasing its characterized intensity. In this poem, there exists an underlying complexity that challenged me for years to countless number of revisions. Through it all, though, I never thought about moving away from the stylized language. In fact, it was Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s seminal craft which inspired me to excavate deeper, dispel the urge to conform to postmodern vernacular; remembering to stay in touch with the odor, sight, and sound of the minute, hour, day poetically ‘captured’… Moreover, of an interesting note, I hail from several generations of African American farmers from Saluda, Virginia. A land enriched with the blood and sweat, and sacrifice of an African American history written far from history books presented to our postmodern culture. However, I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet any of my mother’s siblings or parents, but I was provided enough information from my mother about their incredible hardships and social struggles. Interestingly though, as I grew into manhood, attained higher education degrees, I could never shake my earthen archetypal memories; I continued to be haunted by the Southern African American voice fettered to land tilled from dawn to dusk, every day of every year. In its purest form, “Durn my Hide” is a revolutionary poem! As André Breton (1896-1966), co-founder of the Surrealist movement said, “The advantage of revolution was not that it gives mankind happiness…[but] it should purify and illuminate man’s tragic condition”.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your collection?

In the midst of a crisis moment, I hope readers come away from reading Amygdala Blue with a resounding notion regarding the grounding and healing power of nature. For in nature, can we make sense of the world enveloping everyone, and thus understand who we are. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: “In the woods, we return to reason and faith”.

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


Author Links: Twitter | GoodReds

Compelling as The Color Purple, palpable as The Invisible Man, and as painful as The Souls of Black FolkAmygdala Blue is a dark excursion triangulating socio-historical ‘beliefs’.

Despite our constant unraveling, despite our continuous urge to become disentangled with one another, we are forever bound to each other, and Nature. Our maternal, romantic, rebellious bonds compel us to belong to each other. This fierce intimacy has the potential to stretch emotional, moral, and faith-based boundaries.

Painted in poetic hues and savage creative nonfiction choices, Amygdala Blue canvases the ‘Presence of Absence’ through the lens of three socio-political themes – Religion, Racism, and Relationships.

In Amygdala Blue by Paul Lomax, the author speaks with an unconventional tone, sometimes distilled and surgically dissected, other times, brash and poetically emotional. Overall, we experience existential dread and surrealistic truth, associated with mental health, personal freedom, and the healing power of nature.

Reading The Accounts Of Suffering

Steven Bruce Author Interview

White Knuckle shares your experiences with grief, loss and abandonment through impassioned and raw poetry. Why was this an important collection for you to publish?

Initially, I never intended to publish White Knuckle. The manuscript came as a result of the final dissertation for my Master’s Degree. It wasn’t until I decided to start a small press that some of the poems saw the light of day. I printed ten of them in a handmade chapbook and placed copies in my local bookstores. After that, I thought no more of it.

A few months later, I was sitting in a café in Warsaw when I received a heartfelt email from a girl who’d read my work. She said she’d suffered similar experiences and found solace in knowing that she wasn’t alone.

That’s when I knew the full collection was worth publishing. And since its release, I’ve received a lot of similar emails and messages.

I believe that by reading the accounts of suffering, we get a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

My favorite poem from the collection is Black Dog. Do you have a favorite poem from the book?

I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite. However, one that sticks out for me is Sleep. Although, I’m not quite sure why. The piece originally contained over fifty places where I’d slept. But for brevity’s sake, I cut it down to fourteen.

And if I may offer a parenthesis to your favourite poem in the collection, the black dog is a metaphor for depression.

I first discovered the term when reading about Winston Churchill, but it also has interesting roots in classical mythology and medieval folklore.

What inspires you to write poetry?

On a personal level, poetry is paramount for meditation and catharsis. It’s my preferred method of coping and analyzing the internal, an exercise of introspection.

To speak broadly, I find inspiration in paintings, people, landscapes, music, literature, the follies and triumphs of society.

If you care to look, poetry is everywhere.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

To answer that, I’d like to quote one of my favourite authors:

Trust time; it usually provides a sweet way out of many bitter challenges.” – Miguel de Cervantes.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | LinkedIn

White Knuckle is a concise exposé of a severe childhood experience.

Bruce’s debut poetry collection, an autobiographical report on the reality of life in a poverty-stricken, drug and violence-fuelled environment, is a gut-wrenching composition of grief, loss, and abandonment at an early age.

This powerful book is brutal, tragic, and moving: an essential read.

Writing Lets Me Share That Feeling

Author Interview
James Murdock

Spirit contains short poems, a few are written in a unique narrative form that explore family relationships and provide commentary on religion, political situations and current events. What inspires you to write poetry?

My inspiration occurred 20 years ago. I hurried onto the trail to Philbin Beach. I was late for sunset. The people all left when the sun went below the horizon. I always loved the time after, when the sun’s rays shown on the underside of the clouds. The water slowly turns from blue to grey to black.

I thought I was the only one on the beach. Then I saw a woman, maybe 30 years old, in a long dress standing right up to the water. She said nothing, looked around her , then back to the ocean. She walked into the water up to her chest, looked back again and went under completely and stayed under.

I realized what was happening and ran into the water, found her, pulled her up and out of the water and onto the beach.

She opened her eyes and said, “No one cares! No one!”

“I care”, I said. “I am your golden retriever. I will never stop you from going back into and under the water, but every time you do I will come in after you, pull you out and revive you.” She stood up glaring at me. “We can do this all night” I said.

She turned, walked then ran into the water up to her chest, stopped and then went under. I started after her, stopped and counted to 50. Then I went in, found her, pulled her out and onto the beach. After a moment she looked up at me.

“Are you ready to go home?” I asked. “Yes”, she said, “Yes, I am!”

Ten years later I was on the trail to Philbin Beach with my eight year old granddaughter, Ashlyn. A woman was leaving. We passed each other on the trail, went a short distance then at the same time paused, turned around and looked at each other. She walked back up and said to Ashlyn, “You know this guy?” “He’s my Papa”, said Ashlyn.

“A long, long time ago your Papa saved me. I was very sad, all alone, no one cared. I came to the beach and went under the water. Your Papa came in after me, pulled me out.

“No one cares I said, no one.”

“I care your Papa said. I’m your golden retriever I will never keep you from going in the water but every time you do I will come in and pull you out.”

“I was still so sad. I went back into the water, looked back at him and went under, But he didn’t come. Now I was not just sad, I was scared. Did he lie? Did he just leave? Oh

my God, oh no. Then his arms were around me. He pulled me out, carried me onto the beach.”

The woman knelt down to Ashlyn. “When Papa waited something happened to me. I wanted to be saved.”
She stood up, smiled, turned and walked away.

Ashlyn reached over, took my hand and touched it to her cheek. We turned around and walked to the beach.

My favorite poem from this collection is ‘Facing The Storm’, because it’s short but potent. Do you have a favorite poem from this book?

I have a number of favorite poems. The one that has meaning for me personally is a Loving Lament. I have always felt nature, before me, around me and within me. Writing lets me share that feeling and invite others to ride along with me. I would like to believe that I’m starting down that road by the publication of this book.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in your poetry?

Those themes are: (1) diving deep into present beauty and brutality; (2) the joy of children, seeing through their eyes and feeling with their hearts; (3) sailing solo but never alone; (4) how otherwise good and kind people become cruel and violent.

When and where will Spirit be available?

Spirit will be released in June 2022 in both hardcover and paperback formats. Hardcover editions can be bought wherever books are sold. Paperback editions will be available through Amazon only.

Literary Titan Book Awards June 2022

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and writing talent of these brilliant authors.

Gold Award Recipients

Spirit by James Murdock

Small Town Spirit

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information.

%d bloggers like this: