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Emotionally Broken

Isabel Wells covers the important topic of being involved in a relationship with a narcissist in Emotionally Broken, telling the tale of Katelyn, a single mother of two girls who meets Jonathan, the handsome, rich Prince Charming who sweeps her off her feet and into his arms. As the relationship develops, we see Jonathan’s true colors emerge.

This book is about such an important topic. Katelyn lives with her mother and works to provide for her girls. She doesn’t really have much else outside of those relationships. When handsome and rich Jonathan comes into her life this novel certainly becomes a much deeper and thought-provoking novel.

Isabel Wells does an excellent job of showing how little self-esteem Katelyn has, for example in how she reacts to Jonathan looking at her. The book takes us on a journey, slowly watching their relationship develop into a marriage and then the end of a marriage as Katelyn sees the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Jonathan. There is a lot of dialogue to share conversations and arguments between the couple, but the dialogue felt stilted. Once the couple marry, the pace of the book picks up, but I felt that there were areas that were underdeveloped. I wanted to see what leads Katelyn to confide in others, instead I felt that we were simply told that this is now happening. We proceed at breakneck speed through the last third of the book. Although there are mentions of lessons Katelyn learned, I wanted more explanation of what those lessons were. This is an emotional book and I was enthralled with Katelyn’s character so my desire to know more comes from the sentimental connection Isabel Wells is able to create between her character and the reader.

This is a complex and sensitive topic to deal with and Isabel Wells handles it with care. The book would have benefited from more show, less tell and more development of some crucial points to help the reader understand the relationship. But in the end Emotionally Broken is a touching story that explores emotional connections and different types of personalities.

Pages: 124 | ASIN: B08CGNNS3S

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Pitting Good Against Bad

Kaylin McFarren
Kaylin McFarren Author Interview

Soul Seeker follows a soul hunting demon that is captured and turns against Lucifer after forming a relationship with an angel. What were some sources that informed this novels development?

I enjoy reading supernatural and paranormal stories, and always wanted to write one. It didn’t seem like a far stretch, since I already write psychological thrillers. Ray Garton, Andrew Klavan, Terry Goodkind, and Stephen King are just a few of the authors I admire and were inspired by, while writing this story. Plus I love pitting good against bad, and what greater conflict exists than forced relationships, especially when they involve angels and demons.

I appreciated the exploration of morality in this book. What were some themes you wanted to focus on while writing?

It might well be that all moral agents accept a code of prudence or rationality in this book, but this would not by itself show that prudence was part of morality. So something else must be added; for example, that the code can be understood to involve a certain kind of impartiality, or that it can be understood as having the function of making it possible for people to live together despite their extreme beliefs. In SOUL SEEKER, enemies are forced to not only accept one another but also depend on each other for their survival — a lesson we can all learn from.

Crighton is a standout character for me. How did you set about creating his character?

I wanted to create a complex, flawed, evil character that seeks approval by any means necessary. He has a conscious, which he and Lucifer view as a weakness. On his journey to self awareness, he develops empathy and becomes self sacrificing, while growing his ability to love. I wanted readers to hate him when he is first introduced and then discover his redeeming qualities.

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

I’m currently working on the next installment in this book and have titled it ANNIHILATION. In this story, Lucifer’s daughter turns Hell into a far worse place and threatens to overtake Heaven by whatever means necessary.

If all goes according to plan, I’m hoping to have this book available in the Spring of 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

While awaiting his execution for murdering his son, Benjamin Poe confesses to his lawyer the true story behind his crime, a harrowing tale of a manipulating, soul-collecting demon named Crighton. Following Poe’s death, Crighton continues his malevolent duties, until he’s kidnapped by members of The Sovereign Sector. This group of scientists, notorious for experimenting on supernatural creatures, forces Crighton into a soulmate relationship with the very angel he was sent to capture for Lucifer. However, with secrets revealed and loyalties shifting, Crighton soon becomes the target of Lucifer’s revenge, and his journey to redemption and freedom—or eternal enslavement—begins.

A Guy Can Dream…

Jafe, riding the rails in southern Germany.
Jafe Danbury Author Interview

The Other Cheek follows Rich as he struggles with his increasingly abusive wife and his attempt to escape. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?

First, I’d like to thank you for your brilliant, insightful and thoughtful review of my debut novel. It’s so refreshing and encouraging to read an intelligent review written by someone who holds such passion for the written word, and who “gets” my book!

Okay, back to your question: The inspiration for the setup of my story was pretty deeply rooted in personal experience, truth be told. There’s an old expression that advises writers to “Write what you know…”, and that was the springboard for taking on this difficult (understatement) story. Rich, the protagonist in the story, is a freelancer in the television industry, which mirrored my previous career in the Hollywood arena. So, there’s that. As for the story itself, and the harrowing predicament Rich finds himself in…well, without saying too much more about that, let’s just say I have some skin in the game––literally––on that front as well. Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt…ahem. The setting, the characters, and events naturally unfolded––once I allowed them to––but that took considerable time to process. Liberating it all from a depths of my soul was the biggest challenge I faced in deciding to share the story.

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

Writing the character of Rich didn’t require much invention, really, as he mirrored myself in many ways––not only professionally, but physically, emotionally, spiritually, and we had lots of shared experience. Rich came from a very loving and supportive family, as did I. His good character traits were forged in his upbringing, and I like to think that mine were as well. As the story has to do with a decent man who is living a secret life of pain, being subjected to a tortuous amount of abuse––both emotional and physical––at the hands of his supposedly loving spouse, Rich’s character had to plumb the depths of his soulful DNA to avoid responding in kind to the physical abuse. His childhood lessons were indelible, and the “boys don’t hit girls––ever” credo was adhered to at all costs. Plus, he took his vows seriously, and perhaps he took it all too literally. The cost was huge. Irreparable, really…

The novel explores abusive relationships and domestic violence. Was this intentional or incidental to telling the story you wanted to tell?

This story takes place in the 1990s, which––as the crow flies (?)––doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in terms of our lifestyles and attitudes, it was an eternity ago. By that, I mean, we didn’t have smart phones, the internet was just beginning to emerge, there wasn’t all of the instantaneous communication and technology at our fingertips, and along with that…awareness, it was lacking.

Domestic violence has long been a dirty little behind-closed-doors secret, really, and I wanted this story to challenge readers to reevaluate what they think they really know about domestic abuse. Rich’s predicament involved being on the flip-side of the “typical” domestic violence equation, as he was in that underreported (again, understatement) demographic of a male being physically abused by a female. He thought he was the only one on the planet going through that! Besides, who would believe him? With that well-kept secret, an immeasurable burden of shame adds enough weight to assure one sinks to the deepest abyss imaginable. It’s a dilemma and place I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and––sadly––it’s a place from where some never return.

I remember back to when I was a teenager, and my father recommended I read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. This was some deep, dark––yet enlightening––stuff, as it dealt with his experiences in a concentration camp and his internal search for the meaning of it all. That, probably subliminally, was what I was looking for as I dove into the dark places I had to go in order to write this book. What would be the meaning behind it? What purpose could possibly be served by going through horrific experiences––whether they be in concentration camps, or as a prisoner of war in your own home? I figured, if the book touches just one person, then it will all be worth it. I guess my purpose was being a conduit to help with Awareness. I guess I was deemed strong enough to live through it, and to tell it. I needed to get it right, and necessary authenticity comes from that place.

Readers will also notice that I incorporated lots of music references throughout the narrative. The choices were very deliberate in not only establishing mood in some scenes, but also at times reflecting or belying emotions of the characters. I am especially grateful to Tom Petty’s estate for granting permission in the use of a song that was very important to driving the plot of certain scene (I won’t give spoilers here). I wish I could’ve included a two-CD soundtrack with every book, but that was prohibitive. It was challenging enough to navigate the licensing of the songs I decided to use, and there were several I had to let go. In the book, Rich interacts with “The Great D.J. in the Sky”, who is almost a character in his/herself. Readers have mentioned how much the songs added to the experience.

Amazingly, about a month ago, I was notified that this debut novel of mine received a Finalist Medal in its “Best First Novel” category in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards! This little naked-making project of mine, the one that I almost kept stuffed down out of fear and uncertainty, is slowly finding an audience, is being embraced critically, and being appreciated for its honesty and candor. I receive letters from readers who either know someone who’s going through an abusive relationship, or have been in one themselves, and I feel for them all.

I hope my book comes up on Oprah’s radar, because that would take readership and awareness to the next level! A guy can dream…

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

Well, I’ve been wearing many hats as I try to get this book launched and safely out of the harbor. Without a major publishing house behind you, it takes a lot of extra effort to get your book noticed, as I envision my book as a little baby sea turtle trying to navigate that Normandy Beach-like stretch of sand to find relative safety in the deep water. It truly helps to have some great reviews to help differentiate it from the millions of other books out there, and I really appreciate Literary Titan taking the time to review the book and interview the author.

That being said, I think my next book will center on a female protagonist. I’m still in the early stages of fleshing out her character and story, but I think it will be a worthy follow-up. And, not unlike my first one, it’ll probably have a killer soundtrack!

Author Links: Website | GoodReads | Facebook

He took his vows seriously. So did she. Especially the ‘Til Death part… It’s1992, and Rich and Tami have a fantastic future ahead of them as husband and wife: he as a technical expert behind the Hollywood scenes, she an up-and-coming actress. They both have drive and ambition and, knowing life isn’t always fair, are willing to tough it out to succeed. But is that enough? Does working in a town run on secrets and backstabbing doom any institution requiring trust and loyalty? On the outside, this beautiful couple present an enviable façade, including their ability to stick it out when the going gets tough. Behind closed doors, however, their struggle includes keeping the noise down so the neighbors aren’t privy to the pitched screaming, the hurled objects, and the soul-crushing cage fight happening next door. Complicating matters already far from simple is that the aggressor here is the 105-pound wife against her strong and capable husband, who is all too aware of the stigma surrounding “ordinary” victims of domestic abuse, let alone the male partner. Rich has no intention of being a victim, not in his own estimation and not in the eyes of a society with an aversion to weakness, particularly in those appointed to act as its protectors. Will Rich’s closely-held secret result in his demise or will he escape the cycle of abuse––and at what cost?

THE OTHER CHEEK

THE OTHER CHEEK: Boy meets girl. Girl beats boy. Just your typical love story... by [JAFE DANBURY]

Rich has everything going for him: a job for which he has been well-trained and loves, a family who loves him unconditionally, and a beautiful and talented wife. Rich has just one thing going against him–his beautiful and talented wife. Their life together was supposed to be ideal. Her budding career as an actress and his job as a trusted member of television production crews should have combined to form the perfect union. But all is not as it seems in Rich’s life, and try as he might, he can’t seem to crack the code to Tami’s mood swings. The not-knowing is killing him–literally.

The Other Cheek, by Jafe Danbury, is the story of one man’s struggle with domestic abuse. Rich faces the unknown every day since his marriage to Tami. He wakes and sleeps only according to her inner demons, and his battle is one for the record books. No one is more patient or giving than Rich. Time and time again, he chooses to face the barrage of insults and the physical abuse that seem to stem from something deep inside Tami’s very soul. Never knowing what will trigger an episode and always scraping the bottom of the barrel of excuses, Rich grows increasingly haggard and mentally defeated as he rides out one horrific day after another.

Danbury’s portrayal of a husband being abused at the hands of his seemingly less physically intimidating wife is captivating in every way. As I began reading, I wondered why the author chose a third person point-of-view. It didn’t take long to realize that the story is all the more horrifying from the outside looking in. Danbury does a truly fantastic job of drawing readers into Rich’s life. Wanting to reach out and rescue Rich, I found myself increasingly stressed and anxious for a positive turn–just anything to make his life with Tami more bearable.

As someone who fled an abusive relationship, everything about Rich’s ordeal hit home–from Tami’s fits of rage to her manipulation of his emotions and attempts to distance him from his family. Danbury’s writing is spot-on. Every ounce of fear, every second of Tami’s attacks, and each and every moment of Rich’s hesitation to share his experience with anyone. I can relate to Rich’s unwillingness to reach out for help, and I know I am not alone. Danbury is reaching an audience not often addressed in realistic fiction.

I absolutely flew through Danbury’s work, absorbing one of Rich’s emotions after the other and fearing Tami right alongside him. I recommend this book to anyone who has survived abuse, thinks they may be a victim, or knows and loves someone who is dealing with a controlling significant other. Danbury is making important strides with The Other Cheek.

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07YWC791R

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The Mirror Without Reflection

The Mirror Without Reflection by [Sarudzai Mubvakure]

The Mirror Without Reflection by Sarudzai Mubvakure is a contemporary fiction story set primarily in England about Sofia Blackwell, a woman who meets a Nigerian man who she marries. Oche is a charming conman and Sofia allows herself to be deceived by him due to her low self-worth, ignoring the obvious signs of his true character. After many previous attempts, she finally finds the resolve necessary to break away from him and starts seeing a therapist, Dr. Michael Marshall, who is helping her work through her issues. Spending time together, Michael and Sofia develop feelings for each other. But when Oche reenters Sofia’s life again, will he pull her back into the same toxic cycle of belittlement and misery? Or can she escape for good this time?

This was an interesting story. I enjoyed reading about Michael and Sofia getting to know each other during her therapy sessions. I liked that Sofia helped Michael almost as much as he helped her. Helping Sofia find effective methods to cope and validating her feelings during her sessions gave him purpose once more and helped him to move beyond the grief of his wife’s passing. This put Michael and Sofia on a much more equal footing, eliminating some of the inherent power imbalance in a relationship between a therapist and patient. I was happy to see Sofia finally find her self worth, and I’m glad she ended up with a man who respected and admired her.

I preferred reading the sections where Sofia was describing events in her past to Michael, rather than the actual flashbacks. It was hard to read the scenes where she is being treated badly and allowing herself to be used time and time again, always making excuses for Oche and taking him back after unforgivable actions. I didn’t like that Sofia tolerated this treatment from Oche from the very beginning of their relationship because she didn’t want to be alone and she didn’t believe that anyone else would want her. I understand Sofia wanted to be loved, but that wasn’t love. Being alone should be preferable to accepting a toxic relationship that just made her feel even worse about herself. Even her relationships with friends seemed to follow a similar pattern because she didn’t value herself, and she missed the signs of a controlling nature in her new fiance. The Mirror Without Reflection made me feel all of these things about fictional characters! It was emotionally raw and I was enthralled by the story.

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B089JY4SSZ

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Pink Slips

Pink Slips

Pink Slips is a riveting tale of one woman’s desperate plight to keep her loved ones safe, even in the sights of a mysterious stalker with an unsettling amount of determination. From the outside looking in, good-humored Betsy seems to have it all – a beautiful home, a dapper and doting family, a successful career as a gourmet chef, and even a fabulous little furry companion. Still, looks can be deceiving, and in the complex life of Betsy, a storm is breaking. Author Beth Aldrich masterfully weaves the unbounded strength of family and friendship into the tense mix of danger and pursuit, making this as heartfelt as it is chilling.

Truth be told, the emotional personality of this novel had me enamored immediately. The story opens warmly, inviting you directly into Betsy’s thoughts as she gleefully ponders over the fresh news of her first pregnancy. Her inner monologue is so charmingly real, and it was easy to imagine her gossiping to me with excitement for the little bean just beginning to grow within her. Unfortunately, life is often a blend of both miraculous beauty as well as senseless cruelty, and as Betsy is strolling through a parking lot, she’s interrupted by a mugger fixated on her handbag. This encounter feels as tragic as it does plausible, as raw moments like this unfortunately happen every single day. Reading along, my eyes began brimming with tears as I absent-mindedly gnawed off the tip of a fingernail. Aldrich has made such beautiful work of tapping into Betsy’s personal thoughts, gripping me with her fear in that moment. As the first chapter came to an end, I found myself hurriedly turning the pages, awaiting the fate of our beloved mother-to-be.

There is a famous saying to the effect of “What does not kill you makes you stronger,” but in tender Betsy’s case, stronger would be better replaced with “paranoid”. Years of meditation have served to soften the edges of her anxiety, but some trauma you just never fully recover from. When suspicious pink notes begin arriving in her life boasting threats, Betsy is forced to revisit the fear of that fateful night in the parking lot. She has worked diligently to create the loving and comfortable home around her, and it’s no surprise that she isn’t willing to let that be endangered twice. Again, I found myself furiously chewing at my own nails as I cheered her on, anxious of the long list of suspicious characters possibly behind the ominous pink slips. Luckily, Aldrich writes with a bright wittiness that balances the heaviness of the theme, or I wouldn’t have had any nails left by the end.

Aside from being endearing, this story is also incredibly digestible, despite being so darkly thematic at points. I read it in a mere two sittings. I really can’t pen enough praise for Aldrich’s cheeky and personal writing style. Even in the throes of a deranged stalker, each main character sports such flavorful personality that the novel stays warm and engaging throughout. I can’t wait to catch another title from this author.

Pages: 267 | ASIN: B071LKC325

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The Shudder of Realization

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Glossolalia is a thrilling ride through the mind of a woman who is seemingly normal but her life slowly unfolds to reveal something bizarre. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?

I have a keen interest in mind control of individuals, and the way controlling each individual can effectively affect a large number of people. All my life I’ve studied in depth the methods that agencies such as the CIA has historically used, and they often have manipulated people’s interest in the occult. And that seems like a topic rich with dramatic fictional possibilities, especially for Psychological Suspense, in which gaslighting is such a common element.

I know I love that electric shudder I get when realize something is not what I thought it was, when I’m just starting to put the pieces together and it’s first making sense, grim as the truth may be. I wanted to give readers that entertainment as well.

Nancy, is like many women at first, but she suffers from narcolepsy and has an addiction to pills that she is trying to kick. How her character unfolds and develops is fascinating. What was your plan as you wrote Nancy’s character?

The only way she can explain her fugues at first is to believe she has narcolepsy, but when she discovers what she does during her periods of amnesia, she realizes her problem is something entirely different from that illness. Similarly, she thinks she’s addicted to the pills to keep hallucinations and delusions at bay, but once she manages to stop taking them, she realizes her visions have been actual memories.

My plan with her was to create an anti-hero who finds a way to redeem herself while staying true to the dubious skills she’s been taught all her life. And she gives readers a way to inhabit the sympathetic victim as well as to perhaps develop compassion for people who are compelled to commit violent acts. In a way, she stands for all of us, because everyone has fallen prey to disinformation at some point, and thus has been an unwilling promulgator of it. And all of us have some chance at heroically redeeming ourselves for that, though of course, I don’t promote violence in any way.

There are a lot of fantastic twists in this novel along with a variety of surprises that kept me turning pages. Did you plan the novel before you wrote or did the story develop organically?

I planned it out to make sure all the plot points, pinch points, act breaks and all were in proper order. However, as I wrote it, I got new ideas for twists that were great fun to conceive of. For example, Brandon the YouTube conspiracy journalist with gigantism wasn’t in the completed first draft. Just as much as I enjoy the shudder of realization, I love the feeling of coming up with new plot twists. It feels delightful.

Glossolalia is book one in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Where does book two, Remember to Recycle, take readers?

People who like Glossolalia will probably like Remember to Recycle because it falls within the same genre categories including Conspiracy Thriller and Political Thriller, and while book one focuses on how coups are created, book two focuses on how proxy wars are created. In both cases, the emphasis is on how intelligence agents deceive the public into going along with the terrible treatment of other countries for profit motive, while pretending it’s for humanitarian aid.

Glossolalia referenced our society’s history, particularly related to intelligence agencies, as a foundation for the series, as well as a pattern of coups that’s been recurring for a very long time; Remember to Recycle specifically addresses what’s happening right now. It goes into all the types of trafficking that go along with war, which is the secondary meaning of the title.

However, the first meaning of the title is more obvious, because a major character is Dave, a homeless man who survives by going through people’s recycling bins and selling the stuff, like all the other guys on the street. But he comes up with a brilliant plan. As in Glossolalia, there’s a darkly humorous aspect to it, and he provides a lot of that. He was really fun for me to write, especially as it’s first person present tense, while he describes his life moment by moment to the “character” he affectionately calls Mr. Interrogator. He’s got a hell of a personality. He likes to wear a wide variety of costumes that he keeps under the bridge, and fancies himself an actor of sorts. He idolizes the Rescuers, who are based on the White Helmets.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 1)

No one but her uncle would hire Nancy, considering her habit of snapping out of amnesiac fugues, wondering where she got her bruises and the scent of men’s cologne. When she sees a crime of poison in progress at the company, she chases the truck carrying away the chemical legally deemed too toxic to use or to dump. Her pursuit leads to a convoluted world of political intrigue, esoteric rituals and an arcane Elizabethan spy code, and assassinations she never imagined – though her imagination is what holds that world together.

This conspiracy novel introduces a young woman with an ambiguous past involving herself in a killer organization with one layer after another of her psyche. DARK, even possibly DISTURBING ROMANCE, is key to finding elusive authenticity.

The old cartoonish formula of good CIA VS bad guys no longer is fresh and relevant. Though through a fictionalized agency, the books in this series, like Barry Eisler’s spy thrillers, explore the shady side of the CIA secret psy-ops, covert experiments, illusions, coups, media theater, psychological warfare, and illicit methods of funding. The Agents of the Nevermind series dares to explore the edgiest controversies and the convoluted lives intelligence agents must endure as they create bizarre delusions for the world in order to hide the truth about their nation’s financial foundation.

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Glossolalia

Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 1)

Nancy is like any woman in the prime of her life; active, engaged with hobbies, and busy with a normal day job. But underneath the surface, she is anything but ordinary. Plagued with a strange form of narcolepsy, Nancy can’t help but feel the grip of forces other than her own. With her uncle’s seemingly gracious help coming into question, she is soon exposed to the world of government conspiracy, mind control and espionage. It’s up to her to find out who’s behind it all, but can she get a grip in time to save herself and others?

Tantra Bensko’s Glossolalia is a thrilling and bumpy ride through the mind of a woman who comes off initially as relatively boring and normal. She’s crushing on a co-worker and at the mercy of jokes from her cube mates. She has her hobbies, piano and karate, and a good friendship with a girl named Alyssa. After Nancy’s parents died mysteriously when she was younger, her uncle Geoff took her into his care and provided her with a stable job at his corporation. Plagued with fugue states and narcolepsy her whole life, her uncle has also been giving her a steady supply of pills that she can’t seem to break her addiction to. She starts to question her uncle’s intentions and in an effort to break free from him and the pills, she coincidentally starts to reveal Geoff’s much darker agenda for her.

Initially, I began to question Nancy’s motives and her own sanity. The writing was quite scattered and jumped around enough to make me wonder if Nancy was just in a constant state of a psychotic break. In one moment her mind was scrambling for answers and in the next it was calm and reasonable. It took quite some time to figure out the relationship between Emily, Angela and Nancy, but the slow reveal did add to the suspense. Nancy’s tenacity and constant questioning of her life kept the book moving along at a nice pace. And there is plenty of references to the Nevermind, the CIA, MKULTRA, and other government groups which helps to build the psychological suspense of the novel.

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B01I8SLVTY

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