Blog Archives

Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet

Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet by [Martek, Igor]

Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet, by Igor Martek, follows the trials and tribulations of Ricky, a man facing one dilemma after another in his life in the Middle East. Ricky is a Filipino man making his way in Kuwait and struggling to come to terms with his career demands while taming the turmoil that is his love life. When Breeze, his girlfriend from China, is not in the picture, Ricky is coping with a love lost with Leoni. The on-and-off love triangle that looms over Ricky leaves him contemplating his life choices and provides readers with a character who is philosophical, introspective, and, at times, a bit morbid.

Ricky often finds himself at odds with his own desires. As a character, he is trusting–far too trusting, in fact. Over the course of the book, he runs the gamut of emotions. He finds himself contemplating religious expectations, the course of his career, and the real reasons he may or may not belong with Breeze.

I found myself hard-pressed to like Breeze; it was a real struggle. As a reader, I wanted desperately for Ricky to find himself, find a way to cope with Breeze’s flighty nature, and realize her true intentions. The author does a wonderful job of keeping frustration levels high in that respect. If anything, Breeze is true-to-life. There is no fairy tale resolution where she is concerned. The relationship between Ricky and Breeze runs hot and cold, and I felt myself quickly realizing that Ricky could do much better than Breeze. Her tendency to talk down to him and to leave him wondering where he stands left me disconcerted and hurting for him.

As much disdain as I held for Breeze, I may have disliked Leoni even more. She, too, comes in and out of Ricky’s life with little or no warning and shakes up his emotions, his intentions, and his choices. Leoni seems to use Ricky to stroke her own ego and comfort herself following each of her subsequent divorces. Martek has created quite the triangle with Leoni, Breeze, and Ricky. Ricky spends a lot of time recounting his past experiences with both women, and the story tends to bounce back and forth fairly randomly.

Martek paints beautiful pictures of his settings. His vivid details in scenery and the cuisines of each of the cultures depicted are quite appealing and provide fantastic visuals as the reader watches the story unfold. In addition, the author includes history lessons throughout Ricky’s story.

Martek is an eloquent writer of fiction and is more than capable of writing in the romance genre. While Martek has woven an intricate tale that immerses the reader in culture, drama, and clings to intense and realistic personal relationships, it does lack humor. The serious nature of the story doesn’t lend itself well to overtly comedic moments, but the overall tone seems too sober. Well-placed, light-hearted moments would be a welcome addition to the story line.

Pages: 173 | ASIN: B0771PDS4G

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Serial K Returns

Serial K Returns by [Gallagher, Brian]

If you were waiting to find out what happened to Craig Breedlove, then look no further. Brian Gallagher returns to the mind of Breedlove and his unnatural obsessions in Serial K Returns. Once again, we find ourselves in the mind of a serial killer: we witness the world from his point of view and become intimately aware of what exactly drives him. It’s unclear how much time has passed since the first book and the second, but Breedlove appears to be a bit older than he was the first time he tangoed with the FBI. Ryan O’Callahan and Lea Pucci also make their return in this continuation of Serial K. Their relationship has progressed but how far these two will get in their renewed chase with Breedlove awaits us in this book.

Gallagher is good at making his characters seem like real human beings. Perhaps that is why there is so much profanity when they speak. While there is a certain level of profanity expected from a crime-thriller for adults, and we know from experience that Breedlove doesn’t have the largest vocabulary, it does detract from the tale when reading about FBI agents discussing a case and they are prone to swear every five seconds.

If that’s not something that makes you put down a book, then you won’t be disappointed with what’s left within the pages of this novel. While not perfect, the core of this story is very entertaining. This is not Gallagher’s first novel and his experience shows. The story flows better than the first one. He also cleverly intersects two different characters from two different books into the same world. This is exciting for those who enjoy reading stories that take place in the same universe. It shows a careful sense of world-building to have these two different stories connect on such a base level without feeling forced or contrived.

I felt that there was some unreal character development on behalf of Breedlove in the last few chapters. Breakthroughs in his own perception of the world and how he comes to view the people who are chasing him happen quickly. There is no concrete resolution on what will happen to Breedlove by the end of the novel, this may be Gallagher setting the stage for a third installment of the series, however. So, there might be something to look forward to in the end.

If you like reading edgy stories that push the boundaries than you will enjoy this second piece to the story of Craig Breedlove in Serial K Returns by Brian Gallagher. It’s a gritty diamond in the rough that would have benefited from another edit, but is otherwise very entertaining. The thought process behind Serial K Returns is just as forward-thinking as it was the first time in Serial K. Getting into the mind-space of a serial killer; identifying what drives them and what moves them to kill is not an easy task. This where I believe Brian Gallagher shines, and where Serial K Returns stands out from the rest. This will have you wondering how much of Breedlove do you see in yourself.

Pages: 299 | ASIN: B06Y3JNCSZ

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That’s a Tricky Question

Sally Forest Author Interview

Sally Forest Author Interview

Choose: Snakes or Ladders follows Mitty who comes up against sexism and classism and must challenge others’ prejudices while fighting her inner demons. What was your inspiration for this provocative novel?

I didn’t have any articulated inspiration for the novel. It started as a short piece and grew seemingly by itself. I thought it was about an innocent young girl in the 50’s. I actually didn’t know that I felt so strongly about class issues and sexism. Nor about sexual safety of young people. My main conscious focus was on her struggle to find a way through the internal and external restrictions. As a former therapist, it has always saddened me that many women, particularly in the 50’s, were denied natural pleasures because of a culture of ignorance and shame around female sexual activity. As well of course, of career advancement.

What I really enjoyed about Mitty’s character is how well developed she was but continued to transform throughout the novel. What were some obstacles you felt were important for Mitty’s character development?

Her main obstacle was the extreme shaming and ignorance of the fictional sect in the novel. Another strong obstacle was Mitty’s lack of anyone who could help her come to some knowledge and understanding. I loved Violet’s attempts to inform her. The struggle is linked to the development, through ups and downs, of her self-worth – another essential ingredient in a life of achievement, pleasure and love.

I think you did a great job of illustrating that female beauty and sexuality can often be a poisoned chalice. Why do you think this is an important, especially with today’s #metoo movement?

I was amused by Mitty’s character as a woman who was beautiful and sexually arousing without her knowing it. And heartened by her innate sensuality. Perhaps if young women were educated properly and allowed to have awareness and acceptance of these factors, they would be less vulnerable in the face of male assertion of power in all ways. A lot of work needs to be done to educate men, particularly in self-awareness.

In the sequel all these themes continue to build strong plot threads, together with some surprising twists in Mitty’s life path.

What life experiences of your own did you put into the novel, if any?

That’s a tricky question. A life experience of teacher and counselor helps to build a wide understanding. Personally, none of the events as depicted happened to me, although fragments of similar occurrences have been combined to build a different fictional history. For example, my much loved grandmother had overcome a restrictive religious background, while still quoting many homilies to me, with a wry smile. Otherwise, sometimes just a few words overheard will trigger a scene. So there is a basic truth in it all.

Author Links: Amazon | Website

Choose: Snakes Or Ladders: A Psychological Coming-of-Age Novel by [Forest, Sally]“Choose: Snakes or Ladders: A Psychological Coming-of-Age Novel” from hot new contemporary fiction author, Sally Forest.

This is “a well-plotted tale of human growth, sexuality, and self-discovery which will be enjoyed by readers of women’s fiction and literary fiction alike.”

Mitty is a young girl brought up in a punitive sect who escapes to a typist job in the city – a step to fulfilling her dreams of being a lady. She is hampered by deep fears of hell and punishment, and utter ignorance of the facts of life.

The 1950’s – sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not in the small towns of Australia. There were lots of jobs, clothes and wealth in the cities but this threatened the values of the past – a culture where men desire and decide, while women love and serve.

Miss Mitty Bedford knew the outside world through Hollywood movies at the local Pictures, only to find in real life that there can be nasties behind smiling, beautiful faces.

A stalker’s attack clashes with her newfound joy in sensual self-discovery inspired by a crush on her boss, and her love for decent, loving, traditional Col. She writhes between shame, repentance and joy. 

Mitty wants a career and respect, but what path must she choose? She needs love, but does she want freedom more?

This emotional and dramatic journey to win trust, love and independence, will keep readers turning the pages, as well as provoking questions that still apply today.

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The Book of Self and How it Interrelates

Have you ever met a person for the first time and upon shaking hands experience a sort of electrical shock? Ever been inexplicably drawn to a particular person or animal? Energy is the chain that connects humans to the planet, heavens, animals, plants and other humans. By sharing the earth, energy is transferred through earth’s beings. Energy is the life force of all things. Water is energy. Water can exist in many different forms, which makes it the best conductor of energy. Water is quintessential to life. Without water, man surely will, for lack of a better word, wither. In the absence of water, plants die, animals perish and air becomes ‘unbreathable’. Water keeps the earth going.

The earth has layers; lithosphere, asthenosphere, upper mantle, lower mantle, outer core and inner core. The inner core is also referred to as the solar plexus, the hot centre of the earth. These layers vary in energy frequencies. Just like the earth, humans also have layers. Layers whose energy levels also vary. The energy that surrounds a person is known as aura. Aura is a worldly womb. The strength of this aura is determined by the mind. One’s thoughts can affect and direct their energy. The earth’s energy field protects it from cosmic disasters and solar flares. By the same principle, a weak aura leaves room for unhappiness and attacks on self. Based on the energy running through a person, they can be completely attuned to the cosmos or in utter incongruence. All these frequencies travel up the body to congregate and project like a beam through the third eye. This is a spot between the eyebrows. What importance is this information to human beings? How does knowing about energy and aura beneficial to the human race?

The Book of Self: A Thesis on Energy and How It Interrelates urges on the importance of following one’s intuition. Intuition is the natural Wi-Fi allowing communication between the mind and the universe to make accurate predictions. Floyd Williams also introduces the idea of sound and color being a language. The seven colors of the rainbow are ingrained in the threads of human psychological make-up. In his opinion, these colors should be integrated in everyday life as much as possible. The author reveals the secret to freeing one’s mind. A clear understanding of energy is essential in the quest to find true selves. A man’s true potential and power lies in their ability to let their mind run free and unencumbered. This book gives a prelude to this journey. The information in this book is a prerequisite in the study of life.

This book uses easily understandable illustrations to unravel the answers to life’s questions. The author properly illustrates how to properly treat life as the gift it is. In Floyd’s terms, “Life is the gift, everything else is a blessing”. The reader’s relationship with self and the earth will be enhanced upon understanding the information in this book.

Pages: 34 | ISBN: 1973368846

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Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

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Love is Dynamic

Steven Gillis Author Interview

Steven Gillis Author Interview

Liars follows Eric, a writer, who is struggling to write, when he becomes convinced that happy relationships are unsustainable. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this novel?

It seems at times we all feel this way, the ebb and flow of all relationships. The wondering of why we are with a certain person, or how to conduct ourselves in a relationship. Are we in the right place, is our definition of love correct or even sustainable? I wanted to explore this at the surface and work it from every angle. I began with the idea as laid out in the early pages of the novel that love is a dynamic that changes over time, for better or worse, and our perception of love, our understanding or lack thereof, is also a variable that messes with our relationships. I wanted to write of relationships from the perspective of love being fragile, mostly because we all have a tendency of fucking things up when the best thing to do is just let love and relationships evolve and carry on – or end – organically. In LIARS there is really only one character who gets this, and yet, whether or not she ends up happy, whether any of the characters end up happy or more attuned, is up to the reader to decide.

Eric is a fascinating character that only gets deeper as the novel progresses. What themes did you want to capture while writing his character?

That Eric is human and he is trying to figure things out, that his starting point is a bit skewed, he is flawed , that even his best intentions come from a confused place, that he, like everyone else, is scrambling to sustain and discover love only he is ultimately clueless as to what he is actually after. Until the very end, when you think maybe…. But with Eric that may as easily be a momentary place as well. I wanted him to be restless and not always wise in his questioning, but searching nonetheless.

Eric becomes fixated on a happy couple he meets in the market and is determined to tear them apart to prove that love isn’t real. Did you intend to explore love and relationships in this novel or did that happen organically as you were writing?

Indeed, as noted, the idea to explore love from different angles and perspectives was my intent going in. How does love sustain itself? What is love? Is it a form of freedom in which case to what extent is freedom offered, or is it a form of compromise to achieve something greater than the individual self? Is such a goal even possible? What of monogamy? Is it a social contrivance? What of open relationships? I had a lot of ideas in my head and then honestly one day at my market here in Ann Arbor I saw a couple that intrigued me for a dozen different reasons and I began to see the possibility of playing with many ideas about love through the lens of someone who views this couple and wants to test them.

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

I am writing a new novel now that is already under contract to my publisher. I hope to be done in the next year or so. Its a big sweeping look at our world through the prism of a single city.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Eric McCanus is a novelist with the misfortune of having written his one great book when he was young. Struggling to write more, recently divorced, while still missing his ex-wife, Eric becomes convinced that happy relationships are unsustainable. Determined to prove the accuracy of his theory, Eric stumbles upon a seemingly perfect couple at the market. Convinced the marriage of Cara and Matt can’t be as successful as it appears, Eric does what he can to break them apart. What follows is a psychological and philosophical comedy of errors. Liars is an exploration of love, relationships, and human interaction, a madcap romp through the vestiges of modern affairs, revolving around five characters, each spun drunk on the batterings of love while attempting to sustain themselves in a false world.

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Because It Was Raining

Because It Was Raining

Because It Was Raining, written by Skyler Worley, tells a story of a man who goes by the name of Louis. He is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning whilst trying to find his place in the world. Louis joins two other lost souls, the three dysfunctional amigos, who mask their loneliness with the swirl of a pipe. Together they venture into Kansas City where they find broken homes and people, lost in the filth of their demise. Will Louis break free from the demons that haunt him and finally find himself or will he be forever lost in a world of chaos?

Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. The story is simple but effective, following a friendship group who are living in a world where they attempt to solve and mask their problems with drugs and dodgy relationships.

Skyler Worley writes with a creative flair, pulling the reader in with emotive words and concepts. The language is beautiful, carefully curated together to produce a complex and vivid picture of the scenery and characters. The story seems to switch between a hazed, drug-fuelled state to a deep and contemplative mindset. Louis wants to understand the meaning of life but is tortured by the losses of his past, finding analogies in his current life situation.

Because It Was Raining deals with the complexity of death and how it can shape your life in ways you least expect. There are so many emotions and raw situations that the reader will be able to relate to, especially if they have lost a loved one.

I enjoyed watching the character progression of the character “Boobe” as she takes on a motherly role whilst still involving herself in tools to mask her depression. She has profound moments of wisdom which provokes the reader to consider life and its meaning. For example, she states that the world lacks equality and some of us are born with a silver spoon, others with a plastic fork. You can then either choose to change your fate but only within your ability to alter it. Her life is complex as well as the characters she invites into her life and home. Boobe’s story is uncovered the further you move throughout the novel, exposing explanations and reasoning to her behavior.

Each character has their own personal backstory which has led them to a place that is lonely and dark. It’s a reminder that drugs are often a coping mechanism for those who are crying out for help. Because It Was Raining triggers a sense of empathy for the characters and the tragedies that they have endured.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story about finding life after loss and all the complexities that come with grief.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B075ZNPVDL

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Death by the Jaguar

Death by the Jaguar

Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.

Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.

I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.

Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.

I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR

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To End One’s Own Life

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is a fascinating and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects the people around the tragedy. Why was this an important book for you to write?

While I myself have had no direct experiences with suicide, I’ve been around many people who have, and have also been stuck in situations surrounded by people who literally teetered on the edge of themselves with staying alive being on one side of that edge, and ending it all being on the other. It’s a sticky subject to talk about because so many people have a fixed concept in their minds that suicide is always, always, ALWAYS a bad thing. I’ve often questioned it myself, the idea of what it would be like to kill myself (albeit not seriously, just what the scenario would be and why and what would happen after the fact). I suppose it may be strange to think that yes, there can be reasons for one to want to end themselves. After all, we aren’t asked to be born, why can’t we have the freedom to decide when enough is enough? Then again, that’s not exactly the motive behind the suicide factor in this book. It’s become a wonder to me why so many people see victims of suicide as being selfish or even cowardly when it feels as though those left behind couldn’t possibly make that call themselves. To end one’s own life, depending on the circumstances of course, may be the most brave thing someone can do. I wanted to explore that with this book, because when Josh does take the leap, he puts into motion a train wreck that can’t, but also SHOULDN’T be stopped.

Your characters are always well thought out and often go through dramatic transformations throughout the story. What is your writing process like in developing your characters?

Generally, especially as of late, I can’t plan out from the start where my characters will end up by the end of the story. Most of the time I just start writing, and sometimes something in the background or from my memories will inspire me to expand upon said idea. The characters, as with all if not most writers out there, all have a little part of me in them. Sometimes characters turn into what I wish I could be. Sometimes they exist in a world in which I wish I existed, and so on. With “Sleepeth Not, the Bastard”, the characters just sort of came out of me; the dialogue, the exposition, the plot surrounding their actions and influencing their motives. I can’t describe it as well as I’d like. Maybe, if anything, I take the worst of me and put it into the story hoping the characters can figure out for themselves what would be the best course of action.

I understand that you work in the service industry and often travel from state to state. How has your work helped you write your books?

Travel has had a huge influence on my writing. Constantly being in a state of motion is more or less the cheapest drug I’ve ever been able to get my hands on, but with it also comes a slew of emotions. Being away from the people I love, not being able to feel the comfort of my own bed, things like that have a heavy effect on what goes on the page. Meeting people everywhere I go aids significantly in fueling the personalities and behaviors of my characters. As nasty as my job can get, even with the worst days I’ve had while on the clock, being on the road is more than enough to make up for it.

Your stories often cover a wide range of themes in many different genres. What is one genre or theme that you haven’t yet touched but want to write about?

I’ve dabbled in science fiction and fantasy in the way WAY past but don’t think I’ll ever go back, but that could change. I’ve considered tackling psychological horror, sort of in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe and Eli Roth, but there’s very little in the works in that department. Sometimes I’ll watch a horror movie and think, wow… I could definitely write something like that, and it’d be fun and terrifying. But then I get stuck on my other writing, my contemporary fiction kick that I’ve been on for a while. Who knows? After the book I’m currently working on, I might make a go at something completely different.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookTwitter

Sleepeth Not, the Bastard

“The gravity of fate is nothing in comparison to the fleeting warmth of a loved one’s last kiss…”
….thus reads the final words of High School Senior Joshua Feranna.

Several years later, Lew, his father, currently working for a faceless loan shark, has dipped into a drug and lust-filled method of cope. Separated but not divorced, his wife Autumn finally tracks Lew down, begging him to come home to help take care of their identity-in-crisis daughter Zoey.

But when Lew’s friend from high school, Sarah Fox, having lived the life of a drummer in the all-but extinct rock band “The Bastards” returns to town stalked by a rumored “Resurrection Tour”, Lew’s world truly becomes a thing of legend….and doubt.

What transpires from then on is a continuing snowball effect that will inevitably lead to the cataclysmic destruction of one family and others as the world continues to busy itself around them in seamless melancholy.

“Sleepeth Not, the Bastard” is a story about people, each one steadily climbing towards a foreseeable yet undeniable end. Each person influencing the other in one massive string of events escalating and culminating at the end of their respective worlds whether those worlds be of mental, emotional, psychological, or delusional origin.

Part drama, part dark comedy, part rock ‘n roll epic, with a copious and perhaps endless helping of sex, drugs, and infamy… “Sleepeth Not, the Bastard” is a romp for this generation, an homage to those that came before, and a warning for those that follow.

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Just How Sordid

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Tantra Bensko Author Interview

Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters. How did you decide on the starting point for this novel and how did that help create the rest of the story?

Thank you for asking. I based the novel on current reality based on in-depth study of foreign policy and traditional patterns of involvement by intelligence agencies who use propaganda to skew public opinion toward a military agenda.

I began the book inspired by the guys who go through my recycling bins to take what they can sell; I made a recycler character who has a clever scheme to take what he learns about the people in the neighborhood that way. The idea made me chuckle, and I wanted to see what kind of goofy brilliance he might display. I also had often joked around with a housemate about the empty buildings across the street which are owned by the church. We’d see people go in and never come out. I was also inspired by our jokes about the counter-intuitive business choices of the local ice-cream truck driver. The truck indeed broadcasts the recording of a scolding woman’s voice, just like in the novel.

Though entertainment is the ultimate point of the book, my main serious goal with the book is to balance the propaganda about the White Helmets, though characters in the United States who had hear the stories about a group like them on the nightly news or watch the Hollywood movie about them.

This novel follows the introduction to Nancy and her relationship to the Agents of the Nevermind in book one, Glossolalia. Nancy has done sordid things in her past, but she was forced into it. In this book, she’s again given the chance to be a hero and make amends for her role in political intrigue, even if it means using the dirty skills she was raised with. Some methods are so dirty, she hardly even lets herself know just how sordid she can be. But like all the other POV characters, she has a good heart.

I chose the beginning scene because it was cinematic, with the dramatic contrast arising from Nancy relaxing at her unusual dwelling, chuckling at the anomalous sound of the ice-cream truck that never seem to make any sales. That prepares us for dark humor in the book. She’s being startled by the loud sound of a hard snowball smashing the glass of the window beside her head. She puts on her costume when she realizes someone outside might be looking at her, so we see how she’s been living “underground,” hoping no one recognizes her, in a somewhat primitive location, but someone mysteriously is communicating with her.

She finds a painted rock inside the snowball and the image reminds her of herself and her one friend, a lovely artist named Becky. Nancy has followed another such anonymous note to lead her to Becky in the past. So that beginning creates questions about the dynamics of some major characters, as it sets in motion Nancy’s sleuthing, and involves the reader in the mystery.

I remember the excitement of thinking of the snowball, with ice-cream and a rock inside, at the beginning. Most of the book was already written, but that image created a colorful motif that I went back and inserted through the novel. It was gratifying the way it drew a lot of elements together.

You’re able to weave together the intricate lives of a ragtag group of characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?

I focused on the theme of the heroism of examining and exposing social engineering, and the difficult choices, nobility and sacrifice that can entail.

I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?

I appreciate that. I’ve been writing all my life, as well as studying the form, not only for my benefit but for my students, as I teach fiction writing and edit manuscripts. I’ve explored a variety of genres; psychological suspense, which is the overarching category all the diverse books in the series fall into, fascinates me because of human psychology making propaganda and other forms of deception easy and bewildering, creating the need for answers. I love the feeling of figuring out the answers to such mysteries, such a rush, a shudder. It’s the perfect genre to dramatize the ability of intelligence agents working behind the scenes to gaslight the public. So, I read and watch movies and TV shows in that genre a lot, to understand what works best. I’m always studying more about fiction and screenwriting techniques. I learn as much from the screen as the page, and organize my books like movies.

This is book two in the Agents of Nevermind series. Where will book three take readers?

It continues the theme of the Agents who combine deception, mind control, blackmail, and occult practices. I’ve been including history about that intersection in the books, returning to certain historical figures such as John Dee and Edward Kelley, and their use of Enochian language as a spy code as well as an attempt at magick.

The novel is called Encore, and is Gothic. A highly-acclaimed performance troupe has a special requirement to make their shows work: the audience can’t be aware if any of the actors are replaced by a standby (similar to an understudy.) Their resident hypnotist, Dune, who is rumored to be an Agent of the Nevermind, accomplishes that by hypnotizing the standbys to believe they’re the actors they’re mimicking, and even coat their own auras with the residuals of their actors.

His wife is the star, but must leave the troupe due to cancer. Her standby and Dune have strong chemistry. He kidnaps her while she’s hypnotized to believe she’s his wife, and takes her to an alchemist’s castle. Underlying the story is the real history of a few powerful countries’ competing mythologies meant to gain supporters for them in wartime.

I hope this book will move readers to appreciate themselves for who they are.

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What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die. One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms. The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween. But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done. Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind? Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone? Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.

A Thriller for Thinkers

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