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Songs to New York Book Trailer

A benevolent woman of quiet mystery who smiles in welcome greeting each time one visits her; whose distinct perfume is remembered long after one’s departure:

Author Myrtle Brooks’ love affair with the Big Apple served in ten allegorical slices depicting everyday people experiencing miraculous events throughout the five boroughs. “The Sanctity of the Mails:” observed in Heaven via the Brooklyn Post Office. A Staten Island-raised engineer who escapes city living, only to find the city within himself. A mysterious floor in a Queens apartment building reachable through attainment alone.

Songs to New York crosses the threshold between impossible and occurrence: “Only in New York.”

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To Never Know

To Never Know

To Never Know depicts the story of Steven Lewis, and how he is affected by his life choices, his stalled inertia, and forces far beyond his control.

To Never Know, by Thomas Duffy, is a millennialist coming of age drama centered on the late adolescence and early adulthood of the main character, Steven Lewis.  The story starts in 1994 in Queens, New York. Steven is in his Senior year of High School. Steven has a crush on a girl in his class, Kelly Brennan. She seems to be interested in him, finding excuses to interact by asking for his notes and a stick of gum. But he never works up the courage to ask her to Prom.

The story skips past graduation and things have changed for Steven. His life continues a downward progression: his grades are not as good at college as they were in High School, he drops out, takes some time off. He tried calling Kelly again, but he could not bring himself to talk to her.

A family friend encourages him to send Kelly a letter, so he does, on September 10, 2001. Keeping in mind that Kelly lives in New York, you can make some good guesses about where the story goes after that, but this story packs a lot more into it, as Steven’s life events continue to unfold.

This story is an exploration of millennialist worries and fears in a post-9/11 life: adulthood with its ever-increasing responsibilities, how to live a good life, intimacy, isolation, establishing one’s self-identity, and the existential fear of death. The story is deeply emotional, with conflicting emotions. The quality of writing is strong enough to convey nuanced emotions and details. There were a few copy editing issues, but none bad enough to detract from the powerful meaning of the story.

The title, To Never Know, gives some insight into the central themes within the story. There is a strain of philosophical agnosticism (not in the religious sense) that there are unknown unknowns in our lives and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is also the theme that there are “bells that cannot be un-rung.”  Steven cannot go and have the relationship he wanted. We will never know what life would have been like if one thing would have been changed in the distant past, and we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.

This book is good, but really heavy at times. It is intended for adult audiences, and probably best understood by older millennials. There are depictions of sex, death, terrorism, and coarse language. The content of the story takes an odd twist at one point, and the end is unexpected.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B01K7RYJB6

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A Dialogue For Change

Ben Burgess Jr. Author Interview

Ben Burgess Jr. Author Interview

Black and White is contemporary novel focused on interracial couples and the stigma they endure. Why was this an important novel for you to write?

I felt with everything going on in the world today, this book was needed. I want this book to help improve the world or at least get people to start talking and create a dialogue for change. The world can be an ugly place and I wanted to show that ugliness so that people can also appreciate the beauty.

The story is set in a city filled with crime and focuses on the animosity between black communities and the police. You take a balanced perspective in your story, do you feel that is something that is lacking today?

I feel there is mistrust on both sides when it comes to the Black Communities and the Police. I feel that both sides need to work on change and the only way that can happen is with dialogue. I want this book to help. I’m an NYPD Detective and I feel that it’s important that Cops acknowledge that there are some cops who are prejudice and pray on minorities but at the same time it’s important that minority communities don’t assume that every cop is corrupt and prejudice. I feel society forgets that cops are people too. I feel that sometimes some cops become so calloused from the job that they began to see minorities as bad. Balance is the key to everything. Understanding each other helps also. I talk to communities often and sometimes after I explain certain situations to the crowd, they understand things better and have less animosity. Sometimes the community members help me see things differently than I do through the lenses of being a cop. In order for the world to get better, we all have to change.

Did you put any personal life experiences in this book?

I put some personal life experiences in all of my books. “Ben”, “Ebony”, and even “Bill” and “Becky” are all parts of me. At times I felt like Ben where I felt my own race believed I wasn’t “Black” enough and I was too “Black” for some White people. I know the struggle of dealing with the public at protests like Ebony. I’m an NYPD Detective. Like Ebony, before I became a Cop, I hated cops and I became one to make a difference in the world. I’m heavily involved in urban communities and I’m in an interracial relationship. I’m similar to Becky because I wrote this book to change the world. I wouldn’t want to alter it or tone it down. I love this story the way it is and my writing is important to me. I’m similar to Bill because I grew up in Queens Bridge. Despite growing up in a low-income family, I didn’t let my environment hold me back. I’m also a huge basketball fan and play regularly. Some of the situations and even dialogues in the book I have actually had or have been involved with. I like to put some of my real experiences in my stories because I believe it helps them feel more authentic.

What is one thing that you hope readers take away from Black and White?

I want readers to understand that we all have biases, we all have assumptions and stereotype, but it’s important not to base our actions and decisions on these things. It’s important to get to know people and not assume that a certain race is all the same. I want people to read this book and understand that love is love. It doesn’t matter what race your partner is, be with anyone you love. I also want people to feel comfortable in their own skin. Ben and Simone were examples of two characters that struggled with that and it’s important to know that until you have love and appreciation for yourself, you can’t truly do the same for someone else.

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

My next novel will be a story celebrating the strength of Mothers. I’m writing a story about three different types of Mothers in three different situations and I’m calling it “Mothers.” I hope to have the novel out in time for Mother’s Day.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads

Black and WhiteWhen the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?

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The Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen | Podcast

The Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen

The Hungry Monster was given the opportunity to interview JR Hamantaschen and Derek Sotak, the hosts of a horror podcast. We discuss the horror genre, how Queens NY is not the quietest place to record a podcast, and I find out where I can get a 5lb plate of artisanal nachos.

What inspired you guys to start a podcast about horror culture?

Derek: I had always wanted to do a podcast about weird movies, and separately always enjoyed the horror genre, so when one of my favorite authors asked me if I wanted to do a horror podcast I said “Yes Stephen King, more than anything.” That podcast never panned out because he was too busy, so later when JR came to me with the same idea I thought the second time would be the charm, and here we are today.

J.R. Well, I’ve written a couple of dark fiction collections now and have had my hand in editing some others. I felt a bit burned out on writing horror and have been pursuing other subjects, but still want to keep a toe in the genre, so to speak, and, honestly, see if I could rekindle my interest. Also, Derek’s a pretty cool guy and it was an excuse to hang out in some capacity.

How do you two know each other? How did you two meet?

Derek: I was reading JR long before I ever met him in person, becoming enraged upon reading his bio that he was so much younger than me and writing such excellent stuff. When years later we met at a convention it turned out that he was wasn’t so young anymore and a pretty radical dude in general, so I let my rage go. Sometimes that’s all it takes for a magical friendship to blossom.

J.R.: We met at the NecronomiCon Convention in 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island. We were both separately friends with Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, and we all went out to lunch. Then the sparks flew. A couple handjobs later and here we are.

You are now 13 episodes into the podcast, what is one thing that you’ve learned about the podcast process that you never considered before?

Derek: Unfortunately a podcast is not as easy as pressing record and shooting the shit for an hour. As part of the Faustian bargain I made with JR at the crossroads at midnight under a full moon I do the tech side of the operation, which involves the editing, syncing, posting, website stuff, and all the other various jazz that a “real” podcast has interns do for them, which was all more than I bargained for. BTW, we will be announcing the Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen internship contest shortly, and Max Fun or Earwolf, we we are eagerly awaiting your call.

J.R.: This might be the height of spoiled laziness, but fitting in two movies per week or reading a book in a week and trying to think of interesting commentary or insights is harder than I thought it would be. Also, one thing I never noticed before is that it seems a lot of other podcasts pick out or select things that they already know they might like, whereas we don’t, so there’s a decent chance we will dislike what we are commenting on and rag on it. Also, I live in Queens, New York, and it seems the ambulances, taxis and people who hang out on my block must have advanced notice of when I’m recording so they all gather in full force to be as loud as fucking possible. One time while we were recording there was literally a goddamn whistling noise coming out of my pipes. So editing those sounds out has been a challenge (and by that, I mean a challenge for Derek, since he’s the tech guy).

What is your favorite decade for the horror genre?

Derek: The 80’s. I think a lot of the stepping stones for horror these days was laid then, along with the greatest wave of horror movie icons since the Universal Monsters. All my initial horror reading forays in the early 90’s were of books from then as well; King, Koontz, etc, and those are as solid a foundation to get yourself into the genre as you could ask for.

J.R. I don’t really know the answer to that. I’m inclined to say the 70s or 80s for horror movies, but there are enough things I’ve liked over a large enough expanse of time that I can’t commit myself to a decade. Maybe even in the 1920s, when Lovecraft was writing the Call of Cthulhu and a lot of “weird fiction” was of high literary merit.

A question for both of you: XBOX One or PS4?

Derek: PS4, but I grew up in a PS family so I might be biased. I’m not sure if for the most part it matters anymore rather than for a few games, and realistically a good PC is probably the best and most versatile game playing platform out there. It is a lot harder to sit on your couch and kick back with your keyboard and mouse rather than a controller though. I will always gives props to the Virtual Boy though.

J.R.: I was a Nintendo fanboy growing up, so I lived in denial about how superior the PS2 was compared to the Gamecube. I eventually got a PS2 and realized the error of my ways. I currently have an XBOX One that I bought on the advice of a friend, but if I were being honest with myself I should have gotten a PS4. Graphics are marginally better, there are more Japanese RPGs, some exclusives I want to play, and the controller is better.

Do you enjoy horror movies that are more campy slashers or thought provoking mind benders?

Derek: A campy slasher will always have it’s place in my heart, and on my TV if I’m in the mood for something I don’t need to really pay attention to. If I have the time for sitting down and giving something my full attention though, I’ll go for the provoking mind bender any day.

J.R.: I’d like to say thought provoking mind better, but in reality, the campy slasher is more of a safe bet in terms of enjoyment. If we were talking fiction, then of course the mind bender, but movies are a visual medium and there’s more room for error in a visual medium with something that – such as a nuanced, interior, contemplative work – might be better suited for fiction.

I find that horror is different in different cultures. For example, Japanese horror, I find, focuses more on psychological horror and poltergeists. What is your favorite horror culture and why?

Derek: I really like the whole Coffin Joe series and ultra weird and violent horror movies that came out of Brazil in the 60’s. Extremely subversive for the time in Brazil and 10 times that compared to what was going on in America at the same time. Even today if they would be considered a bit much for American audiences.

J.R.: that’s a good question, one that I don’t know if I have any answer to. Unlike Derek and his nacho-loving ways, I don’t know much about horror from Mexico, Central or South America.

Derek, your the author of The Field Guide to Nachos. If you were to create a bucket list of nachos to eat before you die, what would be on the top of the list?

Derek: The two best nachos I’ve ever had are the Big Foot’s Nachos Ur Way pulled pork nachos at Bigfoot Food and Spirits in the Seattle-Tacoma airport (I almost missed my plane getting those, but it would have been worth it) and Mount Nacheesmo at Tios in Ann Arbor Michigan. Mount Nacheesmo is the largest order of commercially available nachos in the US coming in at 5lbs, and while a lot of places would just throw together a bunch of cheap ingredients and try to pass that off, Tios artfully crafts an order that is delicious as you eat it, and while you munch on the leftovers for the next few days. Plus, if you can eat it all in an hour there you get a shirt and your picture up on the wall which is one of the greatest glories one can achieve in this life.

J.R. you’re the author of, You Shall Never Know Security. What do you find appealing about short stories?

J.R.: I suppose I write mainly short stories, though I’ve been working more on novellas recently. My second collection, “With a Voice that is Often Still Confused but is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer,’ is largely novellas. I write short stories because I think that’s the idealized form for horror and dark fiction. I don’t really need many horror novels, and most of the ones I have seem padded, or would have worked better as shorter pieces. Also, realistically, when I am pressed for time with my day job and side jobs, so short fiction has just been more realistic and manageable. I want to get in and get out.

What are the subjects for upcoming episodes. Are there any that you’re really excited about?

Derek: Our culturally mandated Christmas episode is going to be something really special, but you won’t be able to experience that for some months yet. OR WILL YOU? No. No you won’t, but there are a bunch of pretty cool ones coming up as well.

J.R.: I enjoyed our nostalgia episodes, which we recorded but hasn’t been released yet. We both picked two horror movies we enjoyed as kids and re-watched them with our jaundiced, cynical eyes. I chose Demon Knight and Scream, and Derek chose Evil Dead II and Dead Alive. Surprisingly, we still both liked our selections.

Join marginally popular dark fiction author J.R. Hamantaschen and Derek Sotak as they discuss the world of horror in a light-hearted, frivolous and irreverent way. Expect horror fiction, horror movies, horror culture, and interviews / hang-out sessions with authors and creators in the field.

Listen to The Horror of Nachos and Hamantaschen podcast available every Wednesday of the month streaming on their website thehorrorofnachosandhamantaschen.com or on:

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