A genesis is a beginning: a source, a founding moment. Though Bellamy Westbay’s Genesis is the second volume in the Infinity Series, readers will have no doubt that this tome marks a beginning. The odyssey opens with the beguiling Gwen in grave danger. Though angel Alex is the only being, mortal or celestial, who can ultimately save her, the antidote for her current troubles comes from a source seemingly bent on her demise. Follow Alex, Gwen, and Jasper on an epic journey through a bewitching multiverse, one haunted by evil forces, fantastical creatures, and a series of confounding quests.
In this odyssey of good versus evil, of human nature and the divine, Westbay tackles love, lust, and redemption. She also explores motivations more primal: eternal enmity, darkest jealousy, and destructive cunning. Westbay’s storytelling moves at a heady pace, switching between the questing trio and Gwen’s best friend, facing her own predicament. The book is surprisingly sparse in some places—a run-in with an eloquent dragon comes to mind—but delves deeper in others, offering vibrant descriptions of other universes and their inhabitants, including ethereal Callidora and Eva with her siren song. Vivid details aside, the plot is the star of this show and Westbay moves it forward with skill.
And what an intriguing plot it is. Genesis operates where divine beings move among mere mortals. At first I struggled with a Cinnabon-eating angel but I was quickly won over by Alex’s supernatural powers, very human weaknesses, and impressive wingspan. He is simultaneously angsty and arch. For a celestial being and polyglot to boot, he can be frustratingly obtuse: he knows little of human nature and often his epiphanies land with a thud. Even so, he captivates readers as the boulder-smashing, beast-slaying hero of our story.
If Alex is Odysseus on an epic journey and Eva a Siren, Gwen is Helen of Troy. Though not exactly “the face that launched a thousand ships”, Gwen is certainly the being that launched a thousand cherubic fantasies. The amorous undertones in Genesis know no bounds: whilst Gwen clings to life, both the misguided Jasper and the ardent Alex lust after her. Readers feel relief when Gwen revives and apprehension as death draws near. This epic journey is exhilarating and well-told. Westbay is a true storyteller with a gift for weaving familiar themes into a fascinating new world.
Pages: 414 | ASIN: B07DXP2Y8D
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From the time he was eight, Ambrose Serafeim planned to follow his father’s career path- that of a celebrated surgeon known for his innovations, abilities, and compassion. Years later, Brose is a doctor but resembles little else about his dad. His father’s cancer, then suicide, the latter spurred on by a secret bipolar disorder, left Brose shattered and bitter. He was also left questioning everything he thought he knew about the man he revered so deeply. After reaching rock bottom in his own mental state, Brose is faced with a different kind of intervention that may finally answer his questions and help him face his demons.
Five Fathoms Beneath, J.R. Alcyone tells a heartbreaking story about the Serafeim family, their history of mental illness, and just how devastating that illness can be when left to its own devices. From the start, Alcyone describes the symptoms, stigma, and progression of bipolar disorder and depression with startling realism and even though the bulk of the story is set in the decades between the 1950’s and 1980’s, many of the issues are still relevant today. Because of this, it’s a book that can be hard to read. However, the subject is always treated with a sensitivity that never demeans or trivializes the issue at hand. The book moves smoothly as it depicts the passing of the years, even as the characters’ lives grow more tumultuous. Brose’s father, Alec, kept his diagnosis a secret because of the societal stigma attached to it, while Brose hides his largely out of denial. Although their reasons differ, both suffer greatly. As is the case in life, Alec’s suicide affected everyone in his life in some way and created ripples that only escalated over the years. After all those years, Brose eventually becomes a typical tragic figure, projecting all the outward appearances of success- high profile career, money, big house, etc.- while everything in his life is actually falling apart. True to life yet again, those around him suffer just as much or more. Even though the ending is formulaic, providing a sense of redemption even, the journey there is anything but as Brose’s path to healing begins in an undefinable place. All in all, it’s an intensely well written book that was hard to put down at any point.
By the author’s own admission, this is a book about mental illness. Although that theme is the brain that allows it to exist and function, family is at the heart of the story. As long as the reader knows him, Brose’s decisions, and his battle with his own depression, are framed within the context of his relationships. He is constantly checking himself against his father’s perceived shortcomings while trying to keep the appearance of normalcy for the sake of his family. Those relationships also provide an anchor.
This book was engaging, well paced, had extremely well written characters, and never patronized or hid from its difficult subject matter.
Pages: 389 | ASIN: B07JPGB8RY
Posted in Book Reviews
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Imagine if you will for a moment a medieval fantasy drama being brewed in a cauldron: throw in a measure of How to Train Your Dragon, add a dash of Game of Thrones, sprinkle in some of The Hobbit all topped off with a liberal dose of a King Arthurian legend, leave to simmer on a medium heat for few chapters and then you might have replicated Dragon Ascendants by Paul Vaughn.
So let’s get on to the plot, the setting and the highly descriptive cast of characters without creating spoilers for you.
Dragons, shadow-bats, elves, dwarves, bandits, skulduggery, betrayal, magic, fear, treachery, family discord, sibling rivalry, disappointment, parental disapproval, forgiveness, redemption and, lest I forget (although, how could I?) a very good measure of graphic violence – it’s all in there – so what more could I want from a fantasy novel? Perhaps a little romance? If it’s in here I missed it.
The action is all set in a mystical land, named the Luminess, which at first visit seems almost idyllic. That is, until the conflicts of this land are slowly revealed in the following chapters.
In these mountains live the elves, which have been there for centuries happily mining the gems hidden within. Their lives are occasionally interrupted by an assortment of other species, some for good cause some for ill.
Also, as within most fantasy novels, there is a power struggle between the forces of good and evil. From my reading, I felt that we are to consider these two grouping; one under the ‘command’ of the dwarf burrow’s hereditary leader, named Meerkesh, (representing the forces of good) and another under a very angry rogue elf, with unexplained issues, named Fearoc (representing the forces of evil). Such is the power of the latter, we are led to believe that the world has, or is about to, come to an end for the dwarves.
But I am not totally convinced as to which side is really the good and which that of evil is. In this strange land, where sapphires, ruby stones and diamonds are used as currency and the internal ‘politics’ seems to be driven by greed and ruled by bloodshed. On the one hand we have a population that apparently eats nothing other than apples, whilst the baddie mainly feasts on his conquests, we have quite a lot of axe wielding violence, bloodletting, beheading, dragons blinding by fire and melting of opposite forces during this fight between good and evil. Both sides seem as driven by bloodlust as the other. And this interesting dichotomy lends to some thought provoking reading.
This novel left me begging for more. More answers, more character development, more world building. I want to know! Ah, the mark of a good writer I suppose. I look forward to the next book in Paul Vaughn’s Luminess Legends series.
Pages: 217 | ASIN: B07B8STMY4
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Redemption details the rise and fall of a line of vampires dominating Clarke’s Summit, which is home to a plague dating back to the 1700’s. What attracts you to vampire fiction?
I grew up watching a lot of horror and sci-fi, although it was some time before I got into reading any of the literature. I think the first thing that attracted me to vampire fiction was the story potential in their great longevity, the fact that they are virtually immortal. Another compelling aspect of vampire fiction is the fundamental struggle they represent between light and darkness, good and evil, and how people can be seduced by their desire for power, immortality, and even sexual desire.
In one scene in Redemption, the vampire Lydia illustrates this for us in how she tempts Mike Gaston with the fact that she has remained beautiful and unaffected by age or disease in over two hundred years. I think this is one reason why the vampire genre has grown “softer” in recent decades, with television shows like Forever Knight and films like the Twilight Series: A lot of people want what vampires have – power, beauty, immortality – and they’re doing their best to try and capture these elements while skirting the darker side of the legend. This is a major factor in why I wrote the Descendent Darkness series as I did. To phrase it biblically, vampirism is “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” I wanted to return to the core of the legend: vampires as the living dead, seduced by an inhuman darkness that is at war with the light.
Lydia, an ancient vampire is seeking vengeance on the three remaining members of the town’s founders. I found her character to be well developed. What was your inspiration for her character?
First off, I went with a female because females are traditionally the victims in vampire literature, and I thought it would be interesting to depict one as a master for a change. Frankly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been done more often.
As to her character, I drew it from the description Richard Gaston provides of her in Redemption, as one who has turned her back on the light and the image of God. She’s not a victim; she actually chose to be what she is. She is the embodiment of deliberate, calculating evil, a force that feeds on the living world like a parasite. Mike Gaston describes her eyes as “thin ice over deep water,” and this is also illustrative of her character. Her human facade is just that; underneath it all, she’s a true monster, and was even before she became one of the living dead.
This is book three in the Descendant Darkness series. What were some new things you wanted to introduce into your series in this book, and what were some thing you felt had to stay the same?
The original title of this book was End Game, and that sums up the approach I took with it. The first book set the stage and lined up the pieces. The second book set them into motion. The third book is all-out war, a fight to the death. With this one, I had to bring all of the various elements I had established together, intersect all of the characters and plotlines, and resolve the whole mess in a believable fashion. That was the main thing that had to change: I couldn’t run independent subplots anymore. Everything had to mesh.
As for what needed to stay the same, well, the best stories are character-driven, and it was my primary task to ensure that established characters continued to be the people readers had come to know, even though they found themselves in new situations.
Will there be a book 4 in the Descendent Darkness series? If so, what would that story be about and when would it be available?
No, the book series is complete. I’ve told the story I wanted to tell and don’t have anything else to add, although I will miss Mike and Holly. It’s amazing how characters tend to grow on you through the writing process. I originally conceived of the series with a truly dark ending, but as the story developed I found that I couldn’t let it go that way. The characters themselves ended up driving the plot.
“Now boast to me again, old man. Tell me what strength there is in you to contend with me.”
After twenty-one years, that which the men of Clarke’s Summit feared most has been realized. The evil they prayed would stay buried for eternity has risen, intent on destroying those who imprisoned it and drawing their loved ones into darkness.
In the war between good and evil, victory can be had only at the price of blood. Now as Mike and Richard Gaston race against the coming night, and those they care for most fall around them, they must prepare to offer the most precious blood of all on the altar of their family’s redemption.
Posted in Interviews
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The BreakAway Girl: Secrets of a Tantric Yogi is a memoir about your life and how you found peace through hard times. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your story into a book?
Great question. As I mention in the book I’ve been blessed over the years to have the privilege of teaching yoga to so many remarkable students. As a result, in many ways the book is a response to questions I’ve been asked over time. I also believe it’s important that as a teacher you’re seen as a human being. Who can be just as frightened at times, unaware at times, and who may have struggled with insecurities just like the person next to you on the mat, or in front of you at the grocery check-out. It’s all part of this human embodiment.
What I enjoyed was that you didn’t shy away from retelling the difficult moments in your life. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?
Ha – yes! Quite honestly revealing all of my human fragility was difficult. It’s not easy to rip open your heart and expose your vulnerabilities so intimately. Knowing that most likely there will be judgement and commentary. Yet, as a writer it’s how I make sense of my world. I teach the whole of yoga, not simply poses. So, for me it’s a way that I’ve learned how to not spiritually by-pass and one way to be self-accountable. By doing that I’ve also learned, that in the right context, you allow others to see that they are not alone in the messiness that is life. And hopefully they feel more accepting of their own cracks and breakaways.
Writing a memoir forces you to look back and analyze life choices. Do you see things in your life differently now that you’ve written about it?
I love this question. I could write a lot about this, but one main analysis is that I’m more forgiving of myself. I realize that I was doing the best I could at the time. However mis-guided it might look like in retrospect. Plus, I’m even more grateful that I finally found my way to the path of yoga that continues every day to help me step more fully into my own essence.
This book is inspirational as well as functional in that you give some yoga pose instruction in the back of your book. What do you hope readers take away from The BreakAway Girl?
I hope that readers are inspired by my story of self-reflection, and ultimately as I see it, redemption. If they recognize themselves in any small way, I hope that my story might provide insight and motivation into their own breakaways. And to never give up on themselves. Also, if a reader is searching for a tool or a modality that might move them forward perhaps it is yoga – the myths, meditation, mantra, or asana might just be that something that will support their spiritual growth and personal transformation.
Paulette Bodeman is a certified integrative life coach and an Anusara® certified yoga teacher and trainer. When Paulette’s students asked her if she’d always “had it all together”, The BreakAway Girl – Secrets of a Tantric Yogi, was born. Through self-reflection, a sacred yogic practice, Paulette realized that she’d had many significant “breakaway moments” – moments when she made conscious decisions to change her life. Throughout her 20+ years of study, Paulette moved through many phases overcoming numerous personal challenges.
The BreakAway Girl is divided into sections that she named for the Hindu Goddesses – Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi. Only through introspection was Paulette able to understand the meaning the goddesses brought to her life, and how their energetic archetypes supported her personal growth and transformation. In keeping with a relatively new breed of contemporary writing, part memoir – part self-help, Ms. Bodeman reveals with raw honesty and humor the secrets that held her hostage and the secrets that helped to set her spirit free. While she writes with fearless determination from the trenches of personal experience the author’s ultimate message is not only universal, but life-affirming.
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A.J. Macready’s Redemption, book three in the Descendant Darkness series, details both the rise and fall of a line of vampires dominating the mountains of Virginia. Deemed “America’s Transylvania,” Clarke’s Summit is home to a plague of sorts dating back to the 1700’s and a rash of murders in 1982. Sheriff Stan Pryor finds himself facing a terrifying night of death and retribution in Clarke’s Summit in 2003 when the town is again host to the vile and nefarious acts of Lydia, a vampire of old seeking vengeance on the three remaining members of the town’s founders. Richard Gaston, Tom Campbell, and Father Ryan Bennett are left to face Lydia’s wrath.
Macready’s Redemption is as filled with action as it is brimming with rich characters. From beginning to end, readers are left breathless with the anticipation of Lydia’s next move. There are few, if any, breaks between chaotic and harrowing scenes. The energy is high throughout the book, and the meetings between the citizens of the cursed Clarke’s Summit township build to an almost exhausting level.
As a first-time reader of Macready’s Descendant Darkness, I wasn’t sure who to peg as the main character right out of the gate. The longer I read, the more I realized that Macready’s main character is the vampire storyline in and of itself. Though each of the characters is memorable and comes with a strong backstory, no one character stands out as the focus of the storyline. Sheriff Pryor helps to set up the premise of book three while Richard Gaston, his son Mike, and Tom Campbell (the vampire hunters, as it were) work as a cohesive unit to battle Lydia, her heinous attacks, and life-altering mind games. Even Lydia, a vivid protagonist, can’t be pointed out as the book’s sole focus. I found this particular choice in the writing to be quite appealing.
I have always been intrigued by the notion that some aspects of truth are embedded in folklore. That being said, one of my favorite elements in Macready’s writing was the inclusion of excerpts from local newspapers describing historic events and the details surrounding what the town deems the “Clarke’s Summit Blood Cult.” The lengths to which Macready has gone to give his vampire tale credibility are impressive. I found myself as absorbed in the passages from the Shenandoah Observer as I was in the lengthy and involved action sequences.
One of the most striking facets of Macready’s vampires is their ability to manipulate the minds of their victims. Throughout the book, Lydia is able to inject her own words into their thoughts and, essentially, control their actions. These episodes are peppered throughout the plot, and each one brings a chill.
Any fan of vampire stories will find this book appealing and engaging. The author expertly incorporates the backstories of Lydia and the vampire-hunting descendants into this third installment. With side stories paralleling those of the book’s main cast of characters, Macready provides mystery, suspense, and action in one neat package.
Pages: 290 | ASIN: B06XPHDPB6
Tags: action, aj macready, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, crime, dark fantasy, descendent darkness, ebook, fantasy, fiction, folklore, goodreads, historical fiction, horror, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, murder, mystery, nook, novel, occult, paranormal, publishing, read, reader, reading, redemption, shelfari, smashwords, story, supernatural, suspense, vampire, writer, writer community, writing
The Immortality Trigger is, what I consider to be, a large scale thriller. There is a lot going on and it feels like so little time for the characters to do it in. How did you set about writing this novel and what did you want to achieve?
The book was to be a standalone with immortality at its core. But as I thrashed a first draft, I realised there were subtle elements in The Apocalypse Trigger, which could be fleshed out very nicely into a sequel. And then the title of the book clicked and I thought, that sounds good. It began as a simple revenge thriller, picking up with Fortesque and Wei Ling, then grew into a more complex story of redemption, unfinished business, the danger of immortality. I’m quite happy with the finished product even in terms of the story construct. I’ve experimented with flashbacks, revelations, suspense, a twist – new for me. I’m still learning the craft.
The characters in this novel are interesting, well developed, and varied. What character did you enjoy writing?
I enjoyed what I did with the protagonist, Luc Fortesque. Readers of The Apocalypse Trigger (the prequel), will be surprised I selected Fortesque to continue the series. He’s basically a guy who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and believes life has been unfair to him. That has set him on a path that the world would frown upon. In this book, I want Fortesque to discover his old self – the glimmer of good in him, and wanted the readers to also feel sympathy for him.
The different factions in this story were an interesting mix. What were some themes you tried to capture while creating the different groups in your novel?
For Luc Fortesque, the anti-hero, I wanted the theme to centre around self-discovery and redemption. I’m fascinated by this aspect of human nature. For the villain, I wanted to debunk the grandeur of immortality. Personally, I think it will be a mess if we discover immortality. For the Nazi hunters, I wanted to portray the guilt of false accomplishment. And finally for my masked drug lord and vigilante, I called upon our pop culture of masked heroes and villains. I’ve tried to reduce the prominence of the US in the whole book – there are too many thrillers with an American hero.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
The next book introduces a new character, and a new series. I’ve selected a very unlikely nationality for my character because I felt the people of that nation are heroes in their own way. The book is tentatively titled, “LION”, and is due 2018. After that, is the third book in the Ingram series (Haunted, Diablo). That is due 2019.
The Vesuvius Group is destroyed. But not all secrets perished… and none as desirable as the Secret of Immortality. The key to the enigma was unwittingly killed in an Allied raid on a Nazi stronghold in 1945… officially.
Allied paratroopers raid a secret Nazi research facility. The operation is reported as a success. But, the lone survivor, Benjamin Ezra, knows otherwise.
A drug lord, El Fantasma threatens to plunge Colombia into an era of bloody drug wars. DEA Country Attaché, Zachary Mason is in charge of a covert operation to remove El Fantasma, with the help of a vigilante, El Angel, and a retired undercover agent, Raymond Garrett.
In Naples, INTERPOL agent, Sabina Wytchoff, is investigating the death of her parents, when the Wytchoff family’s association with an ancient cabal comes under investigation.
After the events of The Apocalypse Trigger, Luc Fortesque, is scouring the world for the man who tested experimental drugs on him.
Wei Ling works for a shadow Transhumanist faction within China’s State Council, developing drugs that will enhance human longevity.
Their paths will converge… violently… and conclude the mission that began in 1945.
Posted in Interviews
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Just Another Girl’s Story is a memoir about finding redemption. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This was an important book for me to write because far too many people let their past mistakes define who they are in the present. Too many people from all walks of life live with shame and guilt. Unfortunately for many, they exasperate their turmoil into further problems by not releasing their past. Such as addictions, severe depression and unhealthy relationships with others. I wrote my story to offer hope. I also wrote it to testify how my relationship with Jesus was the only way I could move on and find redemption.
This book recounts some harrowing events in your life, but the title of the book is Just Another Girl’s Story. Why did you choose this as the title?
I choose this title because of an experience I had when dining with friends. Shortly before publishing my book, I had quite a few titles I was kicking around. Then one evening I was out for dinner with five women, all of us are Catholic. I was asked about my upcoming book, and I revealed some of the content. Two of the women abruptly stated that they too had abortions. After I got home that evening, I pondered our discussion and realized that out of six women at our table, 1/2 of us had an abortion. I realized that I am “just another girl” that has experienced abortion; thus shame and guilt.
I appreciated how you were willing to tell both the good and bad aspects of your life choices. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
My abortion experiences were the most difficult to write about. When I wrote the outline for my book; I did not know if I would be able to reach the level of detail I felt the reader would need to have to understand my journey. Most especially my abortion experiences. At first, I thought I needed to spend most of my time writing about when I was physically at Planned Parenthood. I even went to the Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee to ask for my records. When I was told they did not have them anymore (they only need to keep records for 7-10 years) – I was devasted. I didn’t write for a while after that day, as I believed I had to have those records to validate my experience. When I finally began writing again, I asked God to help me retrieve the details of what I needed to provide the reader an understanding of my experiences. As I began typing, it was as if God was at the keyboard typing the words as I relived those two days at Planned Parenthood. God gave me exactly what I needed, and I recalled many things I had buried long ago. I cried many tears as I re-read what was typed and I marveled once again at how God is so powerful and how I could not have written my story without Him by my side.
What is one thing that you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope and pray that readers suffering from shame and guilt; regardless of reasons – can find inspiration to reach forgiveness and redemption. I hope readers take away the adage that you do not have to let your past mistakes define who you become and how you live today.
Laura confesses, “I was spending so much time grieving the loss of my two aborted babies; all the while taking for granted that God gave me two more that were alive and standing right in front of me”
At the tender and problematic ages of 16 and 17, Laura Eckert twice found herself as a patient at an abortion clinic, after her parents had discovered that she was pregnant. Addicted to sex and an overindulging in alcohol while maintaining an unhealthy desire for isolation and coping with deep depression, Laura didn’t understand the link between her problems until she was in her thirties, when she was finally able to accept them for what they were. Then, her pursuit of redemption for what she did became relentless, as she tackled the dark humiliation she had endured, eventually finding peace within a loving family of her own.
Now, in her book, Just Another Girl’s Story, Laura relives those traumatic teenage experiences in an honest and genuine teen autobiography that many will find shocking, harrowing and provocative, and yet implores sympathy and holds the reader spellbound at the same time. Read about her plight and her path to finding the peace and healing that she craved, as she tackles controversial topics of teen abortion, teen pregnancy, teen drinking and alcoholism and sex addiction.
Perhaps you will be inspired to find your own peace within Laura’s story.
Posted in Interviews
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Songs from Richmond Avenue is a novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that knows all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I felt like it was important that if I was going to write a book at some point in my life, I get on with it. Since the age of about 20 years old, back when I was a journalism student, I had always just assumed I’d get around to writing a book. I guess the older I got the more not writing a book bothered me.
Fortunately, a few years ago, I became unemployed for about eight months. I say fortunately because that’s when the book started taking shape. I was drawing unemployment after a publication I worked for went belly up. I looked for work online in the morning and when that got boring, which happened pretty quickly most days, I started writing a couple of short stories based loosely on some funny things I’d witnessed riding metro buses or walking through my neighborhood. One morning I stuck a couple of these short stories together and decided to have them come from the voice of a single, first-person narrator. Then I decided to have the narrator go to a bar. That is the essence of the book. While it didn’t take a long time to actually write, there was fairly long span of time between when I started and completed it, because I set it aside when I got another job. Maybe there’s a lesson in that, but I hope not.
What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
That’s a tough one since I really didn’t approach Songs From Richmond Avenue with any thoughts of trying to espouse any particular point of view. This isn’t really a moralizing kind of book that takes sides among its characters or proclaims one vantage point in a conflict is right and the other one is wrong. I think the moral perspective might be not to be judgmental of others. There are no heroes or villains in the book, just people with strengths and weaknesses having good and bad moments. I think the book may share its basic moral underpinning with film noir. These characters live by their own loose moral codes and the protagonist, despite his many trials and close calls, doesn’t come away having learned much of anything from his ordeal.
How did you decide on the title of this novel?
Initially, I thought the book would be more a series of individual character vignettes, loosely held together by the fact that they all frequented a fictional dive bar called the Relix Club on Houston’s Richmond Avenue.
There was originally going to be more of a secondary plot involving a down-and-out musician who occasionally hung out at the bar. There were also bands and singers who appeared there, so I came up with Songs From Richmond Avenue, using “song” as a metaphor for each of the character’s lives. When I changed courses a bit, the book remained Songs From Richmond Avenue, primarily because I liked how it sounded and couldn’t come up with anything better.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?
It’s a book that, hopefully, will be available in about year. This will be largely dependent upon whether I write a little more frequently once baseball season is over. I’m about halfway through a story that bears some similarities to Songs From Richmond Avenue – hapless characters, drunken debauchery, bad company, worse decisions. The setting will be far less urban, but what isn’t less urban than Houston? There won’t be a first-person narration this time either. It’s had a couple of working titles, both of which are terrible, so I won’t mention them.
If the adage “nothing civilized ever resulted from the drinking of beer” requires further proof, one needs look no farther than down Houston’s pothole-infested Richmond Avenue. There, the blurry-eyed denizens of the Relix Club wile away the hours engaged in their two favorite activities – drinking and betting.
Until recently that was good enough for our storyteller, a journalist of questionable work ethic, who undergoes an epiphany following a bus stop meeting with pretty Michelle, a woman he declares has “skin so perfect I doubted she even had pores.”
Could she be his redemption? Maybe, but first he’d better contend with her baseball bat-wielding former beau, her nihilistic stripper roommate and the suspicious death of a friend, who fancies himself the father of Brute Generation poetry.
Mostly satire, often wildly unpredictable, the only real long shot in Songs From Richmond Avenue would be for its protagonist to put down his beer long enough to learn anything of true value.
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Bar Nights is a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith who walks away from his life after finding his wife in bed with another man. Arlo’s finds his life in a troublesome spot in the beginning of the novel. What was your inspiration for his family situation and how he removes himself from it?
The inspiration never really came from anything first hand. One day I just started writing the book because I had nothing else to do, and I had already scrapped several ideas for other books, some of which became short stories. I think mostly though, that feeling of desperation that comes with having had enough of a certain situation that’s been going on for far too long, was something I’ve been through before. How Arlo feels, that sense of apathy, but also pleasure, with starting over, was my biggest takeaway from my own personal life that applied to the birth of the character “Arlo Smith”.
The plot to Bar Nights seems simple, a man tries to bury his pain with alcohol, but there’s complexity in Arlo’s pain and the people he meets. What was your writing strategy in terms of plot design when writing this story?
Thoughts and thought processes. A lot of the time we don’t actually think about the process of “thinking”, and sometimes the point in which we change direction in our thoughts is lost completely. The way I employed the use of “chapters” in Bar Nights and the rest of The Mire Man Trilogy reflects that. The plot design really had no design, at least while writing Bar Nights. I just started writing it one day and kept going with it. There wasn’t really a story, in a literal sense, I was aiming for. Bar Nights was originally intended to be just a short book about a guy living in a bar and all of the people he met there, nothing more.
Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Did we get to meet everyone you planned to write or did you take out any characters?
I did take out a few, but at the time that they would have existed in the story of Bar Nights, they were very minuscule. Once I decided to make Bar Nights the first book in a trilogy, I placed those characters in the following books in the trilogy as supporting characters that would hopefully help Arlo more on his journey.
I feel like Bar Nights is an examination of addiction and desperation. How do you feel Arlo deals with these things that’s different from other people?
Different? I think that his methods of madness are only different because at first, he really doesn’t have much to lose. Once he finds his way to the bar “Purgatory”, that’s it for him. He really doesn’t have anyone who cares enough to tell him to stop. And if he never met Constance, for all we know, he would have died there. So in a sense, all he really uses to deal with his addictions, is apathy. Complete, pure, remorseless apathy. He knows he has problems, and he reflects upon them constantly, but he really doesn’t care enough to examine them on a level that may or may not lead to his redemption. Not yet anyway.
Bar Nights is the first book in the Mire Man Trilogy with Madlands being the third book. How do you feel Arlo has developed over the series?
Well, in Bar Nights, even though it’s the first book, we sort of meet Arlo at his middle. In the second book, Paradise City, we’re taken back to “where it all began”, so he’s still a child in those days, and definitely hasn’t reached that purified level of “sheer apathetic asshole”. By the third book, Return to the Madlands, Arlo is pushed passed his “breaking point” in the first book, and beyond to a point in which he is literally faced with the choice of “live your life like this and die like this” or “live your life like THIS, but still… die like this”. The difference being in the choice of the latter, he’d be taking a chance, forsaking what he “set out for” from the very beginning altogether. His story arc definitely reaches a point he never expected (and I never expected while writing it).
“Bar Nights”, the first volume of the “The Mire Man Trilogy”, is a story revolving around Arlo, a man who’s just turned 39. Fed up with the way his life has turned out thus far, he leaves his cheating wife, out of control preteen slut daughter and her “fiance”, his unbearably demeaning job, and hits the highway.
It isn’t long before his car dies on him, and he’s forced to take shelter in the only place available at the time: the for-rent room above a dive bar, named “Purgatory”, positioned seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Convincing the owner to let him work off his rent, he spends his days drinking and care-taking the bar, running odd jobs for his boss, and spends his nights tucked away in his room drunkenly passing out to the sounds of whoever is playing the music downstairs…until one night he ventures out into the storm eternally encapsulating his world. And their paths unexpectedly converge.
The meeting sets in motion a relentless and remorseless onslaught of emotions, bringing Arlo to the absolute breaking point of insanity and introducing him to a realization that redefines why he ended up at “Purgatory” to begin with.
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