I recently read Out of the Shadows by Ashlee Nicole Bye and was immediately hooked by the first chapter. The prologue to the book, which I admittedly skip over, caught my eye and sets the scene for what is a very interesting concept and well written novel. We meet Julian, who we learn is not from this world as he uses ‘humans’ and as you read on, you learn that he is way older than he appears to be. Although his age isn’t described until later, you know he’s old because his eyesight has been bestowed to him almost a century and a half ago. Clearly, he’s seen some things.
I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it’s because I’m Australian as well and we rarely get treated to books that are supernatural AND also mention state capitals that we know (such as Melbourne), but it was immediately easy to immerse myself into this world that Ashlee has so lovingly created. The characters, such as Sachi, are so well written that you can feel their pain, anguish and confusion as Sachi is thrown into a world she’s not entirely sure about. Sachi’s best friend was killed by the ‘Melbourne Slasher’, but it’s not until she ventures out after months of solitude that she sees things that were definitely not there before.
As the book goes on, Sachi and Julian’s worlds become intertwined as we learn that Julian and his friend Moss are a part of a secret society of reapers (which explains why he’s over a century and a half old) called the Order of Light and Dark, who are tasked with finding out what the Melbourne Slasher is and how they plan on stopping it.
This book also brings into play a very interesting idea that you can play with. The Order of the Light and Dark, and their jobs as reapers, means that they control who dies, when they are supposed to die and what manner they are supposed to die in. This ‘melbourne slasher’ is throwing everything out of balance and is throwing the reapers off schedule. It brings a concept forward that can make you feel at peace; your death has been scheduled and you are going to die when you are supposed to. For a control freak like myself, I really liked this concept.
I really ejoyed Sachi and her strong banter with the other characters within the book. I love that strong female leads are becoming the norm (thanks, Gone Girl!). I feel like without the banter and the wit of Sachi, this book would have been a bit difficult to read. She definitely made me laugh a fair bit.
Another thing I enjoyed were the chapter names. The first one had me snorting with ‘It’s too damn hot for a monster to just be walking around’. Ashlee really nails how Australians tend to describe things and this definitely comes forth in the chapter titles. They were descriptive and funny and accurate.
Pages: 338 | ASIN: B06W58K67L
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Truth and The Serpent explores an alternate creation story that follows the serpent from the Garden of Eden. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Once I decided to write this story, I immediately determined that I wanted it to be different in some way. If it’s the same old thing then why write it at all. Honestly, I didn’t know if that was even possible, as these stories have been overdone so many times.
The major theme of the story is true versus untrue or consistent versus inconsistent, unlike every other story you hear of about religion. Where God/ religion is all fake and the explanation is aliens, monkeys, and sun worship. Or its all real, and Jesus is coming back tomorrow at 4:30 pm, pack a bag!
The issue with stories dealing with religion is that they are usually examined through the scope of morality. But morality is not a constant, which changes with culture and time. So, as I was developing the Serpent character I searched to find something to argue other than morality, which is based on perception, and not facts. I decided that even though there were may inconsistencies in these stories there was information within them, that was consistent or true for everyone.
Then I realized that that was a good discussion to have, and one that I had never heard of with these stories. Thus the Serpent would argue consistent information, and the Man of the Present, would represent our everyday biased understanding of these stories. The discussion and theme soon changed from morality, to the impact that these stories have had on culture and society. This is why the Serpent does not debate the existence of God, or Heaven or Hell, because it’s irrelevant. As culture and society deem which acts are “wrong” and which acts are “forgivable.” Once I removed that from the narrative, I could then be honest with the Serpent Character.
I felt that there were a lot of great twists and turns throughout the novel. Did you plan this before writing the novel, or did the twists present themselves to you as you writing?
No, there was no way I could have planned that the story would unfold and then end the way it did. I had an idea for each chapter, but once I got in there they became something more. The original story was a page and a half, and was literally just rewriting the Garden of Eden story form the Serpent’s point of view. It came out well, and then I thought to myself, what would it look like if I continued…
To me most of it was not a twist, but merely a change of perspective. One thing to note, is that every time we are told these stories, we subconsciously put ourselves on the side of the “good narrative” or the “victim/ saved narrative.” By doing so we only see certain things. For example, while writing the chapter “The Earth” which covers Noah/ the flood. Once the flood came I instantly put the Serpent inside the Ark, because that’s just what our minds do. I came up with a scenario that the Serpent was camouflaged hiding in the haystacks, which I’m glad I didn’t go with. But then it hit me, why does the serpent have to be inside? The Serpent is a reptile, there are sea snakes, Sea Serpents of legend even… what would happen if I put the Serpent outside.
I did, and then everything opened up. My mind began to explore this world in a way I had never done before. I soon found that the Serpent was the perfect vehicle to do this with, as putting him outside would not affect our opinion of him, while the same couldn’t be done with the human characters. It was difficult to navigate these stories from this perspective, but once I separated my ego from the subject, I was able to write the story.
I felt that the biblical aspects in this novel were expertly used. What kind of research did you do for this story?
One I read the bible for myself. Second, I removed my ego from the equation. Writing this book was not about me, it is at its core a talking animal story that takes place in the what if universe. That is, in itself, about as fictitiously fantastical fake as you can get. However, once I started reading for myself, I quickly saw how inconsistent the biblical stories were. Then on top of that, there is the commercial understanding that we have been taught and sold.
One thing to note, is that Christianity does not own these stories, and they exist in many other cultures and beliefs. For that matter this could very well be Muslim Fiction, Jewish Fiction, or Zoroastrian fiction. We live in a western world, so that is our first thought, but these stories have existed long before there ever was a Christian church. Additionally, this story is not about religion, it is a story of humanity as seen through the eyes of the Serpent character.
Then, once I got started I didn’t limit myself to the bible. As you will note I make references to spirituality, mythology, history, science, and math. I researched and looked up everything, not just say Noah’s Ark the tale, but what Noah’s name meant. I looked up what causes a flood, what happens to flood waters, how does it impact species and topsoil and later plant growth. I viewed the events not as only divine wrath, but in natural real terms. i.e. the animals going to the Ark, is explained as animals changing their migrations. Then I asked, what could cause a change in animal migrations and so on. I then added these definitions to the biblical story, which then added new depth and meaning. I would say that I had about 100 pages of printed notes for each chapter. I looked up everything trying to find something tangible and meaningful beyond the everyday wrath, salvation, and lightshow.
Once I did that, the stories came alive and were now three dimensional, taking on new meanings that I didn’t see coming. But none of that would have been possible if I didn’t research meticulously. Most of all, I didn’t just ask questions, I sought out rational answers as if, I was actually having this epic discussion. So, in a way, it was me asking the questions that I never got an answer to, and using the “absurd Serpent in the what if universe” as a platform to have this discussion, which somehow worked.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Next is Serpent book 2. It will be the Serpent and another human character who live during the time of Jesus. The Serpent will be his obnoxiously colorful self, adding sarcastic commentary to the events as they unfold. It has a title, but I’m not releasing it until I finish writing it. I have notes started and have started planning out the chapters, but I have not begun writing the dialogue and narrative. Hopefully, I will start officially on it January 2018.
What do we really know of creation, myth, and belief? There was a Man, a Woman, a Garden, and of course… a Serpent. Yet, what we have come to know as temptation, and mortal sin are only one side of the story. You see, three sinned, and three were punished, but only two were expelled from the Garden, but afterwards…what happened to the Serpent?
A present day man finds himself eye to eye with the infamous Serpent of curse and ruin. The Serpent who characteristically makes the man an offer to learn not just what happened, but why.
A tale unlike any other, where the fall of man is not weighed on a scale of good or evil, but in truth and lies. The Serpent whose intellect, sarcasm, and wit cultivates over time as he appraises the history of man and religious lore. The Serpent who is also on a journey of self-discovery to learn the meaning of that ill-fated encounter and the purpose of his own life.
Come to know the unsung story of one who lived through creation, survived the great deluge, witnessed a mass exodus, and the rise and fall of exalted kings of men. Could such a tale, as told by a forked tongue, be the end of lies, and the beginning… of the truth.
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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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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.
“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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The Enigma Ignite, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is fraught with technological advancements and a lesson in all things computer. The entire team of characters assembled by the authors is rich with all the appropriate levels of humor, drama, and romance. The diverse cast of characters are members of an exceptionally knowledgeable team working overtime to rescue Keith Avery and Eilla-Zan from terrorists while simultaneously solving the dilemma of safely and successfully transporting Su Lin, Daisy, and Franklin (a pig and Su Lin’s prized possession), who themselves may hold the answers to cleaning up the mess made by the horrendous failures in battlefield communications technology.
Once again, Breakfield and Burkey have created some villains of epic proportions. Oxnard (that name alone is sneer-worthy), kidnapper and all-around cretin, is one of those evil-doers readers will revel in hating. At one point he seems to almost cherish describing the beating into submission of elephants as he taunts his captive, Keith Avery. Oxnard represents everything vile in a human, and the authors have more than hit the mark with this character.
The various pairs of team members who work together all have a chemistry that can’t be beat. The authors have succeeded in crafting characters like Julie and Juan and Petra and Jacob who rather effortlessly morph from business-like and focused to laidback couples thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Each couple is as intelligent and driven as the other, and virtually all of their dialogue flows smoothly and is laden with relatable humor.
I found Su Lin and Franklin’s storyline to be rather intriguing all the way around. The fact that Su Lin’s experiments could yield results helpful to the military and stemmed from her work with a pig, well…it was a fascinating spin. Daisy’s very personal and painful experience related to her work makes the entire subplot much more believable and personal for readers.
Though filled to the brim with technical terms and bubbling with all the seriousness of big screen drama, the authors lace their work with humor. The acronyms themselves are, more often than not, based on levity. For example, the acronym COBWEB represents Civilian Observer Blokes Wearing Excessive Bling. I had to laugh out loud at the appearance of the brothers, Won and Ton. Breakfield and Burkey, without a doubt, deliver the humor.
I have to say that the addition of Andy to this cast of characters is a welcome one. Andy, experienced in communications and a native of the South, was a pleasure to read. Being from the South myself, I appreciated his southern drawl and the references to his hospitality. Stereotypical? Maybe. In a good way? Absolutely.
I have to rate The Engima Ignite by Breakfield and Burkey a 5 out of 5. I thoroughly enjoy the dialogue between the characters whether it be between the villain and the heroes or between the good guys in their private moments. The authors manage to take highly technical terms and procedures and make them relatable for the average reader. Their well-drawn characters are a huge part of that success.
Pages: 331 | ASIN: B00KTGJ0QA
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Corporate Comedy by Thobias is a crazy funny yet totally believable account of one man’s life in India’s corporate sector. His experiences that made up his professional career are so entirely funny and entertaining, you may not want to read this book in public. In some ways this book is extremely ridiculous in the things that take place in the corporate world. These people are frustrating and yet laughable. They seem like characters from a movie! Yet the whole point is the story of a man who climbs the corporate ladder and his experiences. It’s a profession many think would be a great one, but the realities of what this man went through makes the reader see it all in a brand new light.
While this book is longer than some, it moves quickly. The story line flows smoothly and keeps moving at a quick pace. I like to laugh so it doesn’t take much, but I found myself laughing inappropriately loud and a bit embarrassingly, to be honest. I got some seriously weird looks from my own flesh and blood, I can only imagine if I would have been trying to read this somewhere more public, like the bus or at the park! I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. I ended up reading this book in one quick weekend.
Corporate Comedy by Thobias can be considered a comedy biography burrito. It’s both things all wrapped up in a warm outer shell. I truly felt myself feeling sorry for those in the corporate sector that are the middle man. Those that end up having to travel and be away from their loved ones. I used to think all that traveling would be fun, but in a way this book made me see it in another light. I am not quite sure how these people can manage to do it all.
I loved the descriptions of some of the locations and characters. They weren’t too wordy and overwhelming as some books do but are good enough that you can really visualize the character or location. I also loved how you would find yourself cheering for the main character. When he gets to the point where he stands up for himself I found myself rooting for him to really say how he feels! These people are so ridiculous at times I almost couldn’t deal with all of it!
It may be set in India but the situations and interactions could be in any corporate building located around the world. I really think that I will start seeing those busy men and women in a whole different light than before. It’s no wonder these people seem like totally unrelatable people by the time they reach a higher up position. If you enjoy quirky workplace comedies then you will absolutely enjoy Corporate Comedy. It’s hilarious and truly enjoyable from the start.
Pages: 246 | ASIN: B06Y12NZFG
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Songs from Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed is a dark novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that seems to know all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. He meets a beautiful woman named Michelle that he becomes infatuated with from the start. Michelle could change things for the journalist, but not before he gets caught up in some seriously crazy shenanigans that include kidnapping, booze and roommates. Among everything else, you get to know some barflies who have very interesting stories and a love for alcohol and bets.
This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.
There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone’s real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”
“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.
It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!
While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.
Pages: 185 | ASIN: B01N039ZM7
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Dave Matthes’s irreverent, profanity-laced, often hilarious novel, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard, is a fascinating work of writing. It’s half sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and half a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects family and friends around the incident. Sleepeth Not, the Bastard follows two separate but surprisingly intertwined characters: Lew Ferranna, a deadbeat dad, drunkard, and generally unsavory character, and Sarah Fox, a famous drummer and rockstar from the all-female rock band, The Bastards. Matthes reveals in the opening pages of the story that Lew’s son committed suicide at the age of seventeen, and spends the rest of the novel’s tumultuous pages examining how that incident affected not only Lew and his family, but also how Sarah’s hardcore band, The Bastards, and their wild, rough-living producer, Wolfgang Stephanopolis fits into the mysterious puzzle of life.
I have had the privilege of reading several of Matthes’s works, and he has a skill that I have only seen before in Kurt Vonnegut. He is able to create completely unlikable, frustrating, and obnoxious characters, and turn them into protagonists that, for some unknown reason, you find yourself pulling for. The two stars of Sleepeth Not, the Bastard are superficially very unlikable: Lew has abandoned his daughter and wife after their son’s suicide; Sarah is standoffish, erratic, and crude. But perhaps what’s appealing about Matthes’s characters is the fact that they are so relatable. Though hopefully few of us know people who would commit some of the frankly horrible acts that Matthes’s characters perform, it’s a fact of life that everyone has flaws. It is refreshing to see characters dealing with problems that we, as readers, have likely seen or experienced ourselves: the demise of relationships, parental-child fights, addiction, depression, and death.
Fortunately, though, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is not all doom and gloom. In his solid novel, Matthes manages to create humor (albeit dark) in the absurd situations he places his characters in. Whether it’s a tiger outside of Vegas, a minivan driving through the garage door, or the insanely gaudy (and proud of it) producer Wolfgang Stephanopolis, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard manages to bring a smile to readers’ faces in the most surprising moments. The story lacks only in a few small facets that irritated me personally, specifically the lack of double L’s in all of Lew’s parts of the story (meaning “walls” would be written as “wal s”).
Though it covers potentially disheartening topics, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard will not dishearten readers. Similar to Matthes’s other works, it manages to address the most unpleasant topics of life while also instilling a positive and motivating force in readers. It often feels as if Matthes’s charactesr are saying to readers what we all know but sometimes want to forget: Life can be ugly, hard, and miserable; but life can also be beautiful, surprising, and wonderful. As a reader whose family has experienced the pain and loss of unexpected death by suicide, I found this novel to be painful, at times, but overall uplifting and a reminder to appreciate the beautiful moments in life.
Pages: 453 | ASIN: B00N53IMWW
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The Secrets of all Secrets follows Zane who receives a USB from a stranger that contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fun novel?
I wanted the premise of the story to be wacky and like a fairy tale with epistemological overtones. Many of us grew up with fairy tales of one sort or another, so the concept is recognizable. The USB is Jack’s bean stalk. Once it’s there, he has to climb it. The USB idea occurred to me because I use them in my work as a college professor. I wondered what would happen if all knowledge, the meaning of life, etc. were on one? The next question: What parties would want to pursue The Secrets and to what lengths will they go to get them?
In this story you combine irony with wry humor and manage to keep it all topical. What themes did you want to explore when you started this book?
The overarching theme is illustrated by Shakespeare’s line from The Tempest: “The stuff that dreams are made on,” which is what The Secrets represent. What would be the government’s dream for getting The Secrets? Probably something to do with gaining ultimate power. Corporate America’s dream? Wasn’t there someone who said there’s no such thing as making too much money? The two crazy extremists’ dream is to create an Anti-Amerika, “Amerika with a k.” That the representatives of these entities are comical bunglers illustrates the way in which human beings can wreck any mission. As for the two main characters, Zane and Dali—Everyman and Everywoman—the dream is more about self discovery. It’s a classic conflict: individuals versus institutions and malevolent factions. Jack versus the Giant.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters. How did you set about creating their dynamic relationship?
What’s kind of funny is that when I started the novel, there was no Dali. Once I got to the point in the story where Zane begins his quest, I knew he needed a partner, someone equally smart, resilient, and resourceful but with a different sensibility. Zane is an intellectual. Dali is more pragmatic. There is tension between them, but there’s also balance. “Two peas in a pod,” as is stated ironically early in the book. It doesn’t hurt that they are attracted to each from the start without admitting it to themselves.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a satire of political correctness. I’m hoping to finish it and have it published in a year or two. Some of this is dictated by my teaching schedule, but if you know any publishers willing to give me a triple figure advance, I think I could work a little faster.
Zane, a seminary and grad school dropout, obtains a USB drive left by a cloaked figure on a bridge in the middle of the night. The drive’s content offers Zane “The Secrets of All Secrets”—a tantalizing proposal for someone who has nothing left to lose.
Following the drive’s directions, Zane heads to Florida where he encounters Dali, a poor waitress who received an identical USB. Initially clashing, they band together, taking a chance that The Secrets are genuine as they receive more instructions from their USBs.
Four conflicted government operatives; an extremely tall corporate executive with an extremely short, scholarly hit man in tow; and two crackbrained, fringe-element, anti-government separatists are after The Secrets—and are all willing to kill to get them.
Zane, Dali, and their pursuers encounter an armadillo festival, visit a nudist resort, and hang out with a presumed dead ’60s rocker. Pandemonium occurs at each venue with Zane and Dali one step ahead of everyone… that is, until all parties convene for a climactic confrontation over The Secrets.
Posted in Interviews
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Lockless Doors weaves a brutally honest and incredibly unique story of a family in all its ugly and painful moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, the entirety of the story was just going to revolve around one demented family Christmas, but as it always seems to happen… the plot thickened and I couldn’t exactly control what happened. And then, while exploring the backstory of Jean, I saw an opportunity to expand upon a favorite character of mine from another older book I wrote back in 2013-2014. And now I’ve pretty much got 2 to 3 books in the making to continue with the chaos that is the Ponces.
Lockless Doors subtly examines complicated relationships and skillfully reveals insights into the siblings’ connection to each other. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
I wanted to establish a sense of foundation for the three main characters, so that the reader could sense that there was in fact a very complicated past. Little by little, I offered little tidbits as to just what that past entails, and each of which would (at least for this book) center around the death of their mother. Their own childhood, while growing up, was riddled with seeds that would eventually force them all to spiral out of control. And so the death of their mother, at least according to their mother, would hopefully begin to bring them back together again. If I could narrow it all down to one single word, I’d say this book is about forgiveness, and not just the simple “on-the-surface” kind. Self-forgiveness is probably the most important type out there.
Lockless Doors is both hilarious and heartbreaking, soul-searching and sarcastic. Was there anything from yourself that you put into the novel, and did you have fun writing it?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I really took from real life experiences that would inspire the book. I just started writing it one day and it just kind of became what it is. As I’ve said to others who’ve asked, I never really plan out a novel’s plot, at least I can’t think of a time during which I actually sat down and outlined a story. Maybe dabble a few ideas here and there, jot down some quotes for characters to use at some point in the story. The Ponce siblings, Edgar, Jean, and Charlotte are far and beyond my favorite characters I’ve thus far shat out out my brain. And yes, I can say I had the most fun writing this book compared to my others, and I am currently having loads more fun writing the second book.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m actually working on the sequel to “Lockless Doors…” at the moment and have written about two to three chapters. I wouldn’t expect it to be finished until next year sometime, but I can say that the story and the characters will explode in a way that makes “Lockless Doors…” seem like an ABC Family special. If all goes according to how it feels it’s going, “Lockless Doors…” may end up being the first in a long and chaotic series that may or may not have a definitive ending.
It’s Christmas time, again. Family gatherings. Company parties. Yule logs. Screaming fits of dysfunctional requiem. But for the three Ponce siblings, they’ll be burying their mother. Edgar Ponce, the family exile. His brother Jean, the west coast porn star. And their younger sister Charlotte, mother to four kids and wife to the richest orthopedic surgeon in Western Pennsylvania. Reuniting them for the first time in over a decade, the funeral of their mother will only serve as the mere whisper that starts the avalanche of the next month, entangling them in their own webs of insanity for a holiday season none of them will ever forget. ‘Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels’, a crossover/sequel to 2014’s ‘Sleepeth Not, the Bastard’, is at its core a story about family. Beyond that, it’s an examination on forgiveness, the relationship between Christmas trees and caskets; bliss with a little bit of chaos thrown in for good measure, and learning the importance of one of the holiday’s most heartfelt lessons: appreciating those loved ones around you while doing one’s utmost best at tolerating the rest of the family without murdering them.
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