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Some Drama And Unexpected Twists

Carol Rhees Author Interview

Joint Venture follows long-time frenemies as they discover the true meaning of family and friendship while navigating an unlikely partnership. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Several years ago, one of my close friends began describing the fighting that was going on her small hometown on Cape Cod over whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in the township. I said, “Wow, that sounds like a great backstory for a novel.” Together we developed the two main characters with the intention of writing together, but health problems prevented my friend’s continued participation. When the pandemic came, with my friend’s encouragement, I kept myself entertained by throwing myself into the small imaginary town of Poplar Town.

Alice and Helen were well developed characters that were fun to follow. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

From the outset, I knew that Alice and Helen had to be more or less complete opposites who had always disliked each other, but they also needed some outside force that drew them together – for Helen needing to prove herself after having been dumped by her husband of many years, and for Alice needing to find purpose and help her son after the sudden death of her husband.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted the book to be a laugh-out-loud fun read with some drama and unexpected twists. The book is about interpersonal relationships and, for me, its primary themes are personal growth, learning to deal with conflict, and supporting your family, friends and community.

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

I am currently working on another book also set in Poplar Point, but focused on another main character. I have no idea yet when it will be available.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Long-time frenemies Alice and Helen discover the true meaning of family and friendship as they navigate an unlikely partnership and life’s second act in this hilarious and heartfelt debut.

Helen has worked hard for her success. Now, after the prim-and-proper real estate agent’s husband ditches her for a younger model, she finds herself back in her small New England home town. Smarting over her husband’s betrayal, a messy night out only brings further humiliation when Helen face-plants on the sidewalk … only to be rescued by her old nemesis, Alice.
Alice, an aging hippie mourning the death of her husband, has considered Helen her complete opposite since they were schoolgirls. Yet much to her surprise, as the town divides bitterly over whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana within its borders, she and Helen find themselves drawn into an unlikely partnership. Can this unlikely duo make a go of their joint venture without killing each other first?

A charming examination of the human capacity for growth, hope, and finding love, in all its forms, in the second half of our lives, Alice and Helen’s Joint Venture shines a light on love and friendship while delivering plenty of laughs along the way.

The Comedy That Inspires Me

Grahame Fleming Author Interview

The Blood of the Bear is a humorous telling of the classic story of King Arthur and adds in more information than the original telling. What was the inspiration for writing a humorous version of this story?

I love reading books that make me laugh out loud. I love watching comedy on TV or in film. It’s always been very natural for me to want to make others laugh too. I think the humour of The Blood of the Bear exists on a few different levels. First, the lead character of Artos exists in a fairly impoverished world. I think when people grow up in a community where daily life is hard and full of toil, then a natural humour develops to help them cope with their situation. Second, I included some scenes and situations in the book that are just for fun. I’m thinking particularly of the chapter dedicated to a crime scene investigation, which I laughed at while writing, so I hope readers of the book enjoy it too. Third, I tried to create a style of humour that is heavily influenced by the comedy that inspires me; the books of Tom Sharpe, Spike Milligan, and the work of the team that were Monty Python (including the Holy Grail film). I hope if you like any of the above then you’ll also like The Blood of the Bear.

What was your favorite scene in this story?

I think it’s hard to pick one out, but there’s a small scene which is simply a conversation between the Merlin and the leader of the Rheged tribe, Urien. When I wrote it, I was pleased with the tone and the mood and as a result it probably has remained closer to its original draft rather than other scenes.

What is one thing that you hope the reader takes away from The Blood of the Bear?

I simply hope they enjoy the story and that it lightens their day. I hope they grow to love the characters enough to want to join them in future adventures.

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

No big shocks here! The Blood of the Bear volume 2 is being drafted now. I’m aiming to launch it by March 2023, a year after the original book. The story moves further south to an area stretching between Wales and the North Yorkshire Moors, and it will involve dragons!

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

An irreverant tale of an Arthurian magnificent seven setting out on their first adventures.

Swords, magic, murder, old gods versus new, some petty theft, and an unhealthy over-consumption of mead all play their part in this historical tale of a band of heroes caught up in ‘The Prophecy’.
It’s the late 5th century and the Roman legions have packed up and went home from Britannia, mainly because of the horrible weather. The land is divided amongst petty kings who wage war on their neighbours, write nothing down, and murder their relatives regularly, all in an effort to keep the dark ages as dark as possible.
Into this time of myth and legend comes Artos, a young shepherd and levy man whose life is going rapidly downhill. Almost killed in battle, encountering a banshee, and catastrophically failing in his duties to his tyrannical lord, Duncan MacForres, means that it’s finally time to (hastily) leave home for a better future, hopefully under the big city torches of Camulodunum.
Faked deaths, faked rebirths, and prophetic visions of the sword, Excalibur, help to reveal that Artos may be destined for more success than even he has imagined. On the advice of the local witch, he sets out on a quest to find the reclusive Merlin before embarking on a medieval, horse powered road trip.
If you like your witches to be essentially good with a dark sense of humour, your water nymphs to be feisty and full of their own self-importance, and your horses magically enchanted with just a touch of stubborn, then welcome to an alternative telling of the classic story of King Arthur, before he was king, and even before he was Arthur.
Will Artos get the mystical sword?
Who is Lancelot’s mother?
And why did Morganna get such a bad press from the fake news of monastic media?

The Blood of the Bear answers all these questions and more.

Acceptance of Differences In All People

Jeffrey Sotto Author Interview

The Moonballers follows a gay tennis star that feels threatened by a straight player that joins their organization. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve been part of a queer tennis league in Toronto, Ontario, Canada since 2003. Back then, we only had queer members, and I always thought it would be funny to see how the league would react when straight people started to join. I then put the idea aside as I worked on my first book. Then in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president, I thought about this premise again, and started to imagine what my main character would be like – a president who wanted to keep certain types of people out; in this case, keep straight people out of a queer sports league.

Stefan wants to be the best, and when someone tries to take that spot from him, his worst side comes out. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Stefan is toxic masculinity personified; he’s the ugliness of the ego that comes out in all of us when we feel inferior to others, and must compensate by bullying. As I mentioned, I looked at Donald Trump as for inspiration for Stefan; I feel his actions are a response to a threat of being replaced as the “queen bee”; he is driven by his ego and need to feel worshipped as president of the league and the best player. In all his villanry, I tried to make his antics as ridiculously absurd and funny as possible.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to highlight the consequences of the ego’s response to feeling inferior. But I “flipped the script” by having Stefan, and the league, queer. I wanted to challenge the idea that toxic masculinity is only associated with heterosexual men. There’s sometimes a stereotype that gay men are supposed to be softer, effeminate, and ultimately weaker than straight ones. But as I’ve witnessed in my almost 20 years as part of a queer tennis league, when the competitive juices for superiority — the “need to win” — rears its ugly head, the toxicity that manifests can come from anyone despite their gender, sexual orientation, and all other parts of their identities. In other words, we are ALL toxic as*holes. Lol. Further, there is a message about the need for the acceptance of differences in all people, and the pervasive bias and intolerance in everyone, including those who insist they are “woke.”

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

Similar to the tone of my first novel, Cloud Cover, which was a lot more serious and dramatic than The Moonballers, I want to do a modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. In this version, the Adam character will be a middle-aged, gay, HIV-positive asexual, and the Eve character will be a young, bisexual and polyamourous woman. Being inspired by Eve’s liberated way of living, Adam will re-enter the dating world in hopes of finding love and connection. Considering the political events unfolding in the United States right now, I want to show their journey together in coming to terms with the outcomes of pursuing their own empowerment and personal freedom, despite what institutional or ideological constraints are placed upon them. This book is still in very early stages, but I’m hoping to publish it by 2026.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

“MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”

Winter 2016. The Toronto Torches—aka the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Tennis League—had come to a crash under mysterious circumstances.

Spring 2020. A new queer tennis organization has been created in the nearby wanna-be-downtown suburb of Torpedo Valley. Proud and out Stefan “Steffi” Porsche relishes in his dominance as both the President of the league, and—coincidentally—the league’s best player. That is, until strapping and super talented Khalid Adam arrives. But differences threaten to disrupt the order of the gay institution: Khalid is … STRAIGHT, sending Stefan into a neurotic tizzy.

Will the hyper-competitive and heterophobic Stefan maintain his invincibility, or will Khalid dethrone him? Can Khalid—and all those outside the queer majority—be kept from invading the sacredness of the gay tennis league? Or will President Stefan succeed in his quest to “MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”?

With a colourful cast of characters, campy humour, and dramatic twists à la Pedro Almodóvar, The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (Gay Gasp!) is an action packed and wacky sports parody about intolerance, love, and the absurdity of socio-political extremes that will hit you like a hard shot straight to the face!

The Eyes Of My Imagination

Ionel Rusanu Author Interview

Life Lottery: Pandemic Life Stories is a compelling collection of short stories that take place during the pandemic. What was the inspiration for the setup to your stories?

“Life Lottery” is not the first book inspired by the pandemic years, and it will certainly not be the last. Someone even said to me, “What came to you to write about this too?! Aren’t we fed up with the pandemic already?” Truth is, I didn’t try to capitalize on a possible opportune moment. Judging by the above reaction, I would say that, on the contrary, for some people, now is not the right time. It is true also that the pandemic gave me time and opportunity for more or less inner reflections. But it’s just the setting, the background. The book is about people; different, real or fantastic, as I saw them with the eyes of my imagination. Some stories are indeed inspired by real people I read or heard about in the news during these years. Some are just expressions of various states of my mind.

I enjoyed the varied and interesting characters in your collection. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I always try to bring to light characters that feel real. That’s why I employ a more direct writing, with less poetry or metaphors, to express their struggle through the happenings in a certain period of time in their lives.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this collection?

Mental health, in the first place. Because in the modern days is an important part of our life. In the pandemic time, even more so. Secondly, is the constant pursuit of happiness, whether the characters are from a humble background like Sveta or from the royals like Mylana.

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

My next book (written in English) is a crime and mystery novel named „Two dangerous people”. I think it will be done by the end of this year. But this year I will publish a two part Young Adult Sci-Fi saga called „Arcon Evolution,” first the Romanian versions, and hopefully will have them translated to English as well in the near future.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

Is the pandemic over? Well, the stories remain…

A beggar only asks for benzodiazepines to make it through the day. A biker is unhappy with life in his polluted city. A sweet girl navigates a mean father and the possibility of his redemption after his near-death experience. A woman is beset with vivid dreams from anxiety medication. Pranksters feel the rebound of going one joke too far. A doctor needs to decide who lives and who dies at the height of the pandemic. A real prince charming meets a real princess from an alternate reality. A naïve girl has her heart broken by a false prince charming. Two beautiful women, disbelieving the reality of the pandemic, become ugly furies. A lonely druid jumps through time to help save humanity in the aftermath of a pandemic. A man is vaccinated three times and even wants to take a fourth dose because he thought he could hear and see better and his knees didn’t hurt anymore. A creature of the sea saves a young woman from human traffickers.

Enjoy this collection of life stories amid the pandemic.

The Moonballers

We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it and stay out of our space! This is the unofficial slogan of the Torpedo Valley tennis organization created by queer people for queer people. The league president is Stefan Porsche, an ace tennis player who is out and proud of his sexuality and superior tennis ability. When Khalid Adam joins the league, Stefan is immediately threatened. Not only because he is a great player but also because Khalid is straight as a board.

The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (GAY GASP!) written by Jeffrey Sotto is a unique take on how ridiculous it is to harass someone because of who they are. Turning it upside down and showing Stefan Porsche actively trying to push Khalid out of the tennis organization simply because he is straight forces the reader to think. They must grapple with how unfair such behavior is.

Sotto has delivered this message in such a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek way. He does a great job of balancing every person’s negative and positive traits. Sometimes you will despise some characters, but that’s what makes them so believable. Stefan’s behavior is beyond aggravating and downright criminal. He does have some redeeming qualities that readers will discover as they read through the entire novel.

Sometimes, you need to parody the issue to make people see their hypocrisy. People respond to humor more than anything, and Sotto tapped into this factor to deliver this humorous and charming novel. The Moonballers is a delightful, witty, no-nonsense book that is excellently written and is one read you will not want to put down.

Pages: 290 | ASIN : B09VTFQ42P

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Life Lottery: Pandemic Life Stories

Life Lottery: Pandemic Life Stories contains an enthralling collection of stories all told in less than 200 pages. Author Ionel Rusanu takes readers on a thought-provoking journey through life during the pandemic. In the form of short stories, we witness a plethora of different emotions and circumstances that are affecting the characters much as they would everyday people. From drug addiction to cope with pain, financial struggles, and domestic abuse, there is no stone left unturned in this poignant collection of short stories.

This is a well-written collection of stories that does a fantastic job of setting up characters in intriguing circumstances in a short amount of time. With many anthologies we will end up with stories that range in quality, but one thing I like most about Ionel Rusanu’s book is the consistency. Each story skillfully conveys the emotion of the characters, imbuing the story with its own unique feel, and setting up the plot and conclusion succinctly. Readers will be taken on an emotional-rollercoaster as they breeze through these intriguing stories. Some stories are humorous while others are thoughtful, but all have their own message.

The author does a fantastic job examining and displaying all aspects of the human condition. I enjoyed how readers are able to understand the actions of characters, empathizing with them, even when they are the antagonist. You almost sympathized with them to a degree. The first story in the collection is a shining example of this at work. Another thing I enjoyed was the simple writing style. Rusanu conveyed the stories messages beautifully without the use of flowery language or unnecessary metaphors. You got the point of the story immediately but you are not left underwhelmed by the writing. A short story collection such as this deserves a straightforward approach. When you’re asking a reader to think deeply about life’s struggles, you can’t add the weight of deciphering poetry. The subject matter is poetry within itself.

If you are looking for a thought-provoking but quick read, check out Life Lottery: Pandemic Life Stories by Ionel Rusanu. This is an absorbing collection of stories that blends genres and ideas in creative ways and will leave readers pondering well after the stories end.

Pages: 168 | ASIN: B09V37STC3

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The Wandering Tribes

Rob Bartlett’s The Wandering Tribes sees a bet between God and the Devil begin to escalate while Milo Sapphire, self-styled itinerant starship captain, champion of God, leader of the vampire families, and most dangerous individual in any room, enacts a plan to rehome a sizeable proportion of the vampire families and begin manipulating the huge Mercantile Empire through a convoluted plan. As the First of the vampire families, maintaining the peace and defending his position from challengers who would usurp him takes up much of Milo’s time, but with the assistance of a few carefully selected friends, Milo is able to pursue his personal goals.

The Wandering Tribes is the third instalment in Bartlett’s War Against infinity series, and it is a wild sci-fi tale which develops amidst one of the more creative settings readers will likely encounter. Featuring spacefaring vampires, philosophic velociraptors, graphic scenes of a violent and sexual nature and lots of discussions focused on the galactic economy all of which are seasoned with a liberal helping of humor and mix better than you might expect.

Milo’s frankness and his schemes make him a likeable character, and his chronic need to have most things explained to him in detail, or explain things to the reader in detail, make him the perfect narrator, as his conversational form ensures the reader is never completely lost in the world. Everything is well written and explained. It’s clear that a lot of thought and care has gone into building the universe in which The Wandering Tribes is set. Everything has a logical consistency which helps the plot flow and allows the reader to follow along with relative ease, even if they are starting with the third instalment in a series rather than at the beginning. Why would you do that? Book one is great, go read it.

The Wandering Tribes is an offbeat science fiction story that comes across as deceptively random. Rob Bartlett’s sharp writing and keen sense of humor comes together to create a relentlessly entertaining story with a fully fleshed out universe that is filled with wacky elements.

Pages: 212 | ISBN: 0939479494

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The Mommy Clique

The Mommy Clique is an entertaining and unpredictable novel filled with gossip and betrayal that will keep readers on their toes. Beth comes back to her hometown after many years to take care of her mother. She is worried about coming back to town, and to make matters worse she is forced to face the mean girl clique of mothers on her street. She soon realizes that she has become the target of these women, and they are looking for some fun. We find out that their ‘perfect’ life in the suburbs is not as great as it looks on the outside.

This is a riveting character driven story and author Barbara Altamirano does a fantastic job of creating believable characters, even when they do some unbelievable things. Each character is different in their own way but they all have one thing in common, they are mean girls and no one can be better than them.

Each chapter in the story is told from a different perspective. This allows the reader to get an intimate look at their thoughts and feelings and truly understand them. Even if readers can’t relate to certain situations they’ll still find that the characters have surprising depth, even when they sometimes seem shallow.

The reader learns that some of the characters in the story are not as happy and perfect as they seem and are putting up a façade. Elise, who is also referred to as the queen bee, is a surprisingly complex character and she is one that I loved to hate. I think that is a testament to the author’s writing ability, as she is able to evoke such strong emotions from the reader. I was also surprised by Beth’s character because, when she is first introduced to the group, she is looked at as weak and as easy prey, but as the story progresses readers learn that she is not at all who we think she is.

This is an engrossing evolution of the high school mean girl story. But when I thought I knew where this story was going the author adds an unexpected twist and once it is revealed you will not be able to put the book down.

The Mommy Clique is a spunky urban drama that will captivate readers as they are drawn into the melodrama, the cattiness, and the backstabbing. I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a quick but compelling story.

Pages: 203 | ASIN: B088DJS6TT

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