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The Abuse They’d Both Suffered

Denna Holm Author Interview
Denna Holm Author Interview

Claimed by Rafa is book two in your Raiden Warriors sci-fi series. What were some ideas that you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from book one?

In book 1, Claimed by Nicolai, I focused mainly on Raiden society, a patriarchal society. The warriors have been raised to appreciate females, but not necessarily respect them. When she is claimed against her will, Abby begins to show their prince the error of their ways—though she’s aware that nothing so set in stone like this will be easily changed. We begin Claimed by Rafa in much the same way, with Aaliyah, Abby’s best friend, being claimed against her will. In Rafa’s case, I’d hoped to not only get through to him how wrong it was to claim a female without getting her permission first, but to learn to empathize with Aaliyah’s unique situation. Aaliyah came from an abusive past, and anyone who has personal experience with sexual and/or physical abuse will tell you it isn’t something you just get over. You have to learn how to take charge of your life, which is easier said than done. I believe I found a way in Claimed by Rafa to get through to Rafa just how traumatizing abuse like Aaliyah suffered can be. In the same breath, I wanted to get across that there is always hope for a better tomorrow. We must learn to love ourselves before we can love others, and not let our past dictate the rest of our tomorrows.

I also wanted to get through in this story that everyone carries around excess baggage. Aaliyah was probably the most damaged by her past, but Rafa had troubles of his own, a past he didn’t want to face. He had to let Aaliyah inside his own defenses.

Aaliyah has had an abusive past and she was a character I empathized with. What were some sources that informed her character’s backstory?

I watch a show on television called “My 600 Pound Life.” It shocked me how many of these people suffered sexual abuse as children, and the devastating effect it had on their lives. Though I know they have a rough road ahead of them, I always find myself happy and excited when they start to take control of their lives. Aaliyah doesn’t turn to food because of her abuse, but she does put up thick walls. No one who goes through something like this will come out of it without scars. I find some of the worst scars people carry around are those to their psyche, not something others can easily see or understand. It was a challenge to figure out a way for Rafa to get through her defenses, but he couldn’t help her unless he began to understand the depth of the trauma she’d suffered.

What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this book?

I wanted to keep the focus on the building love and respect these two characters learn to have for one another, not necessarily the abuse they’d both suffered. I’m also building on a continuing plot that connects my Immortal Warriors series with this one. The Djinn, who are introduced in this story, are enemies of both sets of warriors. Aaliyah has a special connection to the Djinn that will carry over to future books.

What can readers expect in book three of your Raiden Warriors series?

In Claimed by Rafa we are introduced to Samantha, Abby’s vivacious younger sister. Her story will be told in Claimed by Seraphym, book 3 of Raiden Warriors. We first met Seraphym in book 1, Claimed by Nicolai. Seraphym is a dragon shifter whom a lot of my readers appeared to be fascinated with. We begin to learn a lot more about Abby and Samantha’s connection to the dragons in book 3. Samantha was a fun character. When she was younger, she used to dream about the day she would get claimed by a handsome Raiden warrior. Now that she’s grown, she will do everything in her power to escape it, even if it means asking for sanctuary from a dragon clan.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Amazon | Crimson Cloak Publishing

Humans Can Be The Curse And The Cure

Grendolyn Peach Soleil Author Interview

Grendolyn Peach Soleil Author Interview

Limbo Jubilee follows Neala as she experiments with what it means to be human as her panic escalates with every page. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?

I experienced an existential crisis, the gut punch of grief, at a formative age in my life, which inspired me to write Limbo Jubilee. I wrote Limbo Jubilee as an ode to my family, my ancestors, and the misty mountains where I grew up. I wanted to illuminate the intricacies of culture, trauma, and healing. I wanted to share the message that humans can be the curse and the cure and to not give up on each other as tempting as it may be.

My granny taught me that it hurts to be human, and pain is inevitable, but she also taught me that what matters most is how I respond to my pain. Humans are masters at avoiding, ignoring, and numbing their pain in all sorts of destructive ways. Humans are sly creatures and can spread their pain to others along the way. Humans are also incredibly good at getting so stuck in their pain that they can’t imagine living life any other way, but my granny taught me to face my pain with courage. Writing Limbo Jubilee was my way of transforming my brokenness into something beautiful.

Neala is an interesting and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

I was born in Appalachia where the line between fairy tales and memoirs is imaginary. What many people call fairy tales and folklore, I call reality. Folk magic is as real as the rolling hills in West Virginia. My granny talks to the rivers, the sunflowers, the moon, and the stars, and she believes that they talk back to her. Granny’s mountain medicine is not a complementary or alternative medicine for me. In fact, there is nothing as powerful as the first sip of granny’s elderberry tonic on a cold, October night by the campfire.

Neala’s character reflects my own experiences growing up in Appalachia where magical realism is a way of life. It is a reality of its own. The human brain constructs memories and narratives, and to some degree, all memoirs are imaginary, existing in the planes of shared realities and unique realities. Memoirs are cultural artifacts, spinning tales of who we are and where we come from. Neala’s character reflects the values and beliefs of her culture, shifting between different voices and different planes of reality. Is she the alien or the human? The little girl or the therapist? The healer or the wounded? The sinner or the saint? Neala is all of them, and she writes in a style that is authentic to her experience.

The way that humans experience the world is based on so many different factors. Naturally then, readers will have a variety of reactions to Neala and to Limbo Jubilee. As for me, Neala is a raw and real character with both light and dark qualities, and at its core, Limbo Jubilee is a story of empowerment and healing.

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

Limbo Jubilee is a visionary celebration and explores visionary and metaphysical themes. Limbo Jubilee is a metaphor for being human and alien, earthly and otherworldly, broken and blessed, and all in the same breath. To be in the wheelhouse of visionary and speculative fiction with incredible authors like Margaret Atwood is a dream come true for me.

Limbo Jubilee provides observations and commentary on society. For example, it discusses the pressure for women to have children and how having children is viewed as normal and human. The alien living on planet Spry is a metaphor for how women without children can be viewed in our culture. Limbo Jubilee also explores and challenges the normalcy of addiction, as well as the black-and-white thinking that leads to extremes.

Limbo Jubilee is the anthem for creatures of the in between, shedding light on both earthly and sacred dimensions and exploring religion and spirituality. There are moments in life when we are fully present in our humanity, and moments when we morph into a creature feature, and moments when we shine as bright as the golden gods of eternity.

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

I am very excited to reveal my next book, The Mermaids Melt at Dawn. I am currently waving my magic wand and putting on the finishing touches. The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a departure from my brain-busting and heartstring-pulling debut novella, Limbo Jubilee. I don’t want to spoil the mystery, but I’ll offer a quick teaser. Close your eyes and imagine a rowdy Cajun from Louisiana, a pair of warring mermaid sisters, a greedy Poseidon, petulant gods, and a magical island called Barbiche. The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is a melting pot for Cajun fairy tales and Greek Mythology. It will be released in late July or August 2020!

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Limbo Jubilee by [Grendolyn Peach Soleil]Neala’s surreal story begins in the backwoods of St. Roscoe, West Virginia. Neala’s hero is her Aunt Betsy, who saves the day in a pair of red cowgirl boots. Neala’s life is forever changed as she witnesses the death of her Aunt Betsy. Neala longs for a love that will heal her wounds, so when she meets Brick, she is tempted to cross the imaginary line, but she finds herself in a dangerous limbo. Neala’s spooky voyage transports her to the fringes of reality where she flirts with some creepy-crawly surprises. While a macabre sickness hunts Neala down, she experiments with what it means to be human. Neala’s panic escalates with every page, but could her paranoia be grounded in wisdom?

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Does one question literary gifts from the Muse?

Patricia Crumpler Author Interview

Patricia Crumpler Author Interview

Death and Disorder follows Vivian as she must solve a rash of suicides on a peaceful planet and uncovers an evil plot in the process. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I love to read short stories from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. As I read I found situations that intrigued me. Most of the stories back then did not feature women as heroic protagonists. I was inspired by the plots of several stories. I combined the plots to form an adventure and made the lead character a woman who could be vulnerable but strong and wasn’t afraid to tackle big problems.

Vivian is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided her character development?

I am affiliated with several critique groups. In the comments from these groups a common thread was that my female lead characters didn’t take care of problems themselves. They allowed the man to face problems. Taking the comments to heart, I decided to write a character who could take care of her own problems and those of others as well.

I enjoyed the different species you created for your universe. How did you set about creating each species?

That was the easy part. Once I started writing the characters appeared. I’m not sure where they came from but they had their own distinct opinions and personalities. Does one question literary gifts from the Muse? My favorite person in the novel is Sook. He seems real to me.

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

I have a detailed outline of Vivian’s next adventure. I am working on that. It should be ready for revision by year’s end.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Barnes & Noble

Death and Disorder: A Vivian Wexler Galactic Mystery by [Patricia Crumpler]Vivian Wexler investigates a recent rash of suicides on the planet Sorasol, so peaceful it doesn’t have a word for suicide. As she uncovers an evil alien scheme behind the puzzling deaths, Vivian gets more than she bargains for. Dodging death from an alien underworld, mafia-like aliens want control, addicting her with a mind-body enhancement substance delivered by a small slug-like creature. Their plan backfires. Now smarter and stronger, the improvements offered by the slug opens the door to solving crimes in the galaxy. In Vivian’s quest for justice, is there anyone to help her? Torn between the good she gains from the addiction, and the fact she is addicted, she has to make some life changing choices.

Award-winning author Patricia Crumpler offers a dangerous romp through the galaxy dodging death and weaving through amazingly weird elements. Irresistible and compelling.

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Regrets

Regrets by [Milton Schacter]

Bradley, a grumpy old man, goes into his favorite liquor store one night to get a bottle of wine. Not knowing of what is awaiting him, everything changes when he is shot by a mugger. It would be obvious for Bradley’s story to end with his death but he wakes up in his former school where he used to play basketball and meets Pete who explains to him that his life is not over yet and how linear time works. Bradley is given another chance to live and face all the things he regrets from his younger age and makes amends but this will happen in the body of a young African American teen named DeShawn.

The author introduces his readers to the life of Bradley in a unique manner that I found to be full of gripping twists. The plot is easy to follow and captivating. The readers can feel the confusion of Bradley when he wakes up in his former high school in a different teens body, yet he is in his seventies. This opens the reader to another world of intriguing possibilities and a unique view at what things would look like if something of the sort happened like what Bradley faced. Pete is a representation of the state between heaven and hell. The conversation between Pete and Brad is philosophical and riveting. When Brad is given another chance to go back, make amends and face his regrets, it superbly sets up the story to explore possibilities, and the plethora of possibilities is what makes this novel immensely engaging.

Every piece of this book has been crafted carefully and the story line is fascinating. More than just being a great book, it creates a bond between two different worlds; the Midwestern life of Bradley and the “hood” life of DeShawn. Regrets uses a unique idea to explore the choices we all make in life. The author has also done a marvelous job of addressing the issues that most African Americans face in America and he advocates for Black Lives Matter in a fictional yet realistic way. I highly recommend this book.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B0892P99KN

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VanWest The Past

VanWest The Past by [Kenneth Thomas]

VanWest The Past by Kenneth Thomas is a thrilling intergalactic, dystopian space adventure taking place in the year 3000. Captain VanWest is our infallible protagonist. His mission is to escape the authoritarian society under the control of the Universal Council in order to reach the year 1951. The scenes and settings of all the years and places are extremely vivid and detailed, whether it be the futuristic Black Mirror-esque 3000 or simply 1990s Florida. VanWest has to prove again and again the strength of his character as he battles impossible odds, so that the restoration of the Earth to an earlier, brighter time may be possible.

It wasn’t a stretch for me to imagine that this would be our world in a few centuries or so. The author has created an extremely believable dystopia, simply by extrapolating the consequences of mankind’s current issues: everything from the deteriorating state of the environment or an increasingly unstable global political atmosphere. The best and scariest dystopian novels are those which aren’t too far from our reality.

The side plots are also well-developed. Even though VanWest is single-minded with his mission, he faces numerous other personal issues, including a complicated romantic situation that poses a threat to his goals. The way he navigates his moral, social, and ethical dilemmas is also presented in a very interesting way. Even though he had to make some tough choices along the way, VanWest remained consistent to his character and had me rooting for him throughout.

A lot of the creepy crawly creatures and characters of this book reminded me of a variety of other great stories I had read in the past. It harkens back to everything from Brave New World in the way it portrays the nature of the ruling body and Percy Jackson in the way its action scenes are jam-packed and relentless. I thought it was the mark of  great science fiction noveol the way it incorporated the best elements from some of the best examples in the field.

The pace is extremely fast, but it is suitable for the nature of the plot. Even though it ended in a cliffhanger, it felt like a well-rounded end to an enthralling story. I cannot wait for the next in the series.

Pages: 168 | ASIN: B088WYFK9Q

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Code of Evil: Ascension

Aenna Lucini, is a young ambitious medical student in an escape from poverty and small community into big city in hope for a better life.During her educational struggles of a student she also explores relativity of friendships, wild sexual encounters, existential, and moral questions from the peculiar perspective of Aenna’s mindset loaded with dark humour inspired by harsh reality. However, in it’s essence Code of Evil follows internal and external motives that turn emotionally damaged child into an insane scientist along with potential threats of the upcoming future.

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The Court Of Outcasts

In her latest book, Allison Rose takes us through a roller-coaster of emotions finalizing in a hopeful yet uncertain ending. The Court of Outcasts is a contemporary fantasy novel filled with treachery, betrayal, and a twist of unexpected loyalty. While it begins with the main characters; Nola and Kelty, trying to adjust to their new normal, they are yet to realize how much weirder things could get.

With the introduction of a new foe, everything goes haywire as old enemies become new friends in the pursuit of a common good. Nola, though she looks like an ordinary teenager realizes that she is far from it. Torn between her mundane high school existence and the allure of the mystical faerie world, she embarks on a journey that will eventually force her to choose one of the worlds.

On the other hand, Kelty faces trials of her own. Battling with the uncertainties of her love life and the painful reality that she may never go back home, she has to make difficult decisions about who to trust amid chaos.

While the book does inspire a sense of awe and curiosity, it can be a little hard to follow if you haven’t read the previous book. For instance, the use of mystical language like ara can take a while to wrap your head around. However, the author goes through great lengths to explain foreign concepts in simple terms. She uses a lot of descriptive language to not only explain the woodsy setting of the book but also the emotional and psychological states of the characters.

This book gives you a clear description of both the physical and personality traits of each of the characters. The story begins with gentle explanations and hints about things to come. Yet, little can prepare you for the great plot twists ahead. The story seems to intensify from page to page until it reaches a breathtaking climax. As a reader, I am yet to get the resolution I need and have ended up with great fantasies about what is to happen next.

This is a great motivation to read the sequel if there will be one. Allison has done a phenomenal  job in capturing the emotions between characters and tension in scenes, although more could be done in developing the story of supporting characters like Sayra and Lark. Another aspect that is yet to be fully explored is the romance between Nola and her love interest.

However, I do appreciate that the author could be saving this for the next book. Apart from what is on the surface, there are serious and compelling themes that subtly color the narrative. The ones that truly stand out are the importance of family and sense of belonging and perseverance through dark times. These are themes that I and many others can relate to, and it kept me devouring pages.

Pages: 246 | ASIN: B0851VPMPX

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They Just Can’t Fit into the Orthodox World

Harold Benjamin Author Interview

Harold Benjamin Author Interview

Judenrein follows a man with a checkered past who must stop a world changing conspiracy. What was the inspiration for setup to this dystopian thriller?

I got the idea for this book when I started to see white supremacists become more vocal and visible in American politics, and face remarkably little official pushback – at least from the current president. These groups make no secret of their goal of driving the Jews (and a lot of other non-white groups) either out of the country, into slavery or death. I became intrigued with the possibility of a secret white supremacist group seizing power behind the scenes. This would be the ultimate “suits not boots” strategy for them, as they might call it.

Zack is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I have been involved in helping recovering drug addicts throughout the last 20 years. It’s not my job, but the work has come into my life. Through this experience, I’ve seen the potential for greatness that often hides inside the addict, waiting to come out. I have also felt that a great injustice has been visited on a generation of young Americans who were recruited to serve the US, but lost to forever wars and forgotten when they returned to civilian life. I wanted to bring this experience to life in the character. As an observant Jew, I’ve also seen a lot of young people get kicked out of orthodox life for various infractions and attitude problems. I wanted the character to represent the ambivalence I see in many of these young people. They believe in God and Torah. They love being Jewish. They just can’t fit into the orthodox world. That’s Zack.

The idea of white supremacists taking over the country and setting up 21st century ghettos was striking. What were some themes you felt were important to focus on in this book?

I wanted to focus on the slippery slope to neo Nazism in the US, and the shocking thing has been to see so many predictions made int eh book come true even in the last few months – with armed men, carrying swastika flags, threatening elected officials with death in protest of COVID lockdowns – only to be called “good people” by the president. This is much closer to us than we realize.

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

I am working on a non-fiction book about cybersecurity, which I have written under a different name. I am also going to publish an earlier book, that never came out, that deals with some similar themes of inequality and injustice in the US, but told in the form of a thriller.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Judenrein: A Jewish Dystopian Thriller by [Harold Benjamin]Zack Gurevitz has had a checkered past. A Yeshiva boy, turned Green Beret, turned junkie, excommunicated by his one-time faith and now the potential savior of people he doesn’t even like.

As a white supremacist movement stealthily takes the reins of power in America, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.

But things are about to get much worse. With the revealing of a planned terror attack that will place the blame firmly at Jewish feet and condemn millions to death, Zack is contacted by Jewish leaders in Detroit, begging for his help.

Reluctantly he agrees and before long he is mired in a conspiracy that will have far reaching consequences for his country, the Jewish population and even his own sanity.

As the clock ticks down, can Zack find a way to avert a looming disaster? Who is behind the conspiracy? And can he really trust anyone?

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