The Enigma Broker is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a thriller, suspense, and cyber-crime as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
We actually set out to incorporate all those elements when we started sketching this book, yet we find our stories end up surprising us as they evolve. So, yes, the story did grow organically as we were writing. To be honest, we feel our stories are Techno-Thrillers, thus it makes sense to us that you find these elements within the stories. We struggle with many of the literary reviews as this category is not yet well-defined, yet your insight on this is appreciated.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That is somewhat an unfair question. We like to spend time developing each character to the correct degree for the story, which helps to give us the tension we are looking for in that story. We are quite prejudice toward all of them. We have so much fun with all our characters. To put a fine point on it, for The Enigma Broker, our favorite would have to be Juan as we let him stretch in this tale to show his versatility as well as to find a stronger footing to go forward in the series.
When writing this novel together, how did you divide the work and decide on the finished product?
Our tendency has been to practice literary ping pong. For each story we start with the main premise and then rough out chapters typically ten at a time. Once we have the chapters assigned, each will work a chapter then serve it up to the other, in a back and forth exercise until the chapter is polished. We write to our strengths with the intention of making the stories sound like a single voice, and we submit that the back and forth helps achieve that for the reader. We review and criticize each portion and frequently add to each chapter as it progresses. The goal is to tell a relevant, contemporary story and have fun doing it. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t do it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
We are working on The Enigma Dragon, which focuses on how to conduct illegal activities without being observed digitally. It is difficult to keep your personal affairs private these days with social media and cell phones that can be easily monitored, because we have allowed technology so deep into our private space. It is hard not to use technology these days, and we incorporated that into Dragon. It has some tense segments where the characters are at risk and where others find out what they are really made of when things get tough. This one is focused on using the CATS team which was introduced in Book 7, The Enigma Gamers – A CATS Tale. This was a branch off the main series, but with a grittier core group. The Cyber Assassins Technology Services group is the new generation of detectives in the cyber space of the 21st century.
All around the world, commodity prices are plummeting, and nobody asks why.
The steep drop in the markets for oil, copper, coal, and other commodities threatens to destabilize nations and bring them to the verge of economic collapse. Amid fears that further drops in value could devastate civilization, the R-Group quietly engages.
The R-Group was formed during World War II. After delivering the Enigma machine to the British, they used their copy of the device to safeguard wealth and property from the Nazis. Today they use information-gathering and security capabilities to protect us from cyber-attack.
Jacob and Petra begin investigating the free fall in oil prices and soon discover disturbing clues that may implicate a “dark matter organization”—a shady organization that leaves no digital footprint behind. Meanwhile, ICABOD, the group’s supercomputer, teams up with government investigators to identify potential suspects. Quip and EZ also apply their special talents assiduously to the case but don’t let their work interfere with their blossoming relationship.
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Miss Sally is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Primarily because I was living in Texas when I wrote it and my three daughters, though not yet in their teens, faced the hazards of adolescence, the coming of age which always is difficult and which Sally Halm, the protagonist of his novel, confronted in exaggerated form. I spent my boyhood in a small predominantly Protestant rural community and felt it important to portray what rural life was like for a contemporary audience.
The 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. Why did you choose this as the time period for your story?
My parents were severely affected by the “Great Depression”: they lost everything and had to start life anew in very changed circumstances. Texas was one of the states most affected by migration and the social changes that the Great Depression triggered. Mere survival became the primary preoccupation of millions of people. These are basic ingredients for the making of a novel.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. How did you set about capturing the thoughts and emotions of a young girl in the 1930’s?
I had a clear impression of Sally, who she was and what she was like, before I began and in the process of writing became Sally, at least to the extent of feeling what she felt, seeing the world as she experienced it, incorporating my own background of growing up in a socially restricted rural community where failed crops and tent revivals were a reality.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’ve just completed a novella about how an incapacitating illness affects a marriage. It’s being considered by several editors. Also in the hands of editors is a recently compiled book of published short stories about Mexico. This fall I’m issuing as an ebook a nonfiction account of government repression of a teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which includes firsthand reporting. It’s to be called Kill the Teachers! And I’m beginning work on a freewheeling journalistic appraisal of the confused political and economic shenanigans involving the United States and Mexico.
This is the story of a young girl’s painful initiation into womanhood: the discovery of sex without hope of love, and grief without the release of tears. The setting is rural Texas in the 1930s, a rough and tumble environment in which the thirteen-year-old Sally Halm questions but tries to appease her authoritarian mother’s religiosity, appeasement that leads to misguided attempts to seek a salvation that her environment ruptures
Sally’s father has distanced himself not only from his wife but Sally and her two older brothers and two older sisters. The mother’s ally is the son who hopes to become an evangelical minister; the rebel is Sally’s oldest sister, who Sally and the middle sister Hill’ry discover in a lovemaking tryst with a neighbor boy. Hill’ry is the family’s child protégé who is given privileges that Sally is denied and who Sally both envies and admires, attributes which tumble her into misadventures than Hill’ry sidesteps.
As Sally struggles to reconcile the concepts of “sin” and “salvation” that seem to dominate her life she ricochets between hope and rejection. Inspired by the testimony of a woman evangelist who recounted rising from degradation to achieve happiness and prosperity thanks to accepting Jesus as her personal savior Sally tries to emulate her but realizes “everything I do I do backwards, I can’t even sin without people laughing at me.”
Sent to live with relatives in another part of central Texas, Sally becomes infatuated with an older cousin whom she helps to milk and to breed a mare. Though supportive he’s a man who seems to hate himself, a hard drinker who has no use for religion and prefers the company of prostitutes than that of “churchy people.” Again Sally does things backwards and alienates him as she’s alienated others. Her decision to run away from family, from the she’s leading and has led, thrusts her into even greater entanglements, entanglements that make her realize how difficult it is to have one’s immortal soul saved, even when that’s all that one has left.
A reviewer cautioned, “You’ll love Miss Sally, but she’ll break your heart.”
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The Nosferatu Chronicles: Origins is a science fiction novel detailing the origins of vampires with a mix of aliens and Vlad the Impaler. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
As a kid, I loved science fiction movies about alien invaders and the Dracula films that starred Christopher Lee and Jack Palance. I kept waiting for a film to come out that would combine my two favorite genres, but it never happened. I finally decided to write down my own story that had been in my head for decades.
The alien VAMBIR were fascinating and I felt like you spent a lot of time thinking about these creatures to truly bring them to life. How do you capture the thoughts and emotions of an alien species?
I loved the movie ENEMY MINE and Louis Gossett Jr’s portrayal of the Drac alien was incredibly moving. In the beginning, it was easy to think of him as evil because of the hideous exterior, but you quickly see that the Drac had a parallel code of ethics to humans. I thought of the Vambir in the same way — a humanoid species that evolved separately with the same hopes and dreams and everyday struggles.
The story takes place on Earth during the 15th century. Why did you choose this as the backdrop to your story?
The character of Prince Vlad Dracula was essential to the story, and he lived in the 15th Century. Since the vampire legend began with Vlad the Impaler, it was a good place to start with an alien crash-landing that ‘explained’ just how the legend began.
I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Where does book two, The Aztec God, take readers?
The Aztec God will take readers from where Origins left off in the 15th Century to the present day. Kevak and his network of transformed humans have been secretly protecting mankind from the Vambir, but just when they think the threat has been obliterated, historical clues point to a Vambir presence among the Aztecs that is linked to a present day cult.
Book 1 of the series reveals how the vampire legend is the result of a secret alien invasion that began with a crash landing in Transylvania in the 15th Century.
The Vambir discover human blood is a nutrient, but it is also highly addictive. Ingesting blood brings about a physical transformation that enables them to pass as humans.
Impressed with their superior strength and vicious fighting skills, Prince Vlad Dracula welcomes them into his inner circle, where they attain power through him.
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Black Sky will take you on a personal journey of addiction through the eyes of a physician, Dr Y. What is addiction? Addiction can come in all shapes and forms and does not discriminate against race, color, age or social status. Addiction has a grasp on our society and Black Sky shows how discovering spirituality and understanding of addiction can awaken someone from the brink of destruction. Follow Dr Y as he unravels the web of addiction and shares his story of life as an addict, his recovery and how you too can overcome the battles of addiction.
Black Sky, written by Dr Y, is a book inspired by addiction and discovering the human soul. From the first few pages, you feel a connection to the author and feel inspired to push through your adversities, regardless of whether you have experienced addiction yourself or not.
Addiction is portrayed in the book as being “asleep” and in order to awaken and begin a life of sobriety, one must overcome their circumstances and begin to feel the void and emptiness that addiction has created. Addiction can also come in various forms such as wealth, drugs, alcohol and sex or even just a compulsive behavior that is rewarding, despite the negative consequences. Regardless of your addiction, each individual must go through a similar process to recovery.
There are religious tones throughout the book, however Dr Y. explicitly states that this book is not centered around one particular religion, and instead is based on the spirituality illness that addicts suffer. One particular quote summed up this sentiment perfectly “It has been said that religion is for those who are afraid of hell while spirituality is for those who have been through hell”.
As I was reading the book, there were multiple times where I felt like I had experienced a “light bulb” moment with understanding people who are battling addiction. It enlightens the reader on the mentality and challenges that addiction creates, but also focuses on the possibility of recovery. There are sections of this book that I believe will be quoted in years to come as Dr Y beautifully explains life and the importance of living. Black Sky shows how complex addiction can be and how hard it is to break free from the chains it has on our family, friends and relationships.
Dr Y allows the reader to explore his personal life and the roads that led to addiction to various substances. Interestingly, there are events which occur due to his addiction earlier on in his life which lead to certain career paths and choices. But addiction is always knocking on the door and it takes a series of events and mistakes that lead to Dr Y’s realization and sobriety.
I would recommend this to anyone suffering from addiction, or for anyone wanting to understand addiction and the hold it has on the human soul. I found the book to be extremely uplifting and truly believe that anyone suffering from addiction would find great solace and understanding from Dr Y’s words.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06Y3MVXSX
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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There is no greater test of love than that which Chadwick and JaLana faced 11 years into their marriage. JaLana thought her marriage and life would be like any other couple attempting to live a life of faith in God. While they had met their fair share of troubles and setbacks in life, they were always united together. All of that was suddenly wiped away the morning JaLana saw her husband exiting the garage with another woman that had been living with them. The next day, Chadwick came forth about the affair he had been having for the past six months with the sister of a friend they both had allowed in their home. Stunned and shocked, JaLana had a choice to make. Her husband had made it clear that he didn’t want to be in a relationship with her anymore. He wanted a divorce.
Twelve years later, the couple remains together. How did they do it? Why didn’t JaLana give up and give her husband the divorce he wanted? Learn how the love of Christ was able to touch both JaLana and her husband Chadwick Walsh. Discover how God’s truth came into the marriage, moving them both to humility enough to feel the burning love He had, and will always have for each and every one of His children.
Chadwick and his wife have now teamed together to retell the story of one of the most vulnerable moments they have shared as a couple. They explain the steps they took to regain their marriage completely without any remaining residue. They have laid everything bare to bring the world their personal experience of adultery and how God led them through the fire to a marriage completely healed.
In a completely new take on a book about adultery, you will read from both perspectives of husband and wife, how adultery had broken them both. They discuss the common pitfalls man and wife can face on the road to recovery and offer practical guidance for grieving couples who might know the same pain they have faced.
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Apples Don’t Sing–They Shine, by George Mardo, is a classic example of literary fiction. The story follows a family over generations from 1930 all the way to 1990. Some of the story does feel dated, but that might be because of historical events that frame the novel. In some ways, it is hard to simply summarize a novel that at its’ core deals with family drama of coming together in times of war and drifting apart after. Mainly it deals with Marie, a German immigrant and her struggles with her son and the family business.
Overall, Mardo does a great job with managing what would normally be an overly complicated or possibly self-indulgent topic to write on. The drama of an inter-generational story is more than enough for the reader to follow on and enjoy. The family does become expansive as it should through the decades, but remembering names and their relations can become cumbersome after a while. The conflict between the characters should be familiar to any reader who has a family and especially one that has first generation immigrants.
The story at times may seem U.S. centralized, but Mardo expands his scope by including a Ukrainian Monastery, family drama in England, and even venturing into South America. The global scale of his story enhances how far reaching and long the narrative is as we follow the rise and fall of family unity and how families change over the decades. As with any drama set over decades, the story can run the risk of being too brief or skimming over the details of the day to day. Mardo falls into this somewhat by giving us broad, quick snippets of events that happen. He sometimes jumps years ahead in the narrative to get to another point. He may have been able to do this with more skill to not create such choppy pacing, though it does lend to the novel’s biographical story of the families of the Nesbits and Reynolds.
In some ways, the main conflict involving the family’s business, Reynolds Enterprise, tends to become too central to what the novel is striving to be, an intimate tale of family and the relations that bind. The focus does seem to shift towards the end and recenter the novel, which is a saving grace.
This work is perfect for those that enjoy tales told over generations involving many different characters. A pure drama that is accessible to anyone of any age.
Pages: 204 | ASIN: B0190UKORY
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Searching for life’s meaning and purpose? Tired of looking for God and never finding Him? There is a God who wants to change your life!
Are you searching for meaning and purpose in your life?
Are you tired of searching for God and never finding him?
Are you involved in a faith that tells you what you have to do in order to be a follower of God, but leaves you in a place where this God has never come into your life in a personal way?
This book is about helping you find and receive the one true God into your life so that you can experience his presence (e.g. love, joy, peace), and have assurance of eternal life.
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It’s important to share messages of acceptance with children, but it can be difficult if you don’t take into consideration their level of understanding. What a child can understand is vastly different than an adult. The One Eyed Pug by Deborah Hunt is a cute little story about a pug puppy that has a slightly difficult life waiting for her. She has to go through the anxiety of being separated from her birth parents and then living with a stranger. While she does her best to adapt to her new life, change is right around the corner as her ‘mother’ ends up being unable to care for her and gives her to another family. Our little pug now has to deal with the uncertainty of a new home with new people without understanding why she was given up in the first place. Things seem to start going better for our pug until the introduction of a new friend and the terrible accident that follows close behind.
Using animals as a way to deliver important messages and teach important lessons to children is something that is not easily done, but delivered well in this story. Children seem to be able to listen carefully and understand difficult lessons when taught through an animal that can speak. Hunt uses the story of the pug to show children that change is not always bad. She also teaches them that while bad things may happen, there are good outcomes as well. Our pug has only lived for a short time yet she’s met with various changes and has to face the anxiety of the unknown each time. This story can also teach children compassion. Compassion for those who are different than us and compassion for those who are struggling.
There are several drawings throughout the book which can give the readers a nice interruption to the waves of text. It is important to keep children engaged as well as entertained. The drawings give more information on what the characters look like which helps the readers connect more to the story. The language in the story is very easy for new readers to understand. While this isn’t a first step book, it is definitely suitable for a child who has experience reading books with little pictures. The language might be too young for older readers, even though the message it sends is positive.
Deborah Hunt takes us on a trip to learn compassion and acceptance with The One Eyed Pug. This tale allows children to connect their own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty with things like change to the life of the protagonist, the little pug. It also allows children to see that dogs and other pets have feelings as well, even if we can’t always understand what they’re trying to tell us. Even when our little pug goes through a life changing situation, she comes out strong because she has the support of those who love her around her. This is an important thing for children to understand as well: we are all stronger thanks to the people who support us. This would be a great book for any avid young reader.
Pages: 80 | ISBN: 1945175788
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Fractured details your revelations and strides toward bettering yourself both mentally and physically. What was the inspiration that made you want to capture your experiences in a book?
I originally started writing the book as a form of therapy, a way to help get the trauma, events and details of the accident out of my body and mind. Then around my 30th birthday, I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure, I thought I should have been at a different place in my life, I thought I should have accomplished more. After many therapy sessions and allowing myself to cry, be mad, and feel all the feelings – I realized I had so much more to share than just the details of the accident. I took a step back and saw how hard I had fought to be healthy and have a successful life. I knew at that point that my book was supposed to be about that. I wanted to share my struggles and adversity in hopes of helping others going through something similar.
I greatly appreciated your candor in detailing the obstacles you faced and I could truly feel the tragedies as well as the victories. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest thing, hands down, to write about was the rape when I was a freshman in college. It was something only my therapist really knew about. I hadn’t even told my parents at the time I was writing it in the book. It brought back all sorts of memories, feelings, and shame. As I was writing it I had to take many breaks, remember that I was not the same person nor in the same place, and keep telling myself I was enough. THEN came the hard part of having to tell my parents about the event. I had hid it from them for 12 years but I knew I needed to tell them before the book came out. Again, all the fears, shame, embarrassment, and emotions came rushing in. But I knew it was something I had to do before I let them read the book – that was probably the only thing they didn’t know about that was in the book. I also knew it was something that I absolutely needed to include in the book since the book is all about finding my voice and sharing my truth. This was a huge part of losing both of those things. I am so thankful to have such supportive, encouraging and loving parents. It was extremely hard for them to hear, but I know it ultimately brought us closer and deepened our relationship.
In Fractured you reveal a past with issues like body dysmorphia and a struggle to find your own voice. What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers can take away the lesson I learned after my 14+ year struggle with diet pills, anorexia, and body dysmorphia… YOU ARE ENOUGH. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The image society portrays that you have to be skin and bones to be beautiful is so distorted. I hope readers, especially young girls can read this and have an “aha moment” before they enter into a self-destructive path. It also my hope that men and women learn that it is ok to be vulnerable, to speak, share, and use your authentic voice, live in their authentic skin, and follow their own rules. Don’t shrink yourself to make others like you. It is not worth it. It is so much more fun to live life celebrating your bigness.
You are the founding director of the nonprofit company Step Up Chicago Playwrights. How did that start and where do you see it going in the future?
I founded what was then Step Up Productions in 2009 with the mission to share truth onstage and inspire the audience to embrace their own personal truths (haha see a pattern?) We had 3 successful seasons of shows in which we chose a social service organization – whose mission matched the theme of the show we were producing- in Chicago to partner with and donate a portion of our proceeds to. In 2015, funding was low and we were struggling to be able to fund our next production. I took a step back and cancelled the remainder of our season. I talked with a mentor, friend, and phenomenal artist in Chicago, Brad Akin, and together we came up with Step Up Chicago Playwrights as it is now. A company that pairs Chicago Communities with local playwrights who will write a play based off that community. Our hope is to make theater sound and look more like Chicago, All of Chicago! I have since taken on an advisory role since I moved to California with my fiancé who was relocated for work and Brad has taken on the Executive Director role. I know the model we have sets us up for success. We are in the process of choosing our first playwright and community to kick off the inaugural year with Step Up Chicago Playwrights.
Fractured is about your journey of self discovery, but it’s also about your family. Was there anything about your family that you only learned through this journey?
In talking with my therapist about different patterns I was trying to break and learn the history of where they started (me always being good, my need to please, not using my voice) I learned a lot about my family. I brought different topics up to my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my young childhood that helped me figure out why I embedded certain thoughts, behaviors and patterns into my system. I have to say, even though it was not always pleasant to learn and a lot of hard work, it was a lot of fun putting all the pieces together and learning why I did and thought certain things.
From the outside looking in, Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had a family who loved her, numerous friends, and a successful career. No one knew the hurt, pain, and angst she hid inside, struggling to keep herself small so that those around her would still like her.
It all came to a head on October 23, 2007, when her parents received a call that she was lying lifeless in the ICU in a hospital in Utah — “You better get out here, your daughter is not going to make it.” Fractured: My Journey Back From Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way is the memoir of Elizabeth’s recovery, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is about her deliberate decision to begin the hard work finding and using her voice and the struggle to break out of the box that society tried to keep her in.
This is the story of what happens when one woman stared death in the face and decided to make a conscious choice not to go back to sleep, but to wake up and live the life she knew she was meant to live.
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