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Aren’t We All Some Kind of Contradiction?

Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

In Tokyo Traffic detective Hiroshi is once again called in, to solve a crime that involves human trafficking and crypto-currency scamming. Did you know what criminal themes you were going to use for this novel or did they develop while writing?

The theme was there from the beginning, but only in an abstract way. The concrete actions and decisions of the characters, along with the motivations and results, shaped the themes and made it something to see and touch and feel. The interesting part is how they develop inside the characters. As those broad themes became embodied in the characters, they came alive.

At first the theme of human trafficking threatened to swamp the whole story. It’s too big and too horrible. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how can they get away with that? How can something so vicious and inhumane just keep going? And who’s “they”? Part of the answer is cryptocurrency. Follow the money to where theme meets characters. Some people will cast aside all human feeling for money, and cryptocurrency makes that easier. Its hidden, digital, clean. Of course, the way of the future will probably be all kinds of digital currencies, but the downside is how people use that illicitly, and for such terrible purposes.

This being book three in your series was there anything new you wanted to introduce into Hiroshi’s character?

He moves in with his girlfriend and works at being with her and not sleeping in his office on a pull-out futon. That’s hard work for him. Overall, Hiroshi gets a bit more of his footing in this novel. His skill set is limited, so he bumps against his own limitations, but he learns to pay attention to what he stumbles onto, what he suspects but isn’t sure of, and what others tell him. An intuitive accountant may sound like a contradiction, but aren’t we all some kind of contradiction? We all have that internal division between our different sides.

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

This one took me a lot longer to finish than the second one. The tricky part was having three main characters. Before I’d always just focused on two. Adding that third one made the story exponentially harder to keep track of. Braiding the three threads of the bad guy, the victim and the detective, plus the people on their side, was tricky. It was like passing a point-of-view baton. The race kept going as each character carried it a bit further. But to me, that’s very Tokyo-like, different kinds of stories flung together.

It was also a challenge to have two young women as main characters. Sukanya doesn’t know Tokyo at all and Chiho knows Tokyo all too well. So, those two different young women and their different views of Tokyo were hard to get right. But I felt their point of view was important. They see the city so differently than I do, but that’s the interesting part. I’m not sure I set those as challenges for myself, writing is enough of a challenge in and of itself, but those became the challenges to tell the story the way I wanted to.

Does Tokyo Traffic end the story for detective Hiroshi or do you have other novels planned?

I have two more in the Hiroshi series already outlined. The one I’m working on right now is titled Tokyo Overtime. It’s about the pressures of the workplace. What other country in the world has a word, karoshi, for death from overwork? After that, I’m planning to write about the whole fish industry, which is very big business in Japan. Two years ago, one of the owners of a sushi chain restaurant paid the equivalent of three million dollars for a single six-hundred-pound bluefin tuna! After that, I have notes for a standalone with sumo wrestler-turned-detective Sakaguchi and Detective Takamatsu is ripe for a prequel about his early, rough days. So, I’ll see where those lead. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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Tokyo Traffic (Detective Hiroshi Tokyo Series Book 3) by [Michael Pronko]

Running from a life she didn’t choose, in a city she doesn’t know Sukanya, a young Thai girl, loses herself in the vastness of Tokyo. With her Bangkok street smarts, and some stolen money, she stays ahead of her former captors who will do anything to recover the computer she took. After befriending Chiho, a Japanese girl living in an internet café, Sukanya makes plans to rid herself of her pursuers, and her past, forever.

In Tokyo, street smarts aren’t always enough

Meanwhile, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu leaves the safe confines of his office to investigate a porn studio where a brutal triple murder took place. The studio’s accounts point him in multiple directions at once. Together with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi and old-school Takamatsu, Hiroshi tracks the killers through Tokyo’s music clubs and teen hangouts, bayside docks and byways, straight into the underbelly of the global economy.

As bodies wash up from Tokyo Bay, Hiroshi tries to find the Thai girl at the center of it all, whose name he doesn’t even know. He uncovers a human trafficking ring and cryptocurrency scammers whose connections extend to the highest levels of Tokyo’s power elite.

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Literary Titan Book Awards July 2020

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

The Albatross: Contact by Connor Mackay

IZ – The Saga: Creation by DDWLEM

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Award Winners

Book of Chaos: From 22 Back to 21 by Yin Dolmah

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

With More Sinister Aspects

Catori Sarmiento Author Interview

Catori Sarmiento Author Interview

Carnival Panic is a dystopian game show where contestants must solve dangerous room puzzles to claim a life changing prize. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

The initial inspiration for this novel occurred when I walked through the Kyari Pamyu Pamyu museum in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. While there, I saw a display called “Candy Forest!” with unsettling pink rabbit statues, seen here https://matcha-jp.com/en/688. As I exited, I thought that what I had seen would make a great horror story. I pulled out my notebook and began sketching and writing ideas. I wrote about 10,000 words and then got stuck and put the story away for a few years.

It wasn’t until I went on an outing to Sanrio Puroland that I was able to continue writing the story. I often describe that day as one of the most uncomfortably horrible experiences I have ever had at a theme park. I had agreed to go to Puroland with a couple of friends, not knowing exactly what it was. After entering through the theme park gates, I realized that I was completely outside of my comfort zone.

On top of the immense claustrophobia were the inescapable sensory explosions. The air was pumped with all manner of sweet smells, there was constant music from individual speakers to the parades, it was hot due to the high summer temperatures, and there were lights everywhere both strobing and stationary. And when we stopped for lunch, all the food was of the sweetest kind; candied and dessert versions of its real counterparts. In contrast to my unpleasant experience, my friends were ecstatic and enjoyed every moment of that theme park, playing on the toys, going on the rides, and shopping with childlike enthusiasm.

On the train home, I knew exactly what I could write about and that became Carnival Panic.

What was the process like for imagining and writing the different rooms and puzzles you have in the book?

For the most part, the inspiration for the rooms came from various areas of Sanrio Puroland that I visited but with more sinister aspects. I also love to watch anime and at the time I was binging Deadman Wonderland so some of the themes from that anime made their way into the novel.

Your characters were all well developed and interesting. Who was your favorite character to write for?

Fletch. I enjoyed writing from her point of view because she is an unapologetic anarchist.

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

I have two finished novels at the moment which I am querying for publication. A science fiction alien invasion novel called Darkness in a Sky of Embers and a narrative fiction novel called Elephants Have No Sleeves.

As for currents projects, I am working on a supernatural murder mystery that follows the main character, Tzipora, who comes back from the dead to find her murderer.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Carnival Panic by [Catori Sarmiento]Candy makes the PonPon Bunnies sweet. Be careful if they’re angry. And watch out for traps! These are the dangers of competing in the Carnival Panic game show, a ruthless competition that tests the chosen competitors with mental and physical struggles. In order to claim the substantial monetary prize, the winner must solve a series of room puzzles and succeed in entertaining the fickle masses.

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Christmas and Thrillers

Kristina Rienzi Author Interview

Kristina Rienzi Author Interview

Winter Road follows Amelia who’s heading home for Christmas and must deal with her family, her new love and her dangerous ex-fiance. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

I wish I knew what specifically inspired me to write Winter Road. It was a story that came to me and then told itself, almost in a blink. If all my stories did that, I’d be a much more prolific writer! What I remember most is driving home from work in late fall, thinking about the upcoming holidays, and the title popped in my head out of nowhere. Looking back, it was a little bit of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (a perfect book for creatives). Winter Road began to slowly unfold in front of my eyes from that moment on. Instead of driving on the Garden State Parkway in massive traffic, I was suddenly the only car on a rural-snow covered road heading home for the holidays. A foreboding hung over me as I pictured a woman escaping her big city life, running from a relationship gone wrong and into the arms of a family in crisis. The pieces cemented together in my mind creating an explosive holiday celebration. It, oddly, allowed me to marry two of my favorite things: Christmas and thrillers.

Amelia was a strong female lead that never really wilted under pressure. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Amelia’s primary value is family, which she lost along the way by getting wrapped up in an all-consuming relationship and blossoming career. When the person she was expected to be collided with who she really was, her world began to unravel and life became clear. She lost her independence and was under the thumb of a man she thought she wanted, but didn’t. Going home was the only way for her to reconnect with her true self and to be reminded of her strong, familial roots, and find herself again.

I enjoyed how you were able to create an aura of danger around Jake and his intentions. What were some influences that guided his relationship with Amelia?

Sociopathology comes to mind! Jake, oddly, couldn’t love anyone because his capacity to love was limited – not only from his past, but from his psychological challenges. Therefore, he was all about ownership. Possession. And it defined him – what he had and who he controlled. When the core of his identity was under siege, his only option was to retaliate with deadly force.

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

I’m currently writing a paranormal thriller, Unleash the Wicked. It follows a former Manhattan socialite who’s forced to move back to her mysterious hometown where she faces her tragic past and, unwittingly, unleashes a deadly curse. With an 11 month old, it’s anyone’s guess when it will be published, but I’m hoping before my daughter goes to school!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Winter Road: A Novella by [Kristina Rienzi]

HOLIDAY ROAD
On the heels of a bad breakup, Amelia Montgomery heads home for the holidays. Her hometown is a far cry from the metropolis where she lives now, but not nearly far enough away from Jake Grayson.

TERROR ROAD
Amelia’s family festivities turn terrifying when a distraught Jake shows up uninvited on the Montgomery’s doorstep. Jake will not stop until he possesses Amelia; one way or another, she will be his.

DEADLY ROAD
In a chilling nightmare, one man’s obsession is so evil, it’s deadly. Amelia must fight for her life, and the lives of those she loves most, in the only place she’s ever called home…WINTER ROAD.

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ELI: More Than Just a Kitten with Ambitions to Go on a Mission

Eli: More Than Just a Kitten with Ambition to Go on a Mission by [Sherralee Tinney]

Eli is so many things. It’s funny, heart warming, passionate, creative and engaging. It’s a fiction story written with great depth. Animal books are always fun to read and the author gives life to a cat-dog relationship. I was expecting an adventure story but was pleasantly surprised to find that there’s more action that any reader will enjoy. Eli is an ambitious kitten that is born into a family of loving parents. This daring kitten is tasked with a dangerous mission and Eli is destined to fulfill it in one piece. It’s a dangerous road to take but work must be done. A supportive family is a pillar and source of hope and strength for Eli, his brother and sister are a motivation to him. Written with great compassion, this book is insightful with the writers voice being fluid, captivating and real.

Eli by Sherralee Tinney is a innovative work of art where every detail is laid out with a purpose. The author’s prose flows seamlessly with this book and relays a rich humanity in the animals. I think this is a great children’s book with a unique twist that shows that animals are strong and determined and have a desire to protect. I think this book will inspire creativity in children and express upon young readers the importance of respecting even the smallest things. Eli overcomes a great many obstacles and it’s relatable with real life challenges, therefore learning to solve a problem, or eliminate it is a good lesson, not giving up along the way. A child will look up to the strength a parent shows, as Eli’s father is strong even when injured, so does a child sees his/her own parents.

This is not your usual cat and dog story, Sherralee Tinney showcases her creativity, which captures the essentials of the human soul. Boys and girls will like this book, it willl also teach them that getting out of their comfort zone can allow them to do great things. For an adult reader this is a quick read, but this shouldn’t be too long for children as well. Children are naturally animal lovers, and a kid would easily relate to an animal story of heroism and be motivated. Sherralee Tinney has captured the hearts of animal lovers in a fun and refreshing story and I’m sure every reader will have at least one ‘aww’ moment as they read. Eli is an inspirational book that I heartily recommend.

Pages: 296 | ASIN: B0793Q9L6K

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Blown Away

Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by [Charlene Johnson]

Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by Charlene Johnson is a romantic suspense thriller about Zackary Daniels, a homicide detective in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police who also works as a security consultant at a hotel owned by his friend, where his past suddenly collides with his present. When a murder occurs at the Majestic Peacock Hotel and Casino, Zack must set aside his personal search for revenge in order to focus on his current case–discovering the identity of the killer and protecting the beautiful witness, Sonnet Banks. But Sonnet is not what she appears, and she’s not ready to reveal the secrets from her past. Can Zack gain her trust and stop the hit-man before he kills again?

I enjoyed thoroughly reading this book, but I had trouble getting into the story at the beginning. I felt that there were too many characters introduced in the first few pages (almost a dozen names were mentioned), and I struggled to keep them all straight. There were times when I had to go back and check who someone was when they were mentioned again because I couldn’t remember the details of that particular character. Part of the issue might have been that there was a lot of backstory explained all at once. I appreciated the detailed narrative of past events as it created an intricate and well throughout world, but it slowed the pace of the story prior to Sonnet witnessing the murder.

After this point the story accelerates with a consistently fast pace, engaging characters, and a gripping plot. I liked the surprises that were revealed about Sonnet’s character, which weren’t what I had been expecting and added much welcomed dimension to an already stand out character. There were several other unexpected twists in the story which kept things interesting and far from being your standard crime thriller. Charlene Johnson was able to make me care about Sasha Petrov, who seemed completely beyond redemption when we’re first introduced to him at the beginning of the story. But by the end of the book, when the truth about what really happened to Zack’s sister had finally been revealed, I wanted to read more about Sasha, and I was even hoping that there will be another story with him as the hero.

With well defined characters thrown into the middle of a perilous situation things naturally take off and go in unexpected directions. Anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller will find plenty to like.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B087NSZJRG

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The Dreams of Demons

The Dreams of Demons (The Legends of the Pale Series Book 3) by [Tarrant Smith]

Gabriella didn’t know what she was in for when her roommate, Darren, left on a weekend vacation with his boyfriend and told her to have fun and get herself out there! Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that her life would be completely changed that weekend by the man of her dreams. Or should I say demon?

The Dreams of Demons is the third book in The Legends of the Pale Series. We follow Murmur, a demon who serves Lugh, a god, for all eternity, as he dreams and searches for a woman who keeps coming to him in his dreams. The thing is, demons don’t dream.

Gabriella, who has always had a gift to read people’s minds and feelings, dreams of Murmur as well. After Murmur materializes and saves her life at her local park they find their attraction to each other is so strong that after surrendering themselves to each other they are now bound forever. But is Gabriella ready to be someone else’s, someone she only just met?

The Dreams of Demons is the most unique book I’ve read this year in that it is set in modern-day, but involves gods and demons who have lived for thousands of years, so there is an ancient feel to it as well. Smith has been able to not only braid these two times into one, but the lives of mortals and gods as well, and she has done it exquisitely.

The love that Murmur and Gabriella have for each other is always brewing in the background, even when Smith takes us into the different story lines. Rhiannon, another goddess who feels something dangerous brewing, the relationship of Lugh and his woman, Keely, and the friendships of Keely, Gabriella, and Zee that emerge. All of them are intricately drawn characters.

This is book three in The Legends of the Pale Series, but if you have not read the first two books I think new readers will still understand what’s going on. Smith gives a bit of back story here and there, but not too much that would make the reader bored if they had already read the series in its entirety.

There are only so many ways you can describe the act of love and lovemaking. But Smith has breathed new life into the classic romance genre, with steamy scenes enhanced by the raw power of a demon and a mortal who may have otherworldly blood in her. While reading you can feel the magnetism between Murmur and Gabriella. Their relationship was an enthralling escapade of emotions that I looked forward to.

Pages: 222 | ASIN:  B0886K161B

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Liberty Bound

Liberty Bound by [Nathaniel M Wrey]

Liberty Bound by Nathaniel M. Wrey is a novel set thousands of years in the future from our present day, where a small city, Athenia, remains as the last known beacon of civilization. Finbarl is the main character, and he works to protect the city from the threat of Ferrals, a supposed sub-human race of creatures that seek to destroy the city, if they could ever breach the walls. Inside the city, Finbarl and the other soldiers addictively rely on the Jumblar plant to keep them sharp and ready for the threat.

The novel certainly brims with creativity, which stands in contrast with the rigid system that the characters live with in their lonesome city. There are many varied issues with class and social standing, and Liberty Bound seeks to create meaningful commentary regarding them. The author has developed a fascinating arrangement of a post apocalyptic civilization and tries to use these societal systems to bring about a provocative purpose for their existence in terms of the story told.

However, the story excels within Finbarl’s decisions and the consequences of those choices. He eventually finds himself at odds with the society he has worked so hard to become a part of, and he must decide what he is going to do once he is no longer able to remain within the social structure provided by the city. Will Finbarl find a way to re-enter the good standing in his society, or will he strive to make bigger changes to the city and the people within it? The question was clear throughout the story and I enjoyed watching Finbarl’s evolution as the novel progressed. I could empathize with his character and that connection made the novel thrilling.

All the while, the threat of the Ferral remains, putting pressure on every character, making every decision carry much more weight. The story thrives on this tension, and it makes the pages very easy to turn.

Pages: 227 | ASIN: B087YXKKT3

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