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From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

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Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

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Undying Love and Loyalty

Kaye D. Schmitz Author Interview

Kaye D. Schmitz Author Interview

The Consort Conspiracy follows Kate who travels to to Georgia to cover a story only to get embroiled in the towns dark history. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?

The inspiration for this novel is actually one of my favorite parts of the story. While I have been a writer in some form or another my whole life, I had never done much with it other than a couple of short stories and poems. But I visited the Midway Cemetery in Georgia–yes, it’s a real place–in 1997 because I knew it contained the graves of signers of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I went there for the history. But as I wandered the oldest part of the cemetery, I stumbled upon the Robarts family plot with death dates in the early 1700s. One grave was for the wife of William Robarts and right next to her grave was that of Ann Evelyn Robarts, listed as “The Consort” of William. My first thought was indignation, since I interpreted “consort” to mean “mistress” (my research later told me, however, that “consort” was simply another name for “spouse”). My second thought was of deep sorrow when I read the epitaph that stated she was only seventeen-years-old when she died and was buried with her two infant daughters. Immediately, my mind started spinning with a myriad of jumbled thoughts that ranged from “Oh how horrible to die so young with so much to look forward to,” all the way to “This happened so long ago…how could anyone today be certain that these deaths actually happened the way it’s written here…what if one of the little girls had lived?” I felt so strongly about it, it was as if Ann Evelyn, herself, had reached out from the grave. A story began to take shape in my heart…and it was one I knew I had to tell.

This book was filled with lots of great twists. Did you plan these or did they develop organically as you were writing?

The main twist about Kate’s ancestral roots was the first one I thought of and, in fact, in the very first iteration of this story–written long hand on four yellow legal tablet sheets for an early writing class–developed that one twist and only covered the crypt and its contents. As my writing instructor and friends encouraged me to expand on the story, I knew that more things needed to happen and be intricately woven together. I needed to figure out what caused Katherine to die at such a young age in the first place–yes, women did die of childbirth all the time back then, but that was too easy–and not very exciting in a thriller. So the reason Katherine died led to the story line of not only the circumstances prior to her death, but also of what catapulted the Penningtons into the most powerful political position in the world. And once that happened, the events that transpired to bring them karmic justice–family come-uppance, if you will–also spawned a story line. All of the other twists simply presented themselves to me “organically,” as you said, in the course of the writing.

I enjoyed how each character had their own voice and was meticulously developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?

I really love it that you asked that question because as a writer, one of my fears has always been that people will think my characters are shallow. I have been thrilled to find out that’s not the case. The characters in the two-hundred-year-old story were probably the easiest to write because I believe they follow typical character themes from the period–the strong, silent “leading man” who was a pillar of the community until he experienced his downfall, the sweet naïve young bride/mother who steadfastly refused to believe there was evil in any of her associates, the evil-doers who were only out to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to others, and the salt of the earth folks–primarily Jewel, in this case–who kept things moving with undying love and loyalty and a steady hand. One of the characters I especially enjoyed writing was Lucilla, from the older story. One of my editors suggested I tone down her surliness and some other aspects of her character, but I fought to keep her the way she was. She needed to do everything she did in order to maintain at least semi-equal footing with Caleb in their sinister plot. Kate’s character had initially been written in a more literary style–more formal speech and fewer glimpses into her internal insecurities. But when I turned in a writing assignment in an advanced writing course using a “girlfriend ” type voice, my instructor wrote on the top of my paper that she really liked that voice and that I should incorporate it into my writing. So I did…which also led to a massive re-write to change Kate’s part of the story from third person POV to first person POV. And after that, Kate became much more fun to spend time with.

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

My next book is the first in a new series about two new families–the Sinclairs and the Maguires–and takes place in North Carolina, just a few miles east of Asheville–I’ll pick back up on Kate and her friends in a later book. We are still negotiating on this one, but expect it to be out in 2018. Here’s a teaser:

In 1947, JEFFREY SINCLAIR, hidden in his family’s mansion, sneaks from his safe place on his eighth birthday and witnesses his father’s murder. Almost seventy years later, MATTIE MAGUIRE the fourth generation of the working class family whose lives have been intertwined with the wealthy Sinclair family, attempts to fulfill her lifelong fantasy of buying the old mansion. But her plans fall apart when she learns that the mystery shrouding the earlier murder has also clouded the identity of the property’s true heir. Worse, in her research to clear the title, she uncovers some troubling information that points to the involvement of her beloved grandfather, MICHAEL MAGUIRE, into the earlier murder that, if made public, would put her whole family in danger. Suddenly, nothing matters beyond protecting her loved ones and clearing her family name. It’s up to Mattie, accompanied by an unlikely source, to unravel her grandfather’s involvement, discover the true Sinclair heir–hidden away for decades–and return him to his rightful place, where together, he and Mattie finally reveal the family’s long-held secrets, along with the identity of the true killer.

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For almost two hundred years an ancient cemetery, deep in the lowlands of Georgia, has protected the identity of an infamous, brutal murderer, whose act of betrayal changed the course of the town’s history. Now, eight generations later, MIDWAY CEMETERY conceals the activities of international conspirators engaged in a fast moving counterfeiting ring operating right under the noses of the slow-paced Midway residents. 

Thirty-one-year old Bostonian KATE COVINGTON travels to Midway to film a documentary intended to increase the favorability ratings for the current United States President, WILFORD PENNINGTON, who was born in Midway and descended from the murdered victim from two hundred years earlier. As she becomes enthralled with the town’s history, Kate uncovers the truth about the murder of the President’s ancestor. Her discovery also leads to her learning the truth behind her own mother’s death and eventually changes not only the town’s history, but Kate’s future as well. 

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Terrified Beyond Belief

Mary Schmidt Author Interview

Mary Schmidt Author Interview

Suzy Has A Secret addresses child abuse and teaches young readers that telling a parent or guardian is always best. Why was this an important topic for you to write about?

One hears about this very thing every day in the media. That simply isn’t enough! As a registered nurse, I have had many children come through the ER and hospital who have been abused. Educating children must be done right as well as educating the parents. Keep in mind that a parent can be the abuser so this must be gently figured out with a one on one with each child.

On a personal level, my son was attacked at the tender age of seven. He was attacked by a large bully/predator who was age 16, in the bathroom of a park directly across the street from out house. The predator thrust his manhood into my son’s mouth and all my son could do was keep his teeth clinched until the 16 year old had enough. Imagine a seven year old, terrified beyond belief, not understanding why this was happening, and knowing his mom was across the street. Long story short, the police decided it was a she said/she said on the parts of the mothers and that nothing could be done. This trauma still affects my son today, at age 35.

My stepdaughter, my bonus daughter, was molested and abused in every way short of rape. She was age 10 or 11 when I noticed a mark on her skin just under the neckline of a shorts set she wore. When I asked what happened, she said her stepfather did it and then she showed me other markings of a sexual nature, and she said that he was “tickling” her and to keep their little secret. I went and got a towel, I had her hold the towel the correct way to keep her privates covered and I took pictures as evidence. Then I took her to Social Services and filed a complaint. They talked with her alone, and they heard me out, and I gave them the pictures. Long story short, my husband sued for custody and he won with my help.

I found the content to be very easy to approach and turns the subject into a discussion. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Hopefully, readers will be more alert to the possibility of a child being abused when they see certain behaviors as noted in the educator section.

What are some common misconceptions you find about child abuse?

Number one is most sexual assaults are committed by strangers ~ not true! Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim’s family. Myth number two ~ the majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison. Very, very few of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted of their crimes. Most convicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision. Myth 3 ~ most sex offenders reoffend ~ they don’t always reoffend. Figuring out a percentage doesn’t really work as most abuse is never reported. The majority simply isn’t reported, therefore the data isn’t there to make a realistic sample size to obtain a give or take percentage.

The book also includes instructions for parents, teachers, and counselors to use in discussions with groups of children. Do you find that group counseling is beneficial for children or are one on one sessions important as well?

First and foremost is one on one for all ages. Little kids are scared and need one on one, teenagers are ashamed that is happened and need one on one. Younger children should never be in a group as they have such immature minds. They might hear a child (maybe three years older) speak of something that happened and the child who overhears most likely won’t comprehend what was said, and this causes more problems and confusion. Teenagers may benefit from group therapy, and this may help them feel less ashamed and be able to cope with their own circumstance more effectively.

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Suzy Has a SecretThis book teaches a child, ages four to eight years-old, about personal safety and body ownership. Children learn how to identify who safe adults are in a child’s life. This book shows in positive and practical ways how parents, and educators, can talk to children about personal safety. Children learn about bad touch and good touch, and how their body belongs to them. Parents and educators can help children learn who the safe people are in their lives, and that they can always tell one of them about anything that may happen, and they aren’t comfortable about. Using little bug fairies and fairy houses, ensures that children aren’t scared when this story is read to them, or they read it on their own.

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Forgiveness and Redemption

Laura Eckert Author Interview

Laura Eckert Author Interview

Just Another Girl’s Story is a memoir about finding redemption. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This was an important book for me to write because far too many people let their past mistakes define who they are in the present. Too many people from all walks of life live with shame and guilt. Unfortunately for many, they exasperate their turmoil into further problems by not releasing their past. Such as addictions, severe depression and unhealthy relationships with others. I wrote my story to offer hope. I also wrote it to testify how my relationship with Jesus was the only way I could move on and find redemption.

This book recounts some harrowing events in your life, but the title of the book is Just Another Girl’s Story. Why did you choose this as the title?

I choose this title because of an experience I had when dining with friends. Shortly before publishing my book, I had quite a few titles I was kicking around. Then one evening I was out for dinner with five women, all of us are Catholic. I was asked about my upcoming book, and I revealed some of the content. Two of the women abruptly stated that they too had abortions. After I got home that evening, I pondered our discussion and realized that out of six women at our table, 1/2 of us had an abortion. I realized that I am “just another girl” that has experienced abortion; thus shame and guilt.

I appreciated how you were willing to tell both the good and bad aspects of your life choices. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

My abortion experiences were the most difficult to write about. When I wrote the outline for my book; I did not know if I would be able to reach the level of detail I felt the reader would need to have to understand my journey. Most especially my abortion experiences. At first, I thought I needed to spend most of my time writing about when I was physically at Planned Parenthood. I even went to the Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee to ask for my records. When I was told they did not have them anymore (they only need to keep records for 7-10 years) – I was devasted. I didn’t write for a while after that day, as I believed I had to have those records to validate my experience. When I finally began writing again, I asked God to help me retrieve the details of what I needed to provide the reader an understanding of my experiences. As I began typing, it was as if God was at the keyboard typing the words as I relived those two days at Planned Parenthood. God gave me exactly what I needed, and I recalled many things I had buried long ago. I cried many tears as I re-read what was typed and I marveled once again at how God is so powerful and how I could not have written my story without Him by my side.

What is one thing that you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope and pray that readers suffering from shame and guilt; regardless of reasons – can find inspiration to reach forgiveness and redemption. I hope readers take away the adage that you do not have to let your past mistakes define who you become and how you live today.

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Just Another Girl's Story: A Memoir on Finding Redemption

Laura confesses, “I was spending so much time grieving the loss of my two aborted babies; all the while taking for granted that God gave me two more that were alive and standing right in front of me”

At the tender and problematic ages of 16 and 17, Laura Eckert twice found herself as a patient at an abortion clinic, after her parents had discovered that she was pregnant. Addicted to sex and an overindulging in alcohol while maintaining an unhealthy desire for isolation and coping with deep depression, Laura didn’t understand the link between her problems until she was in her thirties, when she was finally able to accept them for what they were. Then, her pursuit of redemption for what she did became relentless, as she tackled the dark humiliation she had endured, eventually finding peace within a loving family of her own.

Now, in her book, Just Another Girl’s Story, Laura relives those traumatic teenage experiences in an honest and genuine teen autobiography that many will find shocking, harrowing and provocative, and yet implores sympathy and holds the reader spellbound at the same time. Read about her plight and her path to finding the peace and healing that she craved, as she tackles controversial topics of teen abortion, teen pregnancy, teen drinking and alcoholism and sex addiction.
Perhaps you will be inspired to find your own peace within Laura’s story.

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Because It Was Raining

Because It Was Raining

Because It Was Raining, written by Skyler Worley, tells a story of a man who goes by the name of Louis. He is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning whilst trying to find his place in the world. Louis joins two other lost souls, the three dysfunctional amigos, who mask their loneliness with the swirl of a pipe. Together they venture into Kansas City where they find broken homes and people, lost in the filth of their demise. Will Louis break free from the demons that haunt him and finally find himself or will he be forever lost in a world of chaos?

Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. The story is simple but effective, following a friendship group who are living in a world where they attempt to solve and mask their problems with drugs and dodgy relationships.

Skyler Worley writes with a creative flair, pulling the reader in with emotive words and concepts. The language is beautiful, carefully curated together to produce a complex and vivid picture of the scenery and characters. The story seems to switch between a hazed, drug-fuelled state to a deep and contemplative mindset. Louis wants to understand the meaning of life but is tortured by the losses of his past, finding analogies in his current life situation.

Because It Was Raining deals with the complexity of death and how it can shape your life in ways you least expect. There are so many emotions and raw situations that the reader will be able to relate to, especially if they have lost a loved one.

I enjoyed watching the character progression of the character “Boobe” as she takes on a motherly role whilst still involving herself in tools to mask her depression. She has profound moments of wisdom which provokes the reader to consider life and its meaning. For example, she states that the world lacks equality and some of us are born with a silver spoon, others with a plastic fork. You can then either choose to change your fate but only within your ability to alter it. Her life is complex as well as the characters she invites into her life and home. Boobe’s story is uncovered the further you move throughout the novel, exposing explanations and reasoning to her behavior.

Each character has their own personal backstory which has led them to a place that is lonely and dark. It’s a reminder that drugs are often a coping mechanism for those who are crying out for help. Because It Was Raining triggers a sense of empathy for the characters and the tragedies that they have endured.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story about finding life after loss and all the complexities that come with grief.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B075ZNPVDL

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A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent

A-C-T Like A Kid And T-H-I-N-K Like A Parent: What All Good Parents Need For Their Kids To Know, Learn And Understand

A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent, by C.S. Whitehurst and Katharine Shears, is a guide for preteens and teens as they enter the most difficult stages of their young lives. The authors present numerous challenging situations, looming questions, and advice for readers. Teen readers are given thorough explanations regarding basic life skills and the necessity in learning early to practice and demonstrate responsibility, showing and earning respect, and getting what they want through appropriate measures.

As a parent and teacher, I appreciate the authors’ detailed advice regarding parents’ feelings about their children. They take a close look at the way parents feel about others hurting their children and the difficulty we have in trusting others not to hurt our children. I was especially touched by the authors’ emphasis on the fact that we, as parents, do not want anyone to hurt our children and that includes the child himself. This is something I find, as a mother, very difficult to express at times.

Children, especially teens, struggle with their feelings toward their parents and question whether they truly understand them or not. Whitehurst and Shears stress that a parent, whether or not he or she has sought professional parenting advice, operates based on what he or she knows from past experiences. Helping children and teens realize that we, as parents, bring our own childhood into the parenting realm allows them to see the significance of the decisions we make–bad or good. The authors are open and informative as they explain parents’ varying strategies.

I realize that the focus of the book was effectively the parent and child relationship and the importance of understanding a parent’s point of view, but I would have liked a little more extensive explanation of the parent’s view of bullying. This is such a difficult aspect to drive home as a mother and a teacher. When children hear someone else explain the same information we have tried ad nauseum to explain, it is often more effective coming from another source. The authors have an excellent opportunity to further address this extremely relevant social issue.

The authors recognize that teens are more likely than not to encounter feelings of dishonesty, and be hit with the desire to hide their feelings and actions from parents. Part Three, Chapter 9 deals quite frankly with these feelings and helps the young reader understand the importance of growing into a trustworthy adult. In addition, the reader receives a thorough explanation of the directness appreciated by parents. In fact, the authors dedicate a great amount of their time to the concept of trust, which I appreciated greatly.

I am giving A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent is a wonderfully persuasive piece which is bound to hit home with teen readers. The authors have been careful not to write above the teen reader’s head, and they effectively touch on a variety of issues within one handy self-help manual.

Pages: 192| ASIN: B076GJLLQ4

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A Proper Super Villain Character

Stewart Hoffman Author Interview

Stewart Hoffman Author Interview

The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart follows Alex and Ian who still have nanobots inside them and retain the ability to take on the different aspects of bugs they swallow. What direction did you want to take this book that was different from the first story?

Well the first book was the origin story. How the kids got their powers, and a lot of get-to-know-you stuff, where they live, etc. In the second book, I didn’t have to go over all that again, at least not as much, so I focused on upping the ante with bigger bugs, robots, action, and a proper super villain character. I also wanted to explore what being a hero was all about.

The writing in your novel is very artful and creative. Was it a conscious effort to create a story in this fashion or is this style of writing reflective of your writing style in general?

This is my writing style. I like to keep things moving along at a brisk pace, and I always jump on an opportunity to see the funny side.

I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?

Thank you! As a kid I was always a story teller. More recently I set up my own movie review blog, and after a couple of years doing that I decided I was ready to construct a full novel. Since I’ve watched and analysed so many films (and books, I read a lot too) I think I’ve got a good handle on what’s needed in a story. It also doesn’t hurt to review one’s work with critique groups either!

Will there be a book three in The Bug Boys series? If so, where will it take readers?

There will, eventually! Tentatively titled, The Bug Boys and The Bullet Ant Queen. This one will spend a lot more time exploring the alien’s planet (The Bug Boys are going to visit!), while I explore the subjects of change, and the environment. This one will likely take a bit longer to put together as I also have another novel I’m working on. Something for adult readers, a little afterlife dramedy!

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The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake BlackhartThe fantastic superhero adventure that began with The Bug Boys continues! Alex Adams and Ian Harris take on Blake Blackhart, a disgraced Oxford professor. He discovers the boys’ source of power and plots to use the Secti’s alien technology to wreak havoc across the galaxy. 

With a proper real-life supervillain in the village, the boys must step up their superhero game if they are to put a stop to the professor’s nefarious schemes. Along the way, they make new friends, and they encounter new bugs and superpowers. With the fate of the galaxy in the balance, the boys dig deep within themselves to truly understand what it means to be a hero!

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His Intense Loyalty

Michael J Bowler Author Interview

Michael J Bowler Author Interview

Spinner is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a horror, supernatural, and urban fantasy as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing? 

I never plan to genre-cross when I write, but it happens organically. My mind doesn’t see niches or genres because I don’t like labels (which publishers do like because they feel niches are easier to market to.) I usually start with an idea or a character and build from there. For Spinner, the idea was a boy in a wheelchair who could heal everyone but himself. From there I populated the story with characters I hope readers will care about, and considered the possible threats to such a uniquely gifted boy from those seeking to exploit him. I love horror stories, so adding in an element of the supernatural came easily. I tried to send my characters on a journey that crosses genres and can be enjoyed even by those who don’t like horror. The disabilities of the characters are based on real kids I taught as a special educator, and I wanted to celebrate the reality that for all of us, our abilities outweigh our disabilities.

Alex is a spinner, capable of taking on others emotions, physical ailments, and pains. What was the inspiration for Alex’s abilities?

I have always been very emphatic, and knew early on I could never be a doctor or someone who deals with suffering on a daily basis because I’d feel the pain of the other person way too much. However, all walks of life have suffering, and I’ve experienced it in many people, especially kids I’ve taught or worked with as a juvenile hall volunteer. I so badly wanted to take their pain away that the character of Alex was born in my mind – someone who could not just listen empathetically, but actually remove the pain from the other person and then expel it from himself. It took many years to bring the character, and his story, to fruition, and the result is Spinner.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I think Roy was my favorite because he has other struggles besides his learning disability, and because of his intense loyalty to Alex. Friendship is a major theme in all of my books because I believe it is the purest form of love, and the friendship Roy, Alex, and the other characters have for each other is more powerful than all the forces pitted against them. I’ve known far too many kids like Roy who think they’re losers because society says they have little or no worth, and I wanted to bring that kind of character to life so readers can see, with clarity, that society is wrong.

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

I have written three novels aimed at the teen+ market and one for middle grade, all different in plot, genre, tone, and even narrative point of view, but thus far none of them have generated interest from publishers or agents. In my mind, I have outlined the two sequels to Spinner that will tie up all the plot threads, but I’ll see how Spinner sells first. If there is enough interest, I’ll write them. At this point, I can’t say when I will have a new book out, but I keep working hard to make that happen.

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Spinner by [Bowler, Michael J.]Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.

In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to “fix” the kids she injures, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.

They want to know who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something evil, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy the world.

The boys break into homes, dig up graves, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront a malevolence as old as humanity. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed. The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.

If he survives…

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Just Another Girl’s Story

Just Another Girl's Story: A Memoir on Finding Redemption

Everyone must face their individual journey of life alone no matter the support system, or lack thereof. We have the opportunity to continue improving ourselves for a better future surrounded with love and happiness, even if many take what they currently possess for granted. In Just Another Girl’s Story, author Laura Eckert allows her readers to follow her as she goes through her ups and downs of life in her perspective. There are many things she’s experienced that could make someone judge, but the point of her sharing her life is what many can use as a testimony that life can get better. Through her eyes, we gain the understanding that we should not let our decisions define who we are destined to become. The most challenging part is embracing flaws, accepting the consequences, and learning from them.

There were plenty of emotions invoked through Laura’s writing style. While reading, there were times that had me shaking my head in bewilderment because of instances when she knew she was doing something wrong, yet continued doing so. One thing that stood out despite all of the obstacles occurring in her life, is maintaining her relationship with God, that shows pure dedication. She did her absolute best at staying true to her faith even after moments she wanted to throw in the towel. Laura’s story is inspirational to everyone, especially women. It’s a story that shows you that it is okay not to be perfect, as long as you want to be a better version of you.

I understood how she felt, although I don’t fully understand her reasoning to make certain decisions. I know that the heart cannot help who it loves and sometimes you just have to respect that as the case. It’s amazing to learn about everything she’s been through from a young age to continue going despite her odds. The wonderful experiences led to her having a beautiful family that is centered around God, full of more happiness than frowns, and built on a sturdy foundation. I truly enjoyed reading this book and seeing the life that this woman had, it inspires me to keep reaching for a better life for myself. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great story that could be relatable to most people in the world who are going through a rough patch, to know that in time it will get better.

Pages: 242 | ASIN: B0737V5JJY

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