Twisted Pines is an intriguing tale that utilizes elements from multiple genres to produce a unique effect on the reader. Mixing science fiction, thriller, mystery and action, this story unfolds in a mostly linear fashion while offering up a healthy dose of surprise twists and turns.
The plot of Twisted Pines centers around the experiences of a first-year film school student named Abe. After completing his first year at UCLA, he decides that taking a job as a summer camp counselor is a better option than going back to his hometown to spend the summer with his mother. Being a film student, he is on the lookout for a story and a story worth telling is certainly what he finds. The big question is, however, who will be the ones to hear his tale?
The narration provided by the protagonist helps the reader identify with him, the setting, and characters he becomes acquainted with at the summer camp, Mendocino Pines, as well as the premise that the story is built upon. Readers can easily relate with the well-crafted characters, plot and setting, as a result. As a perfect complement to the natural feel that the story provides, there is an ominous, otherworldly force intertwined with the protagonist’s story that provides most of the entertainment value of Twisted Pines.
The only small issue I had was that I felt like there was a lack of sensory cues in descriptions. I felt that there was a lot of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, mostly because we’re in the ‘inner voice’ of the protagonist.
Otherwise, Lane Baker has crafted a wonderfully interesting story that is definitely worth a read. Written for young adults, Baker uses aspects of classic thrillers along with science fiction to craft a unique story. For readers who like to be surprised at the end of a novel as well as those who like a vivid storytelling style, Twisted Pines could very well be right up their isle.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07VCC2GRB
Pigs is a thrilling crime drama following an ex-con on a bloody mission to get revenge for his slain family. What was the inspiration for the setup to this suspenseful novel?
The original conception was vastly different, starting out as a supernatural horror where the deeply traumatised cardiologist Dr Jensen lures Isaac, Roach, Wyndorf and the rest of their heist gang to “test” a new security system in a private warehouse, with the promise of a substantial cash award upon completion. Shock horror, it’s all a trap, and since recovering, Jensen’s been employing a small, private firm of scientists to experiment with technology which can bring his deep-seated psychological trauma to life, using it send a bunch of unstoppable, violent, homicidal pig men to chase down Isaac and his crew within the private complex. So yeah…a few things changed, but the core ideas remained, primarily the heavy burden of guilt around Isaac’s neck for what happened with Jensen, and the hostilities between Isaac and Wyndorf. After boiling it all down to these primary constituents, I reimagined it as a much more down to Earth crime-suspense novel.
Isaac is a deeply developed and layered character. What were some ideas you wanted to capture with his character?
I hate to sound like a spiteful and vindictive individual, but I love revenge stories. And who doesn’t? That was the primary motivation behind this story, Isaac’s burning need to exact revenge and how far he is willing to go in order to achieve it. But at the same time I wanted him to be struggling internally with his hatred and his moral compass, the needle of which is being guided by his recently lost family whom he had been hoping to become a better man for.
Isaac is a man who has made some bad choices in his past, but he always had a code, and therefore, in my eyes, he isn’t beyond redemption.
I enjoyed how the criminal underworld in this book is well defined and felt natural. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
Thank you. One of the major niches of the criminal underworld is that of the meth dealing doomsday preppers…and they just felt like a natural fit for Wyndorf. That guy is a complete psychopath, disowned from his more stable criminal associates and family, but he can be useful in a way so why not stick him with a network of drug-running heavily armed militants?
In terms of themes, I’d say the predominant one is definitely the internecine nature of vengeance and how it tends to destroy all involved, at least to varying extents. We see this in the characters of Isaac, Wyndorf and Jensen, all of who are primarily motivated by their need to settle the score. Cue bloodshed.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My agent Ethan Ellenberg — along with his great team — are currently shopping my fantasy horror novel, Fable, around the publishers. It’s about a high school senior and his few outsider friends who get on the wrong side of the school’s (and the town’s) drug dealers. It’s also about a synthetic hallucinogenic drug, the eponymous Fable. As the animosity builds between our hero and the bullies and their criminal connections, he realises to his dismay that his unstable, drug-induced childhood friend has returned, and could be the only thing capable of protecting him and his friends from the violent reprisals.
I also have a first draft manuscript called Night Collar, about a female NY cab driver who is mixed up in the local black market organ harvesting business, who must try to survive the night in an Odyssean chase across the city with a young Chinese triad member — the son of the organisation’s leader — as they attempt to deliver empire-toppling evidence to an FBI handler, and all the while staying one step ahead of some colourful psychopaths.
And I’m currently tidying up the first draft of an action/fantasy manuscript called Hourglass. Ghosts, guns, secret agents, talking hoodoos, demons, the 9 kingdoms of the dead, and probably a healthy dose of existential dread.
Isaac Reid, a former professional thief, has just finished a ten-year stint in prison for a botched job turned bloodbath. Now all he wants is to go straight and make amends with his wife and young son. On his first night of freedom his loved ones are brutally slain by a bitter enemy. Surviving the encounter, Isaac struggles with his choices: do right by his late family’s wishes and abide by the law, or seek vengeance. But he’ll need to decide quickly, as another mysterious force from his past is now in play: a cold killer wearing a wolf mask, leading a band of pig-masked assassins. To Isaac, these men are strangers, but they’re prepared to kill any who get between them and him.
A Lone Wolf by writer, J.C. Fields, follows its characters through a tense world of assassins, handlers, informants, and spies. The characters constantly have to look over their shoulders and think several steps ahead of those who would rather have them dead. We meet the characters when they are thrown into a situation that would have left them dead, had they not narrowly escaped a sniper’s bullets. They were set up. They were supposed to die in Barcelona. They escaped, albeit narrowly, and must find out who wants them dead and why.
The constant stress and danger the characters find themselves in builds drama and suspense across the chapters. I even found myself tensing up at some points. Their lives are scary, but exciting. Also interesting are the “ins” they seem to have across the world. They have people to help them change identities, acquire the most legitimate of illegitimate documentation, passports, licenses, etc. They have contacts in all sorts of networks and government agencies. There seems to be a lot of true scenarios mixed in with their fictional lives. It makes the reader wonder how many double agents there really are out there.
A part that really stuck with me and seemed ingenious was when Michael and Nadia faked their deaths in Mexico. It really makes you wonder how much of what we know about what goes on in the world is real, and how much is a façade. I’m certain popular news outlets only receive a fraction of any given story, especially stories involving people so deeply involved in circles that meshes government officials with hitmen.
I really empathized with how Nadia began to feel about living in Missouri. I could identify. It was the first place, likely in a very long time, that felt like home to her. To feel safe and autonomous couldn’t have been feelings that were familiar, but they were good. Everyone wants that. Even people in their line of work have a basic human need for safety, security, freedom, and belonging. Missouri quickly became a happy place that Nadia dreaded leaving. Her longing to stay seemed so familiar. Anyone can certainly identify with wanting to be in a place or leave a hard situation.
The book was well-written with little to no noticeable errors. Quick and intense, it was still a fairly easy read. The characters are well-developed, as usual, and the fast-paced and exciting plot flow smoothly. Fields’s writing style is on par with tv shows such as Scandal or Amazon’s Jack Ryan. Being a Scandal fan, I associated some of the characters with people I’d seen on the show. Beyond the normal Whitehouse business, there is a network of characters who are hired fixers, hitmen, and spies who work behind the scenes in conjunction with those who are the faces on television telling people what to believe. These characters reminded me a lot of them.
The characters and plot were intricately interesting. It was an exciting read with some edge-of-your-seat type scenarios.
Pages: 372 | ASIN: B07T9SDHY8
Makers of a Destiny by David Crane is an enthralling mash-up of dystopian fantasy and a pulse pounding thriller.
The book is set in a post-apocalyptic New America, where Tanya Grey is one of the Panthers. The Panthers are a superior race, with a host of special forces that they intend to use for the growth and development of the other races in New America. However, a national emergency leaves Tanya Grey in the wake of a situation that requires all of her skills and power to fight the antagonists. They are the Neo Spartans, equipped with technological prowess and ruthlessness, they will stop at nothing to take down New America. Apart from this, an increasingly unstable political situation threatens the nation and Tanya Grey’s personal life.
Although this is a sequel to the novel Die to Live Again, reading that book is not required to read and enjoy this book. There are plenty of detailed explanations for all the characters, elements, and creatures. The descriptions of the Panthers’ lives and motivations were particularly fascinating. I wouldn’t be surprised if in our own post-nuclear holocaust (I don’t suppose it’s too far) we find ourselves in the company of these creatures. Apart from the Panthers, there were elaborate depictions of new species and animals, like the Hunter leeches. Although these were equally fascinating, I felt that they were a bit lengthy and did not contribute much to the plot.
Apart from these elements, equal amount of focus was devoted to Tanya’s personal lives and the characters that surround her. Her attachments and vulnerabilities made me especially empathetic to her decisions.
While reading, I was struck by the number of antagonistic elements in the book that were comparable to the realities of today. From racism to an endless lust for power that threatens the foundation of humanity, it was not a far stretch for my imagination to conjure up this world. The possibility of technology being used for evil, suppression of minorities, colonialism, and other parallels can easily be drawn between our world and this one. History always repeats itself and it is quite likely that we will find ourselves in a future which echoes our past. This novel provides a perfect and terrifying depiction of such a world.
Pages: 342 | ASIN: B074YH9GJD
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The Line Between follows an apocalyptic cult escapee who finds the end of the world is actually happening. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
In 2017, soon after Firstborn released, I met with my publisher in New York to talk about what was next. I had a short list of favorite story concepts—the idea of a cult escapee starting over and a pandemic rising from the permafrost (inspired by real headlines, scarily enough) among six or seven others. My publisher said, “I like both of those. I think you should put them together!”
It worked out strangely well! I wish I could take credit for the combination, but it was my publisher’s idea.
Wynter is an impressive character that I enjoyed watching develop throughout the novel. What were some ideas that drove her character development?
Thank you so much. Wynter’s a really intriguing character to me because she has so many challenges—she’s oppressed and imprisoned within this cult and when she finally gets out, she’s a complete fish out of water. She doesn’t know how to drive or work electronics, or much about how the outside world works at all. She struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (as I do) and has issues with PTSD. She’s not your usual hero with a “special set of skills.” But she never gives up. She’s also kind of funny, which I love about her.
The disease that comes out of the permafrost causes madness in its victims. How did you develop the idea for the disease in your novel?
My sister is a physician and also teaches medical school, so I spent some time picking her brain for just the right combination of different yet plausible, and very scary. The idea of a fast-track prion disease (best known for its Mad Cow variant) is exceptionally frightening. In humans, prion disease cause very slow deterioration and dementia usually over decades. There is no cure, it’s always fatal, and as of right now there’s no way to even test for it except for posthumously. A rapid version of that seemed like a very formidable foe.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Good question! I’m up for contract now, so we’re shopping a few ideas around. I really love these new concepts, so am very much looking forward to bringing them into the world.
When Wynter Roth finally escapes from New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.
As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play: that the prophet they once idolized has been toying with the fate of mankind, and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.
Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter, herself.
Confessions of Eden is a thrilling espionage novel that follows Eden as she tries to balance her high stakes job with her personal life. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
The writing bug bit me rather suddenly a few years ago while I was driving along Interstate 95, south of Washington, DC. I realized in that moment that I wanted my readers to get to know Michelle Reagan and to like her as much as I did. That rather simple thought led me down the complex path of shepherding her story from ethereal concept to a series of novels. I can only hope I’ve translated her essence onto paper well enough for readers to appreciate her complexity, empathize with her about the difficulty of the personal and professional decisions she has to make, and understand how it changes her over time.
Throughout the process of writing Confessions of Eden, it was Michelle who told me what to put down on paper and what to leave out! I just saluted smartly, and said, “Yes, ma’am!”
I enjoyed Michelle’s character development and how she gained more depth as the novel progressed. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I’m glad you enjoyed it! This book is a blend of places I’ve been, people I’ve worked with, and my own experiences in the field. They say you can only write what you know, so that’s what I did. I wanted to tell the story of Michelle’s journey and her struggles so readers can get to know this strong, brave, loving woman who’s unlike anyone they’ve met before. She faces intractable decisions and as the story unfolds, she reacts to the stresses of her life differently as she gains more experience on her team. The situations in which she finds herself force her to develop and mature, both personally and professionally, right before the readers’ eyes.
In your career you’ve worked with the FBI, DHS, and other government agencies. How has your experienced helped you write this novel?
I’ve worked in the Intelligence Community for most of the past thirty years. I’ve held a number of great positions from the field to management. I’ve had the opportunity to do everything from international nuclear treaty verification to running sources into foreign countries to seeing coworkers get burned by a double agent. This is a career field in which you experience a lot of highs and lows over time and has given me a lot of the seeds for elements of Michelle’s many adventures.
Over the past few decades, I’ve traveled frequently for both work and pleasure. Michelle Reagan’s story—her life, if you will—occurs in many of those locales and has been percolating through my mind for the past few years as a result of the things I’ve seen and done.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Michelle Reagan returns this fall in Directive One. The description for that book is already up on my website at http://www.ScottShinberg.com, where people can also subscribe to my newsletter. Those who do will be the first to hear of each future book’s release schedule. In the next book, the Director of the CIA is kidnapped, so Michelle and a team of Navy SEALs are sent to rescue him. I hope your readers will be able to read your review of it on Literary Titan later this year.
Michelle Reagan–code name Eden–is the CIA Special Activities Division’s newest covert action operator, an assassin, who struggles between wanting to succeed in her new profession for herself and her charismatic boss, and the moral quandaries of what she must do to innocent people who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although she faces seemingly intractable decisions as she executes her missions across the globe, the adversary most difficult to overcome may very well be her own conscience.
Through it all, only one man has ever called her an ‘assassin’ to her face. Someday, if she has her way, she’ll marry him–if she lives that long.
Malthus Revisited is a genre-crossing novel with elements of science fiction, thriller, and religion as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
It’s interesting that you see elements of science fiction in Malthus. I have not been read that comment from another reviewer nor did I see it as science fiction while writing it. When I began the story, the main character, Dr. Lindsey McCall was well established because this is the 4th in the medical mystery series. The antagonist had been very briefly introduced in the previous novel, A Price for Genius. To me, the story is apocalyptic, ergo the title, even dystopian. The religion… well, I am a midlife convert and know well what life without faith feels like, so religion is a part of every story I write.
Some things in the book come off as possible, if not already happening. Did you take any inspiration from real life when developing this book?
My background is academic medicine and public health so yes much of what is in the book is not just possible but probable.
How did you create Lindsey and Rich’s characters in a way that contrasted yet still supported the characters development?
Although I never planned to write a series when I wrote the first Lindsey and Rich novel, The Fragrance Shed by A Violet, that first story cemented them in my mind. In each of the subsequent books they have enjoyed taking me on their roller coaster lives.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I, Claudia A Novel of the Ancient World was published in December of last year.
Currently I am writing, My Name is Saul also a novel of the ancient world. I expect it to be published by the end of this year.
Eighteen-year-old Morgan Gardner did not seem like someone who could save the world—unless you took the time to notice her eyes. And most people didn’t.
Morgan’s exceptional gifts were known only to her and to the animals she could understand better than people. For a long time, she told no one about her nightmares. Embarrassed and afraid that no one would believe her, Morgan waited until it was almost too late. Then she confided in her mom’s best friend, Dr. Lindsey McCall.
Lindsey and her husband Rich had worked hard to reestablish their lives and careers after their last harrowing escapade. Relocated in a beautiful California home and newly reunited with Lindsey’s biological daughter LJ, all seemed to be going smoothly—until an enemy from their past returned with as deadly a plan as they could imagine.
The fourth novel in Lin Wilder’s popular Lindsey McCall series is her best one yet—combining the innovative medical research her readers have come to admire with a new and terrifying threat to the world’s population: a biological timebomb. Vivid characters old and new rampage across the continents of Europe, Asia, and the U.S. to stop the contagion, picking up steam as they head toward a life-or-death climax in the remote Qinghai province of China.
Malthus Revisited adds a dystopian element to Wilder’s evolving Lindsey McCall mystery series, and is guaranteed to captivate both her loyal fans and eager newcomers to its last riveting page.
Sea Scope by Debbie De Louise is a psychological mystery about an incident that happened twenty years ago with effects that stretch into the present. Sarah Collins, a children’s book illustrator, agrees to visit her aunt for the summer to escape the problems in her marriage. But returning to Sea Scope, the inn her family owned when she was child, is not the ideal place for a relaxing vacation. Because Sarah’s family closed the inn and left town after a young man died under mysterious circumstances two decades ago. Now, someone is not happy that guests are returning to Sea Scope. Sarah and her aunt begin to receive menacing notes and texts claiming to be from Sarah’s dead brother, Glen. Who is behind the attempts to scare them away from Sea Scope? And what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?
I enjoyed the mystery behind this story immensely. I really like books that I have to work at solving the puzzle. There were lots of clues in this story and I spent most of the book trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. I was able to guess at a few things, but there were also a number of unexpected twists that surprised me.
I liked the pictures and information about lighthouses that were included in the book and I enjoyed learning about some of the history of different lighthouses in the United States. It was interesting to that get additional insight into the character of Michael.
The story started off a bit slow for me. I felt that there was an over abundance of backstory and setup with nothing much happening for the first several chapters. I felt that there some information that was mentioned multiple times, this along with a surplus of detail made the story feel slow. I wanted the mystery element to be introduced sooner, because it’s enthralling, and that would have really pulled me into the story. It wasn’t until after Sarah arrived at Sea Scope that the story started to grab my interest.
I liked the additional details that were conveyed by the flashbacks, but they were confusing because they were not in chronological order. And switching back and forth from first person narrative in the present and third person narrative in the past was a bit jarring at first, although I got used to it.
I’m glad that the story ended happily for Sarah, especially after the tragedies she’d already suffered and all the shocking secrets that she learned about her past. Sarah was an intriguing character that I enjoyed following through a superbly developed mystery that was unraveled perfectly.
Pages: 464 | ASIN: B07PPW1D41
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.
Gold Award Winners
Phoebe Douse: S3A2 by L. Samuels
The Farthest-Reaching Ball: A Memoir of Motherhood by Sandra Bowman
Silver Award Winners
Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
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In Experiment X: Exposed Dr. Thaddeus unveils his plan to create an army of super-humans and the masses rejoice. This seems like an easy reference to many terrible things throughout history. What was your inspiration for this moment?
For this moment, I was inspired by how easily influenced masses of people are, and how quickly they can become terrified of something that probably isn’t true. We are told that we have these enemies when we’re just the least bit scared of something so that we have a finger to point at someone, even if that enemy is false. Too many people believe their ‘leaders’ when they tell them who to blame and that they need protection from something that likely doesn’t even exist.
I find that authors sometimes ask questions and have their characters answer them. What were some questions you asked yourself while creating your characters?
A big one that I had asked myself and my characters is actually addressed in the very beginning of the book, ‘who are you?’. Generally, people ask only about your job and/or school as if that’s all we are. But, it’s not. Shed away the layers that are on the surface of yourself and find out what’s left. What can you survive? Who do you love? Who would you die/kill for?
What can readers expect in book three in the Experiment X series, Experiment X: Revolt?
Readers can definitely expect some more bloodshed, war in both the Lab and on the streets, revenge, friends and allies in unlikely places, redemption, new abilities/powers, and some gruesome satisfaction.
They were dead!
I watched one of them die!
Doctor James Thaddeus just presented them as Captains on live TV. Right after he informed a brainwashed world that he was accepting volunteers to expand his super soldier army.
It’s been nearly a year since I helped release imprisoned Subjects from the Lab and the last thing I want is to see is that horrid ‘Doctor’ create more human weapons to treat like rats.
Shawn and I need answers to what we are if we’re going to attack the facility again and stop Thaddeus.
Although it would be easier if Lab-loyal Subjects didn’t capture us, dragging us back to the Lab like criminals.
We’ll just have to take them down from the inside this time.
We can’t let Thaddeus win.
He’ll kill us.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: action, author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, dystopian, ebook, experiment x, Exposed, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, Nikki Haase, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, science fiction, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing