Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?
Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.
The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.
It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.
Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.
Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.
I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.
Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043
Tags: arti chugpai, author, authorlife, authorlove, authors, authorsofinstagram, book, bookaholic, bookblogger, bookclub, bookgeek, bookhaul, bookish, booklovers, bookme, booknerdigans, booknookstagram, booknow, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, booksofinstagram, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookworm, class, culture, ebook, fantasy, fiction, gender, goodreads, ilovebooks, india, indian, kindle, kobo, literature, love, metoo, new adult, nook, novel, phoenix, publisher, publishing, read, reader, reading, relationship, romance, shelfari, sterotype, story, tycoon, woman, women, womens fantasy, womens fiction, writer, writerlife, writers, writersclub, writerscommunity, writerscommunityofinstagram, writerscorner, writing
East of Mecca is beautifully written and addresses a subject that is rarely discussed. Why did you want to write about Middle Eastern culture?
I lived in Saudi Arabia for a year when my husband accepted a job with Aramco Oil Company. We lived on a company compound called Ras Tanura, located on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Within the compound were beautiful, white, sandy beaches, and flat, desert terrain filled with exotic, thorny scrubs. The sun rose every morning over the sea and set each evening over the desert. Both events were in stunning Technicolor!
Throughout my year in Saudi, I was exposed to camels, Bedouin markets, delicious food, beautiful art, jewelry, and architecture, and haunting Middle Eastern music. I even learned to belly dance!
Although we lived on the company compound, I quickly discovered the male-dominated, fundamentalist Islamic Kingdom’s rules for ex-patriot women were not so different than those for Saudi women…loose, modest clothing, driving or riding bicycles off the compound is forbidden, as is leaving the compound unless accompanied by your husband or in Aramco approved transportation.
My first day in Saudi, I was fingerprinted, photographed holding a placard with my husband’s ID number, and my passport was confiscated by Aramco. It would only be relinquished to my husband after he had applied for an exit-visa and it had been approved. I had my first panic attack when I realized I couldn’t just get a cab to the airport, board a plane, and go home.
In one day, I lost both my identity and my freedom.
As an American Clinical Psychologist not affiliated with Aramco, I had other women from the compound (American, European, Saudi and other Arab women) literally knocking on my door for counseling. I practiced secretly and illicitly (without a work-permit) the entire year I was in Saudi.
Off the compound, restrictions against women were much more apparent. Ruled by sharia law, Saudi women are required to be covered head-to-toe in black long-sleeved, ankle length cloaks called abayas, hijabs (headscarves), and face-masks called niqabs. All these were then covered with veils that render women completely invisible. Religious police called matawain patrol the streets of villages and cities arbitrarily deciding whether or not a woman (Saudi or Western) is properly dressed and properly behaved. Unless restaurants have screened off “family” sections, women are not allowed inside.
It was in Saudi, through my work with other women, where I learned firsthand about oppression and some of the other appalling conditions Saudi women face, including being under complete control of their husbands, fathers, or other males in their family, lack of personal autonomy, being forbidden to drive, honor violence, arranged marriage, child marriages…all in addition to the rigid clothing restrictions…being totally cloaked in black, even in sweltering weather.
The Middle East is a complex culture, rich in contrasts. And yet, little is written about the treatment of women in Saudi. Inspired by my own experiences and those of the women I worked with, writing East of Mecca became my passion project. I wanted to convey the exotic and the beautiful, while respectfully educating Western readers on the appalling conditions of women living under sharia law. I wanted to take readers beneath the veils that make Saudi women “invisible” and give them faces. I wanted to give a voice to those women forbidden to speak for themselves. My greatest hope is that education can lead to advocacy and action toward change.
Sarah is a fascinating character and a strong woman in her own right. What were the driving ideals behind the character’s development throughout the story?
Sarah is, first of all, devoted to her husband and children. And, with a social work background and aspirations to be a Clinical Psychologist, Sarah is a caregiver by profession and by nature. However, like most Americans, she is naïve to the experiences of others in totally different cultures. Initially, she views life in Saudi Arabia as a wise financial investment and a grand adventure. Throughout the story, with all she personally experiences and witnesses happening to other women in Saudi, especially through her relationship with Yasmeen, Sarah becomes an advocate for human rights on a much more personal level.
I truly enjoyed Yasmeen’s character and thought she brought depth and nuance to an intriguing culture. What was the inspiration for the relationship Sarah and Yasmeen have?
While it’s easy to have sympathy for people in other cultures, or those who are different from us, empathy is achieved by the ability to understand and share the feelings of another…from their perspective. To actually feel what they are feeling. My goal in creating Yasmeen’s character was to have my readers truly know her as a person, not just a face hidden behind a veil. I want them to experience her personality and empathetically relate to her joys and her struggles. The deep friendship Sarah and Yasmeen share, shows how they…and women everywhere…are the same, no matter how different their cultures might be.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on my second novel. Orchard Road is about a Clinical Psychologist, with a very dark past, who is triggered into violence by one of her patients. The time and setting is both current day Chicago, and Singapore in the 1970’s. Since I’m still in the midst of writing, I don’t know when it’ll be published, but I’m hoping it will be available within the next two years.
This moving and unforgettable novel, East of Mecca, tells a timely, harrowing, and heartbreaking story of love and betrayal, the transcendent power of sisterhood, and the ultimate price of oppression. Driven by financial desperation, Sarah and Max Hayes are seduced by promises of a glamorous expatriate lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. Sarah surrenders her career when Max accepts a prestigious job with Ocmara Oil Company and they relocate their family to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Locked inside the heavily-guarded Ocmara compound, Sarah becomes invisible within the male-dominated, fundamentalist, Islamic Kingdom, which is governed by sharia law. Gradually, she is drawn into a clandestine, illicit friendship with Yasmeen, a Muslim Saudi woman. Together they find freedom beneath the veils and behind the walls of the Saudi women’s quarters—until inconceivable events force Sarah to make life-or-death decisions. Told with riveting authenticity and exquisite detail, East of Mecca explores gender apartheid through the abuse of absolute power with an elegant balance of cultural nuance and moral inquiry. Long after you have turned the last page, you will be haunted by the vivid characters and powerful scenes illuminating this tour de force.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: abayas, adventure, amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, american, arab, arabia, aramco, art, author, author interview, book, book review, books, culture, east of mecca, ebook, ebooks, exotic, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, food, freedom, goodreads, hijab, interview, islam, islamic, jewlery, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, literature, love, matawain, middle eastern, music, mystery, niqabs, novel, persian gulf, psychologist, publishing, reading, religion, religious, review, reviews, romance, Saudi, Saudi arabia, Sheila Flaherty, stories, suspense, thriller, urban fantasy, woman, women, womens fiction, writing
Mari Reiza, author of Room 11, gives readers two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states. A comatose woman and her doting husband are tended by a dedicated but overly-involved nurse. The nurse, focused heavily on the needs of the adoring husband, gives her account of the meticulous care he shows his bedridden wife underscored by her own daydreams which reveal an intense yearning to take his wife’s place. In alternating chapters, Reiza allows the reader to hear the wife’s dreams loud and clear via her own tangled memories. Hers are dreams peppered with fantasies based on the events taking place around her.
The style Mari Reiza has chosen to use in writing Room 11 offered me quite a different reading experience. I enjoyed the alternating chapters revealing the two different points of view of both the needy nurse and the comatose wife. About halfway through the book, it became more obvious that Reiza was revealing dreams from the wife that painted a picture of her immediate surroundings and her husband’s desperate efforts to rouse her.
I did find it much easier to follow the nurse’s daydreams than the wife’s fantastical retellings. At times, the wife’s chapters became very difficult to follow. There are many lines that are effectively repeated to make an impact on the reader. Reiza has succeeded in expressing the wife’s distress over her own inability to have children. However, much of the wife’s narrative becomes a series of rambling and repetitive lines.
The author paints a clear picture of the man in Room 11, as the nurse refers to him throughout the book. His love for his wife is heartrendingly obvious. His dedication to her care and, most of all, her dignity in her current condition is indeed enviable. Any person who has been the caretaker for a relative or patient will relate to the exhausting amount of effort the man in Room 11 bestows upon his ailing wife day in and day out.
Throughout the dreams and musings of both women, multiple settings are incorporated into the story. Among them are Ghana and Northern Spain. Though the reader slowly discerns the main setting is in the United Kingdom, both women’s tales reveal troubled pasts beyond its borders. The author has created a vision of a tormented life for both characters. Living in vastly different economic circumstances, the nurse and the wife both expose the anguish of devastating losses. The two women share a common bond they will likely never realize.
As I read, I was both fascinated by and disturbed by the nurse’s infatuation with the man in Room 11. Reiza has created a memorable character with the nurse as she divulges dark, almost sinister, feelings toward her helpless patient. Her increasingly stalker-like behaviors leave the reader both intrigued and uncomfortable. It is a given that the reader’s compassion should be directed to the wife in her unfortunate state, but the nurse is a character much more worthy of pity.
Though the language is beautiful and the story woven by the two women is fascinating, I found their dreams difficult to follow. I feel that too much repetition, especially in the wife’s dream sequences, took away from the book’s overall appeal.
Pages: 128 | ASIN: B06XJ3X7JZ
Tags: amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, author, book, book review, books, contemporary, ebook, ebooks, europe, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, ghana, goodreads, kindle book, literature, love, love story, mari reiza, medical suspense, medical thriller, mystery, novel, publishing, reading, review, romance, room 11, short stories, spain, stories, suspense, thriller, united kingdom, urban fantasy, woman, women, womens fiction, writing
In Between… Life by Luiz Valério de Paula Trindade is a collection of 30 of the Brazilian poet’s English-language works. Each poem is headed by a full-page, colour photograph that is related to the topic of the poem, showcasing the poet’s other loves of photography and travel. In the introduction, he states that his vision for the collection was to capture a range of human emotional experience in the most apt words possible, but without making the poetry feel inaccessible and distant. It’s supposed to feel like a conversation with a friend.
I loved the idea behind this collection, of sharing poetry as widely as possible. I can certainly imagine philosophising about some of the topics late into the night with a friend. Unfortunately, in places this aim detracted from the poetry itself, leading to the telling-rather-than-showing, shallow exploration of Human Dignity, or some of the repetitive, clichéd references to an unapproachable woman in impenetrable armour.
In other places, though, there was evocative imagery that I instantly related to; Turning the Page is a mature description of unrequited love, and it’s expressed as a rounded story. Many of my favourite poems appeared in the latter half of the collection, and most had this same characteristic. The well-chosen order of the lines and stanzas of You Don’t Know allowed me to travel with the main character as their feelings developed, and the ending felt like the cliffhanger in a novel – I wanted to find out what happened next!
Love is a common theme, but I felt as though more aspects of it could have been covered besides the romantic one – Especially For You was a notable exception. Within the romantic poems, Today stood out for me, written with a beautiful simplicity that was still deeply imbued with meaning. The repetition of similar phrases has a strength of several other poems. How combines this with descriptive imagery which really got me feeling its frustration! The rhythm adds to this nicely, but I thought the ending of it was a little awkward. I put this down to the occasional, unnatural syntax. I can imagine that in the poet’s native Portuguese these phrases would flow smoothly.
The last two poems I want to mention are Why I Write and Words. As a writer, their content resonated with me, and I think their description of the process and the importance of writing could help people who have different creative outlets to understand why I spend so much time doing it!
Overall, I believe the collection did cover a range of aspects of the human experience, and although it didn’t work for all of them, the poems that did benefit from the simple phrasing were very effective in bringing the emotions alive for me.
Pages: 94 | ISBN: 154303988X
Tags: amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, author, band, beautiful, book, book review, books, brazil, brazillian, ebook, ebooks, english, evocative, experience, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, goodreads, human, in between life, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, literature, love, love poem, Luiz Valério de Paula Trindade, novel, page, peom, philosophy, poetry, publishing, reading, review, reviews, romance, romantic poem, sharing, simple, singer, story, urban fantasy, woman, women, writing
For Their Sins, written by Rebecca Tran, is based on the life of Alexandria Diego, a woman born in 1707, as the descendant of angels. She is a born warrior but with her skin surviving the burn of the sun, she will be destined to breed. Bearing the responsibility as the gem of House Diego, Alexandria’s life will be filled with life altering decisions and consequences. Alexandria will fight for both her family and honor, training and leading warriors into battle as she continues to rise her house to ultimate power. But twisted romances and secret affairs lead her on a destructive path where she will find herself in a battle of revenge when she fights to rescue her love from the enemy.
For Their Sins begins with Alexandria Diego as a child where she learns the ways of her house through history, science and religion. Born an angel, her life is determined by the path that she chooses to follow, whether it is to be someone who can bear children or someone who is a warrior. Some can face the sunlight, others can’t and these traits can determine the rules of how you live. But love, lust and the urge to be something more will create Alexandria into the wonderful warrior that she becomes.
Expect a mix of supernatural and adventure with beautiful women giving birth at 400 years old and in place of milk, blood will feed these baby angels. There are religious tones throughout the plot line as it dips into discussions about the creation of mankind, God and the existence of angels. We are taught about the creation of vampires and thrown into a world of coachmen and swords where bloodlines and heritage can determine which house you belong to.
At times the story line will seduce the reader, as Alexandria learns the lines between lust and love through exploring her friendships. In an almost primitive style, there are battles between those who wish to have the strongest male or female to breed with, to ensure their line will continue throughout history. Love mixes with politics and the characters become mixed up within following their heart or following the urge to rise to power instead.
Rebecca Tran’s way with words will tug at readers heart strings through strong themes and emotional experiences that the characters endure. The plot line feels like a roller-coaster at times with shocking events and twists that will left me feeling unnerved at the unexpected outcomes. Occasionally the story felt slow, only for a shocking event or twist of the plot to happen which drew me back in for more.
The story moves through history, first beginning with sword fights and eventually entering a period of cell phones and guns. Mixed through the historical events are relationships and lustful connections that will influence the politics and wars that occur when they face enemies such as the Morderes.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a supernatural story crossed with action and a twist of romance.
Pages: 428 | ASIN: B0716SVRDS
Tags: action, adventure, amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, angel, author, book, book review, books, coming of age, destiny, ebook, ebooks, emotional, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, fighting, for their sins, frienship, god, goodreads, heart, history, honr, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, literature, love, lust, magic, mystery, paranormal, politics, publishing, reading, rebecca tran, religion, review, reviews, romance, romance novel, science, stories, thriller, urban, vampire, war, warrior, woman, women, womens fiction, writing, YA, young adult
There are many words that can be used to describe the tale of Swallow by Heidi Fischer. Gripping. Moving. Heart-breaking. This fantastic story about a young woman in World War Two era Germany humanizes those who fought in the war in a way that is unexpected. Our story follows Gabi: a fierce, bright woman who stampedes her way onto the runway where she acts as an engineer and pilot. In a time where woman were beginning to make their mark on the world; a time when relations are strained and many outside the Nazi mantra failed to truly understand what was happening in their country. Gabi finds herself in all of this. The bright young woman who had her life altered so horrifically at the tender age of seven. The young woman who wants to do her father, a general, proud. Gabi shows us a Germany that many of us wouldn’t have believed existed. The desire of a young woman to fly.
This book starts off with a bang and just doesn’t stop. Fischer hooks her readers from the first chapter and we become entranced by the story. Gabi survives a horrific event that many young women today struggle to overcome. While it haunts her as she ages, she preservers and moves forward with her dreams. Lying her way into the military where she can work as an engineer and eventually a pilot shows how determined she is to reach her goal. You can’t help but root for Gabi and hope that everything she wants will come true. Alas, we must be reminded that it is not all sunshine and rainbows in this world. Especially not during World War Two. Gabi will achieve, and she will lose. She will love and it will be lost. Even as she struggles with despair she never gives up that which keeps her going: hope.
Not only do we get to see the world from Gabi’s point of view but we also get a few glimpses into the minds of the men in her life. Most notable is her father. A strong, silent and stoic man who gives away few smiles for his daughter. While he disagrees with her choice, there is no doubt that he is proud of everything that she accomplishes. There are three loves that Gabi will have: Heinz, Hans and Kurt. Each one different from the other and each love comes with its own prescription for pain. Gabi pushes on, becoming a role model for all young German men and women who get wrapped up in the war.
While the book doesn’t focus too heavily on the actual war itself, it is difficult to get away from it completely. Gabi is a pilot for Nazi Germany and she does kill those known to her as the ‘enemy’. There is no refuge from guilt, however. It serves as a stark reminder that there were human beings involved in that atrocity. Not all of them agreed with what was happening. Heidi Fischer uses Swallow to tell us a love story wrapped in a piece about humanity. This is an excellent read and picking it up will add emotional depth to any library.
Pages: 255 | ASIN: B06XRRK75N
Tags: action, adventure, airplane, amazon, amazon books, amazon ebook, author, book, book review, books, ebook, ebooks, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, fighting, fly, flying, german, germany, goodreads, guilt, heidi fischer, hope, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, literature, love, love story, Luftwaffe, mystery, nazi, novel, pilot, publishing, reading, review, reviews, romance, stories, swallow, thriller, war, war story, woman, women, world war, world war 2, writing, ww2, wwII
Delve into this mystical world populated with equally mystical beings. In Outpost by F.T. McKinstry we are introduced to a race of beings called The Fylking. Ethereal beings that have crossed over the universe and jumped from their world to the world of Math. These creatures shift from animal forms to those resembling a human but not quite. They cannot be seen by just anyone yet everyone knows they exist. A group of individuals known as Wardens act as liaisons between these beings and the rest of the world. For better or worse, they are entwined. We have three main characters who will shape the tale: Arcmael, a Warden, Melisande who is a woman that knits and Othin, a Ranger in the king’s employ. Innocent interactions beget the telling of an intricate tale: one that will see war, death and heartache feed off each other. Each of the three holds a part in this tale and some are more important than we are first led to believe.
McKinstry begins her tale with world building. This is an essential piece of any good fantasy novel as readers need to have some sort of understanding. This is a world not of our own and McKinstry does a great job carefully laying out the lore, legends and very geography of the world of Math. In the very back of the book there is a glossary which also holds some pronunciation tips. This is a bonus as some authors just expect people to understand. McKinstry gives preliminary information in the glossary without giving away what happens in the context of the tale. This can be a delicate balance and she achieves it well.
While Outpost is declared the first novel in a series, it can stand well on its own. There is a beginning, middle and neatly wrapped up ending which answers the burning questions raised while reading. Technically, more books are not required to enjoy the story, so it would be interesting to see if McKinstry carries on with the same set of characters or if the next book simply takes place in the same world. Either way, Outpost is an excellent installment.
Another thing to note is that the chapters are named. This is more insightful than just simply numbering them as it gives readers a sense of what is to come. Not many authors seem to name their chapters anymore, but this sets the tone for an adventurous read.
While McKinstry weaves the story, and captivates readers it is the characters themselves who seal the deal. Each character is created with such depth and personality that they could almost jump off the page and walk among us. What it is exactly that creates this feeling is nothing short of excellent writing and an author who has practiced their craft and carefully constructed this world. Indeed, McKinstry is much like a goddess with the way author sways the characters and dictates their actions. It’s almost like the author is there, within the pages, guiding the characters as well as the readers along.
For anyone who is interested in the rich tapestry of fantasy with solid world building and three dimensional characters, Outpost by F.T. McKinstry is a must read.
Pages: 370 | ASIN; B0138V5YE4
Tags: action, adventure, amazon, amazon book, amazon ebook, author, book, book review, books, creature, dark fantasy, ebook, ebooks, epic fantasy, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, fighting, ft mckinstry, goodreads, kindle, kindle book, kindle ebook, literature, love, magic, mystery, mystical, norse, novel, outpost, publishing, reading, review, reviews, romance, science ficiton, science fiction book review, shape shift, stories, thriller, viking, war, woman, women, writing
A man of God does not always equate to a Godly man. In Sharon Moore’s novel Hidden in Plain Sight the reader is submerged into the life of two Bishops; Bishop James Collins and Bishop Quincy Stewart. Both minister to super churches in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. They have competing congregations that appeal to similar groups but the two Bishops have drastically different goals and priorities. Both men are married and like their churches, their marriages are different and mirror their situations. Playing off well known images of the African American society Moore draws the reader into the culture surrounding the life of the people and families that make these super churches function. The novel also reminds us that just being ordained in the house of God does not remove one from all sin and does not make one perfect.
This story takes place in modern time, going back to the early 60’s when the characters meet. You learn how James Collins and Quincy Stewart meet their wives and start building up their mega church communities. The readers are also introduced to Jason White, the 29-year-old, grew up and out of the ghetto man, that has a chip on his shoulder and is out for revenge. It is discovered early in the novel that one of the Bishop’s is his father, but it isn’t said right off who. Jason’s mother, Bridgett, has recently died and his aunt tells him the truth about his family and father. This sets him off and he decides to seek out his father for revenge but he is unsure what exactly he wants. While seeking out his father he himself starts finding himself taking an interest in becoming and more Godly man. While James Collins appears the model Bishop with a happy family life, there is some underlying tension with his oldest son Lee. Quincy Stewart is quickly shown to be an abusive and manipulative man who cares only for his own needs and appearances.
The stories of the bishop’s families and Jason White all intermingle by the end of this novel. Outside influences play a large part but so do the internal struggles of each character. One disappointing point of this novel is the ending. This book is the first in a series, typically in a book series, one story line would be concluded with tie ins to the next novel, this book ends like a TV series season ending, cliffhanger with no resolution and just many questions. I found this frustrating especially given the volatile situation one character ends up in.
Moore does a good job bringing out the personalities and culture of her character’s environment. The use of traditional African American dialect is used not to be profane or show ignorance, rather it is indicative of the normal conversational language of the culture. She also does a good job showing how the mega church culture is more than just a church, it is a life style for those that their entire lives revolve around the church. Hidden in Plain Sight shows the good and the bad involved with the community and struggles and challenges it presents, especially on the families living it. Over all it is a great start to the series and I look forward to seeing how things go in the lives of all the characters.
Pages: 290 | ASIN: B01JBKHIZY
Tags: african american, amazon, amazon books, author, bishop, book, book review, books, christian, church, congregation, crime, ebook, ebooks, faith, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, fighting, god, goodreads, hidden in plain sight, kindle, literature, man, married, mystery, novel, pastor, publishing, reading, religion, review, reviews, romance, sharon d moore, stories, urban fantasy, woman, writing
The Fool’s Truth follows Cordelia as she’s running from a dangerous marriage and finds herself wrapped up in a perilous mystery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
A great question and what’s most interesting is, the opening scene in which a young mother comforts her crying daughter while calmly stepping around a dead body, came to me long before I started writing The Fool’s Truth. I had this image of a woman escaping into her mind, blocking out the tragic scene before her and acting as if nothing had happened. I jotted down that first passage years before the idea for the book started to germinate. I knew it was the beginning of a good story, it just took a while for the right characters to develop for the telling.
Originally, I thought the story would be Rebekah’s because her witch-like hermit character came together in my mind first. I loved defining her complicated choice (or need?) to live a secluded life. But as the narrative began to form, it became clear that Cordelia had to be the book’s protagonist. As a desperate mother on the run, her storyline would tie together the other characters, each with their own dark secrets.
Cordelia is an intriguing character. Was her back story something you always had or did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always wanted to write a character named Cordelia, but had to wait patiently for the right story. When I began pulling together the plot and characters for The Fool’s Truth, I felt Cordelia was a good fit for the protagonist’s name. Although I always start with a rough story outline and ideas about who the characters are, writing is such a fluid craft and it’s essential the characters remain adaptable. So Cordelia’s story had to evolve as the story developed. I’ve never personally known someone who has been in such a desperate situation, so I had to delve deep into my imagination.
What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?
Strangely enough, my passion for writing fiction sprang from the eye opening exercise of composing my own obituary. I was a hospice volunteer for many years, and the obituary assignment was part of the volunteer training program. And from that experience a buried desire to write a book surfaced. I tentatively ventured onto this new path by establishing a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the heritage of some fascinating hospice patients who were soon to leave the world. It has been the most meaningful experience of my life thus far, and it both inspired and encouraged me to fulfill a newly perceived longing to create and shape unique fictional characters with their own remarkable stories to tell.
Cordelia ends up stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit living off the grid who takes an obsessive interest in her daughter. How did this plot twist develop and why choose Maine as the backdrop?
So many threads had to be woven together to form the plotlines of the novel, however that development was pivotal to the story and came early in the drafting of the book. Because Rebekah emerged early as a significant character, her secluded farm became the ideal spot to strand the desperate Cordelia. I’ll stop there so as not to give away the motivations of either of these two central characters.
As for why Maine? It’s a beautiful and diverse state, both in its land and seascapes, but also in the people who call Maine home. It is also a state of many unique small communities and I thought it would be fun to create the fictional town of Murphy, Maine. But this question has caused me to pause and recall that the story was actually coming together on a road trip my husband and I were making through the state on our way to Prince Edward Island. I now have to think that trip may have influenced my decision to set the story in Maine, especially since it conveniently borders Canada, which is where Cordelia had hoped to find refuge.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that book be published?
There are two books I can tell you about today. First is The Lighterman’s Curse, which is currently out on submission with my agent. The story follows overly trusting Cassandra Mitchell’s quest to save her beloved family home in the fictional Cap Cod coastal town of Whale Rock. The Bluffs is a stately Victorian and legacy from her great-grandparents whose shocking demise still haunts the town, and perhaps the house itself. While Cassie deals with the emotional and financial fallout of divorce from her dream-weaving husband, a young nomadic couple wander onto the property and into life, offering welcome companionship and the answer to her problems. Until they vanish, leaving behind no clues and rising evidence they were not who they said they were.
Finding herself in the middle of a battle for control of the investigation between the local police chief and the information-keeping FBI agent who suddenly shows up to investigate the missing couple, Cassie tries to unravel the mystery herself. But she becomes distracted by the eerie sounds and scents of The Bluffs, which have now reemerged with a heightened sense of warning. And she accidentally uncovers some long hidden details about the century old curse cast upon her great-grandparents. The Lighterman’s Curse blends mystery, romance and a touch of paranormal to tell two interwoven tales of the Mitchell family legacy, one taking place in present day time and the other beginning in the late nineteenth century.
Also in the works is a novel I’m collaborating on with my husband. It returns me to my Midwestern roots and begins with a stunning deathbed confession that leads to the convergence of a disparate trio: an apathetic middle-aged New Yorker, a Midwestern thirty-something journalist and a young woman eager to escape her mundane existence in rural Pennsylvania where recently discovered skeletal remains have rocked a community.
On the run and desperate to flee the country with her toddler daughter, Cord Richmond can only turn to one person for help – lifelong friend and once lover, Ramon Alvarez. Their reunion reawakens long suppressed feelings, but once again their timing is off, as they must hastily chart a course for her escape.
A reckless detour in those carefully laid plans leaves Cord stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit weaver living off the grid. With no means of communicating with the outside world, the need to craft a new plan intensifies when the peculiar woman takes an obsessive interest in her daughter.
Complicating matters further are the local sheriff and a nosy reporter, both with ambitions for uncovering the truth, each with his own private reason for taking refuge in the remote rural village of Murphy, Maine. She contemplates a risky strategy to flee her confinement, but is she desperate enough to enter the depraved world of a recently paroled convict with a long history of brutality?
Cord’s folly is the catalyst for dark secrets unraveling, placing her and her daughter in grave danger. She deeply regrets having lied to the one person who might be searching for her. Meanwhile, Ramon seeks to resolve the unsettling truths Cord has concealed from him. If only he could find her.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: adventure, amazon, amazon books, author, author interview, book, book review, books, character, crime, desire, ebook, ebooks, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, goodreads, hermit, hospice, interview, kindle, literature, loretta marion, love, maine, murder, mystery, novel, obituary, publishing, reading, review, reviews, romance, romantic suspense, rural, small town, stories, suspense, the fools truth, thriller, urban fantasy, witch, woman, women, womens fiction, writing
Chaste focuses on an evil god and his followers in a remote town that has been overcome with a sickness. Five strangers arrive and all their destinies take a turn. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
My inspiration was vague. I’d had a few negative experiences with churches in the past, when I was a religious man. I had the idea of a small town that had experienced the same thing, the perverting of God’s word, of His ideals and methods. The title of the book came with the inspiration of a town struggling to be pure, but unable to find it. A lot of my books are studies of an issue that I’m dealing with in my life. This was my attempt at making peace with God and church, along with a few other dark issues. And Chaste did give me peace. I think it worked out. This book gave me hope, and I hope when other people read it, they can find a path back to God, or at least a path back to purity.
There are plenty of characters in Chaste that I felt were intriguing and well-developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I would have to say Sob. I repressed a lot of the abuse and darkness from my childhood. When it started coming back to me, it was debilitating and random. It would come back in the middle of a conversation, with a trigger word I didn’t expect. An entire scene from my past would flash before my eyes. When things like that are happening in your everyday life, you feel mad, as if you’re trembling out of control. So I wrote Sob, a woman haunted by shreds of a past she doesn’t want to remember, a powerful woman, a proficient killer, unapologetic in action and methods, but fragile in mind, always a breath away from the horror of her past. Sob healed me. I will always love her for that.
I felt that Chaste delivers the drama so well that it flirts with the grimdark genre. Was it your intention to give the story such a dark tone?
Chaste was originally supposed to be a short story. I was 63 pages in, and barely scratching the surface of the story, when I realized I was writing something bigger. Chaste was an accidental novel. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the rough draft of this book. But I had just been through a lot of mind-numbing therapy, and most of me was a raw and open wound. I was not trying to write a dark book. It just kind of happened. When I wrote the rough draft, grimdark wasn’t an idea yet. This was 12 years ago. There was no such term as grimdark. I didn’t even know to call it dark fantasy. It was just a story I was writing. I entered Chaste broken, and when I left it, I was healed a bit. When you’re going through that kind of catharsis, there’s no internal editor. You literally can’t hold back. There were times when I would write a scene, stand up, back away from my computer, fight back a scream and weep openly. Things were being hammered out that there were no rational words for. I was walking a razor’s edge between reality and fantasy, able to speak about my past without talking about my past. Chaste is dark because when I wrote it, I was in Hell, and the character Cheryl dragged me out.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
My next book is called Mestlven. It, as well, is A Tale from Perilisc. Mestlven tells the story of Sob, after she has put a face on her past, and she can go home. She has been victimized, her world shattered, and now, after Chaste, she knows it. So Sob goes back home to wreak her revenge and fight for her sanity. I went a little mad when I wrote this book. When Sob punished her abusers, she punished mine as well. So look for Mestlven. The soft release date is April 15, 2017.
When her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: action, amazon, amazon books, author, author interview, book, book review, books, church, dark fantasy, ebook, ebooks, faith, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, god, goodreads, grimdark, horror, interview, killer, kindle, literature, murder, mystery, novel, publishing, reading, religion, review, reviews, sci fi, science ficiton, science fiction, science fiction book review, short stories, stories, thriller, urban fantasy, woman, writing