Sam’s Theory follows a young teen named Sam as she escapes from an abusive home and finds a caring old lady in the woods. What was the initial inspiration behind this story and how did that develop as you were writing?
Sam’s Theory came from a blend of my own experiences and the experiences of the children I have worked with in a mental health setting. Children are, hands down, the most resilient creatures in existence. They are starving for knowledge, attention, and coping tools. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many of them are lacking the healthy adults to provide them with such. Children want to heal after they are hurt, but it is rare they are met with the care and competency to do so. I worked with too many foster youth, children in Protective Services, and runaways that didn’t have access to substantial, supportive advice. They ended up hurting themselves to be heard, and that is inexcusable to me. My mission became clear in that I needed to create a resource that was safe, immediate, magical, easy to access, and compassionate for these kiddos and young people to grow through. This is also why I have evolved into offering free “book clubs”/”empowerment groups” for at-risk youth near me. This book assures that kids and adults know that they are cared for, if even by only these characters or the author that created them.
Sam has a tragic story and the book does a great job of conveying her emotions. What were some obstacles you felt were important in defining her character?
It was important to me that Sam be relatable and experience the emotions that I believe we all, as humans, feel, but rarely discuss out loud with one another. There is something about the desperation and gravity of loneliness, sadness, and shame that can make us isolate from one other. I needed Sam to be all of these things, but without being a victim. Victims struggle to genuinely recover, while survivors summon the grit to find a way out of themselves. It’s difficult to do that on your own, so Theory offers an opportunity to do so. Recovery from scary experiences isn’t the survivor’s fault, but it does become their responsibility (as annoying as that might be). Sam needed to have just enough perspective, self-awareness, and hope in her environment to rise to the call of change when it finally beckoned. The reader hurts with Sam, risks with Sam, and eventually heals with Sam. It is a realistic portrait of what it is to grow as a human through adversity.
The relationship that develops between Sam and Theory is something I admired. What was your inspiration for their relationship?
Thank for the kind words and recognition of how special their relationship is. Sam and Theory’s relationship was loosely based on both my relationship with my own therapist, and the relationship I developed with the kiddos on the inpatient psychiatric unit I used to work on. What astounded me when I first met my therapist is how firm and intentional her boundaries were. She took her time in allowing me to emerge from my shell, then nurtured each step without judgement. I then modeled the same compassion and safety for the kiddos I worked with and watched them blossom because of the same type of competent care. I think the therapeutic relationship is so deeply vital to our journeys towards authenticity and potential. Mental health still has, unfortunately, a stigma against it that needs to be eradicated in order for people, generations, and the world to become a healthier whole. Now more than ever,mental health is critical. Finding the right therapist takes time and sometimes several tries. Once that connection happens though, it can be so magical it becomes worthy of a novel. I hope more people can find sanctuary in Theory’s character, and then have the courage to find her in their own lives.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
It is my deepest wish for readers that they close this book and feel as if they have a connection to something more meaningful than what they’ve been experiencing in their normal everyday. One of the most common responses I’ve received to this book is that it’s made someone cry. Every account of that type of movement is a gift to me, because it means this book is achieving exactly what I set out to do- to create a safe space where people could be vulnerable just long enough to consider an empowered “what if.” I wanted readers to have a sense of family in these characters and have their deepest, darkest emotions normalized. This story is meant to be a visceral experience, and I hope that people walk away from it with just enough hope in their heart to consider what a healthier, happier existence could look like. Everything can be okay, they just need to stay forward-facing and a little bit brave.
After a final act of horrendous abuse threatens her life, fifteen-year-old Sam runs away from home and into the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Physically and emotionally exhausted, she happens upon a mysterious tree house in the woods which shelters an old woman named Theory. Through elements of magic and sage advice, Theory takes Sam on an unforgettable healing journey. Sam begins to discover that she, too, has powers. But her process is interrupted by the nervous reality that her abusers will soon go after her younger sister, Nova, unless she can get to her first.
With the help of Sam’s friend, Dodger, and two other spirited kids from foster care, the group sets up a hidden camp in the wilderness and forms “The Orphan’s Collective.” While struggling to create their own concept of “family,” Dodger and Sam also work to navigate their budding feelings for one another. As the group formulates a plan to reach the masses of kids left behind by adults who never wanted them, they naturally begin to rewrite the fate that has seemingly already been decided for them.
Sam’s Theory is a story of immeasurable grit and re-empowerment after trauma. With embedded real-world advice, it is the recognition of our tremendous capacity as human beings to withstand darkness and summon resiliency, simply by learning how to use our voices and reconnect with those around us.
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The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell, by T.L. Henry, is the first-person account of the main character’s life from his earliest memory to his incarceration as a teenager. Tommy, a boy raised in the worst of circumstances, sustains abuse, exposure to alcoholism and drug use, and endures the most unstable of upbringings, From a tender age and following the loss of his best friend–his grandfather–Tommy learns to fend for himself and does his best to protect and shield his sister, May from his mother’s drunken tirades and efforts to exploit them both.
From the first paragraph, I was sure I was reading a journal–a true account of the author’s own life. I found myself checking more than once to make sure I had read the introduction correctly. This book–purely fictitious–transports the reader into a completely different mindset. I didn’t feel as though I was reading; I felt as though I were listening to a boy relating his life story while sitting beside me on park bench–Forrest Gump style. The conversational style of writing makes for a smooth read and is actually quite fascinating.
I quickly lost count of the number of times Tommy and his family were forced to move from one ramshackle home to another in North Carolina within a handful of years. With absolutely no stability and no father figure for most of his life until his incarceration, Tommy is quickly schooled in the ways of the street. Early on, Tommy learns to steer clear of his own mother and the endless string of men she brings home. Both of these aspects of Tommy’s life are incredibly sad and only seem to magnify as the story progresses.
Tommy’s life, as horrifying as it is, is believable. From his earliest encounter with abuse, he takes a turn for the worse and, admittedly, becomes everything to which he was exposed as a child. This unique, memoir-type writing style helps to drive home the sad truth about abused, neglected, and exploited children. As he endures and participates in dangerous and self-deprecating behaviors, he begins to find advantages in them. Several chapters in, I began to realize that I could actually be reading this from the antagonist’s point of view. What began as the tale of a tragic childhood, turned, all too easily, into the life story of a career criminal.
The main character’s cries for help falling on deaf ears were the most painful aspect of the plot. The author has managed to create a storyline that illuminates the tragedy perpetuated by abuse early in life. As much as the reader wants to feel sorry for young Tommy, he/she will feel an overwhelming desire to scream at teenaged Tommy to remember where these same behaviors got his mother. It is a frustrating and heart-wrenching read, but a necessary one.
While the writing style is unique and the conversational tone appealing, I felt the concentration on young Tommy’s sexual obsessions were a bit overstated and became uncomfortable to read after a while. The author does, however, do an excellent job of revealing the impact of abuse and neglect early in a child’s life.
Pages: 132 | ASIN: B01F6ET17C
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I do not have a degree in literature but what I do possess is an intense appreciation for books that have the ability to place me on a trajectory towards factual and emotional knowledge and growth .Throughout my formal education, while others groaned about a lengthy summer reading list and opted for Cliﬀ Notes, I looked forward to immersing myself in the lives of the imaginary people in ﬁctional works who took me all over the world in my mind. Authors of every background provided valuable blueprints for my imagination. The feeling that I get when I walk into a library is one of comfort and fascination in knowing that I can look back and instantly connect with the thought and heart of someone who existed hundreds of years ago. The author’s thought remains vibrant through the centuries and I am awed by the commonality of the human spirit through time. Several weeks ago in a small antique shop in North Georgia, I found a treasure called” Ruth’s Sacriﬁce or Life on the Rappahannock“ by Emily Clemens Pearson; I blew layers of dust from the book’s spine. It was an original publication from 1864 with the previous owner’s signature ﬂourishes in the meticulous penmanship of years gone by. In another , I found ‘A Virgin Heart by Remy De Gourmont published in 1925. As I read it and he talked about his location at diﬀerent Parisian landmarks, I searched for photos on the Internet and could more fully share and connect with the experience. I was able to see exactly where those characters were supposed to be almost 100 years ago. These are among my most treasured possessions. What a feeling!
In retrospect, I think I felt overwhelmed by so many former great works and wondered about my own ability to produce a work worthy of literary respect. And perhaps this was the reason why it took me so long to decide upon a topic for my ﬁrst book of ﬁction. Over the years I had considered numerous topics and discarded them swiftly without a second thought. The desire to write a book, however, never ceased. It was encouraged by a desire to never die in obscurity. A book, whether a bestseller or not, lives on. And ﬁnally after many years, a very UNLIKELY TOPIC CHOSE ME. An unexpected oﬀer to work in the mountains of northeast Georgia presented itself. I immediately recognized the area as a potentially gorgeous setting for a novel. Among my many patients were little girls whose western boots announced their arrival over tile ﬂoors with a recognizable heel click strike before I ever saw them. Over time the thought came to me that they deserved their own “Cinderella story”. Hence, the inspiration for Mountain Green Corporate Blue. It just “felt right”.
I have never written a long work or even short essays before. Multiple times I tried to construct an outline for this novel unsuccessfully. What you are reading, I have written extemporaneously or “freestyle “ introducing characters along the way to make a point or to infuse drama and interest. Again, these characters were written without forethought. I did not think about names or character backgrounds. I interface with about 25-30 people a day as an Emergency Medicine Physician. If there was an interesting name( e.g. Quest or Mercy) ,I would jot it down in a notebook for future reference. If someone had an interesting physical characteristic ( ie., Matthew’s mismatched eyes or Michael’s tattoos ) I would make note of those as well.As I wrote the novel, I arbitrarily chose one of the names on the list or any other that came to mind in that moment. And in that instant the character came into being.
I am a very spiritual but not religious Christian in the American Bible Belt. I trusted in the divine nature of the creative process and just “let the words come”. In rereading the manuscript multiple times, I found encrypted messages for myself. I set out to write a Cinderella story with “real people”. The end product is actually an emotionally layered work with a very clear, powerful message that was revealed to me in the rereading period. The predominant message is simple and the key is in the name of the characters. Yes, I think of this novel as a gift from God. Because He is in EVERY human being, He uses us to convey HIS message.
In referencing Mountain Green Corporate Blue, Matthew asks Quest, the daughter of Delilah, the meaning of the word bastard. At that moment, Matthew’s life changes and his own life quest begins. A link is established between the circumstance of Jesus’ birth and his own. We are then introduced to Grace Collier (P.19) in the innocence of her youth and we see her eﬀect on the other characters as the novel progresses. She represents the spiritual Grace and graciousness that we either accept or reject throughout life. Her spirit infuses all of the other characters and points them towards introspection, change and goodness. Grace meets Matthew as a young woman and he is immediately engaged by her charm , innocence and dedication to family and wants her in his life immediately and forever(P.74). This represents our open acknowledgment of the need and power of grace in our lives and once we see the warmth and power of its presence we want to possess it immediately and forever. Their marriage ceremony revolves around obtaining a bible that is important to Grace. It has been in her family for centuries. This intimates that with the acceptance of Grace comes the Quest for the Word (of God). It is a life journey that has been travelled by many over time. Randy Duncan is the only true Prince in the story. His goodness and kindness shine through irregardless of socioeconomic status and he has been a helper since his youth ( we see his interaction with Caroline when they were teenagers in ﬂashback). Because of his abundant warmth he is the only male character associated with the white stallion most commonly associated with kings and princes in literary fairy tales.
Note that several of the main male characters have the names or name derivatives of the Apostles – John, Matthew, Marcus, Lucas, and James. Michael, the mechanic , represents the evilness of Michael the Archangel who fell from Grace. A young James Fleming approaches an antebellum home (P.225) and within he is delivered the Mercy he requests in a spiritual as well as a worldly form. Note that the maids watchful over Mercy are Mary and Maggy as she heals James’ feet. This is a subtle reminder of the power of Mary Magdalene’s humility. To reiterate, this was without prior planning.
Matthew’s sister’s name is Angela. She has the innocence of an Angel and Grace reassures her that love comes to angels. Rose, the secretary, has the enviable physical attributes of life but ultimately we see that this is irrelevant in the face of the absence of true spiritual Grace. Thus we see the radiant Rose wither as the story progresses.
After interesting conversation over dinner, a troubled Marcus ultimately ends up in Delmonico’s Restaurant and meets Trinity, an African American female physician. She is in a sector that is usually “not on ( his ) radar). Her name is important. This signiﬁes that the Holy Trinity is ever present but not always apparent and comes to us through unexpected encounters and unlikely individuals. Note that Trinity Fleming is a physician like the Great Physician. The music in the Operating room is “Coming Out of the Dark” that nods to spiritual awakening. Jerome, the medical student , reminds us of the love in infatuation. The blessing bestowed on Trinity actually happened to me and was quite moving and emotionally overwhelming. In this context, this encounter reinforces the power of prayer. Marcus becomes closer to the Holy Trinity through Trinity the physician. After all, God is in ALL human beings and her positivity is what is cultivated by the Holy Spirit and Marcus is in dire need of that.
Kenny Lowery’s suicide is representative of the lonely futility many black males may experience in a world that does not support or reaﬃrm their inherent worth irregardless of education, talent or ability causing his backward spiral away from Grace. He commits suicide in the presence of Trinity. Her name may make him think in his ﬁnal hours of a God he may think has forsaken him.
James Fleming, Trinity’s adoptive father, demonstrates the inherent goodness and sense of decency we should all cultivate irregardless of an individual’s color or race. He exempliﬁes the power of sharing wealth on all levels so that the next generation will proﬁt.
And lastly, Justice and Sloan. Trinity’s work as a surgeon is respected by Sloan and he saves her by enlisting the help of a member of the established Church. This signiﬁes that even though one has fallen (Sloan was a drug dealer), there is the potential for goodness and grace in all of us. It is possible to obtain inner peace and justice in life simply by being of help to another and the established Church has been promised to us as a source of comfort and support throughout each of our individual journeys.
My thanks to all of you who have read Mountain Green Corporate Blue. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. And of course, I look forward to entertaining you with the sequel VERITAS.
Author Website: ljsaunders.love
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In this delightfully imaginative tale, two children, Chris and Kate, find a log of driftwood on the beach. They decide to build a boat and sail across the ocean. Whether by magic or imagination, the two friends and their little dog Holly build their ship, name it the Pearl of the Seas, and begin their journey. Like any fairy tale, there are obstacles to overcome, dangers to face, and kind strangers to help them along their way. They rely on friendship, faith, and kindness to see them home to a happy ending.
Intended as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, a romance novel, this story is dedicated to young teens. I believe it would also appeal to middle-grade youth as well. There’s a real sense of youth-centered discovery and the freedom to let creative fancies bloom into epic adventures. And I don’t use ‘epic’ lightly; the author weaves in themes, events, and allusions borrowed from the Bible, the original Greek epics, tales of Aladdin and Orpheus, and classic narrative poetry. Indeed, poetry is the heart of the tale, and to me, it read less like a novel and more like a prose poem:
“All things stayed silent. Harkening. The gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach, great seals lay basking and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm.”
Poems in traditional form are often combined with the prose. Finnegan creates a language that can take some time to get used to the unusual sentence structure and sing-song pattern of the words. In some passages, the child-like way of chaining words together lends an air of playfulness. Since readers (especially young readers) may be inspired to learn more about the poetry and prose of the book, the author includes a section of notes at the end. She offers more information about key phrases and events, poetic references, and the inspiration for some of the key events in the story. I found this to be a big help in deciphering some of the words and concepts of the book.
The characters are charming. Kate and Chris have their own problems in the real world. Kate is perplexed by math and the nuns who teach her; Chris has lost his mother and is being raised by a foster father. Holly, the dog, finds every opportunity for danger and gives both children a chance to play hero and rescue her. Once they’re sailing the sea of dreams, they meet Yahwiel with his riddles, as well as the benevolent King and Queen who live on an Eden-like island. These characters all have an air of the divine, and the lessons they teach are steeped in the Christian faith.
If you’re looking for a unique book for a young reader or a short chapter book to read to very young children, Pearl of the Seas is a unique story that goes beyond mere entertainment. It’s an excellent introduction to poetry, classic literature, and imagination.
Pages: 138 | ISBN: 1625902557
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