Author Interview: PD Alleva

Tell us something about your book.

The Rose Vol 1 is the first installment in what will be at least an eight book dystopian science fiction series. The first installment begins immediately after the end of World War 3 and follows the protagonist Sandy Cox who is rescued from the safety camp by a mysterious rebel fighter, Phil, who, for reasons unknown to Sandy at that time, has been tasked with bringing Sandy to the rebel fighters base in Atlanta. During the rescue attempt Sandy is captured and brought to an underground medical complex where she soon discovers the presence of alien greys and alien vampires who have conspired with elite humans to subjugate the human population. When Phil discovers she’s been taken to the underground medical complex he enters the compound, fighting through alien vampires, telekinetic greys, werewolves, and genetically mutated human beings to rescue Sandy. The book is a tour de force of action, martial marts, conspiracy, and heroism. The story is told through multiple points of view. I enjoy being in the heads of all my characters, whether they’re alien vampires, grey aliens, or rebel heroes.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

Readers like myself. Readers who enjoy a fast pace, action packed, intelligent read with layers of character depth that rips out the heart of humanity and throws it on a slab to feast on. Readers who enjoy a story that delivers more than what’s on the typical book shelf, who want to be fascinated, enthralled, and entertained while losing themselves and escaping with a fast paced story and an in depth character driven experience.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Okay, so there are more than a few reviews that I’ve fallen in love with, however, I do believe the best critique was received by Laura D. Childs from The Magic Book Corner. She’s a Goodreads Top 5 reviewer and an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction; her opinion of the book meant a lot to me as a writer, especially considering The Rose Vol 1 is my first science fiction novel.

Here’s the review with the Goodreads link:

Hands down one of the best thrillers I’ve read in quite a while.


And after that end… Come on!!! I need Volume 2 RIGHT NOW!!

True to the promise from the blurb, The Rose is masterful, dystopian science fiction thriller of, telepathic evil greys, mysterious rebellion, martial arts, and Alien Vampires. 

Yes. Frigging alien vampires! And they are downright delightfully creepy.

In a world where humanity has made a mutually agreement with alien vampires and there is a whole civilization living underground, not quite happy with their living arrangements I might add, it’s only a matter of time till shite will hit the fan. And this is exactly what happens here. 

The predators should have remembered the saying:
‘Don’t make deals with food. It may come back to haunt the future.’ 

It all starts with a vision, revolves around a little baby and is made possible by The Rose. What The Rose is exactly, you’re gonna have to read this to find out. But I guarantee you won’t see it coming.

Forty-eight hours after a World War III treaty is signed, Sandy Cox awakens in an underground compound, tied to a table and unable to move. She’s held captive by alien vampires, who’ve taken her unborn baby.

Phil is a rebel freedom fighter on a mission. Protect Sandy and her baby and get them to safety at all costs. Armed with THE BLADES, a sacred alien martial art, he enters the compound searching for the woman. But the baby has already been born and Sandy has her own agenda. Find the baby at any cost.
If that may involve trusting an alien vampire and battling genetically mutated humans, aliens and monsters alike, so be it. 
‘Get Ready To Bleed!’ – is the only certainty of the day.

Joined by a crew of rogue soldiers, Phil and Sandy must navigate the underground compound, battling genetically mutated humans, aliens and monsters.
Alien vampires, evil doctors and pills turning people into slaves are the least of their problems. 
The whole damn camp needs to be blown off the planet, as far as they’re concerned, but not before they get Sandy’s baby, and rescue everyone they can.

Fast-paced and addictive, this page turner here will have you in it’s grip from the very first page. And it will keep you turning pages till the end. It’s a unique, fast paced edge of the seat dystopian tale that manages to be both light and complex, as well as simple and sophisticated. 

The gripping plot is nicely highlighted by beautifully fleshed out characters, all in different shades of grey. The wordbuilding is excellent and the pace fantastic.
But the highlight for me was the masterful mix of thrilling mystery, fantasy, suspense, dystopia and science fiction. This book has something for fans of any of these genres, including horror if I may be exact. Action, gore, medical experiments and supernatural powers, as well as a mother’s connection to her child… This author delivers on each and every count. And he does it in style!

If you love Star Wars, and Ancient Aliens you’ll be fascinated by this high-powered, intelligent, edge of your seat dystopian sci-fi action thriller. 

It’s downright brilliant.

Happy reading everyone 
and remember
‘Don’t believe it can happen. Know that it will happen.’


What inspired you to write it?

There’s so many inspirations behind The Rose Vol. 1 its unbelievable. Old monster movies, old books, pulp fiction magazines, Star Wars, The Joker, Star Trek, The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road, and vampires, tons of vampires. From Dracula to Nosferatu to I Am Legend to Salem’s Lot to Interview with the Vampire and beyond (except for those glittering vampires, I’m not into glittering vampires, sorry). I enjoy the mythology behind vampires and the maddening craving for blood but I also wanted to give depth to my vampires, they are aliens after all (at least in my book) so I made them sophisticated, with their own culture and mythos and belief systems while keeping the rage and blood lust. It’s a new take on vampires but from what I’ve read in reviews people are enjoying the change.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Ok, so, this may be a bit long winded and I’ll get to the answer soon, but a little bit of explanation is required first. I write not only science fiction but also horror novels – I have a new horror novel coming out this October titled Golem – and I’m also a psychotherapist so I enjoy themes and stories that reveal the human condition. My book ideas always begin with an emotion and a theme then develops into a scene in my head like a movie, and the scene develops into a plot then to characters. I’m big on themes, metaphors, and human behavior and stories that drive into the heart of humanity. Themes often include: loss (but not just loss of life, loss of family, or loss of love, think also loss of self, and loss of identity), anger, hate, fear, resentment, treachery, self-deception, self-loathing, and corruption. What I’d like for any one reader to take away from my books are: 1. That was a really damn good book; 2. A lesson in the heart of humanity and the human condition with a realization that we can change ourselves and have the power to do so; and 3. Even though the world may seem bleak, when we are conscious of threats and ongoing streams of corruptive power and hatred we can overcome and lead lives filled with gratitude. There’s always a number four too: That was a really, really, really damn good book. LOL.

Share an excerpt from your book.

“It’s in the blood, dear,” said Ellen, one of the women Sandy shared time and space with, her skin worn by age, hard labor, and days spent under the sun. Blotches, liver spots and creases led the observer to the eyes. One dark, the other a cataract milky white and she always wore a dark shawl draped over the head and shoulders. Sandy was afraid of Ellen, she reminded Sandy of a gypsy or witch from a fairy-tale.

            “Come again?” said Sandy, her eyes shifting from soldier to Ellen to soldier then back to Ellen.

            Ellen had cut herself transferring a wood bucket filled with rice to add to an already large trough of buckets. A thick wood splinter pinned in the bottom of her palm dripping with a thick stream of blood. She turned to Sandy raising the bloodied palm and caught a drop of blood in her unwounded hand.

            “The blood dear,” said Ellen. “All magic comes from the blood.”

            Sandy cringed at the sight; she’d always been squeamish. Her stomach bumped, blood curled. Magic, Sandy thought. If only magic was real. How wonderful would that be? Sandy understood she was naïve, the result of an isolated childhood and her parents’ death when she was ten years old. Not that they had taught the young Sandy about the world she lived in either. They’d kept her under lock and key, never so much as offering a glimpse or advice on the outside world. They were always so cryptic with their explanations, living in an abundant and overgrown mansion as if luxury were a childhood friend. Sure there were plenty of rooms for a child to explore but as time went by those rooms seemed more like a prison than a home.

            Years of neglect, isolation and secrets were as torturous as physical suffering. And she was tired of secrets. She wanted to know truth. Truth was like a blanket that keeps you warm in the coldest winter.

            “The blood, Sandy,” said Ellen who clenched her fist around those crimson droplets, shaking her hand in front of her face. “All is in the blood.”

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

I did actually. Understand that I love being an indie author; I enjoy the freedom to write and write stories I enjoy without the narrative required in traditional publishing. I’ve always been an avid reader and lover of all things literary, and I enjoy being a part of the community, giving a voice to my characters and themes. So I knew the book would be published, either as an indie (The Rose Vol 1 is my sixth indie book published), or traditionally published didn’t matter, what matters most is that the story sees the light of day.

How many times were you rejected?

I’ll have to go through my emails and excel spreadsheets for an exact number but off the top of my head I’d say I sent out query letters to about six possible agents. Heard back from some, and got crickets from others. Their loss!

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Usually for about one minute. Rejection is expected in publishing, so when I’d receive the classic rejection email, my heart would sink. I’d shake my head and drop the email into a rejection folder and move on. Don’t get rattled, that’s my advice. There are so many world-renowned authors who have gone through the same process and we need to remember that consistency wins the game. Keep plugging away, keep writing, keep honing your craft, keep reading, you’ll get there, without a doubt.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

First draft took about three months to complete and clocked in at over 94k words. Editing took a lot longer, however, this was due to my editors schedule (she has a lot of authors she works with), although the actual editing of the book on my end once I began took another three months. Between content edits, line edits, and proofreading, the entire process took more than six months in between waiting for my editor. Total and complete time from inception to publication was just under two years. I like to take my time with my books to give the story that extra special touch.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

Yes, as noted above the idea for a story always begins with an emotion and a theme, some thread of emotion I wish to expand on and show to the world, which is usually some form of heroism or overcoming adversity. Then the scene of that emotion manifests into a plot and characters. I’ll begin at this stage sending myself emails (I’ll also create a folder specifically for this new story) with characters and plot points.

Also, let me stop here for a moment, because sometimes I have a story in my head that I’d like to write and I’ll assign this new emotion/theme to the story idea. Case in point would be Golem, my upcoming horror novel. I always wanted to write a Frankenstein type of novel, my Dracula or Dorian Gray; in other words a classic horror type of novel. I’ve also always been intrigued by the story of Pygmalion, so combining Frankenstein with Pygmalion and using the age old folklore behind golem, when the theme/emotion hit me I assigned them to this new horror story (themes for Golem include: loss of identity, resentment, anger, fear, suffering, and self deception).

So, back to the question at hand, once I’m ready to begin writing (and usually by this time I have a good idea of where I want the story to go and specific scenes that drive the plot) I get ready to write. What does get ready to write mean? Emotion, I dig deep into the predetermined emotion, and this digging deeper is achieved through music, nostalgia, watching old movies with the same theme, recollecting a past time when the emotion cut deep, etc. This digging deeper gets the creative juices flowing and then I begin to write. And I’ll write everyday allowing the characters to drive the plot while the story unfolds before my eyes. There’s no telling where the story will go as I consider myself a passive observer to the events manifesting on the page. Usually I’m just as surprised by a character’s actions or change in plot as the reader is. I do take days off from the manuscript when I need to. You can’t see the forest from the trees and sometimes I need to step away from the forest to see the overall story from a different viewpoint. All in all it takes about three months to complete the first draft and I always write in the morning, punching out about 1000-3000 words per day. Hope that answers the question.

Who was your first literary crush?

Mary Shelley of course. I fell in love with Frankenstein in eleventh grade AP English and couldn’t get enough of the story. I’d read and reread and then reread again. Man vs. the world, man vs himself, man vs nature, man vs God, the story has all the best themes, and the writing is extraordinary. I could sit and talk with Mary Shelley for days if I had the chance, probably years and wouldn’t mind one bit if we met in a cemetery to talk and…well, you know.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

100%. I’ve always considered myself an author. I’ve been writing all my life and wrote my first full-length novel at twelve years old. I can’t even fathom how many five subject notebooks I’ve filled up with poems, short stories, and story ideas. Some of us just take a bit longer to reach our goal.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

I’d have to go way, way back to answer this question. I’ve been in love with reading as far back as I can remember, but the story that comes to mind first is Peter Pan, which I must have read in kindergarten. My wife will tell you I’m still suffering from Peter Pan syndrome lol. But I also remember reading Pulp Fiction magazines at an early age, magazines like Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. I was lucky enough to finds boxes of old Pulp magazines my father had scattered in our basement. I was always fascinated with the imaginative depths in those magazines.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

No, I’ve gotten teary eyed a few times but never a full out long cry. I went through a romantic literary phase in my early twenties, what I term as the Nicholas Sparks era. I’ve read most of his books, even read The Bridged of Madison County, which was highly popular in the early nineties (different author but the romance was there). Got close to tears a couple times with those books but nothing close to balling my eyes out.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Lucy from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So, so, so sexy, I just want to tear her apart. She gets under my skin, drives me batty. I just want to wrap my lips around her neck and go to town.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

Of course. Shower and to plants and just about anywhere really especially in the car, riding down the beach with the windows down and belting out Led Zeppelin or Janis Joplin or Bob Marley or Pearl Jam or The Rolling Stones.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

Ha, I do cook but mostly out of necessity. I feel bad for my older children who had to endure a few years of overcooked pasta and rampant PB&J’s. I was a single full time father for four years before I met my current wife and cooking was never one of my strong points. I can make a mean PB&J though.

Do you have a pet?

I have several pets. Two dogs (down from four a few years ago), two cats, a turtle, and various fishes. My wife and I love animals; our retirement plan is to have a big house in the Florida Keys with tons of animals and enough land for all of them. We’ll probably become a part of an animal rescue so we can give them all a good home and lots of love. I also would like to become involved and learn about birds of prey. I’ve always wanted to befriend an owl, hawk, or eagle, because that would be really cool.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

So, picture this, it’s my wife and I’s first wedding anniversary and between newborn twin boys and a new business to run, we hadn’t planned on doing anything truly special so I took advantage of what I saw was an opportunity. This is how it went down: I contacted my mother to see if she could babysit for the night (she said yes). I then had her go to my house and to tell my wife, Lisa, to check her text messages and that she needed to pack a light bag and as quickly as possible. Once my mom gained entrance to the home, I sent the first text message to my wife: Pack a bag, a car is waiting outside for you (I had a limo pick her up with instruction to bring her to a beach front hotel but not to let her know where she was going).

While she was packing a bag I was at the store getting flowers, champagne, and of course Lisa’s favorite, beer (she loves her Bud Light) to bring back to the hotel. Once she was in the limo I sent her another text confirming she was in the limo (she was). I needed to know her location because what i was doing required perfect timing (we’ll get there soon as to why). While she was on her way to the hotel I brought the flowers, champagne and of course the beer to the room. I put the champagne on ice as well as the beer and started picking off the rose pedals from the flowers (I bought a lot of roses) and spreading them across the room. The more the better. I scattered rose pedals across the floor, the couch, the chairs, the balcony, the armoire, the TV, the bed and bathroom. I then sent another text: Once you arrive go the front desk and give them your name. You’ll be handed a keycard and they will tell you where to go.

She was a few minutes away at this point so I ran the bath, got the water steaming hot and filled the tub. I also gave Lisa instructions to text me once she gets in the lobby (she did). I added rose pedals to the bath once the bubbles and water filled the tub and received Lisa’s text message that she was in the lobby, giving me a few minutes before she would be walking through the door. I left the anniversary card, another bouquet of flowers, and balloons on the table so she could see them once she walked in. I then slipped out the door so she could discover all these things on her own. Also, forgot to mention, I left her favorite dress in the closet of the hotel along with some dancing shoes I’d seen her wear before. I remember hearing the elevator ding the moment I stepped into the stairwell. I then provided instruction to take a bath, drink a beer, get dressed and meet me downstairs at the bar at a specific time. A little more than an hour later I watched as she walked into the hotel bar and order a drink (beer of course). I then walked up behind her and provided her gift and of course a kiss. We then danced through the night and made it back to the hotel to the bed with all those rose pedals on the top and the chilled bottle of champagne. Use your imagination to complete the story.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

My wife when she said ‘I do’

Do you believe in love?

100%, and we need more of it in today’s world. More understanding and compassion. More joy and peace and more people heading out from their homes in the morning who take on the specific mission to bring joy to each and every place they go to during the day. Think vibrations and the law of attraction, should we not seek and find what brings each and every one of us gratitude and joy and should we not carry that vibration – or frequency – with us wherever we go? Energy is a huge component in the health of the individual, society and the planet. There are too many people arguing and eliciting hate and fear; you can feel it in the air, that angry treacherous vibration. It’s like poison in our system, infecting our thoughts, turning our hearts black with rage, and green with envy. Not good. Not good at all. Compassion, understanding, listening, hearing, intelligence and compromise win the day. Balance should be a daily task and not something we try to find once we leave for vacation. Why wait? Every day can be like Disney Land if that’s what you want. I always ask my patients (I’m a hypnotist and psychotherapist in the evenings) what are they waiting for? People are always waiting, waiting for something to happen, some event to transpire, or some goal to be attained in order to be happy but they’re miserable the entire time, struggling to get there. Happiness is bull shit because it is typically contingent on some outside event taking place, and once they achieve this monumental task, the happiness lasts for about a day before they slip back into what I call default mode. Default mode is how we feel and think on a daily basis and for people who are waiting for happiness well, they’re always waiting and miserable or discontent with life while trying to achieve their goals. No, don’t do that. Find your daily joy, daily gratitude, and daily reprieve. If the meaning of life is simply just to live – we are born we will die, the in between belongs to you – ask yourself have you been living, do you love your day no matter what happens (obviously major life events, emergencies etc excluded), and if not, change your daily life to reflect gratitude and joy. Sometimes this can take some time, however, consistency always prevails. Do not live in fear, live with the understanding that you are all-powerful and are creating your reality whether you believe it or not. So, make it what you want and bring that joy with you everywhere you go. That’s how the world gets better.

Love and light and great books make life absolutely extraordinary.

Keep living; keep reading, and thank you for reading my interview.

Regards,

PD Alleva

Sci-Fi & Horror Writer

For Books and Book Links go to my website:  www.pdalleva.com

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Author Interview: Zachary Pieper

Tell us something about your book.

It’s my debut novel, and a reflection of myself. If you read my book, you will, to one degree or another, know me as a person. So if you like wily, chaotic good, hopeless romantics, you’re gonna love my protagonist.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

Lovers of fantasy and science fiction are going to be the ideal audience for this trilogy. And I imagine people in my general age group are going to be the ones who get most of the refernces. But I do think my book has something for everyone. We have laughs, love, adventure and violence, all wrapped up in a grand conspircacy.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

A fellow author whose work I have reviewed on my youtube channel, said this about my dialogue:

“I was really confused by the mood you were intending to create, as the dialogue was Half “Bro” and half Shakespearean. Extremely modern, and extremely antiquated at the same time.“

Which is exactly what I intended. My characters have depth. They have different ways of behaving depending on who they are with and what the situation is. Ya know, kind of like real life.

What inspired you to write it?

My love of a woman! In the cold winter months of early 2019, my heart was broken by a beautiful red-head with emerald green eyes. I wrote this novel to cope with my grief, and to prove a point. She left our relationship thinking I did not love her. I wrote a 149K word monument to the contrary.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

1st: My love of that woman. 2nd: The importance of love, and truth, and hope. And doing the right thing, even when its hard.

Share an excerpt from your book.

I feel her raise a hand to my fur covered cheek, and something about her touch makes everything in me relax. My fur recedes into my body, my claws shorten, the muscles and bones in my face pop and snap back into human shape. I hold her tighter, and she closes her eyes.
             I bend my head over hers and kiss her as lightning rips the sky to pieces and thunder shakes the very rocks we perch upon. Nothing has ever tasted so sweet; no peace has ever been so absolute.

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

When I started? I wasn’t sure. By the end, I was determined to make the world hear my tale one way or another. It became my driving mission, my central focus. And as I have spoken with god and meditated on my lifes purpose. I have come to be sure that this is my path.

How many times were you rejected?

I was rejected by over 50 literary agents. They gave me generic rejection letters, or flat out admitted my novel was too long and they didnt even both reading it. So I decided to give a middle finger to the gatekeepers at large, and self publish.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Yes, gatekeepers suck and treat their S.O.P.’s like holy dogma. Frankly, I think the entire publishing industry needs an overhaul. And for that matter, we need more independent content reviewers out there to help keep the indie market in check. The downside of bypassing the gatekeepers, is lots of trash making it to market.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

First draft, 9 months. My editor and I cranked out the final edit in around 3.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I am a scion of chaos. I have no set process. I have patterns of behavior, but even those vary wildly. The closet thing to a process would be: concieve main plot > outline main plot > outline chapters > write.

Who was your first literary crush?

All my favorite authors are men, and I am straight. However, I do deeply admire the mind of Mary Shelley. She could wax poetic with the best of them.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

Yes, actually, my best friend and me cooked up this idea freshmen year. And even though he is gone now, I like to think he has at least a modest legacy in his help creating this novel.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

Eragon. It’s much like my own work I think, self published to begin with. Runs the gamut of human experience, great fantastical elements, amazing depth of story and characters.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

Many. Almost every entry in the Dresden files. Red rising. Eragon. The Legend of Drizzt.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

I am a male of the species with a vivid imagination. Just about every interesting and even mildly attractive female character was fantasized about at some point. However Arya the elf princess (Eragon series) held a preferential slot.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I love singing, I sing in public. And I routinely recieve complements on my voice.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I am a halfway decent cook, I make some pretty good stir fry.

Do you have a pet?

Not presently, but I love dogs and plan on getting a puppy again soon.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

One time I wrote this novel for the woman I love, it’s called ‘The Garden of Lies’ – you should check it out.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

When I paid off my student loans, she tried to set up a party with some friends to celebrate.

Do you believe in love?

‘When every star in the heavens grows cold, and when silence lies once more on the face of the deep, three things will endure: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love’

1st corinthians chapter 13

Love is the only thing truly worth acquiring, the only thing that truly matters. All else fades, all else crumbles, but true love echoes in eternity.

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Author Interview: Leslie Swartz

Tell us something about your book.

The Seventh Day Series is seven books of rowdy angels, vampires, witches, and Lucifer fighting monsters and preventing one Apocalypse after another. Really, though, it’s a story of found-family, complex relationships, trauma, and redemption. It’s character-driven, dark, funny, and chock-full of twists.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

18+ Supernatural, Buffy, and True Blood fans seem to enjoy it most. I get compared to Anne Rice, Patricia Briggs, and Ilona Andrews a lot. My books, especially Seraphim (book one) have graphic language, sex, and violence and I kind of bastardize a lot of religions and mythologies so anyone who might get offended by those things should probably avoid them.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Review of Seraphim: As a fan of paranormal fantasy, I found this story thrilling. The bad-ass good guys hunting down the innocent-looking bad girl, the supernatural powers, the diversity, and the family-comes-first theme all hit the right spots for me.
I loved the author’s take on the angelic and demonic characters, and the no-holds-barred evil of the antagonist was surprisingly shocking, yet helped build the character so well. My attention was held from beginning to end (I had to drag myself away to sleep after starting it yesterday, and finished it today.) Definitely looking forward to reading more work by this author, and great to know this is a series.–Evie Asterwyn

What inspired you to write it?

“Wyatt” (the main character) came to me in a vision when I was sixteen. I can’t explain it so I won’t try but he was very clear to me; steely eyes, dark hair falling in his face, angry and depressed but like, resigned to it. I didn’t create him so much as I just kind of became aware of who he was. So, I spent years researching religious lore and different mythologies. I’d have an idea and start writing but inevitably, I’d throw it out. No story was ever good enough for the character. So, one day I was watching Guiding Light and this actor, Tom Pelphrey came on the screen and he looked exactly like the character in my head. It was uncanny. Obviously, I became a fan and watched other things he was in. Over the years, his facial expressions and his very precise way of speaking became part of “Wyatt”. Years later, I was watching an episode of Iron Fist and Tom Pelphrey did this scene that broke me in half. I lost it. Complete meltdown, hysterically sobbing on my couch for forty-five minutes. When I got myself together, I had all this renewed gumption to get these books started. I had a ton of plot ideas but none of them made sense if “God” was who I said he was. So, I was going over everything with my husband and he looked at me with this how-have-you-not-thought-of-this-before face and said, “What if ‘God’ was asleep?” Mind. Blown. Everything else fell into place. It all worked. That day, I wrote character bios, a few scenes, and outlines for the first four books.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Reading gives people empathy, right? It puts you in someone else’s head, forces you to see from their perspective. So, my hope is that through these characters, people realize that we’re more alike than different, that everyone is going through something that you may not understand, and hate isn’t just unnecessary and dumb, it’s also as sinful as anything can be.

Share an excerpt from your book.

From chapter 17 of Seraphim: Gabriel burst through the doors of the old, decrepit theater and strolled in, livid and determined. The building, mostly fallen apart, was crawling with dozens of demons. Some were on the floor and in old broken seats, having sex in seemingly uncomfortable, if not impossible positions. Some were hunched over large amounts of various foods, stuffing their mouths with as much as would fit. One was lying lifeless on the stage, the host’s body having given out from being occupied too long. Two others stood over the corpse, splashing it with week-old soda. “Forty days and forty nights!” one of them cackled as the other laughed giddily. Their voices were loud and shrill, like nails on a chalkboard. It grated on Gabriel’s nerves as she slammed the doors shut behind her with her mind, using her telekinesis to hold locked all the exits.

“Where’s Lilith?” she called to the crowd. They all stopped what they were doing to glare at her in unsettled apprehension.

“Gabriel!” one of them shrieked in horror. Most of them darted for the exits, becoming hysterical when they realized there was no way out. A few brave demons came at her, but she immediately snapped their necks with nothing more than a thought.

“I would tell me if I were you,” she warned the rest of them, frustrated that she couldn’t decipher their thoughts. Demons’ minds were tricky, clouded by the memories of those they inhabited. Nothing came through to her clearly.

“We will never!” someone shouted from the back of the room.

“It’s in your best interest,” she told them, throwing the two on the stage up into the rafters and bringing them crashing down onto the stage floor.

“No!” several of them shouted in unison.

“I won’t ask again,” she promised, bringing down a large chandelier, crushing a small group of demons underneath.

“We will not,” one of them said, stepping forward, away from the rest as they cowered, blood and bile staining his white tee-shirt, nearly all of his teeth missing. “We have been liberated. Our redeemer will rule this place. You are no match. We will not betray she who set us free.”

Gabriel sighed and addressed the crowd. “Does this one speak for the rest of you?”

“Yes!” some shouted while others just nodded.

“All right,” she said, disappointed. “Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance.”

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

I knew it would be published one way or another. I’ve always had a sense of inevitability with Seventh Day. It’s felt like something I was meant to write and no matter how successful or forgotten it becomes, it will be available to readers for as long as I’m alive.

How many times were you rejected?

Sixty-four, lol. Most of those weren’t outright rejections, per se. Most agents wanted me to change things I just couldn’t. By the time I queried Seraphim, I had the next book half-written and outlines done for the rest of the books. I knew where the story was going and how everything fit together. So, when agents would say things like, “I could sell this as the next Vampire Diaries if you took out most of the violence, all of the sex and graphic language, and made the characters fifteen years younger”, I had to roll my eyes. Those changes would have destroyed the series. Remember, I’d spent twenty years developing the story and there was no way I was throwing all that work away for the sake of marketability. Had it been a book I didn’t care as much about, I might have done it. As it was, though, I couldn’t justify it to myself.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

No, because the rejections made it clear to me that I wanted to keep creative control of the series and the only way to do that unequivocally was to self-publish.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

The first draft of Seraphim took six or so months once I got the outline settled. Rewrites took two more months, editing took a month, then re-editing took another two months because my first editor turned out to be a con artist. He butchered the manuscript, put a bunch of periods where commas should have been. It was a mess. Hundreds of people bought Seraphim looking like trash before I fixed it. It haunts me. Later books took about six weeks from finalizing the outline to finished.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I start by scribbling ideas down in a notebook, in no real order, just as they come to me. At that same time, I make a playlist of songs that remind me of particular scenes or characters that I can listen to later if I get stuck. It’s the best way for me to break out of the dreaded writer’s block. Then, I put the ideas in order, turn that into a proper chapter-by-chapter outline then start writing. I usually wear noise-canceling headphones and play purple noise while I’m doing the actual writing because I’m easily distracted and my children are loud. (No, I don’t leave them unsupervised. They’re with their father in the next room.)

Who was your first literary crush?

“Gordie” from The Body by Stephen King. I was in the fourth grade when I read it and I related to him so hard. He was played by Wil Wheaton in the movie adaptation (Stand by Me) and I thought he was super cute.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

I started writing stories when I was four. I won my first writing competition in the second grade and by the time I was sixteen, I was an award-winning published poet. That same year, I had written, rewritten, and rewritten again a novel about a nineteenth-century girl whose parents had died and she was trying to survive on the western frontier. It was bad. There was no saving it. Still, I was sure being an author was what I was meant to be. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t just assume writing was what I’d be doing.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

I remember reading all those great, old Golden Books, particularly Fantasia. I read it a lot but the first book I remember really loving was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when I was five or six.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I learned to read at three using the Sunday paper, so the first thing I remember reading that made me cry was an article about the death of Dennis Wilson (The Beach Boys). As for books, a lot of them have made me cry, including all of my own. The last book that had me in tears was Broken Time by C. Casarico. A character died so suddenly, it was jarring.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice). So sexy.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I do sing in the shower, and in my kitchen, and living room, and basically anywhere. I also sing-song my words when I’m talking a lot of the time. Obnoxious or adorable? You be the judge.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I’m an okay cook but I love to bake. My best and favorite things to bake are “damn good” cookies. I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet because I don’t like the little bit of bitterness in semi-sweet. I also make a mean apple turnover.

Do you have a pet?

No. I had two dogs, Sophie and Lucy, who died six months apart a few years ago and as much as I would love to rescue another, I’m hesitant. It was a lot to get over.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

When I was seventeen, I think, a boyfriend asked me to come see him. He lived an hour or so away and I didn’t have a car. It was also late at night, so I called a friend and begged him to drive me out there. I snuck out and made it to my boyfriend’s house, tapped on his window, gave him a quick kiss, and left. I don’t know how romantic he thought it was, but it’s a super fond memory for me. Zack (Thomas) Gunter was one of the great loves of my life and I regret not telling him how important he was to me at the time.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

A boyfriend walked me home in the middle of the night once when I got kicked out of a friend’s house after she got in trouble for something, I don’t remember what. I was spending the night and her mom made me leave. My mom was asleep, of course, so she didn’t answer the phone when I called from a payphone (this was 1998). My then-boyfriend lived pretty close but he didn’t have a car, either. We didn’t have money for a cab so he walked with me all the way back to my house. It took two and a half hours in the cold and rain and I will never forget that. Shout-out to Josh Jones of Greenwood, Indiana. Such a sweetie.

Do you believe in love?

Yes, but probably not the way most people do. Or I’m jaded. Or old. Or I’ve just been with the same person for too long, lol. There’s a difference between falling in love and being in love, right? So, after a year or two of being with someone, the hormones wear off. The butterflies go away and what you’re left with is respect, trust, friendship, and a question: Can I keep tolerating this person? If you care about them and want to be around them every day even when they’re so annoying you could smack them, that’s love.

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Series link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BZL6YJY

Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RPZ72Q4

Author Interview: Cully Mack

Tell us something about your book.

A Voice That Thunders is the first book in the thrilling epic fantasy Voice that Thunder series. Siblings, Mirah and Gabe, along with a band of rebels are fighting against immortals conquering their realm. The world and mythology is influenced by Mesopotamian myths. Think epic battles with Immortals and beasts of all kinds, throw in elemental magic, huge plot twists, intense romance, portals and unique worlds, and an ever-growing number of characters trying to save their world.

If you love character-driven fantasy, you’ll love my books. I warn you now; I don’t go easy on them. In places, it’s dark (but not grimdark). People love! People die! People make sacrifices! The battles are intense, blending weapons, magic and intelligence. The monsters are unique. Ever heard of Dactyrs or Dagani?

I’m a discovery writer, so the plot twists in unexpected ways. You’ll find romance and broken hearts (sorry).  I’ve been told many times that my writing is very visual and how reading my books is like watching a movie. I’ll let you be the judge of that…

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

Readers who enjoy mature YA and adult fantasy books with romantic subplots which don’t stray into smut. Themes in my series include coming of age and first love, which appeals to a YA audience. However, there are dark themes (conflict, violence) which might be too graphic for younger readers. Readers who enjoy multiple character pov and plot arcs similar to S. J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series will love my books.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A Great Romantic Fantasy

A Voice That Thunders is what I would describe as a romantic fantasy. Not romantic in the sense of romance, although there is plenty of that, but romantic in the classic way; great heroes, good guy wins, young love.
The author builds a fun take on a new world with gods, monsters, and several forms of magic. As an author myself I appreciate that she moves the story quickly, and reveals enough about the world to keep you curious, but doesn’t overload you.
The book primarily follows Mirah, a girl who finds herself taken from her home as a tithe to a powerful god. She finds herself a wielder of powerful magic and torn between new love and loyalty to family.
I recommend this book to anyone that likes romance, fantasy, and magic. It is a fun quick read. If anything, I wish the author would have extended the story line. It could have been double the length and still held my interest. The series continues on to A Scream That Shatters (Book 2), and I’m looking forward to reading the whole series.

What inspired you to write it?

I have always read, but never considered writing until after attending a beginner’s writing course in 2012. My mind exploded with ideas. I had created a character called Ammo. He never left my head. You could say I’d got the buzz.

Not knowing how to write or structure a story, I returned to University to study English Literature and Creative Writing. As a mature student, I had a blast. I stayed on and completed my Master’s in Creative Writing.

Ammo is now a character in my books. Maybe you have heard of him? If you have, keep quiet or it will go to his head. Regardless, he will always have a special place in my heart. Even though he is a rogue!

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Never give up. Dare to believe. Hold on to your dreams. You have a destiny, it’s your job to find it.

Share an excerpt from your book.

This is a scene from A Voice That Thunders. Mirah meets an immortal who has set himself up as a god.

Seated on the throne was Nate’s stepfather.

He appeared of human likeness, but he was not human. In the light emanating from him, he had a man’s face and a flicker of something else, something feline.

Mirah could hear gasps coming from those nearby, but she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He rose and golden feathered wings spread out above him. He seemed to expand, rising taller than even the giants. The brilliance of a fiery furnace flared in his eyes, and his outstretched arms gleamed like polished bronze. He was the most terrifying and the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

No one dared to move. He smiled a warm, knowing smile and lowered himself back onto his throne. The light dissipated around him, his wings now folded, unseen. If it were not for his eyes, Mirah would have thought him just a man.

His voice broke like the ocean waves.

‘I came through the clouds like a whirling storm and held back the powers of chaos. While Anu slept, I alone defeated the raging ones. I am Bel Shade—Lord of the mountain. I am Sahar—Day Star, Son of Dawn. My name is,’ he paused, waiting for effect before, ‘Shemyaza,’ flowed like rushing water from his lips.

At the mention of his name, the giants, Nate, and everyone else in the chamber bowed their heads. Mirah and the others quickly followed, if only to capture a moment of quick relief before Shemyaza continued.

‘It is I alone who brought mankind out of confusion. I offer to you the mysteries of my heavenly kingdom. I extend my mercy and offer you peace. My oath will not be broken.’

His eyes scanned over them, purifying any doubts simmering beneath the surface. She couldn’t deny a god sat before them.

‘Welcome to my kingdom.’ Shemyaza said, before turning towards the giants. ‘Tonight, we celebrate the gift of the tithes.’

The giants let out a ruckus of cheers, raising their arms and shoving into each other’s shoulders in a similar way to how Gabe messed around with his friends Eran and Tam.

As Mirah and the others were led away, she didn’t feel as though Shemyaza delivered her out of confusion. She’d just been sent deeper into a world which was not her own. Even Neviah was speechless.

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

I never thought about publishing while writing. I was too focussed on finishing the book to consider the next stage.

How many times were you rejected?

I sent out three queries before deciding to self publish.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

I didn’t find the process of looking for an agent discouraging. The Internet has great resources, and it’s easy to find agents. However, I began reading horror stories of authors being dropped by publishers mid-series. It was more important for me to make sure my series was completed than signing my rights way. I decided to self publish and stopped querying. I did hear back from one of the agents I’d queried, who gave me great feedback.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

Overall, it took about a year to write the first draft and another several months of redrafts and editing.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I’m a discovery writer. I begin with a character and a conflict. I tend to know certain plot points, for example, I knew Mirah needed to reach Hermonial because I wanted to write a character who was close to my antagonist. My start point was her on the ship, so I began writing her journey and added conflict along the way. I love how characters grow and overcome the challenges they face. Being a discovery writer, my characters surprise me, leading me into territory I wasn’t expecting to go.

I love plot twists! Most of my twists come from writing my characters into a hole and then figuring out how to fix it. There are quite a few big twists in my books, which my mind would never have imagined if I’d sat down and tried to think it up. Some people might think this tactic is insane, but for me, it keeps my writing fresh. 

I remember my English Professor saying how my writing is unpredictable. Truth is, I have no clue what’s going to happen until I write the words on the page.  

Who was your first literary crush?

I never read books with crush worthy characters until later in life. I always read fantasy, but it was more the traditional kind without romance. I guess, I read Throne of Glass by S. J. Maas in 2016/17, making Chaol was my first crush. How naive was I? Haha.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

No. I thought being an author was only for ‘professional’ writers. I grew up wanting to be a librarian (didn’t happen). 

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

I have always loved reading. My first love was Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. I must have been around five on my first reading. The enchanted worlds and the awesome food blew my mind.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I’m not really a crier. There are books which make me pause and take a breather. This usually happens when I suspect a character I love might die. Hawke From Blood and Ash being the last one.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Lorcan from Empire of Storms will always be my first love. What can I say, I’m a sucker for an underdog with a touch of broody, a tad of dominance, and the temperament of an alpha.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

No. Never! I can’t sing, and I’m not tone deaf either. I do a lot of my thinking in the shower and often solve plot issues I’ve been struggling with.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I don’t enjoy cooking. In fact, I’d rather build a brick wall…

Do you have a pet?

My best buddy is Leo. He’s a German Short-haired Pointer. An absolute, lovable, full-energy dog, until I pick up a book, then he slumbers on the couch. I trained him well J

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

Written romantic arcs in my books. I’m not guaranteeing every one has a HEA, but those who do are pretty amazing.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

Waking me in the middle of the night to sing a song they’d written for me.

Do you believe in love?

Yes! The unconditional, nothing will separate us, climb any mountain, battle any foe kind.

Social Media Links:

Amazon author link: https://www.amazon.com/Cully-Mack/e/B07QBLXZLT

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Author Interview: Ryan D. Meier

Tell us something about your book.

            It’s fun epic fantasy. I wrote Shadows of Creation to be a fast-paced adventure with a mix of mystery, flawed heroes, and an ultimate evil.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

            Shadows is appropriate for both the adult and young adult, and I can comfortably say it appeals equally to both. My intentions were to develop characters that would connect with readers of all ages. Two of my protagonists are young magical apprentices who embark on their adventure during their own coming of age.

My other two protagonists will resonate with my adult readers. Brenn, a mercenary with a complicated past, struggles with his mental health while Asrai, a Wood Elven Princess, deals with inheriting power and fighting corruption within the two Elven races.  

Share the best critique/review of your book.

  • Fantastic!!!   5-star

“I loved this story and look forward to more. It has everything that good fantasy needs. Magic, evil villains, good guys will some flaws, a little romance and a cool world. Highly recommend!!!”

  • 5-star:

“This is one of my new all-time favorites. I can’t wait for the second book. Wonderful world building and great characters. I would re-read this like I was the childhood me reading Harry Potter until the books fell apart.”

What inspired you to write it?

            My wonderful children. Shadows is the first full novel I ever attempted to write. Personally, I loved epic fantasy as a teen – the Dragonlance Chronicles (and many other novels written in the world of Krynn), Lord of the Rings, and a lot of other epic fantasy classics.

            I wanted to write something that I could share with my children now, rather than having them to wait to read my work. My oldest is 14, youngest is 7. I love sharing my story, but it’s extra special to share it with them.  

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

            Like all great fantasy, I want my readers to feel hope. Life can be challenging, and the odds can feel insurmountable. Sometimes, or a lot of the time, we torture ourselves underneath an avalanche of fear and guilt. So do my characters. I want my readers to live their journey, and find solace in their own.     

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

            I wrote the Shadows manuscript in 5 months and then sat on it while I wrote a second novel. Given this was the first novel I ever edited, I worked on a routine and eventually got into a rhythm. I’d say the editing process took 4 months.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

            I’m always trying to synchronize my routine, but I tend to fall into the category of a binge writer. Although I have a word count expectation per day, I find that I go through stretches where I fall short of my goal, and then eventually catch up with a very productive period.

            I’m a tea drinker and can’t sit down to write without a cup (black tea with a touch of honey). I heavily plot (my outline for my current WIP is 20 or so pages long) and tend to be a basket-case around release day. Yes, I now consider that part of my “process”.   

Who was your first literary crush?

The Elven princess Laurana Kanan. I never crushed on celebrities, but Elven royalty? Slight, pointy ears? Now we’re talking.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

Yes, I’ve always been fascinated with storytelling and the creation of a world, plot, and characters that weave together tight enough to put a reader in a trance. I’ve had so many books leave an imprint on my soul, I hope to do the same for my readers.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

            Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis & Hickman. I fell into the world of Krynn and I’m not sure I’ve fully returned.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I’ve read/listened to Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings 4 times and cry at the same scene every time (for those initiated: The Tower). When it’s time for me to re-read it, I look forward to crying again.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

            Never in the shower, but in the car? Oh, yes. Queue my air drums (I’ve never been very good at the air guitar).

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

            I love to cook but I’m a far better sous chef to my wife. I can follow a recipe, but she cooks by feel. It’s inspiring.

Do you have a pet?

            MANY pets! We have two dogs, 4 cats, and a snake! Each with their own unique personality. To be honest, they are more family members than pets.   

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

            The first Valentine’s day with my wife I was stuck working late. By the time I got home, she was already asleep. I had bought a dozen roses earlier in the day, and had been sitting on her engagement ring for a few weeks. I placed it into the center flower and woke her up. She didn’t realize at first, but when she did it was a yes.    

Do you believe in love?

            Yes, and I’m reminded every time I look at my wife.

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Get inspired with Leonardo Da Vinci

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Leonardo Da Vinci was born on this day in 1452.

Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t receive any formal education. He was first trained as a musician, a lyre player, and was home-schooled. He trained under the Florentine painter Andrea Del Verrocchio and spent days observing nature, which prominently featured in his works. Leonardo was able to write with one hand and draw with another at the same time. He developed a system of writing backwards to note down his important findings and to hide secret messages, decipherable only through a mirror. He was arrested along with several of his male companions on the allegations of sodomy, a crime punishable by death in 15th century Florence. Fortunately, his case was dismissed when no witnesses came forward during the court hearings. Leonardo bought caged animals just to set them free and was a strict vegetarian. Leonardo dug into graveyards at night to steal corpses and study human anatomy. Leonardo Da Vinci is the first person to have designed a parachute. He thought ahead of time, which is proved by the notes in many of his journals that talk about modern inventions, including a helicopter, calculator and solar power.

“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment… And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”

“An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

“As you cannot do what you want, want what you can do”

“The deeper the feeling, the greater the pain”

“One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature. Great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all.”

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Burnt Sugar is one of those captivating great works that you just can’t put down even when you wish to do precisely that when it gets too intense. But that is what exceptional literature does: shakes you, slaps you, turns you upside down, leaving your thoughts jumbled as if your head went on a jolly ride in the spin cycle.

The very first sentence will pull you straight into Doshi’s universe: I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure. Not quite the sentence you would expect from a daughter, but that is only the beginning of this love-hate, caring-neglecting, forgiving-avenging mother and daughter tale. Interestingly, both main protagonists are repulsive. The whole time you feel their pain and your heart bleeds for them, yet you just can’t like them and they make you uncomfortable.

I suffered at her hands as a child, and any pain she subsequently endured appeared to me to be a kind of redemption ‒ a rebalancing of the universe, where the rational order of cause and effect aligned.

But now, I can’t even the tally between us.

The reason is simple: my mother is forgetting, and there is nothing I can do about it.

The mother, Tara, must have learned the basics from her mother although Doshi doesn’t say anything about their relationship. However, the young author leaves a few ironic hints: Nani places her hand on her cheek. “She’s become so fat, your mother. Her knuckles are swollen to double what they were. How will we pry the jewelry off her hands when she dies?”

Tara’s story is also full of suffering: The room was a cage, but it was the only place where Ma felt relief. Sometimes she would bang her body against the wall and scream silently to herself…My mother knew marriages were generally unhappy, but she was young and had not fully metabolized the idea that this would be her reality. She still believed that she was special, exceptional and had thoughts that no one else did… In the light of Tara’s circumstances, her actions aren’t that surprising, they are a desperate try to escape the existence she can’t endure. Yet it is difficult to side with her because of her behavior to her daughter, Antara ‒ un-Tara, which she hoped will have a life diametrically opposed to her own. But did she damn Antara to be her carbon copy instead?

So, is Antara doing the same as Tara? Is her art only a form of rebellion as Tara’s episode in the ashram? A diversion, something to occupy her mind instead of losing it? Antara’s teenage behavior is certainly a mirror of Tara’s teen years. Are her struggles to escape her mother turning her into that very woman?

Antara is undeniably a victim. Everything that happened in her childhood, directly or indirectly because of her mother, shaped her into the woman who is telling her story today. But is that an excuse for some of her later actions? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t side with her either. However, Doshi’s masterful narrative is so compelling that you just can’t get enough of both women’s voices.

Some of the author’s thoughts about this mother-daughter relationship will stay with you long after you close the last page and stare at the wall, deep in thought:

If our conversations were itineraries, they would show us always returning to this vacant cul-de-sac, one we cannot escape from.

There was a breakdown somewhere about what we were to one another, as though one of us were not holding up her part of the bargain, her side of the bridge. Maybe the problem is that we are standing on the same side, looking out into the emptiness. Maybe we were hungry for the same things, the sum of us only doubled that feeling. And maybe this is it, the hole in the heart of it, a deformity from which we can never recover.

How will I be able to look after her when the woman I know is no longer residing in her body? When she no longer has a complete consciousness of who she and who I am, will it be possible for me to care for her the way I do now, or will I be negligent, the way we are with children who are not our own, or voiceless animals, or the mute, blind and deaf, believing we will get away with it, because decency is something we enact in public, with someone to witness and rate our actions, and if there is no fear of blame, what would the point of it be?

I had the distinct feeling that she was pleased to tell me these things, to know that I would suffer as she had ‒ and her consolation came from seeing that the hurt would continue and I would not be spared.

Maybe our mothers always create a lack in us, and our children continue to fulfill the prophecy.

However, like many other great books, it also portrays society and a woman’s role in it. Doshi shows us that education and modern times haven’t changed some things about marriage and a woman’s place in it.

But if he does leave me and I have to go back to my mother’s house, how will I support myself?

I wish I had done so many things. Instead, I did all the things I am doing now. Sitting in the house. Staring at the walls.

Avni Doshi provides an insightful portrait of refined people who have left India but return to laugh while filming children having a shit on the street since their slums don’t have anything resembling a bathroom; enlightened leaders in ashrams who have only sex and money on their minds, and a little rape on the side, please, while making fun of all the people who actually believe in their preaching; civilized people who pride themselves with being the first to provide their daughters with education and then torturing said daughters if they choose the convent instead of the university… Like every great book, Burnt Sugar can’t be reduced to only one topic, but the mother-daughter relationship and women issues are dominant. The style is reduced, which prevents any sentimentality and pathos. Also, there are plenty of body secretions and that is pretty disgusting, but somehow fitting, as if Doshi wanted to say that she doesn’t give a damn and life is full of shit anyway. But don’t worry: Gloom isn’t the prevailing tone and Doshi won’t leave you feeling bad.

Literary awards: Booker Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2020)

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

After her gifted children left for the uni, Eva closed the door of her house, decided to take a nap… and didn’t leave bed for an entire year. She was confident that she wouldn’t be bored since there were so many things to think about: does God exist, was she ever happy with her husband, why are her twins strange, do elephants sweat, could the human body dispose of waste in a more cultured manner… And, oh, boy, she really didn’t have the time for boredom.

Naturally, her husband, mother, mother-in-law, and neighbors don’t understand what is wrong with her and grumble because of all the things they now have to do instead of her.

Although confined to her room, Eva finds out things that others were suppressing and hiding for years as well as things she was swallowing while lying to herself. Interestingly, she will meet more people in her room than while she was leading an active social life. The beautiful fifty-year-old librarian who can’t explain why she can’t leave her bed will attract lots of unwanted attention.

Of course, her unimaginative husband, Brian, is bewildered by Eva’s strange behavior. However, he is much more concerned about his wellbeing and the complexity of all those mundane tasks every household requires. Doctor Beaver, an astronomer ‒ not an astrologist, as he has to repeat to his uneducated mother-in-law, who strangely understands the science behind a washing machine unlike him ‒ deals with the situation as best as he can, revealing fragments of the unpleasant truth about their marriage along the way. Their autistic genius twins, Brianne and Brian Junior, try to mind their own business at the university. The children’s reaction to their mother’s condition is unexpected, to say the least.

Is Eva selfish and behaving like a spoiled brat since she expects her old mother and mother-in-law to run up and down the stairs to bring her food, change the sheets, do the washing… instead of enjoying old age in the peace of their homes? Of course she is. But she can’t help it. Eva wants to stop being a nuisance and to behave normally, yet she just can’t. And that is heartbreakingly depressing. Eva’s entire life is heartbreakingly depressing. And maybe everyone’s life is heartbreakingly depressingly.

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend is so hilarious that you will laugh aloud and wish to retell parts to friends who haven’t read the book. However, the crazy situations that remind me of Commedia All’italiana movies are actually the backdrop of a tragic family story, which in turn reveals just how tragic modern society can be. Despite the overwhelming sadness surrounding literally every character in this book, Townsend managed to keep it light and charming. Her ability to present such tragedies in a crazy, funny manner makes you think about this book – and about your life, hope you won’t be tempted to stay in bed! – long after closing the last page.

I think that the book should have gotten one more round of serious editing. A few chapters are muddled, the ending is rushed and the story feels slightly incomplete, but despite that, I am glad that I read it. Even with the small faults, every book that makes you think is good.

One word from the book that stays with you: Kindness

The perfect beverage to sip while reading this book: Lemon balm tea

This book’s best musical buddy: Why Does My Heart Feel so Bad by Moby

Author Interview: Tom James

Tell us something about your book.

It’s part love letter to being child-free, but it’s largely concerned with my belief that society is child-obsessed. That parents come first in the social strata, that somehow popping a child out (or even less in the male’s case) elevates you to a position of wisdom. It questions some of the morals and ethics around people’s choices and beliefs when it comes to parenthood, children, and so on. From the belief that they’re all special (which by definition they can’t be) to the moral ambiguity of the surrogacy. Despite all that, it is also intended to make the reader laugh, to say things about kids and parents that nearly all parents and non-parents have thought at some point. And to say it. 

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

I’ve had reviews from parents and child-free, with different perspectives, but both enjoying it. I would say someone who comes with an open mind, a sense of humour, and who has ever had the thought, this party would be better without kids…

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Yours is one of my favourites, so thank you.

I particularly like this one though: “This witty and erudite book grabs you fast and never let’s go of with its assailing, lyrical punches and jabs. If you’re in doubt, chapter one quotes Aristotle and mentions papooses.

YCAB is not so much about the kids, but those virtue signalling parents who somehow think they have the best little Algernons and Agnethas. Far from being a book that sensible parents should avoid; it should be one they wave in the face of such needy behaviour on a tram in Sheffield probably. I for one will be leaving copies at baby hula, dad’s club, and every school drop off probably. Well done, Tom James, parenting done right has a new and extremely well read champion.”

What inspired you to write it?

It was a few things, a culmination. I’m child-free, a godparent, and all my friends have kids. I live in a part of the world that is one of those ‘nappy valleys’ and full of Mums who lunch. So I am surrounded by material. I think it was bubbling underneath for a while, but it was a single incident that inspired me to finally put pen to paper, when my ex-girlfriend and I were regularly asked when we would have kids, when we suggested it wasn’t something we wanted to do, we were met with disbelief. I realised how that assumption plays out, and particularly how it is disproportionately so for women. And how the sense of entitlement etc. exists in society now. So I thought I’d look into this…and there was no going back!

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

That selfish people become parents too.   

Share an excerpt from your book.

(How about a short one about parents taking over pubs and bars)

‘You’re ruining pubs like you ruined football and the cinema, colonising it like the most boring invading army in history, armed with iPhones and Kleenex.’

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

Good lord, no. Publishing it very pro-parent, plus I veer into some ‘difficult’ subjects.

How many times were you rejected?

So many. Quite a few nice ones, but still…

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Yes, but I think I was prepared for that. You have to be.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

It’s a short book, but even then, first draft took about 6-9 months. Editing was tortuous. I rarely stopped. I had a bunch of help too, thank God.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

They are terrible. I try and keep time aside, but I write in spurts, and I do all the wrong things. I am no role model. I always recommend people read On Writing by Stephen King, and trust that all the cliches are true. To write even when you don’t feel like it or it’s crap. I write smaller pieces on Medium if to test my thinking and my prose too, that’s been useful. Allowed me to take breathers but keep writing.

Who was your first literary crush?

If you mean character, possibly a heterosexual crush for the terrible cad Flashman in the George MacDonald Fraser books. As for author, I somewhat worship Dave Eggers, and Lionel Shriver, and I’m pretty sure I would have just been mouth agape if I met Christopher Hitchens. 

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

I think so, well, a journalist. Which is what I was by trade for some time.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

The Hobbit.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I think A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius did. A few times.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

At that age? I suspect Silk Spectre from Watchmen.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I definitely sing in the shower. I do not sing to my plants, though I started chatting to a bird in my garden the other day, so I suspect my neighbours think I’m mental now. Hooray!

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

Yeah. I do a mean vegan penne with (vegan) sausage meat, white wine sauce, herbs, and so on.

Do you have a pet?

I have two cats (Spook and Shiner) who are rescues and are the main reason I moved out of London (so I could give them a garden). I would have dogs, tapirs, and anything else if I had more room and time.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

I’m an incurable romantic I think. I drove 200 miles one day to spend an hour with my girlfriend at the time who was feeling a bit low, and then drove back home the same day. Don’t know if that’s romantic or deranged…

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

I’ve been given some really thoughtful gifts and gestures, but one birthday I was taken to a zoo to spend time laying with and feeding some tapirs (they’re my favourite animal). It was beautiful.

Do you believe in love?

Absolutely. Life’s so much less without it.

Here’s me on social and what have you:

Website https://www.tomjameswriting.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/instatomjames/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/yourchildrenareboring/

Twitter https://twitter.com/tomjayauthor

Medium  https://tomjames1.medium.com/

The book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1712629972/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_aFJwEb60ZJTRZ

Author Interview: Madilynn Dale

Tell us something about your book.

Releasing Her Power Within is the first book in the Fae Shifters series. It follows Liz as she takes a leap of faith to change up her life. She is tired of being overworked and has struggled with her mother’s death. She moves into her family’s cabin to pursue this change of pace and discovers a massive family secret that may cost her life. She wanted a peaceful and slow-paced life after the move but is thrust into a brand new world of magic she had no idea existed. 

Liz is a strong female character, and in this story, she also meets someone she discovers is her mate. He balances her out, and they tackle everything this new life throws at them together. 

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

The ideal reader is someone who loves fantasy with a bit of romance mixed. Shifters and Fae, as well as other paranormal beings, are in this story. Anyone interested in those things would genuinely enjoy curling up with this book and drinking their favorite beverage. 

Portrait of a cougar, mountain lion, puma, panther, striking a pose on a fallen tree. Gorge of the mountain river

Share the best critique/review of your book.

“When I began reading Releasing Her Powers Within: Fae Shifters I by Madilynn Dale, I was fully ready to find a teenage protagonist coming of age, awareness, and powers. I really love that this book has more teeth than that. The protagonist, Liz, is in her twenties instead of a teenager, but that leads to a great deal of maturity and a more complete adult. For example, more adult versus coming-of-age themes are included with Liz considering a career change and clearing out her mother’s property following her death.

The book builds tension all the way through, but about the time of the panther fight in the woods and the mysterious note from “J”, the action is high! The story is racing along at this point, very fluidly, and the reader hates to veer off and pause to do anything but finish reading.The book ends in a natural pause, but the reader is left hanging wanting to know more about these dual roles that Liz now has.

I just recommended this book in a book group I am in because it’s not the typical teenage protagonist. I really like that the story focuses on adults who have started their careers, but are still finding their place in the world.” -Rachel Roy (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3525449944?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1)

What inspired you to write it?

The idea for this story came from a part of a dream I had. The characters presented themselves with an idea, and it went from there. As I began to write, the characters took over, and the story just seemed to flow. It was too good not to share. 

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

I want readers to know that it is never too late to take a leap of faith and change your life. It’s difficult and has challenges, but in the end, it is worth it if you stay the course. Liz’s life went from being an overworked woman to finding a life filled with magic and love. 

Share an excerpt from your book.

I am pulled roughly into this person’s chest upon reaching the back corner of the alley. It is solid muscle, and I realize it must be a man. I try to look up or around me to get a better look.

“Stop moving!” he yells. I feel a sharp pain and realize he is holding a knife against my neck. I hold my breath and try not to flinch. I can already feel the blade pushing into my skin. It’s cold and sends chills down my spine. 

I finally look up and hear Cam yell, “Liz!”

He runs into the end of the alley and freezes. He must be able to see us in the corner. I don’t know how he can see us, but I am incredibly thankful. The man grips my arm tighter but thankfully does not move the blade any closer. 

“Hey man, don’t hurt her. Whatever you want, we’ll give it to you. Just let her go.”

“Stay where you are, or I will hurt her. I want both of your wallets and whatever valuables you have. If you move, this knife will go into her throat.”

I feel him push it into my throat more. I feel a small cut open up, and blood slowly trickles down my throat. I feel the warmth and pain, and my mind seems to stop working. I stand in horror and feel as if this will be the last moment of my life. I don’t even flinch when the man gropes my ass. 

I look up to meet Cam’s gaze at the end of the alley as I sense some type of change in the air. It’s almost as if there is an electrical current moving through the air. I try not to whimper as the pain from my neck throbs and itches, and more blood runs down. I blink rapidly, fighting back the tears keeping Cam’s gaze, and notice a strange glow that seems to come from his eyes. He tosses his wallet at the man, and it lands a few feet away. I watch as it falls and glance back up at Cam. At that moment, the man roughly shoves me to the side, and I skid across the dirty concrete floor of the alley. 

Before the man has a chance to reach the wallet Cam tossed, he is yanked up by the collar of his shirt and shoved into the wall across from me. A loud growl comes from Cam as he begins to pummel the man with his fist. Blood droplets fly through the air, and a reverberating crunch echoes in the alley. 

Finally, what has only been a few minutes, but has felt like hours later, Cam lets the now unconscious man drop to the ground. He briefly looks at me with what seems to be golden-colored eyes that glow. He walks toward me, and it’s as if the glow fades the closer he gets. I stare in bewilderment, not comprehending what just went down. 

“Are you okay? Hey, look at me. Do you have a concussion? Here let’s put something on that cut. It doesn’t look too deep.” He quickly pulls his t-shirt over his head and presses it into my neck. He reaches down and grasps my hand placing it over the shirt. 

“Here, hold it steady. I think you’re in shock. You aren’t talking.” I am momentarily distracted by his luscious six-pack. 

“Huh?” I manage to get out as I push the shirt against my neck. 

“That’s a bit better. I’ll call the cops, and I’m going to step over here to do so. Just keep the pressure steady.”

I watch as he moves away toward the end of the alley. He seems to be just out of earshot, but I know he has called for help. He frequently glances over at me while relaying information to whatever dispatcher he is speaking to. It warms my heart but doesn’t seem to help me shake free of this stupor. I also can’t figure out why his eyes were glowing. Was that part of the shock I am experiencing? 

He comes back toward me, placing his phone back in his pocket. I watch as he stops to pick up our wallets before coming over to me. 

“Here, let’s get you up and move back toward the streetlights. I don’t like being back here right now.” 

He reaches down to help me to stand, and I let him guide me back toward the street. I love the way his arms around me feel, and it seems to help me relax a bit. 

“Thank you for saving me. I was terrified,”

(Chapter 6 An Unusual Date)

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

Honestly, no, but I hoped to find a way to publish it. It was an exciting learning experience. 

How many times were you rejected?

I think it was three. I quit waiting to hear back from others after that and started looking into self-publishing. 

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Yes. I had a lot of anxiety on top of my regular anxiety while looking. I was also still a new mom during the time, adding more stress to my stressful life. 

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take? 

I think the total time ended up being 7-8 months in the end. 

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I did a lot of writing for this book late in the evening and into the early hours of the morning. Now my writing habits are a bit different. I do a lot of writing on my son’s days in his early preschool program and when I’m not completely exhausted at night. I always have something to sip on while I write, usually water, coffee, or wine. A crunchy snack helps me focus as well. 

When I first start writing stories, I do a lot of brainstorming and use Pinterest images to begin forming my idea. I also plan out a list of characters for the story and write out their personality and other character traits. It helps me refer back to them as I am writing to keep each of the characters consistent. I also do a rough outline for how my story will play out. It doesn’t always stay on track with it because my characters take over, so I try to make it a flexible one. 

Who was your first literary crush?

This is a difficult question. I honestly can’t remember who my first literary crush was. I have read so many books over the years. One of the earliest I can remember was Stark from the House Of Night Series by P.C. Cast. 

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

I did, but I never dreamed that I could do it. My family always pushed my siblings and me to go for higher-paying jobs, and I had written off writing at one point because it didn’t bring in that much money. My husband was the one that encouraged me to give it a try and just see where it goes. I was terrified to do it, but I’m pleased I took that leap of faith. 

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne were some of the first books that got me hooked on reading. I loved their magical stories, and I hope my son does one day too. They were so fun and creative. I think that’s where my love for fantasy books originated. 

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

Yes, there have been a lot that have made me cry. So many. The last book I read that made me cry big tears was by Ivy Smoak, Empire High Betrayal. Another that gets me every time I read it is Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas. 

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

I am not sure I had one at that time in my life, but I had a crush on Stark from the House Of Night Series at that time. Maybe him?

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

Yes, to both. I like to play music and work around the house, so my plants get sang to a lot. When I am in a good mood, I sing whatever is stuck in my head while I shower. 

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I enjoy cooking. It can be relaxing and fun. I enjoy cooking pastas, baked goods, and casseroles. 

Do you have a pet?

Yes, I have five. Two dogs and three cats. Most of them are rescues, and they make life fun. 

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

Hike to the top of a mountain and kiss my husband. We could see for miles out in every direction around us, and it was peaceful. It was a quiet moment where we stood together and just looked at the large world around us and felt our love for each other as we watched the clouds move by. 

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

My husband took me to my favorite place, which is in the middle of a state park on the edge of the river that runs through there. It’s a beautiful park, Beavers Bend State park in Hochatown OK. He took me out onto this small piece of concrete that goes out into the middle of the river. I loved looking off the edge of it as a kid and watch the bass swim about and an occasional snake. We were out there looking at the cliffs across from us, and he proposed to me. It was peaceful and not over the top, which is perfect for me. I think that is one of the most romantic things he has done. He isn’t a huge romantic. 

Do you believe in love?

Absolutely. 

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.thechaptergoddess.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Madi_Dale_Write

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/madilynndalewrites/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MadilynnDaleAuthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mratdegraff91/_created/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@mdwriter?lang=en

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/madilynn-dale

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20150515.Madilynn_Dale

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Madilynn-Dale/e/B0868CGSLC?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1616000125&sr=8-2

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG8uZRvQC4o_dqwkqJy9Wgg

Book Links

Book Links: All Amazon Links

Breaking Traditions: The Shifter and The Mage: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B087TJJ5HF/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

The Fae Shifters Series

Book 1, Releasing Her Power Within: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08682JFSP/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

Book 2, Unleashed: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KGLWR1Z/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

Book 3, Revealed: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08LQNTKCD/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3

Book 4, The Blood King: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YKL5Q42/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Short Stories:

Creative Intent: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08DG9C5PV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i6

Dog Park Epiphany: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08CNML3V7/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5

New Path: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08CL57JZ5/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i7