Monthly Archives: October 2016

First Chapter Reveal – Killer Pursuit by Jeff Gunhus

Killer Pursuit banner 2

Title: KILLER PURSUIT
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller

When a high-society call girl is murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end.

Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

For More Information

Killer Pursuit is available at Amazon.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Killer Pursuit

First Chapter:

Allison McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.

The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy, flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward, twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.

And, if Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.

She hunkered down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy to have it.

Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.

“You all right?” she whispered.

He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the waistline.

“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”

Allison turned back to the cabin and raised her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that piece of fame following her around.

“Alpha team in position,” said a voice through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.

“You better be right about this,” he whispered.

Allison shook her head. For all his brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized that he was brilliant—Garret’s transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks. If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most wanted fugitive.

She pushed the thought away. As long as they caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she didn’t give a damn who got the credit.

Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.

On some signal unseen by Allison, the men began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.

“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re making me nervous.”

The two members of the tactical squad approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout, but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next victim as he traveled.

Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird. It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.

Based on the lack of movement from the tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.

“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Garret whispered.

Allison ignored him. The men around the cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the window.

One of the men produced a miniram, a high impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.

There was a pause, as if someone had pressed a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the case or not.

But in that second, she saw the movement again.

Only this time, she knew something was wrong.

It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder, she saw a coil of wire.

A mannequin arm on a spring.

Meant to make them think someone was inside.

It was a trap.

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

His latest book is the thriller, Killer Pursuit.

For More Information

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First Chapter Reveal: Girl Within Girl by S.P. Aruna

girl-within-girlTitle: Girl Within Girl: An Erotic Thriller (Book 1: Unraveling)
Author: S.P. Aruna
Publisher: BookBaby
Pages: 170
Genre: Erotic Thriller

Katrina is never alone. She is bound to others inside her, tighter than any Siamese twins could ever be: Cherry, the freewheeling photojournalist, Anisa, the covert spy-assassin, and others as yet unknown, all sharing her body and mind as she goes about her work in a psychiatric hospital. But she is starting to unravel, and her sole hope is the handsome Dr. Sean Paisley, the only one who can make her whole again.

Girl Within Girl is a dark erotic thriller that wanders through a sensual maze of mind control and torture.

For More Information

  • Girl Within Girl is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

That morning, April 11, 2016, could very well have been a turning point in my life, the morning I awoke and didn’t know where I was, and even more frightening, who I was.

In my bed, I was rising out of a foggy void that separated dreams from drowsy wakefulness, when, in a flash of alarm, I bolted upright to sit up, frantically looking around me. I could almost hear the whirring of the cogs in my head as my mind searched its recesses for the answers. My surroundings slowly focused into a scene of familiarity: my Hemnes six-drawer dresser, my Morvik wardrobe with the full-length mirror, the Gaugin print hanging on the white stucco wall just beside it; the cream-colored low-pile carpeting covering the floor up to my bathroom door, and the window to my left adorned with the lace curtains I had bought at Jack’s Second Hand Furniture.

My name is Katrina. I’m in my apartment. I think it’s a Monday.

I got out of bed and stepped over to the full-length mirror with a curious urge to examine myself. The first thing I noticed was my dirty blonde hair flowing in waves to my shoulders. With my not-too-wide forehead I have no quarrel with, but my bushy eyebrows get away from being too distracting only because of the fair hair. My eyes though, I hate them, cold and grey, even spooky, making me look away for a moment.

But then I had to look again. My sharp nose, like a bird’s beak, pointed at me from the reflection. Nondescript lips told me that I was plain. My pointed chin only bolstered that impression.

Yet my body wasn’t too bad: softly sloping shoulders, my breasts the shape of delicate bowls, a waist that flared into wide hips, and legs that were shaped into long perfect curves. And why shouldn’t my body be so ideal, after all I’m only…I’m only…shit…twenty-three…twenty-four?

My surname is Novak. In Czech that means, “The New One.” That’s what somebody told me once.

I turned abruptly and went into my kitchenette, hoping that a cup of coffee could bring me to a more functional state. While brewing it, I fell into an instinctual routine mode, somehow intuiting that I had to be at work by nine.

I’m a nurse at a psychiatric hospital.

That’s not exactly a pleasant job, I agree. Even the building I work in, the Gottlieb Memorial Institute, is spooky in its Gothic, horror castle type architecture: roughly hewn grey stone capped by roofs that slanted at ridiculously sharp angles; and yes, I mean more than one roof, each corner having its own tower-like extension melding into the main one, each pointing like spikes into the sky. Inside is not much better; with the reception room painted a drab grey, and the corridors leading to those unfortunate souls interned within enveloped in white ceramic tile and neon strip lights. The place was noisy as well: shrieks and moans always serving as a background clamor which we staff regularly ignored. But still, I like my job because it fills me with the satisfaction that I’m doing something meaningful.

Entering the hospital, I faced the day with stoic acquiescence.

Sometime in the afternoon, at the nurse’s station on the third floor, I encountered Dr. Babcock. Tall, balding, a long face highlighted by a pencil thin silver mustache, his scholarly spectacles giving him a fatherly look, his lips severe, I felt an inexplicable attraction to him, as if pleasing him was a priority. “Yes, Dr. Babcock?”

“I think it’s time we transfer Mrs. Wheaton to the Sleep Room.”

“Yes Doctor.”

If there was a place in the hospital that I loathed more than the Electro-Shock Room, it was the Sleep Room, and as I wheeled Mrs. Wheaton, already out of it to the point of drooling, her head rocking back and forth with every slight turn of the gurney, an icy shudder zipped through me. With one hand on the gurney, I opened the door. Inside were eight other patients, comatose as zombies, some having been unconscious for three months or more. After depositing her there, I spent the rest of the day engaged in my usual duties of administering drugs, taking care of bedpans. and shuffling patients to and fro.

But then, while I was in the female staff dressing room, something strange happened to me. I lost track of time and felt myself a participant inside a sexual fantasy. I was naked upon a bed… my breasts were tingling as if they had just been bitten and suckled, and a hairy brute of a man was looming over me, snarling and growling and even shouting at me, and I could feel a pleasurable hammering in the middle of my body, and even though it hurt, it was giving me an incomparable gratification. A sharp sensation pierced me, stole my breath, and caused me to wake up gasping, where I found myself back in the hospital changing room, my loins embarrassingly moist.

“Tough day, I bet,” said one of the nurses who was also coming off-shift, a bleach-blonde called Sheila.

I was ashamed to be so discombobulated in front of her, so my only response was, “Yeah.” I really didn’t want to talk to her. In fact, I hardly ever want to talk to anybody.

People describe me as distant, shy, aloof… I am what I am: a cautious, sensitive person who avoids contact with others at all costs. I don’t know what made me so; I just accept my nature as it is.

“So where were you last week?” she asked.

Where was I? Wasn’t I here?

“At St. Lukes?” she proposed. “I heard that you rotate between here and there.”

Do I? “Yes, St. Luke’s’,” I said, only because I didn’t want to prolong the conversation.

After that, I made haste to get dressed, anxious to head back home. Before I left, though, I checked my duty roster from last week. There was nothing unusual about it – it documented that I was here. Silly woman must have been confused.

Back in my apartment, I was still disturbed by these events. First, that strange reverie I had, so sudden, so unexpected…and yet, it was somehow familiar. Pain and pleasure, a sweet feeling of submission, a breath-taking fascination at being dominated…now where did that come from? And Sheila’s impression that I had been absent last week was disturbing to say the least, and that too still continued to hound me.

After a shower and a chamomile tea, I finally felt relaxed. Then the phone rang. The only phone in the apartment is on the wall of my kitchenette, where fortunately I was sitting nearby at the foldable metal card table. I got up and reached for the receiver. “Hello?”

“Tick-tock… tick-tock… tick-tock.”

About the Author

s-p-aruna

Half French, half Khmer (Cambodian), I’m a woman whose head is filled with fantasies and intriguing stories, and who wants to share them with others.

S.P. Aruna’s latest book is the erotic thriller, Girl Within Girl: An Erotic Thriller: Book 1: Unraveling.

Visit the author on Facebook.

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First Chapter Reveal: Killer Pursuit by Jeff Gunhus

Killer Pursuit banner 2

Title: KILLER PURSUIT
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller

When a high-society call girl is murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end.

Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

For More Information

Killer Pursuit is available at Amazon.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Killer Pursuit

First Chapter:

Allison McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.

The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy, flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward, twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.

And, if Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.

She hunkered down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy to have it.

Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.

“You all right?” she whispered.

He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the waistline.

“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”

Allison turned back to the cabin and raised her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that piece of fame following her around.

“Alpha team in position,” said a voice through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.

“You better be right about this,” he whispered.

Allison shook her head. For all his brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized that he was brilliant—Garret’s transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks. If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most wanted fugitive.

She pushed the thought away. As long as they caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she didn’t give a damn who got the credit.

Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.

On some signal unseen by Allison, the men began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.

“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re making me nervous.”

The two members of the tactical squad approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout, but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next victim as he traveled.

Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird. It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.

Based on the lack of movement from the tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.

“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Garret whispered.

Allison ignored him. The men around the cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the window.

One of the men produced a miniram, a high impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.

There was a pause, as if someone had pressed a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the case or not.

But in that second, she saw the movement again.

Only this time, she knew something was wrong.

It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder, she saw a coil of wire.

A mannequin arm on a spring.

Meant to make them think someone was inside.

It was a trap.

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

His latest book is the thriller, Killer Pursuit.

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John Sibley Williams Talks About Newest Book, Disinheritance

john-sibley-williamsJohn Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Our guest today is John Sibley Williams, author of the new poetry collection Disinheritance.

What made you decide to become a published author?

I’m lucky to have been passionate about books since childhood. Perhaps it’s in part due to my mother reading novel after novel over her pregnant belly every day. Perhaps it’s in part due to my own restlessness, my need to make things, and my love of words. But I began writing short stories in middle school, and I continued in that genre until my early twenties. A handful of those stories found publication in literary magazines, which was eye-opening and oddly humbling.

I was 21 when I wrote my first poem. Before that, I had never enjoyed reading poetry and had certainly never considered writing one. It was summer in New York and I was sitting by a lake with my feet dragging through the current caused by small boats when suddenly, without my knowing what I was doing, I began writing something that obviously wasn’t a story. What was it? Impressions. disinheritanceColors. Emotions. Strange images. I didn’t have any paper, so I used a marker to write a series of phrases on my arm. Then they poured onto my leg. Then I realized I needed paper. I ran back to the car, took out a little notebook, and spent hours emptying myself of visions and fears and joys I don’t think I even knew I had. That was 17 years ago. Since that surreal and confusing moment by that little city lake, I’ve written poetry almost every day.

Would you consider your latest book, Disinheritance, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

Well, I suppose every book is one of a kind. But in my case, Disinheritance is a bit different than my previous collections. Most of my work is not overly narrative or overly personal, so it was an exciting challenge to write from a part of my heart still raw and healing.

Disinheritance is a collection of tender, lyrical poems exploring the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead. These poems acknowledge loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. Though many are based on personal experiences, the poems speak to larger, universal human concerns about how to approach mortality and what role we play in each other’s’ lives.

Although I’m sure countless other poets have written on similar themes, Disinheritance is definitely unique to my own body of work.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I don’t really have a specific location or time of day. Ideas and phrases and images emerge at the oddest times, so I’ve taken to carrying a pocket notebook everywhere I go. During my daily work commute. In the hospital visiting an ailing friend. While walking my dog. Even in the middle of a live concert or film. Though I tend to write best when outside, inspiration can come from anything. At its core, I think creativity is all about curiosity and how one chooses to communicate with the world. As adults, we’re programmed to think linearly, reactively, and, dare I say it, boringly. But if we retain a bit of that childhood innocence, that unabated curiosity, then we can find metaphors in everything. Why look at the night sky and think “sky, moon, stars”? Why can’t the sky be a river? Why can’t the stars be that part of our hearts we leave open to love?

My process (and my “sanctuary”) is a bit different with every poem. Some pour forth as if on their own, leaving me the easier task of revising for sound and clarity. Other poems take serious effort, time, and struggle. But generally my approach is to have one or two notebooks filled with phrases and images splayed out before me. Whenever I feel stuck, I reread my old notes and see if any fit the poem I’m working on. Interestingly, that approach tends to yield results that even surprise me.

What inspires you?

Not to sound coy, but I believe everything is a storehouse of inspiration. It all depends on the author’s curiosity and on retaining an open mind. From other books and current events, from overheard conversations and history, from memories and mythology and the way a bridge sways against the sky and my son’s hand brushing against mine. And I’m heavily inspired by the landscape itself, from weather patterns and bridges and rivers and animals and cityscapes. And sometimes ideas seem to materialize from the ether, as if they never existed until that moment.

But I think most of my ideas stem from how things interact with other things. Be it people in love or coyotes sniffing a deer carcass or clouds darkening the sky or trains shooting through the night, warming the rails. The effects one thing has on every other thing are astounding, ever-changing, and so very inspiring.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

Although it’s not a new lesson as I’ve been writing for decades, still I am always surprised and enthused by the reactions readers have when first encountering a poem that speaks to them. We have all read poems or novels that truly moved us, that made us reconsider ourselves, that illuminated the beauty and power of language. It has been indescribably rewarding to know my work has touched others in that way. When a total stranger who perhaps stumbled across your book or had it recommended to her contacts you out of the blue to say how much it inspired her, that is a potent feeling. When you’re giving a reading and you can see that glow in the audience’s eyes, that is unforgettable. Even after around 50 or so readings across the country, I am touched every single time someone goes out of their way to express their thoughts on my work. That’s what it’s all about. Trying to use language that lifts up off the page and resonates with people.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Disinheritance was inspired by a few pivotal moments that occurred within a few months of each other, namely the illness and passing of my mother, a terrible miscarriage, and my wife and I’s struggles to move forward and redefine the landscape of “family”. To explore grief more fully, I adopted the voice of our miscarried child, along with the hypothetical boy he might have grown up to be. I adopted my mother’s voice and my father’s and my wife’s and my own.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I sort of feel like I’m always writing. Even when at work, when driving, hiking, reading, listening to music. Inspiration can come from anything, so wherever I go I carry a pocket notebook and pen, just in case. But apart from writing, most of my time these days is spent raising my wife and I’s newborn twins. Fatherhood is a full time job, as is writing, so my various other passions have taken a back seat for the time being. Before that, I spent most of my non-writing time reading, watching films, exploring the gorgeous mountains and rivers and deserts of Oregon, and supporting my local literary scene by attending various readings and literary conferences.

What’s next for you?

I have just completed a new book, Skin Memory, which I’m currently pitching to publishers and submitting to book awards. Skin Memory is a collection of free verse and prose poems that tackle some of the same themes in Disinheritance, including family, grief, and American culture, while adding a slightly harder edge, risking a bit more personally and creatively, and exploring in a deeper way those fears and joys that haunt me.

 

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First Chapter Reveal: On Top of the World (Until the Bell Chimes)

on-top-of-the-worldTitle: ON TOP OF THE WORLD (UNTIL THE BELL CHIMES)
Author: David Lamb
Publisher: Woolly Mammoth Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary Romance/Multicultural/Humor/Satire

2016 BEST FICTION-Pacific Book Awards. FROM THE FUNNY AND NATURALLY BRILLIANT DAVID LAMB, award-winning playwright of the New York Times celebrated play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, comes a modern spin on Dickens’ classic tale that perfectly combines humor and romance in a story re-imagined for our digital, consumerist age. This version of Scrooge and Belle is familiar, yet unlike any you’ve come across before. Scrooge, or rather Scrooje, is music’s biggest superstar, with one hundred million albums sold, fifteen million devoted YouTube subscribers, two and a half million Facebook likes, and twenty-five million fanatical Twitter followers known as Scroojites. Belle, is a legal shark who gulps down her opposition voraciously and whose beauty and stunning figure causes traffic accidents as she zips through the sidewalks of Manhattan stylishly adorned and taking no prisoners. They never imagined being music’s most powerful couple, but that’s exactly what happened when Belle fell head over heels and gave the Coke-bottle glasses wearing, plaid and stripe attired, scrawny, biggest nerd on her college campus the ultimate makeover, turning him into a fashion impresario whose style sets trends from Milan to NY Fashion Week and who can be seen courtside at the NBA Finals sporting a perfectly-fitted cashmere suit. Then it happens. Belle realizes too late that she’s created a chart-topping monster as Scrooje’s ego explodes and he starts acting a fool. Now, it’s been three years since they ve spoken. But tonight at Hollywood s biggest red carpet event, with the whole world watching, they’ll be given a second chance. Will Scrooje listen to the ghostly-advice of Marley, his best friend since the fourth grade, who at the time of his untimely drowning at his Brazilian poolside birthday bash was as big a star as Scrooje? Will Scrooje finally do right by his number one artist, Cratchit, a genius comedian, who Scrooje invariably rip offs every chance he gets? And with twenty-five million viewers tuned in will Scrooje finally shed his ego, jeopardize his image and declare his love for Belle, the one he betrayed and let slip away? Second chances don’t often come around. Will Belle even give him a chance? Mixing heart, soul, bling and romance in a fresh, original satire about race, class and celebrity worship Lamb establishes himself as one of the most talented and amazing writers today. And leaves no doubt that the Pacific Book Awards chose wisely when they selected On Top Of The World as the year’s Best Fiction.

Purchase Information:

Amazon | iTunes | B&N

First Chapter:

Life’s a Beach; I’m just playing in the sand. I had to thank Lil Wayne for that one. It was my motto. I had it inscribed on the door of my office underneath my crown.

Why did I have a crown?

Because I’m musical royalty. That’s why I’d insisted the government carve my face on Mt. Rushmore. People said I was crazy spending $5 million suing to make it happen. But hey, a king must get his due.

Look, I know the Revolution of 1776 liberated America from the grip of kings. But I was a new kind of king, one who’d created an empire no poor boy had any business ever dreaming of. Yes, Fitty netted $100 million when Coca-Cola gobbled up Vitaminwater, whoop-de-damn-do. And yes, Jigga sold Rocawear to Iconix for $204 million, big damn deal. Peanuts. I had my eyes on the man Forbes proclaimed the richest human being who ever walked the earth—my own handsome ancestor (and one day, DNA tests will prove this), Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali whose face adorns history’s most famous map, the Catalan Atlas, where he’s pictured seated regally and holding a big-ass gold nugget. The man Forbes estimated to be worth $400 billion.

Now, this wasn’t to say my wealth was in Mansa Musa’s neighborhood (truth be told, I was still trying to reach Diddy’s financial zip code), but no one could deny what I’d achieved. Musical royalty; forty million albums sold; a $100 million concert tour; the hottest-selling clothing lines; and my sneaker sales were on the road to making Air Jordan’s look like chump change.

This was my destiny.

From the moment of my birth, I was enamored with my own distinction. How do you think I was so motivated to beat those millions of others racing for the prize? I guess the blame for what some deride as my massive ego goes to the boisterous celebrations sweeping the country the year I was born. Two hundred and some odd years after the Thirteen Colonies declared independence; I happily broke free from nine months of solitary confinement in my mother’s belly. It was 1984, and once I escaped, I couldn’t wait to get the party started. From the first slap on my bare behind to my first scream that soon followed, I absorbed America’s Olympic celebrations like a sponge. I decided right then and there I wanted my name to live forever.

Okay, so that sounds a little much, but just imagine if you’d grown up a little Black boy named after a Charles Dickens’ character. Your ego might be a little warped, too.

So please, before you judge, hear the whole story. Before I was headlining concerts, people had no idea how to pronounce my name; and even today, most believe it’s my nom de plume, completely unaware that it’s my family’s legacy, the result of an overseer’s bitter attempt at vengeance. How else could I end up with a name like “Scrooʝe?”

Yes, today Dickens is one of the world’s most beloved writers. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1840s, a young Charles Dickens decided to, as the English say, “take a trip across the pond” to see what life was like in America.

When he published his travel memoir, American Notes, nine months later, the excrement hit the fan.

Dickens had unmasked the brutality of what the good folks of the South called “the peculiar institution,” thereby helping spur Britain’s expansion of abolition with the passing of the Indian Slavery Act of 1843, and pissing off slaveholders that Dickens had opened his big fat mouth in the first place.

As fate would have it, in this overheated atmosphere, my great-great-great-grandfather was born on a plantation run by Virginia’s cruelest overseer. Who, according to the family history my grandma passed down to me, was so angry when he learned Dickens had printed one of his runaway slave ads in American Notes, that his face turned red as an apple while he cursed like a sailor. He then promptly ordered “ten Nigras whipped” because Dickens had the gall not to recognize how kind such a fine gentlemen as himself was to the slaves. Not one to take insults lightly, the overseer started a petition to have Dickens’ books banned from the States then tried to sue him for libel. A year and a half later, after having failed on both fronts, he vowed to extract his revenge by naming the next slave born on the plantation after Ebenezer Scrooge. And just to be sure to pour a little extra salt on the wound, he decided to change the order of the names because as he said, “Nigras get everything ass backwards.”

So that was how my great-great-great-grandfather came to be named Scrooge Ebenezer.

Miraculously, despite enduring indescribable brutality on the plantation, Scrooge Ebenezer ultimately triumphed. During Reconstruction, he became one of the first Black congressmen. Since that time, all of his male descendants have been named “Scrooge.” As the decades passed and times changed, my father decided to give the spelling some Ebonics flair.

Now you have to understand, my father (in his youth) had been the embodiment of cool, so much so that he’d once run a marathon at high noon in August in Arizona—without so much as breaking a sweat, all while delivering up-to-the-minute analysis of the race as he ran. Naturally, a man whose magnetism was so strong that college debutantes patiently waited in line to ask to be his high school prom date, wanted to bestow some of his overflowing charisma on his firstborn son. So when Dad came up with his Ebonics-inspired translation, he proudly proclaimed: “Now if that ain’t cool, I don’t know what is.”

Unfortunately for me, it was the first time in my father’s life his cool barometer was off. All of the fallout from Dad’s ill-timed miscalculation fell upon my scrawny shoulders (or more accurately, upon my young ears). On a daily basis, my classmates took unbridled delight in twisting my name into unflattering caricatures.

“Screwed-yuh,” was at the top of the list, but there were plenty of others. “Screw-gee poop” and “Scrooʝenezer” were popular. But “Ebonsneezer” was the hardest to shake because it had a revival every allergy season when I would have sneezing fits so loud and powerful, I felt like I could blow the windows off their hinges. Even my teachers, who weren’t trying to make fun of me, struggled with the pronunciation, mangling my name so many times I lost track. I would cringe every time Mr. Manigold came to my name when he checked attendance. “Scroogie Ebon-eye-zer” was the closest he ever came to getting it right, and that was only after a half-dozen other mess-ups.

As a little boy, I’d lie awake wondering why my father couldn’t have just kept the original spelling. I promised myself that if it were my destiny to be named after a Victorian character then one day the whole world would know my name.

I kept my promise.

Wish my pops were here to see what I’ve done. Sometimes onstage—even with twenty-two thousand people screaming my name—I’d feel all alone and retreat inside the music, letting the rhythmic bass lines invade my soul until I was one with it. Then everything would stop, and I could sense my heart pulsating on the downbeat. I’d close my eyes and imagine I was three years old again, laughing as my father spun me in the air, telling me I could achieve anything.

And it felt beautiful.

About the Author

david-lamb

David Lamb is a native New Yorker, born and raised, bitten with the writing bug since he was in elementary school and had handwriting nobody could decipher. Like Charles Dickens, David grew up a poor boy in the big city who found that the pen really is mightier than the sword. In middle school Lamb’s hero was David Lampel whose velvet voice could be heard reporting the news over David’s grandmother’s radio. Whenever he heard him on the radio, David would substitute Lamb for Lampel and pretend he was delivering the news. Sure that he was destined to be a famous reporter David was happy to go to a high school with a journalism program. Like most kids, by the time he finished high school he had a whole new career in mind. After high school he went to Hunter College and majored in Economics because he wanted to be cool like that college kid who came to speak at his last year of high school. He was an Economics major, he was dressed sharp and above-all the girls thought he was the man! So like any unreasonable high school boy fueled by overactive hormones David figured if he majored in Economics they’d think he was cool. After finishing college David went on to law school at NYU, but all the time writing was still his heart. While working as a lawyer by day, at night he transformed into a writer and eventually wrote and produced the award-winning hit off-Broadway romantic comedy Platanos Y Collard Greens. Being a writer and having the chance make people laugh out loud while challenging them to think about the world around them, and inspire each of us to believe in the power of love and our own ability to overcome life’s challenges is a great gift that David truly enjoys and thanks you for allowing him to share with you in On Top Of The World (Until The Bell Chimes).

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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First Chapter Reveal: On Top of the World by David Lamb

on-top-of-the-worldTitle: ON TOP OF THE WORLD (UNTIL THE BELL CHIMES)
Author: David Lamb
Publisher: Woolly Mammoth Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary Romance/Multicultural/Humor/Satire

2016 BEST FICTION-Pacific Book Awards. FROM THE FUNNY AND NATURALLY BRILLIANT DAVID LAMB, award-winning playwright of the New York Times celebrated play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, comes a modern spin on Dickens’ classic tale that perfectly combines humor and romance in a story re-imagined for our digital, consumerist age.  This version of Scrooge and Belle is familiar, yet unlike any you’ve come across before. Scrooge, or rather Scrooje, is music’s biggest superstar, with one hundred million albums sold, fifteen million devoted YouTube subscribers, two and a half million Facebook likes, and twenty-five million fanatical Twitter followers known as Scroojites. Belle, is a legal shark who gulps down her opposition voraciously and whose beauty and stunning figure causes traffic accidents as she zips through the sidewalks of Manhattan stylishly adorned and taking no prisoners.   They never imagined being music’s most powerful couple, but that’s exactly what happened when Belle fell head over heels and gave the Coke-bottle glasses wearing, plaid and stripe attired, scrawny, biggest nerd on her college campus the ultimate makeover, turning him into a fashion impresario whose style sets trends from Milan to NY Fashion Week and who can be seen courtside at the NBA Finals sporting a perfectly-fitted cashmere suit.   Then it happens. Belle realizes too late that she’s created a chart-topping monster as Scrooje’s ego explodes and he starts acting a fool.   Now, it’s been three years since they ve spoken. But tonight at Hollywood s biggest red carpet event, with the whole world watching, they’ll be given a second chance.   Will Scrooje listen to the ghostly-advice of Marley, his best friend since the fourth grade, who at the time of his untimely drowning at his Brazilian poolside birthday bash was as big a star as Scrooje? Will Scrooje finally do right by his number one artist, Cratchit, a genius comedian, who Scrooje invariably rip offs every chance he gets?   And with twenty-five million viewers tuned in will Scrooje finally shed his ego, jeopardize his image and declare his love for Belle, the one he betrayed and let slip away?   Second chances don’t often come around. Will Belle even give him a chance?   Mixing heart, soul, bling and romance in a fresh, original satire about race, class and celebrity worship Lamb establishes himself as one of the most talented and amazing writers today. And leaves no doubt that the Pacific Book Awards chose wisely when they selected On Top Of The World as the year’s Best Fiction.

Purchase Information: Amazon | iTunes | B&N

First Chapter:

Life’s a Beach; I’m just playing in the sand. I had to thank Lil Wayne for that one. It was my motto. I had it inscribed on the door of my office underneath my crown.

Why did I have a crown?

Because I’m musical royalty. That’s why I’d insisted the government carve my face on Mt. Rushmore. People said I was crazy spending $5 million suing to make it happen. But hey, a king must get his due.

Look, I know the Revolution of 1776 liberated America from the grip of kings. But I was a new kind of king, one who’d created an empire no poor boy had any business ever dreaming of. Yes, Fitty netted $100 million when Coca-Cola gobbled up Vitaminwater, whoop-de-damn-do. And yes, Jigga sold Rocawear to Iconix for $204 million, big damn deal. Peanuts. I had my eyes on the man Forbes proclaimed the richest human being who ever walked the earth—my own handsome ancestor (and one day, DNA tests will prove this), Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali whose face adorns history’s most famous map, the Catalan Atlas, where he’s pictured seated regally and holding a big-ass gold nugget. The man Forbes estimated to be worth $400 billion.

Now, this wasn’t to say my wealth was in Mansa Musa’s neighborhood (truth be told, I was still trying to reach Diddy’s financial zip code), but no one could deny what I’d achieved. Musical royalty; forty million albums sold; a $100 million concert tour; the hottest-selling clothing lines; and my sneaker sales were on the road to making Air Jordan’s look like chump change.

This was my destiny.

From the moment of my birth, I was enamored with my own distinction. How do you think I was so motivated to beat those millions of others racing for the prize? I guess the blame for what some deride as my massive ego goes to the boisterous celebrations sweeping the country the year I was born. Two hundred and some odd years after the Thirteen Colonies declared independence; I happily broke free from nine months of solitary confinement in my mother’s belly. It was 1984, and once I escaped, I couldn’t wait to get the party started. From the first slap on my bare behind to my first scream that soon followed, I absorbed America’s Olympic celebrations like a sponge. I decided right then and there I wanted my name to live forever.

Okay, so that sounds a little much, but just imagine if you’d grown up a little Black boy named after a Charles Dickens’ character. Your ego might be a little warped, too.

So please, before you judge, hear the whole story. Before I was headlining concerts, people had no idea how to pronounce my name; and even today, most believe it’s my nom de plume, completely unaware that it’s my family’s legacy, the result of an overseer’s bitter attempt at vengeance. How else could I end up with a name like “Scrooʝe?”

Yes, today Dickens is one of the world’s most beloved writers. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1840s, a young Charles Dickens decided to, as the English say, “take a trip across the pond” to see what life was like in America.

When he published his travel memoir, American Notes, nine months later, the excrement hit the fan.

Dickens had unmasked the brutality of what the good folks of the South called “the peculiar institution,” thereby helping spur Britain’s expansion of abolition with the passing of the Indian Slavery Act of 1843, and pissing off slaveholders that Dickens had opened his big fat mouth in the first place.

As fate would have it, in this overheated atmosphere, my great-great-great-grandfather was born on a plantation run by Virginia’s cruelest overseer. Who, according to the family history my grandma passed down to me, was so angry when he learned Dickens had printed one of his runaway slave ads in American Notes, that his face turned red as an apple while he cursed like a sailor. He then promptly ordered “ten Nigras whipped” because Dickens had the gall not to recognize how kind such a fine gentlemen as himself was to the slaves. Not one to take insults lightly, the overseer started a petition to have Dickens’ books banned from the States then tried to sue him for libel. A year and a half later, after having failed on both fronts, he vowed to extract his revenge by naming the next slave born on the plantation after Ebenezer Scrooge. And just to be sure to pour a little extra salt on the wound, he decided to change the order of the names because as he said, “Nigras get everything ass backwards.”

So that was how my great-great-great-grandfather came to be named Scrooge Ebenezer.

Miraculously, despite enduring indescribable brutality on the plantation, Scrooge Ebenezer ultimately triumphed. During Reconstruction, he became one of the first Black congressmen. Since that time, all of his male descendants have been named “Scrooge.” As the decades passed and times changed, my father decided to give the spelling some Ebonics flair.

Now you have to understand, my father (in his youth) had been the embodiment of cool, so much so that he’d once run a marathon at high noon in August in Arizona—without so much as breaking a sweat, all while delivering up-to-the-minute analysis of the race as he ran. Naturally, a man whose magnetism was so strong that college debutantes patiently waited in line to ask to be his high school prom date, wanted to bestow some of his overflowing charisma on his firstborn son. So when Dad came up with his Ebonics-inspired translation, he proudly proclaimed: “Now if that ain’t cool, I don’t know what is.”

Unfortunately for me, it was the first time in my father’s life his cool barometer was off. All of the fallout from Dad’s ill-timed miscalculation fell upon my scrawny shoulders (or more accurately, upon my young ears). On a daily basis, my classmates took unbridled delight in twisting my name into unflattering caricatures.

“Screwed-yuh,” was at the top of the list, but there were plenty of others. “Screw-gee poop” and “Scrooʝenezer” were popular. But “Ebonsneezer” was the hardest to shake because it had a revival every allergy season when I would have sneezing fits so loud and powerful, I felt like I could blow the windows off their hinges. Even my teachers, who weren’t trying to make fun of me, struggled with the pronunciation, mangling my name so many times I lost track. I would cringe every time Mr. Manigold came to my name when he checked attendance. “Scroogie Ebon-eye-zer” was the closest he ever came to getting it right, and that was only after a half-dozen other mess-ups.

As a little boy, I’d lie awake wondering why my father couldn’t have just kept the original spelling. I promised myself that if it were my destiny to be named after a Victorian character then one day the whole world would know my name.

I kept my promise.

Wish my pops were here to see what I’ve done. Sometimes onstage—even with twenty-two thousand people screaming my name—I’d feel all alone and retreat inside the music, letting the rhythmic bass lines invade my soul until I was one with it. Then everything would stop, and I could sense my heart pulsating on the downbeat. I’d close my eyes and imagine I was three years old again, laughing as my father spun me in the air, telling me I could achieve anything.

And it felt beautiful.

About the Author

David Lamb is a native New Yorker, born and raised, bitten with the writing bug since he was in elementary school and had handwriting nobody could decipher. Like Charles Dickens, David grew up a poor boy in the big city who found that the pen really is mightier than the sword. In middle school Lamb’s hero was David Lampel whose velvet voice could be heard reporting the news over david-lambDavid’s grandmother’s radio. Whenever he heard him on the radio, David would substitute Lamb for Lampel and pretend he was delivering the news. Sure that he was destined to be a famous reporter David was happy to go to a high school with a journalism program. Like most kids, by the time he finished high school he had a whole new career in mind. After high school he went to Hunter College and majored in Economics because he wanted to be cool like that college kid who came to speak at his last year of high school. He was an Economics major, he was dressed sharp and above-all the girls thought he was the man! So like any unreasonable high school boy fueled by overactive hormones David figured if he majored in Economics they’d think he was cool. After finishing college David went on to law school at NYU, but all the time writing was still his heart. While working as a lawyer by day, at night he transformed into a writer and eventually wrote and produced the award-winning hit off-Broadway romantic comedy Platanos Y Collard Greens. Being a writer and having the chance make people laugh out loud while challenging them to think about the world around them, and inspire each of us to believe in the power of love and our own ability to overcome life’s challenges is a great gift that David truly enjoys and thanks you for allowing him to share with you in On Top Of The World (Until The Bell Chimes).

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

 

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A Bookish Conversation with Mark Connelly, author of ‘Wanna-be’s’

mark-connellyMark Connelly was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey.  He received a BA in English from Carroll College in Wisconsin and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  His books include The Diminished Self: Orwell and the Loss of Freedom, Orwell and Gissing, Deadly Closets:  The Fiction of Charles Jackson, and The IRA on Film and Television.  His fiction has appeared in The Ledge, Indiana Review, Cream City Review, Milwaukee Magazine, and Home Planet News.  In 2014 he received an Editor’s Choice Award in The Carve’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest; in 2015 he received Third Place in Red Savina Review’s Albert Camus Prize for Short Fiction. His novella Fifteen Minutes received the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in 2005.

Mark’s latest book is the literary fiction/humor/satire, Wanna-be’s.

Connect with Mark on Facebook and Twitter.

What made you decide to become a published author?

I began writing in high school and have published a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I write both for myself and as a teacher and scholar.  I enjoy sharing my thoughts, observations, and experiences.  A day without writing is a day wasted.

Would you consider your latest book, Wanna-be’s, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

Definitely.  I created a man of our times, Winfield Payton, as an aspirational figure bumbling through a series of politically-incorrect misadventures.  We live in a world of wanna-be’s who appear on reality shows, post selfies, and pontificate on YouTube.  Winfield is wanna-bestrying to hustle his way to fame and wealth, sleeping with a cougar to secure investment capital, pretending to be a mobster to influence African investors, and playing dumb when things get too tough.  I think people will see a lot of themselves in Winfield if they are honest.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

My second-floor study in a converted brewery.  The walls are three feet thick, so I never hear the traffic.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Assume he or she will be recognized as a genius.  A book is a work of art when you write it.  It is a work of art when someone reads it.  In between it is a commodity that has to be realistically marketed and sold.  Don’t expect to be seen as the next James Joyce or the next J. K. Rowling.  Approach a publisher with a target audience in mind.  Try to establish credibility by getting parts of it published.  Enter contests to win awards.  Even honorable mentions demonstrate that people see merit in your work.

What inspires you?

Great books, good ideas, and the unexpected charm, wit, and insight of everyday people.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

The week after Wanna-be’s appeared on Amazon, I got a five-star review that promoted the book better than I ever could.  The reviewer said Wanna-be’s could be an HBO series, and that’s how I conceived it –  with each chapter being a self-contained episode.

Why do you love to write satire?

I have a slow mind.  I can never come up with the perfect thing to say off the top of my head.  I have to draft and revise my quips and comebacks.  So I take all the affronts and failures of daily life, exaggerate them, and create characters who can say all the things I wish I could.  I also love to criticize, expose, and poke fun at the hypocrisy and idiocy of the talking heads I see on cable television.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book.  What’s the first ingredient?

A compelling character

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

Dr. Veraswami bears the name of a character in George Orwell’s first novel Burmese Days.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

I briefly worked as the sole white employee of a black contracting company. So like Winfield, I was a “chicklet” or token white who would go “undercover” when needed to meet potential clients, vendors, and investors without tipping them off the company was minority owned.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

Travel

What’s next for you?

More books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I write for work and write for fun, so something is always on my desk needing attention.  My most important project is a novel called Newman’s Choice.  Three chapters have already been published, so I am anxious to finish it.

 

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First Chapter Reveal: Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

Friend of the DevilTitle: Friend of the Devil
Author: Mark Spivak
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Pages: 325
Genre: Culinary Thriller

In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, sold his soul to the Devil to achieve culinary greatness. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

For More Information

Chapter One:

“The man’s here.”

The old Black woman delivered her pronouncement into the darkness of a back room—half in amusement, half in disgust. She then walked back across the front room of the cabin, her feet creaking on the wooden floor, to the place where the young man sat. A pot-bellied stove, streaked with soot, crackled in the opposite corner.

“He be wit you in a minute.”

“Thank you.”

The white youth seemed strangely comfortable in this shack outside Clarksdale in rural Mississippi. The year was 1947, at the height of Jim Crow, at a time when the races never mingled.

The young man had concocted an elaborate cover story and, with the confidence of his age, he believed he could explain himself if the wrong people found him here.

“What you say your name is?” the woman asked.

“Joseph.”

The woman laughed. “You a crazy-assed white boy, Joseph.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied in a deep baritone, guttural and booming. “That may well be.”

The old Black man shuffled out of the back room, moving slowly and deliberately. He was clad in overalls, and his silver hair framed a deeply lined and creased face. He glanced at Joseph and shook his head.

“Let’s go out on the porch, boy.”

They walked outside to the dilapidated wooden deck surrounding the front of the shack, and the old man settled in a rocking chair. He motioned for Joseph to sit beside him and regarded him with the same amusement his wife had displayed.

“You a long way from home, ain’t you?”

“I don’t really have a home, sir.”

“Everybody got a home.” The old man chuckled. “Some folks just don’t know where it is.”

“Maybe so.” Joseph shifted in his chair as he listened to the night sounds coming from the distance: crickets, the far-off howl of wolves, wind rustling the trees. Highway 61 and Highway 49 were out there, intersecting at the Crossroads. “So tell me, did you know Robert Johnson?”

“Heard him sing once or twice, but that was a long time ago.”

“What was he like?”

“Crazy-assed, like you.” The old man chuckled again. “Knew his time was short, and couldn’t be bothered.”

“Go on.”

“Played the gittar pretty good. But it was that voice.” The old man paused. “It stuck witchoo. Couldn’t git it outta your head. It wasn’t pretty.” He shook his head. “Naw. Wasn’t pretty. Not at all.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

Joseph had heard the voice, listening to scratchy old records on a friend’s Victrola. They were the only known recordings of Robert Johnson, the studio sessions done a few years before his death. The old man was right. The voice was plaintive and haunting, something you would always remember once you heard it. “That must have been amazing—hearing him in person.”

“Wasn’t no fun, to tell you true. After the first couple times, I never went back.” He shook his head again. “Seems to me that life is hard enough sometimes without lookin’ for his kinda problems.”

“Probably so.”

The old man looked at Joseph closely. “What you need that kinda trouble for, boy?”

“I want to be a success. I want to leave my mark on the world.”

“Where’s your gittar?”

“I don’t play, sir. That’s not what this is about. I want to be somebody.” Joseph paused. “I’m not sure what I want to do. I’ve done some kitchen work, and I like it. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll open a restaurant someday.”

“Shoot!” The old man exploded in laughter. “You want to open a restaurant, boy, you don’t need to be goin’ out there in the dead of night, lookin’ for trouble. Just fry yourself up a mess of chicken and be done with it.”

“Sure,” said Joseph, laughing in spite of himself.

There was a long silence, and the old man looked at him expectantly. Joseph reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a small manila envelope, and handed it over.

“Well, I’ll be,” the old man said as he counted the money. His eyes widened and his eyebrows arched. “There’s four hunnerd here. I done told you two hunnerd.”

“I want you to have it. I think it’s fair.”

“That’s a lot of money, boy. You don’t need to be doin’ that.”

“I’m not here as a tourist, sir.” It was Joseph’s turn to stare at the old man. “It took me a long time to find you. I don’t want the movie set or the amusement park. I want the real thing.”

“Careful what you wish for, now.”

“Will you be going out with me?”

“Shoot, no.” The old man shook his head. “These old legs couldn’t take me out there and back. And you wouldn’t want me, anyway. You don’t want some old man who got spooked at the sound of Johnson’s voice. It’s my son that’s goin’ with you.”

“Are you sure?”

“It got to be him, ’cause it got to be somebody who don’t take this stuff seriously. Somebody who ain’t gonna wake up in the middle of the night thirty years from now, thinkin’ ’bout it.” He reached over and patted Joseph on the shoulder. “Gotta be somebody with a pure heart. Somebody the man can’t touch.”

“I see.”

“I’ll git him for you.” The man paused and looked at Joseph. “You know, Johnson was no more than thirty when he died.”

“He was twenty-seven, actually.”

“How old you be?”

“I just turned twenty-two.”

“And that don’t spook you none?”

“No, sir.”

“You know what you should be spooked ’bout? If you had any sense, that is?”

“What’s that, sir?”

“How you gonna feel if you live to be as old as me? What you think gonna be in your head then?”

“I guess I’ll have to take that chance.”

“It’s your funeral either way, I ’spose.” He rose unsteadily and walked to the edge of the porch. “Willy,” he called. “William Earl, you git out here. It be showtime.”

After a moment, a young Black man emerged from behind the shack, grinning broadly. He wore overalls like his father and radiated an aura of good humor that put Joseph immediately at ease. He looked no older than Joseph, but seemed to engulf everyone around him in boyish enthusiasm.

“You wanna open yourself a restaurant,” the old man told Joseph, “this here is the boy you want. He can cook up anythin’, anytime, just the way you like it. He’ll make you a success.” He turned to his son. “You ready, boy?”

“Yes, sir, born ready.”

“All right then. You be careful out there.” He looked carefully at Joseph. “Good luck to you. I hope you git what you came for.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Let’s go, baby.” Willy grinned, motioning for Joseph to follow him. “We got business.”

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One of Windsor Book Blast!

 

About the Book:
Title: One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging
Author:  Beth M. Caruso
Publisher: Ladyslipper Press
Pages: 358
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Alice, a young woman prone to intuitive insights and loyalty to the only family she has ever known, leaves England for the rigid colony of the Massachusetts Bay in 1635 in hopes of reuniting with them again. Finally settling in Windsor, Connecticut, she encounters the rich American wilderness and its inhabitants, her own healing abilities, and the blinding fears of Puritan leaders which collide and set the stage for America’s first witch hanging, her own, on May 26, 1647. 
     
This event and Alice‘s ties to her beloved family are catalysts that influence Connecticut‘s Governor John Winthrop Jr. to halt witchcraft hangings in much later years. Paradoxically, these same ties and the memory of the incidents that led to her accusation become a secret and destructive force behind Cotton Mather’s written commentary on the Salem witch trials of 1692, provoking further witchcraft hysteria in Massachusetts forty-five years after her death.   
     
The author uses extensive historical research combined with literary inventions, to bring forth a shocking and passionate narrative theory explaining this tragic and important episode in American history. 

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Book Excerpt:

NEW WINDSOR, BERKSHIRE,
ENGLAND, 1615
The infant was soon to enter the world. Alsie’s increased labor pains and a sudden wave of panic made a swift announcement of her baby’s imminent arrival. Gwendolyn, the midwife, motioned with a wise smile and nod to Alsie’s cousin. Mrs. Mary Merwin Tinker and her daughters were to make the final preparations for the newborn. The lines embedded under Gwendolyn’s eyes, eyes still bright after many years of life, were a testament to her wisdom and experience.
“Girls. It’s time. Quickly…Sarah, bring the rest of Gwendolyn’s supplies to the bedside table. She’ll need the string and knives shortly. Little Mary, come and support Alsie’s back. You too, Ellen. Assist Mary. Margaret, make sure the linens are warmed and everything else is ready for the babe! We must all give our support to cousin now,” spoke Mrs. Mary Tinker, their mother.
“Yes ma’am,” they replied in unison as some sisters hurried about making sure everything was in place for the birth, and the remaining sisters stayed at Alsie’s side to comfort her.
Despite the excitement inside, a branch softly and hypnotically continued to hit the leaded glass window of the thatched cottage in a steady cadence. Alsie had already been in a trance for the past hour, the trance a woman’s body and soul become held in toward the end of labor.

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About the Author

 

Beth M. Caruso grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent her childhood writing puppet shows and witches’ cookbooks. She became interested in French Literature and Hispanic Studies, receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati. She later obtained Masters degrees in Nursing and Public Health.
     
Working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, she helped to improve the public health of local Karen hill tribes. She also had the privilege to care for hundreds of babies and their mothers as a labor and delivery nurse. 
     
Largely influenced by an apprenticeship with herbalist and wildcrafter, Will Endres, in North Carolina, she surrounds herself with plants through gardening and native species conservation.
Her latest passion is to discover and convey important stories of women in American history. One of Windsor is her debut novel. She lives in New England with her awesome husband, amazing children, loyal puppy, and cuddly cats. .  

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