Thursday, May 28, 2015

Notorious P-Man Sam by Thomas Barr

TitleNotorious P-Man Sam: Miami's Urban Chronicles Vol. 1 
Vol. 1: Miami's Urban Chronicles
Author: Thomas Barr., Jr.
Publisher: VIP INK Publishing Group, Inc. / Printhouse Books
Publication Date: April 1, 2015
Format: Paperback - 88 pages / eBook
Genre: Urban Fiction  

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Book Description:

This book is about the struggle of African American men as they traverse the perils of 20th and twenty first century life in the professional realms of the work place atmosphere. The differences in opportunities are often overlooked in comparison to other classes and among the races.

The American dream is the realization of success in the face of struggle and hard work. Is it relevant that one’s struggle is harder than the other in accomplishment of this goal? P-Man Sam is a hard look at the road to self-empowerment and what it takes to make it in the American society. The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the main roads traveled in realization of the American dream.

It takes knowledge and a fearlessness to take a chance in the ruthless world of business in this society. It’s also important to be able to effectively communicate with the modern diverse society of today through effective people skills.

The P-Man Sam story brings an awareness of how to navigate negative experiences and transform them into motivational learning blocks. Learning from experiences and moving forward is essential in life. One’s eyes must be open and na├»ve thought processes must be conquered in attaining the ultimate prize. The following are useful for application:

• Mentorship
• Net working
• Coalition building
• Broad-mindedness

This book is a good source for inspiration and having hope is a major force in your journey through life. Situations and circumstances should not be viewed as a hindrance, but instead a hurdle in step to the finish line. There are many instances in this story that relay the struggle against forces that present obstacles. Willpower and dedication are true factors that assist the main character in winning out against such forces.

In conclusion, the power of love and support are sustaining factors in the realization of goals in life. The act of goal-setting itself is an important factor in accomplishing anything in pursuant of ambitious dreams. This novel is sprinkled with kernels of knowledge and inspirational wording designed to give the reader insight into the motivations of the main character that can be transcending to experience.

It is beneficial and intended to identify and acquire these gems of knowledge to retain as progressive career tools.  

Book Excerpt: 
In the tenth year of the millennium, on the major Interstate of I-95 cars sped up the roadway and zinged pass construction barriers.  Many of the vehicles just barely swipe distressed vehicles’ parked roadside.  Sam Silvasteen drove with his windows down taking in the South Florida breeze as his car cruised at a comfortable speed.  A black car with a high performance sounding engine screeched up next to Sam’s car.  The sound of gunfire erupted and peppered the passenger’s side of Sam’s car with silver dollar sized bullet holes.  Sam jerked the steering wheel in an attempt to dodge the spray of bullets.  The men in the car continued to pace Sam’s car firing ruthlessly into the frame of the automobile.  Hot lead ripped through Sam’s flesh as he was hit with a volley of bullets. 
Sam slammed into the median and the men sped off as his car coasted to a halt along the concrete rail.  Sam could hear the screaming brakes of other cars on the road and smell the scent of twisted metal as he faded out.  The Entrepreneurial President of Bandstand Magazine lay shot along the Miami corridor among twisted metal.  His life flashed before his eyes and he thought back on the events that led him to his current predicament.
Sam was a street wise entrepreneur who had escaped the shadows of the crime filled eighties drug environment of Miami.  Cocaine was the major drug that circulated thru the community of Dade County.  He transformed his life into a respectable businessman and attempted to help other urban youth in becoming productive community citizens.  Within the blink of an eye his life was turned upside down and the phantoms of his past attempted to snatch his mortal essence from existence. 
Sam was initially raised in a single parent home.  When Sam turned ten in the year 1977, he was placed in an orphanage by his grandparents due to his mother’s early dementia among her other mental illness related problems.  Sam’s grandparents had six adult kids living in their home and couldn’t afford a proper home for young Sam. 
“Who turned the damn T.V.,” yelled a burly kid his hair dripped with Gerri curl juice.  His voice echoed through the bare white walled dayroom of the orphanage.  Sam sat motionless as the other kids looked around not saying a word in response to the question.  The scarcely decorated room remained silent.  Most of the juveniles were Cuban exiles and spoke little English.  The burly kid steaming with rage yanked the plug out of the wall and kicked the T.V. over.  The loud crash and sound of breaking glass alerted the nearby sisters from the hallway entrance. 
“What happened to the T.V.?”  Asked Sister Alice, she was new to Saint Joseph and relocated from Nicaragua to assist with the influx of prospective exiled children of political patriots.  She wore the traditional long flowing robes of her profession.  She was a looker and it could be speculated that she had her pick of the litter before being ordained.
“Jose kicked it over,” said the burly kid as he pointed at Jose Marti a skinny pale Cuban teen.  Jose possessed long limbs but his skinny frame made him look a bit goofy in appearance. 
“Jose is this true?”  Replied Sister Alice, as she wheeled in his direction.  Jose remained silent as Sister Alice waited for him to respond. 
“Jose didn’t do it Sister Alice,” Sam exclaimed.  His voice was firm and controlled.  “Well it didn’t happen on its on Sam,” replied Sister Alice in a sarcastic tone.  The burly kid cut his eyes at Sam and gave him a hard look.
She now turned to the burly kid, “Trey Brownlee if you’re fibbing you get twenty lashes,” She exclaimed. 
“I swear….,” replied Trey before he could finish his sentence Sister Alice smacked him in the chest with a ruler.  In a heavy Spanish accent she sentenced Trey to spend the rest of the day in time out. 
“Sam get this mess cleaned up,” she said as she escorted Trey from the room.
Sam immediately grabbed a garbage can to pick up the shards of glass that covered the floor.  Jose found a broom and swept some of the glass in a pile for Sam to scoop into the garbage.  The other kids resumed their activities as the hype died down. 
Sam made a friend in Jose from the day of the T.V. incident with Trey.  They began their friendship working as partners at anything they did together.  Sam was a husky twelve year old and Jose was three years his senior.  The two got along quite well with no regards to their respective ages.  Lucky Barnes was a younger kid who hung around Burt Ramos the only Puerto Rican kid at the orphanage.  Lucky was a portly black kid with big hands.  Burt often used little Lucky when he was trying to hustle the other boys in marbles.
“Hey Sam,” said Burt.  “Trey is going to be pissed that you stuck your nose in his business.”
“Forget Trey,” responded Sam.  “If you’re down with Trey than forget you too,” said Sam as he flopped down onto a sofa in the dayroom of the orphanage.  A group of boys congregated at the corner of the day room and shot a game of marbles. 
“Oh I’m down for myself and I was just making sure you knew what time it was,” said Burt as he made his way to the marbles game.  Lucky gave Sam thumbs up as he shuffled close behind Burt.
Jose pulled up a chair alongside Sam and said, “Now we have nothing to watch because of Trey.”  The boys protested loudly in the corner of the room while Burt tried to convince them he was not cheating.  “Hey I got ya back don’t let them get to you about that Trey stuff,” he said. 
Sam sat straight up and replied, “I’m not worried about a thing.”  He extended his hand and slapped Jose five.  Jose watched a lot of T.V. and was hip to the street ways of black culture.  He understood the gesture and was happy to have made a friend in a place where watching out for self was paramount.  Sam was also careful in not being labeled a rat while sticking up for Jose.  He knew in befriending an older kid his chances of survival had increased tenfold. 
The females were housed in an entirely different dorm wing as compared with the males.  The only times the two would mingle was during mealtimes and that was usually three times a day.  All the kids in the orphanage were supervised by nuns and the Mon Senior had final call on all activities.  Sam had his eye on this one pigtailed hair girl named Vivian Smart.  She was a beautiful vivacious teen who was present at the orphanage upon Sam’s arrival.
“Hi Sam,” she said as she sat down with her lunch at Sam’s table.  “I heard what you did for that Cuban kid the other day and I think it was courageous.”  Sam shifted in his chair.
“No big thing,” he replied.  “The kid looked as if he needed help and I stepped in.”  Sam dropped his head and continued to munch on his sandwich.  Vivian took a cookie from her tray and placed it on a napkin in front of Sam’s tray.  Sam didn’t raise his head but his heart quickened its pace. 
“This is for your bravery,” she replied as she slid the napkin in Sam’s direction.  Sam was at a loss of words, and before he uttered his faint thank you Vivian had strode off and rejoined her friends. 
The cafeteria was a bustle with kids and they were being closely monitored by the nuns for any improprieties.  Sam sat brooding as he finished his meal.  He missed he mother and siblings, while the orphanage provided a vibrant surrounding it lacked genuine personal connections.  Before his mother’s unfortunate problems Sam was often doted on by his family.  He was the youngest and the last born of his mother’s children.  His siblings were years older than he was and were all away trying to establish a life for themselves.  Sam hated being poor but what else could he do he thought to himself. 
Sam made his way to the day room after lunch and sat looking at one of the day room windows.  He had a second period of classes in which he contemplated cutting.  Jose walked up to him and slapped him on the back, “What up Sam!”  He said in his best English. 
“What’s up Jose,” replied Sam.  I got a couple of classes for second period and I do not feel like going,” said Sam with a sigh. 
Jose was only a grade higher than Sam although he was fifteen.  His problems with the language barrier relegated him to grades lower than his normal level in Cuba.  “Let’s hangout in the courtyard or sneak over to the girl’s dorm,” replied Jose.
“Cool,” replied Sam.  He stashed his books under a nearby sofa and was out the door along with Jose. 
The girl’s wing was well kept and immaculate in comparison to the facilities the boys maintained.  When not in class the girls milled around outside and played dodge ball on the cement courts.  The males and females rarely participated in physical activities except when there was a yearly festival occurring.  Jose and Sam hid behind a dumpster near the courts of the girl’s dormitory.  “Hey there’s Vivian,” said Sam as he ducked so he wouldn’t be seen by her. 
“Who is Vivian?” Jose inquired. 
“Nobody,” replied Sam.
The girls walked on a nearby court and began their ritual jump rope Double Dutch game.  Jose whistled trying to get one of the girls’ attention, Sam nudged him in the side.
“Are you trying to get us busted,” exclaimed Sam.
“No, just trying to get us some trim,” replied Jose. 
One of the girls heard the commotion and walked over to where Sam and Jose were held up.  She saw them crouched behind the dumpster and immediately began screaming.  The boys tore out of their hiding place and ran for the nearest place to hide for cover.  Jose laughed hysterically as he tried to catch his breath from the sprint to the dormitory.
“You’re crazy,” remarked Sam bending over in exhaustion. 
“That was a rush,” said Jose. 
The two boys walked back to the day room and talked about the look on the girls’ faces when they realized they were being spied upon.  Classes were ending for the day and the dayroom was filled with students.  Music appreciation seminars were usually held by Sister Alice after dinner and Sam really enjoyed the sessions.  He profiled the different types of music genre as well as the musicians of past and contemporary times.  “I’m going to my room before dinner,” said Jose.
“See you later,” remarked Sam.
Sam remained in the dayroom leafing through his school books as he sat on a bench in the back of the room.  Sister Alice entered the dayroom recruiting groups to complete chores.  Sister Alice mentioned that the females were also participating and Sam decided to volunteer.  One group of males and one group of females were directed to the gymnasium area of the compound.  The two groups were instructed to scrub the floors and wash the walls.  Sam joined the chore group hoping to get a chance to be around Vivian.  Sam began scrubbing and to his dismay saw no sign of Vivian in the other group.  
Sam continued to volunteer his services for the chores squad of Sister Alice in hopes of seeing Vivian.  On this one particular day the squad was tasked to clean the main administrative offices of parish officials.  Vivian was assigned to the task and Sam was delighted his persistence had finally paid off.  Sam decided he would work closely with Vivian and learn more about her interests. 
“Hey what are you doing here?” said Sam.  Vivian stopped what she was doing and put her hands on his hips.
“The same thing you’re doing,” She said.  The girls giggled as Vivian smiled at Sam. 
Sam thought to himself that was a dumb question to ask.  He never knew the right words to say to the members of the opposite sex.  She looked so beautiful standing there with a twinkle in her eyes and sass in her voice thought Sam. 
“Well I was offering to help but I see you’re good,” Sam replied with a smirk. 
“You’re such a good guy,” said Vivian with a wink.
Sam continued to work while the girls chatted about what guys they thought were cute in the boys’ dormitory.  Sam pondered his next move on how to get Vivian’s attention without her friends being around.  He thought he would have a better chance at an honest conversation on a one on one basis.  Sam would have to covertly recruit individuals to help with his plan and a major part of his plan would be Sister Alice.
Sam was exhausted after his chores and he lounged in the dayroom and watched the boys roll marbles.  A couple of maintenance men coordinated the installment of a new T.V. in place of the damaged one.  Jose walked in and made his way over to a nearby by sofa avoiding the guys on the floor as they shot marbles. 
“So you were doing chores,” remarked Jose.  “Did you see your sweetheart Vivian,” he remarked with a laugh.  Sam ignored Jose’s remark and continued to watch the boys argue over taking a turn to roll marbles. 
“When are you going to volunteer to help out around here?” asked Sam.  “Maybe you’ll meet a nice female.”  Sam remarked. 
“My uncles say the best way to get a fine girl is with a lot of money,” said Jose.  
“Yeah that works too,” said Sam with a chuckle.
Sam was intent on wining the heart of Vivian and he assured himself that love was his reason for his persistence.  Sam had not really known the love of a woman outside of his mother but he could not resist the emotion he felt when he was around Vivian.  Sam would be careful about revealing his feelings around the people he interacted with daily, because in his environment this could be a source of perceived weakness.   
Trey entered the dayroom and stomped through the circled marbles on the floor where the boys were shooting marbles.  The sound of grinding glass against the floor could be heard as Trey twisted his foot on each stomp.  Marbles shot out from under Trey’s foot hitting the sides of nearby chairs, tables and walls.   The boys scuttled out of Trey’s path dodging flying marbles.   
“Man why’d you do that!”  One of the enraged boys responded.
“Shut your trap,” retorted Trey.
Sam knew Trey was pissed he had challenged his rule in standing up for Jose.  Sam was ready for whatever retaliation Trey would seek to impose.  Sam continued to lounge nonchalantly on the sofa as Trey marauded around the dayroom.  Jose remained silent as he sat on the other sofa.  Sam could see Jose was tense and his demeanor had drastically shifted in relation to his earlier mood.  Sister Alice stuck her head through the doorway of the day room. 
“We will have no trouble out of you today Trey,” She said as she disappeared down the hallway. 
Sam sat at the breakfast table alone and ate his bowl of oatmeal in silence.  He soon felt a hand on his shoulder.  It was Sister Alice standing over him smiling with her black nun’s head dress draped over her hair. 
“Sam don’t mind Trey much,” she said.  “Both his parents died of aids when he was just a toddler.”  She pulled up a chair and sat next to Sam.  Sam paused between spoons full of oatmeal as she continued to talk. 
“He was raised by his grandmother until she died a couple of months ago and he seems to have a hard time adjusting.”  She said. 
Sam thought to himself he was not having an easy time here either and why is she telling this story to someone who loathes Trey.  Sam began to fidget with his silverware as Sister Alice told Trey’s life story.  He desperately wished Jose would appear and interrupt her oration.  Sam could appreciate the concern Sister Alice felt for the kids of the orphanage.  He wondered if she spoke of his situation and issues with others as she did of Trey.
                Sam’s own home situation was what led to his current occupancy and he felt little empathy for Trey’s story.  Sam had few adult role models; however Sister Alice influenced the good in him.  Sam dreamed of the day when he could stand on his own without the need of the orphanage.  He was tired of being a kid and was ready to venture out into the world.  Sam was in his own thoughts now and subconsciously caught bits and pieces of Sister Alice’s conversation.  “You know Sam Saint Joseph will seek to be a solid base for your upbringing when you grow up,” she said.  Her voice seemed to trail off as her last comment reverberated in his thoughts.
                Sam desired to make a good impression to others by making himself who they thought he should be.  He would do tasks that made other people happy and would go all out to fit in with others.  Sam felt uneasy in the aftermath when he thought of this act of self repression.  His true nature was to be himself and explore who the real Sam was as an individual.
                Sam viewed Trey as a bully and an enemy to the free spirit of those around him.  Trey’s bully tactics blunted the freewill of others stunting their growth.  Sam in an attempt to be ordinary like everyone else downplayed his true abilities.  He had no desire to be recognized as exceptional in comparison to his colleagues.  The Trey types sought to bring out such exceptional abilities which made Sam hate him even more. 
                Sam’s perceived abandonment issues stoked his desires for the camaraderie of others and he highly valued friendship.  Trey bullying tampered with that concept which in turn was a source for instability in Sam’s world.  Sam would mesh out any instability that threatened his contentment.  Trey would be met with the harsh retaliation whenever he threatened to disrupt Sam’s reality. 
                Sister Alice realized Sam was not soaking in her words and stopped speaking.  She looked at Sam as he sat gazing into the distance.  She raised herself from her seated position and stood with her hands on her hips.  She shook her head and walked away from Sam as he continued his gaze. 

                “Kids,” she said.      

About The Author


Hailing from Miami Florida; Author Thomas Barr was born in Lake City, South Carolina home of the 2nd African American astronaut, killed on the Challenger space mission, Dr. Ronald E. McNair.  He is the grandson of a share cropper whom taught him the value of hard work and education.  At age 17 he began college at Bethune-Cookman University and graduated Cum Laude with honors.  While in college he was inspired to write when he read the novel, Black Boy by Richard Wright.  He began writing short stories for campus publications and won a $500 dollar publication contest in a local campus circular.  He entered the Air Force after college and spent two tours of duty in the gulf during the Persian Gulf War.  Upon leaving the Military he went back to school and completed graduate school at the University of Akron in Ohio earning a master of public administration.  He began a career in government as an Intern with the Ohio legislature and later became employed with the Florida Senate as a legislative assistant.  His current works were inspired by his work with the City of Miami as a civil servant in administration.

Thomas Barr’s writings reflect the everyday struggle of the average individual trying to make something of life.  Every person has a story to tell and the job of an inspirational writer is to bring those stories to life for the good of all.  As an author Thomas Barr desires to be the chronicler of inspirational stories designed to assist dreamers in achieving.   

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Blast: A Young Girl's Testimony: From Disastrous To Evangelist by Shana Joseph


Title: A Young Girl's Testimony: From Disastrous To Evangelist
Author: Shana Joseph
Publisher:   Xulon Press
Pubication Date: September 23, 2013
Format: Paperback - 110 pages / eBook
ISBN: 978-1628396867 Genre: Christian / Non Fiction / Autobiography

Book Description:

In this book is a powerful message that rises out of a true-life story woven in sadness, heartache, pain, joy and God working miracles. You will see lessons learned, wisdom gained, and experiences to share. It's revealing unforgettable moments all in unforgettable testimonies.

Book Excerpt: 

From Page 30:

At the age of fourteen I got tattoos and some piercings.  People always said that I was a beautiful girl.  However, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see what they saw at all.  When I looked in the mirror, I only saw my painful past and my mother.  I saw people I hurt and someone I hated.  I saw a disastrous person looking back at me.  I got a piercing in my eyebrow and two on the right side of my nose because I thought if I changed how I looked on the outside, then maybe I would like myself.  I had to deal with people labeling me as a conceited person because all they saw was a pretty girl with a nice complexion who had long hair, and who all the boys liked.  I never saw any of that.  Maybe if I did, I wouldn’t have gotten into so many fights and had my long hair pulled and I would’ve been full of myself.  Maybe I wouldn’t have the marks on my face from fights or the bite mark left on my shoulder from a girl whose head I was banging on a car window while fighting her.  I was never into myself because I always thought I was a worthless person.  I thought I would always be a street prisoner, is what I called it.  Would you believe a pretty girl like me pointed a gun at someone and sold drugs for a while? Well, I did.  At times I thought I would end up like my mother.

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About The Author


Shana Joseph is a young, anointed Evangelist who preaches the undiluted word of God without fear. Surrending her life to the Lord at age 16, she has been preaching for many years and has a passion for the young people, as well as those who have yet to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Shepherded and molded under the leadership of Bishop Dr. K.D. Collins, founding vessel of The Harvest Army Church International, headquarted in the Bronx, New York, Shana has grown from an ordinary Christian to a powerful warrior for Jesus. Shana is happily married to her husband, Stephan Joseph and together they have three children, Marland, Giovonni, and Vanise.   

Contact Shana at:

Facebook: Goodreads:

Contest Giveaway

Pump Up Your Book and Author Shana Joseph are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins April 1 and ends on May 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on June 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bigfoot Blues by Ricardo Sanchez #bookexcerpt

Title: Bigfoot Blues
Author: Ricardo Sanchez
Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 251
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Kindle

She eloped with Bigfoot. Or maybe Bigfoot kidnapped her. Either way, I've been hired to uncover the truth behind Cindy Funk's disappearance. Me? I'm Floyd, and I'm a PI living my life as Elvis would have wanted. Not just in sequined jumpsuits. With character.

Cindy's trail leads me to River City, Oregon—aka the Mythical Creature Capital of the World—where I catch Case #2. This one from an eccentric billionaire who's lost a priceless piece of "art." Enter one dead body and I end up deputized to solve Case #3, tracking down a man-eating mountain lion. Or maybe it's a chupacabra. Or just an ordinary murderer. Hard to say.

I've handled my fair share of crazy, but River City's secrets have me spooked. With an influx of tourists arriving for the town's annual Elvis tribute contest—what are the chances?—I've got to save the girl, solve the rich guy's problem and leash that chupacabra before a second body is discovered. It might just be mine.

Read more about Floyd's adventures in Elvis Sightings, available now!

For More Information

Book Excerpt:

It was ten past two on a Wednesday and I was sitting behind my desk in the office I share with Franklin, a chiropractor. His wife had sent me looking for him almost four years ago, but she was such a harridan that once I’d found him, I couldn’t bring myself to turn over his location. He’d let me use his place as an office, rent-free, ever since.
I checked my watch again.
Wanda was flying back to Kresge today. I resented being dragged away from her, even for just an hour, but the man on the phone had insisted. It had been more than a month since my last case, so while Wanda packed, I came into the office to meet Peter Funk. And he was late.
The clock hit 2:15. I was about to leave when a very lost-looking man in his fifties opened the door.
“You must be Floyd,” he said, taking off his well-worn Caterpillar cap. His bald head had the baked look of someone who spent a lot of time under the hot Idaho sun. “Your Elvis outfit kinda gives it away,” he added.
“You’re Mr. Funk?”
He smiled weakly and bobbed his head up and down in the affirmative.
I pointed him to a seat and sat back down at my desk.
“So what can I do for you?” I asked.
Funk looked down at the cap in his hands and worried at a loose thread with his callused fingers.
“I need you to find my daughter,” he said and looked up at me. “You’ve got to help me. I don’t know who else to turn to.”
“I’d be happy to help, Mr. Funk, but with missing children you’re much better off going to the police.”
Funk stood up and slapped his hat against his thigh. A small cloud of dirt erupted from the dull blue denim of his pants.
“Oh, the cops won’t help me. Cindy’s eighteen. They said they can’t go looking for her if she’s just run off,” he said. “Besides…”
“Besides what, Mr. Funk?”
He took his seat again before finally blurting out, “She ran off to elope with Bigfoot.”
I would have laughed if Funk hadn’t looked so worried.
“Bigfoot?” I said. “That’s a nickname?”
“No, sir.”
Funk pulled a postcard out of his jeans pocket and handed it to me.
On one side was a teenage boy holding up a plaster casting of a giant footprint nearly three feet long. Across the bottom it read “River City—The Home of Bigfoot.” I turned it over. The postmark was three weeks ago in River City, Oregon. The note on the card read:

Dear Daddy,
I’ve fallen in love with Bigfoot and we’ve decided to elope. I won’t be coming back to Pocatello. I’ll write again soon.

She’d put a little heart in place of the dot above the is in both Bigfoot and Cindy.
River City… The name was familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“My girl, she’s a willful one she is, but Cindy’s never lied to me. Not once,” Funk said. “If Cindy says she’s eloped with Bigfoot, that’s exactly what she’s done.”
Why did I get all the weirdos? Was it the suit? Or the Lifestyle Elvis thing? Or maybe this was some sort of elaborate practical joke. I let out a low sigh.
A case is a case, I told myself. And this one was just too absurd to be someone shining me on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with M.K. Theodoratus, author of 'The Ghostcrow'

Hooked by comic books at an early age, M. K. Theodoratus’ fascination with fantasy solidified when she discovered the Oz books by L. Frank Baum with his strong female characters. She has traveled through many fantasy worlds since then. When she's not reading about other writer's worlds, she's creating her own.

Most of her stories are set in the Far Isles where she explores the political effects of genetic drift on a mixed elf human population. Lately, Theodoratus has been setting her stories in an alternate world of Andor where demons stalk humankind.

A sixth grade English assignment started her writing. The teacher assigned a short story. Theodoratus gave her an incomplete, 25-page Nancy Drew pastiche which turned into a full novel by the next summer. She’s been writing happily ever after ever since…for four or five writing careers. Most recently she’s been concentrating of her Andor stories, set in an alternate world where demons and magic plague humans.

Her latest book is the supernatural fantasy novelette, The Ghostcrow: A Tale of Andor.

For More Information
About the Book:

Seeing ghosts has plagued Dumdie Swartz since early childhood.

Afraid that ghost guts might stick to her if she stepped through them, thirteen-year-old Dumdie Swartz still cringes when she encounters them.
Her strange attempts to avoid spirits create a lonely life.

Her sisters constantly mock her strange behavior, her parents are clueless, and her social life is zero. Dumdie finds solace working in a shared garden with her elderly neighbor, Mr. Carson. When teens from her high school steal pumpkins from his garden, Mr. Carson is hurt during the theft, and later, dies.
Dumdie’s life takes a dark turn.

She learns there are stranger things than ghosts, when she senses something evil living in Kyle, one of the boys who had raided the pumpkin patch. Kyle bullies Dumdie to scare her into silence. The more Kyle threatens her, the clearer she perceives the evil thing possessing him. Dumdie finds support in an unlikely group of girls who befriend her when she helps them with their costumes for the Pumpkin festival. During the festival, Dumdie’s fears explode when the thing possessing Kyle decides it wants to possess her.

For More Information

Thanks for joining us at the book club, M.K.  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing supernatural fantasy?

M.K.: Hi. I’m glad to be here.

I sort of backed into supernatural fantasy. I also write heroic fantasy, but a critique group got me trying other types of fantasy. The result was a YA fantasy about four teens drafted to help the gargoyle guardians of their city when it was invaded by demons – There Be Demons.

I thought of the stuff as dark fantasy since it involved gargoyles and demons invading human lands. An indie publisher contracted for the novel, and I began to build a writer’s platform, using some of the short stories in my computer, to help sell the novel when published. Long story short, the publisher folded before the editing was done. When everything blew up, I was working on the The Ghostcrow. I decided to just go ahead and self-publish it too.

I was calling my Andor stories dark fantasy at the time. Then, someone with more publishing chops than I do told me I wrote supernatural fantasy. My stuff could never be dark fantasy because it wasn’t gross and gruesome enough. Besides it contained too much humor.

Where is your book set and why did you choose that location?

M.K.: Andor is roughly an alternative USA, shrunk by a third. Many of my stories are set in the California Gold Country where I roamed as a teen. It wasn’t until I was revising There Be Demons that I realized that the story was set in the California valley where I grew up. The river in Trebridge is similar to the Sacramento. I was just using a background I was familiar with as my setting.

Example: when I think “pine”, I think “sugar pine”, not “loblolly”.  I know what the wind sounds like when it rustles through the needles.

I’d like to know more about your main character, Dumdie Swartz.  Can you tell us more about her?

M.K.: Dumdie is one of my characters that popped into my head. One day a started thinking about a homeless old lady who was lucky enough to be placed in a privately funded homeless shelter, only she had a problem. She saw ghosts and didn’t much care for them.

After the story was finished, I had a “problem”. Dumdie wouldn’t leave my head. The question about how she had managed to survive all those years seeing ghosts wouldn’t go away.

So, I started to speculate about what her childhood would be like, especially since memories of her sisters’ teasing still bothered her when she was old enough to draw social security.

Can you tell us a little about the other supporting characters?

M.K.: Since the story is short, there really wasn’t much room to develop secondary characters.

There was Dumdie’s family who have no idea on how to cope with her strange behavior when she avoids ghosts. Her father is paternalistic, and her mother ineffectual, though her heart is in the right place. I’ve always thought Dumdie leaned towards the Aspersers end of the continuum, which accounts for her troubles relating to people.

Had to have someone sympathetic in her life and came up with Mr. Carson, her next-door neighbor. They worked in a garden together. As for school, I added a group of girls with magical abilities which also marked them as different.

Magic plays a bigger role in the overall Andor world than indicated the in Dumdie stories. Dumdie has a special power to see ghosts and can’t wield magical energy.

They say all fiction books have pivotal points in the book where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one pivotal point in The Ghostcrow?

M.K.:  Really? I wouldn’t have the slightest idea.

My would-be publisher said I was a natural storyteller. I’ve never had an English class, except for a college composition class where I wrote non-fiction. Stuff about themes, of me telling people what to think about what my story means, is just foreign to me. Give me motivations any day. I want to know why my characters act like they do.

I think stories are to enjoy.

What’s next for you, M.K.?

M.K.: I think I’m sort of at a writing crossroads where my mind’s deciding what it wants to do. I’m working on another novelette, On the Run, set in Andor. The Dumdie stories are loosely set after the Celestial Wars turned back the demon invasion of Andor. On the Run is too, but it is more concerned with the role that magic workers play in the world.

But, I’m thinking I want to get back to my other alternative world, the Far Isles Half-Elven. I’ve got two manuscripts in different stages of revision that I might as well self-publish since I sort of got the hang of it now.

But, I’ve got Greg Highgrim from another Andor story wanting more of his story told. Who knows what I’ll end up doing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Laura Liddell Nolen, author of 'The Ark'

Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time playing make-believe with her two younger brothers. They supplemented their own stories with a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed movies, books, and television. The daughter of a comic book collector, she learned how to handle old comics at an early age, a skill she’s inordinately proud of to this day.

Laura began work on her first novel, The Ark, in 2012, following the birth of her daughter Ava, a tiny rebel and a sweetheart on whom the novel’s main character is loosely based. Completion of The Ark was made possible in part due to an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award.

Laura loves coffee, dogs, and making lists. She has a degree in French and a license to practice law, but both are frozen in carbonite at present. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children, and their dog Miley, who is a very good girl.

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About the Book:
There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.
It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her
criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .

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Thanks for joining us at the book club, Laura.  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing scifi for young adults?

Laura: I’ve always loved YA. My memories of school all involve staying up late to finish whatever book I was into at the moment. I was especially drawn to stories where the main character is isolated and has to learn to survive and find self-sufficiency in a bizarre situation, like Jackaroo, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves, and The Perilous Gard. In The Ark, Char is in a similar predicament, but she probably considers herself to be more independent than she really is.
Science fiction is my other true love. I’m a lifelong devotee of space-themed tv shows. Battlestar Galactica and Firefly are two of my favorites. Anytime a book or a movie takes a “what if” far into the extreme, I’m hooked. 1984 and Gattaca are great examples of that.
And I love stories that are just fun, where you’re rooting for the protagonist, and you can barely blink because you don’t want to miss a second of the action. For that, I can’t think of a better example than Star Wars. The sarlacc scene might be my favorite onscreen moment of all time.

Your book, The Ark, sounds so perfect for a movie!  If it were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead characters? 

Laura: Thank you! This is a great question because I definitely play the scenes out in my mind as I write them, and I typically use famous people as stand-ins for the characters. It helps in describing the way they look. The danger in doing that, of course, is that Char doesn’t act like them. She acts like herself, and I’m careful to make sure that her personality is dominant over the personalities of the actors I’m picturing and the other characters they’ve played.
I can tell you that I pictured a much rougher, slightly scary Daniel Radcliffe in writing Kip Carston, and if we were at the point where Daniel Radcliffe agreed to be in this movie, the rest of the cast would take care of itself. I pictured Radcliffe exclusively because Kip is a complicated character, and you’d need a terrific actor to pull it off: His anger is never obvious, but there’s something off about the easygoing way he interacts with Char and even Cassa. He’s a huge part of Char’s downfall, but it’s clear that he has feelings for her. Kip believes that his feelings are pure because he loves her for who she is. It never occurs to him that she could have been something better.

Tell us more about Char?

Laura: Lots of my favorite YA heroines get a rough start in life. Katniss is poor, Tally Youngblood is unattractive, others are hopelessly nerdy. You get the idea.
Char’s story didn’t start out like that. She’s had every opportunity in life: wealthy, successful parents, countless do-overs, the whole thing. But she’s just so angry. Her parents place a lot of value in appearances, and their expectations around Char’s looks and behavior chafe her. Like a lot of people, she’s struggling to find her own identity in a world that wants her to know her role and play it nicely.
By the time Char realizes that her decisions have cost her everything, it’s too late. When the book opens, she’s been convicted of a felony after the age cut-off for getting on an Ark. She knows she’s going to die in prison when the meteor hits. Her only remaining hope is that her parents and brother, whom she really does love, will stop by her cell on their way to safety. She wants to apologize, to ask them to remember her. She wants one last moment to be the daughter she never has been.

Can you tell us a little about the supporting characters?

Laura: Sure! Isaiah is a bit of a mystery in this book, so I can’t talk about him too much. I think he’s proud of being unknowable, in spite of all his wisdom.
Eren, on the other hand, is anything but. He’s a soldier at heart– confident, aware of his responsibilities, and committed to the highest ideals set forth in the Treaty of Phoenix. Guardians like Eren are a combination of the police and the military. Eren rarely questions his duty because he believes that the rest of the force wants the same thing he does: equality, safety, and peace. He’s very nearly right.
He’s also smart. He lacks some of Isaiah’s wisdom, but he makes up for that with an ability to keep an open mind when confronted with evidence that not everything is as hunky-dory as it should be.

They say all books of fiction have pivotal points where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one of the pivotal points in The Ark?

Laura: I’d like to think it happens early on. Probably when Char decides she might not be as tough as she thought she was, and that maybe she doesn’t want to die in the meteor after all. She really does want to be forgiven.

What’s next for you, Laura?  More YA scifis?

Laura: The Ark is the first book in a trilogy, with the next two out in 2016 and 2017, so I’m hard at work on those! My goal right now is to make this the most exciting, satisfying story it can be. After that, I’ve got another project I’m excited to get back to- it’s a surreal, action/adventure fantasy tale, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans?

Laura: THANK YOU! I am thrilled you gave my story a shot. As of now, I’ve been able to keep up with most of the reviews, and I’ve really appreciated hearing what people think about The Ark. I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I’m hitting my stride in the next book, so I hope you’ll stick around.