Book Spotlight: 50 States by Richard R. Becker

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Richard R. Becker for his novel 50 States: A Collection Of Short Short Stories.

50 States: A Collection Of Short Short Stories

Book: 50 States: A Collection Of Short Short Stories
Author: Richard R. Becker
Page Count: 358
Publication Date (Print): 6.21.21
Publication Date (Digital): 7.21.21
Genre: Short Story, Literary Fiction and Psychological Fiction


Synopsis

50 States is a debut collection of short stories that reflect on the human condition. The book spans several literary genres, moods, and situations across the American states between 1955 and 2020.

Two runaways cross paths in a Tennessee bus station with only one ticket between them. A middle-aged man in Illinois eyes the daily grind of a young basketball player who never boards the school bus. A family sees looters racing toward their home as they escape an Oregon wildfire. 

These and 47 more stories make up the collection. Together, they provide a sampling of the American experience over the last 60 years, similar to the Spoon River Anthology by Edger Less Masters or The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer with more diversity. 

You can find 50 States here:
Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes & Nobel | Books-A-Million | Apple (with graphics) | Apple (with aoutflow) | Google | Google (with aoutflow) | Target | Blurb | Kobo | Odilo | E-Sentral | Ciando


About The Author

Richard R. Becker

Richard R. Becker is an award-winning American writer. His debut collection of literary, psychological, and speculative fiction began as a project to write one story a week for 50 weeks. He continues to expand many of these stories for inclusion in a second collection, and expects some will evolve into larger works.
When he is not writing fiction, Richard works as a creative strategist for Copywrite, Ink., a 30-year-old strategic communication and writing services firm with clients that have included government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. He has also been very active as a community servant, previously taught classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for 20 years, and has been a featured speaker for organizations such as G2E World Gaming Expo, Nevada Recreation and Parks Society, Regis University, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Wizard World Comic Con.
As a journalist, Richard has written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, with his byline appearing in the Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, and publications for Simon & Schuster and Paramount Communications. He also scripted a documentary produced with PBS and contributed to five books, including “Beyond Generation X: A Practical Guide for Managers” and the American Ambulance Association’s “Public Relations Handbook.” 
Aside from his writing, he enjoys a broad range of activities, including travel, hiking, exercise, photography, and illustration. He is married and has two children.

You can find author Becker here:

Author Page | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Blog


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Deepak Mullick

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Deepak Mullick for an author interview with The Reading Bud.

About The Author

Deepak Mullick

Founder and Chief Wealth Strategist, SimplyMutual

Deepak has spent over a quarter of a century in the investments industry, working with the country’s largest wealth creators. His last assignment was a 15-year stint at HDFC Mutual Fund. He was their Business Head for North, South and East India during different parts of his tenure. Having dealt with a large spectrum of investment avenues, Deepak realised that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. This belief in the India growth story and its potential to create wealth for decades to come stems from deep experience.

Deepak spent decades in the financial sector witnessing the fast evolution of each constituent of the investments industry — mutual funds, banking, insurance, investment advisors, NBFCs, the regulators, etc. He associated with the country’s top minds in financial and investment planning, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and dived deep into the intricacies of the business.

To come up with the best solutions for investor needs, he constantly drew comparisons between the most popular asset classes, such as equity, debt, real estate, fixed deposits, and gold, and other new asset classes like foreign equity, cryptocurrency, and art. He weighed each option with an exhaustive list of factors such as liquidity, volatility, regulatory environment, transparency, cost of investing, cost of holding and maintenance, convenience, and returns adjusted for risks, taxes, and inflation. This analysis has cemented his belief in the importance of Equity Mutual Funds for individual investors and given him the foundation to create SimplyMutual: The 1% formula to gain financial freedom.

You can find author Deepak here:
Email | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Website


Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

Thanks for having me here. My one true passion is to travel the world with my family – my wife and two children. And that is what I have been doing post my early retirement. I took keen interest in financial planning and management very early on in life, and that has led to become what I am today. I am also a firm believer of the fact that knowledge is at its best when its shared and that’s something which I have tried to achieve through my book. And a lot of me is sculpted from my school – La Martinere College, where we were instilled with all the key values, and one of them being discipline. That has made me always approach situations and opportunities methodically. 

I have spent over a quarter of a century in the investments industry, working with the country’s largest wealth creators. My last assignment was a 15-year stint at HDFC Mutual Fund. I was their Business Head for North, South, and East India during different parts of my tenure. Having dealt with a large spectrum of investment avenues, I realised that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. This belief in the India growth story and its potential to create wealth for decades to come stems from deep experience.

I’ve spent decades in the financial sector witnessing the fast evolution of each constituent of the investments industry — mutual funds, banking, insurance, investment advisors, NBFCs, the regulators, etc. I’ve also associated with the country’s top minds in financial and investment planning, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and dived deep into the intricacies of the business. To come up with the best solutions for investor needs, I constantly drew comparisons between the most popular asset classes, such as equity, debt, real estate, fixed deposits, and gold, and other new asset classes like foreign equity, cryptocurrency, and art. I weighed each option with an exhaustive list of factors such as liquidity, volatility, regulatory environment, transparency, cost of investing, cost of holding and maintenance, convenience, and returns adjusted for risks, taxes, and inflation. This analysis has cemented my belief in the importance of Equity Mutual Funds for individual investors and has given me the foundation to create SimplyMutual: The 1% formula to gain financial freedom.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

It’s fairly simple to put it in a few words – FINANCIAL FREEDOM. This book is your guide to retire early by investing smart and investing early. 

In this book I talk about a simple-yet-effective formula to make your money work for you! 

Want to escape the rat race, travel the world, or retire in your 40s with comfortable assets under your belt? SimplyMutual is your key to unlocking the 1% formula and gain your financial freedom.

With SimplyMutual you can learn how to: 

  • Retire in your 40s with a sizable corpus that provides you with a salary–pension that supports your lifestyle 
  • Free yourself from financial anxiety, fear, and corporate slavery to live the life you always wanted, now, and in the future
  • Cultivate wealth-building as a second nature, embedding it into the very core of your psyche 
  • Make financial decisions based on facts, not emotions 
  • Make the most of the India opportunity and invest in equity for long term gains while beating volatility

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

In India, millennials have a very unique opportunity to take advantage of.  Corporates and start-ups are on the rise. Globalization has increased the kind of jobs that pay well. There is a rise in different types of careers, that was not the case a decade ago. Income ranges are high and most of the population is working in companies or their own ventures. This, coupled with various investment options available to people right now, a little discipline and monthly investments will help them build a massive corpus that can enable them to live their dreams. 

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

I have spent a fairly decent amount of time in the Finance Industry and I see that most people ‘save’ their money and don’t ‘invest’. Let me give you an example – if you start investing 10,000 today every month for the next 15 years, you would have a corpus of 1 Cr. With this book, I want to educate people about investing, equity mutual funds and share my experience with them. After quitting my job, I mostly consulted on wealth building and management for my friends and family. But that made me realise that there is lack of equity understanding amongst people at large. And there is a sheer potential for growth through equity investing. So that inspired me to bring out my idea and my formula in a book, as that can reach  large set of people. 

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

It took me a few months to crystalize the idea and get my thoughts structured. Writing a book is no easy feat, I can tell you that.  Although the subject is right up my alley, it took a while to structure the subject and simplify it for it to resonate with readers.  Finance is a tricky matter – most people don’t like to read about finance. And hence, once I had the structure in place, I had to work on simplifying it and making it interesting for readers. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

While I am a great planner when it comes to planning for the future, this is one aspect I have not really thought of yet. This particular period has been very overwhelming for me and I would like to take my time to decide what the future is like when it comes to my writing ambitions. But I am more inclined to write my second book. 

Are you working on any other books presently?

None as of yet

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres? 

The sole purpose of choosing this genre was to share my story and experiences with the audience in the most lucid way possible – while I understand that how this topic can get too technical for many, I have tried to keep it as simple as possible

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

Currently approximately 3% of people in India invest in equities. And there is a large potential for growth there. From my experience in equity investment and wealth management, I knew I had insights that are otherwise not easily available. And that’s when I thought, what better vehicle than a book can I use to communicate the idea of achieving financial freedom early. And that caught on very quickly for me and I started penning my thoughts down. Once that happened, I saw myself creating an outline, a structure and the message seemed very interesting and easy to follow. And that’s when I knew that I was ready to be an author. And from there until the time I held the first copy of my book in my hands, the journey has been exhilarating. I have realised that writing a book is not as easy as I thought it would be. There were multiple times, I stopped, had to go back to the drawing board, find a way for my thoughts to flow. Being an author also means that you have to constantly keep your readers in mind. It is not about what you know as an author but what will interest your readers. And putting your knowledge in that perspective is essential and not the easiest part. But not for a second did I doubt the decision of writing the book and it has been a great journey. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it? And how do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I like to write at scheduled hours. I am someone who follows a calendar and I have dedicated hours for writing. I put together an outline and then a structure to the story and my flow of thoughts. And then I began writing the book chapter wise. 

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

After being in the corporate for so many and working on the laptop – writing on a laptop is my go to option.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I read. It helps me get the clutter in my head cleared and my thoughts to flow. But I did not encounter a serious writer’s block while writing Simply Mutual. I was very excited as it was my first book.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I would like to give one simple advice – write what you know and write what you like. If you feel your story/experience can help somebody with your knowledge, don’t hesitate. 

Thank you, Deepak, for your thoughtful answers!

About the Book

SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom

Everyone wants to be rich, but not everyone is. There is a method and meaning to it that’s more than just numbers.  
In this book, investment veteran Deepak Mullick takes you on a journey to financial freedom. SimplyMutual isn’t just a guide to make more money, it is about building wealth to live the life of your dreams.  

If you’ve ever thought of retiring in your 40s to do what you love, this is THE book for you!

You can find this book on:
Amazon
 | Goodreads


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Spotlight: SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom by Deepak Mullick

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Deepak Mullick for his new novel SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom

SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom

Author Deepak Mullick

Book: SimplyMutual: The 1% Formula To Gain Your Financial Freedom
Author: Deepak Mullick
Page Count: 191
Release Date: 19th August 2021
Genre: Non-Fiction, Finance


Synopsis

SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom

Everyone wants to be rich, but not everyone is. There is a method and meaning to it that’s more than just numbers.  

In this book, investment veteran Deepak Mullick takes you on a journey to financial freedom. SimplyMutual isn’t just a guide to make more money, it is about building wealth to live the life of your dreams.  

If you’ve ever thought of retiring in your 40s to do what you love, this is THE book for you!

You can find SimplyMutual on:

Amazon | Goodreads


About The Author

Deepak Mullick
Founder and Chief Wealth Strategist, SimplyMutual

Deepak has spent over a quarter of a century in the investments industry, working with the country’s largest wealth creators. His last assignment was a 15-year stint at HDFC Mutual Fund. He was their Business Head for North, South and East India during different parts of his tenure. Having dealt with a large spectrum of investment avenues, Deepak realised that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. This belief in the India growth story and its potential to create wealth for decades to come stems from deep experience.

Deepak spent decades in the financial sector witnessing the fast evolution of each constituent of the investments industry — mutual funds, banking, insurance, investment advisors, NBFCs, the regulators, etc. He associated with the country’s top minds in financial and investment planning, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and dived deep into the intricacies of the business.

To come up with the best solutions for investor needs, he constantly drew comparisons between the most popular asset classes, such as equity, debt, real estate, fixed deposits, and gold, and other new asset classes like foreign equity, cryptocurrency, and art. He weighed each option with an exhaustive list of factors such as liquidity, volatility, regulatory environment, transparency, cost of investing, cost of holding and maintenance, convenience, and returns adjusted for risks, taxes, and inflation. This analysis has cemented his belief in the importance of Equity Mutual Funds for individual investors and given him the foundation to create SimplyMutual: The 1% formula to gain financial freedom.

You can contact Author Deepak here:
Email | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Website


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom by Deepak Mullick

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Deepak Mullick for sharing an excerpt from his latest release SimplyMutual: The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom.

About the Book

SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom

Everyone wants to be rich, but not everyone is. There is a method and meaning to it that’s more than just numbers.  

In this book, investment veteran Deepak Mullick takes you on a journey to financial freedom. SimplyMutual isn’t just a guide to make more money, it is about building wealth to live the life of your dreams.  

If you’ve ever thought of retiring in your 40s to do what you love, this is THE book for you!

You can find this book on:

Amazon | Goodreads

Excerpt

How I gained my freedom at 45

On a warm summer evening in 1947, my grandparents packed their bags and left their life behind. FREEDOM. That was the chant in the air. History was being made as the British left a partitioned India behind. For millions of people this meant leaving behind everything they owned, their life’s work and savings, the security and comfort of their homes, of the life they had known, and moving to unknown lands with an uncertain future. My grandparents too made their way from Dera Ismail Khan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of what is now Pakistan, to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. 

I grew up hearing the stories of their life. In the evenings when we all sat together in the courtyard of my grandparents house, they would get nostalgic. My grandmother would tell us about our culture, our food, the traditions, all the wealth we had, the lands we owned back then, and how we earned our surname Mullick, a title given to big landlords. Even as a child, I could hear the longing in her voice, and a note of bitterness at being uprooted. When I write this from the comfort of my home now, I can’t even imagine what they must have gone through. The way they had managed to move with just a few suitcases, hurriedly packed. The way they had to travel hundreds of miles in search of a new place to settle in an environment of extreme hostility.The stress and anxiety of not knowing where they are headed and the despondency of having to start living from scratch.

But start again they did! And they made quite a success of it too. 

Why am I telling you this? What does a story about uprooting and migration have to do with a book on wealth building? 

Well, in this story there is a lesson. That life is unpredictable. That ups and downs will happen. That sometimes everything you took for granted will be disrupted. But don’t lose your wits. Financial success is all about thinking in the long term. As the poster boy for long term investing, Warren Buffet said, “successful investing takes time, discipline, and patience.” 

I’ll add to that and say wealth building is also about optimism. I consider myself an eternal optimist! It’s in my DNA! And even after witnessing the ups and downs of economies for over 25 years, I continue to believe in the India growth story. But more on that later.  

I learnt important life lessons – resilience, optimism, and street-smartness – from my parents, grandparents, and my Alma Mater La Martiniere, that have helped me immensely on my path to financial freedom. 

After I finished my schooling, I had the easy option to join the family business. But it wasn’t something that interested me. I wanted to look at work as something that helped me live the life I desired. And I am very unapologetic about it. I am a firm believer that you work to live and not live to work. Have you ever thought about it? 

What would you do if you had all the money you needed to live a comfortable life? 

Would you still pursue the job you have currently? 

Would you go after something that you are truly passionate about? 

Would you give and contribute to the world? 

Would you spend time travelling the world, experiencing new things, and gaining different perspectives? 

The thing is, most of us spend a lot of time in the lower 2 stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We struggle to make enough money to pay for our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. And we compromise on building meaningful relationships and on finding our true potential. Often because that raise or that promotion is so much more important. Well, I didn’t want to live all my life with some golden handcuffs.

So my aim was to find a career path that would help me realize my retirement goals (yes, I was thinking of retirement when I was 20!) by the time I turned 45. A highly ambitious goal given India’s economic situation then. However, in a series of seemingly unconnected events, I found my calling. 

In the early 90’s when I was figuring out my career choices, the financial services sector was abuzz with activity. India was undergoing an economic transformation. From a bottomless pit for foriegn aid, India was creating Economic Liberalization policies that will make it an emerging superpower in just two decades. Companies were coming up with IPOs every other day and there was high demand for finance talent. Later, this timeframe would also be known as the IPO scam period. Amidst this turmoil, I passed out with an MBA degree and a campus placement in a financial services company that gave me a take-home salary of about Rs. 5000/- per month. 

From a starting point of Rs.5000/- per month to a sizable corpus of a few Crores, I have come a long way to retirement at 45. And I have lived well. I’ve indulged in my passions and in things that interest me and my family. We’ve traveled extensively and experienced the world closely. From whisky trails to northern lights, we have made our way to 29 countries across 5 continents.

This financial freedom has been a journey of considerable learning. First, I found a God-sent friend, philosopher, and guide with whom I have had the privilege of working for two decades. And then, for over three decades, I had the opportunity to witness the rapid evolution of the country’s economic constituents – the businesses, the consumers, the regulatory environment, government policy, the markets, and the ever-changing global scene. I have figured out what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt to tame the volatility and to invest in a way that sustains my lifestyle choices while building my corpus of funds. I have distilled this learning into this book and created the 1% formula to gain financial freedom

The idea of this book came from my experiences of sharing my technique with friends and family members who wanted to quit the rat race, to pursue other life goals, and passions. And most of them have benefitted by following my technique. 

This book is written as an equity investing guide for those who are keen to make their money work for them. People in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking to retire by 45 or those who have 7-10 years before they want to retire. People who want an easy to understand insight into how investing works. This book is your ticket to long term wealth creation and living comfortably off that wealth without giving in to stress, anxiety, or overwork.      

In this book I will tell you the secrets to financial success. I’ll share stories of people who have seen the light and changed their investing behaviors for enormous gains. I’ll help you build good investing habits and make informed investment choices. 

While there are different assets you will invest money in – both physical and financial, we will not cover the entire umbrella of financial planning and management. And there is a reason for that. I believe that if you understand equities the right way, and work with the 1% formula, the need for other kinds of investment vehicles is greatly reduced.  

In my 25 years of experience in the financial sector I have got a fair idea of practices of banking industry, insurance industry, and the quality of the advisory business across categories of advisors. I have worked with several financial planners, attended many workshops, and deep dived into the subject of financial and investment planning. I’ve looked at all asset classes – real estate, gold, debt, equity, foreign equity, etc. from the lens of factors such as – returns adjusting for risks, returns adjusting for inflation and taxes, liquidity, volatility, convenience, costs of investing, etc. I’ve realized that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. In fact, I’ve been able to pull out of my term life insurance policies because of the corpus I have built through equity MF investments!

And so, this book will deal in equity investments only, and more specifically investing in equity through mutual funds. For the purpose of this book I am also considering Hybrid Mutual Funds with over 65% investments in equity as Equity Mutual Funds.   

By reading this book, you would: 

  1. Get a better understanding of the India opportunity and how long will it remain
  2. Get the right perspective on share-markets, understand emotional hurdles and mistakes on the way to financial freedom, and gain insights on how to benefit from the markets
  3. Learn a simple equity-based technique to build wealth and to create your own “Salary-Pension” stream for retirement

Like every great adventure, this book is a start. And as you read it, I’d like to give a word of caution. This book focuses on financial resilience. That means periods of no-gain or even loss that you sit through for long-term returns.This book is NOT about quick fixes or immediate gains. If that’s what you are looking for, then this book is not for you. If thinking long-term does not appeal to you, then this book is not for you.   

That said, in the coming pages there is a wealth of knowledge and tried and tested methods that work. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I have, and use them to find your financial freedom.


About The Author

Deepak Mullick

Founder and Chief Wealth Strategist, SimplyMutual

Deepak has spent over a quarter of a century in the investments industry, working with the country’s largest wealth creators. His last assignment was a 15-year stint at HDFC Mutual Fund. He was their Business Head for North, South and East India during different parts of his tenure. Having dealt with a large spectrum of investment avenues, Deepak realised that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. This belief in the India growth story and its potential to create wealth for decades to come stems from deep experience.

Deepak spent decades in the financial sector witnessing the fast evolution of each constituent of the investments industry — mutual funds, banking, insurance, investment advisors, NBFCs, the regulators, etc. He associated with the country’s top minds in financial and investment planning, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and dived deep into the intricacies of the business.

To come up with the best solutions for investor needs, he constantly drew comparisons between the most popular asset classes, such as equity, debt, real estate, fixed deposits, and gold, and other new asset classes like foreign equity, cryptocurrency, and art. He weighed each option with an exhaustive list of factors such as liquidity, volatility, regulatory environment, transparency, cost of investing, cost of holding and maintenance, convenience, and returns adjusted for risks, taxes, and inflation. This analysis has cemented his belief in the importance of Equity Mutual Funds for individual investors and given him the foundation to create SimplyMutual: The 1% formula to gain financial freedom.

You can contact Author Deepak here:
Email | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Website

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author interview: Rich Marcello

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Rich Marcello for an author interview with The Reading Bud.

About The Author

Rich Marcello

Rich is the author of five novels, The Color of HomeThe Big Wide CalmThe Beauty of the Fall, The LatecomersCenotaphs and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, self-discovery and forgiveness. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his wife and Newfoundland, Shaman. He is currently working on his sixth and seventh novels, The Means of Keeping and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.


You can find author Rich here:
Website | Email  | Goodreads


Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

I’ve been writing full time now for ten years and plan to do so, if all goes well, for the rest of my life. When I started, I had a goal in the back of mind to publish ten books before all was said and done. Cenotaphs is my fifth novel and my sixth book, so I still have a ways to go, but I remain committed to that goal. 

On a personal note, I love Newfoundlands and, in particular, my eight-year-old Newfie named Shaman. When I write in the mornings, she is normally at my side.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

I was really interested in writing about a man and woman, separated in age and circumstance, that form a deep emotional bond. Few books are written about platonic love between a man and woman. In the rare cases when that kind of love does happen, it tends to be a deep and honest love. Once I got Ben and Samantha’s connection clear in my mind, the book wrote itself. I was just a conduit telling their story.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That love, in its truest form, a form where two people truly see each other, can be redemptive, even for those who don’t believe they are worthy of being redeemed.

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I equally love Ben and Samantha. They are such different people on the surface, but underneath they’re driven by the same things. Cenotaphs is their story, and that’s why I chose to tell it from both of their points of view. 

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

As I mentioned above, not many books are written about platonic love between a man and a woman. I wanted to explore this topic in addition to the topic of redemption for those people who don’t believe they deserve it.

How long did it take you to write this particular book? 

A couple of years. 

What are your writing ambitions?

I plan to keep writing for the rest of my life.  I hope to make it to ten novels before I’m done. 

Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Going to my writing studio each morning to work on a new novel, Shaman at my side.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I’m working on two novels, The Means of Keeping, about the climate crisis, and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.

Thank you, Rich, for your insightful answers!
You can read Rich’s previous Interview here and the review of his book The Latecomers here.


Books by author Rich Marcello


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author interview: Deb McEwan

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Deb McEwan for an author interview with The Reading Bud.

About The Author

Deb McEwan

Following a career of over thirty years in the British Army, Deb and her husband moved to Cyprus to become weather refugees. 

Deb loves spending time with her husband Allan and rescue dog Sandy. She also loves writing, keeping fit, and socialising, and does her best to avoid housework. 

She’s written children’s books about Jason the penguin and Barry the reindeer and young adult/adult books about dogs, the afterlife, soldiers, and netball players. 

You can find author Deb here:
Blog/Website | Amazon | Goodreads


Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

Before I started writing books I enjoyed writing rhyming verse and wrote poems/ditties for several friends and colleagues who were moving on to pastures new. I wrote a poem for my niece and her fiancé and was honoured when they invited me to read it at their wedding in 2013.

I started writing song lyrics in the early noughties and collaborated with a few local musicians. I co-wrote a song ‘We Belong Together’, for our 25th wedding anniversary and presented the song to my husband as a surprise. It’s very cheesy but he loved it! You can listen to all my songs here: https://www.debmcewansbooksandblogs.com/my-songs/

I hate cold weather! My extremities turn purple when I’m cold (literally) so my husband and I decided to settle somewhere warm when I left the Army in 2013. That’s why we live in Cyprus. When I’m not writing I work part-time for a military charity and enjoy keeping fit and hanging out with friends and our dog!

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

I’ve based the series on a fictional island (Souvia) rather than the island of Cyprus to give me some flexibility with the police procedures. However, whenever I describe any of the locations I have a place I’ve visited in Cyprus in my mind’s eye.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

In an ideal world you reap what you sow and the characters pay the price for their crimes. Karma is very satisfying!

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Elena is my favourite character in this book. She’s hard working, a bit nosey and can be quite naïve, despite what life has thrown at her in the past. Like one of my close friends who’s also a successful businesswoman, Elena’s found her soul mate a little bit later in life and is making the most of it.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

I’ve wanted to write a cozy mystery series since writing my ‘Island Dog Squad’ series of novellas which are based on our rescue dog, Sandy. (Book #1 is free for subscribers at this link https://dl.bookfunnel.com/wdh6nl8p08 ) I also wanted a break from my ‘Afterlife’ series for a while so this felt like the ideal time to do it.

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Each of the books in this series are approximately 30k long and I already had ideas for the first three. When I’m into my stories I aim to write 1000 words each day so finished the first draft in a month. From first draft to completed book takes about another month to six weeks, depending on how busy my editor is.

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I’d like to write about 12 books in this series, more in my ‘Afterlife’ series and to also expand my standalone book about netball players into a series. I might even write another in my ‘Unlikely Soldiers’ series so guess that takes up most of the next five years! 

Whatever happens writing is in my blood and I’ll carry on for as long as I am able.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

Although I’m concentrating on this series for now, ideas for the next book in the afterlife series often pop into my head. Jotting them down means I can forget them for the time being and come back to them later.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres? 

Variety is definitely the spice of live and I love writing in multiple genres. (Supernatural Suspense (Afterlife series), Action and Adventure/Military (Unlikely Soldiers) Women’s Fiction (Court Out, A Netball Girls’ Drama), Children’s Fiction (Jason the Penguin books and Reindeer Dreams for 3-8 year olds), Cozy Animal Mystery/Action and Adventure (The Island Dog Squad novellas)). 

I’ve also co-written a non-fiction book entitled ‘Zak My Boy Wonder’. It’s a short, harrowing, but inspirational true story of a mother’s fight for her son’s survival and acceptance in society, and how the military authorities deserted her family when they needed them most. 

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

I had a very busy career in the British Army but have always wanted to write. I had confidence issues and never thought I’d be good enough. We have an illness in our family (Huntington’s Disease) and when I discovered that one of my brothers had the disease but that I didn’t, I considered myself very lucky and decided to make the most of my life. I haven’t looked back since.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it? And how do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I get up at 6am and write for an hour before going to my part-time job between 8am and 2pm. Then I write some more when I get home from work. I’m a speedy typist so I type all my stories on the computer at home. I stick to this routine at weekends too as I’m at my most creative first thing in the morning.

I write a rough plot for the first three or four chapters and then the end of the book. I always know the ending but sometimes my characters surprise me by taking unexpected turnings to get there. My characters are like real people to me and often surprise me. Some of my friends find this quite weird but that’s the way it is.

What are your 5 favourite books?

That’s such a difficult question so I’m not going to answer it! I loved reading Enid Blyton books when I was a youngster then Wilbur Smith books when I was a little older. Now I mostly read books by Indie authors such as Jean Gill (I love her Natural Forces and Troubadours series) and I’m currently reading ‘How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness’, by Jessica Bell. It’s a fascinating story set in a future dystopian world where immortality can only be granted to those who follow the rules. I change genre depending on my mood and am always up to reading new authors.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

A good walk sets the ideas flowing and always seems to work wonders.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

As someone once said, ‘Writers write’. So follow your dreams, go to your happy place, and get writing!

Thank you, Deb, for your insightful answers!

Books by author Deb McEwan


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Character Interview: Fedor From Fedor by Brant Vickers

Today, we are featuring Fedor, the lead character from Fedor by, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Brant Vickers

Brant Vickers started work as a caddy and delivered flowers in Southern California before going into the military. He’s lived in three foreign countries and seven states. He later found his true profession and calling working with students with special needs where he met some of the most endearing and loving people on the planet. His memoir, Chucky’s in Tucson, reflects those 18 years. This led to his interest in Fedor and his imagined story. Brant lives in Arizona with his wife, Cheryl Ann.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads 


The Interview

Welcome to The Reading Bud! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

Thank you very much. My name is Fedor Adrianovitch Jefticheff and I was born in 1868 in Tbilisi, Georgia, part of Tsarist Russia. I traveled with my father for several years in a small carnival throughout Russia and Europe. A few years ago I was given the chance to become part of the Black Tent in the famous and gargantuan Barnum & Bailey’s sideshow.

What is your age and what do you do for a living?  

It’s now 1900 and I’m 32 years old. We’re currently on a several year tour of Great Britain and Europe. P.T. Barnum presents me as Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy in what is commonly called Barnum’s Freak Show. Several of us don’t like that term, but many of us embrace it and deal with the peculiars of our physical infirmaries. This is how I’m forced to make my living. I have no alternate form of employment. As my manager in Russia, Grigory always said, “If they pay in rubles we give them a show; it’s a show we provide.”

How you like to spend your free time? 

I have been a voracious reader since my mama started reading to me in my early childhood. We read books in German, English, and, of course, Russian. I am now fluent in both reading and speaking those languages. Her favorite author was Leo Tolstoy, as is mine now. But I have been fortunate enough to meet several writers throughout America. I have developed a close friendship with Mark Twain, who by the way is a fan of the circus. Also I have met, among others, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Louisa May Alcott. I hope to meet several more here in Europe.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc. Anything that will help us get to know you better.)  

I have had to develop a strong attitude to my predicament in this world. My friends and I in the Black Tent cultivate a strong constitution to our lot in life. People pay to gawk at us, but it is the only method, at this time in the world, for us to make a living. My best friend in Russia once said, “I don’t think being ordinary is such a benefit and something they should proud of.” Or as my friend Mark Twain said to me one day, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior there is drama, a comedy, and a tragedy!”

Tell us something about your family and childhood. 

I have long, thick, silky dark hair all over my body. Everywhere. My papa had the same. Our life in Tbilisi was harsh and poor. Even when my papa could get work we rarely had enough to eat and after my beloved mama died, we went on the road with Grigory. His show was small but I had several close loving friends. At age fifteen I met the Tsarevich Nicholas II and shortly after a scout for the Barnum & Bailey Circus. My life changed dramatically after that and I’ve made many more friends whom I live and work with, and consider them my family now. 

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to? 

I have recently met the love of my life and her name is Krao Farni and we suffer from the same malady, but have fallen in love. As Mr. Tolstoy said, “all, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.” My biggest aspiration is to make enough money and live with Krao comfortably in peace.

What is your biggest fear in life?

I have a fear of not succeeding with my greatest aspiration.

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

I have traveled and seen more of the world than I ever dreamed. My infirmity has made this possible. If not for it, my life as an uneducated peasant in Tsarist Russia would have been very meager. We were, for all intents and purposes serfs. “You can’t throw too much style into a miracle and you my friend are a miracle,” Mark Twain said of me, and I would suggest that sums up my good fortune in life.

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? 

Living in the wondrous, magical, and unpredictable world of Barnum & Bailey’s Circus brings tragedy along with its marvels. Losing close friends to misfortunes in our world also brings some sadness. Along with gaining much, I’ve lost a few of my dearest friends.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?  

I must again quote from my legendary tutor and life long spiritual guide Mr. Tolstoy, “There is only one thing in this word worth dedicating your life to and that is creating more love among people…” If the people, who pay to gawk and be frightened of Krao and myself, can see us and realize we live this life with dignity and love, maybe they would understand there are many ways to live. 11. What are your plans for the future?  We are planning to wed upon our return to the United States and look forward to an early retirement and spend our days reading and enjoying each other’s company. I’ll leave you with one more quote and you can probably deduce who wrote it: If you want to be happy, be. And thank you for the opportunity to share my life and thoughts with you.


Fedor by Brant Vickers

“You can’t throw too much style into a miracle, and you my friend are a miracle,” Mark Twain says to Fedor Adrianovitch Jefticheff, also known as Jo-Jo The Dog Faced Boy. Fedor lives, travels, works, and loves among the haunting cast of performers in the Black Tent Sideshow of P.T. Barnum’s Circus in the late 1880s.

Fedor not only survived, but also profited by being a memorable and unforgettable human curiosity. Along with being an intelligent and avid reader of Tolstoy, Twain, Alcott, and Melville, he has remarkable interactions with a myriad of other world-renowned characters, one being Nicholas II the Russian Tsarevich. This proves that more than just being a “sideshow,” there was a lot of individuality and heart to this “dog-faced boy.”

Richly authentic, dramatic, beautifully written, and always thought-provoking, Brant Vickers tells Fedor’s story in an epic account of this young man’s extraordinary life.

You can find this book here:
Goodreads
| Amazon

Excerpt Reveal: Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad by Eric L. Heard

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eric L. Heard for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.

About the Book

Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad

The purpose of this book is an awkward discussion of Eric Heard’s life to his son. He talks about his life in a candid way that tries to explain his anxiety as an African American dad. It is an open and honest account of his life through the life of a child that has been through a lot in his life. It is a reflection on his life that has been shaped by his childhood experiences.

You can find this book on:

Amazon | Goodreads

Excerpt

This episode jolted me into making another connection between my childhood and how I was acting as a parent with my son. I would take actions to ensure that what had haunted our family tree for generations would not happen to him. I knew it would require some radical steps. One of those actions was writing a book that he can share with his family after I leave this earth. When he thinks about the times I would not go with him to the baseball game or to his school assembly, this book will provide the answers when he reads between the lines.

 I hope this book will help others who don’t have their stories told anywhere in media. There are other African American men dealing with their childhood experiences and wanting to insulate their sons and daughters from the echoes and continued grasp of systematic racism. I grew up during an era of seismic changes that saw whole communities decimated. The mental anguish quietly pushed African American dads to find a way to deal with an unforgiving world. These dads are looking to raise kids while at the same time reconciling crushing pain. I would like this book to be an acknowledgment of that pain and let them know they are not alone.


About The Author

About Eric L. Heard

Eric L. Heard currently lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife, Sonya, of 17 years and his son, McKinley. Eric is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Engineering. He also has a Master’s Business Administration from Indiana University and Master’s of Manufacturing Operations from Kettering University. He is an Army Brat who has lived in the Southeast United States, Germany, and Japan. Please contact me at ericlheard@hotmail.com, if you have any questions or need to contact m

You can contact Author Eric here:

Email | Amazon | Goodreads

Author Spotlight: Jake Camp

Welcome to TRB Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to Book Promotions. Today, we are featuring Jake Camp, author of Banshee And The Sperm Whale, for our Author Spotlight feature.

About The Author

Born in Big Timber, Montana in 1973, Jake Camp is the son of an impressionist landscape artist and the grandson of an engineer and inventor.  He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from Western Washington University and the University of Montana, and has been a community college professor and department chair since 2002.  An avid fly-fisherman and snowboarder, he lives in Arvada, CO with his sons.

Get in touch with author Jake Camp here:

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | YouTube | Email


Book Trailer


About The Book

A sunset wedding in Kona. An ugly secret discovered on an iPhone. Experimental philosophical marriage counseling. Time travel. Diver Neurons and Angel Neurons separated by Sea and Sky. Banshee and the Sperm Whale takes the reader on a journey into the unconscious mind of Martin, a biracial chef from Denver who suffers from a particular kind of overabundance. Along the way, a modern allegory unfolds, and everyday notions about self-knowledge, the nature of good and evil, and possibility of finding meaning and spiritual significance in the face of inexorable uncertainty are turned inside out.

You can fins Banshee And The Sperm Whale here:

Goodreads | Amazon


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author/book featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com


Author interview: Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday for an author interview with TRB-team!

About The Author

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday 

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday is a business leader, marketer, mentor, public speaker and brand specialist who has built her passion for brand purpose on the back of her meaningful marketing career with various Fortune 100 companies. Her experience includes working with Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Huawei, Hyundai and many more. She is a big environmental advocate who truly believes in successful business done for good and is constantly curious about driving it forward.

You can find author Laricea here:

Instagram | LinkedIn


Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

I am Romanian, living in London with my English husband and our chinchilla called Snowy. I am also very passionate about the environment and madly in love with all animals and plants. I have my own garden which I have been passionately working in for the past 5 years whilst also trying to explore as much as we can this beautiful planet. I have been to 65 countries so far, usually having a target of 5 new countries every year, however with the pandemic this has become really difficult to achieve. I even received a badge from Tripadvisor for one of the highest number of countries visited vs age. Another passion is diving, both my husband and I are certified advanced divers, with over 80 hours of diving all over the world, from Europe to the Indian Ocean, Mediteranean, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The more we travel and dive, the more we realise how fragile the natural world is and how much we can do on an individual level to protect it. I am hoping that through my book, I will be able to raise awareness of this and encourage businesses and individuals to support the idea of profit for good rather than just profit.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

I set about writing this book from a desire to raise awareness around brand purpose, its critical implications for society and beyond and to provide the tools for making the right, informed decisions for both marketers and consumers when it comes to evaluating true brand purpose. There has never been such a desire to change, fix, improve, eliminate, or embrace actions that would make a difference to the current affairs and not only make us feel better about ourselves but genuinely help shape a better future. Specifically, for this reason more than half of consumers believe that brands play a greater role than governments when it comes to the future of this planet. Whilst this is all fabulous news for brands to be entrusted with such great confidence, some of them are taking advantage of this trend in an unorthodox manner. Thus, through this book I am hoping to highlight some of the issues around brand purpose and purposeful brands, attempting to better define brand purpose and dreaming to be able to make a difference in how people/consumers/marketeers perceive brand purpose and its real importance and power.
This book is addressed to a very wide audience: from consumers, to marketers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, founders, pretty much anyone who has an interest in sustainable businesses and future proofing the future.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

We live in a very troublesome world, which needs more than ever actions that speak more than words, consumers who act through their choices and businesses that put purpose above profit. I set about writing this book from a desire to raise awareness around brand purpose, its critical implications for society and beyond and to provide the tools for making the right, informed decisions for both marketers and consumers when it comes to evaluating true brand purpose. I am hoping that this book will make a difference on how businesses perceive, approach and apply brand purpose, which is for greater good, through genuine actions and a more empathetic approach towards consumers, society and the planet. My desire is for this book to enlighten the audiences, expand their understanding of brand purpose and its greater consequences and ultimately change the current state of affairs by being more like a dazzle of zebras and less like a lonely unicorn!

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

I have been working in marketing and advertising for a while now, so I have been exposed to a variety of brands – from cult driven, small, family run businesses to multi billion pound empires that have become modern days icons. One day, during a warm summer in London, I had completed a long brainstorming session with one of my clients, which concluded with a burning desire for the company to establish a new strategy that displays “purpose”. That was the moment when I realised that all of this was wrong; very wrong because what my client was asking me to do was to purely sell an image, portraying a behaviour that resonated with their current customers and potential new ones. However, for them, it was more important as to how they would advertise and market this new “purposeful” positioning and not how they could actually bring it to life with genuine actions and truthful communications. 

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Around 5 months 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I do not consider myself a writer, as this is my first book, however I believe it’s more of a manifesto, a desire to raise awareness about an issue. I will have to wait and see what is the public’s reaction to this first book and if it is positive I will of course consider expanding on the topic and provide further inspiration and assistance to both brands and consumers. 

Are you working on any other stories presently?

No

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

Please see question 5, it all started with my brand experiences and because it felt very unjust and unfair, I decided I need to make my opinion more formal and also provide solutions and advice in terms of true brand purpose and ways of bringing it to life as a business. Lockdown and the pandemic helped me with the book writing as I wouldn’t have had normally so much spare time to sit down and write my ideas. So I have not given up anything per se to make this happen, however I was fortunate enough to do it during a time when the whole world has hit pause. There is a silver line in any cloud 🙂

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I have collected first all my ideas in a little notebook over a few months since I first got the idea of writing a book. I then categorised them in chapters and then I start crafting each chapter. The first two months were most difficult as I was doing it after work, in the evening, so I felt quite tired at the beginning, but then the more I wrote, the more excited and motivated I began. And as I mentioned lockdown helped as I could do it over weekends as well and also over bank holidays, on sunny spring days in the garden. I always had a beautiful candle next to me and a cup of tea, this is my little secret to get inspiration, but it also makes me very happy to feel the beautiful smell of a candle and taste the hot tea on my lips.  

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

It was a combination of laptop and longhand with a pen as I adore to write 🙂

What are your 5 favourite books?

Non-fiction: Simon Sinek, Seth Godin
Fiction: Agnes Martin-Lugand, Elif Shafak, Ion Creanga (Romanian)

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I haven’t had this issue yet! 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Follow your dreams! If you have an idea, follow it to completion despite the hurdles you might come across. It isn’t easy, it requires a lot of time, dedication and patience, however when you hold you book in your hands for the first time, that feeling is so worth it! And also, knowing that your book will make a difference in this world, may it be cheering people up, inspiring them, helping them to go through difficult times, educating them or even being their companion for a short time, that makes all the difference. Never give up and follow your dream!

Thank you, Larecia, for your insightful answers!

About the book


Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

Purpose is a journey, not a destination. More business leaders, marketers and customers need to become aware of true brand purpose and act upon it through business strategies, marketing campaigns and their wallet. This book challenges the way brand purpose has been deployed over the past few years and examines ways of correcting misconceptions and misuses by providing practical solutions and examples of what good looks like. We all have a role to play in the community, so stop dreaming about unicorns and be more zebra!

You can find Brand Purpose here:

MyBestseller | Amazon Blurb


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra? by Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday for sharing an excerpt from her latest release Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

About the book

Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

Purpose is a journey, not a destination. More business leaders, marketers and customers need to become aware of true brand purpose and act upon it through business strategies, marketing campaigns and their wallet. This book challenges the way brand purpose has been deployed over the past few years and examines ways of correcting misconceptions and misuses by providing practical solutions and examples of what good looks like. We all have a role to play in the community, so stop dreaming about unicorns and be more zebra!

You can find Brand Purpose here:

MyBestseller | Amazon Blurb


Excerpt

There is a lot of confusion around purpose, especially when it comes to a brands’ purpose, how they deploy this concept in their marketing efforts and then portray it to the world. We are currently living in some really troubled times (probably not the worst in human history); but nevertheless constantly bombarded with bad news, apocalyptic images and consistent negative updates across politics, nature, economics and many other verticals. So naturally, people as consumers and as citizens of this world turn their attention – more than ever to social and environmental issues. 

There has never been such a desire to change, fix, improve, eliminate, or embrace actions that would make a difference to the current affairs and not only make us feel better about ourselves but genuinely help shape a better future. Specifically, for this reason more than 60% of consumers believe that brands play a greater role than governments when it comes to the future of this planet. Whilst this is all fabulous news for brands to be entrusted with such great confidence, some of them are taking advantage of this trend in an unorthodox manner. 

Here I present this book, hoping to highlight some of the issues around brand purpose and purposeful brands, attempting to better define brand purpose and dreaming to be able to make a difference in how people/consumers/marketers perceive brand purpose and its real importance and power.

I just don’t want to stay silent anymore and marvel at how some big brands who have been silently chopping down trees from nature reserves are getting praised on a wider scale for improving and changing our society for good. I want to bring bad examples to your attention, but I also wish to define genuine brand purpose to inspire those companies out there who are fooling themselves (and at times, us) that their brand purpose is real.

Thus, I hope you will enjoy this book and become inspired to evaluate the brands you are working on as a marketer or the brands you are buying as a consumer through the lens of “true brand purpose”.


About The Author

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday 

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday is a business leader, marketer, mentor, public speaker and brand specialist who has built her passion for brand purpose on the back of her meaningful marketing career with various Fortune 100 companies. Her experience includes working with Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Huawei, Hyundai and many more. She is a big environmental advocate who truly believes in successful business done for good and is constantly curious about driving it forward.

You can find author Laricea here:

Instagram | LinkedIn


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Spotlight: Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra? by Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday for her novel Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra? by Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Book: A Brand’s Purpose…Less Unicorn, More Zebra?
Author: Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday
Page Count: 200
Publication date: 27th Jan 2021
Genre: non-fiction, business, marketing


Synopsis

Purpose is a journey, not a destination. More business leaders, marketers and customers need to become aware of true brand purpose and act upon it through business strategies, marketing campaigns and their wallet. This book challenges the way brand purpose has been deployed over the past few years and examines ways of correcting misconceptions and misuses by providing practical solutions and examples of what good looks like. We all have a role to play in the community, so stop dreaming about unicorns and be more zebra!

You can find Brand Purpose here:

MyBestsellerAmazon | Blurb


About The Author

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday is a business leader, marketer, mentor, public speaker and brand specialist who has built her passion for brand purpose on the back of her meaningful marketing career with various Fortune 100 companies. Her experience includes working with Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Huawei, Hyundai and many more. She is a big environmental advocate who truly believes in successful business done for good and is constantly curious about driving it forward.

You can find author Larecia here:

Instagram | LinkedIn


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: E. T. Gunnarsson

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring E. T. Gunnarsson, author of Forgive Us, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

E. T. Gunnarsson

Mr. Gunnarsson grew up on a horse-rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. He now resides in Georgetown, TX.

Once in Texas, he wrote his first post-apocalyptic book, “Forgive Us” while attending high school. Outside of writing, Mr. Gunnarsson is a purple belt in BJJ and a brown belt in Judo.

You can connect with the author here:

Facebook | Instagram | Reedsy Discovery | Twitter | Website



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

To start off, I learned how to read through World of Warcraft. It sounds funny, but it’s true. When I was taken out of school at around seven, I didn’t know how to read, write, or do math. While I was being tutored how to read and write, I played World of Warcraft, and as I slowly gained lingual skills, I applied them to the game which allowed me to go from wandering around all day to doing questions and leveling up my character.

I actually started writing when I was nine, though the literature I produced probably sucked, and never saw the light of day. I also started text roleplaying on platforms such as Discord, which led into my author career and where my writing skills first started.

I am also a Norse pagan, and I’m into woodcarving to create idols for deities and spirits.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

Forgive Us is told as three interleaved stories covering different timelines in the 22nd century.This part is not in Forgive Us but gives more info about the environment the survivors live in: The wasteland began way before the fall of civilization. It started with the widespread use of Ignium in the 2050s, and its continued use through the 2060s and 2070s. Ignium, an energy similar to electricity and plasma, is easy to create and extremely malleable, therefore economically better than electricity. Its downfall was its slight toxicity. With its widespread use by billions of people, Ignium slowly poisoned the soil, air, and worldwide ecosystem, leading to cataclysmic climate change and leading to the sixth mass extinction on earth. Combined with pollution such as trash and other waste, the oceans were killed, the sun was blotted out, and the soil itself became a mix of dirt, Ignium, and plastics.

Ignium’s usage became a dependency, and by the time that it was discovered to be extremely damaging to the planet it was too late. Many major companies depended on it and funded campaigns to cover up the damage it caused.

During the 2070s, the world became destabilized and eventually collapsed. The population soared to roughly 14 billion, countries collapsed from resource, water, and food shortages. Despite the amazing technology of the 2070s, major parts of the population died due to illness and starvation as unemployment (in the US) soared into 60%.

Toward 2078, Europe collapsed into war between its nations while the US fell into a three-way civil war. At the same time as a world-wide pandemic and world-wide economic collapse, this broke the country. The pandemic which started in India, ultimately left India, the Middle East, and Africa in a broken state with most of the population dead or dying.

During 2079, the last powerful countries on Earth (such as the USA, Russia, and China) declared war on each other over the last resources on Earth. After a few nukes, bombs, chemical weapons, mutagenic bombs, and more, civilization finally came to a crumbling halt.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

If there is a single message that can be derived from Forgive Us and the Odemark series as a whole, it’s to be green. In the series, the sky is blotted out from pollution and trash is everywhere, layering the ocean and earth. It is the idea of not poisoning our world. There are many other messages in Forgive Us, like caring for those you love, that war is hell, and that tyranny never dies but should not be stood for.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

I have to say that Oliver is my favorite character because he matches the perfect description of a wasteland survivor. He is the lone wolf that many post-apocalyptic works feature, he is the grizzled, mentally scarred survivor he fights and claws to live. His storyline also represents the wolf of power/greed, which is an evil predator.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

There is no specific inspiration for Forgive Us. Rather, Forgive Us and the Odemark series was born from a love of post-apocalyptic fiction, a gap in the genre, and years of interacting with the genre. For example, there are many influences for many aspects of Forgive Us. The father-daughter relationship between London and Rose is seen in many games (see the Dadification of games), the wasteland is inspired from Mad Max, the Fallout Series, and 9, and the conflicts in the book are inspired from history and the media mentioned before.

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

It took me two years to write Forgive Us, starting when I was sixteen and ending when I was eighteen. The first year consisted of the actual writing as I learned the twists and turns of creating a book, while the second year consisted of editing, which was a long process of more learning.

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

In five years I hope to finish the Odemark series, along with starting a new series in my high-fantasy world which is currently still in the works.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

Currently, I am writing the prequel to Forgive Us, Abandon Us, which will show life in theold world, the downfall of civilization, and show who the Outsiders really were.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I think it makes for great movies and great games when done well. Forgive Us came to me one day, so it was really the genre choosing me rather than me choosing the general. I learned to write in high-fantasy settings, so I hope to transition back one day.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

I decided to become a writer when I started Forgive Us in 2018. Being a writer is not easy in general, but I am lucky to have an extremely flexible schedule that allows me to work a lot without sacrificing anything beyond free time that I’d otherwise waste.

Following the course of being a writer comes with a lot of ups and downs. The ups would be positive feedback on your work or success in writing, and the downs would be writer’s block, negative feedback, and self-doubt. Fortunately, I think the ups make the downs look small because when you’re so high up, falling a little bit does seem so far.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I’m boring when it comes to writing. I generally sit down, try to play some music that fits the genre I am writing in, and write. I usually have tea while I write, but not always. If I am doing serious writing, I will remove all the distractions around me and just write. No distraction writing is a really easy way to burn out in my opinion, and is really boring, so I usually avoid it.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I have dysgraphia, so it’s hard to write with a pencil or pen. I prefer the power and utility of a computer or a laptop, since it allows me to edit and create with ease.

What are your 5 favourite books?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favorite books, simply because it’s the Lord of the Rings with lighter reading, and serves as a wonderful introduction to the series. The Poetic Edda by Snorri Sturluson is my second favorite book, since it serves as a pillar to understanding Norse Mythology, and as an important religion text. I also love Maus (Art Spieglman), 1984 (George Orwell), and Rise of the Lich King (Christie Golden).

When it comes to authors, I absolutely love Stephen King and Tolkien. My father read the Dark Tower series to me when I was little, which I think has a subconscious influence on my writing. Tolkien is the father of all modern fantasy, and without him I would not have my childhood game World of Warcraft, or the inspiration to make a high fantasy world.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

When it comes to Writer’s Block, a due date gets me out of it. If I feel pressure to write, I will write, and that’s how real writing works in my opinion. It’s a job, and a job does not wait for you. If you struggle with Writer’s Block, you either have to wait for it to go away or break through it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If one wants to seriously write, it has to be treated like a job. A job has hours, due dates, and expectations, and writing should be no different. Without it, procrastination and no results rule. For me, I have a daily word count I have to reach, and a chapter/page amount I have to reach per week or month.

Thank you, Mr Gunnarsson, for your interesting answers!


About The Book

Forgive Us

Three timelines. One dark future…

A new form of energy has poisoned the earth, leaving civilization in ruins. As decades go by, the inheritors of this devastation struggle to survive and reconquer a broken planet…

In 2099: Mankind emerges from the darkness. A lone rider named Oliver journeys east, seeking civilization beyond the Rocky Mountains. Braving the toxic earth and poison air, Oliver must battle a horde of deadly mutants as he unites a band of refugees into the first nation of this new world…

In 2153: Fledging nations clash over land and resources. London, a veteran of the wasteland, struggles to protect his adopted daughter Rose as the world decays around them. But little does he know, both he and his adopted daughter will soon find themselves drawn into a coming war…

In 2184: Simon, a descendent of those who fled the earth, lives on the great Arcadis Station. A gifted technician, he works vigilantly against those who rule his society with an iron fist. In the shadows, he will be the difference between enslavement or liberty…

Fans of The Gunslinger and The Stand will love Forgive Us. This epic novel takes readers on a post-apocalyptic thrill ride, spanning three generations of a ravaged earth…

You can find the book here:

Amazon
 Barnes & Nobel BookBub Goodreads |  Lulu NetGalley


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: Forgive Us by E.T. Gunnarsson

Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author E.T. Gunnarsson, for sharing an excerpt from their latest release Forgive Us.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!

About The Book

Three timelines. One dark future…

A new form of energy has poisoned the earth, leaving civilization in ruins. As decades go by, the inheritors of this devastation struggle to survive and reconquer a broken planet…

In 2099: Mankind emerges from the darkness. A lone rider named Oliver journeys east, seeking civilization beyond the Rocky Mountains. Braving the toxic earth and poison air, Oliver must battle a horde of deadly mutants as he unites a band of refugees into the first nation of this new world…

In 2153: Fledging nations clash over land and resources. London, a veteran of the wasteland, struggles to protect his adopted daughter Rose as the world decays around them. But little does he know, both he and his adopted daughter will soon find themselves drawn into a coming war…

In 2184: Simon, a descendent of those who fled the earth, lives on the great Arcadis Station. A gifted technician, he works vigilantly against those who rule his society with an iron fist. In the shadows, he will be the difference between enslavement or liberty…

Fans of The Gunslinger and The Stand will love Forgive Us. This epic novel takes readers on a post-apocalyptic thrill ride, spanning three generations of a ravaged earth…

You can find the book here:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | BookBub | Goodreads | Lulu | NetGalley


Excerpt

Chapter I

‘Memory’

8:46 PM, December 31, 2099

Silent, empty, and cruel. This was the nature of the wasteland.

The wasteland was a vast expanse of ruins, sand, and dying life beneath a polluted sky. This was the new world. It was created by humanity in 2079, and it was the world that they now had to brave to survive. 

The downfall of the old world happened slowly. Humanity did not know it, but their cunning and technology became their undoing. In the great battle between Mother Nature and humanity’s dominion, there was no winner. 

The sound of a thunderous engine erupted throughout the eerie wasteland as a motorcycle sped along the ancient roads. Upon it was a survivor, alone and braving all odds. His name was Oliver, a thirty-six-year-old man who had grown up in the old world.

Oliver was a refugee from the wild and untamed lands near the Rocky Mountains. He fled East, guided by the hope that the East would be better, though he could feel in his gut that it wouldn’t be. The only solace he had were stories from traveling caravans and survivors who spoke of growing settlements in the East.

Oliver was pursued. Not by man, not by beast, but by time. Starvation, dehydration, exposure, all of these were barely kept at bay by luck and experience. His current and most dangerous pursuer was the weather. 

The pollution haze above blocked out the sun. As night approached, the world slowly became pitch black and freezing cold. The darkness parted before the headlights of his motorcycle, yet Oliver felt vulnerable. 

Parallel to the road were telephone poles, some of which had tilted or completely fallen to the ground. The surrounding wasteland was desolate and empty, occupied by rocks and sand dunes. 

Oliver wore an old-world smart suit that was on its warmest setting. He also wore a coat made out of animal hide over his smart suit. He had traded for it a while ago, and it had saved him from freezing to death many times already. Still, he shivered.

A gas mask covered his face. It was vital for survival in the wasteland; without it, the toxic air would corrode Oliver’s lungs. It was old and worn, created in a factory in the old world. Still, it worked much better than the makeshift masks that most people wore. Finding filters for the gas mask was easy; they were everywhere.

There was a grim face beneath the intimidating gas mask. Oliver’s brown eyes reflected a man whose past was full of pain and hardship. Through the visor, they seemed tired. The light that most people have in their eyes was dim in Oliver’s. He also had deep curves between his brows and fatigued laugh lines. His skin was dark and covered in colored blotches, irritated and damaged from the wasteland air.

Oliver focused on his current task: finding shelter for the night. Such searches were often painful since he had to be picky about the buildings he used. Some were too unstable to hold up against the wasteland’s extreme weather; some were too hard to get into, others occupied.

He paused at a fork in the road, gazing down each path. After a few seconds, Oliver turned the motorcycle right and sped off. The sand-covered asphalt in front of him rose into a hill. Oliver followed the road and arrived at a parking lot. In front of him was an old, wooden church that was leaning to one side. A few cars sat parked in the parking lot, their paint stripped by sandy winds and their frames rusted out by time. The church itself had shattered windows and holes in every wall. Oliver had to make do. It was too dangerous to search for better shelter with night fast approaching.

The thunderous engine cut out as Oliver parked and turned off his motorcycle. The world became silent again. Only faint wind could be heard in the absence of the engine’s power. Oliver turned on a flashlight that was attached to the side of the gas mask. Next, he grabbed his gun off the back of his motorcycle. Holding it with two hands, he turned toward the church. Oliver’s boots met the ground with quiet clicks. These were combat boots, tough and made for smashing jaws. 

He swallowed nervously. Though anxious, Oliver felt safe with his Railshot Rifle in hand. It was beautiful, a flawless combination of a railgun and a shotgun. He checked the top port of the gun before entering the church. The gun had plenty of scrap metal in it, ready to shred flesh and bone instantly. Next, he checked the round blue energy meter above the trigger. Oliver felt sure there was enough charge to keep him safe.

He moved toward the entrance. The flashlight pierced the darkness, allowing him to see the gnarled and twisted vines covering the church. They looked so dry that it seemed like they would crumble to dust if Oliver touched them. The twin doors that blocked off the entrance to the building posed no challenge. One was hanging weakly from its hinges, while the other had broken off and now laid on the floor.

Step by step, he entered the church, walking over a fallen door and looking up into the steeple. The lonely church bell still hung far up there. It was rusty, kept in place by a few frayed ropes, gently moving back and forth.  Each time the wind gently moved it, Oliver heard a distant “ding” from the steeple. 

The bell seemed so lonely. It was a reminder that this place was once the center of a community. Where were they? He assumed that they were all long gone, lost to the last twenty years. 

The interior of the church was desolate and destroyed. The hard, wooden floor inside had a layer of sand and pebbles. Each time Oliver took a step, a quiet crunch followed.

 There were broken benches and piles of rubble everywhere. Oliver wondered if any ghosts still sat on those benches. Were they at peace, or were they suffering? Many parts of the walls and roof had collapsed upon the altar and benches lining the church. Oliver looked around cautiously, taking in the looming structure.

Here was once a holy site that held peace, now defiled by the wasteland. To Oliver, all of it was just firewood.

The place was empty of any living presence. The only recent trace of human activity was a single piece of graffiti over the altar. Oliver examined the graffiti, stepping upon the altar to wipe some dust off of it. 

“GOD HAS ABANDONED US!”

Oliver frowned and stepped down from the altar, turned around, and started to gather pieces of wood. The graffiti was unsettling. Oliver breathed uneasily as he moved around. Once he grabbed enough pieces, he formed them into a campfire at the center of the building. Oliver took off his backpack and laid it beside him. It was an old, rugged backpack that held most of his belongings. There were some holes in it, and its fabric was so worn down that the once blue-ish fibers were black and dirty. The backpack held a bedroll, food, gas mask filters, incredibly precious bottles of water, and bags of scrap metal.

He dug inside the backpack and pulled out a tesla lighter. It was old, given to him when he was younger. On one side was a company logo that was almost invisible from wear. He flipped the cap open and turned it on. Arcs of energy formed between two metal rods, the arcs humming and dancing.

Oliver lowered the lighter down to the campfire. First, there was smoke, then after a few moments, a small flame appeared. Oliver nurtured the flame until it engulfed the small campfire. Once it was going, he unstrapped the bedroll from the backpack and laid it out beneath a bench near the fire. Oliver felt happy as he basked in the warmth of the fire; his shivering slowly stopped as he turned off his flashlight and sat down.

The church creaked and moaned from the rough winds outside. The sounds made Oliver uneasy. He stared at the fire, his face wrinkling in thought as he contemplated the church. People still clung to Christianity in the new world, though their beliefs had changed over the past two decades.

Many were afraid of old churches. Some said that God had punished humanity for their sins. Sin was thought to be the reason why the world was like this now. Many believed that the Devil lived in old holy places like this church. Oliver didn’t believe in all those stories, but the idea still creeped him out. He imagined the evil, horned demon dancing in the shadows with the flickering flame, laughing at his ignorance and plotting to steal his soul.

While warming up from the heat of the campfire, Oliver gazed at the device on his forearm. It was a Smartwrist, similar to a smartwatch from the early 21st century. He turned it on and checked the time. It was nine o’clock, three hours until midnight. New year, new century, same problems. People used to celebrate the new year, drink, and make merry. Not anymore.

With nothing else to do, Oliver decided to eat dinner. He grabbed the backpack and dug through it, procuring a vial with a full meal inside of it. Processed cubes of synthesized meat and vegetables composed the meal, food from the old world. He frowned bitterly under his mask as he looked at the vial. Oliver unscrewed the lid, quickly lifted his gas mask, emptied the vial, and put his mask back on in one swift movement. Instead of throwing away the vial, he put it back in his backpack for later use.

Oliver looked like a chipmunk with so much food in his mouth. Stuffing too much food into his mouth was a bad habit Oliver had; as a matter of fact, he used to be called “Chipmunk” by his family. The artificial food tasted like stale popcorn. Oliver’s metal teeth chewed through the stuff easily. While he was eating, Oliver thought about his last visit to a dentist in the old world.

He remembered having his teeth pulled out to be replaced by 3D printed metal teeth that wouldn’t break or decay. The pain from the procedure was brutal and lasted a few days after the surgery. For many, it was once a rite of passage, marking the transition from teenager to adulthood. Everyone went through it, and, in Oliver’s opinion, he was happy to have metal teeth. Suffering tooth decay from the inability to deal with his hygiene was the last thing Oliver wanted. They looked like real teeth anyway and didn’t turn yellow.

Oliver’s gaze shifted to the doorway of the church. Outside, there was the darkness of a polluted world. There was no grass, but there was still some life, mostly brown, dry, and barely alive. The winds were blowing fiercely as always. A blackish color tainted the air, and waves of dust sailed over the ground with the tremendous force of the wind.

A discontented exhale left his lips as he closed his eyes. Oliver tried to remember a time when the sky didn’t constantly have a dark haze over it. Growing up in a cramped apartment, Oliver heard stories of when there were still green fields and blue skies. He believed the stories only because he had seen pictures that captured those forgotten times, though some doubts lingered in his mind. No matter how hard he tried, he could never recall a bright, sunny day. All that came to mind was the sky darkening as time passed.

He struggled to remember a day when he didn’t have to wear a gas mask to go outside. Oliver recalled that every indoor space had a sort of airlock before anyone could enter. He would walk in, have doors closed behind him, then have the room completely emptied of air and refilled with filtered, clean oxygen in a few seconds. 

Oliver checked the time again. Two hours until the new year. He put more wood on the fire to push the biting cold away.

A pained moaning interrupted the peace as the sparks and flames engulfed the new fuel. Oliver let out a startled gasp, holding his breath and looking toward the sound. Far away outside the church, Oliver could hear footsteps approaching. Oliver barely made out the shapes of figures in the darkness outside, human shapes with extra arms, faces, and body parts fused into them. They were human mutants, the fiendish nightmares of the wasteland.

Oliver hastily stood up and snuffed out the fire in front of him with a boot before laying down flat. He reached out for his weapon and held it, his heart throbbing with dread. The noise and the moans were the worst part. The faint silhouette of their horrid, mutant forms was all Oliver could see in the darkness as memories of being chased, attacked, and more slowly crawled back and made his skin feel cold. They came close to the church, horribly close. Their footsteps and hoarse breathing filled the air.

Oliver heard bodies brush against the sides of the church as they walked past, their footsteps passing slowly and beginning to fade. Oliver carefully stood, proceeding to investigate the church. Had he been seen? Did they know he was here? Nothing. Nothing seemed to be hiding among the ruins, and he heard no more sounds outside. A relieved exhale left his lips as he returned to the fire and knelt beside it, trying to start it again.

Abruptly, footsteps quickly approached from behind. Oliver swung around with his gun ready as he heard them. At the same time, something his size crashed into him, causing him to see stars.

It knocked the gun out of his hands and sent Oliver to the ground. He landed with a pained grunt. In an instant, his knife was in his hands. Despite his surprise, Oliver immediately retaliated against the figure he could barely make out.

The beast shrieked as he plunged the blade blindly into its body. Its arms thrashed, mouth gnashing at Oliver. He stabbed again, then again, the thing falling on top of him. Its shrieking grew higher in pitch, a rough hand striking Oliver in the head. The strike made him blink, stunning him but not stopping him from stabbing.

With a tremendous kick, Oliver threw the creature off and began stomping the monster into the floor. Every smack made it squirm less, its whole body growing still after a while. As he stopped, Oliver heard a rasping breath from it. He stomped again out of spite. Oliver wasn’t going to give it mercy. He lifted his mask and spat on the dying creature. As he did, he caught a whiff of its rancid, sweaty smell.

Oliver listened to the creature as it occasionally let out pained squeals. He started the campfire again, the flame slowly growing from the church’s dried, ancient planks. In the light, Oliver could make out the creature dying before him. It was a mutant, shaped like a human with a face fused partly into its shoulder. A useless limb extended from its belly, while a stunted leg dangled from the calf of its right leg. Stab wounds covered its body, blood seeping from each.

Oliver relished its suffering. He watched it trying to fight again, weakly twisting and squirming. It growled and gurgled, painfully bleeding out. After five minutes, it gave in and collapsed completely. Once the mutant was dead, Oliver remained wary of any more creatures. Fortunately, none came to avenge the mutant that he had just killed.

Oliver felt a stinging sensation on the side of the head where the mutant hit him. He rubbed it, causing his face to scrunch as he winced. It must’ve been another mark. 

“That’s going to bruise,” he whispered to himself.

His skin was rough and covered in scars, damaged from the toxic air and the violent wasteland. Even if it did bruise, it wouldn’t stand out.

He checked the time again — only forty minutes to midnight. The wind outside began to batter the creaking church. The structure’s stability was questionable, but there was no option to find shelter in another building. Oliver moved his bedroll under a bench and got inside of it, keeping his gun close at hand.

He played games on his Smartwrist to pass the time. Oliver felt a sinking sensation of emptiness when his thoughts dwelled on these games. In his youth, games and social media were a major part of his life. Oliver had followers, friends, people that he still kept in touch with years after losing face-to-face communication. Sometimes, Oliver had met his old friends in virtual worlds. The thought caused his fingers to meet the port where the VR chip went, the object that connected the Smartwrist to the VR equipment he once had.

The world felt more desolate than it already was when these thoughts of loneliness came to him. He remembered virtual games too and how many hours of his life he lost to them. Gaming was a happy memory that made him smile when thinking about all the friends he had made, especially those from strange places. Now, survival was lonely and harsh. Whenever humans met one another, it was either shoot or run.

The last thirty-five minutes passed in the blink of an eye, and before Oliver knew it, the last minute before New Years arrived.

As the last minute dwindled, Oliver released a relaxed, drawn-out exhale. He counted it in his head, one Mississippi, two Mississippi. Oliver mumbled it under his breath until the last ten seconds. He turned off the Smartwrist and lifted both arms in the air with spread fingers.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” he whispered as loudly as he dared.

The year was 2100, and Oliver was still alive.


About The Author

E.T. Gunnarsson

Mr. Gunnarsson grew up on a horse-rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. He now resides in Georgetown, TX.

Once in Texas, he wrote his first post-apocalyptic book, “Forgive Us” while attending high school. Outside of writing, Mr. Gunnarsson is a purple belt in BJJ and a brown belt in Judo.

You can connect with the author here:

Facebook | Instagram | Reedsy Discovery | Twitter | Website

Character Interview: Kimiko Chou from Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Kimiko Chou, the lead character from Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Con Chapman

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Twitter


The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

My name is Kimiko Chou.  “Chou” is my given name and means “butterfly.”  I was born a twin with a brother, Tadashige, or “Tada” for short.  My father is a samurai warrior—Kimiko Kiyotaka.  My mother stayed at home and took care of me and my brother.  We lived in the city of Ōita, Japan. 

What is your age and what do you do for a living?

I am twelve years old.  I am returning to Japan after a long journey to find my father, who had gone off to invade Korea with other samurai.  

How do you like to spend your free time?

Before my mother and brother were killed, I led the life of a typical Japanese girl of our city.  Tada and I would play, my mother would instruct me in gardening, housekeeping, art, poetry—and the tea ceremony.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.

My family was Buddhists.  It may seem strange that a warrior such as my father followed a religion of peace, but samurai believe that Zen Buddhism helps them find inner peace and enlightenment to strengthen themselves, both in battle and in their daily lives.

Tell us something about your family and childhood.

My family was a happy one until the day when robbers invaded our house and killed my mother and brother while my father was off on an invasion of Korea.  From that day until I was reunited with my father, I was a wanderer, traveling with a ronin—a samurai who has been dismissed by his lord—and his page, Moto Mori, a young boy who was older than me.

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?

My aspiration at this point is to return to my home in Ōita and rebuild my life with my father.  He is without a wife and a son, and I am without a mother and brother.

What is your biggest fear in life? 

After what I’ve been through, there isn’t much I fear.  But my father is all I have left, and I could not bear to lose him.

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

My world was a happy one until it was turned upside down by the death of my mother and brother, and I was forced to fend for myself to be reunited with my father.

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

Losing my mother and my brother in a single day, when robbers invaded our home while my father was away.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?

Obviously, things became worse, but there was nothing I could do about it—they were gone, and nothing could bring them back.
But I became more self-reliant, and I experienced a great adventure, even though it was harrowing at times.  And I was reunited with my father.

What are your plans for the future? 

To return to Japan with my father and start our life over again.


Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can find Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Con Chapman, author of Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Con Chapman

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Twitter



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

I’m a writer on the side—it’s not my day job.  I’ve written young adult fiction before (“The Vanishing Twin,” Cicada Magazine, March/April, 2015) but this is my first YA novel.  My most recent book was about Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington’s long-time alto sax player: Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press).  Kimiko Chou has a samurai theme because I’m interested in that now-abolished caste whose members were, at the same time, warriors and artistic; they were highly literate and wrote poetry; their motto was “The pen and the sword in accord.”  

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

It has a “meta” aspect to it, in that it is introduced by a character—Etaoin Shrdlu—who says that he translated the work.  He is as fictional as Kimiko Chou, though.  This technique—sometimes referred to as a “framing device”—explains how it is that the reader is holding in his or her hands a first-person account from the 14th century.  It is used in the novel by Thomas Berger, Little Big Man, one of my favorite works (and one that I think is underrated).

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

Not sure there’s a particular message I want readers to take away from the book, but characters reveal themselves to you as you create them—Pygmalion style.  Chou is hardened by the tragedy at the beginning of the book, but doesn’t miss a beat and embarks on a new life.  Along the way, she finds that her first impressions about people don’t always turn out to be correct, but even those who she grows close to—such as the boy page, Moto Mori, who is her companion on the journey—have their flaws that are in need of mid-course corrections.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

The ronin, or fallen samurai, Hyōgo Narutomi, who leads the two children on their expedition.  He is a failure who refuses to acknowledge that fact, and carries on despite having no real hope of ever realizing his ambition; to become a samurai again, after having been dismissed by seven masters.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

I had a lot of time on my hands waiting for a publisher to get back to me on a proposal—over a year.  At some point I threw up my hands and decided to start on another project.  I’ve written two novels before, one of which (CannaCorn) is a baseball novel with a character who thinks of himself as a latter-day samurai in his role as a relief pitcher.  I read a YA novel about a boy samurai, and Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela Toler, which includes stories of female samurai.  I did a little research and didn’t find any YA novels about girl samurai, and decided to write one.

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Once I got going, not that long, maybe a year.  I had to do some research on Japanese history during the period when the samurai first came to prominence, the 12th to the 14th centuries, and also on Japanese geography, to get the details of a Japanese invasion of Korea down.

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I’d like to be able to write full-time, but I’ve got a long ways to go.  I’d like to write a sequel to Kimiko Chou if there’s a demand for it.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I am currently writing a history of Kansas City jazz for Equinox Publishing, a British publisher.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

The novel (or novella, it’s not that long) seemed right for this story.  I also write plays, histories, poetry, humor, and short-form journalism.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

?  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was  in high school.  I became a sports reporter for my small-town newspaper when I was a junior in high school, after I hurt myself and couldn’t play football anymore.  I got a newspaper reporting job right out of college, but found I wasn’t very good at going up to strangers and asking them embarrassing questions, which is essential to the job.  So I had to find some other path, which took a while.  I wrote an article on jazz for a Boston-area “underground” paper, but didn’t have much success pitching freelance articles.  I decided I needed to get a book written, and chose the 1978 pennant race between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, which no one had written about.  Red Sox fans didn’t want to be reminded about it, since they blew a big lead and didn’t make it to the World Series, and Yankee fans weren’t interested since it wasn’t a big deal to them—they went on to win the World Series, so the win over the Red Sox was insignificant by comparison.

I self-published the book, The Year of the Gerbil (the word “gerbil” refers to a scornful nickname the Red Sox hung on their manager that season).  This was back in the bad old days when self-publishing was expensive.  I took money out of my savings to finance it, and had to do all the marketing myself.  I wrote a lot of letters to bookstores, made personal trips to ask bookstores to stock it—very naïve.  I’d send copies to various newspapers and magazines, got maybe two reviews.  Then I sent a copy to the Business Editor of The Boston Globe because he had mentioned how Boston and New York had similar rivalries in business and sports; the Yankees back in the day were perennial winners, the Red Sox went 86 years without winning the World Series, and New York is a much bigger business market than Boston.  To my surprise, he wrote a glowing review of the book in the Business Section of the paper, the book got named to a list of 50 essential books about the Red Sox, and while I never made back my initial monetary investment, I had a start on a reputation in that I could name a book I’d written and people might actually want to read it.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

.  I have to write at the beginning and end of the day since I have a day job.  If I wake up early I’ll try to produce a paragraph or two before going off to work, and at night if I’m not too tired I’ll try to do it again.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

?  I write on a computer, as it’s much faster, even for drafts.  The one exception is playwriting; I’ve had twelve plays published, and because you’re just writing dialogue, not exposition (other than stage directions), it’s easy to get a lot down with just a pen and a pad of paper.

What are your 5 favourite books?

The books I’ve read the most, multiple times, are:

  1. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy (novel)
  2. The Sweet Science, A.J. Liebling (non-fiction, boxing)
  3. True Tales from the Annals of Crime and Rascality, St. Clair McKelway (non-fiction,         crime)
  4. George Ade and Ring Lardner, Midwestern humorists
  5. And the Holy Trinity of Southern female writers: Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and   Carson McCullers

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I had writer’s block when I got out of college, wanted to be a writer, and couldn’t get anything written.  You only have writer’s block if you want to write and can’t, so I can’t say I had writer’s block when I more or less gave up on writing for a while.

It’s sad but true, as far as I’m concerned and one of my friends who had writer’s block and couldn’t finish his Ph.D. dissertation, that getting thrown into a job where you have to write, or going back to school and being under pressure to produce on a daily basis will cure you of writer’s block.  The problem then is—you have no time to write because you’re busy.

For the most part that’s the situation I’m in today; I have to find time to write around my work, which forces me to become more efficient and not have a beer and stare off into space and think about the Great American Novel I’ve got in me down deep inside.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Well, you’ve got to look the part on paper.  I bought a book on manuscript preparation and writing book proposals (the Writer’s Market book, “Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript”), which gave me some guidance on presenting yourself as a writer.  Where before I’d do things wrong (like sending in a non-fiction article without querying first), I at least had a sense of what an editor or publisher who might actually buy something from you expected it to look like when it came in over the transom.

Thank you, Con, for your insightful answers!


About The Book

Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can find Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Con Chapman for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai.

About The Book

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can get this book here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


Excerpt

My name is Kimiko Chou, and this is my story.  I have set it down so that it will live after me, for other girls to read.  They may find it hard to believe, but it is true.

My given name “Chou” means “empress child butterfly.”  It was given to me at my oschichiya—naming ceremony.  I was swathed in white, like a little cocoon, pure as I came into the world.  Like every other aka-chan (“little red one,” loving term for a newborn baby), I wore only this color of godliness for seventeen days.  From then on, I was clothed in the colors of the world, and not just the pure shade of ame, the lofty sacred world of the gods of heaven, the ama-tsu-kami.

            It should not surprise you that I came to live as a samurai, for the way of the samurai is death, and I was born, so to speak, in death.  When robbers invaded our home and attacked my mother and brother, I hid in the alcove—the tokonoma—that is found in the main room of a samurai’s dwelling, and in which is displayed a single beautiful object for contemplation.  I held myself still and breathless while the robbers ransacked the house for money and weapons; they looked only for things of material value, and so didn’t notice me.  I pulled my clothing over my head like a sea urchin in order to save myself.

            How, you ask, is such conduct worthy of a samurai, if the samurai, faced with a choice between life and death, must choose the latter?  Well, we all want to live, and we form our thoughts according to our will.  But at that moment, I was not a samurai, and I had no master.  I had no aim in life, other than to survive.

            When the robbers departed, I was alone.  My mother Hino and my brother Tadashige were both dead.  My father—Kimiko Kiyotaka–was gone, part of a force that had invaded the kingdom of Koguryo (current-day Korea).  I did not know when or if he would return.  I was eleven years old.  

            I was fearful, and for good reason.  The robbers could be seen moving from house to house, repeating their acts of thievery and violence.  Tada and I had recently undergone the ceremony of genpuku, by which we had formally been recognized as adults.  I was to prepare for marriage, he was to prepare for war.  I received a mogi (a pleated skirt), he—a samurai helmet.  If I became my twin brother, I would be able to defend myself from the assaults of the robbers, and I would not be an object of attraction to them.  And so I donned the garb of the samurai at an age when most girls had just begun to play the coquette.  I was close to Tada, as twins will be, and so I had absorbed much of what he had learned in his training to become a samurai.  Now I would become him, and adopt his name.  

            There was nothing left of value in our home except food, and so I cooked some rice and made onigiri (rice balls).  These I packed into Tada’s hakama (pants), and I set off on a quest to find my father, although I knew it might take many years.  I saw myself in the eye of my mind having many adventures before we would be reunited.  I would be a woman then—if I could find him before he died.

            I took with me my mother’s weapons:  Her naginata.  This is a spear with a curved blade at the end.  It was used by women in defending their homes when their samurai husbands were absent from the home.  With its long shaft, it could be used to keep a male opponent at a distance, thus allowing a woman to fend off a man stronger than her.  Next, her tanto, a dagger favored by women because of its short length and capacity for camouflage.  When sheathed, it looked like a fan, and could concealed as an item of innocent adornment until needed.  Finally, her kansashi, a hairpin that is a woman’s weapon of last resort.  Six inches long, it innocently keeps her hair in place but can be pulled out to pierce an attacker’s chest or throat when he is on the point of overcoming her.

            I started out on the road that led towards the sea.  I wanted to go to the place where my father would land when he came back, and if that did not happen for some time, I wanted to find a way to go search for him, on a fishing boat or a bigger craft bound for Korea.  I must have made a forlorn-looking sight.  My brother’s kataginu (sleeveless jacket) hung loose about my shoulders with its exaggerated shoulders, and while I was tried to put on a brave face, my heart was empty—my mother and brother gone, my father far away.  I was all alone in the world.

            The road was a muddy path, the color of my mother’s clay cooking pots.  On either side were bright green hedges of grass that gave way to rice paddies.  I was headed in the direction of the Tsushina Strait, towards a sky that was full of rain coming up from the sea.  It was tinged with grey and blue and pink, like the inside of an oyster’s shell.  It was hard to be hopeful, but I tried to walk with a forceful stride, to show the world that I was determined.

            After a while I heard the clip-clop of a horse coming up behind me.  I did not turn to look, as I wanted to give the rider the sense that I wasn’t a young girl he could trifle with, I was a samurai on a mission.

            As the horseman drew nearer, he called out to me in a curt manner.  “You there!”

            I turned my head slowly to the left, but did not stop walking.  He must know that I would not stop for anyone.  He called again—“You!”

            I kept walking, but said “Yes?”

            “Where are you going?”

            “Hirado.”

            He laughed.  “And how will you get there?”

            “I will hire a boat.”

            “With what?”

            “Never you mind.”

            Upon hearing those bold words, he dug his heels in his horse’s side and rode in front of me, blocking my way.

            “Are you a samurai?” he asked with a mocking smile.

            “I am a samurai’s page.”

            “And who is your master.”

            I hesitated just a moment.  “You would not know him, he lives far from here.”

            “Then how did you come to be all by yourself?”

            I was silent, out of words.  I should have foreseen that I would be questioned, but I had not given thought to the story I would tell.

            “Well?” the man asked.  “Who are you, and what do you have to say for yourself?”

            I fought down a lump in my throat, and spoke.  “I am Kimiko Tadashige.  My master is dead.  I am on my way to seek my father, who is in Korea.”

            The man rubbed his chin, sizing me up.  A boy came up behind him, dressed much like me, but in shabbier garments.  I guessed that he was a page to this samurai and, from the looks of his clothing, had been traveling with him for some time.  Perhaps, I thought, the man on horseback was a ronin, a samurai without a lord.

            “I am Hyōgo Narutomi,” he said with a fierce voice, as if he wanted to scare me and not just say his name.  “This is my page, Moto Mori.”

            The boy bowed slightly and looked me over.  His eyes seemed to see a rival, or even an adversary, even though I was just a stranger walking along the same road.

            “I could use another page,” Narutomi said with a tone of cold calculation, as if I were a fish in a market.

            I did not know what to say.  I would be out of food soon enough, and I wanted protection from robbers and others with malice towards me.

            “Where are you going?” I asked.

            “The same place you are,” Narutomi replied calmly, as if that settled the matter.

            I looked off to the horizon behind Mori to my left, and Narutomi ahead of me.  There was no shelter, and no other road to be seen, all the way to the end of the world within my view.  What choice did I have, other than to continue with my concocted story about where I came from, and where I was going?

            “All right,” I said, without enthusiasm.  “I will come with you.”


About The Author

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada.

Follow the author on Twitter @conchapman


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Character Interview: David from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring David, the lead characters from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook


The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

My name is David Jones. I would tell you more about myself, but I am not entirely sure. I have bits and pieces of memories, experiences that I feel like I lived, but I have my doubts because I live in an age where reality and fantasy mix. Some of the time, I feel like I have two minds, that I am of two wits, and I can’t always reconcile which is which, and which is me. Who am I? I don’t always know.

What is your age and what do you do for a living?

I am probably in my thirties. Again, I don’t know for sure. I don’t feel any older or wiser, however old I am. As I live in a world that celebrates youth, everyone looks young. No one looks like their age. Even my sense of time, which is how we mark age, seems altered. It might be a strange thing not to know how old I am, but it’s not anything I think about it. There’s no fixation on age when everyone appears perpetually young. Retirement is not even a concept. We all have jobs, essential and important jobs. I am a systems analyst class 1A (A for Architect). I monitor and keep track of things, same as a lot of people, but what I keep track of is more important, yet my job isn’t any more important than another. This is a paradox I readily accept. Without everyone doing their job, our world would cease to function. Everyone has purpose and they know it.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time much like everyone else. There is the SIM, the simulated, virtual world, a construct we use for both work and pleasure as the SIM can be shared with real people or representations of people, simulacra. I have memories of doing other things, reading and walking and traveling to new places, but I also have firmly in my mind, the SIM. I don’t know for sure if I went to those places or if it was merely an experience in the SIM. I have books, the great works of fiction and other ideas. I don’t remember reading them, but I know I have read them. Why? Because I have notebooks full of things I’ve written, my thoughts and recollections as well as ideas that could only have come from those books.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I happen to be in a world where the concept of God no longer exists. You see, with the network, God remains unnecessary. We are beyond good and evil. I am not sure how I feel about that. I have a sense there is a God within us all, but I don’t know how to explain it because no one understands God. I believe strongly in quality over quantity, that certain things cannot be measured by a number, a metric, reduceable to a single value. In fact, I never believed the network could be programmed to understand the human condition. To me it has never been so much what something looks like, but what it actually is, what lies beneath, not the surface appeal but the underlining form. In the world I live in, seeing is believing and the world we see, like the people and places, is undeniably beautiful and perfect. Is there any need to go deeper?

Tell us something about your family and childhood.

I do not remember much about my family, even my childhood. Again, I have mere fragments that come to me, but I wonder whether they are real or just things I have experienced in the SIM. I have memories of childhood, we all do. The summer, being out of school, the seaside boardwalk with its carnival sounds and amusement park attractions. But how real are they? I wonder. When I visit my therapist in the SIM, she tries to get me to talk about my family, about my father, in particular, but I can never quite get there. It seems to me she knows more about that part of my life than I do. She says that I know, that I could know many things, yet I tell myself I don’t know, so it’s just a cycle I can’t break out of. I am not sure I believe her. I know my therapist is a product of the combined knowledge of psychotherapy, that she has a window into who I am, but if all that were really true, then why doesn’t she just tell me what I should say? Oh wait, that was before we were all connected. I don’t know if I’ve been in therapy since.

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?

Once I had dreams, real dreams, perhaps even hopes. It’s not fair to say I don’t have them anymore, rather I just know they are different. I once believed I could do great things, be accomplished because I had a purpose. I struggle to know that purpose now that I am not connected to the network. I know I have Marta, she’s my lodestar, and that somehow she is meant to guide me. Even Dante needed a guide. But I don’t know what we’ll find if we make it out of the network. What’s on the other side? And supposing we do get there, and it’s inhabitable, is there anything left of humanity? I am careful not to have too much hope, to believe too much in anything except Marta. I had my doubts at first, but I know she is real. So, for the moment, all I can believe in is Marta and I.

What is your biggest fear in life? 

I fear that I cannot change who I am, that I cannot alter what has been set in motion, and like Sisyphus, all my efforts will be doomed. I disconnected myself from the networked world for a reason. But why? And was that something I did or someone else? Either way, maybe I am meant to do something that I am unable to do? That thought paralyzes me. That I am simply not good enough. 

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

Am I just a cog in the machine, or have I found there is no machine?

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

The worst thing that happened to me must have been something in the childhood I can’t remember. Those were formative years. Whatever happened then, fixed itself in my head, imprinted its code upon my brain such that I have a distrust for systems, of unity, of groups of people making decisions for the common good. Ultimately, the brain constructs our reality, and without the network assistance, I have to rely on my instincts which tell me to question everything.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?

There is good and bad that comes from every experience. The very thing that at times is a great strength, is a great weakness too. Like kindness. It’s good to be kind. However, being too kind can result in being taken advantage of. In that sense, my skepticism is useful, but it is also the very thing that has driven me apart from people. At a certain point, I have to take a leap of faith and accept things, but more often than not, I am reluctant to make the jump. And yet, rather than even trying, I tend to want to plunge to the depths, so rather than ascend, I descend. I push people away, push them too far so that it takes an extraordinary effort and determination for them to remain. And yet, I found Marta. Or she found me. That must be something special.

What are your plans for the future? 

Love is the mystery of all mysteries. I find myself imagining a future with Marta, but where that is and what that entails, I don’t know. If we make it out of the network, I know we will look different. Maybe even we will seem different. Will we still love each other? Is our connection really that deep, beyond the mere appearance of our bodies? What will we be like left to our own devises? I don’t have the answers. All I have is Marta, my lodestar. 


The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Daniel Hagedorn, author of The Lodestar, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

I work in finance. That might surprise some people as if they are incompatible forms that couldn’t co-exist. To me though, words and numbers have more affinity than it seems. Patterns. I see patterns in numbers just as I do in words. When I am not writing, I am often looking at spreadsheets. I started college as a math major. I finished as an English & Philosophy Major with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in classics. But I still love numbers. Numbers and words are my life.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The Lodestar can be looked at as an examination of the modern world, not just in terms of this futuristic place, but where we live now, of wanting to escape out of the curated world, whether it be social media or your custom news feed, into something of your own making. Where I live in Seattle, they knock down an old house and put in its place this box that looks exactly like a thousand other boxes in the city as if there is some master design guiding everything towards homogeneity. It’s not just a book about what is real, what is reality, but also being a human, being creative and interesting and unique, about finding a place in the world, an identity amidst the flood of images that dominate our existence.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

If there is a message in The Lodestar, it would be how we are complicit in handing over our lives to technology because we think it is making our lives better somehow when it may not be. It is not that technology is good or bad, per se, but how we use it or let it use us. I fear the transition to this visual society, where it no longer matters the power of our imagination because we’ve let the world be imagined for us. Why are books better than movies? Well, because in a book I can imagine the world the author has created, wherein a movie, it’s told for me. I almost always feel like I can imagine something more, something better than what’s being presented to me. And the world of video games is another interesting phenomena, this whole interactive experience that rewires our brains. How will this all change us? How will it make the move towards virtual worlds more seamless? 

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

The main character in The Lodestar is David, but my favorite character is in fact Marta. She’s mysterious. She knew before David that she didn’t want to be part of the network world. David is under this illusion that he created this so-called out that dispelled him from the network. He’ll learn later, not in this book, how that’s not true. And Marta is the key. He couldn’t have made it very far without Marta. And of course, David loves Marta, and love is the mystery of all mysteries, something not even the network could understand, so it did away with the concept.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

The Lodestar has been in my mind for about a decade and a half. I never thought I could do justice to the idea, so I resisted the notion to write. Sometimes things are more powerful in the mind, that to commit to paper, to lose that illusion of what it could be, was something I couldn’t give up. A few things, though, struck me. For one, the idea that machines did not become more like humans, but humans became more like machines. Instead of being unique, it seemed to me there was a sameness in things, in people, in the particular look of what makes someone attractive. I was reading a lot of dystopian fiction at the time too. It just seemed more efficient for some grand network controlling everyone as opposed to feeling down and taking a pill. As humans, we do not always know what we want or need, but a network, a system that was unbiased and really knew us, it would know. Of course, I am being sarcastic to a degree. There is a bias in everything.  

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

I spent about a year writing The Lodestar. Even then, when I had finished what I thought was my final draft, I wasn’t sure. I let it sit for about 6 months before I went back to the book, this time, with the help of an editor. During that cooling off period, I was still constantly thinking about the book and where it was going because I didn’t like the initial ending, although I thought the book itself was better than it was. In my head, I had created something amazing. However, when I went back and did the proper edit with an editor, that was an eye-opening experience, how incomplete sections were. In the end, The Lodestar took two years, but I am pretty sure I’ll think about the characters and the story for the rest of my life. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I have long felt that writing was a kind of breathing, and as long as I breathe, I hope. Whether or not I am successful as a writer does not matter that much. It’s just something I do, something I’ve always done. Obviously, I would love to make a living as a writer. In my mind, I am more successful than I am. That’s always been the thing. I would love to walk around, think about stuff, write, cut vegetables up at dinner time while listening to music and just allow myself to create. I kind of do that anyway, pretending so to speak, so I suppose it would be pretty cool if it was less dream than reality and I had more time to actually write.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I am always working on something. Just as I might be reading a couple of different books at once, I am writing several different things too. In a normal day, I might compose a poem, write a song or add some part to another novel, one not connected to The Lodestar trilogy. I have written a bunch of novels, close to a dozen probably, some in better states of completion than others. 

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

I am not sure what genre The Lodestar is. Sci fi, I guess. There’s a lot of philosophy mixed in too. Maybe it could be considered speculative fiction, but some of my other stuff seems more speculative, though in a different way. In my mind, I always have this idea of the so-called great American novel. I know that is an overused term, but it has meaning to me. In my twenties, that was a driving force. Now, I am not sure. 

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

I’ve long thought of myself as a writer. In some ways, it is necessary to exist under that illusion, that I am writer because that allows me to write. If I didn’t think of myself as a writer, then it might not matter what I do, what I write. But by thinking of myself as a writer I have a sense of purpose, that I am capturing something essential. I’ve used that breathing metaphor. Writing is a kind of music too, that I hear. It’s in my mind. I am the kind of person that has an active imagination. In my early twenties, I worked in a bookstore. I loved being around books. I wrote a lot of stuff back then but felt undermined by my lack of success. That was hard. A writer friend of mine at the time told me it was all about perseverance, that as long as you kept writing, you would be successful. At some point, I kind of changed the equation and thought about success not in the publishing sense, but in terms of creating a body of work representative of the way I think and feel about the world. And when I write, that’s the song I am trying to replicate.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I prefer to write in the morning. I wake up early. Sometimes I think I write in my sleep because I wake up with solutions to things in my writing. Coffee and a walk help drive my thoughts, get them flowing. I don’t always have the time or opportunity in the morning, but I try to make time during the day to write something, anything. Sometimes, I can’t write what I want to write, but I can always make my daily emails more interesting or even a report I am preparing a better read. The fact is, we are always writing, even if it might something mundane. I’ll use any opportunity I can to try to be creative. 

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

When I was young, I wrote everything out with a blue pen in a small notebook. The second draft would be transferring the notebook to computer. I actually wrote a lot of The Lodestar out by hand as I was in the backseat of a car along the coast of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia because I didn’t bring my laptop along for the trip. Today, while I prefer my laptop, I accumulate scraps of paper, pages in notebooks, little tidbits here and there, depending when an idea comes to me. I love and hate it, when I am walking by the Canal, and something so good comes to me that I have to stop and write it down. Once I start writing something down on a walk, I’ve broken the cycle, so that whole walk will keep getting interrupted. 

What are your 5 favourite books?

Top 5 books. That’s a tough one. I go through phases and so I probably will discount some of my early favorites. I’ll always have Great Gatsby on my list. I love the opening and the close. Probably A Moveable Feast because I love the idea of being an ex-pat in Paris, hanging out in cafés, bars, surrounded by artists. Kerouac was a big inspiration on me, the feeling in his writing and though I was struck by a number of his works, I’ll probably go with The Subterraneans because of one line in that book that seemed so profound to me, about a light always on that one day won’t be on. Brave New World and We. Philip K Dick is one of my favorite authors, so I have to pick something by him. Ubik. I am not going to go with one of his more well-known pieces. And lastly, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I love the voice in that piece, though I am not as fond as some of her other work. I read a lot of foreign authors. I particularly like Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick Modiano too.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I don’t want to say I don’t get writer’s block. Maybe that would curse me. I tend to not have much trouble writing, though. It’s just what I do, akin to breathing. I can sit down at any time and write something, a few lines, just something. I don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. I just write. I’ve always thought, write a page or so a day, then after six months you practically have a novel. And I have kind of done that my whole writing life, three decades so to speak. And that has been amazing. Because I don’t remember half of the stuff I have written. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you want to be a writer, then write. There’s no special advice other than that. Read and write. I am constantly reading, and not just fiction, but philosophy, poetry, economics, science, whatever. I keep a notebook where I accumulate ideas, where I write little imaginary scenes based on some interesting thing I might have read. There’s no special club. If you want to be a writer, then you must write. You mustn’t get swayed by the daunting task it really is. 

Thank you, Daniel, for your frank and insightful answers!


About The Book

The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Narrator Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author as well as narrator of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Narrator Interview feature.

About The Narrator

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. Please feel free to share about your professional background. 

I have taught meditation all my adult life, so use my voice to take people in and out of meditation and explain how the practice works. When teaching it’s important to speak with clarity and calmness, but with gentleness too. Over the years I have been told that my voice is soothing and relaxing, so a friend suggested I make The Mystery of Martha into an Audiobook and narrate it myself. I was daunted by the idea at first, but then rose to the challenge and enjoyed it!

Do you do other voice over work as well?

I make meditation videos so use my voice to guide people through the teaching process. I also do voiceovers for short films I make for Sacred Meditation.

How was your experience recording this audiobook?

Powerful and moving, but I think this was owing to the subject matter as each character goes through intense emotional experiences. Each chapter has a drama of its own and I found it easy to identify with each character. So while narrating, their stories resonated and affected me deeply.

Who is your favourite character in this audiobook and why?

My answer in the author’s interview was that my favourite character was Martha of Bethania. But when narrating it, this became Yeshua. Every time I read a scene when he appeared, especially if it included Aramaic, it seemed as though that he was present in the room. And occasionally at the end of a chapter, my breath was held and I seemed to have shifted into an expanded state of consciousness. This is why I felt narrating the novel a huge privilege and I shall always be grateful for this opportunity.

How long did it take you to record this particular audiobook?

I recorded it during the lockdown in 2019 in my meditation room at home. It took about 3 months including the edits and re-records. I live in a remote place in the countryside so all was quiet, except for the occasional tractor or sheep passing by.

What vocal techniques did you have to develop and hone while narrating this audiobook?

I went to drama school in my late teens where I received voice training and learned a range of exercises. This experience has always remained with me and I made use of doing some warm-up exercises before recording.

What is the one thing you love most about being an audiobook narrator? 

I enjoyed feeling that I was reaching out to people all over the world through my voice, which felt intimate and profound. 

Are you working on any other audiobooks presently?

Not at the moment, but I am using my voice to make videos and I will definitely create an audio from any new novel or writing I do in the future.

As an audiobook narrator what are the techniques you use or practice to care for your voice and condition it?

My meditation practice keeps me healthy, fit and well. I never get colds, flu or suffer from sore throats, so this is definitely the practice I would recommend to others. It also enables me to remain calm and collected while narrating.

Who is your favourite audiobook narrator and why?

I’m fortunate to know Anton Lesser, a British actor who is widely known for his audiobook recordings. He was my inspiration and gave me some invaluable tips, which you can see in my response to the question below. 

What advice would you like to give to anyone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

Anton told me it was important not to put too much expression or emotion into the reading, as this can colour the listeners’ experience and prevent them from engaging with their personal feelings and responses. So while I was reading, I tried not to act out the different parts, but read from my heart with calmness and clarity.

Thank you, Eliza, for your insightful answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Guest Post: An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha to share a guest post.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

For me this novel has been a guide and inspiration during intense and challenging personal times, offering profound insights into the meaning of love, truth and life. The stories take place in the Holy Land and the British Isles, two places that have a turbulent history but also a profound spiritual heritage.

The book is written in an exquisite way, in almost Biblical style, full of poetic touches, with compelling stories and profound teachings. While reading, one can travel through time, walk the different paths of each character, and be transported back 2000 years through evocative tastes, smells and visual images. Effortlessly one is able to engage with the trials and tribulations of the different characters, but also be inspired by their personal insights and realisations. It is a courageous move to bring a seemingly unimportant character of the Bible to the fore, but she becomes an inspiration for all those who feel marginalised today. And ultimately both Marthas find the truth of themselves by opening to the experience of compassion and unconditional love. 

The novel enabled me to feel close to Biblical characters for the first time, to sense the depth and truth of each personality: Yeshua, L´azar, Magdala, Maryam, Yehudah and of course Martha of Bethania herself. Despite my Catholic education, I’ve always found it difficult to understand the relevance of many of the Christian stories, but this novel offers a much deeper insight into their meaning. I now realise that the essence of Christian mysticism is rooted in unconditional love.

The stories of the two Marthas are reflections of the path we all walk in order to realise the unity of life – whether experienced within a family context, service to others, intimate relationship or direct spiritual experience. So I shall always be grateful for the precious gift of The Mystery of Martha.


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Excerpt: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison for sharing the audio excerpt from her latest release The Mystery Of Martha.

About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


Audiobook Excerpt

In case if the player doesn’t work, listen to the Audiobook Excerpt here: https://heenarathorep.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/01-the-mystery-of-martha-sample-track.mp3


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The portrayal of the present-day Martha is partly autobiographical, the story of my own search for truth and love. My spiritual journey entailed me spending time with different teachers, which gave me the idea of portraying what it might have been like being around Yeshua. From one moment to the next, none of his close followers would have known what experiences he would take them through, teachings he would impart, nor the challenges they would have to face. I also wanted to bring to life people in the Bible, who now seem remote and stereotyped. Owing to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts and other recent research, I was able to tell some of the well known Biblical stories from a new perspective, which makes them more relevant to us today. 

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That everyone has within them the capability of moving beyond their fears and insecurities and finding the truth of themselves and the truth of love.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

Martha of Bethania as I identify with her most closely. She feels inadequate and lacking, but has the courage to face her fears and determines to move beyond them. In this respect, she serves as inspiration for us all today. I also loved immersing myself in the imagery of Palestine 2000 years ago and painting a picture of Martha’s way of life as it would have been.  

What inspired you to write this book?

I first read about Martha of Bethany in a book called The Christ Blueprint, which spoke of two sides to her character – the shadow side, which described how she felt undeserving of love and so felt she had to earn it, and the higher aspect of herself as embodied by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, who gives selflessly without needing anything in return. 


How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Three to four years, with a lot of re-writing and interludes when I researched and travelled to places where the two Marthas lived and spent their time. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Writing helps me find myself but before writing another novel, I shall wait until a new idea presents itself or I go through an experience that I want to relate.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

At the moment I am writing scripts for videos that we are making for Sacred Meditation to help people move beyond feelings of fear, which is so important in these challenging times.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

This is my first novel, but I imagine that it would be within the genre of inspirational/spiritual fiction that I am drawn to write again.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way? (feel free to give us your story, we love hearing to author stories!)

I have written since my early twenties – poetry, a novel that I scrapped, an autobiography that was published: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey, and a series of published photographic essays for which I also wrote the text. I was blessed with having income from meditation teaching while I wrote, so I just needed to commit to the project, but that can be a challenge in itself. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I went through a period of getting up at 5am and writing for 3 hours before breakfast, as well as during the day. It was quiet, beautiful and peaceful in the early morning, but I realised I needed my sleep more, so changed to writing in the morning and afternoon instead.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I write on my laptop.

What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)

The two novels that most inspired me to write The Mystery of Martha were Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. However, my book entailed quite a bit of research and one of the most illuminating books was Jesus – The Explosive Story of the 30 Lost Years by Tricia McCannon

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I never push myself if an idea or words are not flowing. I just walk away from my laptop and take a break. That could be for an hour, a day or even a month or more. I feel the creative process needs gestation time and it’s important not to push oneself when encountering a block.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Begin and never lose heart. It doesn’t matter if it is just a page or two, or if it’s thrown away a day later. It’s my experience that through writing we unleash our creative energy and subsequently find ourselves, which is one of the greatest gifts we ever could have.

Thank you, Eliza, for your enlightening and honest answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The portrayal of the present-day Martha is partly autobiographical, the story of my own search for truth and love. My spiritual journey entailed me spending time with different teachers, which gave me the idea of portraying what it might have been like being around Yeshua. From one moment to the next, none of his close followers would have known what experiences he would take them through, teachings he would impart, nor the challenges they would have to face. I also wanted to bring to life people in the Bible, who now seem remote and stereotyped. Owing to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts and other recent research, I was able to tell some of the well known Biblical stories from a new perspective, which makes them more relevant to us today. 

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That everyone has within them the capability of moving beyond their fears and insecurities and finding the truth of themselves and the truth of love.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

Martha of Bethania as I identify with her most closely. She feels inadequate and lacking, but has the courage to face her fears and determines to move beyond them. In this respect, she serves as inspiration for us all today. I also loved immersing myself in the imagery of Palestine 2000 years ago and painting a picture of Martha’s way of life as it would have been.  

What inspired you to write this book?

I first read about Martha of Bethany in a book called The Christ Blueprint, which spoke of two sides to her character – the shadow side, which described how she felt undeserving of love and so felt she had to earn it, and the higher aspect of herself as embodied by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, who gives selflessly without needing anything in return. 


How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Three to four years, with a lot of re-writing and interludes when I researched and travelled to places where the two Marthas lived and spent their time. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Writing helps me find myself but before writing another novel, I shall wait until a new idea presents itself or I go through an experience that I want to relate.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

At the moment I am writing scripts for videos that we are making for Sacred Meditation to help people move beyond feelings of fear, which is so important in these challenging times.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

This is my first novel, but I imagine that it would be within the genre of inspirational/spiritual fiction that I am drawn to write again.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way? (feel free to give us your story, we love hearing to author stories!)

I have written since my early twenties – poetry, a novel that I scrapped, an autobiography that was published: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey, and a series of published photographic essays for which I also wrote the text. I was blessed with having income from meditation teaching while I wrote, so I just needed to commit to the project, but that can be a challenge in itself. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I went through a period of getting up at 5am and writing for 3 hours before breakfast, as well as during the day. It was quiet, beautiful and peaceful in the early morning, but I realised I needed my sleep more, so changed to writing in the morning and afternoon instead.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I write on my laptop.

What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)

The two novels that most inspired me to write The Mystery of Martha were Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. However, my book entailed quite a bit of research and one of the most illuminating books was Jesus – The Explosive Story of the 30 Lost Years by Tricia McCannon

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I never push myself if an idea or words are not flowing. I just walk away from my laptop and take a break. That could be for an hour, a day or even a month or more. I feel the creative process needs gestation time and it’s important not to push oneself when encountering a block.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Begin and never lose heart. It doesn’t matter if it is just a page or two, or if it’s thrown away a day later. It’s my experience that through writing we unleash our creative energy and subsequently find ourselves, which is one of the greatest gifts we ever could have.

Thank you, Eliza, for your enlightening and honest answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Spotlight: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge, the part of TRB dedicated to Book Promotions. Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for the Author Spotlight feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

You can find author Eliza here:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


About The Mystery of Martha Audiobook

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author/book featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Spotlight: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Eliza Harrison’s audiobook The Mystery of Martha.

The Mystery Of Martha


Name: The Mystery of Martha

Author: Eliza Harrison

Narrator: Eliza Harrison

Publisher: Authors’ Republic

Genre: Inspirational Fiction, Spiritual Fiction, Christian Fiction

Length of audiobook: 9 hours 13 minutes

Release date: 02.10.2020


Synopsis

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

You can find author Eliza here:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Cover Reveal: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison, for the cover reveal of her upcoming audiobook The Mystery Of Martha.

Presenting the beautiful cover of The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at  thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Matt Spencer, author of The Blazing Chief, the third book in the The Deschembine Trilogy, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Matt Spencer

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website | Twitter | Facebook



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

Well, my life has abruptly hit the reset button of late, to put it kindly, not under circumstances I’m happy about, but either way, here I am living on my own again for the first time in years, feeling kind of like a stranger to myself in some ways, like I’m catching up with this version of me. It’s been weird, especially in these Covid days, where getting out around people like I used to isn’t such a thing for the foreseeable future, but I’ve come to realize that ain’t such a bad thing either. I’ve been making the most of it in a lot of ways, eating/exercising/living healthier, to the point where the old saying “40 is the new 30” suddenly makes a lot more sense to me than I’d expected it to. I still work in a restaurant, which is only open to limited capacity, with reduced hours. I assist my best friend in teaching fencing, and we love to sword-fight and martial-arts spar. With a little luck and prudence, I’ll keep the positive things on track, continue to grow and change for the better, do what I can for other people, and keep writing crazy yarns that people get a kick out of reading.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

As the final book in a trilogy, it’s the one where everything boils to a head for a giant blow-out go-for-broke finale, y’know? I’m proud to be able to say that a lot of people have been asking me for years, “So when the hell is the next book coming out?” [more on that later] and now that it’s finally officially on the way, I’m both thrilled and nervous about how it’s going to be received. All of the major characters – Rob, Sally, Sheldon, Janie, Remelea, Jesse, Zane, Puttergong, among others – wind up where they’ve been headed this whole time. Many of them change drastically, some for better, some for worse, some, well, in-between. And yes, some of them die.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

I don’t typically write stories with didactic messages at the heart of my authorial intent/narrative. There are obviously themes I want to explore, regarding the human condition and my complicated feelings and opinions about where we’re all at, have been, and could go as a species. I find I explore those kinds of themes best when I discover them organically as I’m writing the story, through what the characters are going through and what they’re struggling with, which makes me more aware of what we’re all struggling with, so it sort of builds from there. Whenever I’ve tried to write a story with some thematic social-commentary axe to grind as my driving motive, the characters end up feeling like mouth-pieces for my argument or whatever, rather than living, breathing people, with their own perspectives and motivations that drive the story forward to its natural conclusion. If I lose sight of that, then the story starts to feel like a writing-exercise, and I’m too old for that shit, so it dies on me.

If there’s a “moral of the story” to The Blazing Chief, it’s probably “Hang onto your critical thinking skills, and don’t be a bootlicker.” There’s definitely a running theme throughout the entire series about the cycle of violence and cruelty self-perpetuates itself, and my perhaps naively idealistic belief that healing those cycles begins with small human connections of empathy and love, that can eventually snowball out and make a difference, with the ignorant growing and changing through self-education and better exposure. 

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

It’s a toss-up between Remelea and Balthazar, both of whom were characters who never honestly got their due in this book ’til the last couple drafts or so. In whipping this book into shape, they were the ones I really got to explore on the most fresh ground, so I pushed myself into new territory, and ultimately surprised myself, in ways that I think will make the overall tapestry of the larger narrative far richer and more rewarding to readers.

Remelea’s a character who’s introduced in the second book. She was a hit with a lot of readers. In a lot of ways, she’s the most morally gray character in a series full of morally gray characters. She starts out as this very formidable warrior woman, with a strong, brazen, irreverent sort of personality that readers get a kick out of, that I certainly got a kick out of writing. She likes to see herself as this outlaw rebel who plays by her own rules, except she ironically comes to realize that she’s always just been sort of going through the motions, living life according to how she’s been trained and conditioned, but hasn’t had a cause she’s felt truly passionate about fighting for, ’til she takes up with Rob, one of our central protagonists. She eventually hits a point where she’s forced to question whether this whole revolutionary rampage she’s gotten swept up into is what she really believes in, or if she’s been lying to herself because of her personal emotional connection to Rob. I think that’s a very relatable thing for a lot of people’s continuous journeys of self-discovery through life. A lot of us form deep emotional bonds with people with strong personalities that fire us up to their tune at the time, to where we fall in love more with the idea of them than who they actually are. Then we eventually come to realize later that the relationship was never a healthy one in the first place, and starting over from that place is scary and full of inner-conflict. Most of us aren’t, y’know, monstrous superhuman blade-wielding fighting-machines like Remelea, but still. In the third book, her path diverges from Rob’s, so she’s back to trying to figure out where she fits into this whole apocalyptic mess she’s caught in the middle of. By the end, she’s forced to make some painful decisions, with dire consequences for the big picture, that ultimately define who she truly is on a new, more solid level, as a truly rounded person. 

Then there’s Balthazar, who’s the new heavy-hitter villain who this book introduces. He’s one of the most broadly over-the-top major characters I’ve ever written, in ways that were a lot of fiendish fun to write. I treated him in earlier drafts like a sort of glorified red herring, but in the later drafts, I realized that I hadn’t explored him properly, or made the reader truly feel the threat he represents. In brainstorming from my editor Garrett Cooke’s suggestions, I found myself delving into Balthazar a lot deeper. He ultimately turned out to be a lot more psychologically interesting than I expected. On the one hand, he’s this grotesque, diabolical genetically crafted monstrosity, with superhuman abilities and a brain crammed since birth with all this strategic and tactical military prowess on how to use those powers to make him and those he commands a major threat to what’s left of civilization, yet he also has this childlike, naïve mentality about it all, because of the people who abused, twisted, and conditioned him from birth to be what he is. He’s sort of a pitiable Frankenstein-monster sort of figure in a way. There’s no redemption for him, and he has to be stopped, and he’s the center of some of the book’s most disgusting, nightmarish moments. Yet it’s ultimately not his fault that he is the way he is. The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that a lot of the worst harm people are capable of doesn’t come from malice or what have you, but just from what people have been conditioned to see as normal behavior. With Balthazar I just took that to the most grotesque, deranged extreme I could think of within the context of these already extreme hypothetical circumstances. A lot of both Balthazar’s character-development and an up-close view of the destruction he’s causing and the threat he poses, comes from the point of view of this young human man who he’s tortured, mutilated, broken, and basically made his pet…who he now sees and treats with what he views as affection, like people raise livestock to eventually kill and eat, who they treat like a beloved pet right up to when they slit the animal’s throat, and don’t recognize the cognitive dissonance there. 

What inspired you to write this series?

At the time I started writing the first book, there were several ideas of books I wanted to write, then there was the book I started writing. I was playing around with all sorts of concepts, stumped on what to start next. My mind was a pretty big mess over a lot of recent trauma, including the death of a dear friend, and I wasn’t sure where to start processing that whenever I sat down at the keyboard. I felt like writing a straight-up horror novel, in the old-school Stephen King or Robert Bloch vein. I also wanted to write a giant epic adventure story, incorporating all the classical elements of heroic myth…all the intrigue, action, romance, friendship, betrayal, and epic stakes, like in all the great stories my dear departed friend and I used to geek out about…but to somehow make it all my own, to turn all those elements on their heads, say something about my own observations about life, so readers might not even realize that’s what they were reading at first, but by the end still feel something of that sublime rush that my buddy Dave had always gotten out of such tales at their best, hoping to honor his memory that way. I just didn’t know where to start, had to find some way in to make it my own, so I wouldn’t just regurgitate what had already been said in all those masterworks we’d read/watched/loved.

When I started writing The Night and the Land, that’s honestly not the story I thought I was getting myself into. I was more fascinated with the daily minutia of Brattleboro, Vermont, my adopted home town I was living in at the time and have since moved back to and settled in. I started tinkering with writing a quieter, semi-autobiographical magical-realism ensemble novel, about the various quirky characters in the community I was part of. Hell, if I’d continued in that vein, it may well have turned into something publishable under the label Literary Fiction, and wouldn’t that be a hoot? Then I wrote that scene in the bus station in Pittsburgh, where we meet Sally’s family while they’re looking for her, and the whole thing took on a life of its own from there. I sure as shit didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but here we are.

A lot of people these days in the speculative-fiction community will say that the trilogy is a played-out, over-used format. It’s one Tolkien pretty much accidentally invented when he wrote his giant War-and-Peace-sized epic which the publishers decided to split into three parts, but it’s a cool format, in my opinion. When it works, it works, particularly for a long, multibook story with a beginning, middle and end. I was never interested in writing one of those gargantuan 12-books-plus fantasy series that I saw cluttering the bookselves at the time, nor was I interested in making it feel like one continuous book split into three parts, or anything pretentious like that. Once I realized what I’d gotten myself into, it wasn’t long before I had an amorphous, general idea of where everything was headed, and a trilogy just felt like the story’s natural shape. The whole thing should tell a cohesive story, but I always approached each book as its own entity with its own beginning, middle, and end. The first book wound up being on some levels a small-town horror story in that aforementioned King/Bloch mode. There’s a love story driving the central narrative, but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. The second one expands a great deal on the hidden-world mythos, through the perspective of a lot more characters in lots of different places all over North America. It’s probably the tightest and fasted-paced of the three, basically a chase/road-trip-through-hell story. Which brings us to the third and final book, which starts out like a post-apocalyptic story, then turns into a full-on psychedelic multi-dimensional fantasy tale, with hints of sci-fi, where certain characters, under circumstances I won’t spoil, actually travel through time and space to these other worlds and realities that through most of the series, we’ve only heard spoken of as vague lore and mythology among the people of this hidden society. 

What are your writing ambitions? 

Artistically, to keep stretching myself, to keep working with the various elements of storytelling that I love, keep making them my own in ways I haven’t even thought of yet, and overall to keep spinning good yarns driven by fascinating characters who hopefully more and more readers continue to discover and connect with. Professionally, I’m very proud to have beaten the odds to the point where my writing is legitimately a source of secondary income, so I figure if I keep my shit together and stay on track, five years from now I’d like to have made it my primary source of income…that’s all assuming, the way things are going in real life, that we’re not all fucked and living in a worse dystopian, apocalyptic nightmare than anything I could come up with. But hey, no one ever accomplished jack shit by succumbing to despair and futility, amIright?  

Are you working on any new projects presently? 


I’m in the process of re-writing a new novel set in the far future of the world of these stories, where the world is still in the process of rebuilding itself after an apocalypse or two, and many of the characters readers have come to know in the trilogy and the adjacent works have themselves become the stuff of distant, unreliable mythology. It’s been wild and challenging, in some ways like settling back on familiar ground, while at the same time in many ways building a whole new world, with its own new rules, from scratch, and dropping a whole new set of characters into the middle of it. I’ve also had a hankering of late to dive head-first back into contemporary horror, and I have several ideas kicking around about where I might go with that.  

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you work in multiple genre?

My first love, writing-wise, was really horror fiction, particularly the classic Gothic horror works from the likes of Poe, Stoker, Shelley, and Leroux. I really cut my teeth at a young age trying to emulate those styles, before maturing, reading more broadly, going through more life experiences, etc, and developing my own style. As an oddball, neurologically atypical misfit kid growing up, I was particularly drawn to the kinds of larger-than-life human-monsters who were really just misfit social outcasts at odds with mainstream society. I’ve also always been drawn to stories of high adventure, and there’s a fine line between a lot of the morally gray kinds of heroes from those kinds of stories (such as Indiana Jones, the Man With No Name, Conan the Barbarian, or Long John Silver) and Gothic horror villains/anti-heroes like Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, or the Phantom of the Opera. There’s also a very fine line, I think, between adventure stories and horror stories. Compelling fiction is driven by conflict, and both adventure and horror distill that to a primal level, where it’s about high stakes such as the struggle for survival – the stuff of a ripping good yarn that gets the reader’s blood pumping. I think what continues to fascinate me the most at this point, with those kinds of stories, is exploring the contrasting psychologies of different types of characters caught up in those kinds of situations, how different kinds of people will respond differently in any number of ways, depending on their background, temperament, etc, and how those kinds of experiences change people, for better, worse, or some combination of the two. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

When reading the kind of shit you want to write, take mental notes on what does/doesn’t work when perfecting your craft. Also, get out there and live a life that makes you feel alive. Take risks, make mistakes, get into trouble, get into adventures, whatever that means to you personally (if not on the scale of the kind of “adventure” yarns I write, well, that’s probably for the best 😉 ). Above all, follow your own inner creative voice. You never know where that’ll take you. You’re not so unique in your experiences and feelings as it often seems, but no one can write about it exactly like you can, and you never know whom your voice is exactly what they need. Shoot for the moon, you may or may not make it, but you’re still likely to hit something along the way that those who didn’t dare never would have dreamed of. 

Thank you, Matt, for all your insightful and fun answers!


About The Book

The Blazing Chief

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

Amazon | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author  Matt Spencer for sharing the excerpt from his latest release The Blazing Chief, the 3rd book in The Deschembine Trilogy.

About The Book

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

AmazonGoodreads


Excerpt

PROLOGUE:
THREE MONTHS AFTER THE SOLAR STORM

At nineteen, Ronald “Fishhook” Fairbanks figured he’d seen it all. Over the back end of Summer, he’d seen a whole lot more. For one thing, he’d never expected to see a dude get chopped in half with a Goddamn sword. By the end of the early Autumn day, that wouldn’t even be the weirdest thing he witnessed, or the worst.

That morning, he woke up in a ditch, under a blanket of leaves. He couldn’t remember his dreams, but he knew they’d been bad. He sat up, brushed most of the leaves out of his face and hair, blinked his eyes clear, and looked at the sky. He almost panicked, because it wasn’t the same sky anymore. So what if he should be used to it by now? It still freaked him out, whenever he woke up looking at it. It never had gone back to normal after the solar storm, never lost that weird, sickly, purple-orange tinge. 

Fishhook twisted the worst of the snap-crackle-pops out of his body, hoisted his bag over one shoulder, shuffled to the edge of the road, and stopped dead in his tracks. A little kid stood on the other side of the road, staring at him, four or five he guessed by the height, dressed even shabbier than himself, in plain brown shirt and britches with legs and sleeves falling to the knees and elbows, with dirty bare feet. No, wait, hold up. That wasn’t a kid. It was a fully grown, evenly proportioned adult, except only three or four feet tall. 

Fishhook blinked, made sure he was seeing this right. “Hello?” he shouted. “Hey, what’s up!”

The short fucker just kept staring, past Fishhook. When he looked around, another face peered out of the bushes, on the other side of the ditch. It was shaped like a human face, but it sure as shit wasn’t human. It wasn’t staring out of the bushes, either, but rather was made of them. Branches and leaves jutted and twined together, pressing against each other at just-so angles, so they formed a jaw, eyebrows and forehead. Knotty clumps formed the chin and cheeks, with the leaves from two parallel horizontal branches for lips, two budding pods that hung in twin hollows for eyes. The breeze drifted through the bush, fluttering the face so it moved, like it was talking to the short fucker across the road. When the air went still, so did the face.

Fishhook spun back around. The short fucker was gone. When he looked again, the bush still had a face. Plants could play tricks on the eyes at funny angles, sure, but such illusions usually faded once you looked closer. The more Fishhook looked at this one, though, the clearer he saw it. Its gleaming seed-pod eyes looked right back at him. 

He shivered, muttered, “Well, fuck you too, then, you freaky bitch,” turned, and hurried up the road, doing his best not to look off into the woods. He didn’t want to see more plants with faces, or something even freakier.

At sixteen, Fishhook’s birth-family had kicked him out of the house for being queer. Well, kicked out wasn’t technically accurate. More like he’d left on his own, because his piece-of-shit stepdad would have beaten him to death for it otherwise. Since then, he’d found his brothers and sisters of the road and the rails, and he’d been to plenty of their funerals; all in nice, neat funeral parlors, with open caskets displaying serene, well-dressed, made-up mannequin-like young corpses, of boys and girls who’d died of overdoses, stabbings, shootings, beatings, or exposure. Anyone who showed up who’d known the departed—really known them—might think they’d wandered into the wrong place. More than once, Fishhook had wondered, when his time came, how many of his real friends would show up and ask, Who the fuck is Ronald Fairbanks?

Fishhook hadn’t touched any drugs in months, yet ever since the solar storm, it seemed like the whole world had overdosed on bad acid. He hadn’t seen any of the others in a while; Shipwreck, Scags, Skunk, Stonewall, old Boxcar, Abby, any of them. He usually caught up with folks on the rails, and he’d been avoiding trains like the plague lately. Where the trains still ran, folks said, those railroad bulls had cracked down, gotten twice as diligent and four times as mean. They didn’t even bother to arrest you anymore, just beat you to death, lucky if they didn’t pull a train on your ass first, and that’s if the freaky people—the things—didn’t catch you first. 

Who the hell had Fishhook first heard about the things from? Skunk? Yeah, probably. Of course that crazy motherfucker would believe something like that. Except Skunk had never had that much of an imagination. The last time they’d ridden the rails together, though, he wouldn’t shut up about the people from another dimension who you had to watch out for now. Then as the weeks passed, Fishhook heard more folks spouting the same shit…the same strange words and names…

Schomite. Spirelight. Crimbone. And finally, High Natural.

Since the solar storm, cell phone service had come back in some places, but WiFi was a thing of the past. That threw a wrench in anyone keeping up with anyone. The last time Fishhook had seen Abby, she’d mentioned she’d be in Chattanooga in a few weeks, visiting some cousins. If he’d kept track of time right, she should be there by now. So that’s where he was headed.

When the solar storm happened, there’d been a lot of train wrecks, all at once, all over the country, along with plane crashes, prison riots, riots on the streets of major cities…Hell, some people claimed the military had turned on and eaten itself, which was why not even the National Guard had swooped in, to either save everyone or just fuck everything up worse. Nowadays, the back roads were the closest place left to safe. Chattanooga sounded too densely populated for Fishhook’s liking, but if he could just get there and find Abby, maybe he could get his bearings. She’d given him her cousins’ address. If he could just find her—find anyone he trusted who was left—then maybe…

Whenever he heard a vehicle whirring towards his back, he stepped a little further off to the side and stuck his thumb out. A few cars and trucks blasted past him. There were fewer of them these days, and hitching was always a crapshoot, more so in some parts of the country than others. Here in the middle of the damn Bible Belt, you got fewer motorists willing to take a chance on a dude with ratty dreadlocks, with ears and a face full of piercings, including a big septum ring, wearing a beat-up leather jacket covered in radical political buttons. To be fair, they had more reason than usual to be suspicious. Maybe they thought he was one of those others, never mind that he was five-five and weighed a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet, probably less by now.

Something big and clanking slowed to a stop behind him. He turned and saw a long, gray pickup with a rattling U-Haul trailer hooked to the back. Two people sat up front within the truck, which had a backseat in it, to Fishhook’s relief. The U-Haul had a dinosaur painted along the side, advertising some resort out in California that probably didn’t exist anymore. The truck pulled over onto the shoulder. Fishhook hurried up alongside it and yanked on the right rear passenger door. He found it locked. The front passenger window cranked down. 

“Just a moment, son,” crooned the driver. “Before we let you in…do a little dance for us. You know what I mean.”

Until a few months ago, Fishhook would have gone, You gotta be shittin’ me. A year or so back, he’d spent part of his winter on the streets of Manhattan. He was only half black, and usually passed for Caucasian. That hadn’t stopped the NYPD pigs from pulling over to harass him for a laugh, to make him do the chicken-dance. For all the stereotypes about the North and the South, the racist bullshit he’d encountered in Tennessee had nothing on what he’d gotten from the New York pigs. Except he’d heard the driver’s tone, and he knew that wasn’t the issue here. He still froze up.

The driver leaned over towards the glove box. A knob turned and it dropped open. Fishhook heard a pistol cock. “You know what I mean,” the driver repeated.

Fishhook’s extremities tightened. His heart pounded while the edges of his jaw quivered with deer-in-the-headlights dread. He wanted to tell the driver to fuck off, wait for the next ride, but lately, that might still be an invitation to get his head blown off. He let his pack slide off his stinging shoulders, then he hopped like a bunny, waving his arms around like some poor bastard in a stupid costume spinning a sign outside a tax-return office.

“Okay, that’s good enough. Well, go on now, Fran. Let the boy in.”

The front seat passenger twisted around, reached back, and pulled the lock up.

Fishhook hoisted his pack, opened the door, climbed in, and tossed the pack across the other side of the long back seat. It smelled like a thousand years of stale dust and wood chips in there. It reminded him of his dad’s truck when he was a little kid, before his mom had won the custody battle and hooked up with that right-wing scumbag who’d become his stepfather. Fishhook bit back on the urge to break down sobbing. His real dad had always been a kind man, fuck what his mom had told the judge. Would he have still been a kind man if he’d been around long enough to find out his son was a queer? Fishhook liked to think so.

He noticed another smell in here, like old rotten eggs. He fumbled around ’til he found the seatbelt strap, then buckled up. The driver up front looked absurdly small, almost a midget, coming up barely high enough to see over the dash. Fishhook remembered the other weird little fucker from earlier, but no, this guy was just a really short dude. He had big, pale, bespectacled bug eyes, with silky salt-and-pepper hair cascading from beneath a dark blue ball cap, around a narrow, weather-beaten, stubbly face. His jaw and cheeks had that sunken quality, from the bone-deterioration that happened after smoking too much meth. He wore a checkered green and white shirt, with sleeves that were too big around his gnarled, spidery hands. He put the pistol back in the glove box and returned both hands to the wheel. Next to him, there sat a woman with pasty, pillowy arms, beneath a sloping, wrinkly neck, supporting a wobbly head that looked too small for the rest of her, covered in pale, patchy, stringy hair. She smiled at Fishhook, showing off more black gaps and tortured red gums than teeth. Looking at the two of them side by side, Fishhook got the impression of an insomnia-crazed Kermit the Frog and a googly-eyed, lobotomized Miss Piggy.

The truck lurched back onto the lonely highway and sped off through this world that wasn’t the world anymore. Fishhook only just now noticed a tiny ceramic crucifix dangling from the windshield mirror. Great. Jesus freaks. Just my luck.

“Sorry I had to scare you like that, son. I had to make sure. You understand.”

“Make sure of what?” Fishhook got the gist, but he had to make sure too. There were a lot of versions of the story going around. Fishhook still didn’t know what to believe, but someone else’s ideas about it could mean the difference between life and death.

“That you’re a man. That the bones beneath your flesh move the way a man’s skeleton is supposed to move. That you don’t move like one of the abominations.”

“Yeah, I get it. A Crimbone, you mean.”

The old guy nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. “What’s your name, son?”

“Fishhook,” said Fishhook.

“No it ain’t,” hiccupped the old bastard. “That’s not your real name, is it?”

“That’s what everyone who knows me calls me.”

“But that’s not the name your loving parents gave you, is it? It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. My name’s Norm. This is my wife Fran.”

Fran looked back at Fishhook, gave him that infected, gappy smile again, and waved with a hand like a speckled, flesh-colored Mickey Mouse glove. “Hi!”

“Hi.” Fishhook waved back, even though her high-pitched voice made his skin crawl.

“You want some coffee?” said Norm. “You’re shivering like a leaf back there.” He pulled a thermos from a drink holder and held it back.

“Yeah, that’d be great. Man, thank you so much!” He grabbed the thermos and unscrewed the cap. Steam wafted out. The first gulp burned his tongue. He almost gagged, then tilted the thermos, blew on the liquid’s surface, and sipped slower. It tasted like shitty gas-station coffee, but he didn’t care. The warmth flooding his veins reminded him what true relaxation felt like.

“Where are you headed to, son?” said Norm.

“I’m trying to get to Chattanooga. I’ve got a friend waiting for me there. Or at least she said she would be, before…well…all this craziness.”

Norm nodded. “A girlfriend, then?”

Fishhook glanced at the cross dangling from the dashboard mirror. “Yeah.”

“Chattanooga is on our way. The place used to be a good, God-fearing city. These days, though…I still own land up in the north, son. That’s where we’re going, where we hear things are still good. You and your girlfriend could come with us…”

“Maybe. I’ll have to see what she wants to do.”

‘We’ll be stopping in Rock Spring soon. This highway takes us straight through the center of it. Have you been to Rock Spring, son?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Lovely little town. God-fearing people there. At least I hope that’s still the case. We’ll have to stop for gas there. If the Lord is on our side, there will still be a gas station open. Amazing that there are still gas stations open anywhere, when you think about it, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”

“That’s why people don’t realize the end times are already here. They all expected it to happen at once. After the sky let the fire loose on us, you’d think that would be that, but no, it’s still happening slowly. Lots of people still have electricity. They still go out to eat, would still go to the movies if there was anyone out in Hollywood still making them or shipping them to picture houses…act like this big old world keeps spinning on as always. But I take one look at you, boy, and see that you’ve seen it too.”

Fishhook sipped more coffee from the thermos. “Yeah. Yeah, no shit, right?”

“You know, further down south, there is the town where I grew up. I courted and married Fran there.” As if on cue, Fran looked back at Fishhook, smiled and nodded. Thankfully, she didn’t open her mouth this time. Maybe that meant there was a god. “Fran and I here used to have a program, on the local radio station, talking of the word of the Lord. When the Lord unleashed the wrath of the sun, he spared our radio station, so we might continue to preach our ministry to whoever was still out there listening, right when more people needed to hear it than ever. Except the people no longer liked to hear us tell what the good Lord had to say. I was forced off the airwaves, for speaking the truth of our Lord. Even now, while society falls apart, people still find ways to tell themselves that our civilization has not already abandoned us. Soon, only one civilization shall remain…that of our Lord’s making. That will be the Kingdom. It was censorship, plain and simple. People don’t want to give up the evils they think define them. You can’t be one of the drug-addicts, in the Kingdom. You can’t be a fornicator in the Kingdom. You can’t be one of the homosexuals, in the Kingdom.

Fuck, Fishhook couldn’t get out of this truck fast enough. The guy’s being nice. So is his wife. He doesn’t have to know who you are. No one’s making you suck their dick for a hit, or anything like that. Count your blessings. It’ll all be over soon enough.

Fishhook also noticed that he really needed to piss. Damn, he should have done that back on the roadside. He tried to will the contents of his bladder further up through his abdomen, away from his aching dick. “Yeah, I know, right? Say, how far are we from…wait, which town, man?”

“Rock Spring. Just another mile or so.”

Even with the windows up, the closer to Rock Spring they drove, the more something smelled like burning pork. It didn’t exactly cancel out the rotten egg smell, but it made Fishhook pay a lot less attention to it. The truck rounded a bend, and he saw all those little boxes made of ticky-tacky buildings of downtown Rock Spring, Tennessee, nestled in the shadow of the Smoky Mountain ranges. Half the town was on fire, including a red caboose in what used to be the yard of the local historical society.

“Norm?” squeaked Fran. “What’s going on? I don’t like this.”

“I don’t like it either, hon. Just sit tight. Now what in the world…”

“We should turn around.”

“We can’t. This is our route to where we’re going.”

“So we can find another route! Come on, honey, we can find one that doesn’t…”

“Doesn’t what? Make us to look in the eye what the Lord hath placed before us? No, my dear, many are those who would avert their eyes, and look where that’s gotten us.”

“Man, seriously,” said Fishhook, “listen to your wife. This is no good.”

“You’re speaking out of turn, young man. I don’t recall asking—”

The nearer the center of town drew, the louder the screams echoed. Fishhook twisted around against the seatbelt in rising agitation. “Dude, look, I know when I’m in a bad place that it’s time to get clear of, and this—”

“We will be clear of it soon enough. Now hush.” The truck sped up.

Far ahead, a soot-covered woman ran screaming out of a burning municipal building. She tripped, fell, got back up and shambled a little, then sprinted across a big, green common-area lawn. What she ran from came from every doorway, alleyway and corner, converging towards her…bodies that did move with superhuman speed and agility, like they didn’t have real human skeletons under their filthy, scarred skin. They weren’t dressed like Fishhook or any of his old train-hopper buddies. Some of them weren’t wearing clothes at all. They all looked like those others, some with the mottled, swirly skin folks now called Schomite or Crimbone or whatever, others with the gleaming, pearly, whiter-than-white elf-like builds of those called Spirelights. It didn’t matter anymore. Some new master had united them, under a banner of rape, murder and plunder. None of the safeguards of so-called modern civilization were left to do shit about it. 

The fleeing girl must have had a good thirty feet head-start. One of the Schomites stretched out its gnarly clawed hand and grabbed her, like time and space folded between them to close the distance. It tackled her to the ground, ripping her clothes off, its teeth tearing and worrying into the flesh beneath. 

Something hit the side of Norm’s truck. The whole world spun through the air…

~

Blood stung Fishhook’s eyes. When he wiped at it, his arm screamed.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, don’t let it be broken, don’t let it be broken…

Shattered glass blanketed him like sharp snowflakes. Some of it stuck in his face and hands. Someone kept screaming. At first, he thought it was him, then he realized it was Fran. His jaw felt like someone had popped it off and stuck it back on upside down. All that came out of his mouth were huffs and grunts. The whole world screamed, along with every nerve in his body.

One of his eyes still more or less worked. Except every time he opened or closed it, he saw something different. There was Fran up front, shrieking and gyrating. Next to her, Norm stared blankly, over the steering wheel embedded in his chest. Through Norm’s window, Fishhook could see the top of the police car that had broadsided them. The red and blue lights still spun and flashed while smoke rose from the mangled hood. One of the cops moved like a drunk toddler while he tried to pull his partner out of the wreckage. He was gray with ash, except where scarlet streamed from his scalp, down his side. The wrecked cop car wasn’t the only siren blaring. It sounded like there were a lot of them, for miles around.

~

A grumbling whoosh sounded somewhere. Flames licked out of the edges of the twisted hood of the truck, small and pale at first, then dark with smoke, puffing out thicker and thicker. They leaked past the border of the shattered windshield, into the truck. Norm didn’t appear to mind, probably because he was dead. Fran shrieked louder and thrashed furiously. Her seat rocked and banged against Fishhook’s knees.

Fishhook tried to bolt, but his seatbelt held him in place. He tried to unbuckle it, then shrieked because he’d just used his fucked-up arm. Yep, it was definitely broken. Shit! He took a few deep, rapid, whistling breaths to get himself under control. His good hand shook as it found the button. The belt snapped and slithered away. When he tried the door handle, it refused to budge. The whole rig was twisted around him. He rammed the door with his shoulder. Bigger flames were filling the front seat. Fran squalled like a bobcat caught in a trap. Parts of her face turned red, bubbling up with welts full of boiling white pus It smelled a lot worse than the rotting-egg scent from earlier. Fishhook drew up sideways across the seat and mule-kicked the door, once, twice, thrice…

The hinges gave, so the cold air spilled in on him…

~

Concrete pressed against his shoulder, shoving chips of broken glass through his coat so they bit into his arm. Every time he thought he’d gotten the pain under control, it seemed, another part of his body moved funny, so his whole being lit back up with grinding, shrieking raw nerves. He smelled more burning buildings, more burning flesh.

I have to move. I can’t, though. I don’t want to. Why am I even conscious? Can’t I just go back to sleep? Just let all this go away…

~

His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

Someone let out a furious howl. At first, Fishhook thought it was one of those things, closing in on him. Then a dark shadow passed overhead. He shifted sideways and tried to crawl under the truck, but the rising fumes sent him scuttling back the other way.

His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

~

Everything blurred in and out of focus. His fucked-up arm felt just as bad as before, but it seemed further away now. He got a grip on the next overturned car and pulled himself to his feet.

An echoing clash shook the earth, of metal striking metal…with a chime that reverberated through the concrete, beneath his feet, a sound that pulsed through his whole being. At first, he assumed it was another car accident, but that was wishful thinking. No, it was the clash of otherworldly matter against otherworldly matter…something that shouldn’t even exist in this world, yet there it was.

When his eyes snapped back open, he saw the center of the town lawn. Two of those freaks had just slammed into each other, howling with elemental bloodlust. What the hell was Fishhook watching? This was nuts! It looked almost like a kung-fu fight in some Jet Li movie on TV, but the more his vision cleared, the more it looked like two wild animals ripping each other apart, quicker than the human eye could follow…both of them swinging long, curved blades of black metal, ’til one deflected the other’s downward chop and sidestepped him with a diagonal slice. A meaty crunch sounded. The loser split open and hung in two directions like a blooming flower, his insides gleaming and gushing…because another man had just chopped him in half like a head of cabbage, with a fucking sword. A sword made of unearthly black metal. Fuck!

The winner righted himself, let out a joyous growl, then looked at the split-open body, which was somehow still standing. He gave it a boot to the ass so it fell over, spilling its insides across the grass. That’s when Fishhook noticed the whole lawn alive with a melee from some other reality, an even weirder one than the last few months. Fishhook couldn’t even tell who was on whose side…until the swooping shape descended…

Fishhook’s eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

~

More meaty crunches sounded, as blades cleaved through bones and organs, everywhere. From where he leaned, Fishhook still heard Fran shrieking. The burning truck wasn’t that far away, still somewhere to his left. He was no badass, that was for sure—and now that he saw all those otherworldly mutant freaks hacking the shit out of each other in the distance, he realized he didn’t want to be—but there was no way was gonna leave someone to burn to death like that, not if he could help it. He lurched, righted himself, hobbled halfway over to the truck. Then the heat of the blaze pulsed in his face, repelling him like a wall of pure, hot energy. Fran stopped screaming. Fishhook’s guts turned to liquid and tried to fall out of his asshole. 

Plenty of other folks kept screaming, people who lived around here, while the otherworldly marauders dragged them out of their homes and jobs, while they laid waste to the infrastructure. Big, greasy rednecks came out brandishing shotguns, pistols, semi-automatics, automatics, you name it. At first, they looked happy as pigs in shit to finally get a chance to act like the local militia against the invaders…until they started shooting, and it didn’t do a squirt of piss worth of good, except to get the things’ attention. Fishhook couldn’t tell if the creatures moved fast enough to dodge bullets, or if the bullets just didn’t hurt them. Either way, they swarmed in on the gunmen. Before Fishhook knew it, the shooting had stopped, replaced by more blood, guts, hair, teeth and eyeballs flying all over the place.

Out on the lawn, a strange sort of circle had formed. Somewhere in the middle of all this, Fishhook had gotten a sense of the two sides fighting each other. The ones who’d attacked the town were made up of both those dirty, animalistic freaks and those…pale, gleaming, whiter-than-white elf-like fuckers…Spirelights; that was the word for them, right? Except weren’t those two sides supposed to be fighting each other? What the hell were they doing, ganging up on this town together? The ones who’d come to fight them all seemed to be the other kind, the beastly ones…Crimbone? It was like they’d swarmed in out of the hills, as though to defend the place…baited into a trap, apparently, one which must have worked, given how few of the latter were left, and by the way the leader strutted back and forth like a rooster in a henhouse.

Fishhook couldn’t make sense of the leader’s appearance. It looked like a cartoon animal version of Axl Rose or Kid Rock or one of those assholes, the cap of its head tied up in a dirty red bandana, but with a jutting, deformed snout like a dog’s face, with big dragon wings fanning out on either side. And it was dripping in blood, from head to toe…blood, and who knew what other fluids.

“Okay,” the creature’s voice boomed, while it rubbed at its crotch, “this is where the Daddy told me to git shit rollin’. Can’t tell why just yet. Place looks like a shithole to me. Still, I gots ta say, not a bad Goddamn start at all. Ain’t that right, bitches? Why, just look at all these bitchass so-called Crimbone we got here to start replenishin’ our ranks with.” The creature cast an eye around, at the last of the gnarly defenders who’d been herded into the circle. “Why, it’s almost like they all swam right up to our fishhook, ain’t it?”

In that moment, it might have been Fishhook’s imagination, but he swore the monster peered across the expanse and looked him right in the eye. That’s when he quit pretending not to be a coward, when he booked it, quick as he could, back behind the nearest wrecked vehicle that wasn’t on fire.

“Not as big a haul as we’d hoped for, but that’s okay. Shit, this won’t do at all. No, wait, let me check.” A crunch split the air, followed by another shriek, along with a wet, ripping noise. “Gah, peh, these here Earth-line bastards an’ bitches get more rancid every stop! Oh well, catch as catch can. Nah, nah, nah, boys, you take ’er easy with the good folks of this cute little town. The meat tastes better when you get it off the bones alive.”


About The Author

Matt Spenser

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

You can find author Matt here:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Spotlight: The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Matt Spencer novel The Blazing Chief, the 3rd book in the The Deschembine Trilogy.

The Blazing Chief


Synopsis

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

AmazonGoodreads


About The Author

Matt Spenser

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

You can find author Matt here:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com