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Archive for July, 2020

Author of Someone’s Story and co-collaborator on the music it inspired, B.A. was born in Richmond, BC and raised in Langley, BC, before settling in Winnipeg, MB. His first adventure was a career in Finance, where he spent 15 years developing his business skills. His highest achievement was the Certified Payroll Manager designation. He currently still consults with businesses on their systems and processes. Over that period of time, he also attended film school where he started to nurture his early creative abilities.

A self-starter always interested in research, he taught himself many of the aspects of storytelling through reading books, screenplays and material online. Whenever he found an inspirational piece of art, he quickly went to the source to find the story behind the artist who created the work. It took many years after attending film school for him to finally combine his creative skills with his life experience and tell that story he had been holding back. Some of his favorite creative people: Lukas Rossi, Justin Furstenfeld, Peter Jackson, Stephen Chbosky, John Green, J.K. Rowling.

Currently he is pounding away on the keyboard writing his second novel, Pulse. This project is a change of pace and more details will come in a few months!

B.A. is also an avid jogger and walker, frequently using them as a way to work on those tough spots in life and his manuscripts. If you found it this far into his material, reach out to him on Twitter and make sure to like and subscribe to get updates on all his future endeavors.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: http://www.babellec.com

Blog: https://babellec.com/b-a-bellecs-blog/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/b_bellec

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

About the Book

In his debut endearing coming-of-age book, B.A. Bellec writes about a group of weirdos that find and save each other from the dark depths of their minds. Someone’s Story is literally Someone’s story, as in a first-person narrative of a teenager that calls himself Someone. As he struggles to find a new footing in a new space, we encounter the many ups and downs of modern teenage life, the difficulties that adjusting to adult feelings bring, and a few tear-jerking surprises along the way.

Littered with music, mental health, friendship, loss, meditation, advice, pop culture, and even inspiring an EP, there is so much nostalgia, inspiration, and depth here it is hard to absorb it all. Cozy up somewhere warm and enjoy!

“B. A. Bellec has crafted a masterpiece of emotive and well-rounded young adult fiction.”
K.C. Finn – Author

“The variety of personages, situations, and mental illnesses represented allows all readers to relate to this book and take something away from reading! This novel is on our list of all-time favourites!”
International Girls and Books

“Someone’s Story is a beautiful novel, written in great prose, very descriptive, and filled with insights about life. The author does an incredible job with themes of family, friendship, bullying, and personal development. It felt like I was reading a portion of my emotions and myself in Someone’s Story.”
Gobi Jane – Professional Critic @ Readers’ Favourite

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3dHJU7X

Interview

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Nope. I am a good story-teller but actually writing is not my strength. My editors have the dreadful task of cleaning up all my spelling and grammar mistakes. Frankly, it’s near impossible. At the end of the day though, telling a good story is really what I think matters the most. You can have a few mistakes along the way, but my goal is always to leave my readers satisfied by giving them an emotional reaction.

What was your inspiration for Someone’s Story?

To give back. This book was like my therapy and I wanted to give my little nuggets of wisdom away to others. I also wanted to help people. Partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association was one of the ways I did this. I would say my editor was also a big inspiration. I took a broken 40K word story and she gave me some character notes and the push I needed to finish the project.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

My writing started as a journal. I did that for about a year. Then I spent a year turning my journal into a story and cleaning it into the finished project. This was my first book so there was lots of learning. Many of the marketing and publishing steps were new to me. The two-year journey is complete and now a few more months of marketing this book will wrap the project.

What do you feel is one of the most exciting parts of your book?

The back 1/3 is really good. I am not going to spoil it. I think for me the most exciting part is the very last chapter. When the truth is sort of revealed. The book has layers and reading it a second time is a different experience once you know the ending.

What other genres have you thought about writing? What genres would you personally never consider writing?

I am currently writing a Sci-Fi Horror book called Pulse. After that, I am thinking about Fantasy. I really don’t define myself with one genre. The genre I would never personally write is a straight romance. There will always be a romance component in my work, but it will never be the central theme.

What do you love most about being an author?

I am an introvert. The lifestyle is very introverted. I get to sit around and type words into a computer most days. I also love the creative freedom. It’s really fun to invent worlds. Planning big projects is another thing I like. Putting together the outlines on my Pulse series was so fun!

Marketing myself is something new that I never did before. It took a few months to get comfortable with pitching my ideas but over the last few weeks, the reviews and the web traffic have been climbing so I think I have it on track finally.

What’s next for you?

I am going to finish writing Pulse in the next few months then start work on the sequel, Pulse: Evolution. After that, I will start kicking the tires on my fantasy project. One day I would love to adapt my books into screenplays and try to produce movies. Follow the John Green/Jennifer Niven/Stephen Chbosky path.

 

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Laura Preble is the award-winning author of the young adult series, Queen Geek Social Club (Penguin/Berkley Jam), which includes the novels Queen Geeks in Love and Prom Queen Geeks. Her novel, Out, dealt with the concept of LGBTQ rights within a young adult dystopia; Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys, says “Out explores an intriguing, mind-bending, and challenging portrait of an upside-down world that turns the tables on homophobia, acceptance, and love.” She has won a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, and has been published in North American Review, Writer’s Digest, Hysteria, and NEA Today.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website:  www.preblebooks.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LauraPreble

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/laura.preble1  

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I think so. I grew up with an Irish grandfather who told me stories all the time, and both sides of my family are Irish, so I think storytelling comes pretty naturally. There’s a photo of me when I was probably seven where I’m hunched over a yellow legal pad with a pencil, trying to cover up whatever story I was working on.

What was your inspiration for Anna Incognito?

The main character is based loosely on a friend how mine who has conditions similar to Anna’s in the book. My friend has dermatillomania and trichotillomania (skin and hair picking) which are both Obsessive-Compulsive disorders. Seeing those conditions through her eyes, and knowing how smart, funny, and wonderful she is gave me the inspiration to write a character who struggles with mental illness, but who is still a fully-formed person. She is NOT her disorders. They do not define her.

Life can be funny when you  have a mental illness. I don’t mean to imply that mental illness is funny, because it’s not. I have a couple of the conditions Anna has in the book, and I understand how serious it is. Still, it does color your reactions to things, and honestly, most of my favorite people have some kind of mental illness, and they’re really hilarious people. I also think it’s really important to portray people with mental illness in fiction. It’s been stigmatized a lot in American culture especially. I think if more people saw mental illness from the inside out, they’d understand more why there is a great need for more treatment options, for more sensitive law enforcement, and for greater resources in schools.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Since I have kids and had a full-time job at a school, it took several summers to finish. I wrote it over about two years, but I didn’t write all that time. Summers are my writing time, and I kept coming back to this story over and over. Some books I start and don’t finish if they don’t fire me up. This one kept nagging at me to be told.

What do you feel is one of the most exciting parts of your book?

The most exciting part to me is the end, but I can’t tell you what happens. The story is basically a road trip where a person with severe OCD takes to the highway in order to travel several states away to stop the wedding of her former therapist. She is convinced they are supposed to be together. But the end…to me, it was perfect and satisfying, and I rewrote it several times to get it right.

What other genres have you thought about writing? What genres would you personally never consider writing?

My favorite thing to read is science fiction, and I’d love to write that. I have tried, but I just can’t seem to get it to work. I’d never write sports fiction because I am possibly the worst athlete on the planet.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love when a story I’ve written connects with someone. I’ve gotten emails from people telling me how my books have affected them, and that is the best feeling. I think all art — writing, music, visual art — is a way for us to reach out to other people, to be less alone. Being an author lets you share the contents of your mind and your soul to people you’ve never met.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been concentrating a lot on marketing Anna Incognito, so I haven’t started a new project yet. I also was a Runner-Up in the Screencraft Cinematic Book competition, so I’ve been reaching out to production companies that are interested in making Anna into a film.  I’m also trying to get some mileage out of winning a silver medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, which I just received a couple of weeks ago. I got a very chunky silver medal.  But my next book idea is probably going to be a fiction based on my best friend and myself moving to Paris and making all kinds of trouble for everyone we meet. Since I can’t really travel anywhere right now because of the plague, I figured I could write a vacation.

About the Book

Lots of narrative pull…wonderfully complicated. – Jincy Willett, author of The Writing Class, and anthologized by David Sedaris in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.

Anna Colin Beck knows all too well what can happen when things go wrong really wrong. So, she’s spent the last several years living an extremely regimented life at home, doing everything she can to avoid subjecting herself to the torments of a germ-infested world. Everything must be just so, and when things don’t go to plan, she punishes her own body…and that still hasn’t helped alleviate her pain.

After a chance meeting in a laundromat, she finds herself completely infatuated with another person, something that hasn’t happened to her in a long time. Dr. Edward Denture is seemingly brilliant and magnetic…and in the blink of an eye, she’s attending intense somatic therapy sessions as his newest client. The more he draws from her, the further their relationship grows, until it’s crossed countless lines and consumed Anna with a fierce toxicity. And before she knows it, she finds herself buckled into the driver’s seat of a powder-blue El Dorado for a solo cross-country road trip, determined to stop his wedding. It’s a trip that will test every limitation she’s ever set for herself, and though she’s planned extensively for all contingencies, there are some twists and turns you just can’t prepare for.

With wry observations on the intersection of luck, fate, and life, Anna Incognito is a searing, darkly witty exploration of what it means to be alive.

PRAISE FOR ANNA INCOGNITO

IndieReader.com: 5/5 “Rich with witticism in the face of painful realities and evoking lyrical truisms throughout, from of a rating scale of 1 – 5 this novel is so off-the-charts good, it deserves a 10.” LINK HERE

OnlineBookClub.com: 4/4 “The writing was captivating…This book would be great for readers who are struggling with mental health or for those trying to understand it better. Are you ready to go for a drive with Anna?. Buckle up, because you are in for the ride of your life!” LINK HERE

Kirkus Reviews:  “The protagonist’s acerbic wit and mordant tone work well in the difficult material in Preble’s unconventional road novel. A razor-sharp, oddly fun  romp through the American West.” LINK HERE

ORDER YOUR COPY

Mascot Books → https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/fiction/romance/anna-incognito/

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3gWo7wf

 Barnes & Noble → https://bit.ly/2MtLLSV

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Born on Vancouver Island, Canada, Misha Handman spent his early life immersed in the arts, with one parent a teacher and the other a manager of theatre and opera. Moving across the country to Ottawa, and then Toronto, he began writing at a young age – first writing comics and designing card games for his closest friends and then, buoyed by their approval, gradually expanding out to submissions to magazines and short story collections, and graduating from the University of Toronto with a classic English degree.

Misha has always believed in the importance of entertainment to our health and well-being. He is also interested in our shared fictional history, working in game design to develop collaborative games and story-driven experiences and exploring the new worlds that we are sharing. His fascination with these things led to the development of his first novel, Shadow Stitcher, as an exploration of the English classic “Peter Pan.”

When not writing, Misha spends his time in Victoria, Canada, working as a professional fundraiser for charities – a job he describes as “helping people to help people.” He continues to work on game design on the side, and is always excited to see the myriad ways that people approach story construction and creation, both as a voracious reader of genre fiction and a dedicated player of games.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: www.mishahandman.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/frivyeti

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

Interview

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Definitely. When I was in Grade 1, I wrote a science fiction story for our school’s short story competition, and I was the only student in my class who wrote fiction instead of talking about something they’d done or seen. I won my first writing prize for that story, beating out students two years ahead of me.

What was your inspiration for Shadow Stitcher?

The original idea that would grow into Shadow Stitcher literally began as a dream, as ironic as that seems. I had been re-reading Peter Pan as part of a separate project, and I had a dream in which I was a pest exterminator wrestling with the morality of killing fairies. I dashed off a flash fiction piece based on the idea, and then set it aside.

As luck would have it, though, a month later I became involved in my first National Novel-Writing Month challenge, and the idea of a world that created a counterpoint between childish Neverland magic and very real concerns drew me in. I created the framework for Shadow Stitcher then.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

All told, from the first word that I set down to the completion of the book took about two years, but there were definitely some gaps in the middle. I wasn’t sure that I was going to finish the book after my first frenzied month of writing, so it sat alone for several months. Then I came back to it, worked through a lot of it over a three-month period, and then got distracted by a smaller writing contract and set it down a second time! But the third time was the charm, and I wrote about

What do you feel is one of the most exciting parts of your book?

Ooh, no spoilers! But alright, let’s see… I think one of the most exciting parts of Shadow Stitcher is a sequence in which Basil Stark, the narrator of the piece, is going to investigate a source that he believes is connected to one or more murders. Basil accidentally walks into a trap left for his source, and winds up having to find a way to protect himself and someone who might be a dangerous person, without doing enough damage to lose all the evidence!

What other genres have you thought about writing? What genres would you personally never consider writing?

I once made a valiant effort at writing pure romance, and I’d like to go back and stretch my literary muscles someday by trying again. It’s a genre that really zeroes in on character and motivation in a way that I think makes every author better. On the other hand, I’m not particularly interested in pure dramas, especially those about individuals struggling with their own difficulties. Too much of my love of writing lies in world-building and playing with speculative elements.

What do you love most about being an author?

Sharing my visions with others. I can write for myself, but the real reward for me is when someone else reads something and finds resonance, or even builds on it to create something of their own.

What’s next for you?

Well, I have a few short stories and smaller writing projects in the work, and I’m currently working on the as-yet-untitled sequel to Shadow Stitcher, narrated from a surprising source! Hopefully, I’ll be back here to talk about it when it’s closer to release.

About the Book

Basil Stark isn’t the man he once was. A reformed pirate and private detective, he walks the line between criminal and hero, living in the corners of what was once the island of Neverland, its magic slowly fading into the new world of the 1950s.

When a routine missing-persons case turns into a murder investigation, Basil finds himself pulled into a tale of organized crime, murder, unstitched shadows and dangerous espionage. With only a handful of fellow outcasts and a stubborn determination to bring a killer to justice, will he survive the many people who want him dead?

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1770531998/

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadow-stitcher-misha-handman/1132633222

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Title: HOW THE DEER MOON HUNGERS
Author: Susan Wingate
Publisher: Roberts Press
Pages: 384
Genre: YA / Coming of Age / Contemporary Fiction

BOOK BLURB:

For those who enjoy reading books like Where the Crawdads Sing and My Sister’s Keeper

MACKENZIE FRASER witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-year-old sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumped-up drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life…on the inside! And she’s losing.

HOW THE DEER MOON HUNGERS is a coming of age story about loss, grief, and the power of love.

HOW THE DEER MOON HUNGERS Won “Best Fiction” in the 2020 Pacific Book Awards.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08676VMT3

Book Excerpt:

PART ONE

the beginning

“a flower knows, when its butterfly will return, and if the moon walks out, the sky will

understand; but now it hurts, to watch you

leave so soon, when I don’t know, if you will ever come back.” ―Sanober Khan

1

The Day Before

I, one Miss MacKenzie Becca Fraser, was never one for saying fuck much. But as with life, things change.

The year before, Dad removed Tessa’s training wheels. The bike had grown up, was halfway between a tricycle and a teenager’s bike. Her eyes glowed when the trainers came off. Her smile? Buoyant. My bike was what Tessa called a big girl bike—a beach cruiser in Tiffany box blue. Mine didn’t have ribbons shooting out of the handles. Can you imagine me going to school with ribbons out of the handles? My peeps would never let me live it down.

The evening before what people called the worst thing that’s happened on the island since Becca Winthrop went and flopped over dead of heart failure at the liquor store, we set off on a night ride—Tessa and me. We left Mom at home stirring up dust with her favorite electric broom. Tuesday was a lazy fall night, one with the sun and moon in competition for the evening sky; with the sun being selfish for time, trying to hang on to day even though it knew it should just stop shining, give up, and go away. We’d stuck playing cards in the spokes of our tires to add to clicking crickets, tree frogs chirping, a not-so-distant fox hacking out a cough to alert its scattered pack of food found—a doomed rabbit or kitty kibbles left out on someone’s porch. Up the hill, deep in the woods, an owl’s Psalm echoed back from its mate as if they were holding invisible hands across the horizon, not wanting to let go. Their song played while we rode.

We’d split the deck of cards, each one clipping twenty-six onto our tire spokes to deter animals from darting out into the lane ahead. Because that was all we needed—to crash into a raccoon crossing the street. Not much good for the coon either. But the road was deserted, and I kept Tessa in front, keeping my eye out for her.

Tessa rode her bike fast like she was angling to lasso the moon, which sat high at the end of the road over Old Man Johnson’s cattle farm. The big, yellow ball lolled around atop a silhouette of gossamer evergreens framing a large swatch of grazing land.

Wind fluttered that silky sable ponytail of hers as we came off the downhill side of False Bay Drive where the road at the end of summer stripes a path of thirsty grass along the strait, where cows graze in a pasture trimmed by a stand of golden poplars, crooked and bending toward the north sky away from steady winds coming off the water. Most people think that on our island in the Pacific Northwest, we live in slickers and galoshes year-round. But that’s the secret we have. Seattle gives our island a bad reputation, makes us soggy when we’re not. We live in what meteorologists call a banana belt or a rain shadow, so our island lacks the lush, drippy rainforests often found in other parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Each downstroke of my pedals matched rhythm with the plastic ribbons whipping off Tessa’s handlebars, whizzing like a thousand bees around her hands. When she skidded to a halt in front of me, I yanked left, my wheels slipping as I swerved to miss her, no doubt balding a spot on the tire’s rubber.

“What’s wrong with you?” I demanded, anger flashing hot in my cheeks and pooling into my chest.

Tessa didn’t seem to hear me. She was gaping up at the sky with that moon gaping back at her.

“What?” I repeated, but this time we were both fixed on the dang moon.

“Do you see it, Mac? The deer?” Tess was in the habit of starting, finishing, and rereading Thurber’s The White Deer for, like, the millionth time—a read way above her grade. In fact, she often fell asleep with the stupid book open-faced on her chest. Then the next morning she’d stick a crow feather in the book to mark her place and set it on her nightstand, ready for her evening read.

“There’s no deer in the moon, dork, but there might be a man if you look hard enough. You need to read real stuff. You’re getting weird.”

“See its horns?”

“Antlers.” I told her. “A hungry moon like that likes to eat seven-year-olds for dinner.” “Nuh-uh,” Tessa answered.

I rolled my bike backward, parallel to hers, close enough to sneak my hand around the back of her head and yank her ponytail.

“Don’t,” Tessa yelped.

I enjoyed hearing her whiny kid voice. Mom called it plaintive. But Mom liked to make things sound more sophisticated. Her beaten-up chest of drawers was a chiffonier. The mossy stone patio, a pergola. Mom wanted more out of life, and I suspected she harbored a few regrets. “Our island didn’t hold a candle to New York City,” she’d complained one night. “Not even to Seattle. At least Seattle has an international flair,” she’d said.

Mom could have been a model if she’d pursued it, but she’d fallen in love, had kids. The what-happenedto-my-life syndrome seemed to have snagged her in a net she couldn’t get out of. She often talked about things she would do after Tess and I were out of school, when the house and her life were her own again. A longing filling her words, just enough for me to sense an underpinning of resentment. Her gaze would shift to the window, outside, away and away, but not for long; and she would chuckle. Then, she’d sit upright and say, “Oh, we wish on stars and mushroom caps for moon dust and fairies.” I don’t know where she got that phrase, but Mom always trotted it out when she got wistful. Maybe it came from Gramma Kiki. Who knows? It really doesn’t matter, but the oddity of a phrase like that will stick with you.

And although our island boasted an international school—Spring Street School—our town was mostly country, with nothing international about it. We didn’t even have a stoplight. Just stop signs and, of late, one abused turnabout.

When I glanced sideways at Tessa, she was straddling her bike as she stared up at the moon. I noted a certain otherness in her expression, as if we weren’t alone, as if the ghost of that deer she’d spotted in the moon had plopped onto her shoulders and was weighing her down. Her eyes seemed dark with worry and as deep as a pair of bottomless wells, shimmering with unshed tears. I think about that worry sometimes. It haunts me still.

“Come on,” I said. “We’d better get home. Mom’s already in a snit.”

“I wonder what the deer eats, Mac. Do you think it’s hungry?”

“One thing it doesn’t eat, Tess, is cheese!” I said, laughing, but Tessa didn’t get it. She didn’t know then, or ever, about the man in the moon or about the cheese the moon was allegedly made of.

I used to like the word allegedly. I’d learned it as a vocabulary word at the start of my junior year, and I got it right on a pop quiz in homeroom spelling. The teacher even had me write my sentence on the board: Gemma allegedly hid the pencil from me, but there was no evidence to prove that for sure. The sentences I would write with this word now could not be more different: I was allegedly taking care of Tessa when we went to the park the day after looking at the deer moon. And I was allegedly not watching when the car hit her.  Allegedly became an important word for me after Tessa died. It’s weird to recall how much I liked the word in my junior year but hated it afterward when I heard the cop use it.

Allegedly,” he’d said, “the younger one was in the older sister’s care.” And then, as though no one understood, “The older one was supposed to be watching the younger one.” He said one as if we were buttons on a conveyor belt at some stupid button factory. The jerk.

After Tess died, I started counting the days of the moon as it sketched out a path in the sky from crescent to half to gibbous to crescent again. I called it moon spying, and every month when the moon was ripe, I used to rush outside to search that big ol’ cheese wheel. Maybe I’d spy Tessa riding on the back of the deer ghost, but mostly I just hoped she might see me searching the moon for a glimpse of her.

About the Author

Susan Wingate is a #1 Amazon bestselling award-winning author of over fifteen novels. Susan writes across fiction and nonfiction genres and often sets her stories in the Pacific Northwest where she is the president of a local authors association. She writes full-time and lives in Washington State with her husband, Bob.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: www.susanwingate.com

Blog:    www.susanwingate.com/blog

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susanwingate

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorsusanwingate

 

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Title: THE DESCARTES EVOLUTION
Author: N.J. Croft
Publisher: Sideways Books (Macmillan)
Pages: 268
Genre: Thriller

BOOK BLURB:

A woman with a rare genetic illness must uncover her connection to a terrorist group before their next attack in this exciting new bio-thriller from the author of Disease X.

Lucas Grafton has spent the last ten years hunting the Conclave, a secret organization who took everything from him, including his very identity. Now he has a lead—an imminent terrorist attack on London—code-named “Descartes”. But he can’t connect the dots until a seemingly innocent woman appears during his stakeout.

Jenna Young can’t believe she was attacked and barely escaped with her life. Now she’s on the run with a stranger…and racing against the clock. With only a note left by her father after his death, telling her to use the code-word “Descartes” to get the pills that slow the progression of her illness, Jenna has only days before her body will start to rapidly deteriorate.

Lucas and Jenna must piece together why she’s wanted by a terrorist group she’s never heard of. And why, despite her claims that she needs an unknown and presumably illegal drug to stay alive, she seems to be getting stronger by the day…

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2zGHV65

 Barnes & Noble → https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-descartes-evolution-nj-croft/1137073479

Entangled Publishing → https://entangledpublishing.com/the-descartes-evolution.html

 Kobo → https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-descartes-evolution

 

Book Excerpt:

Panic flared, and Jenna forced it down, breathing slowly, deeply. She stared at the man and allowed her hatred to show in her face.

He straightened and backed away, leaning against the far wall with his arms folded across his chest. “She’s all yours, Doc.”

Jenna’s gaze darted to the second man in the room. The doctor approached, and she flinched as he wiped the blood from her face with a paper towel, his touch almost gentle. He rolled a trolley close beside the chair, and she peered at it out of the corner of her eyes. It contained electronic equipment and a set of needles and bottles.

He patted her lower arm below the elbow and inserted a needle into the vein to collect blood. After he’d filled two small bottles, he labeled them and put them on the counter across the room.

Jenna concentrated on his actions, preventing her mind from thinking about what was to happen. He came back, looked at her for a moment, then hooked a finger in the neck of her T-shirt and tore it, exposing the tops of her breasts. Her eyes snapped closed, but she forced them open and watched as he taped two monitors to her chest. He fiddled with the dials of the machine and stepped back.

“Your name?”

Her gaze darted  to the other man, who raised an eyebrow and made a move as though to straighten.

“Jenna Young.”

At the soft chuckle across the room, her hatred rose.

The man in the white coat took her through a series of questions about who she was and what she did, and she answered them truthfully. There was no reason not to—she was sure they must know this stuff already. They were calibrating some sort of lie detector. For a moment, she allowed herself to hope they would believe her when she told them she knew nothing—that they wouldn’t resort to torture—until her glance flicked again to the man leaning against the wall. His eyes followed the rise and fall of her breasts, and for the first time his expression was clear: he looked eager.

“Okay, it’s ready.” The doctor stepped away from her.

Though she hated to beg, she knew she had to try. “Please, don’t do this. I don’t know anything. I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”

The man in black moved to stand in front of her, but she couldn’t tell what he was thinking. “Tell the truth, and this will be all over.”

“You really believe that?”

When he glanced away, she knew there was no help. This was going to happen, and she could do nothing. All the same, she couldn’t stop herself fighting against her bonds. It was futile and left her panting with frustration.

“Tell me about Descartes.”

The voice was soft, reasonable. She opened her mouth to answer, to tell them about the letter from her father, but couldn’t make the words come out. Her mind screamed at her to tell them whatever they wanted to know, whatever it took to stop them from hurting her. But she couldn’t do it. Something inside her would not allow her to give in to them; some stubborn, stupid streak would not give them the satisfaction. She glared into his eyes.

“Go to hell!”

He turned to the doctor. “Hook her up.”

The doctor selected a needle from the trolley. He tapped her arm again and inserted the needle into her vein, attaching it to an intravenous bag before nodding to the other man, who crouched down in front of Jenna.

“This is something Doctor Smith here has been working on for us. Just so you know, it’s a combination of truth serum and pain inducer.” He reached across and stroked a finger down over the skin of her cheek. “It’s very effective. You’ll want to pass out, take my word for it, but you won’t. So, you have one more chance. What do you know about Descartes?”

Goddamn fucking Descartes. She was beginning to hate the name.

She clamped her lips together and looked away.

“Go ahead, doctor.”

About the Author

After a number of years wandering the world in search of adventure, N.J. Croft finally settled on a farm in the mountains and now lives off-grid, growing almonds, drinking cold beer, taking in stray dogs, and writing stories where the stakes are huge and absolutely anything can happen.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE – http://njcroft.com/

TWITTER – https://twitter.com/NJ_Croft

FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/NJCroftThrillerwriter/

 

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Marilea C. Rabasa is a retired high school teacher who moved west from Virginia eleven years ago. Before that, she traveled around the world with her former husband in the Foreign Service. She has been published in a variety of publications. Writing as Maggie C. Romero, Rabasa won the International Book Award, was named a finalist in both the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and the USA Best Book Awards, and earned an honorable mention in The Great Southwest Book Festival, for her 2014 release, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  She lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a number of years and now resides in Camano Island, Washington. Visit her online at:  www.recoveryofthespirit.com

Author HeadshotQ: Congratulations on the release of your book, Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation. What was your inspiration for it?

A: My desire to heal from substance use disorder and gift my children and grandchildren with the salient lessons I have learned on how to live well and happily. I want to pay it forward for the next generation and make a difference where it most matters to me. In the beginning of my memoir, I wrote a letter to my grandchildren. They and all who come after them were my inspiration.

Q: Why was the writing of Stepping Stones important to you?

A: Often, just writing down our thoughts, pouring our hearts out onto the page, is a cathartic and healing experience. My first memoir was an attempt to heal from losing my daughter to substance use disorder. I shined a bright and candid light on her illness, for the most part, but I wasn’t entirely forthcoming about my own. At that point I was very much in denial about my drinking, and it was clear that I needed to turn the focus back on myself.  This increasingly conspicuous and unhealthy behavior was starting to get in my way, and I knew that much more recovery work awaited me. So, I determined to wrestle with the illness that had clouded my childhood, my young adulthood, the mothering of my children, and was threatening to end my life prematurely as it had my father’s. History doesn’t have to repeat itself. Writing this book became a necessary exercise for me to put my demons to rest once and for all and strive to live with more kindness and integrity, towards myself most of all. The lessons found on the pages of this second book are incorporated into my life every day so that my friends and family members, who are most important to me, will be the direct beneficiaries of my recovery.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

Stepping Stones - Cover Art-1

A: It took about five years to finish. The biggest hurdle was in crafting a whole new structure for the unfolding events in my life. I had to distill seventy years into a reasonable book length and make it readable. So, instead of using the traditional chapter format, my life story is comprised of 132 vignettes. By shortening the pieces, the writing now relies on the power of the images among the vignettes resonating and deepening the emotional impact on the reader.

Q: Could you talk a little about your publishing process?

A: Very enjoyable and simple. She Writes Press vets all of their potential authors and we are put on one of three tracks: ready to be published; no need for editing; in need of line editing, which costs money on an hourly basis; and in need of developmental editing, also costing extra, a lot extra because of all the time added. I was accepted on track two, which was a godsend for me. I thought I had submitted a flawless copy, but it needed a great deal of work! I don’t know how authors can manage without good editors. All I can say is that I’m deeply indebted to the professionals who made my book so much better.

Q: What discoveries or surprises did you experience while writing this work?

Some friends and family, though supportive on the surface, were quiet on the subject. It’s 2020, and the topic of  substance use disorder is still a loathsome one in contemporary American culture. We live in a surprisingly puritanical society, and it’s heartening to see how some foreign countries—Portugal comes to mind—handle the same issues with more kindness and common sense. Keeping quiet only perpetuates the problem and doesn’t offer practical solutions. The “psychache” that fuels many forms of substance use disorder is a deep and prevailing force in our American culture and one which could be addressed differently. In many ways our society today is rudderless. The breakdown of the family system isn’t helping. Between that and the violent drug wars that make these drugs available to the population, it’s easy to see why substance use disorder has reached epidemic proportions in our country. It’s become an easy solution to a much more complicated and fundamental problem. And no, I’m not an expert social psychologist. I don’t have an answer!

Q: What is the one thing you hope readers will take away from Stepping Stones?

A: I hope they pick up some tools for facing life as it comes, all the good and all the bad, without resorting to substance use disorder—without emotional eating, or popping pills, or taking one too many drinks. Substance use disorder is not about the substances themselves anyway, but rather the emotional and/or physical pain that fuel them. There are better ways to endure what life throws at us without destroying our health. I hope my readers will come away with the assurance that, if they are determined to live well, there are a myriad of ways to cope with life on life’s terms. There are also millions of men and women out there who share their isolation and loneliness, and together they are finding healthier solutions every day. There is enormous strength and beauty in the 12-Step fellowship that has given me my life back and the lives of so many others.

Q: How do you define success as an author?

A: I’m carrying my message to others, shining a light on how I’m recovering from substance use disorder. If I’m making a difference in the lives of any others, then I feel that my journey in self-discovery and healing has been successful.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring nonfiction writers? Could you offer some tips or resources that have been helpful to you?

Be fearless.

Be honest.

Dig deep.

Dig deep.

Dig deep.

Stop when you reach China.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Enjoy the writing, but be open-minded: you might have thought you knew what you wanted to write about and ended up in a different place. Do you always want to know where you’re going? Be flexible. And most of all, BE TEACHABLE. There’s so much in life that we don’t know. Writing your memoir, really listening to that voice inside of you, might be the most powerful guide you have to let go and surrender to the process.

Thank you, Marilea, and best of luck with this meaningful work!

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