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Posts Tagged ‘coming of age’

 

 
ABOUT THE BOOK

 

For two decades Tyler Gibbons has been keeping a secret from his family. At the tender age of sixteen, Tyler embarks on a student exchange program. Sent to the Andean city of Ambato, Ecuador, he finds daily adventure as he tries to fit in at school, connect with his host family, and navigate through a world of beaches, volcanoes, and jungles. But tucked deep inside this year are events so profound, so unexpected, they forever shape the man he will become.
Now, 25 years later, his mother pulls these soaring tales from her son, exposing, for the first time, the source of a deep unhappiness. While these memories contain the wounds of an unresolved past, they also possess the power to heal his painful present.
Thoughtfully crafted and boldly told, Tyler’s journey takes the reader on a wild South American adventure, while illuminating a mother’s unyielding power to heal her child.
PURCHASE CAREFUL

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 
Randy’s Website / Goodreads / Twitter

A performer, playwright, and producer Randy founded The Beggars Group in 1999. During the following decade he produced over two dozen productions including; The Expatriates, Do It!, and Theadora, She Bitch of Byzantium.

Plays he’s written include; New Year’s Resolutions, Homlessness Homosexuals and Heretics, Testing Average, Kill The President, Armor of Wills, and The Dwelling.

Randy is currently completing his novel careful, which will be released in May 2014.
 

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HamsterIsland_medTitle: Hamster Island

Genre: Memoir

Author: Joan Heartwell

Website: www.joanheartwell.com  or www.hamster-island.com

Amazon / B&N / OmniLit

Book description:

Hamster Island is Heartwell’s story of growing up ordinary in family that embodied dysfunction. Her childlike shame for her special needs siblings is balanced by a fierce love that, occasionally, enabled her to shed her diffidence and perform extraordinary feats of pluck and valor. Funny and heartbreaking simultaneously, Hamster Island is a coming-of-age in the tradition of such darkly comic memoirs as Mary Karr’s The Liars Club and Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors; it delights while exploring issues of identity, transformation, and responsibility.

My thoughts…

I was impressed by this talented author and her attention to detail as she takes us back to the sixties, as a teenager living amidst a truly dysfunctional family composed of an indifferent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special-needs siblings.

With her deft pen, the author offers the reader a glimpse into the heart and soul of a sensitive girl and her conflicting, contradictory emotions which range from intense rage to chilling sadness to heart-breaking love, and then some. At times painful, at times humorous, Joan paints a vivid picture of her world and her struggles as she tries to survive among unfit adults who instead of being there for her, supporting and guiding her, as they should, turn her universe into one where she herself must become the grown-up and caretaker.

Joan’s prose is smooth and fluid, often witty and at times truly beautiful. Her tone is dark, which fits the story and subject well. So many themes are explored in this memoir…religious fanaticism, duty, freedom, compassion, sacrifice. Hamster Island is a memoir that makes the reader ponder about life, the people we don’t like but whom we love, and the sacrifices that we must make for our family. Highly recommended for fans of memoirs!

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Then Like the Blind Man 7Title: Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story
Author: Freddie Owens
Publisher: Blind Sight Publications
Pages: 332
Language: English
Genre: Historical Fiction/Coming of Age
Format: Paperback & eBook

Purchase at AMAZON

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for young Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family’s darkest secrets. Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story is the enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a spirited wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Rich in authentic vernacular and evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.

As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.

CHAPTER ONE

EVERYBODY ON EDGE

Thursday, June 6th 1959

Momma and even Victor said I’d be coming to St. Petersburg with them.  They’d been saying it for weeks.  Then Victor changed his mind.  He was my stepdaddy, Victor was.  It would be easier on everybody, he said, if I stayed with Granny and Granpaw in Kentucky.  Him and Momma had enough Florida business to take care of without on top of everything else having to take care of me too.  I was a handful, Victor said.  I kept everybody on edge.  If you asked me, the only edge everybody was kept on was Victor’s.  As far as I was concerned, him and Momma could both go to hell.  Missy too.  I was fed up trying to be good.  Saying everything was okay when it wasn’t.  Pretending I understood when I didn’t.

Momma’s car was a 1950 model.  Daddy said it was the first Ford car to come automatic.  I didn’t know what ‘automatic’ was but it sure had silver ashtrays, two of them on the back of the front seats.  They were all popped open with gum wrappers and cigarette butts and boy did they smell.

One butt fell on top a bunch of comic books I had me in a pile.  The pile leaned cockeyed against my dump truck.  Heat came up from there, little whiffs of tail pipe smoke, warm and stuffy like the insides of my tennis shoes.

It rattled too – the Ford car did.  The glove box.  The mirrors.  The windows.  The knobs on the radio.  The muffler under the floorboard.  Everything rattled.

We’d been traveling hard all day, barreling down Road 3 from Detroit to Kentucky.  Down to Harlan’s Crossroads.  I sat on the edge of the back seat, watching the fence posts zoom by.  Missy stood up next to the side window, sucking her thumb, the fingers of her other hand jammed between her legs.  She was five years old.  I was nine.

I’d seen pictures of Florida in a magazine.  It had palm trees and alligators and oranges.  It had long white beaches and pelicans that could dive-bomb the water.  Kentucky was just old lonesome farmhouses and brokeback barns.  Gravel roads and chickens in the yard.

Road 3 took us down big places like Fort Wayne and Muncie.  It took us down a whole bunch of little places too, places with funny names like Zaneville and Deputy and Speed.

Missy couldn’t read.

“Piss with care,” I said.

“Oh Orbie, you said a bad word.”

“No.  Piss with care, Missy.  That sign back there.  That’s what it said.”

Missy’s eyes went wide.  “It did not.  Momma’ll whip you.”

Later on we got where there was a curve in the road and another sign.  “Look Missy.  Do not piss.”

“It don’t say that.”

“Yes it does.  See.  When the road goes curvy like that you’re not supposed to pee.  But when it’s straight, it’s okay; but you have to do it careful cause that’s what the sign says.  Piss with care!”

“It don’t say that.”

“Does too.”

We crossed a big pile of water on a bridge with towers and giant ropey things looping down.  On the other side was Louisville, Kentucky.  After that was just small towns and little white stores with red gas-pumps, farm houses and big barns and fields, empty fields and fields of corn and fields where there were cows and horses and pigs and long rows of tobacco plants Momma said cigarettes was made of.

I had me a war on all the towns going down.

Tat Tat Tat Tat!  Blam!  There goes Cox Creek! 

Bombs away over Nazareth

Blam! Blam! Boom!  Hodgekinsville never had a chance!

“Let’s keep it down back there!” Victor said.

“A grenade rolled into Victor’s lap!” I whispered.  “BlamOOO!  Blowed him to smithereens!”

I wished Momma’d left him back there in Toledo like she said she would.  She was always threatening around like that, but then she would get to feeling sorry and forget all about it.  She’d been mad ever since Victor spilled the beans about Daddy.  Victor was mad too, drinking his beer and driving Momma’s Ford too fast.  After Louisville he started throwing his empties out the window.

I liked to watch them bust on the road.

“Pretty country, Kentucky,” Victor said.

**

It was the end of daytime and a big orangey-gold sun ball hung way off over the hills, almost touching the trees.  The Ford jerked over a ditch at the foot of a patchy burnt yard, thundering up a load of bubble noises before Victor shut it down.

“Get off me,” Missy said.

“I ain’t bothering you.”

“Yes you are.”

“But Missy, look!”

A big boned woman in a housedress had come to stand in the yard down by the well.  She was looking into the sun – orange light in her face – standing upright, sharp edged and stiff, like an electrical tower, one arm bent like a triangle, the other raised with the elbow so the hand went flat out over her eyes like a cap.  She stared out of wrinkles and scribbles and red leather cheekbones.   Her nose was sunburned, long but snubbed off at the end, sticking out above a mouth that had no lips, a crack that squirmed and changed itself from long to short and back to long again.

Missy’s eyes widened.  “Who is that?”

“Granny,” I said.  “Don’t you remember?”

I saw Granpaw too, sitting squat-legged against Granny’s little Jesus Tree.  He was turning in one big hand a piece of wood, shaving it, whittling it outward with a jackknife.  The brim of a dusty Panama shadowed his eyes.  In back of him stood the house, balanced on little piles of creek rock.  You could see jars and cans and other old junk scattered underneath.  It was the same dirty white color as before, the house was, but the sun ball had baked it orange, and now I could see at one end where somebody had started to paint.

As we got out of the car, the big boned figure in the housedress let out with a whoop, hollering, “Good God A Mighty!  If it tain’t Ruby and them younguns of hers!  Come all the way down here from Dee-troit!”  Blue-green veins bulged and tree-limbed down the length of her arms.

Victor stayed out by the Ford, the round top of my ball cap hanging out his pocket.  A gas station man had given it to me on the way down.  It was gray and had a red winged horse with the word ‘Mobilgas’ printed across the front.  Victor had swiped it away, said I shouldn’t be accepting gifts from strangers.  I should have asked him about it first.  Now it was in his back pocket, crushed against the Ford’s front fender where he leaned with an unlit cigar, rolling between his lips.  The sun was in back of him, halfway swallowed up by a distant curvy line of hilltop trees.

“Hidy Victor!” Granny called.  “Ya’ll have a good trip?”

Victor put on a smooth voice.  “Fine Mrs. Wood.  Real fine.  You can’t beat blue grass for beauty, can you?”  A long shadow stretched out on the ground in front of him.

Granny laughed.  “Ain’t been no farther than Lexington to know!”

Granpaw changed his position against the tree, leaned forward a little bit and spat a brown gob, grunting out the word ‘shit’ after he did.  He dragged the back of his knife hand sandpaper-like over the gap of his mouth.

“I want you just to looky here!” Granny said.  “If tain’t Missy-Two-Shoes and that baby doll of hers!”

Missy backed away.

“Aw, Missy now,” Momma said.  “That’s Granny.”

Missy smiled then and let Granny grab her up.  Her legs went around Granny’s waist.  She had on a pink Sunday dress with limp white bows dangling off its bottom, the back squashed and wadded like an overused hankie.

“How’s my little towhead?” Granny said.

“Good.”  Missy held out her baby doll.  “This is Mattie, Granny.  I named her after you.”

“Well ain’t you the sweetest thang!”  Granny grinned so big her wrinkles went out in circles like water does after a stone’s dropped in.  She gave Missy a wet kiss and set her down.  Then her grin flashed toward Momma.  “There’s my other little girl!”

Momma, no taller than Granny’s chin, did a little toe dance up to her, smiling all the way.  She hugged Granny and Granny in turn beat the blue and red roses on the back of Momma’s blouse.

“I just love it to death!” Granny said.  “Let me look at you!”  She held Momma away from her.  Momma wiggled her hips; slim curvy hips packed up neat in a tight black skirt.  She kissed the air in front of Granny.

Like Marilyn Monroe.  Like in the movies. 

“Jezebel!” Granny laughed.  “You always was a teaser.”

They talked about the trip to Florida, about Victor’s prospects – his good fortune, his chance – about Armstrong and the men down there and that Pink Flamingo Hotel.  They talked about Daddy too, and what a good man he’d been.

“It liked to’ve killed us all, what happened to Jessie,” Granny said.

“I know Mamaw.  If I had more time, I’d go visit him awhile.”  Momma looked out over the crossroads toward the graveyard.  I looked too but there was nothing to see now, nothing but shadows and scrubby bushes and the boney black limbs of the cottonwood trees.  I remembered what Victor’d said about the nigger man, about the crane with the full ladle.

 “I want you just to look what the cat’s drug in Mattie!” Granpaw had walked over from his place by the tree.

 “Oh Papaw!”  Momma hugged Granpaw’s rusty old neck and kissed him two or three times.

“Shoo!  Ruby you’ll get paint all over me!”

Momma laughed and rubbed at a lip mark she’d left on his jaw.

“How you been daughter?”

“All right I reckon,” Momma said.  She looked back toward Victor who was still up by the Ford.  Victor took the cigar out of his mouth.  He held it to one side, pinched between his fingers.

“How’s that car running Victor?” Granpaw called.

“Not too bad, Mr. Wood,” Victor answered, “considering the miles we’ve put on her.”

Granpaw made a bunch of little spit-spit sounds, flicking them off the end of his tongue as he did.  He hawked up another brown gob and let it fall to the ground, then he gave Victor a nod and walked over.  He walked with a limp, like somebody stepping off in a ditch, carrying the open jackknife in one hand and that thing, whatever it was he’d been working on, in the other.

Granny’s mouth got hard.  “Ruby, I did get that letter of yorn.  I done told you it were all right to leave that child.  I told you in that other letter, ‘member?”

“You sure it’s not any trouble?” Momma said.

Granny’s eyes widened.  “Trouble?  Why, tain’t no trouble a-tall.”  She looked over my way.  “I want you just to look how he’s growed!  A might on the skinny side though.”

“He’ll fill out,” Momma said.

“Why yes he will.  Come youngun.  Come say hello to your old Granny.”

“Orbie, be good now,” Momma said.

I went a little closer, but I didn’t say hello.

“He’ll be all right,” Granny said.

“I hope so Mamaw.  He’s been a lot of trouble over this.“

Veins, blue rivers, tree roots, flooded down Granny’s gray legs.  More even than on her arms.  And you could see white bulges and knots and little red threads wiggling out.  “I’ll bet you they’s a lot better things going on here than they is in Floridy,” she said.  “I bet you, if you had a mind to, Granpaw would show you how to milk cows and hoe tobacco.  I’ll learn you everything there is to know about chickens.  Why, you’ll be a real farm hand before long!”

“I don’t wanna be no damned farm hand,” I said.

“Boy, I’ll wear you out!” Momma said.  “See what I mean, Mamaw?”

“He’ll be all right,” Granny said.

The sun was on its way down.  Far to the east of it two stars trailed after a skinny slice of moon.  I could see Old Man Harlan’s Country Store across the road, closed now, but with a porch light burning by the door.

A ruckus of voices had started up by the Ford, Granpaw and Victor trying to talk at the same time.  They’d propped the Ford’s hood up with a stick and were standing out by the front.

Victor had again taken up his place, leaning back against the front fender, crushing my ball cap.  “That’s right, that’s what I said!  No good at all.”  He held the cigar shoulder level – lit now – waving it with his upraised arm one side to the other.  “The Unions are ruining this country, Mr. Wood.  Bunch of meddlesome, goddamned troublemakers.  Agitators, if you catch my drift.”  He took a pull on the cigar then blew the smoke over Granpaw’s head.

Granpaw was stout-looking but a whole head shorter than Victor.  He stood there in his coveralls, doubled up fists hanging at the end of each arm, thick as sledgehammers – one with the open jackknife, the other with that thing he’d been working on.  “Son, you got a problem?”

“The rank and file,” Victor said.  “They’re the problem!      They’ll believe anything the goddamn Union tells them.”

Granpaw leaned over and spat.  “You don’t know nothin’.”

Anything,” Victor said.

“What?”

Victor took the cigar out of his mouth and smiled.  “I don’t know anything is what you mean to say.  It’s proper grammar.”

“I know what I aim to say,” Granpaw said, “I don’t need no northern jackass a tellin’ me.”  Granpaw’s thumb squeezed against the jackknife blade.

Cut him Granpaw!  Knock that cigar out his mouth!

“Strode!”  Granny shouted.  “Come away from there!”

Momma hurried over.  “Victor, I told you.”

“I was just sharing some of my thoughts with Mr. Wood here,” Victor said.  “He took it the wrong way, that’s all.  He doesn’t understand.”

“I understand plenty, City Slicker.”  Granpaw closed the knife blade against his coveralls and backed away.

“Ain’t no need in this Strode!” Granny said.  “Victor’s come all the way down here from Dee-troit.  He’s company.  And you a man of God!”

“I’ll cut him a new asshole, he keeps on that a way,” Granpaw said.

Momma was beside herself.  “Apologize Victor.  Apologize to Papaw for talking that way.”

“For telling the truth?”

“For insulting him!”

Victor shook his head.  “You apologize.  You’re good at that.”

Over where the sun had gone down the sky had turned white-blue.  Fireflies winked around the roof of the well, around the branches of the Jesus Tree.  Victor walked around to the front of the car and slammed the hood down harder than was necessary.  “Come on Orbie!  Time to get your stuff!”

I couldn’t believe it was about to happen, even though I’d been told so many times it was going to.  I started to cry.

“Get down here!” Victor yelled.

Momma met me at the car.  She took out a hankerchief and wiped at my tears.  She looked good.   She always looked good.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said.

“Oh now,” Momma said. “Let’s not make Victor any madder than he already is, okay?”  She helped bring my things from the car.  I carried my tank and my box of army men and crayons.  Momma brought my dump truck, the toy cars, my comic books and drawing pad.  We put them all on the porch where Missy sat playing with her doll.  Momma hugged me one last time, got Missy up in her arms and headed to the car.

Victor was already behind the wheel, gunning the engine.  “Come on Ruby!  Let’s go!”

“You just hold on a minute!”  Momma put Missy in the car and turned to hug Granny.  “Bye Mamaw.”

“Goodbye Sweetness.  I hope you find what you’re looking for down there.”

“Right now I’d settle for a little peace of mind,” Momma said; then she hugged Granpaw.  “I’m real sorry about Victor Papaw.”

Granpaw nodded.  “You be careful down there in Floridy.”

“Bye Momma!  Bye Missy!”  I yelled.

Momma closed her door and Victor backed out.  I hurried down to where Granny and Granpaw were standing.  The Ford threw dust and gravels as it fishtailed up the road.

Granpaw tapped me on the shoulder.  “This one’s for you son,” he said and handed down the piece he’d been working on.  It was a little cross of blond wood about a foot high with a burnt snake draped lengthwise along its shoulders.  Granpaw moved his finger over the snake’s curvy body.  “Scorched that in there with a hot screw driver, I did.”

It was comical in a way, but strange too; I mean to make a snake there – right where Jesus was supposed to be.  Like most everything else in my life, it made no sense at all.  Momma’s Ford had disappeared over the hill.  Pale road-dust moved like a ghost into the cornfields under the half-dark sky.  It drifted back toward the skull of Granpaw’s barn, back toward the yard.  I stood there watching it all, listening as Momma’s Ford rumbled away.

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ImageThe Nameless Prince is a beautifully-crafted debut YA novel about faith, disillusionment and innocence.

Ten-year old Seth Bauman lives in the gang-ravaged streets of Silver Lake. Abandoned by his mother right after his birth, he shares a very dysfunctional and loveless home with his mean Uncle Troy and his uncle’s girlfriend Cheryll. Rather than care for the young boy, Troy and Cheryll spend most of their time on the couch in front of the TV, killing zombies and exploding enemy tanks. Seth’s true escape is in his drawings of dwarves, elves and dragons. Sensitive at heart, Seth wants to understand why Uncle Troy dislikes him so much; at the same time, he feels torn by an intense desire for approval.

Though Seth knows that his mother abandoned him, he innocently believes she’s out there somewhere and that one day she’ll show up with an explanation that will make it all make sense.

One day, his friend Elena, whom he always walks from school to home, is abducted by a local gang called LAMO—the L.A. Mayan Order. Brave at heart, Seth follows the Boatman of the L.A. River through the underground sewers and metro tunnels underneath Silver Lake, where the LAMO headquarters are located.

That’s when the fine lines between fantasy and reality blur. In fact, they grotesquely twist. Suddenly, Seth finds himself in a dark parallel world in turmoil where nothing is what appears to be. He meets Constantine, a faun who refers to Seth as The Nameless Prince, and who believes he is the famous prince of prophesy who’s come to save their world—the Interior—from the Dark Forces. Thus Seth embarks on a journey where he must pass tests and solve riddles in order to discover his true name and reunite with his long lost twin, the King. Eventually Seth realizes that he doesn’t need to understand what’s going on, but that he must have faith. If he fails, he could end up in the depths of the labyrinth, torn limb from limb by the bloodthirsty Minotaur.

But what is reality and what is fantasy? Is it all really happening or is it in Seth’s mind—a defence mechanism as a result of Elena’s abduction and the recent violence directed towards the homeless?

The Nameless Prince is a fascinating read. I love how the author presents the different realities and how he borrows concepts from quantum physics to enrich his plot: none of the alternate universes are true unless you step into them. There are parallels with Moses and Noah’s Ark and of course the novel is, like Alice in Wonderland, a “through the whole” story. At times, the novel reminded me of the film, Pan’s Labyrinth, where the young protagonist also escapes into an eerie and captivating fantasy world. However, The Nameless Prince isn’t as violent or sadistic. Ultimately, it is a story about the balance of the universe: goodness may win but there are always new evil forces at work. In other words, “maintaining harmony is an eternal struggle.”

Though Seth is ten years old, I’d say the audience for this book is 12 and up, and that includes adult readers as well. The Nameless Prince isn’t your typical YA fantasy novel published these days. Yes, it is a classic hero’s journey with all the tests and riddles, but it is also a book full of interesting ideas and substance. In short, it is a book that stimulates the mind and intellect. Recommended!

Author web site: http://www.namelessprince.com/

Author Interview on Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY37r94SJj4&feature=relmfu

The Nameless Prince Facebook Page:

http://www.facebook.com/TheNamelessPrince

My review originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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All her life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled Darby Karchut. A native of New Mexico, Darby grew up in a family that venerated books and she spent her childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another. Fascinated by mythologies from around the world, she attended the University of New Mexico, graduating with a degree in anthropology. After moving to Colorado, she then earned a Master’s in education and became a social studies teacher.

Drawing from her extensive knowledge of world cultures, she blends ancient myths with modern urban life to write stories that relate to young teens today.

Darby lives in Colorado with her husband, where she still teaches at a local junior high school. She enjoys running, biking, and skiing the Rocky Mountains in all types of weather. Griffin Rising is her first novel. Visit the author at her website: www.darbykarchut.com.

Your first teen novel, Griffin Rising, blends ancient myths with modern urban life. Please tell us a little about the book.

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever. It is their father-and-son relationship, sometimes turbulent, often hilarious, always affectionate, that is the heart and soul of the story.

Masquerading as the average teen next door, Griffin struggles to learn his trade, navigate the ups and downs of modern life among humans (including falling in love with the girl next door), and prepare for the ancient trial-by-combat every apprentice must pass at sixteen or be forced to become mortal.

How did your fascination with mythology start?

All my life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled me. A native of New Mexico, I grew up in a family that venerated books and I spent my childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another, especially the works of J.R.R Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. As a teen, Joseph Campbell’s writings made me aware of the power in the great myths from around the world, so I attended the University of New Mexico and graduated with a degree in anthropology.

Why an angel?

One day, in the summer of 2009, I was browsing in my favorite bookstore and discovered a book about legends from the Middle Ages. Obsessed with all things medieval, I thumbed through it and came across a short paragraph that described a lowly caste of guardian angels that were said to control the ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. Not being particularly interested in angels, I put the book back and forgot all about it.

A few days later, while running the trails in the foothills near my home, the idea of writing a story about clandestine warriors-angels, who live among us while training their young apprentices, just roared up behind me and slammed into my head. Like an avalanche, you might say. And thus Griffin, Basil, and all the other Terrae Angeli were born.

Is the book part of a 3-book series? What is the theme of the series as a whole?

The book is the first in a possible 4-book saga. The theme is simply: On the road to adulthood, every hero-figure needs a father-figure. Once in awhile.

What about your protagonist will make readers want to read about him? What qualities make him a hero?

Griffin is the classic flawed hero. Surviving a brutal past causes him to have moments of self-doubt. Except when a mortal is in peril, than his true nature as a guardian angel shines forth. And, although he is one of the good guys, Griffin can be as snarky as the next teenager, especially to his mentor and surrogate father, Basil.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Since I had never written anything before, I had no idea what I was doing. I was beyond clueless. So I simply wrote the first draft of the book, then went back and studied everything I could about writing. Each time I learned something new, I went back and re-wrote the book. I must have written over twenty drafts before I began submitting it to various agents and publishers. I also read three to four YA novels a week. The more I read, the better I wrote.

How do you balance your teaching job with writing? Do you have a writing schedule? I’ve trained myself to write whenever I have a fifteen-minute block of time: lunch break, after school, evenings, and weekends. It does take discipline, but I love writing, so it’s more like play to me. And I never watch TV. Or cook.

I heard you love the revision process. What about it do you enjoy so much? Most writers find it tedious.  OMGosh, I would STILL be revising Griffin Rising if I could. I live to tweak. I find the more I polish a piece of writing, the better it gets. Without exception. For me, the first draft is the hardest part – it’s excruciatingly painful. Even with a strong outline, I have to wrench each scene out of my head word by word. But then once that draft is finished, I dive in and begin tweaking and polishing, adding and taking away.

How did you find Twilight Times Books? Did they offer a contract for the series based on the first manuscript? I began submitting my manuscript to both agents and publishers in the spring of 2010. Since Twilight Times Book has a sterling reputation and is well respected among small and mid-list book publishers, I sent them a copy of the manuscript in April and kept my fingers crossed. In June, I was offered a contract. Subsequently, I have also signed a contract for the next book in the series, Griffin’s Fire.

How do you market your books? It is a multi-pronged approach. Prior to release, I sent out close to 80 copies to various YA book bloggers, reviewers, and local bookstores as well as networking within the YA book world via my own blog and website. Anything and everything to get a “buzz” going. As the school year begins this coming fall, I will also be doing author visits to various middle and high schools in my area. My publisher also sent advanced readers copies to the well-known book reviews such as Library Journal, Foreword, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and so on.

I understand you’re working on the sequel, Griffin’s Fire. When will this one be out? The release date is tentatively scheduled for April 2012.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? I would encourage anyone interested in writing YA books to read extensively in that genre. Best thing you can do as an author is saturate your mind with good writing. There is an old saying: you read and you read and then one day, you throw up a book. Inelegant, but so very true.

Learn the rules of writing, then break them as necessary to make your story better. Everything is about The Story.

Thanks, Darby!

Thank you, Mayra. I had a terrific time visiting with you.

 

 

 

 

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Aaron Lazar is the author of the Legarde and Moore mystery series. He’s currently promoting the release of his latest novel, Tremolo: Cry of the Loon.
Nice to have you here, Aaron. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

Thank you, Mayra. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’d love to tell you about Tremolo and the inspiration behind it. Here’s a blurb that describes this coming-of-age mystery featuring young Gus LeGarde:

Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, takes place in the summer of 1964, when Beatlemania hits the States, and the world mourns the loss of JFK. For eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde, the powerful events that rocked the nation serve as a backdrop for the most challenging summer of his life.

After Gus and his best friends capsize their boat at his grandparents’ lakeside camp, they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the foggy Maine woods. She’s scared. She’s hurt. And she disappears.

The camp is thrown into turmoil as the frantic search for Sharon begins. Reports of stolen relics arise, including a church bell cast by Paul Revere. When Gus and his friends stumble on a scepter that may be part of the spoils, they become targets for the evil lurking around the lake. Will they find Sharon before the villain does? And how can Gus — armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle — survive the menacing attacks on his life?

I wrote Tremolo for myself, first of all, and intended it to be the “quintessential joyful shout of childhood,” so-to-speak. I know that sounds strange and possibly selfish, but I was compelled to write it. My summers in Maine were so magical, so precious, that I needed to capture each and every memory. The drive was strong — impossible to ignore.

It just so happened that I’d already referred to these magical summers in my first two books in the adult Gus LeGarde series, so Gus fit right into the camp. I loved picturing him as a young boy with Elsbeth (his future wife) and Siegfried (before his debilitating accident). What fun it was to introduce Gus’s parents and grandparents, who are distant memories in Double Forte’ and Upstaged. And being able to present Elsbeth as a living, breathing girl, rather than a mournful memory, was most satisfying.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

I wrote the first draft of Tremolo in about three months, working about two hours per day. Years later, I did add a chapter or two in during revisions, but mostly the edits were writing style changes and tips I’d picked up since writing the draft. It just poured out of me, no outline was written, nor did I have a list of events that would happen in upcoming chapters. I had vague ideas of themes that would come into play — such as meeting a mysterious famous figure, Gus’s first crush, the blueberry scene, the missing girl, etc. But I hadn’t put it together in any logical form. It just tumbled out, as most of my twelve books have done.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Once in a while I get stuck on a scene. It just doesn’t seem to come as freely as it should. One thing that doesn’t work is to just sit and stare at the screen! That’s useless, in my case. So I snap my laptop shut and let my brain recharge. I stop what I’m doing and go about living life for a while. I take long walks, play with my grandkids, visit friends, cook great feasts, take photos, and garden. After a few days I usually find the creative juices rejuvenated and the ideas spring forth.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

This is a tough question. It all depends on what intended market for which one writes. If you want to be successful financially, independently able to support yourself on your writings, and known globally, you need a hell of an agent and a big publisher with deep pockets. Of course, on top of that, you need to write a book that will sell hundreds of thousands and propel you to the top of your field, lots of luck, and good timing. If you’re happy with moderate sales and local success, you will do well with a small press or independent publisher. And if you just want to hold your book in your hand and have it available for friends, family, or a narrow niche market, you can do well with a POD publisher. I’m quite happy right now with Twilight Times Books — it’s an excellent traditional press with a great reputation and a dynamic owner.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

I’ve done well with local book clubs, book sales events (like at local wineries!), word of mouth, and Internet efforts. I love Gather.com, and have earned many wonderful readers on that site. I do blog and have an extensive list of email recipients who receive the LeGarde newsletter. (If anyone’s interested in receiving it, please email me at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com)

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

I know it sounds like a copout, but I really have too many from which to choose. Some of my all time favorites include works by John D. McDonald, James Patterson, Dick Francis, Clive Cussler, Laurie King, Lillian Jackson Braun, Rex Stout, Peter Mayle, Tony Hillerman, Dean Koontz, SW Vaughn, Lesia Valentine, Marta Stephens, Patry Francis, Beryl Singleton Bissell, Bob Burdick, and Lad Moore. Recently I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. What I love about all of these writers is their ability to transport me to their worlds — seamlessly. I love mysteries most of all, and find them most satisfying when they’re done well.

I can tell you my favorite movie of all time, however… without a doubt, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird!

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Indeed, I do! Folks may stop by at http://legardemysteries.com to learn about the nine LeGarde mysteries that are in various stages of publishing. Also, they may visit http://mooremysteries.com to get to know Sam Moore and the three green marble mysteries that have been completed so far.

Do you have another novel in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects.

Yes, I’d love to tell you all about the books that are already in print and those coming.

LeGarde Mysteries by Aaron Paul Lazar

Double Forté is a chilling mystery set in the Genesee Valley in Upstate NY. When Gus discovers a child shackled to a bedpost in a remote cabin, an ex-cop gone bad terrorizes his family from the wintry woods. Packed with memorable characters, hair-raising chase scenes, and touching family moments, it’s a solid page-turner. ISBN: 9781413728385 Available Now

Upstaged, features a disturbed stage mother, a deviant predator, and a twisted saboteur who lurks backstage, terrorizing the drama club with deadly, psychotic games. Lush, vibrant, and delicious. A feast for the senses that will leave you breathless! ISBN: 9781413772586 Available Now

Tremolo: cry of the loon, the prequel to Double Forté, features eleven-year-old Gus, Elsbeth, and Siegfried in a stirring and nostalgic trip back to the summer of 1964. Gus’s first crush, the potential birth of a new sibling, a murderous lakeside camper, and a mysterious high profile guest vie for top billing. ISBN: 1933353082 Available Now

Mazurka, a contemporary mystery set against the dazzling backdrop of Europe, follows newlyweds Gus and Camille LeGarde as they chase down a family secret with the potential to change history. When Gus’ brother-in-law is framed for the murder of a Nazi, the couple is plunged into a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are lethal and the future of Europe hangs in the balance. June, 2008

Firesong: an unholy grave, pits Gus and Camille against drug lords with a backdrop of a tornado, forest fire, collapsing salt mine, and the discovery of a fantastic local link to the Underground Railroad. The entire town is threatened as Gus and Camille unravel the truth behind reprehensible dealings in their country church and the scandal of a missing town supervisor.

Virtuoso spirits Gus into the world of art forgeries and teenage traumas. A deadly but talented tenor takes the family to New York City for a near-death escape at the Met and a chase through Central Park. In this story, Gus reconnects with an old friend who shares a stunning secret as he struggles to recover from the loss of a long time companion. Gus and Camille discover a tie to the past via his great, great aunt, Emma Cunningham.

Portamento takes place in 1969 when Elsbeth and Gus were students at the New England Conservatory. White slave rings, an engaging flower child, the Boston Rock scene, and the titillating reckless abandon of the sixties set the stage for Gus’s sudden need to grow up fast for the sake of his grief-stricken father and impending fatherhood.

Counterpoint showcases Gus’s friend, Officer Joe Russell, and the return of Camille’s abusive ex-husband, Greg. As Joe slowly loses his mind, Greg slithers back into Camille’s life, absconding with daughter, Shelby. Gus needs Joe’s help to rescue his newly adopted daughter and struggles to save both from fates most deadly.

In Lady Blues: forget-me-not, Gus LeGarde unravels twin mysteries of an abused Korean seamstress and a 1940s jazz ingénue whose pianist lover disappeared overseas on the same night Glen Miller’s plane was lost in English Channel. Gus helps an Alzheimer’s patient reclaim his identity, while dodging a drug company who will silence any witness to keep the truth of their breakthrough Alzheimer’s treatment under wraps.

Introducing Moore Mysteries:

In Healey’s Cave, sixty-two-year old retired family doctor Sam Moore still mourns the loss of his little brother, who disappeared fifty years ago. While working in his garden, he discovers a marble that glows green and warms to his touch. Sam is whisked back and forth through time as he untangles the mystery of Billy’s disappearance. With the support of his wife, Rachel, who suffers from MS, he fights to prevent the murder of his grandson by a serial killer who has engaged in ghastly murders for five decades. 2008

In One Potato, Blue Potato something is seriously wrong when the Moore’s daughter Beth goes missing. Meanwhile, a bomb explodes in the back of Yasir Khoury’s Dry Cleaners, escalating fears of terrorism and anti-Iraqi bigotry. As Sam fights the tide that threatens to sweep his daughter away, the green marble thrusts him between past and present, revealing a shocking link between Beth and the terrorists.

For Keeps: In the third Sam Moore mystery, Sam’s old girlfriend shows up dead, inciting suspicions about his involvement and the coroner, a med school colleague whose husband is about to leave her, reveals she has a crush on Sam. When she is murdered in her own morgue, Sam is once again in the hot seat. A member of Sam’s own family is brutally killed, and he is locked in a psyche ward until he reconnects with his talisman, the green marble. His goal: to change time, and bring his loved one back to life.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thank you, Mayra, for the invitation. It was an honor!

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