Review: Where Triples Go to Die

Synopsis:

In irreverent, laugh-out-loud style, Where Triples Go to Die illuminates the messy intersection of sports, race, and romance in contemporary college life. Black superstar Juke Jackson and white counselor Malcolm Wade, each facing relationship crises at home, forge a bond at school as Wade guides Jackson’s quest to join the legion of African Americans who transformed our national pastime. An array of intervening campus issues—date rape, unplanned pregnancy, revenge porn, academic integrity violations, and the aftershocks of war among them—will keep even readers unfamiliar with The Infield Fly Rule turning the pages to find out what happens next. 

Rating: 4-stars

Review

Where Triples Go to Die by Phil Hutcheon is a great read. It’s entertaining to follow. Sports never die out with fans. Here, readers get to explore a lot of real life issues. The struggles are believable. The characters make this an interesting journey. A contemporary piece of fiction that had me captivated page-by-page. The content held my full attention. It wasn’t the kind of book, I would normally pick up to read. However, it still grabbed my attention. Engaging, intense, and enough drama to keep those pages turning. Never a dull moment. Loss, friendship, and most importantly baseball are themes found inside this novel. Overall, it was good. I recommend it to those really interested in sports fiction.

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Author Interview with Almas Akhtar



ULM: You mentioned that Miseries, Illusions and Hope is your second book. What was your first book? 

My first book was A very Resilient Amreeki Dream...a short story.

 
ULM: What led you to writing short stories? 

I like reading and writing about real life characters. I have a huge collection of autobiographies. I believe everyone is unique everyone has a story.

Write about social issues and about an immigrant’s perspective.

 

 

ULM: How many blogs do you have and where can readers find them?

My blogs are on Facebook by the name Tuesday Talk, Tuesday talk by Almas A.

I have written in Express Tribune, Oakland Press, and Muslim Observer Newspapers.

  

 

ULM: Since, you mentioned blogs, how long have you been blogging? Any advice for those just starting?

9 years

Put your message out.

Write your story.

 

  

ULM: Your four grandparents were immigrants. What were they like? Where did the migrate from?

They migrated to Pakistan from India.

Started their lives from scratch in their new homes.

Worked extremely hard.

Raised well-educated, honest and hardworking children and grandchildren.

 

 

ULM: Did your grandparents and your own journey as an immigrant inspire Miseries, Illusions and Hope?

I migrated to USA from Karachi, Pakistan.

 

  

ULM: Using only three words, how would you describe your writing style? 

Compassionate

Perception

Philosophic
 

ULM: Do you have any other books coming out soon? 

Yes, in spring 2018.

16000 words Novella

“A bestest story”

 

Fiction set in the 1970s of Karachi

True love defies the odds.

 

 

ULM: Where can readers find you and your books?

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

 

Review: Miseries, Illusions and Hope

Synopsis:

My second book—Miseries, Illusions and Hope—is a collection of few short stories I wrote in the last few years. Most of them appeared on my blogs on Facebook and Blogger. 
These stories are about everyday people who are working hard for themselves and their loved ones. I call these people everyday heroes. They may be illiterate or poor, but they are sincere and trustworthy. They touch the lives of others around them. 
Life is highly unpredictable and very complicated. It silently teaches us so much about love, intrigue, conflict, and persistence.

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Miseries, Illusions and Hope by Almas Akhtar is exactly as the title suggests. Short stories that demonstrate each of these. The characters each have their own reasons. Money is hard to come by and life brings and takes from each of them. Their circumstances are easy to relate to and draws the reader, like myself, closer to their tale. I was entertained and sucked in from the first page. Almas Akhtar’s writing feels so real that it’s hard to stop reading. Each part goes by quickly. Overall, I enjoyed it. I recommend this small piece to readers worldwide. 

Review: The Monk Woman’s Daughter

Synopsis:

This eye-opening and entertaining first novel paints a vivid picture of the rough-and-tumble of 19th century urban America. Vera St. John is a resourceful girl growing into an unconventional woman. She comes of age through the wild streets of New York City, the quiet rural village of Flatbush, the mob violence of Baltimore, and the turmoil of Washington City during the Civil War, struggling to make her way out of poverty. All the while she hides an explosive secret: she is the daughter of the “infamous Maria Monk” one of the century’s most notorious women. Vera sees her world with irreverence and insight, and comes to learn about the corrosive nature of power, the importance of freedom, and the real meaning of belonging. 

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

The Monk Woman’s Daughter by Susan Storer Clark is a historical mystery with a lot of suspense. Keeps readers like myself entertained. The historical parts to this fictional tale was well-researched. I felt like I stepped back to that particular time period. Susan Storer Clark brought up a lot of strong issues that were faced back then into her novel. That was interesting…it felt a little bit like an educational journey but in the most exciting way. One theme was centered around women. How they dealt with the life they were given or stuck within…like the main character, struggling with the weight of her parents. The Monk Woman’s Daughter is an intriguing tale that I recommend all to read. 

Author Interview with Both Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj 

 




Review links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/review/RXF42ESN6QBLS?ref_=glimp_1rv_cl

Blog: http://wp.me/p4n3Np-6fO

Twitter: https://twitter.com/urbanliterary/status/890720375327404032





ULM: What led you both into doing this book together?
Ravin: The first time I met Hassan it was obvious he possessed a writer’s craft. He spoke in parables and was always attentive to the possibilities for extrapolation of the tales spinning in his head. Although it took many months to conceive of a project that made sense from an individual and joint standpoint, we technically began tiptoeing around the idea of a collaborative project over “instructional sessions” on the eighteenth-century Punjabi tragic romance Heer Ranjha, by Waris Shah. More accurately, Hassan would sit me down like a pupil and read aloud portions of the extensive work for my cultural and literary edification. At some point we branched outward and inward, from legend to our own realities and to discussions about how to find natural points of connection between our separate lives and our writings. The project matured into an imperative of the inevitable.

Miraj: Imagine meeting a foreigner in an activity that you consider central to your own culture and the foreigner surprises you with her visiting card printed in your native language. Such was the strength of Judith’s cultural self. Our first meetings were more of myself talking and herself listening. Before she departed Pakistan, we made a checklist of where our interests intersected (and this was without the idea of publication). As we moved to our respective different worlds, we wrote to each other about incidents, happenings…. These were more like telephonic conversations in print. This is how the book began to emerge.

 

ULM: Judith, how would you describe the effect that your work had in writing Beyond Our Degrees of Separation?

Ravin: My work in Pakistan was on a separate track from writing, yet through writing I was able to process the dizziness of a fully charged public engagement schedule. Whereas public diplomacy focuses my attention outward, writing provides time for intimate assimilation of the newness of circumstances. Fortunately, the vastness of cultural diversity in Pakistan made for a satisfactory playmate to my innate curiosity.

 

ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, how would you describe your talent as an author and how your experience in the Pakistan Army effected your writing for this book?

 

Miraj: I must admit that I am not an author. I shall, however, lay claim on the craft of story-telling, and it is very deep-seated. While telling stories is almost unanimously popular in all cultures, it had a special significance while I was growing up. I grew up in a joint family system and in a mobile-TV-Internet free age. So you could either tell stories or listen. Day-to-day life revolved around stories and even parables, instructions, injunctions, and implications…. All of it either originated in or was communicated through stories.

The military, on the other hand, was a larger world, yet very intimate. My postings and assignments took me all over the country (and abroad as well) and afforded me the opportunity to connect to some very fascinating sub-cultures, so my writings or stories are also deeply influenced by my years in the military.

 

ULM: Is this the first book project that both of you have done together? Will there be more projects in the future as co-authors?

Ravin: Yes, this is our first project of collaboration. I am sure Hassan has mapped out the next ten projects we could work on as co-authors, but I move more methodically in the space of creative endeavors until I have an undeniable whole of an idea laid out before me. Hassan and I admire each other’s strengths in writing, and we manage to bring out the best in our respective styles.

Miraj: Judith is around seventy percent correct. Yes, this is our first project together, and no, it’s not just ten. I intend to write more stories together. Judith’s attention to detail and commitment to the whole procedure is definitely worth the deliberation.

 

ULM: Judith, what was it like being a co-author for this book? 

Ravin: I had to be more patient than I would if I were working on a book by myself. I also had to be more deliberative in seeking the connectors between us. As a co-author of a joint work, you must sacrifice independence in favor of the richness of interdependence.

 

ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, how would you describe working as a co-author?

Miraj: I had been writing in English, but with Judith it was very illustrative. There were things that I wanted to say, but my diction was largely styled for different readership. Judith was very helpful in preserving the impression while working on expression.

 

ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, you mentioned having spent almost a year in the U.S. Why not a year? What did you do while there?

Miraj: It was an International Military Exchange and Training Program, lasting for almost nine months. The training was about military procedures. Growing up in Pakistan, there is an awful lot that you hear about America and the Americans, so alongside military training (which was not much), I wanted to have an understanding of American culture. I travelled and interacted, and learned my basic lessons on “otherness.”  

   

ULM: Judith, what was it like working as an editor, translator, and as a journalist?

Ravin: I worked non-stop. There was no freelance job I would refuse because I knew my current projects always had a finite end point. The world of words in which I lived for many years continues to serve me well. Once, at the midpoint of a book translation I felt as if adrift at sea. I had lost sight of the horizon: the book’s final pages. I could neither slip back to the safety of a shoreline I could no longer see, nor move forward with certainty toward an end that was equally invisible. So I continued paddling with faith through a sea of words, toward an endpoint I only imagined. That is what juggling those jobs was like for me.

 

ULM: Muhammad Hassan Miraj, using only three words, how would you describe Beyond Our Degrees of Separation? 

Miraj: “stories we lived”

 

ULM: Whose decision was it to become co-authors? How did you two come to start this project?

Ravin: It may have been Hassan who first articulated the idea aloud, but there had been an undercurrent of inevitability from the outset. I wanted the merge of narratives to feel natural to the reader. It took many months until we reached a mutually acceptable approach.

Miraj: Judith is a very different kind of person (well, all of us are). There is a rather rare sense of localized globalization that enriches her expression. You can talk about Africa for hours with her and know that she knows a great deal about the place, but when you are done talking the “global talk” she transforms into an elder sitting under one of the few trees in a Burkinabe village, talking about life. I think, for a person like me – who cannot, in his limited knowledge and sense of the world, travel much – the ideal arrangement to learn was to work together. So here is the book.    

 

ULM: What did you both want readers to take from reading your nonfiction book? 

Ravin: The beauty of discovery, the expansive effect travel has on the soul, an immediacy of communion with the inglorious.

Miraj:I would say, the urge to understand human emotions and to value the significant insignificances.

 

ULM: Was it hard to put this book together? 

Ravin: I invested four years in the making of this book. Keeping a pace with myself was the hardest.

Miraj: It was definitely. We had to struggle with minimum of three time-zones at best and, at worst, four.

 

ULM: What advice would you both give to writers everywhere?

Ravin: I am not a writer by default. I write to process the excess of life and ideas that populate my head. I encourage writers to accept the uniqueness of their voice and to find someone who is both supportive and critical of their work to help them develop in the genre/s of their choice.

Miraj: Write, for the world is fast running out on dreamers.

 

ULM: Where can readers find you both online? Where can readers purchase Beyond Our Degrees of Separation


For more information on authors Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj, visit:

http://inkwaterbooks.com/beyond

http://www.inkwaterbooks.com/balletinthecanefields

https://muhammadhassanmiraj.wordpress.com

http://www.sangemeel.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=9693529499
 

Beyond Our Degrees of Separation is available in paperback, Kindle, and ePub versions in the United States through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Inkwater Press, and other online distributors. Lahore-based Sang-e-Meel Publications will release in fall 2017 a Pakistani edition for distribution to bookstores in Pakistan.

Review: Beyond Our Degrees of Separation 






Synopsis:

A narrative weave of testimonial non-fiction by Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj, Beyond Our Degrees of Separation evokes points of intersection between the United States and Pakistan. Hailing from oxymoronic bureaucracies, the co-authors transcend their respective realms of diplomacy and the military to reaffirm commonalities beyond differences. The alternating narratives trace their real-life discovery of equivalent experiences within dissimilar worlds. From an off-hand discussion during a one-off encounter, they embark on a project to prove that words and culture have the power to transform. Themes include displacement, social justice, cross-border issues, terrorism, loss, and interfaith harmony. Beyond Our Degrees of Separation delights in the documentation of that journey, along with all journeys, and demonstrates how travel and fate obey their own logic, ever-populating with wonderment the imagination of the “geographically disturbed” – those who live in perpetual wanderlust.

Rating: 4-stars

Review:

Beyond Our Degrees of Separation by both Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj is an interesting book. Many powerful themes can be found within the pages. This non-fiction book,  show that similarities do exist even between two different cultures. A journey that a well traveled journalist and an army veteran took me upon was quite an eye opener. Felt like I traveled from my seat to the world in which they inhabited on the pages. Overall, this a book I recommended to readers everywhere. 

Review: Shadow of Death

Synopsis:

1940 Louisiana. The body of Sister Mary Gretchen is discovered hanging from the balcony in a deserted mansion next to the leper colony on the banks of the Mississippi River.
In New Orleans, her sister, Catherine Lyle, doesn’t want to retrieve the nun’s body. It’s not because she doesn’t love her older sister, but because she’s afraid to go outside her house. For almost twenty years Catherine has lived with a terrible secret, carried deep inside her subconscious, suppressed behind the safety of her portraits and her restoration of damaged works of art. But while the journey terrifies her, Catherine knows she has no other choice but to go.
As Catherine tries to put her fears aside, she finds compelling reasons to reject her sister’s death was suicide. From the hemp noose around her sister’s neck to the brutal murder of a leper patient, strange, unrelated clues are compiled: clues of Nazi infiltration of the colony and death threats to others. As Catherine gets closer to discovering the murderer, she finds herself marked for death. In the midst of the lush, exotic setting of a lonely leper colony on the banks of the Mississippi River, readers will find themselves transported to a time and a place that is no more. 

Rating: 4.5-stars

Review:

Shadow of Death by Jean Sorrell is an entertaining mystery. From the beginning, Jean Sorrell sucked me into her book. The main character, Catherine Lye, is interesting. Went from talking about her dolls associated to anger and loss to solving a murder case. Her sister died and it doesn’t look like suicide…Catherine is starting to piece the clues together. As she does so, she also marks herself as the next victim. Danger, risks, murder and even a bit of a romance can be found. It was exciting. Shadow of Death is a combination of a historical and a cozy mystery. The combination suits this novel well. Overall, I recommend this read to all. 

Review: Madisonville 

Synopsis

Something isn’t right at Madisonville, Idaho’s most secluded penitentiary for its hardened criminals, and prisoners keep disappearing. 

Six college students are sentenced to Madisonville after almost getting away with the perfect crime. After a few short weeks behind bars, the six men awake in a meadow with no recollection of how they got there. These convicts are left with only meager supplies and a note: “You are being hunted.” So begins this epic battle in the mountains of Idaho and the ultimate game of survival. 

Rating: 5-stars

Review

Madisonville by J. A. Huff is a terrifying thriller. Every page is full of danger, action, and consequences. Six college boys will soon find out that Madisonville isn’t what it looks to be. There’s something sinister happening, and the truth slowly unravels. 

Madisonville is a prison for those who break the law. Prisoners are to serve their sentence. But then prisoners are missing and fear creeps in…

Imagine being held in a prison then to be hunted by the prison guards. Death is everywhere. It will take everything these college boys have to out number the odds. Then, even then, the danger is still looming ahead…

Madisonville is a stunning novel. One that will forever haunt readers’ minds even long after they finish it. The ending was a major cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see what happens next to the college boys that have survived. The writing was intense. Suspenseful, engaging, and dark. J. A. Huff has masterfully woven a book that will ever be forgotten. Overall, I highly recommend it to all. 

Meet, Poet, June Marie Davis…


 



ULM: What inspired you to write Reflections of a Soul?

 

 JMD: I was told that I couldn’t and that I wouldn’t amount to much by a close relative. So I did it, I wrote a book.

 

ULM: How long have you been writing poems?

 

JMD: Since I was a teenager, 12 or 13 years old.

 

ULM: Which of your poems inside Reflections of a Soul was your favorite?


JMD: They all have a special sentiment to me, but if I had to choose I would say there are two that are my favorite. “I AM”, which is the last poem in the book is an empowering poem about being who you are, being proud and accepting of that.  

 

“Daddy’s Little Girl” is the first poem to open the book and I chose that poem because it was something that I never experienced as a child. My mom did an amazing job raising my brother and I as a single parent, but the not knowing what my father was like was always a curiosity to me.

 

ULM: Are there more poems you have written besides the ones inside your latest book?

 

JMD: I do have more poems, and I try to write often. Writing is cathartic for me, most times I just write down what or how I’m feeling and I wont go back to it for days or weeks later.

 

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

 

JMD: Simple, Contemplative and Flawed. 

 

ULM: Do you have more works coming out soon? If so, can you share with us, readers, what those will be and when they’ll be published?

 

JMD: I have some works in progress. I’m working on a children’s book and another book, but I’m not quite sure of its format just yet. I am hoping by the end of the year to have one or both books published.

 

ULM: Have you published other volumes of poetry?

JMD: My first poem was published when I was 16 years old in a book with varies poets, but Reflections is my first book.

 

ULM: What advice would you give to other poets?

JMD: I would say to never give up on yourself and never let any one person keep you from your destiny. If you want to write, write. Your words are worthy of being read.

 

ULM: Where can readers find your work online?

 

JMD: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Inkwater Books

 

 

Author Interview with Paul Allen Dage


 
 

 
 

ULM: What led you to creating the main character, Eddy Trout?

During the summer of 2005 I experienced a harmonic convergence of life-changing events. I’d just retired from teaching high school English and, after a long hiatus, I wanted to resume writing fiction. So I journeyed to Canon Beach, Oregon, and attended a week-long Dangerous Writing workshop, taught by Tom Spanbauer, a well-known writer who lives in Portland. Tom’s teaching and my introduction to Dangerous Writing reignited my writing passions. A year later I found myself divorced, and I’d met the love of my life, Debra, a beautiful person and artist. These events changed me, opened my eyes to see the world a bit differently, and they inspired a story idea about a man’s mid-life renewal. Eddy is the character I chose to tell that story. He’s fallen out of love and he’s down on his luck, but soon enough events conspire to make his simple life very difficult, and over the course of three novels those events forge a brand new Eddy.  

 

ULM: Did you always want to write a book?

Heck no! I grew up very poor, and we didn’t have access to many books. I remember reading a cheap set of Encyclopedia Britannica and the occasional National Geographic magazine that my grandparents had lying about their home. And I certainly was not a stellar English student in grade or high school. Straight out of high school I majored in Forestry, and my Comp I prof took notice of a story I’d written about tracking down a wounded deer. That I could string a bunch of mostly fragments and run-ons into a somewhat coherent story, and that warm feeling I got when my prof uttered a bit of praise—those revelations planted a fruitful seed in my little, non-literary brain. Wanting to see some of the world, I quit school and joined the Army. One dark, rainy night while on guard duty in Vietnam I decided I wanted to teach social studies, so after I got out of the Army I got a teaching degree in Social Science/Language Arts. I ended up teaching high school English, and teaching writing and literature began to nourish the feeling that, maybe, someday I could write a story myself. Largely self-taught, I began writing short stories in the basement of my home. A few were published. It wasn’t long before I set to work on my first novel, Perimeters, a story about an American soldier who falls in love with a Vietnamese woman. It’s unpublished, but I hope to change that someday. That seed my Comp I prof planted has, so far, grown into four novels.

 

ULM: How would you describe your writing?

I aim for the gritty and existential, with spare use of adjectives and adverbs. I like well-paced, noirish plots and characters with flaws. I’m a student of Dangerous Writing and a disciple of Tom Spanbauer’s. DW basically means going to a painful place in your past, dredging those images and feelings up from the past and casting them into stories, often in a first-person voice. For me, it’s therapeutic, cathartic. In the Eddy Trout Novels, Eddy is my first-person voice, and there’s a hell of a lot of his past to dredge up and deal with before he can find the new heart he seeks.

 

ULM: Was it difficult or easy to write Trout Run?

Easy, in the sense it’s a continuation of the Trout Kill story line, the first novel of the Eddy Trout Series. From the beginning, I had a narrative arc in mind that covered three novels: #1, Eddy kills his old heart; #2, Eddy runs after a new heart; and, #3, Eddy finds love and a new heart. The arc narrates Eddy’s transformation from ashes to resurrection. I don’t write from a pre-conceived outline, but rather by feeling my way along from scene to scene, taking notes and editing as I go, and trusting that this rather messy process will keep the story immediate and fresh.

And difficult, too, in the sense that TR took 4 years to complete. But the main difficulty for me was figuring out how to build a bridge between novels #1 and #3. I was challenged to find the right balance between keeping the plot moving forward in a hopefully interesting way, and with bringing in just the right amount of backstory from novel #1 to provide the reader with the necessary context. And then there’s the “meta-fiction” aspect, a novel within a novel, using a book Eddy’s father wrote to help Eddy understand and come to grips with his unknown past. 

 

ULM: How many novels do you have planned for the Eddy Trout Series?

Three. Trout Kill was published in 2013, and I was very pleased with the reviews. Trout Run is just out, and so far the reviews are very positive, too. I’m currently working on the third, and last, novel, Trout Love.

 

ULM: What other books have you written, if any?

 I’ve written a couple unpublished Vietnam novellas and, as I mentioned, the full-length novel Perimeters. After completing the Eddy Trout Series I’ll probably get to work on another Vietnam novel.

  

ULM: Besides writing an entertaining series, what other hobbies can you share with us, readers?

I build stuff. Right now I’m converting an above-garage storage area into a guest room. I’ve been playing poker with the same guys for over 35 years; they’re very slow learners and keep giving me their hard-earned quarters. My wife and I love attending music festivals, and our favorite thus far is The Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. What a hoot! I fish. I walk. I read. I cook. I’m teaching a memoir-writing class this summer.

 

ULM: What advice would you give to other writers?

Swill good coffee. Find a mentor. Read books and join or start a book group. Build your passion however you can and nourish it. Write every day, all the while knowing you can’t. Attend workshops. Keep your day job. I’m basically a self-taught writer, and that’s worked for me mostly because I’m a fierce, ruthless self-editor and not afraid to hit the delete key a million times.

  

ULM: When will the third novel to the Eddy Trout Series be released?

I hope to complete Trout Love in about two years … but my wife might think this a bit optimistic.

   

ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?

Printed and Kindle versions of Trout Kill and Trout Run are available at my author’s website at pauldage.com and through Amazon. Trout Kill is also available through the online bookstore at Outskirts Press, and Trout Run through the online bookstore at Inkwater Press. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Michael Scott Curnes






COPING WITH ASH by Michael Scott Curnes

Inkwater Press, January 26, 2017

(Reviewed and given 5 stars by Danielle Urban)

Author Interview

 

ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading your book, Coping with Ash

MSC: Loss and grief are universal human elements but how we cope with these is uniquely individualized. There isn’t a handbook for this. This story is meant to be a gift from the narrator (the deceased) to the survivors he leaves behind and a guide to helping them cope with the loss of their lover, brother, son and friend, who was a gay man they loved, named Ashton Taylor. This story is a reminder to not take a day, a person, or moment for granted. Our breathing days are finite and our chances to love and be loved are brief.
 

ULM: The emotional journey of your book was powerful. What did it feel like as your wrote it?

MSC: This story is personal for me and so I wrote it to be personal for the reader. There were many moments when I would write a passage through tears as I put myself in that vulnerable place of someone suffering from loss and abandonment and unspeakable loneliness. Every other page asks the question: how would I cope with this if I were the one left behind?

 

ULM: Coping with Ash is written through the dead character’s point of view. Why did you choose Ashton’s point of view versus his lover’s?

MSC: The overly detailed plan to distribute the cremated remains (cremains) of the deceased is a plot the deceased put into motion. In other words, he started it. It just made sense to me that he should be the one to tell the story he started, posthumously. The deceased was a novelist—a storyteller, in fact had his third novel set to be published and then he died in the middle of his morning shave, unexpectedly. He believed he understood how the news of his death would be received and his cremains managed by those around him so I made him the narrator so that he could witness the execution of his instructions.
ULM: I noticed your book held a racial and LGBT theme. What was your purpose for inserting these into your novel?
MSC: For me, the novel’s main characters just happen to be Native American and gay. I didn’t construct this to be thematic or to make any particular statement. I suppose I could say I made a point of using these characteristics as a reminder that Native Americans and gay men have life experiences and stories to tell and that they love, they mourn and they figure out how to overcome unfathomable loss—just like everyone else. My previous novels, Val and For the Love of Mother also both featured central characters that were gay. Is this because I am a gay writer or that I have a duty to increase the number of gay characters in modern, published literature? Sure.  

 

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

MSC: Intentional. Personal. Exploratory.

 

ULM: What other books have you written besides Coping with Ash?

MSC: ​Val, 1996 Brownell and Carroll Publishers

For the Love of Mother, 2011 Inkwater Press

My writing also appears in two published anthologies:

Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place, 2008

Living Artfully: Reflections from the Far West Coast, 2011

 

ULM: Any future works that you can share with us, readers?

MSC: I always have a novel or two percolating. Stay tuned.

 

ULM: Where can readers find You and your work online?

MSC: ​www.copingwithash.com 

​www.Amazon.com

Review: Trout Run



Synopsis:

Eddy Trout, part-time bartender, and pot-grower had a troubled heart. In this, the second novel of the Eddy Trout Series, Eddy has left his wife and buried his father in a gone-to-seed garden, and now he’s running hard toward what he hopes is a new, brighter tomorrow. His sister, Em, has disappeared, and he’s got to find and “save” her. She turns up where they both swore they’d never return—Oak Creek, the small Oregon logging town of their childhood, where dark memories threaten … and may possibly free them.

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Trout Run by Paul Allen Dage is a fascinating read. Dark, emotional, and haunting. This second novel in the Eddy Trout Series was engaging, suspenseful, and well-developed. I found the main character, Eddy Trout, as a man with many flaws. His past haunts him. His present seems to drag onward in a way that readers, like myself can feel he’s not happy with…a lot of interesting moments happen inside this book. Eddy Trout drifts further away from his wife. A good woman he doesn’t love anymore. Then, there’s his sister, whom he loves very much. She goes missing and Eddy is determined to find her. Last, Eddy finds himself in trouble. He went and did something deadly…like dumping his father in a garden. Anger, loss, grief and determination can be found on every page. The character’s journey is definitely like that of a rollercoaster. One never knows what to expect next. Paul Allen Dage’s writing is superb. His words have a way of dragging me deeper into Eddy’s life. The further I went, the more I found an explosive destiny ahead. The ending leaves my mind wondering what will come after this. Overall, I recommend this stunning piece to readers everywhere.

Review: Reflections of a Soul



Synopsis:

Inspired by the journey of life, June Marie Davis has developed an anthology that has captured the essence of her soul by discovering the power of words. Words have flowed ever so freely from a mind to create the divine art form of poetry. In this collection, you will feel the sentiments of a young woman’s soul. The experiences of growing within a world of urban decay and life’s situations have built this young poet’s persona. Living in the midst of confusion and reality created this young woman’s inner discovery of life, love, soul and heartache. These are thoughtfully captured by this writer’s irony, as is the journey in developing self-pride by embracing the beauty and richness of her Latin/Boricua (Puerto Rican) and Afro-American heritages. Her surroundings and experiences made her find a channel of self-expression to record her life, thus far, in a simple yet powerful way. The way that only poetry can provide! “Through My Mothers Eyes” captures the value of lessons learned. Emotions are expressed through a young woman’s void and are heartfelt in “Daddy’s Little Girl.” “Mi Hombre Latino” rages of fury and the passion of love. “Snapshots” depicts the irony of physical and mental reflection. This short collection will allow you to smile, cry, think or reminisce as you become wrapped in emotions on a journey to discover a young woman’s life and Reflections of a Soul.

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Reflections of a Soul by June Marie Davis is a beautifully told collection of poetry. Each poem has an issue that lies with most of us. One that can utterly break us apart or bind us together. I got to travel through the writer’s journey as every piece took hold of my heart and captured my attention. Immediately, I was drawn into the book like a moth to a flame. The words echoed in my heart. The pain, struggles, and other emotions held me like a prisoner. June Marie Davis brought up topics like racism, growing up without a father, and love. I was thoroughly impressed. I felt each word as though it were my own thoughts and feelings. Sadness, anger, betrayal, hatred, and others can be felt as readers move through the collection. Reflections of a Soul by June Marie Davis was pleasant to read. Overall, I recommend it to readers worldwide.

Review: Coping with Ash

 

 

Synopsis:

Ashton Taylor was a hypochondriac—justifiably so—with multiple and sometimes self-diagnosed issues that turned him into a bit of a misfortune teller. Always knowing he would die young-ish, and anticipating what would otherwise have been an unorganized and messy affair for others, he had thoughtfully left behind a step-by-step post-mortem plan. Choreographing circumstances and conveyors, Ash had arranged for his cremains to be distributed to the places he cherished in this world, by the people who meant the most to him—especially his patient and tolerant partner of the past twenty years, Rich Dreadfulwater.

Rich, who is known by his family as Limping Rabbit, on account of a childhood tumble from a moving pickup truck, is a Seattle-based Native American defense lawyer suddenly grappling with grief, his caseload, and the task of divvying up the four pounds of his ash-rendered boyfriend into nineteen pre-labeled black plastic 35mm film canisters.
Struggling with everything he’s lost, he finds himself coping with a whole lot more than his partner’s ashes. In honoring the final wishes of the man he never imagined he could live without, the mourning lawyer embarks on a quest to find his Inner Indian … and the destiny that has always been his birthright to seize.

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Coping with Ash by Michael Scott Curnes is a sad and emotional read. It instantly wrapped its way into my heart. Tears felt like spilling. Losing a loved one is never easy. Coping with Ash is a story told by the dead character. His death left his lover in a terrible state. A lover who wasn’t ready to let go. Ashton Taylor died with a wish to be cremated. He wanted his ashes spread out to his favorite places. His lover, Rich Dreadfulwater, is a successful lawyer with Indian roots. Rich was not prepared for the loss of Ashton. In fact, he completely fell apart the day Ashton went in to be cremated. Heart breaking, devastating, and realistic. The journey of one trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. The stages of loss, grief, and anger felt so real. I don’t believe anyone reading this book will not feel saddened by it. I enjoyed reading this novel. Michael Scott Curnes has a talent for sucking readers into his characters’ lives. Overall, I highly recommend Coping with Ash to all.

Review: Faces of the Mother



Synopsis:

What happens when a group of everyday women go off in search of the most vital riches they contain…leaving behind notions of who they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing?! Through this creative inner journey, Sharon Ann Rose, M.Div., intimately explores with a circle of women the many facets of the Mother…the full spectrum of Her deepest darkness to Her lightest ignition. Each woman goes through a life-altering transformation, facing resistance, shame, freedom, surrender, past wounds, new awakening, ancient understandings and the realization of what we encounter as we commit to fully living from the Sacred Feminine and its integrated expression in our modern world. Faces of the Mother offers an intimate portrayal of the REAL DEAL of CREATION, offering a pathway to face one’s greatest self-judgments. Here we learn to honor our deepest longings so we can work with, instead of resist them, and birth a life of beauty, blessing and extraordinary love.

Rating: 5-stars

Review:

Faces of the Mother by Sharon Ann Rose is deep, thoughtful, and a soul enriching read. This book is written for all women. No matter what difficulties in our lives or what kind of lives we live…every woman can find encouragement. Relaxation is also a key topic. Life is stressful enough. With this beautifully written guidebook, women can find their stress levels dropping. Each chapter focuses on different topics. Each new topic helps the readers feel motivated, less stressed, and renewed with energy. It was like Sharon Ann Rose breathed life into her pages and once opened, readers breathe it in…

While Faces of the Mother is a guidebook it is also a bit religious in a way. However, I didn’t let that bother me at all. It felt more like women speaking to women about daily things. Rather than a gospel book. There were prayers inside it. I thought those were nice. Calming, steady, and a way for others to connect. A total personal transformation kind of read. It inspires. The artwork with each section was easy on the eyes. I loved the color tones. They suited well with the book’s content. Overall, I recommend this to women everywhere.

Author Interview with Brandon Knightley 



Author Interview with Brandon Knightley 
Me: What inspired you to write your novel, June Rain?

 

On the one hand, I simply woke up one morning with a fragment of a story in my head and started writing. On the other, the book was the emerging expression of questions that I wished I had asked myself when I was Dante’s age.

 
Me: Using three words, how would you describe your writing style?

 

Thoughtful but spontaneous.

 

 

Me: You mentioned that you’re a teacher; what subject do you teach and does this subject get woven into your books?

 

I teach a humanities seminar that asks—but does not answer—many questions that are driven by the inevitable conflicts we face as self-motivated individuals who are necessarily melded into both a community and culture. Many of the questions Dante asks are ones I have asked of countless students.

 

 

Me: What other books have you written or will you be writing?

 

I have something in mind about a mostly mute and invisible woman who is transformed by her own writing into someone with an authentic voice and presence.

 

 

Me: What was it like creating both Dante and Helen?

 

Dante was simply the embodiment of some of my own doubts and perceptions. Helen came out of nowhere, and I fell for her quite as hard as Dante did. I missed them both dearly when the book was finished.

 

 

Me: What is one thing from philosophy that you would like to share with your readers?

 

Some conventionality—meeting the expectations of others—is important in life so that we can talk to and love each other. Authentic self-expression is important so that we have something worthwhile to say.

 

 

Me: When did you begin writing? 

 

I have been writing nonfiction for decades. June Rain is my first attempt at fiction. Another is the short story Breakfast with Plato, which was included in the anthology Inkwater Ink, also published by Inkwater Press.

 

 

Me: What other hobbies do you enjoy besides writing that you can share with us readers?

 

Music, painting, and foreign languages.

 

 

Me: What tips would you share with other aspiring writers?

 

First, let the content define the form: Debussy would not have been Debussy had he confined himself to the forms used by Mozart. Second, do not submit to the frequent opposition of vividness and depth. This is why we still read Antigone after two millennia and King Lear after four centuries—but forget soap operas at the conclusion of the last episode.

 

 

Me: Where can readers find you and your book online?

 

Brandon Knightley practices invisibility, but the book at least can be found on Amazon or at Inkwater’s website.

 

 

Review: He Said She Said

Synopsis:

Joshua Adams is a Harvard-trained Philadelphia lawyer and managing partner of White & Marks, a prestigious 300-plus-person law firm. The story revolves around a disputed charge of sexual harassment by a former white female associate against a prominent black senior partner. In addition, crafty European interests seek to wrest control of the firm’s largest real estate client. Meanwhile, Joshua must contend with difficult personal issues: marital problems, a young daughter with an eating disorder and two beautiful but confusing women.

Rating: 4.5-stars

Review:

He Said She Said by Frederick Blumberg is a novel completely focused on lawyers and the law work they do. Tons of terminology, that relates to law that I wasn’t familiar with…made it a little less easy for me to be swept up into the story. The drama on the other hand was quite a rollercoaster ride. The main character, Joshua Adams has his hands full. A wife who makes marriage less like marriage, a daughter with issues, and a major case at hand. I didn’t like Joshua Adams wife at all. I felt sympahty for the man throughout the book. The pages went by fast. They were filled with a lot of dialogue and action. Never a boring moment. Stressful for the main character but engaging for readers once the terminology is put behind them. I liked getting an insiders view and tour into a lawyer’s way of life both at work and personal too. It truly helped in showing what Joshua Adams was really like. Four amazing things happen inside this fictional piece. I woos happy with the way the story ended. There was some humor woven into the tale. It revolved around how women were a mystery to the main character. Some are hard to deal with while others are not. Trying to figure women out…is tough. Those moments made me laugh. Men will never understand women fully. Overall, He Said She Said is an entertaining read. I recommend to readers everywhere. 

Review: Cancer Country

Synopsis:

The only symptoms were itching. The prognosis was slightly incredible – a type of cancer that only one in a half million Americans get, and my chances of survival were one-in-ten.
That was the beginning of the journey. Along the way were anger and surprise and relief and fear … a bone marrow transplant … and the feeling of being in a strange country whimsically designed for the absurd.
Visit http://www.cancercountry.com for more information.
From Cancer Country
“In the Medieval world, Death was the standard guy with the scythe, coming around when your time was up. Now then, one morning, drinking coffee in my kitchen around 10 AM, I looked out the window and saw, a few houses away, a twenty-year old guy with a clipboard – a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a college kid with some environmental issue.I then had this weird vision of him being Death, of him having started his canvassing miles and miles away, way up in northeast Portland or somewhere, and now, after 67 years of human life, he had made it down here, to me, and in about five minutes would be knocking at the door, and I’d answer it, and he’d ask me if I like unpolluted air and clean water and tall trees, and I’d say Yes, and then he’d ask me for a donation, and I’d write a check, and then I’d sign his petition, and then all this world would be gone, just like that. All the places I’d hoped to travel to – forget it. All the years left with family and friends – over. Yes, that’s it, I thought: the Medieval people had a nice thing going with the black hooded figure and the scythe, but he was so out of date, so past-millennia. This was our hooded guy now: a door-to-door canvasser, clipboard, politeness, a good cause. Death handing you a ballpoint pen that only half-worked.”

Rating: 5-stars

Review

Cancer Country by Chet Skibinski is one of the best memoirs about this particular topic. Cancer. It is one of the most scary things that can happen to a human being. One day, we are perfectly fine, the next, we find out we have cancer. The shocking, frightening, sad discovery is a difficult one to swallow. One can live or die. Surviving it is slightly improving but still it takes a lot of will power going through the process. I was able to get lost inside this incredible memoir instantly. It was easy to relate to and follow along. I have lost people to heart conditions…so, I know how they writer felt when told about the cancer found. Anger, frustration, and grief. However, as the book unfolded, I found some humor as the cancer survivor fought back. I thought the book would end in a certain way and then, I was surprised. It took on a completely different path. One that I was super happy with and the emotional journey tugged at me. So many emotions and not knowing until the ending how or where it was going to lead me. Cancer Country is an inspiring read for all. I highly recommend to readers everywhere. 

Review: King’s Lament 


Synopsis:

Betrayed by his advisors, only the love of two mysterious men can rescue Inea and save his kingdom.

After the death of his father, Inea finds himself the unprepared king of a country at war. When his council forsakes him, and he’s thrown into the dungeons of his own castle, the young man manages to escape only with the help of the intriguing stranger Ansyn.
After one year in hiding, Inea, driven by desire, seeks out Ansyn and discovers that there is more to his savior than he could have ever hoped for. Joined by their new ally Kaedon, passion builds, and they find themselves in a romance that helps fuel their plan to reclaim the throne.
Rating: 4-stars

Review:

The King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc is a fascinating LGBT read. The characters each have a journey that they must go through as well as the one they all share. The emotions tie readers into the story immediately. The roller coaster ride causes many emotions like angry, laughter, sadness and love. Themes like revenge, redemption, and second chances are found here. Lilia Blanc has created a tale that both breaks and melts readers’ hearts. It’s hard not to like the characters. Their feelings are so real and their troubles…are believable. Three dimensional characters inside a fascinating world of fiction. Kingdom once strong is now falling apart. A prince seeking refugee from his own people is now fighting to take back what’s rightfully his. A queen is so evil even her fiercest warriors don’t want to get on her bad side. Danger is everywhere. People will do anything to survive….trust comes at a price. 

The Kings’s Lament is recommended for those you don’t mind a lot of male/male erotic romances. Other than that there was plenty of danger, action, and intrigue to keep the pages turning. A love triangle forms…among unlikely characters…and a group of commoners are willing to sacrifice their lives to keep the prince alive to fight for his kingdom back. The friendships were entertaining. Each character had his or her own strong personality that made the story come alive. Suspense was super. Every page added a little more and made things more complicated than they were already…where or how the novel ends is for readers to read. I recommend this enchanting tale to all.