Category Archives: BRW

THE XERCES FACTOR taps into a believable conspiracy mythology

rp_The-Xerces-Factor-FRONT-FINAL-JPEG-198x300.jpgIn The Xerces Factor by Rodney Page, Charles Arrington wakes up in a hospital room. He had lost an arm, an eye, and his wife in an explosion. Certain that the explosion was an assassination attempt on his life, due to some whistle-blowing calibre research he was engaged in, Arrington assembles a team to continue his research and expose the government for their back-door dealings. The stakes are high. Not only are the lives of Arrington and his associates in danger, but so is the country if not the world. Just how wide do the fingers of corruption reach?

The Xerces Factor is interesting and relevant, given the state of world politics today. His prose is easy to read, and his characters believable. If you like political thrillers, you are sure to love The Xerces Factor. Page’s story is contemporary and high-tech, which both piqued my interest and confused me at times. His characters are likeable and believable, and I found myself caring for them and in awe of how much they are willing to risk to expose corruption in the highest tiers of the government.

Admittedly, political thrillers, particularly those delving deep into American politics aren’t my favourite genre. Also, though I’m technologically-minded, I often get lost when I’m given acronyms, numbers, and lots of technological jargon, as I need more hands-on experience than instructional theoretics when it comes to science and technology. But to Page’s credit, I continued to read in spite of this. My overall analysis is that The Xerces Factor is a quick, relevant read, that taps into a conspiracy mythology that is totally believable.

Mamabear gives this book:

three-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ROGERS PARK – Reluctant Anti-hero Saves Himself

rp_rogers-park-cover-201x300.jpgAn absent father. A murder. A witness. A romance. These are the events that define AP English teacher Brian Casey’s life. After having a bag of trash dropped on his head in a Rogers Park alley, Brian meets Rachel and her grandmother. Brian and Rachel strike up a romance and all seems well, but Brian is battling a pill addiction. When he wonders, high, onto the pier and witnesses a murder, Brian’s life is turned upside down.

Mark Pople‘s Rogers Park had me from the first page. The story is quick-paced with plenty of twists that kept me questioning the connections until the very end. Pople’s characters are complex and believable, as is his dialogue, which keeps the reader turning pages. Brian Casey, Pople’s antagonist, starts out a mild-mannered school teacher and transforms into a reluctant anti-hero, saving the lives of those around him out of necessity, rather than out of a sense of nobility. In a world of millennials and Gen Xers fraught with self-absorption, Casey is forced from his comfort zone through circumstance of events. Is it wrong to say that part of the enjoyment while reading was watching him squirm in discomfort at his situation?

Rogers Park is one of the best books I’ve read this year. With a tone leaning toward the literary, realistic characters, and a fast-moving plot, Pople has constructed a contemporary story about overcoming regret and loss in modern-day Chicago, that won’t disappoint.

Mamabear gives this book:

five-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WICKED CRIES by Michelle Areaux

Wicked Cries full coverFor 16-year-old Sadie Sanders, dealing with the dead is growing tiresome, especially when they expect her to play messenger to the afterlife. Her constant struggle to mend teenage broken relationships and translate last wishes seemed to be her biggest problem.

Up until recently, Sadie had been able to juggle her double life without anyone detecting she was not only an average high school student, but a messenger to the dead as well. Even after a close call at the local teen night club, Sadie was able to keep her secret hidden.  But when her father decided to move her family clear across the country from sunny Los Angeles, California to gloomy Salem, Massachusetts, Sadie wondered if the move would be the fresh new start she needed to leave her old, wicked life behind and become a normal high school girl.

Only Sadie was wrong, dead wrong.  Once in Salem, Sadie finds a hidden journal from Elizabeth, a once persecuted witch who documented the last few days of her terrifying life. Desperately wanting to push the journal aside and begin her new life, Sadie finds herself haunted by Elizabeth, but this time is different.

Elizabeth desperately needs Sadie’s help to clear her name, but one man attempts to destroy Sadie’s journey to uncovering Elizabeth’s truth.

Sadie’s only goal, to make it through high schpol without another deadly adventure.

She may be in for a rude awaking her senior year.

Buy Wicked Cries at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on Black Rose Writing.  

About the Author:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMichelle Areaux  is a wife, mother, and seventh grade language arts teacher.  When she’s not playing with her boys or teaching, she writes. Her passion for writing stems from reading everything from The Babysitters Club series to The Outsiders. She strives to write fiction that her children, students, and grandmother would enjoy.

Michelle earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky and teaches in Lexington, Kentucky.

Follow Michelle Areaux on Twitter.

Interview with Author Glenn Maynard

Britbear’s Book Reviews is thrilled to feature author Glenn Maynard in today’s spotlight.

From the Black Rose Writing site:

Carter Spence is a 26 year-old accountant out of Boston who has an out-of-body experience Desert+Son+eimagefollowing a car accident that kills his parents.  He views the chaos from above the scene of the accident, then passes through the tunnel and reunites with relatives who have long been dead. A woman he does not recognize approaches him and says, “Welcome, son.” Her message to him is that he needs to be aware of his true identity and should follow signs that will lead him there. She mentions mountains, but Carter is jolted back into his physical body before she can finish.

After burying his parents, Carter heads west and meets a free-spirit named Brenda, whom he is drawn to on many levels. She becomes his travelling companion and leads him to Boulder, Colorado, and to an old white house of an old man named Martin. Diaries, hypnosis, and past-life regression reveal a bizarre connection between these three. Carter discovers that the truth to his identity can only be found by pursuing the answer to whether he is the reincarnation of his biological father in what is shaping up to be a love affair rekindled beyond the grave.

Buy Desert Son on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Rose Writing. Buy Strapped Into an American Dream on Amazon.

Welcome, Glenn. Your Amazon author page says you worked for a year as a travel correspondent. Can you talk a bit about that experience? Is there a connection between this experience and Strapped into an American Dream?

After I got married, my wife and I quit our jobs, sold our cars, bought a used RV and travelled through the 48 continental states for an entire year. I needed something to write about, so I created something. I contacted a couple local newspapers about my trip and generated some interest. I then became a travel correspondent for these newspapers and published twenty articles along the way. Every two weeks throughout the year I would send off a story, and readers could follow along with these monthly updates. I published my first book, which detailed the people and places along the way in the USA, entitled Strapped Into An American Dream.

Ingenious idea!

Tell us a bit about Desert Son. Why choose to begin it with an out of body experience? Why choose to incorporate reincarnation in the story, too.

The story begins with Carter involved in a horrific car accident that kills his parents. I chose to begin this story with an out-of-body experience because there was a significant message from a woman he did not recognize who was claiming to be his mother. She told him to follow signs to reach the truth. There is a bizarre twist in this tale when he follows signs out west to Boulder, Colorado. The story revolves around the topic of reincarnation. Carter discovers that it is up to him to find out if he is the reincarnation of his biological father. The out-of-body experience was a spin-off of the reincarnation theme since this was a paranormal novel that needed injections of paranormal.

What genre do you consider Desert Son and why?

This has been a paranormal novel all along, but it is being marketed as a paranormal romance because boy meets girl. It might not be the first time they met, but the book was categorized as a paranormal romance for the better marketing plan.

Your webpage has links to three blogs you maintain. Why choose to maintain three separate blogs as a part of your author platform rather than combine them into one?

It’s one blog, but four separate pages. I have pages for my two books, a poetry page, and a page for my life that is not book related. When I write about non-book topics that I wish to share with Facebook, then I use that page. Every once in a while I have a poem in me and use [my] Poetry page. The two different book pages…well, that’s self-explanatory. I originally had a page for my first book, but when the second child came along, I needed a place to put it. Instead of creating another blog, I created another page within the original blog.

Speaking of the Poetry blog, why do you write poetry? Do you prefer writing prose novels or poetry?

When I was an English major in college (UCONN) I was taking Shakespeare and other complicated poetry classes that included notes on the bottom so you knew what the hell they were talking about. I would receive cash from my parents and siblings as a poor college student, and in return I would write funny poems. My family enjoyed the poems so much that I was getting more money sent just so I would thank them poetically. Sometimes I would write poems about other things, like when my dog died, or when my grandfather passed, as a way of coping; mourning. I created a poetry blog just to have a better way to keep track of my writing and to just have more out there with my name on it. I read my poetry at large family functions now. It’s a lot of fun and people love to laugh at it (some readings are on YouTube, but writing novels takes the cake. It’s a whole different ballgame and it cannot be compared to knocking off a poem in a day or two. Writing a novel is like having a baby (I apologize in advance to all the moms out there).

It certainly feels like birthing a baby sometimes, doesn’t it?

Your bio says you’ve had twenty articles published. Where were they published? What were they on? In a previous question I asked if you prefer writing fiction or poetry. Now I ask if you prefer writing non-fiction to fiction?

When I was traveling through the country, I was writing monthly travel articles to the Glastonbury Citizen and the Bristol Press, two local papers back home. I also wrote an article that appeared in the Sunday edition of the newspaper in Pocatello, Idaho. Readers would follow us along as I updated them monthly on the places we’d been, and the expected path ahead. I have written one non-fiction book and one fiction book, and my third book is a sequel to my fiction book, Desert Son, so therein lies the answer. I love writing fiction!

Your WordPress blog has quite a few posts on social media. What are your opinions about social media with respect to building your author profile?

I’m still trying to figure it out. I think all authors are in the same boat. There is no magic formula, and it’s a trial and error and see what works process. I share my blog posts with Facebook and LinkedIn. Now Facebook is set up so that you only reach about 10% of your established audience. There has to be a mixture of social media, reviews, newspaper ads detailing your speaking engagements, etc.

Talk a bit about your writing process and Desert Son from start to finish.

The idea for this book came after reading the book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, by Ian Stevenson. This book was about the spontaneous recall of previous lives by children. I was so fascinated by these children in third world countries recalling lives of people who had died, and who had lived an unreachable distance from these kids. Researchers would then follow the kids’ claims and travel to talk to the surviving members of the deceased’s family. The claims of the children exactly portrayed the deceased, sometimes including the language they spoke, and with information that nobody other than the deceased would know. Desert Son evolved from this book.

The topic of reincarnation is certainly an interesting one.

What about your next project? Can you tell us a bit about that?

I have written the sequel for Desert Son, and [I’m] contemplating a third and final book in the series. The sequel occurs four years later, and the paranormal [theme] continues with that very bizarre twist occurring just as it did in the first book.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers but that’s not included in these questions?

You will never see me do air quotes or say “if you will,” “per se” or “at the end of the day.”

Thanks so much for the interview, Glenn. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page |

Smashwords | Goodreads |

About the author:

glenmaynardimageGlenn Maynard is the author of the books Strapped Into An American Dream and Desert Son. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Connecticut, and a degree in Communications. After spending 4 years living in Denver, Colorado, he returned home to Connecticut and now resides in Wethersfield. Glenn has a 14 year-old son named Andrew. As a travel correspondent for three newspapers while exploring the United States, Canada and Mexico during his one-year journey, Glenn published a total of twenty newspaper articles. His story was captured on the NBC local news upon his return.

Interview with Author Mark Pople

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming Mark Pople, author of Rogers Park, with an interview in today’s author spotlight.

About Rogers Park:

rogers park coverA shortcut led to the longest six weeks of Brian Casey’s life.

A high school English teacher and self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock junkie from a broken home, Brian has spent his entire life in Rogers Park, the bowels of North Chicago. He longs for a Hitchcockian revenge on the father who deserted him as a child.

Turning into the Farwell-Pratt alley on a bitter February afternoon, little does Brian know that the decision to take this particular shortcut will set into motion a chain of life-altering events. The first link in the chain is a trash bag thrown from a fire escape. The final link is a choice: forgive his father or watch him die. The links between – kinked and tangled, as happens when chains are kept in closets with skeletons – include addiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald, plagiarism, blackmail, and murder.

Rogers Park is a novel about the long road to forgiveness and the harrowing journey one man must endure to reach this destination.

Buy Rogers Park on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Rose Writing.

Welcome, Mark. You have lived many places, but your bio says you only lived in Rogers Park, Chicago, for a brief amount of time. What made you choose to set your story here instead of another location, one where you’ve spent more time?

There always seemed to be something lurking in Rogers Park. Some of the buildings sit only a five-foot sidewalk from the street, creating a sense of adventure for any pedestrian approaching an intersection. I admit it was probably just my overactive imagination at work, but whenever I turned one of these blind corners or stepped into a dark alley, I imagined mystery and intrigue awaiting me.  Then I was struck by Rogers Park – almost literally – when I strolled through an alley and someone dropped a trash bag from a third-story fire escape into an open dumpster. From this, a story was born.

Your bio also says you draw on your experience as an English teacher. Are you ever concerned about writing too much about the experience, or is the fact that you are retired (unlike myself) liberating in this respect?

Actually, it’s liberating that I can leave the teaching and the headaches that go along with it to a fictional character. As far as my protagonist being a teacher, I wanted to take an ordinary guy and put him in extraordinary circumstances. Making him a high-school teacher felt perfect. There are so many educators out there. It seems they are woefully under represented in suspense novels.

Rich Brown Gravy, South of the Calvary Curve…your novels have really interesting titles. How do you settle on titles for your manuscripts?

Rich Brown Gravy is a short story. The title comes from the story itself as it’s told from the point-of-view of a nine-year-old boy whose mother likes to serve her guests Shepherd’s Pie with “rich brown gravy.” For my second novel, South of the Calvary Curve, I had to come up with a title in a hurry as I was about to enter the first ten pages in a contest (which I won, by the way). I had three people read these ten pages and each wrote down three possible titles. I read all of them aloud, and together we chose the best of the nine.

Congratulations, Mark! Also, I like the idea of crowd sourcing a title.

Besides making the protagonist of Rogers Park an English teacher, are there any similarities between you and Brian Casey? If so, what are they? If not, then why?

I’ve been told by people who have read Rogers Park that I am Brian Casey. Of course I point out that he’s almost thirty years younger than me, but still they insist we’re the same person, and they’re probably right. We’re both easy-going guys who make a point of avoiding confrontation. Of course, that doesn’t work out so well for Brian.

The fact that we are similar is not a mistake. I think that when writing in first-person point of view, it’s easy to become the character, or vice-versa. Also, first-person lends itself to adding an authentic voice to your character. When that voice is your own, the authenticity is even greater.

On your website you say your next publication is South of the Calvary Curve. What might the blurb for this story look like?

It’s still early, and the conclusion of South of the Calvary Curve is playing the usual games, hiding in my subconscious, waiting to jump out and slap me across the face when I least expect it (I hate surprise parties). But if I was to supply a blurb for Calvary Curve right now, it might sound something like this:

Brian Casey, after his misadventures in Rogers Park, may think he’s returned to the mundane life of a high school English teacher. But when a former student, now a stripper named Summer Solstice, asks him to help her retrieve a stolen phone, his life is again plunged into chaos.

Describe the publication process. How did you find your publisher? What was the process like once you signed?

It was daunting, reading over and over again how difficult – next to impossible – it would be to get my debut novel published. Still, I persisted for five months, receiving over twenty rejections before Reagan Rothe and Black Rose agreed to read my manuscript. I found Black Rose Writing on a website called “Predators and editors.” I did my research and felt completely comfortable signing with them. Since signing, the process has been smooth. Everyone at BRW has been great.

Congratulations with that, too.

How do Alfred Hitchcock and F. Scott Fitzgerald figure into the content of Rogers Park?

An unusual combination, I admit. Brian Casey’s passion for Hitchcock is a way for him to vicariously add intrigue to his otherwise mundane life. Ironically, he finds himself entangled in a Hitchcockian web of plagiarism, blackmail, and murder.

As for F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brian is teaching The Great Gatsby to his Advanced Placement English class. As the story of Rogers Park progresses, he comes to realize some interesting parallels between his own life and Fitzgerald’s classic novel. But it is one specific Fitzgerald quote that makes the greatest impression on Brian. From this quote, he learns an important lesson about acceptance and forgiveness. Both of these influences, Hitchcock and Fitzgerald, play a part in the dramatic closing scene of Rogers Park.

Besides these authors, if you had to choose, who would you consider a writing mentor and why?

The authors whose style I have tried to emulate are John Updike and Richard Russo. Ultimately, I’ve discovered that I have my own style, and while I consider these writers to be great influences, I no longer feel the need to emulate anyone.

As for current mentors, I attend Roger Paulding’s weekly critique group here in Houston. Roger is the author of the Seney Chronicle series and the Jazzed series. He’s been a great mentor and I know he won’t mind the plug. You’re welcome, Roger.

Speaking of style and voice, how would you describe your writing style?

Writing should, in one form or another, seduce a reader. This can be accomplished through the use of a plot twist, a seductive suggestion, or even an unexpected use of words. I try to always keep my reader on his or her toes, give them something they don’t expect. As for my style, I guess I would describe it as literary and terse. These two adjectives may seem to contradict each other (see, keeping you on your toes) but I feel it works. Having studied and taught the classics, I find myself paying a great deal of attention to the structure of sentences and word choices. Still, I believe in using as few words as possible as long as every one of those words counts.

Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you and your writing?

I’m so thankful for the support and well wishes I’ve received from everyone. I hope you enjoy Rogers Park.

Thanks for the interview, Mark.

Here’s where you can learn more about Mark Pople and his writing:

| Website | Facebook |

About Mark Pople:

Mark Pople is the winner of the Houston Writers House 2014 novel contest.mark pople photo

Born in Cambridge, England and raised in Pittsburgh, Mark’s literary sensibilities were most inspired by his brief stay in Rogers Park, a northern enclave of Chicago. He now resides in Houston.

Like his novel’s protagonist, Brian Casey, Mark is no stranger to the English classroom. His years spent teaching high school English in Houston, while thankfully not as eventful as those of Brian, served to whet his appetite for written words, occasionally even those of his students.

Mark is currently working on his second novel, South of the Calvary Curve.  He is a member of HWH and is active on Facebook. His email is mpople6@gmail.com.

A Modern Ghost Story

Troubled+Spirits+eimageAnnie sees ghosts. Harmony, is an amateur ghost hunter. It’s no wonder the two of them are best friends. Determined to help the ghost in the old, abandoned school building transition to the other side, Annie, Harmony and their friends put the building on lock down, just like Harmony’s idol, Zak Baggins of Ghost Adventures fame, but when they do, they get more than they bargained for. Before they know it, a ghost has attached itself to Annie and Harmony’s hurt and in the hospital. Who is the ghost in the old school? Why is the ghost so drawn to Annie? And what’s the story with Annie’s new boyfriend, Drew?

In Troubled Spirits, Teri Lee pens a good, old-fashioned ghost story that answers these questions, and forces the reader to question what happens to spirits after people die, particularly those who are…well…troubled. I love that Harmony patterns her ghost adventures after Zak’s. Ghost Adventures is a guilty pleasure of mine, and at times, reading Lee’s book was like finding myself in an episode of the show.

Though at times the story seems formulaic (I admit I knew the story with Drew long before Lee reveals his secret), I kept reading because I wanted to see if I was right. And even though I was, I wasn’t disappointed at the revelation. I’m an adult, author and English teacher. I deconstruct literature for a living. A teen audience might not be as literary device savvy as to figure it out and I think the average teen would find the ending the bombshell Lee intended.

Troubled Spirits is good, clean fun that delves into the world of modern ghost hunting with two, more than capable, female protagonists that take care of themselves and the big bad in town, on their own, in true Buffy the Vampire Slayer fashion. The way Harmony and Annie and the gang handle the ghosts and themselves is more than enough to make Zak Baggins proud.

Mamabear gives this book

five-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with author C.G. Carey

Please welcome Chris Carey, author of Temporary Problems, to today’s author spotlight on Britbear’s Book Reviews.

Temporary Problems full coverFrom Goodreads:

John Fox has succeeded in a achieving a mundane life, the suburban house, the silver car, and the steady white-collar job. He doesn’t know anything is lacking, until he meets the woman who will be the love of his life, Sheri. Events conspire to separate the lovers, and in an attempt to avoid returning to the humdrum, John immerses himself in military life and ultimately the war in Afghanistan.

In Operation Herrick, John’s journey takes him from flying on secret Royal Navy helicopter missions, to eventually participating in ground combat operations with American Marines. He finds that war has its own allure of passion, terror, and humor, but at what cost?
Set in contemporary Britain and Afghanistan, Temporary Problems draws parallels between love and war, each having the power to heal and destroy.

Buy Temporary Problems at Black Rose Writing.

Hi, Chris. Wecome back to Britbear’s Book Reviews. Tell the readers–what was your inspiration behind Temporary Problems?

Do you know the saying that there is a book in all of us?  Temporary Problems was the story inside of me.  It’s a cliché answer, but it’s the truth.  The book mirrors my relationships with love and war and how they have both affected me.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read Temporary Problems?

I had written this for broad-spectrum appeal, and I think I came close to achieving that.  Most of the feedback from men and women has been positive but many agree it leans more towards a male audience.  It is written from a man’s perspective.

The story is entertaining enough for light reading, but it also supports the deeper messages.  There is coming of age, love, war, and even a bit of travel around Scotland.  On the military side, it is written from an unusual standpoint.

How much of Temporary Problems is based in reality?

That is very difficult to quantify, it ranges from total fabrication to near word-for-word diary entries. Some of the experiences were not my own, and almost everything in the book has been fictionalised to a greater or lesser degree.

The messages and feelings in the book are real.  Most of the events are based in reality.

There you go, a long and a short answer!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It was in first grade, my father inspired me.

If you had to choose, which writer(s) would you consider a mentor? What is the most important lesson(s) you learned from reading his/her writing?

I usually read non-fiction and am not fixated on any particular author in that genre.  Of the fiction that I have read though, Tom Clancy is whom I have read most and so he must have influenced me a bit.  On this project, Bing West did provide some sage advice that I embraced.

I was fortunate to recently read a manuscript by Rodney Page.  That manuscript reminded me of some basic techniques for writing fiction, in particular methods to prevent over narration.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes!  Writing from the female perspective is particularly challenging for me.  I cannot count the number of times my wife laughed out loud at my attempts to write women’s thoughts and dialogue.  Seemingly, I don’t understand women too well.  Luckily I had a lot of much needed assistance with those parts.

How would you describe your writing style?

My wife strained to say, “contemporary, lively, and insightful.”  She’s the smart one.  I would call it rough, ready, and direct.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I have read all of my reviews and have thus far been able to reply to most of them. I am grateful to anybody who has taken the time to read my work and then taken even more time to review it.

At this stage, if somebody asks me a question, I’ll try and answer it, and then thank him or her.  If somebody is positive, I like to thank them.

[With regards to] advice for handling negative reviews?  I try to remember that peoples’ tastes in books are a lot like tastes in food and drink – they are all highly subjective.  Although I want everybody to like my book, some people will not.  Some suggestions I take on board, others I do not.  And then I thank them.

If the reviews are in a forum like Amazon or Goodreads, etc., I look forward to reading them, but unless asked directly by the reviewer to provide a comment, I plan to leave those forums to the readers.  The audience deserves to have their say without me chiming-in.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I can’t think of anything I would never write about, but I would have to find some aspect of it interesting.  I can laugh at most things and that opens up a lot of topics, although the end product may not be what people expect.

What’s your next writing project? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’ve got a few ideas for my next book project, with two front runners.  I’m either going to write of my great-grandmother’s experiences around the time of the Russian Revolution, or a fast-paced military fiction piece set in the Middle East.

My great-grandma lived a very interesting life, especially early on, and my parents interviewed her in the early 1980s.  It might be my first attempt at a creative-nonfiction/memoir, as her story is incredible.  I may fictionalise it into a novel.  Either way it would also be an incredible challenge for me.  I mean, write a whole book from the female perspective?  Daunting.

I learned from this book where some of my strengths are as a writer.  Writing about the war, although emotionally difficult in places, was creatively easy for me.  The words almost wrote themselves.  I may write to my strengths and blow up Iran, ISIS, or maybe Detroit.

Thanks for the informative interview, Chris. Where can readers learn more about you and your writing?

Webpage | Facebook |

About Christopher Carey:

cgcarey-author-photoC.G. Carey grew up in California and is a lifelong Oakland As fan. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 as an Infantrymen and later attended university in Scotland. He commissioned into the U.S. Navy where he went on to fly in E-25 off of the Eisenhower, Royal Navy H-35 over Afghanistan, and serve with the U.S. Army in Iraq. His awards include some Air Medals and a Combat Action Badge. He retired to Virginia.

“Rogers Park” by Mark Pople – Excerpt

Britbear’s Book Reviews welcomes fellow Black Rose writer Mark Pople, with an excerpt from his novel, Rogers Park.

About Rogers Park:

rogers park coverA shortcut led to the longest six weeks of Brian Casey’s life.

A high school English teacher and self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock junkie from a broken home, Brian has spent his entire life in Rogers Park, the bowels of North Chicago. He longs for a Hitchcockian revenge on the father who deserted him as a child.

Turning into the Farwell-Pratt alley on a bitter February afternoon, little does Brian know that the decision to take this particular shortcut will set into motion a chain of life-altering events. The first link in the chain is a trash bag thrown from a fire escape. The final link is a choice: forgive his father or watch him die. The links between – kinked and tangled, as happens when chains are kept in closets with skeletons – include addiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald, plagiarism, blackmail, and murder.

Rogers Park is a novel about the long road to forgiveness and the harrowing journey one man must endure to reach this destination.

Buy Rogers Park on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Rose Writing.

Excerpt from Rogers Park by Mark Pople:

Consequences be damned. The son-of-a-bitch must die.

Wait, let me try again.

I’m going to kill Daddy and I don’t care if Mommy gets mad.

Yeah, that’s probably how I said it. But I can’t be sure. My six-year-old-child voice eludes me twenty-four years later.

I didn’t say those terrible words out loud, but that didn’t matter. I thought them, like a grownup. Damn, I was proud. I understood that Big Bird and Elmo deserved credit for teaching me sharing and warning me about stranger-danger. But the theory that murder could be a viable solution to problems? I came up with that one all by myself.

He’s so advanced for his age. That’s what the neighbors always said.

The resolution-by-murder epiphany came to me the afternoon my brother Jonathon knelt beside me in our Rogers Park condo. I’d never seen his eyes so misty, his usual smile so unusual. Something was wrong. The Guns N’ Roses backpack our mother gave him for his eighteenth birthday was slung over his shoulder. The zipper strained to contain the bulky contents.

He tousled my hair. “Don’t worry, Brian. I’ll see you again little buddy. Be good. And take care of Mommy.” Then the part I remember most clearly: “But when you can get out, get out.”

He pivoted on a knee and flipped his middle finger at our father who sat with his back to us swirling watered-down scotch and ice slivers in his highball glass. Jonathan stood a moment and looked at the back of the balding head.

Our mother stood by the front door, a feather of a final blockade. Jonathon wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and moved toward her. He whispered something in her ear, brushed a tear from her cheek before kissing it.

He was gone.

* * *

Three years later my father left. He didn’t bother with the kiss.

My mother never remarried. “Why would I do that?” she asked me recently. “Men are a bunch of shits. All they do is leave.” A pause followed this remark, allowing 900 miles of interstate separating us to pave with guilt.

Once again I’d been reminded. I hadn’t yet killed my father.

I still live in Rogers Park, the bowels of North Chicago. Unlike some city neighborhoods boasting park as part of their names, this urban enclave actually has a so-called park, although in February it’s a lonely place. The brown grass is crisp and brittle, frosted white. Bare trees silhouette a faint horizon where Lake Michigan, dressed in grey, mingles with grey sky. At the eastern edge of this winter wasteland is evidence that humans once roamed these parts. A cement wall, graffitied by the city’s best, drops to a crumbling sidewalk running parallel to the Lake Michigan shoreline. This is the point where the park — and I use the term loosely — becomes a beach — and I use the term loosely.

From this wall, take a stroll fifty yards east and you’ll find yourself in Lake Michigan, not where you want to be in February. Stroll half a mile west and you’ll find me, Brian Casey, emerging from the elevated Morse Avenue train station. You can’t miss me. I’m the guy squinting into the wind, the idiot without a hat. I have a satchel-style briefcase slung over one shoulder, a gym bag full of sweaty basketball clothes over the other, and an unwritten novel in my head. Yeah, I’m a true renaissance man.

About the Author:
mark pople photoMark Pople is the winner of the Houston Writers House 2014 novel contest.

Born in Cambridge, England and raised in Pittsburgh, Mark’s literary sensibilities were most inspired by his brief stay in Rogers Park, a northern enclave of Chicago. He now resides in Houston.

Like his novel’s protagonist, Brian Casey, Mark is no stranger to the English classroom. His years spent teaching high school English in Houston, while thankfully not as eventful as those of Brian, served to whet his appetite for written words, occasionally even those of his students.

Mark is currently working on his second novel, South of the Calvary Curve.  He is a member of HWH and is active on Facebook. His email is mpople6@gmail.com.

Here’s where you can read more about Mark Pople and his writing:

| Facebook | Website |

The OIF/OEF Diner’s Guide

Britbear’s Book Reviews welcomes fellow Black Rose Writing author CG Carey, and his book, Temporary Problems, for today’s guest post, The OIF/OEF Diner’s Guide.

Temporary Problems full cover

From the back cover:

John Fox has succeeded in achieving a mundane life, the suburban house, the silver car, and the steady white-collar job. He doesn’t know anything is lacking, until he meets the love of his life. Events conspire to separate the lovers, and in an attempt to avoid returning to the humdrum John immerses himself in military life and ultimately the war in Afghanistan.

In OPERATION HERRICK, John’s journey takes him from flying on secret Navy helicopter missions, to eventually participating in ground combat missions with American Marines. He finds that war has its own allure of passion, terror, and humor, but at what cost?

Set in contemporary Britain and Afghanistan, Temporary Problems draws parallels between love and war, each having the power to heal and destroy.

Buy Temporary Problems on Amazon and Black Rose Writing.

The OIF/OEF Diner’s Guide

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and then up again, I felt obliged to put together a diner’s guide to reminisce.  Who knows, maybe those who feed the troops in the future will incorporate some of the highpoints?

I’ve not included anything smaller than the Forward Operating Base level, as the food supplied anywhere smaller would likely have been delivered from a F.O.B., or would have been field rations/MREs.  Not to mention that the ambience at such locations was often marked by burning feces, near constant automatic weapons fire, and various forms of fireworks provided by the local population and their foreign visitors.  In other words, they sucked too bad to be mentioned.

Worst to Best

Camp Buehring, Kuwait

There were up to three dining facilities (DFACs) on Buehring and they all sucked.  The largest and fanciest of the three was the worst.  This was a small training base, and the only location on the list to give me food poisoning.  If you find yourself at Buehring, stick to Subway.  No stars.

U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Pasta without sauce, and sauce without pasta; who cares as long as the suckers keep paying their mess bills, right? Ham sandwiches every day – yes, every day for aviators.  My squadron saved the sandwiches up and used them for an eating competition. There were no winners.  Adding insult to injury was that we had to pay for that crap they called food.  Once on that tub, you are screwed as there are no other options.  Your best bet is to steal cereal at breakfast, and eat it every meal day, every day.  If you’re flying, pray to divert someplace – any place.  Walk on fat because you’re going to get skinny.  No stars.

Camp Bastion Cookhouses – All, Afghanistan

From the island that gave the world haggis, Britain felt obliged to again display its culinary ineptitude to its former colonials.  At no point should roast turkey breast have air bubbles running through it.  Bizarrely, they managed to do just that and it tasted as strange as it looked.  Whoever was running the place also had a sense of humor, as there was signs posted everywhere reminding people not to sneak out any food.  Don’t worry mate, it was everything in me just to get through the door – your chow’s safe.  It was often loud and never failed to disappoint.  One star.

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

This was one of the fancier DFACs.  It was also over crowded and the food tasted like crap.  If you could get a seat, you would regret having waited in line to eat a marginally better meal than you received at Bastion.  Still, it was better than Bastion, and was pretty flash with neon signs and flat screens.  One and a half stars.

Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan

Maybe I had set my hopes too high?  Maybe I had consistently selected the wrong options?  Maybe it was just shit?  It was always quiet when I visited though and the contractors all wore white shirts with black bowties.  Although the food sucked, the quiet and absurdity of seeing those bowties in Helmand scores Dwyer a solid two stars.

Victory Base Complex – All, Iraq

I don’t remember all the names of all the DFACs on Liberty, Slayer, and Victory, etc. but as a rule, the food was mediocre and the atmosphere loud.  Sometimes they served wings, and some clown thought it was appropriate to shout, literally shout, about those wings non-stop.  I still fanaticize about his violent demise.  Two and a half stars.

Ali Al Salem, Kuwait

This DFAC was run by the Air Force, and you could tell.  The food was much better than Buehring, but it still sucked.  It was so flash inside though, wow!  Lights, neon, flat-screens, tiles, plates and silverware! Three stars.

C.O.B. Speicher, Iraq

This place was nice, big, clean, and reasonably quiet.  It showed the signs of quality suffering from too many mouths to feed.  The food was notably better than anything in Kuwait and VBC, and it was quieter too.  Nowhere near as flash as Ali Al Salem or Arifjan, but much flasher than the top three on this list.  Three and a half stars for only being mildly disappointing.

Flight Line DFAC Camp Bastion, Afghanistan

This was like your local dive.  It was not particularly clean, it could get busy, and the air-conditioning struggled to cope a lot of the time.  All that being said, it was pretty quiet, and was far superior to its closest competition, the Bastion cookhouses.  They also often had Gatorade and fake beers.  I usually liked what these guys fed me, and that they were open when other DFACs were closed.  Four stars for good food, staying open, and being quiet.

Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

Maybe this rank has been inflated because the Brit cookhouses sucked so badly, but when looked at objectively, it has to score highly.  It had identical quality food as the Flight Line DFAC.  Although housed in giant tents, it still gave the illusion of cleanliness and space.  It was often very busy, but usually quiet when I went.  It also was a bit more flash with better air-conditioning than the Flight Line DFAC.  Four and a half stars.

F.O.B. Summerall, Iraq

This place was not flash, but had the benefit of being in a permanent-ish building.  There were a few flat screen T.V.s.  This place was always quiet.  If guys spoke, it was at a near whisper.  The food was the best I’ve had on deployment.  The quality was helped by the fact that there were not very many people on the F.O.B.  It’s just as well the food was decent, as there were no other options except MREs or braving something from the locals out in Bayji.  Every Friday was stir-fry night, and you could count your stir-fry nights until leaving.  Five stars.

Summary

As a rule, the food we received in a combat zone was vastly superior to what we normally were/are subjected to back at home by our respective militaries, this is certainly the case for U.S. and U.K. forces.  I wonder what ISIS thinks of all the DFACs we left behind?

Did [I] miss your favorite DFAC?  Did you run into one worse than at Camp Buering?  Maybe you were poisoned at multiple locations?  Please feel free to add your stories and rankings in the comments below.

cgcarey-author-photo

About Christopher Carey:

C.G. Carey grew up in California and is a lifelong Oakland As fan. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 as an Infantrymen and later attended university in Scotland. He commissioned into the U.S. Navy where he went on to fly in E-25 off of the Eisenhower, Royal Navy H-35 over Afghanistan, and serve with the U.S. Army in Iraq. His awards include some Air Medals and a Combat Action Badge. He retired to Virginia.

Like C. G. Carey on Facebook!

“Redemption” teaches we are capable of rising above hardship

redemption coverIn Redemption: A Parson’s Gap Story, author Samantha Charles pens a gripping tale about Lindy Harrington as she comes to terms with her past, present, and future. After escaping her abusive husband, Lindy returns to Parson’s Gap, the town of her birth, where she is reacquainted with the people from her youth, in particular, ex-boyfriend Kit, friend Grady, and her father, a less than ethical preacher who uses coercion and might to do what he thinks is the Lord’s work. While there, Lindy uncovers clues that indicate the accident best-friend Sara was killed in was no accident, and the murderer is still alive and well and living in Parson’s Gap. Sara’s murder is not the only secret the small town harbours, and it’s not in Lindy’s character to shy away from the truth.

Abused, first by her father and then by her husband, Lindy emerges as a strong, female narrative voice, who refuses to give up her quest until the ghosts of her youth have been exorcised. Though Lindy’s story meanders between high and low, the conflict is compelling. Charles creates an air of mystery throughout, driving the reader to continue reading to discover the truth, alongside Lindy. Besides Lindy, the most interesting character is Lindy’s father, Reverend Carver, whose puritanical façade is pitted against Lindy’s realism. Though Carver preaches redemption, it is Lindy who sets out to achieve it, and she does, emerging victorious in the battle against her father’s warped sense of values, social prejudice, and the fallout from family secrets brought to light.

At times a page turner, at times a sleeper, my main criticism for Redemption is that it sometimes tries to do too much. Among the themes embedded in the novel include incest, homophobia, racism, black market adoption, abortion, religion, infidelity, and abuse. While reading I was unsure if this was a story about a woman’s struggle for self-determination, or a murder mystery, or something else entirely. Many of my reviews include a text-to-text comparison, but I can find none here, which is a good thing, I think, as it serves as testament to Charles’s originality. Samantha Charles’s Redemption: A Parson’s Gap Story, though the characters (save Lindy) are somewhat stereotypical, tells a powerful story against the backdrop of a setting made vibrant to impart the message that all of us are capable of rising above hardship in order to create ourselves anew.

Mamabear gives this book

four-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Read a guest post by Samantha Charles, “Shattering the Silence“.