Monday, September 25, 2023

Michael Eon holds back nothing in “These Things Happen”

In his recently-released book, “These Things Happen,” writer Michael Eon weaves his own battles with substance abuse and a challenging childhood into the story of Daniel Zimmer. I loved this book from the first page and was drawn into the story of Daniel’s early life, which we see transposed with his later years. This book is available through Girl Friday Books.

The characters are really amazing, from Daniel’s brother Max—whose struggles with mental health frame much of his life—to love interests Jill and Brie, to his father. Michael and I talk all about the many people in the book, some of whom came right from Michael’s own life, and the different roles they play. 

Music from bands like The Ramones and Black Sabbath plays a strong part in Daniel’s upbringing, and of course we take the time to nerd out about favorite bands and songs.

Michael also talks about his childhood and his battles with substance abuse. The author shares a lot of details, and we go into who the theme of substance abuse and the message for the readers.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Children’s story takes inspiration from real-life friendship

By Max Bowen

Bridget Hodder
“The Promise,” co-authored by Fawzia Gilani Williams and Bridget Hodder, came to life after Williams read a news account of two friends, one of whom pledged to watch over a family graveyard. Though not quite appropriate for a children’s story, it nonetheless inspired the two to craft their own viewpoint of it.

In this interview, Hodder shares how the story came to be, the significane of the interfaith friendship, and her time working with Williams.

Tell me about the true story that inspired this book.
“The Promise” is an all-ages picture book about blooming in the face of adversity and the power of friendship to endure through war, separation and the passage of time. It's loosely based on the story of two best friends in Morocco during and after WWII, which my co-author Fawzia Gilani Williams discovered in a newspaper article and eagerly shared with me. The newspaper piece particularly sparked our interest because one of the friends in the article was a Muslim, and one was a Jew—just like Fawzia and me—and interfaith friendship is one of our primary inspirations.

Fawzia wrote a first draft of “The Promise” that hewed closely to Moishe and Lahcen's original experience, including the central fact that when Jewish Moishe and his family left Morocco after the war to seek safety in Israel, Muslim Lahcen stayed behind and faithfully tended Moishe's family graveyard for 60 years.

But the graveyard motif didn't sit well with our editor's idea of what might appeal to children. So, I suggested that the meaning would still be exactly parallel if we changed the graveyard into a garden...and the whole lovely tale of growth, faith, and love flowed naturally from that one altered detail.

What’s the significance of the interfaith friendship between the two characters?
As a Sephardic Jew, I come from a cultural background on my mother's side that incorporates the centuries-old traditions of Jewish and Muslim Spain, along with the 500 years my family spent in the Muslim Ottoman Empire after fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. My grandmother was born into the Ottoman Empire before the Greeks took over her homeland and turned the Jews over to the Nazis.

We Sephardim are a little-known but proud minority in Judaism, and to write about who we are, we must also celebrate the Muslim influences that helped shape our cultural identity. One of the reasons I work with Fawzia is to do just that: to show through our books that Jews and Muslims have a long history of positive interaction and mutual learning, and to sow hope and peace like flowers in young hearts.

This is your second book written with Fawzia. What is your collaboration process and how did it change with this book?
Working with Fawzia is a joy, even though we are separated by space and by time zones—she lives in the UAE most of the year, and I live in Massachusetts. Our collaborative process relies a lot on email and Zoom!

Our first co-authored book, a Kirkus-starred middle grade time travel adventure called “The Button Box,” released in 2022, and took about two years to write together with a lot of back-and-forth. Fawzia has published many picture books before, including the award-winning interfaith work “Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam,” so she had a good vision already for how the book would look and feel. As a result, writing “The Promise” took about half the time of “The Button Box.”

I really loved the illustrations by Cinzia Battistel. How did you meet up and what was the process working with them?
We love the illustrations, too! I cried when I first saw our ideas expressed so beautifully in her art. Unless a picture book author is both a writer and an illustrator, the selection of the artist is up to the publisher. So, when the team at our publisher chose Cinzia, Fawzia and I were thrilled.

When we got the first sketches from Cinzia, they were already nearly perfect. We were able to suggest tweaks for details and cultural authenticity, which she took care of on the very next round of sketches. The whole process was a very harmonious and peaceful one—in keeping with the topic of the book!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Citywide Comic Spotlight: Reveal Out!

Creator: Treasure

Assisted By: Hinahina Gray and Caribo

Publisher: Webtoon

Ever wish you could go back and live those milestone years of your youth all over again? This amazing Webtoon series gives the main character Eeden the chance to do just that, and the results are a blend of hilarious and deeply emotional.

Eeden is living a life with a fair amount of regret—her art career is going nowhere, she’s been evicted from her apartment, and the woman she loves doesn’t even know it. Eeden is clearly hurting, and along with her choices, it seem a lot of that stems from her father, who never accepted that his daughter is gay. Long story short—nothing is going right.

All that changes when Eeden wakes up one morning to find herself years in the past—all the way to her first days of college. All of a sudden, she has the perfect chance to do things all over again, and do them right! But can things work out, even knowing how it all goes?

It’s the story that really captured my interest. When I found this series, it was five episodes in, and before I knew it I had read them all. That’s how much I was drawn in. Eeden’s character really captures that desire for a ‘do-over.’ I think we’ve all been there, and I found myself reflected in her desire for a second chance.

Art-wise, I really dig the style. Given that Eeden is an artist herself, I saw the technique as someone inspired by the greats, but eager to put their own twist on things. Above all else, the method of conveying emotion is really on point.

This story brings a lot of depth, emotion, and the twists keep you waiting for the new episode. Highly recommended.

William Sterling shows us why puppets are just terrifying

William Sterling

I think we can all agree on that one, right? So of course these creepy dolls would find themselves into the pages of William Sterling’s soon-to-be-released book, “String Them Up,” out on Sept. 22 through Crystal Lake Publishing.

In this interview, William takes us through the town of Hollow Hills, which is plagued by a series of brutal murders. We meet the toymaker, once a beloved member of the community, now the prime suspect in the killings. William talks about Sinclair Redman, a man with a dark and haunted past who must unearth the truth behind the killings as the bodies continue to pile up.

William talks about the concept of toys in horror and why it appealed to him for his new book. We look at his first time working with a publisher and his own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to promoting his work. Plus, there’s a great giveaway for those that pre-order the book!

Friday, September 15, 2023

Jonathan Panetta talks mental health and music

As it says in his bio, Jonathan Panetta is “trying to heal the world with a hard rock brain and a punk rock heart.”

In this episode, we talk about how songs like “Inner Demons” deal with mental health and what he hopes people take from listening to them. Jonathan shares the creation process behind his new EP and the different avenues he goes down when it comes to sound and style.

Jonathan’s done some collaborating, particularly with friend of the show Dany Horovitz on the single “Make Use of Your Time,” which was inspired by the “Life is Strange” video game series. We talk about working with Dany, how this happened, and other artists he’s worked with. Jonathan and I do a little nerding out over the game, the amazing soundtrack and some of the takeaways from the story.

“Inner Demons” also has its own music video, and Panetta worked with Nesskaf Productions and we look at the planning process and cool visuals seen throughout.

Opening this episode is an excerpt from “Make Use of Your Time” and closing things out is the full track, “Inner Demons.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

David Behling kicks off his comedic sci-fi universe

David Behling
By Max Bowen

You can’t say that David Behling isn’t ambitious.

In early October, he will release “Josh & Sen Save the Multiverse: The Path of One,” part one of a 15-book series. Yep, you read that right.

In this interview, David talks about what kicked off this book, how his own background factored into the worldbuilding, and who Josh and Sen are.

The book will be released on Oct. 3 through Cadence Group. You can learn more at

I read that this book is the first of a 15-part series. Was it always your plan to make such a lengthy series?
What a great question! Actually no, I didn’t intend to have 15 projected books when I first sat down to write. Now, I had always intended to write a series. I believe that multiple installments is the only way to adequately develop a universe, and the characters in that universe, without boring the readers to death at any one time. At least I hope I’m not boring them to death!

I planned maybe three or four books. I was originally going to write about a mortal who had gotten serendipitously enlightened to Immortality through accidental exposure to Immortal Ka. He would then go on Immortal Masters' missions to protect mortals from extinction at the hands of diabolical Immortals feeding off of mortal sapients like herd animals ignorant to advance their own cultivations. It still seems cool to me, and, who knows . . . I may still write it someday. But when I started putting words on the screen for this idea, I thought that it was much more interesting to bring an Immortal down to mortality and have them go through the levels of mortal cultivation to Transcendence and beyond . . . And then I decided that these cultivators would need to also save the multiverse . . . As formidable as Josh and Sen are . . . to accomplish these lofty goals, it will take quite some doing. I have them slated for 12-13 books to get through mortal cultivation and two to three books in Immortal Transcendence to get the Multiverse out of trouble.

What can we expect in future books?
Hehe, I am just about finished with the copy edit on the second book: “Karma and Bigger Fish.” Which I plan to release March 2024. When that is done, I will start the developmental edit on the third: “The Lover’s Trove.” Which has been all out of my head and in electrons since mid-July. I am about to start writing the fourth: “Star Child / Void Child.” So, I have pretty good ideas what to expect in these.

In general, Josh and Sen realize that they are just small actors on a much larger cosmic stage. But for some reason, Karma, Balance and Reality have taken notice of Josh and Sophie’s separation, and are actively working to empower Josh enough to reunite them. We will learn that Sophie has a major role in this show as well. We will also see that, as powerful and ‘all knowing’ as Immortals are, they may be subject to the same failings and foibles that we all are. Josh and Sen will advance in general advance in cultivation one step per book. They make new friends, and some new enemies. Josh and Sen will need to clean up some of the trash in their part of the galaxy before it cleans them up. They also learn that they are multiversal persons of interest and will need to continue their growth before some very old and powerful cultivatory monsters decide it is better to be rid of them then to allow Karma and Balance to wreak havoc with the ongoing multiversal plans.

Do you have a plan for how often or when they’ll be released?
Assuming people like reading about Josh & Sen as much as I like writing about them, I plan on releasing a new installment every five to six months.

Let’s talk about Josh and Sen. Where did they come from?
On really good days, sometimes it feels like I’m just recording a story that has already occurred. I know a good deal of Josh and Sen comes from this blessing of the Muses. On top of this, it is true that you write what you know. I know a little about the law, medicine, Chicago, Florida, divorce, science, history, martial arts, being separated from your kids, feeling powerless but not being able to give up, unattainable family expectations . . . a bit about science fiction, fantasy, pop culture and mythology. . . So I would have to say that Josh and Sen came from little parts of this knowledge rolling around inside of my brain and how I apply them in my own life. Much of this is absolutely magnified out of proportion in the books to their actual representation in my life, but definitely from there.

Lastly, at a certain point, the people you are writing about take on a life of their own. If you keep writing about them, their reactions are shaped by how they reacted in their past.

How do the two get along through the course of the book?
Without any spoilers . . . there are some definite rough patches for Josh & Sen. But at their core, each is a good sort and they work through them. By the end of the Path of One, their relationship is moving to what it will become in the remainder of the series . . . brotherhood. They come to depend on each other for more than their skills, powers, and abilities . . . but find in one another a guy they trust and can count on when the chips are down and the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed a train with its brakes out and hauling several boxcars of loose nitroglycerine.

This is your first book. What led you to pursue writing?
The pandemic had a tremendous effect on the entire world. This was particularly true in third-world countries that relied on tourism for their incomes.

In 2021, we were visiting family in Bali, and saw how desperate the people were for help and hope. My wife and I have a tremendous love for the Balinese people so we invested in our local community with time and funds. But, somehow my word-fevered mind wondered what it would be like to have a couple of guys, who in our time of need, would go to the mattresses for us all. It triggered in me the idea of Josh and Sen Saving the Multiverse. So, incredibly, at least to me, I started working on a goal I’d had since I was a kid in high school but had long forgotten. I began writing.

I like how the book is comedic. What’s your preferred kind of humor and how did you weave it into the book?
Thank you! In a group setting, I always find it easiest to laugh at myself. So I aim the humor at embarrassing moments for Josh & Sen in the books. They make pretty easy targets in their own individual ways

Did any aspects of your own life help in the writing process?
According to a study published about 20 years ago, the one quality all medical students share is not intelligence, a desire to help others, or to study science. It is the ability to delay gratification. I suspect that this helps me with writing. When writing, there are no rewards until you have invested a significant amount of time, energy, blood, sweat and tears. In my case, I’ve been writing every day for over a year . . . and I’m still waiting to see if people will like what I offer.

I read in your bio that you’re a “born sci-fi, fantasy, and video game admirer.” Any books or games that inspired you in any way?
Many and many more!

As I’m sure they have for many authors, J.R.R Tolkien’s books, “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” have inspired me greatly. His way of creating ultimate good vs evil has always made me to want to create my own world also reflecting these qualities.

In the genre of game literature, The 12-book Cradle Series. Will Wight’s broadly sweeping creativity, world building and taking his hero from less than nothing to the heights of absolute, world-shattering power has inspired me to see if I can do the same for my heroes.

But perhaps as much as any of these, Advanced Dungeon and Dragons. I was a kid, in a group of kids that would sit around a table on Saturday afternoons, exploring our imaginations through a world created by one of us. Taking our chances, rolling our dice and seeing how the fates of our characters unfolded. I’m so old that several of our group are now gone. But I can still see our faces over a shared pizza. Excited when we won. Laughing when we lost. Very good times!

Lastly, I have played WoW since its release almost 20 years ago (11/2004). I have been inspired by the depth and richness of the world Azeroth. The intricacy of its quest/story lines. The need to rely on groups to get to the universe's darkest corners and not least of all its humor, some subtle, some not so much.

But read the books and see where else. I’m not very subtle when I steal from any of the hundreds of the movies I have loved watching over the last 50 years!

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Death is just the beginning in Susannah Marren’s new book

In mystery thrillers, a death often happens right off the bat. Such is the case with our next guest, but we also get a slew of tightly-held family secrets.

In this interview, Curtis and I sit down with author Susannah Marren to talk about her newest book, “Maribelle's Shadow,” in which the death of Maribelle Walker’s adored and impressive husband Samuel unearths the secrets and lies between Maribelle and her sisters. Curtis and I talk about the theme of secrets, a common element in Susannah’s work and why it plays such a prominent role. We also look at how Samuel’s death leads to those secrets being revealed.

Susannah has a long career in teaching gender studies and guest teaching creative nonfiction. She talks about the research she did for the book, which included interviewing many women across the country, and what she learned. She also shares her favorite and most challenging parts to write.