Monday, August 21, 2017

"Fender" by Brent Jones

by Brent Jones

Fender by Brent Jones

Author Brent Jones stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from his latest novel, Fender. You can also read my review.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on The Fifteenth of June.

How far must we travel to find our way home?
Nothing could have prepared Brennan Glover for the car crash that claimed the lives of his wife and six-year-old daughter. Stricken with grief, the only things that get him through each day are breaking his sobriety and clinging to Fender - the family dog and the sole survivor of the crash.
Desperate to distance Brennan from tragedy, his two closest friends take him on the cross-country road trip they had always talked about. But what begins as an effort to mend his broken heart ends up unraveling a secret that changes everything he thought he knew about his family. Can a journey of six thousand miles lead Brennan to acceptance and new beginnings?
From finding the good in an often cruel world to learning to say goodbye to those we love most, this sophomore release from author Brent Jones is sure to leave readers longing for home, wherever that may be.

Brennan sat on the living room floor staring at his polished shoes, his back pressed against the leather sofa, a bottle of Jim Beam in his left hand, a lit cigarette in his right. Traces of afternoon sun peeked through lush drapes, adding a hint of color to an otherwise dark and empty room. He tilted the bottle back and flicked ash in an empty drinking glass between his legs, trickles of silver smoke rising up past his face. He was too stricken with grief to hear the front door open.
“You here, Bee?” Rocco entered with Franky in tow. He lowered his head, taking in the scene before him. “We’re so sorry.” He offered Brennan a sympathetic frown, his forehead wrinkled with worry. “How’re you holding up?”
Brennan flicked more ash in the drinking glass without responding.
Rocco let out a deep breath, added, “It was a beautiful service.”
Brennan kept his head down, making no effort to suggest he had heard Rocco.
“Should we come back later?”
“It’s all right if you wanna be alone,” said Franky.
Brennan raised his eyes with pronounced difficulty. He was immediately turned off by their concern, which looked a lot to him like judgment and shame. Rocco, evidently concerned about his drinking, and Franky, concerned because Rocco was concerned. “Go ahead,” said Brennan. “Say it.”
“Say what?” asked Rocco, exchanging a glance with Franky.
Brennan dropped his cigarette in the glass, raised the Jim Beam to his lips. “Say I shouldn’t be drinking again.”
“What you’re going through right now, Bee, I understand—”
“Oh, you always understand, Rocco. Don’t you? Not thisss one, though. You fucking can’t. You didn’t loosh yer family.” Brennan could hear himself slurring.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“He’s saying he’d be fucked up, too,” Franky chimed in. “That’s all.”
Brennan hadn’t taken a drink since the day his daughter was born—hadn’t smoked a cigarette since that day, either—and he knew drinking himself senseless was no way to honor her memory. Just this one time, he had told himself. I need this today. But so far, it had brought him no peace. It only heightened his sense of hopelessness.
A faint jingle echoed down the hallway, getting closer, a senior beagle with a limp and fresh stitches emerging at last. Franky knelt down, extended his hands. “Fender,” he said in a singsong voice, scratching behind the dog’s ears. “Who’s a good boy, Fender? Who’s a good boy?”
Fender parked himself at Franky’s feet—not out of obedience or affection, but sheer exhaustion. He was normally playful and energetic—even at twelve years old—and never allowed anyone to enter the house without barking to alert his humans. But at that moment he whimpered, sullen and subdued, rubbing his snout against Franky’s leg.
“When’s the last time he ate?” Rocco asked.
Brennan shook his head.
Rocco motioned to Franky. “Why don’t you take Fender out for a bathroom break? Maybe fill up his food and water bowls, too.”
Franky nodded and Fender followed him out of the room.
Rocco sat on the floor next to Brennan. “Listen, Bee, I get that this is tough.”
Brennan rubbed his temples and said nothing. He was a sensitive man, emotional, fragile at times, and now near speechless. He could almost feel himself shutting down, giving in to the pain, letting go of the world. It felt like he was drowning in a sea of sorrow, violent waves of grief washing over him, and he was losing the will to keep his head above water.
Rocco touched Brennan’s shoulder. “Me and Franky want to take you away for a little bit. It’d do you good.”
“Yeah.” Rocco motioned to the Jim Beam. “I think now’s good. You’ve been outta work for a couple months. I’ve got vacation time saved up at the office, and Franky can walk away from roofing anytime. We were thinking of taking that trip to California we’d always talked about.”
“We talked ’bout ’at shit when wurrr kidsss.”
“Yeah, I get that, but we could still do it. We’d make a road trip out of it, just like you, me, Franky, and Colin—” Rocco winced, having unintentionally drudged up the past.
“My family was just kilt in a car crasssh,” said Brennan. “And you think the best place furr me ish out on the open road?”
Rocco nodded. “I do, Bee. You need to get away and clear your head.”
Brennan listened without speaking, his line of sight again lowered toward his shoes. Tears spilled down his cheeks.
“You can’t stay here by yourself. It’s—it’s too much. It’s too much for anyone to have to handle.” Rocco glanced at Brennan through narrowed and swollen eyes. “Our hearts are heavy, too, and we all need to grieve. But nothing good can come of you sitting here alone and drinking. You need something to take your mind off it.”
Franky returned a minute later. Fender hobbled behind him, his movements labored and graceless, his eyes wet and dark. He positioned himself near Brennan in slow motion. Fender was the last member of the Glover household to see Rosie and Abby alive, and the only survivor of the crash that killed them both.
“Did he eat?” asked Rocco, gesturing toward Fender.
“Not much.” Franky changed gears without blinking. “What’d he say?” He asked the question as if he and Rocco were alone in the room.
“Bee says he’s gonna think on it,” Rocco said, standing. He looked down at Brennan before walking out. “You will give it some thought, right? That’s all I’m asking.”
The house was quiet again, but Brennan was certain nothing could silence the storm in his heart. He ran his finger over the tattoo on his left shoulder through his shirt, as he often did during difficult times. He knew its intricacies by heart—the anniversary of Colin’s death inked in a simple script. He once thought losing his best friend had prepared him for anything life might throw his way, but now he knew better.

Praise for the Book
"I enjoyed and highly recommend Fender - and I have little doubt this book will tug at the heartstrings of anyone who reads it." ~ Dana
"The novel Fender by Brent Jones was amazing. This is the second book I have read by this author and I am impressed [...] I could relate to many of the characters in this book, they were well developed and I felt invested in each of them, especially Fender. The manner in which the story unfolds triggers sympathy and compassion by the reader. The story will impact you positively and give you important life lessons/experiences to think about [...] Overall, I liked this novel even more than the previous and I cannot wait to read what the author has in store for us next!" ~ Karley
"This second novel written by Brent Jones makes me want to read more by him. Keep them coming, Brent!" ~ Beth
"It's another out of the park hit for him. [...] Brent's books are very inspiring and you can identify with his characters." ~ Denise Levendoski
"Brilliant second novel from Brent Jones." ~ David H

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Brennan is in mourning after losing his wife Rosie and his daughter Abby in a car crash. The only one who survived the crash is his twelve-year-old beagle Fender. Worried about Brennan's self-destructive behavior, his friends Rocco and Franky convince him to go on a cross-country road trip from New York to California. Brennan reluctantly agrees to the road trip, as long as Fender can join them. What follows is a tragic-comic series of events that proves that the journey is more important than the destination.
The current day story is intertwined with flashbacks to how Brennan met Fender, his relationship with Rosie, and his friendship with Rocco, Franky, and the absent Colin. We learn the role Fender played -  and continues to play - in Brennan's life, and how Fender saves him on more than one occasion. It's nice to see how Brennan grows over the course of the book.
As well as being a story of family, friendship, and forgiveness, Fender is a delightful travelogue, mirroring the author's own experiences on a cross-country trip taken with his wife and two dogs. This explains the remarkable detail of the seemingly mundane experiences Brennan and his friends encounter along the way. I especially enjoyed Franky's interaction with the Mormons.
Full of humor and pathos, this is a story about the redemptive power of friendship, and how one dog can make such a big difference.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references.

Interview With the Author
Brent Jones joins me today to discuss his novel, Fender.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
There's some strong language in the book and some suggestive sexual themes, but no explicit sexuality. There are references to drinking alcohol and a few instances of violence. If this were a movie, I would say it would be PG-13.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I wanted to combine two seemingly different experiences I've had into a single work of fiction - my love for my dog, Gibson, who has helped me through some difficult times, and a cross-country road trip I took with my wife in 2015. Those were the starting points. From there I had to figure out how to weave a story around those ideas.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The idea for the novel came first, but the character's story allows those starting points to be explored more fully. The open road becomes a symbol for new beginnings, and the dog, Fender, becomes a symbol for hope.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Because the book is set over a cross-country road trip, it meant the scene was constantly changing. Combine that with revealing backstory from a decade before, and it made it quite challenging at times to keep the story flowing in one cohesive narrative.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
It is an emotional story, and if I'm able to provoke a reaction from the reader of any sort, I feel like I've won. In the end, I'd like readers to hug the people closest to them. We're all just fleeting memories in the end.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I've rewritten this book start to finish at least three or four times. The original draft took close to four months, and then longer to get all the revisions and rewrites done correctly.
What is your writing routine?
It varies. I like to write in the morning because I find my mind most active then. But sometimes, depending on how the mood strikes, I'll start my day with a bike ride to clear my head, then start writing in the afternoon. I'll write for 4-5 hours a day before my creativity goes stagnant and I lose my focus.
How did you get your book published?
I self-published it through KDP and CreateSpace. The audiobook version will be coming soon, and it will be published through ACX.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Anyone can be a published writer - the world of self-publishing made that option available to us all. My best advice? Write often, read often, and publish something you wrote, even if it's just a short story, to start. You have to start somewhere.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I'm an avid cyclist. I also take boxing lessons and play the guitar. I love to read, to hang out with my wife and dogs, and I've been known to play the occasional video game.
What does your family think of your writing?
They've been very supportive - my parents were both ARC readers for Fender! My wife helps me work through revisions and promote what I publish. She's the best.
That's great. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
My childhood? Well, I grew up in a home without a computer and, at the time, the Internet wasn't really a thing, either. My father worked at a paper factory, and he often brought home notebooks and scrap paper for me. I spent a lot of evenings and weekends doodling and writing short stories.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Not really. I always liked to write, but I didn't start enjoying reading until I was in my twenties.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Sometime last year, when I realized my work as a freelance social media manager brought me no joy. I thought I could maintain the same freedom and flexibility I did as a freelancer while doing something I enjoyed - writing fiction!
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I imagine so. I grew up in a working class family living in a blue collar city, and I think those types of characters make frequent appearances in my work. I relate to people with real world problems better than trust fund kids.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I love this question because I don't have a clear answer to it. Three authors whose writing I'd love to emulate - all who happen to be Canadian - include Douglas Coupland, Mordecai Richler, and Nelly Arcan. How much have they influenced what I write? I can't be sure. But all three are excellent at writing flawed characters and character-driven stories.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I was overwhelmed with the amount of positive feedback on my first novel, The Fifteenth of June. I published it without expectation - it was my debut! I figured a few people might like it, some might not, and that would be that. But between Amazon and Goodreads, that book has close to 100 reviews online now, most of them four stars or better. I've been invited to a number of local events at libraries and book clubs where people have come out to see me because they enjoyed my work. It's a strange feeling. And every now and then, someone will reach out to tell me that my characters swear too much and the female characters I write are shallow and overly sexualized. Meh. Can't please 'em all.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Fender is my second novel. I have a third in the works, as well as several short stories.
Sounds great! Thanks for stopping by today, Brent. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.
Jones writes from his home in Fort Erie, Canada. He’s happily married, a bearded cyclist, a mediocre guitarist, (sometimes) vegetarian, and the proud owner of two dogs with a God complex.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

This Week on Books Direct - 19 August 2017

This Week on Books Direct -
19 August 2017

This Week on Books Direct - 19 August 2017

Here's a list of some great articles you may have missed this week. Enjoy!

Can One Journal Writer Influence The World? (Let’s Find Out) by Kathi Ostrom Gowsell for Positive Writer

Can One Journal Writer Influence The World? (Let’s Find Out) by Kathi Ostrom Gowsell for Positive Writer

An Image Can Tell A Story by Tina Gayle

Authors, Do You Ever Feel Fatigued Over Marketing & Sales? by Hans M. Hirschi

I got Wiblingen Monastery Library, Germany. How about you?

Design A Library For Your House And We'll Reveal Which Real Library You Should Visit This Year by Giorgina McKay for BuzzFeed

Staying Positive While Writing About Death And Tragedy by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli for Writer's Digest

Staying Positive While Writing About Death and Tragedy by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli for Writer's Digest

The Doubts And Fears That Hold Us Back (And What To Do About Them) by Bryan Hutchinson for Positive Writer

6 Free, Simple Blogging Tools You'll Want To Actually Use by Meet Edgar

How To Use Subplots To Bring Your Story Together podcast with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait for Australian Writers' Centre
Read the notes here.

How To Use Subplots To Bring Your Story Together podcast with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait for Australian Writers' Centre

Chinese Crime Novelist Is Arrested In 4 Murders From 2 Decades Ago by Amy Qin for The New York Times

If you enjoyed this blog post, please visit the other This Week posts for links to more great articles.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Beautiful Mess" by John Herrick

Beautiful Mess
by John Herrick

Beautiful Mess by John Herrick

Beautiful Mess by John Herrick is currently on tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well. Don't miss out on getting your copy of Beautiful Mess for only $1.99 (save $6.00) to 26 August.

A fallen star. Four Los Angeles misfits. And the Marilyn Monroe you only thought you knew.
Del Corwyn is an aging relic. An actor who advanced from errand boy to Academy Award nominee, Del kept company with the elite of Hollywood’s golden era and shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Today, however, he faces bankruptcy.
Humiliated, Del is forced to downgrade his lifestyle, sell the home he's long cherished, and fade into a history of forgotten legends - unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe - and proof that she named him its legal guardian.
Del surges to the top of Hollywood’s A-list overnight. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect, and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream?
A story of warmth, humor, and honesty, Beautiful Mess follows one man's journey toward love and relevance where he least expects it - and proves coming-of-age isn't just for the young.

Book Video

“I have an intriguing prospect for a new film,” Del replied as he took a seat. He tapped the manila envelope tucked under his arm, which contained Marilyn’s script.
He could’ve sworn he caught Arnie in the onset of an eye roll brought to a sudden halt.
“What kind of project?”
“A pop-culture type of thing. You could say it has a retro feel to it.”
Arnie sighed. “Del, I realize you like to relive the past—”
“This is a winner, Arnie. I guarantee it.”
“And what does this winning project involve?”
“Marilyn Monroe. It’s a screenplay.”
“With all due respect, isn’t that a bit clich├ęd? This would need to be an angle no one else has covered. Many people have done films about Marilyn Monroe, not to mention books and memorabilia and everything else under the sun.”
“You don’t understand. This isn’t about Marilyn Monroe.” Del felt a surge of adrenaline and couldn’t contain himself. He leaned forward and, with great pomp, planted the thick package on Arnie’s desk. It landed with a thump. “It’s by Marilyn Monroe.”
Arnie sat open-mouthed as he tried to follow along. His eyes widened in perplexity. “By Marilyn Monroe,” he repeated.
“That’s right.”
“Del, what the hell are you talking about?”
With a lighthearted laugh, Del eased back into the chair. “Last night, I rummaged through some boxes I’d stored away long ago. Hadn’t looked through them in years. Relics from my heyday. Things I’d forgotten I’d saved. And at the bottom of one of those boxes, I found this.”
He patted the envelope, which crinkled at his touch.
“It’s a script, given to me in 1962.” Del caught Arnie’s eye to make sure the man paid full attention. “Written by Marilyn Monroe.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"A creative and fresh romp through one of pop culture's most notorious tales. John Herrick's characters become your best friends. His world is keen, compelling and excessively alive." ~ Jeffrey James Keyes, New York Times bestselling author and James Patterson co-writer
"Beautiful Mess is an engaging work of fiction, a compelling and delicious 'what if' about one of the most celebrated and tragic figure in Hollywood history." ~ Foreword Reviews
"It's a unique story, and heartwarming in the reality of friendship. A Beautiful Mess hits you with a moral question, 'What would you do if...?' and makes you stop to think what is really important to living your own life. Highly recommended!" ~ Glenda
"If you enjoy reading about Hollywood, this is the book for you. Very good character development that will keep you reading well into the night. Very good book and I immensely enjoyed it. Read this book, you will not regret it." ~ vnunez-msluv2read
"There is nothing better than reading a book of fiction that can take you places you have never been, yet you feel like you are right there with the characters. Herrick does this masterfully." ~ Laura

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
As an eighteen-year-old, Del Corwyn had the pleasure of meeting and working with Marilyn Monroe. Now, sixty years later, Del is a seventy-eight-year-old bachelor looking for a comeback role that will earn him the Oscar he missed out on forty years earlier. Circumstances conspire to bring him together with three other "misfits": Nora Jumelle, an up-and-coming actress; Felicia, a female minister; and Tristan, who masquerades online as a wellness coach. Their tales intertwine around a script Marilyn Monroe wrote and entrusted to Del in 1962. Del must decide whether to make the script public; it's just what he needs to resurrect his career, but why does the thought of it make him feel so guilty?
This is the story of unlikely friendships and romances. The book is cleverly divided into three parts, which are named after some of Marilyn's movies and hint at what is to come. The short chapters move the pace along and encourage you to keep reading just one more chapter. Told from the points-of-view of Del, Nora, and Tristan, it feels like Felicia misses out here. The author tells us how old everyone is when they are introduced, giving a sense of how important the concept of age is in Hollywood. He also draws clever parallels between the lives of Nora Jumelle and Marilyn Monroe - their names, childhood experiences, rise to stardom, and mental states. Peppered with cameos from real Hollywood actors, this reads more like dramatized nonfiction than a novel. I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends when I turned the last page.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, mental illness.
Also included at the end of the book: Reading Group Guide, an interview with the author, and insight into the author's writing process.

Guest Post by the Author (originally published on the author's website)
My Inspiration Behind Beautiful Mess
In 2010, I read a biography about Marilyn Monroe for pleasure. I had seen some of her films and loved them, but knew little about her. When I read that she had spent time - against her will - in a mental care facility, I was stunned. Imagine being fully functional and of sound mind, but losing your freedom through no fault of your own. I considered how frightened she must have felt, wondering if she would ever escape, pleading for someone to believe her. And all because she was misunderstood. Then I considered how such an experience might scar its victim. Would it change her perception of life? Would she grow paranoid of others, especially after those she trusted had betrayed her? As a creative individual, what might she find as a therapeutic activity to regain her confidence?
After all these years, I still couldn’t shake my horror behind her predicament. I remembered she was once married to author Arthur Miller, who, I was surprised to learn, wrote and co-wrote some of her films. I considered their familiarity with each other as spouses. Did she observe Miller as he wrote? Did she read his drafts or offer opinions? Did she learn from him as a creative force? In that light, the idea of a screenplay penned by Marilyn Monroe seemed plausible. The compelling nature of all those facts and questions led to the backstory behind Beautiful Mess.
Then came Del Corwyn, the main character. For American actors and actresses, it can become a stepping stone to better roles. For foreign actors and actresses, it can open the door to American film, which is considered the best and most successful in the world. But through the years, I’ve wondered about actors and actresses who receive Academy Award nominations - perhaps even win the statue - who immediately disappear from the box office. Think about it: Mercedes Ruehl, Juliette Binoche, and Jean Dujardin were all lauded after their wins. But when was the last time we heard from them? It was in this vein that Del Corwyn was born.

About the Author
John Herrick
A self-described "broken Christian", John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.
Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri - Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his novel-writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.
The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick's From the Dead as "a solid debut novel". Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed. Publishers Weekly predicted "Herrick will make waves" with his novel Between These Walls.
Herrick's nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters (FREE) introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free ebook surpassed 150,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon's Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.
His latest novel, Beautiful Mess, folds the legend of Marilyn Monroe into an ensemble romantic-comedy.
Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. "It was a challenge but also a growth process," he acknowledges. "But in retrospect, I can see God's fingerprints all over it."

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle version of Beautiful Mess plus Kindle versions of entire John Herrick backlist.

Be sure to check out the author's website for a Reading Group Guide, Virtual Soundtrack, Trivia Nuggets, and Excerpts. Plus, sign up for the author's newsletter to receive a FREE copy of The Prince Meets the Showgirl, a prelude to Beautiful Mess.

The Prince Meets the Showgirl by John Herrick