Thursday, May 30, 2019

Author Interview: Steve Starger, Author of Misfits and Supermen

Steve Starger is a journalist, author, and musician. His 2006 book, “Wally’s World: The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Wally Wood, the World’s Second-Best Comic-Book Artist,” was short-listed for the Will Eisner Industry Award for Best Comics Related Book of 2006.

As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books.  Can you tell us what your book is about?

Misfits and Supermen is a memoir about my relationship with my older brother, Melvyn, who was afflicted with multiple psychiatric disorders that kept him institutionalized most of his life.

Can you give us an excerpt?

1 Ardman Drive, circa 1950:
My father, my brother and I are seated at the kitchen table. I am 10 years old; my brother is 18. We all have glasses of tomato juice; Melvyn and I also have milk. My father has a cup of coffee. It’s too early for the daily tension to roll in, so the mood is relatively cordial. My father is reading the paper or cracking one-liners, which make us laugh. My mother is preparing salami and eggs and toast. In the middle of one of my father’s jokes, Melvyn starts to flap his arms, which is one of the ways he shows joy. (I find out in later years that psychiatrists call these actions “stimming,” or self-stimulation. They are most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.) This activity, coupled with Melvyn’s abnormally thin frame, transforms him into some kind of wild bird, flapping his wings excitedly. No one knows where this sudden behavior comes from but it appears harmless, so no one gets upset. It happens frequently, and if it means that Melvyn is feeling happy about something, it’s all to the good. For my young self, it’s like watching a Daffy Duck cartoon. I laugh when he does it—not with him, but at him. In a sudden flip of his arm, Melvyn’s hand hits his glass of tomato juice, sending the red liquid flying across the table like a storm surge. Everything stops. My father’s paper is soaked, as is the entire table and all of us there. My father looks disgusted, or perhaps just defeated, accepting another inevitable calamity caused by Melvyn. My mother turns around, and her face sinks at the chaos. One more disaster to clean up. She grabs a towel and begins to sop up the mess, which is now seeping onto the floor. While my mother fights a losing battle with the juice, my brother jerks his hand again and hits his glass of milk. The white liquid spreads over the red pool on the table, mixing like watercolors. Melvyn is the first to speak, a kind of triumph for him. “F-first t-t-he milk, t-t-hen the juice,” my brother starts to chant. My father looks at his older son and his face changes, lightens up, chasing away the chaos that has suddenly engulfed his morning. I pick up the phrase, and soon we’re chanting in unison, “First the milk, then the juice!” My mother is not amused. She continues cleaning, using up towel after towel. Breakfast will have to wait. My mother turns off the stovetop and stands still, on the verge of tears. If God would strike her dead at this very moment, it would be a mitzvah (a blessing).
It never occurs to me that Melvyn has the same range of emotions as I do. I laugh at him, but worse, I resent his existence in that rudimentary manner that characterizes youthful solipsism. I view my brother as an alien in the house, someone dark and unfathomable who threatens my unformed and uninformed self. I fight back with anger and insults, which contributes in no small way to the tension that fills our home, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with precious little relief.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?

Study the great writers to see how they did what they did; beware of adjective creep and adverb bombardment; write true; pay attention to your inner and outer worlds!

What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?

I don’t know how interesting it is, but I generally cannot continue writing until I have the right lede. I don’t really want to know the ending up front, but the lede is what takes me into the piece.

Do you hear from your readers?  What do they say?

Readers occasionally contact me; mostly, it’s positive re the work or the style. Sometimes, I get good, constructive criticism as well.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I think it goes back to college English papers, and the implication that bull**** well said is still bull****.

What has been your best accomplishment?

In writing? My current book, Misfits and Supermen.

Do you Google yourself?

Yes, occasionally, mostly to see what’s out there.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

The usual box-full. I sometimes pick at those to find something I might be able to use for another work.

Fun question – if you were princess or prince, what’s one thing you would do to make your kingdom a better place?

Princesses and princes really aren’t my thing.

Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?

I appreciate you very much. You make us who we are.

The bond of brotherhood is hard to break, but a lifetime of dealing with familial expectation, bitterness, and psychological disorders can bend and warp it into something nearly unrecognizable. This story tells the tale of two brothers: Melvyn, the elder, whose amalgamation of disorders leave him completely unable to function within society; and Stephen, the younger, whose own emotional and psychological issues are overshadowed to the point where he becomes little more than a pale and twisted reflection of his brother.

On different ends of the same spectrum, Melvyn is blissfully unaware of their troubling connection (or so his brother can only assume), but for Stephen, it is undeniable. He lives with it every day, sensing his own otherness in every twitch, outburst, and inability of his brother to overcome his inner demons. Left largely on his own to deal with his peculiarities-while carrying the burden of being "the normal one," of whom much is expected- Stephen begins a complicated and unpredictable journey, one which will take him as far from his brother as he can manage to get, even as it brings them inexorably closer.

A portion of proceeds from this book will go toward the Camp Cuheca Scholarship - Melvyn D. Starger fund at Waterford Country School, Quaker Hill, CT., to help fund a two-week summer residency at the camp. For more information about Waterford Country School, please email

“A finely crafted, affecting memoir of two brothers.”
-- Kirkus Reviews
If you want an honest book about life with mental illness in the family, this is it. Great writing. Brutally honest. Hard to put it down. Great stories about CT, NY and CA from the 1940s to 2000.”

--Amazon Reviewer


Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Greg Messel's New Historical Fiction Dreams That Never Were

Author: Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Pages: 296
Genre: Historical Fiction

On June 5, 1968 Senator Robert F. Kennedy, then a candidate for President, is mortally wounded by assassin Sirhan Sirhan in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Among the innocent bystanders who were also shot that night is a young idealistic reporter from San Francisco, Alex Hurley.

The tragic incident changes his life as he’s swept up in the turbulent events of 1968.  Alex is conflicted about the Vietnam War after spending several months there as a reporter. The war costs him his first marriage and threatens to tear his family apart. However, he meets a woman who’s love restores his hope and together they forge a new life set against the backdrop of the war, the civil rights struggle and political upheaval in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alex Hurley’s story is part political thriller and partly a romance in “Dreams That Never Were,” the latest historical fiction novel by award winning author Greg Messel.

The title comes from a famous quote of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

I heard unfamiliar voices talking.
“He’s starting to open his eyes,” someone said.
“That’s a great sign,” commented another.
I detected a pain in my side, just below my rib cage. I tried to open my eyes, but they seemed to be glued shut. The voices resumed—talking about me as if I wasn’t there. Finally, I blinked my eyes, trying to focus, and soon realized  I was in a hospital bed. Standing by me, with concerned looks etched on their faces, was an odd collection of people from my life. 
Through my bleary eyes, I saw my ex-wife Brenda; John Greer, my photographer pal from San Francisco; and Darlene Harvey, the reporter from the Los Angeles Times, I’d been admiring from afar since I had arrived in Southern California. 
Brenda moved forward and tenderly gripped my hand in a way that she had not done for a long time. 
“How are you, Alex?” she asked softly. 
I gave a weak shake of my head. “I dunno. What happened?” 
“Don’t you remember, mate?” John jumped in. 
“Remember what?” I mumbled blankly, as my weak voice tailed off into nothing.
“He’s still coming out of the drugs. Give him a minute,” Brenda pleaded. “They’ve been keeping him kind of doped up since the surgery. This is the first time I’ve been able to talk to him.”
“Surgery?” I asked. 
Brenda shushed me and gently ran her long, slender fingers through my hair. “Take it easy. Don't try to talk right now. Take your time. Then we’ll help you understand what happened.”
I groggily attempted to get my bearings. “We were at the hotel. Everyone was celebrating Bobby’s victory. I was following him out of the ballroom, and there was like a riot. I was suddenly on the floor and couldn’t get up. It was strange. All of these people kept stepping on me—on my arm and on my legs.” 
I glanced at my right hand which was heavily bandaged. “I got knocked down. I’m sorry. Everything is a little hazy. I’m having trouble getting my brain to work.”
The three people hovering over me could not have been more different—two beautiful women and John, with his long black hair pulled back in a ponytail and a scruffy beard covering his face. The trio exchanged concerned glances, whispered, and nodded at one another. I started to shift in my bed and was met with a jolts of pain in my side and my leg. 
Brenda attempted to lighten the mood. “I was afraid you’d wake up in your hospital bed, see your ex-wife standing over you, and think you’d died and gone to hell.”
I gave her a weak smile, while the others chuckled to break the tension. 
Brenda was trying to make sure my re-entry was a slow descent, but that strategy was quickly dashed when John started blurting out all the details of the last 14 hours. “Take it easy, Alexander. You’ve had surgery. You were shot, man. They removed the bullet. The doc says you’re going to be fine. Some people from San Francisco are on their way down here, including our boss. Everyone’s been worried about you after they saw the news.”
“The news? I was shot?”
Brenda glared at John. “Way to go slow, John. Senator Kennedy was shot. You and some other people were also wounded by the assassin.”
“No, no, no!” I yelled. “Bobby was shot? No, not this time! This wasn’t supposed to happen! Assassin? Is Senator Kennedy going to be all right?” 
John moved closer. “Bobby’s just down the hall. He’s still alive, but he’s not doing very well.”
“Not doing very well?” I snapped with rapidly accelerating alarm.
John blundered ahead. “This place is like a fortress. It was hard to get in here especially onto this floor. Cops are everywhere.”
“Maybe we should go,” Darlene said shooting a glance at John. “We’ll come back later, Alex. We just had to see you. We were so worried.” 
“No, no, don’t leave right now,” I pleaded. I repeated what I had been told to try to take in the enormity of the news. “Senator Kennedy was shot. How could… how did it happen?”
Brenda nodded to John and Darlene. “I’ll stay with him. I know you must be very busy.”
Darlene leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. She was dabbing tears from her eyes. “It’s been a long night. We’re all living in a nightmare. I’m so sorry, Alexander. It’s good to see you awake.”
Darlene grabbed John by the elbow and pushed him towards the door. John flashed a peace sign. “Peace, my brother. I’ll see you a little later. Take it easy and get better. I’ve got to call San Francisco. Everyone’s anxious to hear about you.”
After they departed, I tried to shift to get a better look at Brenda. She looked great. Her long black hair cascaded onto her shoulders. It was longer than I had ever seen her wear it. She wore a lime green mini dress with white trim and white boots. 
“Where am I, and what time is it?” I quizzed Brenda. “Actually… what day is it?”
“It’s Wednesday,” she checked her wrist watch. “It’s about a quarter to two.”
“At night? What happened to Tuesday?!”
“You had surgery earlier today, and I just got to town. I came straight to the hospital. I flew down as soon as I heard about the assassination attempt. Your name was on the television as one of those wounded with Bobby. I caught the next plane to LA to see you.”
“Uh… wow… that’s… I mean, I’m overwhelmed. That’s a lot of money. Is that all right with Tom?”
“I was very upset, and Tom immediately offered to fly me down here to see you.”
“That’s very nice… of you… and your husband.”
“Alex, I don’t think you’ve grasped what’s going on outside this room. It’s a national crisis. I wish you could look out the window at the street below. There are barriers up, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people are lining the street in the front of this hospital. News about the shooting is on TV constantly.”
“Where’s Senator Kennedy now?” I groggily asked.
“Here. Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite have been on CBS saying something has happened to the fabric of our nation. There are signs everywhere that say ‘Pray for Bobby.’ The raw footage of the shooting has been shown over and over again on NBC. You’re right. After the shots were fired, it was like a riot. When I turned on my television, not only did I see Bobby bleeding on the floor in the pantry, but I saw you on the ground with a pool of blood under you. You were wearing a blue blazer, lying on the floor on your side against the wall.”


Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and lives on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, with his wife, Jean DeFond. Dreams That Never Were is his 11th novel and is a historical fiction account of a young reporter caught up in the events surrounding the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Greg has also written a series of mystery novels set in San Francisco in the 1950s. He has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. Greg won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a colunist and has contributed articles to various magazines.



Monday, May 13, 2019

Blog Tour l New Memoir l Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley by Carol Es

We are so excited to finally bring you the news that Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley by Carol Es is released. This memoir will blow you away!

Author: Carol Es
Publisher: Desert Dog Books
Pages: 356
Genre: Memoir/Biography

Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is a guided tour through a Tilt-A-Whirl life that takes so many turns that you may find yourself looking up from the pages and wondering how the hell one person managed to fit them all into 40-odd years. And many of them are odd years indeed. From a rootless, abusive childhood and mental illness through serious and successful careers in music and art, much of which were achieved while being involved in a notoriously destructive mind-control cult. Carol Es presents her story straight up. No padding, no parachute, no dancing around the hard stuff. Through the darkness, she somehow finds a glimmer of light by looking the big bad wolf straight in the eye, and it is liberating. When you dare to deal with truth, you are free. Free to find the humor that is just underneath everything and the joy that comes with taking the bumpy ride.

Illustrated with original sketches throughout, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is not just another survivor’s tale, it’s a creative perspective through moments of vulnerability where the most raw and intimate revelations are laid bare. As an artist and a woman finding self-worth, it’s truly a courageous, relatable story that will keep you engaged to the very end.


Too bad I’d just finished restoring my 1970, racing-green Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to its original, stock condition, because that car accident I wasn’t a little fender-bender. I was knocked unconscious, and the car was totaled. It looked like an accordion. You can’t drive an accordion. Since it wasn’t my fault, at least I got a decent settlement. But I don’t think I cared about having a big wad of money, or even mustering the wherewithal to set myself free of the shoe garden. Aric was gone and losing him made my heart ache like nothing I’d ever felt before. I was in pain every which way.
The days floated through me, and I through them; seemingly moving in slow motion, or in every other frame of a motion picture. Some other me found an apartment in Van Nuys—a two-bedroom, mid-century triplex on Tilden Avenue. I had enough money to live there without working for months, and eventually to furnish it. These are things I’d normally be happy about, but I felt nothing. Isolated, I crept about the empty apartment like a ghost, passed through Jell-O walls, west of Woodman.
While the apartment came to me on the cheap, the money would run out eventually. The place formerly belonged to Royce, the guitar player of my band at the time. He moved to the apartment underneath, and the landlord let me in on the same low rent. We rehearsed in one of the garages that came with our apartments. A sweet deal. Our bass player, Camacho, used to jam with my brother. Royce and Camacho were both special and skilled musicians, and especially original. Our band, The Column, had its own sound, southwest-funk, or a “swampy R&B.” Our music motivated me to stop drinking for a while.
When I had to start working again, I found a job at Moorpark Pharmacy in Studio City, a family-owned business. I worked behind the film counter selling greeting cards and knickknacks. The location brought regular celebrities in, and I had a little rapport with Natalie Cole, Billy Barty, and a couple others. I used to play a game with the stocking guys and guess what types of medications different customers were picking up. We’d goof around as much as possible. It wasn’t a job with much potential, but that was okay with me. I enjoyed it. I only wanted to stay away from my parents and stop working for my dad, if possible. That was difficult. He paid under the table. Always a dangling cash carrot. If I really wanted to build a life away from them, I had to work elsewhere for less money.
The pharmacy didn’t pay great. I needed to find a roommate for the other bedroom, a good match came in my drummer friend Thad. It was Thad, along with his girlfriend, Tanya, who really helped me make the difficult break from Raven, before I moved back to my parents’ house. Tanya, in particular, tried pulling me back on lines into the org. Though I had a bad taste in my mouth since the auditing I’d done with Vicky at the Advanced Org—considering how grim things were for me at the time—taking Scientology courses to improve my life was not off the table for me anymore.
Thad, my drummer brother from another mother, was a perfect fit for the Tilden Avenue place. He had to leave CC anyway; it was time for the big renovation there. Everybody out! The timing couldn’t have been better. We’d stay up and talk drums for hours. I always loved that he respected me as a musician, not simply Raven’s protégé. Tanya came over on the weekends. She was sweet, and someone to whom I could relate. The two seemed happy together. Both of them were raised in a Scientology family like many other young Scientologists that Vicky introduced me to. Once those two became more prevalent in my life, so did more Scientologists: Tanya’s group of friends and Thad’s musician friends, etc. They all seemed to have their shit together. Their families too. They seemed sane compared to my family, though anyone’s would. The desire to better oneself began to rub off on me, and there was no doubt I needed and wanted control over my life. Haunted by death and failed relationships, losing my brother to drug addiction, a job with no true future, I started gravitating back to the idea of officially practicing Scientology. Maybe it would help.
The transition began with Tanya becoming my FSM (Field Staff Member). These are Scientologists who try to get new or fallen people into the Church and onto their next service. They are akin to sponsors, only they get a 10 percent commission on everything you do in Scientology for the rest of your days. I do not believe Tanya’s purpose was financially motivated, but what do I know? She seemed to care. She came over after work nearly every day, and we used Scientology books and techniques. We mostly used the Ethics Book. Of all of them, it has the most tangible and applicable exercises. Working with her, I climbed out of a dark place and gained some self-respect. I saw that being an enemy to myself wasn’t getting me anywhere. The information in this book actually helped me, and it would later become my go-to book for solving just about every problem I had.
During the first couple of months we hung out, Tanya also brought with her the Scientology community newspaper, Needs and Wants. It mostly listed classifieds, and she encouraged me to find a better job. In fact, she sort of pointed out that I might have been contributing to the country’s drug consumption problem by working at a pharmacy, which distributes sinful psychiatric drugs. This set off alarms in my mind. Not because it sounded like her views were kooky, but because I believed that psychiatric drugs were bad. By then, I blamed psychiatry and the pharmaceutical companies for ruining my mother and taking her from my childhood. I also blamed them for the underlying cause of Mike’s drug problems, since he’d been given Ritalin as a child. I’d read in one of the Scientology magazines (Advance!, Celebrity, Freewinds, Impact, etc.) that drug addiction and having been prescribed Ritalin were related. I blamed any and all of these medications for most of the world’s evils.
Hubbard felt that people with “psych” histories were ruined beyond repair. While you train to be an auditor, you view scores of technical films, most of which are propaganda about how dangerous psychiatry is: 1950s-style reenactments of crazy, high-voltage, electroshock treatments performed on patients screaming for their lives. Time and time again I saw people over-drugged and drooling in dirty gutters, lobotomies performed with ice picks, and illustrations of inhuman practices used in the beginnings of psychiatry by uneducated “doctors” who didn’t know what they were doing. This would scare the shit out of anyone. These films make the whole psychiatric field look barbaric.
According to Hubbard, and Scientologists worldwide, psychiatrists are wicked beings who have been trying to ruin thetans for trillions of years. Most of the Scientology community are terrified of psychiatry on a very visceral level. They’re portrayed with the power of darkness equal to that of the Devil himself. I was petrified of being in a room with even a social worker, because they train in the world of psychology, which is essentially the same thing. I didn’t want to be affiliated to it in any way and definitely didn’t want to contribute to it. In my mind, I had to quit my pharmacy job immediately.
As Tanya kept bringing me different issues of Needs and Wants, I saw an ad that stood out every time I came across it. Save people’s lives! Help them recover from drugs and alcohol. These words really appealed to me. I thought, If I can’t get my own brother off drugs, maybe I can get a hundred other people off them. I wanted to feel useful and have a purpose, as I’d always felt useless. After some thought, mixed with a dash of desperation, I called the Narconon Rehabilitation Center.


Self-taught artist, writer and musician, Carol Es is known primarily for creating personal narratives within a wide spectrum of media. A native Los Angelina, she often uses past experience as fuel for her subject matter.  Writing on art, her articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Whitehot Magazine, and Coagula Art Journal; her prose published with small presses — Bottle of Smoke Press, Islands Fold, and Chance Press among them. Additionally, she makes handmade Artist’s books which have been acquired for such collections as the Getty and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Carol is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner, and a Wynn Newhouse Award for her art. She’s also earned grants from Asylum Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center/California Arts Council for writing. In 2019, she won the Bruce Geller Memorial Prize (WORD Grant) from the American Jewish University.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

In the Spotlight: The 'Real' American Diet by Kevin C. Alston

Author: Kevin Alston
Publisher: Xlibris Publishing
Pages: 48
Genre: Memoir/Nonfiction

This book is a culmination of the author’s life, but mainly the past 10 years, where personal tragedies have led him to discover more about the correlation with food, nutrition & the diseases of today, & how it affects us all.

This program is an experiment of sorts, with the author using himself as the guinea pig, with positive results having been discovered, & hopefully, in time, even bigger positive results yet to come.

Between our government & Big Business, we, the people, are already involved in an experiment.  It’s like a big laboratory.  With all of the harmful toxins that are allowed in our air, food, &  water, diseases are at epidemic-like levels, & the author, for one, would like to know if there is more to this than is being told to us. It speaks volumes when other nations refuse to accept grains & meats from us, or at least it does to the author.

Most of the ailments we suffer from today emanate from our guts, & our poor diets keep the sickness-wheels turning, costing each of us millions of dollars, a whole lot of heartache, pain, & suffering.  It’s time to make a change, & that change started with the author’s experiment on himself.



Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
IF YOU’VE BEEN dieting forever with very mixed results, then you’ve finally come to the right place. These lifestyle changes that I am recommending will be like no diet that you have ever attempted, so if you combine what I’m about to teach you with the proven methods that Dr. Joel Fuhrman teaches you in his books—Eat to Live is the best one to start off with—you will be well on your way to attaining your goal of losing the dreaded weight that you have been desperately seeking to get rid of for so long.


Born & raised in the small town of Mullins, SC, by God-fearing parents who instilled religion into his life at an early age, he’s had an insatiable appetite for knowledge since birth. God blessed him with a keen, analytical mind, & an almost feverish desire to help others. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, married to the love of his life, with five wonderful kids, & a deep passion that still burns within him to help the less fortunate, through whatever means necessary.  The correlation between what we eat & the epidemic-like rise in diseases of today has the author on an impassioned mission to get to the bottom of what he thinks is a big conspiracy by our government & Big Business.

His latest book is The ‘Real’ American Diet.