Under "Special Feature" every month I feature a Special Author.
During this month I put up 5 posts about the Author/Book, including Interview / Review / Excerpt / Guest Post / Author Bio / Fun Facts or whatever else we can come up with. Also on the first day of the month we will launch the Giveaway contest along with the first post and will announce the winner on the last day of the month.
So be sure to check out my blog every 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th of every month for something new :)
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Goodreads
Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other's company. It's either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he's left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.
At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.
Being a Storyteller
When I was young, my grandfather was an amazing storyteller. Although he never put pen to paper, I was awed by the power of words—to make people laugh or even cry. I knew then that I wanted to be a storyteller too.
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Today—two decades later—I’ve written multiple books (with four of them as #1 national bestsellers). My newest novel, Ashes, is currently being released. In this novel, two brothers—estranged for fifteen years—are brought together under circumstances that neither can avoid. By trapping them in a car for several long days, I was able to play out some deep, dark emotions that quickly rise to the surface. The outcome proves to be biting and comical exchange that the reader can experience as if they’re sitting right there in the backseat with the box of ashes. Although there are several twists and turns along the way, the goal was to keep the journey real and relatable—proving that every family has its fair share of dysfunction, as well as unbreakable bonds.
A brief glimpse:
It all began as a thrill-seeking joke, Tom and Jason, along with Mike, their half-witted friend, roaming the cemeteries at night in search of the living dead. The Burying Point was the creepiest cemetery in the city and, as such, reputed some legendary stories of multiple ghost sightings. There couldn’t have been a more perfect night for a spine-tingling scare.
Strolling through the fields of granite, young Tom fumbled with his tracing paper and charcoal stick, stopping at every other headstone to get the perfect imprint. Most of the stones were cracked and faded; badly decayed from the decades of harsh rains and battering winds. There were others, however, that had endured terrible desecration, having either been defaced or toppled during senseless acts of vandalism. The graveyard was split into two sections. The old section was located at the front of the grounds, with the recently departed planted toward the rear. For a while, the boys lingered in the front. It promised more goose flesh.
“Get off my land,” an angry voice hissed in the distance.
Tom leapt to his feet and dropped his artwork all over the black ground. “Stop it,” he yelled at Jason. “You almost gave me a heart attack!”
Jason’s mouth hung open, but he said nothing.
Turning his suspicions toward Mike, Tom discovered that his friend’s eyes were as big as moon pies. Mike was obviously using them to scan the area and he was no longer laughing. Every hair on Tom’s body turned to spikes.
“Don’t make me come out there,” the disembodied voice called again. This time it was closer and much meaner.
Mike screamed. Tom tried to match it, but couldn’t. All three boys were paralyzed with fear.
Suddenly, the invisible entity let out a shrieking laugh.
Fighting through the freezing numbness of shock, Tom took off at a sprint. Looking back, he saw Jason grabbing as many papers as he could before beating him and Mike out to the street. They were a full block and a half from the cemetery before a word was spoken.
“Tell me we didn’t just…” Jason started to ask.
Tom was trembling so badly he could hardly speak. He nodded and kept nodding, trying to reclaim his stolen breath. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. He couldn’t even think. The brief experience was so unnerving, so unsettling that he couldn’t decide whether it was reality or merely their wild imaginations.
Without a word, Mike took off running and high-tailed it out of there.
“Mike!” Jason yelled after him, but the petrified boy kept running—never once looking back.
Tom and Jason tried to rationalize in whispers. “Something’s not right with this,” Jason said, taking a knee on the sidewalk. “I think somebody’s playing with us.”
Tom had finally recovered the air he’d lost in his lungs. “It’s not like…like we can tell anybody,” he stammered. “Who would believe us?”
Jason shook his head. “This is bull, Tommy,” he blurted. “I’m going back.” He stood and started marching down the sidewalk.
Still perplexed by the disturbing experience, Tom’s heart and mind were instantly thrown into mortal combat. Like his older brother, he was attracted to the mystery of the supernatural. But the thought of a confrontation with some angry apparition terrified him. Go with Jason, he remembered screaming in his head and, one deep breath later, he was able to coax his legs to start moving.
As the anxiety levels turned Tom’s goose bumps into sandpaper, he discovered his brother hunched down in some bushes just outside the cemetery gates.
“Shhhh,” Jason whispered, his index finger pressed to his smirking lips. He pointed toward something with his other hand.
In the distance, an old man—presumably the cemetery’s grounds keeper—was half-concealed behind a large elm tree, scaring away a new band of thrill-seekers.
Jason stood and looked at Tom. “So you came back,” he said, impressed.
Tom nodded, never feeling more proud about anything in his young life.
“I told you there’s no such thing as monsters,” Jason said, laughing.
“Except for Dad,” Tom said, still overjoyed he’d found a fraction of his brother’s courage to return to Jason’s side.
Jason nodded. “True, except for Dad.”
Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
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