Category Archives: Novels

George Mayes’ Autobiographical Novel

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.

Pen, Please is an intense coming-of-age novel set in Oklahoma. We meet protagonist Andre Young at age sixteen when he returns home from a summer leadership program in Texas to find his father hospitalized with a blood clot in his lung. The first of many trials Andre faces in the novel, it’s far from the first in his life. Through flashbacks and present-day narrative, this young black man’s journey is exposed as a chronicle of heartbreak, tragedy, and headlong rushes down blind alleys, some imposed upon him and some of his own making.

Andre is fundamentally a decent guy struggling to make sense out of a life in which every joy is followed by a dozen sorrows. But he’s also headstrong and easily tempted to take the easy way out. His troubled relationship with his father and his distance from his absent mother haunt him throughout life. He can’t sort out his relationship with women, nor can he hang onto a job in spite of being an excellent worker. He even briefly descends into selling drugs. But through it all, he valiantly struggles towards something for which he has no good role models: how to be a man.

This is indie writer George Mayes’ first novel, and as such it has its ups and downs. The story is solid and engaging, while the key characters are drawn well and generally intriguing. Mayes has definite potential. He can turn a good phrase, and one or two particular witticisms made me laugh. But the narrative passages read like he’s trying too hard, and the dialogue needs work. Somewhere about mid-story the novel seemed to become a rush of scenes separated by time gaps of indeterminate length. A number of events alluded to should have been shown .

I don’t fault Mayes for these shortcomings. Most writers start this way. I expect that as he develops his craft, some really good things will come from his pen.

I recently asked George Mayes about his writing. Here’s what he said:

What inspired you to write Pen, Please?

I believe that each person is born with a unique purpose. Some are born to become doctors, others are blessed with speaking talents. For me, transferring my thoughts to paper always felt better than anything else. So I decided to tell a story: my story. Hence the title Pen, Please.

That’s interesting, because toward the end I did wonder if the novel was autobiographical. How heavily does it draw upon your own experience?

So much that if I changed one story about Marcus I would have a real-life story to match the rest of the novel.

I was interested to see the positive role religion played as protagonist Andre Young faced various trials. Outside of specifically religious fiction, that isn’t often found in novels these days. Can you comment a bit on how that comes into play in Andre’s life?

There are traces of a higher being throughout the novel, whether it’s Andre seeing his dad in angelic form, his brother having the right girlfriend at the right time, or being arrested by his cousin. This is important because Andre could have gone even further down the wrong path without this “spiritual realignment”.

Had you written or published anything prior to Pen, Please?

No, Pen, Please is my introduction inside the world of writing.

What advice do you have for writers, or for that matter readers?

I just want to say that I truly believe in everyone aspiring to reach their goals. They say, “It’s the start that stops most people.” Don’t let that be you. Don’t let fear talk you out of what you were born to do. Will the journey be hard? Yes. Will there be times you want to quit? Yes. Just keep pushing each day until you arrive. Once you’re there, you’ll realize it was all worth it! Thank you for your time.

Where can readers find you?

On Facebook and GoodReads.

Introducing John G. Stevens

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.

John G. Stevens’ Echowake is the first book in a truly unique triology. Combining post-apocalyptic SF with fantasy and a touch of steampunk, goggles included, this tale pulls you in and keeps you reading right up to the cliff-hanger conclusion. In terms of story, this is a five-star effort. Bravo!

Plagued by horrific nightmares that come true, the young courier Trede spends his life moving from place to place in hopes of outrunning his inexplicable curse. He carries a unique weapon that attracts the attention of the Cytech guild, who are convinced Trede must be a gifted inventor, not to mention a pair of rival Mystics, one of whom who wants to destroy Trede and the other of whom wants to use him as a tool for conquest. Along the way he runs afoul of a marshal who’s sure he’s up to no good, meets a strange creature who wants to be his friend, and faces down a barrage of swords and magic assaulting him from all sides for reasons he cannot fathom. Echowake has all the makings of an epic adventure.

But I have to downgrade it because as with so many indie first novels, the writing needs work. I’d probably score the book three stars at best in that category. The dialogue and the narrative passages just don’t show the polish we expect of a practiced writer.

Yet–and here’s the surprising part–the story was so amazingly good that I was willing to forgive the writing issues and eagerly read through to the end. I hope that Stevens will grow as a writer and that the sequel(s) will be more polished. I certainly want to read them!

I recently asked John G. Stevens a few questions about his writing:

What inspired you to write Echowake?

I’ve been working on little bits and pieces of the world that became Echowake since the sixth grade. I had a large sketch pad with scrabbly drawings of maps and story ideas. I loved imagining a new world that no one had ever seen before. I guess I’ve always loved to create in general. The thing that has stuck with me the most over the years is stories. I dabbled in writing shorter fiction but I always had this “big idea” of a trilogy of stories. One day it dawned on me to novelize the whole story that I’d been playing with in different forms for years. The further I went into that world the more I never wanted to leave!

Had you published anything previously or since?

Echowake is my first officially published work. It was a huge learning process but well worth the effort. I have done some unprofessional blogging at times, though. (But who hasn’t?)

What are you working on now?

I’ve fully thrown myself into the first draft of a direct sequel titled Echowake: The Coming Storm. I’ve learned so much during the first book I feel like I’m flying through this time. It’s already feeling like it will be a faster paced and more action-packed book. I can’t wait to share it.

I’m also outlining and gathering ideas for two in-world spin-off novellas. More info on my website ( Every answer I find in this world poses another set of questions. I can see myself happily spending years here. Maybe you’ll come visit?

Where can readers find you?

On my author website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

Introducing Shannon Heuston

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.

I encountered Shannon Heuston through her novel, Under God’s Big Sky. Based on the cover blurb, I half expected this book to be a post-apocalyptic SF/fantasy tale. It turned out to be something rather different.

Raised in near-isolation on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Montana under the harsh leadership of the man she knows only as the Yeoman of God, Leah has been told all her life that the world beyond was destroyed and that she is destined to bear its new Savior. But when an apparition from beyond the ranch intrudes, everything she has ever believed begins to unravel. Not knowing what she will find, fearful of calling down God’s wrath upon her, she abandons the only family she has ever known. The truth she discovers could liberate her, or destroy her.

Shannon Heuston tells a good tale, and clearly knows something of the psychology of fear, control, and betrayal. The plot, while not complex, keeps one reading. Even when Leah seems to find a “happy place” menace lurks beneath the surface. The inevitable final confrontation between Leah and Yeoman ends on a satisfying note, and although one might not agree with the young woman’s resulting religious conclusions, they make sense given who she is and what she endures. Heuston musters a wonderful turn of phrase from time to time, too. For an early novel by an indie writer, this is an enjoyable read, although it could benefit from a bit of tightening. I would hazard that Heuston has strong potential to surprise and delight readers in future works.

I recently asked Shannon Heuston a few questions about her writing:

What inspired you to write Under God’s Big Sky?

Actually I thought of the premise for Under God’s Big Sky many years ago, when I was a teenager and visiting my cousin in North Andover, Massachusetts. Originally I envisioned Agape [the Montana ranch where Leah grows up] as being populated by all teenagers, the same age as Leah. I wrote a little bit of it, then set it aside. Then a year ago I needed an idea for NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], so I revisited the story.

Had you published anything previously or since (books, articles, etc.)?

I published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Playground, prior to Under God’s Big Sky. This novel was about bullying and its long term aftermath. Many of the incidents related in The Playground actually happened to me; it’s more of a memoir than a novel but I made a lot of editorial changes, such as combining several characters into one, and some of my memories of the incidents were fuzzy so I filled in some blanks.

Before that, I’ve written here and there, but nothing that was formally published. Prior to 2016, becoming an author was always one of my lifelong dreams, but I never really put in the work before writing The Playground. Then once I started writing, it started pouring out of me. I just couldn’t stop!

What are you working on now?

Well, my third novel, Woman Scorned, was just published today [October 31, 2017] as a matter of fact! All my novels are completely different from each other, and this one belongs to the thriller/suspense genre with sort of a true crime feel. Monica and Lexie are devoted sisters until Lexie commits an unspeakable act of revenge on a former lover. One of the themes I explore is that of unconditional love. How do you go on loving someone even after they commit evil?

The novel I am currently writing is about time travel. A team of scientists manage to discover the secret to time travel. To test it out, Diana, one of the scientists, travels back in time to the 19th century. Although instructed not to interfere with history, she falls in love with a prominent citizen she knows is doomed.

Anything else on your mind?

The only additional comment I might add is to assure aspiring authors that your dreams are within reach, as long as you’re willing to work hard and never give up.

And finally, where can readers find you?

Through my Facebook page, my Goodreads author page, and my blog (which is also at Goodreads).