Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review of Guardians Nightmare followed by Interview with Darren Simon, Author

Guardians Nightmare
Author: Darren Simon
  • Series: The Last Princess of Latara
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Divertir Publishing LLC (May 3, 2014) 
  • ISBN-10: 1938888065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1938888069

Book Description: 
Charlee Smelton is an average thirteen-year-old girl struggling to adapt after her family moves to San Francisco. She thinks her biggest obstacle is facing the bullies who brand her a nerd and a dweeb. She’s wrong. Her life is about to change—for the worse. First, she receives a gift of the ugliest, most old fashioned bike she has ever seen. Try as she might to ditch it in the city, she just can’t seem to escape that very mysterious two-wheeler. Then come the visions of a world across a dimensional divide, a princess in fear for her life and a dark knight pursuing her. Are they just dreams or something more? For Charlee, everything she ever thought she knew about herself soon crumbles as she starts down a path to discover her true self, and she will need that hunk-of-junk bike more than she could ever imagine. Without it, she might not be able to find the hero in herself—the hero she must become to save her friends, family, her city—the world—from an evil only she can defeat. An evil she allows into this world.

Book Review:
Guardians Nightmare
By: Darren Simon
Review by: Brittany Perez (Oh My Bookness)
+Oh My Bookness 
July 20,2015

Guardians Nightmare by Darren Simon is a YA Fiction novella. It's about a girl Charlee Smelton, like any teenager up and moving away and to a new school...the fitting in is hard. At her new school she  is the outcast, the nerd, dweeb, the loser. Which makes the already lousy move to a city she hates even more undesirable. To add "insult to injury", Charlee gets the worst gifts for her birthday which does not help her already failing social life. She gets a ugly, scratchy sweater and a horrendous bike that sits on their front porch for all to see. This bike though for what it lacks in looks makes up in otherworldly abilities that take Charlee to another world completely and on adventure of a life time.

Guardians Nightmare by Darren Simon deserves credit where credit is due. Many may feel the book should be more challenging at YA fiction level but we need to also focus on what makes a good book is not on how challenging it is to read, but the writing style, the story and creativity behind it. We focus on stories have more realistic output but when it comes to any form of fantasy and mystery I'm not exactly looking for the physics to be spot on but the characters being relatable and the characters fitting into their story and environment. I feel this story encompasses the world of SiFi and Fantasy elements with a smidgen of mystery very well.

For me I found this story to be entertaining and fun. The characters are relatable and fit into the environment created for them nicely. A rule of thumb to follow never judge a book by its cover, only the pages snuggled within. 

I feel it is most suitable for a YA  and I feel this would be a book that would be enjoyed by adults as well. I do see some adults enjoying this book, that's if they can move past probability and theory and how correct or incorrect some of the theories of the bikes movement and the probability of a bike being able to create a worm hole Into another world. To reading and Enjoying! To a second book. And hope you do enjoy as well my fellow readers.

Author Interview with Darren Simon by Oh My Bookness-

Brittany Perez (Oh My Boookness)
Author Interview: Darren Simon
Author of: Guardians Nightmare
July 19, 2015

Author Darren Simon

Book Cover for Guardians Nightmare 

1. Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?

First off, I am a father and a husband who lives with his family in the Southern California’s desert area known as the Imperial Valley. I am a Associate English professor at the Community College in my region and work full-time in government affairs on California water issues. In my spare time, I love to read – mostly fantasy and science fiction – and I love to write. In particular, I enjoy writing for middle grade and young adult readers to inspire them to read just as I was inspired in my younger days to read by my favorite authors.

2. What inspired a career in writing? Was it a particular author, family or was it just something you enjoyed doing? Why?

I enjoyed writing even as a boy, but I really knew I wanted to write just before the start of my freshman year of high school in 1984 when the movie Ghostbusters came out. For some reason I was inspired by the writing in the movie—the way the words made people laugh—and I wanted to affect people with words as well. In high school, I signed up for a journalism class to learn how to write and rather than a career in fiction I launched into a journalism career. I was a newspaper journalist for eighteen years before transitioning into government affairs. I also want to thank my grandmother who one day when I was a boy gave me a brown paper bag filled with old comic books. Those comic books began my love for reading. 

3. What was your first ever written work of fiction? Was it successful? Or was it something you did for school?

A very long time ago, when I really decided to start writing fiction, I wrote the first 150 pages of a science fiction novel about pen pals light years apart, but somewhere along the line I realized I didn’t have the skills yet to write fiction. I set that aside and started to write short stories to really learn the craft of writing. I can’t remember what I wrote first, but I do remember about twenty short stories, all fantasy and science fiction based. None were ever published. Finally, I decided it was time to write a novel again, and that novel would eventually become Guardian’s Nightmare, but it was quite a journey toward the publication of the book. Today, though I have now written five books – one published, two coming out soon and two moving through editing – I still think about revisiting that original science fiction story. Of course, I’d have change the premise as I do not think young people today would know what pen pals are.

4. How would you categorize your writing style?

Good Question. I’m still trying to figure that out. I want my writing to be fast and sharp with the kind of description that puts a reader into the world I am writing about without overwhelming the reader or slowing down the story. Not sure I have achieved that goal, but I am working on it.

5. How would you categorize your recent book? And why? Also can you share an excerpt from the story?

Guardian’s Nightmare falls into the category of middle-grade, but what I have found is that there are sub-genres within middle-grade, so that this book would be considered upper middle-grade or tween fantasy. Not quite young adult—but not younger middle grade. Also, I would consider this an urban fantasy since it takes place in a city—San Francisco—in the current time. By the way, I would consider Book Two in the series, which comes out later this year, more of an epic fantasy but I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll leave it at that.

Here is an excerpt early in the book that shows some of the self-esteem issues my lcad character, Charlee Smelton, has to overcome. My character has a lot of growing to do to learn to like herself, believe in herselfand become the hero all teens have it within themselves to be.

“What I wouldn’t give to be a superhero.” Charlee gazed up from her favorite comic book. She liked reading about heroes—people who stood up for what was right and weren’t afraid of anything or anybody, especially bullies like Tina Lomeli. Tina made life a nightmare for all middle-school aged boys and girls at Myron T. Applebee Middle School who didn’t meet her stuck-up standards. Any girl who read comic books was sure to end up on Tina’s nerd list.

Charlee set the comic book on her bed.  Looking at the superhero posters covering the far wall and recognized none of the qualities that made them so heroic in herself. No matter how badly she wanted to be like them, being thirteen years old and scared of pretty much everything tended to rule out any chances of becoming a hero. 

She laughed at the rainbow shaped nightlight on her dresser as she nibbled on the ends of her hair. “What kind of hero still needs a nightlight after watching a scary movie or sulks when her family moves to San Francisco, leaving behind the farm town with all her friends?  Heroes don’t cry just because making friends at a new school isn’t going well? Geez! Some superheroes crossed the universe to make their home on Earth. They never cried about it.”

Charlee caught her image in the mirror on the closet door. “I can’t be a hero. What comic book hero is chubby, has long stringy hair, a freckled face and green-framed glasses with thick, Coke-bottle lenses? None!”  She swallowed a lungful of air and blew away a strand of brown hair from her cheek. “I’m not even the slightest bit cool.”

The kids at school reminded her of this often—led by that creep, Tina. One day in particular, Tina, joined by a group of kids from the wealthier neighborhoods of San Francisco’s Central District, cornered Charlee at her locker and unleashed a flurry of insults.

“Where you going, Chub…  I mean Charlee?” Tina tossed her long auburn hair from her perfect complexion. A heavy layer of makeup covered her cheeks. Dark eyeliner accentuated icy blue eyes. They were cruel eyes, filled with venom.

“Just to lunch,” Charlee answered, peering up at Tina, who stood a foot taller. 

“Maybe you should skip a lunch or two.” Tina sneered, gesturing toward Charlee’s rounded stomach. Tina peered into Charlee’s open locker. A comic book rested atop a math book. Tina grabbed it. “You read comic books? What a loser.”

Charlee snatched the comic book and tried to sound tough. “Oh yeah, ever hear of Comic Con in San Diego? Are the tens of thousands who attend losers too? I don’t think so.”
“Whatever, nerd,” Tina responded.

“Hey, why’d your parents name you Charlee?” asked Casey, a boy who served as Tina’s main henchman. 

“That’s not her real name,” said April, every bit the bully as Tina. 

“Yeah, her real name is Charleya,” quipped April’s best friend, Ashley. 

“And your last name is Smelton?” Casey asked. “Man, I’d hate to be you.” 

“Wait. Let’s call her Smelly.” April smiled, revealing ridiculously white teeth. 

“Yeah! Smelly Smelton,” chimed in Ashley, dressed in the same skirt, blouse, and pink heels as April. 

“That’s weak.” Casey snorted with laughter. With that, the verbal assault ended. With one last glare down at Charlee, Tina joined the others, strolling away as if Charlee wasn’t even there. As if she didn’t matter. 
A superhero wouldn’t let them get away with their games. A superhero would stand up for herself. She spotted her plus-sized jeans lying on her bedroom floor. “Yeah, I’m definitely not a hero.”

6. What do you think most characterizes your writing style?

I’m still trying to figure that out myself, but—like I said before—I want my writing style to be fun for young readers—to engage them in an adventure in the truest sense of escapism, kind of like the books I read on long summer days and nights when I listened to my music with my headphones on, read and tunedout the world. I still do that sometimes.

7. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

The hardest part of writing the book was the move I made, at the request of a publisher, to change the leader character from a boy to a girl. That was tough, but I did it and found I liked the character as a girl—that the story worked even better. While I didn’t end up publishing with that publisher, when I put the book back out there again to find a new publisher, I put out the version with the girl as the lead and I was so pleased when my current publisher, Divertir Publishing, picked it up.

8. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The whole thing. Writing is just fun. It is hard work and comes with some sacrifice of sleep, but it is fun to create a story and see your vision realized.

9. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

This gets back to something I mentioned earlier. I was so inspired as young reader by the books I read that I want to inspire young people in the same way. I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure stories and especially loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. His books transported me to new realms, and I just really hope young people have as much fun with my writing. I tend to stick with fantasy and science fiction genres right now. The hardest part, then, is not the balancing of genres, but the balancing of time between writing a new book and editing works I’ve already written. 

10. How long have you been writing?

Really most of my life. In elementary school, when we had to write little stories, other students would write a paragraph or two. I would write pages. But I’ve been writing seriously—not including my work as a journalist—since 1999.  However, for seven years of that time I slowed because I was working on a master’s degree.

11. What kind(s) of writing do you do? 

These days, mostly fiction. I have this Guardian fantasy series, I have a young adult pirate fantasy due out in 2016 and I am editing a science fiction story write now. I also have a science fiction short story expected out in an anthology by my publisher, Divertir, due out later this year or early in 2016.  I also do freelance feature writing for a regional magazine in my area. Again, for 18 years I was a newspaper journalist covering all kinds of stories and issues.

        12.  How did you come up with the story Idea?
Actually, like most of my stories, I tend to think about an experience in my life and then build a story around it. Somehow, I just morph that real-life experience into a fantasy story. In this case, the story built around an experience I had when I had to move to a new middle school and I had to deal with the issues of making new friends and dealing with bullies. From one specific experience I just start writing and allow the story to shape and build itself as I go. As a youth, I also really loved to ride my bike and wanted so much for my bike to be able to spread wings and fly me anywhere I wanted to go. That has meaning for this book.

13. What inspired the idea for the book? Did you have any help coming up with the idea?

Even though the character became a girl, the character started out as a boy and I shaped the development of the character based on me and experiences in my life—not the fantasy elements, of course. That’s where the idea comes from. 

        14. Which of your characters is your favorite and why? And if you could interview this particular character what would be the question you would and ask and why?

My favorite character is the lead, Charlee. She has to face so much and grow as a person to become a hero when she really doesn’t see herself as one. She goes from being a scared teen to a courageous young girl willing to give so much of herself to protect the ones she loves. If I could interview her, I’d have so many questions, but to ask them now might give away too much of the story. Still, one particular question I would ask is – what’s it like to know you can’t just be a normal thirteen-year-old girl anymore?

         15. Where and when do you like to write

Really, there is no one answer to this question. I wake up early in the morning to jog and afterward my head is clear, and it is then that I enjoy to write, but that doesn’t give me a whole lot of time because I have to get to work. When you are a part-time writer, you write when you can – not always when you like. I will write during my lunch hour. I will write late at night after the family goes to sleep. Just, whenever I can. Like I said before, when you write—especially when you are not a full-time writer—you have to sacrifice sleep.

        16. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?

I think like most writers would say, read as much as you can, especially in the genre you have chosen.  Then, write as much as you can. The two most important points I would make are (1) do not be overly critical of yourself, at least when you start, because then you will stop yourself and (2) have fun with it. If you have fun with it, others will have fun with your writing. Finally, don’t be afraid of research. It can slow down a process, but make a story so much stronger.

         17. Where to purchase the book and author follow ex. Blogs, webpages, goodreads, Twitter, smash words, Amazon, etc. 

My book is available on, through BarnesandNoble.comthrough my publisher, and you can also check out my author website at www.darren-simon.comwhere you can follow my blog and see updates on my writing. You can also contact me through my website if you have any questions.

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