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text 2017-12-05 15:07
Mark A. Rayner about his newest novel The Fatness + Giveaway [A guest post]


Many of you already know Mark A. Rayner aka Dilettante (you can follow Mark's blog on BookLikes here). Now it's time to know Mark's story a little bit better. With his new release The Fatness Mark also reveals a look behind the scenes of his newest book!


If you're hungry of great stories, make sure to request The Fatness copy in here. Enjoy and bon appetite



-- a guest post by Mark A. Rayner



The Fatness – a novel of epic portions


Canadian author Mark A. Rayner’s timely new book, The Fatness, is a satirical take on how not to deal with the so-called obesity “epidemic”. The novel posits a world in which the government gives those who are obese a simple choice: relinquish their publicly funded healthcare or go to a special Calorie Reduction Center (CRC) to lose the weight.

Mark is offering three copies as a giveaway here.



Behind the scenes:

why The Fatness was a difficult book to write

by Mark A. Rayner


It was personal.


Writers might say that of any book, true, but this novel was a particular challenge. I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life, so I found it quite difficult to write a humorous account of what it would be like to be imprisoned for your weight.


Really difficult.


Like many of my novels, the idea for The Fatness first came to me in a dream. I’d been reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos. It’s an eye-opening non-fiction about the bad science surrounding the idea of the obesity “epidemic”. That was sometime in 2005, the year ENC Press published my first book, The Amadeus Net.


In the nightmare, I was imprisoned in a Calorie Reduction Center, a concentration camp for the obese. When I awoke, I thought, so that’s a horrible notion. Terrifying. And strangely compelling. Should I even put this terrible idea out in the world? I wondered. Would readers know it was meant to be a satire?


I’m an optimist, so I wrote four chapters. They were bad. There was nothing funny about the book. It wasn’t biting satire, it was just bitter.


I made several other attempts, all failures. Six years ago I even got as far as completing an outline and a large chunk of a draft. But it wasn’t really what I wanted the book to be. It was strained and really not funny in a way that was compassionate for the inmates of the Calorie Reduction Centers.


Then five years ago I got serious about my own weight issues. I worked with two wonderful personal trainers and got my BMI – my body mass index – down below the dreaded 30 BMI for the first time in years. For some reason, that gave me the ability to write the book. I think I needed to understand the process of losing weight so that I could communicate its challenges properly. Within the course of a year, I wrote a completely new draft of the book.


Ends December 18, 2017



The biggest task, from a writing perspective, was to get the tone right. I didn’t want this to be an exercise in telling fat jokes. That is part of the problem, as far as I see it – we tolerate jokes about somebody’s weight in a way that we wouldn’t allow for other characteristics, such as race or sexuality. So pitching the humor in a compassionate way was important to me.


I think I learned how to do it by reading the work of Kurt Vonnegut, one of my literary heroes. I share his take on humanity. We are flawed, but we’re not worthless. It’s the opposite, really. Our flaws make us different, and our differences make us valuable.


A satire also has to be critical. Another way in which my writing is similar to Vonnegut’s is that we make fun of pretension and large-scale human systems. We’re suspicious of both. Pretension is a symptom of hypocrisy. This pitfall is only possible when we humans start believing our own lies.


The other major target, as far as I can see, has to be the way that humans are terrible at taking good ideas and turning them into governing principles. The human component seems to get lost as soon as we scale things up to the level of large systems.


Obesity is a complicated problem, and it’s not realistic to think we’re going to find simple solutions. There’s a genetic component to obesity – recent studies indicate it may be caused by a single gene. There are societal, financial and emotional components to it as well. Until we understand how all of these things fit together, it’s going to be a difficult issue to address. Blaming people for their weight issues is certainly not going to help.


After I got my own weight problems under control (for a little while) and finished the rough draft of the book, the following year I worked with my editor and produced two more drafts. Then my life got really complicated. My long-term relationship ended, my dog died, and I started a new and extremely challenging work position. (Sounds like a bad country and western song, doesn’t it?) So it took a few more years until I was ready to start the publishing process. Yeah, sometimes it takes that long.


This twelve-year project, from idea to publication, is the longest gestation period for a book I’ve written. By comparison, my first novel, The Amadeus Net, was a breeze – it only took ten years from start to finish.


But I think The Fatness is the best book I’ve written (so far), and the positive reviews seem to back up that feeling. I’m particularly pleased that readers feel the book is satirical, yet has a big heart that is compassionate for people struggling with obesity.


As the reading and writing process taught me, there are no easy answers.


Mark’s favourite writing space: in the garden.



The Fatness is a metaphor


I hope this is a story that can be read on many levels and enjoyed in different ways. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but it’s fair to say that there is a metaphor at the heart of this book.


If you buy into the notion of duality, you accept the idea that you are a consciousness riding around in a body. I think many fat people experience this every time they look in the mirror. I know I do. I don’t feel overweight, but there’s the proof of it right there in front of me. The idea that you might be physically incarcerated because of your body is a metaphor for how an obese person might feel every day: a thin person looking out at a fat one. That’s a paraphrase of the Cyril Connolly quotation: “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signaling to be let out.”


There’s some truth to it, in the same way that as we get older, we may experience the truth of Terry Pratchett’s observation: “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.”


But the thing is, that thin person, that young person, is a reflection of societal values. If you engage with any media, it’s impossible to avoid the idea that what matters is being thin, being young, being beautiful, being successful, and being famous. We see ourselves that way – we judge ourselves that way – even when these ideas have nothing to do with our worth as human beings.


The Fatness is an attempt to get people to recognize how media can have an impact on how we see ourselves and each other.


So my hope is that readers will be affected by the book. My hope, if they’re fat, is for them to feel less alone, to feel less guilty about their physicality. For the non-obese, I hope they get an understanding that nobody wants to be fat. It’s not a choice. And it’s not just laziness. Many fat people spend their entire lives trying not to be fat. I know that I have.


On a lighter note (pun intended), my goal is to make readers laugh. There are lots of things the book spoofs, and your political affiliations really don’t matter. Every reader will find something to enjoy. It makes fun of socialism. It makes fun of capitalism. And it makes fun of human foibles.


If nothing else, readers should come away with a sense of how absurd our bureaucracies can be, and how even the best intentions can go wildly astray. Even science.



Discovering more about medical science


I learned quite a bit while I was penning this novel. While the facts, myths, and quotes between the chapters – I call them ‘interstitials’ – are meant to be fun, they actually helped me discover more about obesity, body image, and the research process. I learned, for example, that science is very much a human process, prone to error and flaws. What we “know” today could easily turn out to be “wrong” the next. A tragic example of this is what happened in the ’50s and ’60s, when the medical profession decided that dietary fat was the enemy.


Ironically, I think this is one of the major contributing factors to the increase of obesity in society. This is terribly simplistic, but we substituted carbs for fat in our diets – and not just good carbs, like vegetables and fruits. We added in highly processed carbs, which are probably okay for us in limited amounts, but not if they make up the bulk of our diet.


I also learned how the food industry works. (It’s kind of shocking, in some cases.) I certainly didn’t realize that corporations were actively pushing unhealthy food at us to fatten up their bottom line. That probably makes me seem naive, but until I started digging into the subject, I really hadn’t thought about it much.


I learned about the importance of body image – on both sides of the BMI. I learned how damaging it is to shame people for being either too fat or too thin. Even if the intention is to help people become healthier, shame is actually counterproductive when it comes to weight management.


Finally, I discovered that keeping the weight off is just as hard as losing it. But that’s a topic for a sequel. (And maybe a psychotherapist.)


About Mark A. Rayner


Mark A. Rayner. Author. Mustache twirler. Photo by David Redding Photography, 2013.


Human-shaped, simian-obsessed, robot-fighting, pirate-hearted, storytelling junkie Mark A. Rayner is an award-winning writer of satirical and speculative fiction.


By day, Mark teaches his bemused students at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (at Western University) how to construct social media campaigns and viable information architectures that will not become self-aware and destroy all humans. By night he is a writer of short stories, novels, squibs and other drivel. (Some pure, and some quite tainted with meaning.)


Many cheeseburgers were harmed in the making of this novel.


Mark A. Rayner's books:


The Fatness - Mark A. Rayner The Amadeus Net - Mark A. Rayner The Fridgularity - Mark A. Rayner

Marvellous Hairy - Mark A. Rayner Pirate Therapy and Other Cures - Mark A. Rayner The Meanderings of the Emily Chesley Reading Circle - Mark A. Rayner 



Follow Mark's blog on BookLikes

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text 2017-11-21 14:31
An Interview with Anne Leigh Parrish, Author of Women Within + Audiobook Giveaway

We're happy to introduce you Anne Leigh Parrish, a short story writer and a novelist.


Anne's debut novel, What Is Found, What Is Lost appeared in 2014. Women Within, her second novel, was published in September 2017 by Black Rose Writing. Another multi-generational story,  it weaves together three lives at the Lindell Retirement home, using themes of care-giving, women’s rights, and female identity. Her next novel, The Amendment, is scheduled to be released in June 2018.  


What inspired you to become a writer? Was it an easy path?


I always loved stories, made-up characters, and the musical quality of language. Lyrical prose is very important to me, both as a writer and as a reader. And no, becoming a writer was by no means easy. It takes years of trying a new approach, getting feedback, working with that feedback, and most of all, taking chances.


Your newest novel, Women Within, is a story of three women whose paths cross at the Lindell Retirement Home. Can you tell our readers more about the book and the main characters?


Constance Maynard, age 94, is a resident at Lindell. She is a retired professor of History who feels that women have always been unfairly treated and valued primarily for their reproductive capability. She adopts a child when a member of her own family cannot care for her properly, and declares that the child is hers, although she in unmarried. This is in the 1950’s, a time when social mores were harsh. She embraces the disdain she is shown, and rises above it all to prove that she is as worthy as any of her male colleagues.


Her two aides are the other two women in the book, the first of whom, 50’s-something Eunice Fitch, has her own female challenges. For one thing, her mother, a hard-drinking and unsympathetic person, was a poor role model. From an early obsession with silent screen star Lilian Gish, Eunice feels that the best thing to do is to be steadfast and uncomplaining. While these traits make her a great caregiver, it proves disastrous in her serial relationships with men.


Lastly, we have Sam (short for Samantha) Clark, in her twenties, overweight, whose mother is also difficult. She yearns to be pretty and petite, only to discover that her physical strength and endurance are in fact much more valuable.



Request NOW 



Your book focuses on the female issues and women relationships, you also give a solid  insight of the caregiving industry. Why did you choose to talk about these subjects in your novel?


To be honest, this is very personal territory for me, at least in terms of the relationships women have with other women, particularly famuĊ‚y members. My mother was difficult. She was highly intelligent, well-education, successful in her career as a professor – and yes, she serves as the inspiration for Constance Maynard in the novel – but she was deeply dissatisfied with just about everything, my father most of all. Though she was unhappy in her marriage, she never accepted his decision to divorce her, and spent the rest of her life blaming him for a situation she in large part created. My only sibling is a sister (six years older than I), and she, too, was difficult. Her hatred of me, and her abuse of me when I was young had an enormously negative influence in my life.


As to caregiving, I once worked in a retirement home when I was younger, and then much later, spent time visiting my father in one as he declined. I am fascinated by the almost insular nature of that world, and the contrast between those who seldom leave it, and the people who come and go every day.


What are you working on right now? We know that your third novel is coming next year.


I’m working on a novel called Maggie’s Ruse. Like The Amendment, the novel appearing in June, it contains characters from my 2013 linked story collection, Our Love Could Light the World. It features a pair of identical twins, overly-privileged Millennials trying to find themselves as individuals by putting some distance between them.


What writers have an impact on your reading, and of course, writing? 


All “the greats,” but specifically Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Alice Munro, and Louise Erdrich.


What are you reading right now, Anne?


Ann Beattie’s newest story collection, The Accomplished Guest.


What three titles would you take on a desert island?


Boy, that’s a tough one. Probably The Round House by Louise Erdrich, Mendocino Fire: Stories by Elizabeth Tallent, and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.


The Round House - Louise ErdrichMendocino Fire: Stories - Elizabeth TallentOlive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout


Paper books or e-books?

When I have lots of time, and am staying in one place – that is, not on an airplane, or road trip, then paper books. Otherwise, the convenience of an e-book is just too great to ignore.


Anne, it’s shelfie time! Our readers would love to see your home library.


Anne Leigh Parrish's home library


Thank you Anne! 


Make sure to request the audiobook giveaway of Women Within!



Ends December 05, 2017

Request NOW ->



Anne Leigh Parrish Books: 

Women Within - Anne Leigh ParrishWhat Is Found, What Is Lost - Anne Leigh Parrish 

By the Wayside: Stories - Anne Leigh ParrishOur Love Could Light the World - Anne Leigh ParrishAll the Roads That Lead from Home - Anne Leigh Parrish


The Amendment: A Novel coming June 2018 from Unsolicited Press

Women Within: A Novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017), Best Fiction Winner, 2017 Maxy awards

By The Wayside: Stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017), Finalist in the Short Story category of the 2017 International Book Awards

What Is Found, What Is Lost: A Novel (She Writes Press, 2014), Finalist in the Literary Fiction category of the 2015 International Book Awards; Winner, Literary Fiction, 2015 Book of the Year Award

Our Love Could Light The World: Stories (She Writes Press, 2013), Finalist the short story category of the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Finalist in both the 2013 International Book Awards and the 2013 Best Books Awards

All The Roads That Lead From Home: Stories (Press 53, 2011), 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards Silver Medal Winner


Connect with Anne Leigh Parrish:

Website: anneleighparrish.com

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/AnneLParrish

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AnneLeighParrish

BookLikes: booklikes.com/anne-leigh-parrish/author,2603718


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text 2017-11-07 18:42
Mollie Jo Joseph, a new romance writer, shares her story [Interview and Giveaway]


If you're a fan of romantic stories with some nice twist and turns, and emotional tension, meet Mollie Jo Joseph -  a new romance writer who made her dream come true with publishing her first novel Accepting the Unexpected. Mollie agreed to answer several questions about her writing path and her experiences as a self-published author. You can also win Mollie's romance, click here to enter the Accepting the Unexpected giveaway, we have 3 copies for You!




What are you reading right now, Mollie?


Jane Austin’s Emma, in research for my next book !!


I have to ask. Is Mollie Jo Joseph your real name or a pen name? If it’s the latter, why have you decided to use an alter ago name for your writing career?


No, Mollie Jo Joseph is my pen name. I chose it because I never thought my own name (Joanne Hull) has ever had much of a “ring” to it. So I choose Mollie who is my niece and Joseph is my granddad and unfortunately I never got chance to meet either of them so I believe it is a nice tribute to them, Jo is me!!


Your first romance book Accepting the Unexpected is out. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about your book and how the idea was born?


It took me to get the age of 26 to realize that the stories in my head are actually what I have created, and I chose to start with this one because it strangely started to reflect events that happened in my own life. So in short it took for my first love to leave me for another woman to start the journey.


The book is a mix of real life issues I have been through such as heartache and depression, and comic fiction. I wanted to deliver a funny romcom with the real life struggles that many of us have to face. I hope this is what makes my book special, as I can assure all future readers that this book is in no way depressing, it has all the twist and turns that chick lit should have.


E-book giveaway!

October 7 - October 29



It’s based around a hair and fashion magazine named “sleek” set in Cornwall England that than travels over to New York City. It has the classic love triangle with some unexpected twists and supporting characters that are still very important to the plot. I really hope people can relate to Leila my main character but be captivated by a handsome actor/model named Blake and the mysterious ex football star Richard, throw in the drama with the ex! and some funny but also sad moments along the way.


On your Twitter we’ve spotted the mind map for building new book characters. Can you tell more about your writing process?


Well book two is very different to Accepting the unexpected as half of the cast where based on real people so I didn’t have to think too deeply into the characters as I know them personally. But with book two (Still no title) its fiction based in a completely different era in time the start of the 20th century. So I decided to mind map my characters and how they are all linked in an old school well to help introduce them into the story. I’ve had to tackled this one very differently as I need to brush up on my history facts!


New book characters mind map 



You describe yourself as a New Indie Author. What does it mean to be an Indie Author for you?


I’m very new to this, my day job is a hairdresser. I knew very little on how to write and format a book. I am a complete amateur really, but I was lucky that I got introduced to some fellow “indie authors”, Independent authors along the way, that helped guide me on how to get my book into the world as I pretty much done the whole thing myself. I had no beta readers, proof readers, I roped a few friends in along the way but it wasn’t the right kind of help. I’ve learned a lot in this process that will help book two be even better.


Self-publishing is a real trend now, a lot of authors, readers and bloggers have decided to follow the self-pub path. How did your self-publishing process look like? Would you recommend it for other aspiring writers?


Of course, I hoped that I could somehow land a literary agent that could find me a publisher and have hard back published versions of my book (I still do) but lots of great writers are out there doing the same thing. I find it to be a tough market for shiny new authors such as myself. So the help I got was from writers who have self published so I took a shot in the dark really. But it’s been the quickest way to get my work out into the world.


Could you tell our readers which authors inspire you?


Candice Bushnell and Helen Fielding where massive inspirations for my book, I'd say Accepting the Unexpected is a mixture of Sex and the city and Bridget Jones diary. I loved the characters they created. E L James is another, not that my book is any type of Fifty shades. But she unleashed a market of readers who I feel would also enjoy my work so I commend her for that.


Sex and the City - Candace BushnellBridget Jones's Diary - Helen FieldingFifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James 



Jane Austin is my new favorite author. I’m really enjoying her work at the moment as I do like to be taken to another era in time. I love to escape so J.K Rowling is my hero! She is a freak of nature to have that world of Harry Potter in her imagination is just truly amazing. I would love nothing more than just even a tenth of her imagination. I also enjoy Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, again it’s another world and they are huge inspirations for book three!! As I have a fantasy adventure in my head that I have wrote some of but is not fully realized yet so watch this space!


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling,Mary GrandPréThe Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien




What are you reading when not writing? Could you please recommend some of your top reads?


Recently I’ve read a few of a fellow indie authors work Cassandra P Lewis she writes some great suspense romance and her most recent book “Home” is one I'd highly recommend. Also “The Law Of Attraction” by Roxie Copper is another, it’s her first novel about the world of getting into law with some really great twists and turns. I loved it! So please check out these authors they are talented ladies.


Home: A Country Romance - Cassandra P. LewisThe Law of Attraction: the perfect feel good read to curl up with for Autumn 2017 - Roxie Cooper


We’re really curious of writers’ writing habits :) Where do you write? Our readers would love to see some photos of your writing space.


Well, I wrote Accepting the Unexpected on an old net book that decided to crash so thank goodness for Google docs! But I do now have a computer set up in my living room, I need to have peace and quiet to write and a good few hours to spare which I wish I had more of that’s why it took my first book four years to write.


Mollie Jo Joseph's writing spot


From your point of view: is it easy to become a writer nowadays?


No I believe it’s extremely hard. There are just so many talented writers out there and we would all like our time in the spot light. But please don’t let that put off any new writer, if you want anything in life bad enough you can make it happen. I’m so proud of myself that though all the tough times I stuck at it and made it happen. Its truly liberating. But there is no greater reward than putting your story out into the world and have it so greatly received. It’s what makes it so worthwhile!


Thank you, Joanne. And good luck with your upcoming titles!


Don't miss the e-book giveaway (3 copies)!

October 7 - October 29




Connect with Mollie Jo Joseph:



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text 2017-10-24 14:10
Khaled Talib: How I became a thriller writer [A guest post + Giveaway]

We're delighted to introduce you a suspense thriller author Khaled Talib who agreed to share his story with the BookLikes readers. If you've ever wondered how one becomes a writer, here's your chance. Enjoy!


If you love thrillers, we bet you'll love Khaled Talib's suspense espionage Incognito - you can request an e-book copy HERE.


Follow Khaled Talib on BookLikes: http://kat65.booklikes.com/


-- A guest post by Khaled Talib


If you ask me to write a poem, chances are, I can— but I won’t do it with the same pleasure that I derive from writing a thriller.  It’s hard to explain why, but have you ever seen how artists paint with passion and how musicians perform with fervor? You can feel their energy like a thousand thunders and lightnings shaking and flashing the night sky during a wild storm.  Well, that’s me. I like writing stories… and that would explain how I became a thriller author.


Unfortunately, I didn’t know where or how to start. It took me a long time to discover the process of becoming a thriller author. But if there is one thing that has kept me pursuing my interest it’s stubbornness and tenacity, a good trait to have if you want to write. 


I showed an interest in writing when I attempted my first book, a detective mystery. I was around 14 or 15 when I wrote it on a school jotter, but I gave up halfway. Some idiot in class found the book and made fun of it. He didn’t understand what I was trying to do. However, it didn’t matter as the experience had set the foundation of what I wanted to do … tell thrilling tales that will play with your emotion in more ways than one.


I was reading all kinds of books. Similarly, I was also watching lots of television. But it was not until I saw one book that changed the course of my thinking. It belonged to my uncle, an odd shaped book, nothing like I have ever seen before, but with an attractive cover. I knew it was a thriller novel from the cover’s artwork. It was entitled, The Bourne Identity, by someone named Robert Ludlum. I was still a teenager then.


I read the book after my uncle had finished it. It was exciting, and the style of writing was unique. I found myself asking questions: how does one become a thriller writer like Ludlum? Do I have to live in the U.S. or London? Is there a school that teaches you how to write?


I never had the chance to pursue my dream for a long time, although from now and then a little voice would remind me to stay the course. But how? These things are not taught in school. Nobody talks about it. And back then, there was no internet to do any research.  For a long time, I felt marooned on a deserted island. I was lost, confused, and hoping someone would see the HELP sign that I made across the sand.


I ended up becoming a magazine writer. It may not have contributed directly to my interest in writing thrillers, but the field did teach me the ground work to do research and fact checking. Important ingredients to an author.


Interestingly, I found myself trying to write a story again when I was in my twenties. It was a financial thriller. But I gave it up after a few pages when I realized I didn’t have the professional skills to write a novel.


I didn’t understand the structure of story building, which included plot, themes and characterization. Imagine reading a book about flying and then sitting in a cockpit alone trying to take off on a runway. Think you can fly the plane? 


SMOKESCREEN - Khaled Talib Wasted years went by. And then it started again… the little voice reappeared and told me to start writing. This time, however, I managed to complete the manuscript. I called it Smokescreen, a story about a magazine journalist who becomes a scapegoat in a plot to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister. But the writing wasn’t great. I didn’t know how bad it was because you can’t see the forest from the trees. However, it didn’t matter as it set me along the course about what I should do next.


My subconscious prompted me to visit the bookstore. Perhaps there’s a shelf on writing that might be able to educate me. I remember visiting Borders, and instead of getting books that taught me how to write better, I found a magazine called Writer’s Digest, where I also learned about literary agents. It was the first time I’ve ever heard about such people. I didn’t even know such a profession existed before that.  They can help you get your book published. Fascinating, I thought.


I started writing to everybody, expecting favorable responses. Those were the days when agents expected you to send your samples by mail. It was a slow procedure, but an investment that I was sure would be worthwhile. Imagine my shock when everyone rejected me.  Well, there were some nice praises and some encouraging notes, but the letters were still rejections. I almost gave up the idea of submitting until I learned that rejection was normal.


I started rewriting the manuscript and sent out samples of my work to other agents. I got lucky with one New York agent who saw something in the story. However, he advised me to get an editor to help me brush up my work before resubmitting.


I began reworking the manuscript with the help of an editor. I was excited, delirious. It was going to be sensational! When I resubmitted the novel to the agent, he rejected me again. He explained his reasons, but I didn’t understand a word what he was trying to say. It was too technical.


I tried sending the same manuscript to others, including some small press. Even they rejected me. I thought: my work must be so bad. But one small publisher told me to resend it once I fixed the problem. Yet, no one told me what the problem was.


Imagine sitting in a jail cell waiting to be executed. Sometime before dawn, you hear the footsteps coming for you. I felt my stomach churning, my heart racing and my mind in a freeze mode. I struggled to decipher where the fault lies in the story just before the hangman pulled the lever. I was breathing heavily as I feel the noose tightened around my neck. And then…


Honestly, I’m not sure if it was intelligence or pure luck, but I discovered where I went wrong with the story. I managed to fix the problem – it was such a minor problem that took me a couple of hours to fix. But the way everyone made it sound like I had committed blasphemy.


I resubmitted it to the small publisher. Guess what? I got an offer to publish the novel! Then came the tough part. The publisher wanted me to ask other authors to endorse the book. What? Who? Where? I live in Singapore—nobody writes here. There were some local authors, but I didn’t think they’d qualify. I didn’t want to be a small island author. I wanted to be an international thriller author.


So, I took a deep breath and wrote to a thriller author whose novel I had read. An interesting book about a former CIA agent with Alzheimer. That author was Keith Thomson, whose novel, Once a Spy, became a New York Times bestseller.


There I was… a small fry about to ask this New York Times bestselling author for a blurb. I must be crazy, I thought, to query him. But I did ask him. He sounded busy when he wrote back, though he agreed to read my work. In the mean time I was biting my fingernails, waiting, expecting a rejection. When you read books by others, you always feel that you’re not good enough. Your mind starts to play with you, prompting questions like, “Why can’t I write like that author?” and “Why didn’t I use that word in my manuscript?” and “That scene sounds better than how I would’ve described it.”  Simply put, I began to doubt myself— I had zero confidence. It’s only nature for you to be unsure of yourself, especially at the start. It teaches you humility. You’re going to get a rude shock if you expect things to go your way.


So, when Keith Thomson finally replied after more than a month, I braced myself for disaster. As his email waited to be opened, a dozen questions ran through my mind again. His response would make or break my future. It would decide whether I could be a thriller author or not. After all these years of trying to imagine myself as a thriller author, the answer behind the author’s email would decide if I’m qualified or not to be a thriller writer. Could I live with rejection? The book would still get published but if this New York Times bestselling author rejected me, does it mean I failed to make the grade?


Keith Thomson didn’t reject my work. In fact, he said he was “compelled” to give me a blurb! Imagine that. If you like to know what he wrote, you’ll find it on the sample pages of my book on Amazon.


My publisher insisted that I should query several more authors for endorsements. I wrote to others. It’s not easy to ask, especially highly acclaimed ones. But why did I do that? I wanted to aim high. To gauge my own standard.  Well, I succeeded to get a few more. They included Ruth Harris, New York Times bestselling author of Hooked and Brainwashed, Jon McGoran, author of Drift  and the new YA, Spliced.


And so that day, I became a thriller author. Guess what? I decided to end it there. One book, that’s it— no more. It was hell of a road trip, and I didn’t think I could ever write again. I was exhausted. Who was I kidding? Just like a marathon runner, a tennis player or a soccer player, you’re going to feel tired after a game. You’re going to rest, then come back— and that’s what I did.


Incognito - Khaled Talib  I went on to write a few more books. I wrote Incognito, a novel about the Pope’s disappearance and Gun Kiss, which is due to be released by Canada’s Imajin Books. It’s a story about the Deringer that shot Lincoln getting stolen and ties up to a Hollywood actress stalked by a drug lord. The novel received endorsements from Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of The Rising, Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassin, and K.J. Howe, author of the riveting thriller, The Freedom Broker.


Today, I’ve become an official member of the International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association. My novels have been reviewed worldwide by magazines and bloggers. I guess this is really what I want to do— writer thrillers. Share my stories with others. Why? Why do painters paint? Why do musicians play music? Whatever the answer, this is what I like to do… because it’s who I am.  Somehow, you’ll find your way.



Request your e-book copy of Incognito ->


To learn more about Khaled, please visit:

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text 2017-10-19 13:32
Exclusive excerpt and a book discount: Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender by Kenneth Harris


We're happy to introduce Ken Harris, a comic fan and a YA author whose recent book Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender intrigued us so much that we couldn't resit and invited Ken to share the book details. Read the exclusive excerpt below and immerse in this amazing story. Enjoy!


P.S. Ken prepared a surprise for BookLikes readers. Use the links below to find the book at the special reduced prices.


Happy Birthday, Ken!



-- An author guest post by Kenneth Harris


Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender - Kenneth Harris,Aaron Harris Hello! My name is Kenneth Harris. I am a children’s book author excited for the opportunity here on BookLikes to interact with readers like you. Please visit my blog at http://JETSETJEFF.BOOKLIKES.COM.

I am a fan of the history of old-school comic strips, comic book heroes, and their creators. I have started a FREE monthly newsletter dedicated to this art medium that emerged during the Great Depression and reached its peak during the 1980s. You can subscribe to my newsletter at http://kforpartnership.wixsite.com/educ.  

In my latest book, a 10-year-old boy secretly creates a malfunctioning Gadget suit to protect his first responder parents.


From October 19th to October 31st I am offering a discount for this Amazon chapter-book, Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender. Regular price for the paperback is $5.99 and the EBook is $3.99.  For the remainder of this month, the hardcopy has been reduced to $3.60 and the digital at $2.99. Click here. You and the children in your life will like this action-packed humorous story. You can learn more about me and my other titles here. Thank you!




Chapter 1



     Residents in Springdale City were afraid of the rising crime problem. Police and firefighters were risking their lives to keep residents safe from thieves and burning buildings. Innocent people were afraid to walk the streets.

     A ten-year-old boy had an idea to ease his own anxiety. Inside his tree house up in a shady oak tree, his weird experiment was underway.

     Outside a corner guarded by drapes, Ike Jones let out a loud sigh. His round face was twisted with boredom. He was a short, pudgy kid. Ice cream preyed on his mind, like usual.

     “Jeff, how much longer is this going to take?” Ike pleaded. “I’m so hungry; I could swallow one hundred snow cones.”

     “Preparation requires patience,” said Jeff behind the curtains. “Soon, you will witness the greatest experiment in the world.”

     Suddenly, Jeff Morgan leaped out, smiling excitedly. He was thin and wore prism glasses over his small eyes. He had on a weird spandex suit with a utility belt. Thrusters, host to little rockets, were strapped to his back. As the machine hummed and crackled, its loose bolts pelted the floor.

     Ting! Ting! Ting!

     “Finally,” continued Jeff as he stood proudly on a chair. “My jetpack is perfected.”



     Unimpressed, Ike’s eyes narrowed to the size of toothpicks. “What is that junk on your back really? It looks like an air-conditioner.”

     Jeff brushed off his friend’s ridicule and pointed up. “The time has come at last to demonstrate the flight of my latest gadget.”

     “Did you go to the city landfill again to dig up worthless parts?”

     “If there’s nothing more to be said, I shall fly. Stand aside, if you please.”

     Jeff took off running to the open door. When he reached the edge, he leaped and cried out like Tarzan. In slow motion, he drifted about in the air, amazed at the scenery of the grassland stretching in all directions.

     Then, the realization of trouble burst upon his worried face. He wasn’t flying. He was falling like a shooting star. He nervously fumbled away at the dozens of buttons on his special utility belt.

     “Not good!” Jeff shouted.

     “Jeff!” cried Ike.

     Jeff hurtled downward at terrific speed. He landed face down on a pile of neatly stacked leaves.


     Ike climbed aboard an upright barrel. He grasped a rope above and pulled it. The barrel dropped to the surface like an elevator.

     Jeff, slightly dazed, got to his feet as Ike made his way over to him.

     “Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting to fall on your face,” Ike taunted.

     “This is no problem,” Jeff stammered. “I can rectify this malfunction.”

     The loud racket from his jetpack intensified. Surely, there was a big problem with his latest device. Jeff tapped a few switches on his belt in hopes of turning it off.  Despite his efforts, it continued to crackle and pop loudly.

     Ike kindly slapped Jeff on the shoulder. “Why don’t you find another hobby? Chasing after an ice cream truck is more fun-licious.”

     “After I repair my jetpack, no ice cream truck will outrun us,” Jeff snarled.

      “I commend your latest effort, but I have to be home for dessert.”

     Jeff gasped, “Ike, you said you already ate dessert. Don’t let sweets distract you from this secret mission. After all, you agreed to be my assistant.”

     “That was twenty experiments ago,” Ike said as he backed away to the surrounding bushes. “Nothing you build ever works right. I quit.”

     “But we’re so close.”


    Ike ran off through a break in the bushes. He was unaware of his friend’s disappointment in his departure.



     Jeff took off his whirring jetpack. He studied it closely. He promised himself he wouldn’t give up on fixing it. In order to protect his mom and dad, he knew he had to succeed. They worked dangerous jobs that always made him nervous.

     He heard a twig snapped.  Somebody was coming. He quickly hid the jetpack behind a tree. He also removed his gadget suit and tossed it over his humming device.

     “Jeff!?” a woman’s frustrated voice hailed.

     Ms. Fisher emerged from the woods with his one-year-old brother Wade in her arms. The wrinkled-faced babysitter was angry. She disliked long walks from the house.

     Jeff couldn’t help but smile merrily at them. A pacifier dangled from Wade’s mouth.

     Luckily, the noise from the jet thruster lowered to a faint squawking. Jeff hoped Ms. Fisher wouldn’t hear it.

     “Yes, Ms. Fisher?”

     “Jeffrey Morgan! You know I’m not fond of straying from the house in the evening.”

     “Sorry, I forgot.”

     “Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes. Be sure to wash your hands before you eat.”

     “I copy that radio transmission, Sargent Fisher,” Jeff joked.

     The raising of her eyebrow meant she didn’t take kindly to his mockery. Jeff bit his tongue. The last thing he wanted was his parents to find out about his bad behavior. Ms. Fisher was a cranky old woman with no sense of humor.

     “That will be enough out of you,” she countered. “Be at the dinner table and don’t have me come looking for you.”

     Ms. Fisher stomped away with Wade back to the house.

     Jeff had spent many months working on his experiment. He wasn’t ready to give up easily. He slipped on his costume once again. Jeff fastened the jetpack over his back and jumped into the barrel. He pulled the rope with both hands. The barrel shot up to a port beneath the tree house.

     There Jeff figured out the answer to the problem.

     His hand caught a lever on the side of his pack. He dragged the handle down. Spitting flames radiated brightly from the rims of his rockets. He felt himself being slowly lifted into the air.

     “I’m flying!” Jeff cried excitedly. “I’m flying!”


 Chapter 2



     Jeff hurriedly squeezed his feet into ski boots. His hand snatched a mask-like helmet from a table. When he placed it over his head, he looked like an astronaut who crawled out of a trash compactor.

     He flew out the window like a soaring bird.


     Jeff blazed upward like a fast launching jet. The bird’s eye view of the green land formations was quite clear. Eventually, the sight of the city loomed largely. His flight was a success.

     Jeff swirled and twisted playfully as he hung in mid-air. His fun was cut short when a distant disturbance below caught his eye.

     A thick wisp of smoke was rising from a fiery midtown apartment building. Jeff knew his father, who was a firefighter, would be at that scene. Jeff believed he had a duty to protect him.

    He sped towards the leaping flames.

    Fire and smoke poured out of the open windows of the apartment building. Panicking firefighters were manning the hoses. Others were on ladders pulling choking residents out of the burning building. From the safety of the sidewalk, tenants watched with wearied eyes.

     “A firefighter is still in that building!” cried a woman.

     “No one can save him in time,” said a distraught man. “The fire is too much!”

     “Stand aside!” Jeff commanded in a firm tone.

     The man and woman looked up and saw Jeff flying sternly over them.

     “What in the blazes is that?” asked the woman.

     Jeff twisted a dial on his utility belt to activate the landing gear in his boots.

     It didn’t work.

     “Oh my goodness!” he gasped.

     He crashed through the fourth-floor window. Inside the dark smoke, he collided with a wall and fell face down. Jeff quickly got to his feet. He flicked a switch on his belt to turn on emergency lights installed in his helmet. The broken blinkers flashed on and off repeatedly.

     Jeff realized he was on the top floor balcony, and the fire was all around him. He heard a man coughing. He looked down over the railing and saw his father on the floor beneath him.

     Surprisingly, he didn’t have his mask on.

     “Dad!” Jeff cried.

     His father didn’t hear him because he was on his knees choking from the cloud of smoke. He had his hand around his neck. The floor where he was located was on the verge of collapsing.

     Jeff knew he had to think of a way to save him fast.

     The third level shattered. His father fell with the debris of what was once was a floor. Jeff pointed a wrist device at him. A handcuff, attach to a long cable, swept down. Its jaws draped over his father’s flailing wrist.

     “Got you!” Jeff said excitedly.

     His father dangled in the air below, leaping flames engulfing the lobby. He looked up to see who saved him. He nearly fainted. “What are you?” he asked.

     “Just a good astronaut…I mean Samaritan,” answered Jeff. “I have to get you out of here, Dad.”

     Mr. Morgan was greatly startled. “What did you call me!?”

     Jeff realized his mistake and blushed. “I said drag! It’s sure a drag getting you out of here.”

     Jeff flew over the fire as his father dangled in disbelief. Jeff guided him out of the smashed window through which he came. The burning ceiling came down just as they escaped.

     Once outside, Jeff swung his father into the arms of grateful firefighters.

     “That little guy saved my life,” said Mr. Morgan.

     “Who are you?” asked a curious firefighter.



     Jeff thought about that as he floated. Loose bolts hurtled from his noisy gadget suit.

     “I haven’t given that much thought,” he replied.

     Another excited firefighter drew closer. “That strange suit of yours is a success. With your help, we can save many lives.”

     “Sorry, but I am not a super-hero.”

     A panicking police captain pushed through the crowd with a radio in his hand. “There’s been a report of a bank robbery,” he said.  “It’s the National Bank on the other side of town. We won’t get there in time.”

     Jeff knew his mother, who was a police officer, was assigned to work in that sector of the city. He knew she would be there. He also knew he must protect her too.

     A succession of rocket blasts sent him up and away. The crowd cheered their hero on.


Chapter 3




     “Hurry up, you idling fool!” demanded Glue Dude as he eyed the nervous bank teller. “I want that bag filled with all the money!”  He was aiming his long glue soaker gun. “And don’t forget to add in a lollypop!”

     The shivering manager passed from cage to cage, gathering the cash, and stuffing it into a satchel.

     A wicked laugh burst from the mask of the evil scientist. “With the apartment fire I started downtown, the other cops will be very busy. They won’t get here in time to catch me. I fooled them all.”

     The bank customers, including Mrs. Morgan who was on-duty as a police officer, were face down on the floor. Their trembling hands covered the backs of their heads. She lifted her eyes to the greedy robber.

     “Glue Dude, you won’t get away with this,” Mrs. Morgan said.

     “Don’t bet on that, Copper,” he said. Glue Dude brandished his weapon. “This glue soaker is my most valuable invention. One day, I will have enough money to build the most destructive weapon in the world. I shall finally be respected as the greatest scientist of them all!”

     “Keep dreaming, Paste Face!” said Jeff as he skated into the lobby.  Smoke billowed from his defected blazing jet skates.

     “How dare you interrupt my plans!” said Glue Dude.

     Mrs. Morgan was star-struck like the rest of the smiling patrons. “Who are you?” she asked. “A super-hero?”

     Jeff blushed again. “Not exactly, Mom…I mean Ma’am!”

     “You little rascal,” said Glue Dude. “One blast from my glue gun will leave you stuck and hopeless.”

     “The only thing stuck and hopeless is your getaway.” Jeff taunted. “Make it easy on yourself and give up gluey brain!”

     Glue Dude raised his glue gun. Thinking fast, Jeff removed his electronic boomerang from his utility belt. He threw it. Instantly, his jet rang traveled backward. Jeff looked confused. It sailed out the entrance door of the bank.

     Jeff looked back at Glue Dude and stomped his feet “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

     Glue Dude shrugged. “It looks like it has an electrical problem.”

     The jet rang came swirling back into the bank.

     “Look out, Super-Hero!” cried Mrs. Morgan.

     “Please, I am not a super-hero,” countered Jeff. “Just call me…”

     The swirling boomerang rang against the back of Jeff’s head.


     Jeff saw stars circling around him. He forgot what planet he was on. He slumped to the floor.

     Glue Dude laughed merrily. Jeff struggled to get to his knees.

     “You are a clumsy super-hero,” mocked Glue Dude. “Prepare to be swarm with paste.”

     Glue Dude activated his glue gun. Hoping to fly up, Jeff turned a dial on his utility belt. A long wire shot out from his wrist device. The jawing handcuff seized Glue Dude by his wrist.

     “Hey!” Glue Dude protested.

     "Oops…" Jeff said.  "That was supposed to activate my jet rockets."

     The powerful tentacle pulled Glue Dude off his feet. Both Jeff and Glue Dude spun clockwise at high-speed. Glue Dude circled around like a blind fly.  Jeff felt like he was spinning on a merry-go-round.

     “My brain is becoming scrambled eggs,” cried Glue Dude. “I give up. Please release me.”

     “I left the instruction manual at home,” Jeff joked. “I don’t how to turn it off.”

     “Find the off switch before I vomit, you pile of rubble!” Glue Dude hissed.

     “Oh,” prompted Jeff, “I think I created that button.”

     The instant Jeff flicked a switch on his belt, the handcuff released Glue Dude. His swirling body crashed through a window.


     Jeff paced toward the shattered window. Outside, across the street, he spotted Glue Dude running off into an ally.

     “You’ll never get me,” said Glue Dude. “I assure you, this isn’t the last of Glue Dude.”

     “Don’t come back!” warned Jeff.

      A delighted Mrs. Morgan and the customers eagerly approached Jeff.

     “Who are you?” Mrs. Morgan asked.



     Jeff eyed his mother for a moment, thinking, and then continued. “For now, call me Jet Set, the Science Defender. Until next time, stay indoors and stay safe Springdale residents.”

     Jeff saluted them. Afterward, he fired his rockets and began flying away. Loose screws from his humming suit rained down over the impressed spectators. They pushed and shoved to get at the screws they wanted to claim for souvenirs. Poor Officer Morgan had her hands full.

     Back at his tree house, Jeff slipped off his gadget suit. On the ground level, he ran through the woods, out across the lawn and up the side steps to his rural home. He pushed open the side door that leads into the dining room.

     Immediately, he found Ms. Fisher sizing him up. Her face was firm and her arms crossed. Jeff was startled.





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