AMETHYST, Book One of the Jewel Series


AMETHYST is a dystopian fantasy romance serving as Book One in The Jewel Series. The book begins with “Hour Eight,” the mysterious name for a female character running from pursuers, chasing her for the jewels she’s stolen. Vainqueur makes the excellent choice to have her main character faced with the decision to either confront these pursuers or jump from the top of a building. She actually decides to jump. This lets us know up front that we’re not dealing with just any normal thief. Any person willing to do something so horrifying and with any expectation whatsoever of survival is functioning at a level of bravery that’s unimaginable to most of us. It makes us want to know much more about who this person is and why they do what they do. 

My favorite description from early in the novel: “It laid flat on my forehead like it was supposed to, covered my mouth and nose, leaving just my eyes and the shape of my figure to the darkness.” It cuts a striking image.

The mention of “Regulars” soon implies that we’re in some sort of dystopian future in which people are compartmentalized according to some forcefully necessary status bracket. This is established effectively in a break from the action and continues throughout the book.

In the Amazon description of the book, Vainqueur gives her main character a voice:

“My name is Amethyst Oh-Maya and I have a secret. I was born with the curse of Mother Nature and I have no idea why.

For years, I thought I knew who I was. The truth is, I didn’t even know half of what I was capable of. Not until the Mayhem happened. There’s a reason why people try to run me out of the city. There’s a reason why they will always hunt me. Because I’m a murderer of thousands.”

Click the photo above to purchase the book:

Book Trailer for Heather Wilde's "The Most Beautiful Insanity"


“…a surreal jaunt through the drug and betrayal-laden underbelly of South Beach’s club life. (Wilde’s) unusual lyricism stamps her characters and their sordid choices with authenticity. The result is an insider’s lens on the grislier truths behind beauty and privilege.” --The Miami Herald

THE TRAGIC PRICE OF PERFECT BEAUTY

Drexel Waters is a male fashion model living in South Miami Beach. His career is in free fall after inadvertently causing the overdose death of a female model. She turns out to be the daughter of a powerful billionaire real estate mogul, now bent on revenge for his daughter’s death.

By Drexel’s side is Ophelia, his fashion model, co-dependent girlfriend who would do anything for him, no matter how depraved or illegal. Still, she possesses a dark side and a hidden agenda, which no one sees coming.

The detective on the case is Trace Strickland, an old friend of Drexel’s. They share a sordid past. Trace is stuck between performing his job as a cop and doing his best to help his desperate friend while also concealing their connection.

Murderous forces close in on Drexel as the girl’s father comes ever closer to tracking him down. Steamy sex, available drugs, perfect beauty, and casual morality clash in a shattering climax that will leave the reader stunned.

For readers 18 and over only!

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: Robertas Semeniukas, "Backstage Stories"

By Lee Anderson

Robertas Semeniukas’ new album Backstage Stories is a 20-track tour de force of grandiose, crunching guitars occasionally accented by his Lithuanian vocals, delivered rapid-fire on the opening track, “Kai nieko nebelieka,” as if he’s rapping. During certain points he snarls his lyrics with such emotion that not being able to understand him is actually a little frustrating. You have no idea what he’s singing, but he certainly seems to mean it. 

Google Translate helps with the titles at least. The second track is a pleasing, softer standout number that includes (as many do) a duet with a female singer. It’s entitled “Nesustok,” which means “Don’t Stop.” “Kai Tu Sugrisi I Namus,” another melody-heavy duet, is translated into “When I Return You Home.” The songs titled in English are predictably instrumentals. The best of these is “Flying High (S.V.J.S.),” a showcase for Semeniukas’ nimble fret-hammering. (To be exact, only 8 of the songs have vocals.) 

An album titled “Backstage Stories” might bring to mind the depraved misadventures of a drugged-out rock star, but these songs are too well-crafted to come from anything so chaotic. The best of the bunch are the thrusting “Per bangas” (“Through the Waves”), the forlorn “Journey Home,” and the thunder-stomp of “Eat My Dust” (featuring Mr. Jumbo.) The kaleidoscopic music video of dueling electric guitars superimposed over flames and abstract graphics is included below.     

Semeniukas considers himself a composer, producer, arranger, guitarist and singer all-in-one. Listening to the ambitiously polished jams on Backstage Stories makes this more than believable. He’s collaborated with numerous other famous musicians, composers, and producers, both Lithuanian and otherwise. Apart from performing in large arenas in his native country, he’s also frequently takes part in musical projects for television. He’s performed at music festivals across North America, Scandinavia, and even Russia.

However, stepping out into your own spotlight can still be the scariest place to find yourself. Semeniukas takes inspiration from many while attempting to remain unique. He elaborates: “As a musician and guitarist I used to play and record with the different bands and artists for many years…It took me many years to finally pursue recording a solo album, which would have plenty of guitar compositions and my vocals could be heard. For this album I was inspired by my guitar heroes: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Slash, Guns N'Roses, Queen, Metallica, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and many others.”  

Pshaw! Living up to that roster should be no problem at all. Backstage Stories is as good of a place as any to start.



Interview with Heather Wilde, Author of The Most Beautiful Insanity

By Lee Anderson

"Drexel Waters was having sex with her from behind. The Ecstasy pill kicked in as he came, and it was Heaven. The most intense orgasm of all time. And all this despite not being able to see her, not even a shape. (The closet light didn’t work.) But there was something extra sensual about this, sex without sight, only the feel of her hips, the slightness of her waist, her pleased whimpering.” 

That's the first paragraph of Heather Wilde’'s new novel, The Most Beautiful Insanity

As you're already gathering, the novel can be a shock to read. It holds very little back. It’s a fictional portrait of the beautiful people and the hedonistic, turbulent way some of them choose to live. When the amoral behavior of one of the characters--a male model--leads to the accidental death of younger female model, it causes a downward spiral for him and everyone around him. The descent includes lots of sex and insanity. Wilde’s writing is Chuck Palahniuk if he had a baby with Anais Nin. So, yeah, it might not be for everyone.

Still, reviews have been great, and Wilde’s novel does also tell a story of hope and love. Even in their darkest moments, people can still feel for one another. They can still heal. Or die trying anyway. 

What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
HEATHER WILDE: When I was six years old, I wrote a letter to my mother that I was running away from home forever and she would never ever find me. Because I was at Dana’s (Laughs.)

What’s the last book that made you cry?
They Both Die at the EndThat’s really the title. Even the title is telling you what’s going to happen, and it still made me cry! Like ugly cry until my chest hurt. It was disgusting. (Laughs.)

What is your favorite part of The Most Beautiful Insanity?
(Long pause.) That’s a hard question. There’s some emotional stuff with Ophelia that I always connect with. I think every woman will. She’s complex, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever honestly written a character who was more well-meaning yet evil. That doesn’t make sense, does it? But that’s the best way to explain her. I never knew what she was going to do. It was crazy.

But you’re favorite part?
I didn’t say, did I? (Laughs.) I dodged that question bad. I don’t know. I love all of it. The sex scenes were fun to write. I’d never written anything so naughty and graphic. It was liberating. I recommend to everyone that they write dirty, filthy sex scenes! (Laughs.) It will punch-up your sex life, I promise.  

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
My God, so many of them. I love buying books almost as much as I love reading them. Just the smell of a new book, y’know? It makes me drunk. But next on my list is Geek Love. I’ve heard it’s disturbing, which I’m down with. Always. I live to be disturbed.

That’s a line from one of your characters, I think. 
Is it? Well, I’m allowed to plagiarize myself.

Where do you write?
In bed usually. Sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop, you know, get my spirits “charged by a livelier atmosphere.” But nothing beats my bed. Just sitting up with my laptop in my lap, letting the ideas flow. In my pajamas.

Which book made you want to become a writer? 
Sweet Valley High.There, I said it. Shoot me. So, yes, I started out mimicking novels about pretty twin girls and their pretty boy problems. And then I learned how to actually write and found a deeper consciousness blah blah. Every writer has to start somewhere though!  

What was the hardest part to write in The Most Beautiful Insanity?
The violence. Definitely not a type of writing which comes to me naturally. I’m more about the love. Still, you almost can’t have one without the other sometimes, especially if the love is that intense. Know what I mean?

Think so. Sounds like a different interview. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I’d love to be taller. (Laughs.) I don’t know. I would change how I can’t spread my arms and fly around all over the place. I would change how mortal I am and never die. How’s that?

If The Most Beautiful Insanity had a movie poster tagline, it would be:
I have it memorized: “Perfect beauty, casual morality, and tragic death mix in this surreal jaunt through the underbelly of fashion…”

Wow. Seems a little long though.
That’s what she said! What?


Click on the image below to buy a copy of 
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL INSANITY now:



INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Elise Hayes, “Giving Up”

By Lee Anderson

“You never wanted me to get that tattoo,” sings Nashville recording artist Elise Hayes. “I’m going to get that tattoo.”

This the start to her new single “Giving Up,” (co-written with Johnny Mo)which is about not giving up, an ode to post-relationship defiance. There is freedom in being your own person again, even if you were the one dumped.

The music itself is a tapestry of sorts: sonic styles patchworked together into a compact yet pleasing mix. Pounding drums and sitar give way to softer guitar, then back to drums, which sometimes beat rapidly as a door knock. A wake up call. The song often stops and starts as if her thoughts are coming to her in jagged fits as she’s singing them.

“You never wanted me to have that haircut / Well, now I do…”  

It’s a hard style to pull off but Hayes does it effortlessly. She is a strong singer/songwriter, doubtlessly helped in her confidence from being featured in TV shows, such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” MTV’s “Siesta Key,” and others  She has also written songs for major recording artists while working as backup singer for the likes of Carly Pearce and Blake Shelton.

“You don’t get to hold me like you used to,” she sings, her voice a pop-style alto. “You don’t get to call me up / You don’t get to feel the way I loved you / You don’t get a safe place you could run to / You don’t get to write my side of the story…”

The subject of the song’s ire seems to have been a rather pathetic prospect in the first place, especially when she mentions him having his mother do his laundry and pay his water bill. Who needs a parent pay their damn water bill? That’s really about as sad as it gets. Who wouldn’t be better off?

Speaking about the tune, Hayes mentions “this song acts as a reminder to everyone who has ever been broken up with, that you’re worth so much more and sometimes someone leaving you is the greatest gift, even if it’s hard to see it at the time.”

To listen to the new single “Giving Up” by Elise Hayes, please click on the image below:


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INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Volcanic Grip, “About Me”

By Lee Anderson

You can already assume from the title of Volcanic Grip’s new single “About Me” that it’s probably autobiographical. You can also assume that his real name is something else, though I’d love to meet the mother who would name her baby “Volcanic Grip.” 

It’s a brilliant stage name though. It’s even puzzling as to how no one has ever thought of it before. Still--a name doesn’t mean anything unless there’s something truly good behind it. As John Lennon once said, “It's just that it means ‘Beatles,’ isn't it, you know? That's just a name, like ‘Shoe.’"

Where could such a name come from? Volcanic Grip’s Twitter account’s bio promises us: “Stories and fantasies of the Atlanta native's drug infused and adrenaline driven lifestyle.” 

With this in mind, the beginning of “About Me” takes you completely by surprise. It’s an operatic chorus over a moody piano. 

“I’m not good at pretending, no. Not anymore.” He sings high but without clothes-pinning his notes. The music is beautiful, but you can tell this isn’t going to be a happy story.  

“Got green for my sleeping / Never popping the pink / Too in love with the coke.” 

Volcanic Grip drops his voice, rhymes in Spanish, then sings: “Chaos, the infamy / And séance surrounding me / I pray of a day of / Hmmmm / So I can get higher and higher again.” The song is about him and he’s about drugs.

During the chorus, the drum beat fuzzes out, as if the drumskins hold BB’s on them. Buckshot maybe. (Not sure if this was so thought out, but just making note. It definitely works.)

Turns out “Volcanic Grip” is a name which means something and there’s something truly good behind it. He tells Hype Magazine: “I’m telling stories mostly of where I’m from or what people, where I’m from, would think about – earthly things or political things or challenging things that have to do with different taboos or things that a lot of people aren’t talking about.” 

You can tell, fortunately, the addicted life is a life he’s leaving behind. He sings the lyrics of a survivor and there aren’t necessarily too many of those anymore. 

Actually, the drug crisis in V.G.’s Atlanta doesn’t even make news these days, which is profoundly tragic for any city. Atlanta is especially hit hard, being situated directly in the middle of Tennessee, Alabama, and the Carolinas. This makes the city the ideal trafficking lane. A routine traffic stop in Atlanta once nabbed two cartel workers attempting to smuggle in $2.2 million dollars of heroin. It’s estimated that 13 out of every 100,000 Georgia residents dies from overdose. 

So it’s a shame for such a great song as "About Me" to carry such a sad message. It’s the value of art though—to tell us the truth. To talk about what people aren’t talking about.

The SoundCloud artwork for the single is a photo of a woman’s naked butt. 

To hear Volcanic Grip's new single "About Me," please click on the image below:

  
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INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Ethos, “V: Parents”


By Lee Anderson

Ethos is the stage name for Alex Hlavna, a 19-year veteran of the Cleveland, Ohio music scene where he played guitar, bass, and drums on numerous recordings. He has now released his own song entitled “V: Parents” from his new album Ten Commandments. The V is the Roman numeral for 5, as in the 5thCommandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Each track on the album is titled this way, named after a commandment. Is this some type of “religious rap” or is Ethos being metaphoric? The actual definition of “ethos” is “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.” Judging from such a moniker and from statements he’s made in interviews, it seems his goal is more about making observations, rather than instructing us that “thou shalt not whatever.” It’s a more provocative approach.

The song is a funk-bassline over an electronic beat and soft synths. Meanwhile Ethos’ voice is anything but soft as he raps about honoring your parent, yet entwined in the coils of contemporary concerns, such as divorce, disillusionment, and modern media distractions. When he switches to singing during the chorus, Ethos’ voice is a surprisingly smooth baritone. The soft synths later change into rapid dance notes. Without question, it’s a cool song.

Though called “Parents,” the track is mainly about his father. Ethos raps that “one day you woke up and made it walk through the door and now in the arms of a woman you never met before, you never met before…” Then later: “Oh hey, what’s a Dad? I had two..” Apparently his father has made some mistakes.

There are upsides though: “The purpose of divorce is so that we can converse like we never could…” Ethos’ voice and lyrics carry a hint of hurt, but he still empathizes with the difficulties his father must have experienced. “I would like to dedicate this song to you, Dad. I still love you…” 

No parent is perfect, but there is a natural resentment towards moments where they might have fallen short. “We don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes, but we keep on keeping on making them. / Monkey see, monkey do. / Yeah, I’m talking to you…” 

Ethos soon lays down some poignant advice for the other dads out there: “Keep your kids accountable / Let them think for themselves / Don’t let them be a dick…” Wise words. No one should want to raise a kid who’s a dick.

Fortunately, it seems Hlavna’s father has definitely managed that much.

To hear the new single "V: Parents" by Ethos, click on the image below:


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