Friday, February 17, 2017

Steven Manchester Writes Remarkable Family Drama, Ashes, Available Feb. 21st!

Meet Tom Prendergast...
Tom felt a tap on his shoulder.
Still wearing his smile, he opened his eyes, expecting to see Kylie, his gracious stewardess.
Instead, he nearly jumped out of his desk chair. It wasn't Kylie at all. It was his assistant, Sue Nedar. He tried to caatch his breath.
"Professor," she said, "I hate to wake you but you have class in fifteen minutes."
Tom's head still felt submerged in the wondrous fog. "Fifteen minutes?' he replied, the throbbing pain of a mind-shattering toothache blurring his vision even more.
Sue tried valiantly to chase away a smile but quickly lost. "Yes, Professor," she said, her voice fighting off laughter. "You need to get up."
As Tom's wits returned, the excruciating pain in his mouth made him want to choke Sue for waking him...He tried to shake off the haze before looking back at his grinning assistant. "Sorry about that, Sue. I must have dozed of..."
"That's fine," she said, "Oh, your wife called. She said she's made alternate plans for dinner and that you probably shouldn't wait up for her." Sue quickly avoided eye contact after delivering the message.
Tom cringed. "My wife," he muttered, as if suddenly remembering he still had one of those.
...Professor Tom Prendergast started for the door when he spotted a stamped letter sitting on the corner of his desk; it was addressed to him from Attorney Russell Norman. He caught the attorney's return address. "He's from back home, he thought, grabbing the envelope to read on his way to class...Three minutes later, he was just outside his classrooom door when he froze in place. "Passed away from terminal cancer?" He shook his head, Oh shit, he thought, he had prostate cancer and it spread before...
He read the rest of the letter. The old man's already been cremated...and the reading of the last will and testament is scheduled for... He stopped... That son of a bitch had a will? Though he tried to stop it, his mind instantly returned to his adolescence--where his father glared at him with a look of sheer contempt in his eyes. "You're a dummy," the sadistic man growled, "and you're always gonna be a dummy." The nickname never made any sense to him, as he'd been much smarter than his dad ever since he could remember. Shaking off the hideous memory, Tom folded the letter and placed it into his leather briefcase...Throwing open the classroom door, the heavy buzz went silent. "I don't remember giving anyone permission to talk," he barked...
~~~

Meet Jason Prendergast...
Within the belly of the beast--Southeastern Correctional Center--Jason Prendergast reported from roll call straight to his new six-month assignment, Essex III block. Most correction officers dreaded Essex III because it housed some of the more violent animals within the inmate population. But being a veteran sergeant with twenty-eight years of experience working behind the wall, Jason barely noticed. It's just another day at the office, he thought. He wasn't fifty feet from his new assignment when the radio squelched once, a night shift officer screaming, "Code 70, medical emergency, Essen III...cell seventeen." Instinctively, Jason took off at a sprint.
Sergeant Jason Prendergast was the second man to enter the crowded. "Move out of the way!" he roared, pushing through a couple dozen inmates congregating outside of cell seventeen. With one final shove, he nearly ran into Inmate Andrew Pires's dangling torse. Pires had hanged himself; his neck was so stretched that his feet were nearly touching the floor. Dead, Jason immediately decided, noting that the con's eyes were still open and his fists clenched tight. While the reporting officer--Bobby Couture--was trying to catch his stolen breath, Jason surveyed the gruesome scene. There was a note written on the wall. Initially, he thought it was blood, but a subsequent look revealed that the author had used spaghetti sauce. It read, To the man who locked me in here for no reason, you better hope there's no afterlife. Jason looked back to Officer Couture and shook his head. Looks like the poor kid's going to be sick, he thought before considering whether to light the fresh cigar that protruded from his mouth. Nah, he decided. I shouldn't I promised Miranda I was going to quit.
Officer Couture was dry heaving off in the corner when the penitentiary's only physician arrived on scene and pronounced Inmate Pires dead. Jason turned toward Couture. "Listen, I need you to hold Pires around the waist while I cut him down." Couture looked ready to faint. Jason peered hard at him. "Just do your job," he ordered...
Jason was trying to teach Officer Couture that survival was the name of the game and that only the strong survived, while the weak were preyed upon in a shark-feeding frenzy. Jason understood this theory well. His chosen place of employment was where horrors became reality and reality changed from one minute to the next. With the dominant emotions being fear and anger, any and all power was achieved through either deceit or intimidation and force. The good were few and the bad usually became worse. Within this sub-society, a completely unconventional culture was created, forming its own code of morals and values--or lack thereof...
As he prepared to drive away, he noticed a pile of unopened mail..."Pop died from cancer," he said aloud, "and this is how I find out?" His rising blood pressure made his temples throb; he suddenly felt angry and hurt at the same time. From his earliest memories, it was a combination his dad could easily create in him. Jason took a deep breath and read on. The reading of the will is scheduled for next week... 
For a moment, he allowed his mind to return to his childhood where he pictured his father standing over him, snarling. "You're a punk," the old man hissed, "and you ain't ever gonna be anything but a punk." Jason quickly shook off the vivid image and started the truck. Shifting into drive, he thought. They can read the will without me...That son of a bitch never had anything good to offer me anyway.
As two shadows fought behind the steel mesh-covered windows, Jason stomped on the gas and headed for Mucky's Liquor Store, I need a drink...
~~~

Ashes
By Steven Manchester

Writing about a dysfunctional family just may be the norm for America these days. We are all a product of our environment, our early childhood, especially. Tom and Jason Prendergast could not remember too much about their mother before she died. They can remember that there were happy family times before then. Nothing was the same once their mother was gone. The boys father became an alcoholic, abusive father, physically as well as emotionally, the latter seeming to make the most disruption to the boys' lives at that time and to their future...

So much so that the boys had not been in contact for 15 years. The only reason they were now seeing each other was because they had been summoned by a lawyer due to the death of their father. They both had changed their minds about not going and were now, together, learning what their father's last wishes were... They were to pick up his box of ashes and take it across the country to where his ashes were to be spread...

You may have earlier read, including this morning, the Prequel that was provided in 6 episodes by Steven Manchester. I thought this was an excellent way to publicize his book, while also encouraging readers to sign up for his mailing list... For me, what it did was have me quite prepared to know the two brothers by the time I started reading the book. The episodes are still available here, on Manchester's site or across the Internet as shared... I enjoyed this process greatly! It didn't take me long to decide what actors, surely you know them, could match the personality of the characters you'll be meeting! Let me know what you think later...

If I were to say one thing about the boys' father, as written by the author, I would say that, in his own negative way, he encouraged the boys simply by giving nicknames... Tom was clearly a boy who was intelligent and meant to become a man who would use his intellect--He was now a professor... Was "dummy" his father's way to point Tom in the right direction, merely by knowing that Tom would do the opposite of what he'd been called?

Then there was Jason...when he grew older, he'd realized that he was able to "take" his father and let him know it... By being called a "punk," Jason had developed a self-confidence and a desire to ensure he would never be a punk like he'd been called, even to the extent of now working with... young... punks...  

At least that's how I read it...even if there is no excuse for the abuse when it was started...

So why did the boys agree to abide by his father's wishes? A bribe in the form of a sealed envelope that would be given to them only on proof that they'd properly handled their father's ashes. They both assumed that their father really had the acreage of land that they'd often heard about...it was the deciding point to begin their trip, which required them to first go to Salem to pick up the ashes and then drive across the country to Seattle...


It was big-brother Jason who set the rules for the trip and that was the first argument...among many to come...

Just the basic differences of the men soon became noticeable as Jason came prepared to ride in comfort, while Tom was...Tom... What they wanted to eat was totally different and where they would eat or stay was also. It soon came out that Jason had to worry about money since his daughter was getting married and Jason couldn't deny her anything she wanted for that day...

Neither of the men had ever met the children of the other... And by the time they were meeting, one was divorced, the other, thinking about it... And so, they were beginning to learn about the other. But don't think these were easy conversations, like getting caught up on somebody that you've not seen for a long time...  For instance, the second argument came about what radio would be played...Jason demanded country... The compromise was to change off when each became the driver... Tom then chose a talk show...




I can't really find the words for the clever, creative dialogue that you will find in this book...Some will have you laughing, some will make you cry... What you will experience in reading the book is that about 90% of the book has such emotional impact that you will soon believe both of these men are your friends and you're the third individual listening in, trying to think about helping each! For me, Jason's age made him more sympatico to me, while Tom, I just wanted to say, "Listen to your older brother..." Of course, in family turmoil, it just doesn't happen that way, does it? Everybody always has to force their own opinions into the mix...

But here they were, confined within the walls of their truck, forced to adjust to the life style, habits, and preferences of the other... And, yes, they were almost totally opposite in all of those, LOL.

Manchester is at his best in this book's story, dialogue, and character development...When he sent out the prequel, he admitted being excited about the book! Hey! I certainly can understand that...and I'd add that he should be proud as well.

I decided not to share much about the actual content, the reason being is that the impact comes from seeing the evolution as the cross-country trip begins and continues... There are also times when each is alone and readers can learn what each are thinking, especially after some major issue arises. Let me just say that if Steven's books could solve real-life issues in this same way... we'd all be calling him to respond to our true experiences... You know, instead of contacting Dr. Phil, we could ask this outstanding writer to create a solution to each of our own personal issues... What do you think?

This book is definitely added as a personal favorite for 2017! Prepare to laugh, cry, get angry, and do much thinking about how this book might affect your own attitudes in life... Highly Recommended...


GABixlerReviews



After returning home from a difficult tour of duty in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, I stepped back behind the walls of a Massachusetts penitentiary where I battled each day as a prison investigator. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time, and very little opportunity to heal from my wartime demons (or pursue my dreams of being published). I finally decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, my professor, Barry McKee, detailed police work, but barely touched on other topics. I finally raised his hand and asked, “As the criminal justice system is so vast, what about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” Barry smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, Barry explained, “Except from the slanted perspectives of inmates, there’s no real written material out there on corrections, or prisons.” Barry smiled again and then dropped the bomb that would change my life forever. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” It was the last push I needed to get writing. Nine months later, I placed the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (under the pen name, Steven Herberts) on Barry’s desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

Today, 25 years later, I am the author of four #1 national bestsellers: Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island. My long-anticipated, critically-acclaimed novel, The Changing Season, has just been released. I’m also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, while my work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of my short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series and I’m the produced playwright of Three Shoeboxes.

When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or our four children, I’m either promoting my works or writing.