Thursday, June 15, 2017

"The Fifteenth of June" by Brent Jones

The Fifteenth of June
by Brent Jones

The Fifteenth of June by Brent Jones

Today is the fifteenth of June, so we thought it appropriate to feature a new novel titled The Fifteenth of June. Author Brent Jones stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review and enter our exclusive giveaway. This blog post is brought to you by Kate Tilton's Author Services.

Can we lose a loved one without losing ourselves?
Twenty-eight-year-old Drew Thomson is haunted by a troubled past. After struggling for years with alcoholism and antisocial behavior, he ends a stable relationship with his girlfriend and finds himself without a home, job, or purpose.
Just as he learns that his father is terminally ill, he meets a stranger who offers him a flicker of hope for a better future. But is he ready to bury the past?
Rich with dark humor and a keen insight into the human condition, this debut fictional release from author Brent Jones delves into life’s most pressing trials - destructive relationships, love, loss, and pursuing happiness.

Excerpt from Chapter 2
Drew opened his eyes to rays of morning sunshine accentuated through clouds of thick smoke. He was on an old couch, fully dressed, arms folded, trying to remember how he got there. It wasn’t that Drew avoided driving drunk out of principle. He just needed assurance that not everything in his life was changing at once, and the house he grew up in served as nothing if not a monument to days gone by.
The room reeked of stale smoke. He sat up and surveyed a living space that hadn’t changed in decades. Worn drapes, peeling wallpaper, and an old-style television with a miniature screen. The entire house was decorated with age and nicotine stains.
His father sat nearby at a card table watching the news with the volume down low. He stubbed out a cigarette in an overflowing ashtray and lit another.
“Love what you’ve done with the place,” Drew said, his mouth dry.
Russell smirked without taking his eyes off the television. “Morning, smartass.”
Nearly twenty years had passed since Drew’s mother had died. Angela had left behind two young boys—Drew and Logan. Before Russell became a widower, he had been passionate, energetic, even optimistic at times. But nothing was the same after. He was now obese with a long white beard, steely eyes, and yellow fingers. His face was worn well beyond his fifty-six years. Aside from bowling on Monday nights and working odd jobs, Russell was a complete shut-in. He also had a tendency to watch television in his underwear, and this morning was no exception.
“Thanks for coming to get me,” Drew said.
“Looks like you had fun.”
“Not as much fun as Neil had.”
Drew knew that his father never cared much for Neil. Russell considered Neil a bit arrogant for his tastes. A man secure in himself didn’t need an expensive car, tailored clothes, or even a steady paycheck, for that matter.
Drew envied Neil’s confidence and charisma at times—he was likable on the exterior and people kissed his ass everywhere he went. Drew tragically found himself with the opposite problem—good intentioned, but unpalatable to most whose paths he crossed.
But the envy he felt extended only to a point. Neil lived a conspicuous lifestyle, while Drew preferred privacy and solitude, to live incognito. But chasing vicarious thrills through Neil offered him just the right amount of escapism.
Russell coughed into a cloth napkin then folded it neatly on the card table. He took a drag off his cigarette. “How’s work going?”
Drew hesitated. “I, uh, got laid off this week.”
“They lay off Neil, too?”
“Uh, no. Neil still works there. He made the cut.”
“See, you’ve got to understand, son. There’s two types of guys in this world. There’s guys like you and me, and there’s guys like Neil.”
“Winners and losers?”
“Something like that. Guys who think they’re in control, and guys like us who live in the moment. Who accept life as it is.”
“What kind of guy does that make my brother?”
His father thought for a moment, extinguishing one cigarette and lighting another. “I’m still trying to figure that one out. And so is he.”
It was no secret that Drew and his father were close. But Russell’s relationship with Logan was complicated. Logan had always been a serious kid, despite being two years younger than Drew, and he had never seen eye-to-eye with his father.
Logan left home as a teenager in hopes of a fresh start. Or as Drew described it, an opportunity for Logan to turn his back on their father. Russell and Logan now only saw each other once a year—every fifteenth of June, the anniversary of Angela’s death.
After leaving home, Logan finished high school and pursued higher education. He became the first Thomson to graduate from college, eventually going on to law school and becoming a junior associate for a criminal defense firm in town.
“What about you? You working right now?” Drew asked.
Russell cleared his throat. “Yeah, here and there. Got a gig working for this scrappy little Jew on the east side. Night shift. Cleaning printing presses.”
“Sounds glamorous.” Drew snickered.
“S’pose you got a better job lined up?”
“Maybe. Thinking of retiring.”
Russell laughed until he choked, his broken lungs heaving and screaming for respite. His face contorted in anguish. He hacked into his napkin and took another puff.
Drew got off the couch and walked over to the card table. He picked up the pack of cigarettes and mimed a look of horror. “Dad, look here,” he said, pointing to the warning label. “Says here these things will fucking kill you.” He solemnly tossed the pack back on the table and returned to the couch.
“If your mother were alive, she wouldn’t want to hear you talking like that.”
“If mom were alive, she’d tell you to go get that cough checked out.”
His father’s eyes were planted on his ashtray. “S’pose you’re right.”
“But at the rate you’re going, you might see mom soon enough.”
Russell spluttered into his napkin again. He stomped out his smoke and lit another.
“What time is it?” Drew asked.
Russell turned his head to a grandfather clock in the adjoining room. “Time for breakfast. Bacon and eggs good with you?”
“Yeah, good with me. Good for your cholesterol, too.”
“Yeah, s’pose my doctor would tell me to eat oats or something, right?”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"... authors like Mordecai Richler and Douglas Coupland ... known for their dark but humourous literary masterpieces, clearly guided Jones’ hand during the production of his debut novel, The Fifteenth of June." ~ Niagara This Week
"I think some of the ugly truths about human nature in [The Fifteenth of June] were powerful. Fantastic debut from a talented author." ~ Michael McDonald, author of Walking Away from Depression
"[The Fifteenth of June] is full of wit, and even though the story has some darkness to it, it has plenty of humor and lighthearted moments as well to balance it out." ~ Dana Gore, author of Choose Awareness
"[The Fifteenth of June is] a process, for both the protagonist and the reader, of self-discovery and acceptance ... and through this process, both reader and protagonist are shown glimpses of hope, of different possibilities, of the potential for change, and begin to understand that the way events and situations shape us depends on how we choose to deal with them ..." ~ Daphne Kapsali, author of 100 Days of Solitude

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Drew is down in the dumps after losing first his girlfriend, then his home, and finally his job. He spends his time looking after his father, recording a video diary, and drowning his sorrows in alcohol and drugs. It doesn't help that the twentieth anniversary of his mother's tragic death on the fifteenth of June is fast approaching. It's also the only day of the year that he sees his younger brother. In reality, it's the day all of them died. It will take another tragedy twenty years later to bring Drew back to life.
The book chronicles the days leading up to and following that important date in Drew's life. Drew is an unlikable character, emotionally withdrawn and incapable of empathy. However, he does redeem himself and, by the end of the book, you'll find yourself rooting for him. The female characters are pretty much just caricature sex symbols, although Sierra does exhibit remarkable strength and wisdom. The book is full of philosophical discussions, which may just lead you to question some of your own life choices.
The Fifteenth of June is a fresh and brutally honest debut from a talented new writer.
Warnings: coarse language, drug use, sexual references, sex scenes, alcohol abuse.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"Man was not meant to walk through life alone, son."
"We’re gonna do the same shit as every year, Logan. We’re going to meet at Hillcrest at eleven o’clock, drop off some flowers, talk to Mom’s corpse for a while, and head home."
"He lacked empathy, but he wasn’t emotionless. Not a monster, just unsure how to react."
"Then again, life wasn’t a movie."
"... the more honest you can be with yourself, the more alive you’ll start to feel."
"There it was—a video file named after the date and time. A moment of his life captured, likely never to be heard or seen again. Just soulless fragments of data stored within a conspicuously labeled folder: Special Moments."
"No need for a guided tour to see what rock bottom looked like."
"As far as Drew was concerned, hospitals were chambers of desolation cloaked in the suffocating stench of polyvinyl chloride and diluted bleach. They were tombs for the hopeless, asylums for the irredeemable, and homes for the terminal."
"Are fleeting moments of pleasure the same thing as happiness?"
"I think you want to change—you just don’t know how yet."
"But this wasn’t a movie, it was something much worse—real life."
"It was the type of kiss that made it impossible for him to keep his eyes opened. It sent chills down his spine and filled his stomach with butterflies."

Interview With the Author
Brent Jones joins me today to discuss his debut novel, The Fifteenth of June.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
There’s plenty of colorful language, sexual content, and drug use in this story. If this were the preamble before a television show, I’d say viewer discretion is advised.
What sparked the idea for this book?
My wife was gone to a music festival with her friends one weekend last fall. I was sitting alone in front of my computer, having a beer, when I envisioned a guy - a few years younger than me - sitting in an open window in the moonlight, drunk, rambling to his laptop webcam. He was severely depressed, and I got to wondering, “Why?” I began scrawling down ideas and that became the basis of my story.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I think they’re one and the same, really. I’d describe The Fifteenth of June as more character-driven than plot-driven. Sure, it’s a story about Drew Thomson’s messed up life, but it’s the circumstances he’s landed himself in that set the course of the story.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Funny enough, the hardest parts to write for me were the scenes involving Sierra, the stranger Drew meets who becomes his mentor. She offers him hope and a new perspective - and, as someone who most wouldn’t describe as bubbly, I found her message of “living your truth” a bit tough to express at times.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I would hope that readers would finish the book thinking, “Maybe it’s not too late. And maybe I’m more powerful than I realize.”
How long did it take you to write this book?
Finishing the polished draft, before handing it off to my editor, took about two months of daily writing. It was my only focus at the time, however. From concept to sale, the whole process took about four months.
What is your writing routine?
I’m still figuring this out. I have it in my schedule to spend half the day writing, six days a week. But now that I have a book available for purchase, I find myself dividing my time between marketing and writing. I tend to find myself most creative in the morning, so I think I need to make writing the first thing I do each day, and allow marketing and administrative tasks to wait until afternoon.
How did you get your book published?
I went the self-publishing route. The Fifteenth of June is available as a Kindle ebook and a paperback - printed through CreateSpace - both available through Amazon. It’s also now available as an audiobook.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
The thing is, anyone can publish their work. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, I think. The barriers to entry are incredibly low, so just about anyone can publish a book. That means there’s a lot of noise to cut through, but it also means, for those prepared to work hard and hone their craft, there’s a whole lot of opportunity out there. My best advice would be to write as much as you can, and don’t delay publishing out of fear that your writing isn’t perfect. It never will be, and rarely do authors find success with their first title. It often takes years of work, plenty of rejection, and numerous titles.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
My wife and I like to travel as much as possible. I’m an avid cyclist - summer is almost here! - and I love to read. I play guitar, as well, and take boxing lessons, although I’m pretty mediocre at both. I love spending time with my dogs, too. They’re way cooler than most people I know.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’ve been incredibly supportive. Heck, my wife took over our business to allow me to pursue writing full-time. My dad encouraged all his co-workers to buy my book, and my mom bought extra copies to give to her friends. It’s tough to get much more supportive than that! My wife’s family has been awesome, too. We just returned from a family reunion in Atlanta, and they all had so many kind things to say.
That's great. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
Uh oh. I feel like this is a Sigmund Freud type of question. I was born and raised in Oshawa, a largely blue collar Canadian city. My parents were both working class, and they put in long hours of manual labor to give my brother and I opportunities they didn’t have. As a kid, I was a bit of a nerd - still am, I guess. I excelled in school, and liked to play video games indoors. I was kind a fatty, and, well - still am, I guess.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Actually, no. I hated it. It wasn’t until my mid- to late-twenties that I actually got excited to read. Strangely enough, I always liked to write, though. Even as a kid. From turning my favorite video games into short stories and comic books (even though I couldn’t draw), to creative writing in school, to blabbing for hours on end about stuff I made up in my head (I think that’s called lying), I had a pretty active imagination.
So when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I always knew I wanted to write. And, in some capacity or another, I’ve always been writing. The thing is, we all grow up one day and discover that there are bills to pay and adult-like things expected of us. It was only in the past year or so that I found myself in a position to say, “I have the option to step away from my business and pursue something I’ve always wanted to try. What should it be?” And writing fiction was what I decided on - at least for now.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
It’s tough to say. I imagine so, but indirectly at best. My characters are all works of fiction, but when I write different character voices, I tend to hear them in my head as someone I know. In that sense, I’d say that experiences from all throughout my life influence my writing. The dialogue, at least.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I love dark humor, flawed characters, antiheros, and character-driven plots. There are so many brilliant authors, but I’m going to do the Canadian thing and choose three of my favorite Canadian authors - Mordecai Richler, Nelly Arcan, and Douglas Coupland.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Given that The Fifteenth of June is my first novel, and I published it less than four months ago, I’m still very much in the “building an audience” stage of my career - attracting new readers is my primary focus, in other words. That said, I’ve been really humbled by some of the positive feedback I’ve received on Amazon and Goodreads - more than 40 reviews in total so far. I’ve received very few negative comments, but plenty of people asking when my next book will be available. I find that encouraging.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am working on my second novel at the moment, and I intend to publish it by August. For updates, follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Brent. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. The Fifteenth of June is his debut novel.
Jones is working on his sophomore release from his home in Fort Erie, Canada. He’s a bearded cyclist, a mediocre guitarist, (mostly) vegetarian, the proud owner of two dogs with a God complex, and a devoted "Instagram husband".

Enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a print copy (continental US only), one of three ebook copies (international), or an audiobook copy (international) of The Fifteenth of June by Brent Jones.