2nd Place in the.travel.awards Best Travel Writing Competition 2019

Gene finished 2nd in the annual competition with a 1,000 pound prize. Gene’s piece told the story of his family’s trip to Peru in 2017. The full story can be seen here: The Spiritual Land of Peru.

Special thanks to the.travel.awards judges and a nod to my fellow writers who finished in the top 3: Chris Watts (winner) and Sara Moore (3rd).

Join Me: Book Signing for Dark Paradise

My first book signing even for Dark Paradise is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, California from 5-8pm. Please come out and support my book and this great store! Families and kids welcome. I will be selling and signing copies of the novel. Thanks for the support.

Address: 1807 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

 

Behind the Scenes With Gene

A Deeper Look Into the Inspiration Behind Dark Paradise

  • What was the inspiration behind Boise Montague’s character?

Boise is a name I’ve only heard twice in my life. One was a man who worked for my father and the other was an acquaintance in Los Angeles. The man who worked for my father wound up dead on a beach. I liked him when I was a kid, so the name is an homage to that man and a nod to his untimely death in a mysterious and tragic manner. Boise’s evolution as a character begins when he returns home to “find his sea legs” so to speak. He needs to figure out his place in the world. How and if he does this is the crux of the story, so I’ll leave the reader to see how successful he is in evolving.

  • How has your childhood in St. Thomas influenced and inspired this noir novel?

St. Thomas has a great influence on me, even on my mannerisms, which are deeply ingrained in me. The ever-present smile and open attitude that island life instills in you is something that may not be imprinted on people who live in urban, fast-paced cities, abroad and in the U.S. Growing up on St. Thomas has made me feel comfortable in racially heterogeneous environments. I prefer the company of diverse communities and people of varied backgrounds. To be quite frank, I don’t like how distant my neighbors are in my Los Angeles community. St. Thomas also taught me to be very happy with very little. The electricity constantly went out and we sometimes had no running water. Daily life required you learn to live without amenities that we sometimes take for granted elsewhere.

  • What do you think about the influence that St. Thomas has on Boise and on Dana?

Boise needs the island as a salve and an escape. He’s avoiding constant reminders of his dead wife. For Dana, the island is a place where she can be free to be herself in terms of her sexual preferences, her boisterous attitude, and, of course, her drinking. My experience in St. Thomas was there’s less regulation the farther one gets away from the mainland. The thing that Boise and Dana have in common is their open contempt for incompetence and debauchery, yet they love St. Thomas. It is their true home.

  • What aspects of Dark Paradise make it a noir novel?

Noir has a lot to do with the setting. Most notably people associate American noir with Los Angeles in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and with the authors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In the case of Dark Paradise, the Caribbean lent itself well to noir themes. Like Los Angeles, it’s glossy on the surface with sunshine and beauty. Beneath the gloss lurks hidden evils. The presence of alcohol and drugs in the Virgin Islands, the corrosive effects of money on relationships and people, and the anxieties about masculinity all lend themselves to the genre.

Why Complex Female Characters Make For Good Literature

All good stories have strong characters that are the driving force in the narrative. Without well-rounded characters who possess their own agendas, a story lacks the gravitational pull that pulls the reader in for more. My beta-readers for Dark Paradise all comment on the powerful, independent nature of the book’s female characters. Some men seem intimidated by women with intelligence and purpose, but I find that drive makes a character, male or female, all the more intriguing. Driven characters are the ones you want to see engage in a moral battle and come away victorious. In Dark Paradise, the primary female character, Dana, pushes the story and the main character forward. She is the leader with connections on the island that Boise leans on. Dana’s profound and painful history shapes her into a tough, driving reporter. She is the one who pushes Boise to be something more. Powerful women do that. They encourage those around them to rise higher. If Boise doesn't rise, Dana will rocket away, leaving him behind. Dana is inspired by several women I know, including my beautiful wife.

I've always sought out strong women as companions, colleagues, and friends. But more often than not, the strong women we come to know first in our lives are our mothers. In Dark Paradise, Auntie Glor possesses a maternal nature that is tainted by the loss of her grandson and her husband. Despite living through hardships, she endures and holds on to her faith in Jesus, believing that he helps those who walk the path. A different book that stands out to me as revealing what constraints society puts on women and the difficulties they must face is The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. I read it many years ago, but Edna's need to be a separate person from her husband, society, and children, struck me to the core. I wanted Dana and the other women in my novel to possess that same burning desire to be their own person. To realize their own purpose. To find their own place in the world.

On this International Women’s Day, I’m looking forward to engaging with authors in my community to talk about the importance of creating independent, complex, and well-rounded female characters that reflect real women in our society. I know that as a writer, I will continue to use my voice to have these characters shine through in my own writing. I hope that others will make the pledge to do the very same.

3 Favorite Reads of 2017

After some reflection, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite reads in 2017 and why I enjoyed them. Comment below if you’ve read these books, or with suggestions of your own favorite reads last year.

The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark RoadsI love this anthology of short stories about crimes and cars by great writers like C.J. Box and Michael Connelly. Each story has its own feel and was written specifically for this anthology.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory: This quirky writer caught my attention after doing a reading at the 2017 LA Lit Crawl and hearing his story about a man who swallows a rock then begins to love said rock. I know, it sounds mad. But perhaps that's what makes you want to read more. We all go a little mad sometimes. His stories remind me that madness can also make you laugh and see the world in a different way. Good for Kafka lovers!

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost: You have got to love the backstory of Twin Peaks. I learned about the history of the fictional town, which fascinates me in its American normalness. I also learned some real American history, such as the history of traitorous James Wilkinson, who may have killed Meriwether Lewis and conspired to bring down a young U.S. government.

Honorable Mention:

The Guards by Ken Bruen: Short sentences, toss the pronouns in the trash. This Irish writer has a pithy style with many chapters shorter than a page. Ken Bruen depicts compelling characters and portrays what it is to be alcoholic and Irish.

Submissions Blog Hop With Chrys Fey

Topic: How to rewire our brains to enjoy the submission process.

Response: And why not treat yourself to chocolate or something else you love for doing submissions? Mostly I get kind rejections and it does give a rush of dopamine or whatever makes you euphoric after sending out the query letter and/or manuscript. I like the treat idea, but I like the idea of doing something fun even more. Heck I'm going to treat myself for doing this blog hop! Keeping up with you bloggers is a feat. I think I'll go see Phantom Thread tonight.

Why I Like My Genre: IWSG's Monthly Post

I love the idea of piecing together a puzzle, first of all. Showing the thought processes of a detective or someone, even a regular person, must go through to solve a mystery/problem, creates a feeling of comradeship between the main character and the reader. I have felt this connection many times with various characters and most of the best stories have some aspect of mystery to them, even if the story itself is not classified as a mystery. It could be the character figuring out why their emotional make-up leads them down destructive paths, or why someone killed another person (usually because there's no other way to solve the conflict), or why they moved to a certain part of the world. The revelations of these decisions create amazing situations. There is something special about murder though. It's sinister, dangerous, final, and hopefully not part of everyday life for most people. A special circumstance that pushes people to pursue a solution that otherwise they might ignore or push off for another day. That's the crux of murder mysteries and cop stories, especially those of the homicide detective kind. The gravity inherent whenever someone is willing to kill another human being is undeniable. A page-turner of the highest order.