August Arrea avoids the spotlight with the same aversion as a vampire does to the sight of the approaching dawn. As a 3rd generation American of European decent, he also has had the good fortune to be born with a name with strong ties to history and cultural heritage over many generations. On the other hand, such names can be a real chore since they are typically an alphabet soup of what often appear to be conflicting letters that don't seem to belong, sprinkled with connecting vowels. As such, he has had to, at times, spend a wearisome part of his life correcting what seemed to be a never ending mass of people, unable to pronounce, spell or even translate his name correctly; even on official documents. For these two reasons, during the process of turning his attention to writing this series of books, he has embraced the christening and adoption of this new and simple pseudonym.
Moniker aside, over the course of the last 25 years, this limelight dodger with a "speed bump" for a name, first made his mark writing as an award-winning journalist who loved uncovering the gems of stories hidden in plain sight on Any Street, U.S.A. He eventually turned his skills of mining for stories by drilling into the unexplored caverns of his imagination; the 'Tales of the Nephilim Brotherhood' series is comprised of the core samples of his quarry expedition.
Today, he is still a working journalist by trade with a national newspaper company. He lives in California's central valley where spotlights are rare, but the butchering of his name remains an inescapable, yet pardonable occurrence. When he's not writing, you'll likely find him with his best girls: two Australian Shepherd sisters named Gracie and Ember with whom he has absolutely no shame in readily admitting he engages in baby talk and the occasional slobbery smooch on the lips.
Meet Gracie and Ember: My pride and joys
My Top Ten favorite books
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: My list of favorite books is not ranked in any particular order of importance or preference, except for this one. Since the day I first read it, “Mockingbird” has never lost its “favorite of all time” status with me. Whenever I find myself dismayed and disappointed with the world and the people in it, I find myself returning to the pages of this beloved classic and stepping into the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the early-20th-century American South where kids like Jem and Scout were once schooled in lessons of kindness, love and morality, and where men like Atticus Finch carry a moral compass and believe in doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. And I am filled once more with a renewed sense of hope that was momentarily lost to me.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien: Without doubt the greatest trilogies of all time (despite originally being written as one book), and the seed from which all other fantasy genre books sprouted. This masterfully written tome is an undeniable and remarkable achievement, from the imaginative characters and creatures that reside in Middle Earth, to the extraordinary world-building of shires, forests, towns and kingdoms (complete with geography illustrated in gorgeous maps). Perhaps most astounding is Tolkien’s creation of entire new languages out of thin air — not just a few words, but fully realized languages; a feat that has marveled linguists the world over. And yet hidden in all the fantasy one can clearly see the parallels Tolkien makes between the world he has created and the horrors of war he experienced as a soldier. Then there are the numerous themes spread throughout the book, some I find myself still uncovering with every returning read; my favorite being that "even the smallest person can change the course of the world."
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain: Ernest Hemingway said it best about this book: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. … It’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” This book, first introduced to me in my early school days, gifted me with the lesson that not all assigned reading was meant to be an exercise in anguish and boredom placed upon us by our teachers. It’s a shame so many people get hung up by the use of the “N” word in the story while allowing the far more profound chronicling of a young boy’s conscious awakening to the moral social dilemmas of such things as slavery in a pre-Civil War America get lost in the ire.
The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy: Several southern writers would make my list of favorite authors — Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, Alice Walker; Pat Conroy would be at the top of that list. This book managed to edge out the one that first introduced me to the wonderful storyteller — “The Great Santini.” It’s a tragic and, at times, brutal story, but told in such an eloquent and beautiful way. Every time I read this book I find myself being both seduced by and envious of the seemingly effortless yet masterful talent Conroy had at turning a phrase. He was and is, in my opinion, the Michaelangelo of words.
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens: Anything from Dickens is amazing, but the lively wit found in this Victorian novel coupled with the theme that kindness and generosity is more important than wealth and social position (much like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” another favorite of mine) make this his masterpiece in my eyes. The fact that it’s semi-autobiographical make it all the more a touching read.
Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice: To start, I'm not of fan of horror fiction. However, maybe it’s because I was a newspaper reporter at the time I first read it that I found the concept behind this story so compelling. The dark, gothic tone and imagery Rice uses to slowly dissect the psychology of her undead characters is what earned this book a permanent place on my bookshelf. That, and settling once and for all any consideration I may have ever entertained at the hypothetical prospect of mulling over the gift of eternal life at the hands of a vampire.
This Boy’s Life, Tobias Wolff: As someone who was lucky enough to grow up in a loving and stable family, I have found myself over the years to be drawn to books involving dysfunctional families and rudderless young characters. So it’s not surprising this touching memoir found its way into my hands, and how glad I am it did. One of the things I loved most about it was Wolff’s ability in making me forget I was reading a memoir. The prose is desperately honest and generous in the telling of an unstable, and oftentimes abusive, upbringing. And yet offers beautifully written nuggets of love and adoration Wolff shares about his mother, Rosemary, whose influence he credits with guiding his hand to write “until the motions assumed their own life, partly hers and partly mine. I could not, cannot, put pen to paper without having her with me.”
Night, Elie Wiesel: “Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t think about this book. At little more than 100 pages, this harrowing and haunting memoir of Wiesel’s brutal experience of the Nazi Holocaust reached inside me, gripped my soul and all these years later hasn’t let go. Nor do I wish it to.
Mutiny on the Bounty, Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall: I love what is called “historical fiction,” and this retelling of one of the greatest insurrection events that took place aboard the HMS Bounty on its 1789 voyage is one of the best. You can feel the swells of the ocean and hear the whipping of the canvas sails in the wind as you read; you feel like you are on the south sea island of Tahiti, and share in the crew's ire when the tyrannical Captain Bligh begins exercising his unreasonable disciplines. A seafaring adventure worth taking.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis: The book I first read as a child that instilled in me my love of reading, and the dream of someday becoming a writer of my own stories. A vivid, fast-moving tale that has everything a child (and those who are children at heart) could ever wish for in a story capable of stretching the imagination to the limits: a magic doorway leading to a hidden world; talking animals; mystical beings; an evil queen; and hidden messages. It’s the kind of book that makes you hope you never become too old for fairy tales. Most thankfully, for love of this book, I am happy to declare I am not.