What is it about?
The name Tribus Dulce translates to “Three Sweets”, and represents the distinct flavors of each short story in this novel. The first narrative carries the taste of “Bitter”, and follows the struggles of seventeen year old high school senior Abra Ostberg and her best friend Judith Lee. Abra has endured a violently abusive household at the hands of her father from the time that she was very small, and takes refuge in Judy’s house whenever the maelstrom of her life grows too much to bear on her own. Abra remains in this environment, hoping that by serving as a lightning rod of sorts she can protect her mother and younger brother, even though her mother has never intervened in her father’s abuse.
One night, Abra experiments with a drug known as Hyperion, and what follows is a whole new world of horrors as the drug awakens Abra’s latent power to World Walk into the depths of the soul. Now Abra must battle against demons both figurative and literal, and make a desperate bid to save both her father, and herself. Judy does her best to stand watch over her friend, all the while struggling with parental issues of her own…
Next, the flavor of “Treacle” heads up our second narrative. Darrian Travis attends the same high school as Abra, and endures a constant torrent of bullying varying from verbal abuse to physical as well. Darrian is drowning in a sea of toxic masculinity, and racial and sexual slurs. The only things that keep the senior sane are his books, and his friendship with the social powerhouse Paulo Hawthorne.
Darrian’s life takes a turn for the weird when one of his constant bullies, Deliah Graves, becomes something far more in his life. As romance surges and questions awaken, Darrian and Deliah find themselves at the center of a supernatural war for the ghetto against the capo Diamond and his crew of super powered gangsters, one wielding flames, another capable of teleporting, and a third capable of invading and twisting the mind.
Finally, we have the flavor of “Saccharine”, as Paulo’s younger sister Kashiya Hawthorne struggles to make sense of both her life and her faith in the aftermath of Bitter and Treacle’s narratives. With her world rocked to its very core, and a bounty on her name, Kashiya struggles to hold on to her Pollyanna sensibilities as the universe seems set to turn her into a princess of darkness…
Why did I write it?
Is “I’m not actually sure?” a valid answer? To be able to answer the why, I have to first answer the order. I wrote a few lines in Abra’s story, then all of Darrian’s story, then a few paragraphs in Kashiya’s story, then all of Abra’s story, then all of Kashiya’s story. Going even further back though, I was at a low in my life, and I didn’t know if I wanted to write anymore. Even drawing each breath was difficult, and I started a compendium narrative that had some very different character dynamics. Much of the cast was the same, but, their roles were different.
Well, God did as he often does. I was laying there all dour and depressed, and Jesus was all “So hey man, listen, if you’re cool laying there on the floor feeling like crap, I mean, I’m not gonna force you up. But, Satan has been whoopin’ you like all day, so…tag me in?”
I know, I know, a minister who has to be reminded to seek divine intervention and get out of God’s way? Believe it or not, we’re human too!
I started writing Tribus Dulce, though I’m not certain that was the name when I first started writing. I knew I loved the idea of opening with Abra; I’ve always loved the deuterocanonical (though considered apocrypha by some Protestant denominations) narrative of Judith and Abra saving their people from Holofernes. I had already started Abra’s story, though at the time her name was something else. I wrote the Abra and Judy narrative to write this friendship that would break through racial and economical boundaries, and to create a young girl who finds the strength to overcome her abusive environment.
For Darrian, straight up he’s me. Every slur Darrian gets called in school, I got called. His history of teachers and principals not standing up for or believing in him, I had a few ones that had my back and plenty that were content to let the bullying run wild. The major divergence between Darrian’s life and mine is that he found his lady love in high school; I’m contentedly waiting on the Lord to deliver me mine.
There’s never been a narrative that dealt with what I went through, at least I’ve never found one, so I crafted one in Darrian. A story that confronted abuse and bullying, and also provided ways that life could be better.
Lastly, Kashiya is another side of me. I’m a Pollyanna flowers and sunshine and rainbows and everybody get along and have fun type at heart, even if I’m a bit more jaded than I was in high school. I put Kashiya to the test, just like life has done for me and countless others. I wanted to show that sunshine and rainbows type pushed beyond their breaking point, the dangers of pushing a kind heart into raw hatred, and the journey back to the road of wellness in the end.
What content should I expect?
This narrative belongs in the Maverick line of books, which is to say it will still deal with dark moments in time, but not in an excessive manner. As I am not a fan of pulling a “last season twist” that shocks or betrays what you invested in, I’m always up front with my readers about my work and where it’s going. This novel will deal with scenes depicting (never without point or to the point of being needlessly graphic):
Violent abuse, references to sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, verbal bullying involving racial slurs and homophobic remarks
I always want my readers to know what’s up and make an educated buying decision for themselves. I’m down with “betraying expectations”, in so much as surprising you with a neat twist you didn’t see coming, but I’ll never be a writer who grabs your money, then flips the script and stands for something you were told the narrative wouldn’t.
What was my favorite part of working on this project?
Getting to see the three different narratives coming together. I look forward to readers going through each part, then going back in their heads and trying to piece out which parts came when in the larger timeline. I loved writing all three stories, and wrote in such a way that none of the three narratives overstay their welcome, while opening the door to a new and exciting world with each turning page.
Some fun trivia?
Kashiya’s story took a darker turn than I’d planned for it to. Thank my editor for that! Beyond that, there’s a fun cameo that sets up the re-release of one of my horror action dramas due on the market some time next month. Also, for those wanting more of the Tribus Dulce bubble of stories, there’s already a number of planned sequels and interquels, including the already completed and due out this spring companion novel, Ochre Alleycat.
Does it tie into other novels?
There’s the aforementioned interquel Ochre Alleycat that brings in a new protagonist providing a different perspective on the Tribus Dulce narrative. There’s also the upcoming companion narrative/interquel Apéritif that delves deeper into the world Tribus Dulce introduces, as well as a few sequel novels already in the works.
Like many of my other narratives, my protagonists will delve through darkness, but there will be light at the end. And like most of my books that aren’t all ages, there will be cursing but never without a point. There’s no credibility or realism to a narrative that pretends we don’t live in a world where ugly words are thrown around; our protagonists live in that world, they confront it, and they grow and move beyond it, turning their abuses into strengths.
Tribus Dulce is a much beloved narrative that I poured twenty nine years of life experience into creating a cast of teen heroes that are relatable for readers of all ages. Whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you’re a minority or not, regardless of your age, creed, orientation, gender, Tribus Dulce is a window into overcoming abuse with a lovely side of dark fantasy and low key super hero drama that should not be missed!