Guest Blog: “Caleb James Reaches for the Shrink Wrap” by Caleb James

exileWE ARE all damaged. Those of us who aren’t destroyed by our personal tragedies, come through changed, often for the better. It’s one of the big questions; how do we survive the fire? Is it possible to come out on the other side, not just alive, but better? Stronger? Which brings me to Exile, book two in the Haffling trilogy.

Exile is the story of Liam Summer, a creature of unparalleled beauty who has done horrible things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a despotic and murderous queen, he has brought many to ruin. But why?

This is where the fun begins. For me, as both a writer and a psychiatrist—yes that’s my day job—a book, whether novel or nonfiction, fails if it doesn’t let the reader know why people do the things they do, especially the bad stuff. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of a true crime story and not having both an intellectual and gut sense of the murderer’s motivation. How did she get to that place that let her, or made her, commit that unspeakable act?

With Liam, who is cast out of the world of the fey into lower Manhattan and a building on fire, we fall into the cauldron where he was formed. It’s a brutal place. And Liam, like many survivors of intense trauma, chooses survival. He’s learned to stay alive and to stay in the queen’s good graces. It comes with a cost.

So, when he faces certain death among the flames, he takes stock of who he is and what he’s done. It’s not a life he would have chosen, but the past can’t be undone, and he prepares to die. Which brings us to the end of chapter two and to the start of an adventure that asks another big question: can the leopard change its spots?  Liam, whose life has been ruled by paralyzing fears, has had enough. And wouldn’t it be swell if we could whisk away the fears and demons of a lifetime? It’s not so simple and Liam sets out on a quest for something he thought unattainable—redemption. And not to give too much away, there’s something else he could never have imagined would come within his grasp—love.

“Wait a minute,” you might think. “I thought this was an action-adventure novel not a treatise on trauma and recovery.”

Yes, it’s both. I’ve chosen a tightly woven cat-and-mouse format, again dipped into the trope of Irish folklore and fairytale, and further developed a world of characters I love. Exile, like the first in the series, Haffling, is a roller-coaster read. But as I’ve done through my entire novel-writing career, both as Caleb James and as Charles Atkins, each book explores real themes that I find meaningful, beautiful, and possibly horrible. This fuels my passion to write. I want my reader to pick up a book that they can’t put down, to go on a heart-pounding ride, and when it’s done to feel sated in heart and mind.

-Caleb James


Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.

Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.

As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.

As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—hat even the most wicked are not beyond redemption and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.

calebCaleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD, for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.

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