11 Dec 2014

Interview with author David Cook

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It is May, 1798, and Ireland is a country at war.  FINAL_v6_RGB One hundred thousand peasants have risen up against the Crown to the tales of men, women and children butchered as traitors. It is whispered that the feared and despised ghosts of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model army have returned seeking bloodshed, and no one is safe. Major Lorn Mullone, a man forged by war and torn by past failures, is sent by the government to apprehend Colonel Black, a dangerous and shadowy figure, who is harming the fragile peace talks with his own murderous retribution. In a race against time, Lorn must journey across a country riven by fighting, where at the walled town of New Ross, he discovers a new horror. In the desperate battle for peace, Lorn must survive for the sake of Ireland’s future. Liberty or Death is an authentic historical story set against the brutal backdrop of Ireland’s Great Rebellion, the first novella in The Soldier Chronicles series.

David’s books are well researched, gripping and for this reader, quite an eye opener. I started with the third in the series, “Blood on Snow”, which is about the Flanders Campaign of 1794 – something that I had little knowledge of and Cook brought it to life with historical competence and splendid details. The novel comes with a variety of well chosen characters that felt authentic and made for a fascinating and compelling read. The weather and living conditions, interactions with the locals and the morale and discipline in the regiment are described exellently. A very recommendable novel and a writer to watch.


Interview with David:

How did you come to writing? photo

I’ve been scribbling away since I was 16 years old. It was only reading a soldier’s journal about life in Egypt in the early 19th century in 2006 that I decided to put my ideas together and write my Napoleonic story I’d been putting off.

What is your interest in history and the eras you write about? Do you have a preferred era?

I write historical-fiction. The Soldier Chronicles relate to a Napoleonic series I’d like to have published, but my interest is not only military. I have a written a story about Robin Hood and a band of outlaws who are fighting back William the Conqueror.

How do you come up with your story?

The Desert Lion (unpublished) is the start of the Napoleonic series and it was from reading the journal that I started with. I finished the story and sent it off to agents. In the lull I wrote backstories which have formed The Soldier Chronicles.

How do you research? CA_GD_COOK_final_1000

Online, read and visit places. The only place I haven’t managed to visit is Egypt. Hopefully, I can soon remedy that.

Do you prefer to stay in one era and genre or do you see yourself spreading out?

I’m happy – or I should say – I work best in the past. I have always loved our country’s (UK) history and I think I’ll stick with that. I will say, however, that I have an interest in pursuing a modern day ghost story but I don’t know when that will happen.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

I wrote all the outlines and the first five stories of The Soldier Chronicles about six years ago. They have remained the same, however I always start with a brief outline and let the words flow. I don’t usually know what will happen until I see the words. For instance, Heart of Oak was originally going to finish at the fort, but both the protagonist and antagonist wanted more!

I‘ve only read one of the books so far. What is the idea behind your series?

The chronicles are snapshots of military history in the periods of 1793-1815. I wanted to write them as standalones, to be read in any order, but the characters feature in the main Napoleonic series. There’s this connection that I want to explore. I didn’t want to write them as novels, so decided on novellas, but if they prove popular there is scope to make them into novels at a later date.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing? Blood on the Snow Final Cover Large

The best is how the story unfolds. I love research, but it’s not knowing what will happen until it does. It’s very exciting as I’m sure you feel the same. The worst has to be marketing. It’s not terrible, but for an Indie author its hard work to get your voice shouting louder than everyone else. I work full-time and writing isn’t a hobby, it’s a future way of life and I have to work hard at promoting it. It’s very tough and sometimes it’s very lonely.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

For some reason I always find myself starting the next book just as I’m finishing the last. There’s no transition period it seems. I just seem to be always writing. You have to juggle marketing your book and concentrating on the next book’s story. I can’t really afford to take a break between the stories, not until I’m relatively successful anyway.

What is your main reason for writing?

I want to tell people of these stories. I want people to like them and to transport them back to a time of that period. I hope I can evoke the past.

What do you do when you don’t write?

I work full-time as I said, so when not doing either I try to have a social life. Try is the word here J Spending time with my family, friends, go for walks, visit new places. Relax. It’s good to get out, to get up from the writing chair. If I didn’t, I think I’d have a permanent chair seat-shaped arse.

You have created great characters. Which one is your favourite?

Thanks but that is a tough question. I like them all – can’t choose. Sorry.

Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?

I updated my facebook page the other day with this question. For Lorn Mullone who is the protagonist in Liberty or Death, I’ve had Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Fassbender, and Gerard Butler. In fact, I would agree that they would all do Lorn justice as a screen version. In my head and perhaps in the readers mind, Mullone would look very different.

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)? Marksman eBook Cover Large (1)

I think a part of me is in every character to be honest. I’ve drawn out my idiosyncrasies and given the characters foibles.

Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.

One odd thing would be that I can eat chocolate at any time of the day. Mundane thing is that I have to have coffee with my breakfast.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

My editor is Catherine Lenderi (@cathlen78 on Twitter) and she was recommended to me by several authors. She’s excellent, professional and one of the planet’s nicest people. I’ve learned to proof-read until my eyes bleed and then give it to Catherine. Who then spots mistakes and gives ideas to help the story flow or other recommendations.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?

I self-published in April this year and after a few formatting issues, it was very easy to add to Amazon KDP, CreateSpace (and Smashwords for the first three books). I’m looking at the sales per day which can be wonderful to heart-breaking.

What is your advice to new writers?

Just keep at it. Keep writing, keep reading. To be honest I’m really not qualified to give advice. This reminds me of Chandler Bing when asked in Friends. He said ‘‘I’m not so good with advice. Can I offer a sarcastic comment instead?’’

Who are your favourite authors?

Oooohh there are lots…Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Lee Child, Stephen King, C.J Sansom, George R.R. Martin…

What is your favourite book?

It’s ‘Sharpe’s Siege’. It was given to me as a Christmas present by my father and it introduced me to Richard Sharpe and his world. I’ve been reading them ever since.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

A complete change of genre for me, but I’ve just started ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn. I’ve heard amazing things about it which piqued my interest.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Take it on the chin and move on. If someone slates my work then that’s their opinion. I’m not going to worry about it. Often I read stories where authors have ranted on social media and made fools of themselves. I say just let it go and move on. There are far more important things to worry about than someone else’s opinion.

You can find David and all of his books on 

Amazon US and Amazon UK


and connect with him on http://thewolfshead.tumblr.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/DavidCookAuthor

Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/113814484444212345228?tab=wX#113814484444212345228/posts?tab=wX


Facebook https://www.facebook.com/davidcookauthor

David Cook is from Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, but now lives in Leicestershire with his wife and young son.

David has been interested in history since his school days, and developed a love for the Napoleonic Wars era from his father, who painted and amassed a lead model army of the Battle of Waterloo. From there David became fascinated with The English Civil Wars and English medieval history, particularly the legend of Robin Hood. David is writing a novel titled The Wolfshead, a story of Robin Hood, but based on the original medieval ballads as the source.

For more information and updates please visit http://thewolfshead.tumblr.com


15 Feb 2014

Jenny Lloyd: Leap the Wild Water

6 Comments Book Reviews, News

river leap


“Leap the Wild Water by Jenny Lloyd is a gripping story set in Wales in the 19th century. It mainly depicts the relationship between Morgan and his sister Megan. Told in alternating narratives we see her and his side of their life and past together. The return of Megan’s great love threatens Morgan’s status quo and causes friction between the siblings.

As the events unfold slowly we get to know more about the family background and the exact motication for each character.
Written with great psychological insight and an authentic historical feel Lloyd takes us into the mind of brother and sister, their hopes and ambitions while showing us what the modalities of life were like at the time.
It has been a long time since I read a book that understood to hold my attention with comparatively little action and yet make everything that is said and written feel so profound and important. I did not want to miss a word.
It would be wrong however to assume that there is no plot or movement. There is a lot of tension throughout the book and it all moves towards a great and dramatic ending.
Lloyd has written two excellent characters that were fascinating from the first page. A very powerful read

Interview with Jenny:

Tell us a little about yourself as a writer and a person. Jenny

I was born on a farm in mid-Wales, the ninth of ten children.  Though I prefer to write fiction these days, poetry was my thing as a child. There is a long tradition of poetry in Wales, and a couple of my ancestors were poets, so I suppose it runs in the blood.  I showed a lot of promise as a child but went quite spectacularly off the rails in my teens. As a result, I left the education system at the age of fifteen and any hopes of a university education went down the drain with any ambitions I had to earn my living as a writer. I guess you could say that my life is a cautionary tale for teenagers; it was more than forty years later that Leap the Wild Water was published.

What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

I can honestly say I have never yearned to do anything but write. I have done other things, to pay the bills, while making the time to write whenever I could. As I’ve got older the urge to write has grown stronger until I literally felt I would explode if I did not devote the majority of my time to writing. I think you have to be selfish to be a writer; you have to begin saying no to the demands of others or you will never get the job done. Writers need time and space in spades, not just to write but to be able to think and imagine; that can sometimes be difficult for others to accept. Having time to write is so important to me; if I go for any length of time without writing I begin to feel slightly unhinged.

When did you decide to write your chosen genres? Do you have a favourite genre?

I read two pieces of advice for writers somewhere, and they were; write what you know and write the book you’ve always wanted to read but which hasn’t been written yet. I had been researching my family history and unearthing some tragedies in the lives of my female ancestors. I’d also read a great deal around the subject of social psychology, out of personal interest. Leap the Wild Water was born out of a combination of interests which inspire and fascinate me – family history, social history, social psychology and a love for the rural landscape of Wales.

Tell us a little about the history of your book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

For a number of reasons, four years elapsed between beginning to write the first draft of Leap the Wild Water and finally publishing it. I suffered two major bereavements in the four years it took to finish the book; my life-partner died, suddenly and unexpectedly, just a month after I’d finished the first draft, and my sister died six months later of terminal cancer. Both losses were a shock to me and a following series of domestic disasters left me incapable of writing a single word for the following year. It was a terrible year. Looking back, I really wasn’t coping well at all, though I told myself I was, and I completely lost touch with what was important to me. Then, one day, I was sitting up on a hill with my dogs, feeling utterly lost to myself and the world, unable to remember how it felt to be happy. Then I remembered how I had felt when writing that first draft; the joy and exhilaration of it. I went home and pulled up the manuscript on my laptop, and found my way back to my self.

What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?

The first draft was the easiest. It poured from my fingertips. The voices of that brother and sister, Morgan and Megan, were as loud and clear to me as if they were sat there beside me. I can only liken it to a film unreeling in my head and all I had to do was write what I heard and saw.  I truly enjoyed the restructuring of that first draft but found editing tedious in the extreme. For me, the hardest part has to be the marketing. Until I published Leap the Wild Water, social media like Twitter was something I’d heard of but never participated in. I know many writers are just brilliant at marketing their books but nine months on I’m still feeling overwhelmed, bewildered and pretty clueless about it all.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you feel it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

Following the holocaust, many social psychologists felt compelled to discover why so many people could do such horrific things to their fellow human beings, in the hope that the knowledge gained would prevent such atrocities from happening again. Many of their experiments would never be allowed now because of the psychological effects on many participants who discovered they were capable of great cruelty when commanded to do so by people they believed to have authority over them. In Leap the Wild Water, I attempted to show, through the character of Morgan, that basically good people can be persuaded and manipulated into acting against their conscience and the devastating consequences for both themselves and others. I strongly believe we ignore the lessons of history at our peril. The central message of the story, told through both Megan and Morgan’s experiences, is that we should always remain true to ourselves and not let fear, emotional blackmail, or our own negative feelings lead us into wrongdoing.

What do you like most about your characters? Which is your favourite?

I felt deep compassion for Morgan, even though he had betrayed Megan so badly. Deep down, he was a good man but allowed himself to be manipulated by their overbearing mother. My heart went out to Megan, struggling as she was with retaining her personal integrity while overcome with fear of telling Eli what she had done. Both of these central characters had their weaknesses and flaws and I loved them all the more for that. If I have to choose between these two, then it has to be Megan; for her strength of character in seeking freedom against all the constraints family and society imposed on her, and for here capacity to seek to forgive what many would deem unforgiveable.

Who would play the characters in a film?

I have to confess to being out of touch with the world of film – probably because I tend to prefer the written word. Rummaging about in my head for actors in historical films – a young Colin Firth would play Morgan; perhaps Keera Knightley would play Megan, if she could cultivate the lilting beauty of the Welsh voice of Cerys Matthews.

What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.

I’m working on the sequel to Leap the Wild Water. I’m hoping to have it ready for publication in the spring. When that is published, I am planning to write a novel based on the life of my grandmother, Annie. I feel that all I have written thus far in my life has been in preparation for writing Annie’s story. She was my inspiration for researching my family history. She has been my strength in hard times because whatever I have gone through in my life, it is as nothing to what happened to her. She is my reminder in this life to be grateful for what I have.

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when not writing?

Right now, my life is unrecognisable from what it was a month ago. Just before Christmas, I sold my old barn of a house because I’d decided it was time to downsize and live somewhere less remote. Since moving out of my old home, I’ve had some illuminating experiences of what it feels like to be isolated and marginalized in a world which has become so reliant and dominated by the internet. I’ve written a little about this on my blog at jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com.

When the weather improves, I’m taking off in a camper van to go wherever the road takes me for a few months, writing as I go. I’ve dreamed of doing this for years and decided if I don’t do it now I probably never will. I know many will think it’s madness but, as the saying goes, our deepest regrets are for those things we didn’t do.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/films/albums?

Literary influence, first and foremost, has to be Thomas Hardy. He wrote with such compassion and love for the humble, rural people of his time, especially women. Likewise, George Elliot. Doris Lessing, Zora Neale Hurston, Conrad Richter, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood… there are so many writers I admire, too many to mention.


What are your views on independent publishing?

It’s a tough road to take. I will be honest with you, I didn’t attempt the traditional route to mainstream publishing because I was 55 years old when I felt Leap the Wild Water was ready to publish and I wanted it out there, not travelling from one agent’s desk to another for an indeterminable time, as I’d heard happen to so many others. But it is really hard to get noticed, let alone read, if you are an indie. I know there are a lot of readers who are wary of buying indie books, based on the assumption they will not be up to the standard of traditionally published books. This does happen but there are some great indie writers out there, and I find a lot of mainstream published books now are written in a formulaic style which publishers think will sell. The most original writing is being written by indies. I support and encourage other indies as much as I can; I know how hard it is, from personal experience, and every indie who raises the overall standard with exceptional writing should be applauded by all of us.

Can you recommend any indie books/authors?

Oh, yes! Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I’ve read and reviewed some great indie books this past year but there are two who have personally stood out for me;

Carla Dawn Dunlap is nothing short of genius. When I read her I am transported and spellbound. She has that quintessential something which makes good writing great. I’ve read her Voice of the Grandmothers several times and I am filled with yearning to write that well.

M. J. Holman! Her story, The Guineau Ghost; apart from it being an atmospheric and spellbinding story, it is obvious from the authenticity of her writing that she is a meticulous researcher, and this makes for a read which is reminiscent of those classics I love which were written by people who actually lived in those times. She also writes stirring poetry which you can find over on Koobug.

These two indie writers, in different ways, epitomise for me the best in indie writing.

Malla Duncan’s Deep as Bone was one of the most enjoyable reads of the whole of last year – a deliciously good psychological thriller. Loved it!

Beem Weeks, author of the coming-of-age novel, Jazz Baby, is a genius at authentic, Southern, first-person dialogue. He is a truly talented writer.

The creative imagination of Clive S Johnson is wonderful. He has created an extraordinary world in his series of books; combined with his flair for illustration, his work is reminiscent of that great author and illustrator, Mervyn Peake.

Jasmine Bath with Noone’s Daughter, and Kimberly Biller with I Couldn’t Lay in the Bed They Made, both wrote exceptional and moving memoirs which filled me with admiration for their courage, fortitude and wisdom. You can find extracts of Kimberly’s writing talent over at Bodicia’s blog; awomanswisdom.wordpress.com

Terry Tyler’s writing is a great example of how indie writing can exceed the standards of mainstream books. She writes professionally well and with wisdom and humour.


What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

Like champagne; I’m fun when bubbly, boring when flat, and I can become one or the other at the drop of a hat, depending on what is going on around me! I have a generous heart but am prone to a stubborn independency and am something of a loner, preferring to be writing or roaming some hill with my dogs than anything else. Oh, and something which only people who know me well will tell you – I’m actually a shy person, not confident at all in myself or my abilities, and I am far more able to express myself with the written word than the verbal, unless I am plied with a few glasses of wine; then they can’t shut me up!

What are your favourite animal/colour/outdoor activity?

Favourite animal has to be my dogs – they have been with me through good and bad and have never let me down. Favourite colour is sky blue because a blue sky lifts my spirits like nothing else. Favourite outdoor activity; rambling over the windswept, Welsh hilltops.

What would you take to a remote island?

My dogs, please, so I don’t get lonely, pens and notebooks, and a kindle. Was I allowed three things?

Who would you like to invite to dinner and why?

Six weeks ago, I would have said Nelson Mandela. He was the greatest man to live in my lifetime. As he is now gone, I would choose my baby grandson, as a man aged forty, because I am very unlikely to live long enough to know him then. He isn’t a year old yet but already has a strong personality and character.

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

One of the subjects I address in Leap the Wild Water is that of suicide. The social pressures on young women of that time were such that many who found themselves in Megan’s circumstances were driven to take their own lives. Though Leap the Wild Water is a historical novel, the many issues it deals with are timeless and universal, and as relevant to people today as they were then.  I would hope that anyone who is in despair and reading Leap the Wild Water will be persuaded away from suicide as an option, and to feel there is always hope, no matter how bleak the future may seem. Any state of mind, good or bad, is a fleeting thing. Likewise, circumstances can change from one day to the next. It is always worth living another day, in hope of a better tomorrow.


Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7035188.Jenny_Lloyd

My blog; https://jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com

My About.me profile; http://about.me/jennylloydauthor

My Amazon author page; http://ow.ly/t49Lr




30 Jan 2014

John Paul Godges: Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century

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“Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century” by John Paul Godges was recommended to me by a friend and I am so glad she did. 
The book has a lot to give but for me one of the main attractions is the huge arsenal of historical detail. Godges describes the roots of his family in Italy and Poland, the reasons why members of the respective families decided to try their fortune in the US, how they and their kins lived and how they got the money for the journey. Godges’ ancestors arrive in the US as immigrants, try to establish themselves in the cross fire of hopes, expectations and often harsh reality. With minute detail and precision he gives accounts of their experiences from the Great War up to modern times, focusing on individual family members. These characters are a great cross section of Americans and humans and serve brilliantly to reflect on the historic and personal events and issues that hit his family, be that strong religious affiliation and convictions, attitude to Vietnam or to homosexuality, which affects more than one person in the family.
This variety of people from his family – who go their own way and reunite at a family gathering – enables us to see a huge chunk of American history and socio-cultural aspects of modern times through a patchwork of real lives.
Well written and with wonderful reflections this is a very enjoyable and rewarding read

Interview with John:

Tell us a little about yourself as a writer and a person.
What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

I wanted to be a journalist since childhood, because being a journalist seemed like the practical way to be a writer back then. How things change! Seriously, whenever I’ve faced a vocational crossroads in life, I’ve remembered this insight from my college days: The things that have always given me the greatest sense of accomplishment in life are things I’ve written and edited, either as a journalist or otherwise. So being a writer is, for me, a matter of being true to myself.

When did you decide to write this book? 4180918

At my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary. They are opposites in some respects, and they produced six extremely different children. The more I reflected on my parents’ lives, on their parents’ lives, and on our lives as the children and grandchildren, the more it dawned on me that our family story of immigration and assimilation, of going our separate ways and yet somehow coming back together, reflected the national story and the continuous American experience of struggling to juggle our individualism with our communitarianism. The more I saw the parallels between the familial and the national, the more I wanted to tell this story.

How difficult was it to write about real characters?

That was easy. It was journalism. It would be difficult for me to write about unreal characters.

Tell us a little about the history of the book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

It took me ten years to write and publish Oh, Beautiful. Because I work full time, that’s ten years of weekends, nights, and vacations. Writing the book required a lot more research, interviewing, travel, and investment than I had anticipated, but it always felt like progress was being made, because the outline at the beginning served as a good guide and pretty much survived intact as the outline at the end.

What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?

The easiest thing was that my family was all on board, and they all agreed to undergo the lengthy interviews as our schedules permitted. The hardest thing was that the interviews and other shared stories brought back a lot of painful memories for everyone. Working together on this book became a grand exercise in group therapy, which can be very painful. One thing the book itself underscores is that the greatest wisdom comes from the greatest pain.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

Absolutely. The core message is this: To be an American in the fullest sense of the word means to discover oneself as an individual within a community—and to sustain that tension, to the detriment of neither the individual nor the community. How that plays out in our individual lives as Americans is a source of endless fascination, conflict, resolution, and amusement. It’s a great big tug-of-war. It’s messy. But it’s who we are. I was really glad that the Kirkus reviewer completely picked up on this abstract concept and saw how the characters embodied it.

What do you like most about your characters? Which one is your favourite?

Forgiveness is the characteristic I like most. Without the ability to forgive one another and to look beyond our personal agendas, there can be no family, and there can be no society. The characters stick to their guns, but they learn to respect each other’s competing guns and to forgive one another for the wounds they inevitably inflict. My favorite character of all is my mentally ill sister. She is the heart and soul of the family, because she taught us how to love one another.

Who would play the characters in a film?

Valerie Harper would play my mom, the emotionally effusive Italian. Christopher Plummer would play my dad, the morally rigorous Marine. These two characters display numerous irreconcilable differences, yet they stay together regardless. Sally Field would play my mentally ill sister, whose character is a cross between “The Flying Nun” and “Sybil.”

Who did your cover work? Were you involved in the process?

A longtime friend and colleague helped me. We worked side-by-side.

What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.

They haven’t taken from yet. I tell people I’m “between passions.”

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

I write and edit for a living. I’m editor-in-chief of RAND Review, the flagship magazine of the RAND Corporation. For fun, I play beach volleyball and go on long hikes with friends.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

Steinbeck is my role model. In just about everything he wrote, he revealed his love for people, animals, and the land. My favorite books of his are Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. I genuinely miss his characters: the Joads, the Hamiltons, and the Trasks. They had their faults, but Steinbeck showed us how to love them through his words. I cannot imagine a nobler task for a writer.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I am indebted to independent publishing for having made it possible for me to become an independent publisher, but I do hold some darkly humorous views. When I attended a self-publishing conference in New York City about five years ago, I grew skeptical of the conventional wisdom of finding your niche, your tribe, your target audience, and sticking with it. “The way things are going,” I quipped during one seminar, “we’ll all end up writing for audiences of five!” I’m afraid my snarky prediction might be coming true. I wonder if Steinbeck could’ve succeeded today, because he wrote for a mass audience. Here’s another dark view of mine: The best way to succeed in publishing today, independent or not, is to write a three-way romance between a dragon, a vampire, and a zombie! Don’t get me wrong. There are wonderful people in the world of independent publishing, and they have helped me tremendously. But I don’t think independent or traditional publishing today does a great job of helping readers find really good writing. 
I wonder if Steinbeck could’ve succeeded today, because he wrote for a mass audience, and the only “platform” he had was a second-story bedroom in his father’s house.

Can you recomm end any indie books/ authors?

The one indie book and author I have often recommended is The Indie Author Guide by April L. Hamilton. April’s seminar was the best one at the conference I attended in New York, and her book was particularly helpful to me.


Connect with John here:




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14 Jan 2014

Skadi Winter: “Hexe”

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 “Hexe” by Skadi Winter is the captivating and amazing story of a childhood lived in post-war Germany right after the war. Told from the heart breaking and naive perspective of a young girl the story tells mainly of the love between the narrator and her grandmother from 1945 onwards. Hexe
The grandmother is a wonderful and inspiring character that is nick-named a ‘Hexe’ (witch) by people in the village, mainly because of her interest in herbs, paganism and tarot, to name a few. Despite such un-worldly interests the woman is however very wise and feeds her granddaughter lots of very philosophical and logical advice. The young girl also has to come to terms with the hostility against her mother who is accused of farternising with the enemy, even as late as 1948 when there should be nothing but regret amongst the population about its terrible past.
The perspective of the naive and innocent child does wonders to hit home many of those obvious historical and cultural points. By way of side characters, such as an abducted Polish boy working for the Germans, and other secondary people Winter describes post-war Germany incredibly accurate and with excellent detail.
Winter writes about what many Germans would prefer not to be true: Many were misled by Hitler but many deeply shared his beliefs and those did not just stop believing in 1945. It is a tribute to the author to have captured this so accurately as a strong side plot without getting stuck in it.
Besides the splendid historical aspect of the story I found myself aazingly reminded of much of my own childhood in Germany decades later: The Grimm fairy tales, Muckefugg and idiosyncrasies I had forgotten about.
The grandmother is such a impressive character, written with so much love and detail that I almost felt related to her myself.
Hexe is a very impressive, insightful and warm novel that strongly affected me while reading it, written so real it felt like a memoir more than fiction this should appeal to a large group of people, historians and those who read with their heart.
Just beautiful.

Interview with the author:

Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.

I am 60 years old now, a mother of 4 sons, a grandmother of 8 grandchildren from mothers of 4 nations, cultural background and religion. I love my grandchildren. I had to put my dreams on shelves for a long time. I had to work to put bread on the table, build a house and be a partner to my Iranian husband, who indulged being at university and make a career.

What made you become a writer? 

I had this story in my heart for a long time. It is part of my own history and the history of my German people.

I am a passionate reader. At the age of 5, I started to read Wilhelm Busch, an illustrated book, kneeling in front of our old sofa, trying to put letters into words. I go through books, sometimes 2 at a time, living with them, getting angry if they don’t satisfy me as a reader. My little house is clustered with books. They are my friends.

I have been inspired by other writers. The ones I thought worth reading. Those who shared my believes, my dreams, my longings. Hemingway, Günther Grass. Heinrich Heine. Goethe. Schiller. Kant, Hegel. Oh, the list is endless. Philipp Kerr (a great writer, noir). One unusual one, which I keep close to my heart: Susan Fletcher’s “Corrag”. The book of my soul.

Tell us a little about the history of “Hexe”. How long did it take you to write and publish?

It took me 8 months to write and publish “Hexe” – the book about my own family, German history and the way I see it. It is a book from my heart. Maybe not overly correct with the historical facts – I only was a child when I experienced Germany after WW2. But, to me it was important, and always is important as a writer, to find out about the human soul. What makes some people stand up against political deceit, to find bravery in themselves to endure being singled out and pointed at and even pushed to the limits of society with all the hardship. Heroes? No, one facette of our human soul. To make the decision what side we are on, whom we believe and support, whom we deny and fight.

What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?

The easiest to write my book was the writing. Words just spilled out, memories, findings. I enjoyed writing Hexe. I loved my grandmother and all the values she gave to me on my way to adulthood. A little, strong, proud woman. Different from the rest. Never a follower, never a believer in Ideologies. Never bending, no matter what. She was my hero.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

Every writer is sending a message out. Why else would we write? We want to be read. Understood. We want to communicate with our fellow humans. My message is, in everything I write:Think! Make up your own decision. Listen to your heart. Be part of this human society and understand you are a part of this human history. You have a responsibility for everything you do or not.

The reviews I have received so far, well, I am happy. There are people out there who pick up on things behind the words, between the lines. I still have to learn on how to get the message out there, but – hey, it is worth while. I am writing.

What do you like most about your characters? Which one is your favourite? Who would play the characters in a film?

My favourite character in my book is Frigg. The innocence of a child, the heart of a lion. Listening to her inner voices, experiencing with all senses. Being part of this universe. A twinkle of the eye in time. And, knowing it.

I could see my story made into a film. Why not? Dark, sinister times. Winds, forests, ancient heathen Gods. Universal questions put into animation. A young hero, historical background. Hurt, blood, killing and a soul searching for a place in this eternal web of mankind.

What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.

I am writing on my second book. The Wolf Children of Eastern Prussia. Again, for me it not only is the accurate historical background. I did my research, though. For me it is important to pick out the one human soul dealing with atrocities, hurt, pain, inflicted by fellow humans. Political circumstances influencing on how we act or react. As individuals.

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

When I am not writing, I sit in my garden, doing old, ancient rituals, walking up and down my garden path. Reflecting, breathing. Many of us have turned to old ancient Asian wisdoms for meditation. I am trying to return to our own old wisdoms, the ones before the Nazis had occupied them. I am not exactly a believer and I certainly am not a follower. I do what I feel in my heart. I try to find my roots.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

Literary influences? There are many. Grass. Hemingway. Roth. Even Shakespeare. Schiller, Goethe. Philip Kerr (love him). Susan Fletcher.  Alan Wynzel and Christoph Fischer. The latest ones and I do love them. Stieg Larsson. Thomas Willmann. Crazy, how can I list all the ones I love?

Films? There are some, but I tend to be a reader, not a film watcher.

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

My best and oddest qualities? My friends love me over 30 years without me remembering their birthdays. Does that say anything?

Odd? Yes. I am not the usual friend, I am not. But when I love, I love unconditionally. My heart finds a heart and sticks to it, no matter what. I am loyal, terribly loyal.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

My favourite animals are dogs. I have three old, soppy Cocker Spaniels. They fascinate me with their pack loyalty and pack order. So easy, so unquestionable. So straight forward. So honest.

My favourite colour is blue, deep as the ocean.

What would you take to a remote island?

To a remote island I would take books. Really. Not a cliché. You never feel lonely with books.

Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?

Invite for dinner? I am a passionate cook. I even watch cooking programs on tv. I love to eat, I love to cook. It is an artist thing, is it not?  Oh, I would love to invite writers, a whole bunch of them. Exchange thoughts with them. Eat, indulge, drink and talk. Smile, leaning back into a comfy chair, philosophy. Words. I am a writer.

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

I am writing on my second book. Don’t have a title yet. It is about the wolf children of Eastern Prussia. A story about a child’s heart. Lonely, innocent, fighting to survive. The dark forest of life. Spirits and gods of ancient tales. Are they still with us? Do we need them? What makes us follow ancient paths? What keeps our soul fed? How do we find the path we have to follow? How do we deal with collective guilt? Is there such thing? How do we carry the burden of being part of a people who did wrong?

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

I write books. Yes I do. I don’t think I can compete with the good ones out there. I only use words, searching for them, to explain what is in my heart, soul and mind. Sure, I want to pass my words on. Am I not a witness of a time? Of a people? Of a family? Of a history? I think I am. Oh, sweet arrogance. I want to be read. I have to tell. I am writing. Always will be.

Find HEXE on your Amazon site: http://bookShow.me/1491801344


01 Nov 2013

S.R. Mallery : “Unexpected Gifts”

3 Comments Book Reviews

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“Unexpected Gifts” by S.R. Mallery is a great novel, comprising of an excellent dive into American history of the 20th century, with a hint of a very palatable family saga, a kind of personal memoir and a psychological journey into self-discovery by the main character Sonia. 
Coming with her own set of problems Sonia is confronted with the ageing of her parents and when she finds diaries of family members in the attic she digs into her family’s colourful and intriguing past. Mallery takes us back to various eras of recent American history, as experienced by Sonia’s family members. With great attention to detail and intensive research the author transports us to the 1960ies, the draft lottery, draft dodgers and the actual fighting in Vietnam while in the US the hippies protest and the Beatles are all the rage. Bringing the personal into the political and showing how our characters are caught up in the spirit of the times this book does an excellent job at portraying the spirit of the times, to the author much more so than many other novels with similar subjects. 
Another great sequence in the book takes us back to Ellis Island in 1913 as the first members of the family are immigrants from Eastern Europe and then settle in Detroit before the Great War.
Told out of chronological sequence and with much reflection by Sonia as she is rooted in the present the book serves as a history lessons for us non-Americans as well as a psychological exploration of a woman who tries to find answers about her family but more so about her own problems, her character and her identity.
Warm, thoughtful and with great insight this is a wonderful book that has a lot to offer. Well written and cleverly structured it shows great literary talent and comes highly recommended.



Tell us a little about yourself.  Have you always written?

Actually, no.  Oh, of course in school for papers, but I really am a late bloomer when it comes that. Wish I had started it years and years ago, but so be it…. spilled milk and all that.

How did you have the inspiration for this story?  What was more important for you – the OCD issue, the personal development, the history, or the family aspect of your book.

I have always been interested in seeing my family albums––their modern–60’s–50’s–40’s–30’–20’s–1910 outfits and their faces; were they sad, happy, bored?  In addition, having always loved history, particularly about the U.S., I remember wondering how I could present different American time periods in a single book and have it work out logically.  The more I percolated, the more I speculated about the idea of one person reading the scribbling of her relatives and gaining insight from them. That way, I could integrate a modern character with different eras.  In addition, I wanted to have the main character somewhat flawed.  Hence, the OCD.  I really enjoyed researching the OCD part because I have some of that myself; the kind where the mind never shuts off!  So, to answer your question, it all was important to me.

Did you do a lot of research for it?

A ton!! I studied books/articles/documentaries about each time frame, looked at many photos, read about the language from not only those different places, but also separate periods.  For example, I looked up how people in Ireland talked during the early 1900’s, how African Americans talked up in Harlem during the 20’s; how in Bulgaria, they would shake their heads when they meant yes, and visa versa when they meant no; what the foods were like for each period and country, the clothes, the politics, you name it.  It took quite a while—the downside of being an historical fiction writer, I suppose.  On the other hand, the journey is wonderful and you sure do learn a lot!!

 How much of the story was fixed before you started writing and how much changed during the process?

The story was pretty much fixed, but in a very general way.  The first draft I sent my publisher was 650 pages in paperback format.  Yikes!  We both agreed that cutting out every single extraneous historical tidbit wasn’t going to hurt the characters or the plot, so half a book later, I realized it had become much more flowing.

Tell us a little about your writing and editing process.

I’m an ex-quilt designer, so I’m always thinking in little patch-worked pieces.  I start with a big expandable file and little scraps of paper—upon which I keep putting thoughts, ideas, motivations, descriptions, plots, book passages I’ve underlined, anything I can think of.  Then I make up envelopes marked with various characters’ names, ambiance/description, language, plot, etc.  From there comes a very generalized outline and as I start to look at all my paper snatches, I fill in the outline with more detail.

As for editing, I do a lot of my writing online, but sometimes I do write just on paper, type it, then edit it, and sometimes I do editing online.  I’m pretty flexible that way.

What is your writing environment like?  Can you tolerate music or noise or are you a reclusive writer?

I have been known to write entire scenes at a Carl’s Junior, but in general, I do write at home and do not want to have a lot of noise around me.  Music, however, is my great muse away from the writing.  It gives me all kinds of ideas about motivation, scenes, characters, plots, etc.  I listen while I drive or at home and it always works like a charm. For Unexpected Gifts I downloaded music from the various periods, and an Irish music CD for that chapter.

 Which of your characters was the most fun to write?

Daria.  I definitely don’t have a drop of Irish in me, but I do love Irish music and the sing-song rhythms of their language, so whenever I would reread what I had written about that Irish lass, no matter how small the passage, or simply a single sentence, I would use an Irish accent.  It really transported me.

Who would play her in a film?

Goodness, I don’t know….an unknown maybe?  Some lovely actress who could make her proud…

Are you like any of the characters?

Probably Sonia, because of some of her OCD tendencies and her growing love of finding out about her ancestors.

What is your life like?

At the moment, it’s fairly peaceful.  Of course these days that could change on a dime!  I live with my husband, daughter, and a couple of cats, in an unassuming, cottage-like house.  I teach part time to ESL adults whom I love and respect, and intermixed with that is writing, editing, research, promotional networking, family, friends, movies/series on DVD, light gardening, and laughter as much as I can muster. Good for the soul, what, what?

Who are your literary influences?  What are your favourite books/films/albums?

Authors: Harper Lee, O.Henry, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Dodie Smith, Victoria Holt, Mary Renault, and Betty Smith, William Styron and more.

Films: To Kill a Mockingbird, Friendly Persuasion, L. A. Confidential, Poltergeist, Love Actually, Bridge On the River Kwai, The Miracle Worker, Tootsie, etc., etc.     I guess I’m eclectic…..

Albums:  Stevie Wonder, Judy Collins, Mozart, Faure, Debussy, The Beatles, The Gaitlin Brothers, Irish music, movie themes, etc., etc….

What are your views on independent publishing?

At first I figured being published traditionally was really the only way to go. I’m changing my tune rapidly as the entire industry is changing and I see my friends getting more money and having more control.

However, I do admit that my publisher, Mockingbird Lane Press, has been very patient and kind to me and I have learned so much. Frankly, I really couldn’t have done it on my own as a new author.

Can you recommend any indie books/authors?

Lasher Lane’s Deadlight; Simon Okill’s  Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe; Tony Riches’ The Shell;

and last, but certainly not least, YOUR book, Christoph, The Luck of the Weissensteiners!! (NO KISS UP HERE, simply the truth!)

Aw, thank you. What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

Interesting question….my oddest quality, which I totally attribute to my OCD, is I can’t let go of things easily.  For my kids, it has meant me reminding them over and over again to do something (they’ve learned to make a joke out of it), and if I get hurt by someone, it takes a while to clear my system.

My best quality, I have been told by family, friends, and students, is that I really care about them, and will always listen to them and help them if I can.

What are your favourite animal/color/outdoor activity?

Cat/periwinkle blue/used to be tennis (can’t because of knee issues), gardening

 What would you take to a remote island?

My husband (even though your question wasn’t with who).  He is so smart, he could figure out a way to provide me with food, shelter, and caring.

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

My website, www.srmallery.com, has synopses of both Unexpected Gifts and the upcoming Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads.  I am doing last minute edits on the latter. As for my next project, I am in the very beginning stages of it––research, formulating, etc, so I don’t really want to talk about it quite yet.  However, it will involve a missing persons case during the American Civil War. 

Here are some links:

Website:  www.srmallery.com

Facebook: S. R. Mallery (Sarah Mallery) http://on.fb.me/13fFI4T

Amazon page: http://amzn.to/13ar2pa

Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/18cSWUG

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/13NBxA2

Twitter: SarahMallery1


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30 Aug 2013

Newsflash: Review Bonanza for THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS

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In the last week this book drew in a staggering 10 new reviews:


Here are some highlights from the reviews. Thanks for everyone who has helped promoting the book and put the word out there. This is a very exciting time. {Sebastian also had more reviews but that will have to wait for another newsflash}

Historical Fiction at its Best!!

“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” by talented Author Christoph Fischer is classified as a fictional novel but words can barely describe how much more it is than that…his style of writing is seasoned, well-researched, captivating, and true-to-life. It brings back memories of my first encounter as a young school girl with the heart wrenching plight of the Jewish people when I read “The Diary of Anne Frank”.

Author Christoph Fischer has such an incredible gift. He is able to quietly and softly bring his reading audience into the lives of his characters and touch their hearts in a memorable and profound way.

This touching novel has certainly left its mark on me. Early in the morning…I eagerly rose to read a few more chapters before I started my day. In the evening before bed time, I engaged in the same activity with not wanting to miss a word in this captivating epic story with plenty of historical facts and authenticity to make every word penned remarkably believable and enticing. I was so expertly drawn into the story line in this incredible novel that I felt mesmerized by the cast of characters depicted…how their lives were intertwined and how their stories unfolded. This historical novel is such a wonderful and enjoyable read. Thank you to Author Christoph Fischer for sharing his talent with all of us! Simply put…I loved this book!


An encapsulating read,

A very interesting read

It is a touching and moving tale with some wonderful characters and great storytelling.

The story is well developed and will draw a reader very quickly inside the pages

and an overwhelming sense of reality in this book.

An exceptional page-turner and many historical readers will enjoy this gripping novel.

Nicely put together! A credit and a craft to the author.

***** 68681_10151109627282132_490312403_n

A truly beautiful historic suspense,

An astounding and epic story about the harrowing experiences of a Jewish family during World War Two.

Christoph Fischer’s wonderfully descriptive writing style gives an authentic feel of the era.

I found myself feeling real concern for the superbly drawn characters as they desperately try to avoid being detected by the Nazis.

*****  Molly

A little difficult to get a hang of at first, but good later on,

In Christoph Fischer’s “Luck of the Weissensteiners” you get … a great new perspective to yet another war story.

… becomes a nail biting drama as the war comes to its end. I am glad I persisted with the book. I felt moved by the story and just loved the ending when everything is being tied up.
I really enjoyed some of the great characters that came in later, particularly a tough and ambiguous Hungarian Countess, or the late love interest for the widowed father Jonah. I cared for all the characters, even some of the bad ones were becoming soft and it made me realise just how difficult it had to have been for all these people, regardless of their agendas, and how many possible outcomes for these people there could have been.
Fischer tells a good story and does so without much stereotypes and predictability. Some parts were intense but overall it was a pretty good read.

****  704801_10151110620882132_1411199247_o

A Jolt to my Ethnocentricity,

Reading Christoph Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners presented another view of that period through the camera lens of people living in Eastern Europe. The book shows people from all the different perspectives before, during, and after the war. It’s an eye-opening read to learn that the United States wasn’t the center of this war. In the lives of these ordinary folks, the United States played an almost peripheral role.

Through it, all one family stands strong.

This book’s retelling of the history of this period in Europe is personalized through the characters that represent a cross section of the lives impacted by the atrocities of war. Jews, Gentiles, Germans, Slovakians, lesbians, and traitors all point to one direction. War never makes much sense when the individual lives of its victims are examined. Neither side wins when people are persecuted for their religion, political beliefs, nationality, or sexual orientations.

Christoph Fischer has written an important book for its historical perspective. He personified the vagaries of war through the fictional characters.

As long as genocide exists in the world, we must do as Fischer has done in his novel – remind us, and remind us again, that our faith, our color, our language, and our life choices should matter not a wit. In the end, it’s our integrity and how we treat others that matters the most.

Thank you, Christoph, for writing this important book to remind us never to repeat the mistakes of the past.

***** 14708_10151107403537132_1439408697_n

Historical Fiction at it’s best,

It is hard to say a great deal about this book without giving it all away. No, it isn’t an ‘easy read’. But it it a literary gem in a huge field of historical fiction, many of which I don’t get past the opening chapters. It is insightful, historically accurate, and informative. One I started, I couldn’t put it down. A fantastic read for all ages.

I am looking forward to starting the second book in this trilogy.





About this author

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria, which has led to his interest in the concept of Nations, individuals and communal culture, some of the central themes of ‘The Three Nations Trilogy’.
He moved to Hamburg, London, Brighton and Bath, where he is still resident today.
The Luck of The Weissensteiners’  is his first book and was published in November 2012.
‘Sebastian‘ in May 2013.He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

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22 Aug 2013

Newsflash – More excellent Reviews and Chart Success for my books

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continues its ups and down the Jewish Fiction Chart, currently at 

#36 in Books > Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Jewish

Highlights from the prestigious IndieReader Review

THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS succeeds in shedding light on an overlooked aspect of World War II (i.e. life in Slovakia)…
the historical aspects of many of the characters prove fascinating

Beginning in Bratislava in 1933, this story of historical fiction follows various civilians through the lead-up, duration, and aftermath of World War II. Focusing on individuals in Slovakia the reader is taken on a long-winded, albeit fascinating tour of an often-neglected portion of this most infamous of wars.

In the middle of it all is gentle Greta, a voracious reader from a Jewish family who finds herself in love with a “Prussian looking junior sales assistant” at the local bookstore. Little does Greta know that a wave of anti-Semitism will make her eventual marriage to this non-Jewish man a potentially lethal situation for both husband and wife. Unlike his daughter, Greta’s father Jonah has always exercised more caution in matters concerning his Jewish heritage. As a skilled weaver Jonah has always kept himself from being too closely associated with the Jewish community, never wanting to “attract unwanted attention and damage his business”. Of course nothing can fully protect these and others from the sheer insanity that came with the rise and fall of Nazi Europe.


Lingering not just on those persecuted by the wave of anti-Semitism but on the bystanders, the sympathizers, and the opportunists as well, the book does an excellent job of providing insight into how regular people could be swept up in the constant barrage of Nazi propaganda. As Greta’s own husband remarks after Greta suffers a miscarriage “Did she really work too hard or was that her weak Jewish body that made the baby come away? I do wonder.” And characters often wonder, fear, plot, and die. As attitudes shift with whoever is winning the war, it becomes clear that no one was ever truly safe at this time no matter what their allegiance or background.


On Goodreads THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS has currently 50 reviews and 65 ratings with an average of 4.69 stars,
on Amazon.com 48 with an 4.8 stars

Here are some more excerpts from recent reviews:

Wilma reading

 A Rich, Epic Historical Fiction!,  

Set around the period of the World War II, Christoph Fischer brings to life an epic tale of the struggle for survival of a love-struck couple from two different backgrounds. I’m not much of a fan of Historical Fiction, but for one of the few times in my life, I’ve read a historical fiction and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Luck of the Weissensteiners is a rich, insightful novel that explores the lives of people from various deep, multicultural backgrounds. A story so touching it will bring tears to your eyes. Highly recommended to all Historical Fiction fans.


Mr Fischer’s book is well written, clever and original
I recommend to anybody who is looking for a different novel to read
thank you Mr Fischer 


Meanwhile Sebastian is also cruising the Jewish Fiction Charts and received some more great reviews this week. On Goodreads Sebastian has currently 43 ratings and 22 reviews, with an average of 4.88 stars, on Amazon.com there are 24 reviews with an average of 4.9 stars.

#46 in Books > Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Jewish

The first sentence of SEBASTIAN stirred my curiosity, and like Alice, I found myself in another time and place. Transported to a hospital room in pre-WWI Vienna, I felt the gravity of the situation. Was this doctor really going to amputate part of Sebastian’s leg? Carried along from page to page, I worried alongside his mother, Vera, and wondered why his father, Franz, was not there.

As the novel unfolds and expands, we experience everyday life in this era. Vienna, in the years just before the Great War, was in a sort of golden age bubble — a bubble that was about to burst. The trajectory of Sebastian’s life will change, as will the lives of the other characters we meet, all tied in one way or another to the family’s grocery store, a gathering place of many ethnicities.

The author, Christoph Fischer, is a very talented writer. His first book, THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS, was a fabulous read, too. I think the writing in SEBASTIAN is even more graceful and the history so smoothly integrated. Oh, how deftly the author laces the metaphorical shoe that Sebastian will no longer wear. Everyone is missing a shoe of one kind or another. Sebastian’s journey is everyone’s journey.

Who will love this novel? Anyone who values good storytelling, a well researched setting, and a cast of fascinating characters — each with their own challenges. The novel holds our attention, so rapt we are in how people adapt, well or not, to changing landscapes in their lives, their decisions often based on their perceptions, accurate or not. SEBASTIAN is superb historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Can anything be more turbulent than having your leg amputated as a teenager and losing your self-worth in the process? Sebastian is the story of a young man growing up in a not-so-palatable world, with all the accompanying disasters, irritation, lack of trust, betrayal, frustration; and yet he managed to pull through it all. His resilience, courage and hope are ones that will inspire many for generations to come. The 2nd book in The Three Nations trilogy, Christoph Fischer has woven reality in this 321-page fiction that is so engaging you simply cannot turn away.
I fell in love with Sebastian and how he overcame the hardships that he faced!!!
From losing his leg and confidence at 16 and all the hardships that follow including his pregnant soon-to-be wife running off, leaving him with his young daughter and the First World War that wreaks havoc for his family and nation.
Yet he still manages to stay strong to support his family and himself whilst still managing to smile.
An finally he finds love again and his own self-acceptance!!!
A truly inspiring read for anyone!!!!
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19 Aug 2013

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd

4 Comments Book Reviews


Lucretia’s quiet life as an astronomer and hat-maker is quickly turned on its head by her brother. He is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Unfortunately for Lucretia, she is introduced to his majesty as her brother’s assistant. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure and danger. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time for the king, her misfortunes take their toll. When Lucretia finds herself held hostage at the Clockwork Court, the innocent country girl doesn’t know who to trust. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Even if her brothers manage to build the telescope on time, she might not live to earn her freedom.
With the help of her brothers, Freddie and Al, and her constant companions Leibniz the Lemur and Orion the Eagle Owl, Lucretia embarks on a journey that could change her life forever. Can she find the strength inside to balance her new life and overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd is a quirky and very entertaining story that reads in parts as a regular historical novels and in parts like a fantasy tale.
Set in exciting Georgian times of geographical and technological discoveries it carries the spirit of the “no dream impossible” of those times.
Equipped with highly intelligent and helpful animals the heroine Lucretia tries to accomplish her mission to assist her brother.
Lucretia is an interesting character herself, with many more bows to her string. She is based very loosely on a real lady astronomer.
The writing is engaging, the pace just right and the story line charming and beautifully over the 
top. The portrayal of British society and Royalty feels authentic but never dry.
This is a fascinating and compelling read.


Hi Katy

Hi Christoph! Thank you so much for having me over.

Your novel is called a steam-punk novel. Can you explain the term for the rest of us?

Aha! Most tricky question to answer succinctly, ever! Instead I’ll cite this – “Steampunk is a creative social movement that draws inspiration from Victorian and pre-war history in an anachronistic mix of science fiction, modern values and a sense of fun.” The opening comes from an experiment in which Steampunks all over the world were asked to explain what it is in one sentence. I think it does it quite admirably.

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I’d love to say, oooh in a dream, or in a bolt from the blue, or something really creative. No, I was reading a book of my husband’s called The Age of Wonder and the Herschel family were mentioned in it, and something there really caught my imagination – Lucretia in The Lady Astronomer is based loosely on Caroline Herschel.

How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?

I started off many moons ago in radio, then print journalism, then onto copy writing. So I’ve written for a while now. After the birth of my second son, I decided it was high time to start on novel writing. As for what I write, well I love Historical Fiction, but I reckon I’ll give a few things a whirl.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

As I said above, Lucretia and her brothers are based on real people. From there the surrounding cast came quite naturally. I wanted to give Lucretia some strong support too, in the form of her trusty side-kicks Leibniz the lemur and Orion the European eagle owl.

The animals in the story are highly intelligent. Were you ever tempted during the writing to go overboard and let them speak and be completely like humans?

I think that would have been a lot of fun – but no.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ah. Orion the owl. Because I love owls. But I also love lemurs. Damn, this is tough!

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I worked with an astronomer and that was brilliant.

Did you have any say in the cover art and who was that process?

Yes – the wonderful artist Jennie Gyllblad created it. In a series of emails, I described what I’d like and she magically turned my garbled warbling into the cover art.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Completely planned. I’d be a hyperventilating mess if I didn’t plan everything.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Losing yourself in another world entirely. The worst is the waiting to see if anyone actually wants what you’ve written.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

Oh! That’s so tricky isn’t it? I try to set aside time for marketing, usually in the evenings after a day’s work.

What do you do when you don’t write?

My boys are at school, so I write during school hours.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

Too many to mention! Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age; Nick Cave: And the Ass Saw the Angel; Stephen King: Different Seasons; Jilly Cooper: Riders – I could go on.

What would you take to an isolated island?

Books. And chocolate. And a big comfy bed. And possibly my cats. And dog. Hmmm.

A few facts:

I wrote The Lady Astronomer for my eldest son – he was jealous that I had used my younger son’s name in something else I was writing.

I work with an Astronomer on books that require his expert knowledge – the idea for The Lady Astronomer came to me while reading another book that he recommended I read.

The Lady Astronomer is inspired by the life of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848). She suffered from both Smallpox and Typhus, was a milliner, soprano, her brother William’s Assistant – he discovered Uranus, then known as George’s Star for the King who funded the build of the ‘Great Forty-Foot’ telescope – and most importantly, perhaps, became the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet. Not to mention the first woman in the UK to receive a working wage, from the King if you don’t mind.


The Lady Astronomer was published by Untold Press www.untoldpress.com on 26th September 2012. It is available as an eBook and Paperback.

Where to buy:

You can purchase The Lady Astronomer on Amazon USA


and Amazon UK


and all other Amazon online stores.

Amazon smart url –if you click it takes you to the store for your country! http://bookShow.me/B009HIIKS0

Now in Print for 12.99 at [Createspace][Amazon][Barnes & Noble][The Book Depository]


“This is a tall tale well-told, full of imagineering and eccentricity.” The British Fantasy Society

“Touching on the welcome terrain of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’, Katy O’Dowd concocts a canny fusion of alchemy, fantasy and steampunk, rolled up within an adventure story – one that’s aimed as much at those of us aged forty as our kids in their teens.” Andrez Bergen, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude

“A delightful read, The Lady Astronomer transports the reader into the life of Lucretia The Astronomer and rekindles memories of the fairytales our parents read to us when we were children.” Jenny Thomson, Hell To Pay

“An engaging introduction to the wonders of Steampunk for tweens and young adults, certain to dazzle the imagination.” Lunar Haven Reviews and Designs

Author bio:

Katy is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online.

She reviews for the Historical Novels Review and the British Fantasy Society, is a commissioning editor at Pendragon Press and is co-editor of the Nasty Snips II Project for that press.

Alongside writing with her Dad under the pen-name Derry O’Dowd, whose first book ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line, she writes under her own name.


17 Aug 2013

“Kicker” by R. Grey Hoover

4 Comments Book Reviews


“Kicker” by R. Grey Hoover is an extraordinary read about air force life in Burma during WWII.
It focuses on Sam Huber (and his wife Eleanor home in Pennsylvania) from his first days of training through his various stops on the way to armed conflict in Burma.
Sam and his friends illustrate the regular soldier’s life, not just the super heroes as featured in Hollywood films about the time. They have embarrassing moments during the physical exams, they run out of petrol and have a huge variety of close calls and successes, too. It made them much more realistic and likeable.
The story is not just limited to Burma; Sam stops in Africa and India on the way and with him we also get to know a lot about the situation for soldiers in these areas.
With much research and an amazing amount of factual knowledge about flying, aircraft technology and weather conditions as perceived by air force personnel this book is packed with amazing information and moving insight and worth reading for many reasons.

Based on the actual experiences of American soldiers during World War II, KICKER features the lives of those who fought in the China, Burma and India Theatre, also known as CBI. Written by R Grey Hoover, this book showcases one of the most unheard of forces that fought in conjunction with British and Chinese Allied air and land forces during the Second World War.

Compelling, insightful and moving, this book tells the story of a family caught in the throes of war. It pays tribute to the bravery of a family with a 165 year tradition of service to their country. It reenacts the understated heroism of valiant men who were sent off fourteen thousand miles from their homeland to battle all the harsh elements of nature and the life-threatening attacks of hostile enemy forces. In the hopes of reminiscing his father’s life in the military, Grey writes this historical novel to bring to light the significant efforts of war veterans whose struggles may not have been recognized by many.

Little is known about the CBI Theatre. This was even referred to as the Forgotten Front due mainly to the fact that the men who fought in this zone had received very little amount of supplies and support from the government. The soldiers did not have enough provisions and had limited supply of rations. A man named Sam Huber was a part of this group. In his son’s effort to bring to life his father’s accomplishments not only as a soldier, but also as a family man, Sam’s story is told in this powerful work that will inevitably stir readers.

KICKER inspires readers to appreciate and honor the courage, strength and endurance of war veterans who risked their lives and the welfare of their families in order to fight for the very freedom that is now being enjoyed by millions




Hi Grey

Tell us a little about yourself and your book.

I am retired from the Pennsylvania State University where I spent a long and successful career in the IT field.  Since retiring, I have done a lot of traveling and have become quite successful in the field of wood carving. I have also written a book titled “Kicker”, which is a historical novel based on the experiences of my family during World War II. In addition, I founded the Author’s Social Media Support Group (ASMSG) to bring together authors who are interested in helping each other. 

How did you come to writing in the first place?

After I retired, I wanted to document my father’s wartime experiences for my family. However, the more I learned about his service and others in the China-Burma-India theatre, I decided to write a book to shed more light on that little known theatre of the war and to honor the men and women who served there.

How did you choose the actual characters for the story?

The majority of the characters in the book are based on my family members and veterans I met or learned about during my research on the book.

Who is your favourite character and why?

I would have to say my favourite character is Sam, the main character in the book.  He is my favourite because he is based on my father who I admired and respected very much.

Are you like any of the characters yourself (and how so)?

 I am like the character Billy because he based on my life during that time.

What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

The most fascinating part of my research was actually meeting and befriending many World War II veterans.

How did you research for the book?

I spend over 7 years researching the book. I attended meetings of CBI veterans where I made many new friends and was able to interview a lot of them.  Sadly, those CBI veteran groups are now largely disbanded because their numbers have dwindled. I also did a lot of research through military records centers and publications available online.

Did you have any say in the cover art and how was that process?

I had a lot of say on my cover art. I provided the publisher with a picture of my father in a C-47 cargo plane and they suggested it be placed over an image of a World War II ration booklet. I was very pleased with the job that was done.

What do you do when you don’t write?

I spend a lot of time with the administrative aspects of the ASMSG group. When I am not doing that, I like to travel and pursue my wood carving interests.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

 I like adventure books and my favourite authors are Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Clive Custler. 

Which indie writers can you recommend? 

The ASMSG group has a large number of indie authors that are very talented. 

What else would you like us to know about yourself, your books and the ASMSG?

Having a successful book is very difficult. Through the ASMSG group, I hope to help as many authors as I can become successful.



Blog: http://rgreyhoover.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/R.-Grey-Hoover/e/B00940YE9U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_10?qid=1375295961&sr=1-10

Twitter: https://twitter.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rgrey.hoover

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6517460.R_Grey_Hoover

ASMSG: http://asmsg.weebly.com/




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