31 Oct 2013

Paul Cude: “Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Threat from the Past”

1 Comment Book Reviews

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“Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Past” by Paul Cude is using a highly original idea and makes it the centre of a very entertaining adventure story for young adults and those young at hearts. In times of “Eragon” and “The Hobbit” many of us older adults love a good dragon story just as well as the younger ones and I am sure most people who pick up this book will appreciate Cude’s excellent effort in that regard.

Most of the story however is surprisingly set in present day and not in the distant past. The dragons are not enemies of us humans but are actually here to protect us, a tradition that goes a long way back into their past. Using this inventive set up Cude tells us with much love for detail about the world and communities of dragons, their habitat, tunnels under the sea and much more which I found very enjoyable. 
Myths and legends in the dragon world their good and bad members, their habits, their sports and their views on the human world add flesh to the action part of the story. 

Cude has taken the simple idea and given it a lot of thought and imaginative detail, it is obvious what a labour of love writing this book must have been and it certainly has paid off.
Highly recommended, a great and fun-filled read.

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Interview with the author:

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

In the story that I’d dreamt, the main character, when in his dragon form, had a marking on his scales that looked just like a bent whistle. This is where he derived his name from, and I think I was desperate to include this somewhere in the title. As for the ‘threat from the past’……it just seemed so obvious, given how it starts and ends. Those were two parts of the story I knew in my head in graphic detail, long before I’d completed the book. Originally I’d intended just to write the story for my kids……for when they were a little older. But the more I wrote, the more seemed to spring forth from inside me, far exceeding the length I thought the book would be. About halfway through writing that one, I started dreaming about what would happen in the next book and beyond. The whole thing seems almost to have a life and will of its own.

How did you come to writing in the first place?

Oddly it just happened. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she’s not far off 11 now), I had the single most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head…..so graphic, so intense, so…..mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, “You have to write it, you just have to.” Initially I just laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story…….sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly…..3 months, and then, well………..I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn’t a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I’ve learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing  process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Difficult question to answer as I love them all for different reasons. The main character, Peter Bentwhistle, is loosely based around me so I suppose I should really say him. But whenever I’m working on the next book, or one of my children asks me a question about any of the characters, each stirs a different memory and emotion in me. Some are based around people I know, and my thoughts turn to them. The lacrosse playing dragon called Richie Rump is based on one of my best friends who was captain of the England lacrosse team and is also a fantastic hockey player. The dragon shopkeeper who sells the best mantras in the world shares the same name with one of my best friends. An important human businessman who is duped, is also named for one of my best friends. Other more minor references feature other friends and acquaintances. When looking for some of the character names I used references from everything around me at the time, while sitting working at my desk. There’s a dragon called Axus….his name was gained from my Canon camera at the time, with just a tiny amendment. Also one of the bad characters is a combination of one of my favourite author’s first names and surnames combined. I now have a long list of dragon names tucked away in my computer somewhere, that I can use whenever I need. I think as it’s my first book, everything, and in particular every character, will always mean a lot to me. So sorry, it’s a bit of a cop out, but they’re all my favourite characters.

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

The plot was most definitely planned from the start. I had it all worked out in my head, and the second from last chapter ‘Fawking Hell!!!’ with a huge amount of action in it, I’d known before I’d typed the very first word of the book.

As for the sub-plots, I found my imagination would go off at a tangent while writing. There are a few ‘rants’…..well, that’s what I call them anyway, from the main character, Peter Bentwhistle, who is based loosely on me, which I suppose just flowed out of me while I was caught up in the writing process. I kept them in the story because I thought if they were my opinions, then they should be his as well. They are mainly views on life and morality, hopefully wrapped with a little humour.

Could this become part of a series?

Well, I’ve just finished writing my follow up book….’Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’, and before any editing it’s just over 215, 000 words long, considerably longer than the previous one. It picks up pretty much from where the first book left off. Only in this one, things get much……..chillier. Quite literally. There’s another tale from the nursery ring (where dragons grow up), related to something that happens much further on in the book. Old and new characters alike feature in what I think is an adventure even more action packed throughout. We come across the mysterious nagas, for good or bad, and we learn a little bit more about the background and living conditions of the king, as well as discovering that he’s far from past his sell by date. There’s much more dragon and human team sport. Tank, one of Peter’s friends, even gets to play a whole detailed game of rugby, in a much similar vein to Peter’s hockey match in the first book. Plus more death defying laminium ball matches, this time in the league, rather than the global cup, with the Indigo Warriors perhaps biting off a little bit more than they can chew. Some of the action here is truly EXPLOSIVE! (A clue, methinks…) The characters, new and old alike, reveal a little bit more about themselves, with something for everyone. The new places visited include Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Egypt, USA, and of course the underground world of the dragon domain. My warped sense of humour still features in places of course. Watch out especially for two of the King’s Guards in the early part of the book, that are particularly good value on that front. Other than that, there’s not much more I can tell you without giving away some of the plot, which of course I’m reluctant to do.

What do you do when you don’t write?

When I’m not writing I like to either spend time with my wife and children, or play hockey. A day at the beach down in Swanage or Hengistbury Head followed by a meal out on the way back sounds perfect. If not that, a family bike ride somewhere or a walk in the New Forest. I do love a game of hockey with my friends at Salisbury hockey club, but as I get older it’s much harder to do on a regular basis. I help coach my kids and other children every Sunday morning though, and still try to get to men’s training weekly. Playing squash weekly with an old friend helps me get through the week. (He’s mentioned in the book.)

Which are your favourite books and authors?

When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book…..Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks. Until one evening, when I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars expanded universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a book shop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly: Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out…………..I have to have it.

It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini…………I love all of their books. The detail, the plot……the characters….are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I’ve found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They’re all very easy to visualize.

My favorite author of all though, is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he’s written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari, are easily my favourites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humour……….well, let’s just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I’ve cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett’s books, and I can’t recall doing that for any other author I’ve read. If you’re a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.

What would you take to an isolated island?

My wife and children, a hockey stick for the kids and I, and of course a hockey ball. If permitted, just as many books as possible. My whole family love reading, so with a huge supply of books we’d never be bored.

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

Currently my book can be found for free at Smashwords, in all formats, or can be purchased in either paperback or kindle version from Amazon

The Goodreads page for my book can be found here

My facebook page can be found here

I can be found on twitter @paul_cude

I have my own website to support the book www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk as wells as a blog www.thesoberhockeyplayer.co.uk that provides an insight into me and also offers author interviews.

 

 

23 Oct 2013

Dianne Harman: Blue Coyote Hotel, Tea Party Teddy and Coyote in Provence

1 Comment Book Reviews

 Today I have the pleasure to present the complete works of Dianne Harman and an interview with this wonderful and upbeat writer.

 

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“Blue Coyote Hotel” by Dianne Harman has at its heart an excellent idea and an intelligent concept that is very well presented and told with irony as well as compassion.
The main character Jeffrey is an idealistic scientist very much in love with his beautiful wife Maria. Working on an anti-ageing drug initially he compromises his work life for Maria, loses his job and ends up pursuing his dream of making the world a better place by other means at the Blue Coyote Hotel. The book actually begins with the story of one of the visitors to the Hotel and how his stay in their specially ‘air conditioned’ rooms positively affects his life. Throughout the book Maria and Jeffrey’s story is interspersed with segments about visitors whose lives miraculously change after staying at the hotel. For me this concept worked extremely well as we get to see the potential of Jeffrey’s dream and almost accidentally get to know some of the characters that will become more important for the plot later.
Harman has created two very interesting main characters with a lot going on in their lives and heads and she takes us honestly and compassionately through their changing circumstances while adding some other very colourful and entertaining people to the mix: A catholic priest, a Native Indian Doctor and an overweight business executive to name some of them.
With all the care that was put into the story and the people populating it, the book does an excellent job at making us feel for the characters, even if they bend the rules or are involved in ‘drugs’. You get to see where each character comes from and how their motifs are quite often benign and honourable. Told with wit and a great sense of irony this is a complex and engaging read that stayed with me for a long time after I finished it. With romance, idealism, moral aspects and even some suspense in the story this is a remarkable debut novel by a confident and compelling new writer. Harman tells her story with a perspective changing, confident voice which translates into a great narrative. I read the book in almost one sitting, completely involved, taken in and curious were the story would end.
Original, fascinating and very well written this is highly recommended.

INTERVIEW WITH DIANNE

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Hi Dianne, thanks for taking the time for this little interview.

Thank you for having me!

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

No. I entered the game pretty late. Actually I was 68 when my first book, Blue Coyote Motel, was published. Had always thought about writing. Who doesn’t? But I didn’t feel I had the necessary credentials such as critique groups, workshops, etc. I happened on Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he more or less says “Just Do It” and so I did!

How did you have the inspiration for your stories?

Blue Coyote Motel was a curious thing. We were at a boutique hotel in Palms Springs, California, for a wedding. Our son was the best man and the family had taken over the hotel for the event. It was 106 degrees in October. The air conditioning was wonderful and so quiet. The old hotel had recently been refurbished. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a ‘feel-good’ drug in the air conditioner and everyone felt good all the time?” He responded, “There’s your book.” And so it was.

My recently published sequel “Coyote in Provence” came about because so many people asked me what happened to Maria. The continuation of her story needed to be told. And am in the process of doing the final editing for the third book in the Coyote series.

Tea Party Teddy came about because my husband was in the California Legislature for twelve years and we entertained Governors, Congressmen, and people of every political persuasion. I had a front row center seat watching the political world unfold, and so I satirized the experience. It was an interesting time!

Is one of your books more important or personal to you and if so, why?

Whatever I’m writing is my favourite. It’s as if the characters dictate where the story goes. I just sit back and write what they tell me.

Do you have personal experience with politics or the pharmaceutical industry?

Pharmaceutical, no, politics, yes.

Did you do a lot of research for the books?

I research when the events call for it. For instance, in Coyote in Provence, California Impressionist paintings are stolen and smuggled into France. I was on the phone with the Los Angeles Art Fraud Division and Interpol finding out if the US could get the paintings back and what their policy was.

Would you say you have a political or personal message in your books?

I have been told there is a theme of good vs. bad in my stories, but I don’t write the story with a message in mind.

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

My writing is totally organic. I start with an idea, but I never know exactly how it’s going to come out.

Tell us a little about your writing and editing process.

I am very fortunate that I don’t have to work outside the home and I have far more time to write and edit than most people. I’m usually at my computer marketing and writing from about 7 or 8 in the morning until 5 at night and I usually write in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday. Of course, family and other things certainly cut into that time. Marketing is a big part of it, and I believe in digital marketing. As far as editing, I have a copy editor I usually send my books to first. Then I send them to beta readers. My husband is an excellent editor and reads everything two to three times. It’s amazing what you miss when it’s your own. My copy editor places a lot of emphasis on emotions, dialogue, etc. while my husband is much more plot oriented, so there’s a good balance.

Have you always written?

I wrote a book when I was nine about a little girl who goes to China. What was up with that and what did I know? Nothing! No novels until I was 68, but I wrote for newspapers, etc. during those years.

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

I guess I would be a reclusive writer. I don’t have music on. I sit at my computer to write and often in the morning I’ll wake up early and do marketing and email on my iPad while I have a cup of coffee in bed.

Which of your characters was most fun to write?

Slade Kelly, without a doubt. He’s simply a fun reprobate and everyone asks when I’m going to make him more of a major character. Haven’t quite worked that out.

Who would play them in a film?

I don’t know.

Are you like any of the characters?

Some have said that I’m somewhat like Nina in Tea Party Teddy, a politician’s wife. I don’t really see the resemblance, although a couple of the events in the book did happen to me. One which I still remember was being at a Boys and Girls Club dinner at the head table when a woman came up to me and told me how great it was a politician’s wife would wear the same outfit that she wore last year! Who remembers things like that?

What is your life like?

I live the dream life. I’m doing what I love and close enough to the Pacific Ocean I can walk to it. I have a great family, good health, and a husband who has taken over most of the household work so I can write. What’s not to like? I consider myself extremely fortunate!

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

I seem to be influenced by whatever I’m reading. I remember years ago when I made the decision not to finish a book because I wasn’t interested in it. Now I probably only read about 10% of what I pick up. Ayn Rand made a huge impression on me. I remember picking it up the first semester of college during final exams. Not smart. I couldn’t put it down and my grades that semester reflected it! I never would have thought I would be writing a lot of thriller/suspense books, even romantic suspense, but certainly Michael Connelly, Dennis LeHane, and Daniel Silva are three that come to mind. I’m a fan of Woody Allen and love his movies!

What are your views on independent publishing?

Pro and con. I see a lot of books that are self-published that have gross errors in them and have obviously not been copy edited. That’s a shame because it certainly bears on how a reader regards the writer and the story. An excellent story can be completely ruined by sloppy editing. The great part about it is that an author doesn’t have to wait by the mailbox for years hoping for a letter of acceptance.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

I love B.R. Snow. I think his books are absolutely comically wonderful. I’ve read everything he’s ever written and am anxiously awaiting his next one. John Dolan is a brilliant author who writes great stories, primarily centered in the East. He’s an extremely erudite man, and I love his references to things. And Christoph, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that your book, “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” was one of the best literary fiction books I’ve read.

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

Best – I really care about people. Oddest – even though I’ve been in the public eye because of past businesses I’ve owned, antique & art appraiser, yoga studio owner, international yoga teacher, and credentialing yoga teachers, as well as having a husband in politics for 18 years, I love to be by myself. At heart I’m an introvert, not the extrovert everyone thinks!

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

My favourite animal is my 90 pound brindle boxer, Rebel. My favourite color is probably rust. As for an outdoor activity, it’s changed over the years. Used to love backpacking and have trekked in the Himalayas. I love the ocean, so probably a walk on the shore!

What would you take to a remote island?

I’d hope it has WiFi because I have become quite attached to my iPad!Yes.

Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?

Buddha. I’m fascinated by Eastern philosophy.

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

At the moment, I’m editing  two and three in the Teddy series as well as a boomer novel that interests me. You can find me on facebook (Dianne Harman) or (Dianne Harman Author), twitter @DianneDHarman, or on my website,  www.dianneharman.com

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

I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Every book is a challenge, will this work? Will that? Does it make sense? Would a character do that? I write for the Huffington Post, over 50, and recently wrote a column entitled “Oh Wow.” As we get older, we tend to have fewer and fewer of those moments. Writing keeps my mind and opens me up to a multitude of new things and a lot of “Oh Wow” moments!

LINKS:

Blue Coyote Hotel on your Amazon site

Tea Party Teddy on your Amazon site

Coyote in Provence on your Amazon site 

Bonus feature:

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I couldn’t wait to read “Tea Party Teddy” by Dianne Harman ever since I finished her debut novel “Blue Coyote Hotel” to see where this promising and sharp minded writer would take her creative career. Tea Party Teddy is a perfect follow up, playing once again with themes of corruption and political ideals. Cleverly set up and plotted the book follows a Republican politician on his evil, ruthless and harmful campaign trail, the enemies he makes and the debt he builds and the impact of his career on his private life.
Harman does an excellent job at creating great suspense by planting plenty of plot seeds in the beginning of the book that push the story forward at perfect pace. As the story unfolds the author writes with insightful details and competent manner about the party politics, the lobbyists and corruption, infidelity and revenge.
You love to hate Teddy and with so much going on and emotions and politics going wild this is great entertainment and a fascinating and educational novel written with excellent sense for irony and dry sense of humour. 
A very compelling and rewarding read with a moral component and a lot of bite.

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I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of “Coyote in Provence” by Dianne Harman, the long awaited sequel to her excellent novel “Blue Coyote Motel” and I am pleased to have found it just as remarkable and enjoyable as the first one.
Maria, the ageing Mexican beauty and widow of an American scientist, is hiding in France under a new identity. Harman did a splendid job at tying everything up at the end of the last book but manages to unravel the story again easily. Maria is still ambitious and somewhat of a loose agent who won’t be satisfied with a boring and secluded life and therefore attracts people and problems. Of all people she falls for a detective from Southern California on a field trip to locate stolen art.
A separate narrative introduces a filthily rich Afghan business woman with a big heart. I don’t want to give away much more of the plot to avoid spoilers. All I will say is that said woman is an amazing character and a great and intriguing addition to the already well composed and wonderful cast. Harman really knows how to write entertaining and thoughtful stories with characters caught in the grey areas of morality and legality. With clever juxtaposition and sharp dialogue Harman makes several important points about those (too often contradictory) concepts.
I was impressed how the narratives then come together and how the themes from book one returned so naturally and organically into this story. As far as sequels go this is masterfully crafted and particularly pleasing as the plot is not predictable and the book contains a lot of new elements, yet retains the original character of the series / trilogy (Maybe we can persuade Harman to go beyond the third book?).
I found this a gripping and compulsive read and – although I really hate to use this worn out phrase in reviews – I cannot wait for the next book to find out more about how the remaining issues will be resolved. 
A great equal to book one and a real treat.

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19 Oct 2013

“Free Fall” by Amber Lea Easton

6 Comments Book Reviews

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 I saw a feature on “Free Fall” by Amber Lea Easton on a writer’s blog [Lucy Pireel] and I was immediately drawn in by the subject: surviving your husband’s suicide.
The book is truly amazing. Easton opened my eyes to the tragedy and its manifold implications that this period in her life held for her and her children.
The book is written in raw honesty but does a splendid job at sticking to the author’s side of the experience. Without portraying herself as a victim or accusing those around her who did or could not help, Easton describes her experience soberly and in a way that broke my heart.
Maybe the book was written in parts as a catharsis but it will serve perfectly for other ‘suicide survivors’ to learn that they are not alone, that their worst experiences have happened to others, too, and that – like Easton – they will come out at the other end, that this will pass too. 
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. From the moment Easton finds her husband, to the humiliating and insensitive behaviour of the emergency and police services on the scene, to family and friends unable to provide appropriate help to dealing with the long term consequences of bereavement this book is an emotional tour de force that will stay with me for a long time. 
A remarkable woman, an inspiring book, outstandingly told and indispensable on the self-help / inspirational publishing market. Tragic, raw, without make-up but with a message of hope and encouragement for others.
Unlike the author says in the foreword, this book is certainly not just for people with such a bereavement and/ or their friends. It is a good read for anyone. If the book taught me something it is to be more aware of how such a drama may feel. I’d like to thank the author for opening up and sharing her story for the rest of us to learn from it.

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Hi Amber, please tell us a little about yourself, as a writer and as a person. 

     I’m a passionate dreamer, hopeless romantic, mother of two teenagers, wanderer of the world, explorer of self, perpetual student, lover of music, and eternal optimist. Pardon all the adjectives. As for who I am as a writer, I’m driven by emotion whether I’m writing romantic suspense or nonfiction.

                     What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?

     I started writing when I was nine years old. I would sit on my parents’ roof, stare at the horizon, dream of all the adventures I’d have one day, and scribble stories in notebooks. This evolved into a career in journalism with a brief stint in advertising. I eventually published my romantic suspense novels with Siren-Bookstrand Publishing in 2011. Now I’m both published and self-published.

                   Could you briefly describe what your reason to write this book was and what message you are trying to bring across with this book? Is it intended as inspiration, self-help or factual information? 

     It is both factual and inspirational. “Free Fall” has been a journey. I often questioned my intentions for needing to write it. But that’s the thing, you see. I felt compelled to write this story of my husband’s suicide and the subsequent fallout because I had never in my life been so alone. I didn’t want another person to feel that kind of confusion and loneliness. It’s my intention that my story will inspire those who haven’t gone through such a tragedy to act with compassion rather than judgment. For those who have experienced a similar trauma, I hope my story gives them hope and reassurance that they are not alone.

                     How do you come up with your ideas about the structure of the book?

     I read through my journals written during the time period. I went through them a few times, actually, because it was quite painful going backward like that. During the second read-through, I started using post-its on the pages of what I needed to include. Believe me, this was a challenging experience. Some of the pages in my journal were filled with such intense pain and statements like “Sean, why”, “I’m so angry” or “grief sucks” scribbled over and over again in large letters. Tear stains blurred ink on the pages that brought it all back to the present. Like I said, I questioned why I wanted to experience that kind of pain again, but I couldn’t shake the notion that I needed to do it. I met people in my support groups who didn’t have the words to describe their own experiences yet felt as isolated as I did who encouraged me to be their voice. So here it is.

                     How do you decide which pieces to put in and which ones to let out?

     I needed to keep the focus on my perspective only, without blaming others or coming off as bitter. I don’t know if you’ve ever kept a journal, but, for me, I use journals as a way of venting out all the darkness I may be feeling. I needed to weed through some of that brutal pain and raw anger to pull out the truth of the experience. That’s not an easy task, which is why I made a point in the foreword of the book to say “Free Fall” is written from my point of view alone. I also wanted an end point—which is why I stopped the book at two years out rather than going forward through present day. Why two years? Well, that’s when the huge fall out occurred, when the shock wore off, and when I probably acted the most erratically (in my opinion). After two years, there were still rough spots and developmental challenges for all of us as a family, but I didn’t want to weaken the message of the book by going on and on. Yes, this happened. Yes, this is how I dealt with it, right or wrong. Yes, we made it to the other side of grief.

                     How comfortable do you feel writing to inspire others?

     I’m completely out of my comfort zone with this book. I’m not at all at ease in this role. Like I said, I felt compelled to write it because I felt like a carnival freak show at times after my husband’s suicide and never want one other person to feel like that. If I can be that one person who holds the figurative hand of another in their darkest moments, then this all will have meant something.

                     How long did it take you to write?

     Six months from the opening of the journals to the completion of the book.

                     How do you write? What is your writing environment like? 

     I have a roll top desk covered with pictures of fun moments from my life—a picture of me as twenty-one year old in Greece with some sexy men at my side, my late husband and I swimming with dolphins, friends and I in Las Vegas, kids and I in the Dominican Republic, me kissing a sea lion in Mexico…fun memories that make me happy. I also have momentos from my late grandfather sitting within reach. In between all of that, I have candles and incense that I always burn when I write. My dogs are usually underfoot while the cats supervise from their tower behind me. There’s a wood stove about five feet away that’s constantly burning from late October to May (I live at 8500 foot elevation in the Rocky Mountains so it’s a bit chilly). I put on my headphones so I can blast iTunes and write away in my own little world. There’s a rule in my house that I’m not to be disturbed unless someone is bleeding from a mortal wound or fire is licking at the door.

                     How many rewrites did it take you?

     “Free Fall” took about five or six rewrites. I truly wanted to make sure I stuck to my point of view, kept on point, and delivered a raw/honest account of my journey without going over-the-top. It probably could have been longer, but I felt I needed to keep it streamlined. It’s rather intense and I didn’t want to overburden the reader.

                     Who are your favourite authors / influences? 

     I have many favorite authors, but there are a few that shaped me early in life. Sidney Sheldon definitely inspired me during my teen years with his international thrillers. Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts brought forth my love of the romance genre. Now one of my favorite essayists is David Sedaris who never fails to make me laugh out loud in the most inappropriate public places.

                     What are your next projects? Another book?

     Yes, I have two more romantic suspense novels, “Dancing Barefoot” and “The Pretenders”, slated for release in the upcoming months.  

                     Where would be likely to find out about them?

     My author page on Facebook is the easiest way to stay in touch with me. http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberLeaEaston

                     What song would you pick to go with your book?

     Good question. Well, “Free Fall” is pretty intense . I listened to a soundtrack of my own creation while writing it that consisted of Sade, Bonnie Rait, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Pink, and the Black Crowes. An eclectic mix. Here is a link to my book trailer: 

http://youtu.be/NqXYy4PqZL0

                     Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it? Tell us about the artist.

     I’m the artist. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted the cover to look like so set out to make it a reality.

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

     I have an advantage of being both published and self-published so I can compare the two. Both have pros and cons. With self-publishing, I’ve enjoyed the control I have in all aspects. I’m still doing the same amount of marketing I’ve done with my publisher so that’s not an issue. I guess the downside is that there are times I wish I could call my editor at the publishing house and have her deal with things—delegating the madness, I suppose you could call it. I think one of the lows of self-publishing is the stigma that comes with it, even though I am technically “published” through traditional methods as well. To be honest, though, I understand the stigma because I’ve met some Indie authors who need to go back to writing 101. That’s a fact, not a judgment. However, to stereotype all Indies that way is wrong and shouldn’t be done. It’s a mixed bag. Do I prefer one over the other? No. I like being diversified. I sincerely run my writing business as a business rather than a hobby. I publish with multiple publishers, including myself at this point. I think it’s smart to have different income streams and varying perspectives. 

                     What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing? 

     The creativity is the best part. Writing gives me a high like nothing else. The least favorite part? Well, dealing with the arrogance of other authors. As a journalist, I understood competitiveness. I didn’t realize that would be tripled amidst published authors, which is something I don’t understand. It’s a hard business, but the work stands alone at the end of the day. Most authors help each other, but there are some that live to stir up trouble. It’s exhausting. I love the readers, the writing, my editors, but other authors can sometimes be a pain in the ass. I hope I’m not being too honest. Sometimes I don’t have a censor and apparently that’s the case this morning.

                     What is your advice to new writers?

     Accept feedback and learn from those who have experience. Too often (this morning in fact on an author forum) I hear authors say they reject advice and feedback and do exactly as they please. Well, guess where their careers are? Stagnant. The only way to improve is to listen to feedback from your editor, your mentors, and the readers. Do you need to change your style or become a slave to others’ opinions? NO! That’s not what I’m saying. Be like a palm tree that bends in the wind but remains strong in its roots. People succeed because they’ve learned to adapt and listen.

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

     I’m reading The Witness by Sandra Brown in Kindle format.

                     How do you handle criticism of your work?

     I’m pretty thick skinned after years of being a journalist so try to let it roll off my back. When I worked at a progressive magazine, for example, a woman would call me once a week to tell me that I was an evil minion of Satan’s. At first this bugged me, but then it became more like, “well, it’s Thursday so I’ll probably get the Satan call again.” There are times negative feedback frustrates me if I feel I’m being misunderstood, but mostly I just let it go. I love feedback from my editor, though. It’s fair to say I crave it. I know that I’ve revised my work so much that I can’t be objective and appreciate a fresh set of eyes looking at it. As for reviews, I’ve been fortunate to receive many good reviews, but I know there will always be someone out there who hates everything I do. That’s fine. There are best selling authors that I can’t stand. It’s all subjective.  

                     What are you working on now?

     I’m working on revisions for “Dancing Barefoot” which is a story about a woman who is torn between pursuing her passion, risking all she’s worked for on a dream, or living for the expectations of others. To spice it up, there’s a sabateur in her midst who is undermining her confidence and success. It’s actually one of my favorties thus far because the love story is…let’s say…sizzling. My keyboard is steaming. I also think this lead character, Jessica, is a true reflection of myself, which has been interesting to write.  

               Tell us about your other books.

     I have “Kiss Me Slowly”, which is a romantic suspense about diamond smuggling, embezzlement, murder, and love on the run under Miami sun. Then there’s “Riptide” which is about stalkers, betrayal, envy, and love triumphing over it all. It’s set in the Cayman Islands, one of my favorite places in the Caribbean. My latest romantic suspense is “Reckless Endangerment” about a soldier returning home from Afghanistan and having a hard time adjusting to his ‘new normal’ and his wife who’s fighting for their marriage while investigating a human trafficking ring that’s threatening their very existence. Yeah, I like high-stakes drama. I’m working hard to keep the drama in the fiction and OUT of my personal life these days, though.

Buy Links for Free Fall:

AmazonUK: http://amzn.to/15xOyQe

AmazonUS: http://amzn.to/15iGimT

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/353127

Buy links for all books can be found on my author website: http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Two blogs:

Kisses, Caresses & Whispers in the Night http://amberleaeaston.blogspot.com

Moxie Girl Musings http://moxiegirlwriting.blogspot.com

Social Media: Twitter @MtnMoxieGirl

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberLeaEaston

My review of RECKLESS ENGANGERMENT

I was interested in “Reckless Endangerment” by Amber Lea Easton because of some of her non-fiction work that had quite impressed me and I wanted to see how her talent would show in a different genre.
From the first page is was evident how well Easton can draw her readers into the story and how skilful she creates characters that we instantly will want to know more about. The wounded Afghanistan war veteran Michael and his journalist love interest Hope are far from one dimensional creations and the problems they face in their strange relationship are much more gripping than a mere ‘taming-of-the-shrew’ scenario. Both characters have a lot to keep you interested in them and make you want them to succeed and grow. 
Although this book is marketed as romantic suspense it also covers some serious issues, such as people trafficking and post-traumatic stress disorder, adding further depth to a book that is rich in plot and personal conflict already. Nothing prepared me for the literary quality of this novel. Regular romance and suspense fans get more than enough here to be satisfied by the great chemistry between the main characters and the intriguing story lines. However, if you – like myself – want a little bit more out of a book than you will find it in the well-handled and insightful passages about trafficking and PSD, issues that are handled with care rather than in an exploitative or decorative manner. 
Easton clearly cares about what she writes and it pays dividends, her book is surprisingly impressive and certainly recommended.

 

15 Oct 2013

NEW RELEASE: THE BLACK EAGLE INN

1 Comment News

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THE BLACK EAGLE INN

BOOK 3 OF THE THREE NATIONS TRILOGY

was released this weekend.

The book has already been featured on several book blogs

Devilwinds (Release Post)

Tattle Tale Blog (Long Feature)

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap (Release Post)

Hotchpotching (Release Post)

UviArt (Long Interview)

MarthaEmms (Interview)

Tazzis Place (Release Post)

Iyana Jenna (Interview)

 

The Book also charted in Historical Fiction / German and the first reviews have come in. Here are some excerpts:

 

Brilliant Historical Fiction: Fascinating and Entertaining

impeccably researched historical events with a personal perspective,

the best way to engage the readers and make history real

Christoph Fischer knows how to write amazing stories.

how did Germany recover, not just economically and physically, but philosophically and culturally?

a riveting story of a family, set against the backdrop of the changing political landscape of wartime and post-war Germany

***

an allegory of the old Germany

a really great historical novel in best traditions of James A. Michener and Errol Lincoln Uys, that delivers a historical narrative through character exploration; a fascinating journey into a less-explored territory. Highly recommended.

***

a candid snapshot into the psychological make-up of people

A very honest and ruthless book with an incredible story

***

a brilliantly authentic period narrative while also being a juicy melodrama complete with family secrets and sibling rivalry. This is first-class historical fiction.

I was blown away by the detailed recreation of time and place. At the same time, I found myself lost in the emotional life of Anna Stockmann and her compelling journey of self discovery.

 

http://bookShow.me/B00FSBW2L6

 

A New Germany?

Can a leopard ever change its spots and can a Nation ever change? Is Germany trying to take over the European Union in militant fashion as some people claim? Are Germans always rigid, organised and pushy? Did Mussolini’s fascism stem from a reminiscent ‘Roman’ megalomania? Is there something inherently unchangeable in the makeup of a Nation?

Confronted with often harsh stereotypes of Nazi-esque Germans in film, television and conversations abroad it seems that a certain image sticks to us Germans in the view of other Nations. I left the country 20 years ago and often see the Germans from the outside perspective with similar eyes and cringe at some innocent remarks by my compatriots and their sometimes only misunderstood behaviours. Yet some of these stereotypes can reinforce undifferentiated ideas about German mentality and politics.

My book is by no means a glorification of the German nation. As much as I love my place of origin I am happy where I live now. By having written a somewhat political book about post-war Germany I hope to paint a more balanced and more complex picture about its past and its people. Like every country in the world Germany should remain a work in progress of continuous development and improvement.

download Molly author pictureP1080444

 

10 Oct 2013

P.C. Zick: “A Lethal Legacy”

1 Comment Book Reviews
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“A Lethal Legacy” by P.C.Zick was a real surprise-find and treat for me. Knowing this superb author from her award nominated environmental novel “Trails in the Sand” I was not prepared for a psychological thriller so incredibly well written and breath-taking.
The powerful and to me entrancing narrative follows two cousins through their lives as teenagers and young adults, their first amorous affairs and their marriages. While writer Ed envies his good looking cousin Gary the women and the ease in his life, Gary is struggling with his concealed homosexuality and would probably happily trade with Ed who has all the qualities that Ed’s father would appreciate.
I felt myself deeply engaged in the minds of these two men and was eager to find out where the story was leading, how the men would develop and if or how their many intriguing issues would be resolved. The powerful writing kept me almost entranced with the story and made for some compelling reading.
Gary’s grown up daughter Kris re-appears in his life and gets re-acquainted with her father. Ed tells her (and us) more of the missing pieces of his and Gary’s past. In small segments we learn more about the failed marriages and the friendship between the two. The narrative strands work extremely well together to keep the suspense and explain what needs to be told. Family secrets and background information add spice to the story and fairly late into the book a murder pushes the plot even further.
I am truly amazed at the author’s versatility and the quality of the writing. This reads more like it is coming from an experienced thriller expert rather than from a newcomer to the genre. I found the depth of the characters, the continuous tension and the easy flow of the narrative outstanding and must give this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars.
Interview with the author:
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Welcome back to the blog. What made you decide to write/ publish a thriller after writing/publishing environmentally themed books?
 
Actually I wrote A Lethal Legacy in 2000. It was my second novel and an experiment in writing technique. I wrote it in first person, but the main character is a man about fifteen to twenty years older than me. I tried to keep it suspenseful yet thoughtful so I made Ed, the main character, a writer.
 
I understand You wrote the book ten years ago.Tell us a little about the history of the book.

There’s bits of truth interspersed. An event with some family members gave me an idea. I had a cousin who was similar to the Gary character although I extrapolated the details of my cousin’s life from small little tidbits. He was the only son of my dad’s brother and wife. He had two marriages (one to Miss America 1973 who’s now on the 700 Club as a host) that ended abruptly. One involved the removal of his son as a young child. My cousin ended up dying in San Diego in 1992 with a dear friend who called my aunt and uncle with the news. The friend was with him when he died and he was male. My aunt and uncle refused to go to his funeral even money, time, and health were not issues. They told the rest of us my cousin died of lymph node cancer. Then the son he hadn’t seen in fifteen years showed up at my aunt and uncle’s and started bilking money from them. The police even suspected that he tried to kill my aunt with an overdose of phenobarbital. I had to do something with this story. My aunt didn’t die until a year later and in the meantime she had her will changed to disinherit her grandson. Who couldn’t resist writing that plot?

What was your motivation to write A Lethal Legacy? Do you have a particular message you would like to convey?

Many things occurred in the lives of the people I just mentioned that involved greed and a concentration on the outward trappings of a successful life. In fact, the first title of the book was Greed.

How did you have the inspiration for your story and your characters?

I loved writing the sexy, seductive Kristina. She is the vamp I’ve never been in real life so it was a hoot to let loose with her. I also intimately understood Ed’s character. He tried so hard to please everyone around him, but he couldn’t until he started loving himself. 

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

Not much really changed in the way of plot. However, I do remember moving the scenes around quite a bit to get the flashback part right. I had two people read the first draft, and they didn’t get it or understand the plot. I went away to the beach for a few days and holed up in a hotel room with the surf beating outside my balcony. I moved the pieces around the board and came up with the right mix. When I reissued it this year, I didn’t do much of anything but work on grammatical things.

Are you like any of the characters in the book?

I believe I’m in a little bit of all the characters. The two Townsend brothers are very similar to my father and his brother–they were very easy to write.

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

My husband and I love to be outdoors as much as possible. We have a small pleasure boat and spend summer weekends on the water. We also kayak and golf. My husband is a master gardener so we have an abundance of produce in the summer that I’m put up by either freezing or canning. We eat well all winter long. I lived in Florida for thirty years before marrying my husband in 2010. Then I moved to Pittsburgh, but we get back to Florida two or three times a year.

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

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. I also love Carl Hiassen’s books about wacky Florida. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is probably one of my favorite books. When I was a high school English teacher, I taught that book along with Steinbeck’s The Pearl. It was amazing to turn teenagers on through reading.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I fought it for a long time. My first three books were independently published. Then I became disillusioned with the publishing world when I realized if I could only be Madonna’s maid for a year–then I’d be able to sell a book. Then when I came out of my period of pouting, the revolution in indie publishing was occurring. I love it, but I want all Indie Authors to put out only their very best writing so we can gain respect.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

I love the work of Darlene Jones, Revital Horowitz, Christina Carson, and so many others. However, my queue on my Kindle is packed so I’m sure there are many more left to discover.

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

My best quality would be my sense of humor I suppose. My friends tell me all the time they laugh the hardest with me. My oddest quality? I like my underwear to match my clothes and just don’t feel put together when they don’t match.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

I’m a lover of wild animals as long as they are left alone to be wild. I love burgundy and kayaking is my favorite outdoors activity.

What would you take to a remote island?

My husband.

Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?

I would invite Carl Hiassen because he’s so funny and breaks all the bounds of decency with his characters. I then would bring back Thomas Jefferson so we could sit around and talk about the stupidity that’s occurring in Washington right now. And then I’d like to round out the table with a few of the wonderful people I’ve met through my blog and books, but I’ve never met in person. 

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

I’m just finished putting together the diary of my great grandfather. He wrote the journal about his experiences as a Union soldier during the Civil War. I added historical tidbits to round out the piece. I’m quite proud of it. I’m also working on my next Florida environmental novel called Native Lands. I began the book several years ago, but then got busy on other projects. I’ve pulled it out and gone through it. Right now it’s on my coffee table in a three ring binder waiting for me to read and flesh out. It’s merely a 300-page outline at this point. My website, www.pczick.com, contains all the information about my books.

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

Very simply, I love to write. I love to write about the human condition, but I also like to have a deeper meaning evolve. I believe that our future depends on us living lightly on this earth and taking responsibility for making it a better world.

Find Lethal Legacy on Amazon:

http://bookShow.me/B00F1Z74TE

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18529710-a-lethal-legacy

The official website:

www.pczick.com

08 Oct 2013

Ben Manning: The Vril Codex

2 Comments Book Reviews

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Vril is a force which to its believers can heal or destroy.’ For famous journalist Jane Wilkinson, a peaceful architectural assignment in Berlin is a chance for some much needed relaxation. Until she notices that something very sinister is happening… she is touched by an occult evil more terrifying than anything she has ever known. An evil that will engulf her and reach out remorselessly to her husband Bob who is literally haunted as he tries to discover her fate and what lies beneath the ancient legend of the VRIL CODEX’
Part romance, part conspiracy thriller, involving Nazi’s, and the mysterious cults of the “Thule Society,” and the “Devils Bible.” Supernatural forces and conspiracies combine, leading Bob and his companions into danger and a confrontation with the ancient Vril power’.

“The Vril Codex” by Ben Manning is an unsual and to me a highly original read.
While the main protagonist is a widower and tries to overcome his grief with a work trip to Berlin, the plot edges into paranormal area and sheds light on some supernatural cult around Hitler and his hardcore followers.
I have read quite a few stories and articles about it, all handled as rumours, but their existence is so persistent that the plot – speculative conspiracy as it may be – sounds very plausible to me.
The book is well written and held my interest throughout.
The most pleasant aspects of the book are that the characters are so real and believable, more dimensional and that the storyline is far from flat, as I find so often with books in the genre.
I found it a compelling and fascinating read.

 

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Hi Ben

Your novel has quite an unusual theme. Can you explain it to my readers quickly. How did you hear about it and when did you decide to write this story?

Sure I was influenced to write this novel series  – the Vril Chronicles – by reading “Morning of the Magicians”- a cult new age book that covered everything from secret societies to the unexplained.  It was strangely written and published back in 1962 ish but influenced me as did a rather tacky but interesting history channel documentary aired in 2009.  It was in 09 that I completed my first draft, which I rewrote at author workshops in 2010.  Then I got it published in 2011 and 2012 but the final edition with a reputable publisher has come out in 2013. 

How did you research for it? Especially since so much of the information is contested. What was the most fascinating aspect in the research and the writing for you?

I enjoyed travelling to Germany a lot and finding obscure libraries and meeting characters that influenced the book.  To be honest the internet was useful but I enjoyed meeting real people such as Anthony J Hilder who is probably the most unusual conspiracy theorist out there with a fascinating past in entertainment. I also wrote off to lots of obscure people and cults to differentiate what I was writing with what’s really out there, when it comes to Vril.  There are some rare books on the subject but not a lot is out there.  Not many people realize the esoteric traits of Hitler and especially Himmler, either with the Vril Society or the Thule Society or the Black Sun.  There is some on youtube and many obscure pamphlets were printed about it after the war.        

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

Well the plot was kind of roughly planned but I added to it as I went along. I knew nothing much had been written on Vril and the Nazi’s but paranormal Nazi’s have been written on a lot – from Indiana Jones to James Herbert – so I wanted to create my own myths and figures rather than just using Norse myth and Hitler.  That would have been obvious; they were just the starting point.  Hence my characters such as Helena Hister and the whole mythos around that, that I invented. More recently there have been a few more vril novels out there but it is still few and far between.  There are hundred on the spear of destiny and the Nazi’s for example. As I often say – mine was the first ever on vril and the nazi’s – a fact I am proud of.    

This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?

Well part 2 was self-published in 2012 but that will have a proper final release, possibly with Double Dragon Publishing.  That is set in Dresden and is called the Dresden Benefactor.  It is more of a mystery and the one I am working on right now is more of a thriller perhaps.  

How did you choose the characters for the story?

I wanted characters people could relate to.  It is hard trying to be original because you have to produce characters that are familiar so to an extent they have to be based on universal types.  I did base Warwick Blake – a psychic archaeologist – on the late Michael Baigent who was co-author of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”. 

How did you come to writing in the first place? Apart from this historically themed blend did you have other genres in mind, too?

I wouldn’t call the Vril series historical fiction as it is set in the present but yes there are historical elements.  I did think of making it more science fiction like because of the aliens and UFO’s but then the whole vril universe is very “Fantasy” too – couple that with the fact that there are paranormal romance elements and crime thriller ones that we have one of the strength’s to critics a possible weakness .  It is primarily a thriller but does genre hop.  But why not break the rules?!  

I wrote short stories as a small child and poetry (cringe!) and as a teen and in my twenties mainly did journalism.  Then in my thirties I decided to turn to novels as I felt the need to be creative. 

Who is your favourite character and why?

Warwick Blake- 

This is simply because he is an interesting outsider.  I imagine him portrayed by Michael Gambon. 

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

Yes –

I guess Bob is loosely based on me.  Make of that what you will!

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

To be honest both covers came largely from my idea.  I still do not think there has been a definitive cover and vril 2 and 3 are yet to have a professional cover done.  I do like vril codex’s second “alien” cover most which I designed with Riley Steel. 

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Best aspect is when people like it and the worse is when people don’t but then no writer in history is liked by everyone.  I love the creative highs but I don’t like the writer’s block lows.  I am also dyslexic which makes me a slow writer. 

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

With difficulty!  I know the internet has opened up some opportunities but it is also a boon to criminal publishers.  I worked in marketing and part of me is repulsed by mixing it with my creative side.  In the past, if you had the money to self-publish  – pre web – marketing had to be done by the writer or paid for.  These days whether you self – publish or go with a publisher you still have to promote which is kind of a shame as it used to be more the domain of marketing at the publishers.  

What do you do when you don’t write?

I am a keen actor. 

What would be the cast in a Hollywood or British film?

Michael Gambon or Bill Nighy as Warwick

Rufus Sewell as Bob – depending on budget!  If not – me! 

Romola Garai as Jane

Who are your biggest influences?

Rod Serling

Alfred Hitchcock

Roald Dahl

Gothic Horror

M.R James

Hammer Horror and Amicus  – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing ect…

Which are your favourite books and authors?

I have always loved I Claudius by Robert Graves.

Other favourites are Douglas Adams, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Herbert and Isaac Asimov.

I would also pick Roald Dahl as an author and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a poet.
Dahl always fascinated me with his short stories for “Tales of the unexpected” on the TV from “someone like you” and “kiss kiss” – but what im most impressed by is that he could write, horror, humour –in a book like “my uncle Oswald” and for children with stories like “Charlie and the chocolate factory”. I think he understood the way people think – in terms of how children feel and react and also the very adult world of intrigue, where there is always a moral twist. A tribute I wrote to both him and Coleridge is at the Roald Dahl museum here in the UK.

ST Coleridge – I would love to know his theories on the universe and life in general, as well as the subconscious and life after death.  Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is incredible and I used to work at his cottage where he lived in 1797 and wrote it. 

Douglas Adams – “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” 
Aldous Huxley –”Brave new World”

Voltaire – “Candide”  *** Charles Dickens –”A Christmas Carol” *** George Orwell – 1984

 *** Edgar Allen Poe – Murders in the Rue Morgue *** Mary Shelley – Frankenstein.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Terry Ravenscroft.  His books make me laugh a lot. 

What would you take to an isolated island?

A cat

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

David Bowie

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

I am in a forthcoming major horror film called “Zombie Snuff Movies”  and I am interviewed in the major magazine “Haunted after Dark” who are sponsors of the British Horror film festival held in Leicester Square, London. 

Links –

http://vrilcodex.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vril-Codex/151342004886833
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vril-Codex-Fanpage/192024584186066
Twitter – “@TheVrilCodex”

New from DOUBLE DRAGON publishing…the number one award winning publisher…the VRIL Codex…a paranormal thriller and the first to ever be written on vril and the Nazi’s…conspiracies and norse myth…

http://www.amazon.com/The-Vril-Codex-ebook/dp/B00EPQT0GA/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1377430967&sr=8-1&keywords=vril+codex

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Vril-Codex-ebook/dp/B00EPQT0GA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377432705&sr=8-1&keywords=vril+codex

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Sep 2013

“Nobody Loves a Bigfoot like a Bigfoot Babe” by Phantom Bigfoot (a.k.a. Simon Okill)

Comments Off on “Nobody Loves a Bigfoot like a Bigfoot Babe” by Phantom Bigfoot (a.k.a. Simon Okill) Book Reviews

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The Northern California town of Big Beaver has become a haven for Bigfoot, alien sightings and is home to The Phantom Bigfoot Bather. One particularly weird Beaverite, Duane, has kept the Bigfoot a secret, but to his utter dismay, a female Bigfoot abducts a teenager. Duane must use all his guile to stop his secret from getting out, especially now that MB, his close friend and crypto-zoologist, is on the trail, along with Sheriff Lou and the FBI. Can Duane keep his Bigfoot friends a secret? And what does MB discover deep in the forest?

“Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe” by Simon Okill is simply a wonderful book.
Set in a sleepy town in Northern California called Big Beaver it centres around sightings of a Bigfoot, who may or may not be real, according to the people in Big Beaver. Much fun is poked at these sightings with pranks and jokes by the locals.
When a teenager is abducted Sheriff Lou gets assistance from FBI Agent Merlot. But the Bigfoot is real and while the investigation is under way, one citizen tries to keep this a secret for his own reasons.

What strikes me most about this book is the great sense of humour and the tongue-in-cheek style that runs through the entire story. There is a reference to Twin Peaks and there are some stylistic parallels or similarities, only this book is funnier and not quite as dark as David Lynch’s work.

There are great one-liners and excellently drawn characters to make this book a delight to read. I finished the book in almost one sitting, drawn in by the great story telling and addicted to the community of Big Beaver. Simon Okill is an author to watch.

A very entertaining novel, highly recommended.

 SImon author pic

Hi Simon, please tell us a little about yourself as a person and as author. –

Howdy Christoph, and before we get into it, a beer would be helpful. Thanks. That’s better. I am Phantom Bigfoot, author of that which leaves my brain as a jumbled mess and somehow gets put in some semblance of order when the lights are all on. My lights were left dim by an accident and only my writing seems to replenish the power. The more I write the brighter the light. So it’s best not to be around me when I’m not writing. Hehehehe!

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

At least 15 years, but not since the accident have I become a full-time author. It all began one night long, long ago when I had too much to drink watching Twin Peaks and The Broken Lizards’ Super Troopers – well let’s be honest you need a few to watch those shows. That night it struck me like a right cross from Rocky – Bigfoot! Combine those shows into a town obsessed with Bigfoot!

The Bigfoot theme is such fun. When did you decide to go with it and write a whole book? –

That very night.

How did you manage to make it your own story when the Bigfoot theme has been kind of monopolised by the Hollywood films? –

Hollywood has declared Bigfoot a monster. Not me. My Bigfoot are peaceful creatures who bonk at the drop of a hat. There’s more but that will be revealed in my new Bigfoot novels.

Was the humour planned or was the idea initially more serious? –

I don’t like serious novels. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a serious message in Bigfoot but it’s relayed tongue in cheek. After all, I am Phantom Bigfoot purveyor of the practical joke.

Did you ever think of writing it just for children or young adults? –

Wouldn’t work, Christoph. The search for Bigfoot is not the realm of teenagers.

Did you have it all planned out before you write your stories or do the characters and story surprise you? –

Actually all my novels started out as screenplays and from there I fleshed them out into novels.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Duane is my favourite as he is what most guys would like to be – a bum with loads of money.

What would your character(s) say about you? –

Nothing good, probably – hehehehe – except a big thanks for giving them life.

Are you (or your children) like any of your characters? –

There is a pinch of me in Duane and MB, but I prefer going over the top so no one could identify with them.

Would you say your books have a message and could you hint at it – for the confused? –

Bigfoot’s message is clear – save our environment and stop hunting for pleasure.

What do you like best about writing? –

Leaving my world and entering a fantasy world of my own design where I can do and be anything I want.

What’s your least favourite thing? –

Marketing the little monsters – they take over your life and that’s not much fun.

How do you balance writing with family life? –

I get up before I go to bed and slave away until dawn then market for several hours and with a stroke of luck find time to write until the early hours. Family life has suffered somewhat, but I am hoping the pressure will ease with more books published.

How do you edit and quality control? –

First I type in key words that should be used sparingly – suddenly, became, felt, seem etc and use next mode to correct. I do same with repetitive words. After that I send the book to an editor.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? –

Daunting at first. Formatting for Kindle and Smashwords drove me mad. By downloading reviewers for both, I have cut the time right down and now I can format both in under 20 minutes.

What were your highs and lows? –

Lows were getting formatted indents right – highs was getting into Smashwords Premium and seeing Luna Sanguis, my vampire romance on sale at WH Smiths UK.

What is your advice to new writers?

Never ever give up. Even Stephen King had 100s of rejections before Carrie was a hit. Oh and get a good pro editor.

Who are your favourite authors?

Stephen King, Graham Masterton, Dean Koontz and too numerous to mention Indies from ASMSG.

I know you are very supportive of other writers, but who are your favourite independent writers?

– That’s such a loaded question, Christoph, there are so many I love for different reasons, I’ll just say they are all my dear friends on ASMSG and I love them all. They know who they are.

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

ebook – Fantacia: Voxian Series by Ruth Watson Morris of ASMSG

What three books have you read recently and would recommend? –

Once Upon Another Time by Rosary McQuestion –

The Nightlife Paris by Travis Luedke –

Capital D by Natasha Johnstone.

Travis would appreciate the sandwich I have going for him there. Hehehehehe!

Who would you say are the biggest influences?

ASMSG as a whole. So many great posts on writing have shown me my faults.

 What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

None as far as I can remember, but I have watched my faves on the box several times – Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, True Grit, The Shining, Salem’s Lot, The Stand, To Kill A Mockingbird and the list goes on.

Tell us about your other books?

Okay, Christoph –

Luna Sanguis and Luna Aeturnus follow a young woman on the verge of vampire superiority, but she witnesses a brutal murder and is hunted by her evil lover. She wakes up in a prison-like room with total amnesia. She is defenceless and must depend on a young doctor to save her from The Count, help her recall her past and escape into the night as vampire lovers.

SS-Steppenwolf retells WWII through the eyes of a werewolf created by Himmler to destroy the Allies at The Battle of the Bulge. Not many people know that the Waffen SS were addicted to a mind-altering drug which drove them to kill without mercy, but when the drug ran out, so Germany’s fate was sealed by Stalingrad. Facts are twisted to fit the new order of the wolf. Rainbow’s End is a YA fantasy which explains what happened to Errol Flynn’s family heirloom that went missing from his birth 1910. The heirloom is Captain Bligh’s sword.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

Bigfoot has its own song – Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe. But “Addicted to Love” sums up the entire book.

What are you working on now?

Luna Aeturnus is being edited for release in September.

Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?

What you read is basically me, so read my books to find out what I’m like.

Thanks Christoph for this chance to air my laundry.

 

Info Links:

Http://tassyoneill.wix.com/the-phantom-bigfoot

http://facebook.com/simondokillwriter

http://twitter.com/simonokill

https://www.amazon.com/author/simondokillwriter

http://goodreads.com/tassyoneill

Buy Links:

US Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Nobody-Loves-Bigfoot-Like-ebook/dp/B00AAL9UB4

UK Kindle

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobody-Loves-Bigfoot-Like-ebook/dp/B00AAL9UB4

US Paperback

http://www.amazon.com/Nobody-Loves-Bigfoot-Like-Babe/dp/1938985036/

UK Paperback

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobody-Loves-Bigfoot-Like-Babe/dp/1938985036/

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/nobody-loves-a-bigfoot-like-a-bigfoot-babe?keyword=nobody+loves+a+bigfoot+like+a+bigfoot+babe&store=ebook

 

I live with my wife and Shirlee Anne, in a pretty coastal town in South Wales, UK. We both love Stephen King and had read many of his books and enjoyed their transition to the screen. Due to our love of books, my wife and I dabbled in writing for some years as a hobby. We were approached by a film company to write a paranormal TV series. We struggled most nights and all through weekends to come up with 22 episodes only for the company to go bust. Then after an accident at work, I was forced into early retirement due to disability. I used my newfound skills as a writer to help with my depression. We decided to use our TV series episodes as templates for film scripts and novels. My writing became more serious as certain A-list actors expressed interest in my scripts and my debut novel Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe was accepted by Christopher Matthews Publishing after so many British publishers turned it down.

 

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Also by the author:

“Luna Sanguis” by Simon Okill attracted me because of its setting in Paris around 1925. I enjoy only the occasional Vampire story and with the setting in mind I had different expectations to the intense but thoroughly enjoyable reading experience I got.

Luna Sanguis has some exquisite historical feel to the story but it is mostly an intense and gory read with some detailed descriptions of killings, sexual scenes and psychological power games. It took me by surprise and thanks to the surprise effect I was totally engulfed in it.

At the heart of our story is Delicate Rose, or Eternal, who becomes amnesiac after being witness to a dreadful killing and she only escapes by the skin of her teeth. Brought into a lunatic asylum she continues to have nightmares and horrific visions.
Count Lucien and his two sidekicks are after her and she knows a certain fate awaits her at the next full moon. 
The book is written in a very powerful prose and with very appropriate language to the historic setting. The story infiltrates your mind as you read it and the build up of suspense, the sense of helplessness and fear oozes from every page.
Scary, clever, superbly written and at times disturbing this is not for the light hearted but seems a must for all fans of the Vampire genre who like it ‘rough’.
Quite unforgettable.

 

Coming soon:

“Luna Aeturnus” by Simon Okill is the long awaited sequel to Luna Sanguis. I was lucky enough to get an early copy by the author for review.
Rose, or Eternal, is still trapped in the lunatic asylum and the romantic sparks between her and her Doctor Eduard are blossoming, but Rose is afraid of Count Lucien, who will be coming after her at the next full moon. The possibility of two lovers eternally ‘reincarnated’ and meeting over the centuries is beautiful and adds romance of great quality to a story that is also often chilling and intense. The theme of eternity, eternal life and love runs through the novel and adds some reflective notes to the fast paced story with its many action packed scenes of fighting and violence. 
The characters are wonderful creations, be it the vile Demon Bonbon, the evil Count or his colourful sidekicks.
The writing in this piece is amazing, and that goes not only for the skilful use of language. While the doctors wonder about Rose’s Amnesia, deem her possibly schizophrenic or ‘just’ traumatized it makes us often wonder ourselves if Rose is really losing her mind and we with her. Or are we? Much remains ambiguous but in a very fascinating and rewarding way.
Like the first book this is a must read for Vampire fans

 

 

10 Sep 2013

Derry O’Dowd: The Scarlet Ribbon

3 Comments Book Reviews

 

TSRCover

The Scarlet Ribbon was chosen to launch the History Press Ireland’s fiction line in 2012.

Written by father and daughter team Michael (a doctor and medical historian) and Katy O’Dowd (a writer), the book follows James Quinn, a young Irish surgeon battling prejudice, suspicion and personal demons in his controversial quest to change the face of medicine.

Following his marriage, tragedy strikes, thrusting James into a life of turmoil and despair. Throwing himself into his work, the young surgeon eventually begins to find solace in the most unexpected of places. From the backstreets of Paris, through the glittering social
whirl of London and finally back to Ireland again, this is a story of the thorns of love and the harsh reality of life in the eighteenth century, where nothing is simple and complications of all kinds surround James Quinn, man midwife.

 

“The Scarlet Ribbon” by Derry O’Dowd is a fascinating historical novel about man-midwifery in the 1700s.
I am amazed at the amount of research that must have gone into this work of art. With much attention to detail O’Dowd sets the scene perfectly with the description of a dramatic birth that draws our protagonist James Quinn into the field of mid-wifery.
Quinn immediately encounters the first prejudices and obstacles to his new chosen career path, which continue through his life and the rest of the book.

Although it is quite specific in its theme and full of medical procedures and jargon the book reads easily and makes the topic accessible for readers like myself who have lesser knowledge of the field.
Many other historical novels also loose themselves in excessive insertions of researched facts whereas this books strikes an excellent balance. I feel that I got a wonderful insight into the state of medicine, mid-wifery and 
also some entertaining superstition of the times but this never gets in the way of the smooth flow of the novel.

James Quinn is a greatly chosen protagonist, possessing a caring nature and a genuine desire to help but also some weaknesses. Without giving much of the plot away, his professional and private life are both full of painful moments which makes for a very good balance between history, facts and fiction.

The Scarlet Ribbon refers to a piece of wedding finery and stands for the strong connection Quinn holds with his wife and mother of his son Daniel. The book is full of great locations, such as Dublin, Galway, Paris and London and rich in plot and sub-plots. It is a personal journey of loss, endurance and professional vision but it also reflects on mid-wifery and medicine in more general and political terms.

O’Dowd creates a great feel for the times yet he has drawn characters we can easily relate to. One of my favourite parts in the book is a very moving letter to James written by a rejected admirer, so well composed and heart-warming and gracious that I had to stop and read it again.

The authenticity of the book is greatly helped by lovely short excerpts from the ‘Quinn Household Recipes and Remedies Book’ which are so cleverly put at the beginning of each chapter, often serving as very appropriate indication of the themes to come within the story.

This was a real find for me and a book that I would chose over many best-selling historical novels for its genuine and lovely feel. O’Dowd has written an astonishing debut novel, I have no doubt he will do very well with his writing and hope there will be many more books to come.

 

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Hi Christoph! Thanks for having us over – I’ll be answering on behalf of Dad and I.

 

How long did this book take you to write?

Dad had the idea for The Scarlet Ribbon years ago but didn’t have the time to write it. He approached me and asked me if I would like to write it, and from there it took a couple of years. Dad plans and plots the books out and I write them. We have a weekly meeting, and talk through the scenes which I then go away and write.

 

How did you research for it?

Dad is an ObGyn and a medical historian. He put a lot of extra work into research for The Scarlet Ribbon series (we are hoping to write at least three) and then had to explain and re-explain the medicine of it all to me until I could write it in layman’s terms. Quite the challenge, I can tell you, but hugely interesting.

 

How comfortable do you feel writing about history and medicine? How much did you know before you started writing?

Dad has written about history and medicine before with the text books The History of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and The History of Medications for Women. I on the other hand, knew absolutely nothing when I started, but feel much more comfortable writing about it now that I know I can do it.

 

How difficult was it to draw the balance between research and invention/ imagination?

I think the difficult bit was presenting all the research in a way that seemed natural to the reader rather than bombarding with lots of facts. A difficult thing to do for any historical fiction writer.

 

Was the storyline pre-determined or did it change during the process?

The storyline was pre-determined. I think when working in collaboration with another person it’s probably absolutely essential to do so. There were small deviations, but on the whole the plan was kept to.

 

How many rewrites did it take you?

I have put it out of my mind! Ha! We edited as we went along, so a fair few.

 

What did you find most challenging about this book?

Turning all the medical stuff into something that I could understand and then write for the reader to understand too.

 

Will there be more books from you? Will they be the in same genre or even about the same characters?

Absolutely. As Derry O’Dowd, Dad and I have at least three in the James Quinn Scarlet Ribbon series. And plenty more ideas too. Medical historical would seem to make sense as Dad has so much knowledge, but we may deviate at some time.

What would you say is the message of this book, or rather, what would you like us to take with us from it?

Ah. It has to be love. Kindness. Compassion.

 

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

We are currently writing the second in the series (as yet it only has a working title). You can find out more at www.derryodowd.com

 

 

The Scarlet Ribbon is widely available in bookshops and online in ebook and paperback at

Amazon UK 

Amazon USA 

The History Press Ireland

Find out more at www.derryodowd.com

And visit Katy at www.katyodowd.com

 

03 Sep 2013

Judith Barrow: “Pattern of Shadows”

1 Comment Book Reviews

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Mary is a nursing sister at a Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling; life at home a constant round of arguments—often prompted by her fly-by-night sister, Ellen, the apple of her short-tempered father’s eye. Then Frank turns up at the house one night—a guard at the camp, he’s been watching Mary for weeks—and won’t leave until she agrees to walk out with him. Frank Shuttleworth is a difficult man to love and it’s not long before Mary gives him his marching orders. But Shuttleworth won’t take no for an answer and the gossips are eager for their next victim, and for the slightest hint of fraternization with the enemy. Suddently, not only Mary’s happiness but her very life is threatened by the most dangerous of wartime secrets

 

“Pattern of Shadows” by Judith Barrow is a wonderful gem of a historical novel with a greatly chosen setting.
Mary is a nursing sister at a prison of war camp in the UK during the last years of WWII. Her family often seems at war with each other, particularly Mary and her sister Ellen argue a lot, not least in connection with prison guard Frank, for whom Mary has mixed feelings herself.
The book has really great characters and a complex storyline. Although it is set in war time a lot of the book is about a regular family that has to deal with the loss of one of the family members and it is also about a blossoming but complicated romance. It is my kind of book, rich in plot and different themes while offering a lot of historic facts and insights with a fresh perspective.
The book was an interesting and very compelling read and I’d recommend it to anyone who – like me – likes a good story with interesting characters

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Hi Judith

How did the idea for the novel come to you?  Your story heavily features a Prisoner of War camp. Why did you choose this setting?

Pattern of Shadows was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, a town in Lancashire in the North of England, and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country.  I was looking for information in the Oldham Local Studies and Archives for general background for a story I was writing. The history of Glen Mill brought back a personal memory of my childhood and I was side-tracked.

My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels (bobbins), for the weavers). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into great wooden gates. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, of them whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them, reading until the siren sounded, announcing the end of the shift.

When I thought of Glen Mill as a German POW camp I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. There would be no machinery as such, only vehicles coming and going; the sounds would be of men, only men, with a language and dialect so different from the mixture of voices I remembered. I imagined the subdued anger and resignation. The whole situation would be so different, no riot of colour, just an overall drabness. And I realised how different the smells would be – no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; all gone – replaced by the reek of ‘living’ smells.

And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.

How did you come to writing in the first place?

I’ve been a compulsive reader for as long as I can remember. As a child, every Saturday morning I went to the local village library with my mother and carried home a stack of books that didn’t always last the week. My father didn’t believe in the television or radio, so reading was always my greatest pleasure. Books were both my passion and an escape. As I grew older they also became an inspiration for the writing I did in secret. I hadn’t the confidence to show anyone what I was doing; the short stories, plays and poems stayed firmly hidden. And, later again, like many women, work, getting married and bringing up a family was a priority for a lot of years. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my forties, had gained a BA degree and a Masters in Creative Writing.

How did you choose the characters for the story?

I know what I want my characters to look like but I need to sort out their personalities first. I don’t think you can be a good writer without empathy for your characters. They can’t be one-dimensional; good or bad. I suppose, initially, they’re a mixture of people I’ve known but mostly they become rounded by their place in the book.  Once I have a clear picture in my head of my character’s personality I can feel free to tell the story. But it rarely finishes up as the one I have in the beginning; the characters lead the way in that; I can sense how they react to the events in the plot, how they feel, what they say, invariably means I change the direction of the story.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Mary Howarth: She lives within the shadows of her family’s expectations of her – a pattern that rules her life. Most of all she lives within the shadow of her own loyalties. I believe we all live within the confines of our own pattern of the shadows that rule our lives – our expectations and those of other people. But ultimately she goes her own way

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

I believe we all live within the confines of our own pattern of the shadows that rule our lives – our own expectations and those of other people. On a personal level, I was brought up in a patriarchal household where what my father said was the rule. I know the feeling of helplessness, of the unfairness of not being listened to, of being ‘invisible’ if you like. I carried the frustration of having no voice into my adulthood. Luckily (or perhaps by wise choice) I married a man who believes in the equality of the sexes, who gave me a voice. We are still together after forty-five years.  It’s taken me a long time but I’m more comfortable with who and what I am than I’ve ever been.

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

I always carry and explore characters, ideas, a story in my head. So when I knew where and what period of time the events would take place I went back to the Oldham Local Studies and Archive to research Oldham, in the forties and also to a records officer in the county of Pembrokeshire during that decade. It was fascinating. By knowing my settings, the details of the background, I could write in the knowledge that it was a strong and a fitting place for my characters to live in.

How did you research for the book?

 The most important aspect of my research was making sure that the details of a German POW camp in Britain during WW2 were authentic. So I learned as much as I could about the history of the camp and its occupants throughout the war years.

I traced a map of Oldham in the nineteen forties and then renamed all the streets and the town – and did the same for a village in Pembrokeshire.

 Then I read books and researched on the Internet to find out what life was like during that time.

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

I had an idea how I wanted the plot to run but there were lots of twists and U – turns when the characters wouldn’t act as I originally intended. I didn’t want to change the personality of the characters so the plot had to be altered. Ultimately the end result was the same though. As for the sub –plots – they just appeared as the story progressed. Oh dear, that doesn’t make me sound very organised – but it worked for me.

This is part of a series. How many books will there be and can you tell us where this will be going – without any spoilers?

Changing Patterns, the sequel to Pattern of Shadows, was published by Honno in May of this year. It follows the lives of the characters, there are continuations of some of the issues raised in Pattern of Shadows – but it’s also a stand-alone book with a story of its own.

I’ve already started to research for the third in the series. It’s set in the sixties and most of the same characters are in it; certainly Mary and Peter will feature quite largely. But the children who were born during Pattern of Shadows will have the major part

Tell us about your other books.

My eBook, Silent Trauma, is awkward to categorize; it’s fictional but based on fact. It’s the result of the anger I’ve felt about an injustice done to many women. It took me a long time and a lot of persistence to get it published but, finally, I succeeded.

 It’s a story of four women affected in different ways by a drug, Stilboestrol, (Diethylstilboestrol, DES, in the USA) an artificial oestrogen prescribed to women between the decades of the nineteen forties and seventies, ostensibly to prevent miscarriages. Not only was it ultimately proved to be ineffectual it also caused drastic and tragic damage to the daughters of the women. I learned about the charity (DES Action UK) some years ago through a relative and became involved. I wrote an article for the annual newsletter and mothers and daughters affected by the drug began to contact me

The characters are a disparate group; their stories are run both in parallel and together and have been described by readers as ‘strong’ and ‘speaking with a true voice’.

I chose to self-publish Silent Trauma initially as an eBook mainly because, after years of research, I was impatient for the story to be told. Luckily, I was given permission to reprint an interview from the Independent on Sunday with two DES Daughters as the Foreword (which lends both veracity and authenticity to the book) and I’ve been given quotes from many women affected by the drug to use at the beginning of each chapter.

DES Action UK folded last year due to lack of funds but http://www.desaction.org  (the USA equivalent) is available to help and advise any DES mothers and daughters in Britain also. A percentage of the sales will go to the charity. People shy away from ‘issue-led’ novels but ultimately the story is fictitious and has been described as’ a good read’ and ‘sad, fascinating and poignant’

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

The best aspect of writing for me is that I’m never short on ideas; there so many images and words in my head – I just need to write them down. The worst aspect is time – and that I am a slow writer. I tend to go over and over what I’ve written the day before and need to get it right before I can move on. I envy writers who can speed along getting the whole story down – and then edit it.

Why do you write?

I can’t stop writing. I get tetchy if I ever miss a day – which is rare. I have a motto on the wall next to my desk “You’ll know you should be writing when you hate the world and everyone in it”. When that happens I know I’ve gone too long without sitting in front of my computer and getting words on the screen. I should apologise to my family, at this point, for being irritable sometimes.

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

 With difficulty – on line; I’m not completely on top of things with social media because I resent spending time learning all the ‘ins and outs’ of it all. So it’s my own fault that I find keeping up with everything hard work and time consuming. But I’ve made good friends with a whole host of writers on Twitter and Facebook and I find myself drawn in. I want to read everybody’s blog and look at all the websites and answer all the posts on Facebook and Twitter. So I plod on. My favourite side of marketing is book signings and appearing at events and giving talks. On the plus side, I do manage to balance the two aspects of being a writer these days. I tell myself I was a ‘domestic goddess’ for years – now the house gets a ‘lick and a polish’ most days.

What do you do when you don’t write?

 I paint, walk. potter in the garden, meet with friends and family. I try to ignore ‘domestic trivia’ but it catches up with me eventually and so then have I spend a whole day cleaning.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote the characters?

 I don’t think I should say who I have in mind for the ‘difficult ‘characters. The rest of the them are a disparate mix of people I have met or imagined over the years.

Who would play them in a film?

I’ve never thought of that. I have been told many times that Pattern of Shadows would make a good television drama series. In which case I would love to have Gaynor Faye, from Emmerdale, as Mary.

Who are your biggest influences?

 My husband, David. And then my closest friends – one of whom is Sharon Tregenza, a children’s author, and my greatest critique.

Which are your favourite books and authors?

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. And anything by Pat Barker; I think her writing is so complex; she mixes absolutely exquisite description with dialogue that is so believable the reader lives within the internal lives of each of her characters. I am, and have been for a long time, a real fan of her work.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

 There are so many: If I had to pick names out of a hat – Judith Arnopp, Jenny Lloyd, E.L. Lindley, Eleanor Anders, Regina Puckett, Bert Murray. And I love all the mottos and saying Khaled Talib Tweets.

What would you take to an isolated island?

 My husband and family

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

 I think I’ve said enough!

 

Pattern of Shadows was published by Honno in 2010

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781906784058

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pattern-of-Shadows-ebook/dp/B00940YWKQ/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=pattern+of+shadows&tag=googhydr-21&index=stripbooks&hvadid=15209327994&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=297622601706156893&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&ref=pd_sl_30tvv8osf2_b

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Changing Patterns:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-Patterns-Judith-Barrow/dp/1906784396/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1376847892&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-Patterns-ebook/dp/B00B0STM2I/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376847892&sr=1-2&keywords=pattern+of+shadows

 

Silent Trauma, published December 2012.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Trauma-ebook/dp/B00AFZ8CLO

The link to my website:

http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/

http://www.judithbarrow.com

 Other links:

https://twitter.com/judithabarrow

judith.barrow.3@facebook.com

 

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow

 

01 Sep 2013

NEW RELEASE: “The Last MacKlenna (The Ruby Brooch)” by Katherine Lowry Logan

3 Comments Book Reviews

The Last MacKlenna (The Ruby Brooch)

18397298

My review:

In “The Last MacKlenna” by Katherine Lowry Logan, the second in her Ruby Brooch series, the focus is on Meredith Montgomery, a breast cancer surviving widow who runs a winery in Napa Valley. Over Christmas she goes on a Christmas time research trip to Scotland to find out about her family’s genealogy, where she meets Elliot Fraser, a rich horse breeder.

Despite her lack of bodily confidence due to her scars, the two of them have some sparks flying between them. However, fate intervenes when one of Elliot’s prize winning horses dies and might have been murdered, demanding his immediate attention elsewhere and leaving Meredith in doubt about his feelings and her own.

The romance between the characters is done really well, understated and realistic, thanks to some greatly set up and developed main characters. None of them is drawn either as a drama queen or too flaccid – both characteristics are pet hates of mine in the genre and the author has done a great job at keeping the story line believable and fresh.

Meredith at the time of her trip has yet another health scare. She finds another lump in her breast just before she sets out on the trip, which brings a more serious note to the romance. This, too, is handled in an understated and delicate manner, which lends the book more depth and makes the story all the more touching.

The book has also a lot of very memorable and colourful characters around Elliot, such as his ‘sister-in-law’ Lou, the owner of the B&B where our lovers meet. This makes the story much more entertaining than you would expect a book with such a serious theme to be and I guess it will prove very compelling reading for anyone who has experience with the big C.

The plot has many surprises and turns which I will not mention. There is a minor paranormal element in the story and a link to the past.The slow build-up of the characters and the story was excellent but it picks up in time

to keep us engaged in the story. This is very well written.

Logan balances the various elements of the story really well and also handles the more serious issues without letting them take over the story completely.

Given the character depth, some excellently placede symbolism and the seriousness of the issues I wonder if this should really be passed as romance writing and not as literary novel.

 

5806657

Interview with Katherine Lowry Logan

Tell us a little about yourself, as a person and as an author.

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, during the 1960s. Sit-in’s, the sexual revolution, pot, campus unrest, and the Vietnam War were brought vividly to life by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. While the rest of the world seemed to spin out of control, I spun stories in my head.

College, marriage, and two daughters kept the muse simmering on the back burner. I worked as a real estate and tax paralegal in central Kentucky, and was actively involved in my community. It wasn’t until the nest was empty that I sat down to write full-time. Then, life brought a screeching halt to my writing when my husband died unexpectedly. Healing was a slow process, but two weddings and five grandchildren have a way of putting life into perspective. Following the birth of my second grandchild, I found my writer’s voice again.

I am a marathoner and an avid reader, and I live in Lexington, Kentucky.

Why did you choose this particular period for your novel and the settings?

I’ve been interested in time-travel since childhood. “The Time Machine”, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” and my all-time favorite “Somewhere in Time” Also, I fell in love with historicals reading Hawaii, Centennial, The Source, The Fires of Spring and other words by James Michener. Also, I grew up watching all the old westerns on TV along with Perry Mason.

I knew three things when I sat down to write a story: 1. It would be a time travel, 2. It would be a romance, and 3. The story would take place in the west in the mid-nineteenth-century. Other than that, I had no idea would the story would be. 

How did the idea for this novel come to you?

I set out to write a time travel that took place in the American west in the mid-1800s. The story evolved as I wrote by “the seat of my pants.” Something I read triggered the idea of the Oregon Trail. Then, using the map as I guide, I planned and plotted a story based on what happened to folks who travelled to California and Oregon from 1849-1860.

Why the brooch as time travel device?

When I realized I needed a time travel method, I decided to use a ruby brooch based on a bracelet I have. The bracelet has an interesting past. It was an original design made for a woman in the 1970s.  In the 1980s, she paid her CPA’s bill with the bracelet. In the early 1990s, the CPA’s widow paid her legal bill with the bracelet. After the death of my husband (the lawyer whose legal bill was paid), I ended up with the bracelet.  The bracelet is now memorialized by the book.

How did you choose the characters for the story? Who did you have in mind when you wrote the characters? Who would play them in a film?

I think many of the characters have traits of friends and family members. And I can certainly identify with Kit’s grief and trauma. My husband died five days after I wrote THE END. During the many rewrites over the years, I was able to pull from my own experiences and add depth to Kit’s grief and recovery.

Elliott Fraser is a Mark Harman. Cullen Montgomery is Ben Affleck or Hugh Jackson. Braham is Brad Pitt. Meredith could easily be played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kit by Nicole Kidman or Kate Winslet.

 Who is your favourite character and why?

Elliott Fraser is Kit MacKlenna’s godfather. In the beginning, he was a groom on the horse farm, but he developed into a 50-year-old veterinarian/bachelor from Scotland.  By the end of the book, I knew I had to write his story next.  Although he has significant physical and emotional scars, he can be tender and passionate. You can’t help but love him.

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

Kit is a strong, determined survivor who wanted to quit but didn’t. In that regard, we are alike. But I can’t ride a horse, sing, play the guitar, or stitch someone up. She was created from my imagination

 How did you research for the book?

I read countless Oregon Trail journals to get a feeling for the life and challenges the travelers experienced.

I joined the California-Oregon Trail Association and had dozens of conversations with experts about life on the trail.

I talked to people all around the world about carbon dating, Thoroughbred racing, guns, clothing, food, snakes, and the list goes on.

I travelled the trail from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon, and in many places followed the actual wagon ruts. The round trip from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland took nineteen days. It was an incredible adventure.

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

A few years ago, during the Christmas holidays, I was working on the stampede scene and I needed gun information. So I went to a local store. My first visit ever! The store was crowded with holiday shoppers. I stood at the door not knowing what to do. The cashier asked if he could help me. I said, “I need a gun that will kill as many cows as possible in the shortest amount of time.” The store went completely silent. The men stared at me. I had a lot of explaining to do. After they discovered I was a writer, everyone wanted to give me gun advice.

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

I worked with a cover artist on the design. We used an antique brooch I found on Ruby Lane, an online antique, art, and vintage collectibles site. I was very pleased with the final result.

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

The plot and subplots evolved while writing the first draft. Then, over the years they were tweaked significantly.

Is this part of a series? What are your next projects?

I just completed THE LAST MACKLENNA, which is a standalone book, but it does pick up where THE RUBY BROOCH ends. There are two other brooch stories. The next one is THE SAPPHIRE BROOCH which takes place during the Civil War, and next is THE EMERALD BROOCH which takes place several years later.

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

I lived in a happy writer’s world prior to publication, writing and talking with other writers. I wasn’t concerned with marketing because I had nothing to market. I have since learned that an author needs a platform in place long before there’s a book to promote. Now I split my time between writing and marketing. Like many others, I find social networking a challenge. There are many days when I think Twitter and Facebook control me, not the other way around.

What do you do when you don’t write?

When I get away from the computer and relax, I read, and I read in a variety of genres—fantasy, mystery, suspense, and of course, romance. When the weather is nice, I enjoy evenings on patios at local restaurants sharing dinner and a glass of wine with family and friends. But probably most of all, I relax or de-stress by running. It has become a passion late in life, and I love it because I don’t ponder or worry or plan. I just run because it feels good.

 Who are your biggest influences? Which are your favourite books and authors?

  • James A. Michener: Michener is the author of sweeping sagas. I fell in love with historical novels reading HAWAII, THE SOURCE, CENTENNIAL, and others
  • Elizabeth Lowell: I love her voice, her settings, her characters, and the incredible amount of research she puts into her books.
  • Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: They co-author fast-paced, mind-blowing stories, and I love their character FBI Agent Pendergast

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Clive Eaton, M.A. Granovsky, Michael E. Gunter, Ceri London  

What would you take to an isolated island?

My Kindle and a solar charger!

If you could chose anybody, who would you like to meet?

Hillary Clinton

Here are relevant links to connect with Katherine and her books:

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5806657.Katherine_Lowry_Logan

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13579358-the-ruby-brooch

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18397298-the-last-macklenna

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/The-Ruby-Brooch-ebook/dp/B007QMSONK

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-MacKlenna-ebook/dp/B00EWOFL6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004632&sr=1-1

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ruby-Brooch-ebook/dp/B007QMSONK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004713&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-MacKlenna-ebook/dp/B00EWOFL6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378004570&sr=1-1

Website http://www.katherinellogan.com

Blog http://www.katherinelowrylogan.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/katherine.l.logan

Twitter https://twitter.com/KathyLLogan

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/katherine-logan/10/62/752

Pinterest http://pinterest.com/kllogan50/

Shelfari http://www.shelfari.com/o1518085100

Google+ https://plus.google.com/109100035748879115211/posts

 

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