14 Jan 2014

Skadi Winter: “Hexe”

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

Interview with the author:

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

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

What made you become a writer? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

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

My favourite colour is blue, deep as the ocean.

What would you take to a remote island?

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

Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.goodreads.com/SkadiWinter

04 Dec 2013

Travis Luedke Book Tour – THE SHEPHERD

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I rarely participate in blog tours because as bloggers we don’t tend to know what the book is like before er sing up for the tour.

On this occasion however I was extremely lucky to find a truly excellent book that I whole-heartedly can recommend.

“The Shepherd” by Travis Luedke is a paranormal thriller slash romance for young adults, the emphasis on adult. It is the kind of book that will probably not be in the high school library but one that most high school kids would like to find there and will find someplace else.
Luedke freshens up the genre by writing a book about how kids really are, not how they are written in young adult books to please the parents. The kids are hormone driven, obnoxious at times and are still finding their bearings in the world – and they certainly don’t just hold hands. Lifelike and real. The realistic writing style is the strongest part of this book.

The story is expertly told with several strands of plot intertwining: The rivalry of our hero Mike with other high school boys, the odd relationship Mike has with his best female friend Anita and his encounters with the mysterious Nadia.
Mike has school, family issues and then he has visions that keep flashing in front of his eyes, intuition that changes his perspective and lets him see into the future. But the past also catches up with him.

The main characters are excellently chosen and there is an unpretentiousness and fundamental realism in this set up that makes this a very easy and for this reader a very rewarding experience. Innovative and original, at times witty and very humorous, at others action driven and full of suspense this is a book that could easily achieve cult status amongst the younger readers and have us older ones look over their shoulders with keen interest. Very well done.

 

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About the Author

Travis Luedke is a husband, father, and author of Urban Fantasy Thriller, Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, and Sci-fi. He is currently catching a 3rd degree sunburn in San Antonio, Texas, and loving every minute of it.

As the author of the Nightlife Series novels, Travis lives very vicariously through his writings. He invites you to enjoy his macabre flights of fancy, but be warned: The Nightlife Series is violent, sexy, and occasionally violently sexy.

 

 

Social Media, & other links

Blog     http://thenightlifeseries.blogspot.com/

Blog     http://twluedke.blogspot.com/

Website     http://www.twluedke.com/

Twitter   https://twitter.com/TWLuedke or @TWLuedke

Facebook    http://www.facebook.com/pages/TW-Luedke/231016383686967

Wattpad    http://www.wattpad.com/user/TWLuedke

Goodreads    http://www.goodreads.com/TWLuedke

Email    twluedke@gmail.com

 

 

 Rafflecoptor link: 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

Thursday, September 9th, 5:15 p.m.

 

Shit happens, life happens, but for some reason it happens to me a lot.

 

I was kinda hoping life would give me a break – maybe crap on somebody else for a while.

 

Yeah, right.

 

I mean, look at Justin Shelby.  I’m sitting here in my car, in the McDonald’s drive through, and what is he doing?  He’s climbing up the side of the damn playcenter.  Probably faded on prescription pills he stole from his mom.  This guy is begging for life to hit him upside the head.  But it never does.

And then there’s his buddy, Tommy Schroeder, goading him on.

 

“Do it man!  You’re almost there!”

 

One of the wrestling elite of Moses Lake High School, Tommy’s mere presence inspired Justin to new heights of idiocy.  Justin scaled the side of the outdoor playcenter like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

 

Justin skated religiously, a regular at the downtown Moses Lake skatepark across from the Aquatic Center.  Like most of us skaters, he was thin, moderately athletic, and had a strong sense of balance from endless hours busting his ass on the concrete.  Climbing the playcenter wasn’t any more dangerous than the skate tricks we recorded and posted to YouTube.

 

He quickly reached the apex, damn spider monkey.  He stood exalted atop the dome of the airplane-shaped plastic toy.  An elementary kid inside gawked up at him from the Plexiglas window.

 

“This is classic!”  Tommy whipped out his cell phone and started recording.

 

Looked like a good idea to me, so I did the same.  You never know what folly you might catch on video.  I mean, this was live action stuff.  I could be ten seconds away from a viral Youtube video, Gangnam Style.

 

Tommy encouraged Justin’s antics with loud catcalls.  Justin proclaimed his status as king of the hill, arms held high.

 

“Yeah bitches, hell yeah!”  Justin yelled and hooted at the top of his lungs, pumping his fists in the air.

 

I narrated to my potential audience of millions, “This is a flagrant violation of the rules.” I panned my cellphone camera over to the placard by the entry gate and zoomed in to catch a clear shot of the playcenter rules.  “There it is folks, rule number three:  No climbing outside the playcenter.  And we can’t forget rule number four:  No children over the age of fourteen allowed.  For the record, Justin is sixteen.”

 

Returning to the action, I caught Tommy’s upturned face lit with excitement, and then slid the view up the playcenter to Justin.  “There’s the big man, putting on a show for his new best friend.”

 

It kinda stung in a way I didn’t like to admit, that Justin was doing all this for Tommy.  A couple months ago, Justin was my best friend, my idiot.  Or so I had thought.

 

But Tommy was cool.  Popular and wealthy, he also happened to be one of the biggest arrogant pricks in my class, and Justin’s ticket into the ‘cool crowd.’

 

“Always trying to prove something.”  I shook my head.

 

Tommy and I don’t get along so well.  It’s a Rachelle thing.  One of those life things that happens to me so often.

 

I should just keep my mouth shut and catch some choice video, but you know what they say, the observer always affects the observed …

 

“Hey ass munch, get down before you break your neck!”

 

Justin’s head whipped around to the sound of my voice, causing his body to sway with the sudden movement.  As soon as he spotted me parked in the drive-through a nasty smirk bloomed across his face.  In a moment of sublime inspiration, Justin dropped his pants with a show of lily-white butt cheeks.  He obviously hadn’t seen me recording with my cell phone.

 

Tommy noticed me too.  “How about a double McAss burger Mikey?”

 

He loves to call me Mikey.  He knows I hate it.  No one but Tommy calls me Mikey.

 

The girl delivering my cheeseburger held her hand over her mouth to cover her braces as she giggled and snarfed at the sight of Justin’s naked rump shaking back and forth while he taunted, “It’s a full moon tonight Mikey.  Hope you enjoy the view!”

 

Perfect.  Now Justin’s calling me Mikey.  God I hate that name.

 

“It’s Michael, asshole!  And thanks for the killer video.  Goin’ straight to Facebook.”  I held my cell phone out the window for him.

 

Justin looked back over his shoulder in surprise, attempting to pull up his pants at the same time.  The knee-jerk reaction caused him to lose his delicate balance atop the apex of the plastic airplane.  He fell onto his right side, and slithered down the side of the playcenter.  His hands shot out across the smooth surface, clawing, seeking a grip.  There was nothing to grab.

 

I watched him slide inexorably down the outside of the playcenter, pants and underwear still down around his thighs.  He tried rolling into position for a feet-first landing.  The maneuver would’ve worked if not for the fence being so close to the playcenter.  The bright yellow, powder-coated aluminum fence that had aided his climb to the top now blocked his landing on the way down.

 

Justin’s momentum came to an abrupt halt as he hit the top of the fence ass first.

 

I cringed and almost ruined the shot.  “That’s gotta hurt.”

 

Justin’s blood-curdling scream of agony made my skin crawl.  He sat there, squealing like a stuck pig.  The top section of fence tubing had impaled him where the sun don’t shine.  Pegged in the holiest of holies, he had two inches of aluminum post going in through the out door.

 

“Oh my god this is insane!”

 

I saved the ninety-three second video clip of Justin on my smart phone and posted it directly to my Facebook timeline.  I had a momentary twinge of conscience.  I mean, he was still crying, and Tommy was trying to climb the fence to help him.  It looked really painful.

 

“I can always delete it later …”

 

I was gonna call for help, but Tommy already had his phone out as Justin yelled in his face, “Call 911!”

 

I only had a few minutes to get to work.  As I drove off, I thought about taking that video down.  I probably should have.  But it only took fifteen minutes for my video clip to find its way to over 200 students at Moses Lake High School, shared over and over to dozens of Facebook profiles.  My first ever viral video.

 

I guess life happens to Justin Shelby too.

21 Nov 2013

Author Bonnie Bernard

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Today I have the pleasure of introducing a very talented author. I have read so many of her books in fact that I found it hard to chose which one to feature here today, so I am going to lead with the interview and once you get to see what a lovely and funny woman Bonnie is, you can browse through a selection of my reviews.

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

I’m a high desert rat who loves organic gardening, dark chocolate and cheese (eaten together), and hiking barefoot. I’m a two-time demolition derby champion, a foster dog mom, and a community social justice activist. I love my long-suffering husband, our fur-kids, and the little Rocky Mountain community that we call home. Bonnie Bernard is a pen name and my real life name writes (often unexciting) non-fiction stuff.

I like reading fiction (of course), planning adventures, and going crazy with pumpkin recipes every fall. I’m frequently featured on the local news, but not for anything bad (yet). Ha.

You have written quite a few books already. Tell us about your series.

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The first series is the Midnight Hunter trilogy. Book one is about good vs. evil vampires, book two explores the demon realm, and the third book is all about pesky Underworld gods. Then, readers wanted more of a particularly cantankerous demon named Howie Evil, so I’m writing the novella – Breaking Rule One.

I also have a short story anthology (Nature Calls), four stand-alone shorts, and another full-length novel, Rest Inn Peace.

Which is easier to write? Full-length novels or short stories.  Bonnie Bernard 2

Short stories are easier for me write, probably because of my short attention span. 😉 Still, I love the challenge of pulling messy threads together in a fun-filled series featuring wacky characters.

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

I discovered the joys of writing by accident at the age of six while visiting the new home of my (then) best friend, Julie. The rooms were empty, the walls bright white, and a rainbow-shaded package of permanent markers was in a nearby box…I was never allowed in Julie’s house again and I was called some rather unflattering names, but I realized that one way to make a mark on the world is to write stuff down.

How do you come up with the ideas for your books?

Something strikes me as hilarious or warped, a character comes to mind that would be affected by it, and then I sit back and let him/her tell me the story.

Why have you chosen to write in the paranormal genre? Would you ever consider writing something else?

Paranormal is fun because the rules are twisted. There ARE rules (the vampires I’ve written can’t go out in sunlight, for instance). I enjoy watching those rules frustrate my human and supernatural characters.

I’ve written non-fiction under my given name, and I might eventually publish a non-fiction piece or two under Bonnie’s name, just to make my Amazon page look fatter.

How did you create the plot and the titles for your books?

The characters make the plot and they usually tell me what title they want. Not always though. For instance, my husband came up with the title, “Rest Inn Peace” and I wrote the story around it.

Rest Inn Peace

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

I have perhaps one or two scenes planned. The characters take it from there.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Absolutely has to be Howie Evil. Who wouldn’t love telling the story of a 5000 year old belligerent, chain-smoking, human-hating, gun-toting demon from Hell who likes to tickle babies and eat cheese from an aerosol can?

What would your character(s) say about you?

Depends on which character you ask. Donna would say I remind her of Mo. Mo would say my husband reminds her of Trent. Zoe would say I’m a hippie hickster. Howie would just blow smoke in my face and call me a stupid human.

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

A common theme for me is the twisted ways of social justice.

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

I love everything about writing except promoting.

How do you balance writing with family life?

Balance? What’s that? We’re happily dysfunctional at our house.

Did you have any say in your cover art? Tell us about the process.

I have all the say I want, but I hand it over to my cover artist, Jerry Skinner. He’s got graphic instincts I can’t even fathom, so I just give him a summary/manuscript and let him have at it. He does well. I could not ask for better.

What is your writing environment like? Do you need silence or music to write?

I work wherever I am. During the cold months, I’m usually curled up on the living room couch, surrounded by spoiled rotten fur-kids. In the summer, I write in the garden. I also write on airplanes, cruise ships, in the mountains, and while camping. Right now, I’m in the passenger seat of our truck and we’re cruising down world-famous Route 66, heading toward our place in wild west Arizona. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” is blaring on the radio and my husband is singing along.

How many rewrites does it normally take you for each book?

Gazillions. J More specifically…short stories, about three. Longer works – five or six. I have a very scattered brain-style and it takes a LOT of re-writing to herd my thoughts into sensible structure.

How do you edit and quality control?

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I just dig in and do it. Then I send my work to the beta readers.

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

 I like self-publishing and have not even looked for a traditional publisher. Best part – I’m a wholly-owned and operated sole proprietor. Worst part – Promotion. I would share half my earnings with anybody who would promote me so I don’t have to.

What is your advice to new writers?

 Sit your butt down and do it.

Who are your favourite authors?

I like the classics, so anything by authors like Henry James, DH Lawrence, a Bronte sister, or Jane Austen.

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

I like your work. I’m also a fan of Robert Warr, Willow Cross, and Oleg Medvedkov.

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

I am currently reading Barker’s Dozen by Robert Warr. I’m reading it on my cellular phone because I just accidentally smashed my Kindle to death. It has been well over a year since I picked up a paperback or hardcover.

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

Oleg Medvdkov’s Invisible Bricks is a hilarious and brilliant short story anthology. For a great Native American/magical treat, try Bridalveil Falls by Sheryl Seal. And of course…Sebastian. I’m not just saying that to be nice. I recommend your books to everybody I know.

Who would you say are the biggest influences?

All authors. Life. Weird people. Vince Gilligan (of Breaking Bad fame).

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

Pretty much any of the classics.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

For the book I’m writing now, the best song is, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple. Old school.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

I either stick my fingers in my ears and go, “La la la la – I can’t heeeeeeear you”, or I shrug and simply accept that not everybody is going to like my books. Having a pen name keeps me from taking anything too personally. It’s my happy detachment place.

Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.

Weird – Our city is built on a volcano.

Nice – We have geysers. J

Fact – Yellowstone National Park is home to 618 grizzly bears. (That doesn’t count black bears – which are much tougher to tally because they’re sneaky.)

What are you working on now?

A novella, “Breaking Rule One” – just for Howie Evil fans. Stay tuned, Christoph. You might be surprised by something in it.

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

My characters like to tromp through readers’ heads and drive them half-mad. If you let them do that to yours, they will love you forever and Howie might let me live. Thank you!

This was fun. Thanks, Christoph. J

 

Find Bonnie on AMAZON 

and on Goodreads

and on Smashwords

and on Facebook 

and on Twitter https://twitter.com/BonnieBernard

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Here are some reviews of her magnificent work:

 “Rest Inn Peace” by Bonnie Bernard is a hilarious cross between humour and horror, you just could not make it up unless you were Bonnie herself.
The book is full of magic creatures who come to stay at the Rest Inn Peace, which is an Inn , not a motel. Since the death of the former Innkeeper Selma the place is in danger of being shut down. Selma’s grandson, Corbin (or Cobra like he would prefer to be called and not snakeman as he is nicknamed at the Inn!) takes over together with his 12 year old daughter. Corbin has just been released from prison, has many issues and refuses to acknowledge anything remotely magic, although that proves difficult in Rest Inn Peace.
Bernard has created an amazing cast of creatures that populate the place: Billy the Fairyman, a family of Yeti’s, Vampires, werewolves, Zombies, trolls and a “flamboyant disco ghost” to name a few. As the book states: The creatures who reside in it are ‘badass bitches’.
The book is full of great on-liners, hilarious dialogue and witty observations. I hate to use the phrase in a review but I laughed out loud many times and hope I will remember the crazy metaphors and word creations.
With much love to detail and imagination the book is spiked with delights. The rooms and the creatures have some very odd and most original and entertaining names. There is some chemistry with the Inn Manager Regina or Reggie, but Cobra still wonders whether he should stay at all.
Then there are murders and Cobra learns that the magical realm is nothing to play with.
This is great fun to read although I must warn you – if you haven’t guessed it yet – there is some fair amount of swearing and strong language.
This is a solid and original idea that works really well. There are some serious moments, too. Cobra has had substance issues and so has his ex-wife and so it is just as well that he is so far from human civilization.
A big fan of Bonnie Bernard’s other books I found this even better and look forward to the next mad but genial creations she comes up with.
Hugely enjoyable!

 

“Midnight Hunter” by Bonnie Bernard is the first in a series of books that promises to be a welcome addition to the vampire and paranormal genre collection. The book has a string of great characters and is as much a fun-filled romance novel as it is about vampires and suspense.
The story starts with a short prologue and a mysterious warning for little Donna by her grandmother about two men Donna is going to meet later in life, one good and one bad.
The narrative then jumps to the time just weeks before Donna’s 21st birthday. Donna and her best friend Mo are two typical young women with share a laugh and go out to meet men. 
Donna starts to have odd dreams, there is a series of kidnapped girls and in that chaos she meets Hunter, a vampire who calls himself her eternal love.
Bernard does a great job at showing the difficulties Donna has with trust, given the warning her grandmother gave her and the obscure nature of what Hunter tells her to be true.
Successfully blending the girlie parts with the paranormal this is a fun book, reminiscent to me as a casual visitor to the genre of True Blood, but pleasantly not as overdone as the TV series was for me. The writing is perfect and flows very easily and shows a writer with much talent.If you love Vampire stories this is for you, if you’re not a fan yet, this might be a good place to start exploring

 

“Nature Calls” by Bonnie Bernard was recommended to me by a good friend and it did not disappoint me. The book is hugely enjoyable for its suspense, the mystery and the dark horror or fantasy tales, some of which are cleverly blended with wit, fun and humour. Some pieces are very short that pointedly explore one idea and then there are longer ones and even one series of stories in which Yeti meets a space alien, a demon, the bigfoot hunters and even the holy man. The Yeti tales are probably my favourite, I laughed out loud when Yeti discusses the inconvenient parking space of the flying saucer. The stories are rarely predictable and with most of them I was surprised and fascinated by the outcome.
The selection covers a broad spectrum of themes and emotions, goblins, fairies, demons, witches, kings and gods. The stories are all well written and skilfully told and as a collection they work very well together. While many such collections are put on the market as soon as the author has gathered a book’s worth of material these seem to have been hand picked to form a great flow and a continuity that I did not expect from such a varied bunch of stories. The quality of both the ideas and the execution of them makes this a great achievement and the author one to watch.

19 Nov 2013

Melodie Ramone: “After Forever Ends”

2 Comments Book Reviews

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“After Forever Ends” by Melodie Ramone is an absolutely charming and enchanting love story. Told by Silvia, an old widow it is the tale of her love to her husband Oliver, whom she meets at the age of 15 and whom she loves ever since.
Their wonderful, sweet, honest, romantic and deep love for each other crosses the paths of a few other significant people, not least Oliver’s twin brother Alexander and Silvia’s sister Lucy. This is the story of their life in Wales, their struggles and their ‘forever’.
The book is written in a most enchanting style and leads us through the stages of the couple’s life in wonderful detail, thoughtful, humorous, inspiring and heart-warming. 
I can’t stress enough just how beautiful this book is without crossing the line into unnecessary drama or kitsch. The romance is heart-felt, realistic and magic at the same time as Ramone has created very likeable characters that are not always totally perfect but are trying to be. Although the book begins with Silvia at an old age and being widowed it ends on a positive note and left me happy and cheerful. It is a credit to this author to have handled the sadness as well as this and bring happiness to a time when forever has ended.
I am massively impressed with this effort and urge you to see for yourself how lovely this book is.

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

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

Hi, Christoph! Thank you SO MUCH for inviting me! I’m really excited to be doing this.

Tell us a little about yourself. I was surprised to find you live in the US but your book is so convincingly set in England and Wales? How did you decide on the location?

Well, I’m Scottish on my father’s side and Welsh on my mothers, so the locations were a natural choice. I’m familiar with the area that the twins in the book are from, which is right on the border between England and Wales. Quite honestly, it’s the happiest, most magical and beautiful place I’ve ever been, so when I decided that my story would be a positive one, Powys was the first place that came to mind.

Have you always written?

 I have been writing since I was about four years old. I used to make up little poems and stories before I could even write them down.

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

After Forever Ends is based largely on my own experiences in life, or of experiences based on people who have been very close to me. I wrote it huddled under a blue blanket one very cold winter while I was living in New York. It was a dark part of my life where I was facing both inner and outer demons. I was unsure of the future and looking back at my past and trying desperately not to be bitter about my situation. A lot of things went into it; my homesickness for the UK and a little house that sits in Wales, missing friends who had left this world too soon, dealing with the passing of a relative I thought of as a mother. As I pondered all of this, and much more I won’t bore you with, I began to remember the good that was in my life. All the people, the places, the conversations and the laughter, and I decided to take those memories and change names, switch locations, and jumble circumstances. When the book boils down, it’s about 90% autobiography. And then I was reading it back to myself and I realized I had lived a wonderful, bumpy, spectacular, absolutely wonderful life. So I wrote some more and when I was done, I had After Forever Ends on a memory stick.

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

I had nothing set in my mind at all. I just started telling the story at the day I met my high school boyfriend and went from there. I really let myself bounce around the memories the whole time I wrote. Nothing was planned or contrived. It was written how it happened, with a couple of embellishments for creative measure. 

I am amazed to hear this.  I would never have known. Tell us a little about your writing and editing process.

My writing process is erratic. It begins with a voice. Yes, as schizophrenic as that sounds, it always starts with a voice, like somebody whispering in my ear. And if I pay attention to them, they soon begin to infiltrate my dreams. Sometimes I will be watching them as if I am seeing a film, sometimes I will be them, but I start to get a clear vision, literally, of the world they live in, and an emotional knowledge of their lives. And then I just sit in the still with my computer and wait for them to tell me their story. I just type it as fast as I can, then go back and fill in the blanks, if they leave me any.

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

It really depends. I live in a house that is generally chaotic, so I often listen to music, but not music. Not exactly. Let me clarify. I tend to put on the headset and listen to Hindi chants or Buddhist chants. Certain ones, especially Ek Ong Kar and The Green Tara Mantra. They help clear my head, help me focus, and help me see more clearly what my goal in the story is. Other than that, I do prefer it to be quiet. Or, sometimes, I will play the same film over and over and over. I won’t even be paying attention to it, it’s like a hum in the background, but I just keep hitting repeat for hours. I did that with a ongHong Kong cinema film while writing After Forever Ends. I must have played it over two hundred times.

Which of your characters was most fun to write?

All of my characters were fun to write, but I especially enjoy Oliver. He was the most challenging character, because I couldn’t quite get into his head. See, I think of my characters as real people and when you “meet” Oliver, he comes off as completely sane and reasonable, but he’s really not. He’s way off his rocker. He doesn’t think like a normal person, his perceptions are different, so you just have to sort of accept him and not put any standards on him. But the thing about Oliver is, he is hysterically funny if you pay attention to him. I think he’s the funniest character in the book, but he’s subtle, too, so you have to watch him. Funny, I should use the word “watch”, but if you read the book you will know exactly what I mean.

Who would play them in a film?

I look for people who would resemble my characters and I have to say for Silvia, I’d go with Mandy Moore if she could do an Edinburgh accent. I’ve kind of fallen in love with her since I wrote the book and realized she looks a bit like Sil. She’d have to die her hair red and make it curly, though. For the twins, I’d love to have Ioan Griffudd, since he looks something like them in the face and he’d have no problem nailing the Welsh accent, being as he’s Welsh. I don’t know how tall he is, though. Lucy…physically speaking, I’d pick Isla Fisher.

Are you like any of the characters?

I am more like Silvia than I’d like to admit and enough like her to be proud that we’re the same on many levels. Silvia’s a lot more attached and insecure than I am. That’s really a big difference between us. I am fiercely independent and she has a deep need of people. It’s one of the things I like about her, though, her endless capacity to receive and return love.

What is your life like?

Well, I live in a big, ugly yellow house on a shady street in a historical district with nothing other than cute little white houses on it. I have two daughters, a husband, and a couple of pets. I wake up in the morning and immediately check my computer for e-mails, then tweet, then check my Writing Group, then I think about making coffee. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Most of my days are busy. My girls are home schooled, so we do a lot of that, and I take them to their music lessons and out shopping. We go to Sonic a lot for drinks. I like to cook and I do a lot of different things in the kitchen, hence my reputation for being a “Certified Kitchen Witch”. When I’m not cooking or cleaning or teaching or being a taxi, I like to paint and knit. And read. And write, of course. My days are always busy and almost never boring. I have a very busy, quiet, happy life. I have a lot of peace, which is something I didn’t have when I was young. I’m lucky.

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

Wow. You know, my favourite books are the really old, dry ones that I read when I was young. I am not a subscriber to the modern concept that a story should be told in 300 pages or less. Screw that. I love Tolkein, Alcott, and Lawrence. Those stories they told were real. Absolutely real and raw and dirt and messy and they were long, but once you read them, you actually lived another life. You came out of them with somebody else’s experience and wisdom and you were a better person for knowing the characters. Those are the kinds of books I want to write. The kind that change your mind and get into your soul and stay there forever.

As far as films, I’m a big fan of Hong Kong Cinema, but not the karate genre, per se. I love Hong Kong drama. My all time favourite film ever is a Hong Kong film called “Anna Magdalena”. But as far as American cinema, I just like movies that have meaning, or are funny. It’s always nice to just laugh.

Music…well, that’s a whole other subject! I listen to everything from opera, standards, and jazz to Iron Maiden. It depends on my mood. 

What are your views on independent publishing?

Well, I’ve been in the publishing industry on and off since I was twelve years old. I made a very intentional decision to self-publish. It wasn’t born of the frustration of being rejected by traditional publishers. I know full well I can be traditionally published, because I’ve done it under a different name. However, I didn’t want to be told what to do. I didn’t want my book to be gutted. It was so personal and so special to me that I wanted it how it was. I didn’t want it to be necessarily polished or perfect. I wanted the reader to have one of two experiences as they read: to either be the person Silvia, the narrator, was speaking to, hearing her voice as she rambled, watching her remember her life and tell it in her own words, or to be an eaves dropper on the train with them. My goal was to tell the story the way my own grandmother would have told it to me. I didn’t want anybody touching that, so I didn’t let them. I have every intention of doing the same thing with my next book, too. Every story has a soul and every author has the right to tell it the way they want. I like to do things my own way without a lot of aggravation. I’m very punk rock that way. 

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

My best qualities are my sense of humour and my inner strength. I’ve been through a lot in my life and it’s made me empathetic and passionate about everything and everyone. I’m kind. My odd qualities? Oh, my, there are many! I don’t look at things in a traditional way…at all. I believe only in possibilities and never in limitations.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

My favourite animals are bats. I think they are so cool and so cute! My favourite colour is emerald green. My favourite outdoor activity? Well, I’m not very outdoorsy, but I do like campfires and starry skies.

What would you take to a remote island?

BOOKS!

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Joey Ramone. I’d love to have made my world famous pot roast for him, as a thank you, before he passed away. We’re no relation, but I’ve always been a fan.

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

I’m currently doing some freelance editing, but I’m working on novel #2 as well. I don’t really like to talk about my works in progress, but once it’s ready to rock I’ll be posting on Twitter and on my blog.

 

Links:

Amazon:  http://bookShow.me/B009ODTG86

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6540025.Melodie_Ramone

website 

twitter username melodie_ramone
About this author

I’m a wife, mother, keeper of fuzzy critters, author, speaker and certified Kitchen Witch. When I’m not creating Culinary magic, I can usually be found writing stories, reading books, relentlessly tweeting, knitting or delving into fringe Physics. Super geek? Oh, yeah. 

What else? Well, I’m funny and quick tempered, older than I look and young enough to be able to fall on roller skates and still move the next day. I’m short. I have curly, red hair. My favorite color is emerald green. I like Japanese Anime, rainy days, cats, kids, and any movie that includes Simon Pegg. 

I’m obsessed with the Science of Physics, particularly Particle Physics, although in the last few years I am drawn more and more toward Astronomy. I’m fascinated with Outer Space and what’s going on out there. Hubble and the Mars Rovers have sparked a passion in me that goes back to the first time I saw Star Wars. And that was a long, long time ago. I’m a curious person by nature. I want to know everything about everything, I want to see it. I want to understand it so I can understand the origins of our universe. But, then again, I want to understand everything in general. 

Some things I never will. I will never understand hate. I will never understand ignorance. I try to let them wash past me, but sometimes it’s hard. I think, in some ways, it’s why I write. So I can leave behind a world I don’t always understand, one I sometimes find too painful to stay in, and create my own universe. One that parallels this one, one that is similar, but one which I, ultimately control. One where everything, at least to me, makes sense.

In short, I’m a happy person. I’m not perfect and I’m not entirely sane, but I don’t pretend to be. In the end, when I look back at my life I will see an amazing smear of color. All the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the strength and weakness that was me. I’ll see all I did and all I failed at. And I will sigh and I will say that I lived. I really, truly lived. I was real. I wrote books. And that, I think, will be good enough for me.

 

11 Nov 2013

Author profile SHANE O’NEILL and his new release FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

2 Comments Book Reviews, News

 

 

Regular followers of my blog will know that I read little Horror. So it is with particular pleasure that I introduce one of those gifted writers that made me enjoy their work and go back for more. So far I have read and reviewed four of Shane’s work [I have attached the reviews at the end of this feature].

Here is the new book

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

[RELEASED TODAY]

and an interview with Shane. 

 

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

 

A war rages on around us every day. The struggle to save all mankind. The ultimate evil.

The battle for souls has raged since the truce that followed the First Great War of the Angels. God has struck the ultimate blow and sacrifice to gain the advantage and defeat His fallen angel and estranged son, Lucifer. As Lucifer stands at the foot of the Cross that drains the last ounce of life from Christ and eradicates man’s sins, he realises that his work must begin anew.
In time, he comes to understand that his only chance to win this battle will be to destroy the institution of the Catholic Church to turn man against God, once and for all. He searches for more than a millennium for the candidate to see his plan through to an end and finally discovers the one that can cast that final blow.

 

 

Interview with Shane:

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

The writer has been in me for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid I wrote poems and short stories. It is what I have always wanted to be, though I have taken my time with my project. I wrote the first parts of it all the way back in 1984, about 50k words that will appear in one of the much later books. Then in 1992, I started the project proper. It took me thirteen years to write Reckoning Day and a first draft that is over 350k words long. I immediately followed it with Bound By Blood and The Gates Of Babylon, which I have since broken up into separate books owing to the length of the originals. I try and write in a way that engages the reader on every page. I want my readers to see everything as though they are standing there in the middle of it all. Many people have told me they do indeed feel this when they’re reading my work. Also, I want my reader to feel everything that each of my characters are feeling, and I go to great pains to achieve this.

As a man, I am someone who is devoted to those he loves, though circumstances in my life have often kept me apart from my loved ones. I am dedicated in the things I do, passionate over the things I care about and I try always to consider the feelings of others, whatever the situation.

What is it that fascinates you about Dracula? Is there a particular thing? When did the obsession begin?

The whole ethos that surrounds Dracula captivates me. I was sucked in from a young age with Christopher Lee’s portrayal of him on the big screen. His Dracula terrified me with his bloodshot eyes and long fangs, yet I was forever drawn to him. I watched all the other vampire/horror movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s, hooked on the adrenaline rush one gets from watching these at such a young age.

My interest, and yes, obsession, with Dracula grew over time when I discovered the real Vlad III Dracula who lived in the 15th Century. I collected and read so many texts over the years that I felt as though I knew him. Of course, historical texts lack a feel for who he was and the novels I read that attempted to create this, fell well short of who I saw him to be. Therefore, I made it a vocation to bring him to life in my books, but as a combination of both.

I do strive however to distance my character from Bram Stoker’s. The only similarity they share is their name. It irks me when people call my work a new take on an old legend, because it is nothing of the sort. This is an entirely new concept that bears little or no resemblance to the Stoker classic.

What made you decide to write such historical accounts of Dracula and when did you begin to write the other stories?

I began writing Reckoning Day, a part of the story based in the late 20th Century. After every three chapters I was going back in time to 1476 to the time of Dracula’s death. Initially, I wanted to give an origin and a background to the vampire in the story. When this part of the story continued to grow, I separated it and turned it into a book in its own right. Using the premise of Lucifer trying to ascend again to Heaven through the destruction of the institution of the Catholic Church, I had so much scope to work with. I put Dracula behind the scenes of every major event in the 16th Century where the influence of the Vatican was harmed or compromised. This allowed me to write about Martin Luther, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Borgias, the Tudors, and many of the great kings and popes of the day.

But I wasn’t satisfied with that, and after writing the section of the story from 1476 to 1612, I wanted to go back further in time to Dracula’s birth. I had planned to write about ten chapters and put it in at the beginning of the existing book, but 300k words later, I had only reached the halfway point in his life. I was, and still am, so in love with that period from 1431 to 1456 and the combined histories of the Romanias, Anatolia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary that the words just continued to flow. That will now become three books. I still have to cover the period from 1456 to his death twenty years later.

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

I have answered this question, in part, already. As I mentioned earlier, the first book I wrote – Reckoning Day – took me thirteen years to complete. It is a huge book though and will probably become 3 separate books at some point. I had a representative at that time who was well connected in literary circles around New York. She showed Reckoning Day to several of the publishing houses and well-established agents there. At the time, Kostova’s The Historian was due for release and the popular opinion was that it would not be a good time to have two Dracula novels competing with each other at the same time. I did have a couple of offers though, which I rejected. Some people have scorned me for doing this, but in hindsight it was the correct decision. The one publishing house I rejected certainly would have made my name well known. But had I chosen that route at that time, I’m not sure my concept would have evolved as it did and therefore I am happy with where I am today.

In 2006, I wrote the two large tomes that have now become Chronicles #1, #2, #3, #6 and #7. Over the next six years I re-wrote these between six and ten times, refining the story and bringing it all together. I released the two vampire books, #6 and #7 in December, 2012 and am now releasing #1 this week.

What is the easiest about writing and what is the hardest?

The easiest aspect for me has always been writing the story. Whenever I have sat down to write, the words just flowed for me. The hardest and most tiresome part will always be the editing process.

What is your favourite scary movie?

Definitely The Omen. An absolute classic.

What are your next projects? Have you written anything else?

Aside from The Dracula Chronicles, I will only be writing horror shorts for the foreseeable future. Those shorts are part of a series called Tales Of The Black Sabbath. In these, I explore the darker recesses of the human psyche.

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

Life is very busy with work and getting my books out there. Norway isn’t the easiest country to make it as a foreigner, but I do have many good friends here.I work in mental health for the local authority. The greatest pleasure I have is time with my son, or with my daughters when I’m in the UK. Otherwise, I like being out in the countryside or enjoying a coffee with friends.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Yes I’ve met and read books by some very good Indie authors. Some examples would be Luke Romyn, Katie Jennings, Ashley Fontainne, Travis Luedke and John Dolan. I hear this guy, Christoph Fischer, is really good too.

 Lol. Thank you. What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

Ugh I don’t really know. Maybe that when I love someone, it is absolute. On the negative side, I’m always re-stacking the dishwasher after people as it drives me nuts when everything just gets thrown in there.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

I’m a dog person myself and used to keep German Shepherds. I love those dogs. My favourite colour would be purple, closely followed by green. I love many outdoor activities, but walking out in the woods or in the wilds would probably be my favourite.

What would you take to a remote island?

The woman of my dreams, my vinyl collection and my laptop.

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Oh, what a question. There are so many amazing people out there that I’d have loved to have had dinner with and chat to. Sadly, some of them are no longer with us. I wouldn’t mind having Marg Helgenberger around for dinner, though I’d probably be too busy staring at her to say much of anything.

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

At the moment I’m working on the final draft from my 3rd editor for Chronicle #2, The Path To Decay, which I hope to release in December and then it is on to the final re-writes of Chronicle #3, The Gates Of Babylon. I also want to release a couple more of my horror shorts over the coming months. Busy, busy, busy. I try to keep all the information updated on my website www.draculachronicles.co.uk

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

I just want my readers to know that my primary objective is to entertain you. Nothing gives me more pleasure than mails and correspondence with people who have been wowed by what I have written. The Dracula Chronicles will introduce you to a fascinating world, engaging you with characters some of you may already be familiar with, and others that you won’t have heard of before picking up one of my books.

These stories are historical novels of Gothic horror, full of political intrigue, religious corruption, great battles, tragedy and romance. The premise is built completely around true historical events, which I manipulate to integrate my concept, though without deviating from the true course of these events. I also use myth and legend where necessary and I have filled one or two holes that historical texts do not give full clarification to. With all these elements combined, it makes for a captivating series of reads.

 

Shane the Author

 

Shane KP O’Neill is the writer of The Dracula Chronicles, a new and exciting series adding a new dimension to the Dracula myth. He has begun the series with a later Chronicle to give his readers the vampire first. The series then continues on with Chronicle #1, For Whom The Bell Tolls, to take you back to the beginning. 

The author developed a fascination with Dracula from an early age. Like many others he was enthralled by Christopher Lee’s portrayal of him on the big screen. It was in his late teens that he discovered Dracula the man and the love affair began from there. An avid lover of history, he studied the period in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived, 15th Century Balkan, for many years. It followed from there then that with his love of writing he would always choose Dracula as his subject.  He built a concept and premise where he could accommodate both Dracula the vampire and Dracula the man.

Away from writing, the author has a wide range of interests. He reads a lot of books from a wide variety of authors though his main interest lies in the horror genre.  His love of books is matched only by his love of the countryside and of course, his family.  As an added note, he has lived and travelled all over the world. He has a love for all things historical, with a particular fascination for medieval Europe. Anywhere he travels, he likes to search out locations with an historical interest and will always hunt for the ruins of an old castle before heading to the beach.

Amazon

US –  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00A75SM4O

UK –  http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00A75SM4O

Website  www.draculachronicles.co.uk

Blog  www.draculachronicles.co.uk/blog

Twitter @ShaneKPONeill

Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/12341417-shane-o-neill

Youtube  http://www.youtube.com/user/DraculaChronicles

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

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 “The Lamb of God” by Shane KP O’Neill tells the story of Dracula from the beginning, literally, the creation of the world. Telling the story of the biblical genesis but with slight alterations this is instantly captivating and fascinating. The story of Christ and finally the 15th century history and family genealogy Vlad Dracul are portrayed in one dramatic history lecture that leads up to the birth of Dracula.
As fan of history I hugely enjoyed this re-telling of the biblical gospel and O’Neill’s take on the Dracula story. Clearly familiar with the historical facts and the times he paints a great picture of how one would have to imagine the story. Written with an authoritative voice and in appropriate prose the short novel shows a creative idea executed with expertise and skill. A great accomplishment.

 

 

16217523The Dracula Chronicles: Bound By Blood – Volume 1” by Shane O’Neill is an excellent Dracula story. Combining the myth with history and significant events in the development of the Catholic Church the book has a lot to offer.

The story begins with one battle in a long winded struggle by Vlad III Dracula, Voivode of Wallachia to re-gain his throne and power. Close to victory he gets wounded and strikes a deal with Lucifer. Dracula is to gain eternal life in exchange for playing a significant role against the Catholic Church.
The books then follows Vlad III Dracula doing just that: In the Italy of the Medici’s and Machiavelli, the Court in London and in a Germany just before Luther’s reforms.
These historical elements in the book are really well done and make this an enjoyable and intelligent read that easily surpasses most Vampire and Dracula stories. There is a competence and power in this writing that makes the story feel very real, despite the paranormal aspects. 

The characters are well developed and the dialogue runs very smoothly. The paranormal aspects of the story are what I expected to like the least but they too are written with care and attention to detail. I often feel that as Vampires are the flavour of the season many writers make details about their Vampires and the life they lead up as they go along, leaving the reader with a lot of confusion and inconsistencies. O’Neill has avoided such downfalls and never lost my attention or trust. The book is powerful, competent and very engaging. 
Highly recommended for all fans of the genre but particularly for those who also appreciate literary quality.

 

09 Nov 2013

“The Missing Half” by Brooke Powley

1 Comment Book Reviews

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“The Missing Half” by Brooke Powley

is a powerful literary gem that deals with the tragic issue of child abduction.
At age 2 one of two twins is abducted in Cornwall and for ten years her mother campaigns and fights for publicity and police action to find her missing daughter, never giving up.
The book is written in several narratives, adding multiple dimensions to the search and the story. It would be difficult to give away too much without spoiling the experience of the book.

At the beginning of the book it is mainly the mother, Alice, who writes to her missing daughter and tells her exactly how the tragedy occurs and what happens immediately afterwards.
The account is moving, honest and includes a lot of statistical and basic information on child abduction. We learn about the ordeal and the many psychological aspects of the unique situation.

Later on different narratives bring in more perspectives and add extra dimensions to the story and the book reads like a psychological thriller, although I would say for the majority it reads like great literary fiction.

This book is an excellent but somewhat emotional experience, often very sad and melancholic, so keep the tissues handy, but definitely worth the time. It is thought provoking and an amazing literary debut.

 

Interview with the author:

2005 1

 

Hi Brooke

Please tell us a little about yourself as a writer and as a person? How did you come to writing? IS this your first book / published work/ written work?

I grew up in the Lake District as the oldest of three children. Reading has always been my passion and as a little girl you would usually find me buried in a book, or spending my pocket money in the local bookshop. I went to university in Nottingham and after graduating in 2008,  returned to the Lake District and took some time out of my career to focus on being a full time mum to my then very tiny baby.  Some years went by; I returned to work part-time, my daughter started full-time school.  Last Christmas, my partner bought me a kindle. One day, I said to him that writing a book to publish on kindle surely couldn’t be that difficult. He raised his eyebrows, and replied ‘I bet you can’t’.   ‘The Missing Half’ is the result!

 

Why did you decide to write about child abduction? How did the idea for the novel come to you?

Missing children is always something you follow, subconsciously, as you grow up.  Madeline McCann went missing a couple of months before I spent a summer living in Beijing. At the time I was a young woman of twenty-two with no children of my own. As the BBC is banned in China, thoughts of the missing toddler weren’t more  than ‘isn’t it horrible’. After having my daughter child abduction, however rare, became a real possibility. I took Ava on a month long tour of the USA on my own when she was twenty months old and I was all too aware that particularly the blonde haired, blue eyed girls, were a real risk. 

I wanted my story to be something that people can relate to. Losing a child is every mother’s worst nightmare. I asked myself, as the UK news have shown more and more children going missing over the years, what you would really do, if that were your child? Alice was the first character that came clearly to my mind. The rest took a lot more planning!

You set your book in a range of places though the main location is Cornwall, can you tell us why?

We actually took our family holidays to Perranporth every summer when I was a child – my parents, younger brother and I. Those who know me will say that I have a razor sharp memory for all things useless!  I haven’t been back to Perranporth for fifteen years, but I can remember it so vividly in my mind. It seemed the perfect place to set the novel – a quiet sleepy little village. To make it easier on myself I set the abduction in one of the years I’d been there myself. It’s such a wonderful part of the country. Looking at the images reminded me that I really do need to head back there sometime soon, but unfortunately my razor sharp memory still recollects those awful drives from the Lake District!

Did you need to do much research for the book?

I did a lot of research on government legislation relating to missing children and how it had changed over the years, which took a lot of time and energy.  I also focused a lot on the statistics for missing children in the UK and the USA.  Some of the facts were chilling, and it was quite heavy going particularly when you realised how lax legislation has been in the past and how easy it would have been to change.

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

If anything, I’d say I’m probably most like Richard.  Richard is a family man, and family comes first for him before anything else. He is also resilient, hard working, has a good humour and most importantly, isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes is right. 

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

The cover is something I had the idea of right from the start. I wanted it to entice the reader. The cover depicts Grace, on one of the last days she has with her real family looking out to sea in a pale pink cotton dress.  The picture is actually one of my own, taken by me of my daughter Ava in California when we were on our grand USA tour.  I decided that the rhetorical question on the front would add depth to the title. I had my editor format the picture so it was suitable for kindle and print editions. I have to say, I think the picture makes a great cover, though I’m probably a bit bias!

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

The highs:  Becoming lost in your world of characters and stories, receiving positive feedback, celebratory cake, the sense of achievement when it’s all over, seeing the book for sale on Amazon and people stopping me in the street to offer congratulations!

The lows: Late nights, the editing process and finding the time to fit it all in around a busy life!

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

At the moment, I’m focusing on marketing ‘The Missing Half’ alongside my normal job and everyday life.  I haven’t started writing book two, but it’s in the forefront of my mind and I hope to start it in Autumn and have it ready for release in Spring 2014 – so watch this space!

What do you do when you don’t write?

I must admit I have a busy life. Between school runs and a taxi service to various after school clubs, normal ‘work’ three days a week, getting out and about on my mountain bike, keeping my flock of backyard hens in check, running a toddler group, reading and running my website –  I’m not entirely sure how I manage to fit in writing!

Which are your favourite books and authors?

J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter books are my all time favourite. The Time Travellers Wife is another of my top books.   I read a lot of Diane Chamberlain, Dorothy Koomson, Jodi Picoult and I mostly read general mainstream fiction.  However, I’ve read a fair few Indie authors recently – D.J. Kirkby and Charlotte Castle and also a few debut novels and the standard is very high.  

What would you take to an isolated island?

Books – lots of books!  Can I take my hens?! We currently have five – all different breeds .  Hen’s are great foragers so they’d live happily on an island. If I had fresh eggs and books then life would be good! Of course, it goes without saying I’d take my family, and any other close friends I consider to be handy enough to build us a Swiss Family Robinson kind of tree-house!

What is your next project?

Book Two! It’s as yet unnamed with no concrete plot (really selling it here, I know).  But as soon as school is back in full swing, a normal routine is up and running and those cold, dark nights creep it then I’ll be on it!

 

my website is: www.brookepowley.com
author profile on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brookepowleyauthor
author profile on goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7151546
twitter link: @powleybrooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

07 Nov 2013

Constructing Marcus by Danielle DeVor

2 Comments Book Reviews

 Today I have the pleasure of introducing multi-talented writer Danielle DeVor, author of young adult books as well as horror for grown ups. 

Large Base Consstructing Marcus Working copy

“Constructing Marcus” by Danielle DeVor is a very sweet ghost hunting book, probably written for young adults but with enough appeal for this young reader.

Our heroine Emma is a teenager with an anorexic mother and an interest in ghost hunting. When the family moves to Boston from Florida she loses all of her friends but keeps up her good spirit and engages in some research regarding the house. When she finds out that a witch was killed in the house her interest is sparked, as are her emotions when she meets the attractive Marcus, a ghostly creature made by said witch.

It is hard to describe just how lovely the main character is, melancholic but strong and full of life despite her problems. She is mature for her age but also just a girl, which makes her extremely likeable, simply a great protagonist for such a book.

The ghost hunting part of the book is also handled well. We are all inundated with ghost hunting programmes on TV and watching Emma going about it in her unassuming and gentle way is a pleasant and refreshing change from that norm. The paranormal detective story and the suspense in this book are kept at a good pace to keep the interest going but also giving enough space for the other issues of the book, particularly the parent-child relationships. 
Those are also full of thought, DeVor spends a lot of time describing the parents and making interesting and varied as characters to stop falling into the trap of cliquee. I loved the mother with all her foibles and flaws and Marcus is also a fun character and one that many young female readers will enjoy reading.

I found this a low key yet hugely enjoyable read that I finished in almost one sitting. I would like my nieces to have a friend like Emma and a boyfriend like Marcus.

Interview with Danielle:

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

I guess you could say that I have always been a very imaginative person. I can remember being a kid and creating very specific scenarios for the toys I was playing with at the time. Usually, it was a combination of Barbies and Star Wars figures. I really believe that helped me create worlds and situations in my writing as I got older.

What made you decide to write for / about young adults? And why did you chose to write about ghost hunting?

I am one of those people who felt the old John Hughes films- The Breakfast Club still remains my favorite film. So, for me, it was natural to tap into that age group and create my own worlds. Ghost hunting was something I wanted to add to Constructing Marcus. You always hear the old, “Write what you know” advice. And, well, I belong to a ghost hunting organization called the West Virginia Paranormal Research Society.

Tell us a little about the history of the book. How did you have the inspiration for your story and your characters?

 I have always been the kid that researches weird things, so finding odd occult information is nothing new. Several years ago, I stumbled across a book about séances and Ouija boards and there was a story about a group of spiritualists in England who essentially “created” their own ghost “constructed” from ideas, a made up personality, looks, and powers. It is said that if you visit this house, the “Construct” will still speak to you via a Ouija board. So, when I decided to write a YA Paranormal Romance, this old story popped into my head and I knew it was something I could work with.

Do you have a particular message you would like to convey?

I don’t really think of my writing as having a specific message, but I’m sure that my views on certain thoughts come out in my writing whether I mean them to or not.

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

Not too much. I knew Emma’s name. Marcus went through several name changes. But, I knew I was writing about a teenage ghost hunter who moved into a spooky house in Boston. The rest kind of just came along as I wrote. I fully admit it, I’m a total punster.

Which of your characters was most enjoyable to write?

In this book, it was definitely Emma. I liked making her strong and not give into her mother’s mental problems.

Who would play them in a film?

Emma, I would like played by a young brunette. Jennifer Lawrence would be perfect.

Are you like any of the characters in the book?

I’m a little bit like Emma in terms of standing up for what I believe in, but she puts up with things a lot longer than I do. LOL.

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

I currently live in West Virginia. Lots of mountains around. Right now, writing is my job. When I’m not writing or doing promo for my writing, I read, watch lots of horror films, and crochet.

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

Literary influences- Anne Rice, Stephen King, Richard Matheson.

My favorite books are: Blood Thrist by LA Freed, I am Legend by Richard Matheson, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. There are more, but that’s off the top of my head.

My favorite movies are: The Breakfast Club, The Lost Boys, The Shining ( the one with Jack Nicholson), and An American Werewolf in London.

My favorite albums are: The Rolling Stones Greatest Hits, Type O Negative Bloody Kisses, and The Soundtrack to the movie Queen of the Damned

What are your views on independent publishing?

I think it is a great option for authors if they can afford to do it right. Hiring a good editor and a good cover artist are expensive parts of the process.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Travis Luedke’s The Shepherd, Maer Wilson’s Relics (her later books in the series will all be Self Pubbed), and Simon Okill’s Bigfoot series

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

My best quality would probably be my loyalty to my friends. But, the oddest, would probably be that even though I’m an extreme horror film fanatic, I am afraid of the dark.

What are your favourite animal?

My favorite animal is the bat. I’ve even gone out with the DNR and helped tag bats for a study before.

What would you take to a remote island?

My favorite books. My harp. Tools to be able to make myself shelter and enable me to hunt for food.

Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?

I would like to be invited for dinner by Hannibal Lecter if he was eating a normal meal. There is something about the character and intelligence he has that fascinates me. Of course, it would be like throwing treats to a shark, but it definitely wouldn’t be a boring evening.

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

I am currently working on the sequel to my vampire book, Tail of the Devil. I hope to have it finished by the first of December. You can find out about my already published books and future books at my blog/website 

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

I love hearing from readers, so feel free to contact me via social media. 

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @sammyig

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

Website: http://danielledevor.wordpress.com

Book Buy links:

Tail of the Devil

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00CJHO7D8

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tail-of-the-devil-danielle-devor/1115225829?ean=2940016494050

Sorrow’s Point

Amazon: http://amzn.com/1939173418

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sorrows-point-danielle-devor/1117032105?ean=9781939173416

Constructing Marcus

Amazon:  http://amzn.com/B00EVS384W

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/constructing-marcus-danielle-devor/1116804074?ean=2940148671886

Bio:

Danielle DeVor spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times.  After living briefly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she moved back to her hometown to write.  When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.  Visit her at danielledevor.wordpress.com

 

 I have since had the opportunity to read Danielle’s other work and here are my reviews for them:

“Tail of the Devil” by Danielle DeVor is a well written Vampire Story about a 15 year old boy. Mathias Drvar has run away from his evil aunt who became his guardian after his parents dies in an accident.
Living on the streets of New York he occasionally earns money by doing odd job for a mysterious man named Nic. On one of those missions Mathias gets injured and awakes in the hands of Vlad Dracula.
This is where the fun begins, as Dracula hates being called by that name and the mighty Nosferatu prefers to be called Nossy. It turns out that Mathias is a distant relative and belongs to the Vampire lineage and will be taught how to be a Vampire and how to fight his enemies.
DeVor has created a very entertaining set of characters in this coming of age of a vampire tale. Mathias is a great if somewhat unlikely and often reluctant adolescent hero and his allies are equally colourful. With Mathias we learn more about the world of Vampires, Lilith the evil Queen and Mathias’ s special role.tail of the devil coverart largeThe use of language might keep it slightly out of bounds for the youngest of the younger audiences but although the tone is dark at times it always remains slightly light hearted. 
Written with much love for the genre and attention to descriptive detail this is a wonderful Vampire story that has a great warm feel to it at times and then takes you into captivating scenes of action. For fans of the paranormal and supernatural this must be a feast with its own take on the Vampire myth.
Now that Mathias is established I hope this will become a series of books that will let us follow our young hero on further adventures.
Very well done

LgSorrowsPoint

 

 “Sorrow’s Point” by Danielle DeVor reads like a classic horror novel. Beginning with an ominous and horrifying scene at a house in Sorrow’s Point in 1950 the tone is set for a dark and sinister tale.
In the present now an ‘almost’ priest and a witch are called to help a family that lives in the house now to exorcise a demon that possesses a 6 year girl and put up with the dreams, the noises and lots of other creepy scary stuff going on in there.
Told in separate narratives and with flashes back to 1950 we gradually unravel the secrets of the house.
The horror in this novel is subtle and it is everywhere, there is a continuous sense of impending doom and a sense of foreboding that permeates even the parts that do not deal with the exorcism. 
When a policeman arrives at the house in 1950 his reaction and shock are almost more unsettling than what actually will be shown to the reader. Likewise, when Jimmy, the man who would have been a priest, thinks about his life and whether or not he might be suitable as an exorcist, there is again a sense of anxiety and an acknowledgement of the magnitude of the task ahead. Tabby, the ‘witch’ brings her own brand of darkness to the table.
Nothing is as scary than a little innocent child behaving convincingly like a demon possessed monster and that is exactly what we eventually get. The scenes with her and the spirits were very scary to me.
The team is made up of great characters, each bringing a different angle to the story and with the uncovering of the past there is a mystery aspect to the story, adding to the richness of the reading experience.
This is a must read for fans of exorcism and horror.

03 Nov 2013

Andrew Lennon: A Life To Waste

3 Comments Book Reviews

18460861“A Life to Waste” by Andrew Lennon is an at times very creepy horror story that at several moments during the read had me at the proverbial edge of my seat. I am not usually a fan of the genre and read the book on the recommendation of a friend. 

Luckily I was far from disappointed.

We witness Dave wasting his life away after a car accident that ends his promising running career. Full of lethargy Dave begins a downward spiral of drinking and doing nothing.
Then some dreadful events in his apartment block bring terror to his life and he needs to come out of his self destructive cycle to save his own skin.

Lennon spends a great deal building up Dave and his background which pays of remarkably well when Dave is confronted with the sudden horror, the subtlety of which is brilliant by the way, as is the slow and gradual build up of the horrifying tension that spirals him into panic and paranoia. Dave is doubting his own sanity at times, probably as many of us would when experiencing what Dave goes through. 

However, I found that there is much more to this horror story than meets the eye. Dave is an interesting character in that he once had a perfect life that was taken away from him. We feel for him, despite some of his less likeable traits and actions. I would not classify this story as simple horror – even though it is pretty good at that part, no doubt.
No, I found the psychology of a failed or broken athlete and his late call to become responsible and turn his life around most rewarding as it adds depth to the story. I cannot say more without spoiling the book for you, only that there is a moral lesson in this book I would not have expected. To put the icing of the cake, the writing style, particularly at the beginning of the book, edges on literary realism, a brilliant tool in the portrayal of Dave’s broken life and a credit to the writer.

The book is well paced, gathering speed at the right time and keeping the momentum all the way to the dramatic end. With the ambiguity of Dave’s character the book was almost impossible to predict for this reader and so a compelling and very rewarding read. A lot of thought and work has gone into this short horror novel that I would highly recommend to fans of the genre and to those who won’t mind the horror but are interested in great psychological character development.

INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW:

First of all a very Happy Birthday Andrew. Thank you for honouring us with your presence on such a special day. Please tell us a little about yourself, as a writer and a person!
I am 28, I live with my wife and children. I work for my dads firm of accountants in Warrington.
I enjoy reading, writing, camping and spending time with my family.
What inspired you to write this story? What was your motivation?
I quit smoking and drinking and found that I had a lot of free time on my hands. I thought I would try and make that time productive so decided to write the book.
The book is very subtle in its horror. What is your favourite scary book?
My favourite scary book is “The Shining” I read this when I was younger and I was on holiday, staying in a hotel. I struggled to sleep after that!
Your book also touches on a few deeper issues, such as confidence, morals and physical ability. Was that accidental or part of the plan?
This was a part of the plan, I have encountered quite a few people in my life who have had drink/drug problems, and some that just don’t appreciate what they have around them. Hopefully when some of them read this book it will plant a little message for them.
How much of the stories was fixed before you started writing and how much changed during the process?
Pretty much the whole story was fixed before I started writing. I planned each chapter out, only about five lines on each, but enough to keep the idea of what I wanted to happen fresh in my head.
How did you have the inspiration for your story and your characters?
The story was planted when I hear people arguing, they argue all the time. I thought, one day they’re going to kill each other and no one will even go to check on them.
The characters are made from a combination of people I have met during my life, me included. I mixed them all together and that was the result.
Do you have a particular message you would like to convey?
Yeah, just try to appreciate the life you have. It may not be perfect, but if you work at it and try hard you can at least make it enjoyable for yourself and the people around you.
Which of your characters was most enjoyable to write?
He only had a very small part, but I think I enjoyed writing about Trevor the most. He reminded me of an old school friend so it brought back a lot of memories.
Who would play them in a film?
I think Kieffer Sutherland would be perfect for Dave.
Perhaps Dave Grohl for Trevor? Don’t know if he would like to act, but he looks the part.
Unsure on who to play the freak? Someone big and scary, maybe Kane from WWE?
Are you like any of the characters in the book?
I used to have a few of Dave’s characteristics, drinking, lazy etc. I like to think I have grown out of that now.
What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?
My life is great, I am happily married. I work for my fathers firm of accountants for a living. Ideally I would like to write full time, but I think that is a long way off yet.
Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?
Love Stephen King, books and movies, The Shining, Stand By Me (favourite film of all time), The Green Mile
I was reading “The Summer I Died” by Ryan C Thomas, when I actually felt inspired to go and write a book myself.
What are your views on ind7257030ependent publishing?
I think it’s brilliant. It gives the everyday writer a chance to get their stories out to the world. It doesn’t matter whether they are majorly successful or not, just that they had hundreds or thousands of people read their work, and hopefully enjoy it.
Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?
I can recommend pretty much any author in the ASMSG group. They are all very talented writers and quite a few have helped me out already.
Also, take a look at Calvin Wade, his novel “Forever Is Over” is one of the best books I’ve read in years. It was through his advice and help that I became self published.
What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?
What seems like never ending burping would probably be one of the oddest.
Best quality, I dunno. I never turn down a chance to help someone. Maybe that?
What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?
Dog, Blue, Barbeque.
What would you take to a remote island?
I suppose I should say my family, but only so they were stuck with me haha
Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?
Al Pacino, Stephen King, Samuel L Jackson, Adam Sandler and Russell Brand. I just think it would be an awesome crowd and a hilarious dinner.
What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?
I am in the middle of writing a book with I think will be called “October Murders”, it’s still a long way off yet. You can check out updates on me through Goodreads or through thewritersroom.co.uk
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.

*****

*****

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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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