14 Nov 2014

The people behind the scenes: My editors

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Since my usual editor, Deborah Wall is travelling the world and spends her time teaching English to people with even greater need of her talent than me, I had to find someone to replace her before I was able to publish “Conditions“.

Wanda profile pic

Wanda Hartzenberg is an avid reader, ( On Goodreads she is currently listed as:
#18 top reader #1 top reviewer #12 best reviewer)

she is head of several review groups (Wanda’s Amazing Amazon Reviewers on Facebook for example https://www.facebook.com/groups/328607697211329/ and WaAr Reviewer Reward Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1395755427335631/ ).

She has also co-written The Struggle of Me and released her short story Suicide Song.

Wanda advised me on my writing style, the plot holes and the missing details, criticised characters and specific scenes and gave me some good suggestions as how to resolve some of the issues that needed attention. Years of writing and reading experience paid off and our exchange was incredibly fruitful and inspiring for me.

Feel free to contact her on  email: wandahart@vodamail.co.za
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/WandaPanda
her website http://authorsallies.com/
or via twitter, her username is WandPand 

Armed with Wanda Hartzenberg’s annotations and corrections I went to David Lawlor, an Associate Editor of The Herald newspaper in Ireland. David has written three historical fiction novels, Tan, The Golden Grave an A Time of Traitors, set in the 1920s during the Irish War of Independence and following the character Liam Mannion. He is a talented author  and I know him originally from reading his historical novels – here is a link to an interview with him about The Golden Grave. He is also an active blogger historywithatwist.wordpress.com and has become a good online friend. 378344b681016d439abdb1cc95ee7c03 He ‘s recently taken up editing (see http://historywithatwist.wordpress.com/editorial-services/) and he sample edited three chapters for me  – fast and with impressive results – before presenting me with a reasonable quote. Obviously thanks to Wanda’s help the novel was in a good shape. I’ve been shopping around on the Internet long enough to know how much editing can cost, just on a grammar and punctuation level. David made also excellent suggestions (I didn’t take all of them, so don’t blame him if there’s something you didn’t like in “Conditions” ). This is the reference I wrote for him:

I knew David’s high standard of writing from reading and reviewing his novels and took him up on the offer to sample edit the beginning of my new book. I was very impressed with his engagement with the story and the characters and with the quality of his suggestions, just on the comparatively little that he had read of the story. His subsequent edit was thoughtful and incredibly helpful and highlighted some minor and some larger areas that needed improvement. Reading his detailed suggestions and opinion of the novel motivated me highly to go back and make changes, adding scenes and dropping what wasn’t needed.  It’s been a very stimulating and productive experience and process. David has a great way with words and knows how to deliver a very honest critique and keep your enthusiasm at the same time. His services were competitively priced and his turn around was fast and efficient. I learned a lot from the experience and can only recommend him.


His editing services: http://historywithatwist.wordpress.com/editorial-services/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.lawlor.9404
Twitter: @LawlorDavid
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7059828.David_Lawlor
Blog: historywithatwist.wordpress.com

1538883_10152169929789903_1791016517_nI must once again mention my amazing cover designer Daz Smith (link to an interview with him) who effortlessly put together covers that have been complimented on from day one. http://www.nethed.com/book-covers/

Contact details:
email: darryl@nethed.com
website: www.nethed.com
phone: 07766655631
twitter: @remoteviewed
facebook: www.facebook.com/eightmartinis Flikr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dazsmithpics/ Book Marketing2time-to-let-go-cover-large(r) Luck of the Wassersteins518b+tsOd9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Last but not least I must mention Alice Trego, who also offers editing services and can be contacted via email alicetrego@me.com
Her website alicetregoedits.com is still undergoing construction work.
I can thoroughly recommend her services. Alice helped me with my newest bookalice-d-trego “In Search of a Revolution” as beta reader and made some excellent suggestions for the book and my writing. 

 

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04 May 2014

Adriano Bulla: The Road To London

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Through a Goodreads Discussion Group I came across “The Road To London” by Adriano Bulla, which was Book of the Month.  The book was up against a traditionally published and commercially successful book but to my surprise I clearly preferred “The Road to London.” 
It is a very artistic account of a personal journey, from youth to growing up, from Italy to London, from in the closet  to being ” out”, from group member to individual. 18990618

Told in an episodic narrative the book also includes poems, music lyrics and letters. 


A light… A birth… A journey… An escape-not just from the whispering noise of expectations but from the growing awareness of a different life, a different path, a different quest. The greatest love letters are written in prose but bring forth the poet’s heart, awakening in the receiver an equal passion-or so the writer hopes. This love letter tells the story of how I reach London, how I reach you, My Dear, how I come to love so deeply, so truly and completely. The journey was not easy, beloved. I faced many ugly trials on this narrow path-but also tests that were… Fun, naughty, spicy and the stuff of memories which will make me smile into my old age, whether you are with me or not. I have no regrets, My Dear, except one… Just one…

I fed off the athmosphere and the compelling tone of the writer and am glad to present him today in an interview.

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

As a writer, I love experimenting: I could never stick to a format, a style or a structure. I have to try something new every time I write. I also have big issues with the whole idea of ‘genre’… I don’t have any problems mixing different genres, even mixing prose and poetry, I don’t want to be constrained by predetermined rules, and I hope I never will. As a person… That’s harder to say. I am actually a joker. I know people who know me as a writer think I’m dead serious, but the reality is that I can turn anything into a joke, in particular into innuendos. I can’t help it.

Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?

I started writing poetry as an adolescent; I guess I did it in order to create a world I alone could understand. Like most teenagers, I was, and in many ways still am, afflicted by angst, and like most teenagers I had no one to talk to about the deep uncertainties that were troubling me: confusion about my own identity as a person, especially because I was leading the life of a bohemian young man outwardly, yet, deep inside,  I felt totally insecure about who I was, both in terms of my intellectual identity, fought if you wish between James Joyce and Pink Floyd, and, of course, my sexuality, as I never fully identified with a typical gay man, but never really felt I was straight either. I was a boy suspended between contradictory realities and without the courage to come clean about either of these worlds, so, I created my own world, an almost impenetrable world of words.

Tell us about your book and how it came about.

I had never thought I would be writing a novel until she (The Road to London is a ‘she’) came to me unexpectedly, like most beautiful things, while dancing in a gay night club in London. The words just started coming to me, and they did so for a couple of months, every Friday night, and I simply wrote them down when I got home on a Saturday (or Sunday). The whole novel was born in club, apart from the last chapter, which I wrote on a sunny day sitting on a bench in the Rookery, a park in South London near where I live. The difference between The Road to London and my poems is that the novel is open to the reader: although she is in both prose and poetry, I think she is accessible. My poems were written as a way of hiding from the world, The Road to London was written as a way of talking to the world.

When did you decide to publish your story?

The Road to London was first meant to be published in 2008, I had a publisher, but the recession hit and they folded. Then I left her in a drawer for years, till I hit rock bottom: in 20013, I found myself in a state of total and utter depression, I had lost all confidence in myself, and was about to do something very silly. But then, the very first words of the novel came back to me, ‘Yes, I will, yes. I will save the world, the universe and you.’ I myself had never fully understood what they meant. I’d never worked out who ‘you’ was. In a way, I am sure that ‘you’ is my best friend, Stephane, to whom the novel is dedicated, but I also think that ‘you’ can be me… What I mean is that the novel gave me a reason to live, to pick myself up and show to myself that I was not worthless, that there was still something I had to do in this world, that I still had words I wanted to share with other people. So, I looked for another publisher; I must say that I was lucky, as it did not take long before I received offers, and ended up choosing Glastonbury Publishing / Mirador because they ‘gave me good vibes.’

Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?

Lots of my Italian friends have always believed that I was ‘wasted’ as a teacher and should become a full-time writer, and I have kept them waiting for years and years. One in particular, Daniele, has been nagging me to publish for a long time now, but I am at heart a very shy person, and because The Road to London does have some autobiographical elements (though it is by no means my autobiography, as some people seem to believe), I hesitated for a long time. On the other hand, I don’t think I could write about something in any credible way if I had not lived it myself, so, for example, even if the story of the Boy in the novel is not my own, lots of his dreams are actually ones I have had.

Would you say there is a message in your books beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers? Are you happy with the reception so far?

Yes,  there is a message beyond the story: The Road to London is a cry for freedom, the freedom to be whoever you want to be, the protagonist, whom readers simply call the Boy, grows up un a very homophobic environment; he is not a perfect person, not at all, in fact, in his early life, he is himself a bully, and, having enjoyed the approval and respect of his friends as a leader in his small ‘gang’, he finds it hard to admit to himself that there are areas of his personality, in particular his sexuality, which do not conform to expectations. In a world where boys are meant to be dominant and masculine, his gay and fetishist/ submissive sexuality is something he cannot admit to himself. Thus, he finds himself divided between his thirst for social acceptance and his need to be himself. This is possibly why he starts lying not just to his friends and family, but to himself, then seeks shelter in his dreams, by which I don’t mean his ambitions, but the dreams he has at night, yet, the days remain grey and offer no space where he can express himself, so, he starts taking drugs and drinking excessively, and hallucinations start replacing reality. His romantic life takes place partly in impossible love stories with his mainly straight friends, and in part in mysterious letters he writes to his great love, called My Dear, maybe an ‘imaginary lover’ he meets in a gay club in London.

I am impressed with the way the novel has been received by reviewers and critics so far: although different readers seem to have read the novel in totally different ways, but this is one of the peculiarities of The Road to London, that she is not a story that’s ‘written in stone’, and she allows, actually she asks, readers to contribute to her meaning, to add their own stories and perceptions of the world to hers, the reviews have been incredibly enthusiastic. I’m not just happy with how the novel has been received so far; I’m ecstatic.

Who would you hope plays them in a movie version? download (4)

The name that comes to mind is Xavier Dolan: he likes to explore impossible relationships and has a very artistic flair in his films; I think he would be ideal for The Road to London.

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

No, I never plan what I am going to write. I don’t even decide if I want to write… I could never be a poet laureate. I find it impossible to predetermine what a book is going to be about, what will happen to a character, how they will speak, behave or react to an event. When I start writing, it’s because I feel an urge to write that I cannot resist, and I haven’t got the foggiest idea how the story is going to turn out, what will happen next and how the characters will fare in it. All I do is put emotions and feelings into words; if an event is necessary to create a feeling, then that will take place in the story, otherwise not. I am much more concerned with human beings’ reactions to events, meaning their emotional and psychological reactions, than with the events themselves.

What would your character(s) say about you?

I think each one of them would find something in common with me. Even those who seem evil at times would say that the origin of all that evil is in me, not in them.

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

Words have their colours, their rhythm, their sounds, their smell, and their flavours for me. When I write, it’s as if I am totally engrossed in an explosion of senses: they mix, they match, they literally dance and sweat in front of me. I love that. I see myself more as a ‘facilitator of words’ than a writer: I see my task as putting them down on paper the way they wish to be. I find that beautiful. I like to be part of this process of finding new ways of expression, rather than forcing words to be written down the way I want them. It is the words that tell me what to do, not I who tells them where to take their place on the page. My least favourite thing must be a consequence of the way I write: I never know if I will be writing again; as I don’t force myself to write and I don’t plan what and when I am going to write next, I never know if will write a new novel, a new story or a new poem.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

Yes, I did have a say in the cover art: I chose seven possible options and then discussed them with my publishers. I actually love the cover of The Road to London: to start with, and this has happened purely by chance, but I believe in Fate, all the covers of my creative writings have a bold head / face that resembles mine. I like to think that the face crossed by the stars and the clouds on the cover of The Road to London is just the face of the human soul in general lost in the cosmos. It could as well be the Boy’s face, or Seb White’s (a key character in the novel), looking down on us from the stars, but I don’t know. I know it is not the typical cover you would expect in what is regarded as a ‘gay novel’: we didn’t want two hunky men in an erotic position; the novel is very sensual and very much about sexuality and even sex, but she is much more about how the individual can find his (or her) way in life, against all odds, against the ‘thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’. I also feel that those green eyes looking out of the cover see a whole world in front of them, the whole path to freedom, the future, the road to London, in fact.

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

I write wherever words happen to come to me. I cannot distinguish between silence and music when I read or write, because I confuse signs, colours and sounds: I’m synaesthetic, you see, so, if you say a word, I see flashes of colours in front of my eyes, if I write a word, I hear music, sometimes I even see shapes moving in front of me. It’s a funny condition, but I quite enjoy it.

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

I write once, and I do not type: I write with a fountain pen on paper. If I change something, I tend to do it straight away as I am writing, I don’t go back to it and re-read it and maybe cut and paste or change sentences like people can do if they use a word processor.

What is your advice to new writers?

Write from the heart. Hide part of yourself in every one of your characters. Even if it’s a trait of your personality you do not like.

Who are your favourite authors?

There are so many… Woolf, Emily Bronte, Joyce, Milton and Dante very likely top my list of favourites, but I could go on for hours and hours. I tend to read the classics, all of them, and I find it hard to put them down. My favourite living novelist is Toni Morrison: she’s a genius and my favourite living poet is Derek Walcott.

What is your life like outside of writing?

I love History and I love Art. I used to go clubbing a lot, but now I’ve calmed down a bit… maybe it’s time to for me to go out a bit more.

What makes you laugh?

Satire, especially political satire and innuendos (I think I said that). I like puns and verbal humour more than slapstick.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

Plato, for sure. If it’s true that the whole of human knowledge is only a footnote to Plato, I have so many questions to ask him. I would also like to invite Leonardo Da Vinci, I can literally burst into tears in front of his paintings.

What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality? What would you name as those qualities?

Oddly enough, I don’t think my friends really know me that well: I’m sure they would all say that my best quality is my intelligence, and that would also be my oddest quality for them. Instead, I would think that my best quality is my heart, not my mind, and I would think my oddest quality is that if I give my word, I stick to it, no matter what.

Tell us about your other books?

Tales is a collection of short stories based on ‘minor’ characters or events in The Road to London, my favourite story in there is ‘The Housekeeper’s Innocence’, the story of a woman who gets raped when leaving mass, then decides to become a nun, but a sister shows her that she is a lesbian, so, she becomes a priest’s housekeeper instead, but when she sees the man who raped her in the congregation, she burns the church down. It’s based on one of the dreams of the Boy in the novel, a Kafkian dream. Ybo’ and Other Lies is a collection of poetry that I first published in 2005, it is quite experimental, there is a lot online about it, including articles on its erotic poems and on the ‘flickers’ a form of poetry I have allegedly invented. I have also written a grammar book, The Labyrinth of Grammar and a study on Dante and Coleridge, The Mariner’s Inferno.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

The ‘soundtrack’ of the novel is mainly provided by Pink Floyd, though there is a reference to ‘Live to Tell’ by Madonna, and other songs, however, the one I would choose to capture the feel of the heart of the novel, which is also quoted, is ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ by Jaques Brel.

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

The weird thing very few people know about is that the first English Dictionary was written in Streatham, South London, where I live. A nice thing about Streatham is that is a very safe place and it has a real mix of people, and a fact… It’s still affordable to live here despite being a stone throw away from Central London.

Find Adriano and his books on
Twitter: @Bulla_Adriano
Bio
Born in Milan, Italy, and Londoner by adoption, Adriano Bulla has been publishing since 2005, when his first collection of poetry hit the shelves. Over the years, he has always tried unconventional and experimental ways of expressing himself, often crossing genres and refusing stereotypes in content, style and form. His style has often been praised for being intense, dense and surreal, and his themes have become more and more conscious of social inequality, in particular when concerning homophobia and the LGBT community, yet always exploring the emotional and spiritual dimension of the individual in search for freedom in an oppressive society.

 SYNOPSIS

When time and place play tricks with your birth, what can you do apart from creating your own imaginary world, then run away from your own creation, to a new life?

A boy is born, some time in the recent past, in Milan, Italy, yet backwards when concerned with ‘different’ sexualities, and Fate wants this boy not only to be of an intellectually and socially dominant nature, but of a sexually and emotionally gay and submissive disposition.

Unable to explain himself to himself, unable to relate to the world, this soul creates his own world, through dreams, drugs, alcohol and lies, while from a distant place, a club in London, and maybe from his future, if he ever learns to fly, letters to his beloved My Dear look back at his life in Italy with parallels in a romance yet to be.

He tries to be ‘normal’ and have relationships with girls, he tries to be honest, and open himself up to his love and friend, but life has decided only pain, rejection and suffering should come of it, for the time being at least.

But little glimpses into another, maybe possible life, sparkle here and there through his life, his dreams and into his heart….

26 Mar 2014

Review: “Butterfly Season” by Natsha Ahmed

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butterfly-season

Today I am making good my promise to review this charming novel, a romance from a new promising, female author from Pakistan: Natasha Ahmed. As I anticipated a fantatsic story just to my liking with a cross-cultural theme from the not so often heard female voice and perspective from that region of Asia.

“Butterfly Season” by Natasha Ahmed is a beautiful romance between two Pakistani adults in London. Rumi is on a holiday to visit her sister in London when she meets successful businessman and very attractive Ahad. They share an intellectual and physical attraction but the odds, families and circumstances all seem to work against them.
Rumi is already over 30 and inexperienced and only on a holiday. Her expectations and her feelings are beautifully described in this sensitive and low key novel that says a lot about the importance of finding yourself, your confidence and following your heart.
Having spent a lot of her life dedicated to others and her family, can this be the season to fly for Rumi? 

Natasha Ahmed has written two great characters, a believable chemistry between the two leads and portrays the obstacles in an insightful manner. Rumi finds herself in the twilight between conservative and restrictive views and a modern society in which she also believes. This is a great novel that successfully combines romance with deeper issues. 


 
Buy links:
 
iTunes:
28 Feb 2014

NEW RELEASE: RUNE: EPISODE IV: ENTOMBED by J.H. Glaze

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“RUNE (Episode IV: Entombed)” by J.H. Glaze is speeding things up in this enchanting paranormal adventure series geared at young adults and young at hearts.  51iXd7LfU9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
Our trio of protagonists are 18 year old Jake, his girlfriend Maire and Pete, a demon trapped in a dog’s body. Hunted by evil demons the three of them have an exhausting and action packed journey ahead of them. Jake Rune has recently gone an ominous transformation and has acquired super human powers. Hunting down scrolls is part of their mission…and of course simply surviving, too.
Glaze has created very meorable and likeable characters who are great leads to bring and keep the story alive. They are chasing and are being chased in what might become a tour of the Southern States. Jake’s arch enemy Seraphine has joined the hunt for out young heroes and adds more colour to the story.

Of all four books this is the fasted and most action packed. After setting up the scene and characters and after getting us used to his originally created world Glaze now invites his readers to a moreadrenalin-fuelled episode that will be continued in Episode V.

Masterfully written, with natural dialogue and great pacing this is an easy and solid read.
A hugely enjoyable feast for fans of fun and suspenss-filled paranormal fare.

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Amazon: amazon.com/author/jhglaze
Facebook: facebook.com/JHGlaze.author
Goodreads: goodreads.com/JHGlaze
Twitter: @themostcoolone
Website: www.jhglaze.com

J.H. Glaze is a versatile storyteller, born in northeast Ohio. As a young adult, Glaze traveled the
country, frequently hitchhiking, and always looking for adventure and new opportunity. Much of
the quirky plot lines inherent to J.H. Glaze’s tales were informed by the experience of these early
years. Readers will appreciate his accessible, “Hey, I know you,” phrasing, and the everyman voice
that will seem so familiar, drawing them in before providing an unexpected twist. With a blend of
horror and humor, he delights in giving the reader a kick in every chapter of every book.

The Rune series marks Glaze’s début into the world of young adult fiction. In the style of a television series, each episode is a novelette that ends with a
cliffhanger requiring the reader to wait until the release of the next episode to learn what happens
next. In the first episode, the main character, Jake Rowan, experiences a mysterious transformation
on his 18th birthday. Fortunately, he meets up with a dog, later named Pete, who guides him into
what he learns is his destiny. As the series continues, Jake and Pete are caught up in a quest to save
humankind from the demons that have plagued them for more than a thousand years.

J.H. Glaze’s writings include the full-length novels, The Spirit Box, NorthWest, and Send No Angel,
which make up “The Paranormal Adventures of John Hazard.” Glaze has also developed a short
story series, “The Horror Challenge,” affording him the opportunity to interact with his readers who
are invited to suggest a word or phrase that he will use to twist into a theme or prop in one of his
engaging stories.
Glaze’s talent as an author with a sincere love of storytelling shines through as he transitions with
ease from spinning tales of horror that thrill to a heart-warming romantic novella, The Life We
Dream. All the while maintaining his compelling storytelling style, Glaze thrills again in Forced
Intelligence, the novelette that peeks into the moral dilemma of using animals in experiments for
scientific or military advancement.
A self-published author, J.H. Glaze is called one of the New Kings of Horror by fans. He currently
lives near Atlanta with his wife, Susan, two dogs who are crazy about him, and a Senegal parrot
that merely tolerates him.

 

19 Feb 2014

Jasmine Bath: “No One’s Daughter”

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17251007 “No One’s Daughter” by Jasmine Bath is the story of a neglectful and cruel childhood. Told from the perspective of a young girl this tragic tale portrays how she is forced to take care of herself and her siblings while her irresponsible mother wastes her life away without any kind of responsibility. 
Although the protagonist is the victim of violence and emotional abuse to say the least, one of the biggest strengths of the novel is the understated character of the often almost factual descriptions of what does happen. I found this style of story telling much more powerful than loud accusations and self pity. What we recognise as outrage and abuse, for the girl in this novel it is almost ‘normality’.
Like our narrator I was waiting with her for the next drama with fear but certainty that it would come: the mother’s next baby or boyfriend – she would surely draw the short straw.
The minute detail and the many episodes of this ruined childhood illustrate poignantly how much suffering and hardship is involved for a child in such circumstances. It is hard to comprehend how much is irretrievably lost and how far reaching the consequences are. 
Although we are all aware of the basic concept of abuse this book needs to be read. 

“My name is Jasmine Bath and the novel “No One’s Daughter” is based on actual incidents from my childhood during the 1960s and 70s. I did not write this book for sympathy or notoriety; I wrote it in an attempt to shed light on the ghosts that have haunted me for a lifetime, hoping that by putting them down on paper that I could look at them more objectively from a mature point of view and eventually free myself from them.”

 

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

I live in the Midwestern area of the United States with my husband. With the exception of our oldest daughter, all of our children and grandchildren live within a one-hour radius. Our children are all grown and have turned out to be exceptional people that we not only love, but actually like. I’m extremely proud of each of them. Since the kids are now adults I’m now able to take writing from the back burner of my life and make it my fulltime job.

What made you become a writer?

Writing has always been a part of who I am, what I do. I don’t think there was anything that made me write, it is as natural to me as breathing.

Have you always written?

Yes, always.

When did you decide to write your chosen genres?

Memoir is not really my chosen genre, I had considered publishing “No One’s Daughter” as a novel but to put it forth as such, would have been a lie, a denial of the truth of what I wrote and my own conscience wouldn’t allow it.

Do you have a favourite genre?

Not really a favorite, I enjoy all genres but am drawn towards biographies and drama.

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

I never intended to write a book when I began writing what eventually became “No One’s Daughter.” It began as a form of therapy for me to help me look back at incidents that happened when I was growing up as a way to look at those events more objectively. Each incident became a chapter and when put together chronologically, it pulled together as a book. There are about ten chapters that I decided to pull before finally publishing it. Because I originally had no plans to publish it and was in no hurry, it was written over a time span of about ten years.

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

The easiest thing was the writing, once the words began to flow; there was no stopping it. Because it was my life, there was no guessing as to how it would end, I knew. The hardest part was deciding what to share and what to hold back when it came time to publish it.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story?

Yes, I like to think that there are many messages and depending on the reader, they will each walk away with a different message.

Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

People have been wonderfully kind for the most part regarding reviews and I’m grateful for each and everyone.

What do you like most about your characters?

My characters are real human beings, people who have played huge parts in my life. Two of these people, my aunts, have always been my favorite people. Both are gone now and I miss them terribly.

Which one is your favourite?

If I had to choose a favorite, it would be my Aunt Thea. I owe my life to her.

Who would play the characters in a film?

Oh, geez, I have no delusions of that ever happening so I would have to say that I have no idea.

What are your next projects?

I have two novels that I will start working on in the immediate future; both will revolve around controversial subjects and will probably raise more than a few eyebrows.

What is your life like?

After a violent, chaotic childhood, I’m thrilled to say that my life is usually pleasantly calm and peaceful. What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing? I spend time with my husband, children and grandchildren but I am also finally learning to find time for myself as well. I love working out, walking, reading and listening to good music. Thankfully, now that the kids are all grown, I don’t have to cook as much because I’m a horrible cook. My husband is a wonderful cook and takes over in the kitchen for me whenever he has time. Wandering through stores with my husband, spending the afternoon watching a movie and then a quiet dinner makes for the perfect day.

Who are your literary influences?

Dorothy Allison, Sharon Olds and Frank McCourt immediately come to mind but there are dozens of other authors that I also appreciate.

What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

There are so many excellent book that there is no way to pick one as a favorite. As for films, one of my more recent favorites would be “12 Years a Slave.” When it comes to music, like books, I tend to gravitate toward unusual voices. Van Morrison, First Aid Kit, F.U.N., The Rolling Stones, Sister Hazel, Mumford and Sons and Barenaked Ladies are some of the bands that I listen to.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I submitted “No One’s Daughter” to about a dozen publishers before self publishing. My reward for my hard work resulted in a nice collection of very kind, handwritten rejection letters wishing me nothing but the best. One publisher was very interested but the final decision rested with the bean counters that feared it would have too narrow an audience. Realizing that the bottom line is the bottom line with traditional publishers, particularly at a time when there is so much uncertainty within the publishing community, even more so now with e-publishing being readily available, I think that independent publishing is not only a viable option but is here to stay. I love that the reading public no longer has to accept what the book gatekeepers, traditional publishing, says is worthy of reading versus what is not. As a reader I like being able to decide what is worth my time instead of having a publisher making that choice for me. For writers, this may be the only opportunity to get their work out there to be judged as to whether it has merit or not.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

There are so many that I wouldn’t even want to attempt to rattle off a list of names out of fear of leaving one off.

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

They would tell that despite my insane childhood that I am relatively sane and on a mentally even keel; they would tell you that I rely on logic over emotion, that I suffer from OCD and most importantly, I would hope they would tell you that I am a compassionate person.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

Favorite animal would be a snow owl. Favorite color is emerald green. Favorite outdoor activities are walking and people watching.

What would you take to a remote island?

I don’t think my claustrophobia would be able to handle a remote island…

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Friedrich Nietzche. No explanation needed. What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects? I have several works in progress but not able to go into great detail about them at the moment.

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

My biggest hope for “No One’s Daughter” is that people will read it and understand the desperation that some children endure on a day-to-day basis. If one abusive person reads it and realizes the pain and life long consequences of the effects of their behavior and seeks help, that would make it all worthwhile.

 

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/No-Ones-Daughter-Jasmine-Bath-ebook/dp/B009O5HA5U G

oodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17251007-no-one-s-daughter

Twitter https://twitter.com/JasmineAuthor

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jasmine.bath.author

03 Dec 2013

David Chattaway: Singing Sands

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Today I present to you a very treasured and chance find of mine from Goodreads.

SINGING SANDS is FREE TODAY AND TOMORROW

 

“Singing Sand” by David Chattaway is a very impressive debut novel about Jamal, the adopted son of the Nelson family. With a scaring family background of his own and traumatic experiences from his times at an orphanage / half way house Jamal is by no means an easy character. add to that the hate his step sister Mary has for him and you have the promising premise for a powerful read and that is long before the story really begins.
The entire Nelson family go on a camping trip together and soon they find themselves in a very unexpected yet life threatening situation that brings their strength as a unit to the test.
Interspersed with flashbacks to Jamal’s past the narrative moves very fast and makes for a rather compelling page turner of a book. This is a well written action packed thriller with some great psychological insight in to the minds of the characters. It is also a great family story that defines the terms of family ties and human bonds, there is a thoughtful and pleasing message embedded in all of this. To quote from the book: Jamal has been dealt a very tough hand but he will not give up and not make anyone suffer. A great leading character, supported by several others. It is amazing how easily and yet thoroughly Chattaway has established his cast. This is very good

Interview with David:

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

 I’m a very happy person with plenty of hobbies and passions. I have been writing for years, however it wasn’t until 2011 when I started on a story idea named “Malakh” that I really caught the writing bug. I also met a fellow author at work he had released his first novel. When he explained the process of getting his work published and available for people to read I set to the task of completing some of my unfinished stories. 

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

It probably started when I was a child, my dad would tell me bedtime stories each night to send me off to sleep. He would come up with these intricate, involved worlds and characters and transport me there. He was incredible at painting such a vivid picture in my young mind. I wrote plenty of short stories throughout primary and high school, however I would start them but never actually finish. I think completing “Singing Sand” definitely helped me to realise what it takes to not just write, but properly complete a book. 

Were you always going to write a thriller? What is your connection to the genre?

I actually completed the draft of “Malakh” (book 1 in a fantasy trilogy) but I knew that it would take quite a lot of time to polish that book so I decided to tackle something smaller but different to what I would typically do. I love movies and Thrillers are one of my favourite genres. To be honest I don’t read any thrillers and that was part of the reason I set out to complete one. I also wanted to tackle a few moving pieces at the same time. I thought, what if the main character had experienced substantial loss, what if he was from a different background to his new family. What if the family hadn’t welcomed him fully. I guess I came up with framework of the characters in the story before I thought of the situation they might find themselves in, the thriller/suspense aspect of the book if you like. I’m not sure if this is a common process for authors of the genre, but it worked well for me.

What made you chose an orphan as hero?

 I’ve led a privileged life and thankfully had a wonderful family to support me throughout it. I think the reason for having the main character be an orphan was really because I wanted to tell a story of a persons evolution. It’s challenging to condense something so large into a short Novella but I felt that a character who had lost so much and knew that he could have done so much more to help the people he had lost would allow the reader to both be sad for his situation, but also celebrate his evolution into the person he inevitably becomes. 

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

 The original draft of the book took me around 20 hours to write, over a period of 4 weeks. There was then around 10 hours of rewriting and adding further changes based on my own observations and my friends/families. After that I spent around 15 hours editing the book and polishing it into a final draft to send to my editor. Once I received the book back I spent a further 5 hours over 2 days marking up suggested changes and finally reading the finished product for the 4th time. I then uploaded the book using createspace and it was available for sale on the 20th of October 2013. I commenced writing the story in June so in total the book took me 4 months to take it from an idea to something available to purchase.

Why did you decide to tell this story?

 I wanted to write a thriller based in Chicago, Illinois. After that the book wrote itself. I created the character of Jamal Lewis, before I had the entire story mapped out. It became a scenario where I knew that Jamal’s story needed to be told, the rest story was really a vessel to do so. I actually planned a very different story for Jamal, but I felt that the character needed to be established, his pain and loss captured and felt. I’m working on the original story now, which will be this books sequel. 

Which part of the story was easiest to write and which one the hardest?

The easiest was Jamal’s backstory in the halfway house. I found it very easy to imagine that place and the people in it. I also found the relationship between Jamal and Daniel to be very natural and the words just flowed out of me and onto the screen. The hardest part was really depicting the families reaction to the things that happen to Mary. How a young girl would react, talk and how her mother would etc… was difficult. I looked to my wife throughout the middle of the book for insights and ideas. She helped me to understand Mary, finding a place for her within Jamal’s story.

What would you say your message is? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

That’s a tough question, I don’t think I really ever set out to have a message. It’s interesting when you get feedback and thoughts from people on your book. People have picked out parts in the story that they connected to, explaining to me what they believe the significance of specific parts are and mean. When I read the story back to myself and I see it all unfold I think that the message is that life is a lesson, you make mistakes, sometimes the cost is substantial. The key is how you respond, what you do the next time to make amends. The book has been very well received so far, with most people enjoying the pace I set and the length of the book. It’s small but it packs a punch.

Who would play the characters in a film?

I would love a bunch of unknowns to act in a film adaptation of the book. I didn’t write the characters with anyone specific in mind and I would have to give careful consideration to who would be cast in the role as Jamal, knowing what I will demand of the character in future books.

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

I have completed a very rough draft version of a fantasy novel named “Malakh” which will be the first of a trilogy of books. It’s quite a significant piece of work in comparison to this novella, but despite that I do hope to have it completed and available for sale by May 2014. In addition to this I will be completing the sequel to Singing Sand in the coming months. It will follow on from the events of this book and will see the Nelson family finding themselves in another challenging situation. 

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

I live in sunny Adelaide, South Australia. For the past seven years I have worked for Australia’s largest Energy retailer in their customer service department. My favourite thing to do when I’m not writing is sharing a beer with my beautiful wife, relaxing outside with our little dog Hamilton.

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

 One of my favourite authors is China Mieville, I loved “Perdido street station” and “The Scar.” Steampunk science fiction is something that I love both reading and watching. I’ve always connected to Tim Burtons style of storytelling and like magical, dark spins on everyday life. I also love the book “Magician” by Raymond E. Feist. As for movies I love many, for the sake of space on this blog I will stick to one… “The Matrix”, I love this film as much for it’s incredible special effects and remarkable storytelling as I do for my memory of first seeing it. I remember that it was the first movie where I walked out speechless, just letting everything I had seen be properly absorbed. 

What are your views on independent publishing?

When I first set out on publishing Singing Sand I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. My only experiences with books where with store bought copies by famous authors, so to tell you the truth I didn’t really have a clue that everyday people could have something printed and distributed. As you embark on the journey of self-publishing you quickly learn what works, how long things take and what people like. I think that it’s excellent how accessible books have become and personally I love the idea of ebooks. The fact that someone can get a copy of my book for a reasonable price anywhere in the world within seconds of adding it to their cart is remarkable. I do however believe that it is a saturated market and with millions of dedicated writers out there the competition is stiff. I really love having full creative control on everything I produce, all the way down to my personal branding. Being an independent publisher gives me that flexibility.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

I would highly recommend “Curve Day” by L. R. Currell & “Illuminating Gracie” by Lisa C.Temple

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

Best would be my sense of humour and oddest would be my sense of humour.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

My dog (he’s a cross with about three different breeds)/blue/Australian rules football (AFL)

What would you take to a remote island?

My wife, it would be a lovely little extended holiday

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

I would love to invite Will Ferrell for dinner, my wife and I would talk his ear off and drive him crazy with lines from his films.

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

Currently working on the sequel to Singing Sand titled “Quietus.” The best way to keep informed on my work is to follow me

on Amazon http://bookShow.me/B00G8WREL2

on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/davidchattawayauthor 

or check out the website at   www.singingsandstory.com

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

Over the coming year I’ll be putting out another thriller/suspense novella and at least book 1 of the trilogy of Fantasy novels. I’m enthusiastic about writing and love to hear what people think of my writing so please check out the books website and my Facebook page. I love the idea of collaborating with other independent publishers so please do not hesitate to contact me!

27 Nov 2013

Martha Emms : Portrait of Our Marriage

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PORTRAIT OF OUR MARRIAGE

Memoirs of Love, Family, the Internet, and Obsession

“Portrait of Our Marriage” by Martha Emma was an unexpectedly emotional and gripping reading experience. Like Nick, the narrator and many of her friends in the book I fell in love with the idea of that perfect and happy marriage, the man of her dreams: dead sexy, considerate and loving. 
Like her I led myself to believe that it was her overreacting and would have given her exactly the kind of advice all the friends in the novel gave her.

This fictional memoir is particularly apt in its portrayal of the subtle changes and nuances of ‘normal masturbation’ to actual porn addiction. Written with raw honesty and often explicit detail this novel takes no prisoners and calls a spade a spade, particularly when letting the women of Nick’s support group talk, scenes that do however work particularly well and let the readers sigh with relief in the same was as the women of said group. The book dares to look at sexuality and marital relations with an honesty that many don’t. It may be uncomfortable for some but I feel the direct approach is needed to discuss the problem with enough depth.

I feel rather mesmerized by the experience of this book. The journey takes us from happily ever after to first minor issues, bigger shame, drama and conflict to all out facing of the truth where denial is only possible for the addict.
If you wonder what it might be like to live in such a marriage that started so promising and needs so much work this book is for you. Insightful, thought provoking and powerful this is a must read.

Interview with the author:

What made you decide to write about porn addiction?

You might say it haunted me in my dreams, LOL. I had watched an episode of, The Oprah Show, years ago. It was an episode dealing with pornography addiction. Told from the mans point of view, it covered what they were going through and how it affected their lives. I looked at the men and thought that they looked normal, clean cut, not like they would be perverts in any way. That night I had a dream. It was as if I was watching a movie, and a woman was reviewing her life as she viewed pictures on a digital display device.  I kept having different dreams, which revealed different times in this woman’s life. After a while I began to think it must have some meaning. Then again, later on The Oprah Show, I watched as she interviewed Joel Osteen. He commented, in not so many words, that sometimes God sends us messages in strange ways and we should listen to those messages. That he wants us to succeed and not give up. I know it may seem strange and I’m not saying God told me to take this story on, but I felt like I must be having these dreams for a reason.

Do you find people are open or too prudish to discuss/ read about it?   198628_164770633661800_1840551591_n

I received comments and reactions from both, people who are open to read and discuss the story and from those who have called me horrible names and are actually hostile about it.

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

After watching The Oprah Show and continuing to have dreams I began to research online about porn addiction. Back at that time, most everything I found on the internet was from, by, and for men. Very little was from, by, or for women.  I began writing it as a screenplay. At that time my youngest son was an actor and I had been reading scripts for years. So I thought I could write one. I found out it is not that easy. I could not write the story the way I wanted.  So I decided to join a writing group. But then I needed to know how to get personal information about how this addiction affects women. I wanted to capture all the emotions of a couple going through this. Well, one day while shopping I noticed that either on purpose or by accident, people had left their real estate, and carpet cleaning business cards on some of the shelves. Not having money for a research group, I decided to copy their idea but in a bit different manner. I typed up some notes asking if women had any experience with a loved one being addicted to pornography.  I asked if they would share their experience with me as I wanted to write a book from a woman’s point of view but needed real information. I left my address and phone number on the notes. I honestly didn’t think I would get any response. But I did. I received about sixteen letters. Out of all the input, eight were very in depth and when I read them I was drawn in and felt like I understood what they had gone through. At that point I felt I had what I needed. Between my dreams, research, and the personal information from 8 women, my story was born. As I wrote, the characters in my story seemed to have a life of their own and I felt like I knew them.

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

Even though I had dreams, it wasn’t a complete story. So no, nothing was fixed, not even the ending. The dreams were fragments and the information shared by the eight women was very personal.  I wanted to make this story as real as possible in honor of them.  Between the research on how men felt, what affect this addiction could have on women and a marriage, I tried to weave a story together that would take the reader through years of a marriage and the progression of this addiction.

How did you research for the book?

I researched for a couple of years online. I went to all kinds of pornography addiction sites. From the professionals who offer help, recovery programs, religious groups who offer counseling, to all kinds of different columns where men wrote into for help. I also watched any show on TV that had any kind of episode dealing with porn addiction. But I would say for the main character, the input from the eight women was the most important and naturally the woman in my dreams.

Which of your characters was most enjoyable to write?

I think Gina was. She is kind of a mouthy character who says what’s on her mind and thinks about it later.

Who would play them in a film?

I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination!

Are you like any of the characters in the book?

In some ways, just a tincy bit. I think all writers put a pinch of themselves in the characters they write.

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

I used to be very active, love dancing, skiing, hiking, bike and horseback riding, but after a knee replacement and some health issues I have slowed down some.  I enjoy traveling, my family, my cats, pet rescues, reading, cooking, baking, gardening, and writing.

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

The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk,is one of my favorite books, it was the first book I read that I couldn’t put down. I didn’t want it to end. His characters came alive on the pages. I also, really liked the Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I have many favorite authors though – Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Robyn Carr, Jill Shalvis, Debbie Macomber, Lawrence Sanders, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Jodi Thomas, Constance O’Banyon, and Bobbi Smith just to name a few. I enjoy all their books 🙂  I love all kinds of music except opera. One of my favorite movies is, Back to The Future, because we get to see the father realize his dream. What can be, what can happen when you don’t give into fear. I enjoy comedies, adventure films, crime drama, and yes, romance.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I think it is awesome. It gives creativity so much more of an opportunity to be shared.  Some say it opens the floodgates to too fast, unedited trash being published, and that may well be true, but people will weed through the trash. Ultimately, it offers all who wish to write a chance to get their story out there and my thoughts are, the more people write and read, the better.

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

For the best,  I guess they might say I care, share, and always share what I know. Oddest? Well, it’s not a quality but I do have a lot of cats. I won’t mention how many because it adds new meaning to the phrase “crazy cat lady”! Many of them are cats no one wanted because of odd tics and strange personalities. But they still deserve to know love.

What are your favorite animal/ color/ outdoor activity?

I love cats, dogs, horses, and birds, especially pigeons. I like wolves, elephants, and almost all wild animals. I do not like snakes or spiders though.  I have different favorite colors each day, depending on my mood. I love the outdoors and nature. I used to have a large RV and traveled with the family. I enjoy traveling and researching all the historical sites and hiking in our national parks.

What would you take to a remote island?

Is there a limit? Am I on a remote island paradise with a beautiful home, pool, and bar or am I going to a remote island that I may end up stranded on? If I’m going to be visiting a luxury resort type place, I would pack clothes, books, my laptop, and personal items. But if I’m going to be roughing it, I would take: A knife, an ax, matches, a tent, sleeping bag, blanket, canteen, Australian Tea Tree Oil, iodine tincture, toilet paper, a toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, a hat, hair brush, change of clothes, first aid kit, batteries, radio, flashlight, vegetable seeds, a fishing pole with hooks, & protein powder.

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

I would love to have dinner with my Mother, because she passed away and I miss her. If there was any way to spend more time with her it would be a dream come true. She was an amazing woman. She was kind, patient, gentle, generous, and thoughtful. Everyone who knew her loved her.

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

I’m working on two stories right now, The sequel to Portrait of Our Marriage, and a story about pets. I will be self-publishing these and will promote via all the social networks when they are available.

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

My name is Barbie Herrera, but I write under the pen name Martha Emms, in honor of my mother and aunt. My mom had dreams of me someday becoming a writer. She wanted me to write from my heart. My aunt on the other hand, hoped that if I became a writer I would write to get people talking, stir the pot. I believe my first book accomplishes both.

I am a strong proponent of Just Label It, and am against genetically modified foods. I’m also a supporter of the No Kill Coalition. I believe the unnecessary, inhumane killing of countless animals in this day and age is horrific and shameful. I was raised an Air Force brat, and as such, I have a strong belief in supporting all our military men and women, and their families. We must never forget that the freedoms we enjoy are not free.

An avid reader I enjoy a variety of genres. I also enjoy nature, love the beach, music, animals, and my family.

I would love people to read my book, a dream all authors share. It really is a journey. There are parts that are fun, sexy, compelling, and shocking. I hope that readers will be drawn into Nicky’s life. I truly want them to feel the experience and for that reason I don’t describe her. Other than brown hair there are no definitive descriptions of her. Almost every book today dealing with women describes them as the perfect sexy woman. And I’m not saying that Nicky isn’t all that but, I want women to identify with her and not be distracted by her looks. I want them to see her as they want her to be. Every one of us, no matter what we look like or what we believe in, can feel pleasure, be hurt, know frustration, feel trapped, experience betrayal, and know pain. I want women to feel like they could be Nicky. That this could be their story. What would they do?

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13 Nov 2013

Damian Stevenson “The Ian Fleming Files”

1 Comment Book Reviews

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“The Ian Fleming Files: Operation Armada” by Damian Stevenson is based on a simple but brilliant idea: To use the creator of the James Bond series and make him the hero in his own James-Bond-style adventure.
Set in 1940 it shows Fleming as a Naval commander who is on a secret mission in France regarding the French Navy.
As Fleming used to be an navy officer in real life this has an excellent real feel to it, an idea so simple and genius, you wonder why nobody has thought of doing it before Many have written James-Bond style books, but few have thought of going to the root of the creation itself.
Very authentically written the story has everything that you would expect from a James Bond story: thrilling action scenes, gadgets, women and cars.
I am a big fan of history and absolutely loved the idea of bringing Bond into the past rather than the future. For me James Bond is a cult figure and I find that the recent film instalments with the ever increasing pyrotechnics and technology advances take the fun out of the original idea.
Stevenson has done a fantastic job at extracting the essence of Bond and choosing an excellent setting for his novel.
I hate to use this phrase in reviews but I really am looking forward to a series of these books.

 

Hi Damian

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How did the idea for the novel come to you?

I was stunned by how successful the movie Skyfall (2012) was – over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office – given that the character was a 1950s creation and it occurred to me that there was a huge lack of awareness that Ian Fleming based his character on himself, that he was himself a spy during World War 2.  Because Skyfall was such a hit,  I thought there might be interest in a story that put Ian Fleming in similar circumstances to 007 but was rooted in biographical and historical truth.

How did you come to writing in the first place?

I studied literature at Oxford, worked with writers in Hollywood when I was an executive at DreamWorks and eventually decided it was time to give writing a go. I wrote screenplays for ten years with mixed success and turned to books about a year ago. My heart is definitely in books.

How did you choose the setting for the story? Did you research much for the book?

I chose to focus on what I thought was the most exciting Bond-like period of Ian Fleming’s life and the setting was thus dictated by the circumstances. Fleming was a reporter before and after the war and by far his most thrilling adventures took place during the war, specifically in 1940 when he was flown to Bordeaux to negotiate the purchase of France’s navy. So France during the Nazi occupation became the default setting, as well as some scenes at Admiralty HQ and elsewhere in London.

Yes, a lot of research. With historical fiction, research and writing go hand in hand. Before, during and even after writing (when someone points out a mistake!). I had been casually researching Ian Fleming for years out of personal interest and then took it to another level when I started the book. One thing I have learned from research is that the Internet is highly over-rated as a source of information. The library, i.e. books, is where the real research comes. Until every book is scanned and readable on line, you have to go to the library.  

Who is your favourite character and why?

Ian Fleming, because he dominates so much and it’s told mostly from his point of view. I like the Denise character, the story’s femme fatale, because I like writing about women, especially dangerous Bond-girl types, lots of fun.

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

I would like to say Fleming only because I had no choice but to draw on my own experience for his everyday emotions like love, hate, hurt, jealousy, etc. Also, I tried to depict him as the kind of guy that other guys want to emulate, a cool cat. In my fantasy I am like Ian Fleming but I am probably more like Henry Cavendish, his friend, who lives an ordinary existence without villains and femme fatales to worry about.

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

Interesting question. I think a lot of writing is part planned and part discovery. I had a general sense of the plot – he goes to France, the Resistance help  him, he is betrayed and gets revenge – but beyond that a lot of the story was discovered. For example, one of the plot motifs I like to use is that the best laid plans never go as expected. So initially Fleming’s parachute jump wasn’t a mis-drop but by following the motif of plans-going-awry I was able to come up with a twist on a twist: the first twist was that there is a traitor and the Germans know where the drop-zone is but by having Fleming miss the drop-zone when he parachuted it was more interesting – yes, the Germans were waiting for him, but there was a mechanical and weather problem that made him miss the intended landing spot and avoid the trap. I thought this made for good suspense.  As you write you are always facing the dreaded foe of Predictability and one of the best strategies is to not know yourself what is coming next. It’s good to have a general idea – Fleming is parachuting into France – but it’s better if you don’t know every single step that happens so you can take unexpected turns as you write. If I know what is coming next then by definition it is predictable so in a way I have to be a little bit unware.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

I love rewriting. The end stage where you get to polish and improve and really see something substantive emerge. I find the beginning stage horrible and do all I can to avoid it – and then spend a lot of time hating myself.  It’s the despair of the blank page versus the satisfaction of having created something out of nothing. They say god created the blank page to show you how hard it is to be god.

What do you do when you don’t write?

I spend time with my young daughter every opportunity I get (I’m divorced) and I also play tennis and loaf around in the sun like a typical Los Angeleno. I read a lot and try to stay out of trouble.

 

Favourite James Bond:                           SEAN CONNERY

Film                                                                       GOLDFINGER

Song                                                                      LIVE AND LET DIE

Actor                                                                     SEAN CONNERY

Actress                                                                 JANE SEYMOUR (FAVORITE BOND GIRL, Miss Solitaire)

Gadget                                                                 MAGNETIC WATCH IN ‘LIVE AND LET DIE’

 

Which are your favourite books and authors?

I love the classics, especially 19th Century British authors like Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde, big Shakespeare nut, Ian Fleming is a huge favorite, naturally, and for modern prose I love the ‘outlaw’ tradition in American writing,  authors like William S Burroughs, Hugh Selby JR and Charles Bukowski.  At the end of the day I love a great stylist, an author for whom it seems every word is a big decision.

Which indie writers can you recommend?

Peter John, James DiBenedetto, Chloe Thurlow, Sheryl Seal, Sameer Ketkar, Brandt Legg, Todd Thiede, Julia Gousseava, Oleg Medvedkov, Dennis Waller, Karen Black, James Ross, Carolyn Bennet, Dani J Caile, Simon Okill, Charity Parkerson. Too many to name! I know I left someone out…

What three books would you take to an isolated island?

The Bible, Collected Shakespeare and Naked Lunch

Tell us about your other books?

I have written a suspense novella (Solstice), based on an unproduced screenplay I wrote a few years ago, which people seem to like. My one non-fiction book is a look at the 1983 movie ScarfaceScarface: The Ultimate Guide which no one buys but has the best reviews of all of my books.

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

What I really want to do is direct. Just kidding.

“Operation Parsifal” is out and the next one is “Operation Uncle Sam” set in the summer of 1941 that sees Fleming working with the Americans to get them into the war effort. After that I may write ‘The Ian Fleming Files: Origins’ and take the saga back to before the war started.

FIND DAMIAN ON GOODREADS AND AMAZON:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7102035.Damian_Stevenson

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http://www.amazon.com/Damian-Stevenson/e/B00CGP6JJ8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

MY REVIEW OF OPERATION PARSIFAL:

“Operation Parsifal”, Book 2 in the Ian Fleming Files series is a remarkable achievement both in terms of historical accuracy and as a “Bond” / spy thriller.

Ian Fleming acts as a spy in her majesty’s service and is sent to Egypt to recruit a German deserter and the mistress of a German industrialist to the British Intelligence. Parsifal is a secret organisation to bring down Hitler and replace him with a new Chancellor and naturally the Allies take an interest in this internal power battle and its consequences for Europe.

As writer of historical fiction about the era I was stunned at the detailed research and the accuracy of the people, places and the times: The physical descriptions of the Nazi big wigs and industrialists, the scenes set in a bombed and semi-destroyed London and the feeling amongst the German nation so briefly before the end of the Reich to name but a few, all are portrayed with competence and perfection.

The story itself also held great interest for me. I have seen all Bond films and very much enjoyed that Parsifal is written in a similar style but with a real historical connection rather than the invented villains with no connection to reality. For me that concept really worked and I found myself quite glued to the pages, wondering where the story line would take us next: Berlin, the Eagle’s Nest or Fort Alderney in the channel islands.

Not only does Stevenson know his Bond and Fleming, he writes eloquently and with appropriate pace. There were no redundant stretches in the story line, dialogue and characters were well composed and made this a very enjoyable read. Now I’d like to know more about Fleming and his life so I could figure out how much of this is true and what was added as fiction.

An intriguing and worthy read.

 

 

05 Nov 2013

Jyotsna Ramani: Shattered Dreams: The Arranged Marriage 1 – 3

Comments Off on Jyotsna Ramani: Shattered Dreams: The Arranged Marriage 1 – 3 Book Reviews

 

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“Shattered Dreams: The Arranged Marriage” by Jyotsna Ramani is a short but for me incredibly moving story about a young girl and her arranged marriage. In a world where love is not the only sound foundation for a marriage one can relate to our heroine’s doubts and differing thoughts and feelings about agreeing to such a marriage herself. What is important in her life? Career, love, material security, partnership, family?
Parental pressure, even if not expressed directly, and societal conventions, get her to hesitate and fail to make up her own mind in time.
I particularly loved the details in the description of the entire process of the arranging as much as I loved the insight into our heroine’s manifold thoughts on the matter.
Unfortunately in this case materialism is the driving force behind her parents decision to push her into the marriage but in this well presented novel we get a hint at other possible reasoning to enter such an arrangement.
As Western European I found this book accidentally insightful rather than lecturing, the story at the heart of this book is incredibly touching and stayed with me long after I finished the book.

Shattered Dreams 3 has just been released!

SD3 Cover

 

Hi Jyotsna, thanks for taking the time for this little interview. Tell us how you came to write this story about an arranged marriage?

Well, I feel arranged marriages are the biggest shams of Indian society. I am totally against the idea and have always wanted to voice my opinion. I found a chance when AMD publishing asked me to write a story.

You released parts of the story individually as short stories. Why did you decide on this serialisation?

It’s a 3 part series. I wanted to write just 1 short piece to give a glimpse into the Indian society. However, the response for part 1 was splendid so my publisher pushed me to write a series. Here we are at the launch of part 3, which is also the final part of the series.

Was the ending already clear before you published the first part or was it still open at the time?

I always keep my stories open when I start. I myself don’t have a clue as to what will happen next. The story forms by it’s own as and w7259704hen I start writing. Sometimes, even I am surprised at the outcome.

As I understand you have written a lot in a pretty short space of time. Tell us a little about your writing and editing process.

We have professional editors as part of the publishing unit I work with. That saves a us a lot of time and we can quickly publish a new piece.

Have you always written?

Well yes but mostly letters to my pen pals J I used to write short stories and poems for my school magazines and  slowly got into professional content creation and moved on to fiction from there.

Have you got plans beyond the series?

No plans so far. I am working on a YA novella but it’s not quite “there” yet. I will wait to see the response for Part 3 and maybe we will start the new book promos in 2014.

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

Very reclusive. I cannot think if there is a lot of noise / music or any kind of disturbance around. Also, I have to be alone when I am writing.

Are the characters based on any real people or events?

No they aren’t. However, many aspects like social norms, Indian society values, upper class and lower class conflicts etc are prevalent throughout India .

Which of your characters was most fun to write?

Anurag ! The hot guy whom Radha falls for, but a tad too late.

Are you like any of the characters?

No but I have met people like “Radha” who are submissive and let go of their dreams for family values and norms.

What is your life like?

Well pretty simple – Spending time with family, writing and globetrotting.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I think it’s a great platform for authors who don’t have big publishing houses to back them up. Everyone can achieve their dreams / goals, if they want to.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Well, I just love all indie books I read. I especially liked Julie Cassar’s Ruby Blue series (YA genre).

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

Loyal and Quirky.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

Tiger / Black / Jungle safaris

What would you take to a remote island?

My Laptop

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

Well, I am writing a YA novella. I always post on WaAr (FB group) about all my new projects.

Book One on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B00AU10IH4

Book Two on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B00B427Q82

Book Three on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B00GFVTR0W

Jyotsna on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7259704.Jyotsna_Ramani

Jyotsna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jyotsna.ramani?fref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/eBook.Owners

 Here is another great review from Goodreads:

A deliciously addictive tale of love and betrayal, Jyotsna Ramani’s ‘Shattered Dreams: The Arranged Marriage’ is a compelling, intriguing tale that will drop your jaws and leave it there. If you’re a Westerner or anyone who lives in a culture in which arranged marriages are no longer practiced, you might be shocked or appalled—yes, in India, where the novel takes places, the practice is still strongly enforced, which leaves the younger people—people who have been exposed to other cultures and who have seen what is possible “on the other side”—in a state of anguish.

One person in such a state is main character Radha—a promising young woman who, despite her accomplishments, must submit to the demand of her parents to marry a man they have chosen for her. Radha, whose intellect and talents have naturally exposed her to a strong awareness of what else is out there in the world, could not accept that she must blindly follow her parents’ wishes. Yet, ultimately, she must follow them, and force herself to accept her fate. And there’s the rub—Radha wants another man, and her own feelings trap her on the horns of a painful dilemma.

Ramani’s writing is crisp and “punchy”, with an electric undercurrent of tension underneath all the internal emotional turmoil. You are in the front row, watching Radha’s misery and turmoil bubble up from underneath her forced smiles and tradition’s demands for “decency” and obedience. ‘Shattered Dreams’ is as appalling as a trainwreck happening before your eyes—yet you cannot look away and pretend it’s not happening. For that reason, this is a story that must be read by a wider audience—yes, especially those outside India.

Overall, I love ‘Shattered Dreams: The Arranged Marriage’ to shreds. Ramani’s careful yet powerful handling of the novel’s tension and emotion shows absolute literary confidence. What’s more, if you love this first book, you’ll be glad to know that Ramani’s Shattered Dreams trilogy is up for a series of scheduled promotions: Book 1 is now on a reduced price of $.99 (until Oct. 25 to 26), whereas Book 2 will be free to download on Nov. 1 and 2, and Book 3 is free to download on Nov. 8 and 9. Order a copy of Ramani’s book and enjoy the entire trilogy for free. Highly recommended!

 

31 Oct 2013

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

1 Comment Book Reviews

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

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

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

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Interview with the author:

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

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

How did you come to writing in the first place?

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

Who is your favourite character and why?

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

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

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

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

Could this become part of a series?

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

What do you do when you don’t write?

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

Which are your favourite books and authors?

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

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

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

What would you take to an isolated island?

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

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

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

The Goodreads page for my book can be found here

My facebook page can be found here

I can be found on twitter @paul_cude

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

 

 

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